Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Tom Crofted

I was sorry to read last week that Leicester's Tom Croft has retired from professional rugby on medical advice at the tender age of just 32.

Always a favourite of mine, Croft is a phenomenal athlete with serious pace but arguably it was only really Ian McGeechan, on the 2009 Lions tour, that ever properly extracted Croft's full potential as a ball-carrying blindside flanker (although I always thought that he would make a very decent number 8 in the mould of Kieran Read).

Enjoy your retirement Mr Croft.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

North Shields

I am intrigued by the news that Hurricanes captain Brad Shields will be joining Wasps next season.
Shields qualifies for England through his parents and his availability for England will no doubt fuel further debate about foreign-born players.
Not being a Super Rugby aficionado, the question I have is this:
If he's that good, why hasn't he been picked for New Zealand?

Monday, 20 November 2017

Cheik mate

So Michael Cheika appears to be in a spot of bother over his behaviour at Twickenham on Saturday. I understand that he felt/feels hard done by the fact that the Aussies hardly got the rub of the green against England - but is childish petulance really the answer?

Cheika's ire appeared to be directed towards referee Ben O'Keefe who denied Australia a couple of tries having consulted with the TMO. Much has been said about the possible emasculation of referees by over-use of the TMO and, while I do have some sympathy with that view (and, indeed, have expressed something similar myself previously), what Saturday showed is that the most important thing is that ultimately the correct decisions are made.

Imagine the controversy had Ben O'Keefe not checked the video replays and made the wrong calls...

Friday, 17 November 2017

If not now, when?

First things first, I am sure that Eddie Jones knows a lot more about selecting an international rugby team than I do.

And yet picking Maro Itoje to sit on the bench for the majority of tomorrow's game against the Aussies does make me wonder.

Simply put:

If Maro Itoje genuinely needs a rest then he should be on a beach in the Bahamas.

If Maro Itoje is fit enough to be in England's match day squad then he has to be in the starting XV.

And if Maro Itoje is in the starting XV then he should be England captain.

C'mon Eddie, you know it makes sense.

Thursday, 16 November 2017


Great news that England's women have landed a new pay deal.

Under the terms of the new deal the RFU will pay the players match fees and training fees when on England duty and it is believed that players involved in all 3 Tests against Canada this November will make between £4,000 and £5,000.

While still somewhat shy of what the chaps are paid, this nevertheless represents a significant step forward following the controversial cancellation of the XV-a-side contracts post World Cup.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Quelle Surprise - France 2023

So, at the end of what was supposed to be a fair and transparent process, it was France who was today announced as the “surprise” host of Rugby World Cup 2023.

This, despite World Rugby having made public an independent technical evaluation report last month which recommended South Africa as host.

Unfortunately for South Africa the report, commissioned by World Rugby in the interests of transparency, was not binding on members of World Rugby’s council and so ultimately failed to prevail in today's (not so transparent) secret ballot, instead succumbing to intense lobbying (particularly by the French and the other contenders, Ireland) and the customary horse-trading amongst members. 

The biggest surprise, however, is that anyone is surprised by the outcome. Plus ça change etc...

Monday, 13 November 2017

How F****** Stupid are we?

Ok, so on Saturday England were a bit lacklustre against Argentina, who rather inconveniently didn’t just roll over and allow England to run through their playbook.

It wasn’t great, but neither was it the disaster being painted by many commentators. Take young Sam Underhill for instance. Twenty-odd tackles on his Twickenham debut in an immense defensive effort and yet apparently he doesn’t get involved enough in the attack!

Put in context, 2 months ago New Zealand beat Argentina by 39-22 and by 36-10. So an England win by 21-8, although in many ways underwhelming, was still a decent victory against difficult and obdurate opponents who, although they’ve struggled for results recently, are always ultra-competitive.

Expectations that England were somehow going to run up a cricket score were as disrespectful as they were unrealistic.

I suggest we all get a grip.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Whatever happened to: the Rugby Song?

Following an initiation ceremony at Howe of Fife RFC during which a player suffered internal injuries (having reportedly had a bottle inserted into his anus), the Scottish Rugby Union recently handed out a record 347 weeks of suspensions to 14 players, a coach and a club official.

Now, while I’m sure that, back in the day, behaviour was nowhere near whiter than white, I honestly don’t recall it ever crossing the line to anywhere near the extent outlined above.

Prevalent throughout my playing days, however, was the almost compulsory post-match singing of songs in the clubhouse bar deep into the evening. Which begs the question: Whatever happened to the Rugby Song?

I have to say that, no longer being a regular at clubhouse bars late into the evening, this is a question to which I genuinely do not know the answer.

What I do remember, certainly from the eighties, is that the lyrics to most of the songs sung were – when analysed in the cold light of day – fundamentally offensive. No offence was intended of course (to the drunken juvenile rugby mind it was all just harmless frivolity) but there’s little doubt when I look back that there must have been people who would have been awfully offended at song lyrics which were basically either sexist, racist, homophobic, misogynistic or, indeed, all of the above.

Certainly having grown up a (tiny) little bit I have come to realise (although I’m sure the “political correctness gone mad” brigade will disagree) that whether something is offensive or not can only really be decided by the person it affects and I do cringe with a certain amount of shame at some of the words used in songs I used to sing with gusto.

Hand on heart, I would certainly apologise to anyone I offended at the time and can only hope that in these more enlightened times such songs have been consigned to history.

That said, I’m convinced that, at its essence, the clubhouse sing-song can be an extremely valuable and enjoyable team experience, helping to forge bonds and cement friendships between clubmates. There is no reason, however, why songs need to be so offensive or distasteful and I remember, during the nineties for instance, happily belting out various classics from the likes of Tom Jones, Neil Diamond, Don Mclean and John Denver, amongst others. Whilst my taste in music and vocal quality may not have been everyone's cup of tea, at least I can be confident that no one would have been overly upset.

So, whatever happened to the Rugby Song?

In it’s traditional unpleasant and objectionable form I sincerely hope that the Rugby Song is dead and buried. But equally I trust that communal clubhouse singing to accompany the quaffing of beer will remain a staple ingredient of rugby clubs throughout the land for many years to come.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Yarde Sale?

It looks like Marland Yarde may be on the move from Harlequins to Sale Sharks this week.

The news follows reports that Yarde has failed to turn up for Quins training on three separate occasions, including him missing a pre-season training camp in Germany (having apparently "overslept") and not showing up for the captain’s run prior to Quins’ Champions Cup tie against Wasps earlier this month. 

Quins have clearly had enough, while Sale – who have a history of taking on players with slightly iffy reputations – must be hoping that Yarde can be reformed.

This blog – and in particular the Hall of Wazzocks – will be watching this space...

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Hands across the Severn

So the England and Wales forward packs plan to train against one another before the November internationals in a no holds barred set piece session in Bristol?

What could possibly go wrong?