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David Kelly’s Six Nations diary: Stewart’s rise, Wales rail chaos, and the real story behind ‘buggy-gate’


Tom Stewart of Ulster is tackled by Matteo Nocera of Zebre Parma

Tom Stewart of Ulster is tackled by Matteo Nocera of Zebre Parma

Tom Stewart of Ulster is tackled by Matteo Nocera of Zebre Parma

With the Six Nations only five days away, here’s a look at the lesser-spotted stories of the day.

Happy Hooker

Tom Stewart was drafted into the Irish squad as injury cover for Ronan Kelleher and it continues the stratospheric rise of the former RBAI youngster.

He turned just 22 earlier this month and based on our viewing of him in Galway over the festive period, it is little wonder he caught the eye of Andy Farrell, especially after his earlier stint in the Emerging Ireland tour at the start of the campaign.

Aside from the obvious quality beloved of all hookers to snaffle tries from a five-yard drive, he has blistering footwork and his darts are sound.

He has scored an impressive seven tries from 11 appearances and is a viable alternative to Rob Herring for Ulster.

Named Ulster Schools’ Player of the Year in 2019, he would represent the Irish under-20s in the Covid curtailed Six Nations the next year.

A hamstring injury was among the setbacks through a 2020-21 season that would ultimately delay his senior bow until last December. Even then the injury bug continued to bite, hobbling off against the Ospreys after he himself had come on as a replacement.

Irish fans face rail chaos

Cardiff is a superb venue for a Six Nations game – but only if you’re lucky enough to have a hotel in the city – with many Irish fans travelling from airports in Bristol or even London.

Rugby supporters travelling to the Welsh capital on Friday February 3, the day before the Wales v Ireland match, should be aware of industrial action taking by train drivers at 15 other train operating companies.

Services are likely to be busier than normal because there will be no Great Western Railway, West Midlands Railways, Avanti, or CrossCountry services operating on the Friday.

Great Western Railway services will be operating as normal on Saturday 4 February and they will once again be utilising their electric trains to provide extra capacity on the South Wales mainline.

More than 25,000 rugby fans are also expected to travel in and out of Cardiff by rail on Saturday, and customers are being urged to plan their journeys in advance and check before they travel.

What really happened around ‘Buggy-gate’

Andy Powell has revealed the real reason he hopped into a golf buggy in 2010 and got nicked for drink-driving – Wales coach Warren Gatland was gasping for a gasper.

Powell had played in Wales’ 31-24 victory over Scotland in Cardiff and celebrated into the early hours of the following morning.

The 28-year-old was taken into custody with another man after the golf buggy was taken from the Vale Resort where the Wales team were based for the Six Nations Championship.

Speaking to Jim Hamilton on the “big Jim” podcast, he shed some new light on the incident.

“Gatland was still drinking, and I can remember Gatland comes up to me and he goes 'can I get a cigarette.' So we're having a cigarette outside, Shane Williams, Lee Byrne. And it's like being with your mates, and we were just talking about the game, talking about the night, how did it go, can't remember much.

“We've gone back in for a few drinks. I've after then got a fag off Byrney, and Gatland comes out and goes 'can I have a cigarette.' I was the only one outside then to finish my fag off. I said 'I haven't got any fags,' he goes 'aw go and get some fags.'

“'I said 'drive? I'm not driving.' But I had that in my head then.”

Powell was arrested at 5.40am at a service station off the M4 to the west of Cardiff, around four miles from the Vale Resort.

The Welsh Rugby Union met Powell the following morning and suspended him for behaviour “contrary to the squad’s code of conduct”.

Powell, who played for the British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa in 2009, was charged with driving a mechanically propelled vehicle while unfit through drink and appeared before Cardiff magistrates two weeks later.

Conrad Gadd, the player’s lawyer, said: “Beer is a staple of any rugby side and here there was more than a few pints of beer.

“Mr Powell was out until the early hours of the morning. By 5.30am he and one colleague were hungry.

“The buggy was capable of doing about 20 miles per hour but it was nowhere near that speed.

“He stayed on the hard shoulder. Someone saw them and reported it to police.”

Brecon-born Powell pleaded guilty and as well as being banned from driving for 15 months, was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay £85 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.

Cattigan criticism

Scotland’s union, also dealing with a case of sexism at one of their clubs, has come under further fire after the family of Siobhan Cattigan criticised them for not meeting the MSP (member of Scottish Parliament) investigating the death of the Scotland forward following two serious concussions.

Her family say undetected rugby-related brain damage caused decline in the 26-year-old's health and led to her death.

MSP Sue Webber wants the SRU to look into alleged failings in medical care.

The SRU says a meeting arranged for last week between its chief executive Mark Dodson and Webber was postponed.

Slade hits bum note

Henry Slade and Courtney Lawes have joined debut coach Steve Bortwick’s lengthy injury list ahead of their opening clash against Scotland at Twickenham on Saturday.

Lawes, the 33-year-old who captained England in the summer, has failed to recover from a calf injury and midfielder Slade has a hip problem.

Anthony Watson, the Leicester Tigers wing, has been recalled. Jamie George, meanwhile, remains on track to recover from a head injury in time to face Scotland.

Capuozzo fires French warning as he plots inside job

Ange Capuozzo could be a star of this tournament and he is planning an inside job after the two-try Toulouse full-back helped his side defeat Montpellier last weekend, before the Italian turns his thoughts to Sunday’s opener against France.

“I hope we will set a nice trap for them,” he said. “It’s a date I have had in the diary for a long time. I’ve never been in the position of facing my friends before.”

Explaining what it is like to play with Capuozzo, Michele Lamaro said last week: “You know anything can happen in any moment of the game. That is exciting. It’s something special for us because he knows when to accelerate, he feels the moment.”

A summer move from Grenoble in the second flight to Toulouse, France’s most successful club, has only increased the spotlight on Capuozzo, and Italian coach Kiweran Crowley admits that he will be a marked man one year on from his debut campaign.

He added: “He’s a big part of our team. He’s one of the superstars. But it’s a big challenge too. Last year he burst onto the scene and no one knew him. His challenge now is to continue to develop and have a good run this campaign.”

Quote of the day

"In my heart, I'm very loyal. I like to think I have integrity. It's up to others to judge whether I have or not.”

Ieuan Evans was a jinking Welsh wing wizard but the new WRU chairman must wriggle out of another tight spot as he continues to defend his role in backing disgraced CEO Steve Philips only 24 hours before his resignation as Wales continues to reel from toxic allegations of misogyny, sexism, racism and homophobia.

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