Tuesday, 28 June 2011

RUGBY WORLD CUP 2011 for Xbox 360 and PS3™ - New screenshots released

Following on from the announcement of the forthcoming release of Rugby World Cup 2011 on 26th August, and the exclusive partnership with the RFU, international publisher 505 Games and developer HB studios have announced that South Africa and France have now signed similar licensing agreements.

The official licensing agreement grants the exclusive use of the Rugby World Cup 2011 team strip, emblem, players’ likenesses and stadiums within the game. With further licensing deals to be announced in due course, it is anticipated that Rugby World Cup 2011 will be a very authentic rugby gaming experience.

“Developing RUGBY WORLD CUP 2011 for Xbox 360 and PS3™ has given us the opportunity to create the definitive representation of a sport we all have such a passion for,” said Alastair Jarvis, General Manager at HB Studios. “The attention to detail in both the visual quality of the game and the representation of the gameplay is second to none. It captures the thrills and excitement of Rugby World Cup in a way we simply have not been able to achieve before. Online play, especially, adds an entirely new dimension to the game, boosting national pride as players challenge competitors from across the globe to their own international matches.”

Fellow rugby blogger Rugby Spectator got to try out the game last week and read his review here. It was thumbs up with an 8/10 rating.

Further information on the game can be found at www.rwc2011game.com and at the official facebook page www.facebook.com/rugbyworldcup2011game

Sunday, 26 June 2011

World Cup Opening Ceremony

Friday, 24 June 2011

All Blacks: Just talk among yourselves

Following the announcement last week that a social media ban has been imposed upon the New Zealand players for the duration of the World Cup by Head Coach, Graham Henry, speculation is rife that the communication clampdown is to be extended in order that the players, coaches and management team can be totally focused on winning the World Cup.

It has yet to be confirmed but it is likely that all players and coaches will be banned from any form of spoken, written or electronic communication with anyone outside of the squad including friends and family from early September through to the 23 October. Basically the squad will just be allowed to speak to each other.

A spokesman close to the squad indicated that the ban was an important component in the All Blacks plan to win to World Cup for the first time since 1987.

"We must explore all possibilities to ensure that we are successful in own backyard. We are great believers in the concept of marginal gains and a communication ban is a small price to pay if we secure the World Cup. I am sure that the families of the players will understand that this is a reasonable sacrifice."

It is understood that the eminent Sports Pyschologist, Norm Head, who recently worked with Chris Ashton to overcome his Compulsive Diving Syndrome will be available to provide guidance and support for the All Blacks squad as they come to terms with the communication blackout and the prospect of just relying on each other for conversation over the six week period.

The All Blacks who are scheduled to be based in Auckland, Hamilton and Wellington for the World Cup may yet look to move to a more remote base and be flown to each game by a fleet of helicopters. A current favourite is Raetihi, a sixty minute drive from Wanganui and in the centre of the North Island. Known as "a place for all seasons", Raetihi has a showground which is seen as an ideal training base. It is also felt that with a population of just over 1,000 and with very few distractions, the village is just what is required for the All Blacks to focus on winning the coveted trophy.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Rugby World Cup 2011 Video Game Launched

Further to the announcement of the forthcoming release of Rugby World Cup 2011 on 26th August, international publisher 505 Games and developer HB studios have announced an exclusive partnership with the Rugby Football Union (RFU).

The official licensing agreement grants the exclusive use of the Rugby World Cup 2011 England team strip, emblem, players’ likenesses and the Home of England Rugby, Twickenham Stadium, within the game. With further licensing deals to be announced in due course, Rugby World Cup 2011 will be the authentic rugby gaming experience this summer.

Rugby World Cup 2011 is the official game of Rugby World Cup 2011 and HB studios and 505 Games have been granted the exclusive rights for the tournament’s official game by Rugby World Cup Limited.

“From a developer perspective, working with an official license always opens doors on the way to creating a more immersive gaming experience,” commented Alastair Jarvis, General Manager at HB studios.

“At HB, we feel uniquely placed when it comes to rugby game development, and tying up a deal such as this only makes our dream of creating the definitive, authentic rugby title achievable.”

The first rugby title on this generation of consoles, Rugby World Cup 2011 will feature Twickenham Stadium, as one of its many showpiece stadia. Player likenesses for the England squad have been secured and implemented into the game with HD presentation detail extending to the inclusion of thigh tape, wrist tape, finger tape and scrum caps.

Rugby World Cup 2011 will challenge players to pick from the 20 Rugby World Cup 2011 participating teams and attempt to lead their team through the pool phase, and progress to the final with the opportunity to lift the prestigious Webb Ellis Cup. National rivalries, venues and player personalities are perfectly captured as participants will fight for the pride of their nation in either solo play or with up to three other players in local multiplayer matches.

For the first time, HB Studios will give players the chance to fight for the glory of their country online by challenging other players to one-on-one matches on Xbox LIVE® online entertainment network and PlayStation®Network.

“As with any sports title, we feel authenticity is key with Rugby World Cup 2011, and with that in mind, the involvement of the RFU was an essential element of this title,” commented Ian Howe, President, 505 Games.

“With further partnerships yet to be announced, we’re confident rugby fans from around the world will be impressed with the roster of likenesses and stadia within the game.”

Paul Vaughan, Business Operations Director from the RFU commented:

“With 20 teams lined up to compete in this year’s Rugby World Cup and fans from around the world preparing for the event, the tournament is promising to be an amazing spectacle. Adding an official video game to the many ways fans can get involved in the event and support their home nation feels like a natural synergy. We are delighted to be a part of the game and to help make it as authentic as possible. Rugby World Cup 2011 from 505 Games will give fans the chance to play rugby before, during and long after the Webb Ellis Cup in 2011 has been won.”

Rugby World Cup 2011 will be available for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system on August 26th 2011. For more information visit the official website at www.rwc2011game.com

About HB Studios.
HB Studios is the largest video game developer in Atlantic Canada. Founded in July 2000, HB has shipped 32 titles with over 200 SKUs across Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, PlayStation®3, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS, PlayStation®Portable, Windows PC and PlayStation®2 selling more than 17.5 million units. For more information, please visit http://www.hb-studios.com/

About 505 Games
505 Games is a global publisher of video games, publishing games for all ages across multiple platforms including, Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, Sony PlayStation® 3, Nintendo Wii™ and DS, Windows PC, Facebook, iPhone®, Xbox LIVE® online entertainment network, and PlayStation®Network.

505 Games has offices in key territories around the world to publish and distribute its library of successful titles which include ArmA II, IL2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey, the Cooking Mama World series, Naughty Bear, Backbreaker and Zumba Fitness.

To see the latest releases, news and more about 505 Games go to: www.505games.co.uk

Crusaders gear up for Sharks showdown: Williams fit to start; McCaw a doubt

Crusaders centre Sonny Bill Williams will be fit for his team’s Super Rugby showdown with the Sharks on Saturday after recovering in time from a hip injury that ruled him out of the ‘Saders final regular season game against the Hurricanes.

The talented All Black has endured a difficult season with injury but now looks set to make an impact in the play-off’s after being given the green light to start in the qualifier for a semi-final spot against the Sharks – much to the delight of Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder.

Williams starred in the first ever Super Rugby game to be played in the northern hemisphere when the two sides met at Twickenham earlier this year, and Blackadder says that while he may need to be put through his paces before the game in Nelson, he should be fine to start.

"He looks like he's running freely and pain-free so we'll have a little assessment, but he looks like he's good to go” he commented.

The Crusaders are bigfreebet  favourites for the game but the Sharks power in the pack – especially with Tendai “the Best” Mtawarira on the rampage, should worry the New Zealand franchise.

While Blackadder was rightly delighted with the return of Williams he side will be weakened severely by the absence of All Blacks flanker Ritchie McCaw – another key member of the Crusaders squad  who has suffered an injury hit campaign with the World Cup on the horizon.

Screws inserted into his foot were said to be the root cause of pain the flanker was feeling, and although he is unlikely to start the game, McCaw could still find himself making an impact from the bench in the final twenty minutes.

In the game that raised money for victims of the Christchurch earthquake, the Sharks could do little about the running ability of Williams along with his partners in crime Zac Guildford and Israel Dagg, while Dan Carter, a player big free bet have backed to shine in the play-off’s - was on another planet as he stretched the Sharks defence to breaking point.

But – and perhaps this was a hint of what was to come from the Crusaders later in the season as they stuttered somewhat towards to finishing post – the Sharks mounted an impressive comeback through their forward strength to make the game a lot closer than it should have been.

That game was not only played abroad as a fund raiser, but also because the Crusaders’ home ground was deemed unsafe to play in after the earthquake (with World Cup games also switched) and Blackadder was keen to state the importance of what getting past the Sharks and winning the Super Rugby title would mean.

"I think it would be the most significant sporting feat globally that's happened in the world in a very long time, and it's something we want to be very much a part of," he said.

Meanwhile Guildford believes the high ball will be one of the most potent dangers to their progress to the semi-finals ahead of their strength in the forwards – and it is something that he believes new Zealand sides have struggled with.

"The South African and Australian teams are testing us New Zealand teams with those high balls and we haven't really dealt with them too well," the wing said.

"They've got the big guys like (Bismarck) Du Plessis and the Beast who run hard all day, so we need to take care of them first off and I think that's half the way to shutting their game down." He added.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

A tribute to Ben Gollings

Monday, 20 June 2011

More live televised games but actually how many people watch rugby on the box

I wrote at the start of the season about the potential for some epic weekends of live rugby viewing with the introduction of ESPN in to the fray only enhancing the possibilities even further. I think my record this season was eight games through from Thursday evening to Sunday afternoon with a combination of Amlin Challenge, Heineken Cup and Super 15 games - my only regret was that I did not get the complete set as I missed at least two games!

It will be interesting to know ESPN's thoughts on how their first season has gone in the Aviva Premiership. 43 live matches have been televised along with one of the semi finals and to the despair of many rugby supporters and non ESPN subscribers, who were genuinely caught out, the final. While I have to admit not being the greatest fan of Mark Durden Smith's matey approach to presenting, the combination of Austin Healey and Ben Kay has worked well and they have introduced some good innovative touches to their analysis.

On buying the rights for three years, the vice-president of ESPN TV channels Europe, Middle East and Africa, Jeroen Oerlemans, indicated: "The Premiership is among the very best UK sports competitions, with a passionate fan base and top quality competition. We're thrilled to add it to our programming schedule and know that it will deliver great value for fans, advertisers and our partners."

So actually how many supporters have watched games televised by ESPN and how does this compare with the other broadcasters. They kicked of their coverage with the Twickenham double header at the start of the year with an audience of 62,000 for the Saracens - London Irish fixture along with 43,000 for Harlequins and London Wasps. The latter figure was the same audience for the Serie A game televised the next day on ESPN.

The audience figures for the rest of the season make interesting reading. The high point was an audience of 93,000 for Bath's victory over Northampton at the Rec in February, with the lowest audience of 16,000 for the match at Kingsholm with Gloucester defeating Wasps 22-20 on 25th September, a day when five other premiership fixtures took place. There has been little sign of an increase in the audience over the season with figures between 40-60,000 being the norm.

ESPN are also probably disappointed that their end of season coverage did not draw the audiences one might have expected. Only 36,000 watched Northampton Saints comeback against Leeds Carnegie on the final day of the regular season, while 51,000 tuned in for the Aviva Premiership semi final between Saracens and Gloucester. The ultimate disappointment must be that a record audience did not watch the Aviva Premiership Final with a figure of 91,000 being recorded.

So where does this leave ESPN with two more years to go on their current contract. A survey of Aviva Premiership supporters in February indicated that their is an appetite for televised rugby with 64% of the 12,000 respondents having access to Sky, and 34% to ESPN.  79% of those ESPN subscribers cited rugby as being one of the reasons for their purchase which is certainly a positive for the company.

A comparison with Sky shows that the ESPN audience not surprisingly is 40 to 50 % of the audience watching the Aviva Premiership on Sky Sports. The recently live televised Championship games on Sky drew a higher audience than many of  ESPN matches with 66,000 watching the second leg of the final between Worcester and Cornish Pirates.

For Sky Sports, the biggest rugby audiences have been 572,00, 562,000 and 561,000 for England's Autumn Internationals with South Africa, New Zealand and Australia respectively along with 400,000 tuning in for the Heineken Cup Final. For comparison purposes, the latter figure is one million light in comparison with the audience for Sky Sports 1 coverage of the Champions League final which was also shown on ITV (7.2 million audience).

What about the good old BBC as they hold on to the Six Nations? While the old favourite (the Six Nations not the BBC) has at times creaked recently with the poor quality of some of the matches, there is still a strong and loyal audience who have no other choice but to put up with the less than polished BBC coverage.

6.7 million of us decided to watch Wales and England open this year's tournament in Cardiff on a Friday night with an audience of 7.3 million for England-France game and 6.5 million for the Grand Slam game in Dublin. Impressive figures that stack up against any major sporting competition in the UK but just behind Britain's Got Talent!

For the first time the monopoly of terrestrial television of Welsh international matches will be challenged this summer with the Sky Sports acquiring the rights to show Wales take on England at the Millennium Stadium in the second of the World Cup warm up games. This has come about as a result of the agreement between the WRU and the RFU which provides the latter with the ownership of the broadcasting rights for the two August matches. BBC Wales have brought a highlights package for the game on August 13.

Mr Oerlemans and his ESPN colleagues, along with the Aviva Premiership clubs will be hoping that a few more of the "passionate" rugby supporters become subscribers to their channel next year and that in their second year of coverage, the audience levels start to edge upwards. There is clearly room for some expansion among both the more casual follower who is happy to watch the occasional game either on terrestrial television or Sky Sports, as well as the hard core supporter who has yet to be convinced of the need for an additional subscription channel.  Next year's figures will be influential when discussions commence on the renegotiation of the broadcasting rights.

In reality, Rugby is still behind a number of sports in terms of audience sizes when it comes to the world of satellite sports broadcasting in this country. Despite rugby being seen as a key national sport with thriving competitions - golf, tennis, cricket, wrestling and darts regularly draw bigger audiences on Sky Sports.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

England 37 Canada 6 - Highlights of the Churchill Cup Final

Whether Martin Johnson and his coaching staff have learnt anymore about possible candidates for the England World Cup Training Squad is debatable after this scrappy but ultimately satisfying England defeat of a highly competitive and robust Canadian team.

Canada proved to be particularly resilient up front with the combatative Jamie Cudmore very much to the fore. It was therefore a day of hard graft and grind for Matt Stevens, Mouritz Botha and Tom Johnson, the three players touted as possible contenders for the training squad to be announced tomorrow. From the perspective of Saxon's coach, Stuart Lancaster, Stevens has done himself no harm:

"Stevens has been great off the field, and on the field he has delivered for me and the other coaches. It's a tick for me in the box."

Ultimately a comfortable win for the Saxons, the hard work being rewarded with three second half tries from Miles Benjamin, Charlie Sharples and London Irish, back rower, Jamie Gibson to add to the first half tries by James Gaskell and Benjamin along with a penalty and conversion from Rory Clegg.

England will now hold the trophy in perpetuity after their sixth victory in nine seasons as the Churchill Cup as tournament comes to an end. From next year England will play more midweek fixtures on future senior summer tours, while Canada and the United States will play home Tests against the leading nations from next June.

England Saxons: M Brown (Harlequins); C Charples (Gloucester), H Trinder (Gloucester), B Twelvetrees (Leicester), M Benjamin (Worcester); R Clegg (Harlequins), P Hodgson (London Irish); M Mullan (Worcester), D Paice (London Irish), M Stevens (Saracens), M Botha (Saracens), G Kitchener (Worcester), J Gaskell (Sale), T Johnson (Exeter), J Crane (Leicester — captain). Substitutes: A Goode (Saracens) for Brown 53, J Gibson (London Irish) for Kitchener 64, N Catt (Bath) for Mullan 70, M Young (Newcastle) for Hodgson 73, T Ojo (London Irish) for Benjamin 74, C Fearns (Sale) for Johnson 74, J Gray (Harlequins) for Paice 76.

Canada: M Evans; C Hearn (C Trainor 53), P Mackenzie, R Smith, J Pritchard; A Munro (N Hirayama 68), S White(J Mackenzie 74); H Buydens (A Tiedemann 70), P Riordan (captain), J Marshall (S Franklin 70), B Erichsen (T Hotson 64), J Cudmore, J Sinclair, C O’Toole, A Carpenter (N Dala 64).

Saturday, 18 June 2011

England Saxons: For the young, youngish, emerging, older and those seeking redemption

Back in August I wrote my first ever post on this blog questioning the selection policy of the recently announced England Saxons squad. I suggested that the selection did not match the rhetoric on the RFU website.

“The Saxons provide an exciting opportunity to gain first hand knowledge on the best young players coming through the ranks of English rugby”

The reality was somewhat different with the average age of the squad being 26, with ten of the squad over 28 and the oldest player being Duncan Bell at 35! I also reflected on the merit of including the likes Steve Borthwick, Louis Deacon, Lee Mears and Charlie Hodgson.

Today only four of the original squad of thirty two will be in the match day twenty two for the final with Canada - Matt Mullan, Jordan Crane, Paul Hodgson and Alex Goode. Undoubtedly Luke Narraway would have joined them if fit.

Obviously form, injuries and promotion to the senior squad with Tom Wood and Alec Corbisiero being the most notable examples, have impacted on the original squad, but it does beg the question what is the purpose of the Saxons and is there really any sense of naming a squad prior to the start of the season - especially one that was getting on in years. Also only Alex Goode and Graham Kitchener remain from the Churchill Cup winning team of last year.

It will be interesting to see how many of the original Saxons squad for this season are included in the 40+ England World Cup training squad. The likes of Chris Robshaw, Ugo Monye, Louis Deacon, Charlie Hodgson and Paul Simpson are likely to join Tom Wood and Alec Corbisiero.

So in comparison with the original squad, tomorrow's team does have a youthful feel with an average age of 24 and 22 in the backs if the 29 year old Paul Hodgson is removed. Mouritz Botha at 29 is the senior member of the pack which has an average age of 25, with Graham Kitchener and James Gaskell at 21.

In the last few days the RFU have removed the original squad from the Saxons page on their website and each member of the Churchil Cup squad is now profiled. The mission statement has also been removed and replaced with the following:

"The Saxons provide an exciting opportunity to gain first hand knowledge on the best young players coming through the ranks of English rugby."

Stuart Lancaster goes on to describe his role as a  "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity allowing me to work and coach at the top end of the international game, developing senior and young players alike to play for England."

Friday, 17 June 2011

London Mayor Boris Johnson helps to launch the RFU's O2 Touch initiative

Boris got down with the rugby boys this morning to help launch the RFU's O2 Touch Initiative this morning. Far from being intimidated by the presence of Messrs Shaw, Flutey and Greenwood, Johnson displayed a good mauling technique and even looked secure under the high ball.

Along with Maggie Alphonsi, the Mayor of London used the 'O2 Touch' event at Tower Bridge to voice his determination to increase participation in the sport by enticing people into trying touch rugby as part of the 'Choose Rugby' campaign to encourage more people to pick up the oval ball in whatever form of the game suits them.

Figures show that the number of adults playing the game at least once a week has dropped from 230,000 in 2009 to 177,900 at the most recent update.

Johnson, a keen rugby fan, has allocated £115,000 to provide Londoners with free touch rugby sessions in the workplace in a scheme called 'Touch London'.

"Rugby is a fantastic game and I want to see a big expansion of people playing it in London," Johnson told Press Association Sport.

"In many parts of London people don't get the opportunity to play with an elliptical ball in the way that I think they should.

"There are lots of people like me who loved association football but didn't have the ball skills.

"In rugby you pick the ball up and if you have a bit of energy, you can play it. Loads of kids have benefited from it.

"I played a lot when I was younger and I enjoyed it very much. Many of my happiest moments came playing rugby, I can't deny that.

"Believe me, if you've played an hour and half of rugby and you've really enjoyed it, you're not going to want to go off and get involved in some gang fight.

"I want to see an increase in playing numbers and the decline could be to do with people thinking it's too physical, there's too much contact and that's why the touch element is important.

"We'll get people starting with a bit of touch and they'll understand how easy and painless it can be."

Riki Flutey, Will Greenwood, Maggie Alphonsi and Boris Johnson were speaking at the launch of O2 Touch, an RFU initiative aiming to get England playing touch rugby. To get involved and to be in with a chance of playing touch at Twickenham visit www.rfu.com/O2touch.

Churchill Cup Final - Predict the Score Competition

As England look to repeat their victory of a year ago over Canada and secure their sixth Churchill Cup title enter our competition to predict the final score with the winner securing a T-shirt from the hugely entertaining dumpTackle range.

Just send us your thoughts on the likely score for Saturday's showdown to info@onthetryline.com and provide us with your contact details, choice of t-shirt, colour and size from the dumptackle range - www.dumptackle.com

You can enter right up to the kick off time at 4.30 p.m. on Saturday 18 June.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

J.P. Morgan Asset Management Premiership Rugby 7s Series is back

This summer the J.P. Morgan Asset Management Premiership Rugby 7s Series is back for a second year running. The inaugural competition proved to be a great success with a crowd of 5,000 watching the series finale at the Rec in Bath as Saracens, Sale Sharks, Northampton Saints, Harlequins, Newcastle Falcons and Exeter Chiefs, the six teams who made it to the final pool battled it out for the title. In the end, Saracens secured a 17-5 victory over Newcastle Falcons in the Grand Final with captain, Kevin Barrett very much to the fore.

The format is the same as last year with three regional rounds with the finals at the Stoop in early August. Teams will consist of a mixture of England 7’s player, academy players along with a few current premiership players.

Week 1:               Friday 15th July, The Recreation Ground, Bath
Week 2:               Friday 22nd July, Franklin Gardens, Northampton
Week 3:               Friday 29th July, Edgeley Park, Stockport
Final:                    Friday 5th August, The Stoop, Twickenham

If you fancy a rugby fix over the summer check out the video below and the Series Website for more information and tickets.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Macqueen set to quit Rebels role

Melbourne Rebels coach Rod Macqueen is reportedly considering quitting his role in charge of the Super Rugby franchise after a difficult maiden season that has seen the club struggle on and off the field.

The Rebels come up against the Western Force this weekend in their final game of the season, and currently sit bottom of the Australian conference and the amalgamated Super Rugby table having won just three games so far.

Macqueen has also  had to deal with more than his fair share of off the field controversy, mostly involving controversial fly-half Danny Cipriani.

The Englishman was suspended for around a month after a series of off-the-pitch incidents, including stealing a bottle of vodka from a Melbourne nightclub and breaking team-orders to attend a nightclub hours after the Rebels lost to the NSW Waratahs.

The former Wallabies boss, who guided those in an Aussie RWC Jersey  to glory in 1999, had refused to comment on speculation but an Australian paper suggests Macqueen has already handed in his letter of resignation, something that was confirmed by a spokesman for the Rebels, which in turn forced the former Brumbies coach to speak out.

"This week we really want to concentrate on the last game, obviously it's going to be very important to us," he said. "But next week we will be announcing exactly what's happening."

Having come out of retirement to lead the Rebels in their inaugural Super Rugby season, Macqueen is said to be deeply disappointed with how things have transpired so far this season.

His assistant, Damien Hill, is said to be next in line to lead the Rebels next season, with Macqueen expected to stay on some capacity with the club, most likely as a Director of Rugby.

We like to do things our way, we're looking to see how that's going to work," Macqueen commented.

"There's been some very good positives to come out of the first year, we've done a lot of things right off the field and got a very good presence in Melbourne. We've got to take what we've learnt this year and put it on the paddock next year."

"It's been a great challenge, I came here with my eyes open and what hasn't let me down is the Melbourne public and the way they've embraced rugby," he added.

Meanwhile Cipriani has pledged his future to the Rebels for the time being, but may make a switch back to Europe over the autumn, with Toulon said to be tempted by the talented yet troubled playmaker.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Win a dumpTackle T-Shirt in our Churchill Cup Final Correct Score Competition

In partnership with dumpTackle we are running a competition to win a T-shirt with a distinct rugby theme. Just send us your thoughts on the likely score for Saturday's showdown between England Saxons and Canada in the Churchill Cup Final at:  info@onthetryline and provide us with your contact details, choice of t-shirt, colour and size from the dumptackle range - www.dumptackle.com

You can enter right up to the kick off time at 4.30 p.m. on Saturday 18 June.

dumpTackle was founded by two young rugby fans with the aim of becoming ‘the fan’s brand’ of rugby. A rugby brand that understands that rugby doesn’t really finish when the final whistle blows, so why should the enjoyment of it?

The humour and banter that thrives off of the pitch, in the changing rooms, in the stands, on the blogs and with friends all contribute to making rugby so much more enjoyable. Through their clothing and their  philosophies, they wish to add to this experience by giving rugby fans what they really want, good looking, great quality, rugby clothing that doesn’t take itself too seriously under the banner "Rugby is Life". What more could you ask for.

Some of the onthetryline favourites include: "Lomu says sit down", "BOD is GOD", "What would McGeechan do" and "Get Carter" with special mention also to the T-shirts below.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Reaction to Gavin Henson's performance

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Probables and Possibles: Who will be the marquee players in the Aviva Premiership in 2012/13

It is going to be intriguing to see how the recruitment of players in the Aviva Premiership takes shape over the next 18 months following the salary cap announcements made last week. While the initial introduction of the so-called "Academy Credits"  which allows clubs to spend up to £240,000 on including academy players in their senior squads is unlikely to make a significant impact on the squads for next season, it is likely that clubs will be looking at any recruitment with one eye very much on the changes which will be introduced the following season. For 2012-13, an additional £260,00 will be available as part of the cap with clubs also able to sign a salary cap exempt marquee player.

I envisage that many clubs will be planning to develop a recruitment strategy sooner than later with a burst of activity after the World Cup very likely. In a sense, the change for 2012 could not have been at a better time with three years before the next World Cup. The changes could bring about some very positive developments, not least the development and retention of talent within the premiership and an increased competitiveness in relation to securing world class players for the premiership.

The big question is whether we will see a gap developing between the wealthier clubs - Bath, Leicester, Northampton and Saracens and the rest of the clubs. Whether all twelve clubs will be in a position to purchase a marquee player or even afford a salary bill approaching the limit for 2012-13 is currently debatable. The development of alternative income streams through sponsorship and partnership activities are going to be vital moving forward and it is very likely that some of the marquee players will be strongly associated with a particular sponsor or brand, something, ironically that has gone on for some years in the lower national leagues.

I am in no doubt that the competitiveness and experience offered by the Aviva Premiership will attract players while it is also likely that those clubs who have qualified for the Heineken Cup will definitely have an advantage with status of the competition being a major draw.

The natural assumption is for a marquee player to come from the southern hemisphere but it will be interesting to see whether the new system will encourage some more French players to cross "La Manche" along with some returning home nations players such as James Hook. I also wonder whether there might be some high profile Irish players who might just fancy a change of scenery if the money was right. In this respect, Jamie Heaslip might be a prime candidate with Sean O'Brien and possibly Jonny Sexton not far behind.

The other obvious question is whether some clubs might look to attract an English player or current player in the Aviva Premiership and classify such an individual as their marquee player. In addition, we might see a few clubs actively retaining their players who are in demand by upping their salary and giving them marquee status. Chris Ashton  Ben Foden at Northampton potentially fall in to this category.

Below I have listed some players currently not playing in the premiership who if I was a coach I might just consider as worth finding that extra cash for. (No particular order and dependent in some cases on World Cup form). The list does not take in to account any current contracts or commitments but sits as a "wish list".

Any thoughts?

Dan Carter, Quade Cooper, Sonny Bill Williams, Kurtley Beale, James O'Connor, Will Genia, Mils Muliana?, Rocky Elsom, David Pocock, Richie McCaw, Kieran Read, Juan Martin Hernandez?, Imanol Harinordoquy, Fourie du Preez, Francois Steyn?, Bryan Habana?, Mike Phillips?, James Hook?, Jamie Heaslip, Sean O'Brien.