Sunday, September 30, 2012

Lurching Leinster, magic Ulster, and wobbling Wallabies

I had to work late on Friday night, so that ruled out watching the Leinster game, then I had it on the hard drive – and, oh no, the kids deleted it so I didn’t get to see them getting pumped by Connacht. Leinster chops and change every week, scrum half is a problem, but lads, sort it out! Fair play to Connacht, even if it was Dan ‘Evil’ Parks, the nemesis of Leinster and Ireland on numerous occasions, who did a lot of the damage. Now, I wish I’d recorded the Ulster match instead – what a result! And that’s without a host of their big names. I watched bits and pieces of the Munster match – they are going two step forwards, one and half steps back at the moment. ROG is not playing great still, and that magic offloading game they had last weekend absent. Result for Treviso, and Zebre did well as well.

I watched the Springboks sort out Australia quite to my satisfaction on Saturday. I was amazed with how easily they did it – I know Australia were shipping injuries like rats leaving a sinking ship, but the Boks were hardly threatened at all. Look at what happens when you pick a fly half who doesn’t kick all the time. Their goal kicking was ordinary to say the least, otherwise it would have been a thumping for Aus. A player at the top of his game is Francois Lowe, his work on the ground, tackling and linking play between forwards and backs is pretty well faultless. Also in superlative form is Bryan Habana, who is a handful all over the pitch. Australia look down and out – they put in a decent 5 minute spell at the 60 minute mark, apart from that, they just didn’t look like they wanted to be there.

The AB’s wrapped up the Championship in fine style by smashing the Pumas in Argentina. The Pumas tried to open things up a bit, and paid the price. They have come on a lot over the last 6 weeks, and will be looking for their first win next weekend against the Aussies. The Al Blacks looked fairly flat in their last two games, but with Carter back in the seat it was business as normal again. Looking forward to that last game against the Springboks!

RaboDirect PRO12
Newport-Gwent D'gons 32 - 12 Edinburgh 
Connacht 34 - 6 Leinster 
Cardiff Blues  19 - 48  Ulster 
Glasgow 22 - 19 Zebre
Benetton Treviso 22 - 20 Scarlets 
Ospreys 30 - 15 Munster
Rugby Championship
Argentina 15 - 54 New Zealand
South Africa 31 - 8 Australia

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Bowe's back, and New Zealand/Argentina is going to be a physical onslaught not seen I gave my ma lip all those years ago

Bowe's Back (picture

The two big matches in the RDP12 are Cardiff Blues v Ulster, and Munster’s trip to play the Ospreys. Tommy Bowe gets to line up for Ulster for the first time in his return to the club. A worry for Ulster is their injury list and absentees, with some real star quality missing: Johann Muller, Stephen Ferris, Paddy McAllister, Chris Farrell, Robbie Diack, Ruan Pienaar, Roger Wilson, Declan Fitzpatrick, Rory Best.  Despite that, it’s going to be an emotional occasion for them, I think they’ll be really fired up and take this one.

Connacht welcome Leinster, who will arrive with Rob Kearney on the field for the first time this season. Madigan gets a start. With Cooney at 9, who’s blowing hot and cold, and a host of changes again from last week, could be a tough day the office for the boys in blue, but they should just about scrape it.

Munster have a tough assignment in the shape of the Ospreys. I had a taste for the Munster scrumming prowess in the burger queue at the Ploughing in Wexford. They are trying Earls and Laulala in centres would should be interesting but.. we’ll see. When are they going to put Murray there like I want them to? Billy Holland seems to be getting more game time under Rob Penney, and is playing well. On the results so far, I’d say Munster could well get an away win.

In the RC, Aus arrive in South Africa with a camp in discord, well as far as I can see from Dublin anyway. Copper is having all sorts of hissy fits, Curtley ‘Make mine a double’ Beale is at fly half. Nathan Sharpe is the only Aussie player not to have played fly half this season. Phipps and Beale at 9 and 10 is going to be challenging for all concerned I’d say. Meanwhile, in hold the press style, Heyneke Meyer has unveiled Johan Goosen at 10. That could be such a step up for SA rugby, their pack is stellar, world beating, and with a bit of attacking flair behind them now, I’m expecting big things from the Boks, with a good win.

In Argentina, the Pumas team is unchanged since their last outing, while Carter is back for the Blacks. I think if the All Blacks get home, it’ll be through old fashioned nous rather than anything else, because I reckon they are going to get slammed by Argentina. It’s going to be a physical onslaught not seen since I gave my ma lip all those years ago. I cannot wait, this is what the game is all about, 80 minutes of barely controlled violence.

RaboDirect PRO12
Friday , September 28
Newport-Gwent D'gons vs Edinburgh 
Cardiff Blues vs Ulster 
Glasgow vs Zebre 
Connacht vs Leinster 
Ospreys vs Munster 18:30
Saturday , September 29
Benetton Treviso vs Scarlets 18:05
Rugby Championship
Saturday , September 29
South Africa vs Australia 17:00
Sunday , September 30
Argentina vs New Zealand 00:10

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Leinster stagger along, and Connor Murray as a center?

Minutes silence for Nevin Spence at the RDS - Picture with kind thanks to @eoinmcdon

Well, I was a bit red faced watching Connacht after writing them off and seeing how well they got on.  That is such a well drilled team, they weren’t making up the numbers against Glasgow, they weren’t going for a point, they were going for a win, and pushed Glasgow all the way. I was impressed by Mathew Jarvis – what do you say we grab him for Ireland, or is he already tied in to Wales?

Leinster’s match, as did all the Pro 12 matches, started with a minutes silence for Nevin Spence, and then the Leinster crowd singing Stand Up For the Ulstermen. I was so impressed they did the minutes silence in England as well. Makes me proud of my sport.

Leinster still look vey rusty, they could easily have been the team in red they were that rusty. We all know Leinster have great backs, but their strength is always based on a rock solid pack, which it isn’t at the moment. They are trying to do all the pretty bits before the hard work is being done, which is why they are only scraping by. Come back Nathan Hines, pleeease. And we need a SOB like you can’t believe.  Scrumhalf is a bit of problem area, I’ve been impressed by John Cooney so far, but his inexperience told, passing to isolated players, kicking to nowhere in particular. It’ll only get better I suppose. I thought Fionn Carr was at the heart of everything did well, he  deserves to be up the pecking order now.

Munster meanwhile were in smashing form against the Dragons. They have fearsome forwards again, loose forwards to burn, and have developed an off loading game from somewhere that is going to take them far. Downey continues to impress. O’Gara doesn’t though, he is a bit out of sorts, which I suppose game time will fix. If I was the Munster coach (which, thankfully for all concerned, is not the case) I’d take Earls out of center and play him at full back. He’s a dangerous runner, but has all the ball handling and passing skills of a prop forward. Then I’d put Murray into the centre, and play a lot more of Kearney at Fly Half. I’m not blown away by Murray at scrum half, never have been, but with his size he’d make a great centre.

RaboDirect PRO12
Scarlets 16 - 23 Ospreys 
Glasgow 27 - 17 Connacht
Leinster 22 - 16 Edinburgh 
Cardiff Blues 34 - 18 Benetton Treviso 
Munster 33 - 13 Newport-Gwent D'gons

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Rabo round up

Connacht kick things off for Ireland against Glasgow this weekend, and they’ll struggle to get anything out of that game, that’s for sure.

For Leinster, Rob Kearney and Gordon Darcy are back in contention, potentially joining Kev McLaughlin, Mike Ross, Cian Healy, Jamie Heaslip, Brian O’Driscoll, Eoin Reddan and Jonathan Sexton who played last week. Leinster always look a s rusty as anything at the start of the season,  and Edinburgh are sure to keep them honest at the RDS. They should win, and well if they put their minds to it.
For Munster, Simon Zebo is expected to be named in the squad as is Niall Ronan. The Dragons will provide an opportunity to bounce back after the defeat to Ulster..but also a potential banana skin as the Dragons can score trys pretty well. Home advantage to see them through though.

The Rugby Championship takes a break this weekend, no more manning up for a four hour rugby marathon on a Saturday morning.

Ulsters match against Zebre has been postponed as a mark of respect for Nevin Spence, and there will be various memorials at all the match’s this weekend. Ulster and the IRFU have opened books of condolences, and Leinster will have one open before the match on Saturday. You can post a message online here too: Laying your life down trying to save your father and brother, you can’t ask for more than that, can you?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

RIP Nevin Spence, Ulster/Munster was epic, and in the TRC Deon Greyling has the brainpower of an amoeba

RIP Nevin Spence (picture

Rabid Round Up

I started the weekend watching an epic match between Ulster and Munster. Ulster were good value for the win, but I was hugely impressed by the way Munster stood up and fought. There actually was a wee bit of fighting to liven things up – mostly handbags, but passions as they say, ran high. Trimble had a stormer, with savage tackling, and Jackson is going from strength to strength. The Munster pack looks fearsome again, put Paulie and Ryan back in and then you’re going to have a pack. Lualua and Downey have added something in midfield. I’ve never been a fan of Downey but he does a job. I could see him as an option for Ireland against some teams – Wales or South Africa, when putting people on the ground is as important as anything else.

Leinster scraped home again – I think Treviso are way better that they are being given credit for this season. And Scarlets beat Connacht, as expected, but by less than Leinster lost to them. The Ospreys meanwhile, can’t buy a win – I knew they shouldn’t have sold Bowe!

The All Blacks/Springboks match was a smasher – literally. The Springboks persisted with their brain dead kick everything tactic, but in fairness, they nearly won it anyway. Their pack, man for man, is about as good as it gets at the moment, with a young back 5 that is only going to get better, and depth of note coming off the bench. Apart from Deon Greyling, where we are talking density. Three crucial penalties,  a yellow card and post match two week suspension. His  brain must hang out in chat rooms with amoeba and other single celled organisms. The All Balcks unloding game is awesome, as is their backline, but they are still a little off their normal excellent standard.

The Wallabies dragged themselves up by their bootlaces past a determined Pumas side. They just look completely out of sorts, and can’t be looking forward to playing Argentina or South Africa away. Genia is a big loss and Cooper is all over the place. The Pumas, meanwhile, will be 3 or 4 in the world any time soon.
Nevin Spence
I’m a bit lost for words here, such a young guy, loads of talent, losing his life in a tragic accident along with his father and brother. It’s just wrong when someone that young gets taken away. As a rugby community, all we can do is offer our condolences to his family.

RaboDirect PRO12
Ospreys 10 - 28 Glasgow 
Ulster 20 - 19 Munster 
Edinburgh 41 - 10 Zebre
Connacht 11 - 24 Scarlets
Newport-Gwent D'gons 5 - 16 Cardiff Blues 
Benetton Treviso 18 - 19 Leinster
Rugby Championship
New Zealand 21 - 11 South Africa 
Australia 23 - 19 Argentina

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

I'm going Ulster, Leinster, and the Sprinboks need to make the Pumas look like the Little Sisters of the Assumption to beat the All Blacks

What the Boks need to make the Pumas look like

Ulster V Munster is the big match this weekend, and for once the men in red know they have a big challenge ahead of themselves in Ulster.  Ferris, Tuohy, Henry and Trimble are all in the frame, but let’s be honest, the B team have been making a good fist of it without their internationals.  For Munster DOC is back, ROG, Earls and Murray on the bench. Munster have had a good start as well, but seem to be playing quite disjointed rugby at the moment. I’m going for an Ulster win, with Anscombe starting the stronger of the two new Kiwi coaches.

Leinster have a tricky enough away trip to Treviso. Treviso beat the Ospreys and didn’t disgrace themselves against Munster, with home advantage they would have watched with interest what the Scarlets got up to two weeks ago. Leinster’s Internationals are trickling back. Actually, with a bit of work on their defense the players from the last two weeks could do the business, as I’m not expecting Treviso to play Island style running rugby. If we contain their forwards, our backs should do the damage. So I’m going for an away win.
Connacht won’t best the Scarlets I don’t think, although they didn’t do badly against the Blues last week.

In the Rugby Championship, the Springboks are going to have to put in a performance that makes the Pumas look like the Little Sisters of the Assumption if they want to beat the All Blacks. They are going to have to beat the holy crap out of them basically. The Springboks have been a declining spiral since their first 20 minutes against the Pumas in Cape Town. They surely had it in them to beat Australia, but couldn’t and I don’t fancy their chances at all against the All Blacks. New Zealand haven’t really hit their straps, and the Boks could be wandering into a perfect storm. It’s the one game the Boks will always get themselves up for though.  I’m tending on a comfortable AB win.

In Aus, the Pumas will beat the Wallabies if they play like they did last weekend. Australia are shipping injuries at a rate of knots, and when Nathan Sharpe needs protection from the ref, you know their mettle has to be in doubt. However, I see the Wallabies shambling into enough to form to just about scrape this one.

RaboDirect PRO12
Friday , September 14
Ulster vs Munster 19:05
Ospreys vs Glasgow 19:05
Edinburgh vs Zebre 19:30
Saturday , September 15
Connacht vs Scarlets 15:00
Benetton Treviso vs Leinster 18:05
Newport-Gwent D'gons vs Cardiff Blues 18:30
Rugby Championship
Saturday , September 15
New Zealand vs South Africa 19:35
Australia vs Argentina 20:05

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Tales of Herculean barbequing, Pro 12 and the Rugby Championship

Ian Madigan (Picture

First off on Friday night I watched a bit of the Munster match. They made fairly easy work of Treviso, but look like they are still deciding what style of rugby they want to play. It must be a coaches nightmare with injuries and internationals missing.

Saturday morning started early with a seriously good test between the Pumas and the All Blacks. The Argentineans put their bodies on the line, with bone crunching tackling that had my TV shaking! It was a contest up until the last 20 minutes, then the All Black class told and they ran away with it. Ireland and Argentina now have shown there are chances with the All Blacks if you put them under pressure.

South Africa and Australia were up next, frankly the match was a bit of let down after the earlier one. Lots of aimless kicking from both sides, I thought the Springboks would win this easily enough, but they have no ambition at the moment, their back line is there to defend only. Australia hung in there and won this by sheer bloody mindedness rather than any great skill on their part.

I taped and caught the Leinster match after Herculean barbequing efforts (on the level of the Argentinean tackling). Leinster’s attack is back on song. They scored a number of well worked trys, moving the ball around and creating space. Madigan must be the 2nd best fly half in the country, and Sexton will only be too keen to get back into action! The Dragons however, didn’t come for a party in Dublin, and found try scoring a bit easier – they just ran straight through our defense. Lot’s of unfamiliar combinations in the backline, but it’s something that needs to be fixed fast. I thought Cooney was great, and Marshall, Reid and McGrath all played well. Better!

I didn’t see Ulster do their thing, but that’s an impressive away win for them.

Rugby Championship
New Zealand 21 - 5 Argentina 
Australia 26 - 19 South Africa 
RaboDirect PRO12
Zebre 17 - 30 Connacht 
Cardiff Blues 19 - 21 Edinburgh
Glasgow  13 - 18  Scarlets    
 Munster  19 - 6  Benetton Treviso 
Leinster 45 - 25 Newport-Gwent D'gons 
Ospreys 13 - 16 Ulster 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Leinster fans - keep watching through your fingers, and also there's wily Pumas and wobbly Springboks and Walllabies

Quick wrap of the PRO 12 first –Connacht get things underway for Ireland first up against Zebre. Interesting choice of name there – are Zebras known to be fierce in Italy?Despite losing a few stars, Connacht are still a competitive team, and for them this is a must win match. Munster should sort out Treviso no problem, and Ulster will have their work cut out at Ospreys, but I can see them getting a win. Meanwhile, for Leinster fans, this is going to be another match to watch through your fingers (the horror, the horror! etc). Now Boss and Ryan could be injured too… At least Leo Cullen is back in the frame, and Quinn Roux may get his debut as well. They should beat the Dragons, but with this amount of inexperience in the Leinster team, anything could happen.

In the Rugby Championship, the Pumas get to travel to New Zealand to take on the All Blacks. They nearly/should have beaten the Springboks in their last match, and they have a real opportunity here. I know I know, the puny Pumas taking on the mighty All Blacks… but New Zealand so think this is already in the bag. The Pumas have a habit of making it awkward for other teams, they tackle like kamikazes and hang in there, and then they sneak up and beat you- like a Puma! I wouldn’t rate their chances as fantastic, but the AB’s haven’t looked too flash so far, and with Ted in the mix for Argentina, it could be lot closer than most people are thinking. The Pumas have Juan Manuel Leguizamon and fly-half Juan Martin Hernandez back in the mix, while the All Blacks have a full squad to pick from, apart from Sonny Bill ‘Show me the money’ Williams.

In Perth, the Wallabies get to have a go at the Springboks. Both teams are looking wobbly at the moment. I’m beginning to wonder (with most of the rest of the rugby world) if Dingo Deans is up to this job. With the Crusaders, there was a total team ethic, no egos, no stars, and in my opinion a forwards based game. Apart from Carter, the outstanding All Black backs were from the Blues, Hurricanes etc. With the Wallabies, he inherited a weak scrum and a host of talented backs with egos. The egos cleared off (Giteau, Tuqiri) but the weak scrum has proved a bugger to fix, and new egos/divas have crept in, Beale, Cooper. He doesn’t seem to know what to do with all those backs.

The Springboks meanwhile have been staggering around trying to find a game plan, and using a set of players that follows the Bulls model. I’m encouraged by the team for this weekend, with Pienaar at scrumhalf, and Vermuelen  at 8. I’d drop Kirchner, get De Jong in the center, and Lambie or Goosen in at 10. At least Meyer seems open to change, and all the Springboks need to wake up as all the positions could now be up for grabs. Who’s going to win? I’d say the Boks, who at least in the first half against the Pumas in Cape Town showed they wanted to play rugby – I haven’t seen that from the Wallabies yet.

RaboDirect PRO12
Friday , September 7
Zebre vs Connacht 18:05
Cardiff Blues vs Edinburgh 19:05
Glasgow vs Scarlets 19:35
Munster vs Benetton Treviso 20:00
Saturday , September 8
Leinster vs Newport-Gwent D'gons 18:15
Ospreys vs Ulster 18:30
Rugby Championship
Saturday , September 8
New Zealand vs Argentina 19:35
Australia vs South Africa 18:35

Saracens at Wembley?

Here’s a few pics of Matt Stevens, Andy Saull and Nils Mordt zip wiring across Wembley stadium to publicise Saracens match against Leicester Tigers on the 15th September at Wembley. I’m sure they’d feel a lot safer doing that than facing Manu Tuilagi any day...

More details at

Sunday, September 2, 2012

I TOLD you Joe Schmidt and Jono Gibbes should have started!

Sometimes you can’t wait to tell everyone about the rugby on the weekend – sometimes you can… I started the weekend by seeing a fair bit of Ulster beating Glasgow. A few rough edges to hammer out, but Ulster look in good nick, with a host of star players to return. Best, Wilson, Ferris, Bowe, Pienaar, they are going to be some team this season.

My appetite for rugby took a big dip after the Leinster match though. Fair play to the Scarlets, they have a good squad, played well, and had top class players to bring on from the bench to up the pressure throughout the match. Leinster’s lack of Ireland internationals, and long injury list showed. I wasn’t expecting miracles, but a bit of tackling would have done for a start. Jamie Hagan and Ian Madigan stood ou  in a forgettable outing for the men in blue. I can take this, given the disparity in strengths of the teams put out, but when the Scarlets come to the RDS…I want blood, and lots of it!

Well, after that, I had the Munster match on tape but wasn’t in the mood for any more rugby.Good win for them at Edinburgh though. Connacht picked a bonus point against Cardiff, and Treviso will be well pleased in beating the Ospreys.

The best rugby I watched was Taranaki successfully defending the Ranfurly Shield with a 49-40 victory over Tasman. End to end stuff, that’s what we want.

What I did like this weekend was the new scrum engage call, which has got the game moving again, and the Use it call from the ref.  Less hanging around, more rugby.

RaboDirect PRO12
Newport-Gwent D'gons 37 - 6 Zebre 
Benetton Treviso 12 - 6 Ospreys 
Ulster 18 - 10 Glasgow
Connacht 9 - 13 Cardiff Blues 
Edinburgh 18 - 23 Munster 
Scarlets 45 - 20 Leinster