Thursday 12th March - 16:00
Why so late with the blog?
It's been another busy day at the club with a breakfast seminar on apprenticeships in the workplace. We acted as hosts, proving the versatility of our venue, with the event run by Runway Apprenticeships, sponsored by Speldhurst Sausages. It was fascinating to hear how the UK business model is moving from big monolithic empires to smaller, entrepreneurial companies who are faster on their feet and more dynamic in the market place. One of the factors to their success is how they have embraced the opportunity to get apprentices into their businesses and used them to bring fresh ideas, and a new perspective on the world today. This has made them more competitive, but more importantly able to grow with a much more loyal workforce than maybe taking on graduates who believe the world owes THEM a living.
It was a good session, and the breakfast was excellent. Thanks go to Runway Apprenticeships, Speldhurst Sausages and our very David Shortland for making it happen.
In yesterday's Guardian there was a fascinating article on rugby being at a crossroads. It highlighted the boredom factor in the game with kick after kick and collapsed scrum after scrum. It asked the sensible question of how can the game grow when virtually all of the high profile events happen at Twickenham. There was a sensible input into the 14 league ring-fenced premiership. Most interestingly there was a proposal that said spread the money aimed at kids and game development around the regions. The big clubs have been very successful in marketing their brands and would therefore be much closer to the local clubs and therefore the local kids than the RFU. On this point I think there is merit in this but the danger would be that the money wouldn't then filter down into the local clubs as it does right now.
Moving on I see England have brought Lawes straight back into the side and put Parling on the bench. Mike Brown is back at the expense of Goode who is not even on the bench. Kieran Brookes and Tom Wood are also back in the squad. Twelvetrees gets a reprieve but I would have risked Slade on the bench instead.
Scotland make five changes and look a much more balanced side as a result. Big Jim Hamilton will bring an 'edge' and Finn Russell a steadying influence for the back line. I still go England but I think this will be a lot closer than many people think. The Scottish regions are not flying high in the Pro 12 for no reason. There is a good game for the international side in there somewhere.
Fed up with the Jeremy Clarkson story yet. I am. Arrogant Muppet.
What about the woman who has been divorced for 20 years, not 20 minutes, or even 20 months, and has been given the right to claim against her former husbands new found wealth. This, in my very, very humble opinion is complete and utter nonsense and is litigation gone mad. What next, someone claiming that when William of Orange invaded Britain he rampaged through the South East and damaged land which is now the site of my house and so I am suing the house of Orange for reparation. Do me a favour. Lets get these lawyers out in the real world of work and stop them screwing up our legal system with stuff like this.
Time to go for a lie down.
Wednesday 11th March - 08:30
It is crunch time for the 6 Nations. The big game of the weekend is, without question, Wales v Ireland. Wales name the same starting line-up with Sam Warburton captaining the side for a record-breaking 34th time. Rob Evans and Jake Ball come onto the bench.
Johnny Sexton is fit, and ominously for Wales, Ireland also have Sean O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip available for selection. The Irish will field a side full of experience and passion. With so much at stake, especially for the men in green, this might be a slug fest though.
Sadly this view is reinforced when you consider Wales' defensive practice this week has focussed on combatting Ireland's kicking game. I think Wales are in a better position than England to combat this with Halfpenny, Williams and North all strong under the high ball and good on the counter-attack.
An Irish win will put them in the box seat for a Grand Slam and another cut in their RWC 2015 odds. A win for Wales puts them back in the frame for another championship win.
The new, beautifully manicured Twickenham turf, albeit 50% plastic awaits the woeful Scots. England will be keen to get their show back on the road, but as many pundits are pointing out, it is a 'no-win' show. If they win, and they should by a lot, then that is no more than you would expect. If they lose then get your tin hats on for the bombardment of analysis and soul searching heading the way of Stuart Lancaster.
England have drafted Henry Slade into their squad as cover for Brad Barritt who was destined to start prior to a recurrence of his injury last Sunday. Mike Brown will start, and if he doesn't then Lancaster has lost his marbles. Ben Youngs is not guaranteed to start and his brother Tom might be out due to injury. Lawes and Parling are fit and could go straight into the starting line-up.
Scotland's Stuart Hogg has dissed the English by saying they lack respect. England have refuted this, but in the same breath Graham Rowntree, who is a really nice bloke, has said that England will win by many.
Sean Lamont is out after suffering a knee injury. The Scots could put Nicola Sturgeon on the left wing where she has been making waves for some time.
Greig Laidlaw is sounding confident. I wouldn't put your mortgage on a Scottish win though.
It wouldn't be a 6 Nations weekend with that know-it-all Sir Clive having a pop.
In the Organ of Truth he has suggested England use the rest of the 6 Nations as RWC 2015 warm up games. I think England might already have RWC 2015 in their mind without you stating the bleeding obvious.
Include Danny Cipriani, Henry Slade and Steffon Armitage at some point. I agree with the first two, but let us remember Sir Clive, that Armitage stuck two fingers up to England in pursuit of the money in France.
Rest Robshaw. You say this as an opportunity to bring Armitage in. WRONG! If you want to open the door for a mass exodus of English based players to France then pick Armitage.
Need for speed. I agree. Speed is essential across the squad. The current England back row is a bit sluggish and NO! NO! NO! Armitage isn't the answer.
Improve your kicking by bringing back Dave Aldred. Great idea as he was one of the significant factors for England's disastrous RWC 2011 campaign. His interference was instrumental in England's pathetic performances throughout the tournament, often ignoring instructions from Martin Johnson.
Focus on fitness and smarter use of the bench. Well Sir Clive, that really is insightful. My mum could have come up with that bleedin' obvious comment.
In the other game France play Italy in Rome. Nothing more required on that me thinks.
Tuesday 10th March - 08:50
Let me start the Tuesday round-up with The Crows. After the late cancellation of the league game vs Ditchling III they travelled to Burgess Hill to face the Sussex All Blacks 3rd string in a 'friendly'. Having lost a few players to the 2s late on they still put on a great show winning 38 -17. Well done boys, or should I say men, or should I say old men.
Sorry to sound like a well worn record. To me, let me stress: to me, this is a perfect example of why leagues are more trouble than they are worth at the lower end of our great game. The boys played in a very competitive game against a team of like minded players. What was at stake? Nothing more than pride and a desire to have a good game of rugby. No form filling, no registration nonsense, no admin deadlines, just a game of rugby.
In the leagues Maidstone took a huge step towards their goal of promotion with what seems a comfortable win over Tunbridge Wells at St Marks Recreation Ground. Medway likewise now seem pretty certain to be taking the all important second spot and the play-offs following their equally convincing away win over Sevenoaks. Ashford lost narrowly at home to Deal & Betteshanger in a high scoring game, and Old Colfeians overcame Thanet Wanderers in the other game.
We still sit seventh after our win. Maidstone are 9 points clear at the top with Medway 8 points clear of Sevenoaks in second and third respectively. Ayelsford Bulls are relegated sadly.
In London 3 South East Horsham remain unchallenged at the top of the table following an impressive away win at Gillingham Anchorians. Our good friends The Greenies continue to impress with an away win at Bromley, whilst Uckfield won the Sussex derby beating Pulborough down by the river Uck. Lewes lost heavily away at Folkestone, as did Hastings & Bexhill away at Dartfordians. In the only other game Park House were beaten at home by Old Dunstonians. Horsham remain 11 points clear at the top with just three games to go. A bonus point win next time out secures them promotion.
Lewes and H&B look precarious at the bottom. Any result by Park House next time out sees Lewes relegated I'm afraid.
In Sussex 1 Burgess Hill lost out to Brighton II, hurting their chase for automatic promotion. With Eastbourne beating Worthing III, and having a game in hand it is advantage the seasiders. Even after beating us Crawley are well adrift in 5th spot. Hellingly's win over Hove II at Hove keeps their hopes of the play off spot alive. In the other games Rye beat Holbrook and Seaford overcame Chichester III. We languish in 9th spot but safe from relegation.
Above us Hove failed to maintain their winning momentum losing away at Dover. Brighton too lost away, this time to Chobham. Charlton Park completed the set with an away loss to Guildford. Wimbledon maintain their slender lead at the top after beating Gosport & Fareham down on the south coast.
Up in the ether of National League 3 G-Force beat Amersham & Chiltern away, TJs squeaked past Westcliff by 1 point in a 63 point classic at Westcliff, Chichester lost away at Hertford. Bury St Edmunds remain top.
Other results of note. Bridgnorth remain unbeaten after a convincing win over Stourbridge Lions. They are 10 points clear with a game in hand. Promotion looks certain. I am in Bridgnorth next week. I might pop in to watch training.
Salisbury's fine form also continued with a very comfortable 58 - 5 win over Wimborne. Their crowd was up by two this week as this encounter was enjoyed by my son-in-law and grandson.
Looking at the leagues the games on 21st March will define promotion and relegation for many.
Just one other result to look at. Haywards Heath beat Horsham II 10 - 45 to remain unbeaten at the top of Sussex intermediate league.
That'll do for today.
Monday 9th March - 09:15
I feel somewhat guilty that I didn't make Aylesford Bulls' pre-match lunch on Saturday but it wasn't to be. I also feel for Aylesford as they languish at the foot of the table without a point to their name. This nearly changed on Saturday after the epitome of 'a game of two halves'. In the first we were simply unstoppable for long periods scoring 34 unanswered points. The speed of our play, and precision of the support, and the running lines were all excellent. The second half was mostly Aylesford, scoring early in the half and then going from strength to strength. They scored two further tries in quick succession to put us under severe pressure. We scored another try late on putting the game beyond Ayleford's reach but a fourth for them would have been just reward for their efforts.
Aylesford have great facilities and on the evidence of what I saw the basis of a very good team. I sincerely hope they bounce back quickly.
Young Tom Kent was another of our juniors coming through the ranks on Saturday. Tom is the only player this season who has played for all four of our senior sides. Overall he did very well being impressive driving forward, and solid in defence. He will be an asset to the 1st XV squad without question, especially as he becomes more aware of players around him and learns when to off-load and when to take the ball into contact.
At home our 2s were given a lesson by Crawley with us losing by 3 - 42. There is a caveat to this however and that is the club's current injury list. I thought last year's injury crisis was bad but all of a sudden we are really struggling. This is compounded by non-availability for a range of reasons. Based on this the 2s did fantastically well to hold the score to 42 after losing players at late notice to the 1s.
The Crows game against Ditchling IIs was pulled due to their player unavailability.
Going back to injuries, our 1st XV second half performance was hampered by the loss of Andy Walters and Harry Sansbury during the game. This is a worry for next week when we take on Medway. A side keen to finally secure that play off spot.
The places at the President's Lunch are going quickly. Contact me soonest to avoid disappointment.
Wasps v Sarries was a thoroughly enjoyable game yesterday. I wouldn't want to be the Ricoh Arena groundsman getting the pitch ready for Coventry City's next game.
I see Gromit is saying he would enshrine pre-election TV debates in law. Well Ed baby, surely there are many other MUCH more important things to do than that. This is a stupid pre-election stunt.
David Macaroon is saying he will deliver another 500 new free schools. Guess that will be delivered just like your promise on immigration.
It beggars belief that a full year has passed since the disappearance of MH370 and there is still no trace of the missing aircraft. Nat Geo give an excellent dispassionate view of what could have happened. Based on analysis of the limited data available they one by one eliminated the possible causes for the disappearance. Sadly it really does seem likely that this was a deliberate act by one of the flight crew. Tragic and gut wrenching for the families to accept this I know but it does seem the only logically answer............ 'when you have eliminated the impossible, no matter how improbable whatever is left is the truth'.
Friday 6th March - 07:45
Hi! Ho! Hi! Ho! It's off to Friday Club I go.......... in about an hour actually. As the club gets older the amount of tasks required to keep it looking in pristine condition get longer. As I have said on more than one occasion it is like a cross between Waiting for God and The Last of the Summer Wine. It is a laugh. Why not join us if you have a spare hour on a Friday?
As expected Warburton and Biggarhead are fit for the Irish clash.
Lancaster is, despite his assertion that returning players were not guaranteed places, looking to shuffle his deck for the clash with Scotland. I am not surprised based on some of the paper talk. Me personally? I think it is probably right. I am not convinced that Twelvetrees and Burrell really have that international stardust for example. Lancaster should experiment now before RWC 2015. After all the tournament without England going all the way will turn into a damp squib.
France make four changes to their squad against Italy. So? The only thing of interest in this game are the anthems. The best anthems of the tournament. Actually, can I go back on the previous sentence. This is likely to be the best game of the next round.
It was bound to happen. As rugby professionalism creeps forward so we can expect the unsavoury aspects of players with too much time on their hands and too much money in their pockets appearing in the papers. I read Queensland Reds Karmichael Hunt has been banned for six weeks for cocaine possession. Not long enough in my view.
The 1s travel to Aylesford Bulls tomorrow. Despite the league positions a real tough challenge for us in my opinion, and no I am not just saying that. I really think we will be up against it.
The 2s are at home to Crawley, which should be a good alternative if Aylesford is too far to go, OR why not get to Ditchling to watch the Crows take on Ditchling II.
I see immigration is the headline maker again, what with Mr Farage making up policy on the hoof, and the stats showing that UK population has grown by 565,000 since 2011.
I read with interest that MPs are having some of their expenses curtailed. Not before time, and ladies and gentlemen of Parliament, the cut backs should be even more savage.
David 'Chicken' Macaroon has refused to be a part of any one-to-one debate with Gromit. Shame, I used to enjoy the bickering of Walter and Statler on the Muppet show.
I am an advocate of stronger penalties for driving offences, especially those that endanger the lives of others. Confiscating vehicles is my popular choice but Finland have an interesting alternative, which I believe has been tried here in the UK. Your fine is commensurate with your income. Recently a Finnish man was fined 54,000 euros for being caught 14 mph over the limit. Nice one.
The New Zealand public have taken a different approach: vigilantism. A spate of serious accidents, some fatal, has caused locals to flag down wayward drivers, take their keys and leave them stranded where they sit. The keys are posted to the local police. The police are not wholly enamoured with the idea but admit it is having a positive affect on reducing deaths on the road. For the sake of completeness many of the issues are caused by tourists a) used to driving on the other side of the road and b) they don't have the same driving standards as New Zealand (and UK) in their home country.
Finally Nicola Sturgeon has said she is not in favour of assisted suicides............. that is until Alex Smoked Salmond gets into Parliament with a large tranche of SNP MPs in his pocket.
Back on Sunday. Off to bask in the warm weather forecast for the weekend.
Thursday 5th March - 08:45
Today is World Book Day. We can celebrate the great children's works of fiction such as Harry Potter, the darker fiction of the Lord of the Rings, the classic fiction of writers such as Conan-Doyle and Dickens, and of course the political fiction of UKIP's policies.
Me? Right now I'm reading Boris Johnstone's The Churchill Factor - How One Man Made History. It's fascinating and very well written......... in my view.
The only story of note in the rugby world is the good news that Mike Brown is back in training and is likely to feature in Lancaster's selection to face Scotland. On that point Lancaster has told the injured 'stars' they are going to have to work hard to regain their spots.
In club news we have had an another meeting with the RFU and the ground contractors this week and now have a new start date for the drainage work on Pitch D. The wet weather has prevented the work starting when originally planned. Once this is completed it will relieve (to a degree) the pressure we constantly face with pitch availability.
Thanks go to the RFU and Wealden District Council for their generous grants to support this project.
In addition we have been awarded £500 from RBS to go towards improving the access to pitches C & D.
In both cases a HUGE thank you must go to John 'Damper' Sayer for the excellent work he has done to make this happen.
Breaking NEWS - literally as I was typing; 'ping', a new e:mail arrives. Thanks to the efforts of Dave 'Baloo' Bennett in particular, and David 'Shorty' Shortland, Sussex RFU have awarded us £500 towards our marketing plans aimed at recruitment, retention and business planning. WELL DONE guys.
Why do all our members have crazy nicknames. I guess I am Mr 'Misery Guts' Chairman.
The Friday Club continue to make a massive contribution to the well being of the club. When you arrive on a Saturday I bet for example you don't notice the rubbish. That is because they have made sure that the place looks great for match days.
Rugby World Cup 2015 approaches and the volunteer announcements continue apace. One club member has definitely been offered a role and has accepted. More on this to follow. The event will be a great advert for the game and a great opportunity for the club. As I have said before if you have ideas or want to be involved don't just sit there, come forward and volunteer to help.
As a pre-cursor to RWC 2015 England Under 20s (coached by mmmmmm! I can't remember who) face France Under 20s at the Amex, or as it will be called due to marketing restrictions associated with RWC 2015 Brighton Community Arena, on March 20th. Tickets are still available.
Finally, and just to gladden your heart, there are only 63 days of election campaigning left. This means there are 63 days of lies, false promises, and deceitful and condescending actions from mealy mouthed politicians across the land. Then on the 64th day they get back to reneging on the promises and can return to their normal lying, deceitful and condescending ways.