Thursday, August 30, 2012

Joe Schmidt and Jono Gibbes to start for Leinster?

It’s rabid direct time again, with the rugby drought in the Northern Hemisphere due to break on Friday. Leinster’s first outing is an away trip to the Scarlets on Saturday, and the avialibility of players is a little bit concerning, with 11 fit international players unavailable for the opening rounds of the campaign and a further seven players (Luke Fitzgerald, Mark Flanagan, Conor Gilsenan, David Kearney, Sean O’Brien, Eoin O’Malley and Rhys Ruddock) ruled out through injury. I wonder how fit Joe Schmidt and Jono Gibbes are?
This was the 15 that started against Sale last Friday.

LEINSTER: 15: Isa Nacewa 14: Andrew Conway 13: Brendan Macken 12: Noel Reid 11: Fionn Carr 10: Ian Madigan 9: Isaac Boss CAPTAIN  1: Heinke van der Merwe 2: Richardt Strauss 3: Jamie Hagan 4: Tom Denton 5: Devin Toner 6: Dominic Ryan 7: Jordi Murphy 8: Leo Auva’a

I’d expect Leo Cullen to be back in the side, and possibly Quinn Roux will make an appearance off the bench.  If that’s the back 6, its’ very young, but Isa will be bossing them from the back. I’d go with a Scarlets win here because it’s always hard to win in Wales, never mind with young players.

Munster travel to Edinburgh – Scottish Rugby is on a bit of a high at the moment, and having just been thumped by London Irish, new coach Rob Penney has his work cut out, especially without the internationals. This was the team for London Irish:
D Hurley; D Howlett capt, C Laulala, J Downey, J Murphy; I Keatley, D Williams; W du Preez, D Varley, BJ Botha; D Foley, B Holland; D O’Callaghan, S Dougall, J Coughlan.
I wouldn’t expect too many changes to that, and despite what happened against Irish, I’d back them to win.

This is Ulster’s squad – I’m sure they’d like to have Ruan along, but I’d see them take out Glasgow at home. Interesting to see what Mark Anscombe will bring.
FORWARDS (15) Niall Annett Adam Macklin Callum Black John Afoa Lewis Stevenson Neil McComb Mike McComish Johann Muller Robbie Diack Sean Doyle Nick Williams Rob Herring Tom Court Nigel Brady Declan Fitzpatrick
BACKS (11) Peter Nelson Jared Payne Niall O’Connor Michael Heaney Craig Gilroy Paddy Jackson Luke Marshall Paul Marshall Chris Farrell Michael Allen Darren Cave

This was Connacht’s starting team for Quins:
M Jarvis; T O'Halloran, R Henshaw, M Fifita, F Vainikolo; M Nikora, K Marmion; D Buckley, J Harris-Wright, JP Cooney; M Swift, A Browne; J Muldoon, W Faloon, G Naoupu
There will be a few replacements going in there, will be hard to the Blues, but I’m going with them.
Enjoy the rugby!

RaboDirect PRO12
Friday , August 31
Newport-Gwent D'gons vs Zebre 
Ulster vs Glasgow 
Benetton Treviso vs Ospreys 19:05
Saturday , September 1
Connacht vs Cardiff Blues 17:00
Scarlets vs Leinster 18:30
Edinburgh vs Munster 20:00

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I hope the Lions sue their a%^&s off

This is my take on the Southern Kings replacing the Lions in the Super 15 , and Lions President Kevin de Klerk puts it really well.

"We were under the impression that the outcome would have suited everybody. This must be seen in the light of what was said to the Sports Portfolio Committee, that the Kings would come in, but not at the expense of any other team.

"However, that statement [by SARU] held no value, as it appears the writing was on the wall. We were led up the garden path.

"I was dumbfounded when I arrived there [at the meeting] and realised this thing was a done deal ... we needn't have bothered with the meeting.

"For me it is a lack of leadership - it is the worst leadership I ever experienced."

The Southern Kings, and Cheeky Watson – whom I’m no fan of – are coming in for a lot of flack, but at the end of the day it’s SARU’s problem. There’s no denying that Eastern Province could do with a boost, but not at the expense of any of the current S15 teams. SARU have withdrawn top class rugby from one of the biggest rugby playing cities in the world.  I hope the Lions sue their arses off.  The Lions have some world class players, and if the choice is London, Paris or Port Elizabeth…

Sunday, August 26, 2012

All Blacks purr, while the Sprinboks try to bore the Pumas into submission.

Get on the wing! (

There was a bit more urgency from Australia as they took on the All Blacks in Auckland. Not that it did them any good I’m afraid, as they were comprehensively thumped 22 – 0. Australia have suffered the least in terms of players retiring out of the four, but that continuity isn’t giving them any advantage. I can’t remember an Australian side which such little bite for ages, they just never seem to look threatening any more. The All Blacks are playing fairly within themselves, I don’t think they’ve got out of third gear yet, but they are a class apart in this year’s Rugby Championship.

The first Rugby Championship match in Argentina delivered a draw for the hosts against a flat Springbok team. The Pumas did a bit of homework, had a game plan, and played to it. The Springbok plan of boring the opposition into submission paid no dividends, and they may consider a rethink. I think Ruan Pienaar should start, and if Hougaard gets to play at all, it should be on the wing. His kicking is terrible, his passing is shocking, and his reading of the game takes half of the effectiveness of the big Bok pack out of the game. So the scrum half is infective, and then Morne Steyn, apart from his obvious services to hairstyling, doesn’t seem to have a clue what to do with the ball unless it’s on a kicking tee. Argentina need to work on their bringing their backs into play, not easy with fly halfs coming and going, but they aren’t going to get much change out of New Zealand and Australia with a completely forward based game, with the odd up and under to mix the game up. They played well though, physical, and niggled the Boks off their game, fair play to them, they deserved a win.

Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 25
New Zealand 22 - 0 Australia 
Argentina 16 - 16 South Africa 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

It's air guns and sex in New Ziln this weekend for the Rugby Championship

I want to play Sir! (picture

This week, as New Zealand is the host nation for the first match, I’m going to give you a few handy New Ziln phrases to get along with the Kiwi in your life. It’s considered ‘bed menace?’ (bad manners?) to meet someone without greeting them with ‘Air gun?’ ( How are you going?). Sex is something you carry coal around in. And finally, a trip to the dunny doesn’t mean you are going to be checking out Dunnes Stores.

Looking forward to the weekend, the All Blacks have lost Tony Woodcock for this match, while the Aussies will be more affected by the loss of captain David Pocock. The All Blacks have all the right ingredients for a good team, it just needs to gel together now. Their only slight weakness is at lock where they are relying on journeyman players. Australia have an awesome backline when they are not dropping the ball, but could do with a fit in form Cooper as soon as possible. They’ve also lost prop Kepu, and out of a pack of eight they only have 2, maybe 3 world class players. My prediction is for the All Black pack to be all over the Aussies like a rash, then their backs will finish the job. The Wallabies always pick their game up for New Zealand – but in this instance I’m expecting pain for them, and lots of it.

Argentina will be hoping that home ground advantage will turn things around for them this week. Over a 1000 fans attended a Springbok open training session, so the interest and passion is there from the fans. Although I’m a Bok supporter, I’d be the first to admit that while fronting up to the Springbok physicality is a major challenge, outsmarting them is not quite as demanding. Argentina’s problem is that they have exactly the same gameplan as the Boks but not the same class of players to execute it. Added passion at home may help, but it’s hard to look past the Boks again. The Springboks have lost Bismarck Duplesiss, but Strauss stepped into the breach really well. I would love to see a bit more ambition from them, getting Lambie and Pienaar into the mix. They’ll probably only try that when they’re desperate for a win at the end of the competition though.

Overall, I’m expecting a lift in intensity from all four teams this weekend, can’t wait!
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 25
New Zealand vs Australia 19:35
Argentina vs South Africa 16:10

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Rugby Championship - all four teams look undercooked

I have to say I was a bit underwhelmed by the opening weekend of the crappily named Rugby Championship. All four teams looked undercooked, Argentina to Salmonella levels, but that was to be expected. The normal format for the Tri Nations was to have summer tours by the Northern  Hemisphere teams as a warm up, and that meant they hit the ground running at the start of the tournament. With a break from the tours to finish the Super 15, the Aus, NZ and SA all look rusty.

NZ weren’t rusty enough to stop them putting the Wallabies away with ease though. They scored two tries as easy as that, and then switched off and  let Aus back into the game. You always felt they had another gear to go to if they needed. Carter and Smith give their game superb tempo. I thought Barnes didn’t have a good match, standing way to deep, and the whole Aus team seemed to have dropsy.

The Springboks overcame the Pumas without much problem in Cape Town, but should have got the bonus point that Aus and NZ will surely be extracting from Argentina. The Pumas were lucky to have not conceded a yellow card, for some brutally dumb transgressions. The Boks lost Bismarck, which is a massive loss, but they have plenty of back up there, even if not quite of the same standard. They are kicking way too much, and not following it up properly. I thought Pienaar speeded the game up well, and I’d start him next week. I’d start Lambie at fly half as well, and practice running the ball for when they play the big boys. The Pumas will be better at home, and playing the best three in the world is only going to bring them on.

Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 18
Australia 19 - 27 New Zealand 
South Africa 27 - 6 Argentina 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The languages of the Rugby Championship

The Rugby Championship is the new name for the Tri Nations, now that Argentina have been added to Australia, New Zealand  and South Africa. It’s home to more than 15 different languages, and it’s even argued  (not convincingly) that English is spoken in some of these regions. Here they are in all their glory:

Afrikaans, New Ziln , Ndebele, Strine, Northern Sotho, Serf Effrican, Sotho, Swazi, Tswana, Tsonga, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu  Walmajarri, Te reo Māori, Spanish, Kaiwá. This week, as Australia hosts the first match, we’re going to take a quick look at Strine, or Australian English as the posh people say. The rule is – add a y or an ‘ie’ thus tinny, barbie, bikey, bickie etc etc. Keep an eye on the ute’s and the bogans. And here’s a real insider tip, if you’re trying to impress an Aussie, tell them you catch a fat every time you think about the Wallabies chances this year. They’ll never think about you in the same way again, promise. It’s a great place to visit, where I’m hoping to go on holiday again next year.

So, there’s the small matter of rugby to think about. Conventional wisdom would be for a New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, Argentina finish. Hard to see past that. Ireland showed in one match that the All Blacks can be vulnerable if you put them under pressure, but apart from that, they are, as always the number one team in the world to beat. The Springboks are unlikely to throw too many surprises – new coach Heyneke Meyer is pretty conservative so no expansive game plans on the horizon, but they have seriously talented, and seriously large new players coming through, so they’ll be competitive. Australia to me have never really clicked under Robbie Dean, two steps forward, one step back all the time. They have the talent if you take out all the good players from their franchises, but often the whole seems to less than the sum of their parts. The Pumas – I have no idea, they’ll probably start well, and then run out of steam later as their lack of depth starts to tell.

This weekend I’m going for New Zealand and SouthAfrica. Enjoy the rugby!

Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 18
Australia vs New Zealand 20:05
South Africa vs Argentina 17:00

Monday, August 13, 2012

Ref are you $%&*ing blind? Part II Sportsmanship?

Upset Ted? (picture

Part 2 of my analysis/rant is refereeing and sportsmanship of the lack of it. What got me going on the whole topic was Graham Henry’s recent  ‘match fixing’ allegations in the wake of the disastrous 2007 defeat to France.. OK, we know he’s trying to sell a book, and that he thought about saying something at the time, and only remembered to 5 years later. You take the biscuit Mr Henry. Nothing to do with faffing about with your ‘two team system’ for the couple of years before the cup (which you dropped after the cup) so that neither us, the players or you knew who you’re A team was. Nothing to do with the terrible bad luck of losing Dan Carter and Nick Evans, in the same match. Nothing to do with coming into the match expecting a cake walk, and finding a French team really up for it. No, all down to Wayne Barnes. The sweetest comment I heard on the whole sorry matter was from a Kiwi. ‘Camped inside the French 22 for the last 15 minutes and no drop goal attempt from the AB’s? Maybe the match fixing allegations are a bit closer to home! :)

Bryce Lawrence is another man to get it in the neck, the only reason the Springboks lost to the Wallabies in the last World Cup apparently. In his defense, I give you the South African coach, Pieter de Villiers. I rest my case.  One dimensional trucking the ball up the middle only game plan, aging players, 70% possession. But death threats for the ref, death threats? This is rugby, he didn’t embezzle your pension fund.

I always associate rugby with sportsmanship, fair play. It’s a tough demanding physical sport. If coaches, players and fans are going to start crying when they fall off the swings, maybe there’s other codes out there that would suit them better.

One a more cheerful note, Leinster got their season off to a good start at Tallaght Stadium against Gloucester . Watch the highlights on Leinster’s site

Friday, August 10, 2012

'Are you $%&*ing blind? A defense of referees, part I

Wayne Barnes new look

With no major rugby on this weekend, for the first time since – about early August last year ( as I reflect on my sad life in rugby worship) , with no rugby to give out about, I thought I’d give out about referees. Not in the way you were expecting though. There seems to be ever increasing calls for more technology in rugby, more situations where the TV official can be brought in, and more complaints about refereeing standards. Straight out, I’d have to say, that’s not something I’d support. The one exception would be to have a system to work out if a successful penalty or conversion has been made.

To all the slo mo junkies – get a Sky+ box, get a video recorder if you’re of that age, then you can show yourself endless replays and write strongly worded comments on online sites. When I sit down in front of a TV I want to see rugby, not multiple angle slow motion replays – “his foot’s on the line there – no it isn’t – oo I wouldn’t like to be a TV match official”

Before you know it, the ref is going to run on kitted out like a cross between Ethan Hunt, Jason Bourne and James Bond. He’ll have eyes in the back of his head (literally), 4 bionic eyes, the hearing and speed of the 6 Million Dollar Man. But most of all, most of all he’ll have the patience of a flipping saint to deal with petulant players (Holding on! Holding on!), the petulant crowds (Are you $%&*ing Blind!), petulant coaches (Graham Henry) and petulant commentators (Austin Healy).

I’m drawing a line in the sand now –more decisions taken by the ref on the spot, less replays , more rugby!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Bugger! The Sharks lose their way on the way to Hamilton!

He's the man! (picture

Bugger! I had high hopes for the Sharks, but it wasn’t to be. At least they’ll be able to take a good holiday to the destination of their choice with all the air mile they’ve accumulated! They looked good for about the first 20 minutes, but after the adrenalin wore off, it was one way traffic for the rest of the evening. Aaron Cruden was the master tactician, varying his play and setting off the Chiefs exciting backs. I may as well get a few gripes off my chest. I don’t like the way the Chiefs were holding players at the front of the ruck, or the way they came in from the side at lineouts. I don’t like their dirty play either, no arm tackles and forearm smashes in the face.

That’s a pity, because they they have all the skills, the confidence, and can win without any of that. Apart from that, fantastic to see a team with such attacking intention come out on top, and great to have a new name on the cup. They won the cup as much for their week in week out play as for what they did in the final. 0 from four finals, but with a bit more consistency, they be back, and look to go all the way.

Super Rugby
Saturday , August 4
Chiefs 37 - 6 Sharks

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Sharks five loose forwards - Daniels, Kankowski, Coetzee, Alberts and Bismarck will win them the game!

Marcel Coetzee (picture

Right, so the Chiefs and Sharks in Hamilton it is! It’s the two form teams in the last three weeks – the teams that found the form when they had to. One of them is going to get their name on the Super trophy for the first time, which is a good thing too, good for the competition. This will be the Sharks fourth final and the Chiefs second. That’s a lot that the Shark’s have had to suck up, and the Chiefs will have their own bitter memories of being demolished by the Bulls. I can tell you one thing, neither team is going to die wondering here! The Chiefs are able to name the same team that beat the Crusaders last week, while the Sharks have lost Whitehead in midfield, but have Lambie and Jordaan back in the frame.

They are both teams that want to play – none of this reliance on defense and opposition mistakes. There’s going to be an awesome battle of the little masters, Michalak and Cruden, and the front row tussle is going to be second to none. Sonny Bill gives the Chiefs a bit of an edge in midfield, but apart from that it’s even stevens across the park.

The key I think is how well the Sharks stand up to the physical onslaught the Chiefs the Chiefs are going to throw at them, and deal with a massive niggle factor as well. If there isn’t a gold old fashioned barn storming dust up in the first 10 minutes I’ll eat my hat. I’m not expecting the Sharks to be exactly meek though, in fact the opposite! My advice to them would be to make the rucks and mauls an absolute war zone, and they have the firepower, 5 loose forwards, Daniels, Kankowski, Coetzee, Alberts, and Bismarck. And Deysel on the bench! My instinct is that the Chiefs home advantage and the travel factor on the Sharks will see them home. As my instinct was 100% incorrect last week, that means the Sharks are going to win! Get in!

Super Rugby
Saturday , August 4
Chiefs vs Sharks 19:35