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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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.

Calcutta Cup England 22

Looking to bring this team ethic back

The Calcutta Cup this year is billed to be closer than ever before. It is never easy for England to go away to Scotland and im pretty sure the team don’t particularly relish the prospect!

The Scots really have some fire in their bellies and the English look set to send out a new look squad so the competition is very much a case of who is more up for it.

England have also been through the mill via the press post World Cup and need a win to give some credibility to the nature they wish to portray and not the painting the media paints so perfectly.

The squad for Scotland is as follows:

15 Ben Foden, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Owen Farrell, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 David Strettle, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Ben Youngs, 1 Alex Corbisiero, 2 Dylan Hartley, 3 Dan Cole, 4 Mouritz Botha, 5 Tom Palmer, 6 Tom Croft, 7 Chris Robshaw, 8 Phil Dowson Replacements: 16 Rob Webber, 17 Matt Stevens, 18 Geoff Parling, 19 Ben Morgan, 20 Lee Dickson, 21 Jordan Turner-Hall, 22 Mike Brown

England Captain Announcement

Today is the day the new England captain is announced. Following in the steps of Lewis Moody the pressure is on to get it right. Following such a woeful World Cup England and new interim head coach Lancaster are looking to right a few wrongs.

The captain will have a lot of pressure on his shoulders, even though realistically the choice could have been made through injuries. Not only that but because Lancaster is interim at present any new manager come May could decide a new captain at their own will.

So here is the big announcement the new captain will be Chris Robshaw.

The New England Captain

 

 

FACTFILE: CHRIS ROBSHAW

Name: Christopher Dennis Robshaw

Date of birth: June 4th, 1986

Place of birth: Redhill, Surrey

Height: 6 ft 2 in

Weight: 17st 9lb (112 kg)

Position: Flanker

Club: Harlequins

England senior caps: 1

The Harlequins man is the new man to lead the England pack to what is hoped to be a successful campaign. Robshaw has been forthcoming in stating a fortnight ago that he wanted the job and the honour of representing his country.

Robshaw, 25, will only officially be given the job for England’s next game, Saturday’s Calcutta Cup clash against Scotland at Murrayfield.

Only four times in history has England appointed a captain with less Test experience than the man chosen by new boss Stuart Lancaster.

England Head Coach Stuart Lancaster said: “We have a strong leadership group and I have been very impressed with the way they have all stepped up so far. Chris is a key member of that group and has shown with Harlequins and when I have worked with him in the Saxons that he can lead a team tactically and passionately. I am delighted that he has got this chance at the highest level and I know it will be a very proud moment for him, his club, family and friends when he leads England out at Murrayfield on Saturday.”

Six Nations Service Disruption

Domestic V International

 

The effect of the Six Nations on club rugby. I’m sure I am not the only person who is absolutely buzzing about the start of the Six Nations, the world’s best annual rugby union tournament, in a few short weeks. Three English away games, a world cup quarter-final and semi-final rematch, and the possibility of any team finishing last. But with Saracens F.C. voicing their concern about the timing of the tournament, is there any way of pleasing everyone?

There is an argument for a winter break or perhaps the postponement of the league whilst the tournament is in progress. This would allow for the cream of the European crop to come together to play each other at the start of the year, and allow a break for some players. This would also mean that any injured players would not miss as much of the tail end of the season and that call ups to squads would not come with the same old grumbles from disgruntled fans, unhappy at how their team’s top players have been pillaged from their starting line ups which very little notice.

It was proposed earlier this week that in 2015, the start of the Aviva Premiership would be delayed until after the Rugby World Cup pool stages, or potentially a group of matches would be played before. The French teams did not start playing each other until after their national team had returned. However the French don’t play an equivalent of our LV= cup and therefore have caught up with our teams on the number of games played already. Perhaps dropping the LV= cup would solve some of the problems faced by the English and Welsh clubs. The only problem with the removal of this tournament is that some clubs see it as one of the best ways of getting silverware to the club. Clubs that may not always be contenders for the Premiership or the Pro 12 often attempt to win this trophy. It also brings in the financial benefits that having more than one sponsor and more television rights does. Therefore that is not a viable option.

 There are of course many benefits to the Six Nations. It allows for some of the younger players, or reserve team players to get a chance to prove themselves, it’s through tournaments like the Six Nations that players like Manu Tuilagi came to the forefront among people less familiar with rugby, through his sparkling club form. It also allows for some of the weaker teams to take points off the stronger teams and allow for a more exciting end to season at the bottom of the table. Yet the table has arguably already been turned this season by the World Cup.

The Six Nations is also plainly and simply, a wonderful competition. It is the perfect stage for all six teams to showcase some of their young talent and to play for the annual bragging rights that come with victory. Last year Warren Gatland left some previously key Welsh players at home so that he could pick a more youthful team, and look where that got him. Wales may not have had the best six nations, (they came fourth, equal on points with the Irish and the French) but they were many people’s team of the World Cup, cruelly knocked out by a contentious decision from half Gallic – half Celtic, referee Alain Rolland. This removal of the young players clearly affected the Welsh teams, as none of them could break into the top 3 and proves the power of the young player at both club and international level.

The Six Nations 2011 Champions

At this year’s Six Nations Stuart Lancaster can prepare a team for the future, whether it is for himself, or the bookies favourite Nick Mallett. They allow players who would not have previously shone next to their capped brothers to become the stars of the show. Prior to the World Cup, many observers would not have known who Owen Farrell was but now he is a shoe in into the England squad for anyone with any understanding of rugby.. Many forwards are also set to take their chance in this year’s Six Nations. With Wales having already blooded Toby Falateau, Sam Warburton, and Luke Charteris perhaps now would be a good time for the other home nations to do the same.

It is the youth of rugby that will define the future of it. But with increasing pressure applied by the clubs on the IRB, perhaps it is time for a change. Some reformers have suggested the addition of other teams to the six nations, perhaps adding Romania, who despite failing to make it past the group stages, had an excellent campaign against England and Scotland, as well as maybe Georgia, Holland, or Russia. The only problem with is that the creation of a knockout would lead to some teams losing their players for longer, causing more tension, as well as the loss of television revenues, as more people are likely to tune in to the bigger games.

 If this does not work, then perhaps the removal of the Six Nations during world cup years, so that if after 2015, the Premiership and Pro 12 decide to start during the competition, then clubs like Northampton Saints and Leicester Tigers, and the new boys, Saracens, won’t lose more than ten senior players for almost a third of the season. Again, this is unlikely because of the loss of television rights from it. Whatever happens in the future, by recruiting youth into the international squads, whilst it may do some harm at club level to the standings, there is sufficient time at the end of the season to recuperate some points and most teams have very good reserves, and should be able to cope with the non-European players from which they have to pick from *cough* Sarries *cough*.

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Caption Competition

There may be massive amounts of rugby on this weekend but why not fill in time between games with our fun “Caption Competition”. Just leave a comment with the number of the photo and your chosen caption. You can comment on as many photos as you like as many times as you like. So get involved we would love to see what you can come up with.

If you have any funny photos please sent them to us rugbydiary@gmail.com and we will see what everyone else can come up with for those aswell.

No doubt you will have seen some of these before because they are classics but none the less good fun!

A Very European Weekend!

Enjoy the action

The Heineken Cup starts with a very big Scottish bang this weekend as Edinburgh travel down to face London Irish at the Madejski Stadium, and Glasgow open Pool 3 at home to Bath. Both are going to be tough matches, and both teams are fired up and ready to take on the challenge of the Heineken Cup.

After securing an impressive away win against a confident Benetton Treviso in the RaboDirect Pro12, Edinburgh will be looking to continue this away record and get their competition off to a good start. They have named a strong side, especially up front, where Scotland regulars, Allan Jacobsen Ross Ford and Geoff Cross line up.

If you fancy going along on Saturday, the kick off is at 1.30pm, tickets can be purchased here: http://www.lidirect.co.uk/

Directions to the stadium can be found here: http://www.london-irish.com/Madejski.ink

Over in Glasgow, the Warriors will be looking to make Sunday, “Firhill Funday”. The team are chasing their fifth consecutive win after scoring victories against Aironi, Ospreys, Newport Gwent Dragons, and Cardiff Blues. There is a real air of excitement in Glasgow about the start of the competition, and many fans turned out to see the trophy when it was on display on Wednesday. There is a mixture of experience and youth in the squad, and the partnership of Duncan Weir and Chris Cusiter at fly and scrum half is one to watch.

Kick off is at 12.45pm and tickets for the Warriors can be bought on the day or online here: https://www.eticketing.co.uk/scottishrugby/default.aspx

And for those who want to know how to get to Firhill stadium: http://www.glasgowwarriors.org/content/view/113/66/

Both games will be shown on television, with Sky Sports providing the coverage. So if you cannot make it down, then make sure you tune in for what promises to be 2 fantastic matches!

Brought to you by the lovely Christie Lester

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