Tag Archives: rucks

Schalk Brits ready to face Ruan Pienaar and Johann Muller

Pride at stake for Brits as Sarries hooker goes head-to-head with fellow Boks

-13.

Main man: Ulster rely heavily on Pienaar's creativity

Main man: Ulster rely heavily on Pienaar's creativity

Brits said: ‘I’ve been blessed with no injuries, and for the first time in two years I don’t feel over-played.

‘The club look after us unbelievably well and in return all we can do is to work very, very hard on the pitch.

‘That’s not been flashy. If it means making 20 tackles or hitting 20 rucks to ensure we win then that’s what we will do.’

Players won"t fight for Rafa Benitez – Neil Ashton

Chelsea players are not fighting for Benitez and the fans have still not taken to him

By
Neil Ashton

PUBLISHED:

00:10 GMT, 28 January 2013

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UPDATED:

02:24 GMT, 28 January 2013

After the rucks and rows with opposition managers over the years, Rafa Benitez developed the skin of a rhino.

As manager of Liverpool he called it on with Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson, engaging in hand-to-hand combat as they competed for the game’s highest honours.

At Chelsea, employed as the club’s interim coach until the end of the season, he faces a unique challenge.

Hard times: Rafa Benitez is struggling to get the Chelsea players to play for him

Hard times: Rafa Benitez is struggling to get the Chelsea players to play for him

Tough crowd: The Chelsea fans make their feelings clear

Tough crowd: The Chelsea fans make their feelings clear

Chelsea fans still haven’t taken to Benitez and he was getting on their goat again when they were in danger of being blown away by Brentford in the FA Cup.

There were only 1,800 Chelsea fans squeezed into the Brook Road Stand, but their message in the 79th minute came over loud and clear.

‘You don’t know what you’re doing’ was the chant as Benitez prepared to replace a right back with another right back.

Chelsea were 2-1 down when it turned hostile and the idea that Cesar Azpilicueta could provide the attacking thrust to bring Chelsea back into this game seemed improbable.

Benitez just brushes it off, insisting that he simply concentrates on the job in hand. ‘I don’t hear any of it, I am on the touchline, I am concentrating on trying to win the football match,’ is his standard response to the fans’ dissent.

Finding it tough: Even though he scored, Fernando Torres had a tough afternoon

Finding it tough: Even though he scored, Fernando Torres had a tough afternoon

Benitez deserves more respect than this after a career dedicated to the art of management.

He may not be the perfect fit for Chelsea, but he remains, in the words of Brentford manager Uwe Rosler, ‘a world-class coach’.

Twice named UEFA manager of the year, a European Cup winner with Liverpool in Istanbul in 2005 and a FIFA Club World Cup winner, his list of achievements is pretty impressive.

Going ahead: Brentford's Marcello Trotta puts his side 1-0 up

Going ahead: Brentford's Marcello Trotta puts his side 1-0 up

Chelsea fans will never take to him, that much is clear, but he could do with a bit of a breather when it comes to this club. They began the season under Roberto Di Matteo in seven competitions and are fortunate to still be in two after this escape at Griffin Park.

Benitez appeared to have it cracked when they steamrollered Aston Villa 8-0 in a Premier League fixture at Stamford Bridge.

Since then they have spluttered through games, beaten easily over two legs by Swansea in the Capital One Cup semi-final and somehow surviving yesterday’s fourth-round tie.

This is a team in transition. Ross Turnbull, in goal yesterday, is an accident waiting to happen and his clumsy performance against Rosler’s team, only his 18th appearance for Chelsea, should probably be his last.

Not going to plan: Oscar, Frank Lampard and Torres look on after conceding

Not going to plan: Oscar, Frank Lampard and Torres look on after conceding

The rest lack motivation, uncertain of their goals after landing the European Cup against Bayern Munich last season. A great side would be using the aura of that famous win to gobble up trophies.

Instead the only silverware left is the FA Cup — if they can get past Brentford in the replay on the weekend of February 16-17 at Stamford Bridge — and the Europa League will be on if they beat Sparta Prague. It seems beyond them, particularly if the body language of the players in recent weeks is anything to go by.

They don’t fancy it any more and the legendary fight to the finish, along with their match-winning mentality, is a thing of the past.

Benitez is battling on, but the lack of application will be getting right under his skin.

Stuart Lancaster has to shake up midfield

Ben Kay: Lancaster has to shake up midfield to avenge South Africa defeat

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UPDATED:

23:26 GMT, 10 June 2012

Stuart Lancaster has some tough decisions to make about England's midfield after defeat in the first Test.

Brad Barritt's nasty eye injury might prove to be a blessing for England's head coach as he looks to get even at Ellis Park next Saturday.

Blessing in disg-eyes: Brad Barritt receives attention to an eye injury

Blessing in disg-eyes: Brad Barritt receives attention to an eye injury

Fly-half Owen Farrell had his least effective game for England and could be moved to centre, giving a place to Toby Flood at No 10.

Ben Youngs' place at scrum-half is also under threat.

He's a match-winner when sniping around the rucks, but the slow speed of his service from the base – a scrum-half's bread and butter – is hampering England's other attacking options.

Not so effective: Owen Farrell struggled in the first Test

Not so effective: Owen Farrell struggled in the first Test

It would have been great if substitute centre Jonathan Joseph had been given more time but his exciting running will give him longer next week.

England can ill afford to lose the kicking duel in the high altitude of Johannesburg like they did in Durban.

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer is a master at the tactic, having spent his coaching career in Pretoria for the Blue Bulls.

Every time one of England's back three caught a high ball he was swamped by Springbok tacklers, negating the attacking threat of Mike Brown, Ben Foden and Chris Ashton.

Under threat: Ben Youngs' slow service was a concern

Under threat: Ben Youngs' slow service was a concern

Also, England may have won the physical battle in the first half, but did that give them a false sense of security

South Africa have terrific ball carriers, built momentum in the first 20 minutes of the second half and England could do little to stop them.

However, both new caps, in flanker Tom Johnson and loose head Joe Marler, had excellent debuts.

Johnson was outstanding in the first half and it was a puzzle why Marler was substituted in the second half.

Extended run: Jonathan Joseph needs more time

Extended run: Jonathan Joseph needs more time

I'd keep the same pack for next week. The back three will be disrupted with Brown out injured while Lancaster has headaches over his midfield.

Harlequins 11 Saracens 19: Farrell the star of the show for record 82,000 crowd

Harlequins 11 Saracens 19: Farrell provides the fireworks for record 82,000 crowd at HQ

Conor O”Shea was forced to acclaim Owen Farrell’s remarkable maturity and Test potential after Harlequins’ record- breaking festive extravaganza at Twickenham was spoiled by the Saracens rookie.

A crowd of 82,000 — the largest ever recorded for a club game in this country — massed at HQ with the vast majority hoping to see Quins extend their lead at the top of the Aviva Premiership table. Yet, after 25 minutes, Saracens were 19-3 ahead, Farrell had 14 points to his name and O’Shea’s men were chasing the game. They would never recover.

Christmas cracker: A record crowd of 82,000 was at Twickenham

Christmas cracker: A record crowd of 82,000 was at Twickenham

This was a second defeat in three games for the team who had begun the season with a run of 14 straight victories. Having lost at home to Toulouse 16 days earlier, they had responded with an epic win in the return fixture but on this occasion they had no answer to Saracens’ initial power and control up front, allied to Farrell’s precision in front of goal.

At the end of last season, the 20-year-old had kicked his club to a maiden Premiership title in the final against Leicester. This time he was similarly assured and it was a good time to make such a positive statement, with England head coach Stuart Lancaster among the hordes in attendance.

Fireworks: The players run out at HQ

Fireworks: The players run out at HQ

IN FOCUS

Peter Stringer

The Saracens scrum-half incurred the wrath of Quins fans for slowing the game at the base of rucks to launch high box kicks. The tedious but effective tactic attracted booing.

Joe Marler

Many fans were in their seats in time for the pre-match entertainment which included Misha B, who gave Quins prop Joe Marler a run for his money in the crazy hairstyle stakes.

Amelia Lily

Groundstaff were on the pitch at half-time wearing Father Christmas hats as they did some gardening. But the surface didn’t look in great condition for a showpiece kick-started by X Factor’s Amelia Lily.

O’Shea said: ‘He does impress. I saw himat Loughborough in a training camp when he was 14 and it was an Under 18 camp and he ran the show. He’s an outstanding player. His dad (Saracens and England coach Andy Farrell) was a pretty good goal-kicker and I am sure he has taken a few lessons off him.

‘I am sure he will be a cornerstone for England for a long time.’

Aside from Farrell, there were others in the Saracens ranks who will have given Lancaster plenty to ponder before he names a Six Nations squad on January 11. Brad Barritt was a creative and destructive force in midfield and David Strettle excelled in the first half before going off after the break with a shoulder injury. But flanker Andy Saull was particularly impressive. The openside so often has to play second fiddleto Jacques Burger but given his opportunity, he was a menace at the breakdown throughout.

Saracens’ director of rugby Mark McCall said: ‘Andy was absolutely magnificent and I thought a lot of our young English players really madea good impression today — Brad Barritt, who is just getting better and better, Owen Farrell again and Alex Goode, who has really come into formin the last month or so. Ben Spencer really helped to close the game out and Mouritz Botha did well when he came on, too.

‘Hopefully the England coaches will take notice and I’m sure some of theQuins players have put themselves forward as well. Charlie Hodgson can’t be forgotten either — some of his long passes today were outstanding and I don’t think anyone else in England can pass the ball like him.’

Oh My: Joe Marler of Harlequins celebrates his try with team mates

Oh My: Joe Marler of Harlequins celebrates his try with team mates

Big game 4: Harlequins and Saracens served up a treat

Big game 4: Harlequins and Saracens served up a treat

In the opening period, Quins set their stall out to run free while Saracens were content to play a more steady, structured game. The lattertactic paid off and Farrell sent over three kicks for a 9-0 lead. Nick Evans finally put Quins on the board with a shot of his own before the visitors surged ahead in opportunistic fashion.

As O’Shea’s side tried to run out of defence, prop Joe Marler threw a pass towards Nick Easter on his own 22 without looking, Strettle picked it off and raced away to score, with Farrell converting before adding a fourth penalty.

Hold on: Brad Barritt of Saracens is tackled by Matt Hopper of Harlequins

Hold on: Brad Barritt of Saracens is tackled by Matt Hopper of Harlequins

Just before the break, the Saracens defence stood defiant as Quins swarmed forward. Chris Brooker and Easter were stopped short and when Jordan Turner-Hall’s pass was knocked on by Matt Hopper, the hosts had to settle for an Evans penalty to make it 19-6.

Sarries were finally breached in the 48th minute when Easter drove from alineout on the left and Danny Care sent Marler over to atone for his earlier lapse. But Evans missed the conversion and that proved decisive as Quins were unable to force even a losing bonus point, despite anotherlate Easter surge and off-load which was high and knocked on by Maurie Fa’asavalu.

Centre of attention: Owen Farrell of Saracens is tackled by Nick Easter (left) and Maurie Fa

Centre of attention: Owen Farrell of Saracens is tackled by Nick Easter (left) and Maurie Fa”asavalu of Harlequins

McCall was delighted with his players’ display of character and courage,saying: ‘That was a brilliant result for us. We were in control in thefirst half but in the second half Quins played scintillating rugby and we had to be at our very best to stop them. They are still ahead of us in the table so it was good that we were able to deny them a bonus pointwhich they probably deserved.’

Quins’ cushion has been reduced to five points and O’Shea said: ‘To givea lead to the Premiership champions was going to be difficult to claw back. We made too many errors at the start of the game but our guys fought tooth and nail to get back into it.’

Sounding a note of defiance, he added: ‘That wasn’t a cup final today. The cup final is in May and we will be there and ready for it.’

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