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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).

 

 

Previewpilez : The Amlin Challenge Cup Final – Harlequins v Stade Francais May 18, 2011

And now, the end is near, and so we face the final questions…

Harlequins or Stade Francais?

Leinster or Northampton?

Leinster or Munster?

Leicester or Saracens?

And so begins the first of our looks ahead to the show pieces of  what has already been an exciting, unpredictable and entertaining rugby season.  Well, unless you count the Aviva Premiership final being a direct repeat of last year…

This Friday sees the final of the Amlin Challenge cup, where Harlequins and Stade Francais will both be running out onto the Cardiff City Stadium pitch to prove pretty much the same point: their season hasn’t been all that bad.

With both star-studded  teams having finished in the bottom half of their leagues, and records that can only be described as hit and miss, it’s difficult to tell which way this will go. On the one hand, Harlequins beat Magners League dominating Munster to get to this final, which is no mean feat in itself, but with their away record in particular this season looking a little grim, there’s a bit of a sense of that wonderful ‘it depends which Quins turn up on the day’ cliché we all brought out for France in the Six Nations. Add this to the fact that the moments where Harlequins have shone this year have been when the pressure has been highest, it’s very tempting to put Quins as favourites to lift the trophy.

Stade Francais, on the other hand, are a different animal altogether. With some massive international names on their books and a budget the size of the entire economy of Lichtenstein, it’s hard to understand why they have missed the mark so often this season, finishing a lowly 11th in the Top 14. However, with so many internationals, there is a strong test-match mentality which has saw them through the tournament so far.

Despite this second-string meeting playing second fiddle to Saturday’s Heineken Cup final, some fantastic head to head battles on the field have the potential to make this the more interesting fixture. One of the most interesting oppositions will lie at the back row, as Chris Robshaw, Nick Easter and Will Skinner for Quins up against Antoine Burban, James Haskell and Sergio Parisse, while at scrum half, the occasionally controversial Julien Dupuy will test his mettle against the ever energetic Danny Care.

What is certain, is that Leckwith is not going to know what’s hit it with two particularly voiciferous and passionate sets of fans baying for glory.  We’re particularly looking forward to hearing how loud the chants of ‘Uuuuuugooo!’ will be if Mr Monye works some magic.

Ones to watch:

Nick Easter, sometime England captain and cheeky cockney geezer is never a man to be afraid of putting his body on the line to create a chance.

Sergio Parisse, always. In fact, we’ll give you a tenner* if you can find a rugby player, writer or pundit that can say a bad thing about his play.

One to drool over during stoppage time: We know you lot love a bit of Danny Care action, but we’re going to go Mirco Bergamasco, mainly because Anna goes all gooey when he’s around.

*We wont

Words by Lauren

 

Adventpilez 2010 – December 12: Let It Snow… December 12, 2010

The weather outside is frightful…