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Murrayfield maelstrom shows why a summer season would be better

Brian Moore


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'Summer pro-rugby must be better than the almost unplayable conditions that faced Scotland and England at Murrayfield Stadium on Saturday.' (stock image)

'Summer pro-rugby must be better than the almost unplayable conditions that faced Scotland and England at Murrayfield Stadium on Saturday.' (stock image)

SPORTSFILE

'Summer pro-rugby must be better than the almost unplayable conditions that faced Scotland and England at Murrayfield Stadium on Saturday.' (stock image)

I was roundly derided for suggesting that if a global calendar was to work, the northern hemisphere would have to move its professional season from winter to summer. The counter-argument, which should not be dismissed lightly, is the tradition of the Six Nations as winter entertainment.

Noting that proposition, traditions change, and people get used to new things quickly, especially if they work well. Good weather rugby; surely better for players and spectators alike?

Anyone at Murrayfield on Saturday must have thought, at least at some point and no matter how fleetingly, summer pro-rugby must be better than the almost unplayable conditions that faced Scotland and England. It was never dangerous and thereby officially unplayable, but at times must have felt unwatchable to casual rugby fans. Even for talented international players, it was close to impossible to do anything more than the absolute basics.

Without labouring the point, those watching on TV saw what looked like blustery and testing weather, whilst the reality was that it was difficult just to catch, pass and kick. You can claim, as inevitably some have, that New Zealand would have managed to play to a better standard, but if so, it would not have been by much and I would not have put much money on that anyway.

In the end, England deservedly won a close game 13-6 because they showed a little more control in the set-piece, their back row had the better of the breakdown and their front five largely won the collisions.

Whether by luck or prescience, Eddie Jones's selection of six forwards and only two backs on the bench was a contributory factor in England eventually gaining the small but decisive edge that took them home.

Tom Curry was close to Sam Underhill's man-of-the-match performance, but there is still something flawed in Jones's reasoning over picking Curry out of position at No 8. The claim is that he sees Curry as potentially a better No 8 than any specialist currently available for England.

However, had Billy Vunipola not been injured, you cannot tell me Jones would have played Curry in front of Vunipola which, logically, he should if he genuinely believes this claim.

Neither coach could sensibly make too many firm judgments from this game; the context was almost preternatural, but a few contentions might bear scrutiny.

Both Willi Heinz and Ben Youngs need to be more threatening around the fringes of breakdowns. Even if they do not pose a continual threat, the virtual absence of runs from the breakdown is making the job of defences easier. This is so, even if England have all their strike runners available out wide and close in. The second of doubt put into defenders who are forced to consider a scrum-half run will make any carrier's job easier, whatever the width of the point of contact.

George Ford and Owen Farrell kicked well in the first half; deceptively so. Only in retrospect is it apparent how effectively they kept Scotland in their own half for long periods when they had the advantage of the prevailing gusts.

In the second half, Adam Hastings and Stuart Hogg were less effective and from just a few more visits into their opponents' half England fashioned a winning try and penalty.

Finally, spare a thought for Hogg, the previous week a villain for not scoring the easiest of tries; on Saturday facing a fiendishly bouncing ball that he was forced to touch down over his own line. From the resultant scrum came England's try and Hogg's second successive loss.

Scotland are not a bad side, but they are not having much luck either.

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

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