Tag Archives: #Champrugby

Rugby Clubs – what are they for?

(This article first appeared in the programme for Rotherham Titans v Hartpury in the Greene King IPA Championship on Saturday 16/9/2017)

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Twitter brings up lots of interesting links to articles and opinions about rugby, and one made me stop to consider what a rugby club is for. I grew up when playing rugby was for men only. As a non player, I have always seen clubs as a place to watch rugby, though the unfulfilled desire to play probably accounted for me joining the local rugby lads in a mixed hockey team for several seasons. Matches certainly resembled rugby at times, with sticks for added violence. A broken nose and a split shin bone finally put paid to my time with that team.

The piece I found was in an Irish publication; ‘The Village – Ireland’s Political & Cultural magazine’ and was entitled ‘Rugby surrendered its social benefits’ by Jim O’Callaghan, a former Leinster Rugby player & Dublin city councillor. He makes the point that rugby clubs originally formed for young men to participate in sport, but this has now changed so drastically that they are simply becoming places to watch rugby, played by an elite adult group. This has led, he believes, to ‘achievement and excellence, rather than participation and enjoyment’ dominating and driving the sport, and losing their social, community roots.

The RFU, the Lions and the All Blacks management teams were concerned enough about the drop off in young adult participation to hold a series of meetings in NZ during the Lions Tour to discuss this and we attended one at Wellington Football Club (yes, it is a rugby club but their name is WFC – go figure). The general feeling was that this will inevitably affect the cultural and club ethos of rugby, a game for all sizes and abilities, where the grass roots supply the eventual elite, if/when winning becomes everything. We can see it happening, with players having little contact with a proper rugby club, being spotted early on at school or in mini/juniors and hustled into the Premiership Academy system.

Hartpury mix

But as rugby follows the football route of ever greater wages for the elite, huge TV incomes and sponsorship, what is the effect on the grass roots of the sport? What is the local rugby club for?

At most of the ones I’ve been to recently, the ethos is still there for rugby to be played for enjoyment, with the aim of widening participation throughout the community. Sheffield Tigers, high up on Dore Moor, runs teams at different levels, complete with mini/juniors, Colts and Vets and their website emphasises that social rugby selection is ‘based on availability not ability’ with tours, social functions, including a ‘lively clubhouse with traditional rugby songs’!

Doncaster run their Championship team, and also work with schools and colleges through their Academy. Doncaster Phoenix play in a lower league, and DRFC support women’s rugby through the Demons, as well as Colts and mini/juniors.

Hartpury mix 2

Obviously Rotherham act as a club firmly based in its community, running teams at all these levels, and hoping to find the next John Dudley or Simon Bunting coming through from the grassroots sections right up to the Championship team. For me though, the growth of the O2 touch programme really shows that, for many people, the chance to play rugby is still a reason for coming along to a rugby club. I hope it continues to grow and involve people in the game as participants, not just spectators. Just wish it had been around when I was younger – might have saved the broken nose and very painful operation to repair it!

Original article: https://villagemagazine.ie/index.php/2015/08/rugby-surrendered-its-social-benefit/

 

 

 

 

Score 7 tries and lose a match?

(This article first appeared in the match day programme for Rotherham Titans v Richmond in the Greene King IPA Championship on Saturday 30/9/2017)

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Before last weekend, if someone had said we would score 7 tries away in Cornwall, I don’t think I would have believed them. But we did. Shame that they scored 8. When you score 7, YES 7, tries away from home and still only get one point, it doesn’t seem fair.

Almost every prediction on Rolling Maul had us down for a hiding 5pts to 0pts. I hoped for a bonus point, so why was I so disappointed when we got one? Because for a time in the second half, it really felt like we could come from behind and win the game. We were only 5pts behind, 52 – 47, and we were putting them under pressure. We could have won, or drawn the match, in the last 9 minutes.  But our defence on the line just couldn’t hold out, their rolling maul and scrum were better than ours by that point, and then the final 3pts for a penalty, as the whistle blew, just made it look worse than it really was.

A crazy, crazy game. 66 points in the first half, both sides with a bonus point for 4 tries before half time. End to end stuff, with great breaks, great running and skilful handling, but with awful defending from both sides. Missed tackles, passes thrown away to the opposition, people finding gaps where there really shouldn’t have been any, messed up line outs; you name it, both teams did it. Both coaches were tearing their (metaphorical) hair out on the touch line and the crowd was loving every minute of it.

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Both teams gave everything in a hard, physical contest. One hit on Calla had most of the crowd wincing, and there were late hits, and people flattened without the ball as players flew into tackles to try and win the game. At the end, everyone looked exhausted. The crowd of 1244 shook their heads as if they couldn’t believe what they had just seen and I think many of the #ShedOnTour will be there on Titans Tuesday to check out exactly what they did see!

The stats for the weekend showed 445 points were scored across all the games. So our match accounted for over 40% of the points scored in the Championship! Have the new rules made such a difference, with more space and opportunity for the attacking teams, faster games with fewer scrum penalties, fewer bodies cluttering up the rucks? I don’t have the stats for that but I’m sure someone will be looking at them. Or is it just that on Sunday, both teams went out there determined to get their first win of the season, threw caution to the wind and just attacked every time they could? Neither team seemed to remember that defence is part of the game as well!

It was an amazing game, but one we could/should have won, if defence had been anywhere near as good as the attack. At the end of the match everyone needed to go and lie down in a darkened room to recover, or at least head to the bar for a drink.

Crazy Kernow weekend.

The big question – The Lions Tour – is it worth the money?

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(This article was first published in the programme for Rotherham Titans v Nottingham in the Greene King IPA Championship on their opening game of the 2017/18 season on Sunday 3/9/2017)

Simple answer; if you get the chance to go next time, do it. You’ve got 12 years to save up!

We were lucky enough to get to New Zealand to follow the British & Irish Lions. We were wet, cold, blasted by wind and ended up so full of germs that a hospital visit had to be arranged. They really did say ‘Can we have your credit card details’ before they would offer any treatment. We wouldn’t have missed any of it for the world.

So, to start off our new, hopeful 17/18 season, I thought I’d do the Top 10 of a NZ B&I Lions Tour, to encourage you to save up for the next one, in 2029!

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  1. Rugby – we won – well, technically it was 1 game each and a draw, but believe me, on that last night in Auckland, it FELT like a win. The NZ supporters had all gone, there were thousands of the red horde celebrating with the team and we certainly looked happier than they did. The country is rugby nuts. People told us that but we didn’t quite realise how crazy they are about the sport. Even the customs guys wanted to discuss it as soon as we landed. Rugby dominates every conversation, in every town, city, village. Brilliant.
  2. The country and landscape of NZ – hot springs, geysers, sea and rivers everywhere, weird landscapes that made Geography teacher friends green with envy, just so, so beautiful. Even earthquake tracking apps are sort of eerily fascinating! People told us it was beautiful; when your jaw drops at the view 100 times a day, you realise how right they were.
  3. Lions Tours are full of epic nights out. Celebrating the win in Wellington made our wedding anniversary the best ever. We were both like drowned rats after the game, and my shoes never did dry properly, but an epic night, alongside another soggy one in Rotorua.
  4. Maori culture – we sort of knew it was part of NZ, but it underpins every aspect of life there. The legends and stories, the music, art, links to the natural world, all combine to make it an intense spiritual experience to visit their land. Their own rugby team provided the scariest Haka I have ever seen, and it really does mean ‘we want to kill and eat all our enemies’!
  5. Wine – even though I don’t drink, the number of vineyards, and the range and quality of the wine is exceptional, I am reliably informed by the rest of our travelling crew. They loved having a designated driver and NZ even gave me a new non-alcoholic favourite drink, L&P.
  6. Beer – see 5 – the microbrewery trend is growing.
  7. Food – NZ lamb really was gorgeous, as was the coffee. They love their coffee, and they like it strong. Helped with the jet lag.
  8. Houses – since it is such a mountainous area, they build houses clinging to cliff sides, and on hills, even just on stilts. Some incredible buildings. Go figure how that all works with earthquakes!
  9. Horses – everywhere! Race tracks in the middle of towns, farms and stables all over the country and some of the most beautiful places to ride out. Just a shame we went in the soggy winter! (I realise this may not encourage everyone, but I’m a horse nut as well as rugby…)
  10. New rugby friends – The Jerry Collins Rugby Club at Porirua and especially Tepora and Patsy – 2 rugby playing ladies who I’d love to see again.

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Have I convinced you? Check out rothshirtontour.wordpress.com for more detail and pictures, then join us in 2029?