drawings of muscles and exercise apparatus

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Wallabies' illegal scrum tactics against Scotland

A great gutsy win against the odds to Scotland.

One very blatant tactic adopted by the Australian scrum was to prematurely wheel on Scotland's feeds.

Law 20.1 (k) states:

Stationary and parallel. Until the ball leaves the scrum half’s hands, the scrum must be stationary and the middle line must be parallel to the goal lines.

The Australian pack was systematically shifting left meaning they were neither stationary nor parallel before the ball was put into the scrum. That this was a deliberate tactic was made obvious by the fact that the Wallabies stayed square whenever the referee moved to the non-feed side of the scrum.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Nine-a-side rugby – a game for boofy blokes

For many rugby aficionados the sevens version of the game is deeply unsatisfying; a skim milk, decaffeinated, lukewarm concoction. At the same time there are aspects of the fifteen-a-side game that currently make it a very boring spectacle; in particular the time wasting and over-emphasis on kicking.

What I want to propose is a shortened form of the game designed for knockout carnivals which would retain most of the elements that make rugby so distinctive. There would be strong emphasis on physical engagement and the scoring of tries.

Essential elements of nines rugby

The Laws of the Game would apply to the nine-a-side game, subject to the following variations:

Playing field The field of play is narrowed from not more than 70 metres to not more than 40 metres. There is no need for goal posts and crossbars.

Player numbers At any time each team has no more than nine players on the field. Teams also have to have at least two replacements/substitutes suitably trained and experienced to play in the front row. The total number of replacements/substitutes nominated cannot exceed five of whom only three can be used in a match.

Method of scoring Tries are the only method of scoring.

Duration of matches A match consists of two halves of not more than ten minutes playing time plus lost time and extra time. However, the two halves of a competition final match may last no longer than fifteen minutes plus lost time and extra time. There will be an interval of not more than one minute at half-time, or two minutes during a competition final.

When scores are tied at full-time, extra time is played in periods of five minutes. After each period, the teams change ends without an interval. In extra time, the team that scores points first is immediately declared the winner, without any further play.

Replacement of front row players If a front row forward leaves the field and the team cannot provide a suitably trained replacement, a penalty try will be awarded against the team and the match will be continued with three-man scrums.

If the referee has signalled for a scrum to take place and a front row forward is unable to take part in the scrum without delay the referee may require that that player be temporarily replaced.

Foul play Temporary suspension of a player will be for a period of three minutes.

Mark Marks may be claimed anywhere within the field of play or in the team’s own in-goal.

Throw-in When a player anywhere in the field of play kicks directly into touch other than from a penalty, there is no gain in ground.

Five-man scrum A scrum must have five players from each team.

Lineout The player throwing the ball into the lineout shall have a maximum of twenty seconds from when the lineout begins to form to throw the ball in.

With these variations to the Laws we would have a game which is played with minimum time wasting and delays. Features which make rugby so distinctive, namely serious scrums, lineouts, rucks and mauls, are retained. And importantly the only method of winning games is to score tries.

The amount of kicking would be reduced, firstly because teams gain no advantage from kicking out on the full from their own 22, and secondly the use of the up-and-under is largely negated by the defending side being able to claim a mark anywhere on the field. At the same time teams would continue to be rewarded for accurate kicking where the ball bounces in the field of play before going into touch.

Narrowing the field of play is appropriate because the number of backline players is effectively reduced from seven to four.

Reduction in player numbers is likely to be of benefit to the fifteen-a-side game because players will have to focus on correct technique at the breakdown with referees having a much clearer view of what is going on. Spectators and viewers will also be better able to see the intricacies of scrums, lineouts and breakdown contests, which may have the effect of winning new supporters for the code.

Nine-a-side rugby will be a fast-moving, physically demanding and entertaining form of rugby which is complementary to sevens but likely to appeal to a different player and supporter base.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Too old at 30 - Australian rugby's "scrapheap" policy

The Australian rugby coach and his selectors appear to be following a quite deliberate policy of favouring emerging players over those with significant international playing experience. One consequence of this is that the Australian Super 14 franchises are being denuded of senior players who traditionally mentor and guide those who are just learning their craft.

In the Test against Ireland, the Wallabies do not have a single player aged 30 or more in their starting fifteen. Their opponents have eight, a majority of the team! The average age of our 22-man squad is 25.2 years; theirs is 27.5. Our oldest starter is 28.

Consider the average age of the most recent teams of the top ten rugby countries, i.e., Tri-Nations, Six Nations plus Argentina. Every other side's players are more than a year older than the Wallabies. And every other country has two or more starting players who are at least 30 years old.

Rugby is an unusually complex game. It takes players years to achieve real competency. And yet we are seeing a new generation of talented youngsters rushed from school into professional football and then on to the international level. A minority manage to establish themselves at the top, but I wonder whether even they achieve their full potential. In their development years they should be playing in an environment where they can dominate instead of one where they constantly struggle to survive.

Because of the centralised control of the sport by the ARU, the premature discarding of experienced players has extremely adverse impacts at the Super 14 levels and even down through the clubs. The central body dictates how much players can be paid by the franchises who are basically mendicants surviving on handouts from the centre. It is therefore only those players who are on ARU contracts who earn large incomes. Once taken off the national list players have little choice but to round out their careers in Europe or in the Bermuda Triangle of Japanese rugby.

The effect of this is that all their accumulated wisdom and experience is lost to their Super 14 teams and their clubs; basically to Australian rugby. And then people say that we don't have a large enough talent pool in Australia. The main way in which the great minds who control our sport have dealt with this problem is to buy in so-called rugby league marquee players who then spend years trying to master the fundamentals of our sport. How can young players benefit by playing with extravagantly paid blow-ins who know vastly less than they do?

It has been observed that rugby is basically war without the guns. When you're forced to slog it out in the trenches, who would you want with you? A grizzled battle-scarred veteran or an over-excited kid who believes all the hype and publicity generated about him. Small wonder that we can't string wins together.


Saturday, November 07, 2009

Rugby's Age of the Low Skinfold Giants

In 1991 England's international rugby forwards and backs weighed, on average, 100 kg and 83 kg respectively. Their counterparts in 2003 weighed 109 kg and 90 kg. (England Rugby Injury and Training Audit 2002-04)

By comparison in this year's Test against the Wallabies the England squad's average weight had further risen to 113.4 kg for the forwards and 93.4 kg for the backs. Thus in just 18 years elite level forwards had increased their weight by some 13 kg and the backs by 10 kg. And a much greater proportion of the bulk of the modern player is lean body mass.

Present day players are not just bigger, but also stronger and fitter and, certainly with the forwards, much quicker than those of the pre-professional era. Thus there is massively greater force being generated in the game's collisions, even without taken account of the modern two-on-one techniques of tackling. Little wonder then that the coaches' preferred teams have been decimated by injury from both playing and training.

For this Test the Wallaby forwards were outweighed by about one kg per man and the backs by two kg. But there was a very significant weight discrepancy in the front row. England's engine room five averaged a massive 119 kg while their opponents were a relatively puny 114 kg.

One of the greatest differences between the squads was in the players' ages. Ten of the home team's squad of 22 were aged 29 or older. By contrast the Australians, who seem to be taking the view that anyone over 30 is ready for the Golden Oldies, had just three.

There is a ten-year age gap between the ages of the reserve outside backs. Ayoola Enrile is 29 while James O'Connor is just 19. But this is inconsequential compared to the massive difference in their body weights. Enrile weighs 110 kg, a full 30 kg heavier than O'Connor!

Small wonder then that The Australian in late October attributed to Robbie Deans the view that "there could come a time when the Matt Giteaus, James O'Connors and Will Genias of the game simply find themselves too small to survive at the top level.”