Monday, 1 December 2014

Play it again Sam

Only a superhuman effort by Sam Burgess will see him picked for the England RWC 2015 squad.

Then again, there are those who would have us believe that he is, indeed, superhuman.

Although sceptical of his chances, I would be delighted to be proved wrong and there is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that Burgess should be included in the England training squad for the forthcoming 2015 Six Nations. Stuart Lancaster has an obligation to leave no stone unturned in his efforts to produce as strong a team as possible for next autumn - and the best way for Lancaster and his coaches to assess the progress of Sam Burgess is to see him first hand.

The same goes for Steffon Armitage. I remain unconvinced by Armitage's claims to an England shirt and am fully behind the principle of excluding players from England duty if they are based abroad. Principles, however, can and should be set to one side for the next 12 months. Get him into the squad, have look and see if he's good enough...

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Bit of a muddle

So, the verdict on England's November campaign? A bit of a mixed bag.

And what did we learn?

That England can push New Zealand and South Africa close(ish)? Nothing new there.

That England can bully the Aussie pack? Ditto.

That George Ford is an international quality outside half? Yes, certainly.

That England haven't a clue what their centre combination should be? Without a doubt.

Not only do England not know who they should be picking, they also appear not to know what type of player they are looking for:

- against the All Blacks and the Boks an out of form kicking 10 (Farrell) played with a running 12 (Eastmond) and a defensive 12 (Barritt) at 13;
- against Samoa an in-form playmaker 10 (Ford) was teamed with the out of form kicking 10 at 12 who partnered the defensive 12 at 13;
- and against the Aussies the in-form playmaker 10 was partnered with another (not so in-form) playmaker at 12 (Twelvetrees) and, again, the defensive 12 at 13.

At no point did the selectors see fit to pair George Ford with a bona fide strike runner in the midfield. OK, so Manu Tuilagi was injured, but at various times both Luther Burrell and Jonathan Joseph were available but ignored.

Consequently England's back play, much improved during the 2014 Six Nations, is now once more all a bit of a muddle.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

England expects…but so does Mrs Attwood

England remain hopeful that lock Dave Attwood will be available to face the All Blacks on Saturday, with the birth of his first child imminent.

It appears that England are pinning their hopes on Mrs Attwood producing Attwood Jnr prior to Saturday's match, with several commentators suggesting that, if push came to shove (so to speak), the England forward should choose to play against New Zealand rather than attend the birth.

To me there's only one choice. Whilst admittedly the chances of me ever facing the All Blacks are a tad  remote, I would not have missed the birth of my kids for the world.

Sunday, 26 October 2014


Well, I received an email yesterday informing me of how successful my official application for Rugby World Cup tickets had been.

The result?

Nothing, nada, zilch, nul points.

Admittedly I had focussed on England group matches at Twickenham, New Zealand at Wembley and the Final itself - all of which unsurprisingly were massively over-subscribed - but to get nothing at all is still pretty galling.

Apparently, however, all is not lost as, to show their appreciation for my support of the tournament, the ticketing committee are inviting me to be part of a priority sale when unsold tickets go on sale again in November. So I can look forward to bidding again for tickets to Tonga v Namibia at Sandy Park, Exeter. Whoopee-do.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

50 not out

It's taken something pretty extreme to wake me out of my recent bout of blogging lethargy and that something is I'm afraid to say, turning 50.

Yes, today I rack up my half century. I feel quite ill. No, seriously, I feel crap - no doubt partly to do with slightly over-indulging last night as well as the beginnings of a flu bug that's doing the rounds. Welcome to the rest of my life.

My hypochondriac tendencies aside, time to catch up on a few bits and pieces going on in the world of rugby…

I see that yet another England kit is on the market - the major innovation being to move the rose to the centre of the shirt (genius) as well as the crassly unauthorised use of the Victoria Cross emblem. A red (sorry, crimson) change kit will also make an appearance this autumn. It seems that a new England kit launch is now to be an annual event. How nice.

Meanwhile I also see that there's been further discussion recently about "plastic Englishmen" with the talk being that Sarries' Australian prop, Kieran Longbottom, has declared availability for England on the grounds that his granny is English. Whether or not he is legitimately qualified, however, is hardly the question. The words Australian and prop ought to be enough to decide his fate.

Clearly further thought does need to be given to international eligibility criteria though, with England's Steffon Armitage having been named in an initial 74 man French squad on grounds that I utterly fail to understand but which involve, I think, a loophole in the regulations which have something to with Sevens and the possession of a French passport.

Finally, somewhat belated congratulations must go to the England Women's team, not only for their victory in the Women's Rugby World Cup but also for the award of professional contracts to a number of them. It is a significant step forward, although the fact that professionalism is limited to Sevens players is slightly perturbing. No only is it a slap in the face for certain stalwarts of the England team who perhaps aren't of the quick and nimble persuasion, it also sends out entirely the wrong the message to youngsters coming through - i.e. if you're a big strong lass who likes scrummaging then forget it.

That's all from me for now. Time for a lie down.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Sevens and hell

I thought South Africa were good value for their victory over New Zealand in the final of the Commonwealth Games Sevens last week.

It's just possible that I may have previously mentioned this, but it must be said that I'm not exactly Sevens' biggest fan. Don't get me wrong, it's often a bloody good day out (as the attendances would verify), but as a game I'm afraid it leaves me cold.

I absolutely HATED playing it - way too much running about with nowhere to hide - and would always re-discover that annual mystery ankle ailment and make myself scarce as Sevens season approached.

Not only that, but I've never really enjoyed watching Sevens either. Yes, watching it live with a couple of beers can be good fun but as a TV spectacle it simply does nothing for me. Frankly the netball was more exciting.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Women's World Cup...

Time to break radio silence (has it really been THAT long?) to wish England's women all the best in the Women's Rugby World Cup in France, especially Chesham coaches Rocky Clark and Kat Merchant.

Great start by England on Friday last week against Samoa and here's hoping they can one better than the last 3 World Cups where they have finished second to the New Zealand Black Ferns.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Once bitten...

The four month ban received by Luis Suarez for biting the shoulder of Italian Giorgio Chiellini at the FIFA World Cup is, although unprecedented, still fairly lenient when compared to rugby's most notorious biting incidents.

Bath prop Kevin Yates was handed a six monts ban in 1998 after being found guilty of biting the ear of Simon Fenn of London Scottish, a sentence considered far too light by many. Meanwhile South African prop Johan Le Roux copped an 18 month ban after biting New Zealand hooker Sean Fitzpatrick's ear during a scrum during a test match in 1994, after which he declared "For an 18-month suspension, I feel I probably should have torn it off". 

Rather than complain of injustice Suarez should consider himself quite fortunate...

Owen Williams

This blog's thoughts are with Cardiff Blues' centre Owen Williams who is in hospital in Singapore having suffered a "significant injury" to his cervical vertebrae and spinal cord at the World Club 10s last week

Thursday, 19 June 2014

A question for Warren Gatland

Does Samson Lee have a massive head or just a tiny face?

I think we should be told.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

The future's bright...

…the future's English?

England's senior team  may have lost yesterday but the boys in the Under 20s team continue to go from strength to strength, storming into the Junior World Cup Final with a 42-15 win over Ireland. They now face South Africa in the Final on 20th June at Eden Park, Auckland.

There now appears to be a healthy production line through the junior ranks into the England senior XV - with the likes of Owen Farrell, the Vuniploa brothers, Joe Marler, George Ford and Jack Nowell all having graduated via the Under 20s.

The future's bright...

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Still no cigar

Another close run thing for England. Lots of its, buts and maybes but perhaps, just perhaps if the cavalry (in the form of Messrs Lawes, Hartley and Vunipola) had arrived a little earlier things may have turned out differently?

Or perhaps England have just approached this tour in the wrong way. Perhaps they should have taken heed of new research by scientists at the School of Sport and Exercise at Massey University in New Zealand which shows that an 11-pint binge the night before a game does not affect performance.

19 eager volunteer club rugby players were tested for jumping, sprinting, hydration and strength before a heavy drinking session and after a match played the following day.

Apart from jumping (and that's what line out lifters are for, right?) every aspect of performance was unaffected.

I don't know about you, but 11 pints these days would probably kill me.

At least, however, we now know the All Blacks secret.