So Saracens have won the European Rugby Champions Cup. It’s the first time an English team have won since 2007, when Wasps won the Heineken Cup / Premiership double.
Saracens of course still have the chance to add the Premiership to their trophy cabinet this season and, on current form, who would bet against them? It’s not an easy thing to do.
What does this mean for the resurgence of English Rugby?
The first win in 9 years doesn’t show a league that’s massively dominant in the European arena. And yet this year 3 of the 4 semi finalists were English teams as well as 5 of 8 quarter finalists. Who’s to say there wouldn’t have been 4 English semi-finalists had Exeter and Northampton not run up against English opposition?
It’s possible this is a temporary dominance, but it doesn’t feel like it.
Was it a boring game?
It was a game of rugby where both teams wanted to win. Saracens went about it in the right way, pinning Racing back in the corners, not letting them play and capitalizing on mistakes.
To be fair Racing 92 had an unfortunate set of injuries, with Machenaud going off early and Dan Carter barely fit to play and making very little impact on the game.
A few tries would have done wonders for the game, and to convert some of the infrequent viewer who will have tuned in for a European final.
But the truth is that rugby lovers find enjoyment and interest in all of the individual battles that go on during a game.
Is Owen Farrell one of the best in the World?
A controversial question, and one that’s likely to be met with derision in many quarters.
Farrell has had his detractors in the past. He sometimes comes across as petulant and his demeanour rubs people up the wrong way. It’s fair to say that this demeanour comes in part from his inexperience and in part from his extreme desire to win.
In the same way that Johhny Sexton has been criticised for petulance in recent years, these players have a deep desire to win, and frustration can show itself in the wrong way in a youthful player.
So back to Farrell and the question of his standing in the World. First he has to be the best English 10. In the 2016 Six Nations, Eddie Jones played George Ford at 10 and Farrell filled in at 12.
He filled in admirably and it’s to his credit that he’s valued above the specialist centres. If all other players had been fit and we had the option of Tuilagi, Eastmond, Joseph, Slade, Burrell, Daly and Devoto, Farrell would still be in competition for a place at inside centre.
But does he beat Ford to the 10 spot. For me it’s an easy choice and Farrell is ahead of Ford in so many areas that there’s no real contest. Similarly with Danny Cipriani and any other English fly halves, Farrell has the tools to be ahead.
Europe is a different matter, with Dan Biggar and Johhny Sexton the big names. Last year I would have put both ahead of Farrell, but this year’s Six Nations and Saracens’ form over the last few years, it’s hard to argue that either one is a more complete fly half.
Internationally Farrell still has a way to go. The best creative players in the world tend to come form the Southern Hemisphere and it’ll take a few more seasons for Farrell to prove himself the equal of the any of the young pretenders to the throne of Dan Carter
Is the Kruis / Itoje second row partnership the best in the World?
Matt Dawson certainly seems to think so >> BBC Radio
It’s hard not to put either one in a Northern Hemisphere team of the season, and the fact that they both play for the same team makes it a formidable partnership. They are almost certainly the best club pairing in the world at present.
The only other second rows that are similarly adept are:
- NZ: Retallick and Whitelock
- SA: Etzebeth and De Jager
I think the Kruis / Itoje axis needs longer to prove itself, but the fact that such a this combination is mentioned in the same breath as these players is promising.
It seems that young locks are taking over the world. The average ages of the three partnerships mentioned above are:
- England: 23.5
- New Zealand: 25.5
- South Africa: 23.5
Should Alex Goode be ahead of Mike Brown
On current form…