Weekend Forecast

There are just two more rounds in the Premiership before the break for European competitions and after last week’s debacle I am hoping to do better this week (don’t hold your breath).

Two games tonight – one should be easy to pick, the other a lot trickier.

Bristol will continue to struggle and with Saracens miffed by last week’s defeat the home side will be in for another stuffing.

Saints are still finding their feet and I think they’ll lose again this evening to the Chiefs

The Sharks host Tigers and I think they will hold them off – just

Gloucester v Bath was already a sell-out several days ago – Both teams need the win after last week and I’m pretty sure Bath will get it.

Don’t be fooled by the Quins win over Saracens – Wasps will win comfortably at the Ricoh to stay top.

If there was going to be a draw this week it would be at Sixways when the Falcons turn up on Sunday. The Warriors have drawn both their home games this season – but they’ll win this one.

A few tight calls again – but I can’t do worse than last week – can I?



All black for Pumas and Wallabies?

Whilst I made a right Horlicks (posh way to say bollox) of my Premiership predictions last week I am still at 100% for the Rugby Championship which resumes this week.

The All Blacks are in Argentina but, despite home advantage tomorrow and the Pumas brave effort at the Waikato stadium in Hamilton a few weeks ago, the All Blacks will motor on and edge ever closer to the World record run for unbeaten games.

The strength in depth of New Zealand rugby will shine through as Steve Hansen has made a number of changes (9 in total) and will have capped several new players before the end of the match.

The All Blacks by 26.

It should be a welcome bit of relief after the trampling of New Zealand rugby culture following the unsavoury Filipo affair

The game in Pretoria is a much tougher call – the Wallabies record there is poor but they have come back strongly since being mauled by the All Blacks earlier in the competition.

The Wallabies will be without David Pocock but have a strong replacement in Sean McMahon.

Meanwhile the Springboks have ditched their halfbacks in favour of Rudy Paige and Morne Steyne with Pat Lambie at last returning after concussion and taking the 15 shirt.

Willie Le Roux is on the bench.

The Springboks look a better side for the changes.

It will be a hell of a battle but home advantage and Morne Steyne will see the Boks home by 7.

Two big games to look forward to – after a lay in as the kick offs are at a more civilised time for us.

The Chosen Ones

Eddie Jones and his team announced the squad for the autumn internationals earlier today – I say squad, it was actually two squads –

“The 45-man Elite Player Squad is a type of legal agreement between the Rugby Football Union and Premiership clubs, and so it includes long-term injured players such as Haskell, Tuilagi and Clifford.

“Of far more relevance ahead of the autumn internationals is the 37-man training squad. All these players are fit – or nearly fit – for selection, and barring further injury it’s from this group of players that Eddie Jones will select his matchday squad to take on South Africa.” 

These are the two groups –

37-man training squad:

Forwards: Josh Beaumont (Sale Sharks); Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers); Jamie George (Saracens); Teimana Harrison (Northampton Saints) *injury replacement for James Haskell (Wasps); Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints); James Haskell (Wasps); Paul Hill (Northampton Saints); Nathan Hughes (Wasps); Maro Itoje (Saracens); Sam Jones (Wasps); George Kruis (Saracens); Joe Launchbury (Wasps); Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints); Joe Marler (Harlequins); Ben Morgan (Gloucester Rugby) *injury replacement for Jack Clifford (Harlequins); Chris Robshaw (Harlequins); Tommy Taylor (Wasps); Billy Vunipola (Saracens); Mako Vunipola (Saracens); Mike Williams (Leicester Tigers);

Backs: Mike Brown (Harlequins); Danny Care (Harlequins); Elliot Daly (Wasps); Ollie Devoto (Exeter Rugby) *injury replacement for Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers); Owen Farrell (Saracens); George Ford (Bath Rugby); Alex Goode (Saracens); Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby); Joe Marchant (Harlequins); Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs); Dan Robson (Wasps); Semesa Rokoduguni (Bath Rugby); Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs); Ben Te’o (Worcester Warriors); Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby); Marland Yarde (Harlequins) *injury replacement for Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby); Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)

45-man elite player squad:

Forwards: Josh Beaumont (Sale Sharks); Jack Clifford (Harlequins); Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers); Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs); Will Evans (Leicester Tigers); Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby); Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers); Jamie George (Saracens); Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints); James Haskell (Wasps); Paul Hill (Northampton Saints); Nathan Hughes (Wasps); Maro Itoje (Saracens); Sam Jones (Wasps); George Kruis (Saracens); Joe Launchbury (Wasps); Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints); Joe Marler (Harlequins); Matt Mullan (Wasps); Chris Robshaw (Harlequins); Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins); Tommy Taylor (Wasps); Billy Vunipola (Saracens); Mako Vunipola (Saracens); Mike Williams (Leicester Tigers)

Backs: Mike Brown (Harlequins); Danny Care (Harlequins); Elliot Daly (Wasps); Owen Farrell (Saracens); George Ford (Bath Rugby); Alex Goode (Saracens); Mike Haley (Sale Sharks); Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby); Alex Lozowski (Saracens); Joe Marchant (Harlequins); Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby); Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs); Dan Robson (Wasps); Semesa Rokoduguni (Bath Rugby); Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs); Ben Spencer (Saracens); Ben Te’o (Worcester Warriors); Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers); Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby); Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)

As far as the November tests are concerned you can ignore the elite player squad – none of the injured players will be available.

The big question was who he was going to choose to replace the injured James Haskell and Jack Clifford in the back row – and who would get the number 7 shirt.

It looks like Sam Jones may be open side against the Boks with another Wasp back row, Nathan Hughes, on the bench.

Another new boy, Leicester’s Mike Williams may also feature in the autumn schedule and Teimana Harrison is also in the mix


With Eddie’s record to date it is hard to argue with his selections, although I would have liked to see Danny Cipriani and Guy Thompson at least in the training group.

We have to hope that there are no more injuries in the premiership or the European games before we line up against South Africa on 12th November.

Verbal Remedy 

Back in 2014 a full year before the World Cup and under no pressure to do so, the RFU extended the contracts for Stuart Lancaster and his coaching team by 6 years to 2020.

Stuart Lancaster’s extended contract as the England head coach will remain a sound decision even if his side underachieve at next year’s Rugby World Cup, according to Ian Ritchie, the Rugby Football Union’s chief executive.

“We’re looking at sustainable success in the longer term and we believe that’s what this contract does,” Ritchie said.

We all know how that worked out for everybody don’t we?

Eddie Jones has been (very successfully) in place for less than a year and he is contracted until after the 2019 World Cup.

England rugby for the first time since 2003 seems to be in a good place – although, again under no pressure, Ian Ritchie is determined to keep saying things before he thinks.

First he has stated that discussions with Eddie Jones about post 2019 have been started – I guess that’s okay, I’m all for succession planning, although it seems a bit premature to me.

However, in almost the same breath he said

English coaches must gain international experience if they are to replace Eddie Jones as England coach, says Rugby Football Union boss Ian Ritchie.

“If we want to see an objective of an English coach, then they have to go out and get some international experience,”

If this is what he believes it is a bit of a puzzle as to why he appointed Stuart Lancaster in the first place – unless he considers looking after the Saxons for a couple of Churchill Cups a decent amount of ‘international experience’.

Ritchie has, at a stroke, alienated just about every English coach in the Premiership – many of whom understandably, have ambitions to coach England –


What he hasn’t explained (to anyone as far as I can work out) is what he means by elite international experience – a national side? Super Rugby? Top 14 or Pro 12? If it’s anything other than a national team – why does he consider the other leagues more superior than the Premiership?

If he means the next coach has to have international experience with a national team these are the current English candidates in order of ‘experience’ based on the new RFU criteria –

Andy Farrell – England & Ireland

Mike Catt – England and Italy

Stuart Lancaster – England

Graham Rowntree – England

Steve Borthwick – Japan and England

Paul Gustard – England

Add in second string international experience and you get –

Ali Hepher – Saxons

Rob Baxter – England (backroom team in Argentina 2013 – Lions year)

Add Top 14 –

Alex King – Clermont

Mike Ford – Toulon

Based on the RFU criteria set out by Ian Ritchie on Tuesday the best qualified coaching team to take over in 2019 are currently the same four who were in charge at the World Cup in 2015.

Maybe the RFU didn’t take any notice of what Eddie Jones said before he took over the England job –


I’m all for Ian Ritchie giving it verbals when he’s not bowing to the bullying from the Southern Hemisphere about the ‘Global calendar’ – but I feel he should be more circumspect when he decides to wind up coaches in the Premiership.


Still, as we saw in 2015, “you know best dear”


International Law

Sergio Parisse was red carded at the weekend for a dangerous tackle against Toulouse –


Technically it was a spear tackle and I guess the ref was correct although it didn’t look that bad to me.

The big problem for Sergio and Stade Francais is that he is automatically banned until at least October 12th. That is the date when the Ligue Nationale de Rugby hold their disciplinary meeting.

Under the Top 14 protocol a player cannot play until after the hearing.

That’s fine if it follows quickly – as with the citing disciplinaries in the Premiership and Pro 12 – but Parisse will miss two games even before the next meeting.

Sergio could also end up missing the November internationals.

If a player is exonerated (Parisse won’t be) then he and his club will have suffered presumably without compensation. I suspect all they can do is give a Gallic shrug to the panel and murmur “merde” – but not too loudly!

Picking Winners

On Friday Eddie Jones and his team will announce his 32 man squad for the autumn internationals.

England play South Africa, Argentina, Fiji and Australia on successive Saturdays – not the easiest of schedules, but at least they are all at home and the opposition also have a full programme.

The squad will be a real test of the England strength in depth that is often talked about – Manu, Jack Clifford and James Haskell are injured.

Sam Underhill was ruled out even before his latest injury setback.

England coach Eddie Jones has expressed his desire to have the 20-year-old for the November Tests for which the Rugby Football Union has to invoke “exceptional circumstances” clause to their existing policy as Underhill is currently playing in the Welsh region. However, the new ‘Professional Game Agreement’ which was signed between the RFU and the Premiership Rugby Limited on Monday has put an end to Underhill’s hope of playing for England.

Eddie will also have concerns about the fitness of Owen Farrell, George Kruis, Jack Nowell, Jonny May and Dave Ewers who have yet to kick a ball (or anything else) in anger this season.

Joe Marler, Jonathan Joseph and Danny Care must also be some doubt following recent on park injuries.

Ben Te’o is still waiting for clearance after a head knock in the Warriors second match.

In all I think there could be as many as 11 from the 45 man squad announced in August who won’t be available for the November tests.

The question now is – are we going to see any bolters on Friday?

The obvious candidates for the squad (not in the original 45) are likely to be young Turks (residency?) like Harry Mallinder and Tommy Taylor, although despite the injury concerns England look to be well covered pretty much everywhere with blokes who can step up.

Everywhere that is except at 7.

With James Haskell and Sam Underhill ruled out the popular media vote appears to be for Matt Kvesic, Teimana Harrison and Will Evans. A recall for Tom Wood has also been mentioned.

My vote would be for Guy Thompson – who has been in outstanding form for Wasps this season with Will Evans also being given a chance from the bench.

All will be revealed on Friday – or rather in November.