Posts Tagged ‘Grand Slam’

We have the Webb Ellis WRU Grand Slam Replica Rugby Ball available at Roksport. Featuring the scores from the games in which Wales triumphed and led them to collect the grand slam. Also features the three feathers.

Webb Ellis WRU Grand Slam Replica Rugby Ball Size 5

Webb Ellis WRU Grand Slam Replica Rugby Ball Size 5

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There have been times in Justin Tipuric’s career when the young Osprey might have felt as if he was playing in others’ shadows.

As an emerging openside flanker at the Ospreys he had to compete for a starting place with current head coach Steve Tandy and the mighty All Black Marty Holah.

The barriers to the region’s first team were significant, but Tipuric has overcome them to establish himself as one of the Ospreys’ leading players.

Then there has been Wales, where the opportunities to gather caps have been hindered by the progress of another stellar openside, the nation’s captain Sam Warburton.

It may seem like Tipuric has simply been unlucky to have been born to play in a generation cluttered with world-class flankers.

But the 22-year-old has already shown in his burgeoning career so far that he is not content with a mere supporting role.

His regional calibre is proven and, although he only has four caps to his name, he has already made a considerable impression on the international stage.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland is an admirer and, with Warburton’s combative style making him injury- prone, the New Zealander reckons Tipuric is destined for a long and distinguished Test career.

Tipuric has now returned to the Ospreys after his involvement in this year’s Grand Slam triumph, and tonight’s game at Leinster will be his first start for the region since January.

His inclusion will be a major fillip for the third-placed Ospreys as they look to close the gap between themselves and RaboDirect Pro12 leaders Leinster.

And with a summer tour to Australia next on the agenda for Wales, Tipuric is hoping his regional performances can boost his international credentials.

“Things are going well and I’m just hoping to keep improving,” he said.

“I’m still quite young and I’ve really enjoyed being a part of the Wales squad.

“I’ve enjoyed being with the boys — training is good and the atmosphere every day is great.

“I’m taking it step by step. There’s a lot of good sevens out there and anything can happen. It’s all on your form.

“I’ve just got to keep playing well and anything can happen.”

A dynamic openside flanker, Tipuric has enjoyed a stellar rise with the Ospreys since making his debut against Northampton in 2009.

Destructive at the ruck and quick to support his team-mates in attack, he is a nuisance for opponents — an archetypal back-rower.

His rapid progress saw him handed the Ospreys captaincy at just 21 years of age, and his first match in charge was coincidentally at Leinster’s RDS last January.

Tipuric marked the occasion with a try, and he went on to lead the former Celtic champions at the beginning of this season when permanent skipper Alun Wyn Jones was on World Cup duty.

But excelling in Jones’s absence was bittersweet for Tipuric.

Although the accolades continued to flow freely in the flanker’s direction, the Ospreys’ march to the top of the RaboDirect Pro12 table was in some ways a form of softening the blow of missing out on a place in Wales’s World Cup squad.

Tipuric had made his international debut as a replacement against Argentina last August, but he failed to make the final cut.

It was a bitter disappointment for the Trebanos youngster, though he was philosophical about the setback.

“It was gutting at the time but you’re always learning as a player and you always learn from your disappointments,” said Tipuric.

“It’s part of rugby — you have ups and downs all the time.

“Sometimes it’s just not meant to be.

“That’s the way I am and I just get on with my job.”

Having purged himself of the frustration of missing out on the trip to New Zealand, this year’s Six Nations proved to be a breakthrough campaign for Tipuric in terms of his international career.

Replacing an injured Warburton at half-time against Ireland, Tipuric caught the eye with an industrious display in the opening win in Dublin.

Just as an opening appeared to have presented itself, though, an ankle injury denied the 22-year-old a chance to deputise for Warburton against Scotland.

Tipuric’s patience eventually paid dividends, and he made his first start for Wales in impressive fashion against Italy.

Despite another excellent showing at the Millennium Stadium, Tipuric was left out of the squad for the Grand Slam-clinching victory over France following Warburton’s return from injury.

It was at times a frustrating first Six Nations for Tipuric, but the former Aberavon man at least had a winners’ medal to show for his considerable efforts.

A third Grand Slam in eight seasons gave the Wales players ample reason to celebrate last Saturday, but Tipuric still had one eye on his next assignment.

“There were one or two sore heads when we got back to training, but we’re all just looking forward to tonight’s game,” he said.

“We tried to keep our heads last weekend. We had a good time and then we were back in training on Tuesday, so we had to keep our heads and make sure we were concentrating on this weekend’s game. It’s your job, so you love it when you see the crowd and the fans but you have to concentrate on the next job. That for me is Leinster away.”

After only sporadic action with Wales in recent weeks, Tipuric will be relishing the chance to play a full part in tonight’s game at the RDS.

“I haven’t played much so it will be good to be back with the team and to put that Ospreys jersey back on,” he added.

“We’re concentrating on getting the win in Leinster, which we know won’t be easy.

“They haven’t lost many games at home and they’re on a good run, but hopefully we can put in a good performance and get the win.

“Brad Thorn is a good signing for them, so it’s up to us to try to outplay him. He is a massive man and it will be a good challenge against him.

“There’s good competition for places with the Ospreys. Whichever team you’re in, competition always makes you a better player.

“I just want to get out there and start playing.”

Dont forget you can get you’re Osprey jerseys now on sale at Roksport

HOW tough would it be for the cast of Raiders of the Lost Ark to find themselves in an episode of Coronation Street six days later?

Last Saturday the Ospreys’ Wales internationals were involved in the tumultuous experience of winning a Grand Slam. Crash, bang, wallop — soaring highs, frayed nerves, a spot of sporting tightrope walking, a few gasps, the odd tear, all ending with smiles and silverware being safely secured.

This week comes a rapid descent back to reality.

From the Slam to the RaboDirect Pro12, champagne to bread and butter.

However you look at it, there is some adapting to do.

Most of the players were up at Llandarcy on Tuesday, being checked over in readiness for the away game against Leinster this evening.

That said, it is misleading to suggest there is anything humdrum about the clash at the RDS. The Ospreys cannot even begin to view it like that.

Leinster are league leaders, the Ospreys are third, and for the Welsh region, in particular, there is plenty on the game, just as there will be plenty on every match between now and the end of the season.

They are third in the table but far from certain of finishing in the top four and securing a place in the play-offs. There are not enough points in the bank for the former Celtic champions to be untroubled about dropping even one more game.

Two defeats in a row have left the Ospreys looking over the shoulders.

A third setback would probably leave them requiring a perfect finish to the campaign from their remaining games: four wins out of four.

No pressure, then.

There is also the unfortunate reality that Leinster are the form side in European rugby. They haven’t just beaten some good sides in Dublin this term; they have smashed them.

Bath in the Heineken Cup were destroyed 52-27.

The Blues in the league were taken apart 52-9.

Ulster were crushed 42-13 on Boxing Day.

At full strength the Dubliners have morphed into a formidable side, one who are feared throughout Europe.

That is the scale of the challenge facing Steve Tandy tonight.

Forget what has happened up until now — this is where it starts for Tandy, the region’s newly appointed head coach. He has his best players back and with that fillip comes the responsibility of coaxing performances out of them.

Until now it has been difficult for anyone to form worthwhile impressions of his regime. Will it bring about a change of style? Might there be a different emphasis in selection? How will Tandy attempt to put his stamp on proceedings? How will he galvanise his collection of Grand Slam winners? Can he oversee a strong performance during a difficult period of cutbacks?

Players are human and can’t be expected to produce Grand Slam level of performances every week. But they will know, too, how badly their region need them to turn up in Dublin.

The vibe this week has been encouraging, with flanker Justin Tipuric adamant the Ospreys would arrive at the RDS with their business heads on. “You don’t pick and choose when you want to be competitive,” said Tipuric.

“We have five matches left to secure a place in the semi-finals and that’s what’s driving everyone on.”

Tipuric is one of the Slam brigade answering the Ospreys’ call in Dublin, along with Alun Wyn Jones, Ryan Jones, Paul James and Ashley Beck. All feature in the starting line-up, while Ian Evans, Adam Jones, Ryan Bevington, and Rhys Webb are on the bench.

Leinster are missing players, with Rob Kearney, Gordon D’Arcy, Jonathan Sexton, Eoin Reddan, Cian Healy, Mike Ross, Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip absent after their exertions in the Six Nations.

But the European champions underline their strength in depth by naming a side that includes the returning Brian O’Driscoll and Leo Cullen, plus the debut-making Brad Thorn. Isa Nacewa is at full-back, Luke Fitzgerald on the left wing and Richard Strauss at hooker. Just to add to the challenge facing the visitors, 17,300 tickets had been sold as of yesterday morning.

Tandy is under no illusions. “It’s a huge occasion for us,” he said. “Leinster are top of the table for a reason and they play some real good football. We’ll have to be at our best.

“But I don’t see it as daunting for our players. There will be a few young boys in our side but they will only be excited to be going up against world-class players.

“It’s been great to have the Grand Slam boys back. There were probably a few sore heads when they returned on Tuesday but they covered it up pretty well.

“The focus is on Leinster. Having 11 back from the Wales squad is a real positive. They have to push now for two important games, against Leinster this evening and then Treviso at home next week.

“After Treviso, the boys have seven or eight days off to see their families and get away from it all because we understand what an effect physically and mentally a Six Nations campaign can have.”

A key job for Tandy will be to knit the experience he has at forward with the youth at his disposal behind, with the Ospreys carrying four backs who are 22 or under this evening. Some might say the region have an unbalanced look, having parted company with so many quality backs.

But money is tight and players are going to have to take responsibility. “We need the Becks, the Bishops and the Biggars of this world to stand tall,” said chief operations officer Andrew Hore. “We need to go with these people.”

Leinster are looking to extend a 20-game unbeaten run, a sequence that stretches back to September 17 last year.

Rugby statisticians are still searching for evidence of a better chain of results by a top-flight side in the professional era.

But travelling to the Irish capital should not hold any fears for the Ospreys, given that they have won two of their last three visits there.

Even without key players, the Irish province will expect to account for Tandy’s team.

But the opportunity is there for the Ospreys to make a statement.

An against-the-odds success, powered by the ball-carrying of the likes of George Stowers and Richard Hibbard, would show that the league was not done and dusted — and remind Leinster that if the Ospreys have to return to Dublin for the grand final in May the result wouldn’t be a foregone conclusion.

As any good detective will tell you, it’s often the detail that matters, whether it’s a fingerprint on a door handle or a footprint in a garden.

Sometimes, it is the easiest thing in the world to follow false trails.

And the same thing applies in rugby. One mans’s zero can be another’s hero. People see different things and viewpoints are invariably subjective.

Take last Saturday. Dan Lydiate was feted as man of the match by the whole world and his wife plus their pet hamster, yet Mark Ring popped up on the radio in the week to state the case for Gethin Jenkins as Wales’s best player.

“He was out of this world,” said Ring. “I don’t think I have ever seen a display like that from a prop.”

Those who had failed to recognise the greatness of Jenkins’s performance above all others on the day must be myopic to the point of being blind, according to Ring.

But there will never be unanimity. Jenkins ran himself into the ground, thundering around the ground like a tank, levelling opponents with his tackling, achieving a key turnover, holding his own in the scrums, putting in seven passes — as many as Leigh Halfpenny (2), Alex Cuthbert (2), Jonathan Davies (1), Jamie Roberts (1) and George North (1) managed together — and even propelling the ball out of defence with his boot on one occasion.

There has never been a prop like him.

But Lydiate was hardly undeserving of plaudits, given that he featured in the game’s lone try, did his share of carrying and more than anyone embodied the stubborn refusal of the Welsh defensive line to crack. Had the blindside been on the battlefield his trophy cabinet at home would now contain a VC rather than a Six Nations player-of-the-tournament bauble.

But is there more to be gleaned from the championship by crunching more numbers? Only if the usual caution is applied when weighing up statistics and their worth.

One of the things the figures point to is the remarkable effort of Toby Faletau. The No. 8 put in more carries than anyone (58) and also finished top of the tackle count, with 52 hits, missing just one. Truly, the old line can be applied here: “Others have off days, Faletau has the odd day off.”

The 21-year-old’s figures stand up to scrutiny as well. His 58 charges yielded 156 metres. In terms of hard yards, no other Welsh forward got near him. He didn’t just carry, he made ground — there is a difference.

Lydiate’s defence was also every bit as good as most people felt.

He made 43 tackles from four games, averaging 10.75 hits a game, against Faletau’s 10.4 per match. And Lydiate’s tackling was destructive. Opponents weren’t just stopped, they were driven backwards. Last weekend, the flanker didn’t seem content just to tackle people. He seemed intent on making scrap metal of them.

A word, too, on Ryan Jones. He started the championship with 28 tackles and 17 carries in the first two games. Thereafter, he had to do his work off the bench. It is fair to say had he begun every game his stats would gone off the graph.

Ian Evans’s form is also confirmed, the 6ft 8in lock carrying 45 times, more than anyone else bar Faletau and Mike Phillips. There were also 39 tackles plus 21 line-out takes from Evans as he hit career-best form.

Clean breaks? George North managed three and Leigh Halfpenny five, both behind Alex Cuthbert, Wales’s find of the tournament. North did blast his way past 15 defenders, though, including the six who were left clutching thin air in the Ireland game.

Ultimately, the simple things mattered. Wales made fewer errors than anyone and over 500 tackles. They conceded fewest tries and scored more than anyone.

It was a superb collective effort.

The stats reveal much, rather than all. They don’t tell you about Adam Jones’s power scrummaging, nor about Leigh Halfpenny dashing 60 metres to put in an insanely brave last-gasp hit on Dave Strettle at Twickenham. They bracket Sam Warburton’s tackle on Manu Tuilagi alongside a routine stop on the side of a ruck.

Suffice to say, Wales had everyone else’s number.

Grand Slam Winning Wales!

Posted: March 17, 2012 in Wales
Tags: , , ,

Congratulations to Wales on the Grand Slam!