BBC BLOGS - Tom Fordyce

Archives for January 2012

Why Scotland are better than England... and Ireland are the most successful Six Nations team

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Tom Fordyce | 22:27 UK time, Monday, 30 January 2012

I know, it's an inflammatory headline. But with the start of the 2012 Six Nations just a few days away, I've been nose-deep in numbers and notions in an attempt to work out which side really does deserve the title of the tournament's most successful side. And - Scotland fans, prepare to celebrate - that banner statement can genuinely be justified.

This is not a simple matter of matches won or titles secured. I wanted to factor in the vastly differing resources each nation has at their disposal - finances, manpower, rugby expertise - to see which countries are underperforming and which make the best possible use of their precious assets.

Do England win as many games as the Rugby Football Union's vastly superior budget would suggest? Are Wales' greater playing numbers, relative to both Italy and Scotland, reflected in their results? Should France, on logic, beat Ireland every year?

Before we begin, a caveat. Consider the following stats a fuse under pre-tournament arguments and pub discussions rather than scientific fact. They are designed to be provocative rather than predictive, rugby freakonomics rather than the basis for regime change. But they are intriguing nonetheless.

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'I try to forget I'm the best in the world'

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Tom Fordyce | 17:57 UK time, Monday, 23 January 2012

Many essential ingredients go into making a sportsman the best in the world - natural talent, the right genes, hard work and first-class coaching. Sometimes the decisive factor is the simplest of them all: raw determination.

"This is the time of year when you don't want to do some of the sessions, because you know you're going to be crawling along the floor at the end of them," says Dai Greene. "Then you think, I've got to get up and do another 300m, because I'm the world champion, and I've got to set the standard."

Greene is used to setting those standards high. He is reigning European and Commonwealth 400m hurdles champion, and has been British number one for the past three years. In winning gold at last summer's World Championships in Daegu he achieved something no other British male had ever done in his event.

For most people that would be cause to celebrate, to feel wonderful about the world and your place in it. Dai Greene is not most people.

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Ali: Still the greatest ever

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Tom Fordyce | 18:10 UK time, Monday, 16 January 2012

The man himself told us as long ago as February 1964: "I am the greatest!" Forty-eight years later, as Muhammad Ali celebrates his 70th birthday, is his place atop the pantheon of sporting heroes still secure?

Numbers alone can only take us so far. There is no logic in comparing Ali's 56 professional wins to Pele's two World Cup triumphs and 1280 career goals, Lance Armstrong's seven Tour de France yellow jerseys, Martina Navratilova's 59 Grand Slam titles, Michael Jordan's six NBA championships or Usain Bolt's 9.58 and 19.19 seconds for the 100 and 200m. You may as well attempt to assess the relative musical abilities of John Lennon and Johann Sebastian Bach.

Ali's incendiary adventures in the ring, from his Olympic gold of 1960 and debut pro fight against Tunney Hunsaker all the way through to that final defeat by Trevor Berbick 21 years later, were built not so much on raw win-loss stats as how those were conjured up: snatching the world heavyweight title from Sonny Liston at odds of 7-1; ending the rematch with a right hand so fast, or 'phantom', even television could barely see it; baring his talent and soul in three of the greatest fights in history; winning back the world title three times against both physical and sporting reason.

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Change in the air for new England

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Tom Fordyce | 16:31 UK time, Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Dig the new breed. If anyone had wondered how much impact a mere interim coach could really have on England rugby, Stuart Lancaster's first squad announcement put them right.

It wasn't just the 15 changes to last August's 32-man elite player squad, the nine uncapped players or the four others who have only one international cap apiece.

With everything from the Leeds venue to his training-ground appearance and the informal atmosphere around him, Lancaster is signalling a very clear break with the discredited past. "This," he said firmly, "is a new era for England."

If there's something not quite right about the house of Lancaster being established in the heart of Yorkshire, this is less about wars of roses and more about battles for hearts and minds - those of England supporters, disenchanted and disenfranchised by the very public sins and failings of the previous regime.

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