Monday, 29 July 2013

7 Hells, Tigers give cubs baptism of Fire

Tigers name another team of cubs for J.P. Morgan 7s as the search goes on for the Tigers first ever win in the competition.  Coming in with an average age of only 19 Tigers have certainly once again given youth its head in what will be the club's first appearance on the new BT Sport channel.

Captaining the side is Scotland Under 20s scrum half Scott Steele, who first played for the club in the 2011 7s at Stockport.  Steele is an old head in the squad having celebrated his 20th birthday last week.  Joining him in the "experienced" bracket is 23 year old Irishman Michael Noone, who made a huge impression in last seasons A League and LV Cup, and 22 year old French flanker Lucas Guillaume.  

The only truly experienced player in the squad is also the only unusual name to Tigers fans ears.  Blaine Scully is a 25 year old winger-cum-full back whose trial with the club was exclusively revealed by the UltraSubMarines on our twitter account two weeks ago.  Scully took up rugby whilst at UCLA and has represented the USA at both 7s and the full fat version, including playing for the Eagles at the 2011 World Cup.

Forward Harry Wells and back Henry Purdy were both part of England Under 20s squad which won the World Cup for the first time this summer; both also made their first team debuts in last seasons LV Cup and were impressive for the A team.  

George Catchpole and Pasqualle Dunn are both centres who can play on the wing, Catchpole is originally from Norfolk whilst Dunn is originally from New Zealand and has a background in Rugby League.

Jake Farnworth, George Tresidder, Oliver Bryant and Perry Humphreys were all part of the Academy's Under 18s side which won 6 out of 6, all with try bonus points, in the inaugural Academy League.  Farnworth is a flanker/#8 fro Staffordshire who scored 5 tries in that league campaign from 2 starts and 4 appearances from the bench.  Bryant was the team's captain, fly half and goal kicker so unsurprisingly top scored the side; Bryant is originally from Redruth in Cornwall.  Perry Humphreys is a full back from Lincoln and George Tresidder spent much of last year out with injury but returned to play for England Under 19s and made the final game of the Under 18s league, he is from Derby.

As a fan who likes to remember that we are still called Leicester Football Club there is a part of me that is sad that none of this squad is from our fair city, or even the county. 

Leicester Tigers (JP Morgan Asset Management Premiership Rugby Sevens, Friday, August 2, Franklin's Gardens, kick-off 7.15pm)
1 Michael Noone
2 Jake Farnworth
3 Lucas Guillaume
4 Harry Wells
5 Blaine Scully
6 George Catchpole
7 Pasqualle Dunn
8 Henry Purdy
9 George Tresidder
10 Oliver Bryant
11 Scott Steele (c)
12 Perry Humphreys

Northampton name Russian test winger Vasily Artemyev in their squad alongside long serving club man Paul Diggin.   Alex Day was part of the World Champion Under 20s this summer.  Older fans will recognise the name of Olver, fly half Sam is the son of long time Saints hooker John Olver.  Saints also pick Andy Robinson's son Andy who is playing as a "guest" from Moseley along with Buster Lawrence.

Northampton Saints: Vasily Artemyev, Tom Collins, Alex Day, Ryan Glynn (c), Will Hooley, Sam Olver, Tom Stephenson, Harry Bett, Paul Diggin, Sam Harry, Buster Lawrence, Olly Robinson
Dean Richards names previous Falcon's coach Alan Tait's son Michael in his squad alongside Milky Bar Kid look-a-like Joel Hodgson and schoolboy wing sensation Zack Kibirige.  First teamer Kiwi back row Richard Mayhew captains the squad.

Newcastle Falcons: Harrison Collins, Ben Morris, Richard Mayhew (c), Glen Young, Michael Tait, Tom Catterick, Zach Kibirige, Chris Harris, Andy Davies, Joel Hodgson, Sean Brown, Tom Penny

Sale Sharks select one time Tiger James Doyle in their squad alongside Canadian international Phil Mackenzie, a summer singing from London Welsh, and experienced Premiership campaigners Will Cliff, Tom Brady (not that one) and Nathan Fowles.  Doyle came off the bench in the win against Harlequins in the 2012 LV Cup group stage.

Sale Sharks: Cameron Neild, James Doyle, Jason Hill, Jack Allcock, Luke Wishnowsky, Will Cliff, Nathan Fowles, Tom Brady, Phil MacKenzie, James Mitchell, Josh Fowles, John O’Donnell

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Fixture Dates and Grids

Tigers fixture list for the 2013/14 season is practically complete after the last month has seen the Premiership, Heineken Cup and LV= Cup all release their fixtures. As is the sport's new custom they won't actually confirm when 5 of the 32 guaranteed games will be played just yet and can change any of the others with 5 weeks notice.  Anyway ...

Tigers kick off their season at home to Worcester on the 8th of September, the latest start to a season in a non-Rugby World Cup year since the game went professional in 1995. Tigers then head to old rivals Bath, exactly 100 years and 1 day since our first fixture with the West Country club on September 13th 1913 (Tigers won 19-5). 

The 21st of September sees Deano returning with his 2nd Tier Champions Newcastle; a trip to Exeter is squeezed in before the derby match with Northampton.  Tensions will surely be running high as Tigers fans and officials are still furious with the behaviour Dorian West, who incited this summer's long running saga over Cockerill's contact with the 4th official, and Courtney Lawes whose late and dangerous tackle was met with no further punishment, the fact he went on the England tour this summer obviously had no effect on the RFU's decision to let him off.  Equally Northampton will be smarting from once again losing their rag, and another final, against their perennial rivals. 

Returning Lions
Tigers' Lions will have all returned by this point.  The EPS agreement between the RFU and the Clubs stipulates that players must have an 11 week summer gap between games.  A game, however, is defined as more than 40 minutes, so its not as simple as merely counting off 11 weeks from the last test.  Well it is Geoff Parling.  

Tom Croft last played more than a half in the first test so is available straightaway at the start of the season; Manu Tuilagi and Dan Cole both played against the Melbourne Rebels on the 25th of June and the Youngs brothers played the 2nd test 4 days later so all 4 will be available for the trip to the Rec.  Geoff Parling will be the last Lion as he will be in line to return against his former club Newcastle.

The big games keep on coming thick and fast as Tigers will then travel to Belfast to open their account in Europe.  Both sides won their group last year and both lost away quarter finals, Tigers going down to eventual Champions Toulon whilst Ulster lost to Saracens at Twickenham.  Tigers will be looking to avenge their previous two trips to the Northern Irish capital, we were manshamed 33-0 in 2004 and humiliated 41-7 in 2012.  Third time lucky?

Due to a clash with Leicester City v Huddersfield, Tigers have a rare Friday night European game against Treviso, our first Friday night at Welford Road in Europe since playing Stade Francais in 2004. 
Complete Premiership Fixtures Grid

The England players then disappear for a month for the Autumn internationals and the Tigers take on Wasps and Quins before the LV Cup starts and the fringe players will get their chance on another Friday night against the Ospreys. 

The England players are back for the visit of London Irish on November 23rd, though as it falls in the IRB's test window we will be missing Ayerza, Goneva and if selected by their country Mulipola and Mafi.  All are available to Gloucester in front of the Shed the following week before returning to Europe with back to back fixtures against Montpellier. 

For the 4th time in 5 years Sale are the Tigers Christmas opponents as they come to Leicester on the 28th of December before Bath are welcomed in the return fixture on the 4th of January.  Tigers commercial team will be looking for two sell outs to swell the club's coffers. 

Tigers tackle the fixture that is already looking like a rather large banana skin when they travel to Treviso in January as the Heineken Cup resumes.  It took a last minute penalty try to save the Tigers bacon last time and a 80m try 4 minutes from time the trip before.  It will not be easy and sooner rather than later we will come up short in Italy.
Fixture Grid for Heineken Cup

The Heineken Cup group stage is rounded off as Ulster visit in what we all hope will be for a home quarter final.

The 6 Nations then swings into gear and we have to make do with two more LV Cup fixtures before the Premiership starts up again after a month off.

The 6 Nations period will be a key time that tests Cockerill's squad depth to its limit.  We travel to Worcester, London Irish and Newcastle in what will be key games, just one win might be enough to secure that always important home play off game.  Gloucester are the visitors to Welford Road in the depleted period and could be missing as many men as the home side with Lancaster seemingly a fan of Morgan, Kvesic, Burns, Twelvetrees and May. 

Just like last season straight after the 6 Nations we face Exeter, though this time at home instead of away, then face the Saints at Franklin's Gardens before any possible European Quarter Final.  I do wonder about these coincidences, are the fixtures truly drawn at random?  They seem to be almost as consistent as they were when he fixture secretaries drew them up pipe and scotch in hand. 

In a further coincidence just like last season we face Wasps the week after the Quarter Finals, then travel down to what is traditionally a happy hunting ground in the Stoop.  A week is set aside for the European Semi Finals, hopefully a taxing week rather than a resting one, before the season is finished off with a trip to Sale's new home in Salford and the visit of Saracens.  The last time we had Saracens on the last day of the season was of course in 2010 when Brendan Venter, a medical doctor in his spare time apparently, went down in Crumbie folklore and Saracens won a dead rubber.

Then the business end.

Date  H/A  Opponent
08/09/2013  H Worcester
14/09/2013  A Bath
21/09/2013  H Newcastle
29/09/2013  A Exeter
05/10/2013  H Northampton
11/10/2013  A Ulster
18/10/2013  H Treviso
27/10/2013  A Wasps
02/11/2013  H Quins
08/11/2013  H Ospreys(LV)
16/16/17 WE  A Worcester(LV)
23/11/2013  H Irish
30/11/2013  A Gloucester
08/12/2013  H Montpellier
15/12/2013  A Montpellier
21/12/2013  A Saracens
28/12/2013  H Sale
04/01/2014  H Bath
10/11/12 WE  A Treviso
17/18/19 WE  H Ulster
24/25/26 WE  A Quins (LV)
31/1/2 WE  H Bath (LV)
07/02/2014  A Worcester
15/02/2014  H Gloucester
23/02/2014  A Irish
02/03/2014  A Newcastle
7/8/9 WE LV Semi
16/03/2014  N LV Final
22/03/2014  H Exeter
29/03/2014  A Northampton
5/6 WE Euro QF
12/04/2014  H Wasps
19/04/2014  A Quins
26/27 WE
Euro SF
02/05/2014  A Sale
10/05/2014  H Saracens
Prem Semi
24/05/2014  N Euro Final
31/05/2014  N Prem Final

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

LV Cup Groups Announced

Tigers LV Cup opponents and group rivals have been revealed today as the 2013/14 LV= Cup has been launched.  

Tigers find themselves in Group 2 alongside Exeter, Sale and Cardiff.  But wait!  Don't book that trip to Manchester just yet.  This is the LV Cup where, of course, you don't play the sides in your group.  Obviously.  You play the teams in another group instead.  

So of rather more importance is the draw for Pool 3, the sides we will actually play.   In Pool 3 are current Cup holders Harlequins, record 10 time cup champions Bath, Worcester and Welsh region Ospreys who claimed the LV Cup in 2008 against the Tigers at Twickenham.

Like the Heineken Cup the LV Cup is still on Sky Sports and Tigers open their campaign at home to the Ospreys in front of the Sky Cameras on a Friday Night; this will be the first game that Cockerill will be allowed any contact with the team on match days after his controversial ban.  

The next weekend we travel to face Dean Ryan's new Worcester side at Sixways before League action resumes.

In the last two weekends of January the competition resumes and Tigers face Quins away before facing Bath at home.  

Pool 1
Gloucester Rugby
London Irish
Newport Gwent Dragons

Pool 2 Leicester Tigers
Exeter Chiefs
Sale Sharks
Cardiff Blues

Pool 3
Bath Rugby
Worcester Warriors

Pool 4
Northampton Saints
London Wasps
Newcastle Falcons

November 8 Leicester Tigers v Ospreys (Friday November 8, 7.45pm, Sky Sports) November 15/16/17 Worcester Warriors v Leicester Tigers January 24/25/26 Harlequins v Leicester Tigers
January 31/February 1/2 Leicester Tigers v Bath Rugby

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Tigers Simply Must Appeal Appalling RFU Cock Up

Richard Cockerill’s ban by the RFU yesterday and today’s release of the written judgement is a dark day in the history of justice within the sport. This kangaroo court where the RFU acted as prosecutor, jury and judge has been a travesty of natural justice where settling old scores and showing that “something must be done” has overridden a fair and impartial system.

The RFU case falls apart almost immediately when prosecutor Andrew Green declares that

millions watched the game live on television

Not true. 120,000 watched the game live on ESPN. When the very first paragraph of evidence contains an easily checked howler such as this you have to wonder about the ability to check or develop any of their own evidence.

It then goes onto detail, rather vaguely, the “offensive, inappropriate and unprofessional” language used. Cockerill peppers his language with fuck and fucking, which no one involved with the game batted an eyelid about, the “turning point” is when whilst in full flow of a rant he says “at half time I’m going to tell them (Tigers players) to smash the cunts (Saints players) because they aren’t getting any protection

Where does the implication that telling his players to “smash the cunts” implies illegal play come from? A legal tackle or an aggressive ruck clear out are often regarded as having “smashed” someone. 

Given this was an off the cuff remark in the middle of a longer diatribe about player welfare and the referee’s responsibility to check the TMO I think it is being given undue weight. 

It was a throw away remark designed to emphases the Saints foul play, they had this tactic if you’re not going to do anything about it we’ll do the same. This sentiment is often expressed with regards to the rucks or scrums, after all the referee’s word is law and if that tackle is only a penalty that affects the balance of whether the borderline tackle is worth making or not, it is hardly a controversial coaching tactic especially as Cockerill had no intention to follow it and was merely saying it off the cuff for effect.

We also have the context of this being the 3rd time Flood had been hit without the ball in the first 23 minutes, the similar late tackles occurring in the 2011 Semi Final between the two sides which only stopped when Flood reacted by striking Dylan Hartley and the Calum Clarke incident in the previous season’s LV Cup Final where Clarke snapped Rob Hawkins elbow with an off ball assault.

Cockerill’s point was a threat of illegal play it was saying that if these are the rules you play in Tigers-Saints games then two will play at that game.

The casual TV viewer, 120,000 rather than the millions the RFU claimed, had the benefit of Ben Kay’s dispassionate analysis and several super slow-mo replays, the match officials did not. Given the apparent seriousness of Flood’s injury, a spinal board had been called and Flood had still not moved at this point, becoming extremely angry that the TMO was not called is entirely reasonable.

You’re not human if you don’t react to your captain, your leader and your goal kicker lying unmoving on the turf and the match officials having already blown for a penalty. Some people feel the TMO would have reversed the penalty as Dan Cole’s knee appears to make contact with Flood’s head, however the rules are very clear that no ball = late tackle. Lawes commitment to the tackle probably would have spared him a yellow card and all this unpleasantness would have been avoided entirely.

What Cockerill wanted was his players protected and given that context he was well within his rights to be angry that the TMO wasn’t called on.

Using Dorian West’s comments and the e-mails from angry Saints fans as evidence, as the RFU did, is beyond a farce. Both were angry that their own inspirational captain had, in their view, been wrongly dismissed for dissent and were keen to “get one back” on Cockerill. West had previously escaped censure for verbally abusing Leicester captain Geordan Murphy after the previous year’s LV Cup final. Using the e-mails of an angry mob of fans is such a bad idea I barely know where to start. Now that is an accepted part of the RFU arsenal I expect every Tigers fan to flood the RFU with e-mails every time one of our own is slighted. It is a terrible precedent to set that the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

If the RFU want to play at quasi-judicial hearings then they should play at them properly, West’s comments had nothing to do with the matter at hand and shouldn’t have been submitted as evidence.

Using press cuttings is an equally appalling idea. The RFU are meant to be the guardians of the game not meek sycophants who will believe and react to anything they read in the Daily Telegraph. What the press report is not a record of fact it is just a subjective opinion, the panel dismissed Cockerill’s opinion that swearing is no big deal but considered their own subjective opinion, that it is a big deal, as gospel.

Stuart Teerhege, the fourth official, admitted in his evidence that there was no criticism of the match officials and that he did not feel threatened or intimidated. He did not think the language was out of the ordinary, only the idea of “smashing” the opposition if the referee refused to protect the players.

The idea of “taking matters into your own hands” is certainly not new, and in rugby folklore is often celebrated. Think back to the “99” call which, even worse, was to “get your retaliation in first”. But that is just the hypocrisy of the press and rugby public and not Teerhege individually to be fair to the man.

The RFU then submit the Saints fans emails and yet more press cutting comparing Dylan Hartley, who was sent off for persistent criticism of the referee rather than his swearing, and Cockerill. Quite why a separate case for a different offence should be allowed to be entered as evidence is beyond me. Hartley’s offence should have had no bearing on either Cockerill’s guilt or his sentence as they were fundamentally different offences. Hartley questioned the referee’s competence repeatedly on the field of play, whilst Cockerill used what some consider vulgar language in a heated manner.

The document goes rapidly downhill after setting out both the RFU’s and Cockerill’s case. The justification of their ban is equally worrying as it laughable. The RFU claim that Cockerill was “insidious”; this seems to apply motives that just were not there, “insidious” means to progress subtly and gradually with harmful effects.

Whatever Cockerill’s outburst was it certainly wasn’t subtle or gradual. It was an outpouring of passion that many believed was misplaced but to slander Cockerill’s character with claims that this was some form of treachery is bizarre. It later goes on to say that his actions were borne from “genuine concerns for his players”, so which is it? A genuine outburst in frustration and concern or a sly attempt to influence the match officials? It can’t be both surely?

The panel then states that the extent of the TV audience plays a part in its decision, the TV audience that was quoted as millions but was actually barely more than the number of spectators in the stadium. The RFU’s simply made up numbers have been used as a justification for the sanction. I’d love the game to be that popular but the bare facts do not support the assertions of the RFU’s prosecutor.

In terms of the sanction the RFU also used a letter sent to Cockerill in December after he was unhappy with Andrew Small’s lack of a second yellow card against Gloucester despite conceding 7 more scrum penalties after the first card and 4 more after the second warning.

I fail to understand why a, apparently confidential though seemingly not, letter in which Cockerill was not even charged let alone convicted with any offence is used to justify a lack of “respect”. If Cockerill had offended then why not have a hearing then and determine his guilt? This letter was not a ban or even an attempted to ban him, so again the RFU wants to play at the quasi-judicial game without following all the rules.

Equally the tremendous irony of the panel’s massive disrespect to Cockerill’s 30 year career at all levels of rugby in the following sentence is as hilarious as it is offensive:

“Certain of the game’s core values, namely respect, discipline and sportsmanship, seem to us to have passed Mr. Cockerill by”.

Cockerill was never sent off or even cited in his playing career and his teams have always had tremendous disciplinary records rarely straying from the cleanest end of the disciplinary pool.

Actions speak louder than swearwords.

The irony-ometer is once again off the scale when the panel declares that:

“If subjectively he feels entitled to behave in this manner, that appears to be enough justification for him to do so”

The obvious counterpoint seems to be that the panel’s subjective assessment that he isn’t entitled is enough to ban him.

There are no examples in the law book as to what is or isn’t offensive language or unprofessional behaviour so there is no objective measure on which to judge Cockerill.

The fact the 4th Official wasn’t offended means the language wasn’t offensive, case closed, the fact he wasn’t surprised and several “fly on the wall” documentaries, going back to 1997 at least, show similar language means it isn’t unprofessional. Fuck and cunt are clearly normal words in the professional rugby environment.

The panel has fallen into the trap of using its own world as a barometer of taste and decency rather than the world in which professional rugby inhabits. This language was not out of the ordinary and there was no abuse of a match official. Tigers simply must appeal this disastrous verdict and the dangerous precedents as far as natural justice within the game it sets out.

Full Judgement Here