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Israel and Sonny Bill; A New Breed of Player

14 Nov

Standing 6″5 and weighing just shy of 16 stone, Israel Folau is the archetype of the modern rugby player. Big, strong and fast with skills to match, the man they call ‘Izzy’ is one of the most awesome sights in Rugby Union.

Yet the Wallaby and Waratah back only switched to Rugby Union less than a year ago, following two years playing Aussie Rules, and previous to that, four years playing Rugby League in the NRL.

Despite being still a tender 24, Folau has played four seasons in the NRL, during which he was capped by the Kangaroos at just 18 (the youngest player to be capped by Australia) and played in five State-of-Origin matches for Queensland.

And while his Aussie Rules career was not a success Folau did play several matches in the AFL, the highest level of the sport, before switching to Rugby Union.

In less than a year Folau has scored eight tries in 14 games for the Waratahs and eight in 12 for Australia. His performances in Super Rugby, The Lions Series, and the Rugby Championship have seen some hail him as the best full-back in Rugby Union, and also compare him to fellow code-switcher Sonny Bill Williams.

But while Folau’s ability to switch codes and still be a success may impress, particularly given the level of success he’s had, he’s not the first and won’t be the last sportsmen to do so. Here are just some of the few others that have participated at the highest level in multiple sports.

Sonny Bill Williams

The New Zealander rivals Folau in terms of the impact he’s had on both league and union, although as a member of the Bulldogs, Chiefs and the All Blacks, Williams has won more honours, including the NRL, Super 15, Rugby Championship and Rugby World Cup.

The only honour Sonny Bill Williams doesn’t have is a Rugby League World Cup, something which he hopes to rectify in the coming weeks.

Aside from league and union, Williams is an accomplished boxer with a 6-0 record, which included a recent defeat of Frans Botha, a man who previously fought Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis.

Karmichael Hunt

Hunt, while not as well-known as Folau, blazed the trail which Folau followed, albeit in a different order. A former fullback in the NRL, Hunt debuted for the Brisbane Broncos at just 17 and went on represent the Kangaroos and Queensland.

He switched to Union in 2009 and played a season in France with Biarritz and scored the only try in the 2010 Heineken Cup final, which Biarritz lost 21-19 to Toulouse. In spite of such immediate success Hunt left rugby altogether to pursue a career in Aussie Rules.

In four years Hunt has made the transition to AFL regular, and has prompted some to describe him as Australia’s greatest all-round footballer.

Coincidentally Hunt’s brother-in-law, Scott Harding, played in the AFL before earning a scholarship to play American Football at the University of Hawaii, where he currently plays as a punter, punt returner and wide receiver, and has ambitions to play in the NFL.

Jeff Wilson

Wilson is a true great of the game of Rugby Union. Combining great speed and skill, he was one of the dominant wings of the 1990’s. He featured in one of the most fearsome back threes of all time, alongside Christian Cullen and Jonah Lomu, and scored 44 tries in 60 tests for the All Blacks.

But Wilson was talented at multiple sports. He was a teen star in track as well as in cricket, and it was the latter which he returned to after retiring from professional rugby. After briefly playing for the Black Caps in the early 1990’s, Wilson was again called up to the national side in 2005 at the age of 31, and earned his fifth and sixth caps 12 years after he’d earned his first four.

Wilson cricket career was brief and insubstantial, yet he still holds the distinction of being a ‘Double All Black” and playing Cricket and Rugby Union for a tier one nation, a feat unmatched in the modern era.

 

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Irish fortunes slide dramatically under Kidney

5 Mar
graph (1)

Ireland’s significant decline.

 

Since the heady days of 2009 the Irish national rugby team has experienced significant decline, save for a noted victory over Australia at the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Declan Kidney’s win percentage with Ireland now stands at just 53%, significantly inferior to that of his predecessor Eddie O’Sullivan (64%). He also compares unfavourably to Peter De Villiers (62%), Mark Lievremont (60%), and Martin Johnson (55%), all of whom were subject to criticism, and at times derision, by the Irish rugby media. Should this Six Nations be Kidney’s last, the statistics seem to suggest that it just might be.

graph

Winning rates for selected International coaches (former and current)

Sergeal Petersen: Faster than Carlin Isles?

27 Feb

Sergeal Petersen, remember the name, for you’re bound to hear it again. Aged just 18, Petersen had a spectacular first appearance for the Southern Kings earlier this week, scoring two tries against the Western Force in the Kings first Super 15 game. Petersen, just out of school, also picked up the man-of-the-match award in the Kings 22-10 victory.

An accomplished sprinter, Petersen represented South Africa at the 2011 World Athletics Youth Championship and at only 16 ran a personal best of 10.55 seconds in the 100 metres. To put that in context, Carlin Isles, the American deemed ‘the fastest man in world rugby’, ran only a 10.85 at the same age. With only one Super 15 game under his belt, the Youtube  clips are relatively few for Petersen at the moment but expect that to change over the coming months.

Warren Gatland’s grand slam success despite mediocre record

24 May

The following graphs illustrates the winning records for selected international head coaches, including both current and former.

How Irish rugby has fared in the past 5 years

23 May

The percentages are based upon the number of matches won by the three provinces in the Heineken Cup and Pro 12/Celtic League. Matches played by Munster in the Challenge Cup are not included and the yet to be played 2011-2012 Pro12 final featuring Leinster has not been taken into account also.

The percentages for the Irish team are based on all games played in the past five seasons, including World Cup and World Cup warm-up games. The yet to be played series in New Zealand has not been taken into account.

The percentages for Connacht include games played in the Pro12/Celtic League and in both the Challenge Cup and Heineken Cup.

As a point of information, games drawn are included in the analysis. As such, the winning percentage may not directly correspond to a loss percentage. For example, while the Irish national teams win percentage for this season is 43%, their draw with France in this years 6 Nations means their loss percentage is 50%, rather than 57%.

Dimitar Berbatov: The Premier League’s most efficient goalscorer?

14 May

Van Persie may have scored more but Cisse was more efficient in front of goal

With the 2011-2012 Premier League season reaching its conclusion yesterday, Robin Van Persie, Arsenal’s talismanic forward, topped the seasons scoring chart with 30 league goals in just 37 games played. The Dutch international was closely followed by Man Utd’s Wayne Rooney with 27, while Man City’s Sergio Aguero managed to bag 23 goals in only his first season in the Premier League. Unlike recent seasons, the scoring charts were dominated by traditional forwards and strikers. As the list below demonstrates only one midfielder, Fulham’s Clint Dempsey, managed to score more than 15 league goals this season.

  • Robin Van Persie (Arsenal) 30 goals
  • Wayne Rooney (Man Utd) 27 goals
  • Sergio Aguero (Man City) 23 goals
  • Emanuel Adebayor (Tottenham) 17 goals
  • Clint Dempsey (Fulham) 17 goals
  • Yakubu (Blackburn) 17 goals
  • Demba Ba (Newcastle) 16 goals
  • Grant Holt (Norwich) 15 goals
  • Edin Dzeko (Man City) 14 goals
  • Mario Balotelli (Man City) 13 goals
  • Papiss Cisse (Newcastle) 13 goals
  • Steven Fletcher (Wolves) 12 goals
  • Danny Graham (Swansea) 12 goals
  • Jermain Defoe (Tottenham) 11 goals
  • Frank Lampard (Chelsea) 11 goals

While total goals per season are an obvious indicator of a players scoring prowess, there are other key metrics that can, in some eyes, better determine a player’s proficiency in front of goal. Primary among these is goals per minute. The following is a list of leading players in this seasons English Premier League adjusted to goals per minute.

  1. Dimitar Berbatov (Man Utd) 80 minutes
  2. Papiss Cisse (Newcastle) 88 minutes
  3. Mario Balotelli (Man City) 107 minutes
  4. Wayne Rooney (Man Utd) 110 minutes
  5. Nikica Jelavic (Everton) 111 minutes
  6. Edin Dzeko (Man City) 115 minutes
  7. Sergio Aguero (Man City) 116 minutes
  8. Robin Van Persie (Arsenal) 117 minutes
  9. Jermain Defoe (Tottenham) 128 minutes
  10. Yakubu (Blackburn) 150 minutes
  11. Javier Hernandez (Man Utd) 155 minutes
  12. Grant Holt (Norwich) 159 minutes
  13. Pavel Pogrebynak (Fulham) 163 minutes
  14. Emanuel Adebayor (Tottenham) 174 minutes
  15. Demba Ba (Newcastle) 177 minutes
  16. Clint Dempsey (Fulham) 206 minutes
  17. Steven Fletcher  (Wolves) 206 minutes

Selected Others of Note;

  • Fernando Torres (Chelsea) 340 minutes
  • Daniel Sturridge (Chelsea) 212 minutes
  • Frank Lampard (Chelsea) 216 minutes
  • Luis Suarez (Liverpool) 242 minutes
  • Andy Carroll (Liverpool) 554 minutes
  • Craig Bellamy (Liverpool) 223 minutes
  • Danny Graham (Swansea) 247 minutes

As the list clearly demonstrates, players with an efficient strike rate per minute are crucial to league success. Of the top eleven players listed, six played for the top two clubs, Manchester United and Manchester City. The list also confirms the widely held assumption that Newcastle’s Papiss Cisse, a £10 million transfer from Freiburg, was one of, if not, the best buy this season. On the flip side, with just one goal every 554 minutes, Liverpool’s Andy Carroll is increasingly looking like one of the greatest flops in Premier League history.

Mario Balotelli. Fact or Fiction.

14 Jan

Balotelli; The Premier League’s greatest ‘man-child’

The pupils and staff of Xaverian school received a shock visit this week after Manchester City forward, Mario Balotelli popped in briefly to use the loo.

Not prone to normal behaviour, Balotelli’s latest act is largely in keeping with a man known for his wild eccentricity.

With this in mind, Laymans News has constructed a list of alleged acts perpetrated by the Italian in his short but colourful career, some of which may be true, others false. See if you can spot fact from fiction.
  • Balotelli recently transformed the  landscaped back garden of his rented mansion in to a race track for quad bikes.
  • He once threw water balloons at a Serie A disciplinary hearing.
  • Was involved in a fracas with four bouncers after breaking the “no touching” rule at a strip club.
  • He once escorted an errant Manchester schoolboy back to his school, then promptly confronted the child’s alleged bullies.
  • Has also started fights at training with Kompany, Boateng, Tevez and Richards.
  • He was allegedly seen at the AC Milan superstore on multiple occasions while playing for Inter Milan.
  • Once went on TV wearing an AC Milan shirt with his name on the back while playing for Inter.
  • After the FA cup final, he said “ I have been sh*t this season, am I allowed say sh*t on TV? All of which was broadcast live.
  • Once broke up with a girlfriend via text whilst she was presenting a live show.
  • Slept with an Italian model while his girlfriend was downstairs.
  • Drove his car into a women’s prison because he wanted to “look around”
  • Has connections with the Italian mafia, having testified in court at a Mafia trial.

Parking spaces. Legal or not, Balotelli doesn’t care.

  • Despite having his car’s impounded on more than 20 occasions and accumulated up thousands of pounds in fines in the process, Balotelli regularly parks illegally rather than search for actual parking spaces.
  • Won £25,000 in a casino one night, then proceeded to give £1,000 to a tramp outside.
  • He brought his Ipad to the bench for Italy’s international against the Faroe Islands because he wanted to play games on it.
  • Became the face of a firework safety campaign a few days after setting his house on fire from letting off fireworks indoors.
  • Chanted “Rooney, Rooney” at the prostitute who claimed to have slept with Wayne Rooney.
  • Italy had just brought out a brand new home kit. At the start of the second half for their first match wearing the new kit, Balotelli came out in the old kit claiming he didn’t like the new one. Nobody else had changed.
  • When asked by police why he had £25,000 on his person, he coolly replied, ”Because I’m rich”.
  • Sent to John Lewis by his mother to buy essentials for the house, like an ironing board, Mario came back with a giant trampoline, a Vespa and Scalectrix.
  • After he won the European Golden Boy trophy,  Balotelli said he had never heard of Jack Wilshere,  he then said would find out who he was so he could remind Wilshere he came second.

If you answered false to any of these, you’re supposedly wrong. All of these incidents have been reported at some stage in the media as actual acts undertaken by the much maligned Italian international.

Balotelli, a man who can be accused of many things,  but fortunately boring is not one of them.