Thursday 19th Jan - 08:20
I am no longer wedded to e:mail or my phone now I am effectively unemployed (and some would say unemployable). It was a pleasure however yesterday to receive an e:mail congratulating me on my level headed and well balanced blog. Complacency has obviously set in and balance and reasoning are taking over........ Noooooo!!!! Let me put that right now.
Firstly though, an earlier start at the keyboard this morning as we were awoken by an ambulance taking a neighbour to hospital. We hope he is ok.
So Connor Murray says he wasn't knocked out during last weekend's game against Glasgow when all the TV evidence seems to imply he was, and some reports seem to imply he admits to have been knocked out. This follows a couple of similar high profile incidents. In my view the idea behind the HIA protocols are right and we have to accept the judgement of the highly qualified medics involved in our sport. However I think there is an argument that says players who go off for a HIA should stay off. The risk attached to this is medical staff and players might become reluctant to send players for the tests for fear of losing a key player from the match. Let's see how this beds in but for sure it won't be good for rugby if we have more incidents like the George North and Connor Murray ones.
I see Vern Cotter has announced his 6 Nations squad. South African Cornell D Preez is included based on his 3 years of residency. This is NONSENSE. I am not sorry to go on about this as the situation is ridiculous with a capital 'F'. World Rugby has got to change this rule. Times are a changing though. As noted last week France have taken the lead by saying they will only pick French passport holders, and the RFU have announced they are looking to move to a five year period for eligibility. I think five years AND being a passport holder of the country in question is the way forward. Encourage home grown talent and support the smaller less wealthy nations to keep and grow their talent.
Eddie Jones will announce his 6 Nations squad shortly. Will Dylan be in, and will be he captain? Will Joe Marler make an amazing recovery and be included? How many non English players will be included?
Another weekend of European rugby coming up. More permutations than I can get my head around but as I see it the stand out fixtures are Castres v Leinster, Leicester v Glasgow, Saracens v Toulon, and Toulouse v Connacht. These are the games where there is much riding on the result, either qualification or a home tie in the knockout stages.
Don't forget CRFC vs Hove at Steel Cross on Saturday.
In other sport Lewis Hamilton 'backs' his new team-mate Valtteri Bottas. Of course you do Lewis, that is until you see him beating you on the track and then you'll start to act like the spoilt and petulant child that you are........ allegedly.
England face India in the latest one day international. India go 2-0 up is my prediction.
The Brexit stuff continues to be the headline news. I get a little hot under the collar when I read 'GB PLC is doing great after Brexit'. Have these headline writers not realised that we have NOT LEFT EUROPE YET. We are STILL part of the EU. Perhaps the headline writers might just want to look at yesterday's announcements by three leading banks saying they are moving close to 3000 high wealth, senior appointees to their offices in other countries now they have the knowledge that Theresa Maybe is going for the hard bolied version of Brexit. Things will NOT be so rosey once we are out. Prices will rise, jobs will go, the burden on the tax payer will increase............ POSSIBLY......... because like everyone else I have NO idea what will happen.
For the harrassed and fed-up commuters who use Southern Rail there was a scintilla of hope yesterday as ASLEF called off their next round of strikes. Let us hope Southern have seen sense and stated that they will implement all the changes and improvements to equipment on trains and stations before insisting the NEW driver only operations commence. I also hope ASLEF continues to take a positive approach to negotiations. The RMT have NOT moved and their strikes will continue. As I see it Southern need to reiterate that no guard will lose his job, no pay will be lost as a result of the changes and Southern will work with the RMT (and ASLEF) to identify which services it is critical to have a second person on the train e.g. the 07:00 from Uckfield to London Bridge. The RMT in turn need to accept that trains can run without a second person on board and the rosters for the second person will be based on need and not historical work patterns.
Must go. My letter to the PM isn't going to write 'it's self', or is it 'itself'.
Wednesday 18th Jan - 10:00
Another full and exhausting day with the grandson yesterday. Back to normality today.
First an Oscar nomination: the best theatrical dive on a rugby field. James Davies in Scarlets vs Saracens.
So Alun Wyn Jones is Wales captain. No surprise there. The squad looks pretty reasonable but lacks the strength in depth of England. Thomas Young's inclusion is positive, as is Owen Williams of Leicester. I think Wales will struggle this year and even a win over Italy looks a challenge. Keeping the first choice 23 man squad fit is the key.
Aaron Cruden has signed a three year deal with Montpellier reputed to be worth $1.2m NZD. He remains eligible to face the Lions but effectively that's his All Blacks career over.
Despite their eye-watering debt Sarries continue to recruit. Calum Clark from Northampton will join the Fez Heads next season.
Forget Watergate and the hacking Russians what about Salegate. Tom Arscott has been suspended by his club pending an investigation into the alleged leaking of Sale's game plan to Bristol ahead of their recent clash. A match won by Bristol. In my humble opnion this is Steve Diamond hiding behind the simple fact his side are not playing well and losing to Bristol was a shock, and possibly an embarrassment.
I see on the front of The Rugby Paper this weekend a former Saxons coach has decried the fact that the RFU has effectively killed off the Saxons as a development side for the senior squad. Despite the former coach being a grumpy bugger at times his views make sense, especially as more and more places in the Aviva Premiership are being taken by overseas players. Many of the overseas players are used during the international periods thus closing off that development opportunity for English quailfied players.
On the back of the same paper I read with some interest that Louis Deacon is urging Leicester to bring in a benefactor to stop Leicester Tigers falling further behind in the club standings. DON'T DO IT! Think of East Grinstead. Different level BUT the same principle. Your benefactor is only as good as the amount of money available or his/her attention span. Of all the clubs in England Leicester have the level of fan support able to manage without a benefactor...... perhaps 'just' but that has to be the better way forward.
Closer to home The 1st XV take on Hove this Saturday. Kick off 2pm. Buffet lunch for £10. Let Graysey know today if you are interested in lunch.
I had an interesting text this week alleging a team, let's call them Team P, whose 1st XV game was postponed on Saturday allowed that same 1st XV to play as their 2nd team in a fixture against another team's 2nd XV, let's call them Team G. In principle there is nothing wrong with this as long as all the players are correctly registered, that is if registration is required. Obviously intuitively it DOESN'T feel right and in my mind it highlights what in MY, YES MY OPINION is wrong with rugby; leagues for non 1st XVs. The only reason this happened was to bolster Team P's league position. By the way neither Team P nor Team G are Team CRFC.
The news is full of Mother Theresa's speech on Brexit. I don't profess to understand all the ins and outs but as much as I didn't vote for it the people have spoken. Let's get on with it. Tim Fallon, you are talking tosh. Theresa Maybe hasn't 'stolen' democracy she is implementing it, no matter how much we dislike what is happening. Nicola Sturgeon, you need to get your facts straight. Scotland's independence will mean LEAVING the EU and having to reapply. Spain, France and Ireland will NOT vote for you to join. Spain in particular will be your nemesis. Jezza, stop whinging on. If you had been more proactive, especially in the Labour heartland of Wales, and less like a limp lettuce during the referendum campaign we might not be in this shi..... merde.
Monday 16th Jan - 09:00
Before I get into the league round up let me witter on about Scarlets vs Saracens. What a cracking game of rugby. 'End to end stuff'. 'It's not over until the fat lady sings.' 'No quarter asked, no quarter given'. It was a splendid way to spend a soggy Sunday afternoon. You can see why Sarries are currently the best side in Europe and that Welsh rugby is not dead and buried as many suggest. Owen Farrell was excellent, albeit his goal kicking was off target, and Scott Williams will be a Lions centre come the summer. Should Ken Owens effort have been allowed? Should the Sarries try been disallowed? Both could have gone the opposite way they did, but on balance I thought the officials were good throughout and got those decisions (just about) right. The only real debating point was should Nick Skelton have seen red, and why wasn't James Davies yellow carded. The latter was clear provocation and illegal play in the 'red zone'. Skelton's was a deliberate blow to the head with intent. In the end it made no difference but this was the one call made by the referee that could be considered as wrong.
Just to wind Paddy O'Fez up I did think Sarries resembled the All Blacks at times......... getting away with offside at ruck and maul, and persistently in front of the kicker when kicking from deep. A good side though and a draw was a fair result.
Ok, to the leagues
Medway march relentlessly on. Another bonus point win, this time against Horsham. Old Colfeians got their show back on the road with a home win over our friends The Greenies. Deal & Betteshanger failed at Old Alleynians which is good news for us. Dartfordians dented Beckenham's hopes of the play off spot with a fine single point away win. Bromley vs Charlton Park fell foul off the weather. I think we play Hove and Bromley vs Charlton Park will happen next weekend.
In Sussex 1 the headline result is Burgess Hill beating Uckfield. Hellingly keep up their chances of automatic promotion but definitely the play off spot with an easy win over Brighton II. Hove II beat Horsham II in the only other fixture. Crawley remain top.
In the very competitive London 3 South East Lewes and Haywards Heath went second and third in the table after wins at home against Ashford and Old Dunstonians respectively. Pulborough slip to fourth but only as a result that Gillingham Anchorians ground was unplayable. Thanet Wanderers remain in the box seat after beating Park House away. Aylesford Bulls beat Eastbourne and in the final game Folkestone came away from Sheppey with a win.
In London 1 South my good friend Mr Withers predicted a tough trip to second place Havant and so it proved. Tunbridge Wells went down 24-18 but they do remain in third spot. Sevenoaks enjoyed the journey home from Dover after what looks a comfortable win. No relegation fears for the Oaks now. Brighton however are still one off the bottom after losing to Chiswick. Maidstone lost to Tottonians but like the Oaks sit comfortably in mid table. Sidcup stay clear at the top.
Confidence must be running very high at TJs after another impressive looking away win, this time at Amersham & Chiltern. Wimbledon remain hot on their heels after beating Southend Saxons. Westcombe Park didn't play due to the weather. (Reg, let me know how Harry is doing). Chichester earned an important home win over Dorking thus relieving some of their relegation fears. All eyes will be on TJs vs Wimbledon next weekend!!
In the other games of note Worthing got whipped by Cinderford, Bridgnorth lost at Birmingham & Solihull and finally, Salisbury beat Launceston easing their relegation fears ... slightly.
I understand our 2s lost to Rye 1st XV in what was a cracking game by 19-7. More to follow when I get news. I also understand our Under 13s enjoyed a fine 50-0 win against our nearest and dearest rivals.
In other sport it is the Packers and Steelers who progress to the divisional finals. The Packers looked mighty impressive last night I have to say.
Murray is through to the next round of the Australian open.... just!
England's cricketers beaten again but what a thrilling game.... according to the papers.
Mother Theresa is walking around like Donald Trump; both guns loaded but shooting herself in the foot being the only outcome. The GP surgery opening hours demands. Silly woman!!
Jezza has reiterated his desire to cap the top earnings of bosses. I can see some merit in this thinking BUT!!! However, when he goes on to say that it wouldn't apply to footballers earning in one week what the average person takes TEN YEARS to earn makes me realise how far out of touch he is with reality. Footballers are a perfect target for raising tax revenue. His reason for this viewpoint. Votes of course. If he was the socialist he claims to be he would be wanting to do the right thing all the time and not picking and choosing depending on votes. Top flight footballers are obscenely well paid and a few percentage points of extra tax from them won't make one jot of difference to their spending power but the extra revenue into say the NHS would be most welcome. Come on Jezza, if you are to win over the hearts and minds of the electorate THINK about what you are saying. Talk through your mouth not your arse. Theresa May, you need to think likewise.
Sunday 15th Jan - 10:30
Well, the weather beat us yesterday and those who were there enjoying lunch were in no doubt why. There was a generous covering of snow on all our pitches. If the ground wasn't frozen underneath it was waterlogged. There was no way any rugby could have been played at Steel Cross yesterday.
The lunch did go ahead and a splendid lunch it was too. Thanks Jacqui, Sandra and team. Another excellent afternoon with great food and great company. As there was no game, surprise, surprise I drank far too much.
The 2s played away at Rye. I will get the result to you when I have it.
The Glasgow vs Munster game wasn't the spectacle of open running rugby I had anticipated but it was a tense, edgy, keenly contested affair with the Irish side running out winners. The yellow card of Hogg was a factor allowing Munster the overlap for the crucial winning try. By the letter of the new laws it was yellow. No argument there. However, it was fairly inocuous and by comparison to some of the hits to the head caused by players WITH the ball driving low into tacklers it was harmless. Yes, yes, the number of hits to the head have to be reduced, and yes the game will be much improved with tackles going lower allowing more freedom to off-load the ball but come on, this is not Under 9s tag rugby. Please let us have some common sense.
A last gasp try by Wasps keeps them in the hunt for the knockout stages and beating Toulouse is a good result as Toulouse are one of the few French sides that really take the European Cup seriously. Wasps are now in the driving seat as a win away at Zebre next weekend is a given whereas there are no guarantees for Connacht away at Toulouse.
Leicester's woeful run continued in Paris with Racing strolling past them leaving the Tigers with only pride to play for in the final game. I wouldn't be surprised if the Leicester coaching team put out a weakened side against Glasgow allowing a rest for those who have Aviva priorities on their minds.
Don't forget Scarlets vs Sarries today. Well worth watching.
In other sport normal service has definitely been resumed. Leicester City humiliated by Chelsea and another football manager sacked. The NFL is heading to its conclusion. The Atlanta Falcons are looking strong and are my outside bet for the Super Bowl.
Mother Theresa goes 'off on one' with her attack on GPs. Misguided me thinks. She needs to look at why the GPs are overloaded first and tackle the problem from that direction. Mr Smugface was surprised that several papers have come up with the same solutions to the NHS issues as was proposed yesterday. Drunks pay, as do overseas visitors for example.
I see the RMT, ASLEF and Southern are still miles apart. An arse or two needs kicking and Jezza needs to fight for the rights of the people and put his vested interest to one side here. He has the opportunity to be a hero rather than a court jester in this problem.
Right folks before I go and do battle around Lidl and Morrisons and spend my hard earned money can someone explain to me where the money will come from to fund Jezza's re-nationalised railways, the social care that is taken into public control and the millions he will invest into the NHS. You cannot spend what you haven't got. You either take on MORE (crippling) debt, you raise revenue which can only come from taxes, or you make cuts elsewhere. None of which, with the burden of debt GB PLC is carrying already, are very palatable.
I'll throw my twopenneth in for starters.
Taxes - Corporation tax and the top earners are a target
Benefits - reduce by targeting cheats and restricting immigrants from receiving benefits until they have made a significant contribution. More focus on benefit fraud.
Tax avoidance - more effort on this and bigger fines for illegal tax evasion
Proceeds of crime - a more aggressive policy of taking back the proceeds of crime
Foreign Aid budget - reduce significantly
Waste - an aggressive approach to budget management and spending in Government departments, and state run businesses e.g. NHS. Cut out waste.
Saturday 14th Jan - 09:45
Let me start by saying: 'I have no idea whether the game is on or not today but I will have a wild stab that it is postponed'. Looking out of my back window onto a snow covered lawn patch of grass and the ice covered patio I cannot see how the game will be on. Funnier things have happened though. Watch this website for updates.
Yesterday, despite the terrible conditions The Friday Club were out in force. Little exterior work could be done but a number of minor tasks were completed inside. The Honours Boards have been updated and the place is laid up for today's lunch, WHICH GOES AHEAD REGARDLESS. Twenty Two attendees from The Friday Club alone.
I know a number of Bath stalwarts would have enjoyed last night's thrashing of Bristol but come on, Bristol's only priority is Premiership survival. I watched a very impressive Leinster thrash a very unimpressive Montpellier (featuring just three, yes, only three French players in the match day squad). The sending off of Steyn was cut and dried. No doubts there! Sexton was lucky to return to the field to finish the game. Leinster will be in the mix for European and Pro 12 honours at the end of the season, will supply much of the Irish 6 Nations squad and many will feature in The Lions.
Today's 'one to watch' is Glasgow vs Munster. Two sides in form and the artificial pitch up at Glasgow will be ideal for both sides.
Scarlets v Sarries will be worth watching tomorrow. I go Sarries but not by much.
Quins fans will be dismayed by yet more injuries so won't be arriving at The Stoop this afternoon full of hope for a win against Edinburgh.
Following the George North debacle I see Sale have fallen foul of the concussion management protocol. This follows an incident with TJ Ioane when they played Harlequins last weekend. Now call me stupid but I would have thought Sale of all clubs, especially with the court case pending, would have been whiter than white and ultra cautious with any concussion issue. Hey ho!
Joe Launchbury returns for Wasps today. Good news for Dai Young and of course Eddie Jones.
Time for a whinge. As I sat in Neros enjoying my cafe latte and raspberry and white chocolate muffin I perused The Times for pearls of wisdom. (I couldn't bring myself to read The Gruaniad). When I got to the article about 'England's prop crisis' I nearly choked on said muffin. CRISIS!!! Having props injured, or any other position bereft of fit players is NOT a crisis. The situation in Aleppo IS a crisis. The thousands in refugee camps across the Middle East is a crisis. Come on guys and gals. Let's get things into perspective.
In a strange way a crisis could be looming for the world as Donald Trump becomes US President. He is a loose canon and his performance to date instils only fear and dread in me. That, along with Kin Jong-un's insatiable desire to have nuclear weapons to launch against the west is terrifying.
Now for something controversial. Whilst walking to and from the club yesterday I mulled over some options for raising revenue for the NHS.
A. On any given Friday and Saturday I bet NHS services are over-run with drunks needing attention
1. Any person who calls an ambulance due to alcohol related issues should be charged £100 for the privelege.
2. Any person who attends a hospital A&E as a result of alcohol related issues should charged a £250 (so £350 if taken by ambulance)
3. Any person admitted to hospital should be charged £500 for the services administered (potentially a £850 cost for causing the NHS a problem due to your drunken behaviour)
B. Right now the price of alcohol in supermarkets is very low. A NHS tax should be applied to alcohol pushing the price up. It wouldn't have to be by much by the way.
C. The GP surgeries and hospital out-patients are plagued with missed appointments.
1. Anybody who misses a GP appointment should be charged £25
2. Anybody who misses a hospital referred appointment should be charged £50
Note there is NO charge for properly cancelled appointments
D. Based on the dramatic drop in the use of carrier bags at supermarkets now we are charged 5p per bag GPs should consider charging £5 for making an appoitment.
1. The fee would NOT be levied if the appointment was deemed necessary
2. The fee would be levied for appointments deemed unnecessary. e.g. the local pharmacist could easily have recommended a solution
E. The NHS across the board should be rigourous in charging those overseas visitors who should be paying for treatment. If you were in the US, or even France and Spain, you wouldn't get through the surgery or hospital door without handing over your credit card. This needs to be tightened up here in the UK.
Back to rugby. Congratulations to Richie McCaw and Gemma Flyn who got married today in Wanaka. Apparantly Wanaka is close to 'Off-Side' but McCaw would never be seen dead in Off-Side.
Time to go. The kettle's boiled and Mrs Bleater has the bread in the toaster.
Thursday 12th Jan - 09:50
So Marler has broken his leg. Not great news for England. This story though is pushed down the pages by the news that Sam Warburton has said he is standing down as Wales captain. In some ways this is a 'so what' news item. Sam has spent more time on the physio's table than he has on the pitch and when he has been on the pitch he has not been able to reproduce the form that shot him to fame all those years ago. Sam is likely to be in the squad playing under the captaincy of Alun-Wyn Jones, which in turn will strehgthen Jones' chances of leading The Lions.
Another Sam also makes the news. This time Sam Underhill the Ospreys flanker. A flanker that Eddie Jones has had his eye on ever since he took over the England reins. Underhill is England qualified but can't be selected whilst he plies his trade for the Ospreys. With his university studies coming to an end he has signed a new contract with Bath. Good news for them, bad news for Ospreys.
Following on from the doping news of yesterday I read that Kurt Clabby of Welsh club Bedwas RFC (for info a club I have played against on several occasions in the dim and distant past) has been banned for four years for doping violations. The full story is on bbc.co.uk. It reinforces the concerns that young players are not only sacrificing their education/trades for a chance of a rugby career but are also turning to drugs to help them bulk up and enhance their on field performances.
Another story that caught my eye was Jersey Reds saying they will be able to buy their ground back by 2020. Good luck in both the positive and sarcastic sense.
Let me now go back to last Saturday and Bridgnorth RFC. Bridgnorth are in National League 3 Midlands (level 5 in RFU hierarchy). Firstly their facilities are interesting to say the least. They own their grounds but their pitch is nowhere near as good as ours is right now and the changing rooms are >800m away from the pitch in the club house in the town. Players have to walk from the club along the river to the pitch. There is a small 'pop up' bar at the ground along with some basic changing / warm up facilities. It seemed strange at this level to watch the visiting side having to change out of their warm up kit into their match shirts out on the field. The game itself was definitely a cut above where we are. The refereeing however was not to a standard I had expected. Whilst the young referee was fit he lacked any empathy. This made life difficult for him throughout.
Ok to the people and the clubhouse. What a great bunch of people. Very friendly indeed. Post match we enjoyed a couple of beers in the clubhouse which I think was an old pub. Very traditional in decor with three different rooms, including a large function room. Pre match they hosted a two course lunch for £10 and that included the £5 ground entry fee. Whilst not having the changing rooms at the ground I was very impressed with the set up. One thing that did strike me was the distances they have to travel. Crowborough to Deal is small beer by comparison.
Looking ahead to this weekend we face Hove at home, weather permitting. It is European rugby for the big boys.
Plenty in the news to discuss but do you know what I can't be bothered today..... other than to say to Mother Theresa come on......... Brexit - get going..... the rail disputes - kick some ass....... the NHS - find some money. On this point I suggest diverting the overseas aid budget, taxing the bankers big bonuses, being very aggressive on tax dodgers and tax the footballers and their agents obscene wages much more heavily.
Wednesday 11th Jan - 09:15
Time for Mr Smugface to make an appearance. As suggested by me; Bleater Brad Barritt gets a three week rest for his swinging arm against Geoff Parling and surprise, surprise Richard Barrington is cleared of any wrong doing, again as suggested by ME. It is easy to be smug but the most important question is why, oh why with the referee, two assistants and a TMO all looking at the same footage as us didn't they get that one right on the day.
Without prolonging the debate about the new law/guidelines it highlights the idiocy of introducing changes half way through a season but equally highlights the impossible position referees have been put in as a consequence. Even the most ardent Sarries fans were in agreement about this one so the new law/guidelines aren't to blame here this is a refereeing cock up.
England's 6 Nations injury worries mount as Mako Vunipola is now a doubt. As suspected this is a long term knee problem not only will his 6 Nations place be in doubt but also his Lions place, as yes he was sure to be on the plane.
As a kid you always joked about having your boots with you 'just in case'. Well for Harlequins that was definitely the case for Adam Jones. Turned up to watch but with boots in the car and hey presto, he's in the squad. Wouldn't be a bad idea Adam to be parked at Heathrow with boots in the boot around end of May. Just in case, especially as it is rumoured Joe Marler has a broken leg.
Eddie Jones, recently honoured by the rugby writers, will be heartened that George Kruis will be available but, and it is a BIG BUT, he won't have played any games at club level prior to the 6 Nations.
The French doping authorities want to review the findings of the French rugby authorities in the Dan Carter, Joe Rokocoko, Juan Imhoff affair. Good news in my humble opinion. Players are at enough risk without being given pain killing and other medication enabling them to play when injured.
I would suggest the doping agency don't waste their time on testing Francois Hollande. He is just a dope.
As a parent and a grandparent you have to ask yourself what is wrong with the world when a 15 year old is arrested for murdering a 7 year old. An absolute tragedy. I can't imagine what the parents of the murdered girl are going through right now, and to be fair the parents of the 15 year old must be traumatised too.
I always thought irony was what Mrs Bleater did to my shirts but I now know better. It is clearly what happens when a man, let's call him Jezza, stands in front of a camera and talks about injustices in society and the unfairness of life for hardworking people scratching together a living versus the 'fat cat' life style of the bosses, only for him then to go and say 'f**k these hardworking people' by supporting highly paid rail workers who are making hardworking people's lives a misery day in day out. I guess it is also ironic that he whinges on about bonuses and 'fat cats' being in the pockets of government when Jezza is more than in the pocket of ASLEF and the RMT, he is their puppet on a string. Well I guess you have to dance to the puppeteers tune when he is giving you a shed load of cash. Let's move on before Mrs Bleater reads the bit about irony.
I was going to bleat on about the dope-on-a-rope scheme of capping top bosses earnings but it is so farcical that it is a waste of time and effort. I will however mention the pathetically low interest rate my meagre savings are earning at the moment. If Jezza had suggested that the banks should divert some of their employees bonuses into the NHS, policing and into the bank accounts of people who have worked hard enough to put a little by so they are not a burden on the state then I would be standing and applauding loudly.
Finally, as my blood pressure has reached a gentle simmer, a story that might suprise you. South East Water. Yes the much maligned South East Water delivered amazing customer service yesterday. In brief the man who read the meter on Monday had left the cover in such a way that it was going to cause damage to a car driving over it or a person falling over it. I called their customer service dept. A very nice person was very responsive. 10 minutes after this call the technical deptartment called me back to say someone would be with me within 24 hours. 50 minutes later a technician was there removing the broken meter cover and replacing it with a new one. 90 minutes start to finish. Being cynical I guess it was the 'of course if you don't get it done quickly any damage to cars or persons will be at your expense'.
Tuesday 10th Jan - 07:30
As promised let me do a quick run around the leagues...... before I respond to some of the feedback about Monday's blog.
Am I downhearted about our league position and the fear of relegation? Not one little bit. Based on Saturday's excellent result whatever happens I know the boys will continue to give 100% and the miracle of staying up is still possible. Horsham beating Bromley helps us in our challenge. Bromley are now just 11 points ahead of us. Medway remain unbeaten and clear at the top of the table after their win away at Hove, our next opposition. Old Colfeians slipped up at Dartfordians but do remain in second with Dartfordians one point further back in third. Charlton Park enjoyed a win against Beckenham. Our good friends the Greenies couldn't get past Old Alleynians but are still a healthy 18 points ahead of us in the league.
In Sussex 1 Crawley, despite not playing, stay top. Uckfield beat Hellingly, Shoreham beat Hove II and Horsham II lost to Burgess Hill.
London 3 South East. Wow! Eastbourne cry off at home against Haywards Heath. Lewes enjoyed an away win against Old Dunstonians. Pulborough beat Aylesford Bulls to stay in second spot behind Thanet Wanderers who beat Folkestone. In the other games Ashford lost at home to Park House with Gillingham Anchorians beating Sheppey. Ashford stay bottom.
In London 1 South my good friend Graham Withers will still be smiling at Wells fine, albeit narrow home win over Tottonians. They still can't get out of the third spot though as both Havant and leaders Sidcup enjoyed wins. Both quite comfortable wins too. Brighton lost at home to Gravesend and remain in 13th. In the Kent derby Maidstone took the honours over Sevenoaks 36-5.
In the ether of National League 3 London TJs remain top after an easy win over Westcliff. Chichester lose at Shelford and are perilously close to the drop zone. For the record Westcombe Park lost away at Guernsey.
To complete the round up Worthing lost to Bury St Edmunds. Salisbury enjoyed their trip to Bracknell with a fine win. Bridgnorth beat Bedford Athletic. (More on Bridgnorth later in the week).
In other news Robshaw is out of the 6 Nations...... and The Lions??
Liam Williams joins Saracens. A blow to the Scarlets and possibly Wales but also not great for England as another overseas player blocks another England eligible player's opportunity.
James Haskell lasts 35 seconds in his comeback. The incident did prove that the tackler is often at more risk of injury than the tackled man.
Newport County and Newport Gwent Dragons are both due to play at Rodney Parade on May 6th. They both have been told that the games must kick off at the same time as all other games in their respective leagues 15:00 for the county and 17:15 for the Dragons. This could be the RMT v Southern Rail. No easy solution in sight.
Ok, lets get back to the new tackle law. Thankfully I have not had much abuse about my comments. In fact the feedback has been supportive. I am not surprised that Brad Barritt has been cited for his part in the Parling tackle. He will be able to kick back his heels for a few weeks as a ban is certainly heading his way. I am surprised Richard Barrington has been cited as he will already be heading to the headmaster's office to be disciplined. Now my good friend Comrade Paddy O'Fez (as in Saracens Fez head) is in disagreement with me about the Rhodes tackle that prevented the Exeter try in the corner. Sorry Comrade but it was dangerous, in my opinion, and my understanding of the new laws.
In his SKY column Stuart Barnes also tends to agree that there is much to question about the new laws and like me thinks the Jake Ball tackle was innocuous. His view on the Scarlets penalty try differs from mine in that he believes the referee got it right. I don't. I still feel the tackle wasn't dangerous and when did the law change that says a player diving for the line cannot be tackled. By the way, the difference between this and Rhodes tackle was Rhodes came from behind took, head, neck and shoulders. This does highlight the problems the referees face. Barnsey does make a very good point that no matter what we think the referees have no choice but to apply the letter of the law as they see it. We should support them in that.
Now the other point Comrade Paddy made was I am totally one-eyed and need to put forward a more balanced view with regard to the rail disputes. I have previously said that the bosses of Southern Rail are over paid and incompetent. Some of their management decisions have made a bad situation intolerable. Where I wholeheartedly agree with Comrade Paddy is it is TOTALLY WRONG that some of the profits from these rail franchises goes overseas to their foreign owners. The profits therefore subsidise rail travel in say France. VERY WRONG.
We will have to disagree in that I believe the strikes on Southern, London Underground and on other rail networks are VERY politically motivated. The unions arguments are spurious and have more holes in them than Worcester's defence. Whilst the guy from Southern performed woefully in the recent debate the intransigence of the union man was clear for all to see. The dilemma is clear..... give in to the unions at this stage and be forever held to ransom over any and every little issue and never be able to modernise the rail system.
Finally I have read much about the crisis in the NHS. Can I say here and now that how my mother has been treated by her GP and again yesterday at Shrewsbury Hospital has been absolutely superb.
Monday 9th Jan - 10:45
Just nipped into Bridgnorth library to use the internet before heading home.
After the fantastic news that the 1st XV came away from Deal & Betteshanger with a win it would be wrong not to. What a result, but more importantly what a testament to the bunch of lads we have playing for us. After the season we've had to date it would be oh so easy to say 'sod it!'. They didn't and have been rewarded for their efforts. Well done guys. Whilst we remain firmly rooted to the foot of the table there is still much to play for. Will we stay up? It will take a miracle but I am sure after this weekend's performance the boys will continue to give 100%.
On a sad note however it has come to my attention that Simon Cornford's mum has passed away. Simon is a very long standing member of the club and his mum and dad were instrumental in ensuring the seeds sown in 1936 saw Crowborough Rugby Club establish itself as a successful Sussex club through the 40s, 50s, 60s, and into the 70s. Our thoughts and prayers are with Simon and family at this time.
I will do a full league round up tonight when back in the 'Borough however just a few comments on Scarlets v Ulster and Saracens v Exeter. Sadly my doom and gloom re the new tackle laws has come to fruition. The Scarlets should never have been awarded a penalty try. What was the defender supposed to do? Stand there like a Spanish Matador and wave the scrum half through. If there was a guilty player then it was Andrew Trimble but his swinging arm went unpunished. Then we come to the yellow card of Jake Ball. By the letter of the new law it was yellow but come on! It was a nonsense to see him in the bin. A tap on the backside and a strong suggestion to get the tackle lower would have sufficed..... there was NOTHING dangerous about that tackle.
Why, oh why was Brad Barritt allowed to get off scot free for what was a dangerous, illegal and malicious swinging arm to the head of Parling. It was he who caused Parling to stumble into the prop who was already committed to the tackle. Barritt should have gone and how they ignored that after staring at the big screen beggars belief. You could argue the prop's red was justified but I disagree. He was done by the circumstances. A) Parling drove in with his head down B) Barritts illegal actions caused him to stumble further C) the prop already committed to being the second man in the choke tackle couldn't avoid collision.
Then, and this is the bit that made steam come out of my ears was the last gasp defence to prevent Exeter from scoring in the corner. The Sarries players has come diving in taking head, shoulder and neck from behind to cause the ball to be dislodged. How can that be acceptable vs Jake Ball for example.
World Rugby's intentions are spot on but by making this a black & white issue will lead to horrendous mistakes and injustices. They need to rethink this one and rethink it quickly.
Anyone who watched the Aviva highlights last night would have seen on many occasions players dipping their heads and shoulders and driving into the opposition. This is causing contact with the head in the tackle. Also using the Newcastle winning tries as examples how can a player be allowed to drive into the opposition with his head very low to the ground. This is more dangerous than some of the tackles that got penalised elsewhere.
More on this I am sure.
Before I go can I suggest you who commute and have been so badly inconvenienced by the RMT and ASLEF look at the Daily Mail on line and read about the union leaders salaries and how much the unions have subsidised them for travel to avoid the disruption they are causing.
Secondly, time permitting can anyone explain how Nicola 'the Queen of Scotland' Sturgeon thinks Scotland have a hope in hells chance of staying in Europe after Brexit or how Scotland has a hope in hell of being accepted into Europe if they vote for independence. I thought I had my head up my backside at times but she takes the biscuit.
Friday Jan 6th - 08:15
Just a reminder the 1s and 2s are away this weekend but The Crows are at home. There is a bus to Deal & Betteshanger. Contact Mr Geering for details.
So the WRU have bit the bullet and put together a package to lure Leigh Halfpenny back to Wales. With a very generous Toulon offer already on the table I am not convinced this is the way forward for the WRU. They are not as cash rich as the RFU and it sets a dangerous precedent for others to demand similar sums. The WRU are also on the verge of having to take over Newport Gwent Dragons who have failed to attract new investment. I see this less of a problem and actually if the WRU are sensible they will be directing the other regions to be diverting their up and coming talent towards the Dragons to give them better quality experiences than they get when farmed out to clubs in the Welsh leagues.
Christian Day, Chair of the Players Association has criticised the way the new laws of 'contact with the head' have been introduced and like others questions the possible negative impact the laws will have on the game. bbc.co.uk
Sale could be £500k the poorer if Castleford win their case regarding the Solomona switch of codes.
Johnny Sexton starts his comeback post injury when he will run out against Zebre. If he stays fit he will surely be on the plane to New Zealand.
Well done Northampton Saints. Another overseas player on his way to you. David Ribbans, Western Stormers lock.
1000 days to go to Japan RWC 2019. Get saving. It will be great.
Newcastle v Bath tonight. Standout Aviva tie is Wasps v Leicester on Sunday. Be fascinating to see how Leicester pull themselves together against table topping Wasps. Scarlets v Ulster should be a cracker too. Pick of the weekend is Racing 92 v Munster. Should be a passionate affair, on and off the field.
Its the 3rd round of the FA Cup this weekend but despite some intriguing minnows vs monsters ties the FA Cup has lost some of its appeal. It certainly isn't the attraction it was when I was a kid in the 60s/70s.
Sir Andy Murray continues to fly the flag for British tennis but the story that caught my eye was the one that the F1 British Grand Prix could be lost after 2019. Many would say: 'who cares' but this isn't about F1 it is about money... AGAIN! The costs are getting out of control and the revenue is falling a long way behind. Sound familiar? Rugby will go the same way unless the clubs and the blazers 'wake up and smell the coffee'.
Greed, and bloody mindedness. Now the Civil Servants are demanding more pay because of the pressures of managing Brexit. They will work the same hours, they will do the same job just with a different priority, they will get paid VERY well and they will continue to enjoy the generous perks of the job.
Finally I nearly threw something at the TV last night as I listened to the RMT representative bad mouth the BBC, the report on driver only trains and Chris Grayling. I tried hard to be objective but it was impossible to see any positives in the RMT argument when it was so incoherent and when not so it was so entrenched as to be childish. Re Chris Grayling, he does need to stop being being a pompous ass and start banging heads together.
Bridgnorth awaits so blogging might be difficult.
Thursday Jan 5th - 11:45
If there was ever a reminder about being careful out on the roads I experienced it this morning. Firstly with the temperatures at -4C having some idiot no more than 3ft from your bumper doesn't inspire you with confidence so pulling over and with one finger prominently raised waving him through made sense. Then just past the Dorset Arms in Wythiam a car was blocking the lane. It was on its roof having slid on ice onto the banking before rolling back into the road. The ambulance was there so I hope the driver was ok.
One person who isn't ok is Manu Tuilagi. He's out for the rest of the season with ACL damage. Whilst only 25 is his body telling him the game is up. Retire now! It maybe a sensible call but........
Fascinating that Tom Youngs has denied the rumours there was a players' revolt at the heart of Cockerill's demise. No smoke without fire is what I say.
SKY Sports website suggests Martin Johnson is an option for Leicester. After his pathetic management of England that would be a tough call. Having been in New Zealand for RWC 2011 I would suggest Johnson isn't up to the task and should bask in the glory of his playing days. A further coaching/managerial disaster would tarnish his wonderful playing career.
The decison on whether Mohed Altrad can own both Gloucester and Montpellier will be made within two weeks. I don't like the idea but a) what do I know and b) what is it to do with me anyway.
Well respected rugby blogger / writer Connor Bennett has suggested that whilst he applauds the new laws to protect players he asks 'could they encourage diving'. PLEASE don't let that happen but it is a good question, especially as I have frequently said contact with the head is often caused by the attacker with the ball and not the defender. Therefore 'simulation', 'cheating' I call it, could creep in to our game. (Search 'The Roar - Your Sports Opinion' on the interweb.)
Steel Cross will see The Crows run out against Cinque Ports on Saturday. With the 2s away at Pulborough and 1st XV at Deal & Betteshanger the short trip to Steel Cross might be appealing.
Bridgnorth host Bedford Athletic. That might be my viewing..... weather dependent of course.
I know you think I am obsessed and one-eyed against the RMT. However I firmly believe their actions are motivated by greed and political anarchy. I now read that they are proposing to strike on Northern Rail over pay. This is Northern Rail where they have guards and no driver only trains. The union feels the deal their members get is worse than those in the South. Ffffffnnnnn BRILLIANT!!!! Get them to move down South and run the services those on strike don't want to run. You then fill the vacancies up North with those who are unemployed and would WILLINGLY accept the deal those working on Northern Rail currently enjoy. Win - Win me thinks. By the way Mike 'Loadsa' Cash gets paid whether there is a strike or not. The guards on strike don't. Selfish b'st..d.
Wednesday Jan 4th - 09:20
So 'Cockers' gets sent packing by the Tigers but that big old softy Eddie Jones says he might not turn up as Sunday roast afterall as there could be a spot for him in the England set up. We'll wait and see.
Dylan must prove his fitness if he is to regain his England spot and captain the side into the 6 Nations. He's going to Portugal for the training camp so there is a chance but I don't see it happening myself. I believe not only won't he get back in the side but he might lose any hope of the The Lions too. Jamie George is in fine form and Rory Best is second only to Dane Cole in the world rankings..... in MY opinion.
Toulon shoot themselves in the foot, or rather shoot Leigh halfpenny in the foot. If you haven't seen it find the clip of him about to kick for goal when the stadium sound system blares out the Star Wars theme.
Wales are hit by an enormous injury blow as Taulupe Faletau suffers another knee injury. His 6 Nations spot, and therefore Lions berth is in jeopardy.
Ireland suffer a similar fate with Ultan Dillane of Connacht being ruled out of the early 6 Nations encounters with an ankle injury.
Racing 92 are spitting chips after Johan Goosen walks away from his contract to take up a non rugby job back home in South Africa. It is clear in his mind his contract with Racing 92 counts for nothing. Racing have different ideas and are suing him for breach of contract. I sincerely hope the French side win this one because as I have said before these lucrative contracts cannot be ignored by players chasing the big bucks. You sign a deal you have an obligation. Fail in that obligation then suffer the consequences. Guess what? Yes, you are right! There is a slime ball, money grabbing slug of an agent slittering around in the background.
There is a good piece on the Rugby World website about how we shouldn't make comparisons between soccer and rugby. As you know I do and will continue to do so. They do however go onto say that the sacking of Cockerill, and the rumours surrounding Jim Mallinder at Saints, has more than a hint of soccer style panic around results. Andy Robinson suffered a similar fate as did Mike Ford. The latter already under the microscope at Toulon. It comes as no suprise this is happening. Results means bums on seats, progression in lucrative tournaments, advertising and sponsorship revenue, TV revenue. Without these a club would quickly be in serious financial trouble as players wages escalate, and running costs climb. If a new coach is the answer to heading off a decline in results and therefore income I expect this merry-go-round of coaches will quicken apace.
Have we seen the last of the New Zealand great Conrad Smith. Twice a World Cup winner and now plying his trade at Pau in France. Or he was until he limped off this weekend with an ankle injury requiring surgery. If it is his last game then sad but his place in rugby folklore is already assured.
Outside rugby I see the Yankee Doodle Dandy Bradley has got the boot from Swansea City after just 85 days and Mike Phelan lasted just three months up at Hull. Please don't let rugby get like this...... but I fear it will.
Bradford Bulls, once the biggest and best Rugby League side in the country, actually along the M60/M62 corridor because that is where Rugby is League is played, has finally been liquidated. Let that be a lesson for our great game. If you don't share my concerns then consider this...... for one of the biggest games in the Championship; the Rotherham v Doncaster derby 1871 people turned up to watch. You do the maths and see how far the results takes you. Even when you add in the RFUs £500k per club per season it is no wonder London Welsh are about to disappear and Jersey are having to take drastic measures to survive.
I am off to catch up on the Brexit news. Yes I do need to catch up on my sleep and this seems the best way forward.
Tuesday Jan 3rd - 10:00
So the Cockerill has crowed his last. The abrasive Cockerill has been under the microscope for some time and it could be argued packing him off to the food processors is overdue. A poor run of form, some antagonistic comments towards his detractors and a less than positive attititude to the RFU all contributed to his demise. Injuries haven't helped him of course but Leicester Tigers do have a large squad and other clubs have been in the same boat. The key question now is 'who will replace him'. No-one springs to mind, unless of course New Zealander Aaron Mauger takes permanent control.
Having watched Munster v Leinster and now Scarlets v Cardiff, two cracking games played at pace and intensity with long passages of play uninterrupted by the referees whistle. The common factor between the two: Nigel Owens. He played the game at a decent level for a while and his 'chatty' but no nonsense style lends itself to having a rapport and empathy with the players, so often lacking with today's officials. Let Owens' way prevail and let the likes of Ben Whitehouse take note. Knowing every minute detail of the law book is less important than 'knowing' the game itself.
This weekend sees Racing 92 host Munster, the match postponed because of the sudden and tragic death of Anthony Foley. Well worth setting the recorders for this one.
Chris Robshaw adds to Eddie Jones concerns as he misses the England training camp with a shoulder problem. Robshaw that is not Jones.
Going back to the Scarlets game, a number of players impressed, and I will stick my neck out again and say 'Scott Williams and Jonathan Davies could be The Lions first choice centre pairing'. There is a lot for this to happen before it becomes reality and if my foot of the table Fantasy Football position is anything to go by then I could also be talking rubbish.
Grass roots club rugby starts again on Saturday. We are away at Deal & Betteshanger and being the first game post the Richard Siggs era I was hoping to travel over but my mum takes priority I'm afraid. I'll be in Bridgnorth. If they're at home then I might watch them.
In other sport soccer dominates unless you are vaguely interested in darts.
The train fare rise is a talking point in a lot of papers. It is difficult to comprehend how a franchise like Southern can put their fares up. Many have said the cost of train travel in the UK is ten times that of Europe. That is true but train fares are heavily subsidised by the governments in Europe. Here the users of the train network pay. If you check your tax summary you will see there is already a sizeable chunk of tax that goes to transport. If the Government were to subsidise the UK network further as many would like I ask the same question I have asked before: 'where will the money come from?'. Answer: higher taxes, or from the education or policing or NHS budgets. There isn't a money tree in the gardens of Whitehall. Your choice. Some would say tax big business and hit the mega rich. I have a sympathy with that argument but even that will still result in us ultimately paying as business pushes up its prices to offset the tax. Yes I do have an A Level in Economics.
I thought I would bring you three New Year's messages you might have missed
Kin Jong-un: We are close to having long range missiles and nuclear warheads. 2017 the year you should plan to kiss your ass goodbye.
Donald Trump: Only a few weeks to go before I get my hands on the nuclear trigger. 2017, enjoy it while you can.
Vladimir Putin: Who said the lunatics will never be able to take over the asylum. 2017 maybe my last as ruler of the mighty Russian nation...... and maybe your last......
Sobering thoughts indeed.
Finally as Her majesty The Queen missed both the Christmas and New Year Celebrations may I wish her a full and speedy recovery.