Thursday, 23 April 2009

The Back of Burke - Hopefully

Matt Burke came back. And it made no difference.

Earlier this season you may recall that Matt Burke, a goal kicker of some limited repute (record pointscorer and goal kicker for the Waratahs, most points in a calendar year for the Wallabies) was an aficionado of Kurtley Beale's arse. But not his kicking style. Drafted by Chris Hickey to teach Beale to kick, he perched delicately behind Beale's arse each time he took a goal kick. Suffice to say that much like any of us would, Beale found it off-putting, flubbing most of his kicks and sending the Waratahs to early season victory after victory.

It was an interesting couterintuitive tactic that worked a treat - ugly kicking formed the foundation of an ugly game that found the Waratahs were in the top four despite barely a kick at goal going through the posts or a kick in general play finding a gap or the side line.


Then Matt Burke went missing, Beale was sent to the bench and the Tahs started losing.

Evidently the Matt Burke influence was required - and last weekend he returned to his cherished anus ogling role, this time Daniel Halangahu feeling the full force of his penetrating gaze. Alas it made bugger-all difference. The gloss of Matt Burke's distinguished career now a dull shine and a snagging memory of lost opportunities and record losses to the Crusaders.

Fortunately the ARU have come to the aid of the Waratahs. Matt Burke has been appointed as an ARU Classic Wallabies Statesman. Much like the Holden Statesman we can expect him to be large, smelly, noisy, overpriced, inefficient and a fuel guzzler. And hopefully too busy stating the obvious to make it out onto the field in his other role as glorified water boy.

Friday, 17 April 2009

The Kenyan Conundrum

'The Kenyan Conundrum' isn't just a great posting title. It's real. So what is the Kenyan Conundrum and, for that matter, what is a conundrum?

According to dictionary.com, a conundrum is 'a riddle, the answer to which involves a pun or play on words.' In Kenyan Rugby terms the riddle is the success of Kenyan Rugby 7s.

It's immense. They are currently ranked 6th in the world in the official IRB rankings and recently qualified for their 4th consecutive 7s World Cup. Earlier this year in the Rugby 7s World Cup in Dubai they made the semi finals, 'taking some money off mobile phone providers Safaricom who dared put a bet on them' according to the Kenya Rugby Football Union website (which begs the questions - how do you take money off a company that bets on you? Is this corruption, a conflict of interest or a unique form of motivation? And why is their Union proudly reporting that their players are involved in betting schemes?).

At the recent Adelaide 7s Kenya topped their pool, beating South Africa along the way, defeated Wales in the quarter-final and Argentina in the semi-final before losing the final (their first final appearance) to South Africa.

It was only the fourth time that Kenya had topped a Pool. This season alone, Kenya has beaten South Africa (twice), New Zealand (twice) and Fiji once.

So where's the pun, the play on words? That would be 15-a-side Rugby. Kenya's 15-a-side Rugby success can be summed up in no words. Well maybe one - none.

Currently ranked 39th in the world, between those other African Rugby powerhouses Uganda and Ivory Coast, Kenya was only admitted into the IRB in 1990 even though Rugby was first played there in 1909, the Rugby Football Union of Kenya was formed in 1923 and the British Lions toured there in 1955 (whether they played any games there or just visited Mount Kilimanjaro isn't reported).

The 'National Teams' menu on the website is 'updating!', as is the 'Development' menu. There are 16 news items, 5 are about the National under 20s team, 7 about the 7s team's success in Adelaide, and 4 about a local tournament. The National 15-a-side team doesn't get a mention, indeed more information about the team can be found on the IRB website. That's why we know that there are 38 registered clubs in Kenya and 33,669 registered players including 4,007 senior male players. This is almost as people as are fans on the Official Kenya Rugby Sevens Team Fun Page on Facebook (which unfortunately also has no information on the 15-a-side team).

This is what the Kenyan 7s jersey looks like. There are no known images of what the 15-a-side jersey looks like or even what the team is called.



It's only because of the IRB website that we know that Kenya has a 15-a-side national team because their 2008 victories over Cameroon and Uganda and their losses to Tanzania and Tunisia are listed. Sadly no fixtures are scheduled for 2009. Must be all their players are off playing 7s.

Monday, 6 April 2009

That's not an ELV. This is an ELV.

In the spirit of reconciliation between the Rugby nations of the Southern and Northern Hemispheres, the Rolling Maul proposes that rather than simply reject the more interesting proposed rule changes to open up the game, they be put on the backburner while a series of Northern Hemisphere ELVs be trialled for comparison. These ELVs should ensure that Rugby is played the way that the Northern Hemisphere has always wanted the game to be played - in the forwards.

The proposed Northern Hemisphere ELVs are:

1) Any player found running faster than a slow jog to be penalised and placed in leg shackles for the duration of the game. Players need to realise that speed is a blight on Rugby and needs to be phased out. It distracts from the important action deep within a scrum, maul or ruck. Rugby is to be savoured like a fine wine, not sculled like a yard glass at a 21st.

2) Deliberate passing of the ball to wingers to be penalised by excommunication. Forward play is next to godliness. Wingers are the devil incarnate, their good looks designed to lead to temptation. True salvation, nay revelation, is to be found at the bottom of a pile of heaving sweaty men.

In any case, passing a ball to a winger is bound to lead to disaster. The more time the forwards have spent muscling the ball forward metre by metre, minute by minute towards the try line, the greater the chance the winger will spill the ball when it comes his way. Keep the ball in the forwards and the problem is solved.

3) The scoring system. As a measure of team dominance and strength, tries are overrated. As a measure of dominance and power, field goals are overrated. As a measure of discipline and concentration, penalty goals are overrated. The only true measure of worth is possession, and possession happens in the forwards. The Northern Hemisphere ELVs will recognise this by awarding points to each successful scrum, ruck and maul. Tries, field goals and penalty goals will be rewarded by the option to have more scrums, rucks or mauls.

4) Field conditions. Grass was invented to stop backs from getting dirty. Grass stains don't look good on clothing and can be itchy. It also favours fleet footed sprinters afraid to get their hair messed up. Doing away with grass entirely and ensuring all grounds are watered thoroughly to a boggy muddy state prior to matches will guarantee a level playing field for all forwards. Any back unwilling to particpate will be ground into said level playing field.

5) Happiness is a maul or ruck so intense that the ball becomes a minor consideration. The battle of wits and intelligence in the complex mass of humainty is such that the ball is the least of a player's concerns. The chess-like nature of these endeavours needs to be recognised by the elimination of the ball entirely. This will leave Rugby in a pure state and bring its particpants closer to enlightenment without the distrations of earthly possessions such as a ball.

6) With no ball there is no reason for artificial contructs such as tries or goals. Thus clearly there is no point for the arbitary limitations created by try lines or goal posts. Even a rectangular field implies direction where none is needed. Scrums, rucks and mauls have a momentum of their own that should be set free, unencumbered by the bleatings of halfbacks to point in any particular way. Let the scrums, rucks and mauls go free to pursue their own natural place on a round field.

7) Get rid of backs. Now at least there's one sensible rule that both hemispheres can agree on.