Video: Twickenham Groundsmen Behind The Scenes
From its own detailed Weather forecast to over 5 miles of mowing, hear all about the secrets of preparing one of the world's best Rugby fields
SHIT/GOOD™ Ratings: RBS 6 Nations, round 4
Much for the computer to ponder this week, including so much GOOD data from England that the machine thought it was an inputting error.
Weigh in with your invective in the comments
Rhys Priestland - He's been in horrible form since the Autumn, but such is Gatland's love for the little strawberry blonde cutie that there is apparently nothing that will shake him out from the team. But even Warren must be pondering dropping him after this omnishambles. Kicking out of hand was as brainless as it was poorly executed, launching it down the throat of the best fullback in Europe consistently, and his game management had the nous and composure of a ferret on speed. A horror show, and for his own sake he needs to go back to Scarlets and find the jar he's left his brain in.
Brice Dulin - It takes a special kind of genius to run into your own team mate on a kick return when he is the only player in a 20 metre radius. Summed up the whole day for the French lummox.
Warren Gatland - There are defining moments for many coaches when they realise what has worked thus far is no longer doing the job. Great coaches seize these moments and use them to define their legacy. Clive Woodward's England losing to the Jannie de Beer drop-goal fest in 1999 led to his relentless focus on creating a gameplan and squad that could compete properly with Southern Hemisphere teams. In football, Real Madrid's dismantling of Man Utd at Old Trafford in 2000 prompted Alex Ferguson to dismantle his first great 1999 Champions League winning United team and build another one that could live with the likes of the Madrid giants. This season, the Ireland and England matches in particular, are such a moment for the Kiwi Cuboid. What he chooses to do now will dictate whether history views him as a very good coach who ultimately couldn't adapt, or one for the ages.
RBS 6 Nations Preview: England Vs Wales, Twickenham, Sunday 15.00
There are many reasons to get up for this match. England need to prove that they can win these types of games at home on a consistent basis and that they can score tries; Wales need to demonstrate that they have been written off too soon and that they and Warrenball are still cock of the northern hemisphere; and whoever loses this match does not win the Championship probably. Actually forget all that, this is England vs Wales, what more reason do you need?
After the physical humbling England took in Cardiff last year, the home players should refer to General George S Patton's speech to the Third Army in 1944 for inspiration, as this is what the fans will want to see come Sunday.
"We're advancing constantly and we're not interested in holding anything except the enemy's balls. We're going to hold him by his balls and we're going to kick him in the ass; twist his balls and kick the living shit out of him all the time. Our plan of operation is to advance and keep on advancing. We're going to go through the enemy like shit through a tinhorn."
Wales just need to watch a replay of the game from last Mach and then look at pictures of John Inverdale and Austin Healey. Job done.
Billy Vunipola drops out for England, replaced by the sporadically impressive Ben Morgan. Whether Morgan can carry and more importantly offload in the same way is a crucial factor, particularly against the neverendingly impressive Faletau. The scrum will struggle for parity given the front row injuries and England must put away their try-scoring opportunities, because as good a Mike Brown is they cannot rely on some brilliance from him to save them every time they fluff a four on two, which has been often.
Wales will be boosted by the return of Jon Davies into the centre as he offers something slightly different to the Warrenball dynamic and more importantly allows George North to return to the wing, where he will be confident of getting the better of Jack Nowell. The Two Rhyses at half-back looks a gamble, Webb is lacking experience and Priestland is lacking pretty much everything at the minute really. England will see that area of something of a soft underbelly to attack and disrupt Welsh possession.
This blog's predictions so far this year have been so woeful that even David Icke and the Jehovah's Witnesses are laughing at us, but predict we must. A resurgent Wales will have a little bit too much, England will be punished for not converting possession to points, and Farrell will miss more than Halfpenny.
B&M Prediction: Wales by 6
Spotter's Badge: David Wilson leaving the field on 60 minutes looking like a shagged-out Bagpuss.
Five things England need to do to beat Wales
Despite what the bookies might say, Wales are favourites going into the weekend's big match at Twickenham. While this isn't a title decider, it will certainly decide who won't be winning it. What do England need to do to triumph?
1. Collectively grow a pair
In Cardiff last March, it's not too much to say that England were utterly humiliated and ultimately cowed by Wales' physicality. This was particularly hard to accept or understand as this is a department in which the Red Rose nation can usually be relied upon. This time, they could do with following the advice given by Don Corleone when Johnny Fontane asks him "what can I do"? "YOU CAN ACT LIKE A MAN!" the Don instructs in no uncertain terms. He also tells Johnny that he should spend time with his family and England should do that as well, just to be on the safe side.
2. Build a scaffold around Billy Twelvetrees
Billy's defence has been generally OK, but all watching know that there will be a point in every match when he crumples in a tackle. Jamie Roberts will know this and will relish steaming into the wispy haired Englishman, hoping to ensure this happens more than once. The scaffold is not meant literally, obviously, but if that's the only thing that works then Lancaster shouldn't rule it out.
SHIT/GOOD Ratings - RBS 6 Nations, round 3
A weekend that began with a stodgy starter before moving on to a tasty but stomach churning main course, then media hyperbole for dessert. But what did the computer make of it?
Mathieu Bastareaud - How are thee SHIT, let me count the ways. Fatter than a reunion of The Weather Girls, less mobile than a short-legged man trying to run through a flash flood, worse hands than a leper colony, poorer game awareness than an Andy Nicol punditry comment. The computer could've dedicated all its processing to his performance, but didn't fancy destroying its motherboard in one hit.
The rest of the France team - with the exception of Hugo Bonneval, who looked handy on the one occasion he got the ball. The rest of the performance was like watching a group of 14 Oran-gutans having a massive collective brain aneurysm while trying to ice skate.
RBS 6 Nations Preview: England vs Ireland, Twickenham, 16:00, Saturday
With Wales becoming derailed and France still unconvincing, this could be the game that decides the championship, and even without that this promises to be fascinating.
The Ireland pack that pushed their Welsh counterparts around like a septic tank of wheels in Dublin will not find the England eight to be so obliging. England may not be able to pass or create much, but mauling comes as natural to them as talking utter bollocks to John Inverdale. Likewise, the English lineout won't be as easily snaffled, at least not until Tom Youngs comes on with his arm like a spooked chipmunk.
RBS 6 Nations Preview: Wales vs France, Millennium Stadium, 20:00, Friday
The now regular, but still stupid, friday night lights scheduled Cardiff fixture sees the recently humbled Wales take on France, who will have their cockscombs up after the pasting they dished out to Italy.
For France, hammering Italy at home is to be expected, so it's hard to know what this says about their form. Wales on the other hand, were certainly not expected to have their arses handed to them by Ireland. Was this an aberration, or the final nail in the coffin for the BOOM! BOOM! midfield tactic so loved by Gatland? Judging by this week's team, the coach believes it's the former. Wales will not, cannot, play that badly again.
Infographic: Understanding Stuart Lancaster's facial emotions
On why Sam Burgess is different to other RL code switchers
Sam Burgess has signed for Bath, and as sure as Wiganers like pies, he will play for England.
The "this is great/no it isn't" comments have already begun on social media, some of it reasoned, some of it from code bigots who believe that anything associated with the other code is akin to making their mother eat badger shit on toast.
But let us tell you why this blog so positive about Sam's move.
First of all, this is first time since Jason Robinson that a truly exceptional talent has tranferred in at his peak of form and fitness. Make no mistake, Burgess is a once in a generation talent and probably the best English RL player since Ellery Hanley. Andy Farrell was great, but was a panic buy by Andy Robinson when he was 30, broken and reaching the end. And even in his pomp the Wigan and GB captain was not as explosive or dynamic as Burgess.
The rest, Shontayne Hape, Lesley Vainikolo, Joel Tomkins, Henry Paul and Chis Ashton are varying distances away from the quality bracket that Burgess' talent sits in and when considering the current England squad, it is a struggle to indentify a centre who, on ability, is better than him. Many would say that is a damning indictment of the England talent pool and development, but this negative view is wrong; Sam is better because he is better and had he come through in RU would have dozens of England caps at this stage.
There are of course no guarantees, but if you were to apply a risk assessment model to this move, then it would come out as not such a bold strategy. The cons of Sam's lack of experience and time are kicked into touch by the pros of his size, ability, quality and leadership.
As a final thought, most English fans if offered Sonny Bill Williams would snatch him up. Sam is bigger than Sonny Bill, quicker than Sonny Bill, has better hands than Sonny Bill and is stronger than Sonny Bill.
Doesn't seem so crazy now does it? But the mistakes made in past must be avoided. Bath and England need to agree his best position now and both stick to it. It's a lot of money to spend and not know where you want the bloke to play, just ask Andy Farrell how that turned out.