Pomagne is most definitely on ice as we say: "My Lords, ladies and gentlemen, it gives us great pleasure to welcome you all to the 4th Annual Total Flanker Awards ceremony."
Yes, it's time once again to pay homage to those who have contributed so much to our enjoyment of the game of rugby during the last 12 months.
Without further ado, our first award of 2010 is the Total Flanker Utter Muppet of the Year Award. Now, in most years there would only be one candidate for this honour as Saffa coach Peter de Villiers would usually have this one wrapped up and, to be fair to him, he did put up a decent show again this year, especially with his insinuations that the Tri Nations was fixed in favour of New Zealand. However even PdV must stand aside this year and doff his cap to the one and only Andy Powell, whose early morning jaunt down the M4 in a golf buggy in February not only secures this award but also assures him of legendary status.
Moving on, and now the much coveted Total Flanker You Don't Know What You're Doing Award. As England's Calcutta Cup match with Scotland at Murrayfield last March reached its conclusion there was a fair to middling chance that Martin Johnson would be putting his hand up for this one, but a subsequent significant improvement in England's prospects means that Johnson misses out. The aforementioned PdV might also have had a shot at this one but his team let him down badly with their powerful display at Twickenham in November. The winner, therefore, is none other than the IRB who, having somewhat astonishingly got something right with the new interpretations at the breakdown, have managed to secure the award with their instructions to referees to enforce the "Crouch, Touch, Pause, Pause, Put the kettle on, Have a cigarette, Pause and Collapse" edict at scrummage time.
Next up is the Total Flanker All Publicity is Good Publicity Award. Sad to say, but there are multitude of candidates for this one. Gareth "Have I mentioned that I'm Gay" Thomas has barely been out of the newspapers this year, while James "the Brand" Haskell continues to let his talking (as opposed to his rugby) do the, erm, talking. Danny Cipriani's on-off relationship with Kelly Brook continues to fill its fair share of column inches while his flirtations with various association football clubs has filled the rest, while Ben Foden has taken his first tentative steps into tabloid recognition (but only on a Saturday). However the king of the publicity hounds this year has to be the artist formerly known as Gavin Church. Celebrity relationship breakup, nude photo shoots, reality TV shows, ballroom dancing - you name it Gavin's been there, done it and bought the Tshirt and, furthermore, might just have talked himself into the Welsh squad on the basis of being able to walk on snow, cha cha cha and play less than 30 minutes of rugby. Well done, sir, the award is yours.
We're over half way through ladies and gentlemen and on the home straight. Time now for the Total Flanker Every Time I Speak I Get Into Trouble Award. Only one realistic candidate for this one - step forward Sarries coach Brendan Venter. Whether it was criticising referees, getting into scrapes with Leicester fans, upsetting RFU disciplinary panels by eating biscuits or providing Sky Sports with baffling comedy interviews, Venter spent most of 2010 pissing off those in authority and is truly deserving of this honour.
Our penultimate award tonight is the Total Flanker Lucky To Still Be In A Job Award. There are a number of candidates for this one. PdV is an obvious choice and many might argue that Australia's inability to find a scrummage once again this year puts Robbie Deans in the frame. In England you'd have to consider defence coach Mike Ford, while in France Marc Lièvremont's Grand Slam just about makes up for the rubbish his team have been serving up ever since. But, after careful consideration, the award must go across the Severn Bridge to Mr Warren Gatland. Another distinctly underwhelming 6 Nations from Wales was followed by a disastrous Autumn series - 4 wins in the last 16 matches speaks for itself - and it does look as if Gatland and his coaching team have run out of ideas (if the best they can come up with is the restoration of Britain's second worst ballroom dancer to the Welsh midfield).
And finally - and on a distinctly sentimental note - we reach the Total Flanker Farewell To A Legend Award. The word "legend" is often bandied about but never was a man so deserving ... 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 and author of an award-winning book in which he chronicled his struggle with prostate cancer - Andrew George Ripley was a truly inspirational figure. In his own words: "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 . . ."
And so we reach the end of our annual ordeal and set out below, for the short of memory, a list of our Awards this evening:
Total Flanker Utter Muppet of the Year Award- Andy Powell
Total Flanker You Don't Know What You're Doing Award - the IRB
Total Flanker All Publicity is Good Publicity Award - Gavin Henson
Total Flanker Every Time I Speak I Get Into Trouble Award - Brendan Venter
Total Flanker Lucky To Still Be In A Job Award - Warren Gatland
Total Flanker Farewell to a Legend Award - Andy Ripley.
That's all folks. Happy New Year!!