Friday, 26 April 2013

71 year old player finally hangs up his boots after 2,000 appearances

In early 2011, I reported on the exploits of John Goldman who at the age of seventy was enjoying another season for Mill Hill second team as their loose head prop. As you can imagine Goldman is a strong believer in the benefits of still playing and what makes his achievements even more remarkable is that in the past 20 years he has had cancer, a heart bypass and major back surgery.

Last weekend, Keith Brierley played his last match for Preston Grasshoppers after an astonishing 52 seasons of rugby for the Lancashire club. Affectionately known as 'Dad', the 71-year-old flanker played the full 80 minutes for the 6th XV in his final game at Lightfoot Lane against Blackpool 1st XV.

Quite rightly described as somewhat of  a "living legend" by the club, Keith has notched up over 2,000 matches for the club with him starting his career as a winger.

"I can go back years and years and remember the games I played in and the people I played against," Keith commented .

"That's what will live with me - the camaraderie as much as anything else."


                          

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The Lion, the Pitch and the Wardrobe

Thomas Pink, Official Outfitters to The Lions, to host a rugby extravaganza for all the family at ‘The Pink Lion’ pub on Parsons Green with special guest appearances from members of the 2013 Lions Squad.


On Saturday May 18th Thomas Pink will be transforming the legendary White Horse pub, Parsons Green into The Pink Lion for a Lions Tour celebration which the whole family will enjoy. Whether you are interested in hearing exclusive speeches from this year’s Lions Squad, playing some touch rugby with Matt Dawson, or sampling our authentic Australian BBQ served by Phil Vickery, this will be the highlight of the social and sporting calendar.

The pop-up venue will be a mecca for rugby fans, featuring Astroturf bars, screenings of previous Lions Tours, Pink umbrellas and specially brewed Pink Pints. A special touch rugby session will kick off the festivities on Parsons Green at 12:30pm for budding young rugby players aged 11-14 years. Question of Sport host and British & Irish Lions veteran, Matt Dawson will be using his expertise to guide the boys through a fun and interactive training session with the help of VIP guest Lions of the 2013 squad in their final public appearance before going on Tour.

For Mums and Dads more interested in whetting their appetite than getting grass stains on the green, Lions legend and Celebrity Masterchef champion Phil Vickery will be donning his Chef’s hat and apron to man the barbeque throughout the afternoon. Make sure you get in line to try one of his scrumptious Kangaroo burgers which can be washed down with one of our Pink Pints or a glass of Pink rosé as part of a free wine tasting session. After touch rugby training and copious amounts of delicious food there will be an opportunity to meet and greet not one, but five members of this years Lions squad.

Players from around the UK and Ireland will gather inside The Pink Lion pub for ‘The Lions tales’ where they will share rugby anecdotes and dressing-room tales as well as answering questions from the crowd about this year’s tour to Australia. The Q&A with our special guests will culminate in the screening of the Heineken Cup Final build-up at 4.30pm.

As the Official Outfitter for the team’s 125th Year anniversary Tour to Australia, Thomas Pink has created an exclusive Lions Collection which will be available to purchase inside the venue at The Pink Lion pop-up shop. Fans can get their hands on signature items including a velvet smoking jacket, vintage print merino wool and silk scarf, gold plated cufflinks, socks, ties and boxers. The Lions Collection by Thomas Pink is available to purchase across all Thomas Pink stores, thomaspink.com, and select John Lewis stores and online. The Pink Lion will be open to members of the public on the 18th May only.

For more information and to reserve a place in the touch rugby session, please visit pinkunbuttoned.com


Monday, 22 April 2013

Precision kicking by Elliot Daly as he finds dusty bin

There was some cracking open rugby at the weekend in the Aviva Premiership as the shackles seemingly lifted for many and a good number of bonus points were chalked up. Wasps very much came out second best against a rampant Exeter side that produced probably their best performance of the season scoring four tries including an impressive run and swan dive from second row, Damian Walsh in their 34-27 victory. While Tom Varndell and Christian Wade replied with two excellent tries, top skill of the day must go to Elliot Daly for his wonderful clearance kick straight in to the pitch side bin.




Highlights of the Exeter Chiefs win at Adams Park


                   

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Buxton takes his Kingsholm bow



It is unlikely in the future that we will see many premiership players devoting a decade of their career to one club. With two year contracts the norm and a greater level of movement than ever before between teams, the current generation of older players will probably be the last to clock up over 200 plus games for one club. While George Chuter stands alone at the top of the premiership all-time appearances with 261 league games for Saracens and Leicester Tigers in a career stretching back to 1997, Gloucester is in the unique position of having three stalwarts who have played for the club for over a decade.

Yesterday Peter Buxton played his last game at Kingsholm before his move next season to local rivals, Bristol. The Cheltenham born forward joined Gloucester in 2002 as one of Nigel Melville’s first signings, from Newport. With 276 appearances for the club in all competitions, Buxton has been at the heart of the Gloucester pack for the last decade. Speaking to the local Citizen newspaper prior to the clash with Saracens, Rugby director Nigel Davies explained: "Bucko is coming to his last opportunity.

"He's been a fantastic servant to the club over the last ten years, and a great club man.

"He epitomises what Gloucester Rugby is all about."

Buxton's finale at Kingsholm consisted of an appearance off the bench replacing second row and captain, Tom Savage in the 69th minute of an absorbing match which saw Gloucester secure their Heineken Cup spot for next year.

Recently voted the best Gloucester player of all time in a poll organised by Regus, James Simpson Daniel is in his twelfth season at the club. The club legend made a sensational try scoring debut as a teenager against Rotheram and has gone on to score 119 tries in 266 appearances. In a career that has been plagued by injury at key times, the Sedbergh educated winger and one of the most exciting backs of the last decade has only been able to show his attacking class on ten occasions for England. Simpson Daniel has one year left on a three contract he signed in January 2011 and he will certainly be looking to have a more productive season next year after only appearing  nine times for the Cherry and Whites during this campaign following a shoulder injury sustained in November.

Andy Hazell has enjoyed an outstanding career at Kingsholm and as the longest serving member of the squad and he has recently signed a one year extension to his contract. In addition to his 261 appearances for Gloucester, the flanker has played seven times for England and was selected for the Sky TV's 2006-7 Dream Team. Originally signed by Richard Hill, Hazell admits that his seventeenth season at the club might be his swansong.

The 34-year-old Kingsholm stalwart explained: "Maybe next year will be my last year, I don't know.

"I've always said I want to finish on my terms really.

"So I don't want to be hanging on.

"Touch wood I'm still fit and keeping the young boys on their toes in the fitness and things like that.

"So there's no reason why I should think to retire at the minute.

"Mentally I'm still there, which is massive.

"I still want to go out there and put my body on the line, I would never shirk anything ever.

"So that's still there.

Hazell is clear about his immediate future, commenting: "I do want to finish on my terms and I do want to finish if I can at Gloucester.

Friday, 19 April 2013

The lure of the Olympics - Will Sevens be the preferred choice for young players?

There has never been a more exciting time to prove your worth as a sevens rugby player according to England World Cup winner Will Greenwood.

Speaking at the launch of this year's J.P. Morgan Premiership Rugby 7s tournament, for which he is an ambassador, Greenwood claimed those involved may have a realistic chance of choosing between a push for England's 2015 World Cup squad or alternatively the Rio Olympic Games a year later.

Sevens rugby will be part of Rio 2016, adding to the excitement at this year's J.P. Morgan 7s, and Greenwood believes it is the ideal chance for young professionals at Aviva Premiership clubs to show what they can do.

"In 2010 when Saracens won the first tournament it was a bit of a toe in the water and since then it has grown year-on-year," said Greenwood. "You get a glimpse of the future in seeing a lot of the academy lads coming through.

"It's a real opportunity for the coaches. You never know what you are going to get in terms of the players that will be there - either the next generation of England players or England players returning to form - but what you are absolutely guaranteed is pace, athleticism and fun.

"It is good for the academy lads who are pushing to try and get into their senior sides to showcase their talent before the season starts.

"If you are 18, 19 or 20 now and you have got bags of pace and commitment you have got wonderful choice - do I focus on my XVs and try and win a World Cup with England at Twickenham? Or do I switch and give Ben Ryan a call and try and play 7s and win an Olympic gold medal in Rio? Nice decisions to have."

The J.P. Morgan Premiership Rugby 7s kicks off on 1st August at Kingsholm with rounds at Franklin's Gardens and Allianz Park and the final at The Recreation Ground. For tickets and more information visit: www.jpmorgan7s.com or follow on Twitter @jpmorganrugby7s

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Jonah The Blackline - New Trailer Released


It has been a little while in the making but a new trailer has been released for Jonah - the Blackline, a documentary of Jonah Lomu's life and emergence as an iconic rugby figure. The documentary also charts his fight against illness.

There is obviously a great deal of footage of Lomu causing mayhem in many a defence and poor Mike Catt gets to relive the moment when the out sized winger walked all over him.

It is interesting to speculate on how the current crop of large wingers would have matched up to Lomu in his prime.



Wednesday, 17 April 2013

The case of the mistaken ball and the foot rush

Best described as the case of the mistaken ball, Paul O' Connell can count himself extremely lucky not to be suffering a repeat of the four week ban handed to him in December 2010. It looks like that the Muster man was just not able to suppress the natural tendency of many a Irish second row to take part in a bit of foot rushing, although normally it is just a good old hoof of the ball down the pitch.

Citing commissioner Eddie Walsh decided O'Connell, did not kick Dave Kearney in the head during Leinster's Pro12 win at Thomond Park. The commissioner's view was that there was no intention by the second row  to kick the grounded player and that the 2009 Lions captain accidentally made contact with the head of his opponent.Walsh concluded O'Connell's shin hit Kearney on the head, while his foot connected with the ball.

The decision of Walsh has not gone without comment with the Leinster coach, Joe Schmidt, expressing his concern that the decision effectively legitimises such action on a rugby field.

"That it didn't constitute a red card?" said Schmidt.

"I think we're getting into dangerous territory when that's our baseline."

See for yourself!


                        

Friday, 14 September 2012

Can Bath go three from three? Aviva Premiership Round 3 Predictions and Preview

First up this weekend is the prospect of an absorbing battle at the Rec as Bath take on Northampton Saints. Both teams have started well and this will be a stern test of their top four credentials. Bath's Head coach, Gary Gold  is under no illusion about the challenge that the Saints will pose but I am predicting that home field advantage will see Bath home by a margin of 6-10 points.

Gold makes two changes with Paul James coming in at loosehead with Nathan Catt moving to the bench while at inside centre Ben Williams replaces the injured Matt Banahan.

For Northampton Saints Luther Burrell partners Dominic Waldouck in the centre with Stephen Myler getting his first start at fly half. Recent signing Rhys Oakley starts at No.8 instead of the suspended GJ van Velze with Tom Mercey replacing Brian Mujati in the front row. Director of Rugby, Jim Mallinder commenting on the test that his side will face reflected on the difficulty of an away fixture with Bath.

"The Rec is always a tough place to play. It is a place where the fans are right on top of you and where it can be intimidating for visiting teams. So it is up to us as to how we respond, and we believe that we can do that in the right way."


                  

Predictions for the weekend.

Harlequins to defeat Sale Sharks by 11-15 points
London Wasps to win by 6-10 points against London Irish
Exeter Chiefs to secure an away win at London Welsh by 11-15 points
Saracens to secure a narrow victory over Leicester Tigers by 6-10 points
Worcester Warriors to get their first win of the season against Gloucester with 1-5 point margin.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Warren Gatland as the Pub Landlord at the Pink Lion



All rugby fans are invited to join a host of Lion legends including Martin Bayfield, Phil Vickery and Matt Dawson at The Pink Lion, for a week of rugby fuelled entertainment as Thomas Pink unveils its British & Irish Lions Collection as the new Official Outfitters for the iconic rugby team

Ever fancied a Vickery ‘vol au vent’, a pint poured by Martin Bayfield or a chance to pitch your sports trivia against Matt Dawson? Well get your scrum caps at the ready for some midweek revelry with all the rugby greats at The Pink Lion, London.

For one week only, Thomas Pink will be turning The Golden Lion on King Street, London, into The Pink Lion, to celebrate the launch of its British & Irish Lions collection. The venue which has been renamed The Pink Lion, will be transformed into a mecca for stylish rugby fans featuring a stellar line-up of evening entertainment, open to all.

Kicking off the celebrations on October 30th, new Lions head coach Warren Gatland will make a special guest appearance as pub landlord, where he will be serving pink pints behind the bar before unveiling the new Thomas Pink Lions Collection.

Throughout the week, supporters are invited to take part in a unique ‘Question of Sport’ pub quiz night hosted by Matt Dawson and friends, or sit back and enjoy exclusive screenings of historic matches with commentary by rugby greats. There will also be an opportunity to meet former Lions, as players from around the UK and Ireland will gather for an intimate ‘Pink Lion Lock-In’ to share rugby anecdotes and dressing-room tales.

Following his success on Celebrity Masterchef, former England Rugby Captain, Phil Vickery has created a special menu to celebrate the collaboration. Fans will be invited to tuck into signature dishes inspired by the UK and Ireland such as cockle and bacon tartlets, colcannon and sausages or mini Yorkshire puddings with rare beef, horseradish & watercress. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the rugby legend donning his chequered apron from the kitchen.

As the Official Outfitter for the team’s 125th anniversary Tour to Australia, Thomas Pink has created an exclusive menswear Collection which will be available to the public from October 8th 2012. Signature items include a velvet smoking jacket, vintage print merino wool and silk scarf as well as stocking fillers such as gold plated cufflinks, socks, ties and boxers.
Join us at The Pink Lion for an action-packed week of pink pints, culinary delights and a Lion’s tale or two.

The Lions Collection by Thomas Pink will be available to purchase across all Thomas Pink stores, thomaspink.com, and select John Lewis stores and online from October 8th 2012.

Events from 18.00 to 23.00 at ‘The Pink Lion’, 25 King Street, St James’, London, SW1Y 6QY

30th October: VIP night: Invite only as guest landlord, Warren Gatland unveils the Thomas Pink Lions Collection

31st October: ‘The Pink Lion Question of Sport’
The ultimate pub quiz night open to all, hosted by former Lion’s legend Matt Dawson. Members of the public can apply to have a team at the evening via the Thomas Pink blog (blog.thomaspink.com) from October 8th. Each team will then be given a famous sports personality as a VIP ‘ringer’.

1st November: ‘The Pink Lion Lock-In’
Former Lions will gather for an intimate evening where they will share rugby anecdotes and dressing-room stories

2nd November:   ‘Pink Lion TV’
Large screen showings of historic Lion matches

A Thomas Pink tailor will be at The Pink Lion throughout the week to take customer measurements on request. There will also be a shoe shiner for a post work polish.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Christian Wade the pick of the Round 2 Aviva Premiership Stats


Christian Wade's 170 metres made on Saturday against Bath was very much the pick of the statistics for Round 2 of the Aviva Premiership.

Harlequins' full-back Mike Brown, last week’s top metre-maker, secured second spot with 136 metres, five more than his tally from Round 1. Schalk Brits of Saracens was in third spot with 110 metres with Ugo Monye (Harlequins) and Manu Tuliagi (Leicester Tigers) sharing fourth place each on 106 metres.

Bath’s Simon Taylor made the most tackles with 14 against Wasps in his side's 30-23 win over the Londoners. Mike Denbee of London Welsh and Ben Morgan of Gloucester each made 13 tackles with Leicester’s Julian Salvi and Sale’s Richie Vernon each making 12.

While his brother, Maku secured his second Man of the Match performance for Saracens, Billy Vunipola, the London Wasps No.8  London Wasps was topping the off-load stats with 5 against Bath. Harequins’ team-mates Mike Brown and Ugo Monye shared second place with 4 off-loads each, with Luke Arscott (Exeter Chiefs), Schalk Brits (Saracens), Ashley Johnson (London Wasps) and Elliot Daly (London Wasps) all making 3.

Twitter Reaction from Round 2 of the Aviva Premiership

Friday, 7 September 2012

Aviva Premiership Predictions 2012/13 - Round 2 Preview



I ended up with five of last week's winners but could not have been further off beam if I tried, in predicting that London Irish would overcome Saracens! I also failed miserably on the margins of victory with a zero success rate.

In so many ways it was a predictable opening day although one probably did not envisage such a try fest and that there would be such a discrepancy in the level of readiness between some of the teams. London Irish and Sale Sharks will I am sure have had an interesting and demanding week in response to being found seriously wanting in certain departments.

The general consensus is that it is Leicester Tigers year and there were ominous signs for their main challengers after round 1. They produced a highly efficient performance against a plucky Londom Welsh side with  Toby Flood, Geoff Parling and Thomas Waldrom very much to the fore. Elsewhere Northampton Saints showed a good deal of resilience to carve out a victory at Kingsholm while Saracens look to be evolving their playing style to very good effect. Harlequins were stunned into action and only showed anywhere near the required standard in the latter stages of the game. We also learnt that Exeter Chiefs continue to have a wonderful collective spirit and rather more of a cutting edge than they are given credit for.

Harlequins v London Welsh - Harlequins by 21-25 points
Another tough day for London Welsh! Connor O'Shea has been quick to act after his side's sluggish start and has replaced Danny Care with Karl Dickson who impressed from the bench after 55 minutes last week and was at the heart of the Quins fightback from a deficit of 27 points. Nick Easter also drops to the bench with Tom Guest starting at No.8. Ugo Monye returns from injury to start on the wing, enabling George Lowe to return to his more familiar outside centre position where he partners Jordan Turner-Hall.

Lyn Jones has made five changes, including one positional, to the London Welsh side from last week. Matt Corker comes in for Russian international Kirill Kulemin in the second row for what will be appearance number 155 for the Exiles, and reforms his partnership with captain Jonathan Mills from the Championship final. There is  wholesale changes in the back row with Mike Denbee named at openside in place of Lee Beach and Ed Jackson selected at number eight – the position from which he contributed 11 tries to Welsh’s Championship winning season.Daniel Browne moves from number eight to blindside flanker in place of Ed Williamson. The only change in the backs is at scrum half, where Welsh give a first start to Tyson Keats, who joins the Exiles from Italian side Aironi Rugby.

Tonight's meeting will be the first between the two clubs since Harlequins’ 2005/06 National League One promotion winning season. Harlequins winning both games, which were both played at the Stoop, 43-23 and 28-17.

Bath Rugby v London Wasps - Bath Rugby by 6-10 points
Really too close to call and my feeling is that this could go either way. Wasps were mightily impressive last week and Dai Young has only tinkered with the side including Tom Palmer in the second row instead of Joe launchbury who drops to the bench with Chris Bell replacing the injured Andrea Masi in the centre.

For Bath, Lee Mears makes his 250th appearance for the club and he will scrum down alongside Nathan Catt and David Wilson, with Stuart Hooper and Dominic Day continuing their second row partnership. Simon Taylor returns from injury and replaces Francois Louw, who is on international duty with South Africa. Taylor comes in on the blindside, with Carl Fearns switching to openside and Ben Skirving starting at number 8.Olly Barkley is named once more at fly-half, alongside half-back partner Michael Claassens.

Leicester Tigers v Worcester Warriors - Leicester Tigers by 21-25 points
Leicester's strength in depth was ably shown last week when the front row Mulipola, Youngs and Cole were replaced in mid way through the second half with the quality of Castrogiovanni, Chuter and Stankovich. Scott Hamilton is in line for his 100th starting appearance in a backline showing just one change from last week’s victory at London Welsh as Sam Harrison steps in for the injured Micky Young at scrum-half. Boris Stankovich, Martin Castrogiovanni and second-row Graham Kitchener return to the forward pack for their first starts of the season.

Head Coach Richard Hill has named exactly the same line-up that faced Bath Rugby on the opening day of the campaign with scrum half Jonny Arr set to make his 100th appearance for Worcester Warriors. Home-grown Arr, who made his club debut in December 2007 against London Irish, is named among the replacements as he closes in on the memorable milestone.

London Irish v Gloucester Rugby - London Irish by 1-5 points
Another early season very close to call situation with both coaches expecting a good deal more after the disappointment of round 1. London Irish stalwart, Declan Danaher, will start and captain the side
replacing Jamie Gibson in the back row. John Ryan, who is currently on loan from Munster, is a front row replacement and England U20’s star, Anthony Watson, returns from injury to be named as a replacement.

It is all change at Gloucester with Director of Rugby Nigel Davies bringing in five new faces and making one positional change. Notable amongst the new faces is club captain, Jim Hamilton who returns having missed out at Kingsholm last weekend with an ankle injury. There is just one change in the back line as Henry Trinder comes in for Mike Tindall in the midfield. Shaun Knight makes his first Premiership start at tight head and Hamilton forms a new second row partnership alongside Will James. Meanwhile, fresh from an impressive performance in the Aviva Premiership A League on Monday evening, Andy Hazell returns at openside flanker while Tom Savage moves from the second row to the blindside flank.

Northampton Saints v Exeter Chiefs - Northampton Saints by 6-10
It will be tight but I do go for a home win for the Saints. This game will say a good deal about the potential of both sides and the only change in the line ups from last week is forced upon Exeter Chiefs with the injury to Kiwi centre, Jason Shoemark. Phil Dollman switches from full back to the midfield while Luke Arscott comes in to the side at full back. 

Sale Sharks v Saracens - Saracens by 11-15 points
I am afraid that I am not predicting a dream start for Sale Sharks at their new home. It clearly has been a good pre-season for Sarries and they were very much straight on to their game last week in the demolition of London Irish. Sale Sharks will no doubt more competitive one week on and it is interesting to see that Director of Rugby, Bryan Redpath has not over reacted to the the heavy defeat at the hands of Exeter Chiefs and makes four changes with Mark Cueto, Danny Cipriani, Kearnan Myall and Richie Vernon making their first starts this season. Marc Jones, Cillian Willis and Andy Powell are ruled out through injury.

Continuity is the name of the game for Saracens Director of Rugby, Mark McCall as he selects the same XV from last week with the only changes in the replacements with Alistair Hargreaves and Owen Farrell returning after injury.