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Rugby Insight: Grayson's play of the week

Former England fly half and Rugby World Cup winner Paul Grayson analyses Saturday’s win over Wales and picks out his standout play.  

My IBM TryTracker Play of the Week is Jonny May’s second score, but more precisely, it’s the brute strength of England’s pack, the vision of Owen Farrell and sublime skill of Joe Launchbury that created it.   

This score effectively won the game by giving England that 12 point lead, and in the build-up to it there were 24 phases. England clearly decided they were going to attack around the fringes, and launch wave after wave of runners at the Welsh.

The difference between the two teams on Saturday was England’s ability to retain possession for long periods of time – which in turn allowed them to establish their kicking game much better than Wales could. And once they got into that attacking area, everyone understood what their job was, there were no rucks that were under resourced.

In the heat of a Test match, to be able to put 24 phases together in attack and then at the right point commit the right people, is evidence of exceptional game management. Right at the point where Wales had just loaded up to defend yet another wave of runners, Farrell (circled red above) is fed the ball deep (yellow circle), and has viable passing options outside him.

Farrell knows he is going to get tackled by Ross Moriarty (circled red above), but just holds on to the ball long enough to make sure the number eight is committed before releasing the pass, taking punishment as soon as he lets go of the ball (yellow).

Launchbury has seen the space out wide and as Farrell received the pass, had started drifting into it. Anytime the ball is in the air for a while, it leaves it vulnerable to an intercept, or a defender closing the space, but Farrell has executed a pinpoint pass here.

It is a great take from Launchbury (yellow above), for such a big man, he is extremely dexterous. He draws two defenders, riding the challenge of Rhys Patchell and Josh Adams (below), and as he goes down onto his knees, showcases the most delicate of touches to offload inside to Jonny May (in support circled red above) – who won’t ever score any easier Test try.

After 24 phases of brutal, one-up rugby, snatching metres with every carry to then be able to finish a try with two pieces of individual brilliance was great to see.

Top awareness and timing from Farrell, and superb skills from Launchbury to set up the score, with an offload any world-class midfield back would be happy with, and certainly worthy of my IBM TryTracker Play of the Week.


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