Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Verdict

OK, time now for my tuppence ha'penny's worth on Saturday's Lions Test.


First things first. I missed the game owing to commitments at aforementioned kids' school summer fête. Idiot.

From what I have seen and read it was an enthralling epic of a game.

After a hugely committed and brave performance from the Lions I think we can safely say that pride is restored after the 2005 fiasco in New Zealand.

The scoreboard doesn't lie - ultimately the Boks deserve their series victory.


Turning to the gouging issue, let's set aside the actions of Mr Burger (utterly appalling) and the match officials (utterly gutless) and the disciplinary committee (utterly inadequate) - the most sickening aspect of this affair is undoubtedly the utterly shameful behaviour of South African coach Peter de Villiers since the match concluded.

De Villiers comments that gouging was "part of sport" and that if we were "going to complain about every incident we might as well go to a ballet shop and all get tutus and get a great dancing show on for all to see that has no eye-gouging, no tackling, no nothing and we can all in enjoy it" were utterly unacceptable and bring the game into disrepute.

The SARU have apologised but it is not enough. Mr de Villiers should make a full public apology or resign.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Final touch and momentous news

Leaving my thoughts of the Lions aside for a while longer yet...

Last week was the final week of the Chesham/Mid Bucks Touch Rugby League and, true to form, the Chairman's Stags maintained our 100% record with a 7-4 defeat to the inappropriately named "Old Gitonians" - inappropriate because their team appeared to be dominated by young things who had yet to experience the joys of shaving.

Given that we turned up at the start with 4 players and had to borrow a few more for a quorum to be established, the team's performance was quite reasonable under the circumstances. For my own part I had plenty of playing time, worked hard and created a few chances but suffered once again from a lack of acceleration and, on this occasion, from having hands like spades.

One thing I have noticed is that this summer the general standard has been far higher than in previous years. In past summers there have one or two very good teams, one or two decent teams and quite a few who could best be described as "pedestrian". Our team this year would certainly have won 2 or 3 games in previous years but we've struggled largely because all of the other teams this year have been very well drilled and we've been somewhat shambolic. Perhaps there's a lesson there to be learned...

Of more alarming news is that, rather than carrying on for a few weeks playing social touch rugby, the 1st XV captain's plan appears to be to start pre-season training this Tuesday. That's pre-season training...in June. I think I can safely say that I'm not quite ready for that just yet.

What I am ready for is the momentous news that, after a thorough selection process (I was asked, I said yes) I have been appointed to the role of Club Webmaster, which (aside from the Spiderman outfit) means that the good folks of Chesham Rugby Club will also have to suffer my inane drivel on the club website.

Lucky, lucky people.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Pants on fire

So, it appears that claims by Monsieur Bastardo that he was assaulted in Wellington at the weekend were a BIG FAT LIE.

In a statement released today through his club, Stade Francais, Bastardo admitted that the assault was one giant porky pie.

"I want to go back on the incidents that occurred in New Zealand," his statement read. "I need to tell the truth to everyone.

"On Saturday evening I went back to the hotel after having drunk too much. I fell into my room, I struck the night table and I cut my cheekbone.

"I was ashamed, I panicked and I thought that I would be expelled from the French team. I told this story thinking that it would pass, but given the scale that it has taken on I want to tell the truth. I did not want to offend my family. I panicked and dug a hole for myself. I want to apologise to the New Zealand Union, the city of Wellington, the French team, the staff, my club, my friends and to all those affected by this story."

Call me a cynic, but the fact that CCTV footage reportedly showed him entering his hotel uninjured in the early hours of Sunday morning may just have something to do with his apparent contrition and compulsion to tell the truth.

Fortune favours the brave...

...but have the Lions been brave enough? That's the million dollar question.

Or, put another way, will Geech and his coaching team regret the decision not to stake all or nothing on the 2nd Test?

Sadly I think that the last 20 minutes of the 1st Test have lulled the Lions into thinking that they can simply pick up where they left off. What they must realise, however, is that - apart from the centre partnership of Roberts and BOD - they utterly failed to ask the Boks any questions in Durban.

From my perspective, I'm pretty convinced that it was the non-selection in the 1st Test of Sheridan and Murray (yes, I know they were injured for the match but they wouldn't have been if they hadn't had to play against the Southern Thugs Kings ) that allowed the Springbok front row to concoct their cunning plan to wreck the Lions scrum rather than focus on their own self-preservation. Despite the introduction of Rees and Jones I doubt the Boks will be worried - Big Ted would have given them much more to think about.

Likewise, in the backs, I'd have loved to have seen Geech really give the dice a roll by picking James Hook to take advantage of the inevitable space that the Boks will leave in trying to shut down the centre partnership. Furthermore, and despite a lack of form, the ultimate gamble would have been to give Ickle Shane a start on the basis that it's likely to take something out of the ordinary to win on Saturday, and Williams has to deliver sooner or later, doesn't he?

The only saving grace is that Big Ted and Ickle Shane are on the bench but, like last week, the game may be lost before they can have an impact.

Now, my next challenge is to work out how I can watch the game while still being seen to be helping out at my kids' school summer fête...



Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Welsh into Administration

A sad day for the little piece of Wales in London (aka Old Deer Park, Richmond) as London Welsh announced today that they have called in the administrators. Apparently the National One club have only enough money to operate for one more month.

This, having made the decision this season to go fully professional as part of a three-year plan to reach the Guinness Premiership, a decision that, at best, can be described as extremely misguided.

Unless someone comes forward soon with serious investment it's likely that the club will be excluded from the newly formed Championship and will have to start again in the lower tiers of English club rugby - something neighbours London Scottish could tell them a thing or two about.

Former Wales and London Welsh legends such as John Dawes, JPR Williams, Gerald Davies and John Taylor will be turning in their graves (well, they would be if they weren't still alive - but you get my drift...).

I see that Big Dai isn't very happy either.

Spectre in Bath

Strange goings on at Bath Rugby where SPECTRE "Number 1" Nick Blofeld appears to have been appointed CEO.

Having been thwarted time and time again by the British Secret Service from achieving his dastardly goal of world domination by means of terrorism, revenge and extortion, the evil genius is reported to be taking charge of the troubled Guinness Premiership club from September.

Given Mr Blofeld's methods of dealing with those who get in his way, his appointment may be seen as an alarming development by Messrs Lipman, Higgins and Crockett.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Shame

The news that French centre Mathieu Bastareaud was beaten up in Wellington the night after the 2nd Test against the All Blacks was pretty shocking.

If it was just a mugging then Monsieur Bastardo (as Austin Healy referred to him in the 6 Nations) can count himself very unlucky indeed and I guess it could have happened anywhere. If, however, he was beaten up by Kiwi rugby "fans" simply because he was recognised as a French rugby player (as has been suggested) then that's a far more worrying and sinister development, especially after the news that French players were pelted with plastic bottles by a group of New Zealand spectators after the 1st Test in Dunedin.

This sort of thuggery is the last thing New Zealand needs ahead of the 2011 World Cup.

"This is not typical behaviour for the vast majority of New Zealanders or our rugby fans," said a NZRU spokesman.

Let's hope not, eh?

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Two things...

  1. You have to feel a little sorry for Phil Vickery; and

  2. The Springboks won the mind-games battle hands down.
There they were before the 1st Test, complaining about the so-called illegal scrummaging technique of the Lions whilst behind the scenes they were beavering away at their very own highly illegal scrummaging tactics themselves. Fair play to them - they got away with it 100% and the unfortunate victim of the elaborate scam was Mr Vickery, the most experienced forward on the pitch.

And so, to all intents and purposes, the Raging Bull was dismantled by the Beast. Ironic really, as it was the South African tighthead, John Smit, who was supposed to be the vulnerable one.

The Raging Bull has now been reduced to the role of Mild-Mannered Heffer and must seriously be considering his international future.

And for the Lions the learning curve just became that much steeper.

A touch of perspective

It's sometimes very difficult to get things in perspective.

There I was, about to bemoan the Lions defeat in the 1st Test and another reverse this week at Touch Rugby (this time 8-3 to the 'Tag Nuts' - although to be fair the writing was on the wall early doors when we turned up with only 5 players) when I came across the story of Northern Ireland's Graeme Ryans who collapsed and died last weekend as he played touch rugby with fellow members of Bangor Rugby Club.

It's believed that the 31-year-old (thirty-one for heaven's sake), who was married with two young children, suffered a heart attack.

According to a spokesman at Bangor Rugby Club, Mr Ryans was a well-liked member of the club, a dedicated family man and was “as fit as he’d been in a long while”.

I don't know about you, but when I hear a story like this it does tend to put my own petty little problems firmly into context. Seriously, I have nothing to moan about.

My thoughts are with his family and friends.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

No surprises

So now we know. After the last few weeks of sparring and of mixing and matching, Geech has finally announced his team for the 1st Test against the Boks and the only real surprise is that it contains no surprises.

You really can't argue with any of he selections based on form - perhaps the 2nd row combination isn't quite right and the backrow mix has caused a bit of debate but the 15 starters are largely those I, and most other observers (including the South African management no doubt) expected to see.

And therein lies the problem. Personally I would have liked to have seen Geech throw a couple of curve balls just to keep the Boks guessing a little - maybe Sheridan at loose-head to test Smit's propping prowess, possibly Croft as a rangy 2nd row option or perhaps both Wallace and Williams on the flanks to contest the breakdown.

It's the bench, however, that concerns me the most, where those selected can best be described as "solid" rather than "impact" players. No Sheridan, no Andy Powell, no Simon Shaw, no Shane Williams, no Gordon d'Arcy- if the Lions' Plan A doesn't work there does not appear to be anyone on the bench who can come on and change the game and it could prove to be the Lions' undoing.

Plan A might, just might, be enough...but I have my doubts that 'safe and solid' will be sufficient and would have liked to have seen the Lions prepared to gamble, even if just a little bit.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Cool Runner?

Warning: There follows a post which is entirely non-rugby related...

I woke up this morning, pulled back the curtains and, with the sun streaming in through the windows, thought: "What a beautiful day for driving to Berkshire to compete in the Wargrave 10km charity road race."

Actually that's not quite true. The only word that leapt into my mind when I saw the weather this morning was (knowing what was ahead of me): "Bugger."

Let's get one thing straight - at my current fighting weight of over 16 stone I am SO not built for distance running. If I'm honest, even when my physique has been a little more svelt, pounding the roads for mile after mile has never been one of my more favourite pursuits. Eight years ago I did train my arse off for 3 months so that I could run the London Marathon - but, whereas there are those who are inspired to go back and run marathons year after year, I have stuck to my vow of "never again" with the utmost dedication - the problem being that, in the intervening 8 year period, I have taken the vow to such an extreme that I've done precious little road running at all, and certainly nothing on a regular basis.

So, when it was mooted at work that we put together a team of runners for this little event I thought "why not?" That was some 4 months ago - plenty of time to get out there and do some serious roadwork and get myself in shape, I thought. Then in the blink of an eye there were 3 months to go, then 2, then 1 and before I knew it there were 2 weeks left, by which time it was fairly pointless to begin any serious training. That's not to say I'd done nothing - a few sporadic runs, a bit of circuit training and plenty of touch rugby meant that I was deluded enough to think I'd be fine.

As things turned out, and somewhat unsurprisingly, it was bloody hard work. The consensus was that the 7km to 8km bit was quite tough - but, with the heat and the hills and the fact that it felt like I was pulling along a giant tyre behind me, my conclusion was that the 1km to 10km stretch was the probably worst part.

In the end I finished in just under 1 hour and 10 minutes which, given the pace at which I plod, I was relatively pleased with. Afterwards I was handed various leaflets advertising various forthcoming 10km and half-marathon races which have found their way, unread, into the recycling bin.

Would I do it again? You know what, I probably would.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Mon Dieu!

Heck of a result from down under as the French triumphed over the Kiwis at Dunedin today.

Not sure what this says about the current state of NZ rugby but no doubt there'll be a fair amount of self-flagellation in the land of the long white cloud.

What the result does reinforce is that you never quite know what to expect from the French. It could be the abject surrender displayed at Twickenham back in March or the magnificent effort as seen today.

Two points in particular to note:

  1. The referee wasn't English; and

  2. There wasn't a forward pass anywhere to be seen.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Into touch

For one reason or another, so far I haven't got round to my weekly report on our Touch Rugby efforts - until now that is...

Nothing, you understand, to do with the fact that we took another hammering this week. In fact, despite being beaten 9-3, I have to say that the whole experience was far more enjoyable than last week - a far better workout and, considering that we were playing the best team in the competition and played most of the game with a couple of kids in the team, we really didn't fare too badly.

I'd even go as far as saying that, the score apart, we largely dominated proceedings, hanging onto the ball well and using up all six tackles regularly in possession. Sadly we ran into an extremely well organised (although at times fairly cynical) defence and struggled to cross the whitewash. We were, unfortunately, also somewhat naive and shoddy in defence, the opposition regularly managing to create mismatches and overlaps and scoring most of their tries from distance.

Despite the result I can honestly say that, after what was, frankly, a disheartening experience last week, my faith and enthusiasm are fully restored. And who knows - we might even win next week!

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

SWB

A good win for the British & Irish Lions tonight against Natal, marred only by the news this week that Stephen Ferris and Leigh ½p have had their respective tours cut short by injury.

I feel for both players, naturally, but the news about ½p triggered the somewhat lateral thought that he is one of a group of players, a group that includes, for instance:

Danny Cipriani; Stephen Larkham; David Humphreys; Matt Giteau; Berrick Barnes; Hal Luscombe; Simon Webster.

In the words of the great Rolf Harris - "can you tell what it is yet?"

I am referring, of course to the SWBs which, for the uninitiated, stands for SCRUMCAP WEARING BACKS.

Why backs feel the need to wear scrumcaps simply escapes me. Such headgear really offers protection only against developing the 'Rowntree Ear' and therefore should be the preserve of the tight 5 forwards and, at a push, the number 8 - although I must say that when I've worn one I've found it to be uncomfortable, hot and distracting.

As an evil necessity to maintain the baby-faced beauty of certain forwards, the scrumcap is just about acceptable. As a fashion accessory to match the coloured boots of the glory hunters in the backline, it is most certainly not.

Sorry Mr. ½p, whilst I feel sorry for your predicament, if you and all your SWB brethren want my respect (which I'm sure you do) and that of your forwards there's really only one answer...

...ditch the headgear.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Socially inept

OK, it's come to this. I desperately need someone to explain to me exactly what the deal is with social networking sites?

I don't regard myself as an utter Luddite. Although admittedly not necessarily one of life's early adopters (I don't have an iPod, an iPhone or a Blackberry, Raspberry, Strawberry or any other form of soft fruit for instance), I do get technology and it's benefits -more or less anyway.

I also get the point of blogging - a chance to show off and inflict my opinions on anyone daft enough to read them - and I'm on LinkedIn as a way of staying in touch with business contacts and former work colleagues.
I have to admit, however, that the point of Facebook totally escapes me. I do have a Facebook page (is that even the right word?) but not a clue what to do with it. Keep friends up to date with my scintillating life? Promote my blog? Honestly, I'm not taking the piss here - if anyone can tell me what Facebook is for I'd be delighted to know.

As for Twitter - what the hell's all that about? Again, I have a Twitter account and occasionally remember to let people know that I've updated my blog, but that's all. Those that are interested would, I figure, stop by the blog anyway from time to time. Those that aren't interested simply aren't interested - and I'm damned sure that they've no interest whatsoever in what I've just had for tea. I have also seen blogs which feature Twitter updates - usually updates on the latest entries on the blog. So you let people know on Twitter that you've updated your blog and on your blog you feature your latest Twitter entry ("tweet?") to say you've updated your blog...? Is that right? There must be a reason so, again, if anyone can explain the how, why and wherefore, I'm all ears.

These sites are hugely successful so there must be something I'm missing but, with my hand on my heart, I just don't get it.

Answers on the back of a postcard please ...

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Blimey

It's not a habit of mine to repeat stories read on other blogs but here's a story that demands attention - picked up by Big Dai over at Confessions of a Rugby Referee and originated by Dave over at The Red Terror.

Last week the Toronto Star reported that a Mississauga high school student had been found guilty of the manslaughter of a rival player after committing a spear tackle during a rugby match two years ago.

The teen, who will will be sentenced at a later date, was found to have committed manslaughter when he lifted his opponent into the air, his feet facing upwards, and drove him head first into the ground. The victim died from a serious head injury a few days after the incident

In rendering his decision, the judge commented:

"The defendant intentionally applied force that was outside the rules of the game or any standard by which the game is played.

"The defendant committed an assault, an unlawful act. That unlawful act caused death. The defendant is therefore guilty of manslaughter."

Food for thought...

Jack sh**

Nice comments from former All Black Chris Jack last week.

"I'm not going back just to muck around. If I wanted to muck around I would have stayed up there. I want to come back and I want to play well. If I wanted to play easy rugby I would have stayed up in the northern hemisphere" were his graceless comments when talking of his plans to return to New Zealand rugby from his 2 year stint at Saracens.

This, after 2 seasons in which he was paid big bucks by Sarries and rewarded them with such decidedly average performances that he was unceremoniously dumped by new coach Brendan Ventner.

Easy rugby? So easy that he utterly failed to make an impact.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

The East Terrace

For no other reason than the fact that I find it hysterically funny, I recommend to one and all that they checkout the irreverent coverage of the British and Irish Lions tour over on The East Terrace.

Enjoy!

Anti-Social

Being an up-to-date kinda guy and this being an up-to-the-minute kinda blog, I bring you breaking news from 23rd April 2009 (!) that the organisers of the first ever Social Rugby World Championship have sadly announced the postponement of the tournament.

“Over the past couple of weeks and months the world’s economic crisis has taken it’s toll. Over 10 international teams have at some stage committed themselves to the tournament and then pulled out due to some sort of economic reason.” said Rolf Fitschen co-founder of BigFish Sports Productions.

“As we know, social rugby is played by people with real lives. They have other commitments in life; their family, their job, their house repayments, etc. And, unfortunately, in tough economic times, leisure activities are generally hardest hit."

Graham Lindemann, the left arm of BigFish had this to say, “But that doesn’t mean the competition is down and out forever - we’re simply putting it on ice until the economies of the world show signs of positivity. We’ve copywrited the idea and we’ll be taking it forward - possibly on a bigger stage. We have built up momentum so watch this space!”


Wednesday, 3 June 2009

A touch disappointed...

...by our poor performance at Touch Rugby last night.

Up against a bunch of under 16s, we were nothing short of a total and utter shambles. To give the opposition some credit, they were well drilled in attack and well organised in defence but we absolutely gifted them 5 first half tries by our sheer incompetence.

Our problems stemmed from the fact that we had too many players, especially of the male variety, which meant not enough game time, little continuity and poor communication. It also led to certain players trying to stay on the pitch too long rather than sub themselves off when obviously knackered, leading to loss of concentration and lack of support for the ball carrier.

Sorry, I needed to get all that off my chest. The result was a 4-6 defeat, leaving the Chairman's Stags rooted to the bottom of the table after 4 games. It's about time we played against someone as useless as we are but sadly next week we're up against top-of-the-table Old Berkhamstedians who've won all 4 games so far.

Oh joy...

No smoke without fire?

OK, so I'm a professional rugby player with a top Guinness premiership club and there have been various rumours circulating alleging that I have a penchant for recreational drugs, allegations that I have categorically denied.

I'm then asked by by club to provide a hair sample and to attend a disciplinary hearing.

It's a great chance for me to establish my innocence and clear my name - so what do I do? Co-operate with the club?

Err, no. What I decide to do is to refuse to provide the hair sample as it is not a requirement under WADA testing rules, resign from the club on the eve of the hearing and threaten to sue the club for breach of contract and defamation of character.

Hmmmm.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Home and away

Not the brightest of starts for the Lions in South Africa - very nearly beaten by a team hastily assembled by the King of Bafokeng it seems. I didn't see the game live as I was attending a family wedding in the back end of beyond in North Wales (accessible only after what seemed like several hours sat behind a caravan on winding mountain roads). I did manage to catch the last 20 minutes or so of the repeat on Sky Sports 2 on Sunday morning in our hotel room (a hotel which was also hosting Doctor Who actor David Tennant, much to the delight (aka awe) of my kids) and, from what little I saw, the Lions appeared to make a bit of a pig's ear of the whole thing. In a team seemingly determined to hand over possession to the opposition at every opportunity, only Lee Byrne showed any real composure, managing to spark the team into avoiding a disastrous opening result with a decent last 10 minutes.

Talking of near disasters, England's rookies very nearly took one hell of a beating from the BaaBaas at Twickenham, only a late rally, the hot weather and the fact that the average age of the Barbarians was 58 preventing an absolute stuffing. A performance by England which even made the Barbarians' Ian Balshaw look a world beater has to be worrying for Johnno.

What's certain is that neither the Springboks nor Argentina will be quaking in their respective boots and will hope that both the Lions and England continue to select fly halves who view tackling as an optional extra.