miércoles, 18 de abril de 2012


It´s a pleasure for www.rugbyandfitness.com
There are exceptions, a few jumbo athletes charging on strong, but 2012 has so far largely seen the return to prominence of the skinny man.
Andre Taylor, Ben Smith, Aaron Smith, Aaron Cruden, Cory Jane and Tim Nanai-Williams must all be in the frame for All Black selection but, in relative terms, all would be considered the rugby equivalent of hand luggage.
Taylor is 90kg, Ben Smith is 85kg, Nanai-Williams 88kg and Jane 85kg - considerably lighter than other back three weapons such as Digby Ioane (98kg), Frans Steyn (101kg) and George North (109kg).
Aaron Smith, at 1.71m and 82kg, is one of the smaller, lighter halfbacks in the competition and Cruden at 84kg is small for a first five.
Yet these are the men who are setting the competition alight; these are the men defying their perceived lack of bulk to have the most profound impact.
The power athlete, or at least the giant power athlete, has been conspicuous by his absence so far this year.
Other than Sonny Bill Williams and Richard Kahui, few big men are really shining. Hurricanes winger Julian Savea would be about the only other 'fridge on wheels' to be making his presence felt. He has fixed his iffy work under the high ball and is brimming with confidence.
Robbie Fruean, Ma'a Nonu, Israel Dagg and Hosea Gear haven't quite come alive yet, while Isaia Toeava has been ruled out for the campaign.
This changed landscape poses the question of whether the All Blacks will end up similarly different in physiological make-up - finding more places than usual for lighter, agile athletes such as the Smiths and Taylor. If they are the men in form, then it would appear to be a simple enough business of picking them.
"It's true that a good big player will always beat a good smaller player," says All Black coach Steve Hansen. "But rugby remains a game for all sizes. If you are brave enough and committed, then you are good enough.
"You have to remember that the players in the test arena will be the same players picked out of Super Rugby. We have seen Aaron Cruden, who is not a big man, handle himself in tests and show that he can excel at that level.
"Aaron Smith is probably playing as well as any halfback in the competition and Andre Taylor is delivering every week. They are not necessarily as heavy as some other players but, pound for pound, they are strong; they are explosive athletes in their own right."
But test rugby is a more demanding, physical business than Super 15. There is usually a greater volume of big men on the field.
In the past few years, the All Blacks have subjected opponents to a physical assault - especially in the backs.
Jimmy Cowan, at close to 100kg, is basically a loose forward; Nonu, Kahui, Gear, Toeava and Dagg all top 100kg and the All Blacks have even be able to introduce the crushing 110kg Williams off the bench to demoralise a fatiguing opponent desperate for the carnage to relent.
A back three of Jane, Ben Smith and Taylor would carry a lot of counter-attacking appeal.
All three are quality operators under the high ball, can kick and work attacking plays off each other with the pace and elusive running to be dangerous. But there'd be a fair chance opposition coaches would see a back three containing all three as defensively vulnerable - that it would lack the raw power to hit men back in the tackle.
In recent seasons, the All Blacks have preferred to play with a heavy left wing - Gear, Toeava or Kahui; men who can crash into the midfield and stay on their feet to set a dynamic target for the forwards.
Neither Jane nor Smith are well suited to that. Then there is the danger of an Aaron Smith-Cruden inside pairing - so skilful and creative, sharp and incisive with the ball, but what about defensively?
Opposition forwards would fancy they could drive through Smith close to the ruck, while Cruden will always be targeted by runners

By Gregor Paul
Link: http://m.nzherald.co.nz/sport/news/article.cfm?c_id=4&objectid=10797341

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