This weeks David Shute column

 

Treasure Hunt

Just watched an exciting Super 15 final – the Tahs beating the Crusaders by just one point, having snatched the lead with less than a minute to go! Both teams looked strong and the Bledisloe Cup in two weeks time will be another mighty battle worth watching. I suspect both Stuart Lancaster and Warren Gatland will be slightly concerned at the strength of the Aussies and in particular the form of Hooper, Folau, Beale and Ashley-Cooper ahead of the ‘Group of Death’ next year. Their forward power looked to be much higher than we’ve come to expect from Wallaby packs too! As good as the game was, the outstanding performance for me was the England v Samoa game in the first round of the Women’s World Cup yesterday. England won comfortably in the end but you had to respect the aggression and physicality of the Samoan girls who never gave up, despite being outclassed. The Samoan men’s team would certainly have approved of their commitment. Anyone expecting a ‘girlie’ game should take a look at this tackle on Natasha Hunt http://rugbybanterpage.co.uk/video-samoan-full-back-sent-off-in-wrwc-for-spear-tackle-on-natasha-hunt/  it resulted, not surprisingly, in a red card for the Samoan full back – making her team’s task even harder. Natasha got up and just to prove that it didn’t affect her she scored two individual tries – the first taking a quick tap just outside her own 22 and running the length of the field. The second one also involved a run from about 30 metres out – which is about 25 metres longer than any I ever stumbled over for! A short video highlight of all 10 tries are here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0SWh9cbNqW8 – Askeans will also notice Dunky reincarnated as a scrum half replacement for England (his blonde hair did make him pretty attractive to be fair!). So, a good opening performance from the girls who now play Spain on Tuesday (KO 3.45 Sky Sports)  when the second round matches are all being played. None of the teams are professionals, they all have day jobs – some have even given these up to prepare and play in the tournament. They train hard and don’t get paid – a sharp contrast to all the reality idiots and wannabee wags – especially that tart who used to be on the game and is favourite to win £25k simply for acting like a slag on Big Brother. We should all get behind the England team – which would also help if we stood on the goal line to prevent any of the opposition scoring – but looking at the way they all tackle I suspect we won’t be needed to do much more than just cheer! Natasha isn’t the only national treasure wearing the red rose!

 

Bring it Home

Another one of my (very) occasional serious posts today guys! The Women’s World Cup kicks off tonight and the English team are looking to finally take it from the Black Ferns. Sky Sports have been showing a programme ‘English Roses’ about the build -up of the English team to the last WC – where they lost in the final 13-10. If you get a chance, watch it – these girls don’t fuck about – they train seriously hard and are as tough as nails. They are also a lot better looking than any rugby players I’ve ever met. All of England’s games and a lot of the other matches are on Sky Sports – make sure you watch and support them – you’ll be surprised at the levels of skill, fitness and serious aggression in these games. Rudyard was certainly right when he wrote his poem ‘The Female of the Species’ as you may well see in France over the next three weeks – they really can be deadlier than the male. Bring it home girls!

 

Driving it Home

There’s been a lot in the media over the last few days about the advent of driverless cars and the introduction of these vehicles onto public roads in the UK.http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-28551069 The main benefit according to the authorities and motoring organisations is supposed to be keeping to speed limits and reducing accidents. All very laudable I’m sure, but I think you are missing a bit of a trick here guys. Hello? No more designated drivers, no more drinking diet coke all night – or that stupid non- alcoholic beer – I mean what is the fucking point of it anyway? Is anyone really surprised that pubs don’t stock a cellar full of the muck? Rugby players must be over the moon (or maybe under the table) at the idea of being able to have a skinful of Special Brew without worrying about how to get home. Simply set the satnav to ‘Curry Queen’ and hope that someone is still compos mentis enough after a few more Kingfishers to put in your home postcodes (and those for any quiet alley ways for when you inevitably need a waz). No doubt this innovation will seriously piss off the local plods who think they’ve got a quick collar – only to find that you’re being chauffeured by the dead one out of ‘Randall & Hopkirk’. The other brilliant thing will be the driverless coaches for away games – no more trying to sneak a few cases of lager on past the Gestapo behind the wheel. The National Express’ answer to ‘the Ghost of Christmas Past’ won’t be able to speed past pubs, 24 hour McDonalds and public conveniences (aka garage walls) without stopping. All you will have to do is tell the bastard to pull over! Mind you, this may mean that return journeys could last several days or more – now that’s another added bonus that the either of the ‘AA’ organisations haven’t spotted!

 

Great Expectations

If you’re a fan of England you get used to disappointment – doesn’t matter which sport, we always seem to fall that bit short. We have our moments of course – 1966, 2003, Ashes, Olympics, but we rarely seem to sustain triumph over extended periods – although we are pretty bloody good at cycling at the moment. It’s okay – I mean who wants to be at the top of everything all the time? Well, I do for one – although I’d settle for just being the best at rugby for most of the time. That honour falls to New Zealand who seem to have been at number one for most of my life. Even they have their downs though – winning just two of the seven world cups that have been on offer. I’ve been to New Zealand a few times and they are all totally obsessed with rugby – to the point that they make the Welsh and South Africans look positively indifferent. Not surprisingly therefore, there has been much hand wringing and angst in the land of the long white cloud regarding the national tragedy that ended up with them losing their first ever Commonwealth 7s match and only picking up a silver medal (oh we should have been so unlucky!). The Glasgow 7s was the most watched event of the games in NZ (surprise surprise) and they will have been mortified – the only thing worse would have been if they’d gone down to the Aussies or us! They are now looking to Rio and there is pressure for Gordon Tietjens (the most successful 7s’ coach in history) to include All Blacks in his squad for the Olympics. Guys like SBW, Israel Dagg, Ben Smith and Julian Savea are being mentioned. Sir Gordon has pointed out that 7s is a specialist game that needs adapting from 15s – he has stated that any ABs he adds to the squad will need to be available for the 2016 7s circuit to adjust. This may not be to the liking of Super rugby sides but the lure of a gold medal might actually prevent some big names taking up lucrative contracts in Europe or Japan after next year’s World Cup. Using top players from the full game may not work anyway – as the Aussies found out in Melbourne 2006 when Wendall Sailor, Lote Tuquiri, Chris Latham and Matt Giteau were included. When we played 7s (that’s way back when) it was at each end of the season and there the squad all came from the 1st XV – we did however, play the game differently to most teams – using 6 backs and 1 forward, our opposition usually had 3 or 4 forwards plus speedy blokes. Bush’s strategy (which is a posh word for how we played) was to have 6 fast blokes plus a serious flyer. We fielded a scrum half (Hickey), stand-off (Locks), 2 x centres (Paddy and me), full back (Bush), open side (Kev A) and a wing (Floss). Boney (wing) and Tay (blind side) made up the squad. Paddy and Bush were chunky enough to hold their own in the scrum with Kev whilst I pissed about with the other backs. There’s a couple of sections in here somewhere about 7s if you’ve got fuck all else to do and you’ve missed Bargain Hunt. We played the game differently to how we played 15s – and that gave us an edge. It worked too – and I have a collection of battered tankards, medals and pennants to show for it (or at least I would if I could be arsed to hunt around in the loft). If you watch the 7s’ circus it is easy to see that it has become a specialist game in its own right – we used it to get fit pre-season, to have fun at the end and to collect a load of useless mementos. I bloody loved it, but wouldn’t have sacrificed 15s to play it all the time (too bloody knackering for a start!)

 

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