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Bleater's Blog
  1. The Season is Nearly Over
  2. The Six Nations and Some
  3. The 6 Nations Begins
  4. 2022 and All THAT!
  5. Christmas is nearly upon us!!
  6. We’re Still Waiting
  7. The Season Progresses
  8. At Last - We are back
  9. The New Season is Nearly Here
  10. Lions Tests are Here!
  11. The Lions Up next
  12. Now It’s Europe
  13. 6 Nations Beckons
  14. 2021 at last! A year of renewed hope!
  15. A New Premiership Season
  16. Still NO Grassroots Rugby!!!!!
  17. It Continues - NO GRASSROOTS RUGBY!!
  18. No End In Sight To The Madness
  19. Autumn Internationals BUT Still NO Crowds
  20. We're Back - In Part At Least
  21. The Restart is Still a Long Way Away
  22. When will we play again?
  23. Time for a beer and a haircut!!
  24. It's easing apparently???!!!
  25. Behind Closed Doors or ...... ??
  26. Lockdown or not to lockdown
  27. The Debate Continues
  28. Yet another new page
  29. The Nightmare Continues - the blog
  30. The Season Grinds to a Halt
  31. The Season Moves On
  32. It's Official - The Drought is Over
  33. 6 Nations Starts
  34. Another New Page - Sorry
  35. 6 Nations Beckons
  36. Welcome To A New Decade
  37. It'll soon be over. Xmas that is
  38. Xmas is Coming
  39. Back to the Grassroots Game
  40. Bleater in Japan
  41. The Grassroots Season Starts
  42. Not Long Now!
  43. Japan Still Beckons
  44. Japan Beckons
  45. Nearly Time To Look Ahead
  46. The Summer Break is Here
  47. The Final Countdown
  48. Yet another section of drivel
  49. The Season Continues for a Little Longer
  50. The 6 Nations Continues
  51. Six Nations and More
  52. It's RWC Year!!
  53. Its Definitely Winter
  54. Winter is here. Brrrr!!!
  55. Its the Autumn, soon to be Winter
  56. We Are Off And Running
  57. The New Season Approaches
  58. Still the Summer Tours Go On
  59. The Summer Internationals Plus, Plus
  60. The Season Climax Approaches
  61. Summer is Coming
  62. Another Section, More Drivel
  63. 2018 Already!!!! It'll soon be Xmas
  64. The Season Approaches the Half Way Point
  65. The Season Takes Shape
  66. The Season Starts
  67. More Pre-Season Build Up
  68. Pre-Season and Other Stuff
  69. The Lions Tested
  70. The Lions Roar
  71. We Are Still Counting Down
  72. It's All About The Lions
  73. The Countdown to Season's End
  74. The Season Continues Apace
  75. It's Time for the 6 Nations
  76. 2017 - Let The Fun Begin
  77. The Big Man Will Be Here Soon
  78. Let's Countdown to You Know What
  79. It's Time For Europe
  80. The Season Is Well Underway
  81. At Last Let The Competition Begin
  82. Not Long to the New Season
  83. Not So Much Rugby Now
  84. Still Plenty of Rugby to Debate
  85. The Summer Break
  86. Here Comes Summer
  87. They Think It's All Over
  88. Jones - A New Era
  89. It Was A Grand Slam!!!!
  90. 6 Nations - A Grand Slam??
  91. Six Nations 2016
  92. A New Captain, A New Start
  93. Welcome to 2016
  94. The Countdown to Christmas
  95. Winter Has Arrived
  96. November Movember
  97. The World Cup Is Over
  98. Rugby World Cup Quarters
  99. Rugby World Cup into the knockout stages
  100. Rugby World Cup Day 9 to Day 24
  101. Rugby World Cup Day 1 to Day 8
  102. Sept 9th to Sept 17th
  103. August 24th to September 7th
  104. August 11th to August 23rd
  105. July 16th to August 9th
  106. July 1st to July 15th
  107. June 17th to June 29th
  108. June 2nd to June 16th
  109. May 19th to June 1st
  110. May 7th to May 17th
  111. April 28th to May 6th
  112. April 22nd to April 27th
  113. April 13th to April 21st
  114. March 13th to Aprill 11th
  115. March 5th to March 12th
Bleater's Blog
  1. The Season is Nearly Over
  2. The Six Nations and Some
  3. The 6 Nations Begins
  4. 2022 and All THAT!
  5. Christmas is nearly upon us!!
  6. We’re Still Waiting
  7. The Season Progresses
  8. At Last - We are back
  9. The New Season is Nearly Here
  10. Lions Tests are Here!
  11. The Lions Up next
  12. Now It’s Europe
  13. 6 Nations Beckons
  14. 2021 at last! A year of renewed hope!
  15. A New Premiership Season
  16. Still NO Grassroots Rugby!!!!!
  17. It Continues - NO GRASSROOTS RUGBY!!
  18. No End In Sight To The Madness
  19. Autumn Internationals BUT Still NO Crowds
  20. We're Back - In Part At Least
  21. The Restart is Still a Long Way Away
  22. When will we play again?
  23. Time for a beer and a haircut!!
  24. It's easing apparently???!!!
  25. Behind Closed Doors or ...... ??
  26. Lockdown or not to lockdown
  27. The Debate Continues
  28. Yet another new page
  29. The Nightmare Continues - the blog
  30. The Season Grinds to a Halt
  31. The Season Moves On
  32. It's Official - The Drought is Over
  33. 6 Nations Starts
  34. Another New Page - Sorry
  35. 6 Nations Beckons
  36. Welcome To A New Decade
  37. It'll soon be over. Xmas that is
  38. Xmas is Coming
  39. Back to the Grassroots Game
  40. Bleater in Japan
  41. The Grassroots Season Starts
  42. Not Long Now!
  43. Japan Still Beckons
  44. Japan Beckons
  45. Nearly Time To Look Ahead
  46. The Summer Break is Here
  47. The Final Countdown
  48. Yet another section of drivel
  49. The Season Continues for a Little Longer
  50. The 6 Nations Continues
  51. Six Nations and More
  52. It's RWC Year!!
  53. Its Definitely Winter
  54. Winter is here. Brrrr!!!
  55. Its the Autumn, soon to be Winter
  56. We Are Off And Running
  57. The New Season Approaches
  58. Still the Summer Tours Go On
  59. The Summer Internationals Plus, Plus
  60. The Season Climax Approaches
  61. Summer is Coming
  62. Another Section, More Drivel
  63. 2018 Already!!!! It'll soon be Xmas
  64. The Season Approaches the Half Way Point
  65. The Season Takes Shape
  66. The Season Starts
  67. More Pre-Season Build Up
  68. Pre-Season and Other Stuff
  69. The Lions Tested
  70. The Lions Roar
  71. We Are Still Counting Down
  72. It's All About The Lions
  73. The Countdown to Season's End
  74. The Season Continues Apace
  75. It's Time for the 6 Nations
  76. 2017 - Let The Fun Begin
  77. The Big Man Will Be Here Soon
  78. Let's Countdown to You Know What
  79. It's Time For Europe
  80. The Season Is Well Underway
  81. At Last Let The Competition Begin
  82. Not Long to the New Season
  83. Not So Much Rugby Now
  84. Still Plenty of Rugby to Debate
  85. The Summer Break
  86. Here Comes Summer
  87. They Think It's All Over
  88. Jones - A New Era
  89. It Was A Grand Slam!!!!
  90. 6 Nations - A Grand Slam??
  91. Six Nations 2016
  92. A New Captain, A New Start
  93. Welcome to 2016
  94. The Countdown to Christmas
  95. Winter Has Arrived
  96. November Movember
  97. The World Cup Is Over
  98. Rugby World Cup Quarters
  99. Rugby World Cup into the knockout stages
  100. Rugby World Cup Day 9 to Day 24
  101. Rugby World Cup Day 1 to Day 8
  102. Sept 9th to Sept 17th
  103. August 24th to September 7th
  104. August 11th to August 23rd
  105. July 16th to August 9th
  106. July 1st to July 15th
  107. June 17th to June 29th
  108. June 2nd to June 16th
  109. May 19th to June 1st
  110. May 7th to May 17th
  111. April 28th to May 6th
  112. April 22nd to April 27th
  113. April 13th to April 21st
  114. March 13th to Aprill 11th
  115. March 5th to March 12th
Bleater's Blog 1 of 115

1. The Season is Nearly Over


Thursday 19th May: 08:55

Two games to go in the Premiership for most. London Irish and Worcester have just one. So what are the playoff permutations? Leicester Tigers will have a home tie as they can’t be caught by third placed Harlequins. Saracens are all but certain to secure the second home spot. They would need to lose both their remaining games without picking up any points for that not to be the case. Highly unlikely. Harlequins are pretty sure of the playoffs and need three points from their final two games against Gloucester and away at Exeter. Neither are guaranteed but very likely.

Where it gets interesting is that fourth spot. Northampton in 4th on 68 points with Gloucester in 5th on 67 points. Both have tough fixtures this weekend and both could come away empty handed. That would open the door for Exeter and Sale, but as I said yesterday lets dismiss that notion for now. Who holds the key? Actually Saracens do. Saracens host Saints on Saturday and that will be tough for the visitors. Then in June Saracens travel to Gloucester. Put aside the recent demolition of the Cherry & Whites, that contest could be interesting. I think Saints have the advantage as they host Newcastle in the final game of the season. Of course by then it all could be cut and dried.

The other question revolves around the games integrity. Will Saracens rest players ahead of the playoffs. They have had a couple of tough weeks and reaching the Premiership final would be an amazing achievement for the Barnet outfit. (Actually I think it is closer to Hendon than Barnet). Only time will tell.

The URC is back too with European places the key objective. Leinster v Munster jumps off the page but I suspect both sides might rest a few front line players. The Scottish derby is the other highlight with Edinburgh hosting Glasgow.

Wayne Pivac has announced his squad for South Africa. The list of absentees is most impressive however the inclusion of Leicester’s Tommy Reffell and Cardiff’s James Ratti make the headlines. Reffell certainly has been causing quite a stir at Welford Road so his inclusion comes as no surprise. Talking of surprises the omission of Callum Sheedy at the expense of Rhys Priestland has raised a few eyebrows as has the exclusion of Jonathan Davies. Davies is heading towards the twilight of his career but as he proved in the 6 Nations he still has plenty to offer. Right now the squad looks pretty good, however, and it is a big however, WalesOnline has suggested that at least ten of these are doubtful due to ongoing injury concerns. Ten big names too such as Wyn Jones, Liam Williams, Tomos Williams, Josh Adams and Will Rowlands.

Not long now. Our tour is being finalised and it looks amazing. The only downside is on three of the Saturday’s we will have to endure Wales being run ragged by 15 enormous South African wildebeest. Hey ho.

Talking of Pivac, he has weighed into the regional restructuring debate. He believes the talent available to him is spread too thinly. On the flip side The Guardian has suggested this tour will see Pivac under the intensity of the spotlight with his future possibly on the line.

Plenty of Super Rugby this weekend if you have Sky.

Sport is amazing. It is good for the body and the soul and brings people together even as a non-participants. What brings that thought crashing to the ground is reading about the moron supporter who decided to come onto the field and head butt an opposition player and watching the barbaric scenes in Spain as Rangers’ muppets fought with Frankfurt’s dolts before last night’s Europa Cup Final.

In other sport F1 returns this week. Let’s hope for some overtaking. For the golfers the USA PGA Championship tees off this afternoon. The IPL continues. Yesterday’s match was simply amazing. Plenty of soccer tonight, Leicester City at Chelsea for one.

In other news the Stalinists at the RMT are planing to bring the rail network to a halt during the summer, and close several underground hubs on the day of the Queens Jubilee, June 3rd. If the politburo running the RMT hate this country so much why don’t they p… off to Russia and live under Putin. Take their big fat salaries with them and do us all a favour. For the record my grandfather was a key mover and shaker in what became the RMT and I am very proud of him. These jokers are just anarchists of the worse kind. Extremely wealthy hypocrites.

Back on Sunday. Don’t forget the county games at Steel Cross on Saturday.

Wednesday 18th May: 09:10

Let me start at the Brentford Community Stadium. If you are of the Irish persuasion you must be wondering how on earth you lost that game. 25-18 up with not long to go. Fair play to Worcester they stuck at it and at the death deserved the equalising try. It hadn’t been too bad a game except for Worcester’s discipline. A ridiculous penalty count and four times they were marched back for back chat. Then came extra time. Paddy Jackson must have been a lonely figure in the changing room after Wayne Barnes blew for full time. Kick like a metronome for 80 minutes, kicking like a garden gnome for 20. Henry Arundell tried too hard to impress and constantly ran into a brick wall. To be fair many Irish players ran into that Worcester brick wall. Often the whipping boys Worcester clung on and good on them. A real fillip ahead of next season when Nick Easter will arrive to bolster the coaching team. All in all good quality entertainment for a tournament normally seen as third rate.

Eddie Jones announced his training squad for both the Barbarians game and Australian tour. As expected Arundell gets a call up along with two of his Irish teammates: Will Joseph and Tom Pearson. A number of players who you would expect to be on the tour are rested. You can read the rest for yourselves.

Talking of Jones, he has said he would be happy for his successor to shadow him through the World Cup. France did it successfully before Galthie took over the reins so wouldn’t it work here? The question is of course who would be the successor. Lots talk about Rob Baxter but his star is on the wane at the moment. Anyway, we’ll see.

Waterboys, the plague of the game after scrums and the tedious TMO interventions. World Rugby have finally clamped down on the number of waterboys on the field and what roles they have. Coaches cannot be waterboys. They are also stopping the physios and the like marching up and down the touch lines screaming at the players. That’ll put pay to that crazy female physio South Africa have in their ranks. Everybody will have to stay in the technical area unless called onto the field. It’ll be difficult to police and an added burden for the officials but good news me thinks. BBC Sport website for full details.

Wayne Pivac announces his initial squad for the South African tour later today. Dan Biggar is expected to retain the captaincy. Pivac is likely to be without a plethora of front line players due to injury.

The Guardian carry the story of racial abuse during a Super Rugby game. I mention this is at it follows on from my comment of a few days ago about the falling standards in our game, off and on the field. The player abused didn’t exactly cover himself in glory which compounded the matter. It’s worth a read.

Oh, and The Guardian think the inclusion of Manu Tuilagi in England’s squad is the “most significant”

The big game on the weekend is Harlequins v Gloucester at Twickenham. A win for Quins and that is them in the play-off for certain. A good win for Gloucester keeps them mathematically in the hunt…. I think!

Then we have Saracens v Northampton. Saints have to win this one to put daylight between them and the chasing pack, which includes Gloucester.

On Friday we see Bristol v Exeter and Wasps v Sale. The two away sides mathematically are still in the mix. The wheels would have to come off all the teams above them but that is for another day. I think both Exeter and Sale have a chance of away wins.

The other big games of the weekend are Sussex Ladies v Bucks and Sussex Men v Berks, both at Steel Cross. Boy oh boy that ground will be hard but it will look beautiful.

In other news it is no wonder the Bank of England can’t do anything about inflation. The staff only have to be in the office once a week. I bet their London allowances haven’t be stopped nor their travel allowances. So basically while we the proles struggle to pay our bills the BofE staff top up their tans in the Surrey suburbs thumbing their noses at us. It ain’t right!!!!

Oh, and Covid is finally over. Since pretty much the beginning of the pandemic I have had a weekly update from a guy called Geof. Extremely comprehensive, balanced and insightful. After almost two years he brought it all to an end yesterday. Thanks for your efforts. I for one have on more than one occasion plagiarised your commentary.

Tuesday 17th May: 08:00

A very quick missive this morning as we are unexpectedly on grandparentng duties today.

London Irish v Worcester in the Premiership Cup Final tonight. If you have BT Sport this will be worth watching if only to see how Henry Arundell goes, and will he live up to the hype. More papers are suggesting he will be in England’s training squad due to be announced very soon. It is expected that Owen Farrell will be included as one of the chosen 36 but not necessarily as captain. The Cup Final kicks off at 19:45.

The penultimate round of the Premiership kicks off on Friday evening. Some really tasty fixtures across the weekend but I’ll keep that for tomorrow and Thursday.

There is a lot of rugby between now and a ball being kicked in the 2023 Rugby World Cup but Stuart Barnes is already bemoaning the draw. Now I know Barnsey is not everybody’s cup of tea but on this occasion he is right. World Rugby, by making the draw so early in proceedings, have ensured some of the current big hitters will miss out on the semi-finals. Wales on the other hand, currently in a pathetic 9th in the world rankings were given a top seeding. It’s too late now of course. In essence two of New Zealand, France, Ireland and South Africa will miss out on the semi-finals. France and Ireland are head and shoulders above anyone else right now so for them to go all the way will be a tough ask. England on the other hand have it relatively easy. Full article in The Times, summarised nicely by WalesOnline.

I think Wayne Pivac is announcing his initial tour squad today. Will AWJ be included?

The soccer season heads to its conclusion this weekend. Much to play for some, bugger all for others.

In world news the Ukrainians continue to defy the odds repelling the massed army of Russia. Putin, thank goodness, has resisted the temptation to use the ultimate weapon but from his bunker, very much like Hitler, he is unleashing some pretty horrifying bombardments. Like Hitler Putin clearly thinks he is a battlefield general and this is obviously working in Ukraine’s favour and to the dismay of his real generals.

How depressing was the Bank of England statement yesterday. Not only the content but the delivery. That Andrew Bailey is so damn boring.

Cost of living crisis, what cost of living crisis? I went to Tunbridge Wells yesterday to return a pair of shoes, bought on line, to M&S. Well, let me tell you, the tills were ring in M&S yesterday. They were also ringing in Sports Direct and many other places. The fancy coffee shops were all doing sterling business. I know Tunbridge Wells isn’t representative of the UK as a whole but……

Finally I have been asked to comment on BBCs choices for the next Dr Who series. I won’t, but I can understand why some might be interested!!!!!!

Monday 16th May: 09:40

So there we have it, Ireland vs Ireland in the Champions Cup. Yes, Leo Cullen will go head to head with Ronan O’Gara in Marseille in two weeks time. O’Gara’s La Rochelle put a strangle hold on Racing 92’s flair and flamboyance and in turn took their chances when on offer. The enormous pack proved a powerful weapon with Gregory Alldritt, he really is some player, leading from the front. Racing had few chances but it was their poor discipline that really hindered them, at one point down to 13 men. Not only conceding points and territory but also not making the right decision. Teddy Thomas not releasing Juan Imhoff for an easy run in a perfect example. It was far from a classic free-flowing contest but on a dreary Sunday afternoon it was better than anything else on offer.

Plenty of time to look ahead to the final but Leinster will need to be wary of the La Rochelle pack, not only is it huge it is chock-a-block with international talent. On their day Leinster, with the veritable cornucopia of talent at their disposal, should be able to beat anyone. Only time will tell.

Much is being made in some quarters about the fact there is no English representation in either European competition. The first time for nine years apparently. Welcome to Wales’ World of Rugby is all I can say.

Robert Kitson’s piece in The Guardian gets to the nub of the Nations Championship perfectly. It is an opportunity to reset the game and bring in much needed exposure, make the summer and autumn series meaningful and hopefully swell the coffers of the unions. However, all that needs full and open co-operation and an acceptance this isn’t about making the rich richer but a longer term vision for the greater good. Kitson quite rightly highlights the need for the “other” nations to be given every opportunity to dine at the top table. If that is denied then the project is doomed to failure.

In a non-story Elton Jantjies has been arrested at Jo’Burg airport for allegedly breaking a light on a flight from Durban. Nothing to see here so let’s move on.

Anthony Watson is set to leave Bath for Welford Road and Leicester Tigers. Good acquisition that one. Leicester seem to be doing a lot of business despite the salary cap reduction. Let’s hope they have got their sums right.

Is Warren Gatland States bound? Plenty in the papers to suggest USA Rugby will offer him the top coaching job now they have secured the 2031 World Cup.

You might have missed it but the trial laws such as the 50:22 and the goal line drop out have now been enshrined in law, along with the pre-binding ban. The 20 minute red card will not be extended beyond the Super Rugby franchises and that is likely that will hit the buffers soon.

Soccer dominates, as it always does, the sports pages. Chelsea women win the FA Cup. I mention this to ask “when will Chelsea boss Emma Hayes be offered a job at a big club managing the men’s team?” Her track record is outstanding.

Leicester City beat relegated Watford 5-1 yesterday to cement their position in the top half of the table. No European football for the Foxes next season but for me that is no bad thing. Two games to go for the King Power outfit but I guess “so what” is your response to that.

For those who follow it, like Mrs Bleater, the IPL is heading towards its conclusion. Smash, bang, wallop! The cricket is great entertainment.

In other news exam invigilators are refusing to go back into schools for fear of catching Covid. Do me a favour!!!!! Brainwashed by the Government's and media’s paranoia.

The fish & chip industry is bracing itself for a tough time. Not only has the energy crisis hit them hard, the availability of basic ingredients such as oil and flour (for batter) and the fish could cause a third of all shops to close.

Finally is it right that Sadiq Khan can swan off to the USA on a vanity trip at taxpayers expense whilst the London crimewave continues to worsen? Like me I am sure the mothers of those who have been fatally stabbed on London’s streets just last week would shout a resounding “NO!”

Sunday 15th May: 10:10

Firstly an excellent evening yesterday celebrating Crowborough Old Boy Garry Llewelyn’s 60th birthday. A veritable cornucopia of former players present eulogising about how absolutely brilliant they were and why they were overlooked for Lions selection. All good fun.

What about the real rugby. For me it started on Friday evening with Dragons v Cardiff. A big crowd but what a poor, stop start affair. The scrum was a shambles and some of the skills on show were pretty average. It was also brutal with two red cards, one of which in my mind was a criminal act of thuggery. “Disgusting” is how WalesOnline describe it.

Next up was Lyon v Wasps. Not a bad offering this one. A least the second half was, the first being a bit hit and miss. Overall, keenly contested and evenly matched with Lyon holding off Wasps at the end. If I was to sum up the difference: Lyon made the fewer mistakes.

Then came the showpiece at a packed Aviva. As with last week’s Aviva extravaganza not necessarily a classic game but gripping and thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless. Leinster were ruthless keeping the scoreboard ticking whenever they made a foray into the Toulouse 22. The speed of ball from the ruck was excellent with Johnny Sexton at his imperious best. Over 75% of his possession was passed. Even though the visitors had long periods of scrum dominance the Toulouse’s megastars were quickly bottled up by Leinster’s voracious defence.

The scoreline did not flatter the home side. They were excellent in attack and took their chances. They were resolute in defence and whilst Toulouse crossed the whitewash on two occasions it was never going to be enough. The result should come as no surprise with Leinster fielding 13 internationals hosting a Toulouse side who endured extra time and a penalty shoot out last week and the travelling from the south of France to Dublin twice in a week. As it says in The Guardian “no wonder the fuel light was flashing red”.

We’ll find out who they will play in Marseille later today. Racing 92 v La Rochelle kicks off at 15:00 and is live on Channel 4. This is not being played at La Defence arena as that is pre-booked for a concert. This will be played in Lens. Does this shift the odds on a Racing win? We’ll know at 5 o’clock.

I didn’t see Toulon beating Saracens but reading the reports it seems as if Toulon brought their “A” game to the party, Saracens didn’t. The reports suggest Toulon’s defence was magnificent forcing Sarries into an unstructured game. The rhythm and dynamism on show at Kingsholm was not there. The visitors did have their moments but not enough on this occasion. Toulon v Lyon on May 27th (The Bleaters’ wedding anniversary).

Is the all French final a portend of things to come. Much has been made of the increase in funding of the French top tier versus the lowering of the salary cap in England. Many would say yes, but I say the game has to be sustainable. Money does not guarantee you success. As seen below the Premiership, clubs who are paying players pretty handsomely have sides full of mercenaries who often take the money and run. Worse however is as the payment to players increase often the infrastructure of the club worsens. There is not enough money to do both.

In other sport Liverpool win the FA Cup after a penalty shoot out.

The big story is Ukraine winning the Eurovision Song Contest. No surprise here as the public across Europe were always going to vote for Ukraine. Well done the United Kingdom. Second overall and first with the jurors. No points for Germany and just a handful for France. Yes I am pathetic but isn’t that wonderful to see.

That’ll do for now. Tomorrow I’ll review Robert Kitson’s take on the proposed Nations Championship, give my view on Racing v La Rochelle and anything else I fancy. Oh, and by the way, it is rumoured Eddie Jones has spoken to Henry Arundell, mainly to ward off interest from Wayne Pivac.

Thursday 12th May: 09:30

Despite the GMB being on strike here in Wealden I can confirm my bin was emptied yesterday. I can also confirm the rain came and has freshened up the garden.

Right, now that’s out of the way lets look ahead to the weekend. Two of European rugby’s royalty go head to head when Leinster host Toulouse at the Aviva stadium on Saturday. It all gets underway at 15:00. Can Toulouse rise to what will be another epic challenge. Last week’s titanic battle against Munster will surely have taken something out of the French outfit. On the other hand the Aviva will hold no fear for them as the red army is replaced by the blue army. Leinster’s encounter with Leicester was not perfect and Leo Cullen et al will have a number of things to work on, but surely they must be going into the game in a better place than Toulouse. This could be billed as Ireland v France as both sides are littered with internationals. It should be a cracker. I go a home win.

The above is the filling between the two Challenge Cup games. Lyon v Wasps is first up. Wasps were lucky to get past Edinburgh in an exhausting game. The French sides are notoriously difficult to beat at home so I can see a French win being on the cards.

The evening offering is what in seasons past would have been a Heineken Cup Final, Toulon v Saracens. Toulon’s star has waned somewhat of late but you rule them out at home by the Med at you peril. Saracens with a play-off spot confirmed and considering how they dispatched Gloucester will go into this full of confidence. When it comes to knockout rugby Sarries are right up there with the best. It won’t be easy but I go for an away win.

You have to wait until Sunday for the last semi-final when Racing 92 host La Rochelle. My instinct tells me the Parisian side will win this under the roof of their magnificent stadium but La Rochelle have been in fine form of late and could spring a surprise. This is very hard to call but I go Racing by a few.

Very little other rugby to talk about. If you have SKY then there will be Super Rugby and if you are desperate then Friday evening from Rodney Parade Dragons v Cardiff is your offering. BBC2 Wales (iPlayer) or S4C.

As an aside whilst the Dragons might be rubbish their Rodney Parade pitch has gone from a framers field to a bowling green. It could be that the only sport played there will be soccer with Newport County as the sole resident. The WRU and the four regions met yesterday to discuss “what next?”

The big news story is Australia will host the 2027 Rugby World Cup. This was pretty much a slam dunk but for those who have never been down under and you think you will be fit enough to manage then do consider it. The Aussies will do the event proud. If you can wait until 2031 then the USA will be your destination. That too will surely be one hell of a show. Mrs Bleater and I will be ….. I’ve been told to leave that there and move on.

The women’s version is in New Zealand in October, England in 2025, Australia 2029 and the USA in 2033.

Three snippets of news. Agustin Creevy has been given a one week ban for pulling Eben Etzebeths hair during last weekend’s clash between Toulon and London Irish. Following the announcement that Australia have been awarded the World Cup there is talk the Aussies want to lure Eddie Jones back to help them in their quest for cup glory. It’s in The Guardian so it must be true. Social media strikes again as Bristol Rugby is rocked by an anonymous Twitter post criticising Pat Lam. It is alleged that defence coach Omar Mouneimne was behind the rant. The Torygraph states he was confronted by irate players who suspected his hand in the matter.

My ass of the day, in fact of the week, is Ashfield MP Lee Anderson (Con) who has suggested food banks are for those who can’t cook and can’t budget and 30p a day should be enough to feed yourself. Mr Anderson is obviously so full of gravy from the gravy train that he has no idea about real life, and worse this is the MP whose expenses claims for last year were a tad shy of £220,000. Yep, no food bank for you, you pompous, self-serving moron.

As always no Blog now until Sunday as it is Friday Club tomorrow and you can wait an extra day for my assessment of Dragons v Scarlets. Oh, and don’t forget, if you can help at the club on Saturday morning get hold of Nigel J, nigelj@crowboroughrugby.com

Wednesday 11th May: 09:30

Let me start at Steel Cross. As you know on May 21st CRFC will host back to back county games. At 13:00 it is Sussex Ladies v Buckinghamshire Ladies followed at 15:00 by Sussex v Berkshire Men. The club are honoured to be hosting these games and expect a large crowd. You of course are most welcome.

However, these things don’t happen by accident and help is required. The Friday Club will have the grounds looking pristine but one area that will need careful supervision on the day is car parking. If you can help with supervising the car parking that would be brilliant. It is expected cars will be arriving from 11:30. Contact nigelj@crowboroughrugby.com to sign up.

Additional help is required this Saturday morning from 09:00 installing a temporary marquee. If you are about please again contact Nigel by email.

Finally I am led to believe the following week we will be hosting a four way girls tournament with Sussex, Kent, Surrey and Hants Under 15s in attendance. Great stuff.

Obviously the semi-finals of the European tournaments take centre stage this weekend. More on this tomorrow. Before that Finn Russell has said that the lack of English representation in the Champions Cup is due to the lack of relegation. An interesting viewpoint. He believes the lack of relegation has made the English clubs less competitive. In some respects he might be right but those in danger of being relegated are not those usually competing in the Champions Cup. Right now competition for the play-offs and for inclusion in next years European Cup is pretty fierce. There is a lot of money at stake for those who make the cut. Also how do you explain the success of the Irish regions in the tournament. Munster went out by the slimmest of margins and Leinster have a very good chance of going all the way. The URC is far from competitive and there is no relegation from that. By the way, when there was relegation and the salary cap wasn’t an excuse the English clubs weren’t any more successful. In fact memories are short and rhetoric long. It was the English clubs (with the French) who engineered a change in format to benefit those countries. Hasn’t done much good. For what its worth I think the quality of the entertainment has improved since ring-fencing was brought in. Teams are trying to win as opposed to not losing. A big mindset change for the better.

In the secondary competition England and France have two clubs apiece. France don’t always take the Challenge Cup seriously and the outside the Irish teams the URC is rubbish so this is no surprise.

Another story that caught my eye comes from New Zealand. A former South African international who was coaching his local Under 15s allegedly has been banned for a year for abusing a match official. Match official abuse is a growing, therefore worrying problem. Referees are becoming like hens teeth, in short supply and abuse is likely to exacerbate the problem. I know the RFU and counties like Sussex are taking a much harder line on abuse. It is unacceptable. I have recently seen some stats that on field abuse in the junior game is on the rise too. The game has to do something about the perceived declines in respect for others in the game.

With regard to match officials they don’t always get it right, they are human after all. I do think making them unapproachable and with the regulations written in such a way players are guilty until proven innocent is not always good for the game. Respect, common decency and courtesy are good for the game and good for society so in terms of dealing with match officials lets find the right balance.

I recently watched a game from Ashton Gate and last weekend Gloucester’s game v Saracens. It was noticeable that what in years gone by might have been amiable banter amongst fans is becoming significantly more hostile. The baying mob that is the shed overstepped the mark with their jeering at Saracens and forget respecting the kicking. The crowd at Ashton Gate was worse with cheering an opposition red card louder than a Bristol try. It’s not right.

Finally Joe Marler has joined those who think one of the components causing the game to shrink is the sanitisation of players. They are all robots. Marler and Genge are just a few of the characters left in the game. Without characters the aura around the game is pretty bland. stuff.co.nz carries the full story. It is quite interesting.

We might get some rain later today. Hoorah! We might get the bins emptied today. Who am I kidding! Well actually they have. Hoorah!

Tuesday 10th May: 09:30

What a crazy day yesterday hence no blog. Too much to go into and with the exception of sorting out cloned credit cards nothing too interesting.

To unfinished business. The European Cups. Sale put up a brave fight according to the papers but two moments of individual brilliance by Teddy Thomas and Finn Russell broke Sale’s steely resistance. It does read as if Sale really went for it and certainly in the first half had Racing bottled up defensively. Racing now host La Rochelle next Saturday.

In the Challenge Cup a length of the pitch try by Henry Arundell was not enough for London Irish to overhaul Toulon’s lead. Just one point separating the two sides at the close. Again I didn’t watch this one but it seems that London Irish were the better side for long periods. The turning point came when Toulon exploited a yellow card shown to Juan Martin Gonzalez. It finished 19-18 meaning Toulon will now take on Saracens next Saturday evening.

By the way, the clamour for Henry Arundell to be called up by England is getting louder.

Sale’s Alex Sanderson is bemoaning the fact that English clubs will no longer be able to compete in Europe due to the salary cap being reduced to £5m. France apparently operate on £8.5m. Yes that might be the case but please remember pre-Covid only one club was in the black and that was Exeter, and that thanks to their non rugby activities. All the others were in the red only operating thanks to the largesse of owners. Sport is not like big business where profits are crucial but rugby does have to be sustainable and right now the costs v overheads make it unsustainable. It should noted the reduction doesn’t kick until next season so Sanderson’s argument abou the absence of English clubs in the semi-finals of Champions Cup this time around is somewhat flawed.

It is sad to read Scottish and Lions hero Scott Hastings is being treated for cancer. At the moment not life threatening and definitely treatable but a concern none the less.

Even sadder is reading about the unnecessary death of Kelly Meafua who died after jumping off a bridge in Southern France to celebrate his side’s; Montauban, win over Narbonne in their final home game of the Pro Deux season. The ex Samoan 7s and Waratahs star was doomed after the 20m leap into icy cold waters below.

The Guardian brings the news that the power brokers of World Rugby will meet in Dublin today to discuss a North v South biennial tournament in the fallow years between world cups and Lions tours. The six northern hemisphere countries will take on the south plus Japan in a four week tournament. In other words a slightly tweaked World Cup every year bar one as the 12 teams are the same 12 who pretty much automatically qualify every four years. There seems to be broad agreement from the national bodies but the English and French clubs might still be a stumbling block. It is intended to replace the traditional one country summer tour and exploit the Autumn internationals. My opinion is not important but I am not sure I like the idea, especially when you consider it appears to be slamming the door in the face of the so called “tier 2” nations.

It is rumoured that Eddie Jones could be Paris bound. There are murmurings that Racing 92 could be his next assignment. That’s them screwed then.

Wales rugby is again mired in controversy. Follow Tonna RFC’s win over my old side Crumlin in the WRU National Cup a social media post showed the trophy, a silver salver, covered in very suspicious lines of white powder. Obviously the WRU are urgently investigating. Social media, how stupid can people be and drugs have no place in sport.

Wales training squad ahead of the summer tour could feature a number of uncapped players as Wayne Pivac continues to be plagued by injuries to first up choices. Leicester’s Tommy Reffell could be one such player. A Bridgend boy through and through and playing well. Flanker isn’t the problem area however. Everywhere else is!!!!

Not a great week for Leicester City. Losing at home to Everton was very disappointing.

Equally disappointing was the F1. With just a few moments of excitement and one crash it was a parade of super expensive cars driven by super expensive divas.

The Victory Day parade in Moscow was as spectacular as ever but with all that fire power you have to ask why is Russia not overrunning Ukraine. Maybe the the Russians on the frontline know this is a disgraceful act of aggression and simply don’t have the desire to sacrifice themselves for the good of a despotic nut job.

Sunday 8th May: 09:25

It will come as no surprise that I succumbed to plenty of rugby yesterday. No, I didn’t make it to the County finals due to family priorities, but I did make it to the sofa to watch some gripping rugby.

First up however was the Saracens mauling of Gloucester on Friday night. Was this the same Gloucester that thumped Bath 64-0. I’m not sure. They had no answer to Saracens all round game. They were outclassed and outthought at every turn. Billy Vunipola was magnificent and dare I say it Owen Farrell was pretty good too. How Eddie Jones let Nick Tompkins slip through the English net is anyone’s guess. Plenty of individual accolades but this was a fine team effort. Saracens at their very best. The one glimmer of sunshine for the Cherry & Whites was Louis Rees-Zammitt’s solo effort late on.

Next up came Edinburgh v Wasps. This was a curate’s egg of a game, good in parts. In fact very good in parts sadly intermingled with turgid forward drudgery. Edinburgh put up a magnificent fight and could argue that some of the refereeing decisions went very much against them. That said the referee should have awarded Wasps a penalty try after a blatant collapsing of a maul inches from the line. A yellow card was shown but bizarrely nothing more. Edinburgh were very unlucky not to be awarded a penalty at the death when not only, in my opinion, did Brad Shields come from offside he slapped the ball out of the scrumhalf’s hands. Hey ho.

Next up was Munster v Toulouse. What a game. I thought so anyway. The game swung first one way then the other. It was slick and skilful one minute, brutal the next. Luke Pearce brought his “A” game and kept things on the straight and narrow when tempers flared. He was concise with his communication and didn’t allow the TMO to drag things out a second longer than necessary. Peter O’Mahoney was magnificent and was instrumental in bottling up the Toulouse genie, Antoine Dupont. Close your eyes and you were at Thomond Park. The red shirted hordes packed out much of the Aviva creating a raucous atmosphere. On and on went the game. As the clock ticked down Munster had it in the bag. Oh no they didn’t. Toulouse came storming back with a late try and a last minute penalty. The draw meant a nail biting twenty minutes of extra time. Still no breakthrough so a penalty shoot out. What drama. Toulouse edged it by the narrowest of margins.

Next up was Leicester v Leinster. Eagerly awaited by me I was left a little disappointed. Leinster effectively killed off the game in the opening 25 minutes with some committed rugby led by Jamison-Park at #9. Despite Leicester’s dominance of the Premiership they had no answer for the Irish regions constant pressure. As the game progressed yes Tigers improved and started to test the Leinster defence but it was never good enough. Not only were Leinster defensively sound they benefitted from uncharacteristic Tigers handling errors. The packed Welford Road was treated to a late surge by Leicester but it was too little too late. Leinster host Toulouse at the Aviva in a couple of weeks time.

In the other fixture La Rochelle beat Montpellier and Lyon beat Glasgow in the secondary competition. Today Racing 92 host Sale and Toulon face London Irish. Not sure either of these will be watched by me as the Ospreys host the Dragons but more likely I will be out enjoying the sunshine in the garden.

Plenty of other sport to enjoy with the IPL heading towards the crucial last few rounds. The Miami F1 should be interesting. There is no middle ground with this one. It will either be a humdinger or longest, most tedious procession since operation stack was seen on the M20. Plenty of promotion and relegation news from the football. The biggest story is Bristol Rovers beating Peterborough 7-0 to snatch a most improbable promotion to League One. One Simon Davies was besides himself with joy yesterday. A mention too for loyal Cherries supporter David Price as his Bournemouth side are back in the Premier League next season. Leicester City after the disappointment in Rome on Thursday host lowly Everton this afternoon.

On the eve of one of the biggest days in Russia, the May 9th Victory Parade, horror stories continue to come out of Ukraine. All eyes will be on Red Square tomorrow to see and hear what Putin has to say for himself. The parade will be mighty impressive so you have to question why his troops haven’t crushed the defiant Ukrainians. Maybe because parading and fighting are two different things.

One other story to comment on: Sinn Fein becoming the biggest party in Northern Ireland. People with bigger brains and a significantly greater knowledge of the implications of this than mine can make sense of the implications. I simply say “unfortunately, trouble is a brewing!”.