As many of the Twitter followers may know, I was away in London this weekend for both #RugbyAid and England vs Ireland. I've had an amazing time down at both the Stoop and at HQ with my dad and saw 2 quality games of Rugby.
As many of you will know, this was an idea that was born under the #Rugbyunited umbrella, and as I explained in a previous blog, it was too big for a bunch of amateurs like us to arrange in our spare time, but Kenneth Shepherd and his team ran with the idea and made it utterly fan-fuckin-tastic! Getting over 10'000 people to the game was superb, and god knows how many watched it on BT as well!!! Hopefully there was a load of donations and #Rugbyaid made a shitload of money! Thanks to Mike Tindall for crediting us with the original idea on the Thursday night BT Sports special. It was really nice to hear our name mentioned in conjunction with such a fantastic occasion!
The standard of rugby was pretty good, the celebrity players such as Harry Judd, Dion Dublin, Jamie Laing from Made in Chelsea and Gethin Jones were really impressive and others such as JB Gill, Alistair Eykyn, and the gargantuan Terry Hollands all played a hard game and came through exhausted, hurting but smiling. The ex pro's, to a man, looked ready to turn out in the Premiership. Personally for me it was a kick to see ex Gloucester men Thinus Delport, Rory Lawson, Terry Fanolua (who scored the match clinching try) Andy Gomersall, Mike Tindall and Iain Balshaw all play great games, but UUUUUUUUGGGGOOOOOOO Monye, Mark Cueto, Shane Williams, Brad Thorn, Tom May, Jason Robinson, man of the match Justin Marshall et al all proved there is life on those aging legs yet.
It was a great effort by all involved and myself, Luke (RugbyEng) and Gemma Fox were honoured to be allowed a free reign on the pitch post game to grab photo's with everyone we possibly could, ably assisted by my Dad as photographer.
The cheque we are holding is for £2000 and is from all the various things we have raised money for over the past 18 months, mainly #RugbyFair, so a MASSIVE thanks to all the rugbyunited peeps who have supported the cause and donated in a variety of ways over this time. Our night at the rugby was basically partly because of our earlier involvement and partially on behalf of all of you.
Just to point out as well, the guys at #rugbyaid assigned us TOP seats. We were literally the first row behind the Rest of the World's bench! We were even in front of the noisy muppets from Made in Chelsea. Thanks to Stephen and Trevor for the legwork in arranging all of this, and it was great to catch up with the Masterman's (Mastermen?), Jennifer, Amber, Charlie, Debbie et al before and during the game.
One minor gripe was the amount of #rugbyunited prize winners who didn't turn up for their tickets. PLEASE, if you enter a contest, either make sure you can go, or let us know if you can't, that way we can make sure that the tickets go to someone who will go. Especially for a charity game, it may have been a free ticket, but a percentage of the additional money from programs, food, drink etc all go to the cause, plus poor Stephen had to sit and wait for people that didn't turn up. It was a little frustrating, but was the only downside to a great event!
England v Ireland
Under 12 hours later, myself and my dad were winging our way back to Twickenham for the last pre World Cup friendly between England and Ireland, we met a few more #rugbyunited peeps on the day, managed a chat with Lucy Heath and bumped into The Mastermans (Mastermen?????) again, Ben was the England mascot on the day, which was awesome!!!
The game itself was a blood and thunder affair, both teams went all out trying to grab a win, but England mostly seemed dominant, led by Robshaw, Wood and May, but ultimately some white line fever from the likes of Brown and Joseph seemed to make the scoreline a lot closer than was likely.
Jonny May was an enormous threat when he was eventually passed the ball and grabbed a superb try surprisingly more from his strength than his speed, and was unlucky to have another rightly ruled out for a forward pass. He seemed to spend the game unmarked and in acres of space, but some poor choices prevented him from making use of it, to his obvious annoyance!
There was also a try for Anthony Watson, collecting a high cross kick from George Ford, aided by some bad defence from Simon Zebo to crawl over the line to dot down.
The talismanic Paul O'Connell grabbed a try for Ireland to make the game a far closer match that seemed likely, following a lovely lineout move. The rest of the points were all from Sexton, Ford and Farrell's boots.
The disappointments for me were Tom Youngs, who had a bad game by his standards and the aforementioned ball greedy backs, but nothing was too severe and there are a few chinks of light in the media gloom surrounding England's chances.
For me, the side that lined up against Ireland will largely be the first choice World Cup side, but I would give the ever impressive Jamie George the start at hooker because of his lineout accuracy, maybe Launchbury over Parling too, but Parling is a great leader in the pack and one of the main lineout callers, so I wouldn't be too disappointed if he starts.
I took a load of photo's, well, actually, my Dad did, cos my phone died before kick off, but I won't add them as there's already a tonne up from #RugbyAid.
Overall, it was a brilliant couple of days, and the return of live rugby has really whetted my appetite for the World cup!
13 days to go!!!!