Sunday, October 31, 2010

The All Blacks come unstuck, the Sharks propsper and the best of the Irish

Australia 26, New Zealand 24

New Zealand’s 15 match unbeaten streak came to an end in Hong Kong as they were tick or treated by the Wallabies on the eve of Halloween. When you’re winning all the time, sometimes you get to feel like it’s your right, but at the top table you have to earn each and win. The Wallabies hung in there and hung in there and pounced in the last minute to claim a very satisfying victory for them. It’s the new young guns Cooper, O’Connor and Pocock that are really shining for Australia. It’s pretty clear too that for all their strengths the All Blacks need Dan Carter fit and firing on all cylinders to be certain of winning the World Cup. Their press back home has switched from sycophantic praise to self doubt and criticism. I don’t reckon that loss is good news for England though. But time will tell…

Currie Cup Final

Sharks 30-10 Western Province

The Sharks powered theirway to one of the most one sided Currie Cup finals ever. And that is no mean feat because that was a very good province team. Patrick Lambie, 20 this month, was a star, scoring two tries and kicking his kicks. He’s in the Bok squad, let’s hope we see him over here in action soon.

Magners League

Ulster 6 - 16 Munster

Leinster 19 - 18 Edinburgh

Benetton Treviso 24 - 17 Connacht

Munster showed the strength in their squad with this win over Ulster – the last gasp try from Munster put a gloss on the win that wasn’t quite there but the men in red are starting to hum again

Leinster did really well at the RDS to overcome a nearly full strength Edinburgh team – their backline has changed more times than you can count but somehow they held it all together and ground out a victory. Nacewa kicking early on was flawless, as Leinster get back to winning ways.

Finally, Connacht succumbed as expected to Treviso, but still got a point of the match.

Aviva Premiership Things are looking bleak indeed for Leeds as they failed to overcome a down on their luck understrength Wasps. Where was the fight we saw against Stade the other week? Saints and Irish are the pacesetters here.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A round up of the rugby this weekend and Bledisloe 4 – the Sequel – this one’s for the money!

Bledisloe 4

Well you would have to start with the top two rugby nations taking each other on, wouldn’t you? The Bledisloe Cup is competed for every year by the All Blacks and the Wallabies, three matches would guarantee a winner every year, so what’s the fourth match about – especially when you consider that for the last few years it hasn’t even been held in Australia or New Zealand. Well as the artist formerly known as Puff Daddy sang, this one’s all about the benjamins. Product. Cash. And what better place to host it than the haven to capitalism that is Hong Kong? Well, lots of better places actually, as they’ve only managed to sell 25000 tickets.

The Cup as a competition is long gone this year as it’s 3-0 to the AB’s. Still, they are both fielding full strength teams, and they both know it’s an ideal warm up before they brave the cold of the Northern Hemisphere. No Sonny Bill Williams yet, but I’m sure the All Blacks have packed ‘The Pain®’ and their normal bag of tricks, and are going to win this by more than 7 points. The Wallabies will at least give them a decent match, they beat the Springboks on their last outing and are a rising force again, especially as their pack is back to full force. The player to watch for me is Australian flank David Pocock, a superstar in the making. He’s not really that well known this side of the pond, but he’s a really smart target to be signing in the next few years.

While we’re on the Southern Hemisphere, this weekend also sees the climax of another classic competition of the South, started back in 1889, for a cup that began life as an Lions trophy (the British and Irish type, not the toothy kind.) This year’s finalists are the Sharks, my team, and Western Province. Both sides read like a who’s who of the Springboks, lots of big strapping men, and it’s likely to be a tight , brutal match. Look out for Patrick Lambie, the young Shark fly half who could well be starring for the Boks on their end of year tour. As it’s a home match for the Sharks in Durban, I’m backing them to win against this impressively strong WP team.

Magners League

It’s nappy time for the Magners League as all the seasoned internationals – get ready for the internationals. Ulster and Munster buck the trend slightly – Ulster have their full SA contingent which means they pretty damn strong, especially in the pack, while Munster have enough depth to lose a handful of internationals and still have a more than handy team. I’m going with Munster on recent results.

Leinster vs Edinburgh This is where the nappies are going to come in handy as Leinster ‘tests the depth of the squad’ and who passes to dunno. Edinburgh – who have been up to some unusual preparation - are going to be a tough nut to crack, even at the RDS and I’m backing them for a win unfortunately

Connacht are away to Treviso, and even at full strength, I reckon Treviso are going to be too much for them.

Aviva Premiership

Gloucester vs Leicester is the pick of the bunch here, could be a bit more evenly matched with the internationals out. And I reckon Leeds are going to get their first win of the season against Wasps.

On the Telly


Ulster v Munster, ML, BBC2, 19:05


New Zealand v Australia, SS1, 09:30

Sharks v Western Province, CC Final, SS4, 16:30


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Irish results from the weekend and the national treasure that is David Wallace

Weekend Round-Up

Edinburgh 21 - 16 Ulster

Munster 39 - 13 Benetton Treviso

Connacht 6 - 18 Leinster

The rugby kicked off on Friday evening with Ulster paying a visit to Glasgow. Blowing a small fortune (and not that small either) on South African beef hasn’t quite paid dividends for the Ulstermen yet. These are the tight games you want to be winning unless you want to stay in the also rans. Edinburgh at home are always a tough proposition though, and seem to have shaken off their early season wobbles. I’m still waiting for that BIG Ulster performance.

Munster then turned on the style to ease past Treviso at Thomond Park. They paid them due respect by fielding a full strength squad, and Treviso showed some good flashes including a well worked try. The try of the match for me was Keith Earls try, with O’Gara diving on the ball in midfield, immediately popping it to Wallace who threw a long pass to Earls one half who sprinted in from there. Wallace is a national treasure, the way he reads the game is outstanding, he is an outstanding flank and handles the ball like a back.

On Saturday evening Connacht welcomed Leinster to the showground. Last season Connacht were unbeaten by the Irish provinces at home but they forget to pack their ‘A’ game this week. The end scoreline might have flattered Leinster a bit but Connacht didn’t bring the physicality or the determination to send Leinster home empty handed. Remember to pack the PAIN next time lads! I was kind of hoping to see someone from Connacht make a point about not being in the Ireland but that didn't happen unfortunately. And I lost out to an X-Factor takeover so missed the last try :(

 Leinster definitely dropped down a gear since their heroics at Wembley, and I want to see their backs really ignite. Sexton can at least bang over the kicks to turn narrow losses into wins. Richardt Strauss was man of the match and no more than he deserved.


Exeter 9 - 12 London Irish

London Irish ground this one out and stay top. Not the pummeling I was expecting but you can’t argue with four points. The Aviva Premiership result of the weekend has to be Wasps 10 - 37 Northampton , that’s some stonking for Wasps, and Saints back to the form that they haven’t been able to show in the Heineken Cup.

Finally, here’s a round-up of the try’s from Round 2 of the Heineken Cup:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

My verdict on the Irish rugby squad and Magners League preview

IRELAND Squad (2010 GUINNESS Series):

Forwards (19) -

Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster)

Tony Buckley (Shannon/Munster)

Tom Court (Malone/Ulster)

Sean Cronin (Buccaneers/Connacht)

Stephen Ferris (Dungannon/Ulster)

John Hayes (Bruff/Munster)

Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster)

Jamie Heaslip (Naas/Leinster)

Marcus Horan (Shannon/Munster)

Denis Leamy (Cork Constitution/Munster)

John Muldoon (Galwegians/Connacht)

Donncha O'Callaghan (Cork Constitution/Munster)

Sean O'Brien (Clontarf/Leinster)

Mick O'Driscoll (Cork Constitution/Munster)

Mike Ross (Clontarf/Leinster)

Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster)

Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster) *

Damien Varley (Garryowen/Munster)

David Wallace (Garryowen/Munster)

Backs (15) -

Isaac Boss (Terenure College/Leinster)

Tommy Bowe (Ospreys)

Gordon D'Arcy (Lansdowne/Leinster)

Gavin Duffy (Galwegians/Connacht)

Keith Earls (Thomond/Munster)

Shane Horgan (Boyne/Leinster)

Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster)

Johne Murphy (Young Munster/Munster) *

Ronan O'Gara (Cork Constitution/Munster)

Brian O'Driscoll (UCD/Leinster)

Eoin Reddan (Lansdowne/Leinster)

Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary's College/Leinster)

Peter Stringer (Shannon/Munster)

Andrew Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster)

Paddy Wallace (Ballymena/Ulster)

This is the Irish squad announced for the Autumn internationals, and rather than look at a list of the usual suspects, it is of course more interesting to reflect on who isn’t in the squad and feel aggrieved on their behalf. Fitzgerald and Flannery are injured, both have come back from injury, neither has looked 100%, and Flannerys continued absence is a worry. Better to give him a good rest now and get him right for the World Cup.

Shane Jennings can count himself a bit unlucky. He moves back to Ireland to get into to contention for the squad, is playing well but still no luck. You need to move back to Ireland and you need to play well and you need to be photogenic to sell jerseys and we can’t make the whole squad Leinster – maybe you should have signed for Munster.

Fionn Carr proves that wearing green is not particularly helpful for your Ireland career, is Shane Horgan fast enough any more to be an international wing?

In the Aviva Premiership, Geordan Murphy continues to be always the bridesmaid, never the bride (I’m sure he’d make a lovely bride) remaining to be the most talented Irish player to hardly start for Ireland. Bob Casey is also unlucky, he must be in the top four Irish locks, and with O’Connell injured, and Cullen only just back, he should be starting. And looking at Jennings, moving back to Ireland is no guarantee of playing for your country. Both players could be falling foul of the player release system which the English league is operating, but it looks like the Tommy Bowe model is the one to follow for expat players. Make the team, then move overseas.

Of course, picking these players means you have to leave someone out, but hey, that’s the coaches problem!

My only worry with the squad is at hooker, where one injury to Best and we’re in the poo.

Telly Watch

Friday the 22nd

Munster v Benetton Treviso, ML, TG4, 19:45


Exeter Chiefs v London Irish, AP, SS1, 18:05


I see Munster have hardly made any changes to the team that thumped Toulon, smart move as they don’t want Treviso to upset the momentum they’ve started, and this is no bunch of bozos they are playing.

Ulster take on Edinburgh at Murrayfield and thier backline definitely has the who? Factor, against an Edinburgh team resting stars of their own. C’mon Ulster!

It will be interesting to see what team Leinster pick for the match, is it going to be the orange peeler passing to the physio, or as they like to say, testing the strength of the squad. Should be a good match, Leinster should win but you never know in Galway.


London Irish get a chance to bounce back from their defeat to the Ospreys, and I reckon Exeter are going to FEEL THE WRATH!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Worst and best of Round 2 of the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge

Best and Worst of Round 2 of the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge

Worst defeat – Ta-dah! Cetransa El Salvador 3 - 116 Brive. Another defeat for the South American team ( probably time to retire that joke) in what is a half decent cricket score. Gloucester 90 - 7 Rovigo is not far behind. The point of any of these matches? Answers on a postcard please.

Try of the weekend Shane Williams, Ospreys v London Irish – this is a stonker!

The Brendan Venter diplomacy award goes to (drum roll) Brendan Venter himself. This was his after match comment: Venter : "We were definitely the better team today, by far". After getting pretty comprehensively beaten by Leinster. More sour grapes from him here where he ’worries for the future of the game’,25883,3822_6449006,00.html

Best win Exeter against Bourgoin . Go the Chiefs (and probably the most Irish English team if you know what I mean)

Biggest fright Stade by a country mile as Leeds nearly staged the upset of the tournament. Would have been sweet. honorable mention for Northampton by Edinburg The Saints are winning – but only just scraping through each time.

This is the best of last weekends trys : only a week late!

Irish Round Up

Munster 45 - 18 Toulon What a result for Munster! This was top entertainment, loads of trys, superlatives all round from the men in red. Mick O’Driscoll was immense, Mafi and Tuitupou weren’t missed in the slightest, Howlett scored a stunner – what more could you wish for? I2 out 15 Irish players is good news for Ireland too. Tony Buckley is growing with each match, and I’m not talking about bigger jerseys here.

Saracens 23 - 25 Leinster While the Munster match was more fun to watch – this was about as satisfying as a result as you could wish for. All the points for Leinster were scored by Sexton, giving an enviable fly half dilemma for Ireland now. Leinster ground this one out, including holding out Sarries for 30 phases after full time was up, to cement their good start to the HCup. That Leinster engine is beginning to hum again, the only worry being Fitzgerald’s injury. Sarries have plenty of bash, but not much more to show after having imported half of the Souhtern Hemishpere.

Biarritz 35 Ulster 15 The only blot on the Irish copy book was Ulster who were done by last year’s losing finalist’s, Biarritz. The first half was fairly evenly matched, maybe the result of some French industrial action? They made up for it in the second half looking utterly rampant and stamping their authority on the game. Ulster just couldn’t handle their power and go home empty handed for the first time this season.

Connacht 16 - 13 Bayonne The men from the West made up for last week with a good win over Bayonne. So three from four, pretty good result for Ireland Inc.

Shark Bite

The Sharks prospered at home, beating the Bulls to earn a home final. Pretty sweet win, the Super 14 may be the big focus but the Currie Cup is nothing to sniff at, and The Sharks must be odds on to win it now.

Province will provide their opposition after accounting for Free State

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Honesty from coaches and preview of this weekend’s Heineken Cup Action

Honesty from coaches

I was reading interviews with Toby Booth of London Irish and Sean Holley of the Ospreys the other week where they were praising the other teams in the pool and it seems that talking up the opposition is now as much a part of the pre match ritual for a coach as video analysis and bribing the ref (just joking). How about a bit of good old fashioned honesty from a coach?

 ‘When I saw the draw for the Heineken Cup pools I laughed at my good fortune when I saw who would be propping up the bottom of our pool. I laughed so hard that the tears were still running down my face when all my friends started to phone me to congratulate me on the easy draw. Even the dogs on the street know you are rubbish, even my wife who never watches rugby said you were hopeless.

Your team is equally composed of no hoper journeyman who will permanently remain on the dole after their final injury, has-beens still under the illusion they are the best thing since sliced bread, and a host of foreign ‘stars’ who haven’t bothered to learn the language, play as if they are working to rule, and are manifestly overpaid and underperforming (more overpaid and underperforming than our overpaid and underperforming foreign stars that is).

 If we don’t get a maximum ten points out of your team I’ll feel like my whole career as a coach has been a failure.’

Heineken Cup Preview

Week two of the competition and the action should really get going on Friday as the Ospreys host London Irish. Both sides are bursting with talent, I support Irish but I reckon the Ospreys are going to want to prove a point here so I’m backing them to win. Racing and Clermont should be really good to watch as well, going with Clermont there as Racing look to have some ongoing fly half issues.

In the Amlin Challenge Cup, the match of the weeknd for me is going to be Leeds against Stade Francaise - come on Leeds, show us what you're made of!

Irish Action

This is going to be a feast…

Munster – Toulon Munster are surely going to bounce back – French teams are notoriously iffy on the road, and Munster are just showing some signs of form. Really looking forward to seeing David Wallace in action again, centre is going to be a bit of an issue for Munster with suspensions, but Munster to win, especially if Wilkinson is rested.

Saracens – Leinster – Oh yeaah! Wembley stadium is the setting as Leinster take on the pride of South Africa (have to call a spade a spade!). Saracens got a spanking at Clermont last week, and Leinster 5 points against Racing. This is a mouth watering prospect. Leinster are going to have withstand a beefy onslaught from Sarries, and then give the backs their head as the game progresses. If the game breaks up at all Leinster are going to get this, it’s going to be one hell of a match. I’m backing Leinster.

Biarritz v Ulster It keeps on getting better, this should be an awesome match as well. Beating Biarritz away is a tall order, but Ulster have been playing really well and their new stars are well bedded in by now. I don’t think Ulster are going to win, but I think they’ll be coming home with something, and could give Biarritz a big fright.

Connacht v Bayonne Connacht are going to want to bounce back after last weekend’s disappointment and my feeling is that the French are going to feel the wrath of a green backlash – Connacht to win.

Irish on the Telly


Munster v Toulon, HC, SS1, 15:30


Shark Bite

Semi’s time in the Currie Cup and the Sharks are going to take on the Bulls. Gulp. With all their Boks back the Bulls are formidable. But home advantage for the Sharks and a bit of belief this season is going to see them home, in my humble opinion. In the other semi, Province should account for the Cheetahs.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Best and the Worst of the Heineken Cup and Amlin Cup - in my expert opinion.

The Best and the Worst of the Heineken Cup and Amlin Cup - in my expert opinion

Biggest defeat - Cetransa El Salvador take a bow, 97 -11 to Sale. Back to South America for you! Runner up - Stade Francais 57 - 6 Crociati Rugby . Did I hear a big gulp from Leeds in the same group as Stade?

Best use of facial hair in a supporting role - Erik Lund(Biarritz) (above)

Biggest fright Leicester! Benetton Treviso came within a whisker of causing a massive upset.

Best rugby brain Jim Mallinder, Northampton coach “Our goalkickers, they have got some weaknesses" No s&*t Sherlock! Why did I rashly plump for Saints in that pool?

Funny old world award – Toulon best the Ospreys and all the points for Toulon are scored by English players.

Worst Jersey – Perpignan. Speaks for itself

First – win of the season for Leeds Carnegie!

Honourable mention - Go the Scarlets!

Irish Round Up

Ulster 30 - 6 Aironi Rugby Ulster got the bonus point – still creaking a bit but you can’t argue with 5 points. Pienaar continues to impress.

Leinster 38 - 22 Racing Metro 92 MASSIVE result for Leinster. 5 tries, everything is starting to go well again. I couldn’t catch the match properly because of junior cricket commitments – should that be cricketing commitments for Junior, and I missed a cracker by the sounds of things. Sean O'Brien man of the match is due recognition for a player who goes from strength to strength. This is Chabal introducing himself to Heaslip:

London Irish 23 - 17 Munster Munster lost but got a losing bonus point. A few years ago that wouldn’t have been good enough for them, but Irish are a good team and even O’Gara candidly admitted they didn’t deserve to win. David Wallace was immense, and Bob Casey must be knocking on the selector’s door. They aren’t missing Mafi at all IMO, what they need in midfield is incision, and Mafi is blunt force trauma exemplified.

Cavalieri Prato 23 - 21 Connacht Connacht took their eye off the ball – they obviously had the points already chalked up in their minds. Italy is providing a few surprises this year.

Shark Bite

Western Province 33-21 Sharks Province manned up at home and came up with a good win. Being able to throw on 4 Springboks didn’t hurt their cause. Sharks are still top of the league, and scored three tries.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Idiot's Heineken Cup Form Guide.

This is a guide written by an idiot not for idiots, so if you’re an idiot, probably not for the first time in your life you’re in the wrong place.

There is a mass of analysis of past performance, current form, player stats – none of which you’re going to encounter in this post. No, these are my off the cuff selections, based on whimsy and a vastly self inflated view of my rugby knowledge.

So in brief 6 pools, all winners qualify plus two best runners up.

Pool 1 Cardiff Blues, Northampton Saints, Edinburgh, Castres. Has to be the Saints from an easy pool. I was just joking Blues fans about the easy pool but the Saints it’s going to be.

Pool 2 Leinster, Clermont, Saracens, Racing Metro. Clermont for me out of the pool for the biggest, baddest, meanest teams in the tournament. And Saracens. A bit traitorous from a Leinster supporter but this is no place for sentiment.

Pool 3 Munster Ospreys London Irish Toulon. Munster in a crimescene CSI will be called in to investigate – don’t know how they’ll do it but they will. Ospreys to get last spot.

Pool 4 Biarritz Bath Ulster Aironi. Ulster – Controversial! but the Irish/South African mix is going to be a winner.

Pool 5 Leicester Tigers, Scarlets, Perpignan, Treviso. Tigers to stroll this one. Perpignan as the second qualifier

Pool 6 Toulouse Wasps Glasgow Dragons This one’s easy peasy Toulouse by a country mile.

So there you have it, rush down to the bookies and get ready to rake it in.

More info for info junkies is here: and here:
Irish games on the telly.



London Irish v Munster, HC, SS1, 17:45

Ulster get things going for the Irish provinces on Friday night and need to extract 5 points out of Aironi, anything less is a unacceptable especially if they are going to top their group as I’ve somewhat optimistically predicted.

Connacht are away to I Cavalieri – they look like they could get out of their group, and this could be the ideal start.

Leinster fans will be crossing their fingers and anything else they can think of that last weeks improvement in form continues as they take on Racing Metro at the RDS Saturday. It’s a typical French T14 side stuffed with stars but I still fancy Leinster as these French teams are notoriously bad tourists. Leinster by 5.

Saturday evening should be the match of the weekend as Munster come up against London Irish at the Madjeski Stadium. Last season the Exiles started the season by pooping Leinster’s party, and they going to do the same for Munster? I reckon! Exiles by 7 but I still think Munster are going to qualify.

Toulouse and Wasps on Sunday looks pretty tasty too, but could be painful for Wasps.

Shark Bite

Sharks and Western Province in Cape Town in the Currie Cup – bring it on! Sharks could struggle away from home – Province by 3.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Leinster stage a comeback

Cardiff 22 - Connacht 6

Ulster 19 - 17 Glasgow

Leinster 13 - 9 Munster

Magners League
The result of the weekend has to be Leinster's win over Munster. Experts - what do they know? Not a lot by the sound of things. Even though there are certain teams that treat the Magners as if it was sponsored by Disney (Leinster, Munster, Cardiff, Ospreys I hope your ears are burning) neither side wanted to lose this match. As a Munster supporter said to me, I guess Leinster wanted to lose it less.The wet conditions made ball handling difficult, so the quality wasn't the highest, but you couldn't match it for passion. Leinster seem to be getting back some of their verve as Carney and Fitzgerald found their dancing feet and Munster...I don't know what to say really, they should have won this match on this season's form. I think they are missing Paul O'Connell a lot. Hat's off to BOD for popping up in the right place at the right time. 5 in row? Wow.
The Aviva seemed to be rocking, and the blue light display at the end was awesome - did they have some red lights on stand by if need be? I wonder if the lights were left over from the Buble concert?
In other Irish action, Connacht lost but didn't disgrace themselves against a Cardiff side who look like they could easily balance the Irish national deficit with all those foreign stars. Fionn Carr must be knocking on the National sides door.
Ulster sorted out Glasgow - maybe not as easily as they should have, but the big news in that match was the impressive debut of Ruan Pienaar, who is going to be an excellent buy for Ulster I'm sure. Hope they find game time for Williams as well. They could easliy be the form Irish province this season.
London Irish stomped all over Leeds 40-24 to remain top of the heap
Shark Bite
Sharks 56 - Leopards 6
What's the adjective for a score like that? The Sharks obliterated the Leopards in a 9 try rout - still wouldn't have been satisfied with anything less though.