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banner Monday, 21 May, 2001, 17:04 GMT 18:04 UK
Let's play ... Rugby

By BBC Sport Online's Jonathon Moore

When EA Sports released Rugby 2001 for the PC, I for one was doubtful as to just how well it would be received.

Yes, the Jonah Lomu license for Playsation had made visible inroads. But could EA improve on what is obviously a tough sport to replicate?

There seems little point in beating around the bush. EA Sports' latest rugby offering for Playstation 2 - imaginatively titled 'Rugby' - is a must-have.

  Fact-file
Format: Playstation 2
Price: TBC
Publisher: EA Sports
Genre: Sports Sim
Release: Early June
Timed, no doubt, to coincide with the current fervour that surrounds the Lions tour to Australia, 'Rugby' is a gem of a game.

At first glance, the differences between the PC version are enormous.

The frustratingly slow rucks and mauls have disappeared, as has the ability of the fly half to slot the ball straight into touch from outside his 22.

The touchlines now bustle with activity and the graphics, as you would expect from the Playstation 2, rival any of the latest offerings from the Madden franchise.

Once you have had time to marvel at the colours and sound, however, it is the difference in speed that becomes most evident.

Instead of approaching a grounded ball and waiting for your opponents to arrive, your team is now capable of moving quickly through each phase of play.

Any grounded ball will be quickly scooped up and there is a much greater emphasis on arriving quickly at breakdowns.

Indeed, the number of players you commit will determine just how quickly you decide to play - or how many points you are beaten by!

Longevity

As with the PC version, conversions are still mighty difficult and the learning curve that enables you to hand-off opponents and dummy the fullback continues to add longevity to the game.

And if all that is not enough - the ability to easily 'pick up and play' against human opponents is a true masterstroke.

If ever there was a title crying out for release on Playstation 2, this was it.

  Verdict
Graphics: 95%
Playability: 98%
Sound: 90%
Realism: 92%
Overall: 94%

The game comes complete with more detail about how to achieve that crucial 'full back enters line' move that was so lacking in the original.

The control functions for the rucks and mauls are also infinitely more simple.

'Down' equals dig and 'up' equals push - with a red bar that shows you just how much energy you have compared to the opposition.

As you can probably tell - I am a fan.

Nevertheless, there are some disappointments.

There has been no improvement in the game's commentary, and I was somewhat dismayed to discover that there is no ability to play as the Lions - despite the timing of the release.

Having said that, it currently remains the only way a Welshman can watch his side embarrass England on the pitch.

For that, if nothing else, I remain thankful.

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