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Le Crunch

by Frank Schnittger Fri Feb 12th, 2010 at 10:49:32 AM EST

Mathieu Bastareaud scoring one of his two tries against Scotland.

I know ET isn't a hotbed of sporting fanatics and rugby isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I feel the urge to write my annual diary on rugby as the 6 Nations tournament hots up with Le Crunch meeting of favourites France and the Grand Slam Champions Ireland tomorrow. Irish Rugby is on a high at the moment, with Irish teams winning the 6 Nations, Heinekin Cup, Magniers League, Churchill Cup and the national team beating the world Champions, South Africa, in an unbeaten season.

However our record in Paris is much less impressive, with only two wins in the past 38 years, the last being in Brian O'Driscoll's famous three try salvo in 2000.  Indeed, the confrontation between Brian O'Driscoll and the French 110kg centre Mathieu Bastareaud who scored two tries in France's win against Scotland is but one of many highlights of the match.

The fact that Bastenraud is a nephew of William Gallas, the French soccer international who scored the goal from Thierry Henry's handball which knocked Ireland out of the world Cup in the same Stade de France adds even more interest and spice to the confrontation.  Indeed allegations of cheating have been a highlight to the build up to this match as well, with French scrum half Parra accusing the Irish rugby team of being skilled practitioners of the art. Coming from the French this displays remarkable chutzpah!

So who will win?  

Ireland has only two teams, Leinster and Munster, in the quarter-finals of the Heinekin cup this year, compared to France's four, so it is possible that home advantage and France's greater strength in depth will carry the day. But the days when Irish teams feared travelling to France are long gone with Munster scoring a famous victory against Perpignan in Perpignan earlier this season.  This team have made a habit of breaking psychological barriers, winning Ireland's first Grand Slam in 61 years last year.

In the process Ireland have not really played well, winning many matches by close margins and adopting a very conservative and pragmatic approach.  This year the Grand Slam is much harder with away matches in Paris and Twickenham against our two strongest opponents.  However there is great optimism in Ireland that this team - a mixture of battle hardened veterans with over 90 caps and exciting young players - can do just that.

Crucially, Ireland will be close to full strength with only Lions wing Luke Fitzgerald and second row Donncha O'Callaghan (and substitutes Geordan Murphy, Denis Leamy, and Andrew Trimble) hors de combat.  However hookers Jerry Flannery and Rory Best are both only just back from protracted injuries and have only started 4 matches between them this season.  They are hardly likely to be fully match fit and at their best but a lack of top class alternatives has forced the Manager, Declan Kidney, to fast track them back into the team.

In addition John Hayes is now 36 and nearing 100 caps and beginning to show his age.  But the manager simply doesn't have a top class alternative tight head prop to put into the team.  Stephen Ferris, who had his eyes gouged by two French players in a recent match for Ulster is also only just back to fitness, and again missed training today.  So there has to be a question mark as to whether the Irish forward pack will be at their best.

However the Irish view is that if the Irish forwards can achieve anything close to parity with the French eight, then the Irish backs can more than match their opposite numbers and achieve a rare victory on French soil.  The Irish mid-field of O'Driscoll and D'Arcy is regarded as more than a match for their opposite numbers, Mathieu Bastareaud and Yannick Jauzion, and unusually the Irish wingers and full back are regarded as at least a match for the traditionally very formidable French back three (where France are missing first choice wingers Rougerie and Fall through injury).

All in all it should be the match of the Championship with the two most skill-full teams at full tilt against each other.  Let's hope there isn't any eye gouging or other forms of cheating to spoil the match.  Irish commentators have suggested, in jest, that France should have picked Thierry Henry on the wing if he really wants to use his hands!

Can't say I go out of my way to follow rugby - L or U, and that is very much to do with a complete absence of the game in Finland. But as a game it always seemed to me to be a very rare mixture of brain and brawn. Since moving to Finland I've followed ice hockey more closely. Either live or on TV, it's easier to follow the tactics. And the mixture of brain and brawn has similarities with rugby.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Feb 12th, 2010 at 12:58:55 PM EST
Why is it Association Football has mostly stayed together while Rugby Football splintered into so many branches? Soccer Football only has Futsal, while Rugby football has Union, Union Sevens, League, League Sevens, American football and probably one or two others that I am ignoring.

Ah well, Rugby Union is not my favorite of the three main branches, but here in the US, I only get to watch League when NRL finals time rolls around.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Feb 12th, 2010 at 01:14:20 PM EST
I don't know anything about the origins of American football, and whether it is related to Rugby but the Union/League split was very much on class lines in the UK with Union staying resolutely Amateur and middle class until the 1990s and League being the more professional working class game primarily in northern England.  

In Ireland Union did have a more working class base in some areas (chiefly Limerick) but there was never more than a token league (and American Football) element.

Australian football may be another variant as it uses a similarly shaped ball, but otherwise it more resembles Gaelic football and indeed Ireland and Australia regularly play internationals under compromise or composite rules.

The sevens format, at least in Union is simply a variant governed within the same overall structure with considerable interchange of players.  

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Feb 12th, 2010 at 02:31:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Australian football was an invention to basically adapt Gaelic football to a cricket pitch. Its the dominant code in the southern states and the NT.

American football is descended directly from Rugby Union. Harvard was tired of being beaten by Yale at soccer football, so they switched to playing rugby to play a Canadian university instead. Of course, that forced Yale to switch to rugby football.

But given independence of the keepers of the rugby union rulebook in England, college football teams in the US ended up making an ongoing series of changes. Probably the most important early change was the adoption of a center (hooker) feed, which led to the evolution of a line rather than a scrum, which encouraged the American presumption of a right to block except where prohibited as opposed to the Rugby general prohibition on blocking except where explicitly permitted.

I've always been under the impression that Gaelic football emerged from the same range of varieties of football based on local legacies that gave rise to both rugby football and association football in the great Victorian wave of sports codification.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Feb 12th, 2010 at 03:32:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... also exists in the Australian Eastern states where League is the dominant football code, with Union getting a substantial part of its support from the "big end of town" and league getting most of its support from the "small end of town".

That is a big difference between the southern and eastern states, with Ozzie Rules getting support across the board in the southern states, like collegiate football in places like Columbus, Ohio or Knoxville, Tennessee.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Feb 13th, 2010 at 06:25:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Even though I'm from the Southwest, I'm not following rugby with much attention, but today's Irish visitors are taken very seriously by the French 15.

Thierry Dusautoir called the Irish lineout "the best in Europe".

Plus: coverage from La Dépèche (Toulouse local paper), hoping "it will be less controversial that France-Ireland football game". They also have a complete team's map.

by Bernard on Sat Feb 13th, 2010 at 07:19:18 AM EST
Oh behind the media waffle there is loads of mutual respect.  Ireland especially respect the French back row of Thierry Dusautoir (Toulouse), Fulgence Ouedraogo (Montpellier), and most especially, Imanol Harinordoquy.  They are underwhelmed by the French back line which is a traditional area of French strength but worried about the form and fitness of our own tight five.

Unfortunately, as is the case all too often in Rugby, the performance of the referee will be a crucial factor.  Referees only see 50% of what goes on, if that.  They "ping" even less and are susceptible to crowd, media, and player influences.  The main reason away victories are so rare in rugby is that the home team always seems to get away with so much more.

If rugby has a flaw, it is that so many rules are only rarely enforced and others are so much open to interpretation.  All of this must be truly mystifying to the general public who are not aware of the nuances of the game.  It is why rugby will probably never challenge soccer as a world game.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Feb 13th, 2010 at 07:36:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Even in France, rugby is a rather regional game: essentially the Southwest, plus the area between Grenoble and Lyon and a few isolated clubs in Toulon and Paris...
by Bernard on Sat Feb 13th, 2010 at 12:38:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oops, the crunch went soggy.


by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Feb 13th, 2010 at 01:29:30 PM EST
Please, accept my sincere condolences...

"Ce qui vient au monde pour ne rien troubler ne mérite ni égards ni patience." René Char
by Melanchthon on Sat Feb 13th, 2010 at 01:34:59 PM EST
Congratualtions to the French on a great performance.  (Of course Ireland were doing fine until Darcy missed a try by the bounce of the ball and the ref sin binned Healy for a trivial offence - the first foul of the game - when we had just seen 50 fouls go before the first sin binning in the Wales Scotland match.  But you can always trust an English ref to "do" the Irish especially as we play England next!)

But seriously - France were brilliant the way they took advantage and took their chances and never let Ireland back into the game.  Best of luck in the rest of your games - France should win the Grand Slam now.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Feb 13th, 2010 at 02:24:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He was lucky not to get a straight red for a professional foul denying a clear try scoring opportunity :D

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sat Feb 13th, 2010 at 03:45:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC News - Wales rugby star Andy Powell in golf buggy arrest

Wales rugby star Andy Powell has been arrested for allegedly taking and driving away a golf buggy, hours after his team's dramatic win over Scotland.

The Cardiff Blues player was arrested with another man at 0600 GMT on Sunday at services off junction 33 of the M4 in the Vale of Glamorgan.

One of the two arrested men failed a breath test, South Wales Police said. But the BBC does not know which of the men this was.

No charges have yet been brought.

A police spokesman confirmed two men from Brecon were arrested and that investigations are ongoing.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Feb 14th, 2010 at 10:27:58 AM EST

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