Monday, 29 February 2016

Give it to Billy

One note of caution regarding England's Six Nations campaign so far - they appear to rely way too much on Billy Vunipola getting over the gain line.

You can see where Eddie Jones is taking the team - get behind the oppo defence, then use the passing ability of Ford and Farrell to put runners into the wider channels - but the tactic is currently heavily reliant on Billy V making the hard yards.

At times against Ireland "give it to Billy" appeared to be England's default setting. More often than not it worked, but England will undoubtedly need other players to share the burden against Wales.

And what will happen, heaven forbid, should Billy get injured?

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Six Nations Round 3: Verdict

Verdict on round 3 of the 2016 RBS Six Nations:

WALES – dominant against the abysmal French but much heralded attacking game yet to materialise. It's all a bit, well, predictable.

FRANCE – contributed in full to the worst game so far of a mediocre championship. Guirado aside, they were truly appallling.

SCOTLAND – well done Scotland, held it together for their first Six Nations win in a long, long time. Sighs of relief all round.

ITALY – lacked composure when it was needed and guilty once more of a somewhat dysfunctional over-reliance on Sergio Parisse 

IRELAND – desperate and heroic first half defence finally crumbled at Twickenham. Not far from being a very, very good team though.

ENGLAND - overcame a stubborn Ireland and pedantic referee to record third win. Still too many errors, but evidence now of where Eddie Jones is trying to take this team...

Team of round 3;
15. Hogg (Sco) 14. Seymour (Sco) 13. J Davies (Wal) 12. McCluskey (Ire) 11. Watson (Eng) 10. Sexton (Ire) 9. G Davies (Wal) (Eng) 1. Dickinson (Sco) 2. Guirado (Fra) 3. Cole (Eng) 4. Itoje (Eng) 5. AW Jones (Wal) 6. Barclay (Sco) 7. Warburton (Wal) 8. B.Vunipola (Eng).

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

French farce - the gift that keeps on giving

More embarrassment for Guy Noves and the FFR?

Last Sunday Castres winger, David Smith, was called into France’s squad ahead of this weekend’s 6N fixture against Wales, only for it to emerge that Smith, who was born and raised in Samoa, had played for New Zealand sevens in a tournament in 2008 and was therefore ineligible for France.

And today it was discovered that Matt Giteau, called into the squad to replace Smith, is also ineligible.

“He’s been playing in France since 2011, so we thought it would be okay,” Noves told L’Equipe, the French sports newspaper.

“But it transpires that he has won 102 caps for Australia, which we weren’t aware of and which apparently makes him ineligible. I thought the rules had changed and that he could play for France, especially since he has a French sounding name. Quel dommage.”

France have today called little-known Fijian winger, Joe Rokocoko of Racing Metro 92, into the squad.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Six Nations 2016…the story so far...

Any Six Nations after a World Cup is a curious beast. And 2016 is no different, if anything being even more of a basket case than usual given the failure of any of the participating nations to reach the last four of the World Cup.

And, yes, yes, I’m well aware that the Scots were a mere Craig “Running Man” Joubert call away from making the semi-finals in the autumn, but just look at what that near miss has done for them now. All bright-eyed, bushy–tailed and full of confidence going into this tournament, they were lucky to finish second in a two horse race against England and, whilst much improved against Wales, when it really mattered in Cardiff the Scottish defence vanished like a fart in the wind. A scrap for the wooden spoon now beckons with Italy ('twas ever thus) and, possibly, Ireland.

Talking of Italy, at least they appear to be blooding a few new faces this tournament and in Carlo Canna may, just may, have finally found a worthy successor to Diego Dominguez at fly half. Judging on the first 140 minutes of this Six Nations the Italians also appear to be developing an effective all-court game, away from their traditional forward power play. All they need to do now is persuade talisman Sergio Parisse to just get on with doing his job and to stop trying, much like the big kid in an under 13s team, to win matches single handedly.

Moving on to the French, 2 wins from 2 suggests at the very least that they could be title contenders. But surely not? Each year we churn out stereotypical bollocks about the “mercurial” French but, on the evidence of what we’re seeing so far this year, for “mercurial” read “a total and utter shambles". Serge Blanco would be spinning in his grave - if he was dead...and not quite so fat.

That Ireland, held together largely by sticking plaster, could not beat the French rabble in Paris is, I'm sorry to say, a sad indictment of their current attacking nous. Yes, of course no one can deny that they’ve had more than their fair share of injuries and yes, the retirement of Paul O’Connell was bound to have an effect, but Ireland still controlled large chunks of their first 2 games without having the wherewithal to find a way win. The Irish game currently has all the spontaneity of an accountant's spreadsheet. Ireland look predictable and, whisper it quietly, over-coached.

Speaking of predictable, early indications from the Welsh camp that they intended to play a wider game appear to have been…ahem...wide of the mark. Picking 2 open side flankers is all very well, but is a tad pointless if all your centres do all day is bosh the ball up the middle. Dr. Roberts is a mountain of a man but if Warrenball is to evolve the Welsh must consider playing at least one player in the midfield who can pass the ball.

And so to England. Wins over perennial whipping boys Scotland and Italy really tell us very little about this England team, although it must be obvious to far better judges than myself that England cannot afford to continue with the slowest backrow in the history of christendom, that England’s captain is an inferior player to the chap understudying him on the bench and that persisting with an out-of-form 10 and an out-of-position 12 and expecting them to defend the inside channel against the likes of Messrs Henshaw & Roberts in the next two matches is a disaster of cataclysmic proportions waiting to happen.

Predictions? Really? Okay, go on then ... England to beat Ireland and Wales but then to slip up in Paris. France to lose to Wales but to beat Scotland and England. Wales to beat Scotland and France but to lose at Twickenham. Scotland to lose to France but to beat Ireland and Italy. Ireland's sole victory to come against the Italians, who finish with the wooden spoon.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Just realised...

The King is dead...

So I see New Zealand have decided to appoint Kieran Read to replace the retired Richie McCaw as captain.

So the best player in the world retires and is replaced as captain by...the best player in the world?

Not fair.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Fast Eddie strikes again...

Loving this quote from Eddie Jones this week:
“There’s no use talking to the press about it. You’ve got to play well, play like a Test player, dominate club rugby and show all the skills of a Test player. You can’t talk to the media about being a Test player, you’ve got to prove it.”
Although in this instance he was talking about Danny Cipriani, there are several other players, both inside and outside the current squad, to whom he could be referring.

Personally I find Fast Eddie's "I don't really care what you say" approach to the media quite refreshing - although perhaps he should have a quick coffee with Martin Johnson to check out just how vindictive good old British rugby hacks can be...

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Whatever Happened to: Tackling? - Part 2

Watching the 2nd week of the Six Nations unfold this weekend I was struck by the number of players suffering head injuries.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, the game has been getting increasingly brutal for years now and incidents of concussion and head injuries are very much at front of media scrutiny.

However, while it is clear from the increased focus on head injury protocols that the powers that be are taking the issue seriously, no one seems to be thinking about addressing the causes of such injuries.

I’m sure there’s no easy solution, but it strikes me that addressing the tendency of players to tackle high might be a start.

Take Jamie Roberts for example. His second half hit on Blair Cowan on Saturday - which saw him launch his considerable frame at Cowan’s upper chest and shoulder area with the inevitable consequence that contact was made with the Scot’s head – was, simply, dangerous. Roberts performed a similar assault (I really can’t describe it as a tackle, after all) on Robbie Henshaw last week and until the authorities outlaw the chest high impact tackle (and Roberts is by no means unique in his approach to tackling), head injuries will continue to proliferate.

It could be coincidental, but on a weekly basis I also see players in my son’s Under 13 team attempting chest high tackling rather than focussing on what they have been taught, that is to tackle around the waist and slide down to grip the legs.  If all they see at professional level is players trying to smash one another at chest level then I guess it should come as no surprise that young players should try to follow suit.

One thing is for sure, it’s an issue that is going to have to be addressed if the game is to have a healthy future.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Six Nations: Week 2 Verdict

Verdict on round 2 of the 2016 RBS Six Nations:

IRELAND – really should have beaten France. So many injuries now that I might declare myself available for the next match and I'm not Irish.

FRANCE – cynical, dirty and brutal enough to stay in the game until the bench rode to the rescue. How they are 2 wins from 2 is a mystery.

SCOTLAND – oh Scotland, so much better than last week but still no cigar. Lack of strength off the bench is hurting the team's chances.

WALES – more of the same from the Welsh until George North discovered that it was possible to run around a defender rather than through him.

ITALY – see last week's comment - brave, committed and impressive until the hour mark, then overrun.

ENGLAND - difficult to escape the conclusion that the team that finished the match v Italy was much stronger than the one that started it.

Team of round 2: 

15. Medard (Fr) 14. North (Wal) 13. Joseph (Eng) 12. Taylor (Sco) 11. Seymour (Sco) 10. Canna (Ita) 9. Care (Eng) 1. M.Vunipola (Eng) 2. Baldwin (Wal) 3. Slimani (Fra) 4. Kruis (Eng) 5. Charteris (Wal) 6. Stander (Ire) 7. Tipuric (Wal) 8. B.Vunipola (Eng).

Saturday, 13 February 2016

The Secret Diary of Jack Nowell’s Barnet (2016)

Hi there.

Jack Nowell's beautiful barnet here - back after a hiatus of 2 years - still stuck inside Jack's stinking, hideous scrum-cap.

I had hoped that by now my adoring fans would have risen up and demanded my release but, alas, no. I remain incarcerated, hidden way from the public's gaze, imprisoned against my will inside that blue eyesore.

Young Jack tells me I should be happy that he hasn't gone all sensible and opted for the hipster look - all shaved back and sides and bushy beard like that delightful chap Haskell - and that I should be grateful that he now at least allows my rat-tail to poke out somewhat apologetically from inside the scrum-cap.

I suppose he's right. It's probably only a matter of time before he grows up and becomes respectable. Perhaps I ought to be satisfied with my lot.

But NO! Let's be honest here - I AM BEAUTIFUL and I demand RESPECT!

Come on people, write to the RFU, email your local MP, text the Queen - and SET ME FREE!!!

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Happy Retirement POC

Good luck to Paul O'Connell who, having failed to recover from a serious hamstring injury sustained at the RWC, today announced his retirement from the game.

A true legend of the game and one of the greatest international lock forwards of all time, POC is rightly revered by Munster fans in particular, my personal favourite quip about him being:

Q: What colour is Paul O Connell’s blood?
A: Trick question. Paul O Connell does not bleed.


Monday, 8 February 2016

Six Nations round 1 - Verdict

So here’s the official TF verdict on round 1 of the 2016 RBS Six Nations:

ENGLAND – hardly a brave new world. Unspectacular, effective and a familiar propensity for giving away stupid penalties.

SCOTLAND – apparently the best side Scotland have had for years. The players clearly didn’t get the memo.

WALES – Warrenball 2.0. Plenty of bish. Lots of bosh. Subtle it wasn’t.

IRELAND – could easily have folded when faced with the Welsh 2nd half onslaught but held firm - encouraging, considering the experience missing from the team.

FRANCE – may one day discover that exciting, running rugby and robust forward play are not mutually exclusive. When that day comes, watch out.

ITALY – there’s only so often one can commend Italy’s bravery. Ultimately bottled the chance to beat France in Paris.

Team of round 1: 

15. Medard (Fr) 14. Nowell (Eng) 13. Campagnaro (It) 12. Roberts (Wal) 11. Vakatawa (Fr) 10. Priestland (Wal) 9. Murray (Ire) 1. McGrath (Ire) 2. Hartley (Eng) 3. Lee (Wal) 4. Kruis (Eng) 5. Biagi (Ita) 6. Stander (Ire) 7. Hardie (Sco) 8. B. Vunipola (Eng).

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Aye, aye, Cap'n Jack

My verdict on week one of Six Nations 2016 can come later - I'll just make do with this for now…

Chapeau: Rugby Banter Page

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Out of My League

Time once more to pick a Fantasy 6N team…


CLICK HERE, register, pick your team and enter League code 1262791-31244 to enter 'Out of My League'.

Just a bit of fun...

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Goggle it

World Rugby (aka the artist formerly known as the IRB) has recently announced that it is trialling “Rugby Goggles” in an effort to allow players who need to wear corrective lenses to do so safely while playing rugby.

The Rugby Goggles, manufactured by Italian company Raleri, have apparently undergone a series of rigorous tests designed to ensure that they are as safe as possible for use on the pitch.

Reports that there are also plans to trial post-match “Beer Goggles” appear wide of the mark, although an RFU spokesperson has confirmed that a proposal to introduce an England “rose-tinted” version of the Rugby Goggles is under consideration.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Total Flanker Approves #2

I know we probably shouldn't heap undue pressure on the shoulders of up-and-coming young players but, having watched Maro Itoje's immense performance against Bath this weekend, there's little doubt in my mind that the young Saracen should, at the very least, be in the England match day 23.

Have a TF seal of approval, young man.


Found it on Facebook:

Chapeau: Rugby Banter Page