Rugby, the second row goes ahead

Five days after his performance against the XV of England which earned him a concert of rare praise for the holder of a post attracting little attention, Romain Taofifenua remains modest: “Of course I am happy that we finally put the second lines in the light, but on the other hand, it is Itoje who marks the last try”, underlines the Toulonnais who will start the match against the Welsh on Saturday.

→ ANALYSIS. Despite the defeat against England, nothing is lost for the XV of France

Maro Itoje? Years that the great second line English of Nigerian origin sows terror on rugby lawns. He took his specialty a step further by becoming the first English second row to make the front page of… The magazine team, on the eve of the “crunch” on Saturday 13 March. “In recent years we have been talking better about us, rejoices Romain Taofifenua. Itoje is not the only one, there is also Alun Wyn Jones. “

A role not limited to jumping in touch and pushing in melee

This reference to the Welshman, a tall guy of 1.98 m for 120 kg, owes nothing to chance on the eve of France-Wales, Saturday March 20 (9 p.m.). The Blues fear this boy elected best player of the Six Nations Tournament 2019, cumulating the mastery of the Welsh heights with the captain’s armband. Like a certain Fabien Pelous, former second line and captain of the XV of France, well placed to discuss the progress of his position. “Before, we used to say to young people who outnumbered others by one or two heads, ‘you’re tall, we’re going to sideline you’”, specifies the 47-year-old former Toulousain, who belongs to the first generation of the so-called technical second lines.

“This side ‘we put you there because you can do nothing with your template’ has disappeared for the high level, he continues. Connoisseurs know that the big guys do well other than jump in touch and push in closed scrum behind the big ones on the front row! “ For Fabien Pelous, the reasoning is simple: “The closed scrums being more and more rare, just like the keys, the second lines had to adapt. “

The number of open regroupings, rucks and mauls, having on the other hand increased a lot (around 180 per game), the second lines have found a new employment ground there. The analysis is confirmed by Karim Ghezal, former second line and responsible for this sector for the XV of France: “The groupings in the center of the field, the heart of modern rugby, impose new, more strategic tasks on the second lines. “

The art of decision-making after a violent effort

For example ? In the famous three-way rucks in the center, preludes to many attacks in contemporary rugby, the second line must be present behind the men on the ground, ready to receive the first pass or to recover (scratch) the ball on the ground. “At that point, he has three solutions: rush into the heap, make a small pass to his scrum half or extend his arm to throw further three quarters, continues Fabien Pelous. Basically, he’s the one who decides, in fractions of a second. “

All after a long journey, one or two swings and the obligation to remain clear-sighted despite the red veil of violent effort. We are far from the legend of the not very fast big boys of the past, doing their best to join the action with long awkward strides after having deflected (or missed) the ball in touch. “You need good hand skills, to be there at the right time and in a physical state to react, emphasizes Karim Ghezal. Their movements are among the most scrutinized and analyzed, in video, by the performance unit of the XV of France. “

CHRONIC. Crunch (s)

Yesterday’s second line jobbers have become rare birds and therefore… expensive. They are, along with the forerunners and the right pillars, the highest paid players in clubs, according to the annual Observatory of Esportif, the world’s largest player agency. “They are rare, because basketball and handball sting them, the attraction of the NBA and the medals of the French handball team complicate the task”, explains Fabien Pelous. To guarantee a second line of quality in the XV of France, the recruiters went to look for strong from South Africa for Bernard Le Roux and Paul Willemse, from New Caledonia for Romain Taofifenua, just like his predecessor Sébastien Vahaamahina. Far from the southwest.


The same starting XV as against England

Unsurprisingly, coach Fabien Galthié announced for France-Wales on Saturday March 20 (9 p.m.) a list of fifteen starters at the kick-off identical to that of Saturday 13 against England (20-23). This decision concerns in particular the post of opening half. Matthieu Jalibert retains his position, preferred to the incumbent of last year Romain Ntamack, judged too soon after his long absence from the field following a severe fracture of the jaw.


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