Thursday 31 May 2007

Australia vs Wales

- 2nd test (1st test - Australia 29-23 Wales)
- 2/6/07
- On tv: 10:30 (K.O. 11:00) Sky Sports 1

Australia
1 - Benn Robinson
2 - Stephen Moore
3 - Guy Shepherdson
4 - Nathan Sharpe
5 - Dan Vickerman
6 - Rocky Elsom
7 - George Smith
8 - Wycliff Palu
9 - Matt Giteau
10 - Stephen Larkham
11 - Drew Mitchell
12 - Adam Ashley-Cooper
13 - Stirling Mortlock (Captain)
14 - Digby Ioane
15 - Julian Huxley

Subs: Frier, Dunning, Chrisholm, Hoiles, Waugh, Gregan, Gerrard

Wales
1 - Iestyn Thomas
2 - Mefin Davies
3 - Adam Jones
4 - Michael Owen
5 - Rob Sidoli
6 - Colin Charvis
7 - Gavin Thomas
8 - Jonathan Thomas
9 - Mike Phillips
10 - James Hook
11 - Aled Brew
12 - Sonny Parker
13 - Jamie Robinson
14 - Chris Czekaj
15 - Gareth Thomas (Captain)

Subs: C. Jones, Hibbard, Morgan, Sowden-Taylor, A.Williams, Sweeney, Henson

I'm not gonna lie, this test series, out of all the series going on at the moment,is probably the worst to watch as regards skill level. In complete contrast to any of the other southern hemisphere teams the Criminal Element were appalling during the first test in Sydney. Bringing the torrid form of their Super 14 teams into their summer series they were all over the place. Rookie out-half Norton-Knight was completely inept when it came to marshaling the Wallabies back division and whilst Giteau and Mortlock provided some creativeness and linebreaking ability behind the scrum the Aussie team looked timid to say the least. Latham may still be out but at least the Criminality can welcome back veteran out-half Larkham into the starting XV as well as lock Dan Vickerman. Buoyed on by these fresh replacements and no doubt somewhat embarrassed by their display last week do not be surprised to see a Wallaby backlash in this test.

The Welsh team is much the same as the one that came so close yet so far last weekend. If Sydney was a big ask for this under strength Welsh outfit, Brisbane is gonna look like Everest. This Australian team are gonna be eager to rectify the mistakes they made last week and its more than likely they won't gift the Welsh a 17 point cushion again. The boyos from le valleys caught the Aussies off guard last week, I'm not expecting that to happen again

Australia for the win

Argentina vs Ireland

- 2nd test
- 2/6/07
- On tv: tbc on RTE... I hate the GAA

Argentina
1 - M Ayerza
2 - P Gambarini
3 - S Gonzalez Bonorino
4 - E Lozada
5 - R Alvarez
6 - M Durand (Captain)
7 - J Fernandez Lobbe
8 - JM Leguizamon
9 - N Fernandez Miranda
10 - F Todeschini
11 - F Leonelli
12 - M Contepomi
13 - H Senillosa
14 - T De Vedia
15 - F Serra

Subs: E Guinazu, P Henn, P Bouza, M Schustermann, N Vergallo, JC Fernandez Miranda, H Agulla

Ireland
1 - B Young
2 - F Sheahan
3 - S Best (Captain)
4 - L Cullen
5 - M O’Driscoll
6 - A Quinlan
7 - S Jennings
8 - S Ferris
9 - E Reddan
10 - J Staunton
11 - R Kearney
12 - G Duffy
13 - B Murphy
14 - B Carney
15 - G Murphy

Subs: B Jackman, T Buckley, M O'Kelly, N Best, I Boss, K Lewis, L Fitzgerald

Whilst there are several changes to the Pumas team the handed Ireland that 22-20 defeat last week their team has remained annoyingly competitive. Not even the considerable loss of Conto seems to be worrying the Argentines. Montpelier out-half Todeschini (pictured) has stepped into the number 10 berth in place of Felipe as the Leinster 10 returns to Dublin this weekend to graduate from the College of Surgeons. If the name Todeschini sounds vaguely familiar it is ptobably because he was the man wearing 10 last Autumn who scored 22 of Argentina's 25 points as the south Americans upset the English in Twickenham. They won't be any kind of pushover. Although it is a 'weakened' Argentine pack, they're clearly just gonna try bully the Irish eight into submission (especially after being embarrassed by the Irish pack last week) and Todeschini sit back and kick the points. Expect a slightly more conservative forwards game from the Argentines under Todeschini, from what I can remember he's not exactly a creative powerhouse with ball in hand.

There are a fair few changes to the Irish team that played last week as well. Twelve to be exact. With Paddy Wallace out with injury Jeremy Staunton has been called away from Ireland 'A' duty to fill the void at out-half. Similarly Rob Kearney wins his first cap filling in for the injured Tommy Bowe (hurray!). An injury to Andrew Trimble also forces Gavin Duffy (pictured) into the centre whilst Geordan Murphy slots in at full-back to take over from Duffy. Eoin Reddan and Barry Murphy are the other two new names in a completely reworked backline. Only Brian Carney remains from the starting backline last week. Hopefully he'll get more ball this week too now that 'crash-ball' Trimble is out. The pack is actually quite good; same front row as last week and Cullen and O'Driscoll in the second row have the potential to be immense. Jennings gets a long awaited first cap at openside and is partnered by Quinlan at 6 and Ferris at 8. Not a bad team at all, in fact I think the backline is a significant improvement on last weeks. Kinda annoyed about Heaslip being dropped and Jackman not getting a start but.. what ya gonna do. Eerie depth to the Irish squad though.. I never realised we had that many quality players.

I'm saying Ireland to win, Todeschini can go suck a lemon

Wednesday 30 May 2007

Genki Sudo


He's one of the more eccentric fighters ever to have graced the pantheon of mixed martial arts. Which I figure is reason enough to put up a vid of him. There are more on youtube if you're interested.

New Zealand - France

- 1st test
- 2/6/07
- On tv: 8:00 (K.O. 8:35) Sky Sports 1

New Zealand
1 - Tony Woodcock
2 - Keven Mealamu
3 - Carl Hayman
4 - Chris Jack
5 - Ali Williams
6 - Reuben Thorne
7 - Richie McCaw (Captain)
8 - Chris Masoe
9 - Piri Weepu
10 - Dan Carter
11 - Sitiveni Sivivatu
12 - Aaron Mauger
13 - Isaia Toeava
14 - Josevata Rokocoko
15 - Leon MacDonald

Subs: Hore, Tialata, Flavell, So'ialo, Leonard, Evans, Nonu

France
1 - Christian Califano
2 - Sebastien Bruno
3 - Nicolas Mas
4 - Pascal Pape (Captain)
5 - Julien Pierre
6 - Gregory Lecorvec
7 - Olivier Magne
8 - Sebastien Chabal
9 - Nicolas Durand
10 - Benjamin Boyet
11 - Benjamin Thiery
12 - Jean Philippe Grandclaude
13 - Arnaud Mignardi
14 - Julien Laharrague
15 - Thomas Castaignede

Subs: Ibanez, Montanella, Olibeau, Chouly, Forest, N. Laharrague, Valbon

Okay I didn't know who exactly had made the French touring party south this summer but I was under the impression that their merry troupe consisted of nothing but randoms and veterans.... and I guess my presumptions were correct. At first glance I was taken aback by this squad, I actually recognised a lot of names but then realised that the majority of players I recognised (Magne, Castaignede, Califano, Bruno, Mas) were all golden oldies. Don't get me wrong there is a lot of youth in that team, just not a lot of young talent. The front row, whilst geriatric, is actually quite formidable. Pape is a solid enough lock but I have reservations about the back row. Who the hell is Lecorvec? And I think you may be asking A LOT of Olvier Magne (pictured being old) to keep McCaw contained all day long. As for the backline, besides Boyet and possibly Castaignede I see no gamebreakers or playmakers at all, just a group of liabilities from 9-15.

No real surprises in the All Blacks squad. As usual 1-15 are all unbelievable players. The only potential question marks may be Reuben Thorne at blindside flanker and relative newcomer Toeava in the centre. Thorne has been the target of much criticism in the New Zealand media recently. Allegations of being too old, too out of form and just generally being past it have been levelled at the man so he has an opportunity to silence those detractors on Saturday. On the other hand its good to see Henry pick the untried Toeava (pictured) to start at outside centre. I didn't see enough of the Super 14 but by all accounts, this guy is the shit and I'm looking forward to see him in action against ze Frogs.

Prediction: New Zealand to romp home, by about 20

Philadelphia Eagles


Eagles are getting some love today. Having just seen the film Invincible earlier this evening I felt obliged to post up a couple of highlight vids. For those of you who haven't seen it (which is probably most of you seeing as it never had a general release over here) Invincible chronicles the unlikely rise of a down and out bartender in Philly as he battles for a position on the Eagles squad in the 70s after being selected from thousands of other players during the franchises' open tryouts.

I know I put the Dawkins up already but... actually I'm no gonna apologise for it, he's such a good player, just sick

Tuesday 29 May 2007

Ireland 'A' vs New Zealand Maori

- Churchill Cup
- 29/5/07
- On tv: 19:30 (K.O. at 20:00) - Sky Sports 1

Ireland 'A'
1 - Ray Hogan
2 - John Fogarty (Captain)
3 - Michael Ross
4 - Ryan Caldwell
5 - Andrew Farley
6 - John O'Sullivan
7 - *Johnny O'Connor
8 - *Roger Wilson
9 - Frank Murphy
10 - Johnny Sexton
11 - Johnny Murphy
12 - Keith Earls
13 - Darren Cave
14 - Paul McKenzie
15 - Ross McCarron

Subs: Cronin, Fitzpatrick, Gannon, Keogh, Keane, Mallon, Hearty
* denotes those players capped at full international level

New Zealand Maori*
1 - Craig West
2 - Aled de Malmanche
3 - Ben May
4 - Kristian Ormsby
5 - Hayden Triggs
6 - Angus Macdonald
7 - Scott Waldrom or Tanerau Latimer
8 - Warren Smith
9 - Chris Smylie
10 - Tamati Ellison
11 - Anthony Tahana
12 - Rua Tipoki
13 - Dwayne Sweeney
14 - Hosea Gear
15 - Shannon Paku

Subs: Mahoney, Tui, Ross, Hoeata, Rodley, Bruce, Te Whare
* I have no idea who their captain is

England booked their place in the Churchill cup final yesterday after dispatching Scotland 18-3 in wet conditions at Twickenham yesterday. The winner of this match today will advance to meet the English swine in the cup final, the loser goes on to play the Scots in the plate/shield final. I'm not gonna lie I don't recognise a single player on that Maori side but I'm willing to wager that they're still considerably better than the Ireland 'A'. The Irish are playing with a stupidly young backline as well; Sexton at 10 with Cave and Earls occupying the centre roles. Can Earls even play centre? Anyway good to see Sexton get some time in the out-half jersey but I still think the Irish boys are in for one mother of a hiding later on

Monday 28 May 2007

Stanley Cup Finals Preview


- Ottawa Senators (yay!) vs the Anaheim (Mighty) Ducks (yay!).. ye I can't decide who I like more
- On tv - NOOOOOO. Setanta have decided NASCAR would be more entertaining for Irish fans unfortunately
Okay I did about ten minutes worth of reading ESPN and the NHL for this preview before I remembered that I understand no ice hockey lingo. From what I can gather both teams are both fairly competent in all areas (I guess you have to be to get this far) but that if you want to break it down into a strength vs strength contest that it will be essentially Ottawa's attack vs. the Anaheim defence. Alfredsson, Heatly and Spezza (pictured) are a prodigious goal scoring unit and are obviously the Sens main offensive weapons. So just expect the Ducks to do their level best to stop these boys relying on their strong defence to generate scoring opportunities for an offence starved of any real 'star' quality. Though mention should be made of the Sens second string keeper Emery who's come into extreme 'heroic' form in the playoffs, Ottawa can defend... just not as well as Anaheim.

I think I'm gonna stick with Ottawa to win cos those Senator bastards put out my Pingus, and they're Canadian. Although I do like the Ducks 'knuckle puck time' hurrah! fuck it I don't know its too hard to call... but I'm gonna guess Senators

UFC 71: Liddel vs. Jackson


The main event of this particular fight card was such an anti-climax. Rampage Jackson connected with a right early on the very first round to send Liddel crashing to the mat. Jackson was on him in a flash and after landing a couple more blows to the Iceman's head referee John McCarthy called an end to the fight as Liddel went limp under his opponent's' assault. The reward for his win over Liddel is a match-up against the Pride light-heavyweight + middleweight (I think) champ Dan Henderson. I've never seen that guy fight but if he holds two belts he's gotta be kinda good.



Whilst the main event was a bit of a damp squib some of the fights earlier in the night were actually class. In recent times an underwhelming main event has been usually accompanied by similarly un-enthralling build-up matches but not last night. Karo Parisyan's fight against Josh Burkman was immense. Again, being a relative newcomer to UFC I had never seen Parisyan fight before and he is awesome. His striking was so well-timed and accurate, his blocking was strong and disciplined and I love all the judo throws and takedowns he brings to his game, so good to watch. Burkman had absolutely no answer, his punches were wild and erratic, Karo kept dodging or blocking 'em with relative ease. Every time he went to take him down Parisyan stood strong with ease. Although the fight went to a judges decision, having gone all three rounds they inevitably came down in favour of Parisyan by unanimous decision.



Another fight that stood out for me was the one between Keith 'The Dean Of Mean' Jardine and Houston Alexander. Now with Alexander making his UFC debut and Jardine being an established face on the fighting circuit I was expecting Jardine to whomp this guy and he started well... and it went well for about 10 seconds. Then Alexander exploded, the ferocity of his attack threw Jardine completely off guard and the Dean went on the retreat, back-peddling towards the wall of the octagon. Alexander was relentless and pummeled Jardine to the ground, the Dean disappeared under a flurry of blows, eventually being knocked out by a left hook just 48 seconds into the first round. Twas damn impressive

Sunday 27 May 2007

God Dammit Conto


Argentina 22-20 Ireland

Nooooooo Conto noooooooooo. Bastard. To be fair Ireland lost this match for themselves. A lack of kicking accuracy from Wallace, Duffy and ultimately G Murphy cost us the game. The pack had an absolute monster of an 80 minutes; Heaslip, N Best and Mick O'Dizzle (when he came on) were on fire. That Carney chap looked dangerous the three or four times he got his hands on the ball and I thought Boss played well at nine personally (though everyone else seems to disagree vehemently). What was most worrying for the Irish besides the scoreline was the performance and possible injury of Paddy Wallace. Although I think he would compliment the Irish backline better than ROG, his kicking game let him down and now if he's injured for the second test Eddie might have to look to fly over Staunton. Better him than Murphy or Duffy standing at 10... that'd be a disaster. Disappointing performances from Gleeson and Hogan too, you can probably count them out of world cup contention. Bowe was as much a liability as usual, he gave away 2 or 3 penalties in the first 5 minutes.

The Irish team was a mix of the good, the bad and the plain ugly towards the end of the match but as a unit they actually played surprisingly well. I'm presuming Jennings, Cullen, Reddan, Jackman, O'Dizzle and G Murphy to get full games next week. Ye next week.. when the Argentines will be without Contepomi, he has to go to Dublin to collect his degree from the College of Surgeons, mwahahahha.


South Africa 58-10 England

I can't remember how far it was into the first half when Matthew Tait made that break for England. Must have been round 25 minutes or so, anyway he tears off down the centre of the pitch, gets isolated, looks for support and finds it on his right shoulder. The ball is sent out towards the right wing and suddenly there was a sense of 'oh shit the bastards might score'. But up pops some poor lummocks of an English forward who tries to throw a looping pass out wide only for it to sail despairingly over his teammates outstretched hands. By the time the wayward pass hits the turf Bryan Habana has already scooted around to the wing, recovers the balls and sprints away the length of the pitch for the second Springbok try.

I don't think I've ever laughed so hard in my life. Words cannot emphasise how crap the Eng-u-lund team were. I know they didn't have most of their forwards but my god at least try!!. The Bok destroyed them up front, Matfield and co. dominated the forward exchanges and bullied England up front all day long. Every time the English tried going forward they went back about 5 metres. The scary thing was you got the sense that South Africa could easily go up another gear. They broke into a 30-3 lead by half time and just kinda turned off for the second half but still managed to rack up another 28 points... crazy. The best part is England have to endure it all again in Durban next week hahhahahaha


Australia 29-23 Wales

Those poor Welsh bastards. Wales did sooooo well to hang on to that lead of theirs for about 70 minutes. Though to be honest the two Welsh tries in the first half were complete breakouts resulting from stupid Oz mistakes. The Wallabies dominated possession and territory throughout so I guess they deserved to win. Though the Welsh still rattled a poor Australian side seemingly devoid of any kind of direction or purpose til Gregan made an appearance late in the game. Without Latham and Larkham the Australian backline were all over the shop relying on Mortlock to simply bludgeon his way forward or Giteau to create some magic by himself. The criminal element look VERY ordinary at the moment and a worrying lack of depth in the backs was exposed by a very determined Welsh side, that had come into this game lambasted by the Oz media. They did really well; especially young master Hook and old man Sidoli

Second test should be interesting

Saturday 26 May 2007

Blackout


New Zealand Maori 59-23 Canada
[Churchill Cup]

This second round Churchill cup game was played yesterday and rather predictably the Kiwi team annihilated those poor Canucks. The Maori adopted a 'we will score more tries than you can' policy and it paid off big time. They racked up four tries before the Canadians responded with one of their own in the first half but with a 31-11 score in the New Zealanders favour Canada were pretty much screwed at the start of the second half.

And so it panned out. Supposedly a 'plucky' Canadian effort in the second period could not stem the black tide as the Maori added another 4 tries to their tally for a total of nine. The Kiwis applied a smothering level of pressure throughout the game that the Canucks simply couldn't live with. Now Canada play the USA in the 5th place play-off because both of them have finished bottom of their wee group of three. Another good outing for North American rugby eh? NOOOOOOOOOT

Group A
England Saxons (P:1, W:1 L:0 D:0)
Scotland 'A' (P:1, W:1 L:0 D:0)
USA (P:2, W:0 L:2 D:0)

Group B
New Zealand Maori (P:1, W:1 L:0 D:0)
Ireland 'A' (P:1, W:1 L:0 D:0)
Canada (P:2, W:0 L:2 D:0)

Australia 'A' 60-15 Tonga
[Pacific Nations Cup]

This kinda caught me off guard. I didn't think Australian rugby was strong enough at the moment to whomp the islanders THIS badly. Impressive. Worryingly impressive. Maybe Tonga were just shit though. The Wallabies racked up seven tries including a hat trick for some speed merchant of a winger they have, Lachlan Turner (Ever heard of him? I know I haven't). Tonga had two men sent to the sin bin during the game which didn't help matters but ultimately collapsed like a house of cards caught in a hurricane. Bugger it anyway I just don't want Australia 'A' or the Junior All Blacks to win this competition; lets go Fiji/Samoa/Tonga

Standings
Samoa 10-31 Junior All Blacks
Fiji 30-15 Japan

Thursday 24 May 2007

Upon Review...

Hugo has made an acute observation that I write a lot or previews but no many reviews. This is true but has been primarily because of the hideous amount of games on at the moment. With the domestic season coming to a close and the internationals starting just getting previews written for every game has been challenging enough. But the Goat has a point so here's a brief review of the last week or so of rugby results.

European Challenge Cup Final
Clermont Auvergne 22 - 16 Bath

This was actually surprisingly entertaining. The French team were all over the English in the first half only for Bath to put up a determined front in the second and claw their way back into contention. They almost robbed it at the death but Clermont hung on to successfully retain the Challenge Cup
(I called this right)

Heineken Cup Final
Leicester Tigers 9 - 25 London Wasps

Leicester had no answer to the Wasps defence, simple as. They were matched up front and bullied around by the London outfit all day long. When they tried to release the backs Wasps were all over them like a cheap suit. Two moments of laxity at lineout time led to two tries and it was lights out for Leicester
(I called this sooooooo wrong)

Super 14 Final
Bulls 20 - 19 Sharks

Suuuuuuch a good match. The Sharks clung on to a delicate 14-10 lead going in at half-time. After the break the two sides beat the living crap out of each other for around twenty minutes before any headway was made. Hougaard managed to close the gap to just one point with a penalty in the 61st minute. But the game seemed to be all but lost as Sharks sub Van der Berg crossed for a late try to leave the Sharks 19-13 to the good with 3 minutes left. The cometh the hour, cometh the incredibly fast man. As the Bulls threw everything into attack Bryan Habana spied a gap in the tired Sharks defence as it drifted across the park. He cut back inside, hit the hole and left Derek Hougaard with the simplest of conversions to give the Bulls the title
(I was oh so right about this one)

Churchill Cup
Ireland 'A' 39 - 20 Canada

Again, this match was also surprisingly entertaining. Canada were even ahead for all of five minutes at one stage. In the end it was as a comfortable victory but don't believe any of that jazz in the papers about Staunton playing well, he was bollocks
(called this correctly too..)

Upcoming matches of note [This weekend]
Argentina - Ireland
Australia - Wales
South Africa - England
New Zealand Maori - Canada

Canadian Football


The NFLs little brother to the north, the CFL. Looks the same, seems to employ pretty much the same rules, why do they have a separate league? Well these crazy Canucks play a slightly different version if rules to the yank football of the USA. From what I can recall, there is one less down for a start; which to be honest results in a lot more passing and a much more entertaining game if moderately infuriating as there are turnovers all the bloody time. I think I vaguely recall some kind of difference in pitch dimensions and team sizes as well but I may just be making this up

Now I haven't bothered bringing this sport up at all before for a couple of good reasons; 1) because it is nowhere near as good as the NFL 2) Canadians cannot play any sport that does not take place on ice well 3) The season only starts in mid June. Here are some positives to the CFL; although the players may not be as good as NFL players it makes for bigger plays because they make a lot more mistakes defensively which is entertaining if you like that sort of thing, they're not as 'perfect' as a lot of NFL players. You get the occasional player who quite clearly SHOULD be in the NFL, these guys usually run their teams offence or defence and win games by themselves (if you ever get to see this running back Ranek play you'll know what I mean). Finally I'm gonna be in Vancouver this summer so I'll be able to watch the BC Lions in action...

...it's either that or travel to Seattle to watch the Seahawks play and I'm not that desperate to watch an NFL game

Wednesday 23 May 2007

Australia vs Wales


Australia
1. Matt Dunning
2. Stephen Moore
3. Guy Sheperdson
4. Nathan Sharpe
5. Mark Chisholm
6. Rocky Elsom
7. Phil Waugh (Captain)
8. Wycliff Palu
9. Matt Giteau
10.Sam Norton-Knight
11.Drew Mitchell
12.Adam Ashley-Cooper
13.Stirling Mortlock
14.Mark Gerrard
15.Julian Huxley

Subs: Adam Freier, Ben Robinson, Dan Vickerman, Stephen Hoiles, George Smith (vc), George Gregan, Scott Staniforth


Wales
1. Iestyn Thomas
2. Matthew Rees
3. Adam Jones
4. Brent Cockbain
5. Rob Sidoli
6. Colin Charvis
7. Gavin Thomas
8. Jonathan Thomas
9. Mike Phillips
10.James Hook
11.Chris Czekaj
12.Sonny Parker
13.Jamie Robinson
14.Gareth Thomas (Captain)
15.Lee Byrne

Subs: Richard Hibbard, Ceri Jones, Michael Owen, Scott Morgan, Gareth Cooper, Ceri Sweeney, Gavin Henson

Both of these teams desperately need a win here to get their world cup campaigns back on track. Wales underperformed spectacularly in the Six Nations but enjoyed some degree of domestic success through Llanelli and the Ospreys in the Heineken Cup and the Magners League respectively. In near complete contrast to the Welsh the Aussies have had an abysmal club season with all of their Super 14 teams crashing and burning in spectacular style. The Wallabies want a win against this weakened Welsh side to restore a degree of confidence in their players and begin to build positively for the world cup.

They probably should beat this Welsh outfit quite comfortably. Wales have left the majority of their quality players back in the valleys to attend various fitness and conditioning camps. That has left them dangerously undermanned against an essentially full strength Oz team bar the notable loss of Chris Latham at full-back. The only real 'weakness' per se in the Wallabies team can be found at 15 where newcomer Huxley steps in to replace Latham and at inside centre as the inexperienced Ashley-Cooper fills in to the Aussie backline between late replacement for Larkham Norton-Knight and Mortlock.

The Welsh are gonna have to rely on typically chaos theory tactics to overcome this Australian team. With a weakened pack they will be looking to break the game up for their backs to exploit. Aussies should handle the Welsh comfortably though, should be an easy win for the Wallabies

Money Talks


Affluent French club Toulon are back on the player market again. Having just signed a new director of rugby in Tana Umaga the Frogs are just after landing the considerable double catch of Aussie George Gregan (pictured) and Kiwi Andrew Mehrtens. These two southern hemisphere rugby legends will enter a backline consisting of Ireland's Rob Henderson and England's Dan Luger transforming it into a truly international unit.

This is absolutely ridiculous and ni maith liom Toulon and their bloody money. Thankfully Mehrtens and Gregan are little more than household names these days with their best days behind them whilst Hendo and Luger are just awful. Your damn money bought you nothing, you hear me Toulon?! Nothing!

Springboks vs England


South Africa
1. Deon Carstens
2. John Smit
3. BJ Botha
4. Bakkies Botha
5. Victor Matfield
6. Schalk Burger
7. Juan Smith
8. Danie Rossouw
9. Ricky Januarie
10.Butch James
11.Bryan Habana
12.Jean de Villiers
13.Wynand Olivier
14.Ashwin Willemse
15.Percy Montgomery

Subs: Steenkamp, Botha, Van Der Linde, Muller, Spies, Pienaar, Steyn

England
1. Nick Wood
2. Mark Regan
3. Stuart Turner
4. Dean Schofield
5. Alex Brown
6. Chris Jones
7. Andy Hazell
8. Nick Easter
9. Peter Richards
10.Jonny Wilkinson
11.Jason Robinson
12.Andy Farrell
13.Mathew Tait
14.David Strettle
15.Mike Brown

Subs: Cairns, Crompton, Winters, Sanderson, Gomarsall, Flood, Balshaw

Words cannot emphasis how screwed England are. Since Bath, Leicester and Wasps all had European finals this past week none of their players were available for selection to this tour. Which essentially means that Englands entire pack and most of their forward subs were left at home. The backline is pretty much the strongest they could put out which is also moderately hilarious because it is still pretty appalling. I give Wilko maybe 30 minutes before he gets himself injured. This makeshift Eng-u-land team faces a full strength Sud Afriken team on top form just coming out of the Super 14. I'm expecting the Springboks to eat those poor English fools alive... potential cricket score on the cards

Ireland team to play Argentina


1 - Bryan Young
2 - Jerry Flannery
3 - Simon Best (Captain)
4 - Trevor Hogan
5 - Malcolm O’Kelly
6 - Neil Best
7 - Keith Gleeson
8 - Jamie Heaslip
9 - Isaac Boss
10 - Paddy Wallace
11 - Tommy Bowe
12 - Kieran Lewis
13 - Andrew Trimble
14 - Brian Carney
15 - Gavan Duffy

Subs: Jackman, Buckley, O'Driscoll, Ferris, O'Leary, G Murphy, B Murphy

I had three initial reactions to this squad: 1) Where the fuck is Shane Jennings? 2) Why oh why is Tommy Bowe playing? and 3) Jesus Christ he didn't start Mick O'Driscoll, I was on the verge of earmarking him as captain for the tour too just cos Eddie has such a hard-on for that waste of space. My extreme anger at Jennings apparent exclusion was somewhat subdued by my bro who presented the rather logical point that monsieur Jennings probably hasn't joined the Ireland squad yet cos of the Heino Cup final. But now I see that Murphy is on the bench despite playing in that same final... the irrational anger is returning. Surely Eddie is not that stupid, surely he would play THE form player in the English league if said player was at his disposal.. wouldn't he?

That being said good ol' steady Eddie is probably the most conservative coach regarding selection you will ever see which is somewhat crippling for a country with such a small player base as the youth hardly get a look in over the old guard. And then when he does give the young 'uns a shot he plays Tommy fucking Bowe. Anyone remember another Ulster winger called Tyrone Howe? He was pants too and his name was eerily similar to Bowe's, that's reason enough right there not to play him. On a positive note I do agree with his pack selection bar maybe taking Flannery over Best and I applaud him for not starting Mick O'Driscoll, that must have taken difficult for Eddie, O'Dizzle is like his favourite. Not liking Lewis at centre, surely we have someone better but Carney gets a shot, yay! Its all irrelevant though... if he had Jennings out there but didn't play him I'm gonna fly out to Buenos Aires and beat Eddi to death... yes with his own shoe

Stanley Cup Final


Anaheim (Mighty) Ducks vs Ottawa Senators

Having dispatched the Red Wings (hooray) 4-3 last night and thus clinching the series 4-2 Anaheim progressed to the Stanley Cup final where they'll play the Ottawa Senators, who defeated the Buffalo Sabres (again, hooray) to reach the final stage. Again, handicapped as I am by a severe lack of knowledge regarding all thing hockey my favourite for this match is gonna be decided purely on whose name I prefer. Both hold a degree of sentimental sway for me; I've been to Ottawa, great place and I do prefer Canada in general BUT the (Mighty) Ducks gave me two or three memorable kids sports films when I was growing up (Goldberg you hero)

Weighing up the various merits of both teams I think I'm gonna have to go for the Sens purely cos I have a problem with an 'American' franchise winning the Stanley Cup (see waffle here in the blog about my feelings regarding the 'American' NHL). That and my love for all things Canadian (granted I've only been east coast but I'm rectifying that wee problem this summer) far exceeds my love for the (Mighty) Ducks. I don't even know where Anaheim is for Christ's sake.

Mass fight between Sens and Sabres, LETS GO OTTAWA

Tuesday 22 May 2007

Pacman Jones


Pacman Jones, yet another prominent NFL player embroiled in legal troubles but surprisingly not a member of the Bengals squad. Jones was arrested last year after an 'incident' in a Las Vegas strip club. He had brought $81,000 (in one dollar bills, carried in essentially a 'swag' bag I kid you not) to the club and proceeded to 'make it rain'. One of the strippers tried to grab some of the cash and Pacman took offence smacking her head against the stage. Jones and his entourage were eventually forced out of the club by one of the guards but one of his party returned later and opened fire in the club hitting three people, leaving one permanently paralyzed from the waist down. Pacman denies any relationship with the shooter but has been brought before NFL commisioner Goodell on charges of drug abuse, gambling and generally creating a bad image for the sport.

Pacman was subsequently slapped with an unprecedented season ban which is subject to further review upon the result of the various legal charges levelled against the Titans cornerback. Jones has since announced his appeal against the suspension but seeing as Goodell is on the appeal board Pacman's chances for a successful repeal are slim to none. He hasn't helped matters in recent times by being arrested again, for speeding in a car that he had bought at a police auction, one that was not registered in his name and had been seized by the po-po in a drugs bust last Spring...

And that video is hilarious, I love the start, bravo bradyfan83, bravo

Junior Seau Back With The Pats


Occasionally in sport there appears an aging veteran that simply refuses to retire. Rarely however, does this stubborn vet back up his determination to keep going with quality play. Most exhibit some kind of drop in form but not Seau. He may not get as much game time any more but the 'old man' of the Patriots linebacker team still plays a significant role in the Patriots complicated defensive schemes.

The 38 year-old 12 time Pro Bowler has re-signed with the New England outfit for another year, in another desperate bid to end his career with a Superbowl ring. Seau had played 13 years for San Diego, then 3 in Miami before returning to the San Diego to retire but the Patriots lured him out of retirement last year and he played the first 11 games of the season for New England, registering 70 tackles, before breaking his arm in the Chicago game.

Couldn't finda vid of Seau but here's one of Sam Mills and his fellow linebacker corps from the 1980s Saints' teams dubbed 'The Dome Patrol'

The Blackness Prepares To Fall On France... and Canada


All Black Summer Squad
Dan Carter (out-half)
Jerry Collins (back-row)
Nick Evans (out-half)
Troy Flavell (lock/back-row)
Carl Hayman (prop)
Andrew Hore (hooker)
Doug Howlett (wing/full-back)
Chris Jack (lock)
Byron Kelleher (scrum-half)
Brendon Leonard (out-half... I think)
Luke McAlister (out-half/centre)
Richie McCaw (Captain)(flanker)
Leon MacDonald (full-back)
Chris Masoe (flanker)
Aaron Mauger (centre)
Keven Mealamu (hooker)
Malili Muliaina (full-back/centre)
Anton Oliver (hooker)
Keith Robinson (lock)
Josevata Rokocoko (wing)
John Schwalger (prop)
Sitiveni Sivivatu (wing)
Conrad Smith (centre)
Rodney So’oialo (back-row)
Reuben Thorne (back-row/lock)
Neemia Tialata (prop)
Isaia Toeava (centre)
Piri Weepu (scrum-half)
Ali William (lock)
Tony Woodcock (prop)

This 30-man group is quite possibly their tri-nations squad and the majority of their future world cup team. Some surprises in there; two relative unknowns to world rugby John Schwalger and Brendon Leonard were selected based on their Super 14 form whilst Ma'a Nonu and Rico Gear were dropped. Despite picking Schwalger and Leonard on Super 14 form Henry has ironically kept faith in others who had poor Super 14 campaigns. Rokococko, Williams and Thorne all failed to hit form after they returned from the special All Black conditioning camp but still find themselves included in Henry's plans.

Just skimming through the list of players the sheer amount of talent on show, and the depth New Zealand have at every position is just sick. Their second team would probably thrash most other international teams. The only concern for the All Black management is to get these boys working as efficiently as a unit after the Super 14. Though the Kiwis should have no problem rediscovering that rampaging, ruthless form of theirs against a very understrength French team and those poor poor poor Canadians. Then all they have to do is carry that form into the tri-nations, survive that, maybe win it, and arrive at the world cup completely unscathed, all 30 players still standing. It's a tough ask but to be honest, the Kiwis can afford to lose a multitude of players such is their strength in depth. The only ones they should be worried about are Carter and McCaw.

Anyway first victims are the Frogs (twice) and those unfortunate Canuck bastards

Monday 21 May 2007

Breaking The Law


- Sydney, Australia
New rules... new rules in rugby... already quite possibly the most stupidly complicated game in the world. Now the IRB, the sports governing body, wants to make it harder for us simple folk who understand the rules to follow the game with new fangled laws? Bugger...

This past week new laws were on trial in Sydney Rugby Club. The new rules are designed to open up the game, encourage more expansive play, more tries. In other words they are supposed to remove the slower elements from rugby, the parts of the game that can slow it down a lot and produce a faster more spectator friendly game.

Some of these new rules include:

* The ball can't be kicked out on the full if it's passed back inside the 22m line.

* Numbers in lineouts aren't restricted -- a minimum of two but no maximum -- which encourages more quick throw-ins.

* At the scrum, both backlines must be 5m behind the hindmost foot.

* Most infringements are now free kicks instead of penalties. Offside and foul play are still penalised, with yellow cards still used for repeat offences.

I have to say I like all of them bar number three. Keeping players 5m behind the back foot is gonna be hard to marshall, especially if the opposition is going forward at a rate of knots. I'm kinda indifferent to the lineout change, like the 5m rule I'd like to see it in action before I make up my mind about anything. The other two laws I really like though, forces teams to run the ball more and will remove that disgustingly (and primarily English) practice of playing for penalties and cynicism at the breakdown.

Using these experimental rules 59 tries were scored in just six games in Sydney's premier rugby competition. There are further rules for the breakdown situation being tested in Scotland. These are apparently designed to make rucking more competitive, ie hands will be allowed provided the defender has come from behind the back foot. Going by the IRB schedule these rule changes will be introduced during the summer tests in 2008 at the earliest

Sunday 20 May 2007

MotoGP. Round 5- Le Mans

After qualifying, which saw Colin Edwards highside, the front row saw Colin take pole, Casey Stoner on second, Carlos Checa on third with former world champion Valentino Rossi in 4th. Current World champ, Nicky Hayden, camped back on the 3rd row after a terrible start to the season where he hasnt even got near the podium.

Just before the riders went out for their warm-up lap it started to rain heavily prompting the race officails to call a 'wet race' where the riders can change bikes anytime after time first lap.
After the race had begun the rain came down like a frickin' monsoon, the riders being forced to take the corners gingerly, although still reaching speeds of over 250 km/h.
The racecourse got a bit hairy as the race progressed, seeing more than 11 crashes and 10 riders crashing out, there where many highsides which saw the riders getting flipped into the air, the best one would have to be Hayden's crash which saw him lowside out of a corner and sliding into the gravel which caused his bike to flip into the air and doing 2 or 3 somersaults sending bits of Honda flying around the gaf.

There was a ridiculous amount of surface water during the last half of the race, causing race leader Randy de Puniet on the Kawasaki to crash out and allow Chris Vermeulen to take 1st with Melandri following close behind on his Honda. Rossi slipped from 3rd to 6th seeing him being passed by Pedrosa and Hoffman.

Vermeulen took first, Melandri tokk second and Stoner took 3rd.
in the overall standings Stoner is leading the championship followed by Rossi and Pedrosa. thanks for stopping by San Diego

Heineken Cup Final Preview


Leicester Tigers
1. Marcos Ayerza
2. George Chuter
3. Julian White
4. Louis Deacon
5. Ben Kay
6. Lewis Moody
7. Shane Jennings
8. Martin Corry (capt)
9. Frank Murphy
10. Andy Goode
11. Alesana Tuilagi
12. Daryl Gibson
13. Dan Hipkiss
14. Seru Rabeni
15. Geordan Murphy

London Wasps
1. Phil Vickery
2. Raphael Ibanez
3. Peter Bracken
4. Simon Shaw
5. Tom Palmer
6. Joe Worsley
7. Tom Rees
8. Lawrence Dallaglio (capt)
9. Eoin Reddan
10. Alex King
11. Tom Voyce
12. Josh Lewsey
13. Fraser Waters
14. Paul Sackey
15. Daniel Cipriani

Leicester, I'm going for the Tigers on this one for a few reasons. Firstly there is a preposterous amount of Irish players on their squad and I feel obliged to support the team with the greater Gaelic representation. Secondly Leicester have been ON FIRE the last couple of weeks. They decimated the Ospreys in the Anglo-Welsh Cup final (or whatever that joke competition is called) and they ripped Gloucester apart in the Premiership final. They'll be coming into Twickenham this afternoon on form and full of confidence. Which is kinda my third point too, Leicester have every right to be confident and comfortable in this situation, the club has won this tournament three times in recent years (5 players on the Leicester starting XV have won the Heineken twice: Moody, Corry, Murphy, Goode and Kay). They have the experience of playing at the highest levels of European rugby for years whereas Wasps are relative rookies. Finally, although it pains me to admit it, the bastards deserve it. They beat Munster in Thomond on the last weekend of the group stages to claw their way improbably into the knockout rounds, they overcame Stade in the quarters and then put an end to the Llanelli fairytale in the semis.

Wasps on the other hand had a comfortable group experience qualifying with relative ease from a pool containing Castres, Perpignan and Treviso. They beat a pathetic Leinster in the quarters and through the most fortunate of circumstances found themselves playing Northampton in the semis after the English team had upset the usually efficient Biarritz in the quarters. Wasps have coasted to the final where Leicester have struggled. They are a damn good team though and they'll utilise that blitz defence of theirs to quell the dangerous Leicester back three. Granted the Tigers probably know this and have been preparing themselves for an adoption of Munster style kick the corners game play. By doing this they can suck in and pummel the Wasps' pack into relenting and tiring, then later in the game they can let their backs run riot.

For their part Wasps will be looking to put the Leicester back division under pressure all day long. They will be wanting to keep the ball from the wings as much as humanly possible. The less time Tuilagi and Rambeni have on the ball the less of a threat to the Wasps' tryline. I'm expecting Wasps to try and meet the Leicester challenge upfront and force them into trying to spread the ball allowing the London side to take advantage of their aggressive defence to force mistakes from the Tigers' backline.

Anyway... Leicester to win.. I've been right all weekend so far 3/3 on rugby matches, btw EX-ANDREWS BOY STARTING IN A HEINEKEN CUP FINAL, GOOOOoooooOOOOOO BRACKEN!!

Saturday 19 May 2007

Super 14 Final Preview


- Sharks vs. Bulls
- Durban
- K.O. 15:00 local
- On TV 14:00 Sky Sports Xtra

Sharks
1 – Deon Carstens
2 – John Smit (captain)
3 – BJ Botha
4 – Johan Ackermann
5 – Johann Muller
6 – Jacques Botes
7 – AJ Venter
8 – Ryan Kankowski
9 – Ruan Pienaar
10 – Butch James
11 – JP Pietersen
12 – Bradley Barritt
13 – Waylon Murray
14 – Francois Steyn
15 – Percy Montgomery

Bulls
1 – Guthro Steenkamp
2 – Gary Botha
3 – Rayno Gerber
4 – Bakkies Botha
5 – Victor Matfield (captain)
6 – Pedrie Wannenburg
7 – Wikus van Heerden
8 – Pierre Spies
9 – Fourie du Preez
10 – Derick Hougaard
11 – Bryan Habana
12 – Wynand Olivier
13 – JP Nel
14 – Akona Ndungane
15 – Johan Roets

Although the Sharks are playing this game at home they enter this final with the tag of underdog. Matfields' Bulls are a force to be reckoned with having dispatched the defending champions Canterbury with contemptuous ease in the semi-finals. They put McCaws' Crusaders to the sword by pummelling them into submission up front and I'd expect them to try some similar tactics today. They will be expecting a lot from their tight five, hoping that they dominate the Sharks not just at the set-piece but all over the park, at the breakdown and in open field. The Bulls would ideally like to see Bakkies and Matfield on top rampaging form today (Botha was immense when he came on as a sub in the semi) with Hougaard kicking the corners and the penalties all day long. The return of Du Preez at scrum-half brings back a considerable creative spark to their backs' division so there may be a more free-running Bulls' team on display in the final too. Even though Hougaard has a considerably talented bckline outside of him he was content just to let the forwards do alll the work in the semi, he gave them field position with his kicking out of hand and let them run all over their hapless New Zealand counterparts. Unless the Sharks can mount some kind of answer to the bullying Bulls tight five they're gonna find themselves in a whole heap of trouble.

Whilst the Bulls were happy to beat Canterbury into submission up front the Sharks adopted a much more expansive game in their semi, opting to defeat the Blues at their own game, fighting fire with fire. The gamble paid off and although there was a period of concern midway through the match the Sharks eventually coasted to a semi win of near record margin, just like their final opponents. To compete with the Bulls the Sharks are gonna have to match them up front. If they are unable to at least contain the Bulls' pack they'll find themselves in the exact same situation as the Crusaders were in last week; starved of the ball, forced to give away penalty after penalty and camped in their own half for loooooong periods of the game. I reckon the Sharks will look to play a similar style of game to the one that saw them home against the Blues, relying on the ingenuity of their backline to open the Bulls' defence whilst hoping to simply achieve parity with the Bulls' pack.

That being said the Bulls' back division isn't exactly shabby, in fact on paper there is next to nothing seperating these teams. Emmm Sharks at home.... bit shaky in the semis... Bulls on fire... destroyed the Crusaders.... Botha and Matfield..
I call Bulls to win..c'mon the Bokke.. shit they're all South African...

Friday 18 May 2007

Moto GP

Coming soon..as in Sunday after the race at Le Mans, it'll be on BBC or Eurosport at 'bout 12:30

Luke Watson


This wee scandal of sorts has been brewing in Sud Afriken rugby for a while now but I've only bothered to read into it recently. Initially I thought that this was quite a simple and petty case; the current Springboks coach Jake White didn't get on with Watson's father when they played together in their youth so throwing some kind of bizarre hissy fit he has persistently refused to select his son Luke for the South African national team despite his consistently outstanding form. But it goes a bit deeper than this and I can understand why such a pathetically minor issue has almost spiralled out of control in South Africa, almost claiming as much media coverage as the very first all South African Super 14 final.

It would appear that Lukey boys father was not only a very good rugby player in his youth but also a champion of the anti-apartheid movement. A white man, he chose to play in the black leagues during the height of the apartheid era. With this in mind it becomes a lot easier to understand why such a furor has been thrown up over Watson's selection for the Springboks.

The SARFU president Regan Hoskins went behind White's back and name Luke to the 46 man South African squad for the coming summer tests despite White's concerns that Watson is too small to play flanker in international rugby. The head coach complained further stating that the Springboks have plenty of outstanding flankers already like Schalk Burger and that he had no need for another. Hoskins' decision to include Watson without White's consent has been met with widespread approval in Sud Afrika, especially from the black community. Some of whom pushed for Watson to be included under the 'disadvantaged player' rule that forces the Springboks selectors to pick a set number of coloured players to their squad

It's all a bit messy and my facts may be a bit off because this story is kinda hard to get to grips with but I think that's the general gist of it.

Bye bye Lansdowne


Demolition work on the oldest international rugby stadium in the world (tm) began this week to make way for the new, slightly improved stadium (but don't worry it'll be nowhere near as large as precious Croker... damn GAA heads... I'm not bitter at all). The pic below is supposedly what the new 50,000 seater stadium is gonna look like. Expect completion sometime in our lifetime... maybe

There goes my credibility...

Pat Burke posted 3 minutes the other night. His only statistical input was 1 single foul. Suns lose, Suns lose, Suns lose....

Ireland 'A' team to play Canada eh?


1 - Ray Hogan (Galwegians/Connacht)
2 - John Fogarty (Buccaneers/Connacht)
3 - Michael Ross (NEC Harlequins)
4 - Ryan Caldwell (Dungannon/Ulster)
5 - Andrew Farley (Buccaneers/Connacht)
6 - Stephen Keogh (Shannon/Leinster)
7 - *Johnny O'Connor (London Wasps)
8 - *Roger Wilson (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)
9 - Chris Keane (Buccaneers/Connacht)
10 - *Jeremy Staunton (London Wasps)
11 - Keith Earls (Thomond/Munster)
12 - Seamus Mallon (Northampton Saints)
13 - Darren Cave (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)
14 - Paul McKenzie (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)
15 - Johnny Sexton (St. Mary's College/Leinster)

John Fogarty captains this team that includes three players capped at full international level (marked with an asterix) against the Canadians tomorrow in Exeter. The team also includes two players from the grand-slam winning U-20s side, Darren Cave and Keith Earls. From what I'm able to gauge the team is a mixture of experience, youth and a whole lot of randoms that I simply do not recognise. The backline is especially inexperienced but they are complimented by a surprisingly competent looking forward pack, on paper at least. The back-row of Keogh, O'Connor and Wilson is formidable, each one of those guys are still potentially in with a shot at the Ireland squad for France in Autumn... well maybe not so much Wilson but the other two definitely. This is Fogarty's chance to impress the Irish management as well. After an impressive year for Connacht (and being impressive when playing for Connacht is.. well impressive) many felt he was unjustly omitted from the Argentina tour. This is his chance to establish hmself as a fore-runner for the number 2 jersey in Autumn.

I dunno anything about the Canadian team but.... I imagine they're not very good

On patriotic bias I call Ireland to win

Thursday 17 May 2007

Michael Vick is in a whole heap of trouble


As one of the the major stars of the NFL, hell one of the faces of the sport as a whole Michael Vick obviously makes a fair ol' chunk of change for his performances every weekend for the Atlanta Falcons. But Vick is a smart guy, he realises that football's not gonna be there forever, he needs to organise a career for himself after the NFL. Now for a lot of players this could mean going into coaching or becoming an NFL pundit, ya know keep their face in the spotlight etc.

This was a bit too much for Mike, he decided to keep his business small and underground away from prying eyes. Unfortunately when you're Michael Vick people will notice that you're running a dog fighting bracket in your swanky Virginia house. Of course Vick claimed that he never stays in that gaff, that it was all his friend's fault. He then sold the house pronto and tried desperately to distance himself from the whole torrid affair. But now one of Vick's neighbours has placed him at the gaff at the time of the fights. He's in a whooooooole lot of trouble now, those animal rights hippies are up in arms about this and pressing for charges to be brought against Vick. And tbh if he is responsible for anything to do with this kind of malarkey he deserves it.

One helluva player though
[Update: better video]

Pacific Nations Cup


This weekend is gonna be a busy one in the rugby world; two major European finals, the Super 14 final, the start of the Churchill cup and the IRB London sevens. All of these tournaments (yes even the Churchill cup somehow) overshadow the start of the Pacific Nations Cup. Which is a shame because who wouldn't like to see Tonga, Samoa and Fiji knock seven shades of shit out of each other. Well maybe not so much the Fijians but Tonga and Samoa are two highly entertaining teams to watch in my opinion. Sure they lack the finesse of the top 10 nations and they are nowhere near as technically sound upfront which costs them dearly but you have to admire the heart that they play with. That and they hit each other really really really hard. Applying a kind of islander warrior culture to the game ensures some of the most passionate rugby you will ever see.

One of the great shames of the modern game has been the fall of the island nations. Not so long ago these three teams were potential banana skins for any of the rugby world superpowers. Nowadays they can give them a scare for 40 minutes before their opponents superior fitness and technical ability overcomes the islanders. These days their rampaging aggresiveness is confined to the Pacific Nations Cup with Australia 'A' and the junior All Blacks. I'm not exactly sure of the state of the game in these three island nations but Fiji are a dominant sevens team, I presume they're still not very good at the full game, Samoa are a rising sevens power, again I'm not sure of their current ability at the full 15 a-side game and Tonga have been off the rugby world radar for years.

I'd still gladly watch the Pacific tournament above anything else this weekend, you'd be guaranteed big hits, A LOT of free flowing rugger and enough passion to fill the Millennium stadium twice over

19/5 - Samoa - Fiji
23/5 - Tonga - Australia 'A'

Wednesday 16 May 2007

Your time is now...PAT BURKE!

Phoenix and possibly the NBA's most loveable pine dweller is on the verge of being thrust into the most important game of his career tonight.

Burke who is famous for embracing his bench-warmer status with good humour through several short skits ('Vote Pat Burke for congress, cause frankly, he just isn't that busy right now') is certainly a talented player in his own right, leading Real Madrid to the Euroleague championship before departing back to the NBA for another shot at the greatest league in the world (TM).

I've had the pleasure of talking to Burke very briefly and he really is a very nice well humoured guy and has been a great servant to Irish basketball, having seen him play in person on a few occasions he is a standout athlete, and has remerkable shooting range for a 6'11'' center.

But tonight Burke is potentially about to play in his most important NBA game to date. Robert Horry aka Big Shot Bob for his clutch play, now aka Cheap Shot Bob for his closeline slam on Steve Nash in the dying seconds of game 4 of the already tension and aggression filled Suns/Spurs series has been banned for games 5 and 6 for his antics, but Suns stars Boris Diaw and 1st team All-NBA center Amare Stoudemire have also been banned by the unpredicatble VP of operations of the NBA, Stu Jackson, for game 5 for leaving the bench in the ensuing altercation - an automatic suspension offense - an issue which i could go on about ALL day.

But the reality now is that Phoenix have one player standing at 6'9'' - defensive stalwart and starter Kurt Thomas, after this the closest thing they have to a big man is 6'7'' combo-forward Shawn Marion, of course except for BIG PAT BURKE, it looks like Burke will be called upon to play key minutes, especially in the advent of foul trouble for Thomas, as the Spurs do possess 3 7 foot inside players, including the most polished low post force in basketball, Tim Duncan. In reality this is really a step beyond Burke's ability, but it will be intriguing to see can the the big irishman contribute and rise to the occasion, especially behind the support of his home crowd, as a fan favourite and cult hero.

A victory in game 5 tonight would put the spurs up 3-2, with the next game in San Antonio and then if neccesary a game 7 in PHX with a full strength home squad. Let's go Pat! Do it for the folks in Tullamore!

Fiji Name Squad For Title Defence


Player coach Waisale Serevi has named his squad of 12 to represent the reigning champions Fiji in the last two tournaments of the season. The climax to this years Sevens World Series begins in Twickenham (26-27 May) and from there goes north for the final round in Murrayfield (2-3 June). Fiji are in first place with Samoa trailing by 10 points and New Zealand a further 4 points behind them. This leads to an interesting number crunch as in both tournaments the winner of the cup gains 20 points with the cup runner-up and losing semi-finalists scooping up 16 and 12 points respectively.

IRB Sevens - 2006/07 - Standings
Team Points
Fiji 104
Samoa 94
New Zealand 90
South Africa 80
England 48
France 28

Serevi's team includes two changes from the side that won the inaugural sevens tournament in Adelaide last month. Both of these changes are in the forwards with Sireli Naqelevuki (who is is back after being suspended) replacing Epeli Dranivasa while Mesake Davu comes in for Semisi Serevi.

Fiji squad:
Semisi Naevo
Mosese Volavola
Etonia Naba
Setefano Cakau
Mesake Davu
Waisale Serevi
Emosi Vucago
Lepani Nabuliwaqa
Sireli Naqelevuki
William Ryder
Simione Saravanua
Nasoni Roko

Thomas Castaignede set to retire


First I hear Christian Cullen is retiring and now this. Castaignede is at least sticking around until after the world cup so at least we'll be treated to one last soiree by the diminutive Frenchman. Set to bow out in suitably dramatic circumstances after the world cup, a world cup that is being hosted in France, his home country. How typically French. It is perhaps fitting that Castaignede returns home to finish his career after an injury riddled time at Saracens in England which saw the enigmatic Frenchmen kept in the wilderness as regards national selection until recently. Before his transfer across the English channel Castaignede had enjoyed spells at Castres and Toulouse. His performances for both earned him his first cap waaaaaaay back in 1995. Now 32 Castaignede finds himself back in French plans for the world cup, his versatility should see him secure a place on the world cup squad but there's (as usual) a whole heap of talent and competition for the coveted spots on the full 22.

It'd be kinda fitting if he made it though. He's one of the nice guys of world rugby and his time as a pundit for BBC has kind of endeared him to me, go on you crazy Frenchman, I belieeeeeeeve in yooooooooou

Tuesday 15 May 2007

Lesnar's debut in MMA


Those of you who watched WWF/WWE in your youth may remember the man-beast Brock Lesnar and his patented F-5. Well after a few years out of pro-wrestling Lesnar is set for a comeback, this time into MMA. On the second of June Lesnar steps into the ring at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to fight a human being who is somehow larger than him. His opponent Hong Man Choi weighs in at an impressive 355 lbs. With Lesnar a relatively light 265 lbs I had expected this Choi chap to be some obese fella of former sumo fame. Oh how I was wrong, Choi is not only 355 lbs, he also stands at an imposing 7 foot 2 inches which is quite frankly ridiculous. The man is a giant. The fight is also the American debut for Japanese kickboxing and MMA outfit K-1, pretty good fight to open with in the U.S. I reckon, should be suitably interesting, potentially, if not literally epic

The quickest Bear you will ever see



Word from the Chicago locker room is that head coach Lovie Smith is looking to try star kick/punt returner Devin Hester on offence. Hester, the 'Windy City Flyer' set an unprecedented rookie record last year with 6 kicks returned for touchdowns. He also, rather predictably at this stage, returned another kick-off for a TD against the Colts in the Superbowl as well. Anyway now the Bears wanna see if he can take his explosive ability to the offensive side of the ball

Originally drafted as a cornerback, Hester is gonna be tried out at wide receiver which shouldn't come as much of a surprise to most fans but also at running back which I for one wasn't expecting but it's a good call by Lovie Smith, Hester has a hideous amount of potential and there was always a feeling last year that despite the unbelievable year he had on special teams, that his talent was somehow going to waste. Hester played running back and out wide at college so its not completely new territory for him either. If this experiment works out for Smith the offensive potential of the Chicago Bears is going to potentially boom, Grossman or no Grossman.

"There are a lot of different ways we can go. You can make a case for him being a slot receiver. You can make a case for him being a single receiver when we go to our two-tight end, two-running back packages. You can make a case for him from the running back position.

He's an offensive weapon right now. That's the only limit we put on him"


Greater Scrum-capped Highland Wallaby - [Stephenus Larkhamus]



Seems Edinburgh have managed to pull so far one of the greater coups of the rugby offseason and signed former Brumbies and Australia star out-half Stephen Larkham. But I'm not entirely sure Steve knows where he's heading exactly...

"I'm looking forward to coming to Edinburgh," he said. "It's a lovely city and I want to bring a winning culture to the team."

...well Edinburgh is a great city but winning culture? That's a bold statement from the ex-Wallaby. Edinburgh finished 8th this year in the Magners league. That's 8th out of eleven teams. I tried not to watch them because the hideously low standard of rugby they play is actually offensive to the eyes

"Looking at some of the players already there, such as Mike Blair and Chris Paterson, there is a lot of potential in the squad."

They do have a lot of players... not many good ones though as Larkham was quick to point out. Blair, Paterson, Hogg and Murray are the only Edinburgh players of any real note. Whilst they managed to sign Larkham in the post-season Edinburgh have also lost Simon Taylor to Stade Francais and Rob Dewey has gone off to play in Ulster

"Coming from Brumbies, I am used to being involved in the building of a successful team."

That's a fair point but Larkham'll have to provide miracles on a weekly basis in the Scottish capital to turn this team around. Their backs have the collective creative output of Brian O'Driscoll's little finger... the one on his weaker hand. If Larkham manages to squeeze any kind of flowing attack out of a back's division that went simply from side to side last year before surrendering possession (generally through incompetence) that will be some achievement

"One of the things that attracted me to Edinburgh is the team environment and the way in which my contract negotiations were carried out."

Rohypnol I'm guessing

Monday 14 May 2007

Vinsanity

Anyone who tries to argue anyone other than Vince Carter (Pre-knee surgery of course) is the greatest dunker of all time is having a giraffe. Proof:

Bruce Bowen: I can't make my mind up...

After watching much of the Suns vs Spurs series in this years playoffs i got thinking about Bruce Bowen and really am struggling to come up with a definitive opinion on him and his 'Dirty' tag. Bowen has always been an offensively limited or uninvolved player during his career, never averaging more than 8ppg, but has always been heralded as one of the league's defensive elite. Every year people argue tirelessly that Bowen deserves a Defensive player of the year award, as he is yet to win one.

Many argue that Bowen benefits from the Spurs excellent defensive systems and having 'The Big Fundamental' Tim Duncan guarding the rim like a junkyard dog (one that doesn't have facial expressions). But in reality Bowen is truly an amazing and versatile defender, almost always guarding the other team's best player, from 7 foot Dirk Nowitzki, to Carmelo Anthony, to the diminutive Steve Nash, this isn't the issue which perplexes me, i know Bowen is the man defensively, so smart, deceptively strong, possesing crazy lateral quickness and even better timing.

The thing about Bowen is he is filthy, or at least has a reputation of being so as a result of many unlucky incidents..hmmm. Bowen has been called dirty by Kobe who he oten is tasked with harrasing around the court, Ray Allen, who he kicked in the back last season for no apparent reason, and lest we forget the highly hilarious and 'Bruce Lee Bowen' incident where Bowen fly-kicked an upright jumpshooting Wally Sczcerbiak in the face, often overlooked for its comedic elements (Damn Straight, BAM! Right in the kisser). Bowen has also been in numerous on court fights and suspicious injuries, always sporting a great, 'Who me ref?' face.(Btw, Check out all the videos, well worth it!)

Bowen even has signature dirty moves! The foot undercut after a shot leading to a rolled ankle - Bowen simply doesn't allow the player to land on the ground - ankle go crunchy. Rcently he's added the schoolyard bully trip up and knee to the crotch to his repetoire. In the current playoff series with the Spurs, if evidence is to be believed, Bowen has really outdone himself. Prompting Amare Stoudemire to go to the press calling Bowen and his oddly schnozed teammate Manu Ginobili as 'Dirty players'.

Now i personally would call myself a very physical defender, and much like Bowen i am often put on the other team's best offensive player, and coming from a defensively minded player i have to say i will, if given the oppurtunity take a shot at a good player, in order to get inside his head and knock him out of his concentration, there's no specific rulebook to this obviously, but bumping, holding and bending the rules regarding physicality of defense is part of the game and if you can get away with it, it probably means you're just a smart player. But the line, no matter how blurry has to be overstepped sometimes. In this instance Bowen is really acting improperly by all moral standards of basketball, you can legally bump someone, therefore making a semi-illegal bump a viable tactic, but tripping someone or knee's to the crotch aren't really in the rulebook last time i checked.

I feel as if i should criticise Bowen for his actions and i don't admire him per se, but there's something intriguingly daring about what he is doing. The facts are Amare stoudemire is crying like a baby and the Suns are rattled and down 2-1 in the series, and all this attention on these past games is destroying the Suns focus, Bowen has gotten inside their heads. However, the league is no doubt going to take action against Bowen, the evidence is overwhelming. In relation to his knee to Nash in game 3 he said: "It's just part of the game, I think, that you have to be man enough at times, when you do something and it's not the right thing that you've done, you have to be man enough to say, 'Hey, I'm sorry for that.' That's all it was, in the spirit of competition."

This will no doubt land Bowen in hot water as the league is already reviewing several of these recent incidents, but at the end of the day is it worth it if the Spurs win the series? I'm at a moral loss here to be perfectly honest. My only conclusion is Bruce Bowen - great defender, crap person.

Check the Videos and make your own mind up....
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jAakQjpFibg - You'll have to check the link for the best of all of them, some bastard is trying to quell my sadism...

Allison Stokke



hmmm that's a helluva lot better to look at the 20 odd pages of Asian history I have to learn off before 9 a.m. tomorrow... ugh back to study I go...

Superbowl streaker

This is from the Patriots-Panthers superbowl a couple of years ago. There may be enough security at the superbowl to defend a small country from terrorist attacks but the naked guy running around the stadium? Whole different level of risk above what the security are capable of dealing with evidently

Canada, good at ice hockey


Canada beat Finland 4-2 in the final of the ice hockey world championships in Russia. It was the 24th time Canada has won the competition, Russia and the former USSR are closest to the Canadians record with 23 victories. A disappointing tournament was capped off with a consolation victory for the Russkies over the Swedes in the third place playoff 3-1 but it will come as hollow reward for a team expected to end a 14 year drought at the world championships playing at home. Instead Canada claimed a 3rd title in five years, dispatching a Finnish team that mounted a spirited comeback after going down 3-0 to the Canadians.

I wanna use this opportunity to reiterate a rather obvious point, Canada are VERY good at hockey. I'm beginning to think that every Canadian is just genetically predisposed to be good at this sport, hell they're probably born with a puck in hand. An interesting stat I only remembered recently from my Canadian studies course in college (yes thats right) is that Canadian players constitute over 50% of the player pool in the NHL. 50.8% if wikipedia is correct. I still think its a crying shame they have to play in the NHL which to anyone outside the ice hockey world is a yank organisation full of yank players, which is just so wrong. Americans account for under 20% of the player pool in the NHL. There are more Europeans in the NHL than Americans. I just think its pretty crap that the best sportsmen in Canada, their national heroes if you will, have to go south to the USA to play hockey. It's not really fair on them or their fans.

Sunday 13 May 2007

Swing low sweet pile of crap


Now I know the Ireland team heading to Argentina isn't the greatest team on the face of the planet but it is considerably better than this pack of retards the English are sending into the cauldron of South African rugby. You could point to the logical decision taken by the RFU to rest those full internationals that play for the English teams still involved in European competition but Ireland are essentially resting their entire first team. I'll be fair and say there is a fair bit of talent in those backs heading down but that set of forwards are a rag tag group of nothing that are gonna get eaten alive by the Sud Afrikans.
Poor England team vs. very in-form South African team, c'mon the Bokke

Forwards
Alex Brown (Gloucester Rugby)
Peter Buxton (Gloucester Rugby)
Matt Cairns (Saracens)
Darren Crompton (Bristol Rugby)
Nick Easter (NEC Harlequins)
Andy Hazell (Gloucester Rugby)
Chris Jones (Sale Sharks)
Magnus Lund (Sale Sharks)
Mark Regan (Bristol Rugby)
Pat Sanderson (Worcester Warriors)
Dean Schofield (Sale Sharks)
Andy Titterrell (Sale Sharks)
Stuart Turner (Sale Sharks)
Roy Winters (Bristol Rugby)
Nick Wood (Gloucester Rugby)
Kevin Yates (Saracens)

Backs
Anthony Allen (Gloucester Rugby)
Mike Brown (NEC Harlequins)
Ben Cohen (Northampton Saints)
Andy Farrell (Saracens)
Toby Flood (Newcastle Falcons)
Andy Gomarsall (NEC Harlequins)
Jamie Noon (Newcastle Falcons)
Shaun Perry (Bristol Rugby)
Jason Robinson (capt, Sale Sharks)
Peter Richards (Gloucester Rugby)
James Simpson-Daniel (Gloucester Rugby)
David Strettle (NEC Harlequins)
Mathew Tait (Newcastle Falcons)
Jonny Wilkinson (Newcastle Falcons)

Favre Wants Out


Green Bay Packers spokespeople have apparently confirmed that two or three days after the recent NFL draft Bus Cook, (Brett Favres agent) contacted the Packers general manager Ted Thompson conveying his clients wish to be traded. Although details are in short supply it seems that Favres desire to leave stems directly from the Packers inability to sign Randy Moss which would have boosted their receiving corp considerably. This may just be a case of the quarterback blowing off steam, but head coach Mike McCarthy is not taking any chances having immediately rung the Green Bay QB of 16 years to reassure and calm him down. The situation looks to be stabilised though there is an air of doubt surronding the issue and if the full deatil are revealed they should prove to be interesting.