Baa Baa Black And White Magic


In a word association test the psychologist presents a series of words to an individual, for each word given they are instructed to respond with the first word that comes to mind, Freud believed that such responses provided clues to people’s personalities.

Egg followed Bacon with many, as did cart with horse, but if the word Barbarians would have been offered it would surely elicit a three word response, Mickey Steele Bodger.

Mickey sadly passed away a few weeks ago, aged ninety three, Twickenham felt a little empty yesterday without his presence.

He had been on the Baa Baas committee since 1946, and president since 1988, a lot of Guinness has flowed under the bridge during that time, the drink that displayed the Barbarian colours was given ample endorsement by Mr President.

How proud and delighted he would have been to see the men’s and women’s teams grace the home of English rugby for the first time together, at the ground where he wore the red rose during an international career that spanned nine caps between 1947 and 1948.

Yesterday we said goodbye, yet we also said hello to rugby inclusion, it may seem a small thing but the Barbarians announced their men’s and women’s teams at the same time, and on the same tweet, a tiny detail but a huge step in terms of how the bright ever growing world of women’s rugby is developing, and just typical of the Barbarians to be the trend setters.

The sun shone from early dawn, and the balmy temperatures felt more like Tenerife than Twickenham, 17,902 spectator’s basked in the heat as they witnessed history being made, the Red Roses bloomed and the Baa Baas wilted, as the England forwards relentlessly knocked the stuffing out of them.

14-0 up after 19 minutes, England never looked like losing, and a 28-0 half time confirmed their ascendency.

The Barbarians had a much improved second half and at last put together some phases  putting pressure on the England defence, they clawed back two tries to make the score 28-14 before England pulled away again to take the score to 40-14 and a comfortable win was assured.

For old timers Rocky Clarke and Danielle Waterman, who have been the pathfinders for the women’s game, this history making Barbarians fixture may well be their last appearance at Twickenham, but thanks to them and many others along the way, the younger players and those yet to come will find matches like this will now be the norm.

I’m sure Mickey was looking down with a Guinness in his hand and smiling a smile of gentle satisfaction, as the club song tells us “For it’s a way we have in the Baa Baas and jolly good way too”.

 

 

 

 

Sejii Hirao The Emperor Of Japan 

At three o’clock on 31 May 1995, at Free State stadium, Bloomfontein, Japan faced Ireland in a rugby World Cup Pool C match.

As the match kicked off in front of 15,000 spectators, Japan fly half Sejii Hirao was about to play his thirty fifth and final international match for Japan.

Born in Kyoto on 21 January 1963, Hirao went on to play in three rugby world cups, his first as a nineteen year old in 1987, as Japanese captain in 1991, and finally in South Africa 1995.

Sadly Sejii Hirao passed away on 20 October 2016, at the ridiculously young age of 53, in hospital where he was being treated for an undisclosed illness.

One of the most popular Japanese players of all time, he was known in Japan as “Mr Rugby” he was so proud and honoured that his home country was chosen to host the 2019 Rugby World Cup.


After graduating from university in Japan he spent 1985 in England where he played for Richmond, following his joyous sojourn in Surrey he returned home and became Japan national coach from 1997 to 2000.

 An esteemed member of the world rugby hall of fame, he was looking  forward to his country hosting the next rugby World Cup, in 2019, with a mixture of intense pride and excitement.

As for that rugby World Cup match in 1995 at Bloomfontein, Sejii Hirao scored a try after fifty nine minutes, a match which Ireland went on to win 50-28.

Sadly Sejii will have to watch the tournament from a heavenly viewpoint but there is no doubt his shadow will cast an earthly warmth over Rugby World  Cup 2019.

Springbok Women To Face Spain


The Spanish Women’s team will visit South Africa later this year in a groundbreaking tour where they will provide stiff opposition to the Springbok Women, a South African Invitational XV and the Eastern Province XV in Port Elizabeth in September. 

It will be the Spanish side’s first visit to South Africa and will culminate in a Test against the Springbok Women on Saturday, 21 September. 

 

The visitors will travel to South Africa with a squad of 26 to 28 players, and will play the first two matches as a Spanish Invitational XV, and the Test against the Springbok Women as Spain. The match venues in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality will be confirmed in due course.

 

The Test will be the first of three internationals in two weeks for Springbok Women’s coach Stanley Raubenheimer’s team.

 

Raubenheimer’s charges will host Scotland in back-to-back Tests at the City Park Sports Grounds in Cape Town on Monday, 30 September, and Saturday, 5 October in their other Tests.

 

The opening match of the tour will be on Saturday, 14 September, against the SA Invitational XV, which will be followed by a clash against the Eastern Province XV on Tuesday, 17 September. The Spanish and South African national teams will then battle it out in the grand finale of their tour.

 

Spain is no stranger to the Springbok Women, with the teams last crossing paths in November in Villajoyosa, where the South Africans went down 17-5, while they also met in the 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup in France.  

 

“We are excited about this opportunity to face Spain at home,” said Raubenheimer.

 

“The more internationals we play the better it is for the development of our players, while it will also be good to market the women’s game in different provinces, since we will be facing Spain in Port Elizabeth and Scotland in Cape Town.”

 

Raubenheimer said he is expecting a thorough Test against the Spanish: “They are an experienced Rugby World Cup team and we finished the game against in them November with a few good learnings, so it will be good to see how much we have developed since then when we meet here.

 

“Spain won the European Championship again this year after defeating the Netherlands, and we they have been together for a while as a squad. We haven’t defeated them yet, so it will be good to see if we can do it this time around.”

 

Raubenheimer was also pleased about the SA Invitational XV and Eastern Province XV receiving the opportunity to test themselves against international opposition and said: “These matches will serve as a good opportunity for some of the junior players and the Eastern Province provincial players, and it will give them an idea of what it takes to get into the senior national side. The intensity of the matches will be high, so it will be good for them to see if they can match that.”

 

Fixtures (match venues TBC):

 

Saturday, 14 September:

SA Invitation XV vs Spain Invitation XV

 

Tuesday, 17 September:

Eastern Province XV vs Spain Invitational XV

 

Saturday, 21 September

Springbok Women vs Spain

The Unlikely Lads Stade Rochelais

From the Bay of Biscay to the River Tyne is a journey of 1,294 kilometres, La Rochelle swapped their Atlantic coastal home for the North Sea on Friday night, as they faced Clermont in the European Challenge Cup Final.

There are no direct flights between Charante-Maritime and Tyne & Wear, so the journey for supporters was not a simple or inexpensive one, when added to the extorniate hotel room charges the average fan was virtually priced out of the occasion.

Yet still they came, Newcastle was transformed into a sea of yellow as fans from both teams ebbed and flowed past St James Park, though on this occasion both yellow shirted teams decided on a change of strip, La Rochelle decided on black and white, perhaps in a horizontally striped tribute to the Magpies.

In fact the only men wearing yellow on the field of play were the match officials, headed by referee Wayne Barnes.

This was La Rochelle’s first major final, whilst Clermont’s record of ten defeats, in various finals over the last twenty years, was hanging over them in sword of Damacles fashion.

The boys from the Bay of Biscay did not play in the Top flight of French rugby until 2010, but were immediately relegated, they returned in 2015 and their rise has been rapid, with a Top 14 semi final berth in 2017, and a Champions Cup Quarter final last season.

But they were second best this time out, Clermont thoroughly deserved their win, La Rochelle had no answer to the their powerful driving maul, and in the end the Michelin men won with something to spare.

For the jaune et noir, Kevin Gourdon was immense, constantly breaking the gain line and offloading majestically.

Ouini Antonio scored La Rochelle’s only try a three metre rumble after which he was replaced, at 6ft 6 and close on 24 stone, presumably the distance got the better of him, as he left the field looking totally shattered.

Stade Rochelais are now established in the big time, and despite the hurt of this loss it will be a big learing experience to fuel them for further challenges to come.

The team will get a huge ovation at their next home game at Stade Marcel Deflandre, where the hard core fans, “Les Bagnards” will march from the city centre banging their drums as they go.

On 10 January 1941 Marcel Deflandre became president of La Rochelle, he joined the “Honor and Homeland” group of the French resistance in 1942, where he commanded the supplies and gasoline section. He was arrested on October 9 1943, and executed by the Nazis on 11 January 1944, sometimes the pain losing a European final needs to be put into some kind of perspective.

One thing is for sure Le Jeaune et Noir are here to stay and Bon Chance to all of them.


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Harlequins Ladies And The Never Ending Seasons

It’s now been a week since Harlequins Ladies defeat to Saracens in the Tyrrells Premier Final at Franklins Gardens.

I’ve watched the match on you tube countless times this week, and the final score still won’t change, but I will keep on repeating the process until it does.

For players and staff thoughts have already turned to next season, one hopes the Barbarians team to face England women On June 2 will contain a few Quins, the Red Roses side most certainly will, before a bunch of them head off to San Diego to play in the Women’s World Series starting in late June, where England will face the world’s best.

So as we say goodbye to the 2018/19 season it is worth mentioning some facts about Quins Tyrrells premiership season that will either entertain you, or send you to sleep, so either way it’s a win-win for every reader.

For Harlequins Ladies pre season training is just a matter of weeks away, in reality the seasons are never ending these days, there is no doubt they have entertained and inspired rugby lovers of all ages, and they have done it with a smile on their faces, long May that continue.

MATCH RECORD 2018/19

Played 20 Won 15 Drawn 1 Lost 3

 

  • Quins recorded 10 straight wins between 29 September 2018 and 12 January 2019.
  • Quins first try of the season was a penalty try against Gloucester-Hartbury 10 mins into the opening game of the season.
  • Emily Scot played in 17 of the 18 league matches.
  • Quins are unbeaten at home since 3 December 2017.
  • Quins scored 14 points in the final four minutes (Ellie Green scoring 9) to draw with Bristol Bears after being 26-0 down at half time.
  • Rachael Burford scored a try in the first and last matches of the season.
  • Heather Cowell scored a hat trick in 11 minutes against Bristol  (21,29 & 32 minutes)
  • Quins were the only team to beat Saracens in 2018/19 (20-17 at the Stoop 20/10/18).

 

FULL LIST OF TRY SCORERS 2018/19 (120 TRIES SCORED)

  • Heather Cowell   20
  • Jade Konkel   11
  • Davinia Catlin   10
  • Shaunagh Brown   8
  • Leanne Riley   8
  • Emily Scott   8
  • Fiona Fletcher   7
  • Jess Breach   6
  • Chloe Edwards   4
  • Chloe Butler   4
  • Vickii Cornborough   4
  • Lucy Packer   4
  • Penalty Tries   3
  • Bethany Wilcock   3
  • Georgia Newman   3
  • Rachael Burford   3
  • Beth Dainton   2
  • Katy Mew   1
  • Ellie Green   1
  • Stacey White   1
  • Zoe Saynor   1
  • Deborah McCormack   1
  • Charlie Wellbelove   1
  • Tove Viksten   1
  • Sarah Cornforth   1
  • Kristine Sommer   1
  • Leah Lyons   1
  • Jade Mullen   1
  • Sam McCarthy   1

 

REPRESENTATIVE APPEARANCES 2018/19

  • Deborah McCormack   Scotland
  • Jade Konkel   Scotland
  • Leah Lyons   Ireland
  • Emily Scott   England
  • Jess Breach   England
  • Abbie Scott   England
  • Shaunagh Brown   England
  • Leanne Riley   England
  • Vickii Cornborough   England
  • Rachael Burford   England
  • Kristine Sommer   USA
  • Ellie Green   England U20
  • Chloe Edwards   England U20
  • Beth Dainton   Army
  • Alex Hardy   Army
  • Jade Mullen   Army
  • Bev Gilbert   Army
  • Victoria Peterssen   Sweden
  • Tove Viksten   Sweden

 

  • Rachael Burford achieved her 80th England cap in 2018/19
  • Deborah McCormack earned her 30th Scotland cap in 2018/19 against France in Lille
  • Abbie Scott captained England against Wales in Cardiff in the 2019 Six Nations
  • Jess Breach was top try scorer in the Six Nations with 9 tries for England

Captains Gather In Northampton Ahead Of Tyrrells Premier 15s Final

Saracens Women captain Lotte Clapp and captain of Harlequins Ladies Rachel Burford assembled at the home of Northampton Saints today ahead of the Tyrrells Premier 15s final on Saturday 27 April, KO 5.45pm.

The second Tyrrells Premier 15s final will see current title holders Saracens Women take on Harlequins Ladies at Franklin’s Gardens in what will be a rematch of last year’s final.

Looking ahead to the weekend Clapp commented: “I always have in my head that image of me lifting the trophy with all my team mates around, it was an amazing feeling and something you wish to have over and over again.

“At the same time you’ve got to not get overwhelmed by that and say it’s a new year and a new final where anything can happen.”


Rachael Burford added: “It would mean everything. We’ve put in a lot of hard work, there’s heartache from last year and a couple of times this season, so for us to be able to go and win would be brilliant.

“It is in our hands, we’ve got an opportunity and I’m really confident that our team will rise to that challenge.”

In the semi-finals Saracens defeated Wasps FC Ladies 31-13 at Allianz Park after topping the regular-season table with 17 wins from 18 games while Harlequins put in an impressive performance to beat Loughborough Lightning 26-10 at the Twickenham Stoop.


Tickets for the final cost £10 for adults and are free for under 16s. Visit http://www.englandrugby.com/tickets for more information.

Harlequins Ladies The Final Frontier


Sunday April 29 2018, with 81:16 on the clock Quins are on the attack, trailing 24-20, one score and the title would surely be theirs, one bounce of the ball, one refereeing decision could change everything, but a knock on just outside Saracens twenty-two brings the game to an abrupt and gut wrenching end.

That blustery icy cold day at Ealing will never be forgotten by Quins and their fans, or indeed by this correspondent.

The team and management vowed, almost immediately, that they would return for the 2019 final, and the disappointment of that day has been a huge motivating factor this season, and they have been true to their word.

So a year later and some eight five miles further north, from last year’s venue, the 2019 final is just days away one thing that hasn’t changed are the protagonists, Harlequins Ladies and Saracens women.

Last years try scorers Holly Jane Myers, Jess Breach and Deborah Mc Cormack are all in contention for a place in the Quins squad looking for revenge,but there will be host of new faces lining up at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday evening.

There is no doubt that Quins are a much better side than the one that came up just short in 2018.

The depth of the squad is now incredibly impressive, and this season they have learned how to win ugly displaying both the beauty and the beast.

With Jess Breach and Heather Cowell on the wings tries are never far away, Rachael Burford is the glue that holds everything together in defence and attack, and Leanne Riley is one of the best scrum halves in the game.

Up front Jade Konkel comes at you like a runaway train, and if she can’t get you then Shaunagh Brown most definitely will.

At lock Quins are blessed with world class international personnel from England Scotland and Australia in the form of Abbie Scott, Zoe Sayner, Debs McCormack and Chloe Butler, whilst the front row will either bludgeon or frighten you to death, Leah Lyons, Vickii Cornborough & Davinia Catlin have scant regard for the Geneva convention and don’t take any prisoners.

So when Saturday comes everyone’s hopes and dreams wll be condensed in to eighty minutes or so of rugby, but win or lose one thing that won’t change is the character of those involved with Harlequins Ladies, a group of people who have welcomed me for the last two seasons, they’ve eaten all my welsh cakes but have also helped me through some very difficult times, in the process they have become become my friends, and it’s worth remembering whilst trophies  gather dust, memories last forever, but let’s get that trophy as well please.

So from that first training session at acmosquito infestested Surrey Sports Park  in July we find ourselves awaiting curtain up on the final act, the twentieth match of the season, for all our sakes I hope the fat lady will be singing a Quins aria long before the clock hits 81:16

With love respect and thanks to Debs, Jade K, Vicky P, Gary, Karen, Ali, Merrick, Matt, Michele, Ash, Gilly, Dawn, Harry, Graham, Marc, Rachael, Beth, Leanne, Ellie G, Ellie M, Emily, Jess, Heather, Khadi, Charlie, Zoe, Shaunagh, Leah, Vickii, All The Chloe’s Abbie, Tove, Jade M, Alex, Tash, Jenny, Courtney and of course Gary and Karen, and everyone of the gang.