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Previewpilez: Wales v England (again!) 13th August 2011 August 12, 2011

Here we are again, pontificating on the possibilities of a clash between these two age old rivals. Is it really only a week since we last did this? It feels like a lot has happened since then.

This time last week, I was previewing the clash at Twickenham while trying to avoid even thinking that Wales were likely to lose by a significant margin. England looked like the stable, sure fire winners, Lewis Moody was a cert for captain and Sam Warburton was a young gun and caretaker captain of a Wales side that nobody was truly convinced could reach their full potential.

Fast forward to today, and as well as society having apparently hit the self destruct button, the return fixture looks anything but one sided. England, seemingly shaken by the near miss in their own back yard have made a staggering 13 changes to the match day squad. Five members of the squad have even been ‘temporarily released’ to play for their clubs. Add to that the fact that Chris Ashton is taking up the wing with a rolled ankle, it’s hard to say what sort of England performance we’re going to see.

Wales, on the other hand, are solidifying. After a strong showing last week, Sam Warburton continues to wear the captain’s armband and other than a few boys crocked (Morgan Stoddart with a tournament ending broken leg and Ryan Jones with a calf strain to name a few), those that impressed last week are back to fight another day, with Rhys Priestland being the talking point West of the Severn after a solid showing at 10 on 15 minutes notice. It’s also worth noticing that this time out the Dragons lead the charge. As well as a debut start for Lloyd Burns, Luke Charteris, Dan Lydiate and Toby Faletau are on hand to breathe fresh flames into a squad that hasn’t seen so many Newporteans in a good long while.

As with Manu Tuilagi last week, this week the press has largely been talking about one man, Northampton lock Courtney Lawes is out to impress after a spate of injury woes and big things are now expected whether or not the pressure at this stage of proceedings is welcome. After a further injury worry during training, some thought his World cup was another one to etch into the ‘over before it’s begin’ column but news from the training camp suggests he might be about to become the key to England’s hopes.

Wales at home are a different animal to Wales at Twickenham and with record tickets sales for a summer test, that incomparable Millennium Stadium atmosphere is going to be electric. With World cup places becoming increasingly sought after and with the chance that England will be out to get a bit of their national pride back, we may be looking at a close game, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be any less exciting.

One to Watch: Wales – Lloyd Burns is going to be out to prove his worth in his first starting shirt under the glare surrounding Gavin Henson’s selection. England – Richard Wigglesworth as he throws his name into the mix for the 9 berth ahead of Ben Youngs and Danny Care.

One to get distracted by: Wales –Ryan Bevington, a hot prop, who knew? (Sorry, Props of the world) England – Nick Easter, because Anna’s got a bit of a soft spot for sir Nicktop.

Words by Lauren

Wales: James Hook (Perpignan); George North (Scarlets), Jamie Roberts (Cardiff Blues), Gavin Henson (The Bachelor), Shane Williams (Ospreys); Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), Mike Phillips (Bayonne); Paul James (Ospreys), Lloyd Burns (Dragons), Craig Mitchell (Exeter Cheifs), Luke Charteris (Dragons), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Dan Lydiate (Dragons), Sam Warburton (captain – Cardiff Blues), Toby Faletau (Dragons).
Replacements: Huw Bennett (Ospreys), Ryan Bevington (Ospreys), Josh Turnbull (Scarlets), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Tavis Knoyle (Scarlets), Scott Williams (Scarlets), Aled Brew (Dragons).

England: Ben Foden, Chris Ashton (Northampton Saints), Mike Tindall (Gloucester, Capt), Shontayne Hape (London Irish), Mark Cueto (Sale Sharks), Toby Flood (Leicester Tigers), Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens), Alex Corbisiero (London Irish), Steve Thompson (Wasps), Dan Cole, Louis Deacon (Leicester Tigers), Courtney Lawes, Tom Wood (Northampton Saints), Hendrie Fourie (Sale Sharks), Nick Easter (Harlequins).

Replacements: Lee Mears (Bath), Matt Stevens (Saracens), Tom Palmer (Stade Francais, James Haskell (Ricoh Black Rams), Charlie Hodgeson (Saracens), Danny Care (Harlequins), Matt Banahan (Bath).

 

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Previewpilez: England V Wales, 6th August 2011 August 6, 2011

Filed under: England,Rugby World Cup,RWC2011,Wales — Manpilez @ 3:12 am
Tags: , ,

Yes, we know this is supposed to be a friendly, a kickabout between two neighbours and all that, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get excited. By rights, Johno should be out in Twickenham putting jumpers down for goal posts and slicing oranges. Alas not, for there’s a lot more at stake than your average summer international game.

For a start, this is England and Wales, one of the hottest rivalries of the rugby world, between whom no meetings can ever truly be classed as friendly. It also marks the start of northern hemisphere’s countdown to the World Cup. High hopes abound both sides of the border as old hands and new blood battle it out not only for the honour of their country, but for that all important place on the World Cup Squad

On paper, the starting lineups Johno and Gatst have selected look pretty evenly matched, a good blend of the tried and tested (Stephen Jones gets is 101st cap going head to head against England’s high priest of kicking Jonny Wilkinson) the young and hungry (England’s next big thing Manu Tuilagi gets his first cap while Toby Faletau will be making his sophomore appearance in red) and the downright controversial (Matt Stevens returns for England after his 2 year ban before Mike Phillips’ tail has yet to be extracted from between his legs after the McDonalds incident). This means this clash will essentially be a battle of wills and the end result could well be down to which team has the most hunger and belief.

Of late, it has seemed that Wales’ problem lay not in the individual skill of the players, which was largely exemplary, but in their bond as a team.  Rumours of infighting, emergency meetings of ‘senior payers’ and senior coaching staff actually beating each other up have been all too common in the recent past but thankfully, since the team regrouped  in June the whispers coming from west of the Severn haven’t been so tumultuous. Whether splitting the team for the Poland training camps was wise remains to be seen, but there thankfully seems to be a little less discomfort.

In TW1, on the other hand, there is an air not only of harmony, but excitement. At O2’s Get Up For England event (More on that next week) I caught up with some of the boys and it was clear that the mood in the England camp is one of determined anticipation. Each player, though fighting for his place on the squad is getting stuck in just as much for the common good as for themselves and they go into this game seeking to continue building momentum from their Six Nations Win.

Former Gloucester prop Paul Doran-Jones was probably most emphatic “Saturday is going to be a pretty fierce test, you know, England v Wales, there’s loads of history in it. Both squads are going to be looking to get out there and get all those moves and plays we’ve been practicing onto the pitch, so this will give us more real idea of where we are and what to expect . It’s without doubt going to be very tough.

They say it’s a friendly but there’s so much at stake. The guys are playing for the opportunity to go to the world cup so there’s nothing bigger really in that regard. You always want to go and get the best performance, you know it’s not schoolboy trials anymore!”

Clashes between England and Wales are always electric, we just hope it’s not going to be as one-sided as the buzz around each camp seems to be at the moment.

Ones to Watch: Wales – Toby Faletau. It’s only his second cap but he’s showing masses of promise. England – Charlie Sharples. As yet uncapped for England, and on the bench today, we’ve been hearing some incredible things about the Gloucester wing, not least from team mate Ben Foden ‘He’s the fastest white man in the world’. We’re hoping to see him take a run out to see if it’s true!

Ones to get distracted by: England–  Lewis Moody, he’s back, baby! Wales – Luke Charteris, another face we’ve missed being distracted by.

 

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

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

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

England

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

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

Ireland

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

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

Scotland

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

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

Wales

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

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

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

Italy

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

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

France

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

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

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

Words by Lauren

 

Newspilez: Six Nations round 2 preview February 10, 2011

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

England V Italy, Saturday, 2.30, Twickenham

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

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

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

Scotland v Wales, Saturday, 5pm, Murrayfield

Hmm. This could go one of two ways.

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

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

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

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

Ireland V France, Sunday, 3pm, Aviva Stadium

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

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

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

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

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

Words by Lauren

 

Six Nations Countdown part 3: The Manpilez Songbook February 2, 2011

When the day finally arrives you might have lucky pants, your nation’s kit or simply a colour based homage, but outfit is key: you want to be comfortable, you may be getting in and out of your chair rather a lot with luck and you don’t want to be having to rearrange your look every time a point is scored.

Now, one of the most important things you’re going to need, whether in the stadium, the pub or your living room is your voice. Before the games start, you might want to try out some of these voice exercises to limber up.

Next, you need to know the tunes. We’re not all trained sopranos, and not all tenors know the descants but as long as you know the basic tune you can hum along even if you don’t know the words. Here’s each nation broken down into song:

Wales

The Welsh pretty much have the monopoly on the singing, with a repertoire spanning generations and only a few which are abusive or morbid. Here are the main ones to look out for.

One of the least bloody and random of the anthems, Land of my Fathers is all about the ‘Hiraeth’, feeling the pull of your land no matter how far over seas you may be. Though you get the odd mumbler (Gav), one man has become so famous for his almost fevered singing during the anthem moment that the cameramen pan around him so they can pull him out at just the right moment. See if you can guess who we mean…

Here’s those words for you as it’s sung for Rugby:

How It’s Sung What they’re on about
Mae hen wlad fy nhadau yn annwyl i mi,
Gwlad beirdd a chantorion, enwogion o fri;
Ei gwrol ryfelwyr, gwladgarwyr tra mâd,
Dros ryddid collasant eu gwaed.Gwlad, gwlad, pleidiol wyf i’m gwlad. Tra môr yn fur i’r bur hoff bau,

O bydded i’r hen iaith barhau. (Repeat)

The old land of my fathers is dear to me,
Land of poets and singers, famous men of renown;
Her brave warriors, very splendid patriots,
For freedom shed their blood.Land, land, I am faithful to my land. While the sea; a wall to the pure, most loved land,

O may the old language endure. (repeat)

Of course it’s not all faith to one’s land and the enduring power of language and poetry at Wales matches, sometimes it’s about adultery and chest wigs  (Delilah)  Cookery and Cat death (Sosban Fach), having a pure heart  (Calon Lan) or a salubrious trip to Twickenham (Hymns and Arias). There is one song, however, above all others, that seems to increase in volume the more tense the atmosphere gets and that is good old Cwm Rhondda, aka Bread of Heaven. It goes like this:

Guide me through oh great Jehovah
Pilgrim through this barren land
I am weak, but though art mighty
Hold me with thy powerful hand
Bread of heaven
Bread of heaven
Feed me till I want no more
Feed me till I want no more

There are a few more verses, but those are for the pub afterwards…

England

For some reason, England sing about queen rather than country in one of the dreariest anthems known to mankind (and we’re 50% English, so we can say that…). If you want to be patriotic while having a nap, here’s a clip of the men in white singing God Save The Queen last year:

If you don’t already know it goes like this:

God save our gracious Queen
Long live our noble Queen
God save the Queen
Send her victorious
Happy and glorious
Long to reign over us
God save the Queen

Don’t sing this one or Eddie Izzard’s version, for that matter, or you’ll get kicked out of Twickers. You have been warned.

However, once the anthems are over, there are still plenty of decent tunes to get behind, from the really rather deluded Jerusalem to the bombastic pomp and patriotism of Land of Hope and Glory but the melody that will turn fortress Twickenham from a big lump of concrete to a place where special things happen is not a song of patriotism, but, bizarrely, a slave spiritual. It does sound lovely though, so here’s how to sing it:

Swing low, Sweet Chariot,
Coming for to carry me home
Swing low, Sweet Chariot
Coming for to carry me home

As with most of the songs here, it does go on a bit more, but nobody can be bothered with the rest when there’s too much going on before them and a bar full of IPA to put a dent into.

Ireland

There’s many traits people associate with the Irish but greed isn’t usually one of them. When it comes to anthems, however, they gorge and gorge till even the team look visibly fed up. However, the unity (or rather lack of) of Northern and Southern Ireland in the team does necessitate a multi anthem performance as you can see here

We’re just waiting for them to wake up and realise a mashup is the way to go. Until then, here’s the words to both the IRFU commissioned Ireland’s Call, and the traditional Soldier’s Song to be getting on with.

Ireland’s Call

Come the day and come the hour
Come the power and the glory
We have come to answer
Our Country’s call
From the four proud provinces of Ireland

Ireland, Ireland
Together standing tall
Shoulder to shoulder
We’ll answer Ireland’s call

The Soldier’s Song

How It’s Sung What they’re on about
Amhrán na bhFiann   Sinne Fianna Fáil,
atá faoi gheall ag Éirinn,
Buíon dár slua
thar toinn do ráinig chughainn,
Faoi mhóid bheith saor
Seantír ár sinsear feasta,
Ní fhágfar faoin tíorán ná faoin tráill.
Anocht a théam sa bhearna baoil,
Le gean ar Ghaeil, chun báis nó saoil,
Le gunna scréach faoi lámhach na bpiléar,
Seo libh canaig amhrán na bhFiann
The Soldier’s Song Soldiers are we,
whose lives are pledged to Ireland,
Some have come
from a land beyond the wave,
Sworn to be free,
no more our ancient sireland,
Shall shelter the despot or the slave.
Tonight we man the “bearna baoil”
In Erin’s cause, come woe or weal,
’Mid cannon’s roar and rifles’ peal,
We’ll chant a soldier’s song

Once the choir have gone to their seats, there are a number of melodies that ring down Landsdowne Road, most people will proudly sing Fields of Athenry, and they have joint custody of Danny Boy with Scotland but our favourite is Molly Malone. Alive, Alive-o indeed.

Scotland

Sadly, though their try celebrations may try to hint, Scotland have yet to adopt The Proclaimers’ 1000 Miles as their national song. Instead they sing proudly of their horticulture with Flower of Scotland

Here’s How it goes:

O flower of Scotland
When will we see
Your like again
That fought and died for
Your wee bit hill and glen
And stood against him
Proud Edward’s army
And sent him homeward
Tae think again
The hills are bare now
And autumn leaves lie thick and still
O’er land that is lost now
Which those so dearly held
And stood against him
Proud Edward’s army
And sent him homeward
Tae think again
Those days are passed now
And in the past they must remain
But we can still rise now
And be the nation again
And stood against him
Proud Edward’s army
And sent him homeward
Tae think again

Well that told us. For evening games, Murrayfield is a fantastic place to be with darkness, mist and pipers, but nothing will make you feel like you’ve walked into a bizarre version of Brigadoon like second-in-command anthem Scotland the Brave

France

Probably the anthem that has the most pomp, ceremony and frankly danceability is La Marseillaise, it’s also the most bloodthirsty by a country mile. Check it out:

How It’s Sung What they’re on about
Allons enfants de la Patrie
Le jour de gloire est arrivé.
Contre nous, de la tyrannie,
L’étandard sanglant est levé,
l’étandard sanglant est levé,
Entendez-vous, dans la compagnes.
Mugir ces farouches soldats
Ils viennent jusque dans nos bras
Egorger vos fils,
vos compagnes.Aux armes citoyens!
Formez vos bataillons,
Marchons, marchons!
Qu’un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons
Arise children of the fatherland
The day of glory has arrived
Against us tyranny’s
Bloody standard is raised
Listen to the sound in the fields
The howling of these fearsome soldiers
They are coming into our midst
To cut the throats of your sons and consortsTo arms citizens
Form your battalions

March, march
Let impure blood
Water our furrows

The Les bleus faithful, bizarrely, occasionally whip out a bit of the olde Edith Piaf with a rousing chorus of Je Ne Regrette De Rien. Oddly, they don’t sing that when they’re losing… other than that you can expect many calls of ‘ALLEZ!!’ as if people’s lives depend on it. Come on guys, put your lungs in it!

Italy

We’ll be honest, the lyrics to The Song of the Italians scare the bejeesus out of us and once we found out what they were singing about we understood why a lot of the Azzurri look like they’re about to cry as they line up like here (which also features the dulcet tones of friends of the site Eschoir):

How It’s Sung What they’re on about
Fratelli d’Italia,l’Italia s’è desta, dell’elmo di Scipio

s’è cinta la testa.

Dov’è la Vittoria?

Le porga la chioma,

ché schiava di Roma

Iddio la creò.

CORO:

Stringiamci a coorte,

siam pronti alla morte.

Siam pronti alla morte,

l’Italia chiamò.

Stringiamci a coorte,

siam pronti alla morte.

Siam pronti alla morte,

l’Italia chiamò!

Brothers of Italy,Italy has awoken, with Scipio‘s helmet

binding her head.

Where is victory?

Let her bow down,

For God has made her

Rome’s slave.

CHORUS:

Let us join in a cohort,

We are ready to die

We are ready to die,

Italy has called.

Let us join in a cohort,

We are ready to die.

We are ready to die,

Italy has called!

Ready to die they may be, but as soon as that emotional moment is over they get on with it and… keep the pipes closed we’re afraid. We’ve tried getting inside information from Genuine Italian People but the consensus was, as soon as the anthem’s over, cheering’s the best you’re going to get.

We’re going to have to try and sort that. In the meantime, we’ll join the Bergamascos for a singsong of this:

Words by Lauren, except where they were ancient and/or anthemic

 

Six Nations Countdown Part One: The Teams, Their Chances, and The Key Players January 31, 2011

With just a few days to go before our favourite time of year begins, all the best rugby sites are turning their eyes to picks and predictions for the next 2 months and we… are going to have a go as well.

Our countdown starts today with a look at what actually might happen, and who might cause it, but over the next few days you can expect our guides to what to eat, drink and sing as well as anything else we can think of to help your Six Nations go with a swing no matter what goes on on the grass….

Over the last few years we’ve had something of a glut of Grand Slams, to the point where it was almost getting boring, with the clear favourites each year eventually trying to get the silverware back through customs once the champagne wears off the critic’s job has been an easy one.

This year, however, all bets are off. All Six of our fair Nations are either in a distinct state of flux or could make a Grand Slam winning team out of their injuries list alone so here’s our guide to each nation’s chances…

France

 

picture courtesy of Ladbrokes, Les bleus

Last year's winners, Les bleus

 

2010’s Grand Slam winners France are not, as last year, coming into the competition with the trophy practically in the bag as they did then. The prime example of a team in flux, Les Bleus have had a very odd 12 months with a form so mixed that at times it looked like they were trying to make a marble cake. With a team that changes more often than the trends in the Champs-Élysées, whoever turns up on the day can make all the difference between Grand Slam and Wooden Spoon and to be honest, nobody can really tell what the pants they’re going to do.

Crucial Injuries List: In a squad as fluid as France at the moment… we can’t keep up 😉

Ones to Watch: Chabal, as ever.

One to perv on: Morgan Parra, Scrummy Scrum Half.

England

 

A sweeeeet chariot, yesterday.

 

After last Autumn’s valliant efforts against the Southern Hemisphere tourists, this year the sweet chariot is rolling into the tournament as marginal bookies favourites,  with the fans and players whispering about a New English Resurgence. We can’t help but wonder if these rumblings might be right, but one thing is for sure their injuries list at the moment tells a sorry tale as many of those who shone brightest in the autumn are in rehab while we await the arrival of spring so while it’s likely we’ll see the boys in white go top three,  we’re not-so-secretly think they’re holding off their big hits until they get to New Zealand in September.

Crucial Injuries List: Tom Croft, Courtney Lawes, Lewis Moody

Ones to Watch: Ben Youngs, who has been putting in some spectacular performances, Chris Ashton, in case he pulls another bit of magic out of the bag.

One to perv on: Simon Shaw, because if I say anyone else Anna will hit me.

Wales

 

picture from the ledge that is Huw Evans

Happier times...

 

Oh, Wales, what happened love? Grand Slam glory to abject misery in the space of two years was never the plan. Do you need some hot sweet tea?

Seven Losses in the last ten games and apparent unrest behind the scenes has left the bread of heaven far from risen and even the other six nations are hoping they’re going to get their mojo back soon, as a misfiring Wales is like a disturbance in the Force. That’s not to say, however, that there haven’t been some fantastic moments of genius flowing around, it’s just that somehow it’s not being converted to the points board as clumsyness and a lack of focus seem to hit at all the wrong moments.

It’s been argued in the past that they lack strength in depth but that’s not strictly true, in certain positions there are young guns emerging that may be the key to not only creating some drama, but providing some much needed security that was lacking last year and unfray those edges that needed tidying.

With talismanic winger Shane Williams back just in time to dance past the opposition, green shoots of hope are starting to peek through the snow and with the back five of the pack in particular looking fierce whatever combination takes the field, we’re quietly confident that Wales can raise their game in time to get some pre-world cup momentum going.  We hope.

Crucial Injuries List: Gethin Jenkins, Adam Jones with rising question marks over Leigh Halfpenny.  Also missing Richie Rees due to Dylan Hartleygate

Ones to Watch: Bradley Davies, Ryan Jones, two great players in particularly fine form at present.

One to perv on: Alun Wyn Jones, Strong, fierce, lovely.

Ireland

 

The Duck Wrangler's certainly excited...

 

Ireland, like France and Wales are in a bit of a flux phase at the moment. We’d hope that it’s about priming for the World cup but on the evidence so far it’s hard to say. After their grand slam in 2009 they’ve continued to play expansive, clinical rugby but that x factor we saw two years ago seems to come and go with the direction of the wind. With two of their biggest influencing players on the injury list, it’s hard to see Ireland lifting the trophy, but with the right conditions, it’s hard to see them doing anything less.

Crucial Injuries List: Tommy Bowe, Jamie Heaslip

Ones to Watch: Jonny Sexton, who’s rapidly becoming the go-to 10

One to perv on: Brian O’Driscoll, legend, point scorer, fox.

Italy

They are ready to die. Well, Mirco is, Mauro says 'BRB'...

Italy, who seem to come out of the traps fighting every year then spend the rest of the time scrabbling around in the dust to avoid the wooden spoon, are actually one of the more stable squads this year. With few noteable casualties and the increased influence on home growing new talent in the two new Magners League sides, we could well be faced with an Italy very much on the ascendancy.

However, after just five months  those two new sides have yet to mature, so though we may come to see vast improvements this tournament, next year we may all be watching our backs, the Azzurri are coming.

Crucial Injuries List: Mauro Bergamasco, Craig Gower

Ones to Watch: The Big Man Parisse. He’s back, baby.

One to perv on: Mirco Bergamasco, though you may have trouble recognising him fully clothed.

Scotland

 

Pic  courtesy of the Telegraph

Richie Gray and Max Evans warm up

 

Let’s be honest, Scotland have had an abysmal few years in this competition, seemingly battling it out with Italy over the wooden spoon year in year out but this year it all feels a little different. With no noteable injuries, some fantastic results in the autumn internationals and the sheer power of Dan Parks’ boot, the Scotland going into the competition this year are something new, something dark, something exciting. I’m going out on a limb and putting Scotland in the top two come the end. I may be wrong, I may be right but I think it’s going to be very interesting finding out.

Ones to Watch: Richie Gray, if only because he’s so massive you can’t see past him

One to perv on: Max Evans, well he’s lovely isn’t he?

Words by Lauren

 

Rawr Data Player Profile: Matt Banahan September 11, 2010

Filed under: Bath,England,Player Profile,Rawr Data — Manpilez @ 8:43 pm
Tags: , , ,

Matthew O’Banahanahanahan is a master of the contrary. With nicknames like Battering Ram and The Jersey Juggernaut, out on the wing is the last place you’d expect to find a 6’7″, 18st lad, but that’s where he’s found his home. Unlike the many rugby players who dabbled in football at an early age, our Banas was a hockey player in his formative years. He claims to not be into the rugby lifestyle, but he’s no wilting flower if his swathes of tattoos are anything to go by. Basically, Banahan is both a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll.

Source: Getty Images

Starting out with London Irish, Matt was snapped up by Bath in 2006, where he was initially recruited as a lock. Quick on his feet, Matt proved to be an ideal secret weapon on the wing, his size meaning he has the strength to pack a real wallop. Mirco Bergamasco, for one, can attest to this after being on the receiving end of a hefty tackle last season when Bath played Stade Francais in the Heineken Cup. We shan’t get into the questionable yellow card that was waved in Matt’s face in the aftermath here…

After a successful international debut with the Saxons, Matt soon caught Johnno’s attention and was called up for the Elite squad’s summer tour in 2009 as a replacement for an injured David Strettle. Despite his stint on the summer 2010 tour being cut short due to all the Berrick Barnes lifting tackle brouhaha, Matt’s still a big figure (quite literally) in the England squad.

Club-wise, Matt’s about to start his fourth season with Bath, where he’s currently contracted to play until 2012. Still only 23 years old and with a steady stream of praise coming his way, the future’s bright for the ever colourful, always amiable Matt Banahan.

Words: Anna, Photo: Getty Images