Watching the hard fought match between New Zealand and Argentina at Wembley stadium in the 2015 RWC, I noticed that both these excellent teams avoid going to ground and only allow the ball to go to ground very reluctantly.
The way that these teams go about this differs and so does the purpose of each method but both are positive for attacking rugby.
To say New Zealand like a fast paced game is an understatement. They want the game to be quick. They are fit and skillfull and look to outplay a defence with the use of the offload. Late in the second half of the Japan v Scotland game the commentator said that there had been a total of 12 offloads in that match up until that point compared to 11 off-loads by Sonny Bill Williams in his 35 minutes he was on the field during the All Blacks v Argentina.
Even quick ball from a ruck slows play down. So how do you further speed the game up? By avoiding the rucks altogether. How is that done? With the off-load game that SBW and his fellow Kiwi’s are so good at. The Crusaders finished well in Superrugby this year. If you look at stats in their later games, you will see that the metres gained stat got higher and higher as the off-load game was getting better and better through the season.
In contrast to this slick exciting style of play the Argentinians are a far more abrasive bunch. They are keen for the collisions and physicality. The Argentinians are quite comfortable to make the carries into defenders with the aims of getting go forward ball and sucking in defenders. There are many teams that like the physicality of big collisions but what makes them effective is that they can stay on their feet through these collisions and the comes the leg drive.
The staying on your feet and the driving through the tackle often buys precious seconds for your support to arrive. More leg drives results in less players finding themselves isolated at a ruck, which in turn means less coughing the ball up to the opposition.
Agustin Creevy the Argentinian captain is a good example of this type of play and epitomises the Argentinian forward, hard, tough, aggresive, unrelenting, determined and SMART. Even when using that age old rugby technique of overpowering your opponent the Argies add a bith of method, a technical abilty. Telling me someone has been thinking about this.
As it turns out the All Blacks overcame a spirited Argentine performance. Let’s be honest the All Black’s also do the leg drive thing. It’s just that they know when to use what.