Six Nations – A Call to Arms

With another big Six Nations weekend on the horizon, I challenge you to read this poem and not feel motivated to cheer on your nation with that extra decibel of gusto.

When the battle scars have faded
And the truth becomes a lie
And the weekend smell of liniment
Could almost make you cry.

When the last ruck’s well behind you
And the man that ran now walks
It doesn’t matter who you are
The mirror sometimes talks

Have a good hard look old son!
The melon’s not that great
The snoz that takes a sharp turn sideways
Used to be dead straight

You’re an advert for arthritis
You’re a thoroughbred gone lame
Then you ask yourself the question
Why the hell you played the game?

Was there logic in the head knocks?
In the corks and in the cuts?
Did common sense get pushed aside?
By manliness and guts?

Do you sometimes sit and wonder
Why your time would often pass
In a tangled mess of bodies
With your head up someone’s arse?

With a thumb hooked up your nostril
Scratching gently on your brain
And an overgrown Neanderthal
Rejoicing in your pain!

Mate – you must recall the jersey
That was shredded into rags
Then the soothing sting of Dettol
On a back engraved with tags!

It’s almost worth admitting
Though with some degree of shame
That your wife was right in asking
Why the hell you played the game?

Why you’d always rock home legless
Like a cow on roller skates
After drinking at the clubhouse
With your low down drunken mates

Then you’d wake up – check your wallet
Not a solitary coin
Drink Berocca by the bucket
Throw an ice pack on your groin

Copping Sunday morning sermons
About boozers being losers
While you limped like Quazimoto
With a half a thousand bruises!

Yes – an urge to hug the porcelain
And curse sambucca’s name
Would always pose the question
Why the hell you played the game!

And yet with every wound re-opened
As you grimly reminisce it
Comes the most compelling feeling yet
God, you bloody miss it!

From the first time that you laced a boot
And tightened every stud
That virus known as ‘rugby’
Has been living in your blood

When you dreamt it; when you played it
All the rest took second fiddle
Now you’re standing on the sideline
But your heart’s still in the middle

And no matter where you travel
You can take it as expected
There will always be a breed of people
Hopelessly infected

If there’s a teammate, then you’ll find him
Like a gravitating force
With a common understanding
And a beer or three, of course

And as you stand there telling lies
Like it was yesterday old friend
You’ll know that if you had the chance
You’d do it all again

You see – that is the thing with rugby
It will always be the same
And that, I guarantee
Is why the hell you played the game!

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Matt Hampson Auction March 2013

A message from Tori Chipp

I am running a BIG auction for The Matt Hampson Foundation in the lovely City of London (date provisionally Thursday March 21st) at the No 1 Sports Bar. There will be some amazing lots as well as some drinks and pro rugby players (new and old) attending. So where the help bit comes in, it would be amazing if you guys could spread the word with me. The event is going to be invite-only as I want rich people there who will spend a lot of money int he auction and donate on the night too.I am also looking for donations, it doesn’t have to be rugby associated, just auctionable, rugby based is obviously very cool with me though too. Any donation of this nature will result in an invite to the event so pop your thinking caps on and see what you can come up with.

Furthermore we will be needing some help designing the invites and a digital flyer for the event so anyone that can help with that side of things will be hot property and again will be invited to the event.
Should be a great event guys and I am already really looking forward to it please spread the word!

 

Please do drop me an email if you can help on rugbydiary@gmail.com

Autumn International Squad

Yes folks it’s that time again to dissect the newly announced EPS squad for the Autumn Internationals. The least expected of the call ups has to fall on the shoulders of young Saracen Mako Vunipola. The youngster has been relatively quiet but come into the eyes of the selectors through his more regular appearances and maybe a sprinkling of pressure from Ex Saracens coach Farrell.

Tom Youngs of Leicester also makes the cut which many were half expecting due to the viewing publics call out for his inclusion.  the young hooker has been playing first team action this season for the Tigers ahead of fans favourite George Chuter.

I personally think it’s a pretty guessable selection all around with no real shocks. The risks we associated previously associated with Stuart Lancaster and his team are somewhat of a distant memory. It is a real shame because some players have more than been back in form and would deserve the opportunity to show off on an International stage. I understand it is a young team in many aspects but it doesn’t mean that we shouldnt be taking more risks for these fixtures ahead of the Six Nations.

I would have loved to have seen Gloucester’s Freddie Burns in the mix. he has been receiving high praise from all corners this season and has undoubtably been the form player over Owen Farrell(who has had a bit of a shocker this season no?). I would have also liked to have seen Danny Cipriani given his chance ahead of the Six Nations to see if he can put his critics to bed. His stand out man of the match display in Europe once again showed what the once distracted fly half can do when he puts his mind to it.

Furthermore The Hooker selection although getting better is somewhat lacking imagination. Jamie George of Saracens is being overlooked maybe in part to their shocking rotation system and the fact that they still roll out John Smit who offers little more that experience and coaching to the younger lads ahead of the ex-England Under 20’s captain.

Again Tom Varndell is left omitted despite his dazzling form for Wasp’s since the start of the season. His speed is second to none and his tackling has improved immensely so why is he being left out? Another player on fine form from Wasp’s is that of Young gun Christian Wade. For too long it has been argued that he is too small for the professional game, if this was genuinely the case he would have been found out by now. He is nippy and super quick and can get into those holes that the big brutish backs simply cannot! Please Lancaster and co give these boys a shot!

I am happy to see London Irish’s Jonathan Joseph in the set up he is superb, fast and can break the gain line. Whether he gets his chance to shine on the field is another question. I hope for England’s sake he does as he could bring that extra bit of spice when we are playing the dull kick and chase we have been used to of late.

Geoff Parling and Ben Morgan have been superb and I am utterly relieved they have been included in the squad. Furthermore after the dazzling display against the Ospreys I hope the half back pairing of Ben Youngs and Toby Flood are given the chance (and take it) to show the rest of the country that they are really very capable. Danny Care will have even more of a point to prove this being the case and will inspire some good old-fashioned competition for shirts.

Shamefully I am full of dread looking at the omissions from this squad. I fear we will return to the same old boring game of rugby England have got used to playing and quite frankly I may well be watching the Premiership instead of the Internationals for once. It almost looks to me like Lancaster and his coaching chums forgot they had to make a team selection so just went with what they had last time with a few changes for injuries etc. The rugby this team is capable of on a good day is of course great and exciting. But for the regular games that aren’t worthy of a DVD release it will be plain, mundane and no doubt average at best!

I could continue on this rant for the rest of the day but I would love to hear your opinion. Get involved leave a comment or tweet us @therugbydiary.

Backs: A Allen (Leicester), C Ashton (Saracens), B Barritt (Saracens), M Brown (Harlequins), D Care (Harlequins), L Dickson (Northampton), O Farrell (Saracens), T Flood (Leicester), A Goode (Saracens), J Joseph (London Irish), U Monye (Harlequins), C Sharples (Gloucester), M Tuilagi (Leicester), J Turner-Hall (Harlequins), B Youngs (Leicester). Forwards: M Botha (Saracens), D Cole (Leicester), P Dowson (Northampton), D Hartley (Northampton), J Haskell (Wasps), T Johnson (Exeter), C Lawes (Northampton), J Marler (Harlequins), B Morgan (Gloucester), T Palmer (Wasps), G Parling (Leicester), C Robshaw (Harlequins), M Vunipola (Saracens), T Waldrom (Leicester), D Wilson (Bath), T Wood (Northampton), T Youngs (Leicester).

RWC 2015 – The Venues

 

Written by Katharine Bryce

The shortlist of 2015 Rugby World Cup venues has caused lots of discussion in the recent weeks since the list was released; it has left some rugby fans questioning why some of the country’s rugby venues have not been included. The 17 venues on the list comprise three official rugby venues, and six venues which have never hosted a rugby game previously. Although a main contributing factor to the venue list will have been venue capacity to ensure games are as available to fans as possible, surely there should have been a way to do this without missing out traditional rugby stadia? This article will focus on the two stadia that I see as being the biggest cuts from the official World Cup venue shortlist:

Although the World Cup is being held in England, one of the stadia that I feel is missing from the list is that of Murrayfield, the home of Scottish rugby. There has been very little mention as to why Murrayfield has not been picked, whereas due to contractual reasons the Millennium Stadium has. The stadium itself holds just over 67,000 people: this is a bigger capacity then some of the football venues on the list including that of Stadium MK (end of 2013, capacity will reach 32,000) and the Brighton Community Stadium (Capacity: 27,350). Both of these stadia are nearly half the capacity of  Murrayfield. Taking this into account, and the fact that Murrayfield is home to a national rugby team, surely they should have been given a chance to hold a game or even have been allowed to host all of Scotland’s pool games, as Wales wanted to. 
By not including Murrayfield, are we not somehow excluding Scottish rugby fans and the Scottish nation? They have included the home of Welsh rugby, thus giving Welsh rugby fans better access to rugby, but for Scottish fans to attend a rugby match they must travel down to Newcastle or Sunderland for pool games, if those stadia are still included in the final list, or to Twickenham or Wembley when the World Cup progresses to the final stages. This could see some Scottish rugby fans choosing not to attend these games because of the potential cost of travel and accommodation.
The Leicester Tigers stadium, Welford road, has also been omitted from the venue short-list. This omission has raised many questions about the selection process as Welford Road holds the biggest capacity in the Aviva Premiership (24,000 in 2012 but predicted 30,000 after redevelopment for the World Cup) and has staged many premiership and European rugby games over the years. 
In an official statement, we were informed that Welford Road was not picked due to the 
the fact that there has been a delay in the redevelopment of the Crumbie Stand. It was also stated that the pitch was undersized according to the selection guidelines, however the grounds’ capacity is bigger than that of the only premiership rugby ground on the list (Gloucester’s Kingsholm Stadium, capacity 16,500), even without the development of the Crumbie Stand. This fact seems to undermine the base reason given for the ground’s omission (capacity). However, through investigation, I have found that the Welford Road pitch is only 91m long, whereas the minimum pitch size given was 95x68m. This would appear to show that the real reason for the omission was due to pitch size, and not the official reason given. The plus side for fans living in the Leicestershire area is that, unlike Scottish fans, they won’t have to travel very far to watch a game as the local football venue, the Walkers Stadium, has been short listed and it is is a mere 10 minute walk from Welford Road.

In conclusion, when looking at the list we can see that only three rugby grounds have been picked, causing anger and upset among some rugby fans as the majority of stadia shortlisted are football grounds. Conversely, we could look at this in a positive light: choosing the larger football stadia creates more seats and with that comes more opportunities to see this sporting spectacular! We, as a nation, get to stage the biggest event in the rugby calendar. The stadium selection shouldn’t be as big a problem as its being made out to be and we should all be looking forward to better accessibility for fans to see a Rugby World Cup game. 

 

This may be a once in a lifetime opportunity.

The Harsh Reality of Retirement

Now I am going to be brutally honest when I first started getting into rugby it was all about the youngsters, the showmen and of course the delectable bodies of said athletes. Then came the passion for the community, the driving force behind the game and what it really meant to all involved whether it be a fan, player, coach or the neutral that tags along to any game because they love the sport. But recently my head has been turned to what happens to the professionals once their playing careers are over.

For some it is something they can work up to, re skill and make a smooth transition into city life. For others the news is much less expected and therefore much harder to prepare for. Imagine if you will the stark reality that sometimes you are just no longer of any actual value to the organisation that pays you, and so like in many other businesses cuts are made. However in this instance it’s much harder to find a similar role where you might thrive. If rugby is all you have been doing since you left school and whether due to age or injury it is something that you can no longer do well, you may find your self in a position where there are very few options.

The more charismatic among the players may find an easy transition into the world of commentating, writing, internal club affairs or taking a step over the other side of the touch-line and becoming an agent. The more technically astute will usually become coaches and pass on their expertise. However what if you haven’t got these opportunities because lets face facts there are a lot more rugby players out there than there are Ben Kays and Austin Healeys. The other working life in business can be a very daunting place post playing career for those who have never done anything of its nature. The point in question was really first highlighted to me by Duncan Bell. He was so candid about his sudden retirement and the harsh realities of starting up his own business. The terrifying prospect that it may not all be ok in the end.

The harsh nature of this business often means there isn’t much support out there for these guys either. Of course there are the obvious places to go for advice your club, The RPA etc. But really where is the “hands on” advice and actual time that these players need hiding?

 I recently attended an event which was put on by an organisation called RUINN which is headed up by ex Saracen Hugh Vyvyan. It was a networking event that allowed city individuals in London to mix with some recently retired rugby players and see if there was anything they could do that would be mutually beneficial for each other. In attendance was Ben Woods who recently found himself out in the cold after a long-term wrist injury had ruled him out of professional sport. Having known Ben through my work at Tigers it was great to see him in a completely different environment. The networking event put him in touch with several lawyers (Ben is currently studying for his Law conversion GDL) and will fingers crossed allow him to foster relationships and work experience to make the next few years a lot easier.

My issue comes is for the boys who aren’t Cambridge graduates and haven’t got the foggiest idea what they want to do post playing career. I know there is a lot of support in clubs to help players realise what they want to do when they have finished playing but in my mind it is still nowhere near enough. Rugby clubs typically harbour great working relationships with a variety of sizes of businesses. I feel it is imperative that a player is rounded into more than a machine on the pitch but a person that can swiftly move into other areas of work when their time with the club is finished. That support network needs to be there at a very minimum so the skills needed can be developed over years as opposed to over a few weeks/months when a player gets thrown in at the deep end.

Furthermore more players need to be encouraged by their agents and clubs alike to get involved in this sort of networking events whether it is RUINN or The Rugby Business Network or The RPA. It needs to be considered valuable to the club which at a business only level it isn’t. It means players taking a few hours here and there to aid their own personal development and unless this translates into points during the game it isn’t going to draw in more fans and therefore more money. However niceties aside unless the clubs are going to pay the big bucks to set up a player for life, the players need to be set up for post playing life. I would go as far to argue that an agent should be an agent for the player’s life not just their most valuable time when they are on the field. Often by the time a player actually sees the value in these events it’s too late and they are searching for work with a barely there CV.

Arguably however it is also down to us as fans and friends. Keep a look out for those who are retiring or coming up to retirement and think if it could in any way add value to your organisation if they were to even just gain some experience with you. Rugby life is typically a well-connected industry and I think if we all looked at our companies or friends’ companies there would be a slot there that could offer those players the start to their non playing lives they need. You may think this sounds like a barbaric idea as players must have these sorts of offer thrown at them routinely but believe me they really don’t. Or even if this isn’t possible lets look at where we are spending our money. At The Stoop instead of heading for one of the chain stands head for Ollie Kohn’s Jolly Hog and Sausage. When looking at mortgage brokers go to Duncan Bell. Refer your friends to them lets help build their empire from the inside. Support the charities that supports them and eventually I hope we will see fewer players facing the harsh truth that often awaits them come retirement.

Stay tuned for news of upcoming events that you can attend!

Duncan Bell, The past, present and future

As manyof you will already know Duncan Bell announced his decision to retire this week. However the real shock came when he openly talked about his depression and how it has affected him over the years. After a manic week Duncan Bell kindly took the time out to chat with The Rugby Diary about times gone by and everything that is yet to come!

The Interview

As the rugby world has recently learned, you are to retire at the end of this season. What has been your favourite memory of your playing career?

Well unfortunately for you, I must say it is without doubt when we played Leicester in a Heineken Cup quarter final game at the Walker Stadium. We were under the cosh for ages, and even down to 13 for last part of the game. We were there as underdogs and everything was going against us, but somehow we turned the game around and won and ended up in a European Cup semi-final game.

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Lewis Moody, My Hero

On Monday I was greeted with the sad sad news that Lewis Moody was retiring from all forms of rugby. Lewis is a hero of mine and I will never have a bad word to say against the man who spurred my interest in rugby beyond merely casual.

Me with Lewis at Welford Road

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