Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Whatever Happened to: Tackling (part 3)

These days much is made about certain players and their respective tackle counts, with 15-20 tackles per match often cited as being very impressive indeed.

But is it though?

20 tackles in a game means, in effect, one tackle every 4 minutes - and if I think back to my heyday as a young, tearaway, openside flanker, that target would appear to have been eminently achievable. After all, tackling was more or less all I did, right?

When you think about it, however, during a game of rugby there's a heck of a lot of time spent not tackling. There are scrummages (in my day probably around 25 per game at roughly 1 minute each), line outs (let's say 20, at 30 seconds each), attempts at goal (say 15, at perhaps 1 minute each) plus time spent rucking (or in my case lying at the bottom of a ruck being stamped on) and mauling, running around aimlessly and standing with hands on hips desperately trying to draw breath (conservatively, 20 minutes in all?).

So that's approximately 70 minutes of the 80 spent doing various things, useful or otherwise, in which I probably wasn't making tackles.

And don't forget, there are two teams in a game of rugby. So for roughly 50% of the game my team had the ball - ergo no need to tackle.

So by my reckoning that would have left a meagre 5 minutes game time in which to achieve my tackle count.

20 tackles is now beginning to look like a something of a superhuman effort while Thierry Dusuatoir's record of 38 tackles in the 2011 World Cup Final is simply beyond comprehension.

My mind is now officially blown.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Gats is Done

So, Warren Gatland is “done” with the British and Irish Lions, having confirmed that he won't be taking charge of the South Africa tour in 2021.

Lord knows I’m no Gatland fan, but the chap deserves plenty of credit for leading two successful tours (one series victory, one drawn) to Oz and UnZid respectively.

I’m not surprised, however, that Gats has decided that enough is enough.

A woefully inadequate preparation time and a brutal schedule - which is only going to get worse with future tours limited to 8 games - means that now is a good time to get out.

I can envisage one or two problems, perhaps, in finding someone to drink from the poisoned chalice in four years time - after all, as I've previously said, who would want to coach a team that is recklessly being set up to fail?

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Barbarians Women: Ewe know it makes sense.

Another major step forward for women's rugby today as the Barbarians launch its first-ever women’s team who will make their debut in Ireland next month against Munster.

I know I've expressed my doubts in the past about the role of the Barbarians in the (men's) professional era, but I can completely see how the BaaBaas concept fits perfectly into the current women's rugby development cycle.

With the success of the Women's Rugby World Cup and the Women's Sevens World Series, plus the launch of the Premier 15s in England, there couldn't be a better time to introduce the idea of an international invitational team.

Next step: British & Irish Lionesses?

Good luck to all involved...

Monday, 9 October 2017

Quiet Please

Here's something to get your blood boiling...

Torbay Council has recently changed its mind about allowing Paignton Rugby Club Under 9s and Under 10s to play rugby at Torbay Park in Paignton.

Apparently the pitches had been marked out and the Council had accepted payment before making an abrupt U-turn following complaints from the certain members of the public about increased noise.

That would be noise...of CHILDREN...PLAYING...IN A PARK.

Quite rightly there is a petition in place to get the Council to reverse this idiotic decision, currently running at 6,000+ signatures.

Go on, you know it makes sense...

Saturday, 7 October 2017


From time to time I've been known to get on my high horse about the RFU launching yet another England rugby kit and expecting the great English rugby public to swallow a load of old marketing bollocks about the kit's historic significance and/or astonishing technical capabilities.

And so, as we head towards the November 2017 Internationals, I'm sure we are all delighted by the launch of England's new alternative dark grey combo which will be worn against Argentina next month and by the women’s team against Canada.

The problem is, sadly, that you won't be able to see the kit in the above picture because, apparently, it uses state-of-the-art camouflage technology.

Yes, according to a RFU press release: “Inspired by distraction principles, the red fade feature [on the kit] is designed to make it harder to distinguish aspects of the body during the tackle.”

Seriously, you couldn't make it up.

Or maybe you could - and in fact I did - here and again here.

Once again, however, truth proves stranger than fiction. Unless it's all my fault?

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Three minutes

I think we're supposed to be impressed by the fact that World Rugby has agreed that Premiership and Championship clubs will, for the rest of this season, have an extra 3 minutes to undertake head injury assessments during games.

From this weekend the HIA period has, on a trial basis, been extended from 10 to 13 minutes to allow teams to collect saliva and urine ­samples to try to create an objective pitchside concussion test.

The idea is this could lead to developing a hand-held device that would instantly be able to diagnose concussions, which is all very laudable but kind of misses the point.

 The bottom line is that medics should be allowed to take as long as they need to make an HIA and players should be allowed to return to the field if given the all clear, even if it takes an hour or so to make an accurate assessment.

Three minutes extra is nowhere near enough.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017


I see Kyle Sinckler was last night found guilty of gouging by an RFU disciplinary panel and will now deservedly serve a 7 week ban (for which he can count himself lucky), ruling him out of England's November internationals.

This, in addition to Sinckler's arrest by New Zealand police in Auckland in July, suggests that the young Quins prop is beginning to establish something of a bad rep for himself, an issue he's going to have to get to grips with fairly quickly if he expects to retain the support of Eddie Jones and, perhaps more importantly, avoid nomination for the Total Flanker Hall of Wazzocks.

Meanwhile, Wasps Ladies' Liz Crake may have just struck a decisive blow for gender equality by being cited for allegedly biting Gloucester-Hartpury outside-half Ceri Large in Gloucester-Hartpury's recent 26-22 win over Wasps. If found guilty she could face a ban of 12+ weeks.

I have yet to find how her disciplinary hearing went*, but could the Hall of Wazzocks possibly have found its first female member?

*POSTSCRIPT: just learned that Ms Crake has been suspended for six weeks after accepting the charge, remorse and previously clean disciplinary record being taken into account.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

The curious case of Lichfield Ladies

I see Wasps Ladies recently signed England internationals Amy Cokayne, Harriet Millar Mills and Justine Lucas, all of whom previously turned out for Lichfield Ladies.

What seems to be forgotten amidst all the justified hype and excitement surrounding the heady opening weeks of the Premier 15s – England’s new elite domestic rugby competition for women – is the fate of Lichfield Ladies.

A seemingly permanent fixture in the Women’s Premiership in England for several years (finishing in 3rd place last season), Lichfield have over the years developed many international players, including the three women mentioned above as well as current England skipper Sarah Hunter, Emily Scarratt, Natasha Hunt and Vicky Fleetwood.

Lichfield, however, failed to be included in the Premier 15s following an RFU tender process that effectively replaced them with Loughborough Lightning (Loughborough University) who, prior to this process, had never had a team in women's league rugby.

As a result Lichfield has lost around 30 players, many of whom have had to move to top-flight clubs in order to be considered for international selection and several of whom have joined Loughborough.

I have read the judgment of the panel that dismissed Lichfield's appeal against the RFU decision. Suffice it to say that the process was not exactly transparent and the judgment brushes over the fact that Nicky Ponsford, the RFU’s Head of Women’s Performance, was part of the decision making process.

Nicky Ponsford is an alumna and former coach of Loughborough University.

Just saying.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Dunderhead of the Week

Time to revive the long forgotten Dunderhead of the Week award in recognition of the spectacular stupidity of Ospreys' hooker, Scott Baldwin.

The 29-year-old Baldwin missed his team's latest Pro14 fixture against the Cheetahs because he had been BITTEN BY A LION WHILE TRYING TO PET IT.

The incident happened during a team trip to Weltevrede Game Lodge on the outskirts of Bloemfontein, where everyone was - appropriately enough - warned not to put their hands into the lion's den.

As Ospreys' coach Steve Tandy points out, "You can't pat a lion on the head as if it's a kitten."

And yet that's exactly what Baldwin did. One word:Dunderhead.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Rugby World Cup 2023: A bugger's muddle

This week has seen London play host to the bids of France, South Africa and Ireland to stage the 2023 Rugby World Cup, with the respective bidding teams displaying their respective wares in front of World Rugby.

With France's president, Emmanuel Macron, deciding that he couldn't be arsed to attend the presentation or endorse the French bid, France's bidding team turned to an ingenious (although somewhat bizarre) Plan B by choosing to parade the young sons of New Zealand rugby legend, Jonah Lomu as part of the bid. Jonah quite liked France, apparently. Which is nice.

South Africa's strategy, meanwhile, appeared to be based on the fact that they once hosted the Rugby World Cup well over 20 years ago when that very nice, smiley man Nelson Mandela was President. No mention, surprisingly, that for financial reasons South Africa had recently decided against bidding to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

And as for the Irish, apparently if Ireland wins the bid to host the World Cup in 2023 it will somehow (and I kid you not) make rugby incredibly popular in the United States of America. Call me naive, but wouldn't hosting the event in the USA be more likely to do that?

Go figure, and while you’re doing that please bear in mind that the Irish bid has also won the backing of UK Prime Minister Theresa May. What could possibly go wrong?