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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
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