Posts Tagged ‘ France ’

Wales v France: Grand Slam Day in Photos.

An amazing day was had in Cardiff yesterday as Wales brought home a third triple crown in a generation, but what really marked the occasion was the wonderful atmosphere coming from the fans, as Welsh and French alike enjoyed the day together in the best possible spirits.

The Bretons were in full force.

Flags for sale.

Bands paraded the high street.

While bin men and bands joined in musical harmony.

The game builds up.

Injured, but not for long.

Wales on the attack.

Celebration!

The French and the stewards.

Flag flown with pride.

Welsh and French on the streets.

A late night comes to its conclusion.

 

 

 

 

Six Nations Donkey Awards: Round 2

Not the busiest weekend on the Six Nations Donkey front, though much of that can be put down to a third of the fixtures not being played (though this in itself will be covered below), while many of the main protagonists of last weekend, Dan Parks and Bradley Davies (one through choice, one less so) were not in attendance. Still, a selection of ‘stars’ could be picked out from the two games that were played, though the first selection goes far beyond any one player or official…

No. 1. Duw it’s cold Mun!

Some cried about the referee’s decision, some cried about the timing of the final decision, while some in the stadium just cried. While the actual motivation behind calling the France v Ireland fixture off could not be faulted (player safety being the one thought of the day), the thousands in the stadium and the millions watching on television screens around Europe, could all be perfectly justified in their disappointment, dismay and general anger given that the final decision was made some 5 minutes before the scheduled kick-off.

Now it is probably too harsh to blame the referee, his emphasis must fall on the side of whether or not a player would be crippled for life should they go out on to a pitch. It’s also probably too harsh to blame the stadium designers, though for such an expensive arena you would have thought the budget could stretch to some under soil heating…or a kettle. There are probably around about twenty six individuals or organisations who could take the donkey points for this, but we are going to award it to two in particular. The RBS Six Nations fixture committee and the people of France. You are the only two in the world who want games played on Fridays, or in the middle of the night! Nobody else wants it, indeed, most of us hate it, and it ruins the Six Nations for everyone. If eyes turned to the French and Irish women, they got a game on in France having kicked off at 2.30pm…there’s a lesson in that somewhere.

The French (for simply giving us the ridiculous concept of night time matches), Donkey Score: 5

RBS Six Nations fixture committee (for letting them), Donkey Score: 4

 

No. 2. We are England.

Following ITV’s coverage of the Rugby World Cup, we all spent a lot of time lamenting the fact that we couldn’t have the BBC and their wonderful commentary team…Italy v England however served to undermine that little theory. An enjoyable game was made almost unbearable by the BBC commentary team, who seemed to be taking it in turns to jerk off over a picture of Owen Farrell in the match day programme in their enthusiasm for the England cause. We can only hope that few if any Italian fans had to rely on the BBC for their coverage!

Donkey Score: 3

 

No. 3. The Charitable Man from Cheshire

Ben Foden was in a particularly generous mood in Rome on the weekend, the man couldn’t stop himself from letting Italy score. While there were some question marks over how much he was to blame for letting Italy score the first try, with the ball ricocheting awkwardly off of Foden’s chest, he wanted to make no doubt that the second Italian try was definitely his fault. A pin point pass into the hands of the Italian centre, meant that Foden will always be welcome in Rome, forever known as the English man who giveth away.

Donkey Score: 3

 

No. 4. It’s all just a little bit of history repeating.

Scotland like to make things challenging no. Having thrown away a commanding lead against Wales in 2010 by allowing half of the starting line-up to retire to the sin-bin, Scotland seemed intent on doing it again. As it was when Shane Williams crossed for a dramatic victory two years ago, Scotland, through two of the most donkeyish decisions seen in some time, managed to reduce themselves down to thirteen men, and consigned themselves to another defeat. De Luca and Lamont, you are our yellow card donkeys of the week.

Donkey Score: 2 (1 each)

 

And then the Six Nations Came…

One thing after another these days, World Cups, one off internationals, club games, European games, LV Cup games, and to cap it all, the Six Nations starts just as winter decides, having been distracted by rugby for so long, to finally make an appearance, just in time to make all those away day train trips a little bit more unbearable. Suffice to say, it’s been a long season (officially this is still part of the 2010-11 season for anyone keeping track – with an IRB directive issued earlier in the year indicating that the 2011-12 season will happen between April and May before going straight into the pre 2013-14 season build up), and one which is taking its toll. No shortage of teams are already patching up their squads, with at least two of the nations involved bringing some giant squads to the party in preparation for the inevitable whittling down of those capable of walking.

So, excited much for the imminent tournament? If you are the BBC then you know already that England won the tournament several weeks ago, and a number of journeymen Europeans are going to be scrapping it out for the crumbs under their table. Then, you never know. The nice thing about a post world cup Six Nations is that predictions tend to go out of the window. Those who underperformed are ringing the changes, those who over performed are often paying the price for their success in a body count. Certainly for two of the three games this weekend, you would be hard pressed to call either fixture.

France at home seems to be a certainty to defeat Italy. The Italians rarely cope well in the early days of a new coaching regime, and to produce a result in Paris on day one of the new era seems far too much to ask. Scotland hosting England though is another kettle of fish. Not a great deal of change from a Scots perspective, other than a need to banish a sense of underachievement from the summer, when for want of conviction they really should have topped their group, yet fell by the wayside at stage 1. England come to the tournament having, for many in the international community, taken to putting every English qualified player’s name into a hat, and drawn them at random to produce their current squad. Of course there was a little more logic to it than that, but certainly new names are the theme of the squad. It’s almost impossible to say what England will do, their new coach was still part of the wider coaching structure that oversaw the World Cup shortcomings, yet the desperation in England to banish the ghost of New Zealand will surely force them to play a more expansive game. Yet, with so many new faces, and a frozen Edinburgh awaiting them, is it too much to expect them to revert to type once more?

For Wales and Ireland, it’s familiar territory. More will follow on this game during the week, but for now, it’s worth noting that there are more familiar faces in this fixture than in many of the other line-ups to be had in the tournament. Old battles, one on ones replayed, heck, there is still a change that O’Gara at the grand old age of 74 will get a starting birth, there is little ‘new’ to be found in this fixture. On paper the Irish should have it, with the regions in dominant form in Europe and a home advantage, there can be no obvious excuse for why the Irish should fall short in their first fixture. Yet historically Ireland have failed to hit the ground running in the Six Nations, and more than once in recent years they have opened the tournament at home, with fixtures that should have been won, only for the game to trickle away. And yet, even with all the talent in Ireland, so often the solution has been to put the ball in the hands of O’Driscoll and leave it to him to save the day, one thing that certainly won’t be happening this year. Wales though, while the form team from the World Cup, have the air of a team that is running on empty, with walking wounded being the tale of yet another Six Nations opening weekend. But then there is Poland, and how Poland transformed an underachieving team into near World beaters – will the ice baths do it for Wales again?

The way the fixtures fall, Wales and England look to have the most favourable draw for any slam ambitions, but for a winner, well, let’s see what happens this weekend, as six teams, unrecognisable in some cases, unpredictable in others, show us what has been happening in those training camps this weekend.

Photos: Remembering France

An unplanned entry here, as we find ourselves stuck in the office with nothing left to do, and having waded through the image files, come across some old images from adventures in France – nothing Welsh, nothing political, and certainly nothing to do with rugby, but enjoy all the same.

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The Eurozone Crises – So, to War then?

Ever since this Greek financial debacle got underway, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to prevent Sharpe style dreams infiltrating my sleep, as visions of a Napoleonic Europe seem to get closer and closer. It’s a vision not helped by a seemingly unhinged, unnervingly short Frenchman, merrily declares that if things aren’t sorted with the Eurozone, then Europe will explode. This is not long after a stern authoritarian German, who seems to have the whole of Europe bending at the knee to her fiscal power, came out with very similar sentiments. With the powers in play, and the stakes so high, is it time to have some real concerns about what is actually meant by the phrase ‘Europe will Explode’?

Now, this may be letting my imagination run away with things, but I would like to suggest that the phrase ‘Europe Will Explode’ can, and indeed does, mean only one thing – war. France and Germany seem to be spoiling for it, after all, Germany is so close to the total victory it has craved over Europe for so long, that the slow grind of absolute financial dominance might just be proving a fractionally too slow a process for their ambition to cope with. Of course the new Boney won’t stand for that and will have to meet the German challenge with usual French posturing. Italy has her issues, but Berlusconi has essentially modelled much of his political approach on that of Mussolini’s already, and given that he is close to exhausting all legal routes to holding onto power, as well as all legal loopholes, a full scale war would be the ideal tool for him to make use of to remain in the seat of power.

The UK is of course doing what it does best in preparation, staying behind the sea defences and pointing lots of fingers. ‘Don’t do that with the Euro’, ‘please don’t do that to it’, and when all falls on deaf ears the same sentiments will be backed up with a firmly worded letter.

Of course, we need something to fight over, hating the fact that we all have to work together as ‘Europeans’, while being a reason, is probably not quite reason enough to trigger a war (but not by much), so why not over Greece. Greece, in terms of the amount of money that has been directed into its coffers, must be one of the most on-paper affluent nations in the world by now. Even if it squandered all of the billions dropped on its doorstep, it has assets enough to go around, I’m sure for instance that the British Museum would like to finish off its collection to classical Greek friezes, and what better opportunity to go and pick up what Elgin left behind than a war.

So there we have it, the big players all have reason enough, the respective world leaders are generally barmy or desperate enough to get on board, and of course, nothing artificially stimulates an economy better than a good ol’ fashioned war. It’s how we solved these problems back in the day, and let’s face it, diplomacy and fiscal measures just aren’t cutting the mustard. So get your muskets ready, and don the caps, Europe is about to blow, and it’s going to blow Napoleonic style!   

RWC 2011: A Brief Word on Red Cards and Spears…

There will be a cold light of day moment to go through Wales’ defeat against France today, but just q quick entry is required now, as I am in bewilderment at the volume of needling little oiks out there who think that the red carding of Sam Warburton was justified. Plenty have been citing IRB regulations, and fair to do so, so let’s cast an eye over them quickly:

 •The player is lifted and then forced or “speared” into the ground. A red card should be issued for this type of tackle.

 •The lifted player is dropped to the ground from a height with no regard to the player’s safety. A red card should be issued for this type of tackle.

 •For all other types of dangerous lifting tackles, it may be considered a penalty or yellow card is sufficient.

Most of the Irish referring fan society have been pointing to the second point here, yet in reality, and as is the consensus in most of the rational rugby watching world, point three, and only point three was applicable. Warburton certainly did not force or spear the Frenchman into the ground, on that there is general acceptance. Dropped with no regard for safety though, this one is getting more support. Yet no Frenchman was dropped. Warburton was in control of his tackled man from start to finish. It was a tip tackle. The player raised during the momentum of the tackle, tipped over that key point of horizontal, and was guided to the ground. What Warburton did matches the description of neither points 1 or 2. This was a yellow card offence, at most, more likely a penalty.

Rolland made a rash call, and his retirement will not be missed, given that he has now not only ruined the Rugby World Cup for Welsh fans and players alike, but any purest who enjoys rugby played at its best. France do not offer this, have not offered this, and will not offer this. The worst team won, and Rolland’s shocking interpretation of the laws (not for the first time it should be added) are the primary, if indeed not the sole, reason for this development.

Finally – for all those licking at the heels of Rolland, if you want to see a game where Warburton’s tackle is worthy of a red card, then say goodbye to rugby. There was no malice, and no lack of control, no one went in to hurt anyone, and no one came out hurt. It happens in rugby, and will continue to happen – support that red card as a precedent upon which the future of the game will be run, and you can wave goodbye to realistic contests, if Rolland had his way, you would have a red card at least once a game, for the most innocuous of offences. Ruin the game if you must, because supporting this action will only result in that for the sport formerly known as Rugby Union.

RWC 2011: A Nation Rises (To Watch Television).

 I suppose there are lots of things that we might say ‘only in Wales’ about, but for want of accidentally insulting people, I’ll avoid listing some of the more stereotypical examples for the moment. Yet, only in Wales, surely only in Wales, would a statistically significant proportion of the nation get up early on a Saturday morning, drag themselves down to Cardiff on a day when no international rugby is on in the country, to then watch television. Really, without wanting to undersell the significance of tomorrows gathering, it really can be boiled down to an occasion where over 60,000 people will convene in one place to watch television…at 9am! You could picture it happening in other nations, were it not for the start time, really, 9am, on a Saturday, people in Wales who have jobs to go to at 9am on a Saturday, don’t wake up at 9am on a Saturday!

Truly, Saturday morning will be a remarkable day, and I suppose win or lose, the occasion will be a great one. Whatever result may be provided to greet or punish those hardy souls who make it down into the capital, they will at least be comforted that they go there in the knowledge that it will be shared by thousands. Not thousands down the motorway, or thousands overseas, but thousands sitting to the left, right, in-front and behind – the Millennium Stadium will be a very special place to be tomorrow morning.

I suppose the question that all will be pondering is will Wales win? Will those 60,000 have a second chance to pile into the stadium for the final the following week? Well, as with Ireland before, this blog can only conclude that there is nothing to fear for Wales from this French team. That being said, the assembled ranks of the French media are naturally saying the exact opposite, that France, with the form and weight of recent history on their side, will breeze past the Welsh…memories of south pacific horror stories are short lives in Paris.

Looking over the England v France game again, and with the whatever loyalties viewers might have had put to one side, it is very difficult to see how France secured victory over England. Yes, English defence was shambolic in the first half, yet England created, yes, that word ‘created’ is being used in reference to England, chance after chance. France were either stretched or broken through the middle repeatedly, and it is only for want of confidence and a finishing touch that cost England. Now, without wanting to be too churlish, England are not the fittest team in New Zealand, and they do not have the best attacking ability, by a long shot, yet they opened up the French line with what must be alarming ease for the French coaching team to consider.

Put simply, Wales will offer the French much, much more to deal with in attack. Hook might offer less direction as a 10 than Priestland, but he more than makes up for that with his individual ability to walk through the very best of defences. Wales can score tries against this French defensive lineup, and France will need to show a defensive grit not seen so far in this tournament. They will also need to find an extra reserve of energy, their flagging against England was almost their ruin, and Wales will be running at them harder and for longer. In short, and as with Ireland, France have to lead Wales by 8 points with 20 minutes to go, or Wales will win this game, any less and, if we base things on form and current ability, Wales should have far too much in the tank for a French team that can score tries, but is all too generous when it comes to giving them back to the opposition.

Whatever happens, tomorrow in Cardiff will be an amazing place to be, and one can only hope that the Welsh form displayed so far, carries us on to make this not a morning of support in Cardiff, but a day of celebration – if Wales do win, let’s hope the Brains brewery has stocked the city well, a win tomorrow for Wales could well see the city run dry.

Best of luck boys.