Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Rewarded

I was humbled to learn that I have been rewarded for writing a load of guff about rugby by the receipt of a Tripbase 2011 Blog Award.

Who or what Tripbase might be is anyone's guess, but I would nevertheless like to thank the Academy, my wonderful agent, my lovely wife, my adorable children, the Great Blogger in the Sky and anyone and everyone who knows me. Most of all I would like to thank you, my adoring public, without whom none of this would be possible.

The award comes with a cheque for £50,000.

I made that last bit up.

Rapture

Having found that the world did not come to an end on Saturday evening (some Northampton Saints fans may disagree), yesterday evening did nevertheless see the members of the Wii Fat Touch Rugby team ascend to a higher plane of existence as we took on an excellent Watford BaaBaas.

A great game, very competitive and played in a good spirit by all, saw the Watford defence pretty much impossible to breach. One first half trademark TF dummy did create a glimmer of an opportunity but, with my acceleration being about as effective as a Ryan Giggs superinjunction, the chance was quickly snuffed out. We, meanwhile, were continually stretched in defence and in the second half were clinging on by our fingernails as the game headed towards an improbable 0-0 draw.

Then, with the last move of the game, we worked an overlap to send young Richard over in the corner and seal a ridiculous 1-0 victory. Rapture!

The initial feeling afterwards was that we’d nicked a somewhat undeserved win. However, for a team which included 2 kids, 3 women and 5 blokes in their 40s to beat a team of fit young guys all in their 20s/30s (the organisers having somewhat unwisely decided to ditch the 2 women/kids rule this year) was, on reflection, quite some achievement.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Mercy

Back to the stories that really matter...

According to WalesOnline, Welsh "glamour couple" Mike Phillips and Duffy (aka the poor man's Posh and Becks) have officially ended their relationship.

Rumours that the diminutive Welsh songstress has grown frustrated with the constant battle for the fake tan and the bathroom mirror remain unconfirmed.

Friday, 20 May 2011

But seriously...

Subsequent to my previous tongue-firmly-in-cheek reactions to the below events, please find below my carefully considered and mature responses:

Woodward-gate
An utter shambles. Having completely undermined their Chief Executive, the blazers at the RFU still didn't get their man and have made themselves and their organisation look ridiculously out of touch (again). Sir Clive is well out of it, and if I were John Steele I'd be dusting down my CV.

Tuilagi-gate
A very, very luck boy. Judge Blackett's reasons for only imposing a 5 week ban are pretty much unfathomable. If rumours are to be believed, young Manu is still being seriously considered for the World Cup squad. If he does make it, what kind of message will that send out?

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

What doesn't kill you...

Last week I was the victim of attempted murder.

Fortunately the perpetrator, masquerading as my personal trainer, chose an unusual modus operandi, putting me through a series of gruelling exercises in an attempt to exhaust me to death.

Surviving such a brutal attempt on my life has had its benefits, however, as yesterday I was able to gallop around the Touch Rugby paddock like a healthy young buck on acid. Well, maybe not quite like a young buck - more like a not-quite-ready-for-the knacker's-yard middle aged stag on sherbet lemons - but I was able to fully enjoy and contribute to Wii Fat's 11-4 victory in a fairly feisty encounter against the Tight Head Pops.

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and all that...

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Boxing Clever

Despite news that Manu (“Beautiful British Name”) Tuilagi has been cited following his assault on Chris Ashton at the weekend, it is understood by your faithful correspondent that the Leicester centre is a certainty to be named in Martin Johnson’s Rugby World Cup squad.

This follows the announcement by the IRB this week that, in order to make the event more television- friendly, the Rugby World Cup Final is to conclude with an 8 round boxing match featuring a player nominated by each team beforehand.

“The last few Rugby World Cup finals have not lived up to expectations,” said an IRB spokesperson, “so, after 80 minutes the 2011 final will be decided by a boxing match.

“This will give the team behind on points at the final whistle the chance either to make up the points difference during the bout or win the Rugby World Cup by a knockout. We are confident that this will broaden the appeal of the competition, attract new audiences and increase TV revenues.”

The news is believed to have been well received by New Zealand who, in Sonny Bill Williams, already have a professional boxer in their ranks, although it is thought that any bout at the Rugby World Cup will be a considerable step up in class from the fat, middle-aged fodder he has fought to date.

While Tuilagi looks to have secured the England nomination after Saturday’s stoppage victory over Ashton, Matt Henjak’s recent win over Gavin Henson also seems likely to see him welcomed back into the Australian fold.

It is also believed that Jonah Lomu (who has recently added boxing to his CV) will, unless his promoter can organise a New Zealand eliminator against Williams, represent his parents' birthplace Tonga, while Frederico Mendez (famous for his knockout of England’s Paul “Bambi” Ackford in 1990) is planning to come out of retirement to box for Argentina.

South Africa are set to hold a “Bakkies Botha v The Rest” eliminator, while in France the FFR has decided not to hold specific trials but to use fighting form during the regular T14 season as its selection criteria.

Andy Powell’s chances of representing Wales appear to be gone after his recent knockout defeat to Q.P.R. Thugs.

Watch this space for further developments...

Friday, 13 May 2011

Dear Mr Steele (addendum)

John Steele Esq
CEO
Rugby Football Union
Twickenham

Dear Mr Steele

Following your organisation's second U-turn in the space of 3 days I would like to inform you that I am withdrawing my application for the position of RFU Performance Director.

May I also refer you and your colleagues to the below diagram.

Yours sincerely

T.F.Lanker

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Dear Mr Steele...

John Steele Esq
CEO
Rugby Football Union
Twickenham

Dear Mr Steele

I write to apply for the position of Performance Director at the RFU.

I apologise for the tardiness of this application. Having read the job description I had thought that a certain knight of the realm formerly of this parish had the position sewn up. However, given your recent statement to the effect that all that might be required would be someone to make the tea and pop out to Tescos to buy the biscuits (while trying not to upset Martin Johnson), I thought I might as well give it a go.

I should mention that I have none of the attributes listed in the job description. I have never managed elite sports people, nor do I have a successful international coaching record. I am not known for pushing the boundaries or thinking outside the box and have not previously been involved in a successful working relationship with your organisation or with Martin Johnson.

I am, however, a thoroughly decent chap (even if I do say so myself) who is unlikely to rock the boat and who, according to Mrs F, makes a damned fine cuppa.

I attach a copy of my completely inadequate CV and look forward to hearing from you as a matter of urgency. I understand that interviews are to be held on Monday and confirm that I am available.

Yours sincerely

T.F. Lanker

P.S. Please could you confirm by return whether Martin Johnson likes Jammy Dodgers?

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Painful to the Touch

I distinctly remember the first time I felt my muscles ache with stiffness.

I was around 9 or 10 years old and, after a week being bed-ridden with a nasty bout of flu, I spent a few hours charging around chasing a football with my brother at the rec. The next morning, however, I woke thinking there was something seriously wrong with my legs as I hobbled around in pain, a feeling that turned out to be nothing more than severe stiffness - much to the amusement of my ever-so-sympathetic parents.

I only mention this because the feeling of being unable to move owing to my muscles and joints having seized up in agony has become all too familiar.

As you might have guessed, last night was Touch Rugby night and, believe me, I’m paying the price for my efforts this morning. It was the first league fixture of the season and the Wii Fat team played reasonably well, running out 13-3 victors. It wasn’t all plain sailing though as the opposition were well organised and competitive but lacked the one thing that we did have – pace (not counting yours truly, of course).

For me it was a decent run out, but I soon discovered the limits of my fitness, blowing rather hard alarmingly early.

Plenty to work on fitness-wise, then – so my second personal training session at the gym with Cassius on Thursday is opportunely timed. Last week’s introductory session wasn’t too bad, but I haven’t been able to get to the gym since to back it up and I suspect that the next session could be very, very tough.

Still, as some idiot once said, "no pain, no gain". No doubt it will all be worth it on the road to building the perfect physique ;)

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Salut!


I somehow missed the fact that yesterday was the 4th anniversary of me starting this blogging malarkey.

I raise a small glass of virtual sherry to you all (yes, both of you).

The Total Flanker Guide to: How to Play for Wales

10 steps into the Wales squad:

  1. Have one half-decent season.
  2. Publish your memoirs slagging off your team mates.
  3. Shack up with a celebrity and spend an inordinate amount of time in the pages of OK! Magazine.
  4. Get involved in a series of well publicised drunken incidents.
  5. Take 2 years out of the game to re-discover yourself.
  6. After announcing your intention to return to the game, refuse to turn up for training with your club.
  7. Demonstrate how serious your commitment to rugby is by signing up for a series of reality TV shows.
  8. Join a club in London to be closer to your kids and then quit after being out-played by a 19 year old.
  9. Join a club in the south of France to be further away from your kids, play one half decent game and then drunkenly slag off the club's leading players.
  10. Be selected by Warren "Not Desperate" Gatland for the Wales squad.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Rebel without a clue #2

Melbourne Rebels CEO Ross Oakley has today announced a radical experiment to try to keep problem-child fly half Danny Cipriani in line.

Warned and fined in February over his conduct after he was caught nicking a bottle of vodka at a nightclub, Cipriani was then dropped for breaching team protocol by going out on the town following last month's defeat to the Waratahs. He was then also omitted from the squad for the forthcoming two-game trip to South Africa after it emerged that he missed training following another late night out.

After yesterday's announcement that the Rebels' players and management had "lost confidence" in the former England stand off, it was thought that Cipriani faced the sack. It appears, however, that the Rebels have decided on an alternative course of action.

THE ENFORCER
"We are delighted to announce that former England fullback Josh "The Enforcer" Lewsey has agreed to join our playing staff," announced Oakley. "Josh will provide cover in our backline, but his primary responsibility will be to give Cipriani a slap every time the kid steps out of line."

Lewsey, who recently came out of retirement to help his old club Wasps, famously knocked Cipriani out cold following a training ground bust-up in October 2008.

He is said to be "relishing" his new role.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

A different Danny

Just thought I’d add my tuppence ha’penny’s worth to the chorus of tributes being expressed re Danny Grewcock, who is retiring from rugby at the end of the season (which is more than likely to be after this weekend’s game against Newcastle).

Big Danny has of course had his issues with referees on the field from time to time after the red mist has descended, but he has always been a hugely aggressive, committed and mightily effective forward (even [sigh] this season at the ripe old age of 38) whether playing for Saracens, Bath, England or the Lions and has always struck me (not literally, thankfully) as the type of player much valued by his fellow players, if not necessarily as much by the so-called experts of the rugby press.

Bath’s David Flatman writes a glowing tribute to Grewcock in The Independent, the main point for me being that Grewcock is very much “old-school” – and I say that very much as a compliment. By “old school” I mean that Grewcock has always appeared to me to embody the principle of “teamship” (horrible word) as promoted by Clive Woodward during his England tenure – where the team always comes first and where the whole point of playing the game is to make a contribution for the good of the team.

Grewcock’s career having straddled both the amateur and professional eras perhaps this should come as no great surprise. What is also true, however, is the level of professionalism he has shown over the years – when, for instance have you heard of Grewcock having fallen out with fellow players, or been arrested for drunken behaviour?

Compare and contrast with some of the self-styled “stars” of the professional game. And, yes, unsurprisingly I’m talking about the likes of Messrs Henson, Cipriani and Powell. It seems to me that their reasons for playing rugby are very different to Grewcock's - being simply to do with their own personal advancement which the team needs somehow to accommodate. Given that they have all reached adulthood (supposedly) during the professional era, it also strikes me as ironic that they appear to be wholly incapable of behaving professionally. And they are not alone – Ben Foden’s regular appearances in the celebrity pages and recent off-field antics should start to ring alarm bells while Delon Armitage’s ego appears to be barely under control. I’m also sure that I was not the only one to find Chris Ashton’s headline-grabbing antics during the Six Nations as being more than a little distracting.

They could, I'm sure, all learn a thing or two from Mr Grewcock.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

I'm all right Jack

Here's something I just don't get...

Why is it that clubs are allowed to announce the signing of a player for next season ahead of the conclusion of the current season?

I'm thinking, of course, of poor Leeds, stuck at the bottom of the Premiership and with a must-win encounter with Northampton looming this weekend. It's bad enough that head coach Neil Back and England flanker Hendre Fourie have refused to commit their respective futures to the club if it is relegated, despite having a year to run on their respective contracts. Even worse is the fact that England hooker Steve Thompson has announced that he's all right Jack by confirming that he's signed with Wasps for next season.

In what is a crucial week for the future of the club the announcement can hardly have been the best of things for the morale of either the players or the supporters. Whilst I realise that Thompson will be out of contract at the end of the season and that he's entitled to sign for whatever club will have him, right now he's contracted to Leeds and that's where his focus should be.

It's about time that the Premiership showed some leadership on this issue. A code of practice either restricting the signing of players (or at least preventing the announcement of such signings) until the close season has to be on the cards.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Touched

Somewhat unbelievably it’s that time of year again. The sun is out, the ground is firm and my 6th consecutive Touch Rugby ‘season’ is around the corner.

Yesterday evening saw the final practice session (I’d missed the first two) before the league gets underway next week, and I was delighted to join the core of the team from last summer – this year going under the sobriquet “Wii Fat”.

An hour’s running around was a bit of a shock to the system, but it did feel as if my morning beach jogs in Florida and my subsequent re-discovery of the gym had paid off a little and (one or two wild passes aside) I didn’t entirely disgrace myself (well, apart from when I poleaxed one particular teen who had the misfortune to get in the way – never a good idea given the downhill momentum generated by my girth).

So, despite the fact that today my body feels as if it has been trampled over by stampeding buffalo, I’m hoping that regular Touch and the fact that I’ve (possibly foolishly) signed up for 6 weeks personal training at the gym, means that there is a serious danger that I might get reasonably fit this summer.

Stranger things have happened.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

You really couldn't make it up...

So, having decided that employing Gavin Henson may have been an error of judgement, what does Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal now decide to do?

Why, the answer is obvious, innit? Clearly what is needed by Toulon is a steady, reliable, not-rock-the-boat type who will be happy to play second fiddle to the club's established stars and provide cover for Saint Jonny during the World Cup. The answer is as plain as the nose on your face. The answer is, without a shadow of a doubt, Danny Cipriani.

Oh, hang on a sec...