Ruck and Maul: England's new grey kit gets critics hot under the collar

We wait to hear the Twickenham reaction when England run out in a new dark grey, almost black, kit against Australia next Saturday. This time last year there was a change to purple for the match against Argentina which, we were told by the RFU, went down well, with 8,000 replica jerseys sold inside a month. In rugby the home team is obliged to change kit when there is a clash, and Argentina's colours are predominantly white, so for England to wear a second strip against them was arguably justified. The difference this time is that the Wallabies play in gold and green, so changing to the colour the manufacturers call "anthracite" is voluntary on the RFU's part.

McLaren still a driving force

The late Bill McLaren was among a dozen inductees to the Scottish Rugby Union's first official Hall of Fame at Murrayfield last Thursday night. Meanwhile, limited-edition copies of the extraordinarily detailed "Big Sheets" which the "Voice of Rugby" wrote as aides-mémoire for his BBC commentaries are on sale to support the Bill McLaren Foundation, which aims to promote rugby union, provide sporting opportunities for young people and ultimately to create an educational centre that will include the Bill McLaren Archive. The latter is being compiled by McLaren's daughter Linda Lawson, wife and mother to two Scotland scrum-halves, Alan and Rory. "It's really been a labour of love," Linda told Ruck and Maul. "Dad collected just about every rugby book ever published, and loads of videos, but the main thing is the hundreds of Big Sheets. Some are complete and some from the 1970s and 80s are virtual skeletons as Dad had developed a form of cut-and-paste by then. It's fascinating to see how they developed from the 1950s through to his last commentary in 2002. And there are little self-critical notes: 'I thought the try scorer was Wilson but I did at least correct myself' or comments like 'Phil Bennett is having a brilliant game'." The archive is being digitised for any member of the public to enjoy in the Heritage Hub in Hawick. And unframed copies of Bill's Big Sheet from the 1993 Barbarians v New Zealand XV match are now available at £55 + p&p from www.billmclarenfoundation.co.uk

Phillips tips Aironi to take off

The former Wales fly-half Jonathan Davies's eponymous rugby show was back on S4C on Friday night, though long-time co-host Rowland Phillips was restricted to reporting from his new home in Italy, where he is defence coach to Aironi in Viadana. The Magners League debutants have had a difficult season to date, with 10 defeats out of 10, but Phillips, the former Wales flanker and Neath coach, told Ruck and Maul it will take time to get things right. "We started with 30 players from many different teams," Phillips said, "whereas the Ospreys, in 2003, began with 20 from Neath and 15 from Swansea. From riding a black stallion a while ago it feels like I've hit Becher's Brook and landed on the floor but I am here for two years and I've accelerated in my coaching development faster in four months than at any time before." Phillips will do anything for a laughbut kept a straight face during hisside's 38-6 thrashing in Swansea in September when it was pointed out that while the osprey preys on other birds, the heron (the English translation of 'aironi') is known for a mile-long run-up before taking off and landing flat on its face – and generally having only one leg to stand on.

hughgodwin@yahoo.co.uk

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