Friday 9th Oct - 08:30
The curtain comes down on the pool stages of RWC 2015 on Sunday. It is good for the tournament there is still much to play for. Scotland have to beat Samoa, no easy task. Japan, by beating USA, could go through to the quarters if Scotland fail in their task. There is much incentive for Australia and Wales to head the group: avoid South Africa. Likewise for France and Ireland: avoid New Zealand. Mathematically even Argentina are not guaranteed to progress but their failing would be the longest of 'long shots'
Looking back the Bokke were ruthless against USA. No quarter given with the USA the first side to be 'nilled' in the tournament.
I understand (from my brother who I was with yesterday) that the Namibia v Georgia game was excellent. Have yet to watch it but it is good to hear that the tier 2 nations really are improving the quality of their play.
Looking ahead New Zealand will crush Tonga tonight and reinforce their favourites tag.
Wales have made some interesting changes to the team to face Australia. Anscombe in, Morgan out. I would have persevered with Morgan as he is one player able to sprinkle some 'Pixie Dust' over otherwise dull encounters. Gareth Anscombe has proven himself in Super 15 rugby and hopefully he will bring a less awestruck opinion of the Ozzies to the Welsh. The front row changes were pretty much as expected. The return of Lee and James is good news. George North in the centre makes sense but I feel for Tyler Morgan who did little wrong against Fiji. The Ozzies will miss Hooper but Israel Folau is fit to face the Dragons. This is a very strong Australia side.
I go Australia and I don't think it will be close.
The hardest game to call is Scotland v Samoa. Vern Cotter has selected his strongest side and this should be strong enough to battle past the South Sea Islanders. Samoa have shuffled their cards and field what could be their best side. They will be determined to finish on a high and not be remembered for losing to Japan. I go Scotland by one or two points.
The most difficult to call is France v Ireland. Ireland have underperformed whilst France have surprised. Avoiding the All Blacks is a huge incentive but in turn doesn't mean a classic RWC 2015 game is in the offing. I go Ireland by a small margin and I remain firm in my belief that Ireland are a genuine outside bet for the tournament.
The England fall out continues with the RFU confirming a major bust up between Mike Catt and Danny Cipriani during pre-tournament training. There are rumblings of major differences of opinion around selection and despite the outward cohesion behind the scenes player unrest was bubbling away under the surface.
Having spent the last few days in Wales there is a certain smugness about those in the principality. Mis-guided in my view as Wales are likely to be brought down to earth with a bump on Saturday.
Oh and England play tomorrow too.
Congratulations to Nadiya for winning Bake Off. A well deserved win with some great bakes.............. unlike England who were clearly half baked.
Wednesday 7th Oct - 09:30
A quick run around the leagues as promised........
We went to Old Alleynians on Saturday with a much weakened side and came away with a 13-3 loss. Yet again for family reasons I couldn't be there but I am reliably informed that our boys played fantastically well and were unlucky not to come away with something from this game.
Elsewhere Sevenoaks are on a mission comfortably beating Hove overtaking Tunbridge Wells at the top of the table. The boys from St Marks beat Beckenham. Horsham enjoyed a high scoring away win at Dartfordians with Deal & Betteshanger and Thanet Wanderers being the other winners. We sit one off the bottom sadly but I am confident that that is only a temporary blip.
It is crazy that you can't postpone games due to unavailability during the RWC 2015. With many of our 2s unavailable because they were at RWC 2015 we cried off our 2s game giving Hellingly an AWO. Hove 2s, Lewes, and Midhurst were all winners. Despite drawing with Horsham II Worthing 3s stay top.
In London 3 South East Eastbourne, The Greenies and Pulborough had good home wins. Uckfield lost, as did Burgess Hill away at Eastbourne. Cranbrook, despite losing to Pulborough, stay top.
Above us Medway beat Charlton Park but Maidstone lost to Tottonians. Brighton also lost away to league leaders Chobham.
Finally TJs continue their excellent form winning away at Westcliff. East Grinstead had a fine home win over Hertford. Chichester beat Gravesend. TJs remain top with G-Force in 4th.
Salisbury didn't play last weekend but Bridgnorth did winning away at Crewe & Nantwich.
A small rant. Like England's pathetic performance in RWC 2015 it is pathetic that clubs can't postpone games during a once in a lifetime event such as RWC 2015 on home soil. I hope the blazers who came up with that intransigent rule enjoyed their evening at Twickenham on Saturday. You can bet they were all there.
What a fantastic result for Romania beating Canada. It wasn't much of a game technically but it was brilliant to watch and great that Romania are making steps back up the rugby ladder. Well done Lyn Howells and his coaching team.
The Fiji v Uruguay game was a thoroughly enjoyable encounter. To see the Uruguayans celebrating their tries as if they had won RWC 2015 was just great. Shame Augustin Ormaechea blotted his copy book with a second yellow card and can't now face England..........
A much changed England side. No surprise there. Slade FINALLY gets a run out. A few players are carrying knocks and with nothing at stake why alienate the clubs by playing them. Obviously with noting at stake Lancaster is giving those who have not featured to date a game. I guess those who have tickets will turn up but I don't expect many will rush to the pubs and clubs to watch this one. If England don't score a 100 points having had a week of rest against Uruguay who are all amateurs and having played last night will sum up just how woeful this campaign has been for the Red Rose.
Question: Will Sam Burgess return to rugby league sooner rather than later?
Meant to mention this on Monday but did you pick up on the fact that the great Welsh back row forward and erstwhile ITV commentator John Taylor is the stadium announcer at Twickenham and other grounds. Did you detect a smugness in his voice as he was announcing Australia's scores against England. Worth rerunning your tapes and listening.
Finally no blog for a few days as we lay my wonderful Mother-in-law Margaret to rest tomorrow. May she rest in peace.
Tuesday 6th Oct - 08:15
It still rumbles on but for now let us move forward, or should it be backwards as I look at last weekends other RWC 2015 games.
Cardiff was the venue for New Zealand v Georgia. The men in black almost at full strength in order to give front line players more game time before the quarters, Georgia resting players ahead of their world cup final versus Namibia. Forecast: an All Black cricket score. WRONG!!!!!! The Georgians played their hearts out and gave New Zealand a much tougher game than anyone expected. For long periods it could be argued the men in red were the better side. One thing that is undeniable is the fact that Georgian captain Mamuka Gorgodze was man of the match.
As an aside we listened to this on the radio as we made our way home to Wales, the commentary was very good. Listening it became clear the traffic chaos was terrible taking hours to get into Cardiff with long tailbacks starting at the Cheltenham junction. Thankfully for us we were hours behind the madness.
On Saturday the Brave Blossoms played tremendously well against Samoa. To overcome the physicality of the South Sea Islanders with such ease says much about the work Eddie Jones and Steve Borthwick have done with their limited resources. The highlight of this game being the AMAZING try in the corner by Akihito Yamada. Simply stunning.
I cannot move on without asking the question: would Eddie Jones and Steve Borthwick have got more out of England than Lancaster and his cohort of coaches? Hypothetical question but I for one think the answer must be YES. According to SKY Jones has hinted at being interested in the England job.
Scotland, in my very humble view, fielded a less than full strength side with one eye on their last game against Samoa. South Africa fielded the best side available and the difference was easy to see for long periods. Some of the play from the Bokke was excellent and sent out a clear message to others; 'forget Japan, the Boks are back, and back in style'. All that said Scotland played well in parts and going forward looked sharp. The Tommy Seymour try being the highlight, possibly a contender for try of the tournament to date. Scotland like England and Wales shot themselves in the foot with the number of penalties conceded.
Here is a thought. Scotland lose to Samoa and Japan beat USA. Japan go through. Wow!!! I don't see it happening but it is a possibility.
We then move onto Sunday and Argentina v Tonga at the mighty Leicester City's ground. What a TREMENDOUS game of rugby. Those Argentinian fans are bonkers and the most crazy of all is Maradona. What a great advert for our great game; lots of good tries, especially Tonga'uiha's, end to end stuff, a thumping good atmosphere, very well refereed by Jaco Peyper. Write Argentina off at your peril when they reach the knockout stages.
Finally Ireland v Italy. A typically tense and nervy 6 Nations affair at the wonderful Olympic Stadium. Italy with their talisman Sergio Parisse back at the helm played well but couldn't break down the Irish defence. Ireland's Keith Earls on the other hand scored a great try to clinch victory. I remain firm in my belief that Ireland are dark horses and could lift the trophy on Oct 31st. They will need to up their game from this fairly lacklustre showing. They now go into the final game versus France having qualified but still much to play for.
It is wet and miserable today so Canada v Romania at 16:45 and Fiji v Uruguay at 20:00. Dear England fans please note how little old Uruguay have been given a short turn around before they face England on Saturday.
Monday 5th Oct - 08:15
It is very difficult to know where to start following Saturday's events.
Having had a challenging few days as a family we looked to Saturday night for a bright interlude with a solid England performance and an impressive win. What transpired was misery heaped on sadness. Yes I am delighted Wales have moved into the quarter finals but the tournament will be MUCH, MUCH the worse following England's exit.
Where did it all go wrong?
Well most certainly not in the tournament structure. England had every advantage. Three of the group games on their home turf. The Red Rose schedule did not include any short turnarounds. They had every facility available to them. The team had millions and millions of pounds lavished on them AND they got off to the best possible start; a tough opening game in a white hot atmosphere with the outcome being a bonus point win.
So where did it go wrong?
In my view before a single pass or a single kick in the Welsh game. Stuart Lancaster and his coaching team picked a side to defend against Wales' strengths. They did NOT pick a team to play to England's strengths and exploit the Welsh weaknesses. We all have 20/20 hindsight but that was the start. The fact Henry Slade and George Ford were ignored for the heavy tackling Farrell and Burgess says it all.
The second catalyst for disaster were the injuries to Liam Williams, Scott Williams and Hallam Amos. This might seem bizarre but I am convinced that with the lead England had at that moment the English subconsciously would have relaxed and assumed victory was now a given.
Going into the game against Australia we now have the third element for disaster: the weight of expectation. You cannot underestimate the importance of that. Then you have the same selection dilemma of Ford vs Farrell. Then, and this is the most crucial point yet the most frequently ignored is that Australia played fantastically well.
The outcome is an ignominious defeat and an embarrassing exit for the host nation.
Pre the tournament the papers were full of the Steffon Armitage debate and surprise, surprise it is back in the papers. England's back row were as predicted out gunned by the brilliant Pocock and Hooper. Would Armitage have made a difference? Perhaps! Is the policy wrong? The populous would say of course it is. Me, I say no it is right. If you allow your players to ply their trade overseas for the money then you weaken the home game and this would be detrimental to rugby as a whole.
Before looking at the details of the Australia game it would be remiss not to mention Dylan Hartley and Manu Tuilagi. I my view both were missed and would have made a big difference if they had been available.
On Saturday night Australia won the game at the scrum, Joe Marler a liability, at the breakdown, and in the penalty count. All areas I identified on Friday. The Ozzie back row was superb allowing their backs to run at England. The Ozzie speed of thought and action was way ahead of England's. There were sparks of brilliance but Watson, Brown and May were too often out of the game. When Watson scored the tide should have turned in England's favour. It didn't. Farrell's moment of madness was the final catalyst for the disastrous exit. It must be said that Burgess was lucky to be on the field as his high tackle was awful. Roman Poite bottled that decision.
So where now?
If Stephen Jones, Chief Rugby Correspondent of The Sunday Times and Bassaleg Old Boy is to be believed Stuart Lancaster must go. I am not so sure BUT.......
Rugby in England is the BIG loser. Those kids who were on the cusp of engaging with the game will now lose interest. Club's RWC 2015 revenue will be severely reduced. The tournament has had one of its major assets; England, savagely axed before the real contests have begun.
Will England supporters get behind the other home nations. SADLY I doubt it.
Time to move on. Tomorrow a look at the rest of the weekends games. The local league review will be Wednesday.
Friday 2nd Oct - 08:00
Sport pales into insignificance when you read about yet another mass shooting in the US, this time in Oregon. When will those idiots in the NRA realise that the right to bear arms is killing their country, literally. When will the mealy mouthed politicians get the balls to amend the constitution to make gun ownership much more difficult.
Let us hope for change.
So to less important matters: Wales v Fiji. If the events at the Millennium Stadium last night was a simple game of Monopoly then Wales have played all their 'get out of jail free cards' in one go. This was a bruising encounter. You only have to look at the faces of Bradley Davies and Dan Lydiate to see how bruising it was. Wales started brilliantly but did this lull them into a false sense of security. Matthew Morgan was spritely and showed some real class. George North added some style and Gareth Davies was a rock at #9. The Fijians, especially in the second half played their hearts out. They were unlucky not to snatch a win.
I made the point yesterday about short turnarounds. After such an immense effort against England, Wales were always going to find it tough. The challenge compounded by the quality of the opposition. Dan Biggar remained assured with the boot but him limping off late on was a worry. A player who deserved a rest.
There is much talk in the papers about missing out on the bonus point. What is important is the win. That said England might just be very grateful for their last gasp try against Fiji.
I for one was delighted to see James Hook run on. Whilst it was late in the day and he was fresh he added a little spark to proceedings.
I have a number of concerns going into the game with Australia. The front row looks fragile. Samson Lee must start if fit. Cuthbert on the wing is still not there. (If he had caught that interception the game could have been very, very different). Wales MUST STOP KICKING THE BALL AWAY. I screamed at the TV each time the ball was kicked into the arms of the Fijians who gleefully accepted the opportunity to run with it.
So assuming no more injuries I would have Lee starting against the Ozzies. Liam Williams on the wing, with James Hook at full back.
So to the biggest game of the tournament to date............ South Africa v Scotland. I jest of course........
England v Australia. Ben Youngs is fit so plays. That is good news for England as he played very well against Wales and when he went off they lost some of their shine. The other changes are as expected. Having looked at how Wales played last night England must reduce the penalty count and must win the breakdown. I think where they can win is at scrum and lineout. Despite Australia's scrum improving significantly I think the Red Rose can prevail in this key area. Having restored Joseph to the back line England must use him. They must get Brown, Watson and May into the game early on. If they do this they will win and win well.
Looking forward I still believe, and this is very hard to say, that England will win the group as Australia will beat Wales next weekend.
Our boys face Old Alleynians away on Saturday. There is a bus for this so if you want to travel with the boys then speak to Ian Geering today. Don't forget the charity game and the 2s are at home to Hellingly followed by the RWC 2015 games. Sadly I wont be there as I am back in Wales. Good luck to all our teams this weekend.
Thursday 1st Oct - 09:15
The recriminations continue. The mind games are in full swing. The Steffon Armitage fan club have finally spoken. The pressure on Chris Robshaw continues.
The more I think about it the firmer my conviction that going for the lineout was the RIGHT call. Get off his case.
Where I think the pundits, coaches, commentators and the general public may have a point is the view that Robshaw will be outmuscled and outthought by Michael Hooper and David Pocock. The two Australians are like great white sharks after a wounded seal: relentless in their pressure, the kill the only thought on their mind. For England this offers two significant issues: limited ball from the breakdown, a high penalty count. The Armitagers have leapt on this haven't they? We'll know by 10pm on Saturday. Is it shampers at Twickers or is it Prozac from the doc?
The team is announced later today and I think we'll see Jamie Joseph restored, Farrell retained, Ben Morgan back at #8 and Wigglesworth in for Youngs (who has a knock). Courtney Lawes is a also a doubt so expect Launchbury to get a start.
It is (almost) 'the final countdown' today. Cardiff hosts the BIG ONE; Wales v Fiji. Gatland has picked his strongest possible 15 which is a credit to Fiji. The men in white also have injury issues and a suspension to cope with so make six changes to the side that lost to Australia. There is a tingling in the belly, a twitching in the bowels, a shaking in the hands and that is just the fans. Heavens knows what the players feel like. Me, I fear Wales will come a cropper. I think the expectation of the fans, playing at the Millennium, the hangover from beating England and seeing a quarter final place in front of them may just weigh too heavily on the red shoulders. It will be close but expect a 'shock' Fijian win.
Today's player to watch is Matthew Morgan. Will he sparkle or will he be swatted aside like a gnat off a bullocks back?
It seems unfair that smaller nations have the toughest schedules. Canada having played so well against Italy on Saturday now face France at Stadium MK tonight. Hey ho!
Wednesday 30th Sept - 08:45
If you didn't know it already I am a bit of a clown. Tyler Morgan was already in the Welsh squad and therefore didn't need drafting in. (Yesterday's blog) He starts against Fiji which I think is a good call. Cuthbert starts on the wing. Lets hope he can finally find his British Lions form. Matthew Morgan gets a run at full back. Physically he is tiny and therefore a risky selection. On the other hand he is an elusive runner and might just be what Wales need against Fiji. Me, I would have had Mike Phillips at #9. His physicality and abrasive style could be an asset against the big South Sea islanders.
There is still much recrimination in the papers about England's loss on Saturday. Having now had several days to reflect on THAT decision I came to the conclusion Robshaw was 'damned if he did, damned if he didn't'. I think he was right to go for it.
In all this it is really annoying that Sir Clive 'I know it all' Woodentop is pontificating about what he would have done and how the coaching staff got it wrong. Maybe they did but what Clivey must remember is that when he tried to walk on water as Lions coach he sunk without trace beneath the waves and was vilified for his decision making. Stones and glass houses spring to mind.
The other irritant is Will 'I was somebody a very long time ago' Carling who is criticising the way Lancaster runs the squad. Yes Lancaster is very strict but I am guessing no-one wants to be reading about dwarf throwing in a Soho club, or diving off the Woolwich ferry by English players.
Those substitutions are the other talking point. Was Lancaster right or was he wrong. Again 'damned if you do, damned if you don't'. Wales were forced into substitutions and in my view I believe Wales would not have won without these enforced changes.
Where next. Fiji is a MASSIVE hurdle for Wales and anybody betting on an easy win for Wales must have their head up their backside. Wales will start favourites but a win might not be what they walk away with. For England the Ozzies await. They have lost two big players, both physically and emotionally, to injury; Wycliff Palu and Will Skelton. The Ozzies have strength in depth and will be ready. England must go out with nothing more in their heads than not missing a single tackle, not dropping a pass, not conceding a single penalty and doing everything positively. Do this and the will win.
Yesterday I thoroughly enjoyed the Tonga v Namibia match. Some great play by two evenly matched sides. End to end stuff with high levels of skill interspersed with moments of ineptitude. Didn't Sandy Park look a picture and yet a gain a full house. Whilst I still feel the ticket prices were too high the crowds have embraced the tournament fully and are being served up value in terms of atmosphere and match quality.
Whilst I thought New Zealand were GREAT hosts and GREAT organisers I have to say that England 2015 have done a MAGNIFICENT job so far.
If you are not going to Twickenham on Saturday we have a great day planned at Steel Cross. It all kicks off with a memorial / charity match between Mayfield Old Boys v Crowborough Even Older Boys. This is followed by our 2s v Hellingly and then the big one............ South Africa v Scotland. Oh! and then we might show England v Australia.
Come on WALES!!!!
Tuesday 29th Sept - 08:00
Scotland's second half performance against USA was impressive enough but the tournament starts for them on Saturday when they face South Africa. I was impressed with how they played in that final 40 minutes but the Bokke will be a different animal altogether, especially if the Scots start as slowly. Sadly for the men in green they will be without John de Villiers who has retired from international rugby following broken jaw sustained against Samoa.
Ireland played very well and proved their squad is a strong one with good quality back up players in most positions. Some of the play was superb against a pretty robust Romanian side. Like Scotland their tournament starts this weekend when they face Italy at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday. Sergio Parisse returns for Italy and that makes a huge difference for the Azzuri. Italy's win over Canada puts them back in the mix and a win over Ireland would put Italy back in pole position with Romania as their final game.
Outside RWC 2015 it was a full league weekend here in the South East. Tunbridge Wells continued their good start to the season with a narrow win away at Deal & Betteshanger. Beckenham are in second after what looks a comfortable win over Old Alleynians. Sevenoaks hold the third place spot with an fine 39 - 5 win over Thanet Wanderers. Elsewhere Horsham beat Old Colfeians at home and Dartfordians enjoyed their journey to Ashford with a 12 - 34 win. We sit 9th in the league.
In London 3 South East Heathfield & Waldron lost away at Park House, albeit narrowly. Uckfield's season started with a loss at Gillingham Anchorians. Eastbourne and Pulborough also suffered away losses and to complete the picture for Sussex Burgess Hill were 2 point losers at home in a high scoring game against Folkestone. In the only other match Aylesford Bulls beat Bromley to go second in the table. A table headed by Cranbrook who beat Eastbourne.
In Sussex 1 our 2nd string lost away at Brighton. No surprise that the big winners were Haywards Heath, Lewes and Crawley. Worthing Senior 1 are top however after their win over Seaford. (I wont go off on one here but IN MY OPINION this league highlights why we need that competition review).
Above us in London 1 South Brighton had a comfortable win over Havant. Our good friends at Charlton Park lost away at Dover. Medway had a good home win over Guildford but Maidstone came second away Sutton & Epsom. The table is headed by Chobham with a perfect win record.
In the national league TJs continued their excellent start to the season with a good win over Bracknell and sit top of the table with a perfect 4 from 4 record. East Grinstead enjoyed their trip back from Shelford after a 8 - 29 win. Chichester lost away to London Irish Really Annoyed Geese. G-Force sit 4th and Chichester are 11th.
Bridgnorth lost at home to Burton but stay mid table. Salisbury fought out a 11 - 11 draw away at Maidenhead.
Back to RWC 2015. A world record attendance on Sunday at Wembley for Ireland vs Romania. Wow! What a great advert for the tournament and our great game.
Nick Easter in for the injured Billy Vunipola. Good call. A wise old head to help the decision making but he is not going to be a first choice player, especially if Ben Morgan is fit.
Wales injury woes continue as James Hook and Gareth Anscombe are brought into the squad to replace Scott Williams and Hallom Amos. I would have been tempted to bring Tyler Morgan in but Anscombe is a good shout. Rob Howley has said North won't play in the centre so expect Hook to be in the side against Fiji. Fiji have lost their talisman Nemani Nodolo after being suspended for one game following a dangerous tackle.
I know he is not everybody's cup of tea but Stuart Barnes has done a nice piece for the SKY Sports website. Well worth a read. As always he is forthright in his opinions and I applaud him for that.
Monday 28th Sept - 08:30
I have often said Crowborough are like Wales, especially when victory looked certain only to throw it away in the final minutes. Well this weekend they have done it again. Looking down and out with a 14 point deficit to make up and the clock running down. Incredibly two excellent tries and two touchline conversions from Yatesy saw the men in red secure a tremendous 27 - 27 draw at home to Hove.
Sadly I wasn't there but I read with great pleasure that Tom Burgess has played his comeback game after a long journey back from serious injury. I am also chuffed to hear how well we played, especially as we continue to struggle with injuries and unavailability. WELL DONE BOYS.
So to Saturday night. What a game. What an occasion. What a result. I ended up in Wales on Saturday and the place was awash with red. Fans were excited and thinking of a Welsh win, to be fair more in hope than anticipation. I fell very much into this category and feared the worse when England played well in the opening exchanges. Wales bashed their way forward but only an inch at a time. England on the other hand managed to get behind the Welsh defence. The foundation had been laid with both the English scrum and lineout delivering good ball for the backs, epitomised by Johnny May's try. The green stage was therefore set for England to cruise into pole position in the table.
Oh deary, deary me. It suddenly all fell apart and like a Volkswagen Chariot TDI the wheels came off in spectacular style. Penalty after penalty conceded and then slotted by the imperious Dan Biggar. Missed tackles and poor defensive alignment opened the door wide enough for Wales to see the promised land; the quarter finals. England could still have closed this game out but, and it will never be proven, I think they saw the departure of Liam Williams and Hallom Amos as the final blow to Wales hopes.
Oh deary, deary me. How wrong that proved to be. The game was turned on its head as the English backs rushed up like headless chickens losing sight of their opponents. Four special passes and Lloyd Williams finds the ball in his hands. Pace, guile and awareness saw him make ground and then that little chip into mid-field. Gareth Davies's pick up was sublime and the rest as the say is history.
Not quite. England transgress again giving Biggar the opportunity for Wales to go ahead for the first time. Bang! Over it goes. With many in the crowd asking the question; Leigh Halfpenny, Halfpenny who? Then the big ice cream (or in the case of Lancaster I scream) moment. Ice cream as in brain freeze as Robshaw goes for touch rather than the three points for a draw. Deja vu me thinks.
Let us now get our feet firmly back on the ground. Wales are NOT guaranteed a place in the knock out stages. They face Fiji on Thursday. A rested Fiji vs a battered, bruised and severely depleted Wales. England will bounce back and will beat Australia and then cruise by Uruguay to qualify. This leaves Wales to beat a resurgent Australia. They are looking VERY, VERY GOOD so this will require another herculean effort.
For now however let us note that even the moon was clothed in red last night in recognition of a fantastic Welsh performance. Stand up and take the plaudits.
Due to circumstances I have not seen either of the Scotland or Ireland games. Comment on this tomorrow. Well done South Africa. They bounced back in style scoring some excellent tries. As stated the Ozzies were unstoppable against Uruguay.
RWC 2015 what a tournament and so much more excitement to come.
Saturday 26th Sept - 09:30
In a little under 12 hours the hype and the rhetoric stops and the first of the 'big' encounters gets under way. England v Wales. Group A.
Before that there is the small matter of Crowborough vs Hove. Hove coming off a good win last weekend and having played a league above us start as clear favourites. Our boys trained hard through the week and will be ready. A small, but loyal cadre of members will be enjoying lunch pre-match whilst many others will be en route to Twickenham. Its going to be a good day at Steel Cross. If you are not going to the BIG ONE then the game is on at the club.
I must at this point thank the Friday Club and Dave Bristow, groundsman, for the work they have done through the week, and particularly yesterday. The grounds look great, the pitches are in good shape, and the clubhouse is ready for its first really big day of the season. Well done guys.
Just for the record it struck me and others just how much fantastic work the Friday Club does around the place.
Before looking ahead to tonight let us look back at week just gone.
On Wednesday Paul the prison governor was released early from The Great British Bake Off. The minute he confessed to not knowing how to make a Genoese sponge the writing was on the wall. When his éclair tower collapsed that was it. He was out of there.
On Thursday the All Blacks demolished Namibia at the Olympic Stadium. Yet again I hear great things about the stadium and the atmosphere. Namibia, the lowest ranked team in the tournament, can hold their heads high by not going down to nil, putting up a brave fight from start to finish and scoring a well deserved try. The All Blacks are slowly but surely moving into the quarter finals. My concern for them is they have no really tough game ahead which might, but I doubt it, lull them into a false sense of security.
Last night Argentina finally broke down Georgia's dogged defence and showed some real class. It also showed the gulf between the top table of rugby and those aspiring to join the banquet. The men in powder blue exploited Georgia being down to 14 men but also the Georgia's flagging fitness. Argentina's #10 Nicolas Sanchez was the stand out performer. Georgia's captain and talisman Mamuka Gorgodze was immense and it was his yellow card that allowed the Pumas to change the face of the match. Key irritant of the game. The constant intervention of the TMO.
Ok, so to the BIG one. As expected England have dropped Ford for Farrell, brought in Burgess for the injured Joseph and replaced the injured Ben Morgan with Billy Vunipola. I remain firm in my belief this is a negative selection focussing on defending against Wales strengths rather than focussing on attacking Wales weaknesses.
Wales is pretty much as expected with the front row being the only three fully fit players. Bradley Davies is a brave call ahead of Charteris and Jake Ball, both of whom have performed well in the run up to the tournament. The inexperienced Hallom Amos on the wing ahead of British Lion Cuthbert is also a bold selection. Expect Farrell to bombard Amos and Liam Williams at full back with high balls.
To my forecasts. I expect this to be a fantastic occasion but an attritional game. The atmosphere will be amazing but the game more like two buffalo slamming into each other for 80 minutes. When the thud of hooves on turf is absent it will be because the ball is high in the air. I anticipate Jerome Garces will struggle to manage the scrum (I am not Garces fan. He is possibly the poorest referee in the tournament). So, to the all important question of who will win. England will win, and win by plenty, as difficult as this is to admit to.
One aside to the game is the almost certain likelihood of travel chaos pre and post match. This has been a feature of the two games at the Millennium and will plague tonight's fixtures. On the field and around the venues and training bases, in my opinion, nothing has been left to chance. Network rail and the train operators on the other hand appear to have only just realised there is a tournament to manage. It is not good enough. It also hacks me off that Mick 'loadsa' Cash has had his say. Interfering trouble maker.
Must go. Family stuff to do.