It's been one helluva week for yours truly, for reasons explained later - but who are the other winners and losers from the last 7 days?
- Leinster - great week for the Irish province winning their first Heineken Cup at Murrayfield on Saturday. A second successive win for an Irish team in Europe, following an Irish Grand Slam this year, is a strong indicator of how the balance of power in European rugby has shifted in the last couple of years.
- Steve Thompson - the forgotten man of English rugby, Wally has been picked for the England squad to take on the BaaBaas and Argentina over the next few weeks. If he can get anywhere near his 2002-2003 form it's no exaggeration to suggest that he could transform the England forward effort.
- South Africa - I admit that I haven't been paying much attention to the talks on the future of SANZAR rugby but it seems to me like the South Africans have very much been allowed to have their cake and eat it. Here's what Sportsfreak makes of it all...
- Bath Rugby - oh dear. A punch up with Quins players outside a Fulham pub, accusations of recreational drugs use, the sudden "retirement" of Justin 'Plank' Harrison and a bunch of players refusing to provide hair samples all suggests that there's an underlying problem at the club and that Matt Stevens was perhaps not an isolated case. Tight head prop Duncan Bell, meanwhile, spent the day in question clearing out his garage :)
- Alan Quinlan, Jerry Flannery & Leigh ½p - all not on the plane to South Africa for various reasons. Quinlan deserves little sympathy and ½p may well join the tour at some point but Flannery's chipped elbow is majorly unfortunate. That said, with Croft, Ford and Hook joining the squad (although what Delon Armitage has done wrong escapes me), the Lions squad hardly looks weaker.
- Danny Cipriani - not in the England squad and seemingly behind Flood, Goode, Geraghty, Vesty and possibly Wilkinson in the pecking order. Oh how the mighty have fallen etc...
- Newcastle United - apologies for straying off-topic into the world of football, but yesterday the fate of the club I've supported since 1971 was sealed by another limp display from a bunch of overpaid underachievers, the 1-0 defeat at Villa condemning us to playing in the fizzy pop league next season. My fingers are firmly crossed that Alan Shearer will stay on as manager, with backing from the owner, and be given the chance to clear out all the deadwood and begin to build the club from the bottom up. Fat chance.
- My daughter- all of the above misfortune pails into utter insignificance, I'm afraid, compared to the week I've had with my 7 year old little girl who fell badly on Monday evening and suffered a compound fracture of her right forearm. Seeing your child in that much pain and discomfort is something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy and the subsequent 3 hour operation and couple of nights in hospital were really, really tough on all of us. I must say, though, that the staff at Watford General's children's ward were just superb and my daughter is now very much on the mend. Not an experience I'd care to repeat however.