Friday, 7 December 2012
Total Flanker Awards 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