Ruck and Maul: Lions' entry in Hall of Fame is dominated by pride of Celtic tigers

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The Independent Online

The Temple Speech Room at Rugby School was the venue on Tuesday for the fourth annual induction into the International Rugby Board Hall of Fame, accompanied by the inaugural IRB lecture given by the former Wales centre and wing Gerald Davies, manager of this year's Lions squad. Nine inductees on a theme of the Lions in South Africa included 1955 tourists and great friends Cliff Morgan and Sir Anthony O'Reilly, alongside Syd Millar, Willie John McBride and Ian McGeechan. A Celtic gathering, to be sure, but the English may get a look-in next year, which will celebrate 100 years of the Five Nations.

In defence of the attackers

Davies held a high-powered audience in his thrall during a 4,000-word lecture, written in two days, in which he pleaded for a perspective in rugby such that "winning must not mean so much that lives are ruined"; a reference in part to Dean Richards's three-year ban over "Bloodgate". He also spoke witheringly of the "brutal" Second Test in Pretoria, but specific mention of Bakkies Botha's head-first lunge which dislocated Adam Jones's shoulder was removed in the interests of diplomacy. The South African union sent president Oregan Hoskins and chief executive Johan Prinsloo to accept the award for Barry Heatlie, a Springbok from the turn of the 20th century. "The people of South Africa saw this year's Lions as a great team," Prinsloo told Ruck and Maul. And the apparent defence by Bok coach Peter de Villiers of Schalk Burger's attack on Luke Fitzgerald's face? "Things will always happen on the field from time to time," said the former referee. "Even on a Christmas tree you get a light that's blown out. Peter de Villiers has got a big heart and his heart is with his players. Yes, he was criticised but at least he was honest, he wanted to defend his player. Certainly he's going to say a few things which will upset people but we have to manage that going forwards. I believe he will still make a difference in South African rugby."

Draw your own conclusion

Premier Rugby never fail to hail close-run scorelines as a positive selling point for their league, so they must be ecstatic at the increase in drawn matches this season. In the first six rounds there were four draws – the average number in 12 seasons of the 12-team home-and-away format was under five. The specialists are Newcastle, who host Worcester today. "We've drawn against Sale, Leeds and Harlequins, and we know we had it within our grasp to win all three," said Rob Vickerman, the Falcons centre. Noting the odds of 20-1 against a draw today, we welcome all theories as to whether it is a statistical blip or a trend: greater fitness, analysis of the opposition, will to win (or not to lose)...

Bristling with enthusiasm

Watch out for unfeasibly hirsute faces as the Rugby Players' Association support 'Movember', growing moustaches in aid of the Prostate Cancer Charity. RPA committee member Tom Williams is due back from his 'Bloodgate' ban on the 19th – wearing a hair shirt, perhaps.

hughgodwin@yahoo.co.uk

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