Gloucester have confirmed that they have no plans to win the Guinness Premiership for the foreseeable future. The West Country club announced today that hapless fullback Ian Ballsup has signed a contract extension with the Cherry & Whites until 2010.
Wednesday, 30 April 2008
Gloucester have confirmed that they have no plans to win the Guinness Premiership for the foreseeable future. The West Country club announced today that hapless fullback Ian Ballsup has signed a contract extension with the Cherry & Whites until 2010.
This followed a rather boozy day at Cheltenham races the previous day where various reports suggest that Tindall and girlfriend Zara Phillips were seriously on the lash - and let's face it, they must have been for him still to be over the limit when stopped by police the following morning.
And all this while recovering from a seriously lacerated liver (prompting various "I could have died" headlines) suffered in the opening 6 Nations match against Wales at the beginning of February.
Mind you, Tindall has, over the years, established a formidable drinking reputation, even having had a crack, when returning from the 2003 World Cup triumph, at David Boon's 1989 record of drinking 52 in-flight cans of lager en route from Sydney to London. “You can rest assured David Boon’s record is still standing,” Will Greenwood said afterwards (Tindall is reported to have only managed 50). “Tinds had a real go at it but we wanted to leave the Aussies with at least one title to hang on to.”
All of which hopefully puts paid to the daft idea doing the rounds among some rugby pundits that Tindall will be the next England captain. Well, that and his inability to take and give a pass.
Tuesday, 29 April 2008
Monday, 28 April 2008
There have been several entirely deserved tributes to Hilda in the press recently so I'll keep this short. What I would say, however is that, as a player, he's probably the best pound for pound forward England have ever produced.
I read his autobiography a year or so ago and was struck by how understated his view of himself was, how he appeared to be entirely lacking in ego. As a book it was hardly a bundle of laughs, dealing mostly with his recovery from two horrendous knee injuries, but there was the occasional lighter moment such as when he recalled being out on the town with two mates following the 1997 Lions tour...
In trying to get into a Salisbury nightclub his mates decided to try to blag their way in as famous rugby players.
"I'm Rob Howley," said one and was waved through.
"Martin Johnson" said the other and in he went too.
"Richard Hill" said Hilda, to which the doorman replied "Sorry mate, never heard of that name. Still, if you’re with Rob and Martin , I suppose you can go in."
And perhaps even more revealing of the man was his reaction to not being made England captain after the 2003 World Cup...
“I tried to sound disappointed...but, to be truthful, it took a weight off my shoulders. By nature, I am a foot soldier. You need foot soldiers, and that’s what I do best.”
Damned right you need foot soldiers, Hilda, and as foot soldiers go you were simply the best.
Friday, 25 April 2008
What's more, not all of the visitors are my family.
So, amidst the hearty self-congratulation I must say a big thank you to all who continue to visit the blog and who put up with the tosh that's written here and thanks also to those who take the time to add their comments, even to ELV-loving Australians :).
I have a question, and you're just the man to answer it. With everyone going ga-ga over Martin Johnson being appointed the head cheese, I really need to know just what the captain of the team does? Having only played at University and club level (in the U.S.), my concept of the captain is he's just the guy who talks to the ref during the game. Apparently, at pro and international level, the captain does much more than that. Please enlighten me.
I've captained a few teams in my time with varying levels of success. When I started, at school, I took captaincy to mean that I had to call heads or tails before the game, choose which end to play and shout quite a lot during the game - and to be fair my captaincy skills never really evolved much beyond that. Certainly my pre-match speeches hardly ever had the galvanising effect that I'd hoped for, one in particular - involving the phrase "...it's a ploughed field out there boys, let's plant them in it..." reducing the entire changing room into a fit of hysterical giggling.
I guess that the answer to the question (and please excuse the fence-sitting here) depends on the team and the captain in question. As you say, Steve, it often involves little more than being the main channel of communication between the team and the referee - and that's probably also often the case at professional level.
It's also common to hear coaches spout the mantra that it's important to have leaders all over the pitch - not just the captain - and certainly that was Sir Clive's ethos with the 2003 England team. Given that England had the likes of Leonard, Dallaglio, Dawson and Greenwood in its ranks alongside the considerable presence of Martin Johnson, it's not something you can really argue against.
I'm sure that good captains are tactically adept and make the right calls at the right times, but equally there is something about certain players which simply marks them out as being born to lead. Johnno was one, John Eales (a very different character) was another, as were Sean Fitzpatrick and Tana Umaga. It's not so much what they do as what they represent to the team - they were all so respected, so highly thought of, so trusted by those that played under them that their teams were more or less cast in their image. In Johnno's case England developed into a team who simply would never back down, who would never shirk a challenge and who refused to be buggered about by anyone - this attitude may have brought Johnson into conflict with the RFU over disciplinary and payment issues, and with the Irish Rugby Union for the team's perceived slur on the Irish President at Lansdowne Road, but it also rubbed off on every single member of that England squad and it's what made them so damned difficult to beat.
I do apologise for the fact that this is such an unsatisfactory answer. Your question is, however, something to which I fully intend to give further thought and it could well form the subject of one of my incredibly insightful Total Flanker Guides before too long... :)
Watch this space!
The 34 year old former Royal Marine was extremely fortunate not to have been blinded after having been stamped on - deliberately, he maintains - by an opposition player. Not only that, but it turned out that the player who caused the injury should not have been on the field at all as he was already serving a suspension and was playing in the match as an unregistered "ringer".
Although the local disciplinary committee banned the player for a further twenty weeks for playing while suspended and the club in question was docked points for playing an unregistered player, no charge of violent conduct was ever brought against the player, despite Clacton citing him and despite the matter being reported to the police. Lack of evidence seems to have undermined the case, despite a number of Leonard's teammates having witnessed the incident.
Let down by the system, Leonard is left with his only remaining option and is taking legal advice with a view to bringing a civil action against the player. An overreaction to what the player in question insists was an accident? I don't think so - on a rugby field you tend to know when you've been caught accidentally and when it's a deliberate act of thuggery. There have been countless times when I've been caught at the bottom of rucks and have emerged with telltale stud marks on various parts of my anatomy - it pretty much goes with the territory - but I clearly recall one particular occasion when I knew for certain that I was the victim of a deliberate stamp - and I still bear that scar on my chin as a reminder.
Leonard knows he was the victim of a cowardly attack. As he says:"I feel very strongly about the fact that there are people playing rugby who think they can get away with anything."
Let's just hope that, by taking the thug in question to court, Leonard sends out a clear message that this is not the case.
Thursday, 24 April 2008
What's triggered this move is that the IRB are set hold a media briefing in London on Saturday ahead of a key meeting on 1st May at which the IRB plan to push through plans to introduce the ELVs into northern hemisphere rugby next season.
Fortunately, opposition from English rugby appears to be more or less unanimous, with the RFU expressing reservations and the Premiership clubs in particular being vocal in their disdain. Encouragingly, both the Welsh Rugby Union and the Irish Rugby Union have also voiced grave concerns and Serge Blanco, chief of the professional French clubs, is up in arms over claims that the French game is in favour of the proposed changes.
I've made my own views on the vast majority of the ELVs pretty clear. But the problem isn't that the ELVs are part of some Australian-led conspiracy to turn proper rugby into rugby league - they're not, although watching the Aussies react to that allegation never ceases to amuse. No, the real problem is that the ELVs were dreamt up by a totally unrepresentative bunch of blokes appointed by the IRB who think they've discovered a bunch of problems with the game and have come up with a bunch of ideas to solve them and now appear determined to drive through these solutions despite there being no evidence that they identified the correct problems in the first place or came up with the correct solutions. I'm sure that I could sit down with the guys at my rugby club and produce a list of different problems and different solutions which would be equally as valid.
Of course, when faced with opposition to the ELVs, the IRB's answer is to bombard us with a whole host of stats which "prove" that the game is better off under the ELVs because the ball's in play a bit longer. The stats which show that there are more stoppages in play due to the plethora of free kicks being awarded, meanwhile, are conveniently ignored. It's as if they feel that, because they've invested so much time and effort in coming up with and then trialling these new ideas, they simply have to make sure they become law whatever the consequences.
What no one has done, until now, is ask us - the great unwashed, the players, coaches, referees, administrators, volunteers, supporters and alickadoos at grassroots level - what we think of it all. Until now, that is. I have wondered previously whether anyone had given any thought to the effect of the ELVs on grassroots rugby and now, unbelievably, someone has done just that. The fact that it is the RFU that has come up with this radical idea just goes to show that life can still be full of surprises.
The RFU Survey
Wednesday, 23 April 2008
Well, the film is now finished and scheduled for release in the autumn and it's possible, just possible, that I may have misjudged the movie which, from the below clips at least, looks as if it might not be that bad after all...
The trouble is that the English really don't do the national pride thing very well. Whereas it's all fine and dandy to feel proud to be Irish, Scottish or Welsh, English national pride has become associated more with far right politics than with having a party - and perhaps it's for this reason that St. George's Day is, by and large, treated with a large dose of apathy. Is it embarrassment, perhaps, at our colonial past that triggers this reaction, or perhaps it's a sense that "Englishness" has in fact been diluted by hundreds of years of immigration into England from other parts of the British Isles? How many English people these days refer to themselves as "half-Welsh" or "quarter-Scottish" for instance?
As an example, I was born and bred in England but have Welsh parents. By and large, I suppose I consider myself English but am more likely to refer to myself as "British" if asked about my nationality - although there's no doubt whatsoever that, in a sporting context, I'm a passionate Englishman. I'm more than happy to sing from the rooftops when England win at rugby and can feel thoroughly depressed when they lose - but I doubt I'd ever fly an English flag outside my home to declare my nationality.
It seems I'm not alone in this - a recent survey by English Heritage revealed that fewer than one in five people celebrate St. George's Day and found that almost half the respondents believed St. George was one of the mythical knights of King Arthur’s Round Table!
So, in an attempt to do my bit, here are a few facts about St. George, as revealed by English Heritage:
- St. George was actually born in Israel and probably never visited here;
- St George is also the patron saint of Canada, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Montenegro, Serbia and Catalonia as well as many charities and cities including Moscow;
- St. George was a worthy solider in the Roman army and earned himself a position of nobility;
- St. George was born in 270 AD, that’s over 1700 years ago. He died aged just 33;
- St. George was given his sainthood because he refused to carry out the persecution of the Christians which was demanded of him by his leader in the Roman army, and was then tortured and killed himself;
- St. George’s Day is celebrated in England on the 23rd April. This is said to be the date he died (or the date of his martyrdom);
- The banner of St. George (white flag with a red cross) used to encourage bravery before soldiers went into battle;
- William Shakespeare was born and died on April 23rd, St. George's Day.
No mention of him slaying a dragon then?
Tuesday, 22 April 2008
If uninformed rants and outlandish conspiracy theories are what floats your boat then you need look no further than Rugbycan – a blog, of sorts, that rages against rugby officialdom in general and against the English in particular, with an impressive display of vitriol and venom.
The lead protagonist on Rugbycan is a character - possibly real, possibly fictional - called Karl Miffentoff, who for some reason appears to detest all things English and who reserves a particular brand of bilious hatred for the RFU and its “lesbian partner” (!) the IRB.
When I first looked at Rugbycan I assumed that it was all just a bit of a giggle but (and I admit that I may be missing something here) the bile and the vitriol is so sustained and so consistent that I’m beginning to think that this guy might just be serious. I hope I’m wrong on this score but must admit that it arguably makes the blog even funnier than if it was intended as a joke.
Rugbycan’s basic premise is that the RFU and IRB are, essentially, one and the same organisation and that they are involved in a conspiracy to undermine the rest of the rugby world by nefarious means. Some of the more recent claims include:
- that the RFU have instructed English Premiership clubs to attract as many All Blacks to England as soon as possible in order to weaken the All Blacks;
- that the RFU have neutralised the threat from Argentina by giving Marcelo Loffreda a job at Leicester and that the Argentinians have been further undermined by having their rugby directed by “Englishman bastard” Les Cusworth;
- that the RFU have swindled the USA by putting an Australian in charge as coach and “another English bastard” as director of rugby;
- that the RFU have dictated terms to the Canadians by sticking a New Zealander in charge there; and
- that, amongst all these dastardly deeds, the French Rugby Federation is somehow the sole bastion of decency in the world of rugby, and should break away from the RFU/IRB to form a new world governing body but has been undermined by its former President Bernard Lapasset turning traitor by joining the IRB.
As I say, these are just some of the ridiculously hilarious claims made on Rugbycan which conveniently ignore certain facts such as:
- that far from being one and the same, the RFU and the IRB are more often than not at loggerheads (the current dispute being over the proposed introduction of the ELVs);
- that the English clubs would soon tell the RFU where to go pretty damned quickly if they dared to try to dictate which players the clubs should recruit;
- that Leicester look likely to fire Loffreda on the basis that he really hasn't been very good; and
- that for the RFU to be involved in a conspiracy so far reaching that it could insert its chosen people (including Australian and New Zealanders) into positions of influence in the USA, Canada and Argentina, suggests a level of competence within the corridors of Twickenham that, as the Brian Ashton fiasco has demonstrated, has yet to manifest itself in any other of its dealings.
Of course, I can be dismissed by any true conspiracy theorist as merely a pawn of the establishment, spouting out propaganda in an attempt to brainwash the masses and discredit those who have seen the light.
I am, of course, nothing of the sort - I am in fact a member of “The Iluminati” a sinister reptilian group who control both the RFU and the IRB and who are dedicated to the control of all aspects of society.
"Of course," you say, "the header used to refer to Total Flanker as an 'over-the-hill ex(?) rugby player' - and now it says that he's an 'over-the-hill former ex-rugby player.' How very fascinating."
Calm down dear, the reason is obvious. When I started this blog nearly a year ago I really wasn't sure whether or not I'd ever play a game of full contact rugby again - after all, I hadn't played for over 13 years at that point and, although I'd thoroughly enjoyed playing Touch Rugby, I had absolutely no idea whether my body would stand up to the rigours of playing properly again. However, the idea of putting myself through the pain again was just beginning to germinate, as my second ever post entitled "So am I retired or what?" revealed, and for this reason my status as an ex-player was in doubt.
Fast-forward nearly 12 months and the situation is very different - having made a glorious comeback to the game (well, perhaps 'glorious' isn't the word - perhaps 'adequate' would be more appropriate), I can safely say that my days as an ex-player are now behind me, at least for now. Having only muddled through four games this season, however, I can hardly refer to myself as a current rugby player - I think it's only right and proper that such a title carries the responsibility of a certain level of commitment and of a week-on-week devotion to the cause. No, I think the most accurate way to describe myself now is that I used to be an an ex-player - in other words I'm now a 'former ex-rugby player'.
On a different note (and I've no idea how he'd describe himself), it seems that our friend Nursedude has come through another game with yet another victory as the Metropolis "Killer Bs" triumphed over their Green Bay equivalents at the weekend. Click here for the full story.
Monday, 21 April 2008
Ray starts his report with a comment that I too been forced to make after each of my performances this season, to the effect that the opposition's team "were younger and fitter than ours." Does every veteran rugby player feel like this I wonder?
"I've had two knee operations, 2 teeth knocked out (yes -you dentists, that's with a mouthpiece in place), and 2 shoulders separated.
"I tell folks that as soon as I suffer a major injury, I'll quit playing rugby.
Saturday, 19 April 2008
Friday, 18 April 2008
This may as well have been the message delivered to the New Zealand Rugby Union after the Rugby World Cup because, in a week when the RFU has been universally ridiculed for its handling of the Ashton-Johnson affair, the NZRU has finally managed to deliver its Review of the All Blacks performance at the Rugby World Cup - yes, remember, the tournament that finished back in October.Not only did it take the NZRU (or whichever bright spark they hired) 6 months to deliver the report, and not only did they go ahead and re-appoint Graham Henry months ago before they even had the first inkling of the report's contents, but the report itself somehow manages to break new ground in terms of pure gobbledegook.
Apparently, for instance, Graham Henry didn't rotate the All Blacks selection prior to the World Cup quarter final - he obviously just changed his mind quite a lot about who his first choice players were and is probably why NZ ended up with a fullback playing centre for the third successive World Cup - anyone see a pattern emerging there?
Equally, while Henry's controversial conditioning programme is quite rightly criticised (although Henry himself appears to escape censure for some reason), there seems to be no mention of the selection of a half-fit Dan Carter, a fullback at centre (did I mention that?) and a palpably unfit Keith Robinson (to give him game time and build up his match fitness for the next round) for the quarter final - although apparently the All Blacks didn't underestimate the French - much.
The report also seems to justify the on-field decision not to go for a drop goal in the last 10 minutes of the quarter-final by commenting that the players decided to continue with the tactic of attempting to score a try or to get a penalty because they were unaware that the All Blacks had not been given a penalty in the entire second half. In other words, it's still that dastardly English referee's fault and nothing to do with crap leadership on the field.
I've no idea what the NZRU paid for such a report and I'm sure they all feel it's money well spent - but what shocked me most was the failure to mention the primary reason for New Zealand's exit - i.e. the clandestine IRB conspiracy that permitted the French to change their kit from their traditional blue to a despicable dark navy, a decision which forced the New Zealand team to wear those horrible grey shirts for the quarter final.
Implausible? No more so than much of the rest of the report...
P.S. Don't just take my word for it - check out Sportsfreak's 720 degree holistic review of the review.
Wednesday, 16 April 2008
Setting aside the ridiculous nature of the British honours system (since when did we have a British Empire?), this particular EeeBeeGeeBee has the following observations:
Back in October Peterborough RUFC (where I played Colts rugby and a handful of senior games from 1980-83), were lying 8th in Midlands 1 and, following a 21-7 victory over Kenilworth last weekend and with one match to go - away to Longton on Saturday - 8th is exactly where they remain. With 10 wins, 11 defeats and 20 points, I'd describe their season as "solid" . Being my first club, where I learned not only how to play the game but how to survive in the bar afterwards, I've always has a soft spot for Boro' and it's great to see them safely ensconced at that level.
Guildford RFC (previously "Guildford & Goldalming"), for whom I played in 1986-87, were riding high in London 2 South back in October with 3 wins from 4 games. Since then, however, they've slumped to second from bottom, having only won one more match and having lost 16 times. Last weekend's 10-51 defeat to Jersey won't have helped their cause and, having been relegated from London 1 last season, a second successive relegation looks on the cards whatever the outcome of Saturday's fixture away to Beckenham.
Ealing, awash with referees, have had an altogether more successful time of it. Promoted at the end of last season to National 3 South, Ealing currently lie 3rd which, to my knowledge, certainly represents their most successful season ever. A record of 17 wins, 1 draw and 7 defeats at this level is a fantastic return on the season and, despite facing a tough away fixture against 2nd placed Cinderford this weekend, they must be more than chuffed with their efforts. I thoroughly enjoyed the couple of seasons or so I played there as a 20-something, single bloke with no mortgage, no commitments and a disposable income which I wasted largely on beer in the Ealing clubhouse!
Meanwhile, one rung down on the league ladder, Barnes RFC have had another very solid season in London 1. If consolidation is the aim then Barnes have certainly achieved it, being 5th in the table (the same as the past 2 seasons I believe). It's a notoriously difficult league to escape from (upwards) - just ask Richmond who have finally managed it this season at the 3rd attempt. Barnes thrashed Thanet Wanderers 67-5 last weekend and face an away trip to Bishop Stortford on Saturday, a match they should win to complete another good season. It's great to see Barnes going well having been there at the start of their climb up the leagues from Surrey 2 - it's also the club where I was first introduced, back in 1992, to the lovely girl who went on to become Mrs Flanker!
So now finally to Chesham, the club responsible for resurrecting this creaking old has-been and providing him with a new lease of life and a whole host of new niggly injuries. Chesham's certainly the smallest club I've been involved with and has a distinct community feel to it - its junior section in particular being extremely well run. The 1st XV have had a mixed time of it this season but ultimately has managed to survive reasonably comfortably in Berks/Bucks & Oxon 1 North, currently lying in 7th place with 7 wins and 12 defeats. Chesham took the decision this season to try to integrate as many of the youngsters coming through the juniors system into the senior ranks, with the result that several 17 year olds have made their 1st team debuts this season - something that can only bode well for the future. A tough away fixture against Banbury 2nds will bring the season to a close on Saturday.
As for me, with no fixture likely to be scheduled for this weekend, it looks like that's my season done and dusted and I guess I should look back on the season with some satisfaction. After all, taking up the game again after a 14 year gap is no mean feat, and I've come through it with no major injuries and some performances which bordered on the half-decent. Granted, we failed to win any of the 4 matches in which I played (and I've not long finished a phone conversation with Colin, the Vets' captain, who confirmed that Saturday's match against Ruislip - which I missed - was a familiar tale of getting off to a slow start, then rallying in the second half but ultimately succumbing to a better organised team), but it's been fun to be involved with, the camaraderie has been first rate and I did manage to score my first try this century! My only gripes are that my body didn't allow me to play the way I used to 14 years ago (perhaps understandably) and that I only got to play 4 games thanks to the cancellation of two fixtures by the same club (you know who you are!). To paraphrase former England hooker John Pullin - Chesham Vets may not be any good, but at least we turn up!
Tuesday, 15 April 2008
The Ealing club referees section is believed to be the first of its kind in England and has won the RFU President’s XV award for More Referees (no, I wasn't aware that award existed either).
Apparently top English ref Wayne Barnes has been among those giving coaching to the Ealing section. The number of forward passes missed in games featuring Ealing's teams and the lack of penalties awarded to teams featuring forwards from New Zealand is, apparently, just a coincidence.
Peter, it seems, is somewhat evangelical about the sidestep and his website is a celebration of the art of the step as well as an instructional guide. Driven by the inspiration of watching former Welsh international and League legend David Watkins, the art of Cossack dancing and the need to push an old Ford Anglia up a hill (I kid you not), Peter taught himself to master the sidestep and maintains that anyone can do the same. So, if this takes off, then before you know it we'll have hoards of twinkle-toed props stepping their way through the opposition massed ranks instead of perhaps taking the more prosaic traditional routes.
Peter has also made a promo video, in which he demonstrates his art like a geriatric Shane Williams on acid - sadly I can't embed the video in this blog but it's very entertaining and can be found here.
I should warn you, however, that the sidestep comes with it's own health warning - just look at the change that it caused in Peter's appearance for a start!
From a personal perspective, I have a rather sparingly used step off my left foot in my armoury which gets dusted off for touch rugby but rarely makes an appearance in a full match - largely because it's difficult to step while buried in a ruck.
It just leaves me to say good luck with the website Peter and with your sidestep crusade :).
Monday, 14 April 2008
Friday, 11 April 2008
Three men are stranded on a desert island in shark-infested waters. The first decides to risk the half-mile swim to land, but fails to make it. The second also meets a grim and bloody end. The third dives into the water and, without being touched, makes it to the mainland where he strolls into the nearest beach bar and orders a beer. "How come you made it and the others didn't?" asks the barman. "That's easy," replies the dripping stranger. "I wore a T-shirt saying 'Francis Baron is a genius' and even the sharks wouldn't swallow that."
Thursday, 10 April 2008
Names that have been liberally sprinkled around the popular and not-so-popular press include Shaun Edwards, Austin Healy, Mike Catt, Pat Howard, Neil Back and Will Greenwood. One name that has not been mentioned so far is Tory London Mayoral candidate and David Strettle-lookalike, Boris Johnson.
Not only is Boris the spitting image of the blonde mop-headed England winger, he also has a rock solid defensive game and would be ideal to instill the blitz defence into the England team. Just look at how he tackled the German winger in the England v Germany Legends match a couple of years ago. OK, admittedly he was playing football and not rugby, but you can't fault his commitment.
"There was no malice in my actions. I was going for the ball with my head, which I understand is a legitimate move," Boris reportedly said afterwards.
No mention of Martin Johnson by name and certainly no prospect, it appears, of Johnno coming in as head coach with the right to hire and fire his own coaching team, as advocated by Sir Clive at the weekend.
This, apparently, is news to Johnno. According to the esteemed Daily Mail (who surely wouldn't make anything up, would they?), Johnno believes that he has agreed a deal to take complete charge of the national squad as head coach, a deal giving him him carte blanche over selecting his own team of specialist coaches. It even suggests that Johnno has had discussions with Shaun Edwards about a role with England.
Who knows what the truth may be, but the fact that Mr. Baron has also stated that Brian Ashton has been kept appraised of all ongoing discussions, despite the fact that it's been widely reported that Ashton is both bemused and angry about the lack of meaningful communication from the RFU, adds fuel to the thought that perhaps Mr. Baron is struggling to tell the difference between his gluteus maximus and his humeroulnar joint, as demonstrated by my highly useful diagram.
The frankly insane system was trialled for the first time this week in South Africa during the Varsity Cup final between the Cape Town and Stellenbosch university teams and was rated an overwhelming success by 2003 World Cup final referee Andre Watson - which should be enough in itself to make sure that this ludicrous idea never sees the light of day.
Wednesday, 9 April 2008
The star fullback of that era was the Welsh legend JPR Williams and I was deluded enough to believe that I was capable of emulating him - after all, I thought I could catch a high kick, was reasonably quick (ah, those were the days!) was happy to tackle all day and preferred my socks rolled down around my ankles. Sadly, I was handed the number 4 shirt (metaphorically speaking, of course, as we didn't actually have numbers on our shirts) and was never able to realise that particular dream.
Nevertheless, I do feel uniquely qualified to talk about the fullback position with some authority on the basis that I just might have been fantastic there. Don't mock, anything's possible, and my delusion is supported by the fact that, aside from a few notable exceptions like Blanco, Hastings, Cullen and Latham, no player in the world game has really nailed the position down since the days of JPR. The English, in particular, have over the years inflicted upon us the likes of Bob Hiller, Dusty Hare, Marcus Rose, Jonathan Webb and (heaven help us) Iain Balshaw - all with their own qualities I'm sure but none of whom have exactly inspired confidence. So, on that very tenuous basis, I'm very secure in my own little fantasy world, thank you very much.
All of which begs the question - what makes a good fullback?
The simple answer is that the fullback must be an absolutely solid last line of defence, must have a complete disregard for his own safety, must tackle like a dervish, must have faultless positional sense, must confidently catch all "Garryowens" launched by the opposition, must have a siege-gun boot for returning kicks, must have fantastic spatial awareness and an eye for the counterattack and must be blessed with great pace and split-second timing when joining the three-quarter line. Not much to ask really, is it?
The reality of course is that if you have any one of these skills then you have a great shout at being picked at fullback. Without any of these skills you are likely to be a forward.
Chairman of Selectors: "OK chaps, we've picked the pack, now let's look at the backline. We've a short aggressive little Welshman at scrum-half, a deluded ego-maniac at fly-half, two impeccably well-dressed centres, a speedster who can't catch on one wing and a big lump of a bloke on the other wing. That's it I think."
4th XV captain: "What about Dave?"
Chairman of Selectors: "Oh bugger, Dave, yes, hmmmm, well he can't catch, pass or run very quickly and he's a hopeless tackler. Sod it, stick him at fullback and hope no one notices. That's all gentlemen, mine's a gin and tonic..."
Tuesday, 8 April 2008
According to reports, Keane will spend about three days with New Zealand during their build-up their match against Ireland in Wellington on 7th June.
Monday, 7 April 2008
The imposter is none other than Frenchman Remi Gaillard, (in)famous for his many star turns at sporting events (including joining in the French soccer cup final celebrations and being congratulated on his game by the French President!)
I just love the way he swaggers onto the field in true scrumhalf fashion for this Montpellier v Bourgoin clash last April and even has the balls to shake the referee's hand.
The end quote "C'est un faisant n'importe quoi qu'on devient n'importe qui" from Gaillard's nimportequi.com website roughly translates as "By doing anything you become anyone."
Followers of Taione's career will know that this isn't the first time that the red mist has descended for him - as Munster's Dennis Leamy, who was infamously bitten by the Irish Tongan during a 2006 Munster v (Sale) Sharks Heineken Cup tie, will testify.
Taione received a six month for the biting incident and can expect little leniency for his latest indiscretion. His time with the Natal Sharks could prove to be even shorter than his stay with their South Manchester equivalents.
Saturday, 5 April 2008
It has come to my attention, however, that not only do the ELVs ruin the art of forward play and create a cheat's charter, they also appear (inadvertently I suspect) to make the cover tackle illegal!
This has come to light following a Super 14 mach between the Stormers and the Chiefs (what is it with these Super 14 franchise names? Would it kill them to give us a clue as to where they are based?) when a fantastic cover tackle by Lelia Masaga of the Chiefs (from somewhere in New Zealand) on Schalk Burger resulted in a penalty try being awarded to the Stormers (from somewhere in South Africa) because Masaga was behind play when the ball was offloaded to Burger from a tackle. The tackle can be seen below (last try in the highlights sequence):
Because the new law creates an offside line at the tackle rather than when a ruck or maul forms, any defender behind the play when a grounded player makes an offload is now offside. If the tackler happens to be the last line of defence, all of his teammates will be offside. Those defenders can then either let an attacker who receives the offload run away and score or infringe and, if they infringe close to the line, a penalty try will almost certainly result.
So what looked like a brilliant piece of defending by Masaga in fact turned out to be illegal and cost his team a seven-pointer.
Surely this cannot be what the lawmakers intended? Super 14 rugby is often subject to unjust northern hemisphere jibes that it is a form of glorified basketball - but ultimately if this law is applied to the letter then that is exactly what rugby will become - a game in which each side takes turns to score and where a try is almost guaranteed once a line break is made - something so far removed from rugby as we currently know it as to make it unrecognisable.
I can only hope that the powers that be are looking at the ELVs very much as the name intends - as an "experiment" - and, where such an experiment is shown clearly to produce a result that is neither intended nor desirable, that the law in question will be abandoned with indecent haste.
Friday, 4 April 2008
It was all fairly innocuous really. On Wednesday morning I woke up with a slightly sore right hip, something I put down to a 3 hour drive the previous day and sleeping in a different bed. I got up - no problem, went downstairs - no problem, made cups of tea - no problem, came back up - no problem and then, just as I was getting back into bed to drink my tea - POW! - an excruciating shooting pain just above my right buttock.
Bloody painful it was and I knew exactly what had happened as the sciatic nerve compressed and left me prostrate on the floor. Fortunately I do know a few exercises that bring a little relief and was able at least to get mobile again but, despite dosing up on ibruprofen, I struggled badly for the rest of the day. It left me physically unable to do very much with the kids and also in a really grumpy mood which didn't endear me to them at all and which later prompted my daughter to write a note to to herself which read "I hate Daddy most of the time." (!)
I'm afraid that this compression of the sciatic nerve just happens from time to time and there's no predicting what might trigger it. The original injury happened back in September 1993 when I got myself twisted at the bottom of a ruck and every now and again it re-occurs, the last time being about 3 years or so ago when I was helping to lift my then 2 year old son onto the toilet! That time I required weeks of physio to sort it out but, the pain having has eased off a little over the last 48 hours, I'm hoping that physio won't be required this time and am planning to get myself to the gym later today to work on some exercises to strengthen the lower back area and release some of the nerve compression.
Ironically I spoke to one of the guys at the rugby club earlier in the week who thought there was a good chance that I'd get a game for the 2nds before the season finishes, but I'll have to wait and see whether my back settles down before I can contemplate playing.
Of course, I'll also have to rebuild my relationship with my children!
Tuesday, 1 April 2008
Instead, a senior source at the RFU indicated that a deal was now more or less in place to install the England's women's team head coach Gary Street as the new supremo of the England's men's team and that a statement to that effect was "imminent".
It had been thought that, if the talks with Johnson had not borne fruit, then the RFU would turn to South African World Cup-winning coach Jake White, but the RFU source confirmed that "we will not be turning to a foreigner - this isn't football."
So, with Johnson ruling himself out and with White ruled out on the grounds of nationality, it appears that the RFU have decided on appointing the 39 year old Street, who masterminded the England women's Six Nations Grand Slam this year and who has a 100% record with the women's team since taking over in 2007.
Whether Street and Brian Ashton can work together remains to be seen, but the chances of Ashton remaining in charge now appear to be increasingly slim after Chairman of the RFU Management Board, Martyn Thomas, was seen stalking the corridors of Twickenham wearing the pictured T-shirt.