Paul Williams: The Black & White Column

Adam Redmond
07 February 2019

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Each game week Paul Williams ‘Black & White’ column will take a look around the world of the Guinness PRO14. Known for his contributions to Rugby World, his obsession for the game and his notorious tennis elbow, Paul will bring his unique takes on rugby to pro14rugby.org. With no grey areas, entertainment and enlightenment are assured. For more make sure to follow him on Twitter  @thepaulwilliams


Whipping the Half Backs is Half Baked

Wales had an unusual game against France, to say the least. Despite a remarkable win in Paris, other than the Welsh backrow of Justin Tipuric, Josh Navidi and Ross Moriarty, no Welsh players had a faultless performance for 80 minutes.

With rain falling quicker, and heavier, than a British politician’s reputation, it was difficult for any creative players to make their mark on the game. But sadly, and unfairly, the blame always ends up with the half backs. And on this occasion, it was Cardiff Blues’ Tomos Williams and Gareth Anscombe that were tied to the digital whipping stone and flogged on social media.

It is so unfair. The half backs handle the ball twice as much as any other players on the field. Almost every pass goes through the scrum half and the vast majority also move through the outside half. If the floor and contact is dominated by the opposition then the impact on the half backs is magnified – particularly if you’re viewing on TV.

George North had a chance to rectify his defensive lapse, that allowed France to score on his wing, Tomos Williams and Gareth Anscombe did not. Let’s hope they get their chance against Italy. They’ve both had fantastic seasons in the Guinness PRO14 and deserve another crack.


Super Heroes Walk Among Us – Ian McKinley is Proof

We’re always searching for heroes in rugby. Those who can inspire on the field and off. But sometimes rugby heroes are hiding in plain sight. Ian McKinley is one of those players. To lose an eye and still play Test rugby is ridiculous.

Playing Test rugby is a big ask even for those with binocular vision, with one eye it must be unimaginably difficult. It really is the stuff of cartoons and superheroes. McKinley may not have lasers shooting from his eyeballs, or be able to invoke X-Ray vision at the click of his fingers, but running a test backline with impaired vision requires remarkable skills.

Stop watching Marvel films on Netflix and Amazon and switch on Italy or Benetton’s next game – there’s a superhero on every week.


Calm Down. Ireland, Lost… Once

Make no mistake, Ireland were thoroughly out played by England. Nothing Irish has been shut down so emphatically since that Lidl burned down in West Dublin. Ireland’s narrow carrying was eliminated entirely and with it England could blitz the outside channels for fun.

The result was Ireland being jammed back inside and an inability to release their outside backs in the manner to which we have been accustomed. But, it was just one loss.

Two losses (the other to Australia) since March 2017 where they played stunning rugby – a period in which Ireland, and some of their provinces, have dominated northern-hemisphere rugby. To rule Ireland out of the Guinness Six Nations, and the World Cup, is to have not understood the past season and the one before that.

Ireland, with the quality in their squad, can spark-up as quickly as the aforementioned Lidl. I wouldn’t want to be coaching the team that plays them next.


My Guinness PRO14 Player of Round 1: Blair Kinghorn (Scotland & Edinburgh)

 

For those who don’t watch enough of the Guinness PRO14, Blair Kinghorn’s performance against Italy may have come as a shock. But for those who watch him play club rugby, that display was just a natural part of his career curve. To score a hat-trick in Test rugby is truly remarkable.

But whilst the number of tries that he finished was worthy of a top 10 place on the Twitter charts, it was the variety of tries that was most reassuring. The first was a perfect catch, from a kick-pass, at full pace. Which is easier said than done.

We’re all used to seeing Olympic sprinters running full tilt, but ask them to look up and catch a ball coming over their right shoulder and it’s a different ball game. The second was a modern winger’s staple, where a shabby bounce pass required gathering and finishing. The third was the hardest, where three defenders had the chance to drop him, but none did.

Head coach Gregor Townsend was rightly disappointed with Scotland’s concession of three tries during the final stages of the game, but the performance of Kinghorn will make him realise that he has a wing capable of finishing anything, from almost anywhere. Well played, Blair.


Velleman’s Elbow just Pathetic

 

As anyone who uses social media knows, the majority of post-match Guinness Six Nation’s matches is spent watching video clips of marginal calls on high tackles and illegal impacts at the ruck. In the modern game, a contact made three inches below or above the shoulder can be the difference between a yellow and red card.

The difference between winning and losing.

The difference between getting a new contract and being shipped off to another club. But some offences are obvious and have been for decades. As we saw in the Isuzu Southern Kings v Toyota Cheetahs game, shoulder barging a player’s head after they have scored a try is pathetic.

Pathetic not only because you’ve cost your team the game, but because you’ve assaulted a player who is in no position to defend themselves. When a player scores a try they are at their most vulnerable – both hands are usually on the ball, and the player is looking at the in-goal area and nothing else.

CJ Velleman cost the Southern Kings any chance of winning the game and it was ugly to say the least. Poor form, CJ.

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