Monday, 29 April 2013

French Heineken Cup Final

It will be all French Heineken Cup Final. Clermont Auvergne defeated Munster 16:10 and Toulon beat Saracens 12:24.  Both teams will play in the final for the first time ever. After terrible performance in the Six Nations, French honour is saved by the clubs' success.  It will be the forth all French Heineken Cup Final.
Clermont which has a team full of superstars started the game better and was leading 16:3. Munstermen showed a great spirit though, and managed to close the gap to 6 points and scared their rivals in the second half.

The hero of the second semi-final was Jonny Wilkinson. He succeeded with seven penalties and a drop-goal. Owen Farrell replied with four penalties. Jonny Wilkinson’s (who will soon be 34) recent amazing performances put him through as the candidate to the British and Irish Lions squad. Although, he played down his Lions hopes, saying that the place should be awarded to the younger players, many rugby fans would like to see him wearing the Lion’s jersey.

The final game take place in Dublin on the 18th of May.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Rocky at #rugbyunited again

I am pleased to inform you that one of my posts have been once again published in the best rugby community #rugbyunited. This time a special mention went to the article about Polish rugby. For those who don't know too much about #rugbyunited, you can find a short decription here.

Monday, 15 April 2013

You are never too old for rugby

Most of the professional rugby players are in their twenties. Some of them carry on playing after they are 30 years old. Only a few of them are still on the pitch when they reach 40 years of age. But the professional rugby players are only a small percentage of all people who enjoy playing rugby. Most of rugby players are amateurs which have to divide their spare time between rugby and jobs or education. Rugby is just a hobby for them - a hobby which can be quite demanding sometimes ;)

In the amateur rugby age is not as much relevant; passion and commitment can often counterbalance loss of fitness.The best example for this is John Goldman who is thought to be the oldest rugby player in Britain. He is 72 years old and plays as a prop in Mill Hill RFC. Alongside him in the first row play Tim Hurst, 58, and Steve Cracknell, 54, giving the trio a combined age of 184!

John Goldman started to play rugby when he was 50 thanks to his wife, who urged him to take part rather than merely spectate. For the last 20 years he has played in, on average, 20 games per season. Mr Goldman, said the game gave him the motivation to overcome serious health problems. He has suffered from cancer twice, underwent a heart bypass and recovered from a major back surgery! The grandfather-of-eight said: “The main reason I play rugby is to keep fit and healthy. I really enjoy the game and it adds a lot to my life... Mill Hill Club is very sociable. The players are a nice bunch of lads who tend to bring their family along at weekends. Fathers and sons play together. Everyone is very friendly and supportive.”

To me John Goldman is a true hero who proves that rugby is a sport for all shapes and ages. He keeps me motivated and if I ever think about hanging up my boots, thanks to him I know that I should think again. 

Below you will find some footage and a short interview with him:

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Rugby in Poland

When you think about Poland, rugby isn’t the first thing that comes to your mind. Although Poland isn’t a big rugby nation, this sport is growing bigger and year after year is attracting more attention. Some people may be surprised to hear that rugby in Poland exists at all and even more surprised that it has quite a long history. Today, I’d like to tell you more about rugby in Poland and its heritage.

A bit of history
According to some sources, the first Pole who ever played rugby was Sienkiewicz - the son of a Polish writer Henryk Sienkiewicz. In his book entitled “Le Rugby”, Loys Van Lee writes about a few rugby clubs where Sienkiewicz played such as Racing Club or Stade Francais. Van Lee describes him as a young lad of impressive build, weighing about 100 kg. Sienkiewicz’s played in the second row.

Rugby reached Poland after World War I when Polish repatriates and soldiers fighting in France returned to Poland. Some of them were already rugby supporters who wished the new discipline so popular abroad found its supporters in Poland. The main initiator of Polish rugby was the Frenchman Louis Amblart who set up the first Polish rugby club called “White Eagle” located in Warsaw. The first official and open to public game was played on LKS “Pogon” pitch in Lvov and took place on the 9th July 1922 between teams playing in the club of “White Eagle”. The historic match between two Polish rugby teams “The Whites” and “The Blacks” with 15 players on each side ended up with the latter winning 3:6.  The game refereed by another Frenchman Robineau received very good press coverage. Another club was established by Maurice Bacguet at the Infantry Cadet School in 1923.

Clubs in the period between wars
Between 1921 and 1929 there were a few more rugby clubs apart from the ones mentioned above, namely: Medical Officer School, Anti-Aircraft Regiment, The University Sports Association, Varsovia (scout group), Sports Club KS Rozwoj, Ursynow School, Sports Club in Plock, School of Physical Education in Poznan, Sports Club in Murcki in Silesia. They played numerous friendly matches but no national championship was organized. The first international game took place in Bucharest in 1924. White Eagle was then defeated by the Romanian team called Probables (0:46) which at that time was getting ready for the Olympic Games (they won the bronze medal at the Olympics). The second best Romanian team called “Possibles” defeated Polish White Eagle 0:17 in a return match.
Due to lack of interest in rugby among national sporting authorities, poor marketing strategy, lack of professional team coaches and equipment rugby was deemed to disappear from the sports map in Poland. Last press releases came from 1929 and after that rugby was absent from Polish popular sport disciplines for many years. 

Meanwhile the discipline was thriving around the world and gained popularity in new countries. Only after 26 years, on the 14th December 1955, did rugby become an official sport discipline in Poland which was regulated by the decree number 121 issued by the President of Physical Culture Committee. 

New beginning
In January 1956 three rugby supporters and journalists A. Karpinski W. Wojdyllo and W. Gielzynski called up a National Meeting of Rugby Supporters which resulted in forming of the Rugby Organizing Committee and appointing A. Karpinski the head of the Committee. Thus, the era of rugby re-launched in Poland - 40 rugby instructors were trained by Alfons Zeda from Czech Republic and 22 new clubs were set up. The first official game after World War II was played on “Legia” pitch in Warsaw on 15th September 1956 between Warsaw club AZS-AWF and Kochlowice Club “Gornik” (“the Miners”) with the result 3:0. In the same year the “Sportsman” Editor Rugby Cup took place. In the finals Szczecin’s club “Czarni” (“the Blacks”) lost the game to Warsaw’s AZS-AWF 9:14.

The first national Report and Election Conference took place on the 26th January 1957 and appointed A. Karpinski the head of Rugby Section operating within the General Committee of Physical Culture. Due to reorganization of Polish sport some rugby teams ceased to exist between 1956 and 1957 and only 16 were left. AZS-AWS Warsaw won the first Polish Rugby Championship in 1957.
In 1957 rugby became one of the specializations at the University of Physical Education in Warsaw. On the 9th of September 1957 the Founding General Assembly of Polish Rugby Union (PZR) was held in Warsaw. Wladyslaw Trybus was appointed the first chairman of PZR.

First official international game
On the 24th of August 1958, Polish representation played its first official international match in Lodz where they beat German Democratic Republic 9:8 (0:5). Three thousand fans watched the game refereed by H. Ortelbach from GDR.
Up till now Poland has played 270 official matches.

Current rankings and structure
Poland is currently classified on the 25th position in the IRB ranking and play in the European Nations Cup - division 1B with Czech Republic, Germany, Moldova, Sweden and Ukraine. ENC, sometimes referred to as the Six Nations B, is the European Championship for tier two and three rugby nations.

There are three leagues in Poland. The top division “Ekstraliga” contains eight teams. One level below is the 1st league with six teams and below the 1st league there is newly created 2nd league with up to 20 teams (depends on how many clubs decide to take part). There is no professional rugby in Poland. Almost all players have to divide their time between rugby and other duties such as jobs or universities. For the last few years some of the top clubs have been able afford to pay their players and started attracting players from other countries, mainly from Georgia and Ukraine.

Famous player
The most famous Polish player is Grzegorz Kacala. He was a professional back row player usually playing as a Number 8. In 1997 he won Heineken Cup with CA Brive, he also played for Cardiff RFC.

Future development
Rugby is slowly but surely progressing in Poland. A lot of effort has been put into introducing our sport to children and youth. Most clubs have children groups. Rugby has also been introduced in some schools. 

In the recent years, rugby has been more widely promoted in the media and each year is getting bigger attention. National team matches are broadcast live on TV sport channels. 

Clubs playing in Ekstraliga are becoming more professional, with the top ones aiming for full professionalism.

There is no rugby league in Poland but rugby 7 and women’s rugby started to develop a few years ago. Polish rugby may certainly benefit from the introduction of sevens to the Olympics. It will help build wider awareness of our sport. Hopefully, rugby will attract more passionate and committed people who will be able to further develop our fantastic sport. One day you may see Poland taking part in Rugby World Cup and playing among the best in the world. Who knows...

Monday, 8 April 2013

Heineken Cup semi-finalists

Four teams remain in the race for the first place in Heineken Cup.  Clermont, Saracens, Munster and Toulon are one step closer to reach the glory.

Last Saturday in the all French clash, Clermont beat Montpellier 36:14. The key to success was fantastic performance of the former All Black - Sitiveni Sivivatu. He wreaked havoc with the defensive lines of his rivals. Special mention deserves the fact that numbers 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 scored tries for Clermont. It confirms high quality of backs in the team which is full of superstars.

In the second Saturday’s game Saracens defeated Ulster 27:16. Although Saracens don’t play in spectacular style, they are very efficient. As usual English team showed good tactical skills. They took their chances when they had them and kept scoreboard ticking by adding points from the tee. Ashton and Fraser scored tries but the match was won by the solid defense.  Saracens were almost perfect at it, they let Ulster score a solitaire try but it was in the last minute of the game and couldn’t change anything.

On Sunday, surprisingly, Munster beat English champions 12:18. After the first half, Harlequins were leading 9:6 but the second half belonged to Munster. The Irishmen were determined aggressive and dominated their rivals who could then only defend themselves. Harlequins seemed surprised by Munster’s attitude and came second best. It means that the dream of triple crown is over for them. Munster’s victory will certainly give them a morale boost as many doubted them. 

In the last game Toulon beat Leicester Tigers 21:15. Although the game was very tense all points were scored from kicks. The undisputed hero of the match was Jonny Wilkinson who succeeded in six penalties and a drop goal. Once again he proved to be one of the best fly-half in the world. 

I the semi-finals we will see Clermont playing with Munster and Saracens will face Toulon.