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Rawr Data Profile: Bath Rugby October 8, 2010

Since we launched Manpilez Proper back in August we’ve been frankly overwhelmed by your response both in terms of numbers and feedback. It’s been fantastic having more and more people getting involved.

Now we figured it’s time to take that to the next level so here, with our first ever reader submitted article comes Ms Cara, with her litany to Bath Rugby.

Bath Rugby

Image lovingly snapped by Cara

I feel quite honoured to be writing the first Premiership Team Profile to hit Manpilez, so without further ado, here’s the lowdown on Bath Rugby.

I started supporting Bath properly in 2002, though I grew up watching the team, and rugby in general, from when I was born. I have my Dad to thank for this, as well as the funny looks I get when telling people I support Bath in my North Lincolnshire accent.

Bath Rugby were established in 1865 and are one of the oldest rugby clubs in existence.

The home of Bath Rugby is The Recreation Ground, or The Rec. Unless of course you’re an away fan and then you’ll be more aware of it as ‘The Wreck’. Contrary to this lovely little nick name, The Rec is one of the most beautiful places to witness a game of rugby. Bias fully aside, of course!

Bath were the first British club to lift the Heineken Cup in 1998 beating Brive, in a thrilling final, 19-18.

In the league Bath have had mixed fortunes, making it to the semi-finals of the Premiership for the last three seasons. They have also been close to relegation, narrowly avoiding the drop in 2003.

Moving forward to last season, the campaign was a shaky one. In reality it was never going to be easy after all the controversy of the summer. Incase you missed all the ‘shenanigans’ of the summer, though how on earth you could of I have no idea, I’ll give a brief summary… *deep breath*

Four Bath players were accused of taking drugs. Three denied it and ended up with 9 month bans for bringing the game into disrepute. One admitted taking them and was handed an 8 month suspension.

If only it had been over and done with that quickly in real life!

Back to the 2009/2010 season, it started terribly. To be blunt. Up until the new year Bath had only managed to win 4 games from 17 (all competitions) and by Christmas I was seriously worrying about the big R!

It seemed that the team needed some sort of miracle to happen in order to get them heading up the table. That ‘sort of miracle’ seemed to come in the form of Luke Watson. This could have merely been coincidence, but I like to believe!

Bath rapidly turned the season around beginning with monumental and confidence boosting wins over London Irish and Saracens, both away from home. Unfortunately for Saracens the only thing ‘special’ happening there at the end of February was Bath earning a narrow, but crucial, win.

Picture lovingly snapped by Cara

For me, as a supporter, the finest moment of the 2009/2010 campaign came during the Wasps St Georges Day game at Twickenham. Dubbed as Wasps’ big day out they were there to slay Bath. In reality they had their stingers handed to them on a plate by the men in blue, black and white. The pivotal bonus point win securing them a place within the top four just one game away from the all important semi finals.

Bath were to face Leicester at Welford Road in the semi’s and although they lost I couldn’t be too downbeat about the whole affair. Looking at the bigger picture, coming from where they had at the beginning of the season, to manage to get to the semi finals was a massive achievement and nothing can take that away.

The 2010/2011 season is set to be an exciting one for Bath, and all of their supporters, hopefully culminating in silverware, and I believe the following men are those to help Bath get there.

Aye Aye Captain! – Luke Watson

Photo lovingly snapped by CaraAfter joining Bath in November 2009, he has been somewhat of a saviour. There was a lot of hype surrounding Luke when the announcement came, not all of it good, but since arriving he has done nothing but quash any nervous dispositions any Bath supporter may have had, so much so that he was named captain for the 2010/2011 season.

Luke provides a brilliant character, team spirit and has the aura of a true leader.

Aside from that he’s just an all round nice guy. I may, or may not, have a slight man crush on him. To me, the man is a legend!


The Prodigal Son – Olly Barkley

Picture lovingly snapped by Cara

Having re-signed for Bath after taking a year out* in 2009/2010 Olly is back with Bath. Olly is the epitome of a Bath player. I

can’t say too much about Olly without being disgustingly biased so I’ll leave it there, plus it’s in everyones best interests that I do not get started on his exclusion from any England team by Johnno. Oh well, Englands loss…

*A year out is what I have to refer to his year at Gloucester as. Weird? Me? Never! It was heartbreaking stuff, alright?


Moodos – Lewis Moody

Photo lovingly snapped by Cara

Moody signed for Bath during the summer from arch rivals Leicester… oooooh controversial!

He’s a big signing and lets face it the guy is used to having his mitts all over silverware, which can only mean

good things for Bath, right?

Bendy – Nick Abendanon

Picture lovingly snapped by Cara

The resident ‘pretty boy’, but trust me, the boy isn’t just a pretty face.

I have to confess that I used to really dislike Bendy, I’m not too sure why, perhaps I always felt him a little too inconsistent and I could never take to him as a player. Then he upped his game immensely and went from being weak in tackles to putting in massive hits, and being all over the park in both defense and attack. Suddenly he became dangerously exciting.

So don’t let his pretty blonde hair fool you, he can dish it out and boy can he take it.

Bendy gets a knock to the head at least once a game. It’s now an ongoing joke between me and my Dad that Bendy is never 100% at his best until he’s had the customary knock to the head.

As if to prove this theory last weeks game v London Irish provided a brilliant example.

Stowers KO’s Bendy, yes I think the red was harsh too, and 10 minutes later he scored a try which got the boys back in front.

That example is to try and justify that I am, by no means, insane…

One to watch – Nathan Catt

You might not recognise the name… yet… but you will.

He featured for the England Saxons in their annual summer trip to Canada for the Churchill cup and I strongly believe that 22 year old prop Catt is going to be a big thing, and not just literally.

And finally…

They may not be players but no profile on Bath would be complete without a little bit on Steve Meehan, Sir Ian McGeechan and Bruce Craig.

Meehan joined Bath in 2006 and has recently committed himself to Bath until 2012. Meehan managed to lead Bath to their first silverware for 10 years when they won the ECC Final in 2008, beating Worcester at Kingsholm.

Sir Ian McGeechan was enlisted in June 2010 as performance director, only good things can come from him working with Bath, his legend precedes him.

Bruce Craig is the new owner of Bath, buying the club from Andrew Brownsword. Craig has already made big changes by giving the club what they’ve been wanting for years, with notable changes in the training facilities.

That concludes my team profile on Bath!

Words and pictures by Cara

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Rawr Data – Team Profile: Racing Metro September 22, 2010

After taking on Magners newcomers Aironi in the last profile, Anna shows Heineken Cup hopefuls Racing Metro some Manpilez love.
Racing Metro 92

Now, I shan’t lie to you; my concern for Racing Metro doesn’t stretch far beyond two very important factors: Juan Martin Hernandez and Mirco Bergamasco. Much as I would like this profile to consist entirely of photographs of these two delightful boys, I’d be doing you, your mother and your neighbour’s dog and injustice because the Sky and White are having a pretty good run in the Top 14 right now, sitting at the head of the table for the first time in twenty years at the time of writing. All in all, they’re worth more than a mere quirk of the eyebrow from the likes of me.

Racing Metro first set up shop in the 1800s, where we like to imagine that plus fours and bowler hats were de riguer on the pitch…

 

 

Movember, 1882

 

They sealed their place in French rugby history by playing in and winning the first ever French rugby championship against their Parisien counterparts Stade Francais. While Stades Francais and Bordelais went on to pretty much boss the championship in coming years, Racing racked up five victories at sporadic intervals and settled as runners-up six times.

Skip forward to the modern day and while Stade Francais were getting a Guazzini makeover and setting about becoming giants of French rugby in the 1990s, Racing were relegated to the second division. The tide started to turn when they got their own Italian entrepreneur chairman, Jacky Lorenzetti, in 2006. While there may have been far fewer bells and whistles (and fireworks and Gloria Gaynor), the intention was similar: to get Racing back on form, back in the Top 14 and into the H-Cup. Done, done and done.

Let’s have a look at some of the big hitters:

Lionel Nallet and Sebastien Chabal
They don’t hit much harder than these two. Nallet and Chabal both signed up in 2009 when, having reinstated Racing back in the Top 14, Lorenzetti was keen to silence the cynics. Landing this powerhouse duo was a good way of setting about his goal. Lock Nallet took on skipper duties last season and number 8 Chabal is… Sebastien Chabal. ‘Nuff said.

 

 

Chabal & Steyn: give good strut

 

Francois Steyn
South African Steyn signed in 2009 for a two-year stint at Yves-du-Manoir. He’s been making waves since his Boks debut at the tender age of 19 and now, at 23, he and his foot have made quite an impression in France. He remains one to watch, with the added bonus of being incredibly easy on the eye.

Juan Martin Hernandez and Mirco Bergamasco
These two aforementioned lovelies are new signings for the 2010/11 season. Both Stade Francais alumni, their arrival at Racing sees a return to French rugby for Juan after one season with Natal Sharks and that rarest of things for Mirco: playing on a team without his brother. JMH isn’t quite fighting fit right now, not only still recovering from a back injury from last season but also pulling out of last week’s game against La Rochelle with a dodgy thigh. As for baby Bergamasco, he’ll get a chance to seek revenge on big brother Mauro for any childhood woes when Racing take on Stade in December.

 

 

Mirco Bergamasco: sans curls, avec kick-ass

 

Racing have been unfortunate enough to draw Leinster in their H-Cup pool and will take them on in a home game in January, but if they maintain the form they’ve been exhibiting in the Top 14, the task might not seem so daunting. Allez les ciel et blanc!

Words by Anna, pictures by various

 

Rawr Data – Team Profile: Aironi September 7, 2010

It’s time to cast an eye over the contenders in this year’s Magners and Heineken leagues and what better place to start than the most unexpected… that’s right, Aironi. Who? AIRONI.

Once more with feeling

“Shall I tackle Aironi?” I jokingly asked when Lauren suggested we profile the Magners and Heineken League teams. Of course she said yes, on the grounds that “No one knows anything about them”. I was hoping that this might mean I could spin some convincing lies about the squad for whom the word “underdog” might have been invented. They’ve got a mute fly half. A lock with royal parentage. Their kits were sewn by six young virgins in a moonlit glade. One too far?

Your first lesson is a simple one: “aironi” is Italian for “heron”. Got that? Good. It gets a hell of a lot more perplexing from here on in. 

Not to be confused with popular beat combo Aironi

Aironi are a new squad, enough so that they probably smell of MDF and emulsion. There’s a horrible air of marketing cynicism surrounding them, especially when the Director of Celtic Rugby states that the inclusion of Italian teams in the league will “dramatically broaden the appeal of our product”, not to mention the numerous financial motivations and alibis surrounding the whole baffling business (Aironi is, ostensibly, a franchise). That spiel aside, it is nice to see Italian teams getting the chance to experience some international club tournaments and to anticipate a winter trend for Irish cider on the Med.

If you’ve checked out The Pilez to Watch in 2010/11, you’ll have seen that Lauren was riding the crest of a particularly optimistic wave by giving Aironi a nod. While their first game in the Magners League saw them fall to Munster in a 33-17 defeat, it wasn’t as easy a win for the Musgrave Park boys as most would have anticipated and it will be interesting to see if Aironi can keep up the pace as the tournament progresses…

Words by Anna, photos by Aironi and Aironi (scroll over for details)

 

Rawr Data Team Profile: Stade Francais August 26, 2010

Filed under: Rawr Data,Stade Francais,Team Profile,Teams — Manpilez @ 9:37 pm
Tags: ,

Anna turns her profiling eye to the joy and the sheer madness that is Uncle Gigi’s  ‘hood.

Stade Francais

Picture by Stade Francais

Un Pile Du Stade

When I first got into rugby, there was never a question of if I would fall in love with Stade Francais. It was only ever a matter of how long it would take…
Stade Francais, in their current guise, are a marketing dream come true in glorious technicolour. While it would be very easy to be cynical about the commercial success of the club, it is also difficult to not be impressed by their rise to notoreity in French rugby after a half century slump.
The club dates back to 1883, though you’d be forgiven for not knowing about those first hundred years or so, despite early success, as the modern day Stade Francais tends to… overshadow, shall we say, the club’s origins. It was in 1992, when businessman Max Guazzini took over as president, that Stade properly stepped into the limelight and started to become the elite squad that we have come to recognise in all their rose-tinted glory.
Uncle Max (or Gigi, as the Manpilez ladies affectionately know him) had a simple vision: to give the people of Paris a team that they could support and love. Bernard Laporte was drafted in as Head Coach and turned the tide for Stade, taking them from the third to first division over the course of three seasons. Gigi, meanwhile, was weaving his marketing magic to get those Parisien bottoms on seats and suddenly Stade Francais CASG was an all-singing, all-dancing, cheerleading, flag-waving force to be reckoned with. Then came the shirts. And the calendars.
Picture by Stade

Yeah, those ones.

The boys have come close to Heineken Cup glory twice, being pipped at the post by Leicester and Toulouse in 2001 and 2005 respectively. Their 2009-10 outing proved to be disappointing as they were, frankly, washed by Toulouse and sent out in the Quarter Finals. Stade’s last season was a bit of a nightmare all in all, so they’ll certainly be hoping for better things in 2010-11 and I fear they could do worse than the Big Man himself, Sergio Parisse, stepping up to take on skipper duties. Godspeed, Stade. You just might be my second team, at least for the next season…
Words by Anna, Pictures by Stade Francais
 

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.

 

Rawr Data – Team Profile: The Ospreys August 14, 2010

Filed under: Ospreys,Rawr Data,Team Profile — Manpilez @ 10:22 pm

Given the heavy Ospreys Bias among the writing team here at Manpilez, we figured we’d get it out of our systems early. Here’s our trbute to the boys in black…

Together We Are Stronger

The Ospreys were hatched in 2003, with the formation of the four Welsh Rugby Regions. They incorporated Neath, Swansea and latterly Bridgend/Ogmore when the Celtic Warriors dissolved. They share their territorial borders, and therefore biggest friendly rivalries with Cardiff Blues to the East and Llanelli Scarlets to the north.

Image from Wikipedia Commons

Ospreylia : the grey wotsity bit on the bottom of Wales.

After a shaky first season, The Ospreys quickly become a breeding ground for talent, becoming the first of the regions to face an international side (Australia) as well as being the first region ever to win the Celtic (Magners) League Title three times, they also hold the record for most players chosen for the national squad at 13 in 2008, as well as sending 8 players to South Africa for 2009’s Lions Tour. Basically, they rock!

The 2009/10 season started off shakily for our men in black, plagued by injury and struggling to get enough feet on the pitch during the autumn international season,  the Ospreys failed to perform in the LV= Anglo Welsh cup and initial run outs in the Magners League were ‘fair to middling’ at best. However over the course of the season yr Gweilch  went from strength to strength and managed a respectable performance in the Heiniken Cup, until they were knocked out by Biarritz in the quarter final and much to our delight, Winning the Magners league for the third time in the first ever Grand Final against Leinster.

Picture from ZimbioAs you would imagine with their high proportion of International players, the Ospreys ranks boast some of the best players in the world, From Ospreylia natives James hook and Lee Byrne, to Filo Tiatia and recent recruit Jerry Collins who prepared for their Ospreys challenge with some team called the All Blacks? No, I’ve not heard of them either…

Here are some of their high fliers.

First of all, Oh Captain, Our Captain, Mr Ryan ‘Jug Head’ Jones

Picture from Huw Evans at www.walesrugbypics.co.ukRecently Married to his long Term Girlfriend after his Lions Dream never got much further than SA customs due to a head injury, Ryan Jones is the Ospreys dependable leader. He’s an awesome player and somehow manages to find time to be a damn good number 8 while also rallying his troops and generally being a thoroughly nice chap. He went into last season with something to prove after his name was omitted from the original Lions Party, bringing his form and captaincy of both Wales and the Ospreys into question. Much to nobody’s surprise, Ryan proved all his dissenters wrong and had a fantastic season, and showed that his rugby skills and his judgement are sound when he took a gamble just minutes before the end of Wales’ Six Nations game against Scotland, and we all know what happened then…

Unofficial Second-In-Command, Alun-Wyn Jones (Hyphen optional)

Picture taken from the mists of time (basically, we can't remember. If it's yours let us know, but please don't tell us off too harshly!)Fierce, athletic, determined, erudite and ridiculously tall are possibly the best words to describe good ole AWJ, the Ospreys Faithful Lock who has taken the title of ‘Caretaker Captain’ for the Ospreys, Wales and also, for 20 heartstopping minutes, the Lions. Alun-Wyn is the kind of player you often hear described as ‘barnstorming’ or ‘an old rugby head on young shoulders’. His power means he’s indispensable both in a lineout and the scrum and despite occasional issues around discipline for our hot headed blonde… well, he’s just awesome! Not content with being a professional Rugby player and a Law Student, this year he also completed the Duke of Edinburgh’s Gold award by dusting off his highway code and passing his driving test in order to deliver Meals on Wheels to the elderly of Ospreylia. And in case he isn’t busy enough, he’s now considering taking on a Media Studies degree on top of that… what a guy!

The one everyone wants to take home to their mum, Tommy Bowe

Picture lovingly capped from the telly by LaurenTommy recently extended his contract with Ospreys after coming over to Wales from Ulster for the 08/09 Season, once he’d got his engineering degree done and dusted. Though he’s mostly settled in like a dream, things did get a little awkward for him after he put in an awesome performance in the 2009 Six Nations against…well… about a third of the squad. He’s now known to share a flat in Swansea with a cat and a bright green old banger, and when he’s not playing pretty much any position Sean Holley wants to throw at him, he’s not practising his singing. Or his cooking. This much we know.

The Hair Bears, Adam and Duncan Jones

Picture taken from the Groggs Website - Go there, they're awesome!Our good old massive haired front rowers have had rather a rough time of late. Duncan Jones, Loosehead Prop and blondest hairbear is still returning to fitness after a long injury and Adam, Tighthead extraordinaire spent the beginning of the 09/10 season out after THAT incident on the Lions Tour. Bakkies Botha beware, Ospreylia is out for your blood… Both boys are Wales regulars, and will be all poised to start this season on firm, fit feet.

South West Wales’ Mr Sex aka Splinters, AKA William Michael ‘The Spaniard’ Phillips

Lovingly caapped off the telly by LaurenAll the Manpilez ladies have had their girly moments where Mike is concerned, but the fact he’s captured most of our attention is not just because of those sexy eyes that the afore mentioned Bakkies Botha found so alluring, but because he’s rapidly becoming widely known, and deservedly so, as the best scrum half in Europe for his spiky, unrelenting and aggressive approach to the number 9 position.  On the pitch he’s notable mostly because he’s *everywhere* seemingly at once and it’s often been said that his approach makes it almost as if there’s an extra flanker on the field which makes him invaluable. He too has had more than his fare share of injury, suffering a knee injury at the end of the 07/08 season and an ankle injury that took him out of large swathes of the 09/10 season. Thankfully, he’s well on the way to putting all that behind him and is back to making epic runs with ball in hand… And BOY is he easy on the eye 😉

Shane Williams, Lee Byrne, James Hook

Picture taken from the midst of time (yup... forgot again. sorry!)Picture taken from the midst of time (another one we forgot. let's say it was from down the back of the sofa for now, eh?)Another one from the midst of time/the back of the sofa.

Best back row in Wales? You betcha. Shane Williams is the most Jack Russell like of players, weaving in and out of the opposition in a most twinkle toed manner so that he’s practically got a try under his belt before they’ve noticed.  Former IRB player of the year, Shane hasn’t had such a good year, as he’s been nursing a niggling injury which kept him out of the New Zeland tour this summer but with a bit of rest, the whole of Wales is hoping he’ll be fighting fit in time for the 2011 World Cup.

Lee and James make up part of the Os’ Orange brigade (With alleged Osprey Gavin Henson and sometimes Mike, oh dear) but also are very much just coming into their best form. Lee shone like a ruddy diamond for the Lions and looked like a dead cert for the tests until injury took him out at the final hour. Thankfully it was a minor hand injury so he was quickly able to pick up where he left off, which was on fire and despite a minor blip where he was very almost banned for 4 weeks by the IRB for coming back too early from a blood substitution, he did the black and gold shirt proud in the 09/10 season.

James Hook was a late call up to the Lions tour, where he made the test team due to sheer versatility and he’s been going from strength to strength ever since, becoming a staple in the Wales squad at whatever position he is needed. This season is going to be very exciting for these three, keep an eye on them…

The Sunshine of the squad, Ian ’Ianto’ Evans

Yup, you got us, back of the sofa again.

Ian Evans is yet another stalwart of the Ospreys camp and yet another of our boyos to have pulled on the red jersey for Wales. Ianto very much feels like the heart and soul of the team, often cited as the joker, and one of the stand out personalities of the squad, the Ospreys Management decided to give our Iant something to do during his sadly extensive injury time and thus ‘Ianto’s Yak’ was born. In it, Ian takes aside one of his colleagues on an irregular basis and grills them about anything from the size of their ears (Ryan) or the state of their caravan (Tommy) to the philosophical minefield that is ’what came first, the chicken or the egg’? The Yaks, along with Ianto’s Tours of Llandarcy and video diaries have proven extremely popular and allow the supporters to see the team dynamics in a way no other team would dare! The 20010-11 season will see Ian return from an extensive period of injury poised and ready to be, in Sean’s words ‘Tall, strong, nasty’ and show the world once again what he’s made of.

Jerry Collins

Another picture from those mythical midsts of time

Last summer saw quite a few newcomers in Llandarcy, most notable of which was former All-Black Jerry Collins, who bucked the trend and came FROM France to Wales and was immediately welcomed to Ospreylia by the boys taking him back to his roots by collecting the refuse of their supporters. No, really… He quickly became one of the stalwarts of the squad, putting in some barnstorming performances and occasionally captaining the squad when Ryan Jones was indisposed.

Our boys are also a force to be reckoned with on Twitter, with banter from a large portion of the squad keeping their followers informed of the goings on in Llandarcy and beyond. The ring leader of the Osprelian Twitterati appears to be Prop Extrordinaire Cai Griffiths (or @CaiGriffiths as he is better known) who  rallies the troops, keeps us in the visual loop with many pictures and makes us worry about just how often the boys end up in Nando’s. Despite being a native of North Wales, Cai has been with the Ospreys since their inception in 2003 and has, up to the end of the 09-10 season made 83 appearances …. but thousands of tweets 😉

Here’s our Cai looking heroic and Ospreylian from this year’s press photo run:

Photo from www.ospreysrugby.com

And on that note, I feel I should mention the community work that the Os take on, on quite a regular basis. As Ospreylia is such a wide area, when the regionalisation for Welsh Rugby first came in relations were strained between the Neath and Swansea fans and latterly the old Celtic Warriors fans that were lamenting the death of their team as they were swallowed up. However, the team quickly won hearts and minds, and they’ve been paying their dues to repay that goodwill ever since. Just in the last year, the team has held fundraisers (in which the players insisted on wearing Green socks so even the commentators couldn’t get away without mentioning the cause) and been to help out at Ty Hafan, a children’s hospice, they’ve cleaned beaches, taken out bins and generally been thoroughly good chaps all over the greyish wotsit of their region. All this and rugby too. Ospreys may traditionally be birds of prey but these ones clearly have hearts of gold.

Words By Lauren, Pictures by various (hover over the images for info)