The Rugby World Cup: Best of tributes to fly-half and a half

The Multi-National: Stephen Bachop; Paul Trow says the former All Black is still a passing master

IMAGINE constructing the identikit for the perfect fly-half. Obviously he needs a superb pass - off both sides - and the ability to time his deliveries with the delicate precision of a maestro conductor. Similar accuracy with the boot - be it raking touch-finders, towering garryowens, or well-flighted chips into space - is also essential.

Naturally, all these attributes are devalued if the man in the No 10 shirt is slow off the mark; he must have a poacher's eye for the main chance and, while Olympic sprinting speed is not a must, the ability to accelerate over those first 10 defence-splitting yards to turn a half- chance into a try-scoring break certainly is. He must also possess that elusive, uncoachable quality known as "vision" which elevates the true artist above the mere artisan.

He cannot be good just going forward - that would make him a girly fancy- dan in the eyes of his forwards. Our man must be strong and sure in the tackle too. Above all in a position where judgment is everything, he must have the nous to know when to do what and to make sure that his team-mates are on the same wavelength; it is no use being Barry John if the man outside you is more John Smith than John Dawes.

An unapproachable counsel of perfection? Perhaps, but in this World Cup there is a player who measures up to all these criteria in almost every respect: Stephen Bachop of Samoa. We all know about Samoans - they are tough as teak and run like the wind. But while Bachop has all his native land's stereotypical rugby characteristics, the pivotal role he played in London Irish's resurgence last season confirmed him as both disciplined and tactically astute.

The Exiles' director of rugby, Dick Best, is not a man given to extravagant praise. Indeed his deliberate, deadpan manner is allied to a vocabulary where the words "not bad" count as a ringing endorsement. But switch the subject to Bachop and the former England coach is, by his standards, glowing in his appreciation of the 33-year-old fly-half.

"We wanted to play 15-man rugby and Stephen fitted in perfectly. He's one of the best passers I've seen. I watched him in the Super 12 with Wellington and was impressed. Stephen's been around for a long time and his decision-making is excellent. He has so much to offer. Of course, most fly-halves can pass and kick, but not like him. Another strength of his is the way he brings other players into the game.

"Above all he has tremendous vision; he sees things others don't. You can't coach that. I've seen a lot of great fly-halves. But in terms of what he does and the job he's done for us, he's been very good indeed. He's unique. No one passes like him." Best pauses before correcting himself. "Actually the only person who passed like him was Mark Ella" - not so much a qualification as a compliment.

There was concern among sections of the Irish faithful that the influx of foreigners would diminish the club's distinctive character. But at a time when overseas players in many sports stand accused of blocking British talent, Best insists Bachop's off-field contribution was second to none. "He's the senior pro and although he's not unduly exuberant he's very much part of the team. He leads the players' court and is a tremendous role model for the young boys. James Brown, our England Under-21 fly-half, is learning from him all the time."

To judge by this accolade you would think Bachop had a string of international appearances behind him. But, after having a crack at becoming an All Black, Bachop suffered the misfortune of being a contemporary of Andrew Mehrtens. Five New Zealand caps between 1992-1995 were a miserly reward for such a talent. Then came a three-year requalification period for Samoa.

Bachop isn't even the only dual national in his family. Younger brother Graeme, 32, an All Black scrum-half who played alongside Stephen in New Zealand's three-Test series against South Africa in 1994, is now with Japan.

The pair made rugby history when they faced each other on 22 May, the first brothers to be on opposite sides in an international, as Japan surprisingly won 37-34. They could repeat this feat next month at Wrexham, where the two countries will play each other in a pool match.

No one knows anyone quite as well as a sibling. But just as no man is a hero to his valet, equally if you want the truth about a No 10 ask his scrum-half. Kevin Putt, Bachop's Kiwi half-back partner at London Irish, provides a sterling character reference. "He's a brilliant reader of the game - I know because we faced each other in New Zealand for years. And off the field, he's one of the few guys you can always have a beer with after the match."

So there you have it. Bachop is a great bloke - which in the long run is probably more important than being a great player.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project and Quality Manager

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is an independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Executive - OTE £20,625

£14625 - £20625 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role is for an enthusiasti...

Guru Careers: Financial Controller

£45 - £55k DOE: Guru Careers: A Financial Controller is required to join a suc...

Recruitment Genius: Fertility Nurse

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join the ho...

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes