September 23, 2010
Juan Manuel Leguizamon dives in to sco...oh, he's dropped it. © Getty Images
Gavin Henson's decision to join BBC reality TV show Strictly Come Dancing could go either way. We could see him strut his stuff at next year's World Cup after a successful comeback, but there's unfortunately also scope for him to disappear in a fog of celebrity nonsense. With his plight in mind, we've selected seven rugby decisions to forget, ranging from mid-match howlers to behind-the-scenes plots. Some were stupid, others unfortunate. Hopefully Henson won't become number eight on any future list.
I believe I can fly
There may be something strangely comforting about going down in clips-show history, but you'd have to ask Juan Manuel Leguizamon to be sure. The current Stade No.8, who is serving an 80-day ban for some not-funny-at-all gouging, will be guffawed and hee-hawed at by plenty of 'What happens next?' panels in the future after deciding that his simple try for London Irish against Wasps in 2007 would not be complete without a swan dive. In front of a then-record Premiership crowd the over-excited back-rower dropped the ball while going airborne, basically leaving him to jump face-first into the ground. When asked after the game, which the Exiles won 16-13, whether Leguizamon owed the squad a couple of beers, coach Toby Booth deadpanned: "As long as he is not carrying them."
Henson's decision to trade rugby shirt for sequined shirt has its detractors but pales in significance to the green light being given for a cringe-inducing orchestrated photograph of the Wales international and coach Sir Clive Woodward during the 2005 British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand. Henson was unwittingly photographed walking with the former England boss by an agency photographer following his contentious omission from the first Test side. The snapper was acting under orders from the Lions' media contingent and former government spin doctor Alastair Campbell. "I didn't know anything about the photo. But I haven't seen it, so I can't really comment," Henson said at the time. Everything about this incident was wrong - beginning with Campbell's ridiculous appointment and ending with a horrible misuse of a player to feed an ailing propaganda campaign.
I wanna be on TV
In 1996, as rugby slowly got to grips with the idea of professionalism, England signed a alluring TV rights deal with Sky. Their Five Nations counterparts reacted with a typical degree of bluster and launched them from the tournament, electing to play under a new format after France also agreed to jettison fixtures against England from their calendar. The tournament was salvaged following lengthy deliberation between the parties, but the question remains in the mind of many rugby fans as to why the move was made given the obvious possibility of jeopardising the northern hemisphere's crown jewel. Can you imagine a rugby season without the Five/Six Nations?
It wasn't the best idea in the first place, but Tom Williams managed to make it a little worse with his stylistic choices as he left the field against Leinster. If in future someone elects to pen an 'Idiots' Guide' to cheating in high-profile sporting contests - they can begin here: "Number one, don't spit the weird, globby fake blood all over yourself. Two, don't stumble off the field like Bruce Grobbelaar. Three, and this one is really important, don't wink at your mates in front of the TV cameras." It's OK to laugh at this now, right?
Honesty is the best policy
Even the most paranoid of us would have arched an eyebrow at the escalation of events following France centre Mathieu Bastareaud's invention of an assault while on tour in New Zealand in 2009. We've all done something similar. After a few too many shandies and with a raging hangover we've blamed the dog for the mess on the carpet, the kids for eating everything in the fridge and our mates for the road sign currently blocking next door's driveway. Bastareuad's attempt to explain away some cuts and bruises caused by a drunken fall ended up becoming a diplomatic incident, with the French and New Zealand unions going hammer and tongs to repair the damage done by an impressionable young player who wanted to avoid a shellacking. Any fib that ends with government intervention hasn't gone well.
Just don't go there
TV's quest to go the extra yard in their efforts to bring every aspect of the game into your living room is admirable but often results in some colourful content that would have moral campaigner Mary Whitehouse up in arms were she still with us. Take Fox Sports' decision to stick a camera and a microphone in the Reds' player huddle following their Super 14 victory over the Chiefs earlier his year. Reds lock Van Humphries delivered a foul-mouthed outburst that made him an internet sensation but he is not the guilty party here - the blame lies with the countless TV directors who continue to gamble in a similar way - ESPN, Sky Sports, the BBC are all guilty with the stock phrase of, "We apologise for any colourful language you may have heard there" seemingly penance enough broadening the rugby education of younger viewers.
An unfortunate career decision
George Parsons won a single cap for Wales against England in 1947 but was denied the chance to add to his Test honours after leaving his job with the Monmouthshire Police Constabulary. In the strictly-amateur days of the post-war period, this was taken to be confirmation of reports that Parsons was soon to 'go north' and join the ranks of rugby league. Parsons' notification of his omission from the Wales side to face France a month after his debut came on the platform of Newport station as the squad left for Paris. He maintained that he had no intention at that time of leaving for the 13-man-code, where he would later become a legendary figure in the colours of St. Helen's. "A difficult situation has arisen as a result of my decision to leave the police force," he summarised.
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