That was the month that was: April 2021

Colin Renton's round-up of some of the more colourful stories during the last month from across the rugby world

Sam Grove-White will be on Olympic duty in Tokyo this summer. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Sam Grove-White will be on Olympic duty in Tokyo this summer. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

Another World Cup ticket fiasco

Delighted Rugby World Cup organisers and frustrated supporters offered opposing opinions after the latest wave of ticket sales for the 2023 event again descended into farce for many who were unable to secure elusive places for the group matches. The organisers boasted of selling 4,000 tickets per minute, with a total of 350,000 snapped up in five hours. Supporters complained that they had been held in an online queue for lengthy periods, only to discover when they finally made it onto the site that the tickets had sold out. A further public sale will take place in the autumn.


Berwick benefit from going with the grain

It’s been a tough year for clubs at all levels and there have been some impressive initiatives to raise funds in order to stay afloat. One of the more imaginative was a grain donation scheme that supported Tennents National Three side Berwick. Club chairman Neil Armstrong, who is a farmer, was the driving force as the club wrote to others in the farming community asking them to donate a bucket of grain. As many as 70 farms responded positively, with some donating up to three tonnes. The club’s main shirt sponsor McCreath Simpson & Prentice – an agricultural merchant – assisted with storing and selling the grain, with proceeds likely to top £20,000, a sum that will keep Berwick in good financial shape for the coming year.


Scots say sayonara

Scottish interest ended in the Japan Top League after Greig Laidlaw’s Shining Arcs side lost 43-13 to Canon Eagles in the play-offs, while there were also defeats for Murray Douglas and his colleagues at Yamaha Jubilo, who went down 46-12 to Kubota Spears, and Sam Thomson’s Toshiba Brave Lupus, who were edged out 27-24 by Black Rams, although the Scot was not involved.


Scottish Rugby launches Club Recovery Fund

An open letter to Mark Dodson on the subject of state school rugby

Scottish Rugby urges member clubs to join social media boycott


Women’s trial on smart-ball data

There was a change in format for the rescheduled Women’s Six Nations, with each country playing two others before the competition split into a series of play-off matches to decide final positions. The structure wasn’t the only innovation. Starting with the match between Scotland and England at Doncaster, the tournament was the testing ground for a ball that uses technology to track its movements. Working with the tech company Sportable, the ball manufacturer Gilbert has added a tracking chip which captures the ball’s movements and provides a range of data that is collected by sensors around the pitch. The information includes detail such as speed of ball transfer, and information about kicks. The aim is to help coaches work with players to develop technical skills.


Scottish refs Tokyo bound

Two Scots have had their place confirmed on the list of 22 match officials for the Tokyo Olympics. Sam Grove-White features on the list for the men’s sevens competition and Hollie Davidson is among the whistlers for the women’s tournament.


Channel Island choice for Lions’ prep

The British & Irish Lions will complete their pre-tour preparations with a 10-day training camp in Jersey. Head coach Warren Gatland visited the island with members of his management team and confirmed that the facilities available make it suitable for the camp which will take place just before the Lions meet Japan at BT Murrayfield on 26th June.

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Cockers not heading for Clermont

Richard Cockerill was reportedly on a shortlist of four names to replace Franck Azema at Clermont Auvergne. Speculation that the Englishman might return to his former club has now been extinguished with news that Jono Gibbes is moving from La Rochelle to take the reins after signing a three-year deal. It’s a return to familiar territory for Gibbes, who was in the coaching set-up when Clermont won the French title in 2017. Ronan O’Gara will step up to the head coach role at La Rochelle.


Golden outcome for Chiefs

Waikato Chiefs became the first side to win a sudden death decider in the Super Rugby Aotearoa competition, edging out Highlanders. The sides were locked ay 23-23 after a hard-fought 80 minutes, sending the sides into 10 minutes each way of extra time, with a ‘golden-point’ option meaning the first team to score would secure the victory. Damien McKenzie booted a penalty five minutes into additional time for Chiefs to clinch the win.



Itoje’s cultural collaboration

England second row Maro Itoje has enhanced his reputation as one of rugby’s more cerebral characters by collaborating on an art exhibition – ‘A History Untold’ – that relates histories of black lives that are not included in the school curriculum. The theme was inspired by Itoje’s own educational experience. The exhibition, hosted by South African Art at its Mayfair gallery, features the work of six artists and celebrates the contribution black figures have made in areas ranging from mathematics to jazz, and runs until 19th June.


Jones confirmed as coach after review

The RFU confirmed the position of Eddie Jones as England coach, but his performance will be closely monitored in the build up to the 2023 World Cup. A review was conducted after England finished fifth in the Guinness Six Nations. A review panel composed of unnamed observers will assess Jones’ performance and strategy on a regular basis. The review did not seek to apportion blame but looked at the challenges England faced during the competition, including the lack of game time for Saracens players and the interrupted preparations caused by forwards coach Matt Proudfoot testing positive for Covid-19 the week before the squad came into camp. Jones responded, saying that he expects his side to produce a “winning performance” in next year’s competition.


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David Barnes
About David Barnes 2349 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

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