Friday, 31 January 2014

Six Nations: Six Clichés

The top level rugby tournament in the Northern Hemisphere - the RBS Six Nations Championship

1. You never know which French team will turn up.

2. Another braveheart performance from the Scots.

3.The Millennium Stadium – the cathedral of world rugby.

4. The physicality (is that really even a word?) of the Italian forwards.

5. An Ireland performance full of pride and passion.

6. Arrogant England.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

TF 2014 Fantasy Challenge

It's time once more, dear readers, to dust off our powers of prediction and to select our combatants to represent us over the next 7 weeks as the forces of the Six Nations do battle.

In other words, time to click here and pick yourself a team for Fantasy 6 Nations.

And if you want to join me in the Total Flanker 2014 Challenge, purely for bragging rights of course, please enter PIN: 59735 once you've picked your team...

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Six Nations 2014: Behind the Scenes at England Rugby

England tactics revealed
England boss Stuart Lancaster is said to be incandescent with fury at reports that his key tactic for England’s assault on this year’s Six Nations tournament has been leaked.

Reports emerged yesterday of England players being issued with ground-breaking “invisibility cloaks” developed secretly by England kit manufacturer, Canterbury.

The cloaks, which have been in development behind closed doors for nearly 12 months, are said to mask the England players both from their opponents and match officials and were set to make their debut appearance in Paris next week.

“It was felt that something had to be done following the disastrous defeat in Cardiff last year,” said our secret source at the RFU.

“We believe the cloaks offer us an edge. It’s all about 1% increments.

“We’ve checked, and there is nothing in the Laws that say a player must be visible.”

Friday, 24 January 2014

Whatever happened to: Decisiveness?

I used to be indecisive but now I’m not so sure.

Once upon a time there was one bloke in charge on the rugby pitch – the referee. Players treated him with utmost respect and, whilst not always agreeing with him, accepted that his decision was the final word. Mistakes were made, yes, but they were accepted, for the most part, with good grace.

And then along came the Television Match Official (TMO).

Now, I have to admit that it used to be quite frustrating watching a game of rugby on TV and seeing a perfectly good try disallowed because the referee was unsighted – or vice versa – especially when it was fairly obvious that the official had resorted to guesswork. The arrival of the TMO was certainly a help (the odd baffling decision aside) for referees in this regard and the resultant break in play was usually quite brief and unobtrusive.

The advent of the TMO turned out to be, however, the start of a very slippery slope. Nowadays it seems that every other decision is referred “upstairs”. Forward passes, potential foul play, whether a player is wearing the correct coloured underpants, all appears to be fair game for the TMO.

Inarguably the referee’s authority has, as a result, become emasculated. Not only that, but the length of time being taken by the TMO to reach a decision, based on every TV angle imaginable, gets longer and longer.

The way things are going, more and more decisions will be taken out of the hands of the beleaguered referee. How long will it be before games are monitored by a team of TMOs glued to TV screens with the referee merely being their mouthpiece on the ground?

No, it’s time for the worm to turn and for decision-making  power to be returned to the man in the middle. Some referees have already begun to swim against the tide in an attempt regain control, making up their own minds based on stadium screen replays rather than waiting an eternity for a TMO’s ruling. It's not perfect but it's a start.

Decisiveness, it seems, might just be making a comeback.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Thumbs down at Sixways

Worcester and Scotland prop Euan Murray appears set for a long lay off after sustaining “significant damage” to his thumb while chopping wood at a “team-building barbeque” at Sixways.
No doubt Worcester boss Dean Ryan is delighted with the club’s investment in their marquee signing, especially in the light of the fact that Murray has been sidelined since November with an Achilles tendon injury and given his unwillingness to turn out of a Sunday. Not exactly money well spent.
Not to mention why on earth the club was having a barbeque in January or why they allowed their prize asset to chop wood. 

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

More congrats...

...this time to Chris Ashton who, it seems, has become engaged to be married to girlfriend Melissa Uzelac.

Far be it for me to say, but the phrase "batting above his average" does spring to mind.

Saturday, 18 January 2014


Congratulations to Mike Tindall and Zara Phillips on the birth of their baby daughter yesterday.

I hope, for the baby's sake, that she takes after her mum.

Semesa Rokoduguni, that's easy for you to say

The standout name in an exciting looking England Saxons squad announced yesterday today was Semasa Rokoduguni.

The Fijian-born Rokoduguni is a member of the British Army in the Royal Dragoon Guards. He qualifies for England on residency grounds, so England are perfectly entitled to select him.

The problem for me is simple – he’s Fijian, he should be playing for Fiji, and playing for the Saxons will rule him out of playing for his country of birth in the future.

And before anyone mentions it – no, it’s not the same as the selection of Vunipola brothers or of Manu Tuilagi – all of whom came through the English schools system.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Currency Fairy

Possibly the worst advert on telly at the moment features none other than former Sale behemoth Seb Chabal.

sébastien chabal fée publicité currencyfairy rugby

Chabal achieves the remarkable feat of making Eric Cantona look like Laurence Olivier.

I'm sure it's supposed to be funny (it isn't). Maybe they're going for the "it's so bad, it's brilliant" effect. It's not. It's just crap.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

No, nine

In another shocking display of common sense the IRB has changed the current scrummaging procedure by calling time on the referee's verbal 'Yes, Nine' instruction for the scrum half to put the ball into the scrum.

All very sensible given that the current situation undoubtedly helps the team without the put-in get ready to drive.

Instead the emphasis will switch back to the flankers screaming "READY, READY, READY NOW" much like the good old days.

What is intriguing though is that the referee will now use an as yet unspecified non-verbal means of telling the scrum half when to put the ball in - a nudge being as good as a wink to a blind man, say no more...

Monday, 6 January 2014

The Total Flanker Guide to: European Club Rugby 2014

I have given this particular post a somewhat grand title. It is, of course, nothing of the sort, merely an attempt to work out what the heck is going on with the various shenanigans affecting currently cross-border club rugby in Europe.

So here goes…

1.      Once upon a time there was a lovely, successful European Cup competition, sponsored by a well-known beer brand and presided over by European Rugby Cup Ltd (ERC). 

2.       All was not rosy in the garden, however, and it came to pass that the English and French teams shouted "IT'S NOT FAIR" that they had to qualify for the competition while their Celtic and Italian counterparts qualified automatically. The English and French teams also declared "IT'S NOT FAIR" that they weren't being paid their fair share of the money generated by the competition. 

3.       With their complaints falling on deaf ears at ERC, the English and French clubs – as they were perfectly entitled to do – thought "sod this for a game of soldiers" and served 2 years notice on ERC of their intention to quit the competition at the end of the 2013/14 season. 

4.       With ERC still putting their fingers in their ears and singing "LA LA LA" rather loudly, the English Clubs then signed a megabucks deal with BT Sport to broadcast domestic English rugby and a new European Rugby Champions Cup, expected initially to comprise teams from England and France. 

5.       ERC then decided that if they pretended hard enough that there was no problem then it would probably go away and announced a new European rugby deal with Sky Sports to include the English and French clubs. 

6.       After various toys were thrown from various prams and finally some belated concessions by ERC, the French clubs appeared to wave the white flag whilst munching on some camembert and agreed to play one final season of European rugby under the auspices of ERC. This was on the condition that English clubs would also be allowed to play and that the French could organise their own FIRA-led competition the following season.  

7.       The English clubs then confirmed that hell would freeze over before they would take part in any competition run by those eejits at ERC. 

Are you still with me? 

8.       The RFU then appeared out of left field and - despite having not been invited - gate-crashed the party with a proposal that a European competition be run by the Six Nations Committee rather than ERC. Common sense almost prevailed as the idea gained support but it was largely scuppered by the French on the basis that they hadn't thought of it in the first place. 

9.       Feeling a little left out, the Welsh then decided to declare civil war. The Welsh regions decided to refuse to sign a new co-operation agreement with the WRU, shouting "IT'S NOT FAIR" that the WRU were not competent enough to negotiate a decent financial deal from the ERC run competition. 

10.   Instead the Welsh regions decided to really get up the WRU's noses by saying that wanted to play against the English clubs – either in the proposed Champions Cup (with or without French participation) or in an expanded Aviva Premiership (much to the dismay of the teams in England’s second tier who yelled "IT'S NOT FAIR" that their access to the Premiership might potentially be blocked by the Welsh). 

11.   Not to be outdone the WRU appear to have decided stick two fingers up at the regions by threatening to contract leading Welsh players centrally and, depending on which rumour one believes, either form new professional teams in Wales or, bizarrely (and somewhat ironically), loan out their star players to English Premiership clubs! 

All of which leaves the future of European club rugby about as clear as as a very cloudy pint of mud.
Any questions?

Friday, 3 January 2014

Underground, overground

Hello and a belated Happy New Year to you…

As news broke on BBC Radio 5 Live this morning of yet another cricketing disappointment down under and of monster waves attacking the south west coast, my morning mood was considerably lightened by the following comment from the breakfast show’s female presenter (I think it was Clare McDonnell)…

When informed that Worcester had secured the signature of Cardiff Blues back-row Andries Pretorius, Ms McDonnell commented:

“He sounds like a Womble.” J