Guilhem Guirado The Humble Hooker

Arles Sur Tech is a tiny village, set in a scenic forested valley, in the eastern foothills of the pyrenees, where catalan and French are spoken.

It is less than one hours drive from the Spanish border, a journey which has a major relevance to one of its inhabitants, France captain Guilhem Guirado.

In stature and appearance, he is exactly how you would imagine a French hooker to look like.

At 5ft 11ins and 15 stone 8lbs, he is as tough and solid as the local Pyrenean Boulders on the field, and as calm and gentle as the meandering river tech off it.

A private man who puts his love of his family above all else, his grandparents were part of the 500,000 Spanish exodus, that fled the violence of the Spanish Civil War, and crossed the Pyrenees with the one sole aim of finding refuge in France.

His parents were born in Granada, and were only five years old when they arrived in France with almost nothing to their name.

“Until I was 15 all I knew was this village where my grandparents had arrived, my favourite memories are from here, I loved being that age, it is here everything really started for me and I found a passion for rugby”

Guilhem is a man who knows where he is, and more importantly  where he has come from.

I first met him at the RBS 6 nations launch in 2016, after he had just been revealed as the new France captain, he stood out as a man at peace with himself taking everything in his stride in a calm and measured manner.

“To know where you want to go you need to know about where you came from and the determination that went before” he says philosophically, and when you delve into his family history you get a sense of where that inner strength has come from.

“What I like about rugby is the direct confrontation with an opponent a physical contest and collisions tackles”

But when he gets home he puts his bag down and rugby is finished

“The most important thing for me is my family and the people who are around me, whether my parents, grandparents wife or daughter”.

“It’s my stability it’s something that allows me to put things into perspective, to be able to relax and see life in a different way, I’m not only thinking about rugby and that allows me to perform well on the field”


“I don’t have a specific style it is mainly a feeling, a lot of conversations and a lot of questioning, and the captain is nothing without the players around him”

“It is a great pride, a huge honour for all that it means for me and for France”


“I think it’s always an honour to play for and represent France, everything goes more quickly and it is a bit stressful because of the fear of not being up to the mark, you want your family to be proud of you”

“I like to know what has happened in the past and immerse myself in it because I also have to represent all the former players, there have been some huge players, and great hookers who have gone before me”

“For me this shirt really represents the welcome given to the Spanish exiles, I am French I grew up in France, it is a country that was ready to welcome to my grandparents so of course I think of them”


“My first memory is the first time I played rugby, it was with all my friends in Arles sur tech, and the most beautiful thing is we all got to know each other on the rugby field, and today we are still sharing our lives and great moments together”

“I have been lucky to be able to play for my club that made me dream when I was a kid, the Perpignan team USAP, and finally to be able to play with France a few years later, and now to play with RC Toulon with the best players in the oval world”

He won his first cap on 9 March 2008 , coming off the bench against Italy at the stade de france in a 25-13 victory “I remember my first cap, a special taste, I remember it like it was yesterday”

His first start for France came in the 2010 autumn international against Fiji.

The recently sacked France coach Guy Noves spoke publically of his desire to keep the “Toulon Talonneur”as skipper for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

The new incumbent Jacques Brunel was coach of Perpignan when they won the French league some years ago, wearing the number 2 shirt through that campaign was none other than Guilhem Guirado, so he too is well aware of leadership qualities the man himself possesses.

Whatever happens you sense that Guilhem will take it all in his stride, his mother says “He must never forget where he is from, it is his strength” and as we all know, mothers are usually right.


This Roar Is For You Dad

How many of us were taken to our first rugby international by our Dad ? Quite a few I should think.

My father took me to Cardiff Arms Park on October 2 1971 to see Wales play for the very first time against Canada.

Forty seven years have passed but that day still lives with me.

In those days of black and white television to be taken to a new rugby world where the grass was green and the Welsh shirts a blood red was a shock to the senses, the colours were all so vivid after a childhood of grey grainy pictures on a small television that doubled up as a cocktail cabinet.

Those forty seven years have passed in a flash, age has caught up with us all, but this weekend it caught up with one man in particular.

My lovely dad passed away at 2.30pm, a proper old fashioned kick off time.

Like a true prop he gave it all he had but this time he was on the losing side, and now it’s time for him to rest in peace.

As the 2018 six nations is about to begin the glorious irrelevance of rugby will be the great comforter that it always has been, and to all those of you who will going to Edinburgh, Cardiff, Rome, Dublin, Twickenham, Murrayfield and Marseille, enjoy every second, and if you happen to be going with your Dad, hold him tight and give him an extra hug from me.

France’s New Coaching Team Talk To The Press

The name Brunel is associated with achievements that defied established theories and practices creating breathtaking results still evident today.

I am of course referring to Isambard Kingdon Brunel, whose namesake Jacques, the new France coach, has agreed to undertake an engineering project that would have tested even the great mans capabilties.

Last week in Marcoussis, at the French National Rugby Centre, Jacques Brunel and his three coaching assistants faced the press.

The head coach spoke of his immediate aims:

“It really begins today with administrative formalities, with the press, with the club coaches with whom we will try to find a consensus on the work to be done on the players. We have the same goals, the player’s performance is at the centre, but very quickly, because we have very little time, we have to switch to the tournament and especially the first match. We’ll get to work right away.

“The mission will be to put the team of France where it has been often, namely to attempt every year to win the tournament, to be in the hunt on the last weekend to fight to claim to win the tournament.  This means that Ireland is fundamental to that goal. I do not plan on the World Cup. There are games to climb before. The World Cup is a special moment with a special preparation, a lot of time we can spend together. Today, what matters to me the Tournament and especially the first match. “

“The potential player exists, he is there, we will use a good part of what was in place. We will try to put them in the best conditions. It is certain that the accumulation of defeats did not strengthen this confidence, on the contrary it deteriorated. We will try to create an environment that makes them perform and they grab the few ideas that we will give them. We are going on a fairly simple basis, a framework in which they will be well. There is a rather special first match because Ireland has a particular type of game that we will have to answer. It is through working everyday, especially the first fifteen days that we will spend together, that we will be able to create the climate that will lead us to victory. “


Brunel commented on a possible future captain role for Guilhem Guirado.

The new coach assured “Midi Olympique” earlier, that he had decided to continue with the Toulon hooker, with whom he worked at Perpignan when they won the league title in 2009.

However, when questioned on this last Thursday he seemed to be hedging his bets.

“I can not say it right now, he will first have to be selected in the squad, if he is in the squad  I’ll have to talk with him,

“I do not know exactly how he coped with the captaincy, whether it’s a burden for him or not”

“I saw his investment in the role, he gave everything, we will make the decision when the time comes”.


“I feel a lot of pride and a little apprehension because I am aware of the difficulty of the task”.

“For now, contractually, I only committed for the duration of the Tournament. If all goes well, the rest will follow. I have already started working on the Irish Alignment, our first opponent of the Tournament “.


“It’s very exciting to coach both the teams from France and Lyon.

I will continue to keep an eye on my club, of course, but when I’m in France, it will be to get 100% involved. “


“It’s nice to be here. It’s a big challenge. We represent an institution, a country, it will be one of our first messages. The boys need to realize how lucky they are to be here. We must also regain confidence. The players have experienced disappointments, they have taken shots on the head. To work in defeat is never good. We want to restore their confidence. I arrive with a lot of desire. Rugby is my passion. “

Brunel’s 6 Nations Squad, and captain, will be announced on Thursday (January 18).

Quins Thunder Sees Off Lightning

On a dark damp chilly afternoon at Surrey Sports Park, Harlequins Ladies thunderous forward effort saw off Loughborough Lightning to earn themselves a 17-10 win.

Quins watertight defence kept out Lightning during the opening exchanges, as Loughborough controlled the breakdown, but Quins dominant scrum turned the tide in their favour.

Jess Wooden kicked a scrum penalty to touch on the 5m line, and the resulting driving maul gave hooker Davinia Carlin her first try of the match.

The multi talented home team backline bombarded Loughborough, but their defence held out until captain Sarah Hunter received a yellow card for killing the ball on her own line.

A Quins attacking 5m scrum resulted in Fi Fletcher touching down under the posts, and Wooden added the conversion to give the home side a 12-0 lead at the break

Quins made a storming start to the second half, with Catlin getting her second try to give Quins a 17-0 lead.

In the gathering darkness as the light faded ,the Lightning struck.

A yellow card for Loughborough’s Rebecca Noon, reducing them to fourteen players, sparked a two try revival as Lizzy Adam and Sarah Bonar touched down to narrow the score to 17-10.

Quins old heads stepped up to the plate, Rachael Burford, now at scrum half, controlled matters in the back line, whilst lock Deborah McCormack made a couple of powerful galloping runs, breaking the gain line on a number of occasions, and putting lightning on the back foot, at a time when they were looking menacing.

The Lightning storm had passed, and the game ended with Quins throwing the kitchen sink at Loughborough in the opposition twenty two, in an attempt to get a fourth try and a bonus point.

A team who love to play exciting attacking rugby showed that they can also get down and dirty to grind out a win, and that can only be good for their title challenge in 2018.

Wales v France In Years Ending With An 8

Years ending in the number eight figure eerily, and notably, in the history of matches between Wales and France.

In 1908, on March 2, Wales and France met for the very first time, in Cardiff, with Wales winning 36-4.

It was only the fifth international match ever played by France.

In 1928, on April 9, France recorded their first win over Wales, at Stade Colombes, until recently the home of the Racing 92 club.

Home wing Robert Houdet (pictured above) scored two tries, and a conversion, to give France an 8-3 win.

In 1948 France gained their first victory on Welsh soil when they beat Wales 11-3 in Swansea, at St Helens.

Ten years later, in 1958, on March 29, France beat Wales 16-6, it was their first ever win at Cardiff Arms Park.

The Welsh team was captained by Clem Thomas, and fly half, Cliff Morgan played his last international match for Wales.

France captain Lucian Mias and his team left the field to a standing ovation from the Welsh crowd.

If we fast forward another ten years to 1968, France won their first Grand Slam in the mud and rain of Cardiff Arms Park.

The Camberabero brothers, at half back, masterminded the French victory, with a team that included Christian Carrere, and Walter Spanghero.

1978 saw the fortunes change in Wales’ favour, when a 16-7 win for Wales, gave them the Grand Slam.

It was the final international appearance of two of the worlds greats, Gareth Edwards and Phil Bennett.

Bennett signed off with two tries, whilst Edwards signed off with a towering drop goal.

France’s one point victory, at Cardiff, in 1988 (10-9) deprived Wales of a Grand Slam, and as a result the 5 Nations title was shared between the two teams.

Wales came back with a late Ieuan Evans try and a Paul Thorburn conversion, but they just came up short in appalling Welsh weather.

France gave Wales a 51-0 thrashing at Wembley Stadium, in 1998.

The match was played at the twin towers whilst the millennium stadium was being built.

72,000 spectators saw Castaignede and co run riot, scoring seven tries to earn another Grand Slam.



Its hard to believe that ten years have passed since that match, in 2008, when Wales, on the last day of the tournament, won their second Grand Slam in three years.

Having been knocked out of the Rugby World Cup by Fiji, just months earlier, it was most unexpected, and after leading 9-6 at half time, Wales scored two second tries through Shane and Martin Williams, to give them a comfortable 29-12 lead that they never relinquished.

So what will 2018 bring ?

Red Roses 6 Nations Training Squad 2018 



England Women Elite Player Squad convened yesterday for a four-day training camp at Loughborough University.


The camp will enable England to begin preparations for the upcoming Six Nations campaign and the Red Roses’ opening match against Italy on 4th February in the Stadio Mirabello (KO 17:30 GMT, Live Sky Sports).

Simon Middleton, England head coach said: “We want to continue to build on what was put in place for the Old Mutual Wealth Series, while at the same time get winning results. The Six Nations is a highly competitive tournament and the level of competition is tough.


We will have two camps between now and the first game on the 4th February to pick our strongest squad. In this training camp we will be looking to really test the players and for them to perform.”


England Women U20’s players Helena Rowland (Saracens Women) and Hannah Botterman (Saracens Women), who made her international debut against Canada last year both join the training squad. Charlotte Pearce (Loughborough Lightning), who took part in England’s extended training camp in October and also featured in the training games against South Africa, is included.


Shaunagh Brown (Harlequins Ladies), who earned her first international cap in the opening Old Mutual Wealth Series Test which saw England beat Canada 79-5, joins the squad as a newly appointed EPS player.


Middleton added: “Shaunagh has earned her place in the squad through delivering consistently outstanding performances in the Tyrrells Premier 15s and also on her international debut against Canada last year. We are delighted to have Shaunagh fully integrated into the squad as a named EPS player.”

Katy Daley-Mclean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks) will miss the camp for personal reasons.

England Women squad will convene again on 22nd January for a final week-long training camp before a playing squad is selected ahead of the opening Test against Italy. England won the Six Nations in 2017 with their first Grand Slam since 2012.
England training squad for Loughborough Camp:


Bianca Blackburn (Gloucester-Hartpury Women’s RFC)

Rachael Burford (Harlequins Ladies)

Lauren Cattell (Saracens Women)

Charlotte Clapp (Saracens Women)

Abigail Dow (Wasps FC Ladies)

Zoe Harrison (Saracens Women)

Ellie Kildunne (Gloucester-Hartpury Women’s RFC)

Caity Mattinson (Bristol Ladies)

Charlotte Pearce (Loughborough Lightning)

Amber Reed (Bristol Ladies)

Leanne Riley (Harlequins Ladies)

Helena Rowland (Saracens Women)

Kelly Smith (Gloucester- Hartpury Women’s RFC)

Lagi Tuima (Bristol Ladies)

Danielle Waterman (Wasps FC Ladies)

Rachael Woosey (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)


Sarah Bern (Gloucester-Hartpury Women’s RFC)

Hannah Botterman (Saracens Women)

Jo Brown (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)

Shaunagh Brown (Harlequins Ladies)

Rowena Burnfield (Richmond FC)

Amy Cokayne (Wasps FC Ladies)

Rochelle Clark (Wasps FC Ladies)

Poppy Cleall (Saracens Women)

Vickii Cornborough (Harlequins Ladies)

Lark Davies (Worcester Valkyries)

Sarah Hunter (Loughborough Lightning)

Olivia Jones (Loughborough Lightning)

Heather Kerr (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)

Poppy Leitch (Bristol Ladies)

Justine Lucas (Wasps FC Ladies)

Izzy Noel-Smith (Bristol Ladies)

Catherine O’Donnell (Loughborough Lightning)

Marlie Packer (Saracens Women)

Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)

Abbie Scott (Harlequins Ladies)

England Women Six Nations 2018 fixtures:

Italy v England

Sunday 4 February, KO 17:30 GMT, Live Sky Sports Action and Sky Sports Mix

Stadio Mirabello, Reggio Emilia

England v Wales

Saturday 10 February, KO 12:15pm, Live Sky Sports Action and Sky Sports Mix

Twickenham Stoop

Scotland v England

Friday 23 February, KO 19:30, Live Sky Sports Mix and Sky Sports Arena via red button

Scotstoun, Glasgow

France v England

Saturday 10 March, KO 20:00 GMT, Live Sky Sports Action and Sky Sports Mix

Stade des Alpes, Grenoble

England v Ireland

Friday 16 March, KO 17:30, Live Sky Sports Action and Sky Sports Mix

Ricoh Arena, Coventry


Time To Prepare For The 2018 Nat West 6 Nations

Yes it’s that time of year. I hear people say “Oh how I hate January it’s so dark and depressing”

WHAT !!!! Are they mad ? it’s nearly the start of the 6 Nations.

As an exiled Welshman the memories come flooding back, quite literally, as the part of West Wales I lived in was so wet, I was  a teenager before I realised you could actually take an anorak off !

But for all you men out there, here’s some friendly advice, It’s time to start rubbing your back, flexing that dodgy hamstring, because you know that you are going to have to get out of all shopping and DIY obligations until March 19th.

My advice is to start sowing the seeds of doubt immediately, just a gentle limp to start, and a few “oh it’s ok, I’m sure it will pass”.

By the end of January I recommend a bit of sniffing and coughing just to be on the safe side, you don’t want to get caught off guard just before the opening weekend.

Don’t forget we’ve got five weekends to get through, so start preparing.

My cryotherapy sessions have already started, and I’m currently at the stage where I’m making at least three trips to the fridge daily.


This is the very best time for us Welsh fans, the last few weeks building up to the start of the tournament… we are unbeaten in 2018, it can only get worse !.

We dream again of another Grand Slam, and then we start negotiating with our maker, to decide which games we would be prepared for Wales to lose, in exchange for beating England.

It’s the start of that magnificent winter festival, when we lie awake in the middle of a silent, cold frosty night, and remember trips to Paris, Murrayfield, HQ, and Rome, when those of us of a certain age get misty eyed recalling JPR, Gareth, Benny, JJ, and for those of as old as me, Keith Jarrett and Barry John playing on a grainy black and white television.

The wonderful thing is that each championship brings new ones to add to the memory bank.

This magnificent winter festival never lets us down, even if some match days are harder to cope with than others, whatever age you may happen to be.

My new years message to you all is :

Wherever you are and whoever you support, may the 2018 Nat West 6 Nations send you on your way towards spring, with a long list of outstanding chores, and an even longer list of memories to cherish.