CHRIS KIRWAN SAYS: Easy to put the boot into slugfests
9:00am Thursday 14th March 2013 in Sport
A VIDEO clip from Super Rugby did the rounds a few weeks ago.
Named ‘the most exciting three minutes of rugby ever’ it showed a remarkable passage of play between the Highlanders and Chiefs.
Possession changed hands a number of times, play swung from end to end, passes are flung, tackles are missed and it ends with a runaway try by Tim Nanai-Williams.
Steve Walsh was referee and it's just a shame that the man in the middle wasn’t Nigel Owens, then he could have tinkered with his famous soccer putdown and uttered the words “this is not basketball”.
The style of rugby contrasted starkly with the fare served up in the Six Nations since an entertaining first round.
Fans have sat in the rain and the cold watching farcical scrums, crash-ball centres and kickers lining up shots at goal.
The whitewash was crossed 16 times on the opening weekend; just 15 tries have been scored in the following three rounds.
There have been seven clean sheets, ugly wins have been hailed and France’s clashes with Wales and Ireland were turgid battles between countries gripped by the fear of defeat.
Both types of rugby are as bad as each other; 45-39 Super Rugby games are as dull as those in the Six Nations that end 12-6.
The middle ground needs to be found but that’s easier said than done.
There isn’t going to be a rugby equivalent of the Treaty of Versailles where the Test coaches come together to agree the abolition of defensive training sessions; Rob Howley is not going to text Stuart Lancaster with ‘Will play Hook if u play 12Trees :)’.
Jobs depend on results and reputations are built on win ratios, as evidenced by Warren Gatland’s no-frills Wales.
Unfortunately this situation doesn’t help us when it comes to taking on the southern hemisphere big guns, who can play free-flowing rugby AND mix it up front to grind out wins.
Last week the BBC transmitted a programme on Barry John, once again showing some incredible footage of him deceiving his opponents with his eyes and hips.
In that era it was a case of dealing with the elusive fly-half, whereas now it’s configuring a defence to stop the midfield bulldozer.
Yet scalps of the All Blacks, Springboks and Aussies are not going to be claimed with Six Nations-style rugby.
And the past two months have been a total waste of time when it comes to Lions Watch.
We have learnt nothing that we didn’t already know and we have seen precious little that will be of significance to the type of challenge that awaits Down Under.
Saturday’s title showdown between Wales and England will be a tense affair but one dominated by the crash, bang, wallop, scrums and kicks.