Friday, January 29, 2010


Yes, rugby balls do bounce. But also 7 out of 10 of you who visit this blog also bounce. According my stats 7 out of 10 of you find this blog and then just bounce right out again.

That means some of you got here by mistake. You were looking for baby products or a trip to Alaska. But some of you were looking for something about rugby and didn't find it on this site.

I have written 500+ articles since this blog began in October 2008. To improve the service I provide I need to know what it was you were looking for and didn't find. Please, before you 'bounce' take a moment to leave a comment and explain what rugby you were looking for.

If you do stay have your say about the article that interests you.

TEST MATCH RUGBY: Where Does France Go From Here?

Where indeed? Saturday November 28, 2009. Stade Veledrome, Marseille. New Zealand 39, France 12, 5 tries to zip.

France as a rugby nation fell into a silence reserved for defeats unexpected but thorough. On that day New Zealand played the style of running, aggressive rugby we know they can play but not of recent.

France had just come from a sound and solid defeat of Tri Nations champions South Africa and a 43-5 slogging of a weak Samoan side. A week later the All Blacks arrived in Marseille and proceeded to dismember the French- fait! And now where do we go?

France also fell short of expectations during last years 6 Nations Rugby championship. France's problems have always been inconsistency. When a team is playing the best rugby we say they are aggressive and strong as the All Blacks up front but skilled and silk like the French in the backs. France can be both one day and neither the next. This is not a good lead up to the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Marc Lievremont France coach 2008-09
French coach Marc Lièvremont has got to get it right and quickly. Image thanks to

Selection policy is a puzzle. There has been so much experimenting and personal changes that when the pressure really comes on, i.e. like November 28, the team falls apart due to a lack of cohesion and understanding. It's time for the coach to pick his best side and stick with them. Coach Marc Lièvremont has to pick a winning side and it has to be against Scotland.

PREDICTION: Things have got to get better! A win over Ireland in Paris should see the title go to France. Or will it? Perhaps runner up.


Mathieu Bastareaud (Stade Français)
Julien Bonnaire (Clermont Auvergne)
Benjamin Boyet (Bourgoin)
Sébastien Chabal (Racing Metro)
Vincent Clerc (Stade Toulousain)
Thomas Domingo (Clermont Auvergne)
Luc Ducalcon (Castres)
Thierry Dussautoir (Stade Toulousain)
Jean-Baptiste Elissalde (Stade Toulousain)
Fabrice Estebanez (Brive)
Benjamin Fall (Bayonne)
Imanol Harinordoquy (Biarritz)
Yannick Jauzion (Stade Toulousain)
Alexandre Lapandry (Clermont Auvergne)
Julien Malzieu (Clermont Auvergne)
Sylvain Marconnet (Stade Français)
David Marty (Perpignan)
Nicolas Mas (Perpignan)
Romain Millo-Chulski (Stade Toulousain)
Lionel Nallet (Racing Metro)
Fulgence Ouedraogo (Montpellier)
Alexis Palisson (Brive)
Pascal Papé (Stade Français)
Morgan Parra (Clermont Auvergne)
Louis Picamoles (Stade Toulousain)
Clement Poitrenaud (Stade Toulousain)
Aurelien Rougerie (Clermont Auvergne)
William Servat (Stade Toulousain)
François Trinh-Duc (Montpellier)
Dimitri Szarzewski (Stade Français)
Head Coach: Marc Lièvremont

Out, all from the backline, Damien Traille, Cedric Heymans, Maxime Médard, Yann David and Jean Dupuy.

In: At age 32, veteran Jean-Baptiste Elissalde get a recall. I suspect his goal kicking is sorely needed; Mathieu Bastareaud, back after disgracing himself in New Zealand last year and having completed his community service; Benjamin Boyet, a new flyhalf, a position France is yet to find a comfortable fit for although he will be unlikely to start against Scotland; Fabrice Estebanez, a utility back; Aurelien Rougerie, who hasn’t played a test for nearly a year, and Julien Malzieu, both from Clermont Auvergne; Luc Ducalcon, a prop and another recall, Clement Poitrenaud at fullback.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Well not so much Ireland itself but certainly an unusually high number of its players have played more than 90 test matches. In fact it's going to be a race to see who gets there first.

This is the second 6 Nations preview article. England were first under the spotlight in yesterday's article.

First up in the 2010 Six Nations International Championship is Italy. Veteran prop John Hayes is on 97 tests and has a slight lead on captain Brian O'Driscoll who sits on 96 test caps. Then we have Ronan O'Gara on 93. These three are still regular selections for Ireland and barring injury or a sudden loss of form, they should all reach 100 tests caps for Ireland by the time the second test against South Africa is played in June. That's seven tests away.

Brian O'Driscoll could well lead Ireland to a second Grand Slam. Image thansk to

Peter Stringer, on 91 tests, will not reach that mark this season. He's also not been the first choice scrum half for Ireland of recent making that 100 mark to look a long way off. At aged 32 he is getting to the 'old legs' stage of his career

Not selected in the elite squad of 42 is another veteran Malcolm O'Kelly. Still playing well for Leinster he has been left stranded on 91. At aged 35 he is not as old as Hayes but has been out of the Ireland mix now since the 2009 Six Nations. Girven Dempsey, on 86, is also out of contention although he is still playing fullback for Leinster. At aged 34 a comeback to the Irish side looks unlikely.

Ireland won the Six Nations Championship in 2009 and also won the 'Grand Slam' title, the first time since 1948. The euphoric reaction of Irish rugby fans echoed around the world. It was a great day for Ireland and a long time coming.

The Irish followed that Grand Slam win with a very successful Autumn international series. A 20-20 draw with Australia, a 41-6 win over Fiji and a 15-10 win over the mighty Springbox.

The challenge for Ireland is whether an ageing team can again sweep all before it. It was said that the 2003 English side was too old. Well those tired old legs carried off the World Cup. The tough games will be against France and England. Those two matches will be away

PREDICTION: If Ireland can defeat both France and England away, then I think they might just win the championship again. As for the Grand Slam? There are a few near test centurions who would give just one last fling to make two Grand Slams in a row. There is enough Irish blood in me to go along with that thought!

John Hayes
Veteran 36 year old John Hayes is poised on 97 caps for Ireland. Image thanks to

IRELAND Squad (2010 RBS 6 Nations Championship):

Rory Best (Ulster)
Isaac Boss (Ulster)
Tommy Bowe (Neth Swansea Ospreys, Wales)
Anthony Buckley (Munster)
Thomas Court (Ulster)
Sean Cronin (Connacht)
Leo Cullen (Leinster)
Gordon D'Arcy (Leinster)
Ian Dowling (Munster)
Keith Earls (Munster)
Stephen Ferris (Ulster)
Declan Fitzpatrick (Ulster)*
Jerry Flannery (Munster)
John Fogarty (Leinster)*
John Hayes (Munster)
Cian Healy (Leinster)
James Heaslip (Leinster)
Christopher Henry (Ulster)*
Marcus Horan (Munster)
Shane Horgan (Leinster)
Denis Hurley (Munster)
Shane Jennings (Leinster)
Robert Kearney (Leinster)
Fergus McFadden (Leinster)*
Kevin McLaughlin (Leinster)*
Johne Murphy (Leicester, England)*
Donncha O'Callaghan (Cork Constitution/Munster)
Paul O'Connell (Munster)
Michael O'Driscoll (Munster)
Brian O'Driscoll (Leinster)
Ronan O'Gara (Munster)
Tomas O'Leary (Munster)
Sean O'Brien (Leinster)
Eoin Reddan (Leinster)
Michael Ross (Leinster)
Donnacha Ryan (Munster)
Jonathan Sexton (Leinster)
Peter Stringer (Munster)
Devin Toner (Leinster)*
Andrew Trimble (Ulster)
Daniel Tuohy (Ulster)*
David Wallace (Munster)
Patrick Wallace (Ulster)
Brett Wilkinson (Connacht)*

* Denotes uncapped player

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

TEST RUGBY TOURNAMENT: The Six Nations Championship

The Six Nations Internation Championship, or simply The 6 Nations, is probably, outside the Rugby World Cup, one of the most prestigious rugby tournaments in the world. It has existed as a round robin tournament played annually home or away since 1883. It has at times been a four, a five, back to a four, then a five again, and since 1999, a Six nations competition.

2[1] 5[1] 1[1] 6[1] 4[1] 3[1]

The teams involved in the Six Nations Rugby Tournament are England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France and Italy.

6 Nations Trophy and Grand Slam
Six Nations and Grand Slam Trophies. Image thanks to

Six Nations Championship Winners-The Last Ten Years

2009-Ireland (Grand Slam)
2008-Wales (Grand Slam)
2005-Wales (Grand Slam)
2004-France (Grand Slam)
2003-England (Grand Slam)
2002-France (Grand Slam)

2010 Six Nations Fixtures

Sat 6th Feb 10 14:30 Ireland v Italy Croke Park, Dublin
Sat 6th Feb 10 17:00 England v Wales Twickenham, London
Sun 7th Feb 10 15:00 Scotland v France Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Sat 13th Feb 10 14:00 Wales v Scotland Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Sat 13th Feb 10 16:30 France v Ireland Stade de France, Paris
Sun 14th Feb 10 14:30 Italy v England Stadio Flaminio, Rome
Fri 26th Feb 10 20:00 Wales v France Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Sat 27th Feb 10 13:30 Italy v Scotland Stadio Flaminio, Rome
Sat 27th Feb 10 16:00 England v Ireland Twickenham, London
Sat 13th Mar 10 14:30 Ireland v Wales Croke Park, Dublin
Sat 13th Mar 10 17:00 Scotland v England Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Sun 14th Mar 10 14:30 France v Italy Stade de France, Paris
Sat 20th Mar 10 14:30 Wales v Italy Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Sat 20th Mar 10 17:00 Ireland v Scotland Croke Park, Dublin
Sat 20th Mar 10 19:45 France v England Stade de France, Paris

2009 Six Nations International Championship Results

2 England530212470+54166
3 France5302124101+23146
4 Wales530210081+1986
5 Scotland510479102−2342
6 Italy500549170−12120

This table, again thanks to

England 36, Italy 11 at Twickenham
Ireland 30, France 21 in Dublin

Wales 26, Scotland 13 at Murrayfield

France 22, Scotland 13 in Paris
Wales 23, England 15 in Cardiff

Ireland 38, Italy 9 in Rome

France 21, Wales 16 in Paris

Scotland 26, Italy 6 at Murrayfield
Ireland 14, England 13 in Dublin

Wales 20, Italy 15 in Rome
Ireland 22, Scotland 15 at Murrayfield

England 34, France 10 at Twickenham

France 50, Italy 8 in Rome
England 26, Scotland 12 at Twickenham
Ireland 17, Wales 15 in Cardiff

For a complete list of all the games since 1883 go to

For a complete list of all international rugby matches played by all six teams, go to


Not since 2007 has England reigned supreme in the Six Nations Championship. This tournament will start on 6 February.

So, what about England? Well, you can be certain of one thing. No matter what England does, good or bad and even indifferent, it always commands more talk, more opinion and more media attention than any other team. Why?

You either hate them, or love them, or well, you can show an interest. England is the home of rugby union, the nation where the game was born. Politically, England has always been the team that Scotland, Ireland and Wales wants to defeat. It goes back in history to all the battles, the troubles, the rivalry that has been carried out for over a thousand years.

Now most of the 'battles' are carried out on green rectangular 'fields'. The contestants are limited to 22 a-side (15 on the field at any one time) and the aim is to bury the rugby ball over the opponents line as many times as you can and more often than they. If you manage to bury a few of the opposition at the same time then well be it.

England gathered much publicity back in 2007 because a great team won the 6 Nations Championship, the Grand Slam (defeating all the opponents) that year and carried off, for the first time, The Webb Ellis Cup, the trophy up for grabs at the Rugby World Cup.

Since then there has been plenty of media for England, most of it bad. England has stutted and stumbled along, winning a few, losing many of the test matches for the 6 Nations title. A number of coaches have fallen on swords or been toppled as a result of this indifferent form.

The latest coach, Martin Johnson (who captained that great side of 2007), has had little effect on the fortunes of this team. At present they are in Portugal training and preparing for their first clash, against Wales, Saturday week.

Steve Borthwick has been named as captain. There is plenty of experience in this squad. A number of last year's players are still hopeful of a recall. Many are in the England Saxons ('A' team) squad that will begin its fixtures this weekend. However, as always, there is a lot of experienced players out with injuries.

PREDICTION: When England play well, they are a delight to watch. With much the same team and the same coaching outfit I can't really see much change. So, more of the same from England despite the grand efforts of the master himself, Jonny Wilkinson. I expect England will finish in the middle of the table.

Not even Jonny Wilkinson can save England some more embarrassment. Image thanks to

England Elite

Delon Armitage (London Welsh) Age 25, 11 Tests
Steffon Armitage (London Irish) 24, 3
Christopher Ashton (Northampton Saints) 22, New cap
Matthew Banahan (Bath Rugby) 23, 5
Steven Borthwick, captain (Saracens) 29, 53
Danniel Care (Harlequins) 22, 14
Daniel Cole (Leicester Tigers) 22, New cap
Jordan Crane (Leicester Tigers) 23, 3
Mark Cueto (Sale Sharks) 29, 34
Louis Deacon (Leicester Tigers) 29, 11
Benjamin Foden (Northampton Saints) 24, 1
Tobias Flood (Leicester Tigers) 23, 26
Riki Flutey (London Welsh) 29, 9
Shontayne Hape (Bath Rugby) 29, New cap
Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints) 23, 14
James Haskell (London Wasps) 24, 22
Daniel Hipkiss (Leicester Tigers) 27, 12
Paul Hodgson (London Irish) 27, 6
Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints) 20, 1
Lee Mears (Bath Rugby) 30, 33
Ugo Monye (Harlequins) 26, 9
Lewis Moody (Leicester Tigers) 31, 56
Matthew Mullan (Worcester Warriors) 22, New cap
Timothy Payne (London Wasps) 30, 15
Thomas Palmer (Stade Francais) 30, 13
Simon Shaw (London Wasps) 36, 53
Mathew Tait (Sale Sharks) 23, 32
Steven Thompson (CA Brive, France) 31, 46
Daniel Ward-Smith, (London Wasps) 31, New cap
Jonny Wilkinson (Toulon, France) 30, 73, 1058 test points for England-World Record
David Wilson (Newcastle Falcons) 24, 4
Benjamin Youngs (Leicester Tigers) 20, New cap

Head Coach: Martin Johnson

Matthew Mullan, prop (Worcester)
Daniel Cole, prop (Leicester Tigers)
Daniel Ward-Smith, (London Wasps)
Benjamin Youngs, scrum half (Leicester Tigers)
Shontayne Hape (Bath Rugby)
Chris Ashton (Northampton Saints)

The injured list
Andrew Sheridan (prop)
Julian White (prop)
Joe Worsley (flanker)
Thomas Croft (flanker)
Harry Ellis (scrum half)
Nicholas Easter (Number 8)

Tomorrow I'll look at last years winner Ireland.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Russia 30, Namibia 15 in Windhoek

This is exciting. The first test of the year and of the decade. I have been out of action for the first part of January, undergoing major surgery. All is now well and mending.

In what effectively was a dress rehearsal for the two teams most likely to be ranked No.23 and No.24 at the 2011 Rugby World Cup, Russia came away with the honours 30-15 after leading 17-5 at halftime.

The two weeks preparing in South Africa were put to good use. Applying pressure right from the start, at no stage of the match did Russia look like losing. They controlled the game throughout, placing huge pressure on the Namibian forwards in all areas of play. Although the Russians were not dynamic in the backline they did enough against a Namibian backline unable to penetrate the solid Russian defence system.Scrumhalf Alexander Yanyushkin have a great game, driving huge holes in the Namibian defence around the scrum.

The new Namibian coach, Johan Diergaardt, would be disappointed although his team was playing out of season.

2010 Russia v Namibia
Russian scrum half Alexander Yanyushkin on the burst. Image thanks to www.namibiasport

Other reviews

As usual, thanks to the posters at

Sunday, January 10, 2010


In the 2010 South African domestic season, Namibia and Argentina (presumably Argentina 'Jaguars' or 'A') will compete in the Vodocom Cup. The Vodocom Cup is played between teams from the Currie Cup Premier division and First Division provincial rugby

“We have a responsibility as a member of the rugby family to assist our fellow nations where we can,” said Dr Jan Marais, chairman of the Interim Exco. “By including Argentina and Namibia in the Vodacom Cup we hope to assist them in their preparation in the year before the Rugby World Cup. “It could also prove an important stepping stone for Argentina in their strategy to successfully fulfill the criteria required by SANZAR to confirm their inclusion in the Vodacom Tri-Nations from 2012"

Providing all the 2009 teams are still in, the 2010 competition, due to run at the same time as the 2010 Super 14, between February and May, will consist of...

Northern Section
Golden Lions
GWK Griquas
Platinum Leopards
Vodacom Blue Bulls

Southern Section
BA Mighty Elephants
Boland Kavaliers
Border Bulldogs
SWD Eagles
The Sharks XV
Vodacom FS Cheetahs
Vodacom Western Province
Argentina XV

International Rugby: Russian Bears in Southern Africa

All your poor Northern Hemisphere rugby followers who are frozen this January spare a thought for those Russian rugby players basking in the heat of a South African summer.

The Russian rugby squad flew out to South Africa to prepare for their European Nations Cup and World Cup qualifiers, due in February and March this year. Whilst at a training camp in South Africa the Russians will play matches against Pretoria University (Jan 13), Blue Bulls (Jan 18), and then a full test against Namibia (Jan 23).


The Squad
Vasily Artemyev (VVA-Podmoskovje) Age 22, 5 tests
Oleg Azarenko (Krasny Yar) ?, 2, Last played v Italy, 14.10.2006
Mikhail Babaev (VVA-Podmoskovje) 23, 18
Sergey Bazhenov (Enisey-STM-Krasnoyarsk) 24, 10
Vladimir Botvinnikov (Enisey-STM-Krasnoyarsk) 25, 10
Artem Fatakhov (VVA-Podmoskovje) 30, 15
Igor Galinovsky (Krasny Yar) ?, 2
Andrey Garbuzov (Krasny Yar) 26, 20
Victor Gresev (VVA-Podmoskovje) 23, 18
Alexander Gvozdovsky (Krasny Yar) 29,14
Alexander Khrokin (VVA-Podmoskovje) 33, 37
Igor Kluchnikov (VVA-Podmoskovje) 28, 29
Alexey Korobeynikov (Enisey-STM-Krasnoyarsk) 30, 17
Vladislav Korshunov (VVA-Podmoskovje) 26, 25
Kirill Kushnarev (VVA-Podmoskovje) 26, 12
Yury Kushnarev (VVA-Podmoskovje) 24, 25
Andrey Kuzin (VVA-Podmoskovje) 30, 24
Karlo Maglakelidze (Imperia Penza) ?, 3
Alexey Makovetsky (Krasny Yar) ?, 1
Evgeny Matveev (VVA-Podmoskovje) 25, 15
Nikita Medkov (Slava Moscow) 23, 3
Giorghy Minadze (Imperia Penza) ?, 1
Pavel Novikov (Enisey-STM-Krasnoyarsk) ?, New Cap
Alexey Panasenko (VVA-Podmoskovje) 26, 9
Evgeny Pronenko (Enisey-STM-Krasnoyarsk) 25, 5
Alexander Shakirov (VVA-Podmoskovje) 28, 20
Andrey Temnov (Enisey-STM-Krasnoyarsk) ?, 2, Last played v Spain 10.02.2007
Alexey Tolstykh (Krasny Yar) ?, New Cap
Alexey Travkin (VVA-Podmoskovje) 32, 27
Sergey Trishin (VVA-Podmoskovje) 24, 16
Grigory Tsnobiladze (Novokuznetsk) New Cap
Valery Tsnobiladze (Novokuznetsk) New Cap
Alexander Voitov (VVA-Podmoskovje) 27, 20
Alexander Yanyushkin (VVA-Podmoskovje) 26, 23
Head Coach: Nikolay Nerush