Thursday, November 28, 2013

Rabo round up, and hope for Ireland!

Van der Heever (picture

No disrespect for the Scarlets, but it’s a bit of a comedown after the AB’s last week. For Leinster, BOD, Rob Kearney, Heaslip, O’Brien and Toner will be rested, and Mike Ross will start on the bench.  You can never take the Scarlets lightly, but without their internationals we should see them off. A complete aside now, but I see that Isa Nacewa is now the backs coach for the Auckland Blues. I hope Leinster kept his number, maybe in the distant future (August next year) we can tempt him back.

 Munster have named a strong side to play the Dragons, with G van den Heever, K Earls and Paul O’Connell in the side, and Billy Holland captaining. They should win that. Connacht have a shot at another victory and lift off from the bottom of the table with a trip to Edinburgh which I think they’ll win. 

Ulkster have a pretty hefty injury list – Best, Henderson, Stevenson, Allen and Nick Williams. However, as they’re playing Zebre I think Mark Anscombe could pick himself and still be confident of the victory.

A final word too, on Ireland v the Abs. Last year, they beat us by three points, this by two. You can see the inevitable sequence that will give us a draw in 2015, and one point victory in 2016! Seriously though, I really believe that with Joe Schmidt on board, we are going to beat the All Blacks, and it won’t be by one point either. You read it here first!

RaboDirect PRO12
Friday , November 29
Ospreys vs Glasgow 
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Munster 
Edinburgh vs Connacht 
Saturday , November 30
Zebre vs Ulster 14:00
Benetton Treviso vs Cardiff Blues 16:00
Leinster vs Scarlets 19:15
International Match
Saturday , November 30
Barbarians vs Fiji 14:30
Wales vs Australia 17:00

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Ireland come up millimetres short...


What can you say about the Ireland New Zealand match? I felt like I didn’t so much watch that match, as live it.  80 exhilarating, scary, frustrating and ultimately heartbreaking minutes. To beat the All Blacks you need skill, commitment, passion, a little luck, to make your own luck…and a little more luck. We came up millimeters short, from a victory we so deserved and needed, you could taste it. That’s why they’re the best team in the world though, they’ve earned the right to get that last bit of luck. You could cry for the team, 1-23, every one counted, everyone gave 1000%. It’s the one that got away, again, but we’ve just got to take this forward, store this hurt and use it when it counts in the future.

Looks like we have one of the few major stadiums in Europe you can set a scrum on too.

I also saw a great first half from Wales, followed by a pretty average one, a bit of the error strewn Argentina Italy match, and all of Scotland’s tough close battle against Australia. France South Africa was a mighty contest too, lots of sore bodies, and some strange video ref decisions there.

Italy 14 - 19 Argentina 
Scotland 15 - 21 Australia 
France 10 - 19 South Africa 
Ireland 22 - 24 New Zealand 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I'm proposing some sneaky tactics, and demanding some heart from Ireland against the All Blacks!


I see Darren Cave and Felix Jones have been called up to join the Irish squad, and I can see a plan taking shape. The All Blacks are renowned for pushing boundaries, Ritchie McCaw for instance spends at least as much time on the wrong side of the breakdown as the right. Sounds we could be planning to sneak a few extra players on the field – maybe another three in the pack, then have two fly halves, and three wings. Let’s see them push an 11 man scrum around! If Sextons not fit – no selection problem! Jackson AND Madigan can start, as right and left flyhalves. 

Well, that plan, plausible at it sounds, may not come off, so I had a look at what happened last year when we toured New Zealand. We last the first test 40-10, played badly- then came back, albeit to lose, but lose 22-19, the All Blacks narrowest victory in the last two years? And this was the team that did it

Kearney McFadden O'Driscoll (c)  D'Arcy      Trimble  Sexton  Murray  Heaslip  O'Brien  McLaughlin  Ryan      Tuohy  Ross  Best  Healy

Not our strongest team by any means, so I don’t care who runs out on Sunday, it’s all about heart and effort, about putting them under huge pressure for 80 minutes. Former Munster player Rua Tipoki met with the Irish team before that second test, and said to them ‘Play the men, not the jersey’. I’m not saying we’re going to win, but the All Blacks have been through two really tough matches on the trot, both of which they were keen to hear the whistle at the end of, everybody’s giving us no chance, and it’s time for us to stand up and fight! I hope it’s freezing cold and raining, and that the All Blacks get tired of kamikaze tackling, and just want to get the hell out of here, get on a plane and go home! We have the slimmest chance of winning, but whatever, we can at least show them and the world what we can do.

Otherwise, I’m also planning to see the Scotland Australia, with the Wallabies hi-jinks in Dublin (Australian men getting pissed in Dublin – hard to believe!) evening up the Scots chances a lot. They have also lost Kundrani and Toomua. I hope Ewen McKenzie is fit. And then the France/Springbok match will probably be the match of the weekend. Without Fourie Du Preez, I think the Boks might struggle a bit actually. It must be every international coached nightmare going to France these days – 10 minutes after landing, and Toulon have already signed half your squad.

And I might go the whole hog and see Wales and Tonga, and Italy and Argentina, just for the craic like.

International Match
Friday , November 22
Wales vs Tonga 
Saturday , November 23
Italy vs Argentina 14:00
Scotland vs Australia 18:00
France vs South Africa 20:00
Sunday , November 24
Ireland vs New Zealand 14:00

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Ireland's performance was what the people use to think the world was

 Best player in the world? (picture

Ireland performance against Australia was what the people used the earth was – flat, flat as a pancake. We leaked 4 of the easiest tries you’re going to see Ireland give away ever. I say that in hope anyway. Actually, I’ll forgive Cooper’s try because with a backline of Murray, Madigan, Marshall and O’Driscoll, nobody knew exactly what everyone was doing. We tackled too slow, we tackled to soft, and we didn’t get around the park. I’m scratching around for positives – we nearly scored a try I suppose. Really the best thing to do is forget this performance ever happened, sweep it under a carpet, it’s so flat no one will even notice. Australia, for their part, were efficient if not inspiring, coming up fast, handling the ball well as you’d expect, and taking the golden opportunities given to them. There’s going to have to be a bit of soul searching this week if we want to avoid humiliation by the All Blacks

Earlier on, England got their hopes up briefly, before the All Black machine coughed back into action and took the game away from them. England played well in the middle of the park, although their backline is still in a muddle. New Zealand looked a bit tired after their epic match against the French – I hope they’re completely flpping exhausted by the time they roll into Dublin. The AB’s still have a enough class to pull something out the bag when required, and game breakers like Read to force tries. England’s scrum is at least a good and sizeable block to build their team on.

Finally, I saw the Springboks on briefly get out of second gear to see off Scotland.  The Springboks were hungrier, faster and more physical, and made the Scots look flat footed. Scotland never really looked like they thought they could win, and it only underlined the Boks no 2 status in the world today.

International Match
Saturday , November 16
Italy 37 - 31 Fiji 
Wales 40 - 6 Argentina 
England 22 - 30 New Zealand 
France 38 - 18 Tonga 
Ireland 15 - 32 Australia 
Sunday , November 17
Scotland 0 - 28 South Africa

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Australia to continue with their 'One in a row' winning streaks, and the AB's will be emphatic

 Luke Marshall (Picture

The poo is about to get real for Ireland on Saturday when the Aussies come to town. They had what in the end was a big win over Samoa, but Joe Schmidt sober assessment of the match means he for one is no doubt about the size of the task this weekend.  Injury wise we’ve been fairly lucky, it’s a shame to lose Chris Henry but he would probably have been on the bench anyway. We want our Sexton back though, and we have him!  Australia meanwhile, haven’t been able to put together more than a one in a row winning streak this year, and let’s not see them break that habit this weekend.  Everything clicks, they fill their boots with tries- then the next match it all falls apart. You wouldn’t have to be a strategic genius to see that the best way to beat them is give them no space, and try to keep the game as structured as possible.

Their much maligned scrum is much maligned for a good reason – it’s shit. And we need every opportunity to prove that on Saturday, let’s see a few fake knock ons! The other thing we need to do is have a go at their backline. In a broken field situation, they have the individual brilliance to work magic and score tries. However those individuals are the only ones that are fit or banished from the team for disciplinary reasons. So while their attack might be ferocious their defense is not going to stand up to thorough analysis of a Sexton, O’Driscoll, Marshall and Rob Kearney type. Trust me.  If we get  little bit of space to run at them, we’ll all be shouting, and the Aussie backline will all be looking at each other.

I’m going to be bullish and go for an Irish win, even though they want to get their own back for 2011, ‘mon Ireland!

The biggest source of collisions this weekend will be when England take on New Zealand. The earth is going to move -not like that though.  Wouldn’t you just love to have the All Blacks arriving in town with a chip on their shoulders about their solitary loss last year? I’m expecting them to be focused, clinical and devastating. The England backline is ripe for the picking – lot’s of youth and unfamiliar combinations, although their pack will give the All Blacks some headaches. I’m expecting something pretty emphatic from New Zealand.
Wales should get back on track against Argentina – although if the Pumas pick up from where they left off against England it might start rocky for the Welsh. And Scotland v South Africa is the perfect round off for the weekend, the Scots are always fearsome at home, but this is a pretty good Springbok side.

International Match
Saturday , November 16
Italy vs Fiji 14:00
England vs New Zealand 14:30
Wales vs Argentina 14:30
France vs Tonga 17:00
Ireland vs Australia 17:45
Sunday , November 17
Scotland vs South Africa 15:00

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Ireland get the new era going

 Future Irish captain.. (picture

I’m currently undergoing therapy for a rugby overdose this weekend. Starting off with some LV cup on Friday, and rounding up late Sat with a replay of Wales v SA. Yes, it was a typically hedonist sex, drugs and rugby weekend  down fromthebottomoftheruck’s house.

Starting off with Ireland, who got their new era off with a slow first half, and a good second half. Gee, we’ll have to be more careful with those Samoans though, who were exiting right left and centre. I think the first half was about right for where we are – not really having played together since the 6N, and with a team with a touch of experimantaion in it. We did some good things in the second half, but in fairness the Samoan team  started with 14 men, and looked like us against Italy this year by the end. As always let’s dwell on the positives Jack McGrath is a rising star, Jackson was great, Toner had his best match for Ireland, and Peter O’Mahoney has ‘future captain of Ireland’ stamped all over him. If Sexton’s back next week, I think we’ll see another step up. Awesome debut for Dave Kearney, and Rob is playing at his best too.

Earlier on I’d seen England dismantle Argentina in the first half, and then get bored or something in the second. Argentina could have got a lot closer with a bit more ambition.

France v the All Blacks was the real deal – no space, top drawer physicality, yet both sides able to conjure something out of thin air. The All Blacks defended well, made their tries look easy, but were very relieved to hear the final whistle blow. Let’s see if they can cope with the fear factor of facing Ireland!

Finally, I watched the Wales South Africa match from the first Springbok tries to the last. The Boks had their old skool backline, and a young hungry pack. Wales didn’t seem to have much tempo, and were a bit short on physicality too. I’d put Phillips on the bench, and get some pace into their game.

International Match
Saturday , November 9
Italy 20 - 50 Australia 
Scotland 42 - 17 Japan 
Wales 15 - 24 South Africa 
France 19 - 26 New Zealand 
Ireland 40 - 9 Samoa 
England 31 - 12 Argentina 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Ramblings about the new Ireland

 ( picture

New season, new coaches – mostly the same old players for Ireland, but we’re hoping for new things ie winning regularly. Playing Samoa, Australia and New Zealand, however, could mess with those hopes in the short term. I was reading a bit new assistant coach John Plumtree had to say about improvements to the Irish line out, and had a look at his bio. He coached Swansea in the late 90’s, then the Wellington Lion, and finally the Sharks. So he’s earned his chops that’s for sure, and he watched the quadrangular series with Italy, Scotland, South Africa and Samoa this year, so he has a lot of insight into the Samoans.  He also discovered Gavin Henson, but don’t let that put you off.

I saw that a survey rated Samoa as the side most likely to cause an upset this weekend. Well, the Australians could beat Italy too! The last time Samoa came to Dublin, we beat them 20-10. In fairness they weren’t above us in the World rankings at that time. Anyone with a n ounce of rugby knowledge know’s we are in a mighty battle this weekend. I’m still backing us to win though, mmm, for a few reasons. Firstly, structure, we have a good defensive pattern, and good rhythm when we play to anywhere near our potential. Also our discipline is good on the whole.

I like the team Schmidt has gone for- he’s taking a few chances, and giving some players a chance. I hope Paddy Jackson starts well, he’s a confidence player, and sometimes it can go either way.  O’Connell as the captain is a good idea, and Heaslip for the match. ‘mon Ireland!

Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Fergus McFadden, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip (c), 7 Chris Henry, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Mike McCarthy, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Jack McGrath.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Declan Fitzpatrick, 19 Paul O'Connell, 20 Sean O'Brien, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Dave Kearney.

I have a few grumbles about the weekend – too many clashes of good matches. And for Ireland, how about spreading these things around a bit – why not play Samoa at Thomond, and plan a few matches for Ravenhill when it’s finished?

The best match of the weekend is likely to be France v the All Blacks. The All Blacks have come full strength. I think they’ll struggle in the scrums, but get home easy enough.

International Match
Saturday , November 9
Italy vs Australia 14:00
England vs Argentina 14:30
Scotland vs Japan 14:30
Wales vs South Africa 17:30
Ireland vs Samoa 17:45
France vs New Zealand 20:00

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Leinster and Munster just about get the job done, while England get home with a bit of intensity and luck

 ( picture

First up for me was Leinster v the Dragons, I’d said that LOeinster would lose, so all in all, I was pretty pleased. It was scrappy, and they were hanging on for dear life at the end, but I’ll take it! Leinster had all their Irish internationals yanked out, and had a few players making their debut off the bench – generally not very auspiciously – so it was never going to be a flash performance. When you’re on your third choice scrum half, it’s not going to be fluid. Positives to take out are the scrum, who looked imperious, and the form of Zane Kirchner who never looked flustered, and even better, looked like he was enjoying himself. The Dragons crowd weren’t too happy with the ref, but if you’re going to give away silly yellow cards and ship 14 points in 5 minutes you only have yourselves to blame.

I was sorry to see Ulster falter but the Scarlets are the Jekyll and Hyde’s of the PRO 12, you never know what you’re going to get. Connacht, meanwhile, did well to get a point out of Glasgow.

Finally, it was a top of the table clash between Munster and the Ospreys, both obviously a bit strung together with their internationals gone.  This was not an expansive game, this was a stick it up your jumper game, and once Munster got the grip of that,  and stopped passing to the opposition, they slowly ground their way to victory. Duncan Williams is no Peter Stringer, but I thought CJ Stander, Dave O'Callaghan and Dave Foley all put in good shifts.

England  v Australia was a tough, gritty match, which England edged with more intensity and a bit of luck. The Aussies had the better of the first half, and then England came roaring back, a pretty creditable performance for their first of the season. Australia can’t buy luck or a win at the moment, hopefully they’ll continue the trend at least until they play Ireland.

RaboDirect PRO12
Newport Gwent D'gons 19 - 23 Leinster 
Edinburgh 25 - 23 Zebre 
Cardiff Blues 17 - 13 Benetton Treviso 
Connacht 12 - 19 Glasgow
Munster 12 - 6 Ospreys
Scarlets 17 - 9 Ulster
England 20 - 13 Australia