Since time’s arrow insists on moving forward, Peter Stringer has retired. I am somewhat behind the other write ups, but what I lack in timeliness, I make up for with love.
To an extent, my memories of rugby union are tied up with Peter Stringer. I have strangely vivid memories of Scotland winning the Grand Slam in 1990, reinforced by my mother’s Corries videos, but the first memory that is definitely mine and not just disjointed plays, is Peter Stringer’s tap tackle on Dan Luger. I think it sums his career up quite well.
It was borderline impossible, required determination and heart (and a certain bodily recklessness) and was valuable beyond measure.
How else can you describe someone who at 1.7 m and 73 kg tries to tackle All Blacks.
While opinion is mixed as to who was the best scrum half between the years 2000 and 2010, Stringer is probably not going to be on anyone’s list. Which is a shame, because he did the simple things well. I do have a fondness for excellence of execution.
His style also worked for the team he was in. You can play like New Zealand if you’ve got players like New Zealand (I’d have used France as the example, but France are having trouble playing like France at the moment).
And because he worked so well in that team, he could he set up Jamie Heaslip’s match-winning try in the 2009 Six Nations game against Scotland. That performance won Stringer the Man of the Match award and meant that Ireland could go to Cardiff for their match against Wales with a chance of winning not just the title but the Grand Slam as well. In that final match against Wales, it was Stringer’s pass to O’Gara that led to the drop goal that won Ireland their first grand slam in 61 years.
The Stringer to O’Gara connection was also vital to Munster’s successes, such as finally winning the Heineken Cup. And this would be him scoring the winning try. This was especially sweet as he was the person Neil Back stole the ball from to cost Munster the title in 2002. The try also shows what I liked about the way he played – there was sneak and guile, looking for spaces instead of running into contact, more than that, actually finding the space, and using it.
I think Stringer is very much the definition of tiny and awesome and has been (and always will be) my favourite rugby players because of that.
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