Sunday, 22 December 2013

Flood warning

Toby Flood's apparent decision to play his rugby in France next season - probably with Toulouse - is a strange one.

Yes, he'll get paid shedloads of money. And yes, living in the south of France may have its advantages over living in Leicestershire. But with a World Cup in England less than 2 years away it seems bizarre that Flood would effectively rule himself out of England contention given Stuart Lancaster's stated policy on overseas-based players.

Flood's decision also puts his spot in England's 6 Nations squad in jeopardy. After all, why would Lancaster include someone who will be unavailable to him for the next two years?

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Death of a schoolboy

The tragic story of schoolboy Ben Robinson who died of Second Impact Syndrome having taken several blows to the head in a school game.

Click here for the full story

Sunday, 8 December 2013

The Total Flanker Awards 2013

It's that time of year and time, once again, to celebrate, castigate and mock those that have delighted, disgusted or otherwise passed across our radar during the past 12 months.

 Welcome one and all to the 7th Annual Total Flanker Awards ceremony.

As I'm sure you've all got much better things to do, let's crack on with our first award of the evening...

The Total Flanker Massive Over-reaction Award. Never let it be said that us rugby folk are timid when it comes to reacting to what goes on in the game. Whether it's the result of a match (step forward Welsh fans after thrashing the English in Cardiff in March), or a refereeing decision (reference any decision made by Wayne Barnes in a match featuring New Zealand) or, most particularly, the question of the selection or otherwise of certain players (England fans and Chris Ashton being a pertinent case in point). However the biggest over-reaction in 2013 was, by far, in response to the non-selection of Brian O'Driscoll for the final Lions test against Australia this summer. One player (albeit a player on the verge of deity) being dropped was all it took to shake the entire Irish population into a seething mass of apoplectic outrage. Congratulations.

Moving along, the second award of the evening is the Total Flanker Blatant Profiteering Award.  With international tickets in general being priced at ridiculously unaffordable levels, it might be argued that most international unions could be prime candidates for this award. There is, however, one clear winner - that being the organising committee of Rugby World Cup 2015. Yes, there are will be few cheaper seats available at some venues, but the cheapest adult seats at Twickenham for the pool matches will be £75, while around three-quarters of the stadium’s 82,000 seats will be sold for £160, £215 and £315 and ticket prices for the Final will range from £150 to an eye-watering £715. Ouch.

And...relax. Our next award this evening is the Total Flanker Has The Penny Finally Dropped? Award It's a question that has often been asked of its recipient – a man once seen as the future of English rugby, a man blessed with huge natural talent but who more often than not has graced the front pages of the tabloids rather than the back pages of the broadsheets. Step forward Danny Cipriani whose form  for Sale this season appears to be getting better and better and whose commitment to the previously unedifying job of tackling seems to reaching unprecedented levels. I've been hugely critical of Cipriani on this blog over the years but I genuinely do hope that he's turned a corner.

We're now half way through our awards, so let's move swiftly on to the Total Flanker Where's Your Backbone? Award. This, of course, is awarded to the clubs of the Ligue Nationale de Rugby. Having given, along with Premiership Rugby, 2 years notice to quit the Heineken Cup and having planned, with their English counterparts, a rival Rugby Champions Cup to begin in 2014-2015, the French clubs have now caved into pressure from the French Rugby Union and performed a perfidious volte-face, in doing so showing all the backbone of an amoeba. Shame on you.

In the home stretch now and the penultimate award of the evening - the Total Flanker Reputation Plummeting Like a Stone Award. It gives me no pleasure whatsoever in making this award - it goes to a man who burst on to the England scene in 2010/2011 with an exciting and innovative style of wing play that, stupid swan dive aside, had the English rugby public on its feet. His subsequent fall from grace was, I hoped, merely a blip - a second season syndrome, if you will - but it's looking increasingly likely that the faults in his game might just be permanent. Injuries to his rivals have so far kept him in the England reckoning, but even with an injury list as long as the Thames, Chris Ashton may still struggle to make the England 6 Nations squad.

And so, at last, to our final award. Let's end on an optimistic note as we present - the Total Flanker You Never Know, That Might Just Work Award. I couldn't let the evening pass without an award for our perennial winners - the International Rugby Board - but this year it is all for positive reasons. I am referring to the way in which referees are now being asked to referee the previously anarchistic scrummage. A combination of the 'Crouch, Bind, Set' protocol and the instruction to penalise the crooked feed might just be doing the trick. It's not perfect, not by any means, but I've seen more ball emerge from the back of the scrum in recent months than I have done in years and, all in all, I'd say the portents are good.

So, that's that for another year. For the those with a short attention span, a quick reminder of this year's Awards:

Total Flanker Massive Over-reaction Award - the entire Irish population

Total Flanker Blatant Profiteering Award – RWC 2015

Total Flanker Has The Penny Finally Dropped? Award – Danny Cipriani

Total Flanker Where's Your Backbone? Award - Ligue Nationale de Rugby

Total Flanker Reputation Plummeting Like a Stone Award - Chris Ashton

Total Flanker You Never Know, That Might Just Work Award - IRB

Saturday, 7 December 2013

World spins off its axis as Austin Healy talks sense

Unexpected words of wisdom from former England gobshite scrum-half/wing Austin Healy this week.

Healy is suggesting that one of the reasons rugby has become so brutal (as I highlighted last month) is that the game is now simply too slow.

He rightly points out that the length of time taken to form scrums and lineouts and to kick penalties (whether at the posts or into touch) means precious little time is left to, well, run around.

The consequence? Players are conditioned to be bigger. As Healy says, a  lock who makes 25 big impacts but only runs 2½ miles per game will train accordingly.

Healy even goes so far as to suggest a solution - speed up the game, make it more aerobic, force players to prepare accordingly and shrink in bulk and reduce the high impact brutality.

It all makes an astonishing amount of sense.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

The difference between the French clubs and the English clubs...

Top Gat

So, Warren Gatland has been named UK coach of the year at the 2013 UK Coaching Awards.

For what, exactly?

Apparently for "masterminding" the Lions' series win in Australia this summer over a poor Wallabies team whose coach was sacked immediately thereafter.

And for coaching Wales to their magnificent victories over South Africa and Australia this autumn. Oh, wait...

Monday, 2 December 2013

Another Welsh star defects to France

News today that Cardiff bouncer Bleddyn-Wyn Griffiths is set for a lucrative move to Paris.

The 22 stone father of three, who currently works on the door at McDonald’s in Cardiff’s city centre, is set to be unveiled as the new head of security at the McDonald’s restaurant on the Rue de Bournard, Colombes.

Griffiths’ promotion coincides with news of the imminent arrival at Racing MĂ©tro 92 of former Bayonne carouser Mike Phillips, news which has been greeted with delight by bar owners in the vicinity of Stade Olympique Yves-du-Manoir.

5 things we learned from the November internationals

I’ve seen this sort of thing done by real journalists on proper websites so thought I’d give it a go – how hard can it be…?

1.       New Zealand are the best team in the history of the universe between World Cups. It’s undeniable. The facts speak for themselves. 

2.       England are better than any country in the World at keeping their powder dry. Why reveal your attacking strategy 2 years out from the World Cup when you can keep everyone guessing? J 

3.       South Africa are the team that everyone will want to avoid in the 2015 World Cup knockout stages. 

4.       It’s not a mental thing preventing Wales from taking a southern hemisphere scalp. It’s just that, in the absence of one tight-head prop and two centres, they’re really not that good. 

5.       Quade Cooper is a genius and Australia will win the World Cup in 2015. You heard it here first.