Friday, February 27, 2009

Six Nations crunch time

After a fortnights' break, the Six Nations championship gears back up for Round Three. (The break applies to me as well - gotta get back on top of this stuff... missed this mornings' early Hurricanes vs Crusaders match and already playing catch-up...!).

In a very unusual scheduling move, the first of the three 6N matches goes today -- FRIDAY -- rather than the usual Sat & Sun fixtures. With France hosting Wales, it's a big one and a tough ask for the visiting title-holders that'll go a long way to determining the fate of this years' competition.

Ireland versus England is another huge game, and this is the annual weekend where Italy stands it's best chance of winning a game, though playing on the road, it could be the Wooden Spoon match.



France: 15. Maxime Medard, 14. Julien Malzieu, 13. Mathieu Bastareaud, 12. Yannick Jauzion, 11. Cedric Heymans, 10. Benoit Baby, 9. Morgan Parra , 8. Imanol Harinordoquy, 7. Fulgence Ouedraogo, 6. Thierry Dusautoir, 5. Sebastien Chabal, 4. Lionel Nallet, 3. Sylvain Marconnet, 2. Dimitri Szarzewski , 1. Fabien Barcella. Reserves: 16. Benjamin Kayser, 17. Thomas Domingo, 18. Romain Millo-Chluski, 19. Louis Picamoles, 20. Sebastien Tillous-Borde, 21. Francois Trinh-Duc, 22. Clement Poitrenaud.

Wales: 15. Lee Byrne, 14. Leigh Halfpenny, 13. Tom Shanklin, 12. Jamie Roberts, 11. Shane Williams, 10. Stephen Jones, 9. Michael Phillips, 8. Andy Powell, 7. Martyn Williams, 6. Ryan Jones (c), 5. Alun-Wyn Jones, 4. Ian Gough, 3. Adam Jones, 2. Matthew Rees, 1. Gethin Jenkins. Reserves: 16. Huw Bennett, 17. John Yapp, 18. Luke Charteris, 19. Dafydd Jones, 20. Dwayne Peel, 21. James Hook, 22. Gavin Henson.

Date: Friday, February 27
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
Kick-off: 21.00 local (20.00 GMT) (3:00 pm ET (Toronto, New York))
Referee: Mark Lawrence (South Africa)
Touch judges: Alain Rolland (Ireland), Simon McDowell (Ireland)
Television match official: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)

FRA v WAL Rugby Planet preview, click here.

Scotland: 15. Hugo Southwell, 14. Simon Danielli, 13. Max Evans, 12. Graeme Morrison, 11. Thom Evans, 10. Phil Godman, 9. Mike Blair, (c), 8. Simon Taylor, 7. John Barclay, 6. Alasdair Strokosch, 5. Alastair Kellock, 4. Jason White, 3. Euan Murray, 2. Ross Ford, 1. Allan Jacobsen. Reserves: 16. Dougie Hall, 17. Alasdair Dickinson, 18. Kelly Brown, 19. Scott Gray, 20. Chris Cusiter, 21. Chris Paterson, 22. Nick De Luca.

Italy: 15. Andrea Marcato, 14. Mirco Bergamasco, 13. Gonzalo Canale, 12. Gonzalo Garcia, 11. Matteo Pratichetti, 10. Luke McLean, 9. Paul Griffen, 8. Sergio Parisse (c), 7. Mauro Bergamasco, 6. Alessandro Zanni, 5. Marco Bortolami, 4. Santiago Dellape, 3. Martin Castrogiovanni, 2. Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1. Salvatore Perugini. Reserves: 16. Franco Sbaraglini, 17. Carlos Nieto, 18. Carlo Antonio Del Fava, 19. Josh Sole, 20. Pablo Canovosio, 21. Andrea Bacchetti, 22. Giulio Rubini.

Date: Saturday, February 28
Venue: Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Kick-off: 15.00 GMT (10:00 am ET (Toronto, New York))
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Touch-judges: George Clancy (Ireland) and Romain Poite (France)

SCO v ITA Rugby Planet preview, click here.

Ireland: 15. Rob Kearney, 14. Tommy Bowe, 13. Brian O'Driscoll (c), 12. Paddy Wallace, 11. Luke Fitzgerald, 10. Ronan O'Gara, 9. Tomas O'Leary, 8. Jamie Heaslip, 7. David Wallace, 6. Stephen Ferris, 5. Paul O'Connell, 4. Donncha O'Callaghan, 3. John Hayes, 2. Jerry Flannery, 1. Marcus Horan. Reserves: 16. Rory Best, 17. Tom Court, 18. Mick O'Driscoll, 19. Denis Leamy, 20. Peter Stringer, 21. Gordon D'Arcy, 22. Geordan Murphy.

England: 15. Delon Armitage, 14. Paul Sackey, 13. Mike Tindall, 12. Riki Flutey, 11. Mark Cueto, 10. Toby Flood, 9. Harry Ellis, 8. Nick Easter, 7. Joe Worsley, 6. James Haskell, 5. Nick Kennedy, 4. Steve Borthwick (c), 3. Phil Vickery, 2 Lee Mears, 1. Andrew Sheridan. Reserves: 16. Dylan Hartley, 17. Julian White, 18. Tom Croft, 19. Luke Narraway, 20. Danny Care, 21. Andy Goode, 22. Mathew Tait.

Date: Saturday, February 28
Venue: Croke Park, Dublin
Kick-off: 17.30 GMT (12:30 pm ET (Toronto, New York))
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Touch judges: Christophe Berdos (France), Peter Allan (Scotland)
Television match official: Giulio De Santis (Italy)

IRE v ENG Rugby Planet preview, click here.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

2009 Super 14 kick-off weekend

The Super 14 gets underway in the Southern Hemisphere this weekend. I reckon several of these teams could mop up against the Six Nations weaklings, but that's neither here-nor-there, let's get on with it!

Full S14 2009 season schedule and standings table at the Silver Fern, click here.


Bulls (South Africa)
Rugby Planet preview

Lions (S.A.)
Rugby Planet preview

Stormers (S.A.)
Rugby Planet preview

Cheetahs (S.A.)
Rugby Planet preview

Sharks (S.A.)
Rugby Planet preview
*Bonus* Silver Fern preview

Western Force (Australia)
Rugby Planet preview

Queensland Reds (Aus)
Rugby Planet preview
*Bonus* Silver Fern preview

New South Wales Waratahs (Aus)
Rugby Planet preview
*Bonus* Silver Fern preview

ACT Brumbies (Aus)
Rugby Planet preview

Auckland Blues (New Zealand)
Rugby Planet preview
*Bonus* Silver Fern preview

Waikato Chiefs (N.Z.)
Rugby Planet preview

Wellington Hurricanes (N.Z.)
Rugby Planet preview

Canterbury Crusaders (N.Z.)
Rugby Planet preview

Otago Highlanders (N.Z.)
Rugby Planet preview

Six Nations - Out of the gates

England are dreary, beating an undermanned and overmatched Italy. Hugely impressive victory for Ireland at Croke Park sets them up nicely. And Wales look ready to defend their title.

England 36 Italy 11

Ireland 30 France 21

Scotland 13 Wales 26

Round Two previews coming shortly...

Friday, February 06, 2009

Six Nations 2009 kicks off tomorrow!

Gavin Henson's winning kick for Wales in 2005, drawn by Rebecca Millwater, aged 10

I am struggling for words

I don’t see philosophy
don’t agree with their choice of captain
or what they say in public

Don’t agree with nine of the starting team
don’t think they have the right coaching group
don’t know why they’ve de-powered their own pack


It’s become torture
I love England and English rugby
They have lost me

It’s been so bad, so depressing
I wish they would go away
play behind closed doors
they are failing

Spending money like water
For nothing

(repeat chorus x 3)

It’s become torture
I love England and English rugby
O woes, the once-mighty rose
They have lost me

"The Wilting Rose Has Lost Me," lyrics by Stephen Jones; musical accompaniment ("Wreck On the Highway") by Bruce Springsteen.

Alrighty then. Six Nations rugby kicks off tomorrow. I hear the faint whisp of clairvoyant sorrow in the 'Stache's weepin' heart, so on to this weekends' preview action !!

England: 1. Andrew Sheridan, 2. Lee Mears, 3. Phil Vickery, 4. Steve Borthwick (c), 5. Nick Kennedy, 6. James Haskell, 7. Steffon Armitage, 8. Nick Easter, 9. Harry Ellis, 10. Andy Goode, 11. Mark Cueto, 12. Riki Flutey, 13. Mike Tindall, 14. Paul Sackey, 15. Delon Armitage. Reserves: 16. Dylan Hartley, 17. Julian White, 18. Tom Croft, 19. Joe Worsley, 20. Ben Foden, 21. Shane Geraghty, 22. Mathew Tait.

Italy: 1. Salvatore Perugini, 2. Fabio Ongaro, 3. Martin Castrogiovani, 4. Santiago Dellapé, 5. Marco Bortolami, 6. Josh Sole, 7. Alessandro Zanni, 8. Sergio Parisse (c), 9. Mauro Beragamasco, 10. Andrea Marcato, 11. Mirco Bergamasco, 12. Gonzalo Garcia, 13. Gonzalo Canale, 14. Kane Robertson, 15. Andrea Masi. Reserves: 16. Carlo Festuccia, 17. Carlos Nieto, 18. Tommaso Reato, 19. Jean-Francois Montauriol, 20. Giulio Toniolatti, 21. Luke McLean, 22. Matteo Pratichetti.

Date: Saturday 7 February, 2009
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT (10 am ET (Toronto, New York))
Venue: Twickenham
Referee: Mark Lawrence (South Africa)
Touch judges: Joel Jutge (France), Peter Allan (Scotland)
TMO: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales)

ENG v ITA Rugby Planet preview
ENG v ITA Rugby Heaven preview

Ireland: 1. Marcus Horan, 2. Jerry Flannery, 3. John Hayes, 4. Donncha O'Callaghan, 5. Paul O'Connell, 6. Stephen Ferris, 7. David Wallace, 8. Jamie Heaslip, 9. Tomas O'Leary, 10. Ronan O'Gara, 11. Luke Fitzgerald, 12. Paddy Wallace, 13. Brian O'Driscoll (c), 14. Tommy Bowe, 15. Rob Kearney. Reserves: 16. Rory Best, 17. Tom Court, 18. Mal O'Kelly, 19. Denis Leamy, 20. Peter Stringer, 21. Gordon D'Arcy, 22. Geordan Murphy.

France: 1. Lionel Faure, 2. Dimitri Szarzewski, 3. Benoit Lecouls, 4. Sebastien Chabal, 5. Lionel Nallet (c), 6. Thierry Dusautoir, 7. Fulgence Ouedraogo, 8. Imanol Harinordoquy, 9. Sebastien Tillous-Borde, 10. Lionel Beauxis, 11. Maxime Medard, 12. Yannick Jauzion, 13. Florian Fritz, 14. Julien Malzieu, 15. Clement Poitrenaud. Reserves: 16. Benjamin Kayser, 17. Nicolas Mas, 18. Romain Millo-Chluski, 19. Louis Picamoles, 20. Morgan Parra, 21. Benoit Baby , 22. Cedric Heymans.

Date: Saturday 7 February, 2009
Kick-off: 17:00 GMT (12 noon ET (Toronto, New York))
Venue: Croke Park
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Touch judges: Dave Pearson (England), David Changleng (Scotland)
TMO: Giulio de Santis (Italy)

IRE v FRA Rugby Planet preview
IRE v FRA Rugby Heaven preview

Scotland: 1. Allan Jacobsen, 2. Ross Ford, 3. Geoff Cross, 4. Jason White, 5. Jim Hamilton, 6. Ally Hogg, 7. John Barclay, 8. Simon Taylor, 9. Mike Blair (c), 10. Phil Godman, 11. Sean Lamont, 12. Graeme Morrison, 13. Ben Cairns, 14. Simon Webster, 15. Hugo Southwell. Reserves: 16. Dougie Hall, 17. Alastair Dickinson, 18. Kelly Brown, 19. Scott Gray, 20. Chris Cusiter, 21. Chris Paterson, 22. Max Evans.

Wales: 1. Gethin Jenkins, 2. Matthew Rees, 3. Adam Jones, 4. Ian Gough, 5. Alun-Wyn Jones, 6. Ryan Jones (c), 7. Martyn Williams, 8. Andy Powell, 9. Michael Phillips, 10. Stephen Jones, 11. Shane Williams, 12. Gavin Henson, 13. Jamie Roberts, 14. Leigh Halfpenny, 15. Lee Byrne. Reserves: 16. Huw Bennett, 17. John Yapp, 18. Luke Charteris, 19. Dafydd Jones, 20. Dwayne Peel, 21. James Hook, 22. Tom Shanklin.

Date: Sunday 8 February, 2009
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT (10 am ET (Toronto, New York))
Venue: Murrayfield
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Touch judges: Chris White (England), Rob Debney (England)
TMO: Geoff Warren (England)

SCO v WAL Rugby Planet preview
SCO v WAL Rugby Heaven preview

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.