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. It's always worth checking the latest odds at bwin.com/six-nations for the next six nations, even if it is quite a few months away yet.
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.
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.
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.
RBS 6 Nations MASSIVE Preview: Wales vs England, Millennium Stadium, Saturday 17:00
Here it is, the match we all wanted, el grande chorizo, y selsig mawr, Wales vs England to decide the 2013 Six Nations Championship.
This match up is soul quickening enough, but when you consider that standing astride it at kick-off time like the Colossus Of Rhodes will be the Golden God Of Majestic Justice, the Beard of Beautifulness, the Face That Launched A Thousand Knickers, the Tousle Haired IRB Botherer, You Want To Be Him But You Can't - Steve "Which Camera?" Walsh, then it takes on an illustriousness that is difficult to fathom.
Assuming that both teams can shake themselves out of the trance induced by Steve Walsh's dark, hypnotic eyes, then Wales should win this by the 8 points they need to take the title. After a slow start, the home team have found their solid forward platform and a great hooker in Hibbard, a mean defence that hasn't conceded a try in five hours of rugby, and in Leigh Halfenny a kicker and a fullback who dispels doubt from the tee and the back. Oh, and they're at home.
England, on the other hand, have been solid, but are still lumpen behind the pack. Moreover, even up front they have a back row that is very light on ball carriers, still no consistent performer at hooker, a flaky loose head, and not forgetting an inside centre that has the craft of a bowl of Angel Delight. Defending in an organised way and winning penalties in kickable areas will not be enough in Cardiff.
Wales will score a couple of tries, England won't, and Halfpenny will match Farrell in place kicks.
B&M Prediction: Wales by 10
Spotter's Badge: Tom Croft once again tanding in the 13 channel in attack, for the sixth time.
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny (Blues); Alex Cuthbert (Blues), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), Jamie Roberts (Blues), George North (Scarlets); Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Mike Phillips (Bayonne); Gethin Jenkins (capt, Toulon), Richard Hibbard (Ospreys), Adam Jones (Ospreys), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys) Ian Evans (Ospreys), Sam Warburton (Blues), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Toby Faletau (Dragons).
Replacements: Ken Owens (Scarlets), Paul James (Bath), Scott Andrews (Blues), Andrew Coombs (Dragons), Aaron Shingler (Scarlets), Lloyd Williams (Blues), James Hook Perpignan), Scott Williams (Scarlets).
England: A Goode (Saracens); C Ashton (Saracens), M Tuilagi (Leicester), B Barritt (Saracens), M Brown (Harlequins); O Farrell (Saracens), B Youngs (Leicester); J Marler (Harlequins), T Youngs (Leicester), D Cole (Leicester), J Launchbury (Wasps), G Parling (Leicester), T Croft (Leicester), C Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), T Wood (Northampton).
Replacements: D Hartley (Northampton), D Wilson (Bath), M Vunipola (Saracens), C Lawes (Northampton), J Haskell (Wasps), D Care (Harlequins), T Flood (Leicester), B Twelvetrees (Gloucester).
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....
Latest edition of O2 Inside Line, featuring Geoff Parling in the kitchen
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...
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.