Sunday, 24 June 2012

Test games review

Spring test games are now over. For the past 3 weeks Home Nations were trying to get precious scalps on the Southern Hemisphere. The games were exciting. Fans had a chance to watch some interesting matches. Coaches gave young, promising players the chance to get the taste of international rugby. And now is the time to give a brief summary of the series.

photo:Getty Images
After winning the Six Nations Grand Slam, the Welsh team travelled to Australia hoping to sustain their winning run. Players and the coaching staff wanted to prove that they are not only the elite not only on the European soil but also worldwide. It looked like Warren Gatland’s team had had a chance to gain historic success and beat the Wallabies away for the first time since 1969. Despite good effort, and ambitious performance of the Welsh team, the hosts succeeded in all tests.  Australia won 27:19, 25:23 and 20:19.
photo:Getty Images
Ireland’s task couldn’t be more difficult. In all 24 games between New Zealand and Ireland, the Irish have never won. For the most experienced players such as Brian O’Driscoll it was probably the last chance to get the historic victory. Beating All Blacks on their own soil is not easy and the Irish were reminded of this fact at the very first clash losing 42:10. The second game was totally different. New Zealand narrowly won 22:19, sealing the victory in the last minutes. In the third game the champions proved that they are the best team in the world rugby. The knock-out 60:0 disillusioned the Irish team and left them with 27 defeats with All Blacks.      

photo:Getty Images
The English team faced South Africa in the test matches.  Stuart Lancaster’s team showed big fortitude, creating tough opposition for the Springboks. In the first two games England lost 22:17 and 36:27 the third one finished with a draw 14:14 (it was only the second draw in the history of games between these two teams). That is why England finished the series a bit more successful than Wales and Ireland. However at the end it was the Springboks who claimed test series victory.  

photo:Getty Images
The biggest surprise of the test games were undoubtedly the Scots. The team who took the Wooden Spoon in this year’s Six Nations was the only one to defend the honour of the Northern Hemisphere. In the first game accompanied by adverse weather conditions, Andy Robinson’s team defeated Australia 6:9. In the second game, the Scots won 25:37 with Fiji. In the final game they beat Samoa 16:17, which gave the Scottish team a clean sweep. The three victories with very demanding opponents will definitely boost the morale of the Scottish team. Congratulations!

The series of games were interesting tests for the teams from Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Once again, Europe remains second best. Despite the success of the Scottish team and a few close games, the Southern Hemisphere is the leader in the world rugby. That’s why I am even more impatient to see the upcoming Tri Nations tournament – this year in the extended version with Argentina and new brand “The Rugby Championship”.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Heineken Cup pool draw

The draw for the 2012/2013 Heineken Cup pools took place on 12.06.2012 in Dublin. Munster, Edinburgh, Saracens and Racing Metro 92 will play in pool 1. Toulouse, Leicester Tigers, Ospreys and Benetton Treviso in pool 2. In pool 3, we will see Biarritz Olympique, Harlequins, Connacht Rugby and a new Italian team Zebre.  Pool 4 includes Northampton Saints, Ulster Rugby, Glasgow Warriors and Castre Olympique. The champions – Leinster will play in pool 5 with Clermont Auvergne, Scarlets and Exeter Chiefs. 

Sale Sharks have been drawn in pool 6 and will face the Welsh team – Cardiff Blues and two French clubs – RC Toulon and Montpellier. Although there are no easy games in Heineken Cup, the draw is quite fortunate for Sharks. It looks that the match with Toulon will be very interesting. Fans will have the chance to see the legendary Jonny Wilkinson and also Andrew Sheridan who played for Sale Sharks for many years.
The first round is scheduled for 12th, 13th, and 14th of October.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Barbarian FC - the legendary club

June is a good month for the rugby fans. Test games have already begun, and we will have the chance to see European teams in the clash with Southern Hemisphere giants. In three game series New Zealand will play against Ireland, Australia will host Wales and South Africa England. As a foretaste of excitement, Barbarians tested the level of preparations of the home nations. They lost to England 57:26, defeated Ireland 29:28 and succumbed to Wales 30:21.

It was the game with the Welsh that inspired me to write a few words about one of the most interesting clubs in the history of rugby and sport. The club which has never had its home ground, which squad has been constantly changing, and gained fame and respect by playing and wining with the best teams. The Barbarians – is the team which brings together the most outstanding rugby players. Here are some of the most important facts of its history.

William Percy Carpmael, who played rugby in Cambridge University, established Barbarian FC, also known as the Barbarians, or „Baa-Baas” in 1890. The founder inspired by the incredible atmosphere of the rugby tours decided to create a team composed of top players from different clubs and backgrounds. The chosen ones took short rugby tours testing the best opposition in the regions. Inherit to each tour was the integration of players, great rugby spirit and friendship. Since the beginning of the club, membership was by invitation only. To attain this honour, you had to be not only an outstanding athlete, but also behave in accordance with the ethos off the field. Over the years, the team created many traditions, the most famous are wearing the socks of the home team and selecting at least one uncapped player for every match.

Most appearances (30) and tries (38) for Baa-Baas got Sir Tony O’Reilly – a very talented player, and later a businessman (first billionaire in Ireland). A very important event for the club was a match played against Australia. It attracted 45000 spectators – Barbarians won 9:6. This success was the beginning of the club’s international career. Soon after, other high-profile countries – South Africa and New Zealand accepted the challenge. One of the most famous games in the history is the match with New Zealand on 27 January 1973 (Barbarians won 23:11). Try scored in the early minutes by Gareth Edwards is celebrated as one of the best rugby tries ever.

From my personal point of view, the most interesting game of Baa-Baas was the one on 12 May 2009 at Twickeham, which I had the opportunity to watch live. Very strong All Blacks team was the opposition. The match was very exciting; Bryan Habana scored hat-trick of tries to steal the victory from the mighty rivals. There are, of course, many more amazing games in the Barbarians history, but I will stop on mentioning just these two.

Despite unquestionable sport achievements, Barbarian FC is more than just a club for high standard players. Barbarians identify the values, which that have always been part of rugby such as passion, friendship, brotherhood, respect. Baa-Baas are part of a unique culture which is very rare in other sports. The club excels in the era of professional sport, retaining its unique identity created in the amateur era. William Percy Carpmael’s idea is still alive. Receiving invitation to play in the black and white striped shirt with Barbarian FC crest is still a big honour reserved for the elite. It is an honour, which requires dignified behaviour on the pitch and off it. In these highly commercialized times, when the values and traditions must often give way to the cold marketing calculations, Barbarians’ ethos is priceless. I hope this club will never change its extraordinary character.