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. 

Tuesday, 28 April 2015


Is it me, or is this streaker enjoying himself a little TOO much?

(with thanks to @E4Rugby)

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.