RBS Player of the Championship – Shortlist Announced

first_imgLONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 27: Tommy Bowe of Ireland celebrates with team mates after scoring the winning try during the RBS Six Nations match between England and Ireland at Twickenham Stadium on February 27, 2010 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images) LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Last year’s Player of the Championship – Tommy Bowe (Left) The final shortlist for the official RBS Player of the Championship of the 2011 RBS 6 Nations has been announced, with a fans’ poll deciding the result now open on www.rbs6nations.com With England favourite to lift the trophy on Saturday, four English names dominate the shortlist of 12 players with Toby Flood, Chris Ashton, James Haskell and Tom Palmer all receiving a nod.The shortlist also includes French captain Thierry Dusautoir and his team mate Maxime Medard, Sam Warburton and James Hook for Wales and Fabio Semenzato and Andrea Masi for Italy. Finally Sean O’Brian and Ronan O’Gara, for Ireland who will be looking to retain the award won by their team mate Tommy Bowe in 2010.In a change from previous years, where a panel of experts selected the shortlist, all players awarded as RBS Man of the Match during the first four weekends of the Championship were automatically placed in contention for the prestigious award. The winner will be chosen by rugby fans from across the six nations who are being asked to vote for their RBS Player of the Championship, based on performance, form and achievement.Fans can vote for the 2011 RBS Player of the Championship at www.rbs6nations.com and voting will remain open until midnight on Sunday 20th March. Once the votes have been counted and verified, the announcement of the official RBS Player of the Championship will be made on Wednesday 23rd March on the RBS 6 Nations website.RBS Player of the Championship – previous winners 2010 – Tommy Bowe 2009 – Brian O’Driscoll 2008 – Shane Williams 2007 – Brian O’Driscoll 2006 – Brian O’DriscollRBS 6 Nations Man of the Match 2011Weekend 1 Wales v England Toby Flood EnglandItaly v Ireland Sean O’Brien IrelandFrance v Scotland Maxime Medard FranceWeekend 2 England v Italy Chris Ashton EnglandScotland v Wales Sam Warburton WalesIreland v France Thierry Dusautoir FranceWeekend 3 Italy v Wales Fabio Semenzato ItalyEngland v France Tom Palmer EnglandScotland v Ireland Ronan O’Gara IrelandWeekend 4 Italy v France Andrea Masi Italy Wales v Ireland James Hook WalesEngland v Scotland James Haskell Englandlast_img read more

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Tom May’s Top Fitness Tip

first_imgLATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS On a trip to Toulon, we decided to pick the brains of some of the French team’s star names on ways that you could improve your game. We asked Tom May for his top fitness tip, one that could be used by players at any level of the game. And here it is…last_img

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Southern Kings to play Super Rugby in 2013

first_img“We will now look at the options to identify the other entrants to the competition, which will include further discussions with our SANZAR partners on the possibility of including a sixth South African team in the competition. The Unions will also be making their own recommendations and the outcome of those discussions and other proposals will be tabled for the Executive Council and ultimately a General Meeting to consider.” The Southern Kings’ place in the Vodacom Super Rugby competition in 2013 was reaffirmed at a Special Council Meeting of the South African Rugby Union (SARU) in Cape Town on Friday. Proposals on mechanisms to identity the four other South African entrants will be considered at a SARU Special General Meeting on March 30. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALScenter_img “The decision to include the Southern Kings in the 2013 Vodacom Super Rugby tournament was unanimously confirmed by the members,” said Jurie Roux, CEO of SARU on Friday.last_img read more

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RaboDirect Pro12 final: 5 talking points

first_imgThe mood was so good at the RDS that when the officials names were announced before kick-off even the referee’s name got a small cheer. Nigel Owens has earned a reputation as a fair referee who doesn’t think himself the focal point of the match and likes the game to flow. He allowed advantage, talked to the players throughout and explained his decisions, which led to a high-tempo, end-to-end rugby match.Warrior spirit: Glasgow’s Leone Nakarawa punctures the Leinster defence at the RDSSupersubs to the foreThe physicality of the Pro12 final resulted in players dropping like flies through injury or simply tiredness as they rested during breaks in play. That’s the way it is when silverware is up for grabs, with every man giving his all. Both sides emptied the bench in this brutal encounter. Special mention goes to Leone Nakarawa who was outstanding when he came on – his impact was seen in his offloading and bullocking runs downfield as he scattered defenders like skittles.The need to be clinicalSometimes the only difference between a winning side and losing one is that the victors want it more. That was not the case this time round as Al Kellock said the Warriors “desperately wanted to win” but at this, the most crucial point of the season, their stonewall defence caved.Tight contest: Sean O’Brien is wrapped up by Glasgow’s defence during the finalGlasgow came with a game plan to start quickly, keep the ball off the floor and create confusion in the Leinster defence. Their adventurous approach was impressive to watch at times but also led to handling errors. On the other hand, Leinster were clinical and took their opportunities. They absorbed the Warriors’ pressure and quickly switched to attacking play, which helped them run in four tries to none. Leo is KingOn Saturday rugby said goodbye to two of the most talented players of a generation, but while Brian and Jonny attracted most of the headlines, others will have hung up their boots without half as much fanfare.Leo Cullen is the most successful club captain in Europe, as the only man to lead his side to three Heineken Cups. When the bashful but brutal lock took to the field at the RDS for the final time and when the winners medals were handed out, his name was met with a roar that equalled, possibly even surpassed, that of the iconic Brian O’Driscoll.While Leinster have shared BOD with Ireland, the Lions and the rest of the world, Cullen is more associated with Leinster than the national side. The affection for him was heartfelt – even the pub across the road was renamed in his honour on Saturday – and Jamie Heaslip insisting that BOD and Leo lift the trophy marked a fitting end to two remarkable careers.Leinster legends: Leo Cullen and Brian O’Driscoll have now played their last games of professional rugbyIt’s time to move onUnlike last season, there were no more cries of ‘one more year’ when Brian O’Driscoll joined his team-mates in a lap of honour around the pitch. Departing the game as a winning Lions tourist, Six Nations champion and Pro12 champion is not a bad way to go.Whispers about Ian Madigan injecting more pace and excitement into Leinster’s performances have grown louder – to the point where many felt without him Leinster would not have made the Pro 12 final. In one way a new era begins at the province but the word ‘transition’ did not sit at all well with captain Jamie Heaslip. He refused to be drawn on that idea saying that every year big players have left the club.Glasgow may be moving on without, among others, Chris Cusiter but they are a club that will continue to grow. They won more games than any other team in the regular league season and having made it to the final for the first time, they now know what it will take to win their maiden title.All hail the man in the middle And finally… Basking in the glorious sunshine at the RDS, colleagues from Italy and even London asked, “Is it like this in Dublin all the time?” If only! But for the last three years when the Pro12 final has been played at this venue the weather has been the same. The queues for the ice cream vans were as long as those for the bar, the smell of barbeques filled the air and no one had to worry about having at least four layers of clothing before leaving the house. The notion of a summer season must have crept into many conversations. Rugby World looks at the big talking points from Leinster’s 34-12 win over Glasgow in the RaboDirect Pro12 final on Saturdaycenter_img LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Champagne moment: Leinster captain Jamie Heaslip and his team-mates celebrate with the Pro12 trophy last_img read more

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Spots in France’s World Cup squad up for grabs

first_imgVersatility also came to Martin Corry’s aid as the utility back-five player was chosen ahead of lock Simon Shaw with Woodward left to admit: “Shaw would be in any other international team in the world and not to pick him or Graham Rowntree are the two hardest decisions I’ve had to make in my six years as head coach with England.”Austin Healey, a regular in Woodward’s squad in the preceding years, also felt the bitter pain of rejection, later describing the experience as “the most down I’ve ever been”.Contrast Healey’s emotion with that of Iain Balshaw and Stuart Abbott, neither of whom had been involved in England’s 2003 Grand Slam campaign. Nonetheless they were selected for the warm-up matches and the pair produced polished displays in the 45-14 thrashing of France in the second game at Twickenham. The South Africa-born Abbott made the World Cup squad and started the group games against Samoa and Uruguay. Though his career was subsequently curtailed by injury, a World Cup winners’ medal and an MBE isn’t a bad return for nine caps.Making his case: Iain Balshaw scores in England’s 45-14 warm-up win v France in 2003. Photo: Getty ImagesBalshaw hadn’t played for England for 18 months when he was selected for the warm-up matches. “I’d had a succession of injuries since coming back from the Lions tour of 2001,” he recalls. “For the 12 weeks before the two games against France I’d been suffering from tendonitis. So those two games were my last chance to show what I could do. I remember in the first half of the second game I just couldn’t get my hands on the ball and I was becoming desperate. Fortunately that changed in the second half and I scored a try and had some good runs.” Three months later Balshaw came on as a substitute in England’s World Cup final win over Australia.Brian Ashton was the England coach in 2007 and he needed only one of the two warm-up games against France to trim his squad. Having seen his side slump to a 21-15 defeat to France at Twickenham, Ashton decided to jettison James Haskell, Nick Abendanon, Danny Cipriani, Toby Flood, Kevin Yates and Tom Palmer before the return fixture the following Saturday. The matches between France and England in August will be crucial to determining their final World Cup squads LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS France are doing something different this year for their World Cup warm-up matches against England in August. Whereas for the back-to-back games in 2003 and 2007, the then coach Bernard Laporte had already decided on his final squad, Philippe Saint-André will make his final cut after the two clashes next month.For the past three weeks the 36 players have been run ragged first at Marcoussis and then in the Alps; for five of them the pain experienced in July will be mild compared to the agony of being informed by Saint-André on 23 August that their services are no longer required.Dreams shattered, hopes crushed, ambitions thwarted. Nothing but the humiliation of returning to your club and the prospect of watching the tournament on TV with that one question hammering away inside your head: ‘Why me?’“All the players know that the final choice doesn’t rest with them,” captain Thierry Dusautoir told Midi Olympique on Monday. “The only thing to do, it’s to put in the best preparation possible [and] not to ask youself questions.”All to play for: Thierry Dusautoir knows final squad places will be determined in the warm-ups. Photo: AFPEngland’s players are in a similar predicament ahead of the matches at Twickenham on 15 August and the Stade de France the following weekened. Stuart Lancaster has just brought his boys back from an intensive training camp in Colorado. It was a hell of a regime, by all accounts, but for 14 of the 45 players, it will have been in vain when Lancaster announces his final list of 31. According to assistant coach Andy Farrell, up to nine will be discarded before the warm-up matches and the rest after.Lancaster and Saint-André will have already inked in the bulk of their squads but the two matches will certainly make or break the fates of a handful of players.When England played France twice in August 2003 coach Clive Woodward used the games to make the final tweaks to his squad. Out went loosehead Graham Rowntree (who had propped the scrum for most of the previous two seasons) as Woodward opted for the versatility of Jason Leonard, who could play on either side of the scrum.center_img Pedal power: France’s Frederic Michalak and Sebastien Tillous-Borde during a training camp. Photo: AFP Eight years on, Haskell and Cipriani will be hoping they are more to Lancaster’s liking than they were Ashton’s. If they’re not, and they are returned to their clubs next month, their misery will be unimaginable. One rejection is bad enough, as Woodward acknowleged in 2003. “Regarding the remaining players who didn’t make it, it’s scant consolation for them that they have all made a significant contribution to England being successful.”Balshaw’s advice for the current England crop is simple: “Lancaster will know already a lot of his squad,” he says. “But the two matches against France will be important because they’ll allow him to decide on the finer details. So no one can afford to be complacent. Everyone’s trying really hard to make the World Cup and if anyone does ease up in the two warm-up games they could find themselves pushed out.”last_img read more

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Poll: Who will survive Rugby World Cup Pool A?

first_imgPushing through: Will Tom Wood and England blast past Australia? Vote in Rugby World’s poll and have your say… Which teams will come out of World Cup Pool A? (Poll Closed) England and Australia  53.11%      Australia and Wales  28.29%      England and Wales  11.91%      Australia/England/Wales and Fiji  6.69%      Create Your Own Poll   Which teams will come out of World Cup Pool A? In Pool A’s ‘Group of Death’, who do you think is set for an early grave and who will be alive and kicking in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals?England, on home soil, will prove a tough nut to crack at Twickenham. Will the crowds be singing ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ as they storm through to the last eight, or will the pressure prove too much for Stuart Lancaster’s men?Wales, led by Lions captain Sam Warburton, believe they are even fitter than four years ago, when they came within a hair’s breadth of making the final. Will they last the distance this time, or will they be out of breath before the finishing straight?The other big fish in the pool is, of course, Australia. The Wallabies have shored up their scrum and have a back-line to drool over. Will they be salivating at making the knockout stages, or spitting feathers at missing out? Fiji have the potential to deliver a major shock or two – ex-Australia flanker George Smith has backed them to progress at the expense of England and Wales – so the ‘big three’ of the pool would be wise not to underestimate Akapusi Qera and Co. Can the Flying Fijians soar to new heights, or will they be grounded?Uruguay can expect a good shellacking in every match but, in a group that could potentially come down to points difference, could Los Teros throw a spanner in the works? LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALSlast_img read more

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Letter from South Africa – December 2015

first_imgIt’s all happening in SA where the new Super Rugby franchise, the Southern Kings are in disarray, while the Stormers have missed out on John Mitchell. Thankfully, we have Schalk Burger… SUPER RUGBY SHAMBLESThe 2016 revamped Super Rugby tournament is only two months away and at the time of writing Japan’s franchise, the Sunwolves, were still in search of a coach and a core group of contracted players. In South Africa things are not much better after the South African Rugby Union (SARU) had to step in and take over the running of the Southern Kings.The Southern Kings franchise are theoretically supposed to be under the management of the Eastern Province Rugby Union (EPRU). But that organisation is bankrupt with player’s salaries continuously going unpaid. SARU eventually had to take over the running of the franchise, but the union still has to manage its own affairs. The upshot is that SARU’s Rugby Department general manager Rassie Erasmus, has taken over as a de facto director of rugby for the Southern Kings. Erasmus appointed former SA under-20 assistant coach Deon Davids as Kings head coach. SARU has also so far contracted 20 players to the Kings (still woefully short of a full playing roster), and formed a new company to run the Super Rugby outfit.Damage limitation: Rassie Erasmus (left) has been installed at the chaos-stricken Southern Kings“There has been a lot of overheated speculation about all manner of things but we have not lost sight of our responsibility,” SARU chief executive Jurie Roux said.“Our only desire has been to rescue the Southern Kings from the parlous state in which they found themselves and put together a competitive squad to represent the people of the Eastern Cape with pride in Super Rugby.“A new company has had to be formed to do that and with the assistance of the South African Rugby Players’ Association (SARPA) we have signed a number of the Eastern Province Kings whom our Rugby Department identified as fitting into a Super Rugby squad.“Our implementation team is in discussions with other unions and players to complete the signing of the squad that we have in mind.”STORMERS LET ANOTHER BIG FISH SLIP AWAYFormer Springbok centre Robbie Fleck was named as Stormers interim head coach following Eddie Jones’ departure after a two-week tenure as Stormers mentor.Jones had barely unpacked his suitcase before the Rugby Football Union (RFU) made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.Western Province Rugby Football Union (WPRFU) director of rugby Gert Smal was left embarrassed by Jones’ departure and vowed to find another heavyweight coach to take the franchise forward as Allister Coetzee’s replacement.No deal: John Mitchell looks like he’s slipped through the net for the StormersSmal targeted former All Black coach John Mitchell, who has the experience and the philosophy of playing an attacking brand of rugby that the Stormers are looking to implement in 2016. Mitchell flew to Cape Town and it was all but a done deal, until several amateur, elected officials on the WPRFU board decided against it. Smal was sideswiped by the very men that employ him to make big rugby decisions and they instead insisted that long-time assistant coach Fleck be made interim head coach. Mitchell was phlegmatic at the 11th hour turn of events. “We could not come to an agreement,” Mitchell said. “There was too much politics. At least this long, long process played itself out. I would never go into anything unless there was unanimous support from the board.”Smal might have to reconsider his position, while Fleck knows he wasn’t first or second choice. That will be a tough burden to carry if results don’t go his way.BURGER IN LINE FOR SA PLAYER OF THE YEARYou can’t keep Schalk Burger down. After near death in 2013, he is among the five nominees for the 2015 SA Player of the Year title after another stellar season.The 32-year-old was one of the stand out performers at Rugby World Cup 2015 and could win his third gong when the winner is announced early next year. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Burger won his first player of the year award as a 21-year-old in 2004 when he took the crown after a blistering season in which the Boks won the Tri-Nations as well. He was also rewarded with the World Player of the Year crown.Incredible Schalk: Schalk Burger topped many of the charts at the World CupIn 2011 in the immediate aftermath of a failed Rugby World Cup, Burger again won the SA title. Little did he know it then, but his career would almost come to end in the ensuing 24 months.After sustaining a knee injury in the early part of 2012, Burger had set back after set back, culminating in bacterial meningitis that nearly took his life in mid 2013. Making it back on to the field was an achievement. Making it back to the pinnacle of the game defied logic.Earlier this year, at the Laureus Sports Awards (the Oscars of sport) Burger received the comeback of the year award and since then he has been in excellent form for the Springboks.He was one of the stand out performers at the recent World Cup making the most carries (96) and making the second most tackles (75) and the third most offloads (8). But even so he faces stiff competition.Fellow Boks Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth and Damian de Allende are also up for the award alongside uncapped Lions flank Jaco Kriel.BLITZBOKS WIN INAUGURAL CAPE TOWN SEVENS TITLEOver 106,000 people attended the inaugural Cape Town leg of the HSBC World Sevens Series and were rewarded with victory by the home team.The latest stop of the 10-city Series was a raging success with World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper declaring Cape Town the “new sevens rugby capital.”Home comforts: The Blitzbokke picked up the spoils in Cape TownThe Blitzboks overcame a first day 14-12 loss to Kenya in the Pool phase to win beat Argentina 29-14 in the final after seeing off Australia and France in the quarterfinals and the semi-final.The Cape Town Stadium in Greenpoint, built for the 2010 football World Cup, provided a spectacular setting in the heart of the city.The city has been trying to entice Western Province and the Stormers to make the state-of-the-art facility their new home, but discussions have broken down over lease and rent terms. After the success of the Sevens there is a renewed energy to make the move happen. One of the greats: Schalk Burger has had a stellar year for the Boks last_img read more

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Five of rugby’s talking points from July

first_img Pro 12 shows its cojonesJuly saw the Pro 12 become the Pro 14 and with it, change the global rugby landscape. Never have southern hemisphere club teams competed with the north over a season. It is a wonderfully bold move and one which the league desperately needed to make. The inclusion of the Cheetahs (Bloemfontein) and the South Kings (Port Elizabeth) will have a dramatic impact on the league and the benefits aren’t purely financial. Each former Pro 12 team may be 500k richer as a result, but the enrichment of the league extends further. Firstly, the debate over summer/ winter rugby no longer needs to be had.Growing family: The Pro14 is to be lauded for showing ambition by linking up with SA teamsThe Pro 14 will have both in a season. One week you’re playing Connacht with a litre of Deepheat sloshed up your legs, the next you’re applying factor 20 in Port Elizabeth. The coaching and selection changes required to cope with the differences in climate and altitude will be fascinating. But perhaps most importantly, long-term, is that this bold first move opens the door to the big boys of South African rugby. With little time delay for broadcasters, no jet lag and the promise of far more practical travel schedules, the Sharks, Stormers, Lions and Bulls may fancy a piece of this too. Super Rugby is in a state of flux and if rumours are to be believed the ménage à trois between the big three has become rather frigid. Whether it works remains to be seen. But the idea and ambition is laudable.The quick conversion is comingRugby is the ultimate Darwinian sport. Whereas some sports, such as football, tend to evolve over a decade, rugby’s nuances change in rapid 12 month cycles. Be it scrum feeds, or law changes at the breakdown, a game of rugby in September can look very different from a game in the following May. The latest evolution may be the quick conversion. July saw yet another try awarded by the referee only for it the TMO to intervene 40 seconds later as the conversion was being prepared.Changing times: After a Tim Nanai-Williams try, the Chiefs were prevented from taking a quick conFollowing a perfectly weighted chip through from the Leinster bound James Lowe, the Chiefs’ Tim Nanai-Williams slid over the line and the try was awarded by Glen Jackson. Skip forward 35 seconds, as the Crusaders line-up the extra two, and the TMO intervenes disallowing the try. This isn’t the first time this has happened this season and could well lead to a faster conversion process for the scoring team – once the kick has been taken the TMO cannot overturn the decision. Worth keeping an eye on.Zebre proves rugby is still amateurRugby is a professional sport on the field, but off it the game remains amateur on occasions. Late July, just weeks before the start of the season, saw Zebre taken over by the Italian Rugby Federation amid rumours that their players hadn’t been paid for three months. The situation is alarming, but weirdly understandable. It’s easy to forget that rugby has only been professional for 21 years.Teething problems: Zebre have had a summer of discontent before a takeoverIn terms of pro sport rugby is a toddler and every now and again they do something in the bed that requires cleaning up by someone else. Whereas well developed professional sports like football and American Football went through their administrative shakeups and streamlining in the 70s and 80s, rugby is doing it now. It may also be that Italy can only sustain one quality professional team; which isn’t a negative, it has certainly worked for the Jaguares of Argentina, a nation with a far greater rugby pedigree than Italy. We shall see.FOR THE LATEST SUBSCRIPTION OFFERS, CLICK HEREHighlanders suffer from ‘roof syndrome’ The bold new era of the Pro14, Italian teeth troubles, rule changes and the introduction of the player sabbatical are all covered LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS You either love rugby being played under a roof or you don’t. I love it. It improves every single aspect of the game and if I had my way would erect a giant retractable roof over every single rugby playing nation – not just the stadium the entire country and its landmass. It is no more mental than Donald Trump’s wall. However, playing at a home stadium that has a roof can be a negative when you then play an away game in the wet. The Highlanders loss against the Crusaders in July being a classic example.Handling the rain: The Crusaders coped with adverse weather conditions better than the HighlandersThe Highlanders were beaten 17 nil by the wet weather masters – only Michael Schumacher in his prime ran better in the wet than the Crusaders. Whereas the ‘Landers struggled to control the ball in the wet, the ‘Saders contact work was immaculate to the point that surely some of that squad began life as frog spawn. It may be an over simplification to suggest that a team who plays every home game under a roof will struggle in wet weather, but it certainly looked that way. Twelve month sabbaticals a sensible step forwardJuly saw Ben Smith confirm that he will be taking a sabbatical next season. It’s a sensible move from both the player and the NZRU. A move that would be wisely adopted by other unions particularly for those players who play upwards of ten test matches a season on top of their club commitments. The benefits of 12-month sabbaticals are undeniable. Even if the player decides to use the time to play overseas, the reduction of test responsibilities has a significant impact – playing ten test matches is the equivalent of playing at least 15 club matches. But by far the biggest benefit is player welfare and career longevity.Time out: Ben Smith is taking a sabbatical in the hope of added career longevityThe levels of injury and concussion in elite modern rugby are genuinely frightening. To see the effects of concussion and repeated ‘car crash’ impacts you need only look at George North. A player who personifies the ridiculous workload of a modern rugby player. Despite still casting a massive physical shadow, he is metaphorically a shadow of his former self. North more than anyone would be wise to follow Ben Smith and down tools for a while. Do it George. TAGS: HighlightZebre last_img read more

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Japan 2019: All you can see, do and eat in Yokohama

first_imgThe Minato Mirai is the thriving business and commercial heart of Yokohama, but more than anything else it is a visually imposing waterfront. If you take a late-night cruise, you will see the permanently moored Sail Training Ship NIPPON MARU, the Yokohama Bay Bridge, the Kishamichi Promenade and the looming Cosmo Clock 21 Ferris wheel, as well as the commanding Landmark Tower – Japan’s second-tallest building.Lush surroundings: The Yokohama Sankeien GardenThere are plenty of other attractions for all ages. If it’s nature you want, then there’s the Yokohama Sankeien Garden, a gorgeous green sprawl with historic buildings and pagodas dotted around the grounds. As breathtaking as it is wonderful, there is a sense of tranquillity as you wander the grounds. If a small distraction for the kids is in order, the Cup Noodles museum has a great, do-it-yourself floor. This is where you can design your own packaging, before choosing your own flavour and ingredients to go in the bespoke noodle pot.You can visit the Yokohama Country & Athletic Club, mentioned above, during the World Cup. They will be putting on special days for those that want to watch a game away from a busy viewing area in the centre, but yearn for that clubhouse feeling.Fun for all the family: The Cup Noodles MuseumWHERE TO EAT AND DRINK?Okay, Yokohama has Japan’s largest Chinatown, one of the biggest in Asia. There is a huge amount of variety – remember Yokohama has a history of opening its doors to new cultures.If you are looking for something a little bit more relaxed and, well, boozy – you are surrounded by options in the Noge district. A warren of bars and restaurants, you can have a proper sit-down meal, or nibble on yakitori while you try out sake, high-balls or craft beer. This spot will certainly be busy for after match days (our recommendation is the cosy Sakura Taps).A luxury feed: At Yokohama Royal Park HotelFor those looking for that bit of luxury, you can take treat yourself to the tasting courses at the Yokohama Royal Park Hotel or the Hotel New Grand. For those just looking for a quick filler on the way to the stadium, though, we would recommend Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum, a short walk from the ground.Quick bite: Shin-Yokohama Raumen MuseumWHERE TO STAY?The aforementioned Royal Park Hotel situated in the enormous Landmark Tower – and the views from the hotel rooms are spectacular. In fact, this is where the Australian national team stayed on their last visit to the city, to face Japan in November. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Japan 2019: All you can see, do and eat in YokohamaIF YOU are heading over to Yokohama for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, you are in for a rugby treat. There are a bucket-load of incredible fixtures to be held at the International Stadium Yokohama.Ireland face Scotland there, as do the hosts, Japan. New Zealand meet South Africa and England play France. And that’s just in the group stages. Both semi-finals and the final will be there too.But there is so much more you need to know about Japan’s second largest city. So here is the down-low on the site where so many fans will pour through in 2019. The venue: A general view of International Stadium YokohamaWHERE IS IT?Yokohama is the capital of the Kanagawa prefecture. It is situated just half an hour away from Tokyo’s international airport, Haneda. A port town situated on the eastern curve of Japan’s Honshu island, Yokohama has a unique, welcoming history.When Japan was opened up to allowed gaijin (non-Japanese), to trade and live in the country in 1854, Kanagawa was the place. By 1859 there was a sizeable settlement, particularly form the UK, and you can still see the influence today, with wide boulevards in the European style.It is also the birthplace of Japanese rugby. The local Yokohama Country & Athletic Club have documentary proof that their side (which went by a different name at the time) first started playing rugby on 26 January 1866, which makes them the oldest rugby team in Asia. That club was then absorbed by the Yokohama Country & Athletic Club, set up by Scotsman JP Mollison in 1868, and still play today.Rising to the ocassion: Japan captain Michael LeitchWHAT TO DO AND SEE?The rugby is a given. If you visit the International Stadium Yokohama in the Shin-Yokohama region, you will find all the trappings of a modern stadium in a walkable location and it has good pedigree – it hosted the 2002 FIFA World Cup final. However there is so much more.Sticking with sports: did you know that baseball is huge in Japan? Posters of the heroes of the Yokohama DeNA BayStars can be seen all over town and their stadium is an impressive sight. Yokohama DeNA BayStars came oh-so close to winning the national title this year… Brilliant view: The impressive Minato Mirai in Yokohama center_img In Association with Kanagawa Prefecture. The New Grand Hotel is another plush place to set yourself up, as is the InterContinental Hotel Grand. There are plenty of mid-range options in town or near the stadium. And for those keen to get in and out from the airport, there is the more reasonably priced KEIKYU EX INN Yokohama-Station East.For more information, visit trip.pref.kanagawa.jp or yokohamajapan.comlast_img read more

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Hitting the Bottle: An Investigation into Alcohol Issues in Rugby

first_imgLATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Hitting the Bottle: An Investigation into Alcohol Issues in RugbyJAMES HOLBECK played for the Wallabies seven times. But while his injury-hit career ended early, who knows what the centre could have done had it not been for one person: his alter ego ‘Mad Jimmy’.After a few run-ins earlier in his career, he recalls an incident in 1997 when his Test aspirations were directly affected.“I was warned by Rod Macqueen on a Wallaby trip to South America not to go out in the week of selection,” he says.“Unfortunately I compromised on the very thing I’d dreamt of my whole life – playing for Australia – to go out for a few drinks… Which meant I walked into the hotel as the sun was rising. I was ultimately sent home from the tour.”Self-control was hard for Holbeck to master. Now 44 and teetotal, he helps young players prepare to transition out of the game, working with Rugby Union Players Australia (RUPA). He’s had time to consider why his lifestyle went the way it did.Related: A special podcast on our alcohol investigationHe explains: “At first, alcohol was something I used to feel more confident, then to be someone else, then to escape the pain of heartache. Then it simply became the role friends expected me to play.”It all came to a head when his playing days were over, as he wrestled with the ghosts of unfulfilled dreams. “I had a particularly ugly night out which left me needing a trip to hospital. The next week a friend pulled me aside and said: ‘Mate, you’re like a dancing monkey that people wind up with alcohol and watch dance ‘til you fall over. Then they laugh at you’.”There were other incidents Holbeck is ashamed of. The brutal truth was what he needed. Mad Jimmy was resigned to the trash. Now he educates young people about the impact of their choices and the fact that they even have any.Back in 2002: James Holbeck in action for the BrumbiesBecause youngsters can feel helpless. And there are some elite players who will be battling through this themselves.This article is not meant as an attack on alcohol – we believe in the sanctity of the clubhouse, team bonding and players letting off steam. Indeed, most months we review beer and promote days out in our Welcome To My Club feature. No one is quoted here preaching for abstinence. Nor will you see us slamming drinking in stadiums.The intention of this report is to make you aware that some stars have serious struggles with the bottle. And to inform you of what help is or isn’t out there.Because suffering alone can be hell.UNDER THE SURFACEHINTING AT a dark trade, one medic who has worked across professional sport tells Rugby World, anonymously: “Mixed into the bog-standard, end-of-season press release I have seen players who have had issues with drink or drugs being described as having a ‘bad back’ or a chronic issue.“I’ve seen players who have gone into rehab and been transferred (to other teams). I’m not entirely sure how well disclosed their medical history has been. This is in union and league.”While no one wants players’ personal medical history to be shared freely, we are being told there is pressure to axe some with a drink problem as soon as possible. No time to fix the human being, a bad few clubs have punted the issue.The medic continues: “It’s not ‘let’s look after the player’. It’s ‘let’s ignore and bin them off as soon as we can’. It’s treated like an infectious disease. They think it’s like chickenpox and everyone can catch it. So (teams) end up doing entirely the wrong thing, isolating the player and making them more lonely, which will never solve the problem.“It’s caveat emptor – ‘buyer beware’. The (old) club has no undertaking to declare anything. Medical history comes directly from the player and everything else you’d hope is caught in a medical.“But there are some things you wouldn’t routinely look for. Some people outsource medicals and are mainly interested in hearts, lungs, joints and scars – things that are fairly obvious and light up for you, in terms of checking for insurance purposes.“You wouldn’t normally test for liver function or take a hair or urine sample and dip for drugs. Because it’s expensive, all of these things. You’re more worried that someone’s knee is going to be dodgy or that they can’t flex a hip or raise their arm above their head.“These are things people are worried about, rather than any addiction.”With this we step into the national discussion on mental health. Addiction or alcohol dependency issues must be considered a mental health problem. But still for so many out there, drinking to excess is simply weakness.Physical challenge: Tom Fitzsimons has run across the United StatesPromoting any alternative view begins with accepting that rugby players are not superheroes. All last season, motivational speaker Tom Fitzsimons was addressing Premiership clubs on behalf of the Rugby Players’ Association (RPA) about his experiences with alcohol addiction. He also mentors a handful of anonymous elite rugby players.Fitzsimons says: “We have to be careful that we don’t take away the mystique of a rugby player, but we also need to get across that these men are flawed like any other man.”According to the NHS’s Statistics on Alcohol, England 2018, in 2016-17, some 80,000 people were treated for problematic drinking alone.In May a joint report from Alcohol Concern and Alcohol Research UK stated: “It is estimated that around 595,000 people in England alone are dependent on alcohol and in need of specialist support. But only around 108,000 are receiving treatment for their alcohol dependency. This has a significant impact not only on the individual but on their families; around 200,000 children live in a household with an alcohol-dependent carer.”Alcohol-education charity Drinkaware also state on their site that “the NHS estimates that just under one in ten (8.7%) men in the UK and one in 20 (3.3%) UK women show signs of alcohol dependence.” Whichever number you pick, alcohol dependency and misuse is not something to be sniffed at. Are we to believe that elite sportspeople sidestep this national trend completely?Coming to a head: How many players suffer in silence?When Fitzsimons speaks, his story is arresting. He is brutally detailed in the description of his horrors. He tells of setting out to prove he was tougher than his father, who died of alcohol poisoning at 39, following a rare foray into drinking. And how he dived headlong into a heavy-drinking culture at 14. He rattles off a catalogue of incidents from his time as a “horrible, violent drunk”.Despite having a good job in the construction industry, it all finally came crashing down for him at 31, when he found his bank account empty and his partner, who had tolerated so much hell, finally decided to leave with the kids.Forced to face reality, he got fit – training for physical feats became the way he filled the afternoons that had been spent in the pub before – and decided to be honest about his past. Three years into sobriety, he did a presentation for a group of ‘troublemakers’ in a Barnsley school.He saw that his story had hit home.After then talking at Super League’s Warrington Wolves, CEO Karl Fitzpatrick saw the impact of his words and passed Fitzsimons’s details on to the RPA.Related: Rugby World’s investigationsExplaining one of the myriad reasons why elite sportspeople could turn to the bottle to cope, Fitzsimons talks of the “bridge of expectation” – when so much is expected of you, but your sense of self-worth is so far below that level of external belief, something has to give.“My bridge of expectation was so high, I self-destructed and drank myself into oblivion,” he says before giving an example from rugby. “I heard about this player who was put forward to play at international level and he just completely blew up. People thought it would be exactly what he needed.“In fact, it was the worst thing you could have done to him because you hadn’t built up his confidence. That’s what we’ve got to work on. We have to work on the player’s self-belief, rather than everyone’s expectations of them.”Fitzsimons knows there is a lot more to it than just that. Dr Philip Hopley is a consultant psychiatrist and the managing director of Cognacity, who run the 24-hour helpline for RPA members concerned about their mental wellbeing. He lays out some reasons.“In this kind of space we’re often seeing individuals who might be self-medicating (for) some kind of emotional stress or life challenge,” he says. “So they don’t like the way that they’re feeling and transition would be a very common life situation.“That might be dealing with injury, retiring from the sport, moving from one club to another, going through a process where you are working your way back or maybe you’ve been deselected, and those sorts of triggers can cause unpleasant emotions.“A lot of young men struggle with their emotional vocabulary and guess what, they’ve had social experiences in the past where they drink a few units of alcohol which tends to help them relax, tends to help take their mind off what’s going on, and so they use this as an unhelpful and unhealthy coping strategy.”Super League star: Jason Robinson playing for WiganJason Robinson knows how this goes. The World Cup winner has spoken often about his days of drinking while a young star for Wigan Warriors in league.Robinson says he masked his habit of going out up to four nights a week before playing, by performing so well. He wonders “how on earth did I do it?” when asked how he maintained such a level while drinking heavily. But he is sure of the reasons why he went out.He was under a huge amount of pressure to perform from a young age, with pressure to fit in, and then there was significant friction in his personal life. Without a good support base, he would say yes to a night out with all-comers so he could avoid his “pain”. When he woke up, the pain was back.The legendary stepper posits that in the future he would love to see an independent mental health professional being embedded into elite rugby clubs; someone who gets to know the team well enough that they can sense when something is off about any of them, but who does not answer to the club.The reason for this is the fear of contracts being ripped up. Robinson tells Rugby World this is a genuine motivator to swallow your problem and never tell anyone. Our anonymous medic talks of a reticence amongst players to discuss such issues because reputations can kill a career. When our medic talks of isolation, this is also borne out in everyday life. According to Dr Matthew Dunn, a senior lecturer on public health at Australia’s Deakin University, you are conditioned to feel apart and also that there are few shared experiences, even with addicts.“With the support group I’m involved with, it’s very shocking to the guys when they realise that they’re not the only ones,” he says. “They are not unique and almost every session we remind everyone: you’re not a snowflake, you’re as average as everyone around this table. It normalises it more, so that people who feel like they have a problem can seek assistance.”But Dunn also points out that with sportspeople we can fall into the trap of making heroes out of the few we hear speak out: “Not everyone is going to have that redemption-type story.”DRAGGED UP FRONTFITZSIMONS SAYS he has suffered the stigma of being ‘out’ as an alcoholic. He believes, despite the good that Alcoholics Anonymous can do for some, that the default of burying your drinking issue deep inside and staying anonymous will ultimately hold our society back.There’s more. He says: “I would like to see in my lifetime that we get to a point where we have more people – and not just like me – that are very passionate about promoting recovery. We will finally get to a point where any player can go, ‘I’m struggling with this guys, I’ve got an addiction and I need to get it sorted.’“I don’t think that’s in the next ten or 15 years. A few things I’d like to change before that happens. The anonymous thing has to drop and the clubs’ reaction will have to change as well.”Of course there are reasons almost no one wants to come out. There is a fear of being hounded in the media and also crushing your resale value – or contracts getting ripped up, as mentioned above.Too much, too fast: Former All Black Zac Guildford in 2011One man who knows how hard it is to deal with the public glare is Zac Guildford. Having become an All Black at 20, Guildford was admitting to issues with alcoholism just a few years later. He would take years came to terms with his father’s sudden death – he passed away in the stands at the Junior World Cup. At the same time he was thrust into an intense national spotlight. Until he was into his late 20s, his lifestyle overshadowed his playing career.“Our world is supposed to be full of rainbows and sunshine and we’re supposed to earn good money, but it’s not the reality at all,” Guildford says of hidden stresses. “I see it as especially hard for rugby players, because the stereotype is of us as somebody that’s not supposed to have problems. So there’s a stigma around it.”But how hard is it regaining ‘trust’ when you’ve had such public issues?“It’s been really hard. After losing my Waratahs contract in 2016, I went back and I played rugby for free for about a year. I was actually working on my grandparents’ farm, then took up a job in Hamilton so I could play some sevens, which led to me getting a semi-professional contract.“I thought that something would then pop up soon after in terms of Super Rugby, but no one out there wanted to trust me again. So I went back to where I was a year before and I played sevens again and then was lucky that the owner of Nevers (in France’s ProD2) had a bit of faith in me and he gave me an option if I wanted to go and join the club. It was the only option on the table so I took it.”Guildford’s determination to salvage a respectable career in the game is to be admired. However, as the top end of the sport turns away from him, the back-three player feels he should give a warning. He acknowledges that treatment of mental health issues has come a long way in the game, but he feels there is still more to do.A few, he says, still play lip service to the idea. He would like to see more done within clubs in terms of professional development and “tapping into the brain”.If anything else, it may help some pros when the game is finally over.Springboks veteran: Stefan Terblanche when with UlsterWHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUTDUE TO the stigma and the risk to future earnings, finding current players to offer up their personal (anonymous) experiences is understandably tough. Nevertheless, several people contacted considered ex-players an at-risk group.“There are many players who have to deal with social issues after rugby,” says 37-cap former Springboks wing Stefan Terblanche. He represents South Africa Rugby Legends, a non-profit group of ex-Boks who band together for events but also, it transpires, to keep an eye on each other’s wellbeing after retirement.“We did a study in 2015,” Terblanche continues. “We did a questionnaire and it was anonymous, but we found that (retired professional rugby players) do struggle with anxiety, sleeplessness, alcohol abuse and eating disorders – much more than the average person of the same age.“There is certainly a correlation there between retirement and these social issues that ex-players have to deal with. We see it more and more in South Africa because there’s financial strain on you. You earn £10,000 a month, for instance, and the next month all of a sudden you have to find a way of making some money. If you make some bad decisions it puts you under pressure and before you know it the little bit of money you had put away during your career can easily dry up.”Terblanche says only a few members have sought help, but he is certain there are others out there. The problem is that these are hard, proud men. And while money is held up as a regular sore spot for ex-players, it can be more existential.At Rugby Players Ireland (RPI), Dr Ella McCabe is player development manager. On the causes for concern with former players, she says: “I think one major piece we’ve noted is that when people’s entire identity is focused around being a rugby player, when that part of their life finishes up, it can feel like there’s a big void. It’s a risky time in terms of what will fill that void and all the coping strategies can kick in at that point.“Our whole programme is about players developing their identity off the pitch right the way through their career. It’s the same around the sense of belonging because exiting the game can be quite a lonely experience.”While Dunn notes the fact that not all open alcoholics get happy endings, and Fitzsimons acknowledges that many of us are conditioned to internalise anxieties, both understand the power of shared stories. It can even be more powerful to hear from those who blew their chance to play at the top level.Forging ahead: Peter Mirrielees of Otago runs with the ballMany would take notice when Peter Mirrielees says: “My drinking left a path of destruction and with a competitive streak being added with alcohol, things weren’t going to work out.”Having resolved to change his life three years ago, the former Otago hooker, 35, feels he has taken command of his mindset. And the reason behind that? He felt like the lifestyle he had cultivated for himself would ultimately lead to his family choosing to abandon him.Mirrielees opens up: “Firstly, I put myself into drug, alcohol and addiction counselling where I found the source of what made me drink the way I did. Then I went from around 200 friends to about ten and I had to change my surroundings, with everything focused on keeping my family together.“I lost my chance of a full-time Highlanders contract because of my drinking. But once I got rid of emotional stressors I did not need to get wasted.”Now running a 24-hour gym with his wife, the father of three has offered confidential lifestyle advice to players, friends and clients. But having recognised there were deeper issues he had previously ignored, he knowsit is the emotional torment that some try to drown out with booze.He asks straight out if you would stand by as a mate leant heavily on the bottle, saying: “Are they trying to deal with something? Are we a good enough friend to sit someone down and say, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ before they go down their own road of destruction?”HELP AT HANDACCORDING TO Dr Hopley, the mere fact someone has got in touch through the confidential hotline is a red flag.Most often, people seek professional help because those around them – partners or relatives – are negatively impacted by the drinker’s lifestyle and cannot take it any more. Sometimes, rarely, help is sought because someone has crossed the line, legally.Talking through the process when you call Cognacity, Hopley says that when you pick up the phone and call the number, it is answered by a trained telephone counsellor who’s used to dealing with crisis situations. Once they have a brief summary of the situation, they patch that through to whoever is on-call at that time – for example, a consultant psychiatrist like Hopley.That person would call the in-need individual back and talk for up to an hour to determine the acuteness of the situation while also taking in relevant background information on the caller’s lifestyle, what support they’ve got and what big challenges are coming up.Power of charity: Restart Rugby fund RPA initiativesNext could be a form of intervention, which is usually psychological therapy, with a psychologist or a cognitive behavioural therapist. The aim is to help that person understand their problems and identify triggers. Ultimately, the aim is to modify drinking habits.A whole host of player associations – MyPlayers South Africa, RUPA, RPI, the Welsh Rugby Players’ Association and New Zealand Rugby Players’ Association – have Player Development Managers in place. Most of these have access to confidential counselling. On the Islands, Pacific Rugby Players push education programmes whilst hustling to set up better services for members in France.Meanwhile, Dr McCabe and RPI have worked with International Rugby Players and World Rugby to develop a mental health module for team doctors that will provide basic education on what mental health means, common signs, symptoms (including of alcohol use disorders), screening and referral pathways.Having made alcohol a big focus in the past season, and staged seminars on problem gambling the year before, the RPA intend to have a broader focus on addictive behaviours next season. But they are keen to point out that their funding for any future services comes from the Restart charity.Hopley is pleased that the RPA’s recent ‘Lift the Weight’ campaign generated an increase in players calling their line for help. More referrals have come from club doctors too. But he also reiterates that the viability of any add-on services comes down to money.Every players’ body mentioned above would love to provide even better resources. And even then, not all major nations have a truly independent body.In March, the Scottish Rugby Union launched their ‘Rugby for Life’ scheme. Following a mandate from the board to do more for players’ mental wellbeing, their HR department utilised “advice and expertise from a cross-section of mental health charities, professional organisations and academic experts” in order to “better understand the impact of mental health issues and learn from examples of best practice”.As commendable as this is, many in the North feel something is missing without the players having their own body, separate from the union.“I’m aware of a few serious incidents within Scottish rugby,” one former pro player, who is still heavily involved in the game, tells Rugby World. “There needs to be an independent Scottish Players’ Association – an RPA-style organisation. Especially for those in professional or semi-professional rugby, like the upcoming Super 6. There isn’t anything like the excellent RPA here in Scotland.“Outside of rugby, life happens – deaths, divorces, children, sickness, relationships. What needs to change is the attitude from the SRU that an SPA organisation is a bad idea that wrests control from them. Such an organisation would give longevity to more players and they would be in a better mental and physical state to give their all for their club and their country.”CONCLUSIONTHINGS ARE moving fast in the mental health sphere in rugby union. Hard work already being done must be applauded while current or future initiatives must be given the oxygen they need to succeed. An in-depth look at how serious issues with alcohol can become a nightmarish secret in the lives of some elite rugby players. This first appeared in the August issue of the magazinecenter_img But the urge to pretend everyone who needs help is getting it must be resisted. Depression, anxiety, fear, addiction… these cannot be grounds for a shredded contract or a trade made in bad faith while a player is still in need of help. And players: there is help out there.Professional players in England can reach Cognacity at 01373 858080.Mental health charity Mind’s infoline is on 0300 123 3393.If you feel you or someone you know may need help, your GP can recommend local services. You can also find a range of services at www.drinkaware.co.uk/alcohol-support-services TAGS: Investigation last_img read more

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