Saturday, 28 September 2013

49


Forty-nine years young today.
Bugger. How on earth did that happen?
Five minutes ago I was cavorting around in my early twenties, a picture of fitness, working hard, drinking hard, and playing a shitload of rugby with barely a care in the world. And now this – one year away from the big FIVE-O, having almost certainly left life's half way point in my wake and suffering on any given day with one or other of sciatica, a frozen shoulder, muscular back spasms, dodgy achilles and sore knees.
Excuse me while I settle down with a small sherry and my pipe and slippers...

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Karma

Forget the torn pec, the President of the David Cameron Fan Club exacts revenge...

 


Monday, 23 September 2013

Evening all...

Having recently acquired a BT Vision box and having signed up for BT Sport I actually got to watch some Premiership rugby at the weekend, the Gloucester v Saints game probably being the pick of the bunch.

The highlight of the weekend was, however, finding out the name of London Irish and England winger Marland Yarde’s Dad. Unless this is an elaborate hoax (in which case my cap is duly doffed) it would appear that Mr Yarde Senior’s first name is…yes, you guessed it…

…SCOTLAND.

I kid you not.

At least it's not purple

Another season, another blatant and shameless attempt by the RFU to extort yet more money from English rugby fans.

Yes, it's that time of year again and here it is, another entirely pointless "away" kit that no doubt will be worn at Twickenham this Autumn to avoid a non-existent colour clash with someone or other.

As for the usual self-justifying guff, apparently it's all part of a new '1871 Collection' inspired by the iconic ‘The Battle of the Roses' painting from the late 19th century and is designed to reflect the rich heritage, style and tradition of England Rugby, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah...

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Cunning Stunt

Say what you like about Saracens, but they've led the way in marketing the domestic game since the advent of professionalism in the mid-nineties.

The latest cunning stunt is for Saracens to offer Bath fans (with a Bath postcode) a full refund on their ticket price if Gavin Henson scores a point against Saracens at Allianz Park this weekend.

What price on the artist formerly known as Gavin Church lining up a late kick at goal on Sunday?

V

It has emerged today that, far from being a foolish schoolboy prank, Manu Tuilagi's 'V' gesture on the steps of 10 Downing Street yesterday signalled his ambitions of a career beyond rugby...


It is unfortunate that our hapless PM stood in the way.

Give that man an OBE!


Friday, 13 September 2013

Hallelujah!

Much has been made about the "new" scrum laws being applied this season.

Aside from the revised engagement sequence - crouch, bind, set - there is, of course, nothing new about the laws that are being applied.

It has always been a basic requirement of the laws of the game that the scrum half puts the ball in straight and that no shove is allowed before the ball is put in. The fact that referees are now instructed to apply the laws of the game correctly (hallelujah!) must therefore surely be welcomed.

Critics (predictably the coaches of strong-scrummaging teams) claim that the scrum will become de-powered as a result.

Nonsense.

Good scrummaging teams can still be effective - it's just that they'll have to learn to time their drive properly in order to disrupt the opposition ball rather than rely on the early shove on engagement and the inevitable penalty. The result should be more ball emerging from the scrum and fewer penalties which, after the farce of the last few seasons, can only be a good thing.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Not refreshing the parts…

It looks as if it might be a case of Heineken Cup RIP.

Unless something very radical happens very quickly it looks as if English and French clubs, plus anyone else who wants to join in, will play in a separate European competition next season.

It’s been 15 months since the English and French clubs served notice to quit, 15 months in which zero progress has been made on matters such as the inequitable qualification process, number of teams and distribution of revenue.

It appears that the Irish, Scottish, Welsh and Italian clubs have been prepared to call the bluff of the Entente Cordiale, presumably in the expectation that the status quo would, more or less, be maintained – a tactic which appears to have backfired spectacularly, despite what ERC are claiming.

Oh to have been a fly on the wall at today’s ERC board meeting in Dublin...

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Stuffed

Commiserations to Holyhead RFC who, it seems, suffered the biggest defeat in the history of the Welsh or English national leagues at the weekend, losing 181-0 away at Llanidloes.

Apparently a bunch of their players went on a bit of a bender on Friday night and failed to make the trip the following day, with the team playing most of the game with between 11 and 13 players (which, if memory serves me correctly, = 12?).

Anyway, consequently Holyhead conceded 29 tries – apparently one every 165 seconds –  which is a good  effort but still some way short of the world record 350-0 defeat suffered by French Third Division side Vergt against Lavardac in 1984.

Must try harder...

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Switzerland

For those of you into football – the round ball variety – the highlight of last week was finding out which players your club signed, failed to sign or (in my case) made no attempt to sign before the transfer window slammed shut at 11.00 pm (BST) on Monday.

Monday’s events (or non-events) firstly got me thinking about how a transfer window might play out in rugby (utter chaos being my conclusion) and secondly had me pondering why, in rugby, I have never really developed any affiliation with or loyalty towards any of the professional rugby teams in England.

If you were to ask me which football team I support the answer is easy – for better or for worse (inevitably the latter) I have followed Newcastle United since 1971 when, aged 6 and on a black and white telly, I watched Malcolm Macdonald score a hat-trick against Liverpool on his home debut before being knocked unconscious.

Now, I very much prefer watching rugby to watching football and I am as passionate as the next man about the England rugby team (unless the next man happens to be Welsh) but if you were to ask me the same question – i.e. which rugby team do I support – I simply wouldn’t be able to tell you.

My most local team remains Saracens, even after their move to Barnet and, while I have been to see them play on occasion, I would venture that even the most die-hard fez head will concede that they are a difficult team to love. Via my work I have occasionally been associated with Wasps, as a teenager I played rugby against the Colts XVs of both Leicester and Northampton and I do have a soft spot for Newcastle having been brought up in the North East. I do not, however, feel any real connection with any of these teams. The simple answer is that I don’t have a rugby team that I follow.

Why is this? Well, firstly I didn’t grow up anywhere that might consider itself to be a rugby hotbed. Rugby simply wasn’t on my radar as a child and, whereas during the amateur era in the likes of South Wales, the Scottish Borders, the West Country and the East Midlands the locals may have flocked to watch rugby, outside of these areas club rugby was largely ignored. And, although the professional era has changed things to an extent, it is still a major effort for many clubs outside (and in some cases inside) the traditional rugby areas to get bums on seats on a regular basis.

The other issue is that when I was a young man and might otherwise have been attending matches at Harlequins, Wasps, Saracens or one of the other London clubs, I was simply too busy playing the game every Saturday afternoon. My team, in effect, was the club I played for each week, not some random club chosen for their locality, star quality or replica shirts.

So that’s that. A rather unnecessary and long-winded way of explaining that, as far as club rugby goes I am, more or less, the equivalent of Switzerland – I embrace neutrality (although sadly do not have a fortune stashed away in dodgy bank accounts).

Saturday, 7 September 2013

If you can't say something nice...

Aussie rent-a-gob David Campese is back in the news this week for all the wrong reasons.

Campese has contributed in a not particularly helpful way to the debate about whether Australian cricketer Fawad Ahmed should be allowed not to wear the logo of sponsor VB (beer) on his kit for religious reasons.

Former Australia batsman Doug Walters commented on Twitter: “I think if he doesn’t want to wear the team gear, he should not be part of the team. Maybe if he doesn’t want to be paid, that’s OK”...

…to which Campese responded:

‘‘Doug Walters tells Pakistan-born Fawad Ahmed: if you don’t like the VB uniform, don’t play for Australia. Well said Doug. Tell him to go home.”

Tell him to go home? Really, Campo?

Friday, 6 September 2013

Oranges Are the Only Fruit

I am delighted at the news that Bath gave teamed up with Jaffa to bring back one of rugby’s oldest traditions (and one that I have mourned for some time): the half-time orange .

Jaffa will, it seems, be providing half-time oranges for the team at every game at the Recreation Ground this season.

"We can’t wait to be part of it all,” says a Jaffa spokesman.

"Bath Rugby is an ideal fit - Gavin Henson even has the same coloured skin as our product."

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Make it happen

This man has expressed an interest in switching from rugby league to rugby union.

I've said before that if there's one man who could really make a difference to the England backline it would be Wigan's Sam Tomkins.

“I am not tunnel-visioned enough to think I am going to be playing rugby league in England for ever,” Tomkins said this week.

" I enjoy watching rugby union so I don’t see why I won’t enjoy playing it."

So, to whoever is in charge of this kind of thing at the RFU, the message is simple - MAKE IT HAPPEN.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Sausage, anyone?

Peckish?
We kick off our in depth coverage of worldwide rugby in September with a dip into the 13-man code down under, where it is being reported that the Queensland Rugby League is investigating claims that, during a fracas in a recent match in the Gold Coast competition,  ex-NRL player Anthony Watts pulled down another player's shorts and bit him on the penis.

Former Sydney Roosters hooker Watts has denied the allegation publicly, his lawyer stating that “if there has been any contact made to that particular area of this gentleman's body, our client apologises."