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May 10, 2012

Refs must get penalty ratio right

Posted on 05/10/2012

Writing in the <Sydney Morning Herald, Reds coach Ewen McKenzie picks through the pieces of his side's controversial defeat to the Crusaders.

"When you become the first team to hold the Crusaders tryless in Christchurch since 2000, it is difficult to understand why the statistic did not come with a memorable win.

"...For me, the ratio of penalties needs to be around 70 per cent against the defence, as this means the referee is concentrating on negating spoiling tactics. If this is done, you see plenty of excitement and ball movement and fans walk away happy.

"The closer the margin gets to 50 per cent, the more field position you get from kicking, as teams will - logically - not want to play in front of their goal posts. There has been a litany of games this season where teams have paid the price for playing too much football in their own half. It pains me to say that, but it is more a risk mitigation strategy than a coaching philosophy. It also means tight games are generally decided on goal-kicking."

Jersey Boys

Posted on 05/10/2012

The Independent on Sunday profiles the rise and rise of Jersey RFC.

"Mention of Jersey may bring to mind sandy beaches, Bergerac or grim tales of German occupation. Let us add to those an oval ball and sporting ambition as the Channel Island’s rugby club last week sealed their fifth promotion in eight years. They will play next season in the Championship, one level below the Premiership.

"Until now the prominent Islanders in English rugby were Samoans, Tongans and Fijians. But among the Jersey squad who won 23 out of the last 24 matches to become National League One champions, around a third are locally born. The rest, among them player-coach and former Wales prop Ben Evans, are imported. The financial clout comes from the club chairman Bill Dempsey (pictured) and a group of around 160 sponsors. Almost 4,000 spectators packed their Rue des Landes ground next to the airport for the win over Fylde eight days ago, after which former England captain Bill Beaumont presented the league trophy."

May may claim England spot

Posted on 05/10/2012

The Independent's Chris Hewett previews the announcement of the England squad that will tour South Africa next month.

"The parallels are freakish: England will travel to South Africa in June for a five-match tour during which they will attempt to lay solid foundations for an assault on the world title a little over three years hence – just as they did in 2000. And we all know what happened then. As every coach involved in that previous trip, from Sir Clive Woodward and Andy Robinson to Brian Ashton and Phil Larder, has subsequently asserted, it was the Springbok Experience that made everything else possible.

"Just as Woodward did a dozen summers ago, Stuart Lancaster will travel with a 42-man party, give or take a spare hooker and an extra midfielder, and when he declares his hand this afternoon he is likely to draw virtually all his players from the two squads, senior Six Nations and second-string Saxons, that served him well enough in the 11 weeks after Christmas. This too has echoes of 2000: on that tour, the Test team had a familiar look to it while the midweek side showcased its share of ambitious wannabes."

May 8, 2012

Booth set for Bath switch?

Posted on 05/08/2012

Is Toby Booth set to swap the Madjeski for The Rec? © Getty Images

Chris Foy, of the Daily Mail, claims that Toby Booth is set to join Gary Gold at Bath.

"Toby Booth will be included in a revamped coaching team at Bath headed by South African Gary Gold, which the West Country club are expected to announce on Tuesday.

While the appointment of Gold – who has just finished an interim stint in charge of Newcastle – as director of rugby at The Rec was reported last month by Sportsmail, the signing of Booth will complete a high-powered management team.

The 42-year-old has been lured to Bath from London Irish, who recently brought Brian Smith back for a second term as their director of rugby.

The departure of Booth from the Madejski Stadium continues a clear-out of Exiles coaches, as Mike Catt has been released to take on a short-term role with England and Neal Hatley is also moving to Bath."

Hamilton's Test place under threat?

Posted on 05/08/2012

The Scotsman's David Ferguson looks at whether Jim Hamilton is set to miss out on Scotland's summer tour after he was sent-off on Saturday.

"Scotland lock Jim Hamilton will find out on Thursday if he is free to tour with Scotland this summer after receiving a red card for punching in Gloucester’s final Aviva Premiership match with London Irish on Saturday.

The 29-year-old returned to the Scotland side this season and for the first time in a 39-Test career started every one of the Six Nations Championship matches. However, captaining Gloucester on Saturday for the first time, he was yellow-carded for scrapping with London Irish’s David Paice.

The hooker took Hamilton out off the ball, leading to a Gloucester penalty, and the players squared up. Both were shown yellow cards but as the duo were leaving the field, Paice re-started the spat by verbally abusing Hamilton and jabbing another punch at the Scot. Hamilton responded by punching Paice, sparking another all-in melee with both teams. Referee Dave Pearson called both back and showed them red cards."

Nurture over savage nature

Posted on 05/08/2012

Chris Hewett, of the Independent, provides his take on the soap opera that is the Aviva Premiership.

"Ructions at Sale, a mass clear-out at London Irish, bloodshed at Bath, a sudden walkout at Gloucester, a sticking-plaster job at Newcastle, something close to a meltdown at Wasps... welcome to the sporting soap opera known as the Aviva Premiership, where a coach who remains in post longer than five minutes has an even-money chance of winning the "Ken Barlow Award for Long Service". Half the clubs have been in turmoil this season and of the other six, five have qualified for Heineken Cup rugby next term. Continuity counts for something, it seems.

It is now three years since this newspaper highlighted statistics showing that, in job security terms, top-flight club rugby in England was more unstable than Premier League football. Nothing has changed. Even in a World Cup year, when clubs producing Test-class players will always be disrupted, owners and boards have shown themselves to be devoid of patience – and, in some cases, common sense."

Wasps set for new stadium?

Posted on 05/08/2012

Gavin Mairs, of the Daily Telegraph, claims that Wasps may move to a new stadium in two years time.

"It was the collapse of a proposal to build a new stadium in High Wycombe last July that prompted owner Steve Hayes to put Wasps up for sale. This led to a financial crisis which almost saw the club go into administration.

The takeover by Moss, which is expected to go through in about four weeks, will bring an injection of investment, securing Wasps’ medium-term future.

Wasps’ current contract commitments mean that the club are likely to continue to play at Adams Park, which is owned by Hayes, next season.

But the new owners appear determined to push through plans to build a new stadium just off the M40, understood to be a different site from the original application, which will be crucial to securing the club’s long-term future."

May 7, 2012

Talent makes up for lack of depth

Posted on 05/07/2012

Could Christian Lealiifano's injury open the door for a new star to emerge? © Getty Images

Writing the Sydney Morning Herald, former Wallabies skipper John Eales belives one of Australia's biggest weaknesses has been its greatest strength.

"Geniuses and freaks aside, often the only difference between a very good provincial – and even test player – and a very good club player is opportunity. In the past, one of Australia's biggest weaknesses has also been our greatest strength. We rarely had the depth of other nations, but what talent we enjoyed thrived in either the Waratahs or the Reds, and later the Brumbies, so they became weapons on the international stage.

"Front-rowers Ewen McKenzie, Phil Kearns and Tony Daly played years together with the Waratahs and Wallabies, Tim Horan and Jason Little forged a memorable pairing in the centres for the Reds, as did George Gregan and Stephen Larkham for the Brumbies.

"Once the top test team is established this season, it is possible there will be very few combinations that have regularly played together at provincial level. This means we must look to the positives of the current environment, while solving the problems it presents.

"The goal must be to exploit the broader talent pool that has been given the gift of greater exposure."

Time to say goodbye to Piri and Ali

Posted on 05/07/2012

The New Zealand Herald's Wynne Gray believes it is time for All Blacks coach Steve Hansen to wield the axe.

"That quadrennial cycle is over, the angst of 24 years has been quelled, the agonies and anxiety of five failures in between have been satisfied.

"Now we move on, or do we? There's been a whiff new coach Steve Hansen will stick with World Cuppers still peddling their prowess in the Super 15, that he will cut some serious slack for Ali Williams and Piri Weepu to make the group.

"We'll get more of an idea when Hansen, Ian Foster and Brian McLean hold two training camps, the first in Auckland in a fortnight and the next a week later in Wellington before the 30-man squad is revealed on June 3.

"Hansen has defended Williams' subdued productivity as a reflection of the Blues' work and believes the lock will measure up if he is chosen in the All Blacks.

"To my mind, Williams should have been leading the Blues through their tough times and Weepu should have done likewise if he was fit. Instead, both have slipped into the midst of the mediocrity instead of steering the side out of the mire."

All Blacks and host Glasgow rise to occasion

Posted on 05/07/2012

The Scotsman's David Ferguson reflects on the successful staging of the HSBC Sevens World Series event in Glasgow.

"New Zealand moved a step closer to an incredible tenth World Sevens Series crown with victory in the inaugural Emirates Airlines Glasgow Sevens, and Colin Gregor’s Scotland left Scotstoun with nothing last night.

"So, little change there then. But this noisy and colourful tournament of 16 nations from Portugal to Kenya and the US to Russia, which ended with the Kiwis beating England to claim a 44th cup win, in a new all-enclosed 15,000-seat arena in the west end of Glasgow, was always going to be about far more than one sevens tournament.

"The more far-reaching interest lies in whether this significant move by the SRU, in tandem with national and local government help, will awaken Scottish rugby’s true sleeping giant.

"The Borders remains the home of sevens, and no matter how the clubs are battered about by continually changing league structures, they survive. Edinburgh’s independent schools remain at the core of rugby in the capital with clubs such as Currie and Boroughmuir also driving interest. In the Caledonia district, the work goes on in Stirling, Dundee and Aberdeen, as well as Dunfermline, Kirkcaldy, Perth, Caithness and other clubs and towns to retain a good network.

"But while we continue to witness a direct correlation between a lack of players and intensity in the development of Scotland’s best teenagers, relative to the world’s top ten nations, and the ensuing inability to execute skills under the most extreme pressure on the world stage, Scotland’s biggest population centre remains largely oblivious to the sport."

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