Is Stephen Jones The Oddest Man In Rugby?

It started with Stephen Jones supporting Saracens’ decision to play their music over the tannoy to drown out vocal Munster fans this weekend.  And it ended, hilariously, with Sunday Times journalist Stephen Jones calling perfectly decent rugby fans ‘slap heads’ and blocking any number of people who disagreed with him.  Yes, this was truly one bizarre twitter episode.

stephenjones

Michael Corcoran started the whole episode, with a tweet directing Jones to the Saracens’ forum, where a number of their own fans expressed dismay over the ridiculous tannoy constantly blaring out Stand up for Saracens.  He was told to ‘forget about fandom’ and ‘accept [Munster] lost’, despite the fact that Michael Corcoran had in no way attributed Munster’s defeat to the tannoy or indeed, made any such excuses.  In fact he’d been entirely gracious.

When Corcoran had the temerity to suggest to Jones that folk were entitled to their opinions, he should accept them and move on, we re-tweeted and added a ‘well said MC’.  We received a tweet from Jonesy calling us ‘Pompous’ and found ourselves to be blocked shortly after.  We were also involved in a number of other conversations, but not with Jonesy, the general theme of which was that we considered his behaviour on Twitter to be very rude and unnecessary.  Then it all went weird and the bald business kicked off.  At one point he appeared to imply that all Munster fans were bald.  ROFLMAO!

stephenjones2

Frankly, reading Stephen Jones’ twitter account is like entering a bizarro-world.  He dismisses those who don’t agree with him out of hand, often belittling their low followership, and just as often with an offhand ‘who asked your opinion?’ or similar.  He told another tweeter that he was the UK Sports journalist of the year.  It appears that he believes a high public profile is essential to have any sort of opinion, and just can’t handle that some people will disagree with him.  It’s a pretty odd way for an established journalist to behave.  It’s all a bit Alan Partridge.

As the evening wore on, things got weirder and weirder, with Jones managing to insult one person after another, with childish name-calling the order of the day.  At times we were creased over laughing.  The screen-grabs above are from Trevor Murphy, who wasn’t the only one whose baldness became the focal point for Jones.  Unfortuntely, we were blocked by the time it occured to us to start taking screen-shots.

For the record, while we don’t usually agree with Jones’ opinions, we’ve always respected him and what he’s achieved in rugby journalism.  He ploughed a lonely furrow for a long time before the popularity of the game took off, and for that he deserves credit.  He obviously cares deeply about the game, and also coaches an age grade team in England, and frequently tweets his experiences of it.  What a shame, then, to learn that he’s an obnoxious, bullying oaf!  Follow him here to get a glimpse of the comedy (unless you’ve already been blocked, like us).  Bald men need not apply, obviously.  And thanks to Trevor Murphy for letting us use his screen-grabs above.  Give him a follow here and hopefully he will get enough followers for Stephen Jones to grant him an opinion.  Not sure we can do anything about the baldness thing though.

Stop Press! (Except the Online Ones)

It seems unfair to concentrate on the players, what with so many others putting their heart and soul into this World Cup. There’s been demand for Maori chiefs to welcome competitors at airports, astronauts to retrieve Morne Steyn’s kickoffs and Bayonne butchers wondering why Shontayne Hape is wearing their products on his hands.

Spare a thought also for the scribes and TV pundits covering the tournament – they have been forced to undergo an all-expenses-paid trip away from the Trouble and Strife for a month to watch rugby and drink Marlborough Savugnon Blanc. To cheer them up, we have put together a RWC preview of our favourite hacks and Stephen Jones.
 

Matt Williams (Setanta)

Style: Tends to start with a rabbit-on-the-headlights never-been-on-TV look, but then relaxes into matey banter with Franno. His perfect teeth and healthy tan cover a razor-sharp rugby mind, and his snippets of insider knowledge gleaned from his time in D4 and Ravenhill are always interesting.

Likely to say: Paddy Wallace is an amaaaaaaaaaaaaazing playah, reaaaaaaaaaaaaaally underaaaaaaaaaated
Unlikely to say: Let’s refer to New Zealand as the All Blacks

Jeremy Guscott (BBC)
Style: Self-satisfied, smug, paunch-bearing know-it-all. His judgement can best be summed up by his pre Six Nations verdict on Richie Gray – “He looks like he is running through treacle”. Errrr. Egg Chaser and his brother used to e-mail his BBC column with praise of rubbish players to see if he’d agree – our bigging up of Ayoola Erinle was a notable success.

Likely to say: Brian O’Driscoll isn’t a patch on the outside centre the 1997 Lions had
Unlikely to say: Interesting opinion Inverdale, I’ll take that on board

Ryle Nugent (RTE)
Style: Excited, excitable and exciting, roysh. Ryle has the refined voice and fur-lined coat of a man who has never left South Dublin in his life. His vocal range is huge, and one can generally tell how Ireland are doing merely by listening to the tone of his voice – anything mezzosoprano and above is good.

Likely to say: You beauty!!
Unlikely to say: Bring rugby back to the Northside 

Frankie Sheahan (RTE)
Style: Fiercely neutral and fair in his commentary, he rarely allws the origins of a player to dictate his opinion of them. No matter what you think of Frankie, you can’t argue that players from Cork and Limerick don’t get treated equally in his eyes. His day job is acting as agent for, among others, David Wallace and Tomas O’Leary – expect many references to how much they are being missed (truthful ones in Wally’s case).

Likely to say: Mick O’Driscoll is very unfortunate not to be here

Unlikely to say: What a performance from Jonny Sexton!

Stuart Barnes (Sky Sports)
Style: Surprisingly for a Sky commentator, over-enthusiastic and a strong backer of whatever Sky have the rights for at the time. When you push through the bluster, he’s actually a very shrewd and interesting analyst. Provided Whiff of Cordite with their favourite commentary moment last year in the Leicester-Perpignan game, as they discussed the collective noun for Tuilagi’s (winner: a terror of Tuilagi’s). While they talked, both Henry and Alesana took the ball directly into contact and got turned over.

Likely to say: I know Matt Banahan knocked on, but what power!
Unlikely to say: I know Matt Banahan is powerful, but what’s the point if you have hands like soap!

George Hook (RTE)

Style: Committed to saying the first thing that comes into his head, unless that happens to be a criticism of Munster. Specialises in popping some of the over-exuberant balloons inflated by the Irish press, but has morphed into a cynical parody of himself. Struggles to admit when his far-flung predictions turn out entirely incorrect.  The Irish players despise him.

Likely to say: We’ll get destroyed up front and lose
Unlikely to say: Keep the faith Tom

Stephen Jones (Sunday Times)
Style: Pointless curmudgeon who persists in his outrageously biased nonsense. To be fair, he makes great copy, and we don’t know if it’s us getting older or him getting more mellow, but we have found ourselves in agreement more than is healthy of late.

Likely to say: McCaw is running scared of the intensity of Edgely Park and Sixways by staying with the Crusaders
Unlikely to say: James Hook needs to improve his decision-making on the field

Gerry Thornley (Irish Times)

Style: Torn between Southside chic and Indie cool (Ms Ovale admits to a minor crush), Gerry can often be seen puffing on a Marlboro Light outside O’Donoghues. Favours the stubble, sunglasses and scarf look. Used to be Head Boy at St Deccie’s but has been usurped in favour of Fanning, despite fervent support for the regime. In fact, fervent support of pretty much everything Irish can be guaranteed.

Likely to say: I had to restrain Dave Pearson from licking Wilkinson’s boots roysh
Unlikely to say: Rugby is now a 22 man game, and Deccie needs to learn that

Lets hope the poor dears survive their tourism – Palla will be keeping a beedy eye out for photo ops, especially with Barnesy.

Needless to say, this blog also has a deep connection to Gerry, and we will watch with interest the reaction to his demotion – will he knuckle down and praise the junta more than ever, or actually begin to call the Great Leader out on his mistakes?

Cordite Awards 2010-11

So, with Toulouse winning the Bouclier de Brennus, the Northern Hemisphere season proper ground to a halt on Saturday night.  However, we’ll still be busy in the off-season, so stay with us over the coming weeks.  We’ll be having a look at Ireland’s World Cup squad options, taking a very long view of the Lions Tour in 2013, and later in the summer, looking at the other teams involved in the World Cup, all the while keeping an eye on goings on down under in the none-too-straightforward Super 15.

But to cap off a memorable season, here are the inaugural Cordite Awards.  Take it away, boys:
Davy Tweed award for International Diplomacy: Chris Ashton. After the November series, it seemed like England had put together a team and a style which was likeable to the neutral. Luckily, Chris Ashton’s increasingly tiresome series of swallow dives against second rate teams restored the status quo of bitterness and resentment from the Celts.
Jason Robinson award for inter-code relations: Shontayne Hape. Never again will right-thinking union fans consider it a good thing that a rugby league player is considering a code switch. Shontayne’s selfless work to denigrate the lesser code is appreciated by all.
Captain Cook award for appreciation of Pacific culture: Stuart Barnes. Barnesy has numerous entries here, mostly for his uncontainable excitement at Manu Tuilagi’s tackling technique but this reached his apogee when Manu unleashed his frustration at not winning the Davy Tweed award on the likeable young scamp Chris Ashton in the AP playoffs.
Jules Winfield award for nutritious snacks: Paddy Wallace. Belfast man Paddy sat on the Ireland bench for around 397 minutes of the 6 Nations, spending the other 3 as a blood sub for Dorce. The word is he makes a seriously mean half-time orange. I mean, why else would he be there, its not like the incumbent Ireland 12 was playing like a drain or anything.

Arsene Wenger award for false hope: Danny Cipriani. After bursting on to the scene for the Melbourne Rebels with a series of eye-catching performances, and one fantastic individual try, Danny Cipriani’s season descended into disciplinary issues, conflict with management, and ultimate disappointment. WoC is a huge fan, but maybe Johnno was right all along.
Brendan Venter award for Whinging about the Ref: Gerry Thornley.  It didn’t matter who was reffing or playing this year, if an Irish team lost, the erstwhile Gerry found a way to blame the ref. Pearson and Poite got the worst of it, usually for daring to penalise the Munster forwards in a European game. WoC contacted Gerry once this season, and got the frenzied response that Pearson had asked Wilko for his autograph at full-time. Hmmmmmmm.

Niccolo Machiavelli award for political scheming: Frankie Sheahan. Commentating on RTE on a nondescript ML game just before the 6 Nations, Frankie awarded the MotM to his client (and WoC favourite), David Wallace. Wally himself was clearly bemused during the presentation, probably because he did not break sweat and came off after 50 minutes. WoC is sure it had nothing to do with the fact that Wally was fighting with Sean O’Brien for the Ireland 7 shirt the following week.

Frankie Sheahan award for neutrality: Stephen Jones. We were going to give the entire Irish press corps this award for confidently predicting Ireland would easily dispatch the Springboks without breaking sweat in November, but then we saw the Stephen Jones 2013 Lions team. A Henson-Roberts centre partnership might be more convincing if either of them 1. had played recently, or 2. were actually any good.
Warren Gatland award for trash-talking: Neil Best. The Worcester Warrior wasn’t Deccie-bashing on his own behalf, but for Roger Wilson and James Downey, who were no doubt delighted that such a renowned statesman as Besty was batting on their behalf. Wilson must have particularly appreciated this gem from Neil: “I look at the Ireland back-row and think you need to be world-class to get in there”

The Tana Umaga Award for Failing to Ground the Ball: Graham Kitchener.  Toulouse’s Caucau being too fat to bend over and ground the ball properly was one thing, but it wasn’t that important in the end. So the prize goes to Worcester’s Graham Kitchener who ran in for a try 5 minutes from time in the playoff semi-final, with Worcester still needing the conversion to take the lead, celebrated, and then knocked-on.  He looked a broken man afterwards.

The Stephen Jones Award for Bizarre Punditry: Jeremy Guscott.  At the Sunday Times’ chummy roundtable discussion before the Six Nations the subject of young Scottish lock Richie Gray came up.  All were agreed that he looked a prospect.  All, that is, except for Jeremy Guscott, who said ‘he looks like he’s running through quicksand’.  It made little sense then, and absolutely none after the tournament finished, and Gray was pencilled in by most as the 2013 Lions Test 2nd row.

The George H W Bush ‘No More Taxes’ Award for About Face: George Hook.  Serial winner of this award George Hook triumphs again on several counts, chief among them his assertion after the Scotland game that Jonny Sexton shouldn’t play for Ireland until after the World Cup.  Post-HEC Final, Hooky is calling for Sexton to be captain.  He’s not prone to hysteria, is our George.

Crazy coaching

So, Sarries are basing their scrum-half selection for the Premiership final on a coin-toss. Professional. It all got Whiff of Cordite thinking – what other moments when coaches lost their minds can we recall?
  1. In the opening game of the 2009 6 Nations, Nick Mallet picked openside flanker Mauro Bergamasco at scrum half against England. Not Mallett’s finest hour, it must be said. Frankly crazy, didn’t work, and unfair on a great player.
  2. Lesley Vainikolo. After just 9 games of union and 6 tries (5 of them against Leeds), the Sunday Times unleashed a double page spread by the reliably lunatic Stephen Jones (Headline: “Next Big Thing”). Sure enough, he was railroaded into the England team. Toe-curlingly awful – he could barely catch or pass and seemed unfamiliar with the rules.
  3. Clive Woodward on NZ Lions tour 05 – Woodward went a bit mad on the Lions tour, recruiting Alistair Campbell, posting Power of Four wristbands to the players and, of course, picking the entire England team of ’03. And Charlie Hodgson.
  4. Ceri Sweeney overlooked for Gav Henson on the Welsh bench at Lansdowne Road in 2006. Cue Stephen Jones injury, while playing beautifully, and a man who could barely run a club game from 10. Dire.
  5. We were going to laugh at the time Lievremont picked Sea-bass Chabal at 7, but we thought we had better broaden it to any time Lievremont picked Chabal. Or is it the sponsors picking him?
  6. Remember RWC11, when Uncle Deccie brought John Hayes? Utterly unfair on the man, he got caned against Russia. A sad way for a great career to end.

What other coaching lunacy have we missed?