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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

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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