Thursday, 19 July 2018

Sam Warburton Forced to Retire


I was sorry to hear the news that injury has forced Wales and Lions skipper Sam Warburton to retire from rugby at the tender age of 29.

Fabulous player, inspirational leader and all round good egg - only shame is that he decided to be Welsh (despite English parentage). Just think how good England would have been with him at 7.

What ever he decides to do next I am sure he will be successful and wish him all the best...

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

European Touch Rugby Champs on BBC



As we're on the subject of Touch Rugby, the European Touch Rugby Championships is currently live on the BBC iPlayer.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH IT...




Touch and Gone (2018)

Come on, admit it, you're just dying to know how my touch rugby season has been progressing, haven't you?

No?

Well, here it is anyway, a quick summary of the exploits of Dave's Dad's Dog's Dead in the Chesham Touch Premiership of 2018...

Last night saw the culmination of our season in a game in which unfortunately DDDD slumped to a comprehensive thumping at the hands of the Chiltern Barbarians, meaning that we finished in 3rd (or, as I like to call it, joint 2nd) place in the league.

The result was a bit of shame as, until last night, we had remained competitive in all of our games despite a campaign fragmented by a recent football tournament in Russia, an injury to our skipper and by the demands (on some) of pre-season rugby training, which meant that the team was rarely at full strength during the second half of the season and at times even struggled to raise a quorum.

There was also a realisation at last night's post-match inquest - over beer and pizza - that the collective age of our squad, with several of us now in our 50s, was maybe beginning to take its toll, especially when faced - as was more often the case - with teams stacked with young, fit, speedy men.

Hardly a level playing field then, but on the upside we still finished with a record of won 7 and lost 3,  on occasion we played some great touch and we made sure that we always (or, nearly always) enjoyed ourselves. And we always had a beer after the game. And the pizza was delicious.

As for yours truly, I did have my moments, albeit perhaps they were fewer and farther between than I would have liked . At the bar after the game last night there was talk of maybe cutting our youngsters free next summer to play competitively while we oldies play purely for fun in the more social Championship division. I suspect that in reality, however, by next summer the competitive juices will be flowing again and our egos will begin attempting once more to persuade our bodies to perform feats well beyond their capabilities.

I'm missing it already.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Wayne's World

I’m sure Welsh rugby fans will have been delighted at the announcement that Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac will succeed Warren Gatland as head coach of Wales after the 2019 World Cup.

Actually, given the attractive, attacking style in which the Scarlets play, I’m pretty confident that there will be many in Wales who wish that Pivac could start immediately.

In theory succession planning is a good thing, of course, but it will also be interesting to observe the effect on the Welsh players – how will the knowledge that both Warren Gatland and Rob Howley will not be continuing beyond the World Cup affect attitude and performances?

Watch this space.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Rugby in the USA - a Giant awakens?


Big congrats to the Seattle Seawolves, winners of the inaugural Major League Rugby title in the United States, beating the Glendale Raptors in the final in San Diego this weekend.

Rugby appears to be on the up in the USA, what with the national team’s victory over Scotland last month, another top six finish in the World Sevens Series and now a successful first MLR season featuring teams from Austin, Houston, New Orleans, San Diego and Salt Lake City as well as the 2 finalists. And with teams from New York and Los Angeles set to join in 2019, professional/semi-professional rugby appears finally to be getting a foothold in the States.

One fly in the ointment is that MLR remains unsanctioned by USA Rugby, perhaps understandably cautious following the relatively recent collapse of PRO Rugby – its first venture into the professional game - and the subsequent financial fallout.

Neverthless there’s little doubt that there remains a huge amount of untapped rugby potential, both playing and commercial, in the US. Could the giant be beginning to stir?

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

He's coming home...

Football isn’t the only thing coming home following the announcement that Chris Ashton will be playing his rugby for Sale Sharks next season.

According to Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal the French club released Ashton from his contract for family reasons – but all the indications are that his move to the North West is an attempt to resurrect his England career in time for the World Cup.

Given his try-scoring prowess and the improvements to his game at Toulon, he will be an undoubted asset to Sale, but whether he can leapfrog the likes of Day, May, Nowell, Watson or Brown in the England pecking order remains to be seen.

Whether he can leave behind his history of wazzockry will also be interesting to see. A start would be to ditch the ridiculous swallow dive.

I won’t be holding my breath…

Monday, 2 July 2018

Respect - rugby still leads the way

Some of you may have noticed that there's a minor sporting event going on in Russia at the moment which appears largely to consist of young men theatrically throwing themselves to the floor as their team mates brandish imaginary cards, excruciatingly painful injuries clearing up in a matter of seconds, and a television replay decision system (VAR, What is it good for? Absolutely Nothing) which appears unable to spot blatant cases of assault and battery in the penalty area.

Furthermore, this little tournament - which has already deprived my Touch Rugby team of players for tomorrow evening's match (I despair of the youth of today) - has also provided us with several fine examples of how to show the utmost respect to match officials, culminating in this edifying little scene where Cristiano Ronaldo (so-called Greatest of All Time, ahem) was observed screaming obscenities into the face of the poor referee - an offence which earned CR7 a paltry yellow card.

As the so-called (or is that self-proclaimed) G.O.A.T, Ronaldo obviously has no concept of setting a proper example to the next generation or how difficult it now might be for the already beleaguered referees of grassroots football.

I know that I have raised concerns in the past about the lack of respect creeping into rugby and the last thing I wish to do is come across as all holier than thou, but at least we are not plagued by behaviour quite so appalling as this.

Nor, it is to be hoped, will we ever be.


Sunday, 1 July 2018

The Stag

Loving this pic of Owen Farrell setting off on his stag do. Looks happy, doesn't he?


Apparently the rest of the party were there dressed as outfield players - would love to see photos of that! 😃

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

England need to master eight

England's back row, or the balance thereof, has been the subject of debate for many a year, with the combination reaching its nadir in this year's Six Nations when it featured a second row (Lawes) at blindside flanker, a blindside flanker (Robshaw) at openside, and a Billy Vunipola-lite option (Hughes) at number 8.

In Eddie Jones' first year in charge Billy Vunipola's power game, ably supported by two 6½s (Robshaw and Haskell) was instrumental in getting England on the front foot and affording space to the half backs.

Clearly Plan A for Eddie Jones.

Unfortunately, in Billy's frequent injury absences since 2016, there does not appear to have been a Plan B other than to ask the inferior Hughes to do the same job but not as well or to give the seriously rapid Sam Simmonds a go but not alter the gameplan accordingly.

What Jones and his coaches must surely understand is that - in the continued absence of the overlooked Ben Morgan - there is no suitable like-for-like candidate to replace Billy.

Ergo, the gamelan must change.

It is perfectly possible to play international rugby without a big bruising number 8 making the hard yards. After all, Kieran Read, for instance, plays a much more fluid game for New Zealand, as does Toby Faletau for Wales - just two examples.

And given that England can field a back three including the the likes of May, Watson and Daly, it's not exactly rocket science to suggest that a faster back row, including a seriously mobile number 8, might be the way to go?

As for candidates for the role - I'd look at Zach Mercer, or Sam Simmonds, or perhaps Don Armand, or maybe Brad Shields, all of whom could bring something a little different to the position. Partnered with one or both of the Curry twins, or Sam Underhill perhaps, England might then just be able to play at the tempo required for international rugby.

Monday, 25 June 2018

10 things we've learned from the June Rugby Internationals

1. Let's not try to pretend that England are anything other than in crisis, notwithstanding ending their losing streak in a dead rubber, in wet conditions, on a slow track, against an understrength Springbok side in Cape Town.

2. Jonny May, however, is now a fully-fledged international class winger.

3. Jury is out on the Springboks. The core of a very good team is there but the Rugby Championship will tell us more.

4. Wales will be very happy with a 2-0 series win, having rested several senior players, albeit against a poor Argentina team.

5. Whether Wales are now (according to an overly smug Warren Gatland) "poles apart" from England remains to be seen. Don't forget Eddie Jones was in exactly the same position 12 months ago.

6. Scotland remain an enigma - spectacular on occasion but still horribly inconsistent.

7. The significance of the USA's first victory against a tier one nation (Scotland) should not be under-estimated.

8. Ireland are now an admirably efficient and ruthless outfit. Can they maintain their form through to the World Cup and will efficiency and ruthlessness, in the absence of a splash of inspiration, be enough?

9. Australia don't look that far away from being a more than decent team - and again I guess the Rugby Championship will reveal more.

10. After a routine and relatively comfortable series win for New Zealand (albeit with some generous officiating at times) against a competitive but limited France, the All Blacks remain the benchmark...