Championing at the Bit

The much anticipated draws for the European Cups was held yesterday and, almost without exception every head coach said that they were very happy with their pools and couldn’t wait.

I guess they had to say that though!

Pool_Draw_rdax_1350x756_60

In the Champions Cup none of the pools look easy – although I suspect Wasps will be the happiest of the Premiership clubs.

Current champions Saracens have to play Toulon – winners in the three previous seasons.

The Pool winners plus the 3 best placed runners up will go into the quarter finals and the contest to be crowned the best club side in Europe starts in October.

In the Challenge Cup I think the most exciting group is Pool 4 which puts Bath against Cardiff and Bristol.

Pool 1: La Rochelle, Gloucester, Treviso, Bayonne

Pool 2: Ospreys, Grenoble, Newcastle, Lyon

Pool 3: Brive, Worcester, Newport Gwent Dragons, Enisei-STM

Pool 4: Cardiff Blues, Bath, Pau, Bristol

Pool 5: Harlequins, Edinburgh, Stade Francais, Timisoara

In Pool 3 the Dragons and Warriors will need to steel themselves for a trip to Siberia!

Some great games to look forward to – again!

 

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Flying Down to Rio

The season has finished in the Northern hemisphere – all except for the 7s teams who will compete for the medals at the Olympics in Rio from 6th to 11th August.

The Women’s’ tournament is from 6th to 8th followed by the blokes 9th – 11th.

Unlike the World Series 7s there are just 12 teams in each section who have qualified.

They will both compete in 3 Pools (of 4 teams – obviously) at the Deodono Stadium.

The top 2 from each pool plus the best 2 best placed runners up will go forward to the knock out stage.

In the men’s contest Team GB are in the so called ‘Group of Death’ (Pool C) along with New Zealand, Kenya and Japan.

But the other two pools also have teams that have won titles in the World Series, so it will not be easy for anyone – even Fiji.

 

It is equally open in the Women’s tournament, although I am hopeful that Team GB will be on the rostrum getting a medal on the 8th – not sure the colour but I expect Australia to be there too.

Much of the two competitions span weekdays – which augurs well for some good rugby in between Super Rugby and leading nicely to the Rugby Championship.

After that we start again with the Premiership, Pro12 and the Top 14 – the Mrs is right chuffed I can tell you!

Both Team GB squads have only been together from the beginning of this month and it will be interesting to see the make-up of the final 12 who will fly down to Rio at the end of July.

Expect some exciting stuff from both Men and Women as they fight it out for just three medals!

Down and Outs

They say you shouldn’t kick a man when he’s down – but as Lord George Brown once said – ‘that’s precisely the best time to do it’. Like Stuart Lancaster, Roy Hodgson found that out this week.

There have been lots of cruel (but very amusing) jokes about the capitulation to a nation that has almost the same population as Wigan – including a number of video parodies.

I bet Iceland (the shop) never had so much free publicity.

These are my favourite ones –

However, I suspect the ‘down and outs’ won’t give a stuff as they climb into their Bentleys and head off to homes in Barbados.

One final thought for the FA – no way is Eddie Jones available!!

 

Mad Cows

A joke I used to really like was this one –

What’s the difference between mad cow disease and Maggie Thatcher?

One’s a  bovine spongiform encephalopathy and the other’s a mad cow

 

Actually that doesn’t look quite right – but you get the picture

It’s not so funny now as I thought that they’d got rid of BSE – but apparently not according to this map –

IMG_0692

 

Stat Attack

I have for some time been somewhat sceptical about the ‘Try Tracker’ statistics which pour out nonsense about what each team has to do to win an international.

When I say ‘somewhat sceptical’, I of course mean I take the piss a lot.

Before a match there is a load of bollox about how many metres (to two decimal points), offloads, rucks etc. that a side needs in order to win.

England’s 3-0 win in Australia would not have been predicted by the pre-match analysis from any algorithm used by any number of computers and is a reassurance that artificial intelligence is not yet ready to make us servile to robots – no matter what Stephen Hawking says!

In the second test – Australia made 5 times as many breaks, twice as many metres, beat three times as many defenders, won three times as many rucks and had twice as many offloads.

England also had less than 30% of both possession and territory and conceded more penalties –

http://www.englandrugby.com/trytracker/fixtures/1858/2016/20160618/847231/#/teamstats

Based on those stats even Bill Gates and Steve Jobs would have difficulty explaining how England won 23-7 – although Paul Gustard wouldn’t!

The pre-match ‘Try Tracker’ giant brain had suggested that to win –

‘The Wallabies must get 50% of the line breaks – they got 83%

Australia needed to make an extra 14 tackles between them – in fact this was to prove difficult as England only had the ball for 29% of the game.

Analysis by the coaches watching the game is what counts – hence the key early substitutions made in the series!

Games are won in selection and on the pitch not by some nerd sending  the coach an e-mail on the Friday – telling him that you have to stop their key player from running more than 10.436 metres per carry or that you need 6.678 turnovers in order to have a chance of winning. Try using that in a team talk!

It was really refreshing to read (from Peter Fitzsimmons in the Canberra Times) that Eddie Jones doesn’t hold with all the statistics rubbish.

At a breakfast interview last week, before he left Australia he talked mostly about the importance of picking players with the right character and then working them harder than the teams they were playing against.

No talk of red-zones, green-zones, black-zones. No gibberish about channels. No percentage plays.

Eddie finished by saying –

“You can make statistics do anything you like, and some coaches really believe in them, but I don’t. There are only two statistics we look at. Firstly, how long does it take a player to get up off the ground and get back in his place for defence. Secondly, how long it takes a player to get up off the ground and get back in his place for attack.”

 

Personally I think I’d rather listen to Eddie than a bloke with an i-pad.

An Old Stick in the Mud

A week or so ago I put up this joke –

Aussie bloke: ” I have two tickets for the final Australia v England test in Sydney & I didn’t realise that it’s the same day as my wedding, so I can’t go.

If you are interested & want to go instead of me, it’s at St Andrews church & her name is Sarah”

Turns out that Harro actually did something similar – the twat went to Glastonbury last weekend missing  the last in the series against the Wallabies.

Somewhat desperately he asked me to keep him informed on the score – he was actually so pissed that he asked how we were doing on the Friday!

I did keep him up to date with the game as follows –

I haven’t heard from him since Sunday – maybe he’s still stuck in the mud

I’m sure he had a great time, although that doesn’t stop him being a total nobhead obviously.