Ruck and Maul: McCaw will lead All Blacks' response to Pike River mining disaster

Richie McCaw is to lead a contingent of All Blacks paying their respects to the community in New Zealand that suffered last month's Pike River mining disaster. McCaw, Dan Carter, Sonny Bill Williams and six other Crusaders will visit the West Coast area on 2 February. The 29 miners trapped and killed by two explosions included three Blaketown RFC players – Riki Keane, 28, Michael Monk, 23, and Blair Sims, 28. The Crusaders will wear the West Coast jersey against the Waratahs in the Super 15 in March.

Interviewer talks back

The Sky Sports commentator Martin Gillingham was on duty for Friday night's Racing v Saracens match, having spent the week denying accusations on South African Talk Radio that he was in on the act of Brendan Venter's mickey-taking TV interview after the same fixture last weekend. Venter's parrot-like replies, inspired by the Dave Dodds character in the movie 'Mike Bassett: England Manager', cocked a snook at European Rugby Cup, who had fined the Saracens coach for criticising their refereeing policy. Venter, while showing a certain creative gift, may reflect that such interviews are designed to inform the viewers, who buy tickets and pay subscriptions and help pay his and his players' wages. As for Gillingham, he happily recounted to Ruck and Maul a trail of coincidences around the tale. A Great Britain 400-metre hurdler turned journalist, he went to South Africa in 1992 to cover an international athletics meeting in Germiston, where he met and was offered a job by Ed Griffiths – now Saracens' chief executive but then a newspaper sports editor. They worked together in South African broadcasting and magazines too. Gillingham recalls interviewing Venter in Cape Town when the latter was playing for the Stormers. "But I hadn't seen Brendan between my returning to the UK seven years ago and him walking in to do that interview," Gillingham said. "And though I've crossed paths with Ed for almost 20 years, I knew nothing about the 'Mike Bassett' idea." Gillingham also ran for Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers, the home club at Copthall Stadium, where Saracens want to play next season. "And before that," he recalled, "I played rugby at Sarries from the age of 12 to 16."

The future's orange

England lead the IRB World Sevens Series after two rounds, aiming for a title they have not won in 10 attempts. They were starting to believe their new kit – nicknamed "Tequila Sunrise", as its colour, red at the base rising through orange to yellow, is just like the drink – was as lucky as it was garish. Orange-tinged wins flowed against Fiji, Samoa and seven-times series champions New Zealand in Dubai, and South Africa and Samoa in George... until the New Zealanders won the final.

hughgodwin@yahoo.co.uk

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