Sunday, February 26, 2017

Scotland sparkle, Ireland prevail, and Italy perplex!

 Conor Murray
 Connor Murray

Ireland put in a massive shift to subdue France at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, it wasn't necessarily the prettiest rugby, but it was the result that counted. It was a day to roll your sleeves up and get stuck in. After a slow start by Ireland, where France picked up au pair of penalties, Ireland took charge of the match, and didn't let up after that. Every road France went down was a cul de sac, and it wasn't long before they were hors de combat.  Johnny Sexton put in an assured performance, not looking at as if he hadn't played much in last 6 weeks. But the star of the show, scoring the only try and leading from the front was Connor Murray, one of the best fly halves in the world at the moment.

Here's me talking up the size of the French, but we actually had a heavier pack to start, even if their backs must have a kgs on us. That all changed when their prop Antonio came on. 6' 5 1/5", 24 stone (155kg), he's likely to tip the balance, a real mange tout! we are building nicely now, this tournament is still wide open!

The day had started with Scotland v Wales, were the Scots really put the Welsh away, after a shaky first half. I've been maligning the Scots, but they looked flat at the last outing while Wales were excellent and unlucky to lose against England. There was superbly bitter Scottish co commentator on the match who couldn't stop making the point about how slighted the Scots have been. In fairness, Scotland are in this to win!

Finally, Italy tore up the form  book with a clever application of the rule book, exploiting the fact that if it's only a tackle, there's no offside. I would laugh at England for their confusion in getting to grips with the situation ( I did laugh actually). But at the same time, I'd like to thank Italian coach Conor O'Shea for choosing to spring this on England and not Ireland. England look eminently beatable.

And our excellent ladies and U20's team remain unbeaten!

The tournament now takes another weeks break, they have a pretty laid back work ethic!

Sunday 26th February
England 36 15 Italy
Saturday 25th February
Scotland 29 13 Wales
Ireland 19 9 France

Thursday, February 23, 2017

This weekend will see Wales, Ireland and England triumph!


The 6 Nations resumes this weekend and it's all to play for in Dublin and Edinburgh. After sacking Rome two weeks ago, Ireland must now repel the French invaders, the Gauls and the Franks. The last Norman invasion of Ireland took place in the 12th century, but eventually they went native and lost their language, leaving their imprint on the Irish language with words like ‘giúistís’and ‘garsún’ (boy). I'd say if we can nip this invasion in the bud if we can defeat the French on Saturday though.

Both teams come into the match won one, lost one, so it's all to play for, lose two and your championship hopes are over. We have an excellent recent record against France, we've become a bit of a bogey team for them. It's going to be sizeable challenge though, the French are massive!  When the Scots played them, they had five players go off for head injury assessments, and only one returned. It was awful to hear that Basteraud concussed himself this week in training - before he dishes out any concussions on our players! There's been a lot of debate as to who may start for Ireland at fly half, Jackson or Sexton. Sexton has been injured a lot this season, and has a history of head injuries against France. It's pity he didn't study at the Ronan O'Gara school of tackling, which doesn't actually feature any tackling as such, but Ronan still had a long distinguished career!

I think tactically we'll have to move the ball around lot to tire out those huge French players, counter their flair with our defense, show some flair of our own, and use our fitness to finish them off in the last quarter. Do I have any doubts about our victory though? Will they leave ‘Les Misrerables’? ( see what I did there?) Not at all, Ireland all the way!

In Edinburgh, Scotland and Wales are both on one win each too. For me though, the loss of Laidlaw last week is critical for Scotland, and for that reason I'd expect Wales to win. That's assuming the Wales that showed up against England is in the same mindframe aginst the Scots.

Finally, Italy could rewrite the history books if they beat England at Twickenham - but they won't enough of that nonsense. At best, they'll keep it decent in the first half.

I’ve also been completely disrespecting the ladies and the U20’s, both of whom are undefeated in their 6 Nations. The ladies times are below, and all the Irish matches are on RTE this year.

Saturday 25th February
Scotland 14:25 Wales
Ireland 16:50 France
Sunday 26th February
England 15:00 Italy

24 February 2017
18:30 GMT Scotland        v              Wales Broadwood Stadium, Cumbernauld
25 February 2017
13:00 GMT England          v              Italy Twickenham Stoop, London
26 February 2017
12:45 GMT Ireland           v              France Donnybrook Stadium, Dublin