Thursday, 30 June 2011

Revised prediction

Forget what I posted below. France will definitely win the Rugby World Cup.

Their new Nike kit is, after all, engineered to improve athlete performance, with an innovative tight fit design to aid movement and has a 3D grip zone on the chest to enhance ball grip.

A 3D GRIP ZONE, for goodness sake. How can they fail?

Admittedly it looks bloody awful (and doesn't bode well for England fans given Nike's design history).

Nevertheless, it's a done deal.

France for the World Cup. Or Wales. Or Scotland.

Early prediction

Scotland will win the Rugby World Cup 2011.

I know, as predictions go, it's a little "out there" but the result does look somewhat inevitable after the announcement earlier this week that Scotland will be wearing a "revolutionary" new Canterbury rugby shirt at the World Cup incorporating "iconic" (?) gold detailing and featuring the new Loop 21 collar design and latest fabric technology.

Simply put, it's the strongest shirt that Canterbury have ever produced and, according to the blurb, provides improved sweat evaporation, enhanced freedom of movement and superior shape retention whilst improving the players’ ability to evade tackles and providing bespoke position-specific support to enhance movement.

With a shirt like that how could they possibly lose? Scotland for the World Cup.

Or maybe Wales.

You see, not to be outdone, the WRU has announced that Wales will be sporting their new Under Armour "state-of-the-art" kit in New Zealand which, they say, will be the most technologically advanced kit on display in the tournament. With shirts made from military grade fabric and featuring new “ArmourGrid” and "ArmourGrip" technology, the kit has, we're told, been engineered by Under Armour to provide “no-grab” jersey and shorts, which are both lightweight and mapped to the athlete’s body to give maximum mobility.

So there you have it - Wales for the World Cup. Or Scotland. Or any other team sporting Canterbury or Under Armour kit.

Everyone else may as well not turn up.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Apology...

The WRU has confirmed that Mike Phillips has been reinstated to the Wales squad after he issued a public apology following his recent burger-related altercation in Cardiff city centre.

The full public apology reads:

“This is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to me in my career. I am ashamed at what happened and I am determined to put things right.
“As a player I’m really passionate and never back down and I’m the same when I’m out on the town. I can usually handle myself pretty well in a fight but that McDonalds bouncer was just way too tough.
“I have realised I have an issue with the way in which I choose who to pick on. I have sought, and will continue to seek, help and advice in relation to that issue. I’m not going to lie to you, that bouncer looked a bit of a fatty but he was so much stronger than he looked.
“I am a professional rugby player and I really should be able to handle some fat bugger outside McDonalds. I have let myself down as well as my family, the fans and my teammates.
“I now fully recognise that I need to up my game and will be picking on smaller blokes from now on.”
Wales head coach Warren Gatland also chipped in:

“Mike's inability to get past the McDonalds security fella was a real disappointment. We expect better of our players and the matter was dealt with decisively and properly.
“We have taken into account all the relevant issues and Mike’s apology in taking the decision to reinstate him in the extended squad.
“An important factor in allowing Mike back into the squad was the fact that our other scrum halves are even worse. Richie Rees was beaten up by a sales assistant from Mothercare last week and Dwayne Peel is receiving treatment having lost an arm wrestle against Miss Swansea.
“We’ll be working with Mike in training to help if he gets into scraps in the future. We’ll start with Adam Jones sitting on Mike’s head this afternoon.”

Saturday, 25 June 2011

On yer bike

I was contacted recently by Victor Ubogu, former England prop and now corporate hospitality guru.

I am told that you write one of the more popular rugby blogs” he writes.

Cheeky sod. Not so popular that you actually read it yourself then Victor?

Anyway, the upshot is that Mr Ubogu would like me to publicise Cyclothon UK, an endurance, team relay, road cycling race round the Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit on Thursday 15th September. 

The plan is to raise funds for charities AfriKids, Anthony Nolan, Nordoff Robbins and Wooden Spoon and and the race is open to teams of between four and eight and teams can choose to race for either eight or twelve hours around the 2.3 mile Grand Prix circuit.

Celebrity sports teams are being assembled including rugby legends JPR Williams , Rory Underwood, Phil De Glanville, Nigel Redman, Mark Regan, Craig Chalmers, Doddie Weir and David Hilton.

Well, seeing as it's for Charidee I’m happy to oblige, Victor...

For more info check out the Cyclothon UK website.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Capricious

News this week that French club Biarritz have signed one of the UK's best known models, Caprice.

The 39 year old, who has signed a two-year deal with the French club,  has appeared on over 250 magazine covers including Vogue, GQ, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Maxim, FHM and the Swimsuit Issue of Sports Illustrated. She was also voted worlds sexiest woman by that paragon of all things good and true, the News of the World, and was Maxim's International Woman of the Year for three consecutive years.

It's also a little known fact that in 2006 Caprice captained the England Women's team in the 'Celebrity World Cup Soccer Six' tournament, no doubt a decisive factor in her capture by Biarritz.

What?

Dan Caprice?

Oh.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Touching Up

Amidst news of England’s foreign legion, Welsh squad shenanigans, RFU meltdowns and moustaches on steroids, I realise that what most of you are really after is news of the progress of the Wii Fat touch rugby team.

For those paying attention it will come as absolutely no surprise to learn that I am still basking in the glory of my one and only touch rugby try this ‘season’. Victory on that momentous day meant that we won our division with a 100% record and progressed to the Chesham Touch Rugby Premiership, where we currently have a 2 from 2 winning record, beating 2 teams of energetic teenagers in matches played at 100 mph.

So far, then, everything in the Wii Fat garden is coming up roses. No further tries from yours truly I'm afraid and, while I’d like to say that’s because I’m now a marked man, we all know that the reality is still that the absence of any real pace is the culprit (it's a familiar tale, as both regular readers will testify). Nevertheless, the odd half-break here and there has taken our opponents by surprise (not to mention my own team mates and, if the truth be known, myself) whilst improved fitness levels - courtesy of nearly 6 weeks personal training with Cassius at the gym - have meant that I’m now able to be involved for longer without requiring CPR.

Next up is my touch rugby alma mater, Chairman’s Choice – so for those of you who have bothered to read this far, watch this space!

April Fools' Day Revisited?

OK - here's a weird one.

Japan international fly-half Ryohei Yamanaka faces a two-year ban after apparently using a steroid cream to try to grow a moustache.

Yamanaka failed a random drug test during the Japanese team's training camp in Miyazaki in April.

Japan coach John Kirwan has confimed that he expects the IRB to ban the Kobe Kobelco Steelers fly half for at least 6 months, ruling him out of the World Cup.

"He's got a hair-growth cream to try and grow a 'mo'...it had a steroid in it and he didn't know" rapped MC Kirwan.

Total Flanker - bringing you the Rugby World Cup stories that really matter.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The "Foreign" Legion

Johnno has this week been defending the decision to select a "multi-national" England RWC training squad.

Thirteen of the 45 man squad were born outside these shores. Technically they all qualify to play for England, but here's an entirely subjective and non-scientific verdict on their eligibility:

Matt Stevens
Born in South Africa. Came to England as a student in 2002. English father.
TF Verdict: Still needs to work on the accent, but what's the problem?

Alex Corbisiero
Like Springsteen, born in the USA. Came to England as a child. English mother.
TF Verdict: What's the problem?

Dylan Hartley
Born in New Zealand. Came to England as a 16 year old. English mother.
TF Verdict: Again, apart from the accent, what's the problem?

Mouritz Botha
Born in South Africa. Came to England to join Bedford Athletic in 2006. Qualifies on residency.
TF Verdict: Decidedly Dodgy.

Simon Shaw
Born in Kenya. English parents. Has been playing for England, on and off, forever.
TF Verdict: What's the problem (other than the fact that he's 75)?

Hendrie Fourie
Born in South Africa. Came to England to join Rotherham in 2005. Qualifies on residency.
TF Verdict: Decidedly Dodgy.

Thomas Waldrom 
Born in New Zealand. Came to England in 2010 to join Leicester Tigers. Turns out he's conveniently discovered an English grandmother.
TF Verdict: Decidedly Dodgy.

Joe Simpson
Born in Australia. Came to England as a kid. English father
TF Verdict: What's the problem?

Riki Flutey
Born in New Zealand. Came to England in 2005 to join London Irish. Qualified on residency, was capped (despite initially saying he didn't want to play for England), then buggered off to France for the cash.
TF Verdict: Decidedly Dodgy (not to mention no form to speak of since 2009).

Shontayne Hape
Born in New Zealand. Came to England in 2002 to play Rugby League for Bradford Bulls. Qualifies on residency.
TF Verdict: Decidedly Dodgy (and isn't very good).

Matt Bananaramaman
Born in Jersey.
TF Verdict: What's the problem (other than a lack of any of the basic requisites to be an international centre)?

Delon Armitage
Born in Trinidad. Came to England as a child. English step-father.
TF Verdict: What's the problem (other than complete lack of recent form and an ego the size of a house)?

Manu Tuilagi
Born in Samoa. Came to England with his family as an 11 year old. Qualifies on residency and has played all his rugby through the English development system.
TF Verdict: No problem but VERY lucky to be in the squad given his recent disciplinary misdemeanours.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Social services

By tweeting his reaction to be being left out of the England World Cup training squad, Luke Narraway is hardly likely to endear himself any further to the England management.

"Good luck to Thomas the tank and his English nan #notbittermuch," tweeted Narraway this week.

Although intended, according to the perpetrator, to be no more than witty banter, the comment is being interpreted by the media as being a thinly-veiled attack on the 'multi-cultural' make up of the England squad at the expense of homegrown players.

Putting the merits of the argument to one side and setting aside the apparent need for every Tom, Dick and Harry to provide a public commentary of every minute of their lives via Twitter, it really is about time for players to wake up to the impact that social media now has. Narraway may have naively thought that he was merely indulging in banter with his mates, but as a professional sportsman his comments are clearly going to be monitored by the press who will obviously seize upon anything remotely controversial.

Narraway is not the first to be caught out and will not be the last. The Right Reverend Graham Henry has, it's reported, banned the All Blacks from using Twitter etc during the World Cup. Martin Johnson, on the other hand, is apparently trusting his players to use social media responsibly.

I hate to admit it, but on balance I'd say Henry has probably got this one right.

No more Churchill Cup


OHHHH NO!


Monday, 20 June 2011

Sorry, what was the question?

If the answer is Manu Tuilagi, MikeTindall, Matt Banahan, Riki Flutey and Shontayne Hape, then what, pray, was the question?

Surely the question cannot have been"what is the answer to England's lack of midfield creativity?"

Unfortunately that is exactly what the question would appear to have been, at least as far as Martin Johnson is concerned. And don't call him Shirley.

Yes, the England RWC training squad was announced today. No massive surprises, although I would have like to have seen better options for the inside centre position and perhaps a few more Englishmen generally.

Oh, and Tim Payne? And Joe Worsley? Really? On the basis of what, exactly?

For those who have not seen it elsewhere, the training squad comprises:

Forwards: Mouritz Botha, George Chuter, Dan Cole, Alex Corbisiero, Tom Croft, Louis Deacon, Paul Doran-Jones, Nick Easter, Hendre Fourie, Dylan Hartley, James Haskell, Courtney Lawes, Lee Mears, Lewis Moody, Tom Palmer, Tim Payne, Chris Robshaw, Simon Shaw, Andrew Sheridan, Matt Stevens, Steve Thompson, Thomas Waldrom, David Wilson, Tom Wood, Joe Worsley.

Backs: Delon Armitage, Chris Ashton, Matt Bananaramaman, Danny Care, Mark Cueto, Toby Flood, Riki Flutey, Ben Foden, Shontayne Hape, Charlie Hodgson, Ugo Monye, Charlie Sharples, Joe Simpson, James Simpson-Daniel, David Strettle, Mike Tindall, Manu Tuilagi, Richard Wigglesworth, Jonny Wilkinson, Ben Youngs.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Hey Joe

92-0.

The above was the result of the encounter between Wales and New Zealand earlier this week at the IRB Under-20s World Championship (and guess who scored the 92).

The humiliating defeat for Wales' officially designated "second senior registered team" (according to the WRU) was, in the opinion of Joe Lydon, the WRU's Head of Rugby Performance & Development, all to do with Welsh youngsters not being given enough opportunities in the Celtic League.

That's bollocks Joe, and you know it. 92-0? It's a result that simply should not be possible in a match between two supposedly top tier nations at any level.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Dear, oh dear, oh dear

PICTURE: Welsh scrum half and former Mr Duffy, Mike Phillips, being 'restrained' by bouncers outside McDonalds in Cardiff city centre in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

A few questions/observations:

(1) Once again the off-field behaviour of international rugby players is called into question, particularly Welsh ones.

(2) For once the WRU and the Welsh management have taken a hardline (if not consistent) approach.

(3) Perhaps Warren Gatland should think about calling the bouncer into the Welsh squad?

(4) I may have missed something, but since when did McDonalds employ bouncers?

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Priorities?

Good to see that The Artist Formerly Known As Gavin Church has his priorities sorted.

It appears that our orange friend will be returning to our TV screens shortly to find "the woman of his dreams" in the UK version of The Bachelor on Channel 5.

"I've always been dedicated to my rugby and continue to train hard but as the season draws to an end I can focus on meeting the right girl," says the former ballroom dancer, clearly entirely oblivious to how ridiculous this sounds.

Given his track record, the fact that our favourite tangerine-skinned celebrity cannot appreciate the incongruity of focusing on "meeting the right girl" at a time when his focus might better be applied elsewhere should come as no great surprise.

The fact, however, that all this appears to be happening with the apparent blessing of the Welsh management is, perhaps, less understandable and another indication that Warren Gatland may just have mislaid the plot.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Good effort

Away from the Machiavellian machinations at Twickenham and back to the stories that really matter...

Well done to Mike Tindall and pals for managing to rack up (at least according to the somewhat outraged Daily Fail) a $20,000 bar bill at the "hedonistic" LIV club in Miami Beach while on Tindall's "alcohol-drenched" stag weekend (is there any other kind?)

Iron Mike, who marries the Queen's granddaughter Zara Phillips in six weeks time, has obviously rediscovered his capacity to imbibe vast quantities of booze - previously demonstrated (allegedly) in 2003 by his narrowly failed attempt on David Boon's 1989 record of drinking 52 in-flight cans of lager en route from Sydney to London.

Tindall's performance also suggests that he is fully recovered from the lacerated liver suffered against Wales in the 2008 6 Nations.

Having said that, given that Tindall's best man is none other than former England fullback Iain Ballsup, what's the betting that the majority of drinks were spilt?

Friday, 10 June 2011

The Lunatics have taken over the Asylum (again)

So, following an emergency board meeting John Steele has, after all, been forced out of the RFU over his handling of Woodward-gate.

The blazers have flexed their flabby muscles and the power of the executive has been entirely emasculated. Who in their right mind would take on the CEO role now?

Sponsors Investec have already bailed out.

And all this 3 months before a World Cup.

Will Carling called it right in 1995 with his "57 old farts" comment.

Plus ça change (plus c'est la même chose).

Thursday, 9 June 2011

What's not to like?

Six foot three, 16 stone plus, pacey, great distribution off either hand, a more than useful kicking game and versatile enough to play 10, 12 and 13.

...And playing out of his socks for the Saxons.

...And a brilliant name.

England haven't come close to solving their inside centre conundrum since Will Greenwood’s last cap in 2004.

The solution?

Step forward, Billy Twelvetrees.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Rolling back the years

It is being widely reported that scholars of the Theory of Rare Events were last night thrown unto a state of unbridled excitement as one of the most infrequent occurrences in nature was witnessed in Chesham, Buckinghamshire.

Some say that the sky turned black, some say that the earth shook and others claim that time stood still. Whatever the veracity of these observations, all witnesses attest to the fact that they saw Total Flanker score a try for the Wii Fat touch rugby team in their match against MC Hammer.

“I’m not sure what happened,” said one confused observer. “One second he was trundling towards the defenders with ball in hand and then, in a flash, he was through a non-existent gap and away.”

“It doesn’t seem possible”, observed one of MC Hammer's teenage defenders. “This old fat bloke just showed us the ball, then it was gone and he was away – I was too gobsmacked to even think about chasing him.”

Several of the bemused opposition are said today to be receiving counselling for post-traumatic stress disorder at a Buckinghamshire clinic, while the aforementioned Total Flanker is reported to be “as happy as a pig in shit.”

Monday, 6 June 2011

Revealed:

The behaviour contract signed by Danny Cipriani...


I, Daniel Jerome Cipriani, do hereby solemnly swear to my employers the Melbourne Rebels and my coach Rod MacQueen that henceforth I shall cease behaving like a total arsehole.

This time I really mean it, honest.

Daniel Jerome Cipriani

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Rugby player steals baby

England's Rugby World cup plans were thrown into disarray today when it emerged that 18 stone powerhouse centre Matt Bananaramaman may not be available to travel to New Zealand this autumn as he is due to face charges of stealing a baby.

If found guilty Bananaramaman (pictured with said baby above) will join the list of other notorious rugby-playing baby thieves which includes the likes of former England winger Ben Cohen and hirsute French waxwork dummy Sebastien Chabal.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Whatever happened to: Tea?

Once upon a time, many moons ago, in a land not so very far away, there lived a teenage boy who one day discovered the joys of playing rugby football.

Each Saturday he would turn up at his rugby club and play 80 minutes of rugby - running, passing and tackling until he was exhausted - whereupon he would retire to the sanctity of the changing room with his fellow players where he would be served cups of steaming hot sweet tea to revive his aching limbs.

The boy grew up into a man and week after week, month after month, year after year the ritual of drinking restorative after-match cups of tea continued.

Eventually the man stopped playing the sport he loved. Fourteen years later however, in response to a mid-life crisis, the man returned to the rugby pitch only to find that times had changed.

No longer were exhausted players greeted by the sight and smell of a pot of hot tea on their return to the changing room. Sometimes there was a jug of squash and sometimes there were bottles of water or, very occasionally, isotonic sports drinks. More often than not, however, there was nothing.

The man did not live happily ever after.

Whatever happened to tea?

Thursday, 2 June 2011

RWC Watch

A tale of 3 Saracens...

The rehabilitation of Matt Stevens continues apace with his selection for the England Saxons Churchill Cup squad which, despite England's apparent front row riches, has to be good news. If I was a betting man I'd certainly have a pound or two on Stevens making the final England RWC squad.

Joining Stevens in the Saxons squad is lock Mouritz Botha. That's Botha, as in the Hertfordshire Bothas, obviously. Given the apparent England second row pecking order (Palmer, Lawes, Deacon, Attwood etc) I wouldn't have thought that he was a realistic candidate for the World Cup squad but Botha has had a storming season for Sarries and stranger things have happened.

A notable omission from the Saxons squad is young Owen Farrell who, after outplaying Toby Flood at Twickenham on Saturday, is likely to find himself instead representing the England Under 20s later this month. I doubt Johnno will take the chance, but personally I'd have him in the senior squad ahead of (in fact, miles ahead of) a certain future Saracen, Charlie Hodgson.

Then again, what do I know?

And another thing...



Like 250,000 others, I am feeling somewhat hacked off (to put it mildly) having found out that (no money having been debited from my credit card by midnight on Tuesday) I have been allocated precisiely ZERO tickets for the 2012 Olympics.

I never did like that Sebastien Coe.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Here's a thought...

It seems that John Steele will not be resigning over Woodward-gate. Quite right too.

Here's a thought...perhaps the dinosaurs in blazers at the RFU could just let their CEO get on with his job without interference?

Still, it could be worse. It could be FIFA.

Chronic lack of pace - an explanation

Following Paul Radcliffe's "disaster" in ONLY running the weekend's BUPA London 10k in 33 minutes and 17 seconds (second in pathetic performances only to Usain Bolt's SLUGGISH 9.91 seconds for 100 metres last night) the marathon world record holder explained:

"It's sciatic pain and I just lose power in my legs...it just felt like I didn't have any power out there".

Thank you Paula! I now have an explanation for my chronic lack of pace. It's not old age at all. It's sciatica.

Despite my disability I was able to make a contribution to a depleted Wii Fat team last night as we won our touch rugby encounter 9-3 against a decent Globetrotters team, although given what I now know about my MEDICAL condition, it came as no surprise that I once again failed to meet the acquaintance of the tryline.