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.
SHIT/GOOD™ Ratings Special: Mick Cleary's British & Irish Lions Team selected before the RBS 6 Nations
Attention was drawn this week to Telegraph rugby journo Mick Cleary's stab at picking a Lions Test team after the Autumn Internationals but prior to the start of the Six Nations. Below is the XV he put forward, which you can see in pictorial format with Mick's explanations here (SHIT/GOOD™ Ratings of selections added below by the famous B&M Computer)
1. Alex Corbisiero - SHIT
2. Tom Youngs - SHIT
3. Dan Cole - SHIT - "The best tight-head in world rugby" said Cleary, apparently with a straight face.
4. Joe Launchbury - SHIT
5. Geoff Parling - GOOD
6. Tom Wood - GOOD
7. Chris Robshaw - SHIT
8. Jamie Heaslip - GOOD
9. Ben Youngs - SHIT
10. Jonny Sexton - GOOD
11. Craig Gilroy - GOOD
12. Brad Barritt - SHIT
13. Manu Tuilagi - SHIT
14. Tim Visser - GOOD
15. Leigh Halfpenny - DOUBLEPLUSGOOD
If Cleary were here in the B&M Basement, he would no doubt argue that this team was picked after the Autumn Internationals and based on the form shown in those games. Or, to put it another way, "England beat the All Blacks, so they must be ace! Stick nine of them in the Test team!" Which is, frankly, unforgivably lax journalism from someone who makes a living from writing about rugby.
Some will point out that others selecting Lions teams after the Six Nations are equally guilty of Cleary's sin of basing their selection solely on the last game; but they would be wrong. Wales players are plentiful in the current Lions forecasts not simply because they hammered England, but because many have already played Lions Tests, they have won back-to-back Championships, excelled in a World Cup, and not one of them is Brad Barritt or Tom Youngs.
Moreover, the Welsh players are, and were always likely,to start a Lions Test; unlike so very many of Cleary's lot, which reinforces why the above XV is so stupid.
This nonsense also justifies this blog's decision to avoid this endless, pointless Lions Selection Merry-Go-Round until last week. Which is nice.
British & Irish Lions: To Dan Lydiate, or not to Dan Lydiate?
Following Dan Lydiate's return from injury last Friday, Dragons coach Darren Edwards has said that the flanker has enough time to get ready for the British & Irish Lions Tour this summer.
"A month is enough time for a player of Dan's quality to prove himself worthy of a Lions spot," said Edwards, and while this is obviously a case of a regional coach using the media to motivate his own player for his own reasons, does he have a case? Is simply being fit all that Lydiate needs to find himself on the plane?
Wales's 2012 Grand Slam saw Lydiate - in the most successful use of the quiet/loud approach since The Pixies wrote songs - quietly go about his outstanding and destructive work until at the end he was loudly praised, bellowed at by the Player Of The Tournament award and the Lions Tour Betting was all on him being the starting Test six. Then he got broken.
Leaving aside his talent for a second, there is the question of whether recently-mended players should be taken on Lions tours at all. Clive Woodward selected the undercooked Jonny Wilkinson in 2005 and we all know how that ended. But Lydiate is not in the pivotal 10 position, and Gatland will select on fitness and form rather than cravenly select a team of his old mates as Clive did. If fit and firing, Dan should not be excluded because he has not played international rugby for a season through injury.
The Lions are struggling for an obvious six, a fact illustrated by the many, including this blog, selecting Chris Robshaw as the Test blind-side despite the England captain playing seven for club and country. If the Lions want a proper six, then Robshaw's form and natural attributes put him above the other candidates who played the final weekend of the Six Nations: Warburton, Rob Harley, Tom Croft, Peter O'Mahoney and whichever spare body Ireland ended up sticking in there after half the country got injured in the second half vs Italy. Ryan Jones didn't play that weekend, of course, and he could be the one that all putative Test blind-sides must oust from contention.
For this blog the Test back row is; Tipuric at breakaway, Faletau at 8, and then perm one from Ryan Jones, Robshaw and Lydiate.
Whoever gets the Test jersey, Dan Lydiate should be down under come June.
I await your cogent disagreement in the comments.
bloodandmud.com News: You are now allowed to talk about the Lions on the blog
As you know, there has been a blog-wide ban on mentioning, discussing or analysing the Lions tour as I didn't want to be yet another media outlet constantly speculating about selection and the like when we hadn't even finished the premier international tournament in the Northern Hemisphere.
However, with the 6 Nations now over, you can all now scream from the rooftops about this summer's tour should you wish to. I will contain myself to doing a quick and dirty team selection. Let's have yours in the comments.
bloodandmud.com Lions XV (subject to change, probably on a weekly basis, hence we've avoided it thus far)
1. Gethin Jenkins
2. Rory Best
3. Adam Jones
4. Ian Evans
5. Jim Hamilton
6. Chris Robshaw
7. Justin Tipuric
8. Toby Faletau
9. Mike Phillips
10. Jonny Sexton
11. George North
12. Jamie Roberts
13. Brian O'Driscoll
14. Chris Ashton. Tim Visser.
15. Leigh Halfpenny
Warren Gatland loudly cackles while he burns the Flag of St George
Warren Gatland, the coach in charge of the Summer tour that this blog will not mention until March 16, livened up a press conference today by burning the national flag of England while performing a maniacal, cartoon villainesque laugh.
As staff extinguished the flames, the Kiwi explained that it was a piece of performance art meant as a critique of the media's slavish and perverted devotion to reporting incidents related to England Rugby.
"You guys are obsessed with England and their antics off the field, particularly when abroad", the box-headed "L" Word Tour coach said, "So I did this to show that I am clever and irreverrent, but also to turn a mirror on yourselves so that you may think before you go to the presses tomorrow or your digital front-end today about your approach and tone regarding England."
He then slapped a bulldog full in the face.
Commenting on Gatland's stunt, journo Paul Ingwageforagraduate said, "This is brilliant! Up to now the Lions has all been about endless selection conjecture, details of flight times and Bill Beaumont's jowls. I normally have to create 500 words of copy out of quotes so boring they could make a man shit concrete, but this writes itself. And it's about England!"
Gatland was said to be disappointed with initial soundings about whether the room grasped his concept. "The England player's will get it, won't they? Eh? Oh...."
Panic as British & Irish Lions documentary swearing likely to be down by 50%
The news that Shaun Edwards will not tour with the Lions next summer has been met with raised eyebrows among fans and media alike. But this is nothing compared to the all out panic at the head office of the Lions documentary production company.
Head of Flyonthewallness, John Sturgeon, said, "We knew with Shaun there that we would not have to worry about keeping up the quotient of the word 'Cunt' that the viewing public expect. Now he's not going we have to look elsewhere for this, and we're just praying that Andy Farrell is as prevalent with the potty mouth and scowling as his former team-mate"
Lions fan, Paul Flaps, commented, "Given that I'm probably going to have to put up with Chris Ashton's chuntering and so-called comedy quips all the way through the doc, I was banking on Shaun to stop me wanting to ram kebab skewers in my eye and ear cavities."
"This news, coupled with the likelihood that Haskell will be called up as injury cover at some point is enought to make a bloke start watching football."
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The Exit Lounge: Martyn Williams
Beyond singing at a karaoke night in a busy pub, your author has not had many brushes with fame. However, one night a decade or so ago I ended up spending a couple of hours with Martyn Williams during a night out - occasioned by me being out with a mate who knew him and bumping into him in a private room in a Cardiff club. One of the lovely things about rugby in Wales is that this is not that unusual an occurence.
I only mention this event as it gave me a chance to get close to the 99-cap man. The most remarkable thing about him is how unremarkable he looks and behaves. Quietly spoken, humble, not particularly big, receding copper hairline, conservatively dressed - if you didn't know who he was you would never guess he was a genuine rugby great. Those of us in the know are well aware that this is exactly what he is.
Martyn reaffirmed your love of the game every time you saw him play; canny at the breakdown, comfortable in the loose, vision of a fly-half, bravery of the hardest of forwards, he could even kick - the type of player we all wished we could be. It is testament to him that one of the few reasons I would criticise Ian McGeechan is for his selection of David Wallace ahead of Williams on the 2009 Lions tour of South Africa. When fit, the Welshman was the best seven in Britain & Ireland, there was no debate.
Ever humble, Williams said in an interview with Paul Rees today "When I look at the likes of Sam Warburton and Justin Tipuric contesting the seven jersey, I am glad I started when I did: I am not sure I would win a cap now." I'm sure he would, and so is everyone else that saw him perform.
This greatness is about to retire, and with his swansong for Cardiff Blues denied by injury Wales have a chance to do the right thing and select him for the Barbarians match later in the summer, which would allow the Wales fans to say a farewell and him to reach 100 caps.
If anyone deserves such an indulgence it is Williams; the fact he does not expect it and would not seek it is all the more reason to give it to him.
"What Would McGeechan Do?" Genius t-shirt
There are many rugby shirt companies out there, but very few that capture the true banter of the game we all love. New entrants to the market dumpTackle.com are doing their level best to get there, and succeeding in the main so far.
My personal favourite is the design you see above, which most British & Irish rugby fans can empathise with I think. Have a squint at it in more detail here.
Lions to play Barbarians in Hong Kong as build up to Australia 2013
It may be only a year or so since that humdinging British Lions series in South Africa, but the rarely idle Lions machine is already churning out news related to the Australia tour in 2013.
The big news today is that the Lions will once again be sponsored by HSBC, although it seems that in today's Orwellian world, sponsors are now called "Principal Partners". Perhaps because of the tie-in with the Hong Kong based bank, the Lions will also play a match in the former colony for the first time in their history, playing the Barbarians in the tour curtain raiser.
Also, Andy Irvine will be the tour manager for the trip Down Under, taking over from Gerald Davies who has assumed the role of Chairman of British Lions Limited (no, I didn't know such a company existed either).
There were lots of quotes from lots of HSBC bosses and past & present Lions players about how brilliant this all is. I'm sure you can guess the tone of them so I won't make your soul cry by regurgitating them here.
Review: Lions 2009 - Living With The Pride
The good people at Lace have given your favourite rugby blog a sneak look at the new two-disc Lions documentary before its release on 19th October and here's our view of it.
"Lions tours are special, and to be a Lion in South Africa is even more special." these were the words spoken by Ian McGeechan in the opening to 1997's "Living With Lions", perhaps the most seminal sports documentary ever made. And, while it's impossible for anything to have the impact of the original, when the Lions defied the rugby odds, this is the same coach in the same country 12 years later, so expectations are high.
The documentary has everything we have come to expect: rousing speeches, players' off-the-field shenanegans, confessional player-cams, and a peek inside the changing room on matchdays, all of which remain as moving and entertaining as ever. One big addition in 2009 is a peek into selection meetings where we see the management team wrestling with the same selection issues as all of us; this footage really brings home how heavy the responsiblity lies on them and the agonies it causes McGeechan in particular
Stars of the show are Donncha O'Callaghan, a fabulous tourists and genuinely warm and funny bloke; the kitman "Rala" O'Reilly and his eccentricities; Andy Powell, perpetually having the piss taken out of him; conditioning coach "Bobby" Stridgeon and his comedy videos; and in his own way Shaun Edwards. The Wasps and Wales coach smiles approximately zero times in three hours of footage, uses the "C" word liberally, and the very personal rage he feels at every conceded try crackles from the screen.
One criticism is that there is very little reaction to Ronan O'Gara's infamous boot-and-chase in the dying moments of the second Test, other than Shaun Edwards' very apt shout from the touchline in the immediate aftermath. Given that this was arguably the defining moment of the whole tour it is a glaring omission.
As expected, the heart of it all is McGeechan. His passion for rugby and the Lions in particularly cannot fail to raise the emotions as you watch, and while at no point does he shout, the authority and respect he commands is palpable. For those who maybe felt that the third Test was an irrelevance, something not worth sports betting on, or perhaps question the whole Lions project, I invite you to watch Geech's speech on the eve of that final Test and what happens to him afterwards
The worry with this documentary, now in its fourth iteration, is that it may stray into being repetitive of the others, and while there is certainly some of that here, there is more than enough compensation from the new features and the openness that was lacking in 2001 and 2005. Moreover, these documentaries have always been less about any gimmicks and more about great characters, games and scenarios - there is plenty of all three here. The doc - like the tour - is painful, funny, heart-breaking yet ultimatey inspirational and I loved it. Any and every rugby fan will
Disc 2 Extras: Training Sessions, Speeches, More Player-Cams, Fan-Cams. The training sessions are great as you can see each specialist coach working with the players.