Robert Kitson

Author's details

Name: Robert Kitson
Date registered: October 11, 2014
URL: http://www.theguardian.com/sport/south-africa-rugby-team

Latest posts

  1. Wasps 20-23 Exeter: Five talking points from the Premiership final | Robert Kitson — May 27, 2017
  2. Exeter Chiefs ready for fairytale finish against Wasps in Premiership final | Robert Kitson — May 26, 2017
  3. Thrilling Premiership semi-finals hint at a Twickenham treat yet to come | Robert Kitson — May 21, 2017
  4. If the Lions and All Blacks want to know what to expect … remember 1971 | Robert Kitson — May 16, 2017
  5. Eddie Jones out to unearth bigger England backs on tour of Argentina — May 13, 2017

Author's posts listings

May 27

Wasps 20-23 Exeter: Five talking points from the Premiership final | Robert Kitson

The most gripping Premiership final proved a more accurate reflection of English rugby than any Twickenham international

The Premiership has known some staggering finales but never such a roller-coaster of emotions. Chiefs looked to have taken control when they led 14-3 after just 28 minutes; for Wasps to respond with 17 unanswered points was remarkable. Exeter’s storming response, with Wasps’ having to repel a 34-phase attack at a crucial juncture of the second half, also summed up both sides’ unbelievable resolve and collective spirit. Extra-time, with both sides on their last legs, was almost too tense to watch even before Gareth Steenson’s clinching penalty. A place-kicking contest would have been horrendous.

Related: Exeter and Wasps serve up final thriller to show best of English club rugby | Michael Aylwin

Related: We want to be best rugby team in Europe, says Exeter chairman Tony Rowe

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/may/27/wasps-exeter-premiership-final-talking-points

May 26

Exeter Chiefs ready for fairytale finish against Wasps in Premiership final | Robert Kitson

Victory at Twickenham would cap a remarkable rise and bring the south-west its first major national championship

The list of famous Devonians, from Scott of the Antarctic and Sir Walter Raleigh to Agatha Christie and Coldplay’s Chris Martin, is an eclectic one. Until now heroic athletes – apart from sailors and Argyle footballers – have been in shorter supply. Not since the Tavistock-born Sir Francis Drake played bowls on Plymouth Hoe before defeating the Spanish Armada in 1588 have there been many more evocative local sporting yarns than Exeter Chiefs’ buccaneering ride to Twickenham.

It is seven years this week that Exeter made it out of the Championship to the Premiership; there remains a decent Hollywood movie in their ascent from the old tumbledown County Ground to the top of the domestic game. One more push and for the first time in the history of England’s leading professional team sports – whether it be cricket’s county championship, Premier League football or elite rugby – a team from the south-west peninsula will be national champions.

Related: Exeter into Premiership final as Sam Simmonds stuns Saracens with late try

Related: Wasps go to Premiership final as Josh Bassett’s late try floors Leicester

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/26/exeter-chiefs-turn-up-heat-wasps-premiership-final

May 21

Thrilling Premiership semi-finals hint at a Twickenham treat yet to come | Robert Kitson

If the forthcoming final comes anywhere close to matching the level of entertainment in these matches then supporters are guaranteed a cracking game

Assuming both teams can still walk after two truly epic Premiership semi-finals, the English club season is set for a ripper of a Twickenham finale. If the showdown between Exeter Chiefs and Wasps is even half as thrilling as Saturday’s twin peaks it will be a rare treat, even if the significant shoulder injury that has ruled Billy Vunipola out of the Lions tour has now cast a cloud over the latter stages of the domestic season.

On paper it will look pretty routine to anyone who missed the games in favour of, say, attending a society wedding: the top two regular season sides made home advantage count and will now meet in the final. That simplistic summary does not reflect the intensely dramatic reality: the aggregate margins at Sandy Park and the Ricoh Arena amounted to just three points and neither victory was sealed until the closing seconds.

Related: Exeter into Premiership final as Sam Simmonds stuns Saracens with late try

Related: Wasps go to Premiership final as Josh Bassett’s late try floors Leicester

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/may/21/thrilling-premiership-semi-finals-hint-twickenham-treat

May 16

If the Lions and All Blacks want to know what to expect … remember 1971 | Robert Kitson

Barry John, Willie John McBride and co soaked up everything New Zealand had to offer, laughed in the face of chilling adversity and lived to tell the victory tales

The British & Irish Lions touring party have not yet left Heathrow but they are already receiving plenty of sage advice. The New Zealand coach, Steve Hansen, has even warned this week about the pressure set to be generated next month by the “massive expectation” of the Lions’ supporters. Eh? It is akin to the Big Bad Wolf advising Little Red Riding Hood to beware the slightly loose paving stone up the garden path.

Related: Warren Gatland uses Messy Monday to prepare Lions for New Zealand challenge | Robert Kitson

Related: Forty years on: When we saw fantasy rugby in New Zealand | Martin Kelner

Related: Saracens’ collective force of will redrawing European rugby blueprint | Paul Rees

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/may/16/lions-all-blacks-1971-new-zealand-tour-barry-john

May 13

Eddie Jones out to unearth bigger England backs on tour of Argentina

• Coach wants ‘more size in the backs’ for 2019 Rugby World Cup
• ‘We’ve got a very small backline and don’t have any player over 94kg’

Eddie Jones has decided he needs more monster backs capable of smashing his England team through all obstacles en route to the 2019 Rugby World Cup final. Jones sees the size of his current backline as an increasing issue and, having rejected Christian Wade, is hoping to unearth a couple of bigger contenders on this summer’s tour to Argentina.

In a modern game increasingly populated by giants, the modestly proportioned George Ford, Elliot Daly, Jonathan Joseph and Mike Brown have all contributed significantly as England have lifted the past two Six Nations Championship titles. Jones, though, is keen to increase England’s power ratio in the belief that size matters if his squad have ambitions to lift the Webb Ellis Cup.

Related: Eddie Jones expects England to turn Japanese for 2019 World Cup

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/13/eddie-jones-out-to-unearth-bigger-england-backline-tour-argentina-2019-rugby-world-cup

May 11

Eddie Jones expects England to turn Japanese for 2019 World Cup

• Coaches and players to visit 2019 hosts beforehand to acclimatise
• ‘Japan climate will make it a World Cup of two halves,’ says Jones

Eddie Jones has pledged to leave no Japanese stone unturned in his attempt to help England mount a successful challenge for the 2019 Rugby World Cup. The head coach has already held meetings about using the training camps earmarked for Team GB’s athletes before the 2020 Olympic Games and is also planning to fly his players over for acclimatisation sessions next year.

Having coached in Japan, Jones believes the first Rugby World Cup to be staged in Asia will differ markedly from previous tournaments and is determined to ensure his squad are suitably prepared.

Related: Eddie Jones plans ‘bulletproof’ England for tough 2019 Rugby World Cup pool

Related: Will England fail to escape their pool for a second successive World Cup? | Robert Kitson

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/11/eddie-jones-england-japanese-2019-world-cup

May 10

Will England fail to escape their pool for a second successive World Cup? | Robert Kitson

After the draw in Kyoto there are tantalising opportunities available to Scotland, Ireland and Wales if they get to Japan in good shape come late 2019

There are two years and four months still to go until Japan’s 2019 Rugby World Cup kicks off but at least one leading nation is already doomed to catch the bullet train to premature oblivion. While some tough early pool games can occasionally prove to be helpful in the later stages, England will be fooling no one if they insist a grouping with France and Argentina is exactly what they always wanted.

Bill Beaumont, the former England captain who pulled his own country’s name out of the pot, can expect precious few congratulatory messages from home. England under Eddie Jones continue to nurse genuine hopes of success in 2019 but any vague prospect of a smooth ride into the last eight has now abruptly disappeared.

Related: England drawn in same 2019 Rugby World Cup pool as Argentina and France

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/may/10/england-pool-rugby-world-cup-2019-draw-japan-scotland-ireland-wales

May 09

Rugby union heads for Japan with the World Cup draw a landmark moment

Warren Gatland and the rest of the rugby union world will be in Kyoto on Wednesday when the groupings are determined for the 2019 tournament

Even Phileas Fogg would have struggled had he been involved in modern-day rugby union. One day Warren Gatland is in London talking up the Lions, the next he is en route to Japan for the 2019 Rugby World Cup draw. Next week he has to be back in Wales, the week after it is Ireland followed by a long wintry trek around New Zealand. If it is Wednesday, it must be Kyoto, in theory at least.

There will be precious little relaxation at 39,000 feet either, if the pool draw takes on a deathly complexion once more. As Gatland observed: “Probably the team you don’t want to get is the All Blacks. Everyone else you wouldn’t mind.” He was smiling when he said it but pretty much every other international head coach below the top four seeds will be thinking likewise.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/may/09/rugby-union-japan-2019-world-cup-kyoto-webb-ellis-cup

May 09

Warren Gatland uses Messy Monday to prepare Lions for New Zealand challenge | Robert Kitson

The squad’s time together is at a premium before their departure but no stone has been left unturned in their planning – right down to the choice of music

Every British & Irish Lions tour has to start somewhere and these days it is beneath a teetering mountain of free kit in west London. The 41 chosen players heading to New Zealand have been issued with everything from multiple hats – peaked and woolly – to laptop covers and, crucially, have also now posed for their squad photo. Even if injury intervenes before the end of the month they will have something to show the grandchildren.

They call it ‘Messy Monday’ with good reason but, for the management, every second together is precious. Given all the various end-of-season finals and play-offs still outstanding, the full party will not be united again until the day before the squad fly out on 29 May. Warren Gatland, the head coach, expects to see less than a third of his squad at next week’s pre-tour fitness camp in Wales. By the time everyone reaches Auckland, still strangers in a few cases, the first game will be three days away.

Related: Premiership 2016-17: team-by-team review of the rugby union season

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/09/warren-gatland-messy-monday-lions-new-zealand

Apr 25

Holding 2023 Rugby World Cup in Ireland would capture hearts and minds | Robert Kitson

As Irish fans have amply demonstrated there is a deep well of passion for rugby in the country which the sport’s premier tournament would do well to tap into

Imagine, for a moment, it is 2023. People have had enough of politics and onrushing global warming and need something more fun to talk about than imminent Armageddon, assuming it has not already happened. What better than a Rugby World Cup, still relatively pure of heart compared with the football version held in Qatar the previous year? If ever there was a moment to showcase the sport as a force for good, this is it.

Where, then, should this feelgood event ideally be held? Where will it not simply generate a few quid but create the kind of positive vibe that might make sponsors, advertisers and TV companies wonder whether rugby merits a bigger slice of their pie? Where will rugby’s most compelling virtues and off-field spirit be best illustrated? There are three different options on the table – South Africa, France and Ireland – with an independently assessed recommendation due to be made this summer and a final vote due on 15 November.

Related: Warren Gatland can give Lions nous and substance for All Blacks challenge | Robert Kitson

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/apr/25/ireland-rugby-world-cup-2023

Apr 20

England squad for Argentina shows Eddie Jones is still hunting surprises | Robert Kitson

With several teenagers, the list of 31 proves Eddie Jones is determined to unearth fresh contenders for his 2019 Rugby World Cup squad, players better than England’s 16 Lions

Those who thought England’s Lions-depleted squad to tour Argentina would be a largely predictable list do not know Eddie Jones very well. Fifteen uncapped players will be heading to South America for two Tests in June, with Sale’s cross-code wing Denny Solomona and Auckland’s Piers Francis among some eye-catching inclusions in a 31-man party.

Several of Jones’s picks are still in their teens. Sale’s 18-year-old twins Ben and Tom Curry are joined by two 19-year-olds in the Saracens lock Nick Isiekwe and the London Irish wing Joe Cokanasiga. Among other up-and-coming talents named are the 20-year-old Exeter scrum-half Jack Maunder, the athletic Saracens winger Nathan Earle and the Northampton back Harry Mallinder.

Related: Gatland’s Lions will follow Ireland and look to feed off All Black mistakes

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/apr/20/eddie-jones-england-tour-argentina-tom-curry

Apr 19

Blend of Anglo-Saxon power and Celtic thunder will give Lions heart | Robert Kitson

Warren Gatland has selected an abrasive and battle-hardened Lions squad for the formidable challenge of taking on the All Blacks in their own backyard

There can be a slight sense of anticlimax in the immediate aftermath of a British & Ireland Lions squad announcement. Not every deserving individual gets picked, not every country feels fairly represented and the brutal realities of the schedule, particularly this summer, are not easily ignored. It generally takes a while for everyone to calm down and appreciate precisely what the selectors are seeking to achieve.

In the case of the 2017 Lions, ultimately, it is less the shortage of Scots that leaps out than the bristling bundle of competitive energy heading New Zealand’s way. This is not a squad picked for some vague trip to a generic location but specifically with the world champions’ backyard in mind. Warren Gatland is a Kiwi himself and not one of the 41 seats on the plane south will be filled by a player who dissolves at the first hint of pressure.

Related: Lions: the key issues for Warren Gatland and his squad in New Zealand

Related: Lions 2017 squad announcement: Warburton captain, no place for Hartley – as it happened

Related: Sam Warburton: ‘If you get criticism, so be it – you take rough with smooth’

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/apr/19/british-lions-2017-all-blacks-warren-gatland-sam-warburton

Apr 18

Wales centre Jamie Roberts set to make cut in Gatland’s Lions squad

• Half of England starting XV who faced Ireland in Six Nations could miss out
• Sam Warburton to be named Lions captain for New Zealand tour

Several high-profile England players are set to miss this summer’s British and Irish Lions tour but the Wales centre Jamie Roberts is poised to be a surprise inclusion when Warren Gatland announces his squad to tour New Zealand on Wednesday. The experienced Roberts has leapfrogged a number of midfield contenders but almost half the English starting XV beaten by Ireland in the Six Nations last month are struggling to make the cut.

Established England players such as George Ford, Mike Brown, Jonathan Joseph, Joe Launchbury, James Haskell and Chris Robshaw are all likely to be squeezed out when the party is unveiled at midday, with Wales’s Sam Warburton captaining the squad for the second successive tour. Among the other England Six Nations winners poised to tour Argentina under Eddie Jones instead are Danny Care, Jonny May and Nathan Hughes.

Related: Warren Gatland can give Lions nous and substance for All Blacks challenge | Robert Kitson

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/18/dylan-hartley-warren-gatland-lions-england-rugby-union-squad

Apr 18

Warren Gatland can give Lions nous and substance for All Blacks challenge | Robert Kitson

Whatever squad is unveiled on Wednesday, there should be enough ballast in the Lions party to compete in rugby’s most formidable environment in New Zealand

Soon enough the longest wait in rugby will be over. Warren Gatland can still expect loads of advice between now and the first Test against the All Blacks on 24 June but after this week’s selection excitement the tone will swiftly change. Picking a British and Irish Lions squad to tour New Zealand is a lot easier than coming back victorious.

It certainly pays to hear from those who have made the same trek in the past and experienced, rugby-wise, a parallel universe. “Their rugby was different from anything I had experienced before; at times it was just wave after wave after wave,” recalled Ollie Campbell, the great Irish fly-half who was part of the 1983 squad. “It was like standing on the beach trying to keep the tide back; eventually it just goes over you.”

Related: England’s Joe Launchbury and Jonathan Joseph to miss out on Lions squad

Related: A hell of a job: why the Lions selection process is almost as tough as the tour

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/apr/18/lions-warren-gatland-all-blacks

Mar 19

England’s defeat by Ireland a necessary wake-up call for Eddie Jones

There is no shame in losing 13-9 to Ireland but, regardless of the tricky conditions, England also made a major contribution to their own downfall

In 30 years’ time most people looking at the 2017 Six Nations table will assume England enjoyed a truly golden season. Dylan Hartley’s team retained their title, finished the tournament with their second-highest haul of tries since 2004 and equalled the world record for successive major Test victories. The squad is still mostly young and only New Zealand are placed above them in the world rankings.

Those with longer memories, though, will not forget the hefty dose of perspective dished out by Ireland on the concluding weekend in a contest that left numerous uneasy questions hanging in the drizzly Dublin air.

Related: England pursuit of grand slam and record foiled by defiant Ireland

Related: England finishers hit endgame against Ireland’s unyielding Johnny Sexton | Andy Bull

Related: Ireland 13-9 England: how the Six Nations players in Dublin rated

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/19/england-defeat-welcome-wakeup-call-eddie-jones

Mar 14

England’s class of ’92 offer lesson in collective improvement for current crop | Robert Kitson

The team heading to Dublin seeking consecutive grand slams for the first time in 25 years ‘could become the best England side ever’, believes Peter Winterbottom

Back-to-back grand slams take some winning. The last time England managed the feat was in 1992, the heyday of Will Carling, Peter Winterbottom, Dean Richards, Jeremy Guscott, Rory Underwood et al, which shows the exalted company Dylan Hartley’s team are trying to join. If they do defeat Ireland on Saturday to complete a second successive full house, their achievement will stand history’s definitive test.

Even a quarter of a century later, the class of ’92 can still recall every little detail of their fabled campaign. They had great players but, then as now, were bruised by previous failure, most recently their 1991 World Cup final defeat to Australia. Their newly appointed coach, Dick Best, was certainly feeling the pressure before the championship. “I thought: Jesus, the only difference from last year is me,” Best says. “If we don’t win another grand slam, guess who they’ll point the finger at?”

Related: England happy to wait until they can step out from All Blacks’ shadow | Andy Bull

Related: How Ireland mood music has changed as record-chasing England loom | Brendan Fanning

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/mar/14/england-class-of-92-six-nations-robert-kitson

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