Adam Hathaway, rugby correspondent of The People, says the hack pack are already flagging just two weeks into the season and reports on a major setback for the RFU, this time on the cricket pitch.
Two rounds into the Premiership season and most of the old lags on the press beat are knackered already. That might not be news to some readers but this campaign had a build-up to it the like of which we rarely see.
The idea of the summer is to have a holiday, watch a bit of cricket, maybe get a bit of golf in and return, like the players who get a full five weeks off, rested and ready to rumble.
But two weeks in most of us are shambling around like zombies after one of the busiest pre-seasons of all time. Well ever since 2009 when the summer was dominated by the Bath drugs scandal and Bloodgate and that ended with many midnight finishes.
On the pitch Saracens are two from two, Exeter likewise, there have been the usual smattering of injuries to England players and the Premiership clubs have just knocked back a bid to buy a share in the league from a big dog investment company.
That might rear its ugly head again but the reason we are on our last legs is because we have been full-on when rugby should have not got anywhere near the papers.
The next couple of years will unfold something like this. Premiership, Europe, autumn internationals, more Europe and Premiership, Six Nations, more Europe and Premiership, countless training camps then a World Cup in Japan.
Then there is Premiership and Europe, Six Nations, Premiership and Europe and, in the summer of 2020, an England tour to Japan. In between there will be countless disciplinary hearings, rows between club and country and about nine thousand delayed trains.
Even the World Cup seems a long way off. And we are not talking about the players – what about the hacks?
Pete Davies wrote a brilliant book about the 1990 football World Cup called ‘All Played Out’ and that is how some of Fleet Street’s not so finest feel at the moment.
And before you get the violins out, rewind a bit to the middle of August.
The build-up to the start of the season was going so well – we thought it was going to be business as usual.
Normally you do the rounds of the training grounds, get a few platitudes off players about how they are all raring to go, feeling fitter than ever blah, blah de blah and you file your Nostradamus like predictions to the papers.
But it has been a bit different this year when rugby made the back and front pages without a ball being kicked in competitive anger.
One of RugbySpy’s pals texted recently saying you didn’t have to be Mystic Meg to work out who would be hogging the headlines.
And Danny Cipriani and Chris Ashton duly did the business as rugby hacks wrote more words on their disciplinary misdemeanours than we had written about the sport for the whole of the last campaign.
For those who have been living under a rock for the last couple of weeks Cipriani was fined £2,000 by Jersey magistrates and £2,000 by Gloucester after an incident outside a nightclub.
He was then found guilty, basically of bringing the game into disrepute although it was disguised by , by the RFU who then decided not to punish him further. Go figure.
Ashton got sent off playing for Sale in a pre-season game against Castres and has had the book thrown at him by the RFU who have banned him for seven weeks and he can kiss goodbye to his chances of playing in the autumn internationals. That might not be strictly true because Eddie Jones can name him a training squad which will gather in Bristol at the end of the month, even if he is not playing for Sale. But it is not a great start.
On first view of his dismissal it looked like Ashton had punched the Castres scrum-half Rory Kockott before he was given his marching orders by referee Romain Poite.
On a second view of the tape, kindly supplied by the RFU before his disciplinary hearing, Ashton was seen tip tackling Kockott. It wasn’t pretty and with a couple of brushes with the suits on his charge sheet Ashton would not have been surprised at his suspension. He must have run over a black cat somewhere down the line.
We here at RugbySpy bow to nobody in our admiration for Ashton.
We have written many times about how he has been ostracised by the English game.
We have written many times about how he should be embraced by the English game.
And now we are writing about how he has been banished from the English game altogether. It is bonkers.
It was great copy for the papers, even some of the football obsessed papers’ desks have heard of Ashton and Danny Boy.
And it gets better. Cipriani started the season by throwing a miracle pass on his competitive debut for Gloucester to make a try in their 27-16 win against Northampton on the opening day.
He did it again in the 31-31 draw with Bath and the Cipriani bandwagon is up and rolling again despite the best efforts of Eddie Jones to derail it last week.
In Newcastle last week Jones told us this.
“It was a good pass but there were plenty of good passes at the weekend. Just because one player throws one big pass it doesn’t mean he has a great game. In South Africa he worked well and again at the August camp, he worked well. If he gets an opportunity at the September camp, he’ll have another opportunity to work well. He’ll be judged on what he’s done with us.”
Jones then went on to have a crack at Cipriani’s choice of dress at the disciplinary hearing and to be fair he had a point. The fly-half pitched up in jeans, trainers and an untucked shirt. Talk about not giving yourself the best chance.
But at least he has been on the pitch which is more than can be said for Ashton who is still stewing in the north west. But he has got his feet up and is not going to burn out anytime soon. We are not sure if we can say the same about many of our scribbling colleagues.
We have heard all the arguments about player welfare and how they need a rest. How about the poor old hacks a year out from the World Cup?
The Premiership has hardly started and some of us feel like we have run our race already and are all played out.
Alastair Cook may have been racking up his 33rd, and final, Test century at the Oval on Monday but the real cricket story of the day was happening a couple of miles away at Old Deer Park, home of Richmond Cricket Club and London Welsh RFC. Cook might have knocked out centuries but he has never scored one at Richmond.
That venue which saw a young Adam Gilchrist, the former Aussie wicket keeper, smash club bowling attacks all over the place and Mervyn Davies, John Dawes and JPR Williams strut their stuff racked up another piece of sporting history.
For the third year in a row it was the venue for the annual cricket match between the RFU and the Rugby Writers’ Club. And the hack pack secured bragging rights for another year with a seven wicket, last ball of the match, win. Talk about drama.
The union have had to suffer England losing six out of their last seven matches. And now this even if Eddie Jones was unable to make it. Neal Hatley, the England scrum guru, was there though and was straight on the blower to his gaffer after the match to apologise for the trouncing.
The RFU batted first in a T20 game making 176-5 with Jones’ right-hand man and media officer Gareth Mills chipping in with 31.
The writers never lost their nerve as they chased it down. Captain Fantastic Chris Jones of BBC Radio Five Live fame and Charlie Morgan of Her Majesty’s Daily Telegraph both got 40s and it was left to Alex ‘Arthur’ Lowe of The Times to bring it home.
We would like to report that it was a sober affair, that there was absolutely no gloating and that we were all home by 8pm.
But that would be cobblers.