Sunday, 16 October 2011

When The Time Is Right

One of the recent topics of discussion for this page has been the Rugby World Cup. As it has been on, and as I am a rugby union fan, this makes some sense. I feel a certain degree of sadness knowing that the coverage I am about to write is the semi-final coverage and that there is only one more weekend of Rugby World Cup action. I will likely continue covering rugby, but Bath rugby. There are two reasons for this. The first reason is that they are my Aviva premiership team. The second being that I have just purchased a mini season ticket for them, so will be going to see them play at least 8 times before the end of the season. I really am quite excited about this as my last visit to The Rec (Bath’s home ground) was a really fun time. Anyway, I will cover my visits there when they happen. For now it is semi final weekend of the RWC!

Despite being disappointed that England did not make it to this stage, I was really pleased that a home nation had made it to the final four. Wales have done really well in the tournament and deserved to be there. I know some people who opt not to support the Welsh in anything for the simple reason that they are Welsh (including Swansea in the Football Premier League) which I don’t quite understand. I get it if it is done in humour but to legitimately dislike a team for being Welsh is odd. Then again, I legitimately dislike and hope French teams lose at sport, so I guess I’m just a hypocrite really. Getting back to the matter at hand, I would like to think that the people I referred to earlier could find it in themselves (assuming they like rugby...I actually don’t know whether this is true for most of them) to support Wales. Wales v France was the semi final game from the northern hemisphere and it was always going to be a cracker.

It goes without saying there is probably only one major talking point of the game and that is not the result. In the 18th minute, Sam Warburton tackled Vincent Cleric. On first watch, the tackle looked perfectly legitimate which is what made the following melee between players confusing. In said scuffle, Warburton left the field, having been sent off by referee Alain Rolland. The commentators were shocked. The pundits were shocked. I watched the game with my parents and we were all shocked. Suddenly this game had changed and not in a good way. The referee in this one moment of madness had taken away the world cup semi final we had all hoped to see. Wales were now a man down with over 60 minutes to play. At half time, France went in 6-3 in front. It could have been much worse. Wales defended amazingly considering they were a man down. Their kicking was not great though (the conditions were really against them). France scored one more penalty and were 9-3 in front. Mike Phillips scored a try which was not converted for Wales to get the score to 9-8 to France. It was a close end but unfortunately for Wales, it was not their day and 9-8 was the final score. The end of the game and the major talking point got people asking questions non-stop about the game. The main one being a major “what if Sam Warburton never got sent off”? I didn’t think it was a red card. I thought he should have received a sin binning and told to calm down or he would be off. Just now, I have read that a directive was issued regarding dangerous tackles in 2009 which said the following (summarised by the BBC):

"The player is lifted and then forced or 'speared' into the ground (red card offence).
"The lifted player is dropped to the ground from a height with no regard to the player's safety (red card offence).
"For all other types of dangerous lifting tackles a yellow card or penalty may be considered sufficient."

Considering this, I am unhappy to report that I can see why Alain Rolland sent off Sam Warburton. It does not change the fact though that this red card was a key moment in the game and was fundamental in determining its outcome. Pro’s and ex-pro’s took to twitter to vent about the decision, believing it to be incorrect. Some examples (again sourced from the BBC):

• "Rolland u've had a shocker.... Not the first time either!!! We're not here to watch u.... (England wing Mark Cueto)
• "Should have been a yellow but never a red, poor Sam he's been the heart and soul of Wales! (England full-back Ben Foden)
• "Yellow card, no one says another word. Sam Warburton wrongly sent off. " (Scotland scrum-half Rory Lawson)
• "Really gutted for Wales - never a red card" (Ex-Scotland lock Doddie Weir)
Wales will now play in the 3rd/4th play playoff match. It seems really unfair and it will take a long time for Welsh rugby to shake this off. However I have been very impressed by the team and do believe they will continue to improve. Will they win the 2015 World Cup? I obviously don’t know but it is safe to say they cannot be ruled out of contention for it.

I have much less to say about the second semi final, which is odd considering what game it was. When people are faced with the question “what is the biggest game in rugby union” a lot will say Australia v New Zealand. The tri-nation tournament which took place earlier this year saw Australia and New Zealand each win a game against each other (Australia eventually winning the tournament). So it is safe to say going into the RWC, they were fairly even matched. The surroundings just added to the enormity of this contest; World Cup Semi Final in New Zealand. It had all the ingredients to be legendry.

Legendry it was not. It was a superb, hard fought game of rugby though with the best team winning (I guess this had to happen in at least one of the semi finals!) New Zealand just kept Australia out of the game for the majority of it and punished them whenever they could. They scored a try early on but the conversion was missed and so was a relatively easy looking penalty. I wondered at the time if this would come back and bite NZ in the arse. Australia scored a penalty following their first foray into the NZ 22 (although they battered the defence to credit has to go to them for not conceding a try). Weepu made it 8-3 fairly soon after and NZ were back on top. Weepu missed another penalty again which was easier than the one scored (or certainly looked so at least). Drop goals from both sides and another penalty score meant the half time score was 14-6 to New Zealand. The second half was mostly dominated by New Zealand, who scored the only points of the half. The final score was 20-6.

This means we will see the 3rd/4th place playoff on Friday be decided between Wales and Australia. I do think Wales can win this match and hope that they do. I will be unable to watch it as I’ll be at work but I am sure that I will be following it closely. The final will take place between New Zealand and France. I severely hope that the All Blacks add a second RWC to their trophy cabinet and condemn the French to a third RWC final defeat. As I said at the beginning of this post, it is sad to see the RWC come to an end, but it has made me realise how much of a rugby fan I am, and that will continue throughout this season and many seasons to come!

That will do for rugby coverage for now. However there is always more sport to talk about, so I will briefly talk about Pompey. I’m not going to go into each performance since I saw them last, but I will say it has not been great. There needed to be a change at Fratton Park and there was one. Steve Cotterill, the manager, was linked with the vacant manager’s position at Nottingham Forest, previously filled by former England manager Steve McClaren. I dismissed this rumour at first but thought “worse things could happen to Pompey right now”. Well, I was wrong to dismiss the rumours as he resigned as Pompey manager to take the Forest job, the day before the televised game against Barnsley. For the game, we had Stuart Grey and Pompey legend Guy Whittingham in the caretaker manager’s position. Whittingham said before the game that we would be playing the same tactics that Cotterill had been planning midweek, which made me grimace. However the formation was different than it had been for a long time, which was a nice change. However the performance in itself was much better by Pompey and while the first half wasn’t wonderful, it was promising. The second half was significantly better to watch and Pompey were rewarded with 2 goals in two minutes, the first being a superb strike by David Norris. The second a tap-in by Luke Varney. I was delighted. I am hoping we can build on this result and start getting some points on the board and get away from the dreaded bottom 3.


I am drawing a line under the sports talk. Hello to everyone who couldn’t give two shits about sport. How you doing? I have a few more things to talk about in this blog before giving my fingers a rest.

I am going to plug the shit out of this but on my other blog, I’m Done With Smoking, I’ve covered how I’m quitting smoking almost every day since I’ve quit. It has been 5 weeks since I last had a smoke so go give it a read and if you feel so obliged, comment on what I’ve written. Hell you could do that here as well if you like. Am I losing you? Thought so, moving on!

I say I am going to do new things for this blog all the time. This won’t be a regular feature but it might crop up occasionally. However, it has a snappy title called “Prick of the Post” – How’s that for a fun name. Anyway, this is given to someone who has fucked me off for whatever reason. In this instance, it is Axl Rose. It is surprising, even to me, that he managed that from where he is. I love Guns N’ Roses. I think they have released some superb albums and I really liked the latest offering, Chinese Democracy. It isn’t ground breaking but it is a good album. However, after seeing Guns live in 2006, I had very little interest in doing so again. Axl did not come across good during that set. I have actually just read some reviews about the set I saw in 2006 which were very complimentary. All I remember is it started off pretty poorly but got much better as it went on. I also remember seeing a Guns N Roses diehard fan crying when Axl walked off during another hissy fit. That is what I associate with GnR now. I found myself gaining a lot of respect for Axl when reading the chapter in Chris Jericho’s second autobiography, Undisputed, where he talks about meeting him and spending a fair bit of time with him. Anyway, they must be doing something right as whenever they come to the UK, they sell an arse load of tickets and truthfully, I always find myself considering going – despite Download 2006. The main reason I don’t, other than the aforementioned DL2006 set is the concern as to what time the show will actually begin. Axl released a statement recently, dealing with the issue of the band coming on stage late. This is taken from Planet Rock’s website.

"Love it Hate it Accept it Debate it — You want 8 o'clock shows go find F-R-I-E-N-D-S or hit a cinema somewhere...or you wanna be informed go catch the 10-o'clock news... this is Rock N' Roll! Treat yourself don't cheat yourself thinking you're gonna go to school or work or whatever you 'normally' do the next day. Oh and remember before you get high and never want to come down. 'You can have anything you want but you better not take it from me!' This is Guns N’ Roses and when the time is right the stage will ignite. Looking forward to sharing that with rockers soon!"

What I take from this statement is to hell with the rules the venue sets for a gig and to hell with the next day – if I want to see GnR, I have to be prepared that they will come on stage when the time is right. So if I want to see GnR, I have to book a hotel basically as they aren’t coming to Portsmouth any time soon. And even if I do that, they may not finish in time for me to get back to that hotel. Cheers! What this statement appears to say is that going to see GnR is a treat, and it should be treated as such. Sorry Axl, but for this statement you are a cunt. He clearly doesn’t realise that people can’t just drop everything to see GnR or any band. Almost every other artist who performs live respects their money-paying crowd by turning up on time and putting in a good performance. They accept that while it is rock and roll (or whatever genre), people have taken time out of their lives and money out of their wallets to come and see them and reward them for doing so. Not every gig is good, but the least they do is turn up at a respectable time. Turning up at 11pm is not acceptable and justifying it by saying “its rock and roll” is horse shit! Fuck you Axl, now I definitely won’t pay to see you again.

Finally, Wootton Bassett has been given the royal seal of approval and can now use its full name of Royal Wootton Bassett on recognition for the townspeople paying their respect to the soldiers who had died fighting for this country in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hundreds then Thousands lined the street to pay their respects to soldiers who had died. The people paid their respects to 355 people who had died and passed through their town. I think this is a just reward and I think it is one of those feel good stories that everyone can get behind. I do think the Queen herself should have been there to oversee the first town in over 100 years being given the royal seal of approval, but regardless of that, this is a good thing which has happened and it is perfect recognition to the residents and the respects they paid.

That’s all I’ve got. I’ll probably be back to post about next weekend. More rugby on TV and my first visit to The Rec. I cannot wait!

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