Monday, 31 January 2011

Another Win in the Ring for Sonny Bill Williams

All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams made it three wins from three in his professional boxing career with a unanimous points decision against Scott Lewis, a 36 year old from Sydney at the Gold Coast Exhibition Centre. In what was a tougher bout than might of be expected, Williams won on a unanimous decision with all three judges favouring the 25 year old heavyweight.

After experiencing some early difficulties, Williams came to dominate the bout to finish strongly with his superior reach and fitness coming in to play. It is reported that a crowd of 5,000 turned out for the event and Williams was pretty sure that they will have been impressed by the quality of the fight:

It was definitely a top fight, a lot of people thought this fight was a joke ... but hopefully we put on a show for the crowd,'' said Williams.

It was good to see that Williams did not completely forget his rugby background when in the fourth round he was fortunate not to be deducted points for a shoulder charge. It would seem that his rugby employers continue to tolerate his "hobby" outside rugby and this morning he will be reporting back for training with the Crusaders in Christchurch. First task on the agenda will be an assessment of the stress-related leg injury he picked up on the All Blacks' end of year tour. Williams will now aiming to be fully fit for the Crusaders' opener against the Blues on February 19.

So where does Williams fledgling boxing career go from here. He also has another boxing bout written in to his current contract with the New Zealand Rugby Union that is likely to see him re-enter the ring before the Rugby World Cup later this year and there is no doubt that he is keen to continue with his boxing. For him he sees it as a positive for sportsmen today to have "several options up their sleeve".  A return to the ARL just might be one of those options!


Saturday, 29 January 2011

Aviva Premiership Statistics - Thomas is not just a tank engine

While in appearance Thomas Waldrom would seem better suited to the Leicester back row of 20 years ago alongside Richards and Wells, there is nothing to suggest in the quality of his play to indicate he is anything but the epitome of a modern back row player. The 26 year old who made more than 50 appearances in the Super 14 with Hurricanes and then the Crusaders, is surely very much on course to be named as the Aviva Premiership Player of the Year along side being one of the most inspired signings for the 2010/11 season. His recent form saw him named as player of the month for December and whether at No. 8 in the absence of Jordan Crane or as blindside, Waldrom has been a major driving force for an increasingly confident and successful Leicester Tigers.

His nickname "The Tank" rather belies the fact that while Waldrom is superb in the tighter elements of back row play he also posseses great dynamic running skills.  After Round 13, and with 12 appearances under his belt, Waldrom tops the Aviva Premiership stats in terms of number of carries with a total of 157, and is second only to Delon Armitage, as well as being the only forward, in the top ten of metres gained. Waldrom is on 708 metres, just 30 metres behind the suspended London Irish full back. He also checks in at 5th place for defeanders beaten (17) with the Saracens pair of David Strettle and Schalk Brits occupying the first and second place. The final top ten place for the Tigers flanker is in the try assist category, with 4 assists as the only forward in the list.

For those who followed his career in New Zealand, Waldrom's influence on the Aviva Premiership probably comes as no surprise. He was the Canterbury Crusaders player of the year in 2009 and last season came second only to Richie McCaw on all of the fitness tests at the Super 14 outfit.

We can justifiably expect to see "The Tank Engine" continue to be at full steam through the next few months with Leicester Tigers playing six Premiership games prior to their Heineken Cup semi final with Leinster. In among all of the mouth watering individual contests on that day, the clash between Waldrom and the "Irish Tank", Sean O'Brien could be one of the highlights of the season.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Heineken Cup Action and Review of Round 6

We should have always known that in the context of this year's splendid tournament that there would be drama and excitement right down to the wire. All the seedings seemed settled for the Quarter finals until  David Lemi and his Wasps team mates did a great favour for the other qualifying clubs by scoring an opportunistic try in the final minute of the final pool match to condemn Toulouse to a bonus point defeat. A home draw was pulled from under Toulouse at that moment and now the defending champions have the enormous task of having to win away twice to secure a place in the final.

My analysis of the possible seedings posted before the weekend was not far off with only Biarritz and Ulster swapping places. I have been sure for the last three weeks that Ulster would be make the quarter finals for the first time since they won the tournament in 1999 and I had thought they might just sneak the pool title as a result of Biarritz struggling to get a bonus point win against Bath. In the end, the score rather flattered Bath with the French team being very very much in control until the latter stages. I predicted Wasps to win and had also banked on Northampton Saints securing a victory in Castres to gain top seeding. In the end their performance was probably the best of their campaign with a real cutting edge being complemented with an heroic defensive performance.

The semi final draw certainly suggests that a team from outside the Top 14 is likely to be crowned European Champions in May. The possibility of Leinster playing their next two games at Dublin's Aviva Stadium must make them favourites to win the title, although the Leinster front five are likely to receive a very stern test at the hands of their Leicester Tigers counterparts.

I mentioned in my post on Friday, that I still harboured a hope that Jonny and his teammates might contest the final in May. This probably looks less likely with what will be billed an away match against Perpignon even though it could be played in Montpellier followed by the possibility of a semi final tie against Northampton in England.

I do think that with the quarter finals to be played over the second weekend in April it is very difficult to make any firm predictions on how the tournament  will pan out in the latter stages. Injuries, loss of form and the small matter of the Six Nations will surely have a bearing on who will emerge to fight another day in the semi finals.

Action from the Weekend:

Racing Club v Leinster


Florian Fritz red card for tackle on Tom Varndell

Friday, 21 January 2011

Heineken Cup Predictions - Round 6 and the Love Affair Just Gets Better!

I have written before about why I love everything about the Heineken Cup and certainly Round 5 lived up to the pre-weekend hype.  It was another splendid roller coaster ride of truly absorbing rugby and while some questions have been answered there is still so much to play for this weekend, in terms of the all important Quarter Final rankings.

Most of my Round 5 hunches were spot on and I was only really let down by Wasps failure to win at Glasgow and the capitulation of a very disappointing and underperforming Ospreys. Of my predictions for the Quarter Finals from last weekend (Northampton Saints, Leinster, Toulon, Biarritz, Ulster, Leicester Tigers and Toulouse) seven are there or just about there for the Quarter Finals and I attempt below to predict the final ranking for the knockout stage.

Ranking:

1. Northampton Saints - While Northampton Saints would admit thay are still a little way from their best at the moment, last week's victory over Edinburgh will have been a great moral booster after the hiccup of the previous two weeks. I am confident that they can secure a win away in Castres and finish with six wins and 25 points. At the same time a positive result for the Top 14 side would keep alive hopes of qualifying for the Amlin Challenge Cup. Castres will also be defending an unbeaten home record in all competitions for 2010/11 and Mallinder knows that his side face a tough challenge.

“They will be strong,” Mallinder said, “we saw that when they came here. They have a very good squad and pushed us really close.

“They have come out publicly and made no secret about the fact they want to maintain their unbeaten home record so it will be very difficult for us to go down there and get the win."

Castres recall Benjamin Kayser, Chris Masoe and Scott Murray to their pack and in all ten changes have been made from last weekend as they look to secure their place in the Amlin Challenge Cup. Northampton Saints bring in Mark Sorenson at second row with Christian Day moving to the bench. Shane Geraghty has made a speedier recovery than expected from his facial injury sustained at Welford Road and he replaces Joe Ford in the replacements.  It is interesting to note that no team has ever gone on to win the trophy - or even qualify for the final - after making it a clean sweep in the Pool stages.

2. Leinster - They have been in confident form in recent weeks and their demolition of Saracens was very impressive. Racing Metro have decided against naming a full strength side for the clash this evening and I am taking Leinster to get a win even with a bonus point which will see them reach 24 points. Frans Steyn and Lionel Nallet will start on the bench, while Sebastien Chabal is rested. Andrea Masi, Santiago Dellape, Benjamin Fall and Juan Martin Hernandez all feature for Parisian side. For Leinster, Gordon D'Arcy, Rhys Ruddock and Isaac Boss come back into the side and their only doubt at this stage is whether Eoin O'Malley will recover from illness to take his place on the bench.

3. Perpignon - I am going for a third place ranking for the Catalan side on the basis of a strong home win against a Scarlets side who I am sure will give it everything in the Stade Aime Giral. I am predicting a high scoring match with Perpignon getting that all important bonus point to take them to 22 points. It is an enormous task for the Scarlets with the French club never losing on their own ground to a Welsh region. Although I take Leicester Tigers to also be on 22 points by mid-afternoon on Sunday, Perpignon seal the pool title as a result of taking the most number of points from the two matches between the clubs

4. Ulster - Maybe a big surprise for many and a decision that I have been thinking over ever since they secured their last gasp win against Biarritz. I just have this belief that while Ulster secure 5 points away to Aironi, Biarritz will be finishing the pool stages with a win but without a bonus point against Bath. Ulster will finish on 22 points and top the pool.

5. Toulouse - I am astonished that Toulouse find themselves in this position and a stuttering performance last week against Newport Gwent Dragons combined with the heavy loss at Stade Francais the week before would suggest that they are far more fragile than might have been expected a month ago. Wasps will relish the opportunity to maintain their impressive run of 14 consecutive home wins in the Heineken Cup against their old rivals. They must be bitterly disappointed after last week and the Toulouse match could have meant so much more for the Adams Park side. I am predicting a win for Wasps and for Toulouse to remain on 21 points as Pool winners.

6. Toulon - A massive performance last week and one which could herald the dawn of a new era in European rugby. Toulon do look like they have everything in terms of being able to mix up their style of play. The back row of Niekirk, Smith and Fernadez Loobe were outstanding and to dominate Muster so convincingly was an incredible feat. I do not see back to back wins for Toulon and I think that a much changed side (only Wilkinson remains from last week) will be up against a bruised Ospreys seeking to amend for last week and to qualify for the Amlin Challenge Cup. Lee Byrne returns for the first time in three months and Shane Williams is on the bench for the Ospreys.  A defeat has actually no bearing on Toulon's ranking and I do still hold on to this romantic notion that I will be at the Millennium Stadium in May watching Jonny in the final!

7. Leicester Tigers - As I outlined above I see Perpignon taking the Pool Title with Leicester qualifying as the best second placed team with 22 points.  Richard Cockerill has made just one change to his line-up for the visit of Treviso with Dan Cole coming in at tight head prop to replace Martin Castrogiovanni who drops to the bench. Ex Bath winger, Joe Maddock is called up for Treviso in a side containing four changes from last week. It should be a straightforward win for the Tigers and good chance to build on their fine recent form and a fifth straight victory in a row.

8. Biarritz - Still not really not sure about this prediction but I am going for a Biarritz win against a full strength Bath outfit but without a bonus point which will put them on 21 points. A bonus point victory could see them ranked 4th for the knockout stage. Bath welcome back Butch James and Nic Abendanon with Bem Skirving at No.8 alongside Taylor and Watson in the back row.

Steve Meehan  is focusing on another positive performance from his improving side:

"Biarritz are certainly not invincible. As we saw, Toulon recently delivered a good performance against them which put them under pressure. They are a side that ticks over the score board so we have to make sure we lessen their opportunities to do that through good discipline and controlling the game as much as we possibly can."

"All that comes from a set piece that delivers well and in the last few weeks that area of our game has improved a lot."

For Biarritz Julien Peyrelongue replaces Damina Traille at fly-half, while lock Pelu Taele and flanker Samiu Vahafolau are also handed starts with Magnus Lund dropping to the bench.

So in my predictions we end up with the following Quarter Finals:

Northampton Saints v Biarritz
Leinster v Leicester Tigers
Perpignon v Toulon
Ulster v Toulouse

Just to add to the excitement and intrigue as Sunday evening falls, the Semi Finals draw for both the  Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup will be made live on Sky Sports after the Wasps v Toulouse match at around 5.00 pm.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Behind the Scenes Interview with Ben Youngs

Ben Youngs is captured on camera and talks about his training regime and future as part of the promotional work with Kinetica, the new sports supplement brand who are sponsoring Leicester Tigers.



Kinetica has just launched in the UK and  provides a full range of great tasting sports nutritional supplements, made with 100% natural protein and flavours. Each product, from whey protein shakes to nutritional bars and capsules, are made from natural ingredients, sourced and produced in Ireland - they’re 100% traceable from cow to can! 

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

My Poem by Gavin Henson Age 28 and 11 months


I thought I was in but now I am out.

I just wanted to be inside,

But they put me outside.

Will I ever be in and inside.




We speculate on whether poetry will be the next calling for Gavin now that dancing and playing are off the agenda for a little while! 

A Cantona-esque response maybe from the much maligned and mercurial Henson at this time of woe for him.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Half Century of Losses for Manchester Rugby Club

In my post at the start of the month I highlighted the plight of Manchester who in their 150th year seem to be on the way to their second consecutive season without a victory. I genuinely thought that they might have started the new year with a home victory against fellow strugglers, Rugby Lions, but a 23-32 loss was followed up this week with another away drubbing against Hull Ionians, 79-5.

This latest defeat extends the run of defeats to fifty with their last victory coming against Newbury Blues in March 2009. One can only imagine the difficulties Elaine Vassie and her team of coaches have each week in trying to maintain some degree of self belief. There would seem to be little hope of more joy next week as Preston Grasshoppers currently lying in sixth place in the league visit Grove Park but who knows it might be 50 and out!


It would seem that the club have given up reporting on the 1st XV matches with the last posting on the club's website at the end of October. At the moment you have more chance of getting a report of the U18 Womens team.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Win a Six Nations Weekend in Edinburgh to see Scotland v Wales with bmibaby

bmibaby are launching in partnership with Visit Scotland a competition which gives you the chance to win a trip to see Wales v Scotland on Saturday 12 February 2011 in Edinburgh.

To be in with a chance at winning a pair of tickets for the big match, flights from Cardiff to Edinburgh and an overnight hotel stay in Edinburgh, all you need to do is prove your love for the game! Join the scrum and head over to the bmibaby Facebook page. Give their page a like and let them know why you are Wales’ biggest rugby fan and you could find yourself embracing the game in all its glory at Edinburgh in February! It’s the ultimate weekend away for any true Welsh fan.

Entrants must be able to travel from Cardiff Airport to Edinburgh on Friday 11 February 2011 AM and return on Sunday 13 February 2011 PM. Transfer costs are not included.

All entries to be received by 6pm on 26th January 2011. Winners will be announced shortly after.

Full Terms and Conditions apply and they can be requested via email to bmibaby@therabbitagency.com.

All entrants must live in the U.K. and have a valid passport.

Good luck – bmibaby look forward to receiving your entry!

Friday, 14 January 2011

Heineken Cup Predictions - Who will make the Quarter Finals?

It is notoriously difficult to make predictions with much certainty as the Heineken Cup enters the final stages of the pool matches and I would say that fifteen teams still can reasonably consider themselves in the frame for the quarter finals. For the remaining nine teams there is little to play for and thoughts will be turning to more domestic matters for the remainder of the season. The decisions that are made by those teams on how they approach the next few weeks could have quite a bearing on who may qualify or not for the knockout stage.

Take London Irish as an example - with their season in tatters at the moment, do they try to break out of their run of 10 defeats by fielding their strongest team possible against Ospreys and do everything to secure a win on Sunday or do they use the next two games including a trip to Munster, to rest players and to regroup in readiness for the return of Aviva Premiership action. It is also interesting to add to the mix the well known vagaries of form of the French teams particularly when travelling away and particularly when their is little to play for.

I have attempted below to give my thoughts on each pool and suggest a possible ranking of the eight teams who I think will qualify for the next stage.

Pool 1
Everything is in Northampton Saints hands and despite losing Lawes and Ashton for tomorrow night's encounter with Edinburgh, and coming off two defeats in a row, they should be looking for a bonus point win. Edinburgh have some problems in the front row with injuries and little cover available for Ross Ford but do field a near full strength team. Cardiff Blues and Castres have little to play for, although Castres might just have a bearing on the Saints ranking for the quarter finals. I see Northampton ending up with two wins and nine points which will leave them qualifying with 25 points .

Pool 2
The pool is wonderfully poised and with only Saracens out of the reckoning we could see some classic encounters over the next two weekends. Leinster are in a fine run of form and will be looking to put an inconsistent Saracens side to the sword. In the return leg of the only all French match up in the competition, Clermont must be favourites to secure a home win over Racing Metro and will also be looking to ensure that Racing do not secure a bonus point in defeat. I am going for Clermont to finish strongly with 4 points this evening followed by an away win at Saracens that will leave them on 17 points. With Racing Metro out of the frame I do think Leinster should round off their campaign with a win in Paris and head the pool with 22 points.

 Pool 3
This pool could have not been better scripted and I just can't wait to see the Toulon - Munster match up on Sunday afternoon.  I feel you have to go for a home win with the Toulon pack likely to be dominant. With four points in the bag, Toulon then have the hugely difficult trip to Ospreys. My feeling is that Ospreys should take eight points from their final matches and finish equal top of the group with Toulon on 18 points. I am taking Toulon to get a losing bonus point at the Liberty Stadium. If they do end up equal then the qualification will be based the two matches played between the clubs with the team who has earned the most number of match points from the two matches going through. Beyond that it would come down to who scored the most tries in the two matches.A five point win next weekend for Munster at home to London Irish will get them to 17 points and certainly non-qualification - hard to contemplate but definitely on the cards.

Pool 4
The only certainty in this pool has been the uncertainty and we are now left with the prospect of Biarritz and Ulster chasing for the top spot in the pool. A win for the Irish province at home to Biarritz might just see both teams qualifying for the last eight. I could see the French side possibly getting a bonus point in defeat this weekend and finishing the pool stage with a bonus point win at home against Bath. They would then end up with 22 points, while Ulster should surely get a win away in Aironi to bring their points tally to 21 points.

Pool 5
Although Scarlets currently top the pool, I see a Leicester pack ready to give their Welsh counterpoints a torrid time on Saturday evening and I think that a home defeat is on the cards as the Tigers start to find some form. Scarlets are then left with a hugely difficult trip to Perpignon. Although the French team have a tricky away game in Treviso, they should secure a four point win and then go on to finish the pool stage with home win against the Scarlets. Out of the two games I think they will get a bonus point and end up on 21 points. I also go for nine points for Leicester which sees them win the pool with 22 points.

Pool 6
It could be a very special two weekends for Wasps and quarter final qualification. An away win on Sunday against Glasgow Warriors sets up the prospect of a fascinating final pool game with Toulouse. Wasps have a 14 game unbeaten run in the Heineken Cup at Adams Park and ironically the last time they failed to win a Heineken Cup match on home soil was the 15-15 draw against Toulouse in 2005 / 2006. I can see Wasps winning their final game and ending up on 23 points. Toulouse who will be smarting after their heavy defeat at the hands of Stade Francais last week have a straight forward home tie against Newport Gwent Dragons and they should surely secure a bonus point win. This would leave them on 22 points at the end of the pool stage if they come away with nothing from next weekend.

So my final eight are in order of ranking:

1  Northampton Saints 25 points
2/3/4/5 - Biarritz, Leicester, Leinster and Wasps all on 22 points
6 - Ospreys or Toulon 18 points
7/8 - Toulouse and Ulster as best second place qulaifiers on 22 points

By Sunday evening my predictions could be shot to pieces - don't you just love the Heineken Cup!!

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Aviva Premiership and Magners League Predictions - Round 13

It promises to be another absorbing weekend with two eye catching clashes as Leicester Tigers take on Northampton Saints and in Dublin, Leinster welcome the Ospreys. In both cases I go with home advantage but both games promise to be very tight. It will be interesting to see how Northampton respond to last week’s set back while in contrast I sense that Leicester are just starting to truly get in their stride.

I predict tight home wins for Bath and Gloucester although I still think that Exeter could just cause a bit of an upset. With only one loss in eight games, Wasps will go to the Stoop with confidence to face an equally positive Harlequins side who have impressed in their last two wins. I think that Quins will just shade a victory.

Newcastle Falcons have Euan Murray making his debut against Sale Sharks and will also be delighted to welcome back loose head, Jon Goulding on to the bench. Falcons are in danger of slipping very much in to a relegation dog fight with Leeds and a win at home will be crucial. It is going to be interesting to see which Sale Sharks team turns up this evening. They gave Saracens a bit of a hammering last week and I think that they may just get an away win tonight.

London Irish are a pale shadow of the team that played so convincingly to beat Munster at home in the first round of the Heineken Cup and after last week’s ninth defeat on the trot, confidence is clearly at a low ebb. A further defeat would be a disaster and it will be interesting to see whether Toby Booth goes for a more restricted game based around Malone at fly half again rather than the more mercurial Ryan Lamb. After a very satisfying win in Paris against Racing Metro, Saracens have not been at their best in recent weeks, but I am predicting a home win.

Leinster have been one of the form teams of the last month and good wins over Ulster and Connacht have allowed the provincial team to build on their highly impressive win over Clermont Auvergne. They have also been very astute in their use of players over the Christmas period and in addition to the fixture on Friday evening, coach Joe Schmidt will also have one eye on finishing off a successful Heineken group campaign with matches against Saracens and Racing Metro.

Ospreys  are still finding it difficult to put a winning run together and they will go to the Royal Showground tonight with 21 year old openside flanker Justin Tipuric as captain. Another home win should be on the cards for Leinster who have Luke Fitzgerald returning from injury to play at Full Back.

Munster have quietly gone about their Magners League campaign and they are sitting in a very comfortable position at the top of the table. I predict a good solid home win against Glasgow Warriors. I believe that the Scarlets are likely to be looking beyond their game with Edinburgh to the home match with Leicester Tigers the following week, and therefore I go for a home win for the Scottish side. Finally and somewhat predictably I go for a comfortable win for Cardiff Blues, and a home win for Ulster. I had thought an away win for Connacht was very possible but the Newport Dragons have shaded a very tight contest earlier this evening - 17-16.

Bath Rugby v Leeds Carnegie - Bath by 11-15
Gloucester Rugby v Exeter Chiefs - Gloucester by up to 5
Harlequins v London Wasps - Harlequins by 6-10
Leicester Tigers v Northampton Saints - Leicester by 6-10
Newcastle Falcons v Sale Sharks - Sale Sharks by 6-10
Saracens v London Irish - Saracens by 6-10

Cardiff Blues v Aironi Rugby - Cardiff Blues by more than 20
Edinburgh v Scarlets - Edinburgh by 6-10
Leinster v Ospreys - Leinster by 11-15
Munster v Glasgow Warriors - Munster by 11-15
Ulster v Benetton Treviso - Ulster by 11-15

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Any kind of win will do - Spare a further thought for Manchester Rugby Club

As the new year commences it is time to spare another thought for Manchester Rugby Club as their tale of woe continues in National League 2 North.  Let us hope that 2011 is a good deal better than 2009 and 2010 was for the club and that elusive victory is just around the corner.

At the start of the season I highlighted five clubs who failed to win a single league game in the last campaign with Manchester being the highest profile club with a record of 30 defeats and 2,626 points conceded in National League 1. The club have fared little better this season and they enter the new year in bottom place with a string of 13 defeats and a points difference of minus 730. The club's last victory was against Newbury Blues in March 2009 and they have the unenviable record of not securing a victory in 48 games.

This season the closest defeats have been against fellow strugglers Rugby Lions (21-33) and Morley (14-27) while Hull RUFC inflicted  a 102-3 drubbing of Manchester. It has not been all doom and gloom for the club recently with two players Marshall Gadd and Mark Winstanley coming off the bench in Sale Jets 60-28 win over Worcester Warriors in mid December.

A massive opportunity presents itself for the club on Saturday to start the year in a positive manner when Rugby Lions visit Grove Park. With the victory over Manchester earlier in the season, being their sole win this year, Rugby Lions have also been on the receiving end of some heavy defeats, including a 76-8 away loss to Fylde in their last fixture before the freeze.

Of the other winless teams Bedford Athletic have secured five victories this season and find themselves in a mid table position. Their latest game ending in an away 18-18 draw against third placed Paviors. Fellow Midlands side Thorney have contnued to struggle with a record of only one win in nine league games and that coming in the first match of the season against St Ives.

In the South West, Plymstock Albion Oaks have left their woes of last season behind and currently stand in third place in the Tribute Devon 1 league with six wins out of nine, while Bicester sit very much in the middle of the Berks/Bucks and Oxon Premier League with three wins, the latest being a 25-5 win over Difters.

Wotton Bassett have found the Southern Counties North League much more to their liking and currently sit in third position with a record of seven wins out of nine. This weekend they take on lowly placed Broadmoor Staff.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Loose Heads with a 50 year age difference - Joe Marler and John Goldman

Two basic premises come in to play when the art of propping is discussed. One relates to the fact that props mature with age and the other concludes that there is often a very steep learning curve for any young prop making his way in the game, particularly at the top level.

Last Monday I saw both of the above played out with a fine performance by Joe Marler, the 20 year old Harlequins prop against London Irish at Twickenham and then later in the evening a feature on BBC London News about John Goodman who at the age of 70 regularly still turns out for Mill Hill 2nd XV as a loose head prop.

Marler was a key member of the England Squad as they progressed through to the semi-finals of the U20 World Cup in Argentina this summer and last year he also enjoyed a highly succesful season with Esher in National One, helping the club to promotion in the Championship. His form this season has seen him make 14 appearances across the Aviva Premiership and Amlin Challenge Cup. Despite a clash of heads and plenty of blood early in the game, a heavily strapped Marler played his first full 80 minutes for the Quins on Monday and scrummaged strongly firstly against Faan Rautenbach and then Alex Corbiseiro. The youngster who was brought up in Sussex has certainly shown that he has all the attributes to play at the highest level and he will have certainly benefitted from his time with the senior England Squad in the Autumn.

Well known for the shortness of his hair, Marler superseeded all previous hair styles by sporting a full mohican with "Sausages" written down at least one side of his head. There is no doubting that the 6 ft, 17 st 10lb prop is wanting to make his mark and I just have a sneaking feeling that he might be pulling on a full England shirt sooner than later and even as a member of the England World Cup Squad.


At an age when rugby players can only think of very distant memories of personal rugby glory, John Goldman continues to pack down as Loose Head for Mill Hill second team. After 14 years with the club the grandfather-of-eight celebrated his 70th birthday by captaining the side in a win against Hendon in early November. Never shying away from contact in training and matches, Goldman is a strong believer in the benefits of still playing. 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.

In a recent interview for the programme, Goldman indicated that he saw no reason why he should be planning to "wind down", adding that he would keep playing until he began to "look pretty ridiculous". He added:

"It seems to be a kind of philosophy or a train of thought [that] when you get to a certain age, you are looking to retire and looking to wind down. Why?"

"I think the brain, the bones and everything else are much stronger. When I start to look pretty ridiculous - probably I do already - but when I can't get a game, that's the time to stop."

It is a remarkable story and surely he must be the oldest player regularly playing club rugby in the UK or even further afield.