Thursday, 31 July 2008

Soaring, flying...

...there’s not a star in heaven that we can’t reach.

With apologies to devotees of High School Musical who have arrived at this post via Google, I'm afraid that this post deals only with the trials and tribulations of lineout lifting rather than those of Troy and Gabriella (and for those of you who haven't a clue what I'm on about, don't worry - it comes with the territory when you have kids aged 7 and 5).

Anyway, following the purgatory of the Bleep Test on Tuesday night at club training (see below for the gory details) the players split up into forwards and backs as is normal at training sessions up and down the land.

Incidentally, I can't say I've ever understood what backs actually do in training. Perhaps I ought to join in to find out. I remember in my university days in particular us forwards slugging it out on the scrum machine or working on lineout variations for what seemed like hours on end and yet, whenever we looked over at the backs, there they were - sat in a circle, apparently in earnest discussion. Who knows what they were actually talking about - in retrospect they were probably just taking the piss out of how hard the forwards were working and how stupid we looked.

I digress. The forwards' session on Tuesday was dedicated to the lineout and began with an incredibly confused discussion (yes, we forwards can do it too) about how this particular phase would be affected by the ELVs. The conclusions were, how can I put this...inconclusive. Clearly, if the grassroots game follows the example set in the Super 14 and Tri Nations, there are going to be fewer lineouts than previously, with kicking out from the 22 discouraged and with quick throws being made easier. The general feeling, I think, was that lineouts would therefore end up less structured, with all forwards needing to know how to lift and, to a lesser extent, how to be lifted.

We therefore worked in pairs lifting tackle bags before working on some throws into the lineout. What is clear is that catching and driving is unlikely to be a successful tactic this season given that the opposition can (and will, no doubt) pull down the maul. So what did we do at the first lineout? We caught and drove, of course! Old habits die hard.

It was suggested that I might have a go at jumping which I was happy to do given that, way back when, I used to jump regularly at the front for Peterborough Colts and at 4 for Cambridgeshire Schools Under 16s (before my move to a more appropriately lurking position at the tail of the lineout). However, aside from an abortive attempt to do so in a Vets match last season, I'd never actually ever been lifted in a lineout before (bearing in mind that, before last season, I hadn't played since the 93/94 season) and I must say that the experience was...well...educational!

At first I didn't really get the fact that I had to physically jump before the "lift" took place, or that my jump was then the cue for the ball to be thrown - what I used to do back in the dark ages was to time my jump to coincide with the hooker's throwing action rather than vice versa - the opposite appearing to be the case these days. The other difficulty was that it took several attempts to get used to keeping my legs (a) together - to facilitate a decent grip and (b) still - to prevent me kicking the lifting props in the head/stomach/nuts. Now I'm beginning to understand why they're all such miserable bastards.

One thing that did strike me, however, is how programmed we've become at this particular set piece. Some lift and some jump but very few THINK. Being allowed to lift at the lineout has left this phase of the game full of technical expertise but bereft of ideas and innovation. Back when I played at Barnes, for instance, I remember it was often just a nod in the direction of the hooker which would signal a ball lobbed over the top of the lineout - these days it seems it would take a planned call and several training sessions to make it happen and, given that our Vets lineout was a shambles last season, perhaps there are lessons to be learned here.

Nevertheless, after a few hair-raising rehearsals there followed a series of lifting/jumping routines to front, middle and back which, from my point of view, were a fairly gruelling set of exercises (hamstrings are still suffering, not to mention a certain amount of chaffing in the shorts department), let alone how physical it must have been for the poor lifters.

We finished with a semi-opposed session after we were re-united with the backs who, by the number of times they dropped the ball, showed that they'd obviously been doing bugger all of any use while we'd been toiling away.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Bleep!

Last night I did something I hadn't done for at least 15 years - possibly longer: the dreaded Bleep Test.

To be honest I'd thought that, along with New Kids on the Block, the Bleep Test had disappeared into oblivion in the mid-nineties but no, it appears that, like that much maligned American boy band, it's making a comeback - at least it is in Chesham.

For the uninitiated (and I doubt there are that many of you) the Bleep Test is a continuous running exercise designed to test your VO2 max (maximum oxygen uptake), in other words your cardio-vascular fitness.

The idea is that cones are set up 20 metres apart and the victims run back and forth between the cones in tempo with a pre-recorded bleep. The tempo increases every minute and the infernal bleeps come closer together and the basic idea is that you keep running until you can't keep up.

After you've collapsed in a heap you're given a score based on which level you've reached. I made it to level 7 which either means that my training partner lost count or, as is more likely, that my cardio fitness is seriously lacking. Given that I'm sure that back in the middle ages I made it to at least level 11, my score last night was a pretty damning indictment of what age, beer and a sedentary lifestyle can do to your body. If cornered I'd argue that the test hardly reflected the fitness required for rugby (at least not the way I play it) but I'd be clutching at straws.

To put things into context, apparently the Springboks in 2007 expected scores for the test to range from 11.5 for the props up to 13.5 for the backs (although a couple of our young whipper-snappers made it past that mark), English rugby legend Martin Johnson is said to have achieved level 14 in his playing days (we are not worthy) and rumour has it that Neil Back actually completed the test through to level 23 (inhuman).

For those who are masochistic enough to want to hear how the test sounds, click here.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Putting Rugby First

A report, believed to having the backing of (amongst others) the English Premiership clubs, has been published which claims that rugby is stuck in an English "ghetto" and that the IRB are missing out on the vast new markets offered in Asia and the Far East.

The report, by consultants Spectrum Value Partners and entitled "Putting Rugby First", labels the IRB as undemocratic, unrepresentative and shackled by the voting structure that gives the eight founding unions a permanent veto (although mysteriously the words " free-loading old farts" are omitted).

To prove its point the report claims that half of the world's four million registered players are in England (which begs the question why are we still so rubbish?) and that 97 per cent of those who watched the last World Cup came from the founding unions of England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, France, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.

It also cites, as evidence of the IRB's failure to ensure that the game develops globally:

  • The failure to secure a place for Rugby Sevens in the 2012 Olympic Games, despite the fact rugby first appeared in the Olympics in 1900;

  • The inability to accommodate Argentina into a regularly-scheduled international rugby calendar before 2012 at the earliest – despite Argentina finishing third at the last Rugby World Cup; and

  • The decision to host the next Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, a small, rugby-saturated market, rather than in Japan, a springboard to the fast-growing Asian economies...

    ...none of which you can really argue against.

    The report is being sent to rugby stakeholders around the world: administrators, players, referees, government ministers, commercial partners, journalists and influential supporters. It claims to provide an independent perspective on rugby’s current status, identify some of the underlying problems and proposes how to help solve them. The intention, it says, is to start a debate among rugby’s stakeholders about how to become truly global and secure the future of the game

    To download the report click here.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Put through my paces

I really didn't want to do it, but last night I finally bit the bullet and dragged myself along to pre-season training at the rugby club.

My timing, of course, was perfect - it having been one of the hottest days of the year so far. The best word to describe conditions was "balmy" - and I even managed to get more than a bit of a sweat on getting changed into my rugby kit. Not a great sign.

Given that I'd missed the first three sessions of the summer so far and had not attended the gym as assiduously as I might have done recently, I was feeling a touch apprehensive beforehand, a feeling not helped by chronic doubts as to whether my sciatica would flare up under pressure. So, all in all, rugby training was the last thing I wanted to do.

We started with a full lap of the playing fields and I watched as the youngsters disappeared over the horizon whilst I struggled along at the back next to the other old sweats. As we finished the lap the coach got us started on a stretching routine - but my prayers that this be a warm down session before retiring to the bar fell on deaf ears.

The next half hour or so was spent completing three exercise circuits - including squats, sit ups, hill runs, weights, V-sits (don't ask - they still remain a mystery to me) and lifting two bloody great tractor tyres, amongst other tortures. Hard work, but varied enough so that it didn't ever get boring.

As the circuits came to a close the coach announced that it was time for tackling practice.

Tackling...in July.

So followed a series of one-on-one tackling exercises, followed by some 2 vs 2 contact exercises that reminded me that:

(a) contact hurts; and
(b) I do need plenty of tackling practice.

The session was finished off by 10 minutes of rugby league which I managed to be in the thick of for the majority of the game, despite my increasingly weary limbs.

Overall I was pleasantly surprised that I (and more importantly my back) coped reasonably well - and certainly my doom-mongering beforehand turned out to be unjustified. Mind you, it was an interesting experience getting up this morning - those circuits had certainly worked some muscle groups that have been laying dormant for some time.

It's a start at least - but with the first Vets game scheduled for 27th September there's still plenty of work to do.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Lies, damned lies, and statistics

SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE PLAYERS REJECT LAW AMENDMENTS
According to a recent poll, nearly 20 per cent of rugby players in the Southern Hemisphere believe that the ELVs have had a negative impact on the game.

Really? Well, no, not really at all but the spin I've put on the figures recently publicised is only slightly more ridiculous than that being perpetuated by the southern hemisphere press.

"Southern hemisphere players endorse law amendments" they say, or "Rugby players have voted overwhelmingly in favour of the ELVs." What they mean, in fact, is that in a poll of 264 professional players, 83 per cent thought the ELVs had a positive impact on the game and 88 per cent thought they had created more continuity.

So 219 professional rugby players from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa say that the new laws are positive and the world of rugby is supposed to just roll over and say fine, let's endorse the whole package now?

I'm not saying the players' opinions aren't worth listening to - far from it - but 219 out of a world rugby playing population of lord knows how many is hardly a representative sample.

For better or for worse the rugby world has agreed, democratically, to trial 13 new laws from 1st August this year. Rather than just let us get on with it, however, the pro-ELV lobby at the IRB appears to want to pre-determine the outcome of such a trial (the main reason, I believe, why the northern hemisphere has so far rejected calls to introduce the 'free kick intead of penalty' provisions).

The bully-boy tactics of John O'Neill having patently failed, it looks as if we now face a war of attrition by means of a largely meaningless statistical bombardment...

Monday, 21 July 2008

Who'd be a referee #2 ?

Fairly shocking news from South Africa where apparently a spectator ran onto the field at the weekend and tackled one of South Africa's top referees from behind in a match between Grey High of Port Elizabeth and Daniël Pienaar of Uitenhage.

The incident occurred with about 8 minutes to go in the match and with Grey leading 20-9. The idiot in question is believed to have been an old boy of Daniël Pienaar and rumour has it that his tackle on referee Phillip Bosch was the result of a drunken dare. Bosch, who cut the game short after the attack, was said to be suffering from back pain afterwards.

The assailant is reported to have yelled "Piet van Zyl" when making the tackle - a reference to the infamous incident in Durban in 2002 when 43 year old Springbok fan Piet van Zyl did his bit for the image of the Afrikaner male when he assaulted ref Dave McHugh during a Tri-Nations match between South Africa and New Zealand, dislocating the referee's shoulder in the process.

On that occasion Van Zyl, a fine figure of a man as the picture shows, was 'sorted out' by Richie McCaw and AJ Ventner and was subsequently charged with assault.

Drunken prank or not, I trust that the South African authorities will show the same lack of leniency to this moron.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Unhappy Families...

The Tri-Nations? Irrelevant.

The ELVs? A mere distraction.

Martin Johnson's England? Hardly worth a second thought.

No, the story that REALLY matters this week is (at least according to NOW magazine) that the families of tango-boy Gavin Henson and his missus Charlotte Church are "at war" over the arrival of the couple's new baby later this year.

You heard it hear first (unless you are a subscriber to that quality periodical of course) - the big rugby story this week is that, while Charlotte's Mum (Maria) is "thrilled" at the news, apparently Henson's Mum and Dad (Audrey and Alan) are "shocked" to learn that son is to be a father again at the tender age of 26.

The magazine's "source" (not, repeat not, the lady that brings round the cake trolley at 4 o'clock) says that Gav's parents feel that it’s too soon, that their boy should concentrate on building his career and that too many children will distract him.

"They’re also worried that he’s become more obsessed with the idea of being a celebrity rather than concentrating on his rugby," says Doris from accounts.

What do you think? Should Gavin and Charlotte have more kids? Should Gavin ditch his family and focus on rugby glory with Wales? Should he change his brand of fake tan? Should I even be typing this?

Thursday, 17 July 2008

RFU propose alternative ELVs

For some reason our antipodean friends believe that we in the northern hemisphere are all luddite dinosaurs determined to stand in the way of progress. Can't think why.

Here's an amusing little something penned by Karl (aka Stomper), an Aussie who reads and comments on this blog from time to time...

The RFU today announced that it is proposing a number of new ELVs to be trialled in the Northern Hemisphere commencing with games played from 1st August 2008.

The new ELVs are aimed to return rugby to its purest form and eliminate many of the changes that have taken place since the early 1900s. The key rule changes are:

  • The number of players will be increased to twenty reversing the reduction in player numbers that was effected in 1877. The RFU believe this significant change will allow the game to become more inclusive and tighten up the game for the forwards, eliminating much of the unnecessary open play that has become a blight on the game.

  • Another new exciting developments will be the reintroduction of the goal from mark that was cruelly abandoned in 1971. This exciting element of the game will allow skilled place kickers to score during open play without the need for the awarding of a penalty. This will result in more kicks at goal and further reduce the incentive to run the ball.

  • The RFU are also excited to announce the reintroduction of the leather spherical ball with an inner-tube made of a pig's bladder which had been incorrectly abandoned in 1862 following the introduction of Richard Lindon's rubber inner-tubes. The "new" balls will require a greater level of skill in order to convert kicks at goal into points - in particular in wet weather with the "new" balls weighing 30kgs when wet.

  • Other exciting ELV changes include no lifting in the line out and kicking out on the full allowed from anywhere on the field.

  • Point scoring will revert back to those of 1900 with 3 points for a try, 2 points for a conversion, 3 points for a drop goal and 4 points for the reintroduced Goal from mark. It is expected that this will be the most contentious rule change with some RFU delegates looking to a return to pre- 1889 rules where no points were awarded for tries.

A representative of the RFU Board, Steven Fotherington-Bligh, commented: "We are excited by this new proposal which will see rugby revert to it's original purity, with an emphasis on rewarding kicks at goal rather than tries.

Personally I love the idea of reverting back to the days when lifting in the lineout was outlawed - Chesham Vets might actually win a lineout or two!

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Revenge of the "Nude Blacks"

The All Blacks' defeat to South Africa at Carisbrook this weekend was put into context by the 17-5 triumph of the "Nude Blacks" over their South African counterparts in Dunedin's 5th Bottom Bus Nude Rugby International held at St. Kilda beach on Saturday.

Organised by backpacker touring company Bottom Bus, the nude touch rugby match was billed as the "unofficial curtain raiser" to the All Blacks v South Africa Test, and involved 2 teams of local rugby nuts (no pun intended) getting their kit off and painting player names and numbers on their backs for added authenticity.

So authentic, in fact, that the New York Daily News, bless 'em, reported that "members of the All Blacks, New Zealand's national team, took part in a nude rugby game at St. Kilda Beach in Dunedin, New Zealand."

Mind you, could that be Dan Carter...?

Monday, 14 July 2008

Johnny Tourette strikes again

It seems Aussie rugby chief' John O'Neill just can't prevent himself from talking out of his arse, scaremongering threats gushing forth in a tourettes-like fashion whenever he doesn't get his own way.

Fresh from having recently issued dire warnings about the potential extinction of one of the rugby codes in Australia, O'Neill is now said to be "furious" at the continued resistance by by England, Ireland and Wales to some of his cherished ELVs and has threatened that rugby faces splitting in two.

"Where we're up to today is a risk that we end up with two games, with two different sets of laws," says O'Neill. “You’d hate to think we’d end up in a situation of two games but it could happen.”

O'Neill's attempts to justify his position include the following ludicrous statement:

“The last two weekends we’ve seen the Springboks play the All Blacks in two wonderful Test matches and we’ve seen Australia versus France and Australia versus Ireland and the All Blacks versus England under the old laws. You don’t have to be Einstein to figure out which game is a far more impressive spectacle."

Of course you also don't have to be Einstein to figure out that it might have been the 2 teams involved, rather than the laws, that made the difference. Or does he think we are all fools?

It's the coaches, he says, rather than the administrators who should be involved in the decision making:

"The blazer gang shouldn't be involved in determining the laws of the game, they should be determined by the people who are absolute practitioners and live and die on the technical side of rugby."

OK, John, if that's the case then why not shut the **** up and leave it to those who know what they're talking about? Funnily enough, in England it's the Premiership's various head coaches who are amongst the most vociferous opponents to many of the ELVs. Or don't they count?

“If we want rugby to continue to grow as a true international game second only to football, we’ve got to move away from this southern hemisphere-northern hemisphere battle lines, ” he says.

Perfectly reasonable, you'd think, except that O'Neill wouldn't recognise a reasoned and logical argument if it bit him in the balls, a point emphasised by his next comment:

“What would a World Cup be if Australia, New Zealand and South Africa didn’t play in it?"

What? Is he honestly suggesting that they'd boycott a World Cup?

Idiot.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Social niceties

I stumbled upon this on the Scottish Rugby Blog...

It seems that a bunch of South Africans, no less, have come up with a cracking idea - i.e. the inaugural Social Rugby World Championships which will kick off in Cape Town, South Africa on 13th June 2009 and will coincide with the British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa next summer.

The plan is for 16 teams from around the world who don't take themselves too seriously to indulge in 2 weeks of socialising and rugby in a round-robin format tournament. Not only that, but they'll be given the opportunity to take part in coaching rugby in disadvantaged communities and, of course, the chance to follow the Lions tour live in South Africa.

The event will be hosted by the Villager Rugby Football Club – South Africa’s second oldest rugby club – in Claremont, Cape Town and four teams have already signed up - namely The Fourths - from Villagers RFC, The Potbellied Pigs from Hong Kong, the Shebeen Boys from South Africa & Zimbabwe and the Carlton Panthers from New Zealand.

No Brit teams as yet but, given that this could be fantastic way to follow the Lions, I'm sure that'll change pretty darned quickly.

A great idea, the only disappointment being that the organisers have stressed - and I use their words - that this is not an “Old Crocks” tournament (and indeed they have targeted the competition at the 18-40 demographic) - but is instead a "competition for younger players that simply don’t have the time or inclination to compete for first team honours at their club".

Cheeky barstewards - I bet I could teach them a thing or two...blah, blah...cough, splutter, wheeze...

For full details visit the Social Rugby World Championship site.

Austin Healy presents...

How the English should respond to the Haka...

Thursday, 10 July 2008

The Verdict

The RFU's disciplinary officer Judge Jeff Blackett today finally published the results of his investigations into what happened in Auckland the night after the 1st Test against the All Blacks.

The players investigated by Auckland police in connection with an alleged rape have been named - Topsy Ojo, Mike Brown and Danny Care (plus one other unnamed player the police wished to interview but only as a potential witness).

However, Judge Blackett's conclusions, based on the individual accounts of each of the three players, David Strettle (who was not even the subject of the police investigation, despite press speculation to the contrary) and various other witnesses in the hotel, was that no criminal wrongdoing had taken place.

Care and Strettle were completely exonerated by Judge Blackett of any misconduct. Brown was fined £1,000 for “staying out all night during an England rugby tour” and missing a physiotherapist appointment, while Ojo was hit with a £500 fine, also for staying out all night.

So, stupid? Yes. Criminal? No. And the alleged victim can really have no complaints with these conclusions given her refusal to make a formal complaint or even to co-operate with Judge Blackett's investigation - an investigation certainly not helped by the decision of the alleged victim to release publicly the contents of a letter from her solicitors to Judge Blackett or by the fact that the alleged victim's "spokesperson", one Glenda Hughes, has made public statements about the detail of the case.

Apparently the alleged victim will not make a formal complaint as doing so "would threaten her privacy." Instead she has chosen to make her complaints public via the media - a sure fire way to provoke further media speculation and investigation and, if the tabloid hyenas have their way, to reveal her identity. Call me an old cynic, but it's not beyond the realms of possibility that this may well be the long term game plan - the price of her "exclusive" story increasing with each day that speculation as to her identity mounts.

This isn't over yet...

Read judge Blackett's full report.

Galileo...Figaro...Magnifico...

Just got back from a session in the gym - my first for a while following my sciatic trauma a couple of weeks ago.

Since then I've had three appointments with a chiropractor, the latest one being this morning, and it's made one heck of difference, freeing up the nerve and leaving me £100 lighter but feeling that my lower back is now a lot more stable than it's been for a while. Thanks Edwin!

So, full of renewed confidence, I headed down to the gym and put in a good 45 minute aerobic shift, followed by being introduced to the new Galileo machine currently being trialled at my gym.

What the Galileo consists of is a platform that vibrates from side to side, causing various muscle groups to contract and relax from 18 to 30 times per second , so providing an all over body workout, particularly for the legs, back and abdomen. Ideal for building up core strength and pelvic stability to protect my vulnerable lower back, I thought, and after 15 minutes or so adopting various poses on the machine I really felt like I'd been given a good going over. I suspect that some muscle groups that I didn't even know existed were worked harder than they ever had been before and that I'll discover exactly which ones tomorrow morning.

I'm hoping that I'll feel in good enough shape to get down to pre-season training at the rugby club next week but, given that I don't expect to be able to move tomorrow, I thought I'd share my Galileo experience with you now!

Magnifico-oh-oh-oh!

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Three's a crowd

In case anyone hadn't noticed the Tri Nations kicked off last Saturday with New Zealand beating South Africa in the opening game in Wellington.

This week the action moves to Dunedin where New Zealand take on...err...South Africa again.

Then, next week Australia play South Africa in Perth, before taking on New Zealand in Sydney the following week.

Then New Zealand play Australia, South Africa play New Zealand, South Africa play Australia, then South Africa play Australia again, before the tournament finally wraps up on 13th September with Australia playing New Zealand, this time in Brisbane.

I think you see where I'm going with this.

I appreciate that the quality on show in the southern hemisphere is superior to that up north, but how on earth are rugby fans supposed to maintain an interest in a competition that drags on for so long with so little variety? The standard of play Six Nations might not be up to the southern hemisphere's lofty standards but as a competition it knocks spots off the Tri Nations in terms of excitement, verve and diversity.

Rumours abound that SANZAR are talking about opening up the Tri Nations to include the likes of Argentina and Fiji. I'll believe it when I see it but in all honesty it can't happen soon enough.

Guilty, m'lud

Recently demoted England centre Mike Tindall has this week pleaded guilty to drink-driving on the way to watch England's Six Nations match against Ireland at Twickenham in March.

After boozing at the Cheltenham Festival the previous day, the Gloucester centre was breathalysed by police on the M4 and found to be over the limit.

Tindall was bailed to appear before magistrates on 24th October for a "special reasons" hearing. I doubt that these "special reasons" can involve the fact that he's rogering royalty (although it would be a uniquely inventive defence). No, the fact that a medical expert is to be called suggest that it has more to do with "Iron Mike" no longer having an iron liver - the result, probably, of his liver being seriously lacerated in the opening 6 Nations match against Wales at the beginning of February.

A sad decline in his performance at the bar possibly reflecting the sad decline in his form on the pitch, dare I suggest?

Double trouble

I see that the IRB has announced it will decide the venues of the World Cups of 2015 and 2019 at the same time next July, in an attempt to give one of the "smaller" rugby nations a chance at hosting it.

The idea is that it should in theory make it more realistic for conservative IRB delegates to vote for countries such as Japan perhaps, or USA or Italy - despite the fact that the sporting and tourist infrastructure in these countries should already demand consideration on their merits. Whether the decision will reduce the amount of dubious horse-trading among delegates, therefore, remains to be seen.

According to IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset, while it's important that the World Cup be held regularly in one of the IRB's "senior core markets," the tournament's commercial success means they can now consider placing the tournament in "new developing markets to assist the game's strategic growth."

How this all squares with the IRB's decision to award the 2011 World Cup to New Zealand is anyone's guess. I'm sure the IRB would argue that the Land of the Long White Cloud is one of their "senior core markets" but, in terms of revenue generating capability and infrastructure, New Zealand can be considered no more than a "developing market." After all, wasn't a core component of their bid that if they weren't awarded the tournament this time then they wouldn't be able to compete with unions with bigger financial clout in the future?

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Braveheart, bach

Welsh lock Alun Wyn Jones is reportedly supporting a campaign to establish a national heritage centre for Owain Glyndŵr (or "Owen Glendower" as good old Will Shakespeare used to call him) to celebrate Glyndŵr’s revolt against Henry IV in 1400.

“Every nation has its heroes and I hope that North and South Wales will work together to raise the massive target sum of £4.5m to celebrate the life of Owain Glyndŵr,” says Alun's Mum (her little boy being in bed with a bout of tonsillitis).

“I can’t understand why there isn’t a national centre for Glyndŵr to tell his story, like there is in Scotland for William Wallace and Robert the Bruce,” adds Wyn Thomas, secretary to the Glyndŵr Centre development committee.

It strikes me that the answer is simple - get Mel Gibson to work on his Welsh accent and produce another wholly inaccurate movie version of an uprising against the despicable English, isn't it?

Rugby or porn?

New Zealand's rugby viewing public is outraged, it seems.

Not about the extra curricular activities of Jerome Kaino and Jimmy Cowan, nor about Brad Thorn's very passable imitation of Tana Umaga.

No, what has upset the New Zealand public is the fact that, for 4 mad minutes on Sunday afternoon, a "technical glitch" caused the Grassroots Rugby show on Prime Televsion to be interrupted by an adult pay-per-view hardcore porn channel. Instead of hard rucking they got...well, you know where I'm going with this.

Apparently an Auckland woman "watched in disbelief as the rugby turned to Desperate Black Wives 2". She said it "left little to the imagination."

One one father said that his 8-year-old son's "innocence had been ruined."

A Whangarei 12-year-old was "horrified, running around with her hands over her eyes saying eww and gross."

Formal complaints are expected to be made.

Now, I don't want to belittle the effects of exposing children to pornography, but don't any of these people know how to turn the TV off?

Friday, 4 July 2008

If you can't beat 'em...

Not content with humiliating England on the field of play, a bunch of kiwi coaches are coming over to England this summer to show us just how poorly we are coaching our kids and to teach them how to play the game the "proper" way.

The New Zealand Rugby Experience is the brainchild of Martin Stanley, little brother of Smokin' Joe Stanley, and the planned training camps - to be hosted at various rugby clubs in the South-East during July and August - claim to teach skills and training that will enable kids to "play fun, expansive and all-inclusive rugby." That'll never catch on, surely?

Not only that, but our kids will also be brainwashed by exposed to a unique cultural experience via songs, stories and haka from New Zealand and the Pacific Islands - clearly well worth the £120 per child that the New Zealand Rugby Experience will be coining in (although to be fair you also get a certificate and a souvenir).

Rumours that Martin Johnson has signed up the entire Elite England squad for the camps remain unsubstantiated.

Sign Language

Good to see that the IRB have been incredibly busy recently addressing the issues that really matter such as...errr...the logo for the 2011 World Cup.

Yes, after months of consultations with its commercial agent IMG and design house WiteKite from Sydney, the IRB has finally unveiled what it has been wasting its money on:
Wow... a radical departure, then, from the old logo:
According to IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset it was "time to refresh the look and feel of the tournament," and the new design "brings a fresh perspective."

Err... how, exactly?

The next step, apparently, in the look and feel of Rugby World Cup 2011 is the development of a country relevant script that will designate New Zealand as the host country for 2011 (possibly by adding the words "New Zealand" somewhere, perhaps). This will, we're told, be unveiled later this year.

Can't wait. Have they really nothing better to do?

Food for thought

From Dave Martin, via the World Masters Rugby Group.

Rugby Recipes Wanted

The image of a rugby player is one of a hearty soul who plays hard, drinks hard and yes, eats hard too. So, I David Martin, captain of the Gentleman of New York, the New York RC Old Boys, and a former Manhattan player, together with Meg Votta, a former Gotham Women's RC and New York Women's RC player, have teamed up and are writing a cookbook based on the recipes and food stories of rugby players.

We are in the early stages of compiling these for a book that will feature recipes from rugby players. Friends, fans and families are welcome to submit stories and recipes too. We are looking for great and entertaining stories from ruggers that center around food, some dish they have created or some specialty they make or love, great rugby food stories and anything that is connected with the worldwide brotherhood of rugby and enjoyment of friends over a meal and a glass.

One thing we hope to include is a range of dishes that reflect the international appeal of the game. Some traditional South African dish could live on the same page as a great recipe for New Zealand lamb and a recipe for homemade Scottish Haggis could come just after your grandmother's recipe for Irish stew. There are a lot of chefs, restaurateurs and bar owners and we would like to include all your best in this book.

At this stage, we are compiling recipes, stories and names. Later on we will get back in touch with you and talk more about it and in many cases compile a small profile of the chef-rugger and for a few of you get a picture of you running in for a try or holding up the dinner table.

I look forward to reading your submissions. Please make sure you add your contact information, name, number and email address. Send your recipes and stories to rugbyrecipes@gmail.com.

Cheers,

Dave Martin

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Three cheers for the RFU! (yet again - this is getting ridiculous)

My guess is that I'm trapped in some kind of alternate reality.

First of all the RFU decides to consult the grassroots game on the proposed ELVs...then it makes the more than sensible decision not to apply the "collapsing maul law" to all rugby from Under 19 level down on the grounds of safety.

And now, it seems, the RFU is inviting all involved in rugby below level 3 in England to join them in a wide ranging consultation process with the goal of creating the best possible competition structure for the game in this country.

For the next four weeks, it's claimed that there will be an online survey at rfu.com/rugbylandscapesurvey to bring in views so that the RFU “get the competition structure right to sustain our member clubs for the future,” or so they say.

I realise that none of this is real, that I'm stuck in a parallel universe where the inexplicable is beginning to occur on a regular basis...

...or maybe I'll just wake up in the shower.

The Voice of Reason (and he's Australian)

Australian legend Michael Lynagh, the eminently sensible and all-round-nice-bloke and my new favourite Aussie, has reportedly come back from the dark side and is joining in the chorus of the voices of reason in calling for the vast majority of the ELVs to be abandoned.

Lynagh, it is reported, believes the bulk of the ELVs have had a negative effect on rugby.

"The more I see the new rules the more I think it's just league with extra players," he says.

Just one of the ELVs meets with Lynagh's approval.

"Stopping teams being able to pass the ball back into the 22m is common sense," he says. "That rule should be kept because it means running fullbacks and wings will be brought back into the game."

I'm not so sure about that myself as evidence suggests that teams are kicking in-field more from their 22 but, as with many other northern-hemisphere dinosaurs, I am in total accord with Lynagh's hatred of the whole principal of awarding free kicks instead of penalties for all manner of offences, and his belief that the lack of an appropriate sanction just gives negative teams more latitude to cheat.

Lynagh even hits out at the one change that I thought might actually improve attacking play...

"The five-metre rule at scrums has actually negated teams going wide because you hit the gain line immediately if you just keep it in the No 9-10 channel so teams do that every time," he says. "That's why I say it just looks like 15-man league."

And, you know, he may just have a point.