Thursday, 21 September 2017

Lion amongst the pigeons

Sean O'Brien, for no apparent reason, appears to have set a rather large cat loose amongst the pigeons by publicly criticising the British & Irish Lions attack coach, Rob Howley.

What prompted his comment is unclear, but apparently it was poor coaching and a lack of an attack gameplan that prevented the Lions from securing an historic 3-0 series victory in New Zealand this summer.

According to SOB, Howley struggled to "get stuff across," leaving the likes of Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell to run the Lions attack.

Lord knows I'm no particular fan of Rob Howley as a coach (fabulous player that he was) but for SOB to single him out as the reason the Lions did not win a series in which (a) they were always massive underdogs and which (b) they led for a grand total of three minutes is, simply, as ludicrous as it is disloyal.

I hope, for SOB's sake, that this was a comment taken entirely out of context as, frankly, it does him no favours at all...

Monday, 18 September 2017

The mystery of the exploding dumpling

I was a little alarmed by reports that Australia's coach Michael Cheika had revealed a small cut on his nose caused by an "exploding dumpling" on the eve of his team's test match against Argentina.

For one horrible moment I thought that Matt Dunning might be making a comeback...

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Hall of Wazzocks: New Inductees

Roll up, roll up, get your tickets to the Total Flanker Hall of Wazzocks here.

Yes, folks, three brand new inductees to this prestigious and exclusive club, one as a result of a relatively recent act and two for their historic commitment to the cause of wazzockry.

That takes our current membership to eight and remember, the Hall of Wazzocks admissions committee is always open to your nominations, suggestions and bribes when it comes to other potential inductees.


Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Last Orders please!

So it appears that Eddie Jones might be prepared to forgive and forget the misdemeanours of Manu Tuilagi and Denny Solomona, who last month were sent home from an England training camp for "team-culture issues".

Jones has said he will consider recalling the pair if their attitude is right.

For Tuilagi in particular, who at 26 now has a rather impressive rap sheet, it may be be said that he is drinking in the Last Chance Saloon. One can only hope that he is choosing to drink mineral water.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Steve who?

It appears that the RFU has itself a new CEO and it is…..(drum roll)….

…STEVE BROWN. TaaDaaahh!!

Err, sorry, who?

You know, Steve Brown - currently the RFU’s Chief Officer of Business Operations and formerly MD of England Rugby 2015 – THAT Steve Brown.


Underwhelming as it may seem, could it be that the RFU is breaking with the habits of a lifetime by appointing somebody eminently qualified for the job and seemingly competent?

Time, no doubt, will tell.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Whatever happened to: the Laws of the Game?

As another new season approaches and my son's team (now Under 15s) drifts back to training, I and the team's other coaches are once again faced with having to understand, and then explain, various changes to the laws of the game that have been introduced by World Rugby ahead of the new season.

It seems that every season there is a tweak or several, here or there, to the laws in aid of something or other that no one ever really bothers to explain, it being more a case of "it's a new season, let's make life as difficult as possible for players, coaches and spectators."

Twasn't always thus.

My recollection (and this may be case of the rose-tinted specs being worn again) is that seasons would come and seasons would go with very little intervention from the powers-that-be. I do recall being somewhat indifferent when the value of a try was changed from 4 to 5 points and I remember being a little confused by the idea that the team driving a maul forward were no longer awarded the subsequent put-in at the scrum. I also recollect being entirely bemused by the concept of a team kicking a penalty into touch and being awarded the throw-in. 

But that's it. Only three law changes in god knows how many years of me playing rugby through the eighties and into the nineties have actually stuck in my brain. There may well have been more, but they clearly weren't significant enough for me to remember (with the absurd idea of allowing lifting in the lineout being introduced subsequent to my first "retirement").

It's all very different today. World Rugby probably think they are helping to improve the game - and they probably have a department whose raison d'ĂȘtre is simply to keep on churning out these "improvements" - but in reality all this does is to confuse. And if the players and coaches are struggling to keep up, then what chance the general public?

Rugby is complex enough without complicating things further. Enough is enough - I say to World Rugby that it is time to stop tinkering, to focus on ensuring existing laws are properly policed and to give the public time and opportunity to understand the game.

And to give us poor beleaguered coaches a break!

Here endeth the lesson.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

WRWC 2017: Carpe Diem

Well done to the Black Ferns, 2017 World Champions!

Great game of rugby from both teams and an excellent advert for the women's game.

So, what happens next? A live UK TV audience of 2.6m suggests that the opportunity now certainly exists - for World Rugby, for the RFU and other national unions, and for TV broadcasting companies - to make significant growth in women's rugby, both in terms of participation numbers and in the game's global audience.

I guess the question now is whether anyone will seize the day?

Thursday, 24 August 2017

WRWC 2017: unmitigated success

It's only right and proper that it will be the best 2 teams - England and New Zealand - who will contest the Women's Rugby World Cup Final on Saturday, following the Red Roses' tense semi-final victory over the French on Tuesday and the Black Ferns' slightly more comfortable win against the USA.

Whatever the outcome - and for me the 2 finalists look very evenly matched - there's no doubt it has been a hugely successful tournament with sell-out crowds, plentiful live TV coverage via ITV4 and, following England's progress to the final, belated acknowledgement by the national news media. And with the Final being televised live on ITV's main channel on Saturday night there is now a fantastic opportunity for the women's game to reach out to new audiences.

Inevitably there have been some naysayers who, in forums and on social media, have been quick to point out the difference in standards between the men's and women's games but in my view such comparisons - between a game which has been fully professional for over 20 years and a game in which professionalism is very much in its infancy - are all rather pointless.

I just wish that people would simply enjoy international women's rugby for what it is - fast, skilful, dynamic, competitive and hugely compelling to watch.

And of course good luck to the Red Roses for the final 👍

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Ticked off

Shocked by the news this week that former England no.9 Matt Dawson has been suffering from Lyme Disease.

Dawson was apparently bitten by a tick in a London park, causing a bacterial infection to spread throughout his body. 

Following a severe fever he he went to hospital where he was diagnosed with Lyme Disease which, if not treated promptly, can cause issues such as inflammatory arthritis, heart problems, problems with the nervous system and meningitis.

After multiple heart operations (what?) and 18 months of treatment, apparently Dawson is now on the mend but is still on medication and it will take time for his heart to recover fully.

Sounds utterly horrific.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Toby for Deutschland?

Ja, it’s true apparently.

One of the more bizarre stories of the week is that Toby Flood has said he would consider switching his international allegiance to Germany, the land of his grandfather.

Flood, a German passport holder, already has 60 England caps and would therefore (I think) need to take advantage of a World Rugby loophole under which he would first have to play Sevens for Germany in an Olympic qualifying event.

Whilst all of this is highly unlikely, it's one of those stories I'd quite like to be true...