Monday 7th Jan: 15:30
After an excellent weekend with the extended family I’m finally back in Crowborough. My only guideline is The Bard’s match report and from this it sounds as if Saturday’s game against Pulborough was a splendid affair but only if you are a neutral. The followers of Pulborough probably went home wondering how they didn’t get more points on the board after the amount of possession they had and the pressure they exerted. Crowborough’s faithful probably went home mightily relieved and thankful the porous defence of last season has been replaced by an almost impenetrable wall. The narrow 13-5 win means we remain top with an eleven point gap to Old Williamsonians. Pulborough drop to 6th but do have a game in hand.
Elsewhere in London 3 South East Folkestone return to winning ways with a fine 14-30 win away at Bromley. Folkestone are now up to 5th. Bromley are 9th. Below them are Park House who came away from Old Dunstonians with an excellent 22-27 win. Hastings & Bexhill remain bottom after losing at home to second placed Old Willies. Due to Hellingly’s withdrawal from the league Beccehamians had a bye week. Still much to play for as teams’ form continues to rise and fall from week to week this epitomised by Vigo who came out 26-7 winners over Lewes on Saturday. Vigo being our next opponents.
Down into Sussex One where Burgess Hill took the spoils at previously unbeaten Uckfield. Our neighbours remain top though. Elsewhere East Grinstead beat Ditchling, Eastbourne beat Plumpton but not by many and Crawley beat Seaford. Barring an admin cock-up the top four will be Uckfield, Crawley, Burgess Hill and Eastbourne. A couple more games to go but I think that is now a done deal.
Above us in London 2 South East our good friends The Greenies continue to find life tough. They remain bottom after losing at home to Old Colfeians 24-51. Aylesford Bulls are just above them after their loss at home to Dover. Maidstone are not finding life easy after another loss this time at Charlton Park. The other two Sussex sides fared much better with Horsham beating Gravesend and Haywards Heath enjoying the long journey home from Deal & Betteshanger with a win the bag. Beckenham are twelve points clear after a narrow away win at Thanet Wanderers.
In London 1 South Havant stalled Brighton’s charge at the top winning 29-27. Brighton remain top but now only six points clear of the Mighty Oaks who ran out 0-40 winners at Chobham. Chichester lost at home to Medway and slip further down the table. Hove were beaten again this time by Cobham.
At the top table of the London leagues our friends over the border in Kent beat bottom placed Shelford 26-10. They now sit mid table. Wimbledon remain top after beating Bedford Athletic.
In the ether of the National League 2 South Worthing came home from Cornwall quite content after beating Redruth. TJs were less content on the much shorter trek back home after losing to London Irish Wild Geese.
For the record Salisbury lost away at Royal Wootten Bassett whilst Bridgnorth beat Syston by the lovely River Severn in the market town of Bridgnorth where I have just driven back from.
I see Wasps finally got back to winning ways after beating Saints. I know the people at Sale were delighted with their win over Sarries. One of their coaches told me so. He also reinforced what we already know that Owen Farrell is going to get into serious how water if he doesn’t alter his tackling technique and wind his neck in with regard to referees. The Worcester v Bath game ends in a bizarre fashion. I am hoping to watch the highlights later.
In one of the many discussions with my brothers about the game and the shape it is in I mentioned the distinct possibility of Premiership Rugby bringing up the drawbridge and ring-fencing the thirteen shareholder teams. Well surprise, surprise in today’s press there is coverage of exactly that debate and the associated comments of Ian Ritchie. There is lots of mileage left in that story me thinks.
Did I say supporting Leicester City was a rollercoaster ride. Well yesterday it turned into snakes and ladders. Boy was that a slippery snake to slide down. Newport County 2 Leicester City 1. By the way between my two brothers and me we have collectively played over 750 games at Rodney Parade. I managed 5, all as a schoolboy. JC had over 250 and NBC made up the rest.
That’ll do for now as I have letters to write to the EU, my MP, the PM, the DUP and many more. In essence you are all making this country and the wider EU look inept. Stop putting your own selfish agendas first and think of the hard working people who ultimately pay your wages.
Thursday 3rd Jan: 09:45
Grassroots rugby returns this weekend with a full calendar up and down the country. There is also plenty of stuff from the Premiership and Pro14 that catches the eye. The latest round of the Welsh and Irish derbies for example. Sale v Saracens tomorrow is one to watch. On Saturday Exeter v Bristol is the pick of the Gallagher games. Wasps v Saints on Sunday might be worth watching.
Really good piece in the Guardian by Paul Kitson about his fear for the game. If I was clever enough I'd put the link here so instead I encourage you to go find it. In essence he touches on the issues the game faces, many of which I have commented on, but his biggest fear in this Rugby World Cup year is the game losing one of its most cherished attributes: respect. Owen Farrell and Joe Marler sniping at referees, players appealing for cards, players cheating, players whinging in the press about other players and so forth. Crowds are becoming less tolerant and the game slips ever closer to the tribalism of soccer. There is much to ponder as inevitably this behaviour becomes emulated at lower levels and worse in our junior games. You know my view as I have bleated on about it for some time but Kitson is a reporter with a fine reputation and his articluate summation is way better than anything I could deliver. Please go read it.
For the record it is the grassroots clubs who work the hardest at maintaining respect, especially at junior level. Certainly the vast majority of clubs we have dealings with are like-minded in ensuring fair play and respect to all. We are not tainted by the spectre of losing our win bonuses or being knocked out of lucrative cup competitions. Yes money is up there but the lack of respect and the lowering of tolerance levels is a societal problem seen in every day life. Please let our great game be a bastion of common decency and respect and tolerance as is it once was and always should be.
I understand the preparations for RWC 2019 in Japan are well on track. The first Asian nation and first tier two nation to host the tournament will do the game proud. A nation where respect and the protection of tradition is ingrained in society. Can't wait. That said I am advised that you wouldn't know the tournament was being held in Japan as the hype is low key to non-existent. Let us see when we get there, which I will be able to report on first hand..... so there!!!!!!
I know the Friday Club get a lot of air time amongst the drivel that comes out of my key board but they are a special bunch. All our members are special and the Friday Club are not the only hard working volunteers. The Exec, the coaches, the admin teams, the volunteer staff, the kids who play, the mums and dads who freeze their butts off each week are all special. The one difference is that all these wonderful volunteers and stakeholders are not as "mad as a box of frogs" and don't think it is sensible to set up a beach scene on one of our pitches. Perhaps it is no wonder a local funeral director has expressed an interest in supporting the club.
To the round ball game. Have I mentioend my 55 year rollercoaster ride with Leicester City before? I have! Then you'll understand how I feel about a surprise 1-0 away win at Everton after losing at home to Cardiff.
Since the Arrogant One has left so the Red Devils have regained their mojo. Up yours Jose.
Brexit is back. Now excuse my ignorance on the matter but is it sensible to contract a company who has no ships, no experience of operating ships and no base from which to operate ships? That's Brexit for you. MADNESS!
Glad to see the RMT coming out to complain about the fare increases. I am surprised they didn't mention the eye-wateringly good salaries their drivers earn. Yeah, strange that!!!
Finally universities are findling life tough. Sorry guys there are now too many of you and too many of you offering meaningless degrees in meaningless subjects. If you go bust then so be it. More vocational training please. More on the job training. More real life less Utopian ideology.
Before I go for a nice cuppa I am not sure how blogging over the next few days will pan out. I am in Wales then onto Bridgnorth. Monday's review of the leagues will be later in the day but still on Monday.
Wednesday 2nd Jan: 09:00
2019 already. I can't believe where the time has gone. It is surely a sign of getting older.
Not much in the news as the build up to the weekend's games hasn't started yet. I'll look at the fixtures tomorrow.
Don't forget that there are two games at Steel Cross on Saturday with Jacqui's excellent lasagne available beforehand. Contact Paul Gray if you want to join in.
The league fixture v Pulborough will be tough. They'll be gunning for revenge after we beat them at their place earlier in the season.
The RFU have decided Dave Ward will face no further action after he vehemently denied spitting at an opponent and his club dealt with the other incident; treading on Thomas Young's ankle. I am not sure that it is the right decision but the decision has been made so move on.
Steve Diamond will also be cancelling his rail ticket to Twickenham. No complaint was made against him so no further action required. Diamond has not denied he squared up to reporter Steve Peters but he has strongly defended his methods stating he is not a bully and Sale's medical protocols are up there with the best. He went on to say if Sale is such an awful club and I am such an ogre (I paraphrase) then why have all these top flight players signed new contracts. Faf de Klerk, Tom Curry, Josh Beaumont to name but three. Sale host Saracens on Friday by the way.
I took time out yesterday to look at the attendance at the Doncaster Knights v Yorkshire Carnegie game. It was just 2006 people. I know the clubs are now getting money from SKY but surely that level of support cannot support a fully professional set up. That same weekend Jersey Reds hosted Ealing Trailfinders. Just 1114 people watched that one. I know Jersey is not the best example because its location means visiting fan numbers are restricted but that number through the turnstiles makes a club's viability questionable. You need a big benefactor to support you I think.
I understand the Bath v Leicester game was pretty enjoyable. Bath played well with Leicester very reliant on their defence to keep the score as close as it was. The one-eyed supporters from Bath were euphoric but I've put that to one side and listened to the impartial Paddy O'Fez. His view was both need to deliver more if they are to be in contention for Europe with Bath looking the more likely to succeed. Leicester need to find a cutting edge as only relying on strong defence could mean the spectre of relegation looms ever larger.
I read that rail fares have gone up by more than inflation despite train punctuality being the worst it has been. I rarely use the train now but fares going up and service going down can't be right.
Someone won £115m on the Euromillions yesterday. Wow. Hope it brings them happiness rather than the misery so many lottery winners have endured.
It is claimed 15m people failed to turn up for their GP appointment last year. That is a disgrace. Sorry folks the time has come for people to have to pay a booking fee of say £5 for a GP appointment. The money is not taken from your account once your appointment has been completed.
I read with some disdain that the kill-joys are out there trying to restrict the sale of alcohol at airports and on flights after a record number of incidents into problems. Can't recall the number exactly but lets say it was between 250 and 500 across the year. By comparison a three day closure at Gatwick affected 150,000 people. You do the maths. A single incident is too many but this is kill-joy madness.
Our wonderful police force is constantly under pressure and often criticised. Let me give you an idea of why we must change that negative attitude and get back to respecting and supporting them. Imagine preparing Christmas lunch ready to eat around 4pm, this being the time a police officer is coming off shift. You get the call to say he won't make it as he was first on scene at a violent murder in Maidstone and now has to deal with the aftermath. That is what happened to one of my family. Makes you realise how lucky we are.
Tuesday 1st Jan: 09:30
A VERY Happy New Year to you all.
Let us all hope for a great 2019 in whatever guise you wish that to be.
Monday 31st Dec: 10:20
Let me start with a little bit of spanking, I know some of you like that. Quite obviously when I wrote Cardiff Blues had "spanked" the Scarlets I clearly hadn't watched the game. I have now and quite frankly for 65 minutes the Scarlets were much the better side and should have been miles ahead except for excellent Blues defensive work. A well taken try and two interceptions saw Cardiff go out to the 34-5 victory. The result was harsh on the Scarlets so a "spanking" was definitely not the right description.
It must be April Fools rather than New Years Eve. Did the Dragons really beat the Ospreys for their first derby day win in four years? Actually they did and were worthy winners. Their defence was immense and when they had the ball they attacked with ambition. Yes Jared Rosser was fortunate with his try but nevertheless the Dragons deserved the win. At the death it looked as if the Ospreys might snatch the win but a last second kick by Jason Tovey secured the win for the men of Gwent.
Both were pretty good games. Lots of ambition. Plenty of gutsy defence. No silly nonsense. Two hard fought derbies.
Haven't seen the Bath v Tigers game but a win for the home side must be a huge relief with the league being so tight. The Tigers continue to struggle and must be looking ahead with some trepidation. Leicester to be relegated? Its not beyond the realms of possibility.
I read that Sam Underhill got injured and is now a doubt for the games ahead, including the 6 Nations. Wales too have injury woes with Nicky Smith and Dan Lydiate both out for several weeks.
We'll see if Dave Ward misses more than the one game following the ban given to him by Quins. Well done to them for taking prompt action. The RFU might take a dimmer view however.
Mike Brown: "I could have broken my neck". It looked bad, however you must consider cause and effect. Brown went down "after leaping into Josh Bassett as he attempted to catch a high ball". The officials need to protect players but it works both ways. Players need to protect themselves. If you leap into the air to collect a high ball you are putting yourself at risk. Stay on the ground. I will try and find the clip so I can make a better judgement. There of course is the cynic in me thinking Brown is keen to get back into the England set-up so he's making a noise to be noticed...... but that really is cynical.
Bristol beat Newcastle to heap more pressure on the Falcons who languish at the foot of the table.
Steve Diamond could be in trouble again. He had a confrontation with a reporter after his sides excellent win at Gloucester. He is no stranger to controversy and has gold card membership with the RFU disciplinary team.
You've got this far so now pay attention.
Crowborough 1st XV host Pulborough and the 2s host Lewes 2s next Saturday at Steel Cross. Both games kick off at 14:00. Jacqui is putting on her fabled lasagne at £10 per head. Get hold of Paul Gray to book a place.
By the way The Crows are away at Uckfield.
Despite last night's defeat the Saints remain No.1 seeds in the play-offs.
As the old year ends some things don't change: the French continue to be revolting, the RMT continue to be fighting lost causes and the Tories continue to fight more ferociously amongst themselves than they do the opposition.
Sunday 30th Dec: 10:20
Good morning to the three of you who might be reading this today.
I was slightly tongue-in-cheek when I criticised the "Big One" yesterday but oh boy wasn't I right. I am certain as a day out for many of our club members who had tickets it was great. For those who watched a game of rugby it was pretty dire stuff.
Earlier in the day I had watched Doncaster Knights lose to bottom placed Yorkshire Carnegie in the Championship. There were some impressive skills on show. Some excellent tries and a generally good tempered match. I was disappointed with the number of overseas players on show but that was a minor irritant. I also questioned the viability of having a fully professional Championship with what was a small crowd. A couple of thousand spectators only.
It was then time for Quins v Wasps. As an advert for top flight Premiership rugby containing highly paid professionals it missed the mark and in some areas missed it by a long way. Some of the skills on show were poor. The passing was erratic and some of the ball retention was non existent. Yes there were glimpses of skill but all too few. At times watching rutting stags on Ashdown Forest would have been more entertaining. As with many top flight games it was all about power and not enough about skill and guile.
What made the whole experience worse and incredibly frustrating was the behaviour of the players. With many mums and dads and young impressionable kids packing the stands it was unedifying to watch so called professionals act like petulant soccer players. The constant sniping and whingeing of Joe Marler was a disgrace. Then you have Dave Ward standing on Thomas Young's ankle. Disgraceful. Sadly that wasn't the worst of it. To see Ward spitting at an opponent is totally unacceptable. If the RFU have anything about them they must act quickly and make it clear this is not the standard expected in our great game. That wasn't the end of it as Elliot Daley was penalised for his childish petulance and then we saw Mike Brown throwing the ball/kicking out at Daley. Is this the example we want to see from England internationals. NO!
I am sure those who were there had a good day out but sorry people this was no advert for our game.
Elsewhere Cardiff Blues spanked Scarlets. I hadn't expected that. Munster beat ill-disciplined Leinster. Edinburgh made it back to back wins over Glasgow. The result of the day has to be Sale's impressive win over Gloucester.
The Welsh derbies are being shown on S4C this afternoon so I'll be giving Bath v Leicester Tigers a miss.
Supporting Leicester City is and always has been a rollercoaster of a ride. Losing to Cardiff City after their recent wins. Woe is me.
That'll do for now. Back tomorrow with a look at today's games and some political comment. Perhaps a comment or two about why a lying MP can keep her job, and why the same lying MP earning in excess of £70,000 per annum thinks it is acceptable to live in a council house thus blocking access for someone more needy. I guess that is what they mean by "for the many, not the few".
Saturday 29th Dec: 10:20
Like yesterday I am guessing I am writing this for my satisfaction as most of the regular visitors to this blog will have far better things to do today.
Anyway let's start with congratulating Sir Bill Beaumont. A loyal servant to our great game and his contribution justifiably being recognised with a knighthood. Well done SIR!
Enjoyed the Saints v Chiefs encounter last night. Some decent rugby, albeit in patches. Exeter's game plan was predictable and Saints kept them under control for long periods as a consequence. The catch & drive is a powerful weapon but if you know it is coming you can defend against it. Passing along the backs behind the screen runners can deliver results but if you do it time and time again it can be thwarted. In essence I thought Exeter had a very limited game plan and when it didn't work they had no plan B or C. Saints on the other hand took their chances when they were presented to them and played with a commitment in both defence and attack that was sadly lacking at the beginning of the season. They ran out worthy winners but Exeter did snatch a try and a losing bonus point at the death.
Saints Gibson was excellent and I thought Dan Biggarhead showed a maturity and composure that he needs now to enhance if he is to win back his starting Welsh spot. The scrums were a mess and as stated yesterday the time wasted was a disgrace. It was fantastic to see the ground packed to the rafters.
Talking of grounds being packed I understand Twickenham is sold out for the Quins v Wasps game. Yesterday someone described this as the "Big One". Sorry Nick but I think you are confusing the occasion with the game. I am sure with 82,000 people in the stadium the occasion will be excellent. Describing a game between two mediocre teams lying mid-table neither playing particularly well as the "Big One" is somewhat ambitious.
I would put the three derbies in the Pro14 ahead of Quins v Wasps. Glasgow v Edinburgh, Scarlets v Cardiff Blues and Munster v Leinster are all much bigger games. The occasion might pale by comparison but the games are "bigger".
By the way I'll still watch the game from Twickenham. Its on terrestrial TV: Channel 5.
In another surprise result Connacht beat Ulster last night. Irish rugby has an abundance of riches don't they?
The Friday Club were hard at it yesterday getting the place looking great for a wedding today and a New Years Eve party on Monday. Jacqui, Nick and the new steward John (who seems a really good bloke) worked tirelessly yesterday to get the clubhouse looking magnificent, and magnificent it was. Over several months Jacqui has put together chair covers and wall decorations that transforms the place into a wonderful special events venue. Well done to her and the rest of the team. I hope the day goes well for the guests and our great staff.
Before I go it is great to read about Doddie Weir getting a gong for his work in raising money for the charity he set up to grow awareness of motor neurone disease.
Well done Geraint Thomas for your OBE and whilst not a sportsman one of my "heroes" Michael Palin becomes a knight.
The most important recipients though are the brave and hardworking men and women of our armed forces, the police and ambulance services and of course our doctors and nurses many of whom have been recognised in the New Years honours list.
Thursday 27th Dec: 10:00
I am not sure how many people will read this edition of "It's Only Drivel" but I have time on my hands and the alternative is helping with household chores.
Firstly I hope you have all had a lovely Christmas with family and friends. Ours has been very quiet but we did spend some quality time with family on Christmas morning and caught up with others by the wonder of technology. We have spent quite a lot of time with our good friend Merlot, and his partner Sav but that is a story for another time.
The big boys are back in action tomorrow with Saints hosting Exeter. The Irish and Welsh derbies are the pick of the Pro14. Other games of note are Gloucester v Sale on Saturday and Bath v Tigers on Sunday. There'll be plenty to watch.
Stuart Barnes has a new book out. I remember Barnsey coming around to our house in Bassaleg as a kid. Bassaleg the scene of violence yesterday as hunt protesters clashed with the local hunt. I only say this because it was a tradition on Boxing Day morning for my Mum & Dad to host a few friends to watch the hunt go off from the Tredegar Arms which was opposite our house. (See the Organ of Truth)
Back to rugby. As we go into the new year I thought I'd reiterate a number of my favourite gripes about our great game, noting it is a great game that offers both the sporting world and life in general a huge number of benefits.
In no order.........
Let us hope for less interference from the TMO and more decisiveness from the referees.
Offside at ruck and maul. The law makers have got to get players properly behind the hindmost foot. There should be a clear gap.
The scrum. The setting and resetting of scrums is such a pain. It eats up the clock and is an unedifying sight.
Replacements warming up in the dead-ball area rushing on after a score. Unacceptable!
Kick, kick, kick. Time after time hard won ball is kicked away. Keep the ball in hand.
Overseas players. I watched the soccer yesterday. Some great games but it drove me nuts to see both Arsenal and Chelsea with not a single English player in their starting line-ups. Rugby is not there yet but it is heading that way.
The payment of players at grassroots level. Not acceptable.
Eight subs. Way too many. There has been a lot written recently about the risks of playing the game. The sad death of the 19 year old lad in France. High profile early retirements. In my mind this is down to the size and power of the modern player and the fact players no longer have to play the full 80 minutes. Reduce the number of subs to three at all levels below the top flight. At the top flight by all means have eight but only three can be used tactically. Any other changes have to be certified by a doctor and are for injury only. This is just one way to depower the game. If we don't then we will see more and more injuries.
Leicester City 2 Manchester City 1 - HOORAH!
New Orleans Saints No.1 seeds in the paly-offs. HOORAH!
Brexit will be back on the front pages soon. BOO!
The Gatwick Drone. What a shambles. SHAME! (Bet the couple who were arrested are rubbing their hands with glee in expectation of the big payout from Sussex Police and the press)
Must go. Toast has popped and Japanese to learn. Friday Club tomorrow so back on Saturday.
Sunday 23rd: 10:00
No grandchildren today so a bit of a lie in. Waking to this miserable weather is somewhat disappointing. The Memorial Match was deemed to be on yesterday. That may change and will now be the referees decision.
Watched Exeter v Saracens yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed it. In part by the way that Exeter steamrollered over Sarries, and in part watching the Sarries act like petulant children who have been told Father Christmas is giving them a miss. Owen Farrell, even though he was captain should have seen yellow for his persistent sniping at the referee. Jamie George was another that walked that line of unacceptability. To be fair Saracens were the architects of their own downfall with a litany of mistakes. Handling under the high ball was woeful at times and the basic mistakes were uncharacteristic. On the other hand Exeter rose to the challenge having endured the early pressure. They simply out-thought and out-fought their opposition. It was not the greatest of games for the purist with way too much kicking but I enjoyed it.
The club in profit beating the club with a huge financial deficit.
For this week at least Leicester Tigers seem to have got the show back on the road with a win over Quins. Quins have blown hot and cold this season so defeat is no surprise but for Leicester the win was important.
No panic Sale in Manchester as they corralled the Bears to leapfrog them in the table. Once Sale had all their players fit and available there was always going to be an improvement in form. So it came to pass yesterday.
In the Pro14 and the Scottish derby Edinburgh showed Glasgow a clean pair of heels leaving them trailing in their wake. Leinster eventually beat Connacht. Ospreys took the honours over Scarlets. Sadly this one ended with an unseemly scuffle.
Wasps v Bath is the pick of today's fixture.
An interesting comment from Richard Cockerill about rugby becoming an elite public school game only. I can understand where he is coming from as the state schools shun sport in totality to focus on academic results. The state system is short of cash and sport is an easy target when cuts are to be made. Within that rugby is a very technical game and in this pathetic world of wrapping kids in cotton wool rugby becomes the easiest target of all.
Contrast that with the fee paying schools who have the money and where sport is very much part of that sectors ethos. Sport happens everyday with schools bringing in expert coaches to support the relevant programmes. You also have the fee paying schools sucking sporting (and intellectual) talent out of the state system with scholarships. There is obviously some truth in Cockerill's statement but come on this not some sort of upper crust inspired elitism it is simply a sad indictment of how education is changing.
There is a very powerful counter argument. Clubs are doing their very best to ensure rugby doesn't lose focus in the state system. We at CRFC have Paddy who is amazing and works with three of the biggest secondary schools in the area, including Beacon. The clubs in the area work incredibly hard to make rugby a game for all regardless of social status, ethnicity or religion. The thriving mini and junior section at CRFC and beyond is testament to that.
Before moving on two additional comments. The big clubs are no better themselves often sucking young prospects out of local clubs into their set-up with the lure of making it to the big time only for these kids then to be thrown onto the scrapheap. Suitably disillusioned the game then loses them totally.
You cannot argue with Beacon Academy's approach to priority. Money is tight and they have prioritised educational excellence over sport. They are now one of the best performing schools in the country and at the top of the tree in Sussex and beyond in terms of results.
Before I go. Corbynov would have been better to have admitted saying Maybe is a "stupid woman" than lying. Are the people in custody for the drone attacks really eco-warriors. I can't quite believe it. Then as we all look forward to Christmas tragedy strikes in south east Asia as a tsunami hits Indonesia as Krakatau erupts. Paddy Ashdown's passing is sad. A proper politician: a man who fought for his country experiencing real life and then taking that experience into battle for his constituents.
That'll do for today. Back on Thursday next week. In the meantime can I wish you all a very Merry Christmas. Christmas a time for family and friends and a time to ponder our good fortune.
Saturday Dec 22nd: 08:45
So much for a Saturday morning lie-in. "Grandpa, grandpa, can we have the telly on. Grandpa, I need a wee. Grandpa, when is breakfast ready"
A very productive day for the Friday Club yesterday getting the place ready for Champagne, Cheese and Carols and the memorial match. Rick "The Bard" Howe was a star marking out two pitches despite the claggy conditions.
Read a little more about the row between the Premiership clubs and World Rugby. On this subject I think they have a case. They release their most valuable assets to someone else and expect to get them back in the same condition. If they don't they want the third parties; the WRU and SRFU via World Rugby to commit to "proper" levels of insurance. Makes sense.
Didn't see the Saints cruise past Worcester but it sounds as if Dan Biggar certainly had his kicking boots on. This result comes after their long and arduous journey to Trimisoara only for the game to be cancelled because of snow. Ulster beating Munster was a bit of a surprise but Ulster have been on the up of late whilst Munster have been off colour.
I watched the Cardiff Blues v Dragons game. It wasn't a classic but I enjoyed it. For long periods I thought the Dragons were much the better side and the Anscombe kick at the death was somewhat harsh. When you look at the quality of players at the Dragons disposal, including many international players, you have to have wonder why they have been so poor. There were glimpses of what could be going forward and that is very encouraging. What wasn't encouraging was Zane Kirchner's senseless hit on Blaine Scully. What was even worse was Lloyd Fairbrother's cowardly and outrageous strike to the head of Dillon Lewis. Lewis was defenceless when Fairbrother struck. I hope a long ban ensues. (Scour the interweb to see for yourselves).
Exeter v Saracens is the big game of the day. Kick off at 15:00 and it is on terrestrial TV for all to enjoy.
Time is running out for those on the fringes of international selection ahead of the 6 Nations. The 6 Nations being the "shop window" for RWC 2019 selection.
Big day for Manchester United after the sacking of Mr Arrogant himself. Bet he's not bothered as he enjoys his £22m pay off.
As I type it seems as if arrests have been made in the Gatwick drone affair. Let us wait and see what the motivation for the disruption was but let us also hope the punishment is swift and severe. A long prison sentence. There is an argument for using the more severe punishment of endangering an aircraft which can mean a life sentence.
"Ghastly EU chief Juncker" is a headline in the Torygraph. That is probably the most accurate headline for sometime. It is alleged he is a drunk and a right sleaze-bag. His ruffling of that women's hair was outrageous. You could see in her face she wanted to turn and slap him and slap him hard. He epitomises everything that is wrong with the EU.
Back tomorrow morning for one more blog before the Christmas break.
Thursday Dec 20th: 09:10
I think it is fair to say that The Friday Club's Christmas lunch was a huge success. Twenty like minded people having a laugh, eating a splendid meal, drinking good beer and wine. Basically doing what good people should be doing at this time of year: patting themselves on the back, being with good friends and recognising what good fortune they have.
These things don't happen by accident so a massive thank you to one Graeme Pratt. He did all the hard yards for us. Big thanks also to The Kings Arms for meeting our needs splendidly. Finally a big thanks to Nurofen, my head is just about ok this morning.
By the way The Friday Club version of the 12 Days of Christmas will be recorded in the annuls of history.
Club members were given a number of awards yesterday including ones for line marking, collecting Red Bull cans and making muffins. I sadly missed out on the plane spotters Anorak of the Year. In order to put things right for 2019 I did go onto Flightradar24 last and saw there were way too many planes than normal to be holding over the Sussex countryside. It transpires the airport was forced to shut and many, many planes forced to divert to alternative aiprorts due to drones being flown in the airports restricted airspace. On checking this morning it appears the airport is closed again. BA2256 from Antigua to LGW is currently heading towards Newcastle.
These do not seem to be an accidental incursions. They appear to be deliberate acts to disrupt the operations at Gatwick and inconvenience tens of thousands of decent people returning home or departing for foreign fields. It is unacceptable and the culprits need to be found and punished to the full extent of the law.
As grassroots rugby goes into hibernation for a couple of weeks the big boys have plenty of games ahead of them. Tomorrow Worcester v Northampton and the first of the Pro14 derbies. Cardiff v Dragons and Ulster v Munster. On Saturday the game that catches the eye is Exeter vs Saracens and it is live on Channel 5. Ospreys v Scarlets should also be worth watching but sadly it is on pay TV. Then on Sunday it is two out of form teams, Wasps and Bath, going head to head. The weather forecast doesn't look great so perhaps being in front of the TV is ok....
That is except when you are at Champagne, Cheese and Carols at Steel Cross on Sunday. One of the highlights in the club calendar. Sadly, and yet again I will not be there.
We are all entitled to our opinion but I do wish Sir Knowitall would butt out of Welsh affairs. It is not as if England and English rugby is in perfect health. The Scarlets are underperforming but that is not down to Wayne Pivac losing focus ahead of his new job as head coach of Wales. Others are playing better and are no longer taken by surprise with Scarlets open style. Pivac and the WRU have chosen wisely in asking Stephen Jones and Jonathan Humphreys to join the Welsh coaching set up post RWC 2019. Keeping Neil Jenkins as part of the team is also a shrewd move.
Mike Brown is clearly upset about losing his England place. He has vowed to win it back. Good on him. He has much to offer still but will he regain the full back berth. I'm not sure as others such as Anthony Watson return from injury. Time will tell.
Cipriani is out for up to six weeks. A big blow for Gloucester and a big blow for those who like to fill their columns with anything "Danny Boy". Feet up over Christmas for someone who likes a drop or two of something alcoholic can't be all bad.
The headline news is the completion of the CVC deal with Premiership Rugby. The investment is in the region of £200m and according to Premiership Rugby will be used on "improving facilities at club level and growing the league globally". The two parties have made it clear they do not want the money to go on player wages. If it does then that would be madness. What I am interested in is what they mean by growing the league globally. I can only assume this is about TV coverage, and overseas franchises. Expanding the league is not viable and taking over leagues in other countries would be difficult. The other challenge is how the London Irish situation is handled. They currently sit outside the top flight but are part of Premiership Rugby and will get a cut of the money.
There is a flip side which is not being mentioned. CVC will now own 27% of the top flight of English rugby. My sources tell me their expectation is to be making a return on their investment from day one and the deal involves taking a proportion of revenue as their return. Note taking a proportion of revenue and not profit as only Exeter is in profit. I have not seen the exact details of the deal so this information might be inaccurate. If so I apologise in advance but it is right to ask what is CVC getting out of this.
There is Friday Club tomorrow so no blog until Saturday. There will be a blog on Sunday but then nothing until after Christmas. By the way as I type Gatwick is still closed and inbound flights be diverted as far away as Newcastle and Liverpool.
Wednesday Dec 19th: 09:45
The poison chalice is now firmly in the hands of Geordan Murphy. He has been appointed the permanent Head Coach of Leicester Tigers. Let's wish him luck. Lots of it.
Premiership Rugby are again flexing their muscles and this time it is Wales who will suffer. The clubs have announced non English players will not be released for pre World Cup training or warm-up games that happen outside the official World Rugby international window. Taulupe Faletau, Dan Biggar and Liam Williams are the big names to fall foul of this decision. It is about money. The clubs claim it is about insurance and are in dispute with World Rugby over the matter. England have got around it by coughing up £220m spread over eight years. In my mind this is another example of Premiership Rugby trying to control the game.
Before I get into the "B" word here is a thought.
The snowflakes up and down the country are demanding historical symbols of colonialism and slavery and other aspects of a bygone era be torn down or defaced. Are these the same snowflakes who are ordering billions of pounds worth of goods from modern bastions of colonisation and modern day slavery such as Amazon. Food for thought.
It is all David Caneron's fault. Actually it isn't. He honoured a manifesto pledge and delivered against it. What he should have done is to say the referendum was "not going to be binding but to guage people's opinion. Based upon the outcome the Government would then draw up options accordingly"
It's all Wales fault. No! Not quite true. Yes they overwhelmingly voted " leave" but did they have all the facts and did their MPs give them the information about inward investment and the benefits. No on both counts.
Was the campaign to blame. Yes. There were more lies, damn lies and phoney statistics than the average Donald Trump briefing. It was awful with one aspect dominating: Immigration.
Are the facts about immigration correct or hysterical hype. A lot of it is the latter, and some is factually correct and therefore disturbing. A more balanced view would have helped.
It's all Theresa Maybe's fault. Yes and no. Yes she seemed awfully quick to trigger Article 50. That could have been delayed quite easily. Calling the general election was a big, big mistake. The majority she had was more than workable. The mess we are in right now is not all her fault. Common sense and understanding the needs of the people have gone out of the window and the politicians are now playing games as they have lost sight of reality.
It's all the EUs fault. Well actually no. As is always the case we only get to hear about the bad stuff. You don't here about the good stuff such as urban regeneration, seamless cross border business etc. Well actually yes. If they had listened to concerns about immigration and budget mis-management and overly burdensome legislation we might never have arrived at this point.
The EU are not negotiating they are holding us hostage. Yes, and you can understand why. They believe we need them more than they need us. They need our money and to a degree access to our market. They quite rightly are saying if you leave the club don't expect the benefits of being a member to continue.
Our negotiators have been weak. That is probably true and I think we should have put the "No Deal" on the table and planned for that eventuality sooner.
OK where are we? Unless something positive happens soon and Parliament wakes up and smells the coffee we will be up shit creek.
What everyone is forgetting there is a deal on the table. It is far from ideal but it is a deal nonetheless. We can take it. We can also say "sod off" and have no deal. We can do a u-turn and remain in the EU. This nonsense about a "people's vote" and a new government being able to negotiate a better deal is clouding the situation. The EU will simply not budge and I for one struggle to see why they should. They have unrest at home and Brexit is as much a distraction to them as it is to us.
Then on top of this you have the sideshows. Whilst Maybe is being villified Corbynov is making a complete ass of himself. That "no confidence" stunt was pathetic. His party is no more aligned than the Tories and some of their proposals, not that they are clear, would indicate conceding even more and being even more tied than the Tory deal. Corbynov won't call a "no confidence" vote in the Government as a) he is afraid of losing, b) if he did win he would be faced with spectre of trying to restart negotiations and being no better off, c) he would have to support a "people's vote" which he is opposed to.
OK before I start limbering up for the Friday Clubs Christmas lunch which is today he are your three choices: "in", "out" or "shake it all about". Voting closes at 8pm using 081070 999111. Calls will be charged at £300 per minute.
Tomorrow's blog might be delayed. I'm being interviewed for the vacancy at Manchester United. It is a great opportunity. You don't have to do it very well. In fact the crappier the job you do the better as when they sack you you get a £22m pay off. Happy days.
Tuesday Dec 18th: 10:00
A veritable cornucopia of rugby stuff today.
Michael Cheika gets the nod from the Australian hierarchy and will remain as head coach. Where that news falls down slightly is the announcement that Scott Johnson is leaving Scotland to oversee Cheika and the Australian international set up. Johnson has been around the block so no-one can criticise the depth and breadth of his experience. You can ask questions about his record though and also about his pugnacious character. Is this a recipe for success or an Australian tanker cruising towards the icebergs? Only time will tell.
It feels like something out of The Sound of Music....... How do you solve a problem like Leicester? Stuart Barnes in his SKY column highlights the the range of issues that face Leicester and the fact there is no easy answer. Welford Road no longer inspires fear in the opposition. In fact the cries of derision are often aimed at the Tigers themselves. The long list of injuries have hampered progress. The in-fighting and the socceresque sacking of coaches has caused uncertainty and discord. At the heart of the problem is of course others have caught up and overtaken them. Saracens domestically are all powerful, in part due to their spending power. Racing 92 were way ahead technically and their recruitment (spending) surpasses anything the Tigers have done. I don't think the Tigers are an endangered species but their roar is not as terrifying as it once was.
By the way Bath find themselves in the same place. Struggling to keep up with the new kids on the block.
Leicester also have a propensity to shoot themselves in the foot. The yellow cards mount up and when you are struggling for form 14 v 15 is never going to help. Dan Cole was a such a recipient on Saturday. Austin Healey went on about how it wasn' even a yellow card. Dear Austin, you are a dick. Yours Bleater. In my mind that was a red card incident. Let me explain.
Here is what happened. Cole gets the ball and charges into the opposition. It is a front on front charge and Coles elbow makes contact with the throat of the Racing 92 player. His elbow is raised and is the first point of contact. Cole argued it was accidental. OK, here is what you need to do. Stand in front of the mirror holding something the size of a rugby ball in one arm. Then looking at yourself try and get your non "ball" carrying elbow out in front of you and high enough to be level with your mirrored throat. However you try you cannot do it by accident. It has to be a conscious decision and a deliberate action. Based on that Cole knew what he was doing and as a deliberate act of foul play off he goes. The fact he missed the head is irrelevent. I think red and not yellow.
London Irish are moving from Reading to Brentford. The new ground will be smaller than the Madjeski but that has its benefits. Being closer to London has its benefits and whilst loyal Irish fans from the west and north of Reading will have a little further to travel Brentford is easy to get to and well served by public transport, when the RMT aren't striking. Did you read how much tube drivers are now earning. It is unbelieveable, especially when they continue to strike about anything and everything. Up to £100,000 a year and industrial relations are broken. Boll...s!
In the wake of the tragic death of 19 year old French player Nicolas Chauvin there have been calls for more urgent action to reduce the risks of serious injury. Tweaking the laws will help but is not the answer. It is not the answer because the physicality of the game has changed. Players are bigger, fitter, stronger and therefore way more powerful than they ever have been. Sam Warburton commented on it in commentary on the weekend. He, like others such as Brian Moore think the increase in subs available is a major problem. Again take Sunday and the Racing 92 prop. He was enormous, a steamroller on legs. Off he trots after 57 minutes to be replaced by another leviathan pumped up and ready to power into anything that moves. The issue is some of his targets have already been hammered for 57 minutes and are tiring. They become vunerable and therefore at risk. This needs to be looked at. You don't want to see uncontested scrums and if you go back to replacements for injuries only then clubs will inevitably cheat. That said I think there is merit in the argument.
The other issue is players now being able to jackle for the ball. Their bodies become exposed. You watch any game and see how often an unprotected player gets hit hard as part of the clear out, especially with the jacklers body in an unnatural position crouched over the ball.
Ireland suffer a blow as Iain Henderson is out for some time with a thumb injury. Bath and Wales have had their hopes dashed as the return of Taulupe Faletau has been delayed to the New Year.
World Rugby have announced the referees for the 6 Nations. France v Wales - Wayne Barnes. Ireland v England - Jerome Garces. England v France - Nigel Owens. Wales v England - Jaco Peyper (groan!) The full list is on the World Rugby website.
The Gallagher Premiership returns this weekend. A look at that later in the week.
Tomorrow will be a good day for a rant. A Brexit rant. A look at the Comrade Corbynov's pathetic stunt of yesterday. Call a vote of no confidence in the Government if you have the cojones. He won't because he is afraid of losing and therefore shooting himself in the foot. Right now, as much as it pains me, the SNP are the real opposition party.
For the record why do I bleat on about this. Simply because I have friends and family who will suffer badly if this whole thing does send the UK into the abyss, but also I find it wholly unacceptable that as our jumped up, self-serving, clowns of politicians are playing games in Westminster the police are under attack, people are living on our streets, people are lying in hospital corridors on trolleys, businesses are collapsing and our transport infrastructure is in melt down. Parliament has lost sight of the everyday issues as they look after their own interests.
Before I go please remember the comments in this blog are MINE and mine alone. The rugby club generously allows me to air them. They are NOT club views.
Monday Dec 17th: 08:50
There is no point hanging about. Straight into London 3 South East. On reflection I think it is fair to say we were much the better side on Saturday. You don't keep a side like Lewes to nil without defending very well, and you don't score 40 points without seizing your opportunities when they come and playing to your strengths. Eight points clear going into the Christmas break was not what I imagined back in September. It is not a time for smugness it is a time recognise the season still has a long way to go and as our injury list grows so games ahead will be quite a bit tougher.
Tough must have described the day Bromley had on Saturday. Losing 29-5 to neighbours Park House was not a result I would have put money on. Bromley slip deeper into the danger zone. In the absence of Hellingly it is Hastings & Bexhill who prop up the table after losing away at Folkestone 26-7. Old Williamsonians put a dent in Vigo's promotion ambitions with a 28-10 win. It is Beccehamians who are chasing us and another fine win, this time at home against Old Dunstonians 22-7 highlights their credentials. Pulborough had a bye week. Hellingly's withdrawal meant some points adjustments across the board. Below us 6th to 2nd is now an eight point gap. The bottom four: Lewes, Bromley, Park House and H&B RFC are separated by just seven points. Much to play for.
Hoorah! A full house of results in Sussex 1 this week after the AWO and HWO appearing the previous week. Uckfield scraped past Eastbourne 8-12 to stay top. Crawley remain in second after their away win at East Grinstead. Burgess Hill beat Seaford to remain third. In the only other game Ditchling lost at home to Plumpton and are rock bottom. Mathematically East Grinstead could still make the all important top four but it is looking very unlikely.
Up into London 2 South East. In the all Sussex clash it was Haywards Heath who took the spoils beating Heathfield & Waldron relatively comfortably 31-5. With Aylesford Bulls earning a 8-15 away win at Gravesend H&WRFC slip back to the bottom of the table. League leaders Beckenham beat Horsham 26-10. Charlton Park in second couldn't put some daylight between them and Horsham as they lost away at Old Colfeians. Deal & Betteshanger enjoyed they day out at Dover and Maidstone move closer to safety beating Thanet Wanderers. Undefeated Beckenham are now 12 points clear at the top. There are 10 points between H&WRFC and Maidstone in tenth spot. Still much to play for but the gaps are getting bigger not smaller.
It is in London 1 South where we find the form team of Sussex. Brighton cruised past bottom placed neighbours 73-0 and remain top. It is the Oaks who are leading the pursuit as they beat London Cornish. Chichester wouldn't have enjoyed the trip back along the M27/A27 after their 42-12 defeat at the hands of Tottonians. Medway beat Dartfordians to stay in the hunt in third. Sadly Hove are looking at the relegation abyss with a perfect losing record and just 2 points to their name.
Up in the ether of the Premier Inn Tunbridge Wells came away from table topping Wimbledon with a credible 10-5 defeat. There are just four points between the men from St Marks and Brentwood in 13th. Shelford remain bottom also with a perfect losing record and the 25 point gap looks insurmountable.
In the national league it was another good road-trip for TJs. Coming home from Clifton with a 14-37 win. I know times have changed since the early 80s but Clifton has always been a tough place to get a win. I know, I've played against them on more than one occasion. Worthing beat Dings Crusaders. Advantage TJs in the bragging stakes. They are 5th, Worthing are 10th.
Elsewhere Bridgnorth continue to delight. They are now 3rd after they trip to Bournville. 13-19 being the score there. Salisbury continue to frustrate. They lost at home to Oxford Harlequins 8-29. They slip to 11th.
Most leagues go into the well deserved Christmas break. Nothing has been decided yet is my message.
Watched Leicester Tigers being taught a lesson in rugby yesterday. All is not well at Welford Road and the natives are restless. Edinburgh turned over Newcastle and Montpellier beat Toulon. Things are a little clearer across all the groups meaning we will see some mismatches as those who are out field weakened teams and those who are in rest key players.
Elsewhere some excellent games in the NFL. Once again "Red Zone" for all the action. The Saints play tonight.
How long before Manchester United's patience wears thin and Jose The Arrogant is shown the door.
Well done Geraint Thomas. BBC Sports Person of the Year. Good choice.
I apologise for my Brexit rants last week. They simply weren't vitriolic enough. You wait until Wednesday. Tomorrow will be a warm up.
Sunday Dec 16th: 09:00
I headed down to Lewes yesterday fearing a banana skin. A number of changes to the side and the late withdrawal of Josh Groocock because of illness plus Lewes having been a bogey side on more than one occasion in past. I needn't have worried as we are still top and now eight points clear after a 40-0 bonus point win.
Overall it wasn't a classic, in the main due to the freezing cold conditions and the persistent rain, but there were some moments to savour. Yet again our forward momentum, especially the scrum was impressive but some of our rolling maul was equally productive. The pick and drive worked to get us into good positions but we need to think a little more creatively if it is to end in more tries. The backs looked good when the ball came their way exploiting the gaps when then appeared. Defensively we were excellent. One or two lapses and a couple of missed tackles but during the 80 minutes I think it is fair to say Lewes only went close on a couple of occasions.
It wasn't all perfection. The obsession with kicking hard won ball away was there for all to see and sometimes the accuracy of the kicking was woeful. We still gave a way too many penalties, especially in positions where conceding the ball was not an issue. Conceding penalties going forward was wasteful.
Putting an early score on the board put us on the front foot and Lewes on the back foot. The referee quickly recognised the strength of our scrum and well done to him he had no hesitation in going under the sticks when Lewes infringed for the third time. This forward power set the tone for the rest of the match. Harrison Chapman got the next try from a push over then a moment of magic from Connor hands just before half time when he split Lewes apart with a scintillating break from 40 metres out and went in under the posts. En route to the line he sidestepped the full back with some aplomb much to the delight of the travelling faithful. 21-0 at half time was a little harsh on Lewes. Whilst we were clearly the better side they had not played badly. Their centre was quick and had made some darting runs, the scrum half was pugnacious and kept the ball moving and their back row kept us on our toes.
The second half was somewhat more one sided. We dominated territory if not possession. There was a pragmatic approach to the game with us keeping the ball tight until it was right to move it wide. It was our defensive work however that shone brightly. We kept Lewes on the back foot forcing them into mistakes and getting them to kick the ball away. When the ball was kicked away our back three marshalled by the excellent Harry Marchesi decided to run back at the hosts freeing up space and causing mayhem in the Lewes defensive line. Gary Stevens profited from the space created making a lightning quick break and powering over for the next score. Will Creasy was next on the scoresheet with a typically bullish run to the line before Gary Stevens finished it off with an amazing 55 metre solo effort on the stroke of full time. The Lewes defence opened like the parting of the Red Sea. Stevens saw the space and left Lewes defenders trailing in his wake. Final score 40-0.
There were times when the thought of Christmas shopping was appealing during this game. There were long periods where the game was static. Thankfully for the large crowd, many of who were Crowborough faithful there were passages of brilliance. I thought Harrison Chapman who moved from the bench to start when Groocock withdrew was outstanding. The front row of Damo Hayes, Mark Rosier and young Sam Edwards were the epitome of everything good about what is happening at the 'Borough right now. Connor Hands led from the front. Stevens took has opportunities brilliantly and young Marchesi caught the eye at full back. Well done the 'Borough.
We picked up a couple of injuries. Adam King's looks the worst but thankfully Andrew Orchard's and Will Creasy's look no more than heavy knocks that they have a couple of weeks to recover from.
I am going to end with a word of praise for Lewes. In the circumstances, freezing cold and wet, getting beaten, having lost key players to injury it would have been easy to throw in the towel. They didn't. They continued to try and play and despite the conditions play with imagination. I wish them well for the rest of the season as they are good bunch.
Our 2s fixture was postponed to a later date. The Crows finally got a game and although they were beaten by Eastbourne 2s I bet they had a good laugh.
Leinster gave Bath a lesson in rugby. Wasps crash out of Europe after losing to Toulouse. Saracens keep winning, this time in Cardiff. Northampton travel 2000 miles only for the game to be postponed because of snow.
Full league round up tomorrow.
Thursday Dec 13th: 09:00
Rugby at the grassroots level is in turmoil. There are not enough players to go round. Clubs are struggling to survive. It is a societal problem rather than a problem with the game itself as cricket, soccer and other team sports are in much the same place. One such casualty is Hellingly RFC. A real shame to come home yesterday to an email saying they have pulled out of the league as they cannot guarantee to get a side out each week. They will do their best to fulfil fixtures but as friendlies. What makes it such a shame is the club has worked so hard to get to a good place. Some years ago they were struggling but managed to pull themselves out of the mire to win Sussex 1 and gain promotion in some style. Without doubt they have struggled this season and with a couple of concessions already the news came as no real surprise.
What went wrong? I don't know but I guess youngsters went off to university, some of the older heads recognised the gap in standard between the leagues and retired, work maybe gets in the way for others, and some simply get no enjoyment out of the game by being well beaten each week and having to travel miles for the pleasure.
The league table has already been amended. There are no changes to league positions as Hellingly had no wins on the board. There are some adjustments in the points gap between clubs but they are minor. We remain seven points clear at the top thankfully.
I wish them good luck and hope they can get themselves out of this mess.
We travel to Lewes on Saturday. It will be tough. It always is there. The 2s are away at Crawley and the Crows host Eastbourne.
In Europe it is the return of last weeks fixtures.
Thanks go to my good friend Peter K (no not the comedian) for drawing my attention to the article in the Torygraph about HMRCs interest in rugby. It appears that the beloved tax man has been having great success in wheedling out miscreants in lower league soccer. Clubs who are paying players outside the books, paying staff outside the books and flouting several other tax laws including vat. They have decided to turn their attention to rugby and the clubs in the three national leagues (1, 2 North, 2 South) have been put on notice that the payment of players is being looked at very closely. They are also in tandem working with the immigration people to ensure overseas players are not being paid contrary to their visa conditions. "Hoorah!" is what I say. Not before time.
I say that not out of jealously but out of consideration for the game as a whole. Life is a competition and it is very much survival of the fittest but that is only right if people are playing by the rules. I am aware of clubs who are struggling in their league as neighbours have poached players with financial inducements and are known to be operating outside the tax regime and well beyond the RFU guidelines that come into force next season.
Some would argue "so what" and that is a fair point. The issue is many fold. New players arrive at the paying club, loyal players of long standing are sidelined. They don't go and find a new club they disappear from the game. The club where the mercenaries have left from struggle and fold or lose more players because being hammered each week is no pleasure. Where do these players go? Nowhere! They too are lost to the game and so the spiral continues.
That's my view which is why I shout "Go HMRC, GO!"
A couple of one-liners.
Sale sign a Russian prop to join their ranks. Yet another overseas player blocking the path for home grown talent.
Self styled kicking guru and arr............ (better not) Dave Aldred is joining Queensland Reds. I have heard many things about Aldred and saw him in action in New Zealand in 2011 with England. I wish the Reds good luck.
Do you think Nigel Melville's concerns about how the £230m is going to spent is falling on deaf ears. Saracens are rumoured to be "clearing the decks" to make room for Elliot Daly. Leicester are concerned that Manu Tuilagi is being looked at by other clubs as his contract comes up for renewal.
If you missed it there are some websites carrying a classic Nigel Owens moment from the varsity match. "Don't call me sir, I'm from West Wales". Well worth searching the interweb for.
What else is the news. Theresa Maybe survives the vote so what's next? I watched the news avidly last night and could have strangled several of the pompous, self-centred clowns.
Rhys-Mogg. What right does he have to speak for any of us. His impressive independent wealth means he will be untouched no matter how things go and what experience has he had of everyday life? ABSOLUTELY NONE! Does he understand the concerns of car workers from Sunderland or Swindon, or the concerns of a factory worker from the Rhondda. No he does not!
Anna Sourbry. What an arrogant obnoxious piece of work she appears to be. She's another who doesn't give two hoots about anything other than her own opinion. She is so entrenched in her view she's struck oil. Its ok for