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Sunday March 09 2008

Yes I’m watching the rugby again (France v Italy), and okay, you can forgive Jonathan Davies for not knowing everyone in the French team.  Nobody does, because it’s now a different French team every time.

But Yannick Jauzion has played enough, and been mispronounced often enough by Davies, that by now you’d have thought he’d have gone away and learned how to say him right.  You would have thought, indeed, that somebody at the BBC would have bloody well told him to do this.

Jauzion is not some incidental selection.  He’s a great player.  He scored a try against New Zealand when France knocked them out of the recent World Cup, and the commentators were talking him up before this France Italy game as a key player, for heavens’ sakes.  Davies himself was saying what a key figure he might be.

Commentators are always going on about the errors of the players, but for a commentator not to be able properly to say the name of one of the universally acknowledged star players of France really is contemptible.  Players have a fraction of a second to avoid error.  Davies has had days to avoid this particular error.  Years, in fact.  And it’s not like it’s a hard name to say.

This France Italy game is a whole lot of fun to watch, though, unlike the stalemates of yesterday, and I promise you I’m not just saying that because England lost.  It’s France, running it from everywhere, who are responsible for this.

“Jow-zion” from Edwards, again.  Dear oh dear.

LATER: “Jow-zon.” He can’t even make up his mind how to mispronounce it.

LATER: Guess what.  “Jow-zion” (we’re back to that again) has scored a try! The other commentator, some Scottish bloke chosen for his commentating ability as well as his mere rugby expertise, was saying it right, of course.  And then Davies said it wrong, again, and the other guy corrected Davies, and then - miracle of miracles - Davies said it right!  It won’t last though.

LATER: Told you.  After the game, won by France 25-13.  “Yah-zon”.  Bloody hell.

This weekend has had a very 70’s feel to it. England playing boring and uninspiring turgid rubbish. Scotland making use of racial desire (but not hatred), the elements and enthusiasm to hold on for a win few expected. France against Italy looking fun but plenty of mistakes for the robots to complain about. And Wales grinding a result against an Irish team that doesn’t seem to played all that well for a year now. A Welsh grand-slam isn’t as remote as the 1970s. But going into the last week as favourites having seen off England at Twickenham, with an all round good team is.

Jauzion isn’t the only player Jonathan Davies mangles, in fact all the players with “z” sounds in them seem to be problematic. I also appreciated the frequent and invariably false claims of French forward passes in the first half. Not.

The BBC also seemed incapable of deciding who the French Number 12 was: when Jauzion scored, the new cap David (who has a Will Carling style of play I think) was being credited with a first try on his debut.

Of course, Ireland stepped up gear a few years back by appointing Warren Gatland as coach. IIRC, he was sacked to make way for an Irish replacement, Eddie O’Sullivan. I didn’t catch anyone considering whether Gatland may trigger his replacement’s dismissal after this week-end, but it would not be unjustified. The current Ireland coach’s feeble excuses are becoming more unsustainable.

The French tactic to watch out for against Wales is the blindside attack from scrums. This is something they have tried a lot in all their games, with mixed success (none against England). They also have the most lightweight pack since the 1970s it seems to me. It’s clear to me that the French management is embarking on a long-term rebuilding operation. It’s going to be fun to watch new caps, lots of energy, willingness to have a go. Viencent Clerc was rested today…

Posted by Antoine Clarke on 09 March 2008

How should you pronounce it?

Posted by Tatyana on 10 March 2008

Zhoe, with a soft “j” at the start, and rhyming with Joe.


On, in the French manner with the “n” hardly registering.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 10 March 2008

This is the funniest post I’ve read anywhere for quite a long time. You should have Davies’ job, but in a live-blogging format!

Posted by Alice Bachini-Smith on 10 March 2008

Having been unkind to cricket commentators on Australian television in a recent comment, I find that they here deserve praise. Prior to every season channel 9 in Australia has a workshop for the commentators in which they get them to practice pronouncing the names of the foreign players who will be playing in the games in Australia in the forthcoming season. Given that many international cricketers from South Asia in particular have names for which the pronunciation is not obvious for a native English speaker, this is necessary. However, they do generally get the names more or less right.

As you say, making the relatively small necessary effort in this situation is basic politeness, really.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 10 March 2008

I find English people have trouble with my Christian name.

The “ne” sound at the end seems to work for most people, but the problem is that English people think it is pronounced ant-won, when in fact is closer to aon-twahne ("on-tario" not “ont-ario").

Ann-twone is a reasonable compromise which I never complain about.

The only pronounciation I object to is ant-oy (or oheye)-nee.

Posted by Antoine Clarke on 10 March 2008


You are very kind.  Trouble is I don’t know rugby.

Davies does know his rugby, having been a brilliant player, of both union and league for both of which he now commentates.  Very few have excelled at both (Jason Robinson springs to mind also) but Davies did, and that takes brain as well as brawn.  All of which is presumably why they put up with this Yah-Zon nonsense.  In all other respects he is very astute.

But, classes for him like Michael describes would be a definite improvement.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 10 March 2008

Of course, I am now thinking about the question of how I pronounce Antoine’s name, just to check that I have shown basic politeness to him. I am thinking probably yes.

Being a dual rugby league / rugby union international is quite a big deal in Australia. Considerably more Australians have done it than English players, I think, at least partly because Rugby League has traditionally been a much higher profile (and richer) game in Australia, and it lacks the geographical north/south divide that exists in England. (Both codes are played in the same cities. in Australia). The Australian experience is once again that it is very hard to excel at both codes. Interestingly enough, one player who famously did was Rex Mossop, who later became probably the most famous of all Australian rugby league commentators (and in Sydney probably the most famous of all sporting commentators other than perhaps Richie Benaud). Mossop was legendary (and endlessly sent up) for the way in which he mangled the English language. The thought of him trying to speak French makes me laugh just thinking about it. (My understanding is that Richie Benaud speaks excellent French, though one can’t really imagine him commentating on Rugby).

Posted by Michael Jennings on 10 March 2008

Actually the RL to RU switch has not been successful in the last two occasions for England: Farrell and Vainikolo.

Both players gave away silly penalties because they essentially sat on the ball when being tackled, which I gather is OK in RL but not in RU. The problem is for someone who has had one code drilled into him since childhood to suddenly have to do the exact opposite thing when tackled (which these days can mean being hit with the force of a car).

By contrast Jason Robinson was a success, but perhaps that was his own talents.

My objection to Vainikolo is that it’s very cheeky to pick a former New Zealand RL international (from Samoa IIRC) to play for England on residency grounds. If he’d played RL for England that would be OK. If Jonah Lomu had managed to switch to playing for, say, Ireland in the 1997 Six Nations, I’m sure lots of England supporters would be still spluttering about it.

I also think this is a poor way of addressing the problem of developing talent for the future. Bring Vainikolo to teach ball-carrying skills to youngsters and off-load in the tackle, absolutely! But bringing in older RL players is bad on so many levels, except in an exceptional case. Am I wrong in thinking Jonathan Davies is unique as someone who crossed codes twice successfully?

Michael: no probs with your pronounciation of Antoine. ;-)
Or from Brian, while I’m here!

Posted by Antoine Clarke on 10 March 2008

So that’s the Aon-twahne figured out. What about the Clarke part?

Posted by Blognor Regis on 10 March 2008

"more Australians have done it than English players”.  Oh dear, Mr Davies is not English, boyo.

Posted by dearieme on 10 March 2008

dearieme: No, me neither :-)

Posted by Michael Jennings on 11 March 2008

In Rugby League. when a player is tackled play actually stops. The player then picks up the ball, and play does not resume until he touches the ball again with his foot. Thus I suspect Rugby League players stop concentrating when they are tackled, and it is a hard habit to break out of.

Am I wrong in thinking Jonathan Davies is unique as someone who crossed codes twice successfully?

Australia always has had many more junior rugby league teams than rugby union teams. Many players play rugby league as children and at school, and might switch to rugby union at high school (depending on the school) or at university. Even in the days when rugby union was amateur, this was allowed because such people were playing rugby league as amateurs. You would likely find that even today, a significant portion of the Australian Rugby Union team played rugby league as juniors and switched to league later.

When Australian players switch from Rugby Union to Rugby League (which they have always done in significant numbers ) they are often returning to the first form of rugby that they played. So switching codes twice (with the first switch happening before a player achieves senior levels) has always been a common practice in Australia. This is not quite what you meant though.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 11 March 2008

In Australia then, I’d expect players who switch codes to do reasonably well, having experienced both at a young age. I know almost nothing about this area.

The stopping play after a tackle, that’s exactly the moment when someone like Andy Farrell has to concentrate that bit more to avoid giving away a penalty in RU.

Imagine the havoc if some gridiron players who do the blocking in front of the quarteback suddenly had to play RU rules for offside and obstruction.

Posted by Antoine Clarke on 11 March 2008

<blockquote>Prior to every season channel 9 in Australia has a workshop for the commentators <\blockquote>

I like the Twelfth man version of this.

Posted by Errol on 11 March 2008
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