Jamie Roberts reckons an Exeter 'weakness' running off 9 can help Racing to Euro glory
Jamie Roberts believes that Wasps’ dismantling of Bristol in last weekend’s Premiership has given Racing 92 a blueprint to help them defeat Exeter in this weekend’s Champions Cup final. Backing his old club to win the decider at Ashton Gate, Roberts claimed what Wasps achieved in their Premiership semi-final highlighted a tactic that Racing could potentially use to great effect against the Chiefs.
In conversation with Dylan Hartley on the latest episode of RugbyPass Offload, Roberts said: “If we look at the way Wasps dismantled Bristol, that is a footprint for Racing to beat Exeter. I mean that in the way that they [Exeter] have this strict pattern of play.
“You kind of know what is coming with Exeter, the way they play off the touchline, the shapes of their forwards as they run off 9, their phase play shape.
“Wasps had done their homework on Bristol. Bristol have a similar shape how they play, you know what’s coming, it’s bloody hard to defend against. They [Wasps] went after they contact area like anything else.
“They went after the contract area and the back row lads from Wasps absolutely cleaned up. If Racing are really studious, they will see weaknesses in the shapes Exeter run off 9, especially their forwards.
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“Often they are a bit short at those first rucks. I just think they have an opportunity there and if Exeter aren’t careful their game plan could unravel. But here’s me, watch Exeter now put 40 on them.”
Young Jack Maunder has become the first-choice Exeter No9 in recent months in the wake of Nic White’s return to Australia, and Hartley backed up Roberts’ assessment about shape. “I’m with you there, all these teams have really good shape. Bristol have it, Exeter have it, Northampton I experienced that. It all relies on speed of ball.
“You can have perfect shape but if the contact area is slowed down it basically gives defensive lines time to reconnect and create width to match that sort of attacking width. If Exeter can generate quick ball their attack and shape become effective, but basically the contact area, slowing ball speed, that will be crucial.”
Roberts responded: “Racing will go after Exeter. Bath couldn’t do it. And the other thing Bath struggled with is they just didn’t have that punch in the wider channels. When they got the ball to width they were so far behind the gain line they never crossed it in the wider channels.
“They needed to flatten up in those wider channels. They had the skills to get the ball there and Exeter are happy for you to go there because they will back their push defence but there are opportunities there and with the likes of (Virimi) Vakatawa, (Simon) Zebo, (Juan) Imhoff in those wider channels they could cause far more problems than what Bath caused.
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