London Wasps host Gloucester today with a win imperative, after bottom club Newcastle beat Sale on Friday.
The Falcons are four points behind Wasps, who have Harlequins and Bath away and Newcastle at home after this. An extraordinary litany of injuries and retirements has undermined Wasps director of rugby Dai Young's first season. And he told Ruck and Maul the putting-up for sale of the club by Steve Hayes last October took him by surprise.
"Within a month of me being here everything changed," Young said. "Coming in, the picture was looking quite rosy with the club on the verge of agreeing a new stadium [in High Wycombe], new training facilities and more investors."
Wasps hope to announce a new owner this week. Accountants Baker Tilly, fielding the bids, told us six weeks ago that one of the four bidders owned a football club. Gossip has centred on Brentford, QPR and even MK Dons but Ruck and Maul wonders whether Barnet, the League Two club closest to Wasps' spiritual home in north-west London, might be a better fit?
Owned by Tony Kleanthous, a respected member of the Football Association Board of Directors, the Bees are set to quit their Underhill home next year. Sharing a new ground with a rugby club might make financial sense.
Hungry for good feedback
Unsurprisingly, given the toxic fall-out when players' anonymously written comments were leaked after the World Cup last October, England tried a different tack under new head coach Stuart Lancaster after the Six Nations.
The head of elite coach development, Kevin Bowring, spoke to the players in the week before the final match against Ireland. "It's obviously been done more confidentially than last time, the players trusted the process, and the feedback's been great," said Lancaster.
The two midweek matches on the June tour to South Africa are likely to be in Kimberley and Bloemfontein, and a squad of around 40 will make the trip. But the tour to Argentina in summer 2013 will be light of a forwards coach if Graham Rowntree joins the British & Irish Lions in Australia, as he is hoping.
Afghans come to 'Glastonbury'
International rugby's newest converts, Afghanistan, have been invited to England for the Bournemouth Sevens Festival – described by DJ Spoony as "the sporting Glastonbury" – in June.
The loosening of the Taliban's grip and the presence of overseas troops has seen rugby's popularity rise, and the Afghan Rugby Federation were registered with the National Olympic Committee in November 2010.
The ARF website notes: "Afghanistan has indigenous sports which bear some resemblance to rugby football. One of these is called Buzkashi." However, Buzkashi is played on horseback, similar to polo, and uses the carcass of a headless calf instead of a ball.
Mercian's mercy mission
A corporal from the Third Battalion of the Mercian Regiment could tell the Afghans how it's done.
Carl Taylor, 25, received the Military Cross for bravery in rescuing three Afghan children caught up in crossfire during a battle with the Taliban last year. Eight days ago he scored his first try in five years playing for Birmingham club Bournville, going from front line to goalline in the Second XV's win over Lichfield.
"Carl travels back to play for us as often as he can, even when he is stationed in Europe," said Alan Cullotty, Bournville's chairman. "He plays his rugby as you would expect him to serve his country: with total commitment, unquestionable bravery, focused and disciplined."
Taylor's company came under attack on a routine patrol as they approached a village close to Lashkar Gah, near the capital of Helmand province. The boys, aged between three and seven, were trapped between the two sides but Taylor ordered his troops to provide covering fire while he rescued them.Reuse content