drawings of muscles and exercise apparatus

Monday, November 27, 2006

Scots overpowered by Wallaby size

Following the Wallabies' emphatic defeat of Scotland at Murrayfield in Edinburgh on Saturday, it was interesting to note comments by the Scots' coach Frank Hadden:

"It's difficult to front up week after week against heavier sides.

"We've hidden that for a while but the Australian pack were able to create the opportunities for their danger players.

"They have quality backs and when they are going forward they're very difficult to stop."

The rugby community is gradually waking up to the idea that increased size and strength confers a huge advantage in the sport, and not just in the forwards. Heavy backs are also able to gradually wear down their lighter opponents.

It is difficult for a national coach to do much about the physical attributes of his players - he basically has to work with the available material over a very short preparation period. The groundwork for physical dominance has to be laid much earlier - even at school level.

Those in charge of Scottish rugby would do well to investigate what is being achieved at Sydney University in terms of the systematic physical development of young players.


Anonymous said...
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enomis said...

Without doubt it needs to start at school, and in Australia, with the sporty / outdoorsy culture that exists this is done almost without needing to plan it. Kids grow up surfing (learning balance, gaining core muscle strength), playing touch rugby on the beach (passing, deceptive running, bursts of speed), playing volleyball (hand eye coordination, tactical awareness). It is part of everyday life.

There is also a mix of communities that place a large amount of emphasis on sport, and as such there is (normally healthy) competition between these communities.

Sport is encouraged for and participated in by women, e.g. in 2004/2005 there were 25,586 women softball players (http://www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/ecita_ctte/womeninsport/submissions/sub24.pdf) which is almost three times the number of adult male rugby players in Scotland (8,900 - http://www.irb.com/en/Home/MemberUnionHomePage?UnionID=4&Tab=3)

Aus Population: 20,264,082 (estimate, July 2006 - https://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/print/as.html)

Compare this to the likes of Scotland. While we love our soccer, it tends to be from a stand or armchair, with a beer and pie in our hands. Kids learn to become armchair experts, play Premiership Manager, brag about how well "their" team is doing, learn to drink cider on street corners and get into fights. OK, not all of them!

Those that do participate in sport have to force themselves out to train in cold and rain for 8 months of the year (and in the warmish weather and rain for the other 4!).

There is a mix of communities, but the Indian and Pakistani communities tend prefer cricket to football or rugby, if they let their kids participate at all. It's too early to say what effect the newer communities (Polish, Czech etc.) will have, but currently it is minimal.

Scot Population: 5,062,011 (Census, 2001 - http://wikitravel.org/en/Scotland)

I guess what I'm saying is that in order to achieve parity with nations like Australia we need, in Scotland, to be looking at a massive change in culture - not just in terms of our sport, but in terms of our society. We need to become more inclusive and our adults need to lead by example, by getting up out of the armchair, putting down the beer and pie, and doing something - anything - other than being a couch potato. It won't fix the issue of being smaller than the other rugby nations overnight, but it would get the genes going in the right direction for generations to come.


Bruce Ross said...

My apologies, enomis, for the delay in responding to your post. It is very thoughtful and insightful.

Australians do have a major advantage in sport because of our climate and this has undoubtedly contributed to the evolution of a sporting culture. A further factor is that in the second half of the nineteenth century, Australians enjoyed one of the world's highest standards of living and relatively low hours of work. This was at a time when the various forms of organised sport were developing.

Thanks for your comment.