Monday, December 22, 2014

Happy Christmas everyone!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Leinster smash Quins by a point! But Connacht are the real deal!

 Eoin Reddan is one of a host of returning players named in the panel for tonight's game
 Bacon saver (picture http://bit.ly/1qOh2BC)

Well 2 from 4 again in Europe, and the only consistency is from Connacht,  who arguably have the best provincial coach in Ireland at the moment.

Connacht started the weekend in style, with a run on team featuring academy players. Caolin Blade scored two tries on his first start, as they came from behind to secure the best result for Ireland of the weekend.

Leinster smashed Harlequins at home with a one point victory. Yes the Leinsterman continue to tread water, with no particular pattern of play, and a creaky scrum. It took a few inspired breaks from Eoin Reddan to save our bacon and set up the match winning penalty. We won, playing with the umpteenth centre pairing, which actually could work well if it continues, so let’s be generous and say we can only get better.  Quins scored a couple of good tries, and deserved the losing bonus point. If we just looked like everyone knew what the plan was, I’d be a lot happier.

Munster started red hot, and finished medium hot to get the losing bonus people, it was the bit in the middle that was the problem. That French running game is just dizzying to watch and defend against, they scored two tries as good as you’ll see, and butchered another. Like Leinster, the Munster scrum was dodgy, but they are even lower down on the prop stocks. Clermont have this group you’d think, but Munster  can still at least can chase that runner up spot.

Finally, Ulster staggered through the first half of their match against the Scarlets, coughing up several soft penalties to give the Scarlets a good lead. Their scrum was at least as bad as Munster and Leinster. Cave and Marshall set up the most beautiful try, and when they went down to 14 they played really well, and got within 2 points. Then…an intercept try took it all away, a loss and no bonus pont. Time to concentrate on the league.

European Rugby Champions Cup

Clermont 26-19 Munster
Wasps 44-15  Castres
Scarlets 22-13 Ulster
Saturday , December 13
Glasgow Warriors 9 - 12 Toulouse   
Toulon 23 - 8 Leicester Tigers   
Northampton 67 - 0 Treviso   
Leinster 14 - 13 Harlequins   
Racing Metro Paris 18 - 14 Ospreys   
Saracens 28 - 15 Sale Sharks   
Bayonne 27 - 29 Connacht
Bath 32 - 12 Montpellier

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Another orgy of European rugby on the way!

 Cian Healy: bad news.
 We want you back! (picture http://bit.ly/1sm4UDA)

After some pain for the Irish last weekend for the Irish provinces, they all get a chance to right the wrongs of last week with the reverse fixtures this weekend.

Leinster lead up the Irish challenge, with injury doubts over Darragh Fanning and Gordon D'Arcy although they should be fit, while Dominic Ryan, Richardt Strauss and Dave Kearney could also be in the picture.  What is it with injuries and us at the moment, it’s a bit like a revolving door. Quins will be without Nick Evans and captain Chris Robshawe. Also Jimmy Goppeth has announced he’s leaving. This is one we have just have to win, bonus point win talk has been floating around, but that’s really hard to see, any kind of win will do. If we can hold our scrum together, at home, we should at least beat them, and with a bit of luck deny them a bonus point. I’d love to see Cian Healy and Sean O’Brien back ASAP!

Munster have to go to France to try and take out Clermont. While they won’t lack for motivation, the real question is do they have the firepower to get the job done? They certainly gave Toulon a good game in the knock out stages last year, so they know how to do it. On the injury front, they’ll be without Gerhard van den Heever and doubts over  Dave Kilcoyne, and James Cronin . Robin Copeland, Paddy Butler, Eusebio Guinazu and Andrew Smith may be available though. As the Frenchmen always grow another inch at home, it’s tough ask, don’t want to be pessimistic but Munster will be lucky to get a result I think.

I’d back Connacht on current form to beat Bayonne, whose commitment to European rugby is pretty suspect.

Finally, Ulster travel to take on the Scarlets, where the real worry is all their injuries. Stuart Olding and Franco van der Merwe suffered concussion in Saturday’s, while Wiehahn Herbst and Nick Williams have hamstring problems, and  Stuart McCloskey is a serious doubt. Luke Marshall may play – I wouldn’t worry about the backs too much, they have such depth there, but they’ll miss Herbst, Van der Merwe and Williams. It’s a hard one to call, but I think the Ulstermen have more quality, and should sneak a win.

European Rugby Champions Cup
Friday , December 12
Bath vs Montpellier    19:45
Saturday , December 13
Saracens vs Sale Sharks    17:15
Leinster vs Harlequins    19:45
Toulon vs Leicester Tigers    15:15
Glasgow Warriors vs Toulouse    13:00
Northampton vs Treviso    15:15
Racing Metro Paris vs Ospreys    17:15
Bayonne vs Connacht
Sunday , December 14
Clermont Auvergne vs Munster    15:15
Wasps vs Castres    13:00
Scarlets vs Ulster    17:15

Sunday, December 7, 2014

2/4, average outing for Ireland this weekend.

 Leinster coach Matt O'Connor talks to Douglas at UCD this afternoon.
 (picture http://bit.ly/15XMvYY)

There was some fiery rugby played this weekend, no more so than in Limerick, where Munster came up against a very determined Clermont side. This was not for the faint hearted, with international standard intensity. What the French team brought was, alongside their normal talented (and huge ) backs was amazing physicality, for the whole match. They stopped Munster’s big runners in their tracks – even Paul O’Connel struggled, it was that difficult, while CJ Stander and Dave Foley hardly seemed to feature. Tommy O’Donnell really stood up, MOTM for Munster for me. Part of the learning curve for Anthony Foley – what’s the plan when your driving game is out the window? Easy for me to say, but I would have liked to see Felix Jones brought in more at first receiver, he’s playing a blinder at the moment, or given JJ Hanrahan a run for 15 minutes. It’s not a disaster though, it’s tight at the top of the pool, and Munster are going to give Clermont a hell of a game next week.

Ulster got a bit back on the horse, with a 5 pointer over the Scarlets. Pienaar makes a huge difference, and their amazing array of backs really came into the match. Darren Cave just quietly gets better all the time. Toulon’s loss at the Tigers leaves the pool nice and open.

Leoinster battled away on Sunday, and only came away with a losing bonus point.  The scrum was a huge issue in the first half, and overall, I’d say we struggled to impose ourselves physically. What Douglas was doing on the bench, I don’t know, and I think Jordi is still a touch off the pace. Gopperth had a pretty good game, which is a relief, but our problem at the moment is that there’s no tempo to our back play – other teams used to sh8t themselves when the Leinster backs got the ball, now it’s just pretty routine tackling to keep them contained. That’s what Sexton and O’Driscoll used to bring. Overall though, if we can beat Quins at home next week we’ll head in to the break in good shape.

Finally, Connacht held the flag high for Ireland, with a BP point win over Bayonne.

European Rugby
 Champions Cup
Sunday , December 7
Castres 17 - 32 Wasps   
Harlequins 24 - 18 Leinster   
Leicester Tigers 25 - 21 Toulon   
Toulouse 19 - 11 Glasgow Warriors
Saturday , December 6
Sale Sharks 15 - 19 Saracens   
Treviso 15 - 38 Northampton   
Munster 9 - 16 Clermont Auvergne   
Ulster 24 - 9 Scarlets   
Ospreys 19 - 19 Racing Metro Paris   
Connacht 42 - 19 Bayonne
Montpellier 5 - 30 Bath

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Leinster need to get ready to rumble, Quins here we come!




Just when the glut of Autumn internationals comes to an end – the ‘Cup formerly known as Heineken’ arrives!

And Leinster first up need to seriously get ready to rumble, as they travel to take on Quins. Quins are currently 9th in the Premiership, so it hasn’t been a stellar season – but… they are a much better team than they’ve been playing. And Leinster haven’t looked too fly this season themselves. Just who of their Irish stars is going to be available will have a big bearing on the result. We just don’t seem to have the beef that we used to, nor the creativity in the backs. However, we do have a habit of picking ourselves up for the big ones, so I’m hoping for a ‘Northampton away’ result again – I kind of think we’ll win.

Munster have Clermont at home. There have been some epic battles between the sides over the years, and this is one of the matches of the weekend. Munster weren’t entirely convincing last weekend, but they have a pedigree in Europe as long as your arm. So it’s game on, and you know what they say about the French travelling. Clermont would be one of the few French sides actually interested in Europe, but you’d fancy Munster at home wouldn’t you?

Ulster have had a lot of disappointments this season, but I think the Scarlet’s are going to feel the backlash of that when they visit Ravenhill. It wouldn’t pay the Ulstermen to underestimate  their Welsh guests but they’ll have too much firepower this weekend.

Finally, Connacht  have Bayonne at home. They should win, but Bayonne, although bottom of that pool, have beaten Connacht’s real rival in this pool, Exeter. I’m backing Pat Lam and his men.

European Rugby Champions Cup
Friday , December 5
Montpellier vs Bath   
Saturday , December 6
Sale Sharks vs Saracens    13:00
Munster vs Clermont Auvergne    17:30
Ulster vs Scarlets    19:45
Treviso vs Northampton    13:00
Ospreys vs Racing Metro Paris    15:15
Sunday , December 7
Castres vs Wasps    13:00
Harlequins vs Leinster    15:15
Leicester Tigers vs Toulon    17:30
Toulouse vs Glasgow Warriors    15:15

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Post 500! Leinster could learn from Sam Davies and Connacht!

 
 How did I ever get to 500 posts!?

The match between Munster and Ulster at Thomond was a thriller, if not always entirely very skilfully played out. You can see the rustiness  of the lay off, and the gaps the big names leave. Munster’s halfbacks were alternatively brilliant and woeful, Kealtey making good ground running, then passing all over the place, and his place kicking was not up to standard, Williams try scoring but throwing a good few wild passes of his own. It was Munster who looked the likelier of the two to run away with it, but they also worked hard to keep Ulster in the game with silly penalties and yellow cards. Ulster meanwhile, look like a team with a new coach and head of rugby. It’s going to take a while for that to all calm down. My MOTM was Robin Copeland, and I though Francois vd Merwe was very good for Ulster.

On Saturday, Leinster’s ordinary run of form continued  with a flat win over the Ospreys. They look out of ideas, Gopperth is playing at about 30-40%, and very few guys are putting their hands up. They have injuries and internationals missing but so did the Ospreys. Showing a bit of form were Douglas, Murphy, and Dave Kearney, who seems to have muscled up a lot. What I’d like to see is Madigan at 10, for a decent run (if he’s not injured) and Gopperth on the bench. Gopperth was getting lessons off Sam Davies, who kicked superbly.

Connacht’s good start to the season continued with a solid win over a game Scarlets side. It was pretty physical – Leinster might want to have a look at how it’s done – a real arm wrestle. It took a moment of brilliance from Matt Healy to seal it for Connacht, the man has some serious gas. Good times at the Sportsground!

In the internationals, both England and Wales got important wins.  And off the two, the Springboks should be the more worried – they only really turned up once, against England, and don’t look the no 2 side in the world.

Guinness PRO12
Sunday , November 30
Glasgow Warriors 19 - 15 Dragons   
Saturday , November 29
Zebre 18 - 10 Edinburgh
Leinster 18 - 12 Ospreys   
Connacht 14 - 8 Scarlets   
Friday , November 28
Munster 21 - 20 Ulster   
Cardiff Blues 36 - 25 Treviso   
International Match
England 26 - 17 Australia
Wales 12 - 6 South Africa

Friday, November 28, 2014

Can't wait for Munster/Ulster, and time for Leinster to get serious!



 16 December 2013; Leinster's Jordi Murphy during squad training ahead of their Celtic League 2013/14, Round 10, match against Edinburgh on Friday. Leinster Rugby Squad Training & Press Briefing, Rosemount, UCD, Belfield, Dublin. Picture credit: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE
 (picture http://bit.ly/1uQrlAh)

Friday night kicks off with the mouth watering prospect of Munster v Ulster at Thomond.  There is going to be a titanic battle up front! Munster have gone for size, with Stander and Copeland in the backrow, taking on Nick Williams and Roger Wilson.  Super match ups all over the field, and Munster must have the advantage being at home, but the Ulstermen aren’t going to leave anything on the field, so it should be close. Bit of a South African feel to it, with four for Munster, and three for Ulster.

Leinster have to get back on the horse straight away after a forgettable result and performance in Italy last weekend. They have a decent home record – have they lost at the RDS this season? And the Ospreys don’t have their Welsh internationals. But they gave Ulster a really good game last weekend, so Leinster will have to bring their A game. I’m hoping to see some of the returnees, guys like Jordi Murphy, really put their hands up. And Jimmy Gopperth, if he plays, owes us one! We should do it.

Finally Connacht have to keep up their good run of results – the Scarlets are a team they should beat now, going to be  really tough, but they should sneak it.

As far as the internationals go – I think Wales have the best chance, hope I’m wrong but I can see both results going South.

Guinness PRO12
Friday , November 28
Munster vs Ulster            
Cardiff Blues vs Treviso  
Saturday , November 29
Zebre vs Edinburgh           15:00
Leinster vs Ospreys          17:15
Connacht vs Scarlets        19:30
Sunday , November 30
Glasgow Warriors vs Dragons      16:00

International Match
Saturday , November 29
Wales vs South Africa     
England vs Australia

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Don't you wish we were playing the All Blacks next weekend!

Joe Schmidt
(picture  http://bit.ly/1usrxFT)

Let’s face it, Joe Schmidt is God! We played two of the Southern Hemisphere giants this Autumn, and sent them both away empty handed.  Don’t you just wish we were playing New Zealand this weekend? It wasn’t the cagey close match we were expecting, in the first half anyway, it was helter skelter end to end stuff with us storming into a big lead, throwing it all away, then clawing it back. But at the end it was the basics that saw us through – Foley left more points on the table than Sexton did, and that was the difference in the end.

Schmidt has created tremendous systems and structures, and when we stick to them, they work like a charm. But there is still the freedom to play instinctively – if Tommy Bowe hadn’t trusted his judgement and gone for the intercept, would we have won? When we ignore his systems, don’t follow up on kicks, give needless off loads, it hurts us.  But we have forwards with the hearts of lions now, Best and Ruddock 14 tackles each, POM  and McGrath giving everything, O’Connell gigantic. And backs to run and put their bodies on the line, Zebo, Bowe, Kearney, Murray. And Madigan coming on, tackling the biggest man on the field, Skelton, ripping the ball from a prop for a crucial turnover in our 22, making  a magic pick up and break, and getting the final turnover, winning a penalty.   Are we on a roll or what! And in fairness, whatever the run of results they’ve had this year, Australia are a good, good team.

I also saw Wales come up short against the All Blacks – they put in a 65 minute performance then fell away. The score was a bit cruel in the end. The best Welsh player for me was Biggar , hardly put a foot wrong, and tackled like a tiger. You just can’t ever give the All Blacks an inch can you.

I also saw the Boks scrap with Italia, pulling away in the end in a margin that flattered them. They can’t concentrate unless they rate the other team.

It’s not just the internationals we are winning either, with only Leinster of  the provinces not cleaning up in the Pro 12. We are a force to be reckoned with! Leinster look really out of sorts – there are injuries and we missed the internationals, but still, very average fare from the men in Blue.

Internationals
Italy 6 - 22 South Africa   
Ireland 26 - 23 Australia   
Wales 16 - 34 New Zealand   
France 13 - 18 Argentina   
England 28 - 9 Samoa   
Romania 18 - 9 Canada   
Scotland 37 - 12 Tonga   

Guinness PRO12

Sunday , November 23
Treviso 24 - 24 Leinster   
Friday , November 21
Dragons 12 - 38 Munster   
Scarlets 19 - 9 Glasgow Warriors   
Ulster 25 - 16 Ospreys   

Thursday, November 20, 2014

In Joe We Trust as Ireland take on Australia!

 Rory Best
 (picture http://bit.ly/1vscwL7)

Saturday is the acid test for the Cult of Joe. We had the oh so nearly against New Zealand, smashed the 6 Nations, then beat the Springboks. Now we have the Wallabies, where due to the recent run of results, we are kind of the favourites. Favourites? That’s a dangerous word in Irish rugby, we always seem to play better when resentment has been allowed to fester – so you don’t give us chance, do you, well, WE’LL show you! And, bitterness and resentment aside, we have a bit of history of going from being underdogs to being overconfident and cocksure. And then getting our arses kicked. This is where In Joe We Trust comes in. Joe Schmidt is a man who exudes quiet confidence. He’s always the least surprised when we win because he has planned and anticipated it. Now of course, he has to deal with the weight of public expectation.

But on the basis of his track record, you’d think a bit of his quiet confidence will have infused itself into the squad, and he’ll have a cunning plan for Australia. And let’s face it, Australia have their problems, but any team that played the All Blacks three times this year, got a draw, and lead them until the final 10 minutes in the last test, can’t be all bad.  We won’t have Payne, but we have Best available to pick, and of course Henry is out for the moment, I really hope it’s nothing serious

The Australians  have Michael Chieka on board, who’s coached half of the Irish Squad, and played against most of the rest, so he has a few insights into the personal attributes of individual players.  The Wobblies have two objectives I’d say – get the win, and stay out of trouble. The Australian press still talk about the exploits of as they call them, the   ‘Dublin 6’, from last year, and  Kurtley ‘Make mine a double’ Beale is now back in the squad.  They have picked monster wing Henry Speight, him and Kurandrani are going to take some stopping. I think it’s going to be Titanic, and we’ll win it by a point!

Apart from that, we have Wales v New Zealand, where Wales are talking the talk…but I think the All Blacks will walk the walk. And France and Argentina, should be great, where the French should have the upper hand.

AND there’s Pro 12, where Leinster have an away match in Treviso, and well welcome back Dave Kearney, Jordi Murphy, Fergus McFadden and Shane Jennings. Enjoy!

Saturday , November 22
Italy vs South Africa    15:00
Scotland vs Tonga    14:30
Ireland vs Australia    16:30
Wales vs New Zealand    17:30
England vs Samoa    19:00
France vs Argentina    21:00

Guinness PRO12
Friday , November 21
Dragons vs Munster    19:30
Scarlets vs Glasgow Warriors    19:35
Connacht vs Zebre    19:35
Ulster vs Ospreys    19:35
Sunday , November 23
Treviso vs Leinster    14:30
Edinburgh vs Cardiff Blues    16:00

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Ireland do the job against Georgia!

 Dave Foley
Dave Foley (picture  http://bit.ly/11toKGb)

Ireland waited for 50 minutes to start scoring tries against Georgia, and after that they couldn’t stop, scoring 6 in total. It’s always hard when you have a team made of fringe players, there’s not the cohesion of your main squad. The first half was pretty scrappy, and the Georgians were working a lot of the dark arts at the ruck to keep Ireland’s ball slow. Then when the ref got serious about policing the infractions with yellow cards, the space opened up and the tries came. We had a solid scrum, and some good debutants, with Foley and Ryan playing well. The players who stood out for me were Kilcoyne, Madigan, and Jones. Ay You also played well when he came on, and Tommy O’Donnell will never let you down. Joe Scmidt has moulded the guys really close, and has drawn talent well from the 4 provinces. Job done, now for Australia!

I watched the England match, where the Springboks really seemed to have their measure. The English pack was very good as usual, but apart from Mike Brown, the rest of the backline didn’t seem to have much to add. When the Boks have more sparkle in their backline than you, you have work to do!

Scotland had a great chance to beat the All Blacks, and just came up a little short. Their defence had the New Zealander's scratching their heads, they got the win in the end, but it’s not one they will look on with pride. There’s a big change in Scotland, they just need a little more self confidence and they are going to be really hard to beat.

Finallly, France took out the Walabies in a thriller. That was the best of the French – jaw dropping physicality, and flair and pace to burn in the backs. Australia played well too, but they just couldn’t finish strong enough to win.

International Match
Ireland 49 - 7 Georgia
England 28 - 31 South Africa   
France 29 - 26 Australia
Wales 17 - 13 Fiji   
Scotland 16 - 24 New Zealand

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Ireland's front row have chiropractor appointments for after the Georgia match!


Kieran Marmion gets some advice from Isaac Boss.
Marmion (picture http://bit.ly/111ECPa)

After the heroics of last weekend, Ireland have to attend to Georgia next. They famously nearly beat us a few world Cups ago, so you wouldn’t want to write them off totally. Fortunately for us, Gorgodze is not playing, but they’ll know a fair amount about us from Michael Bradley, who’s part of the Georgian coaching set up. And Georgian head coach Milton Haig is a Kiwi who Joe Schmidt replaced at Bay of Plenty in New Zealand! How big is this gene pool? I’d expect there’ll be a fair amount of changes, keeping a few of the big guns fresh for Australia, and also giving the squad some game time. Popular wisdom is that Marmion and Madiagn will start at half backs, and the front row will be new (and should have appointments with the chiropractor for Monday morning!). Let’s hope we get some dry weather, and that the crowd will be treated to some running rugby. I think Our Joe will have all the plans in place for a good victory over Georgia. Good news for us with Kearney and Bowe both signing up for 3 more years!

Things are a bit better spread out this weekend. My plan for Saturday is England V South Africa first. The Boks have replaced Hougaard, who’s only a part time scrum half for the Bulls, and Pollard, who played in the U20 World Cup this year. In come the Sharks pair of Lambie and Reinhard. If the Boks play to their potential, this will be theirs, but it’s too close to call.

Then I’ll move onto Scotland v the All Blacks. The Scots are unchanged, the All Blacks have only two from last weeks starting 15. So this should be close as well, you’d be brave to bet against New Zealand, but c’mon Scotland!

Finally, I’ll power through the pain barrier of remaining seated for 8 hours in front of the telly,  and catch France Australia. France are unchanged – that sentence hasn’t been written for about 10 years! and Australia are going to be sternly tested.  But I think Australia will come through, then French agents will descend on Australia like locusts!

International Match
Saturday , November 15
Italy vs Argentina    14:00
Wales vs Fiji    14:30
England vs South Africa    14:30
Scotland vs New Zealand    17:30
France vs Australia    20:00
Sunday , November 16
Ireland vs Georgia    14:30

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Ireland are living the dream!

(picturehttp://bit.ly/1AOh2WT)

Ireland are living the dream now, rolling over the number 2 side in the world in some style!  Is that Ireland’s biggest win over South Africa? They were clearly the best team in the second half, hanging on a bit in the first half while South African rustiness probably should have seen them going in at half time with the lead. Their defence was epic, and their execution was near faultless. Have you ever seen a team drawn so widely from the provinces knit together so tightly?  I thought Poite’s yellow card was a bit harsh, but Ireland made the most of it and basically put the game out of reach. We are going to need to work on our scrum, and our lineout, as we gave too many opportunities away there. Sexton got MOTM, but to me it was all the forwards, tackling their hearts out and never tackling a step back. Joe Schmidt is a genius – every player knows exactly what to do, and does it. Massive step, massive achievement – now we have to do it all over in 2 days time. The belief in the team is so strong, you feel they could do anything right now.

England got close again against the All Blacks, but poor kicking by the New Zealanders kept thme in the match – that was 10 easy points left behind. But the English scrum is looking really solid despite all their injuries, and they’re not afraid to play what’s in front of them. There are a few weaknesses in the All Blacks these days – they look really short at hooker, and Conrad Smith showed his age when Jonny May’s pace blew him away.

Wales couldn’t get past Australia,  I didn’t see the match, but it sounded like a real thriller. They have a few more opportunities in the next few weeks to come right. Finallu, and excellent start to the Cotter era, a victory over an ever improving Argentina side.

International Match
Saturday , November 8
Italy 24 - 13 Samoa   
England 21 - 24 New Zealand   
Romania 17 - 27 USA   
France 40 - 15 Fiji   
Ireland 29 - 15 South Africa   
Scotland 41 - 31 Argentina   
Georgia 9 - 23 Tonga   
Wales 28 - 33 Australia   

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Ireland get ready for an out of BODy experience!

 Ireland coach Joe Schmidt looks set to throw a major curve-ball by selecting both Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne to face South Africa. Photo: SPORTSFILE
 (picture http://bit.ly/1u3Mdsj)

The build up to the World Cup starts now! Time for the North to test itself against the South, with so many matches you’d need a split screen TV to catch it all! I really don’t understand why there are so many clashes, it must affect TV revenue somewhere along the way.

First up, how is Ireland going to do? We are carrying a few injuries, but have two thirds of the players that won the 6 Nations, with Healy, Best. D’Arcy and Trimble not available, and BOD has left the building.  I guess in the past the aim in the autumn internationals would be to have a good go, and see where we were. This year though, I have no doubt that Joe Schmidt is targeting 3 wins. I’d argue that we have the best coach in the world right now, and that he has spent the whole of the Rugby Championship formulating plans for beating South Africa and Australia, I really can’t see us losing to Georgia. Henshaw and Payne in the centre is a surprise, but would you bet against Joe? I think he may be basing it on both defence – two big strong guys – and future/present attacking potential.

In the past, all you could expect from the Boks was being assaulted  by 15 large gentlemen, simple, brutal but effective. However, they score backline tries these days as well, although the indications are that the expansive game is back in the pocket for the moment. They’ve changed so much they are talking us up before the match! I think Joe has a solution to every threat the Boks pose in attack and defence, and that the 15 men that run out for Ireland have the ability to deliver a win. The problem is, how long will those 15 last, and who is going to take their place? Ross, McGrath and Kearney are coming back from injury, and we are setting up some really unfamiliar combinations if they go off. So I think we’ll get close but the Boks will win.

England will be without some big guns for the All Blacks. England beat the AB’s a few years ago, and came really close the first match on tour this year. I think they’ll be in it to the end, but lack of settled combinations will probably hurt them.  While I rate Lancaster as a coach, in the backline he seems to have a case of the Philippe Saint-AndrĂ©’s, how about him and what about HIM. A year out from the World Cup, I don’ think he knows yet who his starting backline is.

Australia have a new coach, a really good one with a winners pedigree, and while they have problems off field, you could put a lot of their onfield problems and losses down to having to play 3 top top sides in the last two months. They are battle hardened, street wise, and I think Wales are going to struggle.

Scotland have a completely new look for Argentina. It looks a strictly form pick, fair play to Cotter. Great to see Rob Harley starting – you always wonder if there’s two of him playing for Glasgow he has such a high work rate. But I think Argentina will win – they have had the most incredible build up to these matches in the Rugby Championship, and are starting to play better and better.

International Match
Saturday , November 8
Italy vs Samoa    14:00
Wales vs Australia    14:30
England vs New Zealand    14:30
France vs Fiji    16:45
Ireland vs South Africa    17:30
Scotland vs Argentina    17:30

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Leinster and Ulster win, Munster do a bit of robbery while Connacht lose.

Stuart Olding
Stuart Olding ( Picture http://bit.ly/1tvZKc0)

Leinster had Edinburgh at home on Friday night. Can I just ask the Scots, would you mind not picking on our foreign stars? Ben Te’O is out for six weeks with a broken arm, and Kane Douglas went off too, although hopefully that’s not that serious. It wasn’t a vintage performance, but they got the job done with a 5 ties and the bonus point. With so many changes, and quite a few players with very little game time, too eager to show their skills, it was very disjointed. Dominic Ryan shone, and I think Michael Bent is coming into his own, able to play on both sides of the scrum, and getting better with regular starts.  I’m also a fan of Mick McGrath, I think he’s going to be a regular starter soon.

Connacht found the Ospreys too much to handle, but still scored a try, and didn’t give away a bonus point, so not too shabby.

Munster came away with a win in Cardiff, fair play to them for hanging on until the end, but CSI Wales have confirmed a robbery took place. The Welshmen were all over the Munster scrum, should have a penalty try, but the win and the loss was all in their hands. Munster really just had to defend a bit and let Cardiff hand over the penalties, and then put in about 5% effort to get the win at the end. Munster suffered from lots of changes to the team, they still have that backbone of steel though that carried them through. Cardiff, with a bit more composure, will start winning soon.

I didn’t see the Ulster match, but they won conformably enough, and their never ending supply of excellent backs keeps rolling, with Olding getting a double, but also picking up a season ending injury.

Finally, the Wallabies Barbarians match was really good, going right down to the wire. Cooper and Genia are not quite up to speed, but it was tries galore, played in a spirit you don’t really see anymore. And Nick ’Badger’ Cummins  got a try!

Guinness PRO12
Saturday , November 1
Cardiff Blues 24 - 28 Munster   
Scarlets 28 - 13 Zebre   
Ulster 23 - 6 Newport Gwent D'gons   
Friday , October 31
Leinster 33 - 8 Edinburgh   
Ospreys 26 - 11 Connacht   
Glasgow 17 - 9 Benetton Treviso

Friday, October 31, 2014

Back to the high action drama of the Pro 12!

Rabbitohs forward Ben Te'o 
 Ben Te'O (picture http://ab.co/1wjG8IO)

Leinster kick things off for the Irish when they welcome Edinburgh to the RDS tonight. The big news is the debut for rugby league convert Ben Te’O,  also the return of Kevin McLaughlin to captain the side.  And in the background, Jordi Murphy, Dave Kearney and Fergus McFadden are all back in training. They should account for Edinburgh without too many problems.



Also in action are Connacht, who travel to the Liberty Stadium to take on the Ospreys. The start of Bundee Aki is their big news, and the side looks pretty decent. The Ospreys have rested a few people, let’s see how it goes! They’ll be none too charmed with the injury to Nathan White in the Ireland camp.

Munster travel to Cardiff, I’m expecting them to win, but the Blues have been seriously underperforming this season, and this may well be the match, at home, that they chose to pull the hat out of the bag.

Finally, Ulster will be looking to do themselves justice after two disappointing European results, and I think the Dragons are going to feel the backlash!

Guinness PRO12
Friday , October 31
Leinster vs Edinburgh   
Glasgow vs Benetton Treviso   
Ospreys vs Connacht   
Saturday , November 1
Cardiff Blues vs Munster    17:15
Scarlets vs Zebre    18:00
Ulster vs Newport Gwent D'gons    19:35

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Munster do well, Leinster scrape, and Ulster and Connacht not so well

 
 ( picture http://bit.ly/ZSxLr0 )

Finally come up for air to do a bit of writing!

Munster/Saracens didn’t disappoint as an opener, 80 minutes of all out conflict. Saracens are an extremely capable side, and as well as bruising forwards, they have very competent backs behind them, and Munster did very well not to concede a try either side of half time. The turning point was a yellow card for Saracens, which turned the tide after a long spell of Saracens dominance. Munster exploited their advantage to the max, running in a try and putting themselves out of reach. Munster’s pack played out of their skin, and my man of the match was James Cronin. Two from two, great start!

I watched Ulster’s match with Toulon on fast forward, and maybe that was for the best, as it wasn’t their finest hour. But I think the score was a bit lop sided – Nick Williams gifted Toulon a try, he’s a bit of a loose cannon, and I can see why the excellent Roger Wilson is starting. You know it’s going to have to be an 80 minute performance to beat Toulon, they have great players, but some of them are getting on, and as the match wears on a few cracks are going to open up – Ulster slipped up for probably 20 minutes. Ulster also need to trust their backline more – they’ve got some serious talent there, and they should take a few more risks, keeping the ball in hand instead of kicking it back all the time. It’s going to be tough going in the group now, although the Scarlets did them a big favour.

Leinster were last in action for Ireland in the ERCC, away to Castres. The Frenchmen had pulled a few of their big guns for the match, so it looked like they had modest ambitions for the ERCC this season. After getting off to a flyer with a try, they then spent the rest of their half pinned back in their half, while we launched a series of not very penetrative attacks, gratefully accepting the gift penalties they shipped at regular intervals. In the second half, we had a go at shipping easy penalties, when in Rome etc, before we finally woke up in the last 15 minutes and reeled them in. Heaslip was my MOTM, with 20 carries, nearly double as much as the nearest player on either side, and made the second most metres, either side. We could seriously do with O’Brien, Healy and Kearney back though. I was sweating for that win!

Elsewhere there were great away wins for Toulouse, and especially for Glasgow.

Finally, Connacht came off second best at Exeter, but certainly didn’t disgrace themselves.

European Rugby Champions Cup
Sunday , October 26
Wasps 16 - 23 Harlequins   
Benetton Treviso 10 - 26 Racing Metro 92
Clermont Auvergne 35 - 3 Sale Sharks
Castres 16 - 21 Leinster
Saturday , October 25
Bath 19 - 21 Toulouse   
Montpellier 13 - 15 Glasgow   
Northampton 34 - 6 Ospreys   
Scarlets 15 - 3 Leicester   
Ulster 13 - 23 Toulon   
Friday , October 24
Munster 14 - 3 Saracens   

Thursday, October 23, 2014

I'm going for 2 and a 1/2 wins this weekend for the Irish sides!

 
 Kane Douglas (picture http://bit.ly/1zmyoJC)

Another mammoth rugby weekend kicks off, put alerts on your phone so you can check in on your loved ones, oh, every 12 hours or so…

It couldn’t start bigger than Munster v Saracens on Friday night at Thomond,  two bruising sides, it’s going to be all out war! The old Munster way was total forward domination, and though that may have been modified slightly, Munster are going back to their roots. Saracens have exactly the same policy, and wings that score lots of tries, so it’s going to be last man standing. I think Strettle and Ashton will also want to prove they shouldn’t have been left out of the England squad. Home advantage is massive, on the season form, Saracens are slightly ahead, so I’m going for a draw!

The big hitters keep coming on Saturday, starting off with Ulster v Toulon. I’m really hoping Ulster have fixed their lineout this week, because they won’t be able to waste any opportunities against these heavyweights. But you can beat Toulon, Ulster’s forwards will need to absolutely ferocious, and they certainly have the talent in the backline, they don’t know who to leave out, which is a perfect position to be in, whoever they pick delivers.  And they have brilliant players like Wilson in the forwards to bring on too.  I’m going with the Ulstermen!

On Sunday, Leinster travel to Castre, looking for an important away win. Castre were not impressive against Quins, they were pretty awful really, and you suspect they may have decided to write off  the cup formerly known as Heineken, and concentrate on the Top 14. I fervently hope so. I think Leinster picked up a bit of momentum in the second half last week, let’s see them take that though now away from home. I’d love it if Kearney is fit, he adds the balance we need at the back. I also hope Douglas starts, he’s a big abrasive workhorse, that’ll keep the Castre scrum honest. I’m going for a win! Also it would help a lot of Wasps won, common lads!

Connacht have a hariy looking challenge of Exeter away, don’t think they’ll win, but the Chiefs will remember their name!

And I don’t want to miss Bath vs Toulouse, Montpellier vs Glasgow and Northampton vs Ospreys!

European Rugby Champions Cup
Friday , October 24
Munster vs Saracens    19.45
Saturday , October 25
Ulster vs Toulon    13:00
Scarlets vs Leicester    19:45
Bath vs Toulouse    15:15
Montpellier vs Glasgow    17:15
Northampton vs Ospreys    17:15
Sunday , October 26
Clermont Auvergne vs Sale Sharks    15:15
Castres vs Leinster    13:00
Wasps vs Harlequins    17:15
Benetton Treviso vs Racing Metro 92    17:15

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Connacht flatten, Munster and Leinster scrape, and Ulster lose

 
 (picture http://bit.ly/1prB0MD)

So much rugby I may need to join a support group! Staring off with the little matter of the Wallabies v the All Blacks . During the anthems, the All Blacks looked cocky and relaxed, while the Wallabies look completely focused. What an awesome match, with the Wallabies giving everything, going right ahead...then ultimately failing to keep New Zealand out. Kurandrani was epic, but it’s back to square one for Australia, the chaos continues. Ewen McKenzie is gone, I reckon they should fast track Michael Cheika into the job, and try and make the best of what they can before the World Cup

Munster got the weekend going for Ireland, and by the time I tuned in the first half, things weren’t going right. Sale had them on the rack, and were pretty unlucky not to get a bonus point try before half time. However, a few choice words from Mr Foley at half time turned them around, they put themselves in touching distance, and with the clock gone dead, Keatley pulled the trigger with a drop goal. It was ugly, but it was a win, now they just need to work on an 80 minute performance.

Ulster were also in action later on, with an away match to the Tigers. Two things cost them the match, a yellow card, and a shambolic lineout. Franco van der Merwe has lot of work to do as the man who runs the lineout. After being outmuscled, out thought, out of the match, Ulster somehow managed to come back and get a bonus point. Their midfield is dynamite, and it’s hard to see how the Irish midfield is not very soon all going to come from Ulster. But just a pity, if their line out had functioned, I’d say they had a chance of winning.

Connacht got off to a winning start, thumping La Rochelle, and scoring 7 tries in the process, including 2 for Robbie Henshaw.

Finally Leinster scraped home against Wasps at the RDA. You aren’t supposed to hanging on at home! They looked flat and inaccurate in the first half, then turned it around. Heaslip stood up, as did Cronin, and Ryan and Ruddock worked their socks off. Special mention too for Michael Bent, in the background for years, out of position but stepping up to the plate. Injuries are an issue, but the continued pick and mix in the midfield is a worry. We butchered a few opportunites at the bonus point try but at least we won.  Fair play to Wasps for making it a tight exciting match, the return fixture will be massive.

European Rugby Champions Cup
Sunday , October 19
Ospreys 42 - 7 Benetton
Toulouse 30 - 23 Montpellier   
Toulon 28 - 18 Scarlets   
Leinster 25 - 20 Wasps   
Saturday , October 18
Glasgow 37 - 10 Bath   
Sale Sharks 26 - 27 Munster   
Saracens 30 - 23 Clermont Auvergne   
Racing Metro 92 20 - 11 Northampton   
Leicester 25 - 18 Ulster   
Friday , October 17
Harlequins 25 - 9 Castres

Thursday, October 16, 2014

All you ever wanted to know about 'The Cup Formerly Known as Heineken' - but were afraid to ask!

 Stuart McCloskey rugby player
Stuart McCloskey (picture http://bit.ly/1DeMxqA)  

This is quick preview of the snazzily named European Rugby Champions Cup - probably easier to refer to it as the cup formerly known as Heineken  - which is still sponsored by Heineken. I’m just busy selling my house to pay for all the different Sky, BTSports etc packages so I can watch it all.

There are 5 pools,  20 teams, and the teams will be seeded after the round robin matches , with the top 8 seeds progressing. It’s not impossible then, that there may be a pool which no one progresses from. You need to win often, and win big, and at least get losing bonus points. All the pools are below, with each team’s current position in the domestic league.

Pool one, where Munster sit, is easily the hardest. You kind of get the feeling that if they get out of there, they could win it. I’d say they’ll be lucky to make it out, but let’s see. This weekend they have Sale away, which is a must win, can’t see them having too many problems, but ideally they want a 5 pointer. There only problem is hooker –it seems to be difficult to find a good robust hooker in Munster. For Sale maverick Danny Cipriani is the one to watch.

Leinster are in Pool 2, with more modestly placed teams. They are the bookies favourite for  the pool, Castre are their French side and not doing much season, and they have decent records against English sides. Bookies favourites or not for this pool, the way they are playing right now, I think they are going to have a battle to get anywhere. They have Wasps at home this weekend – you can at least expect them to win that, and get off to good start. I’ll be nervous though! They need to watch out for wings  Christian Wade and Salosi Tagicakibau. Apart from prop and loose forward injuries, it’s pretty much full pick for Leinster.

Pool three is where Ulster reside, with Toulon, and Leicester who they visit this weekend. The Tigers have an injury list the length of your arm, and Ulster have claimed a good few scalps off them in the last few years, so they’ll fancy this one. I could absolutely see Ulster get off to a flyer, and if they lose, it won’t be by much. Interesting to see if McCloskey starts, the Ulstermen have an embarrassment of riches in the backline now.

Pool 4 surely presents Glasgow to redeem themselves from last year’s poor showing in the cup formerly known as Heineken, they’re a good team, and this week’s match against an in form Bath should be a thriller.

In pool 5, Northampton are the grande frommage, but there’ll be some interesting match ups with Racing Metro and the Ospresys no doubt.

Connacht meanwhile, have found themselves in a tough group, with Bayonne, Exeter and La Rochelle. They have a history of pulling off big results in these competitions though, so let’s see… They kick off at home against La Rochelle.

Pool 1
Pos    Team               
1    Clermont Auvergne 1       
2    Munster 4       
3    Sale Sharks 10       
4    Saracens 2       

Pool 2
Pos    Team                  
1    Castres 12       
2    Harlequins 7       
3    Leinster 6       
4    Wasps 5       

Pool 3
Pos    Team                   
1    Leicester Tigers 8       
2    Toulon 2       
3    Scarlets 7       
4    Ulster 3       

Pool 4
Pos    Team             
1    Bath 4       
2    Glasgow Warriors 2       
3    Montpellier 4       
4    Toulouse 8       

Pool 5
Pos    Team                
1    Northampton 1       
2    Ospreys 1       
3    Racing Metro Paris 7       
4    Treviso 12       

European Rugby Champions Cup
Friday , October 17
Harlequins vs Castres    19:45
Saturday , October 18
Sale Sharks vs Munster    13:00
Saracens vs Clermont Auvergne    15:15
Leicester vs Ulster    19:45
Glasgow vs Bath    15:15
Racing Metro 92 vs Northampton    17:15
Sunday , October 19
Leinster vs Wasps    17:15
Toulon vs Scarlets    15:15
Toulouse vs Montpellier    13:00
Ospreys vs Benetton Treviso    13:00

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Four from four for Ireland, not too shabby!

 Leinster's Richardt Strauss thunders forward, Leinster v Montpellier, Heineken Cup, RDS, Dublin, Ireland, January 21, 2012
 (picture http://es.pn/1qMZC1I)

Four from four for the Irish provinces, so not too shabby.  Connacht fired again, getting an way win over Treviso. They traditionally have a purple patch during the 6 Nations, while the other squads are depleted, and they are really putting their hands up for a top 6 finish this year.  Ronaldson kicked all their points, and is proving to be a key cog in their machine.

Munster had 9 changes from last weekend, and it showed, all the dynamism and momentum they had from last weekend was missing. The Scarlets where pretty desperate too, makings a hains of their line outs, and dropping the ball umpteen times. Meanwhile,  Rhys Priesland, sporting a bit of bumfluff on his upper lip, masquerading as a moustache, did himself no favours  with his international aspirations, squandering 2 or 3 regulation attempts at penalties. I’m expecting a completely different Munster next weekend against Sale.

I didn’t see the Leinster match, but with a host of changes, not surprising they weren’t running like a well oiled machine.  Madigan scored a try and got 13 points altogether, underlining his importance to the team.  Luke McGrath got a try too, best to bank the 4 points, and think about Wasps in the Champions Cup now. Certainly great to have Richardt Strauss back.

Finally, Ulster came out well on top of an almighty battle against Glasgow at Ravenhill. It was an intensely physical match, where defence was king, but Ulster kept their patience, ground Glasgow down, then put in the boot in. Craig Gilroy scored the type of try that will put him back into Irish contention. Ian Humphreys had a good match, as did Payne and MCloskey, and Henry and Diack were as superb as always. Not many sides will win that big over the Scots this season.

Guinness PRO12
Saturday , October 11
Edinburgh 24 - 10 Newport Gwent D'gons   
Zebre 3 - 20 Leinster   
Ulster 29 - 9 Glasgow   
Friday , October 10
Benetton Treviso 6 - 9
Munster 17 - 6 Scarlets

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Leinster hope to bounce back, while the big match is Ulster v Glasgow!

 
(Picture http://bit.ly/1rj6CU6)

After a weekend to forget, I’m sure the mood in in the Leinster camp was like the weather, pretty stormy. We have a few reinforcements back, with Kirchner, Ross, Kearney, Jack McRath and Marty Moore back in action. The best thing to do is draw a line under last week, and get on with the job. Zebre came pretty close to upsetting the Ospreys last week, they are not the walking 5 points they used to be, but we should hammer them pretty efficiently I’d say, and I hope O’Connor rests a few of the guys like Madigan who’ve played pretty well every minute so far.

Connacht travel to Treviso, and have named a strong looking outfit. The Italians have knul wins so far, and I’m backing the Galwegians to continue their good start with another victory.

Munster will need to keep their feet on the ground as they welcome the Scarlets, who lie in 6th position, a point below.  Munster have struggled a bit at Thomond recently, and while I’ve no doubt the momentum from the Leinster win will see them through, the Welshman are no pushover, so they’ll need to bring their A game. Peter O’Mahoney starts for the first time this season, and captains the side.

Finally, the big match of the weekend sees Glasgow travel to Ulster. Ulster have named Neil Doak (who’s also a mean cricketer) as head coach, and will get Les Kiss back as Director of Rugby after the world cup.  This is a perfect warm up for the European Cup for Ulster, Glasgow may be top of the PRO12 but they’re going down this Saturday!

Guinness PRO12
Friday , October 10
Benetton Treviso vs Connacht  
Munster vs Scarlets  
Saturday , October 11
Edinburgh vs Newport Gwent D'gons    14:40
Zebre vs Leinster    15:00
Ulster vs Glasgow    17:05
Sunday , October 12
Ospreys vs Cardiff Blues    16:00

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The blue tailed ladyboy has been saved from extinction!

 Ian Davies
 Go ahead punk, make my day!( picture http://bit.ly/1n72CLg)

The blue tailed ladyboy has been saved from extinction! Munster flushed a few of them out as they came marauding down the Dodder like the Munster of old. Munster battered Leinster into submission, with a fast moving, highly physical game plan, that Leinster couldn’t repel, or penetrate themselves. They look flustered, none more so than Gopperth, dropping the ball and losing their shape. And that was despite Munster making every effort to throw their lead away, with  Ian ‘Fastest draw in the West’ Davies, handing out cards all over the show, with steely eyes, his hands a blur, ‘Don’t even LOOK at me the wrong way, mofo!’. For Munster the pack was outstanding, with Foley, O’Connell and Stander the stand outs. What’s happened to Leinster then? They are down on loose forwards, with Jennings, Jordi Murphy and Sean O’Brien out. At prop, with Healy and McGrath out, Bent is playing well, but he’s not first choice, and Moore’s out too. Then they had a last minute rejig in midfield, which, same against Glasgow, plays havoc with their game. Performers were Cronin, and I think Douglas is the real deal, and has to start. We need to suck it up, man up and get on it with now.

Connacht went roaring ahead against the Blues, were going for the bonus point…then lost their way and let the Blues back in. But times have changed when the Blues are delighted with a draw at Connacht.

Ulster made short work of Edinburgh, running in four tries, and nilling the Scots.

In Jo’burg, another epic encounter between the Springboks and the All Blacks saw South Africa nearly throwing away a good win, and coming back at the end with a penalty to beat the All Blacks for the first time since forever. Lots of unbelievably sore bodies all round, and mention to Handre Pollard for two excellent tries, not bad for a 20 year old!

In Mendoza, Argentina finally broke their duck against the Wallabies, going behind, then coming storming back to secure the win. Australia’s discipline was abysmal, very lucky to get away with just the two yellow cards. But they’ll be back, don’t doubt they are turning the corner.

Guinness PRO12
Sunday , October 5
Benetton Treviso 23 - 40 Glasgow
Scarlets 26 - 13 Newport Gwent D'gons   
Saturday , October 4
Leinster 23 - 34 Munster   
Friday , October 3
Connacht 24 - 24 Cardiff Blues   
Ulster 30 - 0 Edinburgh   
Zebre 14 - 15 Ospreys   
Rugby Championship
Saturday , October 4
South Africa 27 - 25 New Zealand   
Argentina 21 - 17 Australia   

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Has to be Leinster! Also, I'm saying the Springboks and the Pumas.

 
 Performance needed (picture http://bit.ly/1x3Pd7b)

The BIG match of the weekend, in Ireland anyway, has to be Leinster v Munster. Albeit, it’s 5th v 6th, and one team is going to come out of this with a played 5, won 2 record. And that team is going to Munster obviously! Of course the match is pretty finely balanced, neither Leinster nor Munster has been setting the world alight so far, but this is a match they’ll always be up for. Home advantage definitely gives Leinster the edge, plus I don’t think everyone is on the same page at Munster, they certainly didn’t have plan B for the Ospreys.  For Leinster, Reddan and Gopperth and their game management are absolutely key, as well as the ability of the pack to stand up and fight. And for Munster, still, it’s about the forwards, their ability to batter Leinster (go on, they’re no relation). If they can disrupt Leinster by force and intensity, that’ll be the key to their victory. Still going with Leinster though.

Connacht have named a strong team for the Cardiff Blues, who also arrive with a potent looking line up. Another acid test for the ‘new’ Connacht, its 4th v 10th they should win this. Think if the weather plays along they’ll do it.

Ulster have a strong team out for  Edinburgh, with Bowe and Payne included, looking to bounce back after last week’s embarrassment against Zebre, caused in fairness by Fitzpatrick’s red card after 10 minutes. If they can subdue Edinburgh’s forwards they should be fine, and Edinburgh aren’t good tourists.

In the Rugby Championship, the competition is dead, but… two massive matches coming up. The meeting between the Springboks and the All Blacks last year ranks in my mind as one of the best matches ever, and I think this year’s won’t be far behind. It’s a match both teams will refuse to lose, and the Springboks will be near fanatical in their attempts to win. The Springboks and the Al Blacks are clear one and two now, but it’s whether the Springboks can find that extra 10% and exploit any tiredness from all the travelling New Zealand have been doing. I really think the Boks can do it, of course I thought that last year too, but I’m going with them. Aside from the match, the All Blacks kept it classy off the field as well as on, taking time to posing with legendary Springbok and motor neuron disease sufferer, Joost Van Der Westhuizen. That’s why I love rugby.

Finally, the Australian men’s drinking team rolled in to Argentina, with the unenviable task of keeping a desperate Pumas side out. Kurtly Beale has been ejected after an in-flight contretemps, which won’t have helped. Think this is one for Argentina, and a bit of pressure starting to mount on Ewen McKenzie

Guinness PRO12
Friday , October 3
Connacht vs Cardiff Blues  
Ulster vs Edinburgh  
Zebre vs Ospreys  
Saturday , October 4
Leinster vs Munster    18:30
Sunday , October 5
Benetton Treviso vs Glasgow    14:00
Scarlets vs Newport Gwent D'gons    16:00
Rugby Championship
Saturday , October 4
South Africa vs New Zealand    17:05
Argentina vs Australia    19:40