Boarding school dorms
A training camp in Portugal might be mistaken to be the product of a modern approach to rugby coaching. It is not. Eddie Jones is as old school as they come and, coupled with the Warren Gatland-Shaun Edwards bone-on-bone methodology, at least two of the home nations are now fully compliant with the 1980s coaching manual. The Portugal camp is not glamorous, it is not comfortable and it is certainly not Pennyhill Park. The players would have slept four to a “villa” in short, narrow beds, the design of which is more appropriate for a boarding school dormitory. The gym is well-equipped – having itself burnt down a couple of years ago – yet the crescent-shaped pool facility is more appropriate for a toddler’s birthday party. Returning with their grit unconventionally galvanised in the scenic Algarve, the squad enters Test week prior to the side’s first clash, against South Africa, this weekend. England fans will have to hope the Jones approach is differentiated enough from the Welsh blueprint that looks increasingly to have run its course, after Gatland’s men were humbled 33-8 by Australia on Saturday.
Ireland build the brand
Ireland went to Chicago to play New Zealand’s All Blacks and South Africa’s Springboks came to Britain, to play the Barbarians, a worldwide invitational side... at England’s home of football. It was a jumbled up weekend for rugby that showed the sport’s increasing globalisation. With the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals and Washington Redskins hosted at Wembley last Sunday, rugby ventured in the opposite direction as Ireland faced the All Blacks. Even though the city largely shut down following the Cubs’ historic baseball World Series win last week, Soldier Field was at full capacity for a fixture that turned out to be monumental. Buoyed by American-Irish support, the memory of the late Anthony Foley and the all-absorbing occasion, the men in green exhibited the passion and commitment required to bring New Zealand’s 18-game winning streak to an end. Five Irish tries ensured the game ended 40-29, the result’s significance heightened by the widely held belief that this Kiwi side is the best to have ever played the game. If the brief was to put on a display worthy of promoting the game Stateside, then the 80 minutes allotted could not have been put to better use.
Former England and Scotland head coach Andy Robinson, who had been Bristol’s director of rugby since 2013, was suspended by the club’s powers that be last week and sacked yesterday following an expectedly poor start to their campaign. Their start to the season, which reads 10 defeats from as many matches in all competitions, is itself a product of the club’s inability to recruit players of notable quality. In an oddly public process, Robinson was removed by an executive team that had stood behind him throughout two failed attempts to break back into the Premiership. Despite some discontent on the training ground, Robinson may himself have the last laugh. The club will have been forced to buy him out of a recently signed three-year contract and the bookmakers will likely put more certainty on Robinson retaining some form of Premiership status next season.