Thursday, 31 January 2013

36

...is the magic number.



VERY excited about Billy Twelvetrees making his England debut at the weekend. Shame he's not paired with (the injured) Manu Overboard...

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

See you...!



JIM TELFER
Not one to conform to national stereotypes, former Scottish forwards guru Jim Telfer has given his wholly objective assessment of the England rugby team.

"They are too arrogant, too pretentious and too condescending…" said Telfer.

“Mind you, I like a lot of English people, especially from the northern part of the country” he added, hitching up his kilt, scratching his sporran, sipping his Irn Bru and munching on a deep fried Mars bar before headbutting the interviewer.

“See you, ye Sassenach bastard”.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Fantasy time...


Free To PlayWith anticipation levels starting to soar ahead of the start of the Six Nations this weekend, I thought it worth once again picking my Fantasy 6N XV. Initial selection - subject to multiple changes once the starting XVs are announced - is as follows:

Front row: Grant, Best, Domingo - 2nd row: Launchbury, Gray - Back Row: Heaslip, Parisse, Wood - Scrum Half: Parra - Fly Half: Farrell -Centres: Fickou, J.Davies - Outside Backs: Cuthbert, Gilroy, Fofana

Anyone who can be bothered, please feel free to pick a team and join me in the Total Fantasy League (by entering PIN: 31388)...

P.S. I wonder someone should mention to ESPNscrum that Italy will, in fact be taking part this year?

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Millstone...

According to the Sunday Torygraph's Paul Ackford, England's victory over the All Blacks in November  "hangs like a millstone around their necks" because it has set the expectation level too high.

Oh yes, Paul, quite right - surely it would have been far better to have suffered ignominious defeat against New Zealand just to ensure we didn't expect too much this 6 Nations.

Mr Ackford also claims that England have yet to prove that they are competitive away from home. So victories in both away fixtures in last year's 6 Nations and two narrow defeats and a draw in South Africa in the summer isn't being competitive?

Honestly, is this what passes for sports journalism these days?

40 years ago today...

To people of a certain age, including yours truly, it's simply the greatest try ever scored...



I'll never get tired of watching that. Brilliant.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Rugby with the Islanders


One of my Christmas pressies last month was Running with the Kenyans by runner and journalist Adharanand Finn who, fascinated by Kenyan domination of the world's biggest road races, packed up his family and moved to the small town of Iten in Kenya, to train alongside Olympic champions and young hopefuls in an attempt to discover their secret.

It's an excellent read (thoroughly recommended) and a fascinating story and it got me thinking firstly about the Warthogs rugby tour to Kenya in 1990 (more of that on another occasion) but also about what the rugby equivalent of this story might be.

For me, the answer would be Rugby with the Islanders, an epic tale of an ageing and overweight former flanker who upped sticks to spend a year living and training in Fiji, Samoa and Tonga to discover the secrets behind the increasing domination of world rugby by players of Pacific Island heritage...

Karma?

An injured shoulder requiring surgery will apparently rule Calum Clark out of the Six Nations - karma, folk less charitable than I might claim, given Clark’s ostensibly hasty reinstatement into the England squad following his 32 week ban for breaking the arm of an opponent at the tail end of last season...

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Rumour has it...


Possibly an elaborate hoax, but according to the tweets of diminutive former Welsh wing wizard, Ickle Shane Williams, Amman United RFC (his former rugby club) have secured the services of 5 times World's Strongest Man, Mariusz Pudzianowski.

If true, the 300lb, 6ft 1in colossus will be gracing the rugby fields in WRU Division 3 West. Rumours that his maternal grandmother went by the name of Mfanwy Blodwyn Davies remain unconfirmed.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Doghouse Blues



It was remiss of me not to mention the star of the weekend - Buster, the labrador puppy belonging to Cardiff fly half Jason Tovey.

The Cardiff pivot’s passport being of a particularly tasty flavour, Buster made short work of rendering it somewhat unusable by chewing it to a pulp, resulting in his so-called master being unable to travel to France to line up against Toulon at Stade Felix Mayol at the weekend.

A Cardiff spokesman, predictably enough, confirmed that Tovey was “in the doghouse”.

A case of woof justice?

Monday, 14 January 2013

Money talks


I shouldn't have been as surprised as I was by the news that Wasps number 8 Billy Vunipola and Quins prop James Johnston are joining Saracens next season.

Vunipola quits the club that have developed him, given him his senior debut and helped him into the national squad while Samoan Johnston leaves arguably the best team in England right now.

Money clearly talks. 

Salary Cap? What salary cap?

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Lay off the refs

Premiership referees have been taking a fair bit of flak in recent weeks with the likes of Quins' Conor O'Shea, Leicester's Richard Cockerill and Worcester's Richard Hill all vehemently criticisng the standard of officiating in post-match interviews.

I'm sure that those inviduals mentioned all have valid concerns and no doubt there are issues that need addressing but there is a time and a place to raise these issues and a post-match press interview is not that time or place.

The public lambasting of officials is unacceptable. This isn't football.

Coming out?

It seems that gay rights campaigners in New Zealand have called for a homosexual All Blacks player to openly declare his sexuality and act as a role model in the fight against bigotry.

Statistically it is certain that former Welsh winger and soon-to-be Dancing on Ice sensation, Gareth Thomas, cannot be rugby's 'only Gay in the village' but whether anyone comes out or not is surely a very personal decision and pressure from activists is hardly likely to help.

According to openly-gay kiwi TV presenter, Steve Gray, there have been several gay All Blacks and it is "time for one to stand up and be counted". He even claims to have slept with one player, although hardly adds to the credibility of the claim with the comment:

"Everyone always asks what his name was, but I can't remember. I don't know who the All Blacks are." Hmmm.


Monday, 7 January 2013

A question of eligibility (again)

The ridiculous nature of rugby’s international eligilibility rules has been thrown into sharp focus by news that former England flanker Hendre Fourie must return to South Africa because he cannot get a visa to remain in England, having been forced to retire last week with a shoulder injury.

According to Fourie, he is being treated worse than a terrorist – which may be just a tad over-dramatic, perhaps, but it does strike me as somewhat ludicrous that someone is deemed qualified to represent England at rugby and yet is not deemed qualified to continue living and working here once retired from the sport.

I’ve had my say on the international eligibility rules before and have particular disdain for both the 3 year residency and grandparent rules – a view, it seems, that is shared by a certain Nick Easter. The Quins number eight’s ire, expressed in a Sunday Times interview this weekend, is aimed at the continued selection by England of players who were “born, educated and learnt their rugby somewhere else," although I suspect that his main beef is his continuing omission from the England squad in favour of the palpably inferior Thomas Waldrom.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Manager of the month...

...is not an award at Sale Sharks - it is a job title.

(I really wish I could take the credit for this but instead must adopt the "I am not worthy" pose and ackowledge the genius an unknown follower of Brian Moore on Twitter).

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Bonne année et bonne santé

...and welcome to 2013.

Much to look forward to in the year ahead, including a wide open Six Nations and a Lions Tour to Australia under the entirely unpredictable stewardship of Mr Gatland. 

Can't wait.