Premiership FRD: Revenge of the Fat Men?

They’re a bit like West Virginia, front rowers in rugby. Like the “Mountain State” is the state the inhabitants of all other states make fun of, front rowers always seem to be the butt of the joke in rugby. They don’t always look like a classic athlete, they generally don’t run very fast and aren’t known for their ball skills or smarts. And the thing they are usually good at, scrummaging, most people, including those who’ve spent a lifetime playing the sport, don’t really understand. But in the 2017-18 Aviva Premiership season front rowers had their greatest moment in the sun since Sean Maloney’s “Top Five Fatmen Tries” from Fox Sports Rugby HQ TV show and former Wallaby hooker Phil Kearns numerous humorous quips at his and his front row brethren’s expense in the commentary box [my all-time favourite: Greg Martin: “Jeez Kearnsy, these lineouts are turning into a dockyard brawl”. Kearnsy: “Yeah, isn’t it great”.] Despite an array of attacking talent in the premiership last season, it was the Saracens front row that was the highest points scorer in all of Fantasy Rugby Draft (FRD). That’s like the captain of the debate team taking the head cheerleader to prom! (Quick aside, I fear I’ve just given someone an idea for a crappy Drew Barrymore movie). Read more >>

Super rugby: diary of a draft day

I remember one of my first ever games of competitive cricket. I had played at home on the lawn against my brother and cousin, at school against my friends and even older kids and usually handled myself ok. I had even saved up my shekels and bought myself a Gunn & Moore (GM) ‘Skipper’ cricket bat. Truth be told a Skipper was the bottom of the GM line, but Richard Hadlee used a GM, so I thought it was pretty cool. But then in one of my first games, a kid in the opposition had a Duncan Fearnley ‘Magnum’. Martin Crowe not only used a Duncan Fearnley, he used a Duncan Fearnley Magnum. This dude had Martin Crowe’s cricket bat! Read more >>

Aviva Premiership Fantasy Rugby Draft: Forget What You Think You Know

I remember as a young lad thinking that the fairer sex were about the most complex creatures on earth. And I was right. However, as I got a bit older, at various points I thought I had finally figured them out. But it didn’t take long to realise once more that I had no idea; in fact knew precious little more as I approached 30 than I did as a 15 year old. Along the way as you talk to older blokes you realise they don’t have a freaking clue either, despite the fact that a few will tell you things like: “the secret to women is…”, or, “see, so long as you do X, you’ll be right as rain.” Bollocks. At least now when I’m copping it from the missus I never tell myself that one of these days I will have her sussed out and never be on the end of such a tongue-lashing again. It’s like life in Fiji. Many days it’s idyllic with sun shining and waves gently lapping white sand beaches. But every now and then a tropical cyclone hits and all you can do is baton down the hatches and try to ride it out. Read more >>

The (Un)Official Lions Media Guide

Every man, woman and child in New Zealand (NZ) lives and breathes rugby. It’s a religion. Even Kiwi dogs are crazy about the game. Did you hear about the time when a little old lady saw former Irish and Lions hooker in the street and gave him some advice about his scrummaging technique? Or the time the Canterbury crowd at the New Zealand Cup race day in Christchurch spat on a horse owned by former All Black coach John Hart in disgust at the All Blacks performance at the 1999 Rugby World Cup? Or what about the time the Prime Minister used a police escort to travel at 140km in order to catch a plane to get to the All Blacks test match in Wellington that evening? Ok, the third one is true (no offence Keith, but your story sound spurious at best. And maybe one or two drunken idiots spat in the direction of Hart’s horse, the strangely aptly named ‘Courage under fire’. It’s hard to legislate against stupidity).

It makes a great and easy story, but the truth is a lot of people in NZ really don’t care much for rugby at all. And many more only ever tune in when the All Blacks play. Very few people in NZ watch the Six Nations and virtually no one watches the Heineken Cup (European Rugby Champions Cup if you must) or Aviva Premiership or Pro12. Certainly not a fraction of the numbers in the UK who watch Super Rugby on Sky TV. Read more >>

When I’m Wrong I Say I’m Wrong

Remember that scene at the end of Dirty Dancing, when Jonny has defied the orders of the Kellerman’s Resort hierarchy and he and Baby have danced the last dance of the summer to Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes’ “The time of my life”, and Baby’s father, Dr Houseman (the late Jerry Orbach) realises that it wasn’t Jonny (the late, great Patrick Swayze) who had slipped one past the goalie and got Penny pregnant? In fact, Jonny was taking responsibility when he really didn’t need to. So in an admirable show of humility, Dr Houseman approaches the 20-something year old guy that has been banging his 16 year old daughter most of the summer and explains that he realises that it “wasn’t you (ie Jonny/Swayze) that got Penny in trouble”. Given that Jonny wasn’t overly moved by the admission, he follows up with: “when I’m wrong I say I’m wrong”. Baby gushes that her Dad now approves of her summer romance with the guy who has been not-so-quietly shagging his way around the resort’s moneyed MILFs for years on end. You know, because as a father, you generally tend to look past the fact that a much older guy with no real prospects in life has taken advantage of your young, naïve daughter when you see that said guy can cut some mean shapes. It’s just the way life works. Read more >>

Fantasy Rugby Draft Aviva Premiership edition. It actually is about the challenge

A man of my vintage should probably never admit this, but I think about what I would do if I was a professional rugby player every now and then. Kind of sadly, I’m beyond imagining what it must be like to have young ladies gagging to make your acquaintance on a night out. But I sometimes imagine different scenarios and think of how I might react. One such situation is where a player from New Zealand (NZ) has decided to throw his lot in with NZ rugby and try his luck overseas, thereby ruling himself out of ever playing for the All Blacks, or ever playing for them again. Invariably players in this situation go on about it being all about a new challenge and trying new things and living in a different culture and experiencing a different style of play and so on and so forth. Bollocks to that. It’s bullshit. I would come right and say: “I’m going there for the money.” Read more >>

Action stations: Six Nations 2016

In the 1980s and early 1990s if you were in a movie and you had a problem, you knew who to call. The name of the guy changed from film to film, but the guy was always “the best”. What qualified said heroes as the best was never really quantified, but I just know that in action movies of that era, no one ever said: “Shit, we’re in a tight spot here, we need the third best!” No, it was always the best. In John Rambo’s case, being the best was apparently related to the fact that he could ignore pain and eat things that would make a billy goat puke. I only bring this up because I am in a tight spot deciding who will win this year’s Six Nation’s tournament. Despite almost perfectly predicting (humble brag) the final standings ahead of last year’s tournament (I didn’t foresee Italy beating Scotland), this year I genuinely think four teams could win the tournament (apologies Scotland and Italy. It would only be three but who ever really knows what France might do) but I can’t decide who. So I need to bring in the best. A whole bunch of them in fact, because the 1980s and ‘90s produced a murderers row of great action stars. So here they are, the best action stars of the 1980s and ‘90s as they relate to the 2016 Six Nations. Read more >>

Super Rugby 2016: Play out your fantasy

In many respects, it’s the best day of the year for players of fantasy sports: Draft day. Not to be confused with the mediocre movie starring Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner as his improbable love interest (the absolute train wreck of a situation in the Cleveland Browns front office that is portrayed in the movie seems very true to life however). You see, on your fantasy league’s draft day, anything is possible. You can potentially have a blinder of a draft and run away with your league, or you could order the meatloaf and be screwed right from word go. Or you might absolutely crush the draft, but then all your players end up getting injured and you end up sucking anyway. The point is, anything is possible, and that’s exciting. It’s like the one good shot in an otherwise appalling round of golf; it keeps you coming back for more. Read more >>

Dipping my toe in the RWC Pools

It’s been labelled the Rugby World Cup’s (RWC) “Pool of Death”. So far as pools go, it’s not one you would choose. Probably even less than a pool with no shallow end, that someone has taken a piss in and has a couple of floaters bobbing up and down in the water. England got their campaign off to a solid, if nervous start against Fiji, winning 35-11. But a win is a win. New Zealand (NZ) blew Italy off the Marseille pitch in their first game in the 2007 RWC, winning 76-14. By contrast, they struggled a little in eventually beating Tonga 41-10 in their first game in 2011. If you manage to enjoy the company of a young lady after a night out, does it really matter at that point what your opening line was? Pool A is like a four-man battle royal; four men enter (Australia, England, Fiji and Wales), only two make it out alive. So who will those two be? Read more >>

Locking up the All Blacks RWC squad

Congratulations Ben Franks. You Sir are the biggest winner from an All Black perspective of World Rugby’s (formerly the IRB) decision to allow the expansion of Rugby World Cup (RWC) playing squads from 30 (as they have been since 1999) to 31. Ostensibly the change is to allow teams to select an extra prop, much as teams are now required to carry at least one loosehead and one tighthead prop on the bench. Without this change, the All Blacks would probably take four props (as they have done in every RWC since 1999) to the 2015 RWC in England which might have seen Franks miss out. However, as fascinating as props invariably are, I actually think the infinitely more exciting lock position is the key one in the All Blacks team for RWC 2015, to be officially announced Sunday (NZ time). Read more >>