Leicester Do It Again & England vs Barbarians

30 05 2010

In a brilliant  and pulsating Guinness Premiership final last night, Leicester got their hands firmly back on the trophy for the sixth time since the advent of professionalism in the union game. It is also the third time in the past four years demonstrating the level of domination they have enjoyed in recent times.

Rarely, however, can Leicester have played with such verve as they did yesterday though and it was a marked change from their early season performances in which they (and Saracens incidentally) were criticised for dull and try-less rugby. Saracens also played excellently and were in many ways unfortunate to lose. Indeed one feels that had Saracens come up against any other English side and played the way they did; they would have probably won by somewhere in the region of 20 points.

Finals are often dull affairs with the really exciting rugby usually being played in the semi finals. This phenomenon usually occurs because there is simply too much to lose by playing the higher risk but more exciting rugby needed to put on a spectacle for the fans. Yet, in yesterdays game, the execution and generally incredibly high skill levels came together to ensure that this was not the case.

With the scheduling of this game meaning it started immediately after the Super 14 final; the pessimist in us, here at the Compulsive Hooker, worried that it would compare unfavourably. You know what you are going to get with the Super 14; lots of running, high levels of attacking skill, the odd missed tackle but generally rugby at an almost international level of intensity. With English rugby generally being considered to be in the doldrums at the moment, last nights game was a welcome tonic with all the same facets of play present. With players such as Toby Flood, likely to be key components of England’s summer tour to Australia excelling yesterday, perhaps all is not lost from a national point of view.

With several notable performances from both sides including both scrum halves, the aforementioned Flood, Geordan Murphy and Andy Saull, we were left wondering how Martin Johnson has not included Alex Goode in his elite squad to tour Australia. Goode, recently voted in at full-back for the premiership team of the season, was a constant threat and always totally secure. If we have so many high quality 15’s in the English game that Johnson can afford to ignore him in a squad of over 40 players – English rugby is lucky indeed!

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England vs Barbarians

This excellent weekend of rugby continues today when England play the Barbarians in what should be a good game. Whether it can live up to the above match in levels of intensity is a different question; but there are several players on both sides with something to prove. For the Barbarians; Paul Sackey should be relishing his chance against David Strettle having been the forgotten man of recent English rugby history.

For England; Shontayne Hape makes his debut at 12 alongside Mike Tindall in what should be a bruising partnership. The Compulsive Hooker has written about what we think of this ex-kiwi national rugby league player’s presence in the side before (suffice to say we don’t agree with his inclusion) and so we hope he has a shocker and is substituted for the deserving Olly Barkley early on. Barkley has had an excellent season upon his return from injury for Bath and we feel should be given a shot at the 12 position.

The dreaded Charlie Hodgson lines up at 10 and we are positive that, with the pressure of a full international off, he will probably play very well. We just hope that this does not cloud Martin Johnson’s vision of who should be lining up at 10 in the upcoming months…

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2 responses

1 06 2010
Brian Carpenter

Completely agree with you about Alex Goode, although the pragmatist/cynic in me says that he’s better off out of the full England squad for the time being as all the spontaneity and flair would soon be sucked out of him, as it seems to be from virtually anyone else who comes into contact with Johnson, Smith, et al.

With his balance, versatility and white boots he reminds me of James Hook, and his best is surely still to come.

Saull’s also been mightily impressive over recent months.

2 06 2010
Bradders

Thanks Brian for the comments. Glad you agree… I have been saying for a while that players are almost better out of this current England set up than in it which is a truly sad situation. All Johnson is doing is alienating the rugby public and the sooner he and Rob Andrew move on the better!

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