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Friday, June 29, 2012
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© JL Pagano 2012
"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
© JL Pagano 2012
Thursday, June 28, 2012
© JL Pagano 2012
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
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.
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
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.
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.
© JL Pagano 2012
Monday, June 25, 2012
Sunday, June 24, 2012
Saturday, June 23, 2012
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
Friday, June 22, 2012
© JL Pagano 2012