Romantic Lievremont got it wrong
ESPN Australia's Gordon Bray
February 28, 2011
France's Sebastien Chabal sits out the action at Twickenham having been replaced by Julien Bonnaire © Getty Images
Rotation, rotation, rotation. Les Bleus are in a spin and the inherent danger is that their sense of balance will become too unwieldy come Rugby World Cup time.
'Blind Freddy' knows that the erratic and fragile Clement Poitrenaud is currently out of his depth in the starting XV. His apparent distaste for physical contact and reluctance to inject himself from fullback equates to an under-manned backline.
How many years will it take French coach Marc Lievremont to decipher the difference between romance and reality? 'The Caveman' might light up the billboards but at Twickenham, he was more apparition than star attraction.
Sebastien Chabal is a charismatic man but workaholic back-rower he is not. Why break up the unit of Thierry Dusautoir, Imanol Harinordoquy and Julien Bonnaire which operated so effectively against the Irish in round two?
If the coach was looking for more physicality against the big English pack then Chabal went AWOL…..yes - missing in action! Instead, he spent a lot of his time standing out in the three-quarter line operating as a decoy which served to confuse only himself.
England took the match by the throat at Twickenham in the ten minutes after half-time by flooding the breakdown with human missiles, some of it quite illegal. Their intensity went up a couple of notches and turnovers changed the landscape.
By the time Chabal and Poitrenaud were replaced the damage was already done. Replacements Damien Traille and Bonnaire then helped stem the tailspin. But why were they not omnipresent from the opening whistle?
Rotation monsieur! Or was it more the kind of motion relating to le chien chasing its tail? If Chabal is perceived by management as some kind of enduring, pent up Michelin Man then his inflated 'head of steam' should ideally be confined to a fast release off the bench.
It may be opportune for rival coaches Warren Gatland (Wales) and Andy Robinson (Scotland) to swap notes given their clash at Murrayfield is behind them and the Scots are now playing for pride and of course the Calcutta Cup.
Gatland found himself in Robinson's despairing shoes a matter of weeks ago but how quickly things can turn around in sport. Wales broke their losing streak against the Scots on the back of an aggressive defensive line and a similar effort enabled them to escape the noose last weekend in Rome.
The line speed in defence of the bonny Scots improved markedly against Ireland but they remain a one dimensional team in attack. The introduction of Chris Paterson and Sean Lamont was a positive step and fly-half Ruaridh Jackson needs to be persevered with.
I have no doubt Gatland's first message to Robinson would be to start training to offload just before and during contact. Lamont provided some good go-forward ball but cannot do it on his own.
When the Scots ran beyond the gain line and put pace on the ball they started to threaten only for the movement to hit a roadblock. The offload requires multiple support runners and a new mindset for the players.
To shortcut the process in time for England, Gatland would probably cheekily suggest that Robinson get hold of a copy of last week's Super XV match won brilliantly by the NSW Waratahs over the Reds.
Ensemble rugby is the way forward for the passionate Scots. Committing defenders and then releasing quick ball will eventually produce holes and mismatches in the opposition defensive line.
A final salute to Italian coach Nick Mallett and his assistant Alessandro Troncon. A mighty turnaround against the Welsh and don't forget to give a pat on the head to fly-half Kris Burton.
He relished the quick service from Fabio Semenzato and took the ball forward to create some excellent angles for his runners. Like Scotland's Jackson, he needs the encouragement and confidence of his coaches to now take his game up a further notch.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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