On the retirement of James Simpson-Daniel
Watch the Sinbad magic from the 1 minute mark
Bobby Robson, the great gentlemen of English football, was once asked for a comment about Ian Rush, the great Wales striker in the 1980s. His response was, "I wish he was English", which told you everything about how highly he rated the Liverpool man.
This is how it should be, often fans look from afar at players of other nationalities and think, "if only he was one of ours".
However, this blog often wished that James Simpson-Daniel wasn't English, because as a rugby fan first I wanted to see him play at the highest level. Had he been from any other nation in Europe he would've had a sackful of caps and his premature retirement would be greeted with reverence, rather than the the "what could have been" tone of much of the coverage.
SHIT/GOOD™ Aviva Premiership Preview
The season is upon us. The computer has put down its Pina Colada, applied aftersun generously and quickly deleted from Facebook that girl it met in Malia who now won't stop asking for "a meet up, somewhere halfway". To business.
Key to ratings: GOOD = better performance than last year. SHIT = worse than last year, or Haskell in the team.
Bath - Much talk is about Sam Burgess, and this blog has been very clear about the impact we think the big man will have, but it's ironically the smallest man in the squad who holds the key. George Ford was like a hybrid of Fred Astaire, Meadowlark Lemon and, er, Owen Farrell for most of last year, then he went all questionable big match temperament when it mattered near the end. If he can sort that, it should be a solid 4th and a shot at the title. GOOD
Exeter Chiefs - Chiefs fans must get very, very irritated with the borderline condescending coverage that they get from the media. It's all, "spirit" and "plucky" and all that when they are actually a decent rugby team that has put in better performances than many more feted sides for a few years. That said, they'll be solid only this year and proabably show some spirit and pluck at times before finshing roughly where they ended up last time out. SHIT
Brian Moore's Straight Insertion Consultancy Services
Ford tips Burgess for back-row switch
Bath head coach Mike Ford has tipped Sam Burgess to end up as a back-row forward when he makes the switch to rugby union, despite England bosses feeling the 25-year old is set for a career at centre. Burgess will switch from rugby league to union in October, making the move to the Aviva Premiership with Bath after spending four years in the NRL with the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Bath will start the season at around 8/1 with Betfair, but there are some who believe the signing of Burgess has put the club right in the title mix this year.
Bath and Wigan - a match made in heaven?
by Tom Roberts
On the face of it there are few similarities between the city of Bath in the South West of England and the Greater Manchester town of Wigan 200 miles north. Bath, famed for its Georgian architecture and hot springs, and Wigan, a gritty working-class town made famous by George Orwell, may appear to share little in common but their shared love of Rugby Union and Rugby League respectively has seen an unlikely bond form.
With Bath preparing for the start of the new Aviva Premiership season and Wigan enjoying a week off as Castleford and Leeds contested the Rugby League challenge cup final the two clubs came together for a joint training camp earlier this week. Feedback from both camps was positive and the two coaches, Mike Ford (Bath) and Shaun Wane (Wigan), former teammates at Wigan, have both shown an interest in extending the relationship. With the rivalry between Rugby Union and Rugby League as intense as ever, however, what can both sides hope to get out of working with each other?
Video: Jason Robinson talks Sam Burgess' union switch
The Burgess talk has been quiet for a little while, so here's St Jason Of Sidestep to kick off the discussion again. Let the conjecture based disagreements begin afresh!
Which referee will be built into this new rugby ball exactly?
According to reports, boffins in the US have invented a rugby ball that has a referee built into it, in that it can tell you whether it is grounded even if it cannot be seen under a pile of bodies. This is possible due to a combination of magnetic fields, dolphins and magic, I think.
Given this is all technological, do we get the chance to choose which ref is in the ball, like on some Xbox fantasy game?
You could have refs from the past in it and everything. Imagine Tony Spreadbury's west country brogue coming from under a pile of players saying, "Oi've jest been held up!", or Stuart Dickinson demanding to see the replay 485 times before telling himself he was in touch all along.
Alain Rolland could be brought back, a wittering Irish voice talking in French from under the pile-on leading to everyone standing and the ball looking clueless on telly, again.
Which refs do you want to see in the new ball? There's a question I never saw myself typing when I started this blog in 2007..
Video: Fiji international legends on Fiji's qualification for Rugby World Cup 2015
Video courtesy of Land Rover
European Rugby Champions Cup
by David Jones
The European Rugby Champions Cup is an exciting new rugby union club competition which gets underway in October of this year. This tournament is open to the top six nations in European rugby and will replace the long standing Heineken Cup.
Bookmaker Betfair are always quick to price up any rugby events, and they already have a market available for this Champions Cup. Betfair make the French side Toulon their 3/1 market leaders and they are one of six teams who are taking part and representing that nation. Toulon had been captained by England's Jonny Wilkinson until his recent retirement and they have been victorious in the Heineken Cup for the past two seasons. With that kind of track record, it's not hard to see why Betfair have put them in as favourites for this upcoming trophy, and it will be interesting to see if the French side can pull off an impressive hat trick of wins.
A total of 20 teams from around Europe will take part in this European Rugby Champions Cup and it begins with a round robin format, which will be followed by a knockout stage later in the competition. England will be represented by seven sides, with the top six teams in the Aviva Premiership as well as the London Wasps who won the 7th place playoff, all taking part. France will have six teams in the Champions Cup, whose participation will be based upon their performance in their Top 14. Finally, Ireland, Italy, Scotland & Wales will have seven sides in the event and they will qualify based on how they performed in the Pro12.
The twenty sides are seeded and then split into four different tiers, with the seeding based upon their most recent domestic rugby records. Teams that are representing the same nations are kept apart where at all possible, but there will be pools with more than one English and French side due to the number of teams involved from those countries. There are set to be five pools, each containing four teams, who will have to play each other both home and away. The winners of each pool plus the best three second placed sides will advance to the quarter final stage of the tournament.
While Toulon are the 3/1 outright favourites for the European Rugby Champions Cup, Betfair make Irish champions Leinster their biggest threat. The Boys in Blue as they are also known can be backed at two points bigger than Toulon, with odds of 5/1 available at betfair.com. Leinster are definitely one of the very best Rugby Union sides in the world and their record in European competition rivals that of Toulon. In 2012, Leinster won a record third European Cup in four years thanks to a 42-14 win over Ulster Rugby. This was the first final in the competition's history to feature two sides from Ireland and goes to show just how strong Irish rugby has become in recent years. As far as the English teams are concerned, Betfair have the Northampton Saints in at odds of 7/1, and they could well be England's best hope of winning this prestigious trophy. The Saints topped off a fantastic 2013-14 season by winning the Aviva Premiership following a 24-20 victory over Saracens in the final at Twickenham.
The 2014-15 European Rugby Champions Cup looks set to be a fantastic replacement for the long standing Heineken Cup. There are a number of top quality sides from all over Europe due to take part, and it will be a real achievement for whoever comes through this gruelling competition as champions.
Video: #33 "Dirty Knee" and whatever else rugby would make of bingo
Costa Bingo are educating the internet about the lingo used in bingo calls. Whatever your exposure the game of bingo, whether it be as a regular, walking past the bingo hall, or like this blog sat in the games room on your nan and grandad's static caravan site for hours years ago sipping Rola Cola while being asphysiated by cigarette smoke - we all know the big calls. "Legs eleven", "two little ducks", "kelly's eyes" are standards.
Here we have number 33, or "Dirty Knee" as it's alternatively known, which we'd never heard.
Rugby knows a lot about dirty knees, and plenty of other dirty parts of the body, apart from where your pants have been, because they always stays clean as a whistle, even on the muddiest days on the field.
This got us to thinking: what other related calls could be used in bingo? "two fat props" for 88, "Billy Twelvetrees" for 36, "back of the pack" number 8, "gobby little sod" number 9, "what goes on four, stays on four".