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
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
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