- Knock out rugby is all about getting the basics right under pressure
- Southern hemisphere teams are able to adapt their game better
- Moody highlights the breakdown as the key area where southern hemisphere teams dominate
When an international rugby competition presents the chance for any northern hemisphere (NH) team to take on a southern hemisphere (SH) team, the debate arises as to the perceived differences between the two.
With experience of playing in three World Cups and a British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand, Lewis Moody is well placed to give us his insights.
Moody begins by explaining what he sees as the key skill that encompasses most southern hemisphere teams.
He says, "They are able to adapt. Look at Australia, after an 18-month period where they've looked terrible, they've managed to get it together this year. There's been a big emphasis in the areas they were lacking in terms of scrum and the set piece. I just think they have the ability to adapt to suit the situation."
Moody continues, "The southern hemisphere teams have a more varied game plan that they can adapt to suit certain situations. Both New Zealand and Australia are heavily committed on focusing on the breakdown and the speed of recycling their own ball. The speed at which they wish to play at demands a huge amount of clinical work at the breakdown, especially in attack. In defence they want to slow down the opposition's ball so they have a real focus on doing that as individuals, which means they're not reliant on large numbers at the breakdown."
It seems that it is in this area, 'the breakdown', where so much of the advantages are won and lost in the modern game. From the moment a player is tackled, through the potential formation of a ruck as two sides compete for possession of the ball - this is the area Moody is referring to. He says, "Generally the northern hemisphere teams always have a solid defence, they always have a great set piece. But I'd say one of our weaknesses is that we're not able to generate the speed of ball that is required. We're also not able to slow the ball down sufficiently in defence to stop teams like New Zealand and Australia having the sort of quick ball that they desperately want, to use those dangerous backs that they have at their disposal."
Moody identifies the issue, "The northern hemisphere generally play a much more exciting brand of rugby, we produce much more exciting backs, it's just being able to produce the ball in the right places to allow them to be able to play the style of rugby that we want. You look at how far Ireland have come, how far Scotland have come, Wales and their attacking game - I think it's changed dramatically in the last decade, maybe in the last four years."
As we have seen in many instances of top-level rugby, it is the fine margins which can have a huge impact on the result of a match, especially when it comes to knock out rugby. The road to success becomes ever more focused but do teams have to shift their game plan?
Moody says, "When you get to knock-out rugby you want to change very little. If you're going to change anything, you want to focus your attention on minute areas. It comes down to the team that can consistently deliver the basics well. The sides that get their basic game wrong in big games invariably lose. If you don't deliver accurate passing, don't look after your own ball at the breakdown, and you try and play out of silly areas, it won't come together. Do the basics well and you are much more likely to win a game of knock-out rugby than any other team."
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Lewis Moody is an LV= Ambassador, follow him on Twitter at @LewisMoody7