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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

 

Interviewpilez: Tom Croft February 20, 2011

Filed under: Interviewpilez,Leicester Tigers — Manpilez @ 3:53 pm
Tags: , , ,

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 – Week Ending 14th November 2010 November 16, 2010

What a weekend, hey, dear readers?

Week two of the Autumn International Series was an out and out nail biter from start to bitter end.
Saturday saw an ill-advised simultaneous kick off of the Ireland V Samoa, Wales V South Africa and
England V Australia games.

Sadly, this meant we didn’t get to see BOD almighty’s boys take on Samoa, but all reports we’ve seen
heard and read have described their 20-10 win as ‘unconvincing’. I’d call 10 points pretty convincing
but then I didn’t see it…

However, it was this side of the sea where all the excitement was happening. Wales very nearly kept
the South African wolves from the Millennium Stadium door with one of the most nailbiting and
controversial displays this reporter has seen in a very long time. From the starting whistle, our boys
in red were fierce and seemed to get the Springboks on the back foot for much of the first half, going
into the break leading by 20-9 after a scorching try from newcomer George North and some spot on
Kicking from Superstephen. However, the beginning of the second half saw the ‘Boks have a golden
spell, crashing over the line twice within five minutes and creating a four point lead from which the
Cymro’s could not recover, despite valliant efforts.

Fair play to the Springboks (that makes a change!) their defence was SOLID in the face of some
stellar Welsh attack, and the ball was firmly in the South African 22 for most of the last 20 minutes
as our boys tried to eake out one last, winning try but sadly it was not to be.

As if our pulses weren’t already racing, by the time the final whistle blew in the Millennium stadium
we were already getting word that something amazing had happened at Twickenham. England had
beaten Australia. Again. Convincingly.

A lot will be said about the fiercness of the pack in the face of the Aussie’s woeful scrimmaging, a lot
will be said about Ben Young’s mad skillz at 9, and Crofty’s Is-He-A-Flanker-Is-He-A-Winger presence
all over the field but most of the talk is of Chris Ashton. The Northampton Saints winger placed
himself firmly in the heart of every rubgy loving Englishman and woman after having scored a brace
against the Wallabies, both fantastic tries but non so much as his second.

From Deep in Enemy territory, inches away from the English try line, Good ole Ashy got the ball, saw
a gap…. and run the ENTIRE length of the field. The papers have been doing their best over the last
few days to describe how epic it was, some have done it in words, but many have tried graphics with
varying degrees of success. To us, it looked a bit like this:

 

That is to say, pretty impressive, and the kind of try we’ll be talking about for years (like that
diagram, huh?).

Of course, the RFU don’t do humble, so now it’s a New English Renaissance, they’ve been pushed up
to fourth in the world rankings and they’re CONVINCED the World Cup is a formality.

Come on boys, that was awesome, don’t ruin it by running your mouths off. Oh, too late…

Up in Bonnie Scotland, Murrayfield was done up to look like Brigadoon with lone pipers, smoke and
fire and some incredible atmosphere. They got us so fired up that for a moment we even started
to believe they might actually give The Best Team In The World (TM) a run for their money. Sadly
the whistle blew and all that went south, way south, pretty quickly and after 78 painful minutes of
seeing earnest Scotsman after Earnest Scotsman fall to the Kiwis, the ref blew the whistle, with the
score at 3-49, clearly not wanting to add insult to Max Evans’ shoulder injury that had halted play.

More provincially, the LV= kicked off for the last time till January this weekend, with two big grudge
matches. Ospreys v Leicester in Bridgend and Wasps V Bath down in High Wycombe. We were very
pleased to see the Ospreys storm the Brewery Field with our gaggle of youngsters managing to
put 46 points past the Tigers who clocked up 13 points of their own. Wasps and Bath fought it out
valiantly to end 18-16 to the alleged Londoners. Elsewhere the Scarlets travelled to London Irish
and thoroughly trounced them with 26 points to 35 and Harlequins won 28-20 against Newcastle
Falcons.

Sadly, the Weekend did not end on as positive note as it started. It was announced on Sunday
Evening that two players from the Springbok camp had failed their random drug tests after their
game against Ireland a week previously. Both Chiliboy Ralepelle and Bjorn Basson have taken early
planes back to South Africa after being handed bans by the IRB on the recommendation of Six
Nations Rugby who carried out the test. Both tested positive for ‘non specified’ banned stimulant
methylhexaneamine, a nasal decongestant only recently added to the watch list, and one which
Springbok Management are claiming, somewhat plausibly, came from flu medication. Either way this
may not be as serious as it sounds, but it’s put everyone on alert. Are players fully aware of what is a
supplement and what is going to ruin their career? Or is this part of a deeper problem?

As ever, we like to end on a hormonal note. This week we’re turning our sights to the impending
Bottom of the Ruck Awards.  What started off as a bit of a lark on twitter has turned into a glitzy awards
ceremony at Twickenham with a raft of Rugby Stars.
Austin Healey will be presiding over the event and many of the nominees will be trying to prove their
bottom is best, all in the name of Beating Bowel Cancer. We’ve already voted but if you want to rate
Dan Carter against Adam Jones or Brian O’Driscoll against James Haskell, get to the website then get
your glad rags on!

And before we go: Player Of the week!

A shared award this week as, in complete tandem two men put themselves in the history books of
rugby in fine style this Saturday.

The First; George North: The third youngest player to be capped for Wales came out of the traps
like he’d been ready for it since the day he was born. He worked the entire field and went over for a
brace of stunning tries. His future looks bright.

Chris Ashton: Because that try was more than great.

Words by Lauren, bad photoshop by Lauren

 

Newspilez: week ending 12 September 2010 September 13, 2010

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Words by Anna (ably abetted by Lauren)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And now for our inaugural players of the week.

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

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

Words by Lauren, picture by Leicester Tigers.

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

The Magners League

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

Words by Lauren

 

Rawr Data Player Profile: Tom Croft August 26, 2010

Change of tack now… we’re going to the dark side as Lauren tries to prove that team rivalry doesn’t blind her to the quality of a player by profiling Tom Croft of Ospreys arch rivals Leicester Tigers.

Tom Croft

Picture source unknown

Thomas Richard ‘Crafty Crofty’ Croft is 24 years old, 6’5”, 16st 5lbs and plays at both flanker and lock for Leicester Tigers, England and the Lions.

Hailing originally from Basingstoke, Tom Croft’s rugby career began at Newbury RFC in Berkshire before Leicester Tigers snapped him up in 2005 at the tender age of 19.

Dubbed as one of the fastest forwards around, Crafty Crofty is one of the ultimate utility players, meaning he plays both blind and openside flanker and also at lock, but takes on each position with the speed and agility of a back.

All this means that despite stiff competition for back row slots in the England squad, Tom has quickly become a regular fixture in the match day line up since his first cap for Saxons in 2007.

In 2009, after Alan Quinlan’s unfortunately timed ban, Tom was called up by Ian McGeechan to take his place on the Lions Tour, where he went on to play in all three tests and became the first forward ever to gain two tries in one test.

Croft’s versatility is one of the reasons Leicester tigers have become the team to beat in recent years, with the last two Guinness premiership trophies in their cabinet and seemingly only the Ospreys able to stop them in the Heineken cup (sorry, couldn’t resist!) so it’s clear to see we’ll be seeing a lot of Crofty over the course of the season.

Words by Lauren, Picture source unknown