I guess it was inevitable. Sitting down to watch the England and Scotland women’s game in Doncaster on Saturday, it wasn’t long before some joker was disparaging it.
I say joker, at least he thinks he is. My only previous experience of this particular character on twitter was when he made a cruel, needless joke at the expense of a 15-year-old girl golfer. I blocked him then, but must have relented at some point.
Anyway, he thought the standard of the women’s game was no better than a boys’ Under-14 contest. It was clearly a view he’d prepared before regardless of what he saw given he sought to introduce it to the debate just a few minutes into the game.
The responses, particularly with BBC commentator and former England hooker Brian Moore weighing in on behalf of the women, prompted a delete and swift retreat.
I haven’t seen boys’ Under-14 rugby for a bit, I admit, but I struggle to imagine it is as well-drilled and flowing as the game I watched.
I don’t think I’ve seen anyone at any level this season deliver a bullet pass flying 15 metres off the left hand as England’s No 8 Poppy Cleall did midway through the second half on Saturday. It was worthy of the best portside passer I’ve ever seen, France’s great pivot of the 90s Christophe Lamaison.
A discrepancy in quality
Setpieces were slick and well-drilled – well, Scotland’s certainly were. There was a clear discrepancy of quality between to the two nations, but that’s not entirely surprising. England’s total player group still accounts for 15 players plus three replacements for every one Scot. The gap can only be bigger in the women’s game.
The final result seemed like another thrashing, 52-10. A half-century is about par for England in the last 10 years of this fixture. But it was notable that England’s bluff Northerner of a head coach Simon Middleton was particularly praising of the Scots afterwards – a team on the rise, he thought.
In any case, false equivalencies and meaningless incorrect comparisons don’t do anyone any favours. The women’s game deserves some space and, no longer clashing with the Men’s Six Nations, some greater attention.
As usual with women’s sport, it’s a chicken and egg situation. It needs more popularity to gain media attention, but how does one hope for any popularity without it?
Strange Kinghorn experiment ends Edinburgh’s uneven season
Edinburgh’s season has fizzled out in disappointing fashion. They were roundly hammered in the last 16 of the Heineken European Cup, shedding fifty points to Racing 92 in Paris.
Racing were without the suspended Finn Russell, but you wouldn’t have guessed. They were briefly vulnerable in the opening moments and completely dominated the game thereafter.
Edinburgh didn’t help themselves with Richard Cockerill’s curious decision to play regular full-back Blair Kinghorn at 10. There was some kind of mitigation in that Jaco van der Walt had suffered a dead leg and hadn’t trained much, apparently.
I admit that I once advocated for Kinghorn to have a run at 10 for Edinburgh, where he played at schools level. But that was when Alan Solomons was head coach and the South African talked me down. Kinghorn’s “levers” at 6 foot three and a third were too long, he reasoned.
Well, Racing saw they were facing a novice at 10 and gave Blair not a moment’s peace. The experiment ended early. Hopefully his confidence has not been shaken by this latest blow of a difficult spring which saw him get dropped out of the Scotland squad.
A free pass for the pandemic season
Cockerill, and his counterpart along the road at Glasgow Danny Wilson, has had to make do this season as budgets were tightened. As a result both of them deserve a free pass for this season, ending with the hastily-concocted Rainbow Cup.
But the recruitment – and in Edinburgh’s case, the re-recruitment – has gone pretty well. They’ve tested a few young bucks and Glasgow in particular like what they see from young Ross Thompson.
What they’re up against was illustrated by the story last week that Munster had lined up Springbok giant Pieter-Steph du Toit for next season until the IRFU nixed the deal. Apparently pandemic budgets are unchanged in Ireland.
But there are no free passes left. Next season, crowds may return to Scotsotun and what the SRU desperately don’t want us to call Mini-Murrayfield. The pro teams have to be moving forward again.
Experiments, like we saw in Paris and maybe in the Rainbow Cup, will not be overlooked so easily then.
More cards, and one that certainly should have been
🏴 Jake Ball has NOT been cited for this hit on Faf de Klerk. Interesting…🤔pic.twitter.com/lLORdEwzHR
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) April 7, 2021
In last week’s Breakdown we bemoaned the number of yellow and red cards and it continued at the weekend. At Doncaster the flow of the game was constantly interrupted with TMO checks and cards brandished.
None of them were obviously wrong. Which could not be said for the following day at Parc Y Scarlets when Jake Ball of the home team took out Faf de Klerk of Sale with a shoulder to the head.
No sanction, not even a penalty. De Klerk had not even lifted the ball, so it was not out, and anyway the hit was clearly dangerous.
No retrospective action either. Players are confused right now, and aberrations like this don’t help.