October 2011 Archives
Zippos circus has just left Cardiff after a brief stint in the city centre. But as one circus leaves, another rolls into town - Gavin Henson has just signed for Cardiff Blues.
Henson has been the main attraction for the past 7 years, ever since 'that' game against England in 2005. However, in recent years Henson has been attracting crowds for all the wrong reasons. People are no longer queuing up to see Gavin 'the Strongman', they're lining up to see Gavin the freak-show. Roll Up. Roll Up. Come and see the man with two heads.
Henson's two heads are there for all to see. There's the one that has produced sensational rugby for both the Ospreys and Wales. The one that, as they say in basketball, is a triple threat. He can kick, run and pass to international standard. Triple threat players are very rare in rugby and the few that do exist, such as Dan Carter and Ma Nonu, are invariably some of the best players in the world. Even after several groin problems Henson's depth of line kicking is still enviable. Whilst he may not have the quickest stats over 40m, Henson possesses a crushed velvet step and change of direction that can outwit the most nimble of defenders, whilst his powerful physique and hand off also allow him to crash the ball when required. But his greatest asset lies in his passing. Henson has laser guided distribution off both hands. It is a skill that few outside halves possess, let alone inside centres, and it is this ability that sets him apart from any of the centres in Wales.
Then there's Henson's second head. The ugly one. The one that has the ability to implode at any point during the season, affecting not only his own form and career, but also that of those around him.
His issues are well documented. Just type Gavin Henson into Google and you have to scroll half way down the first page to even find a reference to rugby. He has alienated himself at every club and set up that he has been a part of. His negative presence on team morale is like dry rot and it can rip through a changing room in a matter of weeks. At a recent rugby dinner that I attended, a senior Welsh player even said that it was better to have 14 men on the field than play alongside Gavin Henson when he is in the wrong frame of mind.
Cardiff Blue's executives are fully aware of the Gavin Henson 'show' and all it brings. He puts bums on seats and that's why they have signed him. Whether they come out of this performance looking like clowns or ring masters is anyone's guess.
Well can't believe how quick the last few weeks have gone! Wales against ireland, what a game this could be! The fact the winner then plays England or France has turned it into a mini four nations, great stuff!
The team look confident and the display against Fiji was a great confidence boost. When a team is debating whether shane should be starting, you know it's good times! Personally I would have started with gethin Jenkins on the wing but perhaps centre is the way forward!
Anyway, all the best Wales, keep doing what you've been doing and just make sure you believe you can win!!
Come on Wales!!!
So Gatland has named the team, the only shock as far as I'm concerned is that James Hook is on the bench, Hook is unlucky in the fact that he can play many positions, even though we all know that he prefers to play at outside half. The fact is that Rhys Priestland has done nothing wrong and therefore does not deserve to be dropped. As an Ospreys fan I think it all boils down to their preference to pick Dan Biggar at outside half, Hook wasn't given a fair crack (which I think is shocking considering he's a proven world class player) there which is ultimately why he'll be playing in France post world cup.
There can be no arguments about the rest of the selection in the backs, though Jonathan Davies has a lot to prove once more as Scott Williams is putting lots of pressure on his scarlet colleague.
It was clear that a fit Dan Lydiate would replace Ryan Jones in the back-row as his work rate around the breakdown and defensively will be key to nulifying O'Brien. I see the key battle as being the back row, and Faletau will have up his effort once more in order to combat the experience of Heaslip.
I believe that we will target the O'Gara chanel in order to make line break, but O'Gara will probably test Williams & Halfpenny under the high ball! So there's interesting contests all over the park.
I can't wait now , it's going the be nerve wrecking!
With Wales facing Ireland in next Saturday's World Cup quarter finals, there will be a lot of talk about Ireland's 'golden generation' over the next few days. Ireland believed that they had struck gold in the early 2000's when they uncovered a rich seam of talent which included Brian O' Driscoll, Paul O'Connell, Ronan O' Gara, Donncha O'Callaghan and Gordon D'Arcy.
Whilst many of these players have had glittering individual careers, to refer to their collective international achievements as 'golden' seems foolish; they are bronze or silver at best.
Ireland's provinces may have had an 18 carat decade in domestic and European competitions, but the test side has a record that is more reminiscent of the sort of bling you find under the display cases in Argos.
Panning Ireland may seem controversial, but since the inception of the Six Nations, Ireland have only won a single Grand Slam, whilst Wales have lifted two. To their credit, the Irish have taken a few Southern Hemisphere scalps over the past decade, most recently a superb win over Australia in this year's Rugby World Cup, yet this is the same squad that also matched Wales in failing to get out of their pool in 2007.
Even if you buy the golden generation tag, their value has decreased significantly over the past few years. Despite retaining good distribution skills and a flanker-like ability to 'tackle and jackal', 'Waltzing' O'Driscoll no longer dances. Ronan O'Gara, who has always chosen to play a limited game, no longer has the option to do anything else. And D'Arcy, ironically, now moves at the same pace as an English period drama. The one exception to the rule is Paul O'Connell, who since losing a stone and a half in weight, is playing some of the best rugby of his career.
Whether or not you doubt the authenticity of the original golden generation, Ireland have recently blasted out some more sizable nuggets. Sean O'Brien, Stephen Ferris and Jamie Heaslip form a sensational ball carrying back row, with O'Brien providing real metal, particularly when he runs an angle back through the 12/13 channel.
With many of the golden generation expected to retire after this year's RWC, Saturday's quarter final against Wales could be their last opportunity to sparkle.
But I believe Wales will take the shine off the Irish. They may have discovered gold all those years ago, but with the current crop of Welsh players, Gatland has discovered platinum.