x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

A game of chance to start for Saracens pair

Toss of a coin to see who will play the in English Premiership final could leave Saracens with their tales between their legs against Leicester Tigers.

Saracens might have started something, here. When their line-up for the Aviva Premiership final is announced today, it will be revealed which of their two scrum-halves won the toss of a coin to decide who would start the biggest match of the campaign.

Neil de Kock and Richard Wigglesworth have alternated in the No 9 shirt for the club this season. They have played the same amount of matches over the course of the campaign and opted to spare their coaches the headache of deciding which of them to pick.

So, earlier this week, they tossed a coin to decide between themselves. The scrum-half dilemma is not the only one facing Saracens, however.

Did they have a game of spoof to see which of Owen Farrell, Alex Goode and Wigglesworth will take the kicking duties? A game of rock-paper-scissors to decide whether or not to kick with the wind?

Professionalism has permeated English rugby so deeply since the game went open in 1995 that barely anything is left to chance.

When key decisions, such as whether to kick a late penalty for the posts or for touch, have to be made, a water-boy who is connected via an earpiece to the coach in the stands is always on hand to pass on the decision to the captain.

Before the game starts, replacements know almost to the minute when they will be introduced, no matter the state of play.

Whoever starts at No 9 for Saracens, for example, already knows they are likely to be replaced 50 minutes in. So it seems odd that Saracens, on the eve of the biggest match of their campaign, have left a key personnel decision to luck.

The players say it is a sign of the strong team spirit at the club. "It might seem unusual but we're both on the same team and we get along really well," De Kock, the South African scrum-half, said.

Danny Care, the England scrum-half, cannot see the idea catching on. If the same thing were to happen to him and Ben Youngs, the incumbent England No 9, ahead of the World Cup later this year, he would come prepared.

"I would definitely get one of those double-sided coins if it did come down to that," said Care, the Harlequins scrum-half, speaking in Abu Dhabi yesterday. "It is an interesting thing and hopefully it works out for them …

"The way they play doesn't change the way Saracens play, so they can swap in. If I was doing a coin toss, I would definitely like to win that if it meant playing in a Premiership final."

 

pradley@thenational.ae