No Bother

I imagine you were wondering if I’d even bother to give you the benefit of my inspired predictions this week – bearing in mind my Champions Cup performance last weekend, when I scored a magnificent 4 out of 10.

Well the fact is I am going to persevere – although mainly because I can’t think of much else to ramble on about today.

Usually I put out my predictions on a Friday, but tomorrow we have two appointments – at different hospitals – so it is likely that I won’t get round to writing until late in the day (if at all).

So, more in hope than expectation, here are my forecasts –

Ulster to do the double over Quins

Montpelier to knock over Glasgow (again)

Benetton to lose to Scarlets

Leinster to just hold off the Chiefs

Racing to win at home against Castres

Bath to go down to Toulon

Wasps can’t stop La Rochelle

Ospreys to beat coach less Saints

Clermont to inflict another defeat on Saracens

Tigers go down to Munster at Welford Road.

Apart from Racing I have picked the same winners from last week – if there is any hope for the English teams to overturn the results I think it will rest with Tigers, Chiefs or Bath.

I really hope I’m wrong but I fear that no Premiership may make the quarterfinals.

It would be great if I repeated my 40% record from last week and the English clubs surprise me.

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This is Just Pants

An article on the BBC website a few days ago, indicated that Customs and Excise had seized a shedload of dodgy goods worth a fair bit of dosh.

Included in this haul of counterfeit stuff was £1.5 million of fake ‘Calvin Klein’ pants

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-42263742

I’m just wondering just who exactly is going to notice that your boxers are forgeries? – unless you get lucky, obviously.

And to be honest, by the time you’re down to your shorts, the authenticity of your budgie smugglers is the last thing for either of you (or all three, if you pull twins) should be worried about.

One last thought – I’m not sure if the value of £1.5M was at the knockdown price of the ‘Ricki Lakes’ or what CK knock them out at. If it’s at the ‘designer’ price, we’re probably only talking about a couple of dozen pairs and I would have thought that HMRC would have better things to do with their time.

 

Worshiping at the Feet

A top candidate for the ‘Order of the Brown Nose’ was at the Star Wars premiere a couple of nights ago.

Writing in the Telegraph under the headline ‘How Princely’, Stephen ‘Deputy’ Doig fawned –

At the Star Wars premiere at the Royal Albert Hall last night the Duke of Cambridge struck a more louche stance in velvet evening slippers. While they’re not a wise choice in the rain, they looked a great deal more elegant than Prince Harry’s classic (albeit safe and tried-and-tested) Oxfords and were discreet and low-key enough to work with his traditional black tie ensemble. It’s also an example of how, in the midst of Christmas party season, it’s worth upgrading your footwear to something more festive and being a tad more adventurous.

It’s also fitting that the prince should opt for a pair; it was his descendants – like so much of men’s fashion – that helped cement them as a considered sartorial choice. The velvet slipper became a viable option for wearing while doling out the brandies in the drawing room during the Victorian era, at the same time the velvet smoking jacket was considered a mainstay of a St James’s gentleman’s wardrobe, and were patronised by Prince Albert. Eventually creeping beyond the front door threshold, they became a raffish choice for the MGM starlets of the 1950s. I’m an unashamed fan; in fact a pair sit by my desk as I type ahead of an onslaught of festive events.

 

Excuse me while I chuck up!

Eveningwear is required – black tie or at least a shawl collar evening jacket with polo neck. The prince also wears them with thin black socks; sockless would be better. And all too often, Britain in bleak midwinter doesn’t exactly lend itself to plush lustrous velvet – you have to choose your moments.

That said, a slick pair of velvet slippers deliberately set an evening tone to proceedings. They denote that it’s almost certainly time for a cocktail and their innate impracticality is precisely why they are so fitting for the festive season; they’re decadent, unnecessary and worn to be enjoyed. No man in velvet slipper is heading to a meeting with his accountant. They are after-dark only, made for the clink of glasses and the crackle of a fire, rakish and ready for whatever the night holds. This more outre strata of men’s footwear is worth investigating; you’ll feel suitably princely too.

You’ll need a king’s ransom too, if you want to join the ‘day tripper’ brigade* – a pair of theses ‘rhythm and blues’ will knock you back the best part of a monkey!

  • Day tripper – slipper ; rhythm & blues – shoes and a monkey is half a grand (£500 to you and me)

I smell a knighthood for services to obsequiousness.

 

 

Character References

Rugby has long enjoyed a reputation for respect amongst players and supporters.

I have to admit that this has been somewhat tarnished in recent times, with players calling for opponents to be sinbinned (or worse), Number 9’s trying for penalties by deliberately throwing the ball at a player attempting to move away and fans booing kicks at goal.

There have been other instances too, where traditional values have fallen by the offside!

It was good then to come across a video that shows not all of the past has been lost –

When I see examples of sportsmanship and character like these I am encouraged that, despite the professional era, not all of the old values have been lost.

Bok Review

I was looking at the Sport 24 website recently and came across an article from a bloke called Simnikiwe Xabanisa (no – really)

His views echoed some of the concerns I have with the way that rugby is going these days – I think it’s worth a read –

Johannesburg – There’s a lineout story that neatly encapsulates what a simple game rugby was to play just a decade ago.

The Bulls were playing a Super Rugby game and when it came to the lineout Victor Matfield went through his old calling routine of “Agtien! Sewentig…” But just as the hooker was about to throw he yelled: “Bakkies joune!”

As that anecdote shows, Bakkies Botha may have played first class rugby as a lock for years but he didn’t bother with cramming lineout calls. Yet he had a full and rewarding career whereas no modern player can imagine getting away with not emptying the contents of his playbook “bible” into his head.

Rugby acumen

In the old days rugby was a complicated game played by simple men, now the nerds are taking over. I blame it on the introduction of NFL-esque stats to rugby. Back then player debates in the pub were about whether he was quick off the mark, had good go-forward, hands, an eye for the gap, distribution, etc.

Now you get some geek fluent in stat prattling on about how many carries he has, his tackle count, how many voyager miles the ball picked up from the boot and such other stuff spewed by other cats with thick glasses out there crunching numbers while the rest of us watch the game.

The height of how rugby is sadly becoming a debating society was when I caught a man whose rugby acumen I respect cooing about how Formula One-esque the stats from the Dubai leg of the World Sevens Series were on Twitter.

Needless to say, he didn’t even have the good sense to be sheepish when caught admiring gleaming rugby stats instead of players. One of these days we’re going to pick an entire rugby team based on their stats, with nary a consideration for such 1980s things as combinations.

A great example of this is why Springbok coach Allister Coetzee picks Andries Coetzee. Apparently the fullback’s GPS numbers run off the page he works so hard. That he makes playing rugby, or indeed passing, look harder than it is – and watching it even more difficult – doesn’t seem to matter.

Those great tinkerers at Varsity Cup are the latest to join the fray with their new “innovation” of a three-minute powerplay where a captain can nominate two backline players (who could be the nine and 10 or a two-thirds majority of a pesky back-three) to be taken off so they can have a crack at a 13-man side.

Corporate speak

Apparently one is only supposed to “level” the playing fields when in one’s own half, but nobody has touched on whether it can be done when the other team is already two men down owing to such frequent occurrences like sin-binning.

The explanation is that this is supposed to help coaches and players deal with being two men short in defence.

Forget that it is manufactured drama, in a country in which the players still pass directly to the overlapping man – instead of going through hands – it sounds an awful lot like admitting defeat when it comes to working out how to manipulate not a one, but two-man advantage.

Put it this way, you’ve never heard the All Blacks complain about the presence of 15 Springbok defenders en route to routing them 57-0.

Speaking of All Blacks, has anyone noticed Bulls coach John Mitchell has turned the rugby language into corporate speak? Mitch was quoted as saying of his players “They have a choice between SOAR (Standards Ownership Accountability Responsibility), or BED (Blame Excuses Denial)” this week.

Apparently his coaching methodology is called WTP (Weekly Tactical Periodisation), which may or may not rhyme with WTF.

The poor blighters in Pretoria can barely speak English, now they have to learn their acronyms as well as jol rugby. I can just imagine poor Bakkies trying to come to grips with enforcing a game plan that doesn’t include moering hulle.

Years ago, when I weighed 63kg of prime South African beef including the big hair, I fell in love with the game as a form of signing up for second-hand jockhood. Now there are more thinkers, philosophers and pontificators in the game than there are jocks.

He makes some interesting points in my view.

In particular the ridiculous weight put behind  stats – I have taken the piss out of the ‘Try Tracker’ many times here.

Just to remind you –

For one England v Wales game in 2015, this was the brilliant ‘Try Tracker’ assessment of what each team had to do to win –

Wales

  • Achieve at least six clean breaks
  • Attempt an offload from at least 10 per cent of tackles
  • Achieve a tackle success-rate of 92.6 per cent

 

England

  • Have at least six shots on goal
  • Win more than 56 per cent of all turnovers in the match
  • Average more than 6.9 metres per carry in the backs

How the fuck was that of any use to either coaching team, before, during or after the game? I can just hear Shaun shouting from the touchline  “Oi you lot, we need to up our tackles from 91.7% to 92.6% – so get your bleeding calculators out”

In another outstanding bit of foresight Try Tracker suggested that to beat Scotland, England needed to ‘pierce the Scottish defence’ – as opposed to what ffs?

IBM TryTracker

TryTracker analyses data from 300 international rugby matches to determine the statistical measures that are truly reflective of good team performance. Based on this analysis, IBM and RFU designed and configured three analytics dashboards using IBM SPSS software.

During live matches, “momentum”, “keys to the match” and “player influence” dashboards are displayed on RFU.com – each delivering a different kind of real-time statistical insight to fans.

I suggest that during ‘live’ matches it may be marginally more beneficial to watch the fucking game and the scoreboard!

Here’s a clue – the team with more points is in the lead. No matter how many carries and yards have been made by individuals!

I bet the Try Tracker didn’t have England being the first host nation to crash out in the pool stage in 2015. The only stat that counts is the one after 80 minutes when the ref blows the final whistle.

Red Card

James Corden has made carpool karaoke a big thing on his show in the States and there is even a spin-off show just for them.

Unfortunately, Nigel Owens is doing his own versions – the latest after he officiated at the demolition of Saracens by Clermont at the weekend. It was captured on video –

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/sport/rugby/rugby-news/nigel-owens-leads-group-welsh-14028079

I’m a fan of Nigel – as a ref – his singing is pretty ordinary at best, which is unusual seeing as how he’s Welsh!

I thought maybe it was the crap choice of song at first – but he is equally adept at murdering classics like Sloop John B too –

No question – that’s a red card offence, Nigel.