Many great captains have graced the hallowed grounds of the Six Nations in the past few years. Paul O’Connell and Rory Best led Ireland to Championship titles; Alun Wyn Jones has been a towering figure of leadership in the Welsh second row for years Sam Warburton led Wales to their last title in 2013. Dylan Hartley inspired England to a Grand Slam, and a subsequent Championship title in 2016 and 2017, Sergio Parisse spent a lot of years single-handedly dragging Italy through games. One man who does not get the plaudits of many of his compatriots, is the long-suffering France captain and hooker and Guilhem Guirado.
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The Toulon hooker is probably one of the most underappreciated players in rugby, purely for having the misfortune to be playing on probably the worst, most disorganised French team in history. Guirado is France’s most consistent player and a lot of the time, the only one who seems to care. He is the leader French rugby desperately needs and yet this was not enough for Jacques Brunel.
It has been reported that after France’s disastrous loss to England, Jacques Brunel and FFR vice-president Serge Simon attempted to strip the captaincy from Guirado and hand it over to Jefferson Poirot. The players spoke up against it, and the plan didn’t gain any traction. Proof if any more were needed, that Jacques Brunel needs to be sacked. What is the logic of it? Guirado is the one cog in the French rugby machine that is operating at full capacity, so naturally, the best idea is to get rid of him? There is a French saying “a touché le fond, mais creuse encore” which translates to something to the effect “hit rock bottom, but keep digging”, and it perfectly befits French rugby currently.
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The Montpellier bound man is potentially the best hooker in the world but gets lost because he’s part of a shambles of a French team. Malcolm Marx has such incredible ceilings but has inconsistencies, Dane Coles has had his injury trouble and needs to find form again, and Codie Taylor is very good but is also part of a winning All Blacks team. Guirado is a serious machine, with an endless engine who tackles, carries, clears out, and leads from the front. He is the most important player in this French team. Imagine the reaction if Joe Schmidt decided to drop Peter O’Mahony? Imagine Alun Wyn getting dropped by Warren Gatland? Guirado is probably the only international player you would feel sorry for. Imagine living out your boyhood dream, captaining your country in the Six Nations, but its with this French team. Then to make matters worse, having your moron of a coach rip that dream away from you for absolutely no good reason.
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This whole debacle, and France’s recent performances show that Brunel has no sense of player or people management. Even the very fact that his wanting to change the captaincy being was shot down by the players shows that he has lost the dressing room. The players clearly don’t respect the coach. Brunel has all of the hallmarks of a weak man who got the job based on his connections. He has systematically and categorically failed to bring anything even remotely approaching a cohesive game plan for his team, let alone trying to innovate tactically, utterly flailing around, blaming everyone but himself, and making progressively more erratic decisions in an attempt to preserve or justify keeping his job. Embed from Getty Images
Jacques Brunel belongs with the likes of Eddie O’Sullivan, or Clive Woodward; his time is past. He is a rugby dinosaur who has no business anywhere near an international team, and needs to be sacked. A coach like Ben Ryan would be perfect for France. The team culture he cultivated with the Fiji Sevens squad was incredible, and did great things for with no resources.
France travel to Rome on Super Saturday, and given the French tendency not to get off the plane when they go abroad, Conor O’Shea will be targeting this for his first win in the Six Nations. It may be the best thing for French rugby if they lose this game. Lose this game, and maybe more cracks begin to show in Brunel’s grasp on the team.
Guilhem Guirado is a warrior and will continue to put his body on the line for his country, and at the end of every game the camera will pan to him, and he will look into the distance, wondering why he bothers at all. Embed from Getty Images
A recent Twitter debate summed it up well. The question was asked “Which player from another Six Nations side would you take for your country?” to which one user replied “Guilhem Guirado; just so he doesn’t have to suffer through playing for France anymore” Embed from Getty Images
Official. Eddie Jones signs new England Deal.
England men’s head coach Eddie Jones and the RFU have agreed a contract extension which will see him continue his role until the end of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
Jones joined England Rugby at the end of 2015 and has coached the men’s national side on 54 occasions winning 42, drawing one and losing 11 – giving him a win ratio of 78%, the highest in the history of England coaches.
Under Jones, England has won two Six Nations titles including a Grand Slam in 2016, a 3-0 away Test series win against Australia in the same year, an unbeaten run of 18 matches equalling New Zealand’s record and were finalists at last year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Jones said: “The extension is a great honour for me, but in the current environment, it is only right to acknowledge what a difficult time the world is facing. We are all looking forward to a time when we can get back to playing rugby and use the sport as a force for good in bringing people back together. I never thought coming here four years ago I would be doing a second four years but the circumstances are right. Obviously it is important for the team that we keep improving and my focus will be solely on that.
“I am excited about raising the standards again. We have a great team. We set out four years ago to be the best team in the world and unfortunately we missed that by 80 minutes. Now we want to be the team that is remembered as being the greatest team the game has ever seen. It’s a big ambition but I believe we are capable of doing it. We have players with an enhanced reputation, we have a team that is expected to do well, so it’s a great opportunity for us to keep moving forward.”
Bill Sweeney, RFU CEO said: “My thoughts and those of all of us at the RFU are with everyone impacted by COVID-19, both across the country at large but also within our own rugby union community. In exceptionally difficult times, we are pleased to be sharing some good news. We are delighted that Eddie will continue as head coach to run England’s campaign to take us to the 2023 Rugby World Cup. His record since joining speaks for itself and he has proven why he is one of the best coaches in world rugby. The progress shown by England since 2015 has been indisputable and having fielded the youngest-ever team to play in a World Cup final, we know even more growth is possible. We are all excited by what this squad can do and having Eddie leading the team is very important to us.
“We reached an understanding soon after returning from Japan but there were some things that we wanted to make sure worked for both sides. We have announced Eddie’s contract extension a few weeks later than planned as our focus was diverted to support the English rugby community during this difficult time, we are now turning our attention to developing plans to support the rebooting of rugby and a winning England team will provide a vital role in that.”
Ahead of the Guinness Six Nations Jones confirmed Simon Amor and Matt Proudfoot would join Steve Borthwick and John Mitchell as his assistant coaches. Jason Ryles will join later in the year as skills coach following Borthwick’s departure towards the end of the season.
RFU CEO gives COVID-19 planning & support update
Bill Sweeney – RFU, CEO
My thoughts and those of all of us at the RFU continue to be with everyone impacted by the difficult and exceptional situation we are all facing, both across the country and within our own rugby union community.
Earlier today we held a virtual board meeting and I am writing to advise you of the actions that have been agreed to offer a support package directly funded from the RFU worth £7m to provide support for community clubs in England.
To support clubs we are today announcing that the RFU will be providing a £7m relief package for community clubs. The package includes monies ring fenced and diverted for the community game as well as additional funding. These measures include:
• An early release of £800,000 cash due to clubs through the ticketing fund.
• Early release of final funding payments (£600,000) to Constituent Bodies and suspension of the activity plans against which this was allocated, enabling them to utilise this to provide “immediate support grants” to clubs most in need. In addition £400,000 will be made available to Constituent Bodies who elect to match fund from their own reserves.
• A suspension of the Quarterly loan repayments for clubs with outstanding loans due in March (£335,000).
• The creation of a £5m support loans programme, offering loans of between circa £2k and circa £10k to clubs, with deferred re-payments for six months and repayable over three years.
We will be providing more details on this financial package in the coming week. We will also be issuing regular club recovery updates with practical advice on how government grants can be accessed as well as other business management advice.
We welcome government interventions which will provide business rate holidays and grants for clubs.
The RFU will continue to provide a free helpline to assist clubs with legal and tax related matters: https://www.englandrugby.com/participation/running-your-club/legal-and-administration
Significant progress has been made on the process for considering the implications of ending the season early. We will ensure a fair and balanced outcome for the game and are now committed to update on this by the middle of April.
No one can predict every possible outcome of the COVID-19 outbreak particularly with regard to the duration of this crisis and we are managing in the unknown. We have modelled three potential scenarios and are working on an assumption based on a medium term impact with a view to a return to rugby in the autumn. We will continue to monitor against this assumption and review and revise planning where necessary.
The RFU had budgeted for a loss making year within a four year cycle due to the costs of the 2019 RWC campaign and hosting only two home Six Nations games. The loss will now be considerably more as we face challenges similar to businesses across the country.
The RFU’s biggest asset is also a major cost and the closure of Twickenham Stadium has a significant impact on the revenues we can generate to re-invest back into the game. In that sense we are like every other club in the Union, when we do not stage matches and events we do not generate revenue.
Based on our planning assumption we estimate RFU revenue losses over the next 18 months to be approximately £45-£50 million and have a firm plan in place to mitigate this. The RFU Executive Team will be taking a cut in remuneration in excess of 25%. In addition, combined Board fees will be reduced by 75%.
We are continuing our support to ensure colleagues and communities are given help to follow government advice and are providing recommendations on how to stay fit and healthy and a range of new content will be made available to players and fans across our social media channels.
We are discussing with government and the NHS the role the RFU and Twickenham Stadium can play in providing volunteers as well as support for the NHS including accommodation, parking and meal provisioning.
I am confident that rugby will play a big role in energising communities across England after this difficult period. In the meantime, we are working hard with the wider rugby community to take the necessary measures to safeguard a financially resilient Union so that we can.
Rodney Parade to help in fight against coronavirus
Rodney Parade has become the latest sporting venue to open its doors to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
The Newport stadium has been provided free of charge as a base for front-line NHS staff to check if they have the virus and are able to continue working. At this stage only NHS staff are eligible to be tested at Rodney Parade to see if they have COVID-19. Dragons managing director Mark Jones said: “The health service and care workers are doing an incredible job in such difficult circumstances so we are happy to offer our help and support in any way we can.
“Playing our part in the local community is at the heart of what we’re about at the Dragons and in times of crisis people stick together. We would urge everyone to follow the latest NHS advice on protecting themselves from the virus, particularly to stay at home and avoid unnecessary travel.”
A statement from Aneurin Bevan Health Board read: “The health and wellbeing of our staff is essential for delivering services for the people of Gwent. It is fundamental during this time when the most vulnerable people need us most.
“We have set up a drive-through facility to test staff for the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and help us get our teams back in to work on the front line. The testing site is located at Rodney Parade in Newport and we ask that everyone practises the stay-at-home guidance and does not visit the site.
“Everyone at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board would like to thank the team at Rodney Parade for their community-focused approach and accommodating us during these difficult times.”