Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Fighting Talk

The punch-up between fans at last Friday evening’s Bristol v Exeter match at Ashton Gate is more than a tad concerning.

A fundamental part of rugby and one of its greatest appeals is that spectators can sit together and enjoy the game. To date rugby has not had to suffer the blight of crowd trouble and it is vital that this never changes.

The fact that Bristol have pledged to investigate fully is a start. That the incident has provoked such a furore is also a promising sign, demonstrating that the type of behaviour witnessed on Friday will not and must not be tolerated by decent rugby folk.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Bizarre story of the week

Surreal goings on this week at Birmingham Crown Court where international fell runner, Lauren Jeska, pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of the former Bristol rugby centre, Ralph Knibbs.

Knibbs, now head of human resources and welfare for UK Athletics, played over 400 times for Bristol back in the eighties/nineties, once famously turning down the chance to tour South Africa with England in 1984 owing to his opposition to apartheid.

In March this year he suffered life-threatening injuries to the head and neck having been stabbed by Jeska with two six-inch kitchen knives in a premeditated attack at the UK Athletics offices. This followed  news that UK Athletics were reviewing her status as a female athlete after it emerged that she had been born a man.

Quite what she was hoping to achieve by trying to kill Mr Knibbs remains unclear. It probably seemed a good idea at the time.

Best wishes to Ralph Knibbs on his continued recovery from what sounds like a pretty horrific ordeal.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Nice one BOD

Congratulations to former Wales fly half Jonathan Davies (53) on his recent marriage to Jay Thorburn (41).

Chapeau, however, to Brian O'Driscoll for his congratulatory tweet:

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

The Curious Case of Chris Ashton

So, a 13 week ban for Chris Ashton for biting the arm of Saints prop Alex Waller at the weekend.

Ashton is a strange one. By all accounts a decent bloke and well-liked off the pitch, when he crosses the whitewash onto the field of play he appears to have the seemingly never-ending capacity to behave like an idiot.

Whether it's the ludicrously self-indulgent 'Ash Splash', or pulling an opponent's hair, or being banned for gouging against Ulster, or shouting at the opposition kicker to trying to put him off, or shoving someone in the back, or chewing down on an opponent's forearm, the list goes on...

Saracens are a loyal club and are rallying around their errant player.

"There is one rule for Chris Ashton and one rule for every other professional rugby player in England,” says former Sarries CEO Edward Griffiths.

Sorry, Eddie, but that's utter bollocks - there comes a time when you have to stop excusing a player's lack of self discipline and read him the riot act.

If not now, when?

Wednesday, 14 September 2016


This is nine-year-old Meaalofa Te'o playing in a recent rugby league junior festival in Australia - the video going viral under the title "Kid Goes Beast Mode".

On the face of it all very impressive but - at the risk of being a killjoy - you have to query the value of a kid built like this playing against players half his size.

He's not learning anything other than how to make use of his size and strength advantage. His opponents are not learning anything other than it's not a great idea to get in his way. And his team mates are not learning anything other than to give him the ball and sit back and watch.

If ever there was evidence in support of grading kids by size and weight rather than age, this is it.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Amazing Grace

Playing for the Bletchley women’s team earlier this year, prop Gracie Matthews dislocated her knee, severing blood vessels which meant that doctors had to amputate her leg just above the knee.
I became aware of Gracie’s plight in March when my son’s then Under 13 team played a friendly against their counterparts from Watford RFC who were raising money to aid Gracie’s cause.
What I wasn’t aware of, until recently, was that Gracie then applied to the RFU Injured Players Foundation – set up to assist catastrophically injured players – and that her application was turned down.
It seems that a leg amputation is not serious enough to warrant the support of the IPF whose focus, apparently, is directed only towards serious spine and head injuries.
It’s a decision that appears to be unbelievably harsh. While of course I appreciate that the IPF can’t fund every injury, I'd say a leg amputation is pretty damned catastrophic by anyone’s standards.
Let’s hope the IPF reconsider and that Gracie gets the support she needs.

Saturday, 10 September 2016


There’s been justifiable criticism this week of the decision by New Zealand Rugby to clear Waikato Chiefs players of sexually assaulting a stripper.

A stripper at the Chiefs' end-of-season party claimed that players aggressively crowded around her, touched her inappropriately and refused to pay her fully.

While I suspect that the latter allegation is what really upset her, you have to ask yourself why a high profile professional sporting organisation would hire a stripper in the first place and allow this sort of neanderthal behaviour to occur?

Thirty years ago nobody would have batted an eyelid but most of the world now, thankfully, resides in the 21st century.

It would be nice if New Zealand Rugby could join us.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Ban the Tackle?

Scientists and doctors have again called for tackling in school rugby to be banned.

Researchers from the Sport Collision Injury Collective (which I assume is a thing) claim that kids are at risk of serious injury, pointing out that tackling is responsible for nearly 64% of all injuries and 87% of concussions.

They also make the very valid point that many PE teachers in schools are not qualified to coach the game and yet full contact rugby is compulsory in 73% of schools in England.

I’m not about to question the facts. The conclusion – banning tackling in schools – is, however, something of a leap.

I know I've covered this previously but there are 3 fairly obvious alternative solutions:

- Review tackling laws in general for under 18s (with emphasis on outlawing the full frontal chest tackle);

- Ensure that PE staff are properly trained; and

- Make full contact rugby non-compulsory, so only those who want to play are taught to tackle.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Head case

It was only a matter of time.

Former Ireland Under 21 scrum-half Cillian Willis is suing the Sale Sharks over the concussion that ended his career, claiming that the club was clinically negligent.

In 2013 Willis -  a cousin of Ireland legend Brian O’Driscoll - suffered 2 head injuries while playing for Sale in an LV Cup match against Saracens but was allowed to continue playing by the Sale medical team. He was subsequently advised to retire having suffered previous concussions.

I suspect that this is only the tip of the iceberg and Willis won't be the last rugby player to bring the game to account for its mismanagement of concussion.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Worst kept secret revealed...

And so the 2017 British & Irish Lions coach will be…taah daah…Warren Gatland.

Quel surprise.

To be honest, given the ridiculous tour schedule and lack of preparation time, I’m surprised Gatland has accepted the role this time around.

As things stand, the Lions are due to depart for NZ before the Premiership and Pro12 finals take place and then face a 10 match itinerary including 3 Tests and all 5 NZ Super Rugby franchises.

As the old saying goes, the Lions have have two hopes: Bob Hope and No Hope. And Bob Hope is dead.

Traditionally I’m a great fan of the Lions but this is nuts.

They must be paying Gatland a shedload of cash.