“If the Six Nations comes, can Spring be far behind?” That’s what my friend Percy says, and he’s right. In Bury, last Friday, on the eve of the 2022 competition, I was caught in one of the nastiest hailstorms I have ever seen, but it is getting lighter, and it will get warmer.
The competition has already thrown up a firm favourite as the wonderful Ireland side demolished woeful Wales. France were less impressive in disposing of Italy, while England proved that it is not enough to dominate on the pitch if you can’t score points. Full marks to Scotland, who defended superbly, and no marks in this sport for artistic impression.
France v Ireland, which conveniently kicks off after the Sedge v Blaydon game, might turn out to be the decider. Let us hope there are a few twists and turns along the way, as usual. England are in Rome on Sunday.
There is an entertaining documentary running on BT Sport called ‘Rugby Town’, which follows some talented young Americans – young adults, not kids – who are trying to learn rugby from scratch, through some intensive training. Their Denver-based team is called Colorado XO, the suffix meaning ‘crossover’, because the players have crossed over from other sports, notably American football and basketball.
Even though the players have taken up rugby, at least initially, because they have failed to make the grade at the very highest level in their first-choice sports, there are still some awesome physical specimens on show. Their earliest games, against part-time opponents, were intriguing. They must have been a nightmare to referee, men with the physical attributes and mental attitudes of elite professionals, but poor knowledge of the game and its Laws.
This quickly changed, of course, with training every day, and gradually the crossover players began to take on, and enjoy, some of the ethos of rugby, too. Not surprisingly, the coach of the USA International team is taking an interest, and making an occasional appearance at training.
For the current season, the team seems to have been rebranded the American Raptors, and their stated modest aim is to win the Rugby World Cup. They are wise enough not to put a date on it.
I will not be surprised if there is an influx of American players into Britain, where our clubs could become finishing schools for the process. USA rugby could move to a new level very quickly, if this experiment is a success.
Is it possible to graft on a successful International team, when there is no real grass-roots structure to support it? I imagine we will find out just how loudly money can talk.
In a very different universe, there were strange goings on at Luctonians, where Huddersfield won the game, but Lucs got the 5 points. The issue was that Huddersfield did not have a replacement front row player available when a prop got yellow carded late in the first half. They had to remove another player, and the scrums went uncontested for ten minutes, 15 v 13. Actually 15 v 12, as Huddersfield another man in the bin at the same time.
To punish them further, with loss of league points, seems a bit harsh on the face of it, but front row players getting tactical injuries to make scrums uncontested was becoming a serious problem. The replacement prop being injured in the warm up is an excuse on the level of the dog ate my homework.