Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

Ireland seek scrum coach with ‘complete and thorough understanding of rugby’

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By Padraic Halpin

Ireland’s rugby board advertised for the newly established role of high performance scrum coach on Tuesday, just days after the national team’s scrummaging skills were shambolically exposed in a 30-9 Six Nations defeat by England.

The job, posted on the Leinster and Munster provincial websites, called on applicants with “a complete and thorough understanding of rugby union” to plan, research and constantly evaluate current scrummaging practice.

Ireland lost scrum after scrum on Saturday and watching television pundits in Dublin even expressed their concern for the safety of replacement tighthead prop Tom Court after the Ulsterman was put under relentless pressure.

The successful candidate will be chiefly responsible for implementing a new scrum programme at the country’s academies that, despite producing the likes of flyhalf Jonathan Sexton and flanker Sean O’Brien, have had only one major frontrow graduate in the shape of looshead Cian Healy.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Scotland on their way back to London, but England match must wait a while

tartanScotland's soccer team return to London for the first time since 1999 at the end of this month -- but they won't be playing England at Wembley.

Instead they will face five-times world champions Brazil in a high profile friendly at the Emirates Stadium which should be filled close to its 60,000 capacity.

When rugby officials get it wrong

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By James Illingworth

RUGBY-NATIONS/WALES-IRELAND“Unforgivable”, “embarrassing” and “indefensible” are just some of the descriptions of Jonathan Kaplan’s decision to allow Mike Phillips’ try for Wales in their Six Nations defeat of Ireland on Saturday.

But while the South African referee bears the brunt of the media glare in the aftermath of the match at the Millennium Stadium, assistant Peter Allan of Scotland must also take some responsibility.

Welcome back “le crunch” — we’ve missed you

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RUGBY-NATIONS/ENGLANDThere will be an extra buzz around Twickenham on Saturday and it will not be just because England fans know a win over France would set them up for their first Six Nations title for eight years.

“Le Crunch” is back, and then some. The fixture that was for so long the focal point of the championship gradually lost its allure as England dropped off the pace and Wales and Ireland became the main challengers, but with two wins apiece for the cross-channel rivals so far, it once again looks the pivotal match.

Don’t discount Ireland for the Six Nations

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By James Illingworth

The 2011 Six Nations kicks off shortly in Cardiff with much of the pre-tournament hype suggesting a two-horse race between France and England.

England’s favourites tag among English bookmakers looks unjustified if it is based on one decent performance in November against Australia, with the 2010 grand slam winners France surely still the team to beat.

Tri-Nations stranglehold a potential problem for rugby

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Northern hemisphere hopes are raised at the start of every November but by the end of the month it has usually become crystal clear that the Tri-Nations’ stranglehold on world rugby remains as tight as ever.

Already, after the opening exchanges produced a 3-0 sweep for the south last Saturday, the imbalance is there for all to see.

The myth of rugby’s Jonny Wilkinson

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A rugby writer, with tongue only half in cheek, once said it was possible to gauge an Englishman’s entire outlook on life by ascertaining whether he was a Stuart Barnes or a Rob Andrew fan in the years between 1985 and 1993.

Barnes, a cavalier among flyhalves who passionately embraced the running game, played only a handful of matches for the national team. Andrew, an accomplished all-rounder but with a game based increasingly on kicking, became an England institution.

Cathedral of Welsh rugby witnesses a truly epic clash

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There is something about the Welsh National Anthem – The Land of My Fathers – that makes the hairs of my back – and there are many of them – stand on end.
 
It always has done. Even as a sports-mad child growing up in the 1970s I eagerly anticipated settling down on the sofa to hear it before the likes of JPR Williams and Phil Bennett strutted their stuff on muddy rain-soaked pitches.
 
I’m not Welsh but to hear it bellowed out by over 70,000 passionate and emotional Welshmen, usually accompanying opera singer Katherine Jenkins, before a rugby international at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff is one of the great experiences in sport.
 
Saturday was no exception. As a Reuters journalist I have been to the cathedral of Welsh rugby many times and as usual, my spine tingled as the Morriston Orpheus Choir, along with the Regimental Band of the Royal Welsh, led the singing.

There was also something in the damp cold air that suggested the following 80 minutes of rugby served up by Wales and Scotland might be something special as well. And so it proved in a manner few could have predicted.

UPDATE: England need solid backs not flashes of brilliance

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Relief rather than elation greeted England’s decision to select Mathew Tait, Riki Flutey and Delon Armitage in the backline for Saturday’s Six Nations opener against Wales.

(*Flutey has since had to pull out with injury)

One try in three tests told its own story in the November internationals and the selectors had no real option other than to restore Flutey and Armitage and recall Tait.

Italy must be wary of my old school chum McLaughlin

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Italy’s marauding pack should tread carefully if they think they can pick on Ireland’s debut flanker Kevin McLaughlin in Saturday’s Six Nations opener.

Why? Because this writer has been there, done that and has the mental schoolboy scars to prove it.

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