Friday 19 June 2009

Rugby > Every other sport. Ever

Rugby used to be an Olympic sport but for some reason not known to myself it was ousted from the pantheon of competitions deemed 'worthy' of Olympian status. The main reason for this (apparently) is that rugby was not universal enough of a sport. Which was fair enough then and is probably just as valid an argument against including the fifteen man game nowadays.

Rugby sevens on the other hand has seen massive increases in popularity in smaller rugby nations who now compete well with the more established unions at the reduced game. There is no denying the growing international movement in sevens rugby and given the various qualities imbued in rugby it does seem a crying shame that the sport is not part of the Olympic games

The IRB agree and have been campaigning vigorously to see sevens re-introduced for the 2012 games in London. Below is their video commissioned in support of their bid. I think it makes a stirring argument for the merits of rugby in general and is a brilliant reminder of why people love this sport

Thursday 18 June 2009

Scott Gibbs vs England in 1999

Taken from a time not so long ago, when England could play rugby, this the famous Welsh try on the final day of the 5/6 nations (I can't remember if it had changed at that stage) that denied England a Grand Slam. What makes this result twice as enjoyable to any non-English fan is that sine the Millennium stadium was still under construction at the time of this game Wales played all their 'home' games at Wembley.

So not only did England bottle spectacularly (a feat that was to be a tradition of sorts for a few years, successive final day screw ups against Scotland, Wales and Ireland are fond memories of mine) but they did so a few miles down the road from HQ. ha

The ARC - The E.L.V.s

French beat All Blacks 27-22 in Dunedin

First off I must say France were incroyable in this game, defence was top drawer and their pack were immense. Despite being outweighed by some 80 kilos at scrum time they shunted their black counterparts about the park with hilarious ease. Their lineout functioned well and the back row of Dusautoir, Ouedrago and Picamoles terrorised the All Blacks at the break down. It was quite impressive.

New Zealand, hampered by the ferocity of the French gameplan, couldn't cope. I've seen All Black teams rattled before but I've never seen one so utterly dominated up front. Their forward pack were a timid bunch, exposed for their lack of experience at Test level. Reid and Thompson had a torrid time on the flank whilst Tialata proved (again) his ineptitude at scrum time.

Behind the pack Donald was all at sea, completely failing to impose any kind of structure on New Zealand's play. Ma'a Nonu was anonymous in the midfield, as was Toeva. Such was the lack of co-ordination in attack and the pressure exerted by the French defence that the ball rarely got out wide to Rockococo or Muiliana, the only two players to show any real threat to the French defence

The close scoreline does not tell the full story of this game; New Zealand were dismantled at the breakdown, hassled on the attack and they had no answers. They were helpless, outclassed. As a neutral it was an amazing spectacle, more of the same this Saturday please.

p.s. I apologise if I spelt any of those Kiwi names wrong, I'm not bothered looking them up

Wednesday 17 June 2009

Ireland U-20s challenge Baby Blacks haka

I have been quite surprised by the amount of negative responses to this. The haka is a challenge, why not answer it? The haka is a piece of NZ heritage/culture etc, doesn't neccesarily mean every other team should have to stand around in front of them as they jump about and grunt in their direction, not a part of their culture. New Zealanders should be happy that its afforded any kind of respect/acknowledgement at all in my opinion.

To complain about an opponent making a threatening advance towards your boys as they perform a war dance seems a bit silly.

Saturday 13 June 2009

Dream Team #3 - Pierre Spies

Ever since rugby went pro in the mid-nineties the traditional slow and ponderous forward template has been slowly edged out of the game by the new breed; muscle-bound behemoths that can do the 100 metres in 10.7 seconds like Pierre Spies.

The man is terrifyingly quick and his tendency to rip through a defence with consummate ease has already made Spies a firm favourite of mine. Shortly after he came onto the international scene he was diagnosed with a lung condition that threatened to keep him from playing rugby ever again. He missed the 2007 world cup but recovered and has managed to maintain the form that saw him rise to prominence in Sud Afrika to begin with.

Following an excellent Super 14 campaign this year expect the big Saffer to rampage through hapless Lions' midfields in a few weeks time

Tuesday 9 June 2009

1997 Lions to South Africa - Jim Telfer pt. 2

A fine example of why all sports coaches should either be Scottish or at least speak in a Scottish manner, one of a couple of Telfer speeches floating about on youtube. The man should be an integral of any Lions tour to be honest

Monday 8 June 2009

Dream Team #2 - Carlos Spencer

Carlos Spencer is the definition of a wildcard out-half, brilliance occasionally overshadowed by periods of frustrating inconsistency leaves a question over the legacy of this ex-All Black. Never a renowned goal-kicker or game manager in the ilk of Stephen Larkham or Ronan O'Gara Spencer relied on his skills with ball in hand to win games.

When it came off this style of play was irresistible, defences often torn apart by the mercurial number 10 and the talent outside him during his tenure at the Auckland Blues and with New Zealand. He shipped a lot of the blame for the All Blacks' crash out of the 2003 world cup and falling from grace in his native country moved north to England where he plied his trade with Northampton for several seasons becoming a firm fan favourite for his unpredictable play.

He is currently with Gloucester in England but there have been rumours floating about of an imminent return to New Zealand given the weak status of the out-half post in the All Blacks right now.

Tuesday 2 June 2009

O'Driscoll vs Australia

The British and Irish Lions play the Golden Lions tomorrow and in light of the pathetic display in their opener against the Royal XV I figured the best way to prepare for the game was to remind myself of the Lions's potential. This is O'Driscoll's solo effort against the Criminal Element in 2001. A try which cemented his place as a great player amongst the fans in the northern hemisphere and introduced him to the rugby public in the SANZAR nations in spectacular fashion. Waltzing O'Driscoll

Monday 1 June 2009

Dream Team Pt. 1 Waisale Serevi

The reason I watch sevens rugby today is Waisale Serevi, the Fijian maestro. The man pulled the strings as primary playmaker for Fiji for years, dominating the sevens circuit in the same way players like Dan Carter and Victor Matfield impose themselves in the 15 a side game.

The eye for a gap, the frankly ridiculous hands and the ability to dissect a defence in an instant always impressed me. On top of that he possessed the kind of raw creativity and confidence with ball in hand which is just fantastic to watch. Right now I think he's serving as a coach to the Fijian sevens team.

'The greatest try of all time'

1973 Barbarians, vs New Zealand

I love the Barbarians, best players from around the world (plus one uncapped fella) getting together to play against international opposition. Oh and they play with a throw it about attitude. This generally results in most of their tries being absolute gems involving half the squad and sublime skills. They are a joy to watch and a truly unique aspect of rugby.

I'm posting this now in celebration of the Barbarians victory over Eng-u-lund 33-26 last weekend. A satisfying result as ze English, in their miserly manner, refused to indulge the usual Barbarian exhibition atmosphere, played as though it was a real test match, and still lost. ha.

Unfortunately the Barbarians loose style of play does occasionally result in them getting ab-so-lutely pumped but when it works it is truly a sight to behold. Recent scalps for the invitational XV include not only England but newly crowned world champions South Africa in 2008. Proof (thank christ) that there is still room in the professional game for rugby's grand entertainers