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

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!