Editors Choice: Enjoy Our LWOR First Pick XV Articles of 2017 (1/3)

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Editors Choice: Enjoy Our LWOR First Pick XV Articles of 2017
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JUNE 4: England's kicking coach Jon Callard (2nd L) gives coaching tips to Chris Foy (2nd R) of the Daily Mail and Gail Davis (R) of Sky Sports News as England's Andy Goode (L) and Sam Vesty look on during a kicking clinic for media at Old Trafford on June 4, 2009 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Getty Images for RFU)

With December 31st fast approaching, it is a time to reflect on successes. Those on the rugby field, and from the team here at LWOR. And on behalf of Last Word on Rugby (LWOR) we would like you to enjoy a variety of our First Pick XV articles of 2017.

This is not a playing top XV – though you will undoubted find individual candidates within the selection – but more so, in the variety and range of topics tackled by our team of writers across 2017.

Our team report on all the domestic and International competitions around the world, celebrating players and teams across the ‘rugby globe’. It’s what gives us a point of difference, and with the incredible array of posts over the last year, our Editors all hope that you will enjoy our First Pick XV.

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Editors Choice: LWOR First Pick XV Articles of 2017

In the first of three features (1/3), this series counts down the first pick XV articles from our team of writers. This begins by epitomizing one of the core qualities of any team. Starting with our ‘tight five’.

#1 – British and Irish Lions 2017 – a Global Focal Point

It had all the ingredients to hold rugby fans attention from start to finish. From selection of the Lions squad, LWOR would analyze and dissect the judgements, agreeing on many options while publishing argument; and counter argument.

Vunipola vs Faletau – Power vs Flexibility in this Family Affair

Many other fine examples were spread throughout our pages, in a series that was [for most] the highlight of the year. From the warm-up games, to the colossal First Test. As the rain belted down in Wellington, a red card would virtually tip the series on it’s head.

It would all peak in the final, and drawn finaltest match that gave shared honours to both skippers.

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#2 – Hooking the Reader with Quality Player Features

Over the course of the last 12 months, many a player has been focused on. Some were an expose, others were one-on-one interviews and others were examinations of results or form.

The game is player-centric, with the outcome of many matches ending with the exploits of one players actions. From hookers to outside backs, the full spectrum has been covered by LWOR. And one who will be seen as a core-structure of a successful England rugby team, is ‘laying down the lawes’.

Laying Down the Lawes: Enforcer Courtney Lawes Making his Mark

A man who stands out is Courtney Lawes. Like Sam Whitelock, or Eben Etzebeth, he is a commanding figure, and requires a defenses full attention.

Courtney Lawes of Northampton Saints scores a try during the Aviva Premiership match between Northampton Saints and Bath Rugby. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

The tight five is where the hard work is put in, to reward those outside of them. So LWOR begin this feature series by saluting numbers 1-5 who will always focus on the tight-stuff primarily….but who also exhibit astounding skill and foresight.

“It is where the decisions are made” they say!

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#3 – Modern Rugby made for More Expansive Play

Many examples can be found today, of the modernization of rugby union. From Johannesburg to Edinburgh, the style has evolved to be a 15 man game. And LWOR enjoy revealing that insight on team dynamics and changes in direction.

Edinburgh Set To Play ‘Expansive High Tempo’ Game Under Cockerill

Some are extremely successful; eg Eddie Jones. Others find leaders wanting, but it is not the failure that you will read about. Our team of writers look at the ‘why, who and how’ and then describe what might be done to create positive change.

Sometimes it works….and other times it is a plaster covering ingrown issues.

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#4 – Long Range Projections Often ‘Spot On’

One of the most difficult tasks in sports reporting, is to project a feeling. Not as a rugby pundit would–no odds are given, or limited ratings–but our writers often look to forecast the success of a team/competition, or changes made to a side.

Emirates Lions Super Rugby Prospects

Make a correct assumption, and the subject team hosts the Super Rugby final of 2017 [well done Ryan] but at times, our writers run the risk of picking a lemon.

But sport is like that. Selection, grooming and potential. Most are given heights to reach, and the best are often exceeding those. Our writers and columnists view the game like our readers do….and when talent is obvious, the staff of writers record it.

Twickenham Stadium–Richard Buckman and Vince Aso of Barbarians tackle Nqani Laumape of New Zealand (Photo by John Patrick Fletcher/Action Plus via Getty Images)

What you will find with LWOR is that our feature writers are confident in their sixth sense. Looking at the data, reading the player combinations and at times, knowing that a player will ‘make the grade‘ – see Ngani Laumape above.

Our First XV picks include examples of successful judgements. From player-focused features to match reports. And you will read how many of the best teams are made up of multiple ‘star players’ who combine to bring a result. Saracens, Canterbury or Montpellier. Not season predictions, but a view of the strengths and opportunities that exist.

NOTE: Remember to use the search feature at the top-right of the page, to find a topic of interest at anytime.

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#5 – The Mental Game Now Key to Success

Much of the on-field success in modern sport can be attributed to the use of sports psychologists. They are one of man assistants and trainers that all combine to make teams what they are capable of.

The Psychology of Rugby: High Flyers

If any fact is true, it is that as the game has developed to become a game of fulltime professionals. Players eat, sleep and breath rugby–by choice–but most will build-on an highly developed skills-base.

And as described by James Barker here, with additional skills coaching and more so, mental coaching, the ‘top four inches’ are used much much more today.

As well, being a prolonged season for many players; domestic and International, they make choices to rest and recuperate to prolong their involvement (and enjoyment) of the game today.

Super Rugby Rd 14 - Highlanders v Waratahs
Ben Smith (L) of the Highlanders fends off David Horwitz of the Waratahs during the round 14 Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Waratahs. (Photo by Dianne Manson/Getty Images)

But thinking about the sport will only go so far. Being receptive is a crucial ingredient. A coach can go from having little success in Super Rugby, to winning the top prize in European Professional Club Rugby–because the players are receptive to the messages.

And as many of the First Pick XV articles will demonstrate, players, coaches and teams that succeed, all container similar elements of high performance. Whether in All Black, or a Tier Two nation. Our range of articles and topics will have ‘something for everyone’.

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This is the first of three feature articles, looking back at a variety of subjects and highlights from the Last Word on Rugby library, leading up to the New Year.

“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images

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