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Most likely to happen in 2014?
England to beat New Zealand and win Grand Slam 0%
Harlequins will win the Aviva Premiership 0%
Australia will win the IRB World 7s 0%
Archie Curzon is ‘Player to Watch’ in 2014 0%
France build a tunnel to Wales to steal players 0%

January

Dawson in Twitter attack on Ackford

January 11, 2013

Former England scrum-half Matt Dawson has launched a stinging attack on another ex-international and now journalist Paul Ackford.

Dawson, a Rugby World Cup winner in 2003, took to micro-blogging site Twitter to delight at unconfirmed reports that Ackford had parted company with the Sunday Telegraph newspaper. "What fab news!! Allegedly Paul Ackford is done at the Sun Telegraph," he wrote. "Good riddance u bitter man! harsh but he knows why."

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England's early great three-quarter

January 22, 2013

This Saturday, January 26, is Australia Day. So it is fitting that it should also be the 150th anniversary of the birth of arguably the first great player produced by Australia, Charles Gregory Wade.

Wade was born on January 26 1863 at Singleton, around 120 miles north of Sydney. His reputation as a schoolboy player at King's School, Parramatta was such that it was assumed he would make an impact on the English game when in 1880 he won a scholarship to Merton College, Oxford.

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Telfer: 'England are too arrogant'

January 29, 2013

Former Scotland and British & Irish Lions coach Jim Telfer has lashed out at England labelling Stuart Lancaster's side "too arrogant, too pretentious and too condescending".

England meet Scotland in their annual Calcutta Cup clash on Saturday and Telfer has already started stoking the fires. And Telfer is no stranger to the Anglo-Scottish rivalry having coached Scotland to their 1984 Grand Slam and acted as assistant to Ian McGeechan in 1990 when they scooped another clean sweep. And while the outspoken Telfer has praised England's coaches, he has singled out some of the team's younger players as "very impressionable".

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There's no reason why England should be getting players in this way with the population of players we've got. It's a bit of an insult to our rugby Harlequins' Nick Easter questions England's reliance on foreign-born players

Lancaster set for all-powerful role

January 30, 2013

England coach Stuart Lancaster is set to head up a new International Performance department at the Rugby Football Union following an in-depth review into the structure of the elite game.

The shake-up has been recommended by Sir Ian McGeechan and Peter Keen, one of the architects of Great Britain's Olympic success from his time as performance director at UK Sport, who were tasked with analysing the RFU's professional rugby department in the wake of last year's Rugby World Cup.

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JANUARY: The weather outside was frightful, but rugby was still played as Toulouse deny Leicester’s Niall Morris a try
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February

Vintage O'Driscoll rolls back the years

February 2, 2013

The first game of the 2013 Six Nations teed up a classic. It was a bloody, battering, pulsating game of rugby and one that has set the standard for the other 14 matches in this tournament yet to be played.

But it will be one remembered more fondly by the Irish contingent in the stadium. It was a delightful interweaving of Irish experience and youth that compounded Wales to their first Six Nations defeat since 2011. Rob Howley's men are now on the wrong end of eight defeats in a row and their Grand Slam heroics of last year seem an eternity away. Rather than the heroes worshipped by the Welsh crowd, it was two moments of individual genius from Brian O'Driscoll and Simon Zebo that were the toast of the Millennium Stadium alongside some astonishing displays of bravery from the Irish defence.

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Gatland plays down selection furore

February 13, 2013

British & Irish Lions boss Warren Gatland has dismissed reports suggesting he is wary of picking too many England players for this year's tour to Australia because of the intense scrutiny that will bring.

Gatland, who is set to announce a 37-man squad in April, has vehemently denied that nationality will be a key factor in the selection process and insists he will pick the best men for the job - regardless of what country they come from.

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The extraordinary life of Brian

February 12, 2013

It will doubtless, and quite rightly, figure somewhere behind the birth of his first child, the pain of defeat by England and a nasty-looking bang on the ankle, but it is worth noting that Brian O'Driscoll set yet another record at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday.

It was his 57th start in a championship match, taking him past another name on the shortlist for 'Greatest Irish player ever', Mike Gibson, the elegantly versatile midfield back of the 1960s and 1970s.

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Statistics are like a bikini, it shows a lot but not the whole thing. Scotland interim coach Scott Johnson plays down his side's poor record against England

An Englishman, a Scotsman...

February 14, 2013

Lions head coach Warren Gatland caused controversy this week by hinting that a large English contingent in this summer's tour to Australia could bring unwanted media scrutiny from press at home and Down Under.

So this week Scrum Sevens looks at the compositions of the previous seven Lions tours, dating right back to 1983, revealing a strong - if expected - link between the Six Nations champions and the Lions touring squad.

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FEBRUARY: Manu Tuilagi shows off his war wounds after England beat France at Twickenham
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March

Wales stun England to win Six Nations

March 16, 2013

Wales defeated England by a record margin and secured their second Six Nations championship in as many years.

Wing Alex Cuthbert's second-half try double shattered England, while full-back Leigh Halfpenny kicked four penalties and fly-half Dan Biggar landed a drop-goal, penalty and conversion. England, smashed in the scrums and out-thought and outfought in every other key area, could only muster an Owen Farrell penalty as they crashed to the heaviest loss of head coach Stuart Lancaster's reign.

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Blame England not Steve Walsh

March 20, 2013

I can already hear the 'One-eyed Welshman' taunts from some England fans but, sorry, I would like to applaud referee, Steve Walsh, for the best refereeing performance of the Six Nations.

Of course England are whingeing but the reality is that they were stuffed up front and at the breakdown. Crucially, Walsh allowed both to develop whenever possible and for that he deserves enormous credit. The result? A proper game of rugby instead of the stop-start penalty and free-kick dominated nonsense we had to watch for most of the Six Nations.

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Should Wales dominate the Lions?

March 21, 2013

The streets of central Cardiff looking like some modern-dress version of a Hogarth engraving was nothing new, but there was no doubting the extra edge of euphoria last Saturday night after the victory over England.

Beating the old enemy by 27 points is nothing to be sniffed at, still less a second consecutive championship for the first time since 1979. It was worthy of one of the better jokes circulating on the web - a 'Welcome to Wales' sign with a subtitle asking visitors to be quiet, because 'the nation has a hangover'.

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Last weekend I went home with a dead leg, a concussion and a bleeding ear and she didn't care much for that, she still wanted her feed at 7, 3 and 11 and I was the man for the job Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll reflects on the demands of fatherhood having recently celebrated the arrival of his daughter Sadie

Halfpenny named Player of the Championship

March 22, 2013

Wales' Leigh Halfpenny has been named the Six Nations Player of the Championship after claiming 40% of the 80,000 votes cast in an online poll to decide the recipient of the honour.

Halfpenny, who notched 74 points to help propel his side to back-to-back Six Nations titles, edged out Italy's Alessandro Zanni and Scotland's Stuart Hogg in the poll with some of European rugby's biggest including Italy's Sergio Parisse, England captain Chris Robshaw and fellow Wales stars Mike Phillips, Dan Biggar and Adam Jones among the others to miss out.

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MARCH: Wales enjoy their spoils after smashing Stuart Lancaster’s England and denying their Grand Slam hopes in the process
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April

Should Gatland pick France-based players?

April 8, 2013

Welcome to the latest edition of Tackling Rugby - our regular feature that will debate the key issues in the game.

With Warren Gatland set to unveil his British & Irish Lions squad at the end of the month, we look at whether he should consider taking the players based in France to Australia. There is a possible fixture clash in the pipeline with the Top 14 season finale taking place on the same day as the Lions' first game against the Barbarians - so should Gatland allow any players involved in that game to join the Lions party later on or not at all?

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London Welsh woe cuts deep

April 17, 2013

Impartiality, I was taught from a very early stage in what can loosely be termed as my sports broadcasting career, is a pre-requisite to doing the job. (It was obviously also essential in my other incarnation when considering contestants on I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! but I don't think the Peter Andre versus Kerry Katona debate quite arouses the same passions as England versus Wales for painful instance.)

Granted, there are moments when you are covering a game weeping on the inside, as I did when the Lions lost the third and decisive Test in Melbourne in 2001. Summoning the expected "measured view" takes a herculean effort. All you actually want to do is let it all out, sob like an X-Factor reject, let the mascara run down your cheeks and have a scrum down with the nearest Aussie to purge the frustration. (Our Antipodean guest that day was the magnificent and mild mannered Michael Lynagh who for some reason declined the invitation to "Touch, Pause, Engage" with me.)

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The man who will make the Lions roar

April 18, 2013

At the end of a long, hard season will come the greatest challenge.

The British & Irish Lions travel to Australia this summer to take on the Wallabies in the three -Test, ten-match tour after a gruelling campaign that started back when the Olympics were still a global obsession.

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I can’t believe I’m not dead. I’m very lucky Sale's Danny Cipriani reflects on his collision with a bus during a pub crawl with team-mates

2013 crop get their chance to create history

April 30, 2013

It was a day that felt like Christmas. But there was no tree, no turkey or snowmen; instead there was the sizeable present on offer of a place on the British & Irish Lions tour. On Tuesday, the great and the good of the rugby world gathered in Syon Park to hear the 37 names picked by Warren Gatland to represent four nations in Hong Kong and Australia.

There were some who were all but guaranteed spaces on the tour. But there was also that wonderful uncertainty which comes with such an announcement. There were no correct squads printed in the media in the run-up to the big day - Gatland delighted in making this point before his eagerly anticipated reveal. Immediately this sparked rumour; would Ian Madigan or Billy Twelvetrees get the nod? In the end neither did, nor others who before the Six Nations seemed certain to tour. Rory Best and Chris Robshaw were the two standout omissions - alongside that man Jonny Wilkinson.

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APRIL: Sam Warburton is unveiled as the British & Irish Lions captain for their tour of Australia
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May

Start carving the statue

May 18, 2013

Toulon's deep-pocketed owner Mourad Boudjellal may have only been joking when he recently spoke of a statue to honour a certain Jonny Wilkinson but following his latest crowd-pleasing showing the Rouge et Noir faithful have probably set about mining the granite from which a permanent monument to their hero will be carved.

The veteran playmaker repaid the faith of Boudjellal and the loyal support of a rugby-mad town that worships him by steering Toulon to the Heineken Cup crown. The club with the deepest pockets in Europe finally has the title to match that ambition thanks largely to the inspirational qualities of their captain.

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‘It’s been fun’ – The ESPN rugby crew on their final broadcast

May 25, 2013

"We're in the thick of it". It has been one of the constant themes of ESPN's coverage of the Aviva Premiership over the last three years. And you cannot disagree with their mantra.

Viewers of ESPN's coverage are likely to remember Mark Durden-Smith battling his way through crowds of passionate rugby folk, Nick Mullins passing quiet, authoritative judgement, Austin Healey and Ben Kay giving unique insight while attempting to maintain their composure amid their inevitable disintegration into schoolboy banter and Sarra Elgan asking the all-important pertinent questions pre and post-match.

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Saints' sinner got what he deserved

May 25, 2013

Leicester were duly rewarded with a standing ovation following their Premiership final victory over Northampton at Twickenham but referee Wayne Barnes was deserving of equal praise having delivered his own masterclass.

His decision to give Northampton hooker Dylan Hartley his marching orders was brave given the pressure of the occasion and how delicately balanced the game, but crucially it was the correct call. No player should be allowed to get away with abusing an official as Hartley is alleged to have done and if he is guilty of calling Barnes a 'f*g cheat' then he clearly deserved the red card and the hefty sanction that is now surely coming his way.

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To play the game you have to play on the edge, but unfortunately he’s gone to the edge of the cliff and jumped off it Lions coach Warren Gatland on Northampton's Dylan Hartley who was handed an 11-week ban for abusing referee Wayne Barnes and so missed the tour

Leinster hold on to win PRO12 title

May 25, 2013

Leinster put past disappointments behind them to scoop an elusive RaboDirect PRO12 title in head coach Joe Schmidt's final game in charge.

Jonathan Sexton signed off before the Lions tour with 14 points as his home province were crowned champions for the first time since 2008, ending a run of three successive league final losses.

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MAY: Martin Castrogiovanni poses with the Leicester Tigers supporters after helping the club win the Aviva Premiership title
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June

Campo's Corner still haunting Australians

June 17, 2013

There is only one spot in Sydney to watch a British & Irish Lions match: down in Campo's Corner. The Sydney Football Stadium, now known as Allianz Stadium, only get its occasional major international match these days, but it is still remembered as the venue for one of Australian rugby's most diabolical and heavily debated moments. And for the Lions, it is hallowed turf as it was where they enjoyed their latest series triumph over Australia.

Even 24 years on, the Campo's Corner moment is excruciating viewing. Australia were leading 12-9 in the third Test when David Campese caught a Rob Andrew field-goal attempt, which had flown to the right of the posts. Logic demanded the ball be grounded or kicked into touch, but he opted to run towards the left wing, and hearing a call from his fullback Greg Martin threw a wild pass towards him - which was fumbled. Lions winger Ieuan Evans gleefully jumped on the fumbled ball for the softest of tries. The Lions went on to win 19-18 and Campese took some time to move on from the moment having been castigated by his teammates, the Australian media and the public for the error.

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Lions paint Brisbane red

June 22, 2013

For supporters of rugby the world over, this was an occasion worth the wait.

There was no repeat of the sea of red seen at the Gabba in 2001, but it was a unique bouncing atmosphere inside the Suncorp Stadium.

Supporters were shoehorned in with the Australian Rugby Union taking the unprecedented step of releasing 500 standing tickets on the day of the Test. This was rugby's equivalent of Glastonbury, the hottest ticket in town with those wearing red and yellow doing all they could to pay witness to a game that has been 12 years in the making. The attendance of 52,499 was a record for the stadium.

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The 'Battle of Ballymore' re-booted

June 28, 2013

Before last Saturday's first Test between Australia and the British & Irish Lions, two men, with 120 caps between them, carried the Tom Richards Cup on to the Suncorp Stadium turf. They have won a host of trophies and even share a similar surname, but basic facts and figures do not do justice to the rivalry Nick Farr-Jones and Rob Jones experienced back in 1989.

Jones was working at a leasing company when he got the call-up from the Lions. He had grown up watching the likes of Gerald Davies, JPR Williams and Phil Bennett at his family home in Trebanos and in 1989 he was handed the chance to follow in their illustrious footsteps.

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Looking back I feel horrendous for doing it now. I'll have to live with that and take it on the chin. Lions winger George North holds his hands up and apologises for his finger-pointing gesture at Will Genia during the win over Australia

Wallabies level series with Lions

June 29, 2013

Australia set-up a series decider with the British & Irish Lions in Sydney next weekend with a hard-fought 16-15 victory in their second Test clash in Melbourne on Saturday night.

Leigh Halfpenny's five penalties looked to have ended 16 years of hurt and propelled the Lions to a first series win since they edged out South Africa in 1997. But he missed a penalty from halfway with the game's final kick, and left the pitch distraught as Australia prevailed courtesy of centre Adam Ashley-Cooper's 75th-minute try that his midfield partner Christian Leali'ifano converted.

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JUNE: The Lions' George North takes Australia's Israel Folau for a ride
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July

Lions rout Wallabies for series glory

July 6, 2013

The British & Irish Lions claimed a first series victory since for 16 years with a 41-16 victory over Australia at the ANZ Stadium in Sydney on Saturday night.

An awesome display of scrummaging power built an unshakeable victory foundation, with England prop Alex Corbisiero scoring an early try, fly-half Jonathan Sexton, wing George North and centre Jamie Roberts also touching down and brilliant full-back Leigh Halfpenny kicking 21 points.

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Sea of red engulfs Sydney

July 6, 2013

The Australian Rugby Union did its best to cancel out the sea of red but even they will be powerless to prevent Sydney being engulfed by British & Irish Lions' supporters tonight.

This match had everything last week did not. There were gainline breaks, tries, sleights of hand, moments of individual brilliance and a scoreline which was weighted in the Lions' favour.

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2013 Lions Tour - The winners and losers

July 8, 2013

The British & Irish Lions returned to winning ways in spectacular fashion with a 41-16 mauling of Australia in their series-deciding clash in Sydney on Saturday night.

The Lions' thrilling victory brought the curtain down on an enthralling 10-game tour that proved fruitful for some and costly for others. Here we offer our take on the winners and losers...

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Sometimes you have to put your balls on the line. Lions coach Warren Gatland finds vindication after his decision to drop Brian O'Driscoll from the final Test with Australia

Ewen McKenzie was the best candidate

July 12, 2013

When Robbie Deans was appointed Wallabies coach in 2008, the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) gave him the prime directive to improve team culture. He did for a time, ridding the Wallabies squad of deadwood and introducing a tribe of young, vibrant players. But his devotion to several young guns inevitably led to his downfall. Numerous Wallabies rock stars took advantage of Deans, and behavioural standards slipped. Off-field incidents were never-ending.

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JULY: Lions end 16 years of hurt
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August

The scrum investigation

August 12, 2013

Scrums. An integral part of our wonderful game but one which has dominated column inches over the last couple of seasons. We have seen calling sequences come and go, articles written either praising or criticising latest directives and all because of small tweaks here and there brought in with a view to improving player welfare and the spectacle.

"The whole edifice has become a grotesque farce and is blighting the game." Those were former British & Irish Lion Brian Moore's words when he described the role of the scrum back in March. His ruthless take came following a Six Nations which saw the eight-man push come under increased scrutiny.

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All Blacks retain Bledisloe Cup

August 24, 2013

New Zealand continued their dominance and mastery of Australia in the Rugby Championship Test at Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Saturday to retain the Bledisloe Cup, a trophy the Wallabies are now yet to hold since 2002.

The Wallabies dominated possession and territory for the opening 30 minutes of the first half, but the All Blacks then scored 15 unanswered points to take a grip on the Test as the visitors were left to lament once again poor one-on-one defence and an outgunned scrum. Ben Smith scored two tries in the final 13 minutes of the first half, including a sucker punch on half-time, to turn the tide of the match, and the Wallabies never recovered as they struggled to play catch-up in the second stanza.

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The win at all costs mentality

August 29, 2013

They both sat at the top table at the Aviva Premiership launch; one having just served his time for breaking the rules, one just about to serve the nine-match ban he copped at the end of the season.

Leicester Tigers boss Richard Cockerill and Newcastle Falcons chief Dean Richards are no strangers to the new season pomp and circumstance, but both enter this campaign with a fresh insight and understanding into the disciplinary workings of the English domestic game.

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If the greatest writer of the written word would have written that story, no one would have believed it. Former Wales fly-half and broadcaster Cliff Morgan reflects on THAT try by Gareth Edwards against New Zealand in 1973 - quoted by many following Morgan's death after a long battle with cancer

An artist on the field, a poet off it

August 30, 2013

So now there are three. The death of Cliff Morgan leaves only Gareth Griffiths, John Gwilliam and Courtenay Meredith as survivors of the last Wales team to beat the All Blacks, almost 60 years ago in December 1953.

All were fine players. Griffiths and Meredith played in the Test team for the 1955 Lions, the best of that time. Gwilliam's teaching responsibilities robbed him of a shot at the Lions - and quite possibly the captaincy - five years earlier but he retains to this day the distinction of being the only Welsh captain to lead two winning teams at Twickenham.

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AUGUST: The Chiefs celebrate their back-to-back title triumph © Getty
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September

'A derby in every way apart from location'

September 12, 2013

A century ago, almost to the day, 30 men took to the field at Welford Road in front of a crowd of 3,498 eager spectators. Fifteen of the players donned green, white and red with their opposition sporting blue, black and white. It was the first meeting between Leicester Tigers and Bath Rugby.

On Saturday, Bath entertain Leicester at the Rec in the 182nd meeting between the two teams. It will be a far cry to the original game back on September 13, 1913. Leicester won that original match-up 19-5 scoring five tries to Bath's one - for what it's worth, the Tigers' efforts came from Sam Hunter, Dr GE Timms, James Hargrave, Jimmy Allen and Sos Taylor with G.G Powell grabbing Bath's.

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An open letter to James O'Connor

September 19, 2013

Dear James,

I have known you for well over five years now, and as soon as you became part of the Wallabies framework was dazzled by your extroverted personality and innate football skills.

In three decades travelling the world with the Wallabies, I have never met a more confident Australian representative. I have been impressed with your self-belief. Your willingness to take an interviewer head-on. I love how you stare your inquisitor right in the eye and give him your full attention. How can you not like your eagerness in convincing all that you can do anything, your willingness to run through walls and then waltz, pirouette with the best of them.

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Time for referees to front up?

September 24, 2013

Two high-profile and enthralling games. Two referees guilty of making glaring errors. But just one apology. Do the victims, fans and even the TV viewers deserve another?

Last week the 'Clash of the Titans' between New Zealand and South Africa raised the bar in terms of intensity and physicality to heights rarely seen only for referee Romain Poite, his assistants and the Television Match Official to conspire to steal the show. The incorrect sin-binning of Springboks hooker Bismarck du Plessis proved the pivotal moment in the game with his subsequent red card a key factor in an All Blacks victory that will go a long way to deciding the Rugby Championship title.

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At the moment, the Pools are skewed, the television audiences are flat and the competition is under-performing Gloucester chairman Ryan Walkinshaw on the current state of the Heineken Cup

Painful posturing overshadows euro launch

September 30, 2013

Heineken Cup launches have traditionally been glitzy affairs with everyone eulogising about the wonderful treat in store but today's celebrations will have a huge cloud hanging over them. This - the 19th season of a great competition, loved by every rugby fan around Europe - could be the last unless the warring factions can stop posturing and get down to some serious talks about restructuring the tournament.

The stance of ERC appears to be that the English and French clubs are just being greedy, getting too big for their boots and should be forced back into line. They totally underestimated how serious the clubs were and thought they could bludgeon them into submission, refusing even to discuss their grievances for more than a year. That was a bad mistake so now, reluctantly, they have put forward the idea of an independent arbiter (appointed by them without consulting PRL or LNR) overseeing a meeting in late October.

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SEPTEMBER: Manu Tuilagi plays a prank on David Cameron, a decision that provoked outcry on social media © Getty
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October

Welsh regions stuck in Catch 22-situation

October 10, 2013

If the Welsh Rugby Union's attitude to the Heineken Cup and its support of ERC, the body that runs it, sounds ambivalent and even contradictory at times it is because it is treading a delicate path and is anxious to keep all its options open.

In their latest statement one paragraph read, "[The WRU] will not grant permission for clubs or regions to participate in future tournaments which do not have full approval of the IRB and WRU."

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The tour that killed American rugby

October 29, 2013

A century ago New Zealand were on tour, but not to any of their more familiar haunts. The 1913 All Blacks went to the west coast of the United States and Canada. It was a visit with far-reaching consequences for rugby union in general, and the American game in particular.

It came at a time when rugby was offering a serious challenge to American Football as the dominant football code on the west coast. Much of the US, including President Teddy Roosevelt - whose personal machismo made him particularly in tune with the local code of football - had engaged in debate about its direction during the 'football crisis' of 1906, prompted by worries over violent play, serious injuries and evidence of sharp practice by college coaches.

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Last orders for O'Connor

October 29, 2013

It could be the starting point for a poor joke. A Kiwi, a Lion and a Wallaby walk into a bar. Except this one is called the Last Saloon, otherwise known as the Aviva Premiership.

The Lion, Gavin Henson, is doing okay at Bath after a rough cider-fuelled start. He's not yet a world-beater but he's a good squad player, he's finding his feet

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I hope he does not expect to receive an email of congratulations. Shit! Bayonne's chairman Alain Afflelou asked about Mike Phillips' reaction to being sacked

Fight or flight - Boxing Danny Grewcock

October 30, 2013

England versus Australia. One of sport's ultimate rivalries. Justin Harrison is no stranger to those matches, supporters of a red rose persuasion, or those who celebrate the Lions every four years will know him well. While he is renowned as a rugby player, he agreed to a different type of challenge against an English foe. A couple of weeks ago, he entered a boxing ring and faced Danny Grewcock all in the name of David Flatman's testimonial and charities. This is his account.

Bells ring for many reasons, a new beginning for newlyweds, the arrival of a customer through a door of commercial enterprise bringing hope for the vendor, the commencement of a trading day full of anticipation for economic windfall and then there is the bell to signal the start of a three by two minute round charity boxing bout in front of over 300 people against Danny Grewcock who, in an instant, morphs into a Canadian Brown Bear; a bear who has just been told all of his porridge was eaten and his entire house was burnt down, by me.

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OCTOBER: Cardiff celebrate a memorable win over Heineken Cup champions Toulon © PA Photos
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November

One for the road...

November 20, 2013

The last few weeks have featured several stories of rugby players drinking 'inappropriately' from Mike Phillips to James O'Connor to most of the Australian squad. But boozing and rugby have been bedfellows since the earliest days of the game…

Craig Gower: The Australian rugby league convert who later played for Italy lost the plot at a charity golf dinner in Queensland in 2005 when it was alleged he held a butter knife to the throat of a radio presenter, damaged a golf cart and ended the night walking naked round the coastal resort. He had previous - six years earlier he was sacked from his club for exposing himself to a tourist in Sydney. He was fined a staggering £42,000 for his night's excess.

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England take leap forward despite defeat

November 16, 2013

The scoreboard, the records and the press coverage will show a defeat for England; a 30-22 deficit that brought to an end their eight-match unbeaten run at Twickenham. But that does Stuart Lancaster's men a woeful disservice.

The All Blacks are the best side in the world, of that there is no doubt. Nor is there any ambiguity over Kieran Read being the top player currently playing the sport. Give them an inch, and they'll take a try as Julian Savea taught England with two clinical, ruthless efforts as well as Read's score. Faced with a 17-3 deficit, the tide of black washing over a bemused England, you feared for the 15 men dressed in white standing isolated on the field in the glare of the 81,739 folk shoe-horned into the ground.

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Commentating on the day of destiny

November 22, 2013

November 22 2003 Sydney, Australia - it felt like a day of destiny and so it proved. Finally, at the fifth time of asking we had a Northern Hemisphere winner of the World Cup.

I had been at all four previous tournaments and had commentated on the previous three for ITV. This was to be a repeat of the 1991 final at Twickenham but the level of expectation was far, far higher. England had ground out a rare victory in New Zealand then followed up with a stunning win in Australia earlier in the year and were the side to beat. That was reinforced in the pool stage when they beat South Africa 25-6 and, although Wales gave them a scare in the quarters, France were despatched effortlessly in the semis so despite Australia's home advantage England were still favourites.

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England donkey-licked us... there was England, daylight then usAll Blacks coach Steve Hansen on their 38-21 loss to England last year

Kiwis' belief quashes Ireland's fear factor

November 24, 2013

League or union, it seems New Zealand's rugby teams never know when they are beaten. At Wembley on Saturday, Shaun Johnson's last minute try and conversion snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and took them through to the final of the Rugby League World Cup at the expense of England. Two hundred and eighty miles away on Sunday, Ryan Crotty's try in added time and Aaron Cruden's conversion broke Irish hearts and secured an unbeaten year for the All Blacks. Two slices of history both secured in a Lazarus-esque fashion.

When the full-time whistle blew in Dublin, those standing or sitting on the turf personified the two sides of rugby, jubilation and despair. Ireland distraught, All Blacks relieved. For the Kiwis, frowns broke into smiles; grit and determination on the faces of the Irish disintegrated into cold realisation of what had escaped them.

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NOVEMBER: South Africa's Bismarck du Plessis takes the game to Wales © Getty Images
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December

Oxford University ladies strip off for charity

December 3, 2013

While the media attention on university rugby will start - and almost entirely end - with next week's Varsity match at Twickenham, Oxford University's women's team have ensured they will share some of the limelight by releasing a 'naked' charity calendar for 2014.

The idea came to the players after some of them helped sell a similar offering by the men's side last year and were told: "If it was you in the pictures then we'd buy one."

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Why the Heineken Cup needs to be saved

December 13, 2013

European competition is here again and we are currently in the middle of another exciting block of games. The buzz surrounding the games isn't something confined solely to the stands and living rooms across Europe, for the players it adds something special to the season, something of exceptional value and excitement. It is different and the passion of the public has a big role to play.

From the players' perspective, the week in week out nature of national competitions like the Aviva Premiership provide the bread and butter. That is what clubs ultimately are measured on, certainly in England anyway. However, mixing all of the leagues together creates anticipation and excitement within the clubs themselves - new players to face, stadiums to play in, atmospheres to enjoy and just as importantly, new experiences to treasure. Rugby has a fantastic ability to give players magnificent adventures and memories and Europe offers that in abundance.

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The walk of shame

December 13, 2013

Running out at Twickenham is a career highlight for many players, but for a few the day has ended in the walk of shame and an early bath. After Sam Egerton became the first person to be red carded in the Varsity match, we look at seven other high-profile dismissals at Twickenham.

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My worry is it's going to leave a scar on the domestic game which is going to take a while to heal Wales No.8 Ryan Jones on the Welsh player exodus

Northampton edge Dublin thriller

December 14, 2013

Northampton Saints responded to last weekend's humiliating defeat on home soil with a hard-fought win over Leinster in a gripping encounter at Dublin's Aviva Stadium.

Tries from George North and Jamie Elliott bookended this fifth round clash, as Jim Mallinder's men recovered resoundingly from last week's 40-point hammering from the Irish province. Leinster had the opportunity to move 10 points clear at the top of Pool One, drawing a 47,370-strong crowd to the home of Irish rugby.

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DECEMBER: Montpellier's Francois Trinh-Duc goes for the posts v Leicester Tigers © Getty Images

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