The end of the season is nigh. Summer rugby tours are nearly upon us. Champions Trophy finalists are decided; and so is the winner according to some commentators. No need for Racing to show up then; Dan Carter can have chicken liver parfait and a glass of something on the bench and watch Leinster lift the trophy unhindered.
The play-off places in the Aviva Premiership have been secured by the usual suspects. Except Newcastle who have made a dramatic incursion into the established heartlands of play-offdom. We should give Dean Richards a lot of credit. It’s been a long road back from blood gate for the old constable and to make the play-offs is quite an achievement.
Team of The Season
The end of the season also allows those in the know to pick their teams of the season. Given we are not really in the know and, nor do we tour the grounds all season to watch the protagonists break tackles, create turnovers and score length of the field tries, we must piggy back on our esteemed friends in the press. The Guardian were first off the block with the following;
15. Willie le Roux
14. Vereniki Geneva
13. Henry Trinder
12. Henry Slade
11. Josh Adams
10. Danny Cipriani
9. Faf de Klerk
1. Ellis Genge
2. Schalk Brits
3. Nick Schonert
4. Donncha O’Callaghan
5. Joe Launchbury
6. Don Armand
7. Sam Simmonds
8. Jono Ross
Needless to say Dean Richards is the coach.
We can leave the explanations as to why these qualify for a spot to Robert Kitson et al but what is notable in the side is the number, or lack of, first choice England players. Joe Launchbury is on some team sheets but the rest? Those, who are qualified to play for England, either seem to be third or fourth choice. For what it’s worth Henry Slade should make the 23. It’s called creativity.
It should perhaps not be a huge surprise since this has hardly been a vintage year for the England side but you would like to think there would be a few more representatives. Owen Farrell makes the bench but there is no sign of the usual suspects who featured so prominently in seasons past or on the Lions’ tour.
Nobody doubts the intensity of the league but it has been an off year for Premiership sides in Europe. Is the undoubted quality of the imports causing some homegrown players to miss out? Nobody likes the Top 14 comparison but it would be a terrible shame if the AP started going the same way. Perhaps they are just exhausted following a very long season with not much of a break.
England Tour South Africa – One month to go.
England tour South Africa this June so maybe the core squad have been saving themselves. Let’s hope so. They lose all three tests and we’ll be reading about crises all Summer long in the broadsheets.
Of the above 4 or 5 will tour. Danny Cipriani will not be there. In-spite of clamouring from the Times and The Daily Telegraph for him to be picked. It’s true he has been playing at his best and even tacking too. He’s leaving Wasps and now without a club; plus, King Eddie prefers for the boat not to be rocked by naughty Danny.
Like Cipriani, James Haskell is also leaving Wasps and without a club. He is being replaced at Wasps by Brad Shields. It is conceivable he’ll also cede his no 6 international jersey to the same man. Expect Haskell to appear at a club somewhere and fight for his place.
However, what does this say for the strength in depth of England Rugby if we are raiding Super Rugby for a flanker who was deemed not good enough for the black jersey. The Kiwis are kicking up a stink but secretly they must be smiling. Don Armand will be a mite miffed. Surely if Shields hasn’t played a game for Wasps he cannot be picked by England. Not until November at least, when the possibility arises that he’ll take on his some of his team mates from New Zealand.
Money talks at Twickenham
If Shields does take the pitch he’ll be playing in front of people who have paid up to £195 (face value) for a ticket. Apparently, they could sell Twickenham out 20 times so the price is a fair one. Not sure for who though. CEO Stephen Brown probably. It is a simple lesson as to why you should never appoint a CFO as the big cheese. All that money might make for a delicious bottom line but at the cost of what? I’d say atmosphere, soul and a little something called integrity. Never mind, the RFU love money and we are lucky to have them. Or something.
Change is on the way?
Now for something different. In a world of incremental improvements and clever ploys to attract a different audience and keep the current one hungry for more, we may have a good one on our hands. Western Force Rugby have been given the go ahead to trial the ‘Power Try’ during their home games in World Series Rugby.
To give them their due it seems like a good plan to open the game up. In short there will be an extra couple of points available for the try if the move is started in the scorer’s own 22. The crowd (and presumably the players) will be kept informed if the try is still ‘on’ by flashing green lights on the opposing posts. The World Series Rugby tournament is to be played between Western Force and representative sides from the South Pacific. Expect a lot of seven pointers on those hard WA pitches. And a lot of heavy breathing from the props.
World Rugby will review the results and see if there is a case for making it a new rule. If it makes the game faster and more open then let’s see what happens. Then, we’ll never get the ball back off the Irish teams!
A goose in cow’s clothing?
Finally, we must never miss the opportunity to do a bit of Aussie bashing. Nick Phipps, the scrum half who warms Will Genia’s bench, is getting married. Congratulations. Like all good men who wave goodbye to bachelor-hood he was treated to a royal send off by his chums. There was a boat trip, jokes and his larrikin mates dressed the young buck up as a heifer.
Cue the trip to the hotel at the end of the evening. The great gallah forgot where he was and whipped out his udder and urinated all over the bar. Of course he did! Unsurprisingly his disguise did little to help him blend into surroundings. He was turfed out by management. Like all good Aussies he expressed dismay at his behavior calling himself a ‘goose’ and an ‘bloody idiot’. There’s been a bit of hand wringing and he’s been fined. Expect an inquiry soon… Thanks for the laughs Nick. Whatever next…?