Thursday, September 3, 2015

England V Ireland is the big one, but there's also citizenship's, squads and the Pro 12!

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 England V Ireland is the match of the weekend, although they why plonked it in as the first match of the internationals on Saturday I don’t know. Although, with heroic dedication to rugby, and some really smooth talking, I might make a marathon of Eng V Ire, Wales v Italy, France V Scotland, and USA v Australia.

Ireland have named a strong side, with Rob Kearney and the still unavailable Healy the only first team choices missing. And England look really strong as well, some changes from the team that lost to France, but possible an improved selection. With a loss the last result for both teams, they both want to get back on the horse straight away. I was wondering how bad we were last week,  or whether Wales’ performance was individual players response to Warren ‘Stalin’ Gatlands coaching approach – one minute Lions Hibbard and Phillips are in the Wales training squad, the next they’re in the salt mines of outer Siberia. On the balance of recent performances by both teams, and given home advantage, I’d expect a narrow win for the English.

With the Irish squad now out, the most unlucky platers I’d say are Trimble, Kilcoyne and Marmion.  With only two scrum halves one of them will be on the bench for every match, so I’d have brought Marmion along, he should be pushing Murray for his spot in the next few years. And Trimble is unlucky, but he just hasn’t had enough time to prove his form. Anyway, a few injuries and they could all be over there soon enough. Felix Jones should also keep his diary open.

In other news, New Zealander Joe Schmidt became an Irish citizen at a ceremony in Dublin on Wednesday with Richardt Strauss, from South Africa, and the IRFU’s Olly Hodges, from Australia, also being granted citizenship. They’re all welcome, and I think that’s a great thing for Joe to do, from a man that just oozes class.

There’s also the small matter of the Pro 12 kicking off. Leinster look good, I have to say, Te’O and Reid in centre, Isa at the back, and enough depth to have Dominic Ryan on the bench. I think they’ll win. Ulster meanwhile,  have so many good backs they can leave a great player like Ricky Lutton on the bench. Connacht look strong, and should put the Dragons away, and Munster will get a good start against Treviso.

Saturday, September 05
England vs Ireland    13:30
Japan vs Georgia    15:30
Wales vs Italy    16:00
Romania vs Tonga    18:00
France vs Scotland    19:00
USA vs Australia    21:00

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