Saturday Feb 24th - 09:00
What an excellent game of rugby. Free flowing, end to end stuff. High levels of skill both in attack and defence. Lots of excellent tries and high drama right until the final whistle. No not that mediocre fare served up in Marseille but Ireland U20 v Wales U20 in Donnybrook. Two sides packed with outstanding talent destined for great things in the future playing the game as it should be. It was a joy to watch and yes being biased seeing Wales win was the icing on the cake.
Wow! Scotland U20 beat England U20. I hadn't seen that one coming. A portend for this afternoon's game? No chance!
So to Le Stade Velodrome. The French people obviously disillusioned with their national side voted with their feet by staying away. Huge swathes of empty seats around the ground and until late on an atmosphere so thin it was hardly noticeable. The rendition of both anthems though was great. For long periods Italy played very well looking sharp in attack and resolute in defence. France on the other hand were disorganised and sloppy in their execution (which many years ago during the revolution executions was their forte). The Big Bastareaud justified his selection being a thorn in the side of the Italians from start to finish. It was only in the last 15 minutes or so when the Italians legs, hearts and minds started to tire did the French cut loose. It was good to see Italy score a well worked and well deserved late try to bring France back to reality. Yes they ended their winless run but it was against Italy who really are not very good and won't be very good for sometime to come. That said it is not for the lack of trying. France face England next and unless Les Bleues bring back players like Teddy Thomas and get their arse back into gear they could be on the end of a thumping, especially if as expected England leave Murrayfield with the spoils this afternoon.
I hope this afternoon's two 6 Nations games offer up a better quality of watching experience than we saw last night. Before I move on Mrs Bleater asked how much has the high level of overseas imports in the domestic game affected the French national team? Good question. I think a lot and when added to the attitude of the French clubs and their owners towards the national set up, which is poor at best and often hostile it is no wonder France has slipped down the rankings.
It sounds like self-gratification whenever I mention the Friday Club but I must commend the work they did yesterday to give the minis and juniors any chance of playing rugby at Steel Cross tomorrow. The grounds had turned from swamp to frozen tundra in parts. Undeterred two pitches have been marked and prepared as best as possible for matches, the mini training area has been tined and rolled, this in addition to clearing the grounds and making them as safe as possible for all. Pitch inspection at 10:30 this morning but don't hold your breath. My relatively shady garden which is prone to be very soft throughout the winter is rock hard. Hey ho!
Well done Billy Morgan. GB's fifth medal from Pyeongchang. It's a record.....but how much has it costed for each medal. Let's not worry about that for now. Sport and sporting success is important for any nation. Let's applaud rather than count the beans.
Hoorah some sense at last. Car hire firm Enterprise is to stop offering discounts to NRA members. First National Bank will not renew its contract to supply the NRA Visa card. Several other companies had already distanced themselves from the NRA. Consumer pressure works.
Now the EU are waking up and smelling le cafe. Yesterday the leaders met to debate the massive whole in their budget when GB leaves. Those who input the most have said we are not paying more. Those who get the most are saying we are not accepting any less. No wonder Barnier, Tusk and that odious Junkers are playing hard ball.
Full review of the 6 Nations tomorrow.
Friday Feb 23rd - 07:45
No major surprises as King Eddie brings in Nathan Hughes to bolster the back row and Joe Marler comes onto the bench. No place for James Haskell. Is this the end of his international career, especially as he has been let go by Wasps. Jones has picked out Finn Russell as the opposition player to watch, much as he did with Rhys Patchell two weeks ago. Russell is a more seasoned campaigner than Patchell but prone to errors when put under pressure and pressure is sure to come.
Gergor Townsend has questioned the legality of that pressure, I am proud to say much as I did post the Wales game. Their defensive line seems to get away with being offside on a regular basis and they have a habit of going over the top at the ruck, again with impunity. I guess that is the sign of a winning side. If Greig Laidlaw can replicate his kicking success of last time out and the referee is on his game then England might just rue their efforts to cheat. I still go England by a lot.
By the way it will be Dylan Hartley's 92nd cap making him the second highest capped England player of all time. Well done sir.
Ireland lose both Tadgh Furlong and Ian Henderson much as expected. Does this improve Wales chances? Not one bit. Joe Schmidt has had to make a number of changes as a consequence with the inexperienced Andrew Porter and James Ryan getting their chance to prove their international quality. His side is still packed with top flight and experienced talent, many of whom are in great form for their provinces. Ireland remain clear favourites in my book.
The flights out of Cardiff and the ferries from Holyhead will be packed with Welsh supporters as the red hoardes invade Dublin. Many won't have tickets but who cares. It is a great craic. Our very own Friday Club stalwart Ken Roberts is already there and has no intention of returning until Tuesday. He might be sober by next Friday.
Don't forget France v Italy tonight.
All tomorrow's action is on live at the club. Sadly the 2s game I forgot about is now off. That shouldn't stop you enjoying a great afternoon of fun and watching a cracking Calcutta Cup encounter.
I am really struggling with the Americans obsession with guns and how it is everyone else's fault that an unstable 19 year old can build up a lethal arsenal of weapons.
University lecturers are on strike over their pension rights. I can understand their ire as pensions are crucial, as I am finding out..... but their pension pot is hugely in defecit. One way of reducing that is cutting the pay, or even cutting the number of ridiculously highly paid Vice Chancellors and putting the savings into the pot. Obviously the other way is to reduce the number of lecturers. That'll be quite popular. Another way is to put UP tuition fees despite them already being amongst the most expensive in the world. Of course the Government can fill the gap out of their coffers which would mean cuts to other MORE IMPORTANT services (in my view) or of course you and me paying more in taxes which is totally unacceptable. I'd be interested to know how many students go into jobs where their degree is totally useless and therefore are there too many courses available and too many young people wasting their time and racking up huge debt in the process. A debate worth having perhaps.
Another gorgeous day on the cards. Friday Club here we come.
Thursday Feb 22nd - 09:15
The Calcutta Cup match, a match steeped in history and drama. Scotland have named an unchanged starting XV for this one but have brought some extra fire power onto the bench in the shape of WP Nel, Tim Swinson and Nick Grigg. We will know in an hour or two but I expect England to name a very powerful squad who in my view will be too good for Scotland. On a man for man basis England will be much the better side, however they will have to be firing on all cylinders and play well as a team. If there is to be a shock it will be the collective effort of the Scots that triumph over the individual displays of England. The keys for success for England: the control of Ford and Farrell, and a much improved back row performance at the breakdown. Scotland's area of opportunity will be the speed and adaptability of their back line plus securing clean ball at scrum and lineout. Neither are guaranteed. I go England by some margin.
Jacques Brunel has made a host of changes to his team to face Italy tomorrow. Most are a result of the misbehaviour of a few after the game in Edinburgh. The enormous Mathieu Basteraud is recalled following the completion of his ban for verbal abuse of an opponent. The absence of Teddy Thomas is disappointing, a) because he has been a star thus far, and b) because he was one of the miscreants. Italy have far fewer resources to choose from but Connor O'Shea has made three changes to his side. I can't see much further than a French victory and a comfortable French victory at that.
Ireland are sweating on the fitness of Tadgh Furlong and Ian Henderson. The loss of either would be a blow. Joe Schmidt has no choice but to ring the changes following injuries but it will still be a hugely experienced and very talented squad that hosts Wales on Saturday. Wales will need to maintain their excellent discipline shown against England. With Sexton in fine form giving Ireland the impetus through penalties would be madness. Ireland have been less flamboyant and more controlled of late so Wales will have to be unpredictable in attack and solid in defence if they have any chance of victory. Wales cannot hope to triumph if they adopt a kick and chase approach. Possession will be limited so they must use it wisely. The Welsh back row is key as will be the performance of Dan Biggar. He must release his backs and he is going to have to be in Sexton's face all the time. I go Ireland but not by many. This has the makings of a classic but sadly a war of attrition might be the outcome.
All the lovvies were at the Brits last night. Yawn, yawn, yawn. More smarmy platitudes from the overpaid, over-hyped pop divas who have no understanding of the real world. Muppets.
If you still struggle with the concept of 'madness' then try this. Donald Trump says it would be a good idea for teachers to carry guns. So let me get this right. His idea of gun control is to arm more people and arm them in an environment where young people congregate thus putting them in even more danger. The man is a certifiable idiot. Gun control Donald is about stopping people who are unfit to own gun from having one and stopping people building up arsenals of weapons bigger than the British forces have.
Wednesday Feb 21st - 08:30
I am always surprised that people read this nonsense but they do. How do I know? Easy. As soon as I had hit 'save' yesterday so I started to get the corrections to my comments.................
In ADDITION to the amazing fun and games planned for Steel Cross on Saturday there IS a game on. Our 2s play Pulborough 3s. Kick off 14:30.
I don't know him. In fact up until last night I had never heard of him. It is only right though that I comment on the tragic death of 27 year old Doncaster Knights prop Ian Williams. Ian collapsed at training and could not be resuscitated. 27 is no age. Naturally I will spare a thought for his friends and family during the course of today but also contemplate that life is not a rehearsal. It is a 'one-time hit'. We need to reflect on what we want from it and wherever possible make that 'it' happen.
It was also remiss of me yesterday not to mention the retirement of Ian Robertson from the BBC. As a young man he was a fine player and a stalwart of the Scottish side. As a commentator his erudite and pithy comments have livened up many a radio commentary, most memorably his commentary on THAT drop goal in 2003. He worked alongside the late great Bill McLaren and regails many a story about him. He is a funny and truly top bloke. I have had the pleasure of meeting him on several occasions and can atest to the latter. Radio 5's rugby won't be the same.
Warren Gatland throws Dan Biggar straight back into the melting pot. I am a little surprised by that, in part due to the lack of rugby since his injury and in part as I am not sure Biggar is the man to release Wales' backs with speed and accuracy in an open game. Leigh Halfpenny's return was a given and Liam Williams in for Josh Adams is also not a surprise. George North only makes the bench at the expense of Patchell, who like Adams is out of the squad altogether. Anscombe is on the bench. Taulupe Faletau, one of Wales only truly world class players didn't make the squad. I am pleased with that as the forwards thus far have performed well, especially the back row. Faletau will play for Bath to test his match fitness.
Eddie The Misery names his final match day squad on Thursday. Haskell and Marler are in contention but it can be said with certainty that Nathan Hughes will start.
Reflections on the games in more detail tomorrow and Friday morning.
There are many stories in the papers today worthy of comment but as a general theme everyone is talking about needing more money. More for education, the police, the NHS and so forth. Is it not about time people looked at what is being spent poorly or the corruption and the waste in these organisations and how many fat cats sit at the top of education, the police and NHS. We also don't hear enough about where the money is going to come from. Not too many politicians are heard saying it will come from you and me in the form of taxation. In the wake of recent news it would be easy to target the overseas budget and there must be millions, if not billions to be had from the tax avoiders like footballers and TV celebrities and others. If GB was a proper business you can rest assured cuts would be made and high income heads would roll to make the business profitable and viable. Lets think differently.
Talking of which come on let's get back to common sense and stop all these namby pamby politically correct crusades, especially those by over-hyped, over-paid celebrities. Let's stop wrapping everyone up in cotton wool and being afraid of saying anything for fear of giving offence (and being sued). In years to come unless we wake up and smell the coffee the country's prime minister will be 'Alexa' and will rule over a nation of zombies who can't think or act for themselves.
Tuesday Feb 20th - 08:15
No club games at Steel Cross on Saturday but LOTS of fun and games for adults and kids alike with both games; Ireland v Wales and Scotland v England on the TV. Plenty of good food available throughout the day and attractive beer prices for those adults who like a drink. If that wasn't enough there are some really cool raffle prizes to be won. Go on, give it a try!
Whether Nathan Hughes starts for England or not is still to be confirmed but he will be in the squad. My money is on him starting. They need him (the big Fijian) after Wales had the edge in this department a fortnight ago.
Gary Ringrose has been drafted into Ireland's squad after the injury to Robbie Henshaw and it looks as if young Jordan Larmour might be sent back to Leinster 'needing more time to prove he is ready for the big stage'.
Warren Gatland will be delighted and many in Wales surprised that Faletau, Biggar and Halfpenny have all declared themselves fit for the game against Ireland. This on top of North and Liam Williams proving their fitness last weekend. Gatland has a selection dilemma. Me, I wouldn't rush either Faletau or Biggar back but Halfpenny will start due to the need for a top class goal kicker, so sadly lacking against England. Steff Evans should keep his place so what do you do? Anscombe might get the nod at #10 after his excellent second half showing but who knows. Time will tell with Gatland announcing his team later today (I think). Whatever happens Ireland will start overwhelming favourites.
I find it strange that Edinburgh have opted to return to Murrayfield for the rest of the Pro14 season. Yes it is an amazing stadium but having just 4 to 5,000 people in makes it soul-less.
Scotland Rugby Union MIGHT enter into talks with Newcastle Falcons about buying a stake in the high flying North Eastern outfit. I can see the merit for SRU and the money would be handy for the Flacons but it would be a minefield of conflicts of interest, especially as the RFU would need to approve any deal IF the Flacons were to stay in the Aviva, which of course they must. It is only a rumour at the moment but one to watch out for.
So France didn't get punished for their HIA antics when they played Scotland. It was all above board as the match day INDEPENDENT doctor, who happened to be French ruled the HIA were required. Bullshit and cowardice by World Rugby. France have pulled another fast one and got away with it again.
Talking of France they play Italy at the excellent Stade Velodrome in Marseille on Friday night. It is good to see France taking the 6 Nations on the road. Maybe the RFU might consider playing one of their home fixtures up North. Doubt it. Money, money, money.
Fascinating to watch Gloucester score then take a very quick drop goal conversion when they played Worcester last weekend. Why? There was a chance the try was going to be disallowed but once a conversion has been taken the try stands. World Rugby might need to look into changing the laws me thinks.
In other sports news what a result for Wigan FC. Great stuff. The poor beating the bloated rich. Where is Corbyn when you need him? Actually dodging difficult questions about the allegations of being a Communist spy and trying to make sense of his parties nonsensical stance on Brexit. In the interests of balance I am not sure Maybe nor Davis are making any more sense of it.
Hoorah! It's Tuesday. Swimming with the grandson later today.
Monday Feb 19th - 08:15
What a dreary way to start the week. No, no, not with this drivel but the weather. It is dank and miserable. It is Monday so it's league round-up day.
It was a shame we didn't get more out of Saturday's game against Old Dunstonians than we did. The performance deserved more but that is sport. The pick of the results in our league is Old Willies beating Lewes 32-17 and therefore leapfrogging into 5th spot thus pushing us down to 7th just a single point behind Lewes in 6th. Crawley having lost to Aylesford Bulls on the 10th Feb and losing again last weekend to Thanet Wanderers 7-33 confirms they are relegated. Likewise Sheppey's fate was sealed losing at home to Hastings & Bexhill 19-45. Park House excellent run of form continued at Folkestone where they came away with a fine 10-22 victory. This result takes them up to 9th pushing Folkestone into 10th and the third relegation spot. Table topping Aylesford beat Bromley 17-0. They top the table by virtue of losing just the one game whereas Thanet on the same number of points have lost two. Promotion is between these two sides. The battle for safety is huge with only 15 points separating Bromley in 4th and Folkestone in 10th. Much to play for.
In Sussex 1A barring an administrative cock-up Hellingly are promoted. Their 29-0 win over East Grinstead puts them out of reach with 4 games left to play. Playing for pride and of course the play-off spot Uckfield beat Burgess Hill 3-41.
In Sussex 1B where pride is the name of the game Ditchling win again beating Barns Green. Eastbourne too finally found some form with a comfortable win at Seaford. By the way what a terrible accident in Barns Green this weekend with a 75 year old granddad and 15 year old grandson being killed on a level crossing when a train ploughed into their car.
Into London 2 South East. Pulborough look increasingly like relegation candidates after another loss, this time to Sussex rivals Horsham. Hove remain the best of the Sussex clubs and realistically the only club with any chance of catching runaway leaders Dartford. Hove enjoyed a fine away win at Beckenham 21-22 wilst Dartford cruised past Deal & Betteshanger 30-8. Heatfield & Waldron came away from Charlton Park with a try and losing bonus point in a very high scoring game. Haywards Heath will be disappointed with their away defeat to Old Alleynians. They slip into mid-table as their hopes of the play-off are now (pretty much) gone. Well done Barking! Relegated a long time ago but still putting out a side and only going down to Dover 27-33. Probably their best result of the season.
Onwards and upwards. In London 1 South both the Sussex clubs enjoyed home wins. Brighton beating London Cornish, Chichester beating Chobham. A surprise result was Medway losing at Havant and with CS Rugby 1863 beating Tottonians they slip to second in the table. The Civil Servants go top. Maidstone secure another valuable win in the race to stay up. Our friends over at Sevenoaks lost at home to Cobham. Although there are plenty of games left the 'Oaks are looking pretty safe.
Stopping briefly at the Premier Inn our good friends from St Marks would not have enjoyed the journey home from Hertford after going down 43-17. I would suggest neither relegation nor promotion is a worry which in my book would seem like an excellent season thus far in a VERY tough league. Guernsey continue to march on to promotion.
I forecast it to be the game of the weekend and with a 25-21 result in favour of TJs over Worthing it could well have been so. Cinderford now have clear air between themselves and Chinnor in 2nd. Still much to play for though.
Both Bridgnorth and Salisbury enjoyed wins over Lichfield and Stratford-upon-Avon respectively.
So the Italian sides in the Pro14 are rubbish are they? Benetton without a host of front line players beat a pretty strong Dragons side yesterday in Newport. The Dragons are not very good to say the least. Elsewhere it wasn't a classic but it was pretty enjoyable; Wasps 13 Exeter 7. Sad to see so many players leaving the field injured, one or two possibly serious.
We can now turn our attention back to the 6 Nations. For England Nathan Hughes is set to return. For Wales George North and Liam Williams must be in with a shout for selection. More on this during the week.
Surprise, surprise a Russian athlete has failed a drugs test during the winter olympics. Me, I'm off for a coffee.
Sunday Feb 18th - 08:15
My friend Merlot got the better of me yesterday. Far too much of it accompanying a very fine lunch at the club. Anyway less about that, let's talk about the game. Firstly it was amazing that a game took place and in the very heavy conditions a game of good quality too. I think it is fair to say the better side on the day lost. How can you be the better side if you lost? Good question. We dominated possession and territory for long periods, used the ball well and played with common sense in the conditions. Our first try came as a result of excellent defensive pressure and quick thinking when the ball was spilled in the tackle. The boys defended well and kicked wisely. Chris Yates had a splendid game in that department as well as marshalling the defensive line with authority.
Yeah, yeah, all that is fine and dandy but Old Dunstonians scored 17 points to your 10. Doesn't that make them the better side? Better no, winning yes. We gifted them two tries from the only two defensive errors of the day. What makes it frustrating was it was sloppy play by CRFC and not outstanding play by ODs. They took their chances and with an excellent kicker able to get the ball between the posts despite kicking from a swamp that was that.
Fair play heads didn't drop and 'Borough fought back scoring a well worked try late on to earn a losing bonus point. It could have been more if the referee hadn't ruled out what looked from my viewpoint a good try. He was on the spot, I wasn't, fair call. Alex Purnell continues to lead from the front and is getting the best out of the troops. Callum Main was outstanding and I for one was surprised when he was taken off. I am not the coach so let's move on.
With other results as they were we slip back to 7th in the table. Full round up tomorrow.
The big boys were on parade yesterday with Worcester edging closer to safety after beating Gloucester and London Irish slipping nearer to the relegation trap door after their loss at Northampton. As expected Scarlets lost at Leinster and in a closely contested encounter Cardiff held off Munster for their win. Wasps v Exeter later today.
Well done to our skeleton girls. Gold and bronze. Great stuff.
Leicester City v Chelsea in the next round of the FA Cup.
Can you believe Trump is trying to blame the FBI for the Florida shootings. Yes, lots of warning signs were missed BUT it was the easy access to the guns and the bullets from said weapons that killed 17 innocent people. Trump, you are a jerk.
Saturday Feb 17th - 09:15
The Friday Club's motto: the impossible will get done right away but miracles might just take a little longer. Well miracles it is then. The game at Steel Cross is ON. At 09:00 yesterday morning water buffalo and migrating geese would be the only creatures able to use the pitch. By 12:30 the pitch was playable, albeit only just. With the drying conditions of yesterday and again today there will be rugby at Steel Cross. It will be VERY heavy but a game nonetheless.
Last night I watched Sale v Saracens. Not a bad game but not a classic. Sale's ball retention and lack of inventiveness in their back line was the difference between the sides. One piece of magic by Liam Williams saw him score and possibly into the Wales side vs Irealnd next Saturday.
Newcastle have become a force to reckon with and their win over Bath should come as no surprise. The ease of the win might but the win itself, no. Some close games in the Pro14 with the Ospreys clawing their way back into the game against the Southern Kings ultimatley securing the win.
You knew it would happen. The minute I say disparaging things against the Italian regions they go onto win. Zebre beat Connacht in Ireland to prove me wrong. Go Zebre. The two Scottish regions also secure wins. Edinburgh at Ulster and Glasgow at home to Cheetahs.
Plenty to look forward to today and comments on those tomorrow.
Back to Sale v Sarries and Liam Williams. If you watched it you, like me, must also be thinking; what a numpty. Running in like that to push a player over deserved a yellow card.
In other sport two medals in the winter olympics for GB. Hoorah. That snowboard cross stuff is something else. Great fun. That ski gymnastics type thingy is madness therefore well worth watching.
Leicester City into the next round of the FA Cup. Hoorah.
This alleged Russian interference in the US election is going to be a massive story if proven. Trump's days might just be numbered.
Three things to contemplate this morning..........
Max Mosley former head of F1 is trying to change the freedom of speech laws and gag the press after the historical exposee into his sex life. What people do in their private life is up to them so being into sex dressed up in a Nazi uniform shouldn't be any of our business. That is EXCEPT when the person in question has made his money out of the likes of you and I who have paid lots and lots of money to watch F1 either live or on TV and is someone who headed up a business/sport that wanted to attract the biggest and widest audience it could. Therefore Max go shove your head up your .....
In a similar vein Centre Parcs have withdrawn their adverts from the Organ of Truth because one of their columnists, Richard Littlejohn, wrote a piece about Tom Daley (the olympic diver) and his partner Dustin Black having a baby. Littlejohn feels that a child should grow up being raised by a man and a woman. I am sure there are many people in the UK who share his view. I, by the way am NOT one of them. Times have changed and life in today's world is very different. That SHOULD NOT however stop people being allowed to air their own views as long as it is well balanced and reasoned and not just a hate filled rant. Littlejohn's piece was the former. It is up to Centre Parcs where they advertise but reacting in this way will lead us down the path where minority groups with big mouthpieces will prevent freedom of speech.
Finally the NHS. Still grabbing the headlines for the wrong reasons. PLEASE can we start talking about the millions of people who get amazing service from the NHS each year rather than the few who don't, especially the few who might be looking for their chance of a big pay day!!!!
See you at the game later.
Friday Feb 16th - 07:30
I have no idea whether tomorrow's game at Steel Cross will be on. One thing I can be sure of though is it won't be for the lack of trying.
Ireland, as expected, confirm Robbie Henshaw will be out for at least four months following his shoulder injury.
Wales and Scarlets Jonathan Davies won't return until next season. With that being a RWC season that isn't such a bad thing.
Anti-doping is in the news with the RFU defending their stance. Drugs in sport and drugs in life are a fact. For me I find it pretty poor that by the RFU's own admission an Aviva player can go a whole season without being tested. Playing at the top flight is very lucrative now so I am certain some aspiring players will seek the assistance of drugs to 'aid' the route to the pinnacle. Certainly it has been a problem in Wales. Then you have young, fit men with time on their hands and money in their pocket. There are 'recreational' drugs out there without too much searching. Food for thought?
France intend to conduct a thorough review of the events surrounding last weekend's drinking by some of their squad. It is a shame players can't chill out after a thoroughly enjoyable game of rugby. At the elite level times have changed, so has society, therefore these role models need to deliver the highest standards of behaviour all the time.
Surprise, surprise the RFU are looking ahead to England v New Zealand in November and are considering jacking up the prices from £105 to £195 for the best tickets. Guess what? The average Joe and Joanna who work tirelessly at their local club for nothing will be priced out in favour of corporate tossers who have no idea about the game but have the money for the prawn sandwiches now being served in corporate hostility.
Piers Morgan is like Marmite for many but I read a piece he has written for The Organ of Truth about the shooting in Florida and was mightily impressed. He was booted out of the USA for his stance on gun control by the way. It is well worth reading if like millions around the world you believe the US stance on control is madness.
Back tomorrow, if only to give a pitch update.
Thursday Feb 15th - 08:30
Rugby is a great game but it is only a game. Yes there was controversy last weekend and people thought it was the end of the world and yes there were more injuries but it is only a game. To put that into perspective we wake up this morning to another mass shooting in the USA, this time in Florida. At least 17 innocent young people have been needlessly slaughtered after a 19 year old with a grudge ambled into a high school with high powered weaponary took aim and bang!!!! It is madness that America cannot see the horrors that their gun-toting culture is having on themselves. They talk with fear about terrorists and how Muslims are evil but when they point their fingers they never stop to think about the three fingers pointing back at themselves and ask the question; are we delusional to think having guns so freely available is a good thing. More people will be killed by random non terrorist mass shootings in the USA in one year than will have been killed by terrorist activity in the last 10 years (9/11 being exceptional). USA: wake up and smell the coffee.
Rant over. Let's talk rugby...... please.
Busy weekend of domestic rugby coming up and plenty of games on TV worth watching. It will be interesting which internationals have been released back to their clubs and which haven't. Justin Tipuric for example will start for the Ospreys tomorrow despite there be a strong chance he will start in place of the injured Richard Moriarty the following week in Ireland.
Newcastle v Bath looks interesting as does Sale v Sarries, both on Friday evening. For the Aviva game of the weekend I suspect we will have to wait until Sunday when Wasps go head to head with Exeter, the latter with much to prove after last week's defeat at the hands of Worcester. With so many Pro14 players in their respective international sides it is an opportunity for the youngsters to shine. Leinster v Scarlets will be interesting with most of the Scarlets being with Wales. Cardiff Blues v Munster could equally be fascinating with a strong Cardiff side hosting a weakened Munster XV. Saturday sees two Super Rugby match-ups with the Stormers v Los Jaguares being SKY's game.
My game of the weekend, other than Crowborough v Old Dunstonians, places are still available for lunch, contact me or Graysey is TJs v Worthing. That should be a cracking game. Won't be there, have no intention of going but for those who do it will be well worth it....... I hope!
Plenty of players on the transfer merry-go-round. It gets more like soccer everyday! Players in, players out, players signing new contracts, players out of contract. Haskell and Cipriani at Wasps being two in that position. Plenty of foreign imports too. If you consider the top clubs are shorn of their top players for seven weeks at this time of year it is no wonder clubs look overseas.
Is it time for Italy's participation in the 6 Nations to be reconsidered? Yet another heavy defeat last week. Only two Italian regions, both floundering at the bottom of the Pro14. I don't know the answer and am unsure of what the alternative would be. Go back to 5 Nations. One less game for already overstretched players. Have a relegation system but who comes up? What happens when say Scotland or Wales are at the bottom. No England v Wales. No full house at Twickenham. The finance men would go purple with worry. Swap Georgia for Italy. Isn't this just swapping one whipping boy for another? It is a debate worth having and SKY have started it.
The winter olympics are on. Yes I succumbed and have watched some of it. What a nonsense...... either Russia and their athletes are in or their out. This athletes from Russia under the Olympic flag is bullshit.
As many of you know I worked in the wines & spirits business for over 17 years. A business where advertising and promotion is strictly controlled and policed. Quite rightly too. Alcohol can cause harm and social problems and abuse of alcohol is not right. Why then is the betting industry, an industry where different but equally massive and often traumatic social problems are caused by abuse appears to be totally unregulated. Advert after advert after advert. Free bets, easy to play, glamourous portrayal of peceived success. It is WRONG. The only winners are the betting companies. Something needs to be done.
Yes, I'm coming. I know my coffee is getting cold. Back tomorrow.
Wednesday Feb 14th - 07:30
The grandkids are here so a lie-in is out of the question.
I bet, not that I do gamble, that Eddie Jones would not be telling Wales 'to move on' if the TMO injustice had been against his side. No, he would be making a fuss and nonsense about it, after all he whinged to World Rugby about Alun Wyn Jones asking the referee to refer a try to the TMO.
World Rugby have confirmed it was a (terrible) mistake, a mistake in the minds of many Welsh folk that changed the course of the game. Let's hope lessons can be learned. On balance England were marginally the better side. By the way I believe Wales only conceded two penalties in the entire match. That is remarkable. Talking of penalties I was somewhat taken aback when the TMO was screaming in the referee's ear that the penalty count was 4 to 1 at one point. Surely this is NOT in the pervue of the TMO which highlights our New Zealand friend in the TV truck might have been trying to make a name for himself.
Both England and Wales have had some good news regarding injuries. A number of key players like Dan Biggar and Elliot Daley could return in ten days time. They also had some bad news with Alex Cuthbert for Wales and Sam Simmonds for England being ruled out for the rest of the tournament.
England are hosting the Georgian pack today, as they did yesterday, in an effort to sharpen up their scrum.
A number of French players have not covered themselves in glory after their defeat to Scotland. They were questioned by police prior to flying home after late night drinking. Jacques Brunel has taken swift and decisive action by dropping them from the squad including Teddy Thomas and Louis Picamoles.
Some of Scotland's Under 20s coaching team have also found themsleves in hot water. A number of the backroom staff got into a late night scuffle in a bar in North Wales prior to them playing Wales U/20s. They have been suspended until the disciplinary process is complete. I have to say (some) North Walians can be a strange bunch and can sometimes be confrontational.
Have you seen the two dangerously high tackles by Wasps Kyle Eastmond during the game against Quins? He deserves the six week ban.
We play Old Dunstonians on Saturday, hopefully, pitch permitting. It is still not too late to join us for lunch. Get hold of me or Graysey
Blimey! Super Rugby returns this weekend. Where does the time go?
Lots of fixtures to contemplate but that can wait until tomorrow, as will the debate that has started about Italy's long term tenure in the 6 Nations.
Haven't had chance to absorb the papers fully but I guess Brexit continues to be a painful read.
Monday Feb 12th - 15:00
Finally back from Bridgnorth and therefore connected back to the universe.
Let's start in Murrayfield. Watching as a neutral what a splendid game of rugby. A great first half that ebbed and flowed. Some cracking play interspersed with unforced errors. Teddy Thomas setting the game alight and Huw Jones playing like a demon for the Scots. The second half was gripping as Scotland clawed their way back into the game via the boot of Greig Laidlaw. The Scots deserved the win in part due to their tenacity but also they made fewer errors late on versus the French. Great stuff and well refereed by John Lacey.
Dublin was less entertaining as for the most part Ireland were clinical in their finishing making it a procession of tries in their favour. Sexton and Murray showed their world class but the team as a whole performed well. Defensively they were excellent and their attacking prowess was impressive. To be fair Italy didn't give up and with Joe Schmidt taking key players off early in the second half allowed the Azzurri the luxury of grabbing a few tries themselves. Any neutrals watching this would have enjoyed the free flowing nature of the contest.
Finally the 'big one'! Let me say straight off the bat that if England v Wales was boxing the judges would have given it to England on a split decision. The opening twenty minutes was crucial. This was where England won the game. They came out of the traps all guns blazing whilst the Welsh were still distributing the ammunition. Overall England were quicker from the base of the ruck than England and played the referee better than the Welsh, especially with many white shirts going off their feet and not being penalised. England played much like the All Blacks too; offside and getting away with it. Wales kicking out of hand could have been much more accurate and with the ball finding Mike Brown like iron to a magnet it was always returned with interest. In the first half Wales made too many unforced errors and ball retention at crucial moments was not great. For much of the game you would argue Eddie Jones was right about Rhys Patchell. Not Patchell's finest hour. Gareth Anscombe on the other hand was a revelation when he moved to outside-half. He has been much maligned of late but he shone during that final 30 minutes.
Three pivotal moments where Wales could have won this one. Aaron Shingler, again superb, should have/could have held on to the ball and off loaded to the hard charging Gareth Davies on his outside rather than kicking. Sam Underhill's tackle on Scott Williams was magnificent. Could Williams have dived a little higher off the ground or could he have waited for the support that was closing rapidly. Then there was the try that wasn't. Gareth Anscombe touched down for a try. The TMO got it wrong. Even Sir Clive said as much. There is much talk about Steff Evans knocking on before the touch down. There is little evidence to support this whereas Anscombe's touch down is conclusive. From a Welsh viewpoint it is disappointing but I go back to my opening remark. On balance England deserved the win.
Other comments from the game. Joe Launchbury was my man of the match. Eddie Jones' post match interviews were disappointing. He's happy to have opinions but then avoids the difficult questions. If England had had a try disallowed he wouldn't have offered mealy mouthed platitudes he would have gone off on a tirade of abuse. Why can't the TV companies superimpose the sponsors logo onto the pitch a la Super Rugby rather than us having to watch players turn into wode covered combatants.
I know all of the six nations have injuries but here is a list of Wales absentees:-
Leigh Halfpenny, Liam Williams, Jonathan Davies, Rhys Priestland, Halom Amos, Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb, Sam Warburton, Dan Lydiate, Taulupe Faletau, Jake Ball, Scott Baldwin, Gethin Jenkins
and I am sure I've missed someone.
No new blog until Wednesday.
Friday Feb 9th - 08:30
What a difference a day makes. Yesterday beautiful clear blue skies, today miserable battleship grey ones with that annoying drizzly rain falling from it.
Eddie Jones makes one tactical change for tomorrow with Ben Te'o dropping to the bench and Jonathan Joseph coming in to start. I thought Te'o played well against the Italians and defensively he is the stronger player. Joseph is a powerful runner and in an open game might be the better choice but if it gets very physical there might be a weakness for Wales to exploit. Danny Care starts in the absence of Ben Youngs and by doing so becomes the most capped England scrum-half. Richard Wigglesworth comes onto the bench.
Eddie Jones has taken a backward step in terms of his mind games by taking a personal dig at Rhys Patchell. For Wales it is a test match against the second best team in the world. Patchell will come under pressure. Of course he will. To say he is not up to it is a bit out of order. In my view Patchell has absolutely nothing to lose. If England win, and they should do, then it is what everyone expected and it won't be down to just Patchell. If England lose then those personal jibes might just come back and bite Jones on his Aussie backside.
His criticism of Alun Wyn Jones screaming at the referee to go to the TMO when Scotland scored in the last minutes last weekend are very fair. AWJ was out of order and that isn't the leadership you want from your captain.
This won't be a mediocre game. It will either be amazing or it will be dire. I can't see anyone saying it was an ok game.
New Irish star in the making Jordan Larmour has made it to the bench for Saturday's clash with Italy. He is amongst a number of changes made by Joe Schmidt. It is Italy after all and after last week's lethargy things needed freshening up.
Gregor Townsend has also shuffled his deck. In my view this in part is a knee jerk reaction to their poor performance against Wales but also as a result of 'first choice' players becoming available after suspension and others being injured.
Should be a good weekend of top flight rugby. Don't forget the under 20s tonight.
As I am heading to the internet hinterland known as Bridgnorth* there won't be any blog until Monday afternoon. I will reflect on all the games then.
*My mum hasn't got internet and the library is closed on Sunday.
Thursday Feb 8th - 08:30
As I sit here on what is a glorious morning every muscle in my body is aching after yesterday's exploits. Some of the Friday Club have been helping Graeme & Drew Pratt prepare logs for next winter, all 30 tons of them and it was my turn yesterday. It was a pleasant if knackering change but I wouldn't want to do it everyday. Will the Friday Club be available as 'hired guns' elsewhere? I doubt it but you never know........ especially on £75 per hour...... per man.
It was VERY remiss of me not to mention CRFC's 2s and the Crows in my Monday round-up. The 2s went down 34-12 to East Grinstead 2s whilst the Crows beat Crawley 3rd XV 7-5. Both games were played in atrocious conditions but two enjoyable games nevertheless. I understand the U/16s also won on Sunday beating Bognor 26-17.
Certainly there is no 1st XV game on Saturday but it is hoped the postponed charity match from pre-Xmas will be on, weather dependent. Obviously the club will be open for the England v Wales game.
Warren Gatland has kept faith with the squad that beat Scotland, with one exception; Owen Watkins out, George North in. I personally think that is the right decision and whilst it is harsh on Watkins with Josh Adams carrying a slight knock the benefit of having North on the bench outweighs upsetting Watkins. Wales will not have it so easy at Twickenham as they did against Scotland. In fact I think they will get a rude awakening against an England side who are developing that ruthless streak. Ruthlessness akin to that shown by the All Blacks. For Wales to stand any chance of victory they must play the same way they played against Scotland with the back row battle being key. This is the one area where Wales have the edge and they must exploit it. The scrum-half battle will be fascinating and Wales must bottle up Ford and Farrell. Eddie Jones hasn't announced his side yet but I don't expect many changes.
I don't expect anything but an easy Ireland win against Italy. Ireland cannot be so lethargic as they were against the French. I want to see more adventure from the men in green if they have any hope of living up to their tag of favourites.
I don't know what to make of Scotland v France. Scotland were poor, or possibly made to look poor against Wales but they have a strong squad and surely can't make that many errors again. Were France good against Ireland or were the Irish off their normal high standards? Difficult to say. Scotland are always a handful in Murrayfield and the French blow hot and cold, especially away from home. I go Scotland.
Strangely the game of the weekend could be the U/20 clash between England and Wales.
The Aviva and Pro14 returns with a full fixture list. Bath v Saints and Quins v Wasps are the standout fixtures.
Losing 2-0 to Spurs at Wembley is no disgrace. Well done Newport County. Great stuff.
Drug fuelled winter olympics start tomorrow. Apparently it is too cold right now. Think of that what you will.
Not much in the news other than we will all be paying more council tax from April. Hey ho!
Tuesday Feb 6th - 08:00
Eddie Jones' worst fear has been realised as Ben Youngs is out for at least four months. As expected Richard Wigglesworth has been drafted in as his replacement. The good news for Jones and England is the Sarries man has been in fine form and will slot straight in as No.2 to Danny Care.
A mixed news bag for Warren Gatland as Cory Hill is struggling to be fit for Saturday. Hill had a splendid game against Scotland so this news must be a worry for the Welsh management. In a strange way the good news that George North and Liam Williams have trained this week gives Gatland a different headache. Does he drop someone to make way or does he stick with the side that played so well in the win over Scotland. Only time will tell.
Scotland and Ireland both lose players to injury as Byron McGuigan and Josh ven der Flier are ruled out, the latter also with a serious knee injury.
Stuart Barnes weekly round-up on the SKY Sports website is worth reading. A very balanced view of the 6 Nations last weekend.
Cardiff Blues are considering a move away from the Arms Park as they can't agree a new lease with the old duffers who run the Cardiff Athletic Club, owners of the ground. Short sightedness from CAC me thinks but hey ho what do I know?
Enjoyed last nights Anglo-Welsh highlights. I stick by my view this tournament has little value but it is throwing up some great tries.
Watford 4 Chelsea 1. What price Antonio Conte is on his toes later this week?
Watched the Super Bowl rerun on TV. Cracking game. Well done the Eagles.
In the news Trump criticises the NHS. Yes the NHS is having a tough time at the moment BUT let's not forget it remains a magnificent institution we should be proud of. Give me the NHS with all its problems ahead of the discriminatory healthcare system they have in the US every time.
Brexit, Brexit, Brexit. I am getting very annoyed by it all. I am still a remainer but I think it is time to tell that arrogant French tosser Msr Barnier to stick his idea of a deal up his nether regions and lets get out of there....... or...... the only other option is to say we are staying and we fight for change from within. There is, in my humble opinion, no middle ground.
It's Tuesday so swimming with the grandson beckons. No blog tomorrow, back on Thursday.
Monday Feb 5th - 08:45
On this snowy Monday morning we'll get to Italy v England shortly. First though the weekly league round-up.
Our excellent win at Bromley moves us up another place into 6th spot. We really did play well and did deserve the win against a very good Bromley side. Elsewhere it is a genuine pity that Crawley had to cry off their game at Old Dunstonians. All bar the shouting this dooms Crawley to relegation. After Sheppey's defeat at Park House they too look doomed. Park House on the other hand have got themselves back into the fray. Thanet Wanderers still top the table after their home win over Old Williamsonians 43-24. Aylesford Bulls are still hot on their heels after beating Hastings & Bexhill down there on the coast 29-5. They are 4 points adrift of Thanet but with a game vs Crawley in hand. Folkestone will have enjoyed their trip home after beating Lewes 20-12. With just 15 points separating Bromley in 4th and Park House in 10th there is still much to play for.
Sussex 1A and 1B got under way on Saturday. I for one am a big fan of this new and innovative format. In 1A and chasing promotion it's advantage Hellingly who beat Burgess Hill to maintain their perfect record. Uckfield triumphed at East Grinstead but are a long way off the pace. In 1B it is a big hoorah for Ditchling who got their first win of the season 21-14 at home to Seaford. Eastbourne beat Barns Green. Whilst there might be very little to play for but pride in 1B these clubs have 5 games to go all of which will be close fought affairs. Hoorah for that.
In London 2 South East leaders Dartfordians maintain their unbeaten record, this time down the road from us at Heathfield & Waldron. In the all Sussex clash Haywards Heath beat Pulborough convincingly enough. It is Hove who are flying the flag for Sussex. They stay second after thrashing Barking 107-0. Let's applaud Barking for not crying off. Horsham lost at home to Charlton Park in a high scoring game. In the other fixtures Dover beat Old Alleynians whilst Deal & Betteshanger lost at home to Beckenham. The Greenies have much to play if they are not to get drawn into the relegation mire. Pulborough are looking increasingly set for the drop.
Upwards and onwards into London 1 South. Brighton beat Chobham at Chobham whilst Sevenoaks lost away at CS Rugby 1863. Medway continue their charge for promotion beating London Cornish 38-10. Chichester wouldn't have enjoyed the long trip home from Thurrock after losing 20-10. Maidstone get off the bottom beating Gravesend away.
In the rarified atmosphere of London & SE Premier our good friends Tunbridge Wells came away from Westcombe Park with a losing bonus point in the narrowest of games, 11-10 being the final score. Guernsey are the form team and looking more like champions in waiting after an easy home win over Sidcup.
In the National Leagues both TJs and Worthing came second. Judds lost at home to Chinnor in another nail biting affair 13-14 whilst Worthing were losing at table topping Cinderford 29-12. Lots of points at stake but right now both TJs and Worthing sit comfortably in mid-table.
Elsewhere Bridgnorth enjoyed a fine win at home over Doncaster Pheonix. Sadly Salisbury lost away at Swindon.
I guess RWC 2019 is cancelled as England are sure fire favourites to win it. The trophy cabinet is being cleared right now after the demolition of Italy on Sunday. Yes England were clinical and some of their play was sublime but please let's not get carried away. Farrell and Ford were excellent and young Sam Simmonds was outstanding, my man of the match. Were Italy poor? No, not really. They put up a spirited performance but the gulf in class and resources told in the end. A flurry of late tries secured England top spot in the table. Other stand out performers were Launchbury and Watson and with the strength in depth I can't see anyone but Ireland being able to get close to England between now and the end of March. One massive blow to England was the loss of Ben Youngs. It looks a serious injury. Eddie Jones will have to think long and hard about who to bring in. Richard Wigglesworth at Sarries must be next in line.
Anglo-Welsh Cup highlights Channel 5 tonight.
Wow! The Philadelphia Eagles beat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. I will be watching the TV rerun as soon as possible as it sounds an amazing encounter.
That'll do for now as I have to catch up on the battles raging in Britain; the Tory infighting being one such scrap, and based on the snow now falling I need to dig out my snow shoes.
Sunday Feb 4th - 09:30
As The Bard and I drove to Bromley I feared last weekend's excellent win over Hastings & Bexhill would count for nothing. Oh how wrong was I!!. The boys dominated from the start and with a few blips in the middle were much the better side for the entire game. Whilst it took twenty something minutes to get the scoreboard turning over in 'Borough's favour the try was nothing more than they deserved. The forwards were excellent lead again from the front by Alex Purnell and Matt Botterman and to a man the entire pack played well. The back line used the possession wisely with Tom McMahon and Ali Main showing the way. Young Sam Kisbee and not so young Chris Yates were the ring masters who marshalled the troops.
Bromley are a very good side and kept probing our defence and their 'expertise' at winning/killing the ball at the ruck kept them in the hunt. In my mind it was our defence that was the main difference. The quality of the tackling and the defensive alignment was excellent keeping Bromley at bay epitomised by the work of man of the match Callum Main. Even the most one-eyed of Bromley supporters will say that we were the better side and deserved the win, a win that could have been more comprehensive if veteran Damo Hayes had been given a try rather than being deemed to be held up over the line. The referee was in a perfect position, so sad for Damo but the right call in the circumstances.
The win moves us up another position in the league but with Botterman, McMahon and Orchard all going off injured a win at what cost. It is a bye week next weekend so let's hope its enough time for those injuries to heal.
It was with a broad grin on my face I arrived home ready to watch the Wales v Scotland game. Having managed to get home without knowing the result I feared my joy might be short lived. Yet again oh how wrong was I. Wales were simply magnificent. Anyone who saw this result coming needs to buy a Euromillions ticket right now. The men in red played with skill and speed, both thought and deed. Yes Scotland's error count was high but those errors came as a result of Welsh pressure. Who said Leigh Halfpenny shouldn't have started. Oh yes that was me. AGAIN I was WRONG. An excellent contribution from start to finish. Rhys Patchell and Gareth Davies made those watching to ask the question 'Webb and Biggar who?'. Aaron Shingler was magnificent and a worthy of man of the match but it was a squad effort with every player making a positive contribution. What makes this result so much the sweeter was it was against a backdrop of ten, yes TEN top flight front line players missing through injury, the team played with a flair missing in recent years, it was a team effort and finally, for me at least, it was one in the eye for that obnoxious woman Nicola Sturgeon. Well done Wales.
Having enjoyed a nice fillet steak and a few glasses of Cotes du Rhone I settled down to watch the France v Ireland game. Less exciting but in a strange way a more compelling and intense affair. Two gladiators in the arena wary of the mistake that would allow their opponent the victory. Men with great strength and resilience warding off attacks with aggression. The spectators in the ampitheatre screaming for their champion but on a knife edge as the battle went one way then the next. It's all over for the Irish. The Grand Slam gone as Teddy Thomas lights up the game with a fine try. The game is over. Oh no it's not. Up steps the gladiator of gladiators to slot over an injury time drop goal of some quality. What a game. Actually what a final ten minutes. The Irish dream lives on but stand up and be applauded you French.......... except that is......
....... you cheating dispicable French. Yet again French integrity has been brought into question with the use of, in fact abuse of, the HIA system. Not once but twice did the French medics carry a player off the field who had clearly injured his knee yet claiming he was going off for a HIA. As I have said before where the French are concerned laws are not laws they are just suggestions to be used to the advantage of the French.
We now move onto Rome. Italy v England. As has been proven already and we are only two games in I know nothing so forget any chance of me giving a prediction............. except maybe England will win with a bonus point.
League round-up plus tomorrow morning.
Saturday Feb 3rd - 08:15
I got it wrong. Our 2s are not away today they are at home to East Grinstead 2s. Lots going on at the club so if you are not going to Bromley then Steel Cross is the place to be.
I got it wrong.... again. Ben Te'o starts. Wow! He starts at the expense of Jonathan Joseph too. A risk? Only time will tell. Sam Simmonds starts at No.8 with Robshaw and Lawes alongside him. I am slightly bemused by this when you have Itoje with proven back row experience starting in the second row. Hey Ho! Alec Hepburn doesn't start but is certain to debut from the bench. It is a strong starting line-up with plenty of fire power on the bench. Italy won't be a stroll in the park but if England don't win comfortably then I'll eat my (preverbial) hat.
In the Under 20s England beat Italy and France beat Ireland, neither too comfortably by the look at the scorelines. Wales on the other end were mighty impressive against Scotland. 36-3 is very convincing and having watched this one the margin could have been even greater. Some real Welsh talent coming through.
In the absence of anything else worth watching on TV I also watched Wales Women beat Scotland Women. This was a much better game than I expected with Wales clinging on by their fingernails at the end. Some of the skills were excellent. Where the game struggled, and both sides were guilty was decision making. Too often play went left when it should have gone right and vice versa but also the simplest of passes could have released players with the try line begging.
The Anglo-Welsh cup was also a feature of last night. Good news for Wales in that George North played the whole game for Northampton and scored in their win over Quins. Having watched last week's highlights there were some amazing tries scored and a number of academy players getting a chance to prove their worth. I stick by my view however that this is a tournament of no significant value except to keep the club's turnstiles ticking round. IF some of the academy players come through into the senior sides going forward then I will be happy to yet again say 'I got it wrong'. Let's wait and see.
As the headlines in several papers are screaming out that Lady Gaga has cancelled the rest of her European tour and The Spice Girls are reforming then I'm off to the exercise bike to work off some of my frustration. The NHS, crime, education and the clowns running our country. These are the stories.
See you at Bromley.
Friday Feb 2nd - 08:15
Big weekend of rugby ahead. The 1st XV travel to Bromley, always a difficult place for us to get a result. The squad are in good heart buoyed by last week's results and more importantly last week's performance. As is always the case we have a few changes to manage but confidence is high. See you there. The 2s travel to St Leonards Cinque Ports whilst the Crows are at home to Crawley 3s. Plenty of junior rugby on Sunday too. An opportunity to watch the kids before staying on to watch Italy v England. Good luck to all at CRFC.
I am somewhat surprised that Eddie Jones still hasn't announced his starting 23 yet. From the 25 man sqaud I expect Gary Graham and Ben Te'o to miss out. If Te'o is included that would be a huge gamble as he has played little or no rugby since October. It means Nathan Earle could make his debut from the bench.
More certain are the Irish and French sides who kick off in Paris. Jacob Stockdale, Bundee Aki and James Ryan are the notable inclusions. Up and coming youngsters who have been in fine form for their provinces. With the hugely experienced lynch pins of Murray and Sexton at #9 and #10 and a large yet mobile pack this looks a Grand Slam winning sqaud in the making. With the likes of Toner, McGrath, and Cronin on the bench there is also strength in depth.
The French on the other hand is a squad lacking in experience. Yes with Lamerat and Machenaud on the field there is real talent for the French to compete with but in the key outside-half position Jacques Brunel has named 19 year old Matthieu Jalibert. A bold move indeed as is the selection of Geoffrey Palis, another debutant. You can never tell with the French how they will perform but on paper they look massive underdogs and perhaps, just perhaps this might work in their favour. I'll be watching this one with great interest.
Comments on the Under 20s games tomorrow morning.
In other sport the lifting of lifetime bans on proven Russian Olympic drug cheats is a disgrace. The message is clear: if you want to succeed then use drugs. How can this be right? It can't. I for one have suddenly lost all interest in the upcoming Winter Olympics.
Summer must be around the corner. Super League kicked off last night and the sports pages are beginning to talk about F1. If you want thrills and spills on the roads and face danger then Crowborough and the school run is the place to be. Some of these mums (and dads and those of indeterminant gender) are bloody dangerous on the roads. Oh damn! I'm off to Friday Club. Now where is that crash helmet?
Thursday Feb 1st - 09:30
February already. Where does the time go? I can tell you where rugby is going. The same way as soccer. Down the drain. This view comes as another coach bites the dust with still just half a season to go. Ulster's Les Kiss leaves the province by 'mutual consent'. So after a poor run of results he has been sacked, probably with a bag of cash in his pocket. Hey ho! Jono Gibbes takes over for the rest of the season.
Gregor Townsend has announced his side to face Wales on Saturday. As expected it is a side made up with many from Edinburgh and Glasgow but is also a mix of new blood and old heads. Scarlets Ross Barclay will lead his side out against many of his Welsh team mates at Cardiff. Stuart Hogg makes a welcome return and is one of the six changes to the side that faced Australia in November. Although he is fit Greg Laidlaw only makes the bench with Ali price starting at scrum-half. Newcastle Falcons' Chris Harris makes his debut in the centre. On the face of it this looks a very good side and for those who follow the dragon a side more than capable of beating Wales.
No confirmation of England's side yet but word on the street is that Exeter's Alec Hepburn will make his debut. Zac Mercer won't play as he is suffering with a chest complaint. Whilst Jones still has injuries and absentees the squad he can pick from remains mighty powe