Tag Archives: France

Edinburgh Looking for Revenge in Heineken Cup

visser
© SNS Scotland

French side Racing Metro visit Murrayfield tomorrow night as Edinburgh look to avenge last week’s defeat in the Heineken Cup.

Edinburgh have made eight changes to the side that lost in France.

Scottish centre Ben Cairns returns after long-term injury. As Edinburgh’s all-time top try scorer in the competition, he is a welcome addition to a team struggling for points.

Cairns is joined in the back line by New Zealand centre Ben Atiga, whilst Piers Francis and Chris Leck form a new half-back combination. Lee Jones and Dougie Fife have been brought in to replace injured wingers Tom Brown and Tim Visser.

Robert McAlpine replaces Sean Cox in the pack, joining forces with his former Scotland age-grade colleague, Grant Gilchrist, in the second-row.

Edinburgh coach Michael Bradley could not explain how his side lost 19-9 at Racing Metro last week, slumping to their third defeat in the competition.

Following last season’s surprise surge into semi-finals, Edinburgh have failed to win qualification from the group stages.

Tomorrow’s game offers the team an opportunity for an improved performance ahead of their Pro12 double header against Glasgow Warriors.

We spoke to Scotland Centre Matt Scott and Edinburgh Second Row Robert McAlpine ahead of the clash.

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Matt Scott © Edinburgh Rugby 2012
mcalpine12
Rob McAlpine © Edinburgh Rugby 2012

What was the feeling amongst the squad after last Saturday’s defeat to Racing Metro?

Matt Scott – It was a feeling of great disappointment and frustration as we felt we played good enough rugby to win the game. Rugby games at this level are won by small margins, and unfortunately we didn’t get the majority of these small margins right.

Rob McAlpine – Everyone was pretty gutted after the defeat in Paris, the game was for the taking. We provided enough scoring opportunities to win the game, but didn’t manage to convert those opportunities into points. It was disappointing.

Is the pressure now off for tomorrow’s game with qualification looking unlikely, or are players still feeling the stress of the situation?

MS – I don’t think the pressure is ever really off when playing professional rugby. There has been quite a few changes for this game, and the new players that have come in will be looking to stamp down a marker for selection in the upcoming games.

RM – No, there is no pressure off at all. We are desperate to put in a performance against Racing Metro at home, and we owe it to our fans and supporters to get a result. Having the home advantage is a great help and we should hopefully get a result.

What has training been like this week, have you been working on anything in particular?

MS – Training has been tough as everyone is keen to get a win on the board in the Heineken cup. We have targeted a few areas that Racing are weak in, so the boys will be looking to exploit those.

RM – Training has been really good this week, especially with players stepping in and playing that have been out injured. Netani Talei (Fiji), Ben Atiga (All Blacks), Ben Cairns (Scotland), and Dimitri Basilaia (Georgia) all step in after time out injured.

What have the coaches been saying ahead of tomorrow’s game?

MS – They have been willing us to get a win in front of our own fans, particularly to gain some momentum going into the two Glasgow games, which are going to be really important in our season.

RM – .. Can’t answer too much about strategy..

Personally what do you think can be done tomorrow to get a result?

MS – I think if we get our set piece delivery better and hold on to the ball we will cause them all sorts of problems. They are a huge side and don’t like being moved around. Murrayfield is a particularly large pitch, so I’m sure you will see us using that on Friday.

RM – Racing Metro have a big forward pack and being able to move the point of contact and play a quick game we should expose weaknesses and create opportunities to score.

Finally, if you get a result tomorrow what kind of confidence would that give the team going forward?

MS – It would be great for momentum to get a win, especially against a team of racing’s calibre.

RM – The win would give us massive confidence going into the 1872 cup (Glasgow Edinburgh back to back matches) and will hopefully allow us to pick up where we left off in the Rabo Pro 12. Two wins from two against Glasgow would put us right back up in the mix in the table.

Four killed in French school shooting

Three children and a teacher have been killed following a shooting at a Jewish School in Toulouse.

The shooter took aim as pupils were being dropped off for primary school before he escaped on a scooter. The three children killed were all described as being of North-African descent.

Details remain unclear but police have stated there are similarities between this attack and previous shootings of soldiers in the same region. Three paratroopers have been killed in the last week with another seriously injured in two separate attacks.

President Sarkozy and Gilles Bernheim, the Grand Rabbi of France, are on their way to attend the scene whilst extra police have been drafted into the area. Security has also been stepped up around all Jewish schools in the country.

Parra kills Irish dreams of grandeur in Paris

Ireland 17 – France 17, Six Nations Match report

By Alessandro Brunelli

Blood, sweat and tears were all spilled at the Stade de France yesterday, with Ireland leaving Paris with a hard fought draw and a bitter taste of disappointment at having so close to taking the win.

A spirited approach by the Irish side in the first half had led even the most sceptical fans to dream of a final score which could have gone down in History.

On the 17th minute a lack of concentration on the Bleus side had allowed an opportunist Tommy Bowe to pierce a French defense which initially looked far from its usual strength.

It was far too easy for Bowe to intercept a pass from Rougerie and run in between the posts for the first Irish try, which was followed by a conversion from Jonathan Sexton.

Bowe’s effort was then accompanied by a solid defensive display by Declan Kidney’s men, which only let the French score from penalties in the first half, while Sexton punished the French indiscipline with another kick.

There was yet more Irish sparkle to come before the half time whistle, as on the 37th minute Bowe again went deep through the French defense like a hot knife through butter, chipped the ball past Mazier and scored an impressive try which pulled the curtains on the first half, with the Irish deservedly leading 17 to 6.

You could never blame the French for lacking pride, and a great deal of pride is what they drew upon to make a spectacular comeback in the second half.

There was urgency in the way France tried to gain territory, an attitude which was awarded with a penalty scored by Morgan Parra on the 47th minute.

This was followed only three minutes later by a stunning run from Wesley Fofana, who got a hold of the ball just past midfield and went all the way to score a try which cast doubts over the Irish ability to hold the lead until the end.

As another kick from Parra on 58th minute led the 80-thousand strong stadium behind the Bleus to the tune of the Marseillaise, Irish hopes looked even dimmer.

But that was, in an overall disappointing second half, the time the men in green regrouped and managed to desperately defend a score for the whole last quarter of the match.

Although all during the final period they never looked dangerous in the French half, and this will mostly be remembered as a wasted golden opportunity, Ireland should still feel some pride in coming so close to sealing a victory in this year’s most feared away match.

International news headlines

by Tina Charon and Patrick McPartlin

Middle East

Libya

For the moment the US, UK and France are continuing air strikes against the country. A second raid was lead early this morning and destroyed a building in Libya’s capital Tripoli. The building was one of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s command centres. US officials have said that Colonel Gaddafi himself was not a target of the air strikes.

The Arab League, Russia and China have condemned the attacks. Arab League General Secretary Amr Mussa said, “What has happened in Libya differs from the goal of imposing a no-fly zone. What we want is the protection of civilians.” He has also announced that an emergency meeting of the 22-member Arab league is about to be set up.

Continue reading International news headlines

Six Nations proves trying for Scotland and Ireland

By Shane de Barra

It’s game on at Twickenham in two weeks time when England and France, the only sides still able to claim a Grand Slam, clash in what has the potential to be a Six Nations title decider.

England disposed of a sorry Italy at the weekend 59-13, just a week after putting Wales to the sword in Cardiff. Rugby League convert Chris Aston was England’s star man, claiming four of his side’s eight tries and in the process becoming the first English man to score four tries in a Six Nations game.

Reigning champions France came through a much tougher in test in the battle of the last two Grand Slam winners, when they took on Ireland in Dublin in the first Championship game to take place at the new Aviva Stadium. Despite being out-scored by three tries to one, Irish indiscipline gifted the French some easy points and last gasp defence at the death was enough to see the champions home 25-22.

Wales made the journey north to Edinburgh to take on Scotland at Murrayfield and it proved to be a satisfactory trip. A first half try by winger Shane Williams set the Welsh on their way, although they did have to defend with only 13 men for ten minutes when indiscipline saw both full-back Lee Byrne and second-row Bradley Davies sin-binned.

The Scots could not take advantage however, and created nothing in a performance that has set alarm bells ringing north of the border that a return to the bad old days of recent years in nigh. The second half was a scrappy affair with both sides bereft of both imagination and direction. In the end the game was settled by a neat grubber kick by Wales centre Jonathan Thomas which Williams was again alert to, collecting to score his second try.

But there was to be no heroic Scottish comeback as they limped to a 24-6 defeat.

US raise concerns over Anglo-French Treaty

by Simon Black
French and British Leaders at conference
President Sarkozy and Prime Minister Cameron at the Anglo-French Summit, 2010

What is supposed to be a major step in the right direction has already found milestones to trip over along the way. Last night PM David Cameron was cautioned that the US are concerned with the groundbreaking French-UK deal and are considering to pull out of intelligence sharing.

The deal, signed yesterday, marks an interdependence between France and the UK. It is ultimately a pool of resources which each country will make benefit off. Sharing air carriers and nuclear intelligence will further the bond between the two allies and also benefit the financial climate and civilian safety in each country.

Although it marks a long-term companionship between European powers, there are concerns circulating across the Atlantic that the deal will cut ties with the US Government. John Bolton, a UN ambassador for the US, claims this deal could dramatically decrease the amount of intelligence the US will share with the UK. “‘Inevitably the risk with this is that American methods and sources will be compromised and it is going to have a very profound effect” Bolton told reporters in the wake of the deal.

John Bolton, US Ambassdor for the UN
John Bolton, US Ambassador for the UN

The US are apprehensive that they share classified information with the UK and this could be at risk with this new deal. France were opposed to the 2003 US invasion of Iraq and only recently rejoined the NATO command structure, and some could argue they are renowned for retreating over repleting.

‘There is a long track-record of duplicity on the French part” says Bernard Jenkin, a former Tory defense spokesman.

With the Republicans gaining in the mid-term elections the US are obviously already in uncertainty. The sharing of resources between European powers can only further fuel the uncertainty that a European Army may lie in the future. This fear is substantiated by  a specific part of the deal stating that either country can deploy troops at a single command and can use each deployment bases.

Mr Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have stressed that the deal will further enhance the defense and attack capabilities of both countries while being a major landmark in compatibility between both powers.

Mr Sarkozy has stressed the deal “is unprecedented and it shows a level of trust and confidence between our two nations that is unequaled in history”. Mr Cameron suggested it is the “greatest bang for our buck”.

France strikes rides new wave

by Tony Gougeon

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France has been facing one of its most important strike waves this year after the recent announcement of a new pension reform made by President Nicolas Sarkozy at the end of the summer, wishing to push the legal retiring age from 60 to 62.

What seemed to be a usual striking opportunity for French people began to get out of control recently when petrol industries joined the movement, forcing the government to put drastic measures into place and restricting petrol supplies.

Now that the reform has been voted by Parliament, the government expects the situation to get back to normal as soon as possible, Jean Louis Borloo (minister of Ecology and Energy) announcing live on television last night that “95% of the petrol stations have been provided with fuel”. However, protests are still taking place everywhere in the country at high schools, universities, post offices and several other sectors, and people are still expected to be in the streets this Saturday.

Most petrol stations have been forced to shut for a few days, expecting to be delivered soon and encountering a loss of over 100 million euro for the main oil refinery Total, according to its financial director Patrick de la Chevardiere.

However, every time one of them can open again customers have to queue for hours, where they will only be able to purchase up to €21, or be told the station has run out of petrol already. The last weekend of October being a popular holiday for French people, petrol was still rare and the restrictions not lifted.

Some people claim it is still time to fight back: Henriette Minard, 72 and retired, is still calling for people to protest. “The pension reform was the spark the movement needed,” she says. “It is particularly unfair to the previous and next generations: people have been fighting and are still fighting to make their lives more enjoyable. The senate voting the reform last week is not a death sentence to the movement.”

On the other side, some people are starting to get tired of the process: Mai-anh Peterson, a British student sent from Edinburgh to study in Montpelier as part of the Erasmus exchange program says: “This is taking it too far. When it starts to affect people’s everyday lives in such a drastic manner it makes it hard to see what the point is. Retirement ages are increasing all over the world, France should it count itself lucky – it still has the lowest retirement age in Europe. If it’s not economically viable for the government to back down on its proposal, then all I can foresee is a complete standstill.”

Her university, along with numerous others across the country, have been forced to interrupt their normal agenda because students have been blocking access into the buildings, which is the answer students have used for decades now. However, with exams coming up, the movement is losing strength as more and more students are getting worried about their grades.

Horse on the Menu

by Wendy Wan

Some 70,000 horses are eaten in France every year, with an estimated 4.7 million believed to be consumed around the world every year.

And it seems the meat is now back on the menu in Scotland for the first time in more than 70 years.

The controversial choice is being served at an eatery in the city’s New Town, and the move has already come under fire from campaigners, with the Vegetarian Society branding the consumption of horse meat as “abhorrent.”

The meat is said to be less fatty than beef and containing higher levels of iron and omega 3. 

But how well will it be received by the general public. 

Views of the equine meat being back on the menu in Edinburgh has drawn some disbelieving expressions, with a few members of the general public saying that they would not eat horse meat, saying that “a horse doesn’t look appetising,” and “i’ll stick to chicken and beef.”

However, there were some that thought the meat would be “fantastic, once i start eating them, i expect to start running like them!”

Time for gathering together

Twenty of the world’s influential leaders meet this week in London at the Excel Centre on the banks of the Thames. They meet during a period of almost unprecedented financial turmoil.

But will they come up with world-changing solutions?

The United Kingdom chairs the Group of Twenty in 2009 and this week it hosts the G20 summit.

The Washington Summit held in November 2008, on the international response to the global financial and economic crisis, set out an agenda for G-20 Finance Ministers to take forward work in areas of financial management such as the promotion of integrity in financial markets. It is also proposed that the G20 should reinforce international cooperation and that  International Financial Institutions should be reformed. 

World leaders gathered in a G20 meeting
World leaders gathered in a G20 meeting

Four working groups were set up to undertake this work in anticipation of the London Summit and now this week they come together to discuss what might still be required to restart the global economy.

World leaders are set to reiterate a pledge to avoid protectionism and complete stalled global trade talks but offer little to those calling for more economic stimulus. 

The G20 now has a crucial role to drive forward work betweenboth advanced and emerging economies to tackle the international financial and economic crisis, restore worldwide financial stability, lead the international economic recovery and secure a sustainable future for all countries.

The financial markets and the world economy both continue to face serious global challenges and the severity of the crisis and ongoing uncertainties demonstrate need for urgent action. During the United Kingdom’s Chair, the immediate priority will be to gain further agreements for a concerted and managed international response.

The G-20 will need to send a strong message that it will do whatever is necessary to stabilise the financial system and to provide further economic support. The Financial TImes says that the group must  commit to maintaining open trade and investment, to avoid a retreat to protectionism, and direct necessary additional support to emerging markets and developing countries. It is understood that it could be emerging markets who actually help other countries out of this dilemma. 

Whilst China holds much of the US debt in its hands it is also exporting many cheap goods to the US, which can only be seen as a relationship which is beneficial to China, a so called emerging market. 

In China the economy continues to grow. 

The G20 should develop proposals to restore growth in the medium term, including the unwinding of emergency measures taken in response to the crisis.

President Barack Obama is voicing optimism that this week’s crucial G20 summit will set the framework for recovery, saying that world leaders know they must “deliver a strong message of unity” for the sake of the global economy but he played down talk of a split between the US and the leading continental European economies, notably Germany and France.

Gordon Brown said: “The world is coming together and the results of this week will show that global problems… require global solutions.

PM Gordon Brown
PM Gordon Brown

“I believe the world will rise to the challenge and defeat those who say doing nothing is an option and defeat those who say protectionism is an option.”

Meanwhile Ministers were struggling to maintain momentum for the G20 summit last night after it emerged that any spending decisions would be deferred to a later meeting.

Yesterday, Kevin Rudd, the Australian prime minister who will hold pre-summit talks with Brown tomorrow, said it was now up to the International Monetary Fund to determine how much additional support the world economy would need next year, and that there had never been any expectation that the decisions on that package would be taken in London.

 

The so called Casino Capitalism in the City of London has been severely criticised by our neighbours in Europe. The light touch regulation so much revered by Gordon Brown and his Government in 2006 has not worked. The need and desire to reduce the burden of paperwork has allowed loopholes to develop. 

Transparency is now the watchword of the G20 and they want more regulation done more obviously. 

Lord Turner of the FSA thinks that, for example, AIG was the worst case of an institution falling between the stools of the US and the UK regulatory processes. Madoff was also regulated in the UK and the US. But that too was missed by both sets of regulators. 

Now we have toxic assets being sold around the world. Some believe that tax havens such as The Isle of Man, Jersey or Monaco with their shadow banking systems may have to be brought to an end.  France has already threatened that Sarkoy will resign as Prince of Andorra and now Andorra has agreed that it will give up its special status. Common standards will have to be applied. There cannot be a separate banking system evading the national jurisdiction in the opinion of Peter Mandelson, Business Secretary, who also thinks that in this country there was a sound regulatory framework but that the powers could have been used more “intrusively”. 

Separately five British people have been arrested in connection with a suspected plot involving explosives to disrupt the G20 summit.

The individuals were arrested at addresses in Plymouth and they are being held under terrorism legislation.

Despite the involvement of explosives, a police source with knowledge of the investigation has told the Guardian that initial inquiries indicate the five were “not planning a Guy Fawkes plot”.

“I think it was more designed to disrupt than injure or kill,” the source said, adding that reports that the individuals were Greek nationals were false. It is understood that the “suspicious devices” found suggest a small-scale stunt. Unconfirmed reports said the individuals may have had “flares” in their posession.

What is the G20?

The G 20 is otherwise known as the Group of Twenty Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors. It is a group of finance ministers and central bank governors from 20 states, 19 of the world’s largest national economies and includes the European Union.

It is a forum for cooperation and consultation on matters pertaining to the international financial system. It studies, reviews, and promotes discussion among key industrial and emerging market countries of policy issues pertaining to the promotion of international financial stability, and seeks to address issues that go beyond the responsibilities of any one organization.

Super six set for battle

By Stewart Primrose

The RBS Six Nations tournament kicks off this weekend and is set to be one of the most exciting since ever.

Rugby at this time off year captures the imaginations of millions, whether they are fans of the sport or not. Although the Tri Nations has a higher quality of player, rugby clubs throughout Western Europe will be full and the beer will be flowing. And this could be the closest championship since Italy’s inclusion back in 2000, with Europe’s elite six expecting to thrill fans across Europe.

But how will each team fare? Will Wales defend their crown and continue to sing in the Valleys, or will the Irish eyes be shinning? And what for Scotland? Can they get that elusive victory at Twickenham? Either way many of the home nation players will be looking to boost their chances of being picked for the Lions tour to South Africa this summer.

Here is a run down of each team, plus a few players to watch out for. Let the games begin…

England

Andy Goode will play ahead of Cipriani
Andy Goode will play ahead of Cipriani

Martin Johnson will be looking to improve on England’s Autumn International performance in his first Six Nations as coach, starting with dropping Danny Cipriani in favour of Andy Goode. Johnson will be going back to basics by playing a tactical and territorial game. Once their fall back tactic, this looks to be their new plan A.

He is still to shore up the midfield after Will Greenwood’s departure and the current pairing of Ricki Flutey and Mike Tindall have yet to find their feet at international level.

Anything less than three home wins will be seen as a failure for England.

Key Man
Danny Care: This is a tough one as there are no real superstars in the team. The scrum half had a good 2008 and England will need him to be on top form to have a successful Six Nations.

My Prediction – Fourth

France v Wales could be crucial
France v Wales could be crucial

France

They face a tough opening match at Croke Park, which could determine how their campaign will be fought. They have picked a more conservative squad than in recent years. With Shabal in the second row they add a lot of muscle and aggression, but weaken their lineout as a result.

Poitrenaud sums up the French team. Brilliant one day, disastrous the next. Coach Marc Lievremont will be seeking consistent performances from his squad. They will miss the mercurial talents of Freddy Michelak and the team will have to step up if there is going to be a new generation of French flair.

Key Man
Yannick Jauzion: A deadly mix of pace, balance and precision passing. He could be not only a match winner but a Grand Slam winner.

My Prediction – Third

Ireland

Inconsistency has been the main theme for the Irish in recent years. Coach Declan Kidney will have to rectify this in 2009. There are a few promising young players coming through including Rob Kearney and Luke Fitzgerald and these will add impetus to ageing stars like Brian O’Driscoll. The centre is no longer the devastating attacking force he once was, but is still strong in defence.

The Irish need to get off to a good start
The Irish need to get off to a good start
The front five remain strong and in David Wallace they have one of the best back rows in the tournament. They have a decent fixture list with England and France at home. Wales at the Millennium Stadium may prove to be a game too far for their Grand Slam hopes.

Key Man
Ronan O’Gara: Some say the stand off dominates games, others say he fails to inspire. He needs to take the ball up to the game line and throw those defence splitting passes we all know he is capable off.

My Prediction – Second

Italy

As in any year the Italians aspire to just the one win. This year they could struggle to achieve this as they have no recognised half backs. There have been several stop gaps with centre, Paz, asking coach Mallet to stop playing him out of position.

Italy do have some genuine world class players in Prop, Castrogiovanni, Sergio Parisse and Bortolami.

They may surprise Ireland in Rome, but apart from that Murrayfield may prove yet again to be their only hope of avoiding that dreaded wooden spoon.

Key Man:
Sergio Parisse: One of the best players in the tournament. If he hailed from New Zealand he would be a household name. He is a top performer for club side Stade Francais and is easily the Italian’s best player.

My Prediction – Sixth

Scotland

Scotland have 3 home matches
Scotland have 3 home matches

Scotland will be looking to improve on last year’s performance on one win, albeit against England. Scotland has still to field a backline capable of worrying an international defence since the turn of the century. However there is a degree of optimism this season with Tom Evans emerging as a genuine try scorer. There is also a new pace and creativity in the centre.

These players are untested at the highest level so it could go either way. There is still debate about the number ten jersey – Godman’s flair versus Park’s boot and reliability, but Godman could galvanise the exciting backline if he is in the starting lineup.

A key to Scotland’s success will be the powerful forward pack – a match for any team – and contains some genuine world-class players. They will have to create quick ball to allow the backline to function. Maybe then Scotland can start crossing the try line.

Key Man
Mike Blair: The IRB world player of the year nominee can make Scotland tick. His roaming runs and crisp delivery must free up the midfield runners and build on the quick ball if Scotland are to start chalking the teams off their list. The captain needs a big tournament to boost his Lions credentials and his nation’s chances.

My Prediction – Fifth

Can the Welsh make it 2 in a row?
Can the Welsh make it 2 in a row?

Wales

Without a doubt the most talented team in the competition. They were the only northern hemisphere team to beat one of the big three in the autumn, pushing South Africa close and beating Australia.

Shane Williams is back from injury which will be a massive boost for Coach Warren Gatland. Roberts and Henson will provide a good mix of muscle and skill in the midfield and both James Hook and Steven Jones are capable match winners.

Pivotal to their success is the back row trio – Martin Williams, Andy Powell and Ryan Jones all complement each other and the rest of the Welsh side.

They could sneak the Championship on points difference, but watch out for a hiccup at Murrayfield this Saturday.

Key Man
Ryan Jones: The defensive lynchpin, ball carrier and inspirational leader. He’s also tipped to lead the Lions this summer. His performance last year was awesome and the same will be required again.

My Prediction – First

“The outcome will be minimal”

MEP Alyn Smith
MEP Alyn Smith

Scottish Member of the European Parliament Alyn Smith (SNP) joins in the criticism of the UK’s plan to heal the British economy.

Interview by Charlotte Morgenthal

What impact will the European Central bank intervention have on Scotland?

It will have a minimal impact and the meeting will moreover be about international coordination of the financial crisis.

Do you wish that Scotland has somebody sitting at the EU Council table? What difference would it make?

Yes, it is pretty much SNP policy that we have an independent Scotland within Europe. Yes, I do wish that we have access to all the levers. Our Ministers currently have a seat in the Council but they don’t have speaking rights. From the European Parliament perspective: Unless you have the right to participate you don’t really make the law for your country.

With all the voices criticising the Westminster tax cut approach this morning and yesterday: what do you think about it?

I do agree with them. There is a lot of sloppy decision making at the moment. Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown allowed the economy to get that far and it is a catastrophic failure of regulation. It is pretty much an Anglo-Saxon problem which doesn’t exist to that extent in say France or Germany. If you leave the market to itself it will pretty much destroy itself.