Judgement Day comes of age, Waldrom's rolls back the years, the disciplinary process losing credibility and Kiwi's Super Rugby dominance all discussed
Thomas Waldrom proves old school still works
April saw Thomas Waldrom shortlisted for European Player of Year, proving that setting records in the gym has little impact on setting records on the field. With modern rugby hell-bent on core-strength taking precedence over core-skills, Waldrom is proof that appearing old-school doesn’t mean that you can’t deliver new- school levels of efficiency. Waldrom is about as far removed from the modern gym monkey as you can imagine. In fact, he probably deep fries gym monkeys then consumes them between two massive hand-cut slices of white bread.
His eating of gym monkeys is also more than metaphorical in that he has consistently outperformed some of the more ‘athletic’ number eights in the Aviva Premiership. He is top scorer in the Aviva Premiership, with thirteen tries, and joint top scorer in the Champions’ Cup with six tries. His try scoring records are made even more impressive by the fact that he has done it from number eight. The majority of such records are dominated by wingers and fullbacks who benefit from cheap run-ins in the wider channels – Waldrom has done it the hard way. Long may it continue. Hat tip Mr Waldrom!
Kiwi Super Rugby way out in front
After the Rugby World Cup everyone, from outside New Zealand, took mild comfort in believing that after their legion of multi-capped awesomeness fled to Europe that they would struggle in Super Rugby and it would eventually weaken the All Blacks. Yet that isn’t going happen. The Kiwi Super Rugby teams, namely the Chiefs, Hurricanes, Crusaders and Highlanders are playing some of the finest rugby in the world. Even the Highlanders, placed fourth in the New Zealand Conference, have secured 28 points after nine games; which is more than all but two of the other teams in the competition.
Don’t be fooled by suggestions that Kiwi Super Rugby is all miss-three passes and unrealistic 90 metre counter attacks that won’t translate into test rugby. The Kiwi Super Rugby teams are the perfect balance of platform and potency – particularly the Chiefs and Crusaders. Wales tour New Zealand in a matter of weeks, where their ‘easy’ game is the Chiefs. If you have watched even a blink of Super Rugby this season you will know that, even without their test All Blacks, an easy game it will not be.
Rugby bans are losing credibility
April saw another round of citings and another round of baffling bans. Bans where the punishment bares zero reflection to the parameters stated in the guidelines. Joe Marler, who now probably has a citing-commission-ready suit and tie permanently in the boot of his car, was one of those whose ban was reduced below the recommended entry point. Marler received a two week ban for kicking the head of Arnaud Heguy, when the entry point is four weeks.
This reduction in ban coming just a matter of weeks after the most publicised disciplinary case of the season. These bans are becoming meaningless if they can seemingly be reduced without legitimate reason or explanation. They are becoming as believable as ‘Sofa Sale’ ads, where the sale price and original price have little or no correlation. Rugby supporters are genuinely losing faith in the disciplinary process and it needs to be rectified.
Judgement Day – a professional milestone for Welsh rugby
Judgement Day IV was a huge success for Welsh rugby and a commercial milestone which proves that Welsh rugby is progressing further along the professional pathway. Professional rugby’s responsibilities extends way beyond the confines of the rugby pitch; commercial performance is as important as sporting performance. The organising and success of ‘stadium’ events such as Judgement Day was once a specialism of the Aviva Premiership – who are hugely proficient in promoting such events.
But Welsh rugby is now catching up. Infighting between the regions and a difficult working relationship with the national body are no longer a barrier to organising multi-fixture super events. A genuine collaboration between Pro Rugby Wales and the WRU delivered a cohesive marketing effort which attracted 68,262 supporters. Having the best part of 70,000 supporters exposed to two entertaining regional fixtures was a major step forward for Welsh rugby – the performance of the Ospreys and the return of Scott Williams being a particular highlight. Judgement Day has now become a genuine calendar event and is here to stay. Congratulations to all concerned.
Rio or not?
April is usually a good month for rugby players. If they’re not reaching the business end of the season, and focusing on trophies, they’re choosing the flip-flops in which they wish to stroll around the harbour in Puerto Banús. But for a select few the past month has presented a rugby quandary – should they play in the Olympics or this summer’s test tours? For us mere mortals the decision of whether to play international sevens or international fifteens seems like a dream scenario, but for those talented enough, such as Ardie Savea, the decision is more complicated.
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Savea, the hugely talented Kiwi open-side, carved up the sevens circuit and is now doing exactly the same thing for the Hurricanes. Having become one of the marquee players on the sevens circuit, Savea has chosen not to play in Rio and stay with the Hurricanes in Super Rugby – presumably with one eye on ripping Richie McCaw’s vacant All Blacks’ shirt from the back of Sam Cane. This situation is not unique to Savea and could potentially influence or divert the career of many players.