Saturday, June 30, 2012

More on Leinster's new signing




click article to see in full

Friday, June 29, 2012

Ballyfermot Bears v Athboy Longhorns preview


Manager Conor Kelly believes that this will be the week that Ballyfermot Bears reverse a two-game losing streak and draw on the spirit that saw them pick up their first point earlier this month.

But Kelly is acutely aware of the challenge that faces his team as they welcome Athboy to Markievicz Park this Saturday.

“This weekend is a massive game for us as we need to improve on our performances against Clondalkin and Portarlington” Kelly said.

“Athboy will be flying high after beating the Dublin City Exiles two weeks ago so we will be looking to bring them back down to earth. We have been working hard in training and it's time to bring that into a game situation.”

“Our form at the start of the season needs to return if we want to finish off strongly. In particular our defence needs to front up against Athboy on Saturday.”

The Bears have a full complement of players to pick from, pending any late withdrawals, so hopes are high that this can be another memorable day for Ballyer.


Click here for the Rugby League Ireland website.

© JL Pagano 2012

Keego on Kidney & Kryptonite

Time to meet another new member of the HoR2 team - this time it's Keego, who will be following the rugby meeja, both mainstream and social, throughout the upcoming season.  Here he shares a few thoughts on the recent NZ tour.

Welcome to my first blog here on the HarpinOnRugby2. My name is Keego and I have finally graduated from chief toilet seat warmer /fluffer at HoR Manor to the heady heights of blogger.
 
I thought I would start with my opinion (right or wrong as they may be) on end of season tour to New Zealand. My views may surprise some readers, as I am not completely negative on the outcome of the tests. I will be talking about the 3 tests as a hole instead of dissecting each game, this is because of my bad memory and low word count allowance.
 
Before I get into it I would like to point out that I am not personally attacking anyone mentioned. To play for your country means you are an elite athlete in your chosen sport. The same goes for managing and coaching the team.
 
In saying that, let’s kick off.
 
Firstly, at any level of sport, the main aim of the coach is to play the players in the positions that they perform the best in. From my first match way back in the days of the beta max video tape until the most recent one, the coach has put me in my best position (usually in the car park). Looking at how the players lined up in New Zealand it was hard to miss that the players were not playing in the positions in which they have historically performed best. Fergus McFadden spends most of this time in the centre for Leinster and has performed consistently well at the highest level of European rugby, but in New Zealand he was played on the wing. Ferg played very well, but I can’t help but think that if he was put in the centre when Earls was injured there may have been more cohesion in test 3. When you make room for a player that means someone, in this case Andrew Trimble is on the sidelines when he has been one of our most consistent threats.
 
Speaking of Keith Earls, he appears to be suffering from ‘where do we put you’ syndrome. He has played full back, wing and centre for Ireland in the last 18 months. Instead of putting him in a given position and working with Munster to get him game time in the same position, Kidney has almost used him as a utility player. This is partly because of injuries, but for me, Earls just isn’t big enough to play in the centre. His explosive speed would be better suited out wide. Before someone says ‘he is the same size as BOD’ I would reply with the following:
 
THERE IS ONLY ONE BOD
 
Seeing as we all agree with this, I think he should have been asked or ordered to stay at home and rest. I understand that professional pride and captaining your country is a huge carrot to dangle, but rest and recuperation would surely have done him more good that being battered for 3 weeks? This is one of the greatest players ever to play the game and at this stage of his career he needs to be managed even more than previous years. He has to be protected from himself. Whilst he may be Superman, even he has his kryptonite. I was praying to all the gods that he didn’t walk away from the green jersey in his post match interview.
 
Now for some positives. Fitzpatrick performed amazingly well for a debut against the world champions. I think the AB’s thought they were going to steam roll him, but he more than held his own. Best had his best showing in a green jersey for a long time and Healy was smashing everything in game 1 and 2. It was the best front row performance I have seen in a very long time and the lads should be commended for that.
 
When Kidney brought on O’Gara to to replace Darcy (who also had a blinder) we became far more potent. The AB’s had no idea how to respond. Even in losing we finished very strongly and had a great platform for game 3.
 
Then it happened.
 
Game 3.
 
Cue the music from Jaws.
 
Paddy Wallace was flown half way around the world to start against the world champions. There was no way he was going to be able to perform at a high level. He already gets a hard time in the stands and now Kidney put him in a position that he could not possibly win. This was the first bad decision from the coach on the day. Instead of starting as the team finished in game 2, he decided to formulate a plan that included switch kicking to a 5’9 winger when he is up against someone who is 6’2. Even with my ordinary level maths, this does not compute.
 
This is before minute 4. We started with a plan that was destined to fail. Why was McFadden or Darren Cave put in the centre? They could have learnt a huge amount playing beside O’Driscoll against the best team in the world. This would have stood them in good stead for November and onwards. Instead now we have a team scarred by that last game.
 
In being negative I have to remember that we had injuries to deal with, and with the physical nature of rugby this will always be the case. There just didn’t appear to be a plan b, or at least a plan b that the team believed in. As well as injuries, the lads have been training (not necessarily playing) for 51 weeks. Even those of you who are lucky enough to be working get more days off that the lads got this season. They just cannot perform consistently when the workload is this high. It is not possible! The player management program is a great idea, but it needs tweaking a wee bit. The fact is, the human body cannot do what rugby players do 51 weeks in a row.
 
We can learn a huge amount from game 1 and 2. The front row stood up very well. The second row performed well. But the game plan was just not correct, especially in game 1.
 
In closing, I hope you enjoyed reading this blog. My views may be slightly simplistic but it is the simple things that win games. If you would like to debate or shout at me, my twitter is @nkeegan. If you would like to send me money ………leave it under the first seat on the 12:20 145 bus from town to Bray.
 
Get your jersey ready for a new season!  Keego


keego (@nkeegan): Newbie blogger, former professional wrestler, sometime attempted rugby player (@TheThirsty3rds), professional procrastinator and attempted musician with a fondness for long walks on the bar, tea and the couch. Opinionated Leinster fan and constant gardener.

© JL Pagano 2012

Connacht to show their skills



Event: Connacht Rugby & Volvo Ocean Race Skills Session
When: 15.30-17.00 Wednesday 4th July
Where: Volvo Ocean Race Global Village - South Park, Galway


Connacht Rugby have teamed up with the Volvo Ocean Race to host an interactive demonstration in the heart of next week's activities.


On Wednesday, members of the Connacht Rugby squad will take a break from their preseason training schedule to facilitate a skills and drills session at the Volvo Ocean Race Global Village at South Park in Galway.


Supporters of all ages will have the opportunity to learn from their heroes as Connacht Rugby players take them through a range of games and activities. The event promises to entertain and educate, and the players will be on hand to answer questions and sign autographs afterwards.


There will be plenty of giveaways and fans will have an opportunity to have a photograph taken with the prestigious Heineken Cup trophy, which will be in Galway celebrating the Volvo Ocean Race and Connacht's second season in the competition.


The event will start at 15.30 with the players arriving from the Sportsground to the Global Village on the Connacht Tour bus and there will be the chance to mingle with the players pitchside afterwards.

Connacht Rugby Team Manager Tim Allnutt is looking forward to the day saying:
"This a great chance for our players to interact with some of our younger supporters. It provides them with a fantastic opportunity to pass on some of their skills and knowledge in a fun and relaxed environment and it's a welcome break from the rigors of preseason training. We're delighted to play our part in making the Volvo Ocean Race a memorable occasion for everyone."



© JL Pagano 2012

Claremorris RFC introduction part 2

Roots & All will be back for the new season, this time with 4 clubs, one from each province.  Between now and September we will be gradually introducing them to you here on HoR2 and first up to tell us a bit about their history are Connacht's representatives. Click here to read Part 1.


Once the excitement of George Hook paying us a visit died down, next up was a visit from the Heineken cup trophy.

After of number of weeks nagging the Leinster branch they relented and let us have the trophy for the weekend. As per usual it was rainy Saturday morning on the pitch but that didn’t stop everyone enjoying themselves. The cup got passed from small hands to big and back again as everyone wanted to get their pictures taken with the famous trophy. The biggest concern some players had with it was why we couldn’t’ fill it with coke!

When training was over the cup got brought from house to house many locals wanted to get a snap with the trophy, I’d hate to imagine the amount of car boots the trophy was in over the course of the weekend.

The season rolled on and we did quite well in a number of Connacht blitz’s however a notable achievement was just around the corner.

It may have been Grand National day in England but the Claremorris Colts U10 team had their own race to run as they headed to An Cheathrú Rua for the Connemara cup and like the race across the water the outsider came out on top by the smallest of margins as U10’s won the first trophy in the history of Claremorris Colts RFC.

The final itself without doubt the tightest game of the day with both teams not giving an inch. It was clear both teams didn’t want to lose and as the game entered the final moments neither team could be separated but all that was about to change. After been camped on the An Ghealtacht line Kyle Leonard somehow spotted the smallest of gaps and wriggled his way over to win the cup for the Mayo men. The roar that greeted the final whistle must surely have been heard across the Atlantic Ocean as the cup was heading out of Galway for the first time. Each and every player and their coaches Eddie McLoughlin and Fergal Leonard can be very proud of the display of rugby that was produced on a historic day for the us. Next up a Connacht club award and some rugby legends.

Part 3 will post next Friday.


© JL Pagano 2012

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Connacht's Heineken Cup pool

John O'Sullivan wrote for Connemara RFC last season in the Roots&All project...now he'll be keeping us updated on Connacht's 2012/13 campaign.

Let us, just for a moment, cast our minds back to January 23rd, 2003. Connacht fans arranged a protest at the IRFU's headquarters to try and reverse the IRFU's prospective plan to shut down the Western province.

Now, in 2012, one would doubt that any of those fans, who marched passionately throughout the nation’s capital, would believe that their beloved Connacht would be playing Heineken Cup rugby in successive seasons. 

Despite the fact that both Connacht's Heineken Cup qualifications have come due to Leinster winning the very competition, attendances and participation in the province is blooming. In fact, last season, Connacht's season ticket sales raised a staggering 600% from the previous season. Before the beginning of last season’s Heineken Cup, Connacht were mooted as prospective whipping boys, but Harlequins, Toulouse and Gloucester will tell you a different story. Connacht performed admirably in a tight group; beating Quins in Galway, nearly winning away to both Quins and Gloucester and performing admirably home and away against European heavyweights Toulouse.


Next season’s draw is similarly difficult for Connacht. They will face new Italian franchise Zebre, French giants Biarritz, as well as renewing rivalries with Harlequins. Yet, Connacht will be confident of more shocks next season. Connacht will not fear Conor O’Shea’s side, nor will they fear Biarritz, particularly away from home where the French side’s record is flaky to say the least. Zebre should not be underestimated, but Connacht know that if they play to their potential they could dispose of the new Italian franchise.


On the back of an (all things considered) successful Heineken Cup campaign last season; Connacht have laid solid foundations for next seasons European assault. The signing of veteran fly half Dan Parks will, they hope, edge Connacht over the line in tight games. Jason Harris Wright, Nathan White and Willie Faloon should provide competition and quality in Connacht's pack; particularly Faloon, who is a rarity in Irish rugby: a natural 7.

The new additions should nicely benefit Connacht's young talented players, of which there are many. Indeed, youngsters Tiernan O'Halloran, Eoin Griffin and Eoin McKeown, all Galway men, will be hoping to get more exposure in next seasons Heineken Cup. The aforementioned trio, are exciting prospects and many fans are of the opinion that they will grace the green of Ireland, as well as that of Connacht.


Connacht have also entered, for the first time, the British and Irish Cup. The B&I Cup, as it’s also known, will provide much needed exposure and minutes for young players. Entry to the competition is a mark of how much Connacht have progressed in recent seasons.

So, with the new season on the horizon, I, as well as most Connacht fans, am confident of more progress out west.


I’m John O’Sullivan, 20. Part time student, full time sports nut. Crazily addicted to Liverpool F.C. My forte is obscure sporting facts. For example, not many people seem to know that Alfredo Di Stefano had an Irish grandmother. Love rugby and am currently the PRO of Connemara R.F.C. I also do some radio work for my local radio station. One day, I would love to be a Sports Journalist/Broadcaster. I would like to thank Jeff for giving me the chance to cover my beloved Connacht on ‘Harpin2’ Looking forward to a great season!


© JL Pagano 2012

Super Rugby Week 16 preview


Week 16 fixtures (all times Irish)

Friday, 29 June 2012
Highlanders v Chiefs, 08:35
Melbourne Rebels v Reds, 10:40
Saturday, 30 June 2012
Crusaders v Hurricanes, 08:35
Western Force v Brumbies, 10:40
Stormers v Lions, 16:05
Bulls v Cheetahs, 18:10

The three week break for the winter international tours is now over and it is time for Super Rugby again.  The finals are only three weeks away and there are nine teams still in contention for the final six finals spots.  There is not a round left that does not have two or three games in it the result of which will have a large bearing on who does and does not make the finals.
Round 16 starts in Dunedin at the Forsyth Barr Stadium where the competition front-runners, the Chiefs, take on the home side the Highlanders.  The hosts come off a big loss to the Crusaders just before the break however they come into this game sound in the knowledge that they have been in great form at home having won five from seven fixtures under the roof at Forsyth Barr.   The Chiefs are the team to beat in the competition and have been in excellent form since their round one loss at home to the Highlanders.  They will be looking to exact some measure of revenge here and welcome back all of their test stars for this fixture including Cruden.  Ultimately, this is a game where it is all to play for for the Highlanders: if they win they keep their final’s hopes alive but if they loose then they will need to rely on other results.  It is that desperation that leans me towards the Highlanders coming out on top in this game in a tight one:  Highlanders by 4.
In the second Friday night fixture, the Rebels host the Reds at AAMI Park.  The Rebels have played their best rugby at home this season and will be looking to be spoilers for the Reds final’s campaign in this fixture.  The Rebels’ faithful and vocal crowd will pack out AAMI Park in the hopes that they can farewell Mortlock, Huxley, Campbell and Lipman with a win in their last games in Rebels colors on home soil.  The Rebels will also be buoyed by the return of James O’Connor to the fly half jersey for this game against his, if twitter is any indication, good friend Quade Cooper.  The Reds face the reality of having lost their captain, James Horwill this week and have moved Wallace-Harrison into the starting lineup as cover.  They need to win all three matches they have remaining in the regular season to remain in contention for the finals and will rely upon their international 9, 10 and 12 combination (Genia, Cooper and Harris) for much of their drive and direction in coming weeks.  The Reds have too much to loose in this fixture and I see them winning but not doing enough to gain a bonus point:  Reds by 8.
The first of four games on Saturday comes from Christchurch Stadium with the Crusaders hostingHurricanes.  Leading into a bye this game could be vital for the finals hopes of the Hurricanes.  They have won four of their last five games and have been impressive for most of the season after many wrote them off early.  They are without Victor Vito who has a knee injury after being on All Blacks duty whilst Jack Lam has been bracketed with Karl Lowe as he recovers from a hamstring injury.  The Crusaders also are not without injury concerns arising from the international break with Cory Jane failing to overcome an ankle injury.  They punished the Highlanders in their last start and remain one of the class lineups in the competition.  The Crusaders need to win this game to remain in the running to best the Chiefs for the top spot in the New Zealand Conference (albeit an unlikely scenario).  I think the Crusaders will have too much class for the Hurricanes in this one and expect them to win this match but consider that it might be closer than many think:  Crusaders by 9.
The Brumbies travel across Nullabor to face the Force in the second all Australian conference match of the round.  The Force have been disappointing this year.  They have a quality forward pack that is littered with Wallabies including the retiring Nathan Sharpe and the best flanker in the game (if you listen to Robbie Deans) in David Pocock.  Yet despite the fact that they are regularly competitive and sometimes dominant through their forward, the lack of penetration in the backs has seen them only win three games this season.  This is their last home game of the season and the sky blue army will be looking for a win for Sharpe to see him into retirement.  The Brumbies continue to prove the critics wrong and have won four of their last five games (with that loss being by one point to the Reds).  In Zack Holmes they look to have found a star of the future and they will continue to rely upon their mix of youth and experience as they run up to the finals.  A win here probably clinches the top spot in the Australian conference for the Brumbies considering their run home after this and I expect them to keep up their excellent form with a comfortable win in this fixture:   Brumbies by 12.
Attention then turns to the South African conference with two games that look, frankly to be a bit one sided.  Leading off in Cape Town, the Stormers host the Lions.  Despite a last start win against the Sharks, the Lions are in disarray with their coach, John Mitchell, suspended for the rest of the season during the international break.  They have been beset by injuries this season and now are going through what seems to be a player insurrection.  The Stormers, conversely, have just gone about their business each week in this competition and, bizarrely, have stayed largely under the radar despite being the a winning team in the competition along with the Chiefs.  They don’t score points, everyone knows that, but they do know how to win.   The Stormers’ players will also be out to prove the coach of their national team wrong as well with many considering some of the non-selections of Stormers for international duty to be strange in the extreme.  I can not see the Lions troubling the Stormers at Newlands and, given their easy run home, they can tie up a home final here with a bonus point win which I think they will get:  Stormers by 19.
The final much of the round comes to us from Loftus Versfeld where the Cheetahs visit the suddenly out of form Bulls.  Three losses from their last three starts sees the Bulls teetering on the brink of dropping out of the top six if they lose this fixture.  They welcome the return of all of their Springbok representatives including Zane Kirchner who was injured in the first test against England in the winter series.  The Cheetahs are the entertainers of the competition however their knack of losing close games has cruelled any prospect of them competing for a finals berth as they have lost six matches this year by seven points or less.  The most significant contributor to those losses has been ill discipline and they cannot afford to continue this trend against Morne Steyn.  The last time these to two teams faced off, the Bulls thumped the Cheetah by 32 points and whilst I don’t expect the margin to be as much of a blow out I do expect the Bulls to return to the winners circle in this fixture:  Bulls by 15
The Sharks, Waratahs and Blues have the bye this week.
Match of the Round: As has oft been the case this season the first match of the round presents as the pick of the fixtures.  The Highlanders with much to play for facing the leading Chiefs is a mouth watering proposition. 

Steve (aka @shumpty77 on twitter) is sports tragic and is particularly fanatical about rugby and cricket. A proud Reds member, Steve is also a fan of Wallabies as well as the Welsh team (when they are not playing the Wallabies). When not following rugby, cricket and all other sports, Steve is an account director at an accounting firm.

© JL Pagano 2012

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Stade and Racing tremble at the sight of …Cill Dara RFC!

DIARY OF A YOUTH COACH by Robbie Doyle - Part 2 (click here for Part 1)


After a 3a.m. (yes…A.M.) departure from the club, the touring party of 36 children and 18 adults arrived in Paris and made it through passport control without any fuss. This was the big worry when you have to escort other people’s kids out of the country. Outside Charles de Gaulle Terminal 1, we had the first of a multitude of head counts that took place over the weekend.

As this is a rugby blog, I hope I’m not being either too brief or too disparaging to the French by quickly summarising our non-rugby activities as follows: Eiffel Tower; head count; restaurant; head count; Versailles; head count; EuroDisney; head count, and so on and so forth. You get the picture… Priority number one was to bring everybody back in one piece. Losing a child at Lansdowne Road is one thing but an absent player in Paris would be a nightmare. Thankfully, it didn’t happen.
Interspersed between the non-rugby activities were some wonderful moments of hospitality at the host club, CA Orsay Rugby. They are wonderful rugby people who really appreciated the effort made by us to get there. They gave the Kildare boys a chance to taste French cuisine and, while initially there was a longing for chips with everything, curiosity and hunger prompted them to try the pâté, salads, baguettes, duck, Toulouse sausages and, for the brave ones, escargots. Somehow, I can’t see the last one catching on a post-match meal in Cill Dara!
And so to the tournament...
Although there were 80 teams competing at different age groups over the two day festival, the under-13 event had 17 teams broken into four groups and was an all-day event beginning at 10 a.m. and carrying on until late afternoon. The French call their U13 grade, “Benjamins”, but I’ve no idea why. Never thought to ask either.
We entered two teams in the competition with one being the perceived stronger of the other. This was the cause of much debate among the coaches as it likely does in every club. When competitive rugby kicks in, the cruelty of assigning players to A and B teams comes into focus. We are blessed with a large squad but can only put 15 players on the pitch at any one time. Players are understandably disappointed, especially just after coming through the non-competitive, mini rugby ranks. It’s a big discussion point and I’ll come back to it again.
So, with two Irish teams registeredalong with fifteen French teams, the format was decided by the organisers. Matches were to be 9 minutes in duration on half a standard pitch. Five-person scrums were non-competitive with the remaining six players lining up in the backs (it was very much like the U11/U12 laws we employ here).
When we had a chance to look at the draw for the group stage, two names hopped off the page - Stade Francais and Racing Club de Paris. This is without even mentioning the regular winners and tournament favourites, RC Massy Essonne.Gulp…We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.
The first of the Cill Dara teams found the going tough and were unfortunate to draw Massy in their group. Nonetheless they played with great heart and determination in every game which would later prompt the tournament organisers to choose them from among the 80 teams present for the competition’s coveted ‘Fair Play Trophy.’ Having lost more than they won, their heads were down at the end of the day but it’s amazing how the award of a trophy can change a group’s dynamic. It was a relief for us coaches too as we didn’t want any child going home with unhappy memories of such a unique rugby experience.

The other Cill Dara team performed really well and came through their group as the top second-placed team in the tournament, having lost only to the mighty Racing. This qualified them for the quarter final of the competition’s top tier and a crack at the so-far unbeaten, R.C.P.XV. The Kildare boys raised their game to a new level and won by a single try. This was apparently a huge shock judging by how the losing French coach gathered his distraught players in a circle and admonished them for losing to an Irish team on French soil. It was bizarre and a little unsettling to watch 12 and 13 year-olds get up from a coach’s talk in tears. Thankfully not a sight I’ve ever seen in Ireland, nor hope to.

A semi-final against “that” Massy team was next. The skill level displayed by the French boys in the semi was breathtaking and belied their U13 status. Passing moves that straddled the length of the pitch. Ball moved around like it was a hot potato. Despite keeping the score to 0-0 until the final three minutes, bravery and tenacious defence was not enough and Massy scored two late tries to gain a place in the final against Racing.

These two finalists were a step above anything I’ve seen at our grade in Leinster but something that we could easily aspire to. The match ended in a draw and the winner’s trophy was shared.

The day was not over for Cill Dara however as we now faced the host club, CA Orsay, in the 3rd/4thplay-off in front of a partisan crowd. Despite conceding the first score, the Irish boys fought back and scored two fantastic tries, including one that had French flair written all over it. The sound of the final whistle prompted an Irish pitch invasion and generous applause from the French spectators in the stand.

So the Cill Dara RFC Under-13’s came home from the Orsay Tour with a bagful of wonderful memories and two French trophies to add to the Under-13 Leinster Plate they won in May. More importantly, they proudly represented their club, their province and their country with distinction. Let’s hope the bonds form as a squad carries on into next season. We do lose some of our players to rugby-playing schools in September but more about the pros and cons of that particular rule in my next post…(part 3 next Wednesday)

Robbie Doyle is the head coach of the Cill Dara RFC under-13 squad. An ex-player with Bective and Co. Carlow, Robert refereed for ten years in Leinster, three of which were spent on the IRFU Referees Panel. Now coaching youths and minis in his local club, Robert hopes to continue in the game as a coach, progressing as far as possible. He is also a freelance historical writer in his spare, spare time.

© JL Pagano 2012

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Leinster Juniors Interpros 2012


© JL Pagano 2012

Claremorris RFC introduction part 1

Roots & All will be back for the new season, this time with 4 clubs, one from each province.  Between now and September we will be gradually introducing them to you here on HoR2 and first up to tell us a bit about their history are Connacht's representatives.


It may be the off season but like most clubs that does not mean we can take things easy, in fact we are probably busier now than at some points throughout the season. Having recently acquired 5 acres of land we are in the process of putting together a fund raising plan to get the land playable so Claremorris Colts will have a home to call their own.

Claremorris Colts RFC was formed in 2009. With no pitch of our own we use a local school GAA pitch for our mini rugby training sessions on Saturday mornings and a neighbouring club to hold all our Youth ‘Home’ rugby games. After an initial membership of 80 players the season gone bye saw our membership grow to over 200 registered players of boys and girls from U7 to U16. With increasing numbers brought increasing challenges however it also turned out to be our most successful season to date.

We started September 2011 with a fantastic boost. Elvery’s Sport ran a nationwide campaign to find a club who were Ireland’s greatest supporters and it turns out they liked our entry so much we won the prize of a trip to Aviva stadium to watch the Ireland team train and meet them afterwards before they went to the rugby world cup in New Zealand.

So the day arrived when 34 excited players and 6 even more excited coached boarded the bus and hit for the Aviva stadium. A cheer of delight rose up from the players as the bus pulled up in front of the stadium and there was a scramble for the door as each and every club member tried to be the first to alight. But there was no rush, we had arrived at our destination in plenty of time and got to check out the Aviva Stadium before training began.

It turned out to a truly magical day we got to see the Irish boys go through a full blown contact session with Declan Kidney always in the back ground observing his charges. Once training was over our lads started to get very giddy as they knew meeting the players was only minutes. Players such as Tommy Bowe, Cian Healy, Jamie Heaslip, Sean O’Brien and many more mingled among our red jersey and were happy to chat and pose for photos with us all. It was without doubt a fantastic day for all and it was an unbelievable start to our season.

Next up for us was date with well know rugby pundit and all round nice guy George Hook. George agreed to conduct a coaching session with our mini rugby players on the day before the World cup final. This was a fantastic boost for us as our lads had seen him on TV for the last month analysing all that was good and bad about the 2011 world cup. To get him down to us the day before the final was unbelievable for us. It also meant George had an early start the following morning as he had to leave Claremorris at 4am to ensure he back in Donnybrook and ready to go for RTE by 8.30am.

The coaching session was thoroughly enjoyable with George having a word for all the age groups. Whether it was the U7’s or the U12 it didn’t matter as he engaged with all players and he left a lasting impression with all players, parents and coaches. Without doubt he will be welcomed back any time by the people of Claremorris. 

Next up is the Heineken Cup, our first trophy and a club award.




© JL Pagano 2012

Kiwi Consolation

The following is a comment left by a chap called "Graeme" on the main blog after my writeup of the recent 3rd Test between New Zealand and Ireland.


As a Kiwi looking on from the city of Christchurch I'd like to say that I think Irish rugby is in a good spot for the future. In the first test your boys came out and looked surprisingly (for us NZer's) sharp. Ball movement was quick and the attack looked positive. Sonny-Bill Williams was nullified (in the both of the first two tests), and despite the scoreline in the first and last games, I thought your team looked excellent. The difference in the first test was Israel Dagg's willingness to run to the line, and the outside defenders being guilty of hanging off him. 
That allowed Dagg and his support runners the space and time to confuse the defence. Something he's excellent at. In the second test the backline cut down his time, and he also made the error of looking to Guildford to create attacking chances with his ridiculous (that coming from a Crusaders supporter) headless chicken style of running sideways in the hopes of creating something purely by accident. The skill and strength of the Irish pack was a highlight for me. Unfortunately they couldn't get the win in that match and the All Blacks had adjusted accordingly by bringing in the power of Romano and using Retallick off the bench to ensure no more weak spots such like when Ali Williams entered the fray in game two. 
Kearney's sin bin was a stupid call, but Ireland was also unlucky in that they had to face Cruden, who is possibly the staunchest player in New Zealand rugby right now, as well as being the best first five-eighth in the super XV (Carter's form has only just come back after a short season). He's been clinical in his play this year and the Irish were on the end of a lot of pent up energy. 
Well done to you and your squad none the less. 

© JL Pagano 2012

Sunday, June 24, 2012

HoR2 weekly wrap-up

Next season this HoR2 blog will feature a host of regular writers, doing exactly what the tagline above says, writing about everything to do with rugby from grass roots to the World Cup.

Every Sunday morning this "wrap-up" post will remind you of the posts from the previous week as well as previewing some of what you'll see the next seven days.

The blog is only getting off the ground, so over the past week there were only a few posts to choose from...

We introduced our Munster writer for next season; Trevor Murphy kicked off with a look at their Heineken Cup pool > http://harpin2.blogspot.ie/2012/06/munsters-heineken-cup-pool.html

Our Super Rugby writer Stephen Humphreys has been keeping his writing sharp while the competition takes a break, here he looked forward to the 3rd test in Sydney > http://harpin2.blogspot.ie/2012/06/wallabies-side-to-play-wales-named-i-am.html

Another new writer to introduce himself was Robbie Doyle with the first instalment from his "Diary of a Youth Coach" > http://harpin2.blogspot.ie/2012/06/france-by-hook-or-by-crook.html

And last but not least we had news of a great "scrum clinic" to be held at Claremorris RFC on July 13...a must for all coaches who can make it on the day > http://harpin2.blogspot.ie/2012/06/claremorris-rfc-scrum-clinic-family-day.html

Next week will be another quiet one compared to how next season will be here on HoR2, but there will still be some quality content...part two of Diary of a Youth Coach and a brief history of Claremorris RFC to name just a couple.

Keep tabs on HarpinOnRugby via Twitter, Facebook & Google+ to see when it all gets posted! JLP

© JL Pagano 2012

Saturday, June 23, 2012

NEW ZEALAND-60 IRELAND-0

NZ 3rd test

A JOLLY GOOD CANING

I'm no mind-reader but after a weekend where it rained on and off in Ireland, patrons of a particular bank were denied their wages for a few days, and the quarter-finals of the Euros were taking place with the noticeable absence of Trapattoni's men, I'd wager the last thing Irish rugby fans need on a Monday morning is a blow-by-blow account of The Hamilton Horror Show.

When it comes to re-living the action itself, let me just give these two examples which pretty much sums it all up....when the ball hits Rob Kearney's arm and goes forward, it falls to the ground and he gets sent to the bin. When the same thing happens to the next flanker off the All Black assembly line Sam Cane, it falls into his grateful arms and hey, guess what, he's already over the try line so all he has to do is fall over for yet another five points.

There's no sugar-coating it, folks, this was a demolition. We poked the bear the previous week and the World Champions responded in not-so-kind. There may be mitigating circumstances; the fact that this was one test too many for a squad of players that had been going at it for almost an entire calendar year being utmost among them, but any defence you'd try to make for the lads would be as weak as the one that shipped sixty points, so this blogger certainly won't be harping on in that vein today.

All that we really can do is see where Irish rugby stands as the 2011/12 campaign finally draws to a close.

Of course just below test level, everything is rosy for now, and we have known that for a few weeks now. Even those pesky Ospreys pinching the Pro12 title at the RDS couldn't dampen a season that had something significant for all four Irish provinces.

But for the national team, things are anything but rosy. And forget about comparing us to the southern hemisphere, the season gets put in perspective when you look at the fortunes of the other Six Nations members for the past twelve months.

Of course Wales have set the standard this season having won the Grand Slam and gotten within a point of a World Cup final once and breaking their Aussie hoodoo twice. England picked themselves up and dusted themselves off after all the ferry-jumping and dwarf-throwing; with a new coaching ticket they won four out of five in the Six Nations and were the only ones to nick a result from their 3-test series with the SANZAR nations.

The Italians will always have their wooden-spoon avoidance to cling to and even the team that ended up with it Scotland can find comfort in victory over the Wallabies and an unbeaten June. If any of our northern hemisphere “top tier” bed-fellows can feel down it's the French, but even they came within a point of the World Championship and rounded off their tour with a thumping of Argentina.

As for Ireland, we played 17 matches this season and put in only 3 top-notch performances. To make matters worse, of those three, against Australia, France and New Zealand, not only were none of them at home, only one ended in actual victory.

That makes for grim reading whatever way you look at it, folks.

I actually missed watching the Third Test live as I had a day-long class in a course I'm taking, and when we broke for lunch and I checked my phone, one stat surprised me more than the scoreline, and that was the amount of comments on my Facebook page in response to the match.

Normally on a good day the discussion thread will go to about 30 or so comments...this one was already well over 80, and the theme, not surprisingly, was Declan Kidney's tenure as Irish coach. Here's my chance to chuck in my few thoughts...

Can we heap the blame on him for this season? I believe so – I mean, where else should the buck stop? Besides, I have spent the last ten months analysing individual players...it's time for the men up in the booth to fall under the spotlight.

And remember...twelve months ago I was the very one trying to hold up a defence for him as the pressure was already mounting. Wait until we play the Wallabies at RWC2011, I said. Since the Grand Slam hoodoo was broken, this was all that really matters, I said.

But then something happened. On July 22, 2011, Kidney gets handed a new contract. After all the consternation over what happened after Eddie O'Sullivan four years earlier, the IRFU unbelievably go down the exact same road.

Yet I still stuck to my guns. This may make little sense to me, but hey...we must still let him be judged by how he does in Pool C, I said.

And sure enough, albeit with the help of a significant injury or two on their part, the Wallabies succumb to our choke tackles in Eden Park, and everything looks hunky dory once more. Vindication for everyone all round, right?

Pity Warren Gatland had other ideas. He and his Polish-training-camp-hardened squad waited in the long grass and did us over in the quarterfinals, and we played like a team that had put all its eggs into the Wallaby basket and ended up fried, scrambled and poached all at once by the Welsh in Wellington.

But hang on, we got a second crack at them to start the Six Nations...plus it was perfect chance to start our countdown to the 2015 World Cup by trying some new players, so we had every opportunity to redeem ourselves, I said.

The moment I heard Kidney read out the opening lineup for that match I stopped saying such things.

Barring injuries, it was the exact same XV from Wellington. And say what you like about tip-tackles, the lasting memory from that match will be the way the Welsh were allowed to march back down the field with nary a glove laid on them.

If we must heap blame on the coaching staff, I say let it be for our glaring lack of preparation for those two contests with our Celtic cousins, not last Saturday's result.

Does this mean Kidney should go now? Well, gun to my head, I'd say yes. But will he? No gun required, the answer is no. Yet by persevering with him in the role, I believe the IRFU have created a bit of a dilemma for themselves.

We all know that the biggest criticism of Declan Kidney has been his conservative selection policy. After a disastrous season he now has but two full matches, against the Springboks and Pumas, before the next Six Nations, so even if he does decide to dip into the plentiful well that is our impressive Under 20s squad, he has precious little time to introduce them into the full team.

And on the subject of the “Wolfpuppies”...I find it interesting that when it comes to the failures of the national set-up blame is being placed at the coach's door while all the plaudits surrounding the team that deserved a much higher finish than 5th in South Africa seem to be centred around the players?

Sure, in JJ Hanrahan, Iain Henderson & co we have a promising crop of youngsters, but what about the other Grand Slam winning coach in the IRFU's employ that has been at the helm for the past couple of years?

It's like Kidney's tenure as Irish national coach has been haunted at every turn by successful coaches of Wales...and while in Gatland's case he held the Irish reins in the past, I'm wondering if Mike Ruddock is a name for our future? He surely deserves mention every bit as much as the likes of Joe Schmidt and Conor O'Shea, and given the “mother ship” history of head coach appointments, he must certainly be a candidate.

But that's all ahead of us. I'll be very surprised if any changes are made to the Irish coaching ticket before next spring, and unless Declan Kidney experiences a "Pauline conversion" in his approach to the game before then, for the time being I'd much rather focus on Euro2012, Wimbledon or even the Olympics than wonder how our national side will fare.

And it doesn't help to know that over the past few weeks the All Blacks have successfully introduced the likes of Aaron Smith and Sam Cane to the top table either.

So here I bring my season of writeups to a close. If you've read down this far, chances are you're been following my contributions throughout the campaign, and I thank you for that. Sorry for the doom and gloom this week surrounding next season...but if it's any consolation I expect much more from the provinces!

I'll be taking an extended break from the writing myself, but the new blog HarpinOnRugby2 is up and running with contributions from all corners of the ruggersphere so by all means stay tuned and sure I'm never far away from the Twitter or Facebook either so I'm bound to have a thing or two to say there as well.

In the meantime, have a great summer folks (such as it is here in Ireland!) and I'll see you again in September! JLP

Also this weekend

France Under-20s 7 - 18 Ireland Under-20s

Samoa 16 - 17 Scotland

Australia 20 - 19 Wales

South Africa 14 - 14 England

Argentina 10 - 49 France

Friday, June 22, 2012

New Zealand v Ireland 3rd Test preview

Here is my preview for SportsNews Ireland.  Once it goes up there, I will remove it from here and provide a link.




© JL Pagano 2012

Claremorris RFC events next weekend

Newstalk Radio's "The Right Hook" will be broadcasting from the McWilliam Park Hotel in Claremorris this weekend in support of a weekend of events in aide of the Claremorris RFC pitch fund. George Hook, Jim Glennon and Gavin Duffy will be there on Friday night after the show for a jersey launch, Roly Meates will be down as well for a scrum clinic on the Saturday which has attracted over 60 coaches so far. Connacht’s club of the year are on a roll.






Click photos for a better look

© JL Pagano 2012

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Wallabies side to play Wales named: I am scratching my head

Stephen Humphreys (aka @shumpty77) has been previewing Super Rugby for HoR2 this season...here he's a tad confused about Robbie Deans' latest test selection.


Here is the Wallabies side named to play Wales this Saturday in an afternoon fixture at the Sydney Football Stadium:
15. Kurtley Beale
14. Adam Ashley-Cooper

13. Rob Horne

12. Pat McCabe

11. Digby Ioane

10. Berrick Barnes

9. Will Genia
8. Wycliff Palu
7. David Pocock
6. Scott Higginbotham
5. Nathan Sharpe
4. Sitaleki Timani
3. Sekope Kepu
2. Tatafu Polota Nau
1. Benn Robinson

Reserves
16. Stephen Moore
17. Ben Alexander

18. Dave Dennis

19. Michael Hooper

20. Rob Simmons

21. Nic White

22. Anthony Faingaa

The return of Kurtley Beale is a welcome one.  That said I am scratching my head at two other changes to the team and one of the continued selections:
  1. In moving Rob Simmons to the bench, the Wallabies have demoted one of the most consistent performers in their forward pack from the last two test matches.  I do not know what is gained by demoting the guy for a replacement who does not bring anything additional to the table in terms of skills or presence around the field.  Equally, keeping Simmons on the bench is a bit perplexing when Dave Dennis can play both at lock and in the back row.  This move makes the team look a bit “forward heavy” on the reserves bench for mine.
  2. I can not understand why you would drop Mike Harris off the bench for an afternoon game when your first choice fly half has already been struggling with cramp? As simplistic at this sounds, if Barnes were to be incapacitated again I would have thought the security of having Harris on the bench would be comforting.  I concede that if Barnes goes off the obvious move is Beale to fly half, Ashley-Cooper to full back and Faingaa onto the wing however I am not sure I would keen to put Beale under that sort of pressure in his first game back after injury.
  3. Palu has been more of a liability than a positive in this test series and looks seriously short of a gallop for mine.  I can not understand why the Wallabies brains trust would not switch Higginbotham to number 8 and give Michael Hooper a start at number 6 and send Palu off for some fitness work before the Super 15 season restarts.  
Finally, to state the obvious the Waratahs are disproportionately represented in the team with 8 representatives which continues to show that Super 15 form seems to count for nothing.  Equally I am not all that displeased that the two contending teams in the Australian Super 15 conference (Reds and Brumbies) are not as at risk as they might have been to injury for the final 3 rounds of that competition as they would have been if form was a selection criteria.
Selection imbroglios aside, it will be a fascinating third test on Saturday.
Steve is sports tragic and is particularly fanatical about rugby and cricket. A proud Reds member, Steve is also a fan of Wallabies as well as the Welsh team (when they are not playing the Wallabies). When not following rugby, cricket and all other sports, Steve is an account director at an accounting firm.

© JL Pagano 2012

Wolfpuppies team v France

Whatever happens this Friday at Newlands, this will be Ireland's best-ever finish at the Junior World Championship.  

But 5th is always better than 6th, and no doubt the French have revenge on their minds from their U20s Six Nations defeat in Grenoble last February.

Once again TG4 have pulled out the stops to bring this match to you live...whatever you say about the language, it has to be said their coverage of this tournament has been excellent...when Ireland wasn't playing the Baby Boks or the Baby Blacks, Sky certainly didn't want to know, so top marks to TG4 for stepping up.

Here's Mike Ruddock's starting lineup for Friday lunchtime...gwan the Wolfpuppies!!!


© JL Pagano 2012

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