Thursday 5th Sept: 08:30
Can you believe there is just 15 more days before RWC 2019 kicks off. Not everyone is as excited as me about the prospect but many who follow our game are. It also comes at a time when many in this great country of ours need a break from British politics and fffffnnnnn Brexit.
Let me brighten the mood. The photo is of my good friend Gordon and regular reader of this nonsense with his lovely wife at Twickenham. As you may recall he won a competition which meant he was driven to Twickenham in a Mitsubishi leading the team coach into the ground followed by a very full hospitality package ahead of England hammering Ireland. Great stuff.
Is the England camp being truthful about the inclusion of Joe Marchant for tomorrow's game. Are the injuries to Henry Slade and Jonathan Joseph more serious than we are led to believe. Whilst they say Slade has been training hard he won't actually be seen until the tournament begins. The inclusion of Charlie Ewells and Matt Kvesic who are also not in the 31 man squad is either an inspired decision or a worrying development with regard to the fitness of the team. Me, I think he is right to give players who could well be called up at short notice a game or two and to protect key players from the risk of injury before Japan 2019 starts.
There is no news on either Wales or Ireland's selections for Saturday but I would hope Warren Gatland would follow Jones' example. I doubt it though as rumours would indicate he will pick a strong team.
The Ashes was stop start yesterday not that I watched any of it. Way too many other things to do I'm afraid. From what I've read England were poor and one Steve Smith is proving to be England's nemesis again.
Big day at the club tomorrow. What? The Friday Club are having a pre-season barbecue. Hope they've got their thermals and hot chocolate ready. The forecast is for it not to be barbecue weather but as we know only too well that a weather forecast is just pure guess work.
We cannot dismiss climate change and cannot ignore the power of the weather when you see the devastation Hurricane Dorian has reaped on The Bahamas and is about to unleash on the eastern seaboard of southern USA. Houses and buildings can be rebuilt so it is the loss of life that is the more upsetting. One life lost is bad but we are now into double figures which is really awful.
There is only one story in the papers and that is yesterday's shenanigans in parliament, that is except in the Daily Star where the headline is "My giant boobs nearly killed my baby". Brexit what Brexit?
So parliament have removed Boris's ability to re-negotiate a deal with the EU. Isn't it bizarre that people are saying we are honouring the referendum when they are actually binding us to Europe rather than severing the ties. Then you have Comrade Corbynov who has been like a well worn record with regard to a general election but when it came to the crunch he chickened out (as very graphically shown on the front page of The Sun).
It is madness epitomised by Labour MPs asking that the much maligned Theresa Maybe's withdrawal bill being brought back in front of the House. What! You hypocritical bunch of morons. We wouldn't be in this ffffnnnnn mess if you had voted for it the first time around.
It is not a fair comparison as in 1934 many people were summarily executed but what happened yesterday with hard working and loyal Conservative MPs having the whip removed was akin to the "night of the long knives" when Hitler removed those in his party who were deemed a threat to his power.
If we need to get rid of anyone it is Dominic Cummings. An unelected devious mover and shaker who is holding Boris by the balls and guiding us down a path which will end in disaster and could actually spectacularly fail allowing a Marxist government into power. (Wow that was a long sentence). Yeah do tell me to shut up on that subject but if it were to happen and what I foresee comes to pass do not then object to hour after hour of "I told you so!"
As I type an even more dangerous man: John McDonnell is on the TV. You think the country is in a state now. You just wait. It is fascinating to watch. Three questions down and not a straight or honest answer. This is what is wrong with British politics: bullshit, lies and self interest.
Must go, I have a letter to write to Wee Jimmie Sturgeon. I need to understand when she is bringing her comedy show back on the road but also what Scottish independence really means, not just the sugar coated view through the rose coloured glasses.
Wednesday 4th Sept: 10:00
Unlike normal first days back at school where after a miserable summer the sun makes an appearance today it is hammering it down right now. Not only are we counting down to the World Cup in Japan we are counting down to winter and after yesterday's parliamentary debates we could also be heading for the abyss. Nice thoughts hey?
Unlike Harry Potter who is a figment of JK Rowling's amazing imagination Ruaridh McConnochie does exist. He is flesh and blood despite rumours to the contrary and he will make an appearance in Newcastle this coming Friday night. He will make his long awaited England debut. Having been selected in the squad lets hope he doesn't fluff his lines.
King Eddie has selected a reasonably strong side to face Italy. Farrell moves back into his more accustomed #10 role and will be partnered by Ben Youngs. A number of the hacks have picked up on the fact Joe Marchant starts in the centre alongside Piers Francis. Marchant of course is not in the 31 man squad set to fly out on Sept 8th. Henry Slade remains on the injured list alongside other doubtfuls Mako Vunipola and Jack Nowell. Some of Jones' big guns such as Maro Itoje and Johnny May get a complete rest whilst Billy Vunipola is again in the starting line-up. England should be too strong for Italy and hopefully will give the Newcastle supporters something to cheer about and England a positive send off to Japan.
Looking at the team selected it reinforces my view that England is man for man the best squad in the tournament. It doesn't make them the best team and that is King Eddie's challenge.
Gregor Townsend has made his final selection and there are a couple of surprises. Picking Stuart McInally ahead of John Barclay and Greig Laidlaw was one. For me the biggest surprise, or even shock is the omission of Huw Jones. He has been a key player in recent games and has that wow factor so needed in big tournaments. Unless you assiduously follow the Pro14 many of the names in the squad will be a mystery to you but to my untrained eye it looks well balanced with a good blend of experience: Sean Maitland and youth: Adam Hastings. You should definitely have Ireland v Scotland down as your curtain raiser to England's game v Tonga.
Wales nor Ireland have announced their teams for Saturday's final warm-up game.
The Ashes continues today in Manchester. If it is raining up there as it is here then expect to be watching lots of re-runs of previous games.
Many of you who read this guff are old enough to remember the Brian Rix farces on TV. You will also have been to the pantomime at some stage in your venerable lives. Yesterday was very much like both these classics rolled into one.
"He's behind you" they cry as Dr Phillip Lee crosses the floor to join the Lib Dems.
The Pantomime villain Dominic Cummings is nowhere to be seen rumoured to be canoodling up to his girlfriend whilst the mayhem ensues.
"Oh yes it is", "Oh no it isn't", "Oh yes it is", "Oh no it isn't" they shout at each other when arguing about hypocrisy. The hypocrisy of those now in power expelling rebels from the party when they previously had voted on many occasions against their own party and their leaders.
"Mummy I want a general election", "Mummy I want a general election", "Mummy I want a general election"
"Oh for heavens sake Jeremy give it a rest. Here is your damn general election"
"I don't want it now, so there" says Jeremy
Don't get me started on Wee Jimmie Sturgeon and the SNP my stress levels are already at breaking point.
Time for aroma therapy and a calming cup of herbal tea.
Tuesday 3rd Sept: 10:00
Joe Schmidt brought forward his squad announcement to yesterday and the big headline, "big" being the operable word, is the exclusion of Devin Toner. The big Leinster man's form has been sketchy of late and he has only been playing a bit part in recent internationals. South African Jean Kleyn who only qualified for Ireland just before the warm up games commenced (GROAN!!) has been selected ahead Toner.
Will Addison didn't make the cut nor did Kieran Marmion. Jack Carty has been selected and I can see him being the starting outside half. If fit Sexton will start against Scotland but I can see him then being kept back for the quarter finals.
This is a very settled squad and putting the recent blip against England aside I can see them going a long way in the tournament. Much will depend on Connor Murray and Sexton and keeping some of the older legs moving as the competition progresses. Compared to Wales on a man to man basis this is a stronger squad but not quite as good as England me thinks.
Eddie Jones is not usually a gambler but I think he is taking one as it is confirmed Jack Nowell will be on the plane to Japan despite question marks about his recovery from injury and being struck down by appendicitis. Nowell has been one of Jones talisman so let us hope the gamble pays off.
France have announced their squad and the evergreen Louis Picamoles is included. The big Bastereaud is as expected missing from the 31 man party. It is a squad of youth and promise and a couple of old heads like Picamoles. Jaques Brunel seems to have moved away from picking leviathans to having a more balanced squad with plenty of ball handlers in the backs and forwards.
My good friend Paddy O'Fez will be watching the news intently as the Saracens "salary cap storm" (Daily Mail) is passed onto an independent panel. This is seen as an escalation of the investigation into wrong doing. Having spoken to a couple of people involved at the top of our game it is clear there is frustration about this whole affair: frustration it is taking so long to resolve but interestingly not so much about what Saracens and Nigel Wray are alleged to have done. Clubs just want clarity so that either the rules are tightened further or other clubs will simply follow Saracens example.
Sean Edwards could be on his way to join France post the World Cup. Scare Bleu. Having allegedly reneged / turned his back on a deal with Wigan this move to France seems more of a done deal now than a scurrilous rumour.
Japan RWC2019 is getting ever closer. Hoorah. Many see Japan as being at the forefront of technology and brilliant organisers with a can do attitude. Well let me tell you as part of our tour information we have been advised that WiFi in Japan is hit and miss and even in the hotel can be very patchy in terms of availability and reliability. Closer to the game itself questions have been asked about the state of the Yokohama Stadium pitch. This stadium not only will host the final but both semi finals and four pool games. The pitch was recently re-laid and is definitely of concern to the hosts and the teams due to play there. First up is the massive clash between the All Blacks and Boks on Sat 21st September. By the way I won't see that one as I'll be 40,000ft above Russia en route to the land of the rising sun.
I thought the English were whingers but boy those Aussies are right up there. Justin Langer: "The Ashes were stolen from us". If your selfish bowlers hadn't been so eager to claim for an lbw that was clearly missing then you would have kept your review intact. I guess that means when Stokes was plumb lbw and you couldn't review that might just be down to your team's ineptitude. Have a nice day!
There has been some great TV recently: Chernobyl and Looming Tower were outstanding. One of my favourites Only Connect returned last night and you have to marvel at the skills of the guys and gals in The Repair Shop. I thoroughly enjoyed the docudrama about the The Rise of Hitler on BBC2 last night. What stunned me was as you listened to the dialogue and read the transcripts of newspaper articles and listened to the rhetoric of the politicians including Hitler himself you could have easily cast Boris the Buffoon, Comrade Corbynov or Donald the Big Orange into anyone of the characters portrayed. The duplicity, the lies, the subterfuge, the sheer audacity and ruthlessness of the politicians was terrifying. I was left wondering where our current society is heading if our politicians are following the same path as some of the worst "leaders" in history. The next few days will tell. By the way if you don't believe me then go onto iPlayer and watch it for yourself.
Monday 2nd Sept: 09:30
Managed to find the Georgia v Scotland game on the TV last night so in the absence of anything better to watch that was my evening's viewing. As per the reports Scotland played well. They played at pace with imagination wide out and dynamism up front. Yes there were still plenty of basic mistakes but they looked a side with ambition to do well in Japan.
Georgia were not as bad as the reports might have suggested. They certainly are an enormous side but lacking finesse. They have real pace out wide but getting the ball to the wing proved problematical. All too often the passing was laboured meaning the pace men had two and three defenders halting their progress.
First up for the Georgians is Wales and based on Wales poor showing in the scrum the Georgians could find themselves having a steady supply of ball with Wales under the cosh. Time will tell.
If I was Gregor Townsend I would be ordering tons of cotton wool right now with the plan of wrapping Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw, Hamish Watson and John Barclay in it until just before the clash with Ireland. These four guys are the glue that keeps the team together. Lose any one of them and Scotland will suffer.
Nine Welsh players were disappointed yesterday after failing to make the 31 man squad for the trip to the land of the rising sun. Rob Evans and Samson Lee will feel very disappointed. Young Rhys Carre is the surprise inclusion in my mind. Yes he has been on song for Cardiff and his performance has prompted Saracens to snap him up but he is still very inexperienced, and the World Cup is a place where experience is important. Warren Gatland has taken a risk with the inclusion of Cory Hill. Hill has a minor leg fracture meaning he will miss the Georgia game but should be available for the match up with the Wallabies. I worry about the "should be" element of that statement. In terms of the rest of the squad I would have taken Scott Williams instead of Owen Watkin and possibly Jonah Holmes instead of Hallam Amos.
Is this Welsh squad good enough to win the World Cup. Man for man there are better squads out there but it is the sum of the parts that make this squad one that could surprise and go all the way to the final. Yet again only time will tell.
As I type I feel guilty that I haven't got any news on how our boys have been playing in their pre-season friendlies. I would normally be all over that but due to being away and the need to catch up I have nothing........ SORRY!!
Caught some of the F1 from Belgium. Still a bit processional but some exciting bits.
I had a reasonable weekend with my fantasy football. Now up to 8th from 14th and plumb last.
The NFL returns next weekend. Go Saints.
It is 80 years since the Nazis invaded Poland, an act that sparked six years of horror and global devastation. We must never forget the atrocities nor the duplicity and deviousness that brought Hitler to power. A man who craved power and through his brutal acolytes was able to rule with an iron fist but a rule that brought misery and death to tens of millions. Whilst on the opposing side Stalin also ruled with an iron fist and many Russians lost their lives during the Great Patriotic War, many, many of them at the hand of their own countrymen urged on by the ranting of Stalin.
The comparison I am about to make will be offensive to some but I see Boris the Buffoon with his henchmen ruling Downing Street and beyond like a megalomaniac of yesteryear. There on the other side is Corbynov who claims to be fighting for peace and unity doing exactly the opposite with his equivalent of the KGB: Momentum purging from the party anyone who speaks out of turn and encouraging civil unrest. Thankfully this fight will not end in bloodshed but there will be carnage whichever way the dice land.
This week will be momentous starting today in advance of Parliament reconvening tomorrow. What I find so difficult to understand is the ignorance of the people. The lack of comprehension about the EU. Take Bridgnorth, a very white Anglo Saxon Middle England market town. A beautiful town with a great history not blighted by the negatives of immigration, only benefitting. As you walk around the town there is plenty of evidence of improvements to walkways, heritage sights, basic amenities thanks to investment from, yes you guessed it, the EU. The same is true in Telford and Shrewsbury the big towns in the county of Shropshire. The amazing NHS hospitals in Telford, Shrewsbury and Bridgnorth are full of doctors and nurses and care assistants and cleaners from Europe and beyond. They do a brilliant job. This is just one example but there are many others so it beggars belief that Shropshire voted "leave". It is a short sighted, jingoist view based on being swayed by lies, exaggerations and falsehoods.
That's my opinion so there!!
Anyway, the country voted "leave" so lets get on with it. I would rather suffer from the consequences of "leave" than the consequences of a Marxist Corbynov led government. Yeah this is a rugby club website but many, many members who work hard so their families can enjoy a comfortable lifestyle will be in the firing line of John McDonnel and his extreme Marxist policies. I just hope none of you have are in the property rental game.
Have a nice day. "Mrs Bleater! Where are those emigration forms?"
Sunday 1st Sept: 09:45
As expected I didn't make it to the club yesterday afternoon to watch the boys against East Grinstead. Shame because win or lose it would have been a better game than Wales v Ireland.
As an audition many fluffed their lines and when the show opens in 20 days time they won't be in the cast. Ireland started much the better obviously stung by last week's woeful performance. Wales were edgy and afraid of making mistakes which actually led to many basic errors. Jacob Stockdale redeemed himself seizing on an Aaron Shingler mistake after having been on the end of a mazy run by Andrew Conway for his first try.
Jack Carty did his chances no harm with a man of the match performance. The same couldn't be said of Jarod Evans who fluffed his lines. Rhys Patchell on the other hand came through his audition with flying colours. There is a case for him to start and Dan Biggar to be used as the impact outside-half when a calm head is required. Hallom Amos for Wales and young Addison for Ireland also made good impressions.
Despite this being very much a scratch Wales side there is no excuse for some of the first half defending and poor handling skills, something Wales have prided themselves on in the past. In addition the performance made a mockery of the world rankings. Wales at No.1, do me a favour!
The second half saw a raft of changes and the tongue lashing from Gatland obviously made a difference. Wales were much better and showed glimpses of the quality that brought them the Grand Slam. The scrum however was shambolic and that will be a worry. Ireland will be the more satisfied side but in turn this makes Joe Schmidt's squad selection more difficult as a number of fringe players put their hands up. Gatland will have the easier task in that outside Rhys Patchell, Scott Williams and possibly Hallom Amos were the only ones who might find themselves on the plane. We'll know later today.
Cory Hill might be one who doesn't make it due to a leg fracture.
Scotland got their show back on the road with a five try win over Georgia. Georgia, Wales first opponent, were disappointing according to the reports I have read. In the same reports it seems that Scotland rediscovered the mojo they showed in the second half against England during the 6 nations.
In other sport Leicester City continue their fine start to the season. The Belgian Grand Prix should be fun BUT this will be against the backdrop of the tragic death of Anthoine Hubert during yesterday's F2 race. The US tennis open continues but you'll struggle to find any TV coverage of it.
Have you noticed how we have moved from being a law abiding democracy to a lawless dictatorship. You have a Prime Minister shutting down Parliament to silence his critics. You have an aide to the PM who is removing from office anyone who even hints at dissent. You have a leader of the opposition encouraging civil unrest to disrupt the day to day lives of decent hardworking people. Beware of Dominic Cummings "reign of terror" (The Observer) and Momentum's insidious actions and ability to influence Comrade Corbynov.
By the way I got most of my admin done. Do you realise how complex it is to take medicines into Japan. Form after form after form to be submitted.
Saturday 31st August: 07:30
It is great to be home for a while and even better to be at Friday Club yesterday. It has been several weeks since I was at the club so was blown away by the condition of the grounds. The A pitch was looking magnificent and I am sure the players who run out on it today when we host our good friends from East Grinstead in another pre-season warm up game will do it justice. Kick off 2pm.
The rest of the place was also in great condition so when the minis and juniors kick their season off they will not only have great facilities but excellent pitches to train and play on.
Sadly I won't make the club this afternoon as yet again I have much personal stuff to catch up on but having to be at home does leave me free to watch Wales v Ireland in the final game before Warren Gatland announces his World Cup squad.
The teams selected by both sides make this very much a final audition. Wales have two players who will make their international debut: Owen Lane and Rhys Carre and plenty like Jarrod Evans and Aaron Shingler and Scott Williams hoping to impress enough to secure their place on the plane to Japan. This is very much a second string side but it is still packed with experience. The evergreen Bradley Davies links up with the continually improving Adam Beard. Samson Lee will lead from the front and Josh Nividi is an excellent choice as captain.
There will be a number in the Irish side who will want to make a mark. The versatile Will Addison starts at full back after a long injury lay off. He is one of eleven changes from last weeks embarrassing showing against England. Some of the inclusions such as Tadgh Beirne and Jack Conan are to replace players who failed to impress last week but for others it is about showing what they can do to justify a place in the final 31 man squad. Half backs Jack Carty and Kieran Marmion are two such players with much to gain from a strong performance this afternoon.
It should be a good game and a fitting one for Warren Gatland's last home game as Wales Head Coach. Gatland has taken a swipe at World Rugby's Agustin Pichot who has suggested it is wrong for Wales to assume top spot in the world rankings. Surely it is World Rugby that determines who is No.1 so Pichot is criticising his own organisation. I am not sure Gatland is remotely bothered about being No.1 as his goal is World Cup glory.
Will Mako Vunipola make it to the World Cup. He is missing the Italy game next Friday so as to speed up his recovery from a torn hamstring. It is touch and go whether he will make it. Likewise it is looking increasingly likely Jack Nowell will be at home in Exeter watching the World Cup on ITV rather than starring in it. All indications are his recovery is progressing less quickly than hoped.
France cruised past Italy last night reinforcing the threat they pose to England.
Will Scotland come back from Georgia with a win. Scotland's record away from home is pretty poor and Tiblisi is a difficult place to get to making preparation harder. Wales will have one eye on this game as Georgia is their opening pool game.
The TMOs at the World Cup have been given an additional challenge. All red cards for high tackles and shoulder charges will have to be verified by the TMO. This is a sensible safety net for the referees. No-one wants to see red cards but if they are shown then it is only right that the decision is the correct one. The new framework for assessing red cards for high tackles and shoulder charges is clear so it should remove the opportunity for controversy. Scott Barrett was rightly sent off and anyone who says differently has not read the new framework.
Aphiwe Dyantyi faces a four year ban for doping. Good. Players are big enough without the need for performance enhancing drugs. Let's keep rugby clean.
Israel Folau is claiming his sacking is a restraint of trade. No! No! No! He was sacked for breaching Rugby Australia's code of conduct which is a contractual obligation.
That'll do for now but remember F1 returns this week. Yes the kids go back to school so get ready for the mayhem that is the school run.
Before I go a few words on Brexit......... "shambles", "duplicity", "bullshit".
Back tomorrow with whatever takes my fancy.
Wednesday 28th August: 09:45
What a better way to start your day than clearing up your granddaughter's projectile vomit. Yep, the joys of grandparenting.
Back to my PC, a cold coffee and thankfully the lingering smell of .......... Dettol.
Steve Hansen has named his 31 man squad for Japan 2019. The big name omission is Owen Franks. 108 caps for his country and two World Cups under his belt but sadly for him the third was one too far in the mind of Hansen. 24 year old Atu Moli from Waikato Chiefs replaces him. The two others of note who are missing out are Liam Squire and Ngani Laumape. Interestingly Brodie Retallick is included despite him still to recover from injury. Despite recent form it is a powerful looking squad with strong indications that Hansen will persevere with Beauden Barrett at full-back and Richie Mo'unga at outside-half.
The All Black faithful are up in arms about where they will be able to watch the games. NZRFU have done a deal with little known internet provider Spark Sport. The games will be screened live over the internet for a one off fee of $80NZ. That is all well and good if you live near one of the big conurbations but for many internet connection is sketchy at best. Not only that even if you have a good connection the picture quality is poor. Here is a classic "shoot yourself in the foot" for the sake of the money. The NZRFU will be happy to rake in the cash. Spark Sport's bean counters are expecting a decent payback. The big losers are the fans, the very people already leaving the sport despite the years of success of the All Blacks. Blinded to reality by the lure of cash. It always ends in disaster. Just look at Bury and Bolton Wanderers FC.
SKY New Zealand a pay-to-view channel is the well established provider of rugby in the country. Shame they couldn't keep the coverage. Thankfully here in the UK we have the opposite. Pretty much all rugby is now on pay-to-view TV which I think is one of the (minor) reasons the game is suffering. RWC 2019 will be on free to air ITV. They have done a pretty decent job thus far and I expect that will continue. The important fact is it is FREE to ALL and will bring a new audience especially if the home countries do well.
Wales host Ireland on Saturday. More on this when I get team news. It is expected that Wales will be much changed and led by Josh Navidi.
Scotland suffer a blow as Sam Skinner withdraws due a hamstring injury. Richie Gray has ruled himself out of selection due to his suspect fitness and his wife being a long way into her pregnancy.
Comrade Corbynov is rallying the troops to block Brexit. Even to me a keen "remainer" this seems somewhat undemocratic. This at the same time the Buffoon and his government will ask the Queen to suspend Parliament immediately after they return from the summer break and just weeks before October 31st. This is a bold plan and smacks of dictatorship rather than democracy. Basically we are damned if we do, damned if we don't.
I am getting fed up with the constant sniping at the NHS. Yes they have faced way too many cuts and the staff are under immense pressure. Yes there are things that could be improved but please let us hear more from the 85%+ of people who get amazing service from start to finish and less of the whingeing from those who, often for their own gain, complain. Right now my mother is in hospital and has been for some weeks. I have nothing but praise for everything that has been done for her, how it has been handled and the expected outcome. Having witnessed the pressure staff are under in acute medical wards first hand we need to stop beating these hard working dedicated people with sticks and shower them with thanks and praise.
Yes there are people on beds in corridors but that is because there are too many bed blockers in the system, there are too many people using A&E as a drop for minor ailments that could be dealt with by a pharmacist let alone a doctor and there are way too many who clog the system with self inflicted problems like heavy drinking, smoking and drug abuse, plus there are also a number who are not entitled to free NHS care from overseas who are causing a log jam in the system for those who deserve and have paid for it.
The demand on the NHS is extraordinary and putting great strain on the system. Perhaps a radical solution might be to reduce demand rather than constantly trying to meet it. Yes I do mean charging for some services and heavy financial penalties for self-inflicted problems such as being hammered due to alcohol abuse.
Off to Bridgnorth later today so back to the internet free zone of my mother's house. A good excuse to go to the Black Horse me thinks. They are connected.
Tuesday 27th August: 09:00
Who wants to travel on a Bank Holiday Monday when the sun is beating down and all of humanity is heading to the beach, or the festival, or the fete? Well actually we did. Leaving Crowborough a tad after 1pm and arriving in Salisbury just before 3:30pm. Everyone was exactly where you wanted them to be and that was not on the road so we sailed through. An inspired decision.
Anyway less of that nonsense what about sport. In his SKY column Stuart Barnes makes many of the same comments I have already made about Saturday's international, including praise for Nigel Owens. He ends with an interesting perspective on how Owens backs himself and only goes to the TMO when he is genuinely unsure. Yes he makes mistakes but generally he gets it right and backing his own judgement means the game flows. So to cricket and the point here being Ben Stokes was out, no question, as plumb as you like. Did the umpire's finger go up? No! Did the Australians ask for a review? No, because they had used them up. Stokes stayed in and the rest was history. The point being technology is great in cricket but it is filling umpires with dread in case they are proved wrong which is happening more and more. So to rugby and "the pressure exerted by technology is as much a threat as an opportunity for sport [rugby]" SB.
Many, including the great Bryan Habana are saying this is the tightest ever World Cup to call. He is not wrong. The All Blacks are stuttering, Wales are No.1 and hard to beat, England have showed what they can do when they are on song, the Boks are on a roll and must be in with a shout and you never ignore Australia or France when the tournament starts. It's a nice piece by Habana also from Sky Sports website.
One man not going to Japan is Will Skelton as he signs an extension to his Sarries deal. What came first the deal with Saracens or the 31 man squad announcement by Cheika. Who knows but Skelton is not going.
Eben Etzebeth is Japan bound despite being mired in allegations of being involved in a fight in a bar and again outside at a popular beach resort. He strenuously denies the allegations. Rassie Erasmus has named an impressive squad including three scrum halves. Sensible me thinks!!! The squad will be led by Siya Kolisi and is a blend of experience and youth. Sale will be delighted and disappointed in equal measures that their recent signing: Lood de Jager has been selected. The more I think about the Boks the more I believe they are in with a very good shout of lifting the trophy at the beginning of November.
In other sport you should keep an eye on the soccer headlines today. It is possible two clubs with a great history; Bolton Wanderers and Bury could go to the wall this afternoon. They are mired in debt and lived beyond their means for many seasons. It is alleged they have been poorly run with ambition outstripping reality. I won't shed a tear for either as I hope that many in sport, especially in rugby will wake up and smell the coffee. The reality being sports clubs, and in my opinion rugby, are going down this treacherous path as totally unrealistic ambition is driving reckless behaviour causing mounting debt and putting the clubs very existence in question.
Brexit dominates the news as does the G7. Here's a first: I agree with Comrade Corbynov. "A no-deal would leave the UK at the mercy of the US". Yep, that is exactly what I believe too. Any UK - US trade deal will be a one way street and that direction will be west to east: the US to the UK.
Must go as me agreeing with Tovarich Corbynov has sent me into a tizzy. Back tomorrow with a look at the NHS. A view from the many not the few.
Monday 26th August: 08:30
What a glorious day yesterday. The weather was terrific. Gorgeous sunshine ideal for doing very little at home other than enjoying a traditional barbecue with burgers and sausages and my delicious home made potato salad and a scrummy tomato and mozzarella salad using home grown tomatoes. Of course it helped being joined by the "mad apple" and "sav" both straight from the fridge.
Got a tad too hot as the afternoon progressed so what better than to see the Aussies finish off England and retain the Ashes. Seven wickets down and Sky were predicting an Aussie win so start the car and head home. Eight wickets down and we are doomed but Ben Stokes is still there and keeping the scoreboard moving. Nine wickets down, its going to be all over soon as Leach walks to the crease. Ever closer we go. Stokes hits a hundred and perhaps, just perhaps miracles can happen. The Aussies miss a catch, botch a stumping, surely England can't win, or can they. What a finish and what a performance. Ben Stokes was magnificent but Leach at the other end stuck to his task with determination. Great stuff indeed which is why the papers are full of it.
We, the country are going to need all that determination and grit as a "no deal" Brexit looks ever more likely. You know my opinion but as has been pointed out to me when the world was to go into meltdown as the clocks ticked over from 1999 to the year 2000, the Y2K drama, nothing happened. I am not sure the comparison is right but fair point Reg.
How to get egg on your face in one easy lesson. Rugby World, a very well written and popular tome for those who follow our great game have produced a piece on the player to watch by team in the upcoming World Cup. For Wales they have gone for Josh Adams. Not a bad shout but I go for Aaraon Wainwright. For New Zealand it is Ardie Savea, recently dropped by Hansen. The choice for England is Henry Slade. Yeah I can see that but what about Tom Curry. The South African pick is ............. Aphiwe Dyanti. Whoops! There goes all that egg. Of course if they are talking about making the headlines they might have it spot on.
Lots of superlatives describing England's win over the weekend and quite rightly too. It must be remembered we have seen this before only for the Red Rose to wilt under the glare of the spotlight. They must repeat this when it matters and that is in Japan against Argentina and France.
Sir Knowitall has praised the performance of Ford and Farrell and #10 and #12. Come on! I have been saying this is the way forward for months.
New Zealand as always is looking ahead to RWC 2019. As a consequence temporary legislation has been passed to allow clubs and pubs to open outside normal hours to cater for the time difference with Japan. How sensible.
Some pretty good Mitre10 and Currie Cup games played over the weekend. Sadly in front of one man and his dog in stadiums catering for tens of thousands.
The G7 has achieved what? Answers to email@example.com. Perhaps we leave the EU without a deal and £39bn in our back pocket. Perhaps we will do a one sided deal with the US. Perhaps we will send help to Brazil to fight the Amazonian fires. Only time will tell.
There are always two sides to a story. Who says the EU is Utopia when you read the headlines in the FT that state (and I paraphrase) the EU will need to rewrite its budget rules as the bloc's economy falters. I'm sure the FT isn't on your reading list for this Bank Holiday but it is worth casting your eye over the article if you are thinking perhaps a "no deal" Brexit is the way forward.
Time for a lie down. Back tomorrow ........... perhaps.
Sunday 25th August: 09:45
As expected I didn't make it to the club yesterday for the pre-season friendly v Uckfield. Personal and family matters took priority. I presume we played well as we ran out 59-0 winners. What was more pleasing and reflects on the amazing work of Drew Pratt, Damper Sayer and the Friday Club were the very positive comments about the pitches and the club. Does the win indicate we will have a good season? No, but it highlights we could do and that is what is important.
On the same vein does England's thrashing of Ireland indicate they are now certain of winning the World Cup. Absolutely not but King Eddie and his charges have taken a huge step toward that goal. They were a transformed side from the pathetic one that failed against Wales. Tom Curry and Sam Underhill made a huge difference being nimble around the park, dynamic in the contest areas, sure with the ball in hand and powerful in the tackle. Maro Itoje was my man of the match albeit he is getting a tad too arrogant for my liking. The other big difference was the Ford - Farrell axis at #10 and #12 made a big difference with the backs being released from the shackles of the bash 'em up beat 'em up game plan. Tries off first phase ball proved that point.
That said it wasn't all sweetness and light. Going forward Elliot Daly and Joe Cokanasiga were excellent but I felt they were very suspect in defence. Mako Vunipola's return was most welcome. Him limping off after just a few minutes could be a huge blow. Courtney Lawes cameo appearance towards the end was uninspiring and again coincided with the penalty count against England going north. The result also needs to be put into perspective: Ireland were as bad as I have seen for a very long time. They were sluggish, inaccurate, lacking va va voom and their normally reliable set piece creaked and groaned and gave up as much ball to England as it did to their own side. They have plenty of exciting youngsters but there are some who are reaching their best before date. Seeing Connor Murray going off with a head injury and Cian Healey limping off with a nasty looking ankle injury wasn't helpful either.
Manu Tuilagi was named man of the match. Fair enough as he made a massive contribution but if he is to continue to play as he did he needs to continue to have the service from inside him that allows him to show his other skills outside the brute force we are all well aware of. In summary England going forward were excellent, and that augurs well. Defensively they were also impressive but in my mind question-marks remain, especially under the high ball and the back three in one on one situations. Ben Youngs was a disappointment at times. His passing was wayward and some of his box kicking was off the mark. This highlights the fragility of Jones decision to have only two scrum halves in the 31 man squad.
In summary England were excellent but against a very poor Irish side.
A word of praise for Nigel Owens. His refereeing added to the game rather than detracting from it.
Scotland got their show back on the road against France. According to the reports this was a far from perfect performance but a much improved one. They fought back from being behind early on having gifted France a try. Their defence was robust and they showed their teeth when going forward. They thwarted France's driving maul at crucial stages and took their chances when they were presented to them.
On the debit side of the balance sheet Scotland still made too many errors and were hit by a number of injuries to key players, some sound serious. France remain an enigma in that when under the cosh heads drop but when in front they can be unstoppable. France v England in Japan is looking more and more like a pivotal game in the entire tournament.
South Africa and rugby as a whole suffered a huge blow with Aphiwe Dyanti failing a drugs test. Whilst he has not featured recently due to injury he is now certain to be excluded from the squad that flies out to Japan.
In other sport Warrington Wolves surprised the bookies by beating St Helens in the Challenge Cup Final yesterday. I mention this in passing as a certain brother in addition to his other jobs is kicking coach at the Wolves.
Can England really pull off a miracle and beat Australia in the 3rd Ashes test despite their abject 1st innings showing. Today will be crucial.
It's all sweetness and light acrimony at the G7. Boris is rattling his sabre. The EU are waving theirs around vigorously. The Big Orange is stirring the pot. All that whilst the guards are ogling Melania.
The US are keen to do a deal with the UK. Yeah that is going to be an equal partnership. We get shafted and take the pain, they take all the gains.
That'll do for now. Back tomorrow even though it is a Bank Holiday.
Saturday 24th August : 08:30
Just a couple of quick points this morning.
The boys are having a warm-up game this afternoon against Uckfield. Kick off 15:00. It is doubtful whether I can make it sadly but I am sure with the weather set fair it should be a good afternoon.
For the same reason I am unlikely to make the game I have missed several weeks of Friday Club. Looking at the pictures the boys have been working hard as the pitches look magnificent and the place looks a picture. Well done all.
One of the reasons the pitch maintenance has stepped up a notch or two is the arrival of a new piece of kit: a quadraplay. Basically this is the Swiss army knife of groundsmen's kit. We have got this thanks to the very generous commitment of our supporters and friends and the excellent financial management of the club's FD one Peter Johnstone. Damper Sayer and Drew our movers and shakers when it comes to the pitches are like dogs with two......
England v Ireland should be interesting today. Lots to play for with both sides naming strong starting XVs.
In a clear and unequivocal two finger salute to his employers Jim Mallinder leaves the RFU to become Scotland's performance director.
The Champions Cup fixtures have been announced. Saracens the holders travel to France on Sunday Nov 17th where they will face Racing 92. Gloucester v Toulouse opens the tournament on the Friday evening.
The Ashes continues today. What a pathetic performance from England yesterday. Nothing more needs to be said.
The G7 starts today. Buffoons to the right, megalomaniacs to the left, morons all over and Angela Merkel the voice of reason in the middle.
Must go, the grandson wants his breakfast and I need mine.
Friday 23rd August : 07:30
At last King Eddie has been bold and picked Owen Farrell in the centre with George Ford at outside half. Manu Tuilagi, who by his own admission contributed to his injuries by pushing himself too hard during rehab and ignoring professional advice, will partner Farrell. Ben Youngs starts at scrum half. Both Tom Curry and Sam Underhill have been named in the back row. This should make England more competitive at the breakdown than they were last weekend. No Ruaridh McConnachie in the starting line-up but Johnny May does make an appearance. Mako Vunipola is on the bench and will definitely get game time.
Ireland have gone for a strong side to take the field at Twickenham. Amongst the run on 15 will be Ross Byrne thus making his full debut. With Joey Carbery a big doubt for Japan this could be the biggest audition of Byrne’s rugby career to date. Joe Schmidt has made 12 changes from team that beat Italy with a couple of positional changes to boot. Recently qualified South African born Jean Kleyn retains his place (groan!). With a strong back line that includes Bundee Aki, Gary Ringrose and Jordan Larmour England could find themselves under pressure.
I expect this to be a close and potentially open game as Nigel Owens has come in as a late change for Jaco Peyper. I go England but by the smallest of margins.
One player who was omitted from the England set up has decided enough was enough and is now heading off to France to ply his trade. Ben Te’o has signed a short term contract with Toulon as cover during the World Cup. As the RFU has reiterated it will not change its rules regarding the selection of non England based players Te’o will now not be eligible even in the event of injury during the tournament.
World Rugby have reacted quickly to the controversy surrounding North’s try. Controversy in King Eddie’s mind but according to the laws of the game Wales did nothing wrong. Being objective it did seem somewhat unfair and opportunistic to take a quick penalty when a player is being removed from the field due to a HIA. Referees will no longer have the flexibility to allow a quick penalty in this circumstance. Fair enough.
Scotland have changed 14 players ahead of the return fixture with France. New Zealand born Blade Thompson will make his debut (groan!) but the return of Finn Russell and Greig Laidlaw along with the retention of Scott Hogg signify Scotland’s intent to set the record straight. This is a much stronger side so we should see a closer game. If we don’t then rip up your betting slips as Scotland won’t get out of the group.
James Haskell is to become a mixed martial arts fighter. He’s big enough, strong enough and has been training hard enough to make the grade but I for one won’t be watching how he does. It interests me not.
Cardiff City Stadium will host the 2019/20 Pro 14 final. Good choice.
The Brexit soap opera continues in Paris after a short premiere in Berlin yesterday.
Today’s letter is to Wee Jimmie Surgeon……
Your Royal Scottishness, please explain to me how you intend to manage the significant deficit you and you Scottish Government have amassed as currently your debt is c.8% of GDP vs the rest of the UK at c.1.2%. Yours Bleater.
Wednesday 21st August: 10:30
Another big day of warm-up matches ahead: England v Ireland and France v Scotland. Will Ruaridh McConnachie finally make his debut? A slimmed down Mako Vunipola is set to make a return after being bedevilled by injury. He is one player who really can make a difference to England. No team news yet so more on that on Friday (Bridgnorth library is shut on a Thursday).
Ireland are sweating on the fitness of several players but the headline injury is to Joey Carberry. He has been told there are no guarantees of a place even if he wins the fitness race. This seems a bit harsh but I guess sensible. Getting fit in Japan isn’t an option.
France have made four changes for the return fixture with Scotland. Another heavy Scottish defeat and their World Cup could be in tatters before it has even started. It would also make Japan’s decision to make Ireland and Scotland play each other first up inspired. A dejected Scotland could well be for the taking out in Japan.
France will be without Gabrillagues for six weeks which could rule him out of the World Cup. He was cited for foul play and has incurred the wrath of the discipline panel.
In an interesting move by Michael Cheika he has spoken to Will Skelton about leaving Saracens for a shot at World Cup glory. Skelton has been in inspired form for Saracens so it is no surprise that he has caught Cheika’s eye. Of course it was Cheika who discarded him in the first place when he felt he was unfit and lacking in mobility.
This move is in stark contrast to that of Eddie Jones who ignored Cipriani seeing his late arrival in the squad as disruptive. Yes the circumstances and the players are different but it is an interesting contrast.
There are many great films, some real classics and some whose titles capture the imagination more than the film itself. The Back to the Future films, somewhat cheesy fall into the first category with Goundhog Day falling into the latter. Right now it seems as if Britain and the EU have brought both together as a live stage play called Brexit.
Unlike many plays this one doesn’t have a villain and a hero this simply has a cast of villains. On the one hand you have the buffoon named Boris and on the other you have the aptly named Donald Tusk, a man trying to gore Boris with said Tusk. Waiting in the wings as every play should have is the pantomime villain Comrade Corbynov. Devious and scheming he is there to get the audience booing and hissing at every appearance. Sadly there are no damsels in distress or heroines to save the day. Just more villains lurking in the background like the witches of Macbeth. You have Jo Swinson, Wee Jimmie Sturgeon and the erstwhile puppet of Corbynov one Dianne Abbot. There they are stirring the cauldron of bile and rhetoric on a daily basis.
Whilst the cast is impressive the Brexit storyline is confused, meandering, inconsistent and far too often totally unreal. For a play supposedly depicting real life some of it is played out in fantasy land. Having run nearly as long as The Mouse Trap but with significantly less praise from the audience it is doubtful whether this will get anywhere near a BAFTA or an Oscar. It is rumoured to be in line for a Golden Globe, or as it is soon to be known a WTO.
As much as the critics pan Brexit it still draws in the audiences. So much so that there is rumour of a sequel: Brexit II – The Day After Tomorrow. Allegedly this will be modelled on Apocalypse Now and October – The Revolution. Only time will tell whether this comes about.
For now there are always the reruns of Midsomer Murder and England’s successes during RWC 2015 to keep you entertained.
Tuesday 20th August: 10:30
A well worn track is the route from my mother’s house to the library. Good exercise for the fat bloke me thinks.
Wales are No.1. Hoorah, but does it really mean anything? No, not at all, especially in a world cup year. New Zealand are No.1 as they are the world cup holders and have been since 2011. That is what makes you the top dog. Wales are good, very good. You don’t become Grand Slam Champions by being rubbish but we do need to keep things in perspective. Wales will get out of their group but who says they will do so as pool winners. The Wallabies are in fine form of late and could easily top the pool if Wales play like they did at Twickenham. The challenge for Gatland is two fold. He needs to keep his players feet on the ground and use the status of nominally being top dog as a stepping stone to the ultimate goal.
Sir Knowitall has been pontificating in the Organ of Truth again. I tend to agree with him that England have a big powerful back row but are they nimble enough. With ball in hand they have the potential to scare the living daylights out of any team but to win the ball you need to be at the breakdown first. I think Tom Curry and Sam Underhill have that ability but as we saw on Saturday if they are not fit then things can go badly awry.
Sir Knowitall also talks about King Eddie missing a trick by not including Dave Alred in the coaching team. Here I disagree. Alred was in New Zealand in 2011 and he was rightly criticised for a whole range of things. Taking key players like Wilkinson and Flood off for kicking practice when the plan was for them to fine tune the team’s back play. In two games he ignored instructions from Martin Johnson about substitutions and left the team high and dry (I was sat between Johnson in his eerie and Alred on the touchline. Johno was apoplectic with rage). Alred was caught switching balls during games contrary to the rules and the spirit of the game. Dave Alred, no thank you.
Clive the Wise goes on to say King Eddie missed a trick by not moving George Ford to #9 when Heinz 57 left the field for an HIA. If the plan is to use Ford as an emergency scrum half then surely Saturday would have been the perfect opportunity to test him out. Likewise Piers Francis, who wasn’t on song on Saturday could have moved to fly half as he is potentially the emergency cover for that position. Sir Clive, I fully concur, as I do when you say to England beware the French and the Argentinians. Take either of those teams lightly and a second embarrassing world cup could be on the cards for England.
King Eddie is whinging on about the referees again. Yes Gauzere was not great on Saturday but criticising the decision to send Scott Barrett off the previous week is outrageous. Dear Eddie, you put your big head against one of your players and allow Billy Vunipola to charge into it using only his shoulder. Perhaps that might knock some sense into you, you dullard. Yours Bleater.
I watched the lunchtime Currie Cup game yesterday. I enjoyed it. Fast, open, skilful. How terrible though to see a huge stadium virtually empty. It is madness to play games in such stadia. Play them in smaller more compact grounds a la Sandy Park, Kingsholm, The Rec.
I don’t know about you but I am getting fed up to the back teeth with Brexit. Boris is steering us to the abyss, or is he. I don’t know what to believe but I think making policy on the hoof is madness, as is allowing a Marxist government to take over which is getting more and more likely. Some might like the idea but I dread the thought of that as I do a Brexit with No Deal.
What a tragedy, the death of the young police officer in Berkshire. Having a brother in the force brings it closer to home especially as you watch the respect for our great police go the same way as much of society, down the toilet.
I so want to write about the alleged perpetrators but in this politically correct world you can’t use words like “thie…….”. STOP RIGHT THERE! Now PPI is coming to an end the lawyers will be trawling through the slime to find anything that pays so I will keep my opinion to myself on this one.
Finally congratulations to my good friend Gordon H, a regular reader, who has a won a trip to Twickenham on Saturday in a Mitsubishi. The vehicle will lead the team bus to the ground where he will watch England v Ireland. Well done Gordon. Can I suggest the way England are playing you might want to take your kit. You could be in the squad next week.
Sunday 18th August: 10:30
What a difference a week makes, six days to be exact. Woeful Wales and energetic England were transformed into resolute Wales and stuttering England. The men in red were a different beast in Cardiff yesterday. They were a yard and a half quicker, they were stronger and quick of mind and most of all they were solid in defence. The porous nature of last week was replaced by a "they shalt not pass" determination of this week. It wasn't all brilliant as some of the kicking was aimless, some of the security under the high ball was dodgy and there was an absence of a cutting edge. They tried to move the ball wide and looked dangerous when they did but the crucial last pass was often off target and to be fair England's defence was good.
A lot of fuss is being made about Dan Biggarhead's performance and yes he was rock solid and tactically astute but he doesn't have the wow factor of Beauden Barrett or Christian Lealiifano. He is no Jonathan Davies or Phil Bennett who sliced open an opposition defence in the blink of an eye.
In my mind there is still more to come from Wales. Hadleigh Parkes hasn't got into top gear yet and Moriarty at No.8 is yet to fire on all cylinders. Josh Navidi was a breath of fresh air and if he stays fit another Bassaleg School protégé Aaron Wainwright could be the young star of RWC 2019.
What about England. They were out-thought again and back to being like rabbits in the headlights when the game plan didn't pan out with plan B a figment of the players imagination. Even when they were gifted the ball by Wales constant kicking the only tactic was to run into a brick wall, then try and run into it again and again. Even when King Eddie brought on some of his "big hitters" the plan was the same.
George Ford was predictable and the vibrancy of last week was missing. Has announcing the squad so early taken some of the ambition and fight out of England. Is self-preservation now the priority over proving a point ahead of selection. For England the scrum was a powerful weapon and Billy Vunipola ran his heart out for the entire game but that was not enough and will not be enough in Japan, especially as France demolished Scotland yesterday and Argentina were much improved against the Boks.
Wales will be crowned World's No.1 tomorrow but that counts for nought as New Zealand remain the best team in the world and rankings matter not when the World Cup is up for grabs.
By the way why the heck didn't Gatland get Biggar off the field when he injured his arm. Poor, poor management me thinks.
By comparison to the slug fest in Cardiff the All Blacks v Wallabies encounter was a joy to watch. Fast and furious with amazing levels of skill on show. The New Zealanders were like an injured dog showing its teeth in anger daring the Wallabies to attack. They certainly bit back and bit back hard. Yes some of the tries came from the inevitable Australian errors, sadly back on show in abundance, but some were sheer brilliance. As I say constantly you write off the All Blacks at your peril. By the way I thought the Aussies were still a cut above where they have been but the hosts were back to their resolute best.
Talking of "best" I thought the South Africa v Argentina match-up was terrific viewing. This was a totally changed Boks starting XV against a much improved Argentinian outfit. The game bounced around all over the place with none of the turgid kicking of Cardiff. Siya Kolisi was excellent and the new kid on the block S'busiso Nkosi was a revelation. The Pumas didn't fold like last week and I thought disallowing the try late on was a bit harsh. Thoroughly enjoyable and very well managed by Luke Pierce unlike the patchy showing of Msr Pascal Gauzere in Cardiff especially when the game got tetchy.
Bridgnorth beckons again tomorrow so I'll be back on Tuesday with more thoughts on the weekend's games and Eddie Jones' ridiculous comment that Wales are favourites for the World Cup. I'll also look at Dan Cole who was pretty ordinary yesterday and got away with a vicious late hit on Dan Biggar and another on Gareth Davies.