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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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!

Follow Tori Chipp on Twitter

Follow Rob Vickerman on Twitter

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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