Sport on TV: It's strictly discipline as Austin offers his services as a healer

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The Independent Online

Once upon a time the words "Austin Healey" conjured up images of a clapped-out old banger. But since his popular appearances in 'Strictly Come Dancing' last year the new model has a reinforced chassis and excellent holding on tight corners and pirouettes.

Now the former England scrum-half is travelling around the country in The Big Tackle with Austin Healey (ITV4, Sunday), trying to revive the fortunes of ailing rugby clubs: sweep them off their feet, then throw them in the mud. Erin Boag would be proud.

His first port of call was the Bristol Barbarians, who came third in the Tribute Somerset League First Division last year but are now lying bottom on minus one point. They recently lost 95-0 and have gone 13 without a win. Their chairman, Badger, recalls "one draw, which was lucky really".

To make matters worse, their talismanic leader, Skuse, has excused himself and stood down as captain. The players looked up to him; shoulders sag, discipline falls apart.

Healey states there is a "lack of leadership, communication and fitness". It doesn't really help when old Badger, who is standing in as captain, appears to soil himself during one of Healey's vigorous training sessions. It's definitely time to get Skuse back in charge and "reinvigorate his passion".

Most games the Barbarians can't field a full XV, which prompts Healey to stand in the streets of Bristol chirping: "Anyone want to play rugby?" This being the West Country, he doesn't get too many weird looks. He does get one: "Are you still dancing?"

Healey began by saying: "The glorious game of rugby has never been so popular. But it no longer belongs to the old school tie and blazer brigade. Rugby is reaching out to the masses." He can only hope it will achieve a fraction of what ballroom dancing has done so extraordinarily.

At Twickenham in Six Nations Rugby (BBC1, Sunday), England helped their ailing popularity with a sublime first half against France. Suddenly they could do no wrong, and Eddie Butler and Brian Moore were almost speechless in the commentary box. It was as if, having nothing bad to say about Johnno's boys, they didn't know what to say at all.

Like the Bristol Baa-Baas, it always helps when they can get 15 players on the field at the same time. Perhaps England are more sin-binned against than sin-binning.

* England's chaotic cricketing winter continues. They won a quick game of Clipboard Cricket, sponsored by Messrs Duckworth and Lewis, after the first one-day international in Guyana (Sky Sports 1, Friday). Not having won a single match since September, it was just about the only way they were going to break their duck. After a month of utter tedium in the West Indies, it was more exciting to see the shenanigans in the pavilion than watching the game itself.

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