Attacking rugby is finally back in vogue – and it is only going to get better

I remember previous Boxing Day games where you would be lucky to see 100 points scored across the whole round. The game at Twickenham was a proper occasion, almost like an international but probably more entertaining. How many last-minute tries have we seen this season, with Leicester’s at Bristol being the latest. Wasps against London Irish was highly entertaining too.

Depending on what happens to the Leicester salary cap investigation, any one of Leicester, Saracens, Exeter or Harlequins could win the title. But if you want to go really left-field, why not Gloucester or London Irish? Irish are maybe not quite there yet, but they are just excellent to watch and if you live in west London you would be mad to not be watching Irish or Harlequins every week.

Gloucester look back to where they need to be. They won six out of seven and the coaching has improved, but that’s also because the shackles are off a bit.

It’s worth noting that none of the physicality has gone out of the game. But, there are more line breaks, more metres being made, more defenders beaten and offloads. My big bugbear for years was wasted time in matches. That has been dramatically reduced by most teams, because they want defences to be tired. Go back a few years and games were still being played in ideal running conditions, yet players were leaving the field without sweating. It was so stop-start.

I had an interesting discussion with Martin Johnson after the England v South Africa game. He said England nearly lost that game, and I replied that they nearly lost it because England’s forwards tried to front up to South Africa’s pack and couldn’t do it, rather than boxing clever. That’s what Australia do against the Springboks.

It’s the same with the backs – you can’t just throw it around. It’s a privilege to have the ball, not a right. You have to look after it – it was exactly the same when I was playing with Johnno, there’s a shared responsibility. A good XV, rather than just good forwards, now wins you matches and titles.

I don’t think the Premiership could be in a better state heading into 2022. We just need families to feel confident about coming back to stadiums to watch live sport.

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