Rival bosses united in criticism
Rival bosses Nigel Davies and Mike Ford were united in their criticism of the officiating in an ill-tempered Aviva Premiership West Country derby between Gloucester and Bath at Kingsholm. While Bath narrowly came out on top in an 18-17 victory decided by a converted 79th minute penalty try, referee Tim Wigglesworth will make the majority of the headlines for his handling of the game, not least his decision to enforce uncontested scrums during a volcanic second half.
Gloucester walked off the pitch at the end of the match with only 11 players after Sila Puafisi and Tavis Knoyle were handed second half red cards, with Mike Tindall and Huia Edmonds also ending their afternoons early with late yellow cards. Bath were hardly innocent in the afternoon’s events, with three of their players picking up yellow cards on their way to an important win.
Following replacement Puafisi’s dismissal for pole-axing Nick Abendanon, Gloucesterran out of tight-head props after arguing that Dan Murphy’s lack of tight-headexperience made contested scrums too dangerous. That decision was one of many that may have played a part in Wigglesworth appearing to have plastic drinks bottles thrown at him as he made a speedy exit down the players’ tunnel at the end of the incident-strewn 80 minutes that had plenty for bet365 in-play fans to digest.
SHIT/GOOD™ Ratings: Aviva Premiership, Round 19
Tavis Knoyle - The hair alone is a court marshall offence, but to fling punches at a time when your team already have a man off and some in the bin is stupider than a Lievremont teamsheet. As reckless as Sila Puafisi's windpiping of Nick Abendingdongdanon was, at least it was actually something to do with the game situation at the time. Knoyle it seems just fancied replicating the drums from "In The Air Tonight" on an opponent's head just for a daft laugh.
Bath - There is a significant gap in the table between Bath and Gloucester, so they should win relatively comfortably. When you factor in that Gloucester had so many players out of action their defensive line looked like a scene from Apocalypse Now, only without guns, then it's staggering that they made such hard work of it.
New European Cup finally set for go-ahead
by Graham Stevens
So a resolution to the long-running European Cup saga appears to have been found and Saracens chief Edward Griffiths has hailed the new set-up, believing it is a “win-win” situation for the countries, players and fans involved.
But why has it taken so long to reach a satisfactory conclusion?
The Heineken Cup (check the current Betfair odds for this year here) is set to be replaced by a new competition and will be run by company based in Switzerland, as opposed to the current Dublin-based European Rugby Cup (ERC) group.
The tournament will feature teams from all of the Six Nations countries and, according to reports,will be played alongside a challenge cup and developmental tournament. It has been trimmed down to 20 teams from 24, with six qualifying from the English Premiership, six from the French Top 14 and seven from the Pro12 and, in a bid to appease those from different countries, at least one Scottish, Welsh, Irish and Italian side will be guaranteed a place in the tournament.
SHIT/GOOD™ Ratings: Heineken Cup Quarter Finals
The computer has spoken and demands that you speak also in the comments. Consider yourselves told.
Shane Jennings - Toulon, in case you haven't noticed, are quite a handy side. Beating them in their own house is therefore a difficult task, even for a team as accomplished as Leinster. This task was made a great deal more difficult by Jennings giving away three penalties and 9 points.
Jared Payne - Some would say he was unlucky, some would say he had his eyes on the ball the whole time, some would say he's not the kind of player to deliberately injure someone. The computer wouldn't say any of those things, and if it did, he would add the caveat that those statements, even if true, are irrelevant. Payne was reckless. Also, when was the last time you saw a full-back challenge for a high ball against an onrushing opponent without jumping for it?
Video: Heineken Rugby Show with O'Driscoll & D'Arcy
Video: Welcome to The North Face
Crap Lookalikes: French hooker / Bee Gee
SHIT/GOOD Ratings: RBS 6 Nations SHIT Team of the Tournament
15. Brice Dulin - SHIT kicking, check! SHIT positioning, check! Running into own player in 3 square miles of open field vs Scotland, check!
14. Liam Williams - had a cracking game vs Scotland as a full-back, but his displays on the wing lacked more composure than an undergraduate seminar presentation.
13. Mathieu Bastareaud - The fact that people were surprised that he looked like a human being with functioning limbs vs Ireland says everything about what went before. If you were to list everything that is required of an French international centre he would fail on every criterion apart from "French"
12. Gonzalo Garcia - Tackled well enough, like many Italy players, but all the craft and attack of a jar of pickled cabbage.
11. Sean Lamont - "Lamont, looking to use his power" says the commentator often. This is usually followed by Lamont taking an age to get up to ramming speed of about 7mph and then turning the ball over in contact.
10. Rhys Priestland - Fly-half, while a pivotal position, is not a complicated one. You receive the ball; decide whether to kick, run or pass; then execute those skills competently. Priestland currently can't do any of these things.
9. Jean-Marc Doussain - Oh how France missed Morgan Parra. But they would've missed him a lot less if this lummox had been kept out of it. Replaced the generally decent Machenaud vs Ireland, which is a bit like replacing your heart with a whoopee cushion attached to a bicycle pump.
1. Gethin Jenkins - Magnificent achievement in getting so many caps, but could the new scrum laws be too much of a struggle at this stage of his career.
2. Ross Ford - Can't hook, and that's not meant in a "not very good at hooking" way, he literally can't hook. His throwing in is so lacking in direction that the SRU are considering putting ice hockey style plexiglass around the Murrayfield pitch to protect children in the crowd.
3. Lorenzo Cittadini - Castro he ain't
4. Luke Charteris - Runs like a giraffe attempting a cartwheel, and poor at lineout time, which should be a no brainer for him.
5. Marco Bortalami - All the experience in the World. It didn't help.
6. Dan Lydiate - Had good tackle stats, but is on the SHIT side of the line for going missing against Ireland, and then reappearing at some point in the game to knock-on and give away a supertanker full of penalties.
7. Bernard Le Roux - This blog was looking forward to seeing this fella at the beginning of the tournament; when we saw the dreck he served up we wanted to unsee him.
8. Louis Picamoles - Horrible tournament from him in the normal, playing run of things, and when you add on his sarcastic clapping of the ref then it takes it to an entirely new level of filth.
SHIT/GOOD Ratings; RBS 6 Nations GOOD Team of the Tournament
15. Mike Brown - Such was the utter dominance of his brilliance the computer refused to to analyse any other data, instead simply flashing up the "NO BLOODY POINT, MATE!" Error when attempting to download it.
14. Andrew Trimble - Never gets much of a mention, which has been true of all of his Ireland career. Often seen as stopgap while supposedly more talented players like Earls, Bowe and Fitzgerald make their way back. Proved in this tournament that he's far more classy than people have ever given him credit for. Before anyone says Huget should be in here, no he shouldn't, because the computer is the final arbiter of these things, and it's best not to argue.
13. Luther Burrell - Some players, even with plenty of talent, simply don't take to international rugby, as the likes of Henry Paul and even Nick De Luca have discovered. Burrell is quite talented, but has taken to the highest level like a drunk man to chicken vindaloo.
12. Gordon D'Arcy - No inside centre had a stormer, and the computer was tempted to stick O'Driscoll or Campagnaro in here, but the S/G Ratings will not tolerate liberties being taken with positions. There is a case to be made for Roberts or Twelvetrees, but Ireland won the tournament, and D'Arcy was an efficient contributor to that win.
11. George North - In a dismal campaign for Wales he was still a threat, and his searing in-out-in at full pace to score one of his tries against Scotland was wonderful to see a man of his size execute.
10. Owen Farrell - Possibly due to Twelvetrees relieving some pressure, the pan-faced Wiganer matured into an efficient and effective game manager that will do the job. Frankly, that's what most people want their ten to do, just ask Wales fans.
9. Danny Care - The blog and the computer have not been his greatest fan down the recent years, but this tournament has been his coming of age. Gone are the ridiculous decisions that marred many of his previous performances, replaced by clear thinking and the kind of zip that England have lacked since Dawson's time.
1. Cian Healy - A few years back, he was seen as a centre who was forced to pack down and invariably did a very bad job of it. Now, there is not a tight-head in the world that fancies facing him.
2. Rory Best - Why not Dylan Hartley? Well, Best did everything Hartley did apart from give a shitload of points away in penalties and attempt utterly brainless three man miss-passes regularly. That's why not Hartley.
3. Tom Ross - Completes the all-Ireland front row, because when it mattered they did the business.
4. Joe Launchbury - Took his Lions disappointment and used it to apply himself to becoming one of the best and most mobile locks in the Europe, if not the world. And he's still only 22.
5. Courtney Lawes - Stuart Lancaster is to be credited for harnessing this talent correctly. For too long the Saints man was trying to hard to be some kind of enforcer, and ended up penalised too often or injuring himself like a spanner in the midst of some hard man act. Now he's focusing on simply playing very well, he is doing just that.
6. Peter O'Mahoney - Stand out blind side in a tournament that had plenty of good ones, Wood and Furno in particular. Relentless in tackle and at breakdown. Equally relentless with his referee yap, but we can overlook that for now.
7. Chris Robshaw - Played his part in a good England tournament, carried and tackled hard and tirelessly, also integral to Care's decisive try vs Ireland
8. David Denton - Harsh on Billy Vunipola, but in a miserable cause the Scot was indomitable. Had to deal with ridiculous selection policies, barmy substitutions and a home pitch resembling the first day of the Somme. Still he kept running and hitting and covering.
The Official Brian O'Driscoll Farewell Rugby Venn™
The great man is shuffling off the international coil, so we thought it best to honour him in the only way we know how, via science, sarcasm and diagram.