Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bruno Tonioli to replace Brendan Venter in 'Strictly Come Saracens' move?



Unconfirmed sources have named Bruno Tonioli as the replacement for outgoing coach Brendan Venter. The flamboyant Italian choreographer and TV personality appears as a judge on the television dance competition Strictly Come Dancing.
His appointment is timed to coincide with the arrival of Gavin ‘The Swerve’ Henson at Vicarage Road. Major changes at the club are apparently underfoot, with rumours of the installation of spray tanning booths in the changing rooms and a new jersey consisting of only cuffs and collars yet to be confirmed.
 Tight lipped club sources named ‘Bums on seats’ as the motive behind the changes. Saracens are apparently also lobbying for a change in the Aviva Premiership scoring system – matches will now be scored out of ten, with a phone in vote making up part of the score. The look of the Saracens website has hardly quelled any of these rumours http://www.saracens.com/

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The South strikes back and Ireland sink the Pumas as the Autumn Internationals end

Willem Alberts Photo from http://bit.ly/hhcXeg
Italy 24 - 16 Fiji

Scotland 19 - 16 Samoa

England 11 - 21 South Africa

Wales 25 - 37 New Zealand

France 16 - 59 Australia

Ireland 29 - 9 Argentina

The one consistent factor of these Autumn internationals has been the inconsistency of all the teams, apart of course from the men in black. England were sublime against Australia but rubbish against the Boks. The Boks in turn went stumbling through their tour until they came right against England. The Aussies were sublime against The AB’s and France, and dire against England. Scotland were smashed and then came back to beat the Boks. That must explain my crappy success rate in predicting the results.

England 11 - 21 South Africa

There’s something special about Twickenham, the huge genial crowd, the roar as England runs in, the crowd standing for the anthems. We got there early and caught a glimpse of the players arriving off the bus – they’re all bloody HUGE! I was amazed at the Springbok support, they could have been 20% of the crowd. I didn’t have much hope for the Boks, after they tripped up against the Scots, and in the full expectation that England were going to pick up where they left off against Australia.

Of course, when you’re expecting a pasting you can only be pleasantly surprised. England were dismal I’m afraid, they just couldn’t seem to keep hold of the ball - it was butterfingers-r-us pretty well the whole match. Their scrum didn’t cause the Boks any problems at all and the attacking flair of the backs was strangled by mistakes. The Boks looked bigger, stronger fitter and hungrier and could have won by more.

It’s a young England team with huge potential, they can bank this experience and learn from their mistakes.

I was enormously impressed to see the Boks playing it so smart (not words that readily fit together), pinning back England in the corners and running it wide at the right time. Good run out for Mvovo, with an embarrassingly easy try to celebrate.

The whole experience was a reminder to me about why I love rugby, a hard clean game, respect for the players, respect for the opposing supporters, a massive good natured and well behaved crowd , and to top it for the me, the Boks coming right.

Wales 25 - 37 New Zealand

Classic start to the match here – 8 minutes of tennis then into the game. No minutes silence for the mining tragedy, no anthems , no haka, no early All Black try. Cheers BBC2! After that we got a ding dong end to end match, as a slightly sub par New Zealand subdued a rampant welsh side. They are going to have to send Dan Carter back to the factory, was that 3 or 4 missed kicks? Penalties kept Wales in the game and they looked poised to do some damage after the minor miracle of an All Black yellow card. But the adage – don’t make us angry – you won’t like us when we’re angry – was never truer as the 14 All Blacks rallied and scored two tries. Wales finished the stronger of the two teams and scored a well worked they.

But you have to hand it to New Zealand, another Grand Slam tour, world record for Dan Carter, these are the men who set the bar in rugby.

Ireland 29 - 9 Argentina

I was snow bound nowhere near a TV at Heathrow for this match, so I’m going to have to bluff it I’m afraid. We scored two trys, notched up a record win over the Argentines and still no one sounded all that happy. Are we setting ourselves high standards?

Last week was the final for Ireland, it was always going to be difficult to pick up the tempo again, especially against this bogey team. And playing it at sub zero temperatures can’t have helped either. A win is a win is a win, a good finish to Autumn, now bring on the 6 Nations! Good to see Paul O’Connell back in club action as well.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Autumn International coach watch, hope for Ireland, pain in store for the Springboks, and can the All Blacks Grand Slam thank you ma'am Wales?

Saturday , November 27

Italy vs Fiji 15:00

England vs South Africa 14:30

Scotland vs Samoa 14:30

Wales vs New Zealand 17:15

France vs Australia 20:45

Sunday , November 28

Ireland vs Argentina 14:30

Coach Watch

The autumn internationals are drawing to a close this weekend, with the final match set to define the season for more than one coach. Here’s a quick look at some of those in the hot seat.

Pieter De Villiers

The unpredictable South African needs his aging, tired troops to get their A into G one last time against a formidable English side. Their last decent performance was against France, and that was in June. Could make for an entertaining after match interview

Warren Gatland

No wins so far this Autumn – it’s the captain’s fault! Sack him! All he has to do is work out how to how to beat his countrymen, the mighty All Blacks. Do you think the WRU has checked the buy-out clause in his new contract yet?

Martin Johnson

One win over the Aussies at home, and England and Martin are the best thing since sliced bread. Cracks even appeared in his face after that match, in what some commentators described as a smile. A win over the Springboks and he’ll rightly be on top of the world.

Declan Kidney

It’s not often that Declan finds himself in such a difficult position with a recent string of losses only broken by a patchy win over Samoa. Argentina are a final massive stumbling block to circumvent to put a bit of a gloss on a tough season. And he has to give the whole country something to smile about in the midst of an economic melt down.

Robbie Deans

A win over the All Blacks and he was hailed as the new messiah. But after a good thrashing by England and a freezing defeat to Munster his disciples have deserted him. Now he has to motivate his boys to get their S%&t together and find a way of beating the French. Not going to be easy.

Graham Henry

You smug bastard! One solitary loss to the Aussie is the only blemish on his record this season. Wales should succumb to Black magic. But if you don’t have the Webb Ellis trophy in your cabinet this time next year, no one will remember.

Ireland vs Argentina 14:30 Sunday

Oh boy this is a tricky one! If Ireland play like they did against the All Blacks, they’ll win easily. If they play like they did against the Boks and Samoa they could easily lose as well. They also have injuries to Carney, Fitzgerald and Best out. To me, the performance against New Zealand was a corner turned, combinations clicked and players like Cronin and Earls came on and delivered as well as the players they replaced. Irrrrrrelaaaaand by 5!

England vs South Africa 14:30

This is the new boys on the block England flexing their muscles against the Springbok old boys who have made it a habit in recent years of kicking English butt. The best bit of this clash is that through a convoluted set of circumstances I’m going to catch it live at Twickenham! The last time I was there the Boks hockeyed England 42-6. Sweet! It’s not entirely impossible I’ll be laughing on the other side of my face this time. In fact, it’s highly likely. England are a seriously mean looking team at the moment, while the Sprinboks, in short, aren’t. I just hope the English fans are as gracious in victory as I was two years ago. England by 10.

Wales vs New Zealand 17:15

On recent form the All Blacks have this one in the bag. I don’t like the way Gatland sacked his captian in the dressing room after the last match. Wales are underperforming at the moment, but it’s the coaches job to find the right motivations and combinations to unlock the potential that Wales have in spades. Wales hope might lie in the obvious belief by the All Blacks have they have that this one is Grand Slam thank you ma’am in the cabinet already. Like they’ve had the World Cup trophy in the cabinet for oh, the last 4 or five World Cups. Not much hope of a trip up though so New Zealand by 15.

Kevin Mealamu returns after a risible 2 week head butt ban – if nothing else he should have got more for not following the accepted etiquette of head butting as used by noted enthusiasts like Bakkies Botha of pumping your fist in the air and shouting yesss! afterwards.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

All Blacks are not in fact super human mutants from a nuclear spill after all, no surprises as the Springboks play it dumb, and counselling for Welsh fans

Dan 'The Terminator' Carter

Wales 16 - 16 Fiji

Italy 14 - 32 Australia

England 26 - 13 Samoa

Ireland 18 - 38 New Zealand

Scotland 21 - 17 South Africa

France 15 - 9 Argentina

I’m grumpy to say the least this weekend – I support two teams and they both managed to lose. The crime scene has been preserved , the pathologist has been called in and now it’s time to review the autopsy results.

Ireland 18 - 38 New Zealand

This one was a hard one one to take, but the simple matter of the fact is that the All Blacks are just better than us. Ireland played with massive heart, great skill, and composure but the still the men in black were too good for Ireland. To me the turning point of the match was the pretty lucky All Black try on the stroke of half time which seemed to knock the stuffing out of Ireland. Two quick trys after the break put the match to bed as a contest, even though Ireland never gave up, scored a try of their own, nearly scored another, and only conceded the final try in an attempt to attack.

The Irish man of match for me was Stephen Ferris, who threw himself into every tackle with faint regard for his own personal safety. It wasn’t just him though, Donnacha O’Callaghan, and the whole of the Irish team were tackling for their lives. We had a very few opportunities we didn’t put away, while almost every All Black try resulted from a poorly followed up kick or missed throw in or some other mistake. Tom Court was a revelation to me, Sexton and Reddan answered their critics, and it’s going to hard to leave Earls out from now on. Carney was quiet, and Mick O’Driscoll looks a little out of his depth. For the All Blacks, it was all the usual suspects that shone, McCaw, Nonu, Muliana.

While all the evidence might be they that they are in fact super human mutants from a nuclear spill, when we put pressure on them the All Blacks could look ordinary too, we just couldn’t put enough pressure on them for long enough to get a result. And in fact, it is hard to see how Dan ‘The Terminator’ Carter gets through a metal detector at the airport as he’s surely a cyborg, part human, part machine, with a nearly faultless display of kicking from the hand and from the tee, and both in attack and defense. It’s going to take a man from the future to stop him.

It’s not impossible to see us beating the All Blacks, but only when they have an ordinary day, not when they put in a nearly faultless display like they did on Saturday.

Scotland 21 - 17 South Africa

This was not a pretty match played as it was in appalling conditions. It was an ugly brute of a match, a mind numbing 20 minutes of scrumming and scrum resets, and of drops, fumbles and slips. The difference was Scotland played it ugly and smart, while the Springboks played it ugly and dumb. Why am I not surprised by that? The current Boks have perfected the ugly game, but without a few vital cogs (Fourie du Preez and Heinrich Brussow) they are like some big ugly machine mired in the muck, wheels spinning, going nowhere. Scotland refused to be bullied in the pack, played the game in the right part of the pitch, waited for the penalties to come and popped them over. Hats off to Scotland for a well deserved win for a team that apart from last week's implosion, are growing in stature with every match.

England 26 - 13 Samoa

England got a few frights in this match, it must have been hard to keep focused after last weeks heroics, and being battered by massive brutes is at least good practice for next week against the Boks. Matt Bannahan answered his critics (or least this critic) with a decent display in the centre, and Hendre Fourie had a good match on his starting debut. Roll on the Boks!

Wales 16 - 16 Fiji

No point in kicking a man while he’s down, for Welsh fans it’s better just to take the counseling, the hypnotherapy and the electric shock treatment, erase this from their memories and know that Wales will look better against the All Blacks.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Touch Pause, Enrage! Scrum resets, Autumn internationals and apologies in advance to redheads, the IRB and Saffas.

Crouch,touch, pause,enrage!

Scrum resets! We all know they make for fascinating viewing, and law changes by the IRB over the last few years have given us more viewing opportunities than ever. I can’t even remember anymore what the old system was, I think the ref used to blow his whistle and say ‘Scrum down’, and then ‘Engage’. The rationale behind ‘Crouch,Touch,pause,engage’ (or Crouch......touch.......have a quick cuppa......pause.......fix your hair, call your mates, make plans for tonight....engage’ as @LadyLassitude has it ) was to slow the engagement speed down to prevent injuries.

I seriously doubt they consulted a health and safety expert in this though. Can you imagine the H&S man ‘So you have 8 men vs 8 men each total weight +/- 900kg smashing into each other (purses lips). Well, look at all those legs sticking out for a start, that’s a definite trip hazard. We need warning cones set up all round this thing. Can I see your safety statement please (shakes head)? This is a flagrant violation of manual handling regulations. We’ll have to do a risk assessment.

No the IRB has decided has decided scrum resets are the way forward, despite the fact that most rugby highlights consist of tries and not scrum resets, despite the fact that most fans don’t fast forward their Sky plus to the scrum resets, then study them in slo-mo.

If anything, I’d say the IRB is looking to slow down engagement even more. In the future, the scrum will start with a bit of stretching to help prevent injuries. Then scrums will form 10 meters apart and advance at a crouch – by the time they get to each other they’ll be so knackered they’ll be as tame and meek as you like. ‘Stretch, crouch ,advance ,touch, pause…engage!’ You read it here first!


Wales vs Fiji 19:30


Italy vs Australia 15:00

Scotland vs South Africa 14:30

England vs Samoa 14:30

Ireland vs New Zealand 17:30

France vs Argentina 20:45

That’s the power of blogging for you! On Sunday I complained about how all the matches are put on at the same time, and look at the changes already.

Ireland vs New Zealand

Big gulp here. In the right hand corner, wearing the black trunks, the 30 stone gorilla, the pretty well undisputed heavyweight Champions of the World, the All Blacks! In the left hand corner, wearing the green trunks and also looking pretty green at this stage, the dance like a butterfly, sting like a bee lads, the cruiserweight with a decent win ratio(up until the end of the 6 Nations), Ireland!

Well that’s how the rest of the world (including New Zealand) sees it at the moment which suits us just fine. On Saturday, 15 men are going to run out to play 15 men. OK, the All Blacks just happen to be large, strong, fast, skilled men. But they’re still just men, coming to our back yard. How are we going to beat them? We need to get set piece parity, which we can do - their front row did not looked flash against England and Scotland and their line out is not exceptional, especially with Brad Thorne out. We have to starve them of quick ball, make the breakdown a war zone, make sure players don’t get isolated. Andrew Ellis is the 3rd/4th rated NZ scrum half, let’s make it a night to forget for him. We have to trust ourselves to run at them, we have world class back line players. But it isn’t going to be easy, we have to have a perfect game. Most of all we’ve got to show heart.

You can argue about the half backs for Ireland, but to me Reddan and Sexton are a vote for the future.

I also think we should follow Dublin Zoo’s lead and let the redheads in for free to fill up the stadium. If 10000 redheads can’t frighten the All blacks, nothing will!  I think Ireland are going to pull off a famous victory, c'mon Ireland!

Here are the All Blacks doing some Irish dancing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G1eUEwOxZ-o let’s see if any of the moves make it into the haka.

Ireland Team http://www.planetrugby.com/story/0,25883,16024_6514021,00.html

All Black Team http://www.planetrugby.com/story/0,25883,3562_6513499,00.html

Fiji should give Wales the chance to get their show on the road, and Friday night rugby – I like it!

Just a short word on the South African drugs scandal, with Chilliboy Ralepelle and Bjorn Basson sent home after positive tests. Just shows the Boks can’t do much right at the moment. If they were after a good time, I’m sure there are a lot more interesting things you can stick up your nose then nose drops. If it was performance enhancement they were after, they’re doing it wrong as well, neither has produced anything like a performance. And if they were using nose drops for cold prevention they were wasting their time, no matter how compelling those TV ads are. I don’t want to be flippant, but either they were using drugs or they were just being dumb, and I’ll go with the latter as brains are not SA’s strongpoint.

How are they going to do against Scotland then? The Scottish pack is pretty formidable, to me it’s going to be a dull, grinding match which I think the Boks will do just enough to win. Scotland are still going to be a bit shell shocked from last weekend’s pasting.

Teams are here: http://www.planetrugby.com/story/0,25883,3561_6514743,00.html

England v Samoa should be a good match. England have a few changes, most of which make sense but it’ll be interesting to see how Bannahan goes in the centre. I’d still like to see Olly Barkley in there, as while the backline showed flair last weekend I still think they can do better. Looking forward to see how Hendre Fourie gets on. The whole England team is going to need to keep a lid on the excitement from last week and overcome a very tough competitive Samoan side.

England: http://www.planetrugby.com/story/0,25883,16024_6512428,00.html

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bitterness at match scheduling not dulled in the least by Ireland's win. And the rest of the weekend results.

George North
Picture from http://tinyurl.com/32jbv47

Italy 16 - 22 Argentina

England 35 - 18 Australia

Wales 25 - 29 South Africa

Ireland 20 - 10 Samoa

Scotland 3 - 49 New Zealand

France 34 - 12 Fiji

If I can start with a whinge. Just the one. And that’s to be thankful that the rugby bosses are only responsible for the rugby calendar, and not the whole of the calendar. Otherwise we’d have Christmas, Easter, and Fathers Day all on the same day. With Halloween/Guy Fawkes that evening.. That’s why they organise Wales, Ireland and England to be playing on the same day at the same time, followed almost immediately by Scotland. OK, Sky plus helps a bit, but watching a match when you know the result is half the fun. Two on a Saturday, two on a Sunday?

Starting off with Irelands patchy performance against Samoa – the Sunday papers are about as cheerful as a morgue with Ireland’s prospects. In the famous word’s of Italys coach Nick Mallet after another disastrous 6 Nations ‘Look…nobody died’ Ireland made 11 changes from last week – rightly so, to prevent injuries to frontline players, and give the rest of squad a chance.

Coherent team play was thus never going to be the order of the day. And to concentrate too much on Ireland’s shortcoming does a massive disservice to Samoa, who a big mean skilled team who are going to give any team in the world a decent match on their day. We won by 10 points, defended well, time to bank the win and move on to next week. If anything was disappointing it was that none of the fringe players put their hand up. Devin Toner had a solid match, so did Sean O’Brien, that was about it. If scrum resets float your boat though, this match was manna from heaven.

England put in a stonking performance to rout Australia. What is it with the Aussies, put the All Blacks away and then slip up to England? I only caught the highlights, but it looked like there were several stand out performances for England, with Ben Youngs and Chris Ashton the stars of the show. England’s faithful at Twickenham finally had something to celebrate, back to back victories over a top three side home and away.The Springboks must be in their sights as well now.

South Africa picked the pocket of Wales to come away with another win – I’m judging this on my twitter feed, and by the bitter tone of the Welsh tweets. Steve Walsh didn’t have a stand out performance by the sound of things, he won’t be getting the commemorative DVD for his collection. But it does sound like Wales let it slip as they were 17 -3 up at one stage.

 As a Bok supporter, I’m pleased, they haven’t been playing well, and to be two out of two at this stage is a turn up for the books. And they haven’t disgraced themselves either –yet- no gouging, biting, no commemorative scrotums – not even any citings. Wales are going to have to turn over the All Blacks to turn their season around now. No pressure then. At least they had a stand out debut for wing George North.

The match I did get to watch most of, to my good fortune, was Scotland versus the All Blacks. Apart from the first 28 minutes, in which time New Zealand had scored 28 points. After that, it was like a cat playing with a mouse – a mouse who couldn’t catch the ball, pass the ball, or run with the ball that is. I know it’s easy to write this in the comfort of my lounge without a 20 stone centre breathing down on me, but I just hope that Ireland really run at the All Blacks, and not just jog meekly into tackles like lambs to the slaughter. Where was the fire we saw from the Scots at Croke Park?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Get invovled with Bottom of the Ruck!

Rugby bottoms! Now there’s an area I’m spectacularly unqualified to comment on. But hey, when has that ever got in the way of a good opinion? I perhaps rashly (see what I did there) offered to write a blog post for http://www.bottomoftheruck.com/ ( I always like a new challenge to sink my teeth into), a fantastic not for profit organisation that raises money for Beating Bowel Cancer. Bowel Cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK and more than 100 people are diagnosed every day.

The cheeky people at Bottom of the Ruck organize a poll for you to vote for the rear end of your favorite rugby player as part of their efforts to raise awareness of bowel cancer.

It’s not confined to English players only, so the cream of Irish rugby get to strut their stuff as well. I did a straw poll with some of the ladies in my office who were better qualified to comment, and Rob Kearney and Tommy Bowe are leading contenders they feel. I interrupted a dreamy reverie on their part to check on other members of the list, and it seemed some the English lads might do as well. From my part, on my trips to the UK, I’ve certainly found the ladies of the UK to be of a very acceptable standard.

So what can you do to get involved? The ‘Bottom of the Ruck Awards’ will be held at Twickenham Stadium on the Monday 29th November 2010. Austin Healey is the compere, and Nick Kennedy, Delon Armitage, Topsy Ojo, James Haskell, Danny Care, Schalk Brits and Nils Mordt are going to be there in the flesh. All the details of the evening tickets are here.

You could also make a donation here. And finally, you can vote for your Bottom of the Ruck here. I believe competition at the top is very tight which is good to hear, wouldn’t want any saggy bottoms getting in there would we?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A short guide to swearing etiquette for rugby telly viewers, and a preview of the rugby Autumn Internationals

A short guide to swearing etiquette for rugby telly viewers
This is not be used in polite company or around small children.

Swearing is a healthy way of releasing tension and providing pain relief according to research.

I tend to find the necessity to swear is situation based, so we’ll start with the minor infringements and work our way up.

Your player drops a ball he should easily have caught, resulting in a scrum, or passes a ball to no one in particular, or misses a simple tackle. This depends where it is on the field. In the middle of the field, for a first offence, a simple exhortation to make a longer visit to the bathroom might suffice. This is also a handy opportunity to use ‘Bugger’, or perhaps ‘Idiot’. You may wonder if his parents were ever married. A second offence have you likening his mom to a lady dog, or speculating on his propensity for self abuse.

Committing this type of offense on your try line or the opposition try line would have you urging him to procreate, and comparisons between him and the private parts of a lady or gentleman would certainly be appropriate. Your fly half failing to kick the ball out on a penalty, or out on the full in general play, or missing an important kick at posts, would warrant a similar response.

Throwing a careless intercept pass which results in a try for the opposition would have you speculating on an unwholesome relationship between him and his mother. Further, urging him to procreate when he’s clearly an idiot is not necessarily the wisest thing to do, and forming such a mental image could be distasteful anyway.

The referee has his own rules. Obviously, when he’s blowing the other team, there’s no issue. A few penalties might have you wondering if he needs spectacles and urging him to make a longer visit to the bathroom. Frequent handing out of clearly unjustified penalties (despite the fact he’s on the pitch while you are hundreds of miles away in your living room) and you’d spare him no mercy, urging him to procreate and likening him to private or wobbly bits a definite.

I hope these few tips will soon have you making sailors blush with ease.

International Previews

Wales vs South Africa 14:30

Ireland vs Samoa 14:30

England vs Australia 14:30

Scotland vs New Zealand 17:15

Ireland vs Samoa

Ireland have made a number of changes to the squad. The Munster old firm at fly half and scrum half is re installed, and there are a few players getting a chance to stake their claim, of which I’m looking forward to seeing how Sean O’Brien, Paddy Wallace, Andrew Trimble and Denis Leamy get on. This is also a debut for sky scraper Devon Toner at lock. Ireland should win this comfortably, but I’m hoping they come into the game with the right attitude – Samoa are rated 11th in the world, so this is no micky mouse team. This is going to be a huge physical battle as well, with former player Brian ‘The Chiropractor’ Lima setting the standard for ferocious tackling. It’s a completely different team to the one beaten by Connacht mid week, very competent and mean looking. Hope we get to see Simon ‘The Beard’ Lemalu.

Ireland Team http://www.therugbyblog.co.uk/ireland-team-to-play-samoa

Samoa http://www.planetrugby.com/story/0,25883,16024_6500170,00.html

England vs Australia

England have made only one change to the side that put up a decent fight against the All Blacks, as Dylan Hartley comes into hooker. He sometimes struggles with his throwing, and also has a few disciplinary issues, but he’s a fiery player around the ground and likely to be in place for a long time.

England have a sniff of victory here – they have a strong scrum, the Aussies are said to have a weak scrum, can they turn that advantage to negate the Aussie backs? I don’t think the Aussie scrum is as bad as it’s cracked to be – and England aren’t fielding an exactly inspirational midfield either in terms of attacking firepower – where is Barkley? The return of Stephen Moore is a huge plus to Australia, for the scrums and the general play.

This match is going to come down to who wants it most, and who believes in themselves the most. On that basis, I’m going with the Aussies.

England Team http://www.planetrugby.com/story/0,25883,3556_6496672,00.html
Australian team http://www.therugbyblog.co.uk/australia-team-to-face-england

Wales vs South Africa

The South African beef rolls into Cardiff for a date at the Millennium Stadium with the Welsh. The Springboks have made only one change to the team that surprised the Irish last weekend, as Francois Steyn comes in center. This is a surprisingly logical sub from Pieter De Villiers, is he feeling alright? Wales won’t want to be giving away penalties in a 60m radius of the posts. Jean De Villiers doesn’t look fit, and is likely to come off – hopefully bringing Patrick Lambie into the game, to inject some much need flair and excitement into the back line.

This is going to be an awesome forward battle as this formidable and well balanced Springbok pack faces an equally formidable Welsh pack. The Boks weakness is in their limited backline attacking options, and the Welsh backline is better geared up to exploit this. Wales must be a frustrating side to support, they have so much potential but it doesn’t seem to come together all that often. They have the boost of Lee Byrne returning, also master poacher Martyn Wiliams, and have Hook back in midfield.

Again, this match is going to come down to who wants it most, and who believes in themselves the most, and for that reason again I’m going with the Boks as self belief is seldom their weak point. But if Wales really run at the Boks they will win.

Springbok Team http://www.planetrugby.com/story/0,25883,3561_6496801,00.html

Welsh team http://welshrugbyblog.co.uk/wales-team-vs-south-africa/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+WelshRugbyBlog+%28Welsh+Rugby+Blog%29

Scotland vs New Zealand

This is better scheduling for rugby fans, and an interesting looking match. The All Blacks are not firing all that smoothly at the moment, and will be missing Kevin Mealamu at hooker who obviously misunderstood Graham Henry’s instruction to use his head. They are still a formidable prospect, and the return of Cowan and starts for Messam, Smith Toeava strengthen the side if anything.

Scotland are a hugely tidy outfit themselves these days, and all the pieces are dropping into place – good coach, hugely competitive pack, good place kicker, and some pace and invention in the backline. I would so love to see this happen but I reckon the All Blacks are pull through.

Scotland team http://www.planetrugby.com/story/0,25883,3560_6496750,00.html

New Zealand team http://www.planetrugby.com/story/0,25883,16024_6499889,00.html

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The rugby South does a smash and grab at the Aviva, Twickenham, and the Millenium stadium

Photo from:
Ireland 23 South Africa 25

I watched a program the other day where they proved that swearing helps you withstand pain. Well, the air was certainly blue in my lounge and may have eased the pain of this match a bit. Ireland came staggering out of the blocks for the Autumn internationals, fluffing what looked like a golden opportunity for another Southern Hemisphere notch on their belts. Let’s face it, smart play and the Springboks are not normally words that fit together in the same sentence, but you have to hand it to the Boks for judging the conditions well and laying on a 10 man rugby masterclass. The Springboks dominated the line out and the scrums for most of the match, and without any decent first phase ball, Ireland struggled. I think the knowledge of South Africa’s unbalanced and inexperienced back line had Ireland too eager to exploit these potential weaknesses. Passes were snatched at and over run, tap kicks were missed, the ball wasn’t kicked out on penalties.

Wet conditions can mean it’s better not to play with the ball, but Ireland seemed to kick at every opportunity, up and under’s which SA full back Aplon dealt with with embarrassing ease for a man who looks about 5 foot tall, and numerous grubbers. In the scrum, Buckley buckled and not a lot else I’m afraid, Court was a big improvement for him when he came on. Mick O’Driscol looked all at sea and David Wallace was pretty invisible. Reddan didn’t have his best night, Sexton looked tentative, and there seemed to be an awful lot of SA up and unders hitting the ground that you would have expected Carney to pluck out of the sky. On the positive side Heaslip was a grafter, Ferris put in some big hits, Bowe showed he is a master finisher and O’Gara injected a touch of class.

Ireland are missing O’Connell, O’Leary and Flannery big time, and if you can let me get on my hobby horse, we need a fetcher. But Ireland showed spirit at the end, scored two good trys and shouldn’t beat themselves up too much, a few tweaks and I really think the wins will start coming.

What about the Sprinboks? That makes 2 wins now in the last seven so it hasn’t been a vintage season by any means. Their pack is still totally world class, add a decent scrum half and a kicking fly half and that puts paid to most teams in the game today. They showed very little ambition, playing a full back in center was not a good attacking option, and is looks like Jean De Villiers is out injured so things are going from bad to worse. Lambie looked shaky but set up Aplon’s try and Stegman had a decent debut as fetcher. Aplon is a world class finisher, and almost unknown over here, expect to see more of him this tour. They really need to get their backline firing to carry on winning on this tour.

I’ve always rated the IRFU for the way they run the game, but 15000 empty seats and a new jersey that only lasted 40 minutes are starting to make me doubt them. Get it together lads…

England 16 New Zealand 26

There were a lot of positives for England in this match, obviously losing by 10 points in your home fortress wasn’t one of them. The last ten minutes had England making the All Blacks pretty human, where in the first 20 minutes they looked they were all on Krytonite, running in two tries and threatening to run riot. England’s scrum is looking better and better, Dan Cole obviously reads my blog as he put in a massive game to unsettle the mighty Tony Woodcock. I stand corrected, Dan. Dylan Hartley looked good when he came on, and Ashton, Foden and Youngs all had good matches. 10, 12 and 13 look flat for England, they need Barkley in there and need a lot more creativity. England are on the up again though.

The AB’s are looking a little out of sorts by their standards, they need to stop messing around at scrum half for a start. Sonny Bill Williams did whatever he was asked to do but doesn’t yet have a rugby brain on him, just awesome size and strength and those inspector gadget arms.

Wales 16 Australia 25

The wonders of TV scheduling meant I only caught the highlights of this one. I was planning to bluff it -take the words ‘brave struggle’ ‘Australian flair’ dodgy Australian scrum’ ‘lot’s of positives’ ‘two wins in a row’ ‘our injuries are hurting us’ and rearrange them as you will. I’d really like to see Hook in midfield soon.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The South are coming - the Sprinboks at the Aviva Stadium, the All Blacks at Twickenham and the Wallabies at the Millenium Stadium

Internationals Preview

Before we kick off (see what I did there) this a sobering IRB graphic from last year. Let’s hope the North comes up with a few more tries and a few more results this year. And my philosophical gem for today is from Einstein ‘If you think you can do something, or if you think you can’t do something, you’re probably right.’

Ireland versus South Africa

This match is the highlight of the weekend for me, possibly of the year. I support both teams heartily, when either score a try I’m up off the couch shouting YESSSSSSSSSS! at the top of my voice. This is generally followed by the sound of coffee cups dropping, children crying, dogs barking – as my wife says, ‘They can’t hear you, you know’, and as I reply ‘They can if you shout loud enough!’.

I’ll get off the fence straight away and say I hope Ireland win, that it’s a clean entertaining match with a few tries, and that South Africa put in a decent display and lose narrowly.

South Africa have a host of injuries, which is going to deny us a few key match ups. Schalk Burger is out, it would have added a lot of spice to see the him meeting up with Luke Fitzgerald again. Schalk really muddied his waters with that eye gouging. Before that, I had a lot of respect for him as a very hard but fair player, who is also renowned for making a point of having a beer after the match with the opposing team which means he numbers players like Jerry Collins amongst his friends. It’s a useful opportunity to return eyeballs as well, I guess. I’m not sure if Jean de Villiers is playing either, he’s in, he’s out, he’s shaking it all about – I really hope his does play as he’s a great player, and I’m sure he’d love to be coming up against his old Munster team mates.

Springboks absent through injury are: Jaque Fourie, Olivier,Juan De Jongh, John Smit, Andries Bekker, Fourie du Preez, Heinrich Brüssow, JP Pietersen, Gurthrö Steenkamp, Butch James, Schalk Burger, Ricky Januarie and BJ Botha. Du Preez is the one they really miss.

I’ve been waiting with interest to see who South Africa are going to play given all their injuries. Now I’ve seen it http://fb.me/tA8Sgwo8, It’s not an exaggeration to say their coach Pieter de Villiers is one of the hardest men in the world to second guess. With injuries to the only two specialist centers in the squad, a centre and a full back were called up. They have Kirchner in midfield, who while a fine player for the Bulls has never cut it at fall back for the Boks, never mind centre. He’s not a centre’s bottom. That selection could mean it’s pretty well game over for the Boks, especially as Jean de Villers is doubtful and his replacement is talented but bum fluff laden Pat Lambie. I would have preferred Hougaard to Pienaar at scrum half as well. Stegman is going to be a real handful at no 7.

It’s still a hard match to call as Ireland have their own important absences, in Paul O’Connell, Jerry Flannery and Tomas O’Leary (what is it about these Munster players, are they soft or something?:) and none of O’Driscoll, Earls, D’Arcy, Rory Best or Fitzgerald are fully fit either IMO. What is encouraging for Ireland is that both Leinster and Munster have been playing well in the last few weeks. They have a great record against South Africa at home too. Those Boks just don’t travel that well, they absolutely pumped England 42-6 at Twickenham a few years ago which I was fortunate enough to be at, but in the last 7 or 8 years that’s the only time I can remember when they played to their potential in the North.

For Ireland http://www.planetrugby.com/story/0,25883,3558_6482220,00.html , I’d really like to Sexton to step up to the plate and show us what he’s got, I think Carney needs to start justifying his inclusion, and I would love to see some magic from the rest of the back line as well. Bowe, O’Driscoll, Darcy, Fitzgerald- that is one fierce line up. The pack needs to come to the party too, front up and dominate if they can as the Boks look pretty well up to strength there. I want to see Tony Buckley wow us this match.

I was going for a 10 point win for Ireland, but if this weather keeps up it’ll be a lot closer, so Ireland by 6.

England versus the All Blacks

Just time for a small whinge – who scheduled the Wales/Australia match at the same time as this? Are they keeping the Sabbath holy or something? This is a pretty mouth watering prospect. My rating system – see the post below – has New Zealand at 94% and England at 79% so according to me it should be a doddle for the All Blacks. They are about to release their not so secret weapon by this stage too, in the formidable shape of Sonny Bill Williams. I’m not sure about SBW TBH, I think he’s a bit of a show pony, or in his case a show orangutan. Whoa, going to have to be careful there, it’s all very well calling props fat but this guy could definitely out run me and make me pay for that. Does anyone else think his arms are too long though?

England could be fancying their chances against the All Blacks after their defeat to Australia, but that defeat was based on creativity, and Foden and Youngs are the only creative spark in this team, and I’d say Youngs is going to have All Blacks all over him like a rash. Where is Olly Barkley? Seriously lads, Barkley, if anything, is a better tackler than Giteau, and Giteau did alright in defense. Sheridans return will be a big boost though. I’m not a fan of Coles, think Thompson is past his best and think the midfield is uninspiring. I reckon these Autumn matches should be about youth, experimentation and dare I say it, entertainment. I really hope Youngs and Flood are going to be kept together now for a good long time.

For the All Blacks, I reckon SBW is an accident waiting to happen in defense, and I don’t know how Alby Mathewson is going to handle the pressure at scrum half. But I don’t think this England selection is going to trouble the AB’s, so I’m going for a 10 point win for the AB’s.

Wales versus Australia

The embarrassment of rugby riches on Saturday continues with this match. You wait all season for a decent match and then three come along at the same time. Australia have just beaten the top team in the world, so does this mean they are going to be doing a smash and grab in the North? I’m of the one swallow does not a summer make opinion about the Wallabies, their play has been characterised by inconsistency for the last few years, sure that won’t change in a week. They have potent attacking weapons in Cooper and Giteau, but both those guys can be very frail in defense, and Will Genia at scrum half is also prone to waving gently at passing players instead of tackling them.

Wales – apart from playing Hook at full back instead of centre – can I lodge an official complaint with Warren Gatland? – look pretty good. They’ve got some of the most exciting players in the world – Hook, Phillips and Williams, and I would love to see them really cut loose and show us something. They don’t have Martyn Williams in the starting 15 and that man Pocock could make them pay for that. This was on Twitter this week ‘Gatland says Pocock could be a threat at the breakdown. In other news, the moon is bigger than a pebble’.

My hunch is that the dancing feet are going to be left at home, and Australia are going to shade a close match. Hope I’m wrong… Half the problem for the North is the quote at the top ‘If you think you can do something, or if you think you can’t do something, you’re probably right’. If you don’t believe you can win, you probably right.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The fromthebottomoftheruck infallible formula for form of the international teams

This is my take on how you determine what your team’s prospects are, for the Autumn internationals and beyond. Time to put my valuables on the block so to speak and amaze you (or not)with my insight into rugby. Normally I’d have to kill you after sharing this with you… but I’m a generous kind of guy so I’ll let you off this time.

The Theory©

I’ve divided my analysis into two parts – the structure and the current team.

Structure Points

What I’m saying here is that to be successful, a team needs to have certain basic elements in place. You have to competent players of the right size and skill, but that’s true of most of the top ten sides, so what are the differentiators?

The coach is very important, if he’s not competent with a decent record you are going nowhere, so that’s worth up to 10 points.

Captain – a captain who is a dead cert on form, and a born leader 10 points

Scrum half and fly half are the two most important play making positions. I think it’s important to have two clearly identified individuals here as they determine your whole pattern of play, and if you are chopping and changing them you have no settled gameplan. You get up to 10 points for each of these.

Fetcher. It’s vitally important to recognize the importance of fetcher, and have a good player in that position. Being able to turn ball over gives you an edge in disruptive broken field play, and opportunites to score tries. Up to 5 points

With a good structure in place, even if key individuals are missing the structure can carry the team.

Team points

These are awarded for key positions, it’s a given that the other players are competent and capable. Up to 5 points each.

Fly Half





Line out Jumper – someone who you can guarantee to win your own ball and steal the odd ball as well

Gamebreaker Improved defenses mean that Union and League are converging, someone who can all that on its head is like rocking horse poo.

New Zealand               96%

Australia                      93%

France                         91%

Wales                         90%

Ireland                       88%

South Africa               88%

Scotland                     84%

England                      79%

According to my formula, Wales are under performing, and England are under performing against their world rankings. Let me know what you think (politely!)