Archive for January, 2013

A Little Bit of Spice…..

January 30, 2013 1 comment


Jim Telfer certainly whipped up a storm with his pre-6 Nations swipe at the English and the Welsh in branding the former “arrogant” and the latter “lazy”.

The former Scotland international and British Lion has always had a reputation as an uncompromising individual and having coached his country to a Grand Slam in 1984 and then repeated it as Ian McGeechan`s assistant in 1990, is qualified to make such observations.

The 72 year-old has been criticised out of hand by many for his remarks whilst England coach Andy Farrell has dismissed the thinking of the Scot. Wales wing Alex Cuthbert has rounded on the assertion that his team mates don`t work hard enough and attack coach Mark Jones has openly backed up his player. So who says that the 6 Nations doesn`t matter any more?

I read Telfer`s newspaper comments with interest and to a degree agree with him but what he has done is fire the first salvo from a Scottish camp with nothing to lose in this year`s tournament. And what a salvo it has been. England have missed a trick by not returning it with interest. I mean, Scotland have offered little on the international scene for some time now and were dreadful in the autumn internationals.

Having a big pack is one thing but they lacked direction well before Tonga humbled them at Pittodrie. Fast backs are always an asset but so often Scotland`s threequarters play like they only met for the first time on the bus to the game. They have a new interim coach now in Scott Johnson but on the surface at least not much else has changed. The men in blue are there for the taking, aren`t they?

England are building nicely under Stuart Lancaster and I suspect are timing their run at the 2015 World Cup. Lancaster has created a culture whereby your name alone does not guarantee you a jersey and through the structure of the Under-20`s and Saxons, talented youngsters have real hope of gaining full international honours. Telfer acknowledges that instead directing his fire on the perception that England are more than just a “good” team.

He is right. The fact that England thrashed an out of sorts All Blacks before Christmas is a notable feat but hardly one to get carried away by. Would they beat the All Blacks if they met again on Saturday? Probably not. Telfer is targetting what he perceives as mental weakness in some of England`s more fragile stars here and also taking a broad swipe at the press. It`s all good theatre.

Structure and wins against the All Blacks are not things which are synonymous with Welsh rugby and their much publicised chronic injury list ruling out a multitude of first choice players has meant that they got their 6 Nations excuses in really early. I don`t think the Welsh are “lazy” per se but the structure of club rugby in Wales still isn`t right and the Celtic League is a poor affair. Wales do not have sufficient strength in depth and outside of the international arena few of their players are tested hard enough for long enough.

They won`t win the title this year but they have a perfect opportunity to throw the next generation in at the deep end. If they are lazy in a Test Match they will soon be found out.

Ireland, France and Italy all escape the ire of Telfer and the Azzuri will no doubt again find themselves battling at the wrong end of the table although more then capable of springing a surprise on home soil. Ireland are in transition with talented youngsters progressing through the ranks whilst meandering towards the end of Declan Kidney`s tenure as head coach.

France however remain my bet for the title, a feat they haven`t achieved since 2010. Their club rugby is in a good place right now and they can mix physicality and magic with anyone anytime. They just need their heads in the right place individually and collectively.

So that is the 6 Nations fire stoked and those who feel that the tournament is out-dated in its concept or played at the wrong time of the season have been silenced thanks to Jim Telfer. What does need changing are the autumn internationals because they never generate the same passion and fervour which we will witness between now and March 16th in rugby stadiums across Europe. But that is another story for another day.

Until then keep an eye on those crazy Scots. Telfer might just know something we don`t.

Categories: Uncategorized

Snow Joke!

January 23, 2013 2 comments

For the second week running I have my bags packed, travel plans made, and am hoping that I will be able to head out of Cornwall to cover a rugby match.

Last weekend the Red Zone (Met Office speak for snow in January) which descended on South Wales scuppered my plans at the 11th hour to trek to Carmarthen Quins and a British & Irish Cup tie with the Cornish Pirates. Knowing what I do now about that game I`m actually glad I stayed at home but providing different copy to a variety of newspapers on an event you haven`t actually witnessed first hand does require a certain amount of skill, ingenuity and reliable contacts!

This weekend I am going for broke and aiming to make it from West Cornwall to Kingston Park, the home of Newcastle Falcons, for a Friday night tussle with the Cornish Pirates in the RFU Championship. The pitch is currently being cleared of snow with an inspection scheduled for later today so by the time you read this I may either be on the road or twiddling my thumbs again.

In fairness to the RFU, and I don`t say that too often, they did have the foresight to schedule several blank weekends this season to make re-scheduling postponed games more easy. If the Pirates are forced to sit this weekend out then we will presumably try again at the end of next month and my hoped for day out at Twickenham watching England play France will go for a burton.

Since the advent of climate change and our increasingly unpredictable seasons in the UK we have fundamentally forgotten that January and February are cold months typified by snow and ice. Right now in Norway, where rugby isn`t too prominent in the sporting calendar, they are more concerned about a lorry carrying 27 tons of cheese having caught fire in a tunnel than any sub-zero temperatures or blizzards. It`s a case of priorities and what you are used to I suppose.

Cheese burning on Britain`s roads isn`t common either along with playing rugby on frozen pitches but it can be done.

Several seasons ago, again on a Friday night, I commentated on a game at Coventry RFC for the BBC where with windchill factored in the local journos reckoned it was -15 degrees Celsius. The pitch was bone hard 4 hours before kick-off but Coventry were skint and couldn`t afford a postponement. Their opponents,the Cornish Pirates once again, didn`t fancy re-arranging the game so both teams got on with it. The worst injury all night was a twisted ankle on the frozen surface and the referee ended it all after 70 minutes. Nobody complained and the result stood.

Those were exceptional (financial) circumstances that night driving the event on and common sense always has to take precedence even over pernickety health and safety rules and regulations. But matches should never be called off because somebody might fall over in a road outside (primarily a soccer thing I grant you). That is just plain stupid. Supporters are all blessed with varying degrees of intelligence to clubs must allow them to make their own calls regarding personal safety going to and from the event.

So we will hope for a full round of games in Round 14 of a Championship which is starting to move up through the gears of excitement and this is what I reckon will happen (if the games get played)…..

Falcons v Pirates – Formbook says Falcons comfortably but the Pirates have history in games like this. Somebody will beat Deano`s side this season and the Pirates need to react after their poor showing last weekend. I`m going to take a punt. Pirates by 3.

Doncaster v London Scottish – A big game for both teams and the Yokshire side need to find some form fast. The Scots scared Newcastle and downed Bedford but this will be a different type of game. Knights by 2.

Bristol v Leeds – Two play-off hopefuls going head to head with Bristol desperate to avaenge their 50-31 defeat at Headingley and home advantage key against a Leeds side who struggle for consistency on the road. This could be the game of the weekend if the weather allows it. Bristol by 9

Jersey v Rotherham – The Islanders have to maximise their home games in the run-in to the end of the season and need to keep winning them to put pressure on those teams around them in the table. The Titans have been a disappointment this year but if they are allowed to play Route One rugby will win. Jersey by 5

Plymouth v Moseley – Another high pressure game for both teams and Albion`s good start to the season now seems a distant memory. Moseley took an unexpected duffing up at Llanelli last week but I think they could sneak this one on a heavy Brickfields pitch. Moseley by 6

Nottingham v Bedford – 2nd versus 3rd with everything to play for. There really is very little to choose between these two and they both had an extra week off after losing their cup games 7 days ago. Meadow Lane on Sunday should be good for a game given the forecast and I`m going Green. Nottingham by 7

Categories: Uncategorized
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