In The Line Of Fire Bombardier Beth Dainton


The ability to think cope and react in the pressurised environment of the elite womens game is a pre requisite,so if you have undertaken a tour of duty as a precision fires gunner in Afghanistan then it is safe to say you know all about real pressure and in comparison to sport the stakes and the levels are incomparable.

Bombardier Bethan Dainton has experienced both ends of the spectrum.

Beth served with 74 Battery (The Battleaxe Company) 39 Regiment Royal Artillery, who provided precision artillery support to 16 Air Assault Brigade in Helmand Province, operating throughout the region at forward operating bases and checkpoints firing at targets believed to contain insurgents, decorated for her efforts,she was awarded the Operational Service Medal at a ceremony in Newcastle   

Born in Hengoed on 12 April 1989, Beth has represented Wales on the track, at cross country and on the rugby field.

She didn’t start playing rugby until 2015, yet remarkably made her Wales debut in the 2016 Six Nations against Ireland, going on to win five caps in the red shirt.

A serious foot injury sustained on international Sevens duty kept her out of action for nearly all of the 2017/18 season, and after a lengthy  gruelling rehab she has now a run of games relishing her switch from wing to flanker and enjoying a new rugby lease of life in the number 7 shirt.

A 2019 Tyrrells Premiership winners medal would be a perfect contrast and go together  nicely alongside the one earned on the battlefield.

The Last Metro France v Wales

Saint-Denis at midnight and the France captain is still doing the media rounds muddied bruised and exhausted after the opening game of the 2019 Guinness six nations.

Nine o’clock kick offs may be good news for the home supporters who can indulge in a leisurely dinner pre match but for players it is the final knockings of a very long day.

As Friday night nudges into Saturday morning Guilhem Guirado can finally grab a shower after the endless round of media commitments time to start the long process of unwinding it will be many hours before he can finally get the kind of sleep a warrior deserves, although sleep may be in short supply after the extraordinary events on the field.

The dark streets of Saint-Denis illuminated by neon hotel signs and dimly lit bars are nearly empty as the last metro ferries supporters back to Gare du Nord and central Paris.

An uneasy peace descends on the Stade de France the moonlight reflecting in the Icy puddles as the shutters on the food outlets echo to a close in the Parisian night,the final espresso dispensed.

On a bitter cold night the warm red shirts of Wales created a comeback that Lazarus would have found difficult to comprehend, as they turned around a 16-0 deficit at half time to score three second half tries and earn a 24-19 victory.

It was Wales biggest ever half time turnaround in a 5/6 Nations match and the look of sheer desolation on the French faces at full time was haunting.

Even with Poirot in the front row it is difficult to unfathom the mystery of how France let a big lead slip

But there is no time to dwell the matches come thick and fast in the Six Nations, France and Wales will head in opposite directions for Round Two next weekend.

In 1888 Vincent Van Gogh left a dull grey Paris and headed south by train for the unique almost heavenly light of Provence, the artists of Wales headed south to the Côte d’Azur on Saturday where they will camp in Nice in preparation for next weeks game with Italy.

Warren Gatland will be hoping things warm up in both rugby and climate terms and they will looking for an eighty plus minutes performance at Stadio Olympico.

France face a daunting trip to Twickenham next week, and Jacques Brunel will have to repair badly dented hearts and minds, it is an ill icy wind blowing around the stade de France and it’s blowing directly in the face of French rugby.

 

My Women’s Six Nations Torment


This weeks article is a personal cry for help, it is less than four days until the start of the 2019 Women’s Six Nations tournament and I have issues.

I’m not sure how I am going to resolve this inner torment of mine, you see the thing is I am Welsh, that is not the problem by the way, but then again maybe in some ways it is.

Ever since I was a child I have supported every Welsh competitor in every sporting contest imaginable, it even extended to Come Dancing in the days before it became stricter, and when Home Counties North beat a Welsh couple in the Paso Doble to take the trophy I was gutted beyond words.

Football, athletics, boxing cricket, all got the treatment, and if there had been a Welsh tiddly winks competitor, they too would have had my passionate support.

Wales on the rugby field, well that of course got top billing in the patriotic fervour stakes, and just between you and me, it still does.

And therein lies my dilemma, as the Womens Six Nations is about get underway, I find my allegiance drifting, and if it were to another single nation then that would be easy to deal with, okay it would be classed as treason where I come from, but my mental torment would at least be resolved.

I’m going to have to bite the bullet and be decisive, Ok I’ve decided, I will support Scotland, my dear friends and international forwards Deborah Mc Cormack and Jade Konkel, two of the best and nicest people on and off the field, have made my decision easier than I thought, Phew thank goodness that’s resolved.

Hang on a minute, what happens when they play Wales, and even more worrying what happens when they play England and my pals and welsh cake consumers Leanne Riley, Rachael Burford, Vickii Cornborough, Shaunagh Brown, and kinder bueno lover Abbie Scott are playing ? oh my goodness I’m only now beginning to realise that this dilemma of mine is more complex  than I thought.

There is only one solution, in 2019 I’m going to have declare myself neutral, the rugby equivalent of Switzerland, I’ve got some Toblerone in the fridge and a cuckoo clock somewhere up in the loft, oh and I’ve also got an autographed photo of Roger Federer from my tennis reporting days.

So there we have it, problem solved, thanks for listening, I can now look forward to a Women’s six nations tournament which I reckon will be best one yet, now where’s that Toblerone ?

 

 

 

Quins Earn Their Stripes At Wasps

There was almost a sting in the tail as Quins Ladies defended a four point lead deep into injury time.

Wasps pounded the try line but could not breach Harlequins heroic defence, in fact it was a Jess Breach tackle that dislodged the ball as Wasps were about to dot down for a match winning try.

The match was a tough physical battle made all the more attritional by the free for all that was allowed at the breakdown, and also by the tackling of the French Exocet Khadidji Camara who made so many big hits in midfield that the photo frames in club house were rattling on their hooks.

She was justifiably named player of the match.

Quins were pruned of their Red Roses the exception of Jess Breach and Emily Scott, and it was Jess the Chichester Express that scored a long range intercept try in the 26th minute that gave Quins a 10-5 lead before Abbie Dow scored a try for Wasps with two minutes of the first half remaining to draw the scores level at 10-10 at half time.

A 60 minute penalty gave Wasps a 13-10 lead after which Quins pounded the Wasps line with a series of scrums that resulted in sevens penalties for the visitors and despite a yellow card for Wasps, a penalty try was not awarded.

The wallaby warrior Chloe Butler took matters into her own hands and stormed over for a try on 77 minutes converted by Ellie Green.

With a 17-13 lead Quins defended with their lives for the remaining few minutes.

As they replaced all the photo frames in the club house Quins reflected on a hard fought win that brings a home semi final within touching distance.

Six Nations Launch 2019

The temperature hit -3 in West London as the captains and coaches arrived at the famous Hurlingham Club along with the rugby media for the official launch of the Guinness 6 Nations 2019.

For Joe Schmidt of Ireland and Warren Gatland Of Wales this will be their final 6 Nations tournament as coaches of their respective countries.

Proud new title sponsors, Guinness, provided endless free pints of their product from midday onwards sadly most of us were too professional to be able to partake in even a drop of the black stuff.

Warren Gatland and Eddie Jones went out for a curry the night before the launch indeed all the coaches were very quick to pay respect to each other and there were none of the verbal hand grenades that so often have accompanied these types of events.

Italy coach Connor O’Shea spoke of the need of some consistency from his team

“The skill of the players is there but we have to create a habit of intensity”

Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones when asked about Warren Gatland’s final campaign replied in his own typical forthright manner “There will be no cakes and candles in our camp its business as usual”

Ireland v England on the opening weekend is a crunch match Eddie Jones emphasised that England had two battles to win, one in the air, and one on the ground, whilst Joe Schmidt said “You know if you don’t get things right England can get a long way away from you”

Scotland are looking to end their dismal away record of results and coach Gregor Townsend is confident his side can do this when they visit Twickenham and Paris

.

As for France there is the feeling that on their day they can still be a threat to anyone and their opening game against Wales on a Friday night in Paris could be just catalyst to get them going.

It was a long day for players coaches and journalists all united in the child like excitement we all get at the anticipation of the start of this wonderful annual winter festival.

More Than A Neuf France’s Scrum Half Embarrassment Of Riches


A Neuf is enough for France as they enter the 2019 Guinness Six Nations with a wealth of talent available to fill the number nine shirt.

There used to be talk of a fly half factory in Wales, but there is no doubt that the production of the scrum half model has been well and truly established in France, so much so that a monopolies commission may need to look in to the situation.

Who will start for France in their opening match against Wales on February 1st is very much open for debate.

Baptiste Serin of Bordeaux would appear to be the current holder of the number nine shirt but he is only holding on to it by his finger nails,

Antoine Dupont has been in storming for for Top 14 high flyers Toulouse, who also have former French international scrum half Sebastián Bezy in their ranks.

Hot on his is tails is Teddy Iribaren of Racing 92 who is in the form of his life since taking over from the injured France scrum half Maxime Machenaud, as Machenaud has now recovered the duo will be battling it out for top chien for both club and country.

The man from Metz, Clermont legend Metz Morgan Parra although one of the older candidates cannot be ruled out of international contention either, also Rory Cockott of Castres who can start a fight in a phone box has never let his country down when asked to don the Blue Neuf jersey, would readily step into the fray.

 
But the conveyor belt of talent doesn’t end there, the next generation are already snapping at the heels of the established half backs, Louis Carbonel of Toulon guided France to the junior World Cup in 2018, scoring twenty three points in the final against England, a match won by Les Bleus 33-25 on a glorious summers day in Beziers.

The two other scrum halves in that France U20 squad are also making big names for themselves, Arthur Coville, aged 20, the Captain of that World Cup winning side is making big strides at Stade Francais, and Jules Gimbert is going down a storm at Bordeaux.

France are certainly not going to be short of scrum half  options for many years to come.

France 2019 Guinness Six Nations Squad was announced just as I was finishing this article, the three scrum halves chosen by coach Jacques Brunel are:

Morgan Parra (Clermont)

Baptiste Serin (Bordeaux)

Antoine Dupont (Toulouse)

 

Red Roses Ready To Bloom

The Women’s Championship starts next Friday with last year’s runners up England travelling to Dublin to play Ireland, while Scotland host Italy in Glasgow on the same night.

Reigning champions France will get their title defence underway in a Saturday-evening clash with Wales in Montpellier. 

The 2019 edition of the Women’s Six Nations will be another landmark Championship in terms of growth and change for women’s rugby, with England competing as full-time professionals for the first time. 

And England captain Sarah Hunter is keen to build upon that progress at this year’s Championship by boosting the profile of women’s rugby across the country. 

She said: “Our preparations have been going well, especially with the news at the beginning of the year that we were going to be full-time professionals. 

England Women have home matches in Doncaster, Exeter and at Twickenham this year, with Sarah enjoying touring around: “It’s hugely important for us to go and showcase the Red Roses around the country, when we play in Doncaster and Exeter, and show what we are all about. 

“Last time we played at Castle Park (Doncaster) the fans were amazing. Wherever we go we’ll have the Red Rose support along the way.”