Monday, 19 December 2016

Not softer. Safer.

With the advent of new directives around high tackling there have been the inevitable claims that rugby is somehow “going soft”.

The latest comes from Sale Sharks DoR Steve Diamond who has questioned whether the game is “becoming touch rugby” after his team were given three yellow cards in defeat by Saracens at the weekend.

Let’s get one thing straight – there is nothing soft about rugby and the game managed for decades without the reckless head-high tackling that has proliferated in the past few seasons. World Rugby is absolutely correct in trying to eradicate the dangerous high tackle from the game. It may take some time and there may be instances of apparent injustice as the game evolves but the coaches and players simply have to adapt.

Rugby is not becoming softer. It is becoming safer. There’s a difference.

Friday, 16 December 2016


Below is the moment Bruno Doglioli brutally assaulted  (there's no other word for it) referee Maria Beatrice Benvenuti during a recent Italian Serie A match.


The Argentinian has, quite rightly, been banned by the Italian Rugby Federation from playing any competitive sport for three years.

I'm surprised that he isn't facing criminal charges...

Thursday, 15 December 2016

War declared on High Tackle

It's a hot topic right now, but I must say I'm pleased that World Rugby has taken the initiative and issued a new directive on high tackles, effective in the New Year.

A player making contact with an opponent's head in a reckless tackle (where the player knew or should have known that there was a risk of making contact with the head but did so anyway) will now receive at least a yellow card, even if the tackle starts below the shoulders. Accidental head contact - where e.g. the ball ball carrier slips into a tackle, will incur a penalty.

Undoubtedly the new approach will lead to some controversy and apparent injustices from time to time, but the aim underlying the new directive - to change the culture in rugby and ensure that the head is a "no-go area" -  has to be applauded, even if (dare I suggest) the motivation behind it may be World Rugby's fear of becoming the subject of an expensive lawsuit in the future.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

So, here we go again...

And so Dylan Hartley will serve a 6 week suspension but will be available for the start of the Six Nations.

How far the patience of Eddie Jones will stretch remains to be seen, and six more games missed is hardly ideal preparation for Hartley, especially given the superior form of Jamie George.

Not that Hartley has any cause for complaint. Setting aside the issue of intent, a reckless swinging arm tackle to the head, resulting in a player being concussed, was never going to be overlooked and rightly so. It was high and it was dangerous and World Rugby needs to persevere in its attempts to rid the game of such tackles.

What Hartley might question, however, is the consistency of punishments handed down. If this was a sending off offence then so were other recent, high-profile, similar offences that were treated far more leniently.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

This player is NOT dead, apparently

One of the most bizarre things I've read recently is the fact that James Haskell has had to issue a video denial of rumours, apparently circulating via t'internet, that he had died of a steroid overdose.
“I’m not dead and for those of you who wish I was dead, better luck next time,” says Haskell. 

The reality, of course, is that the original James Haskell died a couple of years ago and was replaced by a doppelgĂ€nger with a rugby brain and a sidestep.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Dark Days at Old Deer Park

London Welsh has confirmed today that it is to seek voluntary liquidation, finally bringing an end to its occupancy at the bar of the Last Chance Saloon.

Unable to pay the £250,000 it owes to HMRC, the club is set to go out of business next week.

Liquidation need not necessarily spell the end for the iconic London Welsh name, although a newly-formed club would have to start life at the bottom of the English rugby pyramid, following the previous examples of London Scottish and Richmond.

Whichever way you look at it, it’s a sad way for such a well renowned club to go. It does, however, reinforce my view that English rugby simply cannot support 2 leagues of 12 professional teams. Less, as they say, is more.

London Welsh aren’t the first, and certainly won’t be the last, club to suffer such a fate.

(UPDATE 8th December: apparently London Welsh will be docked 20 league points and drop to the bottom of the Championship when they go into voluntary liquidation. If they manage to avoid relegation they could stay in the Championship by coming up with a business plan acceptable to the RFU and paying a six‑figure bond. If he plan is not acceptable or the bond not paid they will have to start again at the bottom).

Monday, 5 December 2016

This player is sparko

This is a picture of George North after crashing to earth following a mid-air tackle from Leicester’s Adam Thompstone on Saturday.

Here’s another one.

According to George he was not knocked out.

He was merely resting. 

Or pining for the fjords.

Send in the clown

According to The Australian newspaper last week, Eddie Jones is (or at least was) the “real clown of rugby”.

That was before England’s 37-21 win over Australia on Saturday, following which one might have expected a certain amount of humble pie and perhaps an admission that England under Eddie Jones are becoming a very good rugby team indeed. Not a bit of it – whilst there is plenty of wailing and gnashing of teeth about the status of Australian rugby, there’s very little acknowledgement of England’s qualities.

Not so surprising, perhaps, but anyone who knows anything about the game has to admit, whether they like it or not, that this England team looks as if it is on the way to becoming a formidable outfit. 

Yes, New Zealand are still out there by some distance at the head of the field and yes, for England there are still a few notable weaknesses to be ironed out, but I get the feeling that the players are completely aware of where they need to improve and their ability to adapt and think on their feet, as demonstrated in the last few games, will stand them in good stead...

Friday, 2 December 2016

Our shout!

You have to love those Vunipola boys.

Not only have Mako and Billy been in a rich vein of form for club and country (until Billy's knee injury last week against Argentina), it has been revealed this week that, following Tonga's 19-17 victory over Italy in Padua last weekend, the two brothers (whose father Fe'ao is a former Tongan captain) paid for the Tongan team's post-match celebratory drinks.

Fantastic gesture lads!

Wednesday, 30 November 2016


News today that the Six Nations is being dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century (straight from the 19th) with the announcement that a new bonus points system will be trialled next year.

So it’s the standard  4 points for a win, 2 points for draw, 0 points for defeat, plus a bonus point for scoring 4 tries and a losing bonus point for defeat by seven points or less, but there is a twist…

Any team achieving the Grand Slam will be awarded an extra 3 bonus points, the idea being to prevent a team that wins all 5 matches being beaten to the Six Nations title by a team with four bonus point wins and a bonus point defeat. 

I can’t be arsed to do the maths, but in theory that looks as if it might work…

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Here’s a head scratcher...

How does Joe Launchbury get a 2 match ban for accidentally catching the head of an opponent - causing minimal (if any) damage - while Malakai Fekitoa only gets a one match ban for nearly decapitating an opponent and Sam Cane gets away scot free for laying out Robbie Henshaw with a dangerously high tackle?

I do get why Launchbury was punished. If you aim a kick at the ball in a ruck near an opponent’s head and you get it wrong, your actions are dangerous.

Likewise a swinging arm or a head high tackle is dangerous, no matter the intent.

Either punish all such actions (with consistent punishments), or deem them accidental and unworthy of sanction…

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Words of Wisdom

Former Samoa captain and Wasps backorder Dan Leo has spoken eloquently this week about the difficulties and challenges faced by Pacific Islanders playing rugby overseas.

My favourite quote:

“In my 49 Tests for Samoa never once did we have a man of the match award given out. To promote someone above the rest of the group was seen as a real no-no.”

Spot on.