Should rugby games have a minute's silence for Margaret Thatcher?
bloodandmud.com's candidates for the Ireland job
Declan Kidney is gone and the IRFU are on the look out for a new head coach for the national team; a coach that can implement what is now surely the Ireland Transitional Period v3.0, the latest iteration in a soul-splinteringly long process. Here are this blog's obviously very serious suggestions.
Jeremy Davidson - Has a coaching CV more repellant to recruiters than one written in Comic Sans. However, Jeremy went from being a "meh" selection to Player of the Tour in 1997 Lions, so past form is nothing when it comes to what he can achieve. Also has a kindly face, speaks French and could wear Buzz Lightyear costume at press conferences to raise a nostalgic, Lions documentary laugh.
Martin Johnson - Won't stand on ceremony, literally. Face and attitude to serve as antidote to Kidney's friendly approach of smiling a lot of the time if IRFU want a change in PR. Crushing inevitability of his first selection being more moribund than an undertaker's 'to do' list if they'd prefer to maintain Declan's conservative transition approach. Outside chance of dwarf-throwing.
Mike Ruddock - Decent CV and chances of success; but this is likely to be followed by Jamie Heaslip ranting at George Hook on the TV in a dodgy brown leather jacket.
Trevor Brennan - Playing experience at home and abroad, has also run a bar for years so is well versed in people management. All of which he will ignore when he chins every single person in the squad and press within one hour of his appointment.
Ronan O'Fucking Gara - National treasure reaching the end of his playing career, already knows the squad, and most importantly will provide a rich seam of material for the likes of this blog. Just think, as a coach he could perfect his "banana cross-kick chip" tactic in the defensive 22; pioneer the "anti-blitz" defence, based mostly on falling over; and spend every press conference in a self-righteous, purple-faced funk. A shoo-in.
RBS 6 Nations 2013: GOOD Team Of The Tournament
1. Thomas Domingo - There was very little that was GOOD about France this year. Ironically one of the things that was GOOD was the little prop.
2. Richard Hibbard - Looks like an extra from Geordie Shore, but Wales have uncovered another tangerine gem here. Let's hope he doesn't go the way of the previous one
3. Adam Jones - You run out of superlatives with this fella. Hard to imagine this was the bloke who, ten years ago in the Steve Hansen days, played the first 20 minutes before being hauled off looking like a truck driver jogging wheezily towards a transport cafe. He's now more like the truck than the driver. A truck fueled with bionic piss.
4. Joe Launchbury - Lost the physical battle in Cardiff, but other than that a fine tournament for a 21-year-old with great promise. Good name as well.
5. Ian Evans - Another year, another momentous performance. Hard as nails.
6. Alessandro Zanni - Eclipsed Parrisse in the Italian back row. Performed with class, endeavour, strength and nous every week.
7. Justin Tipuric - It was a good tournament for sevens and the likes of Robshaw, Brown and even Sean O'Brien were in with a shout; but Tipuric is in because I like a seven to be a seven, and in this regard he excelled. Pacey, good at breakdown, made 42 tackles with a 96% success ratio and showed in Cardiff the craft that some centres dream of. Big nose, though.
8. Louis Picamoles - Second in the metres gained figures for the tournament, carrying for 351 metres, and the only forward in the top five. This achievement is all the more GOOD when you consider that the rest of the top five were all outside backs who get open pasture to run into on kick returns - Picamoles carried as far as them while smashing people out of the way.
9. Mike Phillips - Gets some stick for the speed of his service, but the rest of his game is good enough to forgive that.
10. Dan Biggar - the quiet achiever of the tournament. Helped by not having to place kick, but slotted one in Cardiff vs England just to take the piss.
11. George North - Decisive try in Paris, huge presence in other games.
12. Wesley Fofana - Most talented centre in the tournament, when finally allowed to play there of course. It could've been Jamie Roberts in here as well, to be honest, he seems to have found his mojo in the bottom of an old training bag.
13. Brian O'Driscoll - Horrible tournament for Ireland, but was his usual brilliant best and gets in a ahead of others because of the pass for Zebo's try in Cardiff alone.
14. Tim Visser - Tough call between him and Cuthbert, but I like the Scot's all-round game more.
15. Leigh Halfpenny - The player of the tournament. Outstanding since his move to fullback last year keeps getting better, culminating in this peerless performance. Anyone suggesting that Kearney should get the Lions shirt is either lying, blind or mad.
RBS 6 Nations 2013: SHIT Team Of The Tournament
1. Joe Marler - About as convincing as Danny Glover in a Gary Busey lookalike competition.
2. Dimitri Szarzewski - Not only had a poor tournament rugby-wise, but was also outgunned in the blonde locks department by Richard Hibbard.
3. Euan Murray - Even with God on his side he ain't very good.
4. Donncha O'Callaghan - Poor cameo in a poor tournament. Can't see him playing many more times in the emaerald jersey.
5. Richie Gray - Playing in the cess pool of SHIT that is the present form of the Sale team can't help, but his pre-injury form was not great.
6. James Haskell - Pioneering the role of the reverse-impact sub, and because it's the rules.
7. Thierry Dusautoir - To be honest, no sevens had a truly awful tournament, so Dusautoir is in for the being the worst of pretty decent bunch. BUt that still puts him in the SHIT category, because this rating system is as cruel as it is arbitrary.
8. Jamie Heaslip - Magnificent failure in his debut tournament as captain. Poor both individually and as a leader.
9. Maxime Machenaud - 1) He isn't Morgan Parra. 2) He's shite as well.
10. Freddy Michalak - All the talent in the world, unfortunately alloyed with the temperament of pigeon thrown amongst a shitload of cats
11. Benjamin Fall - Crap.
12. Brad Barritt - Not interested in talk about his bravery and organising, I want a 12 who can actually play rugby with the ball at international level.
13. Mathieu Bastareaud - It's no good being big and strong if you keep dropping the ball, and if you keep getting smashed on the gainline thus nullifying your big and strongness as well.
14. Chris Ashton - I still maintain, albeit as part of an ever dwindling number of people, that his actual play in the actual position he is meant to play in is not as bad as everyone makes out and that any winger would struggle to look GOOD outside this England midfield. His downfall is his defence, which he seems to be wilfully getting worse at, and his inability not to be a gigantic gobshite of a bellend all over the park when he should be concentrating on his bloody job.
15. Yoann Huget - Play as inexplicable as his hirsuteness.
SHIT/GOOD™ Ratings: RBS 6 Nations, Round Four
James Haskell - because it's the rules
Craig Joubert - Whistle tourettes, which he evidently had in the Scotland vs Wales game, is bad enough, but his constant lecturing of the front rows about how to scrummage was as ridiculous as it must've been infuriating for international rugby players. Awful.
Danny Care - I admit to once rating this fella when he was a young prospect, but he has consistently failed to impress at this level, especially on Saturday. And his haircut makes my eyeballs itch. I'd much prefer Lee Dickson, who I believe suffers in selection due to looking like a horse doing a cartwheel when he passes and so is not trusted by coaches, due to not looking "right".
Brad Barritt - In a tight game, he squandered a gigantic overlap and thus displayed the major problem with him that no amount of defensive bravery can cover up. His head down, blinkered approach to running in possession is an irredeemable flaw that no team with lofty international ambitions should incorporate.
Louis Picamoles - the big fella has been solid throughout the tournament, but against the Irish he was immense. Everything a class Number 8 should be: big, strong, quick, fit and with unkempt hair. All the best back-rowers in history had unkempt hair. Fact.
Alessandro Zanni - When it comes to Italy the media is either in a sex-clinch with Parrisse or talking in heroic terms about their front row's longevity and so Zanni is often overlooked. Has been consistent in his quality for years, but he took his opportunity to put Haskell in his place perfectly on Sunday.
Sam Warburton - I told you, didn't I?
Luke Marshall - While all the press attention has been focused on who is going to fill the ROFG shaped gap as the second choice 10, this fella has been excellent since his inclusion and is the real good news story of the latest version of the Ireland Transition Period™
As an aside, while I am not suggesting that Conor Murray was SHIT, I am mystified as to how he was seen as GOOD enough in the 60 minutes he played to get the MOM award? He seems to do a reasonable job, but too often turns quick ball into slow ball in every game he plays. Is it me? Comments on that, and everything else, welcome as always....
RBS 6 Nations: Has there ever been a worse crop of talent at fly-half?
The Six Nations is the caviar of Northern Hemisphere rugby. Sure, there are differing standards across the countries, but you can usually find some real quality in every position if you consider all six of the teams on the field in any tournament weekend. For a Luke McLean there's a George North, for a Yoann Huget there's a Stuart Hogg - there is always a SHIT/GOOD trade-off to be found in any position.
This weekend could see an end to this in the 10 shirt as the most underwhelming set of first receivers take the field since Arwel Thomas and Craig Chalmers started the same game in 1997.
With some teams still to be announced we can safely assume that the starting out-halves will be: Kris Burton, Toby Flood, Dan Biggar, Duncan Weir, Paddy Jackson and Francois Trinh-Duc. It's not exactly a vintage crop is it? This is a bit like the Grand National 2013 field being made up entirely of shire horses and retired beach donkeys with ne'er a thoroughbred in sight.
Many will say that Jackson and Weir have so little experience that it's unfair to judge them at this point, and while there is something in that, no-one can honestly say that they look like top-drawer talent. Biggar is so mediocre that most were genuinely surprised that he managed to put two acceptable performances together recently, and Flood and Trinh-Duc are talented but not of a level that makes fans cheer their selections or their play. Kris Burton is just plain awful, but awful is relative when the other bloke is Luciano Orquera.
If this is the caviar, then imagine what the fish fingers would look like.
Is this the worst crop of tens you've seen, or am I being too harsh? You're invited to fill the comments with your wisdom...
SHIT/GOOD™ Ratings: RBS 6 Nations, Round Three
Ronan O'Fucking Gara - It's like the Gods of fortune aligned perfectly for this blog on Sunday - I should've got myself down to the bookies as all my bets on the 6 Nations would probably have won. First he was benched behind a 12 year old from Ulster, then he came on to sort the game out and executed the most brainless cross-kick since a caveman tried to kick a boulder with no shoes on, then he threw the terrible pass on Ireland's last attack that caused the knock-on to end the game. My wife made me sleep on the sofa as I was still giggling at 2am
Phillipe Saint-Andre - He's becoming something of a fixture here isn't he? Took a team that was performing perfectly well and put Michalak in it. Says it all really.
Italy's front row - In the midst of years and years of backs who swung between dull to downright useless, the one thing that always held firm, literally, was the front row. On Saturday's evidence this is no longer the case.
James Haskell - Because it's the rules
Manu Tuilagi - Line breaking power is well known, but the direct comparison with Bastareaud on the pitch showed how he has so much more. Good in contact, defence and a fair bit of pace as well
Morgan Parra - So good to have him back. Ran everything good about the French performance with his usual languid insouciance. Until his fool of a coach took him off (see above) Special mention to Louis Picamoles also, who was immense in a losing fight and showed England what they are missing at the base of the scrum.
Dan Biggar - Two solid performances from the Wales 10. He's not the most talented player in the world, but does that really matter if someone is doing the job? After all, James Hook is talented and I'm struggling to remember when he last made any positive impact on an international match.
Jim Hamilton - Magnificent work in the lineout and the loose from the big lock.
That's mine, give us yours in the comments.
RBS 6 Nations Round 3 Preview: Scotland vs Ireland, Murrayfied, Sunday 14:00
Scotland were quietly impressive even when losing at Twickenham, and more loudly impressive in their hammering of and admittedly poor Italy two weeks ago. Obviously, impressive is a relative term, and in relation to the Autumn they had, running in the correct direction on field would be impressive, but even so, they look a team binding together and getting much better.
Ireland are something of an enigma. Great for fifty minutes in Cardiff, timid ever since, so their form is hard to predict, especially given the number of enforced changes. However, the change that has many sniggering or worrying in equal measure is the unenforced one - Paddy Jackson coming in for ROFG. As much as this blog loves a bit of O'Gara related schadenfraude, it has to be said that he has been a good performer for Ireland and this could be the biggest call of Kidney's tenure thus far. Ireland must win this game, and he's not only dropped his most experienced 10 but also the man selected is also not the best option according to many Irish fans and commentators.
Ireland have rudderless feeling to them going into this game and a Scotland performance like the one they put in against Italy should be enough to see the home side to victory.
B&M Prediction: Scotland by 6
Spotter's Badge: Commentators wax about the steadying benefits of O'Gara's intoduction off the bench and then he sends his first kick-off into touch on the full
Scotland Hogg (Glasgow); Maitland, Lamont (both Glasgow), Scott, Visser (both Edinburgh); Jackson (Glasgow), Laidlaw (Edinburgh); Grant (Glasgow), Ford, Cross (both Edinburgh), Gray (Sale), Hamilton (Gloucester), Harley (Glasgow), Brown (Saracens, capt), Beattie (Montpellier).Replacements Hall, Welsh, Low, Kellock, Pyrgos, Weir (all Glasgow), Evans (Castres), Denton (Edinburgh)
Ireland Kearney (Leinster); Gilroy (Ulster), O'Driscoll (Leinster), Marshall(Ulster), Earls (Munster); Jackson (Ulster), Murray (Munster); Court, Best(both Ulster), Ross (Leinster), O'Callaghan, Ryan, O'Mahony (all Munster), O'Brien (Leinster), Heaslip (Leinster, capt). ReplacementsCronin (Leinster), Kilcoyne (Munster), Fitzpatrick (Ulster), Toner(Leinster), Henderson (Ulster), Reddan (Leinster), O'Gara (Munster), Fitzgerald (Leinster).
Let joy be unconfined! Kidney may not select Ronan O'Fucking Gara vs Scotland
Declan Kidney has so many squad injuries ahead of the Ireland game versus Scotland in this weekend's Six Nations that he may be forced to select Bono as a centre, but the most interesting selction dilemma involves a player that isn't injured: will he play Ronan O'Fucking Gara at 10?
For far too long, the apple cheeked Munsterman has been the indisputed next cab off the rank at stand-off, but he has recently entered a period of form so putrid that they can smell it Patagonia. This means that Kidney may select a primary school child from Ulster ahead of him, which while a risk at international level, would be bloody hilarious to anyone who isn't from Munster.
So, in short, ROFG will be selected and is odds-on to be utterly SHIT, or he isn't selected and we will get gratuitous shots of his miserable, fuming face on the bench before he comes on to be utterly SHIT for thirty minutes. Then he'll probably retire.
I'm struggling to see a downside. Anyone?
SHIT/GOOD™ Ratings: RBS 6 Nations, Round Two
As 90's Manchester band James sang in the opening lines to 'Come Home', "it's that time again when I lose my friends.."
Luciano Orquera - As much as I feel for the bloke, who gave a performance so bad it required a soundtrack of comedy HONKS! and BOIIINNGS!, I fear that if he played well for a second time then the world would be sucked into a hole of dark matter. So it seems he did us all a favour.
Jamie Heaslip - Hands like feet, not much carrying and unable to galvanise his side at home in a game that required more mongrel than a Battersea Dogs Home audit.
Groundskeepers - I've never seen or played on pitches as bad as those at St Denis and Dublin this weekend - and I played a few games on Barry RFC's second pitch. This cannot be acceptable in elite sport.
France - Seriously, anyone got any ideas what the hell is going on over there?
Stuart Hogg - Second week of class from the young Scot in the 15 shirt. He is absolutely RAPID this lad, and it's only on seeing how rapid he is that you realise how long it's been since one so quick was in the full-back berth for many a northern hemisphere team. People are using the "L" workd in relation to him, but not this blog, as the "L" word is banned. Unless it's that TV show with loads of women kissing each other. That one's allowed.
Ben Youngs - Owen Farrell was once again GOOD, but it was Youngs who was the revelation. Back to the kind of form he showed before injury and the Johnson regime took his mojo, he herangued, harried, kicked intelligently, sniped and tapped & goed with great timing and decision making. His pass is still a little bit too slow, but I can let him off with that this week. Extra credit to Lancaster for leaving him on for the whole game and not robotically rotating him with Danny's Hair on 60 minutes.
Andrew Coombs - Wales may not be any GOOD, but this fella has come in and impressed in what's a poor side and that takes some ability and no small amount of guts. Must be wishing he was converted to a lock a bit earlier in his career.
That's mine, let's have yours in the comments.