A Sense of Tradition

Nearly everyone on the planet, except me has selected their starting XV for the first British and Irish Lions test against the All Blacks on 24th June.

They all just add to pub debates of course – only Warren Gatland’s selections matter.

Over the next few weeks I will be giving you my (uninformed) predictions on the squad, comparisons with the All Blacks as well as some other odd views on the tour – I just knew you’d be pleased.

Today however I wanted to talk about the unwritten ‘tradition’ that the Lions would often (if not always) include an uncapped player in the squad.

It is harder now of course – more players are capped because of the larger (and therefore presumably longer) bench, the increased number of international games and the inevitable greater injury list because every player is that much bastard larger than before professionalism arrived.

As far as I am aware it was never a given that there should be an uncapped inclusion but there have been some famous names who had that distinction – most of whom went on to distinguished international careers.

The last player with this honour, as far as I can recall is Will Greenwood – although I think that John Bentley might also have been a non ‘union’ international in 1997. There have been none since for the 2001. 2005, 2009, 2013 tours.

Other notable names that I can think of pre 1997 include Alun Lewis (1977), Derek Quinell (1971), Elgan Rees(1977), Brynmor Williams (1977), Dickie Jeeps (1955) and John Brown (1962) – I may not be 100% correct on all of these.

John Brown was actually my rugby master at school – obviously he was better at playing the game than teaching it! He appears in other posts here if you’re interested (probably not) – ‘For Pete’s Sake’ and ‘When it Started’.

1977 was a popular year with 3 uncapped players and when you look at the list it is less of an actual tradition than I thought.

Warren Gatland will announce his squad on April 19th – it seems unlikely that he will have room in his 37 for any uncapped players although a few names have been suggested.

These include Thomas Young, Denny Solomona, Jack O’ Donaghue, Tommy Taylor and Matt Scott.

I’d be surprised if any make it – New Zealand is a tough place to tour especially for those who have yet to experience the cauldron of international rugby.

But with the inevitable injuries and call for replacements, you never know.

 

 

 

 

Super Time

It’s that time of the week again – my chance to look a complete idiot with my Super Rugby predictions.

I’m at 88% after 4 rounds but have a feeling that the wheels are about to come off.

Easy one to start – the Crusaders will give the ‘threatened’ Force a pasting – probably by 26 or more.

Interesting experiment by head coach Scott Robertson who moves All Black lock, Scott Barrett to 6. A move that got the nod of approval from Steve Hansen

Much tougher is picking between the Rebels and the Waratahs – neither have started convincingly this season. I have to go with the Tahs – who should have enough to scrape home on the road.

The Blues started well against the Crusaders last week before falling to the ‘Come Back Kings’. At home they will have too much for the Bulls.

Brumbies take on the Highlanders – neither side have looked too comfortable so far, although the Highlanders have only played other NZ franchises to date. I have the Brumbies going down for their third loss but not by that many.

Since their nightmare in R1 the Sunwolves have improved, but the Stormers should knock them over by more than 20

The Kings have also stared to play better, but it won’t be enough to down the Lions who should win by 20+

Cheetahs are under pressure from the threat of being axed – that won’t help their mental preparation against the Sharks. The away side should get home okay – but by less than 10

The ridiculous structure of Super 18 is highlighted by the fact that the Reds trip to Argentina means that they will have played in Christchurch, Johannesburg and Buenos Aires in the space of 15 days.

Add in the fact that Quade Cooper has been banned for last Sunday’s high tackle and it is an easy pick to go with the Jaguares.

 

Voice Recognition

When the camera swings round to the coach’s bench you often see them covering their mouths – I’m guessing they either had something garlicy for lunch or they are worried that the opposition defence bloke or the Mrs can lip read.

They will be delighted to learn that there is yet another gadget to add to the laptops, head mikes, player monitors and Nintendo’s currently used.

Voila – the perfect way to stop eaves dropping and to look like a complete dickhead –

https://www.facebook.com/mashable/videos/10155062776079705/

It’s branded as ‘Hushme’ – although a better name would be ‘Shut the Fuck Up’

Hopefully it will also be bought by those annoying twats who insist on shouting down their mobiles on public transport!

Seriously – nobody gives a fuck what you want for tea!

 

Barbarians at the Gate

Common sense, or at least an embarrassing climb down has thankfully occurred regarding the attempt by the RFU to shove the Barbarians aside in order to let the top two ranked nations meet at Twickenham.

In case Chris Rattue is wondering – the number 2 side remain England by the way.

The idea seems to have been motivated primarily by money and I have said all along that it should not go ahead – and probably wouldn’t. The big surprise being that I seem to be right for once!

Ian Ritchie appears to be playing only lip service to the idea of player welfare and burnout in his desire to increase the RFU coffers. I may be a tad cynical but didn’t he get a bloody great bonus based on the financial success of the World Cup – despite the embarrassment of England being dumped out at home in the pool stage? That’s rhetorical by the way – he did!

RFU Chief Executive Ian Ritchie was awarded a £100,000 bonus after England became the first host nation in Rugby World Cup history to be knocked out of the Rugby World Cup Pool Stages.

The harrowing campaign ultimately led to coach Stuart Lancaster’s dismissal as England Head Coach, but Ritchie pocketed an extra £100,000 from the staggering financial success of the tournament.

Despite last Saturday, there are likely to be a fair few England players in the Lions squad – for a hugely intensive tour to New Zealand.

Historically players coming back from a Lions tour tend to underperform in the first few months – whether they lose, draw or occasionally win.

It would be the first game since the 6 Nations for England – their autumn internationals don’t start until November 11th (Argentina), not an ideal way to take on the All Blacks.

There is also the small matter of Eddie Jones saying  in January that his intention was not to play Lions players in the autumn because they need the rest and that he would rely on the squad going to Argentina in the summer.

This makes sense to me and would be a smart way to build the squad strength and experience.

The RFU does not come out of this well – there was even a suggestion that they would veto the Barbarians fixture – not just at Twickenham, but anywhere in London.

If they had been that stupid and arrogant, I imagine the WRU or another of the home nations might have put their hands up for a lucrative fixture.

Not the RFU’s finest hour and they don’t come out smelling of roses (red or any other colour)

 

Yellow Peril

Not for the first time I was struggling for stuff to write today when I saw this article by Peter Lampp, ironically from the New Zealand ‘Stuff’ website –

http://i.stuff.co.nz/sport/rugby/90702507/.html

When referees issue a yellow card and send some poor mug to the sin bin, I’m inclined to abandon seat and go water the pot plants.

The yellow so unbalances a team it often means games are no longer a contest and the team down to 14 starts slowing everything down.

The suggestion is that yellow cards should be abandoned completely  – because they give an advantage to the side with more blokes – er, I think that’s the whole point!

Of course the yellow card system is not perfect – anymore than the use of TMO’s, but it does discourage reckless and dangerous play – and isn’t that a good thing?

Apparently not!

And what is the brilliant big idea that will replace the yellow –

Rugby league leads the way in this after previously being bin-mad. While they seldom employ the sin bin now, except for punching, they do put players on report to be dealt with later.

So – RL actually still has the bin, but RU should abandon it in total. Imagine the mayhem and the arguing over whether it was a red card or a slap on the wrist if there is no halfway measure.

What would Nigel have done without a yellow card in his pocket?

Maybe we should get rid of the red card too – after all, that disadvantages one side for the rest of the game – still at least the pot plants would be well looked after.

No yellow card threat leaves the players able to Lampp (ha ha) anyone they like with apparent impunity.

 

Duck Off

I saw this poster and it reminded me of a couple of old jokes –

IMG_8797

A guy is driving around the back woods and he sees a sign in front of a broken down, shanty-style house: “Talking Dog For Sale.” He rings the bell and the owner appears and tells him the dog is in the backyard.

The guy goes into the backyard and sees a nice looking Labrador retriever sitting there.

“You talk?” he asks.

“Yep,” the Lab replies.

After the guy recovers from the shock of hearing a dog talk, he says “So, what’s your story?”

The Lab looks up and says, “Well, I discovered that I could talk when I was pretty young. I wanted to help the government, so I told the CIA. In no time at all they had me jetting from country to country, sitting in rooms with spies and world leaders, because no one figured a dog would be eavesdropping.

“I was one of their most valuable spies for eight years running. But the jetting around really tired me out, and I knew I wasn’t getting any younger so I decided to settle down. I signed up for a job at the airport to do some undercover security, wandering near suspicious characters and listening in. I uncovered some incredible dealings and was awarded a batch of medals.

“I got married, had a mess of puppies, and now I’m just retired.”

The guy is amazed. He goes back in and asks the owner what he wants for the dog.

“Ten dollars,” the guy says.

“Ten dollars? This dog is amazing! Why on earth are you selling him so cheap??”

“Because the dog’s a damn liar. He never did any of that shit.”

And this one –

 

Two race horses were sitting at a bar having a few beers when one turns the other and says,
“Jerry, something really strange happened to me at the track the other day”
“What happened Bill?”
“Well, I was running a race and I was stuck in the middle of the pack trying to break away. I thought I would lose that race but then I saw a strange light flash from the stands. I turned and looked at it and suddenly ‘WOOSH’ all of a sudden I was at the front of the pack and I ended up winning the race”
“Holy Shit”, said Jerry.
“Bill, that’s exactly what happened to me only a few days ago. I was running a race and about half way, I started to drop back. I thought I was going to lose for sure but then I saw that strange light coming from the stands. You’re right Jerry, it just seemed to get brighter and then suddenly ‘WOOSH’ there I was five lengths in front and I ended up winning the race.”
As the two race horses discussed the incident, a Race Dog sitting at a nearby stool came up to them.
“Excuse me lads,” said the Race Dog. “I couldn’t help but over hear your conversation and I wanted to let you know that that very same thing happened to me about a week ago down at the track. I was running a race and struggling on the outside lane trying to get some space when I started to drift further back and away from the lead. I knew I was going to lose that race but then that very strange light that you boys had just described started pulsing from the stands. Well, as you may have already guessed, ‘Woosh,’ there I was up at the front and I ended up winning that race although I’ve never been able to figure out exactly how.”
The two horses were awestruck.
“Holy Shit, Bill, did you just hear what I heard!”
“I know,” said Jerry. “It’s a fucking talking dog!”

 

The poster by the pond  seems to suggest that we now have a bunch of articulate ducks – where they found a printer who didn’t just reach for the pancakes and some hoisin sauce, I have no idea!