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Newspilez – week ending 9th January 2011 January 10, 2011

Happy New Year and welcome to the first Newspilez of 2011. With thoughts of tinsel and turkey already distant in our minds, it’s time to meet January head on. With the ongoing drama of the Aviva Premiership, H-Cup and Magners League to keep us busy, plus the Six Nations and a small grassroots tournament which we believe is known as the Rugby World Cup lined up, we’re going to do our best to keep bringing you our quirked-eyebrow, tongue-in-cheek, sometimes slightly capslocky and hysterical brand of rugby coverage over the next year. To that end…

Aironi put Cardiff Blues through their paces on Friday night at the Cardiff City Stadium, though they’re still sitting at the bottom of the Magner’s League having failed to land a victory so far this season. Leigh Halfpenny made a triumphant return from injury with a try which helped Blues to their eventual 24-13 win.

The Ospreys continued in their quest to make Lauren and Anna pull all their hair out by the end of the season during their clash with Leinster. There were bursts of promise which had us on the edges of our seats, with first-time Ospreys captain Justin Tipuric landing himself a try, but it just wasn’t Dan Biggar’s night. Leinster took a 15-10 victory and we heaved heavy sighs.

The Scottish press is up in arms concerning Munster’s 22-20 win over Glasgow on Saturday, questioning the try awarded to David Wallace (The Herald has made some implications about video ref Dermot Moloney being from Munster…) and the sin binning of Glasgow fullback Bernardo Stortoni which led to Ronan O’Gara’s winning penalty kick. Expect the resultant debate about the need for neutral officials in the league to go on for some time…

Elsewhere in the Magner’s League, Ulster pulled their socks firmly up and saw off Treviso 32-13, Dragons slipped past Connacht 17-16 and Scarlets were doubtlessly making snow angels in delight after beating Edinburgh by 21 points to 16 at Murrayfield.

Saturday was derby day in London, as Quins took on Wasps at the packed out Stoop. Quins went in fighting and put on a great team show in the first half, setting up well deserved tries for Joe Marler and Mike Brown. Wasps put up a tough fight and even though Andy Powell was slogging it out all over the pitch, Nick Easter edged over for a third try and Quins went into the break 17-7 up. Wasps dominated possession in the second half, but only managed to put 3 more points on the board and while Quins took the win 17-10, Chris Robshaw admitted that his squad were “a little flat” in the second half.

Of course the real derby took place in the east Midlands on Saturday evening as Aviva Premiership table leaders Leicester Tigers took on second place rivals Northampton Saints. As far as exciting starts to games go, you’re going to be hard pressed to beat Ben Foden touching down just 53 seconds into this tough, injury-strewn head to head.

Both Courtney Lawes and Chris Ashton went off early in the game with a knackered knee and quad muscle respectively, but it was Geordan Murphy who came off worse, stretchered off in the last quarter.

Despite the early show and a great fight from Saints, Leicester went into the game at an advantage as they were six points clear in the league and had a five game winning streak and the roar of the Welford Road faithful in their ears. Tries from Craig Newby and Marcos Ayerza and seventeen points courtesy of Toby Flood’s boot secured Tigers a 27-16 victory.

Other premiership matches saw Bath scrape past Leeds 16-13 thanks to Barks and Bendy and London Irish reaching double figure doom with their tenth consecutive loss as Saracens beat them 12-6. Exeter’s smashing season opener against Gloucester was a distant memory with a 37-23 defeat in the re-match and Sale drew with Newcastle 19 points apiece.

Over in France, Toulouse are still the heavy hitters in the Top 14 despite a monster 31-3 defeat at the hands of Stade Francais on Saturday. Racing Metro edged out Toulon on Sunday night in a 15-12 home victory which has put them in second place on the league table, just two points behind Toulouse.

Two small matters to finish with: if you haven’t already seen the posts and the social media barrage, voting for the 2010/11 Manpilez Awards is now open! The blog had its busiest ever day on Saturday after a number of your lovely nominees were kind enough to promote us in the hopes of getting their hands on the coveted (and we hasten to add metaphorical) awards. If you haven’t already casted your vote, you have until Saturday 15 January!

And finally, if you only follow one new Twitter account this week, why not make it @sebchabal_eng. Yes, that’s right, Seabass himself, translated into English. Where else will you get gems like “Yes, mushrooms are scrumptious. That’s a fact”?

Words by Anna

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Newspilez: 10th November 2010 November 10, 2010

Hopefully you’ve noticed that we’ve been away for, er, ages… but now that life and technology are not barring our path to bringing you our unique perspective on the latest Rugby news… and the stuff we missed… we’re back!

Saracens have won the most headlines during our absence, not only did they put everyone out of their misery and sign up twinkletoes from the Ospreys and have their coach Brendan Vetner hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons *again* by getting charged for misconduct, but they also pulled off one of the most bizarre publicity stunts ever in rugby. And we’re talking about a sport that in the last year has had five of Bath in a bed with a bevy of teddy bears, Cappucino-making-bin-collecting Ospreys and, well, Stade Francais. Earlier today Britain’s rugby press were summoned to Suburban London’s Mill Hill to be told that from next season, the boys in black with red smudges will be playing in what will be the only Premiership venue with an honest-to-goodness Tube Station serving it… on a pretend pitch.

Further reports have suggested that despite the media circus called the likelyhood of this actually happening is slim, no planning permission has been granted to make the Barnet Copthall Stadium Premiership-ready and as the London Borough Of Barnet are not the most sympathetic council in the world, topped with the fact that the same space has been denied planning permissio due to neighbour pressure before – it’s not looking all that promising. Though we suspect the fallout will be entertaining to say the least.

Over in Bath, the Blue Black & Whites have been having a bit of a rocky season so far, with some fantastic wins among a spate of gutting losses but with the LV= finally up and running they seem to be getting back on track.

Across the border in Wales, our beloved Ospreys haven’t been doing much better after getting out of the traps a lot slower than the rest of their Magners league colleagues due to injury and the fall-out of Summer International duty, they seem to have fallen foul to a horrible repeat of last year’s season start in which they have played fabulously… for about fifteen minutes a week. Here’s hoping they get back on track once the Magners League kicks in again at the end of November and they can climb back up from their currently depressing 8th position on the League table.

But they did beat London Irish in the first round of the Heiniken cup, so we know their winning ways are in there somewhere…

Their neighbours over the bridge in Llanelli, however have been this season’s surprise. After a disappointing 09-10 season, the Scarlets are currently nestling at 2nd in the table with a measly 4 points separating them from perennial leaders Munster.

Of course, the most compelling stories at the moment are coming from the Autumn Internationals which kicked off in fine style last weekend with a colder, damper version of Super Saturday. Sadly, all thre ehome nations fell short of beating their visitors by margins so similar as to make us wonder if 10 points is a fully accurate indicator of how much better the Southern Hemisphere is currently performing against the North. England, Ireland and Wales all put in valliant efforts and in some areas were clearly the better teams (need we even bring up the paucity of the Australian scrum?) but one thing is for sure, all the respective skippers and coaches need to be taking some serious lessons from this round of internationals if we want to see any of our beloved home nations anywhere near the Webb Ellis cup next year.

Sadly though, it’s not been the standard of play, the champs and chumps, overuse of the term ‘strength in depth’, the citings or even Movember progress that’s been taking up the most column inches this time around as the attendances/ticket pricing debate has been the issue that’s stolen everyone’s attention. Twickenham had 10,000 empty seats, The Millenium Stadium an almost unheard of 20,000 which already captured people’s attention, but it was Ireland who stole the show, no-show wise, with their brand spanking new home stadium opening with around a third of the tickets languishing in the box office. Clearly the respective unions and venues have gotten something (and by something we mean the sheer amount of cold hard cash requred to get through the turnstile)  wrong in these recession scarred times, either that or it’s just too bloody cold but it’s clear something needs to be done to rally the troups and get bottoms rising from seats as the Northern Hemisphere get their proverbial act in gear. Too optimistic? Probably.

In more hormonal news, it’s calander (sic) season so let us know which you’re buying and which you’ll be hiding down the back of the sofa if you find it in your stocking come December. Here’s some sneak previews:

Courtesy of Uncle Gigi

Courtesy of the Laura Crane Trust

Catherine Tates keeps her clothes whilst all around her ar losing theirs in aid of Youth Cancer Charity the Laura Crane Trust

 

Rawr Data – Team Profile: Aironi September 7, 2010

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

Once more with feeling

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

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

Not to be confused with popular beat combo Aironi

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

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

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

 

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.

 

Newspilez – Week ending 22nd August 2010 August 22, 2010

As the season comes hurtling towards us and pre season friendlies come to their ‘wait till we pull out the big guns’ style conclusion, we round up the snippets and clippets from Rugby Land that caught our attention this week.

  • The Women’s Rugby world cup kicked off at Surrey Sports Park. As we flagged up in our Training report, the England Ladies were a force to be reckoned with, beating Ireland by an emphatic 27-0.  Sadly, the Wales ladies weren’t so forceful and came up short to Australia in a 12-26 drubbing.
  • Meanwhile, in the clash of the southern hemisphere, three time World Cup Winners New Zealand beat Scotland by 55-3, and in the battle of the underdogs USA beat Khasakstan 51-0. All in all day one was a fast paced, high scoring feast of action, and based on the scores so far the next three weeks are going to be very interesting.
  • Over in the southern Hemisphere, the Tri Nations went out with a massive bang with the All blacks taking the title after being 22-17 down until Richie McCaw went over with a controversial equalising try in the 78th minute. After calling in television officials on two disputes, the try was allowed and the All Blacks then chalked up yet another try taking them to 29 points and a trip to the trophy cabinet.
  • Bloodgate, which started as insane and moved through preposterous and ridiculous to settle somewhere near embarrassed for a while, became sad and pitiful. Former ‘Quins physio Steph Brennan and match day doctor Wendy Chapman may both be struck-off if found guilty of going along with the snidey plot instigated by former coach Dean Richards.
  • On a similarly discipline – based note, It’s been reported today that Ospreys management are actively pursuing an appeal against the 4 point deficit they were handed at the end of the last season for rescheduling their already postponed clash against Ulster. The more information that is revealed about this the more ludicrous this sanction seems. Not only did Ospreys management offer several alternate dates to Ulster Rugby but it seems blindingly obvious in hindsight that even without injury and Cai Griffith’s suspension, the Six Nations had already left their front row personnel thin on the ground. Let’s hope sense prevails and they can defend that Magners league title on even ground.
  • Lewis Moody made his intentions very clear regarding possible future captaincy of England. Only time will tell if Johnno unleashes the madness…
  • Paul Tito, Tom Willis and Matthew Rees were confirmed as Season Captains for Blues, Dragons and Scarlets respectively.
  • Pre season friendlies came to an end with Bath trouncing Edinburgh 48-21, The Scarlets beating Worcester 43-14 and Cardiff Blues narrowly beating Exeter chiefs 26-21 while, despite a convincing second half the Ospreys failed to close in on Gloucester and ended on 14-24.
  • Meanwhile, further down the M4 corridor, Harlequins beat Ulster 24-0 at the Stoop, London Wasps scored six tries in the face of Leinster’s Six points and Sarries scores 22-5 against Connacht at the Sportsground.
  • The Ospreys launched their new kit, and we had to lock up our credit cards to stop us buying all the new merch… I mean… it’s PURPLE! How are we supposed to resist? Rumours that the Manpilez ladies were overheard arguing which was prettier, the home or away shirt are entirely founded…

Stay tuned next week when we’ll be giving you the latest from the Women’s World cup and our pics and predictions for the first week of The Magners and Aviva Leagues. If you spot anything you think we should be taking notice of, drop us a line in our comments boxes or email manpilez@gmail.com. In the mean time, we’ll see you in the week with some more Rawr Data Profiles…

Words by Lauren and Anna