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Larmour and Wootton show how work-rate is a crucial part of wing play

The Leinster and Connacht wide men worked hard across the pitch to feature in tries last weekend.

IN EXPLAINING LEINSTER’S decision to swap Jordan Larmour and Hugo Keenan in the number 14 and 15 jerseys for last weekend’s clash with the Dragons, Leo Cullen hoped a move to the right wing would give Larmour “a little bit more freedom to roam.”

Obviously, there was more to the positional switch than just this factor but we got a nice example of Larmour’s hard work off the ball making a big difference for Leinster in the passage leading up to James Lowe’s try in their Guinness Pro14 victory.

Long gone are the days when wings were expected only to be pure finishers with out-and-out pace or sidestepping ability. Modern-day wings need to have those attacking attributes but must also be aerially competent, strong defensively, and – almost above all else – very hard workers.

With defences so strong at the top levels of rugby now, the work-rate of wings off the ball can often be responsible for creating attacking opportunities where they might not otherwise have occurred.

Larmour’s work rate for this Lowe try on Friday night is a good example.

As Garry Ringrose [red below] slaloms back infield after receiving an offload from the lively Jamison Gibson-Park, we can see that Larmour [white] is out on his right wing.

Larmour

As Ringrose meanders infield, we can see below that Larmour suddenly takes off across the pitch himself…

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… continuing to sprint flat out behind play as Ringrose is tackled [red below]…

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… and just about making it around the corner and into the attacking line outside first receiver Ross Byrne just as the next phase is launched by hooker Ronan Kelleher, who steps in at scrum-half to keep the tempo as high as possible.

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Having made that big effort to cover nearly 60 lateral metres in about eight seconds, Larmour is now ideally positioned to be part of Leinster’s simple draw-and-pass finish into the left corner.

Try

Larmour slows his feet after his cross-field sprint, receives Byrne’s pass, squares himself upfield to fix Dragons wing Jonah Holmes with a couple of steps, then passes to Tommy O’Brien, who draws the last defender and feeds Lowe.

It’s easy to overlook the fact that right wing Larmour is part of this finishing phase, but his hard work off the ball creates the try-scoring chance.

We got another example in Connacht’s win over Glasgow, this time from left wing Alex Wootton, who initially fields a poor exiting kick from the Warriors and runs it back down the left-hand side of the pitch.

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Connacht play infield and a phase later, we can see below that Wootton is working infield himself after his initial carry.

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Playing off out-half Jack Carty, Connacht punch up in midfield using a nice tip-on pass from Dave Heffernan to Jarrad Butler.

On the next phase, we can see that Wootton has loaded in behind Carty, ready to offer the possibility of a pullback pass behind fullback John Porch.

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Carty opts to hit Porch as the front-door option, though, and we can see below that Wootton has to react and get into the breakdown to help recycle.

Ruck

Wootton slips on his way there but Heffernan does an excellent job as the first arriving player and Wootton recovers to help finish a strong clearout.

Scrum-half Kieran Marmion hits right wing Peter Sullivan [red below] to carry on the very next phase and we can see that Wootton is already back on his feet, continuing to work from left to right.

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Marmion’s clever pass across the face of Tom Farrell to Sullivan allows the wing to surge into space and on the next phase, Wootton finally gets his hands back on the ball, 30 seconds after his initial carry out on the left.

Wootton

The match officials miss a side entry by Bundee Aki after Sullivan’s carry but Wotton’s work rate across the pitch pays off as he receives the ball, gets outside Ali Price and offloads back inside to Farrell, who offloads to Sullivan – working hard to get back on his feet – in turn.  

Connacht are left just a couple of metres out from the Glasgow tryline and the forwards take over from there, the passage concluding with lock Quinn Roux thundering over to score under the posts.

The work from Larmour – who actually scored out on the left himself during Leinster’s win – and Wootton is important here, but it’s worth noting that others facilitate their movement.

In Larmour’s case, number eight Jack Conan [yellow below] holds the width for Leinster out on the right edge as the wing goes roaming infield.

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And in Wootton’s case, flanker Sean Masterson [blue below] does the job of holding width out on Connacht’s left edge as the wing swings across to the other side looking to get involved in play.

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Maintaining width is crucial to every attack but it clearly makes sense to have the most dangerous individuals in the team – the likes of Larmour, Wootton, Lowe, and co. – getting off their edge from time to time and popping up elsewhere.

Often, the work-rate of a wing can be the difference. 

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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