Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Mind the (pay) Gap

I was surprised to learn that Saturday's fixture between England and Japan is only the second time the countries will have met at test level, the first being at the 1987 Rugby World Cup, some 31 years ago.

If ever there was a stat which highlights the paucity of opportunity for so-called 2nd tier rugby nations then this is it.

The gap between the haves and have-nots of international rugby has also been highlighted by the revelation that the Japanese players receive a match allowance of the equivalent of £13.64 each per match when compared to the £25,000 match fee enjoyed by their English counterparts.

Although the pay gap is clearly ridiculous, former England Women's captain Catherine Spencer makes a very good point that, while fully supportive of players being very well paid by their clubs, a player should receive no match fee at all to represent his (our her) country - the money saved being ploughed back into the grassroots game.

That's never going to happen, of course - not least because a number of countries operate on a central contracts model - but it would certainly clarify the motivation of a number of players and identify those that see international rugby merely as a meal ticket.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Mind the Gap

The tight results in the November internationals thus far suggest that perhaps the perceived gap between northern and southern hemisphere rugby may be closing.

England's one point victory over South Africa and one point defeat to New Zealand were both results that could easily have gone either way - ditto South Africa's last gasp win over France and Wales' 9-6 success against the Australians.

Not that we should be reading too much into such results, but in relatively recent times gone by the southern hemisphere teams have often found Europe in November to be a time and place of easy pickings - not so much now.

Of course it may still all unravel over the next two weeks, but increasingly it is looking like the race to next year's World Cup is at least starting from the same (or at least similar) starting blocks...

Monday, 12 November 2018

Defeat to All Blacks a missed opportunity for England

Whether Courtney Lawes was onside or offside on Saturday (and I think it was marginal - he was no more offside than most players on both sides all afternoon) is immaterial. He was adjudged offside, it was what it was and we move on.

What Lawes did show is that he can operate very effectively on the blindside at international level - I take it all back. However his performance, good as it was, still paled into insignificance next to that of England's openside, Sam Underhill, who was simply magnificent.

My overall emotion at the end of the match was, nevertheless, a sense of an opportunity missed. The All Blacks were there to be beaten on Saturday and England blew it.

That may seem harsh in the wake of a great effort from the England team and there's no shame in a one point defeat to the world's number one team, but there were definite chances to win that game that England let slip.

Whatever else happens this November, however, Eddie Jones suddenly appears to have an embarrassment of riches in the back row - with Underhill, Lawes, Mark Wilson, Tom Curry and Zach Mercer all having impressed in the last 2 weeks.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

England squad v All Blacks does itself no favours

According to the old cliché, the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Zach Mercer: should be starting
And so, while Chris Ashton's first start for England since 2014 may be the headline news from today's announcement of the England squad to take on the All Blacks on Saturday, it is the selection of two second rows on the England bench, to the exclusion of the excellent Zach Mercer, that is the biggest cause for concern.

I would have had Mercer - playing out of his skin this season - starting at number 8, but his entire omission from the matchday squad means that England will have no proper back row cover on Saturday, with either one of Courtney Lawes or Maro Itoje probably having to fill in at flanker if required.

Let's be clear, Lawes/Itoje at flanker has never worked previously for England and there's absolutely nothing to suggest that it will be successful this time against what is probably the most effective back row trio in world rugby.

I had hoped that Eddie Jones might have learned from previous experience. It seems I was mistaken.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Anyone for Curry?

With an ankle injury now ruling England flanker Tom Curry out of the rest of the November internationals, Eddie Jones could do a lot worse than call up Tom's twin brother Ben, who captained the England Under 20s in the summer and who has been pulling up trees for Sale Sharks so far this season.

It won't happen, of course, but it should.

Monday, 5 November 2018

Farrell tackle legal, but the law is an ass

Let's get one thing straight.

Owen Farrell's tackle on Andre Esterhuizen in the dying seconds of England's victory over the Springboks on Saturday was, under the current laws, perfectly legal. The referee, TMO and citing officer agree.

It was below the shoulder line - so not high, did not make contact with the head - so not dangerous and it was not - as many people claim - a "no arms" tackle. Farrell went to use both arms but was unable to wrap his arms in the tackle due to the force of the impact as both players launched themselves into contact, Esterhuizen's upper arm/forearm slamming into Farrell's chest on impact at the same time as Farrell's shoulder connected with Esterhuizen's chest.

The question of whether such a tackle ought to be legal is a different one. The big chest-high hit should, in my opinion, be outlawed in the interests of player safety and indeed the RFU are this season trialling a law in the Championship Cup which requires the height of a legal tackle to be below the armpits. 

By the way, although clearly I was wrong about England taking a beating at the hands of the Springboks, there were times in the first half on Saturday when the floodgates looked about to burst open. The fact that England defended so resolutely and worked so tirelessly to stem the tide does bode well, although if next week the All Blacks have anywhere near the amount of possession afforded to South Africa we could be in for a difficult afternoon.

Still, a win is a win. Onwards and, hopefully, upwards.

Friday, 2 November 2018

England v South Africa could get messy...

I must admit I fear a shell-shacking for England at the hands of the Springboks on Saturday.

My guess is that the best plan Eddie Jones managed to come up with this week was, in the absence of the Fabulous Vunipola Boys, to launch Manu Tuilagi at the midfield for as long as possible - Tuilagi's subsequent "minor" groin injury first forcing Jones to select instead Ben Te'o (with all of 28 minutes of rugby this season for Worcester) to try do the same job, and then allowing Chris Ashton a return to the bench as the perennially unfortunate Tuilagi was declared unfit to participate.

While a Farell-Te'o-Slade midfield is somewhat experimental and is unlikely to last longer than an hour, it is upfront where I fear England are more likely to struggle.

The front row looks a tad fragile and Malcolm Marx against Dylan Hartley has the potential to be one of the biggest mismatches in international rugby history. And, while Mark Wilson's selection in the back row is to be applauded, I can't for the life of me figure out what Brad Shields has shown so far this season to merit his place at blindside.

Wilson at 6 with the in form Zach Mercer at 8 would have been a better balanced and more dynamic selection. I've nothing against Shields per se but, call me old fashioned, I do like to see players actually earn their England caps.

The Springboks, by comparison, look awesome upfront. This could get messy.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Great Britain 50s Men's Touch Rugby

A shout out to the GB 50s Men's Touch Rugby Team - who have begun preparations for next year's FIT World Cup in Malaysia.

The team's mantra is the promotion of men's health and wellbeing in the over 50s and the honour of representing GB. Can't argue with that.

Although I would have loved to have been involved, personal circumstances unfortunately prevented me from throwing my hat into the ring for selection this time around. Not that I would have been picked, but it would have been fun to have had a go.

Best of British to those involved - and if anyone can help with corporate sponsorship and support I know it would be welcome:

Email: Facebook: GB Touch Men's 50's Twitter: @GBTouchMens50s

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

All Blacks launch radical new kit

The New Zealand rugby team has unveiled a radical new kit and it's...

...wait for it...


Tuesday, 30 October 2018

England Rugby "not arrogant enough"

The RFU believe that the problem of a "perceived lack of arrogance" has been solved with the appointment of 52 year old former captain Will Carling to the England management team as a "leadership mentor."

According to head coach Eddie Jones the England team has suffered over the last few years from being "too likeable".

"It's important that the team connects with its arrogant past" he said.

"Because I'm not English, I can't teach them how to be arrogant and unlikeable. I can teach them how to be a chippy little Aussie but it's just not the same.

"I've always thought we have possibly had a gap in that area. I've tried with Owen Farrell and Mike Brown, and Maro Itoje shows promise, but it's important that these guys work with someone who truly understands England's history of arrogance.
"We want to get back to being everyone's most hated team. We need a figurehead, a face that the whole world wants to slap.
"Will Carling is that face."

Friday, 26 October 2018

There is no place in rugby for this...

I've been more than a little appalled by what I've been reading this week about behaviour at Coleraine RFC - fined £5,000 after a female referee was the target of sexist abuse from the touchline at a match last season.

Although the incident (which quite understandably led to a boycott of the club’s home matches by Ulster referees) now appears to have been dealt with, issues still remain - not least an apparent lack of an apology to the referee in question by Coleraine RFC as well as the inexplicable failure of the club to take any internal disciplinary action in relation to the incident, with no individual having been held to account.

Whichever way you look at it Coleraine RFC has hardly covered itself in glory. Club membership of the Hall of Wazzocks has not previously been considered, but perhaps it has some merit?

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Is more in fact less for Premiership Rugby?

The new season structure - effective from next season - announced by the RFU,  Rugby Players’ Association and Premiership Rugby this week is, in many ways, ground breaking.

The new structure would appear to feature more rugby - with an elongated campaign stretching into the summer, but also less rugby - with in-season breaks for top players and a mandatory five-week off season.

The media focus this week has, however, mainly been on the detrimental effect this may have on Lions tours, with tours being reduced to 5 weeks and not finishing until early August.

The Lions concept has, of course, been on a slippery slope for years and remains something of an anomaly in the professional era - and what the media furore misses is the fact that the abridged 5 week tour was actually agreed by World Rugby in San Francisco some 18 months ago to general media apathy.

Yet when the big, bad English clubs organise their league structure to fit around an already established principle, the same media get all agitated.

I’ve said it for a long time – although I’d be sad to see it go, the Lions concept needs a radical re-think if it is going to stay relevant.

Meanwhile the jury is out on Premiership Rugby's plans - is less in fact more, or is more in fact less? I guess we'll have to wait and see...

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

A(nother) rant about rugby kits

Every now an again I admit I am prone to rant on about rugby kits. Everybody has a particular bugbear and this is one of mine.

Imagine my delight therefore when presented with evidence that the world has gone officially bonkers when Cardiff Blues and Glasgow Warriors lined up for their Champions Cup fixture last week wearing more or less identical (or at least very,very similar) kits.

The result, of course, was utter confusion for players, officials, spectators and the TV audience and a whole heap of post match complaints, opprobrium, blame and finger-pointing.

Cardiff can point to the fact that their sky blue and grey kit is their official European playing kit, while Glasgow - the away team - can justifiably explain why they were wearing their official sky blue and white away kit.

Common sense, it seems, cannot prevail faced with such impenetrable logic.

What no one seems to be asking is why - other than when there is likely to be an obvious clash of colours - any team needs to wear anything other than its first choice kit. Had Cardiff and Glasgow just worn their usual home kits we would have had this:

No colour clash, no problem.

While I concede that a second kit is sometimes necessary to deal with the occasional colour clash, there is no justification whatsoever (and Cardiff are by no means the only offenders here) for a separate European version of a club's playing kit - other than, of course, a desire to coerce fans into spending more on replica shirts. I know football clubs do it, but that in itself should be enough reason for rugby not to follow down that path.

There, rant over (for now).

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Zebo says soz

Simon Zebo acted like a complete and utter wazzock when taunting opposite number Michael Lowry while in the act of scoring for Racing 92 against Ulster at the weekend.

But at least he had the good grace to apologise afterwards...

Monday, 22 October 2018

Time for Chris Ashton to grow up?

Predictably enough, Chris Ashton scored a hat-trick of tries at the weekend on his competitive debut for Sale Sharks as they sealed a 34-13 win against Connacht in the European Challenge Cup.

Equally predictably the so-called "Ash-Splash" is still very much in evidence. And I still hate it.

I don't suppose there is any chance of Ashton growing up any time soon.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Christian Wade → NFL

I am sure you have all read the reports today that Wasps (and, very briefly, England) winger Christian Wade has dramatically quit rugby and has left Wasps to attempt a career in the NFL.

I have to admit the first thing I did when I heard the news was to check the date to make sure it was not 1st April. 

Wade is certainly British rugby's highest profile player to cross the pond try his luck in American Football, but my gut reaction is that his relatively diminutive stature and total lack of experience is likely to be something of a handicap. Still, the riches on offer in the NFL are potentially life changing although as yet there is no news of which particular franchise will take him on. 

I do, of course, wish him well - but can't help feeling he really should have spent the last few years shredding international defences for England. After all, it was only 5 years ago that he was deemed worthy of a call up to the Lions squad in Australia and a more enlightened selection and coaching approach at national level could and perhaps should have found a way to make use of his unique talents.

There's no doubt whatsoever that he will be sorely missed at Wasps. 

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Billy Broken - again

This is getting ridiculous.

Having twice broken his right forearm last season, it has been confirmed that Billy Vunipola will definitely miss this year's November internationals with a fractured left forearm. 😞

It is terrible luck for Billy who has also had to endure a shoulder operation and major knee surgery in the last 12-18 months, but also bad news for England who are now faced with a potential crisis at number 8 (with Sam Simmonds also out injured and Nathan Hughes facing several weeks suspension), as well as at loosehead prop with Mako Vunipola doubtful with a calf injury, Ellis Genge also out injured and Joe Marler in retirement.

Any number 8s or looseheads heading to Twickenham to watch England this Autumn ought probably to take their boots...

Monday, 15 October 2018

He's Behind You!!

Perhaps, just perhaps, Freddie Burns' spectacular blunder against Toulouse at the weekend (whereby he had the ball dislodged from his grasp in the act of prematurely celebrating a try) might now just see players stop behaving like utter arses when in the act of scoring and actually act like professional sportsmen.

I suspect that Burns - who effectively cost Bath the match - will in future be keen to get the ball to ground as soon as humanly possible and will forego the need to salute, blow kisses or whatever else he thought he was doing. Maybe one or two others (who shall remain nameless) might re-think their behaviour too.

On the subject of questionable behaviour, I can't quite decide whether Maro Itoje mockingly celebrating Glasgow's non-try with the Glasgow players was an act of a total arse or whether it was just bloody funny. I'm leaning towards the latter although I suspect that if I were a Glaswegian I'd probably think otherwise. The one thing for certain is that Itoje looks back to his rumbustious best, which must be a crumb of comfort for Eddie Jones who appears to be witnessing his key players drop like flies on an almost weekly basis.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

No joke for Nathan Hughes

Wasps number 8, Nathan Hughes, appears to have done himself no favours at all thanks to a poorly judged decision to engage with social media.

Hughes, charged with punching Gloucester’s Lewis Ludlow in the head at the weekend (perhaps a tad harshly given that he was being pinned down at the time), has managed to land himself in deeper, hotter water by allegedly tweeting “What a joke” during his disciplinary hearing on Wednesday.

Already facing a potential six week ban for punching, Hughes now faces a possible further charge of “conduct prejudicial to the interests of the game” after proceedings were adjourned while the RFU investigates an issue that arose during the hearing, that issue being – apparently – Hughes’ ill-advised tweet.

The chances of Hughes - not previously known for wazzock-like conduct - featuring in any of the November internationals now appear pretty slim and, frankly, he would only have himself to blame. 

On the bright side, Bath’s Zach Mercer – if he can stay injury free – now looks nailed on to (at the very least) understudy Billy Vunipola next month...

Monday, 8 October 2018

Honest Billy something of a rarity

It comes to something when one of the main talking points from the weekend's Quins vs Sarries clash was the fact that Billy Vunipola admitted knocking the ball on in the act of attempting to score, thus saving the referee the hassle of having to consult with the TMO.

That Billy has been praised for his honesty is fair enough, I guess, but the fact that such honesty is worthy of attention because it is now such a rarity in the game is, I feel,  a little sad.

That said, I once received plenty of stick from team mates for admitting to the the ref that I hadn't grounded the ball properly when playing for my club's 5th XV at the time - so perhaps such acts have always been somewhat rare?

Friday, 5 October 2018

Get well soon Steve Ojomoh

My best wishes for a speedy recovery go out to former Bath and England flanker Steve Ojomoh, who is reported to be in intensive care in hospital after suffering a stroke...

Eddie Jones - The Movie

One of the more slightly left-field stories of the week features news that Kiwi actor Temuera Morrison – probably best known for playing Jango Fett in the Star Wars franchise – has been lined up to play the part of Eddie Jones in a movie about Japan’s epic 34-32 victory over South Africa in the 2015 World Cup.

The movie’s working title appears to be “The Brighton Miracle” and at first glance Harrison does have more than a passing resemblance to Jones – so we may not need to suspend disbelief quite so much as when watching Matt Damon play Francois Pienaar in Invictus, or when anticipating Mickey Rourke taking on the role of Gareth Thomas.

And the accent shouldn’t be too much of a stretch either…

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Well done Joe Marler

It may have sent certain sections of the media into meltdown but it is quite clear what Joe Marler meant when he commented this week about how he used to try to get himself suspended to avoid England duty.
Even before Marler's subsequent statement confirming that he had never deliberately done anything to get a ban, it was pretty obvious that it was the anxiety that he suffered around going into England camp that often caused him to behave so irrationally on the pitch.
Rational behaviour and anxiety are not natural bedfellows, as anyone suffering from anxiety or (like me) has a friend or family member who suffers, will know.
From time to time I admit that this blog can be quite critical of players' behaviour and the word "wazzock" is not unheard of in this context.
Mental health, however, is a whole different ball game. Joe Marler is to be applauded for his admission and it is clear that, by stepping down from the international scene, he is doing what is right for his family and for his own mental health.

Monday, 1 October 2018

Wazzock of the Week (no.2)

Another contender for Wazzock of the Week...

Sunwolves and Japan prop (why is it always a prop?) Takuma Asahara apparently managed to get himself run over by a car last week after a drinking session with team mates.

The 31 old year old seemingly decided it was a good idea to lie down for a nap next to a parked car and was trapped underneath when the the driver tried to pull away.

Somehow Asahara managed to escape serious injury after his team mates managed to lift the car so that he could free himself.


Wazzock of the week

By and large I would say that for professional rugby players to have interests outside of the game is a good thing.

Becoming a drug dealer, however - apparently the chosen extra-curricular pastime of Zebra and Italy prop Sami Panico -  probably is not the cleverest of ideas.

According to Italian press reports the 25 year old has been arrested by Italian police on suspicion of "possession of drugs for the purpose of trafficking", with 1.5kg of marijuana and 330g of hashish seized from his home and €10,000 found stashed in his garden.


Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Say it ain't so, Joe

Joe Marler's decision to retire from England duty, announced today, is as brave as it is unexpected.

It seems that Marler has simply had enough of the international rugby treadmill and his desire to spend more time with his wife and children appears to have held sway over his World Cup ambitions.

Twenty-eight is no age at all for a loose-head prop to retire and there's little doubt that England will miss his 58 caps-worth of experience in Japan next year.

I've always liked Marler - despite his occasional tendency for on-field wazzock-like behaviour - and the international scene will certainly be a less colourful place without him.

And the fact that a second twenty-eight year old England international prop (after Alex Corbisiero in 2016) has decided that he can no longer carry on playing the game at the highest level should begin to ring alarm bells among the powers that be that elite players can only be pushed so far.

Monday, 24 September 2018

White Noise for England Rugby

Imagine my total and utter lack of surprise at today's news that the RFU is launching yet another England kit in its relentless pursuit of the hard earned cash from our wallets.

I’ve long given up making too much of a fuss about this kind of thing although continue to believe that a brand new kit every single bloody season (and “alternate” kit, which this year is anthracite – or dark grey to you and me) is simply taking the piss.

And spare us please from the inevitable nonsensical marketing bollocks from kit manufacturer Canterbury - who this year claim that the design of the home shirt takes its inspiration from ‘white noise’ which, they say, is the "effect created by the sound of England supporters cheering the team on". 

I kid you not.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Pull the other one, Eddie

Eddie Jones' comment that Danny Cipriani has been left out of the 36 man England training squad announced today "100%" on rugby grounds is, at best, disingenuous.

Let's be honest, I've long been critical of Cipriani's off-field antics and, fair enough, I could comfortably get behind a decision to leave him out of the squad for behaving like a wazzock.

But for Jones to claim that Cipriani is currently only England's "third or fourth choice" fly-half is, quite frankly, utter nonsense given the Gloucester outside-half's spectacular early season form and the fact that he is (or was) England's incumbent no.10.

The decision, and the reasons given for it, does the credibility of Eddie Jones amongst England rugby followers (and, surely, amongst the squad) no favours whatsoever.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

England's Women going full time...

Delighted by the news this week that the RFU have finally seen sense and have decided to reintroduce professional contracts for the England Women's 15-a-side team from 1st January 2019.

Twenty-eight full-time deals will be awarded plus seven elite player squad agreements. 

Not before time.

The move represents something of a u-turn from the previous policy of only paying the 15-a-side team on a match by match basis, full time professional contracts having been cancelled following last year's Women's World Cup.

Now all the RFU need to do is prioritise the 15-a-side game (and use Sevens as a development pathway) for sense truly to be the winner...

England appoint Mitchell

The RFU has finally confirmed that the rumours are true - Phil  Mitchell has been appointed as England’s new defence coach until the end of Rugby World Cup 2019.

Mitchell will leave his role as general hard nut in Albert Square, Walford E20, to join Eddie Jones' squad ahead of England's November internationals. 

It's a joke that will never get old...

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Rugby? Gone soft? Don't be daft.

While I do have some sympathy with Leicester's Will Spencer's red card for a high tackle against Wasps on Sunday, the decision was ultimately the correct one.

There was no malice or intent in Spencer's tackle on Tommy Taylor - but it was a forceful shoulder-to-head tackle and the law is clear that such a challenge constitutes a red card offence.

To those whose knee-jerk reaction is that the game has "gone soft" - please - don't be daft.

Just take one look at the number of walking wounded at Premiership clubs after just 3 weeks of action.

Go on, ask Cornell du Preez (fractured larynx), Brad Shields (fractured cheekbone) or Olly Woodburn (broken jaw) whether the game has gone soft. Or ask former Leinster and Leicester flanker Dominic Ryan - forced to retire this month aged 28 after repeated concussions.

It is right and proper that World Rugby is attempting to address the increasing issue of head injuries by making players tackle lower - and if there are a few perceived injustices on the road to Damascus then so be it.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Rugby snippets from the weekend...

1. The All Blacks are human after all and still, it appears, reluctant to go for the drop goal.

2. No matter how crap the team you support are, hurling foul-mouthed abuse at players and pushing kids is never acceptable.

3. In Zach Mercer have England found the big, mobile ball carrying forward they so desperately need?

4. Joe Cokanasiga looks fairly handy on the left wing too.

5. And Henry Slade looks in fine fettle.

6. Another blooper from Ian Tempest - apparently a blatantly late tackle (Dan Cole) cannot be late if it occurs after a tapped penalty has been taken from the wrong place. Go figure.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

New inductees to the Hall of Wazzocks...

Congrats to Liza Burgess, Stephen Larkham, Ronan O’Gara, Bryan Williams and Pierre Villepreux - all of whom were inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame last week.

Congrats (kind of) also to the following characters who have been inducted into the Total Flanker Hall of Wazzocks:

For further details please click here...

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Twelve months to save international rugby?

This week’s warning from World Rugby’s vice-chairman Agustin Pichot that international rugby game is under threat should be taken seriously by all involved.

Pichot wants unions and clubs to agree a new 10 year global calendar before the 2019 World Cup in Japan – in other words, “Rugby I love you, but we only have 12 months left to save the game”. (Bonus points for spotting the movie reference there 😀).

The fact that Premiership clubs this week felt confident enough to turn down a £275 million takeover bid shows that the club game in the northern hemisphere is, at least on the face of it, in rude health.

Many international unions, however, are facing financial difficulty, and the steady drip, drip, drip of players from the southern hemisphere to the north is in danger of becoming a torrent – particularly if (as seems likely) further huge investments are made into the club game.

And let’s face it, any organisation investing vast sums into, say, the Premiership, is hardly going to be thrilled at the prospect of losing its key assets – the international players – for extended periods of the season.

It’s therefore easy to understand Pichot’s fears that the international game is in jeopardy. And yet, conversely, international rugby remains the game’s showpiece and the club owners must know that the interest generated by the international game is ultimately what drives domestic rugby, both in terms of TV coverage and bums on seats.

In the middle of this, of course, are the players – pulled from pillar to post and flogged both physically and mentally by the game’s stakeholders pulling in opposite directions.

Pichot is right. It needs sorting out, and sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

The sad, sad case of Marc Cecillon

Former French captain Marc Cecillon - perhaps best known in England for being smashed in a tackle by Mickey Skinner in the 1991 World Cup Quarter Final - is apparently back in prison.

In 2004 Cecillon, who suffered problems with alcohol and depression following his retirement from the game, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for murdering his wife, having shot her 5 times in front of guests while drunk at a barbecue. He was released on parole in 2011.

Sadly it seems as if the demons are very much still there for the former "Quiet Man" of French rugby, having now been found guilty by a Perpignan court of assault, theft of a vehicle and drunk driving during a night of violence at a vineyard last month. 

Cecillon is subsequently serving 12 month jail sentence (with six months suspended).

We can only hope he now gets the treatment he so obviously needs...

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

By George, I think he's got it

Although not a massive fan of meddling with the laws of the game, sometimes someone comes up with a proposed change in the laws that makes eminent sense.

On this occasion it is Ospreys head coach, Allen Clarke, who has put forward a clever idea to help create space amidst rugby's increasingly congested defensive lines.

Clarke suggests that if a player kicks the ball from inside his own half and the ball bounces into touch in the opposition's 22, the kicking side should be awarded the throw-in at the subsequent line out

To defend against this and prevent conceding a dangerous set-piece in its own 22, the defending team would therefore need to position its wingers deeper, thus reducing the numbers in the front-line defence, ergo creating more space for the attacking team.

Of course, a defence may still choose to push up to deny space, in which case the defending team may be vulnerable to the kick in behind and then having to defend a line out deep in its own territory.

The beauty of the proposal is its simplicity. And who knows, it might even work!

Monday, 10 September 2018

Wazzock of the week

Mathieu Bastareaud's disgraceful forearm smash on the prone Christophe Samson - in the weekend's clash between Toulon and Castres - was nothing short of assault and battery.

A lengthy ban must follow and in my humble opinion Bastareaud will be lucky if he escapes police action.

And following his ban earlier this year for on-field homophobic abuse, the current French captain's candidacy for the Total Flanker Hall of Wazzocks is now firmly established.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Premiership Rugby in the money?

The reported £275m bid, by former owners of Formula 1 – private equity firm CVC Capital Partners – for a controlling stake in Premiership Rugby, is an interesting one.

Effectively the bid values Premiership Rugby at £550m – not peanuts, certainly, but actually only between 2½ and 3 times the value of serial-diver Neymar. 😏

With PRL members due to meet next week and with unanimity required for the bid to be accepted, it seems unlikely to succeed.

It is, however, a stake in the ground and may well be the beginning of a process which could see significant financial investment in the English domestic game.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

The times they are a-changin' ... PART 2

Hot on the heels of the sacking of Matt O’Connor by Leicester Tigers comes news that the Championship’s Ealing Trailfinders (one of my almae matres back in the day) have decided to part ways with head coach James Buckland - again after just ONE game in charge.

According to the club, the dismissal of Buckland is the “right time to make a change in the best interest of the club” despite the fact that Buckland was only appointed in JUNE OF THIS YEAR!

Clearly patience does not feature as part of Ealing's ambitions to reach the Premiership...

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Goneva's innovation should be applauded

Much has been made of the denial of Vereniki Goneva’s try for Newcastle against Sarries at the weekend for a “game value offence” (whatever the hell that is).

To recap, Goneva fielded a missed drop goal attempt behind his own line and feinted to touch down, touching the ball against his boot before running the length of the field to score.

Unfortunately for the Falcons, however, referee Ian Tempest had already blown up for a 22-metre drop out and the try was not given (and, in any event, the Saracens players had stopped when the whistle was blown).

So that – really – should have been that. In my view the referee clearly thought the ball had been touched down and erroneously blew his whistle. Mistakes happen, get over it.

Except in this instance Tempest, rather than admit his mistake, chose to shoot himself in the foot by saying that he had seen the non-grounding of the ball but decided that Goneva’s subterfuge amounted to a “game value offence”.

Which – clearly – is nonsense as Tempest should, if that were the case, have penalised the Fijiian rather than award the 22 metre drop out.

My view on this is quite simple. Goneva’s innovative and creative trickery is to be applauded and encouraged. In attempting to label it an offence in order to cover up a (perfectly understandable) refereeing error, Ian Tempest is simply being disingenuous.

The only way to dig yourself out of this hole, Mr Tempest, is to admit your mistake.

Monday, 3 September 2018

The times they are a-changin' ...


The sacking of Matt O'Connor as head coach of Leicester Tigers after ONE game of the new Premiership season shows just how much rugby has changed.

Yes, Tigers we're thrashed by Exeter, but I'm certain they won't be the only team to suffer a tonking at Sandy Park this season.

Such a knee-jerk reaction by the Leicester hierarchy smacks of pure panic and is unworthy of this historic club which has prided itself on its traditional rugby values over the years.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Anthony Watson - not ready for his close up

Not a huge amount has been going well for Eddie Jones and England in 2018 and it looks as if the annus horriblis is set to continue with news that Anthony Watson's second Achilles tear - effectively ruling him out of most of the forthcoming season - occurred during a photo shoot with NFL players six weeks ago.
Watson was in the process of recovering from the original rupture to his Achilles sustained against Ireland in March. What he was doing at a photoshoot is anyone's guess.
Meanwhile the talent drain from Twickenham continues with the imminent departure of England fitness coach Dean Benton. 
At the time of writing this leaves Eddie Jones without an attack coach, defence coach or fitness coach. 
Apparently the England squad's preparation for the international against South Africa on 3rd November will now consist of a swift half in The Cabbage Patch pub, a jog to the stadium and a couple of lineouts in the West Car Park.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

John Mitchell - the case for the defence?

According to rumours a deal is all but in place for the third Mitchell brother, John, to be appointed as England’s new defence coach.

Mitchell – the former England forwards coach and New Zealand and USA head coach (amongst other roles) – is currently the head coach of the Bulls in South Africa, but if the reports are to be believed he will soon be leaving Pretoria for TW1.

Experienced as he is, Mitchell has never previously been a specialist defence coach and his record with the Bulls – who finished bottom of this season’s South African conference in Super Rugby, conceding 66 tries in 16 games (i.e. over 4 tries per game) – hardly inspires confidence.

An odd choice, then, assuming it's true…

Monday, 20 August 2018

Once a wazzock? (Revisited)

Only the likes of Chris Ashton could - having returned to blighty from Toulon in a bid to win back his England place - get himself sent off for punching in a pre-season friendly.

Ashton, who managed to stay out of trouble perfectly well whilst playing in the south of France, seemingly can't avoid running into disciplinary problems as soon as the prospect of an England shirt beckons.

Like with Danny Cipriani's off-field shenanigans, Eddie Jones must be asking himself whether Ashton can be trusted.

Postscript: As it turns out Ashton was sent off for a tip tackle rather than punching. A minimum 6 week ban awaits...

Friday, 17 August 2018

Once a wazzock?

I'm currently on my hols so will keep this short and sweet.

After pleading guilty to assault outside a Jersey nightclub this week, Danny Cipriani will only have himself to blame if he never plays for England again.

It's really not that difficult to stay out of trouble and by his behaviour off the field he is constantly asking the question of whether he should be trusted on it.

On that question the jury is still out...

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

What's going on in TW1?

Something is not quite right at HQ.

Despite making a jobbing great profit from the 2015 World Cup the RFU are currently engaged in a cost-cutting programme that will result in over 60 members of staff losing their jobs.

CEO Steve Brown, whose job - incidentally -  does not appear to be under threat, insists that the RFU finances remain in good shape and that the redundancies merely reflect tough market conditions.

While any redundancies are unfortunate and a nightmare for those involved, reports that apparently over 40 of the job losses are coming from the community game suggest an incredibly ill advised short-term approach by the RFU that can only lead to the detriment of grassroots rugby and the game as a whole in this country.

And rumours that the RFU Council, in approving the cuts, rejected a proposal that members pay out of their own pockets for their partners’ match tickets and lunches for the four November internationals this year, do nothing for the credibility of the whole process.