Last Sunday’s storming contest in which Exeter Chiefs edged Harlequins 43-42 was, in my opinion, a perfect example of where the tectonic plates of rugby are starting to move.
Gone are the days of overly structured play and coming in are sturdy defences paired with incredible counter-attacking moves.
I think that’s where we have seen some of the faults around the New Zealand squad. For so long they’ve set the trends but now they’re chasing them.
We are seeing the likes of Ireland and France not only bully sides but dissect them with ease. It’s become a superb part of the Springbok game, too, over the last five years.
Which leaves us with England. I had to Google who England’s attack coach is, such has been their one dimensional play this year. It’s former Great Britain rugby league international Martin Gleeson.
England have failed to ignite the fans with sweeping attacks in any stadium they’ve performed in, which is at odds with the way the Premiership is going.
I thought Gloucester were superb despite losing to Saracens, particularly with their willingness to play the situation and sometimes embrace chaos. I thought Bristol Bears and London Irish, too, played out a cracker at Ashton Gate.
I’m not saying chucking it about is the answer but when you do it and still win, it’s supreme.
The Chiefs’ never-say-die attitude against the best in the business at not giving a damn was admirable and I thought for the first time this season they looked like the Chiefs of old: no matter how the game unfolded the West Country side would somehow always be in it towards the end.
The Premiership looks to be embracing this new-found wave of excitement, and I hope England can do the same thing this autumn.
Looking at this week’s fixtures, I think Bristol will beat Newcastle tonight while the Chiefs will sneak past Sale tomorrow.
London Irish will win at home to Bath, while on Sunday Harlequins will edge Northampton. I like Saints and their confidence to promote Phil Dowson internally but they haven’t looked too sure in themselves yet and I see them being frustrated in south London.
With Worcester’s match against Gloucester cancelled due to the financial issues at the West Midlands club, the only other game this weekend is a repeat of last year’s final.
While Leicester have found form after a mixed start to the season, Saracens are looking supremely strong at the minute.
They managed to overcome a 17-0 deficit against Harlequins in their first game and held off Gloucester last week despite not offering too much. I think they’re favourites tomorrow.
These matches are becoming harder and harder to call given the quality in the league but I am so excited to see the majority of teams embrace the kind of rugby that captivates minds.