This again was a good kick, except that narrowly it did not go over the crossbar. It was not a difficult kick, not as difficult as the conversion was, owing to its acute angle. Neil Jenkins or his predecessor Paul Thorburn or, for England, Rob Andrew or Dusty Hare would most likely have put the penalty over. If Thomas had kicked it, Wales would have won 17-16 even if he had missed the conversion, as he did.
Do not misunderstand me. I do not want Thomas out of the side. Far from it. I hope he goes on for another decade - provided he does not keep any better outside-half out of the team. Jenkins is not that player. What he is, is a more accurate goal-kicker with a longer range.
Scotland understand that utilitarian principle perfectly well. That is why Michael Dods is in the side. He plays full-back for his club, Northampton, but left wing for his country. In this position he keeps out Ken Logan, a performer of Lions class.
Logan came on as a substitute not for Dods but for Craig Joiner on the other wing. By taking Gregor Townsend's typically short pass, then splitting the Welsh defence, he effectively won the match for Scotland, even though it was Townsend who scored the try.
It may well be that, because of Logan's great contribution, he will replace Joiner for the England game at Murrayfield. This, if it happens, will be just to Logan but unjust to Joiner, who did nothing wrong. But why not play both, on their accustomed sides of the threequarter line?
That would mean dropping Dods, unless he were played at full-back. This in turn would involve discarding Rowen Shepherd, who on Saturday seemed the only Scottish back capable of finding touch. Dods is no great shakes as a wing - though in the French match he comprehensively outpaced Laurent Cabannes to score one of his two tries. But the Scottish selectors will, we may be fairly sure, continue to play him in that position on account of his goal-kicking abilities.
Ireland have traditionally enjoyed a luxury of choice in this department, from Ollie Campbell and Tony Ward to Eric Elwood and David Humphreys today. But I wonder whether the Irish selectors have not forgotten someone else: Michael Corcoran, of London Irish. A former professional footballer, he plays on the wing rather than at full-back, centre or outside- half, as kickers tend to do (though anyone who remembers that crude but redoubtable Cardiff and Welsh lock W E Tamplin should be chary of generalising about goal-kickers).
I do not know whether Corcoran is on the wing because, as with Dods, that is the position into which he can be fitted with the least inconvenience. What I do know is that, as the leading points-scorer in the Courage Second Division, he has contributed substantially to London Irish's success this season. The same cannot, alas, be said of the Irish national team, for whom I have always had a soft spot. They might do better with Simon Geoghegan doing the running on one wing and Corcoran doing the kicking on the other.
I think of Thierry Lacroix as a strong, uninspiring centre and, worse, an unreliable outside-half but, on his day, a magnificent goal-kicker. With typical perversity, the French have kept Lacroix in the side but transferred a potentially great centre, Thomas Castaignede, to outside- half in his place and also handed his goal-kicking duties over to Castaignede as well. On Saturday's evidence, this piece of French tomfoolery turned out to be justified.
Jack Rowell is equally hamstrung by the goal-kicking problem. If he wants to play Mike Catt at full-back, he is committed to Paul Grayson at outside- half unless he brings in Jez Harris. If he chooses a goal-kicking full- back in Jonathan Callard, he is still stuck with Grayson unless he has a rush of blood to the head and brings someone else entirely into the side. Andrew has virtually announced that he has no intention of coming back.
I hope, however, that Kevin Bowring solves the Welsh problem (or part of it) by bringing Jenkins back into the team at inside centre. But I do not for a moment suppose he will.Reuse content