Sunday, 30 September 2007
Friday, 28 September 2007
Thursday, 27 September 2007
The t-shirt, featuring a "fantastic caricature"of Chabal dressed as a Caveman, is, we're told, due in store on Friday 5th October and we're assured that, at only £15.00, it's "a cheap and fun addition to your wardrobe."
Or am I just being a bit picky?
Thanks to Joanna Bourne for bringing this one to my attention - a great example of "boys on tour" mentality is being displayed by the Tonga squad. Not content with one of their number, Epi Taione, changing his name by deed poll to "Paddy Power" before the tournament started, they have now apparently employed the services of an Irish hairdresser, Dermot Hickie, to dye the hair of the entire matchday 22 bright green before their encounter with England tomorrow evening. Each player, the Guardian reports, has gone for his own style and there will be varying shades of green.
The IRB having, predictably, refused to amend Taione's entry in the tournament guide to Paddy Power, the Tongans have, it seems, made this gesture to thank the Irish bookmaker for its invaluable financial support.
"They [the IRB] will go mad about this," Taione/Power is reported to have said - and I suspect he's right that the blazers will probably fail to see the funny side.
Another fine example of a squad adopting a tour mentality is to be found in the Australian camp where they appear to be maintaining their own tour blog, with contributions by the likes of Stephen Larkham, Stephen Hoiles, David Lyons, Steve Moore, Rocky Elsom and Phil Waugh.
The most bizarre story to feature so far is that of Al "The Fuse" Baxter (you know, the bloke who's likely to win his 50th Australian cap at prop this week despite being unable to scrummage). Rumour has it that, during the Wallabies' pre-World Cup boot camp where the players all had to glove up and take on legendary Aussie mixed martial arts fighter Chris "The Hammer" Haseman, Baxter stepped up and laid the The Hammer out.
Here's a supposed eye-witness account from none other than Matt Giteau:
I remember Al was particularly focused that day. From looking at the bloke, you just knew he was going to win. He is psyched up. He's not talking to anyone. He's doing all these push-ups and things. And then he gets into the fight. He touches gloves with The Hammer, stares him down, and says, 'Get ready to be Baxtered.' He walks back. He's just mucking around with The Hammer. He's moving around, and then out of nowhere, he goes WHACK. He then stands over the Hammer and goes, 'You've been Baxtered.'
Nice try chaps, and well done to Giteau for keeping a straight face (see below) but obviously a huge WIND-UP. Still, nice to see someone's not taking life off the pitch too seriously - can you imagine anything as imaginative coming out of the England camp?
Tuesday, 25 September 2007
A spokesman for the All Blacks confirmed that the players in question had no idea that the film was being made for commercial gain, but believed that they were making a cultural and educational film promoting a little known Maori community who settled on the outskirts of Nuremberg, Germany, shortly after Abel Tasman's arrival in New Zealand in 1642.
"The players were approached by a man called Hori Von Trapp who claimed that he represented a unique Maori community in Germany. He was very convincing. Had they known that this was nothing but yet another attempt to exploit the Haka for commercial gain there is no way they would have taken part," he said.
A Maori spokesman and expert in kapa haka confirmed that he thought the advertisement was, on the face of it, an affront to Maori culture.
"This never-ending exploitation of the Haka denigrates our culture," he commented, "and I believe it's time we reverted to a a far simpler interpretation of the Haka, as practised by the All Blacks during the 1970s."
Monday, 24 September 2007
Sunday, 23 September 2007
"Wasn't Jonny just fantastic", was the gist of Rosenthal's questioning, and when Johnson pointed out that actually no, Wilkinson hadn't won the game single-handedly, Rosenthal's line of questioning subtly switched tack to "But what an impact Jonny Wilkinson made on the game". Unsurprisingly Johnson stuck to his guns, pointing out that it was the forwards who laid the foundations for the win and that there were more than a few kicks out of defence by Wilkinson that were more than a bit iffy, but a late intervention by Francois Piennaar saved Rosenthal's blushes and confirmed that yes, after all, Wilkinson had an absolutely wonderful game.
That Rosenthal's next words were something along the lines of "Martin Corry - Superhero" tell you all that you need to know about this man's depth of rugby knowledge.
The only challenger to Jim Rosenthal for the all-new Total Flanker "Dunderhead of the Week" award is the official who allowed Scotland and New Zealand to play each other this afternoon wearing virtually identical kit. A combination of black and grey playing a combination of dark navy blue and off-white was difficult enough to follow on the TV and therefore must have been a nightmare for the referee (although I guess that he could have insisted that one of the teams change their shirts, or wear bibs, or play in skins!).
Friday, 21 September 2007
There's absolutely no doubt that the French public have really taken to this larger than life character and that he's very much taken over from Freddy Michalak as the darling of French rugby. That's why it's important for the competition as a whole that France look to have booked at least a place in the quarter finals with their emphatic win against Ireland this evening in Paris(although it's still ridiculous that they will, in all likelihood, have to travel to Cardiff to play the All Blacks).
It's vital for the competition as a whole that the hosts progress to the latter stages and on current form I wouldn't necessarily bet against the French making an impact in the quarters, even against New Zealand. It's equally important that the man who is now very much seen as a talisman for the French team continues to be included. It's not beyond the realms of possibility, however, that the nutty professor Laporte will seek to leave Chabal out. Laporte has never really been convinced by Chabal's qualities, hardly ever selecting him in his best position at number 8. It's absolutely clear that he's not one of France's best 2 locks (nor would he claim to be), but as a number 8, with Betsen and Bonnaire on the flanks, he'd add serious go forward to the back row. He certainly has to be ahead of Harry Ordinary (as Lawrence Dallaglio once described Harinordiquy) in the pecking order.
Just in case Monsieur Laporte is reading this (hey, you never know), here's a very brief reminder what Sea Bass brings to his team:
It's just a shame from an English point of view that he was capped before moving to Sale Sharks - I'm sure he would be a naturalised Englishman by now (although probably isn't old or slow enough to feature anywhere in the English pack at present).
Despite not having the rights to the Rugby World Cup for the 5th time in succession (1987 being the last time the RWC was shown on the Beeb) the BBC did manage to get in on the act by screening a few of the UK-based warm up matches in August, including the match between Ireland and Italy in Belfast.
'Man of the match' that day was Ulster flanker Neil Best. No problem there, I here you say, Best is a fine player and put in one of his typical barnstorming performances. The problem arises however because the person awarding the accolade was TV commentator Ryan Constable. Constable also happens to be a rugby agent, representing several top flight players one of whom is, yes you guessed it, Neil Best.
As Neil Best said: "The award didn't make me feel any better because my agent (Ryan Constable) was commentating for the BBC and he made the decision.
"He's obviously trying to secure another few years for me. And yes, I will be retaining his services, but don't tell him that because I want to keep him on his toes."
Thursday, 20 September 2007
the England v Samoa game, with Brian Moore hopefully sticking around to present the Vets trophies. Add the Reading Belles Cheerleaders to the mix and it does sound like the place to be.
Click here for more information on the event.
Wednesday, 19 September 2007
Enthralled and fascinated as you undoubtedly are by my tales of decorating woe, the reason I mention it is that while up the step ladder I had a peek into the loft space which is accessible via my son's room and discovered a load of old junk deposited there when we moved in 12 years ago, amongst which were some ancient rugby photos featuring yours truly.
These records of a bygone era will therefore be making an appearance on this blog from time to time and to start you off here's one of me from circa 1982 as a 17 year old Peterborough Colt, leaping salmon-like to tap a lineout ball in the general direction of my scrum half (I hope). Note the absence of lifters (or for that matter any support players) - back in the middle ages we had to get airborne under our own steam, believe it or not.
Speaking of lineouts, I received my very first tutorial in the art of lifting at training last night as we ran through the club's lineout routines. We practised lifting, catching and driving for about half an hour or so which was reasonably informative and interesting but which in all honesty mostly involved standing around watching and listening. Fair enough I guess, but having only had a short 15-20 minute practice match beforehand it didn't feel like I'd had much of a physical workout - so much so that I went out for a 25 minute run this morning which is more or less unheard of. What I do have this morning is a bloody sore shin - some young lad thought it would be great idea to back-heel a ball coming his way without realising that I was standing right behind him, the effect being that he whacked into my shin with his studs. Nice.
Afterwards I established with the bloke organising the 2nd XV that, for now at least, I was available for Vets only. Injury last week ruled me out of the 2nd XV game (in which they managed to scrape a 64-0 win despite my absence) and, having thought it through a bit more, I decided that one fixture a month for the Vets would be sensible planning on my part, especially given my injury record.
Now, where did I put that paintbrush?
Sunday, 16 September 2007
However, what gets me is that England really do appear to be getting worse under Brian Ashton, the appointment of whom I supported. I figured that, after the paucity of the Andy Robinson regime, Ashton would instill the England set-up with a fresh mindset and was even willing to tolerate the stuffing we received at the hands of Ireland at Croke Park in March, accepting Ashton's reasoning that England had received insufficient preparation time. After a new-look team team then delivered a vibrant performance at Twickenham against France with Messrs Flood and Geraghty to the fore, I was convinced that England had turned a corner, and I'm sure that I recall Ashton commenting at the time that there would be no going back to the risk-free rubbish we had previously witnessed .
Friday, 14 September 2007
Thursday, 13 September 2007
With high profile players like Phil Vickery and Schalk Burger already having received suspensions, it seems that the IRB are determined to send out the message loud and clear that players will not get away with blatant foul play.
New Zealand's flanker Jerry Collins (a citing waiting to happen, far be it for me to suggest) has expressed the view that players are now walking a "disciplinary tightrope".
"It's always at the back of your mind," Collins has said.
"It's a long way to come for the tournament to end early. Everyone wants to be here for the full quota."
The Wallabies are also reported to be shocked by what they see as an over-the-top crackdown on foul play.
"I think they've overreacted," Wallaby forward Stephen Hoiles is reported to have said (prior to Burger's suspension being reduced on appeal).
"That could be his whole World Cup just there. "Those four weeks are the biggest four weeks of a bloke's last four years."
Surely he's missing the point. If it's so important to players to last the course it shouldn't be beyond them to cut out the dangerous stuff. As long as the disciplinary procedure is applied consistently (which I concede is a a big proviso as several incidents do appear to have gone unpunished) then I've no problem with the book being thrown at players who put other players in danger through dirty or reckless play. Frankly it's about time.
Wallaby coach John Connolly is spot on when he says:
"I think the world of rugby, the IRB particularly, are trying to put a marker in this tournament for the future of the game for what's accepted and not accepted.
"I can see how we play and how we behave at World Cups at the top level influences how the game is administrated and judged down the grades.
"I think in this day and age we can't criticise that whatsoever."
Wednesday, 12 September 2007
Responding to fierce criticism from the English management over Lawrence Dallaglio's yellow card, Jonathan Kaplan has admitted that his decision was not made on purely rugby grounds.
"To be honest it just seemed to be the best thing to do for the player," stated Kaplan to the three or four reporters after the game. "I mean, he was clearly out of breath and struggling a bit and I thought for his sake he needed a bit of a rest.
"It wasn't a snap decision either," added Kaplan. "I'd been thinking for a while that he was off the pace. I kept looking for him at the breakdown - in fact any breakdown really - and he was never there. And when he finally turned up he just stood at the back of the ruck trying to look really meaningful but I could see he was just trying to suck in as much oxygen as he could. And it wasn't much different in attack either. I watched him run into contact one time and then had to adjust my position rapidly as he was driven 5 yards back from the gain line.
"But I knew he really needed a good sit down when I spotted him at the bottom of a ruck and he looked disorientated like a guy with Alzheimer’s - he just didn't have a clue what he was supposed to be doing there.
"We've been given clear indications by Paddy O'Brien that when a player is clearly out of his depth like this we have a duty of care to remove him from the game for his own benefit. I was hoping the English management team would take the decision for me but for some strange reason they seemed unwilling to substitute him. So in the end, I sent him off."
Brian Ashton was unavailable for comment but Dallaglio's PR team has confirmed he is still the most important member of the squad and always will be, so there.
Monday, 10 September 2007
Saturday, 8 September 2007
Friday, 7 September 2007
Thursday, 6 September 2007
Wednesday, 5 September 2007
Today's Daily Mirror reports that the Tongan squad popped into the Fusion Inn pub in Lymington, Hampshire last week and consumed 30 chickens, 60lbs of roast lamb, 60lbs of beef, 30lbs of pasta and 30lbs of salad.
They then apparently asked for more and the pub had to send out for £25 worth of chips from a nearby chippie.
Pub manager Shannon Van Dreven (undoubtedly from the Hampshire Van Drevens) apparently commented: "When all the players moved in to fill their plates at the same time the room went dark - it was like a total eclipse of the sun.
"They didn't want any pudding, I think they were on a strict diet," she added.
Now there's something about this story that just doesn't ring true...
30lbs of salad?
Tuesday, 4 September 2007
So forget the All Blacks' spray on shirts or the abomination that is now the England rugby shirt as those designs are strictly passé. Expect, instead, the New Zealanders to commission Adidas to weave microscopic magnets into the fabric of their shirts to reverse the polarity of the Canterbury shirts and bring the Aussie and Springbok athletes to a grinding halt.
Monday, 3 September 2007
This follows a story published by the Herald on Friday in which a reader complained about traffic officers playing touch rugby during peak hours at Maitlands Beach last week. The Herald quoted the reader as saying: “They were playing, and when they noticed me they stopped. I find it rather interesting that while people violate traffic rules every day during peak hours, traffic officials are brushing up their touch rugby skills. We never see them on the roads. We now know where to go when we want to see them.”