Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Kyle Eastmond: Will He Be a Hit at Bath?

Kyle EastmondI've not seen many good threads debating whether or not Kyle Eastmond is going to make it in Rugby Union so I'm gonna have a crack at sparking one myself.

I think the reason people are so unwilling to stick their neck out on the subject is that there seems to be no ryhme or reason behind the successes and failures of Rugby League converts. For every Jason Robinson there is a Lee Smith and for every Chris Ashton there is a Tevita Vaikona (although Vaikona's Wikipedia page describes his Union career as 'Hugely Sucessful', odd if you ask me).

There does seem to be almost no way of knowing whether a player posseses the adaptability to change codes. There are however certain factors that undeniably help:

1) Be young
Granted Jason Robinson was 26 when he converted but on the whole the younger the better. I think this is simply because younger players are more likely to be patient if things don't go immediately to plan. I can't help but feel that players like Andy Farrell and Henry Paul  had more than enough talent to be real union superstars had they moved earlier in their careers.

Eastmond, at 21, certainly has age on his side.

2) Be in the Right Environment
Put simply winning teams are easier to slot into. They don't rush players into their starting XV and they don't expect immediate results. Its pretty clear for all to see that Iestyn Harris did not benefit from being shoved into a struggling Welsh side after 200 minutes of Rugby Union. Chris Ashton benefited massively from his first season in Union being in Northampton's undefeated campaign in National League One.

I expect Bath to be patient with Eastmond, after all they were extremely careful in their handling of Shontayne Hape. Also, the fact that England are looking strong should mean that, unlike others, there will be no rush to get him into the England setup.

3) Be a 12 or higher
I know, I know, Brad Thorn etc etc. But there is no point comparing the Southern Hemisphere players. The gap from League to Union is smaller in the SH and the skill level is higher so I don't think there is much to take from their experience. In Europe forwards and half backs don't do well. Stephen Myler is alright I suppose, but still about 6th in line for the England Fly Half berth. The bottom line is that wingers, centres and full backs have less to adapt to.

This is where I worry for Eastmond, Bath have already stated that they see him as an outside back, but he is a natural half back by trade. If you check out his highlights reel (see below) he seems suited to working in the tight. He is great at ducking under tackles and skipping round forwards, I'm not entirely sure this will translate to the wing or centres.

4) Be Quality
Clearly stating the obvious here, but it helps a bit to be a quality player. The reason I say this is because I think Eastmond is a bit special. Jason Robinson's talent was so great that none of the above points really mattered. I'm not comparing Eastmond to the literally incomparable Robinson, but I do seriously rate his talent. His eye for a break, his support lines and his explosive step will certainly all stand him in good stead.

I think on balance I'll be backing Eastmond to be a hit. Here's a video of him at his best, make up your own mind and tell me what you think.

Also I've just found a video of a League Vs Union debate on Sky Sports News the other week, they repeat alot of what I've just said, but interesting nonetheless (check it out here)

No comments:

Post a Comment