Brian Smith's Analysis: Joseph on Fire - Green and Gold Rugby

Brian Smith’s Analysis: Joseph on Fire

Brian Smith’s Analysis: Joseph on Fire

In the modern era it’s rare that a test match is decided by the dancing feet of a centre, but that is exactly how England won the 2017 RBS 6 Nations.

Jonathan Joseph has always had beautiful footwork, that was obvious when he was first contracted to the London Irish Academy (my old club). In this match he produced what must be one of the most perfect running performances an outside centre has ever made. He tore up the park from the first minute until the 60th minute when coach Eddie Jones gave him a rest.

The following clips are a video summary of what is the best attacking performance from a number 13 I’ve ever witnessed:

Try Number 1.

In this play England ran one of their favourite Dummy Drive plays with Ben Youngs bouncing out to launch a well timed second man play behind Owen Farrell to George Ford who then holds up a short pass for Jonathan Joseph (JJ). JJ runs a beautiful line and has plenty of work to once he gets through the front line. He’s all class…


Try Number 2.

This next play is from another lineout, however this time the ball comes off the top with Ben Youngs feeding Owen Farrell who bounces out to run a second man play behind Nathan Hughes again feeding George Ford. JJ runs another peach of a line of George Ford and you could be forgiven for thinking you’d seen this all before. England clearly decided to attack Scotland’s midfield and they did so with great variety and precision.


Try Number 3.

This play was a little more conventional but the objective was the same – attack Scotland’s centres by throwing numbers at the line. This time England ran a 6 Man lineout and the ball came off the top with George Ford playing Owen Farrell behind Nathan Hughes. This time Owen Farrell held up the ball for JJ and he released his London Irish Academy pal Anthony Watson to score. Scotland’s defence coach (Matt Taylor) must have been in tears at this point…the Scottish midfield was now completely in tatters.


Try Number 4.

JJ went on to score in the second half with what was a simple hard line deep inside Scottish territory. This try completed his hat-trick and capped off a stellar attacking performance. Compared to the other tried she scored or had a hand in scoring this try was pretty straight forward.


With Ben Teo playing so well for England during this 6 Nations Championship, JJ probably had to come up with a special performance to secure the number 13 shirt for the Grand Slam game in Dublin. It won’t be straight forward. I

n 2011, I was part of Martin Johnson’s England coaching staff when we took an undefeated England team to Dublin to win the Grand Slam. Unfortunately, the Irish team denied us the Slam in 2011 but at least we won the 6 Nations. Many of the England players like Dylan Hartley and Ben Youngs were involved in that match and I’m sure they’re keen to get the job done this time around. Whatever happens, this really is a special England team.

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    You have to say that Scotlands defence was very very crap. Bloody well done though England what a great example of running rugby.

    • Muzz

      Yes it was ordinary but the England attack was very good. There’s a good article on the Roar today by Nick Bishop that examines England’s attack in this match. And as Brian says Jonathon Joseph played a blinder as the focal point of England’s wide attack. The try that Joseph laid on for Watson was poetry in motion.

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        Yeah it was great to see. The big thing is can they do it again. Ireland were abysmal against both Wales and Scotland and unless they make some big changes they’ll get just as smashed

        • Its a tall ask without Murray… Sexton is always one knock away from being substituted… The stocks are thin for the Irish.. England, on the other hand, just don’t lose.. Heroes all over the park.. EJ will need no pep talk to gee his team.. The fact, they will be gunning for a 2nd GS on the spin, should be enough motivation!!

      • Christopher

        The poetry in motion is him running (and changing) angles with the ball in two hands. Every 8 year old should be shown that in the hope our offloads and passing game will match the kiwis in 15 years time

        • Muzz

          That’s right Chris they are basic skills. The ball in two hands is key and his eyes show he’s looking at his support options, of which he has several, and his running line and speed keeps the defenders at bay.

        • Pearcewreck

          The thing I noticed too about that try, when you watch the front on replay, you can see Joseph changing his running angle at speed before he gets the ball, thus confusing the defenders.
          Too often we seem to do a crash ball with a bloke running head down flat out, no changing angles, no deception, easy too read.
          Joseph has the footwork and speed to pull it off.

          Also, memo to all coaches, how many of these tries featured crash balls from good set piece ball?
          Answer: None.

  • Parker

    Excellent. So great to see a player running onto the ball and taking the pass at speed. “On the burst” is as unfamiliar in Wallabies rugby these days as that expression. On another note, could someone please explain the obstruction rule and why it didn’t apply in try number 2. As for the fourth try. JJ’s biggest achievement was dancing around all those dropped bundles on the ground in front of the Scot’s tryline.

    • Pearcewreck

      I assume you mean England no.8 and Scotland no.7. Probably not obstruction because the Scotland no.7 was no where near Joseph, who made the break.
      One could equally argue that Scotland no.7 tackled a player without the ball.
      So…. potential can of worms.

  • Keith Butler

    I was indeed great to watch. Haven’t seen an England team attack like this since the 2002/03 team before they won the RWC. That team had some pretty good threequarters as well. The weekend game against the Irish will be a different kettle of fish as they’ll be hurting after the defeat against Wales. It will be a lot closer and I reckon they might just steal it.


Brian Smith is a rare breed who has both played and coached international rugby and doesn't mind telling it as he sees it. He's currently putting his Oxford degree to good use teaching Commerce and coaching rugby at the Scots College, Sydney.

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