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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