Thursday, February 05, 2009

Playing catch-up

Too much rugby news, and too little time to blog about it. I've been watching as much Heineken Cup, Guinness Premiership and Magner's League rugby as Setanta's program schedule will allow, but have either been too busy or too lazy to blog about it.

A few items flying on the radar ...

AB all-world flyhalf Dan Carter tore his Achilles tendon playing for Perpignan and will have surgery momentarily, and be out of action for at least six months. With New Zealand pivots Nick Evans, Glen Jackson, Luke McAlister and (yes!) even Carlos Spencer plying their trade in England, the All Blacks will probably press Stephen Donald into the No. 10 jersey for the Tri-Nations. Donald has yet to impress wearing black.

Another icon of Kiwi rugby (and this blog), the former All Black skipper Tana Umaga has been pushed from his coaching gig at the underperforming Toulon, and come out of retirement to take up a position with the team on the playing field. Will keep an eye on progress on that front.

England front-rower Matt Stevens has been pinged for blowing positive for a "recreational" substance on a blood-test. The drug has been unconfirmed, but the young prop has a history battling cocaine, and the Brit press is saying that's what it was. Stevens would ordinarily face an automatic two-year suspension, but will be a test case under a new RFU draft that will try to differentiate punishments between users of prohibited recreational drugs and cheaters. Here's hoping Stevens is shown some leniency, turns his life around, and receives a judicial punishment that fits the crime.

The Six Nations tournament kicks off this weekend. I'll try to get all the regular previews up tomorrow (Friday).

Sunny days ahead, the Sanzar Super 14 kicks off next week.


Australian Rugby Union (ARU) boss John O'Neill says he expects the Super rugby competition to expand to 15 teams in 2011.

O'Neill said talks have recommenced between the SANZAR working party after a breakdown in discussions late last year over a proposed 16-team finals series.

The ARU chief indicated that a Super 15 competition running from the March 1 until early August in 2011 would involve an extra team from either Japan or the Pacific Islands and would incorporate six teams in the finals.


And lastly . . .

The United States Rugby Football Foundation will be honouring posthumously, Miles "Doc" Hudson and former All Black skipper Pat Vincent at its Annual Dinner --Saturday, February 14, 2009 at the Hotel Solamar in downtown San Diego.

I must concede ignorance about Vincent, when I should really have known better.

The USRFF press release reads:

Pat Vincent was the captain of the New Zealand All Blacks in 1956. He coached the Saint Mary's (California) rugby teams from 1968 until his unfortunate passing in 1983. The foundation that Pat set during his time in charge is credited for the successes that Saint Mary's has enjoyed since then.

Indeed, checking the NZ Rugby Museum database, I see that Vincent (AB #576) only played twice for the All Blacks, but was the captain in two tests, and not just any tests, but the infamous series against the Springboks in 1956.

Hard to believe they handed the captaincy to a test-match debutante against the Boks!!

The two tests were Vincent's first and only matches for New Zealand. In both he captained the side. The All Blacks struggled to a 10-6 victory at Carisbrook in a match with "a fair amount of mutual mayhem". Any victory over the Springboks is considered a good one, but the attrition rate on this occasion was unusually high; at one stage there were only 25 players on the field.

When New Zealand lost 8-3 in Wellington, Vincent was dropped from the team. Vem Wilkinson tells why:

Pat had shown an error of judgment in the second test by persevering with the high kick in a howling gale, which did lead to one score, but after that try the ball always drifted over the dead ball line — wasted possession and a rest for the Springboks. I mentioned this to Pat later and his reply was interesting: a captain was bound to carry out the instructions of the coach; if be disobeyed them it was at his peril. What a decision for a captain to have to make under the extraordinary weather conditions that prevailed, and in the tension of a test against the Springboks!

The captaincy was given to fellow old boy Bob Duff (who had been in the BHS 1st XV with Vincent in 1943), who played for the Christchurch Football Club. Vincent did not complain at his dumping from the team either at the time or later. He wasn't that sort of person. He was so calm and collected that rugby writer Terry McLean believed he would have made a good diplomat.


I learn something new every day. And sheesh, were selectors ever ruthless in the amateur era!

"The Rugby Foundation looks forward to honoring these gentlemen who put so much of themselves into seeing that rugby took hold in the U.S.," said USRFF Chairman, Bob Watkins. "It's important that true rugby men like Doc and Pat are recognized for their efforts."

For more info about the USRFF Annual Dinner, click here.


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