Friday, 29 May 2015

Another last chance for Hartley?

Dylan Hartley’s four-week ban for headbutting – and his subsequent unavailability for England’s first game of the World Cup against Fiji on 18th September – is now the SIXTH suspension of his professional career.

Hartley has, it seems, been under a perpetual final warning from England coach Stuart Lancaster.

It remains to be seen how many exit doors there are at the Last Chance Saloon?

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Allez Sir Clive?

It appears that Sir Clive Woodward has made the final shortlist of eight for the job of Head Coach of the French national team and is being quoted as 10-1 to get the job, which becomes available after this year's World Cup.

I'd like to say that stranger things have happened, although for life of me I can't think of any examples.

Saturday, 16 May 2015


They say bad luck comes in threes.

One day last week the postman came to the door. The following sequence of events then occurred:

1. I jumped up from my chair and stubbed my toe on the table leg - cue shouting, cursing and bleeding;

2. To stop bleeding on the kitchen floor I attempted to apply a plaster. As I bent down my old friend sciatica decided to pay me a visit, with pain shooting across my lower back and down my right leg; and

3. To address the inflammation I decided to apply an ice pack to my lower back, perhaps a little too vigorously, resulting in what I can only describe as a 2nd degree ice burn on my right buttock.

The upshot is that it has been painful to sit down all week, and agony to stand up. I missed this week's Touch, have been unable to exercise and have been thoroughly miserable.

Thankfully things appear to be settling down as the weekend approaches and I'm hoping that normality will soon be restored.

And I won't be answering the door to the postman anytime soon.

Overboard again

The decision to omit Manu Tuilagi from England's World Cup squad, after he admitted assaulting a taxi driver and two police officers, was a no brainer.

Will it be a decision that comes back to haunt Stuart Lancaster? Perhaps. A fit and firing Tuilagi would be a huge asset to any team.

In reality, however, Lancaster had no choice given Tuilagi's behaviour. And given that the Leicester centre has a long term groin injury which would in any event have rendered his selection something of a gamble, perhaps this incident has just made Lancaster's job a tad easier?

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

In Touch (once more)

A warm balmy evening in Chesham it definitely was not as the 2015 Touch Rugby season kicked off last night.

After 3 weeks of getting the heart, lungs and legs used to exercise again in relatively tranquil conditions, the start of the league season yesterday evening was accompanied by a bitter gale whistling in from the Urals. Not pleasant.

For Dave’s Dog’s Dad’s Dead, my team, it was something of a rusty start against my almer mater, Chairman’s Choice. We were behind for much of the game, reliant on several moments of genius from young Tommy to keep us in the contest. As the second half wore on, however, our mistakes became fewer, the younger and supposedly fitter opposition began to tire and the old heads in our team prevailed as we narrowly squeaked home 11-10.

So, what is technically my 10th Touch campaign is now firmly under way (although, in the interests of accuracy, I must point out that last year’s effort was cut short after 20 minutes by sciatica). We are also defending champions although, again, my contribution to last year’s triumph was somewhat negligible.

Still, there is (I hope) life in the old dog yet and, while not exactly setting the world alight with lightening-quick breaks and deft sleight of hand, I was pleased to make it through to the end without disgracing myself. Small mercies and all that…

Friday, 1 May 2015

RFU Idiot's Guide to Rugby Union - Exclusive

The RFU, keen to make sure novice fans are not bewildered by game's laws during the World Cup, are producing an "Idiot's Guide" to rugby. This blog has obtained exclusive extracts...

The Object of the Game: to score more points than your opposition. Don't be confused by media criticism of the England team. When David Campese, for instance, accuses of England of playing boring rugby then things are generally going well - it means that England are scoring more points than their opposition.
The Laws of the Game: don't even go there. More complicated than the self-assembly instructions for the Hadron Collider, anyone who thinks they can explain the laws (NB not rules) of rugby is simply deluded. Puntucate your spectating with cries of "offside," "forward," and "holding on" and you'll appear expert enough for most people. 
Forward pass: in rugby the ball must be passed backwards. Any pass forwards results in a scrum (see later) to the opposition. You will see several passes per game that are obviously forward but are decreed otherwise and are later justified by references to the laws of quantum physics. 
What is happening at a ruck? Good question. No one seems to know, least of all the players or the referee. A ruck is formed after a player is tackled to the ground. In bygone days players would stay on their feet and drive over the ball. You will notice that this never happens. Instead you will witness what at school used to be known as a "pile-up" with players launching themselves into the fray from all angles. 
Scrum: the bit where 8 of the larger players on each team (the forwards) come to together for some orchestrated pushing, shoving and falling over that inevitably ends up with an exasperated referee awarding a penalty. It is not necessary to understand the scrum and it generally provides ample time to put the kettle on, have a cup of tea and call long lost relatives for a chat with no risk of missing anything significant. 
Offside: if you thought offside in football (soccer) was confusing, you ain't seen nothing yet. You will hear fellow spectators shout "offside" quite a bit but, quite honestly, they are almost certainly just guessing, as is the referee. The best way of understanding what offside is to to watch what Richie McCaw does, as it is commonly accepted that offside is where he lives. 
Driving maul: formed usually (but not exclusively) after a team catches the ball at a line out. Players gather around, and then in front of, the ball carrier and then drive forward with the ball carrier using them as a human shield to protect himself and the ball. To the untrained eye it looks like blatant obstruction with a whole heap of offside thrown in for good measure but, owing to an extremely liberal interpretation of the laws by most referees, is rarely penalised and is consequently largely undefendable unless you happen to be playing England (who have failed to produce a convincing driving maul since 2003). 
TMO: you will notice that each game of rugby has one referee and two touch judges and yet often during a game these three people seem incapable of making a decision, even one that is blatantly obvious. Instead the decision is referred 'upstairs' to the Television Match Official (TMO), who will watch the same piece of action from every conceivable TV angle before getting the decision hopelessly wrong. Prepare to be frustrated. 
Replacements: after approximately 50 minutes of each game you will notice the 3 fat lads in the front row of the scrum trundle off the pitch to be replaced by 3 other fat lads. This happens irrespective of the scoreline or whether or not the 3 original fat lads have been playing well and it often results in your team playing worse than previously. Ten minutes later 2 of your team's other big lads will have been replaced, followed by your scrum half (little gobby fella wearing number 9). It's tactical, apparently.