Passing Clouds

As we drift towards 2017 I think it’s been a strange year all round.

Apart from the complete nonsense of Brexit, Trump and Farage there seems to have been a higher than usual number of famous people passing away.

Perhaps it’s just that as I get older I have an increased sense of my own mortality or simply that the media is so in your face all the time.

You don’t have to be famous to be mourned of course – there will be a great deal of sadness amongst family and friends for all those ‘ordinary’ people who have passed away – although I’m sure that they were anything but ordinary to those who miss them.

Amongst the best known who left us, the two I felt most sorry about were Terry Wogan and Victoria Wood – both of whom I would have loved to have been down the pub with for a drink (or several).

Rugby also suffered losses –

Seru Rabeni

Rugby people around the world were stunned by the news in March that the former Fiji international had passed away at the age of 37.

Rabeni represented Fiji in successive Rugby World Cups (2003 and 2007) and played top-flight rugby in England, New Zealand and France during a 16-year career.

 

Kurtis Haiu

The former Super Rugby lock died in April at the age of 31 after a long battle with cancer.

Haiu played 53 times for the Blues but retired in 2011 after being diagnosed with bone cancer in his rib.

Seb Adeniran-Olule

The 20-year-old Harlequins academy front-rower tragically died in a car accident in May.

Adeniran-Olule represented England U20s last year and had been involved with the London club since the age of 13.

And of course –

Anthony Foley

It’s still hard to believe that Anthony Foley is no longer with us.

Such a prominent figure in Munster and Irish rugby, Foley died suddenly, at the age of 42, in a Paris hotel while away with the southern province for a Champions Cup game.

The Munster head coach won 62 caps for Ireland, three as captain, while he also led the province to their Heineken Cup win in 2006.

There is one thing I’ve definitely been grateful for in 2016 – I think this is the first year where I haven’t had to put on my one suit to go to the funeral of one of the guys I played with at Askeans – and long may that continue!

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Dropping Out

Yesterday I confirmed that I got the Bristol v Warriors result wrong – this is not simply a way of reminding you that I had all the other 5 right (although I confess that is a jolly good way to do it!).

The result did more than spoil my otherwise perfect score (see how I did that again?).

The real interest about the first win for Bristol is that it beings them back into the frame by putting them a mere 2 points behind the Warriors in the table.

The pair are now well adrift of the next team – Bristol have 8 points, Worcester 10 and Sale are a further 8 points (2 x wins) ahead plus a much better (or less worse) points scored difference.

Had Worcester won on Sunday then it would almost certainly have been the death knell for Bristol as they would have been 10 points adrift.

No team with a point’s deficit at Christmas of more than 9 has survived – and many with less have been relegated.

However it is not exceptional for a team bottom at the turn of the year to escape the drop

 

London Irish Won 1, Lost 10 11th Bristol
West Hartlepool Won 1, Lost 12 14th West Hartlepool
Bedford Lost 11 12th Bedford
Rotherham Won 1, Lost 10: 6 points 9 12th Rotherham
Wasps Won 3, Lost 8: 15 points 4 7th
Newcastle Won 3, Lost 8: 16 points 1 10th Bristol
Rotherham Lost 11: 0 points 19 12th Rotherham
Northampton Won 2, Lost 9: 14 points 3 11th Harlequins
Leeds Won 2, Lost 9: 11 points 6 12th Leeds
Worcester Won 1, Lost 10: 9 points 9 11th Northampton
Leeds Won 1, Lost 10: 6 points 5 12th Leeds
Bristol Won 1, Drawn 1, Lost 9: 9 points 3 12th Bristol
Leeds Won 2, Drawn 1, Lost 8: 13 points 3 10th Worcester
Leeds Won 1, Lost 10: 8 points 4 12th Leeds
Newcastle Won 2, Drawn 1, Lost 8: 11 points 6 12th Newcastle
Sale Won 1, Lost 10: 7 points 5 10th London Welsh
Worcester Lost 11: 3 points 10 12th Worcester
London Welsh Lost 11: 1 point 14 12th London Welsh
Newcastle Won 2, Drawn 1, Lost 8: 12 points 0 11th London Irish
Bristol Won 1, Lost 10: 8 points 2 ? ?

In the 19 previous seasons the team bottom at Christmas has survived on 7 occasions – Leeds escaped relegation in 2001/2 because Rotherham’s ground didn’t meet the requirements of the league.

Bristol have reason to hope – although they won’t have Tusi Pisi for a few weeks I imagine.

Not Quite Ship Shape

On Christmas morning I was sitting with 4 out of 4 for my Premiership predictions and feeling pretty good with life. Not least because I’d just opened some spiffy presents from Terry and Lell and had also been to the gym – and no, I have no idea why a gym would open on Christmas and Boxing Days.

Things went downhill a bit on Sunday – I porked too much and the ship shape and Bristol fashion turned out to be winning their first premiership of the season – and with only 14 men for all but 12 minutes!

This rather surprised me (and Worcester) and has made the relegation battle a lot more interesting in the space of just one game.

Despite getting the Bristol result wrong for the first time this season, I was still feeling quite sanguine with 4 out of 5 when I settled down with a turkey pasty to watch the big Game 9 at Twickenham.

I had Quins down for a relatively straight forward win and was feeling particularly smug when they went 28-10 up going into the last quarter. At which point it started to go tits up as Gloucester stormed back to 28-24 with almost 10 minutes to go and with Jack Clifford in the bin.

Gloucester were still in possession after the 80 and should have had a penalty to run in front of the posts. My thanks to Mr Doyle for letting the advantage lapse – although, to be fair, he may just have been caught up in the general excitement 


So, 5 from 6 for the Christmas weekend keeps my cumulative total well above the 70% mark at the halfway stage of the season – smart bastard aren’t I? (Don’t answer that, it’s meant to be rhetorical).

Thanks to Planet rugby here are some of the highlights from the round –

http://www.planetrugby.com/news/video-premiership-highlights-round-11/

As an aside, the fact that I went to the gym on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day seems to have had fuck all effect on trying to keep the lard off. I appear to be putting on the pork at a rate that would make me a significant member of today’s Government statistics –  or it would if I  was between 40 and 60.

Do you think maybe I’m not eating enough Quality Street?

 

Missing the Point

Yet another article appeared this morning on a New Zealand rugby site regarding the current stand-off between the RFU and the NZRU –

http://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/rugby/opinion/87983989/england-will-pay-the-all-blacks-to-play

The headline itself is pretty misleading in that it suggests that a deal has been done that gives the All Blacks a financial triumph over Twickenham.

That is definitely not the case – no deal is even under discussion at present – it’s not that I have some sort of inside track, but if anything was under consideration it would be about as secret as the Kardashian twitter account.

The author of the article suggests that Ian Ritchie is being pompous in refusing to give the ABs a share of Twickenham gate money and that the RFU should have paid Fiji more for the recent international game.

Anyone who has been here before knows my rather cynical views regarding the RFU – and I said at the time that the RFU could have been a lot more generous. But I really can’t abide criticism from teams that pay teams like Fiji nothing but their fares. England do more than that – probably more than anyone. Of course it’s not enough, but ‘glass houses’ and all that!

The author also totally misses the point on Ritchie’s stance – it’s not pomposity you numpty – it’s a negotiating stance. No one goes on record offering anything except an extreme position before a dialogue on a financial agreement – if they do, I’d like to meet them, I could do with a laugh.

Where he is right of course, is that some agreement will eventually be made – it won’t be anything like either Union want – not 50:50 or 100:0.

But there is a lot of talk and positioning to be done before anything is agreed – equally the NZRU will also have to share revenues when they are at home – if they don’t then Ian Ritchie isn’t the tough bloke I think he is.

Ruling Classes

There were a couple of interesting incidents at the weekend regarding the laws of rugby – neither of which had anything to do with head high tackles!

In the Saints game against Sale there was some confusion over a penalty that had been awarded – the full details are on the excellent 365 rugby site, which is far more whizzo on the rules than I have ever been – or frankly want to be given the inherent complexity and frequency of changes –

http://www.rugby365.com/latest-news/76608

The gist is –

In the second half of the English Premiership match between Northampton Saints and Sale Sharks, Sale are penalised for collapsing a maul well inside their half and five metres or so from touch. Stephen Myler, bleeding head bandaged like a war wounded, immediately makes it obvious that he is kicking for touch. Just before Myler kicks to touch, Paul Diggin, wearing a water bib, comes up to Myler and the referee. He, a former Northampton star, is bringing on the kicking tee. Myler rejects Diggin’s offer of a tee and punts the ball over the right touchline. The referee is about to play on with a line-out when his attention turns to Diggin and the tee. The referee then insists that Myler has to kick at goal. Clearly angry, Myler misses the kick.

There is full chapter and verse on the link but the upshot is that the ultimate decision regarding the kick is with the bloke bringing on the kicking tee. What the fuck’s that about? – He might simply be doing a streak and using the tee to cover his todger in the cold wind.

Rugby 365 seems to explain more eloquently, but still with some dismay –

But this incident seems to suggest that the arrival of the tee is more important than the kicker’s indication. That seems so wrong, that decisions are made by remote control and the players merely robots. And yet on other occasions you will see the captain, who is not the kicker, tell the referee that his side will kick at goal and the referee immediately indicate that it will be a kick at goal.

Even more fun was the ref in the Munster v Leinster game – from the incomparable Nigel Owens (who else) –

https://www.joe.ie/sport/watch-nigel-owens-had-a-typically-brilliant-nigel-owens-moment-during-munster-v-leinster/571946

Apparently you can no longer put your hands in the ruck – as if anyone in their own mind would ever bloody want to?

When I played you only shoved your mitts where 16 ugly bastards could (and without exception would) stamp all over them, if you fancied a few days off work the following week. I was never that desperate to cry off – despite being lazy as well as an inveterate coward!

Some of the forwards fancied a longer break and so stuck their heads in there – or maybe they were just even more stupid than I thought.