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Newspilez: week ending 12 September 2010 September 13, 2010

Given that we Manpilez ladies are 75% Ospreys loyal (with the remaining 25% having both feet firmly in Wales), a certain issue about a certain twinkly-toed hypothermic man has not passed us by this week and we’re sure it didn’t miss you, either. Bearing that in mind…

  • The week ended on a positive for the Ospreys who, after having their four point defecit suspended on Friday morning, saw off Italian Magners newcomers Benetton Treviso at the Liberty Stadium with a 32-16 win. A more coherent performance than last week’s show against Ulster, the Ospreys went in on the attack and exploited a weak Treviso defence. Hideous weather conditions failed to improve throughout the game and there were plenty of slips and slides, not to mention a gutted Gareth Owen losing out on a try in a lamentable butterfingers moment. Pieman, Peddlar and Stig did some proper business, but we’ve not seen the best of the boys from Llandarcy yet this season. For about twenty lovely minutes, the Ospreys were roosting snugly at the top of the league, but were usurped once Munster fought to seal a three point victory over Edinburgh at Murrayfield.

 

  • The big Saturday showdown saw Leinster take on Cardiff Blues in a game with more ups and downs than a kangaroo on a pogo stick. The first half was definitely in Leinster’s favour, but the Blues made a step change in the second and levelled before Leinster booted themselves up the behind for a charged final twenty minutes. Two tries in the last ten saw Leinster seal the deal 34-23.

 

  • Elsewhere in the Magners League, Newport Gwent Dragons seem to be upping their game and saw off Glasgow Warriors 23-11 in a scrappy clashing of heads at Rodney Park, while Scarlets slipped by with 35-33 win despite an early lead from Connacht. Kudos to Aironi, who, despite falling foul of Ulster in the final quarter to end on 15-22, really bit back in their first Magners League home game. Two Irish competitors down and two Welsh lined up in the coming weeks, only time will tell if the fire in their bellies be enough to keep Aironi afloat…

 

  • Over in England’s green and pleasant land, the Aviva Premiership is gathering pace with Bath currently leading the pack. Despite injurygeddon coming to the Rec, Bath managed a 20-13 victory over London Irish with everyone’s favourite reformed bad boy, Olly Barkley, putting the boot in to land five penalty kicks. In your face, Johnno.

 

  • Wasps suffered a massive upset at the hands of Newcastle Falcons, falling from 14 point lead grace to stumble home with a 29-17 defeat swimming before their eyes. With tries being disallowed left, right and centre, Quins were no doubt spitting to lose out 16-20 to Northampton Saints at the Stoop, while Sarries rose from the ashes of last week’s Twickenham defeat to beat Sale Sharks 28-13. Gloucester clawed back some dignity after their first round trouncing from Exeter but landed only the slimmest of victories over Leeds Carnegie with a final score of 22-21. Speaking of Exeter, the Chiefs were back to their old tricks at Welford Road on Saturday, at least for the first half of their head-to-head with current Aviva champs Leicester Tigers. Going into half time with a 20-10 lead, Exeter fought tooth and nail but were denied a second win as the Tigers finally pulled their socks up and turned the tide for an epic 11 point comeback in the final 16 minutes. Newcastle, you’re next and you’d be wise to not underestimate the west country boys!

 

  • Finally, a quick hop over the Channel to review the state of the Top 14. Our favourite boyband Stade Francais are having a bit of a shocker, currently practising their choreography and lipsynching in the bottom end of the league (stifle those giggles in the back) while their historic bitchslap counterparts Racing Metro 92 are flying high, three points behind leaders Aviron Bayonnais. The Racing boys took La Rochelle to the cleaners on Saturday 43-18 win that saw perennial injury-magnet Juan Martin Hernandez duck out early with a thigh complaint. Let’s hope he’s not Iantoed himself and will be fighting fit soon.

 

Words by Anna (ably abetted by Lauren)

 

Newspilez: Week Ending 5th September 2010 September 6, 2010

Aaaah, can you smell that? It’s the season, it’s here and it’s fresh and lush and exciting. It’s like a little touch of Spring just as Autumn is peeking it’s head around the corner. Okay, that might be an analogy too far but still, the two main UK tournaments kicked off in fine style this week and it’s made us come over all romantic.

Opening Weekend was one of surprises as Connacht went straight to the top of the Magners League after beating  the Dragons 40-17 at the Sportsground.  Meanwhile, our beloved Ospreys managed to knock a single notch off that deficit after losing by one lousy point against Ulster at Ravenhill and the Scarlets fell foul of new boys Benetton Treviso. It wasn’t all bad news for the Welsh sides, however as Cardiff Blues trounced Edinburgh 34-23, securing their first bonus point win of the season. In better news for the Scots, Glasgow Warriors secured a 22-19 win against last year’s runners up Leinster, while poor Aironi sadly proved our blind faith wrong by losing quite dramatically to Munster.  We’re sure they’ll pick up… right?

Over the borders in England, the Aviva Premiership also got off to a gasp-making start when new boys Exeter Chiefs proved their mettle with a convincing 22-10 win over Gloucester, while last year’s winners Leicester Tigers failed to get out of their cages and conceded 27 points to Northampton, able only to answer back with 19 of their own. I’m pretty sure that result made them feel as sick as their away kit made us.

From Leicestertigers.com we're sure they'e hoping we'll buy one... ew!

I mean really, even Manpilez poster boy Tom Croft’s not going to be able to look good in that. Bath, however, lived up to our hype and ratcheted up a convincing win against Leeds at Headingley.

In the capital, the season was kicked off in fine style with the showpiece of the premiership calendar – The London Double Header. In a messy and unfocussed first match, London Irish managed to come back from being 10-6 down at half time to beat Saracens 33-6 after a brace of excellent flourishes by Topsy Ojo got the fire back in their bellies. Later that afternoon, the Twickenham pitch was set alight in a fierce battle between London Wasps and Harlequins which ended in a 29 all draw despite both teams giving it their all. Our London branch (Lauren and Anna) were there and despite entering the ground completely neutral, we couldn’t help but cheer proudly when former Cardiff Blue Andy Powell got his first try in black and yellow. More full report to come once we’ve recovered from Girlflu and technical issues…

In international waters, we’re very sad to report that the England girls, after what seemed like a fight to the death, came second in the Women’s Rugby World cup after the Black Ferns put in a last gasp penalty to take the title with 13-10. The England ladies put in one hell of a fight so New Zealand may have to take extra care of that trophy this time around as it might be it’s last trip back to the Southern hemisphere. We hope.

The Tri Nations is still going on, apparently, despite having effectively been won by New Zealand about three weeks ago. This week Australia beat South Africa 39-41 in what was apparently a very exciting game.

The new laws at the breakdown have been coming under a lot of scrutiny over the last few days, so far we’ve only really seen them in the Tri Nations but now it’s time for teams closer to home to put them into effect it seems it’s all people can talk about. The new laws now put the onus on the tackler to ensure the speed of the recycled ball by giving the tackle more space to roll away, present the ball to his team mates. So far it seems to be reducing the amount of kicking, making runners slightly more confident with ball in hand and it will hopefully lead to a reduction in penalties being given for players not rolling away when they can barely move under the ruck.

In more hormonal news, this week sees one of our favourite pastimes go mainstream: Insane Publicity Stunt Watch hits Britain’s Next Top Model. Oh yes. We thought Bath becoming firemen for the day was the height of this year’s insanity (which did, in fairness make Ospreys stint as bin men last year look tame) but now London Wasps are getting their kit on with the girls vying for Elle McPhearson’s seal of approval. Will Shawsy keep his clothes on? Anna’s hoping not, but we’ll know at 9pm Monday and every night from then to infinity based on LivingTV’s repeat schedule.

And now for our inaugural players of the week.

It’s close this week, for it’s been rather a dramatic week in the land of Rugger but we’re going to have to let our heart rule our head and award this to Mr. Daniel Biggar. Responsible for 21 of the Ospreys 26 points against Ulster, it’s fair to say his boot saved the day and kept the boys in black and purple within bonus point range.

Runners up included Topsy Ojo for his two stunning tries for London Irish at Twickenham, Luke Watson for his at Headingley and the entire Exeter Chiefs squad for coming straight into the premiership fighting.

Words by Lauren, picture by Leicester Tigers.

 

The ‘Pilez to Watch in 2010/11 September 5, 2010

So, this weekend the UK season has well and truly kicked off. To say we’ve waitied with baited breath would be an understatement. Our first season as a ‘proper’ blog means not only do we now have a cast iron excuse to watch barely healthy amounts of the truly beautiful game, but also that we get to share all of our hair-brained theories with you lovely folk.
Coming up is the Manpilez guide to this year’s passers and ruckers…
 

 

The Aviva Premiership
Now we’re going to be honest here, we’ve never really paid that much attention to the tournament formerly known as Guinness before, but not only do we feel it’s our duty to sit up and take notice of what’s happening in England now we’ve got a blog to write, but it’s actually looking to be quite exciting this time around. We’ve been crunching numbers and reading articles out the wazoo to come up with our top three seeds. You guys feel free to argue, and we’ll get ready to eat our words if need be.
 

 

Leicester
800,000 times winners Leicester are a consistently strong side and after taking the trophy in a really rather dramatic final at the end of last season, they’re going into 2010/11 on a high. These boys are also gunning quite fiercely for European victory this year after consistently butting heads with the Ospreys in the group stages for the last few years. This year, safe in the knowledge that their arch rivals are in the Pool Of Death, they’ll be going the extra mile to prove their mettle.
Expected placing: Top two
One to Watch: Tom Croft, he’s big *and fast*
One to force yourself not to get distracted by: Tom Croft…. and sexy too…
 

 

Bath
After a rather shaky start to last season caused by some severe unrest in both the team and the management structure, Bath started to come into their own towards the end of term and with new coach God – sorry – Ian McGeechan on board, along with some high profile new signings including England captain Lewis Moody, it really feels like something exciting is happening over in the land of Spas.
Expected placing: Top two
One To Watch: Matt O’Banahanahanahan
One to force yourself not to get distracted by: Olly ‘Oh sorry we’re not used to seeing you with clothes on’ Barkley
 

 

Saracens
Even with their chief Brendan Ventner seeming to have a very public nervous breakdown pitchside for most of it, Sarries  had an almost perfect season, even defeating a little team called the Springboks during their run of about 4,000 victories before they eventually lost out to Leicester for the title. We suspect they’ll be back with a little extra fire in their belly this season, out to prove their success last year was no fluke.
Expected placing: 3rd
One to watch: Steve Borthwick
One to force yourself not to get distracted by: Richard Wigglesworth

 

 

 

The Magners League

Even our usual comfort zone of the Magners League has been shaken up this season. After last year saw the first ever playoffs, this year sees the extension of the term ‘Celtic’ to incorporate two Italian teams. Benetton Treviso will be known to many from such heady delights as the middle of the Heineken Cup scoreboards, but their fellow Italians Aironi will be less familiar to even themselves as a new team freshly hatched in a merger reminiscent of the formation of the Welsh Regions back on 2003.

For our top four seeds we’re going to attempt to put bias aside….
 

 

Ospreys
Okay, okay, we didn’t put it very far aside but in our defence, any pre-season round up worth its salt is going to put the Ospreys high on the watch list. Previously the first team to ever win the trophy twice, the boys extended their record to a third victory and are now gunning to be the first team ever to defend the title. Though they’re coming into this season on a 4 point deficit (unless they win their appeal next Tuesday), this year is starting off a lot more positively with far fewer of their ‘big hitters’ on long term injurywatch than last year when the Lions tour left some members of the squad out till getting on for Christmas.

Our boys in black are also raring to get out of the traps in the Heineken Cup after being denied at the Quarter Final stage two years in a row. With new skipper Alun Wyn Jones stating this ethos for the season: ‘I want to win more than anyone else and that’s the lead I want to set’, it’s hard to contemplate an empty trophy cabinet next year.
Expected placing: Top three
One to Watch: Shane Williams. He’s usually fast, but this time out he’s had a good rest over the summer so we might have to give up blinking for the next nine months.
One to force yourself not to be distracted by: Ryan Jones. He’s not got to worry about being captain outside of International season this year so he can concentrate on being sexy… not that he had a problem with it before.
 

 

Cardiff Blues
The Blue seem to have been gathering momentum over the last few seasons and there is a sense of groundswell around Leckwith as the last two years have seen shiny trophies head to the Welsh capital in the form of the EDF (now LV=) Cup in 08/09 and the Amlin Challenge Cup last season. This year they’re not going to be satisfied if they have to pack away the brasso. Chief Dai Jones has spoken out about how they’re going to be taking the Magners League a lot more seriously this year after focussing on their Heineken chances for the last few years and they’re going to want to capitalise on their Amlin success with the Main Prize as well. With new signing Dan Parks and newly massive and superspeedy Leigh Halfpenny  in their midst, they’re going to be difficult to beat.
Expected placing: Top three
One to Watch: Leigh Halfpenny – will all that new muscle affect the superhuman speed we’ve seen in past seasons? We’re not sure but I suspect it’s going to be fun finding out.
One to force yourself not to be distracted by: Bruce Wayne, sorry, Jamie Roberts.  It’s the accent, mainly…

 

Leinster
After coming top of the table only to lose out in the last minutes of the grand final last year, the Dublin boys are going to be out for blood. Blood and points. Given their current form and the fact that they’ve still got BOD Almighty in their midst, we’re already feeling the fear.
Expected placing: top three
One to Watch: BOD, obviously.
One to force yourself not to be distracted by: Nathan Hines

 

 

Aironi
Shocker, I  know as we’ve acknowledged in previous posts that the Italians in all their forms are regarded as the underdogs of the Six Nations and even more shocking is…. that’s exactly why I’ve put them in. Aironi are entering this tournament as the ultimate underdogs: they’ve been a team for mere weeks before being thrown into a league that’s well established with teams that contain some of the most talented players in the Northern hemisphere. It’s fight or flight for them and they’ve got to prove themselves as a team and a competitor and  I firmly believe that, like the Ospreys back in 2003, they may just surprise us by rising above all that and meeting the challenge.
Expected placing: Top five
One to watch: Marco Bortolami
One to force yourself not to get distracted by: Josh Sole

So, over to you… thoughts? Agree? Disagree? Feel a burning need to discuss Tom Croft’s thighs? Drop us a comment…

Words by Lauren

 

Newspilez – Week Ending 29th August 2010 August 30, 2010

With less than a week to go before the Magners League and Aviva Premiership (which we WILL remember is no longer anything to do with Guinness by the end of the season, promise) put boot to ball, we assess a rather busy week in Rugby land, considering…

With two games left of the seemingly never ending Tri Nations, South Africa came back from a dramatic opening in which visitors Australia scored 14 points in the first four minutes to win 44-31. Sadly for the Springboks, it’s still nowhere near enough to catch up to table leaders New Zealand, who’d better get the brasso out to keep that trophy shiny.

Meanwhile, the Women’s world cup has thundered on so quickly we can barely keep up. The most exciting news is that the England Ladies have fought their way through to Wednesday’s Semi Final at the Twickenham Stoop, where they will battle it out with Australia for a place in the final, with defenders New Zealand  fighting against France for their opportunity to make history by remaining the only side to ever take the title.

Sadly, our other home nations were not so lucky and Scotland and Ireland will go on to play for their ranking between 5th and 8th place while our poor lovely Wales ladies are going to be trudging on to claim their ranking between 9th and 12th place.

As ever, Manpilez will be cheering on all four home nations but as you can imagine we’re all hoping  that England show those Black ferns a bit of what for  and bring that trophy to the homeland!

Bloodgate has continued to make headlines as the enquiry by the British Medical council got underway to determine the fate of the doctor who got mixed up in the whole sorry mess. Sadly, this story reached the point where everyone was past caring nearly a year ago so the stories served only to help us take mid-commute naps…

Following on from last week’s retained captaincy update, this week we got the breaking news that the new captain of Stade Francais Sergio ‘The Big Man’ Parisse will now also be known as ‘The Big Daddy’ after his wife gave birth to a beautiful baby.  Aaaaw!

Closer to home, news came in from Ospreylia that in order to concentrate on Wales’ World Cup efforts, Ryan Jones will no longer be wearing the armband for this season but it will be ably filled by none other than Mr Alun-Wyn Jones.  We tried to write a non-hormone led reaction to this news, but we failed so let’s just say that we’re very pleased, yeah?

In Ellie’s homeland, Cardiff,  the Blues got their campaign under way in a last gasp friendly in the form of a testimonial for good ole Nugget. We couldn’t make it ourselves but after speaking to some reliable sources, here’s our Ellie with a report …

Cardiff Blues V. Newport Dragons – 27th August 2010

Picture from Huw Evans at www.welshrugbypics.co.uk

Nuggest runs in support of the all new Beef Halfpenny

Well, I’m sorry to say that I missed the first Blues friendly match on Friday, and seeing as it wasn’t on the telly I can’t give you a personal view of how it went. Still, I’ve talked to a few friends who made the tripand have since read some fans’ reactions, and it all sounds promising! Our new fly half, Mr. Dan Parks, went down very well with his tactical kicking and general level-headedness, and Martyn Williams (whoseTestimonial game it was) played a blinder as ever. We love you, Nugget – NEVER LEAVE US.

Bradley Davies and Richie Rees are just getting better and better every time we see them, full stop. Great tosee Richie getting to play with Parksy, in what’ll hopefully become a classy double act, and Bradley paired up with lock-in-crime and head honcho, Tito. Tiiiito.

Judging from the pictures, Pencey’s beefed up big time over the Summer and was apparently almost unrecognisable with his beard and minus the previously omnipresent scrum cap. There seem to be a few worried mutterings going round that the new bumper sized Pencey might be a wee bit slower too – only time will tell!

Shanks appears to be back on top and working extremely well with Casey Laulala, our excellent signing from last season, the pair of them guarding the field with everything they’ve got. He scored one of our three tries too, but did go off in the second half with what looked like an injured wrist – here’s hoping it’s nothing serious – I want him back and giving old Jamie some competition.

Two more tries were scored by Ma’ama Molitika and Lloyd Williams, while the Dragons’ only points came from a penalty kick by the ever-sharp Jason Tovey.

Scott Morgan and Robin Sowden-Taylor – both Blues boys last season, now Dragons – both caused some nice trouble around the pitch, but the Dragons were definitely having some difficulties due to a current swathe of injuries. Jonathan Evans was their only fit scrum half, and so was required to play the whole match.

All in all, a solid friendly to start the season. Three yellow cards (we expect no less from a Cardiff/Newport game!) and a good crowd of 10,016 supporters.

Cardiff Blues Squad: 15. Chris Czekaj 14. Leigh Halfpenny 13. Casey Laulala 12. Tom Shanklin 11. Tom James 10. Dan Parks 9. Richie Rees 8. Xavier Rush 7. Martyn Williams 6. Maama Molitika 5. Paul Tito (c) 4. Bradley Davies 3. Scott Andrews 2. Rhys Williams 1. Tom Davies

Replacements: 16. Sam Hobbs 17. Kristian Dacey 18. John Yapp 19. Deiniol Jones 20. James Down 21. Tom Brown 22. Michael Paterson 23. Sam Warburton 24. Lloyd Williams 25. Ceri Sweeney 26. Gavin Evans 27. Richard Mustoe

Newport Gwent Dragons Squad: 15. Matt Evans 14. Will Harries 13. Tom Riley 12. David Bishop 11 Aled Brew 10. Jason Tovey 9. Jonathan Evans  1. Hugh Gustafson 2. Tom Willis (Capt) 3. Ben Castle 4. Adam Jones 5. Scott Morgan 6. Joe Bearman 7. Robin Sowden Taylor 8. Hugo Ellis

Replacements: 16. Steve Jones 17. Nigel Hall 18. Pat Palmer 19. Ali Mckenzie 20. Adam Brown  21. Danny Lydiate 22. Lewis Evans 23. Jevon Groves 24. Matthew Jones 25. Tom Cooper 26 Adam Hughes 27. Nicky Griffiths 28. Matthew Pewtner

Words by Lauren and Ellie

 

Newspilez – Week ending 22nd August 2010 August 22, 2010

As the season comes hurtling towards us and pre season friendlies come to their ‘wait till we pull out the big guns’ style conclusion, we round up the snippets and clippets from Rugby Land that caught our attention this week.

  • The Women’s Rugby world cup kicked off at Surrey Sports Park. As we flagged up in our Training report, the England Ladies were a force to be reckoned with, beating Ireland by an emphatic 27-0.  Sadly, the Wales ladies weren’t so forceful and came up short to Australia in a 12-26 drubbing.
  • Meanwhile, in the clash of the southern hemisphere, three time World Cup Winners New Zealand beat Scotland by 55-3, and in the battle of the underdogs USA beat Khasakstan 51-0. All in all day one was a fast paced, high scoring feast of action, and based on the scores so far the next three weeks are going to be very interesting.
  • Over in the southern Hemisphere, the Tri Nations went out with a massive bang with the All blacks taking the title after being 22-17 down until Richie McCaw went over with a controversial equalising try in the 78th minute. After calling in television officials on two disputes, the try was allowed and the All Blacks then chalked up yet another try taking them to 29 points and a trip to the trophy cabinet.
  • Bloodgate, which started as insane and moved through preposterous and ridiculous to settle somewhere near embarrassed for a while, became sad and pitiful. Former ‘Quins physio Steph Brennan and match day doctor Wendy Chapman may both be struck-off if found guilty of going along with the snidey plot instigated by former coach Dean Richards.
  • On a similarly discipline – based note, It’s been reported today that Ospreys management are actively pursuing an appeal against the 4 point deficit they were handed at the end of the last season for rescheduling their already postponed clash against Ulster. The more information that is revealed about this the more ludicrous this sanction seems. Not only did Ospreys management offer several alternate dates to Ulster Rugby but it seems blindingly obvious in hindsight that even without injury and Cai Griffith’s suspension, the Six Nations had already left their front row personnel thin on the ground. Let’s hope sense prevails and they can defend that Magners league title on even ground.
  • Lewis Moody made his intentions very clear regarding possible future captaincy of England. Only time will tell if Johnno unleashes the madness…
  • Paul Tito, Tom Willis and Matthew Rees were confirmed as Season Captains for Blues, Dragons and Scarlets respectively.
  • Pre season friendlies came to an end with Bath trouncing Edinburgh 48-21, The Scarlets beating Worcester 43-14 and Cardiff Blues narrowly beating Exeter chiefs 26-21 while, despite a convincing second half the Ospreys failed to close in on Gloucester and ended on 14-24.
  • Meanwhile, further down the M4 corridor, Harlequins beat Ulster 24-0 at the Stoop, London Wasps scored six tries in the face of Leinster’s Six points and Sarries scores 22-5 against Connacht at the Sportsground.
  • The Ospreys launched their new kit, and we had to lock up our credit cards to stop us buying all the new merch… I mean… it’s PURPLE! How are we supposed to resist? Rumours that the Manpilez ladies were overheard arguing which was prettier, the home or away shirt are entirely founded…

Stay tuned next week when we’ll be giving you the latest from the Women’s World cup and our pics and predictions for the first week of The Magners and Aviva Leagues. If you spot anything you think we should be taking notice of, drop us a line in our comments boxes or email manpilez@gmail.com. In the mean time, we’ll see you in the week with some more Rawr Data Profiles…

Words by Lauren and Anna

 

Rawr Data – Team Profile: Cardiff Blues August 15, 2010

In an effort to put all our cards on the table from the start, fresh from our homage to the Ospreys, here’s our tribute to Cardiff Blues, aka Gleision Caerdydd, if you’re so inclined.

Strength Through Unity

The Blues formed in 2003, when the nine professional Welsh clubs had to reform into regional teams due to lack of money. Cardiff Rugby Football Club were allowed to form their own team, rather than amalgamating with any of the eight other professional clubs, and so the Blues were born.

It’s actually only recently that the team has started to perform really well and bring in the silverware (EDF Anglo-Welsh cup in 08-09 and the Amlin uropean cup in 09-10)  – their first few years were unfortunately a bit dire. Various players have come and gone – we used to have Mike Phillips, then he moved to the Ospreys for a rather larger pay cheque!

The Blues’ motto is ‘Strength Through Unity’, which is written across all their training gear. In the wonderful win over Toulouse last season, the skipper Paul Tito said that they had a desire “to go out and die for each other”. Pushing my team-spirit buttons!

The Squad

Picture by Getty ImagesWe’ve got one of the greatest props in the world in the form of Gethin Jenkins. Some say he’s the best in his position in the world at the moment. He’s fantastic to watch at live games, just hearing the impact he makes when he tackles, seeing him get everywhere. Here’s what Martyn Williams reckons:

“He’s a frustrated openside flanker I think. He tries to teach me how to play the game, where I should be, where I shouldn’t be. He gets frustrated he’s in the front row and I think the scrummage is a dirty word in Geth’s language! He’d rather be out and about like a back rower. He’s got a soft side to him – he’s a very generous lad when he wants to be.”

And skipper Paul Tito reckons:

“I have never seen a prop like Gethin. He’s got a very big engine, that fella. He’s got the highest work-rate of any prop I’ve seen. He’s class. When he gets out there he gives it death. I’d like to see how many kilometres he does in a game, chasing kicks and covering backs. He says some funny things at times, but his heart is right in it. Just look at the first tackle of the game against Toulouse and who made it. That just sums up Melon. He’s awesome.”

Photo from the midst of time - if it's yours please let us know butdon't tell us off too harshly!We’ve also got the legendary Martyn Williams as open-side flanker. I couldn’t possibly sing Nugget’s praises enough either in just one sentence, so I won’t go into it! Let’s just say he’s much loved – a national treasure, of course!

Photo from Huw Evans at www.welshrugbypics.co.uk

Then there’s the world-class centre partnership in the form of Tom Shanklin and ‘The big Doc’ Jamie Roberts. Shanks is 6’2″ and Jamie’s 6’4″, and together they make a  tough old pair.

Photo from the midst of time - if it's yours please let us know butdon't tell us off too harshly!

On the wing, we’ve got Leigh Halfpenny, always exciting to watch for his pace and acceleration. Up until this season his partner in crime was Andy Powell, always a joy! He’s now off to the Wasps, so best of luck to him there.

Photo from the midst of time - if it's yours please let us know but don't tell us off too harshly!

We’ve also got numerous other players who have been capped for Wales, notably John Yapp, Gareth Cooper, the hard as nails Bradley Davies (above) and serious contender for the coverted Scrum-Half throne, Richie Rees.

Pic by Huw Evans at www.welshrugbypics.co.ukUp until just recently, we had the legend that is Alfie. After being the most capped Wales player ever, the man known to his mum as Gareth Thomas is now having a successful time with Rugby League side the Celtic Crusaders!

Pic by Huw Evans at www.welshrugbypics.co.uk

We’ve got some fantastic international players, including the bulldozer-like number 8 Xavier Rush,  Kiwi kicking machine Ben Blair, Tongans Ma’ama Molitika and Taufa’ao Filise and our fearless leaderand lock extrordinaire, Captain Paul Tito.

Paul Tito, aka ‘Fish’, aka simply ‘Tito’, has been a fantastic choice of captain. He’s a lock, so he leads from the front, and he is a serious grafter. He puts in tonnes of work, and is always hard as nails, and the Cardiff Blues supporters have really taken him to their hearts. He’s been here for a few years now, and his appearance and his work on the field is usually greeted by a chant of ‘Teeee-to, Teeee-to!’. He used to play for the New Zealand Maori team, and on the residency rules is now eligible to play for Wales…watch this space. You can’t miss him.

The KitPhoto from the midst of time - if it's yours please let us know but don't tell us off too harshly!

Here’s another reason to love this team – obviously they wear blue most of the time, but they have a hot pink away strip. Stade Francais may have the corner in pastel, but we’ve got an unmissable version too! Here’s Gethin, working hard to make it manly. Seriously, though, the boys first wore these to raise awareness for cancer research. Thanks to the popularity with the supporters, it’s now the away colour too.


Moving from Cardiff Arms Park to Cardiff City Stadium, Leckwith

The Blues’ move from Cardiff Arms Park to the new stadium has been a worrying, difficult affair. Whereas the Arms Park was bang in the centre of Cardiff, the new place is something of a trek for most of us, being bang in the middle of Grangetown (Strangetown).

The Blues are also paying an extortionate amount to rent the place – they don’t own it. Being a 25,000 seat stadium, supporters can rattle around in there sometimes when there’s a game that’s not considered important by the majority.

It’s excellent that the team will have better facilities, of course, and that the place will be family-friendly. Also, you can argue that if we want to attract bigger players to join the team then we need a nice stadium, and if we want to attract the kind of following that Munster or Leicester get, then we need enough seats.

Still, the Ospreys have had the same problem of not enough bums on seats with their new stadium, and that’s only a 20,000 capacity. What really needs to happen is MORE PEOPLE go and watch rugby!

Go on, chivvy your friends and get going!

Words by Ellie, pictures by various, hover over for details.