Saturday, March 29, 2008

Rugby Canada and Mediazone sign agreement

Rugby Canada and MediaZone announce a multi-dimensional six-figure sponsorship to provide broadband coverage of Canadian rugby through the Rugby Canada Network, powered by

Rugby Canada press release [excerpts]:

The Rugby Canada Network is a major step towards the National Union being self sufficient in providing much needed coverage of a variety of its national and domestic content at a time when there are few avenues on mainstream television to showcase the sport. The Rugby Canada Network has already broadcast events such as the 2007 Canada U17 Men’s and Sr. Women’s Fall Tours to the UK, the Rugby Canada National Championship Festival and Rugby World Cup warm-up matches including the friendly against Portugal in August 2007. [...]

MediaZone’s partnership with Rugby Canada solidifies and expands the community-based destination for matches, schedules, results and access to other rugby information not available anywhere else. During the last year as the Rugby Canada Network was unveiled to supporters, the content was made available at no cost whether it was a live National Senior Men’s competition or tape=delayed coverage of a domestic event. [...]

Under the new deal, the Rugby Canada Network will now offer live content via subscription and pay-per-view and FREE tape-delayed content with advertising included.

In an innovative new approach to on-line content distribution, the Rugby Canada Network will simulcast hundreds of hours of Rugby Canada’s domestic events on both the official Rugby Canada site ( as well as MediaZone Rugby ( [...]

Rugby Canada’s live content will soon be available as a part of the MediaZone Rugby All Access Pass which includes more than 275 live, first-class matches in Canada, featuring full coverage of the Heineken Cup, Super 14, June tests, Tri-Nations series, Celtic autumn internationals, the Currie Cup and Air New Zealand Cup. Both MediaZone and Rugby Canada will offer a Rugby Canada Network Pass for $29.99 on each of their respective websites, which will include access to live feeds of all Rugby Canada events that air on the Rugby Canada Network.

Full announcement, click here.

Rugby Channel - Super 14 Event

Friday, March 28, 2008

Inky comments on new Canadian coach

An update to the earlier news that Canada has hired ex-All Black, Taranaki coach and All Black selector Kieran Crowley as their new head coach.

I asked Inky, one of the finest Kiwi rugby scribes around, if he could share a few comments about what sort of style and team selection we might expect from Crowley.

Inky comments:

"Kieran (a.k.a. Colt) Crowley was a fine goal-kicking fullback whose reliability under the high ball, touch-finding accuracy and defensive techniques far outweighed any perceived lack of attacking flair.

"He was one of John Mitchell's selectors from 2001-2003.

"He is big on the idea of recruitment rather than flogging any dead horses, but also a fierce team man. He is a fitness fundamentalist who believes that the basics + a good knowledge of one's own core tasks + an additional understanding of team-mates duties will get a player further than any hot-stepping, precocious talent.

"With his easy manner, simple old school philosophy and hard-core club ethic he can turn any difficult young fellow into an ambassador for the sport, as he did recently with some hard cases in the 2007 NZ Universities side.

"They played and lost to Canada last year, which I think was good for the Canadians' World Cup preparation... they played good rugby in a tough group... sure, they didn't get a win and drew 12-12 with Japan on a day when every single bounce of the ball favoured the Japanese, but they lost to Australia by sixty-odd points less than the Japanese and held Fiji, the Wallabies and Welsh to respectable margins until well into their matches.

"NZ Universities v Canada may even be where Colt was first approached to work with the Canadian team, or perhaps some longstanding associations of his with Canada were instrumental in them getting the NZ Universities fixture to begin with."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"He's a man." *

I don't have much time on my hands these days, but I'll always put a few minutes aside to read about this guy.

Thorn ups the ante

Duncan Johnstone
March 26, 2008

The Crusaders are smiling over the stunning return to rugby from Brad Thorn and assistant coach Mark Hammett reckons their joy might be infectious when it comes to the All Blacks.

"I'd suspect the All Blacks selectors are smiling from ear to ear in terms of Brad Thorn," says Hammett in a typically straightforward assessment of his lock's second stint at the 15-man game.

Thorn, of course, is the Brisbane Broncos legend who joined the Crusaders in 2001, played 12 tests for the All Blacks through to the 2003 World Cup and then went back to the NRL.

He stunned everyone late last year when he turned up again in the Super 14 squad. Now the Crusaders' coup may have an invalubale spin-off for the men in black.

Thorn has settled into Christchurch again and by the looks of things is putting his hand up for an international recall at a time when the locking stocks aren't exactly their deepest with Chris Jack gone and James Ryan and Ross Filipo injured.

At the ripe age of 33 that mightn't be a selection for the future but in terms of right now there aren't many better second rowers going around than the super-fit and ultra competitive Thorn.

"Brad has just been outstanding," continues Hammett, the former All Blacks hooker making a good fist of things managing the Crusaders pack alongside master coach Robbie Deans.

Hammett reckons Thorn is a better player now and has learned to blend some key traits from league into his rugby game. His fitness and stamina have been extraordinary over the first six rounds of the championship being played under the new rules where the Crusaders have gone unbeaten.

They take an eight-point lead into the Cake Tin on Friday night when they square off against the Hurricanes who have another comeback lock in their midst in the form of Jason Eaton. The national selectors have a feast in front of them in the capital from the front row through to the fullbacks.

But back to Hammett on Thorn: "He offers so much because he is a set piece specialist ... there are not many who are better than him in that area.

"Then he adds the dimension of being able to run with the ball and he is also very often amongst our top defenders. So he is very valuable to us.

"He has come in from years of the NRL where it is week after week grind so he is knows how to do it ... he has a great way with training."

Thorn (1.95m and 112kg) also has a helping hand at his side in another Crusaders newcomer, his old All Blacks locking mate Ali Williams. ...

Read the rest.


Bartman at The Silver Fern has his Form XV - Round 6:

5: Brad Thorn (Crusaders).

If he is not among the two best locks in New Zealand at the moment, I will eat my hat. Age barriers be dammed, Thorn is playing the best rugby of his life. A dominating presence in the tight, winning a ton of lineout ball, and making defences pay in pain every time they have to tackle the big man.

* Murray Mexted's short straight-to-the-point assessment of Brad Thorn, Crusaders vs. Cheetahs tv b'cast, 03/15/2008.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Vulgarity Blues

Inky is one of my favourite rugby columnists; indeed, one of my fave bloggers on any subject. I read every weekly column he writes, beginning to end.

This week he's touched a raw nerve. I like the free markets and busty babes as much as the next fella, but the cheerleader bullshit doesn't belong in rugby, and the vulgar uglification of field advertising and sideline boards isn't much better.

Go get 'em Inky.


Goodbye to taste?

My mate and I took our kids to the Blues versus Stormers game at Eden Park on Saturday, taking advantage of the early evening kick-off to see some live action.

The rugby itself was very exciting. The new laws improved the spectacle by making play flow [...] we were all exhausted from the adrenaline of an emotional roller coaster ride.

But there were many things wrong with the experience, all to do with bad marketing. I wonder how many fans have been turned off by such things to the point where they no longer bother to attend live games. [...]

It wouldn’t have been so bad if we’d finally gotten inside the stand and seen tastefully presented signage, but when we did it was a visual cacophony of garish orange-on-blue, black-on-yellow and green-on-red everywhere, all higgledy-piggledy and badly assembled. Every flag and goalpost pad was sponsored, and the pitch itself was emblazoned with logos angled especially for cameras.

If the transition to professionalism had been managed properly, the main brand inside the ground would be that of the home team. All the sponsors’ merchandise would include the home team’s logo, not the other way around. Value would not have been eroded.

It looked like a junk mail circular for a bowling alley in Las Vegas, and I felt very sad for the passing of the old ways. All the austerity was gone.

Remember brass bands, marching girls and curtain-raisers, anyone? Not anymore. Once some fat, navel-and-eyebrow-pierced girls in hooker costumes had waggled their tails at the wide-eyed children and an idiot had screamed MAKE SOME NOISE fifty times at the crowd, hoping to exhort more than a distracted whoop of support for some motorcross riders, the rugby finally began. [...]

It was incongruous, idiotic and as a New Zealander slightly embarrassing. Luckily the only foreign fans were South Africans, where Pat Benatar and Bon Jovi have just hit big. [...]

I’m not going to stop taking the kids to games. Security aside, this essay is meant as testimony to Auckland’s crass, headlong corporate culture in particular and not New Zealand’s in general. Waikato Stadium is nowhere near as badly corrupted as Eden Park, Westpac Stadium in the capital still has a touch of magic, and you can’t rub shoulders with the rabid fans in Christchurch without actually acquiring a surface film of red-and-black paint flakes.

When I return to Eden Park I will remember to pre-peel my drinks and prepare for sensory bombardment. I just have a nagging fear that it’s going to get worse before it gets better and there will be new unpleasant surprises sprung on us each time we venture there. It’s already only a bloody-minded stubbornness that keeps me going now, along with an iron gut and a willingness to empty the coffers in exchange for a few tiny, uncomfortable plastic seats. Let’s hope the other grounds aren’t going to go the same way quite so quickly.

And television, by the way, will not be the winner in this battle, it will ultimately lose right alongside everyone else if people stop attending grounds.

Sport is competing with a rising flood of bad taste on television. It’s obvious that television programmers already take advantage of people’s small screen addictions by pushing whatever cheap guff is available... degenerates and assorted other craven, selling their souls for any fleeting measure of fame... and the fast dollar driving standards down will turn a population’s brains to mush in the historical blink of an eye. While a few too many logos and desperate sales clauses at sports fields are still a long way removed from Brett Michael and Flava Flav swapping diseases with hoochies on primetime, the connection is there no matter how tenuous. Sport can promote itself without cheapening itself.

Inky's whole column here.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Ex-All Black Kieran Crowley named new Canada coach

Kiwi head coaches are at an international premium these days, with All Black passovers Warren Gatland and Robbie Deans scooped by Wales and Australia, respectively, and John Kirwan in Japan . . . there might even be another (or two) whose names escape me this second, but you can now add Kieran Crowley's name to the list. He's been named as Canada's new senior mens head coach, and hopefully will build a foundation at this years' Churchill Cup and develop the team headed towards the 2011 RWC.

Rugby Canada press release:


March 17, 2008
Richmond Hill, ON

Rugby Canada is pleased to announce former New Zealand All Black Kieran Crowley has been selected as Canada's new senior men's team coach.

The 35 times capped former fullback emerged as the clear winner from the coaching search process that saw a committee of five work through a list of strong candidates since the start of the new year.

Crowley will take over the 15th ranked Canadian side as early as next month, and says he is excited about the prospect of guiding Canada through to the World Cup in his home country in 2011.

"We talked about it a lot at home and we saw what (Rugby Canada) has to offer and what we have to offer (Rugby Canada) and are really looking forward to the opportunity of working in Canada," said the 46 year old New Zealander. "Hopefully we will have a successful time and develop things along the way. We are really looking forward to it."

Chairman of the search committee, Rugby Canada Director David Robertson, is pleased with the selection and admits when the process started he did not think a coach of Crowley's pedigree would possibly emerge.

"To be honest we weren't sure because we could see what was happening around the world," Robertson revealed. "You know, Warren Gatland going to Wales and immediately taking Shaun Edwards across to help him. Nick Mallet going to Italy, Jake White on the market as it were.

"We wondered what level we would attract from overseas knowing that we had some good domestic candidates," he continued.

"I think with Kieran in some ways was a very pleasant surprise that not only was his resume on the table but that his interest in the position was sincere."

Crowley comes off a nine year stint with Provincial side Taranaki where he was both assistant coach and head coach. He also guided the New Zealand U19 side to an IRB World Championship in 2007 in Dublin.

As a player Crowley played for Kaponga where he was first selected to the All Blacks in 1983 at age 22 for a match against South of Scotland. His full international debut came two years later against England in Christchurch. Through his career he had a 105 test points including five tries, while he had a further eight tries in non-test matches in the All Blacks uniform.

He won a World Cup in the inaugural event in 1987 and played his last test in the 1991 World Cup - a semi-final loss to Australia.

As a player for Taranaki he played 200 times, finishing his playing career in 1994, when he was made a life time member of the club.

From 2001 to 2003 he was a selector for the All Blacks senior men's side - including the 2003 World Cup, under then coach, John Mitchell.

Crowley says he watched Canada's performance during the 2007 World Cup and felt it is a team on the move.

"My impression of them at the moment is that they are a very physical team and they have very good set piece plays," said Crowley. "There is still work to be done in those areas but they have done well and the area that possibly needs improvement I think is the vision or the ability to change things when things are not as structured as they should be.

"I think that is a legacy of the fact that (Canadian) players don't start playing until a little bit older than they do in New Zealand and it is just the rugby mentality I suppose."

He says the experience of coaching Taranaki and the U19 All Blacks will be a good platform for coaching a young Canadian side.

"I think any team no matter how good you are - even the All Blacks - you are still teaching skills," offered Crowley. "You still have to pay attention to and address those micro-skills that are needed and involved in a game.

"There are some very good people in (Rugby Canada) who are coaching and who are teaching those skills and I don't think the skill base is actually a huge problem, there are a lot of skills there.

"We just need to combine that into the actual playing of the game and bringing the rugby psyche as far as playing the games and that sort of thing into being."

Robertson is pleased with the choice of Crowley, and says the process that brought it about, using a committee comprised of himself, High Performance Director Geraint John, Rugby Canada CEO Graham Brown, recently retired player Mike James and former coach and board member Dr. Pat Parfrey, was very rewarding.

"That search committee worked extremely well and brought different perspectives to the table," said Robertson, who is Headmaster at Shawnigan Lake School on Vancouver Island and is a former Scottish Senior Mens' squad member. "The Chairman, Rick Bourne dutifully listened in on every interview that we did whether it was telephone or face to face, just so that he could get a feel for what was going on and that was welcome too.

"It was a bit of a daunting task to be confronted with given my newness to the whole setup. Hopefully we have come up with the right answer and the right response and we just want success for the game in Canada. I hope this will be it."

Crowley has been married sixteen years to wife Sue, an accountant, and they have three children; Son Jayden - 13, 12 year old Nicole and 10 year old daughter Casey.

Kieran Crowley Fact File

FULL NAME Kieran James Crowley

BORN Thursday, 31 August 1961 in Kaponga

AGE 46

COACHING: New Zealand U19 Men's Team - World Champions 2007,

Coached Provincial side Taranaki from 1998 - 2007


PHYSICAL 1.84m, 84kg


LAST SCHOOL Sacred Heart College

RUGBY CLUB (First made All Blacks from) Kaponga



ALL BLACK DEBUT Saturday, 29 October 1983 v South of Scotland at Galashiels aged 22 years, 59 days

INTERNATIONAL DEBUT Saturday, 1 June 1985 v England at Christchurch aged 23 years, 274 days

LAST TEST Sunday, 27 October 1991 v Australia at Dublin aged 30 years, 57 days

ALL BLACK TESTS 19 (0 as Captain)

ALL BLACK GAMES 16 (0 as Captain)


ALL BLACK TEST POINTS 105pts (5t, 5c, 23p, 2dg, 0m)

ALL BLACK GAME POINTS 211pts (8t, 31c, 38p, 1dg, 0m)

TOTAL ALL BLACK POINTS 316pts (13t, 36c, 61p, 3dg, 0m)


Rugby Museum profile:

Born in Kaponga, Kieran Crowley went to secondary school at Sacred Heart College, Auckland, where he was in the 1st XV in 1977. Back in Taranaki he was selected for the 1979 North Island Under-18 team and the following year made his Taranaki debut as an 18 year old, playing variously at fullback, wing, and second five eight. He also appeared for the New Zealand Colts team in 1980, and again the following two seasons.

After a New Zealand trial in 1982 and playing for the North Island in 1983 Kieran Crowley came into the All Black side to tour England and Scotland when the original selection Allan Hewson was injured in training prior to the team's departure. In 1984 he played for New Zealand on the short tour to Fiji after missing selection for the earlier tour to Australia.

His test debut came against England in 1985 when he scored all his side's eighteen points with six penalty goals. He also appeared in tests against Australia and Argentina that year, and against Australia and France in 1986 after losing his place through touring South Africa with the Cavaliers.

Backup fullback to John Gallagher at the 1987 World Cup, and playing the pool match against Argentina, Crowley was then kept out of the All Blacks until Gallagher and Matthew Ridge switched to rugby league in 1990. He played the five domestic tests that season, plus two on the tour to France and also toured Argentina in 1991. Not an original choice for the 1991 World Cup he was called up after injury to Terry Wright and played the semi final against Australia.

Kieran Crowley continued to play for Taranaki until 1994, becoming its leading points scorer and one of the few players to play 200 games for his Union. He was made a life member of the Taranaki RFU in 1993.

A dependable fullback, unjustly criticised for a supposed lack of attacking flair, Crowley played 36 matches (20 tests) and scored 320 points for New Zealand. His younger brothers Alan (N Z Sevens rep.), Sean and Neil also played for Taranaki.

Kieran Crowley played cricket for Taranaki and Brabin Shield cricket for Central Districts. His involvement has continued with Taranaki rugby through coaching of the Taranaki Development team. In 2002 Crowley was made an All Blacks selector along with former All Black team mate Mark Shaw.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Rob Andrew '91 RWC test jersey up for USRFF auction

Brian Vizard is auctioning another test jersey to support the USRFF:

Rob Andrew Autographed England World Cup Jersey up for Auction

An England rugby jersey, signed by one of the greats of English rugby, Rob Andrew, is the latest piece of rugby history that is being auctioned by the United States Rugby Football Foundation. Not only is the jersey an official England jersey, but it was worn by Andrew in a match against the United States at the 1991 Rugby World Cup.

This mint-conditioned game worn jersey was donated to the USRFF by Chris O’Brien, past United States Eagle player who played opposite Andrew in the 1991 match at Twickenham.

"I am very happy to donate the Rob Andrew jersey to the Rugby Foundation," said O’Brien, the third leading scorer in Eagles' history. "As one who started playing the game while in high school and having coached high school rugby I am wholly supportive of the Rugby Foundation and its efforts in growing the game in the U.S. through the youth and high school ranks."

Photos, a more detailed description of the jersey and more information about Rob and Chris and their respective teams, can be found on eBay, item #180225300492. The bidding will conclude at 9:00 a.m. (PDT) on Saturday, March 29, 2008.

They like me. They really like me!

O-kay . . . I just received the following message posted to me from Blogger:

Our editors recently reviewed your blog and have given it an 8.2 score out of (10) in the Sports/Rugby category of

This is quite an achievement!

We evaluated your blog based on the following criteria: Frequency of Updates, Relevance of Content, Site Design, and Writing Style.

After carefully reviewing each of these criteria, your site was given its 8.2 score.

Cool, thinks I.

That is -- until I visit Blogged's rugby directory.

The Red Terror blog site is rated as "Great," which puts me somewhere in the middle. "Great" is overstatement, but the middle sounds about right to me, and I can live with that.

Nevertheless, I find my blog rated higher than Mark Keohane's blog Keo, which rates only a 7.5 -- or "Very Good" -- rating, at Blogged's review.

There is no way in hell that my website, nor most of the others rated ahead of Keo, deserves the rating. That is a joke.

Keo is a truly "great" blog. They produces constant daily news and commentary, including live trackers, from a small battery of writers, and receives regular feedback comments from readers in the hundreds, and sometimes even pushes past a thousand on a single topic, when on my best day I am lucky to get five. Keohane's is a far more relevant and useful blog, and his rating seems to me an ignorant insult.

Sure, Keo often pushes buttons of hardcore Springbok fans. But it is a valuable resource, and tells me that when you make people angry (as presumably valued in the rating), then you're probably doing something right.

Moral of the message: take these blogger ratings with a large grain of Atlantic sea salt. They're bunk!

Irish vs. Wasps handbags

I watched the Guiness Premiership match between London Irish and Wasps live this past Sunday (won 22-16 by Wasps).

I was pretty surprised that referee nor touch judges flagged the above fight for yellow cards or citings. Unbelievable. What were they watching? Check the first minute of the above youtube clip to see a flurry to the solar plexus'.

Grand Slam Dragons

Wales won the Six Nations championship on Saturday, in decisive style beating France 29-12 at Cardiff, and claiming the Grand Slam. They were deserved victors of the tournament, and have made gigantic strides under the steerage of new coach Warren Gatland since their RWC flameout only a short four months earlier.

More about the Welsh coaching staff and team preparation here.

France were extremely disappointing.

Ireland got pounded badly by England, losing 33-10 in Dublin after getting away to a fast 10-0 lead. Both teams will doubtless consider their Six Nations tournaments to be unmitigated disasters. England's Danny Cipriani slipped into the starting flyhalf role, and wonderboy Jonny Wilkinson's days as England's No. 10 may soon be drawing to a close.

Scotland won a memorable victory over England earlier in the tournament, but had to settle for the Wooden Sppon, falling to Italy 23-20 in Rome.

Rugby Channel - Super 14 Event

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Bill Beaumont: Likes the ELVs

A quick follow-up to my earlier post ("ELVs: Rush to judgment"), via Rugby Heaven:

Beaumont says ELVs will win over Europe

19 February 2008

Bill Beaumont, widely acknowledged as one of the best locks in the history of the game and a unifying figure as manager of the 2005 British & Irish Lions, believes the seeds are already being sewn for their acceptance up north. He says there seems to be a new commitment to attacking rugby in Europe in 2008 even without the aid of the ELVs.

Beaumont said new French coach Marc Lievremont had spoken openly of his ambition to return some flair to the French game while Wales had played attractive rugby under new coach Warren Gatland. And Beaumont, who made an artform of the maul, noted that even in last weekend's English Premiership Wasps had beaten Bath 42-34 - an unusual scoreline between two of the top teams.

"There is massive interest in Europe as to how these new laws go in the Super 14," said Beaumont. He said the Super 14 was a big hit on TV there and these laws would be under the microscope from a wide audience.

He felt the new laws still allowed teams to play in different ways, something that was crucial to the appeal of rugby.

"Europe is conservative with a small ‘c' and the game moves on. It's the contrast in styles that makes the game fascinating and that can still be achieved."

It was noticeable that the Blues held their structure to see off the Chiefs while some of the other matches had ragged finishes as fitness and mental strength were tested by the new pace of the game.

"I would have to be a little bit fitter," Beaumont chuckled when asked what he thought of the Eden Park match.

"But there was not a dramatic difference. Yes there were more free kicks but there was still a huge emphasis on set piece."

The IRB have pushed hard to get their new game operating at this level in the southern hemisphere and judging by the mood of Beaumont and new IRB chief Bernard Lapasset of France, they will be just as persuasive with the northern unions.

There seems to be a real determination to improve rugby as a spectacle from the men in charge at the very top.

"The game has to move forward and evolve," declared Beaumont. He said the benefit of the long trial programme being given to the ELVs was that the IRB would be able to conduct a full analysis on a huge amount of information. "Then we can make a decision based on fact rather than hearsay."


Rugby Channel - Super 14 Event

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

ELVs: Rush to Judgment

Corrected and updated (below):

I'm still sitting on the fence waiting to make a "final decision" about the ELVs (Experimental Law Variations) being applied in the first three rounds of the Super 14.

So far, I have been enjoying the games, but then I enjoy watching kiwi rugby, and the Kiwis have been flying in the first three rounds. (The Crusaders and Blues are both 3-0, including half-ton asskickings of South African sides in the Republic in front of massive crowds.)

The Northern Hemisphere doesn't like the new laws, perhaps mostly because they play a style of rugby similar to the South Africans, dominated by fatties who're now running out of puff under the ELVs as those new rules are so-far translating into far fewer extended rest breaks.

I say it's still early days -- some things I like; others I don't -- and think I'll exercise a seasons' worth of perspective before drawing a line in the sand. What I have seen so far is still a huge physical contest at the scrum, maul and breakdown, so accusations that the sport has suddenly become Rugby League are wildly speculative and ill-founded.

Of all the criticisms of the ELVs I've read in the past few days, I find the perspective of Mark Keohane -- a writer I ordinarily respect -- Keo staffer Ryan Vrede as perhaps the lamest and most bewildering:

But why should South Africa and those Home Unions be branded as anti-evolutionists for possessing strengths that are different? [...]

For fear of being branded a conservative who is content to see the game stagnate as it has over the last decade, it is my personal view that the game needs to evolve. However, when that evolution compromises the traditional strengths of certain teams while favouring others - serious concerns have to be voiced.

From a backline perspective, South Africa and the Home Unions have never been able to compete with the intellectual capital in Australia and particularly New Zealand. That has been patent over the first three rounds of the Super 14, as the leading Australasian teams have already devised plans to best utilise the 10m between their launch point and the defensive line at scrum time, while South African franchises continue to predictably bash it up with the No 8, effectively losing 5m of space. For the Crusaders, Blues and Hurricanes quick taps have been viewed as a phase rather than unstructured play and their attacking alignment is similar to what it looks like if it was a set phase. In contrast, South African franchises gamble in the hope that they’ll find space to exploit.

Bolded text - mine. Intellectual capital? I say if Keohane Vrede recognizes this, then I'm pretty sure that South African coaches and players are more than capable of studying the game film and figuring it out likewise.

For Vrede's entire commentary at Keo, click here.

Update: As above, mea culpa, my apology to Mark Keohane. He remains a writer I continue to respect.

Monday, March 03, 2008

6N vs. 3N championship proposal stuffed

The IRB signals a red light to proposed Six Nations vs. Tri-Nations championship.

IRB says no to clash of champions

Marc Hinton
Rugby Heaven
March 3, 2008 - 1:28PM

The IRB has dumped a proposed match between the winner of the Tri-Nations and Six Nations competitions but will continue to look into the idea of a series linking the two hemispheres.

That was the upshot of a weekend meeting in Hong Kong featuring the International Rugby Board and chief executives representing the 10 tier-one national unions.

The meeting was emphatic that a mooted matchup between the champions north and south had no place on the crowded international calendar - albeit a schedule full of rather meaningless contests between the two hemispheres.

But in true IRB fashion, the gathering has decided to go away and undertake more work on a regular inter-hemipshere series that would, in theory, be played in two out of every four years of a World Cup cycle. The exceptions would be the years where there are Lions tours and when the global tournament takes place.

"There has been recent media speculation that the meeting would discuss the possibility of an annual playoff match between the winners of the Six Nations and the Tri-Nations," read an IRB media release.

"Although the meeting has no jurisdiction in this area, it did informally discuss the issue and concluded that the idea was not feasible and that the IRB and unions need not consider this matter any further."

So that's that then. Money doesn't talk after all, as an annual clash between the champs north and south would have been a license to print money, possibly played in Asia with television rights and gate revenue sure to have been massive.

But what clearly does interest the IRB, and the so-called "tier one" nations, is the prospect of finally doing something to legitamise the increasingly meaningless matches in June and November when leading nations from the two hemispheres play each other.

Thus the so-called "International Inter-Hemisphere Series" which the IRB breathlessly says it will spend more time studying, assessing and performing other scientific tests on.

Clearly some sort of action is being planned. Just not any time soon. Maybe in a year or two, maybe longer, but eventually a grand plan will be unveiled whereby these tiresome tests that take place at the end of each hemisphere's playing season at least have some sort of meaning.

Read the rest.



ABs v. Wobblies in HK date announced

The proposed All Blacks vs. Wallabies test match fixture for Hong Kong has been given the green light -- it'll be played November 1st; it won't be a meaningless exhibition match; and there may be more to come.

Bledisloe match for Hong Kong

Greg Growden
Sydney Morning Herald
March 4, 2008

FIRST Hong Kong. Next Japan - and even the United Arab Emirates. This year's historic Bledisloe Cup Test in Hong Kong in November is expected to be followed by Tri Nations internationals held in such exotic locations as Tokyo and Dubai.

After yesterday's announcement that the Wallabies and All Blacks will play a fourth Bledisloe Cup Test at Hong Kong Stadium on November 1, Australian Rugby Union chief executive John O'Neill predicted that major Wallabies internationals would soon be played throughout Asia.

Also, South African officials have told O'Neill they are eager to play a challenge match against Australia off-shore, with Dubai one of the favoured locations.

The lure of the lucrative Asian sporting and financial market has prompted O'Neill, who was in Hong Kong for yesterday's announcement, to travel to Japan this morning in a bid to attract interest in future Wallabies Tests. There will also be discussions on whether a Japanese team should be included in an expanded Super 14.

When asked if Hong Kong would be the start and end of off-shore Bledisloe Cup fixtures, O'Neill replied: "I wouldn't exclude Tokyo, and I'm going there to spend a couple of days with the Japanese Rugby Union.

"But it may not just be Bledisloe Cup matches. Talking to South African officials over the last couple of days, it is clear they are keen to play a Mandela Challenge match off-shore." [...]

It was originally assumed the Hong Kong Test would not be part of the Bledisloe Cup series, but O'Neill said yesterday they wanted the November match "to have integrity and not be regarded as an exhibition game".