Saturday 1st September: 10:00
And they're off!! Yes the season got under way yesterday evening with Bristol hosting Bath in front of a record breaking 26,000 people. The biggest ever home gate for the Bristol outfit.
The victory comes in the wake of a fascinating article in The Times (thank you Liberty for bringing it to my attention). I mention it because the author predicts this could be the most open therefore most unpredictable season ever for top flight rugby. Like many Saracens are tipped to top the table and Worcester for the dreaded drop. It also made fascinating reading in so much as it highlighted the issue, and in my mind it is an issue, of the influx of overseas players. Strangely the clubs at the top have the fewest and those toward the bottom the most. There is a substantial cash incentive to have 12 English qualified players in the match day squad but I guess the challenge is how this balances out against losing your status in the Premiership. So to the point Bristol have invested heavily in overseas talent and I guess with Bath's experience a home win wouldn't have been on many people's betting slip.
I didn't get to see the game but it sounds as if Bath threw away gilt edged chances and were the architects of their own downfall. That said the reports also highlight Bristol took theirs and their pressure plus the backing of the home crowd saw them over the finishing line. I'll be trawling through the TV listings to see if I can catch up on this one.
Elsewhere Ospreys sprang a surprise by beating Edinburgh. I say surprise because Ospreys had a pretty dire pre-season and Edinburgh under the guidance of Richard Cockerill were highly fancied to do well. The reports suggest this was a truly turgid affair until mid-way through the second half when both sides decided rugby had to be played by passing the ball to teammates and running around in support. George North could just prove to be the best signing of the season anywhere. He impressed with two tries as did Scott Williams who showed why he has been in the Wales set-up for some time.
A few miles along the M4 in an easterly direction Cardiff let what seemed an impressive lead over champions Leinster slip to lose right at the death. This sounded a cracking game and for the new TV company must have come as a relief. It will be interesting to see the viewing numbers and compare that with the match day attendance. I hope this augurs well for a good Pro14 season as quite frankly a lot of it is rubbish with the Welsh regions underperforming.
Plenty of rugby today so a full round-up tomorrow.
A couple of other stories caught my eye. Having spent nearly three hours helping to mark out our A pitch yesterday I was blown away by how fantastic the new £1m pound hybrid pitch at Kingsholm looked. Many a bowling green would envy the quality and appearance.
Then I was drawn to a piece that says the RFU might need to encourage Premiership rugby to ring-fence the top flight if Bristol Bears after the millions poured into them get relegated. Mmmm!!! I wonder who else has been bleating on about ring-fencing? Has someone been reading this rubbish or as is most likely common sense prevailed.
I also found it interesting that Gareth Southgate, whose personal stock is quite high at the moment has come out and said it is getting harder and harder to find quality English talent playing in the Premier League. With close to 70% of all players being from overseas this comes as no surprise. I mention this only as a warning for the long term health of our game. As The Times article highlights more and more overseas players are filling rugby's elite. Unlike soccer grassroots rugby is massively dependent on a successful national side.
Finally a word of praise for the halo. What? The F1 mandarins made it compulsory to have an extra roll bar added to F1 cars and the inspired name was the halo. If it had not been in existence there would be two F1 drivers currently up there in the heavens wearing their own. Two spectacular crashes where the drivers were without question saved from death by the new addition. H&S is not such crap after all.
Good luck to the boys over at East Grinstead today and for another fun filled season for our minis and juniors who start tomorrow.
Thursday 30th August: 10:00
When you are wrong, you are wrong. Happy to admit I hadn't fully read the article concerning Sam Warburton's future after playing. Yes he is going into the media but with BT Sport and not the new company covering Pro 14 rugby. He'll do a great job I think.
Where to watch this season? BT Sport for the Gallagher Premiership. Premier Sports for Pro 14 (one game a week will be free to air and one game involving the Welsh regions will be free via S4C). Top 14 is on SKY along with New Zealand Mitre 10 cup, the Southern Hemisphere internationals and England's Autumn games. Sad but basically if you want to watch rugby on TV most of it is now pay-per-view. We can discuss the merits of that in the coming weeks when we see what the match day attendences are like.
Andy Farrell said "no!" to a return to the England set up. Good on him.
Anthony Watson's latest injury, a re-tearing of his Achilles tendon happened whilst he was on a shoot for a commercial. I hope his bosses at Bath sanctioned that?
What's happening over the weekend. Our 1s, 2s, and 3s are over at East Grinstead for what is becoming a tradional pre-season warm-up game. The fun starts at 12:30 with the last game at 15:00. Minis and juniors start on Sunday. Parking will be at a premium but it is great the kids will be back at Steel Cross have fun playing rugby with their mates.
Games to watch out for.
Bristol v Bath catches the eye straight away. The most local of local derbies on Friday night. I like the look of Cardiff v Leinster and Ospreys v Edinburgh in the Pro 14.
On Saturday my eye is drawn to Gloucester v Northampton. Both clubs promising improvement are going head to head. Exeter v Leicester looks good too. Can the West Country side maintain their momentum. Leicester's Matt O'Connor needs to get off to a good start if he is to keep the vultures at bay. Ulster v the injured hit Scarlets should be worth watching. This is the S4C offering.
On Sunday Newcastle host Saracens. This will be an intersting benchmark for the season ahead. Who will come out on top?
Out of interest Worthing travel Taunton Titans for their opener whilst TJs host Birmingham & Solihull.
As I have said previously up to five erstwhile top flight Welsh clubs could lose their place in the Welsh Premiership. The pick of the fixtures are Aberavon v Swansea, Cardiff v Merthyr and Carmarthen Quins v Newport. These results will give an early indication of the challenges ahead.
Sacre Bleu! Encroyable! Msr Barnier and Msr Macron have said the UK should get a deal and Macron has gone as far as urging the rest of the EU to approve a deal. I think they have been smelling the coffee and it it has finally hit the area of the brain that tells them the French will be screwed if the UK leaves without a deal. Perhaps, and it is an outside possibility, that the Danes happened to mention to Cher Emmanuel that they too will be hit where it hurts without the UK: the back pocket. It might also be the case that Italy and Hungary have made it clear that they are not going to pay another cent to Europe unless the migrant crisis ( and this is a crisis, humanitarian and financial) is not resolved soon.
The other hugely important story dominating our front pages is the length or lack of it of Meghan Markle's skirt. Do me a favour. Our wonderful police force are facing lawless thugs and no-one is grasping the nettle that police number reductions are bad for the country. This should be front page news not a story about pampered royals.
No blog tomorrow but back on Saturday with a quick look at Friday's games.
Wednesday 29th August: 09:45
My morning started by reading an excellent article in The Guardian about the state of Premiership Rugby. In the 21 years since its inception there have been some low spots and some high spots. The low spots centre around the demise of clubs like Richmond, Bedford, London Welsh where the investment/revenue couldn't match the costs. The high spots are reflected in significantly higher gates, the quality of the grounds, now mostly owned by the clubs, the quality of the match day experience, the increased revenues. There has been a move away from businessmen investing in the game trying to make a buck or two to proper fans with business acumen and with sacks of cash now taking control of clubs. This has meant a turnaround in fortunes for clubs like Wasps and Bristol who were rescued from bankruptcy by such benefactors. Here lies the problem in that whilst there are many aspects of the game that tick the robust business model of survival costs are spiralling out of control with players wages being the main contributor. Yes there is a salary cap but with the ability to have "marquee" signings outside of this wages continue to increase ahead of revenue. Therefore the ultimate challenge is that clubs depend on the largesse of benefactors to keep them afloat. There will be the usual accountancy smoke and mirrors about being asset rich and debts being unsecured but the bottom line is clubs are spending more than their revenue. Yes the overall proposition of Premiership Rugby has made huge strides in 21 years but spending more than you earn is always a recipe for disaster. It is an excellent article found in The Guardian.
As a footnote I am not sure the quality of the rugby itself has improved that dramatically. In fact in many respects I think the game has gone backwards.
Eddie Jones has already got his sights on RWC 2019 even though the domestic season is yet to kick off. His England squad will try and emulate some of the travel conditions they will face in Japan by flying back from their Algarve training base just 48 hours before the first of their Autumn internationals. It makes some sense. Lets hope he has found some decent back row forwards by then. What he will have is John Mitchell by his side as the new defence coach replacing Paul Gustard. The papers seem to think this pretty much a done deal.
Talking of coaches Paul Grayson is set to rejoin Northampton Saints as part time kicking coach. Good call. They have had a good pre-season so will be interesting to see how they get on.
Yet another article critical of our great game focussing on injuries, especially head injuries. This time Dr Izzy Moore of Cardiff Met has said "bold changes" in the laws of the game are now required if the game is to turn the tide of the increasing numbers of injuries experienced by players across the board. She works closely with the WRU so this shouldn't come as a surprise to them but they are yet to comment. I also think Dr Moore has the best interests of the game at heart so her research and comments need to be looked at seriously.
Even before a ball has been kicked the Scarlets will be without 14 front line players due to injury. This makes the comments above even more important.
Going back to RWC 2019, or is it looking forward to, I don't know. Anyway, some in New Zealand are already urging World Rugby to engrave the All Blacks name on the trophy for a third consecutive time. Somewhat one-eyed but on the other hand they are so far ahead of any other nation in the world is it such a stupid comment.
In the world of 24 hour news and yesterday's tragedy is old history already you would have forgotten about Samoan Gordon Langkilde. He is the the guy who attacked three Welsh players in the tunnel after a world 7s game. Well it appears he is still in the USA banned from leaving as he awaits trial. If found guilty he could face up to four years in prison.
A look at the fixtures tomorrow and a quick assessment of things to watch out for such as the Welsh Premiership. Some famous clubs could disappear into the abyss.
Tuesday 28th August: 09:00
Before I start a quick correction. Of course Bath travel to Bristol and not the other way around. It is on BT Sport. The free to air Friday night Premier Sports TV game is Zebre v Southern Kings. Of course I'll be rushing to watch that..... not! Better though is you can pick up Ulster v Scarlets on S4C (134 on Sky) on Saturday evening. Usually English commentary is available via the red button. You should be back from East Grinstead by then where the boys are playing in a warm up game.
Injury news is not great if you follow Wasps with Jimmy Gopperth out for the season. Billy Vunipola has had more damage done to the arm broken on the SA tour so is out for at least three weeks. It is worrying to read that Glasgow's Sam Johnson has only just left hospital after suffering a head injury playing against Northampton Saints last Friday. One note of caution in all this, injuries have always been part of the game, head injuries included. The big difference is in today's world rugby is higher profile than yesteryear with vastly more TV coverage. Medical science has moved on so injury management is much better. There is a great degree of caution with players and head injuries. With 24 hour rolling sports news across the vastly increased media landscape something has to fill the column inches. Lets keep things in perspective.
A more in depth look at the opening fixtures tomorrow and Thursday
In the pressure cooker of Premier League football I think Mr Jose Mourinho is just about cooked. A 3-0 defeat at Old Trafford by high flying Spurs has seen the vultures fly a little closer as they prepare themselves for the kill. A really tetchy post match press conference adds fuel to the fire (other cliches are available).
By the way the win also did wonders for my fantasy football team. Go Harry Kane.
Andy Murray returns to grand slam action with a win. Lets hope his injury issues are behind him. With all that lovely money in the bank and his family to consider will he still be hungry for success?
Success is not a word anyone in the Brexit negotiations can use. Brussels are wetting themselves as Msr Barnier continues to push Britain into a corner. If we walk away with no deal then France and Germany will be the big losers and chaos will reign across the continent. Mrs T Maybe on a charm offensive in Africa is doing bugger all to help. As much as Africa is a nice juicy business target it would never fill an economic gap if the super economies of Europe shunned us. There is a clamour for a second referendum. Another no win situation but I ask is it a sensible one? Yes possibly as many of the proleteriat should now have a better understanding of the implications. It would be a real betrayal of the people though. Perhaps we should have a referendum on whether to have a referendum. You know a bit like in business when you a meeting about a meeting......... which normally ends in farce and tears.
Talking of Brexit a nice piece in the Financial Times this morning about the 70% of overseas players (from 65 countries) who make up the Premier League wetting themselves as a) the pound crashing would see their enormous pay packets being reduced (when they convert it into the currency where it is being held in the relevant tax haven), and b) some could overnight become unlawful citizens. News that's not going to chnage our lives but a fascinating read all the same. I think football and footballers are ripe for the picking in terms of tax. They get paid stupid money and therefore should be paying significantly higher levels than us mere mortals.
That'll do for now. Pitch marking on the agenda for today. Boy I know how to live.
Monday 27th August: 09:15
Not much fall out from Saturday's internationals. The usual stuff about Michael Cheika and should he jump before he is pushed. His record is not great but you must accept Australia take on the might of the All Blacks quite regularly and therefore you can expect a pretty poor win-loss ratio. I thought they did well against Ireland who without doubt are the best of the northern hemisphere countries. If change is to be made then now is the time leaving just over 12 months to get things right for RWC 2019. To be fair to Cheika he has hasn't been dealt the best of hands. The game is fast losing players, spectators and sponsors in Australia. Crowds are down across the board and player participation at the lower levels is declining. On top of that he has been without star players such as Hooper and Pocock for long periods. In my mind there has been an improvement and with Stephen Larkham by his side he has a decent enough coaching set up. Lets see what happens against the other nations in the coming weeks.
The same goes for Rassie Erasmus. I think he underestimated the Pumas on Saturday making a couple of changes which proved detrimental. He now has to get his side back on track when they travel to Australia. There is no win-win for either coach in this one. Another Bokke loss on the road will see questions asked. A Boks win would see Cheika under severe pressure.
The Gallagher Premiership starts on Friday with new boys Bristol travelling the short distance to Bath. Will the £1m man Charles Piutau be fit to make his Bristol league debut. Anthony Watson will be missing for Bath. He has gone on record saying top flight players should be limited to just 20 games per season. There is merit in the argument that players are being exposed to too much rugby but I personally think 20 games is not achievable. Something drastic would have to change. No more international rugby? A much reduced Premiership, or massively increased Premiership squads? Shorter seasons. Scrapping play-offs. Reducing the scale of the European Cups e.g. fewer teams. Not an exhaustive list but the only way to achieve a 20 game cut off point is to dramatically change the way things are done. This would reduce revenue and/or increase costs, neither of which are palatable. Something needs to be done to protect the players and therefore the integrity of the game.
Following yesterday's comment on Sam Underhill my friend Robert brought my attention to a piece in The Times where Sam Warburton talks about his retirement decision and the future. The future is bright as he has been snapped up as a pundit for the coverage of PRO14 rugby by Premier Sports TV. The really interesting point made was he has LOST a stone since retiring. All logic would say you would pile on the pounds not lose them. To me this reinforces the point that the game is obsessed with size and power and this in turn is leading to a boring product where leviathans simple smash into each other at high speed with immense force, hence the number of injuries. If the game wants to change then perhaps reducing the number of substitutions allowed is something to consider. During the upcoming season it would be fascinating to know how many players get injured during the last 20 minutes of any game, the time when fresh legs often enter the fray, and fresh legs often facing tiring ones.
Plenty of the papers are looking ahead to the season. Many pundits predict Saracens as champions again and Worcester as the most likely to face the drop. I have no idea what is going to happen but would suggest the big spenders such as Wasps and Sarries will be up there with a resurgent Leicester there or there about.
As an aside Ben Te'o a Worcester star could again be involved in a fight for Premiership survival. He has stated that one reason rugby lacks excitement is because sides are fearful of relegation and therefore the emphasis is more on not losing than it is on winning. This fear is stifling the game. Mmmm! Haven't I been saying "we need a ring-fenced Premiership" for some time. Q.E.D. perhaps.
Have you seen any of the Perpignan v Stade Francais game from the weekend. Sergio Parisse saw red in that one. It was the most pathetic piece of refereeing I have seen for a long time. Despite excellent TV angles for the referee and the TMO to consider their decision they still got it horribly wrong. This was a decision that lacked any empathy with the game made by someone who probably could tell you every subdivision of the law book but wouldn't be able to take more than a few seconds to tell you about his playing career. Without a referee there is no game. Referees need our support AND respect but sorry that decision was quite simply WRONG!
Moving on what a spectacular start to the Belgian Grand Prix. Sadly that was the only bit of excitement.
How tragic to read of the shooting in Jacksonville. Sad that grown men and women and those of indeterminate gender are obsessed with computer games but worse still get so worked up about it that they end up murdering innocents before killing themselves.
Finally a word for John McCain the US Senator who died this week aged 81. A genuine war hero but more importantly a man of principles and morals. Unlike the bend in the wind lily livered lot we have now McCain was a man of integrity and like Ronseal did what it said on the tin. As politicians around the world mourn his passing perhaps one or two should look in the mirror and stand up more for what is right than considering themselves first.
Sunday 26th August: 09:45
I bet like me most of you didn't see Argentina beating the Springboks coming. If you did I bet the margin of victory and the quality of the Pumas play wasn't forecast. If it was can you send me next weeks lottery numbers please. That first half performance was something special especially as the woeful showing against Wales and Scotland is still fresh in the memory. The mistakes of last week were eliminated and the scrum became a fierce weapon. They kept the Springboks on the back foot at the ruck and the backs were sharp running in some nice tries. The men in green fought back in the second half but could not break down a dogged Pumas defence. Skipper Kolisi's try was something special but outside that it was a lacklustre showing by the Boks. The game was also about the new coaches. Mario Ledesma seems to have turned things around in a very short space of time. Rassie Erasmus has also seen his side improve but that is not as positive in that the home form is excellent whereas the away form has been woeful. A cracking game thanks to the surprising result.
It was inevitable that the All Blacks would kick into the gear in the second half to blow the Aussies away. As with last week the men in gold and green were in it up until the half time break. Their lineout functioned and they kept the potent All Black back line in check. Four second half tries put pay to the dream of winning on New Zealand soil for the first time in too many years to remember. The quality of the tries was breath-taking and Beauden Barrett was simply unstoppable. What makes the All Blacks so great is they have 15 players on the field and no matter where they find themselves they know what to do. You have forwards playing like backs and backs driving into mauls like any forward would around the globe. They have pace and they play a very functional game which is all about playing what presents itself in front of them. Right now there is no team in the world close to the All Blacks. No more needs to be said.
A word of praise for Wayne Barnes and Angus Gardener. They contributed to both games with their excellent officiating. Barnes in particular was at the very top of his game. I applaud them both.
A break next week before Argentina arrive in New Zealand and South Africa travel to Australia.
Dylan Hartley made a successful return for Northampton Saints coming on after 60 minutes. Dan Biggar lasted less than two minutes suffering another (worrying) knock to the head. The Saints beat the Ospreys in this one. Bath hammered the Scarlets and the Dragons lost to Gloucester. Cipriani played well in this one repaying the cherry & whites faith in him. Gavin Henson rolled back the years playing really well despite the loss. Welsh rugby fans are already expressing concern at the woeful showing by all four regions during their pre-season encounters. They have fielded strong sides so that isn't an excuse. The true test will be the European tournaments but right now fans do have some cause for concern.
Chris Ashton has been hit with a seven week ban. Six for the offence plus another for his poor disciplinary record. The system works. There is some confusion about when the ban starts and finishes as the RFU are trying to ensure players miss meaningful games. Sale have claimed they have a game which does not appear on their fixture list or that of their opposition. Mmmmm!!! Is someone trying to pull the wool over someone's eyes?
Couple of articles in the Organ of Truth about player burn out / welfare. They highlight the number of players retiring early due to injury and the number of games being played. The article asks the sensible question "is rugby getting too brutal for its own good?" Sam Cane left the field early on Saturday due to another heavy knock to the head. The time is right to look long and hard at this and to ensure the upcoming world cup is a showcase for the game rather than an opportunity for the detractors to bleat on about injuries.
It is somewhat ironic and highlights the problem that in the same paper England and Bath's Sam Underhill is raring to go after his injury break. The headline says he is "bigger, heavier and fitter than ever". Surely this is a significant part of the problem. Players are enormous and the power they now generate is scary.
A lot closer to home I caught up with our DoR one Paul Gray on Friday. He is very bullish about the season ahead. The boys are training well and in numbers. There is a great spirit amongst the lads and it augurs well for a good season. The minis and juniors get cracking on Sept 1st and I am certain the amazing cadre of coaches and volunteers and administrators will ensure the kids have an amazing rugby experience at CRFC from start to finish, as they have done season after season after season.
Thankfully the pitches are recovering well and with more sunshine and showers forecast we should be ready. Well done the old farts led by Damper Sayer and Drew Pratt who make it happen.
Thursday 23rd August: 08:30
As I expected and hoped the RFU have taken a pragmatic view of Cipriani's behaviour in Jersey by saying his behaviour is not acceptable for a player who is affiliated to the game at any level let alone at the very highest level but they have not added to the two punishments already handed down to him. I personally think this is right. The law has dealt with, as has his club. A third layer of punishment would be overkill for what was in my mind quite serious but not serious enough to for him to lose game time. He does now need to think carefully about where he goes from here. Another indiscretion will see him out on his ear.
James Haskell has waded into the debate probably to get his name in the papers rather than having an erudite and well thought through analysis of the situation. He believes "people should get on with it and shut up". So its acceptable for people to get drunk and be abusive and aggressive and resist arrest injuring a police officer? Mmmm!!! Yeah that is a great idea and of course even better if youngsters see role models behaving in that way. Haskell goes on to say that high profile sportsmen get singled out for harsh scrutiny. Of course they do. They are paid extremely well and the people who pay them expect a certain standard of behaviour on and off the field. Players wages don't come out of thin air they come from sponsors, advertisers, TV companies AND the hardworking man and women who pays the entrance fee and buys the replica kit and travels up and down the country to watch their team. They expect a positive return on their investment. They do not want to see egotistic drunks being hauled through the courts because they can't behave like decent human beings.
I see Cipriani is in the team for tonight's game against the Dragons at Kingsholm. He could be going head to head with another one who has had issues with alcohol and his behaviour, one Gavin Henson. If there was a case where "there is no such thing as bad publicity" this is it. The ground will be full as many will want to support the miscreant, for others they will be drawn in by the hype, for others it will be a good match up (which should be the only reason to be there) and for others they have column inches to fill and they don't read this rubbish.
The other pre-season game that will now have gone under the radar is tonight's clash between Sarries and Ospreys. Paddy O'Fez will know it is on of course.
Whilst I berate others for being egotistical and self-serving I do need to look in the mirror now and then and ask myself why I write this nonsense most days. The honest answer is for my own sanity and its a small part of me keeping my brain active. It is on the other hand in part for the notoriety I sometimes get from it. I do get a kick when very occasionally my opinion is supported. Thank you Giselle Mather. Giselle who I hear you ask. Well she is the Director of Ladies Rugby at Wasps and she has gone on record saying that "women's rugby must not rush into professionalism". The women's game must get the foundation built and its assets developed to a level where it can sustain a long term investment. Don't spend what you haven't got.
Two big internationals on Saturday. What must Australia do if they have any chance of competing with the All Blacks. One, they must retain possession by cutting out the silly mistakes of last week. Pressure doesn't always mean points but the Aussies have the raw material to score if they can make the final passes stick. Two, the lineout must deliver good ball to them rather than the opposition. This was appalling last week. Three, they have got to get the referee on their side. At times, whilst they had a case, their protestations last weekend were a tad petulant. A more measured approach is required.
Argentina like Australia need to cut out the mistakes. They need to get that big pack firing on all cylinders in the scrum and they need to be more dynamic in the ruck.
I still go All Blacks and the Boks.
Elsewhere F1 returns this weekend and just two weeks before we see the first Crowborough stock car challenge as the kids go back to school.
As expected the news was full of Trump last night and also Americans saying what a top guy he is and how being a crook lying and cheating his way to the top is exactly what America needs.
Well done Ryanair. Sending out cheques with no signature. Yeah I bet that was an "administrative error" and I bet the people on the receiving end will have to wait months for new ones. Why cheques by the way? Surely you are an internet only provider where credit and debit cards are king? I also bet if it was a genuine error the person who made it didn't have to wait up to a year for the bollocking.
Yes it was in the Organ of Truth but in this instance I agree with them. It is madness and highlights what's wrong with this country as a black MP is up in arms about the launch of Jamie Oliver's Jerk Rice. She was annoyed it was a misappropriation of the Caribbean heritage. So that is more important than the gangs of kids, many of whom are black, killing each other with knives and guns. I think Dawn Butler also needs to look in the mirror and ask herself why she isn't on Sadiq Kahn's and Cressida Dick's case about knife crime in London, where of course she is an MP.
Wednesday 22nd August: 10:00
A quieter day on the rugby front with just a couple of stories to comment on.
Dylan Hartley is set to make his Northampton Saints return in a pre-season encounter with Glasgow this weekend. This is the first step on extending his career and hopefully leading England into the world cup at the end of September 2019. It is clear from the length of absence and the concerns expressed by many in the press that this is the "last chance saloon" for Dylan. Another serious concussion will certainly bring the curtain down on his rugby career. Have Saints missed him? You could argue based on their poor form yes they have. Have England missed him? Not his playing ability but certainly his leadership qualities. I would argue he is not the best hooker in England but his value as a leader was proven in South Africa where the Red Rose was rudderless without him. As good a player as Owen Farrell is right now he is not a captain. If England are to get back on track with their goal of challenging New Zealand for RWC 2019 then they need a general on the field. Someone the troops will follow into battle. Fingers crossed for "our" Dylan.
If Chris Ashton wasn't in enough trouble it turns out the red card was for a dangerous tip tackle. That carries a longer ban than a simple punch, not that a punch should be seen as anything else but dangerous. His disciplinary record will surely go against him so expect to see him high in the stands for sometime. The hearing is tomorrow.
The players union are up in arms about what they see as a witch hunt against Cipriani. Sorry guys you are wrong. Cipriani is a "poster boy" for the game. He is in the England training squad with many clamouring for him to remain there too. His lofty status makes him a role model and punching a police officer is not the example the RFU want their role models to set. By the way every club affiliated to the RFU and therefore every player, coach, and even spectators have to be abide by the regulations set. Cipriani has a case to answer and therefore the RFU have to go through due process. Based on my experience of the discipline process which remains in its infancy he will be treated fairly and with common sense.
A look at the internationals tomorrow asking the question what do the Aussies need to do to compete against the All Blacks at Eden Park, and the answer isn't use rocket launchers and hijacking the All Black team bus on the way to the ground. Even then the Aussies might still struggle.
A couple of stories in the news caught the eye.
Trump it would appear is culpable of wrong doing in office and before getting into office. The next few weeks will be fascinating to see how he rides this one out. Strangely I bet his ratings go up in some quarters. Sad but true.
One of the papers carried a story of how a school changed its rules to the disadvantage of all its pupils to pander to the needs of one transgender child. As the article says this is madness and as you know from last week I agree.
There has been much in the news over the last 24 hours about the use of bailiffs and debt recovery. Its not right. Its not fair. Its heavy handed. In particular they used the example of bailiffs recovering debt from council tax defaulters. The lily livered were going on about we need to be sympathetic to these people. They have issues and we should be helping them not harassing them. There are people out there who can't cope and get into difficulties unfairly. They do need our help and compassion. There are a lot more out there who simply don't want to pay and will do everything possible not to pay. They will be the same people with the big dog, massive TV but no car tax or insurance. Why should we the majority who pay our taxes and abide by the law pander to the minority who don't. If it takes the bailiffs to retrieve money that is owed so be it, and if that money then goes back into supporting the elderly and those in genuine need then happy days.
Mr Philip Hammond is a relieved man right now as the treasuries coffers have been swollen by July's tax receipts. He must now deliver on his promise of more money for the NHS and pay rises for the police and other public servants, except MPs and Whitehall mandarins of course.
Finally the beloved RMT are going on strike again. This time maintenance workers in the Ruislip depot. They want yet more money. Where does that money come from Mr Cash? Not your enormous, eye-watering salary that's for sure. No, it will come from increased fares that will need to be paid for by office workers, nurses, teachers et al. Have a nice day Mr Loadsa Cash and sleep easy in your bed you hypocrite.
Tuesday 21st August:10:00
A surprising amount of rugby stuff in the papers but I guess that is no surprise as the season is pretty much upon us. In fact the Top 14 starts this weekend.
Gloucester have dealt with Cipriani by matching the fine he received from the Jersey magistrates: £2000. No punishment at all based on his earnings and net wealth. The bigger punishment is he has also be given an additional 10 hours of (Gloucester RFC) community service. This is a good move and being the arrogant person that I am I did suggest that would make sense some days ago. He now awaits his fate with the RFU and whether Eddie Jones decides to axe him from the squad, or not.
It's a record I've played many a time: "the ring-fenced Premiership". I therefore found Mark McCafferty's comments about Ealing Trailfinders and the possibility of them making it to the top table quite interesting. The piece can be found on the BBC sport website but in essence says it would give "cause for concern" if Ealing found themselves in the top flight. I can understand where he is coming from as Ealing are not standing on their own two feet, they are bankrolled by one guy, Mike Gooley, founder of Trailfinders the travel company. An average crowd of 800 is not going to sustain them in the Premiership especially when you consider the crowds at Welford Road and even then the Tigers are still in the red. Mike Gooley is 81 and I think I read somewhere his family are not as committed to the Ealing cause as he is. That doesn't augur well me thinks. Ealing only have to look across at Old Deer Park and London Welsh if they want to see the outcome of failure in the Premiership. I admire their ambition but I fear it might be misplaced.
The other interesting comment that came out of the piece is McCafferty does own up to the fact that he doesn't know the Ealing set-up nor the people there. Is it therefore wrong he should comment? No! Absolutely not. Should he find time to find out a little more about the clubs who could find themselves in the coveted Premiership? Most definitely. That is until common sense finally prevails and we have a ring-fenced Premiership and a semi-pro Championship feeding the top flight.
McCafferty's opposite number Martin Anayi at the Pro14 says his league could become the best in the world. I think I'll need to ponder that one for a little longer as that concept is quite hard to get my head around.
If you doubt McCafferty, and if as is the norm you think I talk out of my backside, especially about the money in the game being insufficient to sustain the current spending and ring-fencing the Premiership go onto WalesOnline and read the piece about the best paid players in the world. For example it is alleged that Dan Biggar is on £600k at Northampton and Rhys Webb is earning £550k at Toulon. Ask yourself are they worth it and is that sustainable. Then look at Charles Piutau at Bristol who gets £1m per season. Once you've answered those questions then revisit the Ealing article and reassess whether their ambition is misplaced.
Once you've read that then you should easily find the article on the best 50 rugby players of the professional era. Overall the names make sense but the order would be slightly different if I had compiled it and I am sure you would too would have a differing view. The top three are Richie McCaw at 1, Dan Carter at 2 and Brian O'Driscoll at 3. Of all time I would still have Gareth Edwards at no.1.
Dylan will co-captain Saints alongside Alex Waller this season. This is the same Saints who had an £80,000 injection from cash-strapped, now bankrupt Northamptonshire County Council. It is a disgrace that a council facing severe cash shortages would even consider buying a box at Franklins Gardens let alone going ahead and doing so. The council claimed the money was for redevelopment at the ground but the Saints deny this. I believe the Saints as it is alleged their financial audit trail is much more robust than the councils. £80k doesn't go far in today's age but it is still a sizeable sum that would have paid for say two or three care workers for the county. Sadly I fear there are many councils screaming about cuts but squandering money on luxuries and worse are fraudulently spending on personal benefits.
Finally if you believe RWC 2019 is a long way off then think again. The Japanese have opened a new stadium in Kamaishi a city devastated by the 2011 tsunami. The ground will host just two matches but post the tournament the city will have a great legacy for the youngsters to enjoy.
Monday 20th August: 09:00
A somewhat gloomy weekend, especially after all the beautiful weather we've had. Good news though is the warm damp conditions and the intermittent bouts of rain have helped green up our grounds. There is still much to do to get them match ready including repairing some damage caused by those "pesky rabbits".
The reports of Saturdays tests were pretty consistent. The All Blacks were good. The Ozzies were wasteful. The Springboks are on their way back to greatness. The Pumas show signs of recovery under their new coach.
Talking of coaches it is sad to read that some are calling for the head of Michael Cheika. Madness. Things are improving. It is a slow process and losing to the All Blacks is not the end of the world nor is losing to the No.2 country in the world: Ireland. Let us see how things pan out and measure him against the results against the Pumas and the Springboks.
Cheika has been hit with another injury blow as Israel Folau will miss at least the next test in Mendoza. His ankle injury is still being assessed but the prognosis is not great.
Concerns have been raised about Ryan Crotty's future in the game. He left the field with another serious concussion after clashing in the tackle with his own teammate. This is not the first time he has left the field in a bad way and some of his family are asking whether it should be the last. Quite rightly it is not tomorrow or the day after that concerns them it is the long term impact on his brain and his mental capabilities that troubles them most.
The term "plonker" has been used by me to describe Danny Cipriani. Sadly he is not the only "plonker" on the blog. Chris Ashton comfortably falls into that category. Sale have taken him on. England have recalled him to their training squad. There is an outside chance he could get to Japan next September/October for RWC 2019. All great things. So why oh why does he punch Rory Kocket in a pre-season match and get sent off by the excellent Romaine Poite. His rap sheet is long and varied, littered with acts of stupidity so instead of showing what he has left to offer he could well be warming his backside in the stands for a few weeks. There are plenty of "bad boys" in Eddie Jones' squad but with there being plenty of players ahead of Ashton in the England pecking order Ashton's desire to play for England in Japan might just have been hit with a big blow (poetic justice perhaps).
Nice piece on WalesOnline by Nigel Owens about the Rugby Championship. He states that there is little difference between the 6 Nations and the Rugby Championship. He is better placed than me to comment but I disagree. The southern hemisphere game is better, perhaps not as much as I allude to be better all the same. Where his view and mine converge is the 6 Nations tournament has a much better atmosphere this in the main due to the travelling support swelling the grounds and the areas around the ground. Sadly due to geography and therefore cost this is not the case for the southern hemisphere match-ups. On a tangent it was disappointing to see Kings Park, Durban only half full on Saturday. I know Argentina aren't the plum tie but!! Is it that in Durban, a very India centric city people have fallen out of love with the game, or is it the very high cost of tickets in a weak economy, or a combination of both causing the apathy? I don't know. Do you?
Great day to be a Brighton & Hove Albion fan. Beating Machester United will get people talking, not that they aren't already. Is Mr Arrogant himself Jose Mourinho about to get a bloody nose. All through the summer there have been rumblings of discontent about him and his side and the attitude of his players. Let us not take anything away from the Seagulls, Chris Hughton's side were excellent. Not just doggedly determined but skillful too. Well done to them.
The same can't be said for England's cricketers as they gave the Indians a day of catching practice. They were pretty awful yesterday, an abject display of batting and a mediocre display of bowling.
A mixed bag of newspaper headlines. MPs want more money for expenses as they fear Brexit will increase their workload. I really don't know what to say that wouldn't result in an expletive laden rant at those overpaid, overhyped, self-centred MPs who appear to be in the main so far away from understanding what is going on in the real world that having aDanny Cipriani and Chris Ashton as MPs would be an improvement, and as you know they are "PLONKERS".
Going for a quick lie down before I pick up the paint brush to do some work at home. Yes folks I can't put it off any longer.
Sunday 19th August: 08:15
Hoorah, lets start with some rugby. Whilst Australia have shown some signs of improvement they were never going to be good enough to beat the All Blacks, despite what Steve Hansen had to say. The Aussies started well looking dynamic and positive in the "go forward" and resolute in defence. In fact for long periods in the first half they were much the better side. They kept the All Blacks on the back foot and only the Aussies inability to get the final pass away or keep control of the ball when it mattered let them down. The writing was on the wall when the All Blacks scored a try of the highest quality on the stroke of half time though.
The second half was an all together different affair. The Aussies kept making mistakes whereas the New Zealanders eliminated theirs. The ball fizzed around and the Australians looked like fish out of water at times. Yes there was an element of luck in a couple of the tries the All Blacks scored and was the winger really on side when he raced ahead to pounce on that cross kick. The All Black scrum kicked into gear and the yellow & gold lineout was a very productive source of ball for the opposition. Fair play the home side scored a nice try of their own but it was never going to be.
When is a tip tackle not a tip tackle? Obviously when committed by a man in black within three minutes of the start of the match. That was a yellow card all day long. How it wasn't given I don't know, especially as Jaco Pyper is normally razor sharp on those things. I also can't get my head around the fact despite having the excellent Wayne Barnes on one side and Luke Pearce on the other the All Blacks can still get away with (what looks like) blatant off-side at ruck and maul. Hey ho.
Dear Mr Hansen, Please can you advise the odds of you winning comfortably next week when back at Eden Park, especially when you have second rows who run and pass like top flight backs. Thanks in advance. Bleater
So to Durban where the South African revival continues. I thought the Boks looked mighty impressive against a much improved (but a long way short of being at the top table) Argentinian side. The Pumas played with panache and high levels of skill and for a while a shock was on the cards. They scored some nice tries and looked a different side to the one that capitulated against Wales and Scotland just a few weeks ago. The Bokke on the other hand proved their march forward is no flash in the pan. They played aggressively but with deft touches between backs and forwards. Willie Le Roux and Faff de Klerk were lively and kept the opposition on the back foot. There was pace out wide and the return of Eben Etzebeth made a difference in the lineout and scrum and his work around the park was excellent. This was a more brutal affair than the earlier game but exciting nonetheless.
Stephen Jones, another ex Bassaleg Grammar School boy and chief rugby writer of The Sunday Times stirred the pot by suggesting the Rugby Championship was a bit of damp squid. I like Jonesy and I like his writing but he's got this one wrong. As an event it lacks the je ne sais quois of the 6 Nations but as individual games of rugby they are a much higher standard and therefore more exciting.
Is it me or is the pre-match getting more dragged out what with "The Welcome to Country" then the anthems then the Haka then the clearing up of all the extraneous bits of equipment on the field? The players warm up for 45 minues then stand around for ten while all this is going on. It wasn't quite the same in Durban but you've still got the anthems and the Zulu warriors to contend with. Or as a contrast is it simply because I am such a miserable so-and-so, as was pointed out by my fellow Friday Clubbers and many other hardworking club members.
England 2 Wales 1. The Dragons breathed nothing more than hot air against the Saints in the latest of the cross border warm-up fixtures. The men from Newport were like the town itself shoddy and not very nice. Cardiff left Exeter in the fashion of their name "Blue". Another heavy defeat for this Welsh outfit. The only ray of sunshine was the Scarlets beating Bristol at Parc Y Stradey. This however only after a late and determined fightback by the men from Llanelli.
Its never easy in Wales and there is a danger war is about to break out between the Premiership clubs and the WRU. With five sides at risk of bowing out due to the restructuring there was always going to be turmoil. Unlike their rich English cousins (albeit indebted cousins) the Welsh sides don't have sugar daddies bankrolling them so any reduction in status is a huge concern. Only this week the once mighty Maesteg announced their are unlikely to field a side unless something dramatic happens in the next few days. One to watch.
Danny Cipriani has to face the music both at Kingsholm and at Twickenham. His bosses want explanations and I guess will demand an unwavering commitment to being a paragon of virtue going forward. The RFU will want to make an example of him as it is not the image of the game the mandarins at Twickers want to see. It is a tough one as Cipriani is a young man doing what young men do. Gloucester stalwart Phil Vickery has gone on the record and said you will have seen much worse in Bristol yesterday than what Cipriani was charged with. For the record you will have seen a lot worse in Newport on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday too. He was excluded from the side that played Ulster this being an indication of Gloucester's frustration. Lets see what happens next.
Interestingly Ben Stokes, arguably one of England's best cricketers was booed yesterday whilst playing at Trent Bridge. It is good that the cricket loving population still have standards and probably like many they are wondering how he wasn't dealt with differently. This was a Friday Club debate too.
Oh how I love fantasy football. Week 2 and already four of my initail fourteen man squad is out injured and what with Jamie Vardy seeing red yesterday I am like the RMT, that is going nowhere and following a futile quest. Things can only get better but probably not this afternoon or tomorrow as I have two Crytsal Palace players in the squad and they play Liverpool.
Friday 17th August: 07:30
Crime on the island of Jersey must be negligible. Arrested late on Wednesday night. In front of the magistrate early on Thursday morning. Back in training on Thursday afternoon. Yes that was the way it went for Danny Cipriani. He left court between £2000 and £2500 the poorer with his reputation back in the gutter and with any chance of playing again for England hanginging by the thinest of threads. Gloucester Rugby are standing by him but quite clearly will be having the sternest of words with him.
It is clear Cipriani has issues with alcohol and maybe the time is right for him to tackle those head-on, and perhaps head-on in a way that sets an example to others facing the same demons. It also must be said that whilst he is a role model he is also a young man doing what tonight and tomorrow night many young men will be doing up and down the country and that is having one too many, doing something stupid and regretting their actions for a long time afterwards. Cipriani has a history of stupidity and often being the poster boy makes him more likely to be found out due to that fame. Should Gloucester throw him out? No, I don't think so. Should they punish him? Yes they should. A financial punishment is nothing so perhaps increased community work around Gloucester would do it, something that makes him feel uncomfortable and something that makes it clear he is doing it as "pay back". Should England drop him. That is a more difficult question to answer but I suggest rightly or wrongly they will.
By the way I don't think there is enough "pay back" in our legal system. What is wrong with getting low level offenders out of prisons for a few hours a day clearing the mountains of rubbish littering our road ways or helping cash stapped councils keep our towns and villages in good repair or doing other community work. It would be good for the country but do you know what I personally think it would be good for the prisoners too. I'll leave that though with you.
Justin Tipuric will captain the Ospreys this season leaving long time captain and Wales great Alun Wyn Jones to focus on his game.
Paul Gustard has taken an innovative approach to motivation by putting an enourmous replica bear in the club's team room. Plenty of "bears" in club's up and down the land. Usually accompanied by their best friend "arse". (The first person who writes to tell me I haven't spelt "bare" correctly can go and get a life).
Interesting piece in the Organ of Truth about Rob Baxter's Exeter and the impending contract negotiations with three of his England stars. He is making it clear that money is tight and if they feel Exeter aren't able to offer what they want then perhaps Exeter isn't for them. It is well worth a read and puts into context why Exeter are the only club in profit in the Premiership. For Nowell, Slade and Cowan-Dickie their options will be limited because all the Premiership clubs operate under the same salary cap and moving to say France would put their England careers on hold.
Mitre 10 Cup opened yesterday with a cracker. More today on SKY (other sports channels are available). The New Zealand games are so much better than most in the northern hemisphere in my opinion.
I wondered why the death of Aretha Franklin was so prominent in the news yesterday. That was until I stopped to read and listen and discovered how she played a part in the lives of Marting Luther King and Barrack Obama and was an active and prominent in the civil rights movement. During her lifetime she moved many with her music but many more more with her beliefs earning the Presidential Medal of Freedom from George W Bush.
Must go. Friday club beckons. Before I do I hope you are not travelling on South Western trains anytime soon as the RMT have announced another series of strikes. Yes this is the same RMT whose members are very well paid but won't support a change to how fare increases are calculated.
Thursday 16th August: 08:30
It's my lads 38th birthday today. Oh where does the time go. I mention this only because I thought there might not be much else to talk about in this here blog. How wrong was I.
In the immortal words of Del Trotter: "What a plonker". Yes you know who I am talking about: Danny Cipriani. He's just back from South Africa after a successful tour with England, one of the few who came out of that debacle with any credit I might add. He was snapped up by Gloucester and had quickly made a positive impression, so much so he was already one of their poster boys. What does he then do? He goes out and gets himself arrested for a range of misdemeanours, some of which such as assaulting a police officer are quite serious. Drink is not mentioned so I hope I am wrong for speculating but it is not beyond the wit of man to follow the time line of the story and where the event happend and that Cipriani has previous to assume that drink was involved during the evening and therefore could be a factor in this case. I stress this is me speculating as we are all entitled to do. The worst part of this is from his and Gloucester's and rugby's viewpoint he was about to make his debut for the cherry & whites on Saturday and that was bound to be a positive PR story all round. Yes Del Boy he certainly is a plonker......... but of course like Ben Stoakes is innocent until proven guilty.
I wasn't going to mention the Stoakes story but this news about Cipriani has more than a hint of similarity. Fit young men who are poster boys for the game with time on their hands and money in their pocket fall with a large thump off their pedestals. For their individual sports this news will come as a body blow especially as the governing bodies are spending a lot of time and money winning the hearts and minds of kids AND their parents in the wake of declining participation numbers . Heads will be in hands and murmerings of discontent will ring around Twickenham as they are at the England & Wales Cricket Board.
As an aside I spent 17 happy years in the drinks business and know how alcohol is a brilliant "social lubricant" when used wisely but also know how dangerous it can be when abused. Sports like rugby, cricket and soccer are sports where spectators and players alike enjoy a drink. Sadly there are times when people overstep the mark and do harm to themselves, their club and their sport.
Talking of soccer, and my personal fear the game of rugby, especially in England is moving in the same negative way as the round ball game has again been realised. Allegedly there are rumblings behind the scenes that Leicester Tigers coach Matt O'Connor is not meeting the expectations of the board, players and spectators. What do they expect? A Harry Potter magic wand and the sporting equivalent of the Hogwarts Express to whisk the Tigers to the top of the standings in the blink of an eye. Sport is competitive. Everyone wants to be top dog. As much as Leicester might have moved forward so others have been able to move forward faster. Sport is not like decorating, you don't get instant change and instant improvement, change takes time. What is this all about? Success brings in money. Money is in short supply in the game, the debts tell us that. People start to panic.
Dear Mr Hansen, with regard to your assertion that the All Blacks are underdogs against Australia when they play each other this Saturday, please can you explain how you arrived at this conclusion, especially with the return of Kieran Read and Brodie Retallick. I would suggest, if I might be so bold, that you had your tongue firmly in your cheek when you said this or your head was up your backside and your words were misinterpreted. Yours sincerely. Bleater
Is the haka being overused by the All Blacks and other New Zealand sports. The debate has started. There is a view that it gives them an advantage but I don't think so. There is a view that in the modern era it is unnecessary theatre. I like it but because the All Blacks have so many games it does lack the appeal of yesteryear. Worthy debate to have though.
There is a great song by Frank and Nancy Sinatra with line "then you go and spoil it by saying something stupid like I love you". Well the RMT have done much the same thing. There I am actually agreeing with them that the next round of fare rises are a disgrace and that fat cat salaries at the top of the industry need to be cut and profits going overseas is a disgrace. Then they go and spoil it by saying you can't change the measure by which fares can rise in favour of the consumer because that will impact on our ability to increase our members wages to even higher levels than the already eye watering salaries they enjoy now. I'm all right Jack you bunch of self-serving hypocrites. Have you ever stopped to think that your members exhorbitant demands and your continued desire to disrupt the service is contributing to higher fares. No I bet you haven't and I bet even if you had you wouldn't give a damn.
Good luck to those awaiting A level results today.
The world is going mad. Go online and find the story about how the shopkeeper who inspired the "Open All Hours" TV comedy could be forced to close because of politically correct health & safety paranoia. It will make you weep or fume or both.
Wednesday 15th August: 09:15
Two England internationals and a young Irish star are the lead story on a couple of the rugby pages. Bath's Anthony Watson has retorn his Achilles tendon meaning a long lay off while they reassess and then re-repair the injury. It is a notoriously difficult injury to fix so Bath can expect him to be absent for some time. The initial injury could have happened at any time but it happened playing for England, another example of why clubs are so keen to protect their assets against the rigours of the international game.
Ben Te'o has spent the last year contemplating his future in the game after a catalogue of injuries. Rugby is a physical game, it always has been and even at the lowest social level of the adult game players will be able to regale you with stories of their injuries. It is hoped that he will return for Worcester and potentially England but in Te'o's case at what cost. The real reason I include comment on his injuries is because he makes reference to "being forced into rushing back too quickly 'plenty of times' in his career". Sadly that I fear is another sympton of the clubs need for cash and the need to have their top assets delivering for them week in week out. I have said before how ironic it is that coaches and chairmen will whinge about the players playing too much whilst on international duty yet throw them into the domestic fray without any form of recovery time.
Ireland and Ulster have also suffered a blow as Jacob Stockdale is hit by a hamstring strain which occured in training last week. I often wonder if these guys at the very top of the game train too often and too hard.
Here we go again. United States international Paul Mullen signs for Newcastle Falcons. Last weekend I watched quite a bit of soccer. Some was excellent, some was rubbish but what was consistent was the lack of England players in each team. Pretty much every side was dominated by overseas players. Rugby at the top level is definitely heading in this direction. Whilst England did well in the world cup this was a rarity. Watch this space with regard to the long term future of England rugby.
Dan Biggar is enjoying life in Northampton and says more Welsh players should give English Premiership rugby a go. Another influx of overseas players...... hoorah. He also goes onto say it was great to have a summer off and he is now ready for the season ahead and the build up to RWC 2019. Perhaps he and those other Welsh players rested will be ready to give Wales a shot at the "big one". Yes I can dream if I want to.
Quite rightly the newspapers are dominated by the terrible events in Genoa where the bridge collapsed. I listened to a report yesterday about a catalogue of disasters in Italy due to incompetence, corruption by officials, cutbacks, and even the involvement of the mafia. It is sad that so many lives have been lost and possibly lost at the hands of people who have cut corners or had their palms greased. We can only hope the death toll doesn't rise further and finally lessons can be learnt.
The other headline story is the bungled terror attack by Salih Khater, a British citizen originally from Sudan. These people do my head in. They come to this fantastic multi-cultural country for a better life with great opportunities, a fantatsic standard of living by comparison to most and I could go on, yet they want to rain terror down on innocent hardworking people who have done nothing to offend them in anyway. Yet again our brilliant and dedicated police force were in the front line proving their worth and again asking us to be proud of them. So too the ambulance service who were quick to put themselves in danger for the benefit of others.
As an aside there has been criticism of the queues at Heathrow. In part this is due to understaffing and cuts at the Border Agency. Not acceptable. On the other hand it has been due to our desire to keep out undesirables and the diligence of those on the border agents delivering that expectation. To those who moan I say than