From the Touchline - Thursday 15 October

Our Rugby News Service team take a walk on the blindside to find offbeat news stories, stats, anecdotes, and who said what to whom ...

Rain check

Rain, rain, go away and come again another day. So goes the 17th-century English nursery rhyme, and so goes the Rugby World Cup.

Plenty of players were predicting bitterly cold temperatures, rain, wind, and muddy pitches before the tournament. So were the media - hardly surprising given there is, according to Met Office data, a 60 per cent chance of rain on any October day in Britain.

“There will be hit-and-miss downpours across London, just in time for the opening ceremony… with the risk of thunder and even hail” was one broadcaster’s prediction two days before the World Cup kicked off.

Those in Newcastle, where the fanzone was closed for two days last week because of bad weather, might say they were right. But the rest of the country has rarely had it so good. It's all a far cry from the most famous wet-weather game in World Cup history, the 1995 semi-final between South Africa and France in Durban (pictured above, video below).

“Rainfall is well below average for October,” the Met Office told From the Touchline. “We have had high pressure for a while and that has given us fine and settled weather. We could still have rain in Cardiff or Twickenham at the weekend, but it’s more likely to be dry. A millimetre, maximum.”

And it will go on for a while yet. The Met Office predicts more high pressure next week, and the chance of rain at Twickenham, which hosts both semi-finals, is low. 

Perhaps the World Cup brings its own benign climate. The October weather was warmer and drier than usual in 1991 and 1999, when the tournament last came to these shores. There was an almighty 22-hour downpour on October 21, 1999 but, luckily, there were no fixtures on that day.

 

 

Boris the bruiser

The British Conservative Party’s most famous tight-head prop looks a bit of a bully in latest performance – but at least he apologises.

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London and, some say, a future Prime Minister, had a game of street  rugby on a trade mission to Japan, where the Rugby World Cup has been big news thanks to the efforts of the Brave Blossoms. 

In one carry the 15-stone (at least, by the look of it) political heavyweight  flattened a 10-year-old boy. “I’m so sorry,” he said when he got to his feet.

As this BBC video shows, there was no harm done, unlike this other famous challenge by Boris, who was a tight-head in his school days. He forgot he was on a football pitch when he cleaned out the German player Maurizio Gaudino in a charity game in 2006.

Back to the day job...

If you can’t get a ticket for the quarter-finals you might still be able to watch some World Cup players in action this weekend – in the Aviva Premiership.

On the opening weekend of action in England’s top league, Harlequins, who have been training next door to Scotland’s World Cup team, play Wasps on Friday night. They have three men on the bench who wish they weren’t there – England trio Mike Brown, Joe Marler and Nick Easter. Chris Robshaw, England’s captain, is not in the squad.

Northampton field their Samoan wing Ken Pisi in their starting line-up at Worcester, with his national teammate Kahn Fotuali’i on the bench. 

Ireland win the numbers game

Argentina supporters are going to have to sing very, very loud to make themselves heard in Cardiff on Sunday. They will be outnumbered at least four to one and maybe more when Ireland fans invade the city for the second successive weekend.

The Pumas have had large and noisy followings in Gloucester and Leicester, and reports in Buenos Aires suggest there could be as many as 15,000 fans at the Millennium Stadium. But Ireland are expected to have more than that locked out of the stadium. Bristol, Newport and Swansea are all bracing themselves for an Irish invasion, too.

According to the last census there were about 10,000 Argentinians living in the UK, compared with 170,000 Irish in London alone. Not to mention the estimate that more than five million British residents have Irish parents or grandparents.

Play it again, Sam

Sam Warburton will captain Wales for the 11th time in a RWC match when he leads his team against South Africa in the quarter-final in Cardiff on Saturday. He will equal the record shared by Will Carling and Martin Johnson of England, Raphael Ibanez (France) and John Smit (South Africa). Richie McCaw will join Warburton and the others on 11 when New Zealand play France a few hours later.

Number of the day

320

The minutes spent on the field at RWC 2015 by Wales scrum-half Gareth Davies. That's every minute of all four of their Pool A matches  - and he's the only Welsh player to have done that.

RNS bo/ct/ig