Sunday, 30 June 2013

Could this be LV Cup Draw?

The 2013/14 LV Cup draw has not formally been announced however being the ever interesting chap I am, and this being the off season with not much on, I can reveal that the LV Cup groups aren't really drawn at all.

Possible 2013/14 Draw
Or rather it is a structured draw.  Since the competition moved to its current format in 2009/10 the draw has always seen the English and Welsh sides distributed in the same way.  

The English sides are distributed in a strict pattern depending on their finishing position in the previous year's Premiership.

The Premiership Champions joined in Pool 1 by the sides that finished 5th and 9th in the Premiership; this year that means Tigers are joined by Gloucester and London Irish. 

The Premiership Finalist is seeded in Pool 2 alongside the clubs that finished 6th and 10th, namely Northampton joined by Exeter and Sale. 

Pool 3 is made up of the highest placed losing Premiership semi-finalist, this year that is table toppers Saracens, and the sides that came 7th and 11th, Bath and Worcester respectively.

Pool 4 contains the lowest placed Play Off Semi finalist, Harlequins, alongside the promoted club, Newcastle, and the side that finished the Premiership in 8th which was Wasps.

The Welsh sides aren't quite drawn in such a proscriptive manner, as repeats of any Heineken or Amlin Cup fixtures are avoided.  This means that Pool 3 won't contain Cardiff or the Ospreys as they are due to play Heineken Cup games with Exeter and Northampton; Pool 2 won't contain Newport as they face Bath in the Amlin Cup whilst Pool 1 won't contain Llanelli who are in Harlequins' Heineken Cup group.  

Where possible the top Welsh side from the previous year's RaboDirect Pro12 faces the side which finished lowest, whilst the middle two sides will usually play off.  The only time this was not the draw was in 2010/11.

In the LV Cup, of course, you don't actually play the sides in your own pool you play all 4 sides in another, and much like the composition of the pools this is also always structured the same way.  Pool 1 always plays Pool 4 and Pool 2 always plays Pool 3.

So using a little bit of guesswork we can  see that the Tigers are likely to face Newport Gwent-Dragons alongside Quins, Wasps and Newcastle in the 2013/14 LV Cup group stages.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Tigers to pay the price of intern?

It’s an oft repeated cliché in sport that fans would work for their club for free, but this week Tigers have decided to put that to the test by advertising for an unpaid intern on their website.  This intern will be expected to write content for the website and other publications such as the match day programme, write content that helps sell the club’s conferencing and marketing arm and help to publicise the good works the club does with charities.  They will also have to work, whoops volunteer, on match days and edit videos for the club’s internet based TV channels.

Now increasing the coverage of the club’s good works, such as the Dynamite club and the Hitz scheme aimed at 16-19 year olds not in education, employment or training, or the Playing 4 Health scheme involving Year 3 & 4 primary school pupils is a great idea and something the club is really missing out on at the moment. 

Equally having someone full time to increase both the quality and quantity of the YouTube and LTTV output is a very good idea.  Anyone who has seen last year’s efforts would surely agree.

The problem is that key word: unpaid.

There is a debate about the morality of unpaid interns but the legal case is quite clear.  If it looks like work, sounds like work and smells like work then its work.  And work gets the minimum wage and pays tax and national insurance.

Much as we might consider the Tigers a charity given the money we all put in without wanting a return the club isn’t a charity, it is a limited company and turns a profit more often than not and companies pay tax and national insurance.  This intern will have “flexible hours”, a thinly veiled attempt to bypass the government’s rules on volunteering and work.  This is a job.  The intern won’t be allowed to turn up when they like, do what they want when they want, use whatever materials they want or send somebody else to do their job instead so it qualifies as work.

Some will say “where’s the harm?  Both parties benefit” and there is truth to that, the intern does benefit from gaining real world experience and contacts within the industry they want to work in, but there are plenty of mutually beneficial transactions that are illegal, a consenting adult buying a spliff is mutually beneficial to him and the drug dealer but we as a society have made it illegal because of the wider issues it brings.

Unpaid work is the same.  By making the exchange the currency of learning and experience rather than the currency of, well, cash the club is taking advantage of its younger fans and their acceptance of this new normal to boost its bottom line and to stop it having to have a full time employee with troublesome things like employment rights and tax.  Unpaid internships undermine the social contract of this country that work pays and that workers have hard won rights. 

As I say above by my reading of the government’s definitions this intern will qualify for the minimum wage and the club runs the risk of a prosecution being brought if it fails to pay the fair rate.

But my little rant about the evils of unpaid work is beside the point.

The minimum wage is only £6.19 per hour.  The club can afford to pay for this position.  By making the position unpaid what the club has achieved is limiting the potential pool of applicants to only those whose parents or partners can support them for 9 months whilst they don’t earn.  What about the students who don’t have access to the Bank of Mum & Dad?  They don’t have the choice of doing an unpaid job as you can’t buy a tin of baked beans or pay your rent in experience.  By limiting the pool we’re fishing in we’re reducing the chance of catching the biggest fish.  That doesn’t sound like the Tigers way to me.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Leicester's Lions #3: Paul Dodge

Leicester's Lions No.3: Paul Dodge
Paul Dodge
Paul Dodge has a reasonable claim to be the greatest ever Tiger.  The youngest recorded player to start for the club, until George Ford in 2009, he was still only 17 when he received his club tie for 20 games, only 20 on his 100th appearance and only 27 when he racked up the iconic 300th appearance for the club.  His 437 games for the First XV put him 5th on the all time appearance list. 

Dodge appeared in 6 Cup finals, winning 3 and captaining in the 1989 final against Bath, and was the club captain as they won the inaugural Courage League in the 1987/88.  After 17 seasons in the first team Dodge retired and took over the newly formed Under 21s side before moving upwards to coach the first team backs to the ’93 Cup final victory over Quins and then the club's 2nd League title in 1995.  With the arrival of professionalism Dodge, a bookbinder by trade, left first team duties to others and returned to coaching in the clubs youth structures.  This summer it was announced he will be Club President, taking over from Mike Harrison.

Dodge was part of the Tigers very first Youth XV and was the first England and then first British international of many to come.  He won 32 caps for England captaining them in the 1985 5 Nations Championship and that summer’s tour to New Zealand.  It was to be his final international appearance as Dodge retired from England at the age of 27 already the most capped centre for his country. 

Dodge was a member of the 1980 England grandslam side, their first for 23 years; initially Richmond’s Nick Preston was preferred but Dodge was drafted in alongside club-mates Clive Woodward, Dusty Hare and Peter Wheeler for the third match against Wales.  Hare slotted the injury time winning penalty after a dropped scrum.  Yes they did used to happen despite what the “golden age” old farts say!  Dodge retained his place for the final match against Scotland, using his raking left boot to set up one of the tries. 

Later that year Dodge scored the only try in the John Player Cup Semi Final victory over Harlequins before Tigers returned to Twickenham to defeat London Irish for the 2nd of their three successive Cup Final victories.

This form meant Dodge was unlucky to miss out on the initial selection for the British Lions squad to tour South Africa; however when Welsh centre David Richards was injured Dodge became one of 8 replacements called to the tour and joined Woodward and Wheeler in South Africa.   

He made his Lions debut against the Junior Springboks on Wednesday 18th of June as he played in a backline containing Tony Ward, Andy Irvine and Elgan Rees; his opposite number was Danie Gerber and Dodge grabbed a try in an impressive win for the tourists.  That catapulted Dodge into the Saturday side for the remainder of the tour as he featured against North-East Transvaal, Western Province and in the final two test matches against the Springboks. 

Tigers coach Chalkie White raided his savings to fly out to Port Elizabeth for the third match where Dodge joined Wheeler and Woodward; of having three players in the Test side White said at the time “If I live for another 100 years this will not happen again”, little did he know Tigers would match that number in 1993 and 2001, better it by 1 in 1997 and smash it in 2005 when 7 Tigers would line up against Argentina in the first Test. 

The Lions lost that third test after Naas Botha’s boot did for them but two weeks later they triumphed outscoring the Boks 3 tries to 1 at Loftus Versfeld and avoiding the whitewash.  Dodge partnered legendry Llanelli centre Ray Gravell in both tests with regular Leicester partner Clive Woodward forced to the wing in the 3rd test and onto the bench in the 4th. 

For England Dodge played as they beat Australia in 1982’s famous “Erica Roe” match, slotting the conversion of the match winning try, and was one of 6 Tigers for England was they beat the All Blacks in 1983, the others were Dusty Hare, Clive Woodward, Les Cusworth, Nick Youngs and Peter Wheeler.

Only three weeks later though Dodge was to suffer a broken leg away to Blackheath missing the rest of the season.  He bounced back to tour South Africa again, this time in 1984 with England but failed to feature in a test match, perhaps rushed back as he had only played twice for Leicester since the leg brake.  Come the 1985 5 Nations however he was fully restored and was named England’s 100th captain as they faced Romania in January of that year.  He captained England 7 times and was undefeated at Twickenham though winless away from home.

Dodge won every honour available to him and was the prototype modern back.  At 6’1” and 90 kgs his size and strength means he wouldn’t be out of place in the modern game and he combined that with a fantastic rugby brain and a howitzer left boot which he used both tactically and for goal.  If he hadn’t played alongside Dusty Hare and Les Cusworth his goal kicking would have been used far more often.  

Leicester's Lions #1: George Beamish 
Leicester's Lions #2: Neil Back 

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Transfer Talk: Coming and Going

So the vast majority of Tigers business for the summer has been done and for once actually announced.   

Who’s coming and who’s going?


The headline signing is Northampton’s Ryan Lamb.  Gloucester born and bred Lamb played for his home town for 4 years before moving on to London Irish where he spent two seasons and then on to Northampton.  A veteran of 190 professional games Lamb is an experienced and capable understudy to Toby Flood and a mentor to another new signing Owen Williams.  Williams joins the club from Llanelli where he guided the side to the RaboDirect Pro12 semi finals after establishing himself earlier in the season.  He is 21 and has played 15 times for the Scarlets, 30 times for Llanelli in the Welsh Premiership and has represented Wales at Under 20s and Great Britain Rugby League at Under 18s.  He will principally play A league and LV Cup rugby and will presumably become the new favourite of the “How can Cockerill not pick this young lad” group of fans.

Tigers other major singing of the summer is Argentinean test winger Gonzalo Camacho who joins from Exeter.  Camacho has played 20 tests for Argentina and started all matches in last year’s Rugby Championship as well as their win over Wales at the Millennium Stadium.  Camacho only played 8 games for Exeter last year due to the emergence of Jack Nowell, featuring 18 times the year before and 21 times for Harlequins in 2010/11; in English rugby he has scored only 8 tries in 56 games.  Camacho will join up with the squad in time for the Heineken Cup in October, but will face a battle to get into the team as he will be fighting with Morris, Goneva, Thompstone and hopefully fit again Miles Benjamin for the wing berths.  Not to mention Academy flier Henry Purdy.

Perpignan has been raided for French pair David Mélé and Jérôme Schuster.  Mélé is a 27 year old scrum half who has played 141 times for Perpignan, including being involved in every game last season.  Like most French scrum halfs Mélé is a goal kicker and can fill in at fly half as he did 3 times this season, also unlike any of our current players he seems capable of kicking drop goals notching 4 this year.  Schuster, who is 2 weeks shy of his 28th birthday, is a loosehead prop who has played 116 times for his home town club Perpignan, though only 44 starts.  His form in 2010 earned him two French test caps starting against Fiji and coming off the bench against Australia.

Also joining from the Top 14 is young South African lock-cum-backrow Sebastian De Chaves.  De Chaves is a 6’6” 17 and a half stone 23 year old who qualifies for England through his mother and Portugal through his father.  He will hope to make more of an impact than fellow South African Rob Andrew had last year.  If he does play well I’m sure you’ll hear the usual suspects moaning about him “blocking” a young academy player. 

Tigers have signed Neil Briggs from recently relegated London Welsh.  Briggs is a hooker who will come in to cover for Tom Youngs during his lengthy spells with the England side and the first two weeks of the season which he will miss resting after the Lions tour.  Briggs started out playing for Rotherham before a lengthy spell with Sale, from there he played a season in Pro D2 with Bourgoin before spending last year with the Welsh Exiles. 

Rounding off Tigers confirmed signings is Jamie Gibson from London Irish.  Gibson plays all three back row positions and despite his 6’5” frame is apparently seen principally as an openside.  Gibson went to posh public school Marlborough and is still studying classics at University College, Oxford, how he finds the time for the 5 hour round trip in between training sessions will be of interest.  Gibson was a late replacement for the England tour to South Africa last summer playing both midweek matches. 

Tigers have also been linked with signing 20 year old Romanian prop Constantin Pristavita who made his Romania test debut last week against Russia.  Romania coach Lyn Howells has revealed that one player is set for a “big transfer” after months ago revealing that a Romanian prop was on trial at Leicester.  No word has come from the club or its mouthpiece the Mercury however its fairly probable that the paper wouldn’t consider it a news worthy event as they didn’t report the signing of 18 year old Canadian Djustice Sears-Duru last summer either.


The biggest losses are Geordan Murphy who is retiring and Martin Castrogiovanni who is joining European Champions Toulon.  Bath have announced the signing of both George Ford and Micky Young as rumoured heavily for months, whilst Kiernan Brookes is returning to Newcastle after two fairly poor season at Leicester dogged by injuries.

Matt Cornwell returns to Italian Excellenza side Mogliano after spending a single season back at his home club.

Richard Thorpe has been signed by relegated London Welsh as they look to bounce back at the first attempt.  Joining the Championship from the other direction is Ealing Trailfinders who have announced the signing of prop Camilo Parilli-Ocampo, the Londoner joins the side he played for as a youth after a leg brake ruled him out of the whole of the last season.  Charlie Clare has been released from the Academy and has signed with beaten finalists Bedford. 

Young trio Jimmy Stevens, Jonny Harris and Alex Lewington have joined Premiership strugglers London Irish as they try to avoid relegation and re-establish themselves in the upper echelons.  Andy Forsyth has joined Sale after failing to break into the first team 4 years after his debut.

Andy Symons, another centre, has joined Tasman in the New Zealand Provincial Championship.  His name was not on the released list by the club but it is my understanding that there is no agreement for him to come back after their season has ended in October.  Equally there is no apparent signing for anyone else so he may yet rejoin but that is unlikely.

Finally Rob Andrew and George Oliver have both been released and have yet to find a new club.  Brett Deacon was on the released list by the club but apparently has an injury and will be rehabbing it at the club; with a possible new contract should he be needed. 

In: Ryan Lamb (Northampton), Gonzalo Camacho (Exeter), Jamie Gibson (London Irish), David Mele (Perpignan), Jerome Shuster (Perpignan), Neil Briggs (London Welsh), Owen Williams (Llanelli Scarlets), Sebastian de Chaves (Mont du Marsan),
Out: Geordan Murphy (Retiring –coaching staff), Martin Castrogiovanni (Toulon), George Ford (Bath), Micky Young (Bath), Kieran Brookes (Newcastle), Matt Cornwell (Mogliano), Richard Thorpe (London Welsh), Jonny Harris (London Irish), Jimmy Stevens (London Irish), Alex Lewington (London Irish), Andy Forsyth (Sale), Andy Symons (Tasman), Charlie Clare (Bedford), Camilo Parilli-Ocampo (Ealing), Brett Deacon (Unknown), Rob Andrew (Unknown), George Oliver (Unknown)
Ins: 8
Outs: 17

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Leicester's Lions #2: Neil Back

Leicester's Lions No.2: Neil Back

Neil Back
Even at a club with a long and glorious history like ours being selected for multiple Lions tours is still a special achievement.  The names drip off the tongue Wheeler, Woodward, Richards, Underwood, Corry and more are a litany of legends.  But only two men have been on a third tour.  They stand head and shoulders above the other giants of the club.  Back and Johnson. 

Neil Back played 338 times for Leicester and ended his career as one of the most decorated players in English rugby history.  5 League triumphs, 2 European titles, 2 domestic cups, top try scorer in the history of league rugby, 66 caps for England, a grandslam, two more Six Nations championships, a World Cup, 5 caps for the Lions, a winning Lions tour.

Short sighted England coaches Geoff Cooke and Jack Rowell continually snubbed Back during the early 1990’s due only to his build, preferring the outsized Steve Ojomoh, Ben Clarke and at one stage even Tim Rodber.  The Lander incident in 1996, though he only missed 13 matches, left him further than ever from the international scene.

But the Lions helped change all that.  In those days the home nations’ coaches would put forward the names they thought were good enough for selection, 62 were entered for the 1997 tour to South Africa but Rowell had not included Back.  However tour manager Fran Cotton and coaches Ian McGeechan and Jim Telfer had other ideas; Back was on the plane. 

It’s hard to imagine now but Back was considered a massive gamble and was a sure fire “dirt tracker” by many, he proved them wrong though by playing 8 games including the last two tests.  In the second test it was Back’s turnover that led to Wood hacking forward and Guscott being able to slot the winning drop goal.

With Woodward now in charge Back was a fixture of the England back row missing only 8 of the next 70 test matches up to the 2003 World Cup final.  Back captained England on 4 occasions winning them all. 

Back’s second Lions tour was not quite the success as the first as he was hampered with a rib injury which ruled him out of the first test.  The Lions lost the two test matches he featured in but they were both close run things with Back scoring a first half try in the 2nd test to go into the break 11-6 up.  The second half fight back by the Wallabies has gone down in history as they surged past the Lions to win 35-14.  The third test didn’t go the Lions way as Justin Harrison, who earlier on the tour Austin Healey had described  as a plod, a plank and an ape, rose on the last play to paw the ball back on his side from  a Lions attacking lineout and seal the victory for Australia.  On his debut too.  Git.

Of course just before that crushing low Back and his Tigers team mates had experienced the ultimate high.  Paris.  A try scorer in the second half come back before Healey set up Lloyd for the stunning finale.  Need I say more?

Tigers had secured their 3rd successive league title back in March after romping away from the competition and sealed the inaugural Play Off final (just an end of season jolly then rather than the title decider) against Bath the week before the Parisian dream.  2002 saw the Premiership and Heineken Cup retained, with Tigers matching Bath’s record of 4 successive titles and becoming the first side to retain a European title.  Back’s “hand” in the 2002 victory is massively over played as Tigers were by far the better side that day and Munster could have played for another hour without scoring a try.

Back’s greatest honour though was won in Sydney on 22nd November 2003.  Neil Back played the whole 100 minutes as England, led by fellow Tiger Martin Johnson, beat Australia to become World Champions for, so far, the only time.  

Back was on the winning side in 31 of his last 33 England caps, a remarkable record and testament to both his greatness and that of his teammates.

He had one final international to play though.  His stunning form for Tigers as they topped the table in 2005 saw Back selected to tackle the All Blacks and go on the 2005 Lions tour alongside 7 of his Leicester teammates.  This selection tied Back with his greatest friend Martin Johnson on 3 Lions tours apiece.  

Controversy, though, dogged Back as he was suspended for the first 4 weeks of the tour after a fracas with Joe Worsley in the opening stages of the 2005 Premiership final defeat to Wasps.   Despite playing just one provincial game Back was selected for the first test, becoming the oldest ever player to represent the Lions in a test match; the 21-3 defeat was as near to the All Blacks as the Lions got and Tigers teammate and protégé Lewis Moody was the openside for the final two tests. 

Back’s final ever game of rugby was in a Lions jersey against Manawatu, he came off the bench and scored a try as he finished his career 16 years and 457 games after his Nottingham debut.

Since retiring Back has moved into coaching; first as an assistant at Tigers where he was part of Pat Howard’s backroom staff that guided the club to an historic double in 2007.  A year later he took over Leeds and guided them to promotion at the first attempt, then retained their Premiership status for one year before cruelly being relegated on the last day of the 2010/11 season on points difference from Newcastle.  Back dropped 5 divisions to lead the ill-fated Rugby revolution, as backer Michael Aland’s promised funds never materialised, however he did notch another promotion before the wheels fell off.  This year he worked under Michael Bradley at Edinburgh but was unable to bring his winning touch north of the border.

Back will always be remembered as one of the true greats of Leicester, England and the Lions who overcame early setbacks, some self inflicted most not, to win it all.  

Leicester's Lions #1: George Beamish, click here to read more 

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Know Your Enenmy: Heineken Cup Opponents


Founded: 1879
Ground: Ravenhill (cap: 18,000)
Star Man: Ruan Pienaar

Much like their fellow Irish provinces Ulster Rugby was formed in 1879 when the two competing governing bodies in Ireland merged and formed the Ulster, Leinster and Munster branches, Connacht ever the poor relation was formed in 1900.  

Ravenhill was purchased in 1923 by the IRFU with the aim of cementing the concept of a united Ireland side, and was left unchanged for the majority of the next century.  Major redevelopment was undertaken in 2008/9 which saw the construction of a new covered terrace with a paddock of premium seating and corporate boxes to the rear.  Since our last visit Ravenhill has undergone further changes as both ends have now been built on, the ends are not quite identical as the Memorial End's capacity will be a few hundred people more than the Aquinas End.

Famously Ravenhill has a church within its grounds, between the new Terrace stand and the Memorial End.  

As befits a team which won 5 out 6 Pool games last year, as well as topping the RaboDirect Pro 12, Ulster are packed to the gunnels with star names.  South African Ruan Pienaar has an Austin Healey-like ability to play both half back positions and as the banners say many a team has been "Ruan-ed" by Pienaar's dead-eye goal kicking.  Also in their side are British Lions Tommy Bowe and Rory Best, as well as 2009 tourist Stephen Ferris who has been laid low with injury this past season.  Kiwi test prop John Afoa will never take a backward step and is one of the best tightheads currently operating in Europe. Not to mention players like Paddy Wallace, Andrew Trimble, Craig Gilroy and Johan Muller.

Montpellier Herault RC

Founded: 1986
Ground: Stade Yves-du-Manoir (cap 14700)
Star Man: Makmuka Gorgodze

Formed only in 1986 Montpellier Herault Rugby Club is younger than several of its players.  However its not as if Rugby only started in the Mediterranean city 27 years ago as the club was formed from the merger of Stade Montepellier, founded 1963, and Montpellier Paillade, founded 1974.  The city also has some history of rugby league.

The Stade Yves-du-Manoir, not to be confused with the stadium of the same name in Paris which has hosted the Olmpics, the FIFA World Cup and numerous French internationals and cup finals, was built in 2007 to capitalise on the surge of interest in rugby after the city hosted that year's Rugby World Cup.  Its stunningly unique architecture marks it out as one of Europe's premier grounds and certainly is one every fan should try and visit.  

The four stands are named after world famous Rugby stadiums: Eden Park, Ellis Park, Murrayfield and Twickenham.  As with most French grounds they allow some standing around the pitch on the pessage, some people translate this as terrace but that would be a gross insult to a proper terrace as they usually have no steps and no banking at all.  

Montpellier are now funded by scaffolding and cement magnate Mourad Altrad, a Bedouin born in Syria, and have been splashing his considerable cash this summer.  Star arrivals are Perpignan and France prop Nicolas Mas, former Tiger Big Jim Hamilton and Tongan-Australian lock Sitaleki Timani.  Also arriving are Perpignan's colossal Cameroonian lock Robins Tchale-Watchou, Springbok centre Wynard Oliver and Anthony Floch from Clermont.

They join a squad already sprinkled with stardust.  Francois Trinh-Duc, Fulgence Ouedraogo and Julien Tomas are all French internationals raised in the city and products of the clubs youth system.  Fijian winger Timoci Nagusa not unlike our own Vereniki Goneva is fleet footed and strong in contact, possessing perhaps a touch more magic.  Of course we all know the skills of Lucas Amorosino.  Up front their talisman is surely gigantic Georgian Mamuka Gorgodze; his sheer physical presence is epitomised by his nickname "Gorgodzilla".  Capable of playing anywhere in the back five of the scrum Gorgodze has helped put Georgian rugby on the map.

Benetton Treviso 

Ground:Stadio Comunale di Monigo (6,700)
Star Man: Alessandro Zanni 

Founded in 1932 as Associazione Sportiva Rugby Treviso it took them 20 years to finally reach Serie A, the Italian top flight, in 1952 but success was quickly to follow as they won their first championship in 1956 now knwon as Rugby Treviso.  Relegated for the only time ten years later they bounced back at the second attempt and have been a fixture of Italian rugby ever since.  Their second championship came in 1978, losing only 2 of 26 league games, and this prompted the Benetton group to become involved in the club and a second name change to Benetton Treviso as they have been known ever since.  Their original colours of White and Blue were changed to the now familiar green and white of the Benetton group. 

Benetton's financial muscle helped Treviso in what were surely the glory days of Italian rugby as they signed worldwide stars such as All Blacks John Kirwin and Craig Green and Australian Michael Lynagh whilst other Italian teams signed players like Naas Botha, Danial Gerber and David Campese.  Treviso won the title in 1983, 1989 and Lynagh inspired them to the 1992 title.  They also fell short in the final on 6 occasions ('88, '90, '91, '93, '95, '96) before winning 10 titles in the next 14 years.

The Stadio Cumunale di Monigo is a two sided stadium built in 1970.  One side is covered with a central section of reserved seats and an inside bar whilst the other is uncovered and entirely unreserved.  Given the rain in northern Italy it is no surprise most fans are willing to pay the extra few euros for the cover.  

This summer has seen Treviso lose talented centre Tammaso Benvenuti to Perpignan and experienced fly half Kris Burton to Newport.  However the squad is still large and talented with the backrow a particualr strength.  Toronto born Italian international Bob Barberi, Alessandro Zanni, Manoa Vosawi, Paul Derbyshire (Italian born and raised despite the name), Simone Favaro, Francesco Minto and Dean Budd are an enviable lot to have as your flanking corps.  

Scrum half is also a notable strength with all three current Italian national team options of Botes, Gori and Semanzato in the squad.  Gori is the youngest and potentially the best, he plays in the breaking style of Ben Youngs and seems to be the preference of the national side whilst Botes is often chosen for Treviso.  Botes is fairly versatile and has played fly half and wing.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Logo-a-go-go fo Samoa

Tigers loosehead Logovi'i Mulipola will win his 11th cap when he starts for Samoa as they take on Scotland in Durban this Saturday.  It will be his 5th international start.

Also selected is Tigers legend Alesana Tuilagi who last season moved to Japanese side NTT Shining Arcs.  

The game kicks off at 12:15 and should be available via Sky's red button facility. 

15. James So'oialo
14. Alapati Leiua
13. Paul Williams (captain)
12. John Leota
11. Alesana Tuilagi
10. Tusiata Pisi
9. Jeremy Su'a
8. Taiasina Tuifu'a
7. Jack Lam
6. Ofisa Treviranus
5. Daniel Leo
4. Teofilo Paul
3. Census Johnston
2. Wayne Ole Avei
1. Logovi'i Mulipola

16. Maatulimanu Leiataua
17. Sakaria Taulafo
18. James Johnston
19. Fa'atiga Lemalu
20. Junior Poluleuligaga
21. Brando Va'aulu
22. Seilala Mapusua
23. Alafoti Fa'osiliva

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Heineken Cup Draw Revealed

The 2013/14 Heineken Cup draw has seen Tigers drawn into Pool 5 alongside Belfast based Ulster, Montpellier from France's Mediterranean coast and familiar foes Benetton Treviso from Italy.  

Tigers, Ulster and Montpellier all qualified from their pools last year with all falling at the quarter final stage.  

Full Pool Draw
Tigers have drawn Ulster twice before in 2003/4 and two years ago in 2011/12, wining both home games but crashing to monster defeats in both visits the Ravenhill, losing 41-7 in 2012 and 33-0 in 2004.  Ulster finished top of the RaboDirect Pro 12 but lost in the final to Leinster, with the final controversially played at the RDS in Dublin rather than Belfast.  They won their group last year containing Northampton, Castres and Glasgow; winning at Franklin's Gardens but losing the return fixture the next week.  They lost their Quarter Final to Saracens at Twickenham.

This will be the second season in a row that Tigers have been paired with Treviso, and the third time in the last 6 seasons.  Tigers have played Italian opposition 18 times and won on each occasion, however last December saw them require a 77th minute penalty try to spare their blushes and escape with a 1 point win.  The Trevisians will be after revenge and that will not be a trip for the faint hearted.  Treviso finished 7th in the RaboDirect Pro 12, their highest ever finish.

One new face in the pool will be Montpellier.  Only formed in 1986 Montpellier are definitely the new boys on the Top 14 scene despite earning promotion to the division as far back as 2003.  Domestic finalists in 2011, losing by only 5 points to Toulouse, Montpellier finished 5th in this seasons Top 14 losing to eventual champions Castres in the "Barrage" round, effectively the quarter finals.  This year they tasted Heineken Cup knock out rugby for the first time losing away to Clermont Auverigne after battling through a pool containing eventual champions Toulon as well as Cardiff and Sale. 

Elsewhere French Champions Castres are drawn with RaboDirect Champions Leinster and English runners-up Northampton, with Welsh side Ospreys rounding out pool 1.

In pool 4 Clermont Auverigne are drawn with Harlequins, the only pool other than out own to feature multiple quarter finalists from this year's competition.