Paul Williams: Dear Santa, I have been a very good boy…

Paul Eddison
24 December 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


Dear Santa,

My name is Paul Williams. I’ve been a pretty good boy this year. I haven’t told any lies, unlike some teams near London. I haven’t used any swear words, unlike some touchline medics. And I have done all my homework this year, even though it didn’t help with many of my predictions. Anyway, here are the things I want for Christmas.

Cheers, Paul

Leinster to Roll the Dice at No 10

When it comes to blooding-in players in key positions, Leinster are in an enviable position. With such a plush squad, no outside halves are ever flung into the deep end. Surrounded by quality in every position, Leinster’s new tens are allowed to firstly dip their toes into the warm toddlers pool, then slowly lower their rear down the pool ladder and confidently swim to the deep end – compare that to Luke Price at the Ospreys who has been thrown from the top of an oil rig straight into the North Sea. And with that said, now is the time for Ross Byrne to finally make the 10 shirt his own.

With Jonathan Sexton’s injury periods understandably getting longer and hints that the Irish shirt may no longer be his as a birthright, Byrne needs to make a big push in the latter half of the season. He has everything needed to be a genuinely world-class outside half. He has the hands, the feet, the head and a frame large enough to suck up contact should things go a bit stinky.

With Jack Carty at Connacht playing the best rugby of his career to earn selection for the World Cup and Joey Carbery appearing to be Simba to Sexton’s Mufasa, this is an important year for Byrne – who even has his younger brother Harry knocking on the Leinster door!

Good luck, Ross.


Supporters to Appreciate Welsh Rugby’s Finances

Twitter can be a bitter place sometimes, with some unpleasant nooks and crannies. In there you’ll find flat earthers, a variety of sexists and a smattering of rugby’s biggest haters – many of whom are Welsh. In this little corner the same arguments about Welsh rugby are regurgitated like a baby seagull’s dinner.

Each year Welsh rugby supporters complain that there is no money in the game to sign players, then in the next breath they complain that Wales are playing too many Test matches. The cold, hard fact is that without the Test matches, Welsh regional rugby doesn’t have much money. Yes, the Welsh game needs more benefactors, yes some of the Test matches sometimes hinder the European fixtures and yes it would fantastic if Welsh rugby could identify some additional resources. But currently, they can’t.

If Welsh rugby could, it would. Do you genuinely believe that the regions and WRU are deliberately trying to fail Welsh rugby and with it, lose their individual livelihoods that affect their families? As with on-field rugby tactics, it’s very easy to be negative and give everything a good kick and not so easy to create something positive. Welsh rugby needs to embrace the positive types out there, they are the ones who’ll help, not hinder.


Kicking for All

Rugby is supposed to be a game for all shapes and sizes, yet the fat lads never get to kick the ball. That is, however, beginning to change in Super Rugby and hopefully it will become a feature in the Guinness PRO14 also – especially as it’s a league with a huge Kiwi coaching influence.

In a game where subterfuge and trickery are key, it seems strange that only four players on the field ever kick the ball – the nine, 10, 12 and 15 and occasionally wings. And this is exactly why the opportunity presents itself. No-one expects a hooker, loosehead or backrow forward to chip the ball behind the defensive line. To the point where if a forward does kick the ball, they’re usually met with the sort of derisory cheer usually reserved for a wayward MP in the House of Commons.

With carrying pods being so predicable in midfield it is the perfect opportunity for a kick through, with the players on the right and left of the pod looking to chase rather than cleanout. Just think of the forwards over the history of the game who were easily capable of performing such skills – Martyn Williams and Zinzan Brooke, etc. Although it must be stated, that other than John Eales, no locks should ever be allowed to kick.

Their legs are too long and as they make contact with the ball it looks like a piece of their lower limbs could fly off. No one wants to see that.


Toyota Cheetahs to make the Guinness PRO14 Final Series

Every league needs an improved team. It shows that the respective comp has room for growth and is moving forward. The Gallagher Premiership has Northampton, Super Rugby has in recent years seen the Lions progress and now the Guinness PRO14 has the Toyota Cheetahs. With four wins from seven, and a stack of very reputable teams languishing beneath them in the conferences, the Cheetahs improvement this season has been very noticeable.

Their style of rugby has caused massive problems for the northern hemisphere teams so far this season who simply aren’t set up for a team that counter attacks from anywhere on the pitch. They have caused problems for teams even when playing away, and embarrassed others when playing at home.

As you’d expect, they have an electric back three and a set of wall-punching centres who can also distribute, but they are also reinforced with a crop of very impressive young forwards like Joseph Dweba and Junior Pokomela.

But perhaps their greatest asset may be the Northern Hemisphere season itself. As the Guinness PRO14 Final Series contest warms up, so does the weather and with it the opportunity to play with width. Good luck Cheetahs.


Referees to Call Out Box-Kick Countdown

In a sport littered with subjectivity, one of the few objective measures that rugby has at its disposal is time. Whilst we can all disagree on what constitutes a forward pass, a side-entry and a high shot – you cannot argue with time.

Even the great Richie McCaw couldn’t alter the space-time-continuum.

When counting down the point at which a player must execute a box-kick, the referee saying “use it”, at the end of the designated time, clearly isn’t working. Verbally counting down the seconds would make it far clearer for the player, supporter and referee.

If ‘counting down’ works for angry parents when getting their kids to tidy their bedrooms, it will work on scrum-halves – they are the same size.

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