Friday 13th Nov - 08:00
The news broke as I was driving from Neath to Bridgnorth; Lancaster has fallen on his sword, or did he? Was he pushed?
Not even the most one eyed England supporter can say anything other than England's RWC 2015 campaign was a disaster. Millions of pounds was lavished on the team. Everything possible was in their favour; home advantage, the schedule, etc, etc yet they failed. Something had to give and it was Stuart Lancaster.
I have never met him but I hear he is a fine person; highly principled though and this might have contributed to his downfall. Two principles in particular; his demand for discipline and the highest standards of behaviour, and the no overseas players rule.
In my view the first did impact. The loss of Hartley in particular, a natural leader with an edge to his game. Tuilagi too was a missed and if fit would have made the Burgess debacle irrelevant. Burgess would not have been included. In order to deliver discipline he can be overly 'headmasterish'. Too prescribed thus stifling the life out of players.
The no overseas policy was less of a factor. I think he was right in this regard. Steffon Armitage was not the only solution. There were good back row forwards playing in England who could have been selected but weren't.
I remain firm in my belief that, for some unknown reason, he was swayed into a) changing the game plan during the tournament from a successful formula pre-tournament, b) focussing on not losing to Wales rather than how to beat Wales, and c) not being bold in his selection; George Ford and Henry Slade during the tournament, Burrell and Cipriani pre-tournament.
It is strange that his acolytes have survived. Me, I would have got rid of Farrell and Catt, kept Rowntree but they all have survived. I think Farrell has a lot to answer for.
Where now? Most observers more learned than I are saying 'you've got to go southern hemisphere'. I disagree. I think in Rob Baxter, Connor O'Shea and Jim Mallinder there are three guys who could do a good job. They have proven track records of getting the best out of players, but more importantly allow players to lead on the field. One of Lancaster's problems was he stifled any form of on field creativity and decision making. Let us be clear in 2003 it was Johnson, Delaglio, Back, Hill, Dawson, Wilkinson et al calling the shots. Woodward was sidelined when crucial on field decisions were required. This was noticeably missing in 2015.
On SKY last night Dean Ryan also highlighted one of the key factors in England's demise. The National side and the club's are not all rowing in the same direction. They are not under the same umbrella and therefore have different, and sometimes conflicting agendas. This is not easy to fix.
OK, what would I do? My No.1 target would be Baxter. He knows the English game, he is good with people and has a proven track record of getting the best out of players and bringing players through the system. My second choice would be one of the guys managing a Super 15 franchise in New Zealand and NOT one of the current headline international coaches. You want someone who is hungry for success and would see this as a stepping stone into the top job: All Black coach. In my mind, being cynical, Jake White et al would view the England job as a pension filler and wouldn't necessarily be as hungry as other lesser known coaches. Why is Gatland so keen to succeed with Wales? Easy. To follow Henry and Henson into the All Black role.
Let's move on. Quins were impressive last night and it was good to see O'Shea giving the youngsters their head. If you were ever in doubt about the death of French international rugby then Montpellier is the showcase. Thirteen South Africans in, ten French players out. This my friends is where English rugby is heading. The only thing holding back the tide is the salary cap. If that were be to be scrapped then rugby would die a slow death outside the very top flight.
Friday Club beckons.
Good luck to the boys today. 1s and Crows away, 2s at home. Good luck to ALL the minis, ours and our guests at our mini festival on Sunday. The planning is spot on and I think the weather will hold. Yet again due to family commitments I am in Salisbury and can't be there...... SORRY.
Tuesday 10th Nov - 08:40
A quick run around the leagues.
Once again we enjoyed a good win against Ashford to move us into 9th. Sevenoaks continue their fine form with an away at Horsham, albeit narrowly, to stay top. Tunbridge Wells stay on their heels, also with a perfect record after beating Old Colfeians comfortably. Beckenham and Deal & Betteshanger enjoyed home wins against Thanet Wanderers and Hove respectively to stay within touching distance of the leaders. In the other game Dartfordians enjoyed their short trip to Old Alleynians snatching a 12 - 14 win.
In Sussex 1 our game at Crawley was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. Haywards Heath continue their fine form beating Worthing IIIs. They remain in 2nd spot however as Lewes beat Hove 2nds at Hove. Horsham II, Chichester III and Brighton II all won at home against Hellingly, Midhurst and Seaford respectively. We remain rooted to the bottom of the table.
Moving up into London 3 South East Heathfield & Waldron came away from Eastbourne with a fine 3 - 27 win. In the other all Sussex contest Pulborough beat Uckfield. Burgess Hill enjoyed a narrow win over Park House meaning they move off the bottom leaving that spot for Uckfield. Aylesford Bulls remain top after beating Gillingham Anchorians in Gillingham. Cranbrook's fine start has been stuttering and a home loss to Bromley doesn't help. In the other game Old Dunstonians lost to Foilkestone in a high scoring game.
Above us in London 1 South Brighton enjoyed a good home win against Chiswick. Our good friends at Charlton Park enjoyed the journey home from Havant after their 28 - 30 win, Medway took the Kentish honours beating Maidstone.
In the national league TJs had a good home win against Shelford to remain 2nd. East Grinstead lost by 1 point away to Colchester and sit 4th. Chichester lost at home by 1 point to Bracknell. The London Irish Demented Birds stay top with a perfect record.
In the elite game Sarries are going well as are Exeter. Baxter is a fine coach. Bath minus Sam Burgess are doing OK as are Quins. Early days though, as Jim Mallinder has made clear.
Scarlets have been going well in the Pro 12 as have the two Scottish regions.
North American rugby is going professional. Great news for the profile of the sport there and globally. This will be heightened when London Irish play Sarries in New York early next year.
RFU are looking at England kit man Dave Tennison over claims he urged players to buy shares which then fell in value. It is thought some players got preoccupied with this during the RWC 2015 campaign. Does this mean that English players were YEX - an old English word for sobbing, and is Tennison a DACOIT - a member of the robber class in India.
Surprise, surprise the Russians have been caught as dope cheats. I suppose that England rugby being caught as dopes is much less serious.
If you want to catch up on other rugby news Stuart Barnes weekly round up is worth reading.
To let you know the club is cancelling its SKY subscription and switching to BT. This means we will not have the England Autumn games but can show much more rugby week in week out.
Pocock, one of the Ozzie players of the year, is considering a move to France. Yet again QED.
Finally a correction. The Crows went down 21 - 0 at home to Newick and not 16 - 0. The key point remains: the Crows played very, very well and the game was much closer than the score suggests.
No blog for a few days. Another family funeral. May my Uncle Maldwyn rest in peace. He'll be missed.
Sunday 8th Nov - 10:45
Today is Remembrance Sunday. Let us remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for us. Let us always honour them.
It is with sadness that I heard that Peter Cowie, former town mayor passed away last week. Peter was a good friend of the club. Our thoughts are with his family.
Elsewhere let me start with praise and thanks for the Friday Club who got the place looking a picture in readiness of yesterday's past players lunch. Dave and Damper got the pitches into a good state to play. A miracle in my view and justified based on the quality of the games played.
So Sam Burgess, as predicted by this site last week, is back off to OZ to play rugby league. It comes as no surprise when you consider his fiancée is Australian and they are due to marry soon, his brothers are in Oz, his mum who has a great influence over his life is in OZ, and in OZ he isn't taking stick for the RWC 2015 debacle. The whole situation is another embarrassment for the RFU and will most definitely make Luther Burrell feel even more like rubbish.
I understand that there was a huge turnout at Gowerton's home fixture vs Crymych. A certain Nigel Owens was the referee.
If you ever wondered what made the All Blacks so special then look no further than the fact that as soon as they arrived home they took the Cup to Jerry Collins grave. A very poignant gesture.
The 1st XV put on a spectacular showing yesterday. Despite the swamp like conditions they played with a high degree of skill both in attack and defence. Ashford played well enough but we were very, very good. Nick Hill was excellent but the overwhelming consensus was Keith Brooker was clear man of the match.
My thanks also go to Jackie for lunch, Sandra for her efforts getting things ready for the 'past players' lunch and to Graysey for pulling it all together.
The Crows put up a great showing against Newick 1s in our other home fixture. Apparently we played very well and the 16 - 0 defeat was somewhat misleading in terms of our contribution to the game.
Later today our Under 14s host Guernsey. The only game we could get on after the pitches took a hammering yesterday. Our minis will be training as normal. I hope we don't lose any in the mud.
One positive thing to come out of yesterday was the condition of the D Pitch. The new drainage is working and that pitch is in perfect condition despite the weather. Once the posts go up in the next week or so this will be a great asset and save us much hassle.
Outside rugby the mighty Foxes continue to fly high.
Yesterday Mrs Chairman and I received the annual summary of our tax affairs from HMRC. There are many people in this country who need help because they are not blessed with the luck or good fortune many of us have had. They have physical disabilities, mental issues, educational challenges and live in areas of economic deprivation. As decent human beings we should all be pleased that this country does help these people. On the other hand you have to question the fact that over 25% of tax revenues go on welfare. I am sorry but this cannot be right. There are far too many people living off benefits and milking the system. This has to stop. It has to stop especially when you look at how little is spent on education, and public order and safety by comparison.
Thursday 5th Nov - 08:00
If Guy Fawkes was alive today would the Houses of Parliament be his target or would the offices of the RFU be more appropriate. An organisation yet again thrown into chaos.
Anyway it is wrong to be discussing or celebrating Mr Fawkes as he was a terrorist. It now seems that terrorists were to blame for the Russian plane disaster and we must therefore remember just how vulnerable we all are and think of the victims and their families.
Well, I guess the atmosphere around England must be pretty gloomy right now but it was to be expected. I had hoped that England would change their game plan but as predicted yesterday they didn't. I am certain this was because they couldn't. Over the last 5 weeks I have consistently said that the squad selection was poor and the management was poor.
This wasn't written recently, this was written four years ago in the wake of England's debacle in New Zealand during RWC 2011. Not much has changed has it?
One suggestion from Mr Simon Halliday is to take England out of the control of the RFU. He wants a separate 'elite' team to manage England.
Now I am a cynical old so-and-so but this smacks of self interest as Mr Halliday is Chairman of Professional Club Rugby. I am certain what he is saying is that England is an asset generating millions of £££s and he wants to get his hands on it. He also wants to protect the interest of clubs. 'The club structure will not be broken here, it is incredibly powerful'. This sums it up for me.
Take any Aviva club. These are huge businesses with high levels of costs to cover. They need to fill their stadiums with paying customers who are also buying replica shirts, eating burgers and collecting programmes. In order to do that they need the best players playing winning rugby. It doesn't matter where the players are from. They want those players available throughout the season and not risking them on meaningless international games (making money for someone else; RFU). See the dilemma?
Whilst there is still conflict between the regions in Wales, but less so in Ireland and Scotland these countries with SIGNIFICANTLY fewer resources always perform when it counts. I fear England as an international force is on a slippery slope.
Why does this matter?
Simple. The 12 Aviva clubs will NOT support our level of club rugby the way the RFU do. Without the revenue generated by a successful England side the RFU's ability to help clubs will be greatly reduced.
OK lets move on.
This weekend is one of the highlights of the club's calendar; the Past Players Lunch. A great turnout is expected and high hopes of us kick-starting our season against Ashford.
Friday Club tomorrow. Why not join us. All help is gratefully received.
Finally, remember the truism that 'what goes around, comes around'. Isn't it wonderful that some of the companies that are bombarding you and me about PPI, accident claims and negligent healthcare are now having to pay compensation for their shoddy and shady practices. Hoorah.
Wednesday 4th Nov - 11:00
The papers are already looking ahead to the 2017 British Lions. One consistency in the pundits selections is Alun-Wyn Jones as captain. If he stays fit this is a no brainer. As 2017 is two years away lets stay with the here and now though.
The story that caught my eye was Steffon Armitage saying England players were insulting to suggest he would have been a disruptive force if he had been selected for RWC 2015. Do you know what Steffon, what is really insulting is you suggesting you didn't go to France for the money. That is exactly why you went. As did Abendanon. If you really wanted to play for England you would have returned and played for a premiership club. You didn't so shut it.
What is interesting is the RFU tried to get you back. Guess what the barrier was?......... Money.
Another embarrassment is the Sam Burgess debacle. After all the fuss about his selection there is much talk about him returning to rugby league. I think this is close. I hope Bath and the RFU ask him to repay all the money they invested in him and suggest he looks up loyalty in the dictionary.
The RFU have signed a deal with NFL to host three regular season games at Twickenham. Bet the locals are really overjoyed with that news. Anyway, I think it is a great idea in some respects but a risk in others. More likely to enthuse rugby players about American Football than attract NFL fans to rugby. If the New Orleans Saints are one of the teams then count me in for tickets.
Surprise, surprise the All Blacks have arrived back in New Zealand to a tumultuous reception. I loved the airports ground staff doing the haka and the Qantas staff who wore All Black jerseys on the Sydney to Auckland flight to honour a bet.
Wales have added the Waikato Chiefs, home club of Warren Gatland, to their three test New Zealand tour. Unfortunately the tour is during school time so I won't be going.
Looking through The Gruaniad this morning I am disheartened to see only two 6 Nations players were included in any of the teams of the tournament selected by the pundits. No surprise they were Alun-Wyn Jones and Gareth Davies of Wales. What a sad indictment of the state of 6 Nations rugby.
Outside rugby Mourihno continues to be an arrogant twit. The truth is getting closer: Blair and Bush are liars and they engineered the Iraq war for their own ends. Chilcott still pontificates though which is a disgrace. Mike 'Loadsa' Cash continues to disrupt the lives of hard working Londoners. I thought the late Bob Crowe was a pain but he was an amateur by comparison to this Trotskyist troublemaker. Finally someone has suggested police cars should carry adverts to raise cash........'For crime there is the police. For everything else there is MasterCard. Priceless!'
Returning to Lions 2017. If you are thinking of going look at Gullivers Travel. They are excellent and New Zealand is fantastic.
Tuesday 3rd Nov - 10:30
There is still much in the papers about RWC 2015 and most of it reinforces the view that this really was the best ever tournament to date.
The BBC have good pieces by Jeremy Guscott and Tom Fordyce, both well worth reading. Fordyce in particular captures the essence of the last 8 weeks perfectly.
Congratulations to Dan Carter on being elected World Player of the Year. Equally well done to Sonny Bill Williams for his generous gesture to Charlie Lines. To give his medal away like that was quite remarkable. It was equally generous of World Rugby to award Williams a second medal. Nice story.
OK! To yesterdays question. Will anyone be able to exceed the standards set by England 2015? My view is NO!
Let us start with money. No union outside the RFU has the financial clout to put on such a show as we just witnessed. Even if they did it is questionable whether any other union would have the appetite to spend as the RFU did. Japan have already cut back their expenditure with the final being moved due to cost cutting.
Now move on to scale. France, Australia, South Africa and the USA have the quantity and quality of stadia to match that put forward by England 2015 but it is difficult to see how any other country can match this.
Scale part two. In truth in every country except New Zealand and South Africa* rugby is a secondary sport and it would be challenging to see how they would generate the interest we have seen here in England.
Scale part three. This RWC was geographically held in a small area. This allowed fans from all parts of the UK, and to be fair from Europe, to get to games very easily. As an aside the UK has a diverse population meaning many non UK citizens, eg Boks, Ozzies, New Zealanders were able to get to games. This would not be the case elsewhere.
The importance of international rugby. This is the most worrying aspect for next time. French rugby is club focussed. They have all the power and all the money. Clubs are filling teams with overseas players at the expense of local talent. This trend is being seen in England too. The Southern Hemisphere on the other hand clearly have a structure aimed at delivering international success. The smaller nations are seeing their players lured away from domestic rugby to places like France and England but also New Zealand and Australia. This makes it difficult for these smaller countries e.g. Tonga and Fiji to grow, especially as some of these players are on contracts that mean retiring from international rugby.
As I type London Irish have just announced the signing of Canadian centre Ciaran Hearn. Quid Erat Demonstrandum me thinks.
Don't get me wrong the next world cup will be great. I hope so I intend to be there. There is just a nagging feeling in my mind that England 2015 has delivered the pinnacle and that international rugby is going to struggle in the wake of growing club power and finances.
* for the record soccer is huge in South Africa amongst the black community and is therefore by numbers of spectators the biggest sport.
Monday 2nd Nov - 11:15
The final curtain has fallen on my holiday but also on RWC 2015. I think it is fair to say that this was the best ever Rugby World Cup.
The matches were excellent. It is difficult to recall a game that wasn't exciting. Yes there were some that were a little one sided but even those contained some great rugby.
The tier two, tier three nations came to play and play they did. They brought colour and fun to the tournament.
The spectators / fans were simply fantastic. The Argentinians bouncing, the Japanese bowing, the All Blacks crowing, the English whingeing, the Irish and Welsh singing.
The stadiums were brilliant. Records broken everywhere you went.
The volunteers added to the experience without doubt, and were instrumental in bringing the fanzones alive. Well done to them.
The refereeing, with a few exceptions, was top drawer and definitely helped the game to flow.
The organisation from start to finish was exemplary. England 2015 take a bow.
Finally the teams themselves. Without them there is no tournament and they stepped up to the plate and delivered
The semis delivered the final we all expected. The first half of the final was tense, edgy, combative and attritional. The All Blacks dominated and it was only a question of time. The second half was fantastic with some great rugby from both sides. Nonu scoring a brilliant try in his final All Black game, Carter's drop goal, Richie McCaw doing what McCaw does best sums up why they won.
The Ozzies didn't lie down and were a credit to the game. They exploited Ben Smith's lapse in discipline with two good tries. Game on...... but not for long.
Without doubt the best side won.
A few talking points. The forward pass. It should have been picked up and wasn't. The yellow card. Right or wrong? Right in my view. The high tackle and that advantage. Get on with it. Right decision.
Some personal highlights
Volunteering - just great fun
Being at Brighton Arena when Japan beat South Africa
Wales beating England and getting out of the group
Watching the Argentinian fans going mad
Scotland v Samoa
The lower tier teams playing so well
Namibia v Georgia
And a few low spots
England's woeful performance
Craig Joubert running off at end of Scotland v Australia
The number of adverts during ITVs pre, half time and post game coverage
Wales LONG list of injuries
A question for you to ponder. Will future tournaments match the heights of RWC 2015? My view is NO!. Reasons tomorrow.