Sunday, 30 June 2013

Stick or twist?

Fortune, they say, favours the brave.

The Lions played too conservatively on Saturday and got precisely what they deserved.

So, now to the decider in Sydney ... does Gatland stick or or does he twist?

Justin Tipuric? Jamie Roberts? Manu Tuilagi?

Friday, 28 June 2013

Well done George

It's official. 

Having apologised profusely for the gesture he made at Will Genia while scoring his otherwise superb try in the first Test against Australia last Saturday, George North is now an ex-wazzock.

"Looking back, I feel horrendous for doing it now," says North.

"Rugby's a gentleman's game and that shouldn't be involved in the game.

"I know it was out of line with sportsmanship and rugby and feel terrible for that."

Welcome back George.

Thursday, 27 June 2013


With the speculation about who will feature in the Lions 2nd Test against Oz now ended by Warren Gatland’s unexpectedly brave team selection, we move on to more serious matters…

The government of Victoria has, it seems, had a huge sense of humour failure over a giant painted advertisement located directly under Melbourne's international flight path which depicts a winking kangaroo “cuddling” a lion from behind alongside the slogan “Rooting for the Wallabies.”

The 170m x 90m advertisement is the work of a certain betting company (who shall, for reasons of impartiality, remain nameless but whose identity shouldn’t be that difficult to work out) and prompted the “appalled” Victoria government to threaten legal action to have it removed. 

Sadly the ad has now gone but no doubt the nameless betting company are laughing all the way to the bank...

Price is right?

I see that the unfortunately ubiquitous Katie Price has apparently warned ex-beau Danny Cipriani that he has reason to be "s**tting himself" about her forthcoming autobiography, claiming that she has photographs, texts and emails implicating the former great white hope of English rugby.

Cipriani, who is currently once again batting way, way above his average with Kelly Brook, does have the distinction of being one of very few former victims of the pneumatically enhanced model who did not end up fathering a child with her.

No doubt we’ll all be pre-ordering the autobiography which will be available from all good book shops and no doubt a few crap ones too.

TOTAL FLANKER – the cutting edge of rugby journalism...

Monday, 24 June 2013

Hair raising win for young England

Some shocking hairstyles on display in the England Under 20 front row yesterday as England beat Wales in the final to claim their first U20 World Championship.

Luke Cowan-Dickie and Alec Hepburn, with hairstyles last observed in a 1980s discotheque, achieved the remarkable feat of making Joe Marler look the epitome of elegance. At least they won - with those barnets I doubt they could contemplate defeat. Perhaps that's the answer - make all England players sport ridiculous hair and embarrass them into winning?

Anyway, congratulations to England on their win and to both teams for making this an all northern hemisphere final for the first time. What odds on the feat being repeated by the seniors in 2015?

And another thing...

To anyone who honestly believed that the Aussie captain James Horwill would receive a ban for stamping on the face of Lions lock Alun Wyn Jones I have two words to say:

Tana Umaga.

Sunday, 23 June 2013


1. A win is a win is a win, no matter how fortunate.

2. A defeat is a defeat, no matter how unfortunate.

3. Utter brilliance and utter wassockness from George North in equal measure.

4. Will Robbie Deans pick a fly half to play flay half next week?

5. Will Kurtley Beale decide to put some studs in his boots?

6. Do Australia have any fit players left to play in the three quarters?

7. Will the Lions ever have as good a chance as this to seal a series win?

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Legs, meet Brain...

The problem with the ageing process is that occasionally, just occasionally, you forget that your body no longer responds to the instructions it is receiving from your brain.

Such was the case yesterday evening when, in sultry conditions in tropical Chesham during a Touch Rugby match against the Tight Head Pops, I stepped inside one would-be tackler, swerved inside another and then threw a dummy to burst (well, kind of) through the gap.

For one brief and exhilarating moment anything was possible and all that was required was for the after-burners to kick-in to carry me the 20 metres or so to the tryline. And the response from my legs? Nada, zilch, nothing whatsoever. One overly ambitious and desperate attempt at an overhead pass later, the chance was lost.

Fortunately my humiliation had no bearing on the result as other, younger, fitter members of the team ran in a number of tries to see 'Billy Who?' record our 3rd win out of 4 matches. I even contributed a late try myself when all I had to do was catch the ball and stroll over from 2 metres – which I clearly need to understand is more my kind of distance these days.

Here's the thing - when I think rationally I know full well that that the days of me outsprinting anyone are so far behind me it’s just not funny anymore. In the heat of the moment, however, something inexplicable happens and more often than not instinct will kick in and the right side of my brain will drag up memories from 30 years ago and delude itself into thinking that there’s still some pace left in the old legs.

I really must introduce my legs to my brain.

Build ‘em up, knock ‘em down

According to the Daily Fail one of the lessons learned from the Lions’ defeat to the Brumbies is that Christian Wade was out of his depth.

That’s right, the same Christian Wade who has been lighting up rugby pitches all season  from High Wycombe to Buenos Aries and who was thrust into a team featuring a three-quarter line who met for the first time 2 days before the match, with a fullback starting his first game of the tour, a fly-half playing his 2nd ever senior game in that position and behind a lethargic, malfunctioning pack.

And yet the Lions still only lost by 2 points to a team (albeit one missing its Wallabies) that tops the Super 15.

Nothing like a bit of perspective…

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Anyone fancy a game?

We're almost at the stage where, if you are a northern hemisphere international three-quarter, you might justifiably regard not being called into the Lions squad as a personal insult. Anyone who fancies a game should probably just pack their boots and jump on a plane to Brisbane.

This follows the news that, as somewhat facetiously predicted by this blog back in April, Ickle Shane Williams has now been called into the British & Irish Lions squad as temporary cover and, together with other new arrivals Brad Barritt and Christian Wade, is expected to start against the Brumbies on Tuesday.

Meanwhile Stuart Lancaster returns from Argentina with a 2-0 series victory and his hand strengthened in several areas. He'll delighted by the emergence of a credible alternative front row - with Rob Webber showing particularly well - as well as with the likes of Matt Kvesic, Freddie Burns, Billy Twelvetrees, Kyle Eastmond, Christian Wade and Marland Yarde all putting their hands up to challenge the established order. Selection for the November internationals will be interesting indeed.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Turning Japanese (I really think so)

Congrats to Japan - not only was their historic 23-8 victory over Wales their first win against an allegedly top tier rugby nation, by virtue of the victory Japan are now also the proud holders of the coveted Raeburn Shield.

For the uninitiated the Raeburn Shield is a hypothetical international rugby trophy that you win by beating the current holders and keep until you are next beaten. The first holders of the Shield were Scotland after beating England in the the very first game of international rugby union at Raeburn Place, Edinburgh in 1871. Until their defeat to Japan, Wales were the holders by virtue of their victory against England in Cardiff earlier this year.

So now the mythical trophy is in the hands of the Japanese for the very first time and, with Japan involved in the forthcoming IRB Pacific Nations tournament, the Raeburn Shield could find itself in some very non-traditional rugby locations over the next few weeks.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

The Burning Question...?

Here’s what I’ve been wondering...

Billy Twelvetrees has now been called up to the Lions squad, joining the likes of Alex Corbisiero, Ryan Grant and Simon Zebo who have all flown out from distant places to join the squad in Oz. The burning question is this - where does he pick up his Lions stash and how does he get kitted out in official blazer, shirt, tie, trousers etc?

As the picture shows, Twelvetrees has already posed in a Lions shirt. Does that mean every potential replacement Lion has been issued with kit or did they all share the same shirt for the photo? Or has Billy just popped out to the local Sports Direct in Buenos Aries armed with a fistful of pesos?

Take Alex Corbisiero. When he was called up last week he spent 40 odd hours on a flight and yet arrived at Brisbane airport last week already dressed in Lions polo shirt etc – ok, not too difficult to imagine that he ordered an XXL but the question is where did he pick it up? And the following day he was pictured in the stands at the Queensland match looking very dapper in full Lions regalia but how was he kitted out so quickly? Was his blazer, for instance, made to measure or off the peg? Do the Lions have an endless supply of official clothing of all shapes and sizes or were all potential stand-by players measured up in advance of the tour and clothing produced and shipped out just in case? And is this why the tour has cost a reported £££££ million?

I think we should be told.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Pointless & 36

The Lions' rout of the Queensland and New South Wales Country XV yesterday had about as much point as the number of points actually registered by the host team. Another example, I'm afraid, of the Lions committee getting the tour schedule badly wrong.

I'm not saying that these wholehearted amateur club players shouldn't get the chance to play against the Lions - perhaps they could have played against the dirt-trackers in the week between the tests for instance - but as preparation for test match rugby it was woefully inadequate.

Brian Moore's suggestion that the Lions should be playing warm up tests in Australia against the Pacific Island teams definitely has merit - something to think about, then, in 2025?

On a slightly different note, what has James Hook done to upset Warren Gatland so much? With various Lions backs suffering a variety of aches and pains I would have thought Hook, who has played international rugby at 10, 12, 13 and 15, would be the ideal replacement to fly out to Oz as cover. And yet instead Gatland has called up England's Billy Twelvetrees from Argentina.

Don't get me wrong - I am, as readers of this blog will testify, a huge fan of '36' but it's still a bizarre decision assuming Hook is not injured and I can't imagine he'd be overly impressed by the judgement of his former (and possibly future) national coach.

I must also admit I'm a tad miffed that '36' will miss England's 2nd test against Argentina given how well he linked with Freddie Burns last weekend.  I'd much rather he helped England to s series win against the Pumas than got splinters in his arse warming the bench down under.

Monday, 10 June 2013

The Spy That Never Was

Well, we’ve had It Ain’t Half Hot Mum-gate and Western Farce-gate, so it’s only right and proper that we should now move on to The Spy That Never Was-gate, with Warren Gatland levelling all sorts of baseless accusations at all and sundry before hastily denying that he ever said anything of the sort.

The fact is that we’re slap bang in the middle of the phoney war prior to the Test series and the Lions are “blessed” with a head coach who, much like Clive Woodward in 2005, believes that he is some kind of Jedi master at playing mind games when, in fact, he’s more Jah Jah Binks than Yoda.

Oh, for the understated dignity of Ian McGeechan…

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Back in Touch

Forget the Lions for a moment. The question on the tip of your collective tongues (all 3 of them) is undoubtedly: “I wonder how TF is getting along with his Touch Rugby this summer?”
The answer, I’m afraid, lies in the fact that summer has barely managed to get going this year with the result that two weeks were rained off and fixtures cancelled, meaning that this Tuesday was our first run out since the first game of the season 4 weeks ago.
It was therefore a fairly rusty ‘Billy Who?’ team that found itself up against our perennial rivals – those pesky Barbarians from Watford.
The match was refereed by a rookie 15 year old and, whilst full of admiration for the fact that he had volunteered for the role, the net result was that the match was in actual fact refereed by various vociferous members of the opposition who effectively instructed the young referee in what decisions to take.
Although this was extremely irritating and I would love to blame our subsequent 8-10 defeat on the referee, in all honestly I cannot do so. We were sloppy in defence and careless in possession – never a good combination – whilst my own contribution, although hardly disastrous, was somewhat negligible. Must do better.
Still, I can't really complain about a run out on a summer's evening chucking a rugby ball around. Let's hope there are a few more such evenings to come...

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Western Farce

There’s been much comment in the media, particularly from a certain knight of the realm, about the fielding of a weakened team by the Western Force against the Lions, a decision suitably punished by an emphatic cricket score (albeit an Australian cricket score :) ) by the Lions earlier today.
I have to say that I agree with Sir Clive that the Lions are being treated with contempt by the Aussies, but you can hardly blame the Western Force who are also scheduled to play a Super 15 game at the weekend.

After all, what is in it for them? Likewise, what is the incentive for the Australian Rugby Union, who will reportedly be some 40 million quid richer by the end of the tour, to insist that its franchises provide proper opposition? In fact it absolutely suits the Australians for the Lions to be undercooked come Test time.
No, the blame lies squarely with the Lions administrators (whoever they may be). Lions Tours are huge cash cows for the host unions. It’s about time the Lions' negotiators woke up to this fact and grew a pair.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Lions v BaaBaas: What did we learn?

In truth, not much.
So the Lions can thrash a scratch team who have been on the lash for the last fortnight. So what, so did a reserve England team last week.
Today's match wasn't really about rugby. It was about money. Why else would the Lions agree to play a match in such ludicrously hot and humid conditions? As a warm up for the main event down under it served little purpose, but no doubt someone's coffers are now suitably full.