Monday Nov 26th: 09:30
A few announcements before we get into today's drivel.
Unlike lawyers, especially of the injury persuasion the country needs more referees. Yes rugby always needs more referees. A course is being run at
Beacon Academy on Feb 3rd and Mar 17th
It is aimed those wishing to referee from u/16 upwards
Financial assistance may be available to cover the cost (a free course... wow)
12 candidates are required to make it viable
All the details and registration can be found on englandrugby.com under courses
I refereed for a number of seasons and if it wasn't for persistent back trouble I would like to still be refereeing right now. It is very rewarding and the pathway to the top is there to be exploited.
David Rhodes. His funeral will be held at Hastings Crematorium on Dec 7th at 2pm then afterwards at H&WRFC from about 4pm. The family have said club blazers would be very appropriate for the occasion.
Dec 8th. CRFC play our friends from Folkestone. As this is the final game before Xmas it will be another of Jacqui's splendid Xmas lunches. Book early to avoid disappointment. Places are going fast.
As expected Johnny Sexton is voted player of the year. There can't be anyone other than those with the All Black eye-patch on who would argue with the decision. Sexton has been superb whether it be for Leinster, Ireland or The Lions and has been at the pinnacle of the game not just this season but for many seasons. French player Jessy Tremouliere picks up the women's equivalent. Well done both.
I don't think there is much more I could add to yesterday's analysis of Saturday's games except what happened to France. Beaten by Fiji!! That is a shock even though it was a much changed French side.
England can look back on the Autumn series with a renewed confidence. They ran the All Blacks close and but for a questionable TMO call should have won it. The win over Australia had many more positives to take out of the game. The balance to that is the first halves against both Japan and South Africa were poor and England looked a long way from being back to challenging for top spot.
I think Ireland proved there is fresh air between them and the rest. The win against the All Blacks was no fluke. It was a splendid effort. In Joe Schmidt they have a canny coach, maybe not for much longer, but whilst he is there he will continue to have the full respect of his charges. Their Autumn series was not the most challenging, England had that, but nevertheless they dispatched their opponents with aplomb.
Scotland did ok, especially with limited resources at their disposal. They have a number of stars to build a team around and in Gergor Townsend they have a passionate Scot to motivate them. I can see them being a thorn in the side of many.
For Wales it was always about the results. Dispatching two southern hemisphere sides was a real boost to the squads confidence. It was all about the squad too. Strength in depth and having to ponder who to leave out rather than scratching away looking for players to pick is a massive step forward for Wales. Defence, defence, defence. The best in the business right now but that is not enough. Gatland has got to unleash the talent he has behind the scrum and exploit the wonderful work of whatever back row he selects.
The games have not been great from a purists point of view but they have been tense and delivered some gripping occasions. The inconsistency of the refereeing has been disappointing. The two Farrell hits missed. The hit on Halfpenny. Kolisi's head-butt. Courtney Lawes offside. All debatable.
Some players have emerged from the shadows. Joe Cokanisga, Ellis Jenkins, Adam Beard, Sam Underhill to name but four.
The unions will love how their coffers have been filled but me, I say four games is too many. It buggers up the season for everyone else.
I'll look at the Premiership plus other stuff tomorrow.
Well done Lewis Hamilton. Another fine win in an interesting race. Finally a race that wasn't simply a procession. What a crash in that opening lap. If you ever wondered about the importance of seat belts. Then go watch this.
The EU says "yes". You can guarantee the self-serving, hypocritical, muppets we have as MPs will vote against sending the country into a tail spin.
Cancel your holidays to Spain. Why should we support them if they are going to hold us to ransom.
That'll do, the coffee and toast is ready. I've binned croissants out of protest against the French.
Sunday Nov 25th: 09:30
My number one question for this Sunday morning....... is Owen Farrell a Jedi knight with a secret cloaking device that hides him from referees? An Australian try just before half time and England's talisman in the bin for ten minutes of the second half could have changed the course of Saturday's game. It was an awful decision by Jaco Peyper and team and they should be ashamed of themselves. They were eagle eyed enough to spot the ball going a fraction of an inch over the touch line to prevent an England try but could not spot yet another blatant Farrell no arms shoulder charge. A shoulder charge that clearly and obviously prevented a try.
In the end it was a convincing win and many of the hacks are this morning euphoric about England's performance and their subsequent chances in Japan in about 11 months time. There were some excellent passages of play and Big Joe C on the wing made quite an impact. Elliot Daley's try was a thing of beauty and in the second half England played with confidence and width so lacking in previous encounters. The front row played well with Jamie George justifying his starting slot. Johnny May is rapidly becoming a proper international star and outside his indiscretion Farrell was again solid.
Let us not get carried away however as this was as poor an Australian side as we have seen for some time. Their skills were poor at best. Their decision making was erratic, the kicking in particular was woeful with way too much hard won possession wasted. One man doesn't make a team but the absence of David Pocock was a blow to the visitors. Despite that England were not as dominant at the breakdown as they should have been. Israel Folau's try was brilliant and brought the Aussie faithful to their feet.
Yes England were much better but they still conceded far too many silly penalties. The back row is a work in progress but Sam Underhill could be part of the solution. The concerns around the front row strength in depth have been dispelled to a degree, Kyle Sinckler was a deserved man of the match. Maro Itoje is a fine player but still a little impetuous at times. Joe Cokanasiga needs to be nurtured. He is without doubt a star of the future.
As good a result as many will see this as England still lack creativity at ten and their centre pairing needs to be much more incisive freeing up what looks a truly exciting back three. Would England beat Ireland or Wales right now? No, I don't think so. Will they be ready for RWC 2019? Yes, especially if some of their injured are fit and back on song.
In Cardiff Wales set another standard winning all four of their Autumn internationals. Wins against Australia and South Africa more than justifying their 3rd place in the standings. During the opening 25 minutes Wales were magnificent going forward at speed and defending as well as we have seen for some time. The ball was moving away from the contact areas at speed and across the back line with accuracy. Wales were deservedly two scores ahead within that period.
The Boks are no slouches so inevitably they would fight back, and they did so in some style. In the second half it was all South Africa with the men in red having to defend, defend and defend again. They did so with skill and determination. Sadly when they did get the ball Wales went back to the frustrating tactic of kicking the ball away. Talk about putting yourself under pressure. If Wales are to be in contention in Japan their defence and their ability to grind out wins needs to be top notch. Both scored highly yesterday. They will also need to have a more expansive game which for 25 minutes was in evidence. 25 minutes is not enough though. Dan Biggar came on to kick the crucial points but it was in the back row where the game was won.
Ellis Jenkins, Justin Tipuric and young Aaron Wainright were excellent throughout. Jenkins in particular was magnificent so it was such a travesty that he got carried off on a stretcher with what looks like a significant ACL injury. Outside these three it was a workmanlike performance from the team with some players such as Jonathan Davies having a below par day.
Whilst Ireland take the plaudits for their win over New Zealand I think it is fair to say Wales have had the best results of the northern hemisphere. Fours wins from four against tough opposition and unlike England putting their tier two opponents to the sword.
Ireland were very impressive again last night and clearly have strength in depth. They are more than worthy of their 2nd place in the rankings and are serious contenders for the cup in Japan.
Back tomorrow with more reflection on the weekend. Before I go it is auf wiedersehen Deutschland as Canada secure the final RWC 2019 spot by beating Hong Kong.
Friday Nov 23rd: 13:00
On a Monday I invariably refer to Heathfield & Waldron RFC (The Greenies) as our friends. I do that because they are. We have always played hard on the field whether it be minis, juniors or seniors and have always respected each other off the field. The latter because both clubs do the right things for the right reasons in the right way to the very best of our abilities.
It therefore came as a huge shock to learn last Saturday of the death of their Chairman David Rhodes. David suffered a heart attack and his wife Sue and his family & friends have been coming to terms with the terrible news ever since.
David has worked tirelessly for the betterment of his club and I am aware of a number of exciting projects soon to be underway that under his Chairmanship have been long in the planning. I am sure when they come to fruition they will serve as a fitting tribute to a top guy.
Can I here offer my personal and heartfelt condolences to his wife and family and the extended family known as H&WRFC.
I know our club members are also in shock and will have the family in their thoughts during this busy weekend of rugby.
The family have asked for any letters of condolence be sent to the club c/o the club steward.
David Rhodes, a rugby man taken in his prime. May he rest in peace.
Thursday Nov 22nd: 15:30
As expected the squads for Saturday have been announced. No shocks but a couple of surprises. The headline is Tuilagi is on the bench. That was widely expected but question marks still exits about the true state of his fitness. Joe Cokanasiga gets the nod as Jack Nowell drops out through injury. He could well become an instant fixture. Jamie George starts ahead of Dylan. Another sign Dylan will soon be assigned to the international scrap heap? Richard Wigglesworth is on the bench ahead of Danny Care but we knew that earlier in the week. Sam Underhill will need to step up to another level this weekend with David Pocock and Michael Hooper on the opposing side.
Is the news that Australia have been suffering with the squits a case of getting the excuses in early. Folau and Foley have been badly affected but I am certain Australia will be at full strength and raring to go.
Warren Gatland unlike King Eddie was faced with who to leave out rather than who to bring in. Liam Williams gets the nod at full back as Halfpenny hasn't recovered from the concussion sustained against the Aussies. Josh Adams keeps his place and Gareth Anscombe gets the coveted number ten jersey ahead of Dan Biggarhead. Beard gets the call ahead of Cory Hill, this being my only doubt. It looks a pretty strong side with a good blend on the bench. I might have started with Ellis Jenkins ahead of Lydiate but you cannot ignore Lydiate's experience.
The Springboks see this as their toughest test of the tour and that is a testament to the continued improvement in the Welsh game.
Ireland make a raft of changes ahead of the USA game. The US are climbing the rankings but there is only one winner in this one.
Scotland also make changes for their clash with Argentina. Let's applaud Townsend for his willingness to experiment recognising that RWC 2019 has to be the ultimate goal.
I go England but I think it will be tight. Strangely Wales v South Africa is too close to call. I go Wales by a few. I go Scotland but again not by many
Watch out for the rainbow laces when Wales and France run out. Both sides are wearing the laces as a mark of respect and support for Gareth Thomas and other gays in the game.
Nice piece in The Guardian about the World player of the Year. Johnny Sexton is the red hot favourite and when you read his CV you can understand why he must get it and more than deserves to get it. He has been the standout man for many a season and the one in progress has simply reinforced that view.
More cards please. That is the expectation of World rugby chief Brett Gosper. He believes there is no gain without pain. You know all the incidents that have been ignored over the last three weeks and that I think has increased the clamour for change at a faster pace.
One rant aimed firmly and squarely at the Spanish Prime Minister. Senor, get your own house in order before you start pontificating about our circumstances. Before you start blowing kisses and sending love letters to woo Wee Jimmie Crankie and her Scottish hoardes please think of Catalonia. You refuse to break up your country but are supporting others to break ours up. Hypocrisy personified.
Talking of hypocrisy the RMT are world champions. A tube driver fails a drug test and quite rightly is dismissed by TfL. The RMT think this is wrong so are going on strike just before Christmas. Where does commuter safety come in to play Mr Cash. You are an odious anarchist who has no respect for the very people you supposedly represent: hard working Londoners.
Wednesday Nov 21st: 09:30
A day behind schedule I'm afraid. The Friday Club were on the road yesterday having been sub-contracted out to one of our members. They bought their services in an auction. Boy did they get a good deal. Anyway, to other stuff.
The RFU. Owen Slot of The Times headlined last weeks article following the resignation of Steve Brown "The pretence is over - these are troubled times". Mr Slot is closer to the action than I am and is a proper heavyweight in the reporting of rugby so we should sit up and take note. I still believe there is an element of "sour grapes" in Francis Baron's report into the RFU's finances but Slot highlights many of the things troubling those less abled scribes aka Bleater. The crux of the issue is simple. Ian Ritchie signed up for the redevelopment of the East Stand which went 50% over budget. He also agreed an eye-watering £220m eight year deal with the Premiership Clubs. He also presided over the generous contract extension for Eddie Jones and the growing number of staff, all pretty expensive too, in Jones's entourage. Ian Ritchie left with Brown holding the baby. Seems unfair until you realise that Brown was the main finance man at the RFU whilst all this was going on and finance men don't sign off deals blindly. It can be assumed therefore that knowing what troubles lie ahead plus the in-fighting that we know is in the background has caused Brown to jump ship.
It is not just cash though is it. I still think the game generally is in a pretty bad state and having to cut costs will not help. Player numbers are down. England are playing poorly. Costs for the England set-up are increasing (Will Carling - what is that about). The Premiership continue to spoil for a fight and look for greater control. The Premiership is becoming more and more "dominated" by overseas players. Perversely at grassroots level too much money is killing the game as some clubs with rich benefactors continue to draw talent from others with the lure of payments to play, some of which are madness personified and cannot be sustainable. I keep saying "think East Grinstead" to those who are currently on the gravy train.
Let's move on but food for thought me thinks.
Ian Robertson hangs up the microphone this weekend. Top commentator, top bloke, top rugby man through and through. I have had the pleasure of meeting him on a couple of occasions and based on those few encounters can assure you all the positive words about the guy are most definitely not misplaced.
Team news tomorrow afternoon but we already know Chris Ashton is out, as is Leigh Halfpenny for Wales. It appears Stuart Hogg is going to be fit. Manu Tuilagi, who knows what is happening with him. If fit I expect him to feature. The Connor Murray mystery deepens. What is going on there? Any ideas?
How absolutely appalling. Gareth Thomas attacked and beaten in Cardiff because of his sexuality. This country is becoming lawless and people's tolerance levels are at their lowest. It is a disgrace and not acceptable. Having an opinion is fine. This is not North Korea..... or the US. Violence is never acceptable when someone doesn't agree or conforms to the opinions of others.
Much talk about what Joe Schmidt's next move will be. I think he'll go after the world cup. Ireland are number 2 in the world (Wales are third by the way ahead of England!) and genuine contenders to lift the trophy. Why wait until the bubble bursts. Go out on a high.
Talking of rankings why are England only fourth when they have the biggest pool of players to draw from, have the highest revenue of any nation by a long way, have the biggest best paid coaching team in the world. Based on my previous comments it makes you think.
I got a friendly tap around the head when I mentioned Brexit whilst watching the game on Saturday. Quite right too. Over the last few days no matter what we think of Theresa Maybe's efforts she has come out and said what she is doing is in the best interest of the people. Sadly the others are more concerned about their own vested interest and personal livelihoods. Comrade Corbynov sat there and criticised the deal like a petulant child and it turns out he hadn't even read it. Rhys-Mogg the cheerleader for rebellion was only concerned about his own standing. The lemmings leapt because they thought they would be on the wrong horse rather than truly believing May's plan is a bad one. Self-serving tossers the lot of them.
Bridgnorth beckons. Back tomorrow.
Monday Nov 19th: 10:00
I was pleased yesterday when talking to a number of the boys about Saturday's game that to a man they said they had no-one to blame but themselves for the defeat. They recognised they conceded far too many penalties and made schoolboy errors in their decision making. They also allowed Beccehamains to "bully" them off the ball. They were simply the better side. What the result also shows along with the others in London 3 South East you can take nothing for granted. Just eleven points covers the top seven sides.
Old Dunstonians are hot on our heels after their 7-16 away win at Hastings & Bexhill. Beccehamians are now in third on the same points as Pulborough who beat Bromley 27-17. Behind them is Vigo who put Hellingly to the sword 46-10. Lewes v Park House was a close affair with the home side eventually enjoying the spoils 24-22. In the only other game Folkestone are finding some form as they came away from Old Willies with a 19-23 win. We face both Park House then Folkestone before Christmas. Neither will be easy. In fact based on their improvements in form I anticipate really tough encounters. Hellingly look forlorn at the bottom on -3 points.
In Sussex 1 Uckfield continue to set the pace beating Seaford. Crawley stay in second despite losing to Eastbourne at Eastbourne. Burgess Hill beat bottom placed Ditchling up there on the beacon and in the other game East Grinstead came away from Plumpton with a win. As we approach the mid-point of the season the top four/bottom four split for the second half is becoming quite clear. As well as the top two it is Burgess Hill and Eastbourne who will all challenge for promotion.
Up in London 2 South East our very good friends The Greenies had another tough day over at Gravesend losing 25-6. I am reliably informed by my good friend Liberty that this was a much better performance from H&WRFC. Beckenham lead the way after beating Haywards Heath. Horsham are in second after their fine 48-14 win over Dover. Charlton Park had a good day beating Deal & Betteshanger. The same couldn't be said for Maidstone who got thrashed by Old Colfeians 5-53. In the other game Thanet Wanderers beat Aylesford. The Greenies are bottom with Aylesford Bulls just above them. There is still a long way to go.
In London 1 South Brighton are clearly on a mission beating Tottonians 14-43. They now have clear water between them and Medway in second with Medway losing at Westcombe Park. Chichester travelled home from Chobham with a narrow win in the bag. Hove lost again, this time to Dartfordians but they did earn both a losing bonus point and a try bonus point. They remain adrift at the bottom. Our friends over in Sevenoaks beat Camberly which keeps the Oaks in fourth spot.
Up, up and away into the Premier Inn where our good neighbours Tunbridge Wells beat CS Stags 24-18. The men from St Marks are still in the bottom half of the table but have much daylight between them and the relegation zone. Wimbledon and Westcliff continue to lead the charge with Shelford still rock bottom.
In the National Leagues a mixed bag with Worthing going down at home to Barnes 31-39 whilst TJs came away from Dings Crusaders with a fine 27-34 victory. TJs are in 5th spot with Worthing back in 9th. The Rams are clear at the top. London Irish Mad Birds are bottom.
Wait for it............
Bridgnorth came home from Newport (Salop) with a 13-20 win. Salisbury weren't so lucky losing at home Beaconsfield.
I watched Bristol v Exeter yesterday. Some great rugby. Some pretty dire rugby. Not sure about the winning penalty try but hey ho what do I know. Exeter are still top. Newcastle are bottom after losing to the Quins. Gloucester v Leicester was pretty good on Friday with one Danny Cipriani pulling the strings again.
The papers are full of optimism for Ireland and their chances of lifting the World Cup in a years time. I think the talk of Ireland being in the hunt is fair and realistic. They are by far and away the best of the Northern Hemisphere sides. You write off the All Blacks at your peril and with Steve Hansen being the biggest cheerleader for the Irish right now you know the mind games have started.
I think my assessment of Wales and Scotland was pretty fair. Wales are clearly building a solid team with strength in depth and competition for places across the board. Scotland are a work in progress but that progress is positive and their optimism of better to come is well placed.
So to England. I think it is fair to say, as many of the pundits agree, England were poor. Yes this was a second string England side. Yes England have a very long list of injuries (so do the other nations by the way). Those cannot be excuses. Japan were livelier, more imaginative, more dynamic and had more hunger for most of the game. The stats don't lie. England were bereft of ideas and short on ambition. It was only when the bench came to the rescue did England show any signs of organisation. First choice, second choice, even the back-ups to the back-ups should know what is required and England should be playing to a style, to a structure. They don't seem to have any idea. "Muddle-headed" is what Jeremy Guscott describes it as. With the millions that has been thrown at the team they need to do better. Much, much better. More on this tomorrow.
Sunday Nov 18th: 09:50
There are times when you need to separate the occasion from the match itself. Yesterday at Steel Cross was definitely one of those days. A splendid lunch celebrating the club's recent successes was the starting point. An excellent meal, great company and a sense of expectation with us top of the league having played some great rugby.
Then there was the game. It started brightly with both sides looking to play decent rugby. Beccehamians enormous pack provided their backs with good ball which was used well. 'Borough defended resolutely and used the ball equally effectively when they got their hands on it. The visitors opened the scoring which was quickly followed by a sweeping 'Borough move for Bertie Boast to score under the posts, that after a fine run beating several would be defenders. It was pretty much downhill from there with the game becoming fractious and disjointed. Bad habits returned with Crowborough conceding way too many penalties and taking the wrong option on more than one occasion.
The large and vociferous crowd were scratching their heads as to why the men from Steel Cross were playing so poorly at times. They were also bemused at the decisions of the man in the middle. Beccehamians will still be pondering how some of the decisions went against them. The odd scuffle was unedifying and unwarranted as was some of the baying for cards and penalties from both sets of supporters.
What was the difference on the day. They were hungrier than us and conceded fewer penalties. When they got it right led by their excellent outside half and abrasive No.6 they converted possession into points. Losing Will Creasy early on didn't help us but as always Nick Hill never took a backward step in his place.
Was it all doom and gloom? No! Some of the defensive work was excellent keeping the marauding Beccehamians pack at bay. Callum Main led by example and tiny Sam Kisbee worked hard to free up the backs.
The coaching team will need to use the next few weeks to get heads back in the right place and work on decision making and discipline. Park House will be another very tough test and we will need to be back to our best if that top spot is to be maintained.
The bright spot of the day was the fact our 2s came away from Hellingly with a fine 49-10 win. Well done boys.
As we will see when I do the league round up tomorrow nothing is cast in stone in London 3 South East so there is much for us to play for.
Once back at home it was a veritable cornucopia of rugby. Wales 2nd XV started slowly but gradually wore down the Tongans eventually scoring ten tries. 24-24 at half time was a worry but once the afterburners had been engaged Wales put on a clinical display of rugby. Jonah Holmes played well in his first game but it was Dan Biggar and Liam Williams that caught the eye. Gatland will certainly have some tough decisions to make before next weekend. Wales strength in depth is looking good.
England in my opinion can't say the same. It was only when King Eddie brought on some of his "big" guns and the Japanese started to tire did the men in white show any sign of desire. Japan's half time lead was more than deserved and in fact could have been more if some basic handling errors hadn't littered their game. With 22 minutes remaining the tables finally turned and England got their game going. Farrell was at the heart of all good things as was Maro Itoje, the one bright spark amongst an otherwise lacklustre group. Joe Cokanasiga can be satisfied with his contribution but it was clear England's players and coaching staff greeted the win with relief rather than satisfaction.
I caught some of the Scotland v South Africa game before watching the big one live. Scotland looked good and it took all of the Boks nous to come away with a win from this one. Scotland will be worried by Stuart Hogg's injury.
What can you say about the Irish. They were excellent. Defensively superb and dynamic going forward. You can't say they are flamboyant in their play but their workmanlike style is bringing them great success and are clearly RWC 2019 contenders. Johnny Sexton remains the organiser with talent around him and in front of him. Ireland strangled the life out of the All Blacks and took their limited chances well. The men in black were uncharacteristically ill-disciplined and sloppy in their offloads but let us not make excuses for Ireland's win. They were the better side and wholeheartedly deserved it.
What is ahead for the four coaches. Joe Schmidt will have his challenges in a) bringing his boys back to earth and b) maintaining the momentum but he will have a very broad grin this morning. King Eddie has most to ponder. The performance against Japan was not great and whilst Australia are struggling he will need to light a few fires if England are to beat them and they need to do so comfortably. Another who is on the chair of smugness is Warren Gatland. For his 2nd XV to perform so well will bring great comfort and put any complacency by players about selection into the far distance. Gregor Townsend will take great heart from his sides showing. His is work in progress but it is looking very good work indeed.
Back tomorrow with the league round up.
Saturday Nov 17th: 10:00
Not sure how many read this drivel on a Saturday but thought I'd add a few words as I have time before we play Beccehamians at 14:30. The 2s are at Hellingly.
Francis Baron has been whingeing on about the state of the RFU's finances and how they are run. Mr Baron, the former RFU head has been out of office for many years and things have moved on and have moved on quickly. I am also led to believe that there was some disquiet around his departure so perhaps we need to read his words about the state of the RFU and its finances with some caution. What is undeniable is the RFU have made a number of staff redundant and many of those were involved in grassroots rugby. There have been cost overruns with regard to the East Stand development and that could be down to mismanagement. A significant chunk of phase 4 of the AGP project has been pulled (but it could be argued with most clubs not owning their own grounds that comes as no surprise).
We at CRFC have seen no reduction in the support the RFU gives us and have been very lucky to benefit from generous support in the past. That said I suggest all is not right in the state of Denmark. The battle with Premiership Rugby continues and more money is being ploughed into that relationship, in part to prevent a breakaway. That money has to come from somewhere and I do fear it will be from grassroots men's rugby. I very specifically say "men's" as the women's game is in growth.
What is fascinating is so soon after the article in the Daily Telegraph is the announcement that RFU chief Steve Brown is to stand down at the end of the year. There are no reasons for the decision but it is rumoured he has become disillusioned by the constant sniping of some of his predecessors e.g. Baron. I also suspect that working with Eddie Jones must be challenging, the indisputable fact that the grassroots game is in decline and the constant battle to keep Premiership Rugby happy must be wearing. On top of that, and things might have changes since I had inside knowledge but the RFU can be a dinosaur of an organisation with many internal factions battling over their own self-interests rather than focussing on the health of the game at large (sounds like our fffffnnnn politicians).
Anyway, lets move on.
Jonah Holmes. Leicester Tigers full back. Apparently he has been on Gatland's radar for some time. Qualifies by his Welsh grandparents (which I disagree with). He is very versatile having started at scrum half before developing into a fine open running full back.
Ted Hill. Worcester Warriors back row forward. Born and bred in Worcester. Wow that is novel for England to pick an Englishman. I jest of course. Another who has caught they eye as he has come through the age grades. The paucity of England's options in the back row have accelerated his promotion to the senior squad.
Finally Paddy O'Fez has been in touch and he is decidedly unhappy about Lozowski's inclusion today. He would much rather see him trotting out for Saracens in their clash with Sale in just a few hours time. I sympathise with O'Fez's view that Sarries recent success is now hurting them. It makes sense to recruit overseas players not going to be dragged away for international duty but more importantly it highlights the issue of club v country battle with clubs and supporters not fussed about the international game. Mind you as an Irishman O'Fez doesn't give a toss about England anyway.
See you at the club in a few hours time.
Thursday Nov 15th: 13:00
As expected King Eddie has made a raft of changes for the team to face Japan at Twickenham on Saturday. Is it disrespectful to do so? No, absolutely not. It is very pragmatic and the right thing to do. Going into RWC 2019 you need to know you have strength in depth and confidence that those waiting in the wings can step onto the stage and perform without a hitch. Joe Cokanasiga (a fine English name) makes his debut. The Bath wing has been tearing up the pitches and making a mighty fine impression. It is no surprise he gets his chance. The big news is the inclusion of Worcester's teenager Ted Hill on the bench. The pundits didn't see that coming. Perhaps he has dual qualifications and Jones didn't want to see another one "get away". No Tuilagi despite the rumours he would be in. Zach Mercer gets his chance to shine at number eight. It is a strong bench which includes co-captains Hartley and Farrell. A good showing from Jamie George might see him start against Australia. Saracen's Lozowski starts much to the delight of Paddy O'Fez I'm sure.
Interestingly Jones has cut short the preparation time for this game by giving the squad a couple of days off. He is trying to replicate the short turn around his side will face in Japan.
Warren Gatland has also shaken the bag and pulled out a few surprises. Jonah Holmes of Leicester makes his debut at full back. Who is he I hear you cry. I don't know but I'll find out. They have the experience of Biggar at outside half and Liam Williams on the wing but otherwise this is very much a development squad. Tyler Morgan, a real talent but often injured is in the centre alongside Owen Watkins. Jake Ball makes his first appearance for some time. It is a very inexperienced, at international level at least, back row of Ellis Jenkins who will captain the side with up-and-coming Seb Davies and Aaron Wainwright alongside him. It is an inexperienced bench with Aled Davies and Rhys Patchell hoping to get game time to impress the boss. It is clear Gatland also has an eye on RWC 2019 and is looking to blood as many players to ensure they are ready if required. A number of these won't feature in Japan if players like Faletau and Scott Williams are fit but planning and preparation is the key to success.
Elsewhere the All Blacks have made just the one change with Ryan Crotty replacing the injured Sonny Bill Williams. Their contest with the Irish will be the game of the weekend. Scotland against South Africa will be fascinating too. It will be a true test of how far Gregor Townsend's charges have come and how far they've got to go.
Germany are looking a hot prospect to make RWC 2019. Fantastic but a real worry. They only got to this repecharge stage after Spain, Belgium and Romania were kicked out for "cheating" so finding themselves in a group with New Zealand is a chilling prospect. Time will tell.
Before I go the farce know as Brexit has just got even more farcical. Like lemmings cabinet ministers are throwing themselves off a cliff. Actually it is more like the Caribs of Grenada who rather than be taken over by the French threw themselves off a promontory now known as Leapers Hill. Do Dominic Raab and Esther McVey fear that we too will be taken over by the French hence their suicidal pact. For the record I think the country faces two stark choices and I feel that should be based on another referendum. 1. We stay in and fight like hell for reform. 2. We tell the EU to stuff their organisation and leave with no deal and £39bn still in our coffers.
Happy for those with a larger brain than my very small one to guide me otherwise.
Might be back tomorrow pm with details on Jonah Holmes and Ted Hill.
Wednesday Nov 14th: 09:00
Team announcements will be tomorrow so just a few comments this morning.
England's injury woes mount as George Kruis is added to the long list of players queuing for treatment. A calf injury will keep him out for several weeks.
Are Dylan's days as an England player numbered. There have been conflicting reports of him being taken off at half time due to injury as opposed to what was initially reported, a tactical switch. King Eddie is standing by the former. Jamie George's lineout work was erratic at best on Saturday but he is a better all round player I think.
King Eddie has gone off on one with regard to referees meetings. He has said "what's the point" so won't be attending any in the future. I can see his point, to a degree, in that you've had the Farrell mistake, the Underhill issue and the Halfpenny debate. Each and everyone of those calls could have and probably should have gone the other way. If as is the case today the top referees get together to agree standards and interpretations then why does there appear to be inconsistency. The problem of course is each referee is different so in my view what you need is consistency on the day in the game you are involved in. Play to the man in the middle on that day and get on with it but when your job is on the line that is easier said than done. To be fair to Jones Warren Gatland met with Nigel Owens yesterday to voice a similar view concern.
Interesting piece in one of the papers saying headgear should be mandatory in rugby. Research has shown that they do reduce the impact of head clashes and their wholesale introduction to the game would make it safer for players. I can see the merit in this argument as anything that reduces the incidence of head injury has to be good. However I often feel that headgear gives a sense of false of safety. I also question the research when amateur boxing has removed headgear as it improves safety of fighters. This seems to contradict the research into rugby. Being a cynic I wonder if there isn't a hidden agenda here. There are plenty of players who choose to wear headgear and many who don't. I feel a free choice is the best way forward.
Scotland's professional players are forming a union. I am surprised it has taken this long.
Wasps sign Italian centre Michele Campagnaro on a short term deal. Despite their huge spending power Wasps haven't had the best of seasons thus far.
Where is Connor Murray? Apparently it is a neck injury. Thanks Robert. It must be serious as he has been out for some time and updates have been noticeable by their absence.
Brexit, Brexit, Brexit. Depending on what happens today ................ I can't bear to think.
Back tomorrow afternoon with team news.
Tuesday Nov 13th: 09:40
Blimey, that was a storm last night. Lightening arcing across the sky. Thunder claps echoing around the rooftops. Rain cascading out of the swollen gutters. Thankfully a beautiful morning to consider the latest news from the world of rugby.
Canada comfortably beat Kenya in their RWC 2019 play-off match. Its looking like Germany v Canada will be the decider.
The offside row rumbles on. The Organ of truth have superimposed some very helpful lines onto their images of the incident to try and prove ...... what I don't know. The fact they have got the lines in the wrong place highlights the complexity of the decision. If they had then it would actually have proved Lawes was offside.
Robert Kitson of The Guarniad has written an interesting piece on the whole unedifying decision. He quite rightly highlights how the TMO has interfered when the TMO shouldn't have interfered. As you recall for a decision to be overturned the error needed to be clear and obvious. Whilst right it was definitely not in the "clear and obvious" camp. Kitson also goes on to say that during the match many, many more blatant offsides went unnoticed and therefore unpunished. That can't be right. The TMO has its place but its wings need to be clipped as right now it is spoiling our wonderful game. I think the latest change is right but it must be adhered to. The referee is the final arbiter of fact and those facts are only changed if something is glaringly wrong or something dangerous has been missed. I like Kitson's idea of stealing from NFL/cricket where perhaps each team has one challenge per half. That might stop all the demands for a TMO referral.
With regards to offside at the ruck I continue to push for there to be clear daylight between the hindmost part of the ruck/maul and the defender. This would make it easier, albeit slightly for all. If you watch the All Blacks v Ireland game on Saturday evening then you can guarantee at least 80% of the time both sides will be offside yet unpunished. Something has to give.
What is wrong with Connor Murray? That has still not been answered. He is not in the Irish squad for Saturday and no word about why.
So a through and through Scot Gary Graham previously selected in an England training squad will flip flop back over the border to his homeland on Saturday where he is sure to win his first full cap against South Africa. Another example of the pathetic eligibility rules. I go back to: you are born in a country, or your parents were born in a country or you have spent seven years in a country a part of which was being educated then you are eligible.
Stuart Hogg will leave Glasgow after RWC 2019 to join Exeter on a £500k a season package. The amount of money is eye-watering. Whilst Exeter are the only club in profit in the Premiership this is a hard move to swallow. The news will come as a wake-up call to players in Wales who are about to enter difficult and sure to be protracted negotiations about salary bands which will limit the regions and top clubs ability to attract big named stars and worse to keep their top flight players in the Principality. There are already rumblings of strike action, strongly denied by the players association. The WRU intention is right: keep regions and clubs on a sound financial footing but with England splashing cash like Kardashians on heat a difficult road lies ahead of them.
King Eddie has earned much praise for the way he handled the Farrell furore and now the Underhill row. He has played it with a straight bat and kept his council well. He then goes on to throw all that away with a bizarre rant at his former employers Japan ahead of Saturday's clash. He seems to have been very insulting about going to the temple and praying which is totally unacceptable to a people who are very polite and courteous to all. I for one will expect an big England win but I will be cheering loudly and proudly for the Brave Blossoms, especially as England players will receive c.£25,000 each with the Japanese getting £13 per day for their efforts.
By the way it cannot be right that Manchester City's Raheem Sterling has just signed a new contract worth £300,000 a week. That is simply obscene and I bet he'll find a way to avoid paying much tax.
Got to go. Need to catch up on the latest Brexit fiasco. A farce of epic proportions. One which will send this great country of ours into a hinterland of despair and destitution. By the way there are other opinions on Brexit but I write this rubbish so you are having mine.
Monday Nov 12th: 09:00
It was somewhat remiss of me yesterday not to mention the fact that CRFC has retained its 5 star food hygiene rating. Managing events and providing great food and an excellent social enviroment is important to the club as I am sure it is to many. Being able to tell prospective customers we have a 5 star rating is great. Well done Jacqui, Nick, The Friday Club and all those who help keep the place in tip top condition.
Not sure how the juniors and colts went yesterday and hoping for a picture of our Armistice Day activities.
Glancing through the papers the debate about the try that wasn't and Samu Kerevi's hit on Leigh Halfpenny feature widely. Let me ponder the try first.
Having watched it and watched it I am still torn. I think Will Greenwood on SKY makes a good argument in that the offside was definitely not clear and obvious and making a decision with the benefit of frame by frame slo-mo is not right. The referee and his assistants should go with their initial decision and only if there is a glaring error or serious foul play then that decision should be overturned. My counter argument to that is Courtney Lawes was not behind the hindmost feet in the ruck and that includes his own players not just the opposition. By the letter of the law he is offside therefore no try. Once that had been identified then the decision was the correct one. Offside is offside. There are no levels of offside. It still was a very marginal call though.
Some pundits are saying Sam Underhill has some way to go before he is the finished article. I agree however he has proved the value of having a proper back row forward roaming the paddock. King Eddie makes reference to the return of Billy Vunipola and Nathan Hughes. I feel Underhill offers something that has been lacking and I personally would be looking to develop him into my first choice back rower. Jones is obsessed with size and forgets the importance of skill and technique. The two best back row forwards this weekend even ahead of Underhill were Justin Tipuric and David Pocock. Neither are big men but they have tremendous engines, a fantastic skill set and a nose for when it is right to go in for the kill. Take note Eddie.
Not wishing to pour cold water on what was a much improved effort by the men in white I remain in the camp that says New Zealand were well below par on Saturday. Yes England contributed significantly to that and should build on the positives but please don't get carried away.
So to the hit on Leigh Halfpenny. Another debatable decision. Many with their red dragon eye-patches in place are saying Samu Kerevi knew what he was doing and should have at least seen yellow. Kerevi had the right to try and charge down Halfpenny's kick and in real time he was pretty close to doing so. Kerevi is a big man and once you have got speed up your momentum will make it difficult to stop, especially when your feet are off the ground. I believe once committed he had no option but to collide with Halfpenny. It looked bad as it was contact with the head by his shoulder but in my opinion I don't think it was a deliberate act of foul play (unlike Farrell against South Africa). All that said, in the World Rugby guidelines there is plenty written about "reckless" actions. I think this is where Warren Gatland is coming from in that Kerevi's technique could have been better and it was a "reckless" attempt at charging the ball down which resulted in a contact with Halfpenny's head. Ben O'Keefe could easily have gone down that route and shown the big Aussie a yellow card. He didn't and I am happy to accept his opinion on this one.
Having watched the Wales v Australia game again I can concur it wasn't the best game ever, in fact it was pretty dire at times but as an encounter it was pretty gripping stuff. Out of the fourty six players on show in Wales I think only Jonathan Davies would get into the All Black side. He is a truly world class player and Wales need to keep him fit. Yes Justin Tipuric was outstanding but he has to deliver that week in week out now before he climbs into the world class bracket.
If you haven't seen it then scour the TV schedules and find Premier's "free sport" channel and watch France v South Africa. This was a pretty good game. Watch how the fantastic Nigel Owens managed the match and how even under severe pressure in injury time got all the calls spot on and clearly communicated them to the players.
Thanks Paddy O'Fez. I bet you didn't know, and nor did I that there is a RWC 2019 play-off happening right now. Germany have just beaten Hong Kong. Canada and Kenya are the other teams in the round-robin tournament and there is a strong possibility Germany could surprise the rugby world and make it to Japan in September next year. Interestingly the German teams backer, Hans-Peter Wild has just pulled his money out of their federation due to the fact he now owns Racing 92 in France. The Germans also have Mike Ford as a consultant coach. An interesting article found in The Guardian.
In other sport are Manchester United a busted flush and will Jose the Arrogant finally get the push?
Talking of push I see Max Verstappen wasted no time post race to give Esteban Ocon a couple of shoves after they collided during the race. Verstappen would have won if it wasn't for the incident but you do have to ask the question whether it was all Ocon's fault. Should lapped drivers be allowed to unlap themselves? Who knows? Who cares? Well done Lewis. Another win in the book.
Fantastic coverage across all the papers of yesterday's Armistice Day events. No more needs to be said.
Sunday Nov 11th: 09:30
One hundred years ago to the day the guns finally fell silent on the Western Front. The slaughter of young men in their prime was finally brought to an end. Today across the country quite rightly we will remember the fallen of all nations. Crowborough RFC will bring events at the club to a halt at 11am to pay their respects. I pay mine here.
May they all rest in peace. We will remember them
Yesterday at a rain soaked Twickenham England and New Zealand finally took to the field after months of hype. It wasn't a great game, the conditions dictated that. I stand by my previous assertion that no England player would make the All Blacks squad. Collectively though they played well. There was a grim determination from start to finish and they put the mighty All Blacks on the back foot and kept them there for long periods. England were helped by New Zealand's obsession with kicking away good ball and kicking poorly. It was uncharacteristic in many respects but England's blitz defence was very good leaving the Blacks playmakers with little option.
Sam Underhill was the stand out man on the day. A proper back row forward in an England shirt at last. He tackled, he jackled and he ran and ran. England's set piece was robust with both lineout and scrum serving up good ball. The early English try was well taken with applause going to Ben Youngs for the vision to see Ashton in space wide out. The second half was a more even affair and you can never write the All Blacks off. Their try was well worked and no less than what their efforts deserved.
Then came the dying minutes. We had the pleasure of watching the game with The Bard and his lovely wife. They were leaping around like two deer on steroids only to be brought crashing back to earth by Msr Gerome Garces. Underhill did his part with great skill and speed and it would have been fitting if the try had been awarded. Me, I go with the TMO and Garces BUT it was a very marginal call and quite frankly during the game clearer and more obvious offsides were ignored. If it had been ruled the other way then you would nod sagely and suggest for the second week running England got away with one.
Should England be making space in the trophy cabinet for the World Cup? No! They are a long way off the standard needed to secure that. This was another game in which England showed they are heading in the right direction though. Should the All Blacks be confident of a third straight World Cup triumph? No! Based on yesterday's lacklustre showing and the fact England were able to keep them at bay and under pressure for long periods will be cause for concern.
Its taken 14 games over a period of ten years for Wales to finally get a "W" on the board against Australia. The Principality Stadium was rocking during this low scoring game. There were periods of high skill and quality in an otherwise mediocre game. Yet again both sides were obsessed with kicking away good ball. At times I was apoplectic with anger as time and time again the ball was sent aimlessly high into the air. Wales defence was at its best keeping Australia's dangerous strike runners at bay. Josh Adams justified his selection and Justin Tipuric was superb from start to finish. The result will have no bearing on the RWC 2019 match-up.
Australia bizarrely spurned several opportunities to kick at goal. Leigh Halfpenny to the amazement of all watching missed two simple kicks, one pretty much dead centre in front of the posts. Michael Hooper and David Pocock were a thorn in Wales side slowing the ball down. Both sides showed some ambition out wide but space was quickly closed down and last pass errors often brought play to a halt at crucial moments.
Then in the dying minutes with the men in red looking at another day of "what if" up steps Dan Biggar to steal the win. Did Wales deserve to win? Yes, I think so.
Then it was off to Dublin. Ireland looked tired. Argentina looked good. It is fair to say the men in green were the better side but they made hard work of it. The big one is on Channel 4 next Saturday. Ireland v New Zealand.
Right now I have one eye on France v South Africa. This has been a pretty good match. South Africa snatch it at the death.
Well done to our 3s beating Seaford 2s 31-5.
Back tomorrow with more analysis on yesterday's internationals.
Thursday Nov 8th: 13:45
What do I know about anything? Not a lot apparently. Tuilagi doesn't make the match day squad, neither does Zac Mercer. Chris Ashton wasn't dropped, he starts. Jack Nowell drops to the bench which is where we find Courtney Lawes. Interesting back row. I think this will again be the Achilles heel with the All Blacks being quicker, smarter and more streetwise at all aspects of the breakdown. Quite pleased Henry Slade keeps his slot as he can be a playmaker in mid-field. I'm not sure this is a very dynamic squad of players. It feels very functional with the only stand out creative ball carriers being Slade and Daly. Farrell will need to replicate the strong performance shown against the Boks, except for the illegal tackling, if England have any chance of getting passed New Zealand.
The headline selection for the men in black is Sonny Bill-Williams starting. He is a leviathan and both Te'o and Slade will have their hands full there. He lacks the creativity of Ryan Crotty who is on the bench but new rising star Jack Goodhue has plenty to offer in that department. I like the idea of Damien McKenzie at #15. He is a real livewire and is interchangeable with the mercurial Beauden Barrett at #10. The All Black pack needs no introduction and with one of the finest second rows of all time, one Brodie Retallick raring to go I see England really being up against it.
The above isn't anti England sentiment, in fact I want the men in white to do well. It is a very pragmatic assessment of the two sides. In my opinion there is not one English man who would make the match day 23 of the All Blacks. By the way a strong showing tomorrow by England is good for the game as a whole but my head nor heart says anything but an All Black win.
All that said I really no nothing about rugby. Liam Williams straight in. No he is not. He does make the bench with Josh Adams, in great form for Worcester getting the nod to start. Gareth Anscombe holds onto the #10 jersey with Dan Biggar on the bench. I would have gone the other way round but Anscombe did ok against Scotland and now has a chance to prove his worth. Adam Beard ahead of Cory Hill is a little odd but hey ho! I personally would have gone with Ellis Jenkins instead of Dan Lydiate in the back row otherwise it isn't a bad looking Welsh side.
Michael Cheika has gone with an almost full strength side. It has been tested in recent weeks versus the three other southern hemisphere nations and whilst the results have not been great the performances will mean Wales will be under pressure from the start. There are some huge men on the bench so Wales will need to be on their guard against a late charge when the steamrollers are brought on with twenty minutes to go.
In both games the referee will play an important part. Wales and England might benefit from the fact it is Roman Poite in Cardiff and Jerome Garces at Twickenham. Northern referees do have a slightly different interpretation of the breakdown at times. We'll see.
One England player will earn her 100th cap tomorrow. Katy Daley-McLean take a bow. She will quite rightly run out ahead of her teammates to take the plaudits she deserves. Excellent stuff and well done.
Whilst all that is going on the Crows host Seaford 2s at Steel Cross in a re-arranged fixture. I am not sure I can make that. Not because of the undercard match at Twickenham but because of other priorities.
I know crime is out of control in the UK and we are not doing enough to solve it. It is totally unacceptable that it is happening, mainly between drug gangs but many innocents are being caught up in it. We need to plough more money into policing and stop being afraid of taking tough action such as more "stop and search". All that said it is unbelievable that the US Government and its people continue to fight to prevent gun control. This despite another mass shooting, this time in California last night. 12 people, 11 of them innocents mowed down in the prime of their lives. What is the world coming too?
It doesn't help when the Big Orange is effectively introducing censorship and press controls by stealth. The way he treated the CNN reporter yesterday was appalling. That was the act of a man who is out of control and the fact he fired his Attorney-General on the same day in part as another act of state sponsored censorship is a disgrace. Censor this Mr Trump..... you are an arrogant, conceited arse who will ultimately send the world into meltdown if you continue.
Well, well. What have I been saying about Brexit and staying in because there is a movement for change. That French clown Barnier was treated with total disdain yesterday as he tried to give an "important" update on Brexit to EU leaders. Even Angela Merkel who I personally think is a great leader walked out half way through. If we leave we are done for. If we stay we can be the catalyst for change.
Oh, my head says Australia but my heart says Wales. This won't be a mediocre game. It will either be dire in the extreme or a classic to be kept for posterity.
Wednesday Nov 7th: 08:15
Tuilagi and Lawes make the squad with the final match day 23 being announced tomorrow. I expect both to be in that.
The New Zealand management are fearful that Saturday's game at Twickenham could turn into a fashion parade for its stars. Clubs will be weighing up they options in terms of buying power and whether to break the bank for a bid for Beauden Barrett and others. Players will be released to play in Japan on lucrative deals as a way of keeping control however. Haven't read the full article yet. More on this tomorrow.
So Brad Shields who IS eligible to play for England via his parents but was only a gnats whisker away from All Black selection faces some of his old teammates tomorrow. He'll be able to guide them on the riches available in the UK and by coming over here how they will stop new English talent coming through.
I read that Connor Murray remains an absentee from the Irish set-up, and the Munster one. How bad is the injury or has he been abducted by the aliens rumoured to have now entered our solar system (and no that wasn't a story in the Daily Star).
Surprise, surprise Manchester City have been accused of breaching UEFA's "fair play" guidelines. Why is this important? It isn't really but one day many rugby clubs who only survive because of the largesse and generosity of benefactors and find ways of circumventing the guidelines on pay will have their comeuppance at some point. By the way I am not just talking about the big boys here.
Yet more stories of turmoil with the EU. Poland is up in arms about EU interference in the running of their country. I say it again, our best bet is to stay and be that catalyst for change. Being on the outside while they all pis...... you know what I mean, won't be great.
It seems like a nil all draw for the Big Orange. He has strengthened his position in the Senate but has lost the House of Representatives to the Democrats. Whilst this won't stop the madman doing pretty much what he wants to do it might put the breaks on a little and it might see some difficult times ahead, like how much tax did he really pay?
Finally I am getting hacked off with some of the rubbish that gets printed in the press. The NHS and A&E for example. They keep bleating on about those having to wait. Let us hear about the VAST MAJORITY of people who get seen on time and have AMAZING service from A&Es up and down the country.
The papers were full of a problem people encountered with a BA flight from Orlando to Gatwick. BA have gone downhill recently but it must be remembered they have thousands of flights per day around the world with millions of satisfied customers. One flight encounters problems affecting 200 people and it is the end of the world. Those people wouldn't be complaining if they were at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean because BA took a risk and pushed on to LGW despite warning signs in the cockpit. 24 hour news is the problem. Its got to be filled with something.
Must go the club beckons. Its wet and horrible but do you know what I am happy to help. I'll be with like minded people making a small difference for those who use our great club.
Tuesday Nov 6th: 09:00
I couldn't get enthusiastic about Wales v Scotland before the game. I can't get enthusiastic post the game. It was a pretty dull affair lacking the intensity of a 6 Nations contest. There were little cameos from certain players and a couple of passages of decent play from both sides but that was about it. Jonathan Davies try was beautifully well worked and George North's was a fine effort. Both players showed they are ready to make an impact going forward. Scotland could not break down Wales dogged defence and as a consequence Gregor Townsend has much to ponder. Wales will not get close to Australia this weekend if they don't up their game. It needs to be played at a higher tempo with everything happening a click or two faster. Changes? Liam Williams will start. His form at Sarries dictates that has to be the case. The big debate therefore is Dan Biggar or Gareth Anscombe. Anscombe looks ponderous but is deceptively quick. Biggar with all his experience is the safe bet but do you want a "safe bet" to beat an improving Australian outfit?
England's injury woes continue as Tom Curry is ruled out with a "severe" ankle injury. Zac Mercer is likely to start and I can see Ben Morgan getting a recall unless Courtney Lawes wins his race against time and is declared fit. Manu Tuilagi says he is fit for the game against New Zealand. Do you take a chance and bring him back into the squad. It would have to be for Chris Ashton if that were to happen. More on England as the week progresses.
It worries me that King Eddie has a dossier on each of the All Black players in readiness for Saturday's game. Preparation is key and understanding the opposition is vital but there is also analysis paralysis. This level of detail is fine but they still have to play what is in front of them. Remember the tactics Italy used against England a couple of seasons ago. That wasn't in the playbook so what happened? England simply had no idea how to think for themselves and nearly lost as a consequence.
If you haven't seen it trawl the internet and find Jersey Reds try against London Irish. It is a thing of rare beauty.
King Eddie has made an interesting point that the game has become so fast, so intense and so dynamic that it won't be long before we have two referees on the field. In some respects this makes sense. Netball has an umpire for each half of the court. Rugby league is trialling it. The NFL has at least six on-field officials. That said rugby already has a referee, two assistants and a TMO for top flight games and still can't always get it right. Owen Farrell's tackle for example......... yeah, yeah that is my view!! Worth considering though.
As we take another step closer to the abyss called Brexit I cannot believe how little coverage this is getting versus the reunion tour of The Spice Girls and the Ant McPartlin divorce case. No wonder the country is in such a sh!& state.
Well, well. There you have it........... "we are stri