Sun, Sea, Sand and Live Music – Festival International Benicassim 2012

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FIB Lineup 2013

FIB Lineup 2013

Following on from my Last piece about Benicassim, this is an outline of our 2nd visit to the Festival International Benicassim (FIB). The aim is to give a flavour of the festival itself for anyone venturing to FIB for the first time or considering a visit.

The Festival

Sun, Sea, Sand and Live Music is the mantra for FIB and has been since its first ever outing back in 1994. Since then the 4 day musical bonanza has blossomed, surviving financial issues and even a sand storm, bringing the brightest and best to the sun drenched Spanish town.

Benicassim from above early in the morning

Benicassim from above early in the morning

In terms of size FIB can probably be likened to that of the V Festival and takes place over 6 stages varying in size from the huge Maravillas (Marvelous Main Stage) right down to the silent disco; which serves as a lot of fun when you’re exploring the site after a few liveners.

Maravillas Stage

Maravillas Stage

Outside of the main site there is also a stage at Villacamp in addition to gigs and a party around the beach. The seaside town fully embraces the festival as the atmosphere stretches right through the bars, clubs restaurants and of course the beach.

In The Mixer

Benicassim offers the musos out there a real chance to get face to face with the performers rather than watching Subbuteo style from row Z. The beauty of the whole festival is not only the range and mix of performers but also your ability to get up front with many of the acts, feeling the bass drum and energy of the performance.
This is largely down to the majority of the younger contingent staying until the wee small hours and then heading off to the beach to sleep it off during the day. By the time they come round and head back into the festival it’s probably time for the headliners allowing plenty of time and room to soak up a wealth of music from an intimate vantage point (a precious rarity in festivals).

Right in the mix for the vaccines as the sun sets behind the mountains and the fayre in Fib

We’re rght in the mix for the vaccines as the sun sets behind the mountains and the fayre in Fib

In all honesty, if you use your head when the headliners take to the stage, it’s easy enough find a sweet spot between the stage and the bar. Based on this being a four-day event with roughly 10/12 hours of music a night its worth doing your homework on the bands and artists that are playing to find the up and coming jewels.

Perfect Holiday

Totting up the costs of the tickets (£150) Return Flights (£100 give or take) spending money (prob about £500) plus a hotel on top (if you want a bed and air con) this isn’t the cheapest of the festival options out there. The experience and location does however make for the perfect summer holiday; soaking up the sun and cooling off in the pool during the day, then strolling over to the festival and watching top bands and artists all night. Repeating this for four days and nights? worth every penny!

Gatland Coming Under Fire For England Comment

Gatland tells Lancaster the joke about the Englishman Irishman and Welshman

Gatland tells Lancaster the joke about the Englishman Irishman and Welshman

Above is tomorrow’s Western Mail back page, is Gatland getting himself in hot water already?Or will this be the first of many little jibes the media love to press?

Either way can’t wait for the squad to be announced, but not before the millions of British selectors out there debate their first 15 of course.

Six Nations 2013 Round 1 Review – Round 2 Preview

What an opening weekend of rugby during the first instalment of the 2013 Six Nations, we had thrills, Zebo’s skills and a huge upset on the cards. Indeed much of the build up to this year’s tournament painted a picture of the most open competition yet, I found that somewhat hard to believe until Rome exploded in celebration at the final whistle signifying a famous win for the Azzuri and an enthralling start to the championship.

Wales v Ireland
This was a compelling opener to the tournament and almost had a cricket feel to the fixture with Ireland scoring all of their points in the 44 opening minutes and then retiring from attack and allowing Wales a 36 minute innings to try and come back. Despite a rallying and barnstorming attacking effort from Wales the Irish held on courtesy of some inspirational (bodies on the line) defending no doubt inspired by last year’s opening weekend defeat to the men in Red in Dublin. Both in attack (1st half and a bit) and defence Ireland had too much overall for Wales who now appear to be increasingly leaderless both on and off the field in terms of inspiration and direction.

Last Week’s Prediction: Wales 17 – Ireland 15 Final Score Wales 22 – Ireland 30

Looks like the prediction of a home win was off the mark although it was based on Wales turning up for at least some of the first half.

England v Scotland
All in all a comfortable win for England and a good, solid start to the competition for Lancaster’s man. Scotland started brightly with some verve and vigour resulting in an early try for Maitland but the Scots were largely unable to match England as key battles in contact, territory and possession went the way of the red rose with England running in comfortable winners come the final whistle.

Last Week’s Prediction: England 32 Scotland 10 Final Score: England 38 Scotland 18

Not a million miles away as the plot failed to thicken at Twickenham and England won quite easily.

Italy v France
This was an incredible spectacle right from the Anthems as hundreds of former Italian internationals stood opposite the current crop of players and shared in a rousing rendition of their national anthem (II Canto Degli Italiani – Translated as: The song of the Italians). The moving scene was summed up within all its emotive glory by the passion and determination on show from one Martin Castrogiovanni as the fans and players past/present brought the stadium to its feet.
Right from the first kick off Italy brought passion, pace and flair to the encounter, unshackling themselves from their traditionally robotic style, adding patience and control with fly half replacement Burton slotting over a prized three point drop goal to put the Azzuri 5 clear with only a few minutes left on the clock. France finally displayed some semblance of urgency (while still managing to look lacklustre) and threw everything at the resolute Italian defence. Even a yellow card for Davide Giazzon with seconds remaining could not stop history descending on the Stadio Olimpico as the final whistle officially blew the 2013 Six Nations wide open.

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Rousing Italian Anthem

Last Week’s Prediction: Italy 8 France 30 Final Score: Italy 23 France 18

Few would have predicted history repeating itself as Italy pulled off another famous win in Rome.

Round 2 Preview
With this tournament already as open as I can remember at this stage, round two could be even tighter with all three games tough to call.
Scotland v Italy
The Scots will gain a huge amount of confidence from this game being held at Murryfield as a visit to Rome will prove a daunting prospect for any side in this competition after the opening weekend. The Scots will no doubt improve following their visit to HQ last week and will be buoyed by their home fans who will need no firing up for this encounter. The Italians come to Edinburgh with a rare 100% record to protect and much will be made of how they perform on the road this year. Should they be able to replicate the form shown last week then they will be confident of adding a second win to their tally and march with confidence back to Rome.
Key area: Efficiency – This game should be dictated by the Italians should they be able to take their forward game and marry it up with a loose and effective attacking threat. Scotland will ask far more questions of them than France with the side that is more efficient and clinical with territory and possession likely to come out on top.

Score Prediction – Scotland 12 Italy 20
France v Wales
France are likely to be without their captain (Pascal Pape) for the visit of Wales who look to have some key players returning in Hibbard and Ryan Jones, with the latter vital for much needed leadership. This will probably be the toughest to call of the weekends matches as Wales only turned up for 34 minutes and France demonstrated an absence of any intent in Rome. You could of course argue that Wales are under the greatest pressure (following their winless run) but will not be expected to beat a wounded France in Paris. Indeed a lack of expectation often brings out the best from the men in red. I expect this to be another strange encounter especially with these two teams involved on their current form and most recent matches. That said it’s hard to look past a French win as they will have home advantage but the heart says Wales will pull something special out and notch up that all important W.
Key areas: Control and Possession – Both sides will need to impose themselves far more effectively than last weekend and will need to generate a solid platform in attack. Both will need their 10’s to provide control and consistent front foot ball will be essential for the victors. Should both sides bring these (so far missing) elements to the table this will be an exceptional game.
Score Prediction – France 21 Wales 23

Ireland v England
Based on the results of the opening weekend this game could well be seen as the tournament decider even if there is a lot of rugby to be played yet. Both sides will be desperate for a win and because of the ‘barmy’ outcome of the match in Cardiff and the questionable strength (especially in the contact area) of the Scots is difficult to place the favorites tag on either team. The return of Manu Tuilagi could prove pivotal, especially if Darcy doesn’t return to fitness, given the difference that made defensively for the game in Cardiff. Aside from that both teams have a solid game in most departments and this should be a classic.
Key areas: The Contact Area – Both sides dominated this aspect of their respective games last week and walked away with the all important wins. This will again be a massive contest on Sunday as Ireland will attempt to drain the momentum out of England’s attack and retain their (own) clinical edge going forward.
Score Prediction – Ireland 23 England 20

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6 Nations Preview 2013

6 Nations Preview 2013

With just 2 days to go until the 6 Nations party rolls into town to decide the kings of European Rugby, it’s worth a look at the state of play before the Wales v Ireland encounter kicks us off on Saturday.

In this Blog we will be looking at the all important form of the 6 countries to try and predict has become increasingly unpredictable, the outcome of the Northern Hemisphere showpiece.

Why is it so special?

From Treherbert to Toulouse, from Galway to Glasgow, when its match time and the pubs are full and streets empty in rugby towns, villages and cities across Europe, it won’t be hard to find a few tour stories of years gone by.

My personal favourite was one told by the voice of Rugby himself, the late great Bill McClaren. Bill told of a group of Welshmen who had ventured up to Edinburgh on a last minute rugby tour, in the days that preceded the internet, mobiles and confirmation emails. The group found themselves in the back of a taxi searching for their bed and breakfast in the wee small hours the morning after match day. They tried and failed, eventually asking the driver how much he would charge to take them all the way back home to Wales. After a week and a half staying with the Welsh boys and their families the Scotsman returned home with bloodshot eyes and countless stories to tell. In the years that followed the Welsh lads would visit the driver, his friends and family with the Scottish contingent returning the favour on the reverse fixture each year.

This is one of doubtless hundreds of stories over the years of 5 (and now 6) nations doing battle on the field but sharing in beer, laughter and song, the joys of such a magical tournament.

The Form Guide

Wales
In March last year Wales were crowned Grand Slam champions for the third time since Mike Ruddock’s class of 2005 ended 27 years of hurt for the passionate principality. Their crowning victory of their clean sweep (2012) came at home to Les Bleus and sent Wales firmly into party mode and surely (following their semi final heartache at the Word Cup in New Zealand) announced their arrival at the top table of the sport.
As with all matters relating to Welsh Ruby their boom to bust culture is ever present with issues relating to the regions finances, a player drain and poor domestic and international form. Since that crowning day in Cardiff last year they have lost every game and gone into virtual freefall within the IRB Rankings. Wales will be desperate to re-kindle confidence and momentum opening weekend against the Irish. The form guide in recent years states that they either finish fourth or win the grand slam and with two huge games from the start (Ireland home and France Away) it will quickly become clear which way they are heading.

Ireland
Declan Kidney and Ireland are often criticised for fielding a dads army of players due to their ageing squad. Last year’s 6 nations brought an agonising opening weekend loss to Wales followed by a painful draw (away) against France. A bruising defeat at the hands of England Up Front left a question mark over their performances in a tournament that could (barring a couple of refereeing decisions) have been so very different. Again (as with Wales) Celtic consistency is yet to be shown following their own Grand Slam there has been a slow decline and some alarming lows on the (IRB) rankings board (similarities again with their Celtic cousins) following a battering tour of New Zealand. The autumn campaign however can be remembered for the blooding of some exciting youngsters, which poses the question as to whether the dads army will be rejuvenated this year?

France
A change of coach (Philippe Saint-Andre) has brought more stability and consistency than the (often crazy) Marc Lièvremont era which saw Muntinee, Moustaches and a first defeat to the Italians. Saint-Andre’s inaugural 6 nation’s report card will read: two defeats and a draw – with the playing resources they have at their disposal will know they should do much much better.
Indeed that is precisely what they did in the autumn, with a hammering of Australia, coupled with dogged beatings of a dangerous Argentina and Samoa. France look to be ripening and will take some stopping this year. Depending, as the adage always goes, on which France turn up and whether panache, consistency and control can be added to their undoubted power and class.

England
What a difference a new coach makes. From the World Cup which saw the naughty boys brigade sent home at the quarters at the hands of France, a hammering of New Zealand has made for a very interesting turnaround in fortunes. In truth England haven’t been far away from knocking over one of the Southern Superpowers. In particular some agonising encounters with South Africa and dubious kicking decisions were laid to rest by an enthralling if unexpected hammering of the All Blacks.
Last year’s Six Nations proved a rarity for England, an interim coach mixed with relatively low expectations which, aside from the Welsh and Scott Williams in particular, were exceeded with a very solid 2nd place finish. However following the appointment of Lancaster on a permanent basis and their most recent victory it will be normal service resumed as England will again expect.
A step forward will be needed from the young squad to convert promise into results and silverware.

Scotland
The Scots have not been impervious to the Rugby Rollercoaster that has been boarded by Wales and England. The sound bites from the Andy Robinson Era were of performance standards, the need for a winning mentality and to score more tries. Sadly however none of these three key requirements really materialised as a collective and imploding performances in key games saw their World Cup campaign end for the first time at the group stages.
The SRFU firmly backed their coach regardless of their World Cup exit and 2012 Six Nations Wooden Spoon and despite, a vastly encouraging (unbeaten) summer tour, the autumn proved a string of poor performances too far and Robinson duly walked away from the frustration of steering the ship for the Scots.
Since Robinsons departure the SRFU have appointed Scott Johnson as head coach with the likely brief of avoiding the wooden spoon in this year’s 6 Nations.

Italy
Much was made of the inclusion of the Italians to the traditional 5 Nations format, discussions in the main centred around the need to support the global development and growth of the game. Few can argue that although Italy have propped the table up on the majority of occasions they have added something special to the tournament over the years. From the majestic Sergio Parisse, the metronomic kicking of Diego Dominguez and of course the barnstorming Bergamasco brothers, not to mention Griffins side burns.
The realistic objectives of head coach Jacques Brunel will be similar to that of his Scottish counterpart, although it will be interesting to see whether the inclusion of the Italian teams in the Pro12 has made an early impact on the National Team.

The First Weekends Fixtures and Predictions

Saturday 2nd February 2013 – 13.30 – Wales v Ireland (Cardiff)

This is more than likely going to be the tightest encounter of the weekend. Wales will be desperate to get back to winning ways but have been blighted by injuries over the last few months. Ireland on the other hand welcome back their talisman Brian O’Driscoll and will be seeking to blend their youthful autumn vigour with their solidity at regional level and end a run of three test defeats in a row to Wales. Home advantage is key and I think Ireland will come second best to Wales. This prediction is down to the home crowd and the need for Howley and his team to make a statement and put an end to a painful losing streak.

Score Prediction: Wales 17 Ireland 15

Saturday 2nd February 2013 – 4.00PM – England v Scotland (Twickenham)

It’s hard to predict anything other than a comfortable win at home for England and the key for Scotland will be to silence and expectant crowd following their win against World Champions. Scott Johnston will have to ensure Scotland keep their defensive discipline, avoid England’s set piece and grow into the game. Attack could well be the best form of defence for the Scots and territory will be massive in this game, if Scotland’s attack doesn’t turn up and mistakes creep in, they will be dispatched easily.

Score Prediction: England 32 Scotland 10

Sunday 3rd February 2013 – 3.00PM – Italy v France (Find name of stadium and place)

France will return to the Italy for the first time since Nick Malletts‘ class of 2011 bagged their first ever French scalp. The memories of French despair and Italian jubilation on that day will count for little when the match kicks off on Sunday. Philippe Saint-Andre has built on the power-play evident within the French League and extremely evident to all who watch the Heineken Cup. Despite home advantage its highly unlikely we will see a repeat of ‘that’ win. Expect plenty of kicking from the Azzuri and plenty of tackling for that matter and a comfortable day at the office for the French.

Score Prediction: Italy 8 France 30

And Finally
Whatever happens this weekend there will be controversy, TMO’s, Flair, Force and Finesse in equal measure – One thing is guaranteed whether your Red, Green, White or Blue, it’s going to be emotional and I can’t wait for it all to start.