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IRFU tell players when to play - but not how to play


Leinster coach Stuart Lancaster backs diverse playing styles. Photo: Sportsfile

Leinster coach Stuart Lancaster backs diverse playing styles. Photo: Sportsfile

Leinster coach Stuart Lancaster backs diverse playing styles. Photo: Sportsfile

Even in a Covid Christmas, some festive rugby traditions persist.

Pantomime baddy Scrooge - aka IRFU head honcho David Nucifora - will insist that Irish rugby's star cast are rested during the next three weeks of internecine squabbling, with some potentially sitting out the entire production, a bit like having a nativity play without Joseph and Mary.

Still, there will be enough fire and brimstone forged amongst the fringe members of the four provinces hoping to catch the eager eye of the national coaches who will be scrutinising their every move.

And while Irish rugby continues to be serviced by the obvious need for HQ to order their provincial coaches when their players are allowed to play games, perhaps it is a blessing they are not told how to play them.

Some might argue that Andy Farrell's slow - others say glacial - development of a different style of play could be streamlined by an integrated imposition of a uniformed approach throughout the four green fields.

His former colleague, Stuart Lancaster, whose Leinster side seem to tick all the boxes of how an international side might play the game, doesn't necessarily agree.

"There's no direct protocol here that dictates from the national team towards the provinces in terms of how to play," he says.

"When I was national coach, I was trying to integrate the playing style of 12 different teams. And that's a challenge because every team plays differently.

"But in some way you want that diversity as well, and in a national team that can be a strength as long as you're not so diverse, you can still pull together your own style.

"The national coaches will be better equipped in this Six Nations by having had the window in November to evolve their style, which will probably be a hybrid of all four, I feel.

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"I remember speaking to the Crusaders guys and they said when they play with the New Zealand teams, it's almost like playing themselves and they see that as a bit of a limitation.

"They prefer to play the Brumbies, who play a completely different style, in order to grow their own game because otherwise you're not preparing them for international rugby."

The temptation for blanket uniformity dismisses diversity. And isn't that what makes interprovincial rivalry so interesting, regardless of the cast?

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