Over the years, certain stereotypes have emerged about rugby playing counties which help to define the style of play seen in their national team and beyond. The below stereotypes may help to explain to new fans the styles of rugby they can expect to see later this year at the Rugby World Cup…
For years, Los Pumas have been notorious for the prowess up front, particularly in the front row. This forward dominance has meant they have primarily relied on their ability in the scrum to provide them with a platform to play off. In recent years they have developed a more open style of play, but the forward dominant approach is prevalent amongst South American nations.
Almost in complete contrast to Argentina, Australia (the Wallabies) have always been about playing an expansive brand of rugby that relies heavily on their skillful backs. This has often seen their forwards, particularly in the tight five struggle at the set piece, in favour of developing more skillful players who will regularly look to run the ball from deep.
English rugby has been synonymous with a brand of rugby dubbed ’10 man’ essentially involving the forwards chasing down kicks from the half backs. Although at times they have shown themselves capable of playing a more expansive style of rugby, but when the going gets tough they often find themselves reverting back to a more conservative style.
In their heyday, Les Bleus were seen as being one of the most exciting teams in the world to watch. Employing a brand of running rugby with slick backs moves, they were a joy to watch. These days however they have reverted to a much more conservative style of play, whilst being the only team around capable of playing terribly for 70 minutes, only to turn it on in the final 10.
They’re not called the Flying Fijians for nothing. You can guarantee that any game involving Fiji will see plenty of tries scored by either side, such is the openness of their play. As a nation they play a brand of high risk high reward rugby that involves off-loading at every opportunity and running the ball from deep whilst completely neglecting the set piece.
Like many of the Eastern European rugby playing nations, rugby is just another opportunity for wrestling. Their pack are primarily made up of hairy former wrestlers who will happily beat you up with no consideration for their own well being. Expect plenty of big ball carriers to ruck, maul and scrummage the ball up the field at every opportunity.
One of the most innovative rugby playing nations around, Ireland are often one of the first sides to employ new tactics on the international stage. Under new Head Coach Joe Schmidt they are currently employing a style of play that takes influence from Gaelic Football and involves a tactical kicking game with a strong chase and aerial challenges to achieve territorial dominance.
The Italian style of play is very similar to that employed by Argentina in that they are quite heavily reliant on having a dominant set piece. The Italian pack has been the jewel in their crown for many years now, although in the last couple of years, a couple of younger exciting backs have emerged giving them some extra options out on the field.
You’re not likely to find yourself being too physically intimidated by the Japanese rugby team, however they are full of smaller agile players with plenty of skill. They are also the masters of employing great technique meaning that even though their scrum may not be the biggest, they are capable of holding their own against much bigger packs.
The All Blacks are the definition of total rugby thanks to having a team packed full of skillful players. From the props all the way back to the full back, every single player is capable of passing and running with the ball thereby allowing them to play an expansive style of rugby when possible, but they still have the sense to know when to kick the ball away.
Unlike Fiji, the other South Sea Island nations tend to rely a little more on their physicality, both in the forwards and the backs. Although they still possess plenty of skilful players, capable of playing expansive rugby, they’re just as likely to run over the top of you as they are to try and go around you. Expect 6ft3 18 stone wingers to be commonplace in their starting XV’s.
Until very recently, Scotland relied on a gritty pack capable of grinding out wins being supported by kickers possessing pin point accuracy with the posts. Although Scotland still remain a side capable of frustrating even the most illustrious of opposition, under new Head Coach Vern Cotter they are now beginning to play a brand of rugby that will have plenty of fans out of their seats.
The Springboks are quite arguable the most physical side in world rugby. Although they do possess several exciting backs, the Afrikaans sheer grittiness and determination makes them born warriors out on the rugby field. Expect plenty of mauling and scrummaging in a bid to pound the life out of the opposition with a few potential cheap shots thrown in for good measure.
Possibly one of the best ways of summing up North American rugby right now is it’s a little bit confusing. Both the USA and Canada are still trying to figure out the best brand of rugby to suit their players, and as such they do a little bit of everything reasonable well, whilst failing to excel in any particular areas.
Where once Wales were known for their exciting backs, and running rugby, they have now become notorious for a brand of rugby known as Warrenball. Under Head Coach Warren Gatland, Wales for the most part have opted for backs with the physical size of forwards who look to run over the opposition rather then around them as they pummel them into submission.