Thursday 17th August 09:15
As the song goes what a difference a day makes. Yesterday basking in glorious sunshine under a crystal clear blue sky. Today grey and miserable with a strong breeze adding to the rain. There goes the day in the garden.
Today is 'A' day, the day the kids who have worked hard for, or maybe not so hard for. A day when futures could be shaped or transformed or sadly brought crashing to earth. It is of course 'A' level results day. Mine weren't great so I ended up in the University of Life. It didn't do me any harm thankfully. I wish all those bright eyed and bushy tailed youngsters all the best for this morning.
Ten minutes before North Harbour and Otago kick off in the Mitre 10 Cup. Thank you rain and wind. Just the excuse I needed. Actually if it keeps up like this all day then WRWC 2017 might get a viewing too.
I see the All Blacks have made six changes to the side that faced the Lions in the 3rd test. Notably out goes Jerome Keino and surprisingly in comes Damian McKenzie and Liam Squire, the latter for Keino. Sonny Bill Williams starts after serving, or almost serving in my view, his four week ban. Whichever way you look at it it is still a strong squad and will be too good for the Aussies. The big news for the green & gold is the absence of Quaid Cooper and the return of Kurtley Beale. It looks an inexperienced side enhancing my view of a comfortable All Black win.
The All Blacks have been working on counteracting the rush defence that the Lions implemented so well but I don't think defence will be an issue.
Off the field the All Blacks are back in the spotlight with the Aaron Smith affair back in the press after lurid text messages have been revealed between him and the mystery lawyer.
If you follow the football you wouldn't have been able to miss the Diego Costa fiasco at Chelsea. The player has withdrawn his labour and has failed to turn up at training. Yes the manager probably has something to answer for but this whole saga is another example of what is wrong with football and where I fear rugby is going. Money, money, money.
Is Donald Trump the lamest, most ineffective, unreliable President ever? Everything is imploding around him. PLEASE keep him away from the nuclear trigger.
Rotherham MP Sarah Champion has quit Labour's front bench after her comments about grooming gangs. Whilst her choice of words might have been a little extreme this is another example of political correctness gone wrong and whilst pandering to these do-gooders we become afraid to express perfectly valid views. The fear of upsetting people is making matters worse not better. The fear of being called racist, sexist, homophobic ete, etc is stopping people doing their job properly. There are boundaries and these shouldn't be crossed but come on see things for what they are. The truth in many cases.
Wednesday 16th August - 13:45
Just back from the club after a morning of activity with Rick, Simon and Max. The 'curtain' under the balcony is finished and even though I say it myself, 'cos it was my idea, it looks great. THANKS to all who donated to make it happen. Max is busy mowing the pitches as Dave is 'injured'.
Before moving on a quick Happy Birthday to my lad David. 37 today. Where has that time gone. Life passes by very quickly so live the dream and 'carpe diem'.
WRWC 2017 finally gets going tomorrow. Whilst England will beat USA relatively comfortably it should be a better contest than seen thus far. The two other stand out fixtures are 'make or break'. New Zealand v Canada should go the way of the magnificent New Zealanders. I'll be sexist here because I can; magnificent as in rugby players. The other key fixture is France vs Ireland. For the sake of the tournament let's hope for an Irish victory but I fear France will be too strong. The semi-finalists will be England, New Zealand and France with either Canada or Ireland taking the last spot.
With just twelve teams what I like about this tournament, and the Under 20s World Cup, is nobody goes home early. Every team plays for final position even if it is to avoid the dreaded 12th and final place. Several of the games are on ITV tomorrow and I think they will be well worth watching.
The big game on Saturday is the Bledisloe Cup with Australia hosting the All Blacks. Now I know 'Wales Online' isn't your usual reading but can I direct you to a fascinating piece that highlights the importance of Australia putting on a good show. A heavy defeat could sound the death knell for Australian rugby union. Participation is dropping like a stone, match attendances at Super games are down, TV viewing figures are down and all of the franchises, and the ARU, are stretched in terms of finances. The situation is very difficult exemplified by the Western Force debacle. Wales Online are watching this with interest because the situation in Wales is very similar. All four regions are financially stretched and clubs at all levels are dramatically in decline in terms of player numbers and in some cases their very existence.
The situation in England at the pinnacle of the game is very different. Grounds like Welford Road, Franklins Gardens and The Rec have the 'sold out' signs up regularly. The new TV deal is subsidising many clubs. Clubs are also very marketing savvy. However,is the revenue keeping up with costs and overhead? Except for handouts to release England players and bursaries to support travel etc, etc., the top clubs are funded by owners or benefactors with deep pockets and a willingness to be philanthropic where rugby is concerned rather than the RFU. This positive position hides the fact that many of these clubs are deep in debt and potentially living way beyond their means. As I have said on more than one occasion this is not sustainable and once you've got beyond the spin grassroots rugby is in decline. I know I am a pessimist but I believe one day my pontification on this subject will be proven correct on a spectacular scale. Arrogant? You bet but things cannot continue as they are.
Outside sport David Davies is in fantasy land thinking the EU is going to roll over and give us a great deal on trade. The EU is crapping themselves on how they are going to fill the financial black hole the UK will leave them with. My view is we should pay what we owe and not a penny more. Forget any 'divorce' payment.
I used to detest the commute into London and I didn't have to endure it every day. The fact rail fares are going up again and by a not insubstantial amount is a disgrace. Yes money has and is being spent on improving the infrastructure. You only have to look at London Bridge or the longer platforms to accomodate longer trains on the Uckfield line. That will be of little comfort to regular commuters. The fact the rail companies, are mostly owned by foreign companies / governments cannot be right. Profits being syphoned off to subsidise travel at 'home' is a disgrace. Train fares in France, Germany and Italy are per mile way below the UK. I did raise a cheer when I heard Govia were losing one of their franchises only to come crashing back to earth when the new company was announced as a Dutch/Japanese consortium. This has to change. Re-nationalisation of the railways is not the answer, in part as it gives even more power to the disruptive rail unions but something has to change. Food for thought.
Tuesday 15th August - 10:15
I've been catching up on the Welsh regions and their pre-season. The Dragons took half their squad to Montpellier on Friday and got beaten. They took the other half to Northampton on Saturday and got hammered. The Scarlets fared a little better beating a scratch Premiership XV by a lot to not many. The Ospreys are crossing their fingers for an injury free season.... no chance. Cardiff are still in hibernation.
Worryingly for Scarlets the Premiership money men are circling high over Parc y Scarlets as 20 players, including Jonathan Davies come off their contracts at the end of this coming season. The Severn Crossing will be free by then so coming home to see the folks won't be quite so expensive.
Plenty of Mitre 10 rugby on this weekend followed by the two internationals; Australia v New Zealand and South Africa v Argentina. All on SKY TV. More on these later in the week.
Such is the ruthless state of rugby at the top flight Stuart Hogg is worried that his long recovery period could mean his starting berth for Glasgow Warriors becomes a distant memory. No chance! Class will prevail.
Many Aussie pundits have echoed my view about the Western Force; keep them and bin the Melbourne Rebels.
The Steve Hansen biscuit ad is terrible. It will do what the brand wants and sell a lot more biscuits but Hansen is more wooden than an ancient English oak and less convincing than Corbyn on the subject of student fees..... and that says something.
Talking of hypocrisy, no Corbyn, no hypocrisy don't you find it strange that Tovarich Corbynov has come out and criticised Trump for his stance on the right wing extremists when he continues to be an apologist for MADuro.
Trump is a complete asshole for his stance on the appalling, disgusting, unacceptable events in Charlottesville.
Thank goodness Kim 'the fat' Jong-un has stepped back from the brink over Guam.
In the interest of balance Theresa maybe returns from her holidays. You might as well have the Lindt chocolate bunny running the country for the impact she will have now.
The country is going down the toilet, we could be on the brink of armageddon thanks to Trump and Jong-un, Brexit negotiations are going at a snails pace etc, etc, etc and all our beloved MPs are whingeing on about is the fact Big Ben will fall silent for four years. People are panning health & saftey but in this case I personally think it is the right thing to do. Maybe the quiet will allow the MPs to wake up and ask more sensible questions like; 'why was that sleasy Jeremy Hunt allowed to spend £40k on a new toilet when he his responsible for the NHS that appears to be going the same way as OUR £40k...... yes down the toilet.
Finally THANK YOU the Daily Express a) for not leading with another stedious Princess Diana story but more importantly b) leading with 'WINE IS KEY TO A LONGER LIFE'. Bring on the Merlot, the Shiraz and a nice chilled bottle of Sav. Hic!
Monday 14th August - 08:15
There must be a glitch in the system somewhere as I definitely wrote a blog on Saturday but it is not here. Hey Ho!
I slammed the deal Piutau is rumoured to be on at Bristol. £1m per season for two years.
I was dismayed that Sonny Bill Williams can play next weekend. 'Meaningful' should mean exactly that.
Great news for CRFC as they announce Ollie Jude-Trailor as Club Captain. Long standing and proud club man who will do an amazing job.
WRWC 2017 continues apace. As expected England strolled past Italy. Full time professionals vs amateurs so what do you expect. Wales are now out of contention after their defeat to Canada. A closer game than I expected so well done Wales. Ireland snuck past Japan in the game of the day. France strolled past Australia which suprised me leaving both France and Ireland unbeaten in that group so winner takes all on Thursday.
The Currie Cup again delivered some great rugby. Fast, open, entertaining BUT sadly played in empty stadiums. Just 4,000 people watched the Cheetahs beat the Griguas. It was not much better in the other games. With the Southern Kings scratching around to get a squad to play in the PRO14 it doesn't augur well me thinks.
The other topic I touched on Saturday was the axing of Western Force from Super Rugby. I can understand why the decision makes sense from a geographical view point and the potential to grow the game is limited in this isolated part of Australia. Melbourne Rebels would have been my choice as rugby union lags way behind ARL, NRL, soccer, cricket and tennis in this sports mad city. Anyway, as I thought would happen the lawyers are involved and the battle to keep the Force is far from over.
Steve Hansen is the butt of many jokes right now after a very wooden appearance in an ad for biscuits. I for one will be searching for this on line.
Outside rugby the football season has properly started. Players refusing to play because their £60,000 PER WEEK is not enough and they want a transfer. Mass brawls between fans after the Middlesborough v Sheffield Utd game. Talk of managers being sacked after just one game. Players being sent off for petulance. It really is a soap opera. One consistency is my fantasy football team. Rubbish yet again. Cahill and Fabregas both in the line-up so -6 points there for a start.
Didn't London and UK athletics put on a stunning World Championships. Packed houses every night and most mornings. Knowledgeable and well behaved fans cheering their favourites, except when Gatlin was running. The athletes added to the drama with amazing performances, shocks and disappointments. The GB and N.I. team did ok, saved by the relay teams but some sterling efforts elsewhere, however....... don't you think we could be so much better? I think the politically correct nonsense we now see in schools where sports day is anything but. The bullshit about not having a winner and it must be all inclusive is ridiculous. Life is not like that and not all kids want to participate. Let those who do compete and those who show promise encouraged to go on further. All sports suffer as pressure on teachers often means resources are limited and time even more restricted so let's not lay all the blame at the teachers' feet.
Must go, the kitchen isn't going to decorate itself.
Friday 11th August - 08:15
New Zealand will be without Jordie Barrett for the rest of the season due to a shoulder injury. A big blow for them and this upcominmg star.
Charles Piutau joins Bristol from Ulster on a two year contract. Pat Lam is certainly spending the cash with the aim of regaining Premiership status for Bristol.
Chris Robshaw extends his stay at Quins with a new contract.......
BUT what is a contract worth and has rugby taken another step towards the abyss that soccer is slowing sliding into. Player power and it is all about the money?
It has come to light that Jonny May's move from Gloucester to Leicester was as a result of him invoking a little known rule that allowed a player to break his contract on the basis that Leicester paid Gloucester one year's salary. In effect a transfer fee. Gloucester's DoR has said ;'The reality now is that rugby is moving towards football'. The clubs moved swiftly to change that so that any fee has now to be negotiated, just like soccer. You watch those slugs, the agents, slime their way out from behind the rocks looking to make a buck or three. Interestingly the Players Association was not consulted on this leaving me to think there is a confrontation on its way. We have already seen the player merry-go-round spin faster and faster and the cost of each ride go up and up. Unlike soccer rugby cannot afford this nonsense. I am naturally a pessimistic and dour person but I fear from top to bottom money will kill our game. It is certainly a factor in the decline at grassroots where even players at level 7 are being paid to play. It is not sustainable.
Finally Gavin Henson makes his Dragons bow today against Montpellier in a pre-season friendly. Interstingly he starts at #10.
The Mighty Foxes are away at Arsenal tonight. That's tonight's viewing sorted.
Thursday 10th August - 09:00
Twelve teams in three pools, that is the Women's Rugby World Cup. England got off to a fine start, but you'd expect that wouldn't you. (Currently) Full time professionals versus amateurs. Spain were no match for the well drilled and more skillfull English side. I watched some of it but quite frankly it wasn't a patch on the Currie Cup being shown on SKY. By the way I am not a couch potato spending his life watching rugby on TV but as the weather was awful yesterday I did gourge on it.
As expected Wales were taught a lesson by the New Zealand women. The other games went as expected with Canada racking up just shy of a 100 points vs Hong Kong.
I did catch most of the Ireland vs Australia game switching between that and the athletics. Now this was a proper contest between two well matched and very skillful sides. The ladies will be very sore this morning after some brutal collisions. The home side triumphant is good for the tournament.
There will be a couple more decent head to heads but this competition won't really get started until the semi finals and play-off spots for the final placings. Sad but true I'm afraid.
The Currie Cup was yesterday's bonus. Mrs Bleater and I had all our well intentioned plans scuppered by the weather so little was left to do but watch the rugby. Three cracking games with high levels of skill intermingled with some woeful passages of play. The Cheetahs looked a handful and will be a tough proposition in the Pro14. Their wide men looked quick and those guys up front were sizeable beasts. Even though it was a public holiday the crowds were pretty poor. Yes, they were playing in massive stadiums but nevertheless it doesn't augur well for the Pro14 season ahead. I really hope the new format works and the inclusion of the South African sides lifts interest and crowds but more importantly the quality of the games. Only time will tell.
A bit more Currie Cup on Saturday but otherwise a pretty quiet rugby weekend.
The football transfer saga takes up much of the sports pages along with the World Athletics Championships. I do like the athletics and am proud to say I was a county 110m hurdler and long jumper when I was in school. Delighted to see Makwala get through to the 200m final after what he has been through in the last few days.
So Mr Corbyn won't condemn Maduro. The Venezuelan is a ruthless despot taking his country over the abyss into hell and Corbyn sits idly on his hands. Get off the fence and be a man.
There is more to the kidnapping of model Chloe Ayling than meets the eye. The whiff of this being a set-up to put this publicity hungry woman in the spotlight is quite powerful me thinks.
I for one am fearful of how the rhetoric surrounding North Korea and the US is getting louder and more aggressive. The lunatics are in charge of the asylum with little or no safeguards before one of them pushes the big red button. We all need to hope that Trump and Jong-un will see the folly of their ways, and see it soon.
Before I go, back to Sunday and my mum's birthday party. I thought I was anti injury lawyers but my sister-in-law puts me to shame. This lovely, usually mild-mannered Yorkshire lass has some unprintable suggestions for what should happen to them. It therefore gladdened my heart to read that a money grabbing crook who was persuaded by one of these parasites to sue her travel company over a food-poisoning case not only had the claim thrown out of court she has been told she has to pay c.£3.5k in costs and she has to pay them in five days or face jail. Hoorah for this judge and let that be a lesson to all the other maggots and parasitic lawyers trying to line their pockets with lies.
Wednesday 9th August - 08:30
The Women's Rugby World Cup starts today but much to debate before that.
I had a heated discussion with my brothers on Sunday about the merits or otherwise of the Lions tour. Basically their view was the All Blacks were robbed and Gatland was lucky. The key points to their argument were the penalty awarded when Kyle Sinckler was tackled 'in the air' in the 2nd test never should have been given. By the very letter of the law it was a correct decision but the interpretation was wrong. The Lions were the better side on the day in my view and deserved the win.
The second point we debated was the Ken Owens knock on. Romaine Poite did bottle it and on any other day it would have been a penalty to the All Blacks. They argued strongly that Kieran Read had every right to go for that ball and weren't willing to accept that under the new guidelines it must be a safe and fair contest in the air. Yes he had the right to go for the ball but I stick to my view that he had no chance of getting it and knew that he would take Liam Williams out of the equation thus forcing something to the All Blacks advantage. It was however very fair to say the All Blacks were below par and therefore the Lions were very lucky to win.
Finally the selection of Gatland and Howley as coaches was a major debate. There was not much love for either and Wales recent poor showing was used to justify their points. It was agreed that the results have effectively saved the Lions for another four years at least.
World Rugby have bowed to pressure from New Zealand allowing Sonny Bill Williams to play on Saturday. I stick to my view that this is wrong. The All Blacks warm up game is NOT meaningful. This sets a dangerous precedent.
The Lions vs Crusaders was a cracking game spoilt by the sending off. No-one wants to see 14 v 15 in a show piece final. There are some who would argue that it was harsh. Once again I think it was the right decision. You could argue there wasn't any intent and it was difficult to avoid a collision but there was time to alter the angle of attack and change body positions to prevent such a dramatic crash to the floor. All that said the opening 20 minutes from the Crusaders set up the win. Just brilliant. It was a sterling fight back by the Lions but not quite enough. Attention now turns to the Championship. Australia v New Zealand up first.
The Pro14 fixtures and set up is becoming clearer. The Ospreys will be first to travel to South Africa when they face the Cheetahs but as the match clashes with a South Africa test they don't yet know where they will be playing. This is a very costly experiment which with several regions, especially the Welsh ones, already being bailed out by their unions I struggle to see the logic. Do the sums. Business Class alone to S Africa is about £6k per person, then the hotel cost. You are talking about close to £500k, which is what the league is shelling out. That equates to £6m. That is a lot of money for the organisers to find me thinks.
Leigh Halfpenny will go to the ball as he joins Scarlets. This is the best fit and a good result for him and Wales. He has had to take a pay cut however. Good! As he only had limited game time in New Zealand he could make a surprise debut in the Scarlets opener against the Southern Kings. Not long to wait.
He's in, he's out, he's got time now to shake it all about. Of course I refer to the recall of Manu Tuilagi to the England set up only for him to be sent home, along with Denny Solomona, after 'drink related issues'. Tuilagi has a track record of misdemeanours sadly as his rugby talent speaks for itself. It will be fascinating to see what Eddie Jones does next. Jones is a winner and will want Tuilagi, and Solomona, in his squad, but he also demands respect and personal discipline.
In the WRWC 2017 England kick off against Spain this afternoon. England will stroll this one. The better game to watch will be Ireland v Australia. Wales have zero chance against New Zealand in Pool A.
Well done Mo Farrah. What an athlete. Not sure about the booing of Gatlin. Yes he is a cheat and shouldn't be running. The boos should be aimed at the IAAF for being being weak. Ban cheats for life. The farce around Isaac Makwala is a perfect example of the IAAF's ineptitude.
So Neymar is joining Paris St Germain for the 'challenge'. Have you ever heard such mealy mouthed rubbish. It is about the MONEY!!!!!!!
Be afraid, be very afraid. Donald Duck's Trump's finger is hovering over the nuclear trigger whilst Kim Jong-un has is hand already putting pressure on his. Madness led by two madmen.
When you are next at the club take time to have a look around. The Friday Club have been working tirelessly over the summer. The picthes are in good shape too thanks to Dave Bristow. Well done guys.
Finally it was my mum's 85th birthday last weekend hence the trip to Bridgnorth and the family (except the elder of my two sisters) get together. Whilst the debate about the Lions was going on my sister-in-law threw a curve ball into the mix. Why do people on benefits need a passport? A good question me thinks, and this was one many points she made but one of the few I feel I can get away with printing.
More to follow tomorrow.