Having Chris Ashton arrive at the club this summer has been great for two reasons.
Firstly, he has looked in great nick right throughout pre-season and into Saturday’s opening day win over London Irish at Twickenham.
Ashy is a wonderful finisher and he looks fit and raring to go.
He’s also a good old northerner and has added another number to a growing band of borthers.
With myself, Charlie Hodgson, Owen Farrell, David Strettle and Joel Tomkins, there’s safety in numbers now when the usual north/south banter crops up on the training ground.
Saturday’s game gave us the first look at two of the major new laws that are being tested this season.
The extended reach of the TMO was prevalent in many games on the opening weekend of Aviva Premiership action.
I think it’s a good idea if it is done properly because there is nothing worse than something major getting missed when crucial tries are scored.
There have been times in the past when some big bits of foul play have been missed and teams have benefited from it.
But referees have to make sure that the TMOs are not getting involved in every issue going. If that becomes the case, games could become very long and lose any sense of flow for players and supporters alike.
I also hope you don’t get players from sides that have just been scored upon pleading with the referee to “go upstairs” all of the time. Nobody wants to see that.
The “five second rule” for the scrum-halves is another law on trial this season giving sides five seconds to get a ‘playable’ ball out of the back of a ruck when instructed by the referee to “use it”.
That will obviously bring an end to the massively long rucks that became a feature of many games last season.
But I don’t think it will make too much of a difference.
As long as you look like you are going to do something with the ball as a team, I doubt the referee will have to warn any side too often.
we’ll just have to see how it is interpreted as the season goes on.
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