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Wales, Ireland and England have, or are about to, head off down to the Southern Hemisphere to test their credentials against the top three teams on the planet.

Warren Gatland’s men clearly have the toughest task – taking on the World Champions less than two weeks after going down by five tries to one at Twickenham.

The New Zealand teams are playing some impressive stuff in Super Rugby and many of Steve Hansen’s squad showed at the weekend just why he selected them.

This may not prove to be the best inflight entertainment for the Welsh squad as they fly down to the land of the long white cloud –

http://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/rugby/super-rugby/80482245/hurricanes-produce-fine-performance-to-beat-the-highlanders

The pace and skill level is sometimes breath-taking – including from those who didn’t make the All Black cut. The Blues v Crusaders game was also a bit special, not least from the new AB captain Kieran Read –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYRkzGO1JOY

Ireland have some injury problems and Joe Schmidt has selected an experienced squad – which you definitely need in South Africa.

The Cheetahs v Stormers game included a ‘discussion’ between two locks who may well end up as room -mates later this week for the Springboks –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PkCwyypw5Q

It was more a wrestle than a boxing match – presumably to avoid getting bans that would prevent them facing the Irish team. The Springboks second row continues the tradition of being a bit on the large size!

England will be buoyed by their 6 game winning run, but Eddie Jones won’t be fooled into thinking that this is a ‘soft’ tour.

The Waratahs did a job on a strong Chiefs side in Sydney at the weekend –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qIqe2vOREeM

The Tahs featured several of Michael Chieka’s squad and they looked to be on top form as they head into camp to prepare for Brisbane on Saturday week.

The Wallabies will probably watch the England v Wales game there and will note that Eddie Jones men are a different prospect from the team they faced in the Pool of Death.

Which is a good excuse to include this link –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KfasAqRrDGA

Some interesting test matches are likely over the next few weeks.

‘Bring It On’

I know it should technically be ‘Bring Them On’ but that just doesn’t sound right!

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Careless in the Community

As the referendum pantomime rages on (“it’s not behind us”) some of the main protagonists are remembered for their sensitivity, openness and honesty (“oh no they aren’t”)

I’m not sure exactly who to trust on Brexit to be honest (blimey – Brexit and honest in the same sentence – that’s a first)

Oh yeah that’s right I clean forgot– none of the lying bastards!

Well, I’m glad we got that sorted then!

 

 

All Black for Wales?

I have to admit, I made a right twat of myself on Saturday – I predicted on here that England would sneak it against Wales at Twickenham yesterday.

Imagine what a dick I looked when we ran in 5 tries to win 27-13 after being 10-0 down after just 15 minutes. We were still behind 13-10 at the break too.

Luckily I wasn’t too trollied as I would have missed the second half when Wales failed to ‘trouble the scoreboard’ as the cliché goes.

14 points is not exactly ‘sneaking’ it – but I am grateful to George Ford for not making me look more of a muppet!

At the final whistle Stuart Barnes (who I do like normally), said something a bit odd – he suggested that the game was much closer than the score line suggested as Wales were only two scores down. I have no fucking idea what game he was watching – Barnsley v Millwall on his i-phone perhaps?

It certainly wasn’t the one I was watching from the comfort of my DFS jobby I can tell you!

It seemed to have completely gone over his head (a bit like the shots at goal I imagine) that we only managed to get 2 points from the tee.

Had Owen Farrell been on the park it would have been like the Little Big Horn – but with less arrows, obviously.

Eddie Jones, quite rightly, berated those fans who booed George Ford and said after the game that the lad had been “outstanding”.

I just wonder if he’d have been quite so sanguine about leaving 14 points on the field, if we had lost.

The media have been scathing about the Welsh performance immediately before the New Zealand tour – a prospect that has not been helped by losing Dan Lydiate from the plane.

But things in rugby can change very quickly – as England have discovered since the debacle last October. If Wales can snatch one of the three tests against the World Champion All Blacks in June – all will be forgotten and forgiven for Warren Gatland and his team.

Mind you, that is some ask as anyone who saw the NZ Super Rugby games at the weekend will tell you. Most of the squad for the tests were in action and the speed and skill set looked awesome.

For England things look more positive following both games at Twickenham over the weekend. They can fly down under tonight feeling quietly confident I think – although they might want to see the video of how Izzy Folau and Matt Hooper played against the Chiefs on Saturday!

After the Wales game on Sunday Sir Clive (who knows a bit about rugby) shoved up the team he’d start for the first test in Brisbane on Saturday week –

Apart from one player (Ben Te’o for Henry Slade) this is exactly the side I picked last Thursday – scroll down to ‘Monster Monster’ if you don’t believe me!

Sir Clive had the benefit of watching Joe and Jack in devastating form yesterday before he chose – I didn’t.

I am obviously some sort of guru (or do I mean gnu? My spelling has always been crap). Anyway, I mean the one who is super fucking smart. Hard to believe that his knightship didn’t ask me to be part of his coaching team in 2003 isn’t it?

Sites for Sore Eyes

I just love the fact that New Zealand refs are sponsored by Specsavers. As were the refs who handled the British and Irish Lions tour to Australia in 2013. Pro12 have done the same.

This ref took the sponsorship to heart –

http://www.skysports.com/watch/video/sports/rugby-union/10296755/ref-justice-for-andreu

A great bit of marketing – relevant and funny.

There have to be other good opportunities too –

Saracens should have ‘Winalot’ on their shirts

Christian Wade might pick up some dosh from Ferrari ‘they don’t half go fast’

Tinder could get some good publicity from Antony Watson who ‘just can’t stop scoring’

And there are any number of clubs who might get some financial help from Tampax because they are going through a bad period.

Jack Nowell and Billy Vuniploa could be sponsored by Burger King’s Whopper – because they are a right handful.

Best of all, FCUK would work for the TMO I think

Double Top

At the death I thought Saracens deserved to win the Premiership title and to give them an impressive double alongside their European Champions Cup victory.

As usual their defence was very effective and it was easy to see why Eddie Jones recruited Paul Gustard to organise something similar for England.

But even the ‘wolf pack’ couldn’t stop the second half driving maul of the Chiefs or hold the aggressive Jack Nowell from five yards out. Nowell is a right handful in both attack and defence.

On Friday I tipped Saracens to win, although my heart and vocal support (at the TV) was for the Chiefs.

On the whole I thought Wayne Barnes did a pretty good job and you could hear him warning players and indicating stuff throughout to keep the game flowing.

However, and at the risk of it sounding like sour grappa I still fail to understand why he didn’t use the TMO until just 10 seconds from the clock turning red. And by then it was for an irrelevant potential Saracens touchdown.

In the first half my first thought was that Duncan Taylor might have been offside when he scored from the neat grubber kick from Owen Farrell. The commentary team didn’t seem to think so and it is not possible to tell from the available footage shown so I am quite possibly wrong. But it would have been nice to be absolutely sure I feel. I thought it was close –

http://sport.bt.com/video/taylor-finishes-off-farrells-neat-kick-with-try-91364064940978

The second try by Chris Wyles was a lot more controversial as it comes from a fairly blatant forward pass –

http://sport.bt.com/video/wyles-scores-controversial-try-in-aviva-premiership-final-91364064940940

Again – why wasn’t the TMO used?

It is impossible to tell if this would have made a difference to the final result, but it seems to me that the TMO should have been involved in the biggest game of the Premiership season – just to be absolutely sure.

For Saracens there were some standout performances notably for Super Maro (again!) and the man of the match Alex Goode. After an unremarkable season, I think Mike Brown will need a big performance today against Wales to hold on to the 15 shirt.

Also today Luther Burell has the chance to put forward a case for number 12 when he faces Jamie Roberts. Neither Chief’s Henry Slade nor Ben Te’o (in the pro12 final) did anything to make Eddie Jones think they can resist the powerhouse midfield that the Wallabies will have on June 11th.

It’s been a fantastic season for Saracens and I was wondering – if Maro Itoje can get 3 turnovers from lock – how many could he get from number 6?

Under Rob Baxter I expect the Chiefs to be even better next year and maybe we’ll see a repeat of this final.

And finally a word for Connacht – ‘fucking brilliant’ – okay I know that’s two words but they deserve it!