Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Hunt for Red October - Leinster v Munster at the Aviva Stadium

Something red and dangerous is heading for the Aviva Stadium, tension is building up in Leinster...only one man can save us now...if only it was that simple...

How's that for a big introduction? Not that Leinster versus Munster at the Aviva stadium needs much talking up. There's going to be big hits, massive collisions, blood and guts, and that's just getting into the stadium (if it’s anything like getting into the Michael BublĂ© concert that is.) Hopefully the crowd this weekend will be treated to a less asinine performance than Michael dished up ( my apologies and commiserations to the anyone who is a fan of his).

If you’re from Ireland you must live in a cave if you don’t know that Leinster have beaten Munster in the last four fixtures between them. But Munster are four from four in the Magners this year, with Leinster’s one from four slightly less impressive. You can find some clues for Munster’s selection here Even more cryptic clues for Leinster’s team are here:

I’ll bet Joel Schmidt is nervously scratching his head as he trys to work out who the hell to pick to produce a return to form for Leinster.

Going for him is:

Leinster is going to be really up for this one

Munster are going to be totally underestimating them

That’s about it for positives


Munster is going to be really up for this one

Munster have a far superior Magners record this season

The last place you want to get creamed is in your own back yard

Key players are missing and form of stars is uncertain

I really can’t see a happy ending here for Schmidt or Leinster – they have a critical mass of grunt absent from their scrum (Leo Cullen), and they have big problems with their two main play makers – Jonny Sexton has been one to verge of returning for 3 weeks now, and Reddan has looked out of sorts. So Munster by 10.

Rugby on the Telly

Thursday 30th

Cardiff Blues v Connacht RTE 2, 19.00


Ulster v Glasgow, ML, BBC2, 19:05



Thursday rugby! Cool! Connacht welcome back Johnny O’Connor as they travel to Cardiff, and look to build on their good start to the season. I’m tipping them to come up with the goods.

Friday sees Ulster take on Glasgow at home – the big news in that match is the inclusion in the squad of Springbok star Ruan Pienaar – he is one seriously talented player, and likely to make a big impact for Ulster.

Shark Bite

Sharks v Leopards, CC, SS3, 18:00

The Sharks lost out narrowly to the Lions last week but they face a vastly inferior member of the cat family this weekend – expect to see some fur flying.

Exile update

London Irish are top of the pile right now and Leeds Carnegie must be quaking in their boots considering what Irish did to Newcastle last week. It could be a cricket score.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Munster, Ulster, Connacht riding high, Leinster riding low – full CSI investigation of the Murrayfield crime scene

Edinburgh 32 - 24 Leinster
Glasgow 29 - 43 Munster
Connacht 15 - 15 Ulster

Leinster don’t look like a team who won the Heineken cup just over two years ago at the moment. Leinster look like a team who won an out of date box of chocolates in a village fete two years ago. There are reasons (not excuses, mind) for why they are looking so bad so this isn’t going to be a full out flaying of the team. Just yet that is.

Reason no 1 - don’t bring a knife to a gun fight. Edinburgh were winless until this weekend, and picked their first team. What was the point of leaving Healy and Heaslip on the bench? They’ve been molly coddled enough by the IRFU, time to have a decent run of games and build up some form.

Reason no 2 – injuries. Leinster need a good back up fly half/ kicker in a hurry until Sexton sorts himself out. They are sadly lacking in the second row too. If Ali Williams is going spare they should sign him up ASAP.

Reason no3 – defense. Last minute fly half changes don’t help the defense. Also IRFU enforced abcences/chopping and changing/general buggering around don’t help. But we’re creeping from reason to excuse here, come on chaps, brush up on the tackling, what!

Reason No 4 Attack see reason 2 not enough fly half back up Isa is a legend but for whatever reason he’s not a fly half’s bottom. The rest of the guys need to settle – there is an embarrassment of riches in the backline, let’s stop kicking so much and see some razzmatazz.

Reason no 5 Edinburgh at home are always a bugger, and not to be ungracious they played really well.

All they have to do is beat the top team next week now and everything will be ok. Simple really.

To add salt to the wound, while Leinster were being royally skewered by Edinburgh, Munster had the temerity to notch up a good away win over the other Scots representatives, Glasgow. Show offs!

Ulster and Connacht rounded off the weekend at the showground with a hard fought draw. As far as Connacht have come a draw is still a result for them against the 'Man City' of the Magners League. Decent place kicking from out halves, lots of resolute defence and a good tight match.

Overall, it's looking pretty healthy for Ireland at the moment, just waiting for the boys in blue to come to the party.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The fable of the Magners League, and ultra quick review of Leinster, Munster, Ulster and Connacht

The Fable of the Magners League

There was once a rugby King who had three daughters. There was Princess Internationals, fabled for her outstanding beauty and Princess Heineken Cup also known as a looker. He had another daughter, Princess Magners League. Rich princes came from far and wide to try and win the hand of one of his daughters. Princess Internationals was spoken for, but there was intense competition for the hand of Princess Heineken Cup, whose beauty was said by many to rival that of the great southern princess, Princess Super 14 (although many in the south thought this was a load of cobblers). The King selected a suitor for Princess HK, making sure the prince was rich enough to support his daughter in the style she had become accustomed to , and as a sweetener promised the prince that Princess International would be lending her sparkly stars to Princess HK often as they improved her already outstanding appearance.

Interest in the family dropped off after Princess HK was married, but eventually a poor prince arrived, saying ‘I believe you have another daughter?’. The King brought out Princess Magners League, who was a comely country girl (there could only ever be one answer if she asked ‘Does my bum look big in this?’) with only the faintest hint of a mustache. The King, sensing hesitation from the suitor, put in a good word for her ‘Her squint is but a trick of the light, she applies cream to her warts every night, and those braces should eventually sort out her buck teeth. She scrubs up really well, especially when Princess Internationals lends her those sparkly stars which she does all the time (when Princess HK isn’t using them). And anyway, you’re no oil painting yourself’. The poor prince knew he was going to get slagged by his mates but she was the daughter of the rugby king after all and she did have a certain rural charm. They lived happily ever after (but the poor prince did wonder sometimes when Princess Internationals was going to lend her those sparkly stars).
Magners League on telly

Fri Sep 24



Connacht v Ulster, ML, BBC2/TG4, 19:30

On Friday Leinster drag their sorry asses over to Edinburgh who are in pretty diabolical form themselves. Edinburgh must be pleased Italy have been added to the Magners League if only for the fact that it means Aironi are propping up the bottom of the table and not them. There’s nothing like a bit of desperation to liven things up and hopefully Leinster will need no more excuses and will put in a performance worthy of a recent Heinken Cup winning team.

Munster welcome back Wallace and Mafi, and should be able to put Glasgow away – it hasn’t been a vintage year for Scotland so far.

Saturday sees a top of the table clash between Connacht and Ulster at the Galway Sportsground. Not often you get to see all those words in the same sentence. The Ulster men are packing a lot of South African beef, the pick of which is Johan Muller – Botha and Wannenberg are past their best IMO. Would love to see Connacht win but I think their party is getting to get pooped by Ulster.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Magners League - Irish provinces riding high - apart from Leinster who stuff it up.

Glasgow 17 - 19 Connacht
Ulster 29 - 21 Edinburgh
Benetton Treviso 29 - 13 Leinster
Munster 22 - 10 Ospreys

Firstly to the bold boys of Irish rugby, Leinster in the corner wearing their dunces hats. They obviously packed their pulling gear instead of their playing gear for the trip to Italy, thinking they’d be chatting up hot Italian babes after slaughtering Treviso.
The Italians – and I use this term in the loosest meaning of the word, as to me only 8 of the starting 15 sound Italian (while in fairness some of the others may be qualified to play for Italy) – looked sharper, hungrier, but more worryingly also better organized and drilled. Just to finish with the ‘Italian’ composition of the team – we don’t want the Magners League, Heineken Cup etc to degenerate into‘Our South Africans are better than your South African’s’. Coach Retief Goosen (from SA) needs to pick a few more Italians for his national coach Nick Mallet (also from SA) (is there a pattern emerging here?). Maybe they can rent some South Africans to watch the matches as well.

Leinster haven’t looked right this season yet, I know there’s an issue with the internationals returning, but that’s the situation, manage it properly. They need to gird their loins, man up and seriously get their s**t together otherwise this is going to be a long, long season. If Sexton isn’t coming back soon , a decent back up kicker for Nacewa is a must because at the moment he has to catch all the catches, make all the tackles, score all the trys and kick all the kicks and there’s only so much one man can do.
Now I have that all off my chest – hats off the Italians for playing really well. Their number 8 Manoa Vosawai is one mean man.

Now time to dish out some plaudits. Amazingly, this is Connacht’s first win on the road – those in the know can fill me in on whether that’s in the whole Magners League or just out of Ireland. Anyway you look at it it’s a pretty decent result for the former whipping boys of the competition.

Ulster made it three from three , turning over hapless Edinburgh who have still to trouble the scorer. They are building a nice head of steam going in to the Heineken cup.

Munster are also three from three but mainly due to the kicking proficiency of Ronan O’Gara. For Ireland’s sake let’s hope he’s not planning to hang those boots up any time soon. This was a match best watched recorded and fast forwarded to the approx 10 minutes of decent play when they weren’t resetting the scrum, dropping the ball or generally faffing around. Munster still have a few guys out but the Ospreys looked to be pretty well at full strength and didn’t due themselves justice at all, where was all the awesome attacking play we get to hear about. It doesn’t look like either team is taking the Magners League very seriously.

Wasps did well to beat Leicester 37-30 – I didn’t catch the match but I’m not surprised, Wasps looked awesome when they played Leinster in a warm up a few weeks ago.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tri Nations Rugby twitter wrap and Irish Magners League highlights

I'm on Twitter!

Return to form revolution in rugby cheating? smug coach tries superb attack miraculous comebacks record setting Ritchie McCaw unstoppable?

Quade Cooper contract negotiations hammering in the press last minute elation last minute despair Building for the World cup? exciting youth

Radical reversal in form paranoia foot in mouth media skills aging team leaky defence odd selections Fourie du Preez critically important

That’s the Twitter summary of the Trinations, you guess which tweet applies to which team. Rearrange the words in the first tweet to suit your view.

Best newcomer Awards:

Wallabies – Curtly Beale take a bow – but not when they pass you the ball

All Blacks – Israel Dagg, Kieran Reid, almost anyone they put on the pitch

Springboks – Francois Hougaard – but did playing with geriatrics make him look good?

Team outlooks

All Blacks – futures so bright they have to wear shades

Wallabies – still building for the future – must be quite a building at this stage

Springboks – future looks All Black, very All Black

Any complaints? The tournament seems to take forever when your team is losing.

Magners League

On Irish telly:

Friday Sep 17
Ulster v Edinburgh, ML, BBC2/RTE2, 20:05
Munster v Ospreys, ML, RTE2, 20:00

Ulster are unbeaten so far, Edinburgh can’t buy a win so Ulster look to have this in the bag but there’s nothing like a bit of desperation to turn your form around.

Leinster were a bit too Jekyll and Hyde for my liking last week , excellent for 20 minutes – bookending 60 minutes of dross. Surely this will be an extended training run though.

Munster are going up the gears, fairly dodgy looking last week but can only improve as the internationals return. The Ospreys, the glamour boys of Wales are looking for consistency but are unlikely to achieve the consistency they want against Munster at home.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Tri Nations - the one that got away for the Wallabies and Leinster start to get going

“You should have seen it, it was black and this blaaady big ( spreads arms as wide as he can)” For the second time in three weeks the Wallabies got achingly close to hooking a big one then saw it slip away right at the end. The All Blacks don’t know when they’re beaten, and this make shift bunch, resting on their laurels, still had too much gas in the tank for the Wallabies, even away from home. That slick black juggernaut turns wallabies and springboks into roadkill all too easily. There will be those out there bleating about the All Blacks peaking between World Cups, while at the same time praying it’s going to be someone else’s team that does the dirty on the All Blacks. These guys are the real deal, and to paraphrase ex Sharks coach Dick Muir ‘It’s going to take a sniper to stop them’

It was a great match to watch, top quality stuff, if you were going to be picky Giteau’s kicking was the only low point of the match. Aaron Crudden is still quite a way off the pace of international rugby but that didn’t seem to hurt the AB’s too badly did it? The Wallabies kind of ran out of steam in the last quarter, much as the Boks did last week. The rise and rise of the mighty All Blacks continues, first unbeaten team in the current 3N formation, record 10 wins in a row over the Wallabies.

Magner’s League

Munster will a little scratchy in their win over Edinburgh and it took some old heads to steady the ship and guide them home, with O’Gara kicking the winning penalty.

At the RDS, Leinster had a few scratchy moments of their own, winning 32-23 over the Cardiff Blues in a score that flattered them. Ian Madigan had an unexpected run on debut as Jonny Sextoin pulled up injured in the warm up, and acquitted himself pretty well, rounding it off with a beautiful try at the end. Leinster ran in two trys early on and looked like they were going to run away with it, then basked in their glory and let Cardiff right back into it. Joel Schimdt must have been sweating there a bit as Cardiff took the lead, before Leinster woke up and sealed the deal.

The front row of Ross, Strauss and van der Merwe had a great night, and Fitzgerald look lively, there is going to be great competition for places in the back line this season. Isa Nacewa was sublime, putting in rib crunching tackles, covering and kicking well and a threat with ball in hand. I’ll have to check the replay to make sure there was only one of him playing. All the replacements, especially Reddan were good value, but Fogarty is going to have a battle on his hands to nail down the hooker position – does he need contact lenses to help throw straight?

A few kinks to iron out still, but the Leinster motor is beginning to hum again.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Tri Nations Finale - Desperate attempt to talk up a dead rubber plus Irish Magners League in extreme brief

The Tri Nations 2010 wraps up on Saturday as the All Blacks take on the Wallabies. The All Blacks and the Wallabies, having joined forces to inflict a vicious tag team assault on the Springboks, to conspire with referees, to ridicule their coach ( well I may have done a bit of that myself), and worst of all to hurt their feelings, now turn on each other.

The All Blacks have already won the Tri Nations, the Bledisloe Cup, and by a clear margin the smuggest team of the tournament. The Wallabies have at least managed to scrape into second place leaving the Boks on the bottom of heap, battered, embittered, injured and receiving counselling ( apart from those that are suspended or sectioned under the mental health act). Not that I’m bitter or anything. It’ll actually be a relief to watch a Tri Nations match where the Springboks aren’t playing funny buggers and annoying the living daylights out of me.

The AB’s have wisely gone with a young fresh looking team to widen their talent pool and get more back up depth sorted out. Only the ball boys are younger than the Wallabies at the moment so no changes for them apart Drew Mitchell who drops out through injury. The AB’s are supremely confident, but no Dan Carter, lots of young players, overconfidence, earthquakes at home and playing away spells trouble to me so I’m going with the Wallabies by 5.

Here are the teams if you’re interested:

Magners League on TV

Edinburgh v Munster TG4, 19:05 (Fri)

Leinster U Cardiff Blues RTE2, 18:30 (Sat)

It’s a pretty handy looking Leinster team hoping to redeem themselves after last week's damp squib, good to see BOD back in action in the run on team.

15: Luke Fitzgerald 14: Shane Horgan 13: Brian O’Driscoll 12: Fergus McFadden 11: Isa Nacewa 10: Jonathan Sexton 9: Isaac Boss 1: Heinke van der Merwe 2: Richardt Strauss 3: Mike Ross 4: Nathan Hines 5: Ed O’Donoghue 6: Sean O’Brien 7: Shane Jennings CAPTAIN 8: Jamie Heaslip REPLACEMENTS: 16: John Fogarty 17: Cian Healy 18: Simon Shawe 19: Mariano Galarza 20: Dominic Ryan 21: Eoin Reddan 22: Ian Madigan 23: Eoin O’Malley

Munster are also looking pretty strong and should come up trumps against Edinburgh (although the Scots are making an irritating habit of pooping Ireland’s party).

Munster: F Jones; D Howlett, J Murphy, S Tuitupou, I Dowling; P Warwick, P Stringer; W du Preez, D Varley, T Buckley; D Ryan, M O'Driscoll; A Quinlan, N Ronan, D Leamy capt. Replacements: D Fogarty, M Horan, J hayes, D O'Callaghan, P O'Mahony, T O'Leary, R O'Gara, D Barnes.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Tri Nations 2010 – Springboks invent aromavision

Before I begin, something more important than rugby, I’m sure all our thoughts are with the people of Christchurch as they recover from that devastating earthquake.
Now to the last Tri Nations match of 2010 for the Boks, where the Springboks have managed to surge ahead in the technology stakes. The history of broadcasting has been marked by jumps in technology – radio to black and white TV, black and white to colour, then HD came along and 3D is the latest innovation. That was until this weekend when the Springboks unleashed aromavision, yes you could clearly smell their performance even in all the way away in Ireland. There is an eloquent Afrikaans word that describes the Springboks right now, and it’s ‘kak’. Even the English speakers among us may not need a translation when I tell you their preparation was kak, their team selection was kak ( what did Frans Steyn do apart form scowl magnificently?), their attitude was kak, their coach is kak, their defense was EXTREMELY kak, the commentary courtesy of Bobby Skinstad was kak… have I left anything out? Of course , their tactics, which in a word were…? Kak! Why not kick it into the crowd if you have to kick it out?

The crowd should have started booing them after 5 minutes, instead of after half an hour. Yes I know, they played well in patches, there were a few performances not covered in poo, Gurthro Steenkamp was immense for instance, Jean de Villiers scored a sublime try which almost but not quite makes up for his slack defense, and Victor Matfields break and chip and catch were from another planet.

The Aussies beefed up their pack, gave the ball a bit of air and were in complete and utter control for the first half hour, playing exciting, flowing nearly unstoppable rugby. They have blooded a new set of young players and the future looks bright for them.

As for the Boks,I have to say I breathed a sigh of relief as Wayne Barnes blew his whistle and flushed the 2010 season away for the Boks. A season to forget.

Magners’ League

Leinster got the weekend off to a poor start with a narrow loss to Glasgow, while the other three provinces all managed to come up trumps in their matches. It’s great to have the matches on Irish telly, but as I discovered, you still have to remember to watch them. Note to self – must do better.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Tri Nations Rugby - Last chance saloon for the Boks and Wallabies, and Magners League kicks off.

This is last chance saloon for both Pieter De Villiers and Robbie Deans. The Tri Nations tournament is long gone to the All Blacks, all that’s left is the bitter pill of fighting over second place, which a win by either side should wrap up this weekend. Pieter De Villiers feels right at home in this saloon, his cowboy credentials are well established and for him it’s 2008 all over again when one surprise win in New Zealand was followed by a disastrous run of defeats, until the Boks produced a bacon saving win over the Aussies in their final Tri Nations match that year. He has sufficiently lowered people’s expectations this year that a loss may still not be enough for him to get the heave, unless he in untypical fashion lets his mouth get him into trouble.

‘Dingo’ Deans is himself now no stranger to the last chance saloon, his fine pedigree with Canterbury is but a faint memory at this stage. He is ‘getting tough’ with his players but they’d have to be a complete of idiots (which they’re not) to realize that he can talk as tough as he wants but in with few exceptions this is it baby, there’s no one else to choose from. Quade ‘Show me the moneyyyy!’ Cooper  is not coming up with the goods , nor is anyone really. He must fume as he watches the Boks squander their rich resources, if all the expat SA players were to return half of the French and English league teams would struggle to field a side.

Bloemfontein is the setting for the match, there is the altitude, it’s a hard place for the Aussies to feel at home in and they are fighting their own demons with the press and the public on their backs. They are as desperate as anything to get themselves back on track, missed out narrowly last weekend, and have made a few improvements in their team. My feeling is that they are going to pull one out of the fire, so Aussies by 2.

Magners League
Wey hey, rugby makes a welcome return to the North with the Magners league on Friday night.

Leinster take on Glasgow at Firhill and it’s on Irish telly without having to pay another sub! This is a strongish Leinster team taking on a pretty depleted Scot side, so come on Leinster show us what you got! The Man City of the Magners League © Ulster entertain the Ospreys at Ravenhill. Be interesting to see the Springbok influence on the match day 15, and could be close at that’s not an Osprey 1st team by any means. On Saturday Munster take on Aironi at Musgrave, I’m tring to avoid sterotypes so won’t mention pasta, and will be looking forward to seeing Denis Leamy and Johne Murphy. Finally Connacht will be hoping to take last seasons momentum into their match against the Dragons.