Monday 20th March - 10:00
Wayne Barnes. Was it fair of me to criticise his performance? I actually criticised his management of the scrum, which having watched large chunks of the game again I stick by. Being a 'girlie' back, the dark arts of the front row are an enigma to me. I did referee, and even then there were many times when those clever and artful dodgers wearing 1,2, and 3 would con you into a decision. Brian Moore, a lawyer by profession and student of the laws of our game, has played in the front row, and the front row at the very highest level; the Lions, was equally bemused about some of Barnes' decisions, especially the French hooker popping out of the scrum at crucial times thus disrupting the Welsh ability to hold the shove. I will leave that point there (and a very long sentence too!!)
I have often been called one-eyed with regard to Wales and Welsh rugby so let me shock you. Again I must criticise Barnes for a) not reviewing the Jonathan Davies knock-on, and then issuing a yellow card, b) not giving Leigh Halfpenny a yellow for his blatantly deliberate knock-on, c) showing yellow to the Fijian for a knock-on which did look as if it was accidental.
Let's move on to the last 20 minutes of the game. Here I think Barnes managed an awkward and complex situation well. You cannot end a game on a penalty so he had to keep playing until the ball went dead, in this case with the try and conversion. He had no option but to accept the French doctor's pronouncement that Antonio had a head injury and accept Slimani back onto the field. By the way he asked his questions Barnes knew the wool was being pulled over his eyes so had to cover himself. With regard to the bite, without anything other than the marks on George North to go by he has to play on. Where I think he could have been more decisive is Wales should have seen more than one yellow card for their persistent infringing, or a penalty try should have been awarded for preventing a certain score. Neither would have been an easy decision for Barnes to make.
OK, let's draw line under that for now.
French TV has previous for not having the right pictures to air when a critical decision is under review by the TMO. I find it somewhat convenient that despite the twenty plus cameras filming the game not one has a decent angle on the biting incident. Yes, I am a miserable, pessimistic and cynical so-and-so but come on.
Did Wales deserve to win? I still don't know but the nature of the defeat leaves a bitter taste.
In a strange way it was good that England lost yesterday. It will bring them back to earth with a bump and make them realise that there is still much to do if they really are going to challenge New Zealand's crown and be contenders for RWC 2019. They have immense resources at their disposal, both financially and player numbers, so they should be competing more consistently for that crown. Under Eddie Jones I think they have a leader who can deliver but the players need to be more reactive, flexible, instinctive on the field. Take the decision based on what's in front of them rather than what the video analysis said they should do.
As the curtain comes down on this years 6 Nations some final thoughts.
England won and were therefore the best side. This however is after a 'lucky' win against Wales, and a fairly ordinary showing against Italy.
France are moving in the right direction. The fact they could have beaten England is an indicator of improvement. The blatant cheat against Wales makes them my biggest losers though.
Ireland. An emerald green enigma. Well beaten by Scotland and Wales. Magnificent against England, dominant against Italy and beating France means the table doesn't lie; the second best team.
Scotland were unstoppable against Wales but pathetic against England. They beat a woeful Italian side yet were excellent against Ireland. They don't have the resources to be challenge England but a good showing nonetheless, and something for Gregor Townsend to build from.
Italy. Is it time for a change. Georgia perhaps? They simply cannot compete and heaven help them when Parisse retires.
Finally Wales. A poor campaign. Time for change me thinks. Blood new players in the run up to RWC 2019 and change the game plan. Build on the more expansive game we saw against Ireland and England. Now 8th in the world rankings we can expect a difficult draw for that World Cup. If Wales had held England out and beaten France oh how different the table would have looked. C'est la vie, c'est la guerre.
Before wrapping up if the Lions were playing New Zealand next week my starting XV would be: Hogg, Liam Williams, Henshaw, Farrell, North, Sexton, Webb, Warburton, Billy Vunipola, Tipuric, Launchbury, Alun Wyn Jones (c), Mako Vunipola, Owens, Tadgh Furlong.
Grandparenting duties tomorrow so maybe only a short whinge about Ian Ritchie and this Nov 4th debacle.
Sunday 19th March - 10:00
Let's start in Dublin where English hopes were high for a record breaking 19th win and a consecutive Grand Slam. Having seen the Under 20s and women deliver against their objective of Grand Slam glory on Friday night the senior side entered the field as favourites. The Irish clearly had different ideas. The green defensive wall was not to be breached. The Irish swarm was not to be out-muscled at ruck, maul, scrum or lineout. They were not going to be beaten out wide and nor were they going to be intimidated by the late hits, particularly on Johnny Sexton. What the Irish were was a team, a team playing for each other, playing with precision and accuracy, a team playing for and with pride without a weight of expectation hanging over them.
Sexton was the ringmaster who will have cemented his spot as starting #10 for the Lions. Everything good went through him and he led by example, often having to dust himslef off after Itoje and Haskell had taken cheap shots at him. Peter O'Mahony, a late, late replacement for Jamie Heaslip was immense. He was the scourge of English ambition. A right royal pain in the ass for 80 minutes.
England looked sluggish and surprisingly inaccurate. They were like startled rabbits in the headlights as the Irish thwarted their game plan. Was it over-confidence? Perhaps. On the day they simply weren't good enough; lacking cohesion and at times bereft of ideas. On the positive side of the balance sheet Farrell and Launchbury reinforced their quality. On the debit side Mike Brown and Dan Cole were ineffective and sloppy. I for one thought the substitutions added little. In fact seemed to disrupt rather than enhance. England are still the best side below New Zealand and will supply a sizeable number to the Lions squad. Yesterday however Ireland were excellent. Not a great game but gripping nonetheless.
So to Paris. France v Wales was a poor game. I had expected an open game. What we got was a disjointed affair with an unedifying 20 minutes of extra time. Wayne Barnes was inept at times and many fingers will be pointing in his direction as the game is analysed and the fall-out debated. How can you ignore Jonathan Davies and Leigh Halfpenny's deliberate knock-ons whilst yellow carding the Frenchman (Fijian actually) for the most inocuous of the three incidents. His management of the scrum was woeful. I would go as far to say for many penalties he was guessing. Just because the Welsh scrum was going backwards doesn't mean Wales was always at fault. During the extra time three consecutive scrums saw the French hooker pop up first. Each time Wales were penalised. There were some positive aspects to the game. Both France and Wales played with some flair but sadly it was in short supply.
The game will be remembered for all the wrong reasons though. The prop going off at the crucial moment for a DUBIOUS HIA. The Welsh management won't go as far as saying the French cheated. I will. It was blatant cheating and the fact a more robust and technically good scrummager came on reinforces the point. How the incident was allowed to happen is also questionable with doctor and physio encroaching onto the pitch and the prop Slimani warming up ahead of ANY indication of an injury to Antonio. It stinks.
Wales were then forced into some shenanigans of their own. They played the injured prop card and there was much debate about whether the game should go to uncontested scrums.
If all that wasn't bad enough there were accusations (with some evidence) of a bite to George North. It became surreal when someone stated he's done it to himself. Surprise, surprise the French TV company couldn't come up with a definitive shot of the incident, this despite them having every possible angle covered of anything else in the game.
Did Wales deserve to win? I'm not sure but I am sure they didn't deserve to lose it in the way they did.
Scotland v Italy was another pretty poor game, in the main because Italy were rubbish. You cannot squander four or five kickable penalties nor cough up the ball when tries should have been a certainty. Scotland played well and Finn Russell has a good chance of being on the plane to New Zealand. Stuart Hogg will accompany him but not sure that many others will justify a spot.
Right, I'm off to read all the match reports in more detail.
Friday 17th March - 08:15
St. Patricks Day already. Wow, where does the time go. You never have to say to the Irish 'have a good day' as I am sure they will, especially if they bag a few winners at Cheltenham.
I was hoping to be high over the Sussex and Kent countryside in a hot air balloon this morning but sadly postponed again. Friday Club here I come.
Before looking ahead to the weekend's game I have heard from a reader, for the sake of anonymity, let's call him Philip. Philip thinks my assessment that The Greenies are safe from the drop is premature. Mmmmmm! I thought I was a pessimist. Time will tell.
Ireland lose Connor Murray for the England clash. One man doesn't make a team but this is a big loss. Devin Toner drops to the bench, which is not a surprise. Jared Payne comes in for Rob Kearney, another big injury loss. The Irish will have to up their game from last week if they have any chance of stopping England winning the Grand Slam, and winning at a canter. Wales took the game to the Irish and snuffed out their counter-attacking instincts. The men in green will have to keep the ball in hand and keep England's big forwards moving around this time around. If they stick with their propensity to kick then all that will happen will be England's backs running at them with impunity.
Eddie Jones starts Billy Vunipola this week with the Fijian Nathan Hughes taking his spot on the bench. Elliot Daly starts after his bang against Scotland, and Anthony Watson comes in for Jack Nowell. Harsh on Nowell but Watson did everything right last week and deserves his starting spot.
In terms of the game I expect the lineout and scrum to be keenly contested. We will see Dylan and Rory Best go head to head, then after 50 something minutes Jamie George and Best will battle it out. The back row contest will be fascinating but I expect England to be faster and fitter and offer the greater threat. Ben Youngs needs to get the ball wide at every opportunity.
As already said if Ireland kick away the ball they kick away the game. This contest has been eagerly awaited but I forecast an easy enough win for the men in white.
Over the Channel in Paris you will see a much closer contest. Wales have much to prove, and if they carry last week's form and game plan into the Stade de France then a win could be possible. France have been good throughout and they will want to reinforce the improvement shown with a winning finish to the tournament. Will the French players be distracted by the issues in the domestic game? Both sides will want to move the ball around so expect a very high tackle count and hopefully another enjoyable game. Following Philip's example I will be pessimistic and go France, just, by a few.
Scotland will beat Italy
World Rugby announce a new schedule post 2019. There will be two international windows; July (previously June) and November. In World Cup years the November slot is scrapped. Tier 1 vs Tier 2 nations games will be increased. The 6 Nations and the Lions tours are still being negotiated. Full story on SKY/sports.com
Warren Gatland adds Graham Rowntree and Neil Jenkins to his Lions staff. Excellent choices both. Two guys Gatland trusts.
Three non rugby comments.
Who does Nicola Sturgeon think she is. She is chopping and changing her stance on EU. All she wants is the vanity of being Nicola Queen of Scots. Get back in your box and shut up.
Noel Fielding is to be part of Channel 4s Great British Bake Off team. It won't worry me as I won't be watching. He's not funny, the programme will be punctuated by intermible adverts and littered with product placement.
That weasel lawyer Phil Shiner who hounded our fantastic troops has declared himself bankrupt in order to avoid the £4m bill he racked up. How low can these b'stards go. I say we, the people, should recover the money, whatever it takes. If that means he ends up homeless on the streets then so be it.
Friday Club here we come. Shame it wasn't ballooning.
Thursday 16th March - 09:00
The leagues are beginning to take shape now and some decisions, barring indiscretions, are done. Congratulations to Medway on achieving promotion. A convincing home win over Bromley put them over the finishing line, and Bromley, like us, deep in relegation trouble. Heathfield & Waldron beat Horsham in the all Sussex clash, which secures their spot in London 2 South East. Well done my good friends. Great stuff. Deal & Betteshanger remain best placed to stay up despite another home loss to Dartfordians. Charlton Park and Old Colfeians keep up their challenge for the play-off spot with home wins against Hove and Old Alleynians respectively. The all important play-off spot is between OCs, Dartfordians, Charlton Park and Beckenham. There are just three points between them and two of the sides have to play us. That could be good news for them....... or of course the way we are battling for our survival, bad news.
The shambles that is Sussex 1 saw Crawley beat Horsham 2s and Seaford beat Brighton 2s. It is a foregone conclusion Crawley will be promted. FYI the league structures of Sussex are under review which will hopefully not see such an embarassing situation next season.
In London 3 South East Pulborough are now clear at the top after their excellent win at Thanet Wanderers (I understand they got home ok on Sunday!!). They are now 4 points clear of Haywards Heath with Thanet slipping to 3rd. Heath overcame Lewes at their place which pretty much ended the home sides promotion hopes. Relegated Ashford beat Eastbourne putting the Sussex side in danger of relegation. In the other games Folkestone beat Gillingham Anchorians, Old Dunstonians beat Sheppey, and Park House beat Ayelsford Bulls. Still lots to play for in this league.
Up in London 1 South Sidcup all but secured promotion with a home win against our friends from St Marks, plus Havant losing away at Chiswick. Tunbridge Wells are still in the hunt for the play-off spot and with the fixtures looking pretty kind to them they are in with a chance. Brighton moved closer to safety after beating relegated Gosport & Fareham.
In the national league Tonbridge Juddians' excellent season continues after a comfortable win away at Shelford. Wimbledon remain on the tails of TJs after beating Colchester. Chichester beat Amersham & Chiltern to ease some of their relegation worries. Chichester are a fine club and I hope they can stay up and continue to fly the flag for Sussex rugby.
As a footnote to National League 3 London our very own Harry Sansbury's season at Westcombe Park has finished. He has suffered a shoulder injury that means he'll miss the final run in. Good luck with the rehab and hope to see you at Steel Cross cheering on the boys in red & white.
Elsewhere East Grinstead are cruising to promotion as expected. Worthing's late surge continues with a win away over the London Irish Wild Geese. Still far from safe but a step in the right direction. Salisbury lost at home to Newton Abbot and are perilously close to relegation. Bridgnorth are looking safe in mid table after beating promotion chasing Nuneaton.
Looking ahead to Saturday Wales announce an unchanged squad. I would have started Charteris. Ken Owens wins his 50th cap. England announce their squad in an hour. Will Daly be fit or will Anthony Watson's fine display earn a starting berth.
The merger talks have sparked chaos in France. Will the news affect players in the French squad giving Wales an advantage? Will it drive the players on fearing for their jobs making Wales task more difficult. Who knows?
Talk of a November England v New Zealand clash outside the pre-defined international window may be scuppered by the Aviva clubs. Player safety, money, and contracts may assign the idea to the bin. It is alleged in the Times that the English clubs are demanding 50% of the revenue from the game and New Zealand expect a minimum of 5m NZD. The most worrying aspect of the story is it is alleged the RFU are considering a pay-per-view deal for this match. This would be groundbreaking but another possible reason why money will eventually bring the game to its knees. If rugby is to grow it has to appeal to the masses. Denying them access to possibly the biggest game for a long while would be madness. That's my view anyway.
An excellent comparison done by one of the papers highlights the gulf between the England record breaking run and the All Blacks' run. The men from New Zealand win hands down. Perhaps a showdown wouldn't be such a good idea, especially as it is possible many of the England players will have recently returned from New Zealand battered and bruised with the Lions.
Ok, time for a rant. In my opinion grassroots mens rugby is not in a great state. The RFU seem to have their heads in the sand on this topic, and this might explain why when you go onto Englandrugby.com the headlines and features are about women's rugby or adverts trying to get you to buy yet more over-priced England kit. It is no surprise that HWO and AWO features so frequently on the results pages.
Wednesday 15th March - 09:00
What a weekend to be away. Some amazing rugby. Outstanding results. Plenty to discuss. Mrs Bleater's 60th birthday in Jersey took precedence. Yes, I am an old softy........ with an eye for a deal!!! When we left the house on Friday morning we had the day all mapped out finishing with Wales v Ireland and a stroll home from the pub. Sadly 12 hours stuck at Gatwick scuppered that thanks to the ffffffnnnnnnn fog in Jersey closing the airport. We did get there in time for most of the game watched in the hotel bedroon with a bottle of prosecco........ for her of course.
What a game, what an atmosphere. It had everything. The tackling was immense, the attacking was dynamic, the hits ferocious and the skill levels from the top drawer, and all this enabled by some excellent refereeing by Wayne Barnes. One of his best performances me thinks. Rhys Webb is nailed on for the Lions tour and Alun Wyn Jones will captain the squad. George North got his mojo back, both in attack and in defence. You would too if you had been threatened by Shaun Edwards. Ken Owens is rapidly looking like the starting hooker for the Lions. This view endorsed by many well respected pundits. Several other Welsh players; Liam Williams, Scott Williams, Sam Warburton pushed themselves back into mix. Justin Tipuric is a certainty. He again was brilliant. From a Welsh perspective it was gratifying to see the boys play with a less structured game plan, with the ball moving away from the contact areas at speed, and out wide for the speedsters to utilise. The defense was amazing.
Can Ireland count themselves unlucky? Only in regard to Robbie Henshaw's rush of blood to the head. The decision to give a penalty was right but it would have been a try if he had joined the maul at any other point. This could have turned the tide in favour of Ireland. Johnny Sexton getting injured was bad luck and his yellow card gave Wales extra impetus. The yellow card was correct. Many of those wearing green tinted spectacles would argue it was harsh but you watch the rerun of the game and you can clearly see Sexton wrap his arm around the Welsh player and prevent any sort of ball release. Sexton and Connor Murray leaving the field early was a blow but Ireland were already below par. The extra ten percent that took them to victory over New Zealand earlier in the season wasn't quite there.
The right result, a great game.
So to Twickenham on Saturday afternoon. Having been out all morning in glorious sunshine and dined well at lunchtime we settled down to watch the England v Scotland game to 'catch our breath'. Sadly my forecast of a comfortable win was accurate. England were excellent and for the first time in a while showed their real class. This was no lucky win after playing badly. They fired on all cylinders and just about everything they tried worked. Owen Farrell will start for the Lions. No question about that now, and George Ford put himself back into contention for the trip down under. Jonathan Joseph was excellent, but here is the caveat, helped by some mediocre Scottish tackling. Again as forecast, the England scrum was far too good for Scotland with Launchbury catching the eye. The tries were all well worked but expect Ireland to put up a more aggressive and effective defensive pattern this weekend coming.
Was it red or was yellow right? Now Fraser Brown has been before the disciplinary panel and found not guilty of the charge then yellow was right..... but not in my opinion. I think that should have been red. It was late, and it was very dangerous. Two more inches and that could have been a broken neck. Thankfully Elliot Daly is fit for this weekend.
It was disappointing that Scotland were so poor after their fine wins against Ireland and Wales. Losing Stuart Hogg was a massive blow and then for his replacement Mark Bennett to leave the field another. The injuries and early yellow card gave England momentum but don't kid yourselves, Scotland were poor.
Here I will be honest and say we were bored by half time as it was so one sided so we went for a swim and sauna. England are still not up there with the All Blacks but they are worthy 6 Nations Champions, they will win the Grand Slam, and they are the second best team in the world by a long way.
If the Nov 4th clash with New Zealand comes off that will be a cracker... or will it?
By the way France beat Italy.
So to Steel Cross. From what I've read our boys played fantastically well against a well drilled Beckenham side. Chris Yates again played like a man possessed, alongside Ben Searle who had another great game. I for one am proud of what the boys have achieved this season. Yes, we are odds on for the drop but heads can be held high. Getting a losing bonus point off Beckenham is no mean feat. Full match report on this site.
I will do a full league review tomorrow.
The WRU have said enough is enough when it comes to Friday night games.
Gavin Henson is to join the Newport Gwent Dragons.
Stade Francais players go on strike (I didn't know Mick Cash played for them) after it merged Stade were in merger talks with Racing 92. Both club's continue to rack up losses and it is only the support of benefactors keeping them alive. I am not going to say 'I told you so'. You know my view about how money is a real issue in our game.
Super Rugby is going to cut two teams from the tournament. No surprise there. Money, money, money.
Well done England Ladies for romping through the 6 Nations unmolested. No real surprise. Full time professionals versus full time amateurs. Money, money, money.
Finally, and no I am not going to rant on about Nicola 'Queen of Scotland' Sturgeon, but I couldn't not mention ........... yes, you guessed it, Leicester City 2 Seville 0. The Foxes into the quarter finals of the Champions League!!!
Thursday 9th March - 14:30
Billy is on the bench. So it was Eddie Jones' smoke and mirrors. That extends to the seriousness of Owen Farrell's knee injury. Will he make it? You'll know on Saturday afternoon I guess. Anthony Watson is the obvious replacement. Jones brings back Ben Youngs and Jonathan Joseph. The bench looks very strong so I upgrade my forecast to a comfortable England win.
Hamish Watson starts for the injured John Hardie. I think this strengthens the Scottish line-up rather than weaken it.
Before closing down for a few days the added spice to these last two rounds of 6 Nations is world rankings. The RWC 2019 draw is made in May and it is based on the rankings at that time. A bad couple of games for Wales and they could again find themselves in a very tough group.
Back on Wednesday.
Thursday 9th March - 09:00
It was rather remiss of me to forget yesterday was International Women's Day. I really am looking forward to Fat Middle Aged Men's Day. It'll be a cracker. Forget all the equality crap just bring on the beer, the vindaloo and the wall to wall sport on TV.
Wales and Ireland name unchanged sides for tomorrow's clash in Cardiff. The only surprise is that Sam Davies didn't get the nod ahead of Dan Biggarhead. As good as both Faletau and Charteris were for Bath against Wasps keeping them on the bench makes some sense. I think we might see both joining the fray earlier than previous games though. For Ireland Garry Ringrose keeps his spot as Jared Payne, New Zealand born and bred and educated and learnt his rugby in, yes that Jared Payne, is injured. I assume he has a parent or grandparent who is Irish?
Looking at the sides you would argue that Wales have the edge. A more experienced squad, home advantage, a lot to prove. On the other hand their game plan is predictable and lacks finesse. The Irish are on a roll and want the Ireland v England game to be a winner takes all 6 Nations decider. They have ball players across the pitch and are playing with style. They have the edge defensively. My heart says Wales. My head says Ireland. It will be close.
England are yet to announce their squad but despite the mind games you can expect Vunipola to appear on the team sheet...... twice me thinks. Scotland are a good side. Let us not make excuses that Wales and Ireland were unlucky, or were having off days. Scotland played well and deserved the win on both occasions. They have nothing to lose. They will start as underdogs with the prawn sandwich brigade forecasting an easy England win. Scotland are unpredictable and as we saw two weeks ago England don't cope with 'unpredictable'. If it's not in the script they struggle to adapt. There is an arrogance about the England camp, which on the one hand is no bad thing, but on the other might lead to complacency. The weight of history will hang heavily over Twickers on Saturday with the Barbour and Hunter wellies lot huffing and puffing if things don't go well. England's scrum has not been at its best to date but this is where Scotland have been found wanting. If Mako and Billy start I expect the England scrum to be a positive factor on Saturday. I would like to see Scotland continue their fine run of form but can't see beyond an England win, and possibly an easy England win. Scotland will have some tricks up their sleeve though.
France v Italy. France by plenty.
Closer to home the Steel Cross faithful will be watching us host Beckenham. K.o. 3pm. This will be tough, and after our guests fine win against Medway last weekend they will start overwhelming favourites. As I say week in week out whatever the result the boys will give of their best. That is all we can ask.
The 2s are away at Ditchling and the Crows are 'resting' darling.
It's a pivotal weekend for lots of clubs. Promotion and relegation could be decided for many. Full round up next week.
Talking of which, there will be a brief blog tomorrow (written tonight if the England team is announced) but then no blog until Wednesday next week.
I know I bleat on and on about overseas players in our game but I do see top flight rugby going the same way as soccer. Last night, being on my own so having control of the doofer, and there being nothing else on TV, I watched Man City v Stoke. Well done Stoke, with your smattering of British players, for holding a team, including subs, that did not contain one single British player. If that is what people want from rugby then so be it, but don't then complain that the international side has gone down the rankings much the same way as England's soccer team has.
It is not racist, it is not jingoistic, it is not anything but a desire to see the England International side continuing to do well. The RFU fund grassroots rugby and that money comes from the international game.
The budget was the big story of yesterday with Mr Hammond closing a loop hole in the NI contributions structure. Sadly it clobbers the hard working whive van man, and women, and transgender, and ethnically diverse self employed. It means you can expect your next plumber's, or electrician's bill to be increased as a consequence. Of course you can always ask said white van man, women, transgender, ethnically diverse self employed person if they want cash in hand so they can fiddle the tax man out of vat, and tax.
It is sad that the only opposition to this government is a group of old farts who still think that the trains are steam powered and call themselves the 'House of Lords'. An unelected body who are even more removed from the tossers who claim to be representing us 'the people'.
How can, under EU law, the French government have a stake in their car industry?
How is it 600,000 Poles for example can come to the UK and find work and set up home and make a positive contribution to the UK but Jezza wants to support those Brits who can't (be bothered) to do the same?
Wednesday 8th March - 09:00
You forget how exhausting parenting can be. A day with the grandson is great fun, but seriously knackering. Mrs Bleater is back in Salisbury looking after the other two grandchildren. Why, because our daughter is in hospital having a load of scrap metal removed from her leg. If you go onto Daily Mail online, find the health section, then scroll down to a piece on new innovations for knee surgery, you'll find all about her scrap metal there. Picture of an x-ray is a clue.
Anyway, less about me, me, me (which is what society has become) and more about rugby. So, Billy Vunipola starts........ or does he? Is this an Eddie Jones ploy. Throw the Scots off the scent so to speak. You know my view; if he is fit then start him. A. because he is by far and away England's best back row forward, and B. because it is the lower risk strategy if he were to blow up again. Anthony Watson is in line for a comeback too. With the exception of Daly , and possibly Farrell (some minus points against Italy), the back line hasn't purred like a well oiled machine yet. Bringing in Watson would add another level of serious gas and the ability to switch the attack with his devastating change of speed and direction. I expect him to come off the bench with Jonathan Joseph getting the nod outside Farrell.
Are England really the second best team in the world. Everything in the Eddie Jonnes era would indicate that they are. A thumping win against Scotland would prove it. On the other hand will the weight of history cause them to choke. Not long to find out.
So Laurie Fisher has gone. Jonny Bell will replace him as Gloucester's interim Head Coach.
Zane Kirchner joins the Dragons from next season. I am bemused by how the WRU, a 50% shareholder in the Dragons, finds this ok. Having said that something has to make them more competitive and this might just be the talent and experience required. So much for the Boks new selection criteria. As I thought, the money, money, money would be more of a lure than the caps, caps, caps.
Someone in the Southern Hemisphere has suggested Super Rugby should adopt rugby league's 'on report' system where instead of being say 14 vs 13 due to yellow cards the incidents will be reviewed post game. I can see some merit in that but on the other hand it is an opportunity for referees to 'bottle' the big decisions. I think the new TMO system down South should be adopted globally but the 'on report' idea should be assigned to the bin.
George North has had a talking to from Shaun Edwards. That must be a scary, scary thing to endure. He looks the sort of guy you'd cross the road to avoid if you saw him coming towards you. Edwards that is. He's right though. People 'big-up' North and it is now time for him to prove it. Defensively especially.
Ireland are bemoaning the fact it is Wayne Barnes with the whistle on Friday night. Their record with Barnes in the middle is pretty dire. Superstition will lose you the game.......... unless you keep the lucky heather close by.
Will the roof be open. Let it be closed. Friday night under the roof, as opposed to the duvet for those of young enough to remember those times, will be great. Me, me, me. I'll be in a pub watching.
For footy fans, especially Gooners, the question is will he jump or will he be pushed. Arsene Wenger of course. Another humiliating thrashing.
Elsewhere. Michael Heseltine is sacked. Good. Whatever happened to loyalty.
The Lords are trying their best to scupper the Brexit bill. Bunch of old duffers. Sack them too.
A man has been found guilty of killing his wife by overdosing her on laxatives. Does this make him the biggest shit of a husband in the world.
Finally there have been howls of derision because University Challenge was two teams of all white men with Jeremy Paxman in the chair. This is why this country and the world is going down the toilet. Once you start having to force selection along ethnic and gender backgrounds you start going down the route of mediocrity. The bleeding heart, lily livered liberals complaining have no idea how the teams were selected so shut up and back off. Pick the best, whether it be for sport, business, government based on the very best person for the job regardless of any other criteria. By the why, no-one complained when recently it was two teams of all women, and you only have to look at the state of South African sport to see what forced selection does for you.
Today is THE VERY LAST OPPORTUNITY TO BOOK LUNCH FOR THE BECKENHAM GAME. CONACT BALOO.
Monday 6th March - 09:30
I was going to start with a few words thanking the wonderful volunteers at yesterday's mini festival. It seems that the deluge that plagued Salisbury also affected Crowborough. As a consequence it sounds, probably with a very heavy heart, and very reluctantly, that the festival had to be cancelled. Whilst there are many things in our control the weather and the Wealden clay affecting our pitches aren't two of them.
Looking back to Saturday The Bard confirmed what I had suspected; we played with commitment and a high degree of skill for long periods but the size and pace of Old Colfeians finally told. It was close at half time with our small forwards beating their monster forwards and thus supplying the backs with good ball. The second half saw the tide turn with any scraps of luck going OCs way. I understand from the report that one poor decision on our behalf meant we missed a certain try which in turn allowed OCs to canter up the other end to score. The Bard, who is always fair, and accurate, says OCs deserved the win, but a winning margin of 10 points would have better reflected the balance of play and the effort of the men from Steel Cross. Chris Yates, Ben Searle, Nick Hill and veteran Mark Rosier came in for special mention, as did Connor Hand for his try.
Elsewhere Beckenham beating Medway caught the eye. I hadn't expected that, and would have put money on Medway celebrating promotion after an 18th win. Well done Beckenham. A great result. Maybe you could play less well next weekend.
Bromley had a narrow, but crucial win over Hove. They are still in 11th spot but now one point behind The Greenies and two behind Deal & Betteshanger. Heathfield & Waldron were well beaten by high flying Dartfordians, and Deal & Betteshanger came away from Charlton Park with another loss, but not by many. In the only other game Horsham beat Old Alleynians reasonably comfortably. Medway are still champions elect and host Bromley next week. A win, and barring any misdemeanours that's it. OC's, Charlton Park, Dartfordians and Beckenham are split by just three points so the play off spot is anyones. At the bottom nothing has been decided so let's leave that until next week shall we.
It's hardly worth mentioning Sussex 1. This league is a shambles, which is why an emergency group has been convened to rectify in time for next season. In the local derby Brighton II beat Hove II. Crawley v Seaford was abandoned. Weather I guess. Uckfield endured the AWO after Shoreham cried off.
London 3 South East delivered a mix bag for Sussex. Pulborough and Haywards Heath enjoyed comfortable home wins over relegated Ashford and Park House respectively. Eastbourne lost at home to Old Dunstonians and Lewes lost very narrowly away at Sheppey. In the other games Thanet Wanderers came away from Gillingham Anchorians with a fine win. Folkestone enjoyed the short trip back from Aylesford Bulls with an equally easy win. Pulborough are in the vanguard and are now four points clear of Thanet Wanderers. Heath are hot on Thanet's tail just one point further back. Two cracking fixture to look out for next week. Thanet Wanderers v Pulborough and Lewes v Haywards Heath. Promotion deciders possibly?
Up above us in London 1 South it is 'as you were'. Sidcup at the top after spanking Gosport & Fareham, Havant in 2nd after a win over Gravesend, and our friends from just over the wall border in Kent beat Chobham 45-10. The mighty Oaks were felled at home by CS Rugby 1863. Brighton enjoyed a crucial win over lowly placed Dover. Brighton, to keep the theme going, are not out of the woods yet, but the edge of the forest is in sight.
In the ether of the National League TJs continue their charge towards promotion after beating Guernsey. Wimbledon stay on their heels after their win over Guildford. Chichester came away from Westcliff with their tails between their legs, but for now remain out of the drop zone. Which is good for Sussex rugby.
Elswhere Worthing won again. Still not out of danger but moving in the right direction. Salisbury lost away at Cleve and slip to 13th in the league. Bridgnorth won away at Longton easing their relegation worries.
For those who follow the Aviva Premiership you would have enjoyed the Worcester v Bristol encounter. Bristol look increasingly doomed with no obvious wins ahead of them. They have bolstered their squad for next season with Ireland's Ian Madigan joining them from Bordeaux. Even though their backer has pots of cash the madness continues. Playing in the Championship with the wage bill they will incur. No wonder the game is going down the pan (in MY opinion).
All eyes were on Newcastle v Saracens. Not just for the result but to see 'how Billy did'. Well Billy did great and is now joining the England set up. Will he start? Yes, is my view. Get him on. Play him until he drops. Better than bringing him on late into the game only for him to go down injured. Sarries won by the way. They are now 3rd.
Ireland lose Andrew Trimble to injury. Shame. Good player.
South Africa won the Las Vegas leg of the HSBC 7s.
On Saturday I bleated on about benefit cheats. When I got home yesterday my tax return was waiting for me. Yes, I do pay tax, so yes, I can have an opinion. My blood pressure went from high to boiling when I saw 25% of my taxes go on benefits. It cannot be right that in this time of low unemployment, low inflation that 25% of tax take goes on benefits. We MUST support those in greatest need. That is non-negotiable. There are those however who are crooks who thieve from the benefit system, and there are those who milk it for what it's worth. That has to change. A perfect example is why oh why do 18 - 21's get housing benefit. If 600,000+ Poles can come here and find work then so can home grown 18-21s living at home.
Is 190 over 90 and a heart rate of 86 dangerous? Yes! Better go then.
Sunday 5th March - 09:00
I wouldn't say it was wet here in Salisbury but I have just seen a van drive past with 'Noah's Boat Building & Supplies' drive past.
It came as no surprise that Crowborough 2s vs The Greenies 2s was called off due to all the pitches at Steel Cross being waterlogged and dangerous. I feel for Dave Bristow, Damper and all those who worked so hard this week to prepare the grounds. I have no idea if the mini festival is going ahead today. If it is raining as hard in the 'Borough' then it must be in doubt.
Well done to The Crows beating the aptly named Brighton & Hove Sea Serpents by 32-0. I bet they like the wet pitches.
Our 1st XV are mathematically still able to avoid the drop but losing 41-10 at Old Colfeians puts us a step closer to the trapdoor. I await The Bards missive but I will guess that the defeat wasn't for the lack of effort on our behalf. For the record, in MY very humble and understated opinion, I think the best team we have played this season are OCs. I will do a full round up of the leagues tomorrow as normal but Medway losing to Beckenham, our next opponents, was a shock.
Being in Salisbury, and it being very wet, we couldn't take the kids out in the afternoon so they watched the BFG and I watched the rugby. Wasps International Barbarians beat Bath fairly comfortably. I have to say that whilst Wasps, and Kurtley Beale in particular were good, Bath were pretty ordinary. Some of their passing was awful and their decision making poor. Bath's two best players were Taulupe Faletau and Luke Charteris.
I couldn't bring myself to watch Glasgow demolish the Dragons. I saw the first half of Cardiff vs Munster which was pretty good stuff. I see after last weeks fantastic win Scarlets came a cropper in Dublin against Leinster. Quins last gasp win against Gloucester might have sealed Gloucester's head coach Laurie Fisher's fate.
Nigel Owens giving a ball boy a yellow card is a classic. bbc.co.uk to see it.
The Super Rugby in the morning was excellent. The Sharks injury time try to beat the Brumbies was something else. To date all the Super Rugby I've watched has been great.
Leaping ahead two and a bit years, could Germany be playing in RWC 2019? Google it and see what I mean.
Leicester City 3 Hull City 1. Is Premiership survival possible. You bet.
Tony Bellew beats David Haye in the 11th round....... so what!
Now, I know this story is from the Organ of Truth, but it is worth commenting on. Tony Blair makes a secret trip to Washington in a bid to work for Donald Trump ......... as his Middle East peace envoy. Two egotistical clowns in tandem. Heaven help us. Blair lies. Trump just makes stuff up. Neither can be trusted as far as you can throw them. Can you imagine the scene.......
Blair: 'Hi Donny babes. How's it going here in the White House?'
Trump: 'Who are you again?'
Blair: 'I'm Tony, Tony Blair. I was the Prime Minister of Great Britain'
Trump: 'Oh yeah! You're the guy who was caught with George W up your backside and then said there was WMD in Iraq'
Blair: 'Yep, that was me'
Trump: 'Well, that is a step in the right direction. I need more lying deceivers surrounding me. It makes me look like a saint'
Blair: 'I'm your man. Now about that job'
Trump: 'Geez, I don't know. I got plenty of puppets. What I need is puppeteers. Actually I might give George Dubyer a call. He certainly pulled your strings.'
Blair: 'Oh! I guess that's it then.'
Trump: 'Arrggh Geez. Go on. I'll make you my envoy to North Korea. They've got lots of WMD, and WD40, and UB40.'
Blair: 'Thanks boss. I won't let you down'
Trump: 'Go!! Before I change my mind. By the way where is Great Britain? It's not anywhere near Mexico is it?'
Saturday 4th March - 08:40
I hope the weather in Crowborough has been better than it has been here in Salisbury. Rain of biblical proportions last night. With the 2s at home today and the mini festival tomorrow good weather is needed. Good luck to all the guys playing today. OCs will be tough but I know the men in red & white will give of their best. I am sure all the kids taking part tomorrow will have a good day. It IS about FUN and NOT about winning!
The weather in Edinburgh last night was pretty atrocious. The Ospreys came away with a fine, and well deserved win. One piece of magic from Sam Davies in the first half and then fantastic Ospreys defence in the second being the difference.
Exeter keep the pressure up on Wasps with a fine away win at Welford Road. Wasps, the Toulon of the Aviva Premiership with their big spending remain favourites for the title though.
Sale are not out of the woods with regard to relegation yet. A loss at home last night to Northampton not helping their cause.
The big story in the Aviva is the return of Billy Vunipola for Sarries when they take on Newcastle tomorrow up at Kingston Park. Does Eddie Jones stick or twist when it comes to selecting Big Billy for next week's Calcutta Cup clash. The back row has not been great. If he comes through tomorrow's game unscathed I'd twist.
The Championship are scrapping the irrelevant and unnecessary play-offs from 2018/19. Good. The Aviva should look at this too. Oh silly me!! Don't forget the money, money, money. I still say the Premiership should go to a 14 team closed shop with the Championship staying as a 14 team semi-professional league. Clubs being the feeder/breeding ground for the Premiership. The Richmond model becoming the norm for Championship clubs. A small retainer, reasonable and auditable expenses, and small performance related bonuses. Players having 'proper' jobs being the norm.
South Africa are bringing their selection policy into line with many of the other tier 1 nations by stating that players plying their trade overseas will need to have earned 30 plus caps to be eligible for international selection. I can see the merit in this. Trying to keep players at home should strengthen the national side a positive move. I am not sure it will work however as the lure of the big bucks in France and England will be more appealing than international rugby me thinks.
Is New Zealand rugby and its rugby players in as good a place as we are led to believe? Aaron Smith sexual abuse allegations, Dan Carter drink driving, Ali Williams being arrested on drug charges, and now Byron Kelleher being charged with domestic abuse. Kelleher also has a history of drink driving.
Good news that the UK is considering a move to zero alcohol in the breath as the benchmark for drink driving.
I like the story on bbc.co.uk that schools rugby tournaments will now have a merit/demerit system for good/bad behaviour by players, coaches, spectators. Nice one.
As I type I have the Highlanders v Crusaders in the background. What a game. Did you know that in Super Rugby a penalty try is now 7 points. No need for the kick at goal. I like the new referee - TMO interaction too. Much clearer for all.
As you know I firmly believe our benefits system is broken and way too generous. My number one bugbear is the fraudulent claims and the thieving b'stards who exploit it. Two such villains are Lisa and Andrew White. £150,000 STOLEN from those who really need help being a disgrace. Both have been sent to prison. Good! I would also seize their assets and recover the full amount plus interest.
Must go. Grandkids want breakfast.
Thursday 2nd March - 09:45
This weekend at Steel Cross our 2s take centre stage against Heathfield & Waldron 2s. k.o. 15:00.
The 1s travel to Old Cofeians. A tough one with OCs looking to secure the play-off spot.
Finally The Crows are scheduled to play Brighton & Hove Sea Serpents.
Then, when all that is done and dusted, Steel Cross hosts the East Sussex mini festival part 1 on Sunday. Always a busy day at the club. Always wonderfully well managed by our great volunteers.
Dylan has put his hand up and said he should carry the blame for not reacting qucikly enough to Italy's tactics last Saturday. Here lies a growing problem with modern rugby. Over coaching. Players spend hours in front of screens and boards looking at the game plan whilst forgetting the important matter of playing what is in front of them. It is easy from the comfort of the living room to know what to do. In the heat of battle it is very different. That said a pick and drive with a huge forward cantering into space would have put the Italy tactic firmly in its place. What England need to do now though is put it behind them and focus on Scotland.
I vaguely remember Will Greenwood saying that when the crunch came in 2003 and England were going into extra time against Australia in the RWC final Clive Woodward came onto the field. It is alleged that Johnson turned to Woodward and said something like 'we don't need you Clive. We've got this. We'll deal with it'. On field leaders making the decisions as opposed to on field communicators waiting to hear the coach's message the waterboy brings on.
Quins will be heartened by the news that Chris Robshaw is on the road to recovery and has started light training.
Ugo Monye has suggested Warren Gatland should pick a tour captain before he decides his test captain. Nonsense. Your tour captain and test captain should be one and the same. Someone who inspires, leads by example on and off the field, someone the troops can follow. Having two captains will only lead to confusion.
The Dragons are a step closer to being controlled by the WRU. The poor relations of the Welsh regional set up need help. If the WRU do come in then a new pitch would be a priority. Setting up the Dragons as a nursery for the other other regions the next. There are many players signed to the Blues, Ospreys and Scarlets who are out on loan to lower level clubs. Why not send them to Newport Gwent Dragons. The national side will benefit from this as will ultimately the other regions. This is what happened in Ireland with Connacht and look at the Irish regions and the Irish national side today. QED.
Some excellent Super Rugby match ups this weekend starting with the Force vs Reds kicking off in an hour.
Thinking of going to RWC 2019 in Japan. Then I hope you like Heineken. They have renewed the contract for sole beer rights at grounds and other RWC 2019 venues.
Last night I was at the East Sussex Rugby Partnership meeting. Some good things aired such as player recruitment and player retention. To make real progress more clubs need to attend.
Good luck commuters. Good luck users of the night tube. Yes, you guessed it the RMT are going on strike again. Over what? Who knows! Please can someone tail Mike 'Loadsa' Cash for a week so we can ascertain where we can withdraw all the services he needs and see how he likes it. Well done to ASLEF. Still keeping up the pressure on the clowns at Southern Rail but doing it around the table. If they walk out again then it won't be for the lack of trying to find a workable and amicable solution.
Theresa Maybe suffered her first defeat in the unelected House of Old Farts yesterday over the rights of EU citizens to stay in the UK. Here is what I think. If an EU, or any other citizen of the world is here in the UK adding value by working hard, paying taxes, contributing positively to our society then we should say 'bienvenue, mi casa es su casa'. Those who are here claiming benefits, causing trouble, not intergrating should be on the next plane home. Whilst we are at it we might want to export some of those home grown thieving toerags who are cheating our benefit system at the expense of the genuinely needy.
No blog tomorrow. Grandparenting duties take precedent.
Wednesday 1st March - 10:40
A VERY happy St David's Day to you all. Thank you Mike Norman for your message Dydd Gwyl Dewi Hapus. Very much appreciated.
So, Leigh Halfpenny has put his hands up and said the 'kick for the corner, kick for goal' confusion was all down to him. Dan Biggarhead has said it was nothing to do with him. Despite yapping on about anything and everything for the entire time he was on the field he was bound to say that wasn't he?? Sadly what the whole incident does do is bring Alun Wyn Jones' Lions captaincy credentials into question.
Where does Gatland look for a captain......
Dylan, surely a captain has to be sure of his place
Rory Best, possibly but the same principle applies
Sam Warburton, there is no guarantee he'll be on the plane let alone be captain
John Barclay, ditto the above
Owen Farrell, now there is a genuine option
Me, I still think Alun Wyn is the logical choice. He has been there and got the t-shirt. He is in form. Most importantly Gatland and his second in command Howley know him. Do not underestimate how important that is to Gatland. 'Trust' might not be the right word but Gatland has to have it in his captain.
The hype and the battle of words around the Calcutta Cup clash has started. Eddie Jones is heaping the pressure on Scotland; 'they will be burdened by expectation' he says. I think the burden is on England and he is desperately trying to deflect it off his players. Three 6 Nations games but not a real 80 minute performance amongst them. In fact in the main three pretty woeful performances from the only team 'who can beat the All Blacks', or so they say. There is also the '18th win in a row' to be overcome.
The RFU announce the structure of the Women's Super League (covered by most decent sports websites). I think it is great for the women's game. I firmly believe however that the RFU are lauding the growth of the game from the wrong the premise. Yes the womens game, the minis and juniors, and the social touch game are all in rude health, BUT, the core mens game at grassroots level is struggling; teams disappearing, games being cancelled, serious mis-matches etc, etc. This cannot be ignored!!!!
We host Beckenham on March 11th followed by the 6 Nations on TV. Join us for lunch. Contact David 'Baloo' Bennett for details.
The 2017 Scaletrix season is getting closer as testing continues apace. If you want to enjoy the spills and thrills of motorsport can I recommend driving around Crowborough during the school run. It is hair raising.
I read that new drivers caught texting whilst driving will lose their licence. Good. I reiterate what I think is a good idea and that is drivers caught on their phone, texting or calling, should not only get fined, have points, and their insurance companies notified, but also should have their phones confiscated.
Trump finally acts like a President with his speech to congress. Not sure that will last.
The Lords, that unelected body of old farts and 'has beens' intend to vote down the Brexit Bill. Want to save money to invest in the NHS? Scrapping the Lords would be a fine place to start.
Finally the crook former owner also known as Cur Philip Green is coughing up the £363m owed to the BHS pension pot.
The Tunisian massacre was horrendous and shouldn't be forgotten, but it beggars belief that a ffffffnnnnn injury lawyer is suing TUI for negligence when the courts have said there is nothing for the travel company to answer for. This sums up the state of this country. Litigation is a nightmare.
Southern's parent company will suffer reduced profits as a result of the ongoing turmoil. GOOD. Lets hope this focusses their minds on sorting out this debacle.
That said the RMT are going on strike AGAIN. This time against Merseyrail's decision to introduce new rolling stock which can be manged on a driver only basis. If injury lawyers need work and money then they should be going after the RMT and Mike 'Loadsa' Cash. Why not support hardworking communters for a change.
To brighten your day, on this St David's Day, go on line and read the story about young Sol who shortly after he was born had to have his left arm amputated. It is wonderful how this Welsh family from Anglesey are coping, but more importantly how young Sol is adapting to life, and life with a prosthetic arm. Technology and human resilience. They are a wonderful combination.
Tuesday 28th Feb - 08:30
A couple of quick one liners before the boy arrives and we need to go swimming.
There is NO need to change the laws regarding the tackle area. Any call for this is nonsensical.
Having watched the game again and read many articles all the pundits; Brian Moore, Sir Clive, Stuart Barnes, Jeremy Guscott, Jonathan Davies et al, are pretty much in agreement. England were VERY poor in that 1st half, Eddie Jones has disappointed many with his petulance, and Connor O'Shea and his team totally out-thought England.
One thing that struck me was the inference by Jones that Italy should have lay down and had been slaughtered by his team. ABSOLUTELY WRONG to even infer that. Arrogance, arrogance, arrogance. England were rubbish in that first half. Let's move on.
The weekend threw Lions selection up in the air. Sky pundits have been consistent with their selections for the first two rounds. This week the names on their teamsheets are much changed.
Dispite the ongoing turbulence in South African rugby Allister Coetzee stays as coach. Good.
LEICESTER CITY 3 - Liverpool 1. What more needs to be said.
I understand there was a very nice tribute to Paul McCarthy at the Brighton v Reading game on Friday night. 45th minute a long and sustained round of applause.
Paddy O'Fez very sadly lost his mother-in-law last Thursday. My thoughts are with you, and your lovely wife at this time. She was over 90 and recognised her demise was imminent. Apparently only last week his mum-in-law said to Paddy; 'if I am still alive in the morning then throw me out of the window!' Thankfully he didn't have to, in part because she was on the first floor!'. Seriously though, no loss is easy so may she go in peace, and happily one of your last memories of her will bring a smile to your face.
I know there are many people from other clubs who read this blog. I need a favour. If you are in Sussex PLEASE respond to any requests that come your way about how can we change the game to get more players playing more frequently so we have fewer HWO/AWO etc. If you prefer you can contact me directly. If you are outside the county I'd welcome your views on the state of the game and any ideas about how to improve it. For the record I have been asked to join a group looking at this problem.
Sir John Major. Not one of our finest Prime Ministers...... by a VERY long way. Sir John, back in your box please. Brexit will be a long and painful road. Yes, the people had no idea what they were voting for. Neither means you can come out and start whingeing.
What a monumental cock-up. The Oscars.......... and the winner of the Best Whingeing Australian goes to................. Dan Biggar............ No! It goes to Eddie Jones. Biggar wins the best whingeing Welshman. Sorry. Our mistake. Price Waterhouse Coopers........ plonkers. That inspires you doesn't it. One of the biggest accountancy/consultancy firms in the world and they can't even get that right.
Time for a swim.
Monday 27th Feb - 08:30
Elli Norkett, 20 years old. Welsh Women's Rugby Union player tragically killed in a car accident in South Wales on Saturday evening. The youngest player in the 2014 Women's RWC. Nothing more can be said other than 'life is too short' and 'let our thoughts be with her family'.
Up until Sunday evening I had been a great admirer of Eddie Jones. He has reinvigorated England, he is straight talking, he is inventive, he understands the game, and more importantly he understands the players. That admiration went out of the window when he whinged on and on about Italy's tactics. He was out-thought, and his players were made to look like fools. Fools bereft of ideas, and imagination. Was it a great spectacle? No! Was it an inspired and effective tactic? Yes! I stand up and applaud Connor O'Shea. Jones' comments smack of the petulent child who isn't having his own way. It is arrogance personified. An arrogance that comes about from believing your own publicity. Jones saying 'I don't want to be involved in a game like that. I'd rather pick up my stumps, put them in my kit bag and go home' rather sums up his arrogant and sore loser attitude. Be a man and accept it for what it was. Inspirational coaching.
Matt Dawson needs to get back in his box too. Change the laws he cries. Another spoilt brat. No! The laws don't need changing. Be a coach and change how the players adapt to such a tactic.
The sight of Dylan and James Haskell in front of the examiner, Monsieur Poite saying 'Sir, sir, those boys in blue are cheating sir. Do something about it sir. If you don't sir our dads will have to come and have a word with you sir!' An unedifying sight.
By the way the issue could have been solved if the players had a half a brain and started to think for themselves. 1. within the laws force players into the ruck. 2. pick and drive through the middle. 3. chip and chase into the space where the defending players should have been.
Well done to Romaine Poite..... 'I am a referee not a coach'. The best one liner in rugby for a long time. Yes, he must have been asked/told about the tactic in advance. Whilst Joe Launchbury was the PLAYER of the match the MEN of the match were Connor O'Shea and Monsieur Poite.
The game itself. I thought Italy actually played very well. They defended well, and their attacking game was sharp. They were as good as they have been thus far in the tournament. They took every opportunity, the try from the rebounded kick off the post being a perfect example. To me this also highlighted England's achilles heel; over-confidence. They stood and watched, and that indicates a team who have started to believe they are invincible...... wrongly.
England showed signs of brilliance and Elliot Daly is proving to be a world class performer. I think he is rapidly becoming a certainty for The Lions, possibly a starter. Jack Nowell played well, and in a way his unpredictability was an asset (when in attack). Launchbury was excellent and has made Gatland's choice of second row almost impossible. England alone have four top flight players in this position without thinking about the quality Ireland, Scotland and Wales have. Well Alun Wyn Jones to be precise in Wales case. I still see the front row as a weak link for England, especially Dan Cole. He was undone all too often. Young Sinckler could (should?) be the way forward if England are to win RWC 2019.
The big losers on Sunday were Owen Farrell and Mike Brown. Farrell showed he isn't infallible. He was erratic with ball in hand and his kicking was wayward, both at goal and out of hand. Mike Brown was poor throughout.
Will England beat Scotland? Yes! They will be too strong and Jones will have them fired up. Will they beat Ireland and secure the Grand Slam. A much harder question to answer. That game will be like a Lions final trial to add spice where extra spice is not needed.
Well done the Ospreys. A very enjoyable game. Wasps march on towards the title. Bristol beat Bath and when was the last time you saw the headline; 'Henson the hero for Bristol'.
A small whinge from me. Players in front of the kick and therefore off-side. It happens time and time again. When are the referees and their assistants going to enforce this? Forget Jones' pathetic whingeing about changing the laws because he got outdone, this law is in place and needs enforcing, and whilst I am at it can we have the ball down the middle of a scrum please.
A big one tonight. Leicester City, sans Ranieri (I don't know the Italian for 'without') vs Liverpool.
And breathe. Time for a coffee.
Sunday 26th Feb - 10:00
Forget Mystic Meg, here comes Misery Meg. It gives me no pleasure to say I told you so, but I did. Take the Scots for granted at your peril. The Welsh played well in the first half and could have been two tries to the good, if not three. That is, if they had shown more composure and been able to retain the ball in key contact areas. It helped that Scotland were like rabbits startled by the headlights in the first half allowing Wales to play.
The second half was a different thing altogether. The men in blue came out firing on all cylinders whilst Wales didn't. It became an Aston Martin vs a Citroen 2CV. Scotlan