Sunday, September 14, 2014

Madigan will be pushing for an Irish centre spot soon!

 
 (picture http://bit.ly/1uxZp8k)

Ulster got their 4 try bonus point at Kingspan against Zebre, not playing their best but well worth the extra point.  The only downside for them this weekend was Pienaar’s injury against the All Blacks. Ulster have classy backs and loose forwards to burn – Henry, Diack, Marshall, Andrew, Olding and in particular this week, Ludik and Trimble, who just gets better and better.

Munster and Connacht played at the same time,  Munster getting an away bonus point at a place they’ve struggled before ( and Keatley shining), and Connacht closing out a tight match against the Edinburgh, that in the past they would have lost.

Finally , the pressure was on Leinster for the Irish clean sweep, and they didn’t disappoint. What a difference a week makes. Although if you put Heaslip, Kearney and Toner into most teams it wouldn’t hurt. I didn’t see the whole thing, heard that Kirchener was injured not badly though I hope. A week of practise for Madigan in the centre, and he’s shaping up an Ireland spot! You could see Madigan Macken, and Madigan D’Arcy becoming a regular Leinster feature. Normal service resumed

In Wellington, the All Blacks got their sternest test of the year, holding out for a close win against the Springboks. They struggled with ferocious physicality of Springboks, conceded a beautifully constructed try in the first half, and can count themselves lucky that the Springboks are pretty thin at scrum half – a better, quicker decision maker there would have won them the match. They should grab Rory Crockett while he still going, and get Cobus Reinach into camp ASAP. The rematch in South Africa will be the stuff of legends again, no doubt. These Sprigboks have decided they want to play 15 man rugby too.

In Australia, the Wallabies straggled past Argentina, in a match where a draw would have been the fairest result. They have their injuries, but still aren’t really clicking in the Rugby Championship, in just over a year’s tenure by Ewen Mckenzie. I’d say that’s their wins for this tournament. Argentina have come along way, and have more to do this year still.

Guinness PRO12
Saturday , September 13
Leinster 42 - 12
Friday , September 12
Benetton Treviso 10 - 21 Munster   
Edinburgh 13 - 14 Connacht   
Newport Gwent D'gons 15 - 17 Ospreys
Ulster 33 - 13 Zebre   

Rugby Championship
New Zealand 14 - 10 South Africa   
Australia 32 - 25 Argentina   

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Munster, fly halfs, Leinster need tinkering, and the AB's and Pumas to win!

 Robin Copeland, the Cardiff Blues forward, joins six other uncapped players in Ireland's squad
 (picture http://bit.ly/1lXzBB1)

Munster will be in Italy on Friday, which should be an opportunity to get their show on the road. They had bad news this week, with Tyler Bleyendaal having to undergo neck surgery, to decide whether he’ll ever be able to play again. It’s an area Munster badly need some class. Ian Keatley is a game, hard-working player, but he’s a good Pro 12 player and no more. With O’Gara, they had a world class player, and without someone of his class pulling the strings, it’s hard to see Munster breaking through again. I’d as start,  be really backing JJ Hanrahan to see what comes of that, Keatley has had his chances. Robin Copeland (now he has a passport!) should make an impact. Munster have lost their two last away games to Treviso ( I find that hard to believe) but I’d say they be fairly focused this week! They haven’t lost their two opening fixtures since 04/05. Persisting with Keatley and Williams though – what are you at lads?

Leinster have the trip of Scarlets to contend with. They have Heaslip and Toner back in contention, I’d love to see Ruddock in too, and new boy Kane Douglas ASAP to give us a bit of grunt. Hopefully they’ll have sorted out a new midfield, worked on their defence, and attack, and the scrum. Just a bit of tweaking then. With a good home crowd, I’m expecting them to just about get the job done.
Connacht should give Edinburgh a good game, Robbie Henshaw is back, but when are we going to see this hot New Zealand talent?

Ulster have Zebre at home, Rory Best at hooker, have picked a strong experienced team, looks like 5 points all the way.

The biggest clash of the weekend is in New Zealand, where the Springboks, smarting from a last gasp loss in Australia, will be dying to register an all too infrequent victory against the All Blacks. The bookies and the South African press have written them off, and with Handre Pollard at fly half, they haven’t exactly enhanced their chances. Jean de Villiers hits the ton up, they have a really strong side, not exactly clicking, but desperation could be just the thing to pull those strings in the right way. The All Blacks have lost Messam and Whitleock to injury, and have Cruden back. I’m expecting off the scale physicality, with the precision of the All Blacks seen them home by 8-10 points.
Finally, the Wobblies head over to Argentina, hoping like anything they aren’t going to be the first of the big three to trip up to the Pumas. However, my monies on the Argentinians, the want this so so badly, and Australia just haven’t really shown any form this year.

Rugby Championship
Saturday , September 13
New Zealand vs South Africa    08:35
Australia vs Argentina    11:05

Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 12
Benetton Treviso vs Munster    19:00
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Ospreys    19:35
Ulster vs Zebre    19:35
Edinburgh vs Connacht    19:35
Saturday , September 13
Leinster vs Scarlets    14:40
Sunday , September 14
Cardiff Blues vs Glasgow    16:00

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Leinster outdo themselves to play worse than Munster!

 Zane Kirchner made his Leinster debut at the weekend.
 (picture - http://bit.ly/1qy5Iar)

It wasn’t a vintage weekend for the Irish provinces, with Connacht's good home win over Dragons the only thing to write home about. That’s just the start that the Galwegians needed. Following closely behind was Ulster’s draw with the Scarlets away, closing up right at the end of the match. That match sounded pretty well like the match of the weekend.

The ones I got to watch were pretty dismal from an Irish viewpoint. Edinburgh had lost 22 of their last 23 matches in Ireland, make that 22 of the last 24 as they put away an underwhelming Munster side. The scrum struggled, their tackling was terrible, and Keatleys poor kicking for posts really cost them the match.  Edinburgh looked quite settled, and up for the match, Cornell Du Preez and Jack Cuthbert were very impressive, while for Munster, Simon Zebo stood up tall, and Shane Buckley especially, but Andrew Smith too, had good debuts. That was a Munster B-side, so you wouldn’t want to get too carried away, but I think they’ll think hard before they start Duncan Williams again.

Well anything Munster can do Leinster can do better, so while Munster stank, Leinster gave off the foulest of deathly odours in the first half against Glasgow. Leinster’s tackling was abysmal, their physicality is still on holiday, and they were interested  spectators for the Warriors three tries in the first half. Things turned around in the second, with a good try, and a lucky one for Leinster (although Glasgow got a lucky one too) but it wouldn’t have been fair to Glasgow to get a win there. The backline play is nearly non existent – not helped, in fairness by the loss of Noel Reid in the first minute, and the loose trio, hung loose like, and didn’t do anything, while the locks were pretty idle too. Last year, in the same fixture, at the start of the season we lost by 6 points, so I guess Leinster still have time to come right. Glasgow palyed well, with a lot of confidence. The only Leinster to do himself justice was full back Zane Kirchener.

In the Rugby Championship, New Zealand Argentina was a cagey affair, the All blacks got their four point bonus point, but never really looked like cutting loose. The All Blacks have shipped a few injuries too, losing Whitelock and Messam is a blow. Argentina actually scored a perfectly good try, so the match was closer than it looked.

In Perth, the Springboks threw away a win that was theirs, with  a last minute kick to touch not going out. They had a pretty harsh yellow card on Habana – I don’t even think it was penalty. I can tell you, George Clancy is not the toast of South Africa right now. The Springboks played a lot better, but Australia were pretty poor, and would have beaten South Africa a lot easier with a bit more poise. The Springboks were livid at the end of the match – I just hope that anger carries on until next week, which should make the Springbok All Black match a real classic.

Guinness PRO12
Saturday , September 6
Scarlets 32 - 32 Ulster   
Connacht 16 - 11 Newport Gwent D'gons    Glasgow 22 - 20 Leinster
Friday , September 5
Munster 13 - 14 Edinburgh   
Ospreys 44 - 13 Benetton Treviso   

Rugby Championship
New Zealand 28 - 9 Argentina   
Australia 24 - 23 South Africa

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Energy sapping amount of rugby to watch this weekend!

 

Rugby season is finally here again – after months of bits and pieces, few internationals, suddenly there’s more rugby than you can shake a stick it!

The highlight for Leinster fans will their match against Glasgow on Saturday. The team hasn’t been announced yet, but we know who won’t be there – Dan Leavey,  Jordi Murphy, Dave Kearney and Richardt Strauss who will all be out for 6- 8 weeks at least. Glasgow at home are going to be tough, no doubt about it, and I’d say we’ll be lucky to get out of there with a win. You couldn’t read too much into the preseason friendlies, but we did lose to Northampton Saints away, and to Ulster at Tallaght stadium. Sky has the rights to Pro 12 this season, so it’ll be interesting to see how they do. And how much good news is the return of Jonny Sexton?

Munster have named aside with a few surprises, mainly starts for Andrew White and Shane Buckley. Let’s see what the new coaching team has in store of the season, but they should beat Edinburgh.
Ulster travel to the Scarlets, in a match that could go either way  - Ulster have had a difficult off season, a few big name departures and retirements, and some good buys, so let’s see how it shakes up.

Connacht meanwhile welcome the Dragons, who have been strengthened by a few returning Welsh internationals, while Connacht have a few good signings of their own. Think Connacht will win.

Apart from the PRO 12 – and the Aviva Premiership – and the Top 14 – the Rugby Championship also gets going. First up is Argentina taking on the All Blacks in New Zealand. They’ve played two competitive matches against the Springboks so far, and really deserved to win one at the least. I don’t think the All Blacks will as p for this match as they were against Australia, and the Pumas have nagging game plan that keep them in touch. The AB’s are carrying a few injuries, hav- ande taken no chances in selection – although if Barrettt gets injured it could get interesting should put the Pumas away efficiently, if not by a big score.

Meanwhile, things are about to get real for the Springboks in Australia. They have been stuttering along so far, winning badly but at least winning. They should definitely beat the Wallabies in the republic, but if they have ambitions to win the RC, they need this win against a steadily improving Australian side, now featuring a fit for purpose backline, with Foley at fly half. It’s all the head, I think the Springboks have better players, but will they turn up? The Wallabies, meanwhile need to get winning again after the humiliating defeat against NZ. I’m going with the Sprinboks if Morne Steyn starts at 10. Is recalling Retief Goosen a thought?

Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 5
Ospreys vs Benetton Treviso   
Munster vs Edinburgh   
Saturday , September 6
Scarlets vs Ulster    14:40
Connacht vs Newport Gwent D'gons    17:00
Glasgow vs Leinster    17:15
Sunday , September 7
Zebre vs Cardiff Blues    16:00
Rugby Championship
Saturday , September 6
New Zealand vs Argentina   
Australia vs South Africa    11:05

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Racing triumph over Toulon at home!

 (picture http://bit.ly/1ngC58N)


The only match I caught this weekend was Racing Metro Paris beating Toulon 17 – 10. The Racing pack was most impressive, more than standing their own against the monsters of Toulon. I guess it’s the same with most teams, take them on at their strength, and you have a chance. Francois Van der Merwe and Casey Lualua were most impressive for Racing, as was James O’Connor for Toulon.

Really, though, the sooner that Jonny Sexton gets out of there the better. He was getting knocked around all over the place there, the late hit on the fly half is par for the course, and even a big 6 foot 1 guy like him takes a hammering. He went off early with injuries to his arm and face. In Ireland, he probably wouldn’t have made an appearance until the end of September, would be given regular breaks during the season, and not be yanked back to the Top 14 mid 6 nations.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Everything you ever wanted to know about new signings in the Guinness Pro 12 but were afraid to ask!

 

This is just a quick look and the comings and goings in the off season. Starting off with Leinster, who welcome a rake of academy players to the senior side. The academy is an important part of Leinster’s success over the last few years, and I’d pick out  adhg Furlong and Luke McGrathas the ones to watch. The big signing is lock Kane Douglas (Waratahs) who will give a badly needed boost to the second row reserves. The interesting signing is from rugby league, destined for the midfield, Ben Te'o (South Sydney Rabbitohs). There’s a bit of coals to Newcastle getting a new midfield player – at worst, he’ll only last a few months like Benji Marshall at the Auckland Blues, at best, we could have the next Israel Folau! In the departures, legends both in BOD and Leo, and sorry to see Conor Gilsenan gone so soon.

Munster have two big signings, Robin Copeland (Cardiff Blues) – bit of coals to Newcastle there too, as Munster have loose forwards to burn, and Tyler Bleyendaal (Crusaders)   who should be very useful in the midfield. Their biggest loss is James Coughlan, for his play and leadership.

Ulster welcome RuaidhrĂ­ Murphy (Brumbies), and two quality South Africans,  Franco van der Merwe (Lions),  and Louis Ludik (SU Agen). Franco is a great lock, and Louis a very useful full back/utility back. Quite a lot of departures for Ulster (not including coach and director of rugby!) John Afoa is the biggest, and the retirements of Johann Muller, Paddy Wallace, and Stephen Ferris.

Connacht get Quinn Roux and John Cooney (both Leinster, loan), hot property in New Zealand centre Bundee Aki and classy former All Black Mils Muliaina (both Chiefs). They have two big losses, Dan Parks (retired), and Eoin Griffin (London Irish) – I think Eoin should have stuck it out at Connacht for a little longer.

Cardiff Blues welcome Jarrad Hoeata (Highlanders), Gareth Anscombe (Chiefs), Adam Jones (Ospreys), great players all

The Dragons have Aled Brew (Biarritz Olympique), Lee Byrne (Clermont Auvergne) with them and back in Wales, which evens up the outgoings to France a bit.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The rest of the world are catching the All Blacks at the rate of Continental drift!

 
 
With a wet start last weekend, the Rugby Championship  flamed into action  on Saturday. After a pretty average day at the office, the All Blacks confirmed against Australia that the rest of the world is catching New Zealand at round about the rate of continental drift – about 1cm every hundred years. They completely blew Australia away, boom! running up their highest total ever against the Wallabies, although probably not their biggest win, as the Australians picked up a few late tries. The speed at which they play is amazing to watch, even with Richie McCaw finally having a ref put a few manners on him didn’t slow them down. The Wallabies aren’t the worst team either, although how much  better did they look with Foley and Phipps and the NSW backline? Their best player was Toomua, and I think McKenzie wants him on, which is why Beale is playing 10. Anyway, you’d be brave or foolish to bet against NZ racking up another Rugby Companionship.

In Salta, the Springboks proved how cruel sport can be, picking the pockets of the Pumas, and getting a win they scarcely deserved. Argentina’s scrum was way on top, probably not always done fairly, but anyway, and their ball retention and kick chases were superb. They scored 3 tries, and butchered a few more, and if there was any justice theyd have got a bonus point win. The Springboks waited until the last 20 minutes to get their act together, finally played in the right areas, and found the Argentinian defence wanting. South Africa’s defence out wide was abysmal, their scrum is ailing and they  can’t afford to give Pollard  more chances until he matures. Having said that, they found a way to win.

Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 23
New Zealand 51 - 20 Australia 
Argentina 31 - 33 South Africa