JAMIE ROBERTS has warned the British and Irish Lions they will face the hostility of a nation when they travel to Australia for the “ultimate challenge”.
A clash with the Barbarians in Hong Kong opens the tour on June 1 before the 37-man squad heads Down Under for the remaining nine fixtures that will climax in a three-Test series against the Wallabies.
Roberts, one of four centres selected by head coach Warren Gatland, insists the Lions must be prepared for an environment made unsettling by hosts who are desperate to win.
“In a foreign country like Australia it can be quite intimidating. It will be a daunting atmosphere,” the 26-year-old said.
“The sporting prowess of Australia means that whenever it comes to the big occasion they always raise their game.
“Whether it’s union, league, cricket or athletics, they pride themselves enormously on sport.
“They will raise their game against the Lions and the whole country will go berserk. That’s when it becomes intimidating.
“There’s 37 players, plus staff, against a nation. It’s back to the walls stuff from minute one, like it is on every Lions tour. It’s the ultimate challenge in rugby.”
Roberts was voted player of the series in South Africa four years ago in a tour that was notable for the unity within the squad. The 2009 Lions were deemed a success, even if the Springboks did prevail 2-1.
That experience has taught Roberts the value of players from the four unions buying into the Lions ethos immediately, stressing the role socialising can have in bringing rivals from the RBS 6 Nations together.
“A Lions tour is very unique. There are lots of players you’ve played against in your career but never with,” he said.
“The aim of the tour is to get to know those guys, bond and be singing from the same hymn sheet on the pitch as quickly as possible.
“A team-bonding session over a few beers is pretty important in my eyes. In rugby you always like to share a beer with the other guys.
“Picking good people is also important, guys who will contribute and get on well with each other. I went in 2009 and it’s the best tour I’ve ever been on. Hopefully this series will top that.”
Roberts will be competing with Brian O’Driscoll, Jonathan Davies and Manu Tuilagi for a place in the Lions’ Test team when the series opens in Brisbane on June 22.
“Brian is the epitome of the modern centre. His skill set is superb. To go on a fourth Lions tour is special,” Roberts said.
“Jon and Manu have been the form centres in the UK this season. They’re very destructive runners.
“If you get the ball in their hands and in space they can be very dangerous runners. Manu’s quite a specimen and a hard man to stop in his tracks. He’s very strong.
“If we can get him running full tilt into gaps, he’s a pretty special attacking weapon.”
In 2009 Roberts, who has agreed to join Racing Metro for next season, forged a blockbusting partnership with O’Driscoll.
“You get that exposure together, you play a couple of games together and it goes well and all of a sudden you’re in the Test team. It happens very quickly,” he said.
AFTER experiencing two miscarriages a woman has decided to trek the Great Wall of China for a national baby charity.
Alice Mak, 34, from Northampton, is set to make the trip this week from May 13 to 17 for charity Tommy’s which funds research into the causes and prevention of miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth.
Mum of one Alice said: “I was really pretty miserable about myself in January after two miscarriages last year and thought my body had let me down in a lot of ways.
“Therefore, this would be something I could train for, get fit for and prove to myself my body could still do something right. It was something to look forward to this year as well.
“This will be the first time I am away from my two year old so I think a few tears may be shed while I am there.
“But if all I am asked to do is walk a few steps to give someone a hope of a new life, then I think that’s a sacrifice worth paying for.
“I thought Tommy’s would be the ideal charity to raise money for because I had the personal experience of a loss and I knew how it felt for all those other people out there. By raising awareness of what happened to me, maybe other people would be willing to share their stories and miscarriage would seem less of a taboo subject.
“I know a lot of ‘whys’ come about when you lose a baby and there are a lot of unknowns for a grieving parent.
“I am really surprised that if miscarriage and stillbirths are so common, why isn’t more being done about it? Tommy’s is there to bridge some of that gap and is able to help people like me.”
A lot of training is required for such a gruelling trek and Alice’s regime has involved bums, legs and tums classes, circuit training, step aerobics and long walks with her local ramblers association at weekends.
She will be completing the trek by herself but is relishing the challenge.
To sponsor Alice visit www.justgiving.com/AliceMak
Notwithstanding the recent faceoff in eastern Ladakh, Defence Minister A K Antony may travel to China next month to strengthen the bilateral relations on military affairs between the two rising Asian powerhouses.
“The defence minister will be going to China soon. The dates will be announced when we are ready,” said Jaishankar, Indian Ambassador to China, here on Monday after talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and visiting Chinese premier Li Keqiang.
Defence Ministry officials are working on a set of dates in June because Antony’s visit was being planned for quite some time as a follow-up to last August‘s visit by Chinese Defence Minister General Liang Guanglie, who invited his Indian counterpart to come to China. General Liang has now been replaced by Gen Chang Wanquan in the new Chinese regime.
Antony will be the second Indian defence minister after Pranab Mukherjee to travel to Beijing after decades of mistrust between the two neighbours in the wake of India’s 1962 war with China.
In May 2006, then defence minister Pranab Mukherjee had visited China for five days, during which he signed a memorandum of understanding with China on bilateral cooperation in military issues and visited the Lanzhou Military Region, adjacent to Ladakh in India and Pakistan. Mukherjee was also given a detailed briefing on the role and functions of the Lanzhou Military Area Command, which is important from India’s perspective.
Before Mukherjee’s China tour, their defence minister Gen Cao Gangchuan visited India in March 2004.
One of the fallouts of Mukherjee’s visit was a joint exercise between two of the world’s biggest armies. The counter-insurgency exercise involving 80-100 men in uniform from both sides took place in 2007 (in Kunming) and 2008 (in Belgaum), after which it came to a screeching halt when Beijing refused to give visa to the Commander-in-Chief of the Northern Command for an official trip, arguing that Kashmir was a disputed territory.
With both governments agreeing to revive the bilateral exercise, sources told Deccan Herald that the People’s Liberation Army of China and the Indian Army are likely to exercise together in October, possibly in the Chengdu military region. The exact dates and venue, however, are yet to decide.
“Both sides have agreed to hold the next round of joint training exercises later this year, in addition to increased exchanges between the Armies, Navies and Air Forces of the two nations,” says the joint statement, signalling renewed thrust on military engagements.
From enduring to disposable: China is known both for its rich history and culture and its economic rising, fuelled partly by producing consumer products known for being cheap and throwaway.
I spent five weeks in China this spring on a project to retrace parts of Mao Zedong’s Long March. During my trip, I was often struck by the strong contrast between Old World and New World. I wanted to come up with a way, as a photojournalist, to capture that contrast.
In the end, I decided to photograph the Great Wall: a vast, handcrafted and almost indestructible rock wall looking over majestic landscapes. A true symbol of the Old World.
The lens came in the form of a Chinese Holga film camera: a cheap, disposable black plastic box so poorly built that it’s known for its light leaks and vignetting. If you push the shutter too hard it snaps off.
It was, for me, the perfect visual way to show the permanence of the ancient world through an instrument of the modern one.
The Great Wall of China was built centuries ago to keep out the Mongolians (who never did attack), but now it’s stormed every year by swarms of tourists, some who chisel graffiti into the stone and toss their trash to the side. The Holga went into production in the early 1980s as a cheap, mass-market, film camera for working-class Chinese.
My tour along the Great Wall was concentrated on two places: Badaling, which has been heavily reconstructed and is visited by a growing number of tourists every year, and Jinshanling, which is in a mountainous area, has hardly been reconstructed and sees far fewer visitors.
As for the camera itself, it presented a professional challenge because I’m no longer used to film, having used digital cameras for the last 15 years. In the end, though, I was excited by the possibilities – a huge feeling of creativity from what is essentially a simple plastic box.
Legally blind, pianist and composer Kevin Kern, known for his cinematic melodies begins his “Pictures from the Piano” Tour in June. Performances to be held in Washington, Oregon, California and Arizona in advance of his first tour of China in September.
Minneapolis, MN (PRWEB) May 17, 2013
Steinway Artist and composer Kevin Kern will embark on a multi-city concert tour of the West Coast beginning in June. Kern, whose previous performances have drawn enthusiastic fans to sold-out venues will begin his “Pictures from the Piano” tour in Portland, OR at The Recital Hall at Classic Pianos. From there, the tour will continue on to Seattle, Florence (OR), San Diego, Pasadena (CA), Phoenix and Sedona (AZ). Kern will then continue the tour with a first visit to China in September with performances in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen.
A native of Detroit, Kevin Kern began playing the piano at the tender age of eighteen months. Born legally blind, Kern found a glimmer of clarity in the piano and learned to see the world through music. “Growing up with impaired vision allowed me to develop a greater appreciation for the sound of the world around me,” Kern said. “I’ve always enjoyed drawing people into my world by painting musical pictures for them. Those pictures have become an essential part of my creative process, whether composing, recording or performing live. Add to that a world class piano, like the Steinway, and those pictures come to life.”
The influences of lifelong friend and mentor, jazz great George Shearing, and Detroit Symphony Pianist Mischa Kottler helped Kern to develop an early love of improvisation and an appreciation for the beautiful sound a piano could produce. He continued his education at the prestigious New England Conservatory of Music in Boston where he studied with Jaki Byard and fellow Steinway Artist, Fred Hersch.
Six Billboard® charting releases have established Kern as one of the New Age genre’s most successful composers and performers. A growing list of international film and TV credits has also helped him to garner a worldwide following. His music has been featured in programs in the United States as diverse as Oprah, Live with Regis and Kelly, The Late Show with David Letterman and NPR’s “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered”. His international film and television credits include notable contributions to the score of the highly successful Korean dramas “Autumn in my Heart” and “Kuk Hee” as well as popular commercials for Mitsubishi SAVRIN (Taiwan) and Caffe Latte (Korea) among others.
Kevin Kern’s concert tours have taken him throughout the United States, Korea, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan. Recent highlights include touring with “Britain’s Got Talent” winner, Paul Potts and a special performance for the G20 Summit in Seoul in 2010.
US West Coast Tour – June 2013
The Recital Hall at Classic Pianos Wednesday, June 12, 2013 – 7:30pm
Sherman Clay Recital Hall Thursday, June 13, 2013 – 7:00pm
Friday, June 14, 2013 – 7:00pm Saturday, June 15, 2013 – 7:00pm
San Diego, CA
The Recital Hall at SoCal Pianos Saturday, June 22, 2013 – 7:00pm
Steinway Gallery Recital Hall Wednesday, June 26, 2013 – 7:00pm
Steinway Showroom Recital Hall Friday, June 28, 2013 – 7:00pm
Piano Haven Studio
Saturday, June 29, 2013 – 7:00pm
Creative Life Center
Sunday, June 30, 2013 – 7:00pm
For more information on Kevin Kern’s US West Coast Tour and China Tour, please visit,
A visitor takes photo of azalea in a national forest park in Huinan County, Northeast China’s Jilin Province, May 18, 2013. The blooming azalea in the park attracted many visitors and photographers. (Xinhua/Zhang Nan)
A visitor walks by an azalea bush in a national forest park in Huinan County, Northeast China’s Jilin Province, May 18, 2013. The blooming azalea in the park attracted many visitors and photographers. (Xinhua/Zhang Nan)
LEIGH HALFPENNY could be excused if he felt in a hurry to make up for lost time on next month’s British and Irish Lions tour.
Wales star Halfpenny will arrive in Hong Kong, and then move on to Australia, as one of European rugby’s hottest properties.
The Cardiff Blues full-back was named Six Nations player of the tournament this season after performing starring roles throughout a campaign that ended with Wales landing a fourth title in nine years.
He was a model of consistency, both with his goalkicking and general play, and would unquestionably have been among the first names inked into a 37-man squad by Lions head coach Warren Gatland.
It will be 24-year-old Halfpenny’s second Lions tour, but he can only hope for better fortune than on the previous one in South Africa.
Selected for the 2009 mission to Springbok country, Halfpenny was allowed to join it late while he continued his recovery from a thigh problem.
But after one appearance – against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein – an injury recurrence ended his tour before it had barely started.
“It was hugely disappointing,” said Halfpenny, after reporting for Lions duty this week.
“I was part of a Lions squad and having the time of my life playing with a hugely-talented group, and I was gutted to be leaving.
“I was 20 years of age away with the Lions, and I would have stayed on that training pitch every hour of the day, but I learnt that I should listen to my body.
“I am a lot more experienced now, and I think the more chances I’ve had to play the more I’ve learnt and had time to work on areas I have wanted to be better at.
“For me, it is just about working hard every single day and making the most out of every time I step on the training pitch.
“What is hugely important as a Lions squad is to get things right off the pitch to make sure we are successful on the pitch. It is about getting to know each other and all coming together as one.”
Halfpenny is currently on familiar territory, preparing with his Lions colleagues at Wales’ Vale of Glamorgan training base.
And if any of the Lions squad need reminding of how tough an opponent Australia will be, then Halfpenny can oblige, having lost four out of four against them during the past 11 months.
Wales lost a Test series 3-0 Down Under last summer, albeit by a combined total of 11 points, then the Wallabies triumphed at the Millennium Stadium earlier this season, scoring their winning try while Halfpenny was receiving medical attention for a neck injury that required an overnight hospital stay.
“Obviously, we were hugely disappointed to come away with a 3-0 series loss,” he added.
“There is probably frustration there, but we also have to take confidence from it.
“Now, it is about making sure we cross that finish line and being able to win the games.
“It is a very fast game down there, very intense. We found in the summer that the intensity is really high, and it just felt like it was end to end rugby.”
While most pundits believe Halfpenny is nailed-on for the Lions’ Test number 15 shirt, he is fully aware of the challenge posed by fellow tourists Rob Kearney and Stuart Hogg.
Ireland full-back Kearney was a consistent high-class operator during the 2009 Tests in South Africa, while Scottish prospect Hogg proved arguably the discovery of this season’s Six Nations.
“I would wear the number one jersey if it meant I could play for the Lions,” Halfpenny said.
“The competition for the 15 jersey is huge – Stuart Hogg and Rob Kearney are both fantastic players.
“Competition brings the best out of players, and that can only be good for us as players and for the Lions.
“With regards to the wing, I’ve played out there and I am happy to play there. I have said before I would rather play 15, but if I am required to do a job for the Lions on the wing I would be more than happy to do that.”
The construction of the Great Wall of
China and the development of Siberia testify to the strong will of the
two great nations, which should act together for a better future of
the world, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia said.
In his opinion, “this wonderful monument
of Chinese architecture” is a symbol of China’s strong spirit and
“brings about the feeling of deep respect for the great neighbour.”
“We can understand what the Chinese nation is like, what its traditions and commitments are,” the patriarch stressed.
He compared the construction of the
Great Wall of China with the development of Siberia by the Russian
people. “Russia has also seen a manifestation of the strong will of
our people in the wars we fought and especially in the development of
Siberia which required tremendous efforts and which overwhelmed and
still continues to overwhelm many people,” Kirill said.
“Here in the Far East the two strong
countries and two strong nations come in contact with each other. And
by multiplying and combining our efforts we should work together for
a better future of our peoples and the whole world,” he said.
The Great Wall, one of the greatest
wonders of the world, was listed as a World Heritage by UNESCO in
1987. Built over a period from the 3rd century to the 17th century,
it stretches for approximately 8,851.8 kilometres (5,500 miles) from
east to west of China.
Patriarch Kirill also toured the
Forbidden City. On the first day of the visit, he met with Chinese
President Xi Jinping. In the remaining four days, the patriarch is
planning to meet with Orthodox believers in Beijing, Harbin and