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'The last few weeks all the top teams' 9s are having big games... it works straight into my hands'

By Liam Heagney

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England hopeful Dan Robson has given an indication of the latest trends going on at the ruck with a view to speeding up the play of the attacking side, something which Eddie Jones claimed has resulted in the average speed of rucks drop by a second. It was June 2 when Jones alluded to what he felt was happening in tournaments elsewhere in 2021 and he suggested England needed to cotton on quickly as he felt the indications were that a quicker style of game would ultimately dominate at World Cup 2023.

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“The average speed of rucks in some competitions has gone down a second, from three seconds to two approximately. They are approximations which means there is a much greater chance to attack off fast ball,” said Jones. “We need more consistent ruck speed and that has been happening in competitions to varying degrees.

“It’s a lot different from one competition to the other but we are anticipating at the World Cup in 2023 the ruck speed is going to be pretty quick which then allows you to attack with front-foot ball and brings in more instinctive skills rather than pattern rugby.”

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That’s an increased tempo which Robson feels he can thrive with in the England colours. While he said plans regarding quick ruck ball wasn’t a huge focus at this past week’s English training camp, he explained to RugbyPass that the action around the breakdown was at a quicker pace in the closing weeks of the Gallagher Premiership regular season.

“You felt it a bit more in games the way things were getting reffed, so I feel like the nine is having more of an influence on games, especially in attack,” he said. “When you see the last few weeks all the top teams’ nines are having big games and that goes a long way in where the result goes. I definitely think you are going to see it more which is great for someone like me. It works straight into my hands.”

 

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Asked to elaborate on the subtle changes in the refereeing that has enabled this quickening to happen, Robson added: “Well, breakdown-wise for instance, if you are the tackler you have got to get out east or west, there is no kind of rolling into the nine to slow it down, no rolling into support players. You have got to get out of there or else it is a penalty. And then with the tackle height coming down as well, there are more offloads so less static rucks and a lot more ball-in-play time.

“Yeah, it’s exciting. It’s never nice as a nine when you are waiting for the ball and you are a bit static. I’m pretty lucky at Wasps that we have got a very attack-orientated game. Definitely, we can kind of bring that to the international stage. As Eddie said, if the game is going that way then we have got to get on that pretty quickly and adapt as well as we can.”

Robson turned 29 last March and a curiosity about his twelve-cap Test career since a 2019 debut is that all those appearances have been as a sub. There hasn’t been a single start in the England No9 jersey but with Ben Youngs given this summer off, Wasps half-back Robson is hoping he can now jump up the pecking order and into the starting team for the July games versus the USA and Canada.

“Any involvement is huge with the international side. You ask anyone here, it’s a massive privilege. I feel very fortunate I’m in this group at the minute and I’m sure every single one of them will say they want to start a game against the USA or Canada. Everyone is vying towards the same thing and for me, it’s always just to keep pushing, try to improve, and if I get that opportunity I will hopefully take it and enjoy it.”

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'The last few weeks all the top teams' 9s are having big games... it works straight into my hands'

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