Thursday, 20 December 2012

Have a Cool Yule...

A very Merry Christmas and a Happy 2013 to one and all...

(other makes of scrumcap are available).

Friday, 14 December 2012

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Snubbed

If I was Shaun Edwards I'd be more than a little peeved.

Not only has he been overlooked by Warren Gatland for a place on next year's Lions trip, he now doesn't even get to be interim head coach (in the absence of Gatland and Rob Howley) for the Wales tour to Japan next summer.

Once very much thought of as Gatland's right hand man, Edwards now appears to have slipped way down the Welsh pecking order and will only assist Robin McBryde who leads the tour to Japan.


Is it cos he is English?


Friday, 7 December 2012

Total Flanker Awards 2012

Crikey, so here we all are again. Another 12 months has flashed by and we find ourselves another year older and deeper in debt and once again gathered in this prestigious venue with festive celebrations all around us as we sip at our glasses of ginger beer and contemplate those that have delighted us, impressed us or otherwise come to our attention during 2012.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, it’s time to welcome you all to the 6th Annual Total Flanker Awards ceremony.

Without further ado let us dive straight in to the first award of the evening - the Total Flanker Are You Taking the Piss? Award.

There has been much criticism over the years about the attitude of certain players and certain countries to the international eligibility rules. Much of it has been ill informed, much of it has been motivated out of a sense of jealousy and much of it has been driven by pure xenophobia. Without wanting to shake up this particular hornet’s nest, however, there is one player in particular who has made an utter mockery of the whole system. Step forward Michael Bent. Yes, he has an Irish grandmother which, technically, qualifies him to play for Ireland, but for the Taranaki tighthead to have stepped off the plane at Dublin airport and straight into the Ireland squad to play South Africa, having never set foot in the country before, is as good an example of urine extraction as you are ever likely to find.

Right, calm down, calm down, let’s move on to something slightly less controversial as we consider the Total Flanker Like a Duck to Water Award.

A few candidates to consider here. Young Craig Gilroy has come into the Ireland team on the wing this autumn and already looks like a Lions candidate. Ditto Tim McVisser for Scotland although he may need to learn to tackle first. For England Joe Launchbury has made playing international second row look ridiculously easy and, on the strength of a 15 minute cameo against the All Blacks, Freddie Burns looks to the manor born. However, the winner of this prestigious award is none other than Stuart Lancaster who took on the role of England head coach a year ago with little experience of top level rugby and has pretty much not put a foot wrong since. Yes, we might quibble with certain selectorial decisions but ‘twas ever thus. Lancaster has stuck to his guns and now has a young, united and motivated squad plotting a course toward 2015 and he richly deserves the honour.

OK, now for our next award - the Total Flanker Ha Ha, Nice One Award. No award ceremony would be complete without an award for the IRB and this year is no exception. Most years the governing body is honoured for gross incompetence or breathtaking negligence or for both. This year, however, is different. This year the IRB is being honoured for its surprisingly wonderful sense of humour, best demonstrated by the shortlisting of Owen Farrell as IRB Player of the Year. Now, I’ve nothing against young Master Farrell – during the 6 Nations and more recently against New Zealand he certainly demonstrated that he has the appetite and temperament for the international game. But the best player in the world? Tee hee.

Right we're half way through so let's move swiftly on to the Total Flanker About Bloody Time Award. Only one nominee here - Argentina. Disgracefully excluded from serious regular international rugby for so long despite a more than decent record against the so-called top-tier nations, Argentina finally took its bow this year in the tournament formerly known as the Tri Nations. OK, so they didn't manage a win, but they far from disgraced themselves and the improvements in their game were there for all to see in their victory over Wales last month. Now, what to do about Samoa, Tonga and Fiji?

And so to the penultimate award of the evening - the Total Flanker Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder Award. This award is sponsored by the gentlemen of the British press who nearly all appear to have a bee in their bonnet about a certain Steffon Armitage. The basis of this obsession appears to be that the longer he plays in France and is unavailable to England, the better he gets. I admit I have also from time to time thought that there must be something about the slightly rotund Toulon openside - he was voted the Top 14's Player of the Season by Midi Olimpique after all - but the fact is that he knew the RFU stance on foreign based players before he signed for Toulon. If he is as keen as he says he is to play for England the answer is simple. Come home.

Finally we turn to the last award - the Total Flanker Am I Right to be Worried? Award.

Please step forward a man who is no stranger to these Awards - Mr Warren Gatland. Sorry, but I remain entirely unconvinced that this fella is the right one to lead the Lions to Oz next summer. For every success he has had with Wales there have also been periods of distinct mediocrity; his tendency to spout off about other teams and other players do him few favours; and as the existing Welsh national coach he is horribly conflicted. And, yes, he's a kiwi and we really should be able to produce a coach of our own.

That’s all folks. Last orders please and quick reminder of this year's Awards:

Total Flanker Are You Taking the Piss? Award - Michael Bent
Total Flanker Like a Duck to Water Award – Stuart Lancaster
Total Flanker Ha Ha, Nice One Award - IRB

Total Flanker About Bloody Time Award - Argentina
Total Flanker Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder Award– Steffon Armitage
Total Flanker Am I Right to be Worried?Award – Warren Gatland

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Gutted

Renowned world famous blogger (ahem!) Total Flanker today hit out at reports that the RFU is considering abandoning its policy of introducing controversial 'away' kits for the England team following the general furore surrounding the latest 'regal purple' outfit worn against Australia in November.

The policy, which in recent years has seen the England team parade around in red, purple, black, 'anthracite' grey and now 'regal purple', has attracted criticism from various quarters, not least from the ageing (and allegedly ex-) backrow forward.


"I'm as sick as a parrot" claimed the portly breakaway. "At least 50 per cent of my output on the blog involves me whingeing on about England's change kit, with the other 50% mostly being about how crap the team is.

"Not only have we beaten New Zealand this week, now the RFU might do the decent thing and restore a bit of pride to the shirt.

"It's an utter disgrace I tell you, what the hell am I going to blog about now?"

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Debbie does...Cardiff?



"At this point I am not ruling anything out and I am not ruling anything in," says ER2015 chief executive Debbie Jevans, in response to the mischievous suggestion by the WRU that they might host the England vs Wales pool fixture at RWC 2015.

It's simple Debbie. Bloody well rule it out.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Group of death?

So predictable that, following Saturday's magnificent victory against the All Blacks, along comes fate to kick us in the bollocks by pairing England with the Welsh and the Aussies in Pool A at RWC 2015.

Never mind - by 2015 the Wallabies' scrummaging renaissance will have been consigned to history, Wales will be on their third coach following Warren Gatland's post-Lions ousting by the Welsh players and England will be defending a 3 year unbeaten run...bring it on!

Carried away? Me?

Sunday, 2 December 2012

I WAS THERE!

I was bloody well there!

First time at Twickenham for an international match for several years for me and an utterly magnificent occasion. As I said to my mate with 20 minute to go: "Is it always like this?"



The tendency of most English fans and reporters after beating a team like the All Blacks is to go over the top somewhat, and lo and behold the national press have not disappointed in this respect. It would be churlish, however, not to give the England players due credit. In terms of intensity and effort they were magnificent to a man. Yes, there was a frustrating tendency, especially in the first half, to kick too long and too often - but the energy and aggression in the tackle and the ruck knocked the All Blacks back on their heels time after time and England were well worth their 12-0 halftime lead.

What was most encouraging, however, was England's reaction to the All Black mini-comeback. At 15-14 it really did look as if New Zealand would kick on to win but it was the men in white who came roaring back with 3 tries which visibly knocked the stuffing out of their opponents and had the stadium totally rocking.

As for New Zealand, while I'm sure that last week's novovirus can't have helped, it did look to be more a case of them just not being prepared for the ferocity of the English onslaught. All unbeaten runs have to end but this one will hurt, I'm sure, and no doubt we'll get payback next time out.

A few whinges not in keeping with the general tone of this post:

  • to those who unsportingly jeered Dan Carter when he was lining up kicks at goal - idiots!
  • to those who felt the need to get up and go to the loo or get a beer in the middle of a passage of play and then stand there blocking everyone's view - idiots!
  • to Chris Ashton - will you please can that stupid dive and grow up - idiot!

Oh, and one more thing on a far more positive note. Freddie Burns looks to be one heck of a player - to the manor born.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Bloody, Muddy...and back


Sorry, a bit behind the times here, but just noticed that Blood & Mud is back after the shortest-lived retirement since Oliver Reed said "You know what, I think I'll stick to mineral water."

Blood & Mud is therefore duly restored to the Total Flanker blogroll...happy unretirement and welcome back to the Blogosphere!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Tweet of the week...

...goes to Brian Moore for his comment on David Campese's somewhat ill-advised criticism of the Sydney Morning Herald for appointing a Sheila (sorry, couldn't resist) as its lead rugby correspondent:
Don't knock Campo, to be fair - he fell in love with himself early and has been faithful ever since.



England 17 New Zealand 8


No, not a prediction for Saturday (I’m not daft) but the result of the women’s international match yesterday evening which saw England’s women secure a series win against the world champion Blacks Ferns (with the final encounter of the 3 match series still to come on Saturday).

Well done girls/ ladies/ chaps (he says, hedging his bets on acceptable language).

Monday, 26 November 2012

Questions and answers


Question: Is all this criticism of Chris Robshaw justified?

Answer: Only insofar as he failed to slap Owen Farrell for dithering.


Question: Should Andy Robinson have resigned as Scottish coach?

Answer: Too right he should have…and good on him - it’s rare to see a coach take responsibility so readily for the abject performance of his players.


Question: Were Ireland brilliant or were Argentina crap?

Answer: A bit of both – Ireland do appear to have moved on into an exciting post-BOD and post-POC era but for Argentina it did look like one game too far.


Question: Why are the All Blacks so good yet so unloved?

Answer: Ask Andrew Hore.


Question: Which Welsh coach came up with the idea of a 13-man lineout?

Answer: Whoever it was, he’s a bloody genius!

Monday, 19 November 2012

Just say no


England's abomination of a change kit has, according to the RFU, accounted for 35 per cent of shirt sales to date this season.

There. You only have yourselves to blame. If you keep buying it, they'll keep selling it.

JUST SAY NO.

Fame at last!



Blimey... Will Carling (@willcarling) is now following me on Twitter! Fame at last! #rugbyroyalty


@Total_Flanker

Never-ending Journey

England’s defeat (whilst looking bloody ridiculous in "regal purple") to an under-strength and supposedly demoralised Australia on Saturday shows just how far Stuart Lancaster’s team still has to travel on its seemingly never-ending journey.

Oh, for the halcyon days…



There, that's better!

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Siva Tau

I have to say that I feel sorry for Wales.

After all, they lost to Western Samoa in 1991, 1994 and 1999. How could anyone therefore reasonably expect them to beat the whole of Samoa last night?

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Tait and smile (sorry)

With apologies for the headline, it's great to see Mathew Tait back playing again.

Tait completed 80 minutes at fullback for Leicester against the Maori earlier this week – his first full 80 minutes since October 2011.

Although not particularly fashionable in this age of bish, bash, bosh centre play, I’ve always been a big fan of Tait’s almost Guscott-like ability to beat a man on the outside with no more than a swivel of the hips.

A particularly horrendous run of injuries has sadly seen Tait disappear entirely from the international radar but the bloke is still only 26 (believe it or not) and is overdue a bit of luck. Who knows, an injury-free period might even see him knocking on the England door again come 2015?

Lucky b******!

Far be it for me to suggest that New Zealand flanker Adam Thomson's one match ban for raking the head of Scotland's Alasdair Strokosch on Sunday might be seen as just a tad lenient.

The ban leaves Thomson free to face Wales and England later in the tour although, judging by the look on coach Steve Hansen's face at the time of the incident on Sunday, Thomson might just find himself holding tackle bags for the rest of the trip.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Pretty

Don't you just love the build up to international rugby games?

Apparently Aussie hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau has declared that the Wallabies will "dominate" England's scrum in at HQ on Saturday. Australia. Dominate. Scrum. Really.

Meanwhile Digby Ione can't wait to play against England's "pretty" wingers. Chris Ashton. Pretty.

I'll have whatever the Aussies are drinking.

This could, of course, all come back to bite me on the arse. After all, according to Stuart Lancaster, there's no beast more dangerous than a wounded Wallaby. Apart from a wounded lion, or tiger possibly.

Monday, 12 November 2012

November Internationals Week 1 – very quick review

ENGLAND – Jury firmly out. Should know more after next weekend assuming the Aussies can put up more of a fight than Fiji (not guaranteed after the fiasco against France).

FIJI – lively in patches but lacked any semblance of a set-piece.

WALES – outthought, outplayed and outfought by Argentina. Strength in depth? My arse.

ARGENTINA – tough as ever but now also creative and clearly benefitting from playing in tournament formerly known as the TriNations.

IRELAND – how can 3 provinces individually be so mighty and yet collectively be so mediocre?

SOUTH AFRICA – not quite as mediocre as Ireland.

SCOTLAND – gutsy and resilient but blinked too often and every time they did so conceded a try.

NEW ZEALAND – ability to accumulate points so rapidly is what sets them apart.

FRANCE & AUSTRALIA – didn’t see it and haven’t seen any highlights but the score sort of speaks for itself, doesn't it?



Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Man in the middle

Good luck to Glen Jackson who takes charge of his first Test match on Saturday when England take on Fiji at HQ.

Jackson, former Waikato, New Zealand Maori and Saracens fly half, was being touted as a possible England number 10 as recently as 2007 and has enjoyed a meteoric rise through the refereeing ranks since hanging up his playing boots a little over 2 years ago.

It’s great to see a former professional rugby player putting something back into the game in this way – and I’m sure he has certain insights into the game that other refs cannot possibly have.

All we need now is for a few former prop forwards to take up the whistle. They may not be able to keep up with play but at least we’d start to see scrummages refereed properly :)

Monday, 5 November 2012

At long last…

… William Wesley ‘36’ Twelvetrees has made the England squad, albeit as injury cover.

At six foot three and 16 stone plus with pace, great distribution off either hand and a very decent kicking game, Billy Twelvetrees is potentially the complete package at inside centre and is the closest thing to Will Greenwood that we’ve had for years.

The chances of him actually featuring this autumn are slim (given the perceived pecking order) but, as I have previously asked, what’s not to like?

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Welcome to Draconia


Quade Cooper’s fine of 60,000 Aussie dollars (with $20,000 suspended) by the ARU last week for bringing the game into disrepute appears to be, on the face of it, fair dinkum.

Fair dinkum, that is, until you consider that a chunk of the fine was for expressing his dislike of a computer game.

Admittedly the bulk of Cooper's fine was related his tweeted comments about the "toxic environment" of Robbie Deans’ Wallabies regime and how it was "destroying" him as a player and person.

However, $10,000 of Cooper's fine (that’s nearly £6,500 in real money) was for describing Wallabies Rugby Challenge, a computer game licensed by the ARU, as “the shittest” game.

On the whole I admit to having little sympathy with sports stars who take to Twitter with ill-informed opinions usually expressed before they have engaged what little grey matter they possess, but even I am struck by the utter absurdity (and dubious legality) of the ARU's punishment in this instance.

Obviously Cooper has had to take it on the chin to avoid completely torpedoing his career, but what kind of precedent does it set?

Forget Australia, Quade - welcome to Draconia.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Ashton out

Chris Ashton’s one match ban for receiving three yellow cards for acts of foul play in the Premiership this season means that he misses England’s first Autumn international against Fiji next week.

3 points:

1. Given his form in recent times, I seriously doubt he’ll be missed very much.

2. Stuart Lancaster could have ensured Ashton’s availabilty for the Fiji game by releasing him back to Saracens this weekend to serve his ban against Wasps. Good on him for not being so cynical.

3. Given that Ashton’s offences were all committed in the Premiership while wearing a Saracens shirt, shouldn’t it be his club that are punished rather than England? And the same applies vice versa – if an England player receives a hefty ban for committing foul play while on international duty, why on earth should his club suffer the consequences?

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Collared!


Glory be!

A rugby shirt that looks like a rugby shirt.

A rugby shirt with a COLLAR.

All hail adidas!

(Now, if we could just lose that sponsor logo...)

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

What goes around...

...tends to come around.

Bryan Redpath's removal from being involved in team affairs at Sale, apparently to make way for John Mitchell, is laced with delicious irony.

Redpath, you may recall, resigned from his position as head coach at Gloucester in April, with 2 games remaining last season. Coincidentally (or not), a few days earlier Sale's CEO Steve Diamond had stated that all interviews for the position of Director of Rugby at Sale had been concluded. Diamond also insisted that no contact had been made with Redpath prior to his resignation but, lo and behold, who turned up at Sale in June?

So, now to John Mitchell, a coach whose previous tenure at Western Force in Perth came to an end under a cloud after he was investigated following complaints from senior players about his methods and who is currently suspended by his present employer, South Africa's Golden Lions, pending an investigation into player allegations of misconduct against him. Be careful what you wish for, and all that...

One thing's for sure - Mitchell "doesn't suffer fools gladly" - Mr Cipriani, you have been warned.

Monday, 29 October 2012

What's in a name?

So, the powers that be at the RFU are considering selling the naming rights to Twickenham to boost their coffers ahead of the Rugby World Cup in 2015.

What price on the Heinz 57 Arena?

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Kick Racism out of Rugby

Interesting piece in today's Telegraph about Slough prop Gavin Connor who claims he was racially abused in a Southern Counties North match v Milton Keynes recently.

This of course follows the somewhat more high profile debate about racism in professional football. Just because rugby is lower profile, however, doesn't mean that the issue is any less important.


The case against Milton Keynes was dismissed at a Bucks RFU disciplinary hearing because of a lack of evidence, but such is his dermination to heighten awareness about racism in rugby, Connor has set up a "Kick Racism out of Rugby" campaign.


Look, I don't know the bloke and have no idea whether he was racially abused or not. I also don't see racism as a major problem in rugby. The fact is, though, that any racism in the game needs to be stamped on and stamped on hard - and for this reason I'm more than happy to support Gavin Connor's campaign.


For more info check out the campaign's Facebook page.

Not a lot of people know that...

So, New Zealand missed out on equalling the world record of 17 consecutive international victories last weekend as they were held by Australia to a draw in Brisbane.

Or did they?

It turns out that, even had the All Blacks won, they would still have fallen 1 win short of the current record of 18 victories held by...wait for it...LITHUANIA.

Yes, little old Lithuania hold the record of 18 consecutive international victories, a run which began in May 2006 with a 23-17 away win over Hungary and ended with a 27–16 home defeat to Ukraine in May 2010. The 77–5 away win over Serbia on 24th April 2010 was Lithuania's 18th straight victory, overtaking the previous record set by New Zealand (1965–69) and South Africa (1997–98).

As Michael Caine may or may not have once said...not a lot of people know that.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Vultures

Fiji coach Inoke Male appears to be using Mako Vunipola’s call up to the England squad as an ideal opportunity for bandwagon-jumping, labelling England as "vultures."

According to Male, if you go to the Fijian secondary school championships you will see scouts from Australia, New Zealand and England “taking our young players like vultures”.

Somewhat conveniently Male won’t name names, but he says that players are being invited to the UK when they are 14 and by 17 are opting to play for England. Apparently there is one very talented 16 year old Fijian in particular who has now opted to play for England.

If that is in fact what is happening then it’s pretty disgraceful and the IRB needs to clamp down.

In the absence of names, however, I suspect that it’s bollocks.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Mako for England

Some interesting choices in England’s squad for the Autumn internationals, with uncapped forwards Mako Vunipola and Tom Youngs joining the squad alongside the returning Ugo Monye and James Haskell.

Vunipola’s selection is an especially bold one given that he’s still just 21 and no doubt, given his Tongan heritage, there will be those who claim that he is simply not English enough, despite the fact that he came to these shores as a youngster in 1998 and has graduated through the England Under 18s and Under 20s, much like Manu Tuilagi before him.

On the flipside, I’m a little disappointed with the selection of Monye ahead of, say, Jonny May. Nothing against Monye per se – he’s been in fine form by all accounts – but if England are to develop an attacking game to rival the best in 2015 it would have been great to see if the likes of May is up to the mark.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Fat Sam's Speakeasy...

Had to laugh at the recent assertions by West Ham manager, “Big” Sam Allardyce, that crticism of footballers is motivated by jealousy.

According to Allardyce… “a footballer kicks somebody, or does something that’s slightly untoward to the rules and it’s ‘lock them away, ban them for life’”.

Meanwhile “…nobody seems to highlight the fact that rugby players stamp on each others heads, gouge each others eyes, and that seems to be acceptable.”

I am not going to dignify Allardyce’s comments with a response – save to say that anyone who thought it was a good idea to sign Alan Smith and Joey Barton while manager of Newcastle United deserves no respect whatsoever.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Such a shame...

Back to being an old fogey traditionalist and in stark contrast to my last post, I must admit to being disappointed by the news that the iconic All Black shirt will now be adorned with a sponsor's logo.

It's such a shame that commercial reality has finally caught up with the All Blacks who, shirt manufacturer aside, had managed to keep their coveted shirt free from such vulgarity, unlike every other rugby playing nation.

I suppose we should congratulate them really for holding out for so long...

Thursday, 18 October 2012

RWC getting it right...

I’m intrigued by the news that South Leicester’s Member of Parliament intends to call for a parliamentary debate on the decision not to include Welford Road on the list stadiums under consideration for the Rugby World Cup in 2015.

The argument appears to be that Welford Road should be included for largely nostalgic reasons - as it has hosted games in previous World Cups and is the home to the “iconic” Leicester Tigers.

The counter-argument, from England Rugby 2015, is that the pitch is too small, the area around the pitch is too narrow and there is not enough space to accommodate the host broadcasters.

There also happens to be an alternative venue in Leicester – the horribly named King Power Stadium – which ticks all of the boxes and which has a greater capacity.

This may upset Tigers fans, but I’m with the organisers on this one. As evidenced by much of this blog, I am a huge supporter of nostalgia and tradition, but if the Olympics showed us anything it was that world class sporting events require world class venues.

England 2015 is right to think big. It has an opportunity to stage a truly world class tournament for which world class stadia with world class facilities will be needed.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Alive - 40 years on

Only just realised that last weekend (13th October) marked the 40th anniversary of one of the greatest survival stories ever – the crash in the Andes of a plane carrying Old Christians Rugby Club to a match in Chile.


The remarkable story of how the survivors of the crash kept themselves alive by eating the flesh of dead passengers is well known, having been immortalised in the movie Alive.

40 years on and it’s still an incredible story and fitting that the anniversary was marked by a match featuring veterans of the disaster against Old Grangonian, the team they were due to play on that fateful day in October in 1972.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Badgers!

Somewhat off topic, but this is the state of my back garden following an all-night rave by local badgers last night.

 A much-discussed badger cull is due to start this autumn in Gloucestershire. This may upset Brian May and other animal lovers but I'll be rounding up all the local badgers and buying each of them first-class train tickets to Gloucester.


Tuesday, 9 October 2012

The other is in the Albert Hall...

One of my birthday cards last month bore a caption along the lines of:

Football is a game played by men who roll around pretending to be injured. Rugby is a game played by men pretending not to be.

Never was this more amply demonstrated than by Paul Wood of Warrington Wolves who played on for 20 minutes in SuperLeague’s Grand Final against Leeds at the weekend with a ruptured right bollock.

Admittedly this was League and not Union but I am prepared to give credit where it’s due. Wood’s knacker apparently swelled to the size of a tennis ball before having to be removed in hospital that evening. Just writing about it makes me feel slightly nauseous.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Southern Comfort

Congrats to New Zealand, inaugural winners of the Southern Hemisphere’s Tournament formerly known as the Tri Nations (#) following their 51-14 win over Argentina at the weekend. It seems that the All Blacks are some way clear of the chasing pack at the moment (again).

As for Argentina – their progress has pretty much been the only point of interest in this tournament for this blogger and, although so far winless, by and large it appears they have been competitive and have fully justified their long overdue inclusion in mainstream international rugby. Good luck to them at home against the Aussies this weekend.

(#) – which marketing genius came up with the name “The Rugby Championship”? Crap name which, certainly up here in the north, carries with it connotations of a very much second-tier competition. Sometimes rugby does itself no favours.

Friday, 28 September 2012

48

48 years young today and where did I celebrate? At Bishopswood Hospital, seeing an orthopaedic consultant about my increasingly sore and immobile left shoulder.
The verdict? Frozen shoulder - "a chronic fibrosing condition in which the fibroblast cells become overactive and lay down abnormally thick layers of collagen causing a marked thickening of the shoulder joint capsule." Apparently.

Options? Continued physio and painkillers in the hope that it goes away, failing which I may have to go under the knife. Happy Birthday to me.

It’s almost certainly yet another sign of me getting on a bit – and I’ve just realised where I went wrong. Unlike All Black captain St. Richie of McCaw, I was never granted a season-long sabbatical (a rest period he apparently needs to have any chance of playing in the 2015 RWC).

Personally I remain unconvinced that St. Richie's plan will work – after all, arguably I did manage a 14-season sabbatical between 1994 and 2007 and yet have never featured in a World Cup....go figure.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Lost in France?

I had to smirk at the news that Bath fly-half Olly Barkley is joining Racing Metro 92 in Paris at the end of the month.

Barkley has spent his entire career at the Rec apart from one season. That one season was at Gloucester, a 50 mile move up the M5, where he failed to settle.

What could possibly go wrong?

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Revealed

And so the wait is over. That famous old British manufacturer, Canterbury of New Zealand, has (following a teaser campaign that had us on the edge of our seats in anticipation) finally revealed its revolutionary new kit design for the England rugby team.

And the verdict? Pleasantly surprised – at least as far as the home kit goes. After all, you can’t go too far wrong with a traditional white shirt, white shorts and navy (or "midnight blue") socks. As ever, I’d have liked a collar but you can’t have everything.

There is, of course, the usual gimmicky nonsense, with the slogan ENGLANDCONNECTED - which "acts as a reminder of the rugby family" - apparently embroidered on the inside of the sleeve.

And no England kit announcement would be complete without the expected ridiculous away kit (this time in a colour that won't show the red wine stains from post-match festivities - somewhat ironically modelled by Danny Care). Officially it's "regal purple" - which according to the RFU "reinforces England's position as a member of rugby royalty". Good grief.

All in all, however, I’d say we’ve dodged a bullet on this one.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Bloodied & Muddied

A bit late in noticing this one, but I was sorry to see that, after 5 years, Lee over at Blood & Mud has decided to call it quits and close his excellent blog.

Entertaining, witty and informative is a difficult combination to pull off (I should know - I’ve been trying and failing for some time now) but Blood & Mud managed it with enviable regularity. I fully understand how pressures on time can lead to dwindling output but it’s a shame nevertheless and Lee’s unique contribution to the rugby blogosphere will definitely be missed.

Monday, 17 September 2012

In the clear...

It seems Chris Ashton will not suffer any disciplinary action, from either Saracens or England, following his nightclub altercation on Saturday night. Quite right too, given that on the face of it he was the victim of some have-a-go moron who attempted to headbutt and then glass him.

I do wonder, however, why the penny hasn’t dropped for many professional rugby players. I know this will sound incredibly old fogeyish, but it can hardly come as a surprise to learn that nightclubs on a Saturday night often = trouble. Take a look inside any A & E department on a Saturday night for ample evidence.

Staying out of trouble really isn’t that difficult.

Nevin Spence RIP

Terribly sad news about the death of young Ulster centre Nevin Spence, together with his brother and father, in an accident on the family’s farm on Saturday evening.


Not much else I can say really – RIP.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Bring on 2015

Following the superb and memorable Olympic and Paralympic Games we have a wonderful opportunity, with the Rugby World Cup in England in 2015, to stage another truly world-class sporting event.

A great start has been made with Debbie Jevans, the highly respected director of sport at the Olympics, being appointed as CEO of England Rugby 2015 and with the prospect of rugby being played in the Olympic stadium.

I must say I’m intrigued by the possibility that the Olympic stadium might be used for the Rugby World Cup. I’ve been to the stadium twice in recent weeks and it’s superb – for athletics. Whether it can be modified to accommodate a rugby audience successfully and still be used for major athletics events in the future (which really should be the stadium's legacy), however, remains to be seen.

I really hope so because it’s a fantastic venue in a fantastic position – the Olympic Park is an ideal place for international fans to meet and mingle and it’s far better positioned than Twickenham, for instance, to bring top class rugby to London.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

In the money...



Wow. Premiership Rugby’s exclusive £152 million 4 year deal with BT looks like being a bit of a game changer.

Not only will English clubs now be rolling in cash (and I wonder how long the salary cap will now last), the fact that the new BT deal will incorporate exclusive rights to European games from 2014 means that the clubs can now call all the shots. ERC may be upset but ultimately money talks – put simply Europe needs the English clubs more than the English clubs need Europe.

Of course, with money come money-related problems. No doubt players will expect a significant hike in salaries – as if we didn’t already have enough mercenaries in the game – and if we’re not careful rugby will become so reliant on TV money that the sport would simply collapse without it (although to be fair we may already have passed that point some time ago).

As for the humble rugby consumer, he/she is now expected to fork out yet another monthly fee to yet another TV supplier. I don’t suppose the suits at Premiership Rugby give a rat’s arse but they really should – there’s a limit to how much they can expect us to spend to watch what has often been, let’s be honest, a fairly mediocre product.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Sorry end to sad saga


I also can't say I'm hugely impressed by the somewhat gutless announcement that the RFU has apologised to former chairman Martyn Thomas for the comments made against him in last year's controversial Blackett Report.

The original report, commissioned by Thomas and his Management Board, concluded that Thomas and nine other non-executive directors on the Management Board should resign, having taken evidence from 65 witnesses on a confidential basis. A subsequent report, led by Charles Flint QC, then concluded that there was no “solid evidence” against Thomas (hardly surprising given that it was collected confidentially) since when the RFU has been under threat of a defamation writ from their former chairman.

This week’s announcement seemingly brings an end to this pathetic, laughable saga. The RFU may be gutless but at least it seems it's finally all over.

Lions get wrong King?

Can't say I'm massively happy with the appointment of Warren Gatland as Lions head coach for the 2013 tour to Australia.

There's no doubt he's a good coach and was clearly favourite for the role, but there's something that sticks in the throat about having to have a Kiwi lead a Lions tour.

I don't think of myself as a xenophobe, but the Lions job really should be the ultimate ambition for any coach on these islands whereas Wazza's ultimate ambitions undoubtedly lie elsewhere, as did those of the Right Reverend Graham Henry before him.

By appointing Gatland I can't help feeling that we are effectively helping him enhance his knowledge and experience for the day he takes over the main job in the Land of the Long White Cloud which, frankly, is the last thing we should be doing.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Get well soon

Best wishes to London Irish and Scotland centre Joe Ansbro who has suffered a broken neck while playing in a pre-season match against Munster.

Ansbro apparently has a triple fracture of the C1 vertebrae at the top of his spine - the good news, however, is that there seems to be no nerve damage. 

No idea what the long term prognosis might be - it appears he could be back playing in 3 months but the main thing is that he recovers to lead an active life - rugby can wait.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Back in Blighty

Back after 2 weeks of 40 degree heat in Turkey and welcomed by cold drizzle at Luton Airport at 1.30 this morning - SO glad to be home!

Did I miss much? Apparently not, other than another (surprise, surprise) injury to the Artist Formerly Known as Gavin Church, a promising start by the Argentinians to the tournament formerly known as the Tri-Nations and the apparent sacking of Northampton hooker Brett Sharman following an alleged racist tweet on Twitter about British Olympic hero, Mo Farah. What a prat (that's Sharman, not Farah!).

I have to admit I'm still buzzing 2 weeks after the Olympics and very much looking forward to the imminent Paralympics in London. There's a most definite feelgood factor in British sport from which rugby in these parts can benefit - and I'm hoping in particular that the RFU can take a long hard look at the likes of British Rowing and British Cycling and realise that it is possible to produce consistent and sustainable excellence (and not only in sitting down sports).