Six Nations 2016: We’re Back

It’s that time of year again.

The time of year that we all start squabbling over the Six Nations trophy like we’re a group of kids bickering over a toy garage.

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And what an exciting tournament this is set up to be! With the shouts and cries of the World Cup still ringing in our ears, we push on through the madness into a bright new season, filled with fresh talent and fresh blood.

The start of the Six Nations always gets the international rugby blood pumping. An undeniably exciting tournament, it’s almost always an open competition.

And, delightfully, it’s getting more open. Scotland, a team who have spend many years lagging behind, proved in the RWC last year that they’re on their way up. After solid wins over Japan and USA, Scotland showed that they’re no longer relying on their kicking by beating a hefty Samoan side.

Scotland have long been a favourite side of mine (I can’t help but root for the underdog) and I’ll definitely be rooting for them in their clash against England this opening weekend. What can I say? Old rivalries die hard.

England themselves are the victims are a lot of scrutiny. With the controversial appointment of Dylan Hartley as captain and Eddie Jones at the new coach, England are under pressure to perform. A very disappointing World Cup could have been the ashes that a new, fiery England rise out of.

France leveled Wales in terms of progress in the RWC so it seems pretty likely they’ll be performing well. However, France are famously temperamental and Italy have been known to cause an upset for them. To write off Italy would be foolish, especially with supurb seasoned players like Castrogiovanni and Parisse.

And so we come to Ireland v Wales. For Wales, the men in green are always a sign for caution. The clash is always close and I doubt this year it will be any different. Wales are looking strong and confident, despite the curly-haired, baby-faced shape hole in their team. Wales’ RWC campaign wasn’t a complete triumph, but neither was it a cause for shame. After an incredible injury struggle, Wales performed with bravery and heart – something we Welsh cherish even more than a victory.

For me, Ireland are the favourites going in. In the RWC, they pushed ahead further than any other Northern Hemisphere side which surely sets them ahead of everyone else. As much as I would love to say that I’m sure Wales will beat them, I can’t. Ireland are a formidable force that is impossible ignore.

But I am sure that Wales will rise to the challenge. In past few years, Wales seem to perform better when faced with a side that is equal or greater than them. I think it stems from the idea that Wales are far more comfortable being the underdogs with nothing to lose than being the favourites on the edge of falling from grace.

So whatever your team, I hope you have an absolutely swell opening weekend! Enjoy the ecstatic highs and the crushing disappointments that come with the Six Nations.

See you on the other side!


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RWC’15: England’s Sorrow is Wales’ Gain

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Something strange happened last night, as I watched Giteau dive over the England line. I started to feel a bit of sympathy. It really quite alarmed me that I wasn’t gloating as ITV played sombre music and showed a montage of slumped English players and fleeing fans. It just felt a bit…sad.

I suppose Wales fans know how it feels: to lose all hope, to be knocked out early and to be left wondering why. Some English ex-players have been on the radio this morning saying, “England have the most money out of the home sides, the biggest pool of players…how did this happen?”

Well, you know what? Sometimes it just bloody does.

It’s a harsh lesson to be learned but a necessary one. Sometimes everything should be good and it isn’t, something doesn’t quite click. It’s a lesson Wales have learned and kept in their heads. If there’s a dip in effort, if you don’t want it quite enough, if you don’t believe you can do it, you’ll be punished severely.

There’s a media circus around England that seems to assume that everyone is backing the boys in white, regardless of nationality. Sorry to burst your bubble but we’re not. We’ve got our own teams to support, our own problems to bluff our way through.

But now England are suffering from this media mayhem too, their own blind supporters tearing them apart. Journalists like John Inverdale (urgh, it feels dirty to even give him a job title) act like these losses have completely come out of nowhere. Well, England aren’t South Africa and Australia are certainly not Japan. So why so shocked?

I can tell you the answer: pure arrogance. I feel so much sympathy for the English fans who sit on their sofas and have to cringe their way through John Inverdale and Clive Woodward banging on about how amazing England are, how it’s going to be an England v. New Zealand final(!) and wondering who is going to be the lucky team to get out of the pool with them. Because the majority of English fans are just like us: hoping for the best and cheering on their team. But there is element (and those lovely fans will surely know this too) of incredible arrogance amongst some of the English fans, mainly those in the media. People like Inverdale, Woodward, Healey, who all truly believe that England will do well because, well, it’s England.

So, in case any England fans were wondering why the other nations firmly root against them, it’s not really anything to with you guys, not anymore. It’s to do with the incredible bias from all national media. Just yesterday before the England v. Australia match, ITV held a vote to see who everyone thought would come out top in Pool A. Wales had the most votes to be at the top but John Inverdale said, “Well, it seems no one’s quite sure.”

Well, it seems you’re a massive twat.

…Alright, that slipped into a mega rant, didn’t it? But back to why I don’t feel quite as happy as I thought I would after yesterday. I admit, I feel for England a little, trapped in the media circus that they didn’t really make or ask for, being pulled back and fore like a chair on the Jeremy Kyle show.

I probably feel most sorry for Stuart Lancaster who has, in my opinion, done a great job in turning the atrocious mess Martin Johnson left behind into a decent squad. The fact that his job could be on the line seems incredibly unfair to me. I understand that something has to be done for England, that they need someone to blame, but I really believe getting rid of him would be a bad decision. For the first time in decades, England can actually be quite entertaining to watch and they play with more skill than they have done in a long time. I don’t think their coaching staff is really where the problems lie here: I think leadership on the pitch is the main problem.

Chris Robshaw…now I’m sure he’s a lovely gent but he’s a little lacking in rugby common sense. And the rest of the squad are either the same or they’re loud and constantly angry (Mike Brown, Owen Farrell, Dan Cole…I could go on). They don’t have firm leadership; someone to rally the troops, to get them in line and get the job done.

What England really need is some consistency, something to build on. And sacking poor ol’ Stuie would only set their progress back, I think.

But that’s enough of England, eh? Let’s celebrate the fact the Wales are guaranteed to get out of the pool!

I’m interested to see how Warren Gatland plays the next match: Wales don’t need to beat Australia to qualify which could potentially provide some of the boys with a much needed rest if they don’t go all out to beat the Aussies. That would mean that they could have a few more players back to face South Africa the match after next. However, if Wales do beat Australia next week, we’re looking at having to beat either Scotland or Japan which (should) be a much easier ride.

I suspect Gatland will encourage the boys to be fighting fit and ready to beat Australia next week because not only do you see the potential of not having to play South Africa, but it’s also a matter of pride isn’t it? Go big or go home, that’s how Wales always seem to live.

And no one is quite ready to put their feet up just yet.

Six Nations 2015 – Week One

Ah! The joy! The revelry! The crushing disappointment! It can only be the Six Nations opening weekend…6_nations_logo

This first entry has come very late, I know. But I’m sure, considering last weekend’s result, you’ll forgive me. I’m going to dive straight in with Wales v England because there’s a lot to talk about.

I knew we were in trouble before the kick-off for two reasons:

  1. My dad was confident
  2. The atmosphere was all wrong

My dad being confident was unheard of and, frankly, terrifying but it was the latter that really troubled me. When the teams (eventually) made their way onto the pitch, the booing made my toes curl. As you will probably know, I love a bit of anglo-welsh tension but the booing when England ran on was horrid. Rugby has no time for that sort of petty nonsense and the idea that it was my home that was inflicting it made me feel very uncomfortable.

But still, that unpleasantness aside, the opening was intriguing. An early try for Wales was a rare treat but it all went down quickly after that…and I’d rather not go into detail about all that. So instead, here’s some issues that I think really need to be addressed in order to see a consistent improvement in Wales’ performance.

Forward Play – It appears to be a common trend among many teams in the last couple of years. Instead of running that backs and cutting through the line, heafty forwards take the hit meaning the slows down. I think it would make the world of difference if we could see our backs breaking through the defence and moving the game forward quicker.

Captaincy – Sam Warburton is a great player and undoubtedly a lovely guy, but I just don’t get any real passion from him. Maybe when he’s older, he’d be a great captain but I still cling to the idea of Alun Wyn Jones as captain. I think he has more fire and more experience and I believe that he would have a firmer hand on the rudder. And right now, that’s something Wales could really do with.

Liam Williams – Play him. That’s it. He’s the sort of player that brings energy and aggression into a game and I feel like there’s a distinct lack of that from Wales. And through all the talk about benching Alex Cuthbert, for me it’s been George North who hasn’t been playing so well. True, Cuthbert hasn’t had much ball in hand, but I think that’s due to the excess forward play. And both Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies have been quiet…I’d be intrigued to see how Scott Williams would do if he was played.

I could probably witter on and on, but I think those are the three key areas that are bothering me most at the moment. Thankfully, as bad as I felt during the match, I recovered pretty quickly. I realise that I can deal with the pain; the Six Nations comes every year so I think I’m (unfortunately) well versed in dealing with the disappointment. Anyway, hopefully every team will lose a match and the tournament will really open up.

Moving onto my thoughts about the other matches.

Italy v Ireland wasn’t exactly gripping but it was a decent match nevertheless. Ireland had a slower opening half and Italy were playing well – something I always enjoy seeing. Italy always play with passion and enthusiasm so there matches are usually a good watch. Ireland picked up later on to pull away and get some valuable points early on. Good performance from both teams.

France v Scotland was my favourite match of the opening weekend. There’s been much discussion about Scotland in my house in the build up to the kick-off. Scotland have been improving quickly in the last few years and I’m still waiting for them to reach their full potential. They have some excellent players…and they are, in my opinion, the most attractive team. But my heart-eyes aside, I’m really enjoying watching their progress. The close battle between France and Scotland was by far the most gripping of the weekend.

As for this coming weekend, who knows? I’m sure England will beat Italy (though an upset would be very welcome!), and Ireland v France should be a very interesting match (though I’d tip Ireland to win). And Scotland v Wales has all the makings of an edge-of-your-seat clash. Who will win? I’m saying Wales but probably only out of loyalty.


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Autumn Internationals 2014: Wales v Fiji

Just a little post-match note really, as I’m too gripped by Scotland v NZ to write anything proper.

So, we’re back and victorious!

Admittedly, the match wasn’t exactly a triumphant display of Welsh talent, but I suppose you can’t have everything. The main problem I noticed was the poor defence. It’s rare that the Wales defence is so weak but it was really an issue today – gaps opened up with the slightest pressure from Fiji.

I’ve spoken before about my complete admiration for Liam Williams, but I think it’s worth mentioning after his incredible performance today. If I could only watch one player for the entire match, it would be him without a doubt. I think I’m yet to see him have a bad match and I think it’s because every time he gives all he has. I’ve never seen anyone play with such ferocity and raw passion and it’s utterly captivating to watch.

He was the main plus point, really (that and when Gethin Jenkins got hit on the head and hurt his hamstring.)

And I know many are crowing about what a bloodbath it will be next week against NZ, but I’m confident that the boys will up their game. Alright, a win is unlikely but Wales are always a little lacklustre against sides like Fiji and Samoa. I don’t think we perform so well against sides we’re expected to win against.

So, with that theory, our performance should be better next week.

I’ll see you then!


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Autumn Internationals 2014: We’re back & not victorious! But it’s not all doom and gloom…

Guess who’s back, back again, Kathryn’s back, tell a friend…actually, don’t bother telling anyone because it’s probably not worth your time.

Apologies for my absence lately, but apparently unemployment keeps me busy. (Note: it doesn’t.) Now I’m back with a little murky puddle of thoughts after today’s close defeat to Australia.

Autumn internationals are a funny thing, aren’t they?

I spend the build-up weeks thinking, “Oh God. There’s no chance we’re going to win anything. We can just hope for some good performances.” But when the first match comes and I sit down in my Wales shirt and pink fluffy slippers with a goldfish bowl full of gin to kill the nerves, I think, “Maybe. Maybe this is the year, this is the match where we win and everything changes.”

So that didn’t come true today. But who’s to say it won’t soon? I can’t help being optimistic.

I am naturally (to the point of denial sometimes), and I find it even harder not to be when Wales are just so close to brilliance. It feels like every match, we’re running desperately to the finish line – chest tight and legs aching – only to stop short and stand, hands on hips, saying, “Nah, thanks. We’re fine where we are.”

It’s endlessly frustrating and tantalisingly exciting all at once.

Still, I’m trying to focus on the fact that we’re close to victory, not that we’re yet to get there. There are plenty of pluses after all

  • the new team selection worked well together with a good mixture of youth and experience.
  • the backs were also rather effective against the Australian pack, able to find space and dart through the defensive line a fair few times during the match.
  • and the forwards were on top form, working hard in the scrum to get Wales a well-deserved penalty try on the Australian line.

So, I’m feeling good about next week’s game against Fiji. Let’s hope this week’s match was a good warm up and that the boys are now ready and raring to go.

And, as a final little boost, heed my advice:

If you feel your confidence slipping, just remember this is what it’s all about. I often look at New Zealand, and other utterly superb teams, and think, “It can’t be fun winning that often.” Where’s the pain? Where’s the desperate need to claw your way to the top? Not to say that NZ never lose, but it’s fairly rare. These ups and downs are what make supporting Wales so utterly addictive for me and without the downs, you’ll never fully appreciate the incredible highs that only hard work and sheer nerve can bring.


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Ten Most Common Thoughts During a Match

Hi guys! Hope you’re all well (in particular, Ireland fans – have you recovered yet? We Welsh live off a 6N win all year!)

So I haven’t written a post in a while. I don’t tend to write about the Welsh regions because the political quagmire is far too much for me. So I thought that perhaps I could give you an insight into my mind (hold onto your hats) and list my Ten Most Common Thoughts During a Match.

 

1. Who’s reffing?

If it’s Nigel Owens, the match’s entertainment value has just gone through the roof. Cue quoting Nigel ‘favourites’ like : “USE!”, “Away bluuuuue!” and “I won’t tell you again!”

 

2. Who’s playing?

I want my favourite players on the pitch! Scarlets – Liam Williams, Jonathan Davies and Jake Ball, Ospreys – Alun Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric, Blues – Alex Cuthbert, Rhys Patchell and Leigh Halfpenny, Dragons – Taulupe Faletau, Jason Tovey and Ritchie Rees.

 

3. I wish the shorts were smaller.

…I have nothing to add to this one.

 

4. Is Warren Gatland in the crowd?

In a slow match, nothing perks me up like the sight of our beloved coach sat in the crowd, arms crossed with a warm beer and his notepad. Keeping his eye on the talent like a valleys girl on a night out.

 

5. Keep an eye on the facial hair.

Who has cuts theirs off, who has grown some. Who’s looking dapper, who’s looking baby-faced, who’s looking like a caveman. And I really can’t keep up with Sean Holley’s fuzz. It’s on and off so quickly, I swear it’s a stick on.

 

6. Who has their away kit on…and WHY?!

Can anyone work out the system? Away kits being worn at home! Both teams wearing their away kits! What the hell is going on?

 

7. Keep a look out for pants.

Not because they’re particularly nice but because it’s like a game. My mother stills remains the current winner: in 2012, she spotted an Italian player in sunflower pants. She’s never forgotten it.

 

8. How drunk will Jonathan Davies get?

He’s like Terry Wogan at Eurovision. The more he laughs, the drunker he is.

 

9. What do the teams actually do at half time?

…and can we have a constant feed of the changing rooms?

 

10. Will my dad still be awake by the end?

Probably not. If he is awake, it’s been a bloody good match.

 

What are your most common thoughts during a match? Let me know here, on Facebook or on Twitter!

Until next time lovelies!

WOEFUL WARREN (ie. Six Nations 2014 – Week Four)

Within 3 minutes of the game, my house was in uproar.

There was an early try for England but that just evoked comments like “Well that was coming, wasn’t it?”

No, the real problem we were all having was that – immediately – we all could see that the team just wasn’t working. But before I start my rant, I want to stress that this isn’t some awful ‘let’s pick on certain players because we didn’t win’ tirade. In my opinion, there is far too much of that nonsense. Because after all, this is their job. This is what they love and they want nothing more than to play brilliantly and win every match.

So really, I’m inclined to blame Warren Gatland (even though I adore the man) for a large percentage of this failure. His selection, while good in theory, needed almost immediate alteration but the man’s damned pride stopped him from changing before the standard 60 minute mark.

SCRUM HALVES  &  FLY HALVES

I totally understand why Gats picked Rhys Webb again – he had a fantastic match against France and thoroughly earned his place. But early on it was obvious he wasn’t dealing with the pressure well. He was getting the ball out too slowly, allowing England’s powerful blitz defence to push Wales further away from the twenty-two. True, my love of Mike Phillips might make me a little biased but I think Wales really needed him.

Mike shrugs off the pressure and deals with his two favourite things: quick play and riling the opposition. And that’s what’s needed against a side like England.

Wales were also really lacking a strong voice on the pitch. Sam Warburton’s a great captain but he’s quiet, along with most of the team. It was far too quiet on the pitch without Mike and I think Wales suffered for it. I’m enjoying the variety of both Rhys and Mike at scrum half but come on Wa’! Mike was perfect for today!

The same goes for Dan Biggar. He’s a strong voice that Wales really needed to keep them on track. Rhys is great – really fantastic at getting the centres into play – but again, I think Dan was perfect for today. He tends to kick a little less which would have meant less England possession and he takes the big hits easier than Rhys.

I guess my message to Gats is this: know your player’s style but their personality too. It’s something that can easily be forgotten and it’s a high price you pay when you get it wrong.

*

But here’s an uplifting parting note.

There’s something oddly relaxing about knowing the worst has happened to you and it’s over. Only then can you rebuild and start climbing to the top. And let’s face it, our boys love a rock face.

And finally, here’s a stormer of a quote from my mother:

“We’re tired after the Lions! England aren’t because none of those buggers played!”

Now you know where I get it from.

Until next time!