Thursday, 27 October 2016

Emergency loan signing for Saracens

Following the enforced retirement earlier this season of Alistair Hargreaves with concussion and subsequent injuries to international locks George Kruis and Maro Itoje, Saracens have today announced the emergency loan signing of burley 2nd row Pudsey Bear from the BBC.

Having failed in his attempt to lure Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth to Allianz Park on a short term deal earlier this month, Sarries DoR Mark McCall moved decisively when it emerged that Bear might be available.

"Pudsey is a little short of match fitness," said McCall, "but he's a big unit and has bags of natural aggression. He's a bear for f**** sake."

It is expected that Bear will go straight into the Saracens starting XV on Saturday against Leicester provided he passes a late fitness test on an eye injury.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Oh, Bugger

Bad news today that Maro Itoje has been ruled out of the November Tests with a broken hand, joining fellow Sarries and England lock George Kruis on the sidelines. So the debate as to whether Itoje should move to the back row has now become somewhat redundant.

That his loss is such a major blow to England is testament to the impact Itoje has had this year - don't forget that he didn't make his international debut until February.

I was there at Allianz Park on Saturday watching Saracens take on a strong Scarlets team and feared the worst when Itoje left the field injured after an excellent display. Sarries were, at times, ruthlessly brilliant, with Mako Vunipola, Owen Farrell, Nick Tompkins and Michael Rhodes all showing up well. If they ever do piece together an 80 minute performance then someone is going to take a fearful hammering.

One of the reasons I was at Allianz Park was to attend the presentation of last season's Under 13 Herts & Middlesex Div VII league trophy to my son's team, which I have to say was a fairly surreal experience. With way too may people crushed into a fairly tight space, and with our boys there ready to step up to receive their deserved acclaim, it was was announced that, due to lack of space, only the coach and captain of each team should step forward to receive the trophy.

And so it came to pass that I (in the absence of the head coach and four other coaches) and my son (in the absence of the captain, the vice-captain, the vice-vice captain and the vice-vice-vice captain) stepped forward to receive the trophy from none other than my favourite player (!!), Chris Ashton :)

You couldn't make it up...

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Hit and miss

Massivley unimpressed by Montpellier’s Francois Steyn who yelled "MISS" when trying to charge down a conversion attempt by Northampton’s Stephen Myler during their match on Saturday.

Myler did miss, but referee Nigel Owens quite rightly ordered the kick to be taken again and Myler converted.

Steyn received a ticking off from Owens but, quite frankly, a yellow card would not have been unjustified.

That Northampton went on to win the match by 2 points is justice of sorts.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Anthony Foley R.I.P.

Put up or shut up

I find myself agreeing with Matt Dawson.

The former England and Lions scrum half has noted how “bizarre” it was that only seven Premiership Rugby DoRs turned up for a meeting with England boss Eddie Jones this week.

This, following public criticism from some of the clubs of the intensity and timing of England’s recent training camp which resulted in injuries to 3 players.

Apparently the meeting was "very amicable" but it does seem very odd that certain clubs appear unwilling to take the opportunity to address face-to-face any issues they have with the England set-up but are happy enough to criticise in public...

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Black Dog

Sad to hear that former Wales No 8 Andy Powell has been suffering depression for the last 18 months.

Powell retired from rugby this week with his club, Merthyr, citing a persistent knee injury. The player has since confirmed, however, that his battle with depression was the main reason.

I'm always slightly surprised when I find that a professional sportsman who is "living the dream" can suffer what can be such a debilitating condition, especially a "character" like Powell (and who can forget his infamous drunken escapade in a stolen golf buggy on the M4 motorway in 2010?). Again, however, it only goes to show how depression is no respecter of reputation.

The fact that Powell has, in a week which featured World Mental Health Day, now gone public with his condition can only be good thing and he is to be applauded.

I'm sure we all wish him a full recovery and a happy retirement.

Friday, 14 October 2016


With England’s injury list growing, there’s been talk of Maro Itoje playing at 7 for his country this November.

If true then, while a huge fan of the FEC (Future England Captain), you have to ask yourself whether it’s really fair to expect him to switch to a specialist back row role at international level from the position he plays week in/ week out for his club?

He’s a very, very special player, and I guess that if anyone could do it then it’s him, but are England’s back row resources really that depleted?

Eddie Jones has stated that the English game doesn’t have specialist opensides who are good enough to play internationally, which is why his preference has been to deploy defensively robust players at 7 who are good over the ball.

Itoje certainly fits that description, but it would be something of a kick in the teeth for the likes of Matt Kvesic, Luke Wallace and other aspiring English opensides if they were overlooked in favour of a lock forward with little or no experience of their specialist position.

I guess it's a question of watch this space...

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

New Rugby?

Former dual code international, Bev Risman, has called for the sports of Rugby Union and Rugby League to merge.

In his autobiography “Both Sides of the Fence” the 78 year old former British Lion and Great Britain Rugby League player argues the case for establishing “New Rugby” which would supposedly take the best from both codes with a revised set of rules.

He’s even come up with his own ideas which include:

- 13-a-side teams
- 5 points for a try, 2 for a penalty/conversion, 1 for a drop goal
- adoption of League’s 40-20 kick
- adoption of League’s play the ball instead of rucks.

So, that’ll largely be Rugby League then, eh Bev?

Nice try (excuse the pun) but NEVER GONNA HAPPEN...

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Taking no chances...

England boss Eddie Jones is taking no chances with George Ford at England training this week after the broken fibula suffered by Wasps flanker Sam Jones and Anthony Watson's subsequent broken jaw...

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Nothing to see here?

Having previously commented on dirty deeds down under, in the interests of fairness it’s only right that I mention reports that Wasps players have been the subject of an internal investigation following allegations of “debauchery” and “riotous behaviour” at an end of season riverboat party along the Thames in May.

The reports are somewhat light on detail, the most interesting “fact” appearing to be that a statement was taken from a 47 year old stripper who performed at the event and that she once appeared on ‘Britain’s Got Talent.’ Classy.

Following the investigation the conclusion reached by the club was that no action was required. So it looks like it’s a question of “move along, nothing to see here.”

At the risk of coming across as all "holier than thou", however, one does once again have to query the wisdom of high profile athletes who, when it comes to entertainment, appear stranded in a bygone era.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

The right man?

The recent stipulation by Ian Ritchie, head honcho at the RFU, that English coaches must now gain international experience before they can be appointed as head coach of the national team, is a strange one.

Firstly, how are they supposed to get that experience? I don’t see that there are too many major rugby playing nations out there where international coaching roles may be up for grabs.

Secondly, this all rather supposes that being a successful Premiership head coach is insufficient.

But ask yourself this: when was the last time the RFU appointed a successful English club coach to lead the national side?

The answer? 1995 – Jack Rowell, who had led Bath to 5 league titles.

Since then the RFU have appointed:

1997 – Clive Woodward – appointed from Bath where he was assistant coach
2004 – Andy Robinson – promoted from being England assistant coach
2006 – Brian Ashton - promoted from being England assistant coach
2008 – Martin Johnson – appointed with no significant coaching experience
2011 – Stuart Lancaster – promoted from being England Saxons coach
2015 – Eddie Jones – appointed with extensive international coaching experience.

Yes, Eddie has been a brilliant appointment but this is simply because he is the right man for the job.

But who’s to say that the next right man for the job isn’t currently plying his trade at Saracens, Exeter, Northampton, Leicester or Wasps, for instance?