Thursday, October 31, 2013

Leinster could struggle, and so could England...


Leinster get things going for Ireland this weekend with a visit to Rodney Parade to take on the Dragons. Mat O’Connor did a sterling job in talking up the Dragons on the Leinster website, and in fairness they are only one place below Leinster in the league. They normally give Leinster a tough game at home, and the men in blue have  all their internationals gone. They have Zane Kirchener starting, which is a boost, and Lote Tuquiri as well.   I don’t know the Dragons too well – they seem to be an emerging talent pool for French Clubs at the moment, so there’s a bit of turnover going on there.  But they are having a decent season so far and don’t contribute much to Wales so with the way Leinster are playing I’d actually think the Dragons are going to take this.

Connacht have to take on Glasgow, surely smarting from their loss to Munster last week. Just pretend they’re Leinster, Connacht and you can do it! Glasgow will probably shade it.
Ulster go to the Scarlets, and as the Irish team with proper depth at the moment, I’d expect them to have Scarlets number, especially with the internationals gone from the Scarlets. With the new stand coming along well at Ravenhill, it all seems to be happening for Ulster at the moment.

Finally, Munster welcome the Ospreys to Musgrave Park for a top of the table clash. Gerhard van den Heever is arriving/has arrived this week, although it may take a bit of time to get him into action. Munster seemed to do just fine last week without a lot of their big names, and with a home crowd behind them they should make it a trip to forget for the Ospreys.

England Vs Australia should be entertaining, and an opportunity for England with Australia’s recent stuttering form.  I don’t really like the look if the Aussie side that’s been picked – Nick Cummins chief attribute is that he looks like a honey badger, and there are too many bog standard, passenger type players on the team. I’m not all that sure about the England team either – I wouldn’t pick Dickson, and neither have Tompkins and Twelvetrees together – lets go big! But good to see Yarde there. It’s toss up who’ds going to win – England will be rusty, while the Aussies have played a lot together, just not very well. I think the Wallabies could well win.

RaboDirect PRO12
Friday , November 1
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Leinster 19:05
Edinburgh vs Zebre 19:45
Saturday , November 2
Cardiff Blues vs Benetton Treviso 14:30
Connacht vs Glasgow 17:00
Scarlets vs Ulster 18:30
Munster vs Ospreys 19:15

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Leinster go from side to side well, forward, not so well

Stuart Olding (

There were a host of matchs this Friday night, and just one on Saturday. I picked the Glasgow Munster match to watch live , and recorded half of the Ulster match.

That’s more like the Munster we used to know, a harder more abrasive style, and really just one moment of magic from JJ Hanrahan separating the sides. He’ll be pushing for more starts with form like that. Other stand out Munster players for me were Billy Holland, and James Cronin, both shaping up as names to watch. And honorable mentions for Archer and Kilcoyne – where did all these props come from? The watch just about wasn’t spoilt by ineffectual refereeing, which seemed to be the flavour of the weekend.

Ulster showed their form against Montpellier was no fluke, beating the Cardiff Blues in some style.  They have a lot of firepower out there these days . Stuart Olding is someone I really enjoy watching these days – he added a threat coming into the line, and linking with Jared Payne who seems to have a ridiculous amount of time on the ball. And in the pack, great matches from Ricky Lutton, and Lewis Stevenson. Ulster are picking up where they left off last year.

Finally for the Irish sides, a nugget derby to round things off as Connacht turned in a typically competitive performance to nearly pull one off against Leinster. The first half was theirs, but Leinster owned the second half, with the introduction of Mike McCarthy  giving them the scrum dominance that ultimately won them the game. You can see Matt O’Connor’s influence in the scrum with Martin Moore and Jack McGrath showing some serious form. Not Michael Bent as much, but he is just back from injury. Leinster seem to have lost their cutting edge though, they go from side to side well, but forward, not so well. Umpteen midfield combinations don’t help that, but they are missing something thats for sure. The ref seemed to feature way too prominently in the match, and not decisively either.  One that got away from Connacht, and a lot more work need by Leinster.

Finally, I also caught the Currie Cup final, which really need bang! and kapow! appearing in bubbles to go along with the action. Enjoyable stuff, physicality from the top draw, but great tries too, as the Sharks grabbed the cup back. Pieter-Steph du Toit is 20 year old juggernaut that the rest of the world is going to find out more about soon…

RaboDirect PRO12
Zebre 16 - 16 Scarlets 
Ospreys 40 - 17 Newport Gwent D'gons 
Glasgow 6 - 13 Munster 
Edinburgh 20 - 13 Benetton Treviso 
Ulster 39 - 21 Cardiff Blues 
Leinster 16 - 13 Connacht

Friday, October 25, 2013

Meanwhile, back in the PRO12...

Craig Clarke (picture

There’s a whole lot of matches tonight on Friday, and then Leinster and Connacht will round things off tomorrow in the Pro 12. There’s some good matches, starting with Ulster v Cardiff Blues which should be a great match after good results for both of them last weekend. I’m interested to see how Stuart Olding goes at fullback – I haven’t really seen him put a foot wrong, although I think his best place for Ulster and Ireland is probably at centre. It’ll be great to see Cardiff playing with their tails up, but Ulster should take this at home.

Glasgow v Munster is probably the match of the weekend. The Pro 12 gives Rob Penney a chance to start JJ Hanrahan, Andrew Conway and CJ Stander, in what is a strong looking team. You wouldn’t bet against Glasgow at home anymore though.

Leinster and Connacht go head to head on Saturday, in a match where Connacht have had some pretty good results in the last few years. I believe Zane Kirchener may get his first run out, and I’m hoping that Ian Madigan gets an opportunity to start and sharpen his skills. For Connacht, I’m looking forward to seeing how Craig Clarke shapes up against in theory better quality opposition. Leinster should get this one.

RaboDirect PRO12
Friday , October 25
Zebre vs Scarlets 
Ospreys vs Newport Gwent D'gons 
Ulster vs Cardiff Blues 
Glasgow vs Munster 
Edinburgh vs Benetton Treviso 
Saturday , October 26
Leinster vs Connacht 18:45

Thursday, October 24, 2013

England v Australia Legends at Twickenham Stoop on Thursday October 31st


I don’t normally do this, but it’s for a good cause, and there are going to be some of the legends of the game on show. Let me just lapse into PR Speak for a bit:

To celebrate the 10th Anniversary of 2003 Rugby World Cup Final, Sportingclass and Harvey Thorneycroft Ltd are delighted to present the England v Australia Legends at Twickenham Stoop on Thursday October 31st, kick off is at 7.45pm. The match is in aid of the chatirities Restart, and the  Injured Player’s Foundation and is sponsored by Heathrow Express

Jason Leonard, Martin Corry, Jason Robinson, Phil Vickery, Josh Lewsey and many other members of the victorious England 2003 squad will take on a formidable Australian team, that includes Stirling Mortlock,  Al Baxter, Chris Whitaker and Richard Harry – and with a combined total of over 1,450 Test caps, there is going to be a lot of quality on show.

When I say legends, I mean players like Jason Robinson, who could just about weave his way through a brick wall. And Stirling Mortlock, who was a big strong player with all the skills to go with. I can remember him as captain being called over by the ref to reprimand the current Australian captain, James Horwill in one of his first tests for getting involved in a dust up, and failing spectacularly to control his grin at the state of Horwill’s face. Leinster supporters will be pleased to see Chris Whitaker putting his skills on display again.

Get on down there and support this, our game is based on respect, for the ref, for the fans, for the players, respect for the skills of players from another time, and  respect for the players who’ve come out the wrong side of a hugely physical game

And the English team is here: