BONUS POINTS – Guaranteed (Almost) Lions Free

Warren Gatland reacts to the suggestion that Dylan Hartley could be the Lions' captain

We know it’s only Thursday, but as some of you will have plans for tomorrow* we thought we’d treat you to a little early reading.


The Warburton Thing

Just in case you’ve been distracted, the Lions’ touring party is announced next week – and the anticipated captain is a bit incapacitated. Sam Warburton – for it is he – picked up a knee injury playing for Cardiff which will keep him out for six weeks. Whilst all of the talk has been of the impact upon his Lions’ prospects, the real blow is for the Blues, whose season end he will miss.

It does create an interesting dilemma for Warren Gatland, though. With both of his potential leaders – Warburton and Alun Wyn Jones – carrying injuries, does he risk taking a captain with little game time under their belt, or does he try and find someone else? That’s problematic when the only other real candidate, Rory Best, isn’t guaranteed to be a starter. And he’ll want a leader who is able to stand being dropped on their head – and Warburton has plenty of experience when it comes to dropping people on their heads in New Zealand!


Gatland v Gatland

Just to get all of the Lions’ stuff out of the way, the opening match of the tour took on a more interesting hue this week, when the squad of players to face them in their opening game. The Provincial Barbarians have selected North Harbour fly half – and son of Warren – Bryn Gatland amid the 19 names announced by coach Clayton McMillan. That should make for an interesting family reunion.


Three Grenoble Players Charged With Rape

Rarely do we come across a story so serious that not even we try and make fun of it, but this is one of them. Three Grenoble players – Denis Coulson, Rory Grice and Loick Jammes – are accused of gang raping a 21 year old woman in a Bordeaux hotel. Three other players who were originally arrested with them were released without charge. Those accused face up to 20 years in jail if convicted – which they would, of course, richly deserve.


Sonny Bill’s Shirts

You can always rely upon Sonny Bill Williams to bring some accidental levity back into this column. Williams, who converted to Islam back in 2008, has been granted permission to wear shirts which do not advertise banks or alcohol. Which shows a strangely decisive approach for someone who famously struggled to decide which code of rugby, or indeed which sport, he wanted to play.


The Naughty Step

Australian prop Sekope Kefu is this week’s resident, having been banned for one game after picking up two yellow cards and a formal conduct warning within the first month of this year’s Super Rugby competition. That’s a record that it might take anyone a while to beat.


Crockett’s Record

Despite sounding like a displaced sheriff from the wild west, Kiwi prop Wyatt Crockett will this weekend set a record for the most Super Rugby appearances. His 176th game will see him beat the record of another All Black legend, Keven Mealamu.


Another Family Oddity

Crockett will be taking his place in a Crusaders team which will feature Seta Tamanivalu on one wing and Manasa Mataele on the other. Tamanivalu is Mataele’s uncle.


Luke Fitzgerald’s A Brave Chat

The former Irish winger this week took a pop at one of rugby’s most sacred cows, Nigel Owens. He complained that some of Owens’ comments to players are unfair, because the players can’t answer back. Well, Luke, one of you is regarded as being pretty much the best in the world at what he does, and is often very funny to boot, whilst the other is an injury-prone numpty who’s a danger to golf clubs. We’ll leave you to decide which is which.


The Exit Door

Three more players announced the end of their careers this week. Former Wales scrum half Mike Phillips will bow out at the end of the season, as will ex-Scotland captain Kelly Brown. Leicester and Argentina prop Marcos Ayerza is less fortunate, as injury has forced him to call time with immediate effect. The game will be poorer – and in Phillips’ case a good deal quieter – without them.


Richard O’Hagan


(*also known as ‘we have plans for tomorrow, involving hot cross buns, fish curry and not moving from the sofa too often’)