Friday, 30 May 2008
Wednesday, 28 May 2008
Onwards and upwards...
Tuesday, 27 May 2008
When I say "concussed" I don't mean the all-too-common groggy feeling you get after taking a bash to the head which tends to be ten-a-penny through any normal season. No, what I do I mean is that horribly unnerving disoriented feeling you can get, a clear indicator that - at some point in the match - you must have blacked out.
As I've said, it's happened to me a couple of times. The first occasion was back in 1987 when I played a few early season games for Henley's 3rd XV when I first started working in London (no, London to Henley isn't an obvious commute but one of my old university mates played for Henley and persuaded me to go down there and provided me with a lift). Anyway, one afternoon I found myself lining up for Henley 3rds against their equivalents from Guildford & Godalming - the club I'd played for the previous season. Having played for all four senior teams at G&G I therefore knew most of the opposition pretty well (far better than I knew my own team) so that was pretty weird in itself. Imagine my confusion, then, when I "came to", standing at the back of a lineout, trying to work out why on earth I was wearing the yellow of Henley and not the green and white hoops of G&G. In my befuddled state I worked out, entirely wrongly of course, that Henley must have been short of numbers and that I had been lent to them by G&G. Shortly afterwards the half-time whistle blew and I asked one of the Henley players what the score was. "Nil-nil mate," he replied, looking at me as if I was a total idiot. As the second half got underway the fog started to lift and I began to realise where I was and what must have happened and I actually played reasonably well as we scored a couple of tries to win the game. Afterwards it turned out that I had been involved in a big clash of heads in the first few minutes but that I'd seemed ok to carry on. Obviously what I should have done was get myself checked out by a doctor after the game but, being 23, I went out partying with some mates in London and drank myself stupid(er).
The other occasion was in 1992, playing for the Bandits - a social team organised (in the loosest sense of the word) by yours truly. One day I'll write an account of the illustrious albeit short-lived history of the Bandits but on this occasion I'll limit myself to this particular incident. We were playing the social team from Bishop Stortford RFC and I'm told that, early in the first half, I attempted a tackle in which my head hit the opposition centre's knee, with me dropping to the floor like a "sack of spuds." Moments later I was up, insisting I was fine but, after another few minutes, was led from the field after having taken up a fairly unorthodox lineout position behind the scrum half! Again, I remember "coming to" sitting on the touchline trying to work out where the hell I was. We weren't playing in the green & gold of Barnes (my club at that time) so I knew it couldn't be a Saturday. I also couldn't work out why 2 girls I recognised from my university days were there watching (obviously they were there supporting their other halves - who I'd asked to play). I must have sat there for 30 minutes or so trying to piece everything together until, eventually, the mist lifted again and the pieces started to fall into place. This time, being a little older and a tiny bit more mature, I was a little more sensible and stayed off the booze, although I did drive home and I'm pretty sure I turned out the following Saturday for Barnes.
These days I'd like to think that clubs, coaches, referees and players are likely to be a little more aware of the risks of head injuries, would recognise the signs of concussion (for example a player asking the score when it's 0-0 must either be concussed or just thick) and would ensure that the player received proper medical attention. What I do know, however, is that being concussed is one of the weirdest and most unpleasant feelings I've ever experienced.
Sunday, 25 May 2008
- Congratulations to Munster on winning the Heineken Cup for the 2nd time in three years. If I'm honest I must admit that didn't think they'd be good enough to win it this year - but, once again, Munster proved to be masters of playing to their strengths and preventing teams from exploiting their weaknesses and to see off a club like Toulouse in the final with a certain amount of comfort is no mean feat.
- Congratulations also to England's women. Not only did they win the Six Nations and Grand Slam for an unprecedented third time on the bounce in March, they followed that up with winning the European Championships this weekend in Amsterdam. Furthermore, having already won the Amsterdam Sevens last weekend they beat the Aotearoa Maori in a one-off exhibition match at the London Sevens at Twickenham today, inflicting a second defeat in as many weeks on the New Zealand women who had previously gone nine years unbeaten (click here for more details).
- And finally congrats must also go to Bath for their European Challenge Cup win against Worcester. It had looked as if Bath might end up empty-handed this season but this win is just reward for them playing some great stuff this season. I'm particularly pleased for Steve Borthwick - a player I've always thought very highly of but who doesn't appear to be particularly rated by many journalists. The important thing about Borthwick, though, is that he's hugely respected by his peers for his consistency and his professionalism - qualities that will, I'm sure, stand him in good stead for his stint as England skipper. He's also as hard as nails - not in an obvious Rambo-esque kind of way perhaps but, if you've any doubts as to his toughness, there's a piece in today's Sunday Telegraph that recounts how Borthwick once ruptured a testicle on a Saturday, had the operation to fix it on Tuesday and was back playing again by the weekend... thus setting a benchmark of bravery at Bath when any injury in training or during a game was assessed as follows: "Burst a bollock, have you? No. Well, get up and play on then."
Friday, 23 May 2008
In homage to the Eurovision Song Contest which takes place this weekend and in an otherwise entirely pointless exercise, I therefore set out to find out how this might translate into other European languages (at least according to a combination of the Google and Babel Fish translation services):
So, in French it comes out as "...le côté un regard sur le monde du rugby par un au-delà de l'ancienne colline ex-joueur de rugby..."
While in Italian it's "...un lato guardare il mondo di rugby da un sopra-la-collina ex-ex-giocatore di rugby..."
And in Spanish we have "...un lado mirada al mundo de rugby por un exceso de la colina de ex-ex-jugador de rugby..."
Moving into Northern Europe, in German it's "...eine Seitwärtsbewegung Blick auf die Welt der Rugby durch eine über-dem-hügel ehemaligen Ex-Rugby-Spieler..."
While in Dutch it's "...zijdelingse blik op de wereld van rugby door een over-heuvel voormalige ex-rugby speler..."
And now for something entirely incomprehensible - in Russian we have "...боком взглянуть на мир по регби-за холма-бывший экс-игрок регби..."
And in Greek it comes out as "...το πλευρό κοιτάξουμε τον κόσμο του ράγκμπι από πέρα από τον λόφο πρώην πρώην παίκτης ράγκμπι..."
Although it's fair to say that it's all Greek to me.
Wednesday, 21 May 2008
Think September 2005 - the England cricket team's team open-top bus ride through London to celebrate winning the 2005 Ashes series (at home, no less). Full of its own self-importance, awash with MBEs and fêted at Downing Street the England cricket team has never fully recovered.
Think May 2005 - the Welsh Rugby team were joined by 20,000 fans, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall in the Millennium Stadium to celebrate winning the 2005 Six Nations Grand Slam. Full of its self-importance, the Welsh rugby team then endured 2 highly mediocre Six Nations campaigns in 2006 and 2007 before being dumped out of the 2007 Rugby World Cup by Fiji, failing even to make the quarter finals.
Think 26th May 2008 - and the Welsh Rugby Union's announcement that a free music party is being thrown at the Millennium Stadium for fans to celebrate the 2008 Grand Slam. The party will include The "As long as we beat the English" Stereophonics, X-Factor failure Rhydian Roberts, Shaun Edwards' ex-girlfriend Heather Small and rent-a-Welsh-voice Katherine Jenkins. Expect, at the very least, a sobering hammering at the hands of South Africa to follow next month.
Think Ireland, wondering whether it might have been a good idea to celebrate their 2006 and 2007 Triple Crowns after all.
And think Scotland, wondering whether they'll ever have anything to celebrate again.
Tuesday, 20 May 2008
Not only is there no news on any progress in getting this movie made (thank heavens - it sounds utter rubbish) but it looks as if Henson has been beaten onto the silver screen by his Ospreys/Wales (same thing these days) team mate Ickle Shane Williams who plays himself (who else?) in "Hope Eternal", the latest film by Welsh director Karl Francis which premieres at the Hay Festival this week (hardly Cannes, but you've got to start somewhere).
The plot - for what it's worth - revolves around a Welsh doctor who introduces the joys of Welsh rugby to a Madagascan AIDS worker and her daughter (seriously) who then travel to Wales in a bid to meet Ickle Shane.
Monday, 19 May 2008
I still can't look at the picture without feeling a tad queasy but, nevertheless, I've been drawn back to it several times already today as if it has some kind of control over me.
I realise that I probably shouldn't show the picture, that it's in poor taste to indulge oneself (no matter how uneasily) in another's agony - but I have to admit to a sort of sick fascination with injuries such as this. Maybe it's the thought that something like this could so easily happen to any one of us who play the game - "there but for the grace of god" etc etc - or perhaps, like the public at large, it really does just come down to a morbid curiosity. You only have to look at the newspaper coverage of incidents like this and similar injuries in the world of football (Alan Smith for Man Utd a couple of years ago and Eduardo for Arsenal this season both spring to mind) to see that there is a public appetite for this kind of thing and I'm sad to say that I am not immune to it.
Fortunately (touching wood several times) I have neither experienced nor witnessed an injury quite so horrific on the rugby field. I'm not sure how I'd react if I did.
With news that Cipriani will be out of action for at least six months, all I can say is that I wish him a full recovery and I look forward to witnessing further displays of his genius again on a rugby field in the not too distant future.
Friday, 16 May 2008
More than half your team are more than half your age;
You can remember being penalised for lifting in the lineouts;
You can remember when a try was worth 4 points;
Your team mates congratulate you when you make it through the warm up;
Everything hurts and what doesn't hurt, doesn't work;
It takes longer to recover than it did to get tired;
You spend more on strapping in a season than you do on beer;
You find yourself popping ibruprofen pills before kick off;
Your idea of weight lifting is standing up;
You wonder how you could be over the hill when you don't even remember reaching the top.
Thursday, 15 May 2008
England players are currently paid £9,000 per game regardless of the result and are reportedly unhappy with RFU proposals to make pay more dependent on win bonuses and how the England team perform in the Six Nations and World Cup.
However, Grimm - who has worked at the RFU since qualifying as an accountant in 1898 - today confessed that it had been his idea in 2003 to get rid of win bonuses and pay the England players an upfront fee.
"Five years ago England were beating everyone they played," he said. "It occurred to me that we could save a few shillings by not paying win bonuses and by giving the players a lump sum instead. I took the idea to Francis Baron who nearly bit my hand off - he was delighted with the idea and soon claimed it as his own.
"Unfortunately the England team has been more or less rubbish ever since which has meant that we've effectively overpaid the players - we'd certainly have saved more if they'd been on a performance related package," he continued. "And sadly for me Mr. Baron now says that it wasn't his idea at all and the blame has been squarely laid at my door."
Wednesday, 14 May 2008
Tuesday, 13 May 2008
ENGLAND ATTACK COACH
Remuneration package to attract the best candidates (except you, Brian).
Reporting to the England Team Manager, Martin Johnson, this is a fantastic opportunity to work with (and be stabbed in the back by) senior England players and coaches. The England Attack Coach is responsible for providing specialist Attack coaching for players in the England senior team squad - coaching which the players are more than likely to ignore when push comes to shove. This coaching role will cover all aspects of attack play, even the scoring of tries - heaven forbid.
You will provide coaching both at England training sessions and with individual players at club locations where you will be regarded with hostile suspicion. It is an important aspect of the role that the Coach engages in coaching sessions at Premiership clubs in conjunction with, and to the irritation of, the Clubs’ Directors of Rugby.
Other key responsibilities include:
- Working with the England Team Manager and the Elite Rugby Director in developing and implementing the annual team playing and selection bun fight for the England senior team.
- In conjunction with the England Team Manager plan, implement and review specialist attack skills and strategies for the England team, passing and catching being the no.1 priority.
- Liaise with the England Team Manager and the Elite Rugby Director to ensure all England players within the EPS squad have a single co-ordinated programme, to include a list of dates when visiting a Soho nightclub will be permitted.
- Work closely with the Guinness Premiership club coaches, whether they like it or not, and provide coaching support and a shoulder to cry on to agreed England players within their club environment.
- To succeed in this high profile role, candidates will need to demonstrate:
- A background of high-level achievement in a senior coaching role at either National or Regional level or within a high performing, senior professional Club within the sport. Coaching a team who finished second at the Rugby World Cup, however, just won't cut it.
- A good appreciation of the structure and the issues of the game within England and the challenges it faces within and across the global platform. If you've been watching the Super 14 on the telly that might help.
- An influential personality who is highly self-motivated and has skin as thick as a rhino's; an instigator and driver of progress with a genuine enthusiasm and commitment to the task in the face of open hostility from, in particular, the England forwards coach.
- (unlike your employers at the RFU) a high level of integrity and credibility within the game, with an ability to develop effective working relationships, both internally and externally.
This is a national role which will be based at Twickenham and from home, and involve irregular hours, extensive travelling and no thanks whatsoever. An excellent employment package is offered including company car; pension scheme; life assurance, family health benefits, psychiatric therapy and a whacking great severance package when we scapegoat you when results don't go our way.
To apply, please send your CV and covering letter, quoting your current remuneration package, to the Head of Human Resources, Rugby Football Union, Rugby House, Twickenham, TW1 1DS or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Err, not you, Brian.
Monday, 12 May 2008
...So the old not-very-funny saying goes and I was thinking that perhaps a similar cliche might apply to playing the position of hooker on a rugby field. No, on second thoughts scratch that idea - because, quite frankly, it's obvious that you DO have to be barking mad to choose to play hooker.
Let's face it - who in their right mind would choose to be slap bang in the middle of two sets of heavy men intent on driving each others' spines out of their arses, with no protection other than the two fat blokes either side of you, behind whose backs your hands are trapped, and with no weapons other than your head, your mouth and your stubble? Only a madman with a ridiculously high pain threshold and a psychotic personality, that's who.
• psychopathic tendencies and/or unlimited aggression;
• the ability to throw a punch in a scrum with both arms trapped behind your back ;
• unerring accuracy when throwing in at lineout (a background in professional darts helps);
• a ready-made list of excuses for when throwing-in goes awry which includes doubts about the parentage of all jumpers and lifters; and
• the words to every rugby song known to man imprinted on your memory.
Hope that helps :)
Yes, I'm referring to the breaking news that O'Gara has signed a deal reportedly worth "a healthy six-figure sum" to write his autobiography - or to be more accurate, to tell his ghost writer Denis Walsh what to write.
The book is expected to deal with a number of controversial topics including:
- how Duncan McRae was unfairly treated after O'Gara had attacked the NSW's fly half's fist several times with his face on the 2001 Lions tour;
- how all English Premiership players are "shoite";
- how O'Gara rose above allegations of gambling addiction and marital problems in the French press during the World Cup to deliver world class performances for his country;
- how all Leinster players are "gobshoites"; and
- how O'Gara won a bet with his long-term half back partner Peter Stringer, worth "a healthy six-figure sum," that he could persuade some eejit to publish his autobiography.
The autobiography is due to be published in October 2008 and will be available from all good bookshops and quite a few rubbish ones as well. It is understood that all royalties from the book will be paid directly to a Mr P.Power Esq. of Dublin.
Friday, 9 May 2008
What Haran was after was some free publicity for his client, Guinness, who are obviously short of a bob or two and apparently can't afford to pay me the going rate of a lifetime's supply of their very fine beverage.
In normal circumstances I would snort with derision and send Haran to the back of the lengthy queue of blue-chip companies who are hammering on my door with their lucrative advertising offers. In this case, however, I may be willing to make an exception as Guinness have actually come up with a half decent idea that may be of interest to my 2 regular readers.
The project is called Club Together, and what it does is offer members of non-professional rugby clubs in England, Scotland and Wales the chance to play at Twickenham on 31st May as part of this year’s Premiership final. All you need to do is explain to a Guinness "expert panel" - in no more than 100 words - how your rugby club has increased the number of adult participants at your club during season 2007/08. Of course, if your club had failed to increase its membership, then you've no chance of winning - but if your club has increased its membership and you're eloquent enough to explain exactly how, then you could win the chance to select two teams made up of members of your club to receive a training session from a Premiership Director of Rugby before the final, plus tickets to the final, team kit and a commemorative photo - if, that is, you can round up the 30 members of your club who haven't already buggered off on holiday.
To apply to you'll need to go to the Club Together website.
Haran, mate, I'll email you my address for the Guinness delivery - if I'm not in please just leave it behind the side gate ;).
How times have changed.
Not only is it a year ago that I started posting, this also happens to be, quite neatly, my 150th post of 2008 and my 365th post overall - which means that somehow I've managed to find the time to come up with some rubbish or other, on average, once a day (if you ignore the slightly inconvenient fact that it's a leap year this year).
Wednesday, 7 May 2008
Here are a few ideas that have sprung up recently as the reality of the situation begins to sink in...
- Take the RFU survey
- Sign a petition calling for the ELVs to be rejected
- Join a Faceboook group to protest against the ELVs' implementation
- Go on strike!
Personally I like the idea of a protest rally and a march to the HQ of the IRB in Dublin, preferably on a route that takes in a few of the city's excellent hostelries.
- It doesn't look as if Austin Healy will be getting the job of England backs coach anytime soon. Healy recently had Johnno over to his house and, according to Healy, told him: "Okay, I’ll tell you what, I’ll make you dinner if you give me a job...I’m only joking, you dick . . . no, seriously, you can have the crackling if you give me the backs job". Apparently there was a moment of uncomfortable silence and, at that point, Healy knew he wasn’t getting the job. Shame.
- Will the last player to leave New Zealand please turn out the lights? All Black fly half Nick Evans is the latest to abandon ship - arriving in October to play for Harlequins, following a path north trodden by several of his World Cup colleagues including Luke McAlister, Aaron Mauger, Carl Hayman, Chris Jack and Doug Howlett. With Jerry Collins also heavily linked with a move north (although not to Barnstaple, I understand) and with Dan Carter reportedly mulling over a series of lucrative offers, the drain of talent out of New Zealand must seriously dent their domestic product if not the All Blacks themselves. Still, a couple of years of under-achievement might not be a bad thing and might just help them get rid of the tag of being the best side in the world in between World Cups?
- It looks like petty bureaucracy will deny legend Richard Hill a proper farewell in front of the Saracens fans at Vicarage Road. Under the terms of their groundshare agreement with Watford FC, Saracens cannot use the Vicarage Road stadium 24 hours or less before a football match and Watford play on Sunday afternoon. No problem, just bring Saracens' game with Bristol forward to midday and the problem is solved. Except that it isn't - Premier Rugby insists that all last-round fixtures start simultaneously, despite the fact that Saracens v Bristol is, in effect, a dead-rubber, the result having no bearing on who might or might not reach the play-offs. What this "rules is rules" mentality means is that Hilda will say his farewells in the less than salubrious surroundings of Milton Keynes. Shame on you, Premier Rugby.
Tuesday, 6 May 2008
Sunday, 4 May 2008
Saturday, 3 May 2008
Friday, 2 May 2008
By bringing together a community of like-minded rugby supporters and by pooling financial resources, Our Rugby Club intends to invest in a club to enable it to purchase state of the art training equipment, attract new players and coaches and provide everything required to transform the club and move up through the leagues. Our Rugby Club members will pay an annual subscription of £30, every penny of which, it's claimed, will be invested in the partner club. The target is 10,000 members, enabling Our Rugby Club to fund the club in question to the tune of £300,000 per year.
For more info take a look at The Rugby Blog or check out http://www.ourrugbyclub.com/.
"...I propose that a mass demonstration to the ELV is staged on September 13th 2008, the 1st or 2nd weekend of grass roots rugby that will be affected. I want, referees, players, spectators, volunteers at all levels to stay away in London, England, Wales, Scotland, Britain, France, Italy; wherever..."
Thursday, 1 May 2008
- Assistant Referees can assist referees in any manner required when appointed by a match organiser [Fair enough - no big deal]
- The corner posts are no longer considered to be in touch in-goal except when a ball is grounded against the post [sensible]
- If a team puts the ball back into their own 22 and the ball is subsequently kicked directly into touch there is no gain of ground [seems universally popular, but let's see how it works]
- A quick throw may be thrown in straight or towards the throwing team's own goal line [effectively signalling the beginning of the end for lineouts and, consequently, very tall players]
- There is no restriction on the number of players who can participate in the lineout from either side (minimum of two) [watch the midfield fill with forwards]
- The receiver in a lineout must stand 2 metres back from the lineout [why, exactly?]
- The player who is in opposition to the player throwing in the ball may stand in the area between the 5 metre line and touch line but must be 2 metres away from the lineout [huh? - I thought the idea was to make laws easier to understand?]
- Lineout players may pre-grip a jumper before the ball is thrown in [pretty much as they do already]
- The lifting of lineout jumpers is permitted [already the law, no?]
- Players are able to defend a maul by pulling it down [NOOOOOooooooooooooooooo!]
- Remove reference in Law to heads and shoulders not to be lower than hips [surely that's dangerous?]
- Introduction of an offside line five metres behind the hindmost feet of the scrum [the ONLY really good idea]
- Scrum half offside lines (must be in close proximity to the scrum as present Law or must retreat five metres) [unnecessary]
I suppose we should be thankful to get away with just 13 - but I've a horrible feeling that this is only the beginning...
This week (or month, or year - as I've no idea how regular this will be) it's Y Gogs.
"Y Gogs?" I hear you cry. "What in heaven's name is Y Gogs?"
Well, I'm glad you asked, because Y Gogs is a rugby team from North Wales who have embraced "Oldies" rugby with a passion. The name Y Gogs stands for Geriatrics o Gymru which, for those like me whose Welsh language skills are a little rusty, translates as "Geriatrics from Wales." The team is based at Clwb Rygbi Caernarfon (that's Caernarfon R.F.C. to you and me) - Caernarfon being a town where, apparently, 87% of the population speak the Welsh language (which explains the name).
Formed in 1993 to attend the International Golden Oldies Festival in Dublin, Y Gogs have since travelled the world enjoying Oldies Rugby, taking in International Golden Oldies Festivals in Christchurch,Vancouver, Cape Town, Toulouse and Brisbane as well as EGOR (European Golden Oldies Rugby) Festivals in Benidorm and Zurich (where they were awarded the ‘Battered Relic Cup’ for the team which reflects the spirit of the festival). No doubt they'll also be showing their ageing faces at this June's EGOR Festival in Madeira and at the International Golden Oldies Festival in Edinburgh in September.
Before looking into this I wasn't fully aware of what "Oldies" rugby involved - I'd assumed it was the same as Veterans rugby (i.e. over 35s), which I've found to be exactly the same as "normal" rugby except that it's a bit slower and, occasionally, played in a better spirit. Oldies rugby, however (at least under EGOR), appears to have its own unique set of laws including such gems as: all 8 forwards must remain bound in the scrum until the ball has been cleared; the scrum half must not follow the ball around the scrum; scrums must be uncontested; defending players may kick the ball only in their own 22; there are no quick lineouts and no lifting; and, my favourite, no player may run more than 20 metres before passing the ball. I hope the proponents of the ELVs are taking notes!
Furthermore, there are restrictions on tackling 'older' players who are identified by wearing specific coloured shorts and, at EGOR Festivals, competitiveness is discouraged, the results of games not being listed (so, pretty similar to sport in Britain's schools if the Daily Mail is to be believed).
So, having established that Y Gogs is an Oldies rugby team, what is it about them that merits their inclusion in my esteemed blog? It's not as if there are any famous names on the team's roster (although apparently the likes of Brynmor Williams, Gareth Davies and Jonathan Davies have not refused the offer of a trial!), their players being the usual collection of blokes in their 40’s, mostly 50’s and a few zimmer frames in their 60’s. No, what's notable about Y Gogs is that, in 2010, they will host the 10th European Golden Oldies Rugby Festival.
Yes, in 2 years' time teams from all parts of the continent will be making their way to Caernarfon, a town famous for its castle and...er...that's all (I should know - I spent many a summer's afternoon as a boy in a cramped car with my Mum, Dad, Grandmother and brother eating ice cream looking up at the grey castle walls as the rain lashed down). That will mean some 1000 players and supporters will descend on Caernarfon over the four days of the festival.
All I can say to that is congratulations to Y Gogs and to Caernarfon for winning the bid to stage the festival and to all those planning to take part - enjoy your ice cream! :)