Here we go again, Friday and another glorious weekend of rugby lies ahead.
The Gallagher Premiership has not been sold to the highest bidder, we have had a whole fortnight without a sacking, it has been an entire five days since we last saw Sale tackling everything and six since Danny Cipriani has thrown a ridiculously lovely pass.
Some – hopefully not all – of that must change, and sharpish. Just as well the action returns then, and here Scrum's the Word will be your benevolent guide through it all.
News from around the grounds
The highest form of flattery
Is it us, or does the new Heineken Champions Cup logo look like the Saracens one?
The European Cup has been re-branded this year, going back to (almost) its old name before English and French clubs decided they didn't like the carve up of dosh and revamped the whole thing in 2014.
Saracens have won it two of the four years since it has been called the 'Champions Cup' and, along with Leinster, have been the best side in it.
We guess there are only so many combinations of stars and rugby balls you can do, but the two badges are rather similar.
Quins bringing the razzle dazzle
Todd Blackadder came up with a lovely Kiwi-ism this week – saying that Harlequins were capable of 'bringing the razzle dazzle' (sounding brilliantly like rizzle-dizzle in his accent) against his side Bath this Saturday.
Well we don't know if he had some sort of premonition, but Quins will – literally – be doing just that around Christmas.
In their annual 'Big Game' held at Twickenham they will wear a charity shirt with a difference. Made by adidas, it has in-built technology that means it will shine brightly when exposed to flash-photography.
Typically the marketing messages are quite, well, you know – with talk of 'tonal graphics' and 'coming alive' but it is quite fun.
Although the flashes won't be picked up by the Twickenham floodlights… which is just as well. The last thing you want recovering from a Christmas hangover is to be dazzled by bright lights.
'If we do really bad here, then I will probably not be in the seat for the next couple of matches and somebody else will probably be there.'
The words of nervous Springbok head coach Rassie Erasmus ahead of their Test against New Zealand at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington – where they have never won.
He signed a six-year contract in March, and beat England twice this summer. Short, these South African honeymoons.
Forget Alastair Cook!
The cricketing story of the week, so cruelly ignored by all national newspapers, was the Rugby Writers' Club beating the RFU by seven wickets at Richmond CC.
But that was not the half of it. Picture the scene – four to win from the last over. The man from The Times batting on one leg having pulled his hamstring fielding, your Scrum's the Word columnist as his runner, having been caught slogging (they'll never learn) and a freelance writer new to the crease after BBC 5 Live had to retire after passing 30 (actually making a superb 43).
The first two balls, swing and miss. Times in agony. The next two, madly-dashed, sweaty singles. Then, a run-out shout. STW runs to the bowlers' end, a direct hit, very close. BT Sport gives it not out. Scores level.
Final ball. One to win.
Bye. Scamper through. Glory.
'Not the first time the writers have beaten the RFU recently,' one wag commented.
We just hope England cricket selector Ed Smith was watching – he could do with a few batsmen for Sri Lanka…
Scrum's soapbox - hideous idioms!
We've spotted a theme in interviews with England players recently. See if you can too…
Mike Brown, on positional changes last November: 'Wherever Eddie wants to pick me I'll prepare as best as possible to go out there and put my best foot forward.'
Maro Itoje, on returning from injury in January: 'It will be up to Eddie and the coaches to choose who they want and I'll definitely put my best foot forward and see how it goes.'
Sam Underhill, pre France in this year's Six Nations: 'All you can do as a player is put your best foot forward in training and in the games, which I think by and large I have done.'
James Haskell, when signing for Northampton this summer: 'It's no secret that I want to continue my international career for as long as possible; the only way I can do that is by putting my best foot forward in club rugby.'
Don Armand, when called up to the Six Nations squad for the Ireland match in March: 'My job when I come up here is to make sure I put my best foot forward and if Eddie wants anything specific, I can try to give it to him.'
Ben Spencer, before the South Africa tour on pushing for a starting shirt: 'I've just got to put my best foot forward at the start of the season and go from there.'
Natasha Hunt, when knocked out of the Sevens World Cup in San Francisco this summer: 'We were bitterly disappointed that we didn't put our best foot forward in the first game.'
Brad Shields, arriving in South Africa for his Test debut in the summer: 'All I wanted to do was show up, put my best foot forward, push my case and train well.'
George Ford on Danny Cipriani last weekend: 'If we can keep giving him the right sort of ball, I'm sure he'll put his best foot forward.'
Anthony Watson on Wednesday's Rugby Tonight show on BT Sport, when asked about scoring for the Lions: 'I wasn't thinking too much about that try, I was concentrating on putting my best foot forward to get in the Test team.'
Did you get it? The last one is particularly ironic as Watson re-tore his achilles catching an American football for an NFL shoot this summer. Maybe he put his worst foot forward?
Joking aside, that is seriously bad luck and it sounds like it hadn't healed properly anyway, so would have snapped again soon.
Look, we don't know if they are told to say it, and we don't expect them to orate like Winston Churchill, but what's going on?
Actually, on second thoughts, we might have found the culprit. Here's the most prolific of the lot.
In June 2016 in Australia: 'We've come here to put our best foot forward and if we're good enough we're going to win.'
In May 2017 on Jason Woodward: 'He has got a fair few good players ahead of him so this is a big opportunity for him to put his best foot forward here.'
In November 2017, on two years from the World Cup: 'If we don't win, there is no shame in that as long as you put your best foot forward.'
In November 2017 pre Samoa: 'This week it is an opportunity for some squad members who haven't been playing to put their best foot forward.'
In February 2018, on Ben Te'o: 'It's a Test match, he's got to put his best foot forward because if he cruises he won't be there for a while.'
In February 2018, after losing to Scotland: 'We've got two games to go, and we'll look to learn from what happened today, and put our best foot forward.'
You get the idea. If you were in any doubt, that was Eddie Jones. Maybe the players will all start calling us 'mate' soon?
22 POINTS needed by Gareth Steenson to hit 1,500 in the Premiership. If he does it the Exeter No 10 would pass Jonny Wilkinson, moving into sixth on the all-time list, behind Charlie Hodgson (2,625), Andy Goode (2,285), Stephen Myler (1,704), Nick Evans (1,656) and Olly Barkley (1,605).
20 MONTHS since Bristol have won away in the Premiership. They beat Sale 24-23 on New Year's Day 2017 the last season they were in the top-flight.
0 never have Exeter started a Premiership season with three consecutive wins. After beating Leicester and Wasps, they now host Sale intent on breaking that record.
2005 the last time Bath were winless in their opening three games in a Premiership season. Defeat by Bristol and a draw at home to Gloucester has them on a sticky wicket – and they have not won at the Stoop since May 2015.
1 WIN for Newcastle since 2004 at Sixways – that came in October 2013, when they were victorious 16-11.
3 YEARS since Leicester beat Wasps at the Ricoh Arena, and that was on their first visit back in May 2015, when they won 26-21.
100 PREMIERSHIP GAMES for Mako Vunipola. He made his Saracens debut against Bath in September 2011.
Statcave saints of round two
Sale Sharks' defence – five of the top eight tacklers in the league last week were all Sale players, after they beat Worcester – Jono Ross (31), Ross Harrison (29), Ben Curry (20), Josh Beaumont (19) and AJ MacGinty (19).
Statcave sinners of round two
Joe Launchbury & Ben Youngs – Not great from the England pair who both missed six tackles each for Wasps and Leicester respectively. Exeter scored six tries against Launchbury's lads and Newcastle had five versus the Tigers.
P.S. Can he keep it up?
Marcus Smith has hit his last 10 kicks at goal – a streak that has him three clear of the next best, Exeter's Steenson.
Eddie's World Cup watch
A three game weekend for Jones this weekend. First he is at Gloucester v Bristol – where Danny Cipriani will surely be in his sights – then he is off to Northampton v Saracens. He would have hoped to have to seen a battle between his captains, Owen Farrell and Dylan Hartley, but Farrell is out with a mysterious injury. Finally the head coach will watch Wasps v Leicester on Sunday – with Manu Tuilagi and Elliot Daly to keep tabs on.
GLOUCESTER v BRISTOL Friday, 7.45pm Kingsholm LIVE BT Sport 2 from 7pm
So, who is going to be on the end of the Danny Cipriani wonder-pass this week?
Two weeks in and he's already provided two superb assists for his team-mates – and he starts under the Friday night lights again here. Charlie Sharples plays too, only a week after being knocked out and carried off on a stretcher after lengthy treatment at the Rec.
Two new South Africans start for Gloucester – hooker Franco Marais, tipped for stardom by coach Johan Ackermann, and lock Gerbrant Grobler who was banned for two years back in 2014 for taking steroids.
Bristol make nine changes from the team that lost to Saracens but George Smith keeps his place after his red-card was overturned. Irish fly-half Ian Madigan returns too.
Prediction: Home win – Fridays are always tight, but Gloucester should nick it.
HARLEQUINS v BATH Saturday, 3pm The Stoop LIVE BT Sport 2 from 2.30pm
Mike Brown misses out again with a wrist injury – he will be out for a couple of weeks more – as Quins pick the same backline that lost to Northampton.
Joe Marler is on the bench, having pulled out of the Saints match late with a dead leg, but Kyle Sinckler still has a leg knock.
Todd Blackadder is in desperate need of a win here and picks Luke Charteris to captain his side. Taulupe Faletau drops to the bench but Jamie Roberts starts against his old club.
Prediction: Home win – Bath look less than the sum of the parts, and Quins love home comforts.
EXETER v SALE Saturday, 3pm Sandy Park
Jack Nowell is back for Exeter – making his first start since the Premiership final last season on the right wing.
Joe Simmonds also comes back in, for veteran Gareth Steenson who drops to the bench. Alex Cuthbert is there too as Argentinian Santiago Cordero starts.
Tom Curry returns after a week off for Sale, having taken a blow to the head against Quins. He replaces twin Ben. Byron McGuigan plays full-back against his former club.
Prediction: Home win – No let up from the Tomahawk choppers – three from three, easy.
NORTHAMPTON v SARACENS Saturday, 3pm Franklin's Gardens
Billy Vunipola storms back for Saracens from the start against Northampton – but Owen Farrell has had an injury scare and misses out.
In his place Alex Goode wears the No 10 jersey.
Dylan Hartley makes his first start of the season for Northampton and Mako Vunipola plays his 100th Premiership match for Sarries.
And there is England interest all across the park, with Michael Rhodes up against James Haskell, Hartley facing Jamie George and Courtney Lawes versus Maro Itoje.
'Big T' – Taqele Naiyaravoro – is the heaviest winger in the league at 19st 5lbs and makes his debut against David Strettle.
Prediction: Away win – Sarries stuck 50 on the Saints most times these played last year – tighter this time.
WORCESTER v NEWCASTLE Saturday, 3pm Sixways
Francois Hougaard is back from the start for Worcester having recovered from a rib knock, but Ben Te'o is not yet ready to play.
Newcastle are bottom of the table after two rounds, but should not be there for too much longer.
They welcome Johnny Williams into the side for his debut and exciting Adam Radwan comes in for the injured Vereniki Goneva on the wing.
Prediction: Away win – Worcester really need to win these, but it's uncertain they will.
WASPS v LEICESTER Sunday, 3pm Ricoh Arena LIVE BT Sport 1 from 2.30pm
There are landmarks all over the place here – Dan Cole's 200th Tigers appearance, Manu Tuilagi's 100th start, Guy Thompson's debut against his former club and Lima Sopoaga's first start for Wasps.
Aside from that Ben Youngs, George Ford, Jonny May all play for Leicester and Wasps have Nathan Hughes fit after a scare last week.
Dai Young will be grateful for the return of Ashley Johson and Nizaam Carr too, after Brad Shield's cheekbone injury.
Prediction: Away win – Toughest call of the weekend. Changed my mind twice, but Tigers have momentum.
GUINNESS PRO14 GAME OF THE WEEK
MUNSTER v OSPREYS Friday 7.35pm
George North is rested, having scored three tries in the first two games for the Ospreys, as are Justin Tipuric and Alun-Wyn Jones. But it still could be a cracker – Ospreys are top of their Conference and Munster are devilishly good at home. Tasty!
AND WATCH OUT FOR…
NEW ZEALAND v SOUTH AFRICA – Saturday 8.35am
The All Blacks will seal yet another Rugby Championship title with a crushingly inevitable victory here. It is not great when one of rugby's great rivalries has been won so consistently by one side. New Zealand have only lost once to the Boks for six years.
AUSTRALIA v ARGENTINA – Saturday 11am
David Pocock is back – which is worth sticking on the telly for alone – Matt Toomua and Tatafu Polota-Nau play in the same continent in consecutive weeks, and Kurtley Beale continues at fly-half. The Pumas are improving at last – this would be a good scalp on the Gold Coast. Time to put their best foot forward…