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Purple Drain Purple Drain
Northampton's Clarke can fill England shoes
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Ireland robbed - again
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Home > Blogs > Rupert Bates - A weekly blog from the world of rugby
Your NewsRupert Bates - A weekly blog from the world of rugby

Wednesday 16th December 2009
Gouging - rugby's shame

Apart from the cowardice and the potential to maim and blind, what I simply cannot comprehend is the stupidity of eye gouging. What on earth possessed France and Stade Francais scrum-half Julien Dupuy?
 
I never got remotely near the top level of the game so will never know the pressures of professional sport. Frustration or anger in the heat of battle at any level can easily lead to swinging a wild punch without thinking.
 
But gouging? It is pre-meditated. You have to engage brain and locate the eyes, or the ridiculous 'lesser' offence of 'around the eyes' as if your intent is merely to give your opponent a little tickle or stroke on the face to show your displeasure.
 
It is especially idiotic at professional level with a battalion of cameras covering the game, as they did in the Heineken Cup clash between Ulster and Stade Francais. Ulster and Ireland flanker Stephen Ferris was clearly annoying the hell out of the French by dint of being an outstanding and hard as nails blindside.
 
Unlike footballers, rugby players do not go bleating to the referee unless a shot is of the cheapest, ugliest kind, as gouging is. But Sky Sports viewers did not need the sight of Ferris pointing to his eyes to know what had happened. We got it in slow motion replay, several times.
 
Dupuy you are a fine player, but an idiot. We have seen several high profile incidents of gouging in recent months. If Dupuy is made a proper example of, so be it.
 
 
 
 
I know it is sacrilege to even suggest it, especially as I am a fully paid up member of the front-row union, but long-term could Sevens overtake the 15-a-side game in popularity?
 
Twenty20 cricket is diverting funds away from the longer form of the game and Sevens, especially now it has its deserved sit at the Olympic table, could do similar in rugby.
 
There is plenty of room for both, but boy I am enjoying the IRB World Sevens, glued to both the Dubai and George tournaments. New Zealand have won both, with Sherwin Stowers the new speed sensation from Counties Manukau running in tries for fun.
 
Kenya just make you proud of rugby's global reach. Their progress in the Sevens game in recent years has been one of sport's great stories and how fitting was it to see their star Collins Injera voted Kenya's Sportsman of the Year for 2009.
 
As for England they have come unstuck in successive quarter-finals against their World Cup nemesis last year in Dubai Samoa and then last weekend New Zealand. But in both tournaments they have shown exactly what they are made of mentally, as well as physically, bouncing back to win the Plate. It is a tribute to coach Ben Ryan too.
 
Sevens is so good, and easy, to watch. Yes there is stacks of space and less numbers to contend with, but these Sevens players could teach their 15-a-side mates a thing or two about clearing out rucks. However it is the speed we love. You see someone flying across the hot sands of Dubai or the scorched African turf and shout: "Who the hell is that?" The latest English gas man is Wasps teenager Christian Wade, who is astonishingly quick and can step too.
 
 
 
 
What a remarkable young man Stuart Mangan was. Paralysed from the head down after a rugby injury, Stuart was the subject of a BBC 3 documentary last week. His astonishing stoicism after the accident and positive outlook in coming to terms with his condition and seeking ways of leading as full a life as possible, despite catastrophic injuries, were truly inspirational. Stuart died this year after lung infections set in and he was unable to absorb oxygen. 3000 people attended services for Stuart in London, Dublin and his home town of Fermoy.

Posted by: , on December 16th 2009 on 12:57am0 Comments
Tuesday 01st December 2009
Ireland robbed - again

Now my father-in-law is a New Zealander, beautiful country and all that, but Richie McCaw IRB Player of the Year? I don’t think so. A great flank forward, McCaw has however missed a chunk of games and admittedly the All Blacks have missed him, for this has been a distinctly average New Zealand season. It had to go to Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll, having led Ireland to the Grand Slam, key to Leinster lifting the Heineken Cup and just being an all-round inspiration on the British Lions tour of South Africa. I’m sure the votes had already been cast by then, but the sight of O’Driscoll clattering Springboks full-back Zane Kirchner in the last play of the match to hold the Irish line and victory at Croke Park on Saturday summed up the man. It’s not quite up there with the hand of Thierry Henry in terms of grand theft, but the Irish are not happy that the hand of Bod is not on the world player of the year trophy. Not happy at all. Oh well at least it wasn’t won by a Frenchman.

 

Strewth, Australia have a front-row. Benn Robinson and Ben Alexander are terrific young props either side of hooker Stephen Moore and they gave the Welsh scrum an almighty hard time in Cardiff. Matt Giteau was back to his best after his wobble at Murrayfield; proving that form is temporary and class is permanent, while flanker David Pocock, an adopted Aussie from Zimbabwe, looks a real hunter-gatherer on the Wallaby openside. Robbie Deans is an exceptionally canny coach and the New Zealander could just have the Australians peaking in time for the World Cup on his home soil. If he won the World Cup with Australia in New Zealand Deans would never see Christchurch again.

 

Who are the best rugby tweeters? I follow Everything Rugby’s Tom May on Twitter from Toulon and there is plenty of Paris banter from Ollie Phillips and James Haskell. Will Greenwood tweets with his Sky Sports hat on and Phil Vickery is just getting the hang of it. All Blacks fans can follow the musings of prop Neemia Tialata and wing Cory Jane.

Jason Leonard tweets plenty but it is about his new venture The Construction Network, not rugby, while former England scrum-halves Matt Dawson and Kyran Bracken are still locked in competition; this time for the number of followers.

Others on Twitter are London Irish lock Nicky Kennedy – why is he not in the England second-row? – and Gloucester wing Tom Voyce. I am also intrigued by the French tweets of Sebastian Chabal - Marcel Proust in a jockstrap.

 

It has not been the best of autumns for England defence coach Mike Ford as Martin Johnson and his coaching team come in for all sorts of stick. But Ford can take refuge and huge pride in watching the progress of his offspring. One son Joe has broken into the Leeds first team aged 19, while 16-year-old George Ford, the England U18 fly-half, was short-listed for this month’s BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year award. George last month became the youngest player to take part in a professional club game when he played for Leicester in an LV Cup game at Leeds – against his older brother Joe.

 

 


Posted by: , on December 01st 2009 on 11:09pm0 Comments
Monday 23rd November 2009
Northampton's Clarke can fill England shoes

- It is easy to criticise Martin Johnson from the safety of a blog. In person I call him 'Sir'. But the lack of coaching clarity was highlighted on saturday against New Zealand in his use of substitutions.
 
Why on earth call up the belligerent young Courtney Lawes at the start of the autumn series and then after the shortest of run-outs against Australia send him back to Northampton? Louis Deacon is a Premiership lock and nothing more and certainly no impact substitution.
 
It is Lawes, who plays just within the letters of his surname, you want charging and snorting onto the Twickenham turf against the All Blacks and forcing Brad Thorn to admit 'I fought C.Lawes and C.Lawes won.'
 
And why when Mathew Tait was the one back capable of a soft shoe shuffle, rather than a thump into contact, was he just given 10 minutes at the end of the game? Ayoola Erinle, Dan Hipkiss and Matt Banahan were Bish, Bash and Bosh in the England backline. Oh for soft hands (in Banahan's case any hands) and a sublime running line.
 
Will Greenwood and Mike Catt, Jonny Wilkinson's midfield lieutenants in World Cup glory, are now both pundits and very good ones. But what modesty forbids them saying is that what England most need is a Greenwood and a Catt.
 
There is a centre at Northampton Saints called Jon Clarke, who has been horrendously unlucky with injury. Nearly four years ago in a match report for The Sunday Telegraph at Franklin's Gardens I wrote:
'Clarke is an apt name in England's shoe capital and it will surely not be long before Clarke is wearing England boots. He has a touch of Will Greenwood in his pomp about him, with his tall, angular frame, keen rugby brain and poised stance. And England could do with some midfield creativity.' Nothing much has changed and Clarke is just 26.
 
 
 
- Apologies to Scotland. Last week I deleted their match against Fiji without even watching it. I should be forced to watch their heroic defence and victory over Australia time and time again. It was not pretty and this is an average Wallabies side, but do not underestimate what this historic win could do to lift Scottish rugby. Murrayfield even found its atmosphere.
 
 
 
 
- Good to see little Shane Williams back. The Wales wing only had statues in the form of Argentine defenders to negotiate in Cardiff, but it was just nice to watch somebody enjoying himself, playing what was in front of him, having a go and not 6ft 3.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Posted by: , on November 23rd 2009 on 01:34am0 Comments
Monday 16th November 2009
Purple Drain Purple Drain

 

Rupert Bates reviews the weekend's international rugby action

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

France 20 South Africa 13

The game of the weekend and the player of the weekend in France prop Fabien Barcella. Muscular in the tight as part of a pack that bullied the world champions and everywhere in the loose the
Biarritz bull was magnificent. Forget all the romance of Gallic back play, the soul of French rugby lies in the front-row. Louis Picamoles was outstanding at number eight too. Monsieur Incredible, or Incroyable, could tattoo the Bayeux Tapestry on his thighs and biceps, such is the power of the Toulouse man. Yes the Springboks are tired, but this was a hugely significant win in Toulouse for the French - or would be if we knew what to expect from France next time out, with a coach in Marc Lievremont who has the look of someone who would rather be elsewhere. Then again there is nothing more dangerous than an insouciant Frenchman.

Wales 17 Samoa 13

A banana skin - appropriate given the hideous yellow welsh jerseys - narrowly avoided. These South Sea Islanders would be world beaters if they ever got the proper funding. It would be nice if the all blacks played in Polynesia for a start. New Zealand are quick enough to poach their top players. You’ve gone to Japan and filled out Milan, so why not a three Test series in the South Pacific against Samoa, Fiji and Tonga rather than interminable Tests against Australia?

Scotland 23 Fiji 10

You know just how far Scotland have fallen when you record them on Sky and then delete the game anyway. So I never saw it. If it had anything to commend it please let me know.

 

Italy 6 New Zealand 20

 

The rugby failed to match the occasion with an amazing 80,000 crowd packing Milan’s San Siro football stadium.  Martin Castrogiovanni cemented his position as one of the world’s great props dismantling the All Blacks scrum. A second-string New Zealand side, but crucially they won over thousands of Italians, drawn to rugby by the allure of one of the world’s great sporting institutions.

England 16 Argentina 9

How depressing was this? As they say on the Pampas of South America, England were all hat and no cattle. In the end I was shamefully willing on Argentina to win to spare me from Martin Johnson and Steve Borthwick talking of beating a side above them in the world rankings. Borthwick is not even a journeyman as he goes nowhere, bar the one rumble in the prelude to Matt Banahan's winning try - and what the hell was the Bath wing doing cockily strolling round under the posts ball in one hand to taunt the Pumas?

If Borthwick goes - and the stubbornness that made Jonno such a formidable opponent counts against him as a manager - who do you have as captain? No point in upsetting Jonny Wilkinson’s current karma. Lewis Moody, a rare light on a dark day? Mad Moodos chases ball with the considered judgement of a dog chasing cars, so not exactly captaincy material. Then again at least a touch of madness and mayhem at the helm might be worth watching. Those at Twickenham should start a Facebook page called ‘Give us our money back RFU’. As for those purple jerseys – a commercial disgrace as bad as the team.

Ireland 20 Australia 20

Who writes Brian O'Driscoll's scripts? Also good to see Rocky O'Elsom scoring in Dublin, his adopted city after his stellar season with Leinster. The wallaby captain is the obvious person to lead the Melbourne Rebels when they join the super 15 in 2011. Rocky was born in Melbourne and raised on the Mornington peninsula, before moving to Noosa, on Queensland’s sunshine coast. Digby Ioane was also raised in Victoria, although the Aussie centre did not know what state he was in when O’Driscoll burst through the midfield for that last second try. The weekend was topped and tailed by a prop, with Ireland debutant Cian Healy showing far too much energy in the loose for a front-row forward, including a sublime offload.
Thinking about it if England could adopt Barcella and Healy we might have a half-decent backline. Talking of adoption, if Tendai ‘The Beast’ Mtawarira is not qualified for South Africa, do they forfeit the Lions series and other Tests he'd played in? Clutching at straws maybe, but far better than gouging at eyes.



Posted by: , on November 16th 2009 on 09:37pm1 Comments
Wednesday 11th November 2009
Hi

Hi my name is Rupert Bates and I will now be blogging for Everything Rugby.
I have been scribbling about rugby for The Sunday Telegraph and Rugby World for many years now and also cover the European game for Rugby News in New Zealand – the game’s best- selling
weekly.
I’m holding a glass of wine in my blog picture because it was red and tasted good. The bricks? I also write on property. My rugby career? It
peaked in France playing hooker for Valence and troughed there too. I blame it on the red.
I am delighted that England centre Tom May of Everything Rugby – he’s the Toulon 12 who makes the Toulon 10 look good – has asked me to blog for the site.
It will be random weekly thoughts on the world of rugby each Monday, looking back over the weekend’s action and the issues of the day.
Hopefully I will blog with a hint of wit, a slice of wisdom and a
mischief of provocation to stimulate debate online. Not enough to
pebble dash the kitchen with coffee in disgust as you read my blog
over breakfast. But plenty to make you pause before you butter your
toast.
Be it an international weekend, the Guinness Premiership, or the
Heineken Cup, I’ll take a look, as well as keeping an eye on the
French Top 14 and the England boys illuminating that league and also what’s happening in the southern hemisphere. Everything Rugby is grass roots up, covering every tier of the game, so please suggest any topics of discussion at any level and post your views.
 
 
 

Posted by: , on November 11th 2009 on 01:59am1 Comments
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