23 Mar 2007

Gary Flowers Says 'Them Thar All Blacks Ain't Half Fat'

Here's one that will annoy the New Zealanders that read this blog (hi Caroline !) :

Always charming Australia rugby boss Gary Flowers has suggested that the New Zealand players rested for the Super 14 may have put on a few pounds.

Oh, alright, he's said that they've got fat and aren't the force everyone thinks they are.

It's always good to see some rumours replacing news as the rugby World Cup approaches and we particularly enjoyed these choice comments :

"We are hearing amazing stories about how much size the New Zealand players have put on...In fact, it's rumoured that some of their players have put on between five and seven kilos just in terms of this whole player conditioning period."

and, my particular favourite :

"If we make them [The All Blacks] think, we know that we've got them on the back foot."

With such respect flowing in the southern hemisphere, I can't wait for it all to kick off.

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IRB Acts Like Big Brother

The IRB is trying to restrict press coverage of the 2007 rugby world cup in France by setting out limitations on the number of photos and amount of video coverage that can be shown on the internet.

You can read the full details at WorldCupWeb but essentially the International Rugby Board are saying that only 30 seconds of video footage, 5 photos per half and 2 photos from extra time may be used on news websites.

Needless to say the World Association of Newspapers (who already defeated similar moves by football's governing body FIFA over the World Cup 2006) are up in arms about this.

For my own part, this kind of stupidity just makes me laugh. If I've attended - as an individual - a match at France RWC 2007, then I can publish as many photos of that match as I like on this blog. I'm the copyright holder in those photos and no one can stop me. But the IRB want to stop legitimate news organisations from doing the same thing in case it "affects its commercial contracts with licensees who pay for the rights to show the World Cup live."

I think the IRB need to understand how the internet actually works before they try to play silly buggers. Because I'm damn sure I'll be posting YouTube footage of highlights of most matches on this very blog. I'm even more sure they'll be longer than 30 seconds.

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22 Mar 2007

All Blacks Lead The Way

Anyone thinking of having a little bet on the rugby World Cup would be mad to look much past the All Blacks. They have such strength in depth that they could put out a reserve team and still win the damn thing.

Their real international rivals - France, South Africa; maybe Australia and Ireland - just don't have that level of depth and experience.

And much of it can be put down to coach Graham Henry’s initially controversial rotation policy throughout 2006. Few other teams in the history of the sport could have a fly half as good as Nick Evans as anything other than a #1 choice. And that's not to mention Rico Gear, Joe Rokocoko and Doug Howlett all competing for a spot on the wing.

Henry's decision to rotate his squad and rest key players for certain games has meant he now has 30 experienced internationals at his disposal. It's not really as if he has a first 15 and a reserve 15 any more.

New Zealand will be a frightening prospect at France 2007 and you would be mad to back against them. Ladbrokes have still got them at a fairly generous 8/15 but that price is sure to move the closer we get to the World Cup itself.

If you are a betting man, then buy some money today by backing an All Blacks victory. You can use the cash to buy yourself a few beers while you watch the Final.

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Forwards Not Backwards

The 2007 rugby World Cup hasn't even had it's first game yet and already there is talk of going back to the 16 team tournament of years past. Syd Millar of the IRB has suggested that New Zealand 2011 might be the first world cup since 1995 with sixteen teams.

Apologists for this view suggest that this will avoid "lopsided scorelines which benefit neither the winners....nor the losers".

Sorry to burst your bubble but the idea of going back a step is just ludicrous. And frankly, who cares if this is a "more realistic recognition of the true depth of the global game".

Surely the whole point of a rugby union world cup is that the world - regardless of their abilities - can potentially take part. The game will never grow and other countries will never get interested in the sport if they are excluded simply because they aren't yet any good.

Take a comparison with football. It was not more than 15 or so years ago that the big teams would wallop the likes of South Korea or some small East European country 6-0 or 7-0 but, thanks in large part to events like the world cup, this is no longer the case.

If you want an argument for including 20 - perhaps even more teams - in the RWC, then look at the improvement Italy have made as a rugby playing nation since the inauguration of the Six Nations.

To go back to 16 teams in New Zealand 2011 is a backwards step any genuine rugby lover should be 100% against.

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21 Mar 2007

Portugal v Uruguay Second Leg

With the second leg of the play off between Portugal and Uruguay approaching fast (March 24th to be exact), it appears that the interest in rugby is coming alive in both countries.

The Portuguese government has increased funding for the sport, and is building of new facilities for rugby inside the national stadium and with Portugal the most likely to qualify (they won the first leg 12-5) the increased interest in the national team is likely to improve the long term popularity of the sport.

And that surely is the point of holding a World Cup rugby tournament at all.


Catt or Wilkinson...Are These Really England's Options?

With Rob Andrew backing Johnny Wilkinson to be an important part of England's World cup rugby squad plus Mike Catt's intention to postpone his retirement until after the tournament, I've got to ask the question: are either of these men really who England needs as fly half during a major tournament.

Catt will be nearly 36 when the 2007 RWC starts and his hamstrings surely can't take the strain. I admire the guys determination but enough is enough.

As for Wilkinson : talented though he undeniably is, he has barely played any rugby at all for the last 3 years and it doesn't look as if that will change in the near future. Taking a risk on one fly-half is OK, but to take two injury prone players to the World Cup is just madness.

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