Thursday, February 28, 2013

Back to the Rabo...

Brendan Macken (picture -

For this week anyway, we can put aside the great Kidney debate and Ireland’s dire performance, and focus on the meat and potatoes Rabodirect. Leinster helped themselves to a bonus point win against the Scarlets, and should be planning to do the same against the Dragons. Quinn Rouz x is a possibility, as is Brendan Macken. The match isn’t going to be shown on RTE, but hopefully will be on SC4. Leinster to get 5 points.

Ulster welcome Treviso, with the Italians spanking Munster last weekend. Not too often you’re going to read that! Now, I’m not going to have a go at Munster here – I’ll do that when I talk about their match against the Ospreys! The Ulster squad is really strong, with Jackson, Henderson and Fitpatrick back, and they’ll restore some Irish pride against the Italians.

Connacht have been on a barn storming run in the last few weeks, collecting the scalps of the Ospreys and Cardiff along the way. They are a value for money team – feck all budget, small but committed fanbase, great defense and always try to put on a bit of a show with well worked backline moves. This should be their opportunity to continue their rise up the table. They could be 7th after this weekend!

The Irish matches close out with Munster entertaining the Ospreys at home. If you were going to bomb, last weekend was the time to do it , with all the focus on Ireland’s failings. Munster should beat Treviso anytime, anywhere, end of. Our poor run of international results, our bad run of injuries, and our lack of depth even at provincial level is very evident at the moment.  This could be a tough one for Munster, but I think home advantage should give them the victory they really need right now.

Friday , March 1
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Leinster 19:00
Ulster vs Benetton Treviso 19:05
Scarlets vs Edinburgh 19:05
Glasgow vs Cardiff Blues 19:35
Connacht vs Zebre 19:45
Saturday , March 2
Munster vs Ospreys 18:30

Sunday, February 24, 2013

It was a profanity strewn, kick the dog weekend for Ireland......

This was a kick the dog, profanity strewn weekend for Ireland in the 6N. We nearly smashed Scotland, we nearly ran up a record score against them – then managed to go and lose the match. We spurned numerous scoring opportunities, wasted 80% possession, fluffed line outs and scrums, and paid the price.  Scotland played well for the last 25 minutes, and won it like that. Really frustrating stuff! But in fairness, we are a long way off our best selection, with a big re-jig since our last outing. Marshall played well, SOB is like the terminator, and there were good touches from Kearney, Gilroy and Earls. ROG was fairly brutal when he came on, so I think Jackson is out best fit 10 – I’d bring in McFads on the wing for Earls, when has he ever let us down, and he’s a better kicker than Sexton half the time. And I’d rush Tuohy back into the side, he gives us grunt and aggression. Scotland didn’t set the world alight, but winning is what counts I’m afraid.

Italy and Wales played out a match in atrocious conditions in Rome. Italy were in a word, brutal. Wales put in some good touches, and watched as Italy, gave away yellow cards, fell apart and handed the match to Wales.

England France was the match of the weekend, a good full blooded affair, with lots of skill, a bit of luck, and cool heads by England to close it out. I hope France implode like that against us, but in fairness, we are showing a dab hand at imploding ourselves. Fofana scored the try of the weekend, and it’s hard to see England not getting the slam now.

RBS Six Nations
Sunday , February 24
Scotland 12 - 8 Ireland 
Saturday , February 23
Italy 9 - 26 Wales 
England 23 - 13 France

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The 6 Nations splutters back into life

After a two week break, the 6 Nations splutters back into life this weekend.  England vs France is the big match, but this is a tournament deciding match for Ireland coming up. If we scrape thought this one – then beat France and Italy, or at least Italy anyway, we will at least be able to hold our heads up in the 6 nations pub. A defeat this Sunday – and that’s our season down the tube. If you looked at our match against England and said – what could possibly go wrong – well all of that and more happened.

We have 2,5 decent props in the country, but the lean mean Cian machine did a wobbly on us, and can’t play this weekend. Our star out half will being the stands. We had exactly two fit adequate locks, now we have one. The Darce is out, Zebo is nowhere to be seen.  But in the team picked, we at least have some fresh faces, I like Jackson at 10 and Marshall in the centres, feck it, time to take some chances. Scotland are waiting for us like a giant banana skin – we are supposed to be able to beat them, but man are we going to struggle! It all depends on which team Scottish team turns up. But for me , Ireland should just ,just , nab this one.

In the Italy Wales match, it will be interesting to see if Italy can show that the French victory wasn’t just a flash in the pan, and they are from here on in going to make their home ground a fortress. Wales need to show a lot more than they have so far to take this one, but I kind of think they will.

Finally, Wales and Ireland will be holding their breath to see if the French can open the tournament up again by besting the English at Twickenham. We want them to discover a little bit of form to sort out Les Rosbifs, and then lose it for our match. They could easily do that – or they could roll over and play dead, and continue their embarrassing run of form. England haven’t really showed a lot, but have been solid and dependable – if the French can put them under pressure, let’s see what happens. I think France will play better, but that England will still win.

RBS Six Nations
Saturday , February 23
Italy vs Wales 15:30
England vs France 17:00
Sunday , February 24
Scotland vs Ireland 14:00

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Munster are asked for an excuse note after the other 3 provinces prosper

I watched just about no rugby this weekend, what I did catch was on Friday with Connacht putting in a storming performance to see off the Ospreys. It was played in pretty filthy conditions – I’d imagine it was what Connacht had been hoping for. Dan Parks suits their game perfectly, he keeps them in the right part of the pitch, and kicks the penalties that need to be kicked. Their defense is really impressive, well organised, and ferocious. And they have some nifty backline moves. The Ospreys, even without their internationals, are well resourced outfit, and for all money should have done the business, so fair play to Connacht.

Ulster made fairly short work of Zebre, with Robbie Diack getting two trys. Munster meanwhile, slipped to a disappointing away loss to Scarlets. It’s the kind of match, they should have won, that they always used to. In fairness, Scarlets are a much improved side these days, but that was a handy enough looking team that Munster fielded.

Leinster put on a good show for ladies night, absolutely thumping Treviso.  Dominic Ryan got a hat trick, Sean Cronin got a double, they were queuing up. I know Treviso were going to struggle with their internationals gone, but still very impressive by Leinster. It was a team with good balance, Fitzgerald at full back, the always reliable McFads on the wing, and Jordi Murphy at 8th man. Hope the Ireland team was watching!

Pretty eye popping result for Glasgow against the Dragons...

RaboDirect PRO12
Saturday , February 16
Leinster 40 - 5 Benetton Treviso 
Scarlets 18 - 10 Munster 
Friday , February 15
Newport Gwent D'gons 3 - 60 Glasgow 
Ulster 26 - 3 Zebre 
Edinburgh 16 - 17 Cardiff Blues 
Connacht 22 - 10 Ospreys 

Friday, February 15, 2013

The grim reality that neither Leinster nor Ireland are the best thing since sliced bread this season...

It’s time to take a break from the humdrum of the 6 Nations, and head for the glittering lights of the RaboDirect Pro 12.  Meanwhile, the grim reality that neither Leinster nor Ireland will be ‘The best thing since sliced bread’ this season is slowly sinking in.  It’s amazing how strong a side Leinster can field without their internationals, in the context of the Pro 12 anyway. Great to see Eoin O’Malley back, he’s had a rough run of injuries, and with a good run he could see himself back in contention for a green jersey as well. It’s ladies night at the RDS, in what should be challenging match against an ever improving Treviso side. It’s not being shown on TV though. Pretty puzzling all round, a lot of people would like to see that match, now you REALLY know you’re not the best thing since sliced bread! I’m going for a good home win anyway.

Ulster should dispose of Zebre with ease, Connacht will have a tough match against the Ospreys, but you wouldn’t bet against tehm winning at home. Finally, Munster, even with their internationals gone – although ROG may be given an opportunity to lose rust – should give the Scarlets  a good tough game. It’s a big chance for youngetrs like Hanrahan, Barnes, Dougall and Stander to show their wares, and up their chances of getting into green one day. I think they’ll win…

RaboDirect PRO12
Friday , February 15
Ulster vs Zebre 
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Glasgow 
Edinburgh vs Cardiff Blues 
Connacht vs Ospreys 
Saturday , February 16
Leinster vs Benetton Treviso 17:00
Scarlets vs Munster 18:30

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Suck it up Ireland, and get back in the groove!

There was a complete reversal of form this weekend, as Scotland and Italy swopped chumps and champs crowns. This is the Italy again we know and love and despair of, and this is the kind of performance I for one have been hoping to see from Scotland. A Scottish try is a rare thing these days, you have to be real anorak to know the match and the scorer of their last try. Then they only go and score 4! And arguably they left one or two behind. Scots with their tales up again.

A team on a hot streak for the wooden spoon is France. They were abject last weekend in Rome, they were worse this weekend in Paris. I hope they keep this form going for Dublin! Wales were more determined, if only marginally more skilled. The French crowd booed, the coaches winced, and the viewers at home fell asleep or tuned out. But, a good result for Wales, killing their 8 game losing run.

It was all set up for a thriller in Dublin, which you felt was on the cards, despite the poor weather forecast. Thrills were pretty thin on the ground at the Aviva stadium, as England played smart no nonsense rugby, kicked a few penalties, and watched as Ireland fumbled and imploded. Ireland looked tired , and shipped injuries at an alarming rate. This championship is really opening up for England. In theory we have two of our biggest games out the way, and are still in contention. Just have to suck it up and get back in the groove!

RBS Six Nations
Saturday , February 9
Scotland 34 - 10 Italy 
France 6 - 16 Wales
Sunday , February 10
Ireland 6 - 12 England

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

When worlds collide - Ireland vs England, BRING IT ON!

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Well, I really hope this 6 Nations weekend lives up the last in terms of excitement!

Italy travel to Murrayfield, cock a hoop after wringing the cockerels neck last weekend. And they’ll be hugely encouraged by Scotland’s piss poor showing against England. What is going on there? They have a massive, man eating pack, and some more than decent backs, with Hogg, Maitland and Visser all fine individual players. They’ve been on the journey to becoming a decent team forever now, and don’t seem any nearer to the destination. Having said all that, I’m still going with Scotland, because I’m pretty sure even Italy don’t know how they beat France, and their chances of replicating that performance are pretty slim.

France v Wales should be fanbloodytastic to watch! Both hurting from a defeat, and the French with the uneviable task of facing their fans in the Stade de France. Who’d be a French fan? The team that puts the under into performance! They should be kicking EVERBODIES arse, instead of losing to Italy. Fortunately for them, Wales are a team cut adrift at the moment, going where the wind takes them. They’re on an 8 game losing streak, and I can’t see why France aren’t going to get a scrap of self respect back by winning this weekend.

Finally, On Sunday, it’s the BIG one! If there’s going to be a grand slam this year, one of those teams is playing on Sunday. Ireland scored some impressive tries last week, but their defense was awesome too. In the log of tackles made by all the players in the three matches last weekend, the top five positions were taken by Irish players, with Sean O’Brien in top spot.. They’ll need to bring that defense this weekend. England are quietly going about their business – not too flashy, but solid in every department, and a kicker who can take the points. Our pack is going to struggle, and if Mike Ross or O’Driscoll gets injured, that could be us. I think if we could bring the passion to beat Wales, well passion and commitment won’t be in short supply this weekend, so Ireland, but only just!

RBS Six Nations
Saturday , February 9
Scotland vs Italy 14:30
France vs Wales 17:00
Sunday , February 10
Ireland vs England 15:00

Sunday, February 3, 2013

#6Nations -forget Man of the Match - they just need to say 'Brian O'Driscoll, you are 'THE MAN!''

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The 6 Nations kicked off with a weekend of surprises, and some smashing rugby.
Ireland got their campaign off in fine style with a good win over Wales. In the first half it was all Ireland, and they had you rubbing your eyes with the style and cohesion of their play. In fairness, however good Ireland were, Wales were woeful, they looked like they thought the kick off was at 4.00pm. In the second half, it turned around with  Irish indiscipline, two yellow cards and good Welsh intensity making the best way to watch the match through your fingers, or my preferred position, behind the couch. We managed to hold them out, and start with a win. Zebo put in some amazing touches, Healy and SOB were awesome, and Brian O’Driscoll was simply sublime. Forget Man of the Match, they just need to say to him, Brian O’Driscoll you are the ‘THE MAN’!

It was always going to be hard to live up to the standard of the first match, but apart from brief flickers, England Scotland was not up there. England have a big young team, and they just played it smart, getting position and taking their points. Scotland have ‘Wooden Spoon’ written all over them so far.

Finally, it was the given, France were going to beat Italy, maybe not all that prettily though. Wrong! With a fanatical crowd behind them, the Italians stunned my favorites for the tournament. The last time they beat France, it was a horrible scrappy affair, whereas this was a complete performance. France don’t seem to handle pressure all that well, and Italy were supplying it at blow torch intensity. Everybody loves a surprise (well obviously not France in this instance) and what a way for Italy to start the tournament!

RBS Six Nations
Sunday , February 3
Italy 23 - 18 France 
Saturday , February 2
Wales 22 - 30 Ireland 
England 38 - 18 Scotland