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Ireland v France is the box-office clash of the Six Nations

Back in the day many in England and France reckoned that their annual head-to-head in the Six Nations should be the final shoot-out on the last Saturday night.

It no doubt pleased French and UK TV executives that le crunch will again provide the finale on March 19th this year. Yet by rights this looks a more apt description for next Saturday’s clash between France and Ireland, and the pity is it has come so soon.

These are early days, for sure, but France went into the tournament as favourites, with Ireland second in the betting for the title, and those odds have hardened after each accrued bonus point home wins, with Ireland now rising to third in the world rankings above England and France in fifth.

Both teams will be sharper for those openers too. France looked rusty in biblical rain at the Stade de France against Italy on Sunday. But, typical of them, they came to life in telling fashion when they needed to, not least to outflank the blitz Italian defence with those lovely tip-on passes by Romain Ntamack and Damian Penaud for Gabin Villière to slide in for the first of his three tries. They have those strike plays in their locker.

Like no one else they can also conjure tries out of relatively nothing or, in the case of Penaud’s finish after his exchange of passes with Antoine Dupont, from a quick throw by Melvyn Jaminet – a reminder of the need to stay alert if the ball is not put into the crowd.

This was Dupont’s most influential contribution on a relatively off-colour day for the great man. But the French scrumhalf, talisman and captain had only played once for Toulouse since his star-of-the-match display away to Cardiff on December 11th, having suffered a leg infection and Covid in the interim.

Like his team-mates, Dupont will be better for that game. Besides, not too much can ever be read into French performances against Italy. Les Bleus expect to win this fixture, and overconfidence perhaps partly contributed to their only Six Nations defeats by the Azzurri, in Rome in 2011 and 2013.

Damian Penaud crosses to score France’s fourth try against Italy. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Damian Penaud crosses to score France’s fourth try against Italy. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

According to French sources, even in the build-up to last Sunday, their primary focus was on the Irish game next Saturday. They may well have slightly over-trained before Italy. Those nine Irish wins in a row demand respect, as does the third-place ranking.

Under Fabien Galthié and his assistants, and the new-found relationship with the clubs, every Top 14 player now wants to play for Les Bleus, which wasn’t always the case over the last decade. Likewise, the French rugby public have rediscovered their love for the team.

Title drought

However, France haven’t won a Championship title since 2010, their longest wait since their first outright triumph in 1959. After the last two near-misses under Galthié, this team desperately needs to end that drought. The weight of expectation on them is huge.

They freely acknowledge that they need a Six Nations title before hosting the World Cup next year, to legitimise their chances of lifting the William Webb Ellis Cup on home soil. As an aside, this will also be the last meeting between France and Ireland in Paris until a potential World Cup quarter-final.

Farrell has to consider restoring
Iain Henderson and Robbie Henshaw. 

Interestingly too, both Galthié and Andy Farrell appear to have similar selection posers, namely in the secondrow and at inside centre. Galthié opted to use Cameron Woki’s lineout skills and athleticism in the secondrow against Italy. But Woki could return to the backrow at the expense of Dylan Cretin, thus beefing up the secondrow by renewing Bernard le Roux’s partnership alongside Paul Willemse, the other South African-born lock who qualified through residency.

Jonathan Danty’s ankle injury against Italy is likely to rule him out of next Saturday’s match. The 21-year-old Bordeaux midfielder Yoram Moefana, born in New Caledonia, came on and made the initial break for that Penaud try, and is a likelier replacement than Virimi Vakatawa. The fit-again Matthieu Jalibert might also return to the matchday squad.

Similarly, Farrell has to consider restoring Iain Henderson and Robbie Henshaw. The former brings the required horsepower, although he hasn’t played in eight weeks and Tadhg Beirne maintained his superb form against Wales. Ditto Bundee Aki as regards Henshaw.

Home advantage

With the return of full stadia, home advantage will also be a big factor on Saturday night, as it was on opening weekend. It being England, the Calcutta Cup and the later kick-off, the Murrayfield crowd seemed particularly engaged. Although spending less than a minute in the English 22, Scotland deserved their win, if only for their defence, conjuring one superb try and forcing a penalty try through the pinpoint accuracy of Finn Russell’s consecutive crosskicks to his two wingers.

Quite why Luke Cowan-Dickie didn’t try to catch the ball rather than palm it into touch only he knows, but how did England’s defensive system end up with a reserve frontrow as their last three defenders when Russell kicked back to the right?

Will Andy Farrell retain Bundee Aki or bring in Robbie Henshaw on Saturday? Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Will Andy Farrell retain Bundee Aki or bring in Robbie Henshaw on Saturday? Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

It didn’t help that Joe Marchant, a centre on the wing, had been dragged across initially, or that Max Malins, a full-back on the right wing, had been beaten by Duhan van der Merwe. Eddie Jones is being beaten over the head for removing the new darling of English rugby Marcus Smith – although more significant factors were England’s selection and tactics, which mostly revolved around aimless kicking and one-off runners.

And Maro Itoje’s most notable contributions were to concede two needless penalties in that last-quarter implosion. Scotland celebrated wildly, but they’d have been kicking themselves if they hadn’t beaten such a poor English team who will, presumably, improve.

By stark contrast, not for the first time in the last year, much of Ireland’s performance, be it the solid foundations of set-piece and a defence that all the players clearly revel in contributing towards, or the intricate attacking play, suggested Farrell, his assistants and the players might be creating something special.

We’ll have a better idea by next Saturday night in Paris.

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Here’s when your favorite show may return as writers strike is on the verge of ending | Culture

A tentative agreement between striking screenwriters and Hollywood studios offers some hope that the industry’s dual walkouts may soon be over. But when will your favorite shows return?

Well, it’s complicated. First, the agreement needs to pass two key votes, and certain paused productions such as Deadpool 3 and Yellowjackets will still have to wait on actors to reach a deal with studios.

When is ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’ coming back?

Once the contract is approved, work will resume more quickly for some writers than others. Late-night talk shows were the first to be affected when the strike began, and they may be among the first to return to air now. NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Late Show With Stephen Colbert on CBS could come back within days.

Saturday Night Live might be able to return for its 49th season, though some actors may not be able to appear. The actors strike limits promotional appearances that are the lifeblood of the late-night shows.

Shows that return while actors are still picketing could prove controversial, as happened with the planned resumptions of daytime shows including The Drew Barrymore Show and The Talk. Those plans were later abandoned.

One show that’s likely to make a speedy return? Real Time with Bill Maher. The host plotted a return without writers but ended up postponing once last week’s negotiations were set.

What about ‘Stranger Things’ and ‘Superman’?

Writers rooms for scripted shows that shut down at the strike’s onset, including Netflix’s Stranger Things, Severance on Apple TV+ and Abbott Elementary on ABC are also likely to reactivate quickly. But with no performers to act out the scripts, long delays between page and screen will be inevitable.

Film writers will also get back to work on their slower timeline, though those working on scripts or late revisions for already scheduled movies — including “Deadpool 3″ and “Superman: Legacy” — will certainly be hustling to avoid further release-date delays.

When are Drew Barrymore and other daytime shows coming back?

Barrymore’s planned return to her daytime television show became a rallying point for picketers earlier this month, prompting her to cancel her plans. The Talk and The Jennifer Hudson Show, which also employ some screenwriters, also called off plans to return.

Barrymore and the other shows have not announced their plans for returning. However, the Writers Guild of America has made it clear: Guild members cannot start working again on projects until the tentative contract is ratified.

That vote has not yet been scheduled.

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Milan fashion celebrated diversity and inclusion with refrain: Make more space for color and curves | Culture

More curvy models than ever showed up on Milan runways this season, due mostly to a single show by Brazilian designer Karoline Vitto, while designers of color showcased their work at collateral events meant to promote their visibility — along with diversity — in the backrooms of Italian fashion.

Wherever diversity and inclusion were being celebrated during Milan Fashion Week, which ended Sunday, there was one underlying refrain: Make more space.

Curvy models get outing at Karoline Vitto

“We made history! It was incredible,’’ world-renown curvy model Ashley Graham gushed as she embraced London-based Vitto after Sunday’s show. Graham is often the only curvy model on major fashion runways, but for this show she led a cast of models ranging in size from UK 10 to UK 24 (US 6 to US 20).

By comparison, some Milan brands typically size up to 48 Italian (US size 12), while some, notably Dolce & Gabbana which sponsored Vitto, has extended some looks up to an Italian size 52 (US 16).

Graham wore an edgy black ripped corset and long sheer skirt, while other models wore form-hugging jersey dresses fitted with S-shaped metallic fixtures that sculpted their curves. She used the same technique for bathing suits.

“It feels normal,’’ Graham said, calling on more designers to get more curves on the runway. “If I feel normal on the runway with this many girls, that means that there is something that doesn’t feel normal when I am on the runway with everybody else.”

Diversifying small brand profiles

After working in fashion for decades, Deborah Latouche launched her own brand after converting to Islam and realizing how hard it was to find clothes that were “luxury, high-end and modest.”

Latouche brand, Sabirah, was highlighted along with US brand BruceGlen at the Milan Fashion Hub for new and emerging designers, sponsored by Blanc Magazine’s Teneshia Carr and the Italian National Fashion Chamber. The Hub offered space to meet buyers and other people interested in new brands.

“Something like this is really important because small brands such as myself can get really overlooked,’’ said Latouche, who has shown her brand in London, where she is based. “We put a lot of work in but we don’t necessarily get a lot of recognition.

Being invited to Milan “is an amazing platform that gives us the potential to elevate and that is really important,’’ she said.

Twins Bruce and Glen Proctor have been working on their brand for 17 years, and relished the time in Milan showing their creations to a new audience while they also connect with their true creative intentions.

“For a longtime we did black and white, based on what we thought the industry wanted,” Bruce Glen said. Now they are doing what comes naturally, “Colors, prints and fur.’’

Carr said presentations where people can touch the wares are a great way to connect people with a new product, without the huge expense of a runway show.

“The fashion system isn’t working for anyone but the 1 percent. I am all for trying to make new systems where everyone gets paid and people get clothes that make them feel better,’’ she said.

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Hollywood Studios Reach Tentative Agreement With Screenwriters To End The Strike

The picket line of writers and actors outside Netflix offices in Los Angeles.

The picket line of writers and actors outside Netflix offices in Los Angeles.

A happy ending in Hollywood. The studios and the writers’ union have reached a tentative agreement to end the screenwriters’ strike that has brought the world of film and television in the United States to a halt for nearly five months.

After four days of negotiations, Hollywood studios and the Writers Guild of America (WGA) managed to set down the bases of a new collective agreement. The deal announced Sunday unblocks one of the longest labor conflicts in the industry, with the strike now at 146 days.

“We can say, with great pride, that this deal is exceptional, with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership” the WGA stated in a press release. The leadership of the screenwriters’ organization must ratify the pact on Tuesday by a vote. The studios must now focus on resolving the conflict with the actors’ union, which is still on strike, so that productions can resume operations.

The studios and the WGA resumed negotiations on Wednesday after months of tension and a failed attempt to reach an agreement in mid-August. This time, there was a greater sense of urgency from both sides, who were concerned that further disagreement could have stretched the strike to 2024.

The main executives of the four studios attended the meetings with this in mind to show their willingness to negotiate. The parties set the goal of drafting the new contract before the Yom Kippur holidays, which began Sunday afternoon.

The negotiations were attended by Bob Iger, from Disney; David Zaslav from Warner Bros. Discovery; Netflix’s Ted Sarandos and NBCUniversal’s Donna Langley. The studio heads were present for three days at the meetings, which were held at the offices of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).

Over the weekend, the studios were able to finalize the remaining details of the deal with the WGA. California Governor Gavin Newsom was also involved to ensure that both sides remained at the negotiating table. The strike has cost the state about $3 billion, according to a conservative estimate by California State University Northridge.

SAG-AFTRA actors and Writers Guild of America (WGA) writers rally during their ongoing strike, in Los Angeles, California, U.S. September 13, 2023.

SAG-AFTRA actors and Writers Guild of America (WGA) writers rally during their ongoing strike, in Los Angeles, California, U.S.

In the press release to announce the tentative agreement, the WGA made it clear that the strike is not over yet: “No one is to return to work until specifically authorized to by the Guild. We are still on strike until then.” The WGA’s 11,500 members must vote on the agreement.

This will happen after Tuesday, when the Negotiating Committee ratifies the deal once the final version of the text is ready. The deal is likely to be overwhelmingly approved by screenwriters, who have expressed their satisfaction for the resolution. Union members have also recognized the work of the Negotiating Committee, headed by Ellen Stutzaman.

While the strike continues until the deal is voted on, the WGA has brought an end to the picket lines at the gates of major studios in Los Angeles and New York, which have been in place since May 2.

If the strike had reached September 30, it would have become the longest in the history of the WGA, surpassing the 153 days of the 1988 strike. Actors, in the meantime, remain on strike, until they reach a deal with the studios.

According to the writers, the agreement was made possible after the studios agreed to reformulate the scope that artificial intelligence will have in the writing of content, and to set minimum rules for writers’ rooms.

During the strike, screenwriters complained that studios were abusing so-called mini rooms, a more compact version of a writers’ room. These mini rooms were used to develop more content for streaming platforms in less time and with fewer hands, which made the work more precarious. The new agreement establishes a minimum number of people who must write a television series.

One of the most insistent demands by the WGA was a review of the residual payment model. Residuals are compensation paid for the reuse of a credited writer’s work. The union argued that the previous scheme worked in the times of broadcast TV, but that adjustments needed to be made for the era of streaming. In the digital age, writers, producers and actors receive see hardly any compensation for shows that become hits on platforms.

The studios agreed to change the model to increase compensation depending on a show’s audience figures. This issue is also key to resolving the conflict with the actors’ union SAG-AFTRA, which has 160,000 members, and has been on strike for 72 days.

After the failed negotiations in August, the pickets at the doors of the studios became larger in September. The writers flexed their muscles when Drew Barrymore announced she would return to filming her CBS talk show. This provoked the anger of the scriptwriters, who argued that the popular actress was violating the strike. Barrymore defended herself by stating that many members of the production were suffering financial hardship after months without work. But she came under a lot of pressure.

After a week, Barrymore tearfully apologized in a video posted on social media and announced that she would not resume filming. Other television productions followed, reporting that they would not return until the strike was resolved.

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