Six Nations 2013 in Pictures

The weather may have been shocking, but for me the six nations this year was at its unpredictable best, who would have walked into the bookies on the first day and put money on the French propping up the table? Then you had the Italians winning two memorable battles in Rome, the Irish nose diving after their magical performance in Cardiff and of course ‘that’ game to decide the champions of 2013.

Not a tournament for the purists producing a record low of tries but one for the Welsh in the end as they were deservedly crowned champions and bookended the tournament with the two best games (v Ireland and v England). I’m not going to pour over all of the analysis it’s been done to death (especially in Wales with the fickle media slaughtering Howley & Co after the first game and worshiping him after the last); instead I thought I would share some pictures of my experiences of the tournament which included The Rhondda, Cardiff and Edinburgh. As you can probably tell I loved every minute of it!

During our trip to Edinburgh we set off at 5.30am and travelled by car plane and then car to our beautiful destination. So in closing I would like to give a shout out to all who braved the elements in the stadiums, the dads squeezing their kids onto the trains, the drivers who covered the length and breadth of Europe, the drinkers and singers in the pubs, the millions of pundits and selectors and Gabby Logan – Let’s do it all again next year, but please let’s have a little more sun!!!!!!!!

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The Italian Job, The Big Bastareaud and Sundays Clash of the Celts – Can only be the Six Nations 2013 Round 3 Preview

Current 6 Nations Standings

After 2 bruising rounds of 6 nations action and a well earned week off the competition returns for round three this weekend with some enthralling match ups:

Italy v Wales (2.30pm) Stadio Olimpico

Both sides are equal following a win a piece against the misfiring French. Wales will be under no illusions that this will be a tough day at the office and (following their victory in Paris) one they will be expected to win. A glance back at their clashes in Rome over the course of the 6 nations (over the years) is a stark reminder of just how close the clashes have been.
Wales have won and lost in Rome with the latter results coming via a dominant Italian pack and rock solid set piece. That said it may be the style of rugby that Italy choose among the backs (this time) that could have the greatest bearing. Against France at home the Italians played with flair, kept the ball alive, offloaded and attacked with intent. If they open the game up then it could prove to be a very different clash in Rome on Saturday as this will also suit Wales.
Rob Howley has kept faith with the starting 15 that delivered victory in Paris whereas Italy are likely to be without their Captain Marvel in Parrisse (check Spelling) which could prove to be decisive in this contest. I’m predicting Wales by 5 points and another nail biter.

England v France (5.30pm) Twickenham

England have brought in Manu Tuilagi to combat Frances big Bastareaud, (should be some clash) making two other changes from the side that triumphed in the Dublin monsoon. France in the other hand have made seven changes in a bid to revitalise their fortunes.
Its hard to look past England winning in this match and even though the red rose faithful will be discussing which France will turn up on Saturday it dosent look like Les Bleus have anything to bring to the table, no flair, no va va voom.
Yes they have power but so do England who also have the ability to control the game through their impressive half backs. The media and the pundits will build this up to be a classic claiming France have nothing to lose, and will come and play with freedom and really take the game to England. Unless they completely change from the side that played the first 2 rounds its England by 12 points for me.

Scotland v Ireland (2.30pm) Murrayfield

This should be some game and to be honest it’s hard to gauge where both sides are at the moment. Scotland had a tough time in the opening round and came 2nd best to the English forwards but then completely hammered the Italians. Irelands opening round win against Wales had them in a strong position (even though they only played for 43 mins) however a loss at home to England and the resulting injuries could prove a body blow to their campaign. Coaches and players alike laud about the all important momentum and the force appears to be with Scotland as will home advantage. This looks the tightest to call and something tells me it will be the Scots by 3 points.

After 2 weeks were back to the action and I for one can’t wait to see how it all unfolds, 3 cracking games to look forward to and as to how it all unfolds, well that’s anyone’s guess!

Gethin Jenkins to Return to The Blues

Jenkins in action for Wales

Cardiff Blues have re-signed prop Gethin Jenkins from Toulon in a deal which sees the British Lion cutting his French deal short by a year. Jenkins will remain with the French based outfit until the end of the season and will then rejoin his former club.

In all honesty, the lack of game time since Jenkins headed to France has rendered the Welsh International a shadow of his former self. Only the loyalty of the Welsh management has saved him from being replaced as a starter by Paul James who should probably have been given a shot at a starting berth by now!

The move (of Jenkins) will buck the recent trend of Welsh stars plying their trade over the channel and Welsh fans will hope this is the first of many.

Six Nations 2013 – Round 2 Review

Round 2 – The second round of the 6 nations proved to be a bruising spectacle and the Scotland v Italy clash aside, one lacking in tries, flair and creativity but no less compelling as a result.

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Scotland 34 V Italy 10 – the pre match talk surrounded the Italians victory over France and whether they could make it two wins on the bounce in Edinburgh. The short answer to that question was ‘No’ as the Scottish defence hammered early Italian advances and the home side began to take a stranglehold on both territory and possession. The Scots also added some vital flair into the mix (which proved a rare commodity in the 2nd round). With excellent handling skills, running angles and support play, causing no end of problems for the Azzuri rearguard, early pressure finally told as Tim Visser crossed the whitewash. The Italians weren’t able to live with the scraps of possession and lack of go forward and aside from a moment of magic from Sergio Parisse setting up a consolation score for Zanni, there was little to celebrate.

France 6 V Wales 16 – This encounter at the Stade De France proved to be as compelling as it was nervous, and just as close as predicted. Both sides set their stall out that the match was to be head on, physical and unrelenting in the cold Paris evening. The pitch did little to add to what was a pragmatic contest (cutting up under the forwards at scrumtime), leaving the resulting penalties as something of a lottery from referee George Clancy.

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France enjoyed the early pressure and territory making ground and threatening the welsh line on a number of occasions. Some huge pressure and composure from the men in red prevented any such advances and rendered the clash at 6 points apiece right up until the 71 minute.
That was, of course, until a deft chip and a kind bounce saw George North touchdown in the corner much to the delight of interim coach Rob Howley. The try was majestically converted by Lee Halfpenny, who, fast forward 4 minutes, was again going through his pre-kick routine to kill the game off.
In this match the commentators talked of neither side wanting to lose rather than one side wanting to win. ‘THAT’ bounce of the ball and the two kicks that followed saw the pendulum of pressure swing away from Rob Howley and firmly towards Philippe Saint-Andre. Wales are back in the hunt and will have restored invaluable confidence, France however, face a daunting mission to HQ in a fortnight.

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Ireland 6 V England 12 – All of the players lining up for their respective anthems must have had one thought on their minds in the dire Dublin conditions – this is going to be a nightmare – and for the players it was, but not the spectators. Both sides employ an in-your-face, physical, rush defence and with a slippery ball this was to prove a match the purists need not have tuned-in to watch.

That said I found it to be an enthralling game and early injuries to Simon (Giggsy) Zebo and Sexton sapped some of the Irish momentum and gave that 1% extra to England that proved to be critical. In an exchange of pressure, territory, handling errors and possession, England dug slightly deeper than Ireland when James Haskell was sin binned and ground out the match by four converted penalties to two. Ireland are far from out of the competition but the defeat will hurt both physically and mentally. England are now the only side left with grand slam ambitions and (unlike Wales and Ireland) will hope France don’t come to London to play for the first time in the competition.

All in all the second round dished up a brutal slice of physical ‘win at all costs and win it ugly’ rugby. It wasn’t pretty, and thankfully, nor was it predictable and I for one loved every muddy minute.