Oval Talk

  • Henson should be Strictly for rugby

    Talk of Gavin Henson returning to rugby looms large - but will he shed his dancing shoes in favour of boots in time for the World Cup?

    Oval Talk will make no secret of the fact it is a massive fan of Henson. Some people may be fooled by the tan, the silver boots and questionable choice of coiffeur; but he is a defensive mastermind and extremely tough player.

    Shaun Edwards described him as "tough as old boots" and, coming from a man who played the 1990 Challenge Cup final with a broken cheekbone, that shouldn't be taken lightly.

    He also cannot be accused of lacking commitment. When he was left

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  • Munster’s bonus point could prove crucial

    London Irish boss Toby Booth has insisted that he is not worried by Munster's last-gasp bonus point after the Magners League side lost their opening Heineken Cup game at the Madejski Stadium.

    The Exiles led by 14 points at one stage in the contest, but with just seconds to go Ronan O'Gara created a try for Sam Tuitupou that brought the visitors back within seven points and snatched the losing bonus point.

    "The bonus point is completely irrelevant for me," Booth said after the match. "In a tough pool you expect bonus points to be important but if you win all your games they don't matter."

    But

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  • Love live trans-Tasman rivalry

    At the risk of stereotyping an entire nation, the Australians are never ones to miss an opportunity to take the mick out of someone.

    Anyone will do but ideally the recipient of a good "paying out", as the Aussies call it, will be a fierce rival in sport.

    So it came as no surprise to Oval Talk when it saw a video of Super 15 side, the ACT Brumbies, parodying the All Blacks recent skills video.

    Australia lost by just one point in their final Tri-Nations clash against the All Blacks just over a month ago and clearly still smarting from the defeat the Brumbies couldn't pass up the opportunity to

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  • Controversy worth it for Saracens?

    Just as the
    Premiership season starts building up a head of steam, rugby fans find
    themselves turning their attention elsewhere - to the Heineken Cup.

    With two
    weeks to go, the official launch of this year's competition took place on
    Monday with the captains of each and every team in attendance for the
    traditional press conference.

    Or at least
    that was the plan as far as the European Rugby Cup were concerned.

    But Saracens
    took the "11th hour" decision to send Steve Borthwick to Munich
    instead - on a pre-planned team bonding day trip to Oktoberfest.

    Sarries are
    no strangers to a spot of

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  • Reasons to be cheerful

    Oval Talk has been waiting with bated breath for the start of what promises to be one of the most competitive Premiership seasons ever. Considering last year's Grand Final wasn't decided until Geoff Parling's injury time lineout steal that is quite a statement. So here are OT's reasons to be thankful that the newly-named Aviva Premiership is back.

    The start of the season couldn't have fallen on a better weekend. With no Premier League football, the cricket marred by scandal and the Kiwis already runaway leaders of the Tri-Nations, it was a chance for club rugby to shine. With perfect

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  • Character key for young Wallabies

    As mid-term reports go, Oval Talk has seen better - C-plus: ok but room for improvement.

    Saturday's 20-10 loss to the All Blacks in Christchurch, Australia's third Tri-Nations fixture of six, was the Wallabies ninth successive defeat to their cross-Tasman rivals.

    New Zealand retained the Bledisloe Cup for the eighth year running and now, barring the biggest turnaround in rugby history, have the Tri-Nations trophy within their grasp.

    And the World Cup is within the All Blacks' sights - if they can defeat the mental block that weighs so heavily over the sport's eternal underachievers.

    But

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  • No excuses for Mitchell as Wallabies wilt

    The current Tri-Nations series has been plagued by ill-discipline and referee Craig Joubert's hard-line stance in Australia's 49-28 defeat to New Zealand should be applauded.

    Wallabies winger Drew Mitchell felt the wrath of Joubert - and Oval Talk is throwing its considerable weight behind the South African official.

    The irony of a South African dishing out the cards isn't lost on OT. After all, the Springboks have had a man suspended after all three of their Tri-Nations maulings thus far.

    Mitchell was initially sin-binned for a late, no-arms tackle on All Blacks captain Richie McCaw.

    And

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  • Impressive All Blacks on cruel cycle

    Oval Talk wasn't the least bit surprised by the All Blacks' dismantling of South Africa in their Tri-Nations opener - we are, after all, a little over one year out from the World Cup.

    Actually, that's no quite true; out-scoring the world and Tri-Nations champions by four tries to nil never looked on the cards, but the fact New Zealand appear to be 'peaking' 12 months ahead of the World Cup continues a trend we have become all-too familiar with.

    Next week's clash in Wellington could go a long way towards confirming our suspicions that the All Blacks have again discovered their best form too

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  • Johnson makes the right call

    It's hard not to have a degree of sympathy for Steve Borthwick after he was left out of the England squad.

    Don't get Oval Talk wrong, it was never in favour of Borthwick playing for England in the first place, let alone leading his country for the best part of two years.

    But the fact he did - for 20 Tests - before injury finally helped manager Martin Johnson to see the error of his ways, is perhaps typical of the situation England find themselves in with less than 15 months to the World Cup.

    Selection has been confused and confusing under Johnson and the fact England now look better set

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