Tag Archives: wails

Twickenham crowd must match Welsh noise makers – Chris Foy

Crowd at HQ must roar to silence wails of the Welsh

|

UPDATED:

23:22 GMT, 6 December 2012

It must be some kind of record. Almost three years before England v Wales at the next World Cup and the mutual antagonism is already evident.

When the draw was made on Monday for the
2015 tournament, Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Roger Lewis caught
the host nation on the hop by offering to stage the Pool A clash between
the old foes in Cardiff. England’s stunned response was of the ‘thanks,
but no thanks’ variety.

Let’s cut through the sabre-rattling here. The game will not take place in Cardiff. That scenario is unthinkable. It is England’s event and although much is made of the organisers being independent of the RFU, conceding home advantage to their near neighbours is a non-starter.

Turn it up: Twickenham Stadium needs to bring the noise against Wales

Turn it up: Twickenham Stadium needs to bring the noise against Wales

More from Chris Foy…

Chris Foy: Early World Cup draw can sow seeds of discontent
29/11/12

Chris Foy: New guru Parker will soon learn rugby is not an exact science
22/11/12

Chris Foy world of rugby: Lam's back, so it could be the chop for Howley
15/11/12

Chris Foy: Six injured and counting, Lancaster needs stability
01/11/12

World of rugby: Ireland facing the music as Strauss gets a call-up
25/10/12

Chris Foy: More referees will follow Lawrence's example and quit if this hounding goes on
18/10/12

Chris Foy: Let's play! Time for TV war to take a back seat as the Heineken Cup returns
11/10/12

Chris Foy: On your bike, Cowan! No rest for the Gloucester new boy
07/10/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

The Millennium Stadium will be used as a World Cup venue on the simple basis that it suits English requirements. It satisfies the need for a geographical spread of matches. The West Country has a passion for rugby but lacks big stadiums, so taking games to Cardiff ticks a strategic box.

While there is no realistic prospect of England v Wales taking place there, Lewis will lobby strongly for the Millennium Stadium to host Wales v Australia. He will press his point on the basis that the home of Welsh rugby is ‘the best rugby stadium in the world’. He’s right. It is.

Located in the heart of Cardiff, on matchdays it is the heart of Cardiff, with a loud pulse all of its own. Twickenham is bigger, but the Millennium’s stands are steeper and closer, creating an intensity of atmosphere which is enhanced when the roof is shut.

So much is about the people. In Cardiff, there is fervent support, in London it is more passive.

Many Twickenham patrons turn up to be entertained, as if at the opera, while their Welsh counterparts embrace an interactive experience. There are contrasting demographics and they create a contrasting backdrop.

England’s players talk dutifully of wonderful support, but in truth they largely have to perform for their crowd, rather than feed off vocal backing.

Even when the hordes responded to the Haka last Saturday by singing Swing Low, there was one full-throttle rendition, then an almost apologetic second take which petered out into murmuring near-silence.

Ultimately, the England v Wales pool game at the World Cup won’t be staged at the Millennium, but perhaps the away players from the ‘host’ nation would be more inspired by the commotion if it was.

Commotion: There is normally a great atmosphere in the Millenium Stadium

Commotion: There is normally a great atmosphere in the Millenium Stadium

How are the Lions looking

Now that the dust has settled on the autumn Tests, it’s another opportune moment to predict how the Lions might line up for their first Test against Australia in June.

Based partly on form and partly on long-standing personal preference, a possible matchday 23 is listed below. One striking factor is the physical power of what would surely be the most imposing threequarter line the Lions have ever mustered, plus a bench role for that great wasted Welsh talent, James Hook.

Chris Foy’s latest Lions matchday Test squad: Halfpenny; Visser, Tuilagi, Roberts, North; Sexton, B Youngs; Healy, Hartley, Cole; Parling, Gray; Wood, Heaslip, Warburton (capt). Replacements: Best, Corbisiero, A Jones, Lawes, Robshaw, Phillips, Hook, Foden.

Wasted talent: Chris Foy would include James Hook on the bench

Wasted talent: Chris Foy would include James Hook on the bench

Captain Chris tackles his critics

Among modern sporting cliches, ‘he does his talking on the pitch’ is particularly well-worn, but it was a fitting summary of Chris Robshaw’s defiant work last weekend.

He had been lambasted for a close call at the end of England’s defeat against South Africa, but the national captain presented a stoic face and responded with stirring deeds in the epic win over New Zealand.

Once again, his leadership was confirmed by the raft of post-match data, which showed he was England’s leading carrier and second in the tackle count, with 19, missing none. What was most illuminating was that Robshaw hit 27 rucks, while blindside flanker Tom Wood led that list with 39.

This indicates that the back-row balance was right. Put these two together and they cover all bases required of a 6-7 combination, with a blurring of the demarcation lines, which works well.

This may present problems for Tom Croft when he is fit to press for a recall, as the rangy Tiger is a different beast entirely and his lesser impact at the breakdown means he may struggle to break up the Wood-Robshaw axis.

Stepping up: Chris Robshaw showed his worth against the All Blacks

Stepping up: Chris Robshaw showed his worth against the All Blacks

The Last Word

One of the most daunting challenges for World Cup organisers will be to sell out large stadiums in the north, but it appears the RFU aren’t rushing to assist. There have been suggestions that, prior to the tournament, a major Test could be relocated to a northern venue such as Old Trafford, but that concept now appears to be on ice. The reason is — shock, horror — money.

RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie said: ‘There are financial imperatives. If Xmillion doesn’t come in because we don’t play at Twickenham, how many regional development officers is that worth I don’t think we would be dashing to do it (play in the north).

Also, is a single match really going to transform things’

First of all, it is outrageously simplistic to say moving a Test up north = less revenue = reduction in grass-roots funding. The RFU spend a lot of money on a lot of things, not just development officers. Old Trafford’s capacity is only 6,000 below Twickenham’s and it has ample corporate facilities, so why not take a modest monetary ‘hit’ for the good of the game The answer is tied up in considerations such as the debenture scheme at HQ, which discourages an ‘away-day’ Test.

Ritchie cannot dismiss that concept, then argue — as he did — that taking the Saxons up north is a viable solution. Only the senior team against ‘A’-list rivals will have the desired effect.

MASTERS 2012: Nobody can afford to fall for Tiger Woods smile – Martin Samuel

Nobody can afford to fall for Tiger's smile

|

UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 3 April 2012

The problem with Tiger Woods, according to his friend Michael Jordan, is that he hears everything.

Jordan has never bought the notion that Woods stalked the golf course utterly desensitised to his surroundings. Tiger, he argued, genuinely cared what people thought of him when his private life unravelled in public.

'Reputation, reputation, reputation – O, I have lost my reputation,' wails Cassio, the disgraced lieutenant in Shakespeare's play, Othello. 'I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial.'

On the prowl: Tiger Woods looked happy during his pre-Masters practice round at Augusta on Tuesday

On the prowl: Tiger Woods looked happy during his pre-Masters practice round at Augusta on Tuesday

Jordan's reaction to the crisis Tiger faced would have been to play a game of such extreme achievement he rewrote the headlines to his satisfaction. Consider basketball star Kobe Bryant, or for a British equivalent, former England captain John Terry. Neither man has ever been much daunted by infamy.

Golf blog

Tiger, instead, retreated behind a wall of rehabilitation and therapy and winced his way around parts of the countryside he once owned. He heard it all.

And when Woods is around, a lot of other people hear stuff, too. They hear the intimate details of his life and thinking from former employees in diss-and-tell books; they hear the wisdom of experts on sporting psychology; sometimes they hear his movements updated hour by hour through the night.

All smiles: Woods answers questions during a press conference following his practice round

All smiles: Woods answers questions during a press conference following his practice round

'Tiger's in Bar West,' announced the young lady drinking on Augusta's Central Street on Monday evening. She read the news off a text on her phone. The establishment advertises itself as a Martini Bar & Lounge and its Facebook site promises dubstep music and HBO boxing. Lively for a weekday in Georgia, then.

Was Tiger in Bar West Who knows The type of parties he used to enjoy at the Masters did not take place in public view. There is a photograph of him on the wall at the local branch of Hooters, but it is young Tiger who is enjoying the hospitality, on one of his earliest visits.

He has been coming here 18 years, he told Luke Donald on the practice ground on Tuesday morning. When he emerged from purdah two years ago, he came out at Augusta, and at this tournament, where he felt protected.

The gallery awaits: Woods and his caddie Joe LaCava during their practice round

The gallery awaits: Woods and his caddie Joe LaCava during their practice round

Asked about where he is now, compared to that day two years ago, raw and vulnerable, having had his psyche stripped in private counselling, Woods retreated to his safe haven, with platitudes about familiar surroundings, that had nothing to do with the question asked.

Woods may hear everything, but he often hears what he wants to hear, too. Required to consider his professional and emotional development, the question Woods chose to answer was: 'Isn't Augusta a pretty golf course'

Question: 'Can you talk about where you feel you are now compared to where you were in 2010'

Fist pump: Woods bonds with Masters legend Fred Couples on the fifth fairway

Fist pump: Woods bonds with Masters legend Fred Couples on the fifth fairway

Woods (buying time): 'Say again'

Question: 'Where you are now to where you were two years ago'

Woods: 'Well, I wasn't hitting the ball very good. It was just having an understanding of how to play around this golf course, and that's certainly, as I was explaining earlier, is that coming to a golf course that we play each and every year certainly helps. And playing here for so many years now; this is, as I said, my 18th year, so understanding how to play this golf course has really helped me over the years.'

Question: 'Yes, but, what about personally, because obviously two years ago it seemed a very cathartic experience for you.'

Back in the swing: Woods hits from the fairway on the fifth hole during his practice round

Back in the swing: Woods hits from the fairway on the fifth hole during his practice round

Woods: 'Yeah, but it's also coming here to a golf course that I know. As I said, knowing how to play it, and just the history behind this tournament makes it so special.'

All the while, Mark Steinberg, Woods's agent, was trying to curtail interview time from the back of the room. His client had told the folksy anecdote involving Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, he had addressed the odd local golf writer by his first name. He had smiled, winningly. Tiger's work here was done.

What his rivals are probably tired of hearing is the expectation that the Tiger of old is back, following his victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill last month. His resurgence is reflected on betting sites, where he is the Masters favourite, and on the pages of Sports Illustrated, which declare that his duel with Rory McIlroy is the only story in golf.

Eye on the ball: Former world No 1 Woods is looking to win his fifth green jacket this week

Eye on the ball: Former world No 1 Woods is looking to win his fifth green jacket this week

Not an unexpected one either, according to Lee Westwood. 'I didn't see any reason why Tiger wouldn't be back,' said the Englishman. 'I've been through a similar period with a slip in form and eventually you figure it out. It's just a case of when. The difference is that once you have gone through it, there is scar tissue. You know you don't feel quite as bulletproof as you once did.'

Woods is recovering, though. In Abu Dhabi last January he invited McIlroy to play nine practice holes. A generous gesture. The great champion passing his knowledge to a young rival; a sign of personal change. Perhaps.

The more cynical take was that Woods, knowing he was playing well, wanted to show McIlroy first-hand what he would be up against this season. Tiger didn't win but he came a lot closer to doing so than McIlroy.

'I didn't know much about him,' Woods recalled. 'I had not played with him, so that was the first chance to really sit down and talk. It was fun for both of us. He can really move it out there. He has the makings of a great champion for a long period of time. I used to move it like that back in yesteryear.'

He smiled again, but nobody was falling for that one, certainly not McIlroy. Tiger isn't the only one with his ear to the ground.