Sunday, 31 August 2008

Turning slaughter into whine...

If proof were ever needed that to be an international rugby coach you need to be as mad as a box of snakes with an ego the size of an elephant, may I refer you to the lastest comments from Springbok coach Peter de Villiers following today's 53-8 thrashing of Australia...

"If they [his detractors] can become patriotic and believe in what's happening in South Africa and not look for their honey outside of the borders and offer support (rather) than stomping on people who gave them hours and hours of joy last year and this year, we as a nation will grow much better," he said.

"The same people who threw their robes on the ground when Jesus rode on a donkey were the same people who crowned him and hit him with sticks and stuff like that, and were the same people who said afterwards how we shouldn't have done that, he's the son of God."

"So that's exactly what we do. You have to look at history is repeating itself, and I'm not saying that I'm God."

Errr...so what exactly are you saying Peter?

World exclusive (sshhhhh!)

Pssssst! Don't tell anyone, but I've managed to get hold of the Wikio UK sports blog chart a full 24 hours before it's due to be officially published (see below).

Don't ask me how I managed to do it. Strictly need to know. All I will say is that it involved several clandestime meetings in a variety of safe houses in the Watford area followed by a dead drop on Chorleywood Common in heavy disguise.

Anyway, here it is...keep it under your hat.

This post will self destruct in 5 seconds...4...3...2...1...

Friday, 29 August 2008

Edinburgh on old fart alert!

Good luck and best wishes to all those geriatric rugby players descending on Edinburgh this weekend for the 17th World Golden Oldies Rugby Festival which runs from 1st-8th September.

Teams literally from all over the world will be taking part - players from Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Canada, Cook Islands, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, Samoa, Scotland, Spain and the USA will be coming together to play to their own peculiar laws (not an ELV in sight I'd wager) and to enjoy Edinburgh's famed hospitality.

My particular best wishes go out to the Cancer Research UK Crusaders who, recognising that I am somewhat long in the tooth, very kindly invited me to join them for the event. Sadly, owing to work commitments, I had to decline but I'll certainly be with them in spirit of not in body.

The Edinburgh-based Crusaders are the brainchild of 47-year-old John Munro, who lost his wife Debbie to bowel cancer in 2005. He gave up rugby to care for his sick wife when the illness intensified and lost contact with a sport he had spent his life playing but her death gave him the determination to raise awareness and cash for Cancer Research UK.

"When Debbie died from cancer my friends and my rugby team were a tremendous support. It's amazing what the rugby community is like at times like those, I was getting messages of support from around the world," he says.

"I thought about it, and in April this year began sending a few e-mails out and it grew from there. Now we have a pool of around 50 players from all over."

The Crusaders have been given kilts with their own registered tartan to wear at events, along with specially-designed pink scrum hats to promote the cancer cause, so should be relatively easy to recognise next week.

If any of the participants in this event are reading this, please feel free to send me progress reports, stories or pictures from the week's festivities and I'd be happy to post them here.

Bon chance one and all!

Reload II - The proof...



I'm still not convinced...

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Training derailed

Ouch. Three weeks of relative inactivity came back to bite me on the bum last night when I returned to rugby training.

Although I did get out on the roads a few times on holiday (once for over 40 minutes - but only because I managed to get lost), nothing had prepared me for the full contact session we had last night. After 15 minutes or so of touch we split into 2 teams of about 10 (yep, great turn out, and we were augmented by a few lads from the under 16s!) and played a full half hour of full contact stuff from a series of lineouts, unopposed scrums and re-starts.

Energy sapping stuff and a bit harum-scarum in terms of patterns of play. The breakdown, in particular, was a bit of a shambles and I was pretty disappointed with my contribution in that area. Not only did my lack of fitness mean that I struggled to get there, when I did so I was way too tentative. It was this passivity (which I can't really explain) which led to me hesitating at the back of one ruck and being clobbered, rupturing the knuckle joint on my left little finger. It may only be a little finger but it was bloody painful (reminding me of when I badly dislocated the same finger about 15 years ago) and this morning it's sore and swollen despite copious amounts of ice and ibuprofen gel.

So, a sore finger, sore back/hip (usual story) and also a shooting pain in my left heel (something I've been suffering with post-exercise all summer) are leaving me feeling a bit sorry for myself this morning. First Vets' game of the season is exactly one month away and I guess that has to be my target - although at the rate I'm going perhaps non-contact training is the way forward?

Monday, 25 August 2008

I'm back!

Bom dia meus amigos! Você faltou-me?

Back in Blighty from the land of Vasco da Gama, Cristiano Ronaldo and Vinho Verde and in the two weeks I've been away I appear to have missed very little in the world of rugby. As predicted, the Olympics has dominated the sports pages of late and I must say, with satellite TV in our apartment in Portugal, I was as caught up as anyone with the British medal tally this past fortnight - although, as Michael Johnson kept reminding us, we seemed especially adept at sports which involved sitting down.

As far as rugby is concerned, a few things caught my attention on my return:
  1. South African coach Peter De Villiers is predictably enough the subject of intense vilification following the Springboks' home defeat to Australia at the weekend. Admittedly the defeat was his side's fourth in five Tri Nations matches and ensured that they are out of contention for the title but let's face it, it's less than a year since the last World Cup, he's in his first season and inevitably there's going to be a bit of a hangover - give the guy a break, for heaven's sake. What the weekend's result does prove of course is either (a) Robbie Deans is a genius or (b) there's something in the theory that the Aussies quite like the ELVs.
  2. Rugby League appear to be claiming something of a coup with the capture of Fijian "Rugby Union Superstar" Waisale Serevi. Call me ungracious, but the fact that a former sevens specialist (albeit a genius at the shortened form of the game) appears to be coming out of retirement to accept a big fat cheque to play in a one-off rugby league tournament is hardly worth all the fuss, is it?
  3. My critique below on the dubious qualities of the Mitre Reload training ball appears to have ruffled the feathers of someone called Anonymous (whose opinion I always trust and value of course) who posted 4 times in praise of the freakish-looking gimmick training aid. The only thing he forgot to say was "I've tried the Reload and liked the product so much I bought the company!"

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Hooray, hooray it's a holi-holiday...

(...in the words of the one and only Boney M).


This is, some of you will be pleased to note, my last post for a couple of weeks as tomorrow I head off on holiday to the Algarve with my family.

My laptop will not be coming with me as I attempt to cut myself off from contact with the outside world and immerse myself in sun, sea and sand.

Unfortunately, out of necessity, my trainers will be coming with me as I really do need to put in a few kilometres on the roads/beach. A heavy cold (coupled with some pretty crappy weather) this week has meant that I've missed training at the club and haven't made it to the gym and my fitness level is nowhere near where it should be with the new season firmly on the horizon. Last year I was fairly good about dragging myself out running while on holiday so I'm hoping that this year I'm just as motivated.

During my absence I expect that:

  • In the Tri Nations South Africa will play New Zealand and Australia at home and we might have some idea who is in pole position before South Africa play Australia again and Australia play New Zealand ...yawn...;
  • John O'Neil will declare that unless the northern hemisphere adopts each and every ELV immediately then there's a danger that rugby union will be forced to merge with cricket; and
  • No one will be paying attention to rugby anyway as they'll be too fascinated to see which particular drugs cheat has won Olympic gold this time.
Cheerio...back in 2 weeks, no doubt a subtle shade of pink!

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Reload

Followers of rugby are occasionally referred to amongst the less enlightened classes as "eggchasers."

Eskimo Rugby today has a feature on the new Mitre training ball which certainly won't help on that score.

Called the Reload, the ball has a "rounded" end which, it is claimed (in theory at least), allows a rugby player to practice on his own - passing and kicking against a wall for instance (as with a football) - the idea being that the ball will bounce straight off the wall back to the player without flying off at crazy angles.

According to Mitre, this exclusive rounded end rugby training aid is popular at all levels of the game and can be used as a warm up and skills developer whilst also being suitable for players to train on their own. The ball, they say, is excellent for spin and distance passing, catching practice and line out throwing and can also help develop drop kick techniques.

All fine and dandy, but I have more than a couple of issues with this ball:

  1. I honestly don't believe that if you pass or kick this ball against a wall it will bounce back to you (unless you stand really, really close to the wall). Surely once the ball hits the ground it will, unless it miraculously happen to bounce on its rounded end every time, be subject to the unpredictable nature of a bouncing rugby ball?

  2. Even if the ball did bounce back to you, surely the whole point (if you'll excuse the pun) of a rugby ball is that it is unpredictable. Can practising with a ball that has a predictable bounce help that much? If so, why not just practice with a football?

  3. It just looks SO wrong.

  4. If John O'Neill gets wind of this, how long before the ball is trialled as a match ball on global scale?

Help for Heroes

Big Dai over at Confessions of a Rugby Referee is, quite rightly, promoting the Help for Heroes match at Twickenham on 20th September when a Lawrence Dallaglio XV will take on a Scott Gibbs XV.

All the money raised from the match will be donated to the Help for Heroes charity which assists servicemen injured in battle get back on their feet.

The match will involve legends like Martin Johnson, Jonah Lomu and Will Greenwood as well as the likes of Dan Luger, Mark Regan and Martin "Chariots" Offiah. And if that wasn't enough to convince you, the Scott Gibbs XV is to be coached by steady Eddie O'Sullivan, no less

And if none of that impresses you, the entertainment also includes those rather nice young ladies from Escala.

To help our wounded by buying tickets to the game, please click here. And if you can't make it, why not take a leaf out of Big Dai's book. As he expects to be refereeing a bunch of ingrates that afternoon he has decided to donate all his expenses for the day and bit more to the cause - good man. He's also suggested that all teams around the country up their match fee a couple of quid and donate that to the cause, sacrificing a couple of pints each for those that have sacrificed a lot more. Or alternatively, might I suggest, the tightwads could just spend a bit more!

The Great Escape

Reports from down under say that preparations for the demolition of Auckland's Eden Park's main stand as part of the redevelopment project for the 2011 Rugby World Cup have revealed the existance of trap-doors designed to give the 1981 Springboks rugby team an escape route from anti-apartheid protesters.

Such was the disruption that apparently Eden Park officials called in Auckland builder Terry Henshaw before the final Test to build a series of escape hatches, including a hatch up through the roof of the changing rooms and the floor of what later became the cricket scorekeeper's box plus a series of interconnecting doors between offices and social areas.

I know that, at the time, the 1981 Springbok tour and the subsequent anti-apartheid protests were incredibly serious issues and caused major ruptures in New Zealand society, but I can't help giggling at the ridiculous image of big, tough Afrikaners squeezing through trap doors and tunnels to make their escape from the stadium and the protests - like some kind of cross between the Great Escape and Escape to Victory (another role tailor made for Sly Stallone methinks).

Sadly, from a purely comical point of view of course, security at the stadium was not breached and the South Africans did not have to use the escape hatches, despite the Test being noted for an aerial flour bomb attack from a low-flying plane (how times have changed).

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

The Chart Show

Hey, pop pickers - I just found out this week that Total Flanker has made it to number 17 in the Wikio UK sports blog charts - up 2 places from last month's position.

For the uninitiated, Wikio is a personalisable news page featuring a search engine that searches blogs and, amongst other things, produces a "hit parade" of UK blogs based on, apparently, the number and weight of the incoming links from other blogs.

I should therefore thank any fellow blogger out there in the blogosphere who has seen fit to include a link to this blog, especially if that link is included in the text of a post as this, according to Wikio, carries more weight.

Before I get carried away with such heady success I should point out that the chart only features UK blogs and that there are other rugby blogs with a higher chart position. I've also no idea how accurate the Wikio system is or whether anybody takes any notice of it whatsoever. The fact that one or two people read this blog occasionally is a source of wonder and amazement to yours truly and is, I'm afraid, sufficient motivation in itself for me to keep inflicting my opinions and experiences upon you.

That said, a league table is a league table - and I'm nothing if not competitive...

Monday, 4 August 2008

Same game?

Following their Go Play Rugby campaign last year the RFU are now promoting the Play On campaign which encourages people to continue playing rugby when they, for whatever reason, have to re-locate to a new area.

All very laudable you might think, and the campaign's tag line - New town. New team. New mates. Same game - Find out where you fit in - has a certain ring to it, but John Birch of the Letchworth Girls Blog makes the very valid point that the imagery used to support the campaign is hardly inclusive.

"Have a look at the main graphic," he says. "Who is playing, and who is watching?

"It is...jaw dropping that a major sporting authority could launch a campaign with such non-inclusive imagery. It only takes a few minutes to look around other sports - say football and cricket - to find the way in which they seem to go out of their way to include women and non-white faces. This amazing image just says 'rugby - white, rural, middle-class males need only apply.'

"And its a shame really because underneath this fantastically inept cover is an initiative that is actually quite a good idea."

Personally I doubt this was intentional on the part of the RFU, but it does highlight how much attitudes still need to change.