Reality Bites Back

At the risk of being labelled a complete twat (again!) I am going to add another reality bit from America. In my defence I blame Lell who sent me the details on WhatsApp.

This kid was formerly blind and appeared on the show a couple of weeks ago apparently

 

Worth seeing!

http://www.goldderby.com/article/2017/americas-got-talent-2017-christian-guardino-golden-buzzer-news/

Don’t worry, I’ll be back to taking the piss again tomorrow!

Read it and Weep

Kieran Read hadn’t played for 6 weeks, but you wouldn’t have known it!

The All Black captain had more carries than anyone else on the pitch in a win that underlined why the ABs are the best team on the planet – and by some distance!

The Lions had a good crack and with the clinical sort of finishing that the men in black had, might have pushed them a lot closer – but they were mainly outplayed in the key areas.

The All Black forwards gradually gained advantage everywhere except maybe the lineout – they were better at the breakdown and stopped the driving maul by sacking it early.

Warren Gatland and his coaches will inevitably be disappointed at the number of penalties the Lions conceded, but many of those were the result of AB pressure rather than the Lions indiscipline. They will not be easy to eradicate next week in the ‘must win’ game in Wellington.

Surprisingly the Lions backs stood up to their opposite numbers better than the forwards and it was easy to see why Sean Fitzpatrick said the ABs have the best pack in the world. The Lions pack may well be the second best on the planet and didn’t back down but they were still bested.

It is no good wishing that Elliott Daly and Jonathan Davies had finished the breaks

Or that Liam Williams had more opportunities to run – the game is over and lost.

The question now is just how might the Lions turn it around next week?

The answer is with extreme difficulty.

I suspect that there will be changes in the squad – both starters and the bench. Despite the good stuff the plan didn’t work and so the coaches will need to try something different.

I would put Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes together in the pack and possibly have both Owen Farrell and Johnny Sexton starting.

This seems unfair on Ben Te’o who played well and didn’t let SBW run wild – but Owen can tackle and the combination with Johnny Sexton offers a better chance to give Jonathan Davies and the back three room to go wide.

I think Justin Tipuric has to be on the bench and maybe Iain Henderson – removing both George Kruis and Sam Warburton

There will be a lot of other suggestions from ‘sofa critics’ like myself – often fuelled by nationalism. Luckily they won’t matter it will be Gatland’s call.

The fact is however, no matter what changes are made, the chances of winning in Wellington are slim.

The All Blacks pace and handling, from 1 to 23 was outstanding and will only get better as the series develops. They offload at will and more importantly with a precision that the Lions didn’t match.

There is a chance however – the All Blacks do occasionally have off days, and it is a two horse race – so, fingers crossed eh?

 

Wellington Boots

There’s a scene in Blackadder Goes Forth that basically underlines the fact that you can’t go on doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.

 

After being outplayed this morning, the Lions will need to try something different in Wellington if they are going to keep the series alive until they return to Auckland.

My 23 for the next test would be –

Vunipola

George

Furlong

Lawes

Itoje

O’Mahoney (c)

Faletau

O’Brien

 

Murray

Sexton

Watson

Farrell

Davies

Daly

Williams

Bench: McGath, Owens, Sinckler, Henderson, Tipuric, Te’o, Webb, Halfpenny

And before you start to suggest that this complete gobbledegook – it doesn’t matter, no one listens to me!

 

Taking the Swiss

It is an unusual day when the Swiss can abandon their neutrality to take the piss out of the UK. This is much different than sticking to knocking out chocs and cuckoo clocks.

This article was in a Swiss newspaper and is frighteningly accurate –

THE LAUGHING STOCK OF EUROPE
[Translation by Paula Kirby]
If it weren’t so serious, the situation in Great Britain would almost be comical. The country is being governed by a talking robot, nicknamed the Maybot, that somehow managed to visit the burned-out tower block in the west of London without speaking to a single survivor or voluntary helper. Negotiations for the country’s exit from the EU are due to begin on Monday, but no one has even a hint of a plan. The government is dependent on a small party that provides a cozy home for climate change deniers and creationists. Boris Johnson is Foreign Secretary. What in the world has happened to this country?

Two years ago David Cameron emerged from the parliamentary election as the shining victor. He had secured an absolute majority, and as a result it looked as if the career of this cheerful lightweight was headed for surprisingly dizzy heights. The economy was growing faster than in any other industrialised country in the world. Scottish independence and, with it, the break-up of the United Kingdom had been averted. For the first time since 1992, there was a Conservative majority in the House of Commons. Great Britain saw itself as a universally respected actor on the international stage. This was the starting point.

In order to get from this comfortable position to the chaos of the present in the shortest possible time, two things were necessary: first, the Conservative right wingers’ obsessive hatred of the EU, and second, Cameron’s irresponsibility in putting the whole future of the country on the line with his referendum, just to satisfy a few fanatics in his party. It is becoming ever clearer just how extraordinarily bad a decision that was. The fact that Great Britain has become the laughing stock of Europe is directly linked to its vote for Brexit.

The ones who will suffer most will be the British people, who were lied to by the Brexit campaign during the referendum and betrayed and treated like idiots by elements of their press. The shamelessness still knows no bounds: the Daily Express has asked in all seriousness whether the inferno in the tower block was due to the cladding having been designed to meet EU standards. It is a simple matter to discover that the answer to this question is No, but by failing to check it, the newspaper has planted the suspicion that the EU might be to blame for this too. As an aside: a country in which parts of the press are so demonstrably uninterested in truth and exploit a disaster like the fire in Grenfell Tower for their own tasteless ends has a very serious problem.

Already prices are rising in the shops, already inflation is on the up. Investors are holding back. Economic growth has slowed. And that’s before the Brexit negotiations have even begun. With her unnecessary general election, Prime Minister Theresa May has already squandered an eighth of the time available for them. How on earth an undertaking as complex as Brexit is supposed to be agreed in the time remaining is a mystery.

Great Britain will end up leaving its most important trading partner and will be left weaker in every respect. It would make economic sense to stay in the single market and the customs union, but that would mean being subject to regulations over which Britain no longer had any say. It would be better to have stayed in the EU in the first place. So the government now needs to develop a plan that is both politically acceptable and brings the fewest possible economic disadvantages. It’s a question of damage limitation, nothing more; yet even now there are still politicians strutting around Westminster smugly trumpeting that it will be the EU that comes off worst if it doesn’t toe the line.

The EU is going to be dealing with a government that has no idea what kind of Brexit it wants, led by an unrealistic politician whose days are numbered; and a party in which old trenches are being opened up again: moderate Tories are currently hoping to be able to bring about a softer exit after all, but the hardliners in the party – among them more than a few pigheadedly obstinate ideologues – are already threatening rebellion. An epic battle lies ahead, and it will paralyse the government.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has said that he now expects the Brits to finally set out their position clearly, since he cannot negotiate with himself. The irony of this statement is that it would actually be in Britain’s best interests if he did just that. At least that way they’d have one representative on their side who grasps the scale of the task and is actually capable of securing a deal that will be fair to both sides. The Brits do not have a single negotiator of this stature in their ranks. And quite apart from the Brexit terms, both the debate and the referendum have proven to be toxic in ways that are now making themselves felt.

British society is now more divided than at any time since the English civil war in the 17th century, a fact that was demonstrated anew in the general election, in which a good 80% of the votes were cast for the two largest parties. Neither of these parties was offering a centrist programme: the election was a choice between the hard right and the hard left. The political centre has been abandoned, and that is never a good sign. In a country like Great Britain, that for so long had a reputation for pragmatism and rationality, it is grounds for real concern. The situation is getting decidedly out of hand.

After the loss of its empire, the United Kingdom sought a new place in the world. It finally found it, as a strong, awkward and influential part of a larger union: the EU. Now it has given up this place quite needlessly. The consequence, as is now becoming clear, is a veritable identity crisis from which it will take the country a very long time to recover.

 

Obviously this is all rubbish as I am sure the Daily Express and Mail will point out!

The Eden Project

We were at Eden Park 12 years ago for the final test of the 2005 tour when the Lions lost heavily to end up going down 3-0 in the series.

The All Blacks record there is formidable – I mentioned the statistics in a post last week (‘Garden of Eden’) and the fact that they haven’t lost there for 23 years

Truth is though, it’s not a particularly intimidating stadium – apart for the statistics – and it certainly won’t be tomorrow with over 20,000 in red shirts on the side lines.

In reality, 4 days before that last test, the midweek team beat Auckland at Eden Park 17-13 which completed a complete sweep of the midweek fixtures.

The fact that the 2005 side only lost the tests and the game against the Maori ABs endorses the view that it is only the tests that count – and all that anyone remembers.

So it is again this year – in fact the whole tour rests on the result tomorrow in my view.

Forget that the game is at Eden Park – it’s an impressive record but just like the ABs unbeaten run it will fall at some time.

The All Blacks have played just the one game in the run up to the series – admittedly they demolished Samoa, but to put it into context Samoa lost this morning to the Welsh second team.

By contrast the Lions are pretty battle hardened having come through the ‘suicide’ itinerary that they have been faced with.

Captain Kieran Reed will be playing his first game for some time and Ryan Crotty has also been out injured.

However the All Blacks are the best team on the planet and have a formidable and experienced line-up. Even with Reiko Ioane playing for just the third time in a black jersey, they start with a total of 788 caps.

If the Lions are to have any chance of taking the series then they have to win tomorrow – only Finlay Calder has captained a Lions side that came back from 1-0 down (1989 Australia).

The All Blacks will improve over the three games.

The ‘Saturday’ Lions have shown that they can shut down the NZ wide offloading game in the matches against the Maori and Crusaders.

They need to up that intensity tomorrow and keep it going for 80 minutes.

The longer they frustrate the ABs the better the chance of capitalising on the errors that will occur when the men in black try to run from deep  – just as Ireland did when Robbie Henshaw scored late in the last quarter.

The Lions should stick to the game plan that has seen them close down the wide game that the NZ teams play – the risk is that they try and open up and allow the ABs to benefit from mistakes.

The weather looks like it will be just what Dr Borthwick ordered and that will help the set piece.

Personally I would have preferred a French referee but hope that the Pied Peyper doesn’t fall for Steve Hansen’s mind games.

After all that prevaricating I am going for a Lions win by 6 points and keeping my fingers crossed.

There are other Games?

From the euphoria from New Zealand you’d be forgiven for thinking that the only rugby on this weekend is in Auckland.

It’s not – England and Wales (who played earlier today) are not involved but there are 7 other international matches.

South Africa have won the series against France, but play the last game in Johannesburg. The Springboks should make it 3-0 in the series by taking down Les Bleus by 15 points

Scotland are in Fiji and will be looking to get their third win for Gregor Townsend – they should do as well, winning by 13

Australia are under the hammer both domestically and at international level. Michael Chieka has made sweeping changes and should get the win he badly needs at the expense of Italy – by 20+ points too.

Japan host Ireland in Tokyo where Joe Schmidt’s team will triumph by around 26

It will be a surprise in Bucharest if Romania don’t hammer Brazil by at least 25

The North American derby between Canada and USA will see the home side cruise home by less than 3 points.

Finally Georgia will go down to the Pumas but by less than most people imagine – Argentina by 13

However these are all eclipsed by what’s going on at Eden Park tomorrow