Monday, 28 April 2014


The clamour for Stuart Lancaster to select Toulon’s Steffon Armitage for his England squad grows ever louder. Even the normally sensible Will Greenwood appears to agree.

The RFU’s established policy is not to select players who play their domestic rugby overseas except in “exceptional circumstances.” Such circumstances, so the current argument goes, might include the fact that Armitage has been playing rather well for his club.

The fact that Armitage has had a superb few seasons in the south of France and that his qualities would be of benefit to England is not in doubt, but this rather misses the point.

If selected by England for the New Zealand tour this summer, Armitage will arrive late, assuming Toulon reach the Top 14 final, which will mean precious few opportunities to make an impact on the tour.

Furthermore, for the November internationals Armitage would have to join up with the squad a week later than everyone else and probably miss the final game of the autumn series against Australia, which falls outside the international window. England would also have reduced access to his services during next year’s Six Nations.

If Armitage was already an established and experienced international then this might not be an insurmountable issue. For a relative international rookie, however, it creates an unnecessary headache for Stuart Lancaster and potentially damages the close-knit unity of the England squad that he has built so carefully.

And the fact remains that Armitage knew the ramifications when he recently extended his Toulon contract for a further three years. If he was truly dedicated to the England cause he could and should have negotiated a deal with a Premiership club, or insisted on the requisite release clauses in his Toulon contract. He did neither.

While I can’t blame him for wanting to earn shedloads of cash in the French sunshine, allowing him to have his cake and eat it is more likely to create an unwelcome distraction that I suspect Stuart Lancaster could do without.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014


Woke up this morning feeling like I'd been beaten up by an angry mob of pugilistic rhinos.

The cause of my discomfort? The beginning of yet another touch rugby 'season' last night.

I had half-expected (secretly hoped?) that my usual team, all being that little bit older, might have taken the decision to retain a modicum of dignity this year by retiring gracefully. But alas no, it seems as if the band is being put back together for at least one more tour.

And so there I was yesterday evening, desperately trying to keep up with kids more than half my age whilst also attempting to keep the heart and lungs functioning at the same time. Multi-tasking has never been one of my strengths, it must be said.

For heaven's sake, I hear you're thinking, it's only touch rugby, how bad can it be? Well, in my case pretty bad. It was tough enough having to deal with the sight of the avatar that Wii Fit created for me at the weekend (much to young Master F's amusement) - I really didn't need this reminder of how badly out of shape I am.

Still, it was only a practice session and the serious stuff doesn't kick off for a couple of weeks - time I can put to good use by having a good, long lie down.

Friday, 11 April 2014

In the Pink

It's not often that I find myself agreeing with Austin Healy, but the former England scrum-half and general rugby rentagob has come up with an interesting suggestion to assist rugby's beleaguered TMOs.

Healy's suggestion is that rugby balls should be luminous pink or green rather than white, giving the officials a better chance of seeing the ball and making the correct decision when it is hidden among a  collection of bodies over the line following a driving maul.
It's not such a terrible idea provided, of course, that bright pink or green shirts are outlawed.
Better decision making and the end of crap rugby shirts - as far as I'm concerned that's a win, win.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Good luck, Dude

All the very best of luck goes out to Monbeg Dude in today's Grand National at Aintree.

The winner of Welsh National in January 2013, 'The Dude' is co-owned by Gloucester's Mike Tindall and James Simpson-Daniel and Bristol's Nicky Robinson.

At around 20-1 he might also be worth a punt...?

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Ritchie quits RFU

It has emerged overnight that the RFU’s Chief Executive, Ian Ritchie, is set to quit Twickenham to take up a role at the Foreign Office.

Fresh from his recent triumph in pulling all the stakeholders in European rugby back from the brink of mutually assured destruction, it appears that Ritchie has been headhunted by David Cameron’s government to lead discussions with Russia in establishing a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.

Ritchie is due to hold talks with Foreign Secretary William Hague and US Secretary of State John Kerry in the next few days before flying out to Kiev for discussions with Ukraine's interim president Olexander Turchynov. He is then expected to lead high level negotiations with Moscow.

According to government sources, if Ritchie “could persuade the idiots at the WRU to fall into line then dealing with Putin’s Russia will be a doddle.”

If, as anticipated, Ritchie’s efforts in Ukraine are successful, he is then expected to head up talks to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, end the war in Syria and re-unite North and South Korea.