Exclusive Offer! Free Tickets to Italy v Wales in Rome!


We have an exclusive offer not to be missed!

For every two cases (12 bottles) you purchase from the Collalbrigo Estate collection you will receive a complimentary ticket to the Six Nations clash between Italy and Ireland in Rome on Sunday 24th February.

Collalbrigo Estate, owned by the Cosulich family, have been sponsors of the Italian Rugby team for over 20 years, with Augusto having played for Italy under 20’s. The family also produces natural wines from the Island of Susak, Croatia and these are also included in the offer.

We have 10 tickets to give away, with members having priority – for any non-members now is the perfect time to join!

This offer will stand until Thursday 21stFebruary or until the tickets run out.

Get in touch with Alex to place your order and claim your prize!

 

DESTINATION RUGBY RULES


Rugby
It used to be that once the Six Nations was over, sell out rugby grounds were at a huge premium and confined to major finals. No longer, as has been proven since England were squeezed out of a Double Grand Slam by a highly disciplined Irish team. Consider the following…
 
First, Dublin played host to a tumultuous European Champions Cup Quarter-Final which saw Leinster triumph over the leading English Club, Wasps, and with an atmosphere which was way more intense. This coming weekend it’s Munster’s turn to try and make it three in a row for Irish teams and over 50,000 tickets are sold. This will not be for the fainthearted and this time it is the defending European Champions, Saracens, whom Stephen Jones called possibly the best team in the world right now at any level. Hard to disagree when they blew away three quarters of the Scottish team in Glasgow Warriors, scoring 40 points that could have been 60. I heard Ian Robertson call them relentless in squeezing the life out of teams. It is much more than that, their game out wide is without match on any rugby field in the world right now. But can they step into the face of Irish passion against a  Munster who are playing well above themselves in this special season? No Conor Murray but that didn’t bother Ireland.
Over in Lyon, Clermont and Leinster are the two most attractive teams to watch in the competition. More than 35,000 fans will be rammed into the Matmut stadium for their Champions Cup Semi-Final and on paper this ought to be one of the best matches ever in the Cup; two international teams going head to head and quality everywhere you look.
 
Let’s look back at the weekend of April 8th, which broke all records in the Premiership; 130,000 fans attending two games in London alone. At Twickenham, Bath found enough to win in a season which feels increasingly precarious. Banahan produced one of the passes of the year to put Watson in for the winning try and Faletau showed why he will be a Lions starter with startling pace and sleight of hand. It is what Billy Vunipola is still working on but here is a man who is now developing wonderful attitude. He was warned by a Premiership referee to calm down as he dragged Saracens out of a hole against Northampton Saints last weekend to achieve an unlikely win. That is the class which Eddie Jones is looking for.
 
The Pro 12 joined in the party with 60,000 at The Principality to watch the four Welsh regions battle it out in ‘Judgement Day’. Unfortunately not much form was forthcoming in any of the matches, and I am confused to hear how many Welsh names are Lions contenders right now. 
 
Finally, we in Europe announced Bilbao and Newcastle for our next two Finals days. This stretches the boundaries and takes rugby to places where the support is there but the experience is new and fresh. Not without risk of course, even allowing for Barcelona hosting last year’s Top 14 Final to 94,000. St James’ Park was an outstanding venue for the Rugby World Cup 2015 – some say the best – and with the Falcons at long last showing signs of a sustained revival the timing could be perfect.
 
The message is clear – the demand is there, you just have to be creative and bold and the crowds will come. These are heady days for rugby watchers, and it just shows you how many people would watch Six Nations in the flesh if they could get access – although eye-watering prices are hardly conducive.
 
As thoughts turn to the British and Irish Lions announcement on Wednesday, I wonder how many more people would be crammed into the stadia in New Zealand if only they had the facilities and the space. However , it doesn’t really matter what the capacity is because if you are talking destination rugby, then look no further than the current World Champions, and home of many of the best players on the planet. Please note Jonny Sexton and Owen Farrell and the Lions in general: Beauden Barritt is simply the best player in the world today as he once again proved over the weekend. Stop him, and the task is well under way.

European Clubs Go International As Saracens Set The Standard


No sooner did the Six Nations pass into recent history than the European Champions and Challenge Cup quarter finals burst onto the scene. I watched two games in Dublin in quick succession and it was fascinating to compare. No doubt that the stakes were high as England made their tilt for a Double Grand Slam and with Ireland apparently creaking after a disjointed performance lacking creativity in Cardiff. They also lacked their talismanic Murray and Heaslip, so surely England were not to be denied after an imperious performance against a Scotland who believed the record books from the start – i.e. no victory at HQ since 1983. Instead they had the life squeezed out of them reasonably easily and never looked like winning. The lack of intensity at the ground was almost a cunning plan hatched by the whole Irish crowd as well as the players and with minimum fuss England were marginalised and had to celebrate the 6 Nations title with a rueful smile on what may have been.
Cue the European Champions Cup Quarterfinals  featuring Leinster and Wasps, full of top Internationals. The Aviva Stadium roared in anticipation and the intensity was clear from the off. Some stunning tries and consummate skill on display, with a comprehensive win for the Irishmen. I was left with a strange feeling of wondering which was the International match – all it really meant is that the when the conditions are right European club rugby is peerless in what it offers. By contrast, despite a much more entertaining Six Nations this year with many tries out of the top drawer, the results became the story in particular for England and most farcically in Paris as somehow France extended themselves for a full hundred minutes to squeeze controversially past Wales.
So, not only these two matches to savour, but after Munster predictably dismantled an ageing Toulouse the European semifinal will be again at the Aviva between Munster and Saracens – almost too good to be true. Talking of whom, you had to be present at Allianz Park to realise just how impressive were the marauding Saracens. Even the best All Black performance would have stood scrutiny to this. On arrival however , all you could hear or see were bagpipes and the sky blue of the Glasgow Warriors.It was impressive and unique given this travelling support exceeded recent home crowds of the Warriors. I loved their supporters chant but it left Sarries unfazed. They ripped Glasgow to pieces with irresistible  rugby and with no little skill. Four possible tries other than the ones they scored in the first half, all corner flag affairs. This was no squeeze but a demolition job. Glasgow looked shocked and so were we. They will come again for sure , and they stayed strong as you would expect with so many Internationals in the squad. However, Farrell’s supreme performance eclipsed even Sexton in Dublin and Wrigglesworth confounded previous opinion about his limitations. It is tempting to say that they cannot be bettered on this form, but they will be the third English side in recent weeks to travel optimistically to the Irish Capital.They are the defending Champions and by no means squeaking through their big games, so the momentum is with them if they can cope with Irish passion and a Munster who are playing with their hearts on their sleeve.
Lastly, I risk ignoring the French at my peril. The National Side may be flattering to deceive at present, but La Rochelle is the real deal. The seaside town on the Atlantic coats is the runaway leader gf the Top 14 and now contesting the Challenge Cup semifinals against Gloucester . I saw them dismantle Toulon on their home patch and while that is no longer such a feat it was still mighty impressive in their pace and ball handling, uniquely in France with the exception of the giants of Europe, Clermont Auvergne. The Yellow and Blues will fancy themselves against Leinster in Lyon near their heartland and so guaranteed a massive home support. The shock away win by Stade Francais against the Ospreys means that they will face down a legion of Bath Internationals on their home patch- this is an achievement in itself given that they were nearly a non-club last week. Watch out for more corporate club action as many struggle financially.
For now, let us celebrate a quarterfinals to remember and the best semifinals in prospect for many years.
H