Friday, 30 October 2009

Blogger's Curse

OK, so I appear to have picked up the blogger's equivalent of commentator's curse. No sooner had I hailed buff Berrick Barnes and foxy Felipe Contepomi as players to watch during the Autumn Internationals they have both been ruled out through injury.

Barnes picked up an ankle ligament injury in a training session before the Wallabies Bledisloe Cup match against New Zealand tomorrow, and Contepomi is out as he failed to recover from the knee ligament damage that forced him out of action for Leinster back in May. Balls. It's like I've got some sort of inadvertant injury hex going on: as soon as I decide I like the look of a player he hobbles off the pitch with a wonky limb/broken bone/weird tropical disease. Maybe that's why Jonny Wilkinson racked up so many injuries over the past few years as I really, really liked him...

You know, I think might be onto something here. Jonny seemed to shake off all those pesky 'stingers' and 1001 other random afflictions when I turned my attention to Rob Kearney last season.... who then promptly fell really ill with the mumps.


Let's just hope Messrs Wilkinson and Carter remain unscathed this time as I don't fancy either of them now, honest.

Anyway, also in the news, referee David Rose apologised to Leeds Carnegie this week after wrongly disallowing resident Shrek lookalike Hendre Fourie's first half try in last weekend's game against Saracens. The try was incorrectly disallowed when the match was evenly poised on 6-6 just ahead of half time.

Shrek in action

Leeds Director of Rugby Andy Key said:
"Credit to Rosey he has phoned us and admitted his mistake. That try would have put a different complexion on the game and it's very frustrating for us."

It certainly is very frustrating. If the try had stood and had been converted then it could have changed the course of the game and helped Leeds to their first win of the season instead of the 21-15 scoreline which gave the win to Saracens. I was not amused when I read about this on the BBC website and have made a mental note to start some form of mild hate campaign against David Rose, possibly involving muttering some naughty words under my breath and secretly flicking him the V's whenever I see him refereeing a game.

Boooo: Not exactly smelling of roses on this occasion

In his interview with BBC Radio Leeds this week, Key also alluded to the fact that certain pundits and referees almost expect Leeds to make certain errors meaning that they look out for these mistakes and penalise Leeds when they actually did nothing wrong. I can see his point, and hopefully after this refereeing mistake and close run game against the league leaders, Leeds will get some of the credit that they deserve.

Anyway, it's predictions time again. Here are my winners and losers this week (winners highlighted in bold):

Guinness Premiership

Sale v Gloucester
Bath v Saracens
Harlequins v London Irish
Leicester v Northampton
Newcastle v Worcester
Wasps v Leeds Carnegie

The Magners League

Connacht v Scarlets
Ospreys v Glasgow
Leinster v Cardiff Blues
Munster v Ulster
Edinburgh v Newport-Gwent D'gons

Hopefully I can improve on last week's 63% of correct predictions.

Don't forget, Leeds Carnegie are on Sky Sports this Sunday afternoon as their game against Wasps is being televised. Apparently Simon Shaw and Joe Worsley are back for Wasps, wheras Leeds have recalled Jonny "Baby Face" Hepworth after his twinkle-toed hat trick try scoring performance for the A-Team on Monday. Unfortunately Hannibal, BA and Howling Mad Murdoch are unavailable for selection.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

The Perfect 10?

The Autumn Internationals are now but days away and I am very much looking forward a spot of test match rugby. New Zealand face Australia this Saturday to kick off the proceedings with the Bledisloe Cup before England get involved against the Wallabies a week later. Then I've only got a couple of weeks to wait before I head down to Twickenham with my Dad to marvel at Dan Carter - I mean, watch England take on the might of the All Blacks.

At the moment everyone is talking about the twenty or so injuries within the England squad and musing whether Johnno should go for fresh new meat in the scrum or if he should favour some seasoned old steak. Go for youth all the way Johnno and blood some youngsters before the Six Nations. There, with that topic covered off I'm going to turn my attention to a much more interesting discussion: Just who is the Perfect 10?

England start their autumn campaign against Australia before meeting Argentina and finally the All Blacks. All three games promise to be juicy encounters, and these four teams also happen to feature the best looking number tens in world rugby, namely:

Jonny Wilkinson, England
Dan Carter, New Zealand
Felipe Contepomi, Argentina
Berrick Barnes, Australia

It's a female rugby-lover's dream: scintillating rugby played by some rather aesthetically pleasing men.

And relax.

However, with only my rugby-stats hat on I thought I'd delve deeper into these four fly halves, check out their statistics and compare their performances to find out who is the best fly-half of them all.

Arguably the two best fly-halves in the world have both recently made successful comebacks from injury: Dan Carter from an Achilles injury and Jonny Wilkinson from, well - pick any injury you like. Jonny's probably had every possible ailment about five times over, but happily he's now rejuvenating his rugby career and enjoying life in Toulon, and (dare I whisper it) is staying injury free. Dan on the other hand is back playing for Canterbury in his native New Zealand and modelling for Jockey underwear, as you do.

So let's look at the bare statistics....

Jonny Wilkinson
5ft 10in
30 years old

England Test Match career:
70 games
6 tries
144 conversions
209 penalties
29 drop goals
1032 points (avg 14.75 per game)

Dan Carter
5ft 10in

27 years old

New Zealand Test Match career:
62 games
25 tries

161 conversions
158 penalties
2 drop goals
927 points (avg 15.0 points per game)

Felipe Contepomi
6ft 0in
32 years of age

Argentina Test Career:
65 games
11 tries
56 conversions
101 penalties
2 drop goals
476 points (avg 7.3 points per game)

Berrick Barnes
6ft 0in
23 years old

Australia Test career:
21 games
4 tries
1 conversion
0 penalties
5 drop goals
37 points (avg 1.75 points per game)

Of course, these statistics don't tell the full story. Contepomi and Barnes both switch between fly-half and inside centre which helps to explain why their average points per game are below the mighty boots of Carter and Wilkinson. In fact, it's unsure as to whether Contepomi will slip on the number ten shirt in this autumn's test matches at all, and whether fly-half Juan Martin Hernandez will be involved since his name wasn't included in the original Argentina squad.

Berrick Barnes has been named vice captain of Australia for the tour and it will be interesting to see how this chiseled beach blonde buck from Brisbane will fare against his opposite numbers in the competition. I have to admit that I don't know too much about him, but I will definitely be keeping my eye on him over the next month - for purely research purposes you understand.

That leaves Jonny Wilkinson and Dan Carter vying for pole position as the perfect number ten. So who will come out on top?

Wilkinson hasn't pulled on an England shirt since 8th March 2008 in the Six Nations game against Scotland, but his involvement in that game secured him the accolade of top international rugby union points scorer of all time (including his 67 points for the Lions) when he overtook Neil Jenkins. Despite not playing at international level for 18 months, Jonny seems to be enjoying his Gallic adventure as he is currently the top points scorer in the French Top 14 competition this season. So can he replicate this form for England? I certainly hope so. Not only is he racking up the points, Wilkinson is back to the big tackling, commanding role that he always seemed to assume so effortlessly for England. Let's hope his (injury free) renaissance can continue in an England shirt next month.

Dan Carter on the other hand is widely regarded as the best fly-half in the world due to his calm and tactical rugby brain, dangerous side step, rapid acceleration and expert kicking game. I cannot knock Dan Carter and for me he is the perfect number ten in world rugby at the moment.

I cannot wait to see Carter and Wilkinson face off at Twickenham on the 21st November to see how these two towering fly-halves of world rugby will match up against each other. Dan lies second on the all time All Blacks top points scorers list behind fellow number ten Andrew Mehrtons, and Dan's points tally includes 25 tries to Wilkinson's 6. Whilst both Wilkinson and Carter have the astute tactical kicking game nailed on, Carter seems to have the extra facet to his game and pace to break the line and steam over for try after try. Whilst I hope the Autumn Internationals result in England victories, my eyes will be firmly fixed on this rare opportunity to watch these two half back maestros in action.

As I say, I cannot wait!

Monday, 26 October 2009

Have the Tigers Lost their Bite?

So far this season Leicester Tigers have been the shadow of the Premiership winning side and Heineken Cup finalists that they were last season. OK, so they might have convincingly beaten Viadana in the Heineken Cup and roared back from 15-26 at half time to draw 32-32 against the Ospreys, but in stark contrast to their try-packed performances in the European competition, Leicester have struggled to replicate such free flowing rugby in the Guinness Premiership. In fact, after round three Leicester had failed to score a single try. Not one. Admittedly, they hadn't conceded any tries either which is testament to their strong defence, however now with six games gone they have only crossed the line a paltry three times. So what is going on with the Welford Road outfit? Have the Tigers lost their bite?

It's true that the Leicester squad has suffered more than most with trips to the hospital this season, as a whole raft of first team players are currently sidelined:

Harry Ellis (knee); Toby Flood (ruptured Achilles); Sam Vesty (hamstring); Geordan Murphy (dislocated shoulder); Alesana Tuilagi (broken foot); and this week Julian White (hamstring) joined the long injury list. Lewis Moody has returned to full team action and last weekend he put in an excellent performance against London Irish. I think Lewis would have won the Man of the Match award had he been on the winning team. To his credit, Leicester coach Richard Cockrill refuses to blame anything on the number of players that are currently unavailable:

"We've got a good squad and whoever we put out at the weekend will be good players. We've been in this position before when we've had injuries and the guys who've stepped in have always fronted up and done a good job for us."

So he's not making any excuses then.

Despite the lack of tries, Leicester are still fifth in the Premiership table with three wins out of six. With such key players missing, Leicester might not have the bite they had at the end of last season but they still managed to claw out a losing bonus point against early title contenders London Irish due to their rock solid defence. Neither London Irish nor Leicester were allowed to play with the flair associated with both these sides and they both cancelled each other turning this game into a scrappy affair. It went down to the wire and Leicester could quite have easily drawn or won the game.

I'm sure the Leicester Tigers will sharpen their teeth in the Premiership soon, and in a couple of weeks there is the small matter of the Anglo-Welsh Cup where they will face Leeds Carnegie at Headingley. I suppose all I can hope for as a Leeds fan is that the Tigers take a little while longer to scratch their way back to the form everyone expects of them, and that Leeds might snaffle a victory. Best get in now, because a Tiger never truly shakes its stripes.

Scores, Pies and Short Shorts

This week’s round of Guinness Premiership and Magners league fixtures threw up a couple of surprise results, namely Newcastle beating a forlorn looking Bath side down at the Rec and a loss for Leinster who switched places with Ulster at the top of the Magners League table. Still, I predicted 7 out of 11 results correctly which gives me a 63% success rate (if my maths is up to scratch).

(Winners in red, my predictions in bold).

Guinness Premiership:

Bath v Newcastle
Gloucester v Wasps
London Irish v Leicester
Northampton v Sale
Worcester v Harlequins
Saracens v Leeds Carnegie

Magners League:

Edinburgh v Munster
Glasgow v Connacht
Scarlets v Newport-Gwent Dragons
Cardiff Blues v Ospreys
Ulster v Leinster

Whilst my beloved Leeds failed to secure their first win of the season they did come away from Vicarage Road with a well earned bonus point. I didn’t see the game but from all reports the supposed gulf in class between the top and the bottom of the table was barely noticeable. This is definitely a good thing, and hopefully Leeds will take this confidence with them to the Wasps nest next weekend.
(The game against Wasps has a 1:45pm kick off on Sunday and will be shown on Sky Sports).

Sing Hallelujah!

If you have been anywhere near the Morrisons store on Kirkstall Road then chances are you will have heard loud cheers emanating from the pie counter. Yes, this can only mean one thing: Mike MacDonald has FINALLY been granted his visa.

Commenting on this story, Neil Back said:
"If he has kept himself fit, well and injury free then hopefully he will be involved in the Anglo Welsh Cup games in two weeks' time.”
This is excellent news, and I am very much looking forward to finally seeing Mike back in action again, both at the pie counter guzzling the free samples and also on the pitch.

Shortest Shorts

I've noticed that some players take their shorts to a whole new microscopic level, which, quite frankly, is very disturbing.
I first noticed this whilst watching the England vs Wales rugby league game a couple of weeks ago. (I know, I know - it's not real rugby but don't tell my boyfriend I said that).
Something that captured my attention whilst England were tonking Wales was just how obscenely short England stand-off Sam Tomkins’ shorts were. Now usually I’d class this as a good thing and an added benefit of enjoying a game of rugby, however in Sam’s case it all felt just a little bit wrong – probably because he looks about twelve years of age.

Sam is on the left:

Therefore I thought I would see if anyone in the world of rugby union dares to bare so much leg or is occasionally cheeky with the length of their shorts.

Offender number 1 is Leicester Tiger’s Scott Hamilton who I can only imagine spent an inordinate amount of time freeing his microscopic shorts from his arse crack during the game against London Irish.

On the Short-O-Meter I think he deserves a strong 7 out of 10, although that picture is going to give me nightmares for a long time.  Shame on you Scott.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

It's all about Consistency...

Is it really Thursday already? Yes it certainly is, and once again it's time for me to put my Mystic Meg hat on and cast my eye over this weekend's Guinness Premiership and Magners league fixtures to give you a few predictions.

Before I start polishing my crystal ball, I want to talk about a rather contentious topic which is really riling me at the moment: the inconsistency of disciplinary committees. This week saw Leinster's Shane Jennings have his appeal over his twelve week ban for "making contact with the eye area" of Nick Kennedy turned down by an Independent Appeal Committee. The original committee adjudged Jennings' foul play to be in the "low-end in the level of seriousness for an offence of this type" and Nick Kennedy submitted both a verbal and written testimony in which he admitted he had "over-reacted" to the incident. Now I am not condoning this type of illegal play whatsoever as there is no place for in the game of rugby at all. What I find so incredulous is that Schalk Berger practically poked Luke Fitzgerald's eyes out in the second Lions test match this summer and all he received was a comparatively lenient 8 week ban. Consistency is all I ask for. Is it really so difficult for all the suits who sit on these committees to formulate a universal approach?

Schalk Burger only got an 8 week ban for this?

In other news there is now a selection headache brewing for Martin Johnson in the run up to the Autumn Internationals. Phil Vickery's neck injury rules the tight head prop out for three months and completes a hat trick of injuries sustained by England's front row. It will be interesting to see if Johnson plumps for youth or experience to replace the might of Vickery, Mears and Sheridan. I wouldn't be surprised to see a mixture of the two, with a likely call up for Saints' Dylan Hartley who I think will scrum down alongside Julian White and possibly Tim Payne.

Anyway, enough of all my ranting. Here are my predictions for this weekend's games with the winners highlighted in bold.

Guinness Premiership:

Bath v Newcastle
Gloucester v Wasps
London Irish v
v Sale
Worcester v Harlequins

Saracens v Leeds Carnegie

Magners League:

Edinburgh v Munster
Glasgow v Connacht
Scarlets v Newport-Gwent Dragons

Cardiff Blues v Ospreys
Ulster v Leinster

I know, I know, I'm a Leeds Carnegie fan and I'm not backing my team. Then again would you back them against the unbeaten force of the Saracens when Leeds have been so consistently bad this season? No, I didn't think so. In this case I would be very happy to be proved wrong, however sadly I can't see this happening.

In other Leeds news, prop Fosi Pala'amo has had his visa rejected so he won't be joining up with the squad this season. Mike MacDonald has been forced to reapply for his visa and is still playing a waiting game over in the States. Come on Big Mac, we're missing you over here, and the Morrissons pie counter next to the Kirkstall training ground is close to going out of business!

Anyway, that's all for now. I'm aware this has been a rather serious blog entry so I will end on a lighter note with a picture my Mum sent to me this week. Ages ago I bought her a Paint-Your-Own Garden Gnome as a joke, and this week she finally got round to giving the naked gnome a lick of paint. Here are the results:

Bless her she painted it in a Leeds Carnegie kit. Is it just me or does it bear a passing resemblance to Juan Gomez?

Have a good weekend everyone!

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Living with the Pride: DVD Review

Warning! This review contains spoilers!

With Royal Mail embarking on a frustrating postal strike, it was with great relief when I checked my doormat on my return from work today to find that my Lions 2009: Living with the Pride DVD had finally been delivered.

I've been looking forward to the release of this access all areas documentary since about halfway through the Lions tour to South Africa this summer. There's something special and tantalizing about being able to sneak a peek behind the scenes of the pre-match preparations and find out what the players are really like when they're off duty. The 1997 vintage, Living with the Lions, will always be lauded as the pinnacle of sporting documentary (and rightly so) but I was eager to discover if the 2009 offering would come anywhere close.

The action starts at Pennyhill Training Camp and it's clear to see the bonds rapidly forming within the squad with Andy Powell, Donnacha O'Callaghan and Tommy Bowe quickly emerging as the jokers in the touring party. The squad relocates to South Africa and the tense build up of the warm up games is juxtaposed with moments of humour, such as Ugo Monye's irresistible chat up lines and Nathan Hines forgetting Luke Fitzgerald's name when allocating rooms.

As the tour progresses you get a real sense of the tension and weight of expectation building within the squad. Shaun Edwards pulls no punches and adds an extra dimension of intensity into every briefing and half time team talk. After the Cheetahs game (where the Lions won 26-24) the dressing room is silent and the players stony faced, such is the disappointment of coming so close to a loss. Seeing the passion of all the players and their pride in the jersey is powerful, as is the commitment and drive of all the coaching and backroom staff who work tirelessly behind the scenes.

In contrast to the action on the pitch, there is also a much lighter side in build up to the tests. Throughout the tour, the Lions are shown visiting schools and townships, and an absolutely priceless moment is watching the usually fierce Shaun Edwards teaching the children of one of the townships just how to do the Blitz defence. Other amusing moments generally occur any time Andy Powell is on the screen, and I did laugh when Tommy Bowe and Nathan Hines took it upon themselves to find a girlfriend for the surprisingly single Rob Kearney before the Sharks game. Somehow, (and despite his best efforts), the scantily clad Sharks cheerleaders seemed to be immune to Rob's Irish charms which was much to the amusement of his team mates. There are also some worthwhile highlights on the extras DVD, which includes a Soccer AM-style Skill School challenge between David Wallace and Alun Wyn Jones, Euan Murray's terrible jokes on the tour bus and Tom Croft receiving a shot in the nads from a much furrier lion.

Back on the rugby pitch, and the first two test matches are very difficult to watch knowing how the results pan out, especially after listening to the strong and passionate pre-match speech of Willie John McBride before the first test. After the final whistle of the second test match, the dressing room sits in an unbearable silence with the players exhausted and empty on every level. Being allowed in to see a moment like that made me feel like an intruder and it made for some very uncomfortable viewing.

The film reaches its climax with the third and final test, and I have to admit that I was forced to sniff back the tears whilst watching Ian McGeechan's emotional and rousing speech before the last game. As he spoke, sheer emotion and anticipation was hanging heavily in the air, and the focus and determination was clearly etched on the faces of all the players. Watching McGeechan shed a few tears after his speech really summed up the passion of what it means to be Lion and how it feels to pull on the famous red jersey. Ian McGeechan truly personifies the Lions ethos to the core, and watching him rally his pride with such a swell of emotion was truly lump in the throat time.

This DVD had me captivated from start to finish, and it really is a must for all the rugby fans who were mesmerized by the gripping series in South Africa. Brilliantly shot, it captures both the romance of a Lions tour without sparing any of the brutality. After watching this documentary of a Lions tour in the age of professional rugby, it is clear to see that the Lions spirit and purpose is in rude health and is still as relevant today as it always was.

I can't wait until the 2013 pride roar into Australia in four years time, and whilst Ian McGeechan probably won't be at the helm you can bet it will still be one hell of a ride.

PS: As a side note to all the ladies reading this blog, you might be interested to know that there are plenty of ice-baths, players sunbathing and surfing, and generally using any excuse to walk around with their tops off. You know, just in case you like that kind of thing...

Sunday, 18 October 2009

A Round of Missed Opportunites

This year's Heineken Cup Round 2 has to go down as one of the tightest in recent years, and whilst my predictions weren't too far off, certain teams have got to feel like they've really missed an opportunity to stamp their authority on the competition.

First up was Sale vs Cardiff Blues, and even though I thought this would be a closely run encounter I didn't see it going right down to the wire and finishing 27-26. The harsh sin-binning of Cardiff's resident Whitesnake impersonator Andy Powell saw Sale amass a quick 14 points and a lead that remained one point too many for the Blues to conquer.

Elsewhere Northampton fell short at a reinvigorated Perpignan, with the French team bouncing back from a shock defeat in the rain soaked opening round against Treviso. I really thought Northampton might pull a surprise victory out of the bag in the south of France but it wasn't to be. The only souvenir they took away from a bruising visit to the one time home of the luscious Dan Carter was a severe crack of whiplash for the suitably D'Artagnan-bearded Ben Foden, when he was unceremoniously dumped on his arse by the human bulldozer that is Henry Tuilagi. If you missed this expert demolition using an illegal shoulder charge then you can view it again here:


Yesterday I watched the Brive vs Leinster game which was a penalty strewn and scrappy affair saved only by the dynamic running of Leinster hot bod Rob Kearney to score the opening try, quick hands from Brian O'Driscoll, and an excellent performance from man of the match Kevin McLauglin. Another almost faultless performance from Jonny Sexton will undoubtedly have Ronan O'Gara reaching for the Horlicks to try and avoid many sleepless nights in the run up to the autumn internationals: If ever there was an international number 10 in waiting then Jonny Sexton is the man.
That aside, Leinster will be disappointed not to come away from France with a winning bonus point, especially against a Brive side that didn't offer too much other than constant indiscipline. Still, at least this provided a quick burst of handbag waving entertainment to liven up the end of this rather uninspiring game, when Brian O'Driscoll and Andy "Timotei" Goode indulged the crowd with a gentle slapping competition. Maybe Andy is just jealous of Brian's superior hairline?

Away from France, London Irish will be left to rue a missed chance thanks to a last gasp penalty for the Scarlets courtesy of Sesame Street's Count (aka Stephen Jones). This game finished up 25-27 with London Irish undoing all their good work with an away win away at Champions Leinster last round. Oh well, serves you right for beating my favourite Irish team.

Stephen Jones is the man counting the win

Tonight, the Harlequins and Bath players will probably all be at home swigging bottles of gin whilst they freeze their nads off in ice baths after both teams lost their second pool game of the tournament. This pair of losing performances pretty much ends their chances of progressing to the next round, which is a shame as both sides were comfortably leading this weekend's games at half time before they both committed Heineken Cup hara-kiri.

The final team who really missed a chance to press home their advantage in the competition was Clermont Auvergne who lost 25-24 at the Ospreys. I really wish I'd watched this game, as despite leading 22-3 at half time, the Ospreys almost threw it away to a resurgent Clermont side. Unfortunately for all the Welsh ladies out there, Mike Phillips hobbled off with a foot injury just before half time, which means that the much less attractive Dwayne Peel might get a shout for the international games next month. Never mind, I'm sure he has some fans out there - probably the same ones that fancy his twin brother: Emmerdale's Andy Sugden.

Finally (and most importantly) this afternoon I witnessed the rare event that is a bonus point victory for Leeds Carnegie. In a game littered with the usual smorgasbord of Leeds handling errors which included several passes flying into touch or being fumbled to the floor, Leeds out muscled a rotund Parma side and secured the bonus point with just over ten minutes of the game remaining.

As the scoring opportunities went begging in the first half I did wonder if Leeds were lacking the killer instinct and would be able to punish the Italian side who looked like they'd spent far too much time woofing pizza then doing bench-presses at the gym. Happily, for every mistake Leeds made Parma made two, which allowed a much changed Leeds side to press home for victory and rack up the points in the second half. Leeds ended the game with an impressive scoreline of 37-13 but they are certainly going to have to raise their performance and banish the sloppy guiseppe style mistakes before next Sunday when they take a trip down the M1 to top of the table Saracens. If they don't tighten up I can't see anything happening apart from a ritual humiliation in front of the Vicarage Road faithful.

Anyway, let's see how my predictions fared against the results this weekend:
(Correct predictions highlighted in bold)

Newport-Gwent D'gons 22-14 Glasgow
Perpignan 29-13 Northampton
Sale 27-26 Cardiff Blues
Biarritz 42-15 Gloucester
Brive 13-36 Leinster
Edinburgh 17-13 Ulster
Harlequins 19-23 Toulouse

London Irish 25-27 Scarlets
Munster 41-10 Treviso
Viadana 11-46 Leicester
Bath 27-29 Stade Francais
Ospreys 25-24 Clermont Auvergne

Not too shabby at all as I only missed out on two correct predictions. I'm really rather pleased with myself!

Anyway, that's all for now. A review of the eagerly anticipated Lions 2009: Living with the Pride DVD is coming soon...

Friday, 16 October 2009

A Weekend of Heineken Shorts

I've been looking forward to this weekend since... well since last Sunday night. Last weekend was a full on assault on my liver courtesy of two days and nights drinking minging cider, German beer and vodka as I watched and then celebrated Leeds Rhinos win their third consecutive Grand Final at (boo hiss) Old Trafford.

Anyway, after an exhausting weekend stampeding with the Rhinos I survived a corporate nipple-twisting team building day with work on Monday, so this weekend I am so looking forward to just settling back into my sofa and watching the multitude of Heineken Cup matches on offer.

Tonight I will be sampling the delights of Sale vs Cardiff Blues (or is that Pinks as I've just seen their away kit). I think Sale might just edge past an injury ravaged Blues side who haven't won on their travels yet this season.

Then tomorrow I will drag my sorry arse to the gym in the morning (I haven't been for nearly two weeks now - tut tut) before whacking on the kettle for a nice cup of tea to accompany my viewing of the Brive vs Leinster game where I think Leinster will triumph. (I have to watch this game as Messrs Kearney and O'Driscoll are playing, although watching my top two favourite players isn't my highlight this weekend. Oh no, no, no).
This is because Leeds Carnegie are playing Rugby Parma in the Amlin European Challenge Cup on Sunday and I really think Leeds are going to break their duck this season and win this game. I will be heading off to watch them in the South Stand and will be keeping my fingers well and truly crossed.

Anyway, I thought I might as well have a go at some predictions for this weekend's Heineken Cup fixtures. I am usually pretty useless at this sort of thing so please don't hold me liable if you put any money on these and subsequently lose:

(Winners in bold)

Newport-Gwent Dragons v Glasgow
Perpignan v
v Cardiff Blues

Biarritz v Gloucester
Brive v
v Ulster
Harlequins v Toulouse
London Irish v Scarlets

Bath v Stade Francais
Ospreys v Clermont Auvergne
Munster v Treviso

Viadana v Leicester

In other news I pre-ordered the 'Living with the Pride' behind the scenes documentary of the 2009 Lions tour to South Africa today, so expect a review sometime next week :-) I am hoping for a lot of BOD and Rob Kearney action.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Twickenham here I come!

Today was pretty crap until precisely 17:29.

To give you a gist of my mind numbing Thursday it basically involved me sitting at my desk staring blankly at my computer screen with zero inspiration for the problem I was trying to solve. After several failed attempts (and after slipping into my spurs and Stetson and writing possibly some of the worst programming code of my life) I conducted a swift DIY lobotomy on myself with a sharpened pencil and then hastily cancelled a hotel in Edinburgh and re-booked myself into an apartment in Manchester - which, as you will probably know, isn't exactly handy if you want to spend the weekend tossing cabers and laughing at drunken Scottish tramps.

Anyway, after getting into a right radge and causing my friend Nicola to have a small nervous breakdown (as she is accompanying me on my trip to Edinburgh), I received the best news I've had in a long time.

I was just about to shut down my crappy steam-driven computer and go home and sulk when an email irritatingly pinged into my inbox. I hate it when that happens. Nine times out of ten it turns out to be a pesky client with a super urgent ID.10T issue which I have to stay late and solve. But not tonight. Oh no. Tonight, my 17:29 email from was from a lovely chap called Mike Bidgood at the Leeds Carnegie ticket office, who was writing to kindly inform me that my name had been drawn in the ballot, and I am one of the chosen few who gets the opportunity to buy tickets for....

wait for it...


Oh, and to make things even better, apparently I can buy tickets for the England vs Australia game too.



This is brilliant for two reasons:

1. I have never been to Twickenham to watch an England international game before. I did go in 2005 to watch Leeds lift the Powergen Cup (remember that one Bath fans?) but other than that, securing tickets to watch England at the home of rugby has been about as easy as finding anyone who thinks X-Factor's John and Edward are talented. (Seriously? Who is voting for those high-haired jeb ends?)

2. If you even vaguely know me you will know that I have a massive interest* with New Zealand's fly half, the ever sexy and amazing Dan Carter.
(* I prefer to say interest and not 'obsession' as it stops me from sounding slightly stalky, and plus Dan doesn't have a restraining order out on me - that I know of).

I think this calls for a rather gratuitous pic of Dan Carter playing with a ball:

I am one very happy bunny at the moment, as is my Dad (who is coming with me) and my boyfriend (who isn't and will therefore get a weekend of peace and quiet.)

Oh, and to top it all off, after work I *accidentally* went into town and bought myself a new handbag. Well, there was 10% off so it would have been rude not to!

So there you go: after a totally wank start this was probably one of the better Thursdays I've ever had. Maybe I'll start looking forward to the 17:29 emails a bit more in future....

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

10 Studs to Watch

So the rugby season is now well under way, and if you're one of the few Leeds Carnegie fans like me then it's been yet another depressing start. Still, like the popular mantra on an all day drinking session - it's a marathon not a sprint - and whilst Saracens might be masquerading as speed king Usain Bolt at moment, there's still plenty of games left for my yo-yo loving team to metamorphosize into Paula Radcliffe and limp over the line in 11th place. Who knows, they might even sneak into 10th if they don't keep stopping like Paula to curl out yet another shit performance.

Anyway, with five games down I've had plenty of time to distract myself from Leeds' lacklustre start and survey the finer studs trotting about 22 yard lines up and down the country. Oh and how can I forget the fine specimens in the Magners league? Therefore, for my inaugural post on this blog I think it's only fitting for me to introduce my list of top 10 Studs to Watch this season (although I do reserve the right to amend this list as the season progresses!).

1. Rob Kearney

Well, where do I start with Leinster's gorgeous Rob Kearney? He's got sultry, smouldering looks, bucketloads of Irish charm and one hell of a sexy bod. I've admired Rob's footballing skills for a few years now, but the fact that he is so God damn handsome does help to maintain my interest. If I ever have the pleasure of meeting the lovely Rob I will ply him with Guinness and play with his curly black hair (on his head, before you get any ideas).

2. Brian O'Driscoll

In at number two is another Leinster man, the one and only BOD. In fact I'm kind of considering moving over to Dublin and switching my allegiance to the Irish province, as even if they lose there's always something (or someone) entertaining to watch. Everyone knows about BOD: his twinkly crinkly eyes, his biceps that are to die for and not forgetting his wisdom about not adding tomatoes to fruit salads. BOD has undergone a renaissance over the past year and I can only speculate that this is probably due in part to his engagement to the lovely (and very lucky) Amy Huberman. Although come on Brian - spelling out 'Will you marry me' in flower petals? That's just a little bit cheesy.

3. Danny Care

Q: Who likes Care Bears?

A: Me.

Ex-Leeds Tyke and now Harlequin, Danny 'Care Bear' Care initially set my pulse racing when he was snapped in the buff for the Everyman Campaign earlier this year. I don't think I need to say anything else about Danny's charms as the above picture speaks for itself. Nice ball too.

4. Olly Barkley

Gloucester or Bath? Gloucester or Bath? It was a tough decision for Olly to switch back and forth between these local rivals, but who cares about all that when he's got such lovely eyebrows and sexy curly hair (if you don't mind wiping your hands because of all the hair gel). Olly's currently recovering from a pesky broken leg, so anyone who'd like to help out with nursing duties please form an orderly queue...

5. Marco Wentzel

As a Leeds fan I had to include a Leeds player, and whilst my favourite player (tubby powerhouse Mike Macdonald) is still languishing stateside waiting for his visa, a new addition to the squad has caught my attention this season. Marco Wentzel was enlisted by World Cup winning Supremo Neil Back and his mate Andy Key, and so far has made a big impression with his powering runs and skills in the line out. Oh, and did I mention that he's pretty hot too? (Nice pose by the way Marco).

6. Ben Foden

When he's not busy cultivating his ridiculous Musketeer-style facial hair, Ben Foden is really rather handsome. Tipped as one to watch for purely his rugby skills, Northampton's Ben is also one to watch for more aesthetically pleasing reasons. Currently dating Una Healy from girl band 'The Saturdays' maybe Ben is trying to raise his profile and rise to fame in a similar way as Danny Cipriani?

Which brings me, rather predictably to number 7: the aforementioned Mr. C.

7. Danny Cipriani

Yes, I admit it: Danny Cipriani is foxy, although this admission does grate on me as I find myself really struggling to like him in his new guise as a 'celebrity'. I'm not knocking him for his desire to bump uglies with Kelly Brook as if I was that way inclined then I'd probably want to do the same, but Danny needs to sort out his priorities and concentrate on the game that is his real reason for fame rather than cavorting around Necker Island with his scantily clad bikini model/actress girlfriend. OK, when I put it like that I can see why he's been a little distracted.

8. Mark Cueto

Sale stalwart Mark Cueto knows how to fill a pair of underpants and work a locker. (OK, maybe he needs to practice his modelling skills but who cares when he's got a six-pack and a, ahem, package like that?)

9. Mike Phillips

Ospreys, Wales and the Lions' scrum half Mike Philips is keen to point out that he's number one, but I'm sorry to say Mike that you only sneak in at number nine on my list. I suppose this is quite fitting as that's the number of the shirt that you've so effortlessly made your own in recent years, but either way you are pretty damn fine and in at number nine. (Oh, I just rhymed).

10. Ryan Lamb

Last but by no means least in my top ten Studs to Watch list is a bit of leftfield choice. London Irish's Ryan Lamb usually plays at fly half, but last week he packed down at number eight in an impressive display against Leinster. I can only reason that I have been seduced by Ryan's ferrety looking charms after watching his mercurial performance against my beloved Leeds a few weeks ago. That, and the fact that he seemed to be aiming his kicks towards me in the pre-match warm up. Maybe that classes as flirting where he comes from?

Right, that's all for now. I'll be back with some more rugby related studdery very soon. Who knows, I might even be able to report a first win of the season for Leeds this Sunday...

Until then...