Friday, 30 November 2007
Fining the player is the obvious solution but will have no real impact as you can bet that the Barbarians have set aside funds to cover this eventuality, whilst fining the club is, obviously, entirely inappropriate. Suspending the player also does no favours to Bristol who face tough European fixtures in the next few weeks.
No, it appears that the only sensible solution is for us all to give Regan a good kicking.
I am pleased, therefore, to present "Instant Justice" - a game in which we can all help Bristol and Premier Rugby dish out an appropriate and proportionate punishment to this miscreant:
Thursday, 29 November 2007
A Rugby Football Union for Women (RFUW) disciplinary hearing, chaired by former Harlequins scrum half and appropriately named Richard Moon (I kid you not), heard that Peterborough Ladies and their opponents Thetford were preparing to restart following a converted try, when East Midlands Society official Robert Tustin walked off the pitch and removed his footwear. He then returned to the field, turned his back on the stand where Peterborough's supporters were gathered, and dropped his shorts.
"It was completely out of the blue, and I have no idea why he did it. It wasn't comical. It was absurd behaviour," said Thetford captain Amanda Walker.
"He's not the youngest of referees, so it was not the nicest of sights, and the only consolation was that his front bits weren't showing."
Nevertheless, in true British stiff-upper-lip fashion, the two teams played out the remaining 10 minutes.
"He asked people not to stamp on his feet, as he didn't have his boots on," added Ms Walker, which is fair enough really!
Peterborough, I'm delighted to say (it being my first rugby club) won the encounter 44-5.
The “Real Ben Cohen,” calendar, which commemorates his testimonial year, apparently contains 'striking images of Ben just the way you want to see him – real', according to his press release.
"I think it's fantastic. For a sportsman to do this for gay fans, I think is brilliant and many more should follow," a rugby fan called Paul from Brighton (who’d have thought?) is reported to have said.
The Irish bookmaker appears to have an uncanny knack in coming up with off-the-wall marketing initiatives and, in the Bingham Cup, they've bagged one of the largest amateur rugby tournaments in the world, last year’s competition held in New York featuring 30 teams from gay rugby clubs around the world.
The competition is organised by the the International Gay Rugby Association & Board (which rather conveniently shortens to IGRAB) which, I was surprised to learn, has approximately 40 clubs on is books. I had previously heard of London’s King Cross Steelers and, perhaps naively and somewhat stereotypically, assumed that the likes of Sydney and San Francisco might also have gay rugby clubs, but I’d no idea that so many clubs existed. I do wonder what this says about the rugby community at large – is it a sign of rugby’s inclusive culture or is it rugby's intolerance that has caused gay players to form their own clubs?
Wednesday, 28 November 2007
Of course it worries me if the All Blacks are invincible. I mean, it stands to reason, if we can't see them, how can we beat them?
Brilliant! I'd love to know who said this.
The quote is taken from from the book "Rugby Wit: Quips and Quotes for the Rugby Obsessed" by Richard Benson and, if this is the standard, then it's definitely on my Christmas list.
Tuesday, 27 November 2007
Vainikolo, who is currently the top try scorer in the English Premiership (albeit with all 5 of his tries coming in his first match), has expressed an interest in joining the English cause despite having been born in New Zealand to Tongan parents, and he is not the only foreign player plying his trade in England who has been touted as a possible addition to the national side.
As well as Vainikolo, the likes of Wasps' Riki Flutey and Saracens' Glen Jackson could, in the next few months, have the opportunity to pledge their allegiance to the English cause on residency grounds and they all have their supporters in the press.
I guess there are three questions we need to ask when considering whether this "foreign legion" should be selected for England:
- Are they good enough?
- Do they want to play for England?
- Is it right and proper for players with no English connection at all to represent England?
In the case of Vainikolo, the first question is relatively easy to answer. He is still learning the ropes as far as Rugby Union is concerned but the potential of this powerful giant is just awesome. England have some decent wings in their ranks at the moment but none who could make the sort of impact that Vainikolo could. The second question is, in this case, perhaps more pertinent. While expressing an interest in England, Vainikolo has also declared that he'd be interested in representing Tonga. He needs to make a commitment and declare one way or the other.
As regards Riki Flutey, his current form for Wasps, where he has been cutting opposition defences to ribbons from inside centre, suggests an affirmative answer to the first question, although the fact that London Irish didn't fight tooth and nail to retain his services at the end of last season suggests that perhaps we need to see this form sustained over a period of time before making a definitive judgement. After all, it wasn't that long ago that Flutey's fellow-Wasp and Kiwi, Mark Van Gisbergen, was being touted as the answer to the problematical England no. 15 shirt, until a loss of form and confidence put paid to that idea. The second question is more problematical - as a Maori from New Zealand, Flutey has declared that he has no interest in an England shirt, quite rightly having ambitions one day to be an All Black. If this is what he wants it seems non-sensical to me to try to persuade him otherwise, no matter how good he is.
As for Glen Jackson, he's been one of the Premeirship's most consistent performers at fly half over the past couple of seasons and possibly possesses a more all-round complete game than any of the current England pretenders, including Saint Jonny. Whether including him in the England set-up would possibly stunt the development of young England wannabes like Ryan Lamb, Danny Cipriani or Shane Geraghty is a question for a different debate, but it's clear to me that Jackson is good enough to be given an opportunity, especially as he has unequivocally declared that he wants to play for England.
All of which brings me to the third question - is it right and proper for players with no English connection at all to represent England? I admit that this is a question that troubles me as I often fail to grasp how a player can have sufficient pride in a country's shirt if he doesn't "belong" to that country. In other words, wanting to play for a country isn't enough - my instinct is that a player has to "feel" English to play for England. It's more than possible that I'm being terribly naive here, and it's not as if England hasn't included obviously "foreign" players in the past - Mike Catt, Matt Stevens and Perry Freshwater being of the most recent vintage (although all, it must said, with an English parental/grandparental connection).
We (or at least certain Northern Hemisphere journalists) also have great fun in taking the moral high-ground in berating New Zealand for "plundering" the Pacific Islands, although it's beyond me how anyone can honestly object to someone playing for the All Blacks who was born in New Zealand to e.g. Samoan parents or taken to New Zealand as a child by parents looking for a better life. Certainly any objections we do have to Pacific Islanders wearing the black shirt will fly out of the window if England line up in the near future with Messrs Jackson, Vainikolo and Flutey wearing the white 10, 11 and 12 shirts respectively.
I guess the reality of the situation is that "rules is rules" so that, if a player is qualified for England then, as long as questions 1 and 2 above are satisfied, there's no reason why he shouldn't be picked. Other countries seem to have no qualms in this respect and, with more and more foreign players plying their trade in the English league and qualifying for England on residency grounds, it's certainly an issue that isn't likely to go away.
Monday, 26 November 2007
With three weeks to go until the event (taking place on Sunday 16th December when the Falcons face Connacht in the European Challenge Cup), it appears that Director of Rugby John Fletcher is leading the way with an already mature growth.
“I’ve had three weeks growth so far and I’ve been told I am now irresistible to the opposite sex, even the same sex, so with another three weeks to go I’ll be twice as attractive by December 16," he says on the Falcons' website.
“I’ve also timed it quite well because after the National Geordie Beard Day I can look for some seasonal work in the big department stores around Newcastle in the run-up to Christmas."
The Falcons certainly don't believe in doing things by halves, as they've enlisted the services of bearded celebrity rummager David Bellamy and The Handlebar Club (who had winners in the frankly ludicrous World Beard and Moustache Championships, apparently held in Brighton this year) to judge the beard competition.
Of course the big question is will the clean cut visages of Messrs Wilkinson and Flood be sprouting facial fluff?
Sunday, 25 November 2007
The plan, rather laughably described as being "top secret" (so either Total Flanker has an exclusive mole in the upper echelons of the IRB or the the details of the proposal can be accessed by picking up any of the more serious Sunday papers), is designed to ensure that, unlike the Rugby World Cup, every top team will play the other nine over a two-year period, with aggregate results from the Six Nations and Tri-Nations and end-of-season tour matches determining the final rankings (which will also affect Rugby World Cup seedings). The top team from each side of the equator will then meet in a one-off Grand Final at Twickenham, the Stade de France or the Millennium Stadium.
What's clever about the plan is that it only involves one extra fixture - the Grand Final - so shouldn't noticeably add to the burden on players, and it also has the potential to end the annual charade of the Northern Hemisphere nations sending second-string XVs each Spring to be slaughtered down under.
What's less clear is how much credence will be given to this so-called "World Series" by the Unions, the English and French clubs, the players and, most importantly, the fans. After all, the last thing anyone (well, anyone who isn't from New Zealand) wants is for the importance and aura of the Rugby World Cup to be diluted in any way.
Although it clearly does have its merits, the plan will clearly never work. After all, whoever heard of a "World Series" involving teams from outside the United States?
Friday, 23 November 2007
What is clear, however, is that the WRU have achieved the not inconsiderable feat of making the job of England football manager look secure.
Thursday, 22 November 2007
Centre Andy Tuilagi joined Leeds last season from Leicester having become the fourth member of the family to play for the Tigers following in the footsteps of Freddie, Henry and Alesana.
Here's what he might expect from his brother:
Scarily, a fifth brother, Vavae, is a member of the Leicester academy and a sixth, Manu, is at school in Leicestershire and set to follow the family tradition.
Of course, I say "World Champion" but the side Wales will face will be anything but that. Much is being made of the the fact that nine of the Boks' World Cup Final starting XV will play against Wales, but the fact is that, of the six missing, five were absolutely key to the way South Africa played in the Rugby World Cup and the other, Danie Roussow, pulled off the match-winning tackle on Mark Cueto in the Final.
Without Percy Montgomery's metronomic kicking, the game management skills of Butch James and Fourie Du Preez, the lineout prowess of Victor Matfield and the scrummaging strength of Os Du Randt, I sense that South Africa might be there for the taking, especially given that none of their players have been in action since 22nd October.
Wednesday, 21 November 2007
Tuesday, 20 November 2007
Given my own experience in coming back to the game after a fourteen year absence, I thought I'd re-script the advert (see below). In reading it please refer to the above video - only instead of some ultra-keen, fit, twenty-something tyro please picture, if you will, a tired, grumpy, forty-something has-been...
It's been 14 years since I left the game...
...since I last received abuse as I walked into a rugby club,
...since I last dreaded running out to face the pain in driving rain,
...since I felt like this...
And now I'm back...
...back on the pitch,
...back in A&E...
Must be mad...
Monday, 19 November 2007
Sunday, 18 November 2007
The final score was 33-5 (to them of course) but that doesn't really tell the whole story. That the opposition knew what they were doing was evident very early on as they took every opportunity to move the ball away from contact and ran hard at our midfield, one of whom was a backrower playing out of position and neither of whom had played together before. The tactic yielded an early try and it was obvious that we'd have to work very, very hard to keep them out.
Whereas they looked extremely well drilled from the off, we looked exactly what we were - pretty much a scratch side. We showed nine changes from the starting line up in our last game and it took us pretty much the whole of the first half to come to terms with what we were trying to do ourselves, let alone what the opposition were trying to do. By that stage, sadly, we were 3 tries down and trailed 19-0 at the half.
The remainder of the game was spent largely chasing after Ruislip players who had obviously decided to spin every piece of possession they had and keep the ball alive at all costs. Not only was this exhausting for us it was also very bad form by the opposition to rely on superior fitness and skill to try to beat us - that's just not playing the game by my book.
We did have another opportunity to score later in the half, only for Colin (who runs the team) to spill the ball in the tackle as he prematurely attempted to celebrate the try, before having to leave the field with a combination of a knee injury and a severe case of mortal embarrassment.
Two further late tries were conceded as the opposition's dastardly fitness kicked in, before the referee (who had suffered from myopia for much of the game) blew the final whistle signal the end of the torture. A hot shower and a couple of beers later it was back home to nurse my many aches, strains and bruises, all of which have returned with a vengeance today as the anesthetic effect of last night's alcohol has worn off.
Naively, I had thought that this rugby lark would get easier but I've come to realise that, at my age, the pain really is part of the territory. It's three weeks before our next match - against local rivals Amersham & Chiltern - and no doubt by then the pain will be a distant memory and I'll have convinced myself that I'm fitter and that this time it will be different...
Friday, 16 November 2007
- The agreement doesn't come into force until 1st July 2008. So, unless there's an outbreak of voluntary goodwill in January, England's 2008 Six Nations campaign will probably still resemble the shambles of the last few years with Brian Ashton (or whoever is holding the reins) allowed only a couple of days training before each international; and
- When this deal finally does kick in there'll be no more excuses. If we're crap it'll be because we're crap - full stop.
Meanwhile, across the Severn, Warren Gatland has been unveiled as the Wales head coach with indecent haste. Don't get me wrong - he's a very good coach and I suppose it can be argued that the WRU have acted decisively in getting their man but, to me, it smacks of desperation and doesn't seem particularly well thought through. As for Gatland's decision to leave Waikato, I'm sure some of it is down to a desire to work at international level again but the WRU waiving its chequebook around may have helped. I also wonder if he has any idea what he's letting himself in for, given how Wales have treated their last two head coaches.
It may be Heineken Cup action again this weekend but the real action takes place at Chesham where we'll be taking on Ruislip Vets tomorrow afternoon. I took a look at the Ruislip RFC website this morning. Big mistake! No news relating to their Vets team this season, but last season they won all 6 of their fixtures and with scores like 72-0, 50-5 and 52-19 it looks like we'll have our work cut out. Their 3rd XV beat our 2nds 77-0 last weekend too, which doesn't bode that well. I may just have a bit of tackling to do tomorrow...
Finally, thanks to the thousands of you who attempted the Guess Who? competition posted on Wednesday. Well, I say thousands - what I really mean is thank you for the single entry! I can therefore announce that the winner is Chay who correctly guessed that the handsome young chap in the picture was none other than South Manchester's finest, Sebastian Chabal.
Chay wins a month's supply of virtual lager - enjoy and remember to drink responsibly! :)
Wednesday, 14 November 2007
Roll on Saturday - just as soon as I stop hurting!
Tuesday, 13 November 2007
Here's another question: Does anyone have the phone number for the President of the Japanese RFU?
Rhys Garfield, 22, of Pontycymmer, South Wales, was playing for his village team when he deliberately stamped on the head of Gareth Howells, 21, who was playing for the home side Glynneath, causing a four-inch gash which needed 30 stitches.
Monday, 12 November 2007
The good news is that at some point today this blog received its 5,000th visitor.
More heartening news at the weekend as it appears that England Rugby's No.1 cheerleader Prince Harry has been dumped by his girlfriend, Chelsy Davy.
Don't get me wrong, I take no pleasure at all in this young man's misfortune. Nor am I afflicted by the Daily Mail "How can someone 3rd in line for the throne possibly marry someone called Chelsy?" mentality.
No, what amuses me is that the reason for the break-up appears to be that Harry missed his girlfriend's 22nd birthday because he chose to attend the Rugby World Cup Final in Paris instead.
Thompson, who announced his retirement earlier this year due to a neck injury and then joined Brive in a coaching capacity, was last month given the go-ahead by doctors to resume his playing career.
Friday, 9 November 2007
"The big thing in rugby is changing direction. That's the key. If you can change direction, you've got a one-metre advantage over the opposition and by the time they have woken up to it, you've stolen that metre. I find that fascinating."
Thursday, 8 November 2007
Apparently, Warner Bros is in talks to co-finance "The Human Factor," based on John Carlin's book "The Human Factor: Nelson Mandela and the Game that Changed the World."
With Clint Eastwood attached as director and Morgan Freeman seemingly committed to play Nelson Mandela, it looks as if rugby is now getting some heavyweight treatment from the Hollywood establishment. Even the entirely inappropriate plan to cast Matt Damon as Francois Pienaar (seriously!) shows some intent (if not judgement) from the producers.
Now I realise that Mandela is a truly iconic figure and that the 1995 Rugby World Cup played a pivotal role in bringing the rainbow nation together, but I can’t help feeling Hollywood is missing a trick by not focusing instead on the intriguing possibilities offered up by the story of the dramatic turnaround of the England rugby team at the 2007 Rugby World Cup. They could bring the Yoda puppet out of mothballs to play Brian Ashton (with a voiceover by Coronation Street’s Bill Tarmey) and Eastwood himself would probably the right age to take on the role of disgruntled veteran Lawrence Dallaglio. Just think of the dialogue opportunities:
Dallaglio: “Go on punk, make my day”
Ashton: “Sit on the bench you will”
Another story that’s been doing the rounds for some time now is that pensioner-loving Catherine Zeta-Jones is planning to make a rugby-based movie set in South Wales. The movie, entitled “Coming Out” is said to feature (and I know that this will come as a huge surprise to you all) a guest appearance from none other than our favourite tango man Gavin Henson, who will appear as himself. Zeta-Jones has apparently said of the film:
"I grew up among rugby fanatics - the film is very close to my heart. It's about a gay teenager from a little town in Wales who goes to London to pursue musical theatre. His father dies and leaves him the local rugby club in his will. He's doing West Side Story and has to go back home to get these fat, drinking, smoking Welsh guys into shape to win the rugby tournament."
Sounds plausible then! For the sake of authenticity I can only hope and pray that Matt “only gay in the village” Lucas is to be offered the lead role.
Wednesday, 7 November 2007
[Jamie] Noon returns to action after suffering medial knee ligament damage in England’s World Cup group encounter with South Africa, with Steve Jones shifting one place to fly half as Toby Flood recovers from an operation to fix a minor tear to his scrotum suffered last weekend against the Dragons.
Tuesday, 6 November 2007
Long gone are the token spivvy moustaches of the 80s or the squeaky clean-shaven days of the 90s (when the best you could expect was for a few of the forwards not to shave on the morning of the match).
Now we must simply "Fear the Beard" - the war-cry from the Hayman's Beard blog. The big man from Otago's facial growth has not been the result of a whim or of following fashion but has been very much part of his psyche for the last few years (and his clean-shaven look in the Rugby World Cup quarter final was noticeably unsuccessful). Sebastian Chabal, too, has bucked the trend over the last few seasons with his barnet and beard very much modelled on the neanderthal era, whilst England's George Chuter's formerly trimmed stubble morphed magnificently into a splendidly bushy Victorian woolly mass during the Rugby World Cup.
And now, not only has the Premiership started to attract the world's top players to its ranks, it is also setting the standards for facial fashion. Chuter's colleagues at Leicester Tigers have started a "Grow a Mo for Hambo" campaign to raise money to help sufferers from spinal injuries via the Matt Hampson Trust Fund - encouraging Premiership players to donate £5 and grow a moustache. Andy Goode's spectacular effort is the pick of the bunch so far, with an honourable mention to Geordan "Wyatt Earp" Murphy, but we can expect further efforts throughout England in the coming weeks. Furthermore, in honour of Carl Hayman's imminent arrival at Newcastle Falcons, the club has decreed that December 16th will be "National Geordie Beard Day," with players being encouraged to grow beards in support of the Wooden Spoon charity. As the Falcons' commercial director Mick Hogan puts it:
"Rigorous scientific tests have proved that Carl derives his immense power and scrummaging ability from his trademark beard, and we have received the full support of the National Beard and Moustache Association!"So, a message to the likes of Gavin Henson, James Hook and Toby Flood:- the days of heavily gelled spiky hair, shaved legs and fake orange tan are gone. Get with the programme - REAL MEN WEAR BEARDS!
Monday, 5 November 2007
Work on the Twickenham pitch will begin immediately to ensure that it is ready for the opening 2008 Six Nations clash against Wales.
Sunday, 4 November 2007
Saturday, 3 November 2007
As previously reported, this humble little blog has been referred to in the online section of The Times, specifically in Hamish Henry's "Best of the Web" section which, in turn, is a sub-section of the "Upfront Rugby" feature - so you can see just how major-league I've now become ;) .
However, the introduction to this week's column (and thanks again for the mention, Hamish) reads: "Our resident surfer takes one final look at rugby's internet persona," which does suggest that my career as a media darling is about to be holed below the waterline.
If true, not only is this a potentially catastrophic blow to my growing ego, it's also a shame that we shall in future be denied this very useful route to some of the more unusual and amusing rugby content out there in the ether, presumably because the editorial team at The Times believes that the end of the 2007 Rugby World Cup will mean the end of all such content?
So, if you're reading this Hamish (although why would you if you're no longer being paid to do so?!), it would be great if you could post a comment on here to clarify if indeed the "Best of the Web" is being mothballed and, if so, the rationale behind it.
I, meanwhile, will await the call from the producers of Celebrity Big Brother.
Thursday, 1 November 2007
It's astonishing, given that he was an integral part of the Welsh team from 1975 to 1982, that somehow he "only" amassed 23 caps - a sure indication that far fewer international rugby matches were played back then. However, with 2 Grand Slams to his name during that period he is already acknowledged as one of Wales' all time greats and he also earned 4 Lions caps, playing in every international on the 1980 tour to South Africa.
Great player, great character and from the tributes I've read it's clear that Ray will be sorely missed. My thoughts and sympathies go out to his family and his many friends...