By Alan Dymock
OBVIOUSLY AT Rugby World we have some proper awards to dole out at the end this season, rewarding the great, the good and the gutsy. However, let it never be said that we take things too seriously. Here are Rugby World’s Alternative Awards.
Best facial fuzz of the year
While a lot of talk this season came in about hairstyles, with high and tight comb-overs butting against luxurious manes, the true follicle highlight of the season was when the moustache took over. Connacht scrum-half Frank Murphy had by far and away the best groomed, thickest and richest ‘tache during Movember and Berrick Barnes sported a mo’ for much longer than is acceptable, even with hipsters. However, the gong must go to England fly-half Toby Flood who knew during November that he was making himself the point of much finger-pointing, but he loved it.
Most fondly remembered retiree
This is a tough old category, and one that really should be put to a vote. Just look at the names of the players hanging up their boots: Joe Ansbro; Geordan Murphy; Andrea Lo Cicero, Ronan O’Gara; Graeme Morrison; Richard Baxter; Doug Howlett; Rory Lamont; Joe Maddock; Tom Voyce; Isa Nacewa; Felipe Contepomi to name (quite) a few. How do you pick a favourite out of that lot?!
If my life depended on it, I think I would miss the Argentine fly-half Contepomi the most. He is the only one on the list I struggled to shout at while he was orchestrating my team’s downfall.
Most deserving of a break from rugby
After the RaboDirect Pro12 final some of the winners climbed some steps to sit at a press conference. Most wanted to pour over departing heroes Isa Nacewa and Joe Schmidt, but ambling over to one side was captain Leo Cullen looking like he had gone 12 rounds with the insides of a tumble drier. One filled with house bricks.
At 35, the lock is no spring chicken and at one point in the day some whispering insiders were heard to say that the man was a medical marvel, so harsh has his life been in rugby. He should not be able to walk, let alone clobber poachers at the breakdown. Yet he is and with no tours on his schedule this summer he, as much as anyone else, needs a sun lounger and a coconut full of pain killers.
Unsung heroes award
The poor TMOs never seem to get any recognition. They study tape, taking the hard decisions out of referees’ hands, and deliver cold judgments. They make the tough calls and while they are chopping off tries, they are still out in the open, exposed like a nerve. There is no hangman’s mask: we all know who the TMO is.
Yes they are there to facilitate, simply doing a job. Nonetheless, as I watched one game where the TMO was consulted only to be brushed off by a referee who made his own decision anyway, based on the replays on the stadium’s big screen (on more than one occasion), I winced with empathy. They get shouted at for having too much power or missing too much. Poor blighters. Rock and hard place springs to mind.
Luckiest summer tourists NOT with the Lions?
While the big guns chunter into Australia, the home nations are setting off for their own trips around the globe. England are off to South America, Ireland are in North America and Scotland are in South Africa. Wales are branching out the farthest, though, in visiting Japan. Some luck soul may actually witness Robin McBryde singing karaoke.
Try of the season
Okay, so this one is going to a vote. Here are three tries from the season that we particularly enjoyed, selected by after staring bleary-eyed at the Aviva Premiership, RaboDirect Pro12, Six Nations, Heineken Cup and the Top 14. Which is your favourite?
Dan Bowden versus Saracens, Aviva Premiership
Pete Horne versus Northampton Saints, Heineken Cup
Alex Cuthbert versus England, Six Nations