British & Irish Lions: A sneak peek at Rob Howley's first strategy meeting with the inside backs
But, considering that the midfield has a combined weight of 1,587 stones and then this secret coaching flipchart page our insiders have sent us, it all becomes very clear.
Given this plan, whoever plays 10 has clear instructions to let the monsters do their work, and so will only have the ball for 42 seconds in any given eighty minute game, thus avoiding being tackled and the possibility of injury.
Genius in its simplicity.
British & Irish Lions: Squad analysis by your favourite rugby blog
After what seems like 37 years of interminable conjecture, intrigue, banality and pointlessness on the part of the rugby media and some fans, Warren Gatland has today finally put us all out of our misery and named the British & Irish Lions Squad to tour Australia. Let’s take it section by section...
Fullbacks - Halfpenny, Hogg, Kearney
Hard to argue with that. Unless both his legs fall off or he catches scurvy on the plane, Halfpenny will start the Tests with Kearney as backup. Hogg is there for the experience that his talent deserves, and given that the Kiwi Cuboid has only selected two fly-halves, it looks like he’s there to cover 10 as well
Wings - Bowe, Cuthbert, Maitland, North
Gatland loves a big winger, and each of these are over 15 stones. Maitland is a surprise, or more specifically him being in ahead of Tim Visser. This blog would’ve taken Visser, other than that I concur. That is all.
Centres – J Davies, O’Driscoll, J Roberts, Tuilagi
The most obvious issue is that there is only one recognised 12, so we can safely assume that the 12-13 axis will be a repeat of 2009, with Roberts & BOD filling the jerseys. But what if the 10 is getting hammered? There is no pressure relieving kicking outlet at 12, so if Roberts isn’t at his line-busting, offloading best, which he hasn't been regularly for a while, what’s the Plan B? I guess it’s the same as Plan A, only with Manu doing the BOOM-POP! carrying instead.
Fly-halves – Sexton, Farrell
No great surprise. The Cuboid has confirmed that Jonny said no to a tour invite, hence he’s not here. It would've been interesting to see if there had been three 10s had he said yes, but that’s as pointless a musing as it is academic now. Both Farrell and Sexton have talent, but are yet to convince with their consistency of temperament, but with Halfpenny likely on place-kicking duties, the pressure will be off slightly. Only slightly, though. Aussies will target this as a fragility.
Scrum-halves - Murray, Phillips, B Youngs
Phillips and Ben Youngs were always nailed on to tour, but as for Conor Murray.... I’ve made no secret of my view of young Conor; he makes poor decisions, turns quick-ball into slow ball and is more average than a government statistical benchmark; either one of the Scottish nines would've been a better shout.
Backrow - Croft, Faletau, Heaslip, Lydiate, O'Brien, Tipuric, Warburton (captain)
The Omission Of Robshaw, which is the first real shock of the squad, could end up as a TV drama, such is the interest in it among the mainstream media and those people in your workplace who normally pay no attention to rugby. With Warburton & Tipuric always likely to get the nod at seven, Robshaw was never going in that position, so this selection indicates that the Cuboid believes Tom Croft, Dan Lydiate & even Sean O’Brien to be better sixes than the England Captain. Expect much debate on this one. I blogged a little while back that I expected Dan Lydiate on the plane, and so it has proved. However, would any other coach than Gatland have taken him at this stage of his recovery and form? Doubtful.
Warburton as captain, given his accepted influence and impressive character, is less controversial than the fact that this means he’s starting the Tests, which many would not have gone for given what's gone before in 2013. Can’t help thinking this is aslso Gatland’s way of giving the two-fingered salute to, and re-asserting his seniority over Rob Howley.
Locks - Evans, Gray, Wyn Jones, O'Connell, Parling
Joe Launchbury can consider himself unlucky, but he’s young enough to have another chance. Richie Gray is picked on talent rather than form after an indifferent season, but Gatland had to get another Scot in here somewhere didn’t he? I’m glad for Geoff Parling, who has been consistent and classy on the quiet for a while, while the other three would’ve been on most people’s squad list yesterday. Test pair will be O'Connell plus one of the Welsh lads.
Hookers - Hartley, Hibbard, Youngs
What no Rory Best? An omission of Robshawesque proportions. However, at least Robshaw can offset his disappointment by telling himself there is some real quality in the backrow; Best on the other hand should be put on suicide watch when it sink in that someone thought Tom Youngs was better than him. TOM YOUNGS?!
Props - Cole, Healy, Jenkins, Jones, Stevens, Vunipola
Matt Stevens, who hasn’t played international rugby for a while is surely selected as he can play on both sides of the scrum. He also has the contacts to score nocturnal party product for the midweek team (allegedly). Ryan Grant will be upset, but Gatland has obviously seen something in Vunipola that he really likes. It seems that these props are picked without scrummaging ability as the main criterion.
Peeking inside the Wallabies' "logistics camp"
We know that Quade Cooper hasn't been invited to it, but we are still in the dark about what a "logistics camp" actually is. Wonder no more, our mole in the camp has shared the schedule with us.
Day 1: How to pack your kitbag efficiently, including specific workshop on those tricky spare boots.
Day 2: Getting to the team bus on time, a practical guide for the headphone wearing modern pro
Day 3: The Wal-Mart model of distribution planning and how it relates to line-outs
Day 4: Group exercise - Getting from Hillingdon to Liverpool Street via Alperton On the London Underground
Day 5: Michael Dell keynote speech "Why slow ball is killing your points profit margin, and how outsourcing your forwards to Malaysia will solve it"
Day 6: Group exercise - "five deliveries with only four vans" Problem solving exercise, followed by eye-wateringly tangential and patronising explanation about how this very much relates to how you can use your outside backs better.
Autumn Internationals: England 14 - 20 Australia
This result is no surprise. Not because of the form or selections of either of the teams, more that this week has seen the England Failure Equation (EFE) rear its ugly, quasi-mathematical head once more. Poor expectations of opposition + hopeful media + England = LOSS.
This loss was made all the more likely when you add the the English press hubris about the Rubbish Australian Scrum™, which is wrong in itself but also assumes incorrectly that England's is like a conglomeration of angry panzer tanks. It isn't.
Australia, far from a glorious outfit themselves, from the outset managed to find space that the home team were incapable of seeing or exploiting; regularly taking the ball to the line and hitting at pace and bullying England up front both in set piece and at ruck.
But, even given this, they were there for the taking. England showed enough in the second half to prove it but were let down by a lack of thought and precision when it mattered. They were too keen to hit the wide first receiver even when the defence was spread from the ruck, too often passes were slow or innacurate, and despite this they chose to go for tries rather than points at on key penalties.
Australia will rightly be glad that the team that turned up this week more accurately reflects what they are. The all too familiar worry for England fans is that this team is absolutely indicative of what they are at the minute.
They can only hope that the truth will set both them and Lancaster's management mob free. Then maybe the equation will change.
Chris Ashton to end try drought by utilising his greatest/hateful gift
Saracens kick chaser Chris Ashton is determined to end his run of nine England games without a try and intends to unleash his greatest weapon to achieve this.
"I know I've been letting the nation down by not scoring," said the East Midlands Hair Pulling champion today, "and against the Aussies I intend to refocus my strengths on getting the ball over the line."
Asked to give more details about how he will cross the whitewash, he responded, "No, I won't get over the line, the ball will. Instead of shouting utterly ineffectual chopsy insults at opposition who have already run past me, I'll instead use the powerful miasma of hot air from my constantly chunnering gob to propel the ball over the line, then Charlie Sharples will dive on it."
"I've checked, and it's not a knock on in the rules"
Preview: Autumn Internationals - Week 1
We're back and make no apologies for the short-lived nature of our retirement. That's all that's going to be said about that.
It's Autumn Internationals time; a time when European teams enter a form of rugby user acceptance testing before the go live system date of the Six Nations in February and Southern Hemisphere teams drag their arses around the globe after a long season to freeze their conkers off in games they'd probably rather not play but still usually win anyway. But that doesn't stop us fans from lapping it up.
England vs Fiji - 2:30 Saturday
Stuart Lancaster sends out an inexperienced team against the perennially entertaining tryers from the Pacific Islands. Despite being a hit by injuries, the home side should still have too much quality for a visiting side who have about as much support from their home union and clubs as a drunk man gets from his sleeping wife when he demands sex at 2am. It's a miracle they even turn up, really.
If the game's poor you can always sit and smile about the fact that not a single one of the England players will be James Haskell.
More previews after the jump....
Wales vs Argentina - 2:30 Saturday
This kick-off clashes with England vs Fiji, so the neutral will face the not so tough call of watching this game. Grand Slam champions Wales go into this fixture without Adam Jones, which in recent times has usually meant they effectively go in without a scrum - not a good thing against the Pumas. All eyes will be on the latest person tasked with filling the hairy void, Aaron Jarvis, and also on Rob Howley who many fans have not a great deal of faith in.
Argentina come off the back of a fitful but respectable first season in The PoundStretcher Rugby Championship but, like the toddlers of chav parents on a plane, they really don't travel well and Wales should see them off.
This game is also another opportunity for commentators to be become woozy with excitement about Juan Martin Hernandez before he plays like a third team show-pony. AGAIN.
Ireland vs South Africa - 5:30 Saturday
Ireland, still in that difficult transitional period that they seem to have been in for as long as anyone can remember face a South African team who had a pretty miserable Primark Rugby Championship. This blog is looking forward to having another look at Eben Etzebeth, the latest in the long line of Bok Locks who come out of the womb as a fully formed terrifying beast of a man.
Ireland's potential to come out of this transitional period well will be fully tested given the lack of six nailed-on starters through injury (O'Driscoll, O'Brien, Ferris, O'Connell, Best and Kearney). The best they can hope for is probably a decent performance as the Saffers should have too much for them.
Scotland vs New Zealand - 2:30 Sunday
Scotland are going to lose, but in Tim Visser and Henry Pyrgos there are a couple of new player to have a look at while they chase All Black shadows, so that's nice.
New Zealand Fall One Short of Record Winning Run
by Jack Hamshaw
New Zealand have produced some great times in their history but this current side must surely be up their with the best. Recently the All Blacks had the chance to equal the longest winning run in test history of 17 consecutive matches when they played Australia at Suncorp Stadium. New Zealand’s previous loss, 16 test matches ago, came at the same stadium.Live Rugby Scores
It was not meant to be for New Zealand and the irony came with Dan Carter, a player for the ages, missing a last-minute drop-goal from right in front of the posts, 20 metres out. The match ended in an 18-18 draw, in what was a super-human effort from an Australia side that were missing 10 first-team players and were down to their fourth choice captain.Rugby Odds
In the recent era New Zealand have been the outstanding team and it has been astonishing that they won their first world cup in 24 years in Auckland, last October. Having gone through the tournament not only undefeated but not even challenged until they almost bottled in the final, New Zealand have gone from strength to strength and won all 6 matches in the new Rugby Championship with alarming ease. It would have been fitting for them to reach and overtake the record for the longest winning run in world rugby. Currently in top tier rugby, the All Blacks side from 1969 and South Africans from 1998 hold the record but few would have argued that this side were not worthy.
Had they beaten Australia, they would have then marched to Europe looking to break the record before their captain Richie McCaw takes a 6-month sabbatical from the game. Early this season McCaw brought up his 100th test match victory. Not only is this a phenomenal effort but it is all the more staggering that it was achieved from 112 matches. McCaw is a true leader, one of the best players ever and a player 100% committed to his country. McCaw is not swayed by money as after being granted a 6-month sabbatical, he has not decided to take up lucrative offers in Japan or France but to take time out of the game to do his upmost to make sure that he is around to help the Kiwis defend their World Cup title in 2015. Whether McCaw makes it that far before his body gives in is anybody’s guess and a fair amount of luck but one cannot take away how much he has done for the game and for New Zealand rugby.
New Zealand are currently playing a level of rugby, which is so beyond anyone else in the world. The Crusaders got closest to this level a couple of years ago as did Leinster in winning back to back Heineken Cup’s. As good as the players are that New Zealand produce, their coaches are even better. Every successful side of recent years has had a Kiwi coach and it is no coincidence. The Crusaders side that won 7 Super Rugby titles in 10 years with Robbie Deans, Steve Hansen and Verb Cotter in charge. Wales won grand slams with Steve Hansen and Graham Henry in charge, Leinster have won 3 of the last 4 Heineken Cup’s with Kiwi Joe Schmidt in charge and Clermont won the Top 14 and look the greatest threat to the European Cup with Vern Cotter in charge. All these coaches bar Schmidt stem from the Crusaders and Canterbury region, without them the rugby seen today around the world would surely be totally different.
New Zealand are at a level with their game that no side has reached in recent history, they can play many styles and I know that they put in a poor performance against Australia but they didn’t lose. They will surely dominate World Rugby for years to come as besides McCaw, Mealamu and Andrew Hore none of their players are on the crisp of retiring and imagine if they had the world most talented player, Sonny-Bill Williams in the their side every week, scary isn’t it!
Rugby Video: Shane Williams retires almost perfectly, and yet does it perfectly. Much like his career.
This blog's opinion on the stature of Shane Williams and the impact of his exit has already been given; but today he retired in a way that was so nearly empirically perfect - the only thing missing was a win - but its falling just short mattered not. Spiritually it was perfect, and that is all we will and should remember.
He led out his team in front of a packed house of 72,000 adoring fans and a TV audience of many more from many nations, all equally in his thrall. He chokes back genuine tears as his anthem rings out like a regretful yet glorious peal of bells while Ryan Jones does a perfect south walian man's comforting strategy of patting him on the head once, and no more. He scores in the dying minutes, he then clutches his children in the post-match interview and humbly states, "I've had the best time of my life."
So have we Shane.
Watch this video and ask yourself, do you really give a shit who won or lost?
Rugby video: The legends talk about the Rugby World Cup finals.
Scott Quinnell pulls no punches about France here.
For more insights and analysis from the Heineken Ambassadors into Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand, please visit www.thisisthegame.com.
Rugby World Cup, Semi Final Preview: New Zealand vs Australia
As a rule this blog doesn't believe in fairy tales.
Such yarns demand a suspension of disbelief beyond even that required to accept Matt Banahan as a World Cup rugby player. But, there is one such story that, if you were to have told it some 24 years ago, it would have been roughly as plausible as that one about England becoming good. And so it was that the tale of the All Blacks only winning one world cup did come to pass....
Can they sort it out this time? This blog has nothing to offer but conjecture.
Even without Carter, New Zealand should win this game. They are at home, they are dead good and stuff, and they have Dagg, Nonu and McCaw.
On the other hand; they tend to lose at around this time in the Big CUp. And ,if anyone can balls it up for them it's Pocock and the Aussies, who have taken pissing on All Black chips to such an art form that the Tate are looking seriously at it as an installation in some godawful museum somewhere next year.
But, surely the AB's will sort it this time?
B&M Prediction: All Blacks by 5
New Zealand: Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Richard Kahui, Aaron Cruden, Piri Weepu, Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Owen Franks, Sam Whitelock, Brad Thorn, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (captain), Kieran Read.
Replacements: Andrew Hore, Ben Franks, Ali Williams, Victor Vito, Andy Ellis, Stephen Donald, Sonny Bill Williams.
Australia: Kurtley Beale/Adam Ashley-Cooper; James O'Connor, Adam Ashley-Cooper/Anthony Fainga'a, Pat McCabe, Digby Ioane; Quade Cooper, Will Genia; Sekope Kepu, Stephen Moore, Ben Alexander, Dan Vickerman, James Horwill (capt), Rocky Elsom, David Pocock, Radike Samo.
Replacements: Tatafu Polota Nau, James Slipper, Rob Simmons, Ben McCalman, Luke Burgess, Berrick Barnes, Anthony Fainga'a/Rob Horne