Monday, 28 June 2010

Butch stays in the headlines

​Bath Rugby playmaker Butch James has been named in South Africa’s squad for this year’s Tri-Nations, raising questions about who will wear the number 10 shirt for Bath at the start of the Premiership season.
It also raises questions about when it ceases to become worthwhile for a club to retain the services of a player who could feasibly be on duty for almost half the domestic season. Such an issue is already causing a difference of opinion among the Bath supporters.
Should Boks coach Peter de Villiers select James for South Africa's home leg of the Tri-Nations, then that debate will only intensify. The question of 'Will Butch stay in Bath or won't he?' hovered over The Rec throughout the second half of last season. Don't expect it to disappear any time soon.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Bonjour et bienvenue, Monsieur Craig

Bath Rugby's new owner has one foot on each side of The Channel. And as a keen Francophile, it seems Bruce Craig (pictured) is keen to give the Bath squad a taste of the Gallic summer during the pre-season.
They used to do a lot of bull fighting in that part of the world so the front-rowers should feel right at home. Just don't make too many trips to the Provencal vineyards, chaps. Chateauneuf du Pape is only a short drive away...
In all seriousness, I think it's a good move having a pre-season camp and match on the Continent. Chairman Craig has big ambitions for the club, the principal one being that Bath becomes a true European powerhouse once again. Having a temporary base in France and playing a match there (admittedly against a second division side) will go a long way to imbuing the players and coaching staff with a sense of confidence for when they come to play their next big fixture in the country.
It's been 12 years since Bath won the Heineken Cup - the Northern Hemispehere's top club competition. Bath's Provencal pre-season could well give them that extra edge for the 2010-11 campaign.
And as for the fact that the players are to be put through yoga sessions... Well, the mind boggles. Do you reckon Duncan Bell will have time to perfect the lotus position before the season kicks off?

Monday, 21 June 2010

Browbeaten Australia should make Johnson relax - for now, anyway

So England sprung a surprise, beating Australia in their own back yard. And that was only two days after I published this in the Bath Chronicle. But I still stand by the general thrust of the piece, despite England's shock (but, I admit, deserving) win.
If England rugby is a pint glass, I'm now more inclined to see it as half full. But the real test for the England camp is whether they can follow up their terrific win in Oz with a decent performance against the All Blacks at Twickers in the autumn. That should focus minds.
Under Martin Johnson (pictured above), England have still only won nine out of 22 matches. And I'm sure he'll be the last person to get carried away by a winning run of one match. But, for now, Martin, you can relax that brow.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

I can now officially use that dreaded phrase "award-winning journalist"

Good news (for me, anyway). I've just been named Sports Journalist of the Year at the EDF Energy South West Media Awards. (Yeah, I know, you're all delighted for me.)
I was a bit worried that the fact I only write about rugby might make me a bit too much of a specialist for the judges, but it seems not! Rugby union's on the rise...

Bath Rugby to get some Air time

Bath have drawn new Italian side Aironi in next season's Heineken Cup group stage. But what is the state of Italian rugby and will the north Italian side be anything other than whipping boys? I wade into the debate in my column in today's Bath Chronicle.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Butch's South Africa dream gets butchered

Butch James has been strung up by more red tape than you'd find at a Communist Party crime scene.
A month or so ago James complained to me that the Sharks had "pulled the rug out from underneath him" when he was poised to return to the Durban-based club. Now it seems the rug has been pulled again, this time by Premier Rugby Ltd.