Saturday, 4 April 2015

Whatever happened to: Tackling?

Recent statistics show that the number of concussions suffered by Premiership players increased by 59  per cent last season.

Which brings me to the fundamental question here: Whatever happened to tackling?

In recent weeks I have watched my 12 year old son embark on what I hope will be a long and enjoyable rugby playing career at whatever level he should happen to achieve. And I must say that watching Under 12s play rugby is quite uplifting. Yes, it's chaotic and unstructured and often barely resembles rugby, but watching the boys tackling is quite an education.

Much as we were taught as boys, their first instinct is to tackle low, head to one side,  hitting cheek to cheek and sliding down to wrap up the legs. Very old fashioned, I know, but effective nevertheless and designed to bring the opposition player down rather than to knock him into the middle of next week.

All very different, it seems, from modern rugby at the elite level where behemoth smashing into behemoth has become the norm. Tackling in the modern game is about the impact, hitting front on at chest height to either dislodge the ball, prevent the offload, knock the player backwards or, preferably, all three. It requires size, strength and timing, and has led to an increasing requirement for players to bulk up. It has also led to increased injury through impact, the most high profile of which is concussion.

Call me old fashioned, and many people do, but I can't help feeling that the game would benefit from a return to traditional tackling techniques. I'm not sure that outlawing the head-on, chest-high tackle, is an option (although I'd like to see the lawmakers at least consider it) but the biggest changes will come when the laws are amended to speed the game up, allowing fewer stoppages and forcing players to become aerobically fitter and substantially leaner.

So, award free kicks instead of penalties for all but the most blatant of scrum offences, don't allow the selection of a scrum as a penalty or free-kick option, put a time limit on the completion of set pieces - anything to move the game away from the gargantuan gym monkeys currently dominating the game.

Coaching proper tackling technique also wouldn't go amiss.

The alternative, from a health and safety perspective, is going down the road of American Football style body armour - and I doubt anyone wants that.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Pic of the day

Couldn't have put it better…

With thanks to @S7OCKY

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

England to sing extended Anthem

I have to say that I completely agree with the decision of England's World Cup 2015 organising committee to allow the England team to sing an extended version of the national anthem before Rugby World Cup matches this autumn.

This follows a review carried out be the RFU anthems committee after the Six Nations which concluded that the brevity of the English anthem had put the team at a distinct disadvantage when compared to other nations.

Of particular concern to the committee was the fact that Ireland were allowed to sing 2 lengthy anthems at home fixtures, a factor that Stuart Lancaster believes was crucial in determining the outcome of the recent encounter in Dublin and the ultimate destination of the Six Nations trophy.

“It’s a bit of a no brainer really,’ says Lancaster. “An extended anthem might just give us that extra edge, that additional one per cent. As the host nation we should take advantage of anything that might help us.

England will therefore be allowed to sing all SIX verses of God Save The Queen at the World Cup.

Lyric sheets will be distributed to the extended squad when it meets up for the World Cup training camp in the summer, with players expected to practice the anthem under the tutelage of celebrity choirmaster Gareth Malone.

For the uninitiated, this is what we can expect from England at the World Cup:

God save our gracious Queen
Long live our noble Queen
God save the Queen
Send her victorious
Happy and glorious
Long to reign over us
God save the Queen

O Lord our God arise
Scatter her enemies
And make them fall
Confound their politics
Frustrate their knavish tricks
On Thee our hopes we fix
God save us all

Thy choicest gifts in store
On her be pleased to pour
Long may she reign
May she defend our laws
And ever give us cause
To sing with heart and voice
God save the Queen

Not in this land alone
But be God's mercies known
From shore to shore
Lord make the nations see
That men should brothers be
And form one family
The wide world over

From every latent foe
From the assassins blow
God save the Queen
O'er her thine arm extend
For Britain's sake defend
Our mother, prince, and friend
God save the Queen

Lord grant that Marshal Wade
May by thy mighty aid
Victory bring
May he sedition hush
And like a torrent rush
Rebellious Scots to crush
God save the Queen.

It is unknown whether the call to allow the extended anthem was behind the decision of Debbie Jevans to resign as Chief Executive of the England 2015 organising committee.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015


Today I sat in electronic purgatory in an 8 hour queue to access the RWC ticketing site to purchase "newly released" tickets.


Eventually, with the "wheel of doom" seemingly frozen for hours, I simply lost the will to live and gave up. There's only so much a reasonable man can take.

Debbie Jevans should resign. Oh, wait.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

England Women: loss of a legacy?

I see that England, World Champions, finished a mediocre 4th in the Women's Six Nations, after losing 15-21 to France on the final weekend.

I realise that a large number of England's newly professional top players have been playing on the World Sevens Series circuit, but being beaten by Wales, Ireland and France is still pretty poor, no matter that it is now being dressed up as "development."

Awarding 20 professional contracts post World Cup appeared to be a progressive move, but sending those players around the world to play Sevens at the expense of the Six Nations means that a golden opportunity to build a lasting legacy on the back of England's World Cup success might be being missed (sound familiar?).

It also begs the question of whether it would have been allowed to happen under previous head coach Gary Street, whose abrupt departure some 2 weeks before the start of the tournament is looking increasingly iffy.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

A question of acceptability

Comments by the RFU CEO, Ian Ritchie, this week that England “finishing second for the fourth time in as many years is not acceptable" are not only a tad harsh on the England team, they are also more than a little disrespectful to the championship as a whole.

England actually have an identical record over each of the last 5 Six Nations tournaments, in that each year they have played 5, won 4 and lost 1.

In the each of the last three tournaments England have only finished second on points difference, and let's not forget that in 2011 they were crowned Six Nations Champions (yes, during the so-called disastrous Martin Johnson years), albeit somewhat sheepishly having been denied a Grand Slam by a rampant Ireland in Dublin.

During the last 5 years there has only been one Grand Slam - Wales in 2012 - with points difference deciding the championship in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

All of which puts England's consistency over the last 5 years into perspective and is testament to the overall strength of the Six Nations championship these days and the teams in it.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Six Nations 2015 - CHAMPS & CHUMPS

So that's another Six Nations done and dusted. Time then to reveal my entirely subjective Champs & Chumps of the tournament, those that impressed, excited, disappointed or frustrated over the last few weeks. Some are obvious, others less so


15. Liam Williams – Wales a much better team with this guy at fullback.
14. Tommy Bowe - hardly put a foot wrong all tournament.
13. Jonathan Joseph – heir apparent to Jezza Guscott, finally an English centre with an outside break.
12. Maxime Mermoz – where the hell have France been hiding him? Brilliant against England. 
11 Jack Nowell – terrible barnet, but the boy can play. 
10. George Ford – look, we all know Sexton was excellent, but Ford completely transformed the English attack. 
9. Connor Murray – my MoM against England and ran the show for Ireland throughout. 
1. Jack McGrath – emerging young giant means there’s now some serious depth in the Ireland front row. 
2. Guilhem Guirado – fast, mobile, great hands, probably a better centre than Bastareaud. 
3. Mike Ross – unspectacularly solid, like granite, only less expressive. 
4. Luke Charteris – gives hope to tall skinny kids everywhere. 
5. Courtney Lawes – huge impact in every sense. 
6. Peter O’Mahony – perpetual motion, tough as old boots. 
7. Sean O'Brien – back to his best, which was very good indeed. 
8. Billy Vunipola – huge appetite for work, played every minute of every game.


15. Alex Goode – still waiting for the penny to drop with the England management.
14. Alex Cuthbert – gave donkeys a bad name. 
13. Mathieu Bastareaud - the antithesis of French joie de vivre.
12. Luther Burrell – put the O in ordinary. World Cup place now under threat. 
11. Tim Visser -  about as mediocre as it gets.
10. Kelly Haimona – a 17 stone plus fly half. 
9. Rory Kockott - Le Petit General? More like Petit Filous. 
1. Gethin Jenkins – now looks completely after every scrum. 
2. Ross Ford – so anonymous I've forgotten what he looks like. 
3. Martin Castrogiavanni – bitten…on the nose…by a dog. 
4. Pascale Pape - put the thug into thuggery. 
5. Big Jim Hamilton – who starts a fight with the clock ticking down and your team still needing points? 
6. James Haskell - only the Hask could be tackled by a post. 
7. Mauro Bergamasco - once a warrior, now about as effective as a one legged man at an arse-kicking competition.
8. Damien Chouly – doubt he'll be joining the likes of Harinordiquy and Picamoles in the French number 8s Hall of Fame.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

If only...

Well done Ireland. Consistently strong throughout the Six Nations and deserved champions.

Chapeau, also, to Wales for setting the scene for a roller coaster of an afternoon - the most bizarre climax to a Six Nations in…well…ever.

England, perennial bridesmaids, can reflect on a series of 'if onlys':

If only they'd scored that late consolation try in Dublin;

If only they'd taken one more of the multiple try scoring chances they created against Scotland;

If only Stuart Hogg hadn't lost control of the ball in the act of trying to touch down against Ireland;

If only Scotland hadn't folded like a cheap suit at Murrayfield;

If only England could attack AND defend.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

“Breathtaking” eclipse expected in SW London

More than 80,000 people are expected to glimpse a spectacular solar eclipse in Twickenham, SW London, later today.

It is expected that a great swathe of the Earth's surface will be plunged into darkness as French rugby player Mathieu Bastareaud passes in front of the sun.

The European Space Agency predict the Bastareaud-
eclipse will look something like this
People keen to catch a glimpse of the rare phenomenon are advised not to look directly at it and special Bastareaud-eclipse glasses are being issued free to all ticket holders.

"We’ll have a pretty spectacular view," says England coach Stuart Lancaster. "This will be extraordinary."

School children try out their special
Bastareaud-eclipse glasses