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Useful warm-ups or costly endeavours?

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John Beattie | 20:47 UK time, Sunday, 28 August 2011

What do you make of all these 'warm-up' games?

I don't quite understand them. All parties will deny it but players are being injured in the lead-up to the World Cup because countries are trying to make money.

Oh it's lovely to see Cardiff, Twickenham, Brisbane or Dublin stadia filled by fans eager to watch teams, in theory, get ready to play. But the reality is that these are professional players who are ready to get on the pitch no matter when.

And as they lead up to a big event they don't need beaten up every Saturday.

And although the relevant countries have been pocketing some cash in a year where there are no autumn Tests - Wales and England must have been in collusion to get big crowds - I wonder at the balance between getting some game-hardening time on the pitch as against the likelihood of injury.

Nikki Walker was injured in Scotland's summer Test against Italy and will miss the World Cup

Nikki Walker was injured in Scotland's summer Test against Italy and will miss the World Cup. Pic: SNS

Perhaps the Scots have done it correctly. Two quick games and then get on the plane.

David Wallace's injury was such a waste for Ireland. Nobody really needed to know whether Wallace might or might not start for Ireland, and he was injured playing a game he really didn't need to. I felt so, so sorry for him.

I've been trying to imagine what it must have been like playing in these games. For the marginal team members it could have been invigorating and a challenge, but for most of them it must have been a very different challenge as they tried to look incredibly interested and industrious while trying desperately to avoid injury.

There was one passage of play in Dublin where, I swear, I watched Irish forwards go in half-heartedly near the end of the game.

There are counter arguments to my position, primarily arising from the All Blacks who said that they were "undercooked" four years ago. As I watched Kieran Read and flanker Adam Thomson injure themselves against Australia with the start of the World Cup only a fortnight away these warm-up games, albeit even Tri-Nations matches, were shown to be almost completely irrelevant .

All the headlines are about players missing the World Cup, not about how one team shone or another won the Tri-Nations.

And now my team Scotland head to New Zealand via Australia. There are four games on the way to the quarter-finals. Romania, Georgia, Argentina and England.

Warm-up form goes out the window to some extent. Romania might not be that strong. But the other three games are huge obstacles. I like the IRB world rankings and at the moment Scotland are eighth, Argentina ninth, and England the second top Northern Hemisphere team behind France in fifth place.

On that basis Scotland should get to the quarter-finals after losing to England.

Or could Scotland beat England? Warm-up games, I feel, will have little relevance to the result.


  • Comment number 1.

    Good point John, you've got to feel for the likes of Walker, Stoddart and Wallace. The nature of the tournament means that you are only going to get a couple of shots at getting to represent your country there. Tough luck or bad plannning? Maybe we in Scotland are just jealous of full stadia. I also think that if Scotland were starting with Argentina or Georgia, then there would have been more games. Romania should be like another run out for us. England will catch Argentina cold, but unfortunately they will have had a good run by the time we see them. Hopefully we will improve too though.

    The big question is, who will the commentary team be on ITV? What radio station are you talking from John?

  • Comment number 2.

    The whole other question is legality of play. Tuilagi did not tackle Wallace according to law, be bumped him off with no intention of binding onto him. Is Union turning into League? Referees must start looking at the Law and deciding which code they are policing. - let alone eligibility for country...!!!!!

  • Comment number 3.

    I think Scotland did get it right. A balanced build up to confirm the squad, morale boosting victories with the right results, (though we should have put and were worth 40 against Italy).
    The group games have worked out well for us, with a gradual increase of pressure. I'm glad I'm not an Irish fan, not that I have anything against them, but it must be frustrating that the team have been put through 4 tough games, lost them all (albeit by small amounts) and picked up major injuries on the way. In that sense, I think that Ireland got the balance WRONG.
    I am not entirely convinced that the tri-nations came at the right time for those countries either. Here's hoping for a competitive tournament with a few surprises, and a successful run for our boys. Ansbro, brown and Gray to shine.

  • Comment number 4.

    Bof1 if you watch the tackle again Manu put both arms around Wallace it was just the force of the hit that took Wallace out and that he couldn't grab him. I played with Manu at school and believe you me he hit hard then that's without professional training. And leave the eligibility for country alone just because he wasn't born in england he has played all his rugby in the country and he has so much passion for England The same as o gara born san diego and heaslip born Israel.

  • Comment number 5.

    The only way we shall see the success of the warm up games is in the performances in the WC.
    They shouldnt be used just as a way of making money, but I think they are still vital. You can only take a limited squad to the WC, most teams will have a rough starting XV that just picks itself. But to look at England for an example with the likes of Stevens and Armitage coming back into the fold, and Tuilagi and Simpson maybe breaking onto the big stage, and Flutey and Banahan forms not known, these warm up game splay a vital role in getting that Elite squad right. MAybe some teams play to many, but if we are looking for the WC to be a show piece, we want teams playing at their best with the best, tried, combinations on the pitch!

    As for the injuries, Rugby is physical. Players get injured in training, should that be stopped? Some had they not played in a warm up match would get injured in the first round. Ideally no one would get injured. Maybe players play in too many matches over he entire season, not allowing their bodies to recover. I dont think the answer is get rid of warm up games, but rather better rotation where possible (making use of all subs and not leaving people bench warming) and cutting back on unesessary games. Limit warm ups to two maybe?

    @2 bof1 Had Wallace not been injured would anyone really remember the tackle? Had Tuilagi wrapped him up would that have stopped the injury? I think the answer to the latter might be a no. I personally didnt think the tackle was that high. But you may have a point, wrapping up should always be at least attempted!

  • Comment number 6.

    @ Red Rose Faithful: Some people, mainly not from England, seem to be very sour that they dont have good quality rugby players in their country. Its an old debate and at the end of the day rules are rules. We dont make them. And watching the national anthems Tuilagi seems to be singing it with more heart than anyone else!

  • Comment number 7.

    Daverichallen I agree with all your comments you need warm up matches maybe not four like Ireland did but I would say 2-3 so you can see players play in a test match, test combination and give players who are recovering from injury game time I don't care what anyone says there is nothing like playing games against other opposition to get you match fit. There's something you get out of a game that training carnt quite give. All ways sad to see anyone go off with injuries in any game but it is a physical game and injuries go hand in hand with the game it's a sad fact.

  • Comment number 8.

    Daverichallen yes I agree again. Don't know why people are so against it. England are not breaking any rules so why has it got peoples backs up. Could it be that everyone hates the English do any good in anything so they just have to find something they can use to have a go.

  • Comment number 9.

    Someone on a previous thread was trying to say that Wilko, Haskell and Palmer werent real Englishmen because they qualified to play for France on residency grounds, even though they don't as have been capped playing for England.

  • Comment number 10.

    Now that is just plan stupid you could say that for so many players makes you laugh at what lengths people go to try and have a pop at England there are some sad lonely people out there. Anyway enough of that talk back to rugby. I feel that England are just about to start peaking at the right time again. So are austraila but they might have played there best game against new Zealand on sat. And I fear that new Zealand have peaked and on the downgrade but that said I think they still might have to much for anyone else. I am leaning towards France but they are still to inconsistent. I just don't know. I am just going to enjoy the rugby and hopefully the best team will win. Hopefully England.

  • Comment number 11.

    I dont think NZ will win it. I think we will win group be, play France in the quarters, where if we are fairly injury free we should win, then meet Australia in the Semis........and then who knows.

    I think Scotland and Wales could fail to get out of their groups. And Ireland will lose to SA in the quarters!

  • Comment number 12.

    On the topic of warm-up games, i think that they are definitely necessary! The countrys have hardly any time together normally and going into a world cup you need to be at your peak. I think 3 games was probably too many and to play wales both home and away seems like a money making exercise. But they are so useful in getting the teams to play together and sorting out the combinations you want to use during the tournament.

    On the subject of tuilagi and his nationality, why can't he play for England? So he wasn't born here? so what? Look at the cricket team, Pietersen is south african and plays for England.

    Look at the New Zealand teams, so many players born in Samoa or Fiji and end up playing for New zealand and your not sat here complaining about that!

  • Comment number 13.

    To be fair it's going to be a tight world cup. England hold couple of trump cards we know how to play knockout rugby and England don't choke. All I can say is that it's going to be exciting.

  • Comment number 14.

    Liverpaul85 it's the hate England band wagon. They are getting any ammo they can to have a go with cause they know that england have proberly the best chance of the northern hemisphere teams.

  • Comment number 15.

    We do have the best WC record this millennium!

    I guess the risk with warm up games is getting the balance of trying out new players/combinations, giving people game time, getting some wins and momentum going, offset against the threat of injuries to star players!
    If you have a world class player in any position, how much game time do you give them in a warm up?

  • Comment number 16.

    i think that as a coach/manager or any team, you have to rely on your backroom staff and the player themselves to tell you how they are feeling. injuries caused by big hits are just unfotunate. Most players aren't going out there to really injure someone, just rough them up a bit.

    But if its muscle injuries that you keep picking up you have to wonder how much time on the pitch you are giving the player. the players will know if they are feeling tight or if they feel faitigued and thats when you will get injured. So as a coach you need to be able to count on the player telling you about the injuries.

  • Comment number 17.

    @16 Liverpaul85 I think you have to do more than that, you cant just rely on them. You need to second guess them and almost know more than they do. Some players (especailly young players) their desire to play and win is greater than their desire for their own well being. So much so that they will try and declare themselves fit/ignore little niggles, just for more game time!

  • Comment number 18.

    thats why you need players you can rely on! Plus a decent medical team will be able to tell you about all the little things that are going on.

    At the end of the day, if a player isn't right and tells you he is, then goes out and tears a hamstring he deserves to not go to the world cup! thats the players fault, not the coach's!

  • Comment number 19.


    Sure these players got injured in games, but they just have easily got badly injured in a training session, which often involve full contact.

    In fact I can remember lots of players getting inured in training and having to leave World Cups or tours. For example, Stephen Ferris tearing his knee with the Lions in 2009 and Dan Luger breking a cheekbone in 2001, also with the Lions. The fact of the matter is that players will need injure themselves, whether it is in a game or training.

    To be fair players need proper game time ahead of the tournament. There is no substitute for playing for sharpness and fitness.

  • Comment number 20.

    I think the warm up games are essential to preperation. Injuries are a risk and the players know this and are prepared to deal with it. New Zealand, Australia and the pacific nations will not hold back in their tackles and will be looking to batter us into submission. What is the point of a warm up game if we are not going to give it everything. It prepares the players physically and mentally. Money making or not, it gives us common people who cant afford to fly to new zealand to support our country the opportunity to cheer our team and wish them well before flying off to nz. Us the little peole can only cheer throught the tv. At least warm up games give us a chance to do our bit.

  • Comment number 21.

    A lot of time given over to the Tuilagi debate. I can only assume those who are criticising have forgotten all of the many nationalities fielded on residency rules by all of the other home nations and England in the past. Maybe it's just a bit more worrying because Tuilagi looks genuinely dangerous with ball in hand, not a typically English trait! Kidding! As for England's chances, I think some people are getting a bit carried away after one successful 6 nations. There is certainly no other evidence that England are any more likely to be more successful than the 2 best Northern Hemisphere sides in recent years, Ireland and France. 2 close games against Scotland in the last 2 championships do not suggest England should be too far ahead in the odds for Group B either, while a 2-leg aggregate loss against Wales in August suggests England may be lucky to progress from their group. The extra game that England will have had by the time they face Scotland could well be crucial. My money will be on the Scots to upset a very inconsistent and over-rated England side. And I'm English.

  • Comment number 22.

    John - a good point on the warm up games and i think each Team has had to do it differnetly due to the WC schedule - Scotland are forutnate that their first 2 games are likely to be the easiest and can therefore use these to build up momentum whereas England start with Argentina and Ireland have the Aussies 2nd up with wales paying SA first up.

    On the nationality issue it's purely because it's England and he's looking good! Everyone does it (Scotland - Leslie brothers & Hines to name but 3) - the difference for me is that the Leslie brothers tried to play for NZ and only came over here when it was clear they weren't good enough!!

  • Comment number 23.

    Hi John. a fair comment but I like to state that one must be realistic, Teams need game time to try out the best combinations, and it is a commercial world we live in, this is Sports and it needs money like it or not and the Unions need this, maybe not as many games but nevertheless this is the real world. if its not entertaining people will not go and will see that players are not 100% comitted. Also Fans like to go since many like me cannot go to NZ and would like to experience a little of the World cup.
    I also think that the players may take offence to your comment about thier efforts. they are professional and proud to represent thier country and to suggest that they are not wholly comitted is a bit of a insult.
    One last point - I went to watch England train in Twicks and believe me they can get injured during training eg Nick Easter just before the match.

  • Comment number 24.

    Hi All, just to add to the debate about the tackle from Manu to Wallace and to his residency etc:
    If you see the tackle again he did try to grab him but the force bumped Wallace away and he landed very awkwardly on his legs thus his injury - which I really am sorry for him, he is a great player. I know the Samoan way and they are not dirty they are just outright, passionate and enthusiastic in hitting the tackles since this is their way as warriors in the past; they are a great and gentle people.
    As to residency, I came over here from Hong Kong as a young boy thus Chinese heritage, and I support England in everything and played Rugby for 6 years at junior level and if I am asked to play for England you BET I will Big time! And I am sure that Manu feels the same.
    Lastly, just have a closer examination of the Aus and NZ teams, SAMO their no 8 which scored a great try against AB he is a Fijian! If you apply this argument, then NZ and AUS will be like Romania without many great players - another example - Jonah Lomu is of a Tongan heritage.

  • Comment number 25.

    The main reason we should have no problem with Tuilagi playing for England is Tim Visser.

    Yes the warm-up games may have seemed irrelevant and excessive, but even if the players are injured playing them, the money has to be found to pay them and, especially in New Zealand, there are not many alternative sources of income to playing matches. Ireland have a shiny new greenhouse/stadium to pay for too.

  • Comment number 26.

    #22 Leslie brothers paternal grandfather is Scottish. I'll give you Hines LOL...

    I would say the games are needed but 4!!!!! I don't think the SRU made any money out of the 2 games more like a lose.

  • Comment number 27.

    JB888 - Lomu was born in Auckland. There is no comparison between his situation and Tuilangi's.

    If you're going to use examples to try to make a point at least make sure that your examples are relevant.

  • Comment number 28.

    Tuilagi's rugby career has been funded soley by the RFU and Leicester. We have paid for all of his training, he has played for England all the way up through the academy and U18 system, its only a problem now because he has suddenly blasted onto the scene.

    It is NOT cheating, because every other country can or is doing it! This whole debate is getting old and boring. He is playing, he will be playing, and nothing anyone says is going to stop him playing. Any further debate is pure bitterness.

    If we worked on country of birth, than John Beattie himself would be playing for Borneo...

  • Comment number 29.

    "Being born in a stable doesn't make a man a horse!" - Daniel O'Connell.

    Nationality is about heritage, culture, where you were raised, where you feel you belong etc, combinations of these factors and others!

  • Comment number 30.

    Hmmm... nationality is a fluid concept these days.

    It irritates me when Scottish people moan about how North American tourists aren't really Scottish, when they are typically decended from exiles, many forced to leave due to the Highland Clearances. If someone has a Scottish grandparent, or even more distant ancestry, that's good enough for me. Likewise if someone has Chinese ancestry but has lived in Scotland for successive generations, then there is nowhere else they can call home. So we should welcome anyone who want to identify themselves as Scottish.

    And yet...

    ... when it comes to Visser and Tuilagi I think it's become a bit of a joke now. I would be embarassed to move to another country like Brazil that I have absolutely no relation to, with the specific goal of taking the shirt off genuine, patriotic Brazillian players. Pietersen isn't the best example, his mother is actually English.

    Visser is definitely good enough to play for Scotland, but... he's not Scottish. Now his little brother is at Edinburgh, and not Scottish either. It's not a good trend.

    Players are following the richer countries, and that's not fair on the smaller countries. England are turning into the Manchester City of international rugby, through no fault of their own.

    I think the rules should be changed so that if a South Sea Islander is not selected for the All Blacks [or England], then they should be considered eligible for Samoa, or Tonga. They can decide whether to actually play for their country of origin, or put themselves on stand by for their first choice team.

    This would be especially good since New Zealand appears to have a very high turnover on Test players.

    There are some amazing rugby players not playing at the World Cup. The smaller countries are missing out, and so are the fans.

  • Comment number 31.

    As for the summer tests, Robinson is fortunate to have a schedule that see Scotland face our opponents in order of weakest to strongest, giving us time to build: Romania [17], Georgia [16], Argentina [9], England [5]. He only needed two light games to round off his squad, so we only have 1 injury from 2 Tests, Nikki Walker.

    England start against Argentina and end against Scotland and anything can happen. They could be caught cold versus Argentina, or have a lot of injuries and confidence problems by the time they have to play Scotland.

    Wales start against South Africa [3], Samoa [10], Namibia [20] and then Fiji [15]. They needed tough summer tests, but they got a bad bounce of the ball in losing Henson, Stoddart and Rees. They got the theory right but in hindsight, they would have been better off playing touch rugby on the training paddock.

    Ireland are a mystery. They should be supremely confident, they have a team who've won the greatest honours in European Rugby, but they are just not playing.

  • Comment number 32.

    I can understand playing for another country if you are not good enough to play for the country of your birth. Any chance to play international rugby is better than no chance. That is no doubt why so many NZ players end up elsewhere as internationals, and us lessor nations are delighted.

    However why would you turn your back on the country of your birth to play for England.

    Re the warm ups. Pehaps they should just play touch.

  • Comment number 33.

    I'm very sad for the guys who missed the World Cup through injury in training or warm up games. The draw is the draw and you schedule accordingly and play what is in front of you. 2/3 warm up games probably ideal in my opinion. You do need warm up games to get fully match fit and hardened - the World Cup will be intense and physical. You need to be BATTLE hard and ready. Looking forward to all the skills this great sport requires to compete - do not be disillusioned this is a professional war of attrition and casualties will happen - ENJOY THE GAMES AND SPECTACLE. COME ON SCOTLAND - BELIEVE.

  • Comment number 34.

    1 It's real shame for committed athletes whose injuries take from them a chance to perform on a world stage. That includes those injured in warm ups and those whose injuries kept them out or compromised their form. It's the case that all teams probably never take all their best players. That said, players have to earn their place on the plane and accept the risks. Hence warm up games. If SRU makes some money in the process, then so be it.

    2 Scotlsand had one injury from two warm up games that caused a withdrawal. I reckon Robinson would have taken that at the beginning.

    3 Injuries during the tournament may be Scotland's undoing. Murray, Blair and Cussiter are some way from match hard and just made the squad with minimum participation. I hope they stay injury free. An injury to Murray could leave the scrum seriously weakened and literally on the back foot. We need some injury luck, if you know what I mean.

    4 The draw will hopefully help. Imagine facing England with 6 victories behind us !! Cannae wait for that !!

    5 Finally, irrespective of the outcomes, Scotland will give of their best. That we know for certain. I hope that in the process, they discover a bit more flair and confidence - a real legacy for the 6N and beyond. Our national and professional teams in particular really need that.

  • Comment number 35.

    Red rose faithful, True! O'Gara was born in USA, and Jamie Heaslip born Israel - both of Irish parents who happened to be working overseas at the time of birth! No doubt we will disagree over the tackle.....but there is a lot more League than Union in England at the moment! But, yes, we must have strong Northern Hemisphere teams to win in the south.

  • Comment number 36.

    D1865, is that an argument for or against Tuilagi...

  • Comment number 37.

    Jon, it is an arguement for Tuilagi being in the England squad. I am saying just because he wasn't born in England doesnt mean he cannot be considered English, nor in turn does being born in England make someone English.

  • Comment number 38.

    Hi andysw17 of course you are right Jonah was born in Auckland but I wrote that his heritage is Tongan as illustration of where one draws the line about right to play, but I think you agree there are lots of examples in the Aussie and AB team of different Samoan, Tongan, Fijian born players, maybe a better example is Inga the Winger - Va'aiga Lealuga Tuigamala - sure you remember the great man - he was born in Samoa played for AB and then went back to play for Samoa.

  • Comment number 39.

    D1865, ah ok. You just lost me on that point when you started saying 'Nationality is about heritage, culture, where you were raised, where you feel you belong etc'. I felt that was somewhat tongue in cheek...

  • Comment number 40.

    The problem with the current residency rule is that rugby is becoming like club football - the countries with the most money attract foreign players to their clubs and those players often go on to play for that country. This means countries with skint clubs are at an unfair advantage. In saying that, I'd rather see lads with at least some blood relative and connection to my country get the honour of winning a cap.

  • Comment number 41.

    bof1 i can only recall dozen or so league players converting to union in england. and only a couple have had any success at international level jason robertson, chris aston and Shontayne Hape. the southern hemisphere teams have around the same influx of league converts. maybe england are trying to see if they can catch on to what the southern hemisphere teams are doing.

  • Comment number 42.

    The night before New Zealand play in any sport I'm interested in, I get butterflies. I'm excited. I don't get that for England despite being born here. I was raised by NZ parents and can't change, my brother has the same feeling but for England. Neither of us disrespect the other and wish luck on the two nations that are our heritage.

    For the players I think it's on a case by case basis. Some play for a country for the wrong reasons, money, more fame, or because they couldn't get into their own's country's squad. But in a world that has become so well interconnected it is for individuals to decide what nationality, heritage and culture mean to them. Fans can usually see the difference between players doing it for the right reasons and the wrong reasons. And players who are respected by the fans will be far better off.

  • Comment number 43.

    looking forward to the WC but not to hearing commentators talk about TUILANGI. There is no N in T-U-I-L-A-G-I

  • Comment number 44.

    To Answerthis - that is the correct pronunciation of Tuilagi - the "ng" sound occurs in Samoan. If only the commentators could pronounce Samoa correctly! Saa moa rather than Samower.

    Manu is growing up to be a Pom. He won't be allowed to forget Fa'a Samoa but this is the same for any culture that migrates. He looks a prospect and good on him. Maybe we'll get taro in Asda one of these days.

    When people mention the ABs and nationalities, why don't they pick up on Brad Thorn and his Aussie roots and always pick on Jonah ( who was born in the next suburb to me in South Auckland )?

  • Comment number 45.

    @29 - That comment has been used by the NF and other similar groups to justify why English born black footballers shouldn't be playing for England. Manu has lived in England a long time. He came here as a teenager and played through the youth levels. We produced him as a player and he has chosen to play for England. Get over it.

    As the comment that O'Donnell made. Does that mean there is no such thing as white Americans or white Australians? The football World cup would be an interesting conundrum with half the Argentine team having to play for Spain, a few for Italy and the rest for England as many of them are not of indigenous descent.

  • Comment number 46.

    @ 30 - I have to pull you up on that comment. Tuilagi didn't come here to play rugby. He was brought over by his older brothers to be educated here (one of his brothers isn't a premiership rugby player, but yet still lives here). His first club was Hinckley U14s. So he didn't take a shirt off anyone. He earnt it on the same pitches and at the same level as other kids who lived in the same area as he did.

    Unless you're suggesting that immigrant children shouldn't play sport at junior level, because it takes away a place from a "genuine" child, then comparing Visser (who came here as an adult and didn't play in Scottish youth teams) is not valid.

    The debate should centre on whether Hape or Flutey should be playing for England. Not whether or not a kid who grew up in a country should be.

  • Comment number 47.

    @44 - I think Lomu gets picked out because he's of South Sea Islander origin. Those who use him as a high profile example of NZ "poaching" from other Pacific islands. Allegedly stealing an Australian doesn't fit their opinion. A lot of people still don't want to believe that kids that were born and bred in NZ or just bred of Pacific islander heritage want to play for NZ.

  • Comment number 48.

    I think the RFU should maybe bring in a rule that immigrant children born abroad aren't allowed to "steal" places from English born kids in youth teams. Because all the talk about Manu suggests that at 13, he took a place off a more worthy English born player. Maybe they should go further and stop children of immigrant parents (clearly Ugo Monye is of Nigerian origin) because their foreign sounding names might upset rival fans. Or maybe bring in a rule saying the only kids who can rugby in England are those who can prove an ancestor is in the Domesday Book.

  • Comment number 49.

    Brad Thorn was born in Dunedin (NZ) and moved across to Brisbane in his early teens. He played League at school and then after because that was/is the main winter sport in Queensland. But he always wanted to be an AB so came over from league (twice) to do it.
    I see no problem with Manu playing for England since he emmigrated across with his family. But I do think the RFU should look carefully at the cases of Henry Paul, Lesley Vanikola, Shontayne Hape, Ricki Flutey (Dylan Hartley is OK as he came across to live and tehn started playing rugby) and the numerous South Africans here under the Kolpak (or whatever it is) - not because there's anything majorly wrong with it but because of the message it sends to English players going through the system and to international sport in general .... as someone mentioned already it may evolve into countries (via rich clubs) 'buying' in a team to win an international competition.

  • Comment number 50.

    Hi, I know I'm only a Scot. We have a strange history in fielding players from "overseas" in our national teams North of the border, but as long as countries abide by IRB laws on eligibility then it's OK I reckon.

    As English club rugby appears to have lots of money, as does the RFU, then it's logical that people from all corners of the earth want to go there to live and play rugby. The next thing that happens is......they're English enough to play for the country.


  • Comment number 51.


    Couldn't agree more about the tendency of some Unions to get their players beaten up for cash! The RFU has been doing this for years, having taken England from triumph to farce in just a few months in 2003 when they made exhausted players take part in endless "money-spinning" games. It ended several careers too early.

    The whole foreign players in England thing has got completely out of hand. I would agree that some are little better than mercenaries who have no business representing England. Others are people who made their homes here and have lived in the country for years...Henrik Fourie for instance came to England to go to University and has stayed here ever since. The finger is even pointed at guys with English parents who just happened to be born abroad on an overseas posting!

    I think that Ireland fans have little claim to outrage. When England last played in Dublin, Paul O'Connell "whipped" up his forwards with a xenophobic speech that could have seen England's captain prosecuted had it occurred the other way around. Well you don't do that twice and Irelands forwards came off second best (i.e. weren't allowed to pull people's heads off while shouting "it's a maul ref!") to a much more motivated England pack. It's very hard on players who have trained hard and miss out on the RWC, but I didn't see anything that could have been described as foul play.

  • Comment number 52.

    There is a prevailing stream of comments from John's excellent article through to the various comments from individuals.

    I agree with the comments about Tuilagi's tackle but to be fair I can't say I necessarily saw the detail to say whether arms were involved or whether it was high. I do agree that I am getting concerned about the ferocity of the hits but it isn't a league influence it is more the natural method for tackle within the south sea islanders. However it does need to be looked into.

    With regards to qualification to play for a country. It is a mess!
    You have Shontayne Hape who played rugby league for New Zealand, you have Tongans, Samoans who have played age grade rugby for their native country playing for New Zealand.

    I have to say my view is that once you have played for a country that is it you can not play for another country even if it is a different sport. You should get rid of this residency rubbish as it creates confusion. However if somebody comes over to the country as a child and plays and learns the game in that country then fair enough.

    Going by that Tuilagi qualifies for England as he played all his age grade rugby for England and went to school in England. Hape doesn't!

    The issue with the world cup warm ups is that the respective unions are going to lose a lot of money over the coming season due to the lack of autumn internationals. Apparently the RFU are going to lose millions of pounds in the coming season.

    However we are now in a professional era and money is going to have the final say and the players well being is going to be left behind.

    Wallace - injury. Nicky Walker - injury. Matthew Rees - tried to keep him going despite the fact that he has a debilitating neck injury (How does paralysis sound?).

    A balance has to be found.

    Soap box removed - Calm descends.

  • Comment number 53.

    "you have Tongans, Samoans who have played age grade rugby for their native country playing for New Zealand."

    Rubbish. Please name these players!

  • Comment number 54.

    “Fijians and Samoans playing for New zealand and your not sat here complaining about that!"

    Not true. The British press have ignorantly been complaining about this for years. But as shown on numerous occasions they have been completely wrong to do so. In recent times there have only been two players born in Fiji: Sivivatu who came to NZ when he was 16 and Rokocoko who came to NZ when he was 5. As for the high number of Samoans, once again this is a myth. In the entire history of NZ rugby there have only been 13 players who have pulled on an AB jersey that were born in Samoa. All but three of these came to NZ pre puberty. The 3 otehrs came as teenageers and two of these arrived pre professionalism. There are 16 New Zealand born players in the current Samoan RWC squad of 30. Another 5 grew up in NZ.

  • Comment number 55.

    And Damian Croin's eligibility for Scotland was based on? And Nathan Hines is an Aussie.....

  • Comment number 56.

    Sorry getting excited 3 above should read 5 of which two arrived pre professionalism. I don't see the Brits getting excited about the kids of immigrants who play soccer (Anderson, Barnes, Wright etc), cricket (Hussian, Shah, Malcolm, Mahmood etc), rugby (Erinle, Ubogu, Armitage etc), Athletics (list a mile long), boxing etc and I find it objectionable that there are then complaints about kids of immigrants turning out for NZ sports teams.

  • Comment number 57.

    "Dylan Hartley is OK as he came across to live and tehn started playing rugby"

    Hartley went to Rotorua Boys High and arrived in the UK after he had left school aged 16. He played in Rotorua's first XV.

  • Comment number 58.

    Kiwi's tend to be touchy about the Pacific Island born players who pull on the AB jumper but they have always had them. In the current squad Mils Muliaina was born in Samoa and Sivivatu who just missed making the squad was born in Fiji. I have no problem with this, let anyone who qualifies play at the highest level they can achieve. A much better question is how does a tiny country like Samoa produce such magnificent rugby players? There are more rugby players in Scotland than there are people living in Samoa.

  • Comment number 59.

    "Mils Muliaina was born in Samoa and Sivivatu who just missed making the squad was born in Fiji"

    Mils came to NZ when he was 2 years old! He is a New Zealander.

    "A much better question is how does a tiny country like Samoa produce such magnificent rugby players?"

    Increasingly by tapping into the New Zealand rugby factory. As said above over 2/3rds of the Samoan RWC squad are New Zealanders.

    "There are more rugby players in Scotland than there are people living in Samoa."

    I think Scottish rugby would love to have a playing pool of 180,000.

  • Comment number 60.

    "Kiwi's tend to be touchy about the Pacific Island born players who pull on the AB jumper but they have always had them."

    In the entire hsitory of All Black rugby there have only been 30 players born in the Islands. The first were Walter Batty who was an All Black in 1927/28 and the Solomn brothers (All Blacks in the the 1930s) one of whom was born in American Samoa and the other in Fiji. All 3 players grew up in New Zealand. Immigration from the Pacific accelerated in the 1950s and Pacific Island lineage people make up almost 10% of NZ's population. We are touchy about misinformation, not the fact that Samoan or Tongan born palyers are in the All Blacks.

  • Comment number 61.

    Well said fallingTP.

  • Comment number 62.

    I think the fact that England have got so many adopted players in their side should be a worry for their RFU. The other home nations especially Scotland have got a very limited resource when it comes to player base so it's not that much of a shock to see them adopting players. England have the largest player base in the world but they still were looking at taking a possible 3 south sea islanders for the centre spots. Why isn't the talent being produced in England for these positions plus a few other around the team. The Tuilagi have been i England/Europe for years so I have no problem with Manu but Flutey and Hap have both played representative rugby for NZ at one level or another. Would it not be sensible for the IRB to take the route of FIFA and impose stricter rules on player eligibility. Is it not in their interest to see these developing rugby nations retain their star players and to promote the game.
    p.s. I am Scottish and not really a fan of seeing Tim Visser in a Scotland shirt, he doesn't represent me as a Scotland fan, he'll only be doing it to play international rugby. This is probably also the difference between why Tuilagi plays with so much more passion than Hape/Flutey, he believes he's English

  • Comment number 63.

    2This is probably also the difference between why Tuilagi plays with so much more passion than Hape/Flutey, he believes he's English"

    This is a highly questionable assumption. What makes you a good rugby player comes from inside and has little to do with nationality (other than the environment in which you learn the game of course). All players want to play at the highest level and I'd suggest as long as they achieve this aim it makes little difference who they play for. Thus I'd suggest that whilst, for example, JB was proud of his efforts in gaining Scottish selection he would have been equally proud if by a stroke of fortune he had been selected for the All Blacks and that he would have played with equal passion and determination for either side. It is about getting to the top. It seems to me that it is the fans who get animated about such matters; not the players.

  • Comment number 64.

    In agreement with TP in the fact that all players want to play at the highest level possible. However, there is a danger in that we could have a situation where the richer unions - England/France - start to spread their nets wider and pick up less more established players with the view to have them available after the qualifying period is over - which lets face it three seasons is not an awful lot to 19/20 year old.
    Its the one reason where I think the NZRFU must stay firm when it comes to talent going overseas and giving up the opportunity to play test rugby. If the NZRFU were to change their policy on this then the floodgates would open and the Provincial and possibly Super Rugby would be decimated.
    Just imagine if someone like Aaron Smith thought its three years before I can see myself in the AB's takes a lucrative contract in England... then is groomed for the English national side.

  • Comment number 65.

    Porridge as an aside perhaps we should try and have a pint at the Happy Tav in October?

  • Comment number 66.

    fallingTP... great idea. Was in the Tav just the other week. I'm working in the States at the moment, but will be heading back to the Bay around the 23rd Sept.

  • Comment number 67.

    TP, you're right it might be a questionable assumption but who out of the three looked like they wanted it more. I'm sure Flutey and Hape are proud tp pull on the shirt of any well paying international side. Who would you back ot win a big contact situation, the professional playing for the country taht pays him or the born the player who's schoolboy dream it as to wearthe shirt of his country. Pride in your shirt will take you a long way, it's why the all-blacks play such high intensity rugby.
    That aside, who would you as a fan rather see playing for your country, players who have been through your training systems/schools/clubs and are a product of the sport in your country or some other pro who's not made it in their own, Brendan Laney springs to mind, he was a great help to Scottish rugby.

  • Comment number 68.

    Brendan Laney... you can thank McGeechan for that one. While I'm on it... what did he - McGeechan - really do for Scottish Rugby?

  • Comment number 69.

    One match does not maketh the star!

    "That aside, who would you as a fan rather see playing for your country, players who have been through your training systems/schools/clubs and are a product of the sport in your country or some other pro who's not made it in their own, Brendan Laney springs to mind, he was a great help to Scottish rugby."

    Ah but that's a different question.

    Porridge I'm back home on 8th for QF. Not sure exactly when I will get down to the Bay. Probably the week following the semi. Try LNZCC website for my e-mail.

  • Comment number 70.

    Ahhh would that be Porridge looking for a bite?

    Here goes

    Sir Ian McGeechan made his debut representing Scotland as a player in 1972 and went on to win 32 caps, with nine games as captain, scoring a total of 21 points. He toured with the British Lions in 1974 in the unbeaten tour to South Africa and in 1977 to New Zealand, playing all eight tests.

    As Scotland coach from 1988-93, McGeechan masterminded the nation’s Grand Slam victory in 1990 and steered Scotland to fourth place in the Rugby World Cup while he also famously toured as the British Lions head coach in 1989 (Australia), 1993 (New Zealand) 1997 and 2009 (South Africa) and was in charge of the mid-week team in 2005 (New Zealand).

    Not bad for an Englishman!

    Perhaps thats why he likes all things 'Lions - however taking Flutey on tour was a step to far........

  • Comment number 71.

    We may as well all play for African nations seeing as our common ancestor is from Africa. This argument is so ridiculous, its like saying the Australians shouldn't play for Australia because their ancestors were convicts or Welsh, or the Americans should all be playing for Ireland rather than America because they're all immigrants essentially. Also there's a lot of Scottish blood in New Zealand but I don't hear them complaining about any MacDonalds or Mackenzies or whatever!

    They can play where they want to play as long as they play well and have some relation to the country be it residency or relatives that's good enough for me if they play well!

  • Comment number 72.

    Notme... think you might be thinking about Jim Telfer when relating Scotland's success in 1990 and ironically the very same Jim Telfer was there on the successful Lions Tour to SA in 89.

  • Comment number 73.

    @55 - Both Hines and Cronin qualify to play for Scotland through Grandparents. Unfortunately, with the transient population of the world as it is, I can see there being more and more instances where the country of birth plays only a small part in elegibility to play for a country.
    Bringing comments back on topic though - As JB said in an earlier blog, the warm up matches have effectively been public training sessions at match pace. While I appreciate the confidence that comes from winning I would have liked to see teams try a few more penalty set pieces during the matches rather than just kicking for goal.
    A week to go until RWC2011 and I'm getting nervous.

  • Comment number 74.

    Porridge..... don't think I am....

    Telfer coached Scotland to the Grand Slam in 1984 and, as assistant to Sir Ian McGeechan, to his second Grand Slam in 1990. In his second term as head coach from 1998–1999, Scotland won the final Five Nations Championship.

    Now I'm not going to argue with you as to who has done more for Scottish Rugby - I think the Scotsman (you know the chap born in Scotland, raised in Scotland and living in Scotland) might have done more - but that wasn't your question.

    Ian McGeechan has done plenty......

    The scotsman bit was just a wee bit cheeky JB!!!!!

    Anyway for my money the IRB should change the rule from residency to Domicile - whilst keeping the grandparent rule at the most for links to a country - or, it could get very silly indeed......

    By the way to the point of the blog - in the age of professionalism I'm afraid the players just have to earn their keep.....

  • Comment number 75.

    Yes McG and Telfer were great coaches, but in their headlong reckless rush to embrace professional rugby at any cost they nearly bankrupt the Union. That is their legacy for scottish rugby.

  • Comment number 76.

    "Both Hines and Cronin qualify to play for Scotland through Grandparents. "

    If any of the IRB qualification requriements is a joke it is this one.

  • Comment number 77.

    Notme... do you think that Telfer having assistant title next his name makes a difference.
    McGeechan's success with Scotland and the Lions were down to the involvement of Telfer not the other way around. McGeechan has had no real success otherwise.
    When McGeechan left Scotland he did not leave it in a very good state... similar to what he did at Wasps. Could not careless about whether he is a true Scot or not. I just think he is over rated.
    Where as I think Robinson is vastly under rated and is actually trying to help build the Scottish domestic rugby. Something that McGeechan walked away from.

  • Comment number 78.

    Xcoach... totally agree with you there, but I think McGeechans involvement in this might have been greater than that of Telfer... but I'm happy to stand corrected on this.

  • Comment number 79.

    Porrdige - I'm not arguing that he was the best thing since sliced bread or even suggesting he was better at coaching then Telfer - merely that he had done one or two things for Scottish Rugby........

    Xcoach - not really sure how you could do anything but embrace professionalism when it came to pass. Think the situation with Scottish Rugby is a bit more complicated than blaming McGeechan and Telfer - think we all share some of that responsibility. For instance, how many do you think will be at Murrayfield tonight?

    ....and then how many in rugby clubs around the land in the next few weeks will be complaining that its just not good enough - but doing very little to help support the game in terms of buying tickets etc.....

    Full houses in London, Cardiff and Dublin and a half empty stadium in Edinburgh highlight this - it can't always be someone else's fault.

  • Comment number 80.


    btw in terms of his success otherwise - he's been in charge of a team that has won the english Premiership, the Heineken Cup and the anglo Welsh Cup as well as head coach on 4 Lions tours and assistant to Sir Woodward on another......

    Once again - I am not suggesting that he hasn't had any help in this but you can hardly say its been an unsuccesful career.

    By your reckoning should we say that New Zealand are over rated and have been consistently since they've only won one World Cup and that was when the rest of the world was still amatuer and the South Africans weren't invited!!!!!

    I guess Mr Henry better sort that out this year........

  • Comment number 81.


    By all means embrace the pro game, but don't get your ambitions mixed up with your capabilities. Work with the money you have available, it may take longer but you wont end up in the position that you are dancing to the tune of the banks, and using 2m a year from revenues just to pay the interest.

    When the s--t hit the fan we were in a terrible mess and close to the debt being called in. That would have meant houses on the training pitches at HQ and who knows owning the stadium.

    Regarding whether we are all to blame, most people involved at club level give a huge amount for nothing especially at the grass roots end. Coaching, behind the bar, painting white lines etc etc. Just because we can't all get to Murrayfield for every game doesn't mean we are guilty of a crime against scottish rugby.

    Sur McG and T were not exclusively to blame there was a certain Mr Anderton who had his share.

  • Comment number 82.

    Totally agree with you on that xcoach. Not having lived in Scotland for quite a number of years I'm not up to speed with its current status. But what I do remember about rugby in Scotland suffers greatly from the old school tie network.
    Where I live in NZ children play for their local clubs up until the age of 12. When they go to secondary school then it's the schools reponsible to give them rugby. That i can assure you they do the length and breadth of the country.
    In our area the fee paying schools play against the state schools. This is something that is if I remember rightly very rare in Scotland.
    The SRU and Holyrood should be looking into making the game more widely available to all schools and they should all be competing against each other on a regular basis.

  • Comment number 83.


    Not sure about Holyrood being any help, The Fat Controller ( Alex salmond) is a fitba man and the only thing he knows about rugby is that they do a great free buffet at Murrayfield.

  • Comment number 84.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 85.

    porridge_times #82 is a fine example of why these comment sections infuriate me - he has NO IDEA what goes on in Scotland but still feels compelled to talk about it.

  • Comment number 86.

    JRP 85

    O would some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us.

  • Comment number 87.


    Whilst I agree about living within your means I do not share your comments regarding ambition - you've got to have a dream afterall.

    You are also right that there are many involved in club rugby who give a huge amount of their time for free but that isn't the point - the point is the lack of support given to the professional teams in Scotland - perhaps the money was borrowed in the hope that the Scottish Rugby community would come through with their support which unfotunately they haven't - 2,431 at Murrayfield on Friday night just ain't enough to support professional sport long term.....

    Quite simply if the support isn't there then we will eventually get what we deserve.... and whose fault would that be?

  • Comment number 88.

    What makes me "laugh" about all these "warm-up games" (read friendlies) is that they are played against the same teams that we play year-in and year-out and we did it "at home" so to speak...surely the time would be to take them away to Aus or NZ or RSA or Japan and play 3 or 4 games, say x2 60 minutes and then x2 80 minutes and get used to the conditions where you're going to play. Playing Wales twice at home and away is daft IMHO. As for losing all the cash thru no Autumn internationals....just think of the teams suffering thru losing players for 9 months. Or play the RWC in an off-season a'la FIFA World Cup or more radically play every 6 years and then have a full season off rugby after the RWC - so that the season would start in September 2012 in Northern Europe.


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