6 Nations Week 3 - Philosophy or Strategy
Two games into the current 6N competition is a bit too early to declare a set approach to playing each game. England, with a settled Head Coach and team are probably the best placed team to continue with their coaches and players philosophy of how we play.
Having a club philosophy is different to a playing philosophy. A club philosophy will have numerous stakeholders and values already established within the club. Ian McGeechan here discusses the issues around a philosophy for the 1997 victorious Lions Squad.
Eddie Jones gave an insight in 2016 when he took over the reins in his first 6N what his philosophy was/is and to be fair he has been pretty consistent since then . So clarity as a coach in your own thinking is essential if you are trying to share this with your players, squad and other stakeholders.
Every team practices in the week before a game to prepare themselves for the upcoming game. This preparation is influenced by numbers, availability of key personnel, the weather, the concentration and motivation of the players. That’s even before we start talking about the tactical side and how we want to play.
However – as Mike Tyson said, all the planning lasts as long as the first punch!
Once the whistle goes and kick-off starts the way you actually play might have zero reflection to how you trained and prepared. Do we rely on an in-game strategy doing what we do well and planned to do, knowing that it won’t work but still doing it? Or do play based on our approach and philosophy . EJ says do the basics, be the best at these and the rest will come, it is up to the players to perform and to apply themselves not the coaches.
Looking at England’s last two games in the 6N we see two very different approaches. Are England’s performances based on their playing philosophy or on strategy during the game? Are there any consistencies between the two performances? Remember that EJ talks about the basics as being fundamental to England’s philosophy.
If you look at the stats fromt he last two games as raw data, why didn’t England win v France? They did everything well but what they failed at was scoring. They lacked direction of actually how to manage the French defence, who were quite happy to let England play all the rugby and then capitalise on their mistakes with sharp attacking play from their key players ( 9 and 10).
So did England play the right strategy? Or was it a failure of their philosophy to not change their tactics and let France try and play from deeper areas putting them under pressure to attack more often.
Perhaps a turnover strategy might have been more beneficial with a focus on switching from defence to attack and exploiting broken field defence – the All Blacks are masters at this.
Against Scotland, which England were far more pragmatic and were more than happy to let Scotland have the ball and territory, knowing all they had to do was tackle. One of the basics that EJ mentioned in 2016.
This week England play Ireland and after this weekend’s game we will get a much clearer idea of the thinking behind how England have developed since the World Cup Final. Are they a team striving to reach their preferred playing style or struggling with in game strategies where they do not quite have control of how they want to play.
Ireland I feel might be able to control England’s strategy enough to hinder their performance, making England play yet again in a style they prefer not too. With an 80% chance of Rain for Sunday, expect a bombardment of kicks. Will England adopt a similar strategy and kick it back or will they run it, keep possession and open themselves up to the turnover game Ireland thrive on. Remember the team that has the higher possession stats doesn’t always win.