Friday, August 27, 2010

Leicester Tigers-37 Leinster-14

Click here for my pre-match AudioBoo "Tigers, Tendons & Trinations".

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TIGERS TOO GRRRRRRRREAT

Maybe Richard Cockerill will relax his Twitter ban on his players so they can gloat about this result, given its 2009 Heineken Cup final payback nature?

Nah, I doubt it, for not only was it a mere pre-season fixture, as I said in my AudioBoo preview, the two great clubs took vastly different approaches from a selection standpoint. With no disrespect to our Academy players, in most positions on the park it really was men against boys.

With no broadcasting coverage of any description to be had, I can’t really comment on the outing, so for that you’ll have to consult either the Leicester website, or the Leinster one.

We can only hope that coach Schmidt has had enough time to get his ducks in a row when the competitive season kicks off next Friday in Glasgae.

MORE RUGBY, STAT!!!!

So maybe instead, with the pre-season coming to a close this weekend, I can comment on what could be a missed opportunity by the game’s power-that-be.

On July 31, the AVIVA Stadium opened its doors for the first time to rugby fans, and although only around 35,000 fans showed up, over 45,000 tickets had been sold.

I know it was an historic occasion and all, but let’s be clear….FORTY-FIVE THOUSAND people were interested in watching a meaningless rugby match at the end of July. What does that tell you?

It tells me that there’s an ever-growing rugby fan-base out there, and it’s one that is more than willing to watch top flight rugby during the month of August.

So while the IRFU continues to defend its decision to hike up the ticket prices for the new HQ, maybe they can also be looking at other more innovative ways of getting money out of our pockets, and tapping into this demand could be a start.

The English Premiership did just that with its JP Morgan 7s series, and in my book it was a brilliant idea. Not only did it give some competitive rugby to its clubs fringe players, it also had TV coverage for some vital revenue. I’m pretty sure we could find a way to do that here.

If we were to go the 7s route, maybe a Magners League series to mirror the English tournament could work, but I’d personally be more interested in keeping things Irish and letting the provincial Academy players return to their AIB League clubs and have nationwide heats before a finals day at the RDS or Thomond.

But even more attractive than that would be a revival of the Interprovincial Championship throughout the month of August, full 15-man rugby of course. I’m talking 3 weekends, straight round robin, with a trophy for the top team at the end of it, and as for the name of it allow me to throw “Willie John McBride Cup” out there.

You telling me those games wouldn’t take money at the turnstiles? You telling me a TV network wouldn’t throw in a few sheckles to cover them no matter how many star names didn’t feature?

I know provinces want a date free a week before the season starts to play a Premiership club but there would still be time to do this with a 3-weekend Inter-pro structure.

Of course next year we’ll have the pre-World Cup tests to occupy us during August, so the decision-makers have two years to come up with something to fill the void, and no doubt they will.

Just if they do, remember where you read it first ;-)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Leinster-6 London Wasps-41

Click here to listen to the pre-match HarpinBoo “Wasps, Women & Wonga” [Included in the AudioBoo recording is the result of the recent poll for ideal starting Leinster XV]

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Most ironic element of Leinster’s pre-season opening hiding at Donnybrook? The fact that Wasps exactly replicated the 41 points we put on them at the OarDeeEss in the Heineken Cup back in October ‘08 on our way to winning the trophy.

So I suppose, in some ways, you could call it a revenge of sorts…

But if you look at the two starting lineups you’ll see there could have been only one winner on the night.

Even with the return of Messrs Fitzgerald, O’Brien & Toner, our predominately-Academy XV was never going to be a match for the likes of Vickery, Betsen, Varndell & Houghton (seen touching down above). Basically we saw two squads at completely different levels of readiness for the new campaign and we can only hope coach Schmidt has enough time to get his boys in sync for the big kickoff in Glasgow on September 3.

The home side’s performance was everything a cynic would have expected from a Leinster team having just lost Kurt McQuilkin from the backroom…much like last season, we were unable to get anything going on the offensive side, only this time we were leaking tries as well.

IMG_0095[1] Still, I’m pretty sure there was plenty of video footage for the technician perched on a cherry picker filming behind the goal at the Bective end (see pic) to show the likes of Madigan, Sheridan & O’Malley over the coming week, and the whole thing has to be chalked up to experience.

There were a couple of injury worries in the props department with the sight of Stan Wright limping off becoming worrying familiar and Mike Ross also picking up a knock, hopefully both will be able to return soon. [Update...a couple of hours after writing this post I learned that Stan is probably out for the whole season. Disaster! Gutted for him, he's a Leinster cult hero.]

Also a tad disconcerting was Joe Schmidt’s admission in his post-game interview that “this year will be difficult”, but that’s probably a case of a blogger reading too much into a throwaway remark. It is, isn’t it?

Anyway, from a spectator’s standpoint, it was still great to get back to watching live rugby, even if the ticket price was steep (€30 for the stand at Donnybrook, compared to Glasgow Warriors who hosted Sale Sharks at Firhill the same night and only asked for £10).

Let’s just say it was enough to make me look forward to receiving my season ticket in the post during the week. The rugby season is here, folks!

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