On the ticket prices for the Rugby World Cup 2015
The ticket prices for the next Rugby World Cup have been released today. There is much fanfare that there are many group games that fall within the affordable range, which is GOOD, but any games involving major nations and any knockout stage game is eye-wateringly expensive, which is SHIT.
The arguments for this are well rehearsed; commercial forces, demand for tickets, need to fund the game, IRB have to pay for Japan 2019, RWC is only around once every four years. These are all spokes on the same "we want to make a lot of money" wheel, and that is the nub of any discussion about ticket prices.
Yes, people will pay the £700 ticket prices for the final, but is that reason enough for charging it? No. Sport should not be an unbridled laissez-faire marketplace, and rugby definitely should not be.
We pride ourselves on being a different kind of game to football; more honest, more in touch with our base, of greater integrity. Yet with these prices, the IRB are basically saying "bollocks to anyone who doesn't have a large amount of money".
This is not calling for a return to corinthian amateurism, or for the IRB to completely ignore demand, but sport, more than any other entertainment sphere, should rise above naked market forces. The IRB could charge a great deal less for tickets and still make money to fund the game. Why not push for more TV money, for example?
Let's be clear about this, this will be a very profitable World Cup either way. Even the Rugby League World Cup, which has far less TV revenue, much lower ticket prices (£56 for a family of four to see the Semis, equivalent in 2015 will be £500!), much less demand and a much lower profile is well in the black in money terms.
These prices are naked profiteering in a time a high demand, something that rugby should not be part of, or should at least shave the excesses off. Would the IRB sell loaves of bread for £50 each to people who need food and have no other way of getting it? No, and while that is of course not a direct comparison, there is enough of a correlation to make this blog feel very uncomfortable about the whole bloody thing.
Is the treatment of injuries in rugby a ticking time bomb?
Rory Lamont has come out and said that he believes the treatment of injuries in Scotland, and specifically players being asked to play through injury is a "ticking time bomb" for the health of professionals. He also draws particular attention the way players with concussion are allowed to return too soon, something we all saw on the British & Irish Lions Tour when Christian Lealiifano returned to action seven days after being sparked out cold.
What is your view on this? Are players being pressured into playing when they shouldn't be? I'd also be interested to hear about whether this happens at the lower levels of the game. Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.
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.
Should rugby games have a minute's silence for Margaret Thatcher?
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.
England management look totally bloody stupid over Steve Walsh IRB referral
Given how much the RFU spends on marketing and PR, you would hope they have a team of people who presumably have more than one brain cell to share between them. Obviously not, judging by the fact that England's referral of Steve Walsh's performance in Cardiff at the weekend to the IRB is all over the media this morning. This news getting out in the first place is bad enough, but when you consider the comments made about Walsh by Rowntree and Lancaster it sounds like the largest case ever made filled with grapes so sour it's like they've been mixed with the stuff that they put on the top of Wham bars.
There were some issues with the reffing on Saturday, particularly at scrum time. There were a number of occasions when Adam Jones bound early and on the arm only for England to be penalised, for example, and Walsh telling England to not sit quite as low in the crouch seemed to undermine their tactic of hitting low and straight, which is surely not for the ref to meddle with. Also, some breakdown decisions did raise the eyebrows. So the England management team are entitled to seek clarification or ask questions, as anyone would with genuine concerns.
But the idea that "A lot of those decisions were big, game momentum-changing decisions." as Rowntree has said is complete nonsense. England had no momentum, they were too busy getting mullered.
Lancaster is no better “Their first try comes from a turnover,” he said. “We’ve got the ball and it’s ‘released’ from a ruck. Mike Brown is [then] defending a three-on-one. There was a turnover at that breakdown which we still need clarification on. That was the tipping point in the game.” No, Stu, the tipping point of the game was when the kick-off whistle went and England started losing battles all over the park.
Why anyone at the RFU thought that releasing these quotes to the press was going to be of any value to England rugby at this time is a complete bloody mystery. Nearly as much of a mystery as to why the England coaches believe the entire game turned on a turnover or scrum decision.
Now! That's What I Call Lievremont & Saint-Andre's Utterly Barmy Selections Greatest Hits
We are all having a good chuckle at Michalak's selection at 10 for the match in Dublin this weekend, and that got us to thinking: can you make an entire team of barmy selections from the Marc Lievremont and Phillippe Saint-Andre period? Well I've had a partially successful stab at it. Your comments and additional suggestions/corrections are welcome.
15. Yoann Huget (Saint-Andre, 2013) - Yoann Huget is a winger, but not an international class one. As a full back he's worse than that.
14. Wesley Fofana (Saint-Andre, 2013) - The best centre in Europe grazing on the wing. Excellent.
13. Francois Trinh-Duc (Lievremont) - If he's not arbitrarily dropped he's out of postion. Trinh-Duc is perhaps the most abused player in France in terms of selection.
12. Benoit Baby (Lievremont, 2009) - Selected when Yannick Jauzion was available, that's mental enough to warrant inclusion.
11. Maxime Medard (Both, Various Years) - Medard is a full-back and there have always been wingers that are better than him in the 11 or 14 shirt. That hasn't stopped both Marc and Phillippe continuing to ignore this.
10. Damien Traille (Lievremont, various) - Traille was a decent 12 with a decent boot, and that was it. How anyone could class him as an international 10 is something that will trouble historians for years. He also spent some time stinking up the 15 shirt.
9. Sebastian Tillous-Borde (Lievremont, 2009) - Perhaps the worst example of the many when some no-mark was selected while Morgan Parra and his insouciant genius languished on the bench.
8. Sebastian Chabal (Lievremont, 2011) - This is not a bad selection in itself, but it becomes one when you consider that this pick meant that the incomparable Harinodoquy was pushed to 7 then you realise that Mad Marc pretty much weakened two positions at once.
7. Ibrahim Diarra (Lievremont, 2008) - A player as average as Diarra being selected at all is inexplicable in itself (this was his only cap), but he was selected ahead of Julien Bonnaire. I'll repeat that: HE WAS SELECTED AHEAD OF JULIEN BONNAIRE!
6. Matthieu Lievremont (Lievremont, 2008) - Marc and his brother Thomas had both won international caps,but the other brother Matthieu had not. Then Marc picked him for two caps based on nothing more than we assume their mum told him he had to so Matt didn't feel left out of the chat at family gatherings.
4. It's harder with the front 5 isn't it?
3. Suggestions welcome
1. Lionel Faure (Lievremont, 2008) - Selected ahead of Jean-Baptiste Poux, who was up to that time owning Europe with Toulouse.
To Sam Warburton or not to Sam Warburton
The curious case of Sam Warburton has its latest installment this weekend as he is reinstated to the starting seven shirt, but not to the captaincy. This denial of the armband is what is most intriguing.
Sam has been poor lately by his standards, and Justin Tupuric is the seven with the form in Wales at the moment. But, there is something to be said for sticking with players of genuine class for the long haul.
Anyone who watched England play cricket in the 1990s knows the misery of selectors going for form over players who have the right attributes to play at the highest level and it took Duncan Fletcher, a man who built his coaching reputation in Wales, to put a stop to that and the benefits have been reaped since for cricket fans. Likewise those heading to the Festival to do some Cheltenham betting next week will not be punting on any old nag, but on quality.
However, by not giving him the captaincy as well as the starting berth Howley is muddling his thinking as well as the message he is sending out to the player, the squad and the nation. On the one hand, he is saying that when fit Sam is the first-choice seven; but at the same time he is intimating that he no longer trusts him to lead the the team, despite this being perfectly acceptable on twenty other occasions. At a time when he needs the full confidence of his coach, the player is being given half a pat on the back; and what must such a feeble show of support say to Ryan Jones? He will surely now know that the captaincy can be whipped from him at any time as well.
Sticking with Sam is the right thing to do as he is a player of rare class, but Howley has made a mistake in not backing him completely. A mistake which may have wider repurcussions in the squad.
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...
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