Sunday, 17 October 1999

Lawrence Dallaglio coaches a women's sevens team for Sky TV

THE FUTURE was looking cloudless for Lawrence Dallaglio back in the spring of 1998 when he agreed to be a Guiding Star for a new series on Sky One. The station had already signed up David Seaman to manage a park football side, and a page three girl to teach wannabe page three girls how to, well, how to get undressed, presumably. Dallaglio, meanwhile, was asked to coach the Bancroft Women's Rugby Union Club as they prepared for a big sevens tournament.

A few days' filming, a nice wedge of green in the pocket of his shorts, and an hour's worth of positive publicity for the lantern-jawed England captain. It seemed too easy to be true. But of course, no sooner was the film in the can than the biggest, blackest cloud Dallaglio had ever seen suddenly appeared on the horizon. What Murdoch giveth with one hand, one of the countless others was about to take away.

And so it was that while last week's Guiding Star still looked like a blatant PR exercise, it felt altogether less cosy than originally intended. Try as you might, you could never forget the awful mess into which this rather quiet, self-conscious giant of a man was about to blunder. The central figure was no longer a talented player on the way up, but a daft one in danger of sliding down the other side.

It meant that it was impossible to watch otherwise innocent moments without smirking. His team, for instance, spent a night during the two-day tournament all tucked up together in a large tent. Lawrence, however, decided to sleep elsewhere, and thank heaven for that. Imagine what the Screws would have made of it. Scrum Down! Saucy No 8 scores seven before breakfast! It doesn't bear thinking about.

At least he didn't describe Bancroft's eventual success in the tournament - in fact, it was in the consolation event for also-rans - as "one of the biggest highs of my life". Or if he did, Sky were kind enough to cut it out. But to be fair to Dallaglio, his team's transformation did seem to be a cause for credit.

The previous year, this bunch of apparent no-hopers had finished 60th in a field of 64. Now, despite some embarrassing defeats on day one, they came through on day two to win three matches in a row, and beat the Army, no less, to take the trophy for the Best Of The Rest. BSkyB, cynics may point out, would do anything for ratings, but surely even they would not corrupt an entire rugby tournament in the quest for sexier television. You have to hope not, anyway.

This wholesale transformation in Bancroft's fortunes seemed to have come about as the result of two training sessions with Dallaglio and a lecture on nutrition and exercise from Wasps' diet guru. "I realise," he told them, "that shopping and McDonald's are slightly higher priorities than [exercise] twice a week on your own." If they hadn't been so out of shape, they would probably have killed him. "What about alcohol?" someone asked. Lawrence decided that he would field that one himself. "The general rule," he told them, "is that we don't touch it for two or three days before a game." Now why couldn't he have said something like that to those nasty people from the News of the World?

Dallaglio's international career, of course, is pretty much back on track. He was in the thick of it on Friday, as England ran 100-odd points past Tonga, in yet another match which forced you to wonder whether ITV really took a close look at what they were signing when they bought the rights to the World Cup.

At least there was a crowd for this one, unlike so many of the first- round games. And yes, Wales against Samoa on Thursday also had an audience, and was thoroughly entertaining too, particularly when the referee adopted the Old Trafford approach to injury time - the home side are behind, so keep playing - and the Welsh still couldn't win. But what both ITV and, more pointedly, their advertisers, must be wondering is whether every empty seat at, say, Murrayfield for Scotland v Uruguay represents 10, 100 or even 1,000 empty sofas in Britain's living rooms.

In the same way that many people only watch the Boat Race in case one of the crews sinks, those who watch the early games are probably waiting only for the fights. The Americans are often derided for calling their baseball final the World Series, but it is no less ridiculous to call a tournament the World Cup when everyone knows that by the time of the semi-finals, it will almost certainly be the Tri-Nations Plus One.

Nine, perhaps even 13, sacrificial victims for the major southern-hemisphere sides might have been bearable. Seventeen is a turn-off, in every sense, but no doubt the organisers felt that they had corporate packages to sell, advertisers to accommodate and potential sponsors to keep happy. And that, of course, rather brings us back to Lawrence Dallaglio.

Source Citation
Wood, Greg. "Sport on TV: Dallaglio's delivery brings a smirk to the cynical." Independent on Sunday [London, England] 17 Oct. 1999

Tuesday, 12 October 1999

Daily Mirror gives advice on feeding a women's rugby team

THE Rugby World Cup is dominating the sporting headlines - but many women, as well as men, play their hearts out every week. "It's a great way of keeping fit," says Debbie Cracknell, 34, who plays for Burnham-on-Crouch in Essex. "Eighty minutes on a rugby pitch is far more exciting than spending an evening in the gym. That's why a lot more women are playing rugby now." So why did Debbie write to us? Well, Burnham, who play in Division Four of the National Challenge League (London and Eastern Counties) had a vital game coming up and she wanted to get the players together the night before the big match. It was a chance for their coach, Gig Ingham, to talk tactics and for the girls to relax before the game with Mill Hill. "I've offered to do the cooking but I'm not a great cook and the others arealways teasing me. So I want to surprise them. I need something simple, enough to feed 20 hungry people and it has to be full of energy but low in fat. So there's a real challenge."

LUCY SAYS: The trick when catering for lots of people is to make a couple of meal-in-one dishes. Hot pots are great (but out of the question because although rich in protein, they're not high in carbohydrates). The answer is to make an easy pastadish - lots of it - to which we can add protein such as chicken. It makes sense to make a chicken dish and a vegetarian dish (we opted for trendy stuffed peppers).It's easy to prepare in advance - Debbie and I did that while the other girls trained. And puddings should be scrummy and fun. A simple trifle made with boudoir biscuits is low in fat. We also did baked bananas which are rich in potassium and magnesium (to prevent players getting cramp).So what did the team think? Coach Gig gave the meal the thumbs-up. "This is just the thing they need thenight before a match. It's filling and full of energy but not heavy." Debbie's boyfriend, Paul Smith, added: "I'm so proud of Debbie. I can't believehow good this is!" Simone Collins said: "I love the crunchy texture of the filling in the peppers. With the garlic and chilli, it's not bland like a lot of vegetarian food." "I can't believe I'm asking Debbie, of all people, for a recipe," said Jenny Charnock with a laugh. "But I love this pasta." Karen Mihill, Teresa Barr andClare Hamilton asked: "Can we have some more, please? We'll sweat off the extra ounces in the game tomorrow."


Pasta quills with Tuscan chicken


1kg pasta quills, 32 mini plum tomatoes, quartered, juice 1 lemon, 90ml olive oil, 8 cooked chicken breasts, sliced, 2 x 410g cans red kidney beans, rinsed and drained, 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped, 2 x 15g pkt chives, chopped, 2 x 15g pkt tarragon (or basil) chopped, salt and freshly ground black pepper, 2 bags mixed salad leaves, to serve.

COOK pasta in a large pan of salted boiling water according to packet instructions. Drain. Tip pasta into a large bowl and stir in the lemon juice and olive oil and mix well. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Cover and chill until ready to serve. (You can leave for up to six hours. This helps flavours infuse and means you can go out and train with the others, if you want to). To serve, arrange the salad on oval platters and top with the pasta mixture.


Piedmont stuffed peppers


500g couscous, 20 red peppers, tops sliced off and seeds scooped out, 90ml olive oil, 1 bunch spring onions, sliced, 4 cloves garlic, chopped, 2 mild red chillies, seeded and sliced. 2 mild green chillies, seeded and sliced, 4 sticks celery, chopped, 1 head broccoli cut into tiny florets and blanched, 15g pkt coriander, finely chopped, salt and freshly-ground black pepper, 4 x 125g pkt light mozzarella cheese drained and cut into chunks.

PRE HEAT oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Tip couscous into large bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave to stand 10 mins. Slice a bit off bottom of peppers so they sit neatly in two roasting tins. While couscous is still warm, stir in 60ml olive oil, spring onions, garlic, chillies, celery, broccoli and coriander. Season. Divide couscous mixture between peppers, pop lids back on top, drizzle with 30ml olive oil, roast in preheated oven 30 mins.


Red fruit trifle


175g box sponge boudoir biscuits, 100ml brandy, 250g raspberries, 375g strawberries, hulled and halved, 500g carton low- fat custard, 2 x 450g pots apricot yoghurt, 20 strawberries to decorate.

BREAKthe biscuits into small pieces and scatter in the bottom of 20 wine glasses. Pour over a little brandy followed by the raspberries and strawberries. Mix together the custard and yoghurt and spoon over the fruit. Cover and chill for up to 6 hours. To serve, decorate each portion with a strawberry. (If you don't want to use alcohol, use fresh orange juice instead). KITCHEN TIP: It's easier to make and serve this dish in individual portions - a small wine glass is the perfect size.


Baked bananas


20 bananas, 20 tbsp rum, 20 tbsp clear honey, 20 tbsp Greek yoghurt

PRE HEAT the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Put the bananas in a single layer in a couple of roasting tins and cook until the bananas are blackened (about 10 minutes) then turn them over and cook again until blackened all over. Check them after 5 minutes (the exact cooking time depends on how ripe the bananas are). Remove the bananas from the oven, carefully slit down the middle and pour 1 tbsp each of rum, honey and yoghurt into the slit and serve at once. (If you don't want alcohol, simply leave it out. It's still delicious.) KITCHEN TIP:This is a brilliant last-minute pud which needs no preparation.

Source Citation
Knox, Lucy. "Eating Zone: My rugger girls want something scrummy; EACH week LUCY KNOX offers a Zone reader a food makeover. Today, Lucy helps a women's rugby team with a high-energy, low-fat meal the night before a vital match." Mirror [London, England] 12 Oct. 1999