Saturday, 22 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to all readers of my blog! I hope that the next year will be even better than this one.
To all rugby players, I wish you many successful, enjoyable and injury-free games. To all rugby supporters, I wish you lots of excitement and happiness from the coming games. Last but not least, to all rugby memorabilia collectors I hope your collections will grow bigger. All the best to every rugby person!

Since we are in the Christmas mood, here are some pictures of fancy rugby shirts, ideal for this time of the year :)






Sunday, 16 December 2012

Heineken Cup – as it stands after 4 rounds

Four rounds of Hieneken Cup are now over. The past two weekends were very interesting as clubs played home and away returning fixtures. The pools are getting shaped now. We already know which teams will progress to the knock-out stages, which will have to fight to survive, and which lost their chances for success in the tournament.
Saracens are leading pool 1 with 14 points and three wins. Racing Metro, also with three wins, is right behind them. Munster, which is on the third position, still has got chances to progress (at least in theory). On the bottom of the pool sits Edinburgh with no points so far.

Leicester Tigers (14 points) took charge of pool two. The second position belongs to Toulouse (13 points), the third one to Ospreys (9 points). Benetton Treviso – is forth, and still waiting for the first win.

Another English club is the leader of pool 3. Harlequins with 19 points and four wins are almost certain of reaching knock-out stages. 10 points less have got the French from Biarritz, followed by the Connacht. Italian new team Zebre is on the learning curve so far. They didn’t manage to get even one point.

Ulster – one of the favourites to win is in front of pool four. Castres and Northampton Saints still have the chance to progress, though. Glasgow Warriors, despite fierce performances and gaining two losing bonus points, are on the fourth place.

Another favourite – Clermont Auvergne is on the top of pool five with four wins and 18 points. Current champions – Leinster are second with 10 points. Exeter Chiefs are third and Scarlets fourth.

Pool six has been dominated by the French. Toulon have 18 points and four wins, and are followed by Montpellier. Sale Sharks are third and Cardiff Blues fourth.

As usual, the competition is very fierce; games are being played at the high level, some of them with intensity similar to international matches. So far, it looks like the main contenders to the trophy are French and English teams. Irish clubs, except for Ulster, are a bit underperforming. Scottish and Italian teams already lost their chances for further progress. Welsh are in trouble too, the only team with slim chances to progress is Ospreys.

Next games take place in four weeks’ time. I am looking forward to them. Below you will find current pool standings.






Friday, 14 December 2012

Collection of rugby badges

A few months ago, I presented you with my rugby badges collection. The pictures of pins were only used to supplement the collector's guide which aimed at encouraging you to create your own collections. Over the past 6 months, I have managed to obtain many interesting and unique badges. Today, I have decided it's about time to show my latest acquisitions.

Let me start with a few words of introduction. First pins got into the collection in the 70s and came mostly from exchanges with players, coaches and other people connected with clubs or rugby unions. In the past few years, I managed to make the collection almost three times bigger than it was at the beginning, mostly by buying pins on internet auctions such as eBay. To keep my collection tidy, I had to set some rules. I'm only interested in metal pin badges linked to rugby union. I have some rugby7 or rugby league pins but only a few of them and these are of sentimental value to me. The collection is divided into separate groups: "rugby unions", "clubs" - sorted by nations, "Rugby World Cup", "tournaments and other occasions", "match days" and "other" - if I couldn’t find place for them in any of the above categories. Such organization is very helpful. It enables me to find items and generally keeps them in order - which is very important as there is quite a number of them.

The collection itself originated thanks to the efforts of two rugby lovers. They belong to different generations but both believe in the same ideals and are truly committed to the oval ball sport.
Collections can be of various types and the themes vary as well. The popular ones are: autographs, club gadgets, stickers, scarves, or t-shirts. Collecting metal pins is mostly associated with the Olympics; however a lot of disciplines have attracted fans who focus on a specific sport or club. Collecting badges that are somehow connected with your favourite discipline can become an interesting and engrossing hobby which also brings plenty of satisfaction. Apart from purely aesthetic aspects, collecting gives you an opportunity to increase your knowledge on a given subject and meet new people who may share your interests. I would highly recommend that if you are the owner of a small collection it may be worthwhile looking at expanding it as a small collection may as well turn into a private museum.

Below you can see 1251 rugby badges, divided into categories I've been using. Sometimes, I get hold of items which are already in my collection so if you are interested in exchanges, please let me know.
Click to see the picture in full resolution

Click to see the picture in full resolution

Friday, 7 December 2012

Rocky on #rugbyunited


I am very pleased to inform you that my latest interview with Stanislaw Niedzwiecki has been posted on the prestigious website rugbyunited. For those who never heard about #rugbyunited, a few words of introduction below.
It is a unique initiative which brings together all rugby fans from various backgrounds. A fantastic idea originated as a communication tool on twitter for the English rugby fans. Hard work and commitment of passionate rugby fans developed into an impressive project. Now, #rugbyunited is one of the best and most popular rugby hashtags on twitter, where you can meet not only fans, clubs, players from UK but also from all other the world. Rugbyunited’s ideas are well appreciated by professionals who joined the project, for example, RFU, ESPN, Canterbury, The Rugby Paper and many Aviva Premiership and RaboDirect Pro 12 clubs. #Rugbyunited hosted questions and answers sessions with top rugby stars and also interviewed such players as Bryan Habana. For more information you can visit the website http://www.rugbyunited.info/about/.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Interview with S. Niedzwiecki – Polish rugby player

Today I'm going to introduce something completely new to my blog. I have recently interviewed one of the best Polish rugby players – Stanislaw Niedzwiecki. Below you will find the full interview. I hope you will enjoy reading it.


1. How did your rugby adventure start? 
My dad was a head coach at Budowlani Lublin rugby club and Polish National Rugby Team. My brother was already a player at the club so when I was 5 years old I started coming to the trainings and messed about with the rugby ball. Once, I was allowed to join in the training and played with the older boys (there was no age group for younger children at this time). They played "walking rugby" - it was a rugby drill, in which you were only allowed to walk. As I was younger, I was given a bit of handicap and was allowed to run. I scored my first try then. I still remember that amazing feeling when I was running away from my opponents (years later I found out that coach forbade them to catch me). When I scored I felt like a World Champion! I knew I wanted to become a rugby player since then.

2. Despite your young age, you have achieved a lot as a rugby player. Could you tell us more about it?
I managed to win the Polish Championship twice (highest league in Poland) and triumphed in the Polish Cup once. I won my first gold medal with AZS-AWF Warsaw Rugby Club. Both, the second gold medal and the Cup I was awarded when playing with Budowlani Lodz Rugby Club. Matches in the National Team mean a lot to me and I rate them very high as well. I also played in youth National Teams, where I was a skipper for two years.

3. Is any particular medal more important to you?
Yes, the first one. I came back to playing after an injury and winning the league was a cherry on the cake of my comeback. That feeling when a gold medal is presented to you and then is hanging around your neck for the first time stays in your memory forever, it was a very emotional moment.

4. Apart from playing for Polish teams you also had a spell abroad. You played in Portugal in Benfica. What can you tell us about the level of game out there?

In Portugal, the style of game is different to the one in Polish rugby. They have very skilled backs and love to distribute the ball wide. This is their main advantage. You have to stay focused all the time not to give them a chance to play wide and make room for the agile wingers. In Poland, backs are playing more physical game, they are looking for contact more often. Another thing is presence of foreigners in the Portuguese league. There are players from South Africa, New Zealand, Australia or France. In a lot of cases, they are the main force for Portuguese teams, including Benfica.

5. Do you think that changing of environment was beneficial to you as a player?

Yes, I do. You can always learn a lot from different game styles. As I mentioned before, Portuguese play much wider. Secondly, the possibility to play with and against top-level players, mostly foreigners but also Portuguese who took part in the RWC 2007 was beneficial. I could challenge myself by playing against them.

6. Would you recommend playing abroad to the other players?
Definitely yes! If a skillful player has a chance to try himself, they should take it. It may be very beneficial and if you are lucky enough you can get noticed and maybe get an offer to play at the higher level.

7. You have been the skipper at Budowlani Lublin Rugby Club for the last few seasons. Is it difficult to be a leader? What responsibilities does the role entail?
It gives you much more pressure before the games. The captain needs to work exceptionally hard on the pitch, he needs to be an example to other team-mates, has to bring the team together in the crisis situations and raise the team spirit from the first to the last whistle. Before the game there is always a motivational speech on which a lot depends. As you know 80% of effective defense is in your mindset, only 20% are your skills and physics. My job is to make sure that this 80% is in throughout the game. But being a good captain doesn't finish on the match days, you have to motivate your team-mates during the training sessions as well. You have to stay in touch with them and give them a ring if they don’t attend. As I mentioned before all of this adds up and can create quite a big pressure. At the same time you also have to focus on your own game and your own tasks. It's difficult for me to judge myself, but I think I'm handling my captain's responsibilities well.

Monday, 3 December 2012

RWC 2015 pool draw results

Today, we have found out groups for Rugby World Cup 2015. What do you think about the results, which group do you think is the most difficult?


Saturday, 1 December 2012

Surprise in London! New Zealand defeated!

Autumn Internationals are now over. The last two games, just like the entire series, were very interesting. Wales v Australia clash was not most captivating but all in all it didn’t lack the drama. Up to the last minute both teams only scored points from the kicks. The Welsh were very close to break up the bad luck run but in the last minute, after the successful  Australian counterattack, Kurtley Beale spoiled the Welsh party and stole the win (Wales – Australia 12:14). Another Welsh defeat means that the team is out of the first eight in the IRB ranking and  will have to face two theoretically better teams in the RWC 2015 pool stage.

A massive surprise at Twickenham! England beat the best team in the world – New Zealand. The hosts were very determined and dominated the game. At the half-time they were 12:0 in front. After the break the English team continued their effective attack and finally won 38:21. Manu Tuilagi wreaked havoc on the All Blacks defensive lines. He was also chosen the man of the match thanks to his amazing performance (two assists and a wonderful interception try). New Zealand had a bad day and could not perform at the high level which fans normally see. Possibly it had something to do with their health issues – a few days before the game almost entire team had suffered from the stomach illness…

Nevertheless, congratulations to the hosts who managed to stop the mighty All Blacks, undefeated in the last 20 games. The last time England beat New Zealand was 10 years ago! They have never done it with such a big margin as today. Well done!

Monday, 26 November 2012

Autumn Internationals - round 3

Another weekend full of international games has gone past. Ireland had an impressive victory over Argentina 46:24. Italy, once again, proved that they should not be underestimated, especially when they play at home. Although after 40 minutes they were behind (6:22), they came back to scare Australia (19:22). In the 79th minute Italians had a chance to level the score but Luciano Orquera’s penalty kick was unsuccessful. England narrowly lost to South Africa 15:16. Rugby fans in Aberdeen witnessed a surprise. Scotland came second best to Tonga (21:15). After the defeat, Andy Robinson has resigned as Scotland's head coach. France completed a clean sweep with a 22:14 win over Samoa. Wales suffered sixth consecutive defeat after going down 10:33 to New Zealand. The World Champions secured the win in the first half, winning it 23:0. Apart from All Blacks’ amazing counterattacking, the Welsh try scored after 15-men lineout maul deserves a special mention. Something you don’t see very often, especially at the top level games.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the stake of the Autumn Internationals is high this year as the IRB ranking will be used for the RWC 2015 pool seeding. England is out of the top four, their spot has been taken by France. Situation seems to be even worse for Wales, which has to win with Australia next week to save the spot in the first eight. The biggest surprise was definitely Samoa, which secured the place in the 2nd band narrowly overtaking Argentina.

Below is the latest IRB ranking for the first 12 teams:
1. New Zealand - 92.91
2. South Africa - 86.94
3. Australia - 86.31
4. France - 85.07
5. England - 81.07
6. Ireland - 80.22
7. Wales - 78.95
8. Samoa - 78.71 (78.709)
9. Argentina - 78.71 (78.708)
10. Italy - 76.24
11. Tonga - 76.10
12. Scotland - 75.83

Monday, 19 November 2012

Autumn Internationals - round 2

The second weekend of November tests has just finished. Only France and Ireland A managed to save Europe from the whitewash. The French defeated Argentinians 39:22 and cemented their fourth position in the IRB ranking. Ireland A had no problems outplaying Fiji (53:0). This game, however, did not count as a test match so the result has had no influence on the ranking. Other European nations lost their games.

Italians were defeated by New Zealand 10:42. England, despite being a favourite, lost to Australia 14:20. The Scots failed to win with South Africa (10:21) and Wales, after a dramatic game, were beaten by Samoa 19:26.

In a week time, the fight for the most desirable positions in IRB ranking will continue.
The up to date ranking is:

1. New Zealand 92.91 (points)
2. South Africa 86.05
3. Australia 85.94
4. France 84.99
5. England 81.96
6. Argentina 79.89
7. Ireland 79.04
8. Wales 78.95
9. Samoa 78.79
10. Scotland 77.42
11. Italy 76.61
12. Tonga 74.51

Tier 1 and tier 2 games are accompanied by unusual and interesting matches such as clubs challenging national teams. Below are last weeks’ results including lower ranked nations.

Leicester Tigers - Maori All Blacks 32:24
Gloucester - Fiji 31:29
Newcastle Falcons - Tonga 24:13
Wales - Samoa 19:26
Georgia - Japan 22:25
RFU Championship XV - Maori All Blacks 21:52
Italy – New Zealand 10:42
England - Australia 14:20
Scotland – South Africa 10:21
Ireland A - Fiji 53:0
France - Argentina 39:22
Chile - Portugal 22:28

It’s worth mentioning that Leicester Tigers played in shirts with letters on instead of numbers which has become a tradition in this kind of games.


Monday, 12 November 2012

Autumn Internationals - round 1

November is a good month for rugby fans. For four weeks supporters will have a chance to watch word’s rugby elite challenging European Nations. The rivalry this year will be very tense as there is a lot to fight for. After Autumn Internationals, IRB ranking will be used to seed teams to the Rugby World Cup 2015 pools. A place among the first four guarantees avoiding the most powerful teams at the pool stage. Places 5-8 are pretty good, too, and should let the teams look at the pool stage quite optimistically. However, if the team fails to be ranked in the top 8, they will have to face two theoretically better opponents.

So far, Autumn Internationals have not disappointed. Games were very fierce and played at high intensity.

In round one, England scored seven tries and crushed Fiji 54:12. English team played in a very efficient and spectacular way, which will definitely help to build up the team’s confidence before the next game. Next opponent – Australia will be more difficult, but Wallabies already lost to France 33:6.

In other games, Italians beat the ambitious players from Tonga 28:23. Argentinians, hardened in the Rugby Championship used their experience from playing with the best to beat Wales in Cardiff 12:26. Spectators in Dublin watched a real thriller. Ireland hosted South Africa. Both teams played in a similar, very physical style, but it were the visitors who managed to get the win in this close match.

On Sunday, in Edinburgh brave Scots played with the best team on the word – New Zealand.  They tried their best and gave supporters plenty to cheer for but this was not enough to stop mighty All Blacks who won 22:51.

More exciting fixtures are waiting for us next week:
Wales - Samoa
Italy - New Zealand
England - Australia
Scotland - South Africa
France - Argentina

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Fantastic Friday night at Salford City Stadium!

Players, coaches, supporters and everyone connected with the club had to wait a few weeks to see the first win in Aviva Premiership. After Friday night there is no need to wait longer. Sale Sharks beat London Irish 21-9 in a very good style. In my opinion it was one of the best games this season! I am very happy that I was at the stands and could watch our team playing well and winning!

The night was cold, but Sale Sharks prepared a nice surprise for their fans. Yo
u could get a free scarf and a hat if you bought a shirt. Good deal, and very useful (in these conditions), too.
I decided to buy my tickets at the South Stand rather than my usual seats in the East Stand to check the atmosphere in a different part of the Stadium. I must say it was a very positive experience. Fans were even more vocal so I quickly joined the chanting and cheering.

The first half of the game was played in the typical Manchester’s weather. Cold and rainy conditions suited well our local team who dominated in the first 40 minutes. Nick MacLeod was first to put points on the board from the penalty kick. Soon after he scored a fantastic try and extended the lead to 8:0. After 10 minutes visitors replied with a successful penalty kick, but Sale Sharks were still in control of the game. The team kept playing very well showing a great determination and constantly putting visitors under pressure. After 30 minutes, Johnny Leota scored the second try and gave fans more reasons to cheer. Sale Sharks kept creating potential try scoring situations in the first half, but could not quite finish them. After 40 minutes the atmosphere at the stands was fantastic! Everyone got behind the team cheering and chanting. Local fans had plenty reasons to be in a good mood as our team was leading 15:3. Players were focused and committed, dominating set pieces and showing lots of enthusiasm in the attacking game and strong determination in the defense.

Weather conditions changed a bit in the second half. The rain stopped and London Irish attempted to get their second wind. They closed the gap to 6 points after two successful penalties. Danny Cipriani responded well by scoring 6 points from the tee and once again Sale Sharks were 12 points ahead. They had a good chance to extend the lead even more in the last few minutes of the match but London Irish managed to survive our attacks. Final score: 21:9 – a well-deserved win!

I was very proud of the team’s performance. Players showed some big spirit! It was a real pleasure to watch the game and celebrate the win with Sale Sharks enthusiastic fans. I can’t wait for my next visit at Salford City Stadium.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Heineken Cup - round 2

Two rounds of Heineken Cup have now finished. As usual, rivalry of the European elite provided us with a lot of excitement. Next games are scheduled for December, so now it is time for a short round up.

Pool 1
The top spot in the first pool belongs to Saracens, who defeated French Racing Metro 30:13. The game took place in Belgium. The stadium in Brussels was the twelfth venue on which Saracens played this season. In the second game in pool 1 Munster defeated Edinburgh 33:0. Scottish team had a rather miserable start of the tournament. They lost both games to nil.

Pool 2
In pool 2 French titans – Toulouse had to work hard to beat Benetton Treviso in Italy. At half time the hosts were leading 18:9. After all, it were the experienced visitors who won 21:33. Elsewhere in the second pool Leicester Tigers defeated Ospreys 39:22. Both teams got one win each and they are loosing 3 points to the leader Stade Toulouse.

Pool 3
Aviva Premiership champions – Harlequins outplayed Connacht 22:30 and are in control of pool 3. Quins are 4 points clear of Biarritz who defeated Italian Zebre 38:17.

Pool 4
Ulster - who have been undefeated this season in all competitions - are on the top of pool 4. They beat Glasgow Warriors 8:19. In the second match - Castres managed to stop sensational in the Aviva Premiership – Northampton Saints 21:16.

Pool 5
Clermont Auvergne is the only team with maximum 10 points after two games. The French scored 6 tries and win in Exeter 12:46. Not far behind them, with 8 points, are Heineken Cup Champions - Leinster who beat Scarlets 13:20.

Pool 6
Toulon head pool 6 with nine points. Jonny Wilkinson’s team defeated Cardiff Blues 14:22. Behind them, with 4 points are Sale Sharks and Montpellier. Montpellier beat Sharks 33:18.

So far, the favourites managed to win their games, but rivalry is very tense. Many more excitement is ahead of us. Below you will find standings after two rounds.







Monday, 22 October 2012

No record for New Zealand

Before Saturdays game with Australia, New Zealand was hunting for another record in the world rugby. All Blacks, which had straight 16 wins, needed just two more wins to equal the record of the highest number of consecutive test victories. Lithuanians, who managed to beat their rivals 18 times in a row, and hold the official highest total, do not need to worry. Their achievement stays safe. Wallabies and All Blacks clash finished with the 18:18 draw. All points have been scored from the penalties – nobody could outplay opponents defence. 

 This result is surely much more welcomed by the Australian team which has to deal with lots of injuries and definitely wasn’t the favourite before the game. Not many experts believed that Wallabies could actually stop the mighty All Blacks.

Although World Champions attempt to break the record was unsuccessful, they still had a good reason to celebrate. New Zealand hooker Keven Mealamu became the third All Blacks player who played in 100 test games. This is a truly fantastic achievement! Mealamu - one of the best hookers in the history is only 22d player who reached the milestone. Congratulations!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Heineken Cup - round 1

The first round of Heineken Cup has finished, and as usual provided a lot of excitement. It seems that once again we will see a tough battle for the European glory. There are usual favorites – Leinster and Stade Toulouse, but other teams will definitely join the battle.

In pool 1 Saracens started their campaign with a big victory over Edinburgh 45:0. In the second game Racing Metro defeated Munster 22:17.

In pool 2 Ospreys got a 38-17 victory over Benetton Treviso and Toulouse eased past Leicester Tigers 23:9.

In pool 3, English champions – Harlequins beat Biarritz 40:13. Elsewhere in the group, Connacht defeated the new boys in the tournament – Zebre 19:10.

In pool 4 Ulster beat Castres 41:17. Undefeated in this season - Northampton Saints fought back from 0:15 to win with Glasgow Warriors 24:15

In pool 5 Exeter Chiefs were very close to getting the scalp of the champions. Leinster survived, and won the game 9:6. French Clermont Auvergne dispatched Scarlets 49:16.

In pool 6, Sale Sharks beat Cardiff Blues 34:33 in a real thriller, which I described in my previous post. Elsewhere in the group, Toulon seemed to be on fire and got a win over Montpellier 37:16.

Big wins from Saracens, Harlequins, Ulster and Toulon make these teams potential title contenders. Other clubs like Northampton Saints or Sale Sharks showed great spirit and came from behind to win their games. There are more exciting fixtures to come this weekend. Who is your favorite to win?

Monday, 15 October 2012

Rocky at www.salesharks.com

I am very happy to inform you all that my latest article has been posted on the official Sale Sharks website!
http://www.salesharks.com/news/1486.php

Heineken Cup thriller - Sale Sharks v Cardiff Blues 34:33

I had a fantastic day at Salford City Stadium. It was my second time watching Sale Sharks play against Cardiff Blues in the Heineken Cup, and just like last time, the excitement was immense!

I decided to set off for the stadium early to fully appreaciate the match day experience. I had plenty of time to visit the Sale Sharks store and browse through the new range of kits, include home, away and European. I also visited the fan bar and tried a pint of Devil's Advocate guest ale. A pint I definitely recommend to others!

The match started at 12.45pm and the Welsh visitors were first to put points on the board, with Leigh Halfpenny's successful penalty kick after only 2 minutes. Nick MacLeod managed to level-up 10 minutes later and although Sale seemed to have possession and played within Cardiff territory, they couldn't convert to points. Shortly after, unforced errors in defense allowed the Blues to score two soft tries and after 20 minutes, we were losing 3-17.

At this stage, the situation was not looking good. It seemed to knock the team's confidence and they started to play a bit weaker. Cardiff took their chances and managed to score another try before the half-time. We could only reply with two penalties from Nick MacLeod. So at the end of the first half, Cardiff Blues were leading 12-24.

The second half was a completely different story! Although Cardiff extended their lead to 12-27, it was Sale Sharks who dominated the game. Danny Cipriani and Cillian Willis were introduced in the 49th minute of the game, and I think it was the players from the bench that had a massive impact and raised the spirits of the entire team.

Six minutes later Cipriani scored a beautiful try. At this point fans became even more vocal than before! We tried harder and louder to become the extra player and help our team out. Passionate supporters, in the East stand especially, were almost constantly chanting until the last whistle!

In the meantime, Leigh Halfpenny managed to score another penalty, but the new substitutes, Johnny Leota and James Gaskell, increased Sharks' strength even more and their dominance became more visible.

In the 63rd minute, after a quick tap penalty, Cipriani and Leota created space for Mark Jennings, who placed the ball behind the opponent's try line. Rob Miller added 2 points with a successful conversion, leaving the home team with only a 6-point deficit.

The pressure was on! The atmosphere around the stadium was fantastic as we all believed in our boys in the sky-blue kit.

In the 73rd minute, Blues' Lewis Jones was sin-binned. Our pack then put massive pressure on the visitor's scrum, which led to Tony Buckley scoring the 3rd try! Rob Miller converted and for the first time in the game we were in front with 31 to 30 and only 5 minutes left on the clock!

Shortly after Rob Miller kicked another penalty, Leigh Halfpenny replied, taking the score to 34-33. Although the clock went to 80 minutes, the brave Sharks had to survive another few minutes, whilst Cardiff kept the ball alive and tried their best to take the lead for one final time. These few moments felt like a lifetime, and cost me my voice due to constant screaming! It was worth it though. Sale Sharks won their Heinken Cip opener 34-33.

The match, especially the second half was absolutely fantastic! It was a real Heineken Cup thriller with a much needed, happy ending.

Thank you Sale Sharks for your passionate performance!