Today’s news sees pre-World Cup experiments, a later draw for 2027, Eddie Jones raiding more overseas players, Welsh training horror stories and three-wheeled hijinks.
World Cup warmup to try shot clock & ‘bunker (& 2027 draw to be later)
The BBC reports that the “World Cup warm up” Summer Nations Series (29 July-27 August with Australia, England, Fiji, France, Georgia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Romania, Samoa, Scotland, South Africa and Wales) will trial a shot clock (90 seconds for a conversion, 60 seconds for a penalty kick), a “bunker” review system for upgrading yellow cards to red and Hawk-Eye technology to “act as the independent video replay operator, to support referees and enhances accuracy of decision making” and make wisecracks in a Korean War field hospital.
Other innovations, such as Ref Cam and Smart Ball match data, will aim to add to the matchday experience for fans, helping to offer broadcasters access to new angles and perspectives.
Meanwhile, PlanetRugby reports that World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont has explained why the Rugby World Cup draw was made so early and that they are looking for resolutions for the next men’s tournament in 2027.
The early draw has resulted in a lopsided draw, with the top five nations in the rankings in either Pool A or B. As a result, two of the current top four teams – France, New Zealand, Ireland and South Africa – will not make it into the semi-finals.
Beaumont explained why they did it but understood the complaints and insisted that going forward they would be holding it “as late as possible.”
“The reason why the pool draws were made earlier was because of the surety of the host cities and knowing where teams were going, which is very important,”
“What we will be doing is looking to have the pool draw as late as possible so that you get more consistency around the balance in a pool.”
“When we go to Australia, we will be looking at how late we can make the pool draw.”
Eddie Jones testing “overseas player” rules
Rugby365 reports that Eddie Jones is apparently planning to exploit a loophole in the overseas player selection rules to recall a former Australia test forward ahead of the upcoming World Cup.
Despite Rugby Australia usually permitting only three overseas-based players, Jones has already selected five players, including Richie Arnold, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Will Skelton, and Quade Cooper, in the squad.
Now, it seems he may be seeking to add a sixth overseas-based player, Montpellier hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa, to the mix. Paenga-Amosa is set to sign a long-term contract with the Western Force, which would come into effect after the 2023-2024 season.
The tactic of using future transfers to bypass the rule restricting players based outside Australia has precedent. In 2015 Michael Cheika obtained a special waiver to include Kane Douglas in the squad, despite his overseas status, as the second-rower had signed with the Reds. Similarly, in 2019, Nic “quiet type” White was called up after signing to return to the Brumbies at the end of the 2019-2020 Premiership season.
Soft Welsh players whinge about Gatland training camps
Warren Gatland’s 2023 Rugby World Cup squad have finished a grueling two-week training camp in the Swiss mountain resort of Fiesch, which saw them put through their paces in searing heat while living at high altitude.
But while a few more beastings are set to be handed out by fitness guru Huw “let off some steam” Bennett, in some people’s eyes, the class of 2023 actually have it lucky.
The squad members of 12 years ago were – in their words – subjected to 10 days of “brutality”, “savagery” and “torture” at the infamous Spala training facility in Poland ahead of the 2011 World Cup.
The arduous camp saw them pack what would normally be deemed two intense days’ consecutive training into one 14-hour period each day, being put through lung-busting morning sessions in the swimming pool and on the tracks, before hitting the weights in the gym, wrestling with teammates and, of course, paying more than one visit to the infamous cryogenic chambers.
Dubbed ‘evil saunas’ by former Wales captain Sam Warburton, the human-sized fridges went down to temperatures as low as -160°C, with players spending up to four minutes in them wearing little more than bathing suits in a bid to stimulate blood circulation, kill pain and reduce inflammation.
Players still have nightmares about the camp, and the chambers in particular, with one senior player said to have banged on the door and pleaded to be let out on his first attempt.
“Any time you mention Poland in 2011, you put your head in your hands,” Warburton said in a recent interview with RugbyPass. “Every day you got up and did a swimming fitness session at 6am, had breakfast, did a grueling fitness session at 9am with running, wrestling, circuits, grappling in sand pits – it was absolutely savage.”
“Then you go and have lunch, fall asleep, come back, you’d do a rugby session, a skills session in the afternoon, go back, have another nap and then have a weights session at 8pm at night and you’d replicate that day on many occasions. That was, oh my god, just the hardest days you ever had. It was literally eat, train, sleep, eat, train, sleep; it was so brutal. A very tough campaign.”
The former skipper is not alone either, with Shane Williams describing the camp as “real torture” and accusing Gatland of going soft this time around. However, the winger admits now with hindsight that the brutal routine paid off in the end with players feeling fitter than ever.
Williams wrote in his column for The Rugby Paper. “Hoods, splashes of water in their faces and carrying logs on long marches – luxury! For me, Warren Gatland has gone soft by not taking them to Spala, in Poland. Now that was real torture… but it worked.”
Now you try and tell the young people today that and they won’t believe you.
Northampton Saints to restore pinnacle of British engineering
The BBC reports that a dilapidated Reliant Rialto that Northampton Saints rugby players used to drive as “punishment” has been discovered in woods.
The Reliant Rialto is a three-wheeled car that replaced the Reliant Robin that Mister Bean used to pick on. It features a four-cylinder 850 cc “red top” producing 40 hp (30 kW) and apparently a top speed of 137 km/h (presumably downhill with a brisk tailwind).
Lennie Newman, ex Northampton player and manager turned commentator, said that the car was first acquired by the club in the 2002-03 season, from a garage in Thrapston, Northamptonshire.
“We did a deal, where they would restore it for us, painted it and we used it, with the intention of selling it for charity. We used it for probably 12 months as a joke. If a player messed up in training, or was late, or they did something stupid, they would have it for a week as a bit of punishment.”
At the end of the season it was auctioned raising £4,500 for charity. It was sold to a local businessman, the BBC Radio Northampton commentator said.
The car was put “in pride of place” for several years, but when the company went out of business, it was moved and was vandalised, he added. “It’s in a rare old state, but it’s salvageable, it looks worse than it is,” said Mr Newman.