Yet Sale, lying second and with a team containing the likes of Charlie Hodgson, Alex Sanderson and Jason Robinson, are a real challenge to any side. But how does a rugby match really measure up in the grand scheme of challenges? Ask my old university housemate, Abers, and he will tell you I am being a big girl’s blouse. “Challenge? If you want a challenge look at what I’m up to this summer!”
One of the greatest sporting challenges anyone could face is rowing unaided across the Indian Ocean. Abers, aka Rob Abernethy, ex-Ghurkha officer and lunatic full-back of Durham University was always a little short of a full shilling. This Kukri-wielding madman’s idea of R&R was chasing me round the streets of Durham in full camo gear! Are you starting to get the picture? Along with his pal Mike Noel-Smith, 45, Abers, 30, will cover a distance of 4,440 nautical miles by rowing from Western Australia to French colony Reunion Island and attempt to smash the unofficial 74 day record set in 1971 by Swede Anders Svedlund.
Hoping to fulfil their mission in 65, Rob and Mike are undertaking an intensive training programme under the guidance of British Olympic Triathlon coach Bill Black. They also have support from sporting ambassadors such as Tracy Edwards, Sir Steve Redgrave, Matthew Pinsent and Tim Foster. Tracy said: ‘Crossing the world’s oceans in a 100ft multi-hull racing yacht is challenging enough – doing it in a 21ft rowing boat….’ I’ll let you ad-lib the end of Tracy’s comment!
Their challenge has been given superb support to their bid to raise over ?250,000 for Sparks to fund vital research into causes of meningitis in young children. It’s an incredible challenge by a couple of remarkable men. Maybe 80 minutes of rugby isn’t quite as tough as I thought.