Monday 28th August - 08:30
And relax......... our daughter is 14,000ft over Didcot as I type and the grandchildren have just left for Heathrow to meet her. I can feel the tension draining from my body.
Anyway my good friend Liberty Bell has been in touch taking issue with my assessment of England's semi-final performance but agreeing with me about their showing in the final. Fair point. He did make a very valid point in that on seeing the New Zealand outside half charging at you should ..... RUN!!!
What with the women's soccer and cricket performing well it is good women's rugby is getting air time. The new Premiership starts soon but not without its controversy. Lichfield Ladies supplied England with five players for WRWC 2017 and have been one of the leading lights in the game to date. They have been denied access to the top flight however being forced to play in the second tier. This means their stars will inevitably have to leave to ensure their status as internationals. I also see that Aylesford Bulls, the leading club of last season has been swallowed up by Harlequins. The big/rich get bigger/richer me thinks. That said having sides like Quins associated with women's rugby will do more for the game me thinks.
Another gripe appears to be the unwarrented weight of admin put upon the smallest of clubs trying to get ladies rugby off the ground. Just let them turn up and play and have fun. Make it safe of course but make it fun. Get them coming back for more. Don't burden volunteers trying to do the right thing with a stream of tasks making it less enjoyable for them. Who cares who scores. Quite frankly who cares who wins. Did the ladies enjoy it and was the beer, wine and cider post match to their liking.
I see Chris Ashton has taken his fine Sarries form to Toulon bagging a pair of tries yesterday against Pau. Big crowd, nice stadium.
Did you watch the Mitre 10 this weekend? If yes, in the land where rugby is allegedly king, aren't the crowds woefully small.
A significant proportion of hard working Labour voters went for Brexit so what are Labour doing. Yes, that's right, ignoring all of this and basically saying we are not leaving. Mind you it is Cameron who got us into this shambles, and it is a shambles with a capital 'F'.
I am getting fed up with groups like Black Lives Matter and Trans Lives Matter sounding off about anything and everything. Ladies, gentlemen and those of an indeterminant gender: ALL LIVES MATTER. No one group of people should be considered more important than any another.
To those whingeing about the statues and historical glorification of certain acts. Get over it. It happened. You can't change it. Learn from it. I read with disgust that Cecil Rhodes has been removed from the history of one of the colleges in Oxford. Rhodesia being named after him. What are you muppets going to do now. Erect a statue to that fine human being despotic, ruthless crook Robert Mugabe. Get a life!
Finally, what is the obsession with Princess Diana. A tragic loss of a wonderful life. A mum taking way too early BUT come on! Get over it.
Nothing tomorrow. At the club with the guys marking pitches ready for the seasons opener.
Sunday 27th August - 09:15
Despite a strong desire to write drivel over the last few days the grandchildren got in the way. Just 24 hours more and the house is ours again...... our daughter returns from Charlottesville, yes the one where the riots took place.
What a game of rugby. The Australians out of the blocks like Linford Christie, the All Blacks kept going and snatched it at the end like Mo Farrah. A delayed start, a tribute to Sir Colin Meads and the haka all building the tension only for Folau to burst the party balloon within a minute or so of the kick off. The game was frenetic thereafter with no quarter given and no quarter asked. The Aussies looked a world away from the pathetic first half showing of last week and kept the All Blacks on the back foot. You never write the All Blacks off and everytime they looked as if they were going to be downed they fought back with aplomb. Ten tries, five apiece and most from open play with some of the counter-attacking breath taking. The kicking of Bernard Foley was the difference in the end and it was no wonder the volatile Michael Cheika was slamming the desk in frustration as he Foley the post twice. A magnificent game in the wonderful Dunedin Forsyth Barr Stadium.
Post match Cheika had the temerity to have a swipe at Nigel Owens. I thought he and his officiating team had another excellent game contributing to the quality of the play. If either team was to feel frustrated you could argue it was the All Blacks. Two tries disallowed which on a different day could have gone the other way. The one really contentious point was Brodie Retallick's apparent tip on Ned Hanigan. This too could have gone the other way with Retallick seeing yellow. Owens called it an accident so let's move on.
Next up the Women's World Cup Final. This was another cracking game. Very evenly contested up until the 65 miniute mark when the Black Fearns superior power finally overcame the resolute Red Rose defence. Some great passages of play and a high degree of skill on show in front of a full Kingspan Stadium. England let the ball flow a lot more but still looked to bludgeon their way over the line too often. The New Zealanders were too street wise for that to happen more than once and used they array of skills to put England on the defensive. As the game progressed so the women in black got over the 'gain-line' with more frequency. The writing was on the wall with the Black Fearns crossing the whitewash on seven occasions. England can be very proud of their performance but from the get-go the New Zealanders looked head and shoulders above the other teams in the tournament. As the new Women's Premiership gets underway the outlook is bright for the women's game if this is the quality we will see week in week out.
Last up was Argentina vs South Africa. The Boks in orange. What is that about? Only caught the second half but another fascinating if bad tempered game. The Boks looked sharp and their recovery from the trough they found themselves in a few years back is well underway. Never write the Pumas off as they scored some cracking tries to keep the South Africans honest. The penalty try was a spot on decision as was the second yellow card. A moment of stupidity but not as dull as the same player charging into a scuffle in front of Romain Poite. The late hit by the Bok's 15 was also correctly deemed a yellow. Eventually the extra man told and the men in the hideous orange shirts ran out deserved winners.
As adverts for rugby the first two hit the mark, with the last scoring lss positively due to the petulance of certain players.
Closer to home I understand training has been going well at Steel Cross and we sent a team over to Heathfield to take part in The Greenies pre-season tournament. Not sure how it went but you can guarantee with us and The Greenies being involved it will be a good day out for all.
I also read that Northampton Saints have slipped into the red after many seasons of profit. Why? Player wages is the answer. I rest my case me'lud!!
Crowborough is much maligned as a town, and when you look at the High Street you can understand why. What is often missed is the contribution the sports and leisure clubs offer up as a counter-balance. Yesterday we took the kids on the miniature railway, which was great, then up to the park past the newly laid running track at Goldsmiths. Clubs like ours and Jarvis Brook FC, Crowborough Athletic, Crowborough Bowls, Crowborough Cricket Club all play their part and that shouldn't be overlooked.
Back tomorrow with another look at ladies rugby and quite a few whinges about the world today.
Thursday 24th August - 10:15
England suffer a major blow with Danielle Waterman missing out on the World Cup Final due to concussion. Waterman has been a shining light for England with assured play under the high ball and in defence plus her excellent pace going forward. They'll miss her but it is a squad game and whoever steps in will give of her best.
Interesting piece on bbc.co.uk/sport about the salary cap and Mark McCall's view that the £7m cap needs to be increased. It is well worth a read. He makes a valid point about potentially losing home grown talent often to France because of the cap. To be fair Saracens recent track record of bringing players through the academy has been good and it does seem unfair to lose a marquee player like Itoje who has come through the system to say Toulon. This must be counter-balanced by the fact players like Liam Williams haven't joined Sarries for a bag of peanuts and a few ice creams on Saturday. The issue is that on paper clubs abide by the cap but this masks the truth in that some players are heavily subsidised by sponsors or benefactors taking the total way over £7m. The issue is not the cap per se it is the sustainability of the spend. Every increase has to come from somewhere and I'm not sure match day revenue will be enough. Sponsorship, TV revenues, marketing revenues will go someway to filling the gap but there is only so much to go round, especially as companies cut back their marketing budgets. 2019 could be the tipping point for Sarries as it appears many of their top-flight players will be out of contract and you can bet your botton dollar the slime ball agents will be circling like vultures.
If New Zealand weren't powerful enough Dane Coles is set for a return on Saturday when they host Australia. In my humble opinion Coles is the best hooker in the world and one of the best all round players of modern time.
SBW has been cleared to play on Saturday. OK. A press story to fill the pages me thinks. Australia make three changes but my view is the only way to beat the All Blacks will be 15 against 10 and 2 of the 10 must have their hands taped together with Duck tape. Other tapes are available.
Gethin Jenkins wants more Wales caps. If he is fit and good enough then why not. He is still a fine player and good props are rarer than hens' teeth.
Plenty of games on TV but with the weather set fair unlikely to get to watch any of these.
GCSE results out today. Along with excellent 'A' Level results Beacon Academy has done really well. It seems the pass rate and quality of the passes has improved. Great news for the boys and girls from the club who attend Beacon I hope.
Finally I find it difficult to understand the motivations of people who want to pull down statues because they didn't like the history behind it. This seems like the ostrich with his head in the sand with the lion about to chew up its backside. Surely it is better to accept the history and LEARN FROM IT. Pulling down Nelson's statue. What a joke. Bleedin' heart lily livered politically correct namby pamby idiots. No wonder the world is going down the toilet.
Wednesday 23rd August - 16:00
Just back from Eastbourne with the grandkids. Lovely morning out with the sun on our backs and a picnic in our bellies. This took precedence over the blog I'm afraid.
They're on the sofa knackered.... hoorah..... so some 'me' time right now.
If England's women are to win the World Cup they are going have to raise their game. Whilst New Zealand found it tougher than they expected against a resolute USA, and they benefitted from gift wrapped errors by the inexperienced Americans, they still looked a cut above England. The Black Fearns took their chances with aplomb and played with pace varying their game to suit the situation in front of them. England didn't. France were much the stiffer opposition and played some really attractive rugby but that said England were poor. In my view they were one dimensional and relied far too much on playing 'one out rugby'. The sledge hammer approach should be replaced with guile and speed. I fear being full time professionals equals being over-coached. They lacked the ability to change the game on the hoof and stuck to what seemed set patterns. Yes they won but??? The New Zealanders will simply bottle England up, turn the ball over and rip them apart out wide.
On a much more positive note, except for the one USA comedy moment when rugby turned into a game of statues, we had two proper contests. There was some real talent on show and it was a joy to watch, as a neutral.
Looking forward to the final on Sunday. I go New Zealand.
Elsewhere the Mitre 10 and Currie Cups continue this week with plenty of games on TV.
Billy Vunipola and Elliot Daly will miss the start of the season. Player injuries and burnout is a worry for the modern player.
Sonny Bill Williams is at the centre of a media storm again. It is strongly felt by many in the press that he was obviously concussed last Saturday yet the All Blacks coaching and medical team either missed it, or MUCH, much worse ignored it. I can't for one minute believe it is the latter but if he was concussed you do have to ask how it was missed.
The European fixtures are out. Some interesting opening day match ups.
In other sport Wayne Rooney retring from international soccer makes all the back pages. I don't care as long as he keeps scoring for Everton. My main man in this season's fantasy football.
Finally a MUST for you. If you haven't seen it yet look at the club's new promotional video. Well David Shortland. AMAZING work.
Tuesday 22nd August - 08:15
The women's game takes centre stage today with the penultimate round of games. The headline match-up is of course England vs France live on ITV this evening. Slightly earlier and also live on ITV is New Zealand vs USA. I think the black swarm will overrun the USA and put down a marker for the final next Sunday. To date the women from New Zealand have been mighty impressive and I expect their combination of power, pace and a high degree of skill will triumph.
The other game is more difficult to call. You would expect the full time professionals from England to come out on top but in the glimpses I've seen France look a cohesive, well-drilled outfit. They have some big girls playing and despite their stature they are talented athletes with a clear ability to take the game to England and get the Red Rose on the back foot. Both sides like to move the ball wide so I am hoping for an expansive game. I think England will come out on top.... just. England will need to nail their kicks for goal though, something which has been lacking thus far.
Last time around the WRWC was a great affair with lots of TV coverage and high quality match-ups. This time around the TV coverage has been a little sparse and with a few exceptions the games, or parts of games I have watched have not set the world alight. The skill levels have been patchy and there has been more forward dominated passages of play where the ball is taken into contact and on through several ruck phases. The attarction of the women's game is that it has been more free flowing with a desire to get the ball out wide at pace. Let us hope for some of that today.
Crowborough kick off their season with a friendly vs East Grinstead on Sept 2nd. Details here on the website.
Must go I hear the kids coming. Breakfast beckons.
Monday 21st August - 09:15
You might think from the drivel I write that the game of rugby is broken. Actually it isn't. The product is generally good. I do want the lawmakers to look at the scrum. It remains a mess, a drain on game time and an unedifying spectacle. I also think the offside line at the break down needs looking at. We need to create space to open up the game and stop the game being a war of attrition and a game akin to american football; gains made a yard at a time.
Some of this weekends game highlighted how good the game is so what is my problem? As you know only too well the creep towards how soccer is managed; player power and no loyalty, the potential for a decline in the international game and the increased sums of money sloshing around but mainly in the top players pockets (and their weasel agents). I worry about the decline in the men's game at grassroots level. This is driven more by society and many team sports such as cricket and grassroots soccer are suffering as badly. I also believe, and this will raise the hackles of many, that kids start playing the game too early and when they do it is not enough about skills, it is too much about results.
Ok, that said the game is well run by amazing executives, unbelievable coaches, the very best volunteers, passionate supporters, great staff, wonderful players from 6 to 66 and in most cases have good facilities. We at CRFC are blessed with all of these (and as far as the players go this is probably why other clubs keep poaching them!!).
In just a few weeks time across this great country of ours (something we too often take for granted) the rugby season will kick off with new minis arriving, minis moving into juniors and juniors moving to seniors. The planks of rugby; teamwork, respect, ENJOYMENT, discipline and sportsmanship will be at the forefront. Something we can all be proud of. So it is clear the game is not broken. We cannot take it for granted though and the powers that be must look beyond the balance sheet and the top tier of the game and make sure the grassroots game remains appealing and relevant.
I am such a pompous ass at times but remain one of those passionate supporters and a volunteer within our great game. I want it to stay great.
Talking of volunteers, depsite the tedious drizzle, The Friday Club is wroking today and tomorrow on 'heavy' tasks at CRFC. Ditches and drains will be cleared, ramps for equipment built, bridges repaired, the car park tidied and holes filled and much more. I am sad not to be there but the grandkids come first (as experienced this morning with the granddaughter proving projectile vomiting is not a thing of the past). Anyway, to the point. The CRFC exec have through their due diligence agreed the investment which allows the work to be done to keep the facilities in good order. Q.E.D. in terms of the points above.
Make or break in the women's world cup tomorrow. More on this tomorrow morning.
Yesterday I touched on benefits. Today in one of the papers the headline reads 'Benefits system is driving people to destitution'. There are people in need and who deserve our help. However if a women on benefits can afford to buy a horse and maintain it, and others are fiddling the system for tens of thousands of pounds the system is broken. It needs overhauling so those in the most GENUINE need get the most and the bone-idle are told 'get to work, the jobs are out there', after all 600,000 Poles cannot be wrong!!!!
All this pales into insignificance when you hear that 7 year old Julian Cadman was slain in Barcelona by those moronic thugs and villains in the name of ....... I can't answer that as I don't know what they are trying to achieve other than a return to the dark ages where women are treated worse than animals and we all live back in caves praying seven times a day.
Sunday 20th August - 08:45
It is sad to read of the death of Colin 'Pine Tree' Meads. An all time New Zealand and world rugby legend. Growing up in Wales during the halcyon days of Welsh rugby there was one New Zealander who was always spoken of in reverential tones and that was Meads. A fine player and by all accounts a very fine man.
Dong...... dong..... dong!!!!! Is that the death knell of Australian rugby sounding? After 40 minutes of yesterday's Bledisloe Cup you wouldn't be wrong in thinking that. The All Blacks were ruthless, clincal and some of the skills on display were magical. The off-loading in contact was something to behold. It could be argued the Aussies were the architects of their own downfall falling off tackles, losing possession and making basic mistakes at every phase of the game. That said when you have props and second rows sidestepping and dummying like centres it highlights the gulf between New Zealand and the rest. At half time I asked myself; 'does this performance prove how good the Lions were?' I really don't know but deep down I think the All Blacks failed to deliver against the Lions. They certainly delivered against Australia. To be fair the Aussies bounced back in the second half and brought some sense of self-respect back to the scoreboard but by this time the game was over and the All Blacks had taken their foot off the gas. A cracking game.
A cracking game in no small part thanks to a certain Wayne Barnes. I thought he was excellent. Yes he made mistakes and yes he got in the way on a couple of occasions but overall a five star performance.
Off the field things are not so rosey for the All Blacks. The Smith issue and now the Keino affair have rocked the public's perception of the men in black. Normally pure as the driven snow and role models for young and old alike. Their halos have slipped and the public don't like it. There is also much in the New Zealand press about the All Blacks prostituting themselves to anybody and anything in the market place. Yes these guys are the equivalent of our Premiership footballers or rock stars but the fans have an expectation and that now isn't being met in some quarters.
Moving on, the second test of the day was another gripping encounter. Less free flowing and more gladiatorial. The South Africans have regained some of their perzazz and played with skill and accuracy. The Argentinians battled hard but just couldn't match the heights reached by the Boks. Again some of the handling was sublime and the speed with which the ball was moved away from the breakdown was impressive. Excellent fare for a Saturday afternoon on your own before the grandkids arrive for the week!!!
As good as Barnes was I thought Romain Poite had an off day. Indecisive and inaccurate. A try that should have been and a try that shouldn't. After the storm following the final Lions test perhaps Msr Poite needs a lie down in a darkened room to gather his thoughts and rediscover his mojo.
There is an interesting piece on skysports.com about Jonny May's move from Gloucester to Leicester Tigers. It makes me laugh as not once does he say the move was inspired by money yet we all know that was pretty close to, or was at the top of the list of priorities. 'It was purely a rugby decision'. What rot!!!
Before I go I pose a question to you the tax payer. Is it right that a woman who is getting £26,000 a year in benefits, yes £26k, should be allowed to spend some of that on a horse? Yes that is what has happened and it is a DISGRACE. Benefits are not for luxuries. If she can afford a horse then the benefits need to be cut and she needs to get a proper job to fund the luxuries like most other decent people have to.
The RMT and ASLEF which you a 'happy September'. Will they be striking up the bells for your commute? No! Just striking!
Friday 18th August - 08:15
I frequently ask myself should I be sharing my views on the news and on politics and other matters outside rugby on this CRFC's website. Until such time comes when the club says 'STOP!' then I will.
I watched with horror yesterday as the terrible events in Barcelona unfolded. Another outrage in the name of what? Religion? I can't see how anybody of faith or human decency would bring themselves to slaughter innocent people in cold blood. These calculated acts are the work of mindless criminals who are a disgrace to humanity. My thoughts are with the people of Barcelona and the victims' families and friends.
Thankfully life will go on and does go. Human resilience is a wonder which we must be thankful for and sport is one way to ensure life does keep going in the right direction.
I watched the Mitre 10 game yesterday morning and thoroughly enjoyed it. It wasn't a classic. The game was littered with mistakes but at times it was brilliant. A certain Bryn Gatland shone like a beacon. What struck me was of course the pathetically poor attendance. Yes the weather was miserable but you do have to ask yourself why more people didn't turn out.
As the weather here picked up I didn't get to watch all the England vs USA game but enough of it to see that at last England had a contest. They played well and go through to the semi-finals with a perfect record. The USA snuck into that crucial fourth place thanks to England conceding four tries. Something the England setup will need to consider.
The other factor in the USA securing their semi-final berth was Canada being unable to match the power and intensity of New Zealand. From the briefest of highlights this was women against girls with Canada having no answers to the black wave that pounded them onto the shore time and time again.
I did catch a bit more of the France v Ireland game and this seemed an intense contest. France's opening twenty minutes or so, which was the bit I watched uninterrupted, was excellent. Powerful, skillful, quick, controlled and all the other adjectives you expect to be associated with a good rugby side. Ireland put up a brave fight but weren't quite good enough on the night. They played with an intensity and also skill but at times the basics let them down and the ability to prevent the French getting beyond the gain line cost them dearly.
Looking ahead England will have their hands full when they take on the ladies in blue. England should win but I was mighty impressed with what I saw from the French. New Zealand will put USA to the sword.
In addition to the Bledisloe Cup tomorrow we have South Africa hosting Argentina. I would like to see Argentina win this one for the good of the game over there, but likewise a victory victory for the men in green would certainly give the game another positive injection of interest. As it is in SA I go the men in green but not by many.
No blog tomorrow but back on Sunday with reviews of these games.
Let me close by returning to Barcelona. It is somewhat ironic that a certain element of the population in that great city have been saying tourism is out of hand and needs to be cut back. Well very sadly the events of yesterday might just have helped achieve those goals. I am certain the people of Barcelona will bounce back and hopefully those with closed minds towards tourism might just wake up to the benefits of overseas visitors pouring millions of euros into the city's economy.
Finally following on from yesterday's comments about Sarah Champion I suspect there will be the apologists and lily livered liberal minded types who will be saying we can't accuse these thugs (not terrorists) of being young, as that is ageist, or being men, as that is sexist, or being Muslims, as that is racist. Come on people wake up and smell the coffee. We have to start saying it as it is. The morons committing these atrocities are not the blue rinse, National Trust visiting set from the Shires. These are young Musilim men who have been radicalised by cowards hidden in the background. This is where the security forces need to focus and not be afraid to say so.
Barcelona....... we love you!
Thursday 17th August - 09:15
As the song goes what a difference a day makes. Yesterday basking in glorious sunshine under a crystal clear blue sky. Today grey and miserable with a strong breeze adding to the rain. There goes the day in the garden.
Today is 'A' day, the day the kids who have worked hard for, or maybe not so hard for. A day when futures could be shaped or transformed or sadly brought crashing to earth. It is of course 'A' level results day. Mine weren't great so I ended up in the University of Life. It didn't do me any harm thankfully. I wish all those bright eyed and bushy tailed youngsters all the best for this morning.
Ten minutes before North Harbour and Otago kick off in the Mitre 10 Cup. Thank you rain and wind. Just the excuse I needed. Actually if it keeps up like this all day then WRWC 2017 might get a viewing too.
I see the All Blacks have made six changes to the side that faced the Lions in the 3rd test. Notably out goes Jerome Keino and surprisingly in comes Damian McKenzie and Liam Squire, the latter for Keino. Sonny Bill Williams starts after serving, or almost serving in my view, his four week ban. Whichever way you look at it it is still a strong squad and will be too good for the Aussies. The big news for the green & gold is the absence of Quaid Cooper and the return of Kurtley Beale. It looks an inexperienced side enhancing my view of a comfortable All Black win.
The All Blacks have been working on counteracting the rush defence that the Lions implemented so well but I don't think defence will be an issue.
Off the field the All Blacks are back in the spotlight with the Aaron Smith affair back in the press after lurid text messages have been revealed between him and the mystery lawyer.
If you follow the football you wouldn't have been able to miss the Diego Costa fiasco at Chelsea. The player has withdrawn his labour and has failed to turn up at training. Yes the manager probably has something to answer for but this whole saga is another example of what is wrong with football and where I fear rugby is going. Money, money, money.
Is Donald Trump the lamest, most ineffective, unreliable President ever? Everything is imploding around him. PLEASE keep him away from the nuclear trigger.
Rotherham MP Sarah Champion has quit Labour's front bench after her comments about grooming gangs. Whilst her choice of words might have been a little extreme this is another example of political correctness gone wrong and whilst pandering to these do-gooders we become afraid to express perfectly valid views. The fear of upsetting people is making matters worse not better. The fear of being called racist, sexist, homophobic ete, etc is stopping people doing their job properly. There are boundaries and these shouldn't be crossed but come on see things for what they are. The truth in many cases.
Wednesday 16th August - 13:45
Just back from the club after a morning of activity with Rick, Simon and Max. The 'curtain' under the balcony is finished and even though I say it myself, 'cos it was my idea, it looks great. THANKS to all who donated to make it happen. Max is busy mowing the pitches as Dave is 'injured'.
Before moving on a quick Happy Birthday to my lad David. 37 today. Where has that time gone. Life passes by very quickly so live the dream and 'carpe diem'.
WRWC 2017 finally gets going tomorrow. Whilst England will beat USA relatively comfortably it should be a better contest than seen thus far. The two other stand out fixtures are 'make or break'. New Zealand v Canada should go the way of the magnificent New Zealanders. I'll be sexist here because I can; magnificent as in rugby players. The other key fixture is France vs Ireland. For the sake of the tournament let's hope for an Irish victory but I fear France will be too strong. The semi-finalists will be England, New Zealand and France with either Canada or Ireland taking the last spot.
With just twelve teams what I like about this tournament, and the Under 20s World Cup, is nobody goes home early. Every team plays for final position even if it is to avoid the dreaded 12th and final place. Several of the games are on ITV tomorrow and I think they will be well worth watching.
The big game on Saturday is the Bledisloe Cup with Australia hosting the All Blacks. Now I know 'Wales Online' isn't your usual reading but can I direct you to a fascinating piece that highlights the importance of Australia putting on a good show. A heavy defeat could sound the death knell for Australian rugby union. Participation is dropping like a stone, match attendances at Super games are down, TV viewing figures are down and all of the franchises, and the ARU, are stretched in terms of finances. The situation is very difficult exemplified by the Western Force debacle. Wales Online are watching this with interest because the situation in Wales is very similar. All four regions are financially stretched and clubs at all levels are dramatically in decline in terms of player numbers and in some cases their very existence.
The situation in England at the pinnacle of the game is very different. Grounds like Welford Road, Franklins Gardens and The Rec have the 'sold out' signs up regularly. The new TV deal is subsidising many clubs. Clubs are also very marketing savvy. However,is the revenue keeping up with costs and overhead? Except for handouts to release England players and bursaries to support travel etc, etc., the top clubs are funded by owners or benefactors with deep pockets and a willingness to be philanthropic where rugby is concerned rather than the RFU. This positive position hides the fact that many of these clubs are deep in debt and potentially living way beyond their means. As I have said on more than one occasion this is not sustainable and once you've got beyond the spin grassroots rugby is in decline. I know I am a pessimist but I believe one day my pontification on this subject will be proven correct on a spectacular scale. Arrogant? You bet but things cannot continue as they are.
Outside sport David Davies is in fantasy land thinking the EU is going to roll over and give us a great deal on trade. The EU is crapping themselves on how they are going to fill the financial black hole the UK will leave them with. My view is we should pay what we owe and not a penny more. Forget any 'divorce' payment.
I used to detest the commute into London and I didn't have to endure it every day. The fact rail fares are going up again and by a not insubstantial amount is a disgrace. Yes money has and is being spent on improving the infrastructure. You only have to look at London Bridge or the longer platforms to accomodate longer trains on the Uckfield line. That will be of little comfort to regular commuters. The fact the rail companies, are mostly owned by foreign companies / governments cannot be right. Profits being syphoned off to subsidise travel at 'home' is a disgrace. Train fares in France, Germany and Italy are per mile way below the UK. I did raise a cheer when I heard Govia were losing one of their franchises only to come crashing back to earth when the new company was announced as a Dutch/Japanese consortium. This has to change. Re-nationalisation of the railways is not the answer, in part as it gives even more power to the disruptive rail unions but something has to change. Food for thought.
Tuesday 15th August - 10:15
I've been catching up on the Welsh regions and their pre-season. The Dragons took half their squad to Montpellier on Friday and got beaten. They took the other half to Northampton on Saturday and got hammered. The Scarlets fared a little better beating a scratch Premiership XV by a lot to not many. The Ospreys are crossing their fingers for an injury free season.... no chance. Cardiff are still in hibernation.
Worryingly for Scarlets the Premiership money men are circling high over Parc y Scarlets as 20 players, including Jonathan Davies come off their contracts at the end of this coming season. The Severn Crossing will be free by then so coming home to see the folks won't be quite so expensive.
Plenty of Mitre 10 rugby on this weekend followed by the two internationals; Australia v New Zealand and South Africa v Argentina. All on SKY TV. More on these later in the week.
Such is the ruthless state of rugby at the top flight Stuart Hogg is worried that his long recovery period could mean his starting berth for Glasgow Warriors becomes a distant memory. No chance! Class will prevail.
Many Aussie pundits have echoed my view about the Western Force; keep them and bin the Melbourne Rebels.
The Steve Hansen biscuit ad is terrible. It will do what the brand wants and sell a lot more biscuits but Hansen is more wooden than an ancient English oak and less convincing than Corbyn on the subject of student fees..... and that says something.
Talking of hypocrisy, no Corbyn, no hypocrisy don't you find it strange that Tovarich Corbynov has come out and criticised Trump for his stance on the right wing extremists when he continues to be an apologist for MADuro.
Trump is a complete asshole for his stance on the appalling, disgusting, unacceptable events in Charlottesville.
Thank goodness Kim 'the fat' Jong-un has stepped back from the brink over Guam.
In the interest of balance Theresa maybe returns from her holidays. You might as well have the Lindt chocolate bunny running the country for the impact she will have now.
The country is going down the toilet, we could be on the brink of armageddon thanks to Trump and Jong-un, Brexit negotiations are going at a snails pace etc, etc, etc and all our beloved MPs are whingeing on about is the fact Big Ben will fall silent for four years. People are panning health & saftey but in this case I personally think it is the right thing to do. Maybe the quiet will allow the MPs to wake up and ask more sensible questions like; 'why was that sleasy Jeremy Hunt allowed to spend £40k on a new toilet when he his responsible for the NHS that appears to be going the same way as OUR £40k...... yes down the toilet.
Finally THANK YOU the Daily Express a) for not leading with another stedious Princess Diana story but more importantly b) leading with 'WINE IS KEY TO A LONGER LIFE'. Bring on the Merlot, the Shiraz and a nice chilled bottle of Sav. Hic!
Monday 14th August - 08:15
There must be a glitch in the system somewhere as I definitely wrote a blog on Saturday but it is not here. Hey Ho!
I slammed the deal Piutau is rumoured to be on at Bristol. £1m per season for two years.
I was dismayed that Sonny Bill Williams can play next weekend. 'Meaningful' should mean exactly that.
Great news for CRFC as they announce Ollie Jude-Trailor as Club Captain. Long standing and proud club man who will do an amazing job.
WRWC 2017 continues apace. As expected England strolled past Italy. Full time professionals vs amateurs so what do you expect. Wales are now out of contention after their defeat to Canada. A closer game than I expected so well done Wales. Ireland snuck past Japan in the game of the day. France strolled past Australia which suprised me leaving both France and Ireland unbeaten in that group so winner takes all on Thursday.
The Currie Cup again delivered some great rugby. Fast, open, entertaining BUT sadly played in empty stadiums. Just 4,000 people watched the Cheetahs beat the Griguas. It was not much better in the other games. With the Southern Kings scratching around to get a squad to play in the PRO14 it doesn't augur well me thinks.
The other topic I touched on Saturday was the axing of Western Force from Super Rugby. I can understand why the decision makes sense from a geographical view point and the potential to grow the game is limited in this isolated part of Australia. Melbourne Rebels would have been my choice as rugby union lags way behind ARL, NRL, soccer, cricket and tennis in this sports mad city. Anyway, as I thought would happen the lawyers are involved and the battle to keep the Force is far from over.
Steve Hansen is the butt of many jokes right now after a very wooden appearance in an ad for biscuits. I for one will be searching for this on line.
Outside rugby the football season has properly started. Players refusing to play because their £60,000 PER WEEK is not enough and they want a transfer. Mass brawls between fans after the Middlesborough v Sheffield Utd game. Talk of managers being sacked after just one game. Players being sent off for petulance. It really is a soap opera. One consistency is my fantasy football team. Rubbish yet again. Cahill and Fabregas both in the line-up so -6 points there for a start.
Didn't London and UK athletics put on a stunning World Championships. Packed houses every night and most mornings. Knowledgeable and well behaved fans cheering their favourites, except when Gatlin was running. The athletes added to the drama with amazing performances, shocks and disappointments. The GB and N.I. team did ok, saved by the relay teams but some sterling efforts elsewhere, however....... don't you think we could be so much better? I think the politically correct nonsense we now see in schools where sports day is anything but. The bullshit about not having a winner and it must be all inclusive is ridiculous. Life is not like that and not all kids want to participate. Let those who do compete and those who show promise encouraged to go on further. All sports suffer as pressure on teachers often means resources are limited and time even more restricted so let's not lay all the blame at the teachers' feet.
Must go, the kitchen isn't going to decorate itself.
Friday 11th August - 08:15
New Zealand will be without Jordie Barrett for the rest of the season due to a shoulder injury. A big blow for them and this upcominmg star.
Charles Piutau joins Bristol from Ulster on a two year contract. Pat Lam is certainly spending the cash with the aim of regaining Premiership status for Bristol.
Chris Robshaw extends his stay at Quins with a new contract.......
BUT what is a contract worth and has rugby taken another step towards the abyss that soccer is slowing sliding into. Player power and it is all about the money?
It has come to light that Jonny May's move from Gloucester to Leicester was as a result of him invoking a little known rule that allowed a player to break his contract on the basis that Leicester paid Gloucester one year's salary. In effect a transfer fee. Gloucester's DoR has said ;'The reality now is that rugby is moving towards football'. The clubs moved swiftly to change that so that any fee has now to be negotiated, just like soccer. You watch those slugs, the agents, slime their way out from behind the rocks looking to make a buck or three. Interestingly the Players Association was not consulted on this leaving me to think there is a confrontation on its way. We have already seen the player merry-go-round spin faster and faster and the cost of each ride go up and up. Unlike soccer rugby cannot afford this nonsense. I am naturally a pessimistic and dour person but I fear from top to bottom money will kill our game. It is certainly a factor in the decline at grassroots where even players at level 7 are being paid to play. It is not sustainable.
Finally Gavin Henson makes his Dragons bow today against Montpellier in a pre-season friendly. Interstingly he starts at #10.
The Mighty Foxes are away at Arsenal tonight. That's tonight's viewing sorted.
Thursday 10th August - 09:00
Twelve teams in three pools, that is the Women's Rugby World Cup. England got off to a fine start, but you'd expect that wouldn't you. (Currently) Full time professionals versus amateurs. Spain were no match for the well drilled and more skillfull English side. I watched some of it but quite frankly it wasn't a patch on the Currie Cup being shown on SKY. By the way I am not a couch potato spending his life watching rugby on TV but as the weather was awful yesterday I did gourge on it.
As expected Wales were taught a lesson by the New Zealand women. The other games went as expected with Canada racking up just shy of a 100 points vs Hong Kong.
I did catch most of the Ireland vs Australia game switching between that and the athletics. Now this was a proper contest between two well matched and very skillful sides. The ladies will be very sore this morning after some brutal collisions. The home side triumphant is good for the tournament.
There will be a couple more decent head to heads but this competition won't really get started until the semi finals and play-off spots for the final placings. Sad but true I'm afraid.
The Currie Cup was yesterday's bonus. Mrs Bleater and I had all our well intentioned plans scuppered by the weather so little was left to do but watch the rugby. Three cracking games with high levels of skill intermingled with some woeful passages of play. The Cheetahs looked a handful and will be a tough proposition in the Pro14. Their wide men looked quick and those guys up front were sizeable beasts. Even though it was a public holiday the crowds were pretty poor. Yes, they were playing in massive stadiums but nevertheless it doesn't augur well for the Pro14 season ahead. I really hope the new format works and the inclusion of the South African sides lifts interest and crowds but more importantly the quality of the games. Only time will tell.
A bit more Currie Cup on Saturday but otherwise a pretty quiet rugby weekend.
The football transfer saga takes up much of the sports pages along with the World Athletics Championships. I do like the athletics and am proud to say I was a county 110m hurdler and long jumper when I was in school. Delighted to see Makwala get through to the 200m final after what he has been through in the last few days.
So Mr Corbyn won't condemn Maduro. The Venezuelan is a ruthless despot taking his country over the abyss into hell and Corbyn sits idly on his hands. Get off the fence and be a man.
There is more to the kidnapping of model Chloe Ayling than meets the eye. The whiff of this being a set-up to put this publicity hungry woman in the spotlight is quite powerful me thinks.
I for one am fearful of how the rhetoric surrounding North Korea and the US is getting louder and more aggressive. The lunatics are in charge of the asylum with little or no safeguards before one of them pushes the big red button. We all need to hope that Trump and Jong-un will see the folly of their ways, and see it soon.
Before I go, back to Sunday and my mum's birthday party. I thought I was anti injury lawyers but my sister-in-law puts me to shame. This lovely, usually mild-mannered Yorkshire lass has some unprintable suggestions for what should happen to them. It therefore gladdened my heart to read that a money grabbing crook who was persuaded by one of these parasites to sue her travel company over a food-poisoning case not only had the claim thrown out of court she has been told she has to pay c.£3.5k in costs and she has to pay them in five days or face jail. Hoorah for this judge and let that be a lesson to all the other maggots and parasitic lawyers trying to line their pockets with lies.
Wednesday 9th August - 08:30
The Women's Rugby World Cup starts today but much to debate before that.
I had a heated discussion with my brothers on Sunday about the merits or otherwise of the Lions tour. Basically their view was the All Blacks were robbed and Gatland was lucky. The key points to their argument were the penalty awarded when Kyle Sinckler was tackled 'in the air' in the 2nd test never should have been given. By the very letter of the law it was a correct decision but the interpretation was wrong. The Lions were the better side on the day in my view and deserved the win.
The second point we debated was the Ken Owens knock on. Romaine Poite did bottle it and on any other day it would have been a penalty to the All Blacks. They argued strongly that Kieran Read had every right to go for that ball and weren't willing to accept that under the new guidelines it must be a safe and fair contest in the air. Yes he had the right to go for the ball but I stick to my view that he had no chance of getting it and knew that he would take Liam Williams out of the equation thus forcing something to the All Blacks advantage. It was however very fair to say the All Blacks were below par and therefore the Lions were very lucky to win.
Finally the selection of Gatland and Howley as coaches was a major debate. There was not much love for either and Wales recent poor showing was used to justify their points. It was agreed that the results have effectively saved the Lions for another four years at least.
World Rugby have bowed to pressure from New Zealand allowing Sonny Bill Williams to play on Saturday. I stick to my view that this is wrong. The All Blacks warm up game is NOT meaningful. This sets a dangerous precedent.
The Lions vs Crusaders was a cracking game spoilt by the sending off. No-one wants to see 14 v 15 in a show piece final. There are some who would argue that it was harsh. Once again I think it was the right decision. You could argue there wasn't any intent and it was difficult to avoid a collision but there was time to alter the angle of attack and change body positions to prevent such a dramatic crash to the floor. All that said the opening 20 minutes from the Crusaders set up the win. Just brilliant. It was a sterling fight back by the Lions but not quite enough. Attention now turns to the Championship. Australia v New Zealand up first.
The Pro14 fixtures and set up is becoming clearer. The Ospreys will be first to travel to South Africa when they face the Cheetahs but as the match clashes with a South Africa test they don't yet know where they will be playing. This is a very costly experiment which with several regions, especially the Welsh ones, already being bailed out by their unions I struggle to see the logic. Do the sums. Business Class alone to S Africa is about £6k per person, then the hotel cost. You are talking about close to £500k, which is what the league is shelling out. That equates to £6m. That is a lot of money for the organisers to find me thinks.
Leigh Halfpenny will go to the ball as he joins Scarlets. This is the best fit and a good result for him and Wales. He has had to take a pay cut however. Good! As he only had limited game time in New Zealand he could make a surprise debut in the Scarlets opener against the Southern Kings. Not long to wait.
He's in, he's out, he's got time now to shake it all about. Of course I refer to the recall of Manu Tuilagi to the England set up only for him to be sent home, along with Denny Solomona, after 'drink related issues'. Tuilagi has a track record of misdemeanours sadly as his rugby talent speaks for itself. It will be fascinating to see what Eddie Jones does next. Jones is a winner and will want Tuilagi, and Solomona, in his squad, but he also demands respect and personal discipline.
In the WRWC 2017 England kick off against Spain this afternoon. England will stroll this one. The better game to watch will be Ireland v Australia. Wales have zero chance against New Zealand in Pool A.
Well done Mo Farrah. What an athlete. Not sure about the booing of Gatlin. Yes he is a cheat and shouldn't be running. The boos should be aimed at the IAAF for being being weak. Ban cheats for life. The farce around Isaac Makwala is a perfect example of the IAAF's ineptitude.
So Neymar is joining Paris St Germain for the 'challenge'. Have you ever heard such mealy mouthed rubbish. It is about the MONEY!!!!!!!
Be afraid, be very afraid. Donald Duck's Trump's finger is hovering over the nuclear trigger whilst Kim Jong-un has is hand already putting pressure on his. Madness led by two madmen.
When you are next at the club take time to have a look around. The Friday Club have been working tirelessly over the summer. The picthes are in good shape too thanks to Dave Bristow. Well done guys.
Finally it was my mum's 85th birthday last weekend hence the trip to Bridgnorth and the family (except the elder of my two sisters) get together. Whilst the debate about the Lions was going on my sister-in-law threw a curve ball into the mix. Why do people on benefits need a passport? A good question me thinks, and this was one many points she made but one of the few I feel I can get away with printing.
More to follow tomorrow.