“Don’t be nervous, beat that breakdown, lads!” – Shontayne Hape

Shontayne HapeGet to grips with the breakdown and everything else will fall into place.
Those words of wisdom for League converts Kyle Eastmond and Joel Tomkins resonate when they come from a former dual-code international in Shontayne Hape.
The two highest-profile switches from the 13-man game since Andy Farrell, Eastmond and Tomkins have come into their own so quickly this season that their inclusion in the England Saxons came as no surprise to those who have watched them closely.
Despite being based out in Montpellier, Hape is one of those to pay close attention, and admits he has been impressed by their progress.
And while the offloading, straight running and passing skills in League are easily transferable, he insists it is only when they have grasped the complexities of the breakdown that the adaptation will be complete.
Hape, who has racked up 11 starts in the Top 14 since his summer move, told The Rugby Paper: “Most of the skills in terms of offloading, passing and tackling can be transferred but the hardest thing I struggled with was the breakdown.
“That’s what takes the longest to get used to, and it’s also about teaching yourself to think like a Union player, that took me about a season to do. You don’t necessarily think so but it’s about getting those instincts to make the right decisions.
“The advantage they have is they are very young, and I guess sitting on the sidelines Kyle will have had the support he needed.
“I spoke to Kyle before he came over and he knew he had to keep his head down and work on that side of things.
“The advantage he has had is that at Bath, with Brad Davis and Mike Ford, he’s been working with two guys who played League so know the game inside out. And at Bath they have had a few guys come across so they know how to deal with you.
“If you look at Kyle, people were raving about his try against Wasps, but I’d already seen him do that in League and knew he had that talent.
“I really like Joel Tomkins as well, he’s a big lump, and I mean that in a good way. And he’s been able to work with Andy Farrell at Saracens which will have really helped as well.
“They have got good guys looking after them, and I’m sure they are working very hard on the breakdown side of things to get up to speed there.”
Hape himself spent four years playing Union in England, in spells with Bath and London Irish, and scoring two tries in the last of his 13 Test caps in the 2011 World Cup.
Despite being born in New Zealand, and having represented the Kiwis internationally in League, he admits he took a lot of pleasure from the landmark win over the All Blacks last month, insisting that Stuart Lancaster’s side are now the team to beat in the Six Nations.
And while the old adage says to never change a winning team, Hape argues that the emergence of the likes of Tomkins and Eastmond will only spur England on.
He added: “That game against New Zealand just showed how far England have come, but guys like Joel and Kyle have proved themselves this season and are worth their places.
“I think it’s a pretty exciting time for England at the moment. There are a lot of good young players coming through, including Kyle and Joel, and the guys really stood up in the autumn.
“The important thing now is for the younger players to get exposure so they can keep up the pressure on the guys in the team.
“It’s great to see how England are doing and hopefully this year they can push on and get a Grand Slam.
“But it’s crucial for England to have these guys coming through and pushing those guys in the team all the way.”
PAUL EDDISON

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