Saturday 11th April - 10:00
Here we are at the last league game of the season already. The boys trained hard on Thursday in readiness for today's encounter's vs Maidstone, Rye and Cinque Ports. Sadly Rye have conceded the fixture against our 2s, which is a shame. They are now doomed to relegation and we are safe.
The Friday Club excelled yesterday spending all morning and into the afternoon preparing the grounds for tomorrow's Sussex mini finals. The pitches have been rolled, marked out, flagged and are in pretty good shape ready for our visitors. The old guys must have walked miles to ensure we are ready. THANK YOU all.
Somewhat ironic for me to be spending so much time supporting a concept I am not particularly in favour of. I think this type of competition is actually bad for the game and not enhancing it. I can guarantee there are some kids who have turned up at clubs week in week out but wont be able to enjoy tomorrow because it is a competition and they are therefore excluded. There is a good chance these are the same kids who drift away from rugby before they have been given a chance.
Why spend so much time helping then? Simple! We as a club have been asked to host, we have agreed, and we therefore will do it to the very best of our ability............. and of course there are many who don't share my personal view on competition in rugby too early in kids rugby careers.
Please note extra volunteers would be most welcome.
I see the great white hope Sam Burgess is back on the radar starting at flanker for Bath.
Nathan Hughes has had his ban overturned for the incident involving George North. This is the right decision.
Jacques Burger is banned for a game after his mis-demeanour in France.
There is an interesting piece in the news about London Welsh and the uneven playing field for newly promoted clubs to the Aviva Premiership. I didn't realise how complicated the payment structure from the governing bodies of professional rugby are, and how any promoted club is going to struggle financially.
That said Welsh shot themselves in the foot by discarding the players who worked hard to deliver promotion.
See you at Maidstone and / or tomorrow at the mini festival.
Thursday 9th April - 13:00
Just a quick blog today. The boys are readying themselves for the toughest of tests against title chasing Maidstone on Saturday. Maidstone will start as odds on favourites and I hope they will run onto the field with that attitude in mind. We are still battling with injuries but we have already proven against Deal & Betteshanger, and again against Ashford, that lying down and accepting defeat is not in our DNA.
Our 2s have a tough test against Rye and a win is crucial for us to avoid relegation. Again those selected will be ready, willing and able to do what is required.
I see the RWC 2015 referees have been announced. No surprises with the possible exception of JP Doyle. His meteoric rise is of note.
Mike Brown is still suffering with the symptoms of concussion. This is a worry.
Lawrence Dallagio believes French rugby is in crisis. Their club rugby isn't (until the money runs out) but their international game is.
The gloss has been taken off Sarries win over Racing Metro with the citing of Jacques Burger for foul play. He could be cited for being pug ugly too.
England win the Tokyo 7s. They needed too, and they need to continue to win if GB is to have a 7s team in the Rio Olympics.
Some pleas for help
This Sunday we proudly host the Sussex mini finals. This is an honour for the club. We need more help. Can you spare a few hours on Sunday morning marshalling cars, supervising a pitch, helping with a barbecue etc. If yes then let me or Gavin Richardson know soonest. Your reward: a bacon roll and a cup of tea.
Are you an IT wizard who keeps up with the very latest technology? If yes do you have a PC that is in great working order that is surplus to your current needs. If yes the club will gratefully take it off your hands.
Finally in other news I see Ms Fish has been stirring the pot again by demanding all tax powers are given to Scotland. This despite putting the Scottish economy immediately into a £7.6bn deficit.
Non-doms are to be punished and their tax benefits scrapped. Shame, Mrs Chairman has said if I continue to take the 'pith' out of her in public I'll be a non-dom.
Lots for the Friday Club to do tomorrow. If you are not a regular don't worry. Feel free to join us tomorrow as we prepare for a very busy weekend.
Wednesday 8th April - 11:45
I hope your Easter weekend was as good as mine? Quality time with the family, great food, loads to drink, plenty of sunshine and time away from the mobile phone and pc. Monday in particular was especially good with a day trip to Swanage. The Norden to Swanage heritage railway, then time on the beach with the grandchildren; great fun, followed by fish & chips and the obligatory bit of bank holiday sunburn.
Intermingled with the food and wine was some European rugby. Newport Gwent Dragons beating Cardiff Blues caught the eye in the Challenge Cup. Josh Novell has just signed a contract with the Blues by the way.
The Champions Cup games proved what a great game rugby is. Bath went close against Leinster but the Irishmen's greater experience told in the end. George Ford reinforced his No.10 credentials with another solid performance. He has to be the starting outside half for England during RWC 2015
Wasps succumbed to Toulon but put up an impressive performance in defeat. Steffon Armitage, in my view, wasn't as good as the hype that has surrounded him this season. James Haskell on the other hand did enough to confirm his place in the England set up, although Croft is on his way back. Haskell's on-field discipline has to improve though. Wasp's Bradley Davies might be getting the call from Warren Gatland after his very impressive contribution to the black & ambers performance.
Clermont Auvergne gave Northampton Saints a rugby lesson. It was a masterclass, begging the question how big is the gulf between French and English club rugby. Tom Wood's jokey comment about being invited to a Clermont training session summed up the difference between the two sides. Nick Abendanon is the new poster boy of French rugby after his very impressive showing. He is being touted as another who should be considered for England's RWC 2015 squad. No! No! No!. He, like Armitage knew the rules before he left.
Marcelo Bosch kicking the last gasp penalty to take Sarries through over Racing Metro was the moment of the weekend. Racing were the better side for most of the game but it would be churlish to deny Sarries their moment of glory after a spirited and thoroughly absorbing encounter.
I fear an all France final which will rekindle the debate on the Aviva salary cap. In fact Nigel Wray, Saracens benefactor, and Dai Young of Wasps have already raised the issue. I find it bizarre that Wray wants to raise the cap when his club is already £41m in debt, a situation that would worsen significantly with any cap changes. With the exception of the two blockbuster games at Twickenham and Wembley attendances at Allianz Park are not that great so I find it difficult to understand his mentality.
As I have said before money is a problem for our game and not a solution. This is not just an elite club problem either. If you look at soccer the fact that no English team reached the quarter finals of Europe tells its own story. Blackpool, a club who spent heavily to dine at the top table of the English game are now sliding inexorably towards financial meltdown. This should be a salutary lesson for rugby.
Grounds such as Franklin Gardens, Welford Road, Kingsholm, Sandy Park, The Rec are all full. Wasps move to the Ricoh is working. The crowds are going because the atmosphere is good, the games are close, the players on show are performing well. Build on this success and bring home grown talent through. Don't sell out to mercenaries who have no affinity to your club.
Elsewhere I read with interest that our lovely neighbours the French, namely air traffic controllers are on strike again....... and to think some politicians think the French model is one we should emulate.
Tony Blair has joined the campaign trail. Of course we can believe everything that duplicitous tow-rag has to say can't we. Weapons of mass destruction my back-side.
Finally I see Wee Jimmie Crankie has been caught out too. So the memo did exist then. Also I find it fascinating that she states she will oppose any increase in the retirement age because Scots die younger than others in the UK. I guess this has something to do with the fact that their consumption of alcohol, tobacco and fatty foods is proportionally per capita the highest level in the UK. Perhaps Ms Sturgeon might want to be more positive in her thinking and encourage a more healthy lifestyle than simply being an obstructive ....... (fill in the blank in less than three words)
Friday 3rd April - 09:20
I was always told to avoid discussions about politics and religion......................
Today is one of the holiest days of the year........ Good Friday............. so I wish you a Happy Easter, a time spent ideally with family, and a time to contemplate your good fortune, and the challenges others less fortunate may be facing.
One question............... where do Easter eggs fit into the equation. Can't remember in my RS lessons of long ago anything about the Disciples rushing to the supermarket to buy exorbitantly priced chocolate eggs or extravagantly wrapped chocolate bunnies!!!!
So the debate is over. My first thought was: 'where is William G Stewart and the other eight contestants of 15 to 1?'
She who must be obeyed made me sit through it. I think there might have been some thought of it inducing some form of heart attack as the blood boiled at some of the content. Aaah, but it had a beneficial effect as I stomped and paced around the house, kicking at the metaphorical cat (no cats were harmed in the course of the evening), and punching the air in frustration, or applauding wildly in support. Many calories used up, which is a good job as the Australian red we had with my fantastic paprika lamb dish was excellent but very calorific.
If you watched it you will have your own opinion on winners and losers, and the rights and wrongs so I will leave it there for now. Emphasis on 'for now'.
As my own personal financial policy is you can't and shouldn't spend what you haven't got, and increasing debt to service debt is not the way to go, it is time for the begging bowl............
The club is keen to enhance the area by the main clubhouse door. We have been given some very nice large clay pots. We would like more. We also need the multi-purpose compost and the evergreen plants. e.g. dwarf conifers, to go in them. Any offers gratefully accepted.
Likewise the club's state of the ark pc has gone 'bang!'. We need another one to run our accounts and manage the daily business. Any offers of help would be most eagerly accepted.
You cheeky devil I hear you cry. Do you know what? If you don't ask you don't get.
Just a couple of quick rugby comments.
Will Genia turns down Bath to join Stade Francais.
My good friend Colin Forster raised a good point about the growing number of injuries; 'is the increasingly dynamic use of impact subs late on in games contributing to the injury count?' It is an interesting question as enormous fresh and fired up lumps of buffalo come on to attack tiring and bruised bullocks. Outcome is carnage.
Happy Easter to you all.
Thursday 2nd April - 08:20
I know many of you have stood on our balcony wandering 'what the heck is the referee doing?'. I'm not sure if that is out of exasperation or ignorance. I fear that, despite many of you being at games week in, week out, it is the latter.
This isn't a criticism, or maybe it is, as rugby laws are often complex and can be open to interpretation. The ruck/tackle area is the most complex and I am certain that the new World Rugby law book is not your favourite bedtime reading.
So to the point.............. NOW is the time to put things right and for some of you young enough to, loosely describing it, still able to run around to try refereeing. The club, in conjunction with the Referees Society, is running a course for new referees on Sunday April 19th and Sunday May 10th. Contact Pratty or Milgi Norman if you want to take part.
The SERIOUS point is the game needs more referees, young and old. Give it some thought please.
George North continues to make the HEADlines. He has been referred to a neurologist and will miss the Saints tie against Clermont Auvergne.
Mike Brown has also caused more concern feeling 'not quite right' after the French game thus missing last weekends encounter with Sarries.
Nick Williams, Rhys Patchell's assailant, has been banned for eight weeks. Good!!
It is quarter final time for the Champions Cup. I go home wins across the board: Leinster (v Bath), Clermont Auvergne, Racing Metro (v Sarries), Toulon (v Wasps).
Couple of non rugby stories.
The 'Leaders Debate' is tonight. Well worth watching if you want to be ahead of the game in terms of understanding what verbal bull really sounds like.
M&S new range is a throwback to the 70s. BRILLIANT!!!! Dusting off those flares, big collars and floral shirts already.
I read with interest that France is now blaming Britain for the increase in binge-drinking in France, especially amongst women. All I can say is France must be like a wife. 'It is always someone else's fault!!' I refer back to the fact that France opened their borders to all and sundry yet it is not their fault they are over-run with migrants.
IKEA are launching vegetarian meatballs. Surely that is just balls?
Finally, Ian Carr had a splendid send off yesterday. His family and friends did him proud
Wednesday 1st April - 08:15
There's much in the papers to discuss today.
Debbie Jevans gets a £150,000 'pay-off' as she leaves her role with England 2015. As I suggested, the truth will out. It seems the increasingly acrimonious tension between her and Ian Ritchie was at the heart of her decision. It is thought that Ritchie was becoming increasingly frustrated at the profligate spending of Jevans and her team and (in his opinion) the unacceptably high levels of staff involved. She was becoming more and more frustrated with Ritchie's desire to be hands on in her role. Something had to give. It is thought preparations are in good shape so her departure is deemed not to be 'mission critical'.
That said there has been a serious glitch in the latest on-line sale of tickets causing hours of delay. Some good tickets, including the quarters are still available.
I need to be careful as I have signed up to a code of conduct regarding RWC 2015. This is because I have accepted a role as a volunteer. That said I do feel that the whole World Cup structure between World Rugby (IRB) and the host union is flawed. The host union, despite stumping up huge amounts of cash, is hog-tied as World Rugby control all the sponsorship, hospitality and TV rights. This means that World Rugby don't take any responsibility for the marketing of the event or sale of the tickets. The fact the host can't use the RWC 2015 logos and clubs are VERY restricted in their use of logos, terminology etc, etc, etc. makes driving the legacy objectives extremely difficult and explain why some sports fans I have come across have zero knowledge of RWC 2015. For Japan 2019 the thinking needs to be much more joined up.
The Amex is in line to host a European Champions Cup semi-final IF Wasps qualify.
Nathan Hughes gets a three week ban for his reckless hit on George North.
Unlike Tuilagi Joe Launchbury is set to make his comeback at the end of April. Perfect timing to push for a world cup place.
Johnny Wilkinson is being talked about with regard to joining the England coaching set up.
Kevin Sinfield of Leeds Rhinos to switch codes at end of the Super League season.
Injury crisis, what injury crisis? This one!! Sadly young Tomos Norman has been struck down by it. Just days away from his great adventure with Wales Exiles he has had to pull out with a hamstring injury. I'm 'gutted' for him.
Well done to our Colts who had an easier time of it against Ashford on Sunday winning 35 - 0.
The election campaigning is in full swing.............. and is driving me nuts. I thought I spouted a load of rubbish.
A great NFL story caught my eye. The Atlanta Falcons have been cranking up the crowd noise by adding taped sound effects to the home crowds already high level of passion during visitors scrimmages (spelt correctly!). We don't have to worry about that we've got....................... answers on a postcard.
Tuesday 31st March - 08:15
As I said on Sunday we overcame Ashford but were very lucky to do so. Maidstone continue to head the table with an away win at Deal & Betteshanger. Mathematically Maidstone can still be caught by Medway who got past a tricky tie away at Beckenham. Maidstone will be promoted IF they beat us on April 11th as they then won't be caught, and have a game in hand. Medway are already guaranteed the all important play-off spot. Sevenoaks beat Old Colfeians at their place and will finish in 3rd. Tunbridge Wells beat Thanet Wanderers at St Marks and can't be caught in 4th. Aylesford Bulls had a bye week but sadly were relegated some time ago. We can't be caught in 6th which is a great outcome for us.
In Sussex 1 we again couldn't get a 2nd XV side out. I am sorry and disappointed by this but am happy to go through our registration sheet line by line with anyone who wishes to challenge our injury crisis. Congratulations to Eastbourne who have secured promotion back to the London leagues after a comfortable win against Hellingly. Burgess Hill secured an impressive win away at Crawley to remain 2nd. Rye secured an excellent home win against Hove II but remain in 11th ahead of Holbrook who have been promoted.
London 3 South East promotion and relegation had already been decided so last weekend's games were for pride. Champions Horsham came away from Uckfield with another win. Dartfordians, who secured the second promotion spot last week, beat Pulborough comfortably by 49 - 0. Heathfield & Waldron had an enjoyable trip home after beating Gillingham Anchorians to remain 3rd..... just. Old Dunstonians beat Lewes, who now slip back to bottom place as Hastings & Bexhill picked up a losing bonus point at home to Park House. Folkestone beat Bromley to remain in 5th. The only game of note is the Greenies at home to Old Dunstonians. The winner secures 3rd spot.
In London 1 South Brighton lost at home to table topping Wimbledon. Charlton Park came a cropper at Chobham and Hove had a long and fruitless trip to Cobham. They remain 13th and likely to suffer the drop. (I always struggle to work out the relegation protocol from this league so it could be possible that they are already relegated).
In the national league Chichester wouldn't have enjoyed the coach ride home after shipping 72 points to table topping Bury St Edmunds. East Grinstead picked up a losing bonus point away at Westcliff, as did Tonbridge Juddians away at CS Kronenburg 1664. Nothing has been decided in this league yet and with two games to go there is much to play for at top and bottom of the table. Chi and TJs will end up mid-table with the G-Force looking to secure an excellent 3rd spot. They currently lie 4th behind the Mad Birds who are in 3rd and their next opponents.
Bridgnorth have been promoted following their away win at Veseyans. They can't be caught and have two games in hand. The objective now is an unbeaten season.
Salisbury beat Dorchester 78 - 5 to secure the all important 2nd spot in Southern Counties South.
In other rugby news George North is being advised not to play again this season. I agree with this recommendation. Barnsey asks the question why isn't North playing in headgear. Good question but would it have helped? After all, Halfpenny had headgear on and he was knocked out (and now missing games for Toulon as a consequence). He also challenges the poor tackling techniques of the modern player. The desire to choke off the ball in the tackle has driven this. Anyway, you can read his article on SKY Sports website for yourselves. Watch out for the reference to Bassaleg, my old school.
Tuilagi is set to miss the rest of the season. Does this mean Tuilagi's World Cup hopes are receding. Hope not. Always keen to see him jump off a boat into the Thames!!!!!!!
Sir Know It All defends Warren Gatland and his tactics. Butt out.
London Welsh are relegated. Surprise, surprise.
Finally, and I missed this excellent news, Milgi Norman's lad Tomos will be featuring in a Welsh Exiles development day on Thursday. Good luck to him.
Sunday 29th March - 08:45
Summer is on its way. The clocks sprung forward by an hour last night. The Scaletrix is back and it is cold and wet outside.
If yesterday's game against Ashford was Monopoly and not rugby then at every roll of the dice we must have collected a 'get out of jail free card'. We had two 17 year olds making their debut and a second row on the wing, that is how bad our injury crisis is. That said we opened brilliantly scoring three very good tries. Yates, Sansbury and Main all featuring in the moves leading to the score. As soon as we were 17 points to the good Ashford woke up and started to make inroads into our territory. Our forwards held their own against a big Ashford pack and some of our rolling maul work was excellent. Lineout and scrum were also good. Botterman, O'Grady and Pass in the back row in particular did some excellent work.
In the second half we were put under tremendous pressure and a mixture of amazing defence and the home side 'butchering' several golden scoring opportunities kept us ahead. In all honesty, except for the opening 20 minutes Ashford were the better side and some may argue, based on their second half chances should have won. That said we made a 'Horlicks' of a number of chances ourselves.
Bottom line: we won 15 - 17 and everyone of our 18 man squad can hold their head high as they gave all in victory.
A week off over Easter may allow some of our injured to recover in time for our last 1st XV game of the season against promotion chasing Maidstone. A very long injury list and a high flying Maidstone side is not a great prospect BUT our boys NEVER lie down as the last two weeks have proven.
Elsewhere I read that Debbie Jevans has resigned as CEO of England Rugby 2015. Interesting timing but I guess there must be a very good reason for this decision. One interesting thing to note is I was with some old work colleagues on Wednesday night and of the six of us there FOUR did not know anything about the World Cup being in England, and of particular interest that there are games at the Amex. These guys like their sport so the marketing team at RWC 2015 and England 2015 might need to review their activity plans.
I am getting fed up with the Steffon Armitage debate. He is playing in France for the money. He turned his back on England in the full knowledge of not being eligible for selection. That is how it should stay.
George North takes another concussion inducing hit to the head. Major worry for him but thankfully he is fine.
Rhys Patchell gets stretchered off after a very, very cheap shot by Ulster's Nick Williams. Two worries here. A) Patchell looked in a pretty bad way and I've not found an update on his condition. B) Williams should have seen red. The ref bottled it.
Over the weekend several more top flight players were stretchered off. A major worry.
Leinster v Glasgow was a cracker as predicted.
Over 84,000 watched Sarries give Quins a rugby lesson at Wembley. Wow. What a crowd. I wonder how many present told their clubs they weren't unavailable to the play to go watch this clash??
A non rugby observation. It has been pointed out that Nicola Sturgeon is looking more like Wee Jimmy Crankie every day.
The best nickname of the day goes to Ashford's very large prop. He was VERY, VERY large. The nickname: Salad. Why? Allegedly because he has never been near a salad in his life. For the record he played pretty well until he wilted with 15 minutes to go. Boom, boom!
Friday 27th March - 12:00
It gets more like soccer everyday?
I read with interest that Ian Ritchie is whinging about England not being good enough but has given Lancaster the 'vote of confidence'. He is right, it isn't good enough for a country the size of England with their number of clubs to choose players from not to be winning the 6 Nations year after year and dominating world rugby like the All Blacks.
By inference though he is saying the Welsh, the Irish, the Scots et al are inferior. Wrong! The big difference is the English clubs have a huge amount of power and can sometimes be obstructive to England's international aims.
The Irish, Welsh and Scottish have a more integrated regional structure with more of their international players playing with each other more often. This has to be of benefit to the international side. These three countries also, albeit in the case of Wales it is a bit more 'love/hate', have a harmonious and mutually agreeable relationship with the regions. This often manifests itself in players being rested more frequently than their English counterparts. It has also to be said that the Pro 12 is nowhere near as intense as the Aviva Premiership.
As I have said below another factor is the state of rugby overall. Having the biggest pool of players isn't a guarantee of success. Lets see what happens in September and October and reserve judgement on England.
Details of the RWC 2015 fanzones and the trophy tour have been released. Worth looking to see if any are of interest. I would be disappointed if you chose a fanzone in Brighton over us for any of the games!!!
Attention turns back to domestic matters this weekend with the Pro12 and the Aviva. Saints v Wasps might be worth watching tonight on BT Sport. Leinster v Glasgow will be good, then tomorrow Sarries v Quins will be a cracker at Wembley.
According to the pundits Halfpenny can't tackle properly and should be moved to the wing.
Fascinating piece in the Organ of Truth asking 'if Courtney Lawes tackle on Jules Plisson was legal, that explains why parents are discouraging their children to play rugby'. (Ref Wednesday's blog). I know many of you, rightly despise the Organ of Truth (aka Daily Mail) but this is worth a read.
Tomorrow we travel to Ashford for a test of our resolve. Yet again it wasn't a case of a selection meeting last night, it was how do we make up the 18 man squad. Rick Howe and I nearly got a call!!!!!!!!!
Outside rugby the Cricket world cup semis have been fantastic. Tremendous entertainment.
The Germanwings air disaster has dominated the news this week. Quite rightly. The question on everybody's lips is why wasn't this person's mental health issue picked up sooner. The more you read the more it seems question marks existed about the state of Lubitz mind well before the crash
There was a Crossair crash some years ago when pilot error was 100% to blame. The competence of the pilot had been challenged at length previously but was ignored. Result a major disaster which could have been avoided.
Apparently someone has left a boy band and it is causing a stir. Not for me. I really couldn't give a hoot and wonder why such an inconsequential event is getting any column inches at all.
The other story hitting the screens is the leaders debates. Two mealy mouthed politicians worming and squirming their way through the interviews trying desperately not to lie outright but equally shying as far from the truth as possible. Me, I vote for Paxman. He should be PM.
Finally, this morning our minis left for their annual tour. This time to the New Forest. 105 kids, parents, coaches and friends. I was at the club this morning to see them off and helped by preparing the pre-departure bacon sandwiches. Tracey Radford has done an AMAZING job in organising the trip. One thing she didn't bargain for was one of the coaches breaking down at Lewes.
See you at Ashford tomorrow.
Wednesday 25th March - 12:00
As the euphoria dies down after rugby's 'super Saturday' the time might be right to ask a very simple question: 'is rugby in good shape?'
To be honest I am not sure it is. Somebody used the example last night that the person seduced into thinking Saturday is what rugby is all about might be very disappointed to watch Leicester and Bath slog it out on bog of a pitch at Welford road on a cold and wet Friday night in March.
Steve Hanson could well be correct in thinking the game has become stale due to the incessant kicking, the impenetrable defences, the long stoppages for reset scrums and the interminable references to the TMO, but of course this is at the elite level of the game. It is however the level most non active participants will see.
As you come down the levels there is a very worrying trend about player numbers, especially at the 16 - 24 age bracket. More and more kids seem to be lost from the game, often forever. There are many distractions and pressures that cause this: educational demands (often driven by parents), alternative pastimes with greater flexibility on when they can be undertaken, lifestyle needs; work, leisure family, career pressure, financial pressure and so I could go on.
A few comments on two of the above; alternative pastimes and lifestyle needs. Rugby is generally regimented in that training is at a set time on set days and games are usually Saturday afternoon for seniors and Sunday morning for juniors. This regimented approach is not what people want today. Golf on the other hand can be played anytime during daylight hours, can be practised pretty well anytime, and if you don't practice it doesn't stop you playing. Lifestyle is interesting. On a day when we watch with horror the news about the Gemanwings crash in France we should note that foreign travel is much more accessible than ever before. This means the ski slopes of Europe are accessible, as are the beaches of the Carribbean et al. If you are 20 something do you want to wait to go on holiday in the summer when prices are high, and the kids are off school. No! Exactly the opposite is true. So you go away in the rugby season. Player availability becomes an issue.
The structure of the season doesn't help. Take this weekend for example. One of the biggest rugby spectacles for a long time. Players want to be part of this. Do players want to travel for 90 minutes, play in a mis-matched league game, lose heavily, and then miss a big part of the day's events. No! So players cry off and games get cancelled.
Injuries. This is a serious concern for the game. The fear of litigation is driving clubs to be overly cautious about when and where games can be played. Players lose interest if too many games get cancelled. Players retire early following injury, or the fear of injury. Overly precious parents are encouraging their kids to walk away from the game for fear of injury. This attitude makes sense. Take a golf pro who also plays rugby. He dislocates his shoulder requiring surgery. He loves the game but his future is as a club golf pro. He retires from rugby as a consequence because the risk is too high. This type of scenario is being repeated across the country.
Rules and regulations and leagues are placing constraints on clubs wishing to put sides out rather than encouraging them to play. Below 1st XV level player registration is preventing a club like ours putting sides out. We have reached our limit of registered players but right now 80%, yes 80% are unavailable for one reason or another. We have non registered players but the rules don't allow us to play them in certain games. On this subject I could go on.
Finally, and this is my biggest fear, is the role money plays in our game. I have written about the French situation, the obvious impact it is having on the French national side, and the impact on other countries. It is getting worse. French clubs are snapping up talented, and not so talented players as young as 16 in order for them to be considered 'French qualified' in years to come. This is bullshit and reinforces the point players should be qualified the old way; born in, son/daughter of a national, grandson/granddaughter of a national. End of. The current residency rules are nonsense. Will the Aviva follow the Top 14 after their injection of TV cash? New Zealand clubs are snapping up players from the Pacific Islands to bolster up their squads. These players then have to sign away their right to play for their country as the clubs can't afford to have them away for international duty. Countries like Fiji, Samoa and Tonga will suffer on the international stage as a consequence.
At the lower level is paying players sustainable? I have used the Plymouth Albion example before but when you hear of level 7 clubs paying players �200 per game it becomes a worry. Firstly you a dragging players away from other clubs, this in turn drives previously loyal clubmen away, and often away from the game altogether, and then the major issue becomes sustaining a £50k to £100k investment year in year out. The fact London 2 South East has 11 clubs not 12 might be an example of the ultimate price of failing to sustain this approach.
Don't get me wrong. Rugby is a GREAT game. It is great to be involved in it. It has an enduring future. It is right for kids. It is socialable. It has the right ethos and ethics. It is multi-national, multi-cultural. I could go on. I just fear we in the game could be sleeping walking into a train wreck if we think all is rosy in the garden and RWC 2015 is going to be the panacea for all our ills.
Can't wait for the abuse I am about to get following this blog!!!!!
Tuesday 24th March - 08:45
Ian Carr's Funeral - April 1st
11:00 at Barnsgate Manor for a humanist ceremony
12:00 at Herne Road Cemetery for the internment
then The Boars Head Inn.
Dress code is colourful
Let Gill at the pub know if you plan to attend
Sunday was a very busy day at the club. Our Under 16s performed admirably against a very well organised Chipstead side. Despite the loss the boys played extremely well. The Colts also played and beat Hastings & Bexhill in a game that was described as being a very high standard. Well done to both.
We also had the minis at home, and all this before transforming the club in a 50 minute spell to a very pleasant and welcoming venue for a christening, which based on the calls I took yesterday went very well. I have already thanked all involved in clearing the club and then transforming it.
Finally our Under 13s were in Guernsey for a mini tour. Their hosts were fantastic by all accounts, the game was excellent, and our boys pipped the hosts by a single point in a 43 point game.
So to a quick run around the leagues.
Some would have been surprised by our win over Deal & Betteshanger. None would have been surprised by Maidstone beating Aylesford Bulls, but 106 - 3 has raised a few eyebrows. Medway kept up their challenge with a solid win over Old Colfeians. Sevenoaks were also high scorers putting 75 points on Ashford. In the other game Thanet Wanderers suffered another home loss, this time to Beckenham. In the chase for promotion Maidstone remain odds on but mathematically can still be caught. Aylesford Bull have been relegated. Medway face Beckenham away and Maidstone travel to Deal & Betteshanger on Saturday. Neither easy to predict but I think Medway have the tougher task.
London 2 South East, barring an administrative cock-up, has been won by Horsham following a fine 49 - 12 win over Old Dunstonians. They are now 11 points clear at the top with only two games to play. Congratulations to them on this achievement. Heathfield & Waldron slipped up at home to Folkestone, Uckfield lost by a single point to Park House. At the foot of the table Lewes turned on the style to beat Gillingham Anchorians and move off the bottom, leaving that spot to Hastings & Bexhill who lost away at Pulborough. Dartfordians are comfortably clear in the play off spot after beating Bromley at Bromley. Lewes and Hastings & Bexhill are both relegated. A sad day for Sussex rugby.
In Sussex 1 three games failed to happen (embarrassingly we were one of them). Of the games played Burgess Hill demolished Seaford, Worthing Senior I beat Brighton II, and Crawley beat Chichester in the cathedral town. The promotion race is not yet over with Eastbourne hosting Hellingly and Burgess Hill having a tricky trip to Crawley. Hellingly and Burgess Hill are both on 76 points so this weekend is crucial for both.
In London 1 South Brighton strolled past Gosport & Fareham scoring 69 points on the way. Hove lost at home to Guildford leaving them in the relegation zone. With three games to go all is not lost and Twickenham, who were gifted an HWO by Basingstoke this week, Cobham and Dover are all in reach. Our friends Charlton Park are now safe following their win over Cobham. Good on ya and say 'Hi!' to Bernie.
In the National league Chichester and East Grinstead suffered home defeats at the hands of Amersham & Chiltern and Bury St Edmunds respectively. TJs also lost at home to those crazy birds the Irish Wild Geese. Bury St Edmunds remain top. Sadly I think any realistic chance of promotion for G-Force has now gone. TJs can't finish worse than 9th. Chichester have the tougher final three games so might slip back from their 8th spot, again finishing no worse than 9th. Bury St Edmunds hold sway at the top but there is still much to play for.
Bridgnorth's game against Tamworth was postponed but they remain comfortably clear at the top, now with two games in hand.
Salisbury's trip to Bradford-on-Avon resulted in a 5 - 81 win. They sit in second spot but can't catch Sherborne who have been crowned champions.
Just one other result to look at. Haywards Heath were gifted the result against Lewes II to win promotion. Well done to the them.
Plenty to rant about tomorrow.
Monday 23rd March - 11:15
Having now watched the tape of England U20 vs France U20 it was a much better game than I thought at the time. This is strange as normally the occasion intensifies your thoughts on the quality of the match being watched.
This was the start of an unbelievable weekend of rugby. Let me start at home. I am led to believe that selection for the game vs Deal & Betteshanger was the easiest 'Siggsy' has had to date. Basically the last 18 players who were fit, and who were registered. This led many to think that post match comments would be restricted to 'you did your best', 'injuries have hurt us', 'it will put us in good stead for next season'. How wrong could we have been. The team played their hearts out, and, except for a couple of lapses in concentration allowing D&B to score their two tries, they were absolutely brilliant. Everyone of them fronted-up to the challenge. There was no luck in the victory, it was well deserved. Ali Main scoring his first senior try, Andrew Orchard making his debut, Tom Kent growing game by game. It was a fantastic result.
Can I say what a splendid league lunch too. Jacqui did us proud, as did Sandra and the team. The President missed a classic. Great food, great service, with great friends and a bloody good laugh too, a lot of it at the President's expense. Thanks to all who attended and thanks again to the team who delivered it.
Sadly we could not field a 2nd XV as we only had two registered players, and of the remainder of the senior players only six were capable of playing at that level so yet again we had to concede. We did manage to cobble together a rag-tag set of Crows to play Uckfield II. Unsurprisingly we were well beaten but I am led to believe a game played in great spirit. Average age of the Crows: 38ish. Well done guys.
So to the 6 Nations.
Wasn't it Steve Hanson and Connor O'Shea who recently said how boring the game was getting. Wow! Not on Saturday it wasn't.
Who would have believed Wales would have turned things around so dramatically at half-time. What a 40 minutes of rugby. Yes, it was helped by Italy conceding players with yellow cards but a stunning performance nevertheless. Jonathan Davies finally showed his Lions form to the full, Scott Williams proved he is worthy of a starting spot soon. Sam 'the man' was just superb, and who said our pack was significantly weakened by injury. It was a stunning performance spoilt only by the last minute try, which eventually proved decisive in Wales not taking second spot. Bring on RWC 2015.
Boring, boring Ireland. Kick, kick, kick. Strangle the life out of the opposition until they finally give in and capitulate. Well, not on Saturday. The forwards went on the rampage, the backs went on the rampage, forwards and backs were indistinguishable in the open with some mesmeric handling, and every opportunity was taken. To win by a 30 point margin was tremendous. I personally had expected a much closer game, and in fact had thought a Scottish surprise win could be possible. Wrong again Mr Chairman. Scotland were just steamrollered into the ground. The two Scottish regions are doing great in the Pro 12 but the international side have some work to do if they are not to be humiliated at RWC 2015.
5pm came around and all eyes turned to Twickenham. I have heard from several who were at the game that you could cut the atmosphere with a knife and the air of expectancy was tangible. What a start. Ben Youngs going over before you could say 'swing low sweet chariot'........... but then the French decided to turn up and play. What a game we had on our hands, with many English heads in their hands as they quickly went behind and the challenge Ireland had set becoming even greater. To and fro, we score, you score, what a game. Each time the Red Rose got in front of the French cockerel so the cockerel struck back. England never really dominated and this eventually was their downfall. Interestingly the French made the most metres of the weekend.
The player of the weekend: Ben Youngs
Try of the weekend: Scott Williams finishing off a counter attack that started on his own line
Hit of the weekend: Courtney Lawes on the French 10
Things that could have changed the whole picture: Gareth Davies catching a try scoring opportunity at the end of their game, Jamie Heaslip missing Stuart Hogg to prevent a try at the death, Noa Nakaitaci's try being disallowed.
The misplaced comment of the weekend: Mike Brown blaming the Scots and the Italians for England's plight. Sorry Mike but if there is anyone to blame it is England for not putting Scotland to the sword when they had the chance.
The unsung heroes: the referees. All three, but especially Nigel Owens deserve the utmost praise for their role in the weekend.
So Mr Hanson and Mr O'Shea. What is your opinion now?
Tomorrow will be a review of the leagues as normal. Details of Ian Carr's funeral will be covered, as will comments on our juniors and their games played on Sunday.
Saturday 21st March - 09:30
For those of you who were there I think you'll agree that the Amex Community Stadium put on a pretty good show last night for the England U/20 v France U/20 6 Nations decider. The stadium is excellent and will be a tremendous venue for the two RWC 2015 matches. Obviously because of the advertising restrictions the Amex will be known as the Brighton Community Stadium but hey ho!
I was part of the group representing the club, and I have to say Sussex RFU did an excellent job in putting this hospitality on and recognising the work the clubs do, especially the volunteers. I went as a member of The Friday Club and not as Chairman, with the rest of the party also being made up of Friday Club members. Rob 'Squeaky' Andrew was there briefly and reinforced the point that the back bone of rugby are the thousands and thousands of volunteers. Once again to those at our club I say 'THANK YOU'
Young Finlay Mahon got his moment in the sun as part of the guard of honour. It was great to see how thrilled all the kids involved with this were. It was also great to see hundreds and hundreds of kids being able to watch international rugby LOCALLY. I think the Amex, B&HA FC and Brighton City Council should work hard to get more rugby games on.
The game itself was the perfect example of the 'Curate's Egg'. Good in parts. England started brightly with the ball going wide and lots of ground being made. Sadly this didn't last. The game became somewhat turgid (I like that word) with any glimpses of expansive rugby coming from France. The boys in blue showed skill and pace and on several occasions opened up the England defence. Having had a try chalked off, rightly, for a knock on their forwards then powered over for a try. Kicking and other breaks, including way too long referrals to the TMO made the game hard to watch and difficult to get excited by. England turned the game on its head with a 10 minute spell of pressure when they scored two good tries, one following an amazing piece of footwork to stay in-field. Their defence then stood firm under the final French onslaught to take the title. Well done Bro.
During the game I pondered the fact that French rugby looked healthy with these youngsters coming through. Unfortunately the reality is that most won't get a chance to progress to the full international side whilst a) the TOP 14 are obsessed with bringing in overseas players and b) and the national side is obsessed with playing players who are only 'French' by having lived in the country for three years. The IRB, or World Rugby as they are known now must bring a halt to this ridiculous rule.
See you at the club later.
Friday 20th March - 08:15
Great day expected at the club tomorrow. We face Deal & Betteshanger and it is the President's Lunch. The 6 Nations will be on from start to finish. If you are so inclined you can follow every twist and turn and every minute of every collapsed scrum, every kick ahead, every TMO decision. I can't think of a better place to be................. maybe Coconut Bay in St Lucia but otherwise it is Steel Cross for me.
England bring in Parling with Attwood dropping out completely. Dan Cole reaches his 50th cap. Lancaster is delaying his team talk until the other games have finished. Not sure this is the right approach. The game plan should be the game plan. Changing it because Wales have whipped Italy or Ireland have lost to Scotland could be risky.
Wales have been given a huge boost to their chances in Rome. Italy will be without Sergio Parisse. That is a big blow for the Italians.
England Under 20s take on France Under 20s tonight at the Amex in Brighton. There is much to play for and having been with the England set up last night it is clear the boys are up for it. Quite a few club members are going. From what I have heard the Amex people, the Albion and the council are pulling out all the stops for this one. They see rugby at the Amex post RWC 2015 as an opportunity. Watch out for one of our minis; 12 year old Finlay Mahon in the guard of honour. He is one of our unsung heroes. An ever present at training yet not always in the team. Keen to help others and always willing to support the squad playing or otherwise.
If you thought being an international is glamorous then think again. The Under 20s have been at the East Sussex National since Sunday night. They have trained, talked, trained, been out for a curry, trained, been to the Amex and at every stage in-between have been medically monitored and ate.
Dewi Morris has expressed similar views to mine on a range of subjects.
England can't get hung up on points difference tomorrow. Stick to the plan and win first.
French rugby is in a state because of the influx of overseas players to the Top 14.
More money for the Aviva might lead to a similar situation in England.
Should the Saxons be scrapped with the Under 20s taking centre stage.
So Mr Osborne delivered his budget. OK if you are buying a house for the first time or have a few bob in savings.
I see Ms Janice Atkinson of UKIP has been suspended for ALLEGEDLY fiddling her expenses. ALLEGEDLY this could be deemed as theft. She is also the muppet who was offensive to a Thai constituent and isn't alleged that is a FACT.
Two funny stories.
I understand that one of Ian Carr's last known acts occurred in the Boars Head last Friday. He spent much of the evening propping up the bar winding up the prospective UKIP candidate for Wimbledon. Priceless.
And the mum who wrote the fake sick note for he daughter saying she was suffering from 'bone-idle-itus' and was perfectly fit enough to take part in PE. Not quite what the daughter had expected. Again Priceless. (Google it, it is funny)
For everything else there is MasterCard................... as Mrs Chairman regularly highlights.
Friday club awaits.
Wednesday 18th March - 11:00
It is with great sadness that I report that Ian Carr was found dead at home earlier this week. Many of you older members will know Ian as a long standing member of the club, someone who over many years who has made a very positive contribution to the club. He will be missed, as I am sure he will be at the Boars Head where he was a regular.
I will advise of funeral arrangements when I know them but in the meantime our thoughts must be with his friends and family. Ian, rest easy my friend.
On a happier note I send the club's thanks to our Brazilian exile Richard Lambert. The Scottish brew he so kindly sponsored on Saturday went down a storm. In some cases far too easily.
In rugby news Wales have been forced into several changes following the injuries to Samson Lee and Gethin Jenkins. Mike Philips is also out of the squad. The side still looks more than capable of beating Italy.
There is much talk about Parling and Tom Youngs starting against the French. Time will tell. The French are confident of springing a surprise. Yeah sure mes amis Francaises.
Its the budget today so lets hope for some good news for us taxpayers. I'm not proud. A pre-election giveaway would be much appreciated.
It is still not too late to book a seat at the Presidents Lunch. Call me.
No blog tomorrow.
Tuesday 17th March - 08:00
In league news it makes depressing reading that we are down as a HWO in Sussex 1 as we couldn't raise a side against Hellingly. It wasn't a 'let's think about what we do decision', it was we simply ran out of registered players due to an incredible list of injuries. This for me again begs the question is the current league structure right, could the registration rules be changed, and therefore is there a better way.
For example could we have made up the side with non registered players? Possibly. The question then becomes is it safe, in today's litigious society, to play 3rd and 4th XV ability players against a 1st XV chasing promotion? The answer is no. Ergo we have a HWO for Hellingly.
In the same league Eastbourne beat Chichester III 35 - 0 to go clear by 9 points at the top. Crawley beat Seaford so move closer to Hellingly and Burgess Hill who are 4th and 3rd respectively on 71 points. Brighton II remain in 2nd spot.
What a fantastic set of results for our minis in the Sussex Regional Finals. For the record I don't think the kids should be playing in tournaments where you write about winners and losers, and no I am not a bleedin heart lily livered socialist - liberal - SNP - green tree hugging softy. Sport at this age should be FUN and for ALL. I bet across the breadth and depth of Sussex there were coaches of 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12 year olds agonising over selection as if they were Stuart Lancaster on heat. Its wrong. All the kids should be given a chance, all the kids should be able to play, and coaches should remember that the weedy kid they might write off at 8 or 9 could grow into the next superstar outside half by the time he gets to 16.
However, all that said, we have our Under 8s, 9s, and 10s all into the Sussex finals on April 12th to be held at Steel Cross. Volunteers wanted please. Our 7s and 11s picked up the Bowl and our 12s did fantastically well not losing a game but seemingly not progressing.
Our minis are brilliantly well run, very well coached, and put the kids first. Thank you to all of them for the work they constantly put in.
In other rugby news Wales are 'open' to a call from Adam Jones. In my view he has rolled his dice and should stick with his decision. He is adding value to Cardiff Blues and not playing international rugby might extend his playing career for a little longer. Adam, if I was to advise you; 'Don't make the call'. Be remembered as one of the greatest Welsh, and international props of all time.
The new BT deal will 'bridge the gap' to France's Top 14 says Premiership Rugby's CEO Mark McCafferty. That is excellent for English rugby if it helps keep English talent in England. However with a salary cap in place this is likely to mean the few stars get more money, the academies get cut back because of the cap, and guess what? English rugby suffers. The alternative is the cap gets increased. Great, as now, in order to 'bridge the gap' English clubs who want bums on seats to pay the increased wages will look to international stars to fill their squads. Guess what? English rugby suffers. Why do people automatically think that more money means more success. There are plenty of examples of teams falling by the wayside chasing the dream only to come crashing down to earth when the money dries up.
Stuart Barnes, as is usually the case, has written a very good piece on the 6 Nations to date and how the final weekend is flawed. I see his point that with three teams realistically chasing the title England have the added advantage of playing last, and therefore knowing what they need to do. HOWEVER, if Wales, and it is a big IF, give Italy a good hammering and score a hatful of points England might just find themselves at a disadvantage trying to chase a result. I know Barnsey is like Marmite but do read the piece on the SKY Sports website.
I see Gromit has ruled out an alliance with the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon couldn't get on our screens quick enough to comment. She still hasn't realised that when Alex 'Smoked' Kipper gets elected along with his cohort of (interfering in English and Welsh affairs) SNP MPs she will be sidelined and of no relevance to anyone. Remember Sandy Shaw? No shoes and a puppet on a string. There you have Nicola; no role and a puppet on a string.
The story of the day is about IKEA. They have banned hide-and-seek in their stores. Apparently it is dangerous. Let me tell you what is dangerous. Shopping in IKEA. Those Swedes twist your mind to buying the most hideous stuff ever.
Off to Bridgnorth now.
Monday 16th March - 11:30
About the only thing worth saying about the Italy vs France clash is; 'aren't their anthems the best?' What a turgid affair. France were again dire but Italy were worse. France have lost their way and I am convinced it is because their club rugby is so dominated by international stars. You only have to run through Saturday's team to highlight the problem. There is a disproportionate number of overseas players masquerading as French running out for Les Bleues.
As we look forward to next weekend Wales have every chance of closing the points difference gap to England with what should be a comfortable win over the Italians. They will not have to defend as fiercely against the Azzurri as they did against Ireland, and in turn this should allow a now confident Welsh set up to release their backs.
England have much to improve on after a pretty lacklustre win over Scotland but if they can't beat this pathetic French side then serious questions need to be asked about England's set-up.
Ireland have the toughest test and I fear this could be a game that will see them slip from Grand Slam contenders of last week to mid table mediocrity next week. I go for a surprise Scottish win.
BT have secured the Premiership for the next six seasons in an eye watering deal. Great for the top clubs but not so for those below the upper echelons of the game. They simply will not be able to compete which will bring the inevitable 14 team 'Super' league into existence.
I see Andy Robinson is predicting Wales won't get out of their world cup group. I think there is a fair chance he is right. Wales have to start scoring tries again. The reliance on Leigh Halfpenny is an Achilles heel.
Mr Guscott has done his usual excellent '6 Nations Review' for BBC Sport. Well worth reading.
Shaun Edwards' contract is up for renewal after the World Cup. Wales would be mad to let him go.
Elsewhere I see Tunbridge Wells lost to Beckenham at St Marks Recreation Ground on Saturday 21 - 22. This moves Beckenham five points further ahead of us and kills any thoughts Wells may have had of the play-offs.
With just a few games to go Maidstone are looking dead certs for promotion. It is difficult to see them losing any of their remaining games. Based on Saturday I don't see Medway losing either but they do have a tricky trip to Beckenham to overcome. I am led to believe both Maidstone and Medway are paying their players and this has allowed them to attract talent. I hope they have the resources to sustain this. You know my view on this but I am not in charge of those clubs so I'll mind my own business and move on.
In other news there is a nice story on the web of the England fans who bought tickets for Italy thinking England were playing in Rome.
There is an excellent video of piranhas in Brazil in today's Metro on-line. If you were afraid of river swimming you'll be terrified after this. The water boils with turbulence as the massed shoal feeds on scraps of meat thrown into the water. Sleep well.
Eleven kids, £39k of benefits and shopping in Mulberry. I'll leave that for you to digest. I am so glad I am paying my taxes.......... !!!!
How ironic that Tony Blair deemed it appropriate to attend the memorial for our glorious armed forces who sacrificed their lives in Afghanistan last week. That lying tow-rag should be ashamed of himself.
It is now official; feeding bread to ducks is bad for us. They should be fed oatmeal or grapes. There is a serious point to this story but you can read that for yourself.
Before I go I was saddened to read about the fire in the bell tower of the Novodevichy Monastery in Moscow. This place is just amazing set in parkland near the Olympic Stadium. I often strolled around the grounds on weekends to recharge my batteries when I was working in the city.
Finally I recycle back to Wales vs Ireland. There was one factor in this encounter that hasn't been much commented on but certainly had a hugely positive impact on the game. That factor was Wayne Barnes. His refereeing was exceptional allowing the game to develop as it did. Well done Mr B.
Sunday 15th March - 09:30
In chronological order The Friday Club, as always, got the club in fine shape for yesterday's game vs Medway. They then enjoyed an excellent lunch at The Huntsman. A very boozy lunch leading to many a hangover and an afternoon nap. A thoroughly good day.
You will have noticed the continued improvements to the club driveway. I'm very keen to hear your views on this.
We then arrive at Saturday afternoon and Medway. Let me get straight to the point. They were very good and we weren't. Their first up tackling was excellent, ours was hit and miss, with too many misses. We were out muscled at ruck and maul. They took every chance, we didn't. They were streetwise, we weren't. They are not second in the league by accident, and being 13 points ahead of Sevenoaks in third is testament to that.
There were some aspects of our play that were positive and the fact we didn't simply fold and finished much the stronger is a sign of our spirit. What worries me is the incredible injury list we have. This has been worsened with Andy Walters, broken toe, Tommy Nicoll, damaged ankle, adding to our woes. The fact we couldn't get a second team out is embarrassing but we are simply down to the bare minimum in terms of player numbers.
The referee came in for some stick from the balcony yesterday. I am unhappy about this and will be talking to a few people about their attitude. As is often the case on spare dates coinciding with international matches referees are in short supply. This means referees from lower levels get games above their normal standard. This is tough for them and we must be more supportive. To be fair to the 'faithful' there were many inconsistencies with interpretation during the game. This does frustrate, players, coaches and spectators alike.
Let's now turn to the 6 Nations.
Paul O'Connell's 100th cap was spoilt by the men in red in what was a tremendous game of rugby. Tremendous not because it was free flowing but because of the intensity of the play and the implications of the outcome. Wales withstood wave after wave of Irish attack in one particular passage of play. This was pivotal in delivering the Welsh win. Leigh Halfpenny again played with the assuredness that makes him a candidate for world player of the year. The Welsh forwards stood up and took what was thrown at them. The Irish lacked the precision that took them to victory over England, but more importantly Wales had a plan A, B and C to combat the Irish tactical kicking. The late penalty try for the green shirts wasn't enough to off-set Scott Williams try and rob Wales of a deserved win, especially after making an astonishing 289 tackles.
England managed to get past Scotland, but only just. England were poor, making too many basic errors. Scotland by comparison replicated some of the form that they showed in the Autumn. They were dynamic in attack, and for most part, solid in defence. Stuart Hogg showed why he was on the Lions tour of 2013, with Blair Cowan and Finn Russell also standing out. For England Lawes return was timely, as was Mike Brown's. George Ford took his try well and Jonathan Joseph again showed promise. Jack Nowell on the wing made good ground when he had the ball but overall England wasted a lot of their possession thus allowing Scotland to play.
Following these results there is now a three way battle for the title. England are in the box seat and must be favourites as they play the woeful French, and at Twickenham. Ireland have the toughest test as Scotland will be buoyed by yesterday's game and will want to reward the Murrayfield faithful with a win prior to RWC 2015. Wales have the best opportunity to reduce the 25 point deficit to England in terms of points difference against the Italians. Wales however have serious injury problems with Samson Lee, Jamie Roberts, the excellent Gethin Jenkins and Richard Hibbard all serious doubts.
There is only a week to wait before we know.