Monday 22nd May - 09:20
Let me start by correcting an error from yesterday. It was Mike Ellery who went over for the late Saracens try and not Chris Wyles. Wyles scored the earlier try. Doesn't change the fact it was a cracker.
Well done Wasps. Another cracking game. Based on the limited highlights they appeared to deserve the win, albeit with a last gasp try.
One person who is probably happy that both Saracens and Ospreys being out of the play-off finals is Warren Gatland. Ten Nine players with no more rugby until the Lions tour. Sadly Billy Vunipola has withdrawn from the tour to be replaced by James Haskell. In my humble opinion the loss of BV is a blow to Gatland but I am sure he will now be looking at Taulupe Faletau as his starting #8. Haskell has had a good season with both Wasps and England but I worry about his propensity to give away penalties at crucial moments. He has played Super rugby so knows the cauldron that the Lions will enter. This is a bonus. What would I have done? I would have selected Joe Launchbury and looked at Maro Itoje as my additional back row option.
This won't be the last change.
Well, well! I can cheer for England after all as Denny Solomona is likely to miss the trip to Argentina with a foot injury.
As John Terry waved goodbye to Chelsea so Donacha Ryan waved goodbye to Munster. Both still have life in soccer/rugby to look forward to but not with the club/province they have been loyal to since the start of time.
Congratulations to Scotland winning the London 7s, beating England in the final.
This is my last blog until June 3rd. I'm taking a technical break and warming up for the Lions tour. I'll be missing Exeter v Wasps. I go Wasps. Scarlets v Munster will be fascinating. Based on last weeks form alone I go Scarlets. That said Munster can't be that bad again. England take on the Barbarians. So what!!!! Who gives a damn about player welfare. Money, money, money.
Whilst my keyboard fingers are taking a break I'll be considering whether to continue with this drivel. Readership is still pretty good but in decline. Not surprising really. There is only so many times you can read about the RMT and the pathetic Southern Rail management. The Lions tour could rekindle interest. Let's see.
Is Theresa Maybe's decisiveness going to back fire. The polls seem to indicate her star is on the wane ahead of election day.
There is much written about what a shit state the NHS is in. Yes there are issues and that in part is because money is tight and in part because demand has snowballed way ahead of expectations. The voice of the whingers is always long and loud. If it goes wrong you are sure to hear about. When it goes right, which is by far the bigger number you don't hear anything because that is what people expect. Let me reinforce that point. The reason Mrs Bleater and I have been in Salisbury for the past fortnight is due to our daughter having undergone some major surgery. Everything has gone perfectly to plan with the quality of care pre, during and post operation exemplary. We cannot heap enough praise on the NHS.
As an aside it is very clear that certain people look at the NHS as a hotel chain and once they are in for their three square meals a day they milk it for all its worth, this despite them having more than enough money to pay for alternatives.
One other thing that works well in Salisbury is they have a fantastic drop-in surgery. Open from early until late 7 days a week. Like JS deli counter you take a ticket and wait your turn. This service takes pressure away from the hopsitals A&E.
Come on the Lions. My shirt is ready and the breakfast breads, fresh juice, and coffee are all on order. Back on June 3rd.
Sunday 21st May - 08:40
Following on from Friday night Exeter and Saracens served up another dish of the highest quality. A cracking game of rugby with high levels of skill and most definitely high levels of drama. You can see why World Rugby is concerned about the level of injuries, especially head injuries. The physicality of this game and the intensity of the hits was immense.
Saracens started strongly enough but as the game wore on so the tiredness caught up with them. Their passing became inaccurate and their defence a little less resilient thus allowing Exeter back into the game. To and fro the game went with players leaving for HIA and others being patched up. It was more like a battlefield than a rugby pitch. You could see why Gatland has six Saracens in his squad; Billy Vunipola was outstanding, but also why Jack Nowell has got the nod for the trip to New Zealand. His try was very well worked and superbly finished.
Write Saracens off at your peril and it seemed they had stolen the win in the last minutes when Chris Wyles went over late on. It was not to be as Exeter, thanks to an amazing Henry Slade kick to the corner, powered over to take the spoils. What a game.
Special mention to Wayne Barnes. Well done sir. One of your best.
All eyes then moved on to Coventry. Didn't watch this one but it too was filled with drama with it looking as if the Tigers were going to defy the odds and take the spoils. I understand Leicester, led from the front by Tom Youngs, were worthy of their lead only to be denied also at the final moment. Will be watching the highlights tonight for a more detailed view.
Sadly for the Ospreys it wasn't to be. Munster were too clinical and streetwise for the Welsh outfit. After the first semi-final this was a pretty ordinary affair. Very physical but lacking in moments of drama and littered with basic errors. Endured this to the end but thinking a couple of episodes of The Great British Menu might have been more enjoyable. Unless Munster eliminate their mistakes I can see Scarlets taking the spoils next week.
Well done Saints for overcoming Connacht. Stade Francais now stand between them and a place in the Champions Cup.
Last day of the soccer Premiership today. Chelsea are champions. No ridiculous play-off for them.
One more blog before a technical break ahead of The Lions tour.
Saturday 20th May - 08:00
If you missed Leinster v Scarlets last night you missed a classic. The West Wales outfit took the game to the Dubliners from the off. The tries they scored in the first half were excellent. Superb handling, great angles of attack, impactful support play. It was almost like being back in the 70s watching Wales in their prime. To be fair Leinster were lacklustre and sloppy at times thus gifting possession to the men in red. When they needed to the Scarlets thwarted Leinster's potent attack with aggressive and effective defence. The loss of Lion to be Jack McGrath early on knocked the hosts back but Cian Healey is no lightweight as a sub.
Was the sending off of Steff Evans correct? Absolutely! Referee Marius Mitrea had no choice and the only criticism is it took too long to make what was a pretty obvious decision. Mitrea had an excellent game by the way.
The sending off was a turning point. The second half saw Scarlets having to defend with scrum going backwards, the lineout under pressure and ball in hand a rarity. Leinster couldn't break through as the men in red tackled like demons and when an opportunity presented itself they took it, either clearing their line or popping over crucial penalties. Leinster were the architects of their own downfall at times with some of their passing being woefully inaccurate.
Jonathan Davies, James Davies and Scott Williams were brilliant. For the men in blue Garry Ringrose shone brightly.
Over in Paris Cardiff were less successful despite a strong first half. Saw a couple of the tries before giving in to the demands of the grandchildren. Stade now await the outcome of Saints v Connacht later today.
Is it possible we could see an all Welsh Pro12 final? I doubt it. Despite the welcome return of Alun Wyn Jones Munster will be too strong. Home advantage, unlike last night, will be telling. 18:15 S4C for this one.
Wasps v Leicester looks intriguing. Emotions are running high at Leicester with all that skipper Tom Youngs is going through at home. The Tigers will raise their game as a show of support, and Youngs himself in his 100th start will need no more incentive than to lead his side to victory. Wasps, with all that talent at their disposal and being at home will be tough to be beat. Get them on the back foot early on and frustrate their backs and the Tigers might just have a chance. I go Wasps but not by many.
The game of the day is Exeter v Saracens. This one is hard to call. Exeter forever consistent and well rested versus the superstars of Barnet who have had a long and hard season. Are they up for one more battle? I think so. If Sarries can get enough clean ball to their back line I think they will win this one, not by many. If Exeter can keep the Sarries forwards at bay and be aggressive up front then they have a chance. Sarries for me but I'd love to see Exeter triumph. Exeter, the nice guys of the Premiership with a future England coach at the helm..... possibly. BT at 14:30
Leigh Halfpenny with 21 out of 26 points for Toulon took them through to the final of the Top 14. Montpellier or Racing 92 await.
Have you noticed that you don't hear the coaches whinging about these pathetic play-offs and player burn out. No, because it is money, money, money. Why can't the winner of the league after an arduous season be crowned champions? Hey ho.
With McGrath going off, Johnny Sexton looking decidedly unsteady, Sam Warburton not playing yesterday and plenty of games still to come Gatland must be a worried man right now. Time will tell.
In the news how long has Trump got before he is out of office. The Presidency of the most powerful country on earth is not a prime time TV show. The James Comey / FBI / Russia thing is not going away.
You think I am a tosser..... not by comparison to Julian Assange I hope.
My rail comments have brought forward some good points. In a time of crisis on a packed commuter train is a single extra person going to make any difference. No! Perhaps during the morning rush you need at least two, or even three extra people on board. This being offset by DOO at other times.
I am absolutely amazed that politicians can say the system is unfair and we need the top earners to help the poorest, but then say it is perfectly ok for multi, multi-millionaires and pensioners living in Spain to get the winter fuel allowance. Madness.
I am not a betting man, too mean, but I will suggest those of you who are might want to bet that tomorrow's front pages will be full of Pippa Middleton's wedding. Talk about a show pony.
Must go the grandkids are looking for their breakfast. After all they have been awake since 06:15
Friday 19th May - 10:15
The second part of Warren Gatland's fears are being realised. Part 1 the bulk of the squad still playing in play-offs. Part 2 injuries. The first of which is Ken Owens who misses tonight's clash with Leinster. With the intensity of the play-offs you can expect more casualties along the way.
Leinster v Scarlets on SKY k.o. 19:45
Tonight also sees the pathetic play-off between Stade Francais v Cardiff. Thank goodness the people running European rugby (the French and English clubs by the way) have come to their senses. From season 2018/19 the Champions Cup will be made up of the top 6 English clubs, top 6 French Clubs, top 7 Pro12 plus the winner of the Challenge Cup. No more long winded unnecessary play-offs. No longer will the two Italian clubs be gifted one place. The top 7 finishers will qualify regardless of country. This could mean 4 Irish and 3 Welsh regions make it leaving Scotland and Italy out in the cold of the Challenge Cup. Better this way me thinks.
Christian Wade is out to prove Eddie Jones wrong. I hope he does too and as I have said before I will be rooting for Argentina this time around. Support English products and not mercenaries who happen to be here for the money.
The big Aviva games are tomorrow. Weather dependent and the demands of the grandchildren I might try and watch these. Exeter v Sarries especially. Both games on BT Sport. I'll review these in more detail tomorrow morning.
If it is wet tomorrow and you have SKY some good Super 15 match ups to enjoy. Chiefs v Crusaders the pick. I guess Steve Hansen also has to worry about injuries and he'll be watching these games intently. That said the NZRFU has the power to pull players out of fixtures because they truly control the game in the land of the long white cloud.
In other sport what a joy to be a life long Leicester City fan. Thank goodness we are safe from relegation as the 6-1 thrashing by Spurs last night would have been disastrous.
The Tory's launched their manifesto. Another work of fiction, or MAYbe not!
In the papers it was the Daily Mirror front page that caught my eye. In the Labour manifesto much is said about the 'haves' helping the 'have-nots'. In many respects this makes some sense, except of course when those with have worked their fingers to the bone to achieve it only to see it given to those who really can't be bothered. Anyway, to the point. The Mirror slams the Tory's for announcing they will make the winter heating allowance means tested. Too right. There are millions of pensioners who are getting the winter allowance who don't need it. They openly say 'it funds a nice week away'. This cannot be right. By means testing the government should be able to redirect the savings to where it is most needed, and not enhancing the already comfortable life of some of our pensioners. I take the marvellous Friday Club as an example. Most, if not all of the Friday Club who get the winter allowance could easily manage without it. I am sure most, if not all would be happy for the money to go to those who THROUGH NO FAULT OF THEIR OWN GENUINELY NEED HELP DURING THE WINTER. That's my view anyway based on zero research or discussion.
Before I go and do more grandparenting the actions of Kim Jong-un are mostly going on under the radar due to the election coverage. His latest missile test was a great success and it is reported that his nuclear capability is progressing apace. Be VERY afraid.
Thursday 18th May - 08:15
The big story of the day is the announcement that Ian Ritchie is to step down as RFU Chief Executive. There is no reason given for what appears a sudden decision especially as continuing in the role through to Japan 2019 would make some sense. Having been paid c.£700k a year he won't have any financial worries I'm sure.
How do we measure his tenure?
Let's start with the negatives. The 2015 RWC was an embarrassment for English rugby. Not reaching the knock stages after all the resources poured into the preparation was pathetic. The ignominious sacking of Stuart Lancaster in the aftermath was not great. Men's grassroots rugby is in decline and he seems to have his head in the sand over that issue. I personally believe he has also been soft with regard to the demands of Premiership Rugby. The RFU are at risk of losing control of the English game to just 12 clubs (which should be 14!!!!!)
On the credit side there is much for him to be proud of. Post the 2011 RWC debacle, which really was shambolic, he almost single handed rescued what was a sinking ship. He turned it around and saw success at Under 20 level, and women's rugby both with world titles to their name. He smoothed over a fractious relation with Premiership Rugby (see point above however). Twickenham and the Twickenham experience has been taken to a new level. The delivery of RWC 2015 despite England's performance was exceptional and very, very profitable which is no mean feat. The RFU are in rude health financially which has enabled them to invest in grassroots rugby. His appointment of Eddie Jones was astute leading to 6 Nations success.
On reflection I think the credit side of the balance sheet outweighs the debit side. It will be interesting to see how his successor fares.
Only this week I caught up with a SKY Sports documentary on concussion in sport. By the way soccer and the NFL need to worry. It is something that World Rugby has been focussing on. Do they have it right yet? No, in my opinion. This view is supported by a very sad story featured in The Gruaniad. A 19 year old from Wellington playing for his local club suffered a head injury but appears to have been allowed to play on. It was only later he was removed from the field and sadly died yesterday from the injuries sustained (The Guardian for the full story). This highlights the need for greater vigilance and more affirmative action with regard to head injuries.
Excellent article on how Welsh legend Adam Jones has helped turn Kyle Sinckler into a Lion. Well worth a read (bbc.co.uk)
London Irish take the first round spoils over Yorkshire Carnegie in the battle for promotion to the Premiership.
Let's applaud Jimmy Goperth for his success this season picking up Premiership player of the year. Dai Young was coach of the year.
Newcastle will host Sarries in Philadelphia at the start of next season. A brave move driven by money, money, money I guess.
The Australian RFU (ARU) are soon to announce their plans to cull at least one Super side. I am guessing it will be the Western Force but in my humble opinion Melbourne Rebels is the sensible choice.
Nice piece on Wales Online on how Gorseinon RFC has produced as many 2017 Lions as Scotland. For the record: Leigh Halfpenny, Dan Biggarhead, Ross Moriarty.
Outside sport very sad to hear of the death of a 24 year old motorcyclist on the A26 by Crowborough Golf Club. Another reminder that life isn't fair and that there many more dangerous things in life than rugby.
Ok, to the grand finale. How was my train journey? Faultless. The train left Crowborough to the second at 11:45. In part because services between Crowborough and Uckfield were suspended (NOT the RMT or ASLEF's fault). The connections at East Croydon and Clapham Junction were so good I managed to get an earlier Salisbury bound train arriving 30 mins ahead of my planned ETA. To the point. Travelling at this time of day reinforced my view that there is NO NEED for a second person on every train. The argument stands up at rush hour into London but on the half full limited carriage trains I travelled on the second person was superfluous to requirements. The dispute cannot be justified on the grounds of safety. It is about jobs and the power of the unions on the one hand and rail company profits on the other. Paying £50 for a single ticket means I now own the seats I used. The cost of rail travel is ridiculously high. This is something the government needs to look at. Stop the profits going abroad.
We get ever closer to one of the big sporting events; the Lions tour. It is my intention not only to write rubbish about the games and the selections etc but I thought I might write about New Zealand and give snippets about my experiences in 2011 and the places where the games are to be played. Let's see how it works out.
Wednesday 17th May - 09:15
A big shout out to all CRFC's mini parents, coaches and especially the kids. Another splendid season with the emphasis on fun and involvement rounded off with the end of year awards and party. Great stuff. Read more on this site.
The Crows got back safely from their tour of Newquay. Not a single game played but great fun I am led to believe.
One day, maybe in the summer, I will bore you with a tale of when I was playing and being on tour in Cornwall. Hold that thought.
Some big games to look forward to this weekend. In my humble opinion I think Leinster v Scarlets is the highlight. Scarlets have come into form at just the right time. I think they might spring a surprise and snatch this one with Lions reject but Welsh favourite Scott Williams standing out.
Exeter vs the kings of Europe is another that looks a cracker. Sarries, possibly tired after their exertions in Murrayfield could come a cropper at the hands of in form Exeter, fresh from a weeks rest and preparation. I still go Sarries but will be cheering for Exeter. Exeter, a rags to riches story, and as I have said before, along with Worcester, probably the last to come up the pyramid to sit at the top table.
Eddie Jones will pick anyone who qualifies for England. Quite right too BUT IT IS THE QUALIFICATION CRITERIA THAT IS WRONG!!!!!!! You know my feelings on this subject so let's move on.
Warren Gatland is keeping the Lions call up list to himself. Good idea. Don't raise players hopes only for them to end in disappointment. On this subject many people have asked why my brother JC played for England and not Wales. Another long story for another day but the clue is in the notion of being on stand-by for a tour and someone else going in your place.
Money, money, money. Northampton's player of the year; Louis Picamoles is to rejoin Montpellier. He went to Saints for the money, although he has been brilliant for them. He returns to France for the money.
The Chamionship play-off part 1 is tonight. Yorkshire Carnegie v London Irish. Now there is a surprise!!!!! Once again, like a well worn record, vinyl of course, I don't understand why the Premiership is not expanded to 14 clubs with these two being the additions and then making it a closed shop. Hey ho! What do I know about anything?
Get your diaries out. The 6 Nations fixtures for 2018 and 2019 are out. Lot of rugby before then but advantage England in 2018 with how the fixtures have fallen. France pick up the burden of Friday night rugby with Italy and Wales on the agenda.
The Lions tour is fast approaching. The first get together was with more than half the squad missing due to the play-offs, which as you know I think are a stupid idea and only there to make money for the clubs and the RFU and to support the sponsors. It appears that a pair of complimentary tickets for the Lions test in Wellington have appeared on the black market. So a freeloading blazer from the NZ set-up has gone 'money, money, money'. Not a great advert for the integrity of our game my friend.
The Labour manifesto has been launched. You need to decide what you think about it and whether the numbers add up. It is certainly radical (I didn't want to write 'extermist', 'Marxist', 'left wing' because you might get the wrong idea that I was bias in some way). I mention only because as expected the re-nationalisation of the railways and giving power back to the unions are included. This news happens to coincide with the RMT announcing they are going on-strike again at Southern, Merseyrail, and Arriva Rail North over driver only operated trains. Oh happy days.
Finally I accept my views are not everyones. I also accept that I can be an opionated, bigotted, pain in the ass. I also accept I can be a pretty horrible person so I hope nobody minds me saying that the death of the evil Ian Brady should be welcomed and I for one hope he rots in hell.
Must go, a train to catch. Let's hope there is a guard on board to tend to my every need. Seriously, I must go as I do have a train to catch.
Monday 15th May - 14:00
Somewhat later than normal as I have been at the club with The Friday Club and the club's executive. Today, as part of this year's NatWest Rugby Force grant we have had the pleasure of welcoming Keith Kent, Twickenham's head groundsman to Steel Cross. Keith, accompanied by Rick Bruin (RFU) and Colin from Charlton Park was there to map out our pitch maintenace program for the summer. We have much to do but thanks to the work done by Dave Bristow over recent months we are in a good position to make a big difference to our playing surfaces.
Colin is the RFU's 'go to' groundsman volunteer, having recently advised the Georgian RFU on their pitch preparation ahead of the U/20 World Cup.
Well done to John 'Damper' Sayer for his efforts in submitting the grant proposal.
Mal Chumbley our RFU RDO was also present and he and I had a long chat about the changes we all need to make to our game to make it more appealing. There is definitely an appetite for change but progress is slow. We need to get behind any initiative that is focussed on recruitment and retention of players and volunteers alike.
Those present were unanimous in the view that the Champions Cup Final was one of the best ever. A real classic. Even followers of Bath and Quins were full of praise for Sarries. The men from Barnet are now looking towards the double. A tough ask me thinks.
I read that New Zealander born Willi Heinz has been brought into the England training camp going on in Brigton right now. He qualifies through his English grandmother. I know I bleat on about eligibility so my view is a) you were born in a country, b) either of your parents were born in a country, c) you have been resident in a country for SEVEN years. The residency rule might be reduced if you were brought up and educated in a country a la the Vunipolas and Faletau. By the way the Vunipolas should be playing for Wales having been brought up and educated there. Don't get me back onto the Denny Solomona case.
Warren Gatland has suggested Cardiff don't play Sam Warburton in the (overly complicated) European play-off game vs Stade Francais.
Surprise, surprise Alex Goode is the first name of Sky's team of the week. He was superb on Saturday.
Changing sport I see the Swansea Jacks have dodged the relegation bullet. Well done to them. Well done too to their sqaud for paying for their fans to go to Sunderland to cheer them on to survival.
The cyber hack dominates the news, along with the election battle. Jezza's salary is covered by many papers. £137k does seem a good deal but I want to know what he does with it. Charity or secret investments managed by the very bankers he seems to despise. Theresa Maybe doesn't get off likely with the Tory's running a campaign more akin to a presidential campaign.
Finally I have just watched a fascinating insight into the Singapore metro system. Not a guard or a driver in sight, and guess what, it runs to time all day every day. The RMT and Southern are meeting again today. Good luck.
No blog tomorrow. Grandparenting.
Sunday 14th May - 10:00
So the Champions Cup Final lived up to expectations. I thought it was a cracking game. Certainly Paddy O'Fez would have been ecstatic. Right from the first whistle they played with speed and invention and but for a last ditch Abendenon tackle would have been in the lead within minutes of the kick off. You saw why six of the Barnet crew are on the plane to New Zealand. A Mighty effort. Clermont Auvergne showed moments of brilliance too but they simply weren't good enough. Talking of good I thought Alex Goode was outstanding and if Gatland was in need of back cover then I would have him ahead of all the others. Certainly ahead of Mike Brown, a Salisbury RFC product.
Well done Nigel Owens. He was his usual exemplary self. The game was allowed to flow thanks to his constant communication and unfussy style. The big crowd played its part too, buoyed by a large contingent of Munster Men who had assumed their side would be gracing the much improved Murrayfield pitch.
Owen Farrell was excellent and whilst I have never been a Chris Ashton fan he too was brilliant. Leaving Sarries as the top European try scorer is testament to his prowess. Coach McCall can have nothing to whinge about after the back-to-back victories. So much for missing training on Monday.
What a nice touch the Anthony Foley Memorial Trophy and Farrell a worthy winner.
One moment when I had to look twice at the TV. Was it me or was there a moment when the cameras panned on to Andy Farrell and it looked as if a women was giving him a ............ you work it out.
In a drunken haze what with the Salisbury RFC beer & cider festival and old man 7s then the game I watched the Eurovision song contest. Hilarious, but how did Portugal win? Yes, millions of Europeans love it. Me, I thought it was a dirge. Croatia were robbed. He was brilliant. Our (Welsh) girl did great and 15th was harsh. Europe don't like us do they? Finally, when did Australia join the EU????
Must go son-in-law has shouted 'breakfast'.
Saturday 13th May - 09:15
Totally unrelated to the massive cyber attack that hit the NHS yesterday but I couldn't access our website either to write the drivel I had spent hours seconds thinking about.
Caught the second half of the Stade v Gloucester game at Salisbury RFC last night. As I expected the French led by the Italian were simply too good. Gloucester faded as the game went on and a couple of sloppy mistakes and a glaring missed tackle opened the door for Stade. I worry for Stade and Italy without Parisse. What a player, although I thought John Lacey missed him being in front of the kicker prior to that wonderful aerial catch late on. Lion Laidlaw's final bow for the cherry & whites ended disappointingly but he can now look forward to the tour of NZ and then his new adventure at the Clermont Auvergne Barbarians. Ross Moriarty showed why he is on the Lions tour and not James Haskell. A solid performance, often going backwards.
One outcome of Stade Francais victory is Northampton will now play Connacht on the road to a place in the Champions Cup . Bizarrely Stade have to play Cardiff and then beat either Saints or Connacht if they are to progress. Seems overly complicated and bloody stupid to me.
All eyes now turn to this evenings clash. Sarries v Clermont. I have the men from Barnet as favourites, always the kiss of death, but two ex England stars Strettle and Abendenon could spoil the party. It would be a shame if it came down to a battle of the kickers after what I think has been a pretty good tournament. The man in the middle will be an asset. Nigel Owens making his 100th appearance on the European stage and his third consecutive final will want to keep the game flowing. Both sides like to attack from deep and as long as the fear of losing doesn't stifle both sides well known creativity it should be a cracker. 5pm on both Sky and BT I think.
As a footnote it will be interesting to see how full the stadium is. Has this match captured the imagination of the neutrals in the People's Republic of Ecossia?
Wales v Tonga as referenced on Thursday will k.o. at 17:30 (06:30 GMT)at Eden Park, Auckland on Friday June 16th, followed immediately by the All Blacks vs Samoa. A full house is guaranteed as this one has been billed as the Lions warm-up game prior to the three tests.
Wales will be light on coaches as Cardiff's Danny Wilson and now Wales legend and Scarlets backs coach Stephen Jones have turned down the opportunity to support Robbie McBryde the Welsh caretaker coach.
If England are to compete with the All Blacks for the RWC 2019 title then it is clear Eddie Jones has already started his preparation. Obviously being part Japanese himself he knows something of the country and the cultures so proposing as a minimum a training camp in Japan makes a huge amount of sense. England will again play Wales in the summer of 2019 as a warm up to the tournament. Can't wait for McCall to whinge about that.
A word on Rick Howe and the Friday Club. Three days this week the guys, led by Rick 'the Bard' Howe have totally redecorated the main club room at Steel Cross. Well done guys. A great job.
Got to go Crusaders v Hurricanes has just kicked off.
Thursday 11th May - 10:00
I find it odd that only a few weeks ago those who follow the red rose were saying how they are the only side who can hope to take on and beat the All Blacks. Well, here we are and those same supporters are crying about the group they have found themselves in for RWC 2019. By the way, please don't call it the 'group of death'. It is demeaning to those who are really suffering with death such as the parents of Evha Jannath who died at a theme park yesterday.
England find themselves in the most difficult group without question. England should get out as group winners but in my view it depends on when they meet Argentina and then France. If the Pumas are first up then England, notoriously slow starters, could find themselves in trouble. The Pumas are always a handful in the opening game. France will be tough especially if they maintain their current rate of progress. Ideally England will want to face them as the last game of the group. I guess it will be Samoa as Oceania 2 and that will be a bruising encounter. No worries about winning. Lots of worries about injuries.
The luck of the Irish holds true as they are in the easiest group and should stroll through. I see Japan as the stiffest opposition. Scotland will have to replicate the form they showed during this 6 Nations if they are to topple the men in green. I don't see that happening.
New Zealand v South Africa is the only clash of note in group B. If South Africa continue to lose players to Europe then I can see Italy going through in second spot.
Wales v Australia is the highlight of group D. Both should progress with little trouble. Wales will need to up their game and beat their bogey team if they want to head the group. Georgia is the 'banana skin' in this group.
Lets wait until we see how the matches are to be scheduled before we talk more about RWC 2019.
Looking ahead to Stade Francais v Gloucester I can only see one winner and that is the French outfit. Gloucester have a fine side but have performed erratically during the season. They will need to be at full throttle with every player firing on all cylinders for the full 80 minutes if they are to win. Last week versus Exeter is a perfect example of dropping their guard and being punished.
Saracens v Clermont Auvergne is harder to call. The Saracens on their day are world beaters. If they can deliver an outstanding defensive display and then take their chances I can see the trophy coming back to Barnet. Any slight lapse in defence and the French (although many are not French) will exploit the gaps with their explosive attacking force. If it becomes a battle of the kickers then Sarries have the edge. Farrell v Lopez. Only one winner there.
Much has been written about the new residency rules. I stick to my criticism of it still being too short. Interestingly the Samoans have expressed an alternative view. They fear that players will leave their country even sooner than current in the search of rugby riches.
The BBC will show the England tour of Argentina live. 10th June, 17th June.
The WRU are in talks with Cardiff Blues about a takeover. Not as clear cut as the Newport situation but fascinating nonetheless...... for the Welsh anyway.
Paddy O'Fez and GoogleKen have been discussing my views on benefit cheats. I think, in the main, they support my notion that those stealing from the system should be punished as they are depriving those in genuine need of more help. They both make a very good point that the amount of money being spent and the number of people used to chase these cheats is disproportionate to the amount of money at stake. They both feel, and I tend to agree, that the much bigger prize is tax dodgers and tax avoiders. It is strange therefore that the resource chasing these people is much lower. Perhaps the government might want to review that.
How old are you? Do you remember the 1970s. I do! You know why I ask this question. Draw your own conclusions. By the way, isn't it strange that Mick Loadsa Cash has gone quiet. Not wanting to rock the boat for his pal Jezza. I wonder if they enjoyed the Moscow parade.
Talking of which did you know that c.27 million Russians were killed during WWII. Horrendous I know. Did you know that c.10 million of those were at the hands of Stalin, their own leader.
Wednesday 10th May - 10:00
RWC 2019 Draw is now out. Full review tomorrow.
Pool A: Ireland, Scotland, Japan, Europe 1, Play-off winner
Pool B: New Zealand, South Africa, Italy, Africa 1, Repecharge winner
Pool C: England, France, Argentina, Americas 1, Oceania 2
Pool D: Australia, Wales, Georgia, Oceania 1, Americas 2
Immediate reaction: England have a tough group, possibly the toughest. Wales in another tough group if Oceania 1 is Samoa. On the face of it New Zealand and Ireland have the easier groups.
Another splendid day with the grandson yesterday but missed so much rugby stuff to write about. Let's catch up.
The Lions seems confident about their injured players. Connor Murray has already had a run out. Sam Warburton and Alun Wyn Jones could be making an appearance a week on Saturday. No news on Biggar but Gatland seemed pretty confident.
Mark McCall has whinged about the Lions 'admin' day and him having to cancel training. McCall is one of the coaches who doesn't hide his view that the only rugby his players should be playing is club rugby. International rugby should be banned and who gives a damn about anyone else. He is a fine coach and has fine team under his control but denying his players the possibility of a once a lifetime appearance for the Lions and the pay day that goes with it is unlikely to win too many friends. At this time of the season his players should be fine tuned already and a day off wouldn't hurt them. Maybe, just maybe, he is thinking more about his win bonus and his stock in the rugby world than anything else.
England's Mike Brown is another to have a whinge. Let me tell you why you are not in the Lions Mr Brown. You are not good enough. You are a fine player but those chosen were more consistently ahead of you game by game and have more of the attributes that Gatland is looking for.
Thankfully the WRU Chairman's investment of time ahead of the Newport RFC vote has paid off. Over recent weeks he has spent time with the key movers of the Newport Supporters Committee and has clarified many aspects of the deal, changed others, and tweaked a few more. The massive vote in favour of acceptance is testament to that work. The Dragons will now get an injection of cash and greater support from the WRU. Newport RFC will benefit too and with a new pitch being laid Newport County could find their fortunes change when the new soccer season kicks off in August.
The Denny Solomono saga is about to be centre stage in the law courts. Castleford and Sale Sharks have failed to reach an out of court settlement. £500k is Castleford's demand. I hope they win the case otherwise Pandora's box will be opened and club's can rip up all those contracts they think they have. They'll be no more than Andrex going forward.
I'll look ahead to the big cup finals tomorrow and Friday but Saracen's Sean Maitland is out injured.
The rugby suits have upped the residency criteria by two years from three to five years. Two years too short for me. Seven years should be the minimum plus some element of being educated in the given country. I would have scrapped the grandparents criteria too.
Toby Flood quits Toulouse to return to Newcastle. He's made his money so can wind down to retirement helping Dean Richards consolidate the Falcons place in the Aviva.
Jamie Roberts will lead Wales on their tour this summer. Good choice me thinks. The time and location of their game vs Tonga has yet to be decided but it will be in New Zealand. That is a bonus for Warren Gatland as some of his back up choices will be on his door step.
You probably didn't watch the The Great Patriotic War (VE Day) celebrations from Red Square yesterday. Having been in Moscow during May 2005 and therefore watched the rehearsals (I was kicked out of Russia for the days before and after the event) I always find it an amazing sight. Do you know why the Russians celebrate one day later than the Allied countries? On May 8th Germany surrendered but the Russians weren't present. Stalin had the hump so a resigning of the surrender took place on the 9th with the Russians there.
Monday 8th May - 10:30
For family reasons I couldn't make this years senior awards dinner. I understand it was a splendid event with Ben Searle being the unanimous choice as player, players' player and supporters' player of the year. Well done to the Crows player of the year; Simon Moon, and the 2nd XV player of the year; Matt Cheney. Quite rightly praise was heaped on the captains, coaches, backroom staff, especially Mr Ian Geering and of course the wonderful Sandra and Jacqui. Colin Forster was given a special award for his 10th and final season supporting the 1st XV on match days. Graysey, Rick Howe and Drew Pratt also got a mention for their contribution. Well done all.
The full list of winners is on this website.
After a short breather attention will turn to next season. That said I understand the Crows entertained, or maybe it was the other way around, a toruring side from Norwich RFC on Saturday. Not sure of the result but understand it was a grand day out with the Norwich guys being very much the worse for wear.
The Guinness Pro12 awards were held in Dublin yesterday. Ulster's Charles Piutau picked up the top award. Munster's Rassie Erasmus was coach of the year. The dream team for 2016/17 included just two Welshman but Ken Owens was selected as captain. Based on his current form I firmly believe he will start as test hooker. Full details on skysports.com/rugby
No news on Biggarhead yet but let's assume he is not fit for the Lions. Who goes instead. My choice would be Finn Russell. He has been more consistent than George Ford in my opinion. Ford is the only other #10 worthy of consideration and if he gets the nod he will do well. Russell has the je ne sais quois that gives him the edge. Time will tell.
South African rugby suffers another blow with the abrasive scrum half Faf de Klerk joining Sale on a three-year deal. Sale are spending big with Josh Strauss and Jono Ross also signing deals with the Sharks. English and French club rugby are avaricious in buying up of talent. Good luck to them and when the money runs out and/or the business model becomes unsustainable then I hope they reflect on the madness that is becoming top flight rugby. Don't get me wrong it is great for the fans but is it sustainable and will it push South African and Australian rugby into the darkness.
Nice piece on Maro Itoje on bbc.co.uk/sport/rugby. He'll be England captain soon.
The British & Irish Lions meet as a squad for the first time today. They get their copious amounts of kit and go through all the necessary paperwork that goes with a major international tour.
The 1974 tour was probably one of the Lions most successful but also one of the most violent. 22 wins, 3 test wins and 1 draw. Sadly the tour is also remembered for the 'Battle of Boet Erasmus Stadium', a mass brawl and the introduction of the '99' call. Basically; one in, all in. With multiple camera angles, a TMO, three officials on the field and two more off it thankfully mass brawls at the top flight are a thing of the past...... most of the time.
Outside sport Manny Macron beats the odious Marine Le Pen to become the youngest French President since Napoleon. Good news for Europe and the EU me thinks.
Sunday 7th May - 09:00
It is merely a game. A contest between two or more people. A contest that when it is over the players can go home and prepare for the next game. It is not life or death. Let us never forget that fact. The family bond is a strong one and that is why Ben Youngs has pulled out of the Lions tour to support his brother and his terminally ill sister-in-law in their hour of need. We wish them well through what must be a horrendous ordeal.
Life does go on and in difficult times the ability to play a sport to relieve some of the tension and immerse yourself in something you love can often be a tremendous help. Both the Youngs played in Leicester's narrow win over lowly Worcester thus securing the all important play-off spot, which will be against table topping Wasps.
The Beatles said 'money can't buy you love' but it is clear that money can buy you the Premiership title, or get you to the top of the table at least. Wasps eventually got past an under strength and dogged Saracens yesterday at a packed Ricoh Arena. With half an eye on next weeks Champions Cup Final key players were rested by the Barnet side. From what I gleaned by listening to the game on the radio (returning home to Crowborough from Wales) Saracens started much the better but were eventually worn down and then overrun by Wasps. Thomas Young, destined to earn his first Welsh cap on the summer tour was man of the match, with England reject Chritsian Wade and Lion Elliot Daly both making the headlines with contributions, including a try a piece. How England can select a NON-English mercenary ahead of Wade beggars belief. Wasps will cruise past Leicester in the semi-final I think.
It is second place Exeter who will face Sarries in the other game. Exeter, along with Worcester, probably the last club who will ever come through the RFU pyramid and make it to, and stay at the top table of the game. They beat a Gloucester side, who also probably had half an eye on their cup final next week. In their case a final that makes or breaks their season. Exeter will find Sarries a tough opposition but with the hosts having a week off whilst the visitors battle it out with Clermont Auvergne I give them the advantage.
Sad circumstances but Gloucester's Greig Laidlaw is now off to New Zealand with the Lions
The final game of note in Aviva saw Quins secure with the important sixth Champions Cup spot despite losing at Northampton.
In the Pro12 the Scarlets were dominant in their win over local rivals the Ospreys. Ken Owens, Liam Williams and Jonathan Davies all proved why they are in the Lions squad. They all played with skill and precision in what was a pretty good game by Pro12 standards. The Scarlets tries would certainly have lit up any game. Dan Biggar limping off is a blow to the Lions, possibly, and a blow to the Ospreys who now face Munster in the semi-final. Biggar was poor even before getting injured and some of his petulance seriously irritated the excellent Nigel Owens. Finn Russell and George Ford will be watching for news of Biggar with interest.
Muster demolished Connacht to go top whilst Leinster were beaten by Ulster to slip to second and a contest with the Scarlets. That will be one to watch. Ulster's win was a great way to bring the curtain down on Ruan Pienaar's time in the province. His departure is a blow to Ulster but highlights the Irish Rugby Football Union's single-minded approach to the game. It is they who have dictated this move. The RFU take note. The selection of Solomona and the pandering to the big clubs is akin to dancing with devil.
Newport Gwent Dragons ended their woeful season with another loss finishing below Treviso in the table. They might not exist after next Tuesday when the members of Newport RFC vote on the WRU rescue package. What a shambles. Playing their final home game in Caerphilly whilst the swamp known as Rodney Parade was hosting Newport County.
One other story caught my eye and that was the outgoing Chairman of Northampon Saints saying rugby at the top flight is getting more like soccer everyday citing the increase in players wages in particular. I have been saying that for some time. Unlike soccer I don't think rugby can sustain the current level of increases and with more and more players having zero loyalty to a club, with their loyalty being to their agent and their pay packet, I think this is a road crash waiting to happen. London Welsh should be a clarion call for common sense. Stade Francais being deeper in the brown sticky stuff than a Gloucester Old Spot and Saracens being c.£45m in debt should say something.
This week we will have the Newport RFC vote, probably only relevant to me, my good friend Mr Withers at Tunbridge Wells and my brother, former Newport scrum half and crowd favourite.
On Wednesday it is the draw for RWC 2019. Well worth watching out for, particularly if you, like me are planning to go to Japan.
Also this week is the Victory Day parade in Moscow's Red Square. Not everyone's cup of tea but I'll be watching.
Before I go, well done Newport County. Staying in the football league.... just!! I am so old I can remember the County playing at the old speedway stadium at Somerton Park when John Aldridge was strutting his stuff. In fact the County played in Europe in those days having won the Welsh Cup on a couple of occasions.
Friday 5th May - 08:00
Just a couple of points this morning.
Nigel Owens will referee his third straight European Cup Final. Well done sir. He is also in the papers welcoming the FAs decision to trial the sin bin concept for dissent. It is only being trialled at the lowest level of scoccer but it is a start nonetheless.
Joining the list of injury returnees is Connor Murray. We could see him as early as tomorrow.
The big Georgian Mamuka Gorgodze retires from international rugby. Georgia's loss is Toulon's gain as he commmits to them for a couple more seasons.
Closer to home, tomorrow night is the club's senior awards dinner. Whilst 1st XV relegation will hang heavy over proceedings the boys who have turned out for the 1s, 2s and The Crows can be rightly proud of their commitment and willingness to stick to the task despite the adversity. Well done all. Sorry I can't make it.
Neither can I make the Summer Ball which is on June 24th. Tickets are going fast I hear. Don't delay book now.
What a deperately sad state Ed Jenkins of the Dragons finds himself in after breaking his back after diving into the shallow end of a swimming pool. Good luck to him with his recovery.
If you want a heartwarming good news story then google 'Charlie Hewson'. Charlie is a 7 year old who suffered a terrible form of bone cancer which meant he lost the lower part of his leg. After prioneering surgery he now has a prosthetic limb. The massive Charlton fan is a perfect example of what is good in the world. Seriously, brighten your day with this lovely story of a young lad who is putting two fingers up to his problems by getting on with life.
No blog tomorrow. Back on Sunday.
Thursday 4th May - 09:40
Happy Star Wars Day to all.
Having praised the disciplinary panels for their common sense when applying sanctions at this time of the season I have to criticise them with the decision on Worcester's Val Rapava-Ruskin. He has been banned for six weeks for pushing a match official. That is the good part. The stupid part is Worcester have ONE MEANINGFUL game left so saying he can play again on September 4th is just nonsense. He misses one game, yes, just ONE game. That is NO sanction. He should not be allowed to play until 5 weeks into the new season thus missing at least three or four games. Pushing a match official, even at the low end of the tarrif is not acceptable.
Bath players have let themselves down with their naked romp at the Rec. If you are playing community rugby then high jinks are just about acceptable but as top flight professionals these type of antics are not. Let's see what Bath do.
Wasps v Saracens is the big Aviva clash. The battle of the bank balances.
Look no further than Scarlets v Ospreys for the big Pro12 game.
Daly & Farrell are in the frame for the big award this season. Both are part of successful teams so their success has come in part on the back of others but that said both are VERY worthy candidates. I go Daly. I think he has been the more consistently good of the two.
All Black Dane Coles is another injury concern for the men in black. He would be a loss. His recent form has been magnificent. Could Maro Itoje be targeted by the All Blacks. Gatland seems to think so. Does this mean Gatland has pencilled Itoje into his test squad already.
In a surprise move Toulon have agreed Leigh Halfpenny can be released from the club to join the Lions in time for the first game even though Toulon might still be involved in play-offs. In part this is due to Halfpenny's agreement to stay in France for another year.
The Sussex competition team have decided that Sussex 1 will revert back to being a 1st XV team league only. Go onto Sussex rugby to see the make up. I think this is a very positive move and takes away the possibility of a 2nd XV winning the league but not being able to be promoted. The league is made up of eight teams playing each other home and away. At the end of the full league program the top four teams will then play each other home and away with the bottom four doing likewise. A total of 20 games. Thanks to Liberty Bell for bringing this to my attention. Can I applaud the Sussex guys for getting to this point. There is no simple answer to league structures but this seems a very good way forward.
The Lions kit we have all come to know and love, that is the red shirt, white shorts and blue socks trimmed with green was first used in 1950.
Many have questioned the high number of Welsh players in the squad versus the small number of Scots. Why aren't there more English playes in the squad is the other question. I can't answer that but do point you to the 2005 tour when Sir Clive Know-it-all picked a significant number of England's 2003 World Cup team for his squad. Guess what? The tour was an unmitigated disaster.
It could be argued that the 1971 tour to New Zealand coached by Carwyn James and captained by John Dawes was the rebirth of the Lions. The team centred around Gareth Edwards and Barry John (see the theme yet?) lost the first game to Queensland in Australia before winning 11 games in a row and winning the test series 2-1.
The French election is much in the news. The battle of good vs evil some might say. The EU demand for a divorce payment from us is a disgrace. It is not enshrined in law and as long as we do pay up what we genuinely owe then having to pay a punitive 'divorce' payment should not be in the equation.
I've already voted but when you read about Barby Dashwood-Morris, formerly head of planning at WDC, it doesn't fill you with confidence. To having led the planning decisions at a large council only then to flout the same rules for her own ends is a disgrace. Well done WDC for taking this to court and winning. She cannot be allowed to be get away with this crime and we the tax payers shouldn't have to be burdened by the costs associated with the case, which thanks to the judge we aren't. For her to say she didn't think the changes to her house were covered by planning regulations is absolute hypocrisy and a downright lie. It would be like me saying I don't know anything at all about rugby and my grammar and spelling are always prefect.
Wednesday 3rd May - 08:00
When is an international player an international? When is a British & Irish Lion a Lion? Is a player who goes on tour and plays in three or four provincial or warm up games for his country or for the Lions, an Interntional, or a Lion? Well, in the eyes of Chris Hawkes, compiler of World Rugby Records 2016 it is only when he (or of course she, or those of indeterminate gender) plays in a test. Why is this important? Simple! I have again been taKEN to task.
It is 100% accurate to say that no Lion has ever been dismissed from the field. This using Mr Hawkes criteria. However, two Lions, well actually one as the term wasn't officially used until the 1950 tour, have been dismissed from the field of play.
Denys Dobson, an English prop, typical, was the first for using foul and abusive language whilst playing against Northern Districts at Newcastle during the Australian and New Zealand tour in 1904.
John O'Shea, a Welsh prop, even more typical, was sent from the field for foul play when he was blamed for a punch-up in the game with Eastern Transvaal during the 1968 tour to South Africa.
My source, better than Google; Ken, goes on to say that Denys Dobson was gored to death by a charging rhino whilst serving as a colonial officer in Nyasaland in 1916. Legend has it that his former schoolmaster, when hearing of his demise said; 'he always had a weak hand off'.
What with Welshman Google Ken, Englishman Liberty Bell and Irishman Paddy O'Fez all taking great delight in highlighting what a useless tosser I am we only need a Scotsman to join their ranks and we have a proper joke.
To all Scots out there; you need not apply as you have enough to fret over already.
Whilst browsing through Wales Online, as you do, I spotted a piece on Leigh Halfpenny's eye-watering salary at Toulon. 600,000 euros for heavens sake. Dan Carter is reputed to be on 1.5m euros. They are not alone. Players like Matt Giteau, Bismarck Du Plessis, Thierry Dusautoir are on between 700k and 500k euros. This cannot be sustainable surely. It is no wonder clubs like Stade are financially up Shit Creek.
The same font of all knowledge, no not Google Ken, advises that both Alun Wyn Jones and Sam Warburton will be fully fit for the Lions tour, with the former possibly getting a run out when the Ospreys visit Scarlets this weekend.
It is reported 18 Worcester Warriors players will leave the club during the summer, with some taking the relatively short trip to Ashton Gate where they will join Bristol. There is another road crash waiting to happen.
Sam Whitelock gets a two week ban so will be available to face the Lions. Having revisited the incident Whitelock is the innocent party here and the player who should have been in the dock is Cheetah's Charles Marais. If you have time go to www.stuff.co.nz and read their piece. It makes fascinating reading and highlights how World Rugby directives such as the one about protecting the head is possibly putting players at more risk as referees become blinded to 'cause' whilst focussing on 'effect'. This is why I think players ducking head first into tackles should be penalised rather than the tackler in some instances.
Don't forget a week today the RWC 2019 draw is made. England are a top seed so will avoid New Zealand. Wales, South Africa, France or the Republic of Scotland await.
Massive weekend of sport ahead. The final rounds of the Aviva, the Pro 12, the Championship soccer. Will Scarlets beat Ospreys? Will Leicester take that 4th spot? Will Brighton be promoted as champions?
Going back to the Lions did you know that Leigh Halfpenny amassed a record 49 points during the test series against Australia in 2013. During the tour as a whole he scored 114 points with 99 of those from the boot.
During the same tour Jonathan Davies made the most starts running on for nine games including all three tests. Dan Cole and Richard Hibbard made the most appearances in total; 12. For Cole three were starts and he made three appearances off the bench in tests. Hibbard started five times, one as a test player. He came of the bench in the other two tests.
Newcastle, NSW, Australia is where during the 2013 tour Mrs Bleater and I went whale watching and saw the most magnificent sight; a migrating whale breach the water totally before rotating in the air and slamming back into the sea. SIMPLY MAGNIFICENT.
When I started out on my career in sales and marketing in 1980 the mantra was, and it has always put in me good stead, was 'planning, preparation and presentation'. Diane Abbott should have at least done just a little of that yesterday me thinks. I firmly believe we need to put more money into policing, education and the NHS. They are all creaking at the seams. Where the money comes from remains the number one question. If only she had said something like; 'we will put more police officers on the street. This is what people want. How many we don't know yet because we haven't had the chance to fully cost it out and identify the source of funding. If it is only 1,000 more we will still be better off than we are and rest assured the cost will be covered'.
Depsite what the papers might say and the arrogant pontifications of Jean-Claude I-Am-On-A-Junket the EU are rattled. The French are brandishing their sabres and the Brussels bean counters have realised what a big hole Brexit will leave in their budget. I am sure the remaining 27 are going to be delighted when J-C and his mate Tusk tell them to cough up more to fill it. Can't wait to see the faces of the Greeks when that happens. The only thing left in their cupboard are a couple of kebabs and a few mouldy tubs of feta cheese.
Got to go must do my exercises ahead of the local council elections tomorrow.
Monday 1st May - 10:30
Thank You BT Sport. Bath v Gloucester on freeview. A cracking game, once it warmed up. 20 minute of turgid stuff then thankfully some scintillating rugby. Taulupe Faletau a worthy man of the match, not just because of the the three tries, in fact more for his defensive and offensive work around the field. Maintain this form and a Lions test berth beckons me thinks. On the debit side of the Lions equation Ross Moriarty was disappointing. Ineffective against the more dynamic Bath back row. Max Clark proved his worth as a replacement for the 'rested' Jonathan Joseph with an amazing try. Rhys Priestland put his case forward to be the starting #10 next season with George Ford on his way to Leicester Tigers.
The HIA protocols were again brought into question when Gloucester replacement Matu'u was clearly knocked out only to return later, much to the surprise of the TV commentary team. There is something wrong with the system when you see how completely he was knocked unconscious. This cannot continue. There are risks with what should be the only alternative approach which is if you go off for a HIA you stay off. This risk being medics being much more reluctant to take players from the field but player safety has to be paramount.
In other news London Irish will shoot it out with Yorkshire Carnegie for the coveted Premiership slot. What a nonsense. Two teams who don't want promotion going through the ignominy of heavy defeats by those who do. Forget the money just have a match between those who do want promotion. I am SO pleased this pathetic play-off system will be scrapped next season.
All Black superstar Kieran Read breaks his thumb. Him missing the Lions tests will be a blow but good news for the Lions. Sam Whitelock mught also be missing as he has been cited for elbowing an opponent in the Crusaders win over the Cheetahs.
In the Paris derby Stade took the honours over Racing. Saw some of this. Looked a good game.
It is a shame that the North London derby was sullied by brain-dead soccer hooligans fighting before the game.
The Russian round of the Scaletrix was dire. After the first corner crash and one blistering overtaking move by Bottas a boring procession. I only watched the first five laps and the last two and that was enough.
In other news the EU are sharpening their pencils to put lines through any of Britain's suggestions for the new relationship post Brexit.
Tony Blair is on his way back according to the gospel that is Tony Blair. Lying towrag.
Did you know that the Lions have played 11 series against the All Blacks and lost all bar one. The record reads 38 matches, 6 won, 3 drawn, 29 losses.
Sunday 30th April - 11:00
Let me start close to home and congratulate Tunbridge Wells on beating Chingford in what, based on the result; 33-35, looks a cracker. The men from St Marks now face the challenge of National League 3 London.
Well done to the Ospreys and barring some freak results in the last round they are in the play-offs. There were some passages of great rugby. There were some periods of intense and unbeatable defence. There were some good tries. There were periods however when the Ospreys in particular were rubbish. They insisted on kicking good ball away far too often. Having defended like whirling dervishes, secured turnover ball only too kick it back to Ulster was madness. Time after time it happened. If Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar do that in New Zealand then the Lions will be in for a torrid time.
The Scarlets beat Connacht to secure their play-off spot and look set to avoid Leinster in the first of the play-off games. The Scarlets' Lions; Jonathan Davies and Liam Williams shone in what was a fairly easy ride against a shoddy Connacht side.
In England Exeter cruised past Northampton to go level with Wasps and closer to that all important home advantage in the play-off. Cortney Lawes is an injury worry for the Lions leaving the field after a head knock. Leicester are now in the box seat for the all important fourth place after cruising past Sale. Bath have the chance to close the gap but would need a bonus point win to realistically stay in contention. For several clubs the final game of the season is about the European Champions Cup places. The Saints form means they might miss out, especially as they take on in-form Quins in their final game. Sarries beat Bristol and with Wasps at home next week