Posted by: fiore | September 16, 2011

A game within the game

My RWC game of the impending weekend *has* to be Australia v Ireland. No doubt about it. Not only because they’re both in Italy‘s pool but first and foremost because they are my two very favourite teams. They both have a powerful back row and extremely talented backs, and a rather exciting game.

The game will be also a reunion of old pals as Rocky Elsom will find some friendly faces wearing the green jersey. Elsom’s former team-mates had nothing but praises for the Aussie flanker. During his one season in Dublin, Rocky was named player of the year in the Magners League and played a significant role in inspiring the club to their first Heineken Cup, an achievement that Leamy said has had lasting repercussions. “He brought on the guys around him in the Leinster pack and he’s left a bit of a legacy there.” Players to benefit include up-and-coming Irish loose forwards Jamie Heaslip and Sean O’Brien, who played alongside Elsom in Dublin. “You can see that Jamie and Sean were obviously a bit younger than him and he’s rubbed off on them definitely,” Leamy said. “You can see the dynamic it has brought to their game. The way they play is very like what Rocky does now.”

On his side Elsom returned the praises for his former team-mates: “Particularly in the back row, they’ve got a lot of ball-carrying options,” he said. “With the 6, 7, 8 combination, they’ve got a lot of leg drive with those blokes. They’re probably one of the more underrated back rows in test rugby. We’ve got to be on our game.”

So it will be a game within the game…

Old pals

In the meantime Ireland hooker Jerry Flannery has been ruled out of the remainder of Rugby World Cup 2011 after tearing a calf muscle in training, while Aussie David Pocock missed the Friday training session as a precautionary measure due to tightness in his back.

Australia: Kurtley Beale, James O’Connor, Anthony Fainga’a, Pat McCabe, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Quade Cooper, Will Genia; Radike Samo, David Pocock, Rocky Elsom, James Horwill (captain), Dan Vickerman, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, Sekope Kepu.

Reserves: Tatafu Polota-Nau, James Slipper, Rob Simmons, Ben McCalman, Scott Higginbotham, Luke Burgess, Drew Mitchell.

Ireland: Rob Kearney, Tommy Bowe, Brian O’Driscoll (captain), Gordon D’Arcy, Keith Earls, Jonathan Sexton, Eoin Reddan; Jamie Heaslip, Sean O’Brien, Stephen Ferris, Paul O’Connell, Donncha O’Callaghan, Mike Ross, Rory Best, Cian Healy.

Reserves: Sean Cronin, Tom Court, Donnacha Ryan, Denis Leamy, Conor Murray, Ronan O’Gara, Andrew Trimble.

Posted by: fiore | September 13, 2011

RWC toll

The first round of the Rugby World Cup has already taken its toll as quite few players suffered from various injuries. As a matter of fact, the tournament could even have already lost one of its stars: Aussie wing Digby Ioane sustained a fracture during Australia’s opening 32-6 win over Italy, and that would be a real bummer for him, for Australia and for all of us.

But the injury list is quite long: South African lock Victor Matfield and centre Jean de Villiers will miss the Springboks’ second World Cup match against Fiji as De Villiers picked up a rib injury while Matfield suffered a hamstring injury.

France fly-half David Skrela‘s World Cup may be hanging in the balance after he suffered a shoulder injury in Saturday’s win over Japan.

While Japan number eight Ryukoliniasi Holani has been ruled out of the rest of the World Cup with a knee injury. Holani joins Justin Ives on the sidelines after the New Zealand-born lock failed to recover from a left knee problem.

Argentina centre Gonzalo Tiesi has been definitely ruled out of the rest of the World Cup too with an injury to his right knee, with captain Felipe Contepomi also left struggling with bruised ribs.

If anyone had some doubt about it… this is going to be a very tough tournament.

And here is someone who was so unlucky that he didn’t even get to the World Cup: David Wallace was ruled out of the World Cup by a knee injury, last 27/08, during the England’s 20-9 victory at Aviva Stadium in Dublin. “He took it like the man he is. I’ve never seen a man as physically fit as he is right now. It’s heartbreaking for him, but that’s the cut-throat nature of sport.” said Ireland head coach Declan Kidney.

And it is heartbreaking for us (read *me*) too.

David Wallace ruled out of the World Cup only two weeks ahead of the beginning

Posted by: fiore | September 12, 2011

A World in Union

Few months have passed since my last post on this blog, but as the 2011 Rugby World Cup kicked off last Friday, 09th September, I cannot neglect it any more.

I’m not going to write about the beautiful opening ceremony in Auckland, or the New Zealand v Tonga (41-10) inaugural game, or the brave performance of Japan v France (21-47), and I’m not even going to talk about the narrow or laborious victories of some big names with the underdogs (Scotland v Romania 34-24; Argentina v England 9-13; Ireland v USA 22-10; Australia v Italy 32-6; South Africa v Wales 17-16).

No, today I want to talk about the people and the true spirit of this incredible beautiful game and its World Cup.

I’m lucky enough to have been to rugby games in different countries, Scotland, England, Australia, France, and – as Italian supporter –  most of the time just being a part of the event was my reward for the long journey: the joyful crowd, the chants, the friendly atmosphere. Well, think all of this multiplied by 1000, enhanced by the Spirit of the World Cup.

On one side, people travelling from the four corners of the world, mixing together in a happy melting pot, showing their true colours, making new friends; on the other side, locals  – in this case New Zelanders –  adopting one country or another, supporting all the teams during the games… but of course as far as the Allblacks aren’t around… 😉

I still have to find another sport in the world with such a true fellowship feeling: to me, this is the real meaning of a… World in Union.

A World in Union: Rugby fans from Japan, Samoa and New Zealand happily together at 2011 RWC

A Scotland supporter surrounded by Romania-supporting schoolchildren from Invercargill's Middle School

Posted by: fiore | March 17, 2011

Fratelli d’Italia

Today Italy celebrates the 150th Anniversary of its Unification. Despite our Country is passing through difficult times, there’s still something – big or small – that makes us to be proud of being Italians.

Here is an example.

Happy Birthday Italy! Buon Compleanno Italia!

Posted by: fiore | March 13, 2011

One swallow does not make a summer but…

Rome, 12/03/2011
ITALIA v FRANCE 22-21

2011 6 Nations, The Azzurri make history

Just like “Grenoble 1997”, this is a day that will stay in the memory of every Italian rugby player. It took us 14 years to beat France again (France – Italia 32-40, Grenoble, 22.03.1997 European Cup), but we did it in the most incredible way.

Useless to say that the French didn’t play their best rugby (slackness? arrogance?) but at least, for one time, we have been able to rise to the occasion and capitalise our efforts. It’s the first time that I see our team focused till the end, ready to make the most of the opponents’ mistakes. Well done guys. We are so proud of you.

Special mentions go to:
– Fabio “Mozza” (Mozzarella) Semenzato; we finally found the scrum-half for the future.
– Andrea “Masò” Masi, who has played the game of his life.
– Gonzalo “Gonzo” Canale, who at last, remebered to be a rugby player.
– Mirco Bergamasco, what a cool blood for a botched kicker!

In the post match interviews Castrogiovanni said that they wanted to give the Italians a win to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of Italy’s Unification
I cannot think of a better gift!

PS for the first time ever, Planet-Rugby includes 7 Italian players in the Team of the Week (Round 4).

Posted by: fiore | February 14, 2011

How can it be?

My fat plant

I really don’t undestand how, the previous week Italy was able to play a good game with Ireland, and the following week they lose poorly by England.
I don’t undestand even how Scotland, after a respectable performance with France the previous Saturday, can collapse at Murrayfield (!!!) with Wales.
Again, Ireland played a decent game with France yesterday losing, while they played cr*p with Italy and won.
And how is it that England win by the skin of their teeth with Wales in the first round and then turn Italy into mincemeat for their ragù bolognese?
For sure England display has been impressive. A friend, who’s a top coach in Italy sent me a text in which he said “…and we’re not even playing too bad!!”. Simply England was from a different planet while the Azzurri weren’t able to react and let them doing whatever they pleased. Playing a game just defending is a rugby suicide, and, guess what? We’re very good at it.
Anyway, at half time I went transplanting some fat plants….

Posted by: fiore | February 14, 2011

Rocky’s Day

Who really cares about St.Valentine’s day when we can celebrate Rocky Elsom‘s birthday???
Unluckily, for him and for us, the Aussies’ skipper won’t be available to play the opening round of the 2011 Super15 season next weekend against the Waikato Chiefs, due to a harmstring injury. He will likely miss the first four games, hopefully returning to the field for the Brumbies’ clash with the NSW Waratahs on March 26.
Given the year Rocky’s got ahead of him – he’s preparing to lead the Wallabies’ World Cup campaign later this year – he has been ordered to stay away from strenuous training, and the Brumbies staff are keen to rest him as long as he’s fully recovered.
Best wishes to Rocky for a quick recovery and, of course, for a very happy (28th) birthday too.

Happy Birthday Rocky

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Posted by: fiore | February 1, 2011

6Nations 2011 countdown

Gentlemen (and Ladies too!), start your engine. With only 4 days to go to the 2011 Six Nations kick off even Italian press seems to be interested in our game, at last. Interviews with prop Castrogiovanni and coach Mallet can be seen on major newspapers and while the former is declaring that “we won’t let Ireland play”, the latter is claiming that despite the lack of results, and the supposed agreement between FIR and Perpignan coach Jacques Brunel, time is ripe for winning and that he doesn’t want to leave Italy coaching position after the 2011RWC.

So, nothing new under the sun. The usual pre-tournament declarations which, year after year have been inevitabily disregarded, with bitter disappointment of Italy’s loyal supporters.

Anyway, the first testing ground will be Saturday with Ireland, who arrive at the Flaminio with an extremely long injury list (Tommy Bowe, John Hayes, Jamie Heaslip, Shane Horgan, Rob Kearney, Jerry Flannery, Geordan Murphy, Andrew Trimble and Stephen Ferris). Will Italy be able to take advantage of this apparent weakness? The Azzurri have never had that *killer instinct* typical of the winning teams, and taking on even this Ireland won’t be a piece of cake either. This is the moment of truth, in which we’ll find out if this team has left its teen years behind, to finally become an adult.

Anyway, my player of the tournament-to-watch is young Italian centre Tommaso Benvenuti. He has shown some class in the Magners League and I’m looking forward to seeing him in the top European Tournament.

2011 RBS Six Nations fixtures

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Posted by: fiore | January 3, 2011

Happy 2011

2011 will bring us the 7th Rugby World Cup in New Zealand in September and October, when 19 teams travel to New Zealand to take part in the showcase tournament and determine the latest nation to lift the coveted Webb Ellis Cup.

A good reason to celebrate the new year!

Jamie Heaslip, (snow) angel on the pitch... once and for all! 😉

Posted by: fiore | December 3, 2010

Graham Shiel named Scotland 7s Head Coach

Graham Shiel

Graham Shiel has been part of that Scotland team, back in the 90s, that made me fall in love with this game. Along with Gary Armstrong and Gavin Hastings, he has been one of my favourite rugby player ever.  At that time I incredibly preferred backs to forwards! But I was young and ignorant then… 😉

A man from Melrose RFC, founders of the 7-a-side rugby, he earned *only* 18 caps in his career but played in 2 World Cups (1991 & 1995): I still have this clear image of him in my mind during the  Scotland v New Zealand quarter final of the 1995 RWC, Gavin Hastings’ farewell game, moving from inside center to stand-off to replace an injured (knocked) Craig Chalmers without hesitation.

A good pair of hands but also a great tackler Graham has been recently appointed Scotland 7s Head Coach, a few weeks before the start of the new HSBC Sevens World Series.

A former 7s player himself, and with an almost 10 years coaching experience,  I’m sure he’s the perfect choice for the job.

I’m very happy to have this chance to express my appreciation for this beautiful player and I’m so glad to see him back on the pitch, even though on the bench.  😉 So, best of luck, Graham! ♣

“People associate Scotland with pride, hard work and determination and I think it’s important, as it is for all Scotland sides, that we take on the national values that people associate with the team. There’s a lot of pride in the jersey, a huge will to win and a hunger for players to succeed.” Graham Shiel

Graham Shiel scores a try in the 1991 RWC game between Scotland and Ireland

Read also the IRB article here and watch the BBC interview to Graham here.

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