Thursday, March 31, 2011

Weekend Rugby -Can Leinster make it 20 in a row?

Munster supporters look forward to the visit of Leinster

The big match of this weekend will be Leinster heading off to play one of the minor teams in the South/West – is it Connacht or Munster? I’m not sure, I’ll have to check it up, but I believe the match is a sell out, you know how these small regions get excited when one of the big teams comes to visit. As you would imagine, Leinster has an impressive record against this tiddler, having won the umpteen last matches home and away. Oh aren’t I funny! Yes, all the bonhomie between the provinces around Ireland’s win over England has been buried, along with England’s Grand slam dreams, just as surely as the daggers are being sharpened to bury into each others’ backs. Munster now seem to view Leinster with the mythical reverence that Ireland reserve for the Al Blacks, they think might get close, but beat them? We’re not worthy!

Leinster welcome back more of the troops from the 6 Nations campaign, as Gordon D’Arcy, Cian Healy, Sean O’Brien, Brian O’Driscoll and Mike Ross get back in the frame for selection.

Munster look to have a pretty full squad to select from with only Tomas O’Leary and Alan Quinlan missing amongst likely starters.

Both teams will be using the match as a warm up for European challenges next week, but obviously there’s more to it than that, there’s Magners points up for grabs, and there’s the potential indignity of being beaten by your biggest domestic rival. I’ve been waiting for Leinster to slip up away from home against Munster, but the slip hasn’t been coming. There’s not much logic to be applied to this fixture, with all the passion of a local derby, but going back to Heineken Cup form, Leinster are stronger and should take this. ‘mon Leinster! And big shout for Shane Horgan who wins his 200th cap this weekend.

Connacht host Edinburgh, and after their giant killing form last week against Ospreys, you’d suspect the Scots will shade this. That’s what I thought until I saw Edinburgh are still resting some of their internationals. Resting them for what? I’m going with Connacht now. Ulster (or the Greatest One Man Show on Earth©, as they will heretofore be referred to) welcome the Scarlets, who came fairly close to overturning Munster last week. Never fear, Ruan is here, scaling large buildings with a single leap, catching bullets in his teeth, and if the rest of the players display a tenth of his skill (each, not all put together), Ulster will win.


London Irish will have the fly spray out as Wasps travel to the Madjeski Stadium. After last week’s feeble effort against the Saints, a few good swats should account for Wasps this time. Wasps aren’t happy campers at the moment, neither are Wales, don’t want to start any rumours but is there a connection here, Shaun Edwards? Irish will be buoyed by last week’s good win against Exeter, they haven’t lost this year at home, and won’t lose this weekend either, however frightened they may by the return of pensioner Josh Lewsey to the Wasps ranks. I had high hopes for Wasps this season, they have the talent, but can’t seem to get their act together.

Shark Bite

So after being comprehensively dismantled by the Crusaders last week in the first half, and travelling all the way round the world in the last few weeks, the Sharks now get to take on the Stormers, currently top of the heap. Look we all know the reasons for the Sharks losing, Kiwi ref masquerading as an Aussie – yeah right, of course he was neutral, awful pitch – I mean, what do the Northern Hemisphere really know about rugby?, and no Lambie. They’ve actually got a few real issues to sort out – no depth at fly half, not enough inspiration in the centres, front row woes. All of this is possible to overcome, fly half aside. I don’t know what to make of the Stormers, good team , good players, but you suspect they lack that cutting edge to go all the way, and this is going to be another big test of their resolve, no better way for the Sharks to cast off their losing blues than by stonking a local rival. I’ll be bullish and go with the Sharks, as the Stormers catch the backlash from last weeks loss.

Aviva Premiership

Saturday , April 2

Northampton vs Sale 14:30

Gloucester vs Newcastle 15:00

Harlequins vs Leicester 17:30

Sunday , April 3

Saracens vs Bath 14:15

Leeds Carnegie vs Exeter 15:00

London Irish vs Wasps 15:00

Super Rugby

Friday , April 1

Highlanders vs Brumbies 19:35

Waratahs vs Chiefs 19:40

Saturday , April 2

Blues vs Cheetahs 17:30

Hurricanes vs Bulls 19:35

Western Force vs Melbourne Rebels 19:05

Lions vs Reds 15:00

Sharks vs Stormers 17:05

The Magners League

Friday , April 1

Ulster vs Scarlets 19:05

Connacht vs Edinburgh 19:45

Saturday , April 2

Aironi Rugby vs Glasgow 14:30

Ospreys vs Cardiff Blues 18:30

Munster vs Leinster 19:30

Sunday , April 3

Newport-Gwent D'gons vs Benetton Treviso 14:45

Monday, March 28, 2011

Weekend Rugby - Irish teams at 1,2 and 3 in the Magners, Ruan Pienaar needs to lose weight, and the Sharks get blown away

Ruan Pienaar - Picture from

Cardiff Blues 15 - 16 Munster

Munster started this match like a runaway try, and after James Coughlan scored a try following Keith Earls searing break, it looked like the flood gates were going to open. See what happens when you play like Leinster. But the floodgates stayed shut, a couple of good opportunities went begging, Cardiff stuck in there, and suddenly it was a one point game and Munster were hanging on for dear life. But Wales is a hard place to to go to and win, Cardiff even without a few players were a good team, and a win is a win. There was a bit of dust up resulting in two yellow cards, nothing in it really, I’ve seen better punch ups in the queue for the ladies at a nightclub. Come on lads, put a bit of effort into it!

Glasgow 19 - 22 Ruan Pienaar

Ruan Pienaar is really going to have to lose some weight. He’s making a habit of carrying 14 frankly ugly lumps every week. There’s 15 man rugby, 10’s, 7’s and now 1’s, the power of One. On a pitch better suited to beach volleyball than rugby, there was plenty of thud and blunder from both sides. It was a fairly workmanlike Glasgow team, and Ulster found it all to easy to match their standard. If Ruaridh Jackson had bought his kicking boots, it could all have different, as he blew several kickable penalties. Ulster started the second half with a 6 point lead, which they frittered away, and then finally woke up in the last 10 minutes – or a certain Mr Pienaar did anyway, scoring a try, converting it, and nailing the obligatory last minute long range penalty to sneak a win. He’s pulling the team up by it’s bootstraps, the rest of the team needs to stand up and convince him they’re worth hanging around for.

Aironi finally broke their duck in the Magners with a win against Connacht, who let a real opportunity to progress up the league slip their fingers. It was left to Leinster to restore Irish pride against the Dragons at Rodney Parade. What a stadium! That must be the finest building site Leinster have ever played on. I didn’t see the whole match, but it didn’t seem to be a high quality encounter – Messrs Thud and Blunder had a busy weekend by the looks of it. When Leinster threw on their reserves, the quality told and they pulled away from the Dragons. Leinster’s penalty try was in due recognition of their vastly improved srummaging, with hooker Richardt Strauss going from strength to strength. That’s Irish teams in 1,2 and 3 in the Magners now.


It was the Armitage show at the Madejski Stadium as they easily overcame Exeter 39-17. That takes them up to 5th in the table, and hopefully marks a turning point in their season.

Shark Bite

It was the Sharks who got bitten on Sunday as the Crusaders silky handling skills blew them away with four tries and a bonus point in the first half. Dan Carter and Sonny Bill Williams were the ringmasters as the Crusaders backline ran riot. The Sharks were always going to be suspect in defense with first choice outhalf Lambie injured. The Sharks, to their credit never gave up, and scored four tries of their own. What impressed me about the match, apart from the obvious entertainment value, was the lack of aimless kicking. Possession was something to be guarded preciously and used wisely. I’m just glad that the match was a good representation of what the Super 15 is all about.

Aviva Premisrship

Sunday , March 27

Northampton 39 - 3 Wasps

Saracens 24 - 9 Newcastle

Saturday , March 26

Harlequins 53 - 15 Gloucester

London Irish 39 - 17 Exeter

Bath 6 - 37 Leicester

Friday , March 25

Sale 15 - 12 Leeds Carnegie

The Magners League

Sunday , March 27

Newport-Gwent D'gons 16 - 26 Leinster

Scarlets 22 - 16 Benetton Treviso

Saturday , March 26

Aironi Rugby 25 - 13 Connacht

Edinburgh 23 - 16 Ospreys

Friday , March 25

Cardiff Blues 15 - 16 Munster

Glasgow 19 - 22 Ulster

Super Rugby

Sunday , March 27

Crusaders 44 - 28 Sharks

Saturday , March 26

Reds 41 - 8 Cheetahs

Chiefs 13 - 16 Blues

Brumbies 22 - 29 Waratahs

Bulls 30 - 23 Lions

Stormers 51 - 16 Western Force

Friday , March 25

Melbourne Rebels 42 - 25 Hurricanes

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Weekend Rugby - Magners League, London Irish, and some Super rugby at Twickenham for a change!

Shane Horgan - Picture from

Right, so after all the fuss of the 6 Nations is over, normal service is resumed. All the fixtures are at the bottom.

Magners League

Munster get to travel to Cardiff on Friday to take on the Blues on their ladies day. Don’t forget to pack the hair gel lads! Munster have most of their internationals back, and I guess the news here is that Conor Murray gets to start at 9, with Stringer on the bench, which is a big call for an inexperienced player. Stringer could come in to spare their blushes if need be. They’re obviously taking this match seriously, and with players like POC, Earls in the side, they should have too much for the Blues, who have a huge injury list – Blair, Warburton, James, Jenkins. Ulster go to Glasgow, and after squeaking past the Dragons last week, they may feel their luck is in. They’re taking a strong team with them, and although Edinburgh at home are always a tricky proposition the don’t have a strong team, the force seems to be with Ulster, and they should pip this one.

Connacht visit Aironi, who are still waiting for their first win in 17 games, are they going to have wait another game? Yes they will, Connacht should be way too strong for them.

Leinster wrap things up for the Irish provinces on Sunday as they take on the Dragons at Rodney Parade. Leinster are fielding a strong team for the match, which they need to do, the Dragons are a good team. Sexton and Cullen go stright back in and their strength in depth is reflected with three internationals on the bench. Shane Horgan even gets to play again, good to see the big man back in action! The Dragons were either unlucky not to win last week, or lucky to get so close, depending on whether you’re a Dragons or Ulster supporter. I think Leinster are going to win anyway.

Leinster:15 Isa Nacewa, 14 Shane Horgan, 13 Eoin O'Malley, 12 Fergus McFadden, 11 Luke Fitzgerald, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Isaac Boss, 8 Rhys Ruddock, 7 Dominic Ryan, 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Leo Cullen (c), 3 Stan Wright, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Heinke van der Merwe

Replacements:16 Aaron Dundon, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Simon Shawe, 19 Nathan Hines, 20 Jamie Heaslip, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Dave Kearney.


The “not not’s” get to take on the most Irish team in the Premiership (including themselves) this weekend when they entertain the Exeter Chiefs. It’s the St Patrick’s party day for the Exiles, and the fixture list has duly delivered a sacrificial lamb for the festivities in the form of Exeter. Well at the start of the season that would have been the conventional wisdom, but Exeter lie in a respectable 9th position – and could have more points than Irish if they get a good win this weekend, on top of which they’ve won three out of the last 4 games, so it’s within the bounds of possibility. Irish have won two out of the last four, and won’t want a repeat of their last outing, when they embarrassingly lost to Leeds. But at home, with a big crowd in for the St Pat’s party, they should have too much for Exeter.

Shark Bite

Sonny Bill Williams

This is your big chance to see some Super rugby at Twickenham, and for once there won’t be any chariots swinging by. No this is Super super rugby, for the match between the Crusaders and the Sharks, rescheduled and re-homed due to earthquake damage in Christchurch, and in aid of relief efforts. 30000 tickets have been sold, and a crowd of 55 000 is expected. It’s a match which will no doubt have all the French clubs salivating, as these are two very strong southern Hemisphere sides.

I think I count 13 All Blacks, and 14 Sprinboks in each match day 22 - it's like an international! The Sharks have been hit by the loss of Patrick Lambie, their wunderkind fly half, which is a pretty serious dent in their ambitions for this match. Players to watch for the Sharks are Willem Alberts, the latest in a long line of supermen south African loose forwards, assembled by robots at a secret location in the Republic. The veteran Springbok Stefan Terblanche is another player to watch, he’s in the form of his life, and fullfils a role for the Sharks not unlike Paul Warwick at Munster.

Where do I start with the Crusaders? There’s Dan Carter, still the best 10 in the world, Kieran Read, one of the best 8’s in the business, and Sonny Bill Williams, with his Inspector Gadget skills. Some players not too well known on these shores are Israel Dagg, an All Black and awesome full back, and Robbie Fruean, the form center in New Zealand, no mean feat when you have players like Nonu and Smith in the frame. Zac Guildford is a very talented winger, probably 4th or 5th in the All Black pecking order.On balance, that Crusader side is pretty frightening looking, think they will beat the Lambie-less Sharks, but hopefully more than anything we’ll get a match which will show what the fuss about Super Rugby is all about.

Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett .

Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Chris Jack, 19 Jonathan Poff, 20 Kahn Fotuali'i, 21 Matt Berquist, 22 Adam Whitelock.

The Sharks:15 Louis Ludik, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Stefan Terblanche, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 John Smit (C).

Replacements: 16 Eugene van Staden, 17 Tendai Mtawarira, 18 Gerhard Mostert, 19 Jacques Botes, 20 Conrad Hoffmann, 21 Adrian Jacobs, 22 JP Pietersen.

The Magners League

Friday , March 25

Cardiff Blues vs Munster 19:05

Glasgow vs Ulster 20:05

Saturday , March 26

Aironi Rugby vs Connacht 17:30

Edinburgh vs Ospreys 18:30

Sunday , March 27

Newport-Gwent D'gons vs Leinster 14:30

Scarlets vs Benetton Treviso 17:35

Aviva Premiership

Friday , March 25

Sale vs Leeds Carnegie 19:45

Saturday , March 26

Harlequins vs Gloucester 14:15

London Irish vs Exeter 15:00

Bath vs Leicester 16:30

Sunday , March 27

Northampton vs Wasps 15:00

Saracens vs Newcastle 15:00

Super Rugby

Friday , March 25

Melbourne Rebels vs Hurricanes

Saturday , March 26

Reds vs Cheetahs 14:40

Chiefs vs Blues 19:35

Brumbies vs Waratahs 19:40

Stormers vs Western Force 15:00

Bulls vs Lions 17:05

Sunday , March 27

Crusaders vs Sharks 16:00

Sunday, March 20, 2011

6 Nations Rugby Results - England win the 6 Nations and redemption for Scotland, Ireland and France.

Cheer up lads, you won the 6 Nations! Photo from

RBS Six Nations

Saturday , March 19

Scotland 21 - 8 Italy

Ireland 24 - 8 England

France 28 - 9 Wales

Scotland 21 - 8 Italy

Scotland finally gave their long suffering fans something to cheer about their first victory in the 6 Nations, first try for two years, first try by a Scottish player called Nikki (2nd cousin of Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx) - not really. Anyway I’m making light of what was a fantastic victory for Scotland, not just the result, but the manner in which they won, using their big forwards effectively, stealing line out ball, and seeing creativity and incision from their back line. Rory Lamont looked comfortable in the centre for the first time, and you’d think this must now be Scotland’s first choice team. Italy had a quiet day at the office, scoring a try but being stifled by good Scottish play. Scotland avoid the wooden spoon, while Italy’s win over France puts a sheen on their season that can’t be dulled by last place.

Ireland 24 - 8 England

Redemption! That’s what Saturday afternoon in Dublin’s fair city was all about. The Irish team stood up to be counted, from 1 to 15, every man could be proud of his contribution. The years striped back for players like O’Connell, O’Callaghan and Wallace who were in sensational form. Jonathan Sexton answered his critics in some style with a consummate performance. And it was Brian O’Driscoll who lead from the front to help deliver the team performance we all knew that was in them. BOD also broke a 70 year old record for the number of tries in the tournament with his 25th. I have to mention the rise and rise of Mike Ross too.

It was leadership that seemed to be sorely missing in the English team, in a team that was outmuscled, out thought and out fought. Tom Woods was the only player that stood up for them. This is a good English team, they’ll be back, bigger and badder than before, and in fairness they were good value for their four wins and the championship. But Saturday was Ireland’s day, the sun shone (then it rained at the right time), babies laughed, the angels sang and all was right in the world as the country bathed in the afterglow of another famous victory.

It was a full moon that night, the biggest in 18 years, and while it was a bad moon rising for England, could it have been responsible for Ireland’s newly discovered vigour? Donncha O'Callaghan laughs off the suggestion below.

France 28 - 9 Wales

It was left for France to wrap up second place in Paris with a pretty comprehensive victory over Wales. It was redemption for them after a horrendous loss to Italy the week before. Wales don’t seem to have a happy camp – Warren Gatland runs the show with all the charm and warmth of Kim Il Jung, their defence coach and physio were allegedly involved in a fist fight last weekend, and Gatland didn’t mince his words after the match, letting his players have it. It hasn’t been much joi de vivre French camp either, with French coach Marc Lievremont calling his players cowards after their defeat to Italy. France were about the second best team in the tournament, although with a bit of application, they could have easily been 1st, or 4th or 5th. Both teams seem to be at a bit of a cross roads.

Well that’s it for another year, England deserved champions, Ireland on the rise, France and Wales at the crossroads, and Scotland and Italy game as ever.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

6 Nations Preview - England sniff the Slam, Kidney gets to rap, Johnson replies, and pride at stake for France and Scotland

Yo lads let's kick it!(Picture from )

RBS Six Nations

Saturday , March 19

Scotland vs Italy 14:30

Ireland vs England 17:00

France vs Wales 19:45

Last day of the tournament and I’ve got a long post and a lot to say. No wait, come back! It’s all good stuff.

Scotland vs Italy

Last match, last chance saloon for Scotland. Their sole ‘victory’ so far is a plucky six point loss over the English, rather than the more traditional victory when you score more points than the opposition. Moral victories don’t count either, aren’t recorded in the 6 Nations record book. And there’s no justice because with that pack, Scotland should have been a contender. Instead they get to take on Italy, their bogey team, on a high after an unbelievable victory over France (any victory of Italy over France has to be unbelievable), to try and rescue a vestige of pride out of this championship. I suppose the question is, do the Italians feel like they already have the result of the decade, and that their work is done? I’d say yes, they’re not good travellers and Scotland can and will end on a deserved high.

Ireland vs England

There’s history here in this fixture we don’t need to go into, 800 years of it, but on top of that there’s also the little neighbour big neighbour syndrome, and the small guy takes on the giant element as well. Goliath bashing another few dwarves is hardly a story, is it? But when David sorted out Goliath, it was big enough news to make it into the Bible! After 7 wins in a row, is it time to give Goliath a turn?

It’s a tough time for Ireland, the decisions and the results not going our way, the confidence is low, the frustration high. The match has me thinking about our expectations for the Irish team, and I don’t envy Declan Kidney one little bit. With two Heineken cups and a Six Nations Grand Slam under his belt, we have a talented, accomplished coach in charge. He only has four teams to pick from ( well three really as no disrespect but how often does a Connacht player make the team?) and on top of that there are key players from foreign climes in the teams. But there’s a lot of public expectation of what Ireland should achieve, and a lot has been achieved in fairness. We want Ireland to win, but above all we should be celebrating and respecting our players and coach’s for punching way above their weight in the last 5 years.

Kidney has run the changes for the match, Sexton is back, which should mean a running game, Fitzgerald is out, and Trimble gets a start.

England are talking up Ireland for this match, Martin Johnson says they have to respect us, and why wouldn’t they? After watching us scrape past Italy and Scotland, losing to France and getting hockeyed by Wales, you can see the fear in their eyes. Do they mean the respect like they’ll give us a decent burial? They are the form team in the tournament, bursting with big talented players, and I’d prefer them to honest and say it’s theirs to lose, which it is.

Declan Kidney was in fiery form after the last match, looking pretty mean, and after all the talk of respecting players and coaches, what else could I do but give you his team talk in rap form ( sung to tune of ‘Ice Ice Baby’ and my apologies to Vanilla Ice for messing with his deathless prose):

Yo lads let's kick it

Dec Dec baby
Dec Dec baby

All right stop collaborate and listen
Dec is back with his brave new invention
DOC ‘n POC grab a hold of them tightly
That Ashton is looking pretty sprightly
Will he ever stop yo I don't know
Catch the ball and ol’ Earls ain’t slow
To the extreme hit the ruck like a vandal
If they acting ill ‘lip’ll burn them like a candle
If there was a problem yo BOD’ll solve it
Check out the linesman while the ball boy revolves it


Dec Dec baby
Dec Dec baby

Be quick to the point to the point to the breakdown
We’re cooking Haskell like a pound of bacon
Burning them, if they ain't quick and nimble
Go crazy when you hear my signal
J10 and SOB ‘ll pick up the tempo
Get into space and it's time to go so Bowe
They be jealous 'cause we be over the line
Put a mark on Youngs feckin’ gnarly little nine
They be rollin' for their 5.0
In that low chariot so Fodens’ hair can blow
If there was a problem yo BOD'll solve it
Check out the linesman while the ball boy revolves it

Martin Johson get's to reply too: (to the tune of Bob Marleys' Jammin' - adopt your best Jamaican accent)

Ooh, yeah! All right!
We're slammin':
I wanna slam it wid you.
We're slammin', slammin',
And I hope you like slammin', too.

We're slammin' -
To think that slammin' was a thing of the past;
We're slammin',
And I hope this slam is gonna last

Yeah, we're - we're slammin' (wotcha-wa),
Wotcha-wa-wa-wa, we're slammin' (wotcha-wa),
See, I wanna slam it wid you
We're slammin' (slammin' slammin', slammin')
I'm slammed: I hope you're slammin', too.

Right so decision time, who’s going to win? My head says England, my heart says Ireland, going with my heart!

France vs Wales

Depending on how Ireland get on Wales could still be in the running for the 6 Nations, but they are going to have to thump France to make up the points difference. France only have pride to play for at this stage. The mercurial Lievremont has made 5 changes for the match – now there’s a surprise! Would love to see him choosing a wine in a restaurant, the place would be closed by the time he’d made his mind up. He still gets to bring in players like Marty and Traille though, France should be doing SO much better than they are! Wales lose the outstanding Shane Williams, who has now played his last 6 Nations match, and North has been brought into the squad. They have three wins in arrow, and are on a bit of a roll. The one thing we know for certain about how the French will play is that we don’t have a clue what they will do. Could Wales catch the backlash from their abject 6 Nations, or will we see the lamest French showing since they got walloped by the Walabies? Hard to call, going with France because they have to come right some time, and at home is the place to do it.

And happy St Patrick's day everyone!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

6 Nations Results - France suck, Wales get a touch of luck, and England scrape past Scotland

Mike Phillips Photo from

RBS Six Nations

Saturday , March 12

Italy 22 - 21 France

Wales 19 - 13 Ireland

Sunday , March 13

England 22 - 16 Scotland

Italy 22 - 21 France

Well it has to said that I vastly underestimated France’s ability to suck. The French sunk to another low as they lost to Italy for the second time in 30 matches, the first time in a competitive fixture, and the first time in the 6 Nations. However flaky France may be, however overhyped and underperforming they were, you can’t take a thing from the Italians, who could have beaten Ireland, could have beaten Wales, and finally did beat France. They even scored a try! Quite how France manage to snatch another defeat from the jaws of victory is beyond me, when you look at the players they have – they don’t know who to leave out they have such depth in players. Another low for the current 6 Nations ‘champions’.

Wales 19 - 13 Ireland

It would be easy for me to blame the referee and linesman, and Declan Kidney for Ireland’s defeat at the hands of Wales at the Millennium stadium. And don’t worry I fully intend to. No i don’t, there’s no use crying over spilt milk, we lost, we had our chances right up to the end to right the wrongs, but it jusn’t wasn’t our day. There wasn’t any lack of effort, there wasn’t any lack of heart, but the precision wasn’t there. Ronan O’Gara wasn’t on song in the same way that was last week, and with a few exceptions – Sean O’Brien and Keith Earls, we just had an average day at the office. Thing is, we don’t have the quality replacements to bring in that we need when the first 15 is not performing. Wales got lucky with a bungled decision that was the decisive score, but hey, i would’ve taken that for Ireland. Phillips had a much better match for Wales all round, not too many other stand out performances apart from Sam Warburton who would have got my MOTM for quietly getting on with his job. Declan Kidney showed a bit of fire in the post match interview, why wouldn’t he. Interviewer What’s happened to the players that won the Grand Slam Two years ago Declan – They’re two years older

England 22 - 16 Scotland

The weekend rounded off with England taking on Scotland at Twickenham. The script was top team meets bottom team, crushing victory for England. The Scots however, put in their biggest performance of the championship and made life very difficult indeed for England, who perhaps had an eye on the match in Dublin and  the Grand Slam. There were lots of mistakes, and one moment of brilliance from Max Evans that got a try on the board for the Scots, but in the end England did just about enough to come away with the victory. Max’s brother Thom has retired from the game through injury, and is now going out with Kelly Brooke – he must have had the most awesome insurance compensation cover. So the slam is on for England, just the small matter of 15 Irishmen in Dublin to overcome.
Shark Bite

Melbourne Rebels 32 - 34 Sharks

The Sharks squeaked home against the Rebels – I thought it was going to be a walk in the park for the sharks but the Rebels had other ideas, being 25-13 up with 20 minutes to go. The Sharks fought their way back into the lead, then were gifted a try by Cipriani, cancelling out his own effort earlier. The gift made it a bonus point win, four from four for the boys from Durban.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

6 Nations 2011 - Will England do better in the Calcutta Cup than they did in Bangalore? And it's going to be epic at the Millennium for Wales and Ireland

The Calcutta Cup

RBS Six Nations

Saturday , March 12

Italy vs France 14:30

Wales vs Ireland 17:00

Sunday , March 13

England vs Scotland 15:00

Italy vs France

France have never really got in gear this tournament. They started with a big win over Scotland – at this stage, conventional wisdom was that the French were a good team, the Scots having beaten the Boks last year were in good nick too, so a very good team beating a good team - result! Since then, Scotland have not lived up the ‘good’ tag, about adequate is the most enthusiastic description you’re going to get of them. So France beat an about adequate Scotland, staggered past Ireland by the hair of their chinny chinny chins, lurched into England and turned over the 6 Nations favourites title to the English. I’d say they peaked mid tournament last 6 Nations, and have declined ever since, at an erratic pace well suited to their temperament. Will they suck enough to lose to the Azzuri? Nick Mallet, the Italian coach, must look on in despair as the French lavishly waste their riches of players, while he tries to make up a team out of scraps. All he needs are a decent scrum half and a fly half... There’s no justice though, so France will beat the Italians with their hands tied behind their backs.

Wales vs Ireland

The match of the weekend sees the Welsh welcoming Ireland to the Millennium Stadium. They've even laid on a train strike to add to the fun of getting there. Now I wouldn’t like to put thoughts into the oppositions head, but if you were Welsh, with half of the team moving to France next year(Hook, Byrne,King), and the other half having a good think about it, wouldn’t the final weekend loom large in your mind as the weekend to shine, in front of an audience of future and potentially future employers? You wouldn’t want to miss your chance to shine by getting injured playing Ireland, the nouveaux pauvres of Europe, would you? Of course, you wouldn’t want to play too well and actually beat the French either – but then playing too well hasn’t really been an issue for Wales this season. So what I’m hoping for from the Welsh, is a sensible, long term, career orientated approach to the Ireland match.

What am I hoping for from the Irish team? Well, if I can ask them to throw their minds back a few weeks to the last match, do you remember the chap with the whistle, short shouty Welsh chap, Nigel whotisname, who kept on blowing his whistle and spoiling the game? The one you asked, ‘Do you not know who I am, like’? The one you mentioned your 50 caps to, and no offense, but you didn’t need any tips on playing the game? Well if they can remember anything he said, (highly unlikely), and actually listen to what Jonathan Kaplan has to say this weekend, and follow his advice, that would be a fantastic start. I want the team that scored three tries last outing to pitch up, not the one that gave away 15 penalties.

Ireland are unchanged for the match, which is good, they have the players capable of doing the job, they just need to hold their discipline and play to their potential. Wales have Hook back at fly half, which is good for them and should make for an open flowing game. I’m going with Ireland, but not by much, in what I hope is going to be an epic match, befitting the magnificent Millenium Stadium.

England vs Scotland

The last match of the weekend sees the Scots take on the Sassenach at Twickenham for the Calcutta Cup
( The 110-year-old trophy was famously kicked down Edinburgh's Princes Street by ‘over-refreshed’ Scotland's John Jeffrey and England's Dean Richards in 1988, as pictured above).
Ideally for Ireland, the Scots need to triumph, a tall order against an English team bursting with both talent and confidence. Whatever I said about Scotland being about adequate, let’s not forget you scored three good tries against last season’s Grand Slam champions France. And while not to put too fine a point on it, you sucked against Wales, every team has an off day. Then against Ireland, all those penalties you got, even nearly beating them in the end - that wasn’t bonehead Irish forwards, that was your good play forcing them to give away penalties(well it was bonehead Irish forwards, but it was still your pressure that got you the penalties). I somehow don’t think Scotland really need any motivation for this match anyway, playing the English is motivation in itself.

And as for England – these winning streaks are great, but they can end up as a monkey on your back, you’d hate to break your winning streak in the World Cup final for instance. So just take the match as it comes, don’t you have a history of looking out for the underdog as well? Anyway, don’t overestimate the Scots, sure look at their record in the 6 Nations so far. And the trip to Dublin is going to be the big match, keep your powder dry for that.

But any attempt to talk up Scotland or get the English overconfident can’t hide the fact that it’s been 28 years since Scotland won in England – it’ll be 29 this weekend.

Shark Bite

The Sharks take on the Melbourne Rebels - should be men aginst boys. The Rebels did beat the Brumbies - but I think that just means the Brumbies aren't very good. Could be 4 from 4 for the Sharks.


Leinster get a crack at the Dragons in Wales. Their squad is starting to stand up, and value of having qulaity players like Boss on their books is paying - so more Blue Magic in store.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Sensational replacement found for the snood!

Picture from

The soccer world has been rocked by the banning of the snood! This essential protection gear for sensitive necks will be no more from July this year. But fear not, fashion and safety conscious soccer players, as a new craze is about to hit the sport, in the shape of the bustle.

Yes, this article of clothing, last popular with Victorian women, is set to make a sensational comeback in the premiership. You read it here first! It’s not just the necks of soccer players that are sensitive – every part of them is delicate.

The bustle helps you to protect the sensitive rear area while staying at the cutting edge of the fashion world.

Arsene Wenger congratulating Nasri on his dress sense

Our cameras caught Samir Nasri testing a prototype recently. A Manchester United player, who refused to be named, said ‘I could have done with one of those in the changing room after the Liverpool match with Sir Alex around’

Meanwhile, snood makers have been investigating the potential of the rugby market for their product. However, a spokesman for the industry said ‘While it’s possible that the snood may take off in in rugby, the only problem seems to be that not all of them have necks’

Picture from

In other news, it seems that soccer players are not the only pampered creatures to favour the snood.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Rugby -The Irish provinces ride out like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Apocalypse Now for London Irish, and take a bow the Sharks

The Irish provinces rode out this weekend like the Four Horsemen of the Apocolypse - Conquest, War, Pixie Dancer and Death. (Famine was on holiday so his brother stood in) Leinster preserved their unbeaten home record this season with a tidy win over the Scarlets. A big crowd at the RDS watched Johnny Sexton kick 16 points, with the win taking Leinster up to 2nd, until the Ospreys hammered Glasgow the next time. It’s impressive to see how the young guns in the backline step up when they need to. It was Ireland 2 Italy nil as Ulster accounted for Aironi without any problems, although they’ll feel like they let the bonus point get away, and Connacht overcame Treviso at the Sportsground. Munster then put the cherry on top the next day with a 5 point win over the Dragons. Try machine Doug Howlett ran in another couple, and Johne Murhpy had a good game, with Paul Warwick adding his customary cultured boot to proceedings. That cemented their position on the top of the Magners League.


I might have very slightly overestimated London Irish’s potential this weekend (cough). I was wondering – would they get the bonus point win? Yes,no? Never mind the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, this was Apocalypse Now – the horror, the horror! Leeds, marooned at the bottom of the league, rose up to smite the Exiles. Tough times for Irish. Weekend of upsets in the Premiership, as Saracens, Newcastle and Exeter beat more fancied opposition.

Willem Alberts Picture from:
Shark Bite

The Sharks made it three from three in Super Rugby with a 5 point win over the Force. The Force had 14 men on the pitch most of the match after a red card, and 13 at the end. Patrick Lambie is growing with each game, Willem Alberts is rumbling along nicely, Stefan Terblanche gets better with age, their scrum is sensational and their backline looks potent. Is this the Sharks season?

Magners League

Edinburgh 11 - 16 Cardiff Blues

Leinster 26 - 15 Scarlets

Ulster 23 - 10 Aironi Rugby

Ospreys 37 - 6 Glasgow

Munster 38 - 17 Newport-Gwent D'gons

Super Rugby

Lions 32 - 41 Blues

Crusaders 33 - 18 Waratahs

Chiefs 38 - 10 Melbourne Rebels

Stormers 21 - 15 Cheetahs

Brumbies 25 - 31 Reds

Bulls 28 - 35 Highlanders

Western Force 12 - 39 Sharks

Aviva Premiership

Newcastle 33 - 18 Harlequins

Gloucester 34 - 22 Bath

Leicester 14 - 15 Saracens

Leeds Carnegie 27 - 19 London Irish

Wasps 33 - 26 Sale

Exeter 30 - 9 Northampton

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Magners League, Aviva Premiership, Super Rugby, and hey! Post number 100!

This is a bit of a land mark post for me – post number 100! Being feted as expert, having my opinion eagerly sought, seeing my posts widely circulated – well, none of this has happened yet. Maybe by the time I get to 200! Fixtures are at the bottom by the way.

Leo Cullen Image from
Leinster vs Scarlets

Leinster get a boost for this match with the return of the likes of McFadden, Cullen, and Sexton, and with Hines on the bench. 14000 tickets have been sold for this match, which is more than decent for a Magners match in the middle of the Six Nations. Leinster are going to be relishing getting their first choice locks back into the fold, as they’ve definitely lacked a bit of grunt up front. Having Stan Wright back from injury is another boost – at the time he was injured, the question was, will Mike Ross be able to step up to the plate? He’s done more than that, pretty well cementing a place for himself in the Ireland team. I really rate the Scarlets, but with the stars they have out on international duty, and playing away from home, I’d say they are going to succumb to the Blue Magic.

Connaught and Ulster take on Italian opposition at home – Ulster are in pretty irresistible form and should make short work of Aironi. Connaught need to watch out against Treviso, as the Italians have done some sterling work at home, including overcoming Munster at home. Treviso don’t have any of their internationals though, only a few fringe internationals on the bench. Connacht at home and at full strength should roll the Italians over.

Munster vs Newport-Gwent Dragons

Munster get Stringer back from international for this match, probably the form scrum half in Ireland, and Leamy, not the form loosie in the country, as they welcome the Dragons to Limerick. They miss their locks when Ireland calls, there is not the back-up steel to compensate for the loss of O’Callaghan and O’Connell. But the Dragons are not that fiery, and not that toothy either, sitting at 7th in the league. 25 points below Munster, especially at Thomond Park, Munster are going to be way too strong.


Leeds Carnegie vs London Irish

After their recent troubles, the Exiles could be on a mini road to recovery. They saw off Gloucester last weekend in reasonable style, and will eyeing up this match like a parched man in a desert spotting a waterhole. If we read their thought bubbles, it would say bonus point win in flashing neon letters. I don’t know if they’ll achieve the bonus point,but win they will.

Shark Bite

The Sharks are two from two so far, and get to take on the Western Force in Aus. Flying half way round the world won’t have helped their chances in this match, although they at least have their first choice squad available. The Force had a bye last week, and lost their opening match to the Reds, although only just. The Reds then got pretty well smashed by the Waratahs. To me, that means neither the Reds nor the Force are that great this year, so the Force are going to bitten, with the Sharks to open their tour with a win.

Aviva Premiership

Friday , March 4

Newcastle vs Harlequins 20:00

Saturday , March 5

Gloucester vs Bath 13:00

Leicester vs Saracens 15:15

Sunday , March 6

Exeter vs Northampton 15:00

Wasps vs Sale 15:00

Leeds Carnegie vs London Irish 15:00

Super Rugby

Friday , March 4

Lions vs Blues 19:10

Crusaders vs Waratahs 19:35

Saturday , March 5

Chiefs vs Melbourne Rebels 19:35

Stormers vs Cheetahs 17:05

Western Force vs Sharks 19:05

Bulls vs Highlanders 19:10

Brumbies vs Reds 19:40

The Magners League

Friday , March 4

Connacht vs Benetton Treviso 19:00

Ulster vs Aironi Rugby 19:05

Edinburgh vs Cardiff Blues 19:30

Leinster vs Scarlets 19:35

Saturday , March 5

Ospreys vs Glasgow 17:30

Munster vs Newport-Gwent D'gons 19:30