Monday, April 30, 2007

Al Charron in the Team Canada camp

Good to see Rugby Canada hire Al to mentor Canada's team in the lead-up to and during the World Cup. His experience and sense of humour and comaradarie should prove invaluable:

Canada’s most capped player and four-time World Cup participant, Al Charron, will join Canada’s World Cup staff for the upcoming tournament in France this September. He will also accompany Canada on its pre-World Cup tour to New Zealand in June.
Read the full release here.

Now... I wonder if that means Charron will restrain himself on his "Letters From Al" columns at Rugby Canada. Hope not.

Super 14 Last Chance Saloon

Next weekend is the regular season conclusion to the Super 14. The Crusaders and Sharks sit atop the points table with 41 and 40 points respectively, and will likely make the playoffs, but that is by no means a guarantee, nor is a home-field semi-final berth a certainly.

Four teams (Blues, Bulls, Chiefs, Brumbies) will be battling for the other two playoff slots, with the Western Force still a mathematical possibility if the stars align. Click here to see the current Super 14 table standings.

The big talking point going into last weekend's Crusaders vs. Brumbies encounter was the emotional home send-off to retiring Brumbies (and Wallaby greats George Gregan, Jeremy Paul and Stephen Larkham). The big talking point coming out of the match was the Brumbies 15-6 victory over the perennial champion Crusaders. The match is now being looked at the way the All Blacks can be beaten in September's World Cup.

Meanwhile, Inky writes about "The Big Picture" and constructs some descriptive analysis reinforcing flagging Kiwi confidence.

God damn it, it's starting again, a flood of doubt rising over the public levees to lap at the feet of the Man... it must be World Cup year.
Read the whole thing here.

Check back later in the week for a preview of the final regular season weekend's action, and I'll examine the log-jam and playoff mathematics...

Monday, April 23, 2007

J.C. resurrection

This was a bad headache on Friday morning...

"Hurricanes' flanker Jerry Collins is assisted by trainers during the match against the Crusaders." Photo/Reuters.

...and this followup from a couple days later is an early candidate for Photo of the Year:

"Carthorse ... Jerry Collins proves hard men carry their own bags." Photo: Kevin Stent (Dominion Post; via Rugby Heaven).

Click on the pics for the (almost) gory details.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Alarmist Euro Super League "Breakaway" Worries

This commentary by Gregor Paul in yesterday's New Zealand Herald is scary, like, Dick Cheney doomsday scary. But unlike the V.P.'s fear-mongering, Paul's report looks like it has a likelihood greater than 0.1%. The implications are worrisome for international test match rugby, as well as the viability of the IRB, and the future and direction and control of the game. The points are so alarming it deserves quoting in full:

Fears for NZ rugby as European clubs move to poach stars

New Zealand Herald
April 22, 2007
by Gregor Paul

A rebel breakout by European rugby clubs is threatening to decimate the All Blacks by poaching all their stars and destroying the value of test football.

The Herald on Sunday has learned that leading clubs in England, France and Ireland are in talks with broadcaster Setanta to set up what will effectively be a European version of the Super 14.

If the deal comes off, leading clubs in Europe will become even richer and will be operating outside the auspices of the International Rugby Board.

Clubs such as Toulouse, Wasps, Leicester and Biarritz would have the ability to offer stars such as Daniel Carter and Richie McCaw one million euro (NZ$1.85m) a year and be under no obligation to release them for All Black duty.

Fears are already mounting that unless the clubs can be persuaded to remain aligned with the IRB, the 2011 World Cup, to be held in New Zealand, will be reduced to a sham tournament where none of the best players are made available.

New Zealand has already felt the increasing spending power of the European clubs in recent months with Carl Hayman, Aaron Mauger, Chris Jack and Byron Kelleher all signing to play offshore after the World Cup this year.

Historically, the thrill of wearing the black jersey has helped the New Zealand Rugby Union in its battle to retain players.

But the European super clubs already have the best English and French players under contract as well as a significant number of Scots, Argentinians, Fijians, Samoans and Tongans.

NZRU deputy chief executive Steve Tew said: "We are watching developments with considerable interest and are hopeful that both parties can find a solution."

The hope for the NZRU and the other unions is that over the next month the clubs can be persuaded to either drop their breakaway plans or, if they do go through with them, to create a window where test football can be played.

Despite these developments, All Black coach Graham Henry is confident that his players will arrive at the World Cup in September focused on the task at hand.

He is also confident that any breakaway competition will be ultimately doomed. "We have seen in the past, with other sports, that when people try to get away from the establishment they have major issues with quality.

"History shows that these breakaways have not worked. The game cannot be split."


(Bold emphasis mine.)

Here's a recent Jonathan Davies commentary about the report about the rumoured Euro Super League breakaway. (There are links in the R.T. archives about Serge Blanco's threats several months ago.)

And...there's that Setanta name again. Just when I thought the IRB's sell-off of Canadian RWC broadcasting rights to Setanta was ruining the development of the sport in Canada, now there are rumours that Setanta itself is looking to bring down the IRB? Does the IRB's left hand know what the right hand is doing? Am I hearing things straight, or is my math just really, really bad?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Re: Black cloud on the horizon

Hayman and Cullen ~ laughing all the way to the bank?

The Telegraph's rugby columnist Mick Cleary blogs today about Newcastle's new million-dollar contract for Carl Hayman, and wonders whether it's good or bad for English rugby. He solicits thoughts, so I've posted my remarks in his comments section (2nd comment, scroll to 18 Apr 2007 14:05) .

Awww, tell me he doesn't deserve it.

No speculation how these signings will impact New Zealand rugby. I suspect Mr. Cleary does not shed a tear about that! What does BartMan have to say...? Click here.

(Photo source.)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

CRN Canadian Rugby News pulling the plug

When it rains, it pours. Rugby Union is taking a real hit in Canada. In the past week we've learned that the Rugby World Cup will only be available on Canadian teevees on a Pay-Per-View basis. And now some more sad news to report, Canadian Rugby News has an announcement posted at the head of their webpage announcing the website will now be automatically generated news, rather than a content provider.

Here's the full release:

Dear Readers - It has been a great five year run, but as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. Canadian Rugby News was created through the efforts of Karl Fix and a great bunch of rugby supporters from across the country who had faith in what importance an independent rugby news site had for developing the sport in Canada.

This group pooled financial resources, provided legal advice and helped create the site that would go on to post nearly 7,000 stories, pictures, letters to the editor, podcasts and video. We made some people mad, others laugh, and always had a great time doing it.

In recent times the realities of life, having two kids, a mortgage and an understanding wife, began to neccessitate a move to more conventional work, and as a result, less time devoted to the webpage. As the 'day job' took on more of a role in my life, the decision to abandon coverage of rugby became a distinct reality, and while for a time we worked with our US partners at American Rugby News to try and keep the site going from there, the final decision, while tough, makes sense. We are going to close the site down, with the hope that someone else will pick up the the cause of rugby news in Canada. This move also allows me to stay involved in the sport however, though in a different role all together.

Thanks to everyone who helped along the way. I got to meet great rugby people from coast to coast and around the world. In a few days you will see a new front page to CRN, where the world's rugby headlines will be aggregated automatically, and hopefully, you will still find this a helpful service, getting your 'daily rugby fix' in one spot.

Yours sincerely,
Doug Crosse


Friday, April 13, 2007

RWC 2007 on Canadian TV ~ at a steep cost.

Last week William Houston's "Truth & Rumours" column in the Globe and Mail newspaper reported that Setanta will be launching a new specialty soccer channel in Canada. Buried in the report was the following brief about 2007 Rugby World Cup coverage:

Rugby on TV

Still with Setanta Sports Canada, it also will distribute World Cup of Rugby coverage. [Shane O'Rourke, the president of North American operations for Setanta] said about half of the live telecasts from the tournament in September and October in France will air on SSC. The remaining games, including the premium matchups, will be carried on pay-per-view or designated for commercial establishments. Setanta will air those games on a tape-delayed basis.

This is alarming and worrisome news for several reasons.

Every game of every previous RWC tournament since the tournament commenced in 1987, has been available for free to all regular cable TV subscribers in Canada (TSN and Sportsnet, respectively), which means the majority of Canadian television sets. From memory, most of those RWC matches were all broadcast live, and many, if not most, matches were repeated on tape-delay basis.

That initial Rugby World Cup kicked off an invigorating interest in rugby in Canada. Sports channels stepped up to the plate and began providing match coverage of rugby games in the interim years between RWC's. First broadcast on TSN, then later on Sportsnet (both regular cable), and then in 2001 specialty digital cable channel Fox Sports World Canada (FSWC) began regular rugby programming of club, provincial and international test matches from both hemispheres. That all stopped two years ago, coinciding with Fox Sports World (USA)'s rebranding as "The Soccer Channel." I have written extensively over the past 18 months about the failure of FSWC to fulfill their promise of performance as required on their licence application to the CRTC. (See posts passim in the archive).

We have seen the profile of rugby significantly raised at the Canadian high-school, varsity and club level, for both men and women, over the past twenty years. But the sad reality is that for the past two years, rugby coverage for the Canadian fan has never been worse. It's true that Mediazone Rugby Channel provides coverage, but it is on a Pay-Per-View basis, on a small computer screen, and it is for acolytes such as myself, and does nothing to draw new eyeballs to the sport and develop it. Former Canadian skipper Al Charron wrote about the problem last August ("Show Me the Rugby"), and is just as frustrated as I am. Canadians could not see their national team qualify for the RWC with their ass-kicking of the United States in Newfoundland last year. Nor could we see Canada play Wales in front of 73,000 spectators in Cardiff.

Most fans here, while annoyed, expected they'd at least get to see the RWC. My worries began several months ago, when I began writing Rugby Canada, TSN, and Rogers Sportsnet seeking any-and-all information about potential RWC television rights in Canada, and received not a single reply from any of them.

As Houston reports above, there is a silver lining to the bad news. Setanta Sports, an Irish network with a North American division, is stepping up and filling the void. Nevertheless, the RWC package comes at a steep cost.

I followed up Houston's column by contacting Robert Ryan, the Director of Setanta's North American operations. Unlike regular Canadian networks (~ specifically TSN, Sportsnet, Telelatino, Fox Sports World Canada and their parent Can-West Global) who never answer their mail, Setanta has always been forthcoming in prompt replies to enquiries.

Ryan provided me some information about the new SSC launch and RWC plans. Additional information was also provided by Shane O'Rourke, the aforementioned president of North America operations.

First of all, I wanted to know whether Setanta Sports Canada had anything to do with Telelatino's licence approval for RCS (Rugby-Cricket-Soccer), the specialty digital cable channel that was approved by the CRTC 15 months ago. (There were rumours floating on various websites last April that Setanta would be the content provider for RCS. Telelatino has not replied to more than five enquiries from me with anything more than a single vague form letter last year, and there's been no movement on the stations' development or launch date since. Last year I asked Mr. Ryan about the rumours, and all he could tell me was that there were on-going negotiations, but given the confidential nature of the negotiations he was understandably wary about divulging specific details.) Here's our latest correspondence:

RT: Is Setanta Sports Canada (SSC) a new name for RCS? Is there a Telelatino connection?

Robert Ryan (Director): Setanta Sports Channel.

Shane O'Rourke (President): Not at this time it will more than likely be called Setanta Sports Canada. The partner agreement is between several players and no deal has been signed.

RT: Just for the record, you guys have nothing to do with Telelatino then, correct?

Robert Ryan: Just in talks with them.

Shane O'Rourke: None!

RT: Regarding the Rugby World Cup, what will be the costs of the games? Will these be priced individually, and/or will package deals be available for the entire tournament? Will the RWC games all be available live for home viewers?

Robert Ryan: Looks like the Channel will be up and running by late summer - not sure which platform and what model - ie. Sports Tier OR Subscription will be used yet. Some games as suggested - mainly the bigger games will be on LIVE in the bars / clubs as well with a $20 cover. The others will air LIVE on the Channel and all games will be delayed on the full-time channel within 24hrs.

Shane O'Rourke: 23-24 games on ppv and we will try to package them. $20 per day in the bars. Price per game $24.95 and $29.95 for the final but the package should be around $199 but that is not confirmed as yet with the carriers.

Robert Ryan: If we do PPV in homes there will be a pkg available and games will also be sold individually on PPV - Likely $24.95.

So, there you have it. We will have RWC games made available ~ but at a cost. That's a silver-lining for fans, but again, it does nothing to grow the sport or recruit new participants in Canada. In fact, I fear rugby in Canada will be feeling the sting of this action for many years to come.

It does no good maligning Setanta for this. They are providing a service. (Curiously, we have seen zero action from RCS, given licence approval 15 months ago; but strangely, if you do a CRTC search on licence approvals under the name "Setanta," you won't find anything. What is up with that?)

Who then, is to blame for RWC being marginalized, at a steep cost, to Canadian viewers? Is it the IRB, who have greedily priced their broadcasting rights beyond the rates that Canadian sports channels are willing to pay? Or is it Rugby Canada's fault for not doing enough to ensure partnerships with these broadcasters, and demand a better deal from the IRB on behalf of the Canadian channels and sponsors?

I don't know who to blame. But I'm pretty damn sure Rugby Canada's new sponsor Guinness breweries can't be too delighted about it. And the Canadian players themselves, who have sacrificed a lot simply to make their national team and qualify for the World Cup, must surely be crestfallen that their friends and neighbours ~ to say nothing of the larger Canadian viewing public ~ will be obliged to pay handsomely to watch any of their matches.

Last point, and this is a biggie:

Does Rugby Canada now deserve to have an IRB RWCL vote?

There are 23 votes on the IRB council to decide the hosting rights for the Rugby World Cup. Established rugby nations England, Wales, France, Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa get two votes each. That's 16 votes right there. The seven remaining votes are divided between Argentina, Italy, Asia, Europe, Africa, Oceania ~ and Canada ~ with one vote apiece.

Argentina and Italy are good value at a vote apiece. Argentina are probably worthy of a 2nd vote right now. And Italy, being the only entry in the Six Nations championship without a double-vote, probably feels they now have reason to suspect they deserve another vote as well. (Alas, Europe as a whole gets a vote.) Oceania, where rugby is the national sport in Samoa, Fiji and Tonga, only receive one single vote ~ collectively! The United States does not have a vote.

Looking from the outside, it seems preposterous that Canada, a union in a nation that is now ghetto-izing the Rugby World Cup to a high-end margin where very few eyeballs will even see the Big Kahuna, deserves the same leverage in deciding RWC hosting rights, as does Argentina and the Pacific Island nations. It gets patently ridiculous when we realize Canada has a power to tilt the hosting rights one way or the other. It's like giving Fiji a vote to determine where the World Cup of Ice Hockey should be hosted.

All things being fair, don't be surprised to see the IRB pull Canada's vote and give it to Argentina. The fact is, until Rugby Canada and the IRB can work to raise the profile of the sport in this country, we don't deserve the privilege. Let's be honest, the 2007 RWC broadcasting deal clearly demonstrates that the promotion - and more dangerously, the development - of rugby in Canada is stifled and regressing. We're going backwards to 1979.

And as far as rumours floating that Rugby Canada will propose hosting bids for the 2015 and 2019 Rugby World Cups ~ seriously, you must be joking! If Canada can't even get the RWC on regular TV, then how in the hell are they ever going to get Canadians to spend $100 for tickets on a sport and tournament they know nothing about? Pass the smelling salts to the IRB and Rugby Canada ~ they need to wake up and get a clue, quickly.

(Hat-tip to Jason Cormier at the Rugby Canada website forum for alerting me to the Wm. Houston column.)

Friday, April 06, 2007


Welcome to Red Terror blogspot page Version 3.0. I was last posting here 18 months ago, then was recruited to be the rugby columnist for an enthusiastic up-start American sports website called Most Valuable Network, which has since re-christened itself

The gig at MVN went fairly well, I was posting an average of one-per-day. However, around Christmas 2006 the organization went to a new ISP server. The transition was a massive headache. For many days and weeks, I could not login to post new blog entries, and all readers seemed to get were empty pages and error messages. The readership fell off fast, which was not a positive step leading into an important World Cup year. Things have barely improved the past three months, and naturally, being an American website, rugby was given a very low priority.

Headaches worsened with the unwieldy new set-up making life difficult to do even the simplest of tasks, such as sizing and positioning images manually in HTML. Moreover, YouTube links could not be embedded. And every day meant wasting time manually deleting excessive spam for Xanax, Viagra and "Big Dick" pills. All in all, it was becoming a debilitating mess, so my return to the original Red Terror blogspot site is really a big dose of Tylenol, where life is much, much easier. The 400+ MVN posts from the past 18 months have been manually transferred and are now stored in the March 2007 and April 2007 archives. If this is your first visit, by all means take some time and dig through the old archives.

Please be sure to bookmark and look forward to regular blog posting momentarily...


p.s. The above artwork is a manipulation (cough!) of Joseph Luke Fleury's "Phar Lap Before the Chariot of the Sun," an appropriate symbol marking the transitional passing of one realm to another ~ on the anniversary of that shocking news 75 years ago to-day.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

What is James Sharman talking about?

March 29, 2007

I like James Sharman. Really, I do. As host of the daily TV program Sportsworld on The Score, he talks about international sports that the rest of the Canadian sporting media won’t touch.

Sharman’s coverage includes rugby. Every week he does a Rugby Report, generally featuring interviews with ex-Canadian rugby legend Gareth Rees. That’s one of the big reasons I watch Sharman’s show.

Having said all that, every week Rees and Sharman take turns throwing out information and/or providing commentary that is utterly devoid of logic. I try to catch the segment every week, but I’m beginning to wonder what purpose it serves for anybody that actually follows rugby on a semi-regular basis.

Early this evening Sharman and Rees were discussing Portugal’s surprise qualification into this years’ 2007 Rugby World Cup. Portugal is the last qualifier, and slots into RWC Pool C. This pool comprises the following five teams:

New Zealand





In discussing this Pool C, Sharman makes the comment on a pair of occasions that the All Blacks are “arrogant” because they will be taking their group opponents lightly and concentrating on the knock-out finals stage.

This is less a case of “arrogance” by the All Blacks, than it is near-total ignorance from Sharman. Anybody that has been following international rugby at even a cursory glance for the past three years is well aware that New Zealand coach Graham Henry has implemented a “rotation” policy for his team. This policy was initially disdained. Indeed, Henry copped a lot of stick back home for supposedly “cheapening the jersey” by starting players in test matches against Top Tier international teams like England and France who weren’t regarded as that nations’ very best at their position.

Henry has always defended this policy by stating, time and again, that what he is working toward is DEPTH — a complete 30-man squad where any of his players can be confidently called upon to perform at the highest level, having undergone the cauldron of test match rugby and demonstrating that they are more than capable of performing.

The only way for Henry to create true depth was to give his bench players genuine test match experience and have them compete for the starting positions. By and large Henry has succeeded — last November, for example, the deep “rotational” All Blacks dealt record losses to England, Wales and France. Not surprisingly, Henry’s countrymen have tempered their stinging criticisms.

Sharman seems to be clueless about past lessons learned, so let’s step back in time and revisit ghost of NZ’s RWC-passim:

At RWC 1995, New Zealand elected to rest their biggest superstars, the giant Jonah Lomu and goalkicker Andrew Mehrtens against Japan. The ABs had already defeated Wales and Ireland at the group stage and were assured a berth into the playoff stage. Lomu's replacement was Marc Ellis, who torched Japan for a world-record SIX tries. Mehrtens replacement was Simon Culhane, who scored himself a try, and converted 20-out-of-21 conversions, for a world record haul of 45 points. The final score was NZ 145 vs. Japan 17. Was it arrogance that made AB coach Laurie Mains rest some of his players? Or was it confidence that his bench replacements were equal to the task?

At RWC 1999, NZ was famously eliminated by France at the semi-final stage. The big issue All Black coach John Hart had going into the tournament was four backline superstars (Jonah Lomu, Christian Cullen, Jeff Wilson and Tana Umaga), but only three vacant positions to slot them into (the two wings and fullback positions). Hart's fateful decison was to go into the RWC playing Cullen -- ordinarily a fullback -- at outside-centre, a position he was not overly familiar at the highest level. The experiment was a failure.

At RWC 2003, possibly the worst blow for New Zealand occured in the first match of their group stage against Italy. A freak mishap saw centre Tana Umaga trip over the leg of his own player, Carlos Spencer, and damage the ligaments in his knee. Umaga's World Cup was over in the first half of the first pool stage test. Coach John Mitchell then had to initiate an experiment tinkering with backline combinations at the worst possible moment. His desperate solution saw fullback Leon MacDonald slotting into the unfamiliar position of centre, and worse, take over goal-kicking responsibilities, which is something MacDonald didn't even do at club or provincial level, to say nothing of the semi-final of the World Cup. Alas, the experiment was another abject failure.

Could Graham Henry have learned any lessons from these three examples? If he has any common sense, one would have to assume Henry had witnessed and processed what had previously transpired, and worked to design a strategy that would assure, as best as possible, that the same mistakes would not be repeated.

If a player like, say, Mils Muliaina was going to play out of position, then he would get experience playing that position over the development of a couple years, not thrown into a sudden crash course in the middle of the world’s biggest tournament.

Moreover, NZ’s backline coach Wayne Smith is on record as saying that only two All Blacks — captain Richie McCaw and goalkicker Daniel Carter (coincidentally, the last two IRB World Player of the Year recipients) — are guaranteed roster spots. And that’s taking into consideration that McCaw is injury-prone with recurring concussions that have regularly sidelined him, and Carter is currently rehabbing a strained neck.

See, one of the things you learn when you follow rugby is that it’s a tough physical collision sport where participants frequently get injured. Just ask Keith Robinson, who was on the rack for well over a year recovering from a neck and spinal injury. Right now there appears to be incredible depth and balance in this current All Black team. Virtually any of the 30-man roster can be pencilled into any starting lineup. What exactly does Sharman think Graham Henry has been doing the past two years?

I’m almost afraid to hear the answer.

I know Sharman follows soccer. If Sharman can step outside himself for a minute and imagine a scenario where Chelsea FC has a Saturday EPL fixture against, say, West Ham, followed by mid-week UEFA Champions League final-round match against, say, Bayern Munich, would it be “arrogant” of manager Jose Mourinho to rest Thierry Henry Frank Lampard against West Ham in order to keep his legs fresh against Bayern Munich? Seriously ~ is this arrogance, or prioritizing sheer common sense? And if it’s common sense for soccer, then why is it not equally true for a sport like rugby union where the risks and incidence of injury are substantially greater?

RWC 2007 Pools finalized: Portugal in; Uruguay out.

March 25, 2007

Portugal fills out the last spot for RWC France 2007. They lost to Uruguay in Montivideo, but won by a single point on the home-and-away test aggregate. They earn the right to face the All Blacks in pool competition.


Portugal’s remarkable Rugby World Cup 2007 qualification campaign has ended in joy as the Lobos hung on to complete a 24-23 aggregate victory over Uruguay in Montevideo to book a place at the finals for the first time.

Despite losing the second leg 18-12 Tomaz Morais’ team did enough to advance to Rugby World Cup 2007 in France in September and a place in Pool C alongside New Zealand, Scotland, Italy and Romania.

The entrants for the pool stages are now finalized:

RWC 2007 Pools

South Africa


New Zealand


Vive le France! Injury-time TMO = championship!

March 19, 2007

The nailbiting conclusion to this years' wide-open Six Nations championship came down to the worried-about pocket calculator climax on Saturday. I was supposed to be working, but the contests got the better of me and I sat transfixed for six straight hours.

First match up St. Patrick's Day was Ireland taking on feisty up-start Italy in Rome. It's fair to say that both sides are currently showing the best form for each side that anybody with a living memory can recall. In the first-half, the huge Italian pack shoved Ireland around the track, but only had penalty goals to show for it. The visitors scored a pair of tries and led at the break 20-12.

Things really opened-up in the 2nd-half as the Irish got some opportune tries early and with the sniff of victory up their noses began piling on points in an effort to overhaul France for the championship tie-breaker.

In the end, Ireland scored a total of eight tries and took a 34-point advantage going into injury-time, leading the Italians 51-17. But a defensive lapse and a last-second converted injury-time try to Italian fullback Roland De Marigny shaved back seven points ~ possibly crucial points. Final score: Ireland 51 Italy 24. Ireland would sit out the rest of the day's matches wondering if they had done enough; their final 6N table point-differential was +27 points. Meanwhile, Italian fans gave their boys a ticker-tape parade in Rome.

In the all-important second match, France hosted Scotland in Paris, knowing they would have to beat Scotland by 23 points to win the championship. Scotland started with a flash, but France dominated most of the first half and comfortably led 20-7 going into the changing sheds. Then Scotsman Sean Lamont scored a massive try at the whistle to give Irishmen everywhere heart. The halftime score was 20-14, only a six-point advantage, which meant France had to bag +17 in the remaining 40 minutes.

The French were into the game's last quarter leading 39-14, just barely covering the point difference they required and seemingly on cruise-control. But "cruise contriol" requires taking the foot off the pedal, and that's exactly what France did, running out of gas and holding that scoreline toward the conclusion of the game. Then with 4 minutes on the clock ~ disaster for the French ~ as Scottish front-rower Euan Murray stood wide on the wing and claimed an unlikely try in the corner. The match was ending with France holding a 20-point lead, i.e. not enough for the championship. The heroes would turn out to be French replacement Elvis Vermeulen and Irish Television Match Official (TMO) Simon McDowell. France patiently assaulted the Scottish line, and into injury-time Vermeulen got over the line and kinda-maybe-sorta-perhaps-dunno-possibly scored under a mass of bodies --- so, upstairs went the decision. TV replays never showed proper grounding of the ball, nevertheless, an Irish TMO on St. Patrick's Day felt the heat of Paris tightening his collar and awarded the try, giving France a resounding 46-19 victory over Scotland, and more importantly a +27 point advantage ~ same as Ireland took earlier in the day ~ gifting Les Cocques the Six Nations championship on a tie-breaker.

Rugby Planet called it a "Hollywood ending."

Inky thinks otherwise:

"France won the title by virtue of a points differential. They beat Scotland (46-19) by the same twenty seven point margin that Ireland beat Italy (51-24), thus retaining their four point differential week from the previous round.

"I'm sorry but it's true... I actually led a newsletter with that. Oh, and Wales beat England 27-18 in Cardiff, a win more disturbing for England than it was heartening to the Welsh, whose season has been the most grim of all since Clive Woodward sabotaged their development."

Which takes us to the final match of this years' tournament, Wales hosting England at Cardiff. Wales tend to be motivated more by the sting of fear than the glory of victory, and with a winless tournament and a "Wooden Spoon" staring them in the face, raised their game and defeated the lily-white roses 27-18.

Mick Cleary tries to reflect on what it all means.

Six Nations championship weekend preview

March 16, 2007

The Six Nations tournaments wraps up Saturday with the three final matches and everything to play for. Rugby Planet has their last-minute previews up. Here are the excerpted details (click on links to view complete previews):

Italy vs. Ireland at Stadio Flaminio, Rome.

Italy: 15 Roland De Marigny, 14 Kaine Robertson, 13 Ezio Galon, 12 Mirco Bergamasco, 11 Matteo Pratichetti, 10 Ramiro Pez, 9 Alessandro Troncon, 8 Sergio Parisse, 7 Maurizio Zaffiri, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Marco Bortolami, 4 Santiago Dellapè, 3 Carlos Nieto, 2 Carlo Festuccia, 1 Salvatore Perugini. Replacements: 16 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 17 Fabio Staibano, 18 Valerio Bernabò, 19 Josh Sole, 20 Paul Griffen, 21 Andrea Scanavacca, 22 Matteo Barbini.

Ireland: 15 Girvan Dempsey, 14 Shane Horgan, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Denis Hickie, 10 Ronan O'Gara, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 Denis Leamy, 7 David Wallace, 6 Simon Easterby, 5 Mick O'Driscoll, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 John Hayes, 2 Rory Best, 1 Marcus Horan or Simon Best. Replacements: 16 Jerry Flannery, 17 Simon Best or Bryan Young, 18 Trevor Hogan 19 Neil Best, 20 Eoin Reddan, 21 Paddy Wallace, 22 Andrew Trimble.

Date: Saturday, March 17
Venue: Stadio Flaminio, Rome
Kick-off: 14:30 local (13:30 UTC/GMT) 09:30 am EDT (New York, Toronto)
Expected weather conditions: Scattered clouds, clearing, with a high of 18°C, dropping to 8°C and a freshening westerly of 14 km/h
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)
Touch judges: Tony Spreadbury (England), Malcolm Changleng (Scotland)
Television match official: David Changleng (Scotland)
Assessor: Steve Hilditch (Ireland)

Rugby Planet prediction: Ireland to win by 15 points.

France vs. Scotland at Stade de France, Paris.
France: 15 Clement Poitrenaud, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 David Marty, 12 Yannick Jauzion, 11 Cédric Heymans, 10 Lionel Beauxis, 9 Pierre Mignoni, 8 Imanol Harinordoquy, 7 Julien Bonnaire, 6 Serge Betsen, 5 Jerome Thion, 4 Lionel Nallet, 3 Pieter De Villiers, 2 Raphael Ibanez (captain), 1 Olivier Milloud. Replacements: 16 Nicolas Mas, 17 Sebastian Bruno, 18 Pascal Papè, 19 Elvis Vermeulen, 20 Jean-Baptise Elissalde, 21 Damien Traille, 22 Christophe Dominici.

Scotland: 15 Chris Paterson (captain), 14 Sean Lamont, 13 Rob Dewey, 12 Andrew Henderson, 11 Nikki Walker, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Rory Lawson, 8 Johnnie Beattie, 7 Kelly Brown, 6 Simon Taylor, 5 Scott Murray, 4 Nathan Hines, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Gavin Kerr. Replacements: 16 Dougie Hall, 17 Allan Jacobsen, 18 Jim Hamilton, 19 Allister Hogg, 20 Chris Cusiter, 21 Marcus Di Rollo, 22 Rory Lamont.

Date: Saturday, March 17
Time: 16:30 local (15:30 UTC/GMT) 11:30 am EDT (New York, Toronto)
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Touch judges: David Courtney (Ireland), Taizo Hirabayashi (Japan)
Television match official: Simon McDowell
Assessor: Michel Lamoulie

Rugby Planet prediction: France to win by 12 points.

Wales vs. England at Millenium Stadium, Cardiff.
Wales: 15 Kevin Morgan, 14 Mark Jones, 13 Tom Shanklin, 12 Gareth Thomas (c), 11 Shane Williams, 10 James Hook, 9 Dwayne Peel, 8 Ryan Jones, 7 Martyn Williams, 6 Alix Popham, 5 Alun Wynn Jones, 4 Ian Gough, 3 Chris Horsman, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Gethin Jenkins. Replacements: 16 Rhys Thomas, 17 Duncan Jones, 18 Adam Jones, 19 Brent Cockbain, 20 Jonathan Thomas, 21 Mike Phillips, 22 Gareth Thomas.

England: 15 Mark Cueto, 14 David Strettle, 13 Mathew Tait, 12 Mike Catt (c), 11 Jason Robinson, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Harry Ellis, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Tom Rees, 6 Joe Worsley, 5 Tom Palmer, 4 Martin Corry, 3 Julian White, 2 George Chuter, 1 Tim Payne. Replacements: 16 Lee Mears, 17 Stuart Turner, 18 Louis Deacon, 19 Magnus Lund, 20 Shaun Perry, 21 Shane Geraghty, 22 Jamie Noon.

Date: Saturday, March 17
Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-off: 17:30 local (17:30 UTC/GMT) 01:30 pm EDT (New York, Toronto)
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Touch judges: Alan Lewis (Ireland), Christophe Berdos (France)
Television match official: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assessor: Jim Bailey (Wales)

Rugby Planet prediction: England to win by 12 points.

If Rugby Planet's predictions come true, then France should win the competition by a single point on the tie-breaker (see immediate post below, plus "Calculators at the ready." ). That's how close it is. In fact, even Italy stands a chance to win the comp. Sure, they'd need help ~ France and England would have to lose, and Italy would have to beat Ireland by a cricket score. It begs the question of whether the Six Nations should adopt the "bonus-point" system implemented by SANZAR. The Telegraph's Mick Cleary investigates.

If you're in strife and need to know the results as they happen, check BBC for live audio and score tickers.

Down to the wire: Six Nations nailbiting

March 14, 2007

This past weekends' Six Nations saw some incredibly tight matches and surprising results that have turned the tournament on its head.

On Saturday morning Ireland scraped by a plucky Scotland by a point, winning 19-18 at Murrayfield.

Later that day Italy claimed another scalp in what has shaped up to be their best 6N season to date, beating Wales 23-20 in Rome. (Unfortunately I didn't get to hear the post-match phone calls to BBC 606, but I'm guessing it was unvarnished and nasty ~ especially the comments directed at English referee Chris White.)

And on Sunday, the weekends' biggest surprise saw an England team in turmoil defeat table-leaders France 26-18 at Twickenham.

The Six Nations tournament concludes this Saturday. The log-jam atop the table sees three teams (Ireland, France, England) tied for the lead with 6 points, and all three facing opponents they should theoretically beat (Italy, Scotland and Wales, respectively). But of those three leaders only France will play their final match at home. That should assist them since it appears likely the tournament victors will come down to a points +/- tie-breaker. Wales will be desperate to avoid the wooden spoon (and might just pull off the trick).

Click here to view the current 6N standings.

France sits atop the table with a +42 point differential; Ireland are snapping at their heels with a +38 point differential; England have a lot to claw back with only a +13 point differential, and will be needing a lot of help to take the title. Back with previews later in the week...

2011 RWC to claw back to 16…? Let’s hope.

March 9, 2007

Let's hope this report from the Dominion Post, via Rugby Heaven is accurate and gets some traction. I've been saying for years the RWC tournament needs to claw back to 16 teams. There are minnows in this years' RWC that will get hammered by cricket scores during the pool stages, and it's offensive to the sport as well as the audience that the tournament is trying to sell.

Minnows could be culled for 2011 Cup

by Jim Kayes
Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The 2011 World Cup in New Zealand could be a case of back to the future, with 16 teams and a more streamlined qualifying process. The inaugural World Cup in New Zealand in 1987 featured 16 teams, which was increased to 20 for the 1999 tournament and remained that way in 2003 and for this year's tournament in France.

It is too many, with Romania, Georgia, Namibia and whoever qualifies between Portugal and Uruguay destined to be the victims of some whopping cricket scores.

IRB chairman Syd Millar confirmed on Tuesday that the number of teams for the 2011 World Cup would be reviewed, along with the protracted qualifying process.

This year's World Cup will have featured 92 teams after 86 went through a qualifying system that began when Andorra thrashed Norway in September 2004.

One spot remains open - in the All Blacks' pool - with Portugal to play Uruguay in Lisbon this weekend and again in Montevideo on March 24.

Millar said qualifying for the 2011 tournament would be more streamlined, with regional tournaments an option. That would allow the seedings to be done closer to the tournament, making them more accurate.

The seedings for this year's World Cup are based on where teams finished in Australia four years ago, leaving Argentina, who are now sixth in the world, in a pool of death with France and Ireland.

"We are looking at what we might do for 2011, how teams might qualify and we will look at the numbers (of teams in the tournament)," Millar said before the IRB executive met in Auckland yesterday. "We've got to review the World Cup, and see where were going and how we can make the World Cup better."

An English initiative has previously suggested two World Cups run side by side for top-tier nations and the next level, though Miller said that was impractical because amateur players would not get sufficient time off work. Though he would not say how many teams could feature in 2011, the only option outside the status quo was to reduce the number of teams to 16.

"We won't be increasing the numbers at all, but the format will be different for qualification because we had 86 teams this time.

"It's a huge advantage for those teams to say they played in the World Cup (albeit only in the qualifying stages). That gives them status, but we may have to have them qualify in a different way."

Millar also confirmed that the executive committee would discuss nine options for an integrated season that allows for tidier windows for test matches, but he conceded it was very much a work in progress.

While there was general agreement that competitions had to shift to allow each country to have access to their best players, persuading unions to move their competitions was easier said than done.

"We have nine options and that sounds ridiculous, but the fact of the matter is we've been working on this for some time and everybody has an opinion," Millar said.

"Everybody wants an integrated season, but then when you ask them to shift their season there are reasons for them not doing it."

He hoped yesterday's meeting would be able to whittle the nine options down to two or three, and admitted it was likely that whatever was settled on would see fewer tests played.

"We can't squeeze the season in the way were doing. There's just not the time in the season to play all the matches."


All Blacks returning to S14

March 9, 2007

The SANZAR Super 14 season is starting to get warmed up, and will really start to heat up as New Zealand's best rugby players return to their respective teams after beaing rested by All Black coach Graham Henry in preparation for Septembers' Rugby World Cup.

MediaZone Rugby Channel has been carrying all the action, plus more, and has extended their One-Year "All Access Pass" offer of USD$99.99 until March 15th. It's a great deal. Check it out.

Six-Nations penultimate weekend preview

March 9, 2007

Rugby Planet previews for:

Scotland vs. Ireland at Edinburgh.

Italy vs. Wales at Rome.

England vs. France at Twickenham.

(I'd give you more... in fact, I already did, typing up a 45-minute post before work this morning that this new website design decided to promptly lose. If readers knew the travails and wasted time this damned MVN re-design is creating for me, you'd think I was an idiot for even going along with it. ~ And you'd be right.)

IRB sorting out int’l calendar, plus RWC-seeding

March 6, 2007

Big shake-up possible? Via New Zealand Herald:

The IRB is expected to unveil plans in Auckland this week to make end of season tours part of a new, two-year competition counting towards World Cup seeding.

After almost seven years of expensive research and debate, Bernard Lapasset, the enigmatic Frenchman who heads the IRB's high performance unit, has come up with a couple of ideas to restore the vibrancy of test rugby.

The prospect of a global season - unifying the Northern and Southern Hemisphere seasons - has been ruled out, leaving only the June and November test windows with which to tinker.

One idea the IRB will put forward on Tuesday is a 10-team competition, played over two years, involving all the game's Tier One countries.

This proposal recognises that traditional competitions such as the Six Nations and Tri Nations are foundation stones that should never be removed and that the stale, mouldy part of the rugby season is the two cross-hemisphere test windows.


More at Rugby Planet.

Quick weekend 6N and S14 wrap

February 26, 2007

I'm still buried in real-world commitments and deadlines, which should (hopefully!) begin to ease shortly, and I'll be back to regular blogging asap. I haven't seen any rugby the past couple weeks, but again listened to BBC's live online audio streams of Italy 's magnificent upset of Scotland at Murrayfield, and Ireland's utter destruction of England at Croke Park, both on Saturday. And both, I think fair to say, historic wins for the victors. Italy got their first-ever away win in Six Nations competition, and Ireland ran up a record score against the Poms. (I didn't get to hear France beat Wales, but the wire reports sound good on that one too. ) BBC has viddie highlights of all the weekends' Six Nations contests.

Inky has all the latest Super 14 updates. Kiwi franchises back in a big way after last weekends' flops.

Right now I am also trying to get the hang of MVN's new website design and layout. Where did all my rugby links go...? I have to investigate.

Short backly...

Kiwis teaching Eagles to fly

February 19, 2007

Good news for the USA Eagles, via the New Zealand Herald:

Coaching duo heading stateside

By Gregor Paul
New Zealand Herald

All Black specialist coaches Mike Cron and Mick Byrne will head to the US today to lick the Eagles into shape.

The two are being sent stateside to help to cement the blossoming relationship between the New Zealand Rugby Union and USA Rugby.

Last year NZRU executives Steve Tew and Chris Moller met officials from USA Rugby to examine ways in which New Zealand could help to promote and grow the game in North America.

The NZRU sought the meeting as it wants to grow the sport and also to assess commercial opportunities.

Cron is recognised as the pre-eminent scrum coach in the world and Byrne, having played Aussie Rules professionally, is considered one of the best kicking specialists in the business.

They will host clinics with the US national team the Eagles to help them prepare for the World Cup and they will also work with some of America's emerging coaches.

NZRU deputy chief executive Tew, said: "We have made a commitment to both the USA and Canada that we will help them grow the sport. We have made a long-term investment to both those markets.

"Last year, myself and Chris Moller met with the guys who were trying to restructure and rebuild US rugby. We have a very good relationship with both USA and Canada. Last year the Canadian development team came over and sending Mike and Mick over is part of that commitment we have made."

Tew said that, while the NZRU already had a relationship with USA Rugby, the recent appointments of former NZRU board member Kevin Roberts as chairman and former All Black selector Peter Thorburn as head coach of the Eagles had helped forge closer ties.

Former England halfback and coach of Gloucester and Wasps, Nigel Melville, has also been recently appointed as chief executive of USA Rugby and there is genuine optimism that the US could finally have the blocks in place to become a rugby superpower.

Tew said that the New Zealand Maori's annual appearance in the Churchill Cup, which features the Eagles and Canada, was helping raise the standards in North America.


Glen Ella hired as backline coach for Canada

February 15, 2007

Canada has just hired former Wallaby Glen Ella to their coaching staff. Along with his brothers Mark and Gary, he helped revolutionize rugby back-play in the early 1980s. His experience and expertise should prove hugely beneficial to the Canadain backline, who often have difficulty coming up with creative Plan B's when Plan A runs into a brick wall.

Rugby Canada press release:

Vancouver, BC
February 13, 2007

Former Wallaby Glen Ella has been appointed to the coaching staff of Canada's National Senior Men's Team (NSMT), which will compete at the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France.

Ella, who played in four test matches for Australia between 1982 and 1985, has tremendous experience coaching at both sevens and fifteens.

He is the current Australia Sevens coach, in addition to holding the post on three different occasions throughout the 1990s. Glen was also Assistant Coach of the Wallabies in 1994-95 and from 2000-2003, and was involved with Brumbies as a technical adviser in the late 90s.

Glen Ella Bio:
Date of birth:
5 June 1959
Test caps:
4 - v Scotland 1982, v Italy 1983, v Canada & Fiji 1985

Coaching experience:
Australian Sevens Coach - 1994-95, 1997, 1999-2000 and current
ACT Brumbies Technical Adviser - 1998-2000
Wallaby Assistant Coach - 1994-95 and 2000-2003

Six Nations weekend review

February 12, 2007

I'm still behind the 8-ball with work, and worse -- haven't seen any rugby in weeks. I did, however, listen to the BBC's live online audio streams of the Six Nations test matches while I was working.

On Saturday morning, England followed-up their "world beating oresomeness" of last weekend with a stink-bomb in Rome, beating Italy 20-7. Online BBC video highlights here.

Afterward, Scotland beat Wales 21-9 at Murrayfield in a boring kicking contest that Rugby Planet called "abyssmal." Best part of that audio broadcast were the Welsh post-match callers to BBC's Scrum V program calling the Welsh performance the worst-ever and demanding that Wales' coach Gareth Jenkins get the sack! Online BBC video highlights here. This morning the South Wales Echo is reporting, "Wales shirts selling for as little as £15."

On Sunday, the best game of Round Two lived up to expectations. France led Ireland in Dublin 13-3 after 14 minutes, but didn't score again until 65 minutes later. The Irish, playing in front of 83,000 fans at Croke Park, fought hard for most of those 65 minutes and clawed-back to take a 14-13 lead. At the 77th minute the crowd was deafening as Ronan O'Gara slotted a penalty to carry Ireland to a 17-13 lead. But on the ensuing kick-off, well ... here's how Rugby Planet describes it:

France got the ball back from the kick-off and went right where David Marty accelerated ahead into the Irish 22 and Yannick Jauzion carried it on. They won quick ball from the tackle and Pierre Mignoni fed Beauxis who threw a long pass to his left - to Vincent Clerc in a centre position. The wing darted between John Hayes and Neil Best, swerving past groping Denis Hickie and away from stretching Paul O'Connell to score as Shane Horgan approached, horror on his face.

Final score at the death-knell: France 20 Ireland 17. Fighting Irish hearts everywhere were shattered. Nevertheless, they continue to prove to the rugby world that they can toe it with anybody in world rugby. Online BBC video highlights here.

The tournament resumes in two weeks. We'll take a closer look at the standing and schedule later this week...

O Jonny!

February 5, 2007

Right now I am super-busy hung up with work, so posting will be really light for the next week.

Good time to direct you to the inimitable Inky for a full wrap of S14 and 6N weekends' action.


It was in stark contrast to the mood in round one of the Six Nations. This looked so predictable you'd flick to the end of the DVD just to check, and then probably not bother watching it (unless you're me, and you know you have subscribers in places where there's no coverage... where you'd chew your own arm off and hit yourself with the bloody stump to see a live international... so I make a point of never taking that privilege for granted).

The first two fixtures saw England beat Scotland 42-20 at Twickenham and France thrash Italy 39-3 in Rome, the only event of significance being the long-awaited return of Jonny Wilkinson. He was very good, and made the late hour worthwhile scoring twenty seven of England's points. I'm not going to join the effusive praisegiving of the English press though, who apart from the always reliable BBC are staining their shorts over his Calcutta Cup performance.

It was good but not that good. Where Jonny Wilkinson is concerned, Fleet Street doesn't exactly take its cue from the man who shot Liberty Valance... only when the legend becomes fact, print the legend... they assign him mystical powers and light him burnt offerings.



That's just a taste. If you aren't a subscriber yet, then what are you waiting for?

And yes ~ yesss! ~ was pleased to hear ex-England srummie and current-BBC analyst Matt Dawson call it the way it was and condemn the Irish TMO video-ref for awarding Wilkinson's try. Just what, exactly, is the purpose of a TMO when he gets it so badly wrong? A travesty and a black eye. I am glad to see Dawson, who is hardly a neutral as far as picking sides here, call it straight down the middle.


On a completely unrelated matter, the Colts won the Superbowl, good for them, but on a more important matter, Thurman Thomas was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and that makes me a very happy boy this morning. Congrats to him, he and Bruce Smith have always been my two fave football players, and I'm looking forward to Thurman's induction and the day Smith joins him in Canton.

Rugby reminders!

February 2, 2007

Six Nations and Super 14 start this weekend!

Rugby Planet also their test previews up this morning. Here are the details; click through the links to get the full reports...

Italy vs. France

Date: Saturday, 3 February
Kick-off: 14.30 (13.30 GMT)
Venue: Stadio Flaminio, Rome
Expected weather conditions: Scattered clouds with a high of 12°C, dropping to 5°C and a wind from the northeast veering northwest of 10 km/h, but freshening.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Touch judges: Dave Pearson (England), Rob Debney (England)
Television match official: Tim Hayes (Wales)
Assessor: Michel Lamoulie (France)

RP prediction: France by eight points.

Italy: 15 Roland de Marigny, 14 Denis Dallan, 13 Gonzalo Canale, 12 Mirco Bergamasco, 11 Andrea Masi, 10 Andrea Scanavacca, 9 Paul Griffen, 8 Sergio Parisse, 7 Mauro Bergamasco, 6 Josh Sole, 5 Marco Bortolami (captain), 4 Santiago Dellapè, 3 Carlos Nieto, 2 Fabio Ongaro, 1 Salvatore Perugini.
Replacements: 16 Carlo Festuccia, 17 Andrea Lo Cicero, 18 Martín Leandro Castrogiovanni, 19 Roberto Mandelli, 20 Alessandro Troncon, 21 Ramiro Pez, 22 Kaine Robertson.

France: 15 Clément Poitrenaud, 14 Christophe Dominici, 13 Florian Fritz, 12 Yannick Jauzion, 11 Cédric Heymans - 10 David Skréla, 9 Pierre Mignoni, 8 Sebastian Chabal, 7 Julien Bonnaire, 6 Serge Betsen, 5 Lionel Nallet, 4 Jérôme Thion, 3 Pieter de Villiers, 2 Raphaël Ibañez (captain), 1 Olivier Milloud.
Replacements: 16 Dimitri Szarzewski, 17 Sylvain Marconnet, 18 Pascal Papé, 19 Imañol Harinordoquy, 20 Dimitri Yachvili, 21 Lionel Beauxis, 22 Vincent Clerc.

England vs. Scotland

Date: Saturday, 3 January
Kick-off: 16.00 GMT
Venue: Twickenham
Weather: Hazy sunshine, cold, -1 - 5°C, no wind to speak of.
Referee: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
Touch judges: Alain Rolland (Ireland), Federico Cuesta (Argentina)
Television match official: Donal Courtney (Ireland)
Assessor: Paul Bridgman (England)

RP prediction: England by eighteen points.

England: 15 Iain Balshaw, 14 Josh Lewsey, 13 Mike Tindall, 12 Andy Farrell, 11 Jason Robinson, 10 Jonny Wilkinson, 9 Harry Ellis, 8 Martin Corry, 7 Magnus Lund, 6 Joe Worsley, 5 Danny Grewcock, 4 Louis Deacon, 3 Phil Vickery (captain), 2 George Chuter, 1 Perry Freshwater.
Replacements: 16 Lee Mears, 17 Julian White, 18 Tom Palmer, 19 Tom Rees, 20 Peter Richards, 21 Toby Flood, 22 Mathew Tait.

Scotland: 15 Hugo Southwell, 14 Sean Lamont, 13 Marcus Di Rollo, 12 Andrew Henderson, 11 Chris Paterson (captain), 10 Dan Parks, 9 Chris Cusiter, 8 David Callam, 7 Kelly Brown, 6 Simon Taylor, 5 James Hamilton, 4 Alastair Kellock, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Dougie Hall, 1 Gavin Kerr.
Replacements: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Allan Jacobsen, 18 Scott Murray, 19 Allister Hogg, 20 Rory Lawson, 21 Rob Dewey, 22 Rory Lamont.

Wales vs. Ireland

Date: Sunday 4th February 2007
Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-off: 15.00 (GMT)
Weather Forecast: Clear skies are forecast with some sunshine - perfect weather for running rugby.
Referee: Kelvin Deaker (New Zealand)
Touch judges: Steve Walsh (New Zealand), David Changleng (Scotland)
Television match official: TBA (England)
Assessor: Steve Hilditch (Ireland)

RP prediction: Ireland by eight points.

Wales: 15 Kevin Morgan, 14 Hal Luscombe, 13 Jamie Robinson, 12 James Hook, 11 Chris Czekaj, 10 Stephen Jones (captain), 9 Dwayne Peel, 8 Ryan Jones, 7 Martyn Williams, 6 Alix Popham, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Ian Gough, 3 Chris Horsman, 2 Rhys Thomas, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Duncan Jones, 18 Robert Sidoli, 19 Gavin Thomas, 20 Mike Phillips, 21 Ceri Sweeney, 22 Aled Brew.

Ireland: 15 Girvan Dempsey, 14 Andrew Trimble,13 Brian O'Driscoll (captain), 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Denis Hickie, 10 Ronan O'Gara, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 Denis Leamy, 7 David Wallace, 6 Simon Easterby, 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 John Hayes, 2 Rory Best, 1 Marcus Horan.
Replacements: 16 Jerry Flannery, 17 Simon Best, 19 Neil Best, 18 Mick O'Driscoll, 20 Isaac Boss, 21 Paddy Wallace, 22 Geordan Murphy.

Rugby Planet also has their previews of Round One of the SANZAR Super 14 competition.

Round One, Pt. 1.

Round One, Pt. 2.

Al gets letters

February 2, 2007

He couldn't be talking about me ... could he? May-be...


Mr. Charron,

What do you think of some of the rugby opinions expressed on the various Canadian rugby websites?

Harry Johnson


Well Harold,

like anything there are smart intelligent posters and then there are the ones who think they know everything but they don’t know Jack.

It must make some players, coaches and administrators’ blood boil to read some of the misinformation and pot-stirring that goes on, on these sites.

Granted some stuff is humorous but some of the stuff expressed as truth when really it is just misinformed opinions is slanderous and unfortunately taken to be facts by readers.

Anyone new to the sport of rugby and coming upon the dialogue that is expressed would come to the conclusion that a good many rugby people are apolitical, and juvenile.

Worst of all is the free reign the mostly anonymous posters have to spread their misconstrued discourse without any fear of implication due to them not being man (or woman) enough to post their real name or e-mail when sprouting their disparaging remarks about this person or that player.

Why read it? Good question. I certainly reserve the right not to but amongst the mire of crap, there is at times intelligent opinions and tidbits of useful information.

I guess the same reasoning can apply when reading my column!


Mr. Charron,

You suck!!!! Your column is way too long.

Jack Goff


Dear Jack,

You’re right- stop reading…!




RWC-winning skippers sign jersey for USRFF

February 2, 2007

Brian Vizard at the USRFF is listing a unique collectible jersey, and as always I am only too happy to give him some promotional support to a great cause. By all means check out the eBay link below, there's plenty more good reading at the actual listing.

RWC captains jersey


A rugby jersey signed by all five of the Rugby World Cup winning captains is the latest jersey to be auctioned off by the United States Rugby Football Foundation.

Quarter-paneled in front, this jersey includes a black panel with an embroidered New Zealand flag along with 1987 Rugby World Cup winning All Blacks captain David Kirk’s autograph; a gold panel with an embroidered Australia flag with the signatures of 1991 RWC winning captain Nick Farr-Jones and 1999 World Cup winning skipper John Eales; a green panel with an embroidered South African flag and the autograph of 1995 winning World Cup Springbok captain Francois Pienaar; and a white panel with an embroidered England flag and the autograph of the 2003 RWC winning England captain Martin Johnson.

The jersey was donated to the Rugby Foundation by John Eales who wants to see the sport’s continued development around the world.

“For the continued growth of rugby as an international sport a key market is the USA,” said the Wallaby legend. “While rugby union has now been a professional sport for over 10 years, over 99% of rugby players are still amateur and this accounts for the entire grass roots junior development of the game worldwide. I thoroughly endorse the work that Brian Vizard and the team at the US Rugby Foundation are doing to promote the game at the development level in the USA.”

Photos of the jersey, along with brief accounts of the five Rugby World Cups to date and short bios about the winning captains can be found on eBay, item #180080753158. The bidding will conclude at 10:00 pm PST on Friday, February 9, 2007.

Visit the official USRFF website here.

Donnybrook in south o’ France

January 30, 2007

We've seen athletes attacking spectators before. Manchester United superstar Éric Cantona kung-fu kicking a Crystal Palace supporter. Toronto Maple Leafs enforcer Tie Domi laying out a Philadelphia Flyer fan who fell into his penalty box. The Indiana Pacers' Ron Artest and Jermaine O'Neal coming unglued and picking fights with Piston fans rows above courtside...

Now it's rugby's turn. Rugby Planet reports:

Brennan punch 1

Toulouse duo Trevor Brennan and Gareth Thomas have been summoned to appear before an independent Disciplinary Committee to answer misconduct complaints following the French side's controversial Heineken Cup clash against Ulster in France on Sunday.

The move comes following an initial investigation by European Rugby Cup (ERC) disciplinary officer Roger O'Connor.

Brennan, a former Ireland lock, allegedly assaulted Ulster supporter Patrick Bamford after leaving the playing area at Stade Ernest Wallon and climbing into a seated area.

Thomas, the former captain of Wales and the Lions, is alleged to have engaged in what ERC term "aggressive exchanges with spectators" and/or "aggressively attempted to enter one of the seating areas" and/or "made an offensive hand gesture towards spectators."

While Brennan is no longer part of the Irish set-up, Thomas remains an integral part of Wales's Six Nations plans, with their tournament opener just ten days away.

If the complaints are proved, both players could expect a ban and fine.

Brennan punch 2

Brennan allegedly delivered six punches to Bamford's head.

The reason?

[Ulster fan] Bamford is said to have chanted 'your mother is a whore' several times at Brennan.

Brennan punch 3

Sadly, no Youtube link yet. Still searchin'...

It'll be fascinating to see if-and-how the new IRB Regulation 17 disciplinary rule changes might apply to players assaulting spectators.

Six Nations starts this weekend

January 29, 2007

It's not just exciting Super 14 action in the southern hemisphere heating up this weekend. The competition for European international supremacy in the Six Nations championship also gets under way with a kick-off Saturday morning.

Defending champions France travel to Italy for Saturday's early test, and England host Scotland at Twickenham for the afternoon game.

On Sunday, Ireland -- the team many pundits are tipping as 6N favourites -- travel to Cardiff to hose down Wales.

Full Six Nations fixture list here.

The tournament this year looks incredibly tight. France will be looking to regain some of the shine that was tarnished in their two defeats to New Zealand in November. Ireland look the goods -- this is probably the best Irish outfit I've seen in my lifetime -- and they get to host France in their all-important test at Croke Park in Dublin. That home ground may decide the championship. Ireland traditionally plays their matches at their 50,000-seat home at Lansdowne Road, but that stadium is presently undergoing re-construction, and the much larger Croke Park (capacity 82,500) is expected to be sold-out and noisy. England have to claw a long way back under new coach Brian Ashton in order to gain some desperately required confidence going into this years' World Cup. England gets to host France at Twickers, but is on the road for their two critical tests against Wales and Ireland. Wales is expected to compete for the title, and they may surprise, but they are at-best a 3rd-equal pick, and they may yet have their hands full with Scotland, who certainly surprised the best in the NH last year and may do the same this time. Can't tip the Scots for the championship however, they haven't demonstrated consistency to wager as champs. Italy should be competitive in a few home tests, but they are expected to end the tournament holding the Wooden Spoon.

SANZAR Super 14 - super previews

January 24, 2007

Round One of the world's premier non-international rugby competition-- SANZAR's Super 14 -- starts next weekend (Feb. 2nd) with the defending champion Crusaders on the road to face the Blues.

The official Super 14 website is here.

A printable Word doc file of the official Super 14 schedule is here.

As usual, The Silver Fern is on top of the action with previews for all fourteen teams.


Auckland BLUES (N.Z.).

Waikato CHIEFS (N.Z.)

Wellington HURRICANES (N.Z.)

Canterbury CRUSADERS (N.Z.)


Queensland REDS (Aus)

New South Wales WARATAHS (Aus)








*Note: Live broadcasts of these games are available at Mediazone's Rugby Channel, as well as for downloads afterwards -- good for a year. Don't forget this fab offer (which includes S14 and more), but act quickly!

Mediazone Rugby Channel press release:

Do you want to want to watch more than 250 LIVE and on demand first class rugby matches from around the world for just $99.99?

For a limited time Rugby Channel’s yearlong All Access Pass will give you complete coverage of the 2007 Heineken Cup, Super 14, June Tours, Tri Nations, Currie Cup, and Air New Zealand Cup for only $99.99. This special limited offer is available to new subscribers and expires February 15th so sign up now at Rugby Channel and get started this weekend by watching six thrilling Heineken Cup deciders from the final round of pool play.

Four teams have already qualified for the Heineken Cup postseason, seven more are still chasing spots in the knockout round, they’re all playing to secure home field advantage in the playoffs, and you can watch it all LIVE on Rugby Channel if you subscribe now!

Share this Rugby Channel offer of $99.99 by forwarding this message to your buddies! Offer expires February 15th so don’t delay!

More details here.

USRFF to host Steinlager USA Sevens Kickoff Reception

January 24, 2007

Always happy to help out Viz.

USA Sevens


San Diego, CA (January 17, 2007) – Wanting to make the inaugural staging of the USA Sevens rugby tournament in San Diego a memorable one for players and fans alike, the United States Rugby Football Foundation has announced it will be hosting the Steinlager USA Sevens Kickoff Reception. The reception will take place on Wednesday, February 7 from 5:00-7:00 pm at the San Diego Hall of Champions.

“The Rugby Foundation is excited about having the Sevens here in San Diego,” said USRFF Executive Director Brian Vizard. “We are just as excited about hosting the Kickoff Reception. It's not too often that the fans get to see their favorite players up close, let alone get the chance to say a few words to them. We hope the players will enjoy the interaction as much as the fans do.”

Registration and payment must be completed/received by Thursday, February 1, 2007. Click here for more details about the Steinlager USA Sevens Kickoff Reception.

The $35 cost of the Kickoff Reception includes beer, wine, soft drinks and Hors d’oeuvres. Those in attendance will also have the chance to win rugby balls autographed by the different teams as well as tickets to the tournament during the end of the evening raffle.


For more information about the Foundation, go to its website at:

RWC 2007: Team Canada Cup preparation

January 24, 2007

Via Rugby Canada:


January 24, 2007
Toronto, ON

Rugby Canada’s Senior Men’s Coach Ric Suggitt and his staff have announced a preliminary sixty-two man “long list” who they consider the most likely candidates to make up Canada’s 30-man squad for the 2007 Rugby World Cup squad. ...


Aaron Abrams, Oliver Atkinson, Stu Ault, Mike Barbieri, David Biddle, Mike Burak, Hubert Buydens, Aaron Carpenter, Jamie Cudmore, Craig Culpan, Nanyak Dala, Derek Daypuck, Scott Dunham, Casey Dunning, Pat Dunkley, Matt Evans, Iain Exner, Andrew Fagan, Ed Fairhurst, Pat Fleck, Scott Franklin, Forrest Gainer, Ciran Hearne, Nathan Hirayama, Brodie Henderson, Mike James, Josh Jackson, Tony La Carte, Mark Lawson, Bryn Kees, Adam Kleeberger, Phil Mack, Phil MacKenzie, Stan McKeen, Ryan McWhinney, Neil Meechan, Justin Mensah-Cocker, Monro Monro, Chris Pack, Matt Phinney, Dan Pletch, Mike Pletch, James Prichard, Mike Pyke, Pat Riordan, Jared Selby, Ryan Smith, Rod Snow, Sean-Michael Stephen, David Spicer, Luke Tait, Kevin Tkachuk, Nick Trenkle, DTH Van Der Merwe, Mike Webb, Matt Weingart, Morgan Williams, Robert Wilson, Kris Witkowski, Dean Van Camp, Colin Yukes,

More details here.

RWC 2007: USA Eagles Cup preparation

January 24, 2007

Via USA Rugby:


BOULDER, Colo. -

Men’s National Team Head Coach Peter Thorburn has officially announced the program that will be used leading up to the 2007 IRB Rugby World Cup in France. ...

The first Rugby World Cup training camp is being held Feb. 18-24 in San Diego. With 60 players, 10 staff and specialty coaches being brought in to focus on a range of rugby specific components of the game. From the scrum to lineouts and kicking skills to ball retention, Coach Thorburn is really looking to fine tune the U.S. squad’s skills with as much technical training as possible. ...

The 50 players that Thorburn has officially invited to this first camp include Mark Aylor, Brian Barnard, Patrick Bell, Aaron Beuhring, Will Brazier, Blake Burdette, Adam Casias, Todd Clever, Mark Crick, Philip Eloff, Chad Erskine, Vahafolau Esikia, Michael French, Jason Guerts, Riaan Hamilton, Elwood Hullinger, Scott Jones, Kimball Kjar, Danny LaPrevotte, Brian Lemay, Jason Lett, Andrew Locke, Mike Mangan, Dominic Mara, Travis Meidinger, Hayden Mexted, Matekitonga Moeakiola, Kevin Mongold, Christopher Moreno, Tasi Mounga, Jone Naqica, Andrew Osborne, Chris Osentowski, Alec Parker, Dan Payne, Rikus Pretorius, Latu Puloka, Patrick Quinn, Nathan Rogers, Ronald Rosser, Douglas Rowe, Andrew Ryland, Jake Stanfill, Louis Stanfill, Albert Tuipolotu, John Vander Geissen, Francois Viljoen, John Vitale, Ben Weidmer, and David Williams. The remaining ten players and the specialty coaches have yet to be confirmed.

More details here.

RWC 2007 “base camps” announced

January 21, 2007

Via Rugby Canada:


January 19, 2007
Paris, FRA

The International Rugby Board (IRB) has announced the ‘base camp’ locations where participating teams in Rugby World Cup 2007 will be primarily based for the duration of the pool match stages.

For the first time in the Tournament’s history each of the 20 teams will be located in a regional base camp city during the initial pool stages of the Tournament. Teams will stay and train in the town or city and will play at least one match in their base camp region. Teams will travel to other match cities from the base camp, stay in the match city for a selected period of time then return to the base camp.

Within close proximity of each base camp hotel and match hotel will be standardised training facilities for all teams comprising: one full-size rugby pitch and access to a reserve pitch; an indoor training area; a swimming pool; and a gymnasium.

After the pool stages those teams not qualifying for the knockout stages will return home.

For the knockout stages of the Tournament (quarter-finals, semi-finals, Bronze Final and Final) hotels have been identified in Cardiff, Marseille and Paris. The eight quarter-final teams will arrive in their respective match cities on Tuesday October 2, 2007.

The schedule may be subject to change. Media requiring further information on hotels, travel and other facilities should contact the Participating Union concerned.

RWC 2007 Team Base Camps

Argentina: Paris (first week around opening match) then Lyon (Rhone Alps)

Australia: Montpellier (Languedoc-Rousillon)

Canada: Bordeaux (Aquitaine)

England: Paris (Ile de France)

Fiji: Toulouse (Midi-Pyrenees)

France: Paris (Ile de France)

Georgia: Lyon (Aquitaine)

Ireland: Bordeaux (Aquitaine)

Italy: Marseille (Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur)

Japan: Toulouse (Midi-Pyrenees)

New Zealand: Marseille (Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur)

Namibia: Marseille (Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur)

Romania: Toulouse (Midi-Pyrenees)

Samoa: Paris (Ile-de-France)

Scotland: St Etienne (Rhone-Alpes)

South Africa: Paris (Ile de France)

USA: (Lens for first match) Lyon (Rhone-Alpes)

Wales: Nantes (Pays de Loire)

Repechage 1: Lyon (Aquitaine)

Repechage 2: Montpellier (Languedoc-Roussillon)


Mediazone announces “All Access” rugby offer

January 21, 2007

As a general rule I don't ordinarily pimp unpaid advertisements, but this one is useful for rugby fans -- and it's a deal.

Mediazone Rugby Channel press release:

Do you want to want to watch more than 250 LIVE and on demand first class rugby matches from around the world for just $99.99?

For a limited time Rugby Channel’s yearlong All Access Pass will give you complete coverage of the 2007 Heineken Cup, Super 14, June Tours, Tri Nations, Currie Cup, and Air New Zealand Cup for only $99.99. This special limited offer is available to new subscribers and expires February 15th so sign up now at Rugby Channel and get started this weekend by watching six thrilling Heineken Cup deciders from the final round of pool play.

Four teams have already qualified for the Heineken Cup postseason, seven more are still chasing spots in the knockout round, they’re all playing to secure home field advantage in the playoffs, and you can watch it all LIVE on Rugby Channel if you subscribe now!

Share this Rugby Channel offer of $99.99 by forwarding this message to your buddies! Offer expires February 15th so don’t delay!

More details here.

NZH report: IRB looking at a new additional RWC-style tournie

January 12, 2007

Peter Bills at the New Zealand Herald has a potentially blockbuster scoop today:

IRB want All Blacks to play in new rugby tournament

Saturday January 13, 2007
New Zealand Herald

WORLD EXCLUSIVE - The International Rugby Board is looking at a radical shake-up of the test calendar, creating a new tournament that could see the end of the increasingly flawed end-of-season tours.

IRB chairman Syd Millar, concerned about too much test rugby, has suggested that a tournament, held every two years, could be the answer. It would be similar to soccer's European Championship in terms of timing, but would feature only the leading nations of the world.


Read the whole story.

RWC 2007 kickoff times - set yr TiVo

January 11, 2007

The IRB has just released the 2007 Rugby World Cup kick-off times. Note: all times in Eastern Daylight Time (North America):


Friday 7 September:
France v Argentina, Stade de France, St Denis, Pool D - 3:00 pm ET

Saturday 8 September
New Zealand v Italy, Marseille, Pool C -- 7:45 am ET
Australia v Japan, Lyon, Pool B -- 9:45 am ET
England v USA, Lens, Pool A -- NOON ET

Sunday 9 September:
Wales v Canada, Nantes, Pool B -- 8:00 am ET
South Africa v Samoa, Parc des Princes, Paris, Pool A -- 10:00 am ET
Scotland v Repechage 1, St Etienne, Pool C -- Noon ET
Ireland v Namibia, Bordeaux, Pool D -- 2:00 pm ET

Tuesday 11 September:
Argentina v Georgia, Lyon, Pool D -- 2:00 pm ET

Wednesday 12 September:
USA v Repechage 2, Montpellier, Pool A -- 8:00 am ET
Japan v Fiji, Toulouse, Pool B -- Noon ET
Italy v Romania, Marseille, Pool C -- 2:00 pm ET

Friday 14 September:
England v South Africa, Stade de France, Pool A -- 3:00 pm ET

Saturday 15 September:
New Zealand v Repechage 1, Lyon, Pool C --7:00 am ET
Wales v Australia, Cardiff, Pool B -- 9:00 am ET
Ireland v Georgia, Bordeaux, Pool D -- 3:00 pm ET

Sunday 16 September:
Fiji v Canada, Cardiff, Pool B -- 8:00 am ET
Samoa v Repechage 2, Montpellier, Pool A -- 10:00 am ET
France v Namibia, Toulouse, Pool D -- 3:00 pm ET

Tuesday 18 September:
Scotland v Romania, Edinburgh, Pool C -- 3:00 pm ET

Wednesday 19 September:
Italy v Repechage 1, Parc des Princes, Pool C -- 2:00 pm ET

Thursday 20 September:
Wales v Japan, Cardiff, Pool B -- 3:00 pm ET

Friday 21 September:
France v Ireland, Stade de France, Pool D -- 3:00 pm ET

Saturday 22 September:
South Africa v Repechage 2, Lens, Pool A --8:00 am ET
England v Samoa, Nantes, Pool A -- 10:00 am ET
Argentina v Namibia, Marseille, Pool D -- 3:00 pm ET

Sunday 23 September:
Australia v Fiji, Montpellier, Pool B -- 8:30 am ET
Scotland v New Zealand, Edinburgh, Pool C -- 11:00 am ET

Tuesday 25 September:
Canada v Japan, Bordeaux, Pool B -- NOON ET
Romania v Repechage 1, Toulouse, Pool C -- 2:00 pm ET

Wednesday 26 September:
Georgia v Namibia, Lens, Pool D -- Noon ET
Samoa v USA, St Etienne, Pool A -- 2:00 pm ET

Friday 28 September:
England v Repechage 2, Parc des Princes, Pool A -- 3:00 pm ET

Saturday 29 September:
New Zealand v Romania, Toulouse, Pool C -- 7:00 am ET
Australia v Canada, Bordeaux, Pool B -- 9:00 am ET
Wales v Fiji, Nantes, Pool B -- 11:00 am ET
Scotland v Italy, St Etienne, Pool C -- 3:00 pm ET

30 September:
France v Georgia, Marseille, Pool D -- 9:00 am ET
Ireland v Argentina, Parc des Princes, Pool D -- 11:00 am ET
South Africa v USA, Montpellier, Pool A -- 2:00 pm ET

6 October:
QF1: W Pool B v RU Pool A, Marseille -- 9:00 am ET
QF2: W Pool C v RU Pool D, Cardiff -- 3:00 pm ET

7 October:
QF3: W Pool A v RU Pool B, Marseille -- 9:00 am ET
QF4: W Pool D v RU Pool C, Stade de France -- 3:00 pm ET

13 October:
SF1: W QF1 v W QF2, Stade de France -- 3:00 pm ET

14 October:
SF2: W QF3 v W QF4, Stade de France -- 3:00 pm ET

19 October:
3rd place play-off, Parc des Princes -- 3:00 pm ET

20 October:
Final, Stade de France
-- 3:00 pm ET

Click here to view the full Rugby World Cup 2007 playing schedule.

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