A major downer was the graze. Before going to bed and to avoid my leg sticking to the bedsheets I applied Germolene ointment which forms a protective layer over the abrasion. It also stings like you wouldn't believe and, given the sheer size of the graze, was utter torture to apply. Note to the CIA: forget water-boarding, Germolene on an open wound would break the will of any would-be terrorist.
Thursday, 29 April 2010
Monday, 26 April 2010
The perma-tanned Welsh centre last played 13 months ago and has played only 14 times for his country in the last 5 years, having endured a succession of injuries, the last of which put him out of contention for last summer's Lions Tour.
At the time it was rumoured that he was seriously considering packing it all in, but it looks as if the pleadings of an increasingly desperate Warren Gatland may have persuaded him to return to the game in time to boost the Welsh World Cup efforts.
Apparently the father of Worcester flanker Chris Cracknell took exception to derogatory comments about his son's performance by the father of fellow flanker James Collins, who had replaced Cracknell late in the match.
According to a witness the pair traded blows before Cracknell waded in on his father's behalf, dragging Collins Senior over the barriers and onto the pitch.
Appalling behaviour all round which I feel obliged to condemn wholeheartedly.
Funny though! :)
Saturday, 24 April 2010
Apparently the British government in its infinite wisdom (and assuming that nothing changes after the Election next month) is planning to clamp down on "booze-fuelled" student rugby clubs.
This is in response to a report, entitled 'Pathways to Problems' from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs in which it attacks a "culture of excessive drinking" in universities and colleges.
The report follows a couple of incidents publicised earlier this year involving student rugby clubs.
De Montfort University Rugby Club were recently fined and suspended for 30 weeks by the RFU after they admitted charges related to a series of fairly unpleasant initiation rites, while apparently the men's rugby team at St Catharine's College, Cambridge was disbanded after complaints about their behaviour at a rowdy party at a local pub.
Both incidents were "off campus" and, I believe, therein lies the lesson. Nearly three years ago I blogged about the negative impact of the stereotypical rugger bugger. What can I say? I was clearly going through a Victor Mature moment at the time. Nevertheless, the principle must still be that, if you're going to disgrace yourselves collectively, then keep it close to home. Don't do it in public, or the result will be some ridiculously over-the-top anti-fun legislation
With stunning unoriginality, alcohol awareness charity Drinkaware has managed to leap aboard the bandwagon with the comment: "Taking part in drinking games is never a good idea."
The thing is, in my experience, taking part in drinking games is nearly always a splendid idea.
Friday, 23 April 2010
A couple of years ago I wrote about how little the English celebrate their patron saint's day and it appears little has changed since.
According to a survey earlier this week, only a third of people were aware that the celebration of St George was today.
One person determined that the occasion should be celebrated in style is Lawrence Dallaglio. Entirely coincidentally his club, London Wasps, play Bath tomorrow at Twickenham in the inaugural St George’s Day match (albeit a day late).
“I have never had a problem celebrating my Englishness," says Dallaglio.
Nice words Lorenzo.
Thursday, 22 April 2010
Sunday, 18 April 2010
The Stadium was mightily impressive - very accessible from the tube station and despite our seats being halfway up at one end of the ground there was always the feeling of being close to the action (something sorely lacking at Twickenham, for example) - amazing really in such a large stadium. Inevitably the only downside was the cost of food and drink - I expected to pay 4 quid for a pint, but over £15 for 2 cheeseburgers + chips is taking the piss.
As well as my first time at the new Wembley it was also the first time I'd heard the new Saracens anthem - "Stand Up for the Saracens" - performed by the aforementioned bald pairing. I'm sad to report that it is ridiculously catchy, so much so that I woke in the night with it still bouncing around my head and am still humming it as I type. Check it out below if you seriously want to ruin your day:
As for the match itself, it was something of a revelation with both sides seeking to run the ball at every opportunity. Long gone, it appears, are the kick and chase days of the Autumn. After an opening 10 minutes during which Quins looked the more cohesive side, Sarries scored 2 quick tries against the run of play via their very impressive (and English) openside Andy Saul, then dominated proceedings for the next hour, running in 5 tries in total before Quins responded with 2 late consolation tries.
Final score 37-18: Stand Up for the Saracens!
Saturday, 17 April 2010
What do Imanol Harinordiquy, Sergio Parisse, Wycliff Palu, Kieran Read, Jamie Heaslip, Pierre Spies and Johnnie Beattie have in common?
Answer: they are all great examples of the modern day international number 8 forward. Big, quick, athletic, creative, with good hands and able to dominate the breakdown and get their respective teams on the front foot.
Notable by their absence from this list are any Welsh and English players. Arguably Wales had a version of the above player-type in 2005 in Ryan Jones but it really is a long time since he displayed any of the above attributes on an international rugby pitch, while potentially Andy Powell could still offer some hope if he could stay off the M4 in the early hours and perhaps grow a brain cell or two.
Meanwhile England, like Houston, have a problem. Since the (first) retirement of Lawrence Bruno Nero Dallaglio, England have struggled to find an adequate replacement. The current incumbent is Nick Easter. Now, I like Nick Easter - he's an honest grafter with a clever rugby brain, good hands and the ability to get across the gain line but, let's face it, he's not the quickest and he's not going to get any quicker anytime soon. This need not necessarily be a problem at club level (or even against Wales) where good rugby nous can pay dividends but up against the very best a lack of pace can prove a serious liability.
The trouble is that Nick Easter fully deserves to be England's number eight as, quite frankly, who else is there? Waiting in the wings is Jordan Crane - aka Easter-lite - OK at kicking penalties in a shoot-out but offering nothing more around the pitch than the present incumbent and is perhaps marginally slower. After Crane there are the likes of the perpetually injured Dan Ward-Smith, the so far unfulfilled Luke Narraway and the so far untried Phil Dowson, none of whom are really screaming "PICK ME!"
Monday, 12 April 2010
Thursday, 8 April 2010
The title of this blue book was "The Greatest Footballer You Never Saw" and tells the story of Robin Friday, an exceptional footballer (of the round ball variety) who really should have played for England in the 1970s but never did. Why? Because Friday refused to take life seriously, lived every moment as if it were his last and ultimately destroyed himself, tragically dying at the the age of 38 without ever having fulfilled his potential after years of alcohol and drug abuse. Instead of gracing the pitches of Old Trafford and Anfield, Friday played for the likes of non-league Hayes Town and Reading and Cardiff of the old fourth and second divisions respectively.
I recall it being an excellent read and, spotting the book again on the bookshelf this weekend, it got me thinking as to whether there might be a rugby equivalent, a player of huge talent whose maverick or self-destructive nature meant that his potential was never fulfilled?
It's difficult to draw an exact analogy, but I suppose that in the professional era the likes of Messrs Church & Brook (aka Gavin Henson and Danny Cipriani) spring to mind. Whilst it can be said that neither have truly yet fulfilled their potential, it's difficult to draw justifiable parallels with the career of Robin Friday. Both have, after all, played for their country while Henson does have a couple of Grand Slams and a Lions tour to his name and the Cipriani story is, you feel, far from finished. Their off-field activities are hardly in the same league either.
No, to compare effectively you'd need to come up with someone who clearly had the talent to go far but whose off field behaviour destroyed his rugby career. Although I can perhaps think of one or two players I've played the game with whose fondness for sherbet meant that they didn't perhaps achieve what they might have done, there's certainly nothing on the same scale as the Friday story.
Certainly in the professional era we are unlikely to unearth any likely candidates given the physical demands placed on players today, but delving back into into my cluttered memories of the amateur era there must have been a few who might qualify. There were, for instance, a number of players during the 70s and 80s who made only very fleeting appearances for England, although admittedly this was probably more down to playing and selectorial incompetence than to standards of behaviour. Being a backrow aficionado, one player who did catch my eye in the mid-eighties was Quins number 8 Chris Butcher who won 3 caps for England in 1984 and looked the real deal before seemingly disappearing off the face of the planet. I can find very little information about him on t'interweb but I'm sure I read somewhere that he liked a bevvy or several and that there may have been an incident involving a wet fish and an England selector's wife, but my memory might well be playing tricks on me and if so I must humbly apologise if I've maligned the poor chap.
Right now that's about the best I can do. If anyone can do better and has any names to toss into the debate please feel free...
Friday, 2 April 2010
Richards, currently serving a ludicrously long suspension for his role in the Bloodgate affair during Quins' Heineken Cup quarter-final match against Leinster a year ago, has quite rightly been recognised for his back-to-back titles with Leicester and his generally outstanding record in the competition.
Wouldn't it be rather amusing if he won?
Where do I vote?
Thursday, 1 April 2010
Sources inside the Labour Party indicate that the Party's hierarchy have concluded that Brown is more or less unelectable without outside help, hence the return of Tony Blair to endorse Brown's credentials earlier this week and the recruitment of the man who delivered Rugby World Cup glory to England in 2003.
It is understood that the power-brokers behind the deal are Blairites Peter Mandelson and Alistair Campbell, Blair's former spin doctor who formed a close bond with Woodward during the 2005 British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand.
Various rumours have been circulating in recent days regarding a planned return by Woodward to Twickenham as a probable replacement for RFU Director of Elite Rugby Rob Andrew. It appears, however, that such rumours were an elaborate smokescreen and that Woodward's ambitions are far loftier.
If Labour succeed in being elected for a record consecutive fourth term it is not known whether Woodward - currently the Director of Elite Performance at the British Olympic Association - will be offered a Cabinet role. Much will depend on whether he decides to accept a proposed peerage to sit in the House of Lords or whether, as is rumoured, he would prefer a seat in the House of Commons. To this end it is believed that Labour are investigating the possibility of parachuting Sir Clive into a safe seat for the Election.