Friday, 12 July 2019

Finishing Touch 2019


This week saw the culmination of my fourteenth consecutive touch rugby season. And what a season it was.

The final match this week turned out to be a winner-takes-all encounter against the reigning Chesham Premiership champions - all fit and fast twenty-something young men who had beaten us 9-8 earlier in the season and who had taken the league by storm.

And so to Dave's Dad's Dog's Dead, a squad regularly featuring (as well as our own fit young twenty-somethings) four over-50s, a couple of over 40s and a couple of females, who somehow, after some impossibly tight matches all season (never settled by more than three scores), found ourselves with the chance to take the title with victory in our last game.

By half time things weren't looking great - the opposition's 100mph style finding regular gaps in our defence to lead 6-2 at the break. 

But then the comeback - slowly but surely the defence tightened, skipper Tommy started to weave his magic and, with everyone working their socks off we eased back into the game and - at 8-8 - it could have gone either way.

Sadly I have to report that DDDD ultimately came up short, going down 9-8 once again, but there was a huge amount of pride and satisfaction taken from our efforts. The fact that this bunch of players can even compete against teams of far younger and fitter players is testament to the hard work and competitive nature of the group. It's a team the core of which has been playing together for 10 years, and I'd say that this season has probably been the most enjoyable so far, given the way we have responded to and dealt with the improving standards of the opposition across the board.

This time last year I was doubting whether I was capable of continuing to play in the more competitive league (with the slower-paced social league beckoning) - but I am so pleased to have stuck with it. Yes it was tough physically, but hugely enjoyable and satisfying - and the end of the 'season' again leaves me feeling somewhat bereft.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Gavin Henson is Wanted

Forget the announcement of England's World Cup training squad (which appeared to say sayonara to the international careers of Messrs Robshaw, Care and Brown).

Forget the launch of yet another England kit (hint: it's white) and the Wales World Cup kit (red, would you believe?).

No the key news of the week as far as this blog is concerned is the news that former Welsh centre, the perma-tanned Gavin Henson, appears to be on the run for the Channel Four reality TV series "Hunted" - a show where celebrity contestants are instructed to go on the run for a period of 28 days in mainland Britain whilst trying to avoid capture by a team of hunters including former police and intelligence personnel.




It must be nice to feel wanted.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Rise of Jaguares spells trouble for England?

Although admittedly not a Super Rugby aficionado by any stretch of the imagination, I have to say I am very impressed by the achievement of the Jaguares in reaching the Super Rugby Final this year.

It's the first time the Argentinian franchise has made it through to the Final and potentially doesn't bode very well for England who will face a whole host of Jaguares players, boosted by several European-based Argentinans, when they take on Argentina in Pool C at the World Cup in Japan this autumn.

 The group of death has potentially just become even more deadly.

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Sacre Bleu

Continuing the Rugby World Cup new kit theme, here's my favourite shirt so far...

Allez le bleus!

Monday, 1 July 2019

All Blacks all black



As the countdown to Rugby World Cup 2019 continues the All Blacks have today launched their World Cup kit and it's...err...black!

Who'd have thought?

The Kiwis have also launched an 'away' kit which, as you can see, is a blatant attempt at cultural appropriation and is hugely disrespectful to England 😉


Thursday, 20 June 2019

Back to the drawing board for World Rugby

A "lack of consensus on key issues" has, it seems, led World Rugby to abandon plans for its proposed Nations Championship.

One of the major sticking points appears to have been the concept of promotion and relegation from the Six Nations, with some northern hemisphere unions unconvinced.

Although some might say that such a reason for not supporting the concept was a tad pathetic, I do feel that there are other areas where the plans were certainly deficient, not least in that they gave scant consideration to player welfare issues and didn't ever address the question of how crowning a new "World Champion" every year could not fail to undermine the World Cup.

It is a shame in many ways as the Nations Championship concept did at least try to address the question of a global season. Rather than throw the baby out with the bathwater, however, I would have thought that World Rugby could use the work done so far to come up with something that might garner unanimous support?

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Is it so, Joe?

According to The Times, Joe Marler has been named in England's elite player squad (no official confirmation as yet) and therefore is in contention for a return to international rugby for this year’s World Cup.

As an England fan I hope it is true.

As a Marler fan, I'm not so sure. 

Having announced his retirement from the international game in September last year and having since opened up about his mental health difficulties, I only hope (and I've said this previously) that both he and Eddie Jones have made the correct call as far as his health and well being is concerned.

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Big Basta à Big Apple: a Frenchman in New York

With Mathieu Bastareaud (along with Morgan Parra) omitted from France's 37 man training squad for the Rugby World Cup in Japan this year, his decision to try his hand in Major League Rugby with  Rugby United New York may well end up being a longer-term move than first anticipated.

I have to say I am surprised that Jacques Brunel chose to omit Bastareaud. I do think it's the correct call if France want attacking fluidity in their midfield, but Brunel's tendency so far has been to rely on Bastareaud's bulk, solidity and breakdown nous at the expense of speed and creativity, so his non-selection is a little unexpected.

It had been anticipated that Bastareaud's move to New York - where he will team up with the likes of Ben Foden - was to be something of a sabbatical from the weekly grind of the French Top 14 but now, who knows, with his French international career possibly coming to a conclusion, the 30 year old may yet see MLR as his long term future?

POSTSCRIPT Wed 19 June 2019 - "LA PAGE BLEUE SE TOURNE" - the clairvoyant powers of Total Flanker know no bounds as Monsieur Bastareaud today announced his retirement from international rugby. Sometimes I just impress myself...

Friday, 14 June 2019

Poor return for England Under 20s

Disappointment for England Under 20s at the World Championships in Argentina, finishing third in their pool behind Ireland and Australia, despite thrashing the Aussies in the final pool game.

Consequently the English youngsters can - at best - finish in 5th place this year, assuming of course that they can overcome Ireland in a semi final and then one of Wales or New Zealand in the 5th place play off, which is by no means a foregone conclusion.

Considering that England have featured in the final of each of the last six World Under 20s Championships, one has to wonder whether the financial squeeze at the RFU is beginning to take its toll?

Thursday, 13 June 2019

England Rugby - Mitchell in pole position

News today that John Mitchell has had his contract as England’s defence coach extended by two years by the RFU.

Having originally been contracted until the end of the World Cup this year, Mitchell's deal is now extended to 2021 and, with Warren Gatland having ruled himself out of ever coaching England (query - was he ever actually asked?), the third Mitchell brother now appears to have a fair to middling chance of succeeding Eddie Jones as England's Head Coach at some point in the next couple of years.

This assumes, of course, that England's World Cup campaign doesn't go completely tits up - something I have learned never to take for granted.