Toulon: great (rugby) evil of our time?
Toulon secure their third straight European title on Saturday at Twickenham after an epic encounter with the perennial bridesmaids from Clermont Auvergne. In the lead up and since then there have been many fans and voices in the game bemoaning Toulon's superstar packed team and asking whether or not they are good or bad for rugby.
Now I'll admit that a couple of years ago, around about the time Delon Armitage was going over for the decisive try in Toulon's first Heineken Cup win I was probably more on the negative side of things, commenting on the lack of French players in the match day squad and the fact that they had "bought" their silverware by virtue of having a sizeable bank account.
It would be easy to look at that Toulon team and argue that any side with that much talent and experience is guaranteed to win but as anyone in sport will tell you, it's not that simple. You can buy the players but you can't buy a team.
How often in sport do we hear the phrase "They have the players but that can't work together as team?" And how often do we say that about teams with exceptional individual players? Bernard Laporte has done a heck of a job getting that Toulon team to play as they have, especially this season where many of their older players are on the wane.
And Mourad Boudjellal is not some foreign investor with a shady past, he's a Toulon boy supporting his hometown club. Surely that's something to be applauded? If that happened more often in UK rugby you wouldn't hear the same complaints from fans especially if their club was benefiting from it and adding silverware to the trophy cabinet.
We are at an arms race in European Rugby where the financial power of the clubs is growing and with that the pressure to deliver and bring back silverware increases. As a result every week is greeted by another rumour or confirmation of the signing of a major southern or northern hemisphere player to a club in Europe.
Let's not kid ourselves, Toulon are not bad or good for rugby. They are just a part of it and the sooner people get over that fact the better.
English Cricket: Don't panic
English cricket continues its mission to destroy the morale of its supporters following a drawn series out in the Caribbean. England went in as slight favourites against a young and inexperienced West Indies side despite their poor away record and with the words of ECB Chairman-elect Colin Graves ringing in their ears. However they are returning home having being held by a determined and talented West Indian outfit who used the "mediocre" comments of Graves as motivation.
Not surprisingly the future of Peter Moores is under the microscope little over a year after he was given a second chance at the England job yet I do genuinely believe he should get a bit more time to see what he can do with this young England team.
At test level England have exciting talent in the likes of Joe Root, Gary Ballance, Ben Stokes, Chris Jordan, Moeen Ali and Jos Buttler. They are still raw and learning at this level yet all have shown a willingness to work and also shown glimpses, small and large, of what they are capable of. They will make mistakes and they will occasionally make coaches and fans want to their hair out but they are the players who will move England forward and Moores does have a track record of developing young talent.
It's not all doom and gloom for England but their fans should get ready for more ups and down along the way.
Jonathan Trott was never a player it was easy to love. He wasn't the most exciting or flashy player, he was idiosyncratic, he was just there. However his value to the English team during the Flower-Strauss era cannot be overstated. He was a fantastic player to bring in one wicket down and played some key innings for England during his time in the team. He was often denigrated for his slow scoring especially in limited overs but how many times was he was the only England player to keep his wicket while all around him were throwing theirs away?
Sadly I think many will remember him for the last Ashes series with his struggles against the pace and bounce of good Mitchell Johnson and his subsequent departure from the tour. However he should be remembered as a tough, gritty and determined player who played a key role in driving England to the top of world cricket.
Rest In Peace Jonesy
The world of rugby league was shocked by the passing of Keighley Cougars and Wales player Danny Jones due to a suspected cardiac arrest during a match against London Skolars on Sunday. Jones was just 29 and was married with five month old twins.
After the ridiculous hype surrounding the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight Jones's passing drives home to you the sheer fragility of life and really puts things in perspective. Life and sport isn't about £180m, it's about so much more than that.
The RFL Benevolent Fund has set-up a justgiving page in his memory, I'm sure any donations will be hugely appreciated: https://www.justgiving.com/dannyjones29/