Monday, 28 June 2010

Out of Africa

It appears that the sport of rugby is not immune to (or is it 'from' - I can never remember) ridiculous Nigerian email scams.

You know the sort - where you get an email from an apparent rogue employee of a Nigerian government department who needs to transfer a large amount of money out of the country and can only do so with your help, promising you a significant percentage of the loot if only you'll first help cover certain "expenses".

Well, apparently (and I'm not making this up) it has come to the attention of the IRB and the South African Rugby Union that a Nigerian-based scam is now targetting rugby players and coaches seeking positions abroad.

The scam allegedly involves players and coaches being asked to send money in order to secure visas and playing licences at rugby clubs and colleges which either do not exist or are blissfully unaware of what is going on. The IRB have - perhaps a little unnecessarily - warned all players and coaches to check with the clubs and colleges in question before parting with their money.

I have 2 questions:

(1) can anyone actually have been gullible enough to fall for one of these scams and

(2) why do they always appear to stem from Nigeria?

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Anything you can do...

The lives and times of 2 of rugby's more maverick characters continue to follow eerily similar paths.

In the wake of Mr Henson's recent not-very-private split from Ms Voice of Angel, Charlotte Church, has come the equally public break up of the relationship between Mr Danny Cipriani and the thoroughly gorgeous Ms Kelly Brook.

The reasons behind and the fallout from the two failed relationships are of little or no interest to me whatsoever but are, understandably, meat and drink to the nation's tabloids. What is of interest, though, is a rumour about the future career of the player many (including yours truly) thought would have by now established himself as a truly world class international outside half.

While Henson contemplates a comeback with the Ospreys next season, rumour has it that Cipriani is trying to get out of his Melbourne Rebels contract with a view to quitting the sport for good. A "close family source" has even suggested that he is considering a move to football, with Fulham and West Ham said to be interested in giving him a trial.

I must stress at this point, however, that the above story did come from the pages of the Daily Mail who rarely let the truth get in the way of a good story.

Nevertheless, as far as silly season rumours go it's a pretty juicy one and moreover is an excellent excuse to include a picture of Kelly Brook on this blog.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Another drink in the Last Chance Saloon

Just what is it with the England rugby team? Just like their round-ball counterparts currently muddling through in South Africa, it seems as if it takes a major crisis before they can summon up the effort and nous to produce a decent performance.

By all accounts (I didn’t see it) England’s victory over the Aussies in the 2nd Test in Sydney last Saturday was impressive. It was also fairly significant in that wins away from home in the southern hemisphere have a rarity value that is worth celebrating.

Don’t listen to those Aussies who point to the fact that their 1st choice front row was missing – so was England’s, arguably, and all it shows is that we have the far greater scrummaging depth.

What is disappointing, though, is that it took an utterly dire effort in the 1st Test to shock the England players into performing properly one week later. And, let’s face it, the team does have a recent track of having to redeem itself after truly shocking displays. World Cup 2007 anyone?

So, for those who say that Martin Johnson’s England have finally turned a corner, a word of warning – it’s what’s around the corner that counts.

Friday, 18 June 2010

The Talented Mr. Ripley

Andy Ripley R.I.P.

Although not entirely unexpected, the death yesterday of former England number 8 Andy Ripley OBE is very sad news indeed.

The bare stats of Ripley's life are impressive enough: 24 caps for England between 1972 and 1976, British Lion in 1974, played first-class rugby until the age of 41, BBC Superstars champion, indoor rowing world record holder for his age group, competed for a place in the Cambridge Boat Race crew aged 50, award-winning seems there was almost nothing this man couldn't do, and all this despite an apparent laid-back and maverick approach to life.

But it's his struggle with prostate cancer, much of it chronicled in his book - "Ripley's World" - that is truly inspirational. I can't recommend the book highly enough - it's only a shame that the optimism expressed at the end, with the cancer seemingly beaten, turned out to be so misplaced.

I'm sure that the world of rugby will salute you Mr Ripley, and deservedly so - there are No Sharks in Kalamata Bay.
"Dare we hope? We dare. Can we hope? We can. Should we hope? We must. We must because to do otherwise is to waste the most precious of gifts, given freely by God to all of us. So, when we do die, it will be with hope and it will be easy and our hearts will not be broken . . ."

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Back from the dead

News fron Caenarfon, North Wales, this week where the European Golden Oldies rugby festival saw a player come back from the dead.

Not back from the dead in the sense of recovering from injury, or back from the dead in the sense of turning round an adverse scoreline but, quite literally, BACK FROM THE DEAD.

The player in question was a 56 year old member of the Ageing Pandas from Dublin, who collapsed after a game and apparently stopped breathing for a couple of minutes. Fortunately he chose to die right next to a pitchside ambulance and was revived by the quick actions of the first aid team.

The reaction of the first aiders was in stark contrast to his team-mates who, assuming that he was taking the piss, merely sprayed him with water... you would.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010


England's tour down under is proving to be a huge success...for England's legal team.

So far England have had two players cited and have had both cases dismissed. Lock Dave Attwood, cited for two stamping offences after last week's encounter with the Aussie Barbarians, had his charges thrown out on technical grounds (England pointing out that the Aussie citing commissioner was hardly neutral), while winger Mark Cueto was found not guilty having been cited for a dangerous tackle on Berrick Barnes during Saturday's Test.

So, brilliant work by the English legal beagles puts us 2-0 up against the Aussie citing system and they now have another chance to continue their magnificent run of form after Matt Banahan was charged with the offence of a "lifting tackle" (again on Barnes) in today's game against the Barbarians in Gosford.

What's equally impressive is England's ability to pick up a citing in every game. If only their rugby was that consistent.

Thursday, 10 June 2010


First the good news: another win at Touch Rugby on Tuesday night against a very decent team from Watford. And we certainly had to battle for it, being two tries behind for the majority of the game before coming back to win 12-9 in the final quarter. Great game, end-to-end action and both teams played some really good stuff.

Now the not so great news: midway through the second half I managed to pull my left hamstring. I should have known better, but I nevertheless contrived to sell a ridiculously ambitious dummy before accelerating past the flummoxed defender to score in the corner, an act which my poor hammy was so unused to it decided to down tools and go on strike.
I did attempt to continue but pretty quickly realised that my game was over and, strangely enough, my exit more or less coincided with my team taking the lead. Funny, that.

Yesterday was therefore a fairly painful day (although, to be fair, today has seen an improvement). I’ve no idea how long this sort of injury takes to heal as, to put it all in context, I don’t believe I have had a hamstring injury since the mid eighties (that’s the nineteen eighties, in case you were wondering). I’m pretty sure it’s not a major strain - technically it may be classed as more of a "tweak" than a pull. Ice and rest is, I believe, the answer with the hope that the usual 3-4 weeks prognosis doesn't apply here.

To be honest, despite the discomfort I’m fairly chuffed to have found my hamstrings at all as I had assumed that they had withered away long ago.

After all, only finely tuned athletes pull hamstrings (don’t they?)

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Moans & Groans

Or, how not to get selected by your country...

I had to laugh out loud at Delon Armitage's comments earlier this week that his chronic lack of form during this year's Six Nations was the fault of the England coaching staff.

Apparently it was their safety-first instructions, rather than his own ineptitude, that caused him to play "like a robot."

This of course also explains why Ben Foden was such an indecisive failure as England's fullback in Paris and why Armitage was such a roaring success in yesterday's 28-all draw against the Aussie BaaBaas. Not.

Nevertheless, I agree that the England management were to blame to some degree. Purely on the basis of form Armitage should not have been selected.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Aches & Pains

It appears that I'm turning into a total hypochondriac. At least I would be if my aches and pains weren't all so real.

I woke up on Monday morning (bank holiday) at my parents' house (on a family visit) with what is technically known as a cricked neck, a condition I put down to sleeping in a strange bed with a strange pillow - although not with a strange woman (unless you count Mrs F.)

My all too painful pain in the neck continued through Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, although it was not enough to prevent me charging around in a haphazard manner at Touch Rugby on Tuesday evening. The fact that my performance was unaffected by by inability to move my head from side to side tells you everything you need to know about my Touch Rugby skills. Nevertheless, the Odd Bods triumphed 9-3 in what, so far, is turning out to be a surprisingly successful season.

By Thursday the neck pain had gone to be replaced by a persistent ache in my left shoulder blade which radiated down my left arm, a condition which has persisted through the weekend. Note to self: never attempt to self-diagnose via t'interweb - it only leads to further paranoia.

The upshot of my various aches and pains and lack of physical conditioning is that I will not be taking part in the Wargrave 10k race next week, something in which I participated last year and for which I had foolishly pencilled myself in again this year. I wouldn't want to burden the organisers with a fatality.

On a slightly cheerier note, I'd like to welcome the 50th follower of this blog -Karllinha from Brazil. Boa vinda a Total Flanker, Karllinha and apologies for the somewhat gloomy nature of this post. I have, on rare occasions, been known to be upbeat, honestly :)

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Stuff & Nonsense


Premier Rugby have decided to make a formal complaint to the IRB alleging a breach of international regulations by the South African Rugby Union (SARU) through their actions and statements this week.

These actions and statements have been repeatedly directed against Bath Rugby and Premier Rugby following our petty and vindictive decision to compel Bath Rugby to refuse permission to their player, Butch James, to take part in today's Wales v South Africa international, despite the fact that Bath's season finished over two weeks ago.

Premier Rugby and Bath Rugby have acted in accordance with the IRB's regulations. Rules is rules. The match is an extra one-off match outside the agreed international window and has been arranged primarily as a money-making exercise for which SARU is apparently receiving a large fee. We, on the other hand, have not been offered a farthing.

When arranging a match outside the international window, all Unions should be aware of their regulations concerning player release and need to realise that we will only give permission for players contracted to clubs affiliated to Premier Rugby to take part in such fixtures in exchange for a whopping big fee (we mean really, really enormous). The RFU, the Barbarians and other rugby organisations appear to understand this. This week it became clear that SARU obviously do not.

Here endeth the lesson.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Odds & Sods

A mixed bag of rugby news in the last week or so and that's without focusing too much on any of the matches played.

The proposed "consultancy" arrangement between Worcester Warriors and Dean Richards is an odd one. Deano, quite rightly, is looking for loopholes in the ERC judgement against him that might allow him to continue earning a living from the game. Although certain scribes seem outraged by the proposed flouting of the 3 year ban, quite frankly it would be no more than the ERC deserved for their indecent haste in scapegoating Richards as the apparent sole culprit of the Bloodgate affair and their total disregard for due process in reaching their judgement.

Meanwhile, while Leicester's Director of Rugby, Richard Cockerill, was able to participate in his team's narrow victory in the Premiership Final, his Saracens counterpart Brendan Ventner was banished to the comfort of his own living room (where presumably he was free to eat biscuits without censure). This despite Cockerill's outburst at officials during his team's semi-final win over Bath last month. Level playing field? I think not.

Perhaps the most bizarre story, however, is the fact that Toulouse forward and Tongan World Cup star Finau Maka stands accused by the French authorities of "modern slavery" having, allegedly, imprisoned a Tunisian bloke in his house for over three years.

And finally...not being the sort of bloke to kick a man while he's down, I have very little to say about the reported split between Ms Voice of an Angel and Mr Skin of a Satsuma. However, now that he is unlikely to be featuring in the pages of OK! magazine for the foreseeable future let's hope we now see a little more of the aforementioned El Naranja in the sports pages of the daily papers for a change.