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Newspilez March 12th 2011 Part Two: Blahdy Hell… March 13, 2011

The penultimate Saturday of the Six Nations is usually an exciting affair as teams make their last gasp attempts to push themselves up the table before it’s too late and Grand Slam dreams are dashed or fueled. This week, with only two of the three matches played, it’s already been a HUM-DINGER.

I’m not going to lie to you, this humble manpiler tuned into Italy v France this afternoon expecting France to walk away with the Garibaldi cup with nary a bat of an eyelid but what actually happened was a lot more like this:

 

Picture from Zimbio

Azzurri: Fuck YEAH!

It wasn’t pretty (well not play-wise..), but the Azzuri finally broke through and did what we all thought was impossible, they beat their nearest neighbours, neighbours who still hold the Six Nations Trophy. After 50 minutes of play that could only be described as ‘scrappy’ from both sides, with an early and clinical try from Vincent Clerc and two failed kicks from Mirco Bergamasco that left nobody in any doubt that France could have Italy for breakfast, something amazing happened.

Quite apart from Mirco Bergamasco’s boot chipping away at les bleus lead, Andrea Masi went over the whitewash for an amazing try that ate into France’s 18-6 lead and left everyone but the Azzuri doubting themselves. Italy became ferocious, defending like their lives depended on it and forcing errors all over the shop until, with a heart stopping three minutes left on the clock, Mirco’s boot once again found its way to another three points which took them ahead of France in Rome for the first time in the Six Nations.

What followed was the most tense and breathtaking three minutes of the tournament so far, with everyone who wasn’t French desperately willing Italy to close it down. A few failed scrums later and the whistle sealed France’s fate, etching Italy’s name onto the Garibaldi prize and making sure there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

It’s been a long wait for Italy to get this but the way they played today and against Ireland at the beginning of the tournament suggests it won’t be long till wins like this are no longer such a shock.

Manpilez Man of the Match: Mirco Bergamasco, for rising to such intense pressure

Meanwhile, in Cardiff, Wales v Ireland was also going off big time. The most evenly matched  game of the weekend started off a little bit… meh, if we’re honest. Despite a lightening opening salvo with an injury and a try within the first five minutes,  the first half saw neither side capitalising on their opportunities and in the case of  Wales, kicking away possession with alarming regularity.

Ireland’s indicipline was also a big feature of the first half, which though not penalised as much as they probably should have been, was responsible for all of Wales’ points in the first half.

The second half however, opened a can of worms the size of the Millennium Stadium’s over-discussed roof.  After a kick to touch, a mix up around a quickly taken throw-in lead to Mike Phillips’ resulting try being questioned far and wide and was the kind of wrong-balls-up that people are not going to forget in a hurry to the point where Rule 19.2(b) was nearly crowned Man of the match.  The initial kick to touch landed in the crowd, the ball boy handed Matthew Rees the ball, which he quickly fed to Phillips who made a run for the line. The second the Irish boys stopped chasing him they, realised what had happened: to take a thrown in quickly the ball must a) be the same ball that went out and b)must not have been touched by anyone but whoever sent it into touch. As the ball was caught by a spectator and the ball boy had changed the ball neither was the case and a full line out would have been needed. Neither the touch ref or the ref picked up on this and so the try stood, legal or no the ref’s decision was final.

Whether this would have ultimately prevented a try from Phillips when he was clearly on a mission to have his 50th cap a try-scoring one we will never know, but we do know that Wales’ eventual victory by 6 of the resulting 7 points means that the Irish are not going to forget it in a hurry.

The rest of the game was understandably fierce as Ireland tried to answer those points but Wales’ return to the blitz defence, predictable or not, put paid to all attempts and as the clock went red and Wales turned over an Irish ball heading dangerously close to the tryline, it was left to Shane Williams only to hoof the ball out of the park to close out at 19-13 and end Wales’ home victory drought while we all allowed ourselves to breathe again.

Manpilez Man of the Match: we’re going to agree with the beeb here and go for James Hook, who other than hitting the woodwork early on, is proving his mettle at 10 in fine style.

Both games are the kind that will keep us talking for weeks to come, which pleased BBC viewers as it actually shut John Inverdale up about England for a full five minutes.

Tomorrow will see England and Scotland battle it out for the Calcutta cup and we can only hope for the same level of drama…

Words by Lauren

 

 

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

 

Six Nations 2011: The Scrummy XV February 21, 2011

It’s all been a bit serious around here lately, what with all the predictions, analysis and an actual, legitimate interview. Time, we’re sure you’ll agree, to lower the tone. Yes, the pundit hats are being hung up for a short while as we shamelessly celebrate the fine forms, good looks and down right rawr of our favourite Six Nations boys. Alongside an anonymous panel of Manpilers, we have made our selections. This isn’t about fairly representing each squad, nor who has the best chance of taking home the silverware. This, our dear readers, is our Scrummy XV.
 
 
Loosehead Prop
“There is no such thing as a hot loosehead prop,” came the bold claim from one panel member. Before anyone jumped up to counter this argument, the majority realised that they agreed. Several minutes of head scratching later, a lone voice with a serious weakness for front row forwards took a stand and nominated Cian Healy with the proviso it’s “without the shaved head and gypsy mo”. As no one else had a preference, our loosehead was named. A last minute shout out goes to Alex Corbiserio, who’s Italian heritage put him at a definite advantage in what was always in danger of becoming a distinctly continental line up…
 

Cian Healy: defying all odds

Hooker
Again, our unofficial doyenne of the front row was adamant that there was only one man for the job and that man was Dylan Hartley. Needless to say, said doyenne is in no way affiliated with Warren Gatland. Few will be surprised to hear that the rest of the judges weren’t so easily convinced and The World’s Prettiest Hooker, Dimitri Szarzewski was swiftly selected after a majority vote. Because he’s worth it.

Show us you swish: Dimitri Szarzewski

Tighthead Prop
Things got a little easier here as several votes went one way. Sure, we were anxious to get to the squabbling over all those pretty backs, but one voter’s weakness for a certain type of man coupled with another’s claim that “Every team needs at least one cave man” meant that, regardless of the first shout out for Wales with Ryan Bevington, this had to go to Martin Castrogiovanni. Wild hair, wild beard; Castro is classic prop.
 

Mad props: Martin Castrogiovanni

Locks
Ah, locks. The Achilles Heel of three quarters of the Manpilez ladies. We knew there was a risk of all out war with this, so thank goodness there were some definite preferences across the board. Our second Irish boy was brought on board at 4 with the inclusion of prankster extraordinaire, our very own Duck Wrangler, Mr Donncha O’Callaghan. The thighs, the eyes, the mischevious grin; we just can’t resist that Donners charm.

Don't mention little red pants: Donncha O'Callaghan

The startling inevitability of our number 5 meant that his name was already bolded on the original list of suggestions that circulated. It seems only right that the first of our Welsh boys should be one whose gwlads are always just those few decibels louder, whose pride is just that little bit more fierce and whose pretty blonde curls make all the girlies swoon. Yeah, you know it. We’re all a-flutter for Alun Wyn Jones. Locky love also went out to our favourite giants Simon Shaw, Richie Gray, Nathan Hines and Jerome Thion. Difficult choices!

Scrumming 9 to 5: Alun Wyn Jones

Flankers
After the locks, it’s the lovely fierce flankers that we turn to and where the props left us struggling, we were spoiled for choice here. Because we are very dedicated to our perving, some (flimsy) ground rules were put in place which meant that nominations for injured players were null and void. Thus, the very topical Tom Croft didn’t win a place in our XV. Rather it was a pair of Killer Bs, Johnnie Beattie and John Barclay, who beat off the competition in the shape of Alessandro Zanni, Tom Wood and David Wallace to join our back row.
 

Johnnie Beattie: not affiliated with the Wu Tang Clan...

... although John Barclay has a side project with Raekwon The Chef

Number Eight
Another controversial position, this became a clear Wales v Italy showdown. No amount of insistence and pouting could put Ryan Jones at Eight, however. This one was crafted for the returning wonder that is Sergio Parisse. Hair loss be damned, The Big Man still cuts a fine figure on and off the pitch and the weeping during the anthem is the kind of thing that turns a girl weak at the knees. It’s not just us ladies, either – did you see the BBC’s ode prior to the Italy v Ireland game? It seems no one can resist a bit of a Sergio swoon.

Sergio Parisse: enjoying the novelty of clothes

Half Backs
It’s tempting, when asked to compile the ultimate hot squad, to simply respond with “France”. However, Chabal may not be to everyone’s taste (you fools) and we already have our cave man. Regardless, there were just too many delicious Bleus to not let the bias shine through at some point. To that end, there was a unanimous demand for the pretty, pocket sized powerhouse that is Morgan Parra to take the glamour role of scrum half. The logical conclusion was to appoint the stunning Francois Trinh-Duc as his partner, just the way the gods of the stadium intended.

Straight out of the pages of Vogue Homme: Morgan Parra

You'd applaud yourself if you were this hot: Francois Trinh Duc

Left Wing
And if we’re not talking France, let’s talk Italy. There is a Manpilez lady to staunchly defend both teams, but the Italian camp didn’t have to try too hard to ensure this went to Mirco Bergamasco. Representing both brothers this year, Bergamasco the Younger may have toned down the peroxide and gone all manly with a beard, but he is by no means less gorgeous. Countless comparisons to classical Italian sculpture aside, there’s no doubt that the crestfallen Mirco we’ve seen over the past couple of weeks has pulled at the heartstrings. Come here, Mimi. We’ll give you a hug.

Sassy captions don't apply to this vision. It's Mirco Bergamasco, bitches.

Centres
After all that ooh la la and ciao, bello, the Celts fought back with full force to claim their places at 12 and 13. This is where it got pernickety, with literally less than tens of emails being fired back and forth to the effect of “But x is technically a wing,” and “Yes, but y is being played at centre” and “Ooh, z! Did you see that one photo where…”
 
Feet were put down and eventually, two were named. First up, our favourite Big Doc, Jamie Roberts. No one seemed to really be able to place what it is about Jamie that gets the eyebrow arching in approval. It might be the general massiveness of him, or that endearingly soft voice. Whatever it is, he wears that jaw well.

Jamie Roberts: we love him for more than his Brains. Heh.

There are some that might argue that there’s only one number 13 and those people will probably be wearing green. As it is, the allure of Brian O’Driscoll transcended nationality and with his dual weapons of handsomeness and heroics, there was no way he wasn’t making the final cut.
 
On the bench: Gonzalo Canale and Gordon D’arcy.

At last, an excuse to use the "Sex BOD" pun: Brian O'Driscoll

Right Wing
Much like his counterpart on the left wing, this boy is one half of a pair of beautiful brothers with a penchant for getting their kit off in a series of increasingly jaw droppingly suggestive photographs. If you haven’t guessed it by now, you haven’t been paying nearly enough attention to your lessons at Uncle Gigi’s School of Rugby Filth. It’s Max Evans. Google “Dieux du Stade 2010” but, for the love of God, don’t hold us responsible for the results. The acronym “NSFW” was probably invented for Max and his brother Thom.

It's the innocent looking ones you have to watch: Max Evans

Full Back
This one was the wild card, with no clear front runner to begin with. It’s only in hindsight that the similarities between the three shortlisted players becomes apparent…
 

Beardy brunette #1: Clement Poitrenaud

Beardy brunette #2: Ben Foden

 

Beardy brunette #3: Luke McLean

It was ultimately the refusal of one panel member to make any choices beyond fly half (“I don’t do backs”), that meant Luke McLean was the victor. Yet again, those Italian genes have given an undeniable edge and coupled with that lazy Aussie grin, Luke is a delicious combination of cute and fierce, even when he is the beardiest of the brunettes with his Grizzly Adams look. We’ll be sure to supply plenty of razors with that Scrummy XV shirt.
 
With that much hard work choosing from just six squads, we’d better start shortlisting for the World Cup Scrummy XV now…

 

With thanks to our panel of voters

Words by Anna

 

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

 

Newspilez 6th February 2011: Six Nations Round One February 6, 2011

Though the LV= rumbled on this week, lack of televisation and downsized stadia was never going to allow it to compete with The Main Event so we’re not even going to attempt to distract you and cut straight to the chase.

The Six Nations bus finally rolled into town and the first weekend has been mighty interesting. We had another call in ‘James Hook Shirt Bingo’ (We’re only waiting on Tighthead prop before we win a jar of chutney), Italy brought the goods but had their hearts broken, France got a quite frightening amount of mojo back even against a fierce Scotland and Chris Cusiter and Tommy Bowe distracted crowds and armchair supporters alike by using their downtime to practice their punditry.

Now the hangovers have finally been banished, Lauren and Anna have taken some time out to give their thoughts on what occured, what didn’t, and who we should be running away from.

Wales v England, Friday 4th February

 

Photo courtesy of Zimbio
The Storm before the Storm

 

Three weeks ago, I was sat in the Liberty Stadium watching the Ospreys take on Toulon, fingers crossed every time James Hook put ball to boot, cheering Alun Wyn Jones at each line out and genuinely thrilled when Shane Williams came on in the second half.  I was willing Jonny Wilkinson to miss a kick. Just one, just for once.

How quickly things change. Being an English Ospreys supporter is hard (and stupid, some might say) and means that Friday was some kind of sick torment for me. There was a lot of hype in the English press about Johnno’s boys being the tournament favourites and endless harking back to 2003, with glib predictions about a repeat Grand Slam to pave the way for World Cup glory.

Forget all of that, because this was about one game and overall, it wasn’t really that impressive. Both teams made their fair share of mistakes and for all their calm demeanours in post-match interviews, you know that Gats and Johnno will be dealing out the “rollockings” which the latter promised once the dust has settled.

Ultimately, it was England who managed to capitalise on those mistakes. Not many will be surprised that Chris Ashton was the man to give England their first try of the campaign and although it might not have had the same build up as THAT try against Australia, it was by no means any less theatrical as Ashy adopted what’s fast becoming his signature move, arm aloft as he went over the line with a dive. Should he have celebrated before touching down? Maybe not, but I’ll be the first to admit that I was already out of my seat and shouting at the telly before he’d launched into the air. The try was set up brilliantly by Toby Flood, who later went on to quite rightly be named man of the match. He was nothing short of superb.  Another try followed for Chris Ashton in the second half after a tidy little pass from Mark Cueto and it seemed then that England might have sealed the deal.

But we’ve seen Wales turn a game around in the dying minutes before and I stayed on the edge of my seat until the bitter end, having a small heart attack any time the ball got near Shane Williams or Jamie Roberts’ hands. It was Morgan Stoddart, though, who eventually clawed back a try for Wales, a deserved reward for the solid game he played. Kudos also to Bradley Davies, a man so tough that it seemed it to always take at least two England players to take him down and even then he was still fighting. There were shining moments of the Wales we have known, but it just didn’t come together for them on the night.

As for England, yes they won and yes it was a big deal, but was this a team ready to win the World Cup? There’s still a ways to go yet, boys.

Manpilez Man Of The Match: Morgan Stoddart, because he tried, bless him.

 

Italy v Ireland, Saturday 5th February

 

picture courtesy of Zimbio

Even Paul O'Connell was wrong footed by the Azzurri ascendency

 

The defeat suffered by Italy in their opening game of the tournament was simply heartbreaking. Having never beaten Ireland in the 6 Nations, this was their chance. Not only were Ireland missing a glut of key players due to injuries, but it was apparent in the first quarter of the game that this was an Italian squad who simply would not be bossed, with fresh faced scrum half Edoardo Gori paying for his efforts with a dislocated shoulder. The defensive tactics that the Azzurri exhibited throughout the game were staunch and fervent, with fullback Luke McLean throwing himself into tackles with wild abandon and flanker Alessandro Zanni making a real impact.

Looking at the game from the opposing side, it was somewhat of a shocker for Ireland. Were they ready for Italy? Brian O’Driscoll had said in the press this week that they weren’t going to be complacent and expected a tough, physical game, but the sheer level of mistakes that they made beggared belief at times, especially from experienced players like BOD Almighty himself. Was the ball greased up? It would certainly explain the amount of times it slipped from Irish fingers.

Mirco Bergamasco started the day well, landing two penalty kicks in the first half which put Italy ahead at the break. The inevitable finally came in the second half, however, as O’Driscoll touched down in the 44th minute. From there, the game went back and forth until the final ten minutes, when Ireland’s Denis Leamy ended up in the sin bin and Italy gave a mighty push which saw Luke McLean finally make it over the line for a hard fought try. To say the Italian supporters in the Stadio Flaminio lost their shit at this point would be fair. Victory was so absolutely close, but unfortunately our beloved Mirco wavered and missed the conversion, which would prove to be fatal.

What followed was a hideously tense four minutes in which Ronan O’Gara took to the pitch and landed a perfect drop goal to edge Ireland ahead by two points. Despite Kristopher Burton’s attempt to counter, his own kick fell well short of the sticks and the Azzurri saw the win snatched away from them. Look up the word “dejected” in the dictionary, and you’d probably find a picture of those boys.

The positives? Italy made a fierce impression regardless of the final score. Their defence was fantastic and there is no doubting their passion. They have so much to prove and their standing on the international field has been steadily improving. They’re almost there. As for Ireland, they’ll no doubt be calling their own faults into question ahead of next weekend’s game against France, who showed a return to form against Scotland that bordered on terrifying…

Manpilez Man of the Match: The Big Man, Sergo Parisse, for leading Italy, so close to victory, from the front.

 

France V Scotland, Saturday 5th February

The captain leads the charge

With Scotland going into the tournament as the ‘In form’ team and France veering between fierce and foul, we weren’t quite sure what to expect, with this game but what we got was most definitely the stand out game of the first round.

France came out of the traps like a runaway train and within the first three minutes they’d turned over what had been looking like some promising Scottish possession and turned it into a stonking Maxime Medard try which Morgan Parra converted with barely a flinch. From then on in it was clear that France were taking no prisoners with pretty much every single Scottish mistake being turned into points, meaning Les Bleus were 10-0 up within 10 minutes after Francois Trinh-Duc almost casually pitched in a drop goal.

That’s not to say that Scotland were not giving them a serious run for their money, their defence in particular were exemplary, with Richie Grey and Nikki Walker in particular extinguishing a lot of French fires.  Their set pieces at the beginning of the first half were almost flawless, but with them failing to convert that into territory or opportunities it felt like all they were doing was exhausting themselves so that by the end of the first half, the scrums were collapsing like houses of cards, meaning the security they had built up from Captain Alistair Kellock’s try was soon broken down by giving away a penalty try before the break, leaving the score 17-7.

The second half had a completely different texture altogether. Though both teams were still playing open, expansive rugby, it felt like both sides were now out for blood which lead to scrappier, pacier action. However, that 10 points separating the teams at the break was never far away and there was a feeling of Try-ping pong around the hour mark as a quite frankly remarkable pass from Francois Trinh-Duc set Imanol Harinordoquy up for a try that was promptly countered by Kelly Brown, creating the feeling that Scotland had upped their attack.

France, meanwhile were clinical and ruthless, which meant that once again, each slip from Scotland turned into points for Les Bleus but with some hard work from Scotland, that 10 point gap was maintained all the way into the closing minutes to keep the hope alive right up until a penalty from Yachvilli broke every Scottish heart.

Could we be seeing back to back slams from France?  It’s too early to tell but they have definitely chosen the exact right moment to get their mojo back and Scotland, well, they currently look ‘nearly ready’ a few tweaks and a bit more confidence and they could well be a force to be reckoned with for the rest of the competition.

Manpilez Man of the Match: Francois Trinh-Duc, because that pass really was extrordinary.

Words by Lauren and Anna

 

Six Nations Final Countdown: Aaaaaaaah-Aaaaah! February 4, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Manpilez @ 6:10 pm
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With less than 24 hours to go before kick off, now the preperations have been made, we could spend our time tweaking our Fantasy squad, we even considered, long and hard in fact, the idea of selecting the kind of match day 22 the other kind of fantasies are made of(hey, we are girls) but in the end, we decided against all of that, and decided instead to take a step back and look at why we’re so ruddy excited.

There’s many Rugby tournaments to get excited about, but to us at Manpilez, there’s nothing quite like the Six Nations to get the fire in our belly and a whole book full of songs in our hearts. The Tri nations seems to go on forever, the World Cup only comes around every 4 years and then timezones can mean missing the whole thing due to the need to sleep and the domestic tournaments are, well, domestic. But once a year, without fail, Six nations unite to… battle against each other for the kind of glory that’s hard won but oh, so satisfying.

There’s something so unique about the whole ethos of the competition, the camerarderie that is cultivated between Six countries, some seperated only by walls or rivers and others by half a continent, coming togther to celebrate something they’re good at. Old rivalries are channeled for just 80 minutes before being cast asunder (apart from light sniggering from England supporters when all the French fans have to go back to Central London via Waterloo – and claiming you’ve not done so means you’re a liar) for a commiseration or celebration pint.

Granted, this is far from alien for Rugby, part of why we’re here at all is that camerarderie and, dar I say it, the Banter. But think of this this way: when you’re supporting your local team there’s nothing quite like a derby day. The six nations is five derby days in 6 weeks, each more important than the last. Your country beats the All Blacks: Well done, all are pleased, but is it really as exciting as beating Them Next Door? This year the entire tournament kicks off in a showpiece Friday night game between what may be the two biggest rivals in all of Rugby and that’s ignighted the passions of people on both sides of the border to fever pitch more than anything we’ve seen in the last few years. Jono and Gats’s men have been out in force, making sly and not so sly swipes at various members of the opposition and making the rugby media feel like the storm before the hurricane. Isn’t it fab?!

There’s also, as occasional correspondent Rachel hinted on her twitter, a bit of a Christmas like quality to the Six Nations, it comes around every year at the same time, and you have a huge feast till everyone’s happy and full, then have a week of limbo before starting it all again. And if you followed all the refreshment suggestions we made you’ll be eating leftovers for weeks then find the remnants of the baileys down the back of the cupboard in June, curdled to buggery.

We’ll be back on Saturday with our version of what happened in Cardiff tonight and all the developments from Saturday’s games too. And before we get destracted by the ins and outs of the tournament, we want to thank you all for humouring our pre-six nations fever and helping us make this the biggest week of Manpilez since we started back in August, especially those of you who’ve helped spread the word.

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