Weird World of Warrenball

With the British Lions having drawn thew series with New Zealand on Saturday, it seems fairly obvious that in the middle go Lions fever I would again be drawing Warren Gatland, him of the walking vacant wheeze.


It seems that Warren  has once again managed to annoy most people by adding Welsh quartet Kristian Dacey, Tomas Francis, Cory Hill and Gareth Davies after featuring in Wales’ 24-6 victory over Tonga in Auckland on Friday.

Scotland prop Allan Dell and fly-half Finn Russell were then added to the Lions squad following Scotland’s 24-19 defeat of Australia in Sydney on Saturday.

“Bringing in these players from an identical time zone, who can hit the ground running and step straight in rather than having to adjust following long-haul travel, will help us manage players before the first Test, give us quality training numbers to prepare properly, as well as offering us options for selection for the Chiefs match,” wheezed Gatland.

Meanwhile Eddie Jones’ England players who completed a series win over argentina never got a look in with Jones commenting “The Lions is a prestigious team – when you become a Lion, you’re remembered for life, my only comment would be, I would like to see it picked on merit rather than geographical proximity”!


Beggars Banquet and Hurty Thumbs

This weeks illustration was mick Jagger and it is 50 years since the “Summer of Love” and everything associated with it – psychedelic music, mind-bending substances and free love. But what part, if any, did cricket, the English summer game, play in this social revolution, or was it impervious to the changes going on around it?

One example, from an obscure band called the Slender Plenty, comes from a song called the “The Silver Treetop School for Boys.” Written by David Bowie, before he’d found stardom, the lyrics include such lines as – “They made me roll the cricket pitch once a day, I’ve never been so happy than at silver treetop school for boys.” It then goes on, suggestive of some sort of utopia as envisaged by Timothy Leary, to gather schoolboys and masters together on the cricket field to turn on, tune in and drop out. Cricket as unifier of the generation gap.

While many of his contemporaries were still singing in mid-Atlantic accents, Bowie had been influenced by the way Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd’s front man at the time, had delivered the bands first two singles, both released in 1967, with a very English diction. The Floyd never overtly sang about cricket but they do lark about with bat and ball in one of their early videos while “You’ll lose your mind and play, free games for May,” one of the lines in “See Emily Play,” their second single, could just as easily be about cricket as opposed to the pagan rituals always supposed.

Taking that further still, there was nothing more distinctively English, at least back then, than cricket, and British pop stars latched on as a result. Mick Jagger, a cricket fan of longstanding, has never written a song about the game he loves, but his band the Rolling Stones almost used a photograph of them wearing cricket gear for the cover of their album “Beggars Banquet.”

Then we come to the whingy whiny All Blacks complaining about other teams targeting and injuring their players, REALLY! Yes really, selective memory loss when it comes to Brian O’Driscolls Spear tackle then.


Harold Larwood In The Year 3000

We’re hearing more and more about dead people being deep frozen in ice, and then woken up when scientists have found the cure for cancer, dementia, or whatever it was that sent them down to the funeral parlour in the first place. It seems to me to be a needlessly expensive alternative to sending them off to Fenner’s for the first game of a new cricket season, where the minus 196C required for “cryo-preservation”, as it’s called, can be comfortably achieved every April by the simple expedient of leaving home without your bobble hat and thermos flask.
It’s a shame the technique has only just been properly established, otherwise we could be anticipating a special match at Lord’s in, say, the year 3000, with WG and the Don batting against Larwood and Wilfred Rhodes. In future, though, given that the Lord’s Museum will eventually run out of space to house all those old bats, gloves and porcelain busts, we we’ll be able to file past our heroes down at Iceland – preserved in time next to the ready meals and frozen peas.

Dylan Hartley And Ruckgate

The Six Nations match between England and Italy at Twickenham on February 26 created quite a stir. Not so much for the quality of the rugby, but for a tactic adopted by the Conor O’Sheas Italian team which appeared to catch England completely off guard for the best part of the first half.

The tactic involved a clever and perfectly legal interpretation of the laws on rucking, in which the Italian team did not contest the ball after tackling an England player, meaning they did not have to adhere to an offside line. What surprised so many spectators and commentators was not the tactic itself but the fact that the England players seemed entirely ignorant of the law in question.


This was clear for all to see as England captain Dylan Hartley and his team mate James Haskell were forced to confront referee Romain Poite, in order to ask for “clarity” on how to form a ruck and exactly what the rule was that Italy appeared to be exploiting to their advantage. England were quite simply “baffled”.

Allan Lamb Gambles with Exercise

Anyone who’s toured India will know that getting into hotel lift without carrying a set of rosary beads and enough food and drink to last you a fortnight is a pretty bad idea, and my own method of avoiding the lengthy incarceration that followed a power cut was to take the fire escape. And it was while descending down the concrete steps to the lobby that I invariably bumped into the then England skipper, pounding up and down in his gym gear, and spraying you with sweat as he passed.

Dear old Goochie. He even spread the fitness gospel to his team-mates, and on one England tour to the West Indies, he organised a group run from the ground in St Kitts back to the hotel. Which resulted in Northamptonshires Allan Lamb making the second half of the journey in a taxi, having pulled a calf muscle en route.


Being a Northampton boy and having grown up in town when the likes of Lamb and Capel were playing for the County it does give me an odd pang of please in illustrating my boyhood greats, even when in the final moments of editorial production Allan Lambs injury mysteriously moved from his hamstring to his calf and the hurried employment of white paint and re-painting on my part.

Martin Johnson Casts A Shadow Over Welford Road

This week has seen the sacking of Richard Cockerill as the Leicester Tigers supremo and Aaron Mauger take over as the interim boss.  Leicester sacked Cockerill on Monday after consecutive league defeats to Exeter and Saracens, that followed closely from the record 38-0 European loss at MunsterMauger admitted contrasting coaching strategies with Cockerill contributed to the former England hooker’s Welford Road departure – but insisted there is no divide among the club’s players.

Does this pave the way for Martin Johnson to take over or will he just cast a rather large Johnson shaped shadow over Welford Rd?  I hope he does because its if only because  I love drawing the Market Harborough behemoth.


George Ford and Panto Gatting Illustrations

The relationship between the 1986-87 touring England team and the travelling press corps was actually pretty good, and when the team arrived in the coastal town of Newcastle for the next match against New South Wales, the players wore T shirts imprinted with “Can’t Bat”, “Can’t Bowl” and “Can’t Field slogans.” Whereupon the press responded with “As we were saying before Brisbane” T shirts when England, bowled out for 197 and 82, lost the match in just over two days.
There was a Christmas Day panto, written by the press and attended by all the players, in which a Gatting (for who a failed alarm call led to a late enough appearance for the Victoria game for Gower having to conduct the toss) was visited in his bed by the ghosts of Can’t Bat, Can’t Bowl and Can’t Field”, and the Australian media giving up on humour when the lost the Ashes in the Boxing Day Test.


Meanwhile back in the present day, the almost continual circus of rugby transfers continues with rumours of George Ford meeting up with his father over the channel.  the question is why would he do this when it almost certainly mean the end of his England career and if he was to do it how much would it cost Toulon?