England stretched their unbeaten run to 11 games with a comfortable win over an ordinary South African side, with Norfolk’s Ben Youngs unlucky not the get Man of the Match after creating two of England’s four tries.
The first of four Autumn Internationals saw a few changes at Twickenham; the Rose & Poppy gates installed at the entrance to the West stand were the focus for Remembrance events with rose motifs at the bottom gradually changing to poppies at the top. A clever design by Harry Gray who also created the statue to rugby icon Prince Alexander Obolensky which stands in Cromwell Square in Ipswich.
The game may not have been a great spectacle with the almost constant rain playing its part, but England’s improvement is clear and two tries in each half kept the crowd happy. Post match arrangements have been changed this season with the formal sit-down dinner dispensed with in favour of a more casual arrangement where guests mill around and are brought bowl food such as braised beef, fish & chips, mini pies, etc. Meanwhile the players have a buffet at one end of the room roped off for a little privacy.
Personally I’m not sure if this is a change for the better. It means that the players can leave earlier and can avoid speaking to any of the guests if they so choose, but for the guests I and my colleagues bring this is arguably their highlight as a rugby volunteer. To be able to talk to the players and have a photograph with them is a huge thrill and to some extent that has been taken away from them. The players themselves have always been very accommodating, remembering that they started at grass roots clubs which depend on volunteers.
However, there was a nice touch when six volunteers were recognised for their contribution to rugby. Other traditions were observed with speeches by the presidents and captains of both countries and caps awarded to debutants. South Africa went one step further by also presenting new players with their international blazer.
I bumped into Keith Green, ex-Essex RDO, ex-England Students coach and formerly on the coaching staff at Colchester. He was the liaison officer for the South African side and he was certainly being kept busy. I also had a chat with Richard Hill who has recently been appointed England team manager. It was clear from our conversation that Eddie Jones is a tough guy to work for as he expects the same work ethic that he has himself, but the ethos he has instilled means that everyone is prepared to put in as much as it takes to make England the best team in the world.
I was home by 10:30pm, earlier than expected, and I had a look through the results. It was a cup weekend and I was dismayed to see the number of call offs in the second round games. Out of 32 fixtures, 10 were not played as one of the opposition called off (see Is there a future for RFU Cup competitions?). This is happening year after year and seems to contradict the assertion in last season’s Adult Competitions Review that players want to play Cup rugby.
But Lowestoft & Yarmouth aren’t complaining. Despite having a difficult time in the league the club has reached the third round of the RFU Senior Vase without playing a game after call offs by Upminster and Finchley.