Sunday 25th Mar - 09:30
Penalties, penalties and more penalties. Yes, penalties were our achilles heel yesterday over at Park House, We conceded far too many, especially at crucial moments but worse just as we were gaining momentum. Park House started strongly and it was easy to see why they are having an excellent run of form. Fair play to the boys from Steel Cross they upped their game after Park took an early lead and started to string some good rugby together. Gradually they took the lead and opened up a decent gap on the scoreboard. Chris Yates was pulling the strings in the backs and Alex Purnell was leading from the front. Whilst it was far from perfect the scoreboard kept ticking over in our favour. Connor Hands and Bertie Boast crossed the whitewash and the travelling faithful were beginning to feel comfortable.
When Boast went over very early in the second half things looked rosy for the 'Borough. Sadly the wheels came off the Steel Cross machine and Park House shifted into another gear. We fell off tackles with Park's veteran (by his own admission) fly-half orchestrating play for the home side we found ourselves under pressure. This pressure was heightened with the persistant infringing meaning our line was never cleared effectively. Park's big forwards exploited this and rumbled over with ease and soon the gap on the scoreboard had swung the other way and we were about to go home empty handed.
Thankfully the red & white machine rediscovered it's mojo and moved back on to the offensive. The territory and pressure told and a fourth try for the 'Borough brought a small sigh of relief as we were now as a minimum going home with two vital points. It could have been all five with the boys playing ferociously in search of a winning score. Sadly it wasn't to be but two points are definitely better than none.
The boys must reflect on the penalty count and with three very tough games ahead their game needs to be raised by several percentage points and a number of absentees need to be available.
Full league round-up tomorrow.
The big boys are back on show and most of the internationals have returned. Exeter took their charge for a consecutive title to another level with a narrow but very late win over Bath on Friday. Meanwhile the Dragons allowed their run of awful form to continue after throwing away a good half time lead against the Cheetahs. Sarries lit up the London Stadium with a convincing win over Harlequins. (Oh how West Ham would love to have a well behaved but impassioned crowd like that every week). Those England players who looked worn out last weekend led from the front yesterday with Maro Itoje being the talisman. Sale had the easiest of days against Worcester. London Irish threw away a great opportunity to earn valuable points by allowing Gloucester to grab the win. Newcastle continue their fine form beating Saints, however it was Saints who score three tries to Falcons one. I don't like those Newcastle soccer style shirts. Excellent day for Cardiff Blues and the Ospreys putting Ulster and Leinster to the sword. Munster beat Scarlets in a pretty good game but a game littered with appalling refereeing and TMO decisions. James Davies should have gone for 10 minutes and Munster were robbed of a perfectly good try.
In other rugby news England Saxons are to be resurrected with Wales A providing the opposition. Well, well, England will play one test away from Twickenham in run up to RWC 2019. Surprise, surprise, English clubs will NOT help the Lions in anyway as they continue in their battle to shorten the tours (and ultimately do away with the Lions altogether). The other nations remain keen on the Lions as they see the benefit of the lift in interest it gives to the game every four years.
Summer is on its way. Scaletrix F1 is back and the clocks have gone forward today.
I might see you at the club later. The colts are on parade.
Thursday 22nd Mar - 08:30
Let us hope the weather holds off and the boys can get back to some rugby, and boy isn't it a crucial game to get back to. Park House, barring last weeks defeat, have been on an amazing run and have clawed themselves out of the bottom three. This will be a tough encounter but I am certain Dan and the Steel Cross coaching team will have all three sides ready to go. A win at Park House will ease, not completely, but significantly, fears of relegation for the 1st XV. With no internationals as a distraction lets hope for a large travelling contingent of the faithful. I'll see you there.
VERY sadly I won't see you at the Summer Ball on June 23rd. Mrs Bleater and I are going to a wedding. Yes we do very occasionally get invited to events, if only to mute the happiness. The Summer Ball is great fun so book early as tickets are already moving fast.
All senior three sides are away this weekend which is a shame as Drew Pratt has done some amazing work on the pitches, especially after the weather we've had. All is not wasted as today we host a schools festival, well done Paddy, and on Sunday there are three junior fixtures to be enjoyed. I might pop up and watch one of the early kick offs.
In other rugby news, whilst Spain might have a case with regard to the officiating, really sad if it turns out there was bias, they certainly let themselves down post match with their appalling behaviour aimed at the referee. There are no circumstances where what was described in the BBC article is acceptable.
In the same website there is an interesting piece about the Scottish RFU's ambitions and their desire to find a close tie up with an English Premiership side. They are keen to expose more Scottish qualified players (and coaches) to top flight rugby. Makes very good sense but, and it is a big BUT, can you see the RFU allowing the SRFU to use the Premiership to improve Scotland's game when the RFU have big enough issues with finding enough good English players plying their trade at the top level. Worth reading though.
Sam Warburton picks up his OBE yesterday. Well done sir!
Rob Baxter laughs at the suggestion of central contracts. As I said clubs are not going to allow that. Clubs want control over their players and keeping the RFU as far away as possible is their goal, despite being recompensed quite handsomely for every international they have. Baxter also talks about it being the time for his Exeter players to get into top gear and defend the Aviva Premiership title with all their might.
Channel 4 will show some European Cup games next season. Just nine games but at least rugby is back on free-to-air TV. BT is the place for that tournament though.
No blog tomorrow as Friday Club beckons. Back on Saturday with a quick update on team news and Friday's results. However before I go it would be remiss of me not to say how disgraceful and embarrassing it is that the proposed new blue British passports will be printed in France. Come on Theresa Maybe pick up the phone to the British printers and tell them to get their price down so we can have a proper British passport made in Britain by British workers. If it costs a little bit extra get the money from Nero's Coffee who have paid jack in corporation tax because they have dodged the system. Better still get the difference in cost from Facebook or Google, more tax avoiding b'stards.
As it happens I have taken my small stance against Facebook. Yesterday I deleted my Facebook account.
Finally, Boris, you are a dick. Yes Putin is a nasty piece of work, yes he is a power crazed despot, yes he will exploit the World Cup but comparing him to Hitler. Not so sure, and by the way Mrs Bleater says "for heavens sake put a comb through your hair!"
Wednesday 21st Mar - 07:45
Where to start? With Jeremy Guscott perhaps. He has raised the hackles of those who wear the emerald green with pride by saying Ireland doesn't have any world class players. Is he wrong. Strangely enough in my opinion yes and no. Let's look at it from a different angle. How many of the side that took to the field on Saturday, and you might want to think about injured players like Robbie Henshaw, would displace an All Black from their best match day squad. It becomes more difficult now doesn't it? In my mind there is only one player who might be a shoe-in and that is Tadgh Furlong. Conor Murray could get a place on the bench but that would be about it. What about Sexton I hear you cry. My response to that is "would you swap Beauden Barrett for Sexton, no you (I) wouldn't". So is Guscott wrong? I don't think so but......... of course he is. Ireland are the second best team in the world. The Sexton-Murray axis is world class and outside the All Blacks these two would start every time in any side. What England would do for a back row like Ireland has. Kearney, Earls, Rory Best for example are right up there. Their records speak for themselves. This argument could go on for ever so let's move on.
Actually, would any of England's current team on current form get a sniff of an All Black spot? No! What about Wales. Taulupe Faletau would be the only player to make an All Black starting XV. Alan Wyn Jones would be a bench choice. You certainly wouldn't pick him ahead of Sam Whitelock or the brilliant Brodie Retallick.
George North has been disciplined by Northampton over the missed training and absence from the match v Sale. He will finish out the season at Saints and barring injury I suspect he will breathe fresh life into the sick patient that is Northampton Saints.
Romaniagate is set to rumble on. There is more than a whiff of controversy about this when you find out that the head of Europe Rugby is also Romanian.
John Mulvihill replaces Danny Wilson at Cardiff Blues. "John who" I hear you cry. Well he's been out in that hot bed of rugby; Japan. Need I say more.
Former All Black Dylan Mika dies at the age of 45. Life is not a rehearsal. 45 is no age. May he rest in peace and let his passing be another reminder life is for the living.
Paddy O'Fez has been in touch to point out that Scarlets have signed South African Uzair Cassiem. Yes they have but when you consider John Barclay is leaving for Edinburgh and Tadgh Beirne is going back to Munster this is a one in, one out policy in line with the WRU rules. When you also consider that Scarlets provided the bulk of the Welsh side and Scotland's captain to have a few players who won't be missing during the international windows makes sense.
Can't believe the number of players heading to the Dragons next season. Not soon enough me thinks. They play the Cheetahs on Friday.
The Aviva and Pro 14 return this weekend. It will be fascinating to see how many of the internationals make immediate returns. Bath v Exeter on Friday looks good. On Saturday Saracens v Harlequins will be worth watching, as will Munster v Scarlets. Sunday sees Leicester v Wasps. Not sure about this one but I'll probably end up watching it.
Before moving on, and talking of Saracens, Mark McCall, never one to shy away from controversy, has weighed into the debate about players being tired. He has countered Sir Knowitall's assertion that Maro Itoje looks tired and needs a rest by rightly pointing out that he has only played 10 of 20 games thanks to his broken jaw. Good point. So what you are saying Mark is that Maro isn't tired but he has simply lost some of his mojo. Fair enough. Interestingly McCall has already spoken to Eddie Jones about Itoje being rested during the summer. Why is that Mark? Out of concern for the player or so he is fresh for you and Saracens come Sept '18. The latter me thinks as your views on international rugby are well known; it shouldn't exist. He's 23 for heaven's sake. He shouldn't be tired.
Elsewhere I was annoyed and frustrated with the headline that read (and I paraphrase here) 'England (the FA) will have black coaches at every level of the game'. The article went on to talk about having ethnic minorities being represented in England's coaching set up. What a load of politically correct, ill-conceived, pandering nonsense. Soccer, unless I am badly mistaken is a competitive sport. Surely at every level of the game you want the very best coaches REGARDLESS of race, colour, creed, religion, or sex. I might offend here but it is to make a point. If a one-legged, black, lesbian, Jewish women is the very best person to coach England then that person should get the job. By doing anything else is accepting mediocrity. By the way this is also racial prejudice against white folks. This decision is driven by money. I bet in the background some do-gooder at say Sport England has said you aren't diverse enough so we'll cut your funding if you don't increase the number of 'x', 'y' or 'z' you employ. What should be said is "if you don't up your game and improve your results making the game more attractive for ALL we'll cut your funding".
Before I close and leave the above topic I watched the BRILLIANT film Hidden Figures this week. The story of how three black women against all the odds in racially segregated and racially prejudiced United States in the '60s rose to the very top of NASA and through their work took America to the moon. They didn't achieve that because of some arbitary racial quota they did it as a result of them being the very best at the job. It is a BRILLIANT film and here I rest my case me lud.
Tuesday 20th Mar - 08:15
As the dust settles on the 6 Nations all eyes start to look forward to the end of season run-in; promotion, relegation, the play-offs, European glory and then to the Autumn tours for the games elite. After that there is the holy grail; RWC 2019.
Without labouring the point England's performance in the 6 Nations was woeful. With the money, players, elite clubs and facilities at their disposal, especially against what the other home nations have, England should be running away with the title each and every year. Should we write them off as RWC 2019 winners and pen Ireland's name on the Webb Ellis trophy? Actually no. In a strange way I think these results strengthen England's chances. That is if Eddie Jones (with the support of the RFU) rips up the current plan, forget what has gone in the past and starts with a fresh canvas. He must find a 9, 10, 12 axis that works. He needs a back row, a back row of any despcription, but players who are willing to put their bodies on the line in that crucial contact area of the ruck. He must find a way of working with the clubs to get the stars more rest. He needs to find a leader who doesn't just lead but contributes for 80 minutes and is at the heart of all things good (just look at Alan Wyn Jones). He must work with the clubs to get English qualified players more game time as opposed to packing sides with overseas mercenaries. When would this start? Right now. He bites the bullet and goes to South Africa with a less than full squad resting key players but taking with him those players who are on the fringes and might just make the breakthrough. He has to go to South Africa with results low on his agenda and performance, playing style and player auditions as priorities. Let's see what happens when the time comes.
By the way Damien Hopley, head of the players union, has said it is time for England to introduce central contracts. Yes but that would only heighten the tension between club and country and I fear would drive clubs even faster down the road of having as few current internationals in their squads as possible. Clubs are big, albeit mostly unprofitable businesses.
Ireland will be looked at very differently now in the run-up to RWC 2019. In my view that makes it harder for Joe Schmidt than it does Eddie Jones. How does he keep the momentum up for the next 18 months?
Warren Gatland will rest a host of his front line stars during the summer confident in the knowledge that strength in depth is slowly but surely becoming less of a problem. There are many players still injured in Wales so the future could be bright, the future could be red.
Two players not going on summer tours are Rhys Webb and Anthiny Watson. The latters injury sustained on Saturday is going to require extensive work for it to recover.
Has World Rugby dropped a massive bo!!0c4? Having a Romanian officiating team in charge of a cruical qualifier in which Spain lost to Belgium therefore allowing Romania to qualify for RWC2019 was sensible? I think not.
Justin Tipuric and Hallom Amos have been included in Wales 7s squad for the Commonwealth games. Wow. Bold move.
In other sport has Mr Arrogant himself; Jose Mourinho, finally hit the ceiling and sliding down the greasy pole?
Elsewhere Brexit, Brexit, Brexit. Why are we bothering? The outcome will be compromises of compromises and we will be the losers. I say stay and fight from within. Not being firm on fishing for example. A red line I thought.
Salisbury is still in the news, quite rightly. Putin is re-elected in free and fair elections (as defined by the green goblin with hairs on his chinny-chin-chin). Corbyn continues to be an apologist for Russia and Putin. Yes be cautious but come on, do me a favour. I laughed when I heard Jezza say it might not be the Russian state it might be the Russian mafia. Nerve agents in the hands of the mafia, now that is a nightmare and very, very, very unlikely. Why would the mafia go after Skripal? He is not a man of great wealth, he was not in business in Russia, he is not standing in their way. If the Russian mafia were involved they simply would have walked into the restaurant blasted Skripal and then let everyone know who did it as a message to others. That's my view at least and I have some experience of how they operate. Ask me later to explain. Its a good story.
Monday 19th Mar - 07:45
Before we dissect the final round of the 6 Nations in a little more depth let's have a run around the local leagues.
The heavy snow across Kent and the South East put pay to three out of the five fixtures due to be played on Saturday in our league. Only Park House vs Old Willies went ahead with the away side coming away with a bonus point win 12-38. Sadly Crawley pulled out of their game with Lewes giving the home side a valuable HWO win. OWs and Lewes leapfrog us into 5th and 6th as we drop back into 7th. Park House, our next opponents stay just 4 points adrift of us in 9th.
I have to assume all Sussex league 1, both A and B were postponed due to the weather.
In London 2 South East they fared a little better with three games going ahead and one HWO with bottom placed Barking deciding a trip to Haywards Heath was not a good idea. In the Sussex derby Horsham took the spoils over Haethfield & Waldron 22-14. Hove's hopes of the play-off spot took a hit with a home defeat to Champions elect Dartfordians 14-25. They stay second but our good friends at Charlton Park now have a game in hand in third. Old Alleynians beat Pulborough 45-15 meaning Pulborough are all but relegated sadly.
In London 1 South Chichester earned a 20-20 draw away at London Cornish. CS Rugby stay top after beating Havant. Medway v Brighton fell foul of the weather.
Based on the extensive snow we had here in Crowborough I was very surprised to see Tunbridge Wells got their game on. They did and they enjoyed an excellent 32-11 win over Dorking. Guernsey remain clear at the top despite not playing. The boys from St Marks are comfortably in 6th with no chance of relegation, but also out of the promotion battle. In my book, in a very tough league, that looks a like a very good season so far. Well done to them.
Up in National League 2 South both TJs and Worthing got their games on with both scoring good wins over Broadstreet and Canterbury respectively. Whilst they both sit mid table there is some work still to do to be certain of staying up. Cinderford are beginning to run a way with the title me thinks.
Further afield Bridgnorth beat Longton and Salisbury came away from Wimborne with a fine win.
Lots to play for across all the leagues but especially for us. Looking at our league the number of teams who could still be relegated along with Sheppey and Crawley is seven. Only three clubs are safe. Yes, lots to play for.
The fall-out from England's defeat on Saturday continues. Having read two ex Bassaleg boys reports; Stephen Jones and Stuart Barnes, in The Times they make a number of points including the lack of firepower at the ruck, the poor selection policy regarding Ford and Farrell, the lack of an attack coach. Elsewhere Sir Knowitall Woodward says England's players need more rest. In most cases the injury list, with the notable exception of Billy Vunipola and Nathan Hughes was not seen as a major disadvantage versus what say Wales have had to face in terms of injuries. Much has been made of the Irish system (which I commented on last week) and this is where Sir Clive is coming from. Some pundits have also pointed to the The Lions tour being a factor but in my mind this is linked to the problem England face with the club vs country conflict. Alun Wyn Jones, Jonny Sexton, Connor Murray to name three were all on The Lions tour and all have been exceptional during the 6 Nations. They have had the luxury of the WRU and IRFU telling their regions/provinces when these players can and can't play. England have to put up with say Saracens telling Maro Itoje, one of England's Lions and underperformers, that they are playing and the luxury of a week or two off isn't going to happen. Anyway more on this tomorrow.
The Salisbury poisoning is still the hot news as is Jezza and his views on the subject. Putin is re-elected as President. Wow what a shock that is! What a shock there is video of election rigging and harrassment. Jezza, come on. Defend that if you will.
Sunday 18th Mar - 09:30
Let's start in Rome. What a great advert for 6 Nations rugby and rugby in general. An end to end game with the underdogs snapping at the heels of the young pretenders from the start. In fact many would argue Italy were unlucky not secure their first and only win in this year's championship. As expected Sergio Perisse led from the front. Uncharacteristically it was two sloppy passes from him and one moment of unselfishness when the line was begging that might be seen as turning points. The great man has amassed an amazing 100 test defeats with Italy. A terrible record to have but a testimony to his resolve and commitment to the game in Italy. Scotland were again inaccurate in some of their work, passes going astray, tackles missed and wayward kicking from hand. Italy on the other hand were fast around the field and dynamic in contact. Thomaso Allen and Jake Polledri led the way. The Italians were undone by the TMO when a knock was spotted by the eagle-eyed official in the TV truck but again it was their inability to close out a game that eventually saw them come unstuck. A thoroughly enjoyable game.
Then it was to Twickenham and 'the big one'. Could Ireland do it, would England rise to the challenge and be the Paddy's Day party poopers? We now know the answer and it is 'yes' and 'no'. Ireland simply strangled the life out of England and when the occasion came put them to the sword. The game plan was the same: be patient, maintain possession, keep driving forward and sniping away down the middle of the park until gaps appeared. Yet again England failed to compete effectively at the ruck and were ponderous with ball in hand. Jonny May and Elliot Daly when in defence had to work hard but in attack were mere spectators. The Irish on the other hand played like the All Blacks; the number on the shirt was irrelevant, backs clearing out rucks and forwards deftly moving the ball wide. Connor Murray was at the heart of it all. Sexton spluttered a little but when you have a veritable cornucopia of riches around you can afford the luxury of being slightly off the mark. England weren't totally outfought and outwitted. The opening stanza of the second half saw England put Ireland under immense pressure. The visitors could have cracked and the outcome could have been oh so different. Elliot Daly was excellent but wasted out on the wing.
There were a couple of contentious calls; Bundee Aki could have, may be should have seen yellow after his high shot on Daly. Likewise Daly was very lucky not to have 10 minutes on the naughty step after pulling Kearney out of a ruck by the neck. England's decision to extend the dead-ball area came back to bite them when Jacob Stockdale pounced after being given the benfit of not knocking on by the TMO. (Gareth Anscombe was not so lucky when Wales played England).
As the players and coaches alike reflect on yesterday Ireland can thank Sexton for THAT kick against France, Eddie Jones can rue the injuries and absentees, Ireland can praise their system controlled by the IRFU, Jones can ponder whether the time is right for him to recruit a top flight attack coach. Ireland deserved the title, England were poor and as Jones has already said there are number of players who might have played their last game for their country.
What could have been a classic was, except for the result, a damp squib. Wales v France was an error strewn battle more lost by France than won by Wales. The men in red tried to play an open game at times but yet again reverted to type all too often by kicking away hard won ball. When going forward Wales lacked the flair to unlock the French defence. The French played some good stuff but not consistently enough. Their discipline was poor and their final execution let them down. Basic mistakes like booting the ball dead didn't help either. No-one on the Welsh side let themselves down but most didn't light up the game. Biggar drove me nuts whereas Alun Wyn Jones and Josh Navidi were worthy of standing ovations. For France the Big Bastereaud was again the lynchpin. Where was the game won? In defence. Wales withstood wave after wave of pressure and kept the French hoardes at bay. Is it a game to keep for posterity? No. Is it a game that says Welsh international rugby is not dead and they could still be a force to reckon with in Japan during RWC2019. Yes!
So there you have it. Ireland victors, England the biggest losers (everyone knew Italy would prop up the table), Wales the surprise package in second, Scotland and France definitely work in progress.
My highlight of the 6 Nations actually came on Friday in England v Ireland Womens game. Both sides squaring up to each other, a sneaky punch being thrown, some aggressive pushing and shoving. Bleater shouts out: "brilliant, handbags". Mrs Bleater gives him the death stare.
The lowlight came in the Wales v France Under 20s (yes I do watch an incredible amount of rugby) when the French sub lifts a Welsh player up and over the ruck and unceremoniously dumps him almost on his neck. A blatant red card but not in the eyes of the referee sadly. A pretty poor decision despite clear guidance from David Sainsbury the TMO that a red was his only option.
A great seven weeks. A full league round-up tomorrow.
Friday 16th Mar - 08:15
Eddie Jones was always going to make changes for the clash with Ireland. Some being forced and some being obvious. If fit Dylan was always going to return. Jones likes to have his talisman on the field and Jamie George failed to seize the opportunity presented to him last weekend. I for one am not surprised Dan Cole has been replaced by the much more dynamic Kyle Sinckler. I would have also gone for Joe Marler instead of Mako Vunipola but the experienced Vunipola gets the nod. If there is one surprise it is Joe Launchbury getting the shepherd's crook with George Kruis being promoted to the starting spot. With Lawes out Jones' options were to pick the last three back row forwards standing. He has gone for Simmonds, Robshaw and Haskell, all solid but still no real firebrand at the breakdown. Armand is on the bench. Sorry guys but this back row is still substandard versus those that will wear green tomorrow.
Jones has also rung the changes in the backs. Ford out with Farrell at #10 has been widely expected. The Ben Te'o / Jonathan Joseph centre partnership is a powerful one, especially in defence. There are question marks over Te'o's ability to distribute the ball and Joseph can blow hot and cold especially when the pressure is on. I would have switched the ball player Elliot Daley with the battering ram Te'o being moved out to the wing. Wigglesworth for Care a surprise? Not for me. Care was poor against France and Scotland and Wigglesworth has been the form scrum half in the Aviva. Care coming on late is always a threat. Connor Murray won't be worrying who he is against but I guess starting against the less abrasive Wigglesworth might bring a glimmer of a smile to his face.
Ireland make just one change. The more athletic Iain Henderson for the lighthouse that is Devin Toner.
This game will be closer than we might think. I hope for an Irish victory but have a sneaking suspicion that England might just be party poopers on St Patrick's Day.
One other person has felt the tug of the shepherd's crook. Assistant referee Marius van der Westhuizen has been withdrawn after the ill-judged decision to allow him to help England during the week. World Rugby have put their hands up on this one. Nigel Owens steps in.
Warren Gatland has made some very tough calls for the game against France. Dan Biggarhead returns with Anscombe dropping to the bench. I can understand the reasoning but Biggar wasn't great against Ireland and his petulance could come back to bite Gatland. That said he is due a big game. Liam Williams doesn't get the order of the boot but does move from full-back to wing. Leigh Halfpenny is at #15. You need a big time kicker. Scott Williams for Owen Watkins is harsh but again experience is important.
Wales back row looks well balanced with Navidi, Faletau and Tipuric getting the nod with Shingler on the bench. This could be where the game is won and lost. (Oh how Eddie would love any one these four). Samson Lee fails to dislodge Thomas Francis with the remaining forwards picking themselves.
If Wales are to win they have to secure possession, keep the ball in hand and get those big French forwards chasing fresh air around the field. If Biggar aimlessly kicks the ball away as he is apt to do then France will win.
My heart says Wales, my head says Wales IF, and it is a big IF, the men in red play with width and pace.
It is going to be a cracking day of rugby. Steel Cross will be rocking but sadly I won't be there. I'll be rushing back from Bridgnorth hopefully dodging the snow and the traffic.
My views on Sunday. No blog tomorrow.
Whilst rushing into hasty decisions and ill-considered actions can backfire I find it appalling that Corbyn is acting more like a spokesman and representative for Putin and Putin's Russia than a man who wants to be Prime Minister of our great country. It is appalling that he cannot grasp what is going on in Russia and what a power crazed despot Putin is.
Thursday 15th Mar - 09:15
That's Joe Schmidt's pre-match talk sorted. What surprised me a little is that he got Eddie Jones to write it for him. If the men from the Emerald Isle didn't already have a big enough incentive to complete the Grand Slam on Saturday they do now. So Jones thinks the Irish are scum ('scummy' might mean something else in Aussie parlance or the Japanese dialect of course). You might question how this July 2017 video has come to light at this time. Has a bored Irish punter sat in his hotel in Cheltenham simply stumbled upon it. Has a Russian agent taken exception to the UKs stance on the poisoning and leaked it, or......... and so it goes on. Either way it was ill-judged at the time and exceptionally poor timing it has come out now. I bet he didn't slag off the Fijians or South Africans or New Zealanders for fear of offending the pool of talent he wants to select from.
In other headlines England suffer Courtney Lawes blow. He is out for the rest of the season alongside the Fijian Hughes. Me, I think the headline should read; "Happy days, Lawes unavailable so Jones the Aussie has to find someone who has at least a vague idea about playing in the back row." Not exactly pithy but you get my drift.
England have also had the benefit of advice from one of the assistant referees who will run touch on Saturday. World Rugby are ok with this but I question the validity of that decision. If it had been the Specsavers sponsored TMO from the England v Wales match then fair enough.
Dylan Hartley and Elliot Daley are fit and sure to start. Others can't be so confident. Team announcement today so to be reviewed tomorrow.
Scotland ring the changes. WP Nel starts having proven his fitness and having made an impact when he has come on. Scotland will be too strong for Italy so let's move on.
Warren Gatland names his team today. Be interesting to see who gets the nod and who gets the axe. In previous years the coaches from that shitty little place called Wales haven't had the strength in depth to worry over selection, it has been "find me twenty three fit players and we are good to go". Liam Williams must be one fearing the axe and for the rest let's wait and see. Gatland won't need to fire up the boys too much. If beating France and finishing second wasn't incentive enough, beating France and finishing ahead of England, that place where there are more rugby clubs in Yorkshire than there are in Wales, will help me thinks.
By the way, the city in which I spent my informative years and discovered the joys of rugby; Newport, well that might just fit Jones description.
The Big Bastareaud captains France in the absence of Girado. A great honour for a player who has rediscovered his je ne sais quoi!
Two other rugby items. Jamie Roberts is to join Bath (who will rename as Wales B next season). Australian rugby is aiming to phase out the inclusion of foreign players from the Super Rugby franchises. Let there be light and there was light. With the PATHETIC residency bar being raised this move makes some sense.
Before I go must comment on Jezza. It might be conceived as heresy to say the murdering of a traitor to ones country is acceptable. Someone who commits treason and puts lives at risk must accept "you live by the sword, you die by the sword". For innocents like Skripal's daughter, a serving British police officer and potentially numerous others to be put at significant risk of death is totally, totally unacceptable. For Jezza not to condemn this act by Russia, and in fact to criticise his own countries secret services is tantamount to treason against the UK. For him to be hinting we must be kind to Russia because they are fine democracy and should be our friends smacks of someone who has no grasp of what real democracy is. The man is a disgrace to his party and a disgrace to his country.
Wednesday 14th Mar - 09:15
Comrade O'Fez has been in touch and his erudite comments on Ireland are spot on. Thankfully there is no gloating because as he says Ireland haven't fired on all cylinders and have had more than their fair share of luck. He also points to home advantage in the clashes with Wales and Scotland as being important.
I cannot disagree with the view that Murray and Sexton are the best half back combination in the world today and they are the central cogs in a very well oiled machine. The Irish forwards are pragmatic in going through the phases and with few penalties conceded grind down the opposition until the backs can be released.
It isn't all about good coaching and fine players. The Island of Ireland has relatively few rugby clubs versus what England have at their disposal so what else is impacting on their success. There is a strong culture of rugby in schools, albeit in the 'better' schools to be politically INCORRECT, and those switching from traditional Irish sports, especially Gaelic football have a natural talent for the game. Having just four top flight provinces all funded and tightly controlled by the IRFU is important. The provinces are limited in the number of overseas players they can have and which positions they can play in. The international players are rested on a regular basis and the provinces have no say in when and for how long. All this along with having great players and great coaches has helped made Ireland a real global force in the game.
England can turn things around but Don Armand alone is not the answer. He is another leviathan. One of Wales best players on Saturday was James Davies. Not a big man by any means but fast around the field, fearless in the tackle and like a rabid dog after the bone around the ruck. England need a player like that but other tough selections will without doubt need to be made.
I have been critical of France's obsession with recruiting overseas players. It is clear their international side has suffered as a consequence. England are going the same way. England are desperate for a decent back row. Take Gloucester, Bath and Wasps. Their best back row forwards are all Welsh; Moriarty, Faletau and Young. Players like Hibbard, Priestland, North, are all taking up places that could be used by English players. It is not just the Welsh look at Sale's star of the moment; a South African scrum half Faf de Klerk. Need I say more?
Selection announcements are tomorrow but I am guessing that Eddie Jones will have the toughest task. Interestingly Warren Gatland will find it tough after his young bucks played so well. France will be without talisman Guilhem Guirado and Hugo Bonneval. Will the miscreants return.
Now, where Comrade O'Fez was less forthcoming was on the subject of the Soviet like purges in the Labour Party. No surprise there me thinks. I for one think it is indicative of Jezza's and his acolytes love for all things Soviet with Jezza's response to Theresa Maybe's speech on the subject of the poisoning in Salisbury being PATHETIC and weak. O'Fez does rightly point out that the Tory party have never been shy of taking money from Russian oligarchs, much of which has been tainted by corruption or crime. This smacks of double standards.
I have had the pleasure of working in Russia and getting to know Russians. Theresa Maybe's threats will be music to the ears of those in power. They want to be seen as a world power, and a dominant and aggressive world power to boot. Their military might makes Britain's military look like a bunch of kids with water pistols by comparison. No threat there. Sanctions only hurt the masses not those in power. The masses are generous, warm and freindly people. Those in power are far removed from the impact of any sanctions. Russians won't respond to threats easily but will without doubt exploit any sign of weakness. As I quickly found out banging the table and pointing the finger in a threatening way was the only way to negotiate however. The old adage in Russia is: "the negotiations only start once the deal is signed". Losing face hurts Russians. England pulling out of the World Cup is a way forward, especially if other countries follow suit. As I have already said the fear of hooliganism, now heightened, against English fans is a big worry.
Time to go. Back tomorrow.
Tuesday 13th Mar - 07:00
The papers were pretty damning Sunday and Monday. Basically England were very poor, short of ideas, lacking in leadership and at times tactically inept. Eddie Jones' halo has slipped almost to the point of being a millstone around his neck. I don't have a crystal ball or any inside information but I'll have wild stab that Jones will make changes especially in the back row. He has to rethink the ruck and maul and his team must reduce the penalty count. Caution won't take anything away from the contact area because if he gets it right his team will be on the front foot and this often means fewer transgressions. More on this before Saturday.
Warren Gatland on the other hand has been lauded for the bold changes and the blooding of several youngsters, especially James Davies. His charges didn't let him down. Yes Italy gifted Wales the two opening tries and continued throughout the game to give up the ball at crucial moments. Wales played with width and speed, especially at the breakdown. Oh how Eddie Jones must envy the back row riches Gatland has at his disposal. Was it all sweetness and light? No, Wales conceded two tries, they had two sin-binnings, one of which was plain stupidity, and they too coughed up the ball when they should have been clear. They did the job that was asked of them and players like Elliot Dee and James Davies did themselves no harm whatsoever. Liam Williams sin-binning was not as clear cut as Watson's the previous day but once you take off the Welsh eye-patch you have to say it was the right call. Faletau was excellent, nothing spectacular just simply doing what a good back row forward should be doing from minute one to minute eighty. At the end of the day it was only Italy. Let us see what happens on Saturday against France.
Ok, a quick run around the leagues. Our win against Lewes was crucial taking us up into fifth spot. Are we safe? Absolutely not with twenty points still to play for. It is advantage Aylesford Bulls after their narrow win over promotion rivals Thanet Wanderers. Park House continue their fine form with an away win at relegated Crawley. Bromley squeaked past Sheppey to stay ahead of us by 6 points. Hastings & Bexhill beating Old Dunstonians surprised me a little. This no insult to H&B but a belief that ODs have been consistently good all season. In the only other game Folkestone beat Old Williamsonians, a result that worked in our favour. We are on 47 points, Folkestone in tenth are on 37 points. With those 20 points up for grabs you do the maths.
In Sussex 1A Hellingly are promoted after beating East Grinstead. Uckfield are in the play-off spot after beating Burgess Hill. In 1B sadly it was a HWO for Ditchling as Barns Green pulled the plug. Eastbourne beat Seaford in the other game.
Up in London 2 South East Dartfordians are in touching distance of promotion after beating Dover. Beckenham snuck past Haywards Heath 8-0 whilst Charlton Park were beating Hove in a high scoring game. Hove remain second though. In the all Sussex derby Pulborough lost at home to The Greenies. Horsham beat Deal & Betteshanger. In the other game relegated Barking lost to Old Alleynians. Pulborough are looking doomed with The Greenies creeping closer to safety.
In London 1 South Chichester took the Sussex bragging rights beating Brighton 26-23. Medway lost away at table topping CSRugby. Maidstone lost at home to London Cornish and are in peril of the drop.
Well done Tunbridge Wells, an excellent away win albeit at lowly Southend Saxons. Guernsey continue to top the table but with Barnes close on their heels.
Not a great day for either TJs or Worthing who both lost away to Old Redclffians and Broadstreet respectively. No relegation fears for either though.
For your info Bridgnorth lost at Newbold on Avon and Salisbury lost at home to Banbury.
That'll do for now but I am keen to hear from Comrade O'Fez on Ireland's success and the continued purging of dissenting voices in the Labour party.
Sunday 11th Mar - 10:30
Let me start at Steel Cross. With just a few points separating seven sides a win against a very good Lewes side was going to be a stiff challenge. Thanks to The Bard's excellent report I see that was exactly what it was. The boys from the 'Borough defended magnificently and when they had the ball used it effectively. Two tries on a heavy pitch and conceding just three points was a great result. Well done boys,
Like The Bard I find it strange that the RFU are forcing clubs to play the snow affected matches next weekend. Grassroots rugby suffers with player availability and with England v Ireland being a major draw and it being St Patrick's day, a big party night I anticipate player availability issues up and down the land. If it was a 17:00 kick off that might be ok but it isn't.
Moving over to Dublin you have to say well done Ireland. A comfortable win over a lacklustre Scottish side. Crowborough's under 14s can pass with more accuracy than Scotland did at times. To butcher three gilt edged chances was criminal. Ireland played very well preventing the Scots from getting the upper hand at the breakdown as they did against England and thwarting the Scottish backs from unleashing their potential. The maestros: Sexton and Murray pulled the strings yet again and the Irish set piece was dominant. Are Ireland the 'real deal'? I am not sure. They have had more than their fair share of luck but they have rode it and deserved their victories. Will they complete the task next week is now the question.
Over in Paris I genuinely didn't expect that result and was hoping for a big England win. It wasn't to be and whilst the players must put their hands up Eddie Jones has much to answer for. Sticking with a substandard back row was crazy, not helped with Nathan Hughes injury. The much lauded Ford - Farrell axis failed to fire and when Plan A went out of the window there was no plan B. England were out done at the ruck and maul with the French being quicker and more aggressive. Jonny May might as well have been in the stands for all the ball he got. Itoje was anonymous and Cole and Vunipola were poor. The scrum failed. France played with a little more flair and used the ball well, aided by England's unacceptable penalty count. They have at last been found out with the officials no longer allowing England to infringe with impunity. The Anthony Watson yellow card and resulting penalty try was a turning point but a correct decision in the eyes of the law. Eddie Jones has much to do to rally his troops. Sinckler has to start, Lawes has to go, and Farrell has to go to #10. Are France back to their best. No! England were simply not good enough and based on the last two showings are a long way from winning RWC2019.
Wales v Italy up next. Much to play for for Wales. Two good wins and they could finish second.
On the road tomorrow so a full league round up and reflection on Wales on Tuesday.
Can I say THANK YOU to those who stick with this drivel. It is much appreciated.
Friday 9th Mar - 17:30
Having left the Internet wasteland that is Bridgenorth for a very nice hotel in Chester but a hotel where the Internet is slower than Dan Cole in a zimmer so I am late with my view on England's selection.
Owen Farrell to replace Dylan as captain is a sound choice, in fact the only choice. He is confident in himself and has a fire in his belly. I am very surprised he has stuck with Courtney Lawes on the flank. I would have gone with Sam Simonds. Dropping Mike Brown a shock? No I don't think so. Whilst he was magnificent against Wales he was poor against Scotland. Elliot Daley straight in is no surprise either. Anthony Watson at full-back makes a lot of sense as does bringing the harder tackling Ben Te'o in for Joseph. Jones has brought Cowan-Dickie onto the bench with Haskell joining him. It is a very strong side and I can't see anything other than an English win, but I said that last time out too. Trinh-duc comes in for Bauxis with this being France's only change.
Where will the game be won and lost. England need quick ball and they need to play an open game to keep the big French forwards...... and backs moving around. If England get into a tug of war around the ruck then it could be a long day under the French sun. If England do not come away from this one with a big win then there will be much for Eddie Jones to answer for. As I say I genuinely see an easy England win tomorrow.
In the other games I go Ireland, strangely by quite a few. I go Wales against Italy, but strangely by not many.
Must go she who must be obeyed has just finished her Prosecco and wants another one. I know my place.
Thursday 8th Mar - 09:00
Blair Kinghorn comes in for the injured Tommy Seymour in the only change to the Scottish squad who face Ireland on Saturday. No place for Richie Gray afterall. Kinghorn has made quite an impact in the Pro14 but will definitely be tested by the kicking of Murray and Sexton. Ireland announce their team later today.
So ten changes it is for Wales. This might be seen as an insult to Italy and might just backfire. That said a number of the changes are enforced such as Owen Watkin in for Scott Williams who has a knock. The return of Taulupe Faletau was a given after Moriarty was less than impactful against Ireland. Tipuric for Navidi is a tough call, as is James Davies for Shingler. That said Tipuric is a Lion and Davies has been in brilliant form for the Scarlets for some time. Alun Wyn Jones is rested and the first choice front row drops to the bench. Faletau will captain the side, the quietest man in rugby. Dan Biggar is out of the squad altogether with Anscombe getting the covetted #10 shirt. No surprise that Biggar is out. He was poor on his return against Ireland. The surprise is that Patchell didn't get the nod. There was no way George North wasn't going to start. Conor O'Shea and his charges might see it as an opportunity for the win they are desperate for. Beware however of the Welsh team littered with experience, British & Irish Lions and players who have made their mark in Super Rugby.
It makes a lot of sense that the plan to extend the domestic season to 10 months has been shelved. The top flight players need a break and giving just 2 months was a nonsense as with pre-season training it wouldn't be a break at all. You only have to look at the number of Lions who returned with knocks or picked up knocks early in the season to confirm the need for proper breaks between the seasons. I have said before and will say again the extension to the season was not about player welfare as the clubs would have you believe it was was about revenue, bearing in mind that most Premiership clubs are up to their necks in debt.
Sam Underhill's season is over thanks to what sounds like a serious toe injury. A blow for him and his club Bath.
England announce their squad later today but rumour has it that they have been hitting the tackle pads and each other very hard indeed. This obviously in preparation for the battering ram that will be France on Saturday. Can the biggest battering ram of them all repeat the fine form shown against Italy. The Big Basteraud will be up for this one in front of a full Stade de France.
The Salisbury poisoning gets worse with a hardworking and dilligent police officer who was first on the scene getting caught in the crossfire. This might seem heartless but Russia executing a person they deem a traitor then so what but his daughter and most definitley the PC are innocent bystanders and that is a disgrace. Putin is a meglomaniac from the Russian old school. What is the phrase "power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely".
I notice Jezza has gone quiet on how wonderful the Socialist regime is in Venezuela. Is this what you want for Britain? Venezuela is a country in absolute chaos where power is definitely corrupting absolutely.
Finally today is Interntional Women's day. Great! Can't wait for Fat Middle Aged Blokes Day. There won't be one will there. We are now the downtrodden.
Back tomorrow but it might be later in the day. England squad to be reviewed.
Wednesday 7th Mar - 08:15
No sooner had I said it than the news broke that Sam Underhill will miss Saturday's clash with France. The door opens wider for Sam Simmonds me thinks. Jack Nowell is also missing but that in my mind is less of a problem, especially as Elliot Daley appears ready and Jones could spring a surprise and bring Denny Solomona onto the bench at the very least. Much is also being made of Dylan being a doubt. Dylan is the leader on the field and his absence must be concerning Eddie Jones more than anything. That said on form Jamie George would be my first choice and after Sunday Luke Cowan-Dickie would make an able stand-in. (By the way Eddie, there must be a Fijian or New Zealander or Aussie hooker out there who has visted London which therefore must qualify him for England).
Rhodri Jones has been brought into the Wales squad as cover for the injured Wyn Jones. Warren Gatland could make up to ten changes for the game against Italy. With players returning from injury and some not performing at their best against Ireland this was inevitable. The squad is announced this afternoon.
The war of words continues over George North. Who is to blame? I am not sure but what I do think is North should have recognised who pays his very generous salary and who have stood by him during his many absences due to injury. Yes that is Northampton Saints.
Pro14 rugby will move totally to a pay TV channel next season as BBC has lost the rights to show any games. S4C might be able to cover some of the Welsh regions but this is also in doubt. This in my view is a very short sighted decision by the Pro14 franchises and unions and is driven by one thing and one thing only; money. Certainly in the case of Wales the regions are short of cash and if it wasn't for dual contracts and WRU bail outs none would be in existance today. In Wales the game at grassroots level is far from healthy and crowds are small at the regional level so removing the game from TV will only make matters worse me thinks.
Scotland go to Ireland brim full of confidence and with Richie Gray returning to the squad could spring a surprise. I doubt it.
Friday Club breakfast meeting today so I'll keep it short. Hoorah you shout.
In the news the poisoning in Salisbury dominates the front pages. It is a bizarre story that could have come straight from the pages of a John Le Carre novel. Having spent time in Russia and seen how dissidents and opponents of the 'regime' are treated this comes as no surprise. If Russia is found to have had a hand in this it will be interesting to see what we do. Their military might is remarkable so that is not an option. Not going to the World Cup seems a bit churlish but is possibly a good thing (as Russian hooligans make the British version look like pussy cats) and whilst only a token effort does send a signal. Not sure footy fans and the players will agree to be being pawns in a diplomatic row.
The Grenfell Tower disaster still, quite rightly, takes up column inches. Whilst there are many out there who still need our help I for one find it appalling that a number of scumbags have been found guilty of claiming to be victims and therefore stealing goods and services from those in genuine need. B'stards! I also find it galling that some of those who were affected are now milking the system for all its worth like the guy who is living part-time in a 4* hotel, part-time with his mum AND claiming every possible allowance going DESPITE having been offered a large number of decent alternatives as a permanent residency.
Another Trump aide quits. Trump is a ......... You fill in the gaps. I haven't the time or inclination and breakfast beckons.
Tuesday 6th March - 08:00
Is Saturday's France v England encounter Eddie Jones biggest test as a coach? France will be buoyed by the win against Italy, it is England after all and a defeat will see England's chances for the 2018 title fade. On what could be a wet and miserable day where the back rows will need to be at their best Jones' side could find themselves under serious pressure. I think he will make some fairly drastic changes. Elliot Daley straight in? I doubt it but George Ford could find himself relegated to the bench with Farrell at #10 and Te'o at 12. Sam Underhill and Sam Simmonds must surely be in the frame to bolster the back row. What about Dylan? Will he be relegated to the bench? We'll know soon enough.
John Hardie is likely to return to Scottish action after serving a ban for cocaine use. He's done the time so fair enough, or is it? As long as he has learnt a lesson AND he helps other not to make the same mistake then ok.
Ireland's hopes of the Grand Slam were bossted with the news that Tadgh Furlong and Ian Henderson are both fit and ready for selection to face the Scots.
The George North saga has plenty of mileage still in it. North feels he has been 'hung out to dry' by Alan Gaffney. We'll never know the truth I suspect but in my mind it seems like six of one and half a dozen of the other. After the pathetic first half performance by Saints North's absence would have added to Gaffney's annoyance and North's absence may have added to Saints poor performance.
After all the fuss will North start against Italy and what does Warren Gatland do with Dan Biggar and Taulupe Faletau? He should drop the former and pick the latter.
The RFU have apparently complained to World Rugby about Wales poaching players. There is a fascinating piece on bbc.co.uk which looks at the issue. It basically centres around the WRU having staff working around England where they run 'exiles' training camps for talented/aspiring youngsters. It also covers the role of colleges like Hartbury in the world of rugby and how the RFU are 'helping' schools fund scholarships for talent. It's just 6 minutes long but well worth watching. To the RFU I say "how readily you have forgotten Nathan Hughes, Ben Te'o, Denny Solomona, Thomas Waldrom, and so I could go on. Remember Mr RFU man, everytime you point a finger three always point back at you!"
Sir Bradley Wiggins denies any wrong doing. Fair play, he put himself in front of the cameras to defend his position. It does smell somehwat and as much as I love Le Tour de France you do have to ask how these cyclists endure the physical challenge. It can't all be massages and nutricious fruit bars can it? If it wasn't nad enough Wiggins could also be about about to be mired in a tax avoidance row.
Wow! Salisbury in the news. Is this another Russian spy murdered on British soil. It certainly looks like it.
Is the EU about to be faced with an even bigger challenge than Brexit. Italy might just be about to cause a tsunami to roll across Brussels.
It's Tuesday. Swimming with the grandson today hoorah!
Monday 5th March - 08:45
Second week of March already and people are already talking about the end of the season. A season that was interrupted in spectacular fashion last weekend with pretty much every game in the South East, if not in the country postponed. Guernsey did play and beat Guildford to go even further clear at the top of their table, London & SE Premier
Surprise, surprise no sooner had I hit save on Saturday than Worthing v Canterbury was called off.
I thoroughly enjoyed Gloucester v Falcons. It highlighted how far Newcastle have come this season. Beating Gloucester at Kingsholm is quite an achievement. It would have been an injustice if Gloucester had snatched the win at the end. Sale beating Saints was a good result for the Salford team. The story sadly has been overtaken by the news that George North appears to have declined to play. There is an obligation for North to play during the fallow 6 Nations weeks and it seems he has gone against that, I guess in anticipation of starting against Italy next Sunday.
Exeter v Saracens was another enjoyable game to watch. Exeter looked confident both in defence and attack and were able to keep a lively Saracens at bay. It wasn't a classic but it did highlight the quality of the Aviva. Saracens could use their long absentee list as an excuse but such is their strength in depth they could still keep Schalk Burger on the bench.
In the other games Wasps go past London Irish, Quins finally get a 'w' on the board in 2018 in their game against Bath, and Leicester's fine form continues by strolling past Worcester.
Elsewhere I also enjoyed Oyannax v Stade and Cheetahs v Connacht. Pretty good adverts for this game of ours. Yes, I did pretty much watch rugby wall to wall this weekend. Marvellous!!
A story you might have missed is the one about Wales and British & Irish Lions star Jonathan Davies helping to transport doctors, nurses and patients to and from Cardiff hospital during the intense period of snow that hit Wales. He couldn't sit there in his living room with a huge 4x4 on the drive doing nothing whilst people were struggling. At last a good use for social media and the message goes out he was available to help. Again marvellous!!
As the week progresses I will look towards the 6 Nations.
In other sport many pages cover the sad death of Roger Bannister. It is somewhat ironic that this history maker was also a pioneer in anti-doping as the papers are also full of the damning report into doping allegations in sport. Bradley Wiggins and Team SKY Cycling are the centre of the storm and Seb Coe has had fingers pointed at him for allegedly not being 100% truthful about the systematic doping of athletes in Russia. There is so much money at stake in sport today that it is inevitable that some will turn to drugs to give them or their team an advantage. Sad but true.
The snow has gone but the problems continue with some in the Crowborough area and beyond being without water due to burst water mains. Drink beer, its 95% water.
Saturday 3rd March - 10:00
It finally looks as if the worst of the bad weather has past and a thaw is setting in. Not soon enough to stop a raft of games at all levels from being postponed. Exeter v Saracens and Quins v Bath have been moved to tomorrow. Gloucester v Newcastle and Saints v Sharks are amazingly still on.
Worthing v Canterbury is still on.
Most of the Pro 14 is postponed except for Cheetahs v Connacht. In yesterday's match up the woeful Dragons lost by a lot to the Southern Kings. The sooner this season is over and the many reinforcements arrive the better as far as the Newport outfit is concerned.
I was fascinated to read that Quins have announced a partnership with the All Blacks. The key sentence in my mind is "the Premiership club will cooperate with the All Blacks in several projects, including an exchange of playing and coaching resources". This strikes me as an amazing coup for the London side. Obviously at the moment it is only a headline but this could put Harlequins, over time of course, at the pinnacle of English club rugby. Time will tell.
There is a great deal that we involved in rugby can be proud of. It is a great game with great ethics and at grassroots level a hoard of amazing volunteers and club supporters. There are a few things in the game I would like to change and some I'd like improving. Let's touch on a few of those now, even though I have commented on them previously, and often.
The scrum remains a frustration. The recent tweaks to the put-in and having a front row striking the ball has improved things but far too often the scrum collapses into a unhealthy mess and eats up the clock. More tweaks required me thinks.
The offside line at ruck and maul needs to be rethought. It's 10m at a lineout and 5m at a scrum. We need at least a 1m behind the hindmost feet to open things up perhaps?
The ruck is a mess. I know it is from ye olde school but stay on your feet and use them to clear players out and secure the ball. At the moment some rucks are more like greco-roman wrestling than anything else.
The payment of players is being addressed and in a sensible way by the RFU. I for one think it will be very hard to police but it is a step in the right direction.
Finally a ring fenced 14 team fully professional Premiership. You know my views on this. It will happen but sadly only when more clubs go to the wall as surely they will.
The 6 Nations takes a break this weekend but so far so good. No gloating in this but England losing to Scotland last week was great for the tournament. It has given the last two rounds a whole new perspective rather than all of us just looking at the England v Ireland game on St Patrick's Day. Scotland have much to play for now. Ireland have a Grand Slam in their sights. England have their pride to restore and a title to be won. Wales have two games to win to keep the wolves baying for blood from the door. Italy are desperate for any sort of result and France... je ne sais quoi?
Ireland v Wales was a great game as was Scotland V England. France v Italy except for the last 10 minutes was pretty dire, likewise France v Ireland. England v Wales was full of controversy, Wales v Scotland wasn't. Bring on the next round.
Brexit, is it any clearer after Maybe's long and winding road speech yesterday? Not really. Views from all sides have become entrenched.
The Daily Star have their priorities right. The front page highlights how police found a major cannabis farm hidden in the attic of a small terrace because it had no snow on its roof. Policing at its best luckiest!
Friday 2nd March - 08:15
As many of you know already and to state the very, very obvious the club will r