Kwagga Who?

All Blacks v Ba Ba's - Man of the Match; Kwagga Smith

All Blacks v Ba Ba's - Man of the Match; Kwagga Smith

"It's a huge honour for me to play for the Barbarians - old guys and young guys coming together for the love of the game."

"It's a huge honour for me to play for the Barbarians - old guys and young guys coming together for the love of the game."

A magnificent game of rugby at Twickenham this afternoon saw the All Blacks beat the Barbarians 31-22. The all Southern Hemisphere game enhanced the reputation of the Ba Ba's and cemented that of the All Blacks who, after a very patchy first half, solidified their game with more structure and composure to come from behind and win comfortably. On one of the few occasions when the selectors of Man of the Match agreed with me they selected South African flanker Kwagga Smith. Immediately after the match South African social media was buzzing with 'why isn't Kwagga a Bok?' comments while Northern Hemisphere social media was buzzing with 'I hope that Kwagga bloke doesn't become a Bok,' comments. I don't know where he's come from but I think we'll be seeing a lot more of him. In his post match interview he sounded like he's just come straight off a farm somewhere in the back end of Natal. He reminded me, bizarrely enough, of another unrecognised hero from the past; remember this guy?

Alf Tupper..... they didn't rate him either..

Alf Tupper..... they didn't rate him either..

 

 

Highs & Lows

Special, it was all a bit special.

That was a weekend of mixed emotions.

The Lions series ended yesterday leaving many of us with something of a forlorn and empty outlook on life. As one friend said as we watched the post match interviews, ‘what am I going to do now?’ It has been a fantastic six weeks of exhilarating, tense and good-to-watch rugby played by some of the Jedi Masters of the sport. As a shop window for sport in general and rugby in particular, nothing else comes close. The very idea of throwing together a squad from four nations and with only a few days training, packing them off to play the world champions in a three match series on the other side of the earth sound like Mission Impossible from the get-go. Many thought it would be. Perhaps they didn’t give enough credit to Warren Gatland’s mystical ways with coaching, or the manner in which players grow six inches when they put on that red shirt but the thrilling series that we have just enjoyed will live very long indeed in the memory. The downside of the hard fought drawn series is of course that there are some big and useful takeaways for the All Blacks in terms of their preparatory work for the World Cup in two years time from the perspective of competing against the Northern Hemisphere teams who have measurably improved since 2015.

There has though been some critical background noise about Lion’s tours, mostly coming from English clubs. The sounding off is less about the efficacy of the Lions from a sporting perspective but more a cynical and manipulative attempt to grab more money from the funds that the Lion’s tours generate. They can mostly bugger off. They have no support from rugby supporters of any hue and precious little from players, for whom being a Lion is a crowning sporting achievement beyond pounds, pence, PR and advertising. If the English clubs, and World Rugby for that matter, want to take us on then they are welcome to try. They will be disabused of their greedy and selfish motives pretty damm quickly. 

If those two had been around there would have no need for Hadrian to build a wall.

If those two had been around there would have no need for Hadrian to build a wall.

 

 

The rest of the weekend has been a bit hum-drum, mostly spent staring into the black rugby void with a bit of Test cricket on the box to jolly things along. With Mrs Flashbang away cycling Hadrian’s Wall and the kids all off doing what grown up kids do, it has also been a self-catering event. Yet again I met my nemesis and my nemesis yet again won. I hate dish-washers. There must be a smart engineer somewhere who can design a dishwasher that is easy to use, easy to load with controls that have some logic to them and one that doesn’t turn what’s left of our wedding presents into crystal dust. Having made a best-efforts go at loading the wretched thing I get to play hide-and -seek with wherever she’s hidden the little bloody washy things that go in the little slot. I gave up, emptied the machine and washed everything by hand which I much prefer to do anyway. I’ll master it one day though….. I will.

Bastard dog

Bastard dog

Happier days

Happier days

We end the weekend however with a bit of trauma. Actually, quite a lot of trauma. I loved my  Costa del Mar sunglasses. I really did. They have been everywhere with me for the best part of fifteen years. I’ve travelled with them, fished, driven, danced, watched cricket, barbecued, walked, worked, sailed, slept………….. everything. Just a moments inattention and they’ve been trashed. I swear I will swing for that bloody dog. I am not usually one for getting attached to, ‘stuff,’ but I’m genuinely a bit upset about my Costa’s. They’ve become part of me. Or they were. I think they are the best sunnies in the world. I don’t suppose they could be repaired? In the darkness, there is always light. I’ll be on the phone to Florida first thing; right about the same time I'll be registering my interest for the next Lions tour in South Africa in four years time..... 8,000 folk already have!

Not My Turn

Four years ago a chum conjured up a cracking idea. “Let’s do the Lions tour to New Zealand!” he said. A bunch of us signed up for the Mid-Life Crisis trip of a lifetime to spend two weeks immersed in the best rugby on the planet with an eclectic collection of rugby lovers from all corners of these islands in the country most devoted to the sport. The brewing anticipation since then has been joyful. I have loved the innumerable lunches, pub outings and incessant debate in the Cardinal Vaughn Car Park at Twickenham about the tour. I’ve never seen grown men reduced to such animated and childlike excitement as I have with this tour as it has morphed from a dreamy ambition to reality. My own sense of adventure was heightened because I have never been to New Zealand but have always thought of it as the place I am spiritually at least, most close to. Indeed, if ever the Mad Marxists get a sniff of the levers of power here that is where I’m heading.

Crumble Kid with our Tour Leader. I had to send him, the shirt doesn't fit me so well anymore...............................

Crumble Kid with our Tour Leader. I had to send him, the shirt doesn't fit me so well anymore...............................

It was then, a tad disappointing to miss QF002 to Auckland via Dubai and Sydney last night. What we might describe as an unfortunate confluence of events have conspired against me and forced me to drop out just at the four year finishing line. It was though fantastic news for the youngest Crumble Kid who got the phone call of a lifetime, packed up his university accommodation in quick time and drove down at 3am yesterday. A quick turnaround from summer to winter gear at home and off to Terminal 3 where, after a quick goodbye, he found himself luxuriating in the BA Lounge with my chum. Kind of surreal turnaround.

We tend not to sink into self pity at home, it just isn’t our way. You move on and move fast. It is after all, not the biggest disappointment I have ever had with missed flights. No, that one is forever etched on my memory.

In the summer of 1981 I was sent from the Scottish Infantry Depot at Glencorse to join the Gordon Highlanders for a couple of months before starting at Sandhurst in the September intake. After two months in Belize I was ready to go. Any sane person would have felt the same. So it was with as much of a spring in my step that I could muster while doing foot drill that I marched into the CO’s office in Airport Camp to be told, “Well done Corporal Crumble, I hope you have enjoyed your time with us. I want to wish you good luck at Sandhurst and I look forward to meeting you again sometime.” That though, is not what he said. Not even close.

“Now look here Corporal Crumble, I know you must be looking forward to your flight tomorrow and starting at the Academy but there seems to have been a bit of a cock-up in the paperwork back at the Depot. You will now be starting at Sandhurst in January so will stay with the Battalion until we leave Belize in November. When we get back to Kirknewton you will stay with us and come up to the Mess and understudy a Platoon Commander until you start in January.”

That was kind of him. I had a fabulous time with the Gordons who were a decent and professional bunch and the time spent with the other officers in Kirknewton was indeed, good preparation for the Academy. But, at the time, standing in his office, the news was crushing. Another three months in that stinking, disease ridden country; most of it spent humping heavy kit around the jungle. Disappointed doesn’t touch it. In Belize they brew a beer called Belekin, (tastes like cheap perfume and did the same sort of damage to your gut), and distill a rum called One Barrel which tasted much like the issue mossie-rep we used in the jungle. I think I drank most of the available supplies in the country that night. I never touched the bloody stuff again. Looking back, it was a good thing. Had that bad news not have come my way then a whole lot of cards would have fallen differently and life very probably, would have meandered down a different path. 

As I said, we banish pity at home but I allowed myself just a hint of pathos when I sat down on return from the airport to watch the Woody Allen movie, Cafe Society. Like all Woody Allen films it received mixed reviews. I loved it and it fitted my reflective mood perfectly. The film is worth watching for Vittorio Storaro’s gorgeous cinematography alone and the soundtrack is full of my favourite music. It was a gentle and melancholic end to what was, a rather frantic day.

I guess then, it will have to be Japan in 2019.

RWC_2019_logo_for_website.jpg

Greatest Sporting Moment

It's over and what a finish. Won by possibly the most complete team ever to play. It didn't catch the popular imagination as we might have hoped but nonetheless was a great success in rugby terms. For England, and the rest of the Northern Hemisphere, a new beginning beckons. For many in the rugby world the morning after the final of an epic tournament feels somewhat empty and desolate. We have some terrific rugby to enjoy in the Premiership though where at least we can watch English teams winning, albeit against other English teams. 

This though, has made it for me. The greatest sporting moment I think I've ever seen and a moment that defines rugby. Sonny Bill Williams; kind spirited and generous sportsman and gentleman. He just made a bigger statement about rugby with one gesture than an army of PR dollies could ever conjure up and immediately gets inducted into the Good Guy Club. I think the BBC just found their Overseas Sports Personality winner for 2015, he's definitely mine. Obviously the security guard had been watching the whole rugby world cup bored out of his mind and then wide eyed with excitement; his big adrenaline pumping moment came. That kid was going down big time in his mind, nothing was going to stop him............. except sportsmanship. Probably feels a bit of a wally this morning.

 

Rugby World Cup; Diet on Hold

Tip from the Top with Boris Johnson demonstrating the perfect low rugby tackle against a German. Unfortunately, he was playing in a football match at the time.

In a crushing blow to my already failing latest attempt to shed some pounds the 2015 Rugby World Cup kicks off on Friday evening with England taking on Fiji at Twickenham. Hot dogs and Guinness are not a basis for slim and healthy living. They are though, the basis of the best six weeks in the calendar............ well, next to the Lions tours and the Six Nations.

Carey Mulligan & Natalie Portman; These are very busy people

Shedding some pounds has taken on renewed urgency since my last visit to the Knee Guy. 'Crumble,' he said, 'your marathon days are over.' I didn't interject at this point to highlight that they hadn't yet started but they are of course on my bucket list, some way though, below dinner with Natalie Portman and Carey Mulligan.  As it happens, some years ago, ( before it became fashionably dull), I had the Crumble Kids write out their bucket lists. Two of the kids are systematically working their way through theirs with alarming success. The third has yet to smash a large flat screen television or dive into a pool of custard but then he was six at the time when he wrote it. I'm not making much progress at all but then I'm led to believe that Natalie Portman and Carey Mulligan are very busy people.

Back to Bradley then,  (well, Mister Bradley to you and I and the best Knee Guy in the South of England), 'you see,' he went on, 'the old rusty truck is still rumbling down the road but there are too many bricks in the back. Lose some bricks Crumble and the knees will thank you. You're paying for the fun you had in younger days.' Message received Mr Bradley and of course, this just has to improve the delta on dinner with Natalie Portman and Carey Mulligan.

One chum of mine swears by his so far successful diet he calls 'The Beige Diet.' Bob is not a follower of fashion. Keeping things simple, like any good military man, Bob has opted for his own bespoke colour coded diet plan. Bob does things his way and Beige is o-u-t out. That means beer, chips, (well, anything fried), bread, pasta, coffee, biscuits, crisps and other such snacky instruments of the devil, rice and .... well, you get the idea. Unsurprisingly it works. I can see it catching on, 'Bob's Beige Diet takes the Diet Industry By Storm,' the headlines will scream.

Back to the subject in question, the glorious festival that is the RWC and the clever coves at Macquarie Wealth Management have produced their traditional Quant Guide to the competition. In it they conclude that the All Blacks are pre ordained finalists and will meet England on the 31st of October at Twickenham. Thing is, and as will be debated in every pub and rugby club bar across the world, anything can happen. Which is why it is such a beguiling and beautiful game. The diet will have to wait.