Ou Est le Papier ?


I was never the type to be cursed with too much street cred. Never been known as hard. By anyone at all. But that’s fine, as the late, white MIchael Jackson would say, “I’m a lover, not a fighter” (and there my similarity with Bubbles’ owner ends).  However, I did like to try to carry with me a kinda Jim Rockford—loveable rogue—bon viveur—lad-about-town—rough diamond sort of image, which was invented to say “Hey look, I don’t have to swing punches to handle myself. DON”T mess with me mate.”  Fortunately, thanks to my ability to foresee punch-ups and my penchant for the exit stage left school of acting, I never had to put up my dukes too often.

6701565257_28209b7151_b

Small Boy Gatecrashes Adults Only Rugby Photo. NB: Another winning season under my leadership. Just.

But the little aura of invincibility I possessed buggered off completely one Saturday afternoon in Bromley, South London (not Kent) about a year before the above snap was taken. I was playing inside centre for my school team against a touring French Club side. Dunno why we were playing a drunk touring club side, we just were. Pissed-up and Punchy they were, just like I wanted to be later on in life. But for now I was a schoolboy playing against men. Albeit youngish men, and not very good ones at that. They were called something like Chateaneuf Rugby Club, which was quickly translated into Soixante Neuf (by our coach, Buster), which kept us amused all the while up to kick-off.

But here’s a surprise for you: The oppo’s open side flanker was a cheating thug. Imagine that ! A Flanker: cheating; A Frenchman: niggly. A FRENCH OPEN SIDE FLANKER: Niggly and Cheating . I know, it’s hard to believe. So, as was bound to happen (and this may be the point of this piece —you knew there’d be one somewhere, didn’t you ?) I ended up having a scuffle with this fella. It wasn’t really a fight — he punched me on the nose and I swung (swang?? swinged ??) a huge Dick Barton punch in his direction and caught him hard, smack on the shoulder blade.

skinner

An artist’s impression of what happened in Bromley that day. The artist has since been dismissed.

And then it happened: Estimates vary between 5 yards and 25 yards as to how far my father had run on to the pitch in an attempt to break up this set-to before he came to a sudden halt, blushed, shouted “Oh, sorry”, spun round on his heels and took himself off again. I didn’t see any of this, of course as I was far too busy being punched in the face. But everyone else did. The frenchman and I curtailed out pugalistic activities as the sound of me yelping was being drowned out by the laughter of those around us. It was clear to all present: I needed my dad to save me from a fight on a rugby field. Told you I was hard.

But this is how the french play their rugby: HARD. I’ve been present at many a dust-up on the field in France (present, you understand, not active). I’ve watched from the safety of behind the posts as the team from the French Town we were visiting punched and kicked the living daylights out of us (well, I say us, I mean my mates). I’ve seen legions of my colleagues in maroon and gold shirts become victims of assaults on the pitch by opposition players, cheered on by the ref shouting “Allez, Allez” and waving his arms around in that gallic “what the fuck are you complaining/bleeding about?” sort or way. I once even asked the opposing hooker, (a huge, beared bear of a man) in my very best Franglais,  if he could ask his team-mates to go easy on us; that we’d been on the piss for three days and “really weren’t up for a fight today, just a laugh”.
“Don’t esk me mate”, came the reply in fluent New Zealandish “I jist got ‘ere from Aucklund”.  He was a recent purchase of the club from down under. Apparently New Zealand Senior League front row play wasn’t violent enough for him. We were losing by 40 points after 33 minutes when I called for “Three Cheers” for the opposition and we left the field. It was what Field Marshall Haig would have called a tactical retreat. We capitulated faster than any French Army could ever had done. Almost.

So anyway, the mouth-watering prospect of France vrs England today should herald the start of a particularly enjoyable 6 Nations season. The French were appalling last year, so will be excellent this year (probably); the English will be overpowered up front, and the few who did tour with the Lions will be too fatigued to mount a challenge for the title this year (probably); the Ref and assorted officials will merely be part of an Anglo-Saxon conspiracy, hell-bent on cheating the French out of the match (probably) and there will be niggle, aggro, punches, boots, set-tos and stand-offs a-plenty (WITHOUT A SHADOW OF A DOUBT).

England v France - RBS Six Nations No-one hates the English more than the French — apart from the Welsh and the Scots. The Irish, Australia, New Zealand, The Belgian Congo, Dutch East Indies and parts of the Miliband family (©Mail Newspapers). And anyone else who knows me — so you can bet the smaller of your testicles that a little bit of, ow u say ? Fisticuffs will be in evidence this afternoon. It’s part of the game. This game may well have been shorn of competitive line-outs, wheeling in the scrum and proper sideburns, but unlike the Super 73 (or whatever it’s called this year),the northern hemisphere version of Rugby Football still retains some semblance of a contact sport. With contact sports you get physical contact, which occasionally escalates into physical confrontations. Especially if you hate that bastard over there. So who will win today ? I haven’t the foggiest. England have faith in Stuart Lancaster and his big plan for Team England (not to be confused with Andy Flower and his big plan for Team England), so let’s see how they go. For me, it’ll be Wales for the Championship, they seem to have just enough strength on the bench that you need nowadays. Or the French. Or England as an outside bet. I’m sure of it.

But I won’t fight you over it.

301301_10150346812134461_351433659460_8001563_1264586319_n

6nationgridadvert

Advertisements

Oh, That Fellow Morgan !


A crooked line-out throw, two neck tackles (both by Brian Williams on JPR), a couple of knock-ons, a forward pass or two, 30 pairs of enormous sideburns.

One great commentary.

Cliff Morgan, who has died today, was arguably an even better asset to Rugby Union behind the mic than he was on the pitch as he was as an international Fly Half. Mind you, he was pretty good at both. I’m only old enough to remember him as a Captain on A Question of Sport and he was skilled at that too. He was very Welsh and very proud of it too. He always came across as a genuinely charming bloke too.

Chiefly, though, he will be remembered for the most memorable of descriptions of one of the great tries of all time , probably second only to that solo effort I scored against Canvey Island in 1989. (You had to be there.)

 

scan0018_edited-1

James Horwill : Deep Thought


The management of The Welsh & Welsh Lions were today given a rare insight into the ‘mind’ of James Horwill, the squeaky-clean Wallaby Captain. Horwill, not previously known for putting a foot wrong [check this for me someone, please—MB] , inadvertently left some papers, including his personal tactics & calls notebook, on the seat of a Sydney taxi cab as he was travelling from a court hearing to attend a court hearing.

JHStampset

The driver, passed on the documents to one of a group of Scotsmen who were hanging around the Lions training ground, with nothing to do. The document reveals the inner most thoughts of this, most complex of all international sports stars. Speaking later from inside his restraining cage, Mr Horwill would only say “I like chips with Brown gravy”, before he was muzzled by his keeper and led away to attend a court hearing.

A member of the press asked why The Lions didn’t possess anyone with the wit, charm and grace of Horwill. It was then pointed out that there was one, but as Jim Hamilton is Scottish he was not considered for the team.

Lions officials hope that Horwill’s notebook will give their scratch side, made up of 15 men from the 1 Nations, the edge in Saturday’s match.

Rugbysketch

Oh, That Fellow Davies


Long before I developed my typically English opinions of the Welsh (yes, yes I know it’s mutual), when I was merely a roly-poly soft centre waiting to happen, there was Mervyn Davies. Merve the Swerve Davies was one of those sensational players that, as a young boy, you couldn’t take your eyes off. He was a magnificent specimen, and was picked for both the victorious British Lions tour to New Zealand in 1971 and the infamous 1974 tour to South Africa (the ’99 Tour). When I first took an interest in the oval ball game in 1976 I quickly found two heroes to adore – JPR WIlliams and Mervyn Davies. Yes, they were both welsh and both were as hard as nails. Everything I wasn’t.

WHEN MEN WERE MEN, AND SIDEBURNS WERE ENORMOUS: Mervyn Davies, JPR Williams, Mike Roberts, Geoff Evans, Gerald Davies, John Dawes and John Taylor – London Welsh’s representatives on the 1971 British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand, 1971

Sadly Mervyn was to retire early due to a brain haemorrhage playing for Swansea in a Welsh Cup semi-final against Pontypool in 1977. It was a sad moment for Welsh, British and world rugby. Mervyn died today, and marks another piece of my childhood to slip away.
The 1970s was a time of welsh dominance and greatness, the reason everyone (me included) loved watching them play and the reason the unsuccessful Welsh teams of the ensuing years could never let go of, and for good reason. It wasn’t just the welsh who pined for the grace and skill of Mervyn, JPR, JJ, Gareth and the like – instead of the lame fair the WRU dealt up for the following 25 years. Little wonder they became bitter, twisted and unloveable. The boyos of the 1970s were a tough act to follow.

When the Welsh team pick up the Grand Slam tomorrow, which they look like they’re gonna do, their captain Sam Warburton will deserve the prize as he is next in a long line of great welsh back row players to ply his trade on the rugby field. When, as he surely will, he becomes the next British Lions Captain he will merely be taking the place of Mervyn who was odds-on to do the same had the brain injury not deprived him of it. Warburton could be truly great, and if Wales are lucky they may be able to find a few more like him and, who knows, rekindle the spirit of that great 1970s team.

Until then I look forward to the BBC digging out the footage of Merv and company thrilling the crowds around the world.

And, as Mervyn was playing No.8 in the 1973 Barbarians vrs New Zealand match, I see no reason for not showing the greatest try of all time again. And again. And in full

(normal English service will be resumed as soon as possible)

Rugger Bugger


Now then, Guys and Gals: Here’s my favourite Daily Mail story of the week. Just goes to show how lucky I have been:

Burly rugby player has a stroke after freak gym accident… wakes up gay and becomes a hairdresser

When 19-stone rugby player Chris Birch suffered a stroke during a freak training accident, his family feared it would be a life-changing injury.

Yet while his recovery certainly brought about a transformation, it seems to have been in a way no one could have expected.
For when he regained consciousness, the 26-year-old – who was engaged to his girlfriend – claimed he had become gay.

Mr Birch’s astonishing change saw him break up with his fiancée, ditch his job in a bank to retrain as a hairdresser and lose eight stone in weight.
Before the accident Mr Birch, of Ystrad Mynach, South Wales, had spent his weekends watching sport and drinking with his mates.He has now moved in with his  19-year-old boyfriend.


The now ex-rugby player, a flanker with his local amateur reserve side, had been attempting a back flip in front of friends on a field when he fell down a grass bank, breaking his neck and suffering the stroke.…..

(continues…but I can’t be arsed to print anymore)

Poor, poor sod. He goes through all that pain and sorrow, those long uncomfortable nights in hospital, the operations and the bed-baths.  Then he wakes up and he’s still Welsh.

Breaks your heart.