This year has marked the 10th anniversary of The Rugby Blog, and it has been quite a journey since the heady days of 2007.
Looking back at some of my first articles, I can see some debate over back row selection featuring Lawrence Dallaglio, Joe Worsley, Tom Rees, Lewis Moody, the inexperienced James Haskell and the uncapped Dan Ward-Smith.
There’s also a lucky prediction that South Africa would win the World Cup that year, and a suggestion that England go back to basics in their preparation for the tournament – something they finally did in the knockout stages that saw their miraculous route to the final.
Then there was the Animal XV, which was subsequently mentioned in The Sunday Times, and the Bluffer’s Guide to the World Cup, linked to from the BBC homepage – and those two features set us on the way with some actual readers, and we grew from there.
I was working as a Management Consultant at the time, dreaming of working in sport without much clue of how to go about it. Creating something that I was passionate about seemed like a reasonable first step without any expectation of carving out a career this way, but starting the blog eventually led me to Superbru – making Super Rugby predictions initially, and then ultimately leaving the City to join the company full-time as Commercial Director.
The Rugby Blog has always been about passion and writing for the fun and experience of it – it doesn’t really make any money, and it’s never going to support a proper income, so the passion is key. Over the years, the likes of Ben Coles and Charlie Morgan (both now at The Telegraph), Jamie Hosie (now at BT Sport) and Nick Heath (now a Rugby commentator) have all lent us their passion and played important roles, both in shaping the blog and launching their careers, but once they move on, it falls back to me to take on Editor duties.
As Superbru has grown into different countries and sports, it has taken more and more of my time, we are accountable to investors as well as our staff, and ultimately the day job is affecting how I am running things here – and it’s not particularly satisfactory from the blog point of view. I was too busy to even mark the 10-year anniversary!
We have historically aimed for broad Rugby coverage, focusing on the home nations and beyond for major tournaments like the Rugby Championship and Super Rugby. But the grand ambition to cater for everyone has not been matched by the time I’m able to put into it, and without paying people, I don’t make demands of anyone to commit to writing regularly.
That means we aren’t doing justice to fans of Ireland, Scotland and Wales, or anyone else, with a smattering of articles here and there designed to even things out across the nations. Nor are we doing justice to fans of England, because I haven’t wanted too much England bias to alienate other readers, and I feel like my passion for the site has waned because I don’t like doing a bad job of anything.
So here is the plan: we’re going to focus on England, and do it better.
By being unapologetically England-centric, we can have more in-depth analysis, player interviews, feature articles and so on, looking at both the International team and the Aviva Premiership season. We will touch on other nations, and include any notable stories from around the Rugby world – but from an English point of view.
We can look at up-and-coming talent in the Championship, offer more coverage of the growing women’s game – both internationally and domestically – and perhaps do more than nod at the 7-a-side format of our game. We can get carried away expecting England to win every game without concern, we can analyse where things have gone wrong in defeat without acknowledging the opposition, and if people want to refer to Twickenham as HQ, that’s fine too.
I feel bad for our non-English readers, but looking at audience statistics I feel like this is a move that the majority of people will enjoy, and those that can’t abide England are still welcome to stop by for some debate, or visit the likes of the Scottish Rugby Blog, Harpin’ on Rugby for Ireland or our resident Welshman’s blog at https://jondaviesmedia.com where they will be better served. There’s the excellent greenandgoldrugby.com for our Australian friends, whilst New Zealand and South Africa are particularly well served with Rugby opinions.
We will also still have a Rugby Predictions section, where I will share my Superbru picks for the major tournaments – those will serve as preview articles for those competitions and generate some discussion around non-English rugby, and in truth, we haven’t been doing a huge amount beyond that anyway. For those that followed my Super Rugby picks this year, hopefully I’ll have another good season in 2018, and I’ll keep publishing them every week.
Let me know if you have any feedback on this. It may be disappointing for some people, but I hope you can understand the rationale. And for those that might be excited about it, let us know the sort of thing you’d like to see on the site.
I’m heading off today for a contemplative golf weekend in Spain, and then will be back raring to go on Monday morning ahead of the Autumn Internationals.
Thanks for your support over the years. Here’s to the next 10.