Dropping the Ball
Chris Ashton has come in for a lot of stick regarding his showboating and refusal to run round under the posts when scoring. Even when touching down for the last try in the second test he couldn’t resist diving extravagantly - despite the fact that the game was already lost and there wasn’t much to posture about. The criticism isn’t just that we don’t like show-offs it’s a real fear that he will fuck up and drop the thing – and that he seems completely oblivious to the need to make the conversion easier. Here are two short clips – one showing what can happen if you get too flash http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfLS51LSNFM&app=desktop - the other is the consummate debut of Julian Savea as an All Black - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1f-SN4vinaw Ashton would do well to look at both carefully – let’s hope he takes lessons from the All Black – 23 tries in 22 tests is a tad impressive! God help us if Ashton were to drop the ball when it really mattered – like next year!
There have been some very dodgy calls at the World Cup in Rio – not least in the games where Fred did a ‘Chris Ashton’ to claim a penalty, an assistant ref disallowed two perfectly good Mexico goals and Bosnia were on the wrong side of a couple of bad decisions in the match against Nigeria. But it’s okay because Sepp Blatter has the answer - "Why don't we give team managers the possibility of two challenges for refereeing during the match?" Blatter told delegates at the FIFA Conference in Sao Paolo. "If the manager disagrees with a decision, why should he not ask for an immediate TV review?" I imagine he wouldn’t want to extend this to challenges on where the next WC’s will be held or FIFA expenses (see yesterday’s Sunday Times). In any case reviews would require the managers to be watching the game – in virtually every after match interview the manager (usually of the losing side) claims not to have seen any controversial incidents! I can only imagine they are always too busy texting or trying to unwrap the cellophane on their Wrigley packet to bother with what’s happening on the park. Technology is widely used in rugby – the ref has access to a TMO and replay on the big screen – and there hasn’t been too much controversy about that. That is, of course, as long as you don’t count the hysteria that goes on regarding reviews in just about every match that’s played anywhere on the planet! The biggest problem is the ‘forward’ pass – where some plonker ‘proved’ that it’s okay for the ball to be chucked to a bloke in front of you provided you are simultaneously pointing at your full back or the hot dog stand behind the goal posts. This is the least convincing argument since Hitler claimed he was just popping off for a few days break at a holiday chalet in Poland! We can all have a giggle at some of the laughable decisions in Rio – and here are a few crackers from rugby – presumably before the TMO was introduced. You can’t help feeling that for all its faults maybe the review system isn’t so bad after all. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_AVlRZiJbI It’s not often that the name ‘Shute’ is mentioned as number one – but as you’ll see - it just had to be in a big fucking blunder didn’t it!
With England out of the world cup the tabloids have been scrabbling around to find stuff to fill the back pages. Inevitably there are the recriminations and a performance audit for the England camp and Roy and the boys will be secretly pleased that Luis Suarez is doing his best to keep them out of the spotlight. I talked yesterday (okay, scribbled here if you want to be pedantic) about rugby’s not so dark arts and mentioned that biting wasn’t a drama in my day as most forwards didn’t have any teeth left with which to chomp. This would have given them a first class alibi, although I forgot to mention that more than a few Askeans would leave their choppers in the changing room – mostly by choice. I can tell you that, after a game, it can be quite disconcerting to shove your hand in the valuables bag (definitely not a euphemism) in order to locate your drinking vouchers – and to mistakenly think that something resembling a bear trap has been left there! Let’s be honest we’ve had enough of this Suarez nonsense – if a little nibble is considered to be serious offence then football is about as violent as table tennis or carrying some heavy shopping. FIFA also consider spitting to be a major problem – it’s a bit of phlegm for fuck’s sake – not especially pleasant I grant you – but we’re not talking king cobra venom here guys. Another thing football authorities don’t like is ‘brawling’ – which makes it sound like a playground scuffle - they can’t even bring themselves to call it fighting. In rugby it’s called ‘handbags’ which is largely ironic if you look at some of the slaps that land – think Federico Mendez and Paul Ackford - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHqt7LTJRLA and the contretemps between Manu and Chris Ashton. - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gaAX40d3oXo FIFA should focus on blokes rolling around like nancies when someone brushes past them – that and working out how to convince us all that Qatar was selected because, at 125 degrees, it’s such a perfect venue for kicking a ball about. For one final thought on gnashers I would like to quote the Springbok Johan Le Roux who after biting Sean Fitzpatrick's ear said: "For an 18-month suspension, I feel I probably should have torn it off. Then at least I could say, 'Look, I've returned to South Africa with the guy's ear.'" I often wondered if Sean asked him out for a bite when the All Blacks were next in Port Elizabeth.
Bite Marks – 2/10
There has been a ton of stuff in the media and on social network sites about the Suarez ‘bite’. The best of the jokes and pictures linked him with Jaws and Hannibal Lecter. Some newspapers have been only too delighted to point out that rugby has also had a number of incidents of chomping and to list the players involved along with the penalties for getting caught (actually a bigger offence in my view). Once again we leave football in our wake – you can hardly notice any marks on Chiellini’s shoulder – in rugby it is not unusual to see a lot of claret – distributed roughly evenly between a ragged earlobe and the gnashers of a front row forward. A lot of the ‘vigorous debates’ are held at the bottom of a ruck apparently – luckily I have no first hand (or molar) experience of this – seeing as how I made fucking sure not to be anywhere near one of these unruly places – a demonstration of my wisdom (teeth) in action. To be fair, biting nowadays in rugby is not that prevalent – most of the front row forwards I know didn’t actually have any teeth left after their first season in club rugby. Mind you, I imagine being gummed by one still wouldn’t be that much of a picnic – except for them, obviously. In addition, for the few still with canines, it is quite hard to get a decent purchase on your opponent’s soft bits whilst wearing a gum shield. The forwards have probably developed far better ways to incapacitate one of the opposition in a melee where the cameras can’t penetrate – again rugby scores over football on initiative and innovation. No self -respecting prop is going to munch on a schnoz during open play with TV covering every angle on the pitch. In any case most of the front row facial features would more than likely be improved with a lump out of them. If you really want to get an unfair advantage – try water polo – I played rugby with Benny and Jez who were in the GB water polo team – their stories about what went on below the surface would make your eyes water a lot more than a heavy dose of chlorine. As for Chiellini’s rolling around on the pitch – you’d have thought he’d been attacked by a very hungry alligator, not the pantomime croc from Peter Pan. He wasn’t exactly in danger of losing a limb - what a tart! Sorry Suarez – you only get a low score for that passing glance with the Italian ‘nancy’ job. Must try (and bite) harder if you want to make the top ten. A decent drop of claret would help too!
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