World Cup diary: BBC brigade's enthusiasm dampened as Sky takes over Heineken Cup coverage

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The Independent Online

The boys from the BBC were getting well stuck into the free booze at the official Media Welcome in Canberra on Friday night when a phone call to one of their party put a huge dampener on the festivities. The news had come through that Sky had just bought the rights to show the Heineken Cup, reducing the BBC's ever-shrinking rugby coverage still further. "At this rate,'" one of the Beeb brigade said, shaking his head, "this'll be the last trip us lot will ever get to go on".

Their mood wasn't lifted when they realised what the free tipple was that they were drinking. It just had to be Heineken, didn't it?

Forget the silky skills of their Gareths, Barrys, Phils, Geralds or Jonathans because what the Welsh really love bragging about are the rougher attributes of their boys in the boiler room. But it seems an awful long time back to the Pontypool front row, and where have all the Welsh hard men gone since? Don't ask the Welsh rugby journalists, who have been forced to talk up their powder-puff front row of late with some spin-doctoring that would make New Labour blush.

So a few years ago, it was reported that "Wales have enlisted a prop forward who used to stop tanks for a living" when they chose Spencer John (he worked in a factory that made brakes for the Ministry of Defence) and now they're at it again. This time "Wales are enlisting a prop forward who knocked down giant oaks for a living". Yes, Llanelli's Iestyn Thomas was once a lumberjack. And no, they don't care.

While on the subject of the beleaguered Welsh rugby journalists, one of them got more than he bargained for when talking to Glen Webbe last week. The old Welsh wing was asked to recount the story of how, in the 1987 World Cup, he was knocked out cold by a Tongan who beat Yosser Hughes to the unofficial "headbutt of the century" award.

"He was only about 5ft 9in and came up from underneath me," Webbe told our man. "He took me about chest-height and his head came up into my jaw. It was like a well timed head-butt - but from a running start. I just collapsed. It was like someone had taken every single bone out of my body."

And what was the Tongan's name?

"Ete'aki," Webbe said. "That's E-T-E apostrophe A-K-I," he added. "Bloody hell," the journalist said, thankful of being saved a trip to the reference books. "You've got a good memory. How do you remember how to spell that?"

"That name," Webbe said, "will be forever written on my jaw."

"Scottish fans should remember that if they are planning to don their full national regalia, they must leave the skean dhu at home," so says an official statement from the tournament organisers.

Apparently, around a dozen Scottish fans had theirs confiscated when they tried to get into last week's match against Japan in Townsville. The skean dhu is that small dagger a Scotsman so fetchingly tucks into his sock, which is news to a lot of us, including, it seems, some of the bekilted.

The warning to leave "the skean dhu at home" was distributed around all the local hotels before the game. Which was all very well, but as one of those Scots pulled up by security said: "Oh, that's what a skean dhu is. Why didn't you just say 'knife'?"

IF IT hadn't been for a local hero in Perth known only as "Tom the Bee Man", then England might have faced more than a bunch of swarming Springboks on Saturday. Five hours before kick-off around 400,000 bees buzzed into a Subiaco Oval loudspeaker.

Call for Tom, a professional apiarist, who squirted the hive with smoke and removed the bees with buckets. "Obviously the queen bee saw the speaker and decided it was a nice place to make a hive," Tom said. "The others just came in after her." Maybe they thought it was Rochdale Hornets v Wasps...

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