Month: June 2005

Lions tour trundles on

Well, Saturday's Test match was a disaster. We lost by only 21-3 points thanks to the good fortune of having torrential rain on the evening.

Clive Woodward
“I have been involved in rugby for a long time, especially as a coach, and from my point of view, last Saturday's Test match I would put top of the list in terms of the most disappointing nights I have been involved in,” said Woodward.

“Going into the game, I passionately believed I had picked the right team, but then to see it all unfold was very disappointing for everyone involved.

Going into the game, about a hundred thousand Lions fans passionately believed you had picked the wrong team, and to see it all unfold was bitterly disappointing for everyone involved, because we had the players to win the game, and you messed it up, Clive.

Clive Woodward
“I just had to take all the arrows, stones and feedback this week – that's all part of it – and just look forward to Saturday night.

You had to take the arrows, stones and feedback this week because you well deserve them with your selection policies. Don't play the “poor me” card.

Clive Woodward
“Clearly, things were not right, and from the Lions' point of view, it is not a development tour.

Clearly the wrong team was selected, and from the Lions fans' point of view, it is not an England tour.

Clive Woodward
“I have made changes, which I think was important to give those players who deserved a chance to try to get the Test series back on the road,” he added.

I can only hope that your changes are enough. I see that you're still going with Wilkinson, who is out of form, with Robinson, who is out of form, and with Thompson, who – well, “barn door, 10 yards”, enough said.

What's wrong with Hodgeson and O'Gara, the actual form outhalves of the tour, who can't make the test bench for some reason while you pick 2 out of form outhalves?

What about your promise to the fans and the players that you would pick teams based on form, not reputation?

Clive Woodward
“It was time to shake things up. There is not a single person who didn't try their best, but last weekend was a disappointment that I have got to take responsibility for.

You sure do, Clive, you are 100% responsible for that train wreck.

Clive Woodward
“I promise you there will be a completely different show, come Saturday night.”

I sure hope so. We've completely lost faith in this management team. And the players? Who knows?

I'm really surprised actually. I thought that a clever, World Cup winning, total manager like Woodward would be on the ball – he's demonstrated that that is not the case at all, and has shown a complete lack of intelligent management. He's even made similar mistakes to Henry on the '97 tour, which are widely known and well publicised by Austin Healy et al.

That's what disturbs me about this test series. If we had played well and lost 3-0 to a markedly better team, that I could live with.

BBC Sport – Rugby Union

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My Lions Test XV

Always close calls to make. Here's the team I'd like to see out against the All Blacks Saturday week:

  1. Gethin Jenkins (Wal)
  2. Shane Byrne (Ire)
  3. Julian White (Eng)
  4. Ben Kay (Eng)
  5. Paul O'Connell (Ire)
  6. Richard Hill (Eng)
  7. Neil Back (Eng)
  8. Martin Corry (Eng) (captain)
  9. Dwayne Peel (Wal)
  10. Charlie Hodgeson (Eng)
  11. Gareth Thomas (Wal)
  12. Gavin Henson (Wal)
  13. Brian O'Driscoll (Ire)
  14. Denis Hickey (Ire)
  15. Geordan Murphy (Ire)

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Shiver me timbers!

What a great evening it was for sailing yesterday here in Dublin – we had beautiful sunshine and a Force 4-5 wind, something like 30 knots gusting to 40 (roughly 35-45mph). I was out on my regular boat, Pippa IV, a Sigma 33, which I often crew on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, sometimes Saturdays too.

Sailing is a tough sport requiring a lot of hard work – both physically and mentally. As I'm pretty inexperienced I'm generally a winch-monkey, one of 2 responsible for tacks – making sure the genny (aka foresail aka headsail) moves across the boat and is hardened up. It's a very physical job, and requires good coordination between the 2 people on the task. Last night was a little difficult because of the strong wind but we had a very experienced crew on board. Occasionally I do main, which means being in charge of the main sail, funnily enough! This is a hard job in strong winds.

Last night I ended up spending most of the time hanging off the side as ballast, in between mad scrambles down or up a rapidly rising deck. My duties were few: making sure our GPS had the correct waypoint programmed, and doing “guy” on the spinnaker, which means keeping the spinny pole perpendicular to the wind direction, so as to keep it full. I really appreciated leaving the tacks to the other guys because they had a tough evening of it due to the wind.

And the race? Well, we started quite well, roughly 5th (of 17) for the first leg. After the 2nd leg we had moved up to 2nd as many of our rivals had reefed their mainsails (making the main sail smaller, so it's easier to control in high winds). Going into the penultimate leg we were being caught up rapidly, and somehow on the last leg we dropped from 2nd all the way back down to 6th. Disappointing. I think we lost concentration on the last, which cost us dearly. Still, not a bad way to spend a beautiful sunny evening in Dublin!

As you can tell, there's
a lot of terminology
to be learned when taking up this sport. And “Shiver me timbers”? When sailing at maximum speed the masts of wooden ships vibrate like a tuning fork. You'd be quite amazed at the number of commonly used phrases derived from nautical use.

Sigma33s on the bay

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Lions or pussycats?

I got a mail this week from a Kiwi colleague, who's lucky enough to be attending some of the Lions games – the Maoris last Saturday, Wellington yesterday, and heading to the 2nd Test in Wellington. New Zealanders are “underwhelmed and haven't seen anything there that impresses”. “The All Blacks are serious and will be looking for a whitewash.” “The front page of the paper this morning says it all: “PUSSYCATS”. ”

I don't think anyone has told Mike about Sir Clive's strategic brilliance. What's happening, right, is that we've got a brilliant squad of players that perform superbly in the closed training sessions. Because we don't need the match practice and our guys link so well together, we're actually using the Wednesday games to lure the All Blacks into a false sense of security. Sir Clive has ordered the pack to stay out of 2nd phase and the backs to deliberately mis-time passes. And the Kiwi press are falling for this 100%!

When that complacency hits, say 25 minutes into the first Test, and New Zealand think they can sit back and relax on their 56 – 9 lead BAMMM – that's when we're gonna hit them with a sucker punch.

Pure genius. They'll never see it coming. Thanks, Clive!

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Lions outhalf?

Back in reality, I'm extremely concerned about what's happening at outhalf (or flyhalf, or first 12/16th or whatever the hell you guys call it: I think we can all agree that it's Number 10).

SCW has been making some strange selections “wrapping Wilkinson in bubblewrap” according to some reports. Going by match form from what we've seen so far this is my lineup:

  1. Hodgeson
  2. (excellent on his one appearance)

  3. O'Gara
  4. (questions on defense, but was targetted, great tactical kicking)

  5. Jones
  6. (has been poor, not linking well, lack of control)

  7. Wilkinson
  8. (defense – protecting bad shoulder, match fitness, poor kicking form).

Unfortunately I suspect that Clive's list looks more like this:

  1. Wilkinson
  2. Jones
  3. Hodgeson
  4. O'Gara

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