Thursday, September 19, 2013
The future of European club rugby competitions is unknown at this stage. The Heineken Cup is in serious doubt, but where to from here? Conor O'Shea, Shane Horgan and Donal Lenihan discuss the crisis and look at ways that is can be resolved.
Negotiations and discussions will take place in Dublin on 23 October, with all signatories of the current European club rugby Accord to attend. ERC will facilitate the process across a range of points of difference, such as the share of central revenues, qualification criteria and format.
The involvement of all parties in ERC's make-up is as vital now as it was in the early days of the organisation. The only forum which can provide the platform for all-party negotiation under the Accord is the ERC forum and any attempt to ambush or denigrate the discussions is clearly not in the best interest of these great European tournaments.
"More than one year has passed since notice was served on the Accord and no proposal to date has received sufficient support to provide the basis for progress," said ERC Chief Executive Derek McGrath.
"This should not be seen as insurmountable, as agreement on European tournaments has always required compromise with an acceptance that no party will secure everything on their wish-list.
"The only way we ever made progress in previous Accord negotiations was by serious engagement on the part of all ERC decision-makers. The same positive approach is required now and it is hoped that all signatories to the Accord will dedicate their energy to the renewed process."
The Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup tournaments are owned and run by ERC, a company set up by the six main European unions which is recognised by the IRB as the organiser of the pre-eminent cross-border club competitions in northern hemisphere rugby.
Posted at 11:10 am | 25 comments
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Rory Kockott was key to another Castres victory over Toulon as the champions won 22-15 at the Stade Pierre-Antoine. Kockott kicked seventeen points, including this huge dropgoal after a penalty kick hit the post. He is eligible for France next year.
The former Sharks and Lions number nine was key to Castres winning the Top 14 last season, and while he at one stage considered moving on to other larger clubs, including the likes of Toulouse, he is now firmly committed to the cause and aiming for another title shot.
He out-booted Jonny Wilkinson at the weekend with four penalties, a drop goal and a conversion.
If all goes well, 27-year-old Kockott, who was top points scorer in the Top 14 last season, could achieve higher honours in the not too distant future. Earlier this year he spoke of his desire to play Test rugby, preferably for his native South Africa but would be equally pleased to play for France.
"I definitely want to play Test rugby one day, whether it's for South Africa or my adopted nation. I haven't closed the door on my Springbok aspirations, even though I'm based in France," he told SA Rugby Magazine earlier this year.
Making his Super Rugby debut agead 19, Kockott spent five seasons with the Sharks in Durban, often as understudy to Springbok Ruan Pienaar, but temperament and attitude seemed to hold him back. He spent a season at the Lions before opting for a change of scenery.
Now at Castres and proving to be one of the best players in league, Kockott has fully embraced life in France, but still has ambitions to fulfill the potential he believes he has.
"I'm a strong believer that if I'm playing the best rugby of my career, I'll catch the attention of the selectors back home. But if that doesn't work out, I hope to do well enough to get into the French team. I'm still very young and I'd like to have an international career.
"Here (in France) or in my country. I have three or four years left to achieve that."
Behind Fourie Du Preez, Ruan Pienaar, Jano Vermaak, Piet Van Zyl and Francois Hougaard, he might struggle to get a look in, so Les Bleus might beckon.
"I don't see anything wrong with it (playing for France). If you're not getting any opportunities in your home nation, you should get the chance to play for another country if you're good enough.
"There's a lot of competition for the French No 9 jersey, but if I keep working hard, I can get there."
The video below shows his initial missed attempt at a long range penalty, and then the booming dropgoal that followed after receiving the ball back from a Delon Armitage clearance kick.
Posted at 8:32 am | 33 comments
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Munster beat Zebre 43-21 in their Pro12 match in Parma on Friday, coming from behind after trailing 18-9 at halftime. Both sides scored some good tries, and there was also this cracking hit, that could be heard from far, to welcome the visitors.
Zebre started well and just five minutes into the clash gave the crowd something to cheer about with this solid tackle on Johne Murphy by Italy lock Quintin Geldenhuys.
Murphy had passed the ball so the timing might have looked slightly off, but the tackler was committed and according to the referee, it wasn't a late shot. It was a bit of a mismatch, but we all love seeing a big tackle and this one could be heard nicely through the refs mic.
Zebre scored well taken tries through Luciano Orquera and Andrea De Marchi, but Munster came back in the second half and scored through Paddy Butler, Denis Hurley, CJ Stander and Ian Keatley.
It will have been a tough pill to swallow for the home side, who were looking for their first win of the competition, and looked well placed at the break before Munster kicked into gear and pulled away.
View full match highlights on page two, and a quick clip of the cracking hit below
Posted at 5:43 pm | 7 comments
British & Irish Lions and England centre Manu Tuilagi has apologised for making 'bunny ears' behind the back of David Cameron on Monday. The triumphant Lions squad were hosted by the Prime Minister to celebrate their 2-1 series victory in Australia.
As the squad asembled for a group photograph, Tuilagi ended up near Mr Cameron, and couldn't help himself. He later apologised for the gesture on Twitter, saying he was just messing around.
Tuilagi, who was described on Sky News this morning as 'not having a filter', was famously selected on the bench ahead of Brian O'Driscoll in the final, and deciding Test of the series.
Former England scrumhalf Matt Dawson wasn't impressed with Tuilagi. "My view on Tuilagi/PM. I'm utterly embarrassed. When will some learn, there's a time and a place," he Tweeted.
The powerful Samoan is still just 22-years-old, perhaps hard to believe after all he has already achieved for Leicester Tigers, England and now the Lions.
Earlier Cameron had praised the work that the Lions have done for the growth of the game in both the UK and Ireland, and said that his son just started playing tag rugby, mainly due to their success.
"It's a huge honour. My son, just because of you guys, has just started tag rugby. He will be so excited about this jersey," he said after being presented with a number ten Lions jersey.
He also took a bit of a swing at Rugby League, saying "I want to see many more people playing Rugby... even Rugby League if they have to."
It was the first time the squad had been together since arriving back in July.
Posted at 12:47 pm | 28 comments
Monday, September 16, 2013
Saracens achieved a comfortable 44-12 victory over Gloucester at Allianz Park on Sunday after prop Nick Wood was sent off for stamping with just 73 seconds on the clock. It was the second fastest sending off in the history of the Premiership.
The home side went top of the table after the game was played with 15 against 14, and Gloucester struggled to cope with what would have been a big challenge even with a full side.
It came about after Wood, eager to get Jacques Burger clear at a ruck, made contact with the Namibian flanker's head, giving referee Wayne Barnes no option but to send him from the park.
It was not only one of the quickest dismissals ever, but one of the fastest decisions, as Barnes had the card out before the players could even react, with a push and shove, to what had happened.
Wood was clearly distraught at what he'd done, going over to apologise to Burger before taking his place on the bench, head in hands thinking about the position he'd put his team in.
"It is very difficult for Nick - he's in bits in the changing-room," said Gloucester's director of rugby Nigel Davies post match. "He's apologised for what happened.
"I saw it on the big screen and it didn't look great. But he is not a dirty player. He's a good technician and a good player. Everyone makes mistakes. He will come back stronger from this."
Wood and Burger could be seen shaking hands and chatting on the field after the match.
Incidentally, the fastest ever Premiership sending off was by Mike Watson of London Scottish in 1999, when he lasted just 42 seconds against Bath.
With Wood off the field, Saracens went on to score five tries and take a comfortable victory. Following the win, Saracens are now 2/1 with Betfair to win the Premiership.
Note: Perform Group removed the original video. Below are match highlights, including the stamp
UPDATE Wed 18 Sep: Nick Wood has been banned for 8 weeks.
Posted at 8:21 am | 19 comments
Saturday, September 14, 2013
The All Blacks beat the Springboks 29-15 in Auckland earlier after the visitors had one of their key players, Bismarck Du Plessis, sent off following a second yellow card. The first however, is what infuriated the majority of rugby fans around the globe.
Du Plessis, who had already shown his value with at least two breakdown turnovers and some strong carries, flew into flyhalf Dan Carter, smashing him to the ground in a massive tackle.
A fight broke out after Ma' Nonu and Willem Alberts got in a bit of a tussle, then the rest of both packs joined in while Carter was crouched over with an apparent AC Joint shoulder injury.
Referee Romain Poite asked TMO George Ayoub to check for foul play, to which Ayoub responded (after having a look) that there was no foul play.
Poite then yellow carded Du Plessis, saying that it was a high tackle. Respected members of the rugby fraternity, and players both past and present, took to twitter to share their surprise and dismay at a decision that had the potential to alter the outcome of a classic content.
In the studio at halftime, former All Black captain Sean Fitpatrick said "The worst performance of the day was from the referee. He got that one wrong".
Justin Marshall, co-commentator on the day for Sky NZ, was outspoken in his view of it. "That's rubbish. It's just a big tackle," he said when seeing the replays. "Get real. Come on... Absolutely okay and to say no arms is ridiculous".
Du Plessis came back on and scored a try, but early in the second half he led with his elbow as Liam Messam went in for an upright tackle, and it was deemed to be dangerous, resulting in his second yellow card and of course, a red card sending off.
Adriaan Strauss was brought on as a hooker replacement so Alberts had to be sacrificed. The Springboks couldn't cope a man down, and despite Kieran Read and Ma'a Nonu also being yellow carded in the last seven minutes, the home side chalked up yet another win at Eden Park.
Springbok captain Jean De Villiers chose not to directly discuss the officials' decisions. "It was as hard as always when you play the All Blacks, but I guess the fact that we played with 14 men for 50 minutes did not make it any easier for us," De Villiers said.
UPDATE: The IRB have acknowledged that the decision by Poite to yellow card Du Plessis for the tackle on Carter was incorrect. Consequently, a SANZAR hearing has ruled that the red card be struck from the record as the decision was wrong and the tackle was within the laws of the game.
Posted at 9:29 am | 191 comments
Friday, September 13, 2013
On Saturday the All Blacks host the Springboks for one of the biggest games of the year, as the visitors are in confident mood and looking to knock the number one side in the world off their perch. After that Argentina take on the Wallabies, looking for their first win in the tournament.
Michael Lynagh and Sean Fitzpatrick discuss how they see their respective sides doing, with Fitzpatrick, who was captain when New Zealand last lost at fortress Eden Park in 1994, suggesting that he thinks that their proud record might just be in a bit of danger.
We've also included an All Blacks vs Boks preview from Rugby HQ on page two of this post, where Dan Carter says that the only way to beat the Sprinboks' physical game is to match them.
Pickup free bets, follow the odds and make predictions here
All Blacks vs Springboks kicks off at 19:35 local time, 7:35am (GMT), and 9:35am South African time. Australia vs Argentina kicks off in Perth at 18:05, 10:05am (GMT), and 7:05am in Argentina.
Posted at 4:13 pm | 0 comments