Wednesday Jan 10th - 09:30
Not feeling great yesterday. Was worried it was the flu but feeling much better this morning. Not well enough to give blood today unfortunatley.
Joe Marler can't be feeling too good today has he ponders the six week suspension handed down to him for his savage hit on TJ Ioane last weekend. He will miss the start of the 6 Nations and all because he felt aggrieved that Ioane had taken a swipe at him earlier in the game. Ioane didn't get away scot free as he was given two weeks in the stands for his part in the nonsense.
Many think New Zealand rugby is the Utopia we should all strive for. As I have said before it isn't as there are many things we don't get to read about bubbling away below the surface. NZRFU will be rocked by today's news that four players, all young and aspiring to become All Blacks, have been banned for lengthy periods, one up to four years, for the use of performance enhancing drugs. The lure of fame and riches earned from becoming an All Black star has obviously blinded them to the risks of taking drugs as a stepping stone to that goal. bbc.co.uk/sport for the full story.
Will the 6 Nations be a tournament for second string players as more and more first choice players are struck down by injury. Wales and England are suffering and Ireland will have been disappointed to hear Gary Ringrose is a serious doubt for them.
Lots of Irish news in the columns today. Simon Zebo is off to Racing 92. All Black Stephen Donald is on his way to Ulster. Tommy Bowe is out for eight weeks. Is there no good news?
In Scotland the excellent performances of Glasgow and Edinburgh thus far this season is good news for the game north of the border. So much so Edinburgh have switched their European Cup tie to Murrayfield due to demand for tickets.
In Wales it is 'in, out shake it all about'. Worcester's Huw Taylor is set to join the Dragons, Alex Cuthbert is set to leave Cardiff whilst big Jim Williams has signed an extension to his Blues contract.
Australian Super Rugby players are set to get a 10% pay rise despite the wane in interest in the game over there. The flow of players to the Northern Hemisphere is obviously a worry.
World Rugby have announced their global partners for RWC 2019 in Japan. Right now that is only England Travel but I expect Gullivers and Venatours will be announced as alternative partners soon.
In the news the RMT continues to cause mayhem with another wave of strikes. Driver only trains is the way forward. 'Loadsa' Cash is rumoured to have rubbed his hands with glee when the fare rises were announced as he saw it as a bigger pot of gold for his members to get their hands on.
The BAFTAs became a stage for protest last week. You cannot condone the hideous behaviour of people of influence in the film industry. Harvey Weinstein is a predator who needs dealing with. That said it is easy for these people to come forward at this time now that they have made millions out of the industry. I bet there were some who knew then what the score was and went with it because the riches and fame of stardom was a bigger draw than telling a sleaze bag like Weinstein where to stick his winkle.
In the animal kingdom it is part of nature for the male of species to be drawn to the female of the species because of the female making herself attractive to the male. The peacock and peahen is the opposite but the priciple is the same. This is why when we look at pictures of men and women going out on a Saturday night or these stars who think they have to pontificate on the subject of harrassment they are dressed very provocatively in skimpy, revealing and to put it bluntly sexy outfits. I just don't get the hypocrisy of it.
On a similar vein we have heard much about the (shambolic) cabinet shuffle and Oprah Winfrey (another overpaid, over-hyped wannabe politician) talking about equality and fairness. In my very humble opinion this is the road to mediocrity. We shouldn't have to be discussing the number of women, or blacks or Asians or gays who are in the cabinet or who gets a nomination for a BAFTA or in the case of the FA who gets interviewed for the next England managers job. We should be striving to get the VERY, VERY best person regardless of sex, race, religion or creed doing the job or delivering success. I don't give two hoots whether the UK cabinet is all women or all black or all Asian as long as they are the very best qualified to represent the people of this great country to the very best of their ability. If they are not then we are accepting mediocrity for the sake of being politically correct. South African sport is a classic example.
A look ahead to the weekend tomorrow.
Monday Jan 8th - 11:00
Right, here we go.
Our five point win over Sheppey along with Hastings & Bexhill losing at Old Williamsonians and Bromley beating Folkestone at Folkestone 11-10 means we move up to 7th in the league. Thanet Wanderers enjoyed their trip to Lewes with a narrow win in a high scoring game. As Crawley vs Aylesford Bulls was postponed Thanet go top. Park House have found some form and beat Old Dunstonians 24-22. Park stay in 10th and ODs in 3rd but now seven points adrift of the Bulls in 2nd.
In Sussex 1 Hellingly are looking more and more certain to be promoted after beating Ditchling. Eastbourne's woes continue losing at home to East Grinstead. Uckfield beat Barns Green. Burgess Hill vs Seaford was postponed. With just one more game to go in part 1 of Sussex 1's season Hellingly, Grinstead, Uckfield and Burgess Hill are the top 4 and will play each other again. The other clubs in the bottom 4 will also play each other to complete the season.
In London 3 South East Horsham travelled back from Barking having won 92-0. Table topping Darfordians left Pulborough with a 52-0 victory to their name. Haywards Heath beat Deal & Betteshanger. Dover beat Hove 24-18 putting a dent in Hove's chase of Dartfordians. Old Alleynians drew 15 apiece with The Greenies. In the only other game Beckenham lost to Charlton Park. Barking are doomed with Pulborough in 11th 9 points adrift from Heathfield & Waldron in 10th.
In London 1 South Brighton lost at CS Rugby as Chichester were losing in a 'localish' derby at Havant. Leaders Medway strolled past Thurrock. Our friends over at Sevenoaks beat Old Colfeians whilst Maidstone were losing at Tottonians and stay bottom.
In the Premier Inn League Tunbridge Wells flew home from table topping Guernsey pointless. The guys from St Marks stay comfortably mid-table however and the wheels will need to come off and and the engine explode if they are to be anywhere near the dreaded relegation spot come the end of the season.
In the rarified atmosphere of the National Leagues TJs beat Clifton but Worthing went down away at Redingensians. Cinderford go top after beating Henley with Chinnor losing at home to London Irish Wild Geese.
Elsewhere Bridgnorth lost to Birmingham & Solihull. Salisbury lost to Old Patesians.
In the big boys arena Saracens rediscovered their mojo with a stunning win against Wasps. Itoje and Billy Vunipola making a big impact. Sarries were excellent and why isn't Alex Goode not starting for England? Newcastle beating Exeter may be a surprise to many but The Falcons have been good thus far so it wasn't a shock for me. Saints finally get a 'w' to their name beating Gloucester. Sale win at home by a point in a game that saw the volatile Joe Marler see red. Ospreys v Cardiff was a cracker.... of sorts and Leinster v Ulster one way traffic.
I didn't get any responses to my referees poser of yesterday. Those who were there on Saturday know the answer and know it was a mistake. For the record when I was refereeing I was far from perfect all the time. A referee makes mistakes but often far, far fewer than the players on the field. One mistake by a referee does not make him a bad referee. We need more referees and we should always support them. All that said I think it is fair to ask questions with the singular objective of aiding improvement and not as a criticism.
Tonight sees the launch of the TMO in soccer. Palace v Brighton. A vitriolic rivalry during which crowd trouble flared when they last played. Why then is this game kicking off at 8pm on a Monday. Why wasn't it played yesterday with an 11am kick off. Silly me...... TV demands of course.
Go Newport County. Leeds are out of the FA Cup. County aren't.
Go New Orleans Saints. Still in the running for the Super Bowl.
Back tomorrow ....... maybe.
Sunday Jan 7th - 09:15
Boy oh boy it was chilly over at Sheppey yesterday afternoon. Thankfully it was dry for the most part. It was a relief to come away from there with a win, and a five point win at that but this was far from a convincing result. The 'Curate's Egg' springs to mind; good in parts. We started strongly with some cohesive attacks deep into the Sheppey half. Backs and forward linked well and the respective league positions looked accurate. Inexplicably 'Borough then started to cough up possession, fall off tackles and allow Sheppey's excellent No.8 and lively No.7 to make ground at will. The coaches were becoming exasperated on the side and the players making more and more mistakes. Two of the Sheppey tries were gifts when the simplest of actions to kill the ball was missed and Sheppey pounced.
It was not all doom and gloom as young Sam Kisbee made two sensational breaks and Tom McMahon and Alex Purnell made great yardage to put the Steel Cross men on the front foot. The opening twenty 15 minutes of the second half was the turning point of the game. I don't know what the coaches said at half time but 'Borough came out like men possessed. Sheppey had no answer to the free flowing rugby and had to watch as the visitors crossed for three well worked tries. Sadly what should have been a rout wasn't as 'Borough allowed Sheppey back into the game. On the credit side of the balance sheet they tackled well and kept the home side at bay and were able to prevent all but one attack from becoming scores.
It was a good to come away with five league points but with several players unavailable next week the trip to Aylesford Bulls will be a tough one.
Full league round up tomorrow. NB. Not necessarily early sorry. Grandparenting duties.
After the rain of the last few days it was amazing that Steel Cross was able to host two games yesterday. It was also a testament to the grounds team and the work they have been doing over many months. Thank you guys
Crowborough 2s put Eastbourne 2s to the sword with a 65-0 victory. A great result, thanks in part due to our Uni boys still being at home. The Crows also had a fine 19-0 win over East Grinstead 3s. Well done all and a particular well done East Grinstead. They arrived without a front row. The league rules mean they will be docked two league points but I think we should stand and applaud as it would be all too easy to pull out of the game. They didn't and this should be recognised.
When I write this drivel there are a number of areas that are out of bounds and I will not commment on. Referees tend to be one such area as these guys are vital to our game and do an amazing job. Thank you all for what you do. All that said the large contingent of travelling support were somewhat perplexed by one decision in yesterday's game. Here is the scenario........
'Borough create space from a sweeping move going right to left. The left wing is released, goes past his opposite number and crosses the line for what should be a try. As he is about to put the ball down so a Sheppey defender comes across and takes the 'Borough wing high around the neck and head with the force of the tackle tacking the wing into touch in-goal.
What should the decision be and what was the decision on the day?
A) a penalty try and yellow card to Sheppey
B) No try and a drop-out 22m
C) a scrum 5m out - attacking ball
Answers on a post card to email@example.com
Saturday Jan 6th - 09:30
The answer to your question is: I don't know!
That is I don't know if the games are on or off. If I get news I'll add a news flash to the website and append a piece to this drivel.
One way traffic! Men against boys! Two very apt descriptions of Scarlets v Dragons last night. The Scarlets were good. Very good. The Dragons were poor but the side is young and very inexperienced. The Dragons were also the architects of their own downfall by giving up possession far too easily.
Elswhere Bath got back to winning ways with a comfortable win over Worcester. Seven tries in this one with the Warriors fighting back after looking dead and buried early on.
Edinburgh were the other winners after an easy win over the Pro14's other whipping boys; the Southern Kings. I have never been a fan of Richard Cockerill but credit where credit is due he is doing a splendid job up there in the frozen tundra of Scotland.
Good news for England as Vunipola B. and Itoje return for Saracens this weekend.
Fascinating piece on bbc.co.uk about the mental issues facing the modern top flight rugby player. Whilst we at the grassroots level get 'stressed out' by results, league positions and performances it is nothing by comparison to the pressure at the top where results and performaces are everything. A poor game could be the difference between international selection and sitting in the stands watching after being dropped. Well worth a read.
FA Cup 3rd round today. The FA Cup is not what it used to be back in ye olde days but still always a gripping day for the sports fan.
England cricket on the rack again. No change there.
Lots in the news about the NHS and A&E. Do people not get the point that A&E stands for Accident & Emergency. It doesn't stand for coughs and colds. To those who have been happy to sit in A&E receptions for over 12 hours because they think 'it is their right' to be able to see a doctor; you selfish tossers. Get to a chemist and speak to a pharmacist. You are not ill enough to be in A&E. While I am at it get those bed blockers out of there and free up much needed beds for the truly sick rather than those treating the NHS as a 3* hotel.
Friday Jan 5th - 08:15
Dai Young signs a long term deal with Wasps. This effectively rules him out of the Welsh job once Gatland leaves.
Will Greenwood says that England beating New Zealand in November will be much more important than winning the upcoming 6 Nations.
Here we go again. Sarries, Gloucester, Worcester and London Irish all sign overseas players. The academy system is not working so why bother? Why should English youngsters join a premiership club's academy when they will as sure as night follows day be discarded.
If you were ever in doubt that the qualification system for international rugby is broken then read the article on bbc.co.uk. New Zealander Nick Grigg, Glasgow Warriors centre states that Scotland should be scouring the land of the long white cloud for Scottish quailified talent. Find a granny or grandad and you're in!. Nonsense. Along with the residency rule something has to change.
Normal service has returned for English cricket. Australia on top.
Ok. How did London go yesterday. Good thanks. I understand the early morning train was cancelled and the later train was just four carriages. A nightmare for those who commute. My train was on time and obviously plenty of seats. It arrived on time too. The same for the 22:00 departure from London Bridge. On both services the guard was present but 100% superfluous to requirements. I again firmly believe a guard on the peak morning trains is needed but after that you might as well have a cardboard cutout for the value they add.
What about the cost? £12.10 for an off peak return seemed not too bad but compared to Europe that is pretty expensive. Peak pricing is outlandish and having to endure a price increase each January seems outrageous when wages are not increasing. That said if you take Crowborough significant investment has been put into the station infrastructure and service improvements. This can only happen with increased revenues. By the way it is not right for those not using the service to have to subsidise those who do via taxation.
I think it is right for operating companies to take a profit and based on the data they do but it seems totally wrong that profit goes overseas to subsidise European travel.
I see Mick 'Loadsa' Cash continues to cause mayhem with the strikes next week. The man and his union should be ashamed of themselves. By keeping guards on trains that are not required they are keeping the costs higher than they could be. Any savings could go into fare reductions or fare freezes perhaps.
Friday club beckons.
Thursday Jan 4th - 09:15
The season returns after the Christmas break with a nice short trip to Sheppey. Short in the sense it is not as far as going to Newcastle. It has been tough for the boys to get ready for this one with Steel Cross under water but they will be ready. Sheppey of course will be hoping to turn their season around so it should be a good one for the watching public.
In the big boys leagues the Welsh derbies continue this weekend with the Dragons trying to avoid three defeats from three but away at the Scarlets is a tough order. That's BBC2 Wales' game tomorrow night.
For the games of the weekend you need to wait until Sunday when Wasps v Sarries and Newcastle v Exeter ptake place. That said the two Irish derbies take place on Saturday and these are always good games.
Saints who take on Gloucester will be without George North who injured his knee against Quins. He will miss the 6 Nations. Wales' wing options are getting fewer by the day. Scotland on the other hand will be buoyed by the return of Stuart Hogg in the coming weeks.
Will Greenwood is agreeing with me about Dylan's status as England' first choice hooker. He has Jamie George and Luke Cowan-Dickie way ahead on current form. He does recognise that Dylan's value as captain and leader is invaluable and this leads him to the conclusion King Eddie will stick by his on-field general. SKY Sports for full article.
Watched Arsenal v Chelsea last night. Cracking game but the time is right for video referees. Two or three very controversial decisions that turned the game. It is being trialled next week.
Some are asking why I haven't commented on the rail fare increases. I am keeping my powder dry on this for another 24/48 hours as today I am taking the brave step to venture to London via Southern Rail. There is much to say.
Tony Blair is in the news this morning denying allegations he wanted to cosy up to Pres Dementia Trump as his Middle East advisor. A) Blair is irrelevant B) he is a liar, C) he is a totally self centred hypocrite so no more needs to be said...... but let's have a wild guess that perhaps there is something in this story rather than it being 'fake' news. Smoke and fire and all that.
Am I a hypocrite for saying social media is a nightmare whilst typing this drivel. Blogging is social media. I don't give a damn about readership numbers or 'likes'. This is cathartic for me. Facebook and Twitter: have they been good for the world or are they a harmful tool being exploited by many and causing misery for lots? Discuss.
Got to go. Must get mind an body into the zone for commuting.
Wednesday Jan 3rd - 09:15
Oh what a night. It isn't "late September" but early Jan but the wind and rain certainly hammered at my windows last night, and we were far from the main firing line of the storm.
England head to Brighton today for one of their training sessions ahead of the 6 Nations. Several players are missing through injury, others have been axed. Manu Tuilagi being most notable in that category. It appears King Eddie has told him he's got to lose weight and get more Leicester games under his belt before he his going to be back in contention for a starting place.
Dylan will be there but will he still be captain, or even in the match day squad? His form has dipped along with Saints. He was off the pace against Quins and missed a number of crucial tackles. Jamie George on the other hand has been going from strength to strength with Sarries. King Eddie is a big fan of Dylan but he is also ruthless so only time will tell.
The RFU spent millions on the Mitsubishi Training Centre at Pennyhill Park, Surrey yet Jones takes his squad to Brighton. What's that all about? Actually its about the players having somewhere to relax outside of training and not just being in an isolated training camp. Brighton offers that. Pennyhill Park doesn't.
Colin has been in touch.... No, no, no........ I sound Like Comrade Corbyn at PMQs. Anyway Colin HAS been in touch and like me thinks the scrum is a mess. He makes a number of very valid points. The fact the ball never goes down the middle and hookers are no longer required, or often able to hook for the ball is the problem. In time of ye olde scrum two big bulbous book ends would support a little one who would in turn swing his legs at the ball. With six blokes focussing on staying on their feet because they have to genuinely reach for and hook the ball back the power in the scrum might just be reduced and the number of collapses would be reduced.
The ruck is another area where it is also about giants getting to the breakdown and killing the ball. Keep players on their feet and restore some good olde rucking. All too often once a player is over the ball, attacker or defender, the ball dies. Worth considering me thinks.
Obviously with millions of TV dollars at stake the powers that be need to keep the game flowing but they are also constantly tinkering which doesn't help. Thanks Colin for this quote: "there is no situation that cannot be made worse by the intervention of a committee!" Hoorah and amen to that.
I'll look at the weekend games tomorrow including ours at Sheppey.
In other sport Pep Guadiola has said the current schedule over the Christmas period will "kill" players. Pep, players are being paid hundreds of thousands of pounds a week to play football so in my view they should be playing every single day. The TV companies are the piper and you therefore need to play to their tune. They want top flight football on they screens, as do the big money sponsors, so shut up and get on with it or get out. By the way the injuries you talk about were the result of rash tackles and nothing to do with fatique. They can happen on day 1 or day 251 of the season. Also if they weren't playing what would they be doing? Training of course and isn't playing the best form of training.
Moving on THANK YOU Norway. Norwegian scientists have definitely proven alcohol in middle age can be good for you. I love those guys, and gals and those of indeterminant gender up there in the Oslo University.
Trump has warned Kim Jong-un that his [nuclear] button is bigger than the boy Kim's. When men of limited intelligence get into a 'big dick' contest it often ends in tears. Please guys get some therapy and top acting like kids of 7.
Tuesday Jan 2nd 2018 - 09:15
A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL
So I lied....... I didn't blog yesterday as I said I would. Sorry but events overtook me....... hangover, lie-in, stuff to do and I assumed that many of you a) would be in the same state and b) many won't read this drivel until today anyway when life gets back to normal, whatever that is.
The Welsh match-ups on Sunday were far from classics but still reasonably watchable. That is watchable in the sense that there was bugger else to watch on TV as going out in the miserable cold and wet was not an option. Despite their protestations the Scarlets looked assured on the AGP and whilst the scoreline was close I thought the West Wales outfit was far the better side. More assured with ball in hand, better defensively with greater strength in depth across the field. Olly Robinson, son of the great Andy, looked a prospect, and Josh Navidi showed why he has broken into the Welsh side, both Cardiff Blues. Why Scarlets' James Davies isn't in Gatland's thinking is beyond me.
Later we had the Dragons being put to the sword by the Ospreys. The Dragons weren't awful but simply weren't good enough to tame the Ospreys. Whilst he is a whingeing child at times Dan Biggar played very well, as did Rhys Webb. Wales have got to think hard about excluding Webb from selection. Biggar will be a miss for the Ospreys when he goes to Saints but Sam Davies is playing well and improves week by week. Congratulations to the WRU, and the Newport club for their work over the summer to sort out the Rodney Parade pitch. It was far from perfect but by comparison with this time last season it is a vast improvement. For the Dragons the rest of this season must be about continuing to blood the youngsters and preparing for next season when the squad will be bolstered by high quality new arrivals.
Over the Irish Sea yesterday Ulster came back from 17-0 down to beat Munster in what sounds an enjoyable game. They did have the benefit of playing against 14 men as Munster's Sam Arnold saw red with 20 minutes to go. In the other game Leinster hung on for a narrow win after a gritty Connacht XV pushed them all the way.
Injuries are mounting for England, Wales and France ahead of the 6 Nations. Elliot Daley, Hallam Amos and Wesley Fofana are just three of a long list each nation has to manage.
It has been interesting over the last few weeks listening to the commentators and pundits to hear their views on scrums. As I stated the scrum is a negative in our game and needs sorting. Not only is the failure to get a fair contest first time of asking a problem but so is the time it is taking to get them set, and reset. One suggestion is to stop the watch after a collapse and only set it ticking once the scrum is reset and the scrum-half is ready to put the ball in (under the 2nd rows feet all too often). This is not a bad idea but we could see games dragging on and on like American football. Worth a thought though.
In other sport the New Orleans Saints clinched home advantage in the play-offs despite losing at Tampa Bay. Leicester City put three past Huddersfield. Phil "The Power" Taylor retires from darts without that final world title. Rob Cross took that honour. Andy Murray could be retiring soon as he withdraws from the Brisbane International with more hip trouble.
In the papers the latest round of rail fare rises is big news, as is the terrible sea plane crash in Sydney. More storms to hit the UK this week and yes Brexit was mentioned.
The story that caught my eye was the Laura Palmer case and the smuggling of Tramadol into Egypt. Some people have suggested we need to be sympathetic as much news coverage shows her weeping family and talks about injustice. I am sorry to be hard-nosed about this but Egyptian law is Egyptian law. We might not agree with it but the law is the law. Whenever you travel the holiday companies, airlines, travel agents all say it is YOUR responsibility to check the laws/rules regarding immigration and customs. She should have known and that is the bottom line. Yes she is now being kept in intolerable conditions but that is Egypt and that is where she transgressed.
Must go before the bleedin' heart PC brigade arrive and tell me I can't have a bag of crisps or a Mars bar 'cos it is bad for me and I should change my ways and a be a big cuddly softy not allowed to voice my opinion on anything other than what the state says I can. Welcome to North Korea.
Sunday December 31st - 11:00
Can't have the grandkids as an excuse for lateness today. Had plenty to drink last night and we had a lie-in........ because we can!
2017 comes to a close in just a few hours and as sure as 2018 comes next so does the confirmation I know nothing about rugby. So much for a dour forward dominated slug fest in the wet at the Rec on Friday. What a fantastic game of rugby. One of the best I've watched for a long time. Twenty minutes in and it looked all over. Minutes to go and Bath could have snatched a miraculous late win. Splendid stuff indeed.
What a joy. Aviva rugby live on terrestial TV; Channel 5 with Quins v Saints. Great to see Twickenham full and for those who follow the Stoop outfit an amazing performance to watch. That said Saints were pretty woeful for long periods and only got going when the Quins started to tire. That Marcus Smith is shaping up to be some player and Jamie Roberts was like a wrecking ball in the centre.
Sale's confidence was misplaced as they came second at Kingsholm.
An interrupted Glasgow v Edinburgh match-up up at Scotstoun as the stadium had to be evacuated following an "isolated incident" in the North Stand.
Sad to finish 2017 reading about Wallaby star Karmichael Hunt facing drug charges. A testosterone fuelled young man with time on his hands and money in his pocket. A dangerous combination.
Welsh derbies later today. Be intersting to see how Scarlets go on the Arms Park AGP after coach Wayne Pivac went "off on one" about the artificial surface.
Warburton gets a gong for his services to rugby, while Tuilagi gets an axe from the King of England; Eddie Jones.
Another rugby wish for 2018. Can the referees stop the subs rushing into the in-goal to celebrate tries. It is unedifying and not rugby, old or new.
In the news some things don't change; the RMT causing travel chaos on the railways. Dear "Loadsa" Cash. It is a lost cause. Safety is not being compromised. Come clean!! It is about job protection and union power.
Back tomorrow to bring in the New Year. Enjoy tonight and be careful out there.
Friday December 29th - 11:00
Slightly late today. The demands of the grandchildren and all that.
As expected Evans and Berghan felt the wrath of the disciplinary panel yesterday but thanks to their previous good records and their contrite words at the hearings both had their bans reduced by 50% to four and six weeks respectively. Evans will be available for the opening game of the 6 Nations Berghan won't. It is good to see the system remains consistent whether you are a Scarlets or Edinburgh star versus say a Crowborough 3rd team player....... except of course if your name is Sonny Bill Williams and you can engineer the missed games to work in your favour!!!!!!!!
Bath v Wasps is the pick of the Aviva this weekend. BT Sport tonight. Bath need to get their show back on the road after a drubbing at Sale last week. Wasps have found some form again but is it enough. If the Rec is as wet as it is around Salisbury then don't expect a free flowing game. That said both sides play expansively so fingers crossed.
The word from inside the Sale camp is they feel they have finally turned a corner. Confidence is high and the coaches feel that the patterns of play they want are finally being delivered. By the way Sale were in training on Boxing Day and not slobbing around chomping their way through the Christmas Day leftovers. Sale face a tricky trip to Kingsholm when they take on Gloucester in front of the baying mob in the shed tomorrow.
In the Pro14 the Welsh and Irish derbies take centre stage on New Years Day. Can the Scarlets extend their lead at the top of their conference. I don't hold out much hope for the Dragons but they are at home and it is the Ospreys.
Australian Alan Gaffney takes interim charge of Northampton when they take on Harlequins at Twickenham. A tough first game. Gaffney has bags of experience from his days at Sarries and in Ireland. A result to look out for.
I read with consternation that over 6000 drivers have been caught using their phone whilst driving for a second time. Outrageous!!!!! I am more than ever convinced the only course of action is to confiscate and destroy the phones of offenders. The fines are no deterrent. This is what they do in Australia and it seems to be working.
On a similar note I was horrified to read that c.15% of all A&E admissions are alcohol related. This rises to 70% on a Friday and Saturday night. Whilst "drunk tanks" are a good idea the time has come to fine anyone who uses any part of the NHS for alcohol related issues and is charged a minimum of £250. If they can afford to get lashed to that extend then £250 is not unreasonable.
Finally being Friday the old fossils will be at the club working hard to get the grounds and the place into the shape the members expect and deserve. This is their last contribution in 2017 so I salute them all.
No blog tomorrow. Back on Sunday.
Thursday December 28th - 09:30
The opening headline on the BBC's rugby union page is Bath being fined £60k for releasing Taulupe Faletau to play for Wales on Dec 2nd. This is a fascinating situation. The rules are there and the English professional clubs have all signed up to them. The clubs want their big guns playing as often as possible and only want them released during the international windows agreed. I can fully understand that and agree with the policy. However Faletau is contracted to and paid by Bath. As their "asset" surely it is up to them when he can be released and when he can't? The scenario could well have been that Faletau was not selected to play for Bath that weekend and was either forced to sit in the stands at the Rec or even in the stands at the Principality. That would have been pretty crazy. My belief is the English (and French) clubs would prefer that international rugby faded and died. The players are theirs so the fact they are not available for three weeks in the Autumn and again for seven weeks in the Spring must be very frustrating. The policy therefore is a reasonable one. The problem is that the Welsh clubs are part owned by the WRU and the top players are on dual contracts. This means Wales can play that extra lucrative fourth international in the Autumn and there lies the conflict. Something for others to resolve but in principle I agree with the policy and can therefore understand why Bath have been fined.
French rugby breaks new ground by sacking the national team's head coach Guy Noves. He will be replaced by Jacques Brunel. Another sign that rugby is following soccer into the cess pit.
Busy week for the disciplinary panels with Johnny May, Steff Evans and Simon Berghan all on the naughty step. Berghan is likely to be the most heavily punished with May already receiving the message that the "sending off was sufficient".
Worcester have a new coach: Alan Solomons. Will he get them up the table. I doubt it. Will he save them from their financial woes. Definitely not. The fact Gary Gold left with undue haste, a rat leaving a sinking ship, is indicative of the issues facing the Sixways outfit.
A question to ponder: is the TMO system still working in rugby? I continue to remain in favour of having a TMO but I feel the referees have become far too reliant on them and some of the decision making has become ponderous. Going forward the referee should clearly state what their on-field decision is and the TMO must have compelling evidence to overrule it. Equally there has to be an onus on the TMO and referee to speed the decision making up. One to debate me thinks.
In 2018 I hope for the sake of our game the governing body looks again at the scrum. It is the most negative aspect of the game; collapse, reset, collapse, reset and so it goes on. If the scrum half puts the ball in any more crookedly we might as well go to the pathetic scrums in rugby league. Another debating point me thinks.
Elsewhere Alastair Cook finds form with a double century and money can buy you success. Manchester City go marching on. When you are backed by a man who makes Abromovich look like a pauper you have no chance to compete.
Listened to a fascinating piece on the Grenfell Fire disaster yesterday whilst stuck in a traffic jam outside Salisbury. It sounds as if the council and government are doing what they can to rehouse the victims as quickly as possible. Yes they could do a lot, lot better but it is also fair to say that some of the victims are pushing the boundaries and refusing to accept what appears to be reasonable accommodation, and most of the time an improvement on what they had whilst demanding luxury alternatives. Another debating point me thinks.
Wednesday December 27th - 09:00
I trust the big day went well and you and your families had a splendid time. Mrs Bleater and I certainly did. Quiet but rewarding. It was not great for all. My neighbour was rushed to hospital on Christmas Eve with suspected meningitis and my grandson woke on Christmas morning with chicken pox. The former is quite serious, the latter is an irritation, in more ways than one. Obviously across the globe there are people facing starvation and the terrible storms in the Philippines and subsequent death toll were horrendous. Let us not forget how lucky we are.
As I type it has just started to snow. Great! I am about to head off down to Salisbury.
Anyway a quick review of what's happened in the world of rugby. The minis Christmas party at Steel Cross was another splendid affair as was Chapagne, Cheese & Carols. Sadly due to the state of the pitches the charity match was cancelled.
TJs and Worthing played on Dec 23rd, both enjoying wins. Sale beating Bath convincingly was a surprise. Leicester v Saracens was a pretty good watch on Christmas Eve and yes Johhny May deserved the second yellow and therefore the red card. Edinburgh v Glasgow was another game I enjoyed and yes the red card in this one was spot on. Richard Cockerill has got the Edinburgh side into some shape.
Yesterday the Dragons started well enough but fell away allowing Cardiff to come back into the game. The signs are good for the Dragons but considering how poor Cardiff have been there is still much to do. The Scarlets v Ospreys game was a pretty dour West Wales derby played in torrential rain. Not a great spectacle of running rugby but worth watching all the same. Certainly better than anything else on TV. Steff Evans red card; spot on again and what a dramatic ending. The game of the week by a long way; Munster v Leinster. Excellent stuff. Some great tries, excellent defence, a quality game of rugby.
It all kicks off again with Bath v Wasps on Friday. For round 2 of the Welsh derbies you'll have to wait until New Year's Eve.
In other sport Leicester City didn't do so well yesterday but the draw against United was excellent. Up yours Jose!
Well done the New Orleans Saints. A play-off spot is guaranteed. Can they secure the divisional title.
Alistair Cook finds some form at last. Too little too late but a ton is a great way to shut up your critics.
Doesn't it drive you mad; the nanny state. Don't do this, do that. You can't eat more than this, you can't say that. Well sod that. Life is too short. This nonsense with universities removing historical references to slavery etc, etc. What happened in the past HAPPENED. You can't change it so LEARN from it.
Must go. We've decided to bring forward our departure time as they snow gets thicker.
Thursday December 21st - 08:00
It's the shortest day today. In theory from tomorrow the days should start to get longer and we can begin to look forward to summer. Hoorah! I don't know about you but I love winter when the weather is really cold and the ground covered in frost under a bright blue sky. This dank, miserable weather is horrendous. Your joints ache, you feel lethargic and all you want to do is slob in front of the TV. Well not this morning as a few of the old farts will be at the club doing one or two odd jobs before the Christmas break.
Obviously there are no games for us over the Christmas and New Year period but life goes on for the big boys. There are some tasty match ups in the Pro14. Dragons v Cardiff Blues on Boxing Day being my highlight. I can remember as a spotty faced teenager getting down to Rodney Parade to watch the black & ambers play the aristocrats of Cardiff on a Boxing Day. You couldn't get out of the house quick enough, especially as my old man, rest in peace you old sod, used to host an open house as the local Boxing Day Hunt left from the pub; The Tredegar Arms, from over the road.
In Ireland Munster v Leinster is another classic fixture. This one is on SKY for those who prefer the sofa on Boxing Day. Naughty boy Cian Healey will miss this one after picking up a three week ban for an indiscretion against Exeter last weekend.
Saturday 23rd sees most of the Aviva games being played. Newcastle v Quins is my pick of the round. I'll have half an eye on Sale v Bath. One's bro's old club vs his latest club.
The WRU are considering banning alcohol in parts of the Principality stadium after issues during the Autumn Internationals. They are also looking at closing bars during the game too. Not suprised. You pay close to a £100 for a ticket and a sozzled asshole in front of you makes your experience a living hell.
Ben Te'o (Kiwi), Nathan Hughes (Fijian), Elliot Daly (English through and through) may all miss England's Six Nations with potentially serious injuries. Hey Ho!
A story about nothing. Gloucester's Johan Ackermann and his son Ruan were allegedly involved in an altercation outside a nightclub. Yet again newspapers and TV companies desperate to fill their columns and schedules get it wrong. Move on.
Well done Wayne Barnes. He will become the referee who has officiated at the most Premiership games when he oversees Worcester v London Irish tomorrow at Sixways. Well done sir!
In other sport. What about Bristol City stunning Man Utd. Up yours Jose!! Go the Saints. The play-offs? Let's hope so. Swansea sack their manager... and a very Merry Christmas to you too. The Aussies to enjoy chewing up a bunch of turkeys on Boxing Day. Yes, its the fourth test.
Elsewhere the final PMQs was a knock-about affair. The NHS taking centre stage. I couldn't hold myself back when they were bickering over the state of the NHS. More than ever I am convinced we should look to reduce demand and stop trying to meet demand. Charging for appointments, making drunks pay, turning away timewasters, discouraging foreigners not eligible for free treatment, encourage the use of pharmacists for guidance and so on.
Trump cuts taxes, and who is one of the biggest beneficiaries. Yes, you guessed it..... Trump himself.
In closing, Christmas is a time to be jolly. Like the panto says.... oh no it isn't. The true meaning of Christmas is all but forgotten. It is now just a consumer driven jamboree with excess consumption of food and drink and ridiculous levels of spending on stuff which will get wasted or by Tuesday 3rd Jan will never see the light of day again. Have we forgotten about global warming as millions of people burn up electricity on Christmas lighting. Christmas is a time for friends and family and the more of this we do and the less of the former we do the better we'll be for it too.
Must go the Friday Club, after an excellent pre-Christmas breakfast at The Cross yesterday are at the club for an hour or two this morning.
No blog now until Dec 27th when I will share my thoughts on the New Year. Some old hopes like confiscating mobiles and deleting the Facebook accounts of people caught using their phone while driving and some new ones about why ignoring global warming is a folly that will get us all eventually.
Seriously though, have a great Christmas Day and best wishes to you and your families during this joyous time.
Tuesday December 19th - 10:00
Well, well, well. I didn't see that coming. Richard Hibbard leaving Gloucester a year early and joining the Dragons. Hibbard has been a standout player for the cherry & whites for a while so this is quite a coup for the Rodney Parade outfit, especially as it comes hot on the heels of the announcement about Richard Moriarty. I understand that Richard the Lionheart is also on the Dragons' shopping list along with Dick Whittington and Cliff Richard. The Dragons have some good players and a pretty good conveyor belt of kids coming through. The arrival of the two Gloucester Richards could be the catalyst for something special, at long last, for the East Wales crowd to cheer about.
France's all-time points score Freddie Michalak is hanging up his boots at the end of the season. It seems as if he has been about forever but he only amassed 77 caps. "Only" is not quite right but by comparison to some it seems a small number. You know what I mean...... I hope.
Stuart Barnes has made a valid point in his SKY column this week. The English sides excuses about not performing don't really wash. Yes the Aviva is a tougher league than the Pro14, and yes the Scottish, Irish and Welsh Unions have more influence over the resting of key players than happens in England BUT all that said the English sides have been poor..... end of.
I know Sarries are without Itoje and big Billy plus several other stars but that doesn't account for what seems a dramatic demise. Answers to #fezheadsarequietrightnow.
League rugby returns to the top flight over Christmas. The Welsh and Irish derbies being the pick of the match ups.
England cricket. What a shambles. Who would bet against a 5-0 whitewash?
Big week or two for the New Orleans Saints. They are in the running for the play-offs. Being Mr Pessimistic who would bet against them blowing it, especially as their arch nemesis; Atlanta Falcons stand in the way.
Is it right that a woman on benefits can splash out £000's on Christmas presents for her kids? NO it is not right. Disadvantaged families should be supported but subsidising Christmas presents to that level is a disgrace. There is something wrong with the system when you read about cases like that.
Foodbanks. Now there is another controversial area. I am sorry but many of the people using foodbanks are the same scroungers on benefits who are too bone idle to get off their backsides and help themselves. Let me be clear here. There are too many people on the breadline in the UK and foodbanks can be the difference between going hungry or having a decent meal each day. They serve a purpose however when you see people who are clearly overweight wearing smart clothes and living in decent accomodation saying they have to use foodbanks they are trying to pull the wool over your eyes.
Can't wait for someone to say to me; "it's easy for you to say that". Actually yes it is because me and Mrs Bleater have worked hard all our lives, have lived within our means, have saved whenever we could and have never taken a handout from the government depsite having always paid our taxes in full. So yes it is easy for me to criticise the system that I HAVE PAID INTO and now see it being exploited.
Aaaarrrgghhhh! Quick! Where are my blood pressure tablets?
Monday December 18th - 08:30
Based on The Bard's excellent report it sounds as if the boys learnt from last week's criticism and played with skill and cohesion against Crawley on Saturday. It helped having wingers on the wing for a start. Everyone seems to have played well but Alex Purnell and Chris Yates were the glue that kept it all together. The one issue The Bard did mention was the need to finish sides off. At the 60 minute mark it appears the foot came off the gas allowing Crawley to score two late tries. That said with Mal Chumbley at the helm Crawley are not a side to concede defeat easily.
The result of the day, and for many a shock, was in form Bromley losing at home to neighbours Park House. Park remain in 10th just below us in 9th and only 7 points adrift. Based on the topsy turvy nature of this league that means nothing. Aylesford Bulls stay top after a narrow win at home over Old Willies. Thanet Wanderers keep the pressure up after a comfortable win over lowly Sheppey. Above us Hastings & Bexhill beat Folkestone and in the only other game Old Dunstonians beat Lewes.
In Sussex 1 Hellingly maintain their charge for promotion with a high scoring win over Eastbourne. In what appears to be the game of the day Uckfield came away from East Grinstead with a narrow win in what was a high scoring game. Burgess Hill and Seaford were the other winners. Both away.
Leap-frogging into London 2 South East Dartfordians remain unbeaten after their victory over Beckenham. Hove keep the pressure up with their win over Pulborough. In the other all Sussex clash The Greenies came second to Haywards Heath. Horsham lost at home to Old Alleynians and now sit 5th. In the two other games our friends at Charlton Park hammered poor Barking 88-12 and Deal & Betteshanger beat Dover. Sadly Barking are already doomed to relegation being 25 points adrift of Pulborough.
Up in London 1 South Medway stay top after their win at Old Colfeians. Both Brighton and Chichester enjoyed home wins and the Oaks won at Maidstone. Maidstone stay bottom.
In the exclusive London & South East Premier Tunbridge Wells were beaten at St Marks by a single point by Barnes. Guernsey stay top.
In the national league both TJs and Worthing enjoyed home wins over West Country rivals Taunton and Barnstable respectively. Chinnor are top.
For the sake of completeness Bridgnorth was again frozen off and Salisbury were hammered away at Old Centralians.
In the European games Saints were again put to the sword by a resurgent Ospreys. This surprised me a little. I thought the East Midlanders would have been all fired up but they weren't. Wasps had a fine home win over high flying La Rochelle. Again a surprise but the French were a much changed side. Sarries found some form but not quite enough and Munster brushed the "fortress Welford Road" tag aside to beat the Tigers.
Wasn't the BBC Sports Personality show a turgid affair. We turned over to watch a programme on Norwegian architecture which was far more interesting.
You couldn't have missed the news about the terrible road accident in Birmingham. Let that be an important message: be careful out on the roads this Xmas.
Finally like many Brexit is driving me nuts. I remain a "remainer" BUT that idiot Barnier and his pontifications plus his desire to punish Britain are making me think more and more that we should give Europe the finger and walk away.
Back tomorrow with more guff.
Sunday December 17th - 09:30
What a relief to go on to endlandrugby.com and find that we have a "w" to our name. I await The Bard's erudite match report for the full detail but I am guessing it was a bonus point win too. After last weekend this performance was required to restore confidence and keep some space between us and the three sides below.
I also assume that lunch was great as usual and set the tone for the day. The fact the game was on at all was a testament to the work Dave Bristow and the Friday Club have done on the pitches. I say "thank you" to all.
On the subject of Dave I am sorry to advise that on medical advice he has to stand down from his duties. Dave has struggled with a bad back for many years and recent tests have shown it to be worse than first thought. Only radical surgery and long periods of rest will repair the damage. I for one say a huge "thank you" for Dave's contribution.
As I am in Salisbury I have no idea whether the annual charity game will take place before the fun and games of champagne, cheese and carols kicks off later today.
Some interesting results across the leagues but I'll keep that for tomorrow.
In Europe the Scarlets found it easier than I had expected. Exeter came second as I had thought but it wasn't the stroll for Leinster many had bet on. I did get to watch Bath v Toulon and thoroughly enjoyable it was too. Some fantastic rugby wonderfully refereed by Nigel Owens. Bath were lucky to hang on at the end but on balance probably deserved the win.
A big day for the English clubs with Wasps, Sarries, Saints and Leicester all on parade. I anticipate Wasps and Sarries will struggle and possibly suffer more humiliation. Saints might just turn things around as the Ospreys have been very flakey at home. Leicester v Munster at fortress Welford Road is too close to call.
Elsewhere the mighty foxes were caught by the hounds, chewed up and spat out. Well done Palace.
As I type England's cricket team are again collapsing toward a humiliating defeat.
Must go as the grandkids are into round three and two falls and a submission is not a good idea right now.
Saturday December 16th - 10:15
TODAY's GAME IS ON
Have a great lunch and fingers crossed for a win
In Salisbury looking after the grandkids so knackered already and it isn't 10 o'clock yet. As I type I have Test Match Special on in the background. England are doing as well as Quins did in Ulster last night. Basically the word "rubbish" springs to mind. With nothing to play for Quins put out a second string side and reaped the reward. It is not a great advert for English rugby and not a great advert for Europe's premier tournament. It makes a mockery of the decision to change the format in favour of English and French sides.
In a closer game Newcastle snuck past the Dragons and look set to progress to the knock out stages of the second tier cup tournament.
Bath v Toloun is the must watch game today but with the kids demanding attention I have two hopes of that and one of thses is Bob. Leinster v Exeter should be good but I expect another humiliation for the English side.
The Italian air traffic controllers have made life difficult for the Scarlets. Their strike meant the West Walians had to charter a plane as their schedule service was cancelled. With Benetton playing well this will be a challenging game for the Scarlets.
Tuilagi returns for Leicester. Good news for them and Eddie Jones. How long he lasts remains to be seen however.
Hartley misses the trip to the Liberty Stadium tomorrow. Justin Tipuric returns and with Biggarhead and Webb on the bench for the Ospreys the Saints will find it tough.
Leicester City host Crytal Palace at lunchtime. Zero chance of watching that either.
Brexit dominates the news still with a sprinkling of news about the royal wedding and the strictly final. Really not interested in the latter two and have brain freeze whenever Brexit is mentioned.
I see those anarchists at the RMT are striking over Christmas. What a bunch of muppets they are. You cannot halt the advance of technology and the inevitable changes it brings. Live with it.
Must go the kids are making a mighty racket and Mrs Bleater has her serious teacher voice on full volume.
Thursday December 14th - 08:00
It won't have escaped you that the weather has been terrible over the last few days; snow, freezing temperatures followed by torrential rain. Dave Bristow has worked miracles on our pitches since he joined us and the results are there for all to see. Delivering the impossible though he is finding just a tad more difficult. It will come as no surprise that our pitch, along with hundreds up and down the country will be subject to a pitch inspection prior to Saturday's game. Watch this blog and the news section for updates.
Don't forget Champagne, Cheese and Carols on Sunday.
Another big weekend of European rugby this weekend. Will the Saints bounce back after the dismissal of Mallinder. I have a sneaking suspicion that they will. Can Saracens recover some pride at the Stade Marcel Michelin. Sorry Paddy but I doubt it. The Fez Heads will just have to suck it up and move on. Bath vs Toulon might be the game where we see a reversal of fortunes. The Rec will be wet and cold and intimidating. I go Bath.
It's quite interesting to see the fortunes of the English sides, afterall it was they who revolted against the old cup format demanding a new one which gave them a better chance of victory. Be careful what you wish for my friends.
The Irish sides continue to do well but they have strength in depth and the IRFU insist on players being rested. To be fair the Premiership sides don't have that luxury.
I see there are murmurings, albeit reported on WalesOnline, that the WRU are under pressure to make an exception for Rhys Webb and his eligibility for Wales. Makes sense. Mr Toulon won't be happy but "c'est la vie mon ami!!"
Asthma is very unpleasant and can be debillitating. I, being a cynical old git, find it hard to believe that a cyclist with asthma that bad can ride continuously for 21 days with just a few puffs on an inhaler to help him. Something stinks in the kingdom of SKY cycling me thinks. That said, I am not a doctor and you are innocent until proven guilty. It will be a real shame to see Frome's reputation shot down in flames so I genuinely hope he is innocent because what is the answer? Stop anyone with asthma participating in any sport as their medication is seen as giving them an advantage. That isn't an answer.
Go you Mighty Foxes. St Mary's rocked to the sound of the hunting horn last night. 4-1 victory over another group of Saints down in the doldrums.
Brexit turned into a comic farce last night with MPs rebelling and voting to enforce a final vote on the exit deal. What this means in reality is yet to be seen but as I see it means we'll get to the end of the negotiation process and the "Remoaners" will potentiall then scupper the whole deal. The outcome of that is we as a country will be left floundering like a fish out of water with nowehere to go but back to Brussels with a begging bowl to be filled with water so we can survive. The consequnce of which is Britain will have as much influence in the world as a goldfish in a tank of sharks. David Cameron - BE ASHAMED. You got us into this shit you tosser!!!!
Grenfell Tower is in the news. Naturally emotions are running high and we cannot forget the tragic loss of life. The police have indicated some serious charges will be laid which is very positive. Sadly some of the tragic situation the victims have found themselves has been hijacked by activists who are exaggerating the death toll and making unhelpfully politically charged accusations about the establishment for their own benefit. Democracy is not alive and well when your political alliegance means you cannot attend the memorial service. There is much rhetoric being spoken and written but not so much about those who have been offered new, top quality accomdation only for it to be refused. That decision might be misguided or well founded but there are two always sides to any story. We must not forget the victims and their families. Please don't let them be caught up in the agendas of others.
No blog tomorrow. Back on Saturday morning.
Wednesday December 13th - 09:00
Is rugby in good shape? If you watched any of the European games last weekend you might argue "yes". Exciting games with lots of twists and turns, big crowds, and lots of TV coverage. Scratch away at the surface and you might come up with a different answer.
In a soccer style knee jerk reaction Jim Mallinder gets the heave ho from Northampton. Things have gone down hill at Franklin Gardens and the shareholders and owners are restless, after all top flight rugby is big business now. It doesn't feel right that the sanctimonious Graham Simmonds of SKY harrassed Mallinder about his position after the Ospreys game and then 48 hours later he has gone. I see Mike Ford is being looked at as an option.
Then of course there is the continued worry about injuries. Faletau out until at least March, Rhys Ruddock out with a long term hamstring tear. Leicester's Telusa Veainu out with fractured jaw. Itoje out, and so it goes on.
Then there is the parless state of the finances of the top flight and second tier clubs. Most are in debt and only able to survive as a result of owners who have more money than sense. Owen Slot wrote an excellent piece in yesterday's Times about this issue highlighting the rise in players wages and the impact this is having on the club's bottom line. Well worth a read. What struck home was the piece about Worcester and their position. The owner of Swindon Town is rumoured to be looking at taking over at Sixways. Not because he is a rugby fan but because he can see a 50 acre site ripe for development; hotel and conference centre, and a new home for his beloved Swindon. Rugby is incidental quotes Slot.
All that before you get to grassroots rugby. We have stuggled badly of late with injuries, availability and let's be honest with commitment. We have had to pull for too many games at second and third team level. It is frustrating and at times embarrassing. We are not alone by a very long way. Many clubs are finding themselves in this position. I have said before rugby is not "sexy" to the youngsters today and doesn't fit with their social media driven lifestyles.
Money in the game is not helping. Those youngsters who are any good are drawn into top flight academies only to be discarded at the expense of overseas imports. Many of these kids are then lost to the game due to their disillusionment. Clubs with ambition are having to pay more and more to get players and they are sucking many of those players from below them. Yes this is life but it is sucking the life out of local community clubs who simply don't have the funds to compete, or happily don't have the desire to sell their soul to the devil. The RFU have recognised this is an issue and are planning to introduce spending caps on clubs. At level 6 and below; London 1 downards, payments to players will no longer be allowed. At level 5 clubs can spend up to £65k per season on players "wages". For a 23 man squad playing 26 games in a season this equates to c.£110 per man per game. At level 4 the spend rises to £157.5k or c.£265 per man per game. In both cases there is an additional pre-defined amount for coaches. Whilst this move is a step in the right direction you could argue £265 to sit on the bench most weeks is a nice little earner.
Rugby is a great game and I am still in love with it. The mini & junior game continues to be in rude health especially if CRFC's excellent position is anything to go by. It is the adult men's game where things fall down. Many of the reasons are societal and therefore hard to change. Soccer and cricket are suffering as badly. We cannot bury our heads in the sand. We must recognise the issues and find ways for rugby to adapt to changing lifestyles and demands and evolve accordingly. At the top never forget London Welsh. At our level East Grinstead's plight is a saluatory lesson.
Moving on Chris Frome fails a drug test twice. Why is that not a surprise? Cycling and drugs have a long history.
Jose Mourinho storms out of his press conference. Over paid, self publicising tosser!!
Round three of "Humiliation - It Must Be The Ashes" starts in the early hours of tomorrow from Perth. Did I mention I was in Australia a few weeks ago.
A heartwarming story to finish. A tiny baby girl Vanellope Hope Wilkins born with her heart on the outside of her body has endured three operations to put the heart back in her chest cavity. The operation was carried out at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester. The story caught my eye because it is GOOD news and because Glenfield was where I lived as kid and where my love of Leicester City was born.
Tuesday December 12th - 09:00
No sooner had I hit "save" than the snow began to fall. It was treacherous out there as the wet snow hit the frozen ground. I, or more accurately my car, nearly slid into a car on the way into Morrisons. Drive carefully and be safe.
Saracens have come in for much criticism about the handling of Sunday's Champions Cup postponent. I am sure the police and the council H&S team would have influenced the decision but it does seem a little disorganised. Anyway the game was played last night and for the most part it was one way traffic. Were Clermont Auvergne really that good or have Saracens really become that bad. Having watched it I think it is a combination of both. The French fired up by the inconvenience of the postponent and wanting to reward their noisy supporters who stayed on in the UK came out of the blocks like Usain Bolt on heat. Saracens on the otherhand looked timid and disorganised. Their defensive line was porous and their tackling poor. The French had a modern tank in Alivereti Raka up against rusty old warhorses. No contest. Injuries to key players didn't help the Saracens cause but their squad is deep and experienced so that is no excuse. Mark McCall will find someone or something else to blame such as the autumn international break or Mars not being in-line with Jupiter but the bottom line is the men from Barnet have lost their mojo and are playing poorly.
One interesting by-line about Raka is he becomes eligible for France in a few weeks/months time. This residency rule is NONSENSE. Before Paddy O'Fez comes on about me being a hypocrite let me go on record and say the selection of Hadleigh Parks for Wales is totally unacceptable. Rhys Webb a Welshma