I had last minute surgery on my knee a couple of days ago and was under the knife for over three hours. The surgeon, who is actually a Swedish professor, appeared pleased with his handiwork. Although alarmingly he did use the words “I have never seen a more traumatized bursa before in my career!” or the Swedish equivalent thereof! So getting surgery was clearly the right choice.
I had tried to resist the inevitable as long as possible. Exploring every avenue open to me, but it just wasn’t getting better. In reality all that was actually happening was I was playing more and more conservatively – in truth to about a third of my actual potential and had been for over a year. Towards the end in my last match, I could hardly bend my knees in any capacity, as Ben Kay the match commentator helpfully kept pointing out.
The road to rehab and recovery will be long and tedious, but worth it in the end and, with my new mindset, part of a great adventure!
With this enforced lay-off, I am finding myself spending a lot of my time on the touchline or to be more accurate: commentating, summarising or doing studio work.
This is a bizarre place for me to be, as I am not retired, certainly not a legend nor an expert of the game. In truth I normally don’t watch a lot of rugby, unless I am watching videos of guys I am trying to learn from.
However, I have found the whole experience very enjoyable and refreshing, even though every time you go live on air, it’s a bit like negotiating a minefield. As I hope to continue playing, I can’t be overly controversial, to do what some TV pundits feel they need to, which is to have a go at current players on the premise their paths will never cross.
It’s important to have an opinion, be honest about what you see, but restraint is the key!
Sitting in the stands, looking down at the pitch, gives you a greater perspective than you get standing in the middle of it. Over these past three weeks I have really enjoyed watching some amazing talent, plying their trade from a difficult angle, to the one I normally see from the pitch or sitting on the bench. Plus if you are playing or as a substitute, you are not really ever “watching” the game in anything like the same dispassionate way you are when you are completely uninvolved.
I think as a player, you inevitably end-up looking for the smaller aspects of the play, often missed on TV. If there is a big stand-out moment on the field, then invariably this is what everyone talks about. When actually there are perhaps elements players do in the build-up, which creates or develops the play, which generally get missed.
Working for Sky last week during the England-Barbarians game, it was great to watch some of the young players from Wasps: Sam Jones, Elliot Daly, Joe Launchbury and Christian Wade. I was spoilt for choice by all the young dynamos on show representing both teams.
Launchbury took the honours with his man of the match performance, but I thought Wadey’s defence was great and Daly showed his class with his finish from full-back.
You can clearly see all the plays unfold from a different perspective. It’s really interesting and pretty enlightening to be able to view rugby from the outside looking in. I was lucky enough to be working for Talksport during the Premiership final last week and had one of the best seats in the house. I can now see why being an armchair expert is a pretty easy guise to adopt.
Rugby looks so simple from the sidelines. You see every bit of space, every overlap. You immediately know how to break down the defence and where both sides are going wrong!
I normally have to restrain myself when listening to people who have never played rugby, spouting off their thoughts, comments and harsh criticisms of players. However I now see how easy it is to come out with this stuff.
I can only imagine what it must be like to be a coach, where you are trying to implement game plans, can see everything which is unfolding yet have no direct control over it. Being at the complete mercy of the players you select.
I think I would go mad with sheer frustration and nervousness.
Tagged James Haskell
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