Sunday August 9th - 09:00
Plus ca change, rien change
In chronological order.........
Another prediction goes west with Australia beating New Zealand. Ominously for England and Wales the Ozzies looked well drilled, decisive and most worryingly powerful in the scrum. The scrum has been an Achilles heel for them over recent seasons but was definitely not that yesterday with the All Blacks being shoved backwards on several occasions.
For me the All Blacks were uncharacteristically loose in much of their work. Sloppy handling and poor decision making.
It wasn't a classic but it was gripping.
Then at 14:30 another painful experience for the Welsh. Poor is an under statement. Let us ignore the fact this was a very inexperienced Welsh team playing against a much more experienced Irish XV. Wales defensively were clueless and in attack were as blunt as a butter knife. Ireland were sharp and played with an intensity lacking from the men in red.
What does this tell us? It confirms what we know: Wales lack strength in depth, Ireland with their resources could spring a massive surprise and be in the final with a chance of winning RWC 2015. I suggest we don't write the men in red off however.
As a footnote to this game a couple of players picked up knocks; Scott Williams (calf) and Tommy O'Donnell (hip) notably.
The clock ticks on and we then find Argentina beating South Africa in their own back yard. With nothing to play for the Bokke put out a largely inexperienced side with the Pumas fielding pretty much the strongest team possible (because they have a very small pool to draw from). I haven't watched this one yet but from what I read it was a very deserving win with the men in pale blue showing some real class for long periods.
What does this tell us.......
The World Cup is going to be a cracker and any team pencilling in 'easy games' is making a huge mistake.
Well done to England with their crushing victory over Australia to regain the Ashes. Well done England for their grandstand finish to beat Jamaica in the World Netball Cup. Well done Leicester City; a great way to start the season (but against a side whose abject showing was only eclipsed by Wales' showing against Ireland).
Finally, what about the new Welsh shirt......mmmm?? Not sure but am delighted the white shorts are back.
Saturday August 8th - 09:00
Hoorah. ITV have started their ad campaign for RWC 2015. At last we might get some traction.
My final training day went well. I now know how to politely direct people to the nearest toilet, and will look very smart in my RWC 2015 gear doing so.
The games at Brighton are set to be sold out and the around the stadium activity looks well planned. The fanzone on the beach will be fun but as always with Brighton Amex Arena Community Stadium parking and transport will be a challenge. My understanding is there will be a shuttle to and from the fanzone, there will be three park and ride systems in place, and extra match day trains. If you are going to the game I suggest you get onto the RWC 2015 website and check out the options and book early.
The first of Wales warm up games kicks off in a few hours against Ireland. Both teams are a mix of youth and experience. Lets hope for a good game and with NO injuries.
The big match up of today is Australia v New Zealand. Richie McCaw will equal Brian O'Driscoll's record of 141 caps. This will give us an indicator, unlike the aforementioned Wales v Ireland game, of RWC 2015 form. I go All Blacks.
The other story in the papers is the trimming of England's RWC 2015 training squad. Seven players have had the shepherds crook and can now start to focus on their club's pre-season work. The most notable being Chris Ashton. In my humble view this shouldn't be a shock as he can be a little unreliable and his form was on the wane. I think Kyle Eastmond can count himself unlucky, especially as Sam Burgess has been retained. The final cut will come soon.
The Friday Club was in full swing yesterday. Significant progress has been made in tidying up the area around our equipment and improving the presentation of the car park. Next week a full re-paint of the interior will take place. These guys are just brilliant in what they do and what they achieve in a small amount of time. THANK YOU to them.
In other sport what a woeful showing the Ozzies have put up in the cricket. Right now England are playing Jamaica in the Netball world championships. Netball, now there is a game with a high participation and a tremendous following. It is a great game to play but a pretty dull TV sport. Interestingly in a recent interview Barry Hearne said it is an untapped opportunity and he'd love to have a go at 'sexing' it up for TV. Yeah sure.
Don't forget the footy starts today, as if you could have possibly missed that fact.
Thursday August 6th - 08:15
Not that she reads this but 'Happy Birthday Mum'.
Where have I been? On a well deserved family holiday in France. It was great and the Le Shuttle worked perfectly. More on this later.
It is good to be back and I'm delighted there is plenty to comment on. Plenty of rugby stuff thankfully, but of course the tube strike, 'Operation Stack', but most importantly the Great British Bake Off is back. It is going to be a goody. What about those Black Forest Gateaux last night?
This weekend sees Wales v Ireland in the first of their warm up games. Interestingly Gatland and Schmidt have discussed selection. This makes sense as both have limited resources and the last thing they want is injuries. Gatland did have a dig at Schmidt when asked about the Millennium roof as the latter insisted it be open for the 6 Nations but now wants it closed for the RWC 2015 warm up.
Fiji overpowered Samoa in the final of the Pacific Nations Cup. This will send a warning to England about opening night cock ups when they get going on September 18th. Remember France v Argentina?
Cipriani has been given a life line by the Met Police of all people. He, being further bailed to November means he remains in the squad, and is likely to be included in the final RWC selection.
Lots in the papers about how brutal the pre-tournament training has been. Geoff Parling writing in the Metro says how hard he found it.
Australia face New Zealand in the final of the Southern Hemisphere tournament on Saturday. Should be worth watching. No discussion here between coaches about selection me thinks.
I have written much about RWC 2015 and today I attend my last training session as a volunteer before being on duty at the fanzone in Brighton Friday 18th September. Have you seen much in the press about the tournament?
Nor have I!!!!
It continues to astound me that here we are about a month away and there is nothing from ITV on the schedule, there are no PR activities, there is no razzmatazz around the event at all. I know the Rio Olympics are behind schedule and that Olympic sailing venue is basically a massive sewage outlet for the cities crap..... literally but I don't know what is happening with RWC 2015 other than what is in the specialist sections of the news.
This drives me nuts. Here we are with a massive recruitment opportunity pre-season, a massive business opportunity, a once in a lifetime chance to get our great game up there in headlights and we are missing it. The soccer kicks off on Saturday so rest assured Wales v Ireland and Australia v New Zealand will be by-lines in the lost and found sections on Sunday. Hey Ho!
Ok, outside rugby what's happening? Operation Stack. Well, we got to the tunnel in good time, got checked in WITHOUT any delay. Was put on an earlier train than booked and sailed through the other side (except for a minor detour where the motorway was being repaired after the vandals (French ferry workers) melted the road with tyres). The same smooth progress coming back and not a 'stacked' lorry in sight.
Whilst in France Mrs C and I met up with the Bard; Mr Howe and Mrs Howe in Montargis. What a fabulous town. We went to the club and saw their new clubhouse; the equivalent of our old one but without the asbestos. Their pitches however were magnificent. Fully managed and funded by the town.
Finally I see Mike 'Loadsa' Cash and his Trotsky friends have brought London Underground to a standstill again. They do not want the 24 hour tube and they will do all in their power to stop it. No negotiation, no offer no matter how generous will move them from this stance. Anybody with half a brain can see what a fantastic deal these people get already and what a good offer is on the table. This is anarchy at its worst. I laughed out loud when I read about a driver writing about £50k not being a good salary and what a stressful job it was to drive a train. Well Muppet you try being an A&E nurse on a Saturday night or an inner city teacher, or a (Met) police officer and then, and only then can you comment on stress and fair pay.
Tuesday July 21st - 12:00
England finish their US trip with some white water rafting team bonding.
Injuries continue to take up column inches. Giteau and Genia out of Australia's next game. Matfield is out for the Boks. Bath's Ben Williams is forced to retire aged just 26. This continues to be a negative advert for our game.
Will Carling says England must settle on a style. Makes sense as long as it doesn't put them in a box on a game by game basis.
No blog for several days sorry but I guess many of you who still persevere are fed up with the politics so will be relieved.
I will leave you with a thought. We all love sport. We watch, play, support and get involved with a passion. We take defeat hard and celebrate success vigorously, sometimes both to excess. We talk about little else and press coverage is often excessive and unnecessary. Please remember it is only sport.
Let us remember Jules Bianchi who was laid to rest in Nice yesterday. He died in the pursuit of his sport. There is no greater sacrifice.
Monday July 20th - 10:30
There are less than 70 days to go before the big RWC 2015 kick off. The teams are in training. England are enjoying the hospitality of the Denver Broncos. Wales have been in the Swiss Alps. France are also in the Alps mais bien sur Les Alpes Francaise.
The Rugby Championship got underway with the All Blacks looking like a well oiled machine. That is until the Argentinian rolling road block, the driving line-out got in the way. I did smile when I read that Steve Hanson was whingeing about the driving maul from the line out. Let us bring it down he cries. So the All Blacks who use all the tricks in the book, both in attack and in defence, and legal and illegal don't like it when someone does it against them. Tough!!!!!
Was it, wasn't it was the talking point in the other game. Me, I thought it was a try, especially as the attacker should always be given the benefit of the doubt. It is in the history books but the ball must only have grazed a single blade of grass.
You can see why Matt Giteau was recalled. Sadly he will miss the next game with injury. The Ozzie scrum was better but still looks an Achilles heel. The Bokke were well below their best and can only get better.
Samoa and Japan had wins in the Pacific Nations Cup beating USA and Canada respectively. In the other game Fiji beat Tonga.
Yesterday I was at Twickenham all day for part two of the volunteers training. The session was all about dealing with the thousands of spectators about to decent on the 13 venues hosting RWC 2015. Particular emphasis on how to keep smiling when you have been asked for the 600th time where the toilets are. A lot of human behaviour stuff which was interesting.
Based on my experience to date the planning and organisation is excellent, the program looks brilliant with some innovative activities at many of the events. In my humble opinion it WILL BE the best RUGBY WORLD CUP ever.
There was a session on protecting the sponsors image rights. They have invested massive sums and QUITE RIGHTLY should be protected from 'ambush marketing' and illegal activities from individuals and companies trying to exploit the event. There was no discussion on the lack of hype or either on the very tight restrictions on how the event can be advertised. This is an issue close to our heart as it makes getting the message out there really tough.
Looking further ahead the Japanese RWC 2019 event is falling into chaos as their showpiece stadium has been changed dramatically and is now seen as a major issue for the integrity of the tournament. Shame, as Mrs C and I are planning to go.
Alex Corbisiero has gone on record stating top flight players need more protection. He quotes the NFL where there are mandatory no train days, and mandatory no contact in training days. This makes good sense and I have said this before: our top flight players are subject to an overload of games / contact. Time will tell.
Got to go, time for the exercise bike, and not whilst watching Le Tour. There is much about Frome and drugs in the press right now. Much of it driven by comments from Laurent Jalabert who hypocritically is slagging off Frome when he himself still has a drug scandal skeleton in his closet.
Thursday July 16th - 10:30
Last night I attended a Sussex Regional Partnership meeting to discuss clubs' preparations for the World Cup. Based on the RFU suggestions I think we are in a good place..........
We are finalising our opening times for the games.
We have moved some league kick off times to make viewing easier.
We have a fantastic plan for local schools which kicks off the minute they go back from their summer break.
We have put together some activity linked to high profile 3rd party hires.
We have some nice ideas to reward club members for their loyalty during the period.
We are putting in place plans to welcome new players and supporters to our club and our game.
Keep watching this space.
I raised the point about the lack of any hype around the tournament. The answer was 'it is too early'. Not in my opinion it isn't. The argument goes that we have just had Wimbledon, the Ashes are underway, the Open Golf starts today, Le Tour de France is happening. In my very humble opinion many of these events are 'appointments to view' by sports fans and non sports fans alike. What better time for the IRB, RFU, ITV et al to start sowing the seed that RWC 2015 is about to happen; 'make that your next appointment to view'. If they miss this chance then guess what, the football season will be underway and there will be wall to wall coverage of all those overpaid prima donnas filling the front and back pages of our newspapers.
By the way, I thought the meeting was again woefully under attended.
I see Matt Giteau is the first to benefit from Australia's change of policy regarding overseas players and the national squad. He starts on Saturday against the Bokke.
There is a bit of a hooh-hah about the sudden inclusion of New Zealander John Hardie in the Scottish RWC 2015 squad. Unlike the mercenaries who qualify by residency he has a Scottish grandmother. The hooh-hah is that he recently played for New Zealand Under 19s. So what. Martin Johnson played for them too and look what he brought to British rugby. It is the ridiculous residency rules that peeve me.
I see a picture of Lawrence Dallaglio with the Webb Ellis Trophy at Stonehenge. I found this by accident. It is a shame more isn't being made about the cup's tour. I guess series 101 of Dr Who, Rita Kia Ora moving to the Crap Factor and someone from something called 1 Direction has got a girl pregnant is obviously much more news worthy..........
that is unless you live in New Zealand. Here Adidas (other sports brands are available) has spent millions of NZ$ on a new TV campaign ahead of the tournament. It is well worth looking at too.
08:35 tomorrow on SKY. New Zealand v Argentina.
Talking of SKY I see the coverage of The Open Golf will switch to SKY from 2017. Another sport selling its soul to the devil. We all know money is important; rising costs of prize money, rising cost of administration etc, etc. but there is still a significant number of people who don't have a pay TV platform. It is the lack of ease of viewing, that in my view, is causing the decline in some sports.
That said there is an interesting article about people's addiction to social media in some papers today. In some cases the young get more of a kick out of Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat than alcohol. The alternatives to sport are huge and this is probably a more significant reason for declining participation than the lack of TV. Discuss.
Got to go. Time to read the next instalments of 'Greece, a once mighty empire' followed by The Jeremy Hunt story; 'An enema too far'. If I get through those I have Mick 'Loadsa' Cash's 'Strike it rich, strike it often'