Monday, April 21, 2014
The future of European rugby is now clear after months of speculation ended recently with an agreement between the relevant parties, resulting in the new European Rugby Champions Cup. Here is a breakdown of how things will work from next season.
For some time now the English and French clubs had expressed their unhappiness with the format of the Heineken Cup, culminating in talks of them intending to dispand and set up their own tournament in September of last year.
After months of talks, we're at the point where everyone is on the same page, and the European Rugby Champions Cup and the European Rugby Challenge Cup (second tier) were signed on.
The two major players in the TV rights, BT Sport and Sky Sports have agreed to share coverage.
The tournament, run by the newly formed European Professional Club Rugby, will feature 20 teams.
European Rugby Champions Cup qualification:
20 clubs qualifying through the finishing positions in their leagues from the preceding season:
- top 6 from TOP 14
- top 6 from Premiership Rugby
- top 7 from PRO 12, with at least one club from each country participating in the league
- the 20th place will be taken by the winner of a play off (first season different to following)
The format and finer points of the tournament/s are a bit more complicated, but that's the basic premise and this new video from BT Sport explains things quite clearly. As we get nearer the time, we will go through other facets of it, but for now it looks like it's a positive step in the right direction.
What do you think of the new qualification setup?
Posted at 1:40 pm | 28 comments
Friday, April 18, 2014
Rugby HQ in Australia have put together their Top 5 list of the best ever magicians on the rugby field. While it's obviously subjective, it's a solid list and it would be tough to disagree with their top three selections, and number one in particular.
Starting at number five, Joe Rokocoko was a lethal finisher for the Blues and All Blacks. His dazzling feet and ability to beat defenders when in space made him a top try scorer. He could create tries out of half chances, as can be seen here. Sorry, Brent Russell.
Welsh legend Gareth Edwards is probably best known these days for that try he scored for the Barbarians against the All Blacks in 1973, but for years he terrorised defences and to many up north in particular, is the best scrumhalf to ever play the game.
Having met the great David Campese recently, it's great to see him at three on this list. Campo could pull off the impossible, and is of course the man that made the goose-step so famous. His jinking runs and ball skills were unmatched in his generation.
"I always wanted to do something different. I could have stood on the wing and did nothing, or go out there and try and express yourself, and that's what I decided to do," he once said.
The only guy on the list still playing Test rugby, Quade Cooper is a natural fit when it comes to thinking of players that can do the seemingly impossible on the rugby field. Some of his best bits aren't shown in this clip, but you can see a few in the Related Posts below this article.
In the end, there can be only one and that man is without a doubt King Carlos Spencer. The only player who has come close since is Cooper, but for those of us who watched Spencer in his heyday, he will always be remembered as the most audacious, enthralling entertainer.
As with Cooper, have a browse of our Related Posts to see some of Spencer's best moments, which obviously weren't able to be featured in this compilation but are posted in our archive.
Other notable mentions, and players who could have squeezed into the top five somewhere, would be Brian O'Driscoll, Shane Williams, Christian Cullen and Waisale Serevi. O'Driscoll has already been featured in his own Top 5 video though, and Serevi was a Sevens star.
How different would your 'Top 5 Magicians' be, or are you happy with the choices?
Posted at 8:38 am | 33 comments
Thursday, April 17, 2014
It's not called Plays of the Week anymore but ahead of Round 10 of Super Rugby, Sean Maloney brings us all the best, biggest, worst and funniest from last weekend's Super Rugby action.
Posted at 4:33 pm | 9 comments
Courtney Lawes made another of his trademark crash tackles at the weekend, this time on England team mate, Owen Farrell. The Saracens flyhalf didn't return from the tunnel at halftime but has since been cleared as not having a foot injury, and will resume training this week.
Lawes flew out the line and smashed Farrell just as he passed the ball, resulting in a tough landing on the artificial pitch of Allianz Park for the smaller, but tough as nails flyhalf.
This is from the same match as the Marcelo Bosch big penalty kick (and Kelly Brown try), and it was Brown himself that was on the wrong end of another big tackle, that time by Samu Manoa. You can view that on page two, and see more big Lawes (and Manoa!) hits in the Related Posts below.
Posted at 2:10 pm | 41 comments
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Toulon's Mathieu Bastareaud, often affectionately referred to as the Tank, is the type of player you generally want to avoid when he has ball in hand. His ability to get over the gain line is what makes him so valuable a player. His tackling isn't half bad either.
Bordeaux wing Matuisela Talebula experienced the full (considerable) weight of the man this past weekend when Toulon beat Bordeaux 22-20 in a tight Top 14 clash. Talebula received an awful, floated pass from centre Julien Rey, and got man and ball at the exact same time.
Unfortunately for him that man was Bastareaud, who took full advantage of the hospital pass to make this big rib tickling tackle, earning Toulon a turnover as a result. Fair play to Talebula for keeping his eyes on the ball and taking the hit though.
Freddie Michalak, who made an interesting pass here, actually scored 14 of his team's points on the day though, with Bryan Habana scoring a try as Toulon came back from trailing 20-9 at one stage.
"To win the match after a catastrophic first half where we weren't in the match, I have to congratulate the players for their comeback," said acting head coach Pierre Mignoni.
Toulon are third on the Top 14 table, equal with Clermont one point behind Montpellier. They face Perpignan in Barcelona this weekend, while Bordeaux, in 7th place, are away at Stade Francais.
Posted at 1:43 pm | 17 comments
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Marcelo Bosch played his part as Saracens extended their lead at the top of the Aviva Premiership table by beating Northampton Saints 28-24 on Sunday. Bosch scored one of three tries, but this massive penalty from about 58m out impressed the most.
It's not the biggest ever seen - Francois Steyn of the Sharks did the same thing twice at the weekend - but the casual strike from Bosch and the way it sailed through was something to behold.
Argentine Bosch took over from Farrell when the long distance kick opportunity arose. The England flyhalf didn't emerge after half time, instead ending up on crutches with a foot injury.
"Owen Farrell will resume training towards the end of this week," said a Saracens statement today.
"The Saracens and England fly-half sustained a foot injury during the match against Northampton Saints on Sunday, but scans have indicated no serious damage."
You can view the official highlights wrap on the next page, which includes Bosch's try and another look at the 58m kick. It also features a fantastic team effort that was eventually finished by flanker Kelly Brown, after hooker Schalk Brits handled the ball twice and carved up the midfield.
You can view more famous long range kicks in the Related Posts below
Posted at 11:21 am | 13 comments
Monday, April 14, 2014
Saturday's dramatic West Country derby between Gloucester and Bath is set to be investigated after ugly scenes followed a late penalty try, awarded by referee Tim Wigglesworth, who showed two red cards and five yellows as Bath won the game 18-17.
Bath won at Kingsholm in the Premiership for the first time in eight years, but it came late in the contest as Gloucester, who ended the match with just 11 players, pulled down a driving maul and gave the referee little choice but to award the penalty try below the posts.
What followed was threatening to happen all match, as Tavis Knoyle boiled over and lashed out at Leroy Houston, striking him in the face. Houston retaliated, as did Nick Abendanon and a few others, but order was restored swiftly and Wigglesworth red carded Knoyle for being the instigator.
"What happened at the end with Tavis Knoyle, there is no place for that in the game. He just assaulted one of our players and we had to defend ourselves," said Bath head coach Mike Ford.
Earlier Gloucester replacement Sila Puafisi was also red carded, that time for an awful looking high tackle on Abendanon. Those were the two red cards, but there were also five yellow cards in total, ranging from professional fouls to high tackles.
"The one person Wigglesworth hasn't yellow carded today is himself.. that's the mistake he's made," said commentator Austin Healey, reacting to some of the decisions that were viewed as harsh.
It was a scrappy affair and the rugby wasn't pretty, with things only really hotting up in the last ten minutes. Bath's penalty try came after a series of attempts at the line, one of which was halted courageously by Jonny May when he threw his body between the tryline and Anthony Perenise.
In the end George Ford's conversion gave Bath the lead, and while Gloucester had hoped to control the restart, the visitors were awarded a penalty on the half way line for Knoyle's indiscretion.
"Well the rugby's been absolutely rubbish but everything else has been fascinating," added Healey.
Gloucester became only the second team in Premiership history to get two red cards in one match. The first was Bath, although one of those (to Francois Louw) was later rescinded.
Referee Wigglesworth reportedly had a bottle thrown at him as he left the field, just one element of a tumultuous affair that will be investigated by the RFU, while both teams - frustrated by the consistency of the officials - will submit reports.
UPDATE: Tavis Knoyle and Sila Puafisi will appear before a RFU Disciplinary Panel on Wednesday, for striking and committing a dangerous tackle respectively. Nick Abendanon and Paul James have been given post-match Level One citings – the equivalent of a foul play yellow card – for striking Knoyle and a stamp on Shaun Knight respectively. No hearings will be held for these citings.
Below is the penalty try and fight, with official highlights (including all cards) on page two
Posted at 1:47 pm | 20 comments