Sunday, 27 May 2018

New "nipple-line" law for rugby?

The introduction of a new trial law at next week's Under-20 World Championship to lower the height of the tackle to “below the nipple line” is attracting attention.

Anything designed to improve plater safety has to be applauded, although how the law is implemented by officials will be key.

Apparently a high tackle warning will be issued if the tackler does not bend at the waist when tackling and there is clear head contact. Two high-tackle warnings for the same player will lead to a one-match ban.

No doubt referees will be uber-vigilant at first and players will struggle. The problem is that, over time (as happened the last time the high tackle was the subject of referees' focus) officials are likely to become a bit more laissez-faire about enforcement.

I'm therefore not sure that a "nipple line" law is required - instead all that is really actually needed is for the current high tackle laws to be properly refereed.

And what happens when the law filters down to grassroots? Believe me, I've seen some nipple lines pretty close to waist level! 😂

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Ashton back at Twickenham

Like moths to a flame, the English rugby media can't resist a good story about Chris Ashton, and his appearance in Barbarians colours against England this weekend has proved impossible to ignore.

Much of the coverage refers to his supposed "unfinished business" with England and how, perhaps, Ashton ought to be turning out in an England shirt.

All stuff and nonsense, of course. Yes, Ashton has been scoring tries for fun for Toulon but, let's be honest, scoring tries has never really been an issue for him.

I commented back in 2016 that Ashton was struggling under the high ball, had poor defensive positioning and tackling technique, a rudimentary kicking game and was getting turned over far too easily. 

Add to that a sketchy disciplinary record and his refusal to tour South Africa with the Saxons that year and it's not difficult to see why Ashton fell out of favour.

And rather than stick around to address his issues don't forget that, like others before him, he chose to skidaddle to the Top 14 in the full knowledge that it would render him ineligible for England. Funny how a player's absence from the domestic game tends to imbue him with previously undiscovered mythical super powers, isn't it?

Of course, he'll probably score a hat-trick for the BaaBaas on Sunday. So what? Nothing changes. 

It's easy imply that you should be playing for England when there's no chance of it happening. If Chris Ashton truly wants to play for England again the answer is simple - he should come back to the Premiership, knuckle down and make the case for inclusion irresistible. Much like a certain Mr Cipriani has done...

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

England Rugby - Is something rotten in TW1?

The appointment of England defence coach Paul Gustard as Head Coach of Harlequins appears to highlight a major problem in the way elite rugby works (or doesn't work) in England.

In most countries, notably New Zealand and Ireland, there is a clear coaching pathway to the national set up and the national team is the undeniable priority.

In England, however, it seems as if being part of the national coaching team is now just becoming a pathway to a Head Coach position elsewhere - the loss of Gustard following on from the departure last year of skills coach Rory Teague to Bordeaux-Begles.

According to Gustard the move to Quins is an opportunity he couldn't turn down but what does that say about the RFU and England? Is something rotten in TW1?

To lose one coach from the England set up might be considered careless, but to lose two...?

Monday, 21 May 2018

Give James Haskell a Break

The flak copped by James Haskell for attending Prince Harry's wedding on Saturday - rather than watching his Wasps teammates play Saracens for a place in the Premiership final - does seem a little harsh.

Lord knows I am no royalist and frankly, given the choice, would have preferred to be at Allianz Park, but given that Haskell was (a) injured, (b) invited and (c) given permission to attend the wedding by Wasps DoR Dai Young, I really don't see what the problem is. It's not like his presence in the stands would've made any difference to the result.

In any event, let's be reasonable - it was a media opportunity that The Hask could in no way be expected to turn down. And what kind of wedding would it have been without the presence of the Archbishop of Banterbury? 😉

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Gloucester Lions?

Gloucester's announcement of a new club logo as part of a re-branding exercise strikes me as another example of a marketing agency making money for old rope. 

Unusually Gloucester have also said that the club will pay for fans who have a tattoo of the old club badge to get the new logo tattooed on their body.

Admittedly that's a nice, if a little quirky, touch and there is nothing particularly wrong with the new logo per se.

What price, however, on a change of name to Gloucester Lions in the not too distant future?

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Rugby World Cup 2019 qualification: the Farce that Keeps on Giving

Somewhat improbably it seems that Russia will play at the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

This follows the fall-out from the Belgium v Spain qualifier in March, won by Belgium thanks in no small part to the refereeing performance of Romanian referee Vlad Iordachescu, a result which conveniently meant that Romania qualified for the World Cup finals.

Whilst an independent enquiry somewhat incredibly ruled that the result of the Belgium v Spain match should stand, a separate emergency enquiry was launched into the alleged fielding of ineligible players in qualifying matches.

The outcome – with Romania, Spain and Belgium all sanctioned by World Rugby for breaching the eligibility rules – means that Russia, who finished in third place in the qualification table, now qualify and will contest the opening match of the 2019 World Cup against Japan. Meanwhile Germany, who finished fifth, will now play off against Portugal for the dubious pleasure of facing Samoa to qualify. 

All subject to appeal, naturally.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Incredibly sad news...


Very sad to hear news of the two amateur rugby players who have died while on tour in Sri Lanka.

Thomas Howard (25) and Tom Baty (26) were admitted to hospital in Colombo with respiratory problems on Sunday morning and tragically have subsequently passed away.

They were on tour in Sri Lanka with Clems Pirates, a touring team based at Durham City RFC which regularly raises money for charity.

Rugby tours are generally the best of times but this must be just horrendous for all involved.

Our thoughts and sympathies are very much with their families, friends and teammates.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Is Eddie Jones losing the plot?

I am beginning to wonder about Eddie Jones.

His comments last week of there being an inherent selfishness in English sport smack of a man trying to deflect attention from his own failings.

There were various reasons for England's difficult Six Nations this year, which included injuries to key players, vast improvements by the opposition (especially Scotland and Ireland) and post-Lions fatigue, exacerbated by the players then being over-played by their clubs and then flogged to death in training by Jones.

Perhaps more importantly, though, Jones then selected poorly and prepared the team inadequately, with England being outthought and outfought for much of the championship, particularly around the breakdown.

And let's just say that Jones is correct and that a culture of selfishness has begun to develop within the England ranks. Whose fault, exactly, is that? Surely it's Eddie's job to fix the team's culture if there's a problem, and mouthing off in public - rather than dealing with it behind closed doors - hardly seems the best way to go about it.

When Jones was appointed various Aussies predicted that early success would give way to cracks appearing as the players grew tired of his methods.

I am beginning to wonder if they were right.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Return of the Prodigal Son for England

The big news today is the not wholly unexpected return, after a 3 year absence, of Danny Cipriani to the England rugby squad.

I only say "not wholly unexpected" as the likelihood of Cipriani's selection for the squad for next month's tests against South Africa has been mooted in the press all week. However, when you think about it, the selection of the Wasps playmaker does remain somewhat left-field given that:

(a) he is leaving Wasps at the end of the season and (unless there's something we don't know) will most likely end up playing abroad - thus ruling himself out of future selection; and

(b) at best Danny-Boy is still likely to play second (or maybe third) fiddle at fly-half to either George Ford or tour skipper Owen Farrell.

Equally intriguing to Cipriani's selection is the announcement of Scott Wisemantel as England's attack coach for the tour, although I have to admit that my initial reaction is "Scott who?"

Whoever Mr Wisemantel might be, he is sure to have his work cut out restoring credibility to England's stodgy offence.


Tuesday, 8 May 2018

The World's Worst Rugby Club...


...or my new favourite rugby club.

Hats off to Pontycynon RFC aka #TheWorldsWorstRugbyClub who have kept us royally entertained all season with tales of incompetence,  drunkenness and record defeats.

No matter that Pontycynon RFC may only exist on Twitter, to all intents and purposes this is a proper coarse rugby club to which we should all aspire to belong. Even more so should I be doing Pontycynon a great disservice and it all turns out to be real!

Below are just a few of the inspirational tweets that have kept me chuckling all season...