Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Shaun & the Sheep

My problem isn't with what Edwards is saying about the choke tackle, 
more that he's the one saying it.

Let me start by saying that in some ways, I agree with what Shaun Edwards is saying in his much-publicised rant on the choke tackle.

The tendency to go high in the hope of pulling off this manoeuvre is indeed risky for the tackler, and for one, Ireland's own Johnny Sexton bears the scars to prove it.

And while health & safety of course must be the upmost concern, I also have tactical issues with the choke tackle.    Aiming to grab the ball is also risky in that if you don't manage it with your first attempt, with players getting bigger and bigger by the year, you as the tackler are taken out of the equation and you will have made the job for those around you doubly difficult if not more so.  If it is to be used, I believe there is both a right time in the match and a right place on the pitch to use it.

I'm not a traditionalist in most aspects of rugby union, but I would be when it comes to tackling.  First and foremost, I say get him at the hip with your shoulder and trust your team-mates to deal with an offload.

Now of course, none of this is meant to take anything away from Les Kiss and those who helped him bring the choke tackle to the highest level of the game and use it effectively.  Right or wrong it certainly adheres to the Laws of the Game as they stand and naturally as an Irish fan I have to be mostly happy with the success it has brought.

But before we go too deep down the tackling rabbit-hole, what say we walk this back a bit.  

We all know that these concerns about the choke tackle aren't merely to do with health and safety, right?  And I very much doubt he's referring to my preference for the shoulder-to-hip version either.

Shaun Edwards has had much success in rugby and overall I don't have much against him but he is being disingenuous here to say the very least yet going by comments after the Simon Thomas article he has many Welsh fans in complete unquestioning agreement (which if nothing else helps me use my headline to reference the movie to which my 5-year old is begging me to bring). 
"I agree 100% it should be banned" 
"I agree entirely with Shaun Edwards." 
"Choke tackle should be banned, technically it already is as it's a tackle around the neck." 
"Brilliantly simple as Shaun Edwards puts it."
If his rant is to properly start a debate, then let's have one - but what say we also ask ourselves if the choke tackle is the only "blight on the game"?  How about the chop tackle as well?  Would he be so keen for us to look into that?

And why not widen the scope of the discussion even further...if you have concerns with the interpretation of the Laws of the Game, is it right to bring them up smack bang in the middle of a tournament, particularly when you're a couple of weeks away from facing the test side that virtually pioneered the technique?

I thought law-changes were meant to be on a four-year cycle, or at least that's how it should be.  The days should be gone when every new season sees a new law we have to take on board.  World Rugby should call in the member unions after every World Cup and address whatever issues are there and come up with a plan to have fully in place by the time the next one comes around.

Or....you could just use the media to try and sculpt the narrative to suit your agenda.  

Personally, as much as I'd love for Ireland to beat England this weekend (or indeed any time we play them), I'd have a lot more respect for Stuart Lancaster & Andy Farrell after they elected to fight fire with fire, using the choke tackle against us to such good effect at Twickenham last season.

I'm not saying Edwards is the first to use the press conference as a vehicle to influence refereeing, but it certainly wouldn't be the end of World Rugby if he was the last.  JLP


Taken by JLP from RDS press box on Nov 16, 2019