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.

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 idiot 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. 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

Chuckle 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.

You have to laugh...

Don't Panico

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.