It’s started already.  The pacing.  Well, to be honest (a phrase I’m very suspicious of because it usually means the person uttering it is being anything but honest…), it started a few days ago.  The moment Ireland beat Scotland so comprehensively in Paris last Saturday, I started fretting about the quarter-final and the All Blacks.  For goodness sake, how on earth can the No 1 team in the world (that’s us, glory be) be meeting New Zealand in the QUARTER-finals of  the Rugby World Cup?  Beyond bonkers.

Well, in another phrase that I loathe with a passion:  “It is what it is…”

Ireland, who are beyond awesome at the moment, have never gone beyond the quarters and New Zealand have won the thing three times.  So have South Africa, the holders, who are playing France in the quarters on Sunday.  That leaves Wales against Argentina and England, the only northern hemisphere team ever to the win the title, against Fiji.  Blimey.  This title is anybody’s.

It was bad enough last weekend, which turned out to be fantastic for me from a sporting point of view.  First of all, the beloved Totspurs, with the luck – and no little skill and doggedness – hanging out of them, won 1-nil at Luton, playing with 10 men (there are meant to be 11) for the second half.  That meant we were top of the table!  Admittedly it means nothing at this stage but it’s a joy all the same.

Then Ireland, who have moved up more levels than those of us who go back a long way can quite comprehend, were ruthless in beating Scotland.  Even I relaxed with more than ten minutes to go…!  This team doesn’t go out onto the pitch with the words, “Do you realise this is the 13th consecutive defeat we’ve shared together?” (Cecil Pedlow to Tony O’Reilly before a game against England many moons ago.)

All winning runs come to an end and perhaps ours will this Saturday but it’s not a given.  Whoever loses will be gutted but it won’t necessarily be us.    And the players have more belief than wimps like me.  It should be a cracker. My tee shirt is washed and ready to go.

Just as an aside, I’m delighted that those who lobbied for the haka to be done away with pre-match were overruled.  If I were playing New Zealand and discovered that there was no haka, I’d be really pissed off.  It’s great that all the Pacific Island teams have their own version, their own challenge to the opposition, it all adds to the drama, to the feeling that this is something special.

Judging by the pictures most of Ireland seems to be in France for the rugby but much though I love a comp that requires no nous or knowledge, I’ve still resisted entering this thing that comes up on the screen during every match.  In fact, I’m thinking of asking the radio 4 programme More or Less if anybody really does win and if they do what are the odds.  These things pop up everywhere and the address is always the same:  a PO Box in Derby.

Is there ever a winner? What are the odds?  Who’s at the PO Box in Derby? How much do they make?

And something similar came up again during Loose Women – I blame the men’s Cricket World Cup for drawing me in to daytime telly; there was that Derby address again.

A big jump up to a million quid but without the trip to Paris.

Should I enter these things?  Would I have a hope in hell of winning?  Hell, no.  Ah well.  I’ll just have to watch the final on the telly – and forget about the million.

Since coming back from Rome, I’ve paid my golf club subs (just under a fiver a day, so still well worth it); cut back the buddleia at the front (hope it comes back, it’s a stunning colour); played 18 holes (blooming hard work but fun); been to the osteopath (amazing how the body contorts itself to accommodate kinks); tidied my desk (no small feat); and toasted those who are no longer with us (a joy to remember the fun and the laughter).

Yesterday a friend sent an email reminding us that it was two years ago to the day that the incomparable Renton Laidlaw had died and suggested raising a glass to him.  From all corners of the globe we paid tribute.

A toast to Renton and Dai – and many others – on a nearly pristine desk; they wouldn’t have recognised it. The red wine came later.

Finally, I’ve been feeling guilty about not mentioning Caroline Hedwall and her amazing win in the singles at the Solheim Cup.  Three down with six to play against Ally Ewing, the Swede, a self-confessed controversial pick, exploded into life with four birdies in the next five holes.  She was, incredibly, one up playing the last and when she blasted her second shot onto the green at the par 5 18th, she had won her point and helped secure the first drawn Solheim, 14-all.  Viva Carolina.

Caroline in full flow [Stuart Franklin]