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…but then sense an opportunity out wide, and fires a pass across to his Argentinean teammate:Stealing across, he can remain in the attack and collects a return flick pass……to threaten again.The likes of Matt Toomua, Quade Cooper, Foley and Beale mean midfield playmakers are rife in Australia. On the stroke of half-time, Giteau showed his ability to conduct phase-play has arguably matured with age.Fizzing on the gain-line, he throws a flat pass to Steffon Armitage:One phase later, off the back of a Mitchell carry, Mathieu Bastareaud scores:Giteau’s quick thinking and soft hands are instrumental. As Wesley Fofana sprints out of the line, the 32 year-old cooly picks off the dog-leg:The clinical transfer can be best appreciated from the reverse angle. Sebastien Tillous-Borde‘s service is transferred very nicely:Giteau look primed to round off his afternoon with a try just after the break, until he aimed an errant offload:A couple of isolated, uncharacteristic blemishes did not detract from a pivotal role in Toulon’s glorious, historic win. Cheika will certainly have noted Giteau’s influence, and well as that of his countryman out wide.Drew MitchellFor all his humorous and mighty popular social media use, Mitchell is not some kind of flashy, flaky rugby celebrity. His approach to the game is one of hard-edged honesty, of industry and commitment.This weekend, he was a talisman for Toulon. In three explosive involvements, the wing inspired his side. A first-half kick-return represented the first:A panicky clearance from Noa Nakaitaci is fielded and brought back with interest. Some neat footwork unbalances Fritz Lee and the burly No 8 gets his head in an awkward position.The reverse angle offers an insight into the venom in Mitchell’s run:Clearly, Toulon were able to stay on the front foot from this position after Lee had been bumped off.On the hour mark, Mitchell intervened when Clermont had won a scrum against the head:Above all, this is a fine piece of decision-making. As Clermont spread the ball wide and Camille Lopez loops a pass to Jonathan Davies, Mitchell rushes in to sabotage the attack.Here, we can see how far he has to travel and how, with Aurelien Rougerie lurking, there is an element of risk:But the timing is flawless, the technique close to perfect. Mitchell folds Davies by driving his shoulder into the Welshman’s midriff and pumping the legs:Not content with the tackle alone, Mitchell bounces to his feet to make a nuisance of himself at the ensuing ruck as well:A Nick Abendanon solo try reduced Clermont’s deficit to just 19-18 minutes later. Then came the crescendo:There is a lot to take in, so treat yourself to another look:Toulon’s driving lays the foundations, sucking in Clermont’s forwards before Tillous-Borde snipes, drawing replacement hooker John Ulugia. Bastareaud acts as a decoy in midfield, holding Julien Bardy just long enough for Mitchell to take the gap:Neither Ludovic Radosavljevic nor Thomas Domingo can stop the break. In the clear, Mitchell drifts towards the touchline before bursting off his right foot to bypass Rougerie:Lopez grasps at thin air and Abendanon is beaten by a left foot step:All in all, Mitchell left six defenders in his wake. His balance, in plain view below, was superb:Mitchell has stiff competition for an Australia berth, as do Pocock and Giteau. It is also two and a half years since any of these men pulled on Wallaby gold. The Rugby World Cup narrative has already taken so many intriguing twists and turns that December 3, 2012 – when each nation discovered their group-stage opponents – feels like a prehistoric date.Of course, England and Wales were slapped with a stunningly tough draw that afternoon. They would face one another, as well as Australia. Subsequent qualifying competitions have added Fiji and Uruguay to an excruciatingly difficult Pool A.At the time, the reaction from fans and everyone more closely associated with each team was almost universally one of disbelief. Two and a half years later, some of the incredulity is yet to lift. But reality checks are coming on a weekly basis.Every Super 15 game the nuclear Nemani Nadolo carves up for the Cruaders, we are reminded how slippery a banana skin Fiji will be. Rapid, hulking, dexterous Pacific Islanders do not tend to die wondering.A week ago, the Australian Rugby Union’s decision to relax their eligibility rules to consider foreign-based players with over 60 caps nudged the goalposts closer towards the Antipodes.Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell promptly underlined their credentials by guiding Toulon to a 24-18 victory over Clermont and their third consecutive European title at Twickenham.Meanwhile, another candidate for a Wallaby jersey appears hellbent on making the trip. Two knee constructions in 12 months looked to have derailed David Pocock’s career. However, the outstanding openside – still 27 – is starring for the Brumbies and back to somewhere near his wonderful best.Between them, this trio boast 201 Test caps, 63 international tries and vital experience of World Cup knockout matches. Even more important that pedigree though, is form. And none of them are lacking in that department.Here is a run-down of their recent efforts.David PocockFriday evening in Canberra saw a high-octane head-to-head as Pocock took on incumbent Australia skipper and Waratahs number seven Michael Hooper. Two excellent, all-action performers produced a compelling individual tussle.Though Michael Cheika‘s reigning champions triumphed 13-10, Pocock was rock-solid at the breakdown and extremely strong on the gain-line. Hooper had flashes of brilliance too, scavenging well and smashing runners.Cheika will surely devote a decent chunk of the coming months to working out a way to accommodate both men in the same back row. A lineout jumper at No 8 is a must in that case. Such selection quandaries are another story. For now, Pocock’s display deserves praise.This copybook ruck turnover in the first half was a fantastic way to begin:Tracking Pocock is fascinating. He starts in the bodyguard position and, because his primary responsibility is to patrol the fringes, he is behind the defensive line as Kurtley Beale receives a pass from scrum-half Nick Phipps:Beale jinks and darts himself, looking to squeeze between Scott Fardy and Ita Vaea, who cuts down the mercurial Waratah with a low tackle. Pocock swerves stealthily behind the contact area:Steaming in on a support line, Wycliff Palu identifies the pilfering threat of Fardy and takes out the Brumbies blindside as Pocock latches onto the ball:Adopting the ‘jackal’ position, Pocock braces and is strong enough to survive the joint clear-out of Will Skelton and Dave Dennis – around 260 kilograms of second-row weight:Referee Glen Jackson is on the spot, and does not hesitate in awarding a penalty to the Brumbies for holding on as Pocock rolls back with the ball:Later in the half, Pocock almost pulled off a similar heist as Hooper stormed into midfield from set-piece:This sequence epitomises Pocock at his peak. It starts with a full-stretch scrag……before he swings back around onto his feet to compete for the ball:Sekope Kepu and Palu pile into the contact area and Jackson calls a scrum as the ball becomes unavailable. But Pocock was so close, as the reverse angle shows:Following some serious graft in the gym, Pocock has returned a stockier figure and weighs over 110 kilograms. He is putting this ballast to use in attack as well. There have been 64 carries in his last four starts.Although this one ended in a turnover – ironically as Hooper shunted into a counter-ruck – it demonstrated dynamism and penetration from a flat-footed start:Later on, with the Brumbies behind and desperate to rescue a result, Pocock found himself in a wide channel. He responded calmly and skilfully, and Joe Tomane nearly grabbed a second try:Picking up a wayward pass, Pocock backs his pace, arcs outside Skelton……before drawing in Bernard Foley and releasing the pass:This footballing ability is another big tick. In a side full of irresistible strike-runners, Australia need a few link men. And a pretty special one was in action on Saturday.Matt GiteauThe European Champions Cup decider, an all-Top 14 affair, was unsurprisingly saturated with huge collisions. That said, there was room for the odd moment of guile. Giteau sounded an early warning with this slicing break:So often the instigator of Toulon’s sweeping attack, he then linked up with Juan Martin Hernandez:Giteau was shifted to fly-half from his preferred inside centre position for the final. Here though, he is at second receiver after being played in by Leigh Halfpenny.This gives him more scope to assess the situation. Initially, Giteau shapes to kick… LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Three of a kind: Giteau, Pocock and Mitchell are making a push for more Australia caps Pool A at the Rugby World Cup was already deadly enough. Now Matt Giteau, David Pocock and Drew Mitchell look eager to get involved with Australia. At least one will be at the World Cup, though. All three will push hard. Perhaps it is clearer to put is this way: Pool A would be all the more deadly for their inclusion.Slowly, all of England and Wales are realising as much.
The 34-year-old Manchester United defender could have answered England manager Roy Hodgson’s call but instead chose to extend his playing career. Ferdinand told the Sunday Sun: “Basically, I could play for another three or four years – or play two or three games for England and be finished in a year. It wasn’t a contest. I couldn’t sacrifice my fitness for the sake of a few more England caps. It would not have been fair on United, it would have been a disservice to the club and to England.” Ferdinand also revealed he considered quitting the game when Sir Alex Ferguson announced his retirement. He said: “Sir Alex leaving did make me think: Is it time for me to go too?” Ferdinand also revealed just how much his chronic back injury affected him. “Two or three years ago people were saying I was finished and I remember those dark days,” he added. “I was in a depressive state, I will admit that. “They weren’t easy times and I couldn’t play to the highest standard. You think negative thoughts. I had 18 months of being injured on and off.” Rio Ferdinand has revealed he put career before country when he decided not to play for England again. Press Association
Wong and fellow alumna Erika Chang-Sing realized they had many friends at USC who were also passionate about skating, so the duo started the club to encourage their peers to keep up with skating in a fun, low-stakes environment. “To me, [the message] was ‘USC is here, and we’re strong, and we’re not going to go anywhere anytime soon,’” said Nicole Wong, a USC alumna who co-founded the club in 2016 and served as club president for the 2018-19 school year. “You’re teaching them how to be a part of a community, you’re teaching each other how to be friends and just everything about the culture of the sport is what you’re learning in addition to the technique,” she said. “For me, stopping competing was really hard, and I didn’t want to quit skating cold turkey,” Perez said. “This just seemed like a really low-pressure way to keep the sport in my life.” Cai admitted to falling time and time again as she learned to skate, leading her to pick up a new injury seemingly every day. It’s been important for the club to keep the energy light despite any mistakes on the ice, as it takes a lot of resiliency to become a skilled skater. It was a pivotal moment for the club — it had finally established itself as the legitimate figure skating presence that it has been ever since. Wong said the club’s first L.A. Live show in 2018 was the moment she realized she had achieved her goal of bringing together a diverse and supportive group with a passion for skating. Wong, who has been skating since she was 4 years old, agreed that skating isn’t always pretty. With skating’s status as a niche sport comes numerous other stereotypes as to what it means to be a skater. While the long hours, early mornings and tough falls that skaters endure tend to be viewed as overly intense by outsiders, USCFSC works to counterbalance the individual pressures of the sport by creating a collaborative, enjoyable environment. The club aims to make members feel as though they are on the same team even though they often compete against each other in competitions. “I just remember the whole team coming together and having this massive hug in the middle of the ice when it was over,” Wong said. “Seeing people who were there to support the skaters was so heartwarming because it was the moment when I felt like we had support within our own team and we had support from others.” Unlike some student organizations at USC, USCFSC welcomes undergraduate and graduate students, allowing for members to get to know people they might not otherwise meet. The club has a booth each semester at the Involvement Fair, where interested students can sign up to skate. Cai tuned into the 2018 Winter Olympics and was fascinated by the figure skating events, so when she decided to pick up a sport in her free time, she knew she wanted that sport to be skating. The aspiring skater spent five hours a day at her local rink, learning basic techniques before attempting spins and jumps. “My first competition in San Diego, I was doing two elements in a team event and I kind of screwed up one of them, but my teammates were super supportive,” Cai said. “They were still cheering when I messed up and made me feel super safe and loved … It felt like I [was] with family which is really comforting for me.” “I joined the club because I thought I might be able to learn from the other people in the club who have been skating for a much longer time,” she said. “[I like] having people to skate with … and just being able to wear my skating apparel everywhere and be like, ‘My fun fact is I figure skate.’” At first, Wong, Chang-Sing and their friends were the only four skaters at the Pasadena Ice Skating Center each week. Since its inaugural semester, USCFSC has grown to 27 members and has attracted experienced and beginner skaters alike to join its ranks. “I wanted to keep it up and have a way to stay active during grad school doing things that I enjoy,” Dennler said. “It’s also really nice being on a team of people, too, to keep me motivated.” “I feel like figure skating is especially one of those things that people look at and they see the dresses and the makeup and the glamor that people associate with figure skating,” Wong said. “It takes a lot more than looking pretty to accomplish things in this sport and train and practice and build the character that you do as a figure skater.” Although many members have skated previously, some are relatively new to the ice. Hannah Nowak, a senior studying arts, technology and the business of innovation, joined the club this semester to try something new on campus. An Ohio native, Nowak skated as a child but lost the majority of her skills during her long hiatus from the ice. However, she said she still felt at home in the club despite lacking the decade-long experience of some of her peers. Members of the USC Figure Skating Club huddled together on the ice to chant the “SoCal Spell Out” in front of skaters from across the country. It was February 2019 and the club was celebrating a new feat: It had sent a team to compete at every level in the 2019 Ride the Tide event in San Diego. Nathan Dennler, a graduate student studying computer science, brings competitive experience from his high school and undergraduate years to the team. “I have not met a more welcoming group of people to just be like ‘We don’t care that you suck because you’re great and we want to be your friend,’” Nowak said. “I’m a perfectionist, so not being at their level was a really hard concept for me to get over, but the minute I was there, [I realized] these are nice people who are talented.” Even for those who skated every morning in high school, balancing skating with the demands of college can prove difficult. USCFSC president Zoe Perez, a senior studying history, joined the club in her freshman year to continue the sport she had devoted so much time to in a less competitive environment. Even though many members choose to take part in these competitions, the club’s environment is not always so serious. Seasoned skaters carve out time on the ice to help beginners, and the less experienced skaters aren’t afraid to laugh at their mistakes. (James Wolfe | Daily Trojan) Cai decided to continue learning by joining USCFSC during her first semester as a Trojan in 2018. The low-pressure atmosphere of the club also attracts those who followed an unconventional path to competitive skating. Willow Cai, a sophomore majoring in cinema and media studies, had a semester off from high school and taught herself to skate using YouTube videos. “There was this time on the ice where I was trying to record what I was doing and I fell so hard, like I just tripped over myself, and it caused this ripple chain reaction of everyone else behind me,” Nowak said. “They started falling in the middle of their jumps and I caught it all on video and it was hilarious.” Along with their annual showcase, the skaters take part in several competitions each year. In February, the club sent skaters to the Golden Bears Skate in Oakland, Calif., and the Pioneer Open in Denver. Three Trojans medaled at the Golden Bears Skate, while Lillian Zeng, a sophomore majoring in arts, technology and the business of innovation, took silver at the Pioneer Open. “Because it’s college, everyone’s super supportive and it’s not as cutthroat as maybe skating is perceived in the media,” Perez said. “We all hang out together, anyone can come to our competitions and shows, so I think it’s fostered a really good environment.” Wong said some of the club’s most important lessons apply to life off the ice. Members drag themselves out of bed every Wednesday around 4 a.m. to make the 5-6 a.m. time slot at the rink. During this practice, members learn or refine their skills and rehearse programs for upcoming shows and competitions. The community, united by a love for skating, has provided its members a home away from home at USC. Cai, an international student from China, said her skating family has been instrumental in helping her feel at home at USC. The club hosts an annual December showcase at L.A. Live that includes solo and group performances by members across myriad backgrounds and skill sets. Soloists have the opportunity to craft their own routines and select their music. Even if a skater chooses not to perform a solo, they come out on the ice to take a bow as an announcer reads their biography aloud.