Category Archives: Rugby Opinion

Round 4 – general weekend opinion

Round 4 2016/2017 – Rugby – Britain & Ireland- general weekend thoughts & opinion

It’s the end of week four in the UK and Ireland and a few things are becoming apparent as the new season gets into full swing;

Shallow pools

Looking at the premiership teams and the Pro 12, the depth of talent is reducing all the time. Whether this is due to increased injury concerns across the sport, or a natural cycle of rebuilding, it’s hard to tell. But it is happening.

Take for example Bath, with the money they have spent in the past two years their bench was abysmal, save for the underrated Lahiff leading a late charge. Then there’s Connacht, Champions last year, now under serious pressure – unable to make ground against a woeful Scarlets team. Leinster’s depth isn’t what is once was (though they’re rebuilding with youth), Munster’s is diabolical, Leicester’s pack is pish…the list goes on. Yes there’s injuries everywhere, but we are seeing the bare bones now, benches everywhere have less impact than a BT-Sport metaphor. The best are in France or down under, and it will continue like that for the foreseeable.

When the European Cups get underway we are going to see some skewed results involving the top teams in their domestic leagues. And it’s hard to see anything but a French winner this year in the Champions cup, Saracens won’t get lucky twice.

As an aside, what happened to Saracens at Quins? This one was a surprise. The only thing we can take from this is that a combination of Quins having far more intensity, and Sarries being overrated, sealed the win for them. Indeed, it’s something we see every year – Saracens have a patch, and when challenged they can go to pieces. Personally my own thoughts are that during the year most teams don’t give Saracens their best game in the Premiership, and save it for the playoffs – with their excellent defensive structure the impact can be too high on tight enough squads.

 

Fair play to Quins anyway, who have been really cack for three games – the fronted up and did what every side needs to do to beat Sarries, instead of most of them lying down and giving it 50%. I do think this was a one off, Wasps should give them a right going-over (Quins).

***
As another aside, there were an awful lot of kicks missed at the weekend across both British and Irish leagues. That wind really had an impact. Gusting to 30kmph means take a long hard look at tries in future from a punting perspective.

***
As yet another aside – Cockerill cost his side a bonus point. 17 points ahead and with bath reeling, he called from the stands for Williams to kick a tough penalty instead of putting them in the corner and having a shot at a bonus point. This says to me one thing in particular – Cockerill still has no faith in this squad’s abilities, and more importantly, their fitness. Worth bearing in mind.

And how in God’s name is Ben Young’s getting standing ovations?! He’s brutal! Or were the crowd at Welford road clapping Matt Carley?

Referees

Referees continue to bugger away sides. Ok ok… we all understand – they are minding home teams to keep the crowds there. But there were two incidents in particular (among many this weekend – like Sale being crucified at Worcester) that home fans will even see are reducing many games to unfair contests.

Premiership rugby – Matt Carly- Tigers v Bath (He did this fixture last year too).

There was a series of scrums on the Bath 22 on around 20 minutes. Ayerza (as he has done for the past 18 months, since before the world cup) dropped the scrum twice and the linesman said nothing. Then Carly came around and watched the third. Despite a clear sequence of Ayerza dropping his shoulder and pulling it down, he blew hard and fast for Leicester. Carley did a number on Bath here in 2015 too. Is he the new Wayne Barnes for Leicester? Probably. On a serious note, this continued throughout the game, and despite George Ford having a stinker in general, Bath had no chance of winning this game with the subconsciously biased refereeing on show.

Top 14 rugby – Laurent Cardona – Montpellier v Brive

I’m not even going to go into the absolute buggering Clermont were given away at Toulon. Or Parisse’s red card at Toulouse (which Toulouse wouldn’t have won without).

But let’s look at Montpellier’s second try. It was at a point in the game when a depleted Brive were still well in the game, playing well. A turnover and kick through on 20 odd minutes resulted in Nadolo’s second try.

The ref (Cardona) who shafted Brive for 80 minutes was 30 metres behind the play, when there was a turnover, then some ping pong on half way before Nadolo got the ball and ran it in. This was the turning point that made it a blow out (41-13 in the end, a win that Monty weren’t worth).

He didn’t even check the try. Had he done so, he would have seen a clear knock on by the world’s most handless fullback Benjamin Fall) and also the fact that Nadolo was ahead of the kicker.

More shenanigans turning the sport into semi-farce. In both instances, these decisions took the game away from the oppositions at key points when it hung in the balance. They came at crucial times…as they always do. I had money on Montpellier and Leicester tries so I’m not complaining.

***

Ulster look very good in the early running and the Pro 12 is wide open, are they playing for Pienaar? I think they want to send him off with a title. Cardiff hopefully keep it lit for the  forum 12 to 1 top Welsh team bet.

No doubt Saracens will be in the playoffs and the Chiefs again, the other two spots are between four other sides, and standards have definitely dropped.

Pau will go close to French playoffs, the old lady Toulouse will continue to fester this year, like your mother in law on a Sunday afternoon.

The European games are going to be a blast this year; so many teams are looking absolute gash, the lines will be well off.

Guinness Pro12 Rugby Preview 2016/17

Pro12 Rugby is back! Welcome to my preview of the 2016/17 Guinness Pro 12. Last season saw Connacht play some outstanding rugby and be crowned champions – will they repeat that feat this season or will someone else rise from the pack to challenge them?

 

There’s a team by team analysis below the fixtures.

Guinness Pro12

Friday 2 September
19:35
Leinster
v.
Benetton Treviso
19:35
Ospreys
v.
Zebre
19:35
Ulster
v.
Newport Gwent Dragons
Saturday 3 September
15:00
Scarlets
v.
Munster
17:15
Connacht
v.
Glasgow Warriors
19:35
Cardiff Blues
v.
Edinburgh
Friday 9 September
19:15
Newport Gwent Dragons
v.
Zebre
19:35
Edinburgh
v.
Scarlets
19:35
Munster
v.
Cardiff Blues
Saturday 10 September
15:00
Glasgow Warriors
v.
Leinster
19:05
Benetton Treviso
v.
Ulster
19:35
Connacht
v.
Ospreys
Friday 16 September
19:00
Cardiff Blues
v.
Glasgow Warriors
19:05
Ulster
v.
Scarlets
19:35
Edinburgh
v.
Leinster
Saturday 17 September
17:05
Zebre
v.
Connacht
17:15
Newport Gwent Dragons
v.
Munster
19:35
Ospreys
v.
Benetton Treviso
Friday 23 September
19:05
Benetton Treviso
v.
Newport Gwent Dragons
19:35
Glasgow Warriors
v.
Ulster
19:35
Leinster
v.
Ospreys
Saturday 24 September
15:00
Munster
v.
Edinburgh
16:05
Zebre
v.
Cardiff Blues
19:35
Scarlets
v.
Connacht
Friday 30 September
19:35
Connacht
v.
Edinburgh
19:35
Newport Gwent Dragons
v.
Glasgow Warriors
Saturday 1 October
17:00
Munster
v.
Zebre
18:30
Ulster
v.
Ospreys
19:05
Benetton Treviso
v.
Scarlets
19:35
Cardiff Blues
v.
Leinster
Friday 7 October
19:35
Connacht
v.
Ulster
19:35
Edinburgh
v.
Benetton Treviso
19:35
Ospreys
v.
Cardiff Blues
Saturday 8 October
14:05
Leinster
v.
Munster
16:05
Zebre
v.
Glasgow Warriors
19:35
Scarlets
v.
Newport Gwent Dragons
Friday 28 October
19:35
Cardiff Blues
v.
Scarlets
19:35
Edinburgh
v.
Zebre
19:35
Glasgow Warriors
v.
Benetton Treviso
19:35
Ulster
v.
Munster
Saturday 29 October
15:00
Ospreys
v.
Newport Gwent Dragons
17:15
Leinster
v.
Connacht
Friday 4 November
19:15
Benetton Treviso
v.
Cardiff Blues
19:15
Newport Gwent Dragons
v.
Connacht
19:35
Edinburgh
v.
Ulster
19:35
Munster
v.
Ospreys
Saturday 5 November
16:05
Zebre
v.
Leinster
19:35
Scarlets
v.
Glasgow Warriors
Friday 25 November
19:35
Connacht
v.
Cardiff Blues
19:35
Glasgow Warriors
v.
Ospreys
19:35
Scarlets
v.
Leinster
19:35
Ulster
v.
Zebre
Saturday 26 November
17:00
Munster
v.
Benetton Treviso
Sunday 27 November
15:30
Newport Gwent Dragons
v.
Edinburgh
Friday 2 December
19:35
Glasgow Warriors
v.
Munster
19:35
Ospreys
v.
Edinburgh
Saturday 3 December
14:05
Zebre
v.
Scarlets
15:00
Connacht
v.
Benetton Treviso
17:15
Cardiff Blues
v.
Ulster
19:35
Leinster
v.
Newport Gwent Dragons
Friday 23 December
18:35
Benetton Treviso
v.
Zebre
19:35
Ulster
v.
Connacht
Monday 26 December
14:05
Cardiff Blues
v.
Newport Gwent Dragons
16:05
Edinburgh
v.
Glasgow Warriors
17:30
Munster
v.
Leinster
Tuesday 27 December
15:00
Ospreys
v.
Scarlets
Saturday 31 December
00:00
Zebre
v.
Edinburgh
13:00
Benetton Treviso
v.
Glasgow Warriors
15:00
Leinster
v.
Ulster
17:30
Connacht
v.
Munster
Sunday 1 January
15:00
Scarlets
v.
Cardiff Blues
17:05
Newport Gwent Dragons
v.
Ospreys
Friday 6 January
19:15
Newport Gwent Dragons
v.
Benetton Treviso
19:35
Leinster
v.
Zebre
19:35
Scarlets
v.
Ulster
Saturday 7 January
00:00
Ospreys
v.
Connacht
15:00
Edinburgh
v.
Munster
19:35
Glasgow Warriors
v.
Cardiff Blues
Saturday 11 February
00:00
Benetton Treviso
v.
Leinster
00:00
Cardiff Blues
v.
Connacht
00:00
Glasgow Warriors
v.
Scarlets
00:00
Munster
v.
Newport Gwent Dragons
00:00
Ulster
v.
Edinburgh
00:00
Zebre
v.
Ospreys
Saturday 18 February
00:00
Cardiff Blues
v.
Benetton Treviso
00:00
Connacht
v.
Newport Gwent Dragons
00:00
Leinster
v.
Edinburgh
00:00
Ospreys
v.
Munster
00:00
Scarlets
v.
Zebre
00:00
Ulster
v.
Glasgow Warriors
Saturday 25 February
00:00
Benetton Treviso
v.
Connacht
00:00
Edinburgh
v.
Cardiff Blues
00:00
Munster
v.
Scarlets
00:00
Newport Gwent Dragons
v.
Leinster
00:00
Ospreys
v.
Glasgow Warriors
00:00
Zebre
v.
Ulster
Saturday 4 March
00:00
Cardiff Blues
v.
Munster
00:00
Connacht
v.
Zebre
00:00
Edinburgh
v.
Ospreys
00:00
Glasgow Warriors
v.
Newport Gwent Dragons
00:00
Leinster
v.
Scarlets
00:00
Ulster
v.
Benetton Treviso
Saturday 25 March
00:00
Benetton Treviso
v.
Ospreys
00:00
Glasgow Warriors
v.
Connacht
00:00
Leinster
v.
Cardiff Blues
00:00
Newport Gwent Dragons
v.
Ulster
00:00
Scarlets
v.
Edinburgh
00:00
Zebre
v.
Munster
Saturday 8 April
00:00
Edinburgh
v.
Connacht
00:00
Munster
v.
Glasgow Warriors
00:00
Ospreys
v.
Leinster
00:00
Scarlets
v.
Benetton Treviso
00:00
Ulster
v.
Cardiff Blues
00:00
Zebre
v.
Newport Gwent Dragons
Friday 14 April
19:35
Connacht
v.
Leinster
19:35
Glasgow Warriors
v.
Zebre
Saturday 15 April
14:45
Cardiff Blues
v.
Ospreys
15:00
Munster
v.
Ulster
17:15
Newport Gwent Dragons
v.
Scarlets
19:05
Benetton Treviso
v.
Edinburgh
Saturday 29 April
00:00
Benetton Treviso
v.
Munster
00:00
Cardiff Blues
v.
Zebre
00:00
Connacht
v.
Scarlets
00:00
Edinburgh
v.
Newport Gwent Dragons
00:00
Leinster
v.
Glasgow Warriors
00:00
Ospreys
v.
Ulster
Saturday 6 May
17:15
Glasgow Warriors
v.
Edinburgh
17:15
Munster
v.
Connacht
17:15
Newport Gwent Dragons
v.
Cardiff Blues
17:15
Scarlets
v.
Ospreys
17:15
Ulster
v.
Leinster
17:15
Zebre
v.
Benetton Treviso
Friday 19 May
00:00
TBC
v.
TBC
00:00
TBC
v.
TBC
Saturday 27 May
00:00
TBC
v.
TBC

Pro12 Rugby Team by team analysis:

 

Cardiff Blues Rugby

Players In

Nick Williams (Ulster), Matthew Morgan (Bristol), Willis Halaholo (Hurricanes), Rhys Gill (Saracens), Steven Shingler (Scarlets), Kirby Myhill (Scarlets), George Earle (Scarlets) ,Rhun Williams (RGC 1404)

Players Out

Rhys Patchell (Scarlets), Sam Hobbs (Dragons), Craig Mitchell (Dragons), Chris Dicomidis (Pontypridd), Tom Williams (Scarlets), Miles Normandale (Rotherham), Harry Davies (Bath), Manoa Vosawai (RC Vannes), Lou Reed (Sale), Richard Smith (Scarlets), Tom Isaacs (Hong Kong Football Club), Tom Davies (Dragons), Gavin Evans (Neath), Gareth Davies (Merthyr), Elis Wyn Benham (released)

ANALYSIS – A team that has flattered to deceive in recent seasons, but under Danny Wilson’s leadership they seem to be on an upward trajectory and the second half of last season in particular was excellent. Nick Williams will bring some much needed go forward at number 8, whilst Halaholo and Morgan add some dancing feet to an already exciting backline.

Their 7th place finish last season saw them have a very strong home record with 8 wins and 3 losses, but away from home they had the reverse record (joint 4th worst in the whole league) where they suffered the indignity of away defeats to both Italian teams.

They were the highest points scorers at home by a considerable margin (335 points, next highest was Leinster on 296), which equated to an average of 30 points per home game but matched that to a poor defensive record – an average of 19 points conceded per game – the 4th worst record in the league. If they are to have a real go at the top 4 this season they will need to tighten up defensively, as they also conceded an average of 23 points per away game.

Their disciplinary record was outstanding, the best in the league in fact with only 5 yellow cards awarded against them in the whole season.

 

Connaght Rugby

Players In

Marnitz Boshoff (Lions), Eoin Griffin (London Irish), Conor Carey (Nottingham), Cian Kelleher (Leinster), Dominic Robertson-McCoy (Northland), Josh Rowland (Ireland Sevens)

Players Out

Robbie Henshaw (Leinster), Rodney Ah You (Ulster), AJ MacGinty (Sale), Aly Muldowney (Grenoble), Api Pewhairangi (London Broncos RL), George Naoupu (Harlequins), Fionn Carr (released), Jason Harris-Wright (released), Ian Porter (released)

ANALYSIS – Last season’s surprise champions, Connaght made friends the world over with their never-say-die attitude and willingness to run the ball.  Repeating the triumph will be a supremely difficult feat but Pat Lam will keep expectations high and if they can finish in the top 4 again then anything is possible in the playoffs.

With 10 home wins and only 1 defeat they had the second best home record in the league last season. They only won 5 away though and that perhaps in an area for improvement that they will be targeting. Their home record was built on defence – with an average of only 14 points conceded per game (3rd best in the league).

How they cope with the loss of both MacGinty and Henshaw from the backs in particular will have a big impact on how their season goes, but Connaght has never been about the big names, it has been about the collective.

 

Edinburgh Rugby

Players In

Duncan Weir (Glasgow), Junior Rasolea (Western Force), Viliami Fihaki (Sale), Rory Scholes (Ulster), Glenn Bryce (Glasgow), Kevin Bryce (Glasgow), Nick Beavon (Melrose), Jason Tovey (Dragons), Alex Northam (North Harbour Rays), Sasa Tofilau (Kirkcaldy), Lewis Carmichael (Melrose), Viliame Mata (Fiji Sevens)

Players Out

Matt Scott (Gloucester), Mike Coman (London Irish), Sam Beard (Dragons), Greig Tonks (London Irish), John Andress (Munster, Jack Cuthbert (Jersey Reds), Andries Strauss (retired), Nick McLennan (Scotland Sevens), Grant Shiells (London Scottish), Alex Toolis (Melbourne Rebels), Jade Te Rure (Manawatu)

ANALYSIS – A 9th placed finish last season probably disappointed lots involved at the club, although to be fair they were a long way clear of the bottom three. There has been quite a large turnover of players since the end of last season and although Duncan Weir will undoubtedly provided a steady hand to run the back division, Matt Scott will be a big miss in midfield.

They were decent at home last season, with 8 wins and 3 defeats, but only won 3 times away from home (Treviso, Zebre & Dragons), and if they want to challenge for a top 4 place they will need to win more away games.

They did struggle for points both at home and away, only averaging 22 points per home game and 14 points per away game. Their defensive record on the whole though was excellent, only conceding an average of 14 points per home game (only Leinster and Ulster had better records) and an average of 19 points per away game (4th best in the league). With that solid foundation to build on, if they can improve their attack they should have high hopes of finishing much higher this time around.

Their disciplinary record was also strong, with only 8 yellow card received all season (4th best record in the league).

 

Glasgow Warriors

Players In

Corey Flynn (Toulouse), Leonardo Sarto (Zebre), Rory Clegg (Oyonnax), Nemia Kenatale (Farul Constanța), Tjiuee Uanivi (Sharks), Hagen Schulte (Canterbury), Jarrod Firth (Counties Manukau)

Players Out

Duncan Weir (Edinburgh), Glenn Bryce (Edinburgh), Robbie Fergusson (London Scottish), Mike Blair (retired), James Eddie (retired), Kevin Bryce (Edinburgh), Leone Nakarawa (Racing 92), Jason Hill (Bedford Blues), Taqele Naiyaravoro (NSW Waratahs), Michael Cusack (Yorkshire Carnegie), Gregor Hunter (Gala), Fergus Scott (Currie), Will Bordill (Ayr), Javan Sebastian (released), Jerry Yanuyanutawa (released), Tyrone Holmes (released), Shalva Mamukashvili (released)

ANALYSIS – Leone Nakarawa is the standout name on the transfers out list for the beaten semi-finalists from last season, who performed superbly for much of it. Replacing what he brought to the side will be difficult, but Corey Flynn is a good player, and Kenatale is a similar type of 2nd row to Nakarawa

They won 9 and lost 2 at home, scoring an average of 24 points per game and conceding 18. Their away record was excellent also, winning 5, drawing 1 game and losing 5. They were the leagues highest average scorers away from home (24 points per game) and also had the joint second best away defensive record (18 points per game).

One area they will want to improve on is their disciplinary record; they had the 3rd worst in the league last season with 15 yellow cards and this is surely something that Gregor Townsend will want to work on before he takes over the Scotland job at the end of the season.

 

Leinster Rugby

Players In

Robbie Henshaw (Connacht), Jamison Gibson-Park (Hurricanes), Ian Nagle (London Irish), Niall Morris (Leicester)

Players Out

Ben Te’o (Worcester), Ian Madigan (Bordeaux Begles), Marty Moore (Wasps), Darragh Fanning (retired), Cian Kelleher (Connacht), Tom Farrell (Bedford Blues), Tom Denton (Gloucester), Isaac Boss (Waikato), Tadhg Beirne (Scarlets), Eoin Reddan (retired), Luke Fitzgerald (retired), Aaron Dundon (retired), Mick McGrath (Ireland Sevens), Royce Burke-Flynn (released), Kevin McLaughlin (retired), Collie O’Shea (released), Tony Ryan (released)

ANALYSIS – With only 4 players coming in to join last season’s beaten finalists, Leinster obviously have faith in the existing depth of their excellent squad and the youngsters coming through the system. To be fair, Henshaw in the centre and Gibson-Park at scrum-half will seriously strengthen a back-line packed with quality. Madigan and Te’o though will be missed.

Leinster had such a good season overall that they will have been seriously disappointed to fall at the final hurdle against Connaght. They had a 100% home record, winning 11 out of 11, with both the second best attacking record (27 points per game) and the second best defensive record (12 points per game).

They will though have been disappointed to lose 6 times on the road where their excellent defensive record continued (average of 14 points per game conceded) but their attack was blunt, with only 167 points scored in total, only better than the bottom four in the league. 10 yellow cards will also be disappointing, although 9 of these did come away from home.

 

Munster Rugby

Players In

Sam Arnold (Ulster), John Andress (Edinburgh), Darren O’Shea (Worcester), Jean Kleyn (Stormers)

Players Out

Jordan Coghlan (Nottingham), Gearoid Lyons (Nottingham), Shane Buckley (Nottingham), Jack Cullen (London Scottish), BJ Botha (released), Gerhard van den Heever (released), Cathal Sheridan (released), Denis Hurley (released)

ANALYSIS – There is a school of thought that by far the best signing Munster have made this season is their new director of rugby Rassie Erasmus. He has brought defence coach Jacques Nienaber with him from the Stormers, and the Munster fans will be keen to see an instant impact, as a 6th place finish is not what they are used to.

They were strong at home last season with 8 wins and 3 losses, with decent attack and defence averages (25 points per game and 17 points per game respectively), and a 5-1-5 record away from home is very respectable in the league overall – only the Scarlets and the Ospreys had better records. They did struggle for points away from home though, only scoring an average of 17 per game.

Erasmus will almost certainly be looking to build on last season’s strong defence, but look to build a more effective attacking game plan to target a top 4 finish.

 

Newport Gwent Dragons Rugby

Players In

Sam Hobbs (Cardiff Blues), Sam Beard (Edinburgh), Nick Macleod (Sale), Craig Mitchell (Cardiff Blues), Patrick Howard (Northampton), Darran Harris (Rotherham), Tom Davies (Cardiff Blues), Ashley Sweet (Ebbw Vale)

Players Out

Taulupe Faletau (Bath), Hugh Gustafson (Ospreys), Jason Tovey (Edinburgh), Andrew Coombs (retired), Matthew Pewtner (retired)

ANALYSIS – Fans of the Dragons are probably correct to be apprehensive about the season ahead. Their stand-out player in Faletau has gone to Bath, and although they do have some talented youngsters in Amos, Dixon and Morgan, the squad does look short on talent and depth. However, as their progress in the Challenge Cup last seasons showed, on their day they are capable of some outstanding performances.

Last season’s 10th place finish saw them only 2 points ahead of Zebre and a huge 28 points behind Edinburgh in 9th. They only won 4 games all season, all at home, losing all eleven games on the road. Scoring points was a real issue for them, with the second lowest average points score at home (18) and the second lowest average points score away (14). Whilst they were strong defensively at home they were terrible away, conceding an average of 27 points per game. They will have to do something about this if this season is to go any better.

Discipline has been an on-going concern for the Dragons – they had the 4th worst record in the league last season with 12 yellow cards received.

 

Ospreys Rugby

Players In

Bradley Davies (Wasps), Rhodri Jones (Scarlets), Hugh Gustafson (Dragons), Kieron Fonotia (Crusaders)

Players Out

Aaron Jarvis (Clermont Auvergne), Kristian Phillips (London Welsh), Marc Thomas (Jersey Reds), Ifereimi Boladau (London Scottish), Rynier Bernardo (Scarlets), Jordan Collier (released), Matthew Dwyer (released), Lloyd Evans (released), Richard Fussell (backs skills coach), Rhodri Hughes (released), Aled Jenkins (released), Gareth Delve (released)

ANALYSIS – An 8th placed finish last season was disappointing, considering the wealth of talent they have in their squad. The world cup did play havoc with their internationals though, Alun Wyn-Jones for example only started 4 games for them, however on the flip side one could argue that Leinster coped with the impact that the world cup had on their internationals pretty well to finish 2nd. Bradley Davies and Kieron Fonotia are both excellent additions to the 2nd row and centre respectively and will add something extra for sure.

The Ospreys were poor at home last season, only winning 5 games, but actually had the best away record in the whole league – winning 6 games. That away success was built on an average of 23 points scored in each game away from home and they will surely be looking to maintain that attacking game-plan. Doubts though still linger about Dan Biggar’s suitability to play an attacking game, although their is no-one better in Wales at managing a game at present.

Their disciplinary record was excellent, only receiving 6 yellow cards all season – the joint second best record in the league.

 

Scarlets Rugby

Players In

Jonathan Davies (Clermont Auvergne), Rhys Patchell (Cardiff Blues), Johnny McNicholl (Crusaders), Werner Kruger (Bulls), Jonathan Evans (Bath), Tom Williams (Cardiff Blues), Rynier Bernardo (Ospreys), Tadhg Beirne (Leinster), Richard Smith (Cardiff Blues)

Players Out

Rhodri Williams (Bristol), Rhodri Jones (Ospreys), Steven Shingler (Cardiff Blues), Maselino Paulino (Lyon), George Earle (Cardiff Blues), Kirby Myhill (Cardiff Blues), Jordan Williams (Bristol), Harry Robinson (retired), Kieran Hardy (Jersey Reds), Regan King (Jersey Reds), Michael Tagicakibau (Treviso), Josh Lewis (Ebbw Vale), Ben Leung (Cardiff), Connor Lloyd (Carmarthen Quins), Jack Jones (Llanelli), Torin Myhill (Carmarthen Quins), Phil John (released), Michael Collins (released), Jack Payne (released)

ANALYSIS – A season that promised much petered out disappointingly last time around as the Scarlets could only finish 5th. They have attempted to build on the progress made last season though with some extremely exciting signings. The additions of Patchell, McNicoll and Davies give them arguably the best backline in the league. Their success or failure as a team though will depend on the strength of their forward pack as a unit though.

They won 8 games at home last season, were defensively poor, conceding an average of 21 points each game (only Treviso and Zebre had worse records). They did have the joint best away record in the league (with the Ospreys), winning 6 and losing 5 but again will feel that they conceded too many points.

If they can tighten up defensively, especially at home, their backline could and should cause everyone serious problems. Their discipline was atrocious last season – and this is one area that they will surely be looking to improve on. They had the worst record in the whole league with a total of 18 yellow cards received in 22 games.

 

Treviso Rugby

Players In

Marty Banks (Highlanders), Tommaso Allan (Perpignan), Tommaso Benvenuti (Bristol), Tito Tebaldi (Harlequins), Michael Tagicakibau (Scarlets), Andrea Buondonno (Mogliano), David Odiete (Mogliano), Ian McKinley (Viadana), Guglielmo Zanini (Rovigo), Giorgio Bronzini (Rovigo), Nicola Quaglio (Rovigo), Filippo Gerosa (Viadana), Tiziano Pasquali (Leicester), Federico Zani (Mogliano), Luca Sperandio (Mogliano)

Players Out

Matteo Muccignat (Rovigo), Ludovico Nitoglia (retired), Enrico Bacchin (Padova), Simone Ragusi (Padova), Alberto Lucchese (Padova), Salesi Manu (Honda Heat), Andrea De Marchi (Rovigo), Duncan Naude (Limoges), Sam Christie (Waikato), James Ambrosini (Amatori), Chris Smylie (North Harbour), Rupert Harden (released), Tom Palmer (released)

ANALYSIS – Last season was very poor for Treviso. They finished bottom, missing out on Champions Cup qualification to Zebre. There has been a huge turnover of players with Marty Banks coming from the Highlanders the standout signing at fly half. Whether they have the depth required over a long season to make any further progress remains open to question.

They only won 3 games last season, all at home. Their average points scored at home (16 per game) was the worst in the league. They also had the fifth worst defensive record, picking up 11 yellow cards. It is hard to know where they go from here – if they can finish above Zebre again they will see it as a successful season.

 

Ulster Rugby

Players In

Charles Piutau (Wasps), Marcell Coetzee (Sharks), Rodney Ah You (Connacht), Kieran Treadwell (Harlequins), Brett Herron (Bath), Angus Lloyd (Trinity College Dublin)

Players Out

Nick Williams (Cardiff Blues), Sam Arnold (Munster), Rory Scholes (Edinburgh Rugby), Ian Humphreys (retired), Willie Faloon (released), Paul Jackson (released), Ruaidhri Murphy (released), Bronson Ross (released), Paul Rowley (released), Frank Taggart (released)

ANALYSIS – Last season’s 4th placed finish was a great achievement for the Ulstermen, and in Charles Piutau they have undoubtedly the most exciting signing in the whole league.

Ulster were very strong at home, winning 9 and only losing 2 games, and their defensive record was immense, only conceding 108 points at an average of 10 per game (the best record in the league by far). They won 5 games away from home, and their defensive solidity was transported to their away games as they had the second best record away from home, with an average of 18 points per game conceded.

They will also be looking to maintain their excellent disciplinary record; their 6 yellow cards last season was the joint second best in the whole league.

 

Zebre Rugby

Players In

Joshua Furno (Newcastle), Carlo Festuccia (Wasps), Giovanbattista Venditti (Newcastle), Kurt Baker (New Zealand Sevens), Lloyd Greeff (Golden Lions), Derick Minnie (Golden Lions), Bart le Roux (Leopards), Carlo Engelbrecht (Blue Bulls), Gabriele Di Giulio (Calvisano), Mattia Bellini (Padova), Tommaso Castello (Calvisano), Maxime Mbandà (Calvisano)

Players Out

Leonardo Sarto (Glasgow), Mirco Bergamasco (Sacramento Express), Filippo Ferrarini (Ohio Aviators), Mils Muliaina (San Diego Breakers), Marco Bortolami (retired), Emiliano Caffini (Fiamme Oro), Filippo Cristiano (Fiamme Oro), Kelly Haimona (Bay of Plenty), Giulio Toniolatti (Lazio), Jean Cook (Kintetsu Liners), Michele Visentin (Mogliano), Paul Derbyshire (Amatori), Emiliano Coria (Nevers), Gonzalo Garcia (Cahors), Ulrich Beyers (released), Luke Burgess (retired), Bruno Mercanti (released)

ANALYSIS – 2015/16 was as successful a season as they are ever likely to have, finishing 11th and qualifying for the Champions Cup. There has again been though a huge turnover of players – they look to have made some interesting signings, Kurt Baker in particular is a very good 7s player, but whether they can be moulded into an effective team remains to be seen.

They won 4 home games in the league last season,and beat Treviso away. Statistically though they have a huge amount of work to do. They conceded an average of 29 points per home game (the worst in the league) and an average of 37 points per away game (again the worst in the league). They also only scored 71 points in their eleven away games at an average of only 6 per game. This is surely something that must be improved.

They also had the second worst disciplinary record in the league, picking up 16 yellow cards in their 22 games.

 

Betting Angles:

Pro 12 Betting Odds

Not a huge amount of value in the long-term market as far as I can see. Leinster and Glasgow are worthy favourites. Connaght seem a big price if they are anywhere near as good as last season.

World Rugby Probe – multiple arrests

As the result of a long running investigation, conducted in parallel to the FIFA corruption probe, major changes have been announced at world rugby headquarters for the game of Rugby Union. A number of high profile arrests have been made by Interpol, at the highest levels of national unions and competition authorities. Speaking this morning at IRB HQ on Pembroke Street in Dublin, Ireland, acting Junior vice president Ducky Bazzington read out the mandated Easter proclamation – formulated by the administrators who Interpol have appointed for the interim period – the Dropkickrugby betting forum, based in Dropkickrugby towers, Dublin.

“This organisation and the game is on its knees, and can no longer ignore general common sense and the corruption that is rife in one sense or another throughout the organisation and the game. This is a game for the people, and the punters, and it’s time we introduced transparency in the manner football has; It is time we begin to stamp out the different facets of the game that make our sport a laughing stock to outsiders and insiders alike”.

According to sources there are several signatories to the new proclamation, which is, in essence, a new rugby constitution. The new ruling junta, have been met with international goodwill from fans across the world, despite their much publicised fondness for brazzers, alcohol, chocoprods, and prams full of dogshit. Among the revolutionary ideas gaining traction with gullible naïve rugby snobs, and egg-chasing realists alike are;

  1. A successful choke tackle will now result in a quick tap penalty and not a scrum – this is the equivalent of blue-balls for fans
  2. During a scrum : The CLOCK will only being restarted when the ball has come out the back of a scrum or a penalty has been awarded
  3. International referees being appointed in a transparent manner, in a public draw, chosen randomly by auditors, and not by home unions – the French might actually turn up when they play abroad then. The current situation is a farce and completely corrupt.
  4. An independently funded body will be contributed to by every union equally to review refereeing performances and ask questions
  5. No more raping the French away from home by referees – you’ve had enough now lads. I know you want to keep the biggest country in world rugby down by making things as unfair as possible on them, but they’ve had enough now, their arses are red raw. We all witnessed Nigel and Dan Cole in Paris…there was blocking, and Craig in the world cup final 2011. It’s every game at this point. YES, I know it doesn’t help that they do the daftest shit imaginable on a rugby field, but it’s precisely because they’re getting raped that they’re never really fully arsed and do dumb shit in the first place.
  6. Nigel Owens won’t be appointed referee of the world cup final in England, by the English-run IRB reffing panel, and given England’s grand slam decider in Paris, ever again in the same world cup cycle
  7. Roman Poite will have to be clean shaven for at least one game a month – he has a razor, he just needs to Youze-eet
  8. Give straight yellows for breaching the offside line –it is not being policed, it is stifling attacks. Make the players manage it themselves – referees cannot look at a ruck and the offside line…your arms out stretched aint doing shit lads!
  9. A game cannot end on being held up over the line, or with an unplayable ball (seriously, is this rule a joke! The defending team can engineer this easily!). A reset of possession is a must….this is entertainment people are paying for!
  10. No one country should run the RFU reffing panel – Paddy had it for the Kiwis, now the RFU run it. It has to be independent. Human nature means influence will be used.

Those are the initial ten commandments from the DKR junta. More are on the way – including it becoming mandatory that the Celtic league paying 50 poxy euro flight tickets for neutral refs to fly to wales/scotland/italy or Ireland (why the hell was Dudley Phillips reffing Munster at home to Zebre last week?! Do the Italians not matter?), and more (and some obscure) references to the current “scum” in government in the UK, and concussed players having to wear sirloin steak helmets for ten minutes after a blow.

Interpol have stressed that while there is no guaranteed corruption here, there are systematic issues here that are not conducive to it being a level playing field. With rugby facing numerous challenges, this investigation is an important first step in sorting out a game that is, slowly but surely, losing fans in their droves due to the blatant bias visible every weekend, and the sheer and utter gobshitednessness of some of our game laws. And let’s face it, some of the above is pure common sense, and the current situations cannot be allowed to continue if the game is to grow in any way globally.

NEXT week: Legend tells us how there’s no corruption and there were WMD’s in Iraq, SUAF gives us an update on his tourettes treatment, and a chocoprod Romanian gyppo accuses Shane of fathering her baby.

Intercept tries and live rugby betting odds

Weekend lessons – interception tries

It’s the off season for me as a punter as my three rugby betting loves the Premiership, the Rabo & Top14 have all left me for the summer (well, I say three ‘loves‘, but the Top14 is really more like that girlfriend that you have nothing in common with and drives you insane but still has you coming back for more every time). That doesn’t mean i don’t have a bet each weekend, but I’m a bit more picky about what i get involved in, and the stakes are considerably smaller than my regular season action.

Last weekend was a bit different – knackered from some contract work during the week I had lots of spare time lounging around the house, feeding the birds, talking to the cats about not eating the birds, and (not without some shame) picking my fantasy football team for the wendy-ball starting in three weeks. As I scratched around online for some betting value, there were three bets in three games that had been on my mind from Thursday onwards. Only one of those rugby bets turned out to be a winner, but I noticed something quite valuable for the future that never really factored into my calculations before.

Firstly, we’ve all seen intercept tries at the start of games that give the vanquished loser a small consolation. But what effect do intercept tries have in games that are still contests? There are no official figures for intercept tries, so we’ll have to mostly go from memory here and base most of our thinking on last weekend, some high profile past games, and any help you guys can give in the forum to test this hypothesis.

Ok, so most rugby fans know that intercept tries are valuable commodities – it’s not rocket science. But last weekend there were three intercept tries that caused the favorites at the time to lose their games. One worked out well for me, two didn’t – but they all had the same effect on the game.

Rugby bet 1 – Kings 1-12 v Lions at 14/5, Super 15 playoff. Result – bet Lost

There was a massive disparity in the winning margin odds for this game so I felt it was good value. The Kings were at home, and Paddypower were only offering 9/5 on the Kings 1-12 when Stan James were offering 13/5. These two-way playoffs in any league are usually very tight affairs won by the home team, and I felt the Kings were well able to eek out a win. Everything was going great by the 37th minute – the Kings were totally dominant for the past 25 minutes in all the half-time buzz-word statistics, they were playing good percentage rugby, and they were ahead on the scoreboard.

The Lions were probably mentally in the land of the losing bonus point until, in the 38th minute, Stokkies Hanekom grabbed an intercept try for the Lions as the Kings were attacking (with an overlap). It totally changed the game, and the Kings never looked like winning after that; they lost all the collisions, they lost their excellent flyhalf Catrakilis on 57 minutes (who had thrown the intercept), they lost on the penalty count.

Many Kings fans will blame the ref, and it definitely didn’t help that Jaco Peyper (who had been moved from linesman at the Bulls game to referee this one two days previously, for some reason) had one of the dodgiest refereeing performances i’ve seen in a long time – when all of his dodgy decisions and non-decisions seemed to go against the Kings. Even the commentators were exasperated at times, and in truth, had the owner of the Lions franchise reffed the game himself he couldn’t have done more for his team than Peyper did. However, most of us know what Peyper is, and while we laugh at the SARU and SANZAR on a weekly basis (who still seem to think we can’t see what goes on week-in-week-out in suspiciously-reffed South African Super15 games), the fact remains that the intercept try on 38 minutes totally changed the momentum & psychology of this game and was instrumental in the Lions getting the win.

Rugby bet 2 – Chiefs ht/Crusaders full time 7/1, Bet lost

This match went the opposite way to my own punt – the Crusaders were winning at half time (9-3) and the Chiefs at full time (20-19). This game started with the Crusaders -4 point favourites on the handicap. After leading at half time, the first five minutes of the second half were truly edge-of-your-seat living for Chiefs fans; Carter hit the post with a penalty to miss taking the gap to nine points; Read screwed up the final pass in a move where the Crusaders looked destined to score a try. Not much money was going on the Chiefs at this point, and the Crusaders were on top, no doubt about it.

Still, the Chiefs survived that early onslaught (amazingly), and earned a penalty on 46 minutes to make it 9-6. The Chiefs put on a surge and after Masaga scored that wonderful monster of a try, they were leading 13-9 after 50 minutes. Nobody was writing off the Crusaders though, as they had been the better team, and the live betting was reflecting this – with the Chiefs only slight odds-on favourites despite being ahead by 4 points and at home.

In response, the Crusaders set about pounding the Chiefs line but knocked on at the crucial moment. Winding up once more (it was only a matter of time surely before the heroic Chiefs defence would break!), the Crusaders were once again on the attack and looking dangerous, when KERBLAMMO! – Aaron Cruden took an intercept in midfield and raced to the other end to score the try, making it seventeen unanswered points for the Chiefs in the space of about 15 minutes.

It was testament to the Crusaders that they hit right back with Dagg’s solo effort soon after, but the damage had been done – Cruden’s try was a true 14 point swing against the Crusaders when even my dog (who is currently a very disappointed Warrington Wolves fan – more on that below) was expecting the Crusaders to score next just before the intercept happened. The intercept try again proved crucial as Carter scored a pen and missed a pen in the final 20 minutes, and it afforded the Chiefs the option of concentrating on defending against an undoubtedly tired Crusaders side.

Would the Chiefs have won without the intercept? No, I don’t think so. And while the live odds reflected the fact the Chiefs had gone into an 11 point lead so we couldn’t take advantage this time, the polar opposite psychological effect on both teams was evident in those final 20 odd minutes.

Rugby bet 3 – Hull to beat Warrington in the Rugby League Challenge cup semi-final at 4/1. Hull win, bet wins

Warrington went into this game as -14 point favourites, and have a fantastic record in the Challenge cup. They’re second in the league (just a point behind Wigan) and are in good form. I backed Hull as they were at home, had their main kicker back from injury, and had plenty of motivation. I thought if they could stay with Warrington there would be plenty of opportunity to trade out for a profit.

Anyway, after racing into an 8 point league with some excellent play, many viewers will have felt that the writing was on the wall and it was going to be another hammering (after Wigan won 70-nil the day before)- my initial thinking looked to be way off, and Hull went to as high as 20/1 in live betting to win the game. At this point I felt my bet was gone – Hull were defending again 20 metres out, Warrington looked like they were going to totally blitz Hull to a hammering, and the home fans were very quiet. So what happened?

Warrington tried a cross kick. The kick itself was quite good and it was there for the taking by the Warrington lads on the wing. But Hull winger Tom Lineham went for it, intercepted, and ran 80 yards to touch-down for Hull’s first (and vital) score. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Hull were fired up, and they scored the next three tries to go into a 16-8 lead. They ended up squeaking the win after Warrington snuck a try in the last five minutes, but there was no doubt – the intercept totally changed the game psychologically, and made the massive underdog the better team, and the winner on the day.

Co-incidence?

Of course it could be. However what is interesting is that all of these three games had something riding on them. They weren’t just ordinary league games- motivation was at it’s highest for all six sides involved in games with interceptions. Knockout games are the thoroughbred horse races of Rugby – it’s when you can usually count on maximum effort, and your appraisal of form can be most counted upon. All three intercepts had huge opposing psychological effects on the six teams in the three games, in favour of the perceived lesser team (in the eyes of bookmakers and most neutral fans). These three games were not home/away league games so home advantage is slightly less important relatively speaking.

I guess the ultimate lesson i’m trying to convey here for rugby bettors and non-punters, is that an intercept try seems to be worth far more than the 4 or five points (depending on code) you see on the scoreboard. Again, many fans will have noted this already, but this past weekend is compelling evidence that’s it’s not just hearsay and conjecture. The price you see after an intercept try in live betting may hold alot more value than at first glance – I know a few punters who think the opposite effect takes place, and that the team who conceded the intercept become even more motivated to score next. That view has some merits, but I know what side of the debate i’m on.

Joe Roff’s try, right after half time, the intercept try, was just the medicine we needed…

John Eales and George Greegan sum up what i’ve been on about pretty well here when talking about this massive game-changer;

There’s lots more out there, and i’ve set up a thread in the forum that we can add to whenever we see one in future. The lesson here overall is to pay close attention to betting prices after intercept tries – they’re worth far more than points on the scoreboard in my opinion.

Heineken cup betting – Toys out of the pram

As a quick preamble to this weekend’s games, It must be said that it’s hard to weigh up team chances without looking beyond the absolute necessity for European rugby (and the big business of the ERC) that at least one English club gets to the final this year. It also must be said that Sarries and Quins are rightly favourites this weekend, and are the stronger sides. Ok, with that out of the way……..

First, have a quick look at this in the Tory Gloryhole, essentially outlining how our club chairmen are still intent on destroying this fantastic and inclusive competition solely for money.

The article shows how just yesterday these silly sods couldn’t come to an agreement on what is happening with European rugby, and the fact remains that the majority of English Premiership fans (i’m one myself, and I know loads), have a chip on their shoulder that they’ve been coming off second best because of the structure of this competition, and not due to the fact that we just haven’t been good enough.

The fact is simple – the fans are the ones that count, and they’re putting it up to the chairmen, who also want more money – so them jockeying for more money, stricter entry for Scottish and Italian sides etc., dovetails nicely with their own money hungry quest. The fans views are crystal clear (partly due to the lack of critical thinking in the English media, and the big business agenda) – the majority can’t deal with the fact their teams haven’t been good enough (similar to our National side since ’04 in all fairness), and the blame seems to be getting placed at a combination of – money, no relegation in the Rabo, and Leinster resting a few players before Heineken cup games (despite the fact that it happens week in week out in the Premiership in one guise or another – i.e., those ‘sore knees’ we read about from the offy’s in other words).

This is not an attempt to persuade anyone of right and wrong – everyone is on their side of the fence and it’s doubtful many will be persuaded now. You’re either an Englishman and thinking your teams aren’t winning because it’s all unfair, or you’re from somewhere else and thinking;

‘why are English clubs jeopardising the game of rugby for money and essentially trying to contract the spread of the sport globally by proposing to hobble Scottish and Italian rugby?’ or ‘ why can’t England make use of their player base which dwarfs the other countries?’ or ‘didn’t they originally change the spread of money and the qualifications precisely because English clubs were wiping the floor in this competition?’, or ‘why in Christ’s name are they trying to ruin the best rugby competition on the planet just for money?’.

It won’t please many fellow English rugby fans to read it (we speaks our mind and tells it as we sees it), but throwing the toys out of the pram seems to be something of a running theme in English rugby right now. Last week Steve Walsh was hounded out of international rugby for the next six months thanks to incessant RFU complaining of how he reffed the scrums versus Wales.

Nevermind the fact that even with Craig Joubert reffing them off the park, France still managed to win the scrum against England. Nevermind that George Clancy ignored Italian scrum dominance in the entire second half against England (watch the replay, the Italians sent England backwards…alot) by not giving their superior scrum the penalties. Nevermind that the Irish got parity in the scrum even with injuries.

No, nevermind all that. Just mind Graham Rowntree and the RFU throwing their toys out of the pram when Steve Walsh correctly gave the decisions to a Welsh scrum that was totally on form, that contained proven talent from one to eight, and over twice the international caps of the English eight. I was genuinely embarrassed at our complaining in the days after the game. I’m even more embarrassed that a man lost work because we can’t deal with reality.

And the result? Steve Walsh taken off International rugby (or suspended from his job to be more accurate) because he chose to referee English rugby and the RFU correctly, and chose to keep his integrity and NOT do a Craig Joubert on it, and give us everything.

Is it any wonder then that the clubs think they can act in the same way, when their home union is going around stamping it’s feet and crossing it’s arms like a spoiled brat? (we also know now that New Zealand no longer control the IRB, and who does)

So what has this got to do with this weekend? Well, this is an attempt to point out the glaring logic for punters. English sides have been given a cushy ride in this championship so far precisely to sway the minds of fans, who won’t want to walk away from the Championship if one of their own gets their hands on the cup. Anyone who doubts this just needs to watch a replay of the farcical refereeing of Munster v Saracens last Autumn (in particular the final five minutes, when Keith Earls was wrongly penalised, and Sarries were given a phantom maul penalty to nail a losing bonus point for them) in Thomond park, for an education in the realpolitik now facing the ERC, and how refs are being told to intervene in order to save this competition.

And yes, Owen Farrell had missed a shed load of penalties (the awarding of most of which had that crowd on the verge of a riot), but that’s neither here nor there when you look at how Saracens were marched up-field by the ref to save the day at the last minute. This war is about hearts and minds people.

It’s important to note that Saracens and Quins are excellent sides and are rightly favourites to win this weekend against Ulster and Munster respectively, especially looking at the recent form of the Irish sides. And make no mistake – it’s down to Sarries and Quins to keep the Heineken cup alive now, because it’s hard to see Toulon screwing up in the cauldron against an ordinary Leicester side. It’s down to Sarries and Quins to take our collective heads out of our collective arses and realise what our club chairmen and women are on the verge of destroying in the name of money, greed and preying on the fueled self delusion of ‘we the fans’.

Ulster and Munster definitely have it in them to win, and in truth the sides are more evenly matched than the bookies are pricing it up. But it really looks like the death knell for this wonderful iteration of European cup rugby if they win, with the way negotiations have been going. Sarries and Quins have to win, no matter what, to save us from ourselves. This is the first European rugby weekend I haven’t looked forward to in thirteen years.

If you’re a cynic looking for value, the Sarries/Quins straight win double is paying biggest in Paddy power, and 11/10 (just a shade over evens). Beating two good sides getting the calls from the refs is going to be a seriously tough ask for the much vilified (wrongly) Irish sides this weekend. If you’re an optimistic and flighty sort, and not grounded in commercial reality at weekends, then a Munster/Ulster 1-12 winning margin double is paying 12/1 in Stanjames or Boylesports.


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The French ten situation – Mo Money, Mo Problems

How do you solve the French problem at out-half?

PSA and Parra

Only a blind man with blinkers could deny all is not well in that part of the field but where to begin?

Best place to start is probably  to define the role of the 10 in French domestic rugby…..Traditionally, France has always had a significant divide between backs & forwards and the out-half was generally “piggy in the middle”. Bernard Laporte walked a 16 legged tortoise around the stadia of France to win the national title in 1991.   There was an out-half there too of course,  for the kick-offs etc……   Four of the clubs loyal followers were given jerseys 11 to 15.   These chaps were useful before a lineout as having clean kit they could wipe the ball dry for the throw in.  I exaggerate of course, but not that much……..

Forwards do the work, scrum-halves guide them.  When “les gros” get tired you send the ball out to the “gazelles” at the back & hope they don’t muck it up.   The fly-half’s role is to act as intermediary between the two & above all else, reward the forwards hard work by scoring with his kicks.    It’s very simple really. A 10 is required by the unwritten rules of French rugby “not to fart about & kick properly”.   You can understand why Blanco would have built a tunnel to Cork with a dedicated TGV line if ROG had been willing to sign for Biarritz!

But back to the here & now.  Trinh-Duc & Michalak are the selected French 10’s. Michalak is at best a 9 and a half imho.  He was incredibly hyped up before & during the ’03 World Cup (he’s been around a while eh?)   & we saw where that got him. He did a job behind a very vigorous and dominant pack during the Autumn Internationals yet he is but second choice for his club. That pack is no longer so vigorous and Freddie has been all at sea.  Confidence is and always has been an issue for him.

Trinh-Duc has made his way up through the ranks of Montpelier, well coached, well protected, has a reasonable tackle, good general skills…….but he can’t kick. Why not?………….  Its not as if he doesn’t have the time or the facilities in which to practise……Temperament maybe? But then, who else is there?   Actually when you come to that who else has there been?

Looking back quickly I think of Lacroix, Deylaud, Camberabero, Lamaison even Castaignède……..but apart from possibly Cambé, does any French oh spring quickly to mind when you think of “French Flair”?   Obviously Maso, Blanco, Sella, N’Tamack, even Saint-André……….but fly halves?   My examples are not exhaustive & I’ll stand corrected but off the top of my head none really stand out.

I do think of Fouroux, Berbizier, Galthié, Ellisade, Yachvili, Parra & many others.  All on field generals marshalling their team to victory on many occasions.  But they are scrum halves……So if we have a doubt about the suitability of Fred & Francois, who should the French opt for instead?  Let’s have a look at the elite Top 14 league.

Toulouse have Mc Alister(NZ) considered N°1 by the club yet a chap on a fishing holiday (Donald) was called up to seal the deal for the Blacks in 2011.  Beauxis has worn “Bleu” but is at best a journeyman, a good place kicker but that’s about it. Bayonne have Boyet, who in fairness has been unlucky but is close to calling it a day.  Stephen Brett (NZ) arrives next season. Some young chaps on the horizon but nothing for  the here & now. Clermont have “Brittle” Brock (AUS), Skrela well past it and Mike Delany(NZ) next season.

Perpie have James Hook (Wales)…….

Racing have Wisisneski, yet to convince & Sexton (IRL) will be there next year. Paris (Stade Francais) have Plisson, a possible, if he can keep Morne Styen (SA) on the bench……..ahem!

Toulon have Sir Jonny, who’s signed for another year (no doubt to the delight of Freddie!)

Biarritz have Peyrolongue, at 32, unlikely.  Barraque had a great start to the season but faded….Blair Stewart in Grenoble, nobody really standing out in Castres, possibly Tales. Bordeaux have Lopez, who was given a chance by PSA, didn’t convince the staff & is off to USAP to play second fiddle to Hook, who can hardly get a game with Wales, & finally Monty, with  Tin Duck……….

So what is PSA to do?

To be honest, those that have not been picked by the French staff are in no way superior to Freddie&Francois.  There are chaps who can’t get a game in their club against Non French Qualified players who are not considered good enough back where they came from.  The possible exception being Wilko, an aging if great talent & Bernie would be mad not to use him. In any case, you are judged on what you can or  cannot do so until one of these guys steps up to the mark why on earth would PSA change what he has now?

Mind you………….there is one possibility………..one who maybe could do the job……… if you think about it……………he has 49 caps, he can kick & he’s only 24……………but then No………. its probably too mad!

Even for the French…………………….But what about?……………. Morgan Parra?

Daithi.

26/02/13.

(image of Phillippe Sait Andre taken from dementedmole.com)

Betting forum

Craig Joubert – England v France 2013

** The truth hurt it seems, The six nations have had the video removed from youtube that we used for our Craig Joubert comedy show post below. It was a sham game, handed to England, and a long litany of absolutely baffling decisions by Joubert that went far beyond anything seen before. That’s why they had the videos removed from Youtube. So our point is proven- something is most definitely not right here, and this isn’t the first game we’ve seen this kind of thing happen it happens in league games, and it happened in teh world cup final that Joubert refereed. All retails demain below, the times are still accurate if you have a recording of the match yourself on your digital box. RBS Six Nations didn’t want people seeing what we showed them.**


England beat France by 23-13 on Saturday in a crucial game for both sides. France were trying to end an unexpected losing streak, and England were trying to secure a championship. Both sets of players gave it everything they had, but the most important figure on the pitch was just not up to it. Craig Joubert not only let down the players (in particular the French players, as you will see below) – who dedicate their lives to this game, but also rugby fans around the world, and particularly the travelling French fans.

It has always amazed me personally how soccer referees can have every minutiae of their working performances examined in detail by newspapers (and rightly so), but rugby referees seem to get a total carte-blanche to make an astounding number of wrong calls in a match of this importance. Why is it that we frequently read nothing from most major Journos about the referees, especially after games where even novices to the game can see something is not quite right? Referees are the most important people on the field, bar none. Nothing can exist without them. Therefore surely it isn’t right that their performances are rarely if ever even critiqued? This self-imposed Omerta about rugby referees is damaging the game – there were 30 people in the pub beside me on Saturday laughing their heads off when Joubert awarded England a penalty when Ashton was holding onto the ball on 78 minutes (last clip below). It has become farce. If any other profession in the world performed as bad as some referees do, there would be hell to pay. Have the media and rugby journalists in general simply acquiesced into a zombie-like acceptance that nothing can be done about games where bizarre decision after bizarre decision is made against one side, the accumulation of which goes beyond understandable error to the realm of gross incompetence? Is that why noone asks questions?

We all have bad days, but Saturday was a truly gobsmacking ‘performance’ from Craig Joubert. And once again it was French rugby that bore the brunt of his baffling decision making, after the widely criticised officiating mess he presided over in the 2011 world cup.

As mentioned above, referees are only human, and with so much going on in a rugby match it is understandable that they can have super-bad days from time to time. Bad days that are usually bad for both sides for the most part. Saturday however, was a totally different story; where everything went against France, some of it beyond explanation. There are always bad calls in games, but there were just too many for it to be acceptable and simply brushed over here. French rugby deserves an apology from the IRB. And travelling French fans deserve their ticket price to be refunded. Sadly, the millions of us who watched this farce can’t get those hours of our lives back.

It is very easy to forget games like this, or over react, so we went back through the game to see if we were imagining things, or if the refereeing really was that bad. And it was. Below is how we saw it.

The incident notes below are accompanied by video where the erroneous (in our opinion) decision took place. Watch the incident referred to, then move on to the next one. And be sure to pause the clip before moving on to the next one. In the interest of brevity we’ve tried to keep the list to only the most obvious. All times are matchclock time


Important note – if you need to rewatch any of the below clips again, the fastest way is to just refresh your entire browser and hit play again rather than fiddle with the time on the videos (as the entire match recording is quite long and it’s difficult to get back to the clip start sometimes)

Joubert error v France 1
0 minutes, 38 seconds – the sad overture for the coming clown show – Maestri (french number 5) rucks through for France, the England pillar defender gives way so Maestri hits the ground, Maestri attempts to roll away IMMEDIATELY, doesn’t touch the ball, yet Joubert blows the penalty England. The ball was ALWAYS available. Wrong.


Joubert error v France 2
12 mins 34 seconds
Joubert penalises France for early engagement when it is CLEARLY England who engage early. Brian Moore the BBC commentator agrees on the commentary, and then is left speechless as he tries to explain it – understandably. Prior to this France’s scrum was dominant.


Joubert error v France 3
23 mins 25 seconds
Joubert is staring straight at Owen Farrell as he elbows Parra in the face. Sure it’s missable by the ref, unless you’re looking DIRECTLY at it, as Joubert appears to be (Yes we can’t see his face, but it’s seems he’s watching Farrell hit Parra not the play 2 yards to the right. Why didn’t Joubert blow it? He’s right there?


Joubert error v France 4
25 mins 50 seconds. Picamoles is penalised despite legitimately challenging for the ball – he released and re-engaged, England had no support, England were holding on, and Joubert is standing right there, and penalises France. You can see on a normal day how this could be given in error (even though Joubert is right there 2 yards away) but these are really stacking up now. Picamoles is furious as the play moves away to the right.


Other first half odd calls
24;11 ben Youngs england knock on at 2411 in front of Joubert, not given
24;40 Mas penalised for Not rolling away while Robshaw held his legs
33:20 Mas penalised again for not rolling away, when the ball was nowhere near him, that’s why he didn’t roll away. You see that as robshaw takes the ball out after the whistle is blown. Joubert right there on hand again.


The Second half (it got worse)


Joubert error v France 5
44 mins 55 seconds, Penalty v Nicolas mas for sealing off; it was never a penalty, he was rucking clearly and then naturally went over. Relieves french pressure, and the speed of Joubert’s whistle is notable. There’s a slow-mo replay a few seconds into the clip.


Joubert error v France 6
46 mins 35 seconds, France done for maul collapsing, but they never dragged it down and Joubert standing there right looking right at it. Nyanga is number six just before pen is awarded, and he doesn’t drag it down. The maul continues and hits Dusatoir, and the England lads hit the deck. You can see why this was given but again, it’s another marginal call against France. England get the penalty, and score to make it 12-10.


Joubert error v France 7
52 mins 45 seconds
Clearly Dan Cole is infringing in the scrum ( as he did quite a bit in this game), yet linesman staring right at it does nothing and we have a reset. France are then Penalised for going early in the reset. Off the ensuing up and under England score the match winning try.


Joubert error v France 8
53 mins 43 seconds– The Decisive score that wins England the game. First, there’s an English knock on as the ball comes down, yet Joubert shouts ‘back off blue’ – for me this is 95% an England knock on from how the ball reacts, and should now be ‘advantage France’. He’s standing right there. On a normal day you’d accept the mistake but not with all that has preceeded this.

Second, Barritt (12) kicks the ball into Vunipola who is in front of him, and then Tuilagi scores a try. Even though Vunipola is accidentally offside, he is still offside and this is a penalty to France. That Joubert doesn’t even check it with the TMO is another huge red flag for me and I can’t believe that with the unorthodox nature of the lead up he doesn’t use his powers to go to the TMO. Why didn’t he go to the TMO? He was right up with the play looking right at Barritt kick the ball into Vunipola? Is Joubert the referee or is he a spectator? The second clip and the slow-mo demonstrates the offside clearly and where Joubert was – i.e., right there, getting it wrong. At this point the French players have given up with the incessant calls going against them. Two big mistakes, England try, France wronged again by Joubert.



Joubert error v France 9
57 mins 48 seconds – Penalty England………. given against Fofana for not rolling away, but Michalak had his hands on the ball on the england player on the ground holding on. Fofana with three bodies on him made the effort to get out of the way, and not interfering with ball placement. Joubert saw the whole thing ONCE AGAIN with a clear view on the ball side, yet still makes the wrong decision. Wondering why yet? me too. The ball was still there for Ben Youngs to take it. Yet Youngs, not for the first time just looks at Joubert and stands off the ruck and gets a penalty – you may have noticed that in previous clips. He’s right to do it, if Joubert is willing to keep penalising France. And by-jove, willing he is!


Joubert error v France 10
62mins 20 seconds- Vunipola on his ten metre line off his feet grabs french ball; a clear penalty,and Joubert is right there AGAIN. The linesman contacts Joubert, and Joubert is in clear contact with him as his hand is to his earpiece for at least five seconds. The IMMEDIATE call should have been ‘advantage France’ as play continued. However, Joubert slowly lowers his hand from his ear and acts like nothing happened. Watch him – he just slowly muddles along and ignores the blatant infringment that should have been a kickable penalty for France, one that he more than likely saw, and had been informed about by the linesman over the earpiece. But Joubert was NOT INTERESTED – despite the crowd, the French players up in arms when it happened, the contact from the linesman, and his own eyes looking at what happened. I am 100% sure that the linesman here would NOT have contacted Joubert unless certain there was a penalty infringment. Advantage never comes. Another damning indictment of Joubert – he didn’t even consult with his linesman after play broke down (which you see EVERY week in the TOP 14, Rabo Pro12, and Aviva Premiership). Any ideas? Answers on a postcard please.

Later on, at 68 mins 40 seconds on the commentary, the Scottish commentator comes on, highlights the incident, and shows it as a clear yellow card for Vunipola. So If Joubert knew about it via his earpiece, (and John Lacey is a forthright man, who was running that line at the time, and who would have been very clear about what happened) why didn’t Joubert at least call French advantage? We have entered unknown territory….oh wait, I just remembered the world cup final. Nevermind.


Joubert error v France 11
71 mins 46 seconds – Joubert penalises the French thirteen (Bastaureaud) for not rolling away in front of the French posts. When in fact, he was nowhere near the ball after the tackle after making every conceivable effort to move out of the way, and Freddie Michalak had challenged for the ball fairly to win it on his feet, along with Classens. French players walk away shaking their heads totally perplexed. With the time on the clock this easy penalty meant England were 7 points ahead and almost home. Joubert with another huge decision based on nothing, against France.


Joubert error v France 12 – this one had us laughing in the pub like a clown’s encore at the circus, it was so bizarre, thanks for the laugh Craig.
75mins 19 seconds- Fritz tackles Ashton, then CLEARLY disengages from the tackle as both hands go on the ground so he can get back on this feet. He then, on his feet, engages Ashton on the ground who is holding on with no support, and Ashton won’t let go of the ball. Ashton stares at Joubert, Joubert awards England a penalty, when it should clearly have gone the other way. In the act of the tackle Florian Fritz is looking up at Joubert wondering if he has swallowed his whistle, or if it’s broken, you can SEE the lack of understanding on his face ” eh hello, blow your f*cking whistle you twit?!”. Then he blows for England. Easy penalty, game secured for England with three minutes to go; no chance the French can come back now.


The laughter had died down just in time for us to hear John Inverdale of the BBC say ” I think it’s because their stamina goes, so does their discipline”. No sir, you’re wrong, as much as your voice is agreeable, you haven’t a clue what you’re on about. Much like Mr. Joubert. Brian Moore, whose normally up front and genuine commentary I often enjoy was also conspicuous by his absence throughout the game in giving honest appraisals of the penalties England were awarded. If it wasn’t for the Scottish interdiction at crucial times I’d have lost faith entirely in the BBC by now.

France lost this game for three reasons – England played well, Saint Andre took off Parra (Trin-Duc had to go off as he had a knock ten minutes previously and looked out of it), and Craig Joubert reffed France off the park for reasons only he knows. We (the fans, who make it all possible) were treated with utter contempt. This wasn’t a rugby match. It was a progression to a home win.

In every game of rugby, there are bad decisions, and home teams often get a few hometown calls – it is human nature and empirical studies have demonstrated the psychological refereeing fact that it happens in all professional sports – it is just part of the game. But when does it all become too much? If there’s a level above Joubert’s performance against France I’m not sure I want to know. How many more games will Joubert get to ruin now as the Chariot steamrolls any hope of balanced and reflective discourse on what was akin to the Battle of Carthage being re-enacted in the Twickenham-Collesseum (France being the Carthaginians and England being the victorious Romans)? Maybe he’s just bad at his job, in which case surely he needs to be sent back to school by his employers.

You really have to wonder about the possibility that, had Sergio Parrisse not recently been banned for speaking out of turn to a referee, would the French players have held their tongues so admirably?

England have learned nothing here, and they’ve had three games that have fallen very nicely for them. As a fan, I think that while England have played well, Lancaster has been incredibly lucky this tournament with a Scotland side that rolled over to have it’s belly scratched, an Irish side that lost it’s leader in Sexton that had no replacement, and a French side that were hobbled by Craig Joubert.

This guy (Joubert) has not only ruined this game for France, but more importantly he took the world cup title from them and handed it to New Zealand, such was the magnitude of his incompetence/call-it-whatever-you-want in that game. How many more chances is he going to get? How many more times will we have to sit through Brian Moore and Inverdale ignoring the blatantly obvious?! Are they afraid England’s public school boys will burn them out of Studio five if they utter one word to question an England side’s good fortune?

Enough is enough, that’s twice now this has happened. Let’s stop the pussy-footing around the subject of officials finally – he’s a rubbish referee that has been the centre and cause of two of the most inept and baffling refereeing performances in recent memory. Why is he still getting these big games for the big home unions?? How is he still getting big games when he made a mockery of the biggest game in world rugby – the world cup final? Why are those people in charge still happy with him after that performance? Why are they happy to let him ref a home game for them?? Did they watch the World Cup final? Do they wheel him out like Hannibal Lecter every now and again to keep us on our toes? This game was an international farce when it should have been a cracker. Whoever picks the refs for these games is probably more to blame. I’m not sure of the exact make-up of selection panels but serious questions have to be asked.


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Best try of the Heineken Cup rounds so far?

A little video we put together on Treviso’s last minute match winner v the Ospreys, scored by Pratichetti (or realistically, the whole Treviso team)- alot of people may have missed it.

Treviso scored two tries in the last five minutes to nick it from being 14-3 down with six minutes to go.

Probably getting a little ahead of ourselves calling it the best team try ever, but this try was a serious thing of beauty, and god dammit, we’re excited! Our personal favourite of the tournament so far anyway.

G’wan Treviso!

Have your say in the Rugby Betting forum, and don’t forget our member’s only Six nations betting prediction tournament, with modest cash prizes and a few free bets, details coming this week.

Allo Allo! Poite out of Munster/Sarries game, Gauzere called in

Shocking Photo’s taken yesterday in the town of Nouvion of Heineken cup referees Roman Poite and Pascale Gauzere. Roman Poite was set to referee the Munster/Saracens heavyweight clash on skysports this Saturday at 6pm, but was pulled out injured on Thursday afternoon. Fellow Frenchman Pascal Gauzere was been drafted in as replacement for the huge battle on Saturday evening.

Madame Edith Poite wasn’t immediately available for comment.

poite-and Gauzere on the munster match

Heineken Cup Rugby Opinion

Heineken Cup Rugby Opinion

It’s that time of year again with this cracking tournament kicking off in earnest Friday night. There’s a bit more spice to the tournament this year after the controversy surrounding the Celtic/Italian entitlements versus the money men of the English Premiership. The French wisely stood on the sidelines and in true french egalitarian style, they farted in the general direction of the english, told them their mother’s were hamsters, and that their father’s smelled of elderberries.

(Recent ERC Anglo/French Meeting footage)

So from a purely betting prespective are we now looking at an extra dollop of motivation for the Celtic and Italian sides when playing English teams? Quite possibly, and it’s not something we can discount when assessing handicaps. The general implication of the English Premiership’s stance was that the Celtic teams overall weren’t good enough (as they didn’t have to try so hard in their league – and extrapolating from that- ‘you can rest players because your competition is crap’).

This was an insinuation levelled at the entire Rabo Pro12 in fairness, and we felt it was a bit over the top. This was also quite an ironic stance when the major showpiece event of the Premiership thus far (just after this story broke) ended in a dismal 9-9 draw in fine weather between Saracens and Leicester – in front of a sell out crowd. General consensus was (and still is) that this the worst game of rugby so far this season, if not in the entire history of middle earth.

It was hard to see where the Corporate money-men were coming from, and the whole episode seems like another way Corporations (mainly BT in this case) are trying to ruin a perfectly good thing for money. If they manage to fool the Premiership rugby club heads, they will only succeed in duping the English rugby viewing public into paying subscription fees for an inferior product. For the majority of the year, the TOP 14 is a drudgefest, and we saw what happens when two of England’s finest gets together in front of a sell out crowd. One shudders to think of the defence orientated bashfest that BT’s money competition would ultimately become without the varied play the Celtic and even Italian teams bring.

Corporations only have one thing in mind- money. BT don’t have rugby in mind with their proposed superleague, and they’ve come in and tried to infect the Premierleague club owners with the false carrot of more and more money; Gordon Gecko would have felt at home around that boardroom table.They only care about profits and control, not what is best for rugby. And despite the razzmatazz with which they tried to launch their stinker of an idea, this rugby punter can see it exactly for what it is – another dressed up corporate turd.

In a slightly similar situation (in my mind anyway), massive corporate lobbying recently managed to buy the American democracy by succeeding in legally having Corporations declared as ‘people’, so that they could legally flood election campaigns with millions of dollars in favour-laden contributions (further reading on the deceptively titled ‘citizens united’ legal ruling). Oil and coal companies are currently pouring uncapped millions into whichever candidate will further their anti-progressive agenda (ie Romney). The people of the United states are starting to fight back with grass roots movements to take back their nation’s government, but it could be too late. The point here is that Corporations will destroy whatever they can in the quest for profit – even entire democracies – unless stakeholders stand up and say enough is enough.

It’s surprising how many fellow rugby lovers in England are believing the hype being sold to them of ‘Celtic league rotation’ and ‘no relegation’ after a couple of barren Heineken cup years, but they’re slowly starting to realise the wool is being pulled over their eyes. We simply haven’t been good enough and it seems an easy way out to blame our own success (or lack thereof) on the actions of the Celtic teams. There are a myriad of reasons why English clubs haven’t been successful and I felt slightly embarrassed when we looked abroad for answers, instead of taking our own league and RFU to task. The French also lost in the Heineken cup in recent years, and they rotate more than both domestic leagues combined, particularly on away days. There is also no realistic chance of any of their top 7 teams ever being relegated.

Sure, the Celtic league could maybe lose one or two automatic qualifications – but if we lose them completely we lose far more than we would if things stayed as they are. It’s time to start emailing Premiership rugby towers to tell them you don’t want a break up of the current Heineken cup- arguably the most exciting rugby tournament around right now. One shudders to think of what an Anglo French tournament would look like. The French thankfully seem to have realised this too, and are not yet under the spell of the anglo-saxon profit-at-all costs progress model. I just hope if the English teams lose this weekend (and they will have tough games against the Rabo teams, no doubt about it – especially now), that we accept defeat graciously instead of picking up our ball and going home in a huff. An English team will win another one soon enough.