Baggage Handler

The Lions have landed in New Zealand and on Saturday the talking will be over and the real tour starts.

Much has been made of the itinerary, the big stash that each player has picked up and Maro Itoje having to carry Bil around.

Nobody has focussed as yet on the incredible logistics required to organise a Lions tour and the work that none of the fans see that goes on behind the scenes.

This link will give you an idea of some of the stuff that is involved –

The players looked to be travelling fairly light when checking in at Heathrow, each carrying just a regular-sized backpack. Only lock Maro Itoge had extra carry-on baggage: a fluffy toy lion named BIL who apparently has his own passport. Of course, looks can be deceiving.

The Lions have a whopping 3900kg of baggage in total, roughly equating to 9731 rugby balls. Most of their equipment will have been shipped to New Zealand a couple of months ago.

The first thing that Manager John Spencer did on landing was to defend the tour schedule –

He was responding to the criticism from Steve Hansen yesterday who stated that the All Blacks would never have agreed to the schedule.

“The schedule is set by the New Zealand Rugby Union, and that’s a contractual thing and has been for many years,” said Spencer.

Bit of an idea here John – don’t sign stupid contracts – just a thought.

Ironically this article was also published today –

“We try to ensure we deliver against what they need, but also to make sure they don’t compromise our values, or ability to perform on the field. If we are not competitive on the field then the whole concept of the Lions is brought into question.”

Really? So arriving after a 24 hour flight with three days before the first game after less than a week with the whole squad helps them be competitive does it? Give me strength.

Meanwhile, for this year’s host nation, it is hoped the visit of the star-studded Lions squad will provide such a buzz of excitement it will help New Zealand Rugby (NZR) towards balancing its books, after reporting a loss of NZ$7.5m (£4m) for 2016.

A Lions tour is a financial bonanza for the host country. NZR had matchday revenues of NZ$9.2m in 2004, and NZ$11.2m in 2006, but in the Lions tour year of 2005 revenues were NZ$33.9m.

NZR has not specified how much the tour will generate, but expects demand to exceed that of the Lions’ last visit in 2005, when travelling fans contributed tens of millions towards the wider New Zealand economy.

So the British and Irish Lions are the biggest brand in world rugby?

Based on the financial benefit to the host unions and their economy and the many thousands of travelling fans that is hard to argue.

Armed with that fact, I think I could negotiate a better schedule and deal with the Southern Hemisphere unions than the one that is on offer this June.

Frankly, that stuffed Lion that Maro has to lug about could do a better job!




Georgia on their Mind (but not TV!)

The U20 Rugby World championship kicked off earlier today in Georgia.

It goes on for the next three weeks with the final on Sunday 18th June in Tbilisi

Pool A – Australia, England, Samoa and Wales

England started with a 74-17 win over Samoa.

England will have to do without Ben and Tom Curry as well as Nick Isiekwe from their 6 Nations triumph earlier in the year – all three are now in the senior England squad that is off to Argentina on Saturday.

Wales and Australia will be a handful but it is reasonable to predict that England should top this pool.

Pool B – Ireland, Italy, New Zealand and Scotland

Ireland had a bit of a shock this morning when they fell to Italy 21-22. Ireland have suffered from losing players as well as injuries but were probably expecting to make it out of the group as the best runner up.

That looks especially difficult now and Scotland will be looking to grab that place in the semi-finals.

New Zealand will inevitably top the pool – they knocked over Scotland 42 -20 this morning.

Pool C – Argentina, France, Georgia and South Africa

The other game today saw France and South Africa play out a 23-23 draw.

This is a tough group with the home side also in the mix.

It was thought probable that the best runner-up could come from here – the 23-23 draw won’t help that!

This evening Argentina take on hosts Georgia and wales play Australia.

Sadly the pool games are only being shown as highlights, but I think the semi-finals and final will be on ITV4


Deal or No Deal

Yesterday Jeremy (what a) Hunt admitted that his promised increase in funds for the NHS was entirely dependent on Mrs Mayday getting a good Brexit deal –

“Well, we’ve increased doctor training places by [1,500 a year from September 2018] so the only thing that could upset that is if Brexit goes wrong and we don’t have the resources to put into it, but that’s what we want to do.”

Pretty clever eh? No one is prepared to say exactly what a good (or indeed bad) deal is – so this is a very neat wheeze for saying that it is all the EU’s fault when the Tories backtrack on funding.

Hunt’s statement comes just a few weeks after he said he couldn’t deliver the £350 million a week promised in the referendum debate –

Jeremy Hunt has admitted he “can’t deliver” the extra £350m a week promised for the NHS by Brexit campaigners.

The Health Secretary also said it would be a “disaster” for the health service if a favourable agreement cannot be achieved in the already-bitter exit talks.

That promise was a little bit of a fib then was it?

Once again no actual detail on what sort of deal would allow the promise to be kept!

It seems to me that Mayhem ought to let us know what she thinks is a good deal and indeed the consequences of not getting a deal at all.

Otherwise how are we to judge how she does in the negotiations?

We do know she’s a self -confessed ‘bloody difficult woman’ and that she wants a hard Brexit (whatever the fuck that is in reality).

What we do know is that the EU will be held to ‘blame’ if it all goes tits up.

The setting up of the EU as the ‘villains’ is being fuelled by the right wing media, naturally!

The fact is – why would the EU roll over in the face of up front aggression? They aren’t the ones who forced this situation (or wanted it) – and when Maypole starts off by saying she is going to be difficult it will be no surprise if the 27 other countries respond in the same tone.

Interestingly this note from a former British Ambassador, who has undertaken international negotiations points out the risks of adopting a confrontational stance ahead of even sitting down At the table –


Be handy if Mr Murray could be persuaded to get involved I think


From Russia with Love?

‘The Great Donzo’ sent everyone off to find their dictionaries and thesaurus in the middle of the night when he ended a tweet with the word ‘covfefe’.

There have been a lot of theories about the word – did he mean he wanted a caffeine shot? Or were his fingers bloated from all that flying and he meant to type ‘fuckoffee’ to the press?

Personally I think it may have been a code word for some of his mates in the Moscow. Terry speaks a bit of Russian but claims she’s never heard that one! A likely story – she’s probably in cahoots with that bloke in our local cafe to sort some Kremlin caviar on the cheap. He does look a bit like a cross between Putin and Arthur Daley

Wonder if he’s got any knocked off vodka going?




Up in the Air

The British Lions squad is up in the air at this moment – at least I hope they are.

If they booked on British Airways it is quite likely that they are still sitting on their bags in a queue at Heathrow, Thankfully I think they flew Qantas!

If you follow the NZ media there is already a lot of nonsense being sprayed around about Warren Gatland and his selections – although that is only to be expected I suppose.

The worst of the coverage though is the articles on the 2005 tour. It was a disaster and to be fair that is correct. What isn’t balanced however are the suggestions that Kevin Mealamu and Tana Umuga were innocent and victims of unfair coverage in the British and Irish media.

Mealamu has actually written that it was used unfairly by the Lions to detract from the performance of the ABs!

One media outlet dismissed the incident as simply a ‘bung shoulder’ for O’Driscoll and not an off the ball double spear tackle – it went on to suggest that BOD and the management “squealed like stuck piglets”. I wonder if they’ll be saying the same if Beauden Barrett gets taken out illegally off the ball?

But I may well be biased of course – judge for yourselves if this was just an accident  – the amateur footage at the end is the most revealing –

An independent citing commissioner ruled that the All Black pair had no case to answer, further angering O’Driscoll and then Lions coach Clive Woodward.

Presumably this was Stevie Wonder!

On a more positive note there have been a couple of balanced articles that look forward to the tour.

One points out that it is probably the hardest itinerary ever undertaken by any touring side anywhere –

“I think it’s probably the most difficult itinerary in the history of rugby union,” Henry told me. “There is no harder itinerary than this one. They’re virtually playing nine test matches – the five franchises, New Zealand Maori and the three tests. The (Kiwi franchises are head and shoulders above the other franchises around the Sanzaar nations. They’re very good teams with no pressure on them.” Graham Henry

The best report though comes from Gregor Paul in the New Zealand Herald –

What the host nation will find is that their visitors haven’t changed a bit. There will be no edge among the Lions supporters. They will be here for a good time. Yes, they want their side to win, but no matter if they don’t. The party will go on, New Zealand will still be beautiful and the money in their pockets will still need to be spent.

Steve Hansen has given his own view of the problems facing the Lions – beyond facing the best sporting team on the planet that is –

Hansen believes that is insufficient time to prepare, claiming the All Blacks would never have agreed to a schedule where they arrived in a country any less than a week before their first match.

“You’d want to be there a week at the minimum,” Hansen, told The Times. “It’s nicer to be longer than that. When we tour we have total control over when we leave the country.”

Total control eh? I just hope the Lions administrators take note – If the Lions do manage to win the series, or even one test then it will be despite the admin blokes and certainly not because of them!


Massive Attack

In the Top14 semi-final between Toulon and La Rochelle there was a real battle of the giants when Toulon’s centre Mathieu Bastareaud took on lock Uini Atonio –


It wasn’t quite David v Goliath although Bastareaud is a mere 120kg compared with the 155kg Atonio!

That’s 18.9 stone c.f. 24.4 stones for those of us who arrived before 1965.


I played in the centre and am bloody glad blokes like Mathieu weren’t around in my day – although if they had been they would have had a much lower number of their backs!

Brothers in Arms

A lot has been made of the brilliance of Beauden Barrett and how he has come out of the shadow of Dan Carter to become the best number 10 in World rugby.

From watching him in Super Rugby I think the pundits are right too – he is a bit special as the Lions may well discover. This assumes he recovers from the concussion that kept him out of the game against the Bulls in R14.

However he’s not the only Barrett that is keeping Steve Hansen in a good mood. Jordie Barrett may well be a thorn in the Lions side too –

He is likely to be understudy to Ben Smith – although Damian Mckenzie may have something to say about that.

Hansen certainly has strength in depth – and not just at full back!