Thursday 15th Oct - 09:00
We are at that stage in the tournament where with no midweek games to review the papers have pages to fill so they fill it with nonsense in some cases but in others well thought through comment.
The latter comes in the form of a well written piece by Dean Ryan in The Guardian on the vagaries of rugby's disciplinary system. It highlights how technology and lawyers are actually making life more complex than it needs to be and common sense has gone out of the window.
There is an interesting piece in the Organ Of Truth where Jaco Peyper is doubting the validity of the ban Ross Ford and Jonny Gray received, and he was the referee.
Another well written article featured in last night's Evening Standard asked the question about the injury risks associated with rugby. It concluded that increasing size and speed were the key factors to consider. Something we have often debated. The article also did very fairly state what a magnificent tournament RWC has been to date.
SKY, surprise, surprise are filling their pages with troublemaking and again are targeting Stuart Lancaster.
Looking ahead South Africa field a very strong side to face Wales on Saturday. Wales are yet to announce their side but I expect James Hook will get the nod over Tyler Morgan for the centre slot with Anscombe at full back. There are a few who give Wales a 'chance' in this one. I think they have missed a crucial word out: 'no'. The injury toll will finally catch up with the boys in red.
In the run up to Saturday the Boks have taken great delight in rubbing England's nose in it by twittering about how nice it was of them to give up their training base so soon in the competition.
Wales on the other hand had a day out at Thorpe Park. Apparently half the Surrey Ambulance Service was on stand-by in case of injury.
Ireland appear willing to risk Johnny Sexton against the Pumas. A foolish move in my opinion. They have back up, albeit not as good as Sexton. If they win, and I expect them to, and go into the semis Sexton will be crucial. Hey ho! What do I know?
As always there is much to get your blood boiling in the tabloid press: the auntie from Connecticut who is suing her 8 year old, yes EIGHT year old nephew for $83,000 for breaking her wrist when they were hugging each other. The auntie either has osteoporosis or the nephew is Clark Kent.
Then there is the interview with Jurgen Klopp: I am joing Liverpool for the challenge, it is a great club, it is the best league in the world, the club's history, the MONEY. Jurgen, lets be honest here........ it is the £5m a year salary isn't it.
Finally, has anyone seen Warwick Davis' caravan????? Go on-line for more info.
Wednesday 14th Oct - 08:45
Here we are at the business end of RWC 2015 so how has it gone so far.
The choice of stadiums has been inspired. I for one was worried that selecting football grounds over rugby grounds was a risk. Yet again I have been proven wrong. Selecting modern and sizeable football grounds has proven to be right. Full houses at most, record crowds at many, great atmospheres and great facilities for players and spectators alike.
I use Leicester as an example. Welford Road vs King Power Stadium. 24,000 vs 30,000 . 50% modern with good seating vs 100% modern with good seating. Cramped changing facilities vs modern spacious changing rooms. Poor media facilities vs top notch media facilities. It is a no brainer.
Certainly Brighton was a fantastic choice and wow what a stadium and what an atmosphere
Pretty good to say the least but you would expect that wouldn't you. One beneficiary of England's demise could be Wayne Barnes, he could now be in line to do the final. Nigel Owens, as always, has been exemplary. JP Doyle has been impressive but has a tendency to showboat at times. Glen Jackson has also impressed. It has been pleasing to see the application of law has been consistent but managing the put-in at the scrum has been woeful.
A 'curate's egg' to be honest. It is important for decisions to be correct and overall the TMO has added value in this area. I also think they have been a good safety net in terms of foul or dangerous play. Halting play and bringing the referees attention to unacceptable acts has been positive. The O'Brien punch, the Tuilagi knee, the Hooper late shoulder charge.
Where things have not been so good is the time it takes to get to a decision. Likewise there are interventions by TMOs that are not required and not relevant. The main frustration is where some referees are using the TMO as a 'comfort blanket'.
Obviously I am biased here having been a volunteer but from what I have seen, and the feedback I have had about Cardiff, The Olympic Park, Twickenham, Wembley and Milton Keynes they are adding significant value to the tournament pre and post match. It is a great idea and appears to be working well
Transport (in Wales and to and from Wales)
It sounds as if this was and is a shambles. Too few trains, poor planning, lack of flexibility by operators. This is a real shame if your first and last memory of RWC 2015 is travel chaos getting in and out of Cardiff
The Teams, The Games, The Players
I am struggling to think of a game that hasn't had some form of WOW! factor. The players have stepped up to the plate and it appears the teams have embraced the tournament with plenty of off field PR activities and community based interaction. Japan and Georgia have captured the peoples hearts and to date the Georgian captain Mamuka Gorgodze being one of the stars of the tournament.
ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT. I was very concerned that the high ticket prices and the heavy emphasis on sponsorship would see stadiums half full and many seats taken by corporate hangers on. Wrong again!!! The fans have been magnificent. Twickenham a sea of red, Millennium a mass of green, Leicester City Stadium bouncing to the drum beat of the 'bonkers' Argentinians, the cries of 'Nippon' ringing around Brighton and Kingsholm, Newcastle becoming a suburb of Glasgow. Nothing more needs to be said.
I think its fair to say RWC 2015 has been simply fantastic to date. Let's hope it continues.
A quick look at the news.
Former RFU chief Martyn Lewis has been pontificating about how he warned the RFU about Lancaster and the pitfalls of promoting him to head coach. This is the same dickhead who was in charge as the RWC 2011 England debacle was taking place. Get back on your zimmer and mind your own business is what I say.
Paul O'Connell's international career has been ended by the injury suffered against France. Let us all stand and applaud a true gentleman of the game and a genuine player of world class. Ireland will be inspired to go onto win the tournament 'for Paul'.
Ross Ford and Jonny Gray have effectively been booted out of the tournament after the citing commissioner found them guilty of a dangerous tip tackle on Jack Lam of Samoa. It feels a bit harsh.
Sean O'Brien misses the Argentina clash after being handed a one week ban for thumping Pacal Pape. This is a blow (pardon the pun) as Ireland are already without O'Connell and Peter O'Mahony and the silence on Johnny Sexton doesn't bode well for his availability. Welcome to world of Wales.
Finally the only thing Eli Walker hasn't done is 'shake it all about' ....... in, out, in. He's back despite being still unable to play. Bizarre.
Tuesday 13th Oct - 08:45
Winter approaches and the heating has finally been turned on. Yes the heating is on.
Is the heat on us as we lose another league fixture. Absolutely not. League leaders Sevenoaks maintained their unbeaten start beating us 21 - 0 at Steel Cross on Saturday but it sounds as if we played some great rugby and for long periods were the better side. Our forwards in particular impressed. Sevenoaks however defended strongly and took their chances as they became available. I am reliably informed that the catalyst was their Kiwi outside half who when in possession bossed the game brilliantly. The men in blue deserved the win but our boys can look forward with confidence. Players are returning and there are plenty of games left to get our season onto a winning footing.
Elsewhere Tunbridge Wells also maintain their unbeaten run beating Old Alleynians. Horsham were big winners at home to Thanet Wanderers. Hove enjoyed the trip home from Ashford after their narrow win. Beckenham and Deal & Betteshanger enjoyed home wins against Old Colfeians and Dartfordians respectively. We lie 11th in the league.
In Sussex 1 our 2s failed to overcome Seaford and sadly prop up the table in 12th spot. Haywards Heath sit top after the dreaded 'HWO' with Hove 2s pulling out. Lewes are in second spot after their comfortable win away at Chichester III. Hellingly and Crawley were also winners.
In London 3 South East a mixed weekend for the Sussex clubs. Burgess Hill losing at home to Aylesford Bulls and Cranbrook demolishing Uckfield 50 - 5. In the all Sussex clash Eastbourne beat Pulborough in a high scoring encounter. Finally Heathfield & Waldron scored the best result with an away win at Old Dunstonians. Cranbrook stay top just ahead of Bromley who beat Gillingham Anchorians at Gillingham.
In London 1 South Brighton slipped up at home to Guildford. Our friends at Medway beat Chiswick to maintain their good start. Maidstone enjoyed their journey to Gosport & Fareham coming away with a 15 - 26 win. Charlton Park were less fortunate on their travels losing 36 - 17 at Twickenham. Sutton & Epsom go top after beating Tottonians.
In the national London league TJs remain top with their perfect start intact after a 33 - 20 win over East Grinstead. Chichester also won at home with a 36 - 10 win over bottom placed Eton Manor.
Further afield Salisbury beat Newbury Blues and now sit 6th in South West 1 East. In Midlands 1 West Bridgnorth drew with Dudley Kingswinford 19 - 19.
Tomorrow I'll throw some opinions of the tournament out there for you to ponder. This will include comments on the use of the TMO, referees, stadiums, etc. I'll also comment on 'The Pack' of volunteers.
As MasterCard is one of the key sponsors I'll leave you with this......
Outside Twickenham station one very proactive volunteer was heard shouting 'as you exit the station turn right for the town's bars and restaurants, turn left for souvenirs and the fanzone, and straight on for Twickenham Stadium the graveyard of English rugby'.
Monday 12th Oct - 10:00
What a weekend of World Cup rugby. A Chinese meal, a glass (or three) of Malbec and New Zealand v Tonga kicked it all off on Friday, this after a tortuous journey from Crowborough to Salisbury. New Zealand didn't have everything their own way but nevertheless cruised into knockout stages unbeaten. Still my favourites to win but....................
So we arrive at Saturday. I suspected Samoa v Scotland would be close but not that close and definitely not that exciting. 'You score, we score'. End to end stuff. Highly entertaining and compulsive viewing. What an advert for rugby. Will Scotland progress beyond the quarter final? Sadly no but they have got this far...... unlike some.
Then the 'BIG one'; Australia v Wales. Twickenham becoming a small corner of Wales for this one. The stadium awash with red and a smattering of gold. The atmosphere electric and the air crackling with tension. (This according to my daughter and son-in-law who were there). Wales started much the stronger and looked like world champions elect. The forwards led by Sam Warburton and Talupe Faletau were simply fantastic and Gareth Davies at #9 was yet again in superb form. The backs worked tirelessly to break down the Australian defence with Biggar pulling the strings. Liam Williams was outstanding.
Australia showed their class, and this is where my 'but....' in paragraph one leads to. The gold and green were simply extraordinary particularly in defence and must now be serious contenders for lifting the trophy on October 31st. Their backs marshalled by Foley and Genia were resolute in defence and lively in attack. Giteau and co will be a force to reckon with and Scotland will struggle to keep them at bay. Up front Pocock was again a handful with his seven buddies all making positive contributions.
No tries and just 21 points but this was a classic from start to finish. The game was won at the death when Wales failed to exploit the two man advantage with two Australians on the 'naughty boy step'. The defensive effort was immense and highlighted why the odds on Australian winning RWC 2015 have been slashed. It also highlights that whilst Wales are a very good side they lack that ruthless dagger to the heart cutting edge of the All Blacks.
Wales now face South Africa. No easy task especially as the team ambulance has whisked yet another player; Liam Williams to the treatment room where he can only sit and watch the rest of the proceedings play out.
The fun didn't end there with Argentina and Namibia putting on a fantastic show of running rugby. Yes, some of this came from basic mistakes but what fun and to paraphrase old Brucie 'didn't Namibia do well'. Argentina will not be an easy foe for the Irish.
As Twickenham turned red so the Millennium turned green. The Irish turned up in their thousands to support their team. The French turned up to support but not to play. This was a good game but Les Bleus were disappointing. That said Ireland played very well and as I have said consistently they really are the dark horses of this tournament. They have suffered two hammer blows with O'Connell being stretchered off and Sexton limping off. Whilst no player is bigger than the team these are talisman for the men in green and their loss will be a big blow. The French I fear have again underachieved and must already be booking their tickets home. Beating the All Blacks is not going to happen........... or is it??
Then with nothing to play for but pride USA v Japan was another good to watch game of rugby. The Japanese can feel hard done by being the only side to win three of their four games and not to progress. They have played without fear and way above expectation. I think they have been the peoples' team of the tournament. They host RWC 2019 and will put on a good show. I hope to be there by the way....... savings permitting.
So we can now turn our attention to the knockout stages. I go All Blacks, South Africa, Australia and Ireland to progress.
Whilst travelling back from Salisbury yesterday morning there were some good articles on Radio 5 Live about England and their dilemma. Many pundits are saying blame the players, they were not good enough. Others were saying blame the coaches, the tactics and selection was all wrong. This will rumble on and on. The one thing that did resonate was how on earth was Luther Burrell left out of the squad? Good question for another day.
Some late breaking news Lawrence Ross, former Crowborough RFC player and son of our good friend Gavin Ross has just been selected to play rugby league for Canada vs USA. Congratulations to him. A GREAT achievement.
Oh, and I meant to mention that England beat Uruguay on Saturday. A game of no consequence to anyone sadly.