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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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.

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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Walk 4 Matt 2012

Today i am writing to you on more of a personal note. I have chosen to take on and be a part of the Walk4Matt 2012. This involves walking well over 110 miles from Rugby to Twickenham all in aid of the fantastic cause that is The Matt Hampson Foundation.

Most of you that are involved in rugby in even the slightest way will have heard about the inspiration that is Matt Hampson. Matt suffered a severe spinal injury when taking party in an everyday training session with England Under 20 . The scrum collapsed on his neck trapping his spinal cord and paralysing him for the rest of his life from the neck down. One of the most poignant parts of Matt’s story was when he came around in the ambulance and pleaded with the paramedics not to cut off his England shirt. Since then, Matt has established the Matt Hampson Foundation and not only been able to ensure care for the rest of his life is paid for but get involved with other that have similar injuries.

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Transfer News

So who are the brave players taking the plunge and making the move so far this season and who are certainly staying put?

Bath

New Signings: Rob Webber, Dominic Day,

Contract Extensions: Ross Batty, Chris Cook

Exeter Rugby

Contract Extensions: Tom Hays, Simon Alcott, Jason Shoemark, Hoani Tui

Gloucester Rugby

New Signings: Billy Twelvetrees, Huia Edwards,

Contract Extensions: Rupert Harden, Peter Buxton, Freddie Burns, Akapusi Qera,

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Looking Back…. Rob Vickerman

This interview with Rob Vickerman was carried out briefly before he announced leaving Newcastle Falcons to join the England Sevens team full-time. Now we are approaching the halfway point of the IRB Sevens season The Rugby Diary thought it was a great time to revisit it.

A winner in every way......

Joining the core squad of Ben Ryan’s tenacious pack means that Vickerman will no longer be eligible to play at club level for this season at least.

However, it does mean that Rob’s Olympic ambitions may become a reality.

Seeing this opportunity as a perfect time for an interview, and a chance for Rob to get some last ditch revenge before taking off for his new sevens career, we caught up with Rob to get the real story of the switch.

Quick fire questions

Tori Chipp [TC]: Books or films?

 Rob Vickerman [RV]: Films about books, so I can pretend I’ve read it!

[TC]: Surf or ski?

 [RV]: Surf, bro. (Thanks Rob more people will think im a man now!)

 [TC]: Night in or night out?

[RV]: Known as the Olympic Flame – never go out.

[TC]: North or South?

[RV]: T’North.

[TC]: Blonde or brunette?

[RV]: Blonde.

[TC]: Cook or be cooked for?

[RV]: Cooked for every night by a working mother of three – oh no wait, that’s Tom Catterick!

[TC]: Boxers or briefs?

[RV]: Calvin Klein all the way.

 

The interview

[TC]: Now, the time to spill the beans on your previous teammates….Who has the best and worst banter at the Falcons? And you can’t give yourself the best award before you even try it!

 [RV]: I always enjoy a Matt Thompson ‘topper’ story. If you’ve got a black cat, he’s got a panther. Failing that, Daz Fearn has got good chat, and a shit tat. Tim Swinson is improving with some good lines – just about 20 minutes late.

[TC]: Putting on your Trinny and Susannah style cap, who were the best and worst dressed?

[RV]: It’s fair to say Tom Catterick encapsulates the best of both. I bet Marty McFly, in 1985, didn’t think he’d be so on trend in 2011. Unfortunately, Tom Catterick styles himself on Cher Lloyd!

[TC]: Some may say style comes with ease, others really, really have to try. Who was the biggest tart in the Falcons team? We have all seen Geordie Shore, but someone has to stand out?

[RV]: Chris Pilgrim without a doubt. Some boys had to be restrained when he dressed up as a bird at the end of season do.

[TC]: Not sure this is an award that many would admit to wanting, but who was the biggest LAD at Falcons?

 [RV]: Daz ‘Ultimate Lad’ Fearn.

[TC]: Who is the best roommate we know, forwards are usually the worst?

[RV]: It’s going to have to be Tim Swinson – he even brings his Butler.

[TC]: Who goes craziest on the town, usually ending up in trouble? We all know at least one friend who can do the impossible on a night out?

[RV]: Luke Eves is pretty loose. Especially if his dad isn’t out.

[TC]: Can you tell us the funniest story from a team social that you know about happening at Falcons?

[RV]: On our end of season do last year we were all in teams of 5. One of the rules was there must be a ‘team steal.’ This usually means that someone in the team ‘borrows’ an ashtray or perhaps a glass from a bar. (Obviously it will be replaced).

Over the years some teams have done well, capturing a pub sign, brought along a local perhaps, but this year the records were re-written. As we sat in our last pub we had forgotten to acquire any item, so when we all looked around the room we all saw the same thing as our heads then turned back. The Piano! We sat for 15 minutes coming up with a plan, how to distract the staff, the exit route and then how to get it to the next pub. Needless to say, the plan was executed perfectly, until the landlord at the next pub had a phone in his hand saying it was the owner of the last pub, who had called the police. The piano found its way back pretty quickly.

 

[TC]: Love it, shame you couldn’t get a local in the piano; that would have been genius! Now this is a really important question and all the lads probably think they are going to win it, but who is the biggest ladies man at Falcons?

[RV]: Well, judging by our Gypsy Wedding outfits at the fancy dress, I’d have to say Chris Pilgrim was the biggest lady man.

[TC]: There have been a few interviews recently with your old Falcon’s boys. Would you like to hand out any extra awards to your teammates?

[RV]: Of course:

Media whore: Chris Pilgrim

Biggest rater: Luke Fielden

 [TC]: Now for some questions about yourself… I hear you are known in some circles as the “nause of the North.” Can you explain this and do you have any other nicknames?

[RV]: Owing to my nausiing nature, and name, I tend to be affectionately known as Vickernause. It’s a fair shout.

[TC]: You’ve had some great times with the England Sevens team. If the opportunity arose would you ever swap Premiership rugby for sevens full time?

 [RV]: If only that could happen…

 [TC]: Just call me mystic Meg. So Mr Vickerman, all the ladies need to know, well want to know, are you single or taken? My cousin actually was the one who prompted this question! (Sarah)

 [RV]: First time I have been asked since, but happily married!

 [TC]: It’ll never last…only kidding, sorry Sarah. So coming from Leeds originally, how did you find life further north, we hear you have a lot of travelling support?

[RV]: Newcastle was fun, I loved the city and the people and the clichés accepted there. My family do love to watch a bit of rugby – so on Christmas Eve there were around 20 of them at the game, and out that night.

 [TC]: That must have been nice! Falcons came very close to relegation last season, too close. Do you think they will be able to combat that this season?

 [RV]: I hope so. I’ll avoid further clichés and watch with interest in the coming months.

[TC]: Who are the players you look up to in rugby today?

[RV]: Most of them, I’m only 5’11″!!

 [TC]: ONLY?! Try being 5’2”!!

 [TC]: Where is your favourite ground to play in the world?

[RV]: I did enjoy most of the sevens stadiums we played in last time I featured in 2009, but the top one has to be the Cake Tin, Westpac Stadium in Wellington. The atmosphere was immense!

[TC]: Well thanks Rob for taking the time out to do the interview and giving your old teammates a good hammering. Good luck with the Sevens!

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