Friday, 20 April 2012

Canterbury Signs 3 Year kit deal with Leicester Tigers



Canterbury, the world’s largest dedicated rugby brand, today announced that it has secured a long term partnership to become the official kit supplier to the Leicester Tigers.

Combining over a century of experience in producing the highest quality playing apparel with the English club’s proud 132 year history, the 3-year partnership brings together two brands with great rugby heritage and tradition.

The new deal will see Canterbury providing playing jerseys, training apparel, BaseLayer garments and off field clothing to the Tigers, a stalwart of European club rugby, having won nine English Premiership trophies, seven Anglo-Welsh Cups and two Heineken Cups.

Canterbury will work closely with the Tigers to champion the club’s ethos, incorporating its innovative design elements into the new kit to maximise performance and aid recovery.

Chris Stephenson, CEO of Canterbury, said:
“Associations with leading rugby teams around the world have played a key role in promoting Canterbury’s heritage within the game over the years. By joining up with the Leicester Tigers, a club that has enjoyed a rich and successful history, Canterbury is demonstrating a continued desire to work with the very best teams in the world. We are delighted with this partnership and we hope the fans look forward to our involvement with this great club.”

Simon Cohen, Leicester Tigers CEO, added:
“We are excited to partner with Canterbury, given their unrivalled experience of providing teams with the strongest, most technologically advanced kits available. Their recognised prowess and heritage in rugby is perfectly aligned with the Tigers’ culture and determination to remain at the top of European club rugby.  We would also like to thank Cotton Traders for their commitment to the club over the years.”

Today is the first opportunity for fans to purchase the Leicester Tigers Home Jersey by Pre-Order, whilst not yet seeing the shirt.

Exeter Chiefs just know how to celebrate

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

England Sevens Stars Raise the Roof at Twickenham Stadium to Unveil New Strip




ENGLAND SEVENS star, Chris Cracknell and women’s captain, Michaela Staniford took to the Twickenham skies to unveil the new England kit which will feature at the final two tournaments of the HSBC Sevens World Series, Glasgow (5th and 6th May) and the Marriott London Sevens (12th and 13th May).

The pair posed on the roof of the Home of England Rugby where over 100, 000 fans are expected across the tournament weekend when London hosts the finale and the series’ trophy is lifted.

The white home kit and purple away kit feature vibrant yellow stripes down the arms and chest which are fitting for this year’s Marriott London Sevens 1970s disco theme.  Fans can complement the striking colours with afro wigs and groovy glasses!

The previous orange design,  which was referred to as the ‘tequila sunrise’ has set a precedent for  sevens shirts with a difference and was worn during victories by the men in Dubai in 2010 and 2011 and more recently by the women’s team which lifted the IRB Women’s Challenge Cup Sevens trophy in Hong Kong in March.

Cracknell said: “The Marriott London Sevens is the event that the boys really look forward to as the atmosphere and home support is always amazing.  The new kit is equally as crazy as the last design and I’m sure will be just as popular with the fans.  I’m looking forward to seeing it around the stadium when we run out in a few weeks.”

Staniford added: “Having played in Dubai and Hong Kong, we’re looking forward to competing against the world’s best players on home soil and we’ll certainly stand out in this brilliant kit featuring a touch of 70s flair.  A ticket for the men’s tournament also provides access to the early rounds for the women at Twickenham’s Cardinal Vaughan before the semis and final take place on the Sunday on the Twickenham pitch.”

The Marriott London Sevens is the perfect day out for rugby fans and families alike, with a range of activities and entertainments to suit all. The Saturday of competition at last year’s event broke the HSBC Sevens World Series record for the highest attendance on a single day and with over 60,000 tickets already sold, the 2012 event is on course to be even bigger and better.

Weekend tickets for all the action on 12th and 13th May start from £30, with single day tickets available from £18 and kids tickets from £5 each day.  Visit www.rfu.com/londonsevens or call 0844 847 2492.  (Tickets are subject to availability and booking fees apply).


Tuesday, 17 April 2012

InstaLoan eyeing up RaboDirect Pro12 league sponsorship deal


As yet unconfirmed reports are suggesting that the recently formed online short term loan company InstaLoan.co.uk are close to signing a deal to be involved in the sponsorship of the RaboDirect Pro12 league. Chief executive of the company which is based in Abergavenny, Justin Cash, indicated this morning that he strongly believes that there is the potential for a natural synergy to develop between InstaLoan and the league.

Cash was not prepared to elaborate on his statement but if he meant that his business has a unsustainable financial model, a large debt and a small customer base then his thoughts on a shared sense of purpose might not be far wrong!

It is also understood that InstaLoan are under no illusion about the difficulties facing the league not least in terms of the ramifications from the demise of Aironi. Cash has floated the idea that his company may specifically sponsor a new Italian franchise in the north east of the country under the name of InstaLoan Baloney. The resolution of the financial problems facing the Welsh regions will also be high on the agenda as will the poor attendance for the Glasgow and Edinburgh league games. A "Buy One Get Ten Free" scheme is understood to be in the pipeline as is a loyalty programme which will include a low interest loan.

When the league signed up the financial institution Rabobank, the competition's Chief Executive, John Feehan had indicated that the sponsorship with an international business would raise the profile of the tournament while enhancing the investment in the company. As yet no formal announcement has made been made about the InstaLoan connection.

Instead of dwelling on the difficulties, Justin Cash was keen to emphasise the positives and was eager to remind the doubters and critics of the league that three of the semi finalists for the Heineken Cup come from the RaboDirect Pro12 league.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Aviva Premiership predictions - A step closer to the play offs


A step closer to the Aviva Premiership Playoffs and another absorbing and potentailly dramatic weekend awaits. Northampton Saints at home to Leicester Tigers has to be the game of the round and after the sheer physicality and ill tempered nature of the three previous encounters since May of last year, "Rocky 4" could be an apt description of Saturday's match up.

Jim Mallinder, the Saints Director of Rugby has alluded this week to the different approach to the game between his Leicester counterpart, Richard Cockerill and himself with Mallinder indicating:

"I don't really want to say [what] the differences [are]. The outside world can see the differences,"

Mallinder was clearly angered when Cockerill described the incident between Callum Clark and Rob Hawkins in the LV= Final as "a pretty poor act" and "really out of order" before the verdict was passed on the nature of Clark's suspension.

With so much at stake it will be vitally important for both sides that a greater discipline is shown this time round. Both clubs have enjoyed the luxury of a two week build up after their comfortable victories in their respective round 19 matches. As I predicted two weeks ago Leicester were dominant against Worcester and secured the vital bonus point. I could not have been further off beam with my suggestion that Northampton Saints would struggle at Bath. A fairly woeful display by the home team enabled Northampton to secure an away win at a canter.

My prediction two weeks ago was for a Leicester victory at Franklin Gardens with the away team denying the Saints the losing bonus point. I still think that a Tigers win is on the cards but within a losing bonus point  margin.

Ben Youngs returns after his one match suspension and Horacio Agulla, George Skivington and Geoff Parling are included after missing the Worcester fixture. Dan Cole starts ahead of Martin Castrogiovanni at tight head and will face Soane Tonga'uiha  in what promises to be a fascinating contest. The 30 year old Tongan who is in his testimonial year is under no illusion of the challenge at scrum time

"Leicester are definitely the hardest challenge there is when it comes to scrummaging. It is definitely one of the toughest challenges you can face but we have done alright in the past few years against them." commented Tonga'uiha.

Saracens journey down the M4 to face London Irish will be a good test of their boucebackability after two defeats. The party certainly did not go to plan at Wembley against a revitalised Harlequins and at times last week they were well and truly pummelled by Clermont. In both games their lack of attacking potency was highlighted and they face a potentially difficult time at the Madjeski Stadium. There is an end of era feel about London Irish at the moment with major changes afoot and with very little to play for apart from pride and a sense  that the coaches and a good number of players will want to leave in style. Alex Corbisiero at the age of 23 will become the youngest player in the professional era to captain the Exiles when he leads his side out against a Saracens side which shows four changes from the Heineken Cup clash last week.

It has been an interesting couple of weeks for Harlequins with a stunning all round performance against Saracens slightly undone by relatively heavy loss away against Toulon in the Amlin Challenge. They return to just about full strength against Wasps although Nick Evans still remains on the injury list with Rory Clegg once again deputising. They will surely be aiming for a bonus point win against their under siege rivals who have Tom Varndell returning after a three month lay-off to join Christian Wade and Richard Haughton in a pacy  back three.

Predictions for the next three matches and final placings


Harlequins - Now 66 points. Finish with 76 points
Wasps Home - Bonus point Win
Leicester Tigers Home - Bonus Point Loss
Sale Away - Win

Saracens - Now 60 points Finish with 72 points
London Irish Away - Win
Newcastle Away - Win
Exeter Home - Win 

Leicester Tigers - Now 60 points Finish with 73 points
Northampton Saints Away - Win
Harlequins Away - Win
Bath Home - Bonus point win

Northampton Saints - Now 56 points Finish with 63 points
Leicester Tigers Home - Bonus point Loss
Exeter Away - Bonus point loss
Worcester Home - Bonus point win

Exeter Chiefs - Now 51 points Finish with 59 points
Worcester Away - Win 
Northampton Saints Home - Win
Saracens Away - Loss

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Match subs cap likely to impact on grassroots rugby



While the Aviva Premiership clubs continue to debate the salary cap level and in particular, the difficulties of competing in the European competitions against French clubs who have a larger salary cap, the plight of many grass-root clubs as they come to terms with the possible introduction of a subs cap has received very little attention.

For many clubs the proposals could have profound impact and result at least in the reduction of the number of team fielded and at worse see the closure of a number of clubs.

Onthetryline has been talking to a number of clubs this week to gauge the concern relating to what one official described as “an ill conceived and draconian measure by the rugby authorities”

Upper Nipton Upon Piddle Rugby Club who play in Wessex North West Four are typical of the many small clubs that struggle to make ends meet but at the same time remain determined to provide a viable and thriving rugby club in a rural community both at senior and junior level.

Tom Hardy has been Chairman of Upper Nipton for the last 15 years and he sees the subs cap as a major threat to his club’s survival.

“We have worked very hard to build the club and we run two senior teams along with a flourishing junior section. Ninety youngsters regularly turn up now on a Sunday and we are considering out of neccesity how we might develop our facilities.” Commented an anxious Tom.

“We rely on player subs after each league game and we had planned on putting them up over the next year. We need to increase our revenue so that we can refurbish the toilets and build a second shower. This cap is a nightmare for us.”

There is also evidence from around the league that some clubs are already looking to get round the cap by not including a post match meal in the subs and charging for this separately.  Tom Hardy adds:

“There is already some sharp practice going on in a few clubs and we are monitoring the situation. We are worried that some of our best young players are going to be tempted away. We have two talented back row players, Jethro and Gabriel and one club has already offered them a freeze on match subs and a jug of ale each after every game. Although they have come through our junior section we will struggle to keep them. They are also a couple of piss heads and the offer of the booze is going to be a big temptation.”

Both players played a key role in the clubs narrow victory over Lower Nipton in the derby match last week. Sadly a repeat victory next season is likely to be in the hands of the officials at HQ rather than the players, coaches and officials of Upper Nipton.

Monday, 9 April 2012

British Lions 2013 - Probables v Possibles Trial Teams



This time last year I selected a squad for a virtual 2011 British Lions Tour. In order to be selected, a player had to feature in the 2011 Six Nations Championship. The squad consisted of 37 players with the same position structure as in the 2009 tour.

With the 2013 Lions Tour now firmly on the horizon, I thought I would take a different view and take a trip down memory lane to the days when we had trail matches with the selection of the 2012 Probables and Possibles teams. Selection is based on current form shown in the Six Nations as well as a few hunches on players returning from injury.

There are a number of changes from my 2011 selection with the likes of Lee Byrne, Mark Cueto, Brian O'Driscoll, Danny Care, John Barclay, and Tom Palmer being casualties of the selection of the trial teams.

                           Probables                             Possibles
15                       L Halfpenny                          R Kearney
14                       T Bowe                                 C Ashton
13                       J Davies                                M Tuilagi
12                       J Roberts                              B Barritt
11                       G North                                 M Evans
10                       J Sexton                               R Priestland                          
9                         M Phillips                             M Blair                                 
8                         J Heaslip                              T Faletau
7                         S Warburton                        S O'Brien
6                         D Lydiate                             S Ferris
5                         R Gray                                 B Davies
4                         I Evans                                 P O'Connell
3                         A Jones                                D Cole                               
2                         R Best                                  M Rees
1                         G Jenkins                            A Corbisiero


Replacements :  B Foden, S Hogg, K Earls, A Cuthbert, T Flood, B Youngs, T Croft, T Wood, R Rennie, B Morgan, C Lawes, G Parling, D Hartley, M Ross, C Healy             


Comments welcomed!!

Sunday, 8 April 2012

The Lure of American Football - Who else might follow Haydn Smith?


With the news that Haydn Smith the Australian born Saracens second row is on the move to American Football and a contract with the New York Jets, I have been speculating on whether there are any other rugby professionals with either a hankering to switch sports or who at least, have the attributes to play in the NFL.

The 26 year old 6ft 7in Australian's sporting journey has seen him move from basketball in the United States at Denver's Metropolitan State University, to rugby and a professional career at Saracens since September 2008  as well as representing the USA Eagles in the Rugby World Cup.

The latest twist in his somewhat unconventional career came after Smith had attended trials in February at the Jets with the blessing of Saracens. He has now been offered a three-year deal as an offensive tight end and will earn an average wage of just under £225,000 per year with the NFC East outfit, despite never having played American Football before.

It would seem that Smith has impressed with his agility, speed and handling skills. In order to prepare for his quest for a place in the NFL, Smith has been working with former NFL tight ends coach Tim Brewster. It was  Brewster who helped convert Antonio Gates from a college basketball player into an eight-time Pro Bowler with the San Diego Chargers.

Brewster was clearly impressed with his pupil indicating:

"I was really amazed at a couple of things. First, his ability to assimilate all the information I was throwing at him. Football makes sense to the kid. Second, his work ethic off the charts. He's a way above average athlete for the position. I think the kid has an outstanding future in the National Football League"

The Jets new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano is known to be advocate of using tight ends in attacking plays and only time will tell whether Smith can emulate the outstanding performance of the New England Patriots, Rob Gronkowski who produced a new tight end NFL record of 17 touchdowns during last season. It is anticipated that Smith will join the main team roster in 2013 after a development year.

So who might have the skill set to follow Smith's lead and pursue a career in the NFL. In the tight end position I reckon that Tom Croft, Jamie Heaslip and as a wild card Richie Gray could be in the frame. It is possible to see a number of full backs from rugby doing a good kick return job namely Ben Foden, Nick Abendanon and Mike Brown. The back three might also supply a running back with Leigh Halfpenny and Chris Ashton as possibilities.

How about Thomas Waldrom doing a job more in the style of the Washington Redskins running back legend from the seventies and early eighties, John Riggins. You can just imagine "Thomas the Tank Engine" making those hard yards.





Friday, 6 April 2012

Heineken Cup Quarter Finals - Can Edinburgh live the dream?


It will be a rare and heady day for Scottish rugby supporters tomorrow; even a time for dreaming of what might be as Edinburgh take on Toulouse at Murrayfield in the Heineken Cup Quarter Final. Scottish rugby supporters have not had the greatest of  track records when it comes to watching their professional teams in recent years, but a crowd of 35,000, more than double the previous attendance record will be present as Edinburgh attempt to reach their first semi final in the competition.

Edinburgh have been an enigma this season with some excellent Heineken form being very much at odds with a poor RaboDirect PRO 12 campaign.  With only five wins and a draw Edinburgh sit just one place above Aironi who languish at the foot of the table. Their promising victory over the Scarlets last week was only their second victory in their last ten PRO 12 games.  No doubt  inspiration will be drawn from Edinburgh's successful Heineken Cup campaign and in particular their double over Racing Metro in the group stages including the wonderful 27-24 victory in Paris.

By their normal standards, Toulouse had a less than perfect group stage and although they secured the group title with four wins it was not without the ignominy of a home defeat against Harlequins. Very much the aristocrats of European rugby, Toulouse contest their 13th European Cup quarter final buoyed by a good victory over Stade Francais in Paris last weekend which saw them extend their lead at the summit of the Top 14.

Edinburgh coach Michael Bradley has made just one change from the victory over the Scarlets with Fijian Netani Talei returning to replace Stuart McInally at number eight. He will be joined by the impressive national team duo of Ross Rennie and David Denton in the back row who will relish the prospect of a another quick re-match with Thierry Dusatour. Despite playing at times this season some fine attacking rugby and utilising the pace of scrum half Mike Blair and attacking potential of Lee Jones and Tom Visser, Edinburgh will know that so much will depend on the shoulders of the front row of Allan Jacobson, Ross Ford and Geoff Cross in determining the outcome of the game. Toulouse are at full strength in this area with former Saracens tight head, Census Johnson teaming up with veteran, William Servat and current French loose head, Jean Baptiste Poux. For good measure Daan Human, the South African prop is on the bench.

Toulouse also have a splendid line out and a lack of front five power is likely to be Edinburgh's undoing and I am predicting that Toulouse will take a victory by six to ten points and move on to face either Munster or Ulster at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

In the other tie on Saturday, it is very difficult to look beyond a solid Leinster home win with a margin of 11-15 points. Cardiff without Jamie Roberts and Sam Warbuton look under powered to take on a  full strength Leinster side which includes Brian O'Driscoll making his seasonal debut in the competition. He will be joined by Gordon D'Arcy for the 68th time in Leinster colours, while in the pack, Sean O'Brien returns after missing the win over Munster last week and joins a formidable pack with the recently arrived 37 year old All Black, Brad Thorn making his Heineken Cup debut. Leinster's strength is also shown in the replacements with South African loose-head prop Heinke van der Merwe being named alongside five Ireland internationals.
     
With Jamie Roberts out for six months and recovering from knee surgery, Cardiff turn to Dafydd Hewitt to partner Casey Lualala. After a poor result at Glasgow last week, Cardiff welcome back Xavier Rush, Martyn Williams and Michael Paterson to form the back row with Dan Parks taking over from Ceri Sweeney at fly half. Welsh international Gethin Jenkins returns to bolster the front row.

After a disappointing Six Nations campaign for Ireland, there is a sense that a good number of the Leinster players will be wanting to kick start their season again. For Cardiff they will be hoping that their old guard can  lift them above the difficulties of recent weeks while taking advantage of the fall out that may still be lurking after Ireland's woeful performance at Twickenham.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

AEG Grassroots Rugby campaign

Check out this introductory video to the AEG Grassroots Rugby campaign, featuring England rugby legends Will Greenwood and Austin Healey.

AEG are looking for 40 grassroots rugby teams in the UK & Ireland to receive an AEG Ultimate Kit & Laundry Package - featuring 22 bespoke rugby kits and a top of the range AEG washing machine. Applications are open now; follow the link at the end of the video for more information.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Fanpic Captures Record Crowd at Wembley



Over 83,000 rugby union fans pictured at the Aviva Premiership encounter between Saracens and Harlequins at Wembley last Saturday can now tag themselves in the crowd on a fanpic that was taken during the game.

The 360° multibillion pixel photograph is available to view at http://bit.ly/AvivaUK-fanpic and allows fans to pinpoint themselves in the crowd, tag themselves and then share it with their friends on social media platforms or via email.

Nick Gibbs, sponsorship manager with Aviva, said: “We wanted to make Saracens at Wembley a very special event for all rugby fans and by using this software from Huggity, we are helping to enhance the experience of the game for the record-breaking 83,761 crowd. This really helps bring the game to life and offers supporters the opportunity to remember it long after it has finished.”

The application is based on a giant panoramic, high-resolution crowd image taken at Wembley during Saturday’s Aviva Premiership game. Users can zoom into the crowd photo where they can spot themselves or their friends and subsequently tag their location in the stadium.

Once they find and tag themselves on this interactive image, they can share it with friends on Facebook, Twitter or via email.

Both sides treated fans to a thrilling game with Harlequins running out winners by 24-19.

Huggity is an Irish-owned software company based in Dublin. For more information visit www.huggity.com. 

Monday, 2 April 2012

Coleg Sir Gar cruise to victory in the Open Tournament of the Rosslyn Park National Sevens


A year ago I reflected on the fact that it would take an exceptional school side to win the Open Tournament at the Rosslyn Park national Sevens and that we were likely to be entering a period of domination by a number of colleges of further education. Last year AASE college, Filton secured the title with a win over Hartpury College. On Friday after five rounds of knockout rugby, Coleg Sir Gar emerged as convincing winners of the Open Tournament and in doing so became the first Welsh side to secure the title since 1995.

The large multi campus college from West Wales and Llanelli Scarlet’s Academy Centre of Excellence produced a hugely authoritive performance in overcoming last year's Daily Mail U18 champions, Whitgift. The 26-0 scoreline belied the fact that Whitgift defended superbly but had no answer for the patient build-up play of Sir Gar. Two tries either side of half time saw the Welsh side secure their first Open title after reaching three semi finals in recent years.

Commenting on their success Sir Gar head of rugby Euros Evans was full of praise for his side saying:
“We were in the tough side of the draw and Whitgift gave us a really tough time but we did enough to get over the line.

“It’s been ten years in the making and I’m just so proud of the boys.

“It’s been a really tough tournament but it’s the pinnacle of schoolboy Sevens. The boys were challenged both physically and mentally but we’re just so chuffed.”

Sir Gar conceded only six tries in there nine games over two days of competition and kept their line intact for four of the games. After scoring 166 points in their qualifying group, relatively straightforward wins were secured against Campion 33-0 and St Benedict's 35-7.

The quarter-final saw Sir Gar face the reigning champions Filton College, who they had beaten in the semi-finals of the Marches 7s. In the end the Welsh side emerged as 14-10 winners in their closest game of the tournament. That set-up a semi-final clash with Millfield, who had reached the final four thanks to a 22-17 extra-time win over Llandovery College. Previous form suggested a close game was in prospect but the Welsh side dominated the semi final securing a place in the final with a 32-7 margin.

Whitgift had breezed through the group stages scoring 184 points in the process. After surviving a narrow victory over Bishop's Wordsworth, the Croyden based school carried on their free scoring form with convincing victories over Ysgol Gyfun Gwyr and Worcester College. In the semi final they are overcame a stern challenge from the equally impressive Sedbergh, winning 24-21.

A unique double for Coleg Sir Gar was not to be as their Girls team lost out in the final to a very impressive Moulton College side from Northampton, 29-0.


Sunday, 1 April 2012

Flybe withdraw Henson in-flight entertainment package on all flights

A Flybe spokesman has confirmed that the Henson in-flight entertainment package has been withdrawn from all flights with immediate effect. The action has been taken as a result of a situation that developed on the Flybe flight from Glagow to Cardiff yesterday.

It is understood that the package has been withdrawn for being boring, self indulgent, loud and intrusive for those passengers who did not wish to access the in-flight package.