Oval Talk

  • Plenty to ponder for home nations

    After a weekend in which England, Wales and Ireland all suffered defeats in the southern hemisphere, there were a fair few bones to be picked over for each country as they prepare for the next outings in their respective tours.

    England's defeat to South Africa threw up plenty of questions, not least the need for more midfield and attacking creativity, as well as the requirement for Stuart Lancaster's team to get more comfortable playing with the ball in hand — something backs coach Mike Catt was readily prepared to admit to himself and an area which will undoubtedly be tackled in training.

    On

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  • The right man, the wrong way

    It's easy to criticise the RFU, but the powers that be in English rugby often make it so simple.

    Less than two months ago the RFU and Saracens were locked in negotiations — which eventually lasted a fortnight — over Andy Farrell's future, and his possible release from his contract at the Premiership club to take up a role at HQ.

    Reasons were given, and speculated upon, for the eventual collapse in talks as Farrell opted to remain at Vicarage Road and continue what was an admirable task. More likely, and with no disrespect to Farrell, was that Saracens played hard, the RFU failed to flex, and

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  • Harlequins come full circle

    Saturday afternoon at Twickenham witnessed the completion of a lengthy road to recovery for Harlequins, which delivered the club not only a well-earned first Premiership title but a true sense of deliverance.

    In beating Leicester 30-23 in the Premiership final, Harlequins took the biggest step possible in lifting themselves above what was a watershed moment not just in the club's history but in the annals of the modern English game.

    Nobody needs reminding of the details, ignominy and subsequent reaction to the infamous 'Bloodgate' incident which took place in April 2009 and sparked lasting

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  • O’Driscoll’s deserved reward

    Enjoying a well-earned celebratory tippleWith their third Heineken Cup in four years, Leinster confirmed their place at the top of European rugby's tree and set an unprecedented record of winning the competition without a single defeat along the way.

    Equally impressive, and just as significant, was the contribution of Brian O'Driscoll, Irish rugby's longstanding icon whose status as one of his generation's most enduring talents was further solidified whilst adding weight to his tag-line as one of the greatest players in the game's history.

    At the age of 33 the Irishman has reached the point in his career - one punctuated by its fair

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  • Time to overhaul the system?

    And so it stands that despite completing a gruelling season in the Championship, coming through the two-legged play-off semi-finals and now preparing for the rigours of a play-off final - also in two draining instalments — the side which prevails in the second tier's long-winded and laborious route towards supposed Premiership status may well end up playing in the Championship again next season anyway.

    As Cornish Pirates and London Welsh ready themselves for the Twickenham double event on May 23 and 30, they both do so knowing that there is a very high possibility that if they do succeed it

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  • Wasps ready to build again

    Takeover heralds a new era at WaspsAfter securing their Premiership status despite defeat by Newcastle on Saturday, Wasps would have — in ordinary circumstances — been able to start planning for next season.

    As it stands the six-times English champions and twice European Cup holders are now awaiting the outcome of a 'period of exclusivity', as a consortium headed by former Wasps player Ken Moss works through the finer details of a deal which looks set to be wrapped up by the end of May.

    All being well the club will finally have in place the solid financial footing — not to mention business structure — it needs to put what has

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  • Catt can rejuvenate England attack

    Catt faces challenge to make England excitingThe RFU may regret not recruiting Andy Farrell on a full-time basis - but Stuart Lancaster has probably identified the best replacement in Mike Catt.

    Should he be confirmed as expected this week, the former England international would, at least, be the perfect attack coach - and  it would be difficult to find someone who could do the dual roles of attack and defence coach like Farrell does.

    But Catt has only recently retired from the professional game and has played with as well as against most of the players who could be selected for England.

    Also, as a coach at London Irish he has spent a

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  • Redpath: Did he jump or was he pushed?

    Gloucester Rugby's director of rugby Bryan Redpath, September 2009 - 0When looking over the last week of rugby there is one event which has stood out from the rest: the abrupt resignation of Bryan Redpath from Gloucester.

    The Cherry and Whites have been inconsistent this season; they have beaten the likes of Harlequins and Toulouse but were hapless as they lost to Wasps and bottom side Newcastle.

    But if this were a simple matter of a coach taking responsibility for an unsatisfactory season then it would not be quite so intriguing. It is what has been happening off the field which makes this whole saga astonishing.

    The story began when Sale Sharks CEO Steve

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  • RFU will regret Farrell decision

    Stuart Lancaster, Andy Farrell and Graham Rowntree are unveiled at TwickenhamStuart Lancaster, Andy Farrell and Graham Rowntree

    England's brave new world under Stuart Lancaster was bound to hit a few snags but not many were predicting that his coaching staff would pose the first problem.

    It is surprising, if not understandable, why Andy Farrell turned down the opportunity to become England's full-time defence coach.

    It would have meant leaving Saracens, the club which gave him his chance in Union and helped him make the England squad for the 2007 World Cup.

    Farrell has a sense of loyalty and gratitude towards Saracens. The last thing he would want to do is annoy them and burn any bridges especially as he has to think

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  • The challenge starts now for Lancaster and co

    England coach Stuart Lancaster at his unveiling

    Careful how loudly you say this but the RFU might have actually made a right decision for once by appointing Stuart Lancaster as the new England coach.

    The man from Penrith deserved the chance after a positive performance in the Six Nations. The RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie said England's showing in the Championship was not the only reason for Lancaster being appointed but it should be the main one.

    After all of the speculation as to who would take the job and the talk of Nick Mallett being the preferred candidate Lancaster must have edged it because of what he has done since December.

    The

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