Monday 7th September - 14:30
Much to discuss today.
Let me firstly castigate myself for not properly reading the news about the Welsh Premiership trial of six points for a try. That part was right. What I missed was that all points from kicks would be moved to two points.
Let me therefore congratulate myself for suggesting that that should happen when in fact it had already happened.
Moving on to Saturday. I have literally just finished watching the game between England and Ireland and can say during the first half England were very impressive indeed. Excellent forward and back play in isolation and tremendous interplay between them. The second half saw a less impressive England side and a resurgent Irish side. A thoroughly entertaining game with thankfully for both no injuries.
England's back row were excellent and must be the starting line up. Youngs had his best game for a while, but I would still start Wigglesworth. May cemented his starting berth, as did Ford, Watson and Joseph. Sam Burgess highlighted the impact he can have coming off the bench and shut up some of his doubters.
Ireland will be a threat despite two consecutive defeats and you write them off at your peril.
The Welsh game versus Italy on the other hand was a stop start affair with Wales scraping out a victory. Italy were robust in defence and lively in attack. Sergio Parrisse is a world class forward and his presence lifts the Azzuri without doubt. Wales were poor. Lacking a cutting edge and kicking too much ball away (AGAIN!!!). For those from 'the land of my fathers' the big talking point yesterday was the injuries to Rhys Webb and Leigh Halfpenny. I am no medic but Webb will be out of the squad and Phillips back in. Halfpenny MIGHT, and it is a big MIGHT, be available for the latter stages, but this assumes Wales can replicate their best form as opposed to some of the rubbish on display on Saturday.
Why was the Welsh game so scrappy compared to the England game. Nigel Owens is my answer. Owens has an empathy and informative style that is lacking from George Clancy's repertoire. Owens would have sorted the scrum which Clancy failed to do so. My view anyway.
Congratulations to Scotland on their morale boosting show against France. Have only seen a few snippets but you could argue the Scots were unlucky.
Finally may I thank the volunteers and staff who made the AXA PPP Healthcare 75th Anniversary such a tremendous success. I pick out Dave Noone and our very own Sandra for special praise but EVERYONE made a fantastic contribution.
Thursday 3rd September - 07:30
Stuart Lancaster has rolled the dice again in his pursuit of the Webb Ellis Trophy. He appears to have selected an almost full strength side to face Ireland this Saturday.
It is no surprise that Brad Barritt returns. The defensive side of Lancaster's thinking means the South African was always destined for a return, but more importantly his lack of game time since his injury means a return was imperative.
Parling gets a run out ahead of Launchbury. If he can rediscover his Lions 2013 form this makes sense but I feel his recent long list of injuries has taken the edge off his game.
Tom Youngs at hooker wouldn't be my choice. I see Youngs as an impact player coming off the bench as the game loosens up in the second half.
It is difficult to argue with the rest of the selection but it is the 'safe' choice. If England are to lift the cup then my belief is Lancaster will have to take some selection risks; Slade, Wigglesworth and Haskell spring to mind.
Please note that the club is NOT open on Saturday for this game.
The Irish haven't named their side yet but if I were Schmidt I would select a largely second string side. Injury to key players would be my concern.
Wales take on Italy and again if I were Gatland a largely second string side would be the names on my team sheet.
Vern Cotter has announced his squad, much to the frustration of many in Scotland. The selection of John Hardie in particular has caused much consternation. Missing out on selection for his beloved All Blacks caused Hardie to switch allegiance to Scotland just five weeks ago. For the record he is eligible as he has a Scottish grandmother. Ross Barclay, who has been one of Scotland's best players recently, and a Scot to the core, misses out. It beggars belief.
Blair Cowan, another New Zealand mercenary, misses out, as does the giant Jim Hamilton. Big Jim will be missed. Whilst he is in the Autumn of his career Hamilton could have brought an edge to games from the bench.
The other story of note is the 6 point try experiment due to run in Wales from this weekend. The Welsh Premiership will trial this idea in the hope it drives clubs towards a more attacking approach. Me, I would also have reduced the penalty from 3 to 2 points. I would also reduce the 22 to a 20 metre line.
The other rugby story of note is the crazy situation where the Springboks' selection has been challenged in the courts for being 'too white'. I have said on several occasions that selection based on quotas is not the way to grow the game amongst the Black community in South Africa. Selecting the very best Black players and seeing them perform 'amongst equals' on the world stage is the best way to motivate youngsters to take up the game.
Tuesday 1st September - 12:45
Q. Why aren't you blogging more frequently Mr Chairman?
A. Things are crazy at the moment what with club business, family business and nobodies business.
I understand from those attending the annual golf day that it went well last Friday. I don't have any news on the bandits who played but I will follow up.
I also understand that the quiz night was a rip-roaring success on Sunday night.
Thanks to Simon Williams and Ollie Jude-Trailor for organising each event.
The Ireland v Wales match was fascinating on Saturday. I hope nobody will disagree but I thought the better side won but they were lucky to win.
For much of the game Wales were superb in defence and looked threatening in attack. They played with a cohesion between backs and forwards that allowed them to make good ground. They snuffed out most of the Irish attacks with relative ease and as consequence deserved to win.
On the other hand they were lucky to win with the last gasp 'try', 'no try' decision going in their favour.
This result reinforces my personal view that neither England nor Australia are guaranteed to get out of the group. I firmly believe that whoever heads the group will go all the way.
On the negative side of the Welsh performance was the incessant kicking. When the receiver is a Kearney, who are both magical under the high ball, it is a crazy option. The other worry is Wales consistent inability to close out a game. Finally the starting XV could, on their day match anybody in the world. The lack of strength in depth is a real concern.
The Irish will still be a major threat and looking at their squad it is well balanced with competition across the board for places. The fact most play together for one of the Irish Pro 12 sides is a bonus.
The Welsh squad on the other hand looks a little fragile. My mum could pick the starting XV but after that it is tough to see a world class player. Selecting Samson Lee is a huge risk but I do like the selection of Matthew Morgan. He is the Cipriani of Wales; mercurial, unpredictable, versatile. Thankfully he is nothing like Cipriani off the pitch. The whole of Wales will be holding their breath on the Alun-Wyn Jones injury and still applauding Justin Tipuric's man of the match performance against the Irish. Sam Warburton's place is no longer guaranteed.
Finally I see Gatland is playing the mind games again, or is he stating a fact? Wales are more settled than England. I think it is a fact. Wales are more settled due to the lack of resource, and England are still uncertain of where they are going; selection and tactically.
Lots of other news to discuss but when I see that the Organ of Truth has Strictly Come D-list Celebrity Dancing as their lead story I know the world is going mad.
Must go I can hear the grandchildren screaming again.
Friday 28th August - 12:30
Much has been written about the England squad and commentators much more competent than me have had they say. Based on what I've read there is a consistency to the feedback.
Sam Burgess is not the answer to all things England rugby. He has the potential to be the star of the show but could also be an Achilles heel and an error of selection judgement.
Many have mentioned taking only two scrum halves and keeping Cipriani in the squad. Tough call that one but I see some sense in it.
There is much written about the frailty of the front row and the unreliability in the form of numbers 4 to 8.
There is a sense that defence is the priority.
I remain of the opinion that England will go all the way and if they get to the final they will triumph.
The Irish have named an almost full strength side to face an almost full strength Welsh side. George North will be one of the players to watch. His form after a long lay off, and the massive concern that another head injury will end his career will have the scribes' pens poised from minute one.
Wales, like England, look vulnerable in the front row, making Hibbard's omission even more perplexing. Behind the scrum the backs look good BUT it remains a power game that Gatland is looking for. Wales Back row, even without Sam Warburton is world class. It is rare to say it but the contest between Paul O'Connell and Alun-Wyn Jones will be worth watching.
Time will tell.
Thursday 27th August - 20:00
A very busy week at the club and not a great deal to write about outside immigration, the Labour leadership race and of course the Great British Bake Off hence my absence.
There certainly is now. So, Sam Burgess made the cut, Luther Burrell didn't. Henry Slade got the nod, Billy Twelvetrees got the heave ho. Out goes Nick Easter, in stays James Haskell. Kieran Brookes got the vote, Alex Corbisiero lost his deposit, and of course Danny Cipriani was catapulted back to Sale.
My immediate reaction: there is a good balance to the squad and it has the potential to go a long way. There is a but, and it is a big but. If you start to right down your starting line up the backs look a little pedestrian with an emphasis on defence. If you then right down the second string it looks much more attacking but lacking in experience. Stuart Lancaster will have to think long and hard about his best XV.
If I was selecting the side here is what I would go with
15. Brown, 14. Watson, 11. Nowell
13. Slade, 12. Joseph
10. Ford, 9. Wigglesworth
8. Morgan, 7. Robshaw, 6. Haskell
5. Launchbury, 4. Lawes
3. Cole, 2. Webber, 1. Marler
In my view Burgess is lucky and Burrell very unlucky. Twelvetrees, Cipriani, Easter and Corbisiero are not surprise omissions to me.
The one thing I have found odd is Graham Rowntree slipping into the conversation that there is still a chance that Dylan made make an appearance in RWC 2015. Not sure how that can be possible without injury. Time will tell.
Looking ahead Wales play Ireland this week. North is back, and the Irish have selected a strong side. More on this tomorrow.
Monday 24th August - 09:00
Have done something this morning I haven't done for a long, long while. Sat in bed and read the papers. The weather is dire so breakfast on the patio is out.
Not much more to add on Saturday's games. The best headline was from The Organ of Truth. 'Have the wheels come off the chariots of fire?'.
There is much chatter about Cipriani's cameo appearance and the impact he had. This however might not be enough in the eyes of many but I still think he has a good chance to get the nod.
In my view Twelvetrees and Burgess will miss out. Slade will be in..... I hope.
Elsewhere 'Hoorah' and again 'Hoorah' for Usain Bolt. Whilst only by the thickness of his running vest he beat that drug cheat Justin Gatlin. The American should not be taking part. He is a cheat of the worst kind. Come on Seb, this is the perfect example of why you have a problem with athletics.
Well done Jessica Ennis-Hill. A fine performance from a fine athlete and someone who seems a fine person too.
The Scaletrix was exactly that; a procession. Boring, boring, boring. The only excitement was Vettell's tyre exploding.
The airshow crash has to be on all our minds. What a terrible disaster. The fickle finger of fate has struck again. What will those parents, brothers, sisters, children and friends be thinking. Why them? Only the day before at roughly the same time of day Mrs Chairman was on that exact stretch of road. Makes you think.
The destruction of the ancient temple of Baalshamin at Palmyra beggars belief. These IS thugs, crooks and murderers want us to live in a world of total compliance. An Orwellian state where their (floored) religious beliefs are the only rule of law.
On a similar vein thank heavens for the 'heroes of Arras'. The four guys who tackled the lunatic Khazzani saved the lives of hundreds. Another murdering thug who should be sent to hell.......... but does that view make me no worse than him. To think that a lawyer representing him has said he cannot believe Khazzani's actions were linked to terrorism. He had enough ammunition to murder everyone on that train you clown.