Wednesday, 30 November 2016


News today that the Six Nations is being dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century (straight from the 19th) with the announcement that a new bonus points system will be trialled next year.

So it’s the standard  4 points for a win, 2 points for draw, 0 points for defeat, plus a bonus point for scoring 4 tries and a losing bonus point for defeat by seven points or less, but there is a twist…

Any team achieving the Grand Slam will be awarded an extra 3 bonus points, the idea being to prevent a team that wins all 5 matches being beaten to the Six Nations title by a team with four bonus point wins and a bonus point defeat. 

I can’t be arsed to do the maths, but in theory that looks as if it might work…

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Here’s a head scratcher...

How does Joe Launchbury get a 2 match ban for accidentally catching the head of an opponent - causing minimal (if any) damage - while Malakai Fekitoa only gets a one match ban for nearly decapitating an opponent and Sam Cane gets away scot free for laying out Robbie Henshaw with a dangerously high tackle?

I do get why Launchbury was punished. If you aim a kick at the ball in a ruck near an opponent’s head and you get it wrong, your actions are dangerous.

Likewise a swinging arm or a head high tackle is dangerous, no matter the intent.

Either punish all such actions (with consistent punishments), or deem them accidental and unworthy of sanction…

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Words of Wisdom

Former Samoa captain and Wasps backorder Dan Leo has spoken eloquently this week about the difficulties and challenges faced by Pacific Islanders playing rugby overseas.

My favourite quote:

“In my 49 Tests for Samoa never once did we have a man of the match award given out. To promote someone above the rest of the group was seen as a real no-no.”

Spot on.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

High Tackle Tackled?

It’s interesting to hear that World Rugby is considering a trial at youth level to outlaw tackling above the waist.

The proposed change is intended to be a concussion-prevention measure and there’s little doubt in my mind that the high “hit” is responsible for an increasing number of head injuries in rugby – both for the tackled player and the tackler. It therefore has to be worth experimenting with a change in the laws to see if a difference can be made.

Not that a law change in itself will solve the issue. Just as important will be coaching good tackling technique. I’ve seen a number of concussion injuries  - Dylan Hartley against France in Paris earlier this year, for instance (and, indeed, myself many moons ago) - caused by the tackler getting his head in the wrong position when trying to tackle low.

The emphasis, therefore, has to be on teaching kids good tackling skills at an early age and developing "best practice" tackling technique as they progress. The proposed law change will undoubtedly help, however, to reinforce what is being coached...

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Bad news, good news for Fiji

England will take on an upset Fiji this weekend.

The Fijians are, quite rightly, disappointed that they received no recognition whatsoever at last weekend’s World Rugby Awards, despite winning back to back World 7s Series titles and more importantly winning the country’s first ever gold medal at the Rio Olympics.

Better news is emerging, however, relating to a revolutionary new plan to establish a Super Rugby franchise in Fiji in order to address the current player drain from the Pacific Islands. The ambitious plan already reportedly has the backing of major global companies to the tune of £20 million.

Together with addressing current international eligibility rules this would certainly be a step in the right direction…

Monday, 14 November 2016

Observations from the weekend's November Internationals

1. Scotland can play a bit, but sooner or later they’re going to have to stop patting themselves on the back for gallant defeats. The game against Australia was there to be won and ultimately they just weren’t good enough, again. Harsh? Fair.

2. I’m not sure what Wales are trying to do at the moment and, from Saturday’s performance against Argentina, neither are the players. The Welsh appear caught between Warrenball and a wider, more expansive game. Currently it’s neither one thing or the other although admittedly it was enough against the strangely subdued Pumas.

3. South Africa have all sorts of problems. England won at a canter without ever really playing that well and it seems there is a great deal of soul searching going on among Springbok fans. So much so that I received several versions of the same email yesterday from “the South African rugby community” demanding:

- the replacement of the current South African coaching group; and

- the end of “quotas” in selection on the grounds of racial discrimination.

While I can see the arguments for replacing a failing coaching team, the second demand is loaded with controversy.

Quotas were only introduced, I understand, following South African rugby’s failure over 20+ years to develop and integrate “players of colour” (horrible phrase). There are no easy answers, but I suspect that the quota system is becoming a very convenient scapegoat for the current woes of the Springbok team.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Record breaker

Huge congratulations to England Women's prop (and Chesham Stags coach) Rochelle Clarke.

On Wednesday she equalled Jason Leonard's 114 cap record and today 'Rocky' has been named in the England starting XV to take on Ireland on Sunday.

That will be 115 caps, whereupon she will become England's most capped rugby player ever.

So, 13 years + as an international rugby player, a World Cup winner, MBE, 115 England caps and still counting. That's some achievement...

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Three's a crowd

Rugby being the ultimate team game, I’ve never really been a huge fan of “Player of the Year” type awards.

Nevertheless it is hugely impressive – and surely unprecedented – that one club, Saracens, have had three players nominated for this year’s World Rugby Player of the Year.

Congrats and good luck to Owen Farrell, Billy Vunipola and Maro Itoje…

Monday, 7 November 2016

Great weekend of rugby

Can't believe I missed Ireland's historic victory over New Zealand this weekend. Fantastic result for the Irish and, by all reports, well deserved. And if there was even a scintilla of complacency among the All Blacks that will now have been blown away - watch out for them coming back firing over the next few weeks.

It also appears that reports of the demise of Australian rugby have been somewhat exaggerated, although we won't know for sure until they come up against a team who put up a tad more resistance than Wales. Time will tell.

Meanwhile I spent Saturday afternoon at Wembley watching the Barbarians take on South Africa. When I discovered that the BaaBaas featured a grand total of ZERO household names and that the Springboks were fielding a largely 2nd XV, I did think that, at £75 per ticket, I might be somewhat short-changed, but I needn't have worried. It was a hugely entertaining game with some brilliant handling, especially from the Barbarians who were unlucky in the end to be pegged back to a 31-31 draw. What did piss me off, however, was the number of people continually getting up from their seats during play to head for the gents/more beer. Oh, and the hugely irritating Mexican Wave during play. Bah humbug.

Finally the weekend was rounded off with my son's Under 14 team winning a massively competitive game against a very good team from Hemel, a game which included young Master F selling a dummy and sprinting over from half way. It's all in the genes.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

What's the score George Ford (again)?

Eddie Jones has apparently warned George Ford that a move to join his father, Mike, at Toulon would mean that he would be ineligible to be selected for England.

It’s a fairly obvious statement to make given the RFU’s oft-stated stance on selection, but surely Ford Jnr isn’t seriously contemplating joining Daddy at the Stade Mayol?

He would appear to be thriving at club and international level under coaches to whom he is (as far as we know) unrelated. I’ve said it before, this isn’t the local club Under 13s. You don’t need your coach to be your Dad.