Thursday 24th Sept - 08:30
The Brave Blossoms were just that; Brave. I read that Eddie Jones is not blaming the short turnaround but that must have had an impact. Likewise it is a long way down when you have experienced such a high as beating the Springboks and delivering the biggest shock in rugby history. That said Scotland set the foundation for an impressive win with a solid defence from minute one. They looked disciplined and determined in that crucial area and except for one lapse when Japan scored this was where the game was won. Having thwarted the cherry & whites Scotland took full advantage with some excellent back play as the game moved into the final quarter and the opposition inevitably tired.
Japan have a nice long rest and will surely need it before taking on the bruisers from Samoa. Scotland now have a short turnaround but I expect them to overcome USA with similar ease on Sunday.
Australia delivered a 'curate's egg' of a performance against Fiji. Good in parts, especially in the first 40 minutes. At times they were crisp in their passing and dogged in defence, at others they were slapdash and ill-disciplined, especially in their handling. Pocock and Hooper were like terriers around the park and Matt Giteau, as always, was reliable both in defence and attack. Fiji stuck at it and with a little more control could have narrowed the gap further. Australia impressed at scrum time and this will not have gone unnoticed by Messrs Lancaster and Gatland. The men in gold will be rueing the missed bonus point but much credit must go to Fiji for preventing that.
Fiji take on Wales next and any objective, if there is such a thing, Welshman will be worried about Wales short turnaround for this one after taking on the might of England. Australia face Uruguay and will surely boost their points difference in that one.
You write France off at your peril. They were not great in the first half coughing up too many turnovers to a physically imposing Romanian side. Like Scotland their win was founded on defence. No matter how hard Romania tried they found it difficult to get behind the French into open space. After what appeared a severe tongue lashing by Saint-Andre at half time Les Bleus got their backsides in gear and played some decent rugby.
Romania face another difficult task when they take on Ireland. France now enjoy a decent break before the much easier challenge of Canada. I still see Italy as a banana skin for Ireland but I think this group is already cut and dry with only who finishes top between France and Ireland to be decided on Oct 11th.
The citing commissioner has come down hard on Mariano Garlaza of Argentina. A nine week ban for allegedly eye gouging Brodie Retallick last Sunday. They must have strong evidence to have made that decision but I for one applaud it. Eye gouging has no place in our game.
Much in the papers about the impending English selection to face Wales. I for one think there is much to agree with. As stated yesterday by playing Farrell, Burgess and Barritt you have three big lads who can tackle and bludgeon but where is the spark? Regardless I think England will win and sadly win well. Whilst England's front row is suspect and their Achilles heel Wales are even worse off in this area thanks to injury.
Finally what a contrast in venues. Didn't the Olympic Stadium look magnificent yesterday. On the other hand didn't parts of Kingsholm look tired and old fashioned. That said the 17,000 at Kingsholm made the place rock. Well done to them. Games had to be played in the West Country and with no modern soccer venue available World Rugby probably had little or no choice in Kingsholm and Sandy Park. I am glad. It is important that traditional grounds were selected and it is a shame that Franklyn Gardens didn't get a look in. That said MK Arena is brilliant.
Wednesday 23rd Sept - 09:30
The curtain goes up for Scotland today in the spectacular known as RWC 2015. They make their grand entrance at Kingsholm this afternoon when they take on the people's darlings; Japan.
It would be great to see another Brave Blossoms win but sadly I fear Scotland will be ready and will be too good for Eddie Jones's men. Scotland have shown some promise of late and with the extra days preparation versus Japan's short turn around must start as clear favourites.
Australia also make their first appearance at the tournament. They continue to prepare in the background and without doubt will be ready. I am expecting tomorrows papers to be full of warnings for England and Wales that the Ozzies are something to fear and will have rocketed to clear favourites to head the group.
I also expect the papers to be full of travel misery as the fans are certain to find it difficult to get in and out of Cardiff by train. The best stadium in the world, in the best city to watch rugby in the world spoilt but an inadequate and underprepared rail system.
The final team making their bow today is Romania. Don't expect any shocks here. The French will win by a lot, despite many of the Romanians playing in France.
Will England drop George Ford for Owen Farrell and will Jonathan Jospeh be fit. I personally go for a 'yes' then 'no' answer. I think Ford is by far the better player but against Wales' world class back row could be a liability. Farrell is much more physical so it makes sense. Losing Joseph would be a blow, especially as Burgess is likely to start. Barritt and Burgess are too much alike. They are both battering rams. I'd go Slade and Burgess.
Wales won't have any selection worries. The 15 fit players will start with whoever is not on crutches securing a bench spot. The front row is a worry but there is plenty of talent still available and will Phillips start or be on the bench.
World Rugby have tried to calm the TMO debate by clarifying the role of the TV official. I think referees must take more control. I think Wayne Barnes, Nigel Owens and Craig Joubert get it right most often. The problem is bigger than that though. It doesn't help when the touch judge wants to interfere as well.
Three non rugby stories.
Leicester City on a roll. Wow! Another great win last night against West Ham in the Carling Cup
I see that arrogant piece of dog dirt Jose Mourinho has sacked the doctor, Eva Carneiro, who put the health of a player ahead of that muppet Mourinho's ego.
Finally I see Mike Cash is about to shoot himself in the foot by closing down a key control centre at Waterloo station in a 'dispute' about grading. Allegedly three, yes THREE, RMT members voted for a strike out of a membership of six in this particular control centre. What makes it worse is my understanding that there are just 24 people who work at this centre. Do the maths. This is why the pig loving Tories want to stop anarchists in the RMT bringing London to its knees on a regular basis.
Tuesday 22nd Sept - 10:30
It is a shame that two 'negative' stories are hitting the rugby pages: concussion and drugs, just days after RWC 2015 starting. To be fair it is important the game tackles these head on, to use rugby parlance.
Much is being done to heighten awareness of concussion and the new rules are having an impact. Without fundamentally changing the laws of the game it is difficult to see what can be done. One suggestion is to change the tackle law so upright tackling where head on head contact is most likely could be outlawed. Time will tell, but I say the significant rise in cases could be seen as good news. Head injuries are no longer being ignored and concussion is at the top of medics list of concerns.
Drugs are easier. Anyone taking drugs that are banned by the IOC should be banned from rugby. Full stop. Players taking recreational drugs should be named and shamed. With regard to the former, players are getting bigger and faster naturally without having to accelerate this. With regard to the latter recreational drugs are bad for society.
So I was wrong AGAIN. No James Hook. Tyler Morgan gets the call to replace Corey Allen. I wonder, just wonder, if Adam Jones has been keeping himself in great shape. If Aaron Jarvis or Paul James doesn't make it will Gatland bite the bullet and give Adam a call???
Its Tuesday so lets have a quick run around the leagues.
London 2 South East. Tunbridge Wells have made their statement of intent very clear with a stunning 75 - 29 win at home to Horsham. Hove enjoyed a winning start after the long journey to Thanet with Deal & Betteshanger and Sevenoaks also enjoying away wins versus Old Alleyians and Dartfordians respectively. Finally Old Colfeians enjoyed a narrow win over Ashford.
London 3 South East. Eastbourne got their campaign off to a winning start at home to Old Dunstonians. Pulborough also won whilst Heathfield & Waldron got off to a losing start against our friends at Aylesford Bulls. Sadly Burgess Hill couldn't get a side out and had to concede the game to Cranbrook.
In selected games Brighton lost at home to Sutton & Epsom whilst Charlton Park beat Gopsort & Fareham in London 1 South. Newly promoted Medway and Maidstone both lost away. East Grinstead lost by a single point at home to Westcombe Park whilst TJs won away at Wimbledon. Our very own Tommy Nicoll is playing very well for TJs scoring freely. Chichester also scored a win in London National League 3.
Bridgnorth drew their game against Worcester Wanderers and now sit 5th in their league. Salisbury won at home to keep them in 7th spot in their league after three games.
Is the England v Wales game on Saturday the biggest in the history of game between the two countries?
Have you been to games? If yes let me know what you thought of the volunteers. Did they enhance your match day experience? Were they noticeable? I'd welcome any feedback.
Monday 21st Sept - 11:30
What an excellent weekend of rugby but also a momentous one for our good friends Eddie & Di Bridges. They reached the landmark of 50 years married. Many congratulations to them.
What happened on Sunday?
Wales played OK but nothing more. There were some glimpses of brilliance but very little to crow about. If they play like that in their remaining four games it will be 'adios mis amigos'. Tipuric, as always, and Gareth Davies played well, Priestland was ok, as was Amos on the wing. Matthew Morgan did ok when he came on but that was about it really. Corey Allen was excellent until he limped off. Good result but I fear England and Australia will run riot against the Uruguayans.
The key talking point is the injuries. Liam Williams is probably going to be fine. The injuries to the props is more concerning. Calf strains for front row forwards are notoriously difficult to clear. Aaron Jarvis is also a serious doubt as his ribs took a pounding. Having already lost Jonathan Davies and now to lose Corey Allen will be a huge blow. James Hook might just get the call, or young Rhys Patchell of Cardiff Blues.
The All Blacks finally overcame the stiff resistance of Argentina to take the first step towards retaining the trophy. This was a good game to watch with massive hits all over the park and two moments of stupidity. Richie McCaw seeing yellow for that trip and Conrad Smith for being plain dumb at the ruck. Well done Wayne Barnes. I understand the atmosphere at the game was great with the Argentinians setting the standard. Apparently the fanzone was top notch too.
Elsewhere Samoa overcame USA at the Brighton Community Stadium. Again a good atmosphere but not the fireworks of the previous day.
Paddy O'Fez has been in touch saying the atmosphere in Cardiff on Saturday for the Ireland v Canada game was excellent and he was extremely impressed with the Millennium Stadium. Ireland played well too by the way.
From what I hear our boys were very unlucky not to win away at Beckenham on Saturday. At worst it should have been a draw but as all too often a try at the death allowed Beckenham to snatch to victory.
I read with interest that South Africa are blaming seagulls for their defeat. It is stated that the constant bombardment from the birds disrupted their training. Guys that is bullshit or should I say bird shit of an excuse.
Sunday 20th Sept - 09:45
It has been a long time since I have been lost for words but I left the Brighton Community Stadium last night in a state of shock and totally speechless.
Even now this morning I can't believe what happened and to be able to say I was there is just fantastic. It was a genuine pleasure to be a volunteer during RWC 2015 but to be a volunteer at this game was incredible. From the moment I arrived at the stadium I knew something special was happening. To be given the responsibility of being a team leader in the East Upper stand with seven brilliant volunteers under my wing was great. To see how they interacted with the fans was humbling. To be able to watch (most of) the game from high above the pitch with an uninterrupted view was unbelievable. Don't get me wrong we the volunteers did our bit with pride and excellence with the spectators our only priority.
If you were there you will know what an unbelievable atmosphere was generated by the almost full house. With 20 minutes to go there were no neutrals in crowd. You were either green and gold or screaming for the men from the land of the rising sun. Strangely there were echoes of Crowborough during the day. The men in red and white much smaller than their opposition but technically excellent. The men in red and white starting as underdogs. The men in red and white never giving up. Tremendous, superb, excellent and all other superlatives are not enough to sum up this result. Put the result to one side. The Japanese play was excellent and their defence at times remarkable. To be fair South Africa's play was sporadically pathetic and definitely a long way from the standards expected.
Japan could have been awarded a penalty try at the death. They were denied what looked a perfectly good try following a 13 man rolling maul. They could have gone for a kick at goal to draw. They didn't and the rest is history.
I was ready to sacrifice the final minutes to be on post in the concourse as people left early for the buses or beat the queues at the bar. I checked and it was empty. Not a single person had left their seat. Their eyes glued to the pitch and when the try was scored the place erupted. Once on station I was able to guide the Bok supporters to the emergency exits left and right and to the medical centre where counselling was urgently being arranged. Wow, wow, wow.
Sadly the result overshadows everything else. I read this morning that we lost to Beckenham but only by 24 - 19. I am eagerly awaiting news on the game but this sounds like a fantastic result, especially as I know at least five first choice players were at the game, one of whom was in East Upper (photo to follow). Well done boys.
Equally Georgia beating Tonga came as a surprise but nothing comes close to the Brighton game.
France beat Italy as predicted. Write off the French at your peril.
Today Wales and New Zealand take centre stage. After yesterday I bet both teams will not make the same mistake as the Bokke of underestimating their opposition.
Back upstairs for a lie down and the hope this isn't all one big dream.
Saturday 19th Sept - 09:45
Lets mark my homework from yesterday.
England will win and win by a lot. 5/10. They won but not by a lot and not in my view comfortably. I have only seen the second half but outside the last 10 minutes England were not that great. I hope even the most one-eyed supporter of the low swinging chariots can see that.
I hope the TMOs don't become a bore. 7/10. They were a bore at times but the right decision was eventually arrived at. I fear the use of the TMO is going to be painful.
One shining beacon of light amongst many Toc-H lamps (look it up) was Mike Brown. Magnificent.
Yesterday I got to wear my RWC volunteers stuff in anger. I was at the fanzone on Madeira Drive. It was an excellent experience. Not one person asked where the toilets were.
The fanzone itself was great. A big screen, an enormous bar, a large food court all on the beach. On Madeira Drive there were a lot fun and games including the bucking rugby ball, a five-a-side touch rugby pitch, throw the ball through the hole and test your reflexes to name just a few. If you get the chance to visit the fanzone it is worth it. Unfortunately yesterday was not very well attended, in part due to the weather. Come game time the zone filled up but otherwise it is was slow. Real shame.
Today I am at the stadium. Not sure where and not sure what I am doing but it will be fun, and hopefully dry.
Haven't seen the opening ceremony but am reliably informed it was very impressive.
The game of the day today is France vs Italy. I go France, and this might be a surprise, but I go France by a lot.
Hope to bump into those of you going to Brighton Community Stadium today. If you ask me where the loos are I of course will be happy to help.
Friday 18th Sept - 10:45
Not long now. Let us hope that for those working as volunteers, the players, and those in the opening ceremony the weather stays dry. It will be a great night at Steel Cross tonight. The club is open for the opening ceremony and the game. Selected beers at £3 per pint / bottle. Filled rolls and snacks available and a warm welcome as usual. Be there if you can.
Tomorrow our boys take on Beckenham. I would be hiding my head in the sand if I said that we weren't up against it with a very inexperienced side heading into the London borough for this league encounter. With players at the South Africa v Japan game, injuries still a problem and work pressures adding to our woes it will be tough. What I will say is those pulling on the jersey tomorrow will give their very best. That is a given.
Thank you to those who have generously sponsored players. We have a few spots left. Come on give it a go. Contact me or Paul Gray for details.
The referees and TMOs have been told to eradicate back chat and 'simulation'; feigning injury or diving to you and me. Not before time. All too often we see players berating the officials soccer style, plus the odious acts of deception to gain advantage.
Talking of TMOs I hope that they don't become a bore with too much time wasted and officials bottling it when the decision is clear.
The other area that could spoil the spectacle is persistent resetting of the scrum. If players can't cope get them off and get someone on who can.
The French woes continue with the team bus getting a parking ticket. Excellent stuff. Allegedly the traffic warden had recently been delayed on returning back from France by striking French ferry workers.
Returning to tonight England will win and will win by a lot. My fear for England is injuries. Fiji will be the centre of the rugby universe tonight and as a proud nation they will not take a backward step.
One story that caught my eye was confirmation of the fact that World Rugby are quietly looking at the residency rule. Not before time.
Finally, and sorry but I cant let it go. Sturgeon and Salmond are at it again. Independence. They should get back in their box. It was a 'once in a lifetime' deal. They lost. If they want Independence there is lots in North Korea that might appeal to them. I will still be supporting Scotland ahead of any other team outside of Wales, England, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, Fiji, USA, Canada, Samoa, Georgia, Romania, Japan, Uruguay, Tonga, Namibia, Italy, France, Argentina and Australia.
Two post scripts. 1. My grandson has just come down stairs in his England shirt. Aaaaarrrgghhhhh!!!! 2. This time four years ago Mrs C and I were in a hotel in Dunedin watching the opening ceremony on TV.