Roger Bidgood The Firefighter’s Winter Of Discontent

What a feeling it must be to get your first selection for Wales, all your hopes and dreams coming to fruition, the elation and pride of family and friends, and in a rugby mad nation where it means just that little bit extra.

Roger Anthony Bidgood received such news in January 1987, the Newport centre and full-time fighter was selected to make his Welsh debut against Ireland, he was drafted into the Wales team to replace the injured John Deveraux.  

As the celebrations began little did he think that he would have to wait five years before stepping onto the Cardiff Arms Park turf, to gain that magical first cap.

The delay you would suspect would either be the result of a badly timed injury, or a disciplinary issue.

On this occasion it was neither and the culprit and cause was of a meteorological variety, the game due to played on the opening day of the Five Nations Tournament, January 17 1987, was cancelled due the bitter icy conditions that had engulfed the Welsh capital, and as a result his international career was also put on ice.

John Deveraux had regained fitness by the time Wales were due to play their next match in Paris, against France, so the Whitchurch fireman was left out in the cold, so near and yet so far from his dream of playing for Wales.

It took another five years until Roger was eventually selected for Wales, when he was called up to face Scotland on March 21 1992,  he partnered Scott Gibbs in the centre in a team captained Ieuan Evans.

Wales won the match 15-12, thanks to a Richard Webster try, and eleven points from the boot of Neil Jenkins.

Bidgood went on to gain five caps for Wales, his only international try coming in Wales 42-13 victory over Zimbabwe, in Harare in 1993. Later that year he made his final international appearance against Japan in Cardiff, signing off with a 55-5 win.

The six-foot, fourteen stones centre had a full and varied career, playing for Newport, Cardiff, Pontypool, Pontypridd, Rumney, Caerphilly, Newbridge and Blackwood, along with representative appearances for the Barbarians and Monmouthshire.

He captained Newport in the 1993/94 season, and when his playing days were over he employed his coaching skills at Blackwood, Caerphilly and Risca.

In 2016 he became a councillor on Caerphilly Borough Council representing Plaid Cymru.

“I decided I wanted to give something back to the community and as a proud Welshman there was only one party I could stand for Plaid Cymru”

Thirty one years as a firefighter between 1983 and 2014 are a far greater accolade than any sporting achievement could ever match, but it is fair to say Roger Bidgood lit up many a dark wintery afternoon on the playing fields of Wales.

Deborah McCormack The Surfing Scot Who Made Waves In Sydney

Three rivers in three different countries signpost the rugby journey of Harlequins and Scotland international Deborah McCormack.

Her life and rugby career to date are indelibly linked with waterways, or to be precise, three rivers, the Medway, the Clyde and the Parramatta river.

England, Scotland and Australia provide the watery backdrop to the story of this popular, friendly, and down to earth forward, who was scoring tries for fun in the Harlequins number seven shirt, during the knock out stages of last seasons Tyrrells Premiership.

For the geographically challenged, Kent, Motherwell and Sydney provide the location for the meandering trio.

Kent is home, and Medway RFC was where her rugby story began, Motherwell the home of her gran, and the strong family tie that led her to international honours, and Sydney, where her current rugby adventure is set.

It’s a long way from her usual training base, Surrey Sports Park, to the Woollahra oval in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, 10,579 miles to be precise, but just a week after a try scoring appearance in a pulsating Tyrrells Premiership final, against eventual winners Saracens, whilst most players were putting their feet up for a well-earned rest, Debs was having none of it, and decided to forgo a British summer,and switch hemispheres, to spender a winter down under playing for the Eastern Suburbs club in the delightful setting of Rose Bay.

Its worth remembering that winter residing on the edge of Bondi beach, bears no comparison to the ones endured here at home, they appear to consist of cloudless skies and temperatures of twenty-one degrees plus, unless her Instagram posts have been photo shopped.

Regular readers of my column, may remember a piece I wrote last November, entitled Deborah Mc Cormack Flower of Scotland, well I am delighted to report that this flower has blossomed, and positively bloomed all season, even when replanted in the back row, during a cold spell in the early spring.

Following a full season of domestic games and six international matches for Scotland, she had earned a well deserved rest, but rather than take the easy option, one of the nicest people in the game put her boots in her tucker bag and hopped on down to Oz.

She is not the first Scottish international export to tread the long path to Australia, in the 1830’s thousands of Scots emigrated to Sydney, mostly builders, tradesmen, engineers, tool makers and printers.

Ships built on one of those three rivers, the mighty Clyde, carried them on a journey that took three months before setting foot on a strange new land far away.

The tartan connections are also evident at the Eastern Suburbs club where the ladies coach is Campbell Aitken, the former Boroughmuir full back.

Scottish links to Australia are plentiful, Peter Dodds McCormick wrote the Australian national anthem “Advance Australia Fair” whilst fellow Scot “Banjo” Paterson wrote “Waltzing Matilda”

After a long flight to Sydney, via Dubai, Debs wasn’t exactly waltzing gently into active service and found herself training with Easts within forty-eight hours of touchdown.

Her first try for Easts came in the victory away to Blacktown, coach Campbell Aitken informed me she scored a brilliant try , catching a missed kick to touch, before throwing a dummy and racing twenty metres to score.

Debs has found Easts to be a cosmopolitan friendly club, with a wide international mix, lining up alongside her have been Canadians, Americans, Brazilians and Irish, she has loved every minute.

Her presence at Easts, has helped to bring on a young inexperienced side, using her wealth of top-level experience to bring on the forwards, particularly in the arts and crafts of line out play, where she has been able to expand the set piece repertoire in the way only a canny Scottish lock can, as a result she has left a lasting legacy at the club, and one of which she can be really proud.

The learning experience has been a two-way street, having had one to one skill sessions with 1999 Wallaby Rugby World Cup winner and “scrum doctor” Andrew Blades, who has also been forwards coach to Michael Chekai’s Australian side, will no doubt have enhanced her already comprehensive rugby education.

Coach Campbell Aitken is a huge advocate of women’s rugby, his ongoing tireless work has ensured the women are getting quality strength and conditioning, together with GPS monitoring systems, and equally importantly getting top billing on match day and playing on the main pitch, something that has really impressed Debs.

A hat trick of tries in her penultimate game against Wolongong University, in a 105-0 win, is likely to get her thrown out of the second row union for being over zealous, but her eye for the try line has always been one her great attributes, incidently that performance earned her a place in the Shute Shield team of the week.

Last season, which became this season, has now become next season, how on earth players like her still have to work for a living, and remain amateur, astounds me, these folks are the beating heart and soul of rugby and its values, and surely it is now time to give them some financial recompense, not that she would ever complain.

A big season awaits with Harlequins and Scotland, who have three Autumn internationals, a January game against Spain in Madrid, before the Six nations comes calling once again.

Rivers take us on wonderful journeys of exploration and adventure, that open our hearts and minds to new cultures, new people, and new horizons, but equally importantly rivers bring us back home to family friends and loved ones.

Australia are one of the favourites to host the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup, so maybe the Parramatta river will be calling a certain Scottish forward back for one more journey, I for one certainly hope so.

Special thanks to Paul Seiser of SPA Images for the photographs contained in this article., website:

The Endless Season And The Survival Of The Fittest

These days the rugby season never seems to end, clubs were already back in pre season training before our home nations touring teams touch down on native soil, after their Southern Hemisphere escapades.

If you thought this season, or should that be last season, was long then the next one is positively endless.

This time next year the focus will be on the Rugby World Cup warm up matches in preparation for Japan 2019 which commences in September.

France and Scotland have already arranged their fixtures,with Wales having agreed to play England twice, at Twickenham and Cardiff, and also Ireland.

Each home nation will play thirteen to fifteen internationals, give or take, before the first ball is kicked in Tokyo, add in domestic leagues and European tournaments and once again it looks like it will be the survival of the fittest.

Player welfare the subject that is always discussed and regarded as a priority by governing bodies, has become the king of the platitudes, there are plenty of words spoken, but very little ensuing action.

Ireland’s centrally contracted players will be in the best position come the Rugby World Cup, whilst Wales and Scotland also have more opportunity to manage their players workload, unlike England.

The competitiveness of the new Gallagher Premiership allows little opportunity for resting players, and when you have a Premiership Rugby Board that makes Shylock seems like a charity worker a charity worker, the pounds of flesh are the ones that will inevitably suffer.

Across the channel in France, its “plus ca change”, the Top 14 rules and will span its usual marathon season from August to June, but at least France will only play three November internationals, unlike the teams in these islands.

Rugby World Cup Warm Up Matches Confirmed 2019

August 17    France v Scotland

August 24    Scotland v France

August 30/31    France v Italy

August 31    Georgia v Scotland

Sep 6/7          Scotland v Georgia

Espresso Fuelled Rugby And A Lab Test

I knew that the Saturday rugby marathon was going be tough, an early morning start  heading for the Nespresso machine, side stepping the starving Labrador and looking more like George Formby than George Clooney (me not the dog).

First up were the All Blacks, the coffee and Labrador also both all black, as black as the eye of poor Remi Grosso the previous week, France looked as tired as I was, they sadly did not have instant access to another espresso, something “Les Bleus” strength and conditioning staff may seriously have to look in to.

Time for a bonio for my four-legged assistant, not something I would recommend for the French back line, although a supplement possibly the front row might benefit from, although with hooker called Chat maybe something more feline would be appropriate.

France forgot about breakfast and made a bit of a dog’s dinner of a challenge in the air, resulting in a red card, and for once pride came after a fall as a gutsy fourteen man effort made life difficult for the men in black.

Already  three coffees and two bonios down, we were in danger of peaking far too soon, there were still three internationals to navigate.

Argentina v Wales was at this point in time still ten hours away so pro rata we were looking at an intake of thirty coffees and twenty bonios, a serious over indulgence for both man and canine.

Fortunately there were a couple of three-hour windows following Australia v Ireland and South Africa v England, enough time for some serious hydration, stick throwing, and a dip in the local pond, if only the dog would join me.

As we headed down under for Australia v Ireland, mans best friend headed down under for a bit of a wash and clean, as only dogs can, Ireland’s ball skills were equally impressive.

As the Boks took the lead in match three, my four-legged friend was losing interest, a bit like the England defence his concentration had gone, and thoughts had turned to other matters as he attempted to jackel a tin of “Chappie” entering the cupboard from the side, like any self-respecting All Black Labrador.

By the time Argentina were lining up to face Wales, the boy was spent, he had nothing left to give, I was hanging on in there with my protein shake to hand, okay Peroni isn’t strictly a protein shake but what the heck.

Argentina v Wales was just one match too far for he furry one, but he missed a treat as a young Wales side bossed matters and beat the Pumas convincingly resulting in a test series win for the men in red.

I’m not sure either of us could cope with too many Saturdays like that, even George Clooney would struggle to keep up with the coffee intake involved, but we have to do it all again next Saturday, it’s a dog’s life.

If you are a Labrador lover, you may wish to vist the website of for all the adventures of a secret service labrador, or even purchase his books available from Amazon. He’s also on twitter @DoggyBonar004  

Wails In Washington

Wales against South Africa has always been one of the great fixtures of international rugby, I was brought up on tales of the massive men from the veldt that Wales had never beaten, and indeed it stayed that way until Wales first victory against the Springboks in 1999.

A back catalogue of brutal encounters exist that took place in Johannesburg, Cardiff, Pretoria, Durban and even Wembley, but Washington DC ?

Ok let’s try and be positive about a match that created about as much interest locally as a party political broadcast.

Firstly Arriva trains the scourge of rugby fans attempting to get in and out of Cardiff, do not operate in Washington, secondly you didnt have to get up from you seat eighty times during the match to let fellow spectators carry out their beer transportation, although was largely due to a crowd figure of 21,357.

If the idea of the exercise was to spread the game stateside putting out two severely weakened teams seems a strange way to go about it.

Ex Wales captain Gwyn Jones gave his opinion last week

“Test rugby against the Springboks should not be a stepping stone or a preparation match, it’s a test match and that’s why I think it’s devalued the standard of international rugby.

The match was held at the Robert F Kennedy memorial stadium, The Beatles performed a concert there on the 15th August 1966,in front of 32,164, and a lot of people wished that theWelsh  Rugby Union had just “Let It Be”

Then came Warren Gatland perhaps “Speaking words of wisdom” ?

“Anyone who has come out and criticised this match, they’re completely ill-informed in terms of how important it is for the long term,” he said.

“I think you would have to be someone with a chip on your shoulder or be pretty bitter and twisted to criticise this match because I see it as absolutely vital in terms of our long-term planning for 2019”.

Which ever camp you’re in the match itself was one for the insomniacs, Channel 4 had to make do with Washington DC (DC meaning dodgy camerawork), which made a poor match match look worse, if that were at all possible.

Having watched the pulsating Top 14 final between Castres and Montpellier that immediately preceded the stateside snooze fest, it brought home to me the gulf in excitement that now appears to exist between club and international rugby.

But hey it was a win for Wales against the Boks, and having waited forty one years of my life for the first victory,  I will amidst my cynisism rejoice in that fact.

At least now we can move on to Argentina, and two blood and thunder tests against the Pumas.

It takes two to tango, and after a Hard Days Night last Saturday we look forward to the real thing.

Saracens Sizzle At Tropical Twickenham

A misty morning gave way to a warm muggy afternoon in south-west London, the sun shone and temperatures climbed to a sultry twenty-five degrees, there was thunder in the air above Twickenham, but it was nothing compared to the thunder that was taking place on the pitch below.

The two top teams of the Aviva premiership were battling it out in front of a crowd of 75,128 to earn the right to be declared the premiership champions of 2018.

This was Exeter Chiefs third consecutive final, and Saracens had won their last six encounters at Twickenham stretching back to 2014, so something had to give.

The first ten minutes belonged solely to the Chiefs, they put together seventeen phases in the opening few minutes before a penalty gave them a 3-0 lead, but from then on there only looked one likely winner.

Saracens scored two tries in four minutes, through Billy Vunipola (15mins) and Chris Wyles (19mins), and held a half time lead 12-3, which didn’t look big on the scoreboard, but the way Saracens were performing you felt the die had been cast.

The Vunipola brothers looked refreshed and exuberant, Billy showed just how much club and country have missed him this season, he really is some player.

Saracens had a bite and a fizz in their play that Chiefs couldn’t quite, or weren’t allowed, to produce, even when the moves broke down, you felt that Sarries just had to keep to their game plan and it would pay dividends.

Schalk Brits came on as a replacement in the 53rd minute, to the acclaim of the melting crowd, and as all retiring players do this season, he received a yellow card for collapsing a Chiefs maul, but he returned to play a part in the closing stages which was only fit and proper for such a wonderful player.

Wyles scored his second try on 47 minutes before Steenson pulled one back for the Chiefs. Earle’s try on 80 mins put the icing on the cake for Saracens.

Referee Wayne Barnes had a superb game, and there were plenty of landmarks in his direction. It was his 200th Premiership match and his eighth Premiership final.

As always Alex Goode, the Saracens full back, was the catalyst for Saracens more creative moments, a wonderfully gifted footballer, who appears to have more time on the ball than anyone else, some of his footwork on Saturday was sublime.

He was involved in every one of Saracens tries, how he is not involved in the  England set up amazes me, and many others.

It was real summer in the sun-kissed West stand, after the cold and rain and snow of earlier months, this felt like a proper end of season, except of course rugby seasons don’t really end these days.

Player welfare in England manifests itself in words and not sadly in deeds, and as the national team head to South  Africa in two weeks time  (if they haven’t all been injured in pre tour training), you do wonder how on earth they are going to survive next season, which includes RWC 2019, but that is a story for another day.

As the crowds grabbed a final cooling beer before heading home northwards and westwards, it was time to reflect on two great teams who played the match with a brutality, and at yet at the same time in a wonderful spirit, we could all do with a few more days like these.

A Crisp Finish For Quins And The Tyrrells Premiership

As I tuck into my final packet of British Beef and Suffolk ale crisps, courtesy of Tyrrells, it has brought home to me the stark realisation that the women’s premiership season is over, and that actually it has been for some weeks, I have been in denial.

This fact fills me with sadness on two counts, no more Saturday afternoons at Surrey Sports Park for nearly four months, and perhaps even more startling, the fact that I will now have to go out and buy my own snacks, such is my state of mind I have even considered switching to Hula Hoops.

The Tyrrells Premiership began for me on a sunny Saturday afternoon last September, when I arrived at Surrey Sports Park, in Guildford, to cover Harlequins Ladies v Firwood Waterloo.

To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect, but when I discovered there was a “Starbucks” less than one hundred yards from the pitch, I knew that destiny had brought me to this place.

What I underwent that afternoon was a conversion of a totally different kind, and I was hooked professionally and personally.

Standing on the touch-line with the match only five minutes old, there was a roar, follwed by a huge gust of wind, and I was covered in dust and grass, that’s what happens when you stand too close to Jess Breach, who by the time I had recovered my eyesight had raced fifty metres to score the first try of the game.

Those who have followed my “Monday Roars” throughout the season will have no doubts where my loyalties and indeed my heart lie, they are firmly embedded in the chocolate brown, French grey, magenta and light blue shirts, but taking a wider view they are also rooted in the women’s game overall.

Many players and coaches have become friends, and good friends at that, also Starbucks profits shot up dramatically in the trading period between September 2017 and April, 2018 so much so the company are even considering fulfilling their UK tax obligations.

There is still plenty of rugby left for me to do this season, the Aviva Premiership Final, the London and Paris Sevens and some Barbarians work, but a little piece of me is counting down the days until September, and a return to Surrey Sports Park where with a latte and a notebook, I can renew my acquaintance with the Tyrrells Premier 15s, and the wonderful people who make it what it is.