French rugby at a crossroads and a definitive profile of Eddie Jones headline this week’s pieces.
Gavin Mortimer, Rugby World: The Top 14 going through a crisis of confidence
The meeting point of professionalism and the French psyche provokes many fascinating questions; to speak broadly of a ‘national’ mindset, quality or characteristic is usually a dangerous game of oversimplifications and generalisations, but there is something compelling in the trend that the more professional modern rugby has become, the greater the alacrity with which the wheels seem to fall off le XV each season. The furore which has arisen as a result of Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal’s desire to join the Aviva Premiership because of its greater economic opportunities is an apt microcosm of the country’s “modernity and fear…of change”. Where does French rugby go from here? Any enthusiasm over Guy Novès’ appointment as head coach likely results from an ideal of Toulouse rugby founded in the glory years of the mid 2000s – unfortunately for those hopeful of a French resurgence in this 6 Nations and beyond, his most recent efforts with the club are likely much closer to the current reality of his coaching ability.
Oliver Brown, The Telegraph: The Making of Eddie Jones
A couple of articles regarding the beginning of Jones’ tenure as England coach have already featured here, and what his appointment means for the end product on the Twickenham turf has been discussed on a number of occasions; however, this fascinating profile is the definitive piece on Jones the individual. The accounts of his time in charge of Australia in particular are striking; the “relentless” intensity which epitomises his approach seems to have been ever-present during his time in the Far East, and the point Bob Dwyer makes about the willingness of the Japanese captain to bear the brunt of an onslaught in front of the media prompts the question of whether a culture founded in hierarchy and “deference to…senior[ity]” was the perfect fit for his style of coaching.
Conor O’Leary, Balls.ie: Everything You Need To Know About The Ireland U-20s In 2016
Alex Shaw, Rugby World: Six U20s stars of the future
The 6 Nations is just around the corner, and its younger sibling – the U20 tournament – will run concurrently alongside the main iteration. Ireland have named a squad relatively inexperienced at this level, but that much of their U20s experience lies in the front row is heartening: Andrew Porter, Adam McBurney and Conan O’Donnell (who has featured in the Connacht first team on a number of occasions this season) all formed part of last year’s squad, and along with captain James Ryan in the second row should give Ireland an edge up front. Porter in particular is the latest in a line of formidable Leinster loosehead prospects. and he is Shaw’s player to watch for Ireland in the tournament. Their fourth returnee is Jacob Stockdale, the Ulster centre/wing, and he will likely be the most interesting player in a backline missing Munster fly-half Bill Johnston due to injury.
Tim Wigmore, ESPNCricinfo: Irish cricket’s Asian legspin hope
Ireland U19s received a late call-up to the U19 Cricket World Cup in Bangladesh which started this week. Australia pulled out of the tournament because of security concerns, and Ireland – as the next ranked team in the ICC qualifying tournament – were brought in at short notice. They have lost their first two matches against India and Nepal, but young Coleraine legspinner Varun Chopra (who only turns 16 on Monday) is the most exciting spin bowling talent to emerge in recent years. Wigmore’s profile is an excellent telling of a compelling family story, and an insight of the latent cricketing potential of Ireland’s Asian communities.