Sunday, August 30, 2015

Joe Schmidt successfully manages Ireland's World Cup expectations!

 Iain Henderson
 Iain Henderson

Ireland had a difficult afternoon at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday,  looking off the pace for the first half, and then although playing better in the second half, not managing to trouble the scorer.  It was pretty flat really, coming after a less than impressive performance against Scotland.  There’s plenty of reasons behind it, there’s a lot of tinkering going on, players out of position, and it wasn’t quite our A team. But still, you’d fancy we’d be able to get home win over Wales. Not the greatest send off for Paul O’Connell, the last time Ireland’s legend of the game gets to pull on the green jersey at home. 

We don’t seem to have what they call a fetcher, and I thought Peter O’Mahoney had a quiet game by his standards – Jordi Murphy made double the amount of tackles he did, and half as many again carries.

We made mistakes, weren’t accurate enough, and seem to lack muscle. There were a few bright spots – pretty hard to leave out Ian Henderson after a performance like that, and Dave Kearney was very impressive, majestic under the high ball. Time to stop fecking around a bit and start putting our A team out, and get the combinations working again.  Tupiric was very impressive for Wales, they ground out the victory, with a clearly superior forward based game. But they too are going to need to carry on picking up their game because they are going to face far sterner attacks.

Scotland did much much better against Italy, and 14 man Samoa lost out to the Barbarians.

Scotland 48 - 7 Italy        
Barbarians 27 - 24 Samoa        
Ireland 10 - 16 Wales

Friday, August 28, 2015

Ireland V Wales is the BIG one, and could be pretty close!

   Luke Fitzgerald
 Luke Fitzgerald

 The BIG one this this weekend is Ireland v Wales. The Welsh have come with their  A list players, so the backline is huge – North, Cuthbert and Roberts must weigh more than a double decker bus!  Ireland, meanwhile are still tinkering a bit, there are first starts for Sexton, Murray and O’Connell, but Earls, Dave Kearney and Fitzgerald are all on the fringes, and fairly small too, so defence is going to be a challenge! Everyone seems to be talking up an Irish win, but I reckon this is going to be really really close – and who knows what role ring rustiness may play?  Jordi Murphy has another opportunity to shine – he’s played a blinder so far, and I’m wondering if this is shaping up to be the best loose trio combination.

For the provinces, Leinster take on Moseley, with Isa starting, and Bowe and Trimble start for Ulster. Both of them must have nailed on spots in the Irish squad, and team.

We also have Scotland taking on Italy where the Scots should build on last week, and probably the most entertaining match of the weekend will be the Barbarians v Samoa.  Three matches on a Saturday afternoon though, nearly all at the same time!

Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Dave Kearney, 13 Luke Fitzgerald, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 5 Paul O'Connell (c), 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Nathan White, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Jack McGrath
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Tadhg Furlong, 19 Donnacha Ryan, 20 Sean O'Brien, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Paddy Jackson, 23 Felix Jones

Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Gethin Jenkins
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Paul James, 18 Aaron Jarvis, 19 Luke Charteris, 20 James King, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Hallam Amos

Fri 28th Aug 15
Leinster v Moseley Donnybrook 19:30
Edinburgh v Ulster Goldenacre 18:30

Test Matches
Saturday, August 29
Japan vs Uruguay    09:00
Ireland vs Wales    13:30
Scotland vs Italy    14:15
Barbarians v Samoa    15:00

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Irish Ladies 7's core team for 2015/16 series, Leinster and Connacht win, and beware of the French!

 Adam Byne

Firstly, big shout for the Irish ladies 7’s team, who qualified as a core team for the 2015/16 World Rugby Women's Sevens Series after some fine performances this weekend. Onwards and upwards!

In the World Club 7’s, Connacht finished a creditable third, Munster made it to the Plate final and Leinster beat Ulster in the Shield final.

Leinster beat Ulster away, in match that wasn’t televised. You would wouldn’t read too much into these friendlies, but good to get the win, Ireland Sevens international Adam Byrne scored what sounded like a good try, and Luke Marshall had a good solo effort for Ulster. In Limerick, Munster came unstuck against Connacht, but it was a fairly makeshift Munster, and nearly full strength Connacht, so not too surprising. Francis Saili made his debut for Munster, I think we’re going to hear a lot about him, he’s potent!

Scotland came out on top against Italy, ending a long running losing streak. I think this could be the start of a slow steady climb for them, where beating Italy won’t be much of an issue any more.

Finally, France got one over England in fine style in Paris. You never know which French team is going to turn up, but this one wanted to play, and they had England unsettled and on the rack for 70 minutes, until they let in a few tries that gave the English performance a gloss that wasn’t really there. Both teams had huge changes from the week before, so what does the result mean? Not much, except, as usual, beware of the French!

France 25 - 20 England        
Italy 12 - 16 Scotland    
Ulster 21 v 24 Leinster
Munster 12-28 Connacht

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Ladies 7's comes to Dublin, World Club Se7ens to Limerick, big news for Johnny Sexton, and more more more!

In Pics: Women's Sevens Dublin Captains' Photocall 

To start off with we have the World Rugby Women's Sevens qualifying tournament at the UCD Bowl this weekend., and all the action will be live on .  Or better still, get down there yourself, tickets start at €5 and children are free! Bargain or what!

The ultimate prize is a place on the World Rugby Women's Sevens Series, and with the Olympics on the horizon the Women's Sevens Dublin tournament promises to be action packed.

The competition kicks off with China and Kenya at 11am on Saturday, while Ireland's first pool game is at 12.50pm.

The pool matches run all day Saturday with Ireland and South Africa closing proceedings on day 1. The play-offs run all day Sunday with the first game at 10.30am. You can keep up to date with all the news on Twitter using #womens7s and check out

As you can probably tell, I cribbed most of this off the Irish Rugby website, but it sounds like great fun, get down there!

Elsewhere, the big news is the expected confirmation of Leo Cullen as new head coach, on a two year deal. I’ve already said he wouldn’t be my first choice – but let’s keep an open mind for the moment, and give him the benefit of the doubt – Michael Cheika for instance didn’t have an exactly stellar CV either, and look where he is now!

Good news for Jonny Sexton too. ‘The International Rugby Players Association (IRPA) today announced the appointments of Jonathan Sexton and Richie McCaw as their inaugural President North and President South respectively.’ No better man for the job, and about time there was some proper player representation.

The ladies are not the only ones in 7’s action, there’s also the World Club sevens in Limerick. Musnter V Connacht will be the warm up act on Saturday, and while Connacht look pretty strong, as does the Munster pack, the Munster backline is mainly new to me.

Kevin McLaughlin will captain Leinster during the World Cup. We play Ulster tomorrow at Ravenhill, haven’t seen the team but it should be an enjoyable derby all the same. It’s not going to be a who’s who of Leinster, more like a who’s he!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Ireland battle, normal service for the All Blacks and Springboks!

 Dave Kilcoyne

Ireland had a real battle on their hands on Saturday, the Scots were way better prepared than the Welsh the week before,. They gave us a good work out, and it’s obvious a few of our systems are not quite there. Tackling for instance, was barely there at times – the Scots just waltzing through us for one of their tries.  I think we weren’t defending aggressively enough, the Scots ball retention was good, our loose trio didn’t have a lot of joy at the breakdown, and we just seemed to lack a bit of muscle. Then in attack, we were trying to throw the ball around too much, instead of waiting for the gaps to come. But we won, that’s what counts. Dave Kilcoyne was very handy in the loose, and Luke Fitzgerald had some good touches.

Normal service was at Eden Park, as the All Blacks hammered the Wallabies. Quade Cooper is not really what he was anymore, and his yellow card opened up the flood gates.  But Australia have proved, on their day, they can beat anyone. Fair play to Ritchie McCaw for becoming the most capped international ever.

The Boks also got back to what they can be like, with their first win of the year. Pat Lambie pulled the strings like the little master he is, took all his points, and gave his World Cup chances a major boost. Glen Jackson was hard but fair at the breakdown, and that meant the Pumas struggled for turnovers and retention.

Didn’t see the England match, but good start for them.

Argentina 12 - 26 South Africa        
England 19 - 14 France        
Ireland 28 - 22 Scotland    
New Zealand 41 - 13 Australia

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Ireland cap Jack Conan for Scotland, and three other smashing matches!

 Sean O'Brien
 Sean O'Brien ( picture

There’s quite a few changes for Ireland from last weekend – Sean O’Brien is captain, while Jack Conan gets his first cap, and Nathan White is on the bench so he should be capped as well. I’d like to see what work Joe Schmidt has put into Ian Madigan at flyhalf, and amazingly, Mike Ross starts again – he’s started every test under the ‘Joe’ regime. They should sort out Scotland if last week is anything to go by.

15 Simon Zebo, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Luke Fitzgerald, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Isaac Boss, 8 Sean O'Brien (c), 7 Chris Henry, 6 Jack Conan, 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Dave Kilcoyne
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Michael Bent, 18 Nathan White, 19 Paul O'Connell, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Paddy Jackson, 23 Dave Kearney

Elsewhere, there’s Blesidloe Cup action where everyone will be surprised if New Zealand don’t get back on the horse. They haven’t made wholesale changes, but I’m not sure about Victor Vito, and I would have started Read from the bench. A backrow of McCaw, Messam and Cane could have done some damage! The Wallabies have tinkered quite a bit, this is more like squad rotation than a genuine attempt to beat the AB’s back to back. Cooper for instance, looks well past his sell by date.

England are going to take on France, that could be the match of the weekend if they pick up where they left off at the Six Nations!

Finally, the Argentines have made quite a few changes, whoever refs that game will have a battle on their hands at the breakdown, it’s going to be murder! The Boks have Victor Matfield back to steady the lineout, but a few fringe players starting too. I think the physicality will be second to none, after last week the Pumas are marginal favourites, but the Boks may sneak it.

Saturday, August 15
New Zealand vs Australia    07:35
Ireland vs Scotland    16:00
England vs France    19:00
Argentina vs South Africa    19:40

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Ireland dominate, while New Zealand and the Springboks fail to fire!

 Richardt Strauss on Off The Ball- “I’ve cut all my bonds with South Africa”
 Richardt Strauss ( picture

Well shocking predictions from me, 0 from 3, but three great games all the same.

Don’t know why I doubted Joe Schmidt, Ireland looked as well prepared as ever, in a game where the score really flatters Wales. Reddan was the MOTM for me, controlling the game superbly, but Jackson is no slouch either. The whole pack was mighty, Strauss was a revelation, and the centres Earls and Cave were awesome. Again, Schmidt is the man, Earls has always  been good, but it looks like he just need a bit of direction. Jones was excellent at the back too. Let’s hope that neither Trimble nor the workaholic Tommy O’Donnell are seriously injured.

There was an upset in Sydney, where the Wallabies claimed the Rugby Championship with a good win over the All Blacks. The key area for me was the breakdown, where Pocock, Hopper and Fardy ruled. McCaw did a bit, but were Reid and Kaino even playing? Very average day for Dan Carter too, he’s under serious pressure now. What a turnaround for Australia, hats off to Cheika for what he’s done.

Finally, Argentina were as excellent as South Africa were woeful. Again, they ruled the breakdown, probably not always legally, but play to the ref. They also ruled the scrums, and disrupted the lineouts. Fair play to them, great win, they seemed to score tries with ease. No need to panic for the Boks, but it just shows how you have to be mentally prepared for each game.

Ireland 35-21 Wales
Rugby Championship
Saturday, August 08
Australia 27 - 19 New Zealand   
South Africa 25 - 37 Argentina

Thursday, August 6, 2015

New Zealand, Wales, South Africa!

Keith Earls ( picture

This weekend we have the first of the northern hemisphere warm ups, and the conclusion of the Rugby Championship. With matches at 10, 1.30 and 3 I can see it’s going to be a productive Saturday!

Ireland V Wales is the normal cat and mouse in the build up to the World Cup, and follows the ‘stronger home side, more experimental away side’ formula. That’s why for Ireland, we have Keith Earls back in centre. Give me strength. He’s an exciting, quick fast footed player with a good eye for a gap,  but he has the passing ability of a short sighted prop forward. If he plays for Ireland, please can it be at wing or fullback! Apart from that, the players I’m excited to see back are Donnacha Ryan, who’s been out forever, and Tommy O'Donnell, who’s a 100% player who never lets you down. Wales have named  a few new faces, and looking at the team, they look like they going to be running the ball a lot, so it should be entertaining – maybe not that fluid, as nobody here will have played a proper match for a few months. I think Wales will shade it.

15 Felix Jones, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Keith Earls, 12 Darren Cave, 11 Fergus McFadden, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip (c), 7 Tommy O'Donnell, 6 Jordi Murphy, 5 Donnacha Ryan, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Jack McGrath
Replacements: 16 Rory Best, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Michael Bent, 19 Dan Tuohy, 20 Chris Henry, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Simon Zebo

The Championship decider is first up on Saturday, as the Wallabies and All Blacks go head to head in Sydney. Form would say that the All Blacks will take it easily, but the Aussies will always find another gear for New Zealand. Both sides are tinkering with their teams a bit, looking for combinations, and looking at players. The Aussies have taken the recent Springbok route of having three scavengers in the back row (Pocock, Hooper and Fardy) , while Nehe Milner-Skudder starts at wing for the All Blacks – if you want to play wing for the All Blacks, play at  full back first!  I think the All Blacks are just too good, but the Wallabies will test tem to the last minute.

Finally, in Durban, I think the Springboks will have too much for the Pumas, especially with Jean de Villiers back in the team. They also have Pieter-Steph du Toit on the bench, they’ve more depth in lock now than they’ve had for ages.

Test Matches
Wales vs Ireland    13:30
Rugby Championship
Saturday, August 08
Australia vs New Zealand    10:05
South Africa vs Argentina    15:05