Former Wales flanker and captain Colin Charvis has kept relatively fit in his time away from professional rugby, after his career was ended by a knee injury in early 2009. From taking part in the Dallaglio Cycle Slam a few years ago to the Cardiff-Tenby 100 miler, he is well prepared physically for the upcoming BG Energy Challenge.
The largest annual charity fundraising event for the energy industry, this year’s challenge takes place in Dartmoor National Park from 5-7 July. Comprising of running, rowing and cycling events as well more ‘crystal maze’ style activites in which teams compete. BG Group hopes the Challenge, now in its seventeenth year, will top the £235,000 raised by the event in 2011, with proceeds going to CARE International and Sparks, the latter of which Charvis has been involved with for a year and a half.
“I’ve been fortunate to meet some of the people who’ve benefited from Sparks research, many people who wouldn’t be a family if it wasn’t for the work Sparks did. It’s very heartwarming to see the results. BG have worked with the charity for a while, and the BG Energy Challenge is one of their biggest fundraising events. It’s my first time running the three day event, and you really appreciate the hard work teams put in to give up their time in order to raise as much money as possible.”
Turning attention to the Six Nations, Charvis has been impressed with the way Wales have been operating at the breakdown, with England beginning to follow their example. “There’s no doubt that making 20 tackles is more draining for a team then having 20 phases in attack. But the best teams will keep fanning out until they catch someone behind the gain line. It’s about the timing of isolating someone whilst the other forwards are retreating. Wales have done that well, their composure has been excellent, because they don’t give away many penalties and referees do tend to favour attacking teams.”
The improvement in England’s defence has been obvious for the 94 capped flanker, after they repeatedly undid all of their hardwork by giving away careless penalties at the Rugby World Cup. “With England, during the World Cup they would work hard to make 60 metres up the pitch, then keep on conceding penalties and losing all that ground. But against Italy their composure in the second half was much better, and they seemed far more organised and clinical.”
One of the major talking points from last weekend was the frozen pitch in France, and Charvis predicts that the knock-on effects from the rescheduling could be significant. “It’s going to be tough on France. But what’s good is that they can rotate, and that’s something that Philippe Saint-Andre is keen to do. The cancellation means that a team like Ireland for example, could suddenly be given a lift if there’s an upset, such as England beating Wales or England beating France. The whole table could change dramatically. I thought they played incredibly well against Wales, and to see them play that way without Brian O’Driscoll is a positive step.”
It’s been hard to ignore the talent in the red of Wales however, so looking ahead to the Lions tour in Australia next year, Charvis expects a fair quantity of the current Welsh crop to be wearing another red jersey down under. “What’s been so promising is that the players who didn’t go to the World Cup, Justin Tipuric and Alex Cuthbert, have stepped up when they’ve come into the side.”
“You can see the little partnerships developing, such as the back row of Lydiate, Warburton and Faletau, the Lions front row, and the balance in the back three of power and skill is perfect. I could see 10 or more Welsh guys travelling to Australia in 2013. If whoever is in charge of the Lions wants to play a power game in the backs, then the Welsh players could be crucial.”
That power coming from the the Welsh backline will be an area that Stuart Lancaster and Andy Farrell have been pondering over the last few days. For Charvis, the key to controlling them is to stop them early, and be precise when putting boot to ball. “The key for England is to stop them from getting up a head of steam. The quicker they can get up off the line, the better. If you kick, don’t kick high; turn them and make them chase. I think England will rely on the boot to pin Wales back, because if Wales can get a sniff and you don’t keep them in their own half, as we saw against Ireland, they will come at you.”
For that reason, when Charvis is pushed to pick a winner from this year’s tournament, there is only one answer. “Home advantage sways me towards Wales, but it’s about the momentum. If they get a good win against England, which will not be pretty or easy, then all roads lead to the Millennium Stadium. There’s still enough potential drama for there to be an upset, such as England beating Wales or Ireland winning in Paris, but based on the first two games I think Wales are just going to get better. If they can sort out the lineout, then why not?”
by Ben Coles