Heroes Rugby Challenge
There are many who believe that it is inappropriate to bring the Wallabies to the UK for games against the Barbarians and Wales. A group of players who were manhandled out of the World Cup by the All Blacks last month are in need of a break from the game and not another trip around the world for what is effectively a meaningless money-spinning exercise. Of course, the Wallabies are too professional to suggest such a thing but this is a tour they could do without. The British supporters will, no doubt, still come out in force and the coffers will be nicely boosted.
A cause that is most worthy of support, however, is the Heroes Rugby Challenge which takes place at Twickenham on December 3rd. On what will be the 10th anniversary of Britain’s Armed Forces Operations in Afghanistan, a Northern Hemisphere XV will take on a Southern Hemisphere selection. Both teams will feature legends of the game, up and coming young players and representatives of the Armed Forces. A similar game in 2008 attracted 52,000 spectators and raised £1.46m for this very worthy cause. All profits from the game will go to Help for Heroes, the charity which provides practical support for returning wounded service men and women.
The Rugby Site will be represented at Twickenham by Wayne Smith who with Nick Mallett will coach the Southern Hemisphere side. We urge those who are in a position to do so to attend the game.
Bath’s Beaver Fever
It would appear that Stephen “Beaver” Donald may do for Bath what Nick Evans has done for Harlequins. His performance against Montpelier in his first home game at the Rec was everything that the Bath senior brass would have hoped for. While never having the class of some other leading international out-halves, Donald is a talented footballer who now has a maturity which will stand him and Bath in good stead. He is strong and weighing in at 98kg possesses a physical presence which will benefit him in Heineken Cup rugby.
Donald’s world cup winning penalty is now etched in the history books, an achievement never to be taken from him. While Kiwi’s will have now forgiven him for his poor game in the All Black jersey against the Wallabies in Hong Kong in 2010, few will forget the vitriol which was directed at this decent man at that time.
He was a popular and senior figure for both the Chiefs and Waikato. Donald is a partner in “The Wolf & Beaver” bar in his home town of Waiuku, so sociability will not be an issue for him as he embarks on the latest stage of his career. It is quite likely that Beaver will cement his place in Bath Rugby folklore and not just for his performances on the field.
6 weeks have passed since Wales’s controversial defeat at the hands of France at the RWC. Alain Rolland has confirmed his belief that the red card was appropriate and that he would do the same thing again, Sam Warburton has publicly accepted the referee’s decision as correct and served his three week ban. However, a sense of injustice continues to prevail among Welsh supporters.
With Shaun Edwards secured as defence coach and their club teams unbeaten after 2 rounds of Heineken Cup games, Welsh rugby appears to be in a good place and Warren Gatland’s position as head coach looks strong . With Warburton confirmed as Wales’s captain for the one-off game against Australia in Cardiff on December 3rd, the way is paved for a continuation of the successful formula which saw Wales win many plaudits during the world cup.
Wales also look to be well positioned for the Six Nations which gets underway on February 4th, with Wales travelling to Dublin for a repeat of the world cup quarter final clash with Ireland. If early motivation was required, finding themselves third favourites to win the 6N’s at the bookies (behind France and England), should be sufficient to focus Welsh minds.
It was very sad to read of the recent murder of Solly Tyibilika in Cape Town’s Gugulethu township. Tyibilika only won eight international caps but he was the first black player to score a try for the Springboks, in his debut against Scotland in Murrayfield in 2004.
The South African Rugby Union led the tributes to Tybilika, with SARU president Oregan Hoskins saying the Springboks had lost a trailblazer. “His emergence was a demonstration of what can be achieved when talent is combined with opportunity in what is always a very competitive position in Springbok rugby.” This sad incident provides further confirmation of the ongoing race relationship challenges which exist within South Africa generally and rugby specifically.
It has also been announced that the Springboks will host the All Blacks next year in the historic township of Soweto. The ongoing attempts of SARU to bring rugby into the townships are to be applauded. In light of the death of Tybilika, this game will be particularly poignant.