Tuesday, 21 November 2017

North Shields

I am intrigued by the news that Hurricanes captain Brad Shields will be joining Wasps next season.
Shields qualifies for England through his parents and his availability for England will no doubt fuel further debate about foreign-born players.
Not being a Super Rugby aficionado, the question I have is this:
If he's that good, why hasn't he been picked for New Zealand?

Monday, 20 November 2017

Cheik mate

So Michael Cheika appears to be in a spot of bother over his behaviour at Twickenham on Saturday. I understand that he felt/feels hard done by the fact that the Aussies hardly got the rub of the green against England - but is childish petulance really the answer?

Cheika's ire appeared to be directed towards referee Ben O'Keefe who denied Australia a couple of tries having consulted with the TMO. Much has been said about the possible emasculation of referees by over-use of the TMO and, while I do have some sympathy with that view (and, indeed, have expressed something similar myself previously), what Saturday showed is that the most important thing is that ultimately the correct decisions are made.

Imagine the controversy had Ben O'Keefe not checked the video replays and made the wrong calls...

Friday, 17 November 2017

If not now, when?

First things first, I am sure that Eddie Jones knows a lot more about selecting an international rugby team than I do.

And yet picking Maro Itoje to sit on the bench for the majority of tomorrow's game against the Aussies does make me wonder.

Simply put:

If Maro Itoje genuinely needs a rest then he should be on a beach in the Bahamas.

If Maro Itoje is fit enough to be in England's match day squad then he has to be in the starting XV.

And if Maro Itoje is in the starting XV then he should be England captain.

C'mon Eddie, you know it makes sense.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Kerching!!!

Great news that England's women have landed a new pay deal.



Under the terms of the new deal the RFU will pay the players match fees and training fees when on England duty and it is believed that players involved in all 3 Tests against Canada this November will make between £4,000 and £5,000.

While still somewhat shy of what the chaps are paid, this nevertheless represents a significant step forward following the controversial cancellation of the XV-a-side contracts post World Cup.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Quelle Surprise - France 2023

So, at the end of what was supposed to be a fair and transparent process, it was France who was today announced as the “surprise” host of Rugby World Cup 2023.

This, despite World Rugby having made public an independent technical evaluation report last month which recommended South Africa as host.

Unfortunately for South Africa the report, commissioned by World Rugby in the interests of transparency, was not binding on members of World Rugby’s council and so ultimately failed to prevail in today's (not so transparent) secret ballot, instead succumbing to intense lobbying (particularly by the French and the other contenders, Ireland) and the customary horse-trading amongst members. 

The biggest surprise, however, is that anyone is surprised by the outcome. Plus ça change etc...

Monday, 13 November 2017

How F****** Stupid are we?

Ok, so on Saturday England were a bit lacklustre against Argentina, who rather inconveniently didn’t just roll over and allow England to run through their playbook.

It wasn’t great, but neither was it the disaster being painted by many commentators. Take young Sam Underhill for instance. Twenty-odd tackles on his Twickenham debut in an immense defensive effort and yet apparently he doesn’t get involved enough in the attack!

Put in context, 2 months ago New Zealand beat Argentina by 39-22 and by 36-10. So an England win by 21-8, although in many ways underwhelming, was still a decent victory against difficult and obdurate opponents who, although they’ve struggled for results recently, are always ultra-competitive.

Expectations that England were somehow going to run up a cricket score were as disrespectful as they were unrealistic.

I suggest we all get a grip.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Whatever happened to: the Rugby Song?

Following an initiation ceremony at Howe of Fife RFC during which a player suffered internal injuries (having reportedly had a bottle inserted into his anus), the Scottish Rugby Union recently handed out a record 347 weeks of suspensions to 14 players, a coach and a club official.

Now, while I’m sure that, back in the day, behaviour was nowhere near whiter than white, I honestly don’t recall it ever crossing the line to anywhere near the extent outlined above.

Prevalent throughout my playing days, however, was the almost compulsory post-match singing of songs in the clubhouse bar deep into the evening. Which begs the question: Whatever happened to the Rugby Song?

I have to say that, no longer being a regular at clubhouse bars late into the evening, this is a question to which I genuinely do not know the answer.

What I do remember, certainly from the eighties, is that the lyrics to most of the songs sung were – when analysed in the cold light of day – fundamentally offensive. No offence was intended of course (to the drunken juvenile rugby mind it was all just harmless frivolity) but there’s little doubt when I look back that there must have been people who would have been awfully offended at song lyrics which were basically either sexist, racist, homophobic, misogynistic or, indeed, all of the above.

Certainly having grown up a (tiny) little bit I have come to realise (although I’m sure the “political correctness gone mad” brigade will disagree) that whether something is offensive or not can only really be decided by the person it affects and I do cringe with a certain amount of shame at some of the words used in songs I used to sing with gusto.

Hand on heart, I would certainly apologise to anyone I offended at the time and can only hope that in these more enlightened times such songs have been consigned to history.

That said, I’m convinced that, at its essence, the clubhouse sing-song can be an extremely valuable and enjoyable team experience, helping to forge bonds and cement friendships between clubmates. There is no reason, however, why songs need to be so offensive or distasteful and I remember, during the nineties for instance, happily belting out various classics from the likes of Tom Jones, Neil Diamond, Don Mclean and John Denver, amongst others. Whilst my taste in music and vocal quality may not have been everyone's cup of tea, at least I can be confident that no one would have been overly upset.

So, whatever happened to the Rugby Song?

In it’s traditional unpleasant and objectionable form I sincerely hope that the Rugby Song is dead and buried. But equally I trust that communal clubhouse singing to accompany the quaffing of beer will remain a staple ingredient of rugby clubs throughout the land for many years to come.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Yarde Sale?

It looks like Marland Yarde may be on the move from Harlequins to Sale Sharks this week.

The news follows reports that Yarde has failed to turn up for Quins training on three separate occasions, including him missing a pre-season training camp in Germany (having apparently "overslept") and not showing up for the captain’s run prior to Quins’ Champions Cup tie against Wasps earlier this month. 

Quins have clearly had enough, while Sale – who have a history of taking on players with slightly iffy reputations – must be hoping that Yarde can be reformed.

This blog – and in particular the Hall of Wazzocks – will be watching this space...

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Hands across the Severn


So the England and Wales forward packs plan to train against one another before the November internationals in a no holds barred set piece session in Bristol?

What could possibly go wrong?

Monday, 23 October 2017

Rugby Shorts

A few snippets from the weekend:

  • Australia 23 New Zealand 18. Wow, didn’t see that coming. Well done Oz, now proud holders once more of the Raeburn Shield. 
  • Is it me, or is Joe Marler fast becoming English rugby’s pantomime villain? I can’t imagine that Eddie Jones is amused. 
  • Great result from Exeter away at Montpellier but sorry, there's no excuse whatsoever for that horrendous kit.
  • Women’s Premier 15s - Darlington Mowden Park 0 Firwood Waterloo 0. A result which, I’m guessing, tells its own story.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Tangled Webb

Sorry, I’m afraid I just don’t buy the fact that Welsh no.9 Rhys Webb did not understand that joining Toulon next season would jeopardise his prospects of playing for Wales.

Days after Webb signed a pre-agreement with Toulon the WRU announced a change in their selection criteria to the effect that players signing a new contract with a team outside Wales must have 60 caps to their name to remain eligible for national selection.

Webb is, apparently,"heartbroken". So heartbroken, in fact, that he refuses to contemplate trying to opt out of his move to southern France.

Then again, a reported salary of £750,000 a year might just help to soften the blow.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Whatever Happened to: Tackling (part 3)

These days much is made about certain players and their respective tackle counts, with 15-20 tackles per match often cited as being very impressive indeed.

But is it though?

20 tackles in a game means, in effect, one tackle every 4 minutes - and if I think back to my heyday as a young, tearaway, openside flanker, that target would appear to have been eminently achievable. After all, tackling was more or less all I did, right?

When you think about it, however, during a game of rugby there's a heck of a lot of time spent not tackling. There are scrummages (in my day probably around 25 per game at roughly 1 minute each), line outs (let's say 20, at 30 seconds each), attempts at goal (say 15, at perhaps 1 minute each) plus time spent rucking (or in my case lying at the bottom of a ruck being stamped on) and mauling, running around aimlessly and standing with hands on hips desperately trying to draw breath (conservatively, 20 minutes in all?).

So that's approximately 70 minutes of the 80 spent doing various things, useful or otherwise, in which I probably wasn't making tackles.

And don't forget, there are two teams in a game of rugby. So for roughly 50% of the game my team had the ball - ergo no need to tackle.

So by my reckoning that would have left a meagre 5 minutes game time in which to achieve my tackle count.

20 tackles is now beginning to look like a something of a superhuman effort while Thierry Dusuatoir's record of 38 tackles in the 2011 World Cup Final is simply beyond comprehension.

My mind is now officially blown.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Gats is Done

So, Warren Gatland is “done” with the British and Irish Lions, having confirmed that he won't be taking charge of the South Africa tour in 2021.

Lord knows I’m no Gatland fan, but the chap deserves plenty of credit for leading two successful tours (one series victory, one drawn) to Oz and UnZid respectively.

I’m not surprised, however, that Gats has decided that enough is enough.

A woefully inadequate preparation time and a brutal schedule - which is only going to get worse with future tours limited to 8 games - means that now is a good time to get out.

I can envisage one or two problems, perhaps, in finding someone to drink from the poisoned chalice in four years time - after all, as I've previously said, who would want to coach a team that is recklessly being set up to fail?

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Barbarians Women: Ewe know it makes sense.

Another major step forward for women's rugby today as the Barbarians launch its first-ever women’s team who will make their debut in Ireland next month against Munster.

I know I've expressed my doubts in the past about the role of the Barbarians in the (men's) professional era, but I can completely see how the BaaBaas concept fits perfectly into the current women's rugby development cycle.

With the success of the Women's Rugby World Cup and the Women's Sevens World Series, plus the launch of the Premier 15s in England, there couldn't be a better time to introduce the idea of an international invitational team.

Next step: British & Irish Lionesses?

Good luck to all involved...

Monday, 9 October 2017

Quiet Please

Here's something to get your blood boiling...

Torbay Council has recently changed its mind about allowing Paignton Rugby Club Under 9s and Under 10s to play rugby at Torbay Park in Paignton.

Apparently the pitches had been marked out and the Council had accepted payment before making an abrupt U-turn following complaints from the certain members of the public about increased noise.

That would be noise...of CHILDREN...PLAYING...IN A PARK.

Quite rightly there is a Change.org petition in place to get the Council to reverse this idiotic decision, currently running at 6,000+ signatures.

Go on, you know it makes sense...

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Invisible?

From time to time I've been known to get on my high horse about the RFU launching yet another England rugby kit and expecting the great English rugby public to swallow a load of old marketing bollocks about the kit's historic significance and/or astonishing technical capabilities.

And so, as we head towards the November 2017 Internationals, I'm sure we are all delighted by the launch of England's new alternative dark grey combo which will be worn against Argentina next month and by the women’s team against Canada.


NOTHING TO SEE HERE
The problem is, sadly, that you won't be able to see the kit in the above picture because, apparently, it uses state-of-the-art camouflage technology.

Yes, according to a RFU press release: “Inspired by distraction principles, the red fade feature [on the kit] is designed to make it harder to distinguish aspects of the body during the tackle.”

Seriously, you couldn't make it up.

Or maybe you could - and in fact I did - here and again here.

Once again, however, truth proves stranger than fiction. Unless it's all my fault?

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Three minutes


I think we're supposed to be impressed by the fact that World Rugby has agreed that Premiership and Championship clubs will, for the rest of this season, have an extra 3 minutes to undertake head injury assessments during games.

From this weekend the HIA period has, on a trial basis, been extended from 10 to 13 minutes to allow teams to collect saliva and urine ­samples to try to create an objective pitchside concussion test.

The idea is this could lead to developing a hand-held device that would instantly be able to diagnose concussions, which is all very laudable but kind of misses the point.

 The bottom line is that medics should be allowed to take as long as they need to make an HIA and players should be allowed to return to the field if given the all clear, even if it takes an hour or so to make an accurate assessment.

Three minutes extra is nowhere near enough.



Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Guilty

I see Kyle Sinckler was last night found guilty of gouging by an RFU disciplinary panel and will now deservedly serve a 7 week ban (for which he can count himself lucky), ruling him out of England's November internationals.

This, in addition to Sinckler's arrest by New Zealand police in Auckland in July, suggests that the young Quins prop is beginning to establish something of a bad rep for himself, an issue he's going to have to get to grips with fairly quickly if he expects to retain the support of Eddie Jones and, perhaps more importantly, avoid nomination for the Total Flanker Hall of Wazzocks.

Meanwhile, Wasps Ladies' Liz Crake may have just struck a decisive blow for gender equality by being cited for allegedly biting Gloucester-Hartpury outside-half Ceri Large in Gloucester-Hartpury's recent 26-22 win over Wasps. If found guilty she could face a ban of 12+ weeks.

I have yet to find how her disciplinary hearing went*, but could the Hall of Wazzocks possibly have found its first female member?

POSTSCRIPT: just learned that Ms Crake has been suspended for six weeks after accepting the charge,remorse and previously clean disciplinary record being taken into account.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

The curious case of Lichfield Ladies

I see Wasps Ladies recently signed England internationals Amy Cokayne, Harriet Millar Mills and Justine Lucas, all of whom previously turned out for Lichfield Ladies.

What seems to be forgotten amidst all the justified hype and excitement surrounding the heady opening weeks of the Premier 15s – England’s new elite domestic rugby competition for women – is the fate of Lichfield Ladies.

A seemingly permanent fixture in the Women’s Premiership in England for several years (finishing in 3rd place last season), Lichfield have over the years developed many international players, including the three women mentioned above as well as current England skipper Sarah Hunter, Emily Scarratt, Natasha Hunt and Vicky Fleetwood.

Lichfield, however, failed to be included in the Premier 15s following an RFU tender process that effectively replaced them with Loughborough Lightning (Loughborough University) who, prior to this process, had never had a team in women's league rugby.

As a result Lichfield has lost around 30 players, many of whom have had to move to top-flight clubs in order to be considered for international selection and several of whom have joined Loughborough.

I have read the judgment of the panel that dismissed Lichfield's appeal against the RFU decision. Suffice it to say that the process was not exactly transparent and the judgment brushes over the fact that Nicky Ponsford, the RFU’s Head of Women’s Performance, was part of the decision making process.

Nicky Ponsford is an alumna and former coach of Loughborough University.

Just saying.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Dunderhead of the Week

Time to revive the long forgotten Dunderhead of the Week award in recognition of the spectacular stupidity of Ospreys' hooker, Scott Baldwin.

The 29-year-old Baldwin missed his team's latest Pro14 fixture against the Cheetahs because he had been BITTEN BY A LION WHILE TRYING TO PET IT.

The incident happened during a team trip to Weltevrede Game Lodge on the outskirts of Bloemfontein, where everyone was - appropriately enough - warned not to put their hands into the lion's den.

As Ospreys' coach Steve Tandy points out, "You can't pat a lion on the head as if it's a kitten."

And yet that's exactly what Baldwin did. One word:Dunderhead.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Rugby World Cup 2023: A bugger's muddle

This week has seen London play host to the bids of France, South Africa and Ireland to stage the 2023 Rugby World Cup, with the respective bidding teams displaying their respective wares in front of World Rugby.

With France's president, Emmanuel Macron, deciding that he couldn't be arsed to attend the presentation or endorse the French bid, France's bidding team turned to an ingenious (although somewhat bizarre) Plan B by choosing to parade the young sons of New Zealand rugby legend, Jonah Lomu as part of the bid. Jonah quite liked France, apparently. Which is nice.

South Africa's strategy, meanwhile, appeared to be based on the fact that they once hosted the Rugby World Cup well over 20 years ago when that very nice, smiley man Nelson Mandela was President. No mention, surprisingly, that for financial reasons South Africa had recently decided against bidding to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

And as for the Irish, apparently if Ireland wins the bid to host the World Cup in 2023 it will somehow (and I kid you not) make rugby incredibly popular in the United States of America. Call me naive, but wouldn't hosting the event in the USA be more likely to do that?

Go figure, and while you’re doing that please bear in mind that the Irish bid has also won the backing of UK Prime Minister Theresa May. What could possibly go wrong?

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

To tackle or not to tackle?


Fresh calls this week in the British Medical Journal to “ban harmful contact” in schools rugby to reduce the risk of injury, particularly to the head and neck, with researchers calling for the UK government to “put the interests of the child before those of corporate professional rugby unions."

I’m all for trying to make sure that kids are as protected as possible on the rugby field, but I'm far from convinced that a ban on tackling in schools is the answer. As long as good tackling technique is taught and teachers are well-trained in dealing with injuries then there is little doubt that the benefits of playing rugby – fitness, teamwork, discipline etc - far outweigh the risks.

And there lies the possible issue. In many state schools in particular the sports staff are simply not skilled or experienced enough to teach good tackling technique and in those instances I would agree that the kids playing contact rugby may not be safe.

I also have some sympathy with the argument that perhaps full contact rugby should not be compulsory in schools – it’s not for everyone, after all.

I can’t help feeling, however, that imposing a blanket ban would be a classic case of using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Everybody out?

Billy Vunipola has said that he would take a pay cut to play fewer games and avoid burning out.

Good for him.

The 24 year old faces 4 months on the sidelines as he recuperates from his second major surgery of the year.

Given the intensity of professional rugby and the number of games top players are required to play these days, scarily it is now considered normal for players to have to go under the knife by the age of 25.

Certainly in England player discontent at the sheer volume of rugby required is on the rise, with neither the RFU nor Premier Rugby seemingly willing to pay anything other than lip service to the concept of player welfare.

Unless someone starts taking this seriously we may be closer than we think to players deciding enough is enough and withdrawing their labour.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Lion amongst the pigeons

Sean O'Brien, for no apparent reason, appears to have set a rather large cat loose amongst the pigeons by publicly criticising the British & Irish Lions attack coach, Rob Howley.

What prompted his comment is unclear, but apparently it was poor coaching and a lack of an attack gameplan that prevented the Lions from securing an historic 3-0 series victory in New Zealand this summer.

According to SOB, Howley struggled to "get stuff across," leaving the likes of Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell to run the Lions attack.

Lord knows I'm no particular fan of Rob Howley as a coach (fabulous player that he was) but for SOB to single him out as the reason the Lions did not win a series in which (a) they were always massive underdogs and which (b) they led for a grand total of three minutes is, simply, as ludicrous as it is disloyal.

I hope, for SOB's sake, that this was a comment taken entirely out of context as, frankly, it does him no favours at all...

Monday, 18 September 2017

The mystery of the exploding dumpling

I was a little alarmed by reports that Australia's coach Michael Cheika had revealed a small cut on his nose caused by an "exploding dumpling" on the eve of his team's test match against Argentina.

For one horrible moment I thought that Matt Dunning might be making a comeback...


Thursday, 7 September 2017

Hall of Wazzocks: New Inductees



Roll up, roll up, get your tickets to the Total Flanker Hall of Wazzocks here.

Yes, folks, three brand new inductees to this prestigious and exclusive club, one as a result of a relatively recent act and two for their historic commitment to the cause of wazzockry.

That takes our current membership to eight and remember, the Hall of Wazzocks admissions committee is always open to your nominations, suggestions and bribes when it comes to other potential inductees.

CLICK HERE FOR THE HALL OF WAZZOCKS...

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Last Orders please!

So it appears that Eddie Jones might be prepared to forgive and forget the misdemeanours of Manu Tuilagi and Denny Solomona, who last month were sent home from an England training camp for "team-culture issues".

Jones has said he will consider recalling the pair if their attitude is right.

For Tuilagi in particular, who at 26 now has a rather impressive rap sheet, it may be be said that he is drinking in the Last Chance Saloon. One can only hope that he is choosing to drink mineral water.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Steve who?

It appears that the RFU has itself a new CEO and it is…..(drum roll)….

…STEVE BROWN. TaaDaaahh!!

Err, sorry, who?

You know, Steve Brown - currently the RFU’s Chief Officer of Business Operations and formerly MD of England Rugby 2015 – THAT Steve Brown.

Oh.

Underwhelming as it may seem, could it be that the RFU is breaking with the habits of a lifetime by appointing somebody eminently qualified for the job and seemingly competent?

Time, no doubt, will tell.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Whatever happened to: the Laws of the Game?

As another new season approaches and my son's team (now Under 15s) drifts back to training, I and the team's other coaches are once again faced with having to understand, and then explain, various changes to the laws of the game that have been introduced by World Rugby ahead of the new season.

It seems that every season there is a tweak or several, here or there, to the laws in aid of something or other that no one ever really bothers to explain, it being more a case of "it's a new season, let's make life as difficult as possible for players, coaches and spectators."

Twasn't always thus.

My recollection (and this may be case of the rose-tinted specs being worn again) is that seasons would come and seasons would go with very little intervention from the powers-that-be. I do recall being somewhat indifferent when the value of a try was changed from 4 to 5 points and I remember being a little confused by the idea that the team driving a maul forward were no longer awarded the subsequent put-in at the scrum. I also recollect being entirely bemused by the concept of a team kicking a penalty into touch and being awarded the throw-in. 

But that's it. Only three law changes in god knows how many years of me playing rugby through the eighties and into the nineties have actually stuck in my brain. There may well have been more, but they clearly weren't significant enough for me to remember (with the absurd idea of allowing lifting in the lineout being introduced subsequent to my first "retirement").

It's all very different today. World Rugby probably think they are helping to improve the game - and they probably have a department whose raison d'être is simply to keep on churning out these "improvements" - but in reality all this does is to confuse. And if the players and coaches are struggling to keep up, then what chance the general public?

Rugby is complex enough without complicating things further. Enough is enough - I say to World Rugby that it is time to stop tinkering, to focus on ensuring existing laws are properly policed and to give the public time and opportunity to understand the game.

And to give us poor beleaguered coaches a break!

Here endeth the lesson.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

WRWC 2017: Carpe Diem

Well done to the Black Ferns, 2017 World Champions!



Great game of rugby from both teams and an excellent advert for the women's game.

So, what happens next? A live UK TV audience of 2.6m suggests that the opportunity now certainly exists - for World Rugby, for the RFU and other national unions, and for TV broadcasting companies - to make significant growth in women's rugby, both in terms of participation numbers and in the game's global audience.

I guess the question now is whether anyone will seize the day?

Thursday, 24 August 2017

WRWC 2017: unmitigated success


It's only right and proper that it will be the best 2 teams - England and New Zealand - who will contest the Women's Rugby World Cup Final on Saturday, following the Red Roses' tense semi-final victory over the French on Tuesday and the Black Ferns' slightly more comfortable win against the USA.

Whatever the outcome - and for me the 2 finalists look very evenly matched - there's no doubt it has been a hugely successful tournament with sell-out crowds, plentiful live TV coverage via ITV4 and, following England's progress to the final, belated acknowledgement by the national news media. And with the Final being televised live on ITV's main channel on Saturday night there is now a fantastic opportunity for the women's game to reach out to new audiences.

Inevitably there have been some naysayers who, in forums and on social media, have been quick to point out the difference in standards between the men's and women's games but in my view such comparisons - between a game which has been fully professional for over 20 years and a game in which professionalism is very much in its infancy - are all rather pointless.

I just wish that people would simply enjoy international women's rugby for what it is - fast, skilful, dynamic, competitive and hugely compelling to watch.

And of course good luck to the Red Roses for the final 👍

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Ticked off

Shocked by the news this week that former England no.9 Matt Dawson has been suffering from Lyme Disease.

Dawson was apparently bitten by a tick in a London park, causing a bacterial infection to spread throughout his body. 

Following a severe fever he he went to hospital where he was diagnosed with Lyme Disease which, if not treated promptly, can cause issues such as inflammatory arthritis, heart problems, problems with the nervous system and meningitis.

After multiple heart operations (what?) and 18 months of treatment, apparently Dawson is now on the mend but is still on medication and it will take time for his heart to recover fully.

Sounds utterly horrific.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Toby for Deutschland?

Ja, it’s true apparently.

One of the more bizarre stories of the week is that Toby Flood has said he would consider switching his international allegiance to Germany, the land of his grandfather.

Flood, a German passport holder, already has 60 England caps and would therefore (I think) need to take advantage of a World Rugby loophole under which he would first have to play Sevens for Germany in an Olympic qualifying event.

Whilst all of this is highly unlikely, it's one of those stories I'd quite like to be true...

Sir Colin Meads RIP


There’s no doubt that the game has lost another of its true legends.

Belated RIP Pinetree.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Rubbish


There's not much that Saracens get wrong these days but, simply put,

THIS...IS...

RUBBISH.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Aussie crisis deepens


According to the Grauniad, Australia have named Kurtley Beale in their starting XI for the weekend's Bledisloe Cup encounter against the All Blacks.

Starting XI?

I know the Aussies are having a few issues at the moment, but surely they have enough players to name a starting XV? 😀

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

WRWC 2017: a bit of a let down


The Women’s Rugby World Cup has so far been a tad disappointing.

Not the rugby. That’s been great.

No, what’s disappointing is the total and utter lack of scandal.

No tales of excessive drinking, no breaches of curfew, no drugs, no gambling, no dwarf tossing, no ferry diving, no arrests, no players sent home in disgrace, nothing.

Come on ladies. Amid all this talk of equality and discrimination you need to be playing your part…😉

Monday, 14 August 2017

Western Farce

I admit I’m not particularly up to speed with the workings of rugby in Australia, but it strikes me that the ARU have made a right old horlicks of things lately.

Having agreed to axe one of it’s Super Rugby franchises, last week the ARU announced – following 4 months of dithering discussions – that it was to be the Perth-based Western Force who would be cut.

Predictably enough the Western Force aren’t exactly chuffed with the decision and have gained an injunction order against the ARU's decision and lodged an appeal with the Supreme Court.

All of which rather nicely sets up a costly legal battle between the cash-strapped ARU and the Force, backed by billionaire mining magnate Andrew Forrest. I wonder who has the deeper pockets?

In other news it is reported that the ARU’s annual piss-up in a brewery has had to be cancelled due to unforeseen cicumstances.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Whole Wide World



When I was a young boy
My mama said to me
"There's only one girl in the world for you
And she probably lives in Tahiti."

Delighted to have the opportunity to post the opening lyrics from one of my favourite songs from the seventies - Whole Wide World by Wreckless Eric.

The opportunity has somewhat improbably arisen courtesy of the Tahiti rugby team who last weekend pulled off a huge shock to keep their 2019 Rugby World Cup aspirations alive by beating the Cook Islands, 43 places above them in World Rugby's rankings, to win the Oceania Rugby Cup.

Tahiti (ranked 91) defeated the Cook Islands (ranked 48) 13-9 in Rarotonga and will now face either Hong Kong, Malaysia or South Korea in 2018 in a home and away play-off for a place in the four-team global repechage tournament to determine the final qualifier for RWC 2019.

Tahiti also now leapfrog the Bahamas, Cameroon and Swaziland to occupy 88th place in the rankings.


I'd go the whole wide world, 
I'd go the whole wide world just to find her
I'd go the whole wide world,
I'd go the whole wide world to find out where they hide her.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Woman's World


Good luck to all involved with the Women's Rugby World Cup which kicks off in Dublin later today and especially to the Red Roses, the defending champions.

It's also great to see that much of the tournament will be able to be viewed live on ITV, giving much needed exposure to the women's game.

Now, about those professional contracts...




Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Here we go again...

It's August and you know what that means.

Yes, time once again for the RFU to attempt to extract yet more cash from the pockets of English rugby supporters with another shameless launch of another unnecessary new England rugby kit.

This time there's some marketing guff about a so-called unique commemorative plaque forming part of Canterbury’s new ‘Unbreakable Bond’ campaign. I'd explain further, but honestly can't be arsed to delve any deeper.

No doubt there's a suitably awful change kit also in the pipeline...

Monday, 7 August 2017

Homeward Bound...

News today that both Manu Tuilagi and Denny Solomona have been sent home from England's training camp following “team culture issues.”

What this actually means is anyone’s guess, but the clever money has to be on alcohol-related behaviour.

If this is the case, if these two couldn’t manage to stay off the sauce while attending a 3 day national training camp, then no doubt I shall shortly be reviewing their applications for entry into the Total Flanker Hall of Wazzocks.

Monday, 31 July 2017

A question of discrimination

Back from my hols this weekend and slap bang into the row over the proposed culling of England Women's professional contracts by the RFU after the World Cup.

Look, the RFU can quite rightly point to the fact that they have led the way internationally with professional contracts for England's elite female players, that they have invested considerable sums in the women's domestic game of late, that the nature of the women's international game is cyclical - alternating between emphasis on the World Cup XVs and the Olympic VIIs - and that England's Women have been fully informed for some time of the RFU's plans.

The bottom line, however, is that the RFU would never contemplate treating England's elite male players in a similar way.

By its very nature the RFU's position on female professional contracts is therefore discriminatory.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Finishing Touch (2017)

And so another Touch summer season is at an end, with the finale played out yesterday evening in atrocious conditions.

In a winner-takes-all encounter, sadly Dave's Dad's Dog's Dead came off second best against my alter mater, Chairman's Choice - a shockingly poor first half against a fast and skilful team meaning we had way too much to do in a much improved second half.

So, runners-up it had to be - which we would probably have taken after our two defeats in the first two weeks in the competition - and, for a team with a fair sprinkling of old men and women more often than not up against against fit, young twenty-something men, I think we can be quite proud of our collective efforts.

Personally my contribution felt somewhat negligible. I wasn't terrible, but neither did I feel that I brought much to the party this year, a basic lack of fitness (and speed) being my main downfall. Fitness is something I can fix but, at 52, my pace is but a distant memory.

It was, nevertheless, a hugely enjoyable couple of months and it's only a shame that we must now wait another 10 months before the 2018 Chesham Touch season clicks into gear. My mission (should I choose to accept it) is therefore to find a way to play the game all year round somehow.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Lions 2017: Postscript



Well, well, well.

Any sane British/Irish rugby fan who had been offered a drawn series against the All Blacks two months ago would have taken it without hesitation.

Given how utterly impossible the task looked on the back of an entirely inadequate preparation period and a seemingly brutal playing schedule, what this group of players and coaches (and yes, I’m admitting I was wrong about Warren Gatland) has achieved is nothing short of remarkable.

And yet, and yet…

What is bleedingly obvious is that for the Lions concept to continue to flourish (and it’s been obvious from the legions of fans travelling down under and the way the Kiwis embraced the tour that it is a concept treasured by the rugby public), the decision to reduce future Lions tours to only 8 matches needs to be reversed.

In New Zealand the Lions achieved the impossible with one arm tied firmly behind their backs. To further handicap future tours is not only unfair, it also puts the whole concept at risk. After all, who will want to play for or coach a team that is recklessly being set up to fail?

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Oh, Maro Itoje!


This man received a 4/10 (!!) rating from the New Zealand Herald for his immense performance in today's 2nd Test victory in Wellington.

Perhaps the NZ press and public could learn a thing or two from the humility and good grace showed by All Blacks skipper Kieran Read - a class act both on and off the field of play.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

The Curious Case of the Geography Six


I may be mis-judging him, but Warren Gatland doesn't strike me as an overly sensitive soul.

And yet Gats has confessed to having kept the "Geography Six" - Kristian Dacey, Allan Dell, Tomas Francis, Cory Hill, Gareth Davies and Finn Russell - on the bench against the Hurricanes this week for fear of the public reaction to any of them actually playing for the Lions.

Of the six - who were somewhat controversially added to the squad as cover based on geographical convenience rather than merit - only Alan Dell and Finn Russell have made it onto the field as brief HIA replacements.

Not only did Gatland's reluctance to use his replacements result in a seriously fatigued team throwing away a winning position against the Hurricanes, it also means that very few, if any, of Tuesday's starting XV will physically be in shape to contend for a place in Saturday's Test 23.

It seems a curious and uncharacteristic call for Gatland to have made, and the Geography Six will now fly home with next to no Lions playing experience but, no doubt, with suitcases full of Lions stash.

Every cloud.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Lions now really do have their work cut out (as if they didn't already)...

Warren Gatland's criticism that the All Blacks were cynically targeting Conor Murray in Saturday's 1st Test (which, incidentally, I agree with) is, ultimately, nothing more than a sideshow.

Gatland has far more to worry about if the Test series is to be squared. Put simply the Lions need to up their game massively at the breakdown and retain possession for far longer if they are to have any hope of winning the the 2nd Test. Kicking possession away and allowing the All Blacks to dictate the pace is what ultimately cost them the game on Saturday.

Whoever is selected it's going to take a monumental effort to wrest momentum back in the Lions favour...

Friday, 23 June 2017

Lions: Well done Wazza

I think it's fair to say that I have not always been Warren Gatland's biggest fan (about which I am sure he has sleepless nights 😀 ).

Credit where it is due, however. The Lions squad selection for the 1st Test with New Zealand tomorrow is as bold as it is surprising.

Of course a case might be made for starting Maro Itoje instead of Alan Wyn Jones (although I can understand the logic of bringing the young English tyro on as an impact player) and I'd probably have Jonathan Joseph on the bench ahead of Leigh ½p, but all in all it's a brave and exciting selection which is, crucially, based on form.

That's not to say the Lions will win tomorrow - but it's at least it's a team that we can be confident will be competitive.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Good luck Doddie Weir

This blog's heartfelt best wishes go out to former Scottish and Lions lock Doddle Weir who has revealed he has been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease.

Today - 21st June - is Global MND Day and the 46 year old Weir has bravely decided to go public to help raise awareness of the condition.

Good luck Doddie in your fight against such a debilitating illness.