Posts Tagged ‘ Six Nations ’

Wales v France: Grand Slam Day in Photos.

An amazing day was had in Cardiff yesterday as Wales brought home a third triple crown in a generation, but what really marked the occasion was the wonderful atmosphere coming from the fans, as Welsh and French alike enjoyed the day together in the best possible spirits.

The Bretons were in full force.

Flags for sale.

Bands paraded the high street.

While bin men and bands joined in musical harmony.

The game builds up.

Injured, but not for long.

Wales on the attack.


The French and the stewards.

Flag flown with pride.

Welsh and French on the streets.

A late night comes to its conclusion.





Six Nations Donkey Awards: The Final Round

There it is, over and out, the Six Nations leaves us with happy hearts and sore heads – it’s been emotional. A Grand Slam of a hangover means that the final Donkey Awards for this year may not be the most coherent, but there were no shortage of candidates to raise their hands for recognition in the final reckoning of donkeydom!

1. Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda…

Ah David Denton, one of the finds of the tournament, a revelation in the Scottish back row, and a player of huge potential for the coming years. However, it seemed like Denton was in the mood to tempt fate in the build up to Scotland’s final fixture of the season, boldly stating that ‘we probably should have beaten the other team’ when discussing all of Scotland’s other fixtures. Perhaps Scotland did not always deserve to lose, but ‘should have beaten’ everyone in the tournament might have been a leap too far as well. Either way, the rugby gods stepped in to reward Denton’s protestations with a game Scotland certainly should not have won, and plump them into last place, the wooden spoon, and sitting only above Canada in the world rankings.

Donkey Score: 3

2. Huffing and puffing, yet all out of ideas.

Declan Kidney must be wondering where it all went wrong. With a game plan so elegant it could be written down in only a sentence or two – ‘have Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell on the field, then win’, how could the Irish have failed? Too harsh perhaps, but Kidney has seemed short of a tactical concept for some time now. Over reliant on the past masters, and unconcerned with a plan for replacing them, Kidney’s coaching prowess has been brought in for some serious scrutiny and one wonders after such a second half capitulation in Twickenham, how long he can continue to direct his team without a rudder.

Donkey Score: 4

3. And while we are on the Irish, the pack perhaps…

When considering Kidney’s plight, special mention must be made of the Irish front row, who were so clinically dismantled by England during the second 40 yesterday. The Irish pack are given a special mention, simply for the dramatic nature of their decline. Not so long ago, and Irish scrum was one of the most fear inducing products in international rugby, now they stand as straw men, pushed aside and spat upon by the team hurling them backwards. A true shame to see what was once an immovable object become so brittle and weak.

Donkey Score: 1

4. Slippery Steps.

It’s hard not to feel for Julien Bonnaire, a great figure of the back row for France, at the end of an illustrious career, being made to look a complete tit by Alex Cuthbert. Cuthbert’s score was a magical little creation, with a delicate step and surge of power, but look again for the despairing flop of the French No7. In an ultimately flawed attempt to stop Cuthbert, Bonnaire seemed to pivot in a manner that led to his legs going one way, his torso another, while his arms flung wildly above him in mid air. By the time he had picked himself up off of the ground, the try was scored. For quite such a daft drop to the ground:

Donkey Score: 1

5. Finally, him again…

To round things off for this week and year, we could not go a week without mentioning Alain Rolland. He’s had plenty of flak for his decision making this season, and while we might not be in the mood to contest any of his many yellow card calls yesterday, the fact that he makes them with such ease and relish, that he is so insistent upon being seen in a game, is reason enough for him to make another appearance on these pages. The game is not about you Alain, and it’s about time both you, and the IRB realised this, and let a game of rugby flow for a change!

Donkey Score: 2

Six Nations Donkey Awards: Round 4.

The penultimate round of the six nations donkey awards should really be renamed ‘the referee special’ – for it was the men in the middle and their contributions which dominated proceedings this weekend!

(C) Chris Knight

1. I’m a Frenchman…No I’m Not…Honest…

Alain Rolland, what a curse it is for this man to be able to speak French. This linguistic skill often means that the Irish man is given the responsibility for overseeing any fixture involving France and, due to his family lineage, usually means that the slightest of dubious calls means that he is seen as a crooked French fancying farce of an impartial official. Unfortunately for Rolland, few of his actions do anything to dispel such notions. Few rugby fans will have forgotten Rolland’s interesting decision to banish Sam Warburton from the rugby world cup – and on that day there were no shortage of fans questioning how a half French man could be trusted to referee a game involving the French. Yet, the Warburton red card could be put down to a one off and no more. That was of course until today. EyeOnWales, unsurprisingly given the name of this blog, is rarely a friend to the English – but even we could see that Rolland was having yet another ‘friend of the French’ day, as decision after decision went the way of the home team. Little made sense about Rolland’s calls and interventions, but when he sin binned the English winger, while ignoring the same offence from the French, surely all sense of doubt was removed – this man is without a doubt the single most corrupt official in the rugby world, and is fully deserving of his donkey points.

Donkey Score: 5

2. The Duff official from Bruff RFC.

Not a weekend for Irish officials was it? In Paris we had a one eyed Frenchman hiding under an Irish accent, while in Cardiff we had a man who clearly woke up with a ‘look at me’ day on his mind. George Clancy has performed reasonably well in previous years, and has not given fans that much reason to complain of late – however, as thousands packed into the Millennium Stadium to enjoy a festival of running rugby, Clancy decided that what the fans really wanted to see, was a man with a whistle single handedly destroying an afternoon of international rugby. Pedant was the word of the weekend, and few descriptive terms would summarise Clancy’s efforts better than that. It’s one thing for a team to be negative, it’s quite another for a referee to encourage them to be negative – Clancy, you did your best to foul a weekend, and were only outshone by the spectacular one-eyed nature of your countryman.

Donkey Score: 4

3. Noisy Journeyman Draws Attention to Himself.

Ah Austin Healey, known for shooting his mouth off at any given opportunity, regardless of who might be offended. There has been long standing animosity between Healey and the Welsh rugby community, but in a moment of drunken tweeting, Healey took his mad as a hatter ranting to a whole new level. Engaged in an argument over whether or not Leigh Halfpenny should have been sent off for a rash challenge in the second half against Italy, Healey at one point suggested, well, you can see for yourself below:

A stellar moment of alcohol driven insults on display from a man who defined the term ‘journeyman’ during his fragmented professional career. A bitter angry little man, Healey at the very least serves to play the entertaining clown on a rugby weekend – though perhaps his language could be toned down in the future…?

Donkey Score: 4

4. On a wing and a punch.

It seems only a matter of time before Chris Ashton just runs up and punches someone, possibly a referee, in the face. The wayward English wing seems so devoid of confidence and opportunities on the field that aggression is the only tool he has left. We were half expecting him to chase down the lone cockerel running along the touchline in Paris today and twat it in the beak, just for something to do. Extreme perhaps, but you get the feeling that Ashton is not far off it. Something is seriously wrong with the state of Ashton’s mind, and you get the impression that it would be a favour to him to be ‘rested’ for the game against Ireland. Against the French, Ashton’s increasingly short fuse was clearly tested – the Irish coach will have been watching!

Donkey Score: 1

Wales beat Italy, Crowds Call for More.

Time is a funny thing, with it the views and expectations of a nation can rise and fall, to the extent of becoming unrecognisable from one year to the next. Yesterday in Cardiff, Wales won for the fourth successive time, and find themselves on the precipice of a championship and elusive Grand Slam, yet the Cardiff crowd walked away from yesterdays entertainment with a shrug of the shoulders and a despondent sigh – where once a Welsh crowd would craw greedily at the coat tails of any form of triumph, now the most comfortable of victories can barely turn a smile.

Wales and Italy lineup.

Does this stem from heightened levels of expectation? Is the Welsh fan becoming akin to the New Zealander, expectant of only the highest quality of wins, where nothing less will suffice? It’s hard to say, but certainly the atmosphere following the game was a mixture of begrudging satisfaction and (somewhat perplexingly) relief – no singing in the trains back home following this fixture (as accompanied return journeys out of Cardiff following the Triple Crown game).

And yet – where does the despondency come from? There are a number of schools of thought which could pass over this game, but let’s take the more obvious whinging option out of the equation early on – the referring of George Clancy. We should not dwell too long here, because interpretation of refereeing performances are usually far too subjective affairs, yet even the most one eyed critique could see that Clancy came to Cardiff with the sole intention of killing the game, for both Wales and Italy. If home fans were frustrated with the level of Welsh play, much of their ire can be directed towards the man in the middle, for whom the notion of an open flowing game, if something he must have heard of, but dismissed as some form of myth.

If Welsh fans were unhappy with the win, spare a thought for those backing the losing side.

Refereeing excuses aside, there are two ways of looking at things, and let’s get the negative out of the way first – Wales failed to put Italy to the sword, and disappointment steps from this pre-game expectation. Hard to argue with – everyone in Wales seemed ready to demolish Italy by 30-40 points and never be phased by the game. Yet, should we be critical of Wales for this, or positive about Italy? Certainly Italian defensive efforts were beyond committed, and the number of last ditch defences from quality Welsh line breaks was impressive. Last week England were hailed for stopping Wales, this week no word of encouragement for Italy’s endeavours – a touch of post match hypocrisy from some corners perhaps.

Wales attack once again - with below par results.

Yet what of the positives – were there any? Well, while Italy came to Cardiff to defend, they did not come to Cardiff to win. The Italians locked the game down well, but never was the intent on display to do anything other than contain Wales – the result from a Welsh perspective was never once threatened. On top of that assertion, perhaps it’s worth noting that for the second game running the Welsh try line held firm – a home win that was never in danger, and a suffocating defensive effort, can we really complain?

The Italian team head for home, knowing they defended well, while having no intention of trying to win.

Okay, the Welsh performance was a long way from World Class, and of course, a step up will (probably) be required for France in a week’s time (though on current form, the French need to find a gear or two as well). But for all the negativity that can be found in the game, perhaps Welsh fans should sit back and think of the bigger picture. It is a rare thing that any defence can hold out over multiple games – for this championship, only Wales can make such claims so far. It is even rarer that a team will win four games in a row. For all the disappointments from Cardiff, Wales still won, their line was never broken, and their victory was never in doubt – we might want more in Wales, but perhaps we might take some time to enjoy and be grateful for the success that we do have, rather than brace ourselves for possible, even hypothetical disappointments to come.

Six Nations Donkey Awards: Round 3

Six Nations Donkey Awards Round 3.

An exciting weekend of rugby was torn apart by the fixture offered by Wales and England at Twickenham, where perhaps not the highest quality of games was played out, but certainly the most exciting game was, with the final ten minutes offering more thrills than the entirety of the other two games combined. That being said there was no shortage of tools on display across a weekend of highly entertaining sport.

1. The Lyrical Banker.

BBC punditry has come in for a certain degree of scrutiny this season, but the age old issue of ex-player bias raising its head on more than one occasion. That is not to say that this was avoided today in the form of Thomas Castaignède being added to the BBC line up to speak on behalf of the people of France, but his addition added something else, something extra, something beautifully bizarre in its lack of sense and clarity that it simply had to be recorded here. Castaignède’s inclusion though is done so with some hesitation, because his pre-match quote was so special – in many respects, his inclusion here should not be seen as a criticism or a punishment, but as a form of recognition, an honour of sorts. The quote in question:

‘This Scottish side, it is like a woman you want to be friends with but you don’t want to marry her’

Wonderful, baffling, and utterly incoherent, thank you Thomas, your observation was so brilliantly French, and long may we hope such views continue to be broadcast on the BBC!

Donkey score: 1 (but in a good way this time)


2. ‘Inconclusive’ seems to be the hardest word to hear.

So, your arm is underneath a ball, then your hand is underneath a ball, and then several other people’s hands are underneath the ball, and you are still convinced you scored a try? David Strettle may have felt convinced of his score, but to turn on the officials after the match and whine like an infant deprived of his blankey before bedtime was verging on shameful. There is a way to take defeat, to cope with perceived injustice, and Strettle decided to ignore all such protocols of decency and professionalism, and bark and chirp in a manner that we might have expected from that same team during a recent world tournament. On his way to 30, it’s probably time for Strettle to grow up a little.

(Whining) Donkey Score: 3


3. Hands of Steel…make catching hard.

Scottish rugby eh? Well, at the close quarters Scotland certainly showed a new found tough edge, battering weak tackles aside and making impressive inroads into the world cup finalists 22, yet, with this hardened approach in attack, Scotland seemed to have applied the same logic to ball catching, with the concept of ‘soft hands’ left behind, possibly somewhere in the middle of New Zealand. How the Scots managed to spill so much ball, so much of it unforced as well, is mystifying. It is almost as if Scotland concluded that to lead France for a portion of a game was a victory in its own right, and that the following 40 minutes of rugby should be an exhibition of how to throw away, verging on literally on occasions, a game of international rugby. Perhaps an express order of glue is in order before they face Ireland, as the Scottish team must urgently discover a way to hold on to a ball!

Donkey Score: 4 (with a multiplier effect from previous matches for doing the same thing wrong again, and again, and again).


4. When is a New Zealand not a New Zealander?

Take your pick on this one, because once again it’s Steve Walsh time (Walsh now representing Australia as a referee, having being sacked by the New Zealand rugby union some time ago, if the above question caused confusion). Walsh has a history of irritating fans of [insert nationality here] on a regular basis, and there was certainly grounds for query from both Welsh and English fans alike after yesterday. Certainly Strettle has made his views well known on the matter of the try/no-try scenario, and plenty of English voices were only too quick to join in that debate. But what of North being overlooked for a blatant flap of a ball into touch? What of the English captain Robshaw hauling Warburton out of the air in a line-out? Any other day both would surely be straight yellow cards no? However, for Walsh’s true moment of calamity, we must return to the try that David Strettle did not score… Everyone, including every single Welsh fan, knew Walsh was playing an advantage to England before Strettle failed to ground the ball, yet Walsh seemed to completely forget that following his lengthy chat with the TMO. In a moment of forgetfulness, Walsh may well have robbed England of a chance to draw…we will never know.

For catastrophic memory loss, Walsh earns:

Donkey Score: 5


In passing:

5. Rhys Priestland had a day to forget in many instance, but hopefully he will learn lessons from an uncertain performance, that while never looking like losing the game for Wales on his own, certainly did little to contribute to the victory. He’ll have many better days to come, but on a day of triumph, perhaps Priestland’s contributions can be put to one side.

Donkey Score: 1

6. Finally, an honourable mention for Manu Tuilagi. It has of course been a tough time of late for Tuilagi, falling off of boats and such, and his return to the England fold was marked by a high quality performance. Yet, when Priestland was given his marching orders, from nowhere came galloping up Tuilagi, to tug at the back of the referee’s shirt, making sure that cards of a colour were indeed to be shown. It was unnecessary, uncalled for, and very donkeyish.

Donkey score: 1

The Welsh Rugby Team Training Session.

Some distant images of the Welsh rugby team training infront of over 10,000 fans.

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Six Nations Donkey Awards: Round 2

Not the busiest weekend on the Six Nations Donkey front, though much of that can be put down to a third of the fixtures not being played (though this in itself will be covered below), while many of the main protagonists of last weekend, Dan Parks and Bradley Davies (one through choice, one less so) were not in attendance. Still, a selection of ‘stars’ could be picked out from the two games that were played, though the first selection goes far beyond any one player or official…

No. 1. Duw it’s cold Mun!

Some cried about the referee’s decision, some cried about the timing of the final decision, while some in the stadium just cried. While the actual motivation behind calling the France v Ireland fixture off could not be faulted (player safety being the one thought of the day), the thousands in the stadium and the millions watching on television screens around Europe, could all be perfectly justified in their disappointment, dismay and general anger given that the final decision was made some 5 minutes before the scheduled kick-off.

Now it is probably too harsh to blame the referee, his emphasis must fall on the side of whether or not a player would be crippled for life should they go out on to a pitch. It’s also probably too harsh to blame the stadium designers, though for such an expensive arena you would have thought the budget could stretch to some under soil heating…or a kettle. There are probably around about twenty six individuals or organisations who could take the donkey points for this, but we are going to award it to two in particular. The RBS Six Nations fixture committee and the people of France. You are the only two in the world who want games played on Fridays, or in the middle of the night! Nobody else wants it, indeed, most of us hate it, and it ruins the Six Nations for everyone. If eyes turned to the French and Irish women, they got a game on in France having kicked off at 2.30pm…there’s a lesson in that somewhere.

The French (for simply giving us the ridiculous concept of night time matches), Donkey Score: 5

RBS Six Nations fixture committee (for letting them), Donkey Score: 4


No. 2. We are England.

Following ITV’s coverage of the Rugby World Cup, we all spent a lot of time lamenting the fact that we couldn’t have the BBC and their wonderful commentary team…Italy v England however served to undermine that little theory. An enjoyable game was made almost unbearable by the BBC commentary team, who seemed to be taking it in turns to jerk off over a picture of Owen Farrell in the match day programme in their enthusiasm for the England cause. We can only hope that few if any Italian fans had to rely on the BBC for their coverage!

Donkey Score: 3


No. 3. The Charitable Man from Cheshire

Ben Foden was in a particularly generous mood in Rome on the weekend, the man couldn’t stop himself from letting Italy score. While there were some question marks over how much he was to blame for letting Italy score the first try, with the ball ricocheting awkwardly off of Foden’s chest, he wanted to make no doubt that the second Italian try was definitely his fault. A pin point pass into the hands of the Italian centre, meant that Foden will always be welcome in Rome, forever known as the English man who giveth away.

Donkey Score: 3


No. 4. It’s all just a little bit of history repeating.

Scotland like to make things challenging no. Having thrown away a commanding lead against Wales in 2010 by allowing half of the starting line-up to retire to the sin-bin, Scotland seemed intent on doing it again. As it was when Shane Williams crossed for a dramatic victory two years ago, Scotland, through two of the most donkeyish decisions seen in some time, managed to reduce themselves down to thirteen men, and consigned themselves to another defeat. De Luca and Lamont, you are our yellow card donkeys of the week.

Donkey Score: 2 (1 each)


And then came Scotland…

Round 2 of the Six Nations then and Wales find themselves in a position which few pundits from outside of the country expected them to be in, with a win under the belt. Whatever can or has been said about tip tackles, yellow and red cards, and missed opportunities, it’s hard to take much away from the Welsh performance in Dublin. Before the game there were concerned mutterings about how the lineout would function, and sure enough, the only consistent tool at Ireland’s disposal was their dominance in the line – why they did not kick to the corners more often remains a baffling uncertainty. Regardless of whether or not Ireland made the best use of their strongest weapon, Wales, for the most part, made the most of theirs. Were it not for certain questions being asked of TMOs and kicks going astray, Wales may well have had the game sown up in the first half, such was their physical dominance.

So to Scotland then, and already the crowds skip merrily down Queens Street with ‘Grand Slam’ tattoos already being applied to foreheads across Cardiff – but then it wouldn’t the Six Nations if we didn’t like to get carried away with things! Yet on the evidence of the first round of matches, it is perhaps not an overstatement to suggest that Wales are at the very least amongst the favourites.

With Ireland, the main fears focused on the lineout, so what of Scotland this week? Well, ball dropping incidents aside, the Dan Park related catastrophes forgotten as best we might try, Scotland attacked well. The likes of Lamont and Evans made good inroads, while the Scottish backrow, supported ably by the obvious presence of Ritchie Gray, caused devastation around the English fringes. Were it not for generosity in relation to charged down kicks, wet weather gloves for those slippery fingers, and of course a more generous TMO (it looked like a Scottish try from here), then Scotland might well have romped to a victory. As with the Wales fixture in 2010, Scotland should have been walking away with a win.

However, Scotland’s strength was based on a very powerful forward display. England were consistently bullied in the pack (despite the ‘one each’ efforts of the referee when it came to controlling the scrum and breakdown) and it allowed Scotland the room in which they could make such telling breaks. Dan Parks as well, as predictably dull as he might be, could put the team in the right areas of the field to play. Parks as we know is gone (somewhat to our relief, Parks knows how to undo Welsh rugby teams), as is Ewan Murray due to faith commitments. In one week, two of Scotland’s most effective players (Parks may not be good, but good and effective are not always the same thing) are gone, at the same time as Wales welcomes back two of theirs, Gethin Jenkins and Dan Lydiate. If anything, the Scottish team that lost looks weaker, the Welsh team that won looks stronger.

For Scotland to win, the open game that they are currently boasting about would be an interesting gamble. With the form and ability of the Welsh backs, running rugby seems like the last thing the Scots should be doing. With Murray missing, the Scottish scrum as a weapon will be deflated, but then there is always the lineout. With the likes of Gray to rely on, Scotland can target Wales’ one obvious weakness in the way that Ireland should have done – especially now that Wales are reduced to a single recognised second row. That being said, the man who could pressure Wales in this area, by placing the ball in the right place, Dan Parks, in no longer on the scene. It is with a heavy sense of irony that the one player who might really have undone Wales will be taking not part in proceedings.

There is a way that Scotland can win, and it should not be pretty. Tight, around the fringes and from good lineout pressure, these are the ways in which Scotland could force a result. Opening the game up against a Welsh side that, despite letting Ireland score twice, generally looked solid in defence, and is of course more than capable of matching the scoring rate of other opposition which, frankly, has proven more effective than Scotland of late (the lack of ability to cross the whitewash must be haunting Scotland now – inspiration or heavy burden at this point), would be an impressive and potentially costly gamble.

With one game under everyone’s belt though, and a sense of form to go on, predictions can be made, and it would be a very eager punter who would bet against Wales, especially if the Scots insist on closed roofs – it may suit their game plan, but it certainly will do little to hinder the way Wales will want to play.

Six Nations Donkey Awards.

After the heroic shambling of Dan Parks yesterday, we decided that those who serve to contribute the very worst to this year’s tournament are in need of their own special recognitions, and after a very interesting first weekend of the Six Nations, we have some early front runners in the Donkey Award stakes.

No.1. The Salt Shaker.

Bradley Davies is due a new nickname after his Dublin antics, as surely the only rational thought that ran through his head was that the unfortunate Irish man who he had turned upside down was full of some old salt that was just refusing to come out. Davies could well have lost Wales the game against Ireland all on his own with his rash and reckless behaviour, and, as I’m sure all Irish fans would agree, were there to be any justice in rugby, a red card would have been shown. In the end, Davies only earned himself a yellow card, but for stupidity alone he takes home a full five donkeys after round 1.

Donkey score: 5

No.2. The Kicking Queen.

Dan Parks was covered in detail enough yesterday, with his disastrous charged down kick, which handed England an unlikely victory in Scotland. The calls came from every corner for Parks to go after he single handedly surrendered the Calcutta Cup, and it would take a selection miracle for him to start against Wales next week.

Donkey score: 3

No.3. The Leg Lifter from Maghaberry.

Stephen Ferris may be seen as unlucky in giving away the penalty that ultimately served Ireland with their defeat, and few would begrudge him a moan or two that a yellow card at least was undeserved. However, after replay upon replay, Ferris may well have to concede that if he has a foot in his hand at that sort of height, that a penalty blast is probably going to come shortly after. After a strong performance, a degree of donkeyness took the shine off the backrowers efforts.

Donkey score: 2.5

No.4. A lesson never learnt.

Andy Robinson must surely have got the message by now no? Dan Parks is a very, very bad rugby player. Robinson has the evidence in front of him, and has only been able to add to the ‘Parks Calamity’ folder since he began his reign in charge of Scotland, yet he still persists with the man who seems intent on destroying the ambition of any team he plays for. For simply selecting Parks once again, Robinson earns himself a donkey.

Donkey score: 1

No.5. The colour of cards.

Wayne Barnes was somewhat left in limbo by his touchjudge, but ultimately the buck stops with the man in the middle. Advised that Bradley Davies had lifted, and dropped a player from a height on to his head, and off the ball to boot, Barnes was then persuaded that a yellow card would suffice. Everyone wearing green, and in the minutes following the games conclusion, most wearing red (including the Welsh coach) were all agreed that Davies should have left the game for good. Barnes and his assistance though seemed to be the only ones in the northern hemisphere to disagree. With IRB directives being about as direct as a pigeon in a washing machine, and linesmen offering poor advice, it’s hard to be too critical of Barnes, but he is at least worthy of a single donkey for his light touch.

Donkey score: 1

The Dan Parks Six Nations Special Blog.

Nothing need be said, the image pretty much covers it…