Archive for the ‘Rugby’ Category

England Rugby

Deary me. If, like me, you happen to be an Englishman and a major sporting fan, 2015 has not been a year to celebrate.

It has been a year that has brought only disappointment, with people scurrying around to check their family tree and find out whether they can join the bandwagon of any of the other home nations, with more to celebrate as a Welshman or Northern Irish. Hell, even Scotland has had more to cheers this year.

The end of the year is fast approaching and therefore BBC will soon be announcing their candidates for their Sports Personality of the Year, and the depressing realisation is that very few Englishman will be remotely worthy of such an accolade, given the failure that has followed them around during the past 10 months.

This will come as something quite amusing to those born outside of that patch of land between Berwick and Land’s End, and one can understand their amusement at the failings of the English.

We are frequently a nation that smugly lauds our involvement in the humble beginnings of any major sport on the planet, claiming to have invented the game and stomping our feet wildly when other nations actually bother to practice and become better at it than us.

We are a nation of poor winners who can’t enjoy a victory without having to remind our opposition that they therefore suffered defeat. In defeat we are even worse, searching for excuses for our shortcomings and unfortunately seeming to resort to xenophobia on a large scale, given the cheek of that nasty nation for being better at controlling the ball, vehicle or just running in a straight line.

Eoin Morgan

Morgan endured a torrid start to life as England’s one-day Captain

This year has been even seen those excuses wane away due to the utter despair that has come from some truly rotten performances in tournaments that England were largely expected to challenge in.

England has three major team sports that really capture the imagination of the general public, and with football having already proven a major disappointment after their group stage exit at the World Cup the previous year, it was time for cricket and rugby to take centre stage and show those overpaid, over-privileged nancy boys how to truly represent their country.

Cricket was first up in February as the ICC Cricket World Cup came around in Australia and New Zealand, with a favourable draw seeing England looking at a nice coast through to the quarter-finals before really needing to dig in and see what they could achieve.

However, with Eoin Morgan captaining the side in controversial circumstances after Test captain Alistair Cook was axed from the side, England had an embarrassing campaign, with their only victories proving to be against minnows Scotland and Afghanistan.

This saw them absolutely thumped by Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka, while they contrived to lose to Bangladesh as well to ensure they were unable to sneak through in the generous four qualification places available in a group of seven.

They may have had some form of redemption in the eyes of some by reclaiming The Ashes back from Australia in the summer, but it was a humiliation that very few could swallow. Or sulked and claimed limited-overs cricket doesn’t matter, despite England’s test form being somewhat average of late as well.

Webb Ellis Trophy

The Rugby World Cup was supposed to be a monumental occasion for England

With two down now, surely rugby was the way forward for England. Hosting the tournament we won in 2003 and reached the final of in 2007, Stuart Lancaster’s side were sure to bring pride back to this formerly proud nation, despite not necessarily being the strongest side on paper.

The daft notion of the tournament organisers saw host nations England and Wales both put into the same group to practically ensure one of them would be leaving proceedings early, given they were shoehorned in alongside tournament favourites Australia as well.

With Wales having been shorn of a number of key squad players in the build up to the tournament, it quite frankly should have been in little doubt that England went through to the quarter-finals, with their only issues proving to be disciplinary, with players being axed for proving it is not only footballers that are over-privileged idiots away from the pitch and getting in late night scraps with police officers.

But of course we know that is not the way things panned out, with England surrendering their advantage to lose late on against the Welsh, before being humbled by a superior Australia side, ensuring they became the first ever host nation to fail to make it out of the group stages at the Rugby World Cup.

England v Wales

Defeat to Wales proved a blow that England were unable to recover from

So what now for English sports fans, with our two back-up bastions of sporting decency proving so pitiful? Everything else any Englishman has excelled at appears to be an individual pursuit, namely in the case of Chris Froome and his Tour de France triumph, or our athletes who continue to exceed expectations.

Great Britain has done incredibly well to reach the final of the Davis Cup this year, but that would never have been possible without the genius of the Scottish Andy Murray. Or his brother Jamie for that matter. If you pick and choose when he is Scottish, you just lose out on this bandwagon.

Lewis Hamilton is achieving well in Formula One, but he comes across as a thoroughly dislikeable person to most still. Plus, again it is an individual sport. In which he drives a German car, with Mercedes having proven they are streets ahead of anyone else currently, having already sewn up the Constructors Championship.

With Wales and Northern Ireland being able to celebrate success in football by actually qualifying for a major tournament for the first time in donkeys’ years and the former being able to join Scotland in having a side in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup, there are reasons to be cheerful elsewhere throughout the United Kingdom.

Yet as the biggest and most populous nation in this little collective, England is struggling to find success in any of the sports they attach the most pride to their accomplishments.

The football team however have just qualified for the European Championships with a 100% record. Maybe it’s time to put all our hopes and dreams back on them? Deary me.


As is the way with most sporting blogs, it’s time to look back at the year past, see what was good and what was not so.

And why should I be any different, as I restart this page with a look to 2010 and do some cap doffing and some sorrowful head-shaking. Here are my five winners and losers from the past calendar year.



I Can’t do this without acknowledging the winner of BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year. And a quite deserved one really, as Tony McCoy has now won everything having completed the set with the Grand National in April.

Still one of the most personable people in the sporting world, this was the crowning achievement on a glittering career that will give him legendary status in the ‘Sport of Kings’.


It could be said that I haven’t given too much attention to women’s sport in this column. So I’ll apologise and attempt to amend that with recognition to Jessica Ennis, who has had another good year and stepped that up to claim gold in the heptathlon at the European Championships to follow world success in 2009.

In addition to claiming the title, Ennis set a Championship record of 6823 points to confirm her position as the best heptathlete in the world currently. She also announced that she became engaged on Christmas Eve to top off a perfect year for her.


From the fringes of a Spurs side and potential loan move to the Championship to one of the most feared left wingers in 12 months is an incredible achievement in anybody’s books. With injury problems and a winless hoodoo hanging over his head at the end of 2009, Bale took advantage of an injury to Benoit Assou-Ekotto to reclaim his place in the team and produced several sparkling performances to help Tottenham seal a place in the Champions League.

Having helped get them there, Bale then destroyed Inter Milan’s Maicon twice to earn a spot in FIFA’s team of the year. Linked with Nottingham Forest at the start of the year, Bale now has a £50million price tag on his head, with rumours circulating of interest from Real Madrid and Barca. An outstanding transformation in fortunes for the new Welsh Wing Wizard.


There can be few arguments against the notion that Swann is now the best spin bowler in the world on current form. With Shane Warne and Murali Muralitharan’s retired, there is nobody in the class of Swann, who has a knack of being a game changer on any surface.

He has developed a knack of coming into the England attack and breaking batting partnerships, even when the wicket suggests that spin won’t be effective. Nobody turns the ball quite like Swann and it is he that has transformed England into a remotely feared outfit and helped England retain the Ashes Down Under for the first time in over 20 years.


It may not have been plain sailing with rumours of in-team disputes circling Red Bull’s emergence as a serious force in F1 and a fractured relationship with teammate Mark Webber.

But at the end of the day, Sebastian Vettel came out the other side as the champion, the youngest that Formula One has ever seen to cap a remarkable rise to prominence.




What a year for Wayne Rooney. 2009 ended with him lauded (rightly or wrongly) as one of the best forwards in the world, but 2010 was a whole different story. He failed to score a goal in open play after March, as Manchester United surrendered the title to Chelsea and then proceeded to be unimpressive for England in their failed World Cup campaign.

This included that rant at the England fans who were disappointed with a goalless draw with Algeria for some reason. Few were keen on him after that, and he isolated those United fans by trying to force a transfer away, only to sign an improved deal to make him one of the best paid players in the world despite having been frankly poor upon the resumption of the season.

See Tevez, Carlos under that bracket too. But his performances justify it.


It would seem unlikely that Ponting will remain as captain of Australia after this Ashes series, as his tenure has become somewhat laughable of late. Australia now sit the lowest in the international rankings I ever remember them being in my lifetime, and as stated above, surrendered the Ashes on home soil for the first time 20 years. This is having whitewashed England in their last visit.

Is it his fault necessarily that there is a paucity of talent emerging in Australia? Well, no, but the lack of dignity he has carried in losing positions ensures that he enters this list, complaining at officials for completely absurd decisions as he may well be remembered for this late decline in his tenure. A shame for a talented batsman, but the latest achievements or otherwise are what people are remembered for.


Rugby has in the past couple of decades held a better class of competitors than its footballing counterparts. Real men played this game, not those preening pansies that adorned the round ball game, afraid to take a tackle or get their kit dirty.

Somehow you feel Gavin Henson has made it into the wrong game. More focused on his appearance than any other rugby player I can care to think of, he just doesn’t fit in with the sport. This is why rumours have circulated about him quitting the sport, to go sailing or whatever nonsense seemed to suit him whilst he dodged his contractual commitments (although injury was stated as a reason there).

Having regained fitness and escaped his contract with Ospreys, he was set to join Saracens, but could only do so having ponced about on Strictly Come Dancing. He’s a bit of an embarrassment to the sport.


Why? What was the point? David Haye deserves as much of a mention for dodging a real title fight to engage in that utter waste of time. But Harrison’s talk of knocking Haye out with his ‘big left hook’ seemed the stupidest trash talking to ever have taken place, as he only landed a solitary punch in the three rounds it took for the referee to stop the fight.

It was a joke of a fight and he remains a joke of a fighter. He should never have been put in such a position of embarrassment in the first place, but all the talk prior to his ritual dismantling was just pathetic.


What a disaster of a year for one of the most iconic sportsmen to have ever graced the Earth. As stated earlier, people are often remembered for what happens at the end of their careers and Woods remarkable trophy haul will forever be overshadowed by the very public way his marriage fell apart after accusations of infidelities.

On top of that, his sporting performance suffered as well, going the entire season without an victories for the first time in his career. He also surrendered the top ranking spot to Lee Westwood in October, the first time he’d done so since his brief slip up to Vijay Singh in 2005. A year to forget for Tiger.