Wednesday, 21 July 2010

All change please

Much excitement from John Birch over at the Letchworth Girls Rugby Blog at the news that Deborah Griffin, chairwoman at the RFUW, has joined the RFU Council.

Deborah is the first woman ever to sit at the top table of English rugby and, with the Women’s Rugby World Cup in England imminent, the timing couldn’t be better.

“Getting a seat on the RFU Council is an important step in our transition to a fully integrated men and women’s game in England,” said Deborah, putting down her cigar and glass of port so that she could be measured up for her blazer.

In our own small way, Chesham Rugby Club has also struck a blow for integration with the recruitment of England Women’s prop Rochelle Clark as our Head Coach this season. “Rocky” (currently with the England squad preparing for the World Cup where she should win her 50th cap) will be responsible for coaching both the men’s and women’s teams as well as overseeing the transition of junior players into senior rugby.

I missed the first pre-season session last night with a severe bout of laziness so can’t comment on how she is settling in but it will be fascinating to see how this innovative appointment works out. The good news from Rocky's point of view is that the club is well stocked with plenty of young players who are eager to learn, as opposed to old, cynical, hairy-arsed know-it-alls like yours truly :)

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Silly season

The latest bit of nonsense doing the tabloid rounds is that Hollywood actor Mickey Rourke wants to play the part of rugby player Gareth Thomas in a film biopic about Thomas’s “coming out”.

That’s the 57-year-old Irish-American Mickey Rourke playing the part of a 35 year old Welsh rugby player. Good grief.

According to reports, Rourke contacted Thomas personally and the next step is to agree terms and sort out a script.

I won’t hold my breath.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

For those of a nervous disposition...

...look away now.

I've been contacted by someone on behalf of that highbrow broadsheet the News of the World who, in this Sunday's 'Fabulous' supplement will be running a "bare all interview" with the former Mr Gavin Church in which he "reveals how his torrid love life has affected his game and his plans for the future."

I therefore look forward to reading about how he plans to return to professional rugby whilst simultaneously studying for his medical degree, doing voluntary work in the community, leading an aid expedition to the sub-continent, inventing a cure for cancer and bringing peace to the Middle East.

Or perhaps it'll just be an appearance on Strictly Come Dancing.

A touch frustrated

Frustration, huge frustration, was my overriding emotion on Tuesday evening as Touch Rugby wound up for another year.

After a regular “season” in which the Odd Bods had remained unbeaten and finished top of the pile, we had to endure a dreaded ‘play off’ against the absurdly youthful Angry Leprechauns who had finished a distant 4 points behind.

After a 14-all draw 2 weeks ago we knew it would be tough and so it proved. We didn’t play that badly, but conceded soft tries at important times and, for once, failed to finish strongly enough. A 12-10 defeat saw us end up as the bridesmaids of the competition – the Touch Rugby equivalents of Gloucester.

Despite the overall sense that we really coulda, shoulda won this match I must say that this summer’s Touch Rugby has, as a whole, been an absolute joy – some superb games and a great bunch of team mates.

Final thoughts are for one of our team members, Mike, who went down as if being shot in the first minute of Tuesday’s game with a suspected ruptured achilles, and for his wife Mary who went on to play an absolute blinder.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

In absentia

They seek him here, they seek him there
Those Ospreys seek him everywhere
He hasn’t shown up for pre-season
He’s absent without leave or reason
He should be getting back in form
To take the rugby world by storm
Perhaps he spends all day in bed
Or down the pub or perhaps, instead
He’s working on his perma-tan
That damned elusive tango-man
They seek him here, they seek him there
Those Ospreys seek him everywhere.

Lost

After a difficult year, I see Andy Powell has been released by Cardiff Blues after “losing his way.”

Powell, evidence in support of the theory that evolution can indeed go backwards, has in recent weeks been linked with moves to the T14 in France and Rugby League in Wrexham. It appears, however, that he and his golf buggy will soon be rolling along the M40 towards High Wycombe and a place at the Buckinghamshire Home for Rugby Waifs and Strays.

I suspect Cardiff’s loss may be Wasps’ gain.

Monday, 12 July 2010

New balls please

Following the rip-roaring success of the adidas Jabulani football at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, sources inside the IRB have indicated that the German manufacturer has been approached to design a rugby version of the ball for the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

The new ball will be manufactured using a new design consisting of 16 thermally bonded 3-dimensional panels molded from ethylene-vinyl acetate and thermo-plastic polyurethanes.

The IRB have been particularly encouraged by the unpredictable flight of the Jabulani football, and believe that adopting a ball with similar properties in rugby will discourage kicking to touch and long-range penalty attempts.

The RFU is said to be vehemently opposed to the plan which it sees as a blatant ploy to scupper the England team’s efforts to reach its third consecutive World Cup final.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Signing off

I was disappointed to read the news this week that Harry Ellis, the former Leicester, England and Lions scrum-half had been forced to quit the game following a succession of knee injuries. I rated Ellis highly (I'm sure he'll be delighted to hear it). Until the very recent emergence of Ben Youngs, Ellis has been England's best scrum half by a mile in the last few years and, at only 29, he would almost certainly have been at next year's World Cup but for injury and would definitely have strengthened England's resources.

Ellis' retirement comes hot on the heels of two others - Michael Owen, also 29, who captained Wales to their 2005 Grand Slam has also had to call it a day after long term knee problems, whilst the very unfortunate Thom Evans has been forced to pack it in after sustaining a serious neck injury whilst playing for Scotland against Wales in this season's Six Nations. At only 25, the super-charged Evans appeared to have a glittering rugby career ahead of him.

I guess the issue here is what will they all do next? Not everyone is cut out for coaching and players simply don't earn enough from rugby to be able to put their feet up when they retire (unlike their football equivalents). The requirement for planning for a career beyond rugby is therefore ever more important.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

I see that Auckland's Eden Park has banned the use of vuvuzelas.

The incessant hornet buzz that has provided the backdrop to the football World Cup will therefore not feature during today's TriNations fixture between the All Blacks and the Springboks.

Not that it was ever likely to. Like it or loathe it, the vuvuzela is very much a feature of football in South Africa in much the same way as a pitch littered with ticker tape is my overriding memory of the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. When in Rome...

Out of the context of a football World Cup in South Africa I doubt very much whether blowing a vuvuzela would ever catch on. The International Rugby Board, in its infinite wisdom, says it will consult its "tournament stakeholders" before deciding whether to ban vuvuzelas at next year's Rugby World Cup. They really needn't bother.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Hunky Dory

It's often claimed that I'm a little behind the times, and the fact that I appear to have missed the below story appears to verify such claims.

Not sure how I missed it, but back in April an advertising campaign in Ireland for "Hunky Dorys" crisps (no, I'd never heard of them either) caused something of a furore when it featured young ladies in low-cut tops using straplines such as “Are you staring at my crisps?”

The ads appear to have induced a mass failure in the Irish sense of humour with phrases like “blatant exploitation of women,” “tasteless and base" and "quite simply unacceptable” liberally bandied about.

The Advertising Authority for Ireland, having received over a dozen (!!) complaints, chose to impose an interim ban on the ads, a ban that was confirmed as permanent yesterday.

The powers that be at the Irish Rugby Football Union also got a little hot under the collar given that the ads also featured a reference to the crisps as a “proud sponsor of Irish rugby”. (It turns out that Largo Foods, who manufacture Hunky Dorys, actually sponsor the Navan rugby team!)

And the result of the campaign? Undoubted joy in the Largo Foods boardroom with Hunky Dorys sales by up by 17%. As their CEO said back in April, "we want to inject a little bit of fun into things."

Quite.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

For better, for worse

TOTAL FLANKER - bringing you the stories that MATTER!

According to reports emanating from Scotland, a rugby tackle is responsible for locating a wedding ring which was lost in snow six months ago.

Under the headline "Rugby ace finds bride's ring in Scots park" the Daily Record reports on how apparently a Dutch woman lost the ring whilst throwing snowballs with her husband during a holiday in Edinburgh at Christmas. Six months later the ring was finally found when Matthew Gilgore was tackled during a rugby match at the park. He apparently landed face-down in the mud just inches from the ring.

The ring was eventually returned to its rightful owner after Mr Gilgore put a notice on the website Gumtree. Lovely.

Far be it for me to cast doubt on the story, but I'm pretty sure that there was very little rugby being played in Edinburgh at the end of June and, even if there was, it's unlikely that much mud would have featured given the recent dry spell.

Methinks that possibly the story may have been ever-so-slightly embellished by an overly-enthusiastic reporter north of the border on a very slow news day.

TOTAL FLANKER - investigative journalism at its shuddering best.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Scrum dot gone?

According to a so called expert (i.e. someone who clearly knows nothing about rugby), scrums should be banned in schools to protect children.

This is the conclusion reached this week by Professor Allyson Pollock, director of Edinburgh University's Centre for International Public Health Policy following a study carried out during 190 rugby matches at five schools, during which a grand total of 37 injuries were recorded.

"If youngsters were coming back from school trips with these rates of injuries it would be enough to trigger a major inquiry," says Prof Pollock, missing the point entirely.

Perhaps she thinks it is healthier for kids to stay indoors in front of a TV or computer all day and no doubt she is also recommending that hockey be played without sticks, that cricket be played with a soft foam ball and that children be banned from riding horses?

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Good week, Bad week

Good Week
  1. Warren Gatland - for some reason in demand, both in Wales and News Zealand. Lord knows why after his more recent track record - unless there's a demand for coaches whose teams deliver too little too late.

  2. Brian O'Driscoll - married the rather lovely Amy Huberman. Congrats to them both.
Bad Week

  1. Steve Borthwick - good enough apparently to be England's leader months ago - now not good enough to make the elite squad at all. A tad harsh perhaps?

  2. Olly Barkley - if Borthwick thinks he's hard done by, Barkley's managed to miss out on both England and Saxons selection, despite being the best 12 in England by a country mile.

  3. Danny Cipriani - probably the only player further from England selection than Olly Barkley and now he's hanging out in Hollywood with Lindsay Lohan? Good grief.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Back in Touch

It was Clash of the Titans this week as I returned to the Touch Rugby field after a 3 week hamstrung lay-off.

The good news is that my hamstring was fine. The bad news is that the rest of my body’s been screaming at me for the last few days – hardly surprising given that my rehab consisted largely of beer and telly.

This week we Odd Bods faced our biggest challenge so far, an encounter with the Angry Leprechauns, a collection of lads (no lasses) from the club’s Under 17s section.

Now, the thing about being under 17 is that that you’re more than likely to be very quick and very fit and, disappointingly, this proved to be the case with 2 or 3 of them being super-fast and super-talented. Consequently, we ever-so-slightly more mature players found ourselves hanging on grimly for dear life during a frantic first half while the Leprechauns led us a merry dance.

But hang on we did and, despite always seeming to be several scores behind, we kept our heads in attack and flung ourselves about rather inelegantly in defence. Slowly but surely the harum-scarum pace of the game meant that our young oppo began to tire and make mistakes and we were able to claw our way back, bringing our own youngsters into the game more and more.

Four unanswered tries late in the game led us to believe that we had made the score respectable, so we were delighted when the ref announced a final score of 14-14 – that’s 28 tries in 40 minutes, which goes some way to explaining why I still feel so knackered.

Delighted with our moral victory (!), we were treated to a slice of pizza to celebrate the 16th birthday of young Tom and were left to digest the news that, even if we finish top of the league after the final round of matches next week, the top 2 teams will be required to play off the following week to decide the champions.

Step forward the Angry Leprechauns again. I’m not sure my body can take it.