Welcome back to our weekly news round up. This week there’s been so much going on that we’re not even going to try as hard as we usually do* to create a coherent theme and just hit you with whatever we think you might like.
(*i.e. not very)
It would be wrong to start without pausing for a moment to remember a man who made friends wherever he went, both on and off the pitch. There will be a minute’s silence before all games this weekend (which started at yesterday’s Super Rugby opener in Melbourne) and B&M will have a proper appreciation of the Australian second rower next week.
The tournament that considers ‘defence’ to be a dirty word started with the Blues thumping the Rebels 56-18. There were nine tries in total, a total we’ll be lucky to get in three Six Nations games this weekend. It’s rugby, Jim, but not as we know it.
Italy bring in Michele Campagnaro and Thomasso Allen for their game at Twickenham on Sunday. The presence of the Exeter centre means that, for the first time in living memory, Joe Marler won’t have the stupidest haircut on the pitch. We’re just wondering what dirt Allen has on Conor O’Shea, as otherwise the only explanation for his selection is that he isn’t Kelly Haimona.
Ireland return to something like full strength as Johnny Sexton replaces toddler-faced Paddy Jackson at fly half and Rory Best regains the hooker’s jersey after his dose of the squits in Rome. And in a move that will bring relief to any international referee worried that their hearing might be going, Peter O’Mahoney will be coming off the bench to chunter in their ears for the final stages of the game.
Although it is at least a sigh of relief this time. George North is fit and plays. Luke Charteris is fit but can’t displace Jake Ball and his Beard of Power, so has to be content with a place on the bench. Alex Cuthbert doesn’t even make the bench. That’s wins all round, really.
With Greg Laidlaw and Josh Strauss both invalided out of the Six Nations, Scotland have been forced into major changes for the visit of Wales. John Barclay takes over as captain, Ryan Wilson replaces Strauss and Punchy Ali Price gets the number nine shirt. There are a load of other changes, including Tim Visser replacing Sean Maitland in the key role of ‘Man standing on the wing wondering if Huw Jones will ever, ever, pass the ball’.
The New Sam Burgess
England have, as expected, rung the changes for Sunday’s game, with Ben Te’o the latest to fill the poisoned ‘converted from Rugby League’ centre position and Jonathan Joseph getting a weekend off. Elsewhere, Haskell becomes the third open side flanker in three games, Mako Vunipola can have a gentle trundle back to fitness from the bench and Johnny May and Jack Nowell swap again, with the former starting the game. Oh, and Danny Care gets a long-overdue start ahead of Ben Youngs – and no, we didn’t expect to be writing that ever again, either.
Bath pair Francois Louw and Kahn Fotuali’i both picked up two game bans, Louw for a tip-tackle against Harlequins on Saturday and Fotuali’l for punching in the same game (and no, we’re not going to make a ‘Wrath of Kahn’ joke here, we’re not that kind of website). Both got off relatively lightly compared to Sale coach Steve Diamond, who landed a six week ban for swearing at match officials not named Wayne Barnes. If anything proves that the RFU’s commitment to player safety in no way matches their commitment to not using bad words then it is the comparative length of these bans. What a bunch of…
The Traditional French Changes
Guy Noves‘ dedication to never playing the same team twice was greatly aided with three players being ruled out by injury – Invisible Damien Chouly has an ankle injury, Virimi Vakatawa a thigh strain and Mathieu Bastareaud a concussion. We don’t really care about the replacements, we just want to know WHAT THE HELL WAS BIG ENOUGH TO GIVE BASTAREAUD CONCUSSION?
Richard Cockerill‘s absence from coaching was a brief one. He will take over as head coach at Edinburgh at the end of the season. It’s just unfortunate that Leicester’s downward spiral makes it unlikely that the two sides will meet in Europe, thus depriving us of the sight of him screaming at both teams.
You’re Never Too Old
Think that your rugby days over? Let John Goldman put you (and me) to shame.