Sunday, February 27, 2011

6 Nations Review - Burglary at the Stadio Flaminio, England power on, and complaints from the Irish Heart Foundation over Ireland's performance

Ben Foden Picture from
RBS Six Nations

Saturday , February 26

Italy 16 - 24 Wales

England 17 - 9 France

Sun - 27th Feb 11

Scotland 18 - 21 Ireland

Italy 16 - 24 Wales

Italian police have been called in to investigate a series of burglaries at the Stadio Flaminio. The suspects are believed to have come from Wales, and followed the same modus operandi as a notorious Irish gang that were operating in the area a few weeks ago. They would like to interview the following suspects who may be able to help them with their enquiries:
They were quoted as saying ‘Non avremmo mai dovuto lasciare il Celtic bastardi feckin' nel paese’.

It was another one that got away for the Italians, who played most of the rugby, suffered most of the infringements (15 penalties conceded by Wales) but still came up short. If Richard the III was Italian he would have giving his kingdom for a kicker, with only a third of their kicks on goal countinmg. For Wales, Hook and Roberts showed a few good touches, as did Stoddart, enough to give Wales the game. And as for Italy, if they ever tried to run round a player instead of through him, they might actually get a win. But in fairness, Italy have been narrowly beaten by two good sides, they are making their opposition look bad.

England 17 - 9 France

Ireland entered this tournament looking for a grand slam, what else would you look for. Failing that, at least to win the championship. At this stage, we might get the triple crown, and still lose the championship on points difference. How does a double crown sound? Anyway, England kept Irish hope for the championship alive with a narrow win over Les Bleus. It was a match that didn’t quite live up to it’s billing, although you would have to say that 1066 was pretty hard to top. The match was decided by one missed tackle by France, as Fodden stormed in from short range. Rougerie came within inches of scoring a fantastic try, and Ashton butchered a good try (and made one swan dive he’d rather forget). It was the oldest cliché in the book, a game of two halves, France shaded the first half, and the second half definitely belonged to England. England are getting a nice head of steam up, both for the 6 Nations and the World Cup.

Scotland 18 - 21 Ireland

The weekend rounded off with a visit to Edinburgh where Scotland layed on a lavish welcome, which included a two try gift pack for their guests. Ireland did their best to waste this advantage, giving away penalties all over the place( well more precisely generally right in front of the posts), their absolute very best, but even with their supreme effort Scotland still couldn’t win the match. Heart surgeons all over the country must be toasting Ireland for keeping them in business. I think I'll have a defibrillator on stand by for the Welsh game. Ireland scored three good tries, Ronan O’Gara played an absolute blinder, as did Reddan and Sean O’Brien - that’s about it for the good points. Discipline was absolutely appalling, some highly questionable substitutions were made, and we just seemed to lose our heads in the last 20 minutes. Scotland just kind of hung in there, accepted the gift penalties, but had no clue at all what to do with the ball when they had it. How about a single crown? King of the 6 Nations? With our points difference, 3rd, 4th of 5th looks a distinct possibility.

Shark Bite

Sharks 26 - 12 Blues

I caught about the last 20 mintues of this match played in sweltering heat in Durban. The highlights for me were the breakaway try for the Sharks, Keegan dailes looking lively, and of course Rene Rangers hair. The Sharks hit the road now, while the Blues continue their SA tour, and once they get over the jetlag they are going to do some damage in SA I'd say

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Hastings, Agincourt, the Romans and the 6 Nations - not like any other 6 Nations review you're going to read!

RBS Six Nations

(Team sheets available at posting are at the bottom)
Saturday , February 26
Italy vs Wales 14:30

England vs France 17:00

Sunday , February 27

Scotland vs Ireland 15:00

Italy vs Wales

I’ve been looking at my predictions so far, 4 out of 6, not too bad. Let’s see where I went wrong – I said Wales were going to beat England, and they lost. Then I said Wales would lose to Scotland, and they won. Can you see a pattern emerging here? Will you kindly stop messing with me Wales, and concentrate! About a third of their potential was on display in their last match, against what has to be said was a woeful Scottish team performance, and Wales came away with a good win. The ever moving Hook is at center for this match, which weakens their attack a bit. The Italians have prepared for the match by having the psychotherapy and electric shock treatment necessary to wipe away the memory of a grinning Englishman repeatedly swan diving over their tryline. It’s going to be a monumental effort for Wales to lose this one, even away from home, but I know they have it in them. However, even at a third of their potential they will still be too strong for Italy. I think.

England vs France

 This is a match, where as they say, there’s history. It’s been a while since the French last arrived to successfully conquer England, let’s say about 1066 , lead as they were by William (known for his ferocious rucking and his archers). The citing list that day was unbelievable, and some poor chap called Harold suffered the most dreadful eye gouging imaginable – how old is Julian Dupuy exactly? Roll the years on to 1415 and the English get their revenge at Agincourt, and then there was Waterloo. It’s a sobering thought though that if England win on Saturday, we could be still be hearing about it in 2607 AD.

Here’s how French coach Marc Lievremont feels about the English:  Don’t sit on the fence Marc, tell us what you really think! England could be back up to nearly full strength with the return of Sheridan and Croft to the squad. Les Bleus have added their caveman Chabal to the loose trio and put Jauzion into centre, tacked Clerc on the wing and substituted Yashvili for Parra. We have the team who’ve missed the most tackles (France) taking on the team who’ve scored most tries (England). Hmm, I wonder what’s going to happen?

Yes, obviously, France are going to win, because it makes no sense – when did the French ever make sense? I think if the French can match the physicality of the English, which they can, and if their backs bring their A game, which they will, then they’ll pip the English. Look, I should be shouting for England, to keep the door open for Ireland to snatch the 6 Nations on the final day of play. I had a practice run today ‘Hip hip, ‘ray.’ Didn’t seem right somehow. Then I tried shouting for France ‘Allez les Bleus’ I think I’m just going hope rugby is the winner. Lets hope we see lots of this:

Scotland vs Ireland
 Going back even further in time, when the Romans invaded Britain, they never got round to conquering Ireland or Scotland because the inhabitants were too nasty. They referred to the whole of Scotland and Ireland as Scoti or Hibernia – you know what it’s like, these foreigners all look the same. So that what the Romans did for us - they united the rest of the British Isles agaisnt them. So we’re one people, brothers really, so what kind of way was that of Scotland to treat their brothers last year in the 6 Nations? It made for a very frosty Christmas. This year, the karma so far seems to be with Ireland, with the news of the return of Tommy Bowe and Andrew Trimble, while Scotland are reeling from a host of injuries – Ansbro, Southwell are out, and Hines in doubt too … and it wasn’t as if they were exactly blessed in terms of depth in the first place. They also lose Euan Murray who doesn’t play on a Sunday because of his religious beliefs. So it should be a doodle right, Ireland, narrowly defeated by last year’s 6N champions, playing Scotland, pretty comprehensively stonked by last years also rans Wales. If only it were that simple.

The Scots may be welcoming hosts but they are making an annoying habit of beating Ireland. And the Irish team has been rejigged – I don’t think they needed new players, they needed the players they have to play to their potential. Bringing in O’Gara is a step backwards, and then pairing him with Reddan makes no sense. Scotland have brought in Ruaridh Jackson and Mike Blair, which is going to sharpen up their attack. While Scotland are not going are not going to be as dire as they were against Wales (that isn’t possible) I’m still going with a close win for Ireland,

Shark Bite

The Sharks take on the Blues at home - oh yeaaah! Should be a smashing match, with the Blues on a high after pipping the Crusaders last week. That plane flight from New Zealand is pretty tough though, so I reckon the Sharks will take this one.

This is a rugby blog, but I'm sure it goes without saying that our thoughts are with everbody in Christchurch affected by the earthquake.

France: 15 Maxime Medard, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Aurelien Rougerie, 12 Yannick Jauzion, 11 Vincent Clerc, 10 Francois Trinh-Duc, 9 Dimitri Yachvili, 8 Sebastien Chabal, 7 Imanol Harinordoquy, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (c), 5 Lionel Nallet, 4 Julien Pierre, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 William Servat, 1 Thomas Domingo.

Replacements: 16 Guilhem Guirado, 17 Sylvain Marconnet, 18 Jerome Thion, 19 Julien Bonnaire, 20 Morgan Parra, 21 Damien Traille, 22 Clement Poitrenaud.
Wales: 15 Lee Byrne, 14 Morgan Stoddart, 13 James Hook, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Shane Williams, 10 Stephen Jones, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Ryan Jones, 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun-Wyn Jones, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Craig Mitchell, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Paul James.

Replacements: Richard Hibbard, 17 John Yapp, 18 Jonathan Thomas, 19 Josh Turnbull, 20 Tavis Knoyle, 21 Rhys Priestland, 22 Leigh Halfpenny
Scotland: 15 Chris Paterson, 14 Nikki Walker, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Sean Lamont, 11 Max Evans, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Mike Blair, 8 Johnnie Beattie, 7 John Barclay, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Alastair Kellock (c), 4 Richie Gray, 3 Moray Low, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Allan Jacobsen.

Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Geoff Cross, 18 Nathan Hines, 19 Richie Vernon, 20 Rory Lawson, 21 Dan Parks, 22 Simon Danielli.

Ireland:15 Luke Fitzgerald, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Brian O'Driscoll (capt), 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Ronan O'Gara, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 David Wallace, 6 Sean O'Brien, 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.

Replacements:16 Sean Cronin, 17 Tom Court, 18 Leo Cullen, 19 Denis Leamy, 20 Peter Stringer, 21 Jonathan Sexton , 22 Paddy Wallace.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Super Rugby is served in regular strength,and bits and bobs of rugby results from around the world

Doug howlett (picture from )

Magners League Round Up

This was nearly Ireland ‘s weekend in the Magners, apart from Leinster, who get to sit on the bold step. First of all Connacht pulled off a stunning victory at the Showgrounds against Glasgow in a 5 try rout. That was four tries from the wings and full back, and a penalty try for Connacht, also proving comprehensively that Glasgow have no depth in their squad. The Scarlets must feel like they have sinned in a previous life to have come away with a loss at the Parc y Scarlets after an injury time penalty from Ruan Pienaar sealed the deal for Ulster. In fact it was the Priestland and Piennar show on a drenched evening in LLanelli, with all the points, apart from a penalty try, coming from the boot. Ulster will take their win, however they got it, and I’m not surprised to see Ruan coming up with the goods as I’ve seen him deliver an identical result for the Sharks against the Crusaders in the Super 14.

Then it was Munster’s turn to put Edinburgh to the sword (Ireland 2, Scotland 0). It was a pretty scratchy game in bits, but fortunately master Doug.E.Howlett was on hand to slide in with two characteristic tries. He wasn’t the only man in red to shine though, as Stringer was also at the top of his game, with typical crisp passing, and O’Gara showing a deft touch. It’s pretty classic though that Tony Buckley, after hiding his light under what must have been a pretty substantial bushel, has suddenly decided to shine after announcing his departure to Sale. Mafi was also in sparkling form – don’t want to start a rumour but I heard he was leaving too, is that true? Edinburgh’s back line looked dangerous with ball in hand – imagine getting Lamont and Southwell, and Ansbro in there.

So all that was needed was for Leinster to come to the party and make it a clean sweep for Ireland. Having just snuck into the 21st century with the acquisition of Sky plus, I even have the game recorded for posterity. However, knowing the result, I can’t be bothered to watch it. I caught the beginning live, and didn’t think Leinster looked all that sharp. I suppose losing your first choice scrumhalf/fly half combination is going to hurt you though, and they were playing away from home.

Fri - 18th Feb 11

19:00 Magners Lge Connacht 37 - 8 Glasgow

19:05 Magners Lge Scarlets 16 - 18 Ulster

19:50 Magners Lge Munster 23 - 13 Edinburgh

Sat - 19th Feb 11

17:30 Magners Lge Benetton Treviso 18 - 34 Ospreys

18:30 Magners Lge Cardiff Blues 11 - 3 Leinster

Sun - 20th

17:30 Magners Lge Aironi Rugby vs Newport-Gwent D'gons


London Irish slipped to 7th place in the Aviva Premisership, and Exeter could overtake them if they win their game in hand, after they fell to another wretched loss, this time at the hands of Gloucester. Toby Booth’s collar must be starting to get uncomfortably tight. Time for a change? Elsewhere Exeter had a good win against the Falcons, and Banahan’s three tries sealed Baths victory over Saints.

Fri - 18th

19:45 Gloucester 23 - 9 London Irish

20:00 Newcastle 13 - 23 Exeter

Sat - 19th

15:00 Aviva Prem Bath 38 - 8 Northampton

15:00 Aviva Prem Harlequins 21 - 9 Sale

17:30 Aviva Prem Leicester 21 - 12 Wasps

Sun - 20th Feb

15:00 Aviva Prem Saracens 37 -0 Leeds Carnegie (at the time of going to press)

Shark Bite

Having avoided the Super 15 and plumped for Super Rugby, it looks like the Southern Hemisphere have erred in their name selection – Regular Rugby was more fitting for this weekends matches, with a few exceptions. I saw a bit of the Sharks/Cheetahs match with Beast Mtawarira Willem Alberts both looking very sharp, while thhe Cheetahs were pretty clueless it has to be said. It must be difficult for them to keep improving when you lose players with such depressing regularity. What I saw wasn’t fantastic, but the Sharks always seem to start off looking pretty dodgy and only start to fire round about the half way mark.

This is Ma'a Nonu getting up close and personal with All Black team mate Jimmy Cowan:

Fri - 18th

19:35 Overall Group Hurricanes 9 - 14 Highlanders

19:40 Overall Group Melbourne Rebels 0 - 43 Waratahs

Sat - 19th

06:35 Overall Group Blues 24 - 22 Crusaders

08:40 Overall Group Brumbies 28 - 20 Chiefs

15:05 Overall Group Sharks 24 - 9 Cheetahs

19:10 Overall Group Lions 20 - 24 Bulls

Sun - 20th

06:40 Overall Group Reds 21 Western Force 20

Thursday, February 17, 2011

And on the 9th day they rested - the 6 Nations takes a break, Magners and Aviva Premiership continue and - Super Rugby is here!

Picture from

After 9 days of the 6 Nations, the 6 Nations gods rested – you might argue that they had already worked 2 days longer than the Almighty – you might also argue that the 6 Nations, though wondrous in its splendour, is perhaps not a great a feat as creating the earth, the moon, the stars, and man from a bit of clay. We apologise for this break in transmission – normal service will resume in a week. Anyone know why they have a break in the middle of the thing? Two actually, with another one due in March. Get on with it lads! Do you think they did it as a mark of respect for the start of Super Rugby? Thanks to the 6 Nations, Aviva Premiership lite this weekend, and every week until the tournament is over.Allt he weekend fixtures are at the bottom

Magners League

Connacht take on Glasgow at home and I fancy them at home even if Glasgow have some of their internationals back. Scarlets host Ulster, and with their recent form you would imagine that at pretty well full strength Scarlets will be too much for Ulster. Munster welcome Edinburgh and are unlikely to be generous hosts against the Scots – though having said that they did treat Treviso last weekend. Should win this week though, as much as a reaction to last week as anything else. Finally for the Irish Provinces, LEINSTER travel to Cardiff. Having watched them struggle against Aironi – Aironi! last week, my expectations are not massive for them this week. Think they could be overcome by the Blues in their weakened state. Finally, one mister Tommy Bowe may possibly be running out for the Ospreys against Treviso, let’s hope he doesn’t get injured and is back in the 6 Nations soon.

Aviva Premiership

The Exiles take on Gloucester this week at Kingsholme. The team certainly has a junior look about it, with a few promising England U 20 stars getting to strut their stuff. It looks the cherry and whites have an almost full strength squad – which means bad news, and a loss I think for Exiles

Super Rugby

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, another little tournament is about to kick off, something called Super Rugby – must have bust a gut struggling to come up with that name. Yes, the Super 10,which became the Super 12 (the best model IMO), which became the Super 14, has become Super Rugby. At last some innovation in naming anyway as there are 15 sides now, five each from Aus, NZ and SA. A young man called Danny Cipriani will warm the bench for their inaugural match, against the waratahs, who should comprehensively wipe the floor with the new boys.

Shark Bite

That’s the team – John Smit is Captain from prop this week. Looking forward to seeing Lambie Alberts and the rest of the boys do their thing. That’s a strong team, with a couple of Springboks on the bench, and at home they will sort the Cheetahs to my satisfaction I’m sure.

Sharks team: Louis Ludik, Odwa Ndungane, Stefan Terblanche, Meyer Bosman, Lwazi Mvovo, Patrick Lambie, Charl McLeod, Ryan Kankowski, Wille, Alberts, Jacques Botes, Alistair Hargreaves, Steven Sykes, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, John Smit (captain).

Replacements: Tendai Mtawarira, Eugene van Staden, Anton Bresler, Keegan Daniel, Conrad Hoffmann, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Adrian Jacobs.

Magners League

Fri - 18th Feb 11

19:00 Connacht vs Glasgow

19:05 Scarlets vs Ulster

19:50 Munster vs Edinburgh

Sat - 19th Feb 11

17:30 Benetton Treviso vs Ospreys

18:30 Cardiff Blues vs Leinster

Sun - 20th Feb 11

17:30 Aironi Rugby vs Newport-Gwent D'gons

Aviva Premiership

Friday , February 18

Gloucester vs London Irish

Newcastle vs Exeter

Saturday , February 19

Harlequins vs Sale 15:00

Bath vs Northampton 15:00

Leicester vs Wasps 17:30

Sunday , February 20

Saracens vs Leeds Carnegie 15:00

Super Rugby

Friday , February 18

Hurricanes vs Highlanders 19:35

Melbourne Rebels vs Waratahs 19:40

Saturday , February 19

Blues vs Crusaders 19:35

Brumbies vs Chiefs 19:40

Sharks vs Cheetahs 17:05

Lions vs Bulls 19:10

Sunday , February 20

Reds vs Western Force 16:40

Sunday, February 13, 2011

6 Nations results - Sacre bleu! It's easy to hate the French when they break your heart like that

Chris Aston 6N diving champion Picture from

RBS Six Nations

Saturday , February 12

England 59 - 13 Italy

Scotland 6 - 24 Wales

Sunday , February 13

Ireland 22 - 25 France

England 59 - 13 Italy
Italy has a good match last weekend, running Ireland close in Rome, and losing by only two points in the end. Nick Mallet, the former springbok coach now in charge of Italy, analysed the team and made a few key tweaks at scrum half and fly half to try and go one further and come up with an unexpected win. He also opted for a more expansive game plan. This new approach was entirely successful for all of the first two minutes. After this things turned poorly for the Italians as the English ran riot and clocked up 8 tries including four for try machine Chris Ashton. England came up with their biggest win since they beat Italy 80–23 in 2001, and underlined their status as serious contenders for the title. They’ve always had big forwards, but now they’ve added mobility to that size, and on top of that have some deadly attacking options behind them. Toby Flood is a revelation this season, and even old codgers like Mike Tindall are scoring trys these days. Chris Ashton was apparently warned not to repeat his scoring dive, which he only neglected to remember four times. I was hoping for a bit of variety as well – could he not try a half pike or a tuck with quarter roll for instance?

Italys most successful defensive period was when prop Castrogiovanni was sin binned and the Italians only conceded one try – maybe when they get annoyed they try harder? They even managed a push over try as well of their own. But this was one for Italy to forget.

Scotland 6 - 24 Wales
Some teams play better when they are underdogs – in fact most teams in the 6 Nations seem to play better when they are underdogs – what’s the problem with being an overdog you have to wonder? The Scots obviously have some issues with being favourites. Anyway, they got that monkey off their back for this tournament in some style, ensuring they won’t be considered favourites for any of their remaining matches. But will Dr Andy Roibinson, their coach, be able to relieve the symptoms of choking with a heinrich maneuver, or any kind of maneuver? His hair is all pulled already out I’m afraid. So in summary, Scotland were pretty woeful, after a decent performance last week, suddenly they couldn’t catch the ball pass the ball, kick the ball or find the try line.

Wales started brightly enough themselves with a good try, and played better than they have for ages, and managed to win for the first time in ages too. It was all happening in the first half, tries, yellow cards – two off for Wales at the same time, during which time Scotalnd only scored 3 points, even a punch up, though even that was hardly handbags, more like a sequined clutch bag (@Flintaxe ©). The second half unfortunately soon descended into mediocrity, and the match was crying out for a try, or failing that, an all out brawl. In the end, Wales delivered a try and put the game out of it’s misery. Back to the drawing board for Scotalnd, and a step in the right direction for Wales.

Ireland 22 - 25 France
Things went from green to blue at the Aviva stadium as Ireland turned their form around and nearly put in a winning performance against a French team which on paper is streets ahead in quality. Ireland got off to the perfect start with an early try, but penalties let the French back in until Ireland went in with another try to lead at the break. After that, things turned blue, a blue tide of players swarming all over Ireland, the air turned blue in my lounge, and then the mood turned blue at the final whistle. Ireland won the try count three to one, they showed more heart, but at the end they came up just short, including coming agonisingly close to scoring a try in the last minute. What can you say, Ireland gave all they had to give, and lost to a better team. God, it’s easy to hate the French!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

6 Nations 2011 - Weekend 2 ‘Les Irlandais sont les blouses de grande fille!’ and other nightmare scenarios

Jamie Heaslip (picture from :

RBS 6 Nations

Saturday , February 12

England vs Italy 14:30

Scotland vs Wales 17:00

Sunday , February 13

Ireland vs France 15:00

England vs Italy

England have the next three matches at home (Twickenham can dip the chariot and welcome back the team into her ample bosom), which does put them in a good position for the rest of the tournament. Next up are the Azzuri and I get the feeling England see this as a takeaway pizza win and all that has to be decided is the toppings – 20 point advantage? 30 point advantage? They would do well not to take anything for granted though – they are going to get no change at all out of the Italian forwards, and while their backs are clearly better, they still need to soften up the pack before they let their backs get going. It’s one of those awkward matches where your fans are expecting a massacre that you can never quite deliver. They will beat Italy of course, but probably end up as satisfied with the win as Ireland were last week.

Scotland vs Wales

This is an uncomfortable match, neither side with a win, lose two on the trot and the rest of the tournament could be grim. Incredibly, Wales have lost their last 8 matches in a row, and now they have to take on the dark horses of the tournament Scotland, in Scotland. Gulp. They are also going to have to start with Hook at flyhalf as Stephen Jones is injured, and after calling for ages for Hook to be first choice flyhalf, now I’ve changed my mind after watching him suck big time there. Phillips is not firing for Wales at scrum half, and Dwayne Peel is injured – now I’m scratching around for some good news for the Welsh camp – and it’s not coming. Coach Warren Gatland has a contract until 2015? Maybe I should just quit while I’m ahead. Scotland have no injuries, no problems with form, and no worries basically after keeping things decent against France last week. The Scotland of 2011 is big and bad, and keen to flex those muscles. Make that 9 in a row with the Scots to come up trumps at home.

Ireland vs France

Someone was saying to me that it couldn’t get worse for Ireland against France. I didn’t entirely agree with him there. We could end up with size 10 Patrick footprints all over our backs, and have 15 insolent cockerels strutting round the Aviva, sniggering to each other ‘Les Irlandais sont les blouses de grande fille!’. And that would be worse, wouldn’t it?

There’s been intense preparation by the Irish team this week – props Healy and Ross have their chiropractor appointments booked for Monday, and the pack has been simulating scrummaging against the French by being run over by a bulldozer. Meanwhile, the backline have been experimenting with Velcro gloves. Declan Kidney has persisted with Tomas O’Leary as the starting scrum half which has a biblical feel to it to me, serving the poor wine first then bringing on the vintage stuff right at the end of the party. Go on Declan, turn the water into wine and start with Stringer or Reddan, you know you want to.

So in all seriousness, how are we going to beat the French? Having Heaslip back is a great start. That French razzmatazz is based on quick ball, and space to be creative, so we have to ensure they get slow ball and as much space as in the back of a VW Beetle. That means an absolute war zone at the breakdown, roughly this side of legal, and intense pressure on the backline, quick up on them, then every kick, into play or into touch, well followed up. The French missed 25 tackles last weekend, we missed three last weekend, so if we attack as well as we can, the holes could be there. I could see Ireland winning this match. But on balance, unless we have a bit of an implosion from France, they are going to take this, and I think they will.

Finally, for Ireland supporters, get yourselves down to the O2 site and check out some of the cool stuff O2 have organised for Irish fans to get involved with the team. Anyone who’s backing the Irish team like O2 deserves a bit of support.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

6 Nations 2011 - Ireland torture their fans, France and Scotland top tunes and top play, and the English look thorny this year

Scotlands Richie Gray Photo from:

RBS Six Nations

Friday , February 4

Wales 19 - 26 England

Saturday , February 5

Italy 11 - 13 Ireland

France 34 - 21 Scotland

Wales 19 - 26 England

The tournament kicked off on Friday night, with Wales hoping to extend their 8 year unbeaten home run against England, but was not to be as England came out on top in a match played in slippery conditions. Both teams had been rejigged due to injuries and it showed, with lots of fumbles and mistakes. Wales defended stoutly, players like lock Bradley Davis stood up to be counted, but they looked pretty pedestrian in attack, apart from one moment of magic when they opened up the English defense to score. Their discipline wasn’t great either, and they seemed to kick away a lot of possession, not well followed up, straight into the grateful hands of try machines Ashton and Fodden, which wasn't their smartest tactic.

England looked a little rusty, their scrum didn’t dominate as expected, but you can see the confidence in the team, and the leaps and bounds that players like Flood and Palmer have made. The common consensus seems to be that neither side played well, but I think that’s unfair, both teams defended well, and wouldn’t allow the other team the time or space to attack. England could well be the team to beat this year, and Wales may look back and think they did well to lose by one try.

Italy 11 - 13 Ireland

Ireland’s prosecco didn’t bubble much on Saturday as the boys in green stumbled past a determined Italian side. Injuries meant that this was far from Ireland’s first choice team, which made for unfamiliar combinations, lots of mistakes, and a lack of composure too as they butchered a few golden opportunities to score and put the game beyond doubt. Ireland put their fans through the wringer, 5 minutes go, down a man, losing 10-11. I suspect they have already played their get out jail card for this tournament, with Ronan O’Gara’s last gasp drop goal saving Ireland’s bacon and sparing their blushes. I didn’t really see them losing though. Sean O’Brien had a decent 6 Nations debut, the hand of BOD scored a typical try, and that was about it really on the plus side. The front row struggled, D’Arcy had a shocker, their discipline could have cost them the match but all in all, a win is a win. Let’s hope we get Heaslip, Ferris and Bowe back soon.

Italy for their part were tough, defended uncompromisingly, and showed more flair in attack than ever before. Their front row is going to cause nightmares and backache for any team in the world now, their line out is slick and teams going to Rome looking for an easy win is going to be sorely (and I repeat emphasise sorely) disappointed.

France 34 - 21 Scotland

First of all we had Flower of Scotland and Le Marsellaise back to back setting exactly the right tone of passion and determination for the match. Then within a few minutes the corks were popping as the French brought out their champagne rugby, dazzling skill and pace, threatening to score at will. Their scrum was absolutely merciless, and the Scottish scrum must have felt like they were in a cement mixer. But the Scots hung in there and then went in for a try of their own, and the game ebbed and flowed like that for the rest of the match, extravagant effective rugby from the French, and doughty determination from the Scots keeping them in the match. The Scottish scrum showed a marked improvement in the second half and whatever was said to them at half time (‘We have your wives and children’) certainly seemed to work. If they French sort out their defense they will be just about unstoppable., and if the Scots keep that never say die attitude going they are going to cause more than one major headache this year.

Style watch – take a bow Richie Gray, whose flowing locks make him a stand out player, when he plays well or fluffs it. (drops the ball etc)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

6 Nations 2011 kicks off - get your fix of the six here!

Fergus McFadden debuts for Ireland picture from
RBS Six Nations

Friday , February 4
Wales vs England 19:45
Saturday , February 5
Italy vs Ireland 14:30
France vs Scotland 17:00

It’s a big rugby year this year with the World Cup just round the corner, and if you can just pick up some momentum in the 6 Nations you could go far. Let’s see what sort of start everyone will make…

Wales vs England

What an excellent match to kick things off as Wales welcome the Red Roses to the Millenium Stadium. This is one match Ireland, Scotland and Wales never have to get up for, beating England means even if everything else goes pear shaped in the competition, you can still feel like you’ve achieved something. And if you’re not an England supporter, reading the Sunday papers is a guilty pleasure as whatever battering England take when they lose in the 6 Nations is nothing compared to the savaging they get in the press. England go into this match with a few key men missing, captain Moody, Lawes and Croft being the main ones. There’s massive depth in English rugby though, and I’m interested to see how debutant Tom Woods does, but am not so sure about Tindall as captain and Haskell is way short of his best. Wales meanwhile have their own injuries, particularly in the front row where they are bound to struggle. Otherwise, they have injuries but depth of their own. Byrne on the bench is a move that may backfire, but may also inspire him to get back to his best. A key match up will be between 6 6 ft 3 in Mike Phillips at scrum half for Wales, and 5 ft 10 in 13 stone Ben Youngs, England’s Scrum half. Phillips is an edgy, in your face player as it is and rookie Youngs could have an afternoon to remember. England are the favourites, but with home advantage I reckon Wales are going to sneak this one. Wales by 5.

England team:,25883,16024_6718392,00.html
Welsh team,25883,16024_6718418,00.html

Italy vs Ireland

With a mounting injury list, Ireland look like they are getting a bit thin on the ground for this match. Declan Kidney has stuck with a few of the old faithful s like Donncha O’Callaghan, who were awesome in their peak, but as they approach eligibility for a bus pass, their form seems to be waning. You wouldn’t think the team was selected on Heineken Cup form anyway. Having said that, there are 6 Nations debuts for O’Brien, Ross and Fergus McFadden. Italy at home are not exactly a daunting prospect, but you wouldn’t want to get overconfident or you could easily come back from Rome with pasta all over your face. Even with Ireland’s injury list, they should still have enough to sort the Italians out, maybe not by much. Ireland to win by 4.

Irish Team:

France vs Scotland

After France’s risible performance against Australia, last year, you’d have to expect the Scot’s to feel some kind of backlash. Scotland however, have really turned their form around in the last few years, and are no longer content to be scrapping for the wooden spoon with Italy. They have a fearsome looking pack, probably the best front row in the competition, and finally some decent options in the back line. This is going to be a bruising afternoon of rugby, and it’s going to be intriguing to see if the French players can bring the same skill and intensity to this match that they deliver for their clubs. If not, it could be a long afternoon at the Stade de France, Paris, with their notoriously volatile fans. France by 7

Scottish team,25883,3560_6716090,00.html
French team,25883,3559_6715757,00.html