We take a look at four players, who despite their many talents, could in fact be damaging their team’s hopes of challenging in the 2016 Six Nations and beyond…
The Scotland scrum half is a superb leader and goal kicker who is able to control a game and ensure consistent service to his backs. The issue however is that whilst Laidlaw is a fine player, he does not fit into Scotland’s current game plan. The problem is that with Finn Russell at fly half, and players like Stuart Hogg and Mark Bennett outside of him, Scotland need quick ball to their backs so that they can use their pace and skill to exploit breaks in the oppositions defence.
Unfortunately, for all of Laidlaw’s talents, quick delivery isn’t one of them. You only have to look at the way Glasgow play with Henry Pyrgos to see how quick delivery from the breakdown allows the pacey backs to find holes in defences and exploit them. Where Laidlaw may however be of huge value to Scotland is coming on in the final half hour of a game, particularly if Scotland are looking to close a game out, or need to slot over some points with the boot.
Roberts has been one of the stand out performers of the Six Nations so far and has been tipped by many to wear the Lions number 12 shirt in New Zealand next year. He is the defensive leader of the current Welsh side and continues to be a vital ball carrier for Warren Gatland’s side. However, Roberts has become a symbol of the lack of ambition in the current Welsh side as they continue to play what has become known as ‘Warrenball’.
The problem isn’t that Roberts is just a ‘crash ball merchant’, in fact you only have to look back to his days as a full back to see the full range of his talents. Instead, the issue lies in that due to his size, Gatland prefers to use him to truck it up the middle rather than utilise his distribution skills. Either there needs to be a change in thinking over how Roberts is used, or Wales need to look at installing a ‘playmaker’ at 12 who can get the ball out to the likes of North and Williams.
Without doubt the most controversial name in this list given Parisse has been Italy’s talisman for most of the past decade, however that is in part why Parisse could potentially be damaging the Italian national side, particularly in the longer term. The problem is that for all the brilliance Parisse adds to the Italian side, players around him have become overly reliant on him dragging them through games, and therefore suffer disproportionately when he is missing.
You only have to look at how much Italy struggle when Parisse is out injured such as at the beginning of last years Rugby World Cup to see how much the entire team relies on him. For too long has he been helping to paper over the cracks in the Italian side and allowing them to get by without fixing major problems. Just look at how in the opening round of the 2016 Six Nations, it was Parisse, a Number 8, who stepped up to take the fateful drop goal against France.
A few years ago, England prop Cole was being hailed as one of the best in the world, however in recent years, whilst he still remains a quality player, his impact, particularly on an international level have been somewhat disappointing. Although he looks to be returning to some sort of form, Cole had a massive drop off in performance last year at just the wrong time as England prepared for their ill fated World Cup bid.
The other issue is that Cole has become something of a penalty machine for England, continually failing to learn from past transgressions resulting in giving away points and territory in key games. Given the emergence of Kieran Brookes over the last 18 months, and the continued good form of youngster Paul Hill, England are hardly lacking options. Could it therefore be the perfect time to start considering whether Cole is the right man for the job?