Saturday, 28 April 2012

Tigers get shirty

Tiger! Tiger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

This, apparently, is the new Leicester Tigers shirt for next season, as designed by new kit partner Canterbury.

I have no real interest in Leicester (other then having played against their Colts team many moons ago) but this is just truly horrible.

And yes, I do see what Canterbury have done by weaving the traditional Leicester colours into ‘Tiger’ stripes - it must have taken at least a few seconds to come up with that stroke of genius.

Canterbury will become England’s kit partner later this year and, on this evidence, the omens are not good.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Wasps refreshing the parts...

Bizarre news today that, after a truly miserable season, Wasps may somehow end up with a place in next season's Heineken Cup draw. This despite currently being under threat of both relegation and administration.

If either Clermont Auvergne (not beyond the realms of possibility) or Edinburgh (not so likely) win this year's competition then apparently Wasps, as the next best ERC ranked team based on their European performances in over the past 4 seasons, would secure the 24th place in next season’s tournament (provided always that they can retain their Premiership status with a single bonus point against Newcastle in the final game of the season).

No, I don’t understand it either.

Thursday, 26 April 2012


Well done to Chesham RFC’s 3rd XV who, by virtue of their victory over Letchworth 4ths last Saturday, were crowned winners of the Herts & Middlesex Merit Table 7 Plate.

No, I’ve no idea what that is either but, hey, don’t knock it - a trophy is a trophy.
The reason I mention it is that a number of former colleagues from the Vets XV now play for the 3rds (a 3rd XV having replaced the Vets at Chesham a couple of seasons back). I guess, therefore, that it’s the team I’d play for at Chesham if I could be arsed – there are reasons (excuses) why I haven’t been playing but ultimately it’s my loss.
Congrats to all involved...

This is likely to happen...

...before David Campese coaches England.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Pilou Pilou

News from across the Channel where, in a somewhat surprising move, reasonably well-heeled owner of RC Toulonnais, Mourad Boudjellal, is set to announce that his club will now sign every player currently plying their trade in northern hemisphere rugby.

Toulon have already confirmed that they will next season add the likes of Gethin Jenkins, Delon & Guy Armitage, Andrew Sheridan, Chris Masoe, Maxime Mermoz and Frederic Michalak to their collection of galacticos at the Stade Mayol.

The constant announcements have, however, put a strain on the club’s resources.
“It’s easier this way,” a club spokesman told us. “If a player reaches the end of his contract at his club, whoever he is, I think it’s safe to assume that we’ll sign him.

“Have you any idea how much time and effort I have to put in to announcing new signings? Sometimes I even have to interrupt my lunch.

“The salary cap? Sorry I don’t understand the question.”
In other news, out-of-contract former England centre Mike Tindall is still searching for a club for next season.

Monday, 23 April 2012

All a bit smelly...

No matter how it's dresssed up, Bryan Redpath's resignation last week as Gloucester’s head coach still stinks.

Recent poor results were given as the reason behind his departure. Pull the other one.

Sale Sharks insist that it was nothing to do with them, despite Redpath having been linked with the Director of Rugby vacancy there for weeks. Sale's CEO Steve Diamond insists that no contact was made with Redpath or his agent before his resignation but that, now that Redpath had resigned, Sale would be interested.

And yet a couple of weeks ago Diamond claimed that all interviews for the position had been concluded and that an announcemnt would follow. A few days later Redpath resigned as Glocuester coach. Coincidence? I think not.

Once bitten...?

21-year-old Namibian lock Andre de Klerk has achieved the dubious distinction of becoming first player ever to be banned twice for using anabolic steroids.

The IRB announced that De Klerk has received an 8 year ban, having tested positive for the anabolic agent testosterone in August 2011 while still serving a 2 year ban after testing positive for methandienone in 2009.

De Klerk admitted to taking Animal Stak, marketed as a testosterone and growth hormone in one. Sadly for De Klerk it does exactly what is says on the tin.

Thursday, 19 April 2012


The appointment by Wales of Rob Howley as caretaker Head Coach for the forthcoming summer tour of Australia is a strange one.

Yes, Warren Gatland needs to focus on recovering from his broken heels incurred recently in New Zealand while doing a George Formby impression, but what of Shaun Edwards, widely thought of as Gatland's right hand man?

Howley, who played under Edwards for Wasps, appears now to have leapfrogged his former coach in the Wales pecking order.

I wonder if Stuart Lancaster has Shaun Edwards on speed-dial?

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Nike's Revenge

It appears that Nike's final act as the kit supplier to the RFU has been to stick luminous yellow reflective strips onto the kit of the England Sevens teams.

The new kit, modelled here by Chris Cracknell and Michaela Staniford, will feature at the final two tournaments of the World Series in Glasgow and London next month.

Nike, who will be replaced by Canterbury as England kit supplier from September, look as if they might have the last laugh with this effort - unless, of course, it is all part of a cunning plan by the RFU to play the London Sevens in the dark.

Back in touch (again)

How time flies. It’s that time of year again. Warm, balmy summer evenings and Total Flanker frolicking about the touch rugby fields of Chesham.

Well, maybe not quite. More like damp, chilly evenings and yours truly huffing and puffing his way through a first touch rugby session of the so-called summer.

Last night was the first practice session (we’ve a couple more before the ‘season’ kicks in) and the turn out, considering the weather conditions, was nothing short of phenomenal - which bodes well for the season but which might present the organisers with a logistical headache. Anyway, last night a few old lags mixed in with some touch rookies and it worked out pretty well. Nothing too taxing but enough to get the old heart and lungs working again as I emerge from my winter hibernation.

It very much looks like the bulk of last year’s team will be back in the saddle. This year the team name has a working title of ‘The Bridesmaids’ on the basis that we’ve finished runners-up the last 2 years (always the bridesmaid, never the bride). No, I didn’t get it first time either.

Watch this space…

Michael Lynagh - Get Well Soon

Shocking news earlier today that former Aussie fly-half Michael Lynagh is reported to have suffered a stroke.

The 48 year old is in intensive care at Royal Brisbane and Womens Hospital undergoing extensive tests after reportedly complaining of dizziness while eating dinner with friends on Monday night.

One of my all time favourite players and a true ambassador of the game, my fingers are firmly crossed for his speedy recovery.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Bell end

Setting aside my unfailingly puerile sense of humour (and with immediate apologies for the headline), I was surprised to learn that Bath and England prop Duncan Bell, who has just announced his retirement, has been suffering from depression for the past 10 years.

My first reaction was "he's a prop - they're never happy" and I admit it’s difficult for me and, I imagine, most people to comprehend how such a larger-than-life character as Bell, all 19½ stone of him, could suffer with such an affliction. As we’ve previously seen with cricketers such as Marcus Trescothick and Steve Harmison, however, depression is no respecter of reputation.

It is to Bell’s great credit that he is now courageously confronting his illness head on, having previously thought that admitting to depression would be a “a sign of weakness” and an “admission of failure”. Time, then, to ditch the good old British stiff upper lip - coming forward to discuss his personal demons can only help to raise awareness of the issue and, hopefully, help others who may be suffering in silence.

Good luck to Bell in his retirement and his continuing battle.

Monday, 16 April 2012

No, Minister

News today that 17 year old Jonathan Spelman, son of Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman, has been banned for 21 months by the RFU after admitting taking prohibited substances.

The former England under 16 and Harlequins player apparently took a cocktail of testosterone, drostanolone, growth hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin, clomid and nolvadex in order to try to recover from an injury suffered playing in a school match. How times have changed – when I snapped my thumb in a school match in 1982 I was offered nothing stronger than a couple of paracetamol :(

His parents having failed in their attempts to prevent him being named by way of a privacy injunction, astonishingly Spelman has decided to appeal the 21 month ban - all of which suggests he is not being advised very well at all…

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Wayne's World?

Who to believe?

According to the Daily Fail, RFU are poised to finalise terms with Wayne Smith next week now that Andy Farrell has decided to stay with Sarries.

The Grauniad and Torygraph insist, however, that Smith has received no contact from the RFU and the Torygraph has former Wasps fly half Alex King, currently backs coach at Clermont Auvergne, in pole position.

So, who to believe?

I’m sure Smith would be an asset to any team, but Lancaster’s tenure so far has been based on growing a team, both on and off the field, for 2015. A young and innovative backs coach, in the form of King, certainly fits the bill and I would also add defensive expertise – Dave Ellis, perhaps or, if a young coach is to be preferred, maybe someone like Neil Back?

What’s clear is that the decision has to be Stuart Lancaster’s. Having appointed him as head coach the RFU must allow him to have the final say.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

When he's Cleaning Windows

When Warren's on his holidays
He's up a ladder every day
Cleaning windows is his way
When he's cleaning windows

Up the ladder, time to think
Away from barbeques and drink
He's feeling great, he's in the pink
When he's cleaning windows

Thinking Wales and Lions and all
His mind’s not on the job at all
It’s no wonder that he falls
When he's cleaning windows

Warren, tell us how it feels
To have broken both your heels
And do you get about on wheels
When you're cleaning windows?

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Europe - does it matter?

OK, time for a few stats…

In 2000, 2001 and 2002 English clubs won the Heineken Cup, a fact oft-quoted as one of the reasons behind England’s RWC victory in 2003.
However, since 2003 English clubs (i.e. Wasps) have won the trophy twice (2004 and 2007) whilst finishing as losing finalists 3 times – Leicester in 2007 and 2009 and Northampton in 2011. During this time England have won one measly Six Nations Championship (in 2011). In the same period Wales have won 3 Grand Slams and yet no Welsh team has ever featured in a Heineken Cup Final (at least, not since Cardiff in the inaugural final in 1996, when no English teams took part).

So, although obviously important to clubs for the revenue it brings, as far as the England rugby team is concerned does club success in Europe actually matter? Although well aware that there are “lies, damned lies and statistics,” the above stats would suggest not.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Wasps Stung

Talks to sell London Wasps have apparently broken down, raising the very real possibility of the club going into administration.

The club, who have been looking for a new owner since last summer after Wycombe District Council rejected plans for the construction of a new stadium, now “urgently need a new investor” and, although an official statement confirmed that London Wasps Holdings Limited remains “a going concern,” all does not appear to be well.

Embroiled in a relegation battle and with current owner Steve Hayes having been arrested on suspicion of computer-hacking, Wasps are now seemingly running out of cash – a dramatic fall from grace for the club who were European Champions only 5 short years ago.

Wasps’ plight puts the whole debate around the salary cap into context. English clubs can’t compete in Europe, we are led to believe, because the salary cap in England is dwarfed by the equivalent cap in France.

Whether or not this theory has any merit, it massively misses the point i.e. that the current structure of the professional game in England is unsustainable in the long term. Simply put, there isn’t enough money in the game to sustain 24 professional clubs.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Yoda to Return?

Returning to England fold?
Speculation in certain media circles suggests that Stuart Lancaster’s coaching team in South Africa this summer may include none other than former England head coach Brian Ashton.

A strange appointment on the face of it but, on closer inspection, perhaps not so silly. Ashton’s international experience and attacking nous might be a very astute addition to the England ‘brains trust’ and a dream ticket of Gordon Brittas and Yoda could be just what England needs.

Whether he would contemplate working for his former employers again, however, remains to be seen.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

England = South Africa 'B'?

The prospect of England turning into a South Africa 'B' XV would, on the face of it, appear to be closer with Sarries’ Ernst Joubert declaring his availability from the end of June when he qualifies on residency grounds.

If selected, Joubert would join Messrs Botha, Barritt and Stevens in the England squad, but those Little Englanders getting a little hot under the collar at the prospect really needn’t bother.

As Joubert himself says, with the emergence of Ben Morgan at no. 8 there is nothing to suggest that he is needed in the squad. Joubert’s a fine player, but if Lancaster & Co are serious about building towards 2015, shipping in a 31 year old South African, as what can only ever be a short-term solution, is a non-starter.

Mind you, if he was an openside…

Monday, 2 April 2012

Here we go again

It comes as no surprise to learn that the artist formerly known as Gavin Church is back in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Cardiff Blues have terminated his contract following his drunken antics aboard a flight home from Glasgow to Cardiff early Saturday morning. Getting pissed and chucking ice cubes around an aeroplane is, in itself, hardly a hanging offence. As one of an ever-growing series of drunken misdemeanors, however, it paints a pretty damning picture.

That the penny seems not to have dropped so far for the 30 year old mahogany Welsh centre suggests that it never will. The question is, will another team be desperate enough to take him on?

In the Daily Torygraph Brian Moore likens Henson’s career to a “Shakespearean tragedy”. I disagree - it's more like a good old British farce.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

The Last Post?

This may turn out to be my last post on this blog.

It appears that my regular criticism of what goes on in the corridors of power at Twickenham has finally caught the attention of someone important.

Yesterday I received a letter from a firm of solicitors purportedly acting for the RFU which accused me of, amongst other things:
- breaching the RFU’s intellectual property rights (in particular in respect of my so-called "obsession" with the England rugby kit); and

- publishing libellous comments about employees and other representatives of the RFU.
The letter demanded that I cease and desist from making derogatory comments in relation to the RFU, that I publish a full retraction of all such comments and that I give an undertaking not to make such comments in the future.

I can tell you now that I am not prepared to publish any such retraction nor give any such undertaking.

However, given that the letter makes it clear that I may be subject to injunctive relief and damages and being in no position financially to fight an expensive legal battle, I may have no option but to cease blogging altogether. If this is the case may I say a big thank you for your support and forbearance over the past 4 years and 11 months - please know that it has been very much appreciated.

So this might be it. It might be goodbye. It’s been emotional.