Paul Williams: Peyper Wasn’t Clever But Salty Reaction is Over The Top

Adam Redmond
23 October 2019

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


Peyper Did Not Deserve Salty Response

The disconnect between amateur and professional rugby has become huge over the past decade. And in many cases, it has had massive long-term benefits. But the one area in which the gap between amateur and pro cannot be allowed to grow is fun.

Fun is a horribly broad word, but that is what rugby is supposed to be. Walk into any amateur rugby club on a Saturday afternoon and that is what you will experience. Whether you’re part of a men’s or women’s team, the players and club members will be laughing and enjoying their afternoon.

The same cannot be said of the pro-environment which has become a very sterile place indeed – on the outside at least. Removing the personality from professional rugby players and referees is a very undesirable goal for the game. Jaco Peyper is the latest to face the backlash after his ‘elbow’ picture with Welsh fans.

Was it his greatest decision ever? Probably not. Did it require an enquiry? Absolutely not. In an alternate universe, where Peyper refused the to join in the ‘fun’, supporters would be saying “Christ, we’ve paid £25,000 to come to the RWC, we pay those refs’ wages and he didn’t even have the decency to have a picture with us. And he wouldn’t even have a laugh about the elbow. Miserable bastard. What’s the game coming to?”.

It is a position in which Nigel Owens often finds himself, where many want him to be treated like a Victorian child – seen and not heard. Be careful what you wish for. Pro rugby is can be a joyless space in many regards, we need to reverse that trend, not exacerbate it. Peyper did not deserve the salt.


Crown Joseph as King of the Coaches

Coach of the year, in a Rugby World Cup season, is usually awarded to the winner of the tournament. But regardless of who claims the Webb-Ellis trophy, Japan head coach Jamie Joseph should take the title. He’s changed the way that the game is played and what we now expect from a ‘Tier 2 nation’.

Joseph has introduced a passing revolution similar to the Tika-Taka that changed football. Japan have replaced the long pass, with two to three short passes, and in doing so decreased their error count.

Joseph has also made us reconsider how teams manage to move around the defensive ‘edge’ i.e. the space to the side of the ‘umbrella’ defender in midfield. Many teams choose to throw a big ten metre pass over the top of the ‘edge’, whereas Japan use three short passes to navigate around it. Japan are now not only part of rugby’s elite, but they are reshaping the game and not merely emulating it. Well played Mr. Joseph.


Only 100% Will Work for Wales Against the Boks

Wales were lucky to beat France. We know it, and the players and coaching staff know it too. But that is arguably the great thing about this Welsh team. Any team in the top eight can beat any other team in the top eight, when they’re performing at 100%. But that is unsustainable.

It is impossible to consistently perform at your best. Stuff just goes wrong. But Wales are now able to win when playing at 70% and that is the mark of a good team. This is in stark contrast to the Mike Ruddock squads where victories were reliant on a high-risk offloads and gamble-lines from every player on the field.

Many seem unimpressed with Wales making the Semi-Finals, but that won’t bother the coaches or the players. When you’re playing badly and winning consistently, you’re doing plenty of things right.


Dear Rugby Rule Makers, Please Change the Following

Whether or not Tomos Williams ‘stripped’ the ball forward into Justin Tipuric’s arms is now academic. But what does matter is that the law is changed. The defending player should not be punished when ‘stripping’ the ball forward, or when knocking the ball forward in the tackle.

The physics involved in the ball moving forward, in both of the above situations, are beyond the control or either player and therefore shouldn’t be punishable. Players have enough to worry about in the tackle dynamic as it is. To be held responsible for the direction of the spin of an oval ball is not part of their remit.

Whilst we’re at it, can we also award a free-kick or a scrum for a double movement as that is the harshest penalty in the game? I’ll be happy then.


What a Prize Pair of English Flankers

English rugby has always been in good shape since the game went pro. The player and financial base make them the most stable rugby economy in the world. But despite the quality of players that are available, they haven’t really been able to replace the vintage flanker options that they had in the Woodward era – replacing players like Laurence Dallaglio, Richard Hill, Neil Back and Lewis Moody was never going to be easy.

The issue was made more difficult by the fact that the Gallagher Premiership has tended towards 6.5s rather than flat out fetchers. That is no longer the case. Sam Underhill and Tom Curry’s performance against Australia was sensational and presents England with the option to play two sevens in the same style as the Wallabies, Wales and – on occasion – New Zealand.

To dominate the floor against any tier one team is an achievement, but to do it against David Pocock and Michael Hooper is next level. England’s options at 10, 12, and 15 are seemingly in constant flux, but that can no longer be said in the backrow. Sam Curry sounds and looks tasty.

 

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