Will the Lions visit the land of the Pumas?

The last time the Lions visited Argentina was in 1936, when they won all ten matches by an aggregate of 399 points to 12. On this tour, their third to Argentina, the 23 man squad featured only ten current internationals, something that would be unheard of for the Lions in the modern era.

This is one of the touring team’s biggest objections for touring the South American nations. Of course the Pumas’ progress has been remarkable in recent times with them managing to beat Wales for the first time in eleven years at the Millennium Stadium in October, but only a few weeks afterwards Ireland managed to put 46 points on them to Argentina’s 24.

Argentina’s advancement in the international game has led to a bit of a debate on whether the Lions should include them on their itinerary and that is one of the biggest compliments you could pay them.

Rugby is an amateur sport in the country, with nearly all of their international XV playing in England and France. Although the players are based outside of their home-country, they have managed to become a very decent team and are now ranked eighth in the world.

In this month’s Rugby World, ‘The Big Debate’ is on whether the Lions should travel to Argentina or not. Arguing for this is twelve times capped England Outside-Half; Les Cusworth. Les believes that once Argentina establish two Super Rugby teams in the country, something he believes is not too far away, then the Pumas would be the ideal hosts for a shorter Lions trip of eight matches.

With most of the Pumas playing in either England or France, he proposes that the Lions tour at a later date of June – July, so that it wouldn’t interfere with the domestic season in Europe. Les Cusworth also believes that this would be of benefit to the Lions because it would mean that they could have time to prepare before touring.

Cusworth who has been Argentina’s Director of Rugby since 2006, believes it would be a great opportunity to develop another emerging nation such as the United States by touring Argentina.

Willie John McBride, one of the most famous Lions captains in history, doesn’t think the Argentinians are capable of hosting a Lions tour due to the fact that Rugby is not yet professional in the country. He also believes that including another nation in the Lions’ itinerary would ruin the structure of touring the three traditional nations; New Zealand, South Africa and Australia. With injuries becoming more common, and rugby careers getting shorter, Willie John is worried touring Argentina would result in legendary players missing out on playing against the Lions, and the player from the Home Nations would miss out on touring the original three.

Of course, the Lions played Argentina in a warm-up match at the Millennium Stadium in 2005 before touring New Zealand which finished in a draw. Could we see them playing each other soon?

The debate is already very interesting, but if the Argentinian national side were to develop even more, and if they were to become represented in Super Rugby then it would become even more of a pressing issue.

What is your view on this? Please vote in the poll below.

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A player who is yet to make it on to Wikipedia – Billy Vunipola

Photograph courtesy of rugbyworld.com

Photograph courtesy of rugbyworld.com

‘That’s England’s Number Eight right there.’

Those were the words of the former London Wasps Number Eight; Dean Ryan, speaking about the Wasps current Eight; Billy Vunipola.

Both Dean Ryan and Pat Sanderson were reacting to Vunipola’s performance against Sale Sharks on Sky Sports’ Rugby Club. They were amazed at what the twenty year old had to offer and believed that he must be included in Stuart Lancaster’s Elite Player Squad for the Six Nations.

On the highlights package shown on the Rugby Club, Billy Vunipola made an outstanding break from the halfway-line; picking up from the scrum before charging into Sale’s Mark Cueto before being brought down five metres short from the line. This line-break resulted in a try for the Wasps (scored by Wales’s forgotten hooker; Thomas Rhys Thomas).

I must say his run reminded of the form Ben Morgan was showing last season. Remember Manu Tuilagi’s second try against France in the Six Nations:

Of course, I was intrigued after hearing such plaudits about the twenty year old to find out more and was surprised to find that he hasn’t yet got a Wikipedia page. I don’t think that we’ll have to wait too long for that though, going by what I saw of the player and what the two former back-row players on the Rugby Club had to say about him.

Unbelievably, despite making his debut for the London Wasps last season against the Harlequins at the end of January, Billy Vunipola was a late call up to the Junior World Championship this year. This is a mirror image to Joe Launchbury’s story, who was also a late addition to last year’s Junior World Championships. By now of course, he is an instrumental part of an England team that managed to beat the All Blacks in Twickenham in November, and last month’s Aviva Premiership Player of the Month.

Photograph courtesy of saracens.com

Photograph courtesy of saracens.com

Of course, another young player who featured for England against New Zealand was Billy’s brother; Mako Vuipola. While we’re talking about Billy Vunipola as being England’s future, Mako is already proving to be the present, establishing himself with the Saracens, and in the England team. This, at only twenty-one years old – something remarkable for a prop.

Vunipola is not an English surname. The family name is a famous name in rugby especially in Tonga with their father, Fe’ao Vunipola,

Photograph courtesy of Ponty.net

Photograph courtesy of Ponty.net

having captained the national side and having won thirty-two caps for his country. Two of the Vunipola brothers’ uncles also played for Tonga during the 90s. Mako was born in New Zealand, and Billy was born in Sydney, Australia. The brothers also spent many years of their childhood in Wales as their father was playing rugby with Pontypridd, Pontypool and Caerphilly. In their childhood days, both Mako and Billy played in the same team as Toby Faletau – New Panteg RFC. Mako has already been capped for England. Meanwhile Billy is eligible to play for Tonga, Australia, Wales or England – but he has already declared his allegiance to England.

While Billy has always been with the Wasps, and through their academy, Mako went through Bristol’s academy, before signing for the Saracens in the Summer of 2011.

David Young, the Wasps coach says that he believes that Billy Vunipola is ready for the international stage. Who knows? In the Millennium Stadium on the 16th of March, we could be seeing two Number Eights playing against each other who learned the game on the fields of New Panteg RFC. I wonder who the New Panteg RFC supporters will be supporting!!

The Vunipola breakthrough has been staggering so far, and with the impact they’ve already had this season it wouldn’t be too much of a surprise to see the two Vunipolas in the Lions squad at the end of this season.

Here’s Billy Vunipola showing Sarra Elgan that he’s also got some moves on the dance-floor!

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Stuart Barnes’s Lions Test XV

Here’s Stuart Barnes’s Lions Test XV for the first test against Australia seen in today’s Sunday Times:

15. Rob Kearney
14. George North
13. Jonathan Davies
12. Brian O’ Driscoll (c)
11. Leigh Halfpenny
10. Jonny Sexton
9. Ben Youngs
1. Alex Corbisiero
2. Rory Best
3. Adam Jones
4. Joe Launchbury
5. Richie Gray
6. Sean O’ Brien
7. Chris Robshaw
8. Jamie Heaslip

Stuart Barnes predicts that the Lions will win the test series 2-1.

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Llyfrau Rygbi ar gyfer y Nadolig

Wel mae’r nadolig mwy neu lai ar ein pennau ni unwaith eto. Ble mae’r flwyddyn yn mynd dwedwch? Mae hi bron yn amser am y gemau darbi; y gemau sydd yn dod a’r dŵr i’r dannedd. Y gemau traddodiadol yma sydd yn denu’r dorf am fod yr elyniaeth yn dal i fodoli rhwng y clybiau lleol a’r rhanbarthau.

Nos yfory yng Nghymru, mi fydd y gemau darbi yn dechrau gyda’r Scarlets yn ymweld a’r Gleision ym Mharc yr Arfau. Mi fydd Caerdydd dan ei sang, yn bennaf oherwydd am ei bod hi’r nos Wener cyn Nadolig, ond mae’n siwr bydd yr awyrgylch yn y cae yr un mor dda gyda’r Gleision yn croesawu’r Scarlets i Barc yr Arfau am y tro cyntaf ers nifer o flynyddoedd; gyda nhw wedi bod yn byw i ffordd o adref yn Stadiwm Dinas Caerdydd am dair blynedd.

Nid dyma’r unig draddodiad yn ein tŷ ni yn ystod y Nadolig sydd yn ymwneud â rygbi. Ers cyn côf bydd yna o leiaf un llyfr rygbi ychwanegol yn cael ei agor ar fore’r pumed-ar-hugain o Hydref. Y llynedd, hunangofiant Simon Easterby oedd yr ychwanegiad newydd i’r tŷ. Felly r’on i’n meddwl pa opsiynau sydd i’w cael eleni i’r rhai ohonoch chi sydd eto i brynu anrheg i’r cefnogwr rygbi.

The Real McCaw: The Autobiography of Richie McCaw

Gyda Diolch i Amazon am y Llun

Gyda Diolch i Amazon am y Llun

Dyma hunangofiant gan un o’r chwaraewyr gorau sydd wedi troedio y cae rygbi. Mae’n chwaraewr mor dwyllodrus yn ardal y dacl, fel bod nifer o’r chwaraewyr a’r gwybodusion yn honni ei fod yn ysgrifennu’r llyfr rheolau ei hun.

Yn ôl y son, ym mlwyddyn cyntaf Richie McCaw yn y Brifysgol fe dderbyniodd saith gradd ‘A’. Mae hyn yn dangos ei fod yr un mor ddeallus oddi ar y cae ac y mae arni.

Yn ôl yr adolygiadau sydd ar y wê mae ei ddeallusrwydd yn amlwg i’w weld yn y llyfr. Mae’r rhan fwyaf o ddarllenwyr yn dweud ei fod yn arbennig yn dadansoddi gemau ac fod darllen y llyfr fel cael sgwrs gyda’r arwr.

Dyma ŵr sydd wedi ennill 116 o gapiau dros tîm rygbi gorau’r byd, ac sydd wedi arwain ei wlad i ennill Cwpan Rygbi’r Byd. Mae’n sîwr bydd unrhyw gefnogwr rygbi yn gwerthfawrogi’r llyfr hyn.

Behind the Lions: Playing Rugby for the British & Irish Lions

Gyda taith y Llewod i Awstralia blwyddyn nesaf, mae’r newyddiadurwr rygbi o bapur y

Gyda diolch i Amazon am y llun.

Gyda diolch i Amazon am y llun.

Sunday Times; Stephen Jones, yn ogystal ac eraill newydd gyhoeddi llyfr sydd yn ceisio adrodd storiau o deithiau blaenorol y Llewod o eiriau cyn-chwaraewyr. Unwaith eto, mae’r llyfr yma wedi derbyn adolygiadau gwych ar y wê ac mi fydd yn sicr o ddenu’r cefnogwr rygbi deithio i Awstralia ym mis Mehefin a Gorffennaf.

Dyma fideo sydd yn rhoi blas o’r hyn sydd gan y llyfr yma i’w gynnig.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/50421991″>Lions Cover Video</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/polarispublishing”>Polaris Publishing Ltd</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Dwayne Peel – Hunangofiant

Gyda diolch i gwales.com am y llun.

Gyda diolch i gwales.com am y llun.

Dwi am orffen hefo hunangofiant yn y Gymraeg, gan y chwaraewr y mae tîm rygbi Cymru wedi anghofio am ers talwm ond sydd dal yn chwarae ar y safon uchaf, sef Dwayne Peel.

Yn 2005, Dwyane Peel oedd un o fewnwyr gorau’r byd. Erbyn hyn, nid yw’r chwaraewr o’r Tumble yn medru cyrraedd carfan y tîm cenedlaethol.

Gyda ef yn dal i obeithio cyrraedd carfan tîm rygbi Cymru, yn anffodus nid ydynt yn cael clywed unrhyw sôn am pam nad yw wedi llwyddo i chwarae i Gymru ers tymhorau.

Er hynny, yn debyg i Richie McCaw, mae Dwayne Peel yn chwaraewr ac yn berson deallus sydd yn medru dadansoddi gêm. Er ei fod yn chwarae hefo Sale Sharks ar hyn o bryd, mae Sir Gaerfyrddin yn dal i fod yn agos iawn i’w galon gyda’i deulu dal yno. Erbyn hyn hefyd, mae wedi sefydlu busnes gyda’i fawr ar Barc y Strade; Stephen Jones ac eraill.

Mi fydden i’n meddwl fod ei stori o symud o Barc y Strade i ogledd Lloegr yn stori diddorol iawn.

Wrth gwrs, mae yna lawer fwy o lyfrau Rygbi newydd allan erbyn y Nadolig, gyda llyfr Sam Warburton a Dai Morris yn edrych fel llyfrau diddorol hefyd.

Dyma oedd y tri sydd wedi sefyll allan i mi fodd bynnag.

Nadolig llawen iawn i chi, a gobeithio y gwnewch chi fwynhau y gwledd o fwyd ac o rygbi sydd yn ein haros.

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Hooker: Dylan Hartley v Rory Best

This is what the Lions year is all about. The competition is already brewing up, and we haven’t even started the Six Nations yet.

I’m not sure what will be the outcome of this citing, but with Hartley’s past record then there is a good chance that he will get a few weeks off. His hearing will be on Thursday in Dublin.

I bet Northampton Saints will hope that he will be available for them this weekend, for Ulster dominated the battle against the Northampton pack on Friday. Not many teams manage to do that!!

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The Lions Tour of 1974 – ‘The Invincibles’

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/50598224″>Behind the Lions: The 1974 Invincibles</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/polarispublishing”>Polaris Publishing Ltd</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

This was the team that toured despite objections from the people of England, Ireland, Scotland & Wales because of the apartheid in South Africa.

They were also the first Lions team to win in South Africa in the 20th century. They are therefore known as ‘The Invincibles’.

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The Lions Tour – The Past and the Present

History

Football’s main event is the World Cup. The Olympics is the main event for Athletics, but in Rugby, the Lions Tour is the main event. The main reason for this is the fact that Rugby didn’t have a world cup until 1987, and that the tradition of the Lions has been living since the early 1900s. There has been a British & Irish Lions rugby team since 1910, but a combined British & Irish rugby team was formed twenty-two years before then, in 1888. This means that the combined team of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, will celebrate its 125th anniversary next year.

Before the first official British & Irish Lions, a Great Britain Rugby team was entered in the 1900 and 1908 Olympic Games.  These teams were organised completely separately from the Lions, but it’s interesting to note that the Lions was officially formed only a few years after there was a Great Britain rugby team entered into the Olympics. What better argument did the Welsh, Northern Irish and Scottish Football Associations have when Team GB entered a football team in this year’s London Olympics! At the time the Lions was formed, international rugby wasn’t under threat due to the fact that Rugby was such an exclusive sport at the time.

The Lions

According to the Lions website;

The Lions name was coined during the inter-war period, when the emblem on the players’ jersey and lapel badges gave them their alternative title.

Photograph courtesy of Lovell Rugby.

Photograph courtesy of Lovell Rugby.

At the beginning of the Lions’ history, their tours were expeditions which would last months rather than weeks because of the accessibility of visiting the Southern Hemisphere nations. Occasionally, due to the length of the tour, the Lions would play two series, against different nations. The last time this happened, was in 1966, when the Lions played both Australia and New Zealand. They managed to beat Australia two games to nil, but lost all four tests against New Zealand.

Since 1927, the Lions have only toured Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Before then, they toured Argentina twice, in 1910 and in 1927.

It wouldn’t be a surprise now if we were to see the Lions once again touring Argentina in the future. The inclusion of the Pumas in The Rugby Championship this year means that they will be a bigger threat in world rugby and  re-introducing the Lions to tour Argentina would be great to further the development of rugby in Argentina. This would hopefully result in the introduction of professional rugby in the country and expand rugby globally.

Although the Lions haven’t toured Argentina since 1927, they have played them in a warm-up match before the Lions’ tour to New Zealand in 2005 at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.

After Rugby Union turned to be a professional sport, there was a suspicion that that would be the end of the British & Irish Lions, but the Lions have succeeded in uniting the players and supporters of the four nations together. This was proved in 2005 when it was reported that 30,000 fans traveled to New Zealand to support them

With the tradition of the Lions still strong it seems that the format will be embraced for a long time. The greatest example of the importance of the Lions is when the Welsh Rugby Union, this year, allowed to release their national team coach; Warren Gatland, for a year. Despite an important period of test rugby for Wales, which would decide who they would play against in the group stages of the 2015 World Cup – Wales allowed their coach to take a sabbatical where he would be able to prepare for next year’s tour to Australia.

The next Lions Tour: Australia

This map shows the route the Lions will be taking on next year’s tour of Australia.

Thanks to Lovell Rugby for the photograph.

Thanks to Lovell Rugby for the photograph.

The first fixture will be a landmark fixture against the Barbarians in Hong Kong on the 1st of June 2013. This will be the first time that these two special and unique sides have played each other since 1977. One of course is an invitational side made up of the best of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, while the other is an invitational club side made up of players from around the globe who also usually invite a wildcard who hasn’t yet been capped.

Both of these sides meeting each other is a historic moment in itself, but for them to be meeting in Hong Kong is extra special – as this will be the biggest international rugby match to be played in Asia. Of course – the idea behind the organisation of the match is to promote the game of rugby in Asia, but this will certainly be a great occasion for all concerned with Rugby Union.

Despite this being a great game, the Lions will not mind if they don’t succeed in beating the BaaBaa’s as long as they’re successful in beating the Aussies in the three match test series, with the final test on the 6th of July.

In the build up to the tour next summer, I asked Welsh rugby fans what were their standout moment from past tours.

Here is a reminder of these special occasions that standout in the memory.

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A potential Wallaby to face the Lions: Israel Folau

Israel Folau has signed this week for the New South Wales Waratahs. The 23 year old makes the transition to Rugby Union not from Rugby League, as has become common for Rugby Union players, but from Australian Rules Football.

Although he makes the move from Australian Rules Football, Folau has also played Rugby League, and broke the record for the most tries in a debut year in 2007. He made his debut for Melbourne Storm as a 17 year old, and scored 21 tries in his first season – equaling the regular season top try scorer; North Queensland Cowboys Full-Back, Matt Bowen.

Israel Folau’s period playing Rugby League was a successful one. He represented Melbourne Storm and the Brisbane Broncos in the NRL, whilst also representing Queensland in the State of Origin, and the Kangaroos (the Australian National Rugby League team).

He was then pursued by Australian Rules Football side; Great Western Sydney Giants and Australia’s newest Rugby Union franchise, Melbourne Rebels.  The Giants were successful in their bid to sign him, and did that for an estimated $6 million (Australian Dollars) over a period of four years. The transition for Folau to AFL wasn’t the smoothest with him walking away from his 4 year contract after two years and now moving on to Rugby Union.

After only just signing for the Waratahs, Folau has already spoken about the prospect of playing against the Lions next summer, but he also admits that he must establish himself in the Waratahs side before he can gain international honours:

”A British Lions tour doesn’t come around very often, so when it does it is a massive occasion, and for me, if I am involved in playing those games, it would be exciting. It is definitely at the top of the list to want to play for your country but that comes afterwards, because I want to focus on playing good footy for the Waratahs first.”

If he can reproduce the form that he showed as a Rugby League player in the Super 15 season, then there is certainly a good chance that we will see him representing the Wallabies against the Lions next Summer.

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The Lions Team After The Autumn Internationals

Jeremy Guscott, Keith Wood, Andy Nicol and Jonathan Davies (Jiffy to you and me!) have chosen their Lions team after the Autumn Internationals.

Jeremy Guscott’s team: R Kearney (Ire), T Visser (Sco), B O’Driscoll (Ire), M Tuilagi (Eng), G North (Wal); J Sexton (Ire), D Care (Eng); C Healy (Ire), R Best (Ire), A Jones (Wal), R Gray (Sco), G Parling (Eng), T Croft (Eng), S Armitage (Eng), D Denton (Sco).

Keith Wood’s team: L Halfpenny (Wal), T Bowe (Ire), M Tuilagi (Eng), B O Driscoll (Ire), G North (Wal); J Sexton (Ire), B Youngs (Eng); C Healy (Ire), R Best (Ire), A Jones (Wal), R Gray (Sco), C Lawes (Eng), S Ferris (Ire), S Warburton (Wal), S O’Brien (Ire).

Andy Nicol’s team: A Goode (Eng), T Bowe (Ire), M Tuilagi (Eng), J Roberts (Wal), T Visser (Sco); J Sexton (Ire), B Youngs (Eng); G Jenkins (Wal), D Hartley (Eng), D Cole (Eng), R Gray (Sco), C Lawes (Eng), S Ferris (Ire), S O’Brien (Ire), T Faletau (Wal).

Jonathan Davies’s team: R Kearney (Ire), T Bowe (Ire), J Davies (Wal), M Tuilagi (Eng), G North (Wal); J Sexton (Ire), D Care (Eng); C Healy (Ire), D Hartley (Eng), A Jones (Wal), J Launchbury (Eng), AW Jones (Wal), T Wood (Eng), S Warburton (Wal), B Morgan (Eng)

I think I’m just as entitled to voice my opinion as to who should be in the team and here it is:

  1. Andrew Sheridan
  2. Rory Best
  3. Adam Jones
  4. Richie Gray
  5. Courtney Lawes
  6. Stephen Ferris
  7. Sam Warburton
  8. Ben Morgan
  9. Danny Care
  10. Jonathan Sexton
  11. George North
  12. Manu Tuilagi
  13. Jonathan Davies
  14. Tommy Bowe
  15. Rob Kearney

Substitutions

16. Mathew Rees 17. Cian Healy 18. Dan Cole 19. Alun Wyn-Jones 20. Jamie Heaslip 21. Mike Philips 22. Owen Farrell 23. Leigh Halfpenny

Have your say!!

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Australia’s Farewell to Nathan Sharpe

G’day.

This week there is a change to the blog. Rather than it being British based and looking at the Welsh campaign in the Autumn Internationals, this week, we’ll look at Australia – the team the Lions will play next summer and Wales’ opponents tomorrow (Saturday).

This week I’ve been hassling the Australian players and coach for their comments on this week’s game and other topics regarding their season and the next season.

It’s a big week in Australian rugby with Nathan Sharpe’s retirement. The game against Wales will be Sharpe’s 116th test after beginning his career in 2002, playing France. Sharpe’s retirement now would mean that he would miss representing Australia against the Lions in his international career, having began his international career a year after the Lions tourt. Nathan Sharpe has already delayed his retirement twice and the Australian fans are begging for his services against the Lions next year. I asked Berrick Barnes if this will honestly be the last time that he will retire.

They obviously want to win this game for Nathan Sharpe.

Here’s what the coach, Robbie Deans’ had to say about his captain; Nathan Sharpe:

Nathan Sharpe has answered Robbie Deans’s call a few times due to the injury problems the Australians have had over the past year. He regards the second-row very highly and believes that he will sooner rather than later become a coach in some capacity:

Rookie; Kane Douglas has been led by Nathan Sharpe and to a young second-row such as him, Nathan Sharpe has a had a great influence on his career:

Not only is it a great occasion for Nathan Sharpe, it is also a very special day for Berrick Barnes. Barnes celebrates his 50th cap tomorrow, and having had great games against Wales in the past we can expect another great performance from him:

It will certainly be a great game between Wales and Australia as both teams are pretty weary and are stretched to the bones with many players missing because of injury or other club commitments. One thing for certain is that Wycliff Palu has done his homework on Aaron Shingler:

C’mon Cymru!!

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