Thursday, July 31, 2014

Womens World Cup kicks off, even if the ladies aren't quite getting first class treatment, and Super Rugby final!

 Fiona Coghlan with her fellow captains

First up, the Women’s World Cup! This kicks of tomorrow, and has had a medium profile in the build up I guess. Digging a little further, and you can see that the ladies aren’t quite getting a fair deal out of this. The IRB doesn’t do a world ranking for the women’s game (?), but rugby statistician Serge Piquet does a ranking of his own which is generally accepted, on which Ireland are ranked 6th.  We were third in the 6 Nations this year, so we have a handy team.

Looking at the schedule, it’s pretty ridiculous, test matches on a Friday, and then a Tuesday. Ireland open their account against the USA tomorrow, and then play New Zealand on Tuesday.
The Irish team for the USA features 14 out of the 15 that the won the Grand Slam in 2015, and fair play to TG4, will be live on Irish TV. C’mon Ireland!

Super Rugby reaches its climax in Sydney on Saturday, in front of what is likely to be a record final crowd, of more than 55000. I want the ‘Tahs to win this one, it’s their third final, they’ve never won it, and frankly deserve their turn for playing some great rugby over the years. And the Crusaders have hogged the title on and off, time to get some new blood into the system. Of course, deserving and getting are two completely different things, otherwise the Sharks would have a title already. On the form of last weekend, it looks like the Crusaders  have it in the bag, but how much of that was the Sharks making them look good is hard to say. Also, the Waratahs finished at the top by some distance, and beat a very good ACT side, then there’s the 50000 odd home fans who will be driving them on. One thing you always notice about Australia is that they play intelligent rugby, and I’m sure they’ve done their homework on the Crusaders, and are going to make life awkward to feck for them. After that, I reckon Phipps, Foley and Folau, nearly the 3 F’s, will guide them home. So the ‘Tah’s for the win then!

Elsewhere the Munster Race has been on with the Munster team on manoeuvres all over the Munster, a good treat for their fans, and the Limerick Worlds Sevens are on the 10th and 11th of August. Nice to invite the other provinces lads! Ulster got their new kit, while not a lot is happening in Leinster or Connacht.

Super Rugby
Saturday , August 2
Waratahs vs Crusaders

Women's World Cup 2014
Match Day 1: Friday 1st August
1300 New Zealand v Kazakhstan Marcoussis 2
1500 Canada v Spain Marcoussis 2
1700 USA v Ireland Marcoussis 2
1545 Australia v South Africa Marcoussis1
1800 England v Samoa Marcoussis 1
2045 France v Wales Marcoussis 1
1300 USA v Kazakhstan Marcoussis 2
1500 Australia v Wales Marcoussis 2
1700 Canada v Samoa Marcoussis 2
1545 England v Spain Marcoussis 1
1800 New Zealand v Ireland Marcoussis 1
2045 France v South Africa Marcoussis 1

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Crusaders thunder home, while the Waratahs get there in the end!

 SP Marais ( Picture

No surprises really on the weekend in the Super rugby semi’s. The Sharks didn’t run out in drag anyway.

The Crusaders looking all conquering in the first match, giving the Sharks a right good stuffing. I’m not looking to make too many excuses for the Sharks, but they did look off their peak, which comes back to their air miles. It’s not often you’re going to see a Sharks line out all over the place like that, or their scrum being rocked. But the brainless kicking away of possession deserves no excuses, it barely works when it’s contested, nevermind handing over the ball to the most potent 15 man attack in the world, bar the All Blacks. The only time they threatened was when they played the Crusaders at their own game, a bit of vision from the impressive Marais, and a good long pass at Kankowski taking them right up the field from their own 25.  Can the Cruasaders be stopped? It’s going to take something special.

In Sydney, it was a far cagier affair,  with mega amounts of tackling. The Waratahs didn’t look nearly as impressive as the Crusaders, with two of their tries coming through lucky breaks. But what was impressive was how they defended, against a very determined Brumbies attack. If ACT keep on playing like that, they’ll be making the final themselves soon enough again. The Waratahs used their defence to tire the Brumbies out, and then just eased away from them at the end. Can they hold out the Cruasaders next week? I think it’s going to be way closer than most people are predicting, the Waratahs should have a massive crowd behind them, and they have far more to show than they did this week.

Super Rugby
Saturday , July 26
Crusaders 38 - 6 Sharks 
Waratahs 26 - 8 Brumbies 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Hard to see past the Crusaders and the Waratahs!

 Sealing the deal ... Israel Folau will play Super Rugby for the NSW Waratahs next season.

Another pair of great matches to look forward to this weekend, as the Super Rugby competition nears its end.

First up will be from Christchurch, where the Crusaders are hosting the Sharks. The Sharks have traveled at least half way around the world to get to Christchurch, which is hardly ideal, and face a team refreshed and coming off a bye, and in a rich recent vein of form. That doesn’t really look too promising for the Sharks does it, also taking into account that the Sharks score a lot of their points through penalties, and the Crusaders have given away the least penalties so far this year. The Crusaders have never lost at home at this point in the tournament, and aren’t planning to change that on Saturday. Having said all that, the Sharks did turn the Saders over earlier on this season, with 14 men for most of the match, admittedly while the home side were without Carter and Reid. Out of all the SA sides, they have the most ammunition in the backs  to turn to a plan B if the forwards can’t bludgeon the opposition into submission. If the Sharks can really get in the Crusaders faces early, and put them off their game, they have a chance, otherwise it’s only going to go one way.

Meanwhile, in Sydney, there’s a great derby coming up with the Waratahs hosting the Brumbies. The ‘Tahs have been impressive from the middle of the season on, while the Brumbies really hit their straps last week against the Chiefs. The key men I think will be Henry Speight and Israel Folau, and how they are contained, as either could go one to turn the match. Home advantage for the Tah’s is massive, but travel wasn’t much of a burden for the Brumbies, and this is a pretty evenly matched contest. Overall, though I’m backing the consistency of the Waratahs to see them home at home.

Super Rugby
Saturday , July 26
Waratahs vs Brumbies 
Crusaders vs Sharks 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

As you were, Brumbies and Sharks!

 Heny Speight (picture

No major surprises this weekend as home advantage proved crucial in the Super Rugby play offs. The only major surprise for me was finding I’d recorded a super league match instead of the Sharks/Highlanders. Doh!

I did, however manage to record the Brumbies v Chiefs, and what an enjoyable match that was. Great, potent, high tempo rugby. I thought Henry Speight was outstanding, he has Wallaby superstar stamped all over him. The Brumbies built up a good early lead, and although the Chiefs fought back to even Stevens with 10 minutes to go, I always thought the Brumbies would win it. They now go on to face the Tah’s and although the Sydneymen are favourites, anything can happen in a good old derby match. The Chiefs took way too long to get into the match, they are missing a bit of the X-Factor, and Sonny Bill Williams should sort that out for them next year.

Can’t say too much about the Sharks Highlanders match for obvious reasons, but the Sharks did what they had to do, coming from behind twice to seal the win. They head off to Christchurch, knowing at least that they have already won there this season.

Meanwhile in Ireland, rugby somehow got dragged into the Garth Brooks circus, with Paraic Duffy wondering why nobody said anything when they wanted to host 7 World Cup games, but when they wanted to host 5 Garth Brooks concerts, everyone jumped up and down. Hmmm.

Finally, French internationals Benjamin Kayser, Julien Pierre and AurĂ©lien Rougerie have been hospitalised following an attack in Millau. The Clermont trio were attacked by a dozen individuals "armed with machetes, knives, swords" on Saturday night as the players returned to their hotel, according to the club's website. What the hell! Here’s hoping they all get well soon, especially Pierre, who needs surgery.

Super Rugby
Saturday , July 19
Brumbies 32 - 30 Chiefs 
Sharks 31 - 27 Highlanders

Friday, July 18, 2014

I'm going Brumbies and Sharks this weekend!


As the play offs begin, I was having a look at some stats. Super Rugby in the last 10 years has only been won by a side finishing first or second. So while 4 sides toil away this weekend, the winners are probably sitting at home in Sydney and Christchurch. Also, the Crusaders haven’t played the Tah’s yet, although with the alchemy of the of how the playing schedule is decided, they probably had an easier run in than the other NZ sides.

Putting all that aside, we have some great games to look forward to this weekend. The Chiefs haven’t quite found their form of the last two years this season, while the Brumbies have done better than expected after Jake White left them in the lurch in the off season. There are two great backlines coming up against each other, and although semis are normally cagey affairs, I reckon this could be something special, neither of them is going to leave anything on the filed. I’m going with home advantage to see the Brumbies home.

The other match takes place in Durban, with the Sharks out to prove a point, after the Highlanders caught them on the hop at home early in the season. The Sharks have an awesome starting team, a great bench, but seem to blow hot and cold. The top spot was theirs for the taking mid-season, then they lost their way. The Highlanders meanwhile, are the only side in the top 6 to have a negative points difference, so while we know they are fairly handy on attack, their defense is not exactly watertight. I’m expecting no great pyrotechnics, and for the Sharks to grind out the win.

In Ireland, the big news is the signing of Simon Easterby to replace John Plumtree in the Ireland set up. Plumtree will be missed, he certainly seemed to have made improvements in the Irish scrum in his brief time there, but Easterby no doubt has a great deal to contribute himself.

Super Rugby
Saturday , July 19
Brumbies vs Chiefs 
Sharks vs Highlanders 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Tiny Super Rugby round up


The pool stages of Super Rugby are a wrap with the play offs starting next weekend. The Tah’s finished with a flourish, thumping the Reds, and get their feet up for next weekend. Likewise, the Crusaders put in a crushing performance against the Highlanders, getting a bonus point win that was enough to secure 2nd spot.

The Sharks had a tough match against an up for it Stormers side in Cape Town, but ground out a good win, in a way they’ve found difficult of late. They finish in third, and welcome the Highlanders next weekend, while the Chiefs will travel to Canberra to take on the Brumbies.

Saturday , July 12
Stormers 10 -34 Sharks
Reds 3 - 34 Waratahs
Lions 60 - 25 Cheetahs
Crusaders 34-8 Highlanders

Friday, July 11, 2014

This and that from Super Rugby, Ireland, Wales and the Guinness PRO12

 Boston Irish Pub Challenge guinness 2013

So I’m a bit slow to the party this week, with the Chiefs and Brumbies having already secured their play off spots. Can The Chiefs make it 3 in a row? Probably not as they’ll be travelling. The rest of the teams are the Tahs, Sharks, Crusaders and the Highlanders. Still potentially quite a few moves up and down possible, with the key matches being the Crusaders Highlanders clash, and Stormers V Sharks to see if the Sharks finish 2nd or 3rd.  Out of those, I’d go with the Crusaders and the Sharks.

Meanwhile, closer to home, Leinster have announced plans to upgrade their the RDS from 18500 to 25 000, following extensions in the last few years to Ravenhill and the Sportsground. Irish rugby is on a roll!

While in Wales, Regional Rugby Wales have pulled out of their Participation Agreement with the Welsh Rugby Union. I have very little understanding of what that means, but it doesn’t sound good.

Finally, Guinness are the new PRO12 sponsors, and the opening round sees Leinster travel to Glasgow, Ulster to the Scarlets, and Munster and Connacht host Edinburgh and the Dragons.

Super Rugby
Friday , July 11
Blues 8 - 11 Chiefs 
Brumbies 47 - 25 Western Force 
Bulls vs Melbourne Rebels 
Saturday , July 12
Crusaders vs Highlanders 
Reds vs Waratahs 
Lions vs Cheetahs 
Stormers vs Sharks 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Hardly anything on Super Rugby...

 Dan Carter Clothes

Super Rugby is drawing to a close, and the big news I guess is the Tah’s topping the whole show for the first time ever. If you come top, you normally win the whole thing, and men from Sydney are due a title after coming close a number of times.

The Crusaders have put themselves in pole postion for top of the NZ conference, after a pretty epic win over the Blues, coming back from behind, and not even giving the Blues a point. Dan Carter is still The Man.

The Sharks looked odds on to come first at one stage, but have hit some pretty uneven form, and lost to the Cheetahs to leave finishing second in doubt. Jake White nearly did with the Brumbies, and looks like he’ll nearly do it with the Sharks. Nearly is not enough though…

All the log positions wrap up next weekend, with teams down to 9th in contention for the six spots. Only one of those is South African, reflecting a dismal showing for them.

Super Rugby
Sunday , July 6
Waratahs 44 - 16 Highlanders 
Saturday , July 5
Crusaders 21 - 13 Blues 
Western Force 30 - 20 Reds 
Stormers 16 - 0 Bulls 
Cheetahs 27 - 20 Sharks 
Friday , July 4
Chiefs 24 - 16 Hurricanes 
Lions 34 - 17 Melbourne Rebels 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Ulster, Mark Anscombe and bits and pieces of Super Rugby

( picture

Mark Anscombe made an abrupt exit this weekend from Ulster, on his first day of work for the new Season. Give him a one year extension, then tell him to sling his hook. It follows the resignation of David Humphries last month. It’s said Anscombe had ‘lost the dressing room’.  I don’t rate the Ulster lads as prima donnas, far from it, so things must have been pretty bad. Hopefully, they’ll pick up a good coach and go forwards again – Wayne Smith or Robbie Deans would be perfect for the job, if they can get either. There’s going to be some testing times ahead though, the new coach is going to need to stamp his authority pretty quick – player power is all vey well, but someone has to be in charge.  It all just seems a real pity, UIster have come up such a long way, and it needs a lot of patience to get the big results – Leinster played second fiddle to Munster for ages before they finally broke through.
Otherwise, there’s still a lot of Super Rugby going on. The Kiwi derbies will probably be the most entertaining, with a very competitive conference, and Crusaders/Blues should be something awesome. In South Africa, Sharks/Cheetahs probably won’t be a thriller, but the Sharks need that one badly. And finally, the Tahs are riding high with Leinster’s old boss, Michael Cheika, and will have a tricky task taming the Highlanders to maintain their good run.
Super Rugby
Friday , July 4
Chiefs vs Hurricanes 
Lions vs Melbourne Rebels 
Saturday , July 5
Crusaders vs Blues 
Western Force vs Reds 
Stormers vs Bulls 17:05
Cheetahs vs Sharks 
Sunday , July 6
Waratahs vs Highlanders 16:05