•  Times Column 18/12/04 Not so long ago, Christmas would have been easier for everyone if rugby players had hung up their boots and taken up golf.  Finding a present for a golfer is easy.  You can spend less than 10 pounds for the next thirty years and still not reach the second shelf of pitch-mark repairers.  A rugby-player, on the other hand, needs a gum-shield.  Best get that from the dentist, not Santa.  And that’s it.  Until recently, there was simply nothing to buy.  Rugby union was a game first, and a set of values second.  And to protect those values, it was sincerely believed that rugby couldn’t survive Bill Beaumont putting his name on a book.  Commercialism would wilt

    Dec 18,
  •  Times Column 4/12/04 The Oxford-Cambridge match was once Twickenham’s landmark pre-Christmas fixture. It hardly mattered if it wasn't very good, because any rugby at all was better than none. As it happened, the game sometimes lived up to the optimism of its regular 50,000 light and dark blue supporters.  When Cambridge undergraduate Rob Andrew could be judged against Oxford undergraduate Stuart Barnes, the match still had meaning as an elite contest.  Some of the nation’s brightest young players would be scrutinised as they negotiated the pressures of a heaving Twickenham. Tuesday’s 123rd Varsity match is unlikely to offer a glimpse of tomorrow’s stars.  There are only four undergraduates in the starting line-ups, and Cambridge have 30-year-old Johnny Ufton at full-back. 

    Dec 04,