Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Oi, Gatland - NO!

On the issue of player welfare, Warren Gatland’s comments about Billy Vunipola pulling out of the Lions Tour are pretty despicable:

“I spoke to Billy and he just felt he couldn’t give us 100 per cent.

“It [Vunipola’s shoulder] was popping out during games and being strapped.

“I did try to persuade him to come over and be assessed and look at managing him but he was adamant that he was not right. If someone is not 100 per cent right in terms of their commitment, I fully understand and respect that decision.”

So what Gatland is saying is that a player should put his long term health and fitness at risk if he is asked to do so, and the fact that Billy wasn’t prepared to do that is a sign of lack of commitment?

Wazzock.

Back to the well...

Unsurprisingly the Rugby Players' Association has unanimously rejected a proposal for an extended 10 month domestic season.

In March Premiership Rugby had confirmed that the 2019/20 season would start at the beginning of September and finish at the end of June.

Watching the Premiership semi-finals this weekend it was evident just how physically brutal our sport has become. It's brilliantly entertaining and gladiatorial but, scarily, after a long and hard season our top players are still expected to put themselves through the physical and mental challenge of a tough summer tour. He probably won't agree, but the shoulder injury to Billy Vunipola, for instance, is probably a blessing in disguise in the longer term.

We need to ask ourselves just how often we can expect these players to go back to the well...

Monday, 22 May 2017

Cool Hand Henry

Two fantastic Premiership semi finals at the weekend, the highlight of which for me was not in fact Exeter’s dramatic last gasp winning try against Saracens, nor that of Wasps against the Tigers in Coventry.

Instead the moment of the weekend was the 60 metre plus kick to touch by Henry Slade to set up the winning position for the Chiefs at the death. I’ve long been a fan of Slade’s impressive skillset, but that kick also demonstrated that the boy has ice in his veins and I hope he now gets the chance to lay down a marker with England in Argentina.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Contract, what contract?

Louis Picamoles – undoubtedly one of the best signings of last season – is now one year into a 3 year deal with Northampton and yet has this week reportedly signed a “pre-contract” to join Montpellier next season.
No doubt Saints will end up receiving a substantial transfer fee, but that’s not really the point.
Picamole’s move to Montpellier is effectively being presented as a fait accompli with Northampton the unwilling victim and, if successful, sets a precedent in which the principle of Sanctity of Contract can be ignored by those with the deepest pockets.
If we're not careful I'm sure we can all see where this is headed...

Friday, 19 May 2017

Fit for rugby

I’m intrigued by RFU plans to roll out a new specific 20-minute exercise programme across all levels of the community game in England in time for next season.

As a youth team coach (well, I do put out the cones and hold the tackle bags) I will be directly affected by the plans, so I should probably pay attention.

The programme – which apparently focuses on balance, strength and agility to prepare players for the physical challenges of rugby – is designed to reduce overall injuries and is based on recent research which found that injuries fell by 72% when players completed the programme three times a week  before a match or training.

Looks like I’ll have some homework to do over the coming weeks…

Thursday, 18 May 2017

A farewell to Mr Ritchie

Ian Ritchie’s decision to retire as RFU Chief Executive this summer came as a bit of a surprise.

Although his reign hasn’t been an unqualified success – his managing of Stuart Lancaster’s time in charge of the national team springs to mind and he can hardly be described as any kind of visionary – there’s little doubt that the plusses of his time in office do far outweigh the minuses.  

The RFU is a far more stable environment than when Ritchie took over in 2011, he helped deliver a hugely successful World Cup (from a financial standpoint) and the England set up is now incredibly strong with the England men, women and age group teams all flying relatively high.

He has also enjoyed diplomatic success – brokering the deal that ensured English participation in the Champions Cup, overseeing the 8 year Professional Game Agreement with Premiership Rugby and, of course, he was instrumental in bringing Eddie Jones aboad as England’s Head Coach.

Apparently the RFU plans to announce Ritchie’s successor later this summer. Whoever he or she may be, they will inherit an organisation in rude health, although with a very tough act to follow…