With be biggest game of the year coming up in a couple of weeks when Ireland host New Zealand it’s a good time to look at a couple of the key matchups. Last week it was Barrett vs Sexton and this week it’s Aaron Smith vs Conor Murray.
Just like last week Gareth Mason has already done a video on this, so (with his permission) here’s his video and I’ve put my thoughts down below.
First up the topic of respect that Gareth talks about at the beginning of the video is something I totally support. If we can’t compare players without getting abuse then there’s something really wrong. Both these players are extremely good and an absolute joy to watch on the pitch. Right now let’s pick them apart….. ops I meant compare their strengths.
Scrum-halves might be Gareth’s favourite position but it’s a love hate thing for me. Why can’t they stop waving their hands around and shouting all the time and just play? These two though know when to ask the officials for things and when to just get the ball away. We have two players here that do the right thing at the right time for their team even if they do it in different ways.
Conor’s quick around the pitch which all 9s have to be nowadays to get to all the rucks. It’s common knowledge that scrum halves run the furthest of any position on the pitch but often without the ball. He is also big for the position allowing him a physical presence which can be a mixed blessing for a scrum half as it’s often good for them not to get involved in the physical side of the game. However kicking is where Murray excels over all other scrum halves his ability to put his box kicks, in particular, on a dime so they are contestable is fantastic. Another side that he has over Aaron is his ability to keep his nose clean off the pitch, this has meant that his form has been more consistent as he doesn’t create off field distracts.
One of Aaron’s issues has been his off field behaviour and I’m only going to talk about it here in that it’s impacted his on the pitch performances. He lost a good 6 to 8 months due to a lack of focus but that is now back. He is also quick about the pitch but it’s his passing that sets him apart from the rest. His ability to find pickout the right player to hit the gap is phenomenal. Not only does he pick out the right player but his speed of pass means the ball gets there and isn’t picked off by a rush defence.
There have been questions if Aaron is even the best in New Zealand with many people calling for TJ to be picked ahead of him. This is because of Aaron’s drop off in form for a while and also TJ’s running game. But what’s a 9s primary job? Getting the ball away from the ruck to other people and that’s why Gatland called out Aaron as the best player in the world prior to the Lions tour.
So who’s the best at present? I think it’s about what are you looking for from your scrum half. Smith’s passing is slightly better and Murray’s kicking it slightly better. As Gareth mentions come 2020 things are going to be different as Aaron will probably head overseas and TJ and Faf will probably come into the frame.
Here’s a link to last week’s post on Barrett vs Sexton.
Don’t miss out by signing-up for the DrivingMaul newsletter that comes out every Thursday with links to all the best posts and videos.