BBC BLOGS - Ben Dirs

Archives for October 2011

World Cup team of the tournament

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Ben Dirs | 13:30 UK time, Sunday, 23 October 2011

Right, here it is, what the world has been waiting for: the BBC Sport website's Rugby World Cup team of the tournament. Ten All Blacks, three Welshmen and two Frenchmen - and only one Englishman warrants an 'honourable mention', which tells its own story.

There were two basic provisos: players were picked on performances in the tournament rather than reputation and players could not be picked out of position. Therefore, no inside-centres playing 13 (that means you, Roberts) and no open-sides playing on the opposite flank (that means you, O'Brien). So, having rolled the grenades under the door, it is time to bid a hasty retreat and watch the flak fly from the safety of our office...

NB. While Jeremy Guscott and Kingsley Jones have kindly provided us with player comments, it should be pointed out that this team was not picked by them but by the BBC Sport website rugby team.

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Cleverly & Bellew show their class

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Ben Dirs | 13:17 UK time, Monday, 17 October 2011

"You can dress it up any way you want, but we went in there to do damage to each other. That's boxing, and boxing's all I've got." Tony Bellew

While Saturday's world title contest between Nathan Cleverly and Tony Bellew is certainly a contender for domestic fight of the year, perhaps the best performance of the night came later, away from the bright lights, down in the bowels of the arena.

During the build-up to the bout, Bellew, who was challenging for Cleverly's WBO light-heavyweight crown, gave a very good impersonation of a raving lunatic - snarling, trash-talking, hustling and tussling. But at the post-fight press conference, the beaten man reminded onlookers exactly why they love this sport, a sport that is distinctly unlovable at times.

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Hope Haye ain't bluffing again

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Ben Dirs | 05:46 UK time, Friday, 14 October 2011

David Haye's announcement that he is to hang up the gloves and move into acting will be met with a wry smile by many in the fight game: if politics is show-business for ugly people, boxing is show-business for people who are too hard for dancing and make-up.

As the former two-weight world champion delivered his farewell speeches from his gym in south London, it was difficult to tell whether the whole set-up was yet another grand bluff; there are those who say Haye is already one of the great actors of his time.

Whether it was convincing the British public that he would stand and trade with Russian giant Nikolay Valuev or that Audley Harrison was a worthy challenger to his heavyweight crown, Haye managed to fool some of the people all of the time.

And while he was winning, that was just fine with those who understand hucksterism is an essential ingredient of boxing.

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Celtic classic in the making

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Ben Dirs | 13:03 UK time, Sunday, 2 October 2011


Witnessing Wales dismantle Fiji in Hamilton, there were times when I thought I might be watching the 2011 World Cup winners.

And then I tuned in to see Ireland do a number on Italy. My oh my, next weekend's Celtic quarter-final bash in Wellington is going to be a barnburner - I haven't looked forward to a rugby match this much in years.

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Can limited England reach the 'promised land'?

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Ben Dirs | 13:44 UK time, Saturday, 1 October 2011


The New Zealand media have a lot of fun with what they perceive as the pompous attitude of English rugby journalists and fans: "You simple southern hemisphere folk fail to understand the intricacies of the game," goes the line. "All that fancy running and handling - 'proper' rugby is about grunt and grind, dour attrition and sticking it up your jumper."

While such a perception is overly simplistic, the neutrals who witnessed England v Scotland at Eden Park could be forgiven for wondering how 140 years of rivalry, 128 previous games - all that so-called sporting warfare - had failed to trigger an arms race and drag the northern hemisphere game out of the trenches.

The match was not without its tension and drama, that's for certain. One minute Scotland were through, then it was England. Then Scotland again. And finally England. Indeed, there will be a journalist in the northern hemisphere, somewhere, who will claim it was a game that could have been "scripted by Le Carré". Down south, they will take a dimmer view.

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