People often refer to “doing the basics” in rugby union. Coaches do it all the time and the media, to save time and column inches, follow suit. Rarely does anyone bother to rank these unspecified basics in order of priority. What matters more, tackling, kicking, scrummaging, running or passing?
Clearly, all players should have at least three of these core skills but which is the most fundamental to success? Your answer will pretty much define your entire view of rugby.
The more top-quality rugby you study, however, the more obvious it becomes: the skill that sets the best apart is the sureness of their passing and handling. It is amazing how relatively few modern players are pass masters.
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So when people debate England’s World Cup selection, rest assured passing matters. What a difference it made to England’s attacking shape in Paris when Danny Cipriani came on.
Danny Cipriani is a rugby maverick who can provide sparkles of a genius which Stuart Lancaster should allow to roam free. However, once the dust settles, conservatism sets in.
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The latest Six Nations were an eye opener to the talent and creativity that this England team has and could bring to the world stage. But the World Cup Squad appears to limit that ability with Owen Farrell and Alex Goode placing themselves in front of Cipriani in his two positions of fly-half and fullback. Both shall be understudies to George Ford and Mike Brown respectively.
This is where Lancaster's logic doesn't appear to add up. Ford and Brown just like Cipriani have an ability to do the unexpected which is priceless, but they both play on the front foot naturally. Farrell and Goode just don't have this ability, its not their game.
This won't hinder their performances, but it will hinder those around, particularly the young and inexperienced midfield partnerships and the even younger 'back three' players. Prime example is Jonathan Joseph who relies on players to put him on the front foot and in the space to frighten defences with his blistering pace and exquisite side-step.
Cipriani deserved his chance to ply his trade on the world stage, but Lancaster has denied this opportunity to see a maverick thrive at the biggest rugby event.
Who knows we might now never seen him at a World Cup.