Oval Talk

  • Wage cap just an excuse

    Oval Talk has had enough of hearing about how the English game is
    being held back because of the wage cap.

    A lack of money is just the default answer for why English teams
    have done so poorly in the Heineken Cup in the last two years.

    But the problem is far deeper than that.

    It's not the lack of talent or depth of squad but the style of
    play. Would Bath have lost twice to Ulster or would Leicester have beaten Leinster had they had a bigger wage bill to play with?

    In Oval Talk's humble opinion rugby is still won on the field and
    not in the accountant's office. If Bath and Leicester worked on

    Read More »from Wage cap just an excuse
  • WRU looks foolish over Barbarians decision

    The Welsh Rugby Union is threatening to devalue international
    rugby with its decision to give Wales' home match against the Barbarians on
    June 4 full-cap status.

    Oval Talk first heard about it on April 1 so instantly
    assumed it was an April Fools news story. But when it cropped up again a few
    days later, it became apparent that those within the WRU are the fools.

    Caps have been awarded
    by Wales twice before in games against the Barbarians, first in the Baa-baas'
    centenary celebration match in 1990, and again in 1996.

    And this match heralds another
    landmark: the WRU's 130th anniversary. But

    Read More »from WRU looks foolish over Barbarians decision
  • Flood Alert

    While a quartet of young bucks headed by scoring machine Chris Ashton have been mostly credited with the upturn in England's fortunes over the last year, Oval Talk thinks it is the more experienced Toby Flood who deserves as much of the attention.

    The flamboyant Ashton, along with Northampton team-mates Ben Foden and the currently injured Courtney Lawes, plus livewire scrum-half Ben Youngs, have rightly been identified as the players to lead England into a new, and hopefully more successful, dawn.

    This year's World Cup may come a little too soon for them, but if they continue in the same vein

    Read More »from Flood Alert
  • Player power leading rugby down murky road

    The Aviva
    Premiership could be accused of acting like their football counterparts with a
    third of the managers losing their jobs already this season.

    Steve Meehan is the latest to leave. He has agreed by mutual consent to go at
    the end of the season. And really, since the appointment of Sir Ian McGeechan
    as director of rugby it was only going to be a matter of time before Meehan

    He joins
    Andy Key at Leeds Carnegie, Tony Hanks at London Wasps and Mike Brewer at Sale
    Sharks on the list of managers who have been dismissed this year.

    This is
    almost unheard of in rugby but chairmen

    Read More »from Player power leading rugby down murky road
  • When Super Rugby came to Twickenham

    As Oval Talk took its seat to watch the last game of the Super 15 weekend, it felt a far cry from the chill of a Test in the bitter winter months.

    The spring sunshine bathed the ground, and a swell of New Zealanders and South Africans had built to watch the first game of the southern hemisphere's premier domestic rugby competition ever to be played in the north.

    Only the Twickenham traffic felt about the same as ever.

    The circumstances that meant the Canterbury Crusaders have to play their home game against the Sharks in London are not happy ones: their Christchurch stadium has been severely

    Read More »from When Super Rugby came to Twickenham
  • England must learn Braveheart lessons

    Martin Johnson had been insisting all week that England would have to fight tooth and nail to down Scotland, and that was how it proved as they narrowly maintained their challenge for a first Grand Slam in eight years.

    England had come undone against supposedly inferior Scottish opposition too many times for Johnson not to have hammered home the perils of over-confidence.

    But until Jonny Wilkinson nailed a last-minute penalty the game was still very much in the balance, as an error prone England struggled to match the tenacity of a Scottish side that have now lost all four of their Six Nations

    Read More »from England must learn Braveheart lessons
  • Decision time for Johnson

    Two moments during Saracens' Premiership victory at Leicester suggested England boss Martin Johnson will soon have to make some of the most crucial selection decisions of his career.

    Oval Talk last week addressed the issue of England's mis-firing midfield and recommended the recall of Riki Flutey at inside centre and more time for giant centre Matt Banahan to show what he can do.

    Well, this week two more players emphatically furthered their England cause in the considerable shape of prop Matt Stevens and centre Manu Tuilagi.

    Stevens, who returned to the game in January after serving a two-year

    Read More »from Decision time for Johnson
  • England: Reasons to be cheerful

    Tension inevitably sways judgment, and it was only when Oval Talk watched a replay of 'Le Crunch' that it became apparent what good value England were for their 17-9 victory.

    Not even the most myopic of England fans could claim it was a comfortable win for Martin Johnson's side, but after close analysis it is clear how much they deserved the result that keeps their Grand Slam hopes alive.

    The victory offered more than enough proof that England continue to make progress in World Cup year - and for OT there were five good reasons why they can be cheerful:

    1. The victory was based on attrition

    Read More »from England: Reasons to be cheerful
  • Les Bleus lack stomach for Le Crunch

    It might come back to bite it on the derriere, but Oval Talk has a strong suspicion that France do not have the stomach for the potential Six Nations showdown with England next weekend.

    Both sides go into the Twickenham clash unbeaten and with two wins, but for OT there is only going to be one winner, and that team will be wearing white.

    Don't get OT wrong - this France team can really play, exceptionally so when they are on song. They have an abundance of power, good pace out wide, a huge pack of very decent scrummagers, and an excellent set piece.

    On their day, they can be more than a match

    Read More »from Les Bleus lack stomach for Le Crunch
  • Is Andrew England’s fall guy?

    After a detailed management review, new RFU chief John Steele made some sweeping changes at Twickenham that included the scrapping of Rob Andrew's role as elite performance director.

    Steele has asked Andrew to reapply for a new position - with less responsibility and less pay - while the likes of Sir Clive Woodward, Jake White and Eddie Jones are being touted for a newly-created role of RFU performance director.

    Andrew appears fortunate not to have been amongst several Twickenham executives asked to clear their desks, but surely after such a public demotion he will take the decision to part

    Read More »from Is Andrew England’s fall guy?