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Newspilez: The State of Stade June 10, 2011

Resident Stade enthusiast Anna takes a look back on an eventful week for Max Guazzini’s boys in pink in a Newspilez special…

James Haskell topped the bill of big name players who were officially released by Stade Francais this week and while this comes as no huge surprise following ongoing reports of financial struggles and structural shake ups, the future for Uncle Gigi’s boys looks a little hazy. However, never one to miss a marketing opportunity, ol’ Max used the announcement of these departures to simultaneously silence the naysayers and to launch a fetching “Pink is Not Dead” t-shirt. You’ve got to admire that sass.

Stade Francais in unusually subtle colour scheme shocker

So what happens now?

Well, no one is going to dispute that Stade had a miserable season in 2010/11 and it’s safe to assume that losing out on their last gasp attempt with the Amlin Challenge Cup may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back for many. Furthermore, the club’s money woes have been evident for a while, not least of all when Mirco Bergamasco was released from his contract a year early to join Parisien rivals Racing Metro last Spring. But the t-shirt makes a good case.

Out with the old…

A big overhaul is one of the best parts of a new season. New players, new start, new kit (abundantly important around Gigi’s way), new attitude and new aspirations. While Stade are of course losing some talent, it’s also clear that some players have run their course with the club.

Haskell is a prime example. He’s a young player with a lot of hype surrounding him. He made a good showing in this year’s Six Nations and will undoubtedly want to be making a similar mark at club level. If my memory serves me correctly, there was a conversation at Manpilez HQ last summer about where Hask would go if he left Stade. Given the non-events at Adams Park since, there’s not quite so much confidence now that he’d defect to his dear old Wasps. In fact, if we’re to believe the rumblings from Haskell’s camp, every team in the world is currently dropping their car keys in a bowl on his coffee table. My suspicions are that he may take a jaunt south of the equator, but will he be willing to risk fitting the “exceptional circumstances” bill post-World Cup to jeopardize his England career? When the decision is made, expect to hear about it. A lot. With sponsorship.

Another departure that hasn’t surprised us is that of Mauro Bergamasco, who has been with the club since 2004. While he and younger brother and former team mate Mirco celebrated a championship win both then and in 2007, the past few years have been more about the graft than the glory. Mirco seems to be going from strength to strength since leaving Stade, having had a great debut season with Racing Metro and of course, with his heroic performance in Italy’s win over France in the Six Nations. Mauro, meanwhile, spent most of last season out of action following an injury and subsequent surgery on his shoulder. It’s safe to assume the older Bergamasco will have his sights set on a trip to New Zealand come the autumn, which may very well be his last RWC and we’re hedging our bets that club-wise, a return to the homeland may be on the cards, with Treviso being a likely prospect.

… in with the new

Other players avoiding an acid-hued brain-vomit of a kit next season include Juan Leguizamon, Hugo Southwell and Ollie Phillips, but what of the newcomers? Paul Sackey announced his arrival by sporting a very unsubtle neon pink sock alongside his Barbarians kit in the game against England on 29 May and with a wealth of experience in French rugby behind him, will be a welcome addition to the squad alongside Toulon team mate Felipe Contempi. Having a former All Black in the shape of Byron Kelleher and Wallabies centers Morgan Turinui and Paul Warick thrown into the mix isn’t going to do any harm, either.

Stick or twist…

Then there are those players who will remain, including lock Tom Palmer, arguably the stand out performer for England in this year’s Six Nations. Consider his poor wife, Helen, however, who faces at least another year of  non-French speaking misery in a Paris suburb  without even the light relief of baking cock-adorned cakes for Haskell and Phillips.

Current captain Sergio Parisse has made no noises about moving as of yet and although he’ll be absent for the World Cup in the early part of next season, his apparently God-like presence (calm down, Stuart Barnes) will boost the squad if he’s still on the scene.

The biggest question mark, however, currently hangs over Matthieu Bastareaud. While Stade Francais are insisting he’ll remain for the duration of his contract, Mourad Boudjellal, chairman of Bastareaud’s desired destination of Toulon, has taken the oh so subtle Marc Lievremont approach to courting the media by claiming the center is depressed to the point that he is pyschologically unable to stay chez Guazzini.

How is it that a soap opera about French rugby hasn’t been written yet?

A brave new world…

If there’s one massive positive to take from all this, it’s that Stade Francais are well versed in phoenix-from-the-ashes tactics. In fact, typically controversial news that a peculiarly random financial saviour from Montreal has dragged them out of the red means that they have avoided administrative relegation and there are also hopes that the recent return of Bernard Laporte may see him turn the tide for Stade as he did so dramatically in the 1990s. While coaching duties remain with Michael Cheika, there will be a lot of expectation on Laporte in the role of administrator to perform a similar, if not more impressive overhaul and set Stade Francais back on track. It would seem that, for the time being, pink is not dead.

Words by Anna

 

Finalpilez: The Amlin Challenge Cup Final – Harlequins 19 – 18 Stade Francais May 21, 2011

Filed under: Amlin Challenge Cup,Game Reports,Harlequins — Manpilez @ 11:37 am
from the bbc

Come all without, Come all within...

Blimey, that was… a bit of a dog’s breakfast actually.

Sometimes, 80 minutes can feel very short, and yet like a million years at the same time and for anyone at Cardiff City Stadium last night, whether they were in pink or multicolours, that will ring painfully true. This was a game that felt like it never truly got off the ground.

There was a sense that both teams got a bit more than they bargained for, with Quins looking out and out baffled by Stade’s blitz defence and Stade going to pot whenever Harlequins got any meaningful possession. This lead to penalty ping pong for much of the first half, meaning the pervading memory most people will take from this is the sight of a bright pink remote control car delivering kicking tees for Stade Francais and Nick Evans’ ‘birthing a cow’ method of kicking prep.

Stade were the side more out for a scalp and thanks to some inspired drop goals from Mathieu Bastareaud and Martin Rodriguez, were in the lead for most of the second half. To the relief of the amassed South London contingent, Quins finally turned up in the 77th minute and, after a fantastic offload from Manpilee Danny Care, Gonzalo Camacho went over the whitewash and without enough time (but still a bloody good effort) for Stade to truly answer the challenge, Man of the Match Nick Evans kicked it out from deep within the Quins 22 before it’d truly hit home what had just happened.

Credit must go out to the albeit small Stade Francais supporters contingent, who, while Connor O’Shea’s men celebrated like they couldn’t quite believe it, cheered, sang, and applauded like that was the result they wanted all along. Those crazy Parisians, we love them.

Manpilez Man of the match: Mike Brown. Many players will make a cursory mention of the supporters in their post match speech, Mike Brown however, took a moment, while the pressure was on in those dying minutes to not only gee up the supporters, but to truly make them feel like the 16th man.

Words by Lauren, Picture from the BBC

 

Previewpilez : The Amlin Challenge Cup Final – Harlequins v Stade Francais May 18, 2011

And now, the end is near, and so we face the final questions…

Harlequins or Stade Francais?

Leinster or Northampton?

Leinster or Munster?

Leicester or Saracens?

And so begins the first of our looks ahead to the show pieces of  what has already been an exciting, unpredictable and entertaining rugby season.  Well, unless you count the Aviva Premiership final being a direct repeat of last year…

This Friday sees the final of the Amlin Challenge cup, where Harlequins and Stade Francais will both be running out onto the Cardiff City Stadium pitch to prove pretty much the same point: their season hasn’t been all that bad.

With both star-studded  teams having finished in the bottom half of their leagues, and records that can only be described as hit and miss, it’s difficult to tell which way this will go. On the one hand, Harlequins beat Magners League dominating Munster to get to this final, which is no mean feat in itself, but with their away record in particular this season looking a little grim, there’s a bit of a sense of that wonderful ‘it depends which Quins turn up on the day’ cliché we all brought out for France in the Six Nations. Add this to the fact that the moments where Harlequins have shone this year have been when the pressure has been highest, it’s very tempting to put Quins as favourites to lift the trophy.

Stade Francais, on the other hand, are a different animal altogether. With some massive international names on their books and a budget the size of the entire economy of Lichtenstein, it’s hard to understand why they have missed the mark so often this season, finishing a lowly 11th in the Top 14. However, with so many internationals, there is a strong test-match mentality which has saw them through the tournament so far.

Despite this second-string meeting playing second fiddle to Saturday’s Heineken Cup final, some fantastic head to head battles on the field have the potential to make this the more interesting fixture. One of the most interesting oppositions will lie at the back row, as Chris Robshaw, Nick Easter and Will Skinner for Quins up against Antoine Burban, James Haskell and Sergio Parisse, while at scrum half, the occasionally controversial Julien Dupuy will test his mettle against the ever energetic Danny Care.

What is certain, is that Leckwith is not going to know what’s hit it with two particularly voiciferous and passionate sets of fans baying for glory.  We’re particularly looking forward to hearing how loud the chants of ‘Uuuuuugooo!’ will be if Mr Monye works some magic.

Ones to watch:

Nick Easter, sometime England captain and cheeky cockney geezer is never a man to be afraid of putting his body on the line to create a chance.

Sergio Parisse, always. In fact, we’ll give you a tenner* if you can find a rugby player, writer or pundit that can say a bad thing about his play.

One to drool over during stoppage time: We know you lot love a bit of Danny Care action, but we’re going to go Mirco Bergamasco, mainly because Anna goes all gooey when he’s around.

*We wont

Words by Lauren

 

Interviewpilez – David Flatman April 28, 2011

Filed under: Bath,Interviewpilez — Manpilez @ 2:55 pm
Tags: , ,

Before the glory of Bath’s incredible 43-10 victory to Wasps on St George’s Day, Lauren had a chat with their prop David Flatman about life at the Rec, scrums and the curious incident of waking up with Julian White, wearing some strange women’s clobber…

Picture from Herring Shoes http://www.herringshoes.co.uk

How’s the mood at Bath at the moment?

It’s good, we were out of form for a few weeks, but it was nice to get a win last week and hopefully repeat that effort this Saturday against Harlequins but the mood’s good. I guess it’s a time of transition but we’re trying to make it as undramatic as possible.

It’s a bit like that across the board at the moment, isn’t it?

Yeah, I guess, well not everyone I don’t think, there are a lot of teams that are quite settled and sorted and we’ve got a little bit of change with the management also.

Those sort of changes aren’t happening at every club and it’s a period we’ve got to get through and work though, but we’ll get there.

The news recently came through that David Barnes is retiring, how’s everyone feeing about that at the moment?

Everyone’s in a pretty good mood about it! No, it’s very very sad, he’s probably one of the best ambassadors for Bath Rugby in the modern era. When you consider that Bath was the third or even fourth Premiership club he arrived at and he still played 266 games for us, that’s pretty incredible, especially in the front row.

[He’s an] unbelievable guy and you know, it can catch up with any of us, he hurt his neck, his hands started feeling funny and his arms started feeling funny and he’s in a lot of pain – that’s not how you want to go out.  He probably wanted to go out and score a hat trick at Twickenham like we all do. He’s a good guy and he’s got his head screwed on and I’m sure he’ll be very successful now his rugby’s finished but it’s going to take a while to get his head around it.

Are you planning any sort of testimonial celebrations for him?

Barnsey’s been doing his own testimonial for about 15 years now. His testimonial, run for him finished officially about a year ago, but there’s an event for him tomorrow, another one next week… I picked up a flyer last week at the Rec, off the floor cause, you have to try and pick litter when you can, and saw my name down as presenting/MCing an event. It says Help for Heroes but his name was on the flyer as well so that’s going on and he failed to tell me about that but I guess he’s had a lot on his plate!

How’s your own season been so far?

It’s been alright, I’ve had some good games and some bad, and some stuff to work on, but hopefully starting to play a bit better now. What we want to do is achieve something towards the end of the season. The top six is massive for us, and reaching the play-offs?  We’re desperate to do that. If we can, great, but if not we just have to take as much as we can and play as well as we can so it’s not just a season for season’s sake. But it’s been a little bit up and down, I don’t think I’ve been too awful or too brilliant at any point.  I think now, even though there’s only a few games left I just want to fulfil as much potential as I can for those games.

So have you had any particular highlights so far this season?

Dave Barnes’ retirement! No I’m joking… he’s actually one of my best mates so I’m allowed to say things that.

We played a great game against Northampton at the Rec a month or so ago, that was very enjoyable to play in. I think we’ve dug out some really hard wins; we dug out a hard one against Sale on Friday night. We almost had a highlight up at Welford Road where we came very close but didn’t manage to do it but, you know, you manage every so often to get a win that makes everyone feel great. So there have been highlights.

John Connelly our old coach told me once that ‘Rugby in the end is a blur, you only remember the good days’ Most of the games I’ve ever played are part of the blur. Very occasionally one or two stick out. You can get very excited about a big home win but it’s finishing positions and trophies that count so we’re still looking for those highlights

That’s very philosophical of you.

Well it’s not really, it’s the truth. When you’re 19 and you play a big game and manage to win it’s the highlight of your career but when you’ve played about 250 of them, it doesn’t become boring, it’s still as exciting as it ever was but you have a lot more perspective on the game. Will I look back in ten years and remember the time we beat Northampton at the Rec? Probably not. Will I remember the day we won at Welford Road? Maybe, but what I want to remember is the days we won trophies and titles. We’re still looking at the bigger picture, still aiming for our ultimate highlights but they haven’t happened yet.

Obviously, a few years ago there was a bit of controversy around Bath. In the cold light of day now do you feel that it has made you stronger as a squad?   

Well there was a lot of controversy a couple of years ago, and a lot of people felt that there was a lot of emotional damage that went with that, I disagreed at the time. I don’t know. The only emotional damage I felt was that I was gutted that it had got that far and they were my mates and I was gutted for my mates.

Not just gutted that they got told off and punished but gutted that the situation had become so serious for them. The main damage was that we lost five of our first choice players and a lot of guys that had been at the club for a very long time and played a lot of games here.  It’s very difficult, if you take five top guys out of the Manchester United team and they probably wouldn’t be winning the league this year so, that was more it for me.

We signed some really good guys, they’re bedding in and it’s onwards and upwards. To be honest, it’s a forgotten episode at the club; you certainly don’t take the field at Wasps or Exeter or Quins and thing ‘let’s make up for the controversy that happened two years ago’. You asking me the question is probably the first time I’ve thought about it in about six months! But then, I wasn’t involved and it’s probably harder for the guys that were but you get past these things and when the shit hits the fan on the field you’re just thinking about what’s in front of you.

From a spectator’s perspective, it does seem like Bath are on the up and reaching for glory, and that you seem to have improved season on season since then. Would you agree that it’s how you guys feel or, am I romanticising it?

I think maybe you’re romanticising it a bit, but that’s all right!  Out there there’s no time for romance. We’re all striving, we’re all aiming for glory and it’s all about finding the right formula, signing the right players, it’s about getting the management structures right, even your facilities.

We’re changing a lot of stuff at the moment and the idea is that we’ll have the right sort of solidity to move forward, and to become a squad where we know where we are in all aspects. We’ve always been striving, and we did well before the controversy, we were making semi-finals in the Premiership and Heineken Cup. I hope we’re getting better, but everyone’s getting better. However romantic that sounds I’m not sure!

You spoke recently about how ‘downtime’ isn’t really ‘downtime’ any more when injuries happen. Do you think that’s made the game stronger or more entertaining because players are always ‘on’?

Not that long ago you’d get injured and you’d just disappear and come back when you’re nearly fit. The injured guys get hammered now but you give us guys a week off and we’re bored. I don’t think it’s an addiction to exercise, I think it’s just boring because all your mates are training and you’re on your own. It’s like trying to bunk off school for the day, there’s no point bunking off on your own, especially when you’ve got kids, it’s probably more peaceful hitting the scrummage machine than it is sitting in the lounge.

You want something to do, you need a little bit of time to rest and get over the injury but then you want to get active.  Guys now have what you might call a hard time but actually it’s great because you’re kept active, all the able parts of your body get worked on and it’s a time to make gains.

You still get your downtime, the players wouldn’t do a huge amount after lunch, and they have a bit of structure to life, so I think it’s better, you’re not off down the bookies and coffee shop to coffee shop. We’re in a better state now than we were.

There’s been a lot of talk this season about issues around the scrum – do you feel something needs to change?

Yeah, of course it does there’s just so much for the referees to do, you’ve got to look at the timing of the engage. Every referee’s different, there’s no standard timing. There’s a reason for that, humans are all different – as soon as you have a standard timing people will be second guessing it and pushing the limits but it’s very difficult as an exhausted front rower sometimes, to stick to the timing. There’s a huge amount of free kicks and penalties. It used to just be ‘is he collapsing?’  Or ‘Is he boring in?’ Now the loosehead has to have his hands somewhere – but can he get it there because the tighthead is binding on his arm? And is the ref spotting that?

Actually the most refreshing game we’ve had this year was Nigel Owens refereeing us against Saracens. I think I’m right in saying that his big thing is that he does no video preparation for the game – you might say he’s unprepared but actually, he’s just refereeing what he sees, so he comes in with no preconceived ideas. You might say some of the penalties went the other way, I think both teams got penalised, but it was fresh and you could tell that he hadn’t had a nod from somebody to watch out for him doing this or him doing that. You can build yourself a reputation, rightly or wrongly, for being a cheat or for being immortal at the scrum. But that’s our job, so someone coming in completely unbiased, with no preconception of what he might see it was great for us and both teams really enjoyed it.

Something’s got to change, I mean it’s a complete dog show, the scrum now, it’s very different to how it was five years ago. It’s not that anyone’s cheating, it’s not that at all, it’s just bloody difficult to get everything right, to tick every box.

Sometimes a scrum will fall on the floor, if the ball’s at the back who’s bothered? A lot of the time that’s honestly how we view it, because apart from anything else it’s bloody hard work continuing to reset scrums.  Equally, refs have been told not to reset as many scrums because it’s boring spectacle so they are directly pressured to make a decision. So are they always confident the decision is the right one?

Like any referee in any sport, they get stuff wrong; they know that, so do we, that’s fine. But you know you’re forcing a ref to be really assertive about something where, half the time being honest, we don’t know what’s going on! I feel like you’re almost going to have to take the hit away now, get everyone in the right position and then begin the scrum, it might take a couple of seconds longer but there’ll only be one, there won’t be too many resets.

Who knows what they’re going to do they might add another stage to the ‘Crouch Touch Pause Engage’ and make it a 13 stage process or whatever they do, I dunno but, we’ll see.

What would be your perfect day off?

A perfect day off would be Baby letting me sleep till Eight, pop the dogs around the block, have a cruise into Bath for a nice lazy bit of breakfast, take my dogs into the fields surrounding Bath or to the Bath race course, probably have an hour or two on the sofa, chill out – because your bones are pretty tired come day off time, then it’s all about the next meal. So then meet somebody for lunch, relax again, meet somebody for dinner, relax again. Pretty sedentary day, that’s how I like to spend it. I mean, we’re so active all the time. I probably do more exercise on my day off than most because I have to walk my dogs for an hour and a half every day, but a day of not thumping around and not thinking too much is generally what I like so usually it involves how I’m going to plan my three meals out.

What kind of dogs do you have – people will ask!

I’ve got an Old English Mastiff and I’ve got an English Bull Terrier Cross, and he looks like one!

I bet they take a lot of exercise, they’re quite feisty things aren’t they?

Yeah, the bull terrier loves a run, the Mastiff isn’t so keen but he gets a lot of exercise cause of his brother basically!

If you were stuck on a desert island with two of your team mates, who would you like it to be and why?

Oh god! Um… Peter Short, because he’s a one man entertainment centre and …ooh…who else, probably Michael Claasens as he’s so nice he’d probably offer himself up to be eaten first.

Is that something you’d be prepared to do?

Yeah, he’d make good eating I reckon, Mikey; nice and lean, free range, yeah he’d be alright.

Who’s the best or worst roomate when you’re away?

The worst is Duncan Bell, because before you’ve even put your bags on your bed he’s eaten all the shortbread biscuits. And because he’s like a St. Bernard and he’s got loads of excess skin in his throat through years of overeating he snores like a train, so you spend most of the night whacking him with a pillow. As soon as you want to turn the telly on and chill out after dinner he’s on his iPad with his ridiculously enormous headphones on around his massive cow-head being the most antisocial roommate ever and then ruins your night’s sleep after that.

Martin Wood, the former Bath and England scrum half, was the best roommate. He was my roommate for years here. Whenever we get to a hotel we always have to put our bags down then go and meet or a team stretch, which I always think is a bit of a waste of time cause I’m a bit old school. But Woody used to say ‘The stretch can wait’ and he’d always put the kettle on so we used to always be 10 minutes late for a stretch cause we’d have a nice brew first! I liked it because he made three or four cups of tea a night.

Do you have any pre-match rituals?

No! Not really, I always try not to forget my boots. No I don’t really have any, I sort of think that superstitions make you nervous, because there are things you have to do before a game there’ll always be times when you can’t do them all or something will be out of place and you’ll go into a game feeling all insecure.

What’s been your favourite touring moment?

In 2000, winning in South Africa with England. We won the second test, which was nice and popped out for a few beers, inevitably you end up separating out into your own little cliques with the guys you know best of all so Danny Grewcock, Julian White and I ended up having a few pints in the corner together. Long story short, by the next day we were labelled ‘The Jo’burg Three’. There were a few incidents that night – nothing untoward, you understand- but it involved someone getting paid off and Danny, Julian and I having to give back all the girls clothes that we were wearing when we woke up.

There were no girls there, evidently, but their clothes were with us. Unfortunately there was nothing romantic to reported that night but… Well, I got to spend the night in bed with Julian White, which wasn’t very nice. I think some girls rather unwisely left some nice jackets and blouses and scarves in the cloakroom and we couldn’t find our jackets, our England blazers, we decided we needed a little crop top each to keep us warm.

Someone also commandeered one of the hotel’s golf buggies and rolled it and we were accused and it wasn’t us. I want to state for the record it was not us. I know who it was, I’m just not telling you who!

Who’s your ultimate rugby hero?

Wade Dooley, I used to love Wade Dooley. He’s just big and hard and no nonsense, and I like him, very little drama, seemed like a good old boy that just got on with it.

Is there anyone currently that inspires you?

I think the best, he’s not my hero but the best player I’ve played against in the last couple of years is Stephen Ferris, who plays for Ulster and Ireland. I have no idea how he plays in the Magners League, I don’t see any of these games, but when we’ve played against him in the Heineken Cup the last few years he’s been pretty phenomenal. Rugby must be hilarious when you’re that good.

What’s your favourite book?

It’s called  After the Lemons, and it’s by a local Bath journalist called Kevin Coughlan, it’s a book about the glory years of Bath Rugby and it’s brilliant.

How about album?

I think Plan Bis my favourite at the moment; I’ve been listening to it most days for about a year. I tend to have one album that I hammer for about a year then I get another one. I get one album a year because I’m not very cool. Olly Barkley told me Plan B was good so I downloaded it. That’s not true, I bought it on CD but I’m the only person that still buys CDs anymore, and I absolutely love it, I even converted Danny Grewcock to it who’s 47 years old, so it must be good!

How about film?

I bet everyone says Shawshank, don’t they? I think if there’s one film I can’t turn off when it’s on it’s Predator. Always loved it since.

Interview by Lauren, Picture by Herring Shoes. Amazon links help to support Manpilez.

 

Interviewpilez: Danny Care April 17, 2011

Filed under: Harlequins,Interviewpilez — Manpilez @ 6:40 pm
Tags: , , ,

As the season gears up to its explosive end and the sun starts to peek out behind the blossom, our Lauren went down to Surrey Sports Park in the blazing sunshine to chat to Harlequins and England scrum half Danny Care about the Six Nations, Munster and which film still makes him tear up a bit…

How’s the mood in camp at the moment?

It’s good, it’s really good. Everyone’s looking forward to a big game against Bath at the weekend and we were really happy to beat Wasps last weekend. We were a bit disappointed about our performance in the second half so hopefully we can get another win and kick on for the rest of the season.

Excellent, so are you excited, looking forward to Munster in the Amlin Challenge Cup Semi Final?

Yeah, that’ll be awesome playing at Thomond Park with a load of screaming Irish fans! It’ll be one of the biggest games in the club’s history for a long time so we’re really looking forward to that.

It can be quite scary there with the home fans…

Yeah, I think it’ll definitely be an experience; we’re really looking forward to it. We didn’t really mind whether we got Munster or Brive but I think Munster away will be even more special.

How’s your season been so far?

Yeah, I’ve enjoyed it, it’s had some ups and downs, obviously it was great to win the Six Nations Championship with England, but you know to lose in that last Grand Slam decider was obviously disappointing. I’m happy with how I’ve played and it’s great to be back in a Quins shirt at the moment and playing hopefully some good rugby.

Obviously I’m chuffed that we won [the Six Nations], it was a bittersweet moment getting that trophy and getting that medal when we’d obviously lost the game with Ireland, but I think overall, over the five games we were the best team in the tournament and I think we deserved it.

Do you feel the Aviva Premiership play-offs are still achievable for Harlequins at this point?

No, I think it’s pretty much gone for us now. All we can do is aim as high as we can and hopefully get that top six for the Heineken Cup next year

What have been your personal highlights this year?

[John Andress happens by] Playing with John Andress

Obviously, playing with John Andress is always a big highlight for me, but I think with Quins, winning against Northampton away, we went down to 13 men and somehow still won, so that was brilliant. And I got a little try in that game which was nice, and obviously winning the Six Nations.

Are you trying to build momentum towards getting to the World Cup?

Yeah, I think it’s on everyone’s mind, you know, anyone who’s got a chance of playing for their country, and you want to play well in these last few games for your club, it’s sort of the last chance you’ve got to prove to the selectors that you should be playing. So hopefully I can keep playing well and get in their heads!

Do you have a healthy competition with Ben Youngs?

Yeah it is yeah, it’s a good rivalry, we get on really well with each other and help each other out when we can at England camp and it’s great to come up against each other when we get to play against Leicester.

If the rules about England selection weren’t an issue would you consider playing abroad or is your heart at Quins?

Obviously my heart’s at Quins at the moment, I’ve just signed for another two years after this one so I’m here for the foreseeable future. I think if the weather was like this nobody would want to leave but it’s not always like this. I think it’s something I’d love to do at some point in my career but not just yet.

What would be your perfect day off?

[John Kingston] Never stops does it… you talking rubbish…

I think round going to John Kingston’s house, and then playing golf with him and then gambling with him all day

If you were stranded on a desert Island with two Quins, who would they be?

I’d take Jordy – Jordan Turner Hall – and I’d take Ugo Monye as well.

Why would you pick those two?

We’re inseparable really so wherever we’d go, we’d have to go together and I’m sure we’d have a good laugh anyway.

What’s the whole Quietly thing all about?

It’s a silly thing, really, it’s basically…  if you do something that’s good, or you think something’s good you say Quietly as in…. [does a sort of lowering hands mime] Quietly. So if someone scores a good try, you go up to them quietly and go [mimes again] “quietly”. It’s silly really. It’s to reward a good thing. And it can be used in all contexts.

Picture from those nice people at Zimbio

Danny and Partner in Crime Ugo Monye illustrate their quietness

Where did it come from?

It’s been passed down… I think Chris Malone might have started it, an Aussie guy who used to play at Quins but plays at London Irish now, he had a lot of dodgy phrases I think he might have given us that and it’s caught on.

So, playing under the shadow of Twickenham, when you first moved to Quins did you find it intimidating or inspirational?

Yeah it was quite inspiring really. I mean being from Leeds I’d ever really been down to The Stoop before, I think once when I was playing for Leeds Academy when I was 17, but the ground was completely different then. It’s great to be close to the home of rugby and you know, we’re very proud to be a London club. I think we’re the only proper London club.

Who’s the best or worst room mate when you’re away?

The *worst* room mate would have to be Nick Easter. He smells, quite a lot, he’s just a big man. The best way to describe him would be a big man, a proper man so he does everything a proper man would do.

The best room mate… I’d have to say I am the best room mate, I always bring sweets

Not that you’re bigging yourself up or anything…?

I always bring sweets and great chat!

Do you have a pre-match ritual? Any songs or anything to get you prepared?

Not really. There are always some songs on the sound system in the changing rom. I like to be quite relaxed before a game, just chill out not really have to think about it before I have to run out and play so I like to go in with a chilled sense.

No pre-match treat?

Not really, I’m quite random  with what I eat… but if I play well in a certain pair of boots I won’t wash them I’ll wear them again exactly the way they were when finished maybe wear a lucky pair of boxers before the game if I’ve played well in them the week before

What’s your favourite book?

You know what I haven’t read a book in a long time, which is bad, and my mum always gets on at me about it. I‘ve recently bought Chris Evans’ autobiography (Memoirs of a Fruitcake"") , which was recommended to me.

CD?

Anything really, anything from Westlife to 50 Cent

Westlife, really!?

Yeah… I like a bit of everything!

Film?

Home Alone"" Home Alone.  Every Christmas time.

Do you still cry?

Little bit…

Game

On the Playstation it would be FIFA 11""

What’s your best tour moment so far?

Probably when we beat Australia last summer. I was on the bench for the first half so it was a bit frustrating, but it was great to win out there.

Actually, the best moment was going shark diving in Australia. We went in this massive aquarium with loads of sharks and stuff and a tortoise came into the testing pool before we got in. They told us if anything comes in to not be scared, to just stay still but this tortoise came into the cage and Ugo just jumped out of the pool! I’ve never seen him move that quick before in my life!

Do you get a lot of stick for being Northern down here?

Yeah I do, a fair bit. Used to have David Strettle down here and that helped me but since he’s gone I think there’s only really me and Tom Castle, who’s a Manchester lad, so me and him get quite  a lot of stick.

North/South divide in the changing room?

Yeah, there is, there is…

Who’s your rugby hero?

Growing up I really liked watching Justin Marshall play. I was really lucky as I got a chance to work with him when he signed for Leeds, and it was my first year out of school so I learned from him and he was the best scrum half in the world so it was brilliant for me to learn off him. Matt Dawson, I used to love watching him so I’ve been lucky to work with a lot of good scrum halves.

Anyone currently?

[Olly Kohn walks by] Olly Kohn, the big second rower, 20 stone Olly Kohn. He’s one of my idols in rugby. I admire him. His shelf, in particular, I’m a big fan of.

Olly Barkley recently spoke out about how nice it would be if rugby moved to the summer, which it kind of feels like today, what are your thoughts on that?

I would be all for that, definitely! No one wants to see people playing against Newcastle away when it’s tipping it down with rain or snow in December, we want to play in the summer. Everyone wants to see tries; no-one wants to see boring games. I’d definitely change it to the summer if I could!

Campaign starts here then!

 

Burning questions asked by Lauren, Photo from Zimbio, Thanks to Sarah at Quins

Wee Print – Links to products mentioned by Danny go to Amazon through their Assosiates Programme. Purchases made through these links help to support Manpilez.

 

Belated Newspilez: Here’s our Graham (or Lauren) With a Quick Recap… April 8, 2011

Hey, look  we didn’t die of anti-climax from the last weekend of the Six Nations! An anti climax so severe it managed to leave everyone but Ireland lower in the table than they’d seemed to be heading and lead to the silverware being dished out in what looked like a cupboard.

With every one of the Six Nations returning to base camp with their tails between their legs, there seems to have been something of a resurgence in the domestic game. Though the Magners League and Aviva Premierships rattled on really rather nicely during the competition, the wounded internationals appear to have returned purely to prove their mettle and so the race to the respective playoffs has become mightily interesting over the last few weeks.

In particular, the Aviva Premiership felt like a cup final weekend last week, and that was no more felt than at The Stoop, where visitor Leicester Tigers beat Harlequins in one of the most closely and fiercely fought clashes we’ve seen all year. Punches, failed scrums, contentious tries, yellow & red cards and at one point, boots, were flying all over the place. It was messy, but boy was it exciting as both teams played their skins off.

The Citing commissioner had a mightily busy weekend all of his own and as well as Quins’ Joe Marler and Tigers’ Marcos Ayerzer’s bans for their fisticuffs towards the end of the match, Mark Cueto found himself in trouble after getting a little too far up in the grill of Northampton Second Rower Christian Day. The wait till Cuets’ hearing will be a particularly long one for England fans, as ‘contact with the eye or eye area’ can attract a ban of as much as two years.

In the Magners league, things weren’t quite so fraught but that’s not to say they were any less exciting. With the leaderboard painfully close and just three weekends left to go, the competition is massively hotting up and Munster v Leinster in particular had supporters in fever pitch, only for Munster to scrape past their visitors with a 24-23 victory. Meanwhile, the South Wales Derby of Ospreys v Blues ended in a draw after both teams defended their actual bottoms off to end 21-21 without a single try being scored.

Both leagues are having an off-week this week to allow for the excitement that is Heineken and Amlin Quarter Finals which means the madness has descended. ..

  • Saracens, now without the media whirlwinds of Brendan Ventner and Gavin Henson have caused a stir this week by spending their week off training with the Miami Dolphins and taunting members of rival teams via social networks. Expect a lot of forward passes at Vicarage Road in the coming weeks as they try and secure their place in the Home Playoff zone
  • Ben Youngs, fresh from thrown-out-ball-gate, has become Leicester’s Karl Pilkington after a mystery member of the Tigers squad has started a twitter account @stuffbensaid. So far it has featured such gems as : “ME: I heard you’re doing a session with Kyren Bracken Every Fortnight Lendrid: I am, but not every fortnight, he’s only up twice a month”. Tom Croft has also managed to convince Ben that they could breed salmon ready stuffed with cream cheese.  No, really.
  • The Ospreys have sadly had to lose two players to enforced retirement on medical grounds in the space of a week. Firstly Ben Lewis was taken away from the Liberty Stadium by a nasty neck injury sustained early in the season, and young lock Conor McInerny has succumbed to a persistent knee injury. We wish them both all the best of luck for the future.
  • Gavin Henson scored his first try for Toulon. The media have dubbed him The Best Player In The Universe again. We’re going to give him a few weeks before we pass judgement.

Closer to home, you’ll hopefully be pleased to hear that during our absence we’ve been away plotting for more great stuff for the next few weeks, and you know what, you’re going to love it. Not that we’re blowing our own trumpet or owt. We’ve lined up some cracking interviews  over the next few weeks to fuel your excitement as the season comes to a head.

First to get a grilling will be winner of your favourite nudey picture, Harlequins scrum half Danny Care, then we’ll be  heading west to bother Bath prop David Flatman and finally over the border to annoy Ospreys prop Cai Griffiths and referee Nigel Owens. And we’ve even got lovely lady rugbyist Jemma Cooper from Quins’ Ladies giving us her twopenneth. Blimey.  As ever, because we’re lovely,  if there’s anything you’re dying to know, get in touch with us in the usual ways.

This week we’ll be down at the Stoop for the Amlin Cup Quarter final clash between Quins and Wasps, so if you see us, say hello!

Words by Lauren

 

Newspilez March 12th 2011 Part Two: Blahdy Hell… March 13, 2011

The penultimate Saturday of the Six Nations is usually an exciting affair as teams make their last gasp attempts to push themselves up the table before it’s too late and Grand Slam dreams are dashed or fueled. This week, with only two of the three matches played, it’s already been a HUM-DINGER.

I’m not going to lie to you, this humble manpiler tuned into Italy v France this afternoon expecting France to walk away with the Garibaldi cup with nary a bat of an eyelid but what actually happened was a lot more like this:

 

Picture from Zimbio

Azzurri: Fuck YEAH!

It wasn’t pretty (well not play-wise..), but the Azzuri finally broke through and did what we all thought was impossible, they beat their nearest neighbours, neighbours who still hold the Six Nations Trophy. After 50 minutes of play that could only be described as ‘scrappy’ from both sides, with an early and clinical try from Vincent Clerc and two failed kicks from Mirco Bergamasco that left nobody in any doubt that France could have Italy for breakfast, something amazing happened.

Quite apart from Mirco Bergamasco’s boot chipping away at les bleus lead, Andrea Masi went over the whitewash for an amazing try that ate into France’s 18-6 lead and left everyone but the Azzuri doubting themselves. Italy became ferocious, defending like their lives depended on it and forcing errors all over the shop until, with a heart stopping three minutes left on the clock, Mirco’s boot once again found its way to another three points which took them ahead of France in Rome for the first time in the Six Nations.

What followed was the most tense and breathtaking three minutes of the tournament so far, with everyone who wasn’t French desperately willing Italy to close it down. A few failed scrums later and the whistle sealed France’s fate, etching Italy’s name onto the Garibaldi prize and making sure there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

It’s been a long wait for Italy to get this but the way they played today and against Ireland at the beginning of the tournament suggests it won’t be long till wins like this are no longer such a shock.

Manpilez Man of the Match: Mirco Bergamasco, for rising to such intense pressure

Meanwhile, in Cardiff, Wales v Ireland was also going off big time. The most evenly matched  game of the weekend started off a little bit… meh, if we’re honest. Despite a lightening opening salvo with an injury and a try within the first five minutes,  the first half saw neither side capitalising on their opportunities and in the case of  Wales, kicking away possession with alarming regularity.

Ireland’s indicipline was also a big feature of the first half, which though not penalised as much as they probably should have been, was responsible for all of Wales’ points in the first half.

The second half however, opened a can of worms the size of the Millennium Stadium’s over-discussed roof.  After a kick to touch, a mix up around a quickly taken throw-in lead to Mike Phillips’ resulting try being questioned far and wide and was the kind of wrong-balls-up that people are not going to forget in a hurry to the point where Rule 19.2(b) was nearly crowned Man of the match.  The initial kick to touch landed in the crowd, the ball boy handed Matthew Rees the ball, which he quickly fed to Phillips who made a run for the line. The second the Irish boys stopped chasing him they, realised what had happened: to take a thrown in quickly the ball must a) be the same ball that went out and b)must not have been touched by anyone but whoever sent it into touch. As the ball was caught by a spectator and the ball boy had changed the ball neither was the case and a full line out would have been needed. Neither the touch ref or the ref picked up on this and so the try stood, legal or no the ref’s decision was final.

Whether this would have ultimately prevented a try from Phillips when he was clearly on a mission to have his 50th cap a try-scoring one we will never know, but we do know that Wales’ eventual victory by 6 of the resulting 7 points means that the Irish are not going to forget it in a hurry.

The rest of the game was understandably fierce as Ireland tried to answer those points but Wales’ return to the blitz defence, predictable or not, put paid to all attempts and as the clock went red and Wales turned over an Irish ball heading dangerously close to the tryline, it was left to Shane Williams only to hoof the ball out of the park to close out at 19-13 and end Wales’ home victory drought while we all allowed ourselves to breathe again.

Manpilez Man of the Match: we’re going to agree with the beeb here and go for James Hook, who other than hitting the woodwork early on, is proving his mettle at 10 in fine style.

Both games are the kind that will keep us talking for weeks to come, which pleased BBC viewers as it actually shut John Inverdale up about England for a full five minutes.

Tomorrow will see England and Scotland battle it out for the Calcutta cup and we can only hope for the same level of drama…

Words by Lauren

 

 

Newspilez 12th March 2011: The State of The Nations March 12, 2011

As we head into the penultimate weekend of Six Nations action now with that last rest week already fees like a distant memory for players and fans alike due to the ramping up of the excitement for the deciding two weeks of the competition, we take stock of how each nation’s campaign has been rattling on so far…

It’s been a strange tournament so far, with teams we had high hopes for falling apart while teams who looked down and out pulling themselves back up from their bootstraps. Granted, it’s not been as heartstopping as we’d have liked, barring a few shining moments, things are now building up towards crunch time for all six of our nations.

England

At the start of the tournament, England were bookies favourites by a hair’s breadth, but after a hard fought victory to Wales on the first night England have stormed on, gaining momentum while all  around are losing theirs. Now it’s getting harder and harder to imagine anyone but England emerging victorious from this competition. The team appear to be coming together, with the talismanic Toby Flood grounding all around him and leaving even his rival for the 10 shirt Johnny Wilkinson mildly in awe and a cohesion seeming to radiate from him. This is a team that seem to have a hyperawareness of what each other are doing that leaves them able to close down most attacks.

They have, however, yet to be challenged too fiercely, Wales were extremely shaky on their first outing and still gave them quite the battle, they faced an already shaken Italy and France were… insane. However the hype surrounding them at the moment is clearly something they want to live up to and with Chris Ashton able to sniff out a try like a beagle at an airport and the return of Messrs Croft and Lawes, the juggernaught looks unstoppable

Ireland

Here at Manpilez, we’re getting a little suspicious that someone’s spiking the Ireland squad’s powerade with clumsy juice. Between a seemingly complete lack of precision or discipline and a feeling that they’ve lost a bit of the passion that saw them win the grand slam two years ago, Ireland’s campaign so far has been woeful at best.

In their defence, they have had some moments of hope, against France they spent a lot of time as The Better Team and though they beat both Italy and Scotland, both matches were close enough that every soft penalty given away pushed them further down the table, meaning that they are languishing at fourth in the table and looking unlikely to claw their way up much higher.

Scotland

Oh, how wrong we were. At the beginning of the tournament we had high hopes for Scotland, their victory against South Africa having gone to our head and made us think that the wooden spoon contest would be different this year. Sadly, things don’t seem to have clicked into place for Alastair Kellock and his men and despite some almost-convincing performances against France and Wales, they haven’t yet been able to gain that extra something that converts the tenacity they have shown into a win.

With age old rivalries being stirred up in this weekend’s Calcutta Cup, it is possible that the Scots may finally find that alchemical difference between a good performance and a winning one, but sadly we’re not holding out much hope.

Wales

In this case, we are extremely happy to have been wrong at the beginning of the tournament, when we had little to no hope of Cymru even being in the top half of the table by the end of the tournament. Now we’re over the half way point and Wales sit proudly at second position and they have an air of building momentum around them.

Despite losing to arch rivals England on the opening night, the men in red had a relatively good start, with a decent performance keeping the losing margin close. Clearly they took confidence from this and have since gone on to beat both Italy and Scotland well. Though there are still some issues visible (especially around discipline) they have the air at the moment of a side who are starting to believe in themselves again, despite some rather insane positional switching.

This weekend’s must-win game against Ireland could be decisive for both sides, who seem to be struggling in the same way, only with one team on the ascendancy and the other heading into deterioration. We reckon the smart money is in £ not € this time.

Italy

Poor Italy. Though it can still be said that the Azzuri have fronted up a lot better than in previous years, there has still been a sense that other than a few stand out players, this is a team completely out of it’s depth. There is a sense that even they thought they had a chance right up until the moment Ronan O’Gara took the field in their really rather close game against Ireland. Pretty much since that moment Italy have looked like a rabbit in headlights, and their game against England was such a massacre as to look almost cruel by the end.

We’d like to say we thought there was a chance of a comeback but with a wounded France in their future this weekend, it’s looking unlikely.

France

There were many jokes bandying around before the tournament that the changeable lineup of France over the last year meant it depended which side turned up each day how well France would do. Bizarrely, despite a relatively stable roster, they’ve still somehow managed to be completely different teams in each game. Ferocious and clinical against Scotland, Arrogant and lazy against Ireland and seemingly a bit lost against England, it’s a wonder they are in third position and so close to Wales in Second.

However, Italy are going to prove far less of a challenge this week so it will be interesting to see if they capitalise on this or allow themselves to get complacent even after being stopped in their tracks last time out.

We’ll be back in the week to cover this weekend’s action and cover some of the dafter elements of the campaigns so far that we’ve missed over the last few weeks of life getting in the way. Enjoy folks!

Words by Lauren

 

Interviewpilez: Tom Croft February 20, 2011

Filed under: Interviewpilez,Leicester Tigers — Manpilez @ 3:53 pm
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As you can probably imagine, when we started up Manpilez just seven months ago, it was all about the glitz and glamour, the showbiz parties and jetsetting… Which is why we were a little confused when, on a drizzly Wednesday morning we found ourselves in a run down old football ground on the outskirts of Leicester. The posts were the wrong configuration, there were hoardings for the rental of a Pony and Plough while a small gaggle of Serious Journalists were standing on the other side of the room wondering what two ladies wearing what proved to be inappropriate footwear were doing there.

Thankfully, just as we were starting to worry, Leicester Tigers’ press officer appeared and took us away from all this and into the seventh circle of the Tigers’ lair to meet  flanker extraordinaire and all round nice bloke Tom Croft.  Though we clearly confused the man from the outset “Man…Piles?!”, he led us into the plusher part of the player’s social area while his team mates were having their lunch to have a chat about his imminent return for Tigers, his take on ‘Ash the Splash’ and his best pal Scampy…

Picture taken by our own fair hands

Tom Croft on a grey day

It’s been almost three months since Tom Croft had to duck out of England’s clash with South Africa at Twickenham due to a broken shoulder and on the day we interviewed him we had to be snuck past the Leicester Press “they’re all wanting to know where he is with his injury…” the press officer says as he leads us to where Tom is waiting to be the first person to receive a grilling from us. “Don’t worry” we say “we’re not as serious as all that…”

“So Tom, how’s the shoulder?” We ask, as soon as he’s out of earshot.  Thankfully, Tom is amiable enough to let us ask those difficult, hard hitting questions. Once  he’s crammed all Six foot 50 inches in to a bar style booth in the Tigers’ ‘snug’ he smiles, knowing full well there was no way he’d get away with it “ It’s going well; I’ve been saying for a few weeks that it’s nearly there. It’s just obviously little things at the end of an injury which hold you back. Touch wood it’s pretty much there now, it’s just a few little things you have to cross the Ts and dot the Is then hopefully be back soon for selection.”

Indeed, it’s looking increasingly likely that this weekend’s clash against troubled Wasps at Welford road could see Tom line up for action alongside returning team mates Martin Castrogiovanni and George Chuter who have been released for the off-week of the Six Nations.  It’s clear to see that the 87 times capped flanker is keen to get stuck back in, though he’s equally keen to play this down “It’s been quite frustrating so I’m looking forward to getting back. Obviously at the end of an injury it takes a while to get back in the swing of things, taking the contact and getting your fitness up”.

Leicester Tigers are currently sitting firmly at the top of the Aviva Premiership table with only four losses so far in this year’s competition, so there are few environments better for motivation to return than one that’s so successful. “We’re very inward looking, we look at ourselves and how our standings are affected on the pitch and what we can do to improve ourselves. Leicester historically have always been near the top of the table every single season, we’ve been in the last seven or eight finals in the premiership and we’ve won so many of them. It’s a good place to be, within the squad there’s a lot of competition for places but other teams within the premiership now are playing a lot better and it’s tougher and tougher games each year so we have to improve our skills you know, we can’t just remain stagnant and hope we win because we’re Leicester.”

It’s obvious from the off that Tigers mean a lot to Tom, and he quickly dismisses any hints that he and his pride could ever become complacent with a shrug and a laugh, past successes clearly failing to go to his head. When we turn our questioning to the possibility he’ll return for  the Six Nations, that loyalty comes out in waves “Priority is getting back playing for Leicester, Leicester’s your bread and butter, it’s where you learn your skills and where you play majority of your rugby in a season. So I just want to get back playing for Leicester really, try and regain a starting shirt. Obviously the boys are going well who are playing there so I’ve got to work hard off the pitch as well as on the pitch to try and get back in there.”

That’s not to say, however, that he’s not aware of the competition that has bubbled up in his absence, with Tom Wood impressing many in the shirt many had hoped Tom would return in time to occupy “Obviously it’s tough watching other players step into your place when you’re injured. I was there at the Italy game watching from the side line and it’s tough watching them perform exceedingly well as you don’t really see a place for yourself back in that team. But like I say I’m getting back playing for Leicester first, try and regain some form and I’ll go from there”.

Promising words, all told, especially as from that side line, he is rating England’s chances for a long awaited Six Nations win, or even better a Grand Slam with or without him “This is one of our best chances we’ve had in a number of years. We’ve started very, very well. It’s a team that’s been brought up over a number of years but we just haven’t had the success in the Six Nations.  I think the team’s come together very well, there are a few new faces and it’s a team that likes to attack, the first two games have shown that, especially the Italian game. Although it was not the best performance by Italy but [they were] still finishing tries and you know the French game coming up will possibly be the decider of the tournament, we could see who goes on to win, so England can’t get complacent with two wins from two. France will offer something completely different; it’ll be a much bigger test”.

As talk turned to England, we took the opportunity to ask who has impressed him so far and it didn’t take long for the man of the moment to come up “Obviously Chris Ashton, scoring as many tries as he has so far is really encouraging”.

A lot has been said about the Northampton Winger over the last two weeks both in terms of his incredible run of points and that signature move, which has sparked many a debate even within the Manpilez Team but Croft takes it on the chin “I don’t see the problem. You know, back in the day Ben Cohen used to do them all the time, nothing was said then. Scoring for England’s a great thing, if that’s how he wants to celebrate then until he drops one… It’s happened in the past in the premiership games, you know, players have dropped the ball but I think as a player you know when the ball’s secure and until he does drop it I’m sure he’ll keep on doing it!”

Picture COurtesy of Leicster Tigers

However, he’s clearly too modest to get into such showmanship himself “I’m pretty renowned at the club for having one of the worst dives. I tend to knee slide or just dot it down, I’m too wary of dropping the ball, I don’t think I’d play again if I dropped it. Just put it down, two hands, that’s it.”

Of the rest of the England squad, he’s even more enthusiastic “Mark Cueto has always been a bit of an unsung hero he hadn’t scored for a while so scoring against Italy you saw the reaction of the team, how much it meant. He makes those hard yards all the time” but naturally, has a special place in his praise for his Leicester team mates, especially the half back pairing that’s impressing anyone with eyes, of Toby Flood:  “The way Toby Flood’s controlling the team at the moment is very good, he’s starting to make breaks, open holes for players to go through” and flatmate Ben Youngs “Ben Youngs is Ben Youngs, he does the same as he does every single game; he creates those chances. I think the way Floody and Youngs are working together well as they do for Leicester week in week out”.

“Obviously you want your team mates to do well in the squad. I mean Ben Youngs has risen dramatically over the past year in the ranks and Toby Food has continued his form,  so has Dan Cole and Lou Deacs so it’s good to see them doing well but it’ll be good to have them back at the club.”

With the serious bit out of the way, we got onto more…. Manpilez business. Apart from his obvious skills on the pitch, one of the reasons we chose Tom as our first victim was the sheer amount of love he gets from you, our dear readers. We weren’t quite sure how to broach this subject, however, but we can confirm that our timing absolutely sucked as a throng of Tigers drifted over just as we uttered words to the effect of ‘How does it feel to know that all our readers wanted to know if you’re single?’ and discovered that yes, it is definitely possible to make someone that tough blush. And look a bit frightened. “ Uh, yeah, it’s nice but my girlfriend might have something to say about that!”  Sorry ladies.

Thankfully, we were able to reassure Tom that neither we nor our readers were just dirty pervs by letting him know just why he was one of the winners of a Manpilez Award. Though his team mates had, by then, boarded the banter bus by chiming in to find out if the award was for ‘Sexiest Man in Leicester’ it was clear to see that Tom was relieved to discover it was the ‘Workhorse award’ for all round performances and though he clearly struggles with an attack of the modest,  he was keen to wax lyrical on the kind of players that had inspired that sort of work rate.

“Someone like Lewis Moody I think. Obviously he’s the England captain, and he’s recently moved down to Bath but the way he’s played throughout his career he puts his body on the line, he takes every single call as to whether it’s hopeless or not. The reason why he’s injured a lot of the time is because he does put his body to the extreme and you know that’s the sort of player I’ve tried to take inspiration from. Historically, Someone like [Peter]Winterbottom, who was again, renowned for being… well, a sort of Lewis Moody figure back in the day. I keep referring back to Moods because he is one of those players… [George Chuter happens by] obviously George Chuter’s a bit of a workhorse as well!”

So, with us hoping that inspiration doesn’t extend in to further layoffs for him, we hit tom with the Manpilez Quickfire (read: daft) questions:

With the World Cup approaching, are you already preparing yourself?

Because of my injury the World Cup seems a long way off yet so I’m looking forward to getting my fitness and my form back and I’ll think about that later on!

We’ve heard you were a bit of a mover in the past, would you ever consider getting the sequins out for Strictly or…

[very quickly and definitely] No.  I would get far too much abuse being at this sort of camp

Worst roommate?

Worst room mate… dunno. The one that used to be worst was Seru Rabini who’s left the club now but he used to snore like… I’ve never heard snoring as bad and you’d get no sleep.

Best Roomate(s)?

Matt Smith, Ben Youngs, someone who’s entertaining.

Have you got any favourite incidents that have happened while you’ve been away?

TC: not that I can really repeat so we’ll skirt over that one!

We don’t really censor at Manpilez…

Probably best leave that there then!

Do you have like a pre match ritual?

Night before always have a carbonara, before a game, Jelly Babies.  It’s not really a superstition, just something I’ve got into a routine of doing.

On the subject of Carbonara, we see that you’ve got a dish on the menu at Castro’s restaurant, how did that come about?

Obviously  it’s a new restaurant owned by Castro and Geordan,  so they just tried to get a few players onto the menu with their favourite dishes, it’s a restaurant owned by rugby players so why not have a bit of Rugby influence?

Are you famous for your carbonara then?

Well… I cook it for a couple of the boys. Geordy’s usually over, obviously Ben Youngs who I live with, a couple of boys come over before a game so it goes down alright

Favourite book?

I don’t do a lot of reading I really enjoyed the Da Vinci Code.  I like War stories, those sort of things. Currently reading Bill Bryson’s History of Absolutely Everything so that sort of thing. And obviously Harry Potter, how could I forget!?

Film?

Shawshank Redemption

Song?

Either Status Quo, Rockin’ All Over the World or Flogging Molly ‘If I Ever Leave This World Alive’ it’s on the film P.S. I Love You, but it’s a really good song. Really gets the boys going anyway!

What’s been your best tour moment?

Lions.

Is that something you’d always dreamed of or was it out of the blue?

It’s something you’re always aware of but never expect yourself to go on it. I was 23 at the time so I perceived it as something an older player did, maybe towards the end of their career so I never thought I’d go on it and play three tests. You know, it was just a great experience. It was six weeks of hard work but you were excited all the time and it was a real honour to go play there.

How did you react when you got the call?

It was literally three days before the Heineken Cup final so I didn’t really have much chance to take it in. I was very much focusing on the game against Leinster then I left the next day so it didn’t actually sink in till I was on the flight going over.

Do you keep in touch with the other Lions that were on your tour?

Yeah, obviously Harry Ellis, he’s recently retired but he’s in Leicester and a few of the Irish boys. You end up playing against a few of the players you played with so you catch up with them after games and it’s quite nice have friendships across rugby.

Did you find it quite strange playing alongside you’re used to playing against?

At the start it was weird but everyone was in the same boat it was all ‘My God I’m playing for The Lions!’ There was a great buzz and excitement around the camp so that went to the wayside as the boys were all just happy to be there.

And finally…We’ve been reading up on past interviews and we realised there was no way we could get away with not asking you how your dog is…

I think he actually gets more column inches than I do.  Scampy’s very well, he’s sitting in the back of the car at the moment so he seems to pop up in quite a few articles so he’s quite a famous dog now!

Has he been getting involved today?

No, I’ll have my dinner then I’ll take him out on the pitch later, he’ll run around and chase some balls and, yeah, he’s quite a cool little dog. He’s not the biggest dog, he’s quite…  a runt really, but he’s good fun doesn’t take too much looking after. He’s going alright!

With that, after a brief expedition onto the rather slippy training pitch to take some pictures, we left Tom alone to deal with lunch, Scampy, the fallout from his team mates from having two girls pitching up to grill him and a small matter of getting back in action…

Tom was grilled by Lauren and snapped by the Manpilez camera & Leicester Tigers.
With thanks to Andy Mann for letting us loose in Leicester.

 

Newspilez: Six Nations round 2 preview February 10, 2011

With most of the teams announced, the unlucky sent home to make themselves useful and the injured strapped up a little tighter in hope for next week, we take a look at this week’s clashes.

England V Italy, Saturday, 2.30, Twickenham

It’s very hard to see how this one is going to go from our point of view. Last week’s win for England came amid a flurry of mistakes from both sides that left us slightly unsure what they were actually capable of. One thing was for sure, however, and that is tenacity, with the forwards seemingly trying to grind the opposition into dust while the backs waited patiently for the slightest mistake, this version of England, unchanged from last week (barring Hendre Fourie on the bench) has the power to sap every scrap of energy from the azzuri and capitalise where it matters.

However, Italy’s heartbreaking defeat to Ireland last week left us saying almost exactly the same thing. With Italy’s pack possibly one of the strongest we saw all weekend and relentless defence work that left even BOD Almighty looking like he was having a coronary by the end, England are going to have a serious fight on their hands and must underestimate Nick Mallet’s boys, who are clearly going to be out to prove a point, at their peril.

Predicted Result : We think Italy might just edge down to sheer determination – 16-21?
One to watch: Sergio Parisse. He was on fire last week, and that was before Ronan O’Gara made him angry, expect boiling this week…

Scotland v Wales, Saturday, 5pm, Murrayfield

Hmm. This could go one of two ways.

Ailing Wales will be travelling to Edinburgh under what must be a massive cloud and eight defeats out of Eleven is going to be an albatross around even the necks of the most stoic that the boys in red will be desperate to shake off. With very few changes, this is a war wounded side that are out to smell some serious blood. With Just two changes to the side that opened the competition last week it could mean the same problems occur, but with one under their belts and a week of uniting in the face of defeat, they may have finally found the cohesion they were so dearly missing against England.

Scotland meanwhile left Paris last week under a different kind of cloud having lost well (if you can call it that) at the Stade de France. With a side this strong at the outset, the wounds will weal quickly and the positives from last week galvanised into pushing out what faults were still present.

We’re either going to see two sides desperate to get a deserved win on the board in each other’s faces right till the end, or, and it pains us to say this, a whitewash for good old Cymru.

Predicted Result: Scotland by 6
One to watch: Bradley Davies – last week it took at least 2 Englishmen to take him out, so it’s going to be interesting to see how he fares against the 12 foot mass of Richie Grey.

Ireland V France, Sunday, 3pm, Aviva Stadium

With Jamie Heaslip’s clean bill of health a much needed boost to the side who managed to scrape victory from the jaws of defeat in Rome last week, Brian O’Driscoll’s merry band will be out to prove a point on home soil this weekend.

Marc Livremont’s almost unchanged side now looks rather more terrifying than the inconsistent wildcard we had them pegged as just a week ago and this is bound to be a physical and intense game that pops the new Landsdowne Road’s Six Nations cherry. If Ireland are to win this they need to take confidence in their experience and the fact that no matter how hairy it looked last week they *did* come back for a win. It’s easy to believe that Declan Kidney and his men underestimated Italy last week, so hopefully they will have taken on board just how fierce ferocious France were against Scotland last week so come out fighting and embrace that experience that took them past the Azzurri.

Sadly, we think France may be just too strong for them, but it would be very exciting to be proved wrong…

Predicted result: France by 15
One to watch: Francois Trinh-Duc, we reckon he might actually be magic.

And finally, in what we hope will become a series we’re heading off up to Leicester next week to interview the man who was your winner of our ’Workhorse Award for Best All Round Performance‘ award, Mr Tom Croft. Now we’ve got quite a few things we want to bend his ear about but we want to throw it out and let you lovely lot have your say. If you’ve got any burning questions you’d like us to put to his Croftyness, contact us in the usual ways and we’ll gather all the clean ones before we head up the East coast mainline…

Words by Lauren