Ruck and Maul: Henry will be busy educating the English – but not England

 

Sir Graham Henry will be welcomed with open arms by the Rugby Football Union when he gives a series of coaching masterclasses on a visit to England in May.

Hired by Independent Coach Education, in association with his own venture therugbysite.com, the New Zealand World Cup winner will speak at Twickenham on 21 May, Worcester Warriors the next day and Headingley Carnegie the day after. Delegates' places, at £149 and advertised through RFU channels, have so far attracted around 100 school and club coaches for the HQ gig.

The word is Henry may be assisting a Six Nations team during his short trip; he has already been enlisted as a mentor to Argentina's coaches preparing for the new Rugby Championship in August, and is doing similar work with New Zealand's Olympics team.

England? Henry has never deviated from his comment last autumn that to join full-time would lead to a "divorce".

Red Rose goes back to black?

You may believe England's least important worry is the kit they play in but after the ludicrous, point-scoring choice of black as a change strip for the World Cup in New Zealand – and the poor players are still dressed like imitation All Blacks in training – could the RFU really be thinking of straying from all-white for the first choice when Canterbury take over from Nike as manufacturers in the autumn?

"Anything is possible," Sophie Goldschmidt, the RFU's chief commercial officer said, when asked by Ruck and Maul if the all-white was sacrosanct. "We're in the early stages. We work with the manufacturers on the designs. Ultimately the [RFU] board decide." Chris Stephenson, CEO of Canterbury, said: "We'll look at the aesthetics of the current strip going forward." We are none the wiser.

Ruck is holding up progress

The faddish practice of scrum-halves filing their nails and whistling a merry tune while the ball is held in a ruck will be dealt with in the next round of amendments of the laws.

Unlike the use-it-or-lose-it diktat at the maul, the ball can in theory stay in a ruck forever; the side not in possession has to dislodge it, usually by bone-headed attacks on the "guards" such as the one last Sunday by Saracens' Justin Melck on Northampton's Andy Long.

L'Aquila emerges from horror

Emotion will run high in the Italian town of L'Aquila next Sunday when the first non-club match to be played there since the earthquake of 2009 will see Emerging Italy face England Students.

The heart-rending story of L'Aquila's Italy Under-20 prop Lorenzo Sebastiani, who was killed when his house collapsed – 294 people perished – and of fellow players digging with their hands to help survivors, who were then billeted in tents at the club's Tommaso Fattori stadium, epitomised the role played by rugby in a town where football is the second sport.

Bob Reeves, chairman of the England Students Rugby Union, attended the Student World Cup in L'Aquila in 2000, and he returned with the RFU's then president, John Owen, in 2010. "The town centre won't be fully functional again for years," said Reeves, who will be RFU president in 2013. "We immediately thought it would be great to revive the England Students' match against Italy Under-25s that took place three years ago. They are creating a museum of rugby in the town, and there is a beautiful sculpture by Valter di Carlo there that depicts the game. Valter played for L'Aquila and we invited him to Twickenham last year."

The match – which will be televised on Rai Sport and with a capacity crowd of 10,000 hoped for – will feature the best uncapped Italian players and will raise funds for an artificial rugby pitch in L'Aquila through the Forza L'Aquila charity established by Carlo Caione, an international flanker from 1995 to 2001. L'Aquila are seventh in Italy's top domestic division, the Super 10.

hughgodwin@yahoo.co.uk

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