The World Cup draw is bonkers - the Final will be more like a pool game
The sad thing is the top five in the world are on one side of the draw. The next five are on the other side. It is totally bonkers. I know it is being changed but the game has been professional for a long time now. They should have sorted it out. We could get to the final and it’s more like a pool game.
Scotland can beat South Africa if we can match their ‘Bomb Squad’ on the bench
Up until last week I was quite confident! Then against the All Blacks they bought this new off load game. Manie Libbok the fly half is a different player to Pollard who is a kicking ten and with him they are a totally different team.
I think Scotland has a far better back division man for man in terms of skill than South Africa. But up front is where we are going to have to be on our game. We have coped with physical teams in the past but South Africa will probably pack their bench with seven forwards because they know the backs can last 80 minutes.
Does Gregor match that? I think he probably will. We have to make sure our bomb squad can match theirs. If we get enough ball we can beat them.
Scotland are playing some of their best rugby ever - I cannot see a weakness
I look at the team and can’t see a weakness. The team is so consistent and that is the main difference from when I played. In our day we could beat anyone but not do so consistently.
They are playing some of the best rugby they have ever played. It is the first time I have looked at a Scotland team and not thought I wished we had this or that player. The strength in depth is the best it has ever been.
Mike Tindall was talking on his podcast recently and said Scotland are in the top four in the world. George Gregan, the former Australia scrum half, has said the same. No-one can come back from a say ten point deficit quite like Scotland have done consistently. Any team who are ahead by such a margin will panic a bit knowing Scotland can come back. It’s a bit like Manchester United when they came from 2-0 down to beat Bayern Munich 3-2. Scotland have that feeling about them.
The most negative thing for Scotland is the group but that could turn into a positive because they go into the World Cup knowing they are in great form.
The big concern is keeping Finn Russell fit because he is the main key to Scotland’s success. He has that world class magic about him. If you want to do well at a World Cup nine times out of ten your TEN is one of the best in the World. And he is.
They are a very good all round team and I think they are going into the tournament with everyone knowing the first team 1-15. The backs, front row and back row pick themselves, the half backs. That is a huge plus for Gregor Townsend who won’t have to do any tinkering.
Ireland look rusty and haven’t played well - I hope they crash out early again
I think they’ve looked rusty. They haven’t been playing that well. Is that because Sexton is not playing? They are a good team with good players. If there is one criticism it is that the team has been together as a ‘club’ quite a lot with the Leinster contingent and they have lost quite a lot of big games. But they never lie down. They have got a lot of dog about them.
It’s amazing they have never got past the quarter finals. I hope that will continue and they’ll be early casualties again.
Gregor Townsend is a strong personality that players respect and has a great coaching team
Gregor has had his ups and downs with players, but he has stayed strong. That is something the players respect, especially Finn Russell. He is in a miles better place than he was a couple of years ago when he had that spat with Gregor.
Also, Gregor does a lot more coaching now. That is definitely making a big difference. When you have a coach on the field, and he is talking to you all the time, getting in your head, working with you, it is a lot easier than a coach doing it through somebody else acting as a go-between. He has a very good coaching team too.
I’m quietly confident about this World Cup in France
The squad also really believes in themselves. They are a very tight knit unit. From what I hear if things are not going right, then players are happy to speak up and Gregor is happy to listen.
When you are given responsibility you are under pressure to perform. When you get dictated to, you tend to lose a bit of respect.
Townsend and Russell making peace is fantastic - the World Cup needs a world class player like him
It is an irony. Sometimes two mavericks don’t work together if they’re too similar. That’s when you can get a clash of personalities. They have both come out respecting each other and appreciating what is best for Scotland.
Finn has come back and is a miles better player. He captain’s Scotland, is a great goal kicker, his percentage is excellent, he reads the game well and some of the things he does with that ball is incredible. He is a joy to watch and the World Cup needs somebody like him.
World Rugby needs to change substitution laws after South Africa ‘7-1’ split
After this World Cup they have to look at it. There is nothing tactical anymore. We used to sub people for tactics in my day. Now they just send everyone on at 52 minutes. When I played if I knew I was coming off at 52 minutes I would be fuming.
World Rugby needs to look at making the game ‘less big.’ By that I mean a player has to last 80 minutes. You can still have your blood replacements but only have three tactical substitutions. That means your props have to lose 5-10 kg because they have got to be able to last the whole game.
World Rugby is safer now with new safeguards and laws in place
Yes definitely. There is a lot of negativity about the way the game is more physical and players are more prone to head knocks.
Those head knocks were there 20 years ago. But we have done a lot since then to make the game safer. In training we used to be able to spear tackle someone, tackle them in the air, punch people ten times in the head and the referee would say, ‘If you do that again you’re in trouble.’ Ten punches later he’d say,’ Right that’s your last warning!’
Training used to be brutal every day. 100 scrums a week against the wall. Props would come off with bloodshot eyes. And when you’d get concussed on the pitch the commentator would laugh. That’s not there anymore. We should make much more of this. World Rugby should make more of the improvements that have been made.
Darcy Graham is my player to watch this World Cup
Darcy Graham is definitely one to look out for. Duane van der Merwe and Blair Kinghorn make a superb back three. We have not had that attacking prowess in the back three before. For me it is as good as any back three in the world.
Danny Cipriani was ‘the most naturally talented England player around’ and he deserved a lot better
I played with him at Wasps of course. Danny was probably the most naturally talented England player around. He was an unbelievable rugby player.
But his personal life has always been an issue; his head was turned in many directions probably more than any other player. He didn't handle it in the right way. But I do feel for Danny.
He was a world class rugby player, but never got a chance to play for the Lions, play in a World Cup or consistently for his country. He deserved a lot better. Off the field dragged him down big time. I've seen the headlines this week and I just think it's very sad.
Freddie Steward is not as good as people think he is - teams target him with kicks
People talk about Freddie Steward and how good he is under the high ball. But that should be basic, a given. The reason sides kick to him is because he doesn’t run it back very well and when he does kick it he gets caught. So of course you kick it to him!
England are ‘very poor’ - they play like robots and need to integrate Marcus Smith
English rugby needs to be strong for the global game and for the Six Nations. They should have a strong team with the amount of players they have got and the number of clubs. So there is clearly an issue from that point of view because they are very poor.
From the playing point of view, they have no freedom and they play like robots. Their personalities need to come out. There is no point playing Marcus Smith if you are going to play a kicking team.
And you can’t just rely on kicking. You can’t play rugby without being able to run it out from your own 22. England’s ruck speed is slow and so the ball is slow. I don’t understand why they are not performing. He probably needs more of a blend of coaches, not just the ex-Leicester contingent.
But with the draw as it is, England could easily get to a semi-final, have a big one off game like they did against New Zealand in 2019 and they’re in the final. That would only paper over the cracks.
It is so one dimensional. A lack of pace, a lack of exuberance, lack of enthusiasm. They’re going to play in a World Cupo but there’s no buzz about them. When you see the players getting off the bus on social media, they are all flat, no smiles.
Eddie Jones’ criticisms are weird - Sir Ian McGeechan and Warren Gatland managed to get players to buy into their philosophy
I find his criticisms weird. The player pathways are all through the clubs not the RFU. Why isn’t he blaming the clubs? They’re the ones who bring the players through. The RFU under-18s and 20s are pretty successful.
If I was Steve Borthwick I’d be saying to the players, how do you want to play? What are you going to buy into?
I’ve been coached by the likes of Sir Ian McGeechan and Warren Gatland. Their method was very much getting players’ buy in. Then it's your responsibility.
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