Month: December 2006

Heineken Cup future under threat from French and English

Pop-quiz: can you name the two fallen giants of European rugby The most consistent two teams in the Northern Hemisphere since the dawn of professional rugby ? The two teams with the highest number of Six Nations victories ?

England and France have thrown the future of the Heineken Cup , Europe’s premier club rugby competition, into serious doubt, because the two nations have failed to create an effective long term strategy for professionalism.

French clubs threatened to pull out of next year’s competition. They are unhappy with how many games they will have next season and axing the cup would free up several weekends.

England’s clubs are already in dispute over the cup’s future and have refused to sign a successor to the agreement which governs the competition. Premier Rugby, which represents England’s top-flight clubs, wants them to become direct stakeholders in the competition. The RFU opposes giving them a greater say in running the competition.

While I feel (a little) sorry for the state of French and especially English rugby at the moment, I’m extremely annoyed that they are putting one of the best rugby competitions in the world at risk.

Sights and sounds of the Dublin Cycling Campaign Christmas party

DCC Bicycle Party in DublinAs mentioned previously, the Dublin Cycling Campaign Christmas party took place in Crawdaddy on Harcourt Street last night and I headed along around 7.30 for a look and a non-alcoholic beverage or two… it turned out to be a fantastic night, especially for a Monday, and great to see so many (around a hundred I’d guess) at the event. Fair play to the DCC for organising the event (I know how much work these things can be)! This short audio clip (45s) might give you an idea of the atmosphere in the place.


Sorry I didn’t get more but I didn’t want to record conversations (maybe I should get some interviews next time).

I was delighted to finally meet robfitz, whose great photos of Dublin ‘s wonderful cycling “facilities” I have been borrowing for recent rants blog posts. We talked about the politics of campaigning for better facilities and some other ideas like an Irish bicycle registration website (which I’ve considered doing but dismissed as far too much hard work). Rob is a really nice guy who is far too tolerant for his own good, and I’ve promised to steal all his website ideas.

I chatted with a lovely American guy (I think it was Charles Kading from New Mexico) who was passing out flyers for World Bicycle Month in June 2007 and the Heartland Bicycle Festival in Wilson State Park, Kansas (June 22-24th 2007). I spoke to another Rob – sorry I didn’t get your surname, though I will buy you that pint next time! Also met a colourful ex-De La Salle debating fellow and a guy from the Netherlands.

It had been a good party but suddenly I fell in with a bad crowd… the couriers! It happened innocently enough too!
Gary at the dcc bicycle partyI was talking to Alan and Gary from Cyclelogical (who sold me my beautiful Cross Check)… I think Gary is part-time in the shop and he works weekdays as a courier. He has the mis good fortune of knowing DotC, another crazy courier who used to live with some friends of mine. It was great talking to several of the couriers about all sorts, and tolerable talking to the others (just kidding guys, you’re all huggable). I’m really looking forward to the 15th Annual Cycle Messenger World Championships in Dublin next year.

All in all it was a great night out and I hope it’s repeated. I learned a bit about the DCC and it was great to see DotC, robfitz and all the rest.

World Cup win a disaster – something is rotten in the state of English rugby

Over a week ago England’s Rugby Football Union finally sacked poor Andy Robinson . Or rather, they didn’t sack him, but he’s “standing down” more than a little reluctantly and with a lot of confusion about the exact nature of his leaving the job. I’m sure 300,000 pounds sterling helped the kick in the teeth a little.

Now coachless, whither, England

English rugby is deep in crisis. It’s mid-December now, only a few short months until the Six Nations begins on Feb 3rd, and 10 months (10!) until the Rugby World Cup. What’s the plan now that they’ve kicked Robinson out the back door? According to Rob Andrew the plan is … nothing, especially if you’re a betting man…

If you are a betting man you would think it is highly likely no-one will be appointed by 3 February

Woodward: World Cup win “a disaster”

BBC Rugby: Rob Andrew hovers behind Andy Robinson at the England Autumn InternationalsThis is the headline of a sure to be controversial article in today’s Sunday Times, in which Sir Clive Woodward lays out why English rugby is in such a decline. If you’ve read his book “Winning!” -which I highly recommend for anyone interested in either sport or business management – you’ll know that the England job is all about managing the relationship with the Premiership clubs so that the elite players are available and properly prepared.

Woodward mentions this in his article, pointing out that the two form sides in the world currently are New Zealand and Ireland , and both have complete control of their international players. On the other hand, England management is a quagmire of day-to-day negotiations with clubs who are in control of the top players. The RFU had to go to the High Court to have players available for the New Zealand test and, ominously, Premier Rugby Ltd. the body representing the clubs said:

The clubs must now carefully assess the ramifications of this potentially reduced protection from international release and the impact this may have on clubs in the future.

Even the judge urged the two sides to reach an agreement!

Sir Clive also was critical of the image of Rob Andrew hovering over Andy’s shoulder during the autumn games. A “heavy duty top coach” would have told Andrew in “two short words” to stop hovering and remove himself to the commitee box. I wonder what those words would be?

We won the World Cup in spite of the system

When your World Cup winning manager says something like that, then no matter what your personal feelings are about him you must give it some serious consideration. This includes you, Francis Baron.

Who wants the England job?

A host of names have been linked with the England job, including World Cup-winning captain Martin Johnson, former South Africa coach Nick Mallett, Harlequins coach Dean Richards and former Wasps and Ireland coach Warren Gatland.

Add to that list (from BBC Sport) some other potential candidates: Jake White, the current and under fire South Africa coach, and Rob Andrew himself, the currently elite director at the RFU who has ruled himself out. Let’s assume that these guys are all insane enough to take on the job of coaching this train-wreck to RWC07 and will put up with the inevitable defeats, the disgusting nastiness on the back pages, the boos at Twickenham and dealing with Francis Baron, Rob Andrew et al. If they’re willing to put up with all that, then managing the team to the World Cup will be a walk in the park. Who’s actually available?

  • Martin Johnson: Despite his on the pitch leadership, has never coached a team in his life. And he says he’s not keen on the job.
  • Nick Mallett: Not well known in this hemisphere, currently in Cape Town with Western Province. Has criticised the RFU recently and doesn’t seem very keen but he did express interest in the elite director position previous and is willing to move to England.
  • Dean Richards: Currently boss at Harlequins, says he could be persuaded: another potential candidate. Has the backing of the England captain, Martin Corry.
  • Warren Gatland: His boss at Waikato has insisted that Gatland would refuse any advances.
  • Jake White: He’s survived a vote of no-confidence at South Africa so might not be going anywhere.
  • Eddie Jones: has also expressed interest in the position.

Woodward is pretty definite about what should be done:

Nick Mallett, the South African, is far, far ahead as the best candidate as new head coach. But he would not dream of becoming enmeshed at present. Yet he is the one man who comes remotely close to matching the profile of what the job should be.

Mallett has said he does not want the job. Of course he wants it. It is just that he does not feel the need to apply – and more to the point, would have no part in the current structure.If the RFU is serious about recovery, it should go out and land him.

My feeling on it, unfortunately, is that the RFU is going to dismiss Woodward’s article as a personal attack due to his failure to get the elite director post. We’ll see how they respond in the press this week.

Whatever happens in English rugby between now and the Rugby World Cup 2007 , one thing’s for sure – there’s going to be 80,000 green clad fans in Croke Park on Feb 24th and we just can’t wait.

Dublin Port Tunnel Opening Bicycle Christmas Party

Dublin “Port Tunnel Opening” Bicycle Christmas Party: 6.30pm til later, Monday 11th December, “The Pod”, Harcourt Street Station.

The Dublin Cycling Campaign, the voluntary lobbying organisation “Working to Make Dublin A Bicycle-Friendly City” (, is organising a Christmas Party for Dublin’s cyclists to co-incide with the opening of the Dublin Port Tunnel (in late December).

The tunnel has the potential to transform the city by finally freeing the city centre streets of many of the Heavy Goods Vehicles which have dominated the capital for many years. All cyclists, and anyone interested in transforming Dublin City into a safer and more convivial city, are welcome to the party on Mon 11th December – 6.30pm-11.00pm.

Music will be provided by bicycle messenger DJ Seán Ó Tuathail and other DJ’s. Food will be provided for those who arrive early and a bicycle-related slide show will illuminate the venue.

Only EUR 5.00 on the door.

Looking forward to meeting you at what will be a very sociable and lively night! Details / poster found at Spread the word to all.

The DCC Christmas party will take place in Crawdaddy on Harcourt Street, Monday 11 December. It will be open to all cyclists and friends; admission €5. All Dublin cyclists should head along for the craic.

Storm cycling is fun

As I left work this evening I thought it wasn’t raining, but when I got outside I realised that the warm, calm evening I thought I had seen from my window was far from reality.. “away with the fairies” is how we describe fools like me here in Ireland. It was blowing a storm out!
Waves off Bull Island Rather than badge myself back into the building, I took 5 minutes in the non-shelter of the bike shelter to put on my over-trousers, over-shoes, over-jacket, and felt quite over-done at the end of it – I’m only going 2 miles for Christ’s sake! It’s just long enough distance to get completely soaked if not prepared, but short enough that it takes as much time to put on and take off all the gear as it does travelling. Solution? Lets take the long cut home, again.

This time after 5 minutes on the bike and realising that there wasn’t a single other person insane enough to be out cycling for pleasure within a hundred miles of Dublin, I decided that Howth Summit was a bit optimistic. Ok, so how about the Bull Island monument? Crazy, possibly stupid – sounds great!

Struggling along the coast at 12km/h practically in granny gears was a good workout, and when I got to the slipway at Clontarf Yacht Club I saw a cool sight. There was an angle made by the sea-wall and the slipway that when hit by a decent wave, forced water 25 or 30 feet up into the air. Wow – this was really cool! Even better was my discovery that I could stand on the slipway, a little way out and not get drenched, because when the water went way up in the air like that and started to drop towards me the wind was so strong that it pushed all the water away.

I’m so childish sometimes, I spent 15 minutes standing there with my bike watching the water get thrown above me and then forced away. I finally decided I’d push on for Bull Island. Water was being thrown over the sea-wall all the way along the coast line, and I saw a couple of insane joggers out, poor fools!

On the dodgy old wooden bridge out to the Island I realised that wet, shiny old wood is a very, very slippery surface. It was like cycling on an ice-rink. Thankfully the 4×4 behind me kept well back, probably on the phone to the police reporting me as someone going out to commit suicide. I managed a whopping 10 km/h average along the Bull Road with the wind coming onto my right shoulder at around 40 km/h. The most frightening section was when the wind was momentarily blocked by a bathing shelter on the right, when I passed that the gusts were vicious.

And finally to the monument! I stopped there for 10 minutes and took some really terrible pictures with my phone, as you do. Hey, I had to prove I made it, right?

The trip back was fun – sitting upright and making sure the bike stayed on the path – I didn’t actually have to pedal until I was back on the bridge, and only then because I wanted control.

On the way home I called by the rugby club to show the lads I’m still alive. The mad eejits were out training in that wind and rain, felt sorry for them. I need to head to the doctor to confirm that my back is fully healed up from the pinched disk I had, and then I’ll be back at training shortly – thankfully!

Back to the point, storm cycling is fun, when you’re geared for it. I had wind and rainproof s on, and vitally my new L&M Arc HID light – I’d have been lost without all that gear, couldn’t even consider going out in that weather!

  • Distance: 11.5524 km – route map
  • Time: 1 hour 30-ish
  • Average speed: 12km/h
  • Wind speed: 40km/h
  • Gusts: 70km/h
  • Temp: 13C/~54F