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



France Brush Off Italy In Friday Night Match On The Med

In 1888 Vincent Van Gogh left a dull grey Paris and headed south by train for the unique almost heavenly light of Provence.
“May artists come together in Provence” was Van Gogh’s wish, and on a winters weekend in February the Impressionists of the Nat West 6 Nations exhibited their art at the Orange Velodrome.

On a Friday night as the dusky colours of the Var framed the brightly lit stadium, France and Italy met in the battle of the blues

France opted to play a home six nations match outside of Paris for the very first time, 774 kilometres due south in the misty Mediterranean moonlight of Marseille.

A 9pm kick off added to the Mediterranean ambience of the occasion.

The French love these late soirees, plenty of time for steak frites with a decent red, followed by cheese and an espresso before heading down Boulevard Michelet to the magnificent Stadium home to Olympique Marseille.

The Romans came here for an extended stay in 49BC but the 2018 version were a much more amicable bunch filling the cafes and bars of Vieux Port,enjoying the wintery sunshine and a spot of sea air.

The artists came but despite the wonderful canvas they could not produce a masterpiece,in fact at times the French impressionists could barely hold the brush, in the end there proved to be plenty of enthusiasm and colour but very little substance.

50,000 attended the exhibition, and the majority left content that France had achieved their first win since March 2017.

As for the Italians, a win for them is now becoming a collectors item after their 15th straight defeat.

The margin of victory should have been much greater than the eventual 34-17 scoreline.

France spurned at least another three or four simple try scoring opportunities, but ultimately the win was the priority, or a few Frenchmen, could well have been heading out to Chateau D’if on the early Saturday morning boat from the port.

The artists came and left Provence, delicate brush strokes were replaced by a big man with a roller and two litres of emulsion as Mathieu Basteraud turned beauty in to beast, it was that kind of night down on the Med.


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.


A French Farce Moliere Would Have Been Proud To Write

Moliere the 16th century French actor and playwright is considered by many to be the great master of French Farce, a genre who’s aim is to entertain through situations that are highly exaggerated, extravagant and as such, improbable.

French Farce is also characterised by the use of deliberate absurdity and nonsense.

French rugby president Bernard Laporte may well have taken over the crown from the 16th century genius with his matinee performances this week.

On the other hand it appears that comedy is turning to tragedy on the other side of the channel.

The French Rugby Federation has replaced head coach Guy Novès after less than two years in charge, with Bordeaux-Bègles’ Jacques Brunel.

Former Italy coach Brunel, will become France head coach after taking Bordeaux on this weekend’s Top 14 trip to Stade Francais, FFR president Bernard Laporte told a press conference last Wednesday.

“Several people could have aspired to be coach of the XV of France,” said Laporte, “but Jacques Brunel, I know him well. He has the experience. He is also a person capable of taking on this heavy responsibility.”

The decision means that Novès has become the first-ever head coach of the French national rugby side to lose his job, with 63-year-old Brunel signing on through to the end of the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

The writing was on the wall after the 2017 November internationals capped a run of six defeats and a draw against Japan.

 His record in charge of France stands at seven wins, 13 defeats and a draw in 22 matches.

“It’s a painful situation for Guy and also for us,” Laporte admitted, as he thanked the former Toulouse coach, who won 10 French domestic titles and four European Cups in 22 years in charge at Stade Ernest Wallon.

“But we couldn’t go on like this any more. We made this decision, which was not easy, in the interests of French rugby.”

Although the FFR president confirmed that Yannick Bru and Jean-Frédéric Dubois have also been shown the door as part of a major coaching clear-out, he insisted that no decision had been taken as to who will replace them.

“He [Brunel] will decide his own staff,” Laporte told journalists.

Several Top 14 coaches have been linked to staff jobs in the national set-up in recent days, as speculation surrounding Novès’ future in the France hotseat intensified.

Names mentioned included Toulon’s Fabien Galthie, Clermont’s Franck Azema and La Rochelle’s Patrice Collazo.

Galthie and Azema have since publicly taken themselves out of contention for jobs under Brunel.

“Top 14 coaches …. will come together before each tournament,” added Laporte. “They will sit around a table to exchange ideas and involve everyone around the national side.

“It’s a win-win for the clubs and the French team. We can no longer have clubs on one side and the XV of France on the other.”

And in a Final act where farce and tragedy combine, Just hours after Laporte’s compassionate remarks about Noves, all three coaches received a registered letter informing them that they were subject to dismissal procedures for serious misconduct, which if successful would allow the Federation de rugby Francais to avoid paying them any compensation, which would cost an estimated two to three million euros.

The offences in question although not officially confirmed are “Failing to collaborate fully with the Top 14 clubs and players ”

This latest farce is set for an extended run in Paris during 2018 with a full cast of expensive lawyers and interspersed with some 6 Nations rugby.

Oo La La 


France v Ireland And Nigel Owens Parisian Walkways

It is 503 miles from Mynyddcerrig to Paris, but in many ways, in fact in most ways, the two places are not just worlds apart, they are more like galaxies apart.

One man who has spent a large part of the last ten years making that inter galactic journey is top referee Nigel Owens.

He is a familiar figure in the city of lights, indeed the song “I love Paris in the springtime, I love Paris in the fall” could have been written for him, as refereering appointments to six nations matches, autumn internationals and European cup games in France’ capital city have been plentiful.

Last Saturday at the Stade de France he became the most capped referee in 6 Nations history , when he refereed his 18th tournament match.

After a final blast of “Mor fawr wyt ti” in the solitary final minutes in the changing room, Nigel ran out in the Parisian drizzle to referee a pulsating and brutal match.

For those of you who don’t speak the language of heaven those Welsh words translate to how great thou art, a hymn that has been a huge comfort to many welsh families in tough times.

This week my father passed away and one of the great comforts I received were messages of condolence from Nigel, which speaks volumes for the man.

When you add his 21 matches as an assistant referee, and his three as TMO, it makes the achievement even more impressive.

In that time he has issued 7 yellow red cards and awarded 3 pen tries, well after all and as they say in these parts

“Ce n’est pas le soccer”

In a murky floodlit corner of Saint-Denis with 82.38 on the clock and France within touching distance of a shock win over Ireland, Johnny Sexton, after 41 phases of play, swung his right foot into as sweetly struck a dropped goal as you could wish for to win the match for the men in green.

Two blasts on the whistle followed almost simultaneously one to award the score the other to signal the end of the game.

503 miles away, the locals reached for the remote,  or headed to the bar for another pint, safe in the knowledge that “their boy” had done his work without fear or favour as always.

The 2018 Six Nations has started and tomorrow it will be time for another inter galactic journey north westwards.

Nigel Owens 6 Nations Record 

Nigel Owens 6 Nations Record