My Cassandra Complex

I had a bloody good weekend – not only tons of rugby on the box but my predictions for all 8 games that I made in my column on Thursday turned out to be accurate!

I’m surprised that the newspapers and rugby magazines haven’t been on the dog to try and get me to write for them – I mean, if that fucking octopus got world- wide media coverage picking winners in the football world cup surely I’m worth a look at!

Anyway – below is my column reviewing the games in Aviva Premiership and the Rugby Championship –

Review of Aviva R4

In Greek mythology Cassandra was given the gift of being able to foretell the future but doomed never to be believed!

Well, I can hardly believe it myself but in my preview column for this week I predicted the results for 8 matches (6 in the Aviva Premiership plus the two Rugby Championship matches).

Amazingly I called all eight of them correctly – that’s right 100%, the whole shebang, lock stock and barrel, the complete enchilada, the whole ball of wax – I’m using all these phrases at once since it is unlikely I will need them again this season!

Friday night started with a good win for Northampton Saints at home to Sale Sharks. The Saints have a stellar line up and big performances from players who are in the frame for the England Autumn games – notably Corbisiero, Lawes and Foden. Others who might well be on Stuart Lancaster’s radar are number 8 Sam Dickinson and Luther Burell who is likely to put pressure on the other centre possibles if he continues to break defences as he did against the Sharks. Jamie Elliot with 10 tries in ten appearances also caught the eye again. The Saints bench is powerful and this was underlined when Samu Manoa, Ken Pisi and Tom Wood were called on in the second half.

For Sale, Cipriani again showed that he is back in form – his distribution, soft hands and timed off loads were good to watch – and Mark Cueto showed that he still has a lot to offer despite his now veteran status.

The Sale front row are all just 21 – and stood up well to the highly experienced Saints unit – it’s an area I will explore in an article that is currently under construction.

There were 3 Aviva games on Saturday with home wins for Bath and Wasps whilst Saracens took out Harlequins at the Stoop.

Bath started with George Ford and Dave Attwood – two players who were on the bench last week against Saracens. They made a big difference when they came on and it was no wonder that they were both there for the kick off this week. Again they gave big performances – a couple of years ago Attwood was heralded as the new Martin Johnson and some of his aggression landed him in hot water. He is still aggressive but now it’s controlled and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him involved in the autumn. Ford isn’t quite the finished article at fly half but he will be pushing the more experienced England 10s in the very near future.- he scored a fine individual try and the Sunday papers were just about all ready to install him in the England team now. I think Lancaster will be more cautious with several other candidates ahead of him – but maybe not for too much longer.

Jamie Joseph again played well – alongside Burrell he offers Lancaster options in the mid field. Joseph scored (again) there were two for back rower Guy Mercer and one for Rob Webber – giving Bath a bonus point. All of the Irish points came courtesy of former international Shane Geraghty – all but three in the second half when it was too late. He went over for two tries and added all the rest with his trusty boot.

Wasps also gained a bonus point win when they downed Worcester Warriors at Adams Park. Worcester were ahead in the first quarter but a try before half time by Mullan and three in the second half  (Wade, Cooper Wooley and Thomson) saw off the Warriors who only had a late consolation try from Drauniniu to show for their efforts.

After four games the Warriors have only a single losing bonus point on the board and are rooted to the foot of the table. Dean Ryan has been busy recruiting to bolster his squad with Galarza and Creevy joining from the Pumas after the Rugby Championship finishes. He has also picked up former South Africa under 20s international winger Dean Hammond.

They will need to hit the ground running if The Warriors are to be off the bottom at the end of the season.

The big game of R4 was Saracens visit to Harlequins. Chris Ashton scored the only try of the game and again looked hungry for work – the only blemish came when Ugo Monye stood him up in a one on one and cruised round him with ease. It wouldn’t be a total shock if these two were to wear numbers 11 and 14 in the autumn. Chris Robshaw played with total commitment as always – but even he was outdone by the dynamic Burger who has no fear and puts his body (and head) into places where others fear to tread (sic). If doctors gave airmiles for stitches Burger would be able to fly home to Namibia first class every other week.

Farrell won the battle of the kicks and showed in patches why Lancaster (and Farrell senior) are so fond of him – but despite his fierce tackling and dependability with the boot I can’t help wondering if a flat, more attacking number 10 wouldn’t serve England better. I hope to be disproved in November.

Saracens could easily have had two more tries and only Tom Williams excellent holding up of Kelly Brown and George Lowe’s tackle on Strettle kept Quins in the game. Saracens also won the front row battle and whilst Nick Easter stood out for Quins their pack was under pressure throughout.

On Sunday my last two predictions were both for away wins – Leicester at Exeter Chiefs and Gloucester travelling up to Newcastle Falcons.

The Chiefs were strangely out of sorts in the first half and the feared Sandy Park claustrophobia that has been the downfall of many visitors failed to materialise. Ben Youngs and man of the match Niki  Goneva went over with Toby Flood adding a conversion and penalty to put Leicester in a comfortable lead of 15 – 0 at half-time.

The refreshments at the break (or Maybe Rob Baxter’s hairdryer) lead to a more combative Exeter in the second 40 – with the reliable Steenson slotting over 3 successive penalties to bring them within a converted try of taking the lead. Aussie Dean Mumm was prominent for their pack and not many will relish a visit to sandy Park if they can play like that for the full 80 minutes. But Toby Flood closed the game out with two more kicks and the Tigers left the South West with four valuable points.

 

My full house was riding on the last game of the weekend – and Gloucester could easily have let me down. Newcastle Falcons led for nearly three quarters of the game and with less than 20 to go it was tied at 16 – 16. Two late Freddie Burns penalties sealed it for Gloucester (and me) and I was a happy man by 4.45 pm on Sunday afternoon.

The Falcons scored their first try of the season but it wasn’t enough to stop the visitors getting their second win with back to back victories. As you would expect from a team coached by Dean Richards – the Falcons pack were highly combative and they are learning fast about life in the Premiership. The learning curve will need to remain steep to keep them out of the relegation battle come the end of season.

As an afterthought to my column last week I also predicted that the All Blacks and The Springboks would win in the Rugby Championship – although I have to confess that this was an easier task.

The Springboks largely wrapped up the game in the first half – in the first half hour to be honest. But Ewen McKenzie will be more pleased about the Wallabies performance in the second 40. The Aussie backs remain threatening and only need to be given quicker ball on the front foot to show what they can do to any defence. And that’s the problem – how are they going to get that opportunity whilst their pack is under such pressure. The Pumas are lower in the world rankings but their pack is awesome and will be a real handful next week in Gigante de Arroyito. The All Blacks may have won comfortably in the end but they didn’t have it all their own way – Australia beware.

A bonus point win in Argentina is no mean feat – but there is a story behind the result. Argentina are benefitting immensely from being in the Rugby Championship and are edging ever closer to not looking out of place in this competition. Apart from the thumping by the Springboks in Round 1 they have started to compete – especially in the pack as the New Zealand front row will surely attest today. Juan Figallo and Marco Ayerza are props who know their way around the dark shadows of the scrum – what wouldn’t McKenzie give to have them in his side. Leicester’s front row is already strong – just watch out Aviva when Marco gets home after next week’s final game!

But the All Blacks aren’t number one without reason – they ran in the four tries they needed to give them more than a comfortable cushion next week. The Smith’s trio were brilliant and Nonu again mystified all watching as to how he will have to leave the land of the long white cloud to play rugby. I suggest Clermont get ink on paper before someone in Super XV decides he’s well worth a punt.

Next week the Championship finishes with two intriguing games – although I’d put my house on the title for New Zealand it will be a bruising affair at Ellis Park. The Springboks won’t get a try bonus point – I don’t even think they’ll win, but they will try and beat the All Blacks up – as is their wont!

Flip van der Merwe will be missing after his dangerous tackle on Joe Tomane – he’ll be replaced by his namesake Franco. They will also be concerned about the fitness of JJ Engelbrecht who will undergo a test later in the week. The only worry for the All Blacks is Owen Franks and so the North Harbour prop Ben Afeaki is heading to South Africa as cover.

It promises to be another great week of rugby on TV – the wife will be delighted!

Any editors reading this please note –I’m better looking than a cephalopod mollusc, cost less to feed and don’t need a tank of water to survive – in fact I’d do it for a tank of Heineken to be honest!

 

Getting Shirty

Have you seen the new England alternate kit?

 

If you want a good laugh go to the RFU direct store and have a look.

 

To be fair, if the team were now being sponsored by Swizzels, Bassett’s Allsorts or Colgate toothpaste I’d understand it – maybe even Red Stripe beer would explain it. Perhaps the designer is a fan of Coco (the one at Billy Smarts not Channel!)

 

Horizontal stripes – especially in red are not all that flattering – they may look alright on someone built like Ugo Monye – but I really wouldn’t want to see Matt Stevens poured into one!

 

What are the RFU thinking?

 

Anyway I’m sure I’m in a minority and everyone else will think that it really is a great design and fits perfectly alongside the England 7s Sunshine Play-Away shirt.

 

Call me a traditionalist but it’s just that I think the England shirt shouldn’t be messed with – an alternate shirt should be as classic and smart as the Home shirt. I didn’t like the (50 Shades of) grey or Cadbury purple one or indeed the black one – although it was good to see New Zealanders getting all huffy since they seem to think that a colour can be owned. Is black a colour?

 

To be fair I can’t imagine Dan Carter running out in a striped costume that looks like one of those bathing suits on the saucy seaside postcards from the 1950s. I think the NZ RFU are probably too smart (sic) and respectful to the All Black shirt to do that for the sake of pocketing a few  extra bob.

 

There seems to be a soccer type attempt to sell more shirts by clubs as well – earlier today Leicester ran out at the Chiefs wearing a criss cross number that looked like a promotion for  Blankety Blank – and would rank alongside a mug tree as a top prize from Les Dawson.

 

Still what do I know – I really can’t believe it’s all a plot to make a lot of money selling over- priced silly shirts to a gullible public. Don’t you just love to see some fat bastard walking round in a shirt with the name ‘Lampard’ on the back – seriously nobody really thinks your first name is Frank mate! I also very much doubt that Frank wears his Chelsea shirt down the pub.

 

Although to be honest the replica gear is all a lot cheaper than some of the designer stuff you see advertised in glossy magazines.

 

As an aside I was once asked to leave a handbag store in Auckland – we were filming in New Zealand and I told our producer (Betsy) that I wanted to get something for Terry. She took me to this Gucci boutique shop and when I saw the price of handbags I fell about laughing and shouting to Betsy (on the other side of the store) about how anyone who paid this much for something to carry tampax and a lipstick must be stupid.

 

The owner asked me to leave – so I told Betsy I’d meet her in the pub. I got really pissed on imported beer – but still saved a fortune!

 

Anyway back to shirts. Askeans provided shirts for the 1st XV and Princes. These were good quality items. The A XV used to have a few that were probably hand downs from the top two sides but there were never enough to go round and they were mostly battered and torn. Consequently in the lower teams most guys bought their own rather than risk freezing in a thin and holey shirt.

 

When I joined of course, I invested in one of these new numbers – big mistake – it might look okay on a grizzly prop but on a young naïve three-quarter it was like a target on my back for anyone who wanted to intimidate me. It was like having a tattoo on my forehead saying ‘punch me’.

 

It didn’t take me long to add a couple of tears (and you can read that both ways), get Terry to try and bleach out some of the colour and to daub some blood on the arms (to look like I tackled fiercely). A couple of weeks I even left it covered in mud in my bag so that it looked (and smelled) the part on the following Saturday.

Very little of this worked however as you can read in the much earlier post on ‘Getting Hurt’

 

The other thing about shirts is to try and collect as many from other clubs as you can – obviously this didn’t in any way involve going to their club shop. I managed to ‘pick up’ a few over the years – and lost a couple too. The best procurement I remember was when Bush and I collected a complete set of London Scottish shirts from a 7s tournament over at Richmond.

We even debated turning out in them at future 7s events but I think we saw sense and the team simply all wore them down the pub in Blackheath Village the next night.

 

I did get a genuine Sydney Roosters shirt from Lee Jones, our resident mad Aussie – I don’t know how he came about it but he seemed quite keen to off load it on me – maybe the original owner (and pro league player) was in London and missing his shirt.

 

I gave it to Rich and the other rugby correspondents at the Sydney Morning Herald all attested to its authenticity – gaining Rich some decent kudos and some free beer.

 

After each game one player was always designated to collect and protect the shirts (from the other side).They were then put safely out of harms way. To my shame I have no idea who washed and ironed the shirts for the top two sides – I know a nominal amount was collected with the subs each week to cover it but we all took it for granted that they’d be there looking good the next week.

 

When I was skipper of the Dukes it became my job to get the shirts washed and pressed each week – primarily because no other bugger would do it and we didn’t trust the players to look after their own shirt (we lost too many that way!)

Terry sensibly refused to get involved so I spent many a fun Monday evening down the local launderette filling their machines with 15 shirts and several kilos of wet mud. I didn’t iron them – but I was often tempted to put itching powder in all except the one with number 13 on the back.

 

At one time the Dukes had a collection of very old Askean shirts and so Benny, Daisy and I clubbed together to get a new set for the team – it didn’t matter that they looked a bit poncy– we were grizzled bunch and nothing could make us look like we were a soft touch.

 

I always regretted that we didn’t have the logo from our jumpers (with the picture of Daisy on a zimmer above the legend ‘You’ve Got to Walk Faster’) put on those shirts. There’s a photo of the logo in  the post about the ‘Dukes’.

 

I should think the shirts these days all have to be several sizes larger than the ones we turned out in – if I had to wear George North’s shirt – it would swamp me and I’d look like Dopey from the 7 Dwarves with it drooping down to my ankles.

 

Mind you it would still look better than those new England Alternate shirts – believe me!

 

 

Mr Plod

This is not another chapter on ‘doing a runner’ and I’m sorry to disappoint those who might have thought that I’d found out the story behind the Askeans acquiring the Duck Billed Platypus from the British Museum.

No – it’s really an addendum to my post yesterday about my body giving up on me (some 40 years after Terry did!)

I try to jog at the weekends, not because I enjoy it (obviously) but the gym doesn’t open until 9 am on Saturday and Sunday and since I’m up for my 4th wazz of the night at 6.30 am I think I might as well get the agony (not an exaggeration) over as early as possible.

I plodded my 3 miles this morning just before 7 am – another reason for going early is that there aren’t many people about and I don’t want to frighten anyone I pass. The risk is that they’ll see me gasping for air and be tempted to call for an ambulance. I also prefer it quiet as it is embarrassing to be passed by small kids on scooters and old ladies in wheelchairs (and not the motorised kind!)

As it’s often quite dark I wear a fluorescent yellow jacket that Airdy bought me for running – it makes me look a twat (no change there then) and Airdy says it’s a better look than I have when I go out normally. The idea is to make me visible to motorists I think – personally I imagine the sight of me plodding down the road is more likely to frighten the life out of them and to end up with me bouncing across their bonnet like a giant lemon (in more ways than one).

As I turned into the first road this morning a lady jogger came out of a side turning just ahead of me – I’d like to say that I kept up with her – or even shot passed her waving nonchalantly but I’d be exaggerating. Exaggerating to the extent that she was soon out of sight – and it is a fairly straight road!

It’s not so much that I was embarrassed to be left so easily but more because she had a very nice arse and I could have watched for a bit and taken my mind off the pain of running!

My time this morning was average for me and about the same as Douglas Bader would have managed I expect (after the crash obviously). It’s still a tad over an embarrassing 9 minute miles and when it gets a lot over I’ll probably have to think about stopping running altogether – since it will have largely changed to a fast(ish) walk by then.

I’m not actually sure what’s going to come first – hitting the 10 minute mile or my knees, ankles, and any other bit below the waist stopping working – maybe all of them at once!

Some bits there have already just about given up but I don’t use them for running!

Anyway I’m now back home – which should be obvious unless you thought I was writing this stuff on my i-pad whilst still jogging. I plan to watch as much rugby on the TV as I can so that I can write my weekend review for Pink Rugby and can rest my very weary body at the same time (who said blokes can’t multi task!).

One final note – John Gilbert was down again yesterday and he and his son Will have season tickets at London Irish. He’s kindly offered to let me go with Will when I can organise getting away – I hope to take him up on that sometime later in the season so that I can report from a ‘live’ game.

Right – I’m off to the Lazee boy. I haven’t really got one – Terry said that one in the house was more than enough! She also said that it was terrific that there’s 9 live games on TV this weekend – do you think maybe that was sarcasm?

Slowing Down

I guess the years have to catch up on you at some point – but Jesus it seems that the months are turning into years in terms of how quickly I’m slowing down these days!

Those poor sods who had to play outside me some 40 plus years ago may find it hard to believe that I can go any slower but there you go (although I don’t much nowadays – except that is at a snail’s pace).

It’s all come at once – just 4 years ago I managed a half marathon – not all that fast I grant you – took me two hours. That’s about nine minute miles – it takes me that now to do just three bloody miles – and I feel worse than I did after 13 of the bastards.

The gym has always been a bit of a torture – now it’s like the Spanish Inquisition! Surrounded by lithe bodies (some of them luckily female) I spend most of the time breathing in and trying to look like this heaving of lumps of heavy metal is easy.

I’ve even taken to putting the machine on a heavier weight as I leave it, just to impress the next person to follow me! I know it’s sad but it’s just me trying to bet against time (and losing my shirt – which fits rather more snugly these days too)

They’ve just put Power Plates in the gym and I had a go on one the other day – it’s a bit like being in an earthquake I should imagine – it shakes everything about and you think you’re going to die, or at the very least throw up! It also wobbles your loose bits about in a rather embarrassing manner. I’ll stick to Power Point from now on I think.

I do spin classes – it’s a good job that they are static bikes – if they moved I’d be miles behind the rest and they’d have to send out search and rescue with one of those nice silver foil capes. I’d look good in one of those – bit like a long garlic bread.

When Rich is here we generally manage a couple of circuit training sessions with a bloke who makes the SS look like Alan Carr  – I’m usually short circuited well before the end and the defibrillators  tend to come in handy

I wake up stiff every morning (and not in a good way anymore) and have to hold on the bannisters to stop me going down them like Charlie Chaplin (as in comic fall not in a bowler hat and stupid trousers).

I do however get some additional exercise compared with in the past – each night I regularly get up four or five times for a wazz – and I don’t have to set an alarm or anything.

I don’t actually look too bad as long as I squint when looking in the mirror – I’m only 7 lbs. over my fighting weight when I used to play rugby – not that I did much fighting of course, seeing as how I’m a registered coward (on and off the pitch!).

I do wander around the golf course when I can – mostly looking for my ball, but it gives me something to do. Stupidly I waited until I was over 60 before trying my hand at this – so you can appreciate that I’m no Tiger Woods – in fact I’m not even as good as Tiger Lily (the Disney character in Peter Pan).

I’ve played with Airdy and Ben a fair bit and they have been very patient with me which is just as well since we spend most of the day getting round the front nine!

I find it helps if I hit the ball straight into the lake – that way we don’t have to spend ages hunting for the bloody thing. Golf can be expensive the way I play!

I only went round once with Harro – it was one Boxing day and just three months after I’d taken up the game – he perceptively informed me that I wasn’t ‘a natural golfer’

Ben and I always play a couple of times whenever he and Bren visit – and when we’re not hunting in the rough for my ball we spend most of the time laughing about our days with Askeans. I’ve told you about some of those times at various places in this blog so you can see we have much to laugh about.

My local course is just over 3 miles long – I wouldn’t be surprised if we cover at least twice that each time – we’ve thought about using a buggy but they don’t hold enough petrol for us to zig zag all the way round!

I’ve seen Farelley and Johnny Gilbert recently and they both look in pretty good nick – Farelley hasn’t been on the booze for over a year and is eating sensibly (I’m surprised he isn’t suicidal – or at least bloody miserable). John is planning to trek up a huge mountain next year so is also in pretty decent shape.

I’ve still got most of my hair – although it’s grey now – well all the bits that aren’t already white that is.

My teeth remain a sort of pale yellow – god knows what they have been like if I’d smoked. The good news is that the dentist finally decided to do something about the black one at the front – he pulled the bastard out!

It doesn’t look any better though, as the gap looks just like the black one he yanked out (and yes it did bloody hurt) – so apart from the fact that it was infected he might just as well not bothered.

When I think back to when we’d play three games in a week, go training, work and then drink (or throw) several gallons of hooch – it makes me wonder how I lasted this long.

Just think, if I had saved all the money that I spent on beer and put it away carefully I’d have had a bloody awful time growing up (although according to Terry I still haven’t). Thank god I didn’t waste it like that.

It’s not that you have to get pissed to have a good time – but I find it certainly helps!

I’m officially a pensioner now and the next stop is 70 – although there may well be a full stop some time before I get there of course. You’ll be among the first to know (after the coroner obviously) as this rubbish will also come to a sudden halt (stop cheering at the back)

It’s weird when you hear on the news that a 64 year old man has forgotten where he lives or fallen down a well or something – you immediately think ‘poor old sod’ – then there’s that awful realisation that you’re actually older than the soppy bastard. It makes you aware that you are only a mortal (or is that a womble?)

The shocking thing is that I don’t drink now (well water and squash obviously) – can you imagine how much worse condition I’d be if I was still on the pop. There again maybe I’d simply feel a whole lot better – or be so out of it that the aches wouldn’t be a problem any more.

Future Imperfect

The Aviva Premiership is into its fourth week now and my predictions for the coming weekend have just been published on the web site.

I’m going to post them here so that people can see that I have no idea what I’m talking about when it comes to rugby. Although to be honest you should already know that from this blog and the fact that I played for Askeans!

On the off chance that I get a few of them right I will be able to be smug this time next week when I review the results for my column. For the record I got 5 out of 6 in week 1 – and then only 3 /6 in each of weeks two and three. If you want to have a laugh my column and other articles are at www.pinkrugby.com

I’m off for a lie down now – well it is nearly 3 pm!

Past Simple, Future Perfect – Aviva Predictions R4

“Study the past, if you would divine the future.”  Confucius

Wise words – but what the fuck does a dead Chinese bloke know about rugby? Even less than me I imagine.

He lived at a time when they even counted the wrong way – (551 – 479 BC) – which was a bit like me last week, when I made a bit of a Horlicks at divining who would win in R3.

Despite that, this week I’m going to follow his suggestion by studying form. That way I’ll be able to put some logic into my guesses. This should not imbue you (or me) with too much confidence – I was crap at statistics in school (along with most other things too to be honest!).

First up is the Friday night clash between Northampton Saints and Sale Sharks at Franklin Gardens. So far I’ve managed to get every prediction wrong with the Sharks but I think I’m on safe ground with this one. The Saints have won the last nine meetings (all competitions) between the two and Sale have not won at Franklin since 2006.

Although Northampton did go down at Gloucester last week – it remains a controversial defeat and they look too good to suffer back to back reverses. Danny Cipriani may give them a bit of trouble but not enough to matter at the death.

On Saturday London Irish visit Bath, Worcester travel to Wasps, Harlequins play host to Saracens

Bath have lost only one of their last seven clashes with the Exiles and that was at the Madesjki Stadium last September, whilst Irish have not been victorious at the Rec since the back end of 2009. I’m staying with the home side

Worcester Warriors have lost their last eight matches, and have not won away from home in Aviva Premiership Rugby since they last visited Adams Park on New Year’s Day last year winning 6 – 0. So it looks like another homer to me.

This is Saracens’ best start in the Premiership since they won the first 8 games in the 2009/10 season.
Quins have only beaten Saracens once in their last eight attempts. Saracens have also won on five of their last six visits to The Stoop. .It’s hard to see Saracens losing this one – but it will be close – especially if Saracens go to sleep like they did in the second half at Bath last week.

The last two games are on Sunday and I’m going for away wins at both grounds. The Tigers visit Exeter Chiefs and Gloucester make the long journey up to Newcastle.

An away win for Leicester looks the dodgiest of my calls based on form – whilst the Tigers have lost just one of their last six games, they were downed in their last three away games (all competitions)

Their record record at Sandy Park is patchy having won two and lost two, and the Chiefs defence is powerful. The Tigers also have trouble scoring tries down there. In addition they will need to keep their discipline – Gareth Steenson has succeeded with 15 of his 16 kicks at goal this season!

The Chiefs will benefit from the absence of so many Leicester injuries – including the rampaging Manu Tuilagi! But, despite all those reservations, (ha ha! – Chiefs – get it?) I still favour the Tigers – but only just.

I feel a lot safer predicting Gloucester to take all 4 points (and possibly even a bonus) up at the Falcons.

History is less relevant this time with Newcastle having spent last season in the Championship.

Their record at Kingston Park in the last 5 games reads only 2 wins and they have yet to score a try this season.

Although Gloucester’s final kick win over the Saints last week was their first triumph of the season and they do not have a great record on the road I think that their back line will be too much for the Falcons to handle.

So once again I’m sticking my neck out going for 3 away wins –

Saints to stop the Sharks (and Cipriani’s) revival

Bath to down the Exiles at the Rec

Wasps to pour more misery on the Warriors

Quins to lose to Saracens – but not by many

Leicester to grind out a win against the Chiefs

Gloucester to continue their revival up at Newcastle

 

Finally – in the Rugby Championship, which makes a welcome return after a week off –

 

The All Blacks over the Pumas – without too much trouble. This despite the fact that the Pumas are notoriously hard to beat down there. I don’t include games between England reserves and the Argentina 3rd XV

The Springboks to take down a spirited Wallabies – and by less than the score in Brisbane

 

Another weekend in the Layzee boy for me (not a euphemism!) with five live games – and that’s not counting the Top 14.

The wife will be chuffed!

Well another day beating the grim reaper – I’ll tell you about my on-going battles with the ugly bastard tomorrow (let’s hope he doesn’t read my blog!)

Embarrassment of Rich’s

Image

Embarrassment of Rich's

Rich with one of his ‘Man of the Match’ awards
I suspect he will be less than pleased with this picture – I include it as a proud parent!

If you read the post below you’ll understand why I put it up here!
He now lives in Sydney and works on the digital sports desk of the Sydney Morning Herald. He regularly does ‘live’ sports blogs on Union, League and cricket and we are very proud – maybe he’ll forgive me for adding this photo (probably not any time soon though!)

Mini Rugby

This post is surprisingly not about Dave Powell (to understand that reference you’ll have to go back to the chapter on nicknames).

It’s actually about the introduction of kids to the game – a smart move in my view – keep the violence off the streets I say!

I know that Askeans used to have a pretty active mini section at one point – I believe that Chas, Locks and DK were all involved in the organising and running of it. Knowing them as I do, I expect that it worked pretty well and guess that’s why they didn’t ask me to get involved. That plus the fact that I’d moved further away from Kidbrooke – but mostly to preserve the efficiency I imagine.

My experience with mini rugby was actually with the Sutton and Epsom club – which was nearer to where I lived and had a large section for all ages. Some weekends there would be over 150 kids running around the ground chucking balls at each other – often in very cold conditions. It was still a much better pastime for a Sunday than singing unmelodic songs and freezing on a wooden bench in my view.

Anyway I took Rich to join when he was about 7 and he loved it. The only problem was that he was short and scraggy for his age and could be knocked out of the way fairly easily – especially when there was a preponderance of obese kids in many teams. Back then they let the younger kids tackle too – I think that might not be allowed now, although it must come as a bit of a shock when they suddenly introduce it.

Rich found that, whilst he could be easily brushed off in the centre – at scrum half being small could be an advantage – being quick he could slip away from the tubby lot who couldn’t bend down fast enough to thump him.

The other advantage he had from being small was his learning Judo where he would end up fighting much younger kids – as they fight by weight not age grouping.

He quickly discovered that at 9 fighting a kid of 7 gives you a big psychological advantage and he did well in the inter school tournaments.

I think he also used some of the moves on the rugby pitch – not all of them looked strictly within the laws to me – and I played with some blokes who made illegal tackling an art form!

If I can find it I’ll post a photo of him with one of his MOM awards – it’s hard to believe that the bugger is 6 foot tall now!

I knew the Sutton club from having played against them many times over the years and despite this, they were very welcoming. At least half the time they played in tournaments and we would head off all over London for these things most Sundays’.

If you go to Internationals or to watch proper rugby it is always surprising how knowledgeable and friendly the supporters are – the banter is witty and there is rarely any hint of trouble or aggression. Mini rugby wasn’t like that.

Again I don’t know if it got better, but back then a fair proportion of the parents and even some of the coaches were a bloody disgrace. It was like trying to sort the Weak from the Chavs!

You may have realised that for all my faults (and admittedly there are many) I am not a snob, but fuck me – the touchlines at some tournaments was like a cross between ‘Gypsy Weddings’, ‘Shameless’ and ‘TOWIE’.

You can sort of accept someone screaming abuse at the ref if they seem to know what they are talking about – there were parents who had obviously never been anywhere near a rugby ball who would eff and blind like a navvy – and the men weren’t much better. I accept that my language is sometimes a trifle colourful – I use it for emphasis usually rather than downright fucking vitriol (for example!)

I have no ideas how or why the referees put up with it – we were brought up to always respect the man with the whistle to be courteous and call him sir – even if he was, quite often, less observant than Helen Keller. There’s an earlier post that talks about this – and as I think I said then – refs are key – without them there is no game!

To call the parents myopic would be giving them too much credit – they would be about as balanced and fair as Idi Amin was with Obote supporters – and nowhere near as witty.

By comparison the Coliseum in Rome had quite a sophisticated audience when cheering for their hero to “cut his fucking head off!” and all pointing down with their fat thumbs.

If the intention at minis was to intimidate the ref (and the other team) it rarely seemed to work but it wasn’t my idea of how rugby supporters should behave – what’s wrong with eating the beer glasses and running off with their trophy cabinet like we used to do?

The coaches of these mini teams were sometimes as bad – I heard one guy screaming at his team at half time along the lines of “If you don’t want to play for me you needn’t bother coming again”. I expect he was saving the hair dryer treatment for the next season when they turned nine!

And there I was imagining that the idea was to get the kids interested in the game! What was I thinking! With his undoubted insight and motivational skills I can’t imagine why this chap wasn’t being sought after by Quins or Saracens. And if Stuart Lancaster has him in his sights let’s hope it’s with an AK47

It wasn’t all bad of course and there were many guys who gave up there time willingly to help the kids (including those at Sutton). Mini rugby is such a great idea that it deserves to be nurtured and hopefully it will educate some of the parents too!

We were lucky and Rich developed a life- long love of the game. Terry is convinced this is because of my interest – thank fuck I didn’t like ballet!