On a rare weekend when the English clubs won all of their matches in the Champions Cup it seems like European rugby is the perfect tonic for the rugby world cup hangover. But is this really the case? I’m not so sure, yes the English clubs performed amazingly well, not least Wasps in their game against Toulon, but when if you watched the game the Wasps win was built on an ability to slow the ball at the ruck, create turnovers and attack on the counter when the defence was unorganised. Who was responsible for this? George Smith an Australian. Also their game management and opportunity creation was due to non-English players Rauridh Jackson, Frank ‘the tank’ Halai and Charles Piutau as well as the English Joe Simpson. This isn’t make to take away anything from the stellar performances of the English players James Gaskell and Haskell, Joe Simpson and soon to be qualified Nathan Hughes.
When we look at the Bath vs Leinster match again there were some English players to the fore, namely Nick Auterac (notably one of my youngsters to watch this season), Henry Thomas and Kyle Eastmond, but the performance was not just built on the scrum, the amazing work of non-English players Francois Louw and Leroy Houston prevented Leinster’s big running breaking the gainline and enabling their half backs to get quick ball.
So yes things are looking a bit rosier but lets not get carried away with ourselves here, we are still a country that exited the world cup early, our new head coach hasn’t announced the new elite player squad yet and in the Premiership key players occupy some key decision making positions e.g. Nick Evans, Chris Cusiter, Lorenzo Cittadini, Khan Fotuali’i, Jamie Roberts (once his Cambridge uni sabbatical is over), Schalk Brits, Duncan Taylor and the list goes on.
So a more likely analogy to the current state of English rugby is that we have woken up had the greasy breakfast and are now looking for the painkillers. We’re on the road to recovery but there is still a way to go.