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Rugby

Wales fly-half Dan Biggar: Keeping England target Shaun Edwards ‘massive’ for Welsh rugby

Posted December 16, 2015

London Evening Standard

Eddie Jones’s rebuilding job with England following their World Cup shambles could not have been more extensive, with the entire coaching regime of his predecessor Stuart Lancaster replaced this week at an estimated cost of £2million.

Dan Biggar

Picture courtesy of Evening Standard
‘Scary Shaun’: Bigger says Edwards has been the biggest influence on the Welsh team in the last few years (Getty)

But one RFU target, Shaun Edwards, the right-hand man of Wales coach Warren Gatland, has not been lured to Twickenham — and Dan Biggar, the undisputed star of the principality’s World Cup campaign, could not be happier about it.

“Who would have blamed Shaun for wanting to coach England?” said the 26-year-old fly-half. “If anyone deserves a shot at it, with his track record and how good a coach he is, he should have a great shout. And he’s English!”

Listening to Biggar talking about Edwards, there can be no doubt the former rugby league star would have shaken up those who inhabit Twickenham’s corridors of power. “A lot of people say that they’re intimidated by Shaun… and he’s quite scary,” admits the Ospreys star. “He has scared me quite a few times.

“You don’t really want to mess about in training or make many mistakes because he’s not the type to pull you to the side and have a quiet word with you. He’ll let rip on the training field or in the changing room.

“He’s been, for me, the biggest influence on the Welsh team in the last few years in terms of his determination to win, attention to detail, his motivational skills. He’s superb and he’s a major reason why we’ve had so much success over the last few years.

“Shaun Edwards staying is a massive thing. It means that familiarisation of the routines, the training sessions, the schedule of the days, what they expect from us, that all stays in place.

“If somebody else had come in and wanted to do things a different way, it would have taken us a bit of time to react and get used to it. Now that everyone is staying in place, it’s a massive relief to Wales as a whole and for us as players it gives us confidence in being familiar with everyone in the camp.”

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The Oval World: A Global History of Rugby by Tony Collins, book review

Posted September 3, 2015

The Independent

There is no story more riveting in sport than that of William Webb Ellis suddenly picking up a football and running with it during a school match for Rugby in 1823 to invent rugby. Like many such creation stories, this is almost definitely a myth, but the World Cup, which starts this month, is named after him.

The fact is rugby’s rules developed after many acrimonious meetings with football but, unlike its twin, it failed to come to terms with professionalism, leading to a historic split between the amateur union and the professional league.

Tony Collins narrates this history with magisterial skill, weaving in details of matches with the wider historical and social picture, including how the oval ball has managed to keep Ireland united when nothing else has – the Irish have always been one rugby nation with players even forming part of British Lions teams touring overseas.

For nearly a century, rugby not only tolerated racism but encouraged it, which remains a shameful indictment of the game’s white administrators who have never acknowledged it or apologised for it.

New Zealand’s behaviour has been most astounding, boasting that it had integrated its Maoris, many of whom were distinguished players for the All Blacks, a team which has always set the template in the sport. But when it came to playing the pre-Nelson Mandela South African team, New Zealand, despite seeing rugby as more than a game, readily accepted diktats to exclude its Maori players, including the legendary Ranji Wilson, born to an English mother and West Indian father, and George Nepia, forcing him to leave the union for the league.

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RFU chief Ian Ritchie insists this England side is good enough to win the World Cup

Posted February 4, 2015

London Evening Standard

Just before the 1966 World Cup, Sir Alf Ramsey boldly claimed England would be crowned champions.

Seven months before England kick off the Rugby World Cup here, Ian Ritchie is confident enough to copy Sir Alf.

The chief executive of the RFU tells me: “We’ve got the ability to win, the strength and the depth, the wish and the commitment. I do believe that we can win the Webb Ellis Cup.”

That may be a hostage to fortune given that England lost to the two best teams in the world during the autumn, New Zealand and South Africa. Worse still, the 24-21 defeat by the All Blacks was the fifth on the bounce against the world champions.

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Joe Marler: In football it is too much about the celebrity lifestyle – in rugby we play for the enjoyment

Posted January 7, 2015

Evening Standard

After England won the Rugby World Cup 12 years ago, they were treated as heroes on their return from Australia with hundreds of thousands of fans hailing them during a victory parade in London.

Should Stuart Lancaster’s men emulate the class of 2003 this autumn one can only imagine the way their triumph will be greeted given that the tournament is in England. After all, Team GB’s success at London 2012 was all the sweeter for it being on these shores.

The public profile of the players will rocket and there will be many chances to embrace the celebrity culture that has boomed in recent years.

But one man who will not do that is Joe Marler and he cannot understand why anyone would want to. In fact, the England and Harlequins prop hates that side of 21st century life so much it is the reason he is now disenchanted with football.

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Rugby World Cup: I’d like to think that when people look at 2015, they will instantly think rugby, says chief Debbie Jevans

Posted June 4, 2013

Evening Standard

Debbie Jevans is already getting a little tired of hearing that her job as chief executive of the 2015 Rugby World Cup must be a doddle compared with being director of sport for London 2012.

Jevans stepped into the role last October and in her first interview since then she tells me: “People keep coming up and saying, ‘Oh, it’s got to be easier. You had 26 sports to organise [for 2012] versus one sport now’.

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