Three's a crowd
After watching Wigan, Phil Clarke weighs up the benefits of committing three or four men to the tackle.
Last Updated: 17/02/10 2:39pm
Friday night gave us a first chance to take a look at Michael Maguire's Wigan team when they took on Hull KR.
It was the first opportunity to see if things had changed at the DW Stadium and a chance to see if the Wigan fans will be flooding to Old Trafford on October 2nd.
A six-try-to-one victory was convincing enough for some of the Cherry and White supporters to book their Grand Final tickets by Saturday morning. The rest of them might need another win against Warrington this Saturday before they splash their cash.
One of the noticeable features of the team's performance was the aggression that they played with. Coaches provide the tactics but the players are the ones who need to get themselves into a mental state whereby they are ready and willing to accept and inflict pain.
It was interesting to look at the number of defenders that Wigan committed to the tackle.
I decided to go through the two televised games from the weekend and count the number of times that a team committed either three or four men to the tackle.
On most occasions in a match, teams rely on two defenders to stop the man with the ball, but adding more men into the collision can help the defending team by slowing down the speed of the play-the-ball.
|Team||Three-man tackles||Four-man tackles|
Wigan's control of the ruck area was key to their success in this match, and I have a theory that a number of Hull KR fumbles at the play-the-ball were a result of the heavy contact that they received when so many bodies crashed into them.
I imagine that some players would be slightly disorientated when they eventually got up to their feet and lost the ball as a result.
There is of course a risk/reward balance in adopting this style of defence. It means that the Wigan players will need to do more running than their opponents and that their defensive line up may have some gaps in it.
With a man stood at full-back and say four men in the tackle, it only leaves eight men to cover 68m of the pitch.
This means that the spaces between defenders are wider than normal and put some players (perhaps the bigger, slower ones who aren't as nimble on their feet) under pressure if a player like Eastmond or Burrow sprints towards them.
Turn on and tune in on Saturday night to see if it works for Wigan again this week, or if Tony Smith's men can start 2010 with a three and zero (won three, lost none!)
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Stormy times ahead
Hi Phil, As a proud Melbourne Storm fan I'm desperate for my team to get revenge against the Leeds Rhinos in the WCC. Leeds' win against us in 2008 came when we were without two of our most crucial players, Cameron Smith and Greg Inglis. Already Cooper Cronk is out for us this year but i'am still confident we'll have enough. My question to you is do you think the Rhinos could stop the Storm if Smith, Inglis and Slater are fit and raring to go? After all they are three of the best Rugby League players of all time. Also don't you think it would be better and ultimately fairer for the game to take place a couple of weeks after the Grand Final? Matt King couldn't play for us in 2008 and now Steve Turner isn't with us anymore to play in 2010. It isn't the same teams that won the Grand Finals which defeats the point of the competition. Daniel Kellard
PHIL REPLIES: Well David, the Rhinos can't stop the Tigers or the Wildcats at the moment, never mind the Melbourne Storm. If Craig Bellamy could bring his strongest team and they were given the games to prepare, I think that the Storm would win.
It is perhaps a unique occasion in the sport for both competitions to have a team going through such a successful period. They are clearly the most dominant teams over the last three years and deserve to go head to head in an event which should showcase our sport at its best. (I just hope that the weather doesn't spoil the spectacle).
The timing of the match isn't perfect because there isn't a perfect time to play it. I'm a believer in International sport and think that the end of the season should be used for Four Nations/World Cup.
Both team have had long enough to prepare for the game and can have no excuses for not being ready.
Phil, I've put my money where my mouth is and backed Wigan for glory this season. A new coach and boot room brings with it a winning mentality, the squad seem to be leaner and meaner, the kids have matured and there is a backbone of experience. I feel the heady days of the 80s returning, and if I pinch myself hard, I am sure the old Central Park days are about to return. You're going to agree with this statement aren't you? Aaron Barber
PHIL REPLIES: Wigan have a great squad and there does seem to be a feeling in the game that they are going to improve this year. They've been to and lost in effectively five semi-finals in the last four years (including the Challenge Cup and the play-offs) and in theory should be stronger for the experience. I think that Sam Tomkins is a great player and would like to see more local talent joining him in the backline. Five of the seven backs that started against Hull KR were from overseas. Some of you might remember seeing another local player called Shaun Ainscough last season. He scored 13 tries in 11 games in Super League. I hope that we get to see him again this season.
Income and have a go
I noticed the Six Nations kicked off this weekend with massive national coverage, something international rugby league tournaments always seem to lack. The Guinness Premiership also successfully carried on as normal despite a large number of players not being available for their club teams. Do you think an international rugby league tournament could now run mid-season without stopping Super League fixtures? With the England squad now distributed among so many clubs I don't see why this couldn't happen. This would also increase the international; calendar without increasing the number of games the top players play. What are your thoughts on this? Mark Fox
PHIL REPLIES: We would love to see the game of rugby league as big as football, but it's not going to happen. We need to set some short-term and medium-term, realistic goals. We must bear in mind that the sport is only able to spend what it earns and you don't need Martin Lewis or any other money saving expert to realise that we can't host matches which lose money.
I have a huge degree of sympathy for Club owners/Chairmen who keep their clubs, and in fact the sport, going with the kind donation of their own money. It's a bit hard to say that they should release their players for more games that won't bring any income into their club.