Tuesday, 30 April 2013


So it's done - Lions tour squad announced. Initial thoughts:

1. Perhaps not quite as unbalanced as anticipated but Scotland have been well and truly shafted. Laidlaw, Grant, Beattie, Brown and possibly Visser all had a decent shout.

2. Gatland has made no exceptions for French-based players. At least he's consistent. Wrong, but consistent.

3. Hartley, Stevens and Vunipola?

4. Massively harsh on Robshaw.

5. England's squad for Argentina now potentially looking very good, although front row resources might be a bit thin.

6. I'd be interested to know who's on standby.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Everybody’s doing it…

…making predictions about the composition of Warren Gatland’s Lions squad (announced tomorrow), that is.

I’m not sure I can be arsed. What seems certain is that Wales will be over-represented. It was always going to be the case, given the agenda of who is in charge, but the Welsh victory over England at Cardiff last month sealed the deal, I’m sure, for many Welsh players who had been bloody awful last autumn and not much better in the early stages of this year’s Six Nations.

Likewise England are likely to be under-represented, forgetting the fact that they’ve only lost one match in each of the last 3 Six Nations tournaments, beat the All Blacks comprehensively in November and have beaten Australia on Australian soil in living memory (as, indeed, have Scotland who are also likely to be under-represented).
Successful Lions tours tend to feature balanced squads. I won't be holding my breath.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Here comes another one...

You wait for ages and then, a bit like Leeds buses, 3 stories about rugby mavericks arrive together.
With Andy Powell and Danny Cipriani back in the news it seems only fair to mention speculation surrounding the future of the artist formerly known as Gavin Church.
It would seem that Bath director of rugby Gary Gold is thinking seriously about putting everything on orange by signing up our favourite Jaffa-skinned Welshman to a season or two at The Rec. 

Doubtless a fit and focussed Henson could be an asset to the club and bring nous and experience to a youthful backline. "Fit and focussed" are not, however, words that have often been associated with the player over the past few seasons. Rather than him being a force in the Premiership next season, the clever money is on Henson topping up his tan in the Australian jungle...

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Oh Danny Boy

Just when you think the rugby season is petering out along comes a story like manna from heaven for your humble rugby blogger...

So, having spent much of the season out of the limelight (and out of the Sale Sharks 1st XV), former saviour of English rugby Danny Cipriani has returned to form with a bang having been hit by a double-decker bus whilst on a pub crawl with team-mates in Leeds city centre.

According to his agent Cipriani “was running across the road and just misjudged the speed of the bus." Nothing new there really– on the pitch our Danny is known for often misjudging the speed of opposing players although typically, to be fair, this causes him to leap out of their way rather than into contact.

It is reported that Cipriani is suffering from concussion although, in fairness, I am surprised that anyone could tell.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The road to Wigan Pier...

According to Wigan their new “marquee signing” Andy Powell is "exactly right for rugby league."

“Marquee signing?” A 31 year old former union international currently nowhere near the Wales team and who appears not to have been offered a new contract by a team in the lower reaches of the Premiership?

And as for being "exactly right for rugby league" I’ll refrain from any comments about Powell having a reputation for being a few leftovers short of a bubble & squeak.

Still, on a positive note, Sale to Wigan is just a short hop up the M60, M62 and M6 by golf buggy.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Sometimes rugby does itself no favours...

So, Welsh referee Hugh Watkins makes a fairly tame “Sorry, that’s a shocker” comment on Twitter about a refereeing decision in a Sevens match. Result? A 12 week ban (and his subsequent retirement from the game in disgust).

Meanwhile Stade Français scrum-half Jerome Fillol spits in an opponent’s face. Result? A ban only 2 weeks longer than that given to Watkins.

And to cap it all Munster lock Paul O’Connell recklessly kicks an opponent in the head, knocking him unconscious. Result? No case to answer.


Monday, 22 April 2013

My Life as a Hooker

Not only did I use my recent week in Fuerteventura to kick start the Total Flanker annual fitness drive, I also took the opportunity to catch up on a little reading and amongst the literary tomes consumed next to the pool was a certain "My Life as a Hooker" by Steven Gauge.

The book charts the author's attempts to stave off an impending midlife crisis by taking up the game of rugby at the age of 35, charting his debut at hooker for Warlingham 3rd XV and then his subsequent "elevation" to the heady heights of 4th XV skipper and the rise of his team from being the third worst team in the county to being Surrey Foundation League Champions.

Not only is this a funny and self-deprecating account of a short, fat, middle-aged man's rugby journey, it also captures the essence of junior club rugby in England - the club politics, the challenges of putting out four teams each week and the trials and tribulations of one man trying to organise roughly fifteen blokes to turn up in the same place at more or less the same time every Saturday. Anyone who has played rugby at that level will recognise the stories, the anecdotes and the characters described as being very, very familiar indeed.

It's also a heart-warming account of the inclusiveness of the game of rugby - something I'm sure we've all experienced - perhaps best typified by Guage's 4th XV motto: "No one gives anyone any shit for being shit." Brilliant.

Thoroughly recommended for anyone in need of cheering up...

Friday, 19 April 2013


Mid April and that can only mean one thing. Touch Rugby is back on the agenda.

I would like to say that I have been following a strict training regime in order to be in shape for my 8th consecutive Touch Rugby season. I would like say that but I can’t. I’m afraid that a winter spent cuddling beer and pizza in front of the warming glow of the TV has had the expected effect on my physique, only mitigated slightly by a week of beach jogging and swimming on my hols last week.

So, following Tuesday evening’s first practice session of the Spring my body is certainly letting me know how unimpressed it is with my efforts – with the simple act of standing up from my chair now involving a complex levering manoeuvre accompanied by a somewhat unnerving series of creaks and groans.

That said, it was nevertheless great fun chucking a ball around again and reaquainting myself with physical exertion. A few of last year’s team were also in attendance and it appears that although we will be missing one or two of our young stars from last year, we may have one or two others up our sleeve for the coming “season” – so although we will hardly start as favourites you just never know...

Tuesday, 16 April 2013


My thoughts and best wishes go out to the people of Boston and the victims (and their families) of yesterday's bomb blasts at the Boston Marathon.

I've been to Boston a couple of times - a great city with great people. They will get through this.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Practice what you preach

The capacity of the IRB to shoot itself in the foot never ceases to amaze.

What have the Board done this time? Only deny the economically challenged country of Cyrpus the chance to qualify for the 2015 World Cup, that’s what.

This the same Cyprus who, last month, defeated Bulgaria 79-10 to set a new record for successive Test wins – 18 in all since “the Moufflons” were last defeated (by Israel in 2008).

The grounds for the decision of world rugby’s governing body appear to be that Cyprus are not yet full members of the IRB.

And yet this is the same IRB who keep banging on about growing rugby’s global family. Come on IRB, practice what you preach.

There’s an online petition doing the rounds in the hope of forcing the IRB into a re-think – a long shot, but worth a go.

Incidentally, I wonder if our old friend Felix Frixou is still involved?

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Tat, utter tat...

I don't know, I go away for a week and what do I return to? News of Mrs Thatcher's demise might dominate the headlines but I'm drawn, like a moth to a flame, to the recent launch of the new England Sevens kit.
The marketing folk at Canterbury and the RFU must genuinely think we're stupid.
Apparently both the home and away kit have been created "with the English rose at the heart of the design using a pixelated image of the iconic rugby emblem." 

The home shirt, we're told, has a "classic look" while the away shirt "offers fans a livelier look to match the entertaining atmosphere at the London Sevens." Seriously.

And, having quaffed their fill of creative juice, those same marketing gurus have launched a ‘Home or Away’ campaign to ask fans to pledge their allegiance to the home or away shirt.

Sadly I suspect that there's no opportunity to choose a "sorry, both kits look shite" option.

No doubt this will fall on deaf ears, but please, please, don't encourage these idiots by taking part in this cynical campaign or by spending your hard-earned cash on this tat.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Plan? There ain't no plan...

Attempts to finalise the list of stadia for the 2015 World Cup appear to have reached farcical proportions.

England won the bid to host the 2015 tournament on the back of a promise of massive revenues (and an £80m guarantee) for the IRB.

For big revenues, however, you need bums on seats at big venues - and therein lies the problem.

Old Trafford (capacity 75,765) has been withdrawn as Man Utd are being precious about wear and tear at the Theatre of Dreams. The Etihad Stadium (60,000) is, apparently, only available for one fixture. Wembley (90,000) has limited availability owing to prior commitments to the NFL (for heaven’s sake). The Olympic Stadium (circa 60,000, probably) may not be ready in time. The Millennium Stadium (72,500) is available, they say, but has the very real drawback of being located in Wales.

The outcome, no doubt, will be smaller stadia and higher ticket prices. Wonderful.

Did no one think to confirm stadia availability before submitting the bid?

Monday, 1 April 2013

Gatland chooses his Lions

Reports suggest that British & Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland has now finalised his selection for this summer’s tour to Australia.

However it does appear that Gatland, currently on sabbatical from his day job as head coach of Wales, may have decided to set a highly controversial precedent by selecting his squad entirely from the ranks of one nation – Wales.

Sources close to Gatland have confirmed that the recent emphatic Welsh victory over England at Cardiff has persuaded him to go with an all Welsh squad.

The only non-Welshman on Gatland’s radar is believed to have been Italian Sergio Parisse who, despite the Lions’ committee’s best efforts, remains ineligible for the tour.

The Lions’ English coaching duo Andy Farrell and Graham Rowntree are said to be deeply unhappy with developments and on the verge of resigning from their positions as assistant coaches – with Shaun Edwards set to come in as defence coach and Ryan Jones set to accept a role as player coach with responsibility for the forwards. Jones will also skipper the midweek dirt-trackers with Gethin Jenkins set to be named tour captain.

Not only will the current Welsh squad be selected en masse, but Dan Lydiate, having recovered from injury, will also feature – as will Shane Williams who has told friends he is prepared to come out of international retirement to make the tour. Perhaps more controversially, former Gatland-favourite Gavin Henson is also believed to have made the cut following his recent form for London Welsh.