Tuesday, 22 May 2018

England Rugby - Is something rotten in TW1?

The appointment of England defence coach Paul Gustard as Head Coach of Harlequins appears to highlight a major problem in the way elite rugby works (or doesn't work) in England.

In most countries, notably New Zealand and Ireland, there is a clear coaching pathway to the national set up and the national team is the undeniable priority.

In England, however, it seems as if being part of the national coaching team is now just becoming a pathway to a Head Coach position elsewhere - the loss of Gustard following on from the departure last year of skills coach Rory Teague to Bordeaux-Begles.

According to Gustard the move to Quins is an opportunity he couldn't turn down but what does that say about the RFU and England? Is something rotten in TW1?

To lose one coach from the England set up might be considered careless, but to lose two...?

Monday, 21 May 2018

Give James Haskell a Break

The flak copped by James Haskell for attending Prince Harry's wedding on Saturday - rather than watching his Wasps teammates play Saracens for a place in the Premiership final - does seem a little harsh.

Lord knows I am no royalist and frankly, given the choice, would have preferred to be at Allianz Park, but given that Haskell was (a) injured, (b) invited and (c) given permission to attend the wedding by Wasps DoR Dai Young, I really don't see what the problem is. It's not like his presence in the stands would've made any difference to the result.

In any event, let's be reasonable - it was a media opportunity that The Hask could in no way be expected to turn down. And what kind of wedding would it have been without the presence of the Archbishop of Banterbury? 😉

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Gloucester Lions?

Gloucester's announcement of a new club logo as part of a re-branding exercise strikes me as another example of a marketing agency making money for old rope. 

Unusually Gloucester have also said that the club will pay for fans who have a tattoo of the old club badge to get the new logo tattooed on their body.

Admittedly that's a nice, if a little quirky, touch and there is nothing particularly wrong with the new logo per se.

What price, however, on a change of name to Gloucester Lions in the not too distant future?

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Rugby World Cup 2019 qualification: the Farce that Keeps on Giving

Somewhat improbably it seems that Russia will play at the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

This follows the fall-out from the Belgium v Spain qualifier in March, won by Belgium thanks in no small part to the refereeing performance of Romanian referee Vlad Iordachescu, a result which conveniently meant that Romania qualified for the World Cup finals.

Whilst an independent enquiry somewhat incredibly ruled that the result of the Belgium v Spain match should stand, a separate emergency enquiry was launched into the alleged fielding of ineligible players in qualifying matches.

The outcome – with Romania, Spain and Belgium all sanctioned by World Rugby for breaching the eligibility rules – means that Russia, who finished in third place in the qualification table, now qualify and will contest the opening match of the 2019 World Cup against Japan. Meanwhile Germany, who finished fifth, will now play off against Portugal for the dubious pleasure of facing Samoa to qualify. 

All subject to appeal, naturally.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Incredibly sad news...


Very sad to hear news of the two amateur rugby players who have died while on tour in Sri Lanka.

Thomas Howard (25) and Tom Baty (26) were admitted to hospital in Colombo with respiratory problems on Sunday morning and tragically have subsequently passed away.

They were on tour in Sri Lanka with Clems Pirates, a touring team based at Durham City RFC which regularly raises money for charity.

Rugby tours are generally the best of times but this must be just horrendous for all involved.

Our thoughts and sympathies are very much with their families, friends and teammates.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Is Eddie Jones losing the plot?

I am beginning to wonder about Eddie Jones.

His comments last week of there being an inherent selfishness in English sport smack of a man trying to deflect attention from his own failings.

There were various reasons for England's difficult Six Nations this year, which included injuries to key players, vast improvements by the opposition (especially Scotland and Ireland) and post-Lions fatigue, exacerbated by the players then being over-played by their clubs and then flogged to death in training by Jones.

Perhaps more importantly, though, Jones then selected poorly and prepared the team inadequately, with England being outthought and outfought for much of the championship, particularly around the breakdown.

And let's just say that Jones is correct and that a culture of selfishness has begun to develop within the England ranks. Whose fault, exactly, is that? Surely it's Eddie's job to fix the team's culture if there's a problem, and mouthing off in public - rather than dealing with it behind closed doors - hardly seems the best way to go about it.

When Jones was appointed various Aussies predicted that early success would give way to cracks appearing as the players grew tired of his methods.

I am beginning to wonder if they were right.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Return of the Prodigal Son for England

The big news today is the not wholly unexpected return, after a 3 year absence, of Danny Cipriani to the England rugby squad.

I only say "not wholly unexpected" as the likelihood of Cipriani's selection for the squad for next month's tests against South Africa has been mooted in the press all week. However, when you think about it, the selection of the Wasps playmaker does remain somewhat left-field given that:

(a) he is leaving Wasps at the end of the season and (unless there's something we don't know) will most likely end up playing abroad - thus ruling himself out of future selection; and

(b) at best Danny-Boy is still likely to play second (or maybe third) fiddle at fly-half to either George Ford or tour skipper Owen Farrell.

Equally intriguing to Cipriani's selection is the announcement of Scott Wisemantel as England's attack coach for the tour, although I have to admit that my initial reaction is "Scott who?"

Whoever Mr Wisemantel might be, he is sure to have his work cut out restoring credibility to England's stodgy offence.


Tuesday, 8 May 2018

The World's Worst Rugby Club...


...or my new favourite rugby club.

Hats off to Pontycynon RFC aka #TheWorldsWorstRugbyClub who have kept us royally entertained all season with tales of incompetence,  drunkenness and record defeats.

No matter that Pontycynon RFC may only exist on Twitter, to all intents and purposes this is a proper coarse rugby club to which we should all aspire to belong. Even more so should I be doing Pontycynon a great disservice and it all turns out to be real!

Below are just a few of the inspirational tweets that have kept me chuckling all season...



Saturday, 5 May 2018

Rugby Headline of the Week (possibly the Year):

Australian rugby star apologises for urinating on bar while dressed as cow

Step forward, Nick Phipps.



Nothing more to be said...

Friday, 4 May 2018

More Congratulations ...

...this time to my son's Under 15 team who on Sunday completed a magnificent season by winning the County Plate, triumphing 31-22 in a tense and hugely physical final which could easily have gone the other way.

In mid-March I commented on the boys' incredible unbeaten run which had stretched to 21 matches from midway through last season. Unfortunately a combination of the Easter holidays, appalling weather and sod's law then intervened and the team lost its very next game, letting the league title (although, fortunately, not promotion) slip from its grasp.

That was two weeks ago, and so Sunday's match was all the more important if the boys were to have their fantastic season rewarded with something tangible. And, although by no means their best performance of the season, the team really dug deep to see off determined and feisty opposition who at one point came from 17 points down to close the gap to just 2.

My son ended up bruised and battered but happy. And I couldn't have been prouder.