Not Fitting the Bill

Warren Gatland’s delight at having the Saracen Lions an extra few days to bond with the squad will have been seriously tempered last night when Billy Vunipola had to withdraw from the tour.

It is a serious blow for the Lions – Billy has been at the top of his game and would have been competing with his cousin, Toby Faletau for the number 8 test shirt.

James Haskell is the beneficiary of Billy’s misfortune and will, no doubt, be excited about the tour as well as getting his hands on all those Lions tour goodies (including the boxer shorts!)

For the coaches it will mean protecting Toby Faletau for the tests – and some of the games will have players who don’t normally play at 8 for their clubs, much less internationals.

Looking at the squad, CJ Stander and Ross Moriarty are the likely main understudies for the 8 shirt.

It is less than ideal start for a tour that kicks off on Saturday week on the other side of the globe.

Catching a Break

Whilst losing Billy Vunipola is a real blow for Warren Gatland he did at least get a break at the weekend.

Leinster, Saracens, Tigers and Ospreys lost interest in the finals weekend and the Lions are free to join the squad for training in Ireland at Carton House.

He would have had 16 additional players to make it 30 of his 41 players available a week before they jump on the plane bound for NZ.

It’s only 15 now because Billy’s replacement, James Haskell is involved in the Premiership final with Wasps at Twickenham on Saturday.

Those not available yet include George North, Liam Williams, Leigh Halfpenny andJack Nowell. Ken Owens, Sean O’Brien and Jack McGrath are still sweating on injuries – so is Warren Gatland no doubt.

So 12 days before the first tour game less than 75% of the squad have only just got together and will meet up the others in the departures lounge at Heathrow!

A real triumph for the administrators!

An Unnatural Text Act

Just when you think things couldn’t possibly get any more stupid someone manages to surprise you with a new cracker.

A bloke in Texas filed a legal petition to recover the enormous sum of just over 13 quid from a Doris he took to the pictures –

She was texting during the film and then sodded off when the bloke got miffed – so he wanted the courts to make her give him the cost of her ticket back.

She may have a point, I’ve been to films which made me want slit my wrists -‘The Artist’ for instance – the bloody sound system must have been buggered and I couldn’t hear a thing! I would have happily been texting to pass the time.

However she really is to blame – she should have spotted he was a complete lemon in the queue outside and used her phone to get an Uber and gone home.

Nothing to Sniff About

At first the new fivers were supposed to be indestructible and then some idiot with nothing better to found a way to burn them with acid – I know, me either!

Now it turns out that they are fuck all use for snorting stuff up your hooter-

People are being ‘Winstoned’ by new £5 notes after snorting coke

The notes were thought to be good for stuffing white powder up your snoz cos they roll up neatly – seriously. But the stiff material can nick you.

One bloke who said he was a regular coke user commented  “I thought I was the only one to cut myself” – he also said he preferred not to be named – so only an 80% twat then!

Frankly if you can afford (and want) to try and blow out what brains you have left, then use a tenner you berk.

Park Life

Warren Gatland will have been punching the air in delight when the final whistle went at Sandy Park yesterday. I don’t expect he’s especially a fan of the Chiefs (although many are!), but the result meant that 6 of his Lions squad – those wearing the red shirts of Saracens – would have next weekend off and be able to meet up with some of his other Lions earlier than expected. I imagine he felt the same level of chuffedness when Leinster unexpectedly lost on Friday.

Jack Nowell won’t be with Lions until after next weekend as he will be jogging out at Twickenham to face Wasps in the final.

His performance will have been noted by Gatland – yesterday Jack was like a restless itinerant as he raced all over the park looking for work and ignoring Saracen’s fearsome reputation. He’s hard to stop with the ball in hand and equally strong in defence.

It would be no great surprise to me if he ends up with a Lion’s test shirt in his laundry bag when the tour is over.

The Chiefs put huge pressure on Saracens who, despite having to play so soon after the Champions Cup final were never going to give up their Premiership crown easily.

Saracens, for long behind on the scoreboard conjured up a spectacular try to give them the lead and seemingly a trip back to Twickenham.

The clock was ticking down ominously for Exeter when they were awarded a penalty some 63 yards out. It gave the Chiefs one final opportunity to grab the Twickenham journey for themselves.

Up stepped Henry Slade with a miracle 60 yard kick to put them within spitting distance of glory.

Even with Thomas the Tank off the pitch no one – not even the European champions could deny Rob Baxter’s side

An 18-16 score line sent the Sandy Park crowd into wild celebrations.

Quite right too!

The Chiefs are going into their second successive final and Wasps won’t be taking them lightly.

I called the game wrong but am in no way disappointed that the Chiefs triumphed or that 6 players will get a well earned rest before they set off to NZ.

2 exceptional semis with a combined points difference of just 3 – you can’t get closer than that – well you can obviously, but you probably know what I mean!

The Wasp Factory

After the excitement of the incredible finish at Sandy Park I was expecting less of a close battle at the Ricoh.

Shows you how much I know!

Just after Wasps had gone 10-0 up my prediction of a comfortable home win was looking sound.

So I was pretty relaxed when Farrelly phoned from the hospitality suite at Wembley. He was with a bunch of other Lions fans (⚽️ not🏉) who were celebrating promotion with some gusto (which is a sort of strong liqueur I think).

The discussion was, as usual, somewhat incomprehensible (from both sides) although Sarah (one of Farrelly’s lovely daughters) was patently more compus mentors than the rest of them.

I got back to the rugby about the same time that the Tigers got back in the game.

A further interruption came in a series of predictably abusive texts from Harro ( who else?)

The gist of these was 1) weren’t the Chiefs outstanding 2) he’s now heading to Twickenham next Saturday 3) he’s really not a fan of Leicester (expressed far less eloquently) 4) he wasn’t drinking because his liver took a right bashing in Edinburgh last weekend and 5) I’m still a total twat apparently.

I stopped replying as it doesn’t do to encourage the silly sod.

In the match Wasps dropped more simple passes and butchered more tries in 78 minutes than they had in the previous 22 matches of the regular season.

I was beginning to think that they’d never get over the line whilst still managing to hold on to the ball and that both my semi final predictions would be wrong.

Then they finally put it together with just a few minutes left and are rightly in the final next week.

Joe Launchbury was once again Man of the Match and the watching Eddie Jones must have been chuffed that he is available for Argentina – although I don’t think anyone would be surprised if he ends up in Auckland.

Eddie will have been less pleased to see big Nathan Hughes limping off – he also had a big game.

If the final is half as good as the 2 semis then it will be a hell of a game next week.

Another 6 Hit

I again managed to get 6 from 8 in Super Rugby this week – I always seem to make a Horlicks of a couple of predictions.

This time the Kings failed to make it 4 in a row – I suppose the law of averages (appropriate description) meant that the Brumbies would eventually win and score a try.

I also failed with the Blues – expecting them to win on the road – they didn’t.

Everything else went largely to plan.

As it now stands the Brumbies with their massive 23 points are still in line to get a home quarter final against the Hurricanes who have almost double their tally (43 points)!

Almost as silly is the idea that the Stormers (30) should host the Chiefs (43)!

The Pro12 have finally stopped the quota nonsense for the Champion’s Cup (‘ABig Pro’) but still nothing is sorted for next season’s Super Rugby.

What a tour de farce.