Six Nations 2020: 6 to Watch

Six Nations 2020: 6 to Watch

It’s that time of year again: the Six Nations is just one week away! This season will see 4 of the 6 nations going into the tournament with new head coaches as everybody looks to move on from the 2019 Rugby World Cup and begin a 4-year build towards glory in France in 2023.

It has become a custom of mine to look at each nation’s squad ahead of the tournament to pick out one player per team that is not widely known on the international scene, but that you should keep an eye on this season. Do you think I missed someone? Let me know in the comments.

England

England come into the tournament with 8 uncapped players in their squad, but I think the one most likely to have an impact on this Six Nations is Ben Earl. The 22-year-old covers the entire back row and with no specialist number 8 in the squad, I think that he has a very good chance of making the shirt his own throughout the tournament. He has been developing well at Sarries for a couple of seasons, but this has truly been his breakout season and after 8 rounds of Premiership Rugby action, he is the top try scorer (6) and joint 2ⁿᵈ (but top among just forwards) for clean breaks (12). While combining him with Tom Curry and Sam Underhill may leave a back row with limited international experience, it is one that should never be taken lightly.

France

So this is a bit of a difficult one as France have selected a whopping 19 uncapped players, but due to Top 14 rugby not being available to watch in the UK currently, I have had limited opportunity to see these players in action. Matthieu Jalibert and Louis Carbonel create a great trio of young fly halves along with Romain Ntamack. For this pick, I have gone with Camille Chat, who is a little more experienced with 26 caps to his name, but has often been second fiddle to former captain Guilhem Guirado. Already and experience international but now given the chance to come out of his shadow, Chat has a chance to show his quality and become the man at hooker for the next 2 World Cup cycles.

Ireland

If Andy Farrell wants to be taken seriously as Ireland’s new head coach, then Conor Murray’s tenure as Ireland’s starting scrum half will be coming to an end, with John Cooney taking over the number 9 shirt. The Ulster halfback is one of the form players in Europe at the moment, with 5 tries and a super-reliable boot leaving him the top point scorer from the Champions Cup pool stages. Murray and Johnny Sexton are not getting any younger and it feel like this could be the moment that Cooney establishes himself as the man for this World Cup cycle.

Italy

So regular readers will know my love for Jake Polledri and after good performances in the World Cup, this will be the moment that he truly breaks out into an international superstar. The Gloucester back row can play at flanker or number 8 and will be a fantastic replacement for the departing Sergio Parisse. Polledri is deceptively strong and hard to put down – it is vary rare that he will go backwards in contact – but he also has good pace to exploit any gap that opens in front of him and will cause problems at the break down too.

Scotland

Judging by his form in 2019 and the early weeks of 2020, Gregor Townsend must seriously be regretting leaving Rory Hutchinson out of his World Cup squad. The Northampton centre is capable of slotting in at either 12 or 13 and brings and incredible attacking talent to the team. He has the potential to have the same positive impact that Huw Jones had when he first came into the Scotland squad and should be one of the players they build around over the coming years.

Wales

I really wanted to pick Louis Rees-Zammit here and also want to give an honourable mention to Nick Tompkins, but there is a player who I have loved watching for a couple of years and is now eligible for Wales: Johnny McNicholl. The Scarlets star is an exceptional attacking talent either at wing or fullback, finishing in the top 5 for tries scored in the Pro14 for the last 2 seasons – despite Scarlet’s struggles last season! Already 29, he will not be around long term, but I expect him to quickly establish himself as a key part of the Wales squad for the next 4 years.


While watching the Six Nations is always fun anyway, one thing that has really improved it for me the last couple of seasons has been doing fantasy rugby with my friends, and I’m opening the opportunity for you to join in too!

I am running a fantasy rugby league on The Rugby Magazine’s website, and you are all welcome to join. There is no buy-in and no prize, this is just for fun. You can join the league here and use the Unique Token b6c1e40d48e6

Six Nations 2020: The England Squad

Six Nations 2020: The England Squad

We are less than 2 weeks from the beginning of the Six Nations and – as of today – we know the squads of all 6 teams in the competition. Eddie Jones announced his 34-man squad at midday today, with their first match since being humbled by South Africa in the World Cup final coming on Sunday 2ⁿᵈ February away to France.

England’s 34-man squad

(denotes apprentice players who are not full members of the squad)

Hooker: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jamie George, Tom Dunn

Prop: Mako Vunipola, Ellis Genge, Harry Williams, Kyle Sinckler, Will Stuart, Joe Marler

Back 5: Alex Moon, Courtney Lawes, Joe Launchbury, George Kruis, Maro Itoje, Charlie Ewels, Ted Hill, Ben Earl, Tom Curry, Lewis Ludlam, Sam Underhill

Scrum half: Ben Youngs, Willi Heinz (Alex Mitchell)

Fly Half: Owen Farrell, George Ford, Jacob Umaga

Centre: Ollie Devoto, Manu Tuilagi, Jonathan Joseph, Fraser Dingwall

Back 3: Elliot Daly, George Furbank, Jonny May, Ollie Thorley, Anthony Watson (Josh Hodge)

So right now, I find myself less-than enthusiastic about this squad and don’t really understand what Eddie Jones is going for. Some selections suggest that this is a look to the future with some of the young talent being brought in, but there are then also other selections that make me wonder if Eddie is really caring about the future.

At hooker, there’s not really much surprise there with Dylan Hartley retired and Jack Singleton depriving himself of regular rugby by joining Saracens. George will be the starter and Cowan-Dickie will continue to make an impact off the bench.

Moving onto the props, it’s not really a surprise to see England move on from Dan Cole, but the form of Will Stuart for Bath means that things look promising at tighthead. I can see Sinkler starting at 3 with Stuart off the bench, while Harry Williams is a strong 3ʳᵈ choice here. I must admit that with the quality of looseheads out there, I am a little surprised that Joe Marler has remained available and think that this could impact England in the long-term if he does not plan to continue through RWC2023. To me, this was when Ellis Genge should have been becoming a regular in the 23, but it looks like he will be having to target the Italy match while Vunipola and Marler take most of the minutes.

And so we come to the locks, of which there are a lot, so many that I will actually just ignore Ted Hill here and count him as a flanker. There’s no real surprises in the selection of the usual 5 (Courtney Lawes, Joe Launchbury, George Kruis, Maro Itoje and Charlie Ewels), but Alex Moon is a massive shock and I don’t understand how he has justified a spot here off of so little 1ˢᵗ XV rugby for Northampton, especially when you consider it means that players like Lawes and Itoje will likely spend time in the back row in favour of top-quality specialist back rowers who have been ignored.

In the back row, there is a immediate and obvious lack of players at a key position. Ted Hill, Ben Earl, Tom Curry, Lewis Ludlam and Sam Underhill are all fantastic players in the back row, but with Billy Vunipola out injured, there is no specialist number 8 in this squad, which for a Tier 1 nation is frankly ridiculous. I am really happy to see Earl in this squad as he has been one of the form players this season for Sarries, but I can’t help feel that all of these players should have been included, with at least one of Moon and Ewels (or maybe Hill) being dropped for Sam Simmonds and Alex Dombrandt, who are more experienced number 8s and have been shown that good form means nothing to Eddie Jones  – Alex Goode is sending them memberships to the snub club as you read this.

On to scrum half and this is only a look to the future if Eddie Jones has found the fountain of Youth. Ben Youngs has been in this squad on the strength of his name for a while and it was time for him to make way as he will be 34 come the next World Cup, while Willi Heinz is already 33! Neither of these has a long future in the England squad, whereas apprentice player Alex Mitchell seems to suggest that Dan Robson and Ben Spencer have just had the door slammed shut in their face again!

At fly half, George Ford and Owen Farrell are no real surprise, but Jacob Umaga was a shock. He has been playing well this season, but I’m not sure if he is currently ahead of both Marcus Smith and Joe Simmonds and a cynical part of me wonders if he is being selected so that they can cap him and make him ineligible for Samoa (who I had him representing in an ideal world where the game is growing and the Pacific Islands are looking attractive to eligible players). It will be interesting to see how much time he gets during the tournament, as the loss of Henry Slade to injury limits the number of playmakers at centre, so I wouldn’t be overly surprised if Owen Farrell is used more as a centre than a fly half.

At centre, Tuilagi and Joseph are a great combo (or Farrell/Tuilagi) assuming Manu can stay fit, while Ollie Devoto is a fine player who has done very well for Exeter. The Fraser Dingwall selection surprises me, however. He is certainly a future star but at the moment he isn’t even a regular starter at Northampton, while Mark Atkinson – who has been in the form of his life the last couple of seasons – appears to have not even been considered once again.

And finally we come to the back 3. Jack Nowell’s omission was a shock, but if he can keep himself injury free for the rest of the season and get back to top form then I think he has every chance of getting back into the squad for the summer tour. Being a Gloucester fan, I have loved watching Ollie Thorley over the last couple of seasons and think that he brings a great balance of pace and power that will cause people issues. At just 23, he could be the long-term future for England. May and Watson are fantastic wingers that will scare any opponent, but Elliot Daly at 15 is an experiment that should have finished last season and I really hope that George Furbank is given a legitimate chance to claim the 15 shirt. Finally a quick word on apprentice Josh Hodge, who impressed me when I saw him for the U20s, but similar to Mitchell, I don’t think a call-up is warranted at this moment, even as an apprentice.

What do you think of the squad?


While watching the Six Nations is always fun anyway, one thing that has really improved it for me the last couple of seasons has been doing fantasy rugby with my friends, and I’m opening the opportunity for you to join in too!

I am running a fantasy rugby league on The Rugby Magazine’s website, and you are all welcome to join. There is no buy-in and no prize, this is just for fun. You can join the league here and use the Unique Token b6c1e40d48e6

Draft Kings: Looking at the new Factions

Draft Kings: Looking at the new Factions

The New Era began on Saturday with the Movie Trivia Schmoedown’s first ever Draft. 9 Factions will be facing off this season and between Saturday’s live rounds and Sunday’s non-televised final rounds, the initial line-ups for each faction are set.

Now that the Draft is available for all to see, it’s time to cast an eye over the new factions and give my thoughts on the rosters each manager has put together. Now I’ll say before we start: my knowledge of the 2020 rookie class will be limited, so if I gloss over the next Ethan Erwin/Mara Knopic/Kevin Smets/Paul Oyama, then I apologise in advance!

Also before we begin, I just need to give a massive shoutout to Jacob Patrick for putting together such awesome graphics to summarise each faction’s draft.


The Usual Suspects

MTS Draft 2020 The Usual Suspects

While I still think that Shazam! were a better option with the 1ˢᵗ overall pick, The Family are still a great selection and given Samm Levine’s history with Drew McWeeny it is no surprise to see him go for them. McWeeny never technically lost the Teams Title, vacating it due to Samm’s decision to step away, so I am sure that he will be keen to get McWeeny a title again, while I think that Ghai and Levine will get the best out of “The Godfather” this season. Jeannine is arguably now one of the best to have never won a belt, but I can see her forming a great team and if paired with Matt Atchity, her knowledge of the game will be a great foil for him. Jen Kempe is a rookie who I heard good things about and she already has some experience under the lights with an appearance at Free 4 All 3, so she could be a steal with Samm’s 8ᵗʰ pick, while Jader Paramo impressed in Orlando and will benefit from having a former champion as his manager. Napzok will also be a great presence in this group, while also providing a great mouthpiece to help take the pressure off of the rookies, and while I don’t know about Cameron Rice’s trivia abilities, I believe that he has been close to the game for a while so will know how to play the game.

Roxstars

MTS Draft 2020 Roxstars

This is a very strong roster for Roxy Striar, who has chosen to go for proven talent rather than take any rookies. The Odd Couple remain a top-tier team and she really gets the best out of them, while both Andreyko and Sneider can put together strong Singles runs. Alex Damon looks hard to beat in the Star Wars Division and I think that he will also have a strong season in Innergeekdom. Stacy Howard has been a little inconsistent recently, but I think that could make Roxy the perfect manager for her and she could be a contender for Comeback Player of the Year. JTE and Jim Vejvoda seemed odd picks to me – they are both great talents in the game, but JTE is not based locally anymore and Vejvoda’s investment in the game ahs been questioned previously – however I heard Roxy say on SEN Live that she had spoken to everyone that she drafted, which suggests to me that she is confident that they will not be wasted picks, which gives her a very strong top 6 picks. Beyond that, Del Rio and Haibon have both had success previously and could do well with such an invested manager, while it is nice to see a reunion for The League with Adam Gertler making the squad, someone who could be an underrated B-player in a team.

The Mouthy Mercs

MTS Draft 2020 The Mouthy Mercs

I had Shazam! going with the 1ˢᵗ overall pick, so to see them drop to Coy with the 3ʳᵈ overall pick was great news for him. Bibbs and “The Kid” are both legitimate threats in both the Teams and Singles Division and will be kicking off the season in a Triple Threat #1 Contender Match against Dan Murrell. Mara is a great 3ʳᵈ pick and hopefully she will recover soon to challenge Smets for the IG Title. To get Tim Franco and Haleigh Foutch with his 4ᵗʰ and 5ᵗʰ picks gives him a fantastic 2ⁿᵈ team who could even be a dark horse for a title run. As one of the few to push Alex Damon close in the Star Wars Division and with experience in the 5-round format, Joseph Scrimshaw was a steal in the 7ᵗʰ round, and the Reel Rejects can never be taken lightly, while their fun personalities will help them get matches even after a loss. Coy is in a very strong position here and with 2 spaces left to fill, he could snap up someone who kicks off the season strongly or look for another IG competitor.

The Dungeon

MTS Draft 2020 The Dungeon

This was a very interesting draft for Kaiser. With protected pick Smets in the 1ˢᵗ round and then Robert Parker in the 2ⁿᵈ round, it looks like the Dungeon are looking to dominate the Innergeekdom Division this season, but it does leave them without a clear superstar in the Singles Division – although it may be that he has some diamonds in the rough with his rookies. Of the rookies, the only one I have any knowledge of is Britney Young, who impressed in the GLOW Celebrity match, and it will be interesting to see how she does in regular competition (and how often she is available). As for Eric Zipper and Adam Witt, I would have considered them both good B-players on teams, but I think that could be undervaluing them due to limited tape and they could be a dark horse team. While not as initially star-studded as most other squads, The Dungeon may find themselves going under the radar and it must be remembered that Kaiser managed 2 rookies to titles in 2019, so don’t be surprised if they have a great season.

The Finstock Exchange

MTS Draft 2020 The Finstock Exchange

With the Horsemen all protected with Dagnino’s first 4 picks, The Finstock Exchange were already in a fantastic position and their remaining picks look to have just made them even stronger. The Horsemen alone gave good cover over the 3 main divisions with Dan Murrell entering IG, while he now has a #1 Contender Match against both halves of Shazam! to open the season. Andrew Dimalanta is a great competitor whose 0-2 record in the Star Wars Division really doesn’t do him justice, while I was shocked to see Emily Rose Jacobson fall as far as she did given her upcoming match against Alex Damon – she could be a great sleeper pick in IG. Beyond that, Cody Hall will always be a fan favourite and his knowledge is underrated – he took Lon Harris to Sudden Death following a perfect first round – while “The Barbarian” has been highly touted by people in the know. I’m a bit skeptical of Grae Drake, but as a late-round pick she could still prove a steal, while BC will have good tactical knowledge from the time that he spends around the Schmoedown.

KOrruption

MTS Draft 2020 KOrruption

Before anything, we need to acknowledge that Shannon Barney has already won Heel of the Year by breaking up the Wildberries… Have you no heart?!!!

Moving beyond that, this looks a strong squad for KOrruption. Mike and Chance provide 2 legitimate triple threats (Singles, Teams, IG) with the first 2 picks. Marc Edward Heuck has looked extremely knowledgeable in his limited matches so far and could pair well with Dewberry, who is a quality option as a B-player and a very experienced player. Laura Kelly brings a high-level talent to the Star Wars Division, while Bonnie Somerville could be a steal with the 8ᵗʰ pick… assuming that she turns up to her matches! I’ve not heard much about any of the rookies’ talent, but one thing can be guaranteed: taking Nerd Chronic with their final pick has just guaranteed KOrruption will have the most epic promos this season.

S.W.A.G.

MTS Draft 2020 S.W.A.G.

With no teams remaining by the time it got to Winston, Paul Oyama was the obvious first round pick, and pairing him with Lon Harris makes a very strong team. Chandru will be a threat in IG and Liz Shannon Miller has great knowledge and could benefit from a manager that will be learning the tactics from the Chairman himself on SEN Live. Adam Hlavac could be a steal at 6 with his strength in IG, while he is also a good option in the Teams Division. Josh Macuga may have been picked a bit high, due to other commitments leaving him unavailable, but he will get matches when he is free. RB3 could be a sleeper pick at 7 picking up a lot of tips while engineering SEN Live, while Andres Cabrera could be a steal with Winston’s final pick. And that leaves Demi Adejuyigbe, who performed well on debut and Ed Greer, who is currently an unknown commodity. S.W.A.G could be an dangerous squad, but if nothing else, they’ll be fun to watch! Drip Drip!

The Den

MTS Draft 2020 The Den

Watch out for The Den this season! Kate Mulligan may be an inexperienced manager, but will benefit from being paired with Grace Hancock. Assuming they have good chemistry, “Tom” and Paul Preston make a very dangerous team, while I expect strong runs in the Singles Division from both of them this season. Brandon Hanna is a great talent in IG and will be looking to prove himself after a disappointing end to season 6. Rachel Silvestrini was an absolute steal in the 5ᵗʰ round and I expect great things from her this season. Ben Goddard is somewhat of an unknown but has already shown himself to be a student of the game and will learn a lot from being on SEN Live and Schmoedown Backstage, while Alex Marzoña was often shown to have good knowledge on Collider Live. Sean Sullivan and Diane Ademu-John are unknowns for me but Kate and Grace must have heard good things to draft them in their top 5, while if nothing else, we will get some great fun watching Saul and the sniper himself Brett Sheridan. Sleep on this squad at your peril.

The Burning Droogs

MTS Draft 2020 The Burning Droogs

Trust Robert Meyer Burnett to go wild in the second round. While Ethan Erwin was an obvious pick in round 1, the second round feels very high for a rookie – though I have heard good things about James White. “The Captain” has got good value for his next 3 picks though, with Duralde, Seibold and VIDEODREW all being strong presences in Singles and Teams. The Warfather looked a good talent on his IG debut and I think his character will help him get matches. The final 3 picks are unknowns to me, but with such a knowledgeable and experienced group ahead of them, they will have some talent to learn from.


So who looks in the best position following the draft? Right now, my top 3 squads would be The Finstock Exchange, The Mouthy Mercs and the Roxstars, while The Dungeon would hold the bottom spot. Will that be the case? Only time will tell…

MTS S7 Factions Compilation

The RWC2019 Debrief: Wales

The RWC2019 Debrief: Wales

Welcome to the RWC2019 Debriefs. The World Cup is now over and a new 4 year cycle begins, but the first stage of any cycle should be looking back at how things went – what went wrong and what went right – before looking on to how things go for the next cycle to ensure qualification to RWC2023 (if they haven’t automatically qualified) and to make sure they enter that tournament in peak form.

And so we reach the end of the list. Last – but certainly not least (except for England v Wales banter purposes) – we will look at Wales.

RWC2019 Qualification

Finishing 2ⁿᵈ in Pool A at RWC2015 secured Wales’ automatic qualifying spot for the 2019 tournament alongside knocking out cross-border rivals England.

2019 Form

Wales kicked off the year in the best way possible, winning their first Six Nations Grand Slam – their first Championship victory since 2019. Their warm-up matches were not so successful, however, as they narrowly beat England at home but lost heavily at Twickenham, before losing home and away to Ireland. In these matches, the lack of big ball carriers in the forwards and also their limited strength at the scrum were heavily exploited, while they also lost starting fly half Gareth Anscombe to a serious knee injury that will see him miss the entire 2019/20 season.

The Debrief

  • Pool Stages (1ˢᵗ in Pool D)
    • Wales 43-14 Georgia
    • Australia 25-29 Wales
    • Wales 29-17 Fiji
    • Wales 35-13 Uruguay
  • Quarterfinal
    • Wales 20-19 France
  • Semifinal
    • Wales 16-19 South Africa
  • Bronze Final
    • New Zealand 40-17 Wales

Could Wales have had a much better order of matches? Having Georgia as their opening match meant that they would have a physical challenge to get them up and running in the tournament, but also a match that should still be a safe enough win. And that is exactly what the match ended up being as Wales scored 3 tries in the opening quarter but had to deal with a fightback from the Lelos at the start of the second half. Jonathan Davies was running some great attacking lines and Gareth Davies was looking very dangerous as Wales clinically finished the chances they created. Notably, Hadleigh Parkes suffered a broken hand in this match but continued to play, and would play the rest of the tournament with this injury, which somewhat limited his effectiveness.

Next up was the match that (following 2 early losses for Fiji) would decide the group. Wales put in a huge performance against the Wallabies, with 2 first half tries backed up by a massively impressive defensive performance. Gareth Davies dominated Will Genia, continually reading the play and making interceptions, scoring one of the tries off this, while Aaron Wainwright was a huge presence in the back row with his high intensity play and turnovers. Special mention must also go to Rhys Patchell, who had to come on early as a concussion replacement for Dan Biggar but adapted well to the game despite not being as defensively solid usually as the man he had replaced. Fiji presented a massive challenge and Wales can certainly consider themselves lucky that some decisions went their way, including a 7ᵗʰ minute yellow card for Ken Owens for a tackle that was clumsy at best, dangerous at worst. Josh Adams started poorly in defense but recovered well to score a crucial hattrick, while Gareth Davies put in another strong all-round performance as Wales finally pulled away entering the final quarter. Finally, against Uruguay, Wales rested a number of starters and it showed, as a number of try-scoring opportunities were wasted – Hallam Amos notably having an entire hattrick chalked off.

Going into the knockouts, Wales were dealt an early blow with Jonathan Davies failing a late fitness test before the quarterfinal against France, leading tot he far less experienced Owen Watkin coming in at 13. Things got even worse in the first half as Josh Navidi suffered a tournament-ending injury 27 minutes in, and his replacement Ross Moriarty was shown a yellow card for a high tackle just minutes after coming on. Wales were creating little in attack but putting in a strong defensive performance with Gareth Davies and Aaron Wainwright again the standout players, but Wales produced very little in attack even after France went down to 14 players for Sébastien Vahaamahina’s elbow on Wainwright, and it took a mistake from France on their own line to give Wales the victory.

Against South Africa, Wales’ injury woes continued as they lost Tomas Francis and George North in the first half. In one of the most boring games of the tournament, both teams tried to play defensive, territory-based rugby, while Dan Biggar and Handré Pollard traded kicks at goal, both finishing perfect. In the end, the superior strength of the Springboks pack won out and gave Pollard the chance to kick the winning penalty with just 4 minutes remaining. This loss set them up for a match against the All Blacks with 3ʳᵈ place at stake, but the Welsh injuries (from both before and during the tournament) left them unable to compete with a New Zealand team that was able to bring in the quality of Reiko Ioane and Ben Smith as fresh options. While Josh Adams continued to impress on the wing and Rhys Patchell brought a great attacking game, but ultimately the defence had no answer for the All Blacks and Warren Gatland’s time as Wales head coach ended with a loss.

Looking Ahead

This is a big moment for Wales as they move on from Warren Gatland, with Wayne Pivac and a new stable of coaches taking over. Pivac has done good work with the Scarlets, bringing rugby that is not just attractive but also successful, so I have big hopes as a rugby fan (but not as an Englishman) that this continues with Wales.

As if a change of coaching staff wasn’t enough, we have probably seen a number of big names in the squad play their last World Cup game, with Alun Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Bradley Davies, Aaron Shingler, Hadleigh Parkes, Jonathan Davies, Leigh Halfpenny and Justin Tipuric all in the 30s at the start of the 2019 tournament. The good news is that there is a spine there of experience that is slightly younger, while the next generation is already starting to come through in Adam Beard, Ellis Jenkins, Aaron Wainwright, Rhys Carré, Owen Lane and (potentially soon) Louis Rees-Zammit, while newly-eligible Willis Halaholo and Johnny McNicholl and Rhys Webb (who is returning to Wales in the summer) will also add some real quality and depth to the back line.

The important thing for Wales now is to find a balance. The back line has often been maybe too defensive under Gatland, without enough big carriers in the pack to back this up. Wales now need to try bringing in some bigger carriers in the pack, while also getting a better balance in the back line between attack and defence, something that I think Pivac will be able to do.

It may take a while – especially with Anscombe missing this season and Taulupe Faletau only just returning from injury – but i expect big things from Wales int he coming years.

Draft Day! Schmoedown Mock Draft v2

Draft Day! Schmoedown Mock Draft v2

It’s Draft Day!

Today will see The Magic Season come to an end with the 2019 Schmoedown Awards and The New Era kick off with the Schmoedown’s first ever live draft!

Last week, I put out my first ever Mock Draft for the 6 rounds that are planned to be televised, but as I began to promote it on social media, I saw that a trade had already been announced that made my draft wrong. So with the draft just hours away, I have taken a second* shot at predicting how things will go.

*It’s actually probably more like a version 7, due to manager changes, trades and some other announcements, but this will be the second published version

So here are the big news points that have had an effect on this new mock draft:

  • Due to other commitments, Emma Fyffe has had to drop out as a manager. The Fyffe Club has been rebranded as The Den and will be managed by Kate Mulligan, with Grace Hancock as her advisor
  • Tom Dagnino’s prize of a pick swap with Kaiser/Fyffe does not transfer over to Mulligan, so he can now only pick swap with Kaiser
  • John Kaiser and Robert Meyer Burnett agreed a trade that saw them swap places in the first 2 rounds of the Draft – The Dungeon now has the 9ᵗʰ & 10ᵗʰ overall picks, The Burning Droogs have the 4ᵗʰ & 15ᵗʰ overall picks
  • John Kaiser and Kate Mulligan agreed a trade that saw The Den give up their 3ʳᵈ round pick (26ᵗʰ overall) for The Dungeon’s 4ᵗʰ & 5ᵗʰ round picks (33ʳᵈ & 40ᵗʰ overall)

Feat MTS 2020 Draft Header

MTS Mock Draft v7

So, the big talking points from this one:

  • With the way the Dungeon’s trades have worked out, Tom Dagnino would not gain any benefit from a pick swap with Kaiser until the 7ᵗʰ round, which would only see him move up one spot. Instead, he will use it to sabotage Kaiser in the early rounds as he looks a dangerous rival, swapping positions in the 2ⁿᵈ round. Tom not get a pick here as it is sacrificed to hold onto his champions, but it makes it less likely that Kaiser will be able to pick up an elite Singles competitor
  • Coy Jandreau will still attempt a trade with KOrruption, but will sweeten it by throwing in his 5ᵗʰ round pick to make it more attractive to Shannon Barney
  • Josh Macuga drops to the 6ᵗʰ round due to questions over his availability, but his experience of the game will see him picked up to Roxy Striar. Though I have her picking Dewberry, it may be that she pairs him with Lon Harris rather than keep the Wildberries together.
  • “The Barbarian” was one of the rookies recently announced by Kristian Harloff, but what makes him stand out was a comment on the announcement from Ethan Erwin praising him. Kate Mulligan was present on SEN Live when this was discussed and will take a chance on him with her 6ᵗʰ round pick.
  • Kate will be in a strong position following the Draft. “Tom” and Jeannine make a strong 1ˢᵗ team, she has one of the dark horses of the IG Division this season in Robert Parker and a former Star Wars Champion in Ken Napzok. If Ken is also entering teams, he will be an experienced partner who knows the game to pair with Matt Atchity. Ben Goddard would also make a fine teammate for Atchity, as he is a student of the game and will be picking up a lot of tactical knowledge from being on SEN Live and Schmoedown Backstage. If Napzok will enter teams, then he, Atchity, Goddard and the Barbarian could make 2 strong teams.
  • The Finstock Exchange will pick up an elite Star Wars specialist in the 5ᵗʰ round in case Rocha and Reilly choose to focus on the bigger divisions this year, then pick up Keetin Marchi – who is often overlooked when discussing IG but has had some help previously from Rocha, putting her on their radar
  • VIDEODREW will drop to the 5ᵗʰ round due to questions over her availability. While splitting up The Loony Bin will not prove popular with the fans, it would put Samm Levine in a good position following the draft (or even in the later rounds) to offer a trade with The Den to get a couple of competitors/picks from them.

How do you see this draft going? Bring on The New Era!

The RWC2019 Debrief: Uruguay

The RWC2019 Debrief: Uruguay

Welcome to the RWC2019 Debriefs. The World Cup is now over and a new 4 year cycle begins, but the first stage of any cycle should be looking back at how things went – what went wrong and what went right – before looking on to how things go for the next cycle to ensure qualification to RWC2023 (if they haven’t automatically qualified) and to make sure they enter that tournament in peak form.

In my penultimate post in this series, I will be looking at Uruguay.

RWC2019 Qualification

Following Canada’s aggregate loss to the USA for the Americas 1 spot, they faced Uruguay in the Americas Repechage play-off. Uruguay won both legs 29-38 and 32-31 to win the Americas 2 spot.

2019 Form

Uruguay finished 2ⁿᵈ in the Americas Rugby Championship, with a loss at Argentina XV but wins against the other 4 nations. They then took part in the Nations Cup, where a loss to Namibia but wins over Russia and Argentina B saw them emerge top of the pile. For their World Cup warm-up matches, they lost 21-41 to Spain, beat Sudamérica XV 24-20, beat Brazil XV 43-5 and lost to Argentina 24-35.

The Debrief

  • Pool Stages (5ᵗʰ in Pool D)
    • Fiji 27-30 Uruguay
    • Georgia 33-7 Uruguay
    • Australia 45-10 Uruguay
    • Wales 35-13 Uruguay

When I felt that Fiji would be involved in the first upset of the tournament, I was thinking against Australia rather than Uruguay. Though Fiji came in off a short turnaround and played too loose, full credit must be given to Los Teros for their victory, as they played an open and exciting game and contested everything to stop Fiji building into the match, while Santiago Arata controlled the game well along with Felipe Berchesi, whose accuracy off the tee proved crucial.

Unfortunately, the short turnaround to their match against Georgia hurt them and though Arata continued to control the game and Rodrigo Silva put in a big game on the wing, they could not hold with the power of the Georgians. They fought hard against the Wallabies with flanker Juan Diego Ormaechea fighting for every yard and winger Nicolás Freitas making incisive runs. Though they had a try disallowed for offside, they deservedly finished the match with a try for back row Manuel Diana. Finally against Wales, they put in a monumental defensive performance, with Freitas again starring on the wing and keeping his opposite number quiet throughout.

Though they came away with just the one victory and finished bottom of the pool, this tournament showed a vast improvement from 2015, as they scored twice as many points while conceding the least points ever in their World Cup history (excluding 1999, when they played a game less).

Looking Ahead

This is a good time for Uruguay. Canada’s drop has opened up a spot for them to be one of the top American teams and the win over Fiji will have got them attention, which will hopefully see them getting more chances against higher level opposition. This is also a relatively young team, with just 7 of the squad from this tournament in their 30s, and almost half of the squad will still be in their 20s come the next tournament, so this group have a chance to grow together and look to build on this success.

The key right now for Uruguay’s players is to get regular rugby at a higher level. Uruguay does not have a professional league, so either the union needs to try to get a Major League Rugby franchise, or they need to look to get as many players as possible moving to other leagues. You just need to look at the performances of players like Freitas and Arata, who did not look like they would be out of place in one of the elite leagues! Likewise Berchesi looked like he should be on a team far higher than Fédérale 1, the French 3ʳᵈ tier! It is good to have seen a handful of players picked up by MLR teams and hopefully more will follow in their wake, while it would be great to see the Jaguares look at some players too, though I find this unlikely as it would reduce the space for potential Argentina internationals.

Los Teros are in a strong position right now, and this cycle will be huge for their future.

Premier League: December 2019

Premier League: December 2019

Happy New Year to all you football fans! With the Christmas and New Year period, December is always a busy time in the Premier League as we had 6 rounds of matches (or 7 in the case of teams who played on Sunday in Round 14). Losses to Manchester City and Liverpool over the space of a week all-but ended Leicester’s title chances and it now looks like Liverpool’s first Premier League title is as good as won, barring a monumental slip up.

December saw 3 managers given their P45s, with Manuel Pellegrini, Marco Silva and Quique Sanchez Florez being replaced by David Moyes, Carlo Ancelotti and Nigel Pearson respectively.


Premier League Round-up


The ugly side of the beautiful game

Football may be the beautiful game, but far too often it is being overshadowed by the acts of the so-called fans watching the game.

When we hear of the racism that is rife in the Italian leagues or incidents like the racism from the Bulgarian crowd directed at England players, we decry it… and yet December’s Manchester City v Manchester United and Tottenham v Chelsea matches made it very clear that it is an issue here as well! In the Manchester derby, the abuse of Fred from Manchester City fans was obvious, with footage clearly showing a fan making monkey chants and gestures, while objects were also thrown at him. Then in London just a few weeks later, Antonio Rüdiger reported hearing racist chants towards him in the crowd, which seemed to stem from an incident with Son Heung-min.

In both cases, the home clubs came out with public statements saying the right thing, but this means nothing if we’re being honest. You just need to watch the footage of the City v Liverpool game and a number of the culprits are there clear as day standing right in front of the stewards… who do nothing.

The thing is though, why should we stop at racism. Why should any player be getting abused by rival fans, regardless of his race/religion. The behaviour of so many fans is disgusting. Banter and some fun chants is one thing, but the vitriolic hatred that we see fans spewing towards players every game really puts me off my enjoyment of the game and makes me never want to go to a live match, whereas at a rugby game I feel safe and feel like I could still have a great time even if i was the only Gloucester fan who turned up to the Rec.

Football needs to take a no-nonsense attitude towards abuse of any kind, or we can say goodbye to the beautiful game.

Some fine tuning needed

Shock! We’re moaning about VAR again. It’s understandable, as it’s impossible to go a weekend without some VAR controversy at the moment. This month, we have had a spate of goals disallowed for the most marginal of offsides, often so narrow that I’m still struggling to tell if the attacker is onside or not when I look at the graphics.

A couple of times this month we heard chants along the lines of “It’s not football anymore” and to be honest, I think you’re a moron if you think that football is better without VAR. We want to make sure that the games are not ruined by the wrong refereeing call, we just need to get to the point that VAR is being used right, as it we see in rugby, cricket, tennis… all these other sports that have had it for years that the Premier League could and should have learned from when they decided to implement it.

The way I see it, there are 2 words that would massively improve the use of VAR: clear and obvious. In rugby, a referee has to make the call of try/no try and it is then the job of the TMO to review and see if there is any clear and obvious reason to overturn the on-field decision. Meanwhile, cricket has Umpire’s Call when checking LBW on reviews – an area where regardless of whether the umpire has called Out or Not Out, the decision will stand as it is too close to accurately call whether the original call is correct or not.

Imagine if football brought this in for offsides. The official awards the goal but checks VAR, which has a graphic with 1 line/vertical plane marking the offside point. If we can clearly see a part of the attacker beyond that mark, then the goal is chalked off. If it is clear that the attacker is behind the mark, or if it is unclear without zooming in until the screen is about 10 pixels, then the on-pitch call stands. Likewise, if the offside is called but the review clearly shows that the player was onside, it is overruled, but if not clear then the call stands. Technology is not good enough for us to pause the image at the exact moment the ball is played away, and it is certainly not good enough for us to get close in on an image without the pixel quality making it unclear. Making a margin for error may lead to some calls that were technically wrong, but it will still bring an end to the bad missed that lead to people complaining about the work of the officials.

With VAR being given an easier job there, though, I would also extend its use elsewhere to correcting any clear and obvious mistakes, such as in Everton’s 1-2 win over Newcastle, where Everton’s opener came from a corner that replays clearly showed should have been a goal kick after Moise Kean headed over. With the number of cameras at these games, there should be enough time for VAR to notice a clear and obvious mistake of this kind before play continues.

Hopefully we see some improvement soon.

Where is everyone?

Earlier this month, I saw a story on BBC Sport that I couldn’t help have a quick chuckle at. Newcastle were offering their season ticket holders a free additional half-season ticket in a bid to help fill St James’ Park.

Now I have respect for Newcastle and its fans, so it has been horrible watching the decline of such a great club with Mike Ashley at the helm. The Newcastle fans would come to support their team regardless of results, but they are sick and tired of Ashley’s reign and the way that he has turned such a proud club into a business. The only way they can get their point across is by not turning up to matches and denying the club ticket revenue.

So, Mike Ashley, kindly get out and let this club get back to where it should be.

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