End of Tour Thoughts and Maori Passion

23 06 2010

If you missed the New Zealand Maori versus England game this morning we would recommend you watch the highlights as it was an excellent match and one in which running rugby was well and truly to the fore. Whilst the Maori’s ended up running out winners 35-28 after 18 unanswered points in the second half, there were plenty of positives to take from the game for Martin Johnson and ends the Summer tour with a balance sheet (including mid week games) of 2 wins, 2 losses and 1 draw, which on the whole, is a respectable result and something to build on.

The big tour positive was of course the win over Australia last Saturday and the general performance of the scrum in all games including todays, in which, the Maori were consistently out scrummaged although with Liam Messam tidying things up at the back it was not such a problem as it had been for the Aussies.  It is true that the back play remained fairly wooden throughout the tour, bar perhaps periods on Saturday and against the Maori today where, in the first half at least, they managed to play with some real flair.

So many combinations have now been tried by the England management in the 12 and 13 positions without ever totally convincing that it is important they pick a pairing and stick with them soon. For us at the Compulsive Hooker, we would like to see Flutey come back in outside Flood and inside Tindall, as, in our eyes (and although we didn’t see the 2nd test against Australia) Hape has not totally convinced. The Maori showed today, as every Kiwi team always seems to, how to execute precision running rugby at speed which when done well will always unlock holes in the opposition. True there were some knock ons and passes that didn’t go to hand but it was done at a pace rarely seen in an England back line. England’s first half had been an improvement but was still someway off the Maori’s pace.

Along these lines, one call we think Johnson should make soon is to discard Matthew Tait. There will likely be howls of protest if and when this happens as he is seen as a player with rare running ability including that semi mythical thing in modern day English rugby, the outside break, but for us he is simply too lightweight and doesn’t seem to run the lines he should as a game-breaking 13. In this mornings game against the Maori Tait went backwards or turned the ball over seemingly every time he was on the ball. This is a slight exaggeration of course as he was involved in one or two good things as well, yet the general hypothesis is true. This is aligned with the fact that his defence was also tested and found to be vulnerable by the Kiwi backs.

We have been fairly vociferously anti-Johnson on this site (anti his position as Head Coach you understand – not anti the great man himself!) but we are prepared to concede ground after this tour. We still think he is not the man for the job and would rather someone else came into take charge as soon as possible, yet with these small signs of progress, it seems slightly pointless to pursue a campaign that has no chance of being successful.

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