17 Jun 2007

The All Blacks Machine Keeps Rolling On

I hate to be a pessimist, but it's not looking good for New Zealand's rivals for the 2007 RWC. They steamrollered France 61-10 last week and defeated Canada 64-13 yesterday.

The manner of the victory over Canada was laboured and disjointed for large parts of the game, but rather than giving Australia, South Africa or even England some hope, this is just another sign that the All Blacks are going to take some beating.

Even when not at their best, they still scored 10 tries and captain Reuben Thorne's comments that "It was just messy, wasn’t it? The guys are aware of that and we have quite a lot to work on really." should have the other major rugby union powers more than a little fearful.

I don't even want to mention Daniel Carter's comeback from an ankle injury : 29 points is quite a haul for one man, even if it was against Canada.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

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Who Really Needs a 47 Man Squad

England rugby coach Brian Ashton has put together a 47 man squad for the 2007 Rugby World Cup. That's right: 47.

Seems an odd sort of number, that. Not as odd as recalling Lawrence Dallaglio, but odd nevertheless. What is even odder is that Ashton admits he only knows five of his starting line up.

Um, the World Cup starts in a couple of months. If you don't know who your starting fifteen are now, Brian, then I would humbly suggest you've left it a little late to try to find out.

This does not bode at all well for England's chances of retaining the title.

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4 Apr 2007

'Refunction Their Dysfunction'

The head coach of Tonga Rugby Union - Adam Leach - resigned by email on Friday saying that "there is a dysfunctional situation in Tonga, they need to sort out the administration and management of the game over there."

In essence, Leach, who managed to get Tonga into the World Cup Finals, is unhappy with the amount of interference with his team selection, claiming that "the last team chosen was selected not by me but by the board".

He was also unhappy at the amount of political interference and outside influences on his team.

The irony is that, despite all this, the Tonga Rugby Union board haven't accepted his resignation and are very keen for this highly rated Australian to stay as coach - at least until after the World Cup.

I don't know about you but I expect Leach to tell them to stick it where the sun don't shine.

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3 Apr 2007

Race IS An Issue For Springboks

Despite claims last week that South African rugby was past the point of 'quota' systems and were only picking players on merit, it is very clear that race is still a big issue for the 'Boks.

There have even been threats from Butana Komphela, the chairperson of South Africa's parliamentary committee on sport to confiscate the team's passports if "the team is not representative."

By representative, of course, Komphela means that at least six players of a world cup squad of 30 must be players of colour.

Komphela said :
"Six out of 30 is not representative, but it's a good start...In principle we won't allow a team that is not representative of the South African picture to represent the country."

Personally, I think that any kind of quota system in sport is ludicrous. South Africa have some great black and coloured players and these should be in the squad on merit. However, if the coach wants to put out an all-white first 15 for any match in the RWC, then he should feel able to do so.

But I'm willing to bet a pound to a penny (or a rand to a cent, if you prefer) that coach Jake White won't. Pressure at governmental level will force him to have at least 2 or 3 coloured or black players in the first 15.

This wouldn't be an issue at all if there wasn't a good case to be made that the best fifteen 'Boks players are all white.

This, of course, puts the Springboks at a disadvantage before even a tackle has been made in the rugby World Cup.


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2 Apr 2007

Henson Blow For Wales

Full time celebrity and occasional rugby player Gavin Henson's cruciate knee ligament injury now means he won't play again this season.

Unfortunately for the Welsh national team, this means that Henson is now doubtful for the rugby World Cup.

When he's not messing around with Charlotte Church, trying to be the Welsh Posh n' Becks, Henson is a pretty useful player in a number of positions and he would be a big miss for Wales if he doesn't regain fitness in time.

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Jason Robinson Retires...Almost

England and Sale's Jason Robinson has stated he will retire from club rugby at the end of this season and from international rugby after the 2007 World Cup in France.

Although Robinson had already retired from the international game once before, I don't think this will be a Frank Sinatra type retirement this time round.

In my view, Robinson is one of the England 'old guard' who still has something to offer the national team - his performances on the wing for England in the Six Nations showed that. When he finally does retire, he will be missed.

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1 Apr 2007

Global Brand Benchmarking and Other Marketing DoubleSpeak

I must confess that I work in marketing, but I promise you I have never come out with anything resembling this load of old rubbish :

"We take the view there are three pillars the All Black brand is marketed on," says NZRU commercial manager Fraser Holland. "Team performance, history and heritage, and New Zealand and its culture. There is no doubt that performance is the most important pillar."

Um. 'Three pillars' of marketing. Right. Gotcha. Performance. History. Heritage. That's Three.

New Zealand itself. That's the fourth of the three pillars of marketing then.

New Zealand's culture. That would be, what, the 5th of the three marketing pillars, right?

Basically, for those of you who can't be bothered to read the article, New Zealand Rugby Union has found out that the 'All Blacks' are rather a well-known name in countries where rugby is played. More famous than the Springboks. They've also discovered that the All Blacks are less well known in countries that have little interest in rugby.

They presumably paid handsomely for this deep marketing insight. They will use this to sell more shirts to people who don't even like rugby. Genius.

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31 Mar 2007

Argentina Head Coach Stays For World Cup

After weeks of speculation linking coach Marcelo Loffreda with the Leicester Tigers, the president of rugby union in Argentina, Alejandro Risler has come out and said that Loffreda will stay with Argentina until after the World Cup.

Risler said :

"I'm sure that the Leicester's offer is in recognition of Loffreda's work with the Pumas in the last eight years. We are going to think about his successor after the World Cup."

Good news for Argentina on the surface, but as Loffreda hasn't made an announcement himself on his future, there could be more to come on this story in the future.

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30 Mar 2007

World Cup Non-Story of the Day

Do you ever get the feeling that some websites just don't have enough news?

Today's World Cup rugby non-story is...wait for it, it's a goodie....Jonah Lomu Tips All Blacks To Win World Cup.

I know. A real surprise, that one. You would never have guessed, would you?

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If You Were Jake White, Would This Make You Happy?

It now looks likely that highly regarded Cheetahs coach Rassie Erasmus will be used "as a consultant" to the South Africa national team at the rugby World Cup in France 2007.

This has been confirmed by Andy Marinos, who is South Africa's manager of national teams (whatever one of them is).

From the perspective of the Springboks, it makes good sense to utilise as much rugby knowledge as possible to bring the World Cup home to South Africa, that's for sure.

And Marinos paints a very flattering portrait of what Erasmus could bring to the 'Boks management and coaching team, saying :

"Rassie has clearly made a big impact as coach, he is well versed in the technical aspects of the game and we would like to make use of his knowledge."

"The other positive aspect is that he has been to the World Cup tournament before as a player."

But, be honest, if you were Jake White - South Africa's head coach - would you be 100% happy with your employers hiring as a "technical advisor" a guy who was been tipped to replace you. No? If it was me, I wouldn't be happy either.

These are the kind of ideas that sound good in theory but often lead to conflict and ultimately undermine the team they are suppose to help.

Watch this space.

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29 Mar 2007

Getting The Excuses In Early

Loved this interview with England Rugby Football Union chief executive Francis Baron regarding England's chances of holding on the World Cup.

There's nothing like a positive outlook to help your team along. And Baron really does have NOTHING LIKE a positive outlook.

Not only are England in "a development phase", but it is "a big ask" to expect England to defend their title and he even goes so far as to talk about "getting England back on top" at some unspecified point in the future.

He is confident that England will improve under Brian Ashton, though, so that's something, I guess.

Talk about getting your excuses in early. I half expected to hear him moaning about injuries, the state of the pitches, the unfair fact that the All Blacks are just better than England....no wonder Australians think the English are a bunch of whingeing poms if this is the kind of stuff that they are coming out with.

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27 Mar 2007

Dallaglio : Over and Out

It seems that Lawrence Dallaglio - an England back of the old school - has finally accepted that he has pretty much no chance of playing for England in the 2007 rugby World Cup Finals.

In an interview with the Daily Express, Dallaglio shows his awareness of his position within both the Wasps and England set-up and accepts that he isn't even first choice for his club side.

“It has been a different season for me. I haven’t been involved with England for whatever reason and it takes a bit of getting used to, being here at the club when all the other international players are away..", Dallaglio commented.

As far as I'm concerned, it's good that Dallaglio is effectively ruling himself out. He hasn't been a serious force in rugby union for at least two years. And, to be quite honest, he should never have played rugby again after allegedly admitting to both using and dealing Class A drugs in 1999.

No doubting his talent and spirit, but if England have any chance (and realistically, they don't) of holding on to the World Cup trophy, then the quicker they can sweep away the dead wood, the better.

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