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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A fall in standards for Wales

 

By Jorden Marvelley

After a stellar performance at the World Cup and a successful 6 Nations campaign this year, I had high expectations for Wales at the start of this year’s autumn internationals. Not for the first time, I was however left sorely disappointed.

The first 20 was pretty much as I expected, with both sides somewhat cautious still trying to suss out how the opposition wanted to play the game. I should clarify before I begin that I don’t dislike Rhys Priestland at all however, I think it was a big mistake starting him as he has been less than impressive all season and it more than showed on Saturday afternoon. I’m obviously not the only one who was unsure of Priestland’s ability; the coaches couldn’t have made it any more obvious than when they gave the kicking duties to Halfpenny. The pace and tactics of the game did improve to degree with the arrival of Hook but Wales were still very much asleep and failed to capitalise on even the half chances.

At halftime the score was a fair depiction of how the first 40 had gone, with the battle of the boot making all the difference. It was quite possibly the only aspect of the game where we were firing on all cylinders. Even the players you expected to add a bit of style and class (Roberts, Halfpenny, North and Cuthbert) seemed lost amongst the crowd. Even when we were going forward we knocked on, dropped the ball or simply gifted it back to Argentina.

It really was truly frustrating. Part of me honestly thinks that Argentina weren’t even playing at their best, had they been, we would’ve had an absolute hammering. As it is I believe that Argentina just made the most of what was a tremendously scrappy, ill-disciplined and lacklustre performance by Wales and the best team won hands down.

I couldn’t even end this by saying that on the bright side there were some bright individual performances, Scott Williams showed glimpses as did Cuthbert but simply not enough for me to say any more than that. Going forward I’d like to see Hook starting at 10 and Biggar on the bench and just for a fiercer performance all round from the lads. We are a world-class team and noticeably we got beaten by a team ranked below us yesterday, if we continue to play like that, teams like New Zealand and Australia are going to make it look more like a cricket score.

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.

England make four changes…

ENGLAND today made four personnel changes to their starting line-up for Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations match against Wales at Twickenham Stadium.

Lee Dickson (Northampton Saints), Ben Morgan (Scarlets) and Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers) will all start their first Tests at the home of English rugby after coming off the bench against Scotland and Italy.

In addition, Owen Farrell will move to No 10 in place of Charlie Hodgson, who has not recovered from an injury to his left index finger, with Manusamoa Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers) coming in to the centre.

Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints) and Toby Flood (Leicester Tigers) make their first appearances of the campaign on the bench.

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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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Six Nations Starters

So tomorrow is the day a lot of England fans have marked in their diaries as one to watch. The new England coach is set to make his decision on who will be in the 30 man squad for the Six Nations this year.

Lancaster has nothing to lose

This comes after a dismal World Cup and several greats of the game retiring leaving many places up for grabs for uncapped players. One of the most controversial topics ahead of this selection was ruling out a key player Danny care for his second alcohol related arrest in a matter of weeks. Danny is not in contention for the entire Six Nations or until he can prove himself responsible enough to wear the shirt again.

Here at The Rugby Diary we wanted to know your starting 15’s so we asked you, on Twitter (@TheRugbyDiary) and here were a few of your selections.

Laner_45 Chris Lane Stevens, Hartley, Doran-Jones, Lawes, Attwood, Robshaw, Wood, Easter, Youngs, Flood, Banahan, Farrell, Ashton, May, Foden..pick it apart!

 James_Hoggarth James Hoggarth – 15. Foden 14. Ashton 13. Barritt 12. Farrell 11. Homer 10. Lamb 9. Dickson 1. Corbisiero 2. Hartley 3. Stevens 4. Botha 5. Palmer 6. Croft 7. Wood 8. Morgan, that,s taking into account no Manu or Lawes

The_Welsh_Idiot Geoff Owen (Wales) – Halfpenny, North, Davies, Roberts, Cuthbert, Priestland, Phillips; Jenkins, Rees, Jones, Davies, Jones, Lydiate, Warburton and Faletau.

The_Welsh_Idiot Geoff Owen – Brown, Ashton, Tuilagi, Trinder, Strettle, Cipriani, Youngs; Corbisero, Hartley, Coles, Attwood, Lawes, Croft, Wood and Morgan. It would be Flood. But, without him Its Cipriani for me. A mixture of form and attack.

Shakermaker1979 James Tanner – Brown Strettle Trinder Faz Ashton Hodgson Dickson Waldrom Wood Robshaw Palmer Lawes Doran-Jones George Stevens

k_iddon Kate Iddon – Foden , Ashton, Manu, Farrell, Sharples, Hodgson, Youngs, Morgan, Wood, Croft, Attwood , Lawes, Cole, Hartley, Corbisiero! If Flood was fit then him at 10 instead of Hodgson. Would deffo have Robshaw on the bench & Mike Brown!

francojaf James Franco- Corb, Hartley, Cole, Lawes, Parling, Croft, Wood, Morgan, Dickson, Farrell, Twelvetrees, Manu, Ashton, Sharples, Foden.

Roshd63 Rosh My XV: Corbs, Hartley, Cole, Attwood, Palmer, Croft, Wood, Morgan, Youngs, Farrell, Sharples, Barkley, Trinder, Ashton, Foden (Flood in for Farrell, Lawes for Attwood, Manu for Trinder when fit)

DanielFutong Go big or Go home!! – 15. Foden 14. Sharples 13. MANU 12 Farell 11. Ashton 10.Flood 9.Youngs 8.Robshaw 7.Woods 6.Croft 5.Lawes 4. Attwood 3. Doran Jones 2. Hartley 1. Wood

Hydeo22 Mark Hyde – Foden Ashton Sharples Tuilagi Farrell Flood Dickson Morgan Wood Croft Attwood Lawes Marler Hartley Cole

rachel_simmo Rachel Simmonite – Foden Sharples Manu or Trinder Barritt Ashton Farrell Youngs Corbisiero Hartley Cole Lawes Parling Croft Wood Robshaw

Have you picked your starting 15 yet? if you have leave us a comment on this thread or you can even tell us on Twitter TheRugbyDiary!

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The View from the Valleys: Shane Signs off in Style

Our Welsh rugby correspondent, Jorden Marvelley, dedicates this week’s “The View from the Valleys” piece to the newly retired Wales winger: Shane Williams, and his last match in a Wales jersey against Australia.

Saturday 3rd December 2011, a day we all knew would come but one that Welsh rugby fans having been dreading. The day that Shane Williams; the side-stepping speedster signed off on his international career.

The stats say it all since his 2000 debut: where he first looked like he’d been picked from the crowd and had to borrow one of the player’s jerseys, he’s finished with 87 caps and racked up an impressive 58 tries. His ability to squeeze through the smallest of gaps matched with his pace and fancy footwork made him a threat to even the biggest players.

He was fearless and really did prove that in the world of rugby size isn’t everything.

The game on Saturday against Australia was remarkably dull compared to the games we had been used to seeing during Wales’ World Cup campaign. It was all very scrappy and there was a definite sense that the boys were trying too hard. It wasn’t surprising given the circumstances but they were hindering themselves rather than letting it flow. That was not the only thing affecting the flow of the game, as Jonathan Kaplan seemed to love the sound of his whistle, especially during the scrum where some of his decisions were shall we say questionable?

When all is said and done not even I can deny that on the day the better team won. They severely punished Wales for their ill discipline, scoring three tries during Leigh Halfpenny’s sin-binning.

As has been quite customary for Wales, they appeared to take it up a notch in the final 20 minutes of the second half, where we saw glimpses of the play witnessed back in New Zealand.

Unfortunately it was all a little too late. Rhys Priestland’s try was well worked and man of the moment, Shane Williams’ try in the dying moments of the game added that little bit of sparkle, like only he can. The game ended Wales 18-24 Australia.

Comment
I refuse to be overly negative, as for me Saturday was all about, a rugby great, a true legend in my eyes, Shane Williams. He’s been a part of the Welsh team ever since I’ve been watching the game. His style and pace always kept me on the edge of my seat.

One of my favourite memories has to be when Shane scored the winning try in injury time, against Scotland back in 2010. I was sat in my friend’s room with my head in my hands having admitted defeat against Scotland.  It would have actually been a draw but it felt like a defeat, when all of a sudden Wales are pressing their try line and Shane seemingly comes from nowhere to dart under the sticks. I leapt from the chair clapping and screeching like a lunatic, and then had to have a little cry and calm down. My friend has always said she enjoys watching me watch rugby, and reading that back I guess that is rather entertaining.

Shane personifies everything about Welsh rugby for me, he could be considered the underdog as he’s relatively small (in rugby terms) but never gives up, he’s gutsy and he enjoys what he does.

I can confidently say that the entire Welsh nation will miss him pulling on that red jersey and I think secretly a couple of nations will be relieved. There is no one who can replace Shane, not for me anyway, but whoever gets the privilege of pulling on that number 11 jersey next, has extremely big boots to fill.

My Thank You to Shane
The very first game I ever attended was back in 2005, March 26th 2005 to be precise. Wales had just won the Grand Slam and the Neath-Swansea Ospreys had all their star players back for what was to be the Celtic League decider. There was an amazing atmosphere at the Gnoll as the boys took on Edinburgh. The game ended in a 29-12 victory for the Ospreys and the ground erupted, there was a pitch invasion as fan clambered to get pictures and autographs of their Welsh heroes.

The boys were more than happy to oblige but during all this I managed to become the human ball in a frantic scrum, as fans choose to go over rather than around me I was getting trampled and was petrified. The one thing I remember to this day, is hearing someone say ‘It’s alright love I’m going to get you out just stay with me.’ The next thing I remember I’m out of the crush and back on my feet and then they were gone, then this lady came over and informed me that it was in fact Shane who had come to my rescue.

It did not put me off going to matches, just taught me to avoid the crowds. Even though he would probably not remember that night, I would still like to take this opportunity to thank Shane, as I never got the chance to thank him but I’ve never forgotten what he did for me.

He was a true legend, an entertainer, I’d bet anything he practised that final flourish for before Saturday’s game, he had to finish in style. He is also a true gentleman. Thank you for the memories you have given me as well as the ones you’ve gifted the nation.

You shall be greatly missed Twinkle Toes!

By Jorden Marvelley