Billy v Sam. Lancaster Picks – In Response

Those who’ve read my ‘stuff’ on In The Loose will know I mostly write match reports – with my opinions of course and am lucky enough to get to meet some very interesting rugby people to write about them.  But I am going to rant a bit here.

A bit of background into the whole In The Loose thing, the people writing here do it for fun, we’re from different areas, support different teams, are different ages (I’m old enough to be Mum to most I reckon!) we also have, at times, very different opinions on various subjects.

We’re big enough and ugly enough to accept your criticism and indeed accept that some of our ‘colleagues’ will disagree with us.  With that in mind – here I go – putting my counter argument to 2 pieces posted today.

The 1st being the whole Sam Burgess dominated Billy Vunipola thing!  I have to state my interest here – I’m a huge rugby league fan and a big admirer of Sam on the one hand and a Saracens season ticket holder on the other.  But hopefully I can say my piece with no hint of bias.

I’d actually rather be comparing Dave Ewers and Thomas Waldrom to Burgess than Billy Vunipola, I am literally gob smacked that neither are in the England squad!  However the ‘article’ I’m responding to is about Burgess/Vunipola.  Yet I’m not going to go into it too much – NO 8 is a very different slot to Flanker.

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Let’s look at some of the Premiership Rugby Season Stats prior to the Final as a starter

Sam Burgess                          Billy Vunipola

  1. Appearances                 15                                                15
  2. Minutes                      922                                             1097
  3. Points Scored              20                                                 25
  4. Tackles                         95                                                107
  5. Missed Tackles           13                                                  18
  6. Metres Made             351                                                691
  7. Carries                        113                                                193
  8. Defenders Beaten      29                                                 38
  9. Lineouts Won               1                                                    5

You’ll have to forgive me for all the numbers it’s the Business Manager in me – do those stats tell us much?  In a couple of areas they do, I’ll leave you to make your own conclusions.  But, the most important factor in this set of stats for me is the number of minutes.  This is Sam Burgess’s first season of picking up a rugby union ball and running with it!

Yes there are a few more games to add in, but basically this man is learning the game!  He is without a doubt one of the best rugby league players in the world.  As a league player he had a habit of tackling high, that’s a part of his game that he’ll have had to unlearn.  He’s been swapped and changed, 1st taking his place in the back line then the back row.

He’s had a handful of starts at 6, a hugely technical position, are we honestly suggesting that he can learn how to play Openside Flanker in 6 or 7 games?  England have a wealth of top class players, options at both 6 and 7. players who’ve been brought up with the game, who are instinctively aware of where they need to be on the pitch.

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It was obvious to me a couple of times during the final that Burgess was entirely in the wrong position, he got in the way of a Ford pass at one point, forcing him to kick.  That’s totally understandable, training is great and will give basics, but game time in your position of choice is key.

Back to the original post – Sorry fellow In The Loose writer – had Sam Burgess dominated Billy Vunipola Bath wouldn’t have had the 1st half they suffered, yes the video shows a decent tackle, being hard and a strong tackler is one thing Burgess doesn’t need to learn!  But one tackle doesn’t constitute domination!

I want Sam Burgess to succeed, I want to see another league convert make it at the top level, I know what supreme athletes the majority of top flight league players are.  But, for me?  Take the spotlight off this man and let him learn!

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Rolling 2 subjects into one – a comment on Stuart Lancaster’ stance over Manu Tuligai and Dylan Hartley as well as sticking to the decision not to include players plying their trade overseas.

The question asked is ‘Do you think England risk worrying more about their image than winning at the World Cup?’

My answer, and it is only my personal opinion as the original article is my colleagues opinion, is that in the case of Tuilagi there is no way on this earth I would want a man found guilty of assaulting 2 female police officers in the white shirt of England.  In addition to his court case, he has had played 227 minutes of Premiership Rugby this season; how would that be adequate preparation for a World Cup?

On to Dylan Hartley – did he head butt Jamie George?  Not really, but he did lead with his forehead into George’s – read his own words after the fact – “I am devastated with what has happened and the position I have put myself and the England team in,”   “I would like to apologise to Jamie, Stuart, and my team mates both at Saints as well as England.  “What happened is not acceptable and I understand why this decision has been made”

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Enough said on his exclusion from the squad surely – add in 50 weeks of bans – was it right to leave him out?  Yes!

A quick mention of Steffon Armitage and Nick Abendanon – they knew the rules before they decided to ply their trade in France – yes they’ve both excelled this year, but a home World Cup isn’t an exceptional circumstance.  Again we have plenty of options in particular in the back row.

That’s my (long) rant over!  A different viewpoint which I’m sure many will take exception to, I’ll be interested in your opinion.

Comments

comments

About Debbie Knight

An Essex girl with a passion for both codes. A Saracens, London Broncos & London Skolars season ticket holder, likely adding Hemel Stags too! My articles are my view of the game (both) I've never played either, what you read is what I see. I try to be unbiased, shout if I'm not!

2 comments

  1. Completely agree with you. I actually thought both Billy and Sam had very good games in the final, both doing what they do best. And yes that was a big hit but Sam is also a very big lad and someone else had Billy’s legs tied up.

    In regards to the others, I think they can all be combined into the same group. They were all aware of the circumstances they’ve put themselves in.

    Armitage and Abendanon, albeit both very good players, moved to France after the rule about picking overseas players was introduced. Armitage especially, if he really wanted to play for England, had plenty of time and opportunity to move back for a year.

    Tuilagi and Hartley (& now possibly Cipriani) were all aware that doing something stupid on or off the pitch would risk losing their spot in the squad, and they still did it. The first two were understandably frustrated at their situations, but if these people are snapping under pressure, I wouldn’t want them in a World Cup Final anyway. Cipriani, if found guilty of drunk driving, will have shown that he hasn’t matured enough to be trusted.

    Cipriani in particular is a real shame because I genuinely thought he was over making these mistakes, but the whole squad should have been extremely aware of the possibility considering tuilagi’s recent dismissal.

    Interestingly, if he is found guilty, I think Henry Slade would almost certainly make the final squad, and Sam Burgess might even prosper from it, too.

    • I agree with almost every point here, but have to step in and point out that Armitage moved to France at a time when there was no exceptional circumstances rule for foreign players and he had effectively been dumped by London Irish and had fallen out of favour with England, he announced his departure before the 2011 World Cup and went to better himself not his wages. This being said he has had chances to move back and Lancaster has made the right call on their behalf. Finally, what Tuilagi did was unacceptable and deserves his ban, but it was hardly assault and I think that the assumption that what he did is made worse by the fact it was female officers is incredibly sexist and shows a lack of equality. “Officers” would suffice.

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