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Summer break in rugby becoming a thing of the past due to fixture schedule

No sooner have Premiership rugby players worked through a demanding 11-month club programme, they are called back in July for conditioning and pre-season training. Clubs eleven completed a XV-man rugby season in the eleven traditional seven months.

Fat lads are no longer dispatched for a summer’s recovery, while the fast lads do their thing on the seven-a-side circuit. No, today’s elite level overcrowded fixture lists are challenged by a proliferation of domestic and European competitions extending to late in June.

Add to the mix an ever-increasing array of in-season international fixtures and summer tours and the congestion resembles that of the Dartford Tunnel. Not surprising then that the exigencies of an attritional season combine to drain the resolve of even the toughest players physically and mentally.

England’s embarrassing 52-21 drubbing by a 14-man Barbarians, thrown together for just a few days, tends to support my supposition. The Barbarian story began many years ago when a group of players were chosen to form an elite team.

They had no ground, clubhouse or subscription and membership was by invitation only. In essence, the Barbarians represent a glorious concept brought to life by the vision and enthusiasm of one man, William Percy Carpmael.

Inspired by his personal playing experiences with both Blackheath and Cambridge University, Carpmael’s vision was to spread good fellowship amongst all rugby football players. His dream of him that rugby should essentially be good humoured, and fun became a reality on December 27, 1890, at Friary Field, Hartlepool.

There, all things great about the game – flair, courage, spirit and passion – were encapsulated in one great team. A team called the Barbarians.

The Barbarians’ Corinthian love of the game was on show at Twickenham on Sunday. Logically Eddie was watching, but I suspect much of the essence of William Percy Carpmael’s dream of him will have missed his high tech, pie chart, red zone analytical radar. ‘That’ outrageous back healed conversion simply adding insult to injury!

The Premiership club season finally reached its climax on Saturday when Leicester played Saracens in the annual Twickenham showpiece cup final. As expected, it was a high intensity arm wrestle between two of rugby’s traditional heavyweights.

Yes, it was tense and there were exciting moments, but I think the two losing semi-finalists would have produced better fare for the fans.

Indeed, Plymouth Albion’s 54-17 win over Taunton in April was far more entertaining than the kick for field position, press to win penalties, defend hard and hold firm to the system served up by Tigers and Sarries. End of term report, ‘Satisfactory – but should do better!’

In my playing days as a tight minded forward I loved the grunt and grind of the contact areas. I delighted in rucks, mauls and my favorite feature, the scrum. However, my idea of ​​a scrum was to bind on to my second-row partner, engage with the front row and get on with the job.

The ball was fed into the middle of the channel. There was a battle between opposing hookers and packs to win possession, with ‘one against the head’ viewed as a success and the game back in action within a few seconds of the scrum going down.

Today scrums are always won by the side generally feeding the ball into the second row, or when a penalty is called because a prop goes down or the fourth official’s microscope detects a premature front row twitch.

Scrums are becoming a theatrical feature that is increasingly demanding huge chunks of playing time for the fat lads to postulate and strut their stuff. The ritual dance before going into the crouch, set, engage routine is more suited to an audition for Swan Lake than a vehicle to restart the rugby action.

Scrums once took merely a heartbeat to execute, but now feature bizarre and unnecessary cameo performances that simply delay the action fans have paid to watch.

While in moaning mood, I dislike the way forwards are currently permitted to swim around the outside of a maul, maintaining a one arm bind they are at liberty to wriggle through, creating mayhem in a perfectly worked and executed set piece built to launch an attacking play. In my book its offside and should be called as such.

I was further dismayed to see so much communal theatrical delight, shouting, and cheering by forwards on Saturday, simply for winning a scrum penalty. Get on with the game and play rugby say I, and I suspect many more who love the game just might agree.

Tigers deserved their 15-12 win over Saracens to take the silverware back to Welford Road. Many rugby traditionalists will doubtless be delighted to see the old orders returning to the Premiership.

Over the years Leicester, Saracens, Saints and Quins in the top four was a familiar sight. With south west stalwarts Gloucester and Bristol in the frame and Bath expected to progress next term, rugby’s tectonic plates are beginning to re-converge into the traditional centers of power, wealth and influence.

Another sign of the times in our governing fathers’ apparent view for the future of elite level Celtic club rugby landed with a bump on Saturday.

The Final of the United Rugby Championship, traditionally contested by Welsh, Scottish, Irish, and Italian clubs, saw DHL Cape Town Stormers’ 18-12 victory over the Vodacom North Transvaal Bulls.

Not ideal viewing for Welsh, Irish and Scottish clubs muscled out of the fray by South Africans this term. It will be interesting to see how next season’s Champions and Challenge Cups competitions pan out with four more South African clubs deemed to be European are in the frame for European 2023 honours.

Premiership Rugby’s defensive moat was employed to keep Ealing Trailfinders from dining at the top table after finishing top of the IPA Championship.

Protecting elite clubs equity stakes in the Premiership suggests ring fencing to be an inevitable development. The potential for the trend to percolate down to the National Leagues suggests Plymouth have no time to waste with Project 150 designed to see us back in the Championship by 2025.

Watch this space for more exciting developments at Brickfields. The future is bright – the Ocean City’s rugby future is Plymouth ALBION!

Until next time, enjoy your rugby, stay safe.

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