Thursday, 15 September 2011

Cyprus and the Rugby World Cup

Yesterday was a bizarre day! I was so excited about my trip to Cyprus I woke up at 1.00 am. Why go back to sleep when there was a match starting at 3.30? No point.

Samoa were immense, especially one of my all time favourites, Alesana Tuilagi. A hat trick of tries for Alex, and since he is in my ESPN fantasy league he's helped me move up to fourth in my firm's table!

I missed the other two matches yesterday while I was in transit, but the reports, from David and PG, were that the Canada game was fantastic and the Scotland game was rubbish.

Today we learned that you cannot get ITV4 anywhere in Cyprus. You can get ITV4+1, but not ITV4. Work that one out. And since ITV found morning telly more important than the USA v Russia, we thought we would either miss the match or have to watch it on the iPad.

To the rescue: Tramps Bar here in Paphos! The owner installed a separate satellite system to Sky and presto! A live feed of the match!

The USA are so much more impressive than they were four years ago. You can see how they have improved with having several players in our Premiership and in France and Japan.

They were also very lucky that Todd Clever didn't get a yellow card late in the match. That late charge had a bit too much shoulder and the touch judge should have seen it. But he didn't, and despite a late resurgence, Russia couldn't get an equalising converted try.

So well done to my fellow countrymen! You weren't playing against England so I was able to cheer for you today!

What is going to be interesting is if kickers will be able to get over this NZ Kicking Curse that seems to have struck most of them. There's no point pointing the finger at Wilko for missing so many against Argentina. No one is kicking well!

Now that I'm two time zones closer and not working, watch out for lots of blogging in the next fortnight!

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Sunday, 11 September 2011

A Weekend of World Cup Rugby

I probably should have titled this blog post "Rugby World Cup 2012: The Rise of the Underdog" because my first impression of the opening weekend's matches was that the "lesser teams", as the media like to call them, have come a long way in the last four years. The "top teams" need to watch out.

Why everyone seems shocked is beyond me. Did no one pay attention to Argentina's progress in 2007, where they ultimately finished third in the tournament?

It is definitely making for much more exciting rugby than the usual process of a team like New Zealand, South Africa or even England steamrolling over the opposition. That opposition is improving, and long may it continue!

Imagine the (pleasant) surprise when I woke up this morning, switched on the telly and saw, 45 minutes into the match, my second favourite international side Italy level with Australia.

I wasn't overjoyed at watching England struggle and have to come from behind against Argentina, but it was a bit like riding a roller coaster: white knuckles, racing heartbeat, sick feeling in the stomach but then it was over and everything was okay.

My overall impressions of the first three days of competition:

1. There is a lot of booing the kickers. This is one of my pet peeves. But rugby supporters have not stooped so far as to boo the opposition's national anthem. When they do, the sport will have gone the way of football with overpaid prima donna players, tribalism and no beer in the stadium.

2. TV networks still feign shock when they catch a rugby player swearing. Yes, it's a gentleman's sport ... off the pitch. Or when speaking to the ref. But James Haskell's "tirade" didn't surprise me and networks should stop putting microphones in the proximity of players when they're riled up.

3. New Zealand has interesting streakers.

Next blog post will be from Cyprus!

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Friday, 9 September 2011

And So It Begins: The Rugby World Cup 2011

Finally, I'm home from work and the telly is straight on to the Opening Ceremony courtesy of ITV and my Sky+!

Unfortunately, 16 minutes in, it seems to be less about the pageantry of the Rugby World Cup and more about the commentators liking the sound of their own voices. After all, Steve What's-His-Face has said it is a "fairly traditional Opening Ceremony" so I wonder why they're even bothering to show it.

Sixteen minutes in and already onto the second ad break. How very American. This does not bode well for my enjoyment of ITV's coverage over the next month!

That was less Opening Ceremony and more ad breaks with some commentary in between!

Almost time for New Zealand v Tonga. I hope the match makes up for the poor coverage being provided.

End of the first half and New Zealand is totally dominant against Tonga, but they aren't perfect. They look like a team of fantastic, talented individuals rather than a fantastic, talented team. They are making errors, and up against a top team they will struggle if they play like this. France might decimate them, depending upon which French side turns up!

Aren't commentators stupid? Apparently one Kiwi player picked up an elbow in Australia. Does this mean he has three? Does someone in Australia want it back? Did he pay or did he steal it?

Another stupid comment. Some of the players are like velociraptors. I don't know who Andy Gommersall (who I adore, by the way) is talking about. I'm starting to tune the chatter out.

Tonga finally with a try with only a few minutes left in the match. They deserved that, not just from the effort they put into it but also for holding New Zealand to only five points so far in this half.

Final score: New Zealand 41 Tonga 10. The All Blacks look good but not perfect. They had more handling errors than Tonga mid way through the second half. I am looking forward to seeing them against France!

At least now that it's the weekend, I can watch the matches I want to watch live, beginning with Scotland v Romania at 2.00am. That makes now nap time!

Monday, 5 September 2011

The Rugby World Cup - In Cyprus

When you live in the northern hemisphere, the Rugby World Cup is in the southern hemisphere and you can't afford to go to New Zealand, how do you create the perfect work/rugby balance?

One plan would be to get up at silly o'clock, watch a match, blame your alarm clock when you're late for work and dose yourself with caffeine to stay awake.

One plan would be to set your Sky+ for the matches and then spend your working day avoiding news, Twitter and insufferable colleagues who have more energy and watched it live before heading into the office.

A better plan would be to take time off work. That's what my other half and I are doing.

But as much as we love Birmingham, why take two weeks (three weeks in David's case, the jammy git) off on holiday to stay at home? The answer for us was to head for sunny Cyprus!

Not only will the climate be better but Cyprus is two time zones closer to New Zealand. Those 7.30am kick offs look better when it turns into 9.30am. And, as David has a strict "no drinking until the sun goes over the yard-arm rule" aka 11.00am, he can enjoy a beer or two towards the end of the match after lining his stomach with what he calls a Fat Boy Breakfast during the first half. Most of us would call that a Full English. (I often have to translate for him. He's from Yorkshire.)

So why does he get the pleasure of going for three weeks while I'm going for two? I could have just managed to stretch my holiday entitlement, but my supervising partner at work told me the only way she would authorise a three week holiday is if it was so I could go on my honeymoon.

Hence why I'm going for two weeks.

But the Jammy Git, as I will most likely refer to him until I join him in Cyprus on 14 September, has been planning to have this extended holiday ever since the 2007 World Cup ended. And, I admit readily, he deserves the break.

Watch this space for updates following the Argentina v England match next Saturday though! He is going to an all night beach party the night before. It will be a test of his stamina to see if he can handle it!

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Saturday, 3 September 2011

A Forgettable Match But a Memorable Day

So it begins.  The Premiership has kicked off the 2011/12 season, and already there have been some surprises.

Was it a surprise that Leicester lost to Exeter at Fortress Welford Road?  Not so much.  The surprise, to me, was that we only lost by two points and managed to pick up a losing bonus point.  The team didn't seem to gel and pick up the pace until the last ten minutes, and that's no way to win a match.

Even though the World Cup is hurting us more than any other Premiership side with 11 of our players out in New Zealand and other key players (Jordan Crane and Craig Newby just two), we still fielded a pretty good side with a balance of youth and experience.  We had Ford and Twelvetrees, two England stars of the future as far as I'm concerned, as well as Chuter and Hamilton.  Matthew Tait didn't make his first Premiership start for us today due to a groin injury, but his last minute replacement Niall Morris scored two incredible tries for the Tigers.

Yes, we're hurting, but we're not in our death throes, though I fully expect pundits to come out with all sorts of tosh about this being a sign of the season to come.  I'm sure I don't want to hear Stuart Barnes' thoughts on the subject.

It was still a fantastic day at Welford Road today, and I had a chance to see two legends.

I've been wanting to meet Matt Hampson for a long time and was lucky enough to do so today.  I'm afraid I went quite shy at the last minute, don't ask me why.  I think I was afraid of getting choked up because he is such an inspiration.  But I have "Engage" to read while I'm away on holiday (starting 14 September - the count down is on!) and I'm sure next time I will find my voice. 

I'm not sure what my friends think about me, but as soon as I walked into the Final Whistle today my attention was drawn to the man leaning by the door to the mens' toilets:  Martin Corry.  I must explain that he was standing there chatting to people, not lurking with intent.

Martin is such a funny guy.  I met him for the first time in Dublin in March this year at the Ireland Legends v England Legends match, and after my Rugby Daughter Rachel introduced me as his "biggest fan", I explained that I had met him before.  He asked if he was drunk, and I responded "No, but I think I was".

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Social Networking and the Rugby World Cup (Updated 17.9.2011)

In 2003, social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook were still on the horizon and Twitter was three years away. I remember watching the Rugby World Cup while chatting to a friend in Australia over MSN after we met on a writers' message board. (Side note: he never did pay up on the bet we made over the result of the final that year.) It was all very high tech at the time.

In 2007, social networking had grown, but Twitter had not yet launched itself as the powerhouse it is today. I don't think I chatted with anyone online during any of the matches, though I did send the same friend in Australia a Facebook message following his country's defeat to England in the pool stages.

Now, in 2011, Twitter has exploded, giving us unprecedented access to the everyday, mundane lives of anyone with an account. I follow celebrities, sports stars, lunatics and my parents. Yes, the last two can be interchangeable, but that's beside the point.

Rugby is probably one of the world's greatest sports as far as access to players is concerned. They're down to earth, funny people, and a lot of international players who will be involved in the World Cup in New Zealand have signed up to Twitter and have become a part of the action. Imagine the unprecedented access to the players that this will afford us!

Okay, New Zealand has already spoiled the party to some degree by placing a Twitter ban on their players effective today or tomorrow. Even the players aren't exactly sure when it starts. But you never know when they may have a chance to check their Twitter feeds to see what the world is saying about the tournament.

So, saddo that I am, and in need of a bit of a hobby, I have started a list of players, coaches and referees I know are on Twitter, which I am happy to pass on to anyone interested. Any corrections, additions or subtractions, please let me know, and I will update as and when there's anything to update!

Horacio Agulla - @horacitoagulla
Felipe Contepomi - @felipecontepomi

Adam Ashley-Cooper - @AdamCoopy
Kurtley Beale - @kurtley_beale
Quade Cooper - @QuadeCooper
Digby Ioane - @digbyioane
Drew Mitchell - @drew_mitchell
James O'Connor - @JamesOConnor832

Delon Armitage - @delonarmitage
Chris Ashton - @ChrisAshton1
Tom Croft - @tomcroft6
Mark Cueto - @Mark_Cueto
Toby Flood - @tobyflood
Ben Foden - @ben_foden
Dylan Hartley - @DylanHartley
James Haskell - @jameshaskell
Lee Mears - @Mearsy02
Lewis Moody - @lewismoody7
Joe Simpson - @joesimpson9
Matt Stevens - @Matt_Stevens3
Steve Thompson - @Tommo33sg
Mike Tindall - @miketindall13
Manu Tuilagi - @Manutuilagi
Richard Wigglesworth - @rwiggy9
Ben Youngs - @benyoungs09

Deacon Manu - @deacon_manu

Rory Best - @RoryBest2
Tommy Bowe - @TommyBowe14
Tom Court - @TomCourt1
Sean Cronin - @SeanCronin2
Stephen Ferris - @StephenFerris6
Jerry Flannery - @jerryflannery
Jamie Heaslip - @jamieheaslip
Cian Healy - @ProperChurch
Rob Kearney - @KearneyRob
Geordan Murphy - @geordanmurphy
Paul O'Connell - @Paul_OConnell
Brian O'Driscoll - @BrianODriscoll
Ronan O'Gara - @RonanOGara10
Mike Ross - @MikeRoss03
Andrew Trimble - @andrew_trimble
Paddy Wallace - @paddywallace12

Mauro Bergamasco - @mauro1579
Martin Castrogiovanni - @castrito81
Andrea Masi - @andrea_masi

New Zealand
Cory Jane - @CoryJane1080
Piri Weepu - @PiriWeepu1049

Eliota Sapolu Fuimaono - @Eliota_Sapolu
Junior Poluleuligaga - @JIP2EZY
Sailosi Tagicakibau - @losi11
Sakaria Taulafo - @STAULAFO

Mike Blair - @mikeblair9
Kelly Brown - @kellydrbrown
Chris Cusiter - @chriscusiter
Alasdair Dickinson - @Ali_Dickinson
Max Evans - @maxevans13
Jim Hamilton - @jimhamilton4
Ruaridh Jackson - @ruaridh_jackson
Alastair Kellock - @AlastairKellock
Moray Low - @moray_low
Ally Strokosch - @thebigstroker
Gregor Townsend (backs coach) - @gregortownsend

South Africa
Juan h - @JuanDeJongh *
Bryan Habana - @BryanHabana
Francois Hougaard - @Francoishougi *
Butch James - @butch_james
Francois Louw - @FloLouw *
Victor Matfield - @VictorMatfield
Odwa Ndungane - @OdwaNdungane14
J P Pietersen - @jppietersen14
John Smit - @JohnSmit123
Morne Steyn - @mornesteyn

Soane Tonga'uiha - @tongauiha

Todd Clever - @ToddsClever
Paul Emerick - @paulemerickiv
Andrew Suniula - @Sunil_3
Roland Suniula - @Suniula
Tom Usasz - @timusasz
Chris Wyles - @ChrisWyles

Huw Bennett - @Huw_Bennett
Jonathan Davies - @Jon_fox121
Paul James - @Paul_James1
Adam Jones - @adamjones3
Alun-wyn Jones - @AlunWynJones
Ken Owens - @kenctsowens
Rhys Priestland - @Rhys_Priestland
Jamie Roberts - @Jamiehuwroberts
Shane Williams - @ShaneWilliams11

Nigel Owens (Referee) - @Nigelrefowens

And for light entertainment as Ben Youngs' interesting insights on life are passed on: @stuffbensaid

My aim is to blog throughout the World Cup, whether I'm in Birmingham UK or Cyprus. Yes, for two weeks of the World Cup I am relocating two time zones closer to New Zealand and to a much warmer climate. Check back soon!

Coming Soon: The Rugby World Cup

Bear with me a day or two - my World Cup preview from a woman's perspective, plus Twitter list of players, coaches and refs in New Zealand, is on its way!

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