(Before It's News)
HAPPY NEW YEAR and, somewhat belatedly (with 2016 now in our rear view mirror), it's time again to dish out our annual virtual trophies to the deserving and not so deserving members of the rugby universe.
Welcome, one and all, to the 10th (yes, TENTH) annual Total Flanker Awards.
First up is The Total Flanker Optimus Prime Ultimate Transformer Award - which I am delighted to give to the incomparable Eddie Jones. What Jones has done with a demoralised and humiliated England squad is quite remarkable, with shrewd selection and canny man-management at the heart of it all. Long may it continue.
Next up is the The Total Flanker Underwhelming Announcement of the Year Award. I'm referring, of course, to the appointment Warren Gatland as Head Coach of the British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand in 2017. He may well prove me wrong, but with oodles of playing talent available to take on the All Blacks in the summer, I'm sorry to say I can't think of a less inspiring choice to bring out the best from those players.
And so to our next award, The Total Flanker Step in the Right Direction Award. This Award is presented to the French Rugby Federation who have decided to stop selecting non-French players who qualify under the three-year residency rule. Instead players will require a French passport and, while this may not turn out to be too much of an obstacle and will not apply retrospectively to the likes of Atonio, Spedding, Nakaitaci and Vakatawa, it is certainly a step in the right direction and I hope other nations will follow suit.
Moving on, we have The Total Flanker Negative Contribution to Contractual Integrity Award. This goes to Sale Sharks who, despite their protests of innocence, appear to have signed Castleford Tigers
player Denny Solomona despite him being under contract with the Rugby League club. The fact that Sale signed Solomona having had an initial transfer bid rejected by Castleford gives lie to any claim that the Sharks are the innocent party in all of this, and potentially has huge ramifications if allowed to stand.
Our penultimate award is The Total Flanker OK You Got it Right Award. This is awarded to World Rugby (aka the artist formerly known as the IRB) for finally introducing measures to rid the game of dangerous high tackles. Although undoubtedly there will be teething problems and potential injustices, the message is loud and clear. Players and coaches can and will adapt and the game will be safer as a result, and not before time.
And finally we have The Total Flanker FEC (Future England Captain) Award. It may not happen this year (although I firmly believe it should) but it can only be a matter of time before Maro Itoje is awarded the England captaincy. Supremely athletic, phenomenally competitive and a born leader, Itoje is, I'm convinced, the man to lead England to Japan in 2019 and, if so, should be installed sooner rather than later. Go on, Eddie, you know it makes sense.
Well, that's that for another year – thank you for your continued support and I wish you all a cracking 2017…
Total Flanker – the older I get, the better I was