New Zealand vs France: Final Preview: Au revoir Marc!

Regardless of what you think of the French teams’ displays at this World Cup you’d be lying if you said Lievremonts’ presence didn’t add a little “joie de vivre” to the whole affair.

From a pure entertainment level we’re happy to give Marc a solid 8/10 for his efforts. In fact, for a coach who was informed that he would be out of a job before the tournament even began, we here at Big Daddy Rugby reckon that Marc has acted with considerable restraint and shown great courage in what must have been a rather testing time for him.

Bravo Monsieur! Bravo indeed!

With regards to a preview for “Le Big Game”, well I have it on good authority that Marc will be dressing appropriately for the occasion.

Here’s an exclusive sneak peak of his look for Sunday…

Marc Lievremont: ne regarde mes fesses grand en cela?

ALLEZ LES BLEUS!!!

Wales vs France Semi Final Preview

I really want Wales to win the whole damn thing now…but ever since Lievremont started sporting his fabulous ‘tache I’m finding myself rather confused…and now he’s gone and shaved his head! Merde Marc, merde!

I shudder to think what he’s got in store for us if France reach the final…

Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?

 Wales by 10.

Wales v Ireland QF preview: You may as well just toss a coin…

Of all the quarter final matches this weekend I reckon the Wales v Ireland game is the toughest to call.

Quite simply both teams have looked “fecking great” so far, something I wasn’t expecting to being saying at this stage of the tournament.

I mean, before the first ball was kicked, how many of you would have put money on:

                    a) Ireland beating Australia?

                    b) Wales beating Fiji 66 – 0?

I’m guessing not a lot. I certainly didn’t.

To be honest Ireland looked fairly hopeless in their warm up games. They lost 4 from 4 remember? Seems a long way away from the rugby they’re playing now.

And what about the Welsh…well they did beat a somewhat experimental English team in Cardiff, but the question marks about their ability to mix it with the “Big Boys” and maybe more accurately, to mix it with “Big Boys” when it mattered still remained.

Fast forward a few weeks and what we have is an Irish team who basically “bitch slapped” the Aussies into submission (yes Aussie fans I realise there was no Pocock or Moore!!) and a Welsh side who have not only stepped up to the plate in terms of physicality (within 1 point of the Boks) but who have also managed to combine that with, gasp!, a little bit of attacking flair. Sexy Rugby, if you like.

These two sides are just so evenly matched and both have that not so insignificant factor the pros like to call “momentum”, that I just can’t decide which way I think it’s going to go.

What I can say though is that in Sean O’Brien and in Sam Warburton, in Brian O’Driscoll and in Jamie Roberts, in Tommy Bowe and in Shane Williams there are going to be some rather special players out on the field. Game of the weekend I reckon.

Is it too much of a cop-out to say that whatever the result, at end of the day as long as “rugby is the real winner” I’ll be happy? 😉

(Off the record: if I had a gun to my head and was forced to pick a winner I’d go with Ireland…only because my mate Mike is Irish and he’d be pissed if I tipped the Welsh).

It'll be tears for one of these two on Saturday...(don't let the Brazilian flag on her bosom fool you...she's a massive O'gara fan!)

Springbok World Cup squad announcement – are we Canada now?

No Lwazi Mvovi…  that’s about as shocking as PdV’s World Cup selections went last night.  Quite a change for South African sports politics.  For a country that is used to ridiculous displays of self-sabotage before a World Cup, you’d have to say – this was mild, tame and grown up.

In 2007 we had the Luke Watson drama.  We had the ANCYL and politicians climbing in left, right and centre.  In 2003, we had Fisbo the Clown a.k.a. Rudolf Straeuli with his distasteful and disturbing pre-World Cup preparations.  In 1999, Nick Mallet sacked Gary ‘Steady Eddy’ Teichman and even 1995 saw Kitch Christie selecting his favourite Gauteng players ahead of Tiaan Strauss.  But PdV has kept it pretty sane.

Where’s the drama?  After the Boks finally win a game, all of sudden we move from banana republic to boring old Canada? Are the front pages of our newspapers and magazines set to be dominated by scandals involving disaffected youths stealing flowers from national monuments and hard-hitting exposes about proposed reforms to import tariff regulations?

I have to say, I watched the first twenty minutes of the Supersport squad announcement half expecting to see Oregon Hoskins wheeling out Gadaffi as the new answer to the Bok’s flyhalf dilemna or PdV announcing with a cheeky grin that the ANCYL would be in charge of redesigning the team logo with an anti-Botswana mural to replace it.

The most scandalous part of the team announcement was having to endure close-ups of Darren Scott’s new “Art Deco” look that seems to have been inspired by some sort of unearthly fusion of General Kurtz from Apocalypse Now and the stone carvings from Easter Island.

So where to from here South Africa?  A normal quiet democracy – where we all move out of the crazy rag-tag inner city and head off for quieter suburbs, just like real grown ups?

PdV announces preliminary RWC squad – Bheki Cele shock omission

Pieter de Villiers announced his preliminary squad of 51 (yes, you read that correctly: fifty-one) players for the World Cup Springbok team.  Touted as a “planning session” he pretty much included every single player who has ever sniffed a rugby ball and a few who had merely been acquainted with a rugby ball by virtue of seeking out a boerie roll on a Saturday afternoon.

One shock omission was notable in PdV’s announcement: no Bheki Cele.  Better known for his day job work as the National Commissioner of the South African Police, Bheki Cele was widely touted by knowledgeable media types as a possible solution to the Bok’s problems in the tight five.

Bheki Cele was widely tipped to fill in the gap in the Bok squad that had been left in the wake of Bakkie Botha's new softer style of play.

With a face that would scare small children (and by logical extension Australian front rowers), Cele was a hot tip to be selected for his physical presence.  The thinking being that this burly fellow walking out of the tunnel at Loftus might cause a few opponents to wet their pants on the ten metre line.

He had also been putting in the hard publicity yards with the press too with a few brash statements.  With quotable quotes like “shoot to kill” and “scrumming is the new rolling maul” he was making a name for himself both in the media and in pubs around the republic.

PdV has selected pretty much the entire country in his training squad. But in leaving Cele out, he has missed a trick in being able to call on a Chabal-like who figure, who could be the team’s show pony and a child scarer combined.

On a slightly more serious note – there is absolutely nothing to say about PdV’s “Bok squad” despite what you may read on other sites. When you pick fifty-one players you haven’t picked a squad – you’ve just sent a message to the one guy who wasn’t included.  In this case – the South African police commissioner.

What, William has a Nymph on him?

During the on-field build up for the Lions & Stormers game between Joel Stransky and Pommie’s brother, there was a mention and camera shot of the William Webb Ellis Cup.

I was surprised they let that kind of hardware into Doornfontein on a Saturday evening – I was concerned for it’s safe passage from there down to New Zealand. I’m sure it must have been a replica.

Joel’s eyes light up too, in a scary Gollum kind of way too, “My preeecioussssssss…..” who can really blame him, imagine the feeling of nostalgia you’d have with the Cup at arm’s length at the venue of arguably South Africa’s greatest sporting moment, knowing you boxed the winning drop?

My Precious

It also got me thinking on factoids on the much sought after Cup. Thanks to Wiki-Wiki I can now provide these and you’ll probably lose 2 minutes of your life (if you are a slow reader).

The Cup is named after the Anglican clergyman or that oke who supposedly invented the game out on a field somewhere in Rugby, Warwickshire, by picking up and then running with the ball in his paws.

Not so! Wiki’s reliable sources has it down that the players, of what could be best be described as a primitive form of gaining grounds, were allowed to catch the pigs bladder – so that whole spiel about Bill causing a ruckus by picking up the ball is cods wallop.

The burning issue was with him going on a Va’aiga Tuigamala-esque run toward s the opposition in goal area which confused his Bigside opponent, and his cronies.

After this moment in the sun, or more likely grey blanket sky in the UK, Bill ended up living in France, and he never married,(has something to do with that clergyman job description I guess).

He is buried in a little town on the French Riviera, named Menton, la perle de la France (the Pearl of France). If you are ever out that way look it up – the IFR have renovated the grave. Not sure how impressed the missus would be that idea on your honey-moon though.

Some other useless facts: The cup is 38 cm in height, and is made of gilded silver.

Now here is the kicker.

The two supporting scrolls or handles, have something funky going on which I never knew.

On one there is the head of a Satyr – the Greek character which is half man, half goat, lover of woman and wine, seeker of every physical pleasure and on the other handle is a head of a Nymph, a young nubile female deity, who loves to dance and sing and do other things..,

Bloody fantastic! I wonder what the clergyman would think of this whole setup under his name!

The WWC is a relatively young Cup, commissioned in ’87 and handed over to Captain Kirk,leader of the first side to win the inaugural Rugby World Cup, not the USS Enterprise

But I’m hoping that quaint stories and tales will be added to the history of this Cup: perhaps starting this last weekend in Doornfontein where a police dog called Bliksem saved the day by sniffing out 1 times authentic 38cm gilded silver trophy hidden under a heap of old newspapers on a park bench somewhere in the Vaal Triangle.

Mark Lawrence left out in the cold

I know I’m a little late out of the blocks with this post but regardless Big Daddy Rugby would like to express their complete disgust at the recent announcement that Mark Lawrence will not be refereeing at the World Cup later this year.

The “Leading Man” of rugby referees is being left at home. “Crouch, touch, pause, engage” will never sound the same again.

What makes the IRB’s decision even more galling is that they have decided to up the ante when it comes to pure comedy by giving Steve “make mine a double” Walsh the nod. Yep, Steve’s going to be there, but Mark’s not.

Not only is Lawrence a good ref, but his rapport with the players on the field is second to none. You never see him getting flustered or speaking to the players like they’re children (ala Johnny Kaplan). He’s cool, calm and collected, something the IRB reckons isn’t necessary for this World Cup.

This is a massive loss for the tournament and rugby lovers in general, so as a tribute to Mark, here are 5 facts about the man that you probably didn’t know:

Mark Lawrence has never eaten at the Spur

Mark Lawrence’s favourite album is “If you can’t stand the heat” by Status Quo

Mark Lawrence auditioned for the role of Dr Gregory House for the hit TV show “House”

Mark Lawrence had his heart broken by a girl named “Florine” in Brussels back in ’93

Mark Lawrence has the phrase “Courage doesn’t always roar” tattooed on his left shoulderYou’ll be sorely missed Mark, but you’ll always be in our hearts, World Cup 2011 ref or not.

Mark Lawrence. Admit it, you probably would...