Thursday 2nd August: 09:30
Surprise, surprise you can hear those chickens loud and clear as they come home to roost. Steve Brown has gone on record to say the current level of player wage inflation and in fact the current salary levels are unsustainable. I think I've been bleating on about that for some time. He has also flagged the RFU are facing "a possible" downturn in revenue. This impacts on the deal the top flight clubs have with the RFU in relation to the release of players to the England set up. The clubs have been promised a fixed payment of £112m covering the period ending in 2020. After that the figure may drop if the RFU's revenue falls. It is somewhat complicated but a concern.
The key reason is if the RFU pay less then clubs might start to limit player access further, or worse withhold access. This impinges on England's ability to compete and therefore generate income. This would be a worst case scenario and a lose-lose for both parties plus it would be a massive issue for the English game at large.
Secondly friction between the clubs and the RFU is already there and any increasing of tensions might be the catalyst for the breakaway I alluded to recently. That would send the game into a tail spin of confusion and risk.
The current modus operandii of clubs is flawed with soaring levels of debt and player wages at levels that are simply outrageous. Charles Piutau of Bristol getting £1m per year cannot make sense, if for no other reason it simply forces the demands of the other squad members up and up. If revenues were increasing at the same rate and sponsors were falling over themselves to be involved in the game it would be fine. In both cases they are not. TV revenues are at risk too as it is widely accepted that BT are struggling to generate the revenue from their massive investment in soccer and rugby. They have already dropped NBA plus other sports in a bid to save cash. TV revenue is important for clubs so watch this space too. Finally how long will the sugar daddies continue to be happy to subsidise clubs /underwrite debt. The economic climate is pretty bleak at the moment so it only takes one guy to say enough is enough for the domino effect to be horrendous.
Yes I know I have gone on about this over and over and over again but it is important. You don't run your own finances like this, businesses are not run like this so why does rugby (at the very top level) think they can run clubs in this cavalier financial way?
Moving on three hookers are in the news. England's Dylan Hartley could find himself in Eddie's training squad announced today (I think). New Zealand's Dane Coles is also making good progress and could find himself in contention for inclusion in the upcoming southern hemispher international series. Mind you Codie Taylor has been a revelation. The less good news is that Brian Moore has suffered another heart issue finding himself being rushed back into hospital for treatment. It seems he has made good progress but concerns exist about his long term health. Major surgery is being discussed as the interim measure of stents seems to have fallen short. Good luck Brian. You are an ugly bugger but that doesn't preclude you from getting our very best wishes for a return to full health.
Super Rugby concludes on Saturday. Crusaders by a lot.
I am sure my parents and grandparents decried how I and my friends and the youth of my day were a concern and how standards were slipping and priorities were changing. It is very clear that in today's world social media, technology and people's expectations have changed. Society is much more "me, me, me" with image and perception being important. You only have to read about what Instagram and Facebook are doing and how everybody is trying to be like the Kardashians (heaven forbid). It is why reality bullshit TV is so popular and wannabee programs like X Factor fill our TV screens and newspapers. Read into this what you will but on a recent flight back from holiday I sat next to a girl who took a photo of herself on the plane. It took about a minute, maybe longer to get the right pose and ensure the fat b'stard next to her wasn't photo bombing. It took about another minute to post on Instagram. The whole process took about twenty five minutes though. Why? Simply becasue the time between taking the photo and posting it was filled by her photoshopping her image in the minutest of detail. I found it quite sad that a pretty young lady was so unsatisfied with what looked to me a very attractive face she had to air-brush it before posting online. Let us be happy with who and what we are.
Finally isn't it ironic that the first of the Harry Kane engraved fivers was circulated in Merthyr Tydfil. An England star and Wales. Yep that works. By the way Merthyr Tydfil has one of the highest rates of benefit claimants per head of population in the UK. So "uh, a fiver. That's no good for me bach. I does only handle twenties and above". Move on!!!
Tuesday 31st July: 20:00
Like a well oiled machine those old farts aka The Friday Club have finished the redecorating of the club. The changing area was completed last week, the main clubroom was done this morning. Pictures et al back on the wall tomorrow and we are ready for the new season. Well done guys with a special thanks to Rick "The Bard" Howe for leading the charge.
Eddie Jones has been to see the headmaster and his report is definitely down from last year when he got straight As. This time it is definitely a case of C+ and you must do better, and that includes a need to improve attitude. I'm not sure it is right that Jones' review with RFU supremo Steve Brown should be a matter for public consumption but the outcome is no surprise. Results have been rubbish and his attitude at times has been churlish and petulant. With RWC 2019 getting ever closer the need for improvement is there for all to see and the need for a replacement defence coach and an attack coach to supplement the coaching team must be a priority.
Wales Online have taken matters a stage further by highlighting Jones has slipped to 17th in the list of the most influential people in world rugby, notably now behind Bath's Bruce Craig. They have also taken a swipe at the £195 ticket price for the game for the All Blacks. England rugby is clearly no longer a game for grassroots supporters. Furthermore there is comment on the rumoured 62 redundancies at the RFU. In part the redundancies are fuelled by the significant cost over-run of the East Stand development.
With regard to the redundancies this has caused consternation at grassroots level as many of those targetted work with clubs like ours on a daily basis. Working to grow the game locally through the schools and other local initiatives. Using an old business adage I fear this is a case of the RFU "knowing the cost of everything but and the value of nothing".
A nod to an England great, Rochelle Clark, 137 caps, who has announced her retirement from the international game. Well done ma'am. I stand and applaud your achievement.
What a cracking choice for the Pro 14 final next year: Glasgow's Celtic Park. An inspired decision all round.
Gregor Townsend extends his Scotland contract until 2021. Good call me thinks.
The WRU have decided to rethink the game below the four key regions by cutting the top league by four clubs. This means old favourites such as Swansea, Neath Newport and even Cardiff could find themselves in third tier of the game in 2019/20. That could spell disaster for some. Play-offs are also scrapped. Hoorah!!! The professional game (full and semi-professional) is not sustainable at its current level. Something had to give and the WRU are bravely taking the lead in changing how the game looks.
Lots on social media about last nights University Challenge. A show I like and watch avidly. I pat myself on the back if I can answer three questions of more and get an extra pat for actually understanding others. Anyone a storm has hit due to the low cut cardigan/dress worn by the female captain of one of the teams. Some of the comments have been construed as sexist. Well, as a red blooded male of the species her appearance was somewhat distracting and I see nothing wrong with that, especially as Mrs Bleater was the first to comment. If the very, very intelligent and very smiley Katherine Perry was concerned about feedback then perhaps a slightly less provocative top might have been appropriate. Sorry to all the PC brigade out there but you can't have it both ways. By the way for what its worth Mrs Bleater had no problem with my comments......... and she got five questions right last night.
Monday 30th July: 09:40
Ben Foden is in the news for the wrong reasons right now. Call me old fashioned but infidelity is wrong. He is also in the news as he moves from Northampton to New York where he will join the newly formed Rugby United New York (catchy name uh) who will play in the MLR (Major League Rugby). In its inaugral season there were just seven sides but this will grow to ten this season. Having watched one game it is basically a group of exiles, mainly southern hemisphere exiles who want to play the game. The quality of the match we saw (on TV) was ok for the most part and pretty good at times. There was a reasonable crowd, probably larger than the average Championship side would enjoy but smaller than you would see in the Premiership.
As Foden leaves for the US he makes the point, and he should know as he has played at the very top of the English game that players are putting their bodies under immense stress and that UK rugby should learn from the US by playing less games. The NFL teams play just 16 regular season games followed by the wild card and dvisional games with the Super Bowl finale. A maximum of 20 games. This compares to the 33, 34, 35 games a season top flight players could play over here. The NFL are also very clear on how players are managed pre-season. Training can only start on a certain date and training with contact can only start on another and full contact training on another. During the season teams must have lay off days where there is no contact in training. All of this is to protect the teams prime assets: the players. I think there is a lot of merit in this type of thinking and I do think rugby could follow suit, especially with juniors where emphasis in training could be switched to skills rather than brute force. The issue for rugby across the globe is its appeal. If English rugby lets say dropped from 30+ plus games a season to 20 many, if not all would not be able to survive financially. As it is clubs are up to their necks in debt with the current revenue streams let alone with reduced revenue. The other big difference is the NFL starts week one September and finishes at the end of December followed by the play-offs. French rugby runs from August 25th to the end of May with English rugby starting one week later and finishing one week earlier with both having end of season play-offs (which are a nonsense). Can you imagine clubs agreeing to shorter seasons and fewer matches? No! It would be tanatamount to financial suicide.
In conclusion I think what Foden says has merit but in practical terms rugby will have to look at different ways of protecting players from serious burn out and injury.
Not much else in the news.
No Pro 14 derbies on Boxing Day is interesting. They are all switched to pre-Xmas to allow the players a decent rest over the holidays with their families.
Jersey Reds are scrapping match day programmes. The revenue was less than the cost and the benefit minimal. Supporters can still see match day info but it will now be online.
I am not alone..... thank goodness. I have not read one pundit who says the Lions will beat the Crusaders next weekend.
In other sport Geraint Thomas rules the world (of cycling). What a star and what a humble and decent bloke. That is the Welsh for you.......... perhaps!!!
Well done Lewis Hamilton. Another imperious drive. Still not enough action to make it worth watching UNLESS you catch Max Verstappen going off the track with a broken engine. It was his swear word laden cursing of the engine supplier and his berating of the team that made it worth watching. Priceless.
Ryanair are going to be in deep trouble unless they get their act together. They are refusing to pay compensation to travellers affected by the strikes by THEIR staff. Sorry Michael O'Leary you are out of order on that one. The actions of YOUR staff are under YOUR control so YOU have to pay. Likewise it is despicable that you told passengers flights were cancelled due to weather when they were clearly due to your staffing issues. I know principles can be a downfall but I never consider Ryanair in my travel plans after two outrageous trips many years ago when I was working.
Brexit continues to be the longest running farce in Westminsters history. Msr Barnier the pantomime villain who only has "non!" in his lexicography. "Allez vous en" is what I say. Barnier is a bully who is pushing us to a no deal Brexit and a shambles across Europe not just here at home. Let him explain to the Greeks and Poles and Portuguese why they have to cut budgets because Britain is not paying any form of divorce payment and Britain is now closed to their exports. Not sure of the French word for "tosser" but that is what he is being.
More work at the club over the next few days so blogs may be late or non-existent.
Sunday 29th July: 09:40
The weather has returned to that of the typical British summer, that is wet and windy and not too warm. Quite frankly it is a blessed relief. The ground needs the rain and we need some restbite from the sun. Unfortunately we need a lot more of it if the grounds and fields and gardens are to recover and recover soon.
Whatever the weather there is still some rugby to talk about. As expected the Crusaders cruised past the Hurricanes with a dominant display. To keep the Hurricanes to seven points until the dying seconds sums the dominance up for me rather than the points scored by the home side. It was a game played with skill and intensity oh so lacking in the Northern hemisphere. Backs and forwards interchanging positions with ease, the speed of thought and deed was excellent and the quality of the handling superb in the main. A thoroughly enjoyable game to watch. A game which highlighted the strength in depth of New Zealand rugby but also what happens when the game is run for the "greater good" and not just for the benefit of the balance sheet of the top (clubs) franchises. More on this later.
Equally enjoyable was the Lions v Warratahs. Again as forecast the home side prevailed. The opening twenty minutes was just brilliant. The speed of movement, quality of passing and the interplay was enthralling. Inevitably the pace slowed as the game progressed but still some of the movement was breathtaking. The Lions deserved their win but it was a shame to have to resort to the rolling maul to achieve the breakthrough. Yes it is a skill and yes success doesn't happen by accident but at times it is oh so boring. Overall a cracking game.
The final next week won't be as entertaining. The Crusaders will have way to much fire power and the Lions won't have the advantage of playing at altitude, altitude being a factor in their win yesterday.
When the rose tinted glasses are removed and you look objectively at the global game it is very obvious that the southern hemisphere product is so much better than its northern counterpart. It is a worry therefore that there are murmurings of discontent down under as attendances twindle and supporters become disillusioned. This is in part due to the complicated conference structure they have. The number of franchises needs to be reduced by one so everyone plays everyone. This isn't the case right now.
The Gallagher Premiership starts soon and it will be interesting to see how it pans out. Strangley at the very top of the game here in England crowds are holding up despite the fare on offer being pretty bland at times. The big thing to watch is how clubs and country interact as we go into the Autumn Internationals and 6 Nations. Even though it is the run into the world cup in 2019 and the world cup is a big showcase for the game I anticipate there being friction. I spent time with my brother (the policeman brother who was the best player of the three of us) this weekend and he lobbed the notion of a Premiership breakaway from the RFU into the mix. If the conflict of player availability doesn't resolve itself how long will it be before we see a Kerry Packer style breakaway happen? I don't know but based on the rumblings of recent times it is not a far flung notion, it is a possibility. What then happens to the grassroots game and how will the international game be affected? As much as England have underperformed of late they are still a big draw and that can't be ignored.
As a comparison when the Premier League split from the FA the Premier League prospered whilst England went into a massive decline. It is only during the last world cup we have seen any sort of quality from England on the world stage. If top flight rugby did breakaway I would envisage a similar situation, including an even greater influx of overseas stars. The one caveat is for that to happen there would need to be a massive injection of cash and a platform from which to promote the game. That is a big ask when the top flight rugby is (massively) in debt already.
Lots of talk about the new tackle law trial. The more I think about it the less I see any real benefit. The change from shoulder height to deoderant height is minimal. The tacklers technique needs to be addressed and with so many tackles now involving more than one tackler there is a risk the more you get players to bend the higher the risk of head on head collision.
Ashley Johnson gets a six month ban for taking a banned diuretic. He will still be able start the season as he has already missed the six months due to being prevented from playing since March and the ban being backdated to the day of the test in February. Most websites cover the story. It does raise the question of "meaningful matches". Yes he hasn't played for four months effectively but should he be allowed to play in the first two months of the new season meaning he misses six months of rugby, which would have been the case if he had been caught in November. It is a discrepancy that nags at disciplinary panels all season long. I believe rugby should look at bans by games and not bans by weeks.
Before wrapping up for today good luck to Lewis Hamilton in Hungary and a MASSIVE hoorah for WELSMAN Geraint Thomas. Winning Le Tour is a huge achievement.
Tomorrow I'll look at player protection and how the NFL manages it.
Thursday 26th July: 09:45
Another busy day at Steel Cross for the Friday Club (aka the Tuesday and Wednesday Club). The entire changing room area plus all the loos in the main clubhouse have had a fresh lick of paint and a general tidy up. Big thanks to Rick "The Bard" Howe for leading this one. No surprise that working in windowless rooms in crazy temperatures was sweat inducing to say the least. We tried to solve the Brexit question, the Irish border issue and of course the problems faced by the NHS. Naturally it was beyond our ability. We did solve the Scottish question. Extradition and build the wall. Build it high and fortify it. Only joking....... we held back on the tank traps, machine guns and hidden land mines.
The other topic of convesration was the "nipple tackle". Being blokes from a bygone era where political correctness was simply a spelling challenge there were many comments of a humourous nature. The RFU have sanctioned it to be tested in the Championship Cup. A limited but real test after the trial in the Under 20s competitions. In my view it makes sense but yet again it doesn't. Injuries are a big issue and anything aimed at trying to reduce them gets my vote. That said you will have referees and players working to one set of guidelines in the league and a different set in the cup. Never sensible. Additionally I have read somewhere that it is the tackler most likely to get injured rather than the tackled player. This trial doesn't remove that risk, especially as you see more and more double tackles to prevent the release of the ball. Let us reserve judgement until the end of the season.
One thing I suggest is the use of "nipple height tackles" be removed from the lexicon of rugby terminology. Obviously in the women's game it is likely to be a source of concern. Political correctness and all that nonsense. Let us call it "the deodarant tackle" because it has to be under the armpit.
Moving swiftly on, a big night at Steel Cross today. The final round of the club touch rugby. A knockout tournament followed by beers and a BBQ. Well done Nick Radford for running this over the early summer. It will be hot so drink plenty. In order to save water you could always drink more beer. In order to promote our beer sales club members will be able to enjoy FREE beer on the following dates next season; November 31st and February 29th '19. The bar will open at 10:30.
Right now the Harelquins Summer Camp is running at the club. I did smile yesterday when The Bard spotted the pitch side banner proclaiming "you can play the Quins way" and immediately said "yeah, play like shit!".
Talking of Quins, loyal Quin and supporters favourite Nick Easter is leaving the coaching set up. He joins Graham Rowntree in the departure lounge.
Two good semi finals in Super Rugby. I go Crusaders over the Hurricanes. Form and home advantage. I go Lions over the Warratahs. Altitude, travel and fatigue after last weeks efforts will scupper the Warratahs chances.
Have you seen the new Scarlets kit. It is like a mobile advertising hoarding. Eighteen different sponsors. I know the money is important but the shirt looks naff.
Talking of sponsors well done Shorty and the wonderful Steve Edwards. Great job guys in securing an excellent crop of sponsors for next season.
Elsewhere Le Tour de France is captivating. I am a great fan and with Welshman Gareth Thomas wearing yellow it is an even greater spectacle. How they do it I don't know. Some would say drugs but put that to one side. The sheer human endurance is something to marvel at. Did you know that Thomas went to the same school as Warburton and Gareth Bale. Now that is something.
I cannot believe the football season is about to kick off. Wow, so soon. Talking of kick off it will be interesting to see how the RFU manages the lower level of our game if we don't get rain soon. The grounds at Steel Cross are parched, bone breakingly dry with areas that are harder than the tarmac on our roads.
Make America Great Again. America First. Excellent slogans that is until your tariffs on imported metals and automotive parts causes your domestic manufacturers to lose c.7% off their share price as sales plummet due to rising costs and increased prices on the forecourt at home plus a massive decline in sales to China. Nice one Trump!
As many of you know I am an aeroplane geek. From the earliest days of flight to the A380 and beyond. World War II aircraft are a fascination. One group of unsung heroes were the female pilots who flew just about every type of aircraft from the factory to the airfield and between airfields during that period. The last surviving pilot, one Mary Ellis has passed away at 101. The story of women like Mary and the Air Transport Auxiliary is fascinating. Well worth a read and silent prayer of thanks for their contribution to keeping Britain safe from the invading hoardes.
Tuesday 24th July: 15:00
For a range of reasons didn't blog yesterday. A number of things have caught the eye so thought putting fingers to keys made some sense today.
Let us start in San Francisco where Samoan George Langkilde is in custody for his vicious attack on Wales 7s star Tom Williams. Williams was attacked in the tunnel suffering broken bones in his face along with cuts and abrasions. Two other players suffered facial injuries. This is outrageous behaviour at any time but for it to happen in rugby and during one of the highest profile tournaments in the 7s series makes it even worse. Let us hope Williams makes a full recovery and Langkilde is dealt with harshly. This is not acceptable.
On a more positive note I watched the Warratahs make a fantastic come back against the Highlanders in Saturday's play-off clash. The NSW men were ordinary at the start and magnificent at the end. It was a thoroughly enjoyable clash.
The PRO14 fixtures are out. No changes to the two conferences and the good news is S4C will show one live game per week. Good news for us Welsh viewers who want to follow our teams.
World Rugby following moves by the Southern Hemisphere are to review the role of the TMO. They have woken up to the fact that a) referees are becoming too dependent on the TMO, and b) the interference is confusing fans, players and coaches alike. The TMO remains a good idea but the referee must regain control of the game and the ultimate decision has to be his.
Congratulations to New Zealand. 2018 Wolrd 7s Champions beating England in the final.
The Melbourne Rebels already embroiled in a discipline issue following a fight between two of its players have another two in trouble following an issue in a nightclub . Pone Fa'amausli and Hunter Paisami have been suspended indefinitely pending a full investigation by police and club.
Drugs in rugby is an increasing concern, both social and performance enhancing drugs. Three more New Zealand players (lower leagues) have been banned following the use of performance enhancing drugs. Shame but the world we live in is not perfect.
Can I add one more thing to my list of things I would change in top flight rugby. On pitch advertising. The paint gets everywhere and often makes players look more like demented Smurfs rather than top flight athletes. The only people who can read it are those watching on TV. During the Warratahs match I realised their on pitch adverts were superimposed. They would have pleased the advertisers with their quality and please the spectators as their stars didn't become coated in whatever they use on the grass. A small thing but annoying nonetheless.
Elsewhere what a drive by Lewis Hamilton. 14th to 1st. Yes he had help from his competitors making uncharacteristic mistakes and his team pulling back his teammate out of the hunt but great all the same.
The Tour de France has suffered the wrath of striking French farmers. These are the same farmers who claim to be poor despite getting more out of the EU than any other group, not just farmers and being pandered to by the French Government. Typically French just in time for the holidays. By the way it is disgusting that French "supporters" of the tour are spitting at SKY team members and staff and in one case physically assaulting Chris Frome. Poor losers are the French me thinks.
Brexit. It is clear no matter what we do Msr Barnier is going to say "non!". We are being held to ransom and the negotiations are going nowhere. Time to make the tough call; a) stay in and become the EUs worst nightmare from within (my choice) or b) tell all of them to shove it and they can fill the budget gap and sort out the lost business across the EU that no longer can get into the UK.
Finally the RMT. I admire their fortitude in defending the indefensible. South West Trains are now in their sights as driver only operations loom large within that franchise. As I have said before at peak times on key routes into London a guard makes a degree of sense. At other times a chocolate fire guard would be as useful as a guard. They are superfluous to requirements. I don't want to see anyone lose their job but times are changing and technology improves. Wake up RMT and smell the coffee. Mind you at the same time there are many sat in their ivory towers at the train companies HQs who need culling.
Sunday 22nd July: 10:00
A splendid evening on Friday with the XV Society. Guys who over many years have given a huge amount of time to the county rugby cause. Joined by our better halves we enjoyed a splendid meal and much reminiscing about Ye olde days.
Then on to Salisbury for the weekend. The city is still mired in the Novichok scandal but is getting on with life as best as possible. It is somewhat disconcerting to see men and women bedecked in military hazmat suits painstakingly searching for clues to solve the mystery. The Russians did it. Trump wants to cosy up to the Russians. Is that ok? Not sure it is but the old adage of keep your friends close and your enemies closer might just be true.
Hurricanes v Chiefs was a pretty good game. Plenty of action, lots of tries and the odd bit of controversy. The score line was closer than the game. Two late Chiefs tries flattered the visitors who were the architects of their own downfall in the first half.
Haven't seen the other games but the Warratahs beating the Highlander surprised me but it is good there is an Aussie side in the last four. They will be joined by the Lions who put away the Jaguares and the Crusaders who dispatched the "sloppy" Sharks. Semis next weekend and thankfully it cannot be an all New Zealand final.
VERY disappointed with the coverage, or lack of it, of the World 7s. Only the briefest of highlights on TV and patchy coverage on the web. I understand England have made the semi finals. England's women were knocked out by Ireland. A big shock. More on this tomorrow....... Perhaps!
In other sport the golf has been great. Lots of it on TV. The Tour de France has been great. Lots of it on TV. The F1 has been fascinating. Lots of it on TV. Where is the 7s?????
What an outrage as students at one of Britain's prestigious universities vandalise a poster of Rudyard Kipling's poem IF. The next generation of intellectuals are turning into the current generation of mindless, self serving, lily livered, politically correct morons. Why can't people understand history is history. What happened in a bygone era happened in a bygone era. Don't try and erase it you morons LEARN FROM IT. What happened is vandalism plain and simple. In my humble opinion what would have been far more effective would have been to place the alternative Maya Angelou poem NEXT to Rudyard Kipling's. People could then compare and contrast and LEARN. I am an opinionated big mouth and spout nonsense at times. I get it wrong a lot but I am happy to learn from my mistakes and change my opinion when necessary. All too often today's generation don't think like that. It is their way or no way. Take the vegan fascists attacking farms and shops because they upset their sensibilities. In a way isn't this how Hitler and Stalin rose to power: violently removing anybody who disagreed with their view. LEARN FROM HISTORY DON'T ERASE IT!
Off for a picnic in a Salisbury park later. Hope to be back on line tomorrow afternoon. Trains permitting.
Friday 20th July: 09:30
A suggestion for Stuart Barnes: the next time you pop over to see your mum in Newport you might want to go incognito. He has claimed Sam Warburton was not a great player. Strangely I can see where he is coming from. In terms of being an all round brilliant No.7 with great hands being as adept in the back line as he was in the tight I can't really disagree. There are a list of open-sides ahead of him on that list. He also goes on to say as a leader Martin Johnson was a more influential leader. In terms of success again I tend to agree but for Wales and the Lions he had great influence and lead from the front. That is not in dispute. Fair play to Barnsey he does touch on influence for Wales during Warburton's time and that was important. He also highlights what a thoroughly decent bloke Warburton is. Therefore as a package he might not go down as one of the all time greats as say Gareth Edwards is but he will be forever enshrined in world and Welsh rugby for his contribution and achievements. He is not dead so lets move on.
Talking of Sir Gareth he has raised an interesting point and that is the powers that be might review the tackle laws again in the wake of Warburton's and Hornes injuries. There is too much power in the tackle now and often it is the tackler that gets injured. They have dabbled already. During the Under 20s World Championship the "nipple rule" came into effect. The tackle could be no higher than the nipples on the chest. How you measure that I am not sure but the intention was to protect the tackled from contact with the head and reduce the risk of injury to the tackler. I applaud the concept but not sure it will solve anything.
This leads me onto the things I would consider changing. The number of subs allowed. I would reduce this from eight to say three. Still have eight subs on the bench and for tactical reasons you can change three but once that is done changes would only be for clear and obvious injuries. Players having to last longer in a game might take some of the power out of the game and hopefully reduce the injury count.
The off-side line at ruck & maul needs to be at least a metre behind the back foot. An old chestnut but one that would free up space in the back-line.
Referees need to tighten up on players being in front of the kicker. It is too loose at the moment.
At the ruck players must stay on their feet. All too often players go off their feet and the ruck becomes a Greco-roman wrestling contest. Bring back the use of the foot in the ruck.
TMO, a total review required. Benefit of doubt to the attacking side and the ability to use the balance of probability in favour of the attacker. The referee needs to make his decision clear before going to the TMO.
The scrum also needs more work. It has been better of late but more needs to be done to stop the collapse. Not because of safety, simply because it eats up so much time.
Subs warming up in the dead ball area must not join in try celebrations. They are to remain behind the dead ball line when their team are attacking and subsequently score.
A few minor tweaks to improve the game but noticeably I wouldn't make too many changes to the tackle law.
Back on Sunday.
Thursday 19th July: 10:45
The rugby pages are full of the Sam Warburton announcement. Quite right too. He has been a fantastic servant to the game and deserves all the plaudits being showered upon him. Even the Aussie and Kiwi press are leading with the story. It does however highlight how fragile life can be at the top of the game and for those youngsters looking to play professionally I would say make sure you keep your education going and have a back up plan. Halom Amos, Dragons and Wales continues his studies to become a doctor for example. Not everyone will become a TV pundit a la Will Greenwood or Jonathan Davies.
Another facing early retirement is Saints Rob Thorne. The 28 year old Aussie centre suffered nerve damage whilst playing against Leicester Tigers that has left his right arm paralysed. The 34 capped Thorne now faces a future outside rugby. It is brilliant that Saints and Tigers will honour Thorne when they meet at Twickenham on October 6th. It is how its done in rugby and of course how it should be done.
Just to confirm if you have nothing better to do all the Super Rugby quarter finals are live on SKY this weekend. Other channels are available.
Today is the "big one"; the Alpe d'Huez. Welshman Geraint Thomas is in yellow in this seasons "Le Tour" with Chris Froome behind him in second spot. Yet again Team Sky are leading the field much to the annoyance of many, especially the French. Team Sky have been mired in doping scandals but in all cases they have been cleared. I believe they have stretched the rules to breaking point but have not broekn any. It is a shame that success always brings trailing behind it envy and resentment. I for one have no problem with Team Sky's success although they are the richest team in the field and it would have been better if the accusations weren't still lurking in the background.
F1 from Germany this weekend. The Crowborough F1 season takes its summer break on Friday. Yes the schools break up so the school run daily challenge will be no more until September. I know my driving is not great and I can be selfish but some of the behaviour, predominantly by mums, beggars belief.
The British Open has kicked off this morning. How dry is that course. It is like the Savannah out there.
In the papers it is Sir Cliff that is prominent along with the world's least funny circus clown Boris. I don't know where to stand on the Sir Cliff judgement. News organisations have an obligation to report news, real as opposed to fake of course. The fact a British treasure such as Sir Cliff was under investigations for criminal activities is news. The dilemma is that the accusations made against him were fatuous and probably made as an opportunity to make money. That cannot be right. Based on this I think there has to be more due diligence by the authorities and the broadcasters before they charge in to investigate such allegations and I think the news organisations have to stop sensationalising every story. It is a fine balance otherwise our rights to freedom of speech will be eroded whilst on the other hand you cannot sully the good name of anyone based on false accusations motivated by things other than the truth.
Boris, an often heard name in Russia. A country with a record of devious and self-serving politicians who claim to be serving the people whilst lining their own nests at the people's expense. Our Boris might not be lining his own nest in a pecuniary sense but is most definitely a self-serving publicist who in my opinion is failing to see the harm this country will suffer if we Brexit the EU. He only sees a rose tinted view of what he thinks but to date have not been proven to be the benefits. The truth is that people like him and Rhys-Mogg will be immune from any calamity as they are independently wealthy and unemployment and other life changing economic problems won't darken their door.
No Friday Club for me tomorrow so a brief blog on the rugby season ahead and the things I'd like to see changed, no matter how far fetched they might be, including the wonderfully named named "nipple tackle".
Wednesday 18th July: 15:00
Much later than planned as I have been at the club with the other old farts getting the changing room area back up to scratch.
On the way home the news was breaking that Sam Warburton has announced his retirement from all rugby. In years gone by there would be a wailing and a hollering and slough of despair at such news. With the abundance of back row riches at Wales disposal right now we need not worry and can look back at Sam's career and say "what a player, what a servant to Welsh club and international rugby and what an ambassador for the game". His track record speaks for itself (which is well worth looking at). He feels his body is no longer able to match the standards required for today's game so has decided to put his long term health first. He was very quick to thank and praise Warren Gatland and his club Cardiff Blues. I can see him being snapped up by the new broadcaster of the Pro14 as one of their expert summarisers. Let us wish him good luck in his retirement.
Having spent Saturday at the RFU disciplinary conference talking about all things discipline I was left somewhat bemused by the findings announced with respect of Ed Quirk and Callum Timu. At this point I will state I have not read the full transcript so please accept my apologies if I get this bit wrong. In my mind both incidents, one a punch to the head and the other a shoulder to the head should under the new guidelines start at mid range of 6 weeks. The most discount you can receive is 50%, which I accept both players warranted, so how can their bans only be two weeks. That is not possible. As the Super Rugby season is finished and the international season down under hasn't started they will only miss low level club fixtures.
Talking of Super Rugby there are some tasty match-ups in the quarter finals. Hurricanes v Chiefs is my pick, but Warratahs v Highlanders could be a cracker. Lions v Jaquares and Crusaders v Sharks make up the fixtures. All are on SKY I believe. With the exception of the Highlanders playing in Sydney I go for the home team in all the other games.
I see the two Melbourne Rebels players: Mafi and Timani have been fined $15,000 (Aus) for the fight in Dunedin. Naturally they have had the gypsy's warning about their future behaviour.
The charismatic Mourad Boudjellal has been fined c.£65,000 and his club have a suspended 5 point deduction hanging over them. It follows a disciplinary hearing about the Toulon owners behaviour following a match against Benetton. A match in which the Big Basteraud was banned for three weeks after he verbally abused a Benetton player. Surprise, surprise Msr Boudjellal has said he's not paying and will contest the decision and sue for defamation. One to watch.
Ellis Genge is out until January. Another blow for King Eddie
The World 7s start in san Francisco this weekend. Come on Wales........ but the Blitz-Bokke will win.
Brexit remains a mess. The news that the EU have signed a free trade deal with Japan will have sent shock waves through the British camp. If it didn't it should have as this is a big deal for Britain. Honda and Nissan could move all their UK production out of the country at the drop of a hat.
Trump, another shambles and another shambolic performance. Once he finally had his head out from Putin's backside he realised the error of his ways and had to back track on what he said about the alleged Russian meddling in the US elections. Mrs Bleater asked a very sensible question: do the Russian's have something on Trump that he is desperate to keep quiet hence his fawning over Vlad the New Impaler.
Time to go as Le Tour is getting interesting.
Monday 16th July: 09:45
A fascinating few days up in Bedfordshire attending the RFU disciplinary conference. It was good to bond with the Sussex guys who are fellow panel members and to meet those from up and down England who sit in judgement in their counties. It was good to bump in to old acquaintances such as Richard Snowden, a Crowborough man now on the top tier of the RFU panel. I also got to reminisce about my brief spell playing for Trojans in Southampton.
The topics were interesting. Some mandatory such as GDPR and how disciplinary panels have to handle the data coming out of hearings. Some were of interest such as the range of offences and the how the patterns have changed over the years. Punching/striking to the head remains the biggest problem but there has been a huge increase in the number of dismissals as a result of two yellow cards. In the minds of many this is a problem because a) it sounded as if many of the offences were worthy of a straight red and b) the panels now have no leeway in "upgrading" a yellow to a red and therefore issuing a higher sanction. For example a punch to the head should be a red card with a mid range entry point. We looked at cases where two yellow cards were given for punching to the head but the sanction is only a one week ban. Much debate ensued.
The other much awaited topic was the thorny one of payment of players. Due to be introduced in September 19 the principle looks good and the way the process has been developed and the people who have had an input looks thorough. The final consultations and trial inputs are happening soon. For me there are three areas of concern. The first being who is going to police and what process will they follow to determine the level of punishment. That wasn't clear. There will still be clubs who will find a way around the new regulations but this will now need collusion between the main officials of a club. My biggest concern/gripe is the punishments are not strong enough to deter clubs going beyond the thresholds and yes they are thresholds and not caps. So a club can spend more and be "at risk" of punishment but the punishments are simply not incentive enough. Withdrawal of international tickets and full HMRC investigation should be key sanctions. In MY opinion.
There were lots of case studies to be reviewed in smaller groups. The differing views highlighted how difficult it is to make a judgement but generally the outcomes were within similar levels across the groups. This shows the process works.
Overall an excellent 36 hours, well managed, informative and good fun. Thank you the RFU and the top disciplinary team and as a Welshman for the free food and drink. It is oh so much sweeter when the English pay.
Haven't seen any Super Rugby but the quarter finals are now clear. More on this on Wednesday (grandson as usual tomorrow). Two things to mention. It is disappointing to read that Amanaki Mafi has been arrested following an altercation with teammate Lopeti Timani after their Rebels game against Highlanders in Dunedin. The Rebels loss meant they missed a playoff spot so this could have been a factor.
One of the case studies we looked at came from the Reds v Sunwolves game played on Friday. Sunwolves Ed Quirk was sent off for punching an opponent at the bottom of a ruck. Reds coach Brad thorn called it a "love tap" but by the letter of the law a punch to the head is a punch to the head. The group was very much divided because in 95% games without TV and TMO this would have gone unnoticed and as there was no fracas afterwards etc, etc this would indicate there was nothing in it. There is video of it on Twitter and on the SKY Sports website. If you look at it then you will also see Callum Timu diving on to the Sunwolves no.10 driving his shoulder into the opponents head. No arms and contact with the head as clear as day but only a yellow card. Do me a favour. For the record I thought the punch was a red. It looked deliberate, it was a closed fist and it made contact with the head.
Saracens and Wales Liam Williams has been in the news. He states Wales are more than worthy of being seen as RWC 2019 contenders. Not sure about that but...... He also asks the question many have been asking: why is Alex Goode being overlooked for England selection? No idea is my response.
As much as I would have liked to see Croatia triumph yesterday it is "well done France". What about that penalty decision. Views on a postcard. What about Macrons reaction. Priceless.
Trump meets his mate Putin today. One to watch.
That'll do for now as I must chase the wilder beasts who are going across the scorched earth known as my back lawn in search of water.
Friday 13th July: 14:00
Just a quick word as I'm off to a RFU disciplinary conference.
Donald Trump has been making waves. Having a go at Sadiq Kahn is not acceptable in my mind. Yes crime in London is awful and yes terrorism has been an issue but I believe Kahn is doing his best to protect Londoners from such acts. Trump has also had a go at the latest Brexit offering. Here I tend to agree with him. The closer we get to a very soft Brexit the further away we will get from a UK-US trade deal. That said what would a US-UK trade deal look like. I'd have a wild stab that all the cards would be stacked in favour of America, after all isn't that what Trump got elected on.
Trump meeting the Queen is an issue for me as he will use that to his advantage even whilst he is screwing us over. His immigration policy is somewhat draconian but isn't that the reason we got a "leave" result.
I am also not happy about some of the protests and protesters. Some of the banners I have seen are unacceptable and make us look a country of morons who can't spell and bad language is a way of life. Also some of the protesters are serial protesters who don't give a shit about anything. They'd rather we still lived in caves.
The biggest moron of the week however is Mike Boon, Operations Director for Southern Rail. The arrogant, ignorant and down right stupid idiot told people to get out of first class even though the train was packed. He then went on to take up two seats whilst hundreds of others had to stand in cramped and steamy conditions. Anyone who understood the mess Southern is in would have invited people to join him regardless of their ticket. Let us hope his bosses move his seat in the office to the local job centre.
No blog until Monday so Pratty in the USA you'll just have to watch CNN for the news.
Thursday 12th July: 10:00
I know this is a rugby club website but based on today's papers there is only one story in town, England are coming home........ empty handed again. The country is proud scream the headlines. The boys did well is the consensus. Lets give them a heroes welcome demand some.
Let me pour a little cold water on all that. England by geography is a small nation, by population is a large one. Arguably it has one of the best leagues in the world with some of biggest and best club teams in the world. It is the nations sport. England shouldn't be losing to Croatia on that basis. Why am I such a miserable bugger? They did well. Yes if you think 4th is great behind France, who will win it, Croatia and Belgium, who will beat England on Saturday.
Let me get to my point. England's international status is thwarted by a number of things. One the large number of players from overseas plying their trade in English football. I believe it does negatively affect our ability to compete whilst enhancing the quality of other nations football. Look at Belgium (and France) and the number of Premier League players in the starting line-up. I also believe the clubs are ambivalent towards the international game. Players far too often come back injured. Finally there are some top quality players who are not motivated by international football. The money and fame is closer to home.
Sound familiar? Grassroots rugby needs a strong and successful international side. It is the unions that fund the game and that money comes from international rugby.
By the way I DO think England did well and even if they now finish fourth it is a successful campaign, especially when you see what has happened to the likes of Germany, Brazil, Spain and Argentina.
Back to our game. The big rugby stories are around the final round of Super Rugby. Lots at stake with several clubs vying for a play-off spot and the all important home quarter-final. Chiefs v Hurricanes, Sharks v Jaquares and Highlanders v Rebels have the most riding on them. Sky Sports for the full update and they have most of the games on TV.
Peace and love is breaking out all over Wales. The WRU are tearing up their old agreement, which has worked well but was written at a time when the WRU and regions were at war. The Union and the four regions have agreed a new formula for funding and a much more cooperative approach to marketing, sponsorship and other commercial activities. The regions will get more money based on results and will start the season on a sounder financial footing. Like the English game the regions are mired in debt but this has been resolved by benefactors writing off loans and/or turning debt into shares. Some of the restrictions placed on the unions have been removed but crucially squad make up in terms of home grown talent vs overseas players remains. I can only see this as being a good move for the game in Wales......... as long as the decline in the grassroots game is arrested.
The tennis continues apace. Not watched too much of it this year but what I have seen has been ok with the odd jewel. Le Tour is off and running. Froome is in much to the annoyance of the French. The T20 Blast is on. Always a good diversion.
Well, well, well. The RMT called off their strike at the last minute, much to the relief of millions. It would be difficult for the RMT to go on strike when a (large) number of their members phoned in sick yesterday causing absolute chaos for those wishing to get home for the football. Hey ho.
The orange man arrives in Britain today to meet the office junior now allegedly running the country. He certainly set the cat amongst the pigeons by telling Germany they were in the pocket of the Russians. Where else can the Germans get their oil and gas from? Let me guess. The United States. He has also told Nato to up their spending on defence to 4% from 2%. Not going to happen when only 6 countries spend 2% and have MUCH more important priorities to worry about such as health and law & order.
By the way I disagree with Sadiq Kahn's approval to fly an insulting blimp above London. Whatever we think of Trump and for me personally that isn't much he is the leader of the mightiest country on this planet.
Brexit............ what is the next comedy act stepping forward in this farce.
Ryanair pilots go on strike today. Obviously the airline treats its pilots in the same way it treats it customers, with total contempt.
Wednesday 11th July: 09:30
It was a miracle and a happy one at that. Twelve boys and their football coach rescued from deep inside a Thai cave. It was an audacious rescue plan that thankfully came off. Rescued by people putting their own lives at risk rather than what is the norm in today's society which is "me, me, me" and nothing else. The boys have a long recovery ahead of them, especially mentally but they are alive. I cheered when I heard the news and inwardly I am cheering now.
So it is Wayne Pivac to replace Warren Gatland as Welsh coach after RWC2019. It was the obvious choice. In fact the only choice. He has done great things at the Scarlets and brought flair and fifteen man rugby back into the game ahead of brute strength. He has encouraged risk taking over conservatism (now there is a topic to discuss; conservatism). With the bulk of the current squad coming from the Scarlets he can look forward with confidence.
What happens after RWC2019 to Gatland's team. Unfortunately Shaun Edwards will have left already. The Wales defensive mastermind much in demand has been given the green light to leave if a suitable approach arrives. Gatland knows how good Edwards is so would be foolish to stand in his way. For the others; Howley, McBride and Jenkins, who knows.
The way this has been handled makes good sense. There is a long transition period in which Wales can be confident they have the right man for the future whilst Scarlets have time to find a suitable replacement. The only ponderable is what happens to Stephen Jones, undoubtedly a key player in Pivac's success. Time will tell.
After the furore of the crap hotel Zimbabwe lose to Tunisia and are now likely to crash out of the Africa group of elite nations.
Elsewhere I hear on the grapevine there is soccer happening tonight. Little publicised I think so you might want to know England play Croatia kicking off at 19:00. I am sure you'll find somewhere to watch it. Actually it is massive if you believe the front pages of most of the papers. It is great England are doing well. Its been a long time coming. Good time to shop, travel, and generally enjoy the outdoors. England will be closed from around 18:45 until say 22:30.
Well done France beating Belgium to reach Sunday's final. Belgium failed to live up to expectations and lacked the speed and flair of the French. I thought I was watching a Premier League "All Stars" game at one point. English rugby take note but I guess some might argue that it is helping English soccer to improve as those players who can get into a Premier League club must be really good.
Still far too may outtakes from "Platoon" with players falling as if they had been hit by an elephant gun.
I'll be watching. Come on England.
What a magnificent display from the Royal Air Force yesterday. A day we could all be proud of. Brave men and women willing to wear the uniform for their country. The fly past was magnificent. I had seen the static display in Horseguards Parade last week and it was very impressive. I am honoured to say that my son-in-law has flown in a fly past over Buckingham Palace in a F4 Phantom, a photo of which adorns the wall of his home office.
Donald Trump is putting America first again and this time with regard to Nato. He has not been slow in telling Europe he is no longer willing to be Europe's guardian angel whilst being "screwed over" in terms of trade and access to European markets. Britain deliver against their obligation but most other states fall short, a long way short in fact. I can see his point. Surprise, surprise France and Germany, Europe's biggest voice pieces are in the latter category. This will be interesting to watch.
Trump then flies to the UK to meet Theresa May. It's a bit like the CEO of the biggest company in the world meeting with the person who empties the bins. Someone with immense power meeting someone with none. He does go on to meet the Queen. Our wonderful Queen who could well be dispatched like the Romanovs once Comrade Corbynov gets into power, which terrifyingly is looking more likely.
Boris the clown Johnson resigns to be replaced by Jeremy Hunt. The buffoon is dead long live the weasel. Brexit, what a shambles. Maria Caulfield resigns. A "leaver" whose constituents voted quite clearly to remain. So Caulfield who is the master of the soundbite when it comes to Southern Rail has stuck two fingers up to the people who helped her into a position where she could enjoy a lavish MPs salary. Better to look after yourself Maria than your constituents..... NOT!
The RMT will bring the Piccadilly Line to a standstill tonight as they go on strike again. There are times when striking is the only option but the reasons for this one are vague at best and downright non existent at worst. You hard working office juniors, shopworkers, nurses, postmen, and all you others who will be screwed by the RMT get used to it because once we become the People's Republic of Lesser Britain strikes will be the norm.
Monday 9th July: 09:00
Has common sense gone out of our game and is player safety one step too close to "wrapping players in cotton wool". Saturday saw Sunwolves Samesi Masirewa red carded for a dangerous tackle on Bernard Foley. It is a tough one to argue as by the letter of the law it is a red card but in reality it was clumsy and unfortunate. It was not a deliberate act so you could say that a degree of leniency should have been applied. On the other hand laws are laws and player safety is important. I am torn but feel World Rugby have to act now before the game becomes too soft and long suffering supporters of the game switch off.
By the way they can look at the TMO system at the same time. I think it is getting to the point where TMOs are acting like unseen gods perched high on the mountain overseeing the game. The man in the middle should be the sole arbiter of fact using the TMO only in certain clearly defined areas and then the benefit of doubt should go to the attacking side.
England win the Exeter 7s, a pre-cursor to the World 7s in San Fransisco in two weeks time.
Scarlets Wayne Pivac is being touted as the next Welsh Head Coach when Warren Gatland stands down after RWC 2019 in Japan. The only sensible choice me thinks. Outside Leo Cullen and his coaching team Pivac has been by far and away the leading coach in Europe and knows the Welsh players and game intimately.
Interesting story coming out of Wales is lock Rory Thornton going from Ospreys to Cardiff Blues ON LOAN. Thornton is a very promising 23 year old with Welsh experience but is down the pecking order at Ospreys and needs game time to enhance his Welsh prospects. The loan aspect is interesting as it gives the Ospreys the opportunity of recalling the player at the end of the season without complicated contractual issues whilst reducing player costs for this season. Costs being a major issue for the Welsh regions in total.
I know how hard Drew Pratt and "Damper" Sayer work on our pitches so my heart goes out to Vardre RFC who have had one of their pitches destroyed by arsonists. Outrageous.
The big sporting story of the week was England's excellent win over Sweden on Saturday. Not the most exciting game ever but gripping because of the importance. England looked assured and worthy of their two goal victory. Is it "coming home" or will Croatia be too street wise and creative and thwart England at the penultimate hurdle? We will know by 22:30 on Wednesday evening.
Lewis Hamilton put in one of his best drives yet to come in second at Silverstone yesterday. Taken out on the first lap to find himself dead last made it a Herculean challenge, one to which he rose to. Well done sir.
Much in the news to ponder. Brexit is at the abyss with David Davies resigning. The country is in a shambolic state and will shortly implode. The alternatives worry me greatly. Is it time to leave for Antartica me thinks.
Put all the sport and all the news to one side for a few moments. In your own way and to whichever higher being you believe in let us hope and pray for a successful outcome to the rescuse mission going on in Thailand right now. Some of the young boys are safe. It would be marvellous and miraculous if they all made it.
Back on Wednesday.
Saturday 7th July: 10:30
One week, two AGMs. Wow, I must be a masochist. No, just a supporter of Sussex and Crowborough Rugby. The county have grasped the nettle realising that the game is not in the best shape and times have changed. Things need to be done differently if Sussex rugby is to return to growth. Under the leadership of Gary Henderson this is happening.
Closer to home Crowborough under the leadership of Alex Hunn and his Exec team is doing well thanks to the great job they do. I applaud them. It is tough getting teams out and based on the demographics of Crowborough we punch way above our weight. It is not arrogant to say we lead the way in many aspects of running a club and this is why the RFU have been excellent in supporting us. Off the field business is good. It could always be better but again thanks to the firm grip Peter Johnstone has on the financial tiller the club is in good shape.
The most important aspect of last night was the membership voted in favour of having an AGP. There are many hurdles to overcome but we are a massive step closer to having this fantastic asset.
The Super Rugby is on as I type but the story that has caught my eye is the fact that Top 14 in France will now allow twelve, yes twelve substitutions in a game. There will still be only eight subs on the bench but they can rotate on and off the field a total of twelve times. Previously a replaced player could only return to the field to cover for a HIA, blood or if a front row forward is off the field with a yellow card. Players who have left the field injured cannot return.
Many commentators have said the high number of changes in a game is contributing to injuries. The French are flying in the face of this view. I for one believe we should reduce the number of subs used in the game. I agree with Brian Moore (writing in the Daily Telegraph) who believes players are accentuating their power and size in the knowledge they only need to play say 60 minutes not 80. He also believes that those players forced to play the entire game are being put at risk as they tire at the hands of high impact players coming on fresh and pumped knowing they only have 20 minutes to prove themselves.
The other initiative is to enhance the power of the referee in relation to head injuries. Referees will have a blue card which will send a player off the field for a compulsory HIA. This is a risk as referees are not qualified medics and it adds yet another complexity to his already complex task. On balance I think this is a good initiative.
Pro14 TV coverage moving to Premier Sports is being finalised. I remain dubious about whether, other than money, this is a good move. There will be one "free to air" game each week and S4C are in discussion about one additional "free to air" game. Meanwhile the BBC in Wales are contemplating showing Welsh Premiership rugby. Not sure the demand for this will be great as the standard is pretty ordinary at best.
The Gallagher Premiership fixtures are out. Bristol v Bath is a VERY tasty opener on Friday 31st August. Newcastle v Saracens on Sunday looks a cracker too.
Worcester sign Zimbabwe prop Farai Mudariki. Worcester who are massively in debt looking for new backers have made 11 signings for next season. From what I can tell most, if not all are overseas players. I genuinely fear for the English game if this state of affairs is allowed to continue. The clubs want their players all of the time and international rugby is a distraction. Having a large overseas contingent removes the problem of