Buy 1 get THREE free! guest blogs by Andrew Richardson, Gareth Jones and David Shute (with a double!)

Andrew Richardson - Are we going Card Crazy?

Unfortunately in two recent games at Fortress Ravenhill, Ulster have received two Red Cards. This blog is not the right or wrong of the cards, as by todays current laws, they are both red. This blog is about our much beloved physical game and the feeling that its famous physicality being reduced.


Player safety is paramount and I will never argue that an unsafe tackle is punished because the referee or the laws are soft. That very obvious statement being made, I have to say that both the cards at Ravers were soft. If a player is ‘driven’ into the ground, it is a deliberate act. There is a conscious effort to do it. Brian O Driscoll, yes even here the great gets a mention, was famously driven into the ground against The All Blacks. Jared Payne had no idea that Alex Goode would fall awkwardly, the same is said of Tom Court. For those that know Devin Toner and all 6’10’’ of him, and have knowledge of physics it is clear that whilst Toner was attempting to get to ground his body hinged and the shoulder hit the ground. I have watched replay after replay. It was an accident and nothing more.  What is clear and starting to frustrate is the players themselves are now risking a ban.

The Leinster coach Matt O Connor, make remarks of putting Tags on shorts and playing Tag Rugby. This was obviously tongue in cheek, but there is more serious side to this. Paddy Jackson, is a threat and Leinster worked hard to close him down and put him under an extrodinary amout of pressure. After he charged down Ian Madigan’s chip and steamed towards the line, leaving former Ulsterman Isaac Boss in his wake, he was tackled high by Rob Kearney. Again those that know Rob and know how he plays knows this was an accident. Unintentional, a penalty and a Yellow card was sufficient. The fact that it should have been a penalty try and under the posts is a very different rant! He was then taken out in the air and Ruddock received the Yellow Card. In fairness this was an accident as Ruddock was pushed by Kirtchner into Paddy. Paddy managed to get his hands down, so no red card.

This is inconsistent. When a player is in the air, if he is being challenged to receive the ball and a collision occurs whose at fault? If a player is in the air and is tackled, is it a red or yellow? It shouldnt matter what body part hits the floor. That is not possible to predict and only after the event can the Referee or frustratingly more and more ‘TMO’ act. This is one of the most important laws to get right in todays game.

I am delighted that all the players involved in these red cards were able to shake, get on with it and move on. Just wish it was as easy for us!



Gareth Jones - Has Sam Warburton signed his rugby death warrant?

So has Sam Warburton signed his own "Rugby Death Certificate" by signing a central contract with the WRU ?
Currently there is an agreement between the four regions that none of them will play any centrally contracted players so where is Sam going to play his rugby next season and with The WRU and RRW's members failing to sign a fresh Participation Agreement it remains a major concern ! With our other welsh stars who were out of contract at the end of this season not signing a central contract but have resigned with their regions or have opted to play their rugby out of Wales, do they know something we don't or does Sam. Adam Jones is the only current welsh player who has yet to decide what to do and it will very interesting to see which road he goes down.
If the regions don't back down where will Sam play his rugby next season, will The WRU loan him to a English premiership side which would be ironic as they issued this statement to why they have gone down the central contract route :
"To help and support the four Welsh Regions the WRU has offered to immediately assist to enable the Regions to retain their leading Welsh qualified players in Wales."
So why haven't other players followed Sam or was he pressured into signing a contract to keep his captaincy and the WRU hoping it would attract other players to sign a central contract so they would have a bigger bargaining tool with the regions to force them Into signing a new participation agreement on their terms ! And Sam has found himself "piggy in the middle".
So if the WRU and the regions don't come to a agreement soon it looks like Sam will be left out in the cold with nowhere to play his rugby which will be a shame for such a passionate, hardworking player !

Gareth jones (#rugbywales)

finally we have a double blog by David Shute, as its his #rugbyunited debut, and as is standard, we'll start with a little introduction!!

Shutey is a sixty something former rugby player whose obsession with the game far exceeds his playing ability in the years 1959 to 2001. His blog ( details his journey from being completely unknown into total rugby obscurity.

His writing varies from the serious subjects to the (very) tongue in cheek but can always be relied upon to be generally illiterate and coarse. Much like the way he played. If you really have nothing better to do he’s also on twitter - @rugbyoldbloke 

Shutey - I'm the one without a hat!

Myth Guided - David Shute

There are a lot of standard stereotypes used by the various nations to describe themselves and the English. Largely they like to portray their own character as being something out of ‘The Wild Bunch’, ‘Reservoir Dogs’ or ‘Rambo’.


The Welsh like to see themselves as gritty miners (mostly prior to ‘The Wicked Thatch’ obviously), the Jocks think they all fought with Braveheart (they must be really pissed off that he was played by an Aussie), the Irish are wild eyed red haired lunatics and the French simply offer a Gallic shrug with a moody and indecipherable grunt.



Having established themselves as a cross between Rocky and The Incredible Hulk (FFS) they then proceed to pour scorn on the English as an over privileged group of hoorays from public school and elite universities who sing dirty songs in an upper class accent. This would only be accurate if the entire English rugby playing community was also in the Tory cabinet!


I don’t know how Johnno, Lawrence and Jason (Leonard) fit into this mould – perhaps it is because they were all famed for wearing bowler hats!


It is interesting that it is only us who are disparaged in this way – the Taffs don’t have a go at the Jocks or the Paddy’s and vice versa.


Just to let you know – our school was in New Cross – a rough part of South London near to the Den (Millwall FC). Hardly any of my mates (including me) were anywhere near smart enough to go to any university let alone one of the top ones – the Askeans did sing some pretty disgusting stuff for a while – but in cockney rather than Etonian accents.


The songs I remember only ever resounded on an away trip by coach – and then just on the way home when we were full of beer (and had to pee out of the door as the vehicle sped along since the inevitably miserable driver could rarely be persuaded to stop.)


Mostly I recall the sessions being conducted by Mick Sidgewick who led us in out of tune renderings of ‘The Moon shines bright on little Redwing’, ‘Dinah’, ‘Barnacle Bill’ and ‘I don’t want to join the army’.

There was also a particularly non politically correct ditty that involved a rather well -endowed gentleman wandering off to the woods.


Even then it was pretty half hearted and didn’t last long – possibly because it was only Mick who knew all the words and we just joined in for the chorus. Some of us didn’t even know that.

The singing pretty much finished after Lunny, Jimmy, Kev, Dunky, Ben and I joined – I hardly think it was down to us that the vocal rudeness ceased, more that it didn’t really seem to be all that funny I think.


Songs very much took a back seat until the kids from St Jo’s and St Mary’s joined us and Paddy insisted that ‘The Wild Rover’ should became the club song. Together with ‘Zip a Dee Do Dah’ (courtesy of Black Alex and Spence) our repertoire was expanded to two!


Askeans (and most of the other clubs we played) were very much an eclectic bunch of blokes – jobs ranged from builders, police, fireman and insurance. We did have a few who worked in the city – mostly attracted by the excessive drinking I think – we also had some who worked on the bins and in black cabs. A few of us were in marketing and advertising – and again the opportunities for frequent alcohol intake had more than a little influence in our choice of work.


Nobody actually gave a stuff what you did – but were more concerned in whether you could tackle and could be trusted not to give you a hospital pass.


By contrast we played against several Welsh teams who boasted surgeons and lawyers in their ranks. Hypocrites? What the Welsh? No – surely not!


The Kiwis are also fairly disparaging about us (the English not the Askeans obviously) and to be honest I have no idea why – we rarely beat them (neither does anyone else for that matter) and they have been the number one team in the world for most of my life.

The Aussies like to take the piss out of us Poms but, to be fair, they do it with a decent sense of humour. They are also tougher on their own team when they play badly than anyone else I know.


We are often accused (by many sides) of being arrogant – again I’m not talking about Askeans - and I think that there they may have a point. Football style celebrations when scoring and some of the stuff at the 2011 World Cup leaves us open to fair criticism.


But we’re not alone – the player who wrote ‘My Grand Slam Season’ wasn’t English, it wasn’t an English side that refused to send a team to celebrate the Fiji RFU Centenary (despite living quite close) and we didn’t put out a weak side against Japan on the assumption that it was an easy victory.


Askeans weren’t considered arrogant when we played – but we faced a particular level of ferocity when we played in Wales because we were English and indeed in the West Country because we came from London. You can’t win can you? – Although, as it happened, we did more often than not in fact!


It’s not going to change at any level for English sides and that’s what makes it so bloody funny when you win – they hate that because they always expect to come out on top – especially when playing at their home ground.


I can’t finish without talking about ‘Sweet Chariot’ – how the fuck did an American Negro spiritual song become the English rugby anthem?


Admittedly it has been sung at rugby clubs for years –  the reason being that although it doesn’t have any dirty words it is accompanied by plenty of rude gestures.

It actually has bugger all to do with England rugby – if you wanted to have a song with actions you’d be better off choosing YMCA – which has a much better melody as well!


It doesn’t stack up against ‘Flower of Scotland’ ‘Ireland’s Call’ or ‘Danny Boy’ and certainly won’t make the hairs stand up (except maybe for Jedward) like ‘Bread of Heaven’ or ‘Men of Harlech’.


To be honest it isn’t even as good as ‘Waltzing Mathilda’


Personally I’d vote for ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ or ‘Jerusalem’ but then I’m tone deaf anyway.



Multiple guesses by David Shute (again)


Don’t laugh – but I had a pretty good week with my Premiership predictions (why else would I be writing this first thing on Monday?).

In the end I managed 5 ½ out of 6 right. I gave myself the ½ for predicting that Saints would triumph at the Rec. I claim a moral victory for this as Bath were the home team!

There will be a lot of good reviews of the matches in the penultimate weekend of matches (obviously this isn’t one of them) – you’ll find the good stuff at

Instead, I wanted to talk about some of the other features that characterised Round 21.

First off – I’m guessing that there were more tries this weekend than we’ve ever had in the Premiership before – certainly more than I can remember and they included three hat-tricks.

This provided great entertainment for supporters – in the stands and, thanks to BT Sport all those on the sofa surrounded by pasties and Heineken. I’d hold my hand up if it didn’t have a Ginsters in it - no chance of any sponsorship I suppose chaps?

However, the guys behind the laptops whispering into hidden mikes would have been tearing their hair out and wondering why the defensive patterns they’d been working on all season were suddenly falling apart. It was sometimes like watching a Baa Baas game.

More importantly I wanted to add my two pennies’ worth on the increasing controversy regarding the use of the TMO these days. I have been less than polite in my blog about the TMO – under the post heading of ‘TMOverused’ – and I wanted to add more here.

The criticism of this technology tends to come from either the commentators (who were hoping to get to the bar sooner) or the fans of the side who think that they’ve just scored and don’t want it questioned.


The bloke in the little box in the corner of the screen also has to contend with everyone in the ground looking at several replays from all angles on a giant Sony in the corner of the ground – it’s not always an easy job, but probably better than working on the checkout in Tesco or down a mine. The various TMOs were busy again at the weekend and yet more questions were asked about how often the ref was going upstairs (metaphorically obviously). There was even one suggestion that we might adopt the 3 x reviews system that is used in cricket. This misses the point – it’s the ref who draws a square like he’s playing charades not the players who are hoping for a reverse.

Let’s face it, it’s not perfect but it does cut out some of the more major mistakes that a ref can make in real time and the truth is it’s here to stay.

The only real problem is the rubbish about forward passes that has crept in since an Aussie coach ‘proved’ that as long as your hands are pointing backwards it’s not going in front. Call me a bit pedantic but I always thought that if the bloke catches the ball in front of the bloke chucking it then it might just be a tad forward. The law doesn’t mention anything about a Paul Daniel’s sleight of hand making it look okay!

The IRB have recently put together a video to explain this and say ‘The whole concept is that the ball must travel backwards out of the players hands, but can move forward through the air, due to basic physics’.

I’m sorry, but that this is tosh – if the wind or physics or even an act of god or Graham Norton moves the ball ahead of where it was chucked from – it’s forward! If not join the NFL where you won’t need a TMO since you also don’t have to ground the ball!

On balance the use of the TMO (forward passes excepted) is a good thing – what the IRB should concentrate on is wtf is going on in the front row of the scrum. Sort that out and we’d all be happy.

It was a great weekend and leaves us just enough unknowns for the last games of the regular season.

The big one is obviously at the Stoop and they must be tempted to see if over the road is free to host the game, as I imagine the M4 north will be jammed on Saturday morning. It is also just about possible for the Tigers to gain home advantage for the play-offs – unlikely but everyone will be watching the games at Franklin’s Gardens and Welford Road to see if there is yet a twist in the Tiger’s tail.

It was also a good weekend if you’re an England supporter – decent performances from George Ford, Marlon Yarde, Chris Ashton, Ed Slater, Geoff Parling, Michael Patterson, Nathan Hughes Manu and Semesa Rokoduguni will make Stuart Lancaster feel that he can be competitive in the first test in Auckland against the World Champions, despite not having any players from the premiership Final available.

On the downside he’ll be sweating on injuries to Mako and Billy Twelvetrees.

I’ll be posting this week’s postulations for the final round of the Premiership in a couple of days’ time. Thanks for reading


So there ya go. FOUR blogs in one. thats FIVE blogs this week and i ain't written a single one! This is how blog editing should be!!!!