Saturday 9th Mar: 09:15
As I type the 2s will be hosting Rye at Steel Cross later today and the Colts will be hosting Pulborough tomorrow. In truth based on the photos I saw of last weekend's bog fest of a mini tournament I can't quite believe it. To be playing at Steel Cross today and tomorrow is a testament to the work our wonderful ground staff have done over the last 18 months or so and the support of the club's management team to make it possible. You layer on top of that the support we get from our volunteers and you start to see why we are such an excellent club to be a part of. By the way based on some of the mails I have seen members from other clubs who were at Steel Cross last weekend think so too.
The 1st XV face the challenge of Beccehamian today, and what a challenge it will be. They beat us at Steel Cross and will be aiming to do the double, especially as they are not out of the promotion race. I'll see you there.
Bath v Saracens was a bit of a slug fest last night in atrocious conditions. Saracens, depleted of some of their stars, were still able to put out a strong side but their discipline let them down from start to finish. With Rhys Priestland showing he still has what it takes pulling the Bath strings he kept the West Country side in front. I hope and expect Michael Rhodes gets cited for a very cheap shot at a ruck late on in the first half.
Another side whose discipline was lacking was Leicester Tigers. Sale Sharks had no problem in exploiting that and putting them to the sword. It was a much needed win for Sale and puts them back in the top half, albeit for a short time.
The penultimate round of the 6 Nations kicks off at 14:15 in Murrayfield. I wonder if last nights Under 20 results are an indication of what is to come. Scotland beating Wales, Ireland beating France and England beating Italy. Only time will tell.
Wales have a great chance to make history going into the World Cup but will they be up to the task. Will the off-field shenanigans be a distraction? Will Scotland finally deliver against the pundits view that the Scots are a much better team than results thus far have indicated.
I did smile when I read the headline "Italy could chuck anything at us - England ready for maverick tactics". The interpretation of that is Italy have a book of tactics something England could learn from.
Ireland leave out Sean O'Brien. Joe Schmidt never one to shirk his responsibilities will be desperate for a win against the unpredictable French. I go Ireland.
The other thing that made me smile is England bragging about their women's progress. England are full time professionals, the other nations are teams cobbled together with part timers.
Weren't the Windies awful last night. A crushing and embarrassing defeat.
Yesterday was International Women's Day. Can someone remind me when Men's Day is. As the downtrodden under class, namely middle aged white blokes, it would be good to have a day of our own. I am thinking of stealing one of Mrs Bleaters dresses and giving trans a go. All of a sudden I would be seen as an important part of society!!!!!!!
I see there is a furore about "stop & search". It is a valuable weapon in the fight against knife crime. When you look at the profile of those mostly affected is it no wonder that young black and Asians are being targeted by the police. It is sad but true so come on, please wake up and smell the coffee and stop hiding behind political correctness. Our young people from all backgrounds need to be protected so please let our very thin blue line do their job to the best of their ability.
I have listened to and watched a lot of news in the last few days. It amazes me how all the problems we have in this country are someone else's fault and the only solution is more money. The rise in knife crime is because of police cuts. It has nothing to do with the increasing number of kids whose parents have abdicated responsibility or the growth of social media glorifying crime. The perceived issues in our NHS has nothing do with the fact the complaining minority are eagerly listened to by our pathetic news services. Our schools are failing because of the lack of money. Rubbish! Some schools are failing because teachers are hamstrung by political correctness and unnecessary bureaucracy and irrelevant targets. That and of course parents and pupils no longer respecting teachers in the way they did previously. Yes money is tight and yes more money would benefit each of the above but it is far from the only reason we have problems. WE must look at ourselves and also do things differently. By the way that extra money is only available from us in the form of taxes. Brace yourself!!
Thursday 7th Mar: 16:30
Back in Crowborough and therefore back in touch with the world. It is not so long ago that the interweb was a figment of Dr Spock and Captain Kirk's imagination. Now here we are in 2019 and you don't realise how reliant you are on technology until you don't have it at your fingertips.
Let me start with two comments from home, CRFC that is. Firstly, although it had to be abandoned due to the appalling weather I understand the club put on an excellent show last Sunday. Well done all. Secondly massive congratulations to Ben Chapman for being selected to play for England Counties. A great honour. More info on our news page.
King Eddie has spoken and the team to play Italy isn't the one I would have chosen. Ben Te'o starts alongside Manu Tuilagi. Two South Sea Island tanks taking on the Italian battle wagons. I would have gone with Slade and Joseph. Joe Cokanasiga starts with Nowell and Ashton on the treatment table. Farrell is at #10. I would have gone with Ford. Ellis Genge gets a start and Shields starts ahead of Wilson. I see Robshaw isn't even on the bench. In my very humble opinion this is a side that will use a battering ram against the Italian ramparts rather than skill and guile to get behind the opposition defensive line. On world book day it reinforces to me that King Eddies "Book of Tactics" is a very slim volume indeed. Chapter 1 - kick, kick and kick again. Chapter 2 - smash, smash and smash even harder. The End! England will win but I don't see the merit in this selection. Jones had a golden opportunity to try something new but in my view he has missed it.
With Sergio Parisse back and ready to fire on all cylinders England can take nothing for granted......... but they will win and win comfortably.
Scotland will field a changed side to face Wales. Some enforced and others tactical. Greig Laidlaw drops to the bench in favour of Ali Price. Finn Russell comes straight back in. I am surprised Hamish Watson didn't follow him but at least he is on the bench. If you look at the results the Scottish regions have outdone their Welsh ones on a consistent basis. You would argue that this gives Scotland the edge. Scotland have home advantage and like Wales in the opening two games they have underperformed therefore do not think this will be an easy ride for Wales. In my opinion I think it will be the game that breaks the Welsh winning sequence. Despite what the Welsh players might say there is a risk they could also be distracted by the nonsense going on at home.
I see the proposed Ospreys - Scarlets merger is off the table. Common sense has prevailed, for now at least.
Interesting piece to be found in the BBC sports website. Former owner of Gloucester, one Ryan Walkinshaw, has come out and said the clubs do breach the salary cap and do so with impunity. He makes some excellent points which I suggest you have a look at. For me it is the lack of punishment that hits home. This is my concern at the grassroots of the game. We can all name the clubs who pay players and pay them handsomely. We can all do the sums and believe that many are way outside the RFU guidelines. Nothing will change to level the playing field until the RFU start to really punish those who are taking the piss.
Some would argue my point of view is sour grapes and you could be right. Some would argue that life isn't fair and you could be right. None would argue luring players away from one club to another is helping arrest the decline in player numbers. In fact you could argue strongly that it is accelerating the decline.
No blog tomorrow as I am going bog snorkelling at CRFC. Back on Saturday with updates on whether rugby will be played at Steel Cross this weekend or not.
Wednesday 6h Mar: 10:00
Well, here I am back in Bridgnorth………AGAIN! Reliant on BBC and Sky Sports news for rugby updates. Based on this and today’s Organ of Truth which my mother reads avidly here is what I know.
Wales have replaced the injured Cory Hill with Adam Beard from the bench. Jake Ball replaces Beard. No surprise there. Other than that everything else is unchanged. Warren Gatland keeps faith with Gareth Anscombe as his starting #10 with Dan Biggar on the bench. I personally would have been tempted to start with Biggar as he is the more experienced player and Murrayfield can be quite a daunting test arena. I am sure the talk and mood around the camp this week will have been positive but hopefully Gatland and his coaching team have worked hard to keep players feet on the ground, heads out of the clouds and focussed on what will be a much tougher Scottish side than we have seen thus far in the tournament.
Gregor Townsend is certain to bring the fit again Finn Russell back into the side. As he will with Hamish Watson and WP Nell. Russell brings that sprinkling of stardust to Scotland whereas Watson brings a dogged determination and a little bit of brutish intensity. WP Nel will add solidity to the scrum. On the downside Sean Maitland and Chris Harris are out injured. There are others like me who think Scotland have a big game in them and it could be this weekend. Time will tell.
France name a totally unchanged side to face Ireland. The under pressure Jacques Brunel has made the bold move to stick with the team that was much improved against Scotland. Ireland have a lot to prove and need to quieten the critics who are asking about how robust the squad is right now. Will Johnny Sexton play better than he has? Connor Murray needs to step up his game. Ireland are likely to be without Robbie Henshaw because of injury.
Let us not debate anything other than an England victory over Italy. As I type Maro Itoje reportedly has limped out of training. Is this bad luck or him being pressured to return too soon, or maybe a bit of both? Chris Robshaw has been recalled to the squad but I can’t see him dislodging the current back row unless it is to rest one of them ahead of the Calcutta Cup clash with Scotland. If I was King Eddie I would be resting Owen Farrell and giving George Ford a start. I would also play Jonathan Joseph instead of Manu Tuilagi.
Italy need to turn up and play. The integrity of the 6 Nations is at stake with Georgia making a compelling case for consideration, especially following the furore around the proposed global league.
Welsh rugby and the WRU; it is a shambles that makes Brexit look well organised and straight forward. The proposal to merge the Scarlets and the Ospreys makes little or no sense. The Chairman of Ospreys has today resigned in disgust at the idea and the players are threatening revolt. I can understand the desire to have a North Wales based regional team but it makes no sense with just RGC 1864 being of any note up there in the North. Rugby’s heartland is in the South. With Neath imploding and Swansea facing possible relegation killing off the Ospreys is madness. I like the idea of controlling wages and having a better wage structure from top down but merging Scarlets and Ospreys is just crazy.
The Organ of Truth have followed up their allegations of Saracens questionable actions with regard to the salary cap by stating that other clubs in the Premiership have come out in support of the investigation. Whilst not included in any of the articles Elliot Daly has come out and said he is leaving Wasps to join Saracens for less money. He is either an altruistic fool or he has done a deal that swerves around the cap. Others better placed than I can look into that but I know where my hat would fall. Saracens vehemently deny any wrong doing and point to the procession of players into their senior squad from their academy. This is impressive to be fair but the arrival of a player of Daley’s standing in addition to the plethora of stars already at Barnet does allow others to raise sensible questions me thinks.
Much closer to home many eyes are looking at the London 3 South East table. Outside of the sad demise of Hellingly it has been a hugely competitive league. We are clear at the top but could still be caught. The battle for survival at the bottom is intense. This weekend could be a defining one. I hope to be at Beccehamian to cheer on the boys. A win could seal it but a five point win would definitely make us champions. A loss would open the door for us to be caught.
As has been the case over recent weeks posting a blog will be difficult . I hope to get something produced for Thursday afternoon. Please keep reading.
Monday 4th Mar: 09:20
Some things have been decided, some things haven't. In our league certainly everything is still up for grabs. At the bottom Hastings & Bexhill beat Bromley 17-6 to put H&B RFC one step closer to safety and Bromley right back in the firing line. Park House also enjoyed a much needed win beating Old Willies 13-31. They now sit 9th just two points behind Bromley in 8th (which could be where you need to be to avoid the drop). It wasn't such a good day for Lewes who lost at home to promotion chasing Beccehamians 24-35. With us playing the South East London side next weekend our respective fates could well be decided. We are champions or they remain in the hunt. Lewes by the way are now six points adrift at the foot of the table. Pulborough put a dent in Folkestone's promotion hopes with a narrow 19-13 win. The losing bonus point keeps the Stones in the mix for promotion but only just. Finally Vigo's excellent season continues. They scored an impressive 34-17 win over ODs to remain in 2nd eleven points behind us but having played one game more.
Greater minds than mine can work out the permutations but in essence the maths for us is simple; five points from four games and we are up and up as champions. At the other end of the table it is a case of any loss and things will look bleak but there is still everything to play for.
In Sussex 1A a massive "well done" to Uckfield. Their away win at Crawley 29-34 makes them champions and they will be promoted into London 3 South East. Despite the loss Crawley remain favourites to secure the play-off spot. In Sussex 1B East Grinstead's dismal season continues with a loss away at Seaford.
In London 2 South East it is hugely disappointing to see the first two games recorded as HWO. Beckenham by virtue of not playing remain clear at the top. Charlton Park who also benefitted from the HWO are in 3rd. Sandwiched between them are Horsham who are having a fabulous season. They beat Aylesford Bulls 57-22 keeping their opponents rooted to the bottom of the table. Haywards Heath came home from Maidstone with a bonus point win to keep them in the top half. In the other games Thanet Wanderers beat Deal & Betteshanger and Gravesend beat Old Colfeains. Next weekend could determine the fate of The Greenies. A loss at home to Gravesend would mean relegation (barring an admin cock-up by a club above them). Likewise Aylesford Bulls losing at home to Thanet would mean they too are down. At the other end Beckenham need two more wins to guarantee promotion.
In London 1 South the brakes have been put on Brighton's drive for promotion. A narrow defeat at Thurrock with Sevenoaks beating Medway and Camberley beating Cobham sees Brighton drop to 4th. Sevenoaks are now top but just three points clear. Chichester lost at London Cornish and whilst they are in the lower half they are reasonably safe. Hove very sadly are gone. They have just seven points to their name and even with five games still to go the best they can do is 13th spot. They have suffered this season but their problems started before a ball was kicked with players being lured away by the promise of money to play. It is a sad state of affairs but Hove can hold their heads up high. They are fighting to the end and losing 22-24 is a very respectable score indeed.
Up in the rarified atmosphere of the premier London league our friends Tunbridge Wells drew with Bedford Athletic in a 31-31 thriller. Sutton & Epsom are in the driving seat for promotion but it remains tight at the top. At the bottom Shelford have been relegated after losing heavily at home to Tring. Who joins them is far from clear. Even the men from St Marks who are in 11th could be in peril if the results go against them.
TJs continue to enjoy an excellent run of form in National League 2 South. They came away from Old Redcliffians with a 24-40 win and they now sit 4th in the table. Worthing's form has been less positive. They suffered another defeat, this time at home to Bury St Edmunds. Worthing need some wins if they are not to get drawn into a relegation battle.
To round it all up Bridgnorth lost away at Luctonians 45-12 but Salisbury enjoyed a 46-35 home win against Banbury.
Lots and lots to play for next weekend, especially for us and the 6 Nations is back. Plenty to discuss me thinks.
Newcastle earned a much needed win against Worcester yesterday. It was far from a classic. In fact a 0-0 second half says it all. With the exception of Sarries and Exeter whose form has been pretty constant there is much at stake for the other ten teams.
The World League is in the news again. Sir Bill Beaumont is to convene an emergency meeting in Dublin to discuss the options with the heads of all the national unions and representatives from the players unions. It is a mess. The thing that caught my eye and worries me greatly is the comment that Amazon are the front runners to secure the TV rights and this will include the 6 Nations. The 6 Nations going to either SKY or BT would not be great but going to Amazon would be devastating. Some will pay the inevitably high premium to watch but others like me will vote with their feet and not bother. I am one person and therefore not representative of anything but if my behaviour with regard to watching the Pro14 (or rather NOT watching the Pro14) is anything to go by rugby will be again selling its soul to the devil and losing sight of the bigger picture.
The other story that made me read on is the investigation into Saracens and the way they are allegedly getting around the salary cap. Some weeks ago I wondered how they could afford the myriad of stars they have. It seems Nigel Wray is bankrolling at least four of the marquee players by setting up companies in which they become directors. That is questionable behaviour that allows Saracens on paper to stay within the £7m cap. It doesn't feel right. It is Saracens having a very generous benefactor who is willing to buy success. He walks, Saracens collapse. Perhaps that would be a good thing? Discuss!
Finally a very well done to our Under 15s. As I have said in recent weeks this a team from CRFC who have gone through some very tough times with player numbers etc, etc. Beating Guernsey on a bog of a pitch is a brilliant result. Also well done to the players, coaches, muns and dads and most of all the volunteers at yesterday's rain soaked mini festival. It must have been tough but a great outcome all the same.
Sunday 3rd Mar: 11:15
Sadly I didn't make it to either East Grinstead or Uckfield but it sounds as if both games made enjoyable viewing. Crowborough came out top in both, more convincingly at East Grinstead than at Uckfield. Great stuff and well done to all.
I'll do a full league round-up tomorrow as normal but in essence we remain top with an eleven point gap to Vigo who in turn are five points clear of Beccehamanian with Folkestone a further three points further back. We remain favourites for both the title and therefore promotion BUT we can still be caught and overtaken by any and all of the above.
For a range of reasons I didn't get to watch any single game on TV yesterday but did get glimpses of the Super games and the Racing 92 demolition of La Rochelle. Some great rugby, some great tries.
So dominant are Leinster in the Pro 14 that they have already guaranteed themselves a home semi final berth in the play-offs. Ospreys dismal season continues with a heavy defeat at Connacht. Scarlets on the other hand came away from Munster with a narrow but much needed win. Benetton continue their fine run of form with another win, this time against Edinburgh.
In the Premiership, and as I predicted, nah, nah the nah, nah, Bath v Quins was a cracker with Quins coming away from the Rec with the spoils. Exeter were made to work hard for their victory at Sale. Saracens put Saints back in their box and Leicester beat Wasps. I am looking forward to watching Newcastle v Worcester later.
Other viewing might be Watford v Leicester City. Come on the Foxes!!
As I type Tony Blair is on the TV spouting his view on Brexit and the current state of the Labour party. I wouldn't trust that lying, two faced hypocrite as far as I could throw him. Whenever he pontificates I cannot but recall the lies about weapons of mass destruction and the number of our valiant and brave armed forces who came home in body bags as a result of his duplicity with that other lying so-and-so George W Bush.
Brexit. Come you lot. You are far cleverer than I am. If there is a second vote what would we vote on?
I think it might be worth voting on whether every Sunday lunch be accompanied by Yorkshire puddings.
Is mustard or horse radish better with beef.
What is wrong with a spoonful of cranberry sauce with pork.
In essence nothing you put on the ballot paper of a second referendum would solve the shambles we are in right now. In fact based on the bullshit I am hearing would indicate it would take as long to agree the wording of a second vote as it has to get the point we are with Brexit right now, and that is NOWHERE!!!!!!!
What is wrong with our young people? Another mindless and unnecessary stabbing yesterday. Drugs, gangs and social media has a lot to answer for.
Hot buttered crumpets on the way so must go.
Saturday 2nd Mar: 11:00
We should have been playing Hellingly in the league today. Instead Steel Cross will be quiet as the 2s and The Crows are away at East Grinstead and Uckfield respectively and Hellingly have pulled out of the league. Their reasons for that decision have been well documented but include travel time, player welfare, mis-match in standard, depth of squad and so on. It would be wrong of me to criticise their decision as in essence I can fully understand it.
When you add to that the news that our very good friends The Greenies have pulled out of their game with Charlton Park today as have Dover in their game against Beckenham I ask "what is going on". These are two very well run, forward thinking clubs in a league above us. For them to cry off games screams "this game of ours has a serious problem". In the case of Heathfield & Waldron RFC it has been a slowly worsening catalogue of factors at the heart of which has been injuries and front row capabilities. I think it is fair to say they have got away with patching things up but that has been at a cost and that cost has been more injuries. There comes a time when you run out of sticking plaster and you have to make a tough decision: risk doing some serious damage to one of your own or walk away and allow time for healing. They sensibly have taken the latter course of action. They are committed to seeing out the season which is good news.
Injuries are a major concern and affect many clubs at all levels of the game. The size of players now is ridiculous. Mass x speed = a massive impact force = injury. Add to that the luring of players away by other clubs with the promise of cash per game. £150 per match being the standard. That hurts. You can guarantee the players you lose will be your better players, especially your better front row players. Then on top of that society today is about "me, me, me" and instant gratification. Players no longer find the regular Saturday afternoon commitment fits their here, there, everywhere lifestyle.
I am not sure what can be done but as it stands it will only get worse. To be fair the RFU have tried to tackle the payment of players issue but quite frankly it is pathetic. For it to work the punishments must be punitive. Right now the clubs who should be in the firing line laugh with impunity and simply carry on as if nothing has changed.
Money is a major issue. Clubs at all levels struggle. Without a positive revenue stream how do you maintain your facilities and grounds. How do you ensure your players are properly looked after on a match day and at training. It is very difficult. Sponsors and advertisers are fewer and farther away. Except for some the largesse of benefactors is a dream as remote as winning the lottery. This problem is not exclusive to grassroots clubs it is a problem from the unions down. Can I recommend an excellent piece by Tom English on the BBC sport website. I'll return to this later in the week perhaps.
The new World League idea has not only been met with consternation by the players but also by the twelve unions who would be included. Add to this the threat by the Pacific Island nations to boycott RWC 2019 because they have been excluded means this idea is set to hit the buffers. Again the desperate chase for money is at the heart of the idea and as a consequence World Rugby's dream of growing the game globally instantly goes out of the window. Muppets!!!!!
What a cracking game at Ashton Gate last night. Bristol beating in form Gloucester at the death. A great result and a pretty good game to watch.
I won't be able to make it but I know some of The Faithful will be calling in at Lewes to watch them play Beccehamians. Enjoy!
Thursday Feb 28th: 18:00
I assume many of you will be reading this on Friday morning so a very happy St David's day to you all. St David being the patron saint of Wales. Of course St Warren being the patron saint of rugby.
Big weekend for the minis coming up with us hosting a festival on Sunday. The minis are a big part of CRFC so a huge thank you to all the volunteers who will make it a brilliant day for the kids who are taking part.
How do you recover from the loss against Wales and prepare for the game against Italy. You have a training session and a practice game against Georgia. You do it in front of Oxford school kids and impress them with your skills and your ability to........ fight. How embarrassing is that for King Eddie: the teams end up swapping punches rather than shirts.
Georgia are in discussion with the Pro14 blazers trying to get a team into the league. I am not sure how it will work and with money being tight across the game I am not convinced it is a good idea. For Georgian rugby it is clearly a good idea but for the teams already faced with lengthy travel times back and forth to South Africa it could be a cost too far. Georgia and Georgians is and are great but it is a hell of a place to get to.
The WRU and the clubs and the regions are again thrown into chaos. There is talk of keeping four regions but one of them being based in North Wales. What a crap idea...... but of course that is my opinion. Welsh rugby is very much based in South Wales and trying to artificially develop a North Wales regional side makes little sense to me.
Talking of chaos World Rugby are discussing proposals to have a 12 team global league. Yet another crazy idea. The travel alone and the pressures and demands on the players would be unbelievable. Then you have the club versus country debate which is a hot topic right now, especially in England and France.
There is one thing that links much of the above together and that thing is money. The blazers are losing sight of reality as they chase the dollar at every opportunity. The Pro14 TV deal is a classic example. Many rugby fans are frozen out of the Pro14 rather than being engaged with it. I think too many people involved in rugby confuse the global pulling power of soccer with the niche interest in rugby. The ability to raise revenue is finite. If soccer's TV deals and sponsorship revenues are in decline how on earth can rugby compete.
Time will tell.
Looking ahead to the return of the 6 Nations Wales Cory Hill is out injured as is England's Courtney Lawes. Hamish Watson and WP Nel are likely to return for Scotland. Manu Tuilagi could miss out as he features in many papers not based on his recent performance but the possible move to France for £2.5m.
Lots of rugby coming up this weekend. Super rugby is always a good watch. Bristol v Gloucester will be worth watching too. Bath v Quins might be the pick of the weekend but for me the must watch game is Newcastle Falcons v Worcester Warriors on Sunday. A great deal to play for in this one.
Baby faced Kim and orange faced Donald leave Hanoi without a deal. Trump didn't think lifting sanctions on Kim's thiefdom was appropriate when Kim he was not going to give up his nukes. Fair enough.
Back on Saturday for a quick update on Brexit, anti-Semitism, and all things topical.
Wednesday Feb 27th: 10:00
The withdrawal of Hellingly from the league means we have no 1st XV game this weekend. There is plenty to play for in the five other games however. Vigo host Old Dunstonians. Can they maintain their push for promotion and overcome ODs. Vigo need to be wary of the ODs back line but play like they did against us and I can see a home win. We were well beaten by Vigo when they visited Steel Cross so this result will be one to watch.
Actually all results have something on them. Folkestone travel to Pulborough. Can Pulborough halt the visitors fine run of form and put a serious dent in their promotion chances? Pulborough are playing for pride but could do us a favour with a home win. Hastings & Bexhill versus Bromley is fascinating. H&B have played some great rugby this season and have put all their opposition under pressure but bad luck and too many narrow defeats sees them in the drop zone. A much needed win might give them hope against a side that has blown hot and cold all season. Lewes also desperately need a win if they are to have any chance of surviving. Beating Beccehamian would be good for us as it removes another team that mathematically could prevent us from achieving our goal of promotion. Finally Old Willies host Park House. Park House are perilously close to the drop and a win would, like Lewes, keep their slim chances of staying up alive. With potentially another three teams (along with Hellingly) dropping out of the league there is much to play for.
I understand the Colts versus Worthing on Sunday was a cracker. Well supported on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Worthing ran out winners with the margin of victory on the scoreboard not truly reflecting the closeness and quality of the game.
Having caught up with the Premiership on Monday I watched the highlights of the Top 14 yesterday. It is the briefest of highlights shows but amongst the clips three things stood out. Some of the tries were magnificent. Rhys Webb had a brilliant game for Toulon. Isn’t French rugby simply full of overseas players?
On this point I note that the Premiership is packed with overseas players too. South Africans litter the whole league with Gloucester becoming a Springbok outpost. Faf de Klerk struts his stuff at Sale and Willie le Roux lights up an otherwise mediocre Wasps side. Australian James Horwill is at Quins and a myriad of South Sea islanders prop up Bristol. I could go on but you get my drift. In France it is much worse. It was noticeable in recent games the referees spend more time explaining their decisions in English than they do in French.
Is this why the French national team has been so poor of late? I think so. Is this why the French national team has had to resort to selecting players based on the PATHETIC residency rule? Yes!! It is great for the domestic game. The grounds are packed and some of the games have been brilliant. For the future of the grassroots game France needs a strong international side. This isn’t the way to go about it.
English rugby is going the same way. Right now on a man for man basis no-one should beat England. They have a good talent pool to pick from and some good youngsters coming through BUT the number of overseas imports continues to increase and this cannot be good for English grassroots rugby. The clubs don’t care. As we have seen their focus is bums on seats and money, money, money. Quietly, and in the case of Mark McCall not so quietly I think the clubs would like to see the international game crash and burn. For us at the grassroots end of things that would be disastrous. You know all this though don’t you?
By the way the 2s are away at East Grinstead and The Crows are away at Uckfield. I am sure they would welcome your support.
Elsewhere Leicester City have moved quickly and have replaced Claude Puel with Brendan Rogers. I think this is a good call. He has a good track record and seems to be able to get the best out of his players. Time will tell.
I see Theresa Maybe has been forced into giving in to her cabinets demands and has agreed to ask for a delay to Brexit if her deal is voted down on March 12th (Mrs Bleater’s birthday). Quite a climb down. No chance of her becoming Chelsea’s next manager as a result. When will this fffffnnnnn shambles end? The opinions are so entrenched now no-one is willing to compromise. Boris won’t vote for anything that means staying. Anna Sourface won’t vote for anything that means leaving. And so it goes on!!! Labour want a second referendum, or do they? If they do they have no idea what question to ask. As I say it is a shambles with a capital “F”.
Elsewhere Donald meets Kim. Can you imagine it:
“hey Mr Dictator, what are you doing about those Nukes, and by the way I think that wall on the Mexican border is a great idea. You can have some of our guys come help you, as long as you promise to shoot them with anti-aircraft weapons if they try to defect”.
“Well Kim baby that is so kind of you. In return I’ll build you a golf course and a Trump Tower in Pyongyang. Now about them Nukes. Can you stop pointing them at us and turn them towards those Chinese factories making all them ‘Make America Great’ hats at a knock down price”
Tuesday 26th Feb: 10:45
I continue to smile at that great result on the weekend; the Crows going through to a final in Horsham on March 30th. Great stuff. It made me smile even more when I recollect a couple of Crows saying to The Bard and I that we should be playing. I know we still look fit and active but every dog has his day and I think our days for running out and playing are well behind us. Mine certainly are.
Some interesting Premiership results over the weekend. I watched a resurgent Gloucester beat Saracens but as was said during the highlights show this was far from a 1st XV Saracens side. Mark McCall’s dislike of the international windows is somewhat justified. Gloucester did play well and with Ben Morgan and Danny Cipriani playing with confidence they look like (the unnecessary) play-off contenders. Sale’s win over Wasps must have come as a relief to Steve Diamond but heaps more pressure on Dai Young and his charges. Bath gave up a win at Franklins Gardens with two moments of laxity late on. Worcester snatching a late, late victory over Leicester in a crap game was vital to the Warriors survival hopes. With Newcastle losing at Exeter the Falcons are now deep in the mire. In the other game Quins continue their fine form and Bristol continue to leave the back door open to anyone who wants to burgle a win. Much to play for.
Ospreys are still underperforming in the Pro14 and the Dragons getting hammered by Benetton was an embarrassment. This season I am out of touch with the Pro14 as it is on a pay channel not captured by SKY or BT subscription. This reinforces my point that selling your soul to the devil (pay TV) is in the long term not good for sport.
Wales women got hammered by England but what do you expect when England’s women are fully professional and Wales are amateurs. Wales Under 20s on the other hand beat England Under 20s in a mirror of the game to follow on Saturday. England were much the better side for long periods but couldn’t close out the game allowing a dogged Welsh side to snatch victory at the death.
Lots in the papers about England’s defeat on Saturday. Much criticism aimed at England’s inability to be flexible when under pressure. Much talk about the need to give Owen Farrell a rest. I concur with that and would play George Ford at #10 and bring Jonathan Joseph in instead of Manu Tuilagi. With a £2.5m deal on the table how motivated is Tuilagi to play for England anyway. I would also give Johnny May and Jack Nowell a break but Kyle Sinckler has to play. Despite the potential to implode the positives of him playing outweigh the negatives. Much has also been said that perhaps King Eddie might want to focus less on the mind games and more on tactical efficacy. England potentially have a good run to the finish line with wins against Italy and Scotland at Twickenham on the cards. Wales on the other hand travel to Murrayfield then host Ireland. As above much to play for.
As is the case most weeks I have watched lots and lots of rugby. The more I watch the more I am convinced the game would benefit from three things. 1. Ensuring players from both sides have clear space between those in the ruck or maul and those defending. 2. Trying to keep players on their feet at the ruck. The jackle is an unedifying mess and rather than quickening the game is slowing it by giving the advantage to the defending side. 3. Depowering the scrum some how. Collapse after, collapse, reset after reset is a nonsense. Whilst it doesn’t change the nature of the game subs rushing into the dead ball area when tries are scored drives me nuts.
Much in the papers about player power at Chelsea. Sarri will be out the door soon. I feel for him as the players have all the cards. They get paid their enormous salaries regardless of whether they play or not, or regardless of results. Me, that keeper would have been off, he would have been dropped for ever and not paid. Tell him to take the club to an employment tribunal if he doesn’t like it. Alternatively he could go and play in North Korea. They love dissenters there.
British politics is a shambles. Theresa Maybe is running the Government like a tin-pot dictator: her way or no way. The cabinet are scheming and plotting not for the benefit of you and I but for their own good: don’t forget their jobs are at stake here. The SNP have their heads up their backsides. They criticise the Northern Ireland backstop ignoring the fact that Scottish Independence would mean the hardest of hard borders for them. Labour are in disarray as the bullying and anti-semitism row rumbles on. What few have commented on is those to the left of our political scene are in as much of a pickle over Brexit as the Tories. The “people’s vote” being at the heart of the problem along with us being in a customs union with the EU equating to us not leaving at all. Then there are the “splitters”. The “I’m going to be deselected and might lose my lucrative salary and cushy lifestyle so I better do something to keep hold of that” group of Muppets. In my opinion Parliament is a bit like booking to go to the circus but when you get there all you see are clowns.
Bridgnorth library here we come, after my Blueberry Wheats and a fig yoghurt. If I am to continue to produce this nonsense from my backside I need something to ease its passage.
Monday 25th Feb: 08:30
As the dust settles on the 6 Nations I thought I would give you my view on some of the winners and losers over the last two days.
Losers - In no order
Eddie Jones - where was Plan B. When the kicking game faltered where was the instruction from the coaches eerie to change the game plan. Where were the tactical substitutions?
Owen Farrell - a fine player who had an off day but is he an on-field general. He blindly followed the plan into oblivion
Kyle Sinckler - his impetuous behaviour cost his side dearly. Two silly penalties conceded and one aggressive action that showed his vulnerability.
Manu Tuilagi - I almost forgot he was playing, he was so anonymous.
Glen Jackson - a normally fine referee. A poor day with the whistle, and his poor decisions hurting a much improved Italian side who did not get the rub of the green.
Ireland - Where was the ruthless Ireland that had such a wonderful 2018. The men in green looked tired and lacklustre.
Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray - is their sell by date rapidly approaching. Are the glory days being replaced by stuttering mediocrity?
Scotland - so very poor against a mediocre French side. Too many self inflicted errors and a missed tackle count to be ashamed of.
Winners - In no order
Tom Curry - outstanding from start to finish. Could easily, despite being on the losing side, have been named man of the match.
Kyle Sinckler - for 40+ minutes he was immense. He tackled anything that moved and his work in the scrum and around the park was excellent.
Josh Adams - rewarded Gatland's faith in him with a fine performance.
Dan Biggar - what a twenty minutes. Pressure on Gatland for him to start against Scotland
The WRU groundstaff - that pitch looked immaculate (for a change)
The Welsh support - magnificent from start to finish. When it mattered they helped heap the pressure onto the men in white.
Italy - a much improved performance even without Parrisse.
France - at last a glimpse of what has until now been kept under wraps.
Romain Ntamack - a fine performance.
Gregor Townsend - didn't sugar coat the dismal performance of his team. Said it as it is.
Warren Gatland and coaching team - a 12 match winning streak says it all.
Obviously there is a lot of other stuff that could be mentioned and a lot of others who stood up to the task or who fell by the wayside when it mattered. King Eddie has tough decisions to make before England take on Italy. Does he rest Farrell and will he be bold enough to experiment with an alternative game plan? Courtney Lawes' injury adds to Jones's woes, especially as Maro Itoje is still on the road to recovery.
For Wales it is about keeping feet on the ground and heads out of the clouds. Scotland next up at Murrayfield and that is one tough place to play. Then comes Ireland who will be looking to spoil the party. It is a long way from done yet. A VERY long way.
France, Ireland, Scotland and Italy all have different things to ponder. France have the easiest task with nothing to lose and everything to gain. Anyway more on this in the coming weeks.
Lots of Premiership stuff to digest but that can wait until tomorrow. Saracens going down at Gloucester and Worcester beating Leicester are some of the things to digest. I'll watch the highlights tonight and comment tomorrow (later in the day as I'm heading off to Bridgnorth and you know the interweb issues I face when there).
Changing sports what an absolute disgrace. A player refusing to be substituted. The behaviour of the Chelsea goalkeeper was shameful and Maurizio Sarri's reaction was pathetic. He should have hauled him off no matter what the player wanted.
Claude Puel gets the noble order of the boot from Leicester City. No surprise there. The results have been dire and the team play awful.
More ODI cricket today. Windies v England from St Georges, Grenada. We love Grenada.
In the news are the Oscars. Yawn!!!! Brexit. Yawn!!!. Meghan Markle. An even bigger yawn!!!
What have I been telling you for sometime. White, middle aged, heterosexual men are being discriminated against. A man fitting the above description was refused a job with the police despite excellent credentials because he was exactly that. The force in question would rather take less qualified people in order to tick boxes. What is wrong with selecting the very best regardless of sex, race, colour, religion, creed or shoe size??????
Sunday 24th Feb: 09:15
There is only one place to start this morning and it isn't in Cardiff. Steel Cross was the place to be yesterday afternoon as The Crows beat Uckfield 2s to lift the Sussex Vase/Salver East. I only saw the opening 50 minutes but what I saw was fantastic. Both sides playing with passion and a smile on their faces. Some of the passages of play were very impressive with The Crows dominating much of the game. Skipper Phil Hart led from the front and those taking to the field gave him of their best. There were times when those on the side were reacquainting themselves with the location of the clubs defibrillator however.
It was great to see so many of our 1st and 2nds supporting the Crows from the balcony and it was great for people like The Bard and I and the coaches to support the men who haven't played much rugby this season. The Crows are a great bunch who love the game and love the club.
Great stuff and well done boys. They now go onto face Bognor 3s in the grand final on March 30th at Horsham. Sad but many of us will be at Folkestone supporting the 1st XV but a great reward to be able to play on the AGP for The Crows.
Whilst that was going on Scotland were going down to France in Paris. Gregor Townsend was clearly disappointed with his charges implying their commitment and passion was lacking. France played well and exploited Scotland's errors. Shame as I thought Scotland were finally heading in the right direction.
Later today Italy host a changed Ireland side. Despite Joe Schmidt shuffling his pack the men in green will still be too strong for the Italians.
That will do for today. My coffee is getting cold.
Mrs Bleater has said I can't leave it there. She is insisting I mention that Crowborough Ladies walking netballers were runners up in extra time in the inaugural Eastbourne tournament.
I might as well mention the Wales v England game while I am at it. In a match-up that might have gone under the radar Wales beat England much to the surprise of many, including me. England's Grand Slam ambitions crashed and burned as a passionate Welsh team stifled the opposition's Plan A kicking game and Wales never say die attitude took them to victory late on. England started well enough but couldn't match the intensity of the Ireland or French games. This in the main because Wales defensively were excellent and countered England's ambition with the boot, and out of hand, with crunching tackles and relentless work at the breakdown. Another key factor was Wales discipline. Just three penalties conceded was amazing and the one conceded by Tipuric early on was never a penalty.
Sir Clive Knowitall was in shock according his column in the Organ of Truth. He likened the defeat to those of the bad old days when England had no Plan B, always came second when the game turned scrappy and when the opposition raised their game discipline and control went out of the window. He also makes the point that after two fine wins confidence was high, too high perhaps, therefore meaning the English players lost sight of just how much everybody wants to beat England.
For once I can't fault his assessment. Despite the early English dominance it was clear Plan A wasn't working. Williams, Adams and North covered most of the kicks with aplomb. When England went wide the attacks were snuffed out. At the breakdown England were much improved but Wales matched them. Kyle Sinckler started very well but as the game wore on he began to lose control. His cynical block in midfield of Anscombe and his grabbing of Alun Wyn by the throat were both worthy of yellow cards. Fair play to King Eddie he got his shepherds crook out and saved Sinckler from himself.
The key turning points in the game came in the second half. Firstly Gatland and his team of coaches and the players realised they had to work through the phases sucking England's defenders into the ruck and maul. Up until then England were using the minimum number of players to thwart Wales in these contact areas. The second turning point was the introduction of Dan Biggar. Everything he touched turned to gold putting Wales on the front foot. The rest is now history. Cory Hill goes over after 34 phases of play and Josh Adams pulls off a magical catch and goes over to kill England's hopes of glory but keeping Wales hopes alive.
I'll guess that many of the Red Rose brigade will be chuntering this morning about how the result doesn't matter as it is the world cup that counts. The loss has no bearing on that and we'll bounce back. Ah but yes it does. What do England have to play for now? Nothing. The Grand Slam and Triple Crown have gone and the mood in the camp will be rock bottom. England again have shown that when it matters they lack that "je ne sais quoi" in terms of passion and that they are over coached lacking any sort of on-field decision making capability.
A special mention for Tom Curry. A great game from him.
What of Wales? Well, they now have glory in their sights but Scotland and Ireland will be tough challenges. Wales have forgotten how to lose. For the first time in a very long time Wales have some strength in depth. Finally in Gatland, Edwards, Howley and McBride they have a coaching team of some quality.
That really will do for today other than to say ..........
Wales 21 - England 13