Friday, October 31, 2014

Preview - Leinster v Edinburgh


EDINBURGH : 15 Nick McLENNAN 14 Dougie FIFE 13 Joaquin DOMINGUEZ 12 (Captain) Andries STRAUSS 11 Tim VISSER 10 Tom HEATHCOTE 9 Sam HIDALGO-CLYNE
1 Allan DELL 2 James HILTERBRAND 3 Willem NEL 4 Ben TOOLIS 5 Jack TURLEY 6 Magnus BRADBURY 7 Tomas LEONARDI 8 David DENTON
Substitutes 16 Jake KERR 17 Rory SUTHERLAND 18 John ANDRESS 19 Jamie RITCHIE 20 George TURNER 21 Sean KENNEDY 22 Greig TONKS 23 Jack CUTHBERT

At RDS Arena, 7.35pm. Live on TG4/BBC ALBA
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU, 115th competition game)
Assistant Referees: David Wilkinson, Stuart Douglas (both IRFU)
Citing Commissioner: Eugene Ryan (IRFU)
TMO: Kevin Beggs (IRFU)

October 31, 1995 wasn't just the Eve of All Hallows but it was also the eve of Leinster's first-ever Heineken Cup encounter.
  
The following day at the Stadio Comunale Giuriati we came out on top 24-21 in a match that was watched by about 5 people despite the Milan side including the great Diego Dominguez.

According the Leinster Rugby website, this match was the official beginning of the province's modern history, which in turn means that Vince Cunningham was the first in the modern era to wear the Leinster 13 jersey.

Since then only a select few have marked their very first appearance for the boys in blue wearing that key number on their backs.

Of course BOD is one, making his debut at Temple Hill in 1999.  Then there was Fergus McFadden, starting at 13 at Cardiff Arms Park in 2007 and Eoin O'Malley launched his all-too-brief senior career at outside centre for Leinster at Rodney Parade in December 2009.

I thought I might find more; Kieran Lewis and Christian Warner came to mind, but their first appearances were as sub and 12 respectively.  There very well may be more but I didn't really have the time to go checking every game!  

My point is that generally players don't start their rugby union careers at 13 - more often than not they are put on the wing to start (Darce for example)  and only move to the centre "when they're ready".

Ben Te'o not only debuts at outside centre for Leinster on this year's Eve of All Hallows, but he also does it in front of the RDS faithful.

No pressure, then!  But then again he has played in State of Origins as well as, just a few weeks ago, the NRL Grand Final so it's not like he's a stranger to the big occasion.

Still, by selecting him off the bat (Halloween reference - see what I did?) in such a key position, it is clear that Matt O'Connor has faith in him, and if his conversion from the league code pays off, it could well be the final piece that will prove those who have doubts in MOC's approach to the game (myself included) wrong.

I mean...it's not like he's going to reach BOD-like heights in rugby union, but having said that, this switch in code isn't like Michael Jordan trying his oversize hand at baseball either...and from what I have seen of his Rabbitohs appearances, Te'o can definitely make a good in this game with the right guidance.

Will anything be proven tonight?  Of course not.  The significance of this match will be more for those who like saying "I remember that Halloween night in the RDS when Te'o played his first game for Leinster", but it is a significance nonetheless.

Despite my devoting half of my preview to him (I really can harp on, can't I), Te'o isn't the only name to catch the eye in this Leinster selection.

Given the impending internationals plus the fact we're on a 5-day turnaround from the victory in Castres, there are a lot more from that match on display tonight than I thought there would be, and most eye-catching for me is that the very same back 3 of Darragh Fanning, Luke Fitzgerald and Zane Kirchner will start.

We have definitely benefited from the exclusion of Kirchner from the Springbok squad (though we can't rule out a call up due to injury), and the fact that it will be more three weeks until our next match means they can probably afford to go all out for 80 more minutes.

Elsewhere in the side there is more continuity in key positions with Gopperth at 10, Ryan at 7 and Douglas at 5 but there are also some interesting additions to the lineup.

First and foremost it's great to see Kevin McLoughlin back on the pitch and that he leads out the side shows just how valuable his return is.

Also Luke McGrath gets a start - HUZZAH!  I wonder if O'Connor's hand was "forced" by Reddan's international call up as well as Boss' brainfart before being benched last Sunday.  Still, an excellent chance for the Under 20 skipper to show what he can do at this level.

That last sentence leads me to ask - what exactly IS the level we'll see tonight?  

On one hand, Edinburgh have to fancy their chances just a bit having won at Thomond Park on opening night plus they are on a 3-match win streak against the Dragons, Bordeaux and Lyon.

On the other hand, not only do they have an injury list that has them down to a skeleton (another one! I'm on fire) squad but also their recent Pro12 travels have resulted in tonkings by both Ulster and the Ospreys.

Embra do have threats tonight, like try machine Tim Visser on the wing and David Denton in their back row, but given their need to call up part-timers I can't see them coming to Dublin to do anything but thwart us, and given the way we have struggled to put points on the board with our approach this season, you have to think they may just have some luck with it.

The bookies are putting us at around 21-point favourites. Nigel Owens is reffing which will limit the effectiveness of the visitors' shenanigans, but I still have a feeling we may fall short of that margin.  The question is - will we manage the four tries we most certainly need from this match?

Yes.  Check that, no.  Wait, hang on, what am I saying, definitely yes.  Or not.  Damn, that's a tough question!  Loads of variables.

Ok.  Glass half full time. Yes, we will get the four tries, and we'll win by around 14 points.  It won't put us back in the top four, but it would still be five crucial league points as we try to crawl our way back up the table and put the sorry September well behind us.

See you at the RDS tonight.  Here's hoping the only Halloween horror shows are off the pitch!  #COYBIB JLP

Front Five 31.10.14

Start your day with five eye-catching egg-chasing quotes & links from around the ruggersphere.

Later today here on HarpinOnRugby...
our Leinster v Edinburgh preview


IMG_1598
"He's played at the very highest level in the State of Origin so the occasion won't phase him" - Brian Kearney

BOD's Rugby League replacement

Second Captains




Turley...divides his time between lugging furniture around the Scottish capital and turning out for Heriot’s

Edinburgh injury crisis opens door to removals man Jack Turley to face Leinster

Alasdair Reid - The Telegraph




The Team Manager role is a new position and was created following a review of the management structures at Ulster Rugby. 
Belfast Newsletter




"(Leinster) are a work in progress but we're progressing" 
Blues Talk TV




This article...attempts to...initiate full, frank, and honest debate about the future of the saw-sharpening narrative.

Climbing the mountain of conflict

Gwlad Rugby
 



Feel free to share any interesting links you spot yourself about t’internet by email, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, blog comment or carrier pigeon – whatever works for you. JLP
Note - views expressed in "Front Five" links do not necessarily reflect those of HarpinOnRugby

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Case for the "Si & Girv" Show at Leinster

Better to suggest options beyond the MOC era than to simply say he should go, says Big Joe Shep...

INTRODUCTION:
This week I thought I’d look at not WHEN but IF (or should that be IF not WHEN) our coach Matt O’Connor were to move on. 

Given the time remaining on his contract and the fact that Michael Chieka has already taken the Aussie job, I’m convinced that MOC will see his time out. More seriously is the fact that pressure from the IRFU and others simply won’t allow it to happen. MOC will achieve some success with Leinster Rugby, I’m sure of it but for some of you, even IF he won the European Rugby Champions Cup AND the Pro 12 title, he’d still be a demonic figure?

I suspect that AFTER the 2015 RWC, then there’s opportunities to look at new staff. For now though, let’s look ahead.

So this piece I’m going to pen is (hopefully) both educational and thought provoking. Certainly it is written without the (useful) corporate and in-house knowledge of how Leinster Rugby runs its operations, how much “Influence” MOC has on other aspects, Academy / “A” team etc, what is the workload for both supporting staff at Leinster and IRFU just merely like most of you reading this, as an avid supporter who has over the past 30+ years identified the right people for the right job at the right time and in the right place. 

I am also learning about the backgrounds of some of our most beloved Irish players (current & retired) that ordinarily I didn’t know “Enough” about, certainly not to make a throw away remark like many seem to find comes with ease and by doing so, it allows a better understanding of the person and WHY they would good for our Province.

THE PITCH AND THOUGHTS:

I will therefore be pitching not only be for the coaching “Dream Team” of Simon Easterby and Girvan Dempsey in the future but perhaps just perhaps, they could be adding more value to the current regime? Oh, yes I DID get it correct, SIMON EASTERBY, brother of the current Leinster Rugby Team Manager GUY and NOT Guy himself? Why, well read on.

THE DREAM TEAM:

Girvan DEMPSEY: 

The 39 year old from Dublin played 198 times for Leinster Rugby between 1996 – 2010 scoring  some 170 points (Comment: the OCD in me keeps thinking that at some point he’ll regret not adding the extra 2 caps lol). Anyhow, Girv played at Full Back and was capped by Ireland no less than 82 times scoring 95 points between 1998 and 2008 even scoring a brace of tries on his debut against Georgia. Interestingly, he also played on 9 occasions as Winger for Ireland between 98 & 2005.

Girv played in all 5 of Irelands 2003 Rugby World Cup campaign and remains Ireland’s joint 4th highest capped player. A former Ireland Under-21 and 'A' cap, His senior career will probably be most remembered for his try in the left corner at Twickenham in 2004 which helped Ireland on their way to securing their first Triple Crown since 1985.  He was also part of the same Irish teams that repeated their Triple Crown wins in 2006 and 2007.

Upon retiring from playing at the end of the 2010 season, Girv became the Elite Player Development Officer with the province. He was appointed as the Academy Manager in November 2012 and has helped the “A” team win back to back British & Irish Cup triumphs in 2013 & 2014. He has been involved with Leinster Rugby from schools to professional ranks.

As Girv was quoted, 

"There are talented players in the province that are looking for that opportunity to progress their rugby careers and I'm looking forward to the challenge of providing that opportunity for them."

Mick Dawson the CEO at Leinster stated on Girvs appointment, 

"Since his appointment as Elite Player Development Officer, he has brought his skill set to the next crop of burgeoning talent and we believe that he will continue that fine work as Academy Manager."

Perhaps that time is now working closer with MOC and as a future singleton or joint Head Coach with Leinster Rugby???

Reasons to step up as Leinster Rugby Joint Senior Coach

1. Proven player track record in the backs for both Province and Country
2. Has enjoyed winning success at all levels. This DOES add mental value to continuing that winning streak!
3. Understands WHAT, WHY AND HOW to get the best of development from players through his previous roles with IRFU & Leinster.
4. He has a success winning mentality at every level.
5. Given the numbers of “A” games, I’m sure he could add value NOW!
6. As both a retired Back player, he would team, up ideally with a similar Forward whose mindset is also one for attacking, flair, winning & success!
7. It’s the next natural step up the chain.
8. Dempsey knows and has played with Easterby.
9. Oh…………Ultimately he’ll eventually be Head Coach for Ireland!!!

Key Point: Girvan Dempsey UNDERSTANDS What Leinster stands for, how and why they play the way they do and has a proven track record as a player and most recently as a coach/manager.

Simon EASTERBY:

39 year old Easterby was born in Harrogate, Yorkshire, England to an English father and Irish mother and is the younger brother of current Leinster Rugby manager Guy Easterby.

A formidable Flanker, Simon played for Leeds Carnegie (27 caps / 40 Points) and for Llanelli RFC / Scarlets Region 196 times scoring 65 points which included 19 tries. He was capped by Ireland on 65 occasions scoring 40 points and by the British & Irish Lions twice scoring a great try in the corner against the All Blacks.

On retiring in 2010 at the age of only 35 through a knee injury, Easterby took over the role of Scarlets new Defence Coach and signed a two-year contract with the region. In June 2012, he was confirmed as the new Head Coach for the Scarlets. His long association with the Scarlets came to an end in July 2014 when he was confirmed as Ireland’s new forwards coach, replacing the outgoing John Plumtree.

In a recent interview, former Gloucester Rugby Head Coach, Nigel Davies said of Easterby, 

“Simon was an exceptional player for the Scarlets and Ireland and very, very disruptive; very much the modern-day rugby player, especially in the contact area………… He was very effective in what he did…………..so he always had that and he’s always had that mentality. He’s taken that ruthless focus forward and used it in his transition to coaching”

To be chosen with the approval of “Saint” Joe Schmidt counts for something!

“Saint” Joe opined on the appointment of Easterby, 

“Simon has tremendous test match experience combined with an in-depth knowledge of the current national squad players. He is well known to Irish rugby supporters and too many of the players and his knowledge and experience will help drive the team forward.”

Reasons to step up as Leinster Rugby Joint Senior Coach

1. Proven player track record in the backs for Region, Country & Lions.
2. Has enjoyed winning success at all levels. This DOES add mental value to continuing that winning streak!
3. Understands WHAT, WHY AND HOW to get the best of development from players in ALL positions through his previous role as Defence Coach, then Head Coach with Scarlets and as the newly appointed Forwards Coach for Ireland (N.B. Yes I know he / they still have to prove themselves but look ahead here peeps; vision, belief all that great stuff we Irish do)
4. He has a “Ruthless Focus” and success winning mentality at every level.
5. As both a retired Forward player, he would team, up ideally with a similar Back player whose mindset is also one for attacking, flair, winning & success!
6. It’s the next natural step up the chain.
7. His links with all Irish Provinces and Leinster especially through his brother Guy will be an invaluable insight (for the future!)
8. Easterby knows and has played with Dempsey.
9. Oh…………Ultimately he’ll eventually be Head Coach for Ireland!!! (Yes yes, ok perhaps I’m hedging my bets here with Girve lol)

Key Point: Simon Easterby UNDERSTANDS What Irish rugby stands for, how and why they play the way they do and has a proven track record as a player and most recently as a coach. The same “Ruthless Focus” he brought to bear as a player and coach will stand him up as a great coach for Leinster Rugby.

CONCLUSION:

OK, we can all conjecture and I’m sure there’s (once again) more out there who have a deeper insight to rugby, the ins n outs of IRFU, Leinster Rugby et al and I’m gladly waiting to see if not the Si n Girv combo, then who?? 

One thing is for certain, many of you don’t and won’t give MOC the opportunity though it’s probably out of your hands so hence attempting to look ahead at who would next be suitable?

Both these guys could be an excellent Head Coach for Leinster Rugby, but I believe together they maximise and exploit all aspects of the team play.

Just a thought my rugby playing and supporting friends. After some of the recent hostility towards matters at Leinster, let’s put our positive hats on and look head (Oh, for that one endearing person who will STILL say, “But what about now…MOC and others have to go. Perhaps, but that’s NOT what THIS particular post is about). Have a great Halloween all!


@bigjoeshep is the Owner and Head of Information & Knowledge Management atDigital Knowledge Zone.   An avid Leinster & Ireland Rugby fan, he came to rugby at the late age of 24, was a tight head prop, had at least 2 good runs in every game and retired at only 36 after 3 operations on his legs and now forms the 4th "virtual" person in a front row each time his beloved teams are playing (much to the annoyance of his suffering girlfriend who has to put up with being "embraced" by the Big Fella at each scrum!!!)

Well, what do you think?  You can send your answers on a postcard, or better still leave a comment!

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