England cause 6 Nations upset

Stuart Lancaster’s England team caused shockwaves throughout the rugby world on Sunday by turning up to their match in Paris completely sober. 

According to sources within the camp, the players had an early night-in on the Saturday, with some marshmallow-topped hot chocolates to accompany a DVD viewing of The Bodyguard

It was lights-out at 11pm, but not before the evening was topped-off with prop Matt Stevens (who reached the final of Celebrity X Factor in 2006) serenading the players to sleep with an emotional rendition of the Julie Garland classic Over the Rainbow. Bless.

The team also managed to beat 6 Nations contenders France, resulting in their first home defeat in 10 matches.

Matt Stevens' singing was said to cause 'man tears'

Big Daddy’s Essential ‘All You Can Eat’ Guide to the 6 Nations 2012

There was alot of testosterone in the room that day.

 

So the big chill has finally descended on Europe (I am literally typing this while wearing a pair of gloves!)….and just when we thought we were going to get away with the mildest winter since the Jurassic period. This coupled with the post-Xmas blues has meant the only thing stopping half-frozen commuters from ending it all by hurtling themselves on to the railway-tracks (only to find that their train has been delayed by half an hour…awkward) has been a morbid fascination to see how the Eurozone debt crisis turns out.

The good news for us Northern Hemisphere folk is that there will be a reason to get out of bed this weekend (unless you have a TV in the bedroom, in which case you won’t have to move at all), as International Rugby is back on the menu with the start of the 6 Nations tournament! Yeeehaw….

And just so you can enjoy it all the more, here’s Big Daddy’s essential guide:

 

ENGLAND

Coach: Stuart Lancaster – no pressure Stu, the RFU is right behind you…literally, so watch your back.

Captain: Chris Robshaw – has more syllables in his name than caps…experience isn’t everything, is it?

Man to watch: David Strettle – the Premiership’s in-form winger.

Strapline: A young, inexperienced side with a lot to prove but not much to live up to.

If they had a Depeche Mode theme tune: Policy of Truth or Condemnation (depending on how much the tabloids find out)

Team motto: ‘No news is good news’.

BDR’s Prediction: 4th

 

FRANCE

Coach: Philippe Saint-Andre, also known as ‘The Pig’…apparently.

Captain: Thierry Dusautoir – IRB player of the year.

Man to watch: Imanol Harinordoquy – you can’t pronounce his name and he hates you for it. A tour de force.

Strapline: The team to beat…if they decide to play.

If they had a Depeche Mode theme tune: Sometimes or A Question of Lust (depending on what mood they’re in)

Team motto: ‘Give it to Thierry’.

BDR’s Prediction: 1st

 

IRELAND

Coach: Declan Kidney – softly spoken number-cruncher.

Captain: Paul O’Connell – in the absence of injured golden-boy Brian O’Driscoll.

Man to watch: Stephen Ferris – a potato man-mountain with speed.

Strapline: Not as good as their provincial teams.

If they had a Depeche Mode theme tune: Never Let Me Down Again

Team motto: ‘Age before beauty.’

BDR’s Prediction: 3rd

 

ITALY

Coach: Jacques Brunel – a Frenchman, a turncoat…a part-time amateur film-maker?!

Captain: Sergio Parisse – if they could clone him to make a whole team, they would.

Man to watch: Martin Castrogiovanni – powerful name, powerful man.

Strapline: The whipping-boys

If they had a Depeche Mode theme tune: Dream On

Team motto: ‘Rome was not built in a day…or even 10 years’

BDR’s Prediction: 6th – at best.

 

SCOTLAND

Coach: Andy Robinson – lost his hair even before he started coaching Scotland.

Captain: Ross Ford – who?!…he’s replacing Kelly Brown…oh…wait… who?!

Man to watch: John Barclay – best flanker in the tournament, depending on who you’re talking to and if they’re Scottish.

Strapline:  If only they could score a try they might win something.

If they had a Depeche Mode theme tune: Everything Counts

Team motto: ‘The end justifies the means’.

BDR’s Prediction: 5th

 

WALES

Coach: Warren Gatland – Wales’ adopted son.

Captain: Sam Warburton – one of the players of the World Cup…when he stays on the field.

Man to watch: George North – “It’s alive!”…and it’s as fast as a friggin freight-train.

Strapline: Best of the Home Nations…could win it if they have belief.

If they had a Depeche Mode theme tune: A Question of Time or Agent Orange (if Gavin Henson is in the squad)

Team motto: ‘Boys will be boys’.

BDR’s Prediction: 2nd

Oops! England come to early.

This is quite simply too good not to post.

If you’ve been following the English press at all during the 6 Nations you’ll be aware that an English Grand Slam was an almost certainty after England beat Wales in Cardiff in their first game of the tournament.

It was a mere formality. The writing was on the wall.

I thought that that might be a tad premature. Just a touch.

But things only got worse after the wins against Italy, France and Scotland.

GRAND SLAM, GRAND SLAM, GRAND SLAM!!!

Well apparently Nike bought into the hype hook, line and sinker and went ahead and prepared a rather dull “Grand Slam Winners 2011” video clip for England, which some dear soul has seen fit to leak to the world.

I thank you kind Sir/Madam.

Ireland?? Pfffftt…please….

Enjoy.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJ5VT_u3Lb4]

Hijacked in Dublin

So the Irish saved their best for last and once again stuck a spanner in the spokes of the English chariot as it made its way towards a first Grand Slam title since 2003.

I’m not entirely sure what this 6 Nations campaign has taught us about the Northern Hemispheres challenge for the Webb Ellis trophy later this year, other than the fact that all the teams seem to be rather inconsistent.

France started off with a bang against the Scots (who actually looked decent in that game) only to end up losing to Italy in Rome.

The Scots got drilled by the Welsh at home, but then almost managed to out-muscle the English in their own backyard.

England beating the French at Twickers and the Welsh in Cardiff were pretty solid efforts, but the heavy loss in Dublin should have brought them back down to earth with a bang.

Ireland quite honestly looked crap all tournament, but then magically clicked on Saturday to produce a performance that would have given most teams a run for their money.

Italy, although ending up with the Wooden Spoon, played the best I’ve seen them play. They were unlucky to lose to the Irish and managed to beat the French for the first time in their history.

And then there’s the plucky Welsh, who started off terribly with that loss in Cardiff, but then managed to string together 3 wins on the trot, only to surrender meekly to the French in the last game of the tournament.

It has made for entertaining viewing, but I don’t think that any of the Tri Nations teams will be overly fussed by what was on display.
I can’t see any of those sides beating the Kiwis, and if the Boks manage to get their selections right they should come out on top too.

The Aussies are a slightly different matter though, having lost their last 2 games to The Fatties, but seeing as this is a site for uniformed rugby views I’m going to take the position that the Southern Hemisphere will continue to school the North come crunch time in September.

The Chariot didn't look too flash after the game in Dublin

law 19.2 (d): Who cares?

Looks like referees Johnny Kaplan and Peter Allan have managed to land themselves in some mighty hot water this weekend.

If you’re not aware of went down, take a look at the following clip, which highlights this rather costly (for the Irish) refereeing blunder.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vRp1sYiQQVU]

Oh dear! That is unfortunate. My understanding is that the TV match official can only rule on the scoring of a try and not on the build up of said try, which seems a little silly to me. Surely the ref should be able to use the available technology whenever necessary?

That being said though these things are like swings and roundabouts and any rugby team would be able to list a number of crucial refereeing errors which have cost them a game.
It’s all just a bit amateur-ish and I can understand the Irish being pissed (Imagine if this had happened to the Boks – the gnashing of teeth would be deafening!).

So the Irish are to receive an apology from the IRB and Kaplan and Allan are to face IRB “big boy” Paddy O’Brien this week and life goes on.

It still leaves a bitter taste in the mouth though. We all make mistakes, I’m not here to shred Kaplan and Allan, I just find it hard to swallow that mistakes like this can determine the outcome of a rugby game when clearly we have the ability to let them not do so.

SuperSport is driving me to drink…more & more & more…

I’d like to give a big shout out to DSTV / SuperSport for the gargantuan cock-up of their Saturday night coverage of (possibly) the biggest game of the Six Nations this year.

France vs England at Twickenham. Both competing for the Grand Slam. England apparently playing “total rugby” and the French admitting that they don’t like them. “Le Crunch”, if you will.
It was all perfectly set up for a great evenings’ rugby entertainment and I was ready. I even had my favourite drinking pants on.

So when the 19:00pm kick-off came and went and I still had some cliff jumper from Columbia on my screen I started to get a little edgy. What made matters so much worse was the complete lack of communication from their side. One would think that a simple message informing viewers that “there’s an issue” would be the standard practice here, but the fact that this only occurred deep into the first half makes me think that:

a) they weren’t aware of the issue, or
b) the production team were having a few beers getting ready for the
Stormers / Lions game and just couldn’t be assed.

Either way it was really unimpressive stuff.

Is it too much to ask from the “premium” sports channel in South Africa to actually attempt to offer a first class service? Lord knows we pay enough for it.

It’s not hard guys, if you have a technical issue keep your viewers informed, and do it early. Don’t wait until 10 minutes before half time to give some feeble excuse as to why you’re showing re-runs of “Transworld Sport” and not the scheduled event.
That only makes you seem like a bunch of amateurs and a lot of your subscribers very angry.

This is not 6 Nations rugby

French get the mind games rolling

Things are heating up quite nicely in the 6 Nations with the defending champs France taking on England’s fatties at Twickenham this weekend. With both teams still in the hunt for the all-conquering Grand Slam title it hasn’t taken long for the old mind games to begin.

French coach Marc Lièvremont set the tone yesterday by stating that they don’t like the English, and labelling them “an insular country who always drape themselves in the national flag, their hymns, their chants, their traditions”.
To further twist the knife he goes on to say “We appreciate our Italian cousins, with whom we share the same quality of life, we appreciate the Celts and their conviviality … among all these nations we have one huge thing in common: we don’t like the English.”

So, there you have it, the French don’t like the English. That’s hardly ground breaking news but I must admit it’s still pretty dam funny. It’s also refreshing to hear a coach / sportsperson break away from the tired old clichés that pass for interviews these days.
It’s certainly got the English press all flustered and one would imagine that Martin Johnson won’t really have to work too hard on his pre-match motivational speech now.

The thing is though if you’re going to “talk the talk” you better be able to “walk the walk” and if France lose on Saturday Lièvremont is going to take a pasting in the press, both at home and abroad.
Whilst I am enjoying watching this all unfold I must say I’m not convinced that it’s the best approach to take in the build up to a big game. It smacks of insecurity and of a worried coach resorting to trickery in the hope that it will give his team the edge. It’s a risky tactic to employ with a strong possibility that you’re motivating the opposition team more than your own.

One thing for certain though is that the French are now going to face an even more hostile Twickenham crowd than originally expected. Whether that fires them up or assists in cutting them down, we’ll have to wait until Saturday to see which French team pitches up.

Either way it should be a cracker of a game.

The French should brace themselves for at least 257 renditions of "Swing low sweet chariot'" on Saturday

Try Celebrations

English wing Chris Ashton is causing a bit of a fuss over in the UK. His 4 try performance against Italy at the weekend, taking his try tally to 9 in 9 games, is seeing him being heralded as the “best wing on the planet” at the moment.
He also cracked the nod for the IRB’s best try in 2010 award for that try against the Aussies at Twickenham.
Not a bad start to an international career at all.

On the flip side he’s also being labelled as a bit of a show pony, or more simply a prick for his try celebrations. Maybe that should be called his “pre try celebrations” because it’s the massive “hero dive” for the line before touching down that seems to be rubbing some people the wrong way.

Too flashy for the English?

Apparently it’s too flashy for rugby, disrespectful to the opposition and too early in Ashtons’ career for him to be acting like he’s God’s gift to the game. Personally I think it’s all just another storm in a tea cup. It seems to be quite fashionable these days for wings to burst onto the scene, scoring tries at ease, before they lose form and drift off into obscurity. I say let Chris have his fun right now, plus it’s going to be quite outstanding when he eventually drops the ball in mid flight.

I’m all for individual try celebration routines and think that rugby players could learn a thing or two from their football brothers.

I’m thinking “The Beast” doing “the worm”, Pedrie snorting the try line (ala Robbie Fowler in his Liverpool days), Bekker could do some pelvic thrusts at the corner flag and Bakkies could just headbutt the post. If Januarie ever scores for the Boks again I think it would be quite appropriate for Peter de Villiers to do a little moonwalk along the touchline. Now that would be “total rugby”.