Monday, 27 February 2012

Six Nations - round 3

The thrid round of Six Nations has just finished. The competition is fierce. Ireland beat Italy in Dublin 42:10 scoring 5 tries. This victory will definitely boost Irish morale before they face France next week.

In London, Wales won the triple crown defeating England. The game was full of emotions because of a very close score. The only try was scored by the substitute player Scott Williams. In the last minute, David Strettle found himself on the try line and it looked that the teams would draw. It turned out, however, that the try cannot be given which made Wales the winner 12:19.

In Edinburgh, a nerve-racking experience for the French and well playing Scots. In the 25th minute the Scottish were winning 10:0. They played ambitiously and were especially positive in the attacking. French managed to catch up and 3 minutes before the end of first half they were winning by 3 points. In the second half France proved better in scrums which eventually led to their victory over Scots. Despite their third defeat, Scotland showed determination and the game with France was their best performance in the tournament so far.
France only won by 6 points 17:23.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Six tries against Wasps - Cipriani signs contract with Sale

The Friday evening did not dissappoint me at all. Sale Sharks beat London Wasps 46-34. More than 7800 spectators saw 9 tries, six of them by Sale. Form the very beginning Sharks dominated on the pitch, although, in the first half of the game Wasps managed to keep the score tight (once even being in front of the score line). Sharks demonstrated great initiative. It looks like Steve Diamond’s work started to bring in some nice results. Sale were playing very positive rugby and were very dangerous in the attacking. Especially good game was played by the captain - Sam Tuitupou, who scored two tries and Andy Powell who became the man of the match. The Welshman was almost unstoppable, his every attack was a big test for Wasps' defensive lines. As a supporter I'm very satisfied with the way Sharks played on Friday, team is getting better and better and still has the chance to qualify to play-off stages.
photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images
Apart from Friday game's emotions, audience was excited by the rumours that Danny Cipriani is going to be Steve Dioamond's newest deal. Although it's still unofficial news (it’s going to be announced to the public on Tuesday), I know from the reliable source that Danny’s deal has been already finalized, and this player will sign three years' contract with Sale Sharks. Apart from being a big rugby talent, Cipriani is also know for his past misbehaviour. His romance with top model, night clubs' incidents, or a punch-up with a team mate made front pages of tabloids. Sports history of this player is a short romance with the English team (7 games), 33 games in London Wasps and two seasons in Melbourne Rebels in Australia. It seems that Steve Diamond is the man who can cope with misbehaving players. The second chance that Cipriani is receiving may prove to be a crucial decision for Sharks, especially as they are still looking for someone who can step into Charlie Hodgson's shoes on the fly half position.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Rugby weekend

The upcoming weekend is full of rugby events. New Super 15 season has started today, with 125 games to watch.  16th round of Aviva Premiership will be played in England. The most interesting game for me, will be the Sale Sharks - London Wasps. My tickets arrived a couple of days ago, Sale's jersey is ready and waiting. :) Hopefully the weather will be nice and I will see good, entertaining game. Although football is the most popular sport in Manchester, Sharks can always count on their loyal supporters. I've seen great shows at Edgeley Park before, and I hope to see one more tonight.

There will be two Six Nations games on Saturday. Ireland will host Italy in Dublin and Wales will try to secure triple crown trophy at Twickenham. Scotland will play against France in Edinburgh - French team is definitely the  favorite to win.
As we can see there is plenty of emotions ahead of us, however the most important one will take place in Cumbria, where I will be playing in yet another local club game.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

White card in new Super Rugby 15 season

photo: © Getty Images
The new Super Rugby 15 season starts this Friday. For the first time, apart from the traditional yellow and red, the referees will be given the opportunity to use an extra white card. The aim of introducing the additional card is to take some pressure off the refs when making  decisions which can change the final score. The white card will automatically force the disciplinary panel to look closer at the offence, and possibly increase the punishment, if necessary. Also, it will be used when the ref sees a foul play but is uncertain as to who is responsible for it. Apart from that a player who admits his guilt before the investigation starts, may be able to avoid a serious punishment.
Any use of the white card will result in disciplianry panel launching an investigation to establish what happened and what kind of action should be taken.

So, that's it when it comes to what the officials say. We've not seen the new rule in game yet but it already stirred up some heated discussions. The proponents say that it will eliminate foul play and will allow to punish unsporting behaviour more efficiently. You can't argue with this, but the controversy is about the way the new rule is going to be executed. The opponents of the idea state that rather than organising hearings and investigations after the game, it would be equally or more efficient to use TMO, who is already making crucial decissions if the ref is unsure whether the try should be awarded or not. Decisions are made quickly with the aid of technical equipment which is already in place during games and the video is availble to anyone watching the coverage. Another question is if the new card is necessary at all. A similar rule already exists in rugby and was created in 1994. It says that a referee can ask the disciplinary panel to investigate the foul/ unnsporting behaviour after the game. They indicate this by raising crossed hands above their heads. They don't need extra card for it.

Every  attempt to change the rules provokes disussions. We will see how good the white card is during the upcoming Super Rugby 15 season. After it finishes SANZAR will decide whether it is worth keeping in the competition or maybe it will land in the pool of missed ideas that didn't quite work.

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Monday, 20 February 2012

Sonny Bill Williams NZ boxing champion

Photo: Getty Images
Europe is still following Six Nations and Heineken Cup (not to mention Aviva Premiership and Rabo Pro 12), the south hemisphere is getting ready for the new Super 15 season. The teams have entered the last phase of preparation and plaing warm up games to check if their players are on fire.

Not everyone is preparing in the same way. Definitely, the most entertaining pre-season chose Sonny Bill Williams. This popular All Blacks' player and former Rugby League star, has recenly become New Zealand's heavy weight boxing champion. He won his fifth professional fight by TKO in the first rounf. He left Clarence Tilman III no chance whatsoever.

Sonny Bill Williams will surely become one of the players to look for in the next season. Nowadays, such versatile talent is becoming scarce as the players try to steer their carrers in one direction. 
Well done Sonny!

Saturday, 18 February 2012

World Press Photo 2012

photo: Ray McManus
One of the most prestigious photography contests - World Press Photo took place at the beginning of this year. Rugby fans must be happy to see that our game is present among the best. The picture of a rugby match between Old Belvedere and Blackrock played in heavy rain in Dublin by Ray McManus took second place in the sports category.

It's not the first time when rugby photo is winning prizes in this contest. In 2003, Tim Clayton won the 1st prize with the picture showing the head of French captain Yannick Bru peering out of the scrum during the third-place play-off match against New Zealand at the Rugby World Cup.

I hope we will see more fantastic and rewarded rugby photos in the future. Well done Mr. McManus!

photo: Tim Clayton,

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Six Nations - round 2

Another Six Nations' games are over. This week, with only 2 games,  as France Ireland game has been postponed due to the frozen pitch. It's the first postponed game since 1985. Many blame FFR for this situation, as they decided to set a very late kick-off hour...
Fortunately, 2/3 of all games took place as scheduled. My brave and risky prediction from the last week was almost right. The first half of the match in Rome took place under the domination of the Italians.

Although weather conditions were not very good, we saw some entertaining moments of game. Italians coped very well, played without any complexes, and once again proved that in their capital noone gets easy victory. Hosts, led by superbly playing Sergio Parrise controlled the game in the first fifty minutes and looked strong to gain a historic victory. England would struggle to make up nine points deficit, if it wasn't for the same hero who had rescued them a week ago. Charlie Hodgson, the former Sale Sharks player, just like in the match against Scotland saved his team by successful charge-down which let him score the try. This was a turning point of the game, the English started to believe in themselves and played better and better. Twenty-year old Owen Farrell coped well with the pressure, effectively converting the try and two penalties. The final score was 15:19 (12:6) for England.

In Cardiff, Wales played with Scotland. The first half of the game was very close, both teams created dangerous attacking situations. Richie Gray, who was a very strong link in the Scottish team, deserves special mention. His offload skills and ability to break the advantage line will certainly please Sale Sharks’ fans who shortly will be able to see this player in the colors of their club. Although both teams tried some interesting offensive tactics, best element of the game in first half was definitely almost error-free defense. Halftime result 3-3.

After changing sides, game became even more interesting.  Scots made an error at the very beginning of the first half. This led to the first try in the match. It was the beginning of a painful time of the game for Scotland. First, yellow card for a "professional foul" saw Nick de Luca and after him for the same offense Rory Lamont. In matches against the best teams in the world it is very difficult to effectively defend while playing nearly 20 minutes with only 14 on the pitch. Welsh used the opportunity well and went for over twenty points lead. Although the Scots played very ambitiously - particularly young substitute Stuart Hogg, the fate of the match was already decided. The meeting ended 27:13. Wales has once again showed their huge potential and now lead the Six Nations table.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Six Nations - round 1

The first round of Six Nations is over.
As we expected there was no shortage of emotion.
France won with Italy smoothly and looks much better under the new coach - Philippe Saint-Andre.
The three-colours will certainly be very dangerous this year. I think, they may be able to reach even for the grand slam. It seems that the only team that can spoil it is Wales. After a dramatic match in Dublin, where they won 21:23, Welsh are the second favorite to win the tournament. The fact that France will face Wales in the last round on 17th March adds spice to the rivalry. It is possible that both teams will go into this game undefeated.

On Saturday, Italy hosts England in Rome. Although they had no chance of winning with the second team of RWC2011 they played positive rugby. They have changed the style, played very bravely and ambitiously, definitely improved their  contact and offload areas. I think that if they play with similar commitment against England, they may have chances to gain first historic victory over this team. The red rose team was very lucky winning against Scotland, and actually got this victory as a gift from the Scots, who lost at their own request.
I have not seen England playing so poorly for a long time. If they don't improve in the next games, a victory against Scotland may be their only success in this tournament.
Similar story can be told about the Scots. Almost every year they show enormous potential but they are still underperforming. Once again, they lack accuracy in finishing actions and above all ability to score tries. It is hard to win games by obtaining points only from the penalties and occasional drop-goals.

The second round of Six Nations is coming closer.
My types are Italy, France and Wales :)