Oval Talk

  • Is Cipriani ready for homecoming?

    His return to English rugby may have been announced back in March and there has been a fair bit of talking done since then, but the task at hand started in earnest last week when Danny Cipriani reported for pre-season training with his new club Sale Sharks.

    After an 'exile' from the English domestic rugby scene which lasted almost two years, the 24-year-old stated this week that he is targeting a recall to the national set-up as a "long-term goal" - and England coach Stuart Lancaster was not shy in admitting his satisfaction that the former Wasps player would be coming back to the Premiership

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  • buffett.jpg

    It started out as a rumour almost a fortnight ago, one which London Welsh initially denied, but it has now materialised into fact - head coach Lyn Jones has recruited Gavin Henson to the club.

    London Welsh have been the subject of a couple of Oval Talk blog entries in recent weeks, as their bid to attain Premiership status has gone through a drawn-out appeals process before finally being approved. It is their newfound top flight status which brings them to the current situation in which they are now handing Henson a career lifeline.

    The move appears to make perfect sense - in theory - for

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  • Justice served in promotion saga

    After a lengthy pursuit London Welsh finally got what they were after on Friday when an independent appeal panel overturned the RFU's decision to deny the Championship winners their rightful place in the Premiership.

    After taking victory in the Championship play-offs and securing what it believed was a spot in the top flight, the club was then told that it failed to match the 'entry criteria' as set out by the RFU and Premiership Rugby and would therefore not be allowed to make the step up.

    An appeal followed and eventually London Welsh were handed the news they had been waiting for.

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  • Gruelling summer tours come to an end

    After the conclusion of the summer series for each of the four home nations, there will be a full spectrum of analysis on the horizon for the displays of each team.

    England's final Test against South Africa signed Stuart Lancaster's side off from their tour with a 14-14 draw that offered plenty of encouragement and more than a dose of salvaged pride after succumbing in the two previous tests.

    A much closer contest than the two defeats that preceded it produced a display of courage, determination and a good helping of physical strength which saw England register a deserved draw.


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  • Defeat but not despair

    Australia beat Wales in the dying moments

    Another weekend of international action and another dose of pensive chin stroking to follow for the coaching set-ups of each home nation.

    Scotland were the only team of the four who took a victory out of the weekend's happenings, thus maintaining their unbeaten run in their tour, and with an encouraging try-scoring debut performance from Dutch-born Edinburgh wing Tim Visser Scotland coach Andy Robinson could well be one of the more satisfied head coaches right now.

    Despite his gripes with his team's lack of concentration in the second half of their 25-37 win over Fiji, the fact that he

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  • Plenty to ponder for home nations

    After a weekend in which England, Wales and Ireland all suffered defeats in the southern hemisphere, there were a fair few bones to be picked over for each country as they prepare for the next outings in their respective tours.

    England's defeat to South Africa threw up plenty of questions, not least the need for more midfield and attacking creativity, as well as the requirement for Stuart Lancaster's team to get more comfortable playing with the ball in hand — something backs coach Mike Catt was readily prepared to admit to himself and an area which will undoubtedly be tackled in training.


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  • The right man, the wrong way

    It's easy to criticise the RFU, but the powers that be in English rugby often make it so simple.

    Less than two months ago the RFU and Saracens were locked in negotiations — which eventually lasted a fortnight — over Andy Farrell's future, and his possible release from his contract at the Premiership club to take up a role at HQ.

    Reasons were given, and speculated upon, for the eventual collapse in talks as Farrell opted to remain at Vicarage Road and continue what was an admirable task. More likely, and with no disrespect to Farrell, was that Saracens played hard, the RFU failed to flex, and

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  • Harlequins come full circle

    Saturday afternoon at Twickenham witnessed the completion of a lengthy road to recovery for Harlequins, which delivered the club not only a well-earned first Premiership title but a true sense of deliverance.

    In beating Leicester 30-23 in the Premiership final, Harlequins took the biggest step possible in lifting themselves above what was a watershed moment not just in the club's history but in the annals of the modern English game.

    Nobody needs reminding of the details, ignominy and subsequent reaction to the infamous 'Bloodgate' incident which took place in April 2009 and sparked lasting

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  • O’Driscoll’s deserved reward

    Enjoying a well-earned celebratory tippleWith their third Heineken Cup in four years, Leinster confirmed their place at the top of European rugby's tree and set an unprecedented record of winning the competition without a single defeat along the way.

    Equally impressive, and just as significant, was the contribution of Brian O'Driscoll, Irish rugby's longstanding icon whose status as one of his generation's most enduring talents was further solidified whilst adding weight to his tag-line as one of the greatest players in the game's history.

    At the age of 33 the Irishman has reached the point in his career - one punctuated by its fair

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  • Time to overhaul the system?

    And so it stands that despite completing a gruelling season in the Championship, coming through the two-legged play-off semi-finals and now preparing for the rigours of a play-off final - also in two draining instalments — the side which prevails in the second tier's long-winded and laborious route towards supposed Premiership status may well end up playing in the Championship again next season anyway.

    As Cornish Pirates and London Welsh ready themselves for the Twickenham double event on May 23 and 30, they both do so knowing that there is a very high possibility that if they do succeed it

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