Archives for September 2015

9-30-15 Yorkshire Shrugs Off English Defeat

Half way through the pool matches and the World Cup story has shifted from Japan’s opening weekend upset of South Africa to Wales dazzling defeat of England last weekend to the upcoming weekend clash between England and Australia.  The England coach, Stuart Lancaster, has scrambled his selections some. The three changes from the side that lost 28-25  seem partly do to injury and players recovering from injury and possibly partly due to desperation. If they lose to Australia, their only chance of staying alive in the tournament they are hosting would be a Fiji upset of a fired-up, yet injury riddled, Wales tomorrow. The English press does not seem overly optimistic. The Aussies’ flanker combination of David Pocock and Michael Hooper, lovingly or disparagingly referred to as “Pooper” depending on point of view, are feared as a level of disruption the Red Rose of England has yet to wither under.

The USA Eagles have faded from the international story. They have a 10 day rest before their Oct. 7th collision with a South African team looking to show the world that they have what it takes to be the first nation to lift  World Cup trophy for a third time. USA coach, Mike Tolkin, has said he will rest players that he thinks might make a difference in the Eagles match four days later against Japan, a match seen as infinitely more winnable . England’s 2003 World Cup winning coach, Clive Woodward, once said that coaching is 95% selection. If Tolkin has been selecting the best the USA side has in previous World Cup defeats by Samoa (25-16) and Scotland (39-16), the Oct. 7th match with South Africa could be a record setting score difference. prides itself on bringing the stories that you won’t find in the major papers. As I take a short break from attending matches to hang out with my wife’s Yorkshire family in Yorkshire, I surveyed expectations for English success. Here are the results – sister-in-law “IRELAND!” , cricket loving brother-in-law “Whoever wins will have to get by New Zealand”, wife “Wales! Wales!” and my father-in-law a lovely Yorhshire gutteral exclamation of apathy.

9-28-15 Death, Certainty, & One Half of Chaos

The second weekend of pool play lies behind a misty Yorkshire Monday morning. In Pool A, which has been called the Pool of Death, the Welsh Dragons have left England bleeding badly after their 28-25 victory. England’s only hope of survival is to slay the Australian Wallabies who set this World Cup’s scoring record yesterday with a 65-3 victory over Uruguay.

The USA’s hopes of another major upset in what would have turned Pool B into the “Pool of Chaos” began to disappear within two minutes of the second half kick-off. The Eagles’ astounding 13-6 half-time lead was cut to 13-11 when the Scotland simply took back kick-off ball and passed it to their wing, Tim Visser, who scored in the corner. Five minutes later Scotland was threatening from less than 20 yards out. The Scottish fly-half got quick ball from loose play, took a few steps to the outside, and passed inside to wing, Sean Maitland, who touched down close to the post. Where was the Eagle back row? Where is Todd Clever? Oh yeah … The score after the conversion was 18-13 and Scotland was well in control of the match. The Eagle fly-half, Alan MacGinty, closed the gap to 18-16 when Scotland was called for offside five minutes later, but the rest of the match was about Scotland getting 4 tries for a bonus Match point. They ended with 5 and a final score of 39-16.

The Eagles once again struggled with line-outs. As mentioned in an earlier post an Eagle coach assured line-out problems from the Samoan match had been sorted. This is far from the case. The first two were not straight. The third knocked-on. The fourth was stolen. The fifth knocked down and recovered by Scotland. If this is sorted in the minds of the coaching staff, then maybe it is time to start throwing the ball straight to ground in the middle of the line-out and hope for a good bounce. Coach Tolkin’s post match press conference assessment rambled around words like momentum, leading, loss, and 4 day recovery. When asked if there were teams the Eagles considered unbeatable. He replied that the Eagles go into every match with the belief they can win. He plans to rest key players during the South African match, so they will be ready for the Japan match 4 days later on Oct. 11th, assumption being that it is more realistic to believe the USA can beat Japan.

South Africa’s 46-6 trouncing of Samoa has returned Springbok faith that they have a team that can win this pool and potentially the entire World Cup. Next weekend’s match against Scotland should be a decider of who tops Pool B. If South Africa wins, it will come down to bonus Match points unless Samoa pulls themselves together and upsets Scotland on Oct. 11th. Bonus Match points are achieved by scoring 4 or more tries in a match or losing by 7 or less points. If two teams are tied in Match points, the winner of the match in which the two tied teams played is ranked higher. If Scotland and South Africa draw and Scotland loses to Samoa, then all sorts of higher level maths (as they say here) come into play.

Pool C and D are becoming the Pools of Certainty. Argentina grabbed their bonus point in their 54-9 win over Georgia, and Ireland scored 6 tries in their 44-10 defeat of Romania. Argentina is on course to finish second in Pool C. Ireland’s order of finish will wait until their October 11th clash with France. The winner of this match will get Argentina in the quarterfinals . The loser will get New Zealand. Canada narrowly lost to Italy 23-18 which all but ensured the Maple Leafs will not automatically qualify for World Cup 2019 in Japan. The top three teams in each pool automatically qualify. Romania could play a spoiler, but this is one of the Pools of Certainty.

9-27-15 What’s under the Kilt?

I wandered through a misty Leeds morning looking for a Sunday Times. None had been delivered by 7am. The Leeds train station has a piano with signs in almost every imaginable language that say “Play Me.”. I was playing lullabies for the all nighters waiting for their train home while watching the newsagents for paper delivery. An old Yorkshire gentleman wandered up to chat, showing me the 2 fingers he had lost during his 20 years on the dock. He has a good mate who is the doorman at the Queens Hotel where the USA team is staying. I asked if our boys were behaving themselves. He told me he had heard they were out on the piss on Friday. It could be raining Scottish tries today.

The big news from yesterday’s matches is Wales triumph over England (28-25). England now face the potentially humiliating experience of being the first ever World Cup hosting team to not make the quarterfinals. During their upcoming match on Saturday against Australia they will carry not only a will to win but the hopes of a sport loving nation. South Africa have recovered and their 46-6 convincing win over Samoa have catapulted them from disparaging comments about being over-the-hill no-hopers to chatter about having the potential to go all the way.

Canada outplayed Italy but fell short by five points (23-18). The match was exciting because of its closeness and the three lead changes. Canada’s wings, Van Der Merwe & Mackenzie, were fantastic. Unfortunately the ball was slow to come out of the loose and passes too often lazily drifted through the atmosphere at the stadium that is home to Leeds United football team.  Canada’s choice to take 3 points from a penalty kick from 5 meters out with 9 minutes left in the match left them two points down, desperate, and hapless for the remainder of the match until a penalty in the waning moments gave Italy their 5 point margin.

As I am writing this Eddie, John, Brian, and Ally from Scotland have wandered up. As we laughed and talked about World Cup experiences, I asked if they would share with out female readers what Scotsmen wear under their kilt. Here are the replies …

Brian,  “Nothing!” to which Ally replied, “You might have nothing, but I have loads.”

Eddie, “There is nothing worn. It is all in perfect working condition.”

Time to file this and head to the pitch to see what the Scottish team has under their kits.

9-26-15 League Loving Leeds Lifts the Bar

Yesterday as I watched Georgia’s 54-9 losing effort against a very good Argentinian side at the Fanzone in Leeds, one of the multitude of magical World Cup moments happened. At the table where the Thompson boys and I sat was Brian, originally from the town of Rugby but now living in Arizona. In 1977 Brian lived in Vancouver and toured with the Vancouver Rowing Club to play the New Orleans RFC. We played against each other 38 years ago and some 4,000 miles away. The sport we love had brought us together again to enjoy the cool Yorkshire evening, marvelous hospitality of this league loving city, and rugby,

The matches during the week saw little change to my pre-tournament knock-out round predictions. Australia failed to get a bonus point for 4 tries in their 28-13 defeat of Fiji. The significance to this in the “Pool of Death” will wait until they face Wales on Oct. 10th. The Brave Blossoms’ 45-10 loss to Scotland displayed Japan as a budding rugby power, but not yet fully blooming. South Africa has a way back to the the top of Pool B if their aging stars shake off their loss to Japan and embrace a will to win. In Pool C Argentina showed their strength in a 26-16 loss to world champion New Zealand and last night’s romp against Georgia. New Zealand floundered a bit during a 30 minute span in the second half against Namibia where, with a man advantage for most of this time, they managed only 2 tries while Nambia scored one. The final 58-14 score was a credit to the fierce defense of Namibia, but causes one to wonder if the All Blacks were intentionally hiding something. France looked good in their 38-11 victory over a tenacious Romanian side, leaving little doubt that their Oct. 11th confrontation with Ireland will decide who finishes first and second in Pool D.

Last night as we wandered the streets and marveled at the long lines of young people waiting for often over an hour to see if their clothing would pass inspection so they could enter a crowded bar, we pondered why this small city in the north of England developed such a culture. While pondering we entered a karaoke bar with no line. I took a slip and wrote “Suspicious Minds” on the paper, dropped it on the stack, and waited to do my Elvis impersonation. After close to 45 minutes of karaoke ranging from Adele-like fantastic to cover your ears and pray it ends soon, the karaoke master started reading from the stack. Suspicious Minds got the thumbs down. I stomped out, straightened my clothes, and took my place in line.

Soon I’ll board a bus to the stadium in Leeds to cheer Canada on to hopefully a North American upset over Italy. Like tomorrow’s clash between USA and Scotland, few give the North American sides a chance against the Six Nation teams. Yesterday while strolling to the Fanzone we stopped to chat with one of the the USA coaches as the team boarded a bus to practice. photographer, Mickey O’Thompson, asked if they were going to work on line-outs. The coach assured us the line-out problems from the 25-16 loss to Samoa had been sorted. We’ll see. Can the magic of this Yorkshire city inspire a North American upset?

9/21/15 Sloppy Play Puts Pool B Bullseye on USA & Samoan Backs

Below quote lifted from email I received from Redwater of the Jack & Dougie Show (rugby & whiskey podcast) analyzes the hapless situation the USA Eagles find themselves after 25-16 loss to Samoa on a warm and sunny Brighton afternoon yesterday.

“Bad coaching, poor selection, no game plan or strategy……as I said earlier Thretton is a quality player, give him a role as a crash baller. He does not have the skills to set anything up. Don’t confuse him. I think Thretton can be used as a Sam Burgess /SBW player and should be the focal point of the team. If Thretton is used as the focal point the backs will only get better and that includes McGinty, who has played well but needs to take control, which he can if given his role.
I suppose nobody knew the lineouts would be so horrible,but Samoa handled the ball and the in hand kicking very poorly so tit for tat.
Do I think the USA can get better? No, I think they’ll get worse. Tolkin is tragically out of his depth as a professional coach. The Eagles should have been better prepared because Samoa was, as I said, dreadful. Samoa will be lucky to win another match. As a team they are about as fit as I am. Japan will run them to death. Scotland out organize them. And South Africa just drub them with an Islander war paddle.”

With 3 matches to go in this Rugby World Cup the Eagles need a miracle if they are to do anything other than board the plane back to USA on Oct. 12th with an 0-4 record and a claim to being the worst USA side in World Cup history. Somewhere toward the end of the first half the announcer gave the statistic of 19 line breaks for Samoa to 4 for the USA. That means that before the half the USA had missed at least 19 tackles. You might consider it a bright spot that Mike Petri proved himself a tenacious tackler, but then you begin to wonder why the scrum half is making so many tackles on the Samoan backs. Where was the back row? Where was the back who was supposed to make the tackle before the gain line? Where is Todd Clever?

With so many mistakes it is hard to imagine the USA is in for anything but a very long 3 weeks. Scotland is now looking at Japan and South Africa as teams to upset. There is a good chance 3 teams will be coming out of the pool with 1 loss. The decider on who will get through to the quarterfinals could come down to extra points for 4 tries or more in a match and point differentials. The USA and Samoan performances yesterday have set themselves up to be targets for the other 3 teams. The path to quarterfinal inclusion could be through large margins of victory. With that said teams will play hard until the final whistle and the excitement of the world’s greatest rugby tournament will continue well past the Final on October 31st.

9/20/15 The Impossible Happens

It is Day 3 of the 2015 Rugby World Cup and the impossible has happened. Yesterday Japan, ranked 13th in the world, defeated South Africa, ranked 3rd, 34-32. In what is the greatest upset in the Rugby World Cup history the Brave Blossoms of Japan swarmed the mighty Springboks from South Africa. Within a minute of kick-off it seemed evident to the Japanese players that they had the talent and desire to win. For the almost 30,000 rugby fans watching the first rugby match ever played in Brighton’s new soccer stadium the belief that this could happen would wait until the 83rd minute of the match when Japan scored the go ahead try. The South African fans sat in stunned disbelief. The Japanese fans stood in jubilant disbelief. Everyone realized they had just seen a match that would be talked about whenever World Cup upsets were mentioned. A tiny second tier nation had toppled one of the rugby giants from the Southern Hemisphere.

The result created endless opportunities for an evening of fun at the Springboks’ expense. Delightedly when sitting in a pub with South African’s nearby we would discuss the USA’s July victory over Japan and end with the question, “Has anyone else beaten the Japanese recently?”
Springbok dreams of winning the World Cup are not dead though. While visiting the toilet in one pub, I overheard one South African supporter discussing with his mate how it was better for the team to finish second in Pool B. I took the opportunity to mention there was now a reasonable chance that 4 teams in the pool could finish with 1 loss and point difference could determine that the Springboks, for the first time in their World Cup experiences, would not be advancing to the knock-out stage. The solid belief that the would win their pool was replaced with fear they would be going home early.

On Day 1 English fans at Twickenham for the opening match against Fiji were pleased with their comfortable victory, but sloppy play and Fiji’s ability to move the ball well against the English defense silenced chatter of this being a side that would win their own World Cup. The last 10 minutes when O’Farrell and Burgess were broughtt on as replacements sparked a glimmer of hope. Resurgence of English fans confidence will wait until Sept. 26th when they face Wales.

In 30 minutes the  USA Eagles and a Samoan side that will be packing a good bit more wallop than the Samoan side that easily handled the Eagles in July will kick-off. As Japan showed the impossible does happen. Go Eagles!

Sept. 18, 2015, Beans to the Excitement of Rugby World Cup 2015

Later today England and Fiji will launch the 2015 Rugby World Cup. There is all the promise that this will be the most successful in terms of numbers of people watching either live or on television than ever before. Today as I was having my full English breakfast, which was composed largely of a plate of beans smothering an oververyhard fried egg and a slightly warmed canned tomato, the news on the television in the B&B showed the head of the English rugby union, Ian Ritchie, declaring the television audience will be 4 billion people and over 2.5 million tickets had already been sold.

Beyond the record numbers watching the event the tournament, through luck of the draw, has the potential to have an air of excitement beyond previous World Cups. In 2011 in New Zealand after Ireland upset Australia on the 8th day of the 6 week long tournament the quarterfinals were set. In England the quarterfinals will not be decided until 3 matches on the last 2 days of pool play (Oct. 10th & 11th). In Pool A Wales face Australia on Oct. 10th and in this “Pool of Death” the winner will be a quarterfinalist and the loser will most likely be going home. In Pool B Scotland square off against a very good Samoan side on Oct. 10th in Newcastle, just south of the Scottish border. Few doubt that South Africa will win this pool, but the second qualifier for the quarterfinals will wait until the ref blows his whistle to end the Scots tussle with this South Pacific power. Pool C is the least exciting with Southern Hemisphere super power New Zealand expected to easily capture the 1st place spot and Argentina to capture second. On Oct. 4th Argentina will play Tonga in the Pumas only real threat to their 2nd place finish. On Oct. 11th in the last match of pool play Ireland and France clash to see who captures first place in Pool D. The loser will most likely be in the quarterfinals, but instead of having the relatively easy confrontation with Argentina the loser will get the New Zealand All Blacks in Cardiff.

If France loses, they might fancy their chances against the All Blacks as they have twice before ended New Zealand’s dreams of World Cup glory in the Northern Hemisphere. In 1999 the French shocked an overconfident All Black side in a semi-final in Twickenham 43-31 and 2007 the All Blacks were left in tears after the French sent them back to Kiwiland after their quarterfinal 20-18 loss. The French will also be looking to avenge their extremely narrow (8-7) defeat to New Zealand in the 2011 World Cup Final.

In a few hours the most watched and the most suspenseful of what is now 8 World Cups will begin.
Follow on Twitter or Facebook or website to share the suspense and our search for a good English breakfast.

Sadly Japan on Oct. 11 is USA’s Best Chance for a Win

Life is made of so many beginnings and they always come at the end of something. Last week I picked the last of my mango crop. Next week I’ll be in England covering the Rugby World Cup for You can follow the crew: publisher Fran “The Man” Thompson (tour alias Sir Francis of Birmingham), photographer Mike “Spacer” Thompson (tour alias Mickey O’Thompson), and reporter Tom “Croz” Crosby (tour alias tbd) on Facebook or Twitter and at

Link to article on pagan prediction of England vs Ireland World Cup Final.

Three articles down is the article where I have read the signs and predicted the Final, so if you only want to know how the story ends read this article and skip the rest.

On Sept. 20th the USA Eagles kick-off their quest to lift the Webb Ellis trophy vs Samoa. On March 14th of 2014 I predicted a 21-12 Eagle victory on their way to their first quarterfinal appearance. I am much less optimistic now. Samoa looks like all their stars will be released from club obligations. They will have the A-team that only lost to the world champ New Zealand All Blacks by 9 points a little over two months ago. The Samoans will be coming with a good deal of confidence that they can get through to the quarterfinals. Scotland stopped the Samoans first visit to the quarterfinals in 1991 and once again thwarted quarterfinal dreams in a 1999 play-off match. This Samoan side has the best chance of a quarterfinal visit in a long time and they are looking at Scotland as the bump in their road, not the USA. Samoa vs Scotland on Oct. 10th will be the decider of second place in Pool B. South Africa will be pool winners. A little over a year ago the Springboks beat Scotland 55-6. Yes, this is a better Scottish team, but they will have to weigh their chances of losing critical people a week before the more likely win vs Samoa. As much as this is denied in these sorts of matches, I think it has become a wink and nod accepted strategy. I’m not judging it either way. As a coach picking players if I had a very good player with a niggling injury that would definitely improve if they sit out a week, this would be a good match for him to miss.

The recent USA team has the advantage of having played together quite a bit over the last couple of months, but their best showing against a higher ranked team was against Japan in Sacramento in July. Samoa played a side with only 5 players from their match vs the All Blacks against the Eagles in California in July and won fairly easily 21-16. The USA’s best hope for a win in this World Cup is against Japan. It will take wise use (wink-nod) of Eagle reserves vs South Africa on Oct. 7th to equal their 23-18 Sacramento victory when they face Japan in Gloucester, England, on Oct. 11th.

I was reading Uruguay’s release of their press events for the whole World Cup. At the bottom of the list of trainings, press conferences, captain’s runs, … was Oct. 11th departure. In their pool with Australia, England, Wales, and Fiji that is a very realistic view of their probability of making quarterfinals. I wonder if the Eagles will soon issue a press event schedule with October 12th departure.

I think my tour alias should be Cuzin Tilis (Tellin It Like It Is).

Watching RWC in Pensacola Area with Sir Francis

Loyal DSR reader Peter Griffiths asks for recommended RWC viewing pubs in the Navarre/Pensacola area that will be showing the Rugby World Cup. “Hoping to watch England vs Fiji on the 18th,’’ he writes.

Well, Peter, you are in luck. Any bar with a TV and a pulse will have that game available on its basic Direct TV sports package: Universal Sports Network (No. 620 on my dial) will broadcast seven matches live, beginning with the aforementioned opener.image
You can watch opening ceremonies beginning at 1 p.m. at, for instance, Juana’s on Navarre Beach or The Dock on Pensacola Beach. Host country England will begin the process of beating Fiji on The Twick’s sacred English grass about an hour later. DSR also suggests going west to the state line and the Flora-Bama Lounge, where post game festivities could include some sand rugby on the Gulf of Mexico beach with a visiting SEC women’s side.
In addition to the opener, USN will broadcast all four USA pool play matches live. NBC will broadcast the October 24 semi-final matches on tape delay one week before live coverage of the World Cup Final on Saturday, October 31 beginning at 11: a.m. Gulf Coast time.
There are lots of other options to catch more – or all of – the drama. The boys at (DSR Hall of Fame member) Ridge Jone’s recent 60th birthday party mentioned a Direct TV on demand package for $200. The on demand advantages are obvious and numerous. Cable and IPTV providers are offering similar packages.
USN is also offering live streaming on-demand access to all 48 matches as a subscription. Fans can watch the games on desktop, mobile and connected TVs.
Since it is a day game here, the Battleship Rugby Team will be hosting a finals party at (I’m guessing) O’Daily’s Irish Pub. Great location on Dauphin St. amongst a thriving strip of bars and bistros in downtown Mobile.
DSR’s domestic coverage includes continuing a tradition we started in the middle of the night four years ago when the AB’s stole the Cup from France. I’m expecting to be joined by a strong Baldwin County rugby contingent at Lars Howlin’s crib on Fish River to take a shot at too much fun.
Four years earlier, at a more reasonable hour, I watched South Africa beat England in a wine bar owned by a South African and BOB brother, Naude near the Mobile Loop. My wife saved the day when she recoverd a lost pay-per-view feed early in England’s historic win in the 2003 final, still the most intense rugby game I’ve ever seen either live or through a box transmitting the stress from almost 8,000 miles away. The stress was so bad it sobered me up. By the time Wilkinson drop kicked the winning three, I was exhausted. It was almost as if I had played.
Maybe I’ll get lucky and feel that way again at least once in the next seven weeks.  by Fran Thompson