Change of focus for The Rugby Blog

England Rugby

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.

Hutch

26 thoughts on “Change of focus for The Rugby Blog

  1. Hi Hutch,
    A quick thank you from a regular reader for all the articles that brighten up my inbox and continue to distract!
    I even wrote a few articles for you myself some years back!
    A bold decision, but at the end of the day as you say, this is a passion driven blog. As an England fan, I will obviously remain a reader!
    I am sure there will be other rugby fans who will be gutted; that is a mark of the quality you put out there. And if anyone does have a problem with your decision, I would first ask; are they willing to give up their time so passionately for 10 years to write about other rugby teams other than their own? The answer I suspect is in the negative.
    Well done, mate.

  2. You mean I can watch Scotland matches in the pub again rather than at home with a notebook out so I can do the player ratings. What a nightmare!

  3. Hutch, interesting post as we’ve been on the go for about the same length of time (2007 here too) and despite not having quite as exciting a job now as you, my situation regarding time to cover “everything” is very similar. Oh to be young and carefree again!

    Any Scotland fans feeling homeless are more than welcome over our way.

    All the best with the site and the (ever improving) Superbru going forward.

    Rory
    Scottish Rugby Blog

    PS: Steve, I just take my notebook to the pub…

    1. Hi Rory,
      Yes indeed – 2007, I remember some of it well. Your efforts on SRB have partly inspired this decision, being more specialist and covering it more effectively.
      Let’s also collaborate more closely, particularly in Calcutta Cup week!

    2. Hi Rory, you must have much nicer mates than I do, I am living in a foreign land (Herefordshire) after all.

      Can you imagine watching the Twickenham game In a pub full of English rugby fans, having to watch the nightmare again at home for the player rating then turn up for junior training the next morning with the same mates?

      Still better than being an England fan though!

  4. Thanks Hutch
    While personally i think it is a shame that the site is becoming more siloed (without the broader discussion and alternative points of view there is a risk of the readership getting stuck in an England bubble), I fully understand the reasons behind the decision and provided you can still keep a sense of perspective and balance I will still be logging in to get my fix and try and stop people getting too carried away.
    The new depth of coverage on England will certainly be interesting to read.

  5. I for one am excited about this news. More in depth articles about Premiership clubs and players would be more interesting to me.
    Along with the exciting build up from an English point of view to any international matches or tournaments.

    Does this also mean we can point and laugh at any other nations cock-ups without offending anyone!? Just asking ;-)

      1. I’d love to see some more analysis type articles although I understand that they must take a lot of time to put together.

        Green and Gold are quite strong on this, focusing on various parts of the game.

        1. yeah there were some good ones on planetrugby also but these seem to have dried up, probably due to the amount of time they take to write and the pressure to find a new subject each week. For example they did an interesting one on how different teams set up to receive kick offs in the 6N and the strengths and weaknesses of each approach

  6. Talking about being England centric
    Has anyone seen the RWC19 schedule
    The 4 day turn around from Tonga to play a fresh USA looks to be a bit of a risk (one we should be able to cope with hopefully)

  7. I’ll echo Will’s thoughts. Doing something like this blog can be a thankless task – especially when you don’t get paid for it!

    So my thanks for the years of entertainment and information. It’s helped me through at least 2 very tedious jobs.

    Wholeheartedly concur that you should focus on what you are passionate about and damn the whingers.

    Best of luck and keep up the good work!

    PS – Dan Ward-Smith! That takes me back

  8. Thanks for the Scottish coverage over the years.

    Saddened by the change but completely understand and fully support. I’ll still be lurking around.

    For those that have not as yet the Scottish Rugby Blog is well worth following.
    Talking about World Cup Fixtures, why am I not surprised.

    Sat 5 Oct, 11:30 Japan – Playoff W
    Wed 9 Oct, 08:15 Scotland – Europe 1
    Sun 13 Oct, 11:45 Japan – Scotland

    So final match in pool stage’s is basically the playoff for the winner / runner up in pool A

  9. Happy 10 year anniversary to the RB, a glorious decade and totally understandable decision going forward … congratulations on the success you’ve had growing readership and sharing your passion but particularly in launching the careers of the names past Editors.

    Personally I’m disappointed that One Night in Paris didn’t get a reference in your nostalgic look back, which if I’m not mistaken may well be the article that generated the most hits even if most people linking through to it from their Google search were expecting something quite different …!?! ?

  10. I’ll have to refrain from getting too carried away then with the new England-centric blog.
    What possessed you Hutch? Are you going English on us? Heaven forbid!
    Its popularly PC to be anti-English not pro!

  11. I not going to lie, so I am disappointed but on the other hand completely understand. Will miss the unbiased insight on the Pro14, so will need to revert to the Scottish Rugby Blog more frequently (no bad thing).

    Wishing you all the best.

  12. Time waits for no man and we live in an ever changing world. Typing personally, I’m just grateful the Rugby blog exists. I’m no expert but we all have our thoughts ,feelings and opinions about the game and this is a great forum for expressing same.
    Your hard work and passion for the game is much appreciated Hutch. Thank you.

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