Ruck and Maul: TV coverage of match-up in camel country gives viewers the hump

Whereas
Ruck and Maul took the trouble four weeks ago to find something out about rugby union in Abu Dhabi, the television coverage of last Sunday's Anglo-Welsh Cup tie in the Gulf left us little the wiser.

ITV and Sky had cameras in attendance, though it was not clear whether they were shooting footage for the Abu Dhabi tourist board or of a rugby match with significance to other teams back in shivering Blighty (Quins will make the semi-finals at the expense of pool rivals Ospreys and Exeter if they add a win at home to Cardiff Blues today to their facile defeat of an under-strength Wasps in camel country).

To set the scene, ITV had Wasps wing Richard Haughton showing us around his room in the Emirates Palace hotel. Sky tried a different tack. They had Wasps centre Ben Jacobs showing us around his room in the Emirates Palace hotel.

While Lawrence "of Arabia" Dallaglio, who is on Wasps' board, ravingly compared the venue with Newlands in Cape Town, the Bucks Free Press in distant High Wycombe quoted a disgruntled punter who went to the match in the one-third empty 5,000-seat stadium: "Badly organised, poor facilities and incompetent management just added to the complete lack of atmosphere. Simply a massive flop."

Jonny's French lesson for Gav

Russia met Spain in Madrid yesterday with Steve Diamond taking a short break from his new job as Sale's executive director of sport to help prepare the 'Bears' while they seek a coach for the World Cup.

The Russian Federation has approached Kingsley Jones, late of Sale, to guide the first-time qualifiers in New Zealand and on to 2016, starting with the Churchill Cup in England in June and pre-World Cup friendlies against Northampton and Leicester in August. But Jones has been lined up by Toulon to join his old Sale and Gloucester confrere Philippe Saint-André in charge of a squad now including Gavin Henson, and, reportedly for next season, Australia's Matt Giteau.

After sharing in England's win over Wales, Jonny Wilkinson had sage advice for his new club-mate, Henson: "You have to make a decision when you go there how much you will embrace the culture and the language. You can choose to have the whole experience or you decide to go there and hang in. Guys showed me around and if I can do that for him [Henson] I would love to help. He is a hugely talented player, quite unique in some ways in what he has to his game. While supporting him massively Toulon will ask for a huge input from him. If he enjoys it even half as much as I have he'll have a great time."

50 for Maggie the Machine

A 50th cap today for Maggie Alphonsi, the England flanker recently voted the UK Rugby Union Writers' Club's personality of the year.

True the members of the club would probably struggle to write much about more than one or two of the previous 49 caps, but that will not stop "Maggie the Machine" letting rip against Wales at Cross Keys RFC. England, last year's World Cup runners-up, lost in Wales on their most recent visit in 2009.

hughgodwin@yahoo.co.uk

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