Point of View

27 May 2016

I haven’t written a point of view for some time, tending to mix up comment and reporting on the home page. Here is my own P o V, however.

The season has not exactly got off to a resounding start; by my calculations a total of 25 games of XV-a-side league rugby have been played in the first five weeks of the season. That works out at around five rugby games a week for “Sweden´s fastest expanding sport”. A few games have been lost to bad weather and administrative incompetence but it is still pretty thin fare. Leading teams like Enköping, Hammarby, Södertälje, Pingvin Ones and Exiles Ones and Twos have still only played one league game as we now move into June.

Fortunately, several rounds of the Swedish Sevens have been a success involving 19 Men´s and 12 Women´s teams, including some newcomers. Exiles´ Men and Ladies will qualify for the finals in July, both topping the rankings at present, although the Ladies have one round to go and their finals will be meaningless as the 12 top players will be involved in European duties elsewhere.

The month of May has still been quite a hectic one for Exiles. They are of course the only club to field three male teams and have played a total of five league games, winning them all. There is no U18 league but Exiles have played a round of U18 7s coming, I think, second to Erikslund. In addition eight Exiles players were selected for the Junior Vikings, putting up an excellent display against the Welsh and Irish Anglos in London. Several are beginning to challenge for spots in the senior 15s and 7s teams. The Ladies´ teams asked to play only 7s this Spring and have done so. A Swedish 7s team including four Exiles has also played in the Stanislas 7s in France, winning the Bowl. The Swedish 7s team will now move on to play two rounds in the European Championships in June and July, and we have just heard that the four Exiles´ Ladies have been reselected for the first round. The Ladies´15s will then begin in August with 8 teams and Exiles will be hoping to wrest the title from Göteborg who have dominated the Championship for a number of years.

Exiles are also active at all Youth levels, from U8 to U16, and there are many tournaments around Mälardalen where they have the opportunity to play regularly.

The Men´s Firsts have had quite a heavy schedule in May, despite playing only one league game. A rather meaningless trip to Malta to play Malta Barbarians involved 5 Exiles and the same number were included in a so-so team against Ukraine. The ten game European 1B Championship over 2014 – 2016 was then concluded on May 14 with a narrow defeat against the Netherlands. Nine of the ten Exiles selected played for almost the whole of the second half, won comfortably by Sweden. Sweden lost all ten games and this seems to me to be the worst period of mismanagement, lack of preparation and selection in the history of Swedish rugby. Sweden won three games out of ten in the 2012 – 2014 period and retained their places in the 1B group. At least until 2013 the Union seemed to have resources to prepare, train and select representative national teams, but as of 2013 these resources were suddenly no longer available. The result: sixteen defeats in a row for the Men and incidentally five defeats in a row for the Women. The same regime has now been re-elected and is still maintaining that Sponsorship is required before any substantive change can be made when handling Swedish international teams. Some former players have generously given donations (not to be confused with Sponsorship) towards preparations for the Swedish XV and VII. I´m afraid I won´t be joining the donators until a proper account is given of the way the Union´s 4 million crown budget is spent. I would hope that some of those elected to the Union board realize the enormous damage being done to the reputation of Swedish rugby internationally by the continued application of current policies. I asked in an open letter to the Union some time ago that they try to find resources for the national teams and to find ways to select the best players. I received long replies from the chairperson and the XV´s team coach, for which I am grateful. Unfortunately neither of them came close to satisfying my requests, however. The fact that not one word was written in advance about the major sevens tournament in France last weekend is indicative of the complete lack of interest of the Union. Sweden had of course to withdraw because of the chaos at Arlanda last Thursday. And one shudders to think of what preparations are being made for the European Trophy 7s to be played in Malmö in two weeks time.

Games will have to be rearranged and our three male teams will have a number of league games to play in June. This will give us some idea of the relative strengths of the various leading clubs, which has as yet scarcely been explored. A start will be made this weekend when Pingvin meet Exiles Ones and Exiles Twos meet Enköping. A further delay has arisen with the Södertälje – Hammarby game this weekend being postponed until June 8. Södertälje are the reigning Swedish 7s Champions and they seem to have discovered with two day´s notice that they are due to play a European Club 7s Champions tournament in St Petersburg. I think Hammarby might be entitled to be a bit annoyed with the nonchalance shown by the Union and the teams involved in Allsvenskan.

Hunter Mabon Sr was born in Scotland and played rugby for Heriot´s FP at No 8. He moved to Stockholm in 1962 and was one of the founders of Stockholm Exiles in 1963. He played for them until 1979, scoring over 200 tries in the process, and winning both Cup and League for Exiles. Administratively he has been chairman of Exiles and Stockholm district. At national level he has been coach and selector for Sweden and was chairman of the Swedish Rugby Union for six years in the 1980´s. He has three sons who play for Exiles and who have all represented Sweden. He is a professor at Stockholm university and runs a publishing and consultancy company.