Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rugby World Cup - last chance to get on the bus!

Ronan O'Gara - sign out of picture (picture )

Right, this is where things get really interesting, no more hiding your light under a bushel, get in there and prove you’re good enough for the next round!  Samoa have to knock down the biggest, thickest door in the tournament to stay in the tournament on Friday. They outmuscled the Australians pre tournament, can they do the same to the Boks? Beating the South Africans at their own game by taking them on physically is a mammoth task – most teams have profited by outsmarting them, which doesn’t seem to be nearly as difficult. While I have every admiration for the Samoans, and sympathy with their match schedule, I can’t see them having the tactics or the discipline to overcome the Boks, so that is them gone I’m afraid.

The Scots are in a similar position with a similarly sized door, if a bit paler, as they plot against the Auld enemy.  They can beat England, I’m sure of that. But can they manage to jump through the whole range of hops necessary for them to get through to the next round? They have beat England, score four tries, deny them a bonus point, climb the greased pole and eat the candy apple with their hands tied behind their backs. So Scotland are on the plane. They just don’t have the firepower to do what they need to do, they’re never going to score four tries.

Wales Fiji is a interesting one, but Fijians have had a pretty disastrous time of it with only one win, and not good performances in the two they lost. They beat Wales to make it into the next round last World Cup, but Wales are a different team these days, even without Hook and Lydiate. So no fairy tale ending this time, the Fijians to lose, and the princess to marry the frog with no spell on it.

Then it’s the last big match, and the only one where the underdog, Italy ,has any real chance. If Italy beat Ireland, and deny us a losing bonus point, that would be Italy and the Aussies on their way and us on the plane. We tiptoed past them in Rome in the Six Nations, wouldn’t they just love to go one further this time? They have the forwards to tie us up in knots, and realistically, we are one front row injury away from disaster. Our backs are far better than theirs though, and I’m actually expecting quite a lot from Ireland in this match, a statement of intent.

 It will be interesting to see who starts at fly half on Sunday. O’Gara is top class international, with excellent place kicking skills, and he’s brilliant at keeping the game in the other teams half. His running game is not of the same standard as his kicking though. His inside pass for instance- you know the sign board they use to let you know how many extra minutes are to be added on in a soccer match? It’s like there’s a man waving a sign board on the sideline saying ‘O’Gara is about to make an inside pass’, that’s how much notice the other team gets. Sexton is good positional kicker, and a great man running with the ball, getting the backline going. He tackles better than O’Gara as well. He falls down on his place kicking though, when he lines up a place kick these days, that’s the time to make yourself a cup of tea or get another beer from the fridge as you really can’t watch. I think we need a running game to beat Italy, so I’m expecting Sexton for the first 60 and O’Gara to close it out. That’s unless D’Arcy is out, in which case they may both start. The front row is going to be under massive pressure, but the players  I want to really stand up are O’Callaghan and Heaslip. Are we at the bus stop or on the bus lads? I think we’re on the World Cup bus, Ireland by 10.

Ireland: Rob Kearney; Tommy Bowe, Brian O'Driscoll (capt), Gordon D'Arcy, Keith Earls; Ronan O'Gara, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best, Mike Ross; Donncha O'Callaghan, Paul O'Connell; Stephen Ferris, Sean O'Brien, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Tom Court, Donnacha Ryan, Denis Leamy, Eoin Reddan, Jonathan Sexton, Andrew Trimble.

And that's the team, bit surprised to see ROG and Murray but, who can argue with Kidney?
Fri - 30th Sep 11  
08:30 South Africa  vs Samoa

1 October:
Australia v Russia, Nelson (0330 BST)
France v Tonga, Wellington Regional Stadium (0600 BST)
England v Scotland, Eden Park, Auckland (0830 BST)

2 October:
Argentina v Georgia, Arena Manawatu, Palmerston North (0100 BST)
New Zealand v Canada, Wellington Regional Stadium (0330 BST)
Wales v Fiji, Waikato Stadium, Hamilton (0600 BST)
Ireland v Italy, Otago Stadium, Dunedin (0830 BST)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Rugby World Cup - sob story for France, SOB story for Ireland

Sen O'Brien (picture )

Australia made some small amends for their recent fall from grace by pummeling the USA, who at least had the solace of scoring a try against the No.2 side in the world.  England look like they are back in the groove, playing free flowing rugby and chalking up a good total against the brave but limited Rumanians.

The match of the day, maybe even of the tournament, was supposed be the one between the All Blacks and the French, but it didn’t live up to the hype. New Zealand, while they’re no Ireland,  are a formidable team. They went through about 30% of their gears, and still smashed the French. The French started with blistering pace,  then it looked like they had a meeting with their shop steward and played to rule after that.  The All Black back line absolutely ripped the French to shreds, running in try’s just about at will. French coach Lievremont must have known that playing a scrum half at fly half was going to disrupt the team, but who knows what his plans are. This is a World Cup, there’s only one winner, and neither team has won or lost anything yet.  The French are safely in the ‘easy’ side of the draw, but what’s frustrating is that you feel they have the talent to beat anyone, anywhere, and should have been going for a win. For the All Blacks, Carter, Dagg, Jane and Kaino were all outstanding. The only soupcon of comfort for the French was that they put immense pressure on the All Black scrum – if the French hadn’t scored a try in a ‘huh?’ moment while the clock was supposedly stopped after a series of scrum penalties, they were odds on for a penalty try.

Samoa kept themselves in contention with a good win over Fiji, then it was Irelands turn to put Russia to the sword. It was pretty much an Ireland B team, and Russia are really weak, but they scored 9 tries, a couple of the fringe players like Trimble and McFadden put their hands up, and Sean O’Brien is in the stratosphere at this stage with another stellar performance. 6 o’clock on a Sunday though! Feel my ‘real fan’ credentials growing by the minute.

The last match on Sunday was Scotland/Argentina, one place apart in the world rankings, and evenly matched in strength and style. It was an appalling day in Wellington, so ball handling was diabolical, it was scrum reset after scrum reset, in a fascinatingly close contest none the less. A try by Argentinean super sub  Amorosino made the difference and clinched the win for the Argentines. Absolutely  gutting for the Scots.

Moment of the weekend – Francois Pienaar in post match commentary – ‘The loose trios are so fast these days – in my day, the difference between me jogging and sprinting was a change in my facial expression!’

Australia  67 - 5  USA 
England 67 - 3 Romania 
New Zealand 37 - 17 France
Fiji 7 - 27 Samoa 
Ireland 62 - 12 Russia 
Argentina 13 - 12 Scotland

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

RWC2011 French selection for New Zealand really gets me going

Sonny Bill Williams -eager to give some French Lessons (picture )

During the week Italy ran out easy winners over minnows Russia, while Tonga overcame Japan in a far closer contest.

Ireland face Russia next themselves, and going on Russian form so far this will be an exercise in giving the Irish squad a run and possibly trying a few combinations. We don’t want to risk any of our frontline players, our match against Italy is the match the Italians have been building up to for four years, and can you imagine beating Australia and losing to Italy? Makes you go cold.

The big encounter of the weekend sees hosts New Zealand take on their bête noire, France. French coach Marc Lièvremont, came in early with his team selection, and he’s gone and picked a scrum half at scrum half, and a scrum half at fly half. Now I try to be as even handed as I can on this blog, and avoid national stereotypes, but in this case I’m prepared to make an exception. You really feel that in true Monty Pythonesque style that Lièvremont is waving his private parts in your aunties face with this selection. Maybe he does feel that your mother was a hamster and that your father smelled of elderberries. Jesus wept, what have the French done to deserve a coach like this?  Well, in fairness, they do break Irish hearts on a regular basis, with Vincent Clerk the chief villain. And they have made a habit of destroying the dreams of a certain little southern hemisphere nation every four years or so. Then there was the Rainbow Warrior- actually, the French are getting exactly what they deserve! And just to piss us off even more, they’ll probably go and win the match just to rub their Frenchness in our faces. I think Lièvremont has a lot more in common with Springbok Coach Pieter De Villiers than a French surname.

Now that I have that off my chest, what are their chances of beating New Zealand?. I know Parra plays fly half at club level when needed, but he’s not a first choice there even at club level, so this is surely going to disrupt the team. The rest of the team is really solid, but not necessarily first choice players. I think that Lièvremont has an eye on sticking in the easier side of the draw( that’s OK Marc, you wouldn’t be the first team to underestimate the Irish). And the All Blacks are going to feel like it’s their moral obligation to wipe this French team off the face of the earth to avenge events four years ago. They’ll oblige the French and give them a sound beating.

Sunday sees two pivotal matches. First up. Samoa and Fiji are going to lock horns. This is a must win match for Samoa to try and keep their qualification hopes going. The Samoans have been doing some serious giving out about their match schedule, and rightly so. Top tier teams like South Africa and Wales get leisurely 6, 7 even 8 day gaps between matches while the minnows get sometimes only 4 days to recover, which is not nearly enough given the physicality of the sport. Samoa should win this one anyway.

Argentina and Scotland is another key match, probably to decide the runner up spot to England in that group. Now I’m not expecting a try fest. In fact, I’m not expecting to see too much of the ball at all, only briefly appearing at the back of a ruck before next one is set up. Both teams have reputation for a decent pack, and reasonably limited backs. So if you’re a fan of wrestling, you could be in for a treat. For the record, I’d say Argentina are going to shade this one, which could set up an almighty final match between Scotland and England, as the Scots try to qualify.

Wednesday, September 21 Tonga 31 - 18 Japan 

Tuesday , September 20 Italy 53 - 17 Russia

Thu - 22nd Sep 11   09:00 South Africa  vs Namibia

Fri - 23rd Sep 11   09:30 Australia  vs USA

Sat - 24th Sep 11   09:30 New Zealand  vs France
07:00 England  vs Romania

Sun - 25th Sep 11  

08:30 Argentina vs Scotland
06:00 Ireland  vs Russia
03:30 Fiji vs Samoa

Sunday, September 18, 2011

RWC11 - Ireland beat Australia - move over DKNY there’s a new name in grand design, DKCC! (Declan Kidney Cork City)!

Move over DKNY, there’s a new name in grand design, DKCC! (Declan Kidney Cork City)! Nobodies talking about four losses in a row now! We didn’t just beat the Australians, we BEAT them! A 9 point win when no one’s given you a chance – how sweet is that! Just about none of the media, few of the fans, but most importantly the Australian players didn’t think Ireland had a hope. Ireland didn’t do anything flash, just went about their business in a determined fashion, kept the ball tight, and established an absolute dominance in the scrum. The most kudos for this performance definitely go to the front row and the loose trio, but 1-15, what a performance, no stars just one for all and all for one. Genia, Cooper and Beale were near invisible for Australia as Ireland stifled the life out of the Aussies. Even our bench was stronger, with O’Gara and Trimble both looking sharp. There was nothing the Wallabies had either on or off the pitch that could match us.

Australia now face the unenviable task of needing to beat the Springboks in the next round – that’s if they beat the USA first, although I’d definitely back them to beat the USA, especially if they get Pocock and Ioane back :). And as for Ireland – well, you wouldn’t want to get too carried away, but it’s a sweet, sweet moment to savor, it feels like the sky’s the limit at the moment.

Here’s the phrases the Aussies should have learnt for the match:

Is féidir le Paul O'Connell teacht le cabhrú linn lenár scrum nuair a scoireann sé?
Can Paul O'Connell come help us with our scrum when he retires?

Riamh Tá na beers i Bondi ceirteacha tarraingthe ag do dtíre ag dul go dtí an blas céanna arís.
Those beers in Bondi pulled by your countrymen are never going to taste the same again.

Tá tú ceart iad do sheila ag lorg níos fear
You're right your sheila's are better looking

Earlier on Saturday, the Springboks picked up where they left off after the first 5 minutes against Wales with a pretty impressive victory over Fiji. Fiji looked really good for the first 20 minutes, they had the Boks on the ropes, but then the Springboks struck back, playing uncharacteristically fluid rugby. They were, dare I say it, exciting to watch! Every South African out there put his hand up and there are some interesting headaches for the South African coaches now. This is a great group for Wales and South Africa, there is no hiding place against Samoa and Fiji, you either survive or die, and whatever doesn’t kill you just makes you stronger.

Wales Samoa was the other big match of the weekend, and it was a massively physical encounter – both teams must have felt like they’d been run over by an 18 wheeler. Wales are growing in confidence, they didn’t have it all their own way but they showed enough composure and grit to grind out his win. They must have sealed their place in the next round with that win. Samoa don’t have a good enough scrum to really compete at this level.

Elsewhere, The All Blacks annihilated Japan, Argentina thumped Rumania, and France ran out easy winners over Canada. England took a break from their busy schedule of dwarf throwing and cleavage diving to easily account for Georgia.

New Zealand  83 - 7  Japan  
Sat - 17th Sep

 Argentina  43 - 8  Romania    
 Australia  6 - 15  Ireland
South Africa  49 - 3  Fiji    

Sun - 18th Sep

 France  46 - 19  Canada    
 England  41 - 10  Georgia    
 Wales  17 - 10  Samoa    

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ireland to upset the odds, Wales to dogfight it out - bring it on!

Ireland expects...
Samoa 49 - 12 Namibia 
Tonga 20 - 25 Canada 
Scotland 15 - 6 Georgia
Samoa, the potential dark horse of the tournament, made short of Namibia. Canada produced a minor upset, overcoming the more fancied Samoa, while Scotland failed to impress in a drab victory over Georgia. It was pretty much a Scots B team though.
Fri - 16th Sep 11  

09:00 New Zealand  vs Japan

Sat - 17th Sep 11  

04:30 Argentina vs Romania
09:30 Australia  vs Ireland
07:00 South Africa  vs Fiji

Sun - 18th Sep 11  

09:30 France  vs Canada
07:00 England  vs Georgia
04:30 Wales  vs Samoa

Japan, the Brave Blossoms, are likely to wilt in the face of an All Black onslaught. Ouch is probably going to be the best way to describe this match.

Ireland v Australia is the plum match of the weekend. Australia are ranked 2nd in the world, Ireland a more modest 8th, although in fairness we did fall like a stone from 4th in our less than successful run up to the World Cup. I’ve heard people claiming that we are, to use the technical term, about to be ‘hockeyed’ by the Wobblies. Oh ye of little faith! On Saturday, Kidneys master plan will be revealed, as Ireland go from chumps to champs and sort out the Antipodean giants. And our sheila’s are better looking! I don’t have the stats or the logic to back this up, this is a more primordial pit of the stomach based assessment of our chances. We’ve got the players to do the job, all we need is belief, and in fairness a bit of luck, and we can do it.

There are a couple of key players that are going to have to really perform, none more so than Johnny Sexton who needs to show the form that helped deliver the Heineken Cup for Leinster. Gordon D’Arcy is another that owes us a big time, his most useful contribution to date would have been to pull his socks down and try and blind the opposition with his legs, but he can and will play to his potential. The loose trio of O’Brien, Heaslip and Ferris need to dish out a performance that will be the stuff of legends, getting the ascendancy in the loose and disrupting the awesome Wallaby backline. Donncha O'Callaghan needs to much more than just ballast in the scrum, and Eoin Reddan is going to have to match and better Will Genia. We don’t have anything to lose in the match, the pressure is all on the Aussies, everyone’s expecting us to lose. ‘mon Ireland!  Is feidir linn!

The Springbok Fiji match also looks pretty interesting. The Boks were under serious pressure at one stage the last time they met Fiji in the World Cup, but then they pulled themselves together and won easily in the end. This is a new gentler, kinder set of Boks, none of this ‘Kill’em all and let God sort them out!’ approach any more. Fiji are not the team they used to be either though, and I think the South Africans are still big and beefy enough to squash the Fijians.

Wales and Samoa is the last match of the weekend, and one of the most intriguing. Wales came into this tournament with a young team and high hopes. And they came within a whisker of a major upset of the current World Champions last weekend. But they have to suck up the disappointment of that loss and really concentrate, because one more stumble and they’ll be on the plane home. Samoa showed in their defeat of an admittedly weak Aussie selection in July that they are no pushovers. They’ve beaten Wales before in the World Cup, and have another chance to carve out a bit of history for themselves. They’ve got all at the moment, size, skill and experience. I think Wales are going to win, but not by much more than they lost to the Boks.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Rugby World Cup round up - all the biggies win

Would you ever run the feckin ball?

New Zealand  41 - 10  Tonga 
Scotland 34 - 24 Romania 
Fiji 49 - 25 Namibia 
France 47 - 21 Japan 
Argentina 9 - 13 England
Sunday , September 11
Australia 32 - 6 Italy 
Ireland 22 - 10 USA 
South Africa 17 - 16 Wales
New Zealand got the show going in fine style with a 6 try demolition of Tonga. The eagle eyed choker spotters weren’t impressed – ‘They fell off in the second half! Dan Carter had a poor match!’ Six tries does it for me though,  and Tonga are not an easy team to beat. Quite an interesting pre match haka competition as well, where I thought the Tongans had a slight edge.
I didn’t catch the Scotland Romania match,   where the Scots kind of tiptoed past the Romanians by all accounts, or the Fiji Namibia match, where Fiji clocked up a good score in what was said to be an entertaining match. I then made a fatal error by writing off the Japan France match as one the French would slam dunk the funk out of the Japanese to go for a run, in time to watch the England Argentina match.  Well, the Brave Blossoms, ( and spell check saved my blushes on the first spelling of blossoms, cough) obviously spurred on by the news that I’d got them in the office draw, really took the game to the French, and at times looked like they were going to record their second ever world Cup win . (Their only win so far is ironically over Zimbabwe). I watched for a bit when Japan got their second try, and I wasn’t feeling the love for the French from the crowd. There were plenty of Japanese supporters, the Kiwis were all oddly behind the Japanese, and all the neutrals were backing the underdog. One sniff of victory for the Japanese and half the western world descended into raucous ‘allo ‘allo style derision of the French. They managed to pull themselves together in the end and get the win. Nihon gambatte!
Then it was the supposed match of the day, England v Argentina. You can win pretty, you can win ugly, but at the end of the day, a win is a win. But England’s win was as ugly as Martin Johnson’s face in the post match interview – yes, it was that bad! It was a poor match by any standards, with both teams bereft of ideas, either bashing it up the middle, or kicking it aimlessly away. They were both content to play without the ball and wait for the other team to make a mistake. Don’t get me wrong either, I’m not knocking England for the sake of it, they played some good rugby in the Six Nations, attractive running rugby. They are back in the straight jacket of a kicking game, except their wunderkind Johnny has lost his mojo. The commentary didn’t help either – when I heard them labeling their group with England, Argentina and Scotland the ‘Group of Death’ it was fortunate there was a large basin handy. Captain for the day was Mike Tindall, and he would do well to learn from the John Smit/Ritchie McCaw book of conversing with the ref – it’s ‘Yes sir, No sir, 3 bags full sir’, not ‘Yes, but…’ England scraped out of this one by the skin of teeth – please in their next match can they start with Youngs and Flood and run the ball a bit? The most exciting part of this match was the streaker by a country mile.
On Sunday, Australia started slowly and then ran away with it in the end. Then it was Ireland’s chance to start righting the wrongs of 2007. Except they still had Steady Eddie, now coaching the USA, putting a spanner in the works. Ireland were underwhelming, they got the win, but still made far too many mistakes for a team that has ambitions to go far in this tournament. The USA competed well physically in loose play, but their scrum and lineout were awful. Still, the match was played in pretty appalling conditions, and it still seems like half the Irish team is just back from injury. Tommy Bowe made a good few fluff ups, but got two tries as well, Earls looked lively, and O’Gara was on hand to steady the ship at the end. A win is a win is a win. Let’s just bank it and move on.
The last match of the weekend was Wales/South Africa, and it was the most keenly contested. The Boks started like a house on fire, then gradually lost their way – they had a few ‘senior’ moments I guess. I think Pieter De Villiers had to gently remind this bunch of veterans why they here and what they were doing at half time. Wales played really, really well, and I thought they had it won several times in the match. The Boks still had a few gears to go up though, and however badly they played, when they needed to, they went straight up the field and scored a try under the posts. The Welsh will be kicking themselves, this was the one that got away, but if they carry on playing like that they can still go a long way in this competition. The World Champs look anything but.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

So I pick NZ, Australia, Ireland, England and South Africa for this weekend

Here’s a look at the big matches this weekend

Ireland vs the USA

Ireland come in to the tournament on the back of a less than impressive build up, with a 0 from 4 record in the summer internationals. You’d have to qualify that though by looking at the stern opposition in the last 3 matches, England and France. And coach Declan Kidney took the opportunity to do some tinkering and try out a few combinations instead of just putting out his strongest side each time, mindful of the fact that we might not win. Were they hiding their light under a bushel, or managing expectations of their World Cup chances, or a bit of both? On Sunday we start to find out.

We got a Grand Slam in 2009, and a couple of Heineken Cups and Magners’ League titles with the provinces  in the last few years so the talent is there, just a matter of it all clicking for us to have a good run in this tournament.  For the USA, the fact the match takes place on September the 11th gives them extra motivation, but they just don’t have the player resources to mount a serious challenge. So this game for Ireland is all about performance, starting the build up for bigger games. We should get out of our group, and when it gets to the knock outs, anything can happen.

New Zealand Tonga

Picture from

This is the opening match. The All Blacks are, as always, No 1 in the World leading into the World Cup. They slipped up in their last match, losing to Australia, and conceding the Tri Nations title at the same time. Is that the sound of the All Blacks clearing their throats for another choke? They are always the team to beat anywhere in the world, and at home they are just about unstoppable, so this tournament is theirs to lose. Tonga are unlikely to be competitive apart from in the physicality stakes.

Argentina vs England

England arrive with pretty big expectations, based on an improvement in form over the last few years. From bitter experience in the last World Cup , Ireland and France could tell them not to underestimate the Argentineans. I don’t get the sense that they see Argentina as a serious threat, but with a constant focus on size size size they should be able to steamroller the South Americans.

Australia Italy

This is one for Irish fans to watch (not literally as it’s on at 4.30 in the morning but we’ll be there in spirit). A win for Italy would leave us well poised to top our group and meet up with probably Wales or Samoa in the next stage.  Now I know we basically picked Italy’s pocket in the 6 Nations with a last gasp win, but surely this is a time for us Europeans to stick together  and stand up to this Southern Hemisphere giant? Italy probably only have a small chance of beating Australia, but they have beaten France this year so you never know. Australia are in good form, probably not consistent enough to go all the way but they should have a good run. Forza Italia!

South Africa  Wales

South Africa are the current holders of the World Cup. However, they arrive at the tournament with pretty much the same model that they used in the last World Cup, only with a lot more mileage on the clock, and various dents scrapes and a dodgy head driver in coach Pieter De Villiers.  So while they probably won’t disgrace themselves I couldn’t see them going all the way. Wales are on a bit of a roll recently, but I don’t think they have quite enough in the tank to take out the Boks in this encounter. Warren Gatland's typically ham fisted attempts at stirring things with the Boks, and half the team saying 'The Boks don't scare us' = 'The Boks scare us a lot.'

Fri - 9th Sep 11   09:30 New Zealand  vs Tonga

Sat - 10th Sep 11  
07:00 France  vs Japan
02:00 Scotland  vs Romania
09:30 Argentina vs England
04:30 Fiji vs Namibia

Sun - 11th Sep 11  
04:30 Australia  vs Italy
07:00 Ireland  vs USA
09:30 South Africa  vs Wales

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Ouch! Leinster really suck in Wales, while all the other Irish provinces win

New boy Nathan White (picture from )

When Leinster are good they’re brilliant, but when they suck, they really suck. Well, they developed awesome suction in Wales this Friday night. From a team that had to hand Northampton a try on a plate, so tight was their defense last week, to a team that proved as watertight as a leaky sieve this week. And they had some of their big guns back this week, that proved as fearsome as pop guns to the Ospreys. The Welsh won’t turnover the Leinstermen this easy again, well I bloody hope not. As a Leinster Fan, it was horrible to watch, fumble, tumble, stumble. The break down was an out and out disaster. I think the whole team should be given lines – write out 100 times – I must not pass the ball without looking – I must catch the ball when it’s passed to me – I must tackle – I must protect the ball at the breakdown.
Third choice scrum half is obviously an issue,  Matt Berquist looks off the pace and a bit underwhelming in general – is he 100% fit?
Then to add insult to injury, all the other Irish provinces won, admittedly either at home or against weaker opposition or both. Lads, this is your golden opportunity to shine while the big boys are swanning around in New Zealand, don’t waste it!
The intensity the Ospreys brought was pretty impressive, they look in good nick. Any simple ball handling skills they displayed made them look masterful in the face of what Leinster were dishing up.
The only bright spot for Leinster on the weekend was in the formidable form of prop Nathan White,   Waikato captain up until Saturday, now on his way to Leinster on a one year deal. Don’t really know him but he certainly looks the business. He has some other skills that may help Leinster out with Manu Tualagi if they ever play Leicester again which you can see here:   

Aviva Premiership
I watched most of the Irish/Quins match, not too inspiring, Irish are going to have to find some new gears if they want to do anything this year. But what a fantastic win for the Exeter Chiefs, the Irish team for this generation, beating the Tigers.
RaboDirect PRO12
Friday , September 2
Ospreys 27 - 3 Leinster 
Ulster 28 - 14 Glasgow 
Edinburgh 15 - 38 Cardiff 
Benetton Treviso 9 - 11 Connacht 
Munster 20 - 12 Newport-Gwent D'gons
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 3
London Irish 24 - 29 Harlequins 
Worcester 17 - 12 Sale 
Leicester 28 - 30 Exeter 
Newcastle 9 - 22 Bath 
Saracens 15 - 20 Wasps

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Leinster update

Richardt Strauss (picture from )

Leinster travel to Swansea to take on the Ospreys this Friday. Wins are hard to come by in Wales, so the Leinstermen will have their work cut out for them.

The teams haven't come out yet, and I'll do an update when they finally emerge.

In the meantime, here's a bit of squad news from the Leinster camp. Isa Nacewa, Eoin O’Malley and Richardt Strauss are all back in the frame to start, let's hopethey pick up where they left off last season.

Steven Sykes has a medial ligament injury which means he's out for 2-3 weeks while Andrew Conway has hurt his ankle and will miss this match.

I've put the whole RaboDirectPro12 fixtures list up on my blog  here. It's from the official site, but as things go haywire after January, you have to wonder if there's a more official website, or a most official website out there? I'll be back!

So that's the Leinster team: with the big names back. Berquist gets a start, and looks like competition for places is going to red hot this season with Fitzgerald moved into centre. I was impressed by the way Jamie Hagan held his own against Northampton, and he gets another start. Leo Auva'a was also impressive in his run last week, and he's going to be knocking on the door to start.

Both teams are hit by the World Cup, and Ospreys have lost a host of stars for good. Still an impressive starting side though, it's all going to depend on how goth sides gel. Should be a good match, pity it's on BBC Wales from an Irish point of view. Have to go with Leinster from a patriotic point of view!

15: Isa Nacewa
14: Fionn Carr
13: Eoin O'Malley
12: Luke Fitzgerald
11: David Kearney
10: Mat Berquist
9: John Cooney
1: Heinke van der Merwe
2: Richardt Strauss
3: Jamie Hagan
4: Damian Browne
5: Devin Toner
6: Kevin McLaughlin
7: Dominic Ryan
8: Rhys Ruddock CAPTAIN
16: Aaron Dundon
17: Jack McGrath
18: Jack O'Connell
19: Mark Flanagan
20: Leo Auva'a
21: Cillian Willis
22: Ian Madigan
23: Brendan Macken

15: Richard Fussell
14: Kristian Phillips
13: Andrew Bishop
12: Ashley Beck
11: Hanno Dirksen
10: Dan Biggar
9: Rhys Webb
1: Duncan Jones
2: Mefin Davies
3: Cai Griffiths
4: Ian Gough
5: Ian Evans
6: Tom Smith
7: Justin Tipuric CAPTAIN
8: Jonathan Thomas

Munster have put out a strong side against the Dragons, with poor old Tomas O'Leary warming the bench for Peter Stringer.I'll be interested to see how Ian Keatley gets on with his move from Connacht, with international duty and rest periods for Ronan O'Gara he should get to see a lot of top level rugby. Win for them.

Munster: J Murphy; D Howlett, D Barnes, L Mafi, D Hurley; I Keatley, P Stringer; M Horan, M Shery, S Archer; B Holland, M O'Driscoll; P O'Mahony, N Ronan, J Coughlan. Replacements: D Varley, W Du Preez, J Hayes, D Foley, T O'Donnell, T O'Leary, S Deasy, S Zebo.

Ulster get to take on Glasgow at Ravenhill, and it's a handly looking side. This is what I',m going to be watching tomorrow night sans BBC Wales. Craig Gilroy is always exciting to watch, as is the scrum half Marshall, and I 've got big expectations for Tuohy. Several players get a chance to show their wares while the internationals are gone, and they should beat Glasgow.

Ulster (15-9): A D'Arcy; C Gilroy, D Cave, N Spence, I Whitten; I Humphreys, P Marshall; (1-8) P McAllister, A Kyriacou, J Cronin, L Stevenson, D Tuohy, P Wannenburg, W Faloon, C Henry (capt).
Replacements: N Brady, C Carey, A Macklin, N McComb, R Diack, I Porter, P Jackson, P Nelson.


Haven't got a team for Connacht yet, but what an exciting time for the province - they have Mazda on board as a sponsor, have nearly sold out their 3000 season tickets, got some cash from the Government for ground improvements, and they're in the Heineken Cup!