Friday, August 31, 2012

Keego on Concussion & Concussion

This week Keego addresses an issue it seems the IRB is finally taking seriously…

Welcome to number 10. It is getting beyond a joke at this stage isn’t it?

Thanks again for reading last week. Enjoyed some twitter banter with a few readers.

Concussion, from the Latin concutere ("to shake violently") or the Latin concussus ("action of striking together"), is the most common type of traumatic brain injury. The terms mild brain injury, mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), mild head injury (MHI), minor head trauma, and concussion may be used interchangeably, although the last is often treated as a narrower category.[ The term "concussion" has been used for centuries and is still commonly used in sports medicine, while "MTBI" is a technical term used more commonly nowadays in general medical contexts. Frequently defined as a head injury with a temporary loss of brain function, concussion can cause a variety of physical, cognitive, and emotional symptoms.

After being knocked in the head a few too many times (mainly due to a huge cranium and slow motor skills), I was ecstatic to read about the ‘concussion bin’ being tried out this coming season. The hits are getting harder and the players have not been taken care of enough to justify the damage.

When I had my last concussion (I am sitting on 7 concussions so far, hopefully no more), the doc explained it to me by saying imagine a pint glass near full of water, put an egg in the glass. The water absorbs a lot of the impact when you shake the glass lightly, when you shake it harder the water can’t do its job and the egg hits the glass. This is a simple explanation of what a concussion is.

We have all seen a concussion whether it be live in the stadium or on TV. The worst one I saw live was when Jimmy Heaslip ran down ROG like a train in the night………….like a train in the night!! Watching the reply of that and seeing his head bounce off the hallowed rds turf was equal parts worrying and enjoyable to watch. In fairness to O’Gara, he got up and stayed on the pitch. The Munster medical team tried to drag him off the pitch but he wouldn’t budge. That and many other hits like it must have a horrible affect on the brain (a Munster brain at that, it has half the power of a Leinster brain. We all know this as fact ;)). At every level of the game the head takes far too much abuse. We have spoken about how player safety should be higher on the list of important things, and I think that this is a huge step in the right direction.

Concussion is a problem in sport and needs to be addressed. Moving away from legitimate sport for a second, in professional wrestling it is a huge problem. If you read about Chris Benoit and his murdering of his family followed by taking his own life in 2007. I bring this up because a sample of his brain was taken for further study post autopsy, and they found that he had the brain of a 70 year old man. This was caused primarily (but not entirely) by concussions and not letting the brain heal. Wrestlers and rugby players are very similar (let me finish….). They are both very stubborn and play through more pain barriers than most people can handle. In doing so they are killing themselves, or at least their brain cells.

I think this concussion bin is a huge step forward. Although calling it a bin is a bit strange isn’t it? I put rubbish in the bin, things I don’t need or things I am hiding from the wife. I don’t put rugby players in it. Although on a night out I do think I threw a member of the team in a bin, another story for another over 18s blog.

I thought I would finish this week with a ‘things Keego has learnt this week’ note……this week I learnt that mid week madness in town is NOT a good idea. Russian beer is a great idea on the weekends, but a horrible idea for a Wednesday night. As the CCTV footage will attest…

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.

Rugby bets of the week

Throughout the season the lads at DropKickRugby.com will be sharing some insights with us on the best bets out there in the rugby market.

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This weekend gives us nineteen games to get our teeth stuck into, with all three European Pro leagues entering full swing. It’s a risky time to be a Rugby punter. So often pre-season form can be misleading, but what do we do when there’s no pre-season form at all? There’s a lot of opportunity this weekend but we’re keeping things sensible for the most part.

There’s general agreement on the forum that, going on last season’s form, Glasgow are a decent punt against Ulster with a generous handicap. Looking at the other Rabo games, Leinster could slip up if Scarlets name a first team to take advantage of Leinster’s iffy opening round form. One of our main punts of the week comes in the shape of a Toulouse side that look dangerously underrated by the bookies. With a home win by a point against Castres that was controlled if somewhat contrived (despite looking like they scraped it) and a stuttering win against TOP14 promotees Mont-de-Marsan, the bookies have decided that they merit a start of two or three points away at Biarritz.

In the opening round, Biarritz pulled a try bonus point win from the flames, after a characteristic defensive slip five minutes from time versus Mont-de Marsan let in a try versus fourteen men. It took a Biarritz try on the hooter to take them out to the three try gap required to secure a bonus point in France. Last week they beat a dire Agen side away from home, and while the victory deserved merit, it’s hard to see where the bookies are pulling this handicap from, unless they’re looking at Agen’s home form last year as a telling factor. It isn’t – that was a different Agen side beaten at home last week compared to last year.

Based on Toulouse having one of the best squads in Europe, and being well able to beat a Biarritz side without Yachvilli and Harin-a-dorkey (as the legend Donal Lenihan is fond of saying), we’re firmly on the Toulouse +2/3 at 10/11 this weekend at Dropkickrugby.com.

Best of luck.

Click here to visit Dropkickrugby.com

Got an opinion on this weekend's games? Be sure to join our new rugby betting community at dropkickrugby.com/forum

Lions Selector Panel : Preseason selection 4

Over the coming season, our Lions Selector Panellists will be taking turns to pick their ideal Lions 2013 starting XV so we can see how they evolve based on form throughout the campaign.  This week, it’s the turn of our Irish panellist Mark Jackson. 

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Welcome to the first Lions Departure Lounge. This first selection will be based on the summer tours just completed by the home nations, split into 3 categories. First Class (Test XV), Economy (Reserves/Midweek) and the Standby group. Lions tours and the selection process give birth to an enormous amount of debate, nationalistic tendencies and favouritism are higher than at any other time , and why not it’s a hell of a lot of fun for rugby fans the world over. In the monthly blog I will base my decisions on form and so many changes will be evident from now till May. So as in previous weeks let the debates begin

15. First Class - Leigh Halfpenny . Excellent series versus next year’s opponents. Counter Attacks well , safe under the high ball and sound goal kicker too . Rob Kearney just misses out on a sub par NZ tour but this position is one of closest to call , and no doubt will change a few times . Economy – Rob Kearney. Standby- Stuart Hogg

14. First Class – Alex Cuthbert. Another to shine on tour and one who continues on from his form in Six Nations. Economy- Tommy Bowe , fully fit and on form still for me the best winger in the Lions selection , interesting to see how his move home goes . Standby-Chris Ashton

13. First Class -  Brian O’Driscoll. Still the yardstick, workrate unquestioned , searing pace no longer there but he has one more Lions tour in him , where he always excels. Economy- Scott Williams. Standby-Jonathan Joseph

12. First Class - Jonathan Davies. Good summer and 6 nations . Only picked him as Jamie Roberts isn’t fully fit but can cover both centre positions and have a feeling will be a vital member of squad. Economy- Jamie Roberts . Standby- Manu Tuilagi

11. First Class - George North . Like his wing partner good summer tour but is a marked man and one feels must improve certain aspects of his game but the Aussies will fear him and with class around him will be a force on tour . Economy – Ben Foden. Standby- Keith Earls

10. First Class - Jonny Sexton. For me miles ahead of the rest of the available 10s. Strong in defence, gets backlines moving better than others too , kicking from hand and from tee still to improve but still a cut above . Economy – Rhys Priestland, struggled a bit on tour but still improving. Standby- Dan Biggar –potential bolter , excellent season for Ospreys much better than Farrell .

9. First Class – Mike Phillips. Aggressive at the base brings forwards into game , needs to get pass away quicker but consensus choice I feel. Economy/Standby- Danny Care/Eoin Reddan/Ben Youngs Any number of scrumhalves will put their names forward , I would personally still like to see Dwayne Peel tour , still has best pure scrum half skills of any home nations player in that position .

8. First Class - Sean O’Brien. It’s my selection and I’ll cry if I want to , out of position?? Some might argue. With the selections either side of him would allow SOB to run amok down under. Economy – Dave Denton. Standby- Toby Falatau

7. First Class - Sam Warburton (Capt). Let’s hope his ailments heal up , this guy is a gem . Workrate is phenomenal, also my choice as skipper. Economy – Ross Rennie . Standby- Chris Robshaw

6. First Class - Stephen Ferris. I know he didn’t tour in the summer and weren’t Ireland the worse for it. Injury prone yes but an absolute beast of a player and when ready to play one who opponents really don’t want to see on the teamsheet. Just pips Lydiate for ball wrecking ability both in hand and defence. Economy – Dan Lydiate. Standby- Tom Johnson

5. First Class – Ian Evans. Resurgence last season for the big Ospreys Lock. POC will probably commandeer the Test jersey when fit but his injuries have been worrying . Economy- Paul O’Connell. Standby- Courtney Lawes

4. First Class - Richie Gray . At 6’10 and 20 stone he is certainly fleet of foot and allied with good ball skills and carrying is a sight to behold , an improvement in his rucking and mauling could turn him into a potential Lions legend . Economy – Luke Charteris. Standby - Ryan Jones

3. First Class - Adam Jones. Tackle count is lessening as the age creeps up but still the most consistent tight head scrummager, still an area of Aussie weakness. Economy – Dan Cole . Standby – Mike Ross

2. First Class – Rory Best . For me one of the most improved players in past few seasons . In all honesty never thought I would pick him for any club 3rds XV when he came on the scene but now a vital player for province and country . Economy- Ross Ford . Standby- Richardt Strauss

1. First Class - Cian Healy. Like the fullback selection stupidly close call, but Gethin Jenkins isn’t the same player as he was at World Cup , injuries are taking their toll, whereas Healy just keeps getting better , if he can manage to steer clear of serious injury , a mainstay for Ireland and Lion for a good few years to come . Economy – Gethin Jenkins. Standby- Alex Corbisiero.

There you have it folks , certain omissions probably stand out , Heaslip, Farrell,Hartley, etc etc at the moment this is the selection I would go with , now lets get the season rolling .

Mark Jackson (@markusjacksonus) is an Irishman living in London, a lover of this game we call Rugby along with Gaelic Football and NFL (All Hail The New York Giants), having played it for fun and money in many countries around the globe, am now earning a crust coaching, hopefully inspiring and passing along some knowledge gained to the next generation of players.

Now we have our four selections, as Chairman of the Panel I must now put them together to make the composite “HoR Lions XV”.  This doesn’t mean I get to pick my own team, however.  I can only use players named by the panellists, and I only get to make a choice if there is a tie for a certain position.

With that in mind, click here to see the first composite starting XV.

Next week, we’ll begin the second round of picks and see if our English panellist has seen anything to change his mind.

Click here to see all the Lions Selection posts to date.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Naas RFC-Update #1

This year, the Roots & All project is going to be a bit different.  There are four clubs altogether and they will take turns by giving updates on their seasons every two weeks.  We have been introduced to three of them already – Claremorris were up last night while Queens will feature next Wednesday. Tonight we hear more from Naas RFC, and our fourth club is a bit of a surprise…you’ll have to wait until a bit longer to find out who they are!

Naas RFC banner

So it’s been a busy start to the season and we’re not even into September yet. There is a great buzz around the club and it seems to me that a lot of new faces, not necessarily new to the club, are getting involved this year, maybe its because of the few changes, fresh blood, to the executive or maybe its because of the 90th Anniversary either way its great for Naas RFC and hopefully it will give me a bit of material to keep you guys interested every 2 weeks.

The Leinster Senior League Cup and Shield kicked of last Saturday and we also had our registration day for Mini’s and Youths with the first day of training this Saturday. The U12’s even have a friendly match! against Newbridge RFC on the first day back. The U12’s had 36 register on the first day so looks like we’ll be close to the 80 players again this year at this age group.

As for the seniors, Naas firsts and seconds travelled to Donnybrook last Saturday (25th August) to take on Old Wesley in the Leinster Senior League Shield Section A.

This match also doubled up as the annual Stephen Mooney memorial match. Steven played hooker for both Wesley and Naas and is fondly remembered in both clubs, it would be interesting to see him cope with the “new” front row rules as he did like to bring it down very low!!

Naas showed impressive early composure and confidence and went ahead after just 6 minutes with a well worked try by fullback David Aherne, after combining with Johnny Delaney, Darragh O' Shea and Sam Sutton, which he also converted.
Old Wesley responded with two excellent mid range penalty kicks by their impressive out-half, Alan Large, following Naas infringements  at the breakdown to make the score 7-6 by the end of the first quarter.

After 25 minutes, Naas were turned over and again penalised following a tackle on the home 10m line. From the subsequent lineout, Old Wesley were awarded a further penalty following a Naas ruck infringement and their outhalf, Alan Large, again slotted over from the 22 to make the score 9-7 to the home side.

Immediately from the restart, Old Wesley knocked on giving Naas a scrum on the home 10m line. The Naas scrum was excellent and gave a sound attacking platform. Naas Captain, Sam Sutton combined with Andrew Shirley who gave a perfectly timed pass to set outhalf, Darragh O' Shea free and he broke through the centre of the Old Wesley defence to touch down under the posts after 27 minutes. The conversion by David Aherne was routine and re-established the Naas lead with a score of 14-9.

A further penalty to Old Wesley 5 minutes later which was well taken by Alan Large narrowed the margin to just 2 points. However it was Naas who were to have the last say ahead of the interval. Following a superb 20m carry by Naas flanker Andrew Kearney he was subsequently tackled on the Old Wesley 10m line. Sam Sutton and John O' Brien then combined from a ruck to put centre Henry Bryce into space on the left flank and he broke through to give Naas a timely try. The conversion by David Aherne gave Naas a lead of 21-12 at the interval.

Naas dominated the early stages of the second half and crossed for a further try on 52 minutes which was scored again by outside Henry Bryce after combining with Darragh O' Shea, Gary Rowan and Sam Sutton, following a lineout on the home 22. David Aherne continued his superb kicking record to give Naas a lead of 28-12. Just 5 minutes later Naas attacked from a ruck on halfway again involving Sam Sutton, Darragh O'Shea and Henry Bryce. Wing Rob Campbell was tracking in close support and took the pass superbly from Bryce to cross and touch down in the right corner. The conversion again by David Aherne was precise to give Naas a 35-12 lead.

Naas looked comfortable for the remainder of the game however their concentration lapsed briefly in the last 3 minutes to allow Old Wesley to cross for two trys in rapid succession scored by their outhalf, Alan Large on 78 minutes and fullback, Ciaran Hurrell on 79 minutes.

Final score in Donnybrook Old Wesley 26 Naas 35 and a great start to the season for Naas RFC Firsts.

Unfortunately Naas seconds couldn’t follow that victory with a win of their own and wend down to a score of 65 -12.

Naas are again in Leinster Senior League action on Saturday 1st September against Seapoint away in Kilbogget Park Killiney and the following week 8th at home to NUIM Barnhall, which should be a nice little warm up for the opening round of the Ulster Bank League. Let’s hope they can build on their opening day performance.

See you in two weeks!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Claremorris RFC–update #1

This year, the Roots & All project is going to be a bit different.  There are four clubs altogether and they will take turns by giving updates on their seasons every two weeks.  We have been introduced to three of them already – Claremorris are up tonight while Queens will feature next week.  On Thursday we’ll hear more from Naas RFC, and our fourth club is a bit of a surprise…you’ll have to wait until a bit longer to find out who they are!

R&A CLAREMORRIS

So another new season begins, with players and coaches both keen to get the back into the thick of the action. I doubt some players will be as keen after a few rounds of sprints but that is a different story. After a busy summer of launching our ‘Buy a Sod’ fundraiser(More on that throughout the season) and our very successful Tag rugby league things are still a little quite on the playing front but as always off the pitch activity is in full flow.

Our season got underway last Tuesday night with our oldest team the U17’s starting back in the local boxing club. It was a great way to start as the majority of lads had never stepped foot in the boxing club before so this was a novelty more than anything else. The training was pretty intense and some lads were sweating from an early stage but overall I think they enjoyed the session. For the first night there was a good turnout with the majority of lasts season’s players returning. The U14 and U15 teams also retuned last week with again a very encouraging numbers showing.

We will continue to train in the gym for the next 6 weeks approximately. We are hoping this gym work will mean we have less fitness training to do once we hit the pitch. The plan is start back with ball in hand in the next two weeks and so gets the lads out twice a week for the first couple of weeks. The mini rugby planning is also in full flow. With a return on September 15th provisionally pencilled in. We are planning to have this as an open day where all local kids can come along and give rugby a try. We will encourage as many possible to come along to this open day. Registration for the new mini rugby season will then take place.

For the next couple of weeks we will be concentrating on getting all our youths teams out and on to the pitch and also finalising the mini rugby schedule anticipation of the new season.

Click here for the full set of Claremorris RFC’s posts

Click here for the club's website

Premiership Round 1 Preview

Preparation time is over… Felix McCabe previews round one of the new Premiership season.

Aviva Prem column

With pre-season finished, the Premiership will kick off with the massive clash of Wasps v Quins. This is not one to miss. Harlequins, last year’s champions, come into this game after a decent pre-season and they will be hungry to prove that they are not just a one hit wonder. Wasps, on the other hand, are seasoned veterans. They have come out the better against Harlequins over the years; boasting 16 wins in 30 games. Looking at the teams, Wasps have strength in numbers; Tom Varndell and Christian Wade are explosive on the wings, whilst Italian centre Andrea Masi will be a welcomed edition to the backs. Up front, England players Tom Palmer and James Haskell help make up a strong pack that will bring the fight straight to Harlequins at the Stoop. Quins, on the other hand, are the champions and will come out roaring in this one. A great team that boast such a wealth of talent and includes big names like Ugo Moyne, Chris Robshaw, Tom Williams and the controversial Danny Care. My pick for this one: Quins but it’ll be close.

Exeter Chiefs won’t get it easly when they go in search of their first win against Sale Sharks at Sandy Park. The Chiefs may have finished a spot above Sharks last season, but this is a new Sale team; reinvented and rejuvenated. Big names like Richie Gray, Danny Cipriani, Corné Uys and Cameron Shepherd have all joined Sale and will make add to a host of experience that already exists at the club. Shepherd agreed to join the club after Northampton pulled out of their deal to sign him based on fitness concerns. Chiefs have brought in ex-Ulster centre Ian Whitten and ex-Pirates prop, Carl Rimmer to aid them in what will be a tough season both, domestically, and in Europe. This one is tough to call, but I’m going say Sale – they’re also my team for the season so I may be biased on this one.

imageGloucester will be hoping to end their opening day misfortune (losing three of their last four opening day games) when they welcome the mighty Northampton Saints next weekend. This game promises to be a cracker with new signing, Billy Twelvetrees bound to get a start for Gloucester. The 23 year old has proved himself at Leicester the last few years; especially on his debut against Ospreys when the centre assumed kicking duties and brought his team back into a game they had almost lost. Saints will show up at the Kingsholm stadium ready to repeat last year’s opening day when they beat Gloucester 26-24. A team filled with big names, Captain, Dylan Hartley will be hoping to kick off a flawless season alongside the likes of Ben Foden, Brian Mujati and Courtney Lawes. I can see this one being close again, but I expect Saints to claim victory.

Worcester v Bath I expect to be the least exciting of the first round games. The warriors don’t have a good record on opening day; winning for the first time last year. New signings, Nikki Walker from Ospreys, Dean Schofield from Toulon and Jon Clarke from the Saints, add to a team that need to perform better in this year’s Premiership. Avoiding relegation by four points last season, Worcester need to come out of the blocks at a higher tempo. Bath, who should take victory on opening day, have a determined bunch of players who want more than a mid-table finish this year. Playing some very good rugby in parts, Bath’s superstars Stephen Donald, Lee Mears and Nick Abendenon will take to the pitch at sixways with one goal: destroy the warriors. I’m calling this one for Bath, but I hope Worcester can surprise me.

London Irish suffered a bad injury at the weekend with Scottish centre/winger Joe Ansbro breaking his neck against Munster. Fortunately it was a stable fracture and Ansbro suffered not nerve damage. He has, however, been ruled out of action for the foreseeable future. The Exiles, meanwhile, will meet Saracens in the weekend’s other London showcase. This has the possibility to be the best of the weekend’s action. London Irish dispatched Munster at the weekend with help from ex-Munster scrum-half Tomás O’Leary who controlled the game at the backs. Arguably his best performance on a rugby pitch in the last few years. Saracens must not be counted out though; coming away with the win on the last three occasions these teams met. Winger Chris Ashton will be looking to get on the scorecard for Saracens and start his season with a bang. A tough one to call, but my gut says Irish - we’ll see.

The last game of the first round will see London Welsh take on the Leicester Tigers at the controversial Kassam Stadium that nearly kept Welsh back in the championship this year. London Welsh will start their season without new signing Gavin Henson who suffered a cheekbone fracture at the weekend against the Llanelli Scarlets. An injury that will see the flyhalf sidelined for six weeks. Regardless, the show must go on and Leicester will be up for this game. The Tigers come into this game off the back of a strong pre-season; scoring ten tries at the weekend against Nottingham. Geordan Murphy, Martin Castrogiovanni and Manu Tuilangi are amongst the ranks that will grace the Tigers jersey when they take to the pitch next weekend. I can imagine an intense game of footie ensuing, but Leicester will come out the stronger of the two. You heard it here first.

It’s shaping up to be a great weekend of rugby. Tries galore and devastating tackles await us and I for one cannot wait. It’s game on. C’mon Sharks!!

Fixtures (all times irish)

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Wasps v Harlequins, 14:00

Exeter v Sale, 15:00

Gloucester v Northampton, 15:00

Worcester v Bath, 15:00

Saracens v London Irish, 16:30

Sunday, 2 September 2012

London Welsh v Leicester, 14:00

Felix (@lightningrust): Blogger, eternal student of business & law, sunshine rugby player with a passion for music and fitness. Coffee is essential. Leinster fan and Irish proud.

Women leading the way for Ireland in 7’s

Throughout the season Sarah Lennon will keep us informed on women’s rugby.

Women's Rugby column

2009 was a big year for rugby 7s as the International Olympic Committee voted in favour of the introduction of the code beginning with the 2016 Olympics.

7s rugby has never been a huge preoccupation for the IRFU, and our most prominent contribution to the code seems to be Leinster referee David Keane being the most capped 7s ref of all time.

Since a bronze medal for the men in the 1993 World cup, the team has finished no higher than 13th in the four tournaments since. Women had never taken part in the World Cup until 2009 when they were included, partly as a measure towards inclusion in the Olympics.

In the 2009 World Cup the Irish men finished 18th and the Irish women were not represented. However in April the IRFU announced that a 7s team was to be formed with the aim of qualifying for the 2013 World Cup.

The road to the World Cup was to be a difficult one for Ireland who is essentially an emerging nation in this arena. A preliminary tournament in Ghent was the scene of the Irish women’s international debut. A top two finish would suffice to qualify for the European Qualifying tournament but the women weren’t satisfied with a top two finish, winning the tournament in style without the concession of a single point. A 29-0 win over Scotland in the final capped an impressive tournament where several higher ranked teams were put to the sword.

On winning the preliminary qualifier, Ireland progressed to the qualifying tournament where 5 teams would qualify for the World Cup proper. This seemed an extremely tall order for a team that would have only had a few months together and were essentially looking to gatecrash the top table. Again, the Irish failed to read the script. A number of impressive wins again saw the Irish women alive on the second day where they reached the Plate final by virtue of beating a highly regarded Ukrainian side. Defeat in the Plate final left the Irish women in sixth place overall but as Russia were above them, and they qualify as World Cup hosts, Ireland were through to their first World Cup, an amazing achievement considering the embryonic nature of this team’s development.

Although the Irish men will not be represented at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow next June, the Irish women will proudly represent the four provinces (and exiles) in what is a massive step towards inclusion in the 2016 Olympic Games. The means of qualification for the games themselves will be agreed with the International Olympic Committee in 2014 but given the manner in which the Irish women qualified for the World Cup we should be very confident that we will be cheering on the Girls in Green come 2016.

Sarah Lennon (@sarahlennon08) is passionate about all things rugby. A Leinster Season Ticket holder since the Donnybrook days, a supporter of the Irish teams home and abroad and can regularly be seen cheering on Junior Rugby at Stillorgan RFC (a labour of love). As well as spectating, she dabbles in playing a bit and is a member of Old Belvedere RFC and fully paid up member of the front row union.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Welsh-Italian Pro12 clashes

We’re not happy here at HoR covering just the Irish provinces in the Pro12, so throughout the season Liam Sinclair will keep an eye on the rest of the league for us.

non Irish Pro12

Regular rugby! Put the knitting needles back in storage, allow yourself one undignified leap in the air and breathe a huge sigh of relief before calming down and resuming the cool persona you’ve worked so hard to build. Yes it’s our favourite time of the year and what better way to get warmed up then some good ol’ fashioned previews.

It’s the most difficult preview of the year with only pre-season to judge form. Planning and fitness are the goals of these matches so I’m pretty much going to stick with my gut for now.*

Two Wales v Italy matches are what fall within my brief this week. Plenty to get excited about with debutants Zebre hitting the road and hoping to hit it running and the champions taking on a Treviso side making all the right noises about ambition, improvement and challenging.

* = guess

Treviso v Ospreys

Treviso have utilised the ‘’Roy Keane recruitment theory’’ getting as many bodies in as possible and letting quality shine through over the course of the season. The hope will be that competition will have players hungry to be at their best and giving it all. Ospreys on the other hand have been low key when bringing players in adding only old boy Jonathan Spratt and James Goode to a squad shorn of many quality players but still maintaining a strong core. This familiarity is an advantage especially on day 1 against a Treviso side needing time to gel. A match, albeit at home, against the champions is a tough start. It has to be an Ospreys victory. After a slow start the familiarity and quality will shine through.

N.G.D v Zebre

Zebre need to throw down a gauntlet at Rodney Parade because if they are to finish anywhere but last The Dragons are the team they most likely need to reel in. If the new boys know this they will need to start fast, they will need to start hard and, most importantly, they will need to maintain a high level of intensity for the full 80 minutes. I just can’t see the third part happening, lack of stamina is a hallmark of the ‘weaker’ sides. The new kid always gets beat up and Zebre will pick up away form where Aironi left off. As long as they stay disciplined it’s a victory for the dragons.

The rest

Ulster v Warriors – Ulster are in boisterous spirits and have recruited well. A solid win for the northerners to get the ball rolling for this season of high expectations.

Connacht v Cardiff – I’m looking forward to this. Two teams full of grit, spit and blood fighting it out in a stadium where the weather is famed for offering similar. Cardiff have a point to prove and I feel they will edge it.

Scarlets v Leinster – Anyone else have a feeling about Scarlets this year? Balls out. A famous scalp for Scarlets against notorious slow starters Leinster.

Edinburgh v Munster – Edinburgh are a good side and morale is high. Victory for the Scots.

Delighted to be done with my thinking for the week. Now for the waiting. It’s going to be a great season. Happy rugby everybody.

Liam Sinclair (@liam_bs) – Guesses, generalisations and clichés.

Andrew Goodman scouting report

After receiving a warning from The Literal Police (ie a commenter on Reddit), I should point out that this is NOT a professional “scouting report”. Proper scouting can only really be done when you are actually at the game and can focus on the player in question.  As I say in the piece, this was done from a recording of the local TV broadcast.  It’s meant to be a light-hearted post for the most part.  I know most of you get that, but it seems I need to clarify for some who don’t :-)

goodman

ITM CUP 2012 – ROUND ONE

TASMAN MAKOS 25-22 CANTERBURY

I didn’t have a Leinster Rugby match to review this week…that job was ably filled by Ginine & Liz Power, but still I felt I wanted to get stuck in to some rugby analysis, so I got my hands on a recording of the Tasman Makos’ shock victory over Canterbury last Friday so I could run the rule over Leinster’s new signing Andrew Goodman.

I have to hold up my hand and say I don’t know a whole lot about the Independent Timber Merchants Cup, though to be fair I’m not sure many Kiwis would be able to tell us much about the RaboPro12 either.  I do know enough, however, to realise that the competition is split into two tiers and this result was a shock because the Makos are in the second while the visitors had won the previous four provincial championships on the bounce, all under new Munster boss Rob Penney.

So given the two provinces are neighbouring each other, hopefully I’ll be forgiven for making the comparison that this matchup was a bit like Connacht playing Leinster?

Anyway…according to the commentators, the Canterbury lineup was below strength.  It sure didn’t look like it.  Matt Todd, Robbie Freuan were all on display as well as the usual Cantabrian quota of Whitelocks; also outhalf Tyler Bleyendaal got a lot of Super Rugby game time for the Crusaders this season as backup to Dan Carter.

As for the Tasman Makos (click here if you’re curious what a mako is) side, well there was only one name that stood out, that of the guy I was “scouting”, though throughout the course of the game I did become familiar with the name of their number 10 Hayden Cripps; maybe that was more from the commentators pronunciation of “Crupps” (though he did impress for the most part)!

The home side had most of the early possession, but it wasn’t of much use to me because they were primarily going through the forwards.  Still, I was to see plenty to give me a decent assessment of Andrew Goodman.

He’s the club captain of the Tasman Province, and in this match he showed exactly why.  He had the experience to know when to join the play, and each time he did it seemed to lead to a Makos try.  In the screengrab above you see him throwing a perfectly weighted pass to set up the second, and he had similar involvement in the first.

He also has the place-kicking duties (maybe he’s a bit spoiled when it comes to receiving his kicking tee!), though I’m afraid his first few efforts were off the mark. Still, he did nail a couple to help his side create an 18-15 advantage going into the last ten minutes of the contest.

Although it can be said that despite their lineup Canterbury weren’t exactly firing on all cylinders, the Makos defence was extremely hard to break down, and I’m happy to say they seem to use a system very similar to Leinster’s; if so then Joe Schmidt & his team have chosen wisely.  Goodman was right in the thick of the tackling count as well.

With possession secured inside his own 22 and the clock winding down, the Tasman skipper took the ball into contact only for it to be stripped by Matt Todd and the turnover created an overlap which sent winger Johnny McNicholl in for what seemed like the match-winning score.  However, I’m not so sure Goodman is entirely to blame for this…the new IRB laws were in effect and previously his experience would have led him to go to ground and allow his scrum-half to kill the clock.  I reckon this turnover was more a case of the new laws seen to be working rather than a bad error on his part.

But even if he was responsible, he more than made up for it by helping with the actual matchwinner.  The Makos heaped pressure on the Canterbury line in the final seconds until a turnover gave Bleyendaal a chance to clear.  His kick was blocked, however, and the ball appeared to take a vicious spiral into the air.  Retrieval of this block was crucial and responsibility fell to Goodman, who had the presence of mind to not only take it but protect it so it could be quickly used and before you knew it replacement Kieran Fonotia was barging over the line to seal the four points.

Fittingly for me it was Goodman who added the extras and the match was over – the 2012 ITM Cup had kicked off with a thriller which ended in a major upset.

One side note was the scrums…the referee had good control of the contest and used the new “crouch-touch-set” call exactly as it was meant…if he saw something in the hit he didn’t like rather than reset he gave the free-kick or penalty.  Scrum connoisseurs won’t be happy with that I know, but hopefully if most refs follow this lead then we’ll see more legal hits which should lead to more actual scrums.

Back to the scouting brief…apologies for the obvious pun but it seems that Leinster have signed themselves a “good man” for the number 12 jersey, and based on this performance I can see him settling in extremely well at the RDS.  He does also play 10, and should Ian Madigan become unavailable at any stage he could also be useful there.

We won’t see Goodman until his Makos side go out of the competition; however, so I suppose a part of me hopes they don’t go on to build on this success.  Maybe I’ll give them a pass next week though – they have a rare crack at the Ranfurly Shield, aka the “Log o Wood”, when they take on Taranaki, best of luck to them….if they play like they did on this occasion they certainly have every chance of bringing it home. JLP

Around The Fringes #68

Around The Fringes is a weekly single-frame cartoon poking fun at something from the rugby world.

ATF068

Click here for the back catalogue

Nearly show-time at the Sportsground!

Our Connacht man John O’Sullivan can’t wait for the season to get going.

connacht eagles

The start of the season is so close, I already feel the nasty bite of the infamous Sportsground wind on my skin. Indeed, Connacht's opening Rabo Direct Pro 12 fixture, at home to Cardiff Blues, is only a matter of days away.

Since my last post, Connacht's pre season preparations have been stepped up a gear. Two fixtures against English opposition, Exeter and Harlequins, have provided vital tests and lessons for Connacht, albeit in two contrasting ways:

Firstly, Connacht will take great heart from their dogged 8-6 win over Exeter. Connacht showed all the tenacity and desire usually associated with the province, but also an end product which, sadly, has often failed to match Connacht's aforementioned doggedness and desire.

If our victory over Exeter raised hope within the squad, then their subsequent 11-45 tonking at the hands of Harlequins, old foes and future Heineken Cup pool opponents for the second season in succession, brought them back down to earth with a bang.

It must be remembered, though, that Harlequins are English champions and will be one of the favourites for the upcoming season’s European crown. The old sporting cliché says you'll learn more about yourself in defeat than in victory, with that in mind, Connacht's youngsters will benefit from the experience of playing some top internationals.

Heartened by the progress of the province’s underage teams over the past few years, Connacht have invested both time and money in their academy set up. Indeed, the formation of the Connacht Eagles, a Connacht A side who will play in the British and Irish Cup, is another positive step for the rapidly greening Westerners. Not content with the kudos for setting up the Eagles, Connacht had to make a statement on the pitch; and that they did, beating Munster A 13-6 at the Sportsground (pic courtesy of knockon.ie). The Eagles will provide players with a vital bridge between U-20's and the senior side and will, no doubt, provide the necessary grounding and experience for many a future Connacht star.

And finally, Gavin Duffy has been rewarded for his tremendous consistency by retaining the Connacht captaincy for a second successive season. The Mayo man has been the epitome of calmness at full backs for Connacht for years and will, undoubtedly, provide many more years or sterling service.

To paraphrase the clubs marketing motto: the West is about to rise, its nearly show time!

Today’s Independent = Elwood sweats on Dan Parks’ fitness

Keep an eye on Twitter & Facebook throughout the season, John’s posts will appear at 9am every Tuesday.

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!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Premiership’s Preseason–Part 2

The second part of Felix McCabe’s look at how the Aviva Premiership clubs are warming up for the new campaign.

quins v ldn scots

With only one week until we kick off this season’s Aviva Premiership, I’m going to take a look at some of the recent pre-season friendlies and follow up with a preview of Round 1 of this year’s Aviva extravaganza.

Heading to Franklin’s Gardens first, to get the least favourable result from this rugby fan’s point of view, where Northampton registered a 43 points to nothing hammering of Heineken Cup champions, Leinster. A mixed team from the Irish outfit included experience in the form of captain, Leo Cullen, Issac Boss and Devin Toner as well as plenty of youth; with academy graduate Noel Reid and Jordan Coghlan. This formula didn’t work for Leinster on a day where the Saints managed to ground the ball on seven separate occasions. It was a great moment for Saints fans when returning back rower, Tom Wood crossed the line announcing his return to the Gardens. Dom Waldouck, Scott Armstrong, Paul Diggin, Tom May, Noah Cato and Vasily Artemyev all made the scorecard on the day.

Sale Sharks taught us the meaning of impact substitution on the same day when they emptied their bench to overcome Scottish rivals, Glasgow. Included in the replacements was former Glasgow Warrior, Richie Gray and debutant, Danny Cipriani; who started strong and only improved as the game reached its close. It finished 49-27 at Heywood Road.

Attempting to get their pre-season back on track, Harlequins had two games at the Stoop last weekend and boy did it not disappoint. First they out-muscled a London Scottish team 42-21 with tries from Stegmann, Taylor, Burns, Matthews and Marfo. They then met Rabo side, Connacht in a game that saw three yellow cards in the first half! Nikora the offender for Connacht; Luke Wallace and Nick Evans for Quins. Fortunately for Quins, this didn’t affect them in the slightest and they completed their double with scores from Evans, Easter, Care, Smith, Chisholm and Lowe to easily win out the game 45-11.

Ravenhill hosted the Tigers in what would turn into a very physical game. Niall O’Connor played fly-half and converted an early penalty try. George Ford levelled the game with his efforts and then Thomas Waldron’s try pushed the visitors into the lead. This was short-lived as Chris Cochrane’s late try, converted by Paddy Jackson, levelled the game. It finished 14 points a piece.

The Ospreys continued a miserable pre-season last weekend; losing at the hands of Bath. Lee Mears and Dan Hipkiss scoring for the visiters while Tom Graham touched down for the Welshmen. 18-0 at the half, it was Bath’s to lose – which they didn’t. A late effort by Matthew Morgan saw himself clear, but he fumbled the ball and so summed up a bad day at the office for Ospreys. Bath take the spoils at 21-10.

Gloucester also had fortune against the Welsh as they beat Cardiff Blues 20-8. A true preseason game, mistakes a plenty, Nigel Davies has plenty of time to perfect his team before they meet Northampton on September 1st. And it would come to pass that the Welsh would lose, yet another, preseason game – this time when the Llaneli Scarlets travelled to Sixways to meet the Wocester Warriors. Josh Matavesi the hero of the day scoring two tries. It finished 22-7.

Elsewhere, the Exeter Chiefs showed the world why they’re good enough to be in the Heineken Cup this year. They dispatched a Cornish Pirates team 56-3 points, easily. New signing Will Chudley scored a double, as did Josh Tatupu with further tries coming from Rob Baxter, Mark Foster, Jack Nowell, Kai Horstmann and Ben White.

Chris Ashton made his Saracens debut last weekend in Italy when the team travelled to Treviso. Again, the Italian setup proved too strong for the English and fought a hard-earned victory. Simone Favaro scoring late to deny the visitors.

At Headingley, London Wasps found it difficult to get into a game with Leeds; but when they did, they opened up a poor Leeds defence and scored eight tries and win comfortably 50 points to 23. England flanker James Haskell returned to the Wasps bench and made an appearance on a day when, new signings, Stephen Jones and Andrea Masi both scored.

Finally their was some success for the Welsh last weekend when The Dragons welcomed The Exiles to Rodney Parade. Tómas O’Leary and Shane Geraghty controlled the game in the backs but tries from Steffan Jones and Adam Hughes were enough to keep London Irish at bay. It finished 18-12 to the Newport Gwent Dragons.

Results

Northampton Saints 43-0 Leinster

Sale Sharks 49-27 Glasgow Warriors

Harlequins 42-21 London Scottish

Harlequins 45-11 Connacht

Ulster 14-14 Leicester Tigers

Ospreys 10-21 Bath

Gloucester 20-8 Cardiff Blues

Worcester Warriors 22-7 Llaneli Scarlets

Exeter Chiefs 56-3 Cornish Pirates

Benetton Treviso 14-11 Saracens

Newport Gwent Dragons 18-12 London Irish

London Wasps 50-23 Leeds

Felix will be back later in the week with a look at the opening round of Aviva Premiership matches

Felix (@lightningrust): Blogger, eternal student of business & law, sunshine rugby player with a passion for music and fitness. Coffee is essential. Leinster fan and Irish proud.

Ends don’t justify the Deans

All Black fan Tim Cronin from rugbyshirts.net reckons the battle to avoid the Rugby Championship wooden spoon could be more fierce than that for first place.

deansaug27sportshero

The All Blacks cruised to a comfortable win over an increasingly hapless looking Wallabies side while the Argentinians came desperately close to securing a famous victory over the ‘Boks as Round Two of the Rugby Championship took place over the weekend.

Eden Park has never been a happy hunting ground for the Wallabies, but the beleaguered side must have truly been dreading this visit, with media, fans, and former players becoming increasingly impatient with their poor form, and calls for coach Robbie Deans to fall on his sword becoming louder and louder.

If there was one positive Deans’ and his men can take away from their 22-nil loss on Saturday it was their scrambling defence, which kept the scoreline from getting completely out of hand. While it was the first time in over 50 years the Australian’s had been kept scoreless against their Trans-Tasman neighbours, the score could have been considerably worse, as the world champions poured on the pressure late in the game. However, desperate work on their own line managed to deny the black machine and save the visitors the embarrassment of what could easily have been a 50 point loss.

But the signs really do look bad for the Wallabies. It’s obvious that there is discontent in the shed, and it shows on the field, with inaccuracy at set pieces and a disjointed backline that never really looks like constructing anything meaningful or threatening. Unless things change drastically they will not only struggle to keep things respectable when they meet the Springboks, but look odds on to provide the Argentinians with their first ever win in the Championship, a milestone that they were oh-so-close to achieving on the weekend.

Los Pumas hosted the South Africans at Mendoza in their first home game of the Rugby Championship, and were only denied an historic win thanks to an intercept try from Springbok midfielder Franz Steyn.

In front of a hostile crowd the hosts managed to make the game in to the kind of encounter they thrive in – a brutally fierce physical encounter. You could almost feel the intensity at the collision zone every time the Argentinians catapulted themselves at a ruck, and their approach obviously got under the skin of the Springboks, who were ill-disciplined and lacked accuracy.

But the Pumas have got plenty to work on, much of which will develop as they gain experience at this level. There was an obvious lack of self-belief and confidence at stages, and this affected their ability to execute when the opportunity to score arose. They must have been bitterly disappointed when Steyn crossed with 15 minutes to go to level the scores at 16-all, and it was a sound effort to hold on for the draw in the face of that disappointment.

Even though the Springboks were below-par there was enough to suggest that a trip to Argentina is going to be an arduous journey for any of the other Championship sides, and, once they genuinely believe in their ability, a win will be inevitable. At this early stage though it already looks like the title will be decided between New Zealand and South Africa, with Australia battling desperately with Argentina to avoid the wooden spoon.

Tim Cronin is a Rugby fan and full time writer based in the rubble of the Canterbury Crusaders’ home town, Christchurch. Tim is a part of the Pukeko Sports team, where his role is watching, writing, and complaining about all things rugby.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

HoR highlights Aug 19-26

Time to look back over the rugby we’ve been harpin on for the past 7 days, follow the links if you missed them…

As you can see, a busy week overall at HarpinOnRugby Manor, and with the Pro12 season about to kick off, it’s only going to get busier so stay tuned! JLP

Friday, August 24, 2012

Sale Sharks-10 Leinster-10

MillerTry

This season on HarpinOnRugby we’ll be featuring input from fans all over the world on all aspects of the great pastime of chasing the egg…for the most part, their contributions will be on the HoR2 blog while I will deal with Leinster & Ireland rugby over here.  This week, however, I am extremely grateful to both Liz & Ginine Power for volunteering to be my eyes & ears at Leinster’s final pre-season warm-up game last Friday evening.

SALE-MATE

“We didn’t want you to lose your first game in the new stadium but we couldn’t let you win either”

This was my post match banter with some of the Sale fans. Ok, so it was only half true. After the hefty defeat last week (I promise that’s the last time I will mention it) losing was not an option but new stadium or not, Leinster were there to win..

The new Sale stadium is very impressive both from the outside and inside. The stands are all covered which was very welcome as the rain was pouring down. We took our place among the good number of Leinster fans who made the trip over for a pre-season friendly. During the match we made our presence well know with choruses of the usual tunes although “Come on you boys in blue” was stopped quite promptly as we realised on this occasion Sale were the boys in blue.

Sale were first to put points on the board with a penalty scored by Danny Cipriani in the first 10 minutes. We were all a little confused though when the scoreboard declared it a “goal”.

Leinster were quick to get back in the game though with Noel Reid kicking the ball deep into Sale’s 22. Leinster proceeded to win the lineout and impressive play from Reid and Ian Madigan fell just short of getting them the first try of the game. Their efforts were awarded with a penalty which Noel Reid easily kicked over to get Leinster our first “goal” and bring the score to 3-3.

With the scores even, Leinster came into their stride. Leinster were awarded another penalty which Ian Madigan kicked into touch but the ball was soon turned over and the game was back in Leinster’s 22. It wasn’t there for long though as an impressive run from Fionn Carr brought it back into the Sale 22. Leinster were then awarded another penalty but this time Reid’s kick fell wide of the posts.

With the rain still pouring down heavily the first half ended with the honours even at 3-3.

It wasn’t long into the second half before Andrew Conway scored the first try of the game on the other side of the pitch to the pocket of Leinster fans. Unfortunately we did get to see a close up of Rob Miller’s try for Sale about 20 minutes later. Nick McLeod kicked the conversion and the game was once again level at 10-10. About 2 minutes later Sale were awarded a penalty which could have won them the game but McLeod's kick fell wide.

Both teams fought hard for the remainder of the game but the score remained at 10-10 although some would argue the score could have been a lot different but for a few controversial refereeing decisions. In who’s favour the game would have gone though is anyone’s guess as was stated by a nearby fan “David Pearson is an equal opportunities gobdaw”!

A lot of high tackles and players off their feet went unnoticed as well as the touch judges awarding line outs to the wrong team. The hecklers were out in force with shouts of “Yes, that is what your right hand is for” when a penalty was finally awarded Leinster’s way and “You’re not in Paris now” when it wasn’t. Andy Powell also got some thrown his way and was told to “get in your golf cart” on more than one occasion.

Both teams provided brilliant performances and I think a draw was a fair result. It was a great game and it’s good to go into the season recovered from last week’s defeat (oops, sorry)

Ginine (@neenyp) and Liz Power (@gizmopuddy) are daughter and mother, Leinster fans from Maynooth. Unusually it is the two women in our family who are the sport and particularly rugby fanatics; the men just humour our obsession. Liz grew up in Churchtown, surrounded by rugby, and didn’t realise there was any other sport until she moved to the “country”! She made sure Ginine was well acquainted with the joys of rugby.

Naas RFC introduction

Time to meet Leinster’s representatives in this year’s Roots & All project…

Naas RFC banner

Well here we go – my first cap at blogging for Harpin on Rugby!! Let hope the coach doesn’t drop me after one!!

I hope to keep you updated on the happenings and goings on at Naas Rugby Football Club this season. So as it’s the week before the much anticipated start to the new season I thought I would kick it off with a little introduction to our club.

This is our 90 year playing rugby most of which was as a fairly successful Junior Club until we join the senior ranks in 1999 with a brief visit back to Leinster Division 1 we are now well established in AIL Div 2B with ambitions to move up!

Our club has a rich and distinguished history. We have received many sporting accolades and helped produce successful players such as Philip Lawler, Geordan Murphy and Jamie Heaslip, Fionn Carr to mention but a few and currently we have a number of ex Naas youth players who are at different stages of the Leinster ladder from schools, representative and the academe.

Today at our home at Forenaughts, we boast over 600 youth and minis from the ages of 7 to 18. We have 120 players 19 and upwards and 300 or so adult members. We have teams from minis to juniors to seniors, girls and veterans and each summer run a full VW tag tournament. In addition to top class coaching (had to put that one in!) and the opportunities to compete in leagues, our club offers our members the chance to learn life skills such as the importance of discipline, team work and learning to be gracious in victory as well as dignified in defeat and hopefully develop a passion for the game we all love.

We have the usual teams of volunteers who give their time, skills, passion, energy and commitment to the club for no remuneration. These people coach, sit on committees, pursue sponsorship opportunities, prepare lunches, run tuck shops and a million other things that happen behind the scenes, without which the club could not function.

We also have an army of supporters for our players – parents, relatives, friends, neighbours - people who stand at the side of the pitch come rain or shine to ensure the players know that their efforts, successful or otherwise matter, the heart of any club. We appreciate all of this. This is what community is and why community matters.

As for me I played on scrumhalf all the senior teams at some stage over a 12 year period in the late 80’s and 90’s, until, like most, a promising career was cut short by injury!! Before that it was schools rugby in Newbridge College, now a proud coach to the U12’s We had 80 kids playing at U11 last year putting out 5 non graded teams each week and we are expecting the same again this year at U12. We play in both the North Midlands and Metro Areas of Leinster along with filling many requests for matches from other areas.

So there you have it and our season kicks of with the first playing Old Wesley Away on Saturday 25th Aug in the Leinster Senior Shield and the AIL on the 29th Sept Away to NUIM Barnhall. As for the U12’s we get straight into it with a fixture against Newbridge RFC on the 1st Sept.

If you have any comments you can get me @michaelcahill67 or follow @naasrfc on twitter or www.facebook.com/NaasRugby on facebook. www.naasrugby.com

Thanks Michael, look forward to hearing from you throughout the season and best of luck to all at Naas RFC!

Click here to read the introduction of our Connacht representatives

Click here to read the introduction of our Ulster representatives

Lions Selector Panel : Preseason selection 3

Over the coming season, our Lions Selector Panellists will be taking turns to pick their ideal Lions 2013 starting XV so we can see how they evolve based on form throughout the campaign.  This week, it’s the turn of our Scottish panellist Kirsten Bruce. 

British-Irish-Lions-logo-20131

Hi, I’m Kirsten. Some who read this may follow me on twitter (@kirstenbruce_02). I’m a big Scotland supporter, so apologies if I am a little bit biased. Also, big thanks to Jeff (@HarpinOnRugby) for allowing me to be involved – it’s sure to be challenging but a great experience!

So, I’ll crack on with my Lions XV now. I’ll tell you this much – it was tricky!

  1. Cian Healy

For a prop of only age 24, he is a very good all round player. Very good scrummager who can hold his own against the very best e.g. the Franks brothers. He gets stuck in about the rucks, winning penalties here, there and everywhere. Healy does not let the occasion get to him – he has shown that many a time whilst playing for Leinster in numerous finals. He is a big, bulky lad who won Man of the Match against Australia when Ireland beat them in 2011 Rugby World Cup. Heres hoping he can do the same for the Lions in 2013. Those not picked – Ryan Grant, purely because he has not enough experience as yet on the international front. Same goes for Corbisiero with 10 caps for his country. Gethin Jenkins would be my very experienced bench warmer, having 5 caps for the British and Irish Lions already; his experience could come in handy.

  1. Ross Ford

Probably the best hooker in the Northern Hemisphere right now. Had a great season with Edinburgh, which paid of for Scotland. He always gets over the gain line, as his ball carrying is very strong. Scotlands lineout is superb with Fords link with Richie Gray securing the ball almost every time. I feel he wasn’t the right choice for captain but unfortunately the right choice was injured (Kelly Brown). However, he leads from the front which is why I feel he is the best hooker for the job. Rory Best would definitely be on the bench as he has a similar attitude as he also leads from the front. Dylan Hartley is quite an angry player therefore I feel he gets too frustrated during games to let his form do the talking. Matthew Rees has been riddled with injuries so he is a risk I wouldn’t be willing to take.

  1. Euan Murray

By far the strongest tight head in the world. The position picks itself. Murray showed he could compete with the big guns (and win) with Scotlands historic win over Australia in the summer by winning the penalty in the scrum to win us the game. He went to South Africa with the Lions in 2009 but an ankle injury kept him out of the test side. He may not have the biggest supporters in rugby due to his decision not to play on Sundays. But, fortunately none of the games are on Sundays so Murray is available. Adam Jones is past his best unfortunately as he was brilliant in his day. Dan Cole’s strength is nowhere near as strong as both Murray and Jones. Also, his scrummaging is questionable.

  1. Richie Gray

This 6ft10 blonde bombshell is a no brainer – it’s impossible to think of reasons not to pick him. First name on the team sheet for Scotland. Works very well in the lineout and his 19 stone frame gives the scrum bulk and extra strength. Can sidestep and carry the ball effectively (anyone that can sidestep Rob Kearney is pretty much god of the rugby world). Unfortunately I feel all 3 other locks pale in comparison to Gray. Although I have a feeling this may change over the next few months.

  1. Alun Wyn Jones

This was by far the hardest pick. Mainly because they are all equally good at their job, but no one stood out. Alun Wyn Jones seemed the most sensible pick as he is an all round good rugby player and hard working. I felt there being no point in picking the likes of Paul O’Connell who has unfortunately been riddled with injury. Although I will be watching e.g. Ian Evans and Donnacha Ryan very closely in the first few rounds of Rabo Direct Pro 12.

  1. Dan Lydiate

Easiest pick of the forwards. One of the best flankers I’ve seen play. Does his job perfectly. Nothing but full of praise for this Welsh lad. Played a key part of Wales 2012 Grand Slam win in the Six Nations, and Wales successful Rugby World Cup. Not much else to say about this young talent, except he better watch his back. Sean O’Brien is an excellent flanker. Tom Wood is coming back from a long-term injury and has a lot of potential. Ally Strokotsch had a decent summer tour with Scotland but I just don’t think he is Lions material.

  1. Ross Rennie

I know what everyone is thinking. Why not Sam Warburton? Well in my opinion Ross Rennie has a far better technical ability. A phenomenal season with Edinburgh has seen him nail the number 7 shirt of Scotland to his back. With Sam Warburton captain of Wales he needs a kick up a behind as Justin Tipuric is well on his way to being first choice for Wales.

  1. Jamie Heaslip

Heaslip was an obvious choice for me. He is a warrior. Very good at picking the ball up at the scrum. Has a good amount of experience as he played all 3 tests in South Africa for the British and Irish Lions in 2009 and despite Irelands 3-0 defeat in New Zealand, Heaslip was Irelands stand out player. There is a lot of competition for this spot. Thomas ‘the Tank Engine’ Waldrom is a high impact player who is perfect to have coming of the bench to give the game a little boost. Toby Faletau and Kelly Brown/David Denton are also excellent players. I don’t envy the selection panel in the slightest!

  1. Eoin Reddan

I may have picked Reddan slightly controversially. He is a very talented scrum half. However I feel Kidney has been making the wrong decision picking Conor Murray over Eoin Reddan. His passing is slick and has been very successful with Leinster and Ireland. Ben Young’s is another I feel has been wrongfully chosen over Danny Care for England. Both are good scrumhalfs but Care is faster at rucks and at passing. Mike Phillips used to be an excellent scrum half but to be honest he just isn’t cutting it these days. Mike Blair is past his best.

10. Jonathon Sexton

Very good all round player. Place kicking, kicking for goal, passing is all of high quality. Plus if he can give the Lions one of his famous half time talks its highly unlikely we will lose. Owen Farrell is too young yet as you can feel himself getting frustrated when things don’t go his way. Rhys Priestlands ability isn’t up to scratch, although a good season with Scarlets may change that. Greig Laidlaw I would have on the bench as he knows what he is doing and has the ability to play scrum half and fly half.

  1. Tim Visser

The Flying Dutchman. Tim McVisser. What a player. His ability is outstanding. Top try scorer in the Rabo Direct Pro 12 for two seasons in a row. Plus he scored 2 tries for Scotland on his debut against Fiji. Not much else you could want from a winger!

  1. Manu-Samoa Tuilagi

A big, hulking centre, with the skills to go along with his size. Would run through walls to get to the try line, and succeed. Knows when it is the best time to pass or run through his opponents. I’m getting excited just thinking about Tuilagi running through the Aussies next year! Jamie Roberts is similar to Tuilagi in size but has been injured so I can’t really comment on his form. Nick De Luca makes too may silly decisions whilst playing so I would not be taking him to Australia.

  1. Jonathon Davies

Another big beast of rugby player in the centre. Him and Tuilagi will swat the Aussie centres away like flies. Davies is a very skilful centre, has a good sidestep on him. He connects well with other players and I cannot see him having any competition anytime soon.

  1. George North

This young lad can play rugby! Powerful, skilful with the strength of a body builder does not make him any slower. At only 20 years old he has a long and successful career ahead of him. The other contender for this spot would obviously be Chris Ashton, and I am not his biggest fan. I feel he is too cocky and talks himself up and the swallow dive should just be banned.

  1. Leigh Halfpenny

A big Welsh contingent in this Lions XV. Goes to show how well they have done over the last year. Leigh Halfpenny is a regular in the side. Does the kicking for goal and is excellent at it. His placekicking is admirable as well as his general play. A definite starter. Stuart Hogg is similar to Leigh Halfpenny in that he is young and has had an outstanding season. He would be perfect for the bench as he can play fullback and centre both very well. Rob Kearney and Ben Foden both very worthy of a spot in the team as well.

Click here for last week’s selection.

Kirsten will be back to us in 4 weeks to let us know if she has seen anything to change her mind.  Next week, we meet our Irish panellist and announce our first composite XV from the panel as a whole.

If you wish to join the debate, by all means include your opinion by way of a comment.  I’d like to think most people know how to disagree respectfully.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Keego on Props & Proposals

This week Keego adds his thoughts on how to fix the scrum dilemma to the stockpile.

Welcome to blog number 9. I still cant believe its not butter.

Before we get into this weeks topic, I would just like to say thank you for the overwhelmingly positive reaction to last week’s piece. You understood what I was trying to do and responded with kindness. It really gave me a warm, fuzzy, slightly illegal feeling inside.

Now on to more pressing matters. With the season nearly upon us, I thought I would ponder the effects of the massive impact on the players. Particularly in the scrum, and what could be done to protect the players a bit more, obviously without adversely affecting the game as a spectacle.

I was reading about lawsuits being brought against the NFL (National Football League in America – basically it is rugby with padding and ad breaks). There have been 81 players who have joined together to bring this lawsuit against the NFL citing neglect of the player when their career is over and not protecting them enough while playing. A lot of this comes down to personal responsibility and a lack of self control while at the strip club (lapdances cost money…..apparently), but lets look at what would happen if the rugby players started thinking this way.

Looking at the professional game first, we have all seen players on the pitch that shouldn’t have been allowed into the stadium. Watch Ireland’s Grand Slam DVD again and look at the damage Drico took in those matches. I have spoken before about the need to protect players from themselves, but it could get to a stage where the governing bodies need to protect the players so as not to become a target for litigation down the road. When the hits get bigger the damages also increases.

Look at our friend the scrum. It is the rugby equivalent of the drunk girl in the club dancing like Rihanna. It is horrible to watch but you cant take your eyes off it (reverse the sex in the previous statement if you are a woman – men can dance like Rihanna too I’ll have you know). It has become a mess. If you watch some old school rugby, when a scrum was called it was a race to see who got the shove on first, if there weren’t enough players then tough luck.

I do have an idea on how we can solve this problem. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on my theory. It is quite simple. Why cant we have the ref on one side and a linesman on the other side? It is getting like boxing when one person notices the ref is on the other side he cheats where the ref cant see it. The scrum is exactly the same. If there is someone on each side watching this solves binding issues and general illegal play. In order to get the linesman out of they way, they just have to run the opposite direction to where the ball breaks.

Also, and I have been lambasted for mentioning this in public, but why not start ear to ear? If you have both front rows ear to ear it means they have to be lined up. If the ears are crooked, at least the ref and linesman will be able to see that they are lined up correctly. I saw too many bums in the air and heads down last season.

And on the pitch too……

Seriously though. The scrum is ruining the game, and while the new rule of having to use the ball within a few seconds will speed it up, it doesn’t help the actual problem.

My theories above will also save on the amount of impact the front row has to endure. If you line up ear to ear the impact is decreased greatly. Less impact means less injuries which means longer careers. When you think about how long Mike Ross has been throwing his head into another lads shoulder is it surprising that he has a face like play dough and probably wakes up every morning in pain? I think this generation of players may be the first to have a very painful way of life when they get older. The human body cannot do this as regularly as they are asked to do it. The governing bodies have to step up and find a better way of protecting the players.

If you have any ideas on player safety or the scrum please twat/tweet/however you say it, me @nkeegan.

In closing, an early Christmas miracle came visiting the bat cave this week in the form of a Leinster season ticket. Anglesea Stand Block E! I thought I was going to have to watch the Blues from the couch, but I will be in the thick of it, taking on all comers.

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.

BOX-KIX Aug 23-31



[feature to be updated every Thursday and is for Irish TV only]

Apologies for missing Setanta's Top14 coverage last week! To make up for it I'm going an extra day this week to include the first game of the new RaboPro12 season! JLP

Times refer to start of broadcast not kickoff
Union in yellowLeague in red


THURSDAY AUG 23


TOTAL RUGBY
SKY SPORTS 2 – 6:25PM


SUPER LEAGUE SUPERMEN
SKY SPORTS 4 – 6:30PM


FRIDAY AUG 24


SEA EAGLES V BRONCOS – NRL
SETANTA SPORTS 1 – 10:30AM


LONDON SKOLARS V WHITEHAVEN – RL CHAMPIONSHIP
SETANTA SPORTS 1 – 6:15PM


BORDEAUX V PERPIGNAN – TOP 14
SETANTA IRELAND – 7:45PM


SATURDAY AUG 25


OTAGO V NORTHLAND – ITM CUP
SKY SPORTS 1 - 6AM


NEW ZEALAND V AUSTRALIA – RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
SKY SPORTS 1 - 8AM


DRAGONS V WARRIORS – NRL
SETANTA SPORTS 1 – 8:30AM


COWBOYS V KNIGHTS – NRL
SETANTA SPORTS 1 – 10:30AM


RACING V TOULON – TOP 14
SETANTA IRELAND – 1:55PM


LEEDS V WARRINGTON – RL CHALLENGE CUP FINAL
BBC1 NI – 2PM


GOLDEN LIONS V WESTERN PROVINCE – CURRIE CUP
SKY SPORTS 4 – 4PM


BLUE BULLS V SHARKS – CURRIE CUP
SKY SPORTS 4 - 6PM


ARGENTINA V SOUTH AFRICA – RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
SKY SPORTS 4 – 8PM


SUNDAY AUG 26


RABBITOHS V EELS – NRL
SETANTA SPORTS 1 – 6AM


JOUR DE RUGBY (TOP14)
TV5MONDE – 11:05AM


MONDAY AUG 27


STORM V SHARKS – NRL
SETANTA SPORTS 1 – 10AM


TUESDAY AUG 28


TOP 14 HIGHLIGHTS
SETANTA IRELAND – 4:45PM


WEDNESDAY AUG 29


GATESHEAD V WORKINGTON – RL CHAMPIONSHIP
(TEAMS TO BE CONFIRMED)
SETANTA SPORTS 1 – 7:15PM


TOTAL RUGBY
SKY SPORTS 3 – 11:30PM


THURSDAY AUG 30


THE RUGBY CLUB
SKY SPORTS 3 – 8PM


FRIDAY AUG 31


ULSTER V GLASGOW WARRIORS - PRO12
BBC1NI/ALBA – 7PM


GRENOBLE V STADE FRANCAIS – TOP 14
SETANTA SPORTS 1 – 7:45PM

NB – This weekly feature needs your help...if you know of any other rugby on telly in the above timeframe please email me! Cheers, JLP



© JL Pagano 2012

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