Wednesday, November 26, 2014
It's the debate that's raged on for some time now, and while some feel that by choosing to play abroad Steffon Armitage has made his intentions clear, this intimate chat with Martin Bayfield should bring further clarity to the issue.
England coach Stuart Lancaster has said that he will only choose players based outside of England in exceptional circumstances. He's had ample opportunity to use that clause to his team's benefit, but hasn't, instead opting for locally based players, snubbing the 2014 European Player of the Year.
Armitage explains to Rugby Tonight's Bayfield that the paths he's chosen haven't been taken lightly. He and his family spent many years outside of England, and he is fluent in French. It's in his blood.
"I've spent most of my life there. I went to school there. I'm fluent in French. I started playing in Nice at the age of 10. It's still a big part of me," he said.
When asked the all important question, he doesn't skirt around the subject.
"I still want to play for my country. I'm ready. If they want me to play, I'll be there."
He explains that he wanted to head back to the UK and give things a go for the Rugby World Cup, with a proposed move to Bath. That didn't work out for one reason or another, so he's made the best of life at double champions Toulon, where he believes he's played the best rugby of his career.
While it's not the route that the current RFU or England Rugby regime have approved of, Armitage's form has been such that fans have called for his selection, where perhaps now more than ever he could make a big difference to the side, just a year out from the World Cup.
credit: Bt Sport/Rugby Tonight
Posted at 1:18 pm | 17 comments
Monday, November 24, 2014
Sky TV have put together a list of 10 nominations for the very best tries scored in New Zealand domestic and international rugby in the last 12 months. Fans have until Wednesday this week to vote for the single try they think is best.
*EDIT 11 Dec 2014: Malakai Fekitoa has been named as the winner. View all the tries below
The Sky Fans Try of the Year will be revealed at the annual Steinlager Rugby Awards in Auckland on Thursday 11 December. The most popular try will be unveiled along with a host of other awards, all celebrating great achievements in rugby.
Last week we saw the IRPA Try of the Year 2014 nominations, for the best Test rugby tries scored over the course of the last year. The shortlist didn't include any All Black tries, so here is a nice chance for New Zealand fans to take a look at some of their great tries in the last year.
Sky's panel of experts, along with New Zealand Rugby, have selected 10 fantastic efforts to choose from, covering Super Rugby, the ITM Cup, Tests, and a Women's Rugby candidate too.
"It's been another year of heart stopping rugby across all competitions, showcasing the depth and breadth of our game," said Neil Sorensen New Zealand Rugby General Manager Rugby.
"The fantastic thing about rugby in New Zealand is that everyone has an opinion. Giving fans a chance to debate the best try of the year is a great way for them to have their say when we celebrate rugby's successes at the Steinlager Rugby Awards."
Gareth Anscombe, Bulls v Chiefs | Beauden Barrett, Highlanders v Hurricanes | Ryan Crotty, Ireland v All Blacks | Malakai Fekitoa, Sharks v Highlanders | Fa'asiu Fuatai, Otago v North Harbour | Honey Hireme, Waikato v Canterbury | Alapati Leiua, Crusaders v Hurricanes | Tino Nemani, Bay of Plenty v Tasman | Julian Savea, All Blacks v England, Waikato Stadium | Ben Smith, All Blacks v England, Eden Park
The following three tries have been selected as the most popular:
Beauden Barrett; Hurricanes v Highlanders
Malakai Fekitoa; Sharks v Highlanders
Alapati Leiua; Crusaders v Hurricanes
The winner will be announced at the Steinlager Rugby Awards on 11 December 2014
UPDATE 11/12/2014: Malakai Fekitoa has been awarded Try of the Year
Posted at 12:45 pm | 14 comments
Sunday, November 23, 2014
We were treated to a great day of Test match rugby yesterday, with some thrilling games and top quality tries. After leading 17-0 then trailing 20-17, Ireland beat the Wallabies in what was probably the game of the day. Argentina also picked up a great win, with victory over France in Paris.
Wales looked like they were about to spring an upset over New Zealand when they led 16-15 with ten minutes left, but the All Blacks stepped up a gear to win 34-16.
England and Samoa battled it out at Twickenham after a controversial week for the visitors. The scrappy match ended with a home win and a great gesture, as both sides linked arms, formed a huddle and had a quiet moment, saying a prayer and showing great solidarity (see below).
Romania 18 - 9 Canada | Portugal 29 - 20 Namibia | Fiji 20 - 14 USA
England 28 - 9 Samoa | France 13 - 18 Argentina | Ireland 26 - 23 Australia
Italy 6 - 22 South Africa | Scotland 37 - 12 Tonga | Wales 16 - 34 New Zealand
More from each game to follow over the next few days. Do you think Ireland are now genuine Rugby World Cup contenders? Have Wales made progress, or were the All Blacks always in control? Are Argentina looking a more complete outfit? Discuss, dissect etc in the comments below.
Posted at 9:24 am | 44 comments
Saturday, November 22, 2014
Teddy Thomas scored one of the tries of the weekend against Australia, but after a dream start to his Test career, has since been dropped by coach Philippe Saint-Andre for missing a training session. Here is a look at that great try from last weekend.
Thomas scored four tries in two Tests, including a hat-trick on debut, but Saint Andre has made a stand against ill-discipline by dropping the rising star for their match against Argentina.
The 21-year-old Racing Metro flyer arrived two hours late for training at the French national training centre outside Paris on Wednesday evening. So Maxime Medard was called up in his place.
"In the France group there are rules that everyone should respect," Saint-Andre said.
"Teddy, who we love a lot, has forgotten these. When you play in the France team you have to be beyond reproach and respectful on and off the field. I had a meeting yesterday (Wednesday) with Teddy and he understands. I’m sure it will make him grow up," the former France winger added.
Thomas was incredibly remorseful, no doubt shocked, and took to his Facebook page to apologise.
"The rules of the France group shouldn’t be broken and I want to offer my sincerest apologies to the staff and the France team, to my teammates, to all the Bleus fans and our sport," he said.
"I also want to clarify, not by way of justification, that it was my fault and although it should be punished, it was in no way a question of insolent or arrogant behaviour."
Serge Blanco, vice-president of the French rugby federation, said that while nobody has died, this is about the respect that should exist within the group - when given a time, you should remember it.
"It shows that in the France group nobody is indispensable. He will serve as an example for everyone," the legendary French fullback explained.
France play Argentina this weekend, following a 40-15 win over Fiji, and 29-26 win over Australia.
Earlier this week we saw the five contenders for Try of the Year, which included one from the Autumn Internationals. Some asked why Thomas' wasn't included, so here is another look at it.
Posted at 11:02 am | 5 comments
Thursday, November 20, 2014
Wille le Roux has had a great start to his Test career, often exceeding expectations. The dynamic fullback was recently named a nominee for the IRB World Rugby Player of the Year 2014. Learn more about him with this nice Total Rugby feature.
Hailing from the Western Cape originally, Le Roux was signed by the Cheetahs, not one of the traditional powerhouse unions of South African rugby. Ironically Bloemfontein has bred some of the best rugby players in the country, but most of them leave for the bigger teams.
Le Roux stuck around and has had to do a lot of very special things to get noticed. There were questions asked about his size and possible defensive frailties, but his dynamism with ball in hand soon paid dividends. Since making the Springbok step up, he hasn't looked back.
"I just want to play footy. For me it's just about going out there and just go play and entertain.. just try new stuff," the 25-year-old playmaker says.
His inclusion has given the Springboks a dimension they've lacked at times, and while he knows he's not the finished product, being given a licence to thrill is exactly what keeps him ticking.
"I know I'm going to make a lot of mistakes, but some of those you get right aswell, and then you're the hero," he adds in this refreshing chat.
He picked up a cheekbone injury in last Saturday's 31-28 win over England at Twickenham, but was earlier this week cleared for the upcoming Test against Italy in Padova.
Le Roux has some fierce competition for this year's World Rugby Player of the Year, with the likes of Julian Savea, Duane Vermeulen, Jonny Sexton and Brodie Retallick all vying for the award.
Posted at 8:24 pm | 3 comments
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
It's coming to the end of the year so the Player of the Year 2014 nominees were announced recently, and today the International Rugby Players' Association (IRPA) Try of the Year 2014 shortlist of five has been revealed with this great video.
The five contenders are South Africa's Francois Hougaard and Cornal Hendricks, Welshman Jamie Roberts, Canada's IRB Women's Player of the Year 2014 Magali Harvey and England's Jonny May.
They are all worthy candidates, and with just five to choose, there are sure to be a whole lot of tries that weren't able to make the list. It's strange, for example, to not see an All Black entry, especially with the likes of Julian Savea scoring some stunning tries in recent times.
Interestingly, a few years back they chose fifteen candidates, and one year it was just four.
That said, they've chosen to include a women's rugby candidate too, which is great to see and it's fair to say that it's chosen entirely on merit, as it was indeed a wonderful try.
The five tries were selected by the IRPA Try of Year panel of former players in Samoa's Seilala Mapusua, All Black Jeff Wilson, Ireland's Alan Quinlan and Dan Parks of Scotland.
The public are able to vote via social media, with the results of which being taken into account when the selection panel make their final decision come the end of the year.
2013 – Beauden Barrett (New Zealand)
2012 – Bryan Habana (South Africa) – South Africa v New Zealand
2011 – Radike Samo (Australia) – Australia v New Zealand
2010 – Chris Ashton (England) – England v Australia
2009 – Jaque Fourie (South Africa) – South Africa v British & Irish Lions
2008 – Brian O'Driscoll (Ireland) – Australia v Ireland
Which try do you think should be chosen as Try of the Year 2014?
Posted at 2:34 pm | 48 comments
Powerhouse winger Alesana Tuilagi has made another crunching hit, this time against Bath and poor Ollie Devoto. The Samoan powerhouse has been playing his rugby in Japan but recently returned to the Aviva Premiership, keen to make his mark.
Alesana, sometimes referred to as Alex, spent two years with the NTT Shining Arcs in Japan, but returned to the Premiership recently, albeit after a delay with visa issues.
He was seen on BT Sport's Clare Balding Show a few weeks back, alongside brother Manu and fellow pacific islander brothers, Billy and Mako Vunipola, as they spoke about life back home. It was a great interview and we posted a few clips from it, so take a look when you get a chance.
The 33-year-old joins other brother Anitelea (Andy) Tuilagi at Newcastle, hoping to pick up on the form that made him such a star at the Leicester Tigers. He recently spoke of the rugby education he had in Japan, where the game is fast, and the diet is very different.
"I was surprised when I went there. I lived 15 minutes from Tokyo and it's a crazy place," he said ahead of joining Newcastle and starting the Premiership season.
"There's no diet there, the Japanese eat rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner! The rugby is different, the way they train is different; it was a different experience. They don't have home or away games, they select stadiums around the country and you play everywhere.
"You play one game down south, another up north, but most are in Tokyo. The standard there is good; they play a fast game and there are good players going there so the rugby is developing but it is a different environment.
"The rugby is going very well but the rules are different; they only allow two foreigners on the pitch and two on the bench, so I was playing for 40 minutes, then coming off," he added.
This isn't the biggest hit he's ever made (view a whole heap of those in the Related Posts below this), but he is somewhat of a rugby legend, especially in the Premiership, so it's great to see him throwing his considerable weight around again.
credit: premiership rugby
Posted at 9:48 am | 10 comments