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.
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…
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
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….
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.
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…
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
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