Friday, November 30, 2012

Heineken Cup fans pray to God for the right result

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Heineken and Teamer.net ask rugby fans about Heineken Cup match-day routines, magic moments … and taking their mums to the game!

Have you ever asked for divine intervention on a Heineken Cup result? Would you rather go to a Heineken Cup match alone or with your mother? With the crunch December back-to-back matches now only a week away Heineken canvassed fans to reveal what makes them tick on Heineken Cup weekends and asked people to vote for their most memorable tournament moments.

john_kelly_try_final__mediumThe survey of 500 rugby fans, conducted with Teamer.net, the digital platform for sports teams, revealed that match days with mates remain sacrosanct. In fact a quarter of those surveyed said they would rather go to the match alone than with their wife/girlfriend….surprisingly almost 10% said they would rather go with their mother! Build-up to big games is all important to fans, with almost half of the respondents (42%) saying they start to get excited a full week before Heineken Cup matches. Heineken Cup weekends occupy an important slot in the fan’s social diaries, with a massive 74% seeing the match day as a “special occasion”. The game is clearly more important to others however, with 60% admitting that they have prayed to God for a result!

Choosing the most memorable Heineken Cup moment after 17 years, 1,200 games and nearly 6,000 tries in the competition is no easy task. To help narrow down the choice, Heineken locked George Hook, Brent Pope and Donal Lenihan in a room and refused to let them out until they picked their favourite moments. Heineken then invited over 2000 people to vote.

stings_try_final__mediumFormer Lions manager Donal Lenihan chose Rob Howley’s matching winning try against Toulouse in the 2004 Heineken Cup final, in which Wasps won 27-20, as his favourite moment. 246 rugby fans voted in favour of his choice but 384 agreed with New Zealander Brent Pope who recalled the amazing atmosphere when Peter Stringer dived over the line to score in Munster’s 2006 Heineken Cup final triumph over Biarritz.

The overwhelming majority of Heineken Cup fans surveyed – 1,671 – agreed with George Hook who chose Munster’s 2003 victory over Gloucester at Thomond Park as his most memorable moment. Munster needed to score four tries and win by 27 points to qualify for the quarter-finals. They scored their fourth try with minutes to spare and won 33-6. The game will forever be remembered as ‘The Miracle Match.’

To celebrate the back-to-back December fixtures, Heineken is guaranteeing Heineken Cup match tickets for those who correctly predict the winners and losers of each match. All you have to do is play Heineken Star Predictor, the online match prediction game; log on to www.heineken.ie/heinekencup and register by 5.00pm Friday 7th December.

The “Jersey Unsure” Irish rugby fans

People who go to support Ireland should dress for the occasion, writes journalist Brendan Grehan

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A FEW MOONS AGO, I had been ranting on Facebook about Leinster and Munster fans and their supposed "age-old" enmities which are largely a media creation and or the love-child of the new rugby 'fan'.

Like it or love it, with the success of the Irish provincial game, there are a whole load of new 'fans' who wouldn't know one end of Kilgobbin from the other. Have they ever drunk a lemo in the Pav, had their cojones turned to ice in Kilternan. Have they ever froze on the sideline in Birr while their team of jobbing junior counsels, a secondhand car salesman, a tailor and a future High Court judge (watch this space) were dismantled by an XV mainly comprised of former inter-county hurlers. They say that it is the fastest ball-game in the world but let me tell you those hurlers were handy rugby players too.

Imagine if an Eddie Brennan or a Declan Ruth had picked up the oval ball, maybe we would be looking at three grand slams in the trophy cabinet in Lansdowne Road, but that is an argument for a winters evening, in front of a turf fire from the finest West Kerry peat and two balls of malt or even a large balloon glass of Cardenal Mendoza.

The old Cardenal. One of the pleasures of being involved in this old blogging lark is that you can feck off on a tangent, whenever you like, like driving to Mullingar on the N4 via Enfield and Edenderry.

Well Cardenal Mendoza is one of the best Spanish brandies out there on the market. I was raised on Spanish brandy from an early age and there is no finer Brandy De Jerez than the old Cardenal. Named after a famous Castillian Statesman and Cardinal, it also was the favourite tipple of Lee Brilleaux from Dr.Feelgood.

Some of my younger readers (do I have any, sorry does anybody ever read this, I know a few do) may not have heard of the Feelgoods, the legendary pub-rock band from Canvey Island in Essex but Brilleaux was a gourmand and lover of good pubs and eateries. A man after my own heart. Myself and my two brothers and three sisters,it must be pointed out do have a small reputation for sniffing out good nosheries for fellow trenchermen and trencherladies in most locales.

Back to Canvey Island, well Brilleaux while on tour would keep a diary with the best pubs and restaurants he ate and drank in. It was almost like a rock and roll Michelin guide. He alway used to end the night and sometimes start it (i'm sure) with a snifter of the the ol' cardenal as he used to call it.

Sadly Lee passed away from cancer in 1994 but here is a clip of Canvey Island's finest with Brilleaux on lead vocals and showing off some useful chops on slide guitar.

Back to provincial small-mindedness. Oh, the cat is out of the bag. And we should take it out because this phenomenon needs to be discussed because it has no place in our game.

In the bad old days when you went to inter-provincials, there may have been 300 there may have been 1000 but it was understood. It was the rest of Ireland versus the Cork rugby mafia and their cousins up in Ravenhill.

The boys, who sail in the summer months down in Crosshaven, decided how the Irish team was selected and really ran the show.

Now as rugby has embraced professionalism and its little love-child, sports marketing, we have a game that has morphed into a professional game but still retains some of its amateur roots.

But could you tell some of the 'fans' out there that just because a Leinster player is having an off-day while on a much-needed holiday in the Far East and he doesn't pose for photographs with a harem of orange-coated thong-wearing (the sandals) south Dublin witches, it does not make him 'obnoxious'.

He is a professional sportsperson and is entitled to his private life and private time.

Therein lies the problem. The new fan (who supports the professional game through their financial support) doesn't really get it.

Yes if you have to dress from head to toe in blue polyester sportswear and cheer on Leinster tomorrow against Zebre, do it. Down south, wear all those delightful red performance fabrics but because you have a ticket, it does not make you part of the game.

You are just another number. I feel some Bob Seger coming on. He captured man's disconnect with 'the man' in his 1978 classic 'Feel like a number'.

I may be a bit harsh but what really gets me going is that when you head to Lansdowne Road for International games. It is not a sea of green. It is a polycotton mess of blue and red and black and red. In fairness to Connacht, I have a bit of a gra for the men and women from the west. West of the Shannon is the real Ireland, they have suffered from the diaspora (and continue to do so) more than the pale and its dort-accent environs. I won't begrudge a Connacht fan wearing their green jersey to an Irish game but the idiots who wear Leinster jackets and their cousins in Munster and Ulster who do the same.

Are they trying to prove a point, that they have no cop on altogether?

On my way to last Saturday's game, I asked a couple of Ulster fans ( dressed head to mid-riff in Ulster gear): "I didn't know Ulster were playing today".

They scowled back.

Before the South African game, there were a couple of Munster lads wearing some smart branded anoraks. I passed a remark about Munster not playing but to be fair to them they wittily retorted : "Most of them are on the field".

I know that the provincial game has largely trumped its bigger brother. It is sad but there is more of a buzz now about the upcoming European Cup games than there ever was about the Autumn Internationals and that is a challenge for the IRFU.

It is a challenge they and Declan Kidney will meet but rugby fans you don't have to rub it in.

For your own sake, could you ditch the provincial sportswear for the odd time that you hit Lansdowne and wear something green.

Twitter: @brendanxavier

Facebook: Brendan Grehan

Brendan Grehan is a journalist.

Lions Selector Panel–4th Round (ENG)

It’s one of the hottest debate topics egg-chasing has to offer.

Given we live in something of a green goldfish bowl on these Irish shores, there’s no harm getting input from elsewhere. And so we have the HarpinOnRugby Lions Selector Panel, made up of one fan from each nation, with even the Irish panellist based abroad.

With the Autumn Internationals coming to a close, we kick-off the 4th round of selections with our English panellist Rich Church-Keen.

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Its great that the Internationals have finally come around, we've seen the potential British and Irish Lions pit themselves against the worlds best, and generally, fail.

England have seemed hell bent in turning down chances to win, Ireland finished on a high with a cracking victory over Argentina (having unearthed some cracking talents at International level!), Wales and Scotland have both been poor. I certainly think (even with the weekends games to go) that the Irish will have most to smile about.

As I try to pick my Lions squad on form and fitness, the Autumn Internationals will have massively changed the look of the side. Realistically, this side would have very little chance of being the final XV, so I'm going to do select two sides, one based on form and then my overall selection.

The side representing Form….

15 Zebo (Ire) or Goode (Eng) - I can't decide between these, both have had solid Autumns, Goode has fit in nicely with England and Zebo is a huge talent, but possibly more suited to the wing. I'll name both, form would possibly just tip the balance to Zebo though.
14 Bowe (Ire) – Do I need to explain this?
13 Tuilagi (Eng) - If he ever learns to pass, he will be one of the all time great English players. Has broke the gainline so many times in a dire England backline that its hard to ignore him. But please, Manu......Learn to pass!
12 D'Arcy (Ire) - On Autumn international form.... who else is there to pick?
11 Gilroy (Ire) - Yeah i know.... 1 cap, 1 try..... BUT, masterful performance in the non cap game Vs Fiji, where he got a hat trick, and workrate, defence and willingness get him the nod over Visser, who's game seems to involve standing around and waiting for the ball. I believe England forgot to pick any wingers after the Fiji game as i didn't see any after then, and no other players with any kind of form in the wing positions.
10 Sexton (Ire) - I was going to put Priestland in as a joke here, just to see how many people spat coffee on their laptops. Flood injured (and his form not 100%) as well as Biggar, Scotland lack genuine class at 10. Sexton, for me, a shoe in.
9 Murray/Care/Phillips (Ire/Eng/Wal) - a position where no-one is setting the world alight. Take your pick.
8 Heaslip (Ire) - JUST tips in over Ben Morgan due to more game time, Faletau and Denton haven't showed up over the Autumn games
7 Henry (Ire) - Captain Cymru has lost all form, Robshaw isn't a 7 and Scotland can't decide on a regular back row.
6 Strokosch (Sco) - Ally is a never say die player, incredible workrate, strong tackler atc and deserves more than his Scottish teammates will offer him. Peter O'Mahony a very similar player, but i'm a huge fan of Strokosch, he'll never let the side down! (and to be fair, i don't think Irish fans will mind one controversial, personal choice as they are OWNING this selection at the moment!!)
5 Launchbury (Eng) - Baptism of fire for young Joe. Handled it very well and performed well enough as a sub to shoehorn his way in to the starting line up.
4 Ryan (Ire) - Seems PO'C's injury wasn't as much as a problem as first feared with the emergence (internationally) of the 'other' Donncha.
3 Cole (Eng) - Not seen anyone show any form that would make me replace him in the starting XV.
2 Strauss (Ire) - Tom Youngs....No. Rees.....No. Scottish front row have all been poor..... so a collective no. That makes it a lot easier. Strauss it is!
1 Healy (Ire) - See Dan Cole.

So that team selection will make me a public enemy in Wales and Scotland!!!

My latest full Lions XV…

15 - Kearney (Ire) - This will solely depend on 6 nations form now. Halfpenny has done himself no favours over the Autumn, especially with his 'Bananaman AirSwim' vs Samoa and Kearney, through not playing, has probably gone above him in the pecking order!
14- Bowe (Ire) Made EVERY selection so far, I see no reason to change!
13- O'Driscoll (Ire) Guile, craft and flair that is hard to match. We'll need that to unlock stubborn defences.
12- Davies (Wales) Davies is slippery and elusive, Roberts is like a brick wall defensively. Both would work well with BOD.
11- North (Wal) The 6 nations will show me if he's been 'found out' or not. Certainly not the daunting prospect of last season, and several guys chasing him down now.
10- Sexton (Ire) Almost a shoe-in. It'll take a miraculous recovery of form (Priestland, Flood), a new face bursting on the scene (Freddie Burns?) or an injury to take him out now.
9- Phillips (Wal) Not everyone’s cup of tea, but his feistyness alone may well get him the nod!

I'm going to select the forwards as 'units'...
8- Heaslip 7-O'Brien 6- Ferris (all Ire) As a unit, superb, individually, superb. Warburton, Robshaw, Faletau, Denton et al will fight all the way, but at the moment, these 3 are the back row for me!
5- O'Connell (Ire) 4-Gray (Sco) - if fit, a daunting pair, but they will know that there are players such as Ryan and Launchbury ready to take them on, and Lawes coming back to fitness as well.
3- Cole 2-Best 1 Healy (Eng/Ire/Ire) - The 2 best Northern Hemisphere props and the hooker...well, its a toss up with Best and Hartley at the moment for me. Ford off the boil, Strauss I think will end up as sub to Best. Youngs, NO!, Rees, too lightweight, doesn't offer enough of an all round game! Best and Hartley both out at the mo. But I'll select Best, because Hartley will probably end up banned. :)

The further into the season we go, the more my mind will be changed. The guys in the 'Form XV' will all stake claims, especially at 6 nations time, and the guys returning from injury will have to prove themselves. I'm pretty certain that my final team will change from the team above!

Have a good Christmas people!

My name is Richard Church-Keen, born in Coventry, live in Dudley, yet by God's grace, I'm a diehard Gloucester Rugby and also an England rugby fan (and yes, in that order.) I'm a rugby mad husband to a rugby mad wife with a rugby mad stepson and indeed, rugby has taken over every facet of my life. I am a chef by day, and #RugbyUnited’s charity director and blogger in chief by night. Oh. And a twitter addict (@RichC_K)!!!

Thanks Rich! As usual we have put the four panellists’ selections together to form the HoR Composite Lions XV; click here to see what changes have been made this week!  Next Friday, the latest views of Welshman Hywel Davies.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

We need to talk about David

In her latest post for HoR2, Kate McEvoy examines the current Campese kerfuffle…

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Occasionally an issue arises on the internetz that allows me to sigh, dust down the auld soapbox and mouth off to my heart's content. So David Campese, you goose-stepping World Cup hero you, I salute you. My Christmas has come early.

So Campo, may I call you Campo? David, if you insist, let's get this ball rolling. First things first, in case anyone is unaware this week the man himself tweeted the following missive: "Why does the smh get a girl to write about rugby. Growden who was a great jornio and now we have someone who has no idea about the game". The "girl" in question is Georgina Robinson, who has recently replaced the long-serving Greg Growden as the Sydney Morning Herald's rugby correspondent. Unsurprisingly, this comment has attracted worldwide attention and no shortage of derision. David, in the words of former Wallaby winger Wendell Sailor, it's 2012 champ.

Before we continue down this road, let's take a moment to appreciate how great David Pocock is. Rugby fans are aware on his feral skills at the breakdown, his rampant athleticism, and the fact his biceps are roughly the size of baby whales. A finalist for Young Australian of the Year in 2012 he began his ascent to rugby greatness a mere 3 years after escaping from the turmoil of Mugabe's Zimbabwe. In addition to publicly speaking out about his eating disorder and raising awareness on the issue he works tireless for his charitable foundation, Eightytwenty Vision, which works to improve the lives of the sick and the poor in his native country. The projects focus on health care for HIV and AIDS sufferers, education for children, food and water security, and human rights. Furthermore, he and his partner, Emma Palandri have done a Brad & Ange by announcing they would not be getting married until gay people in Australia have the right to do the same. Seriously, if you look out the window in Western Australia, you can probably see him flying by with his cape flapping in the breeze.

So when David Pocock calls out your behaviour, he probably has a point. The erstwhile Wallaby captain has this to say in response to Campese's tweet. “Really sad to see journos attacked based on their gender. Or a grown woman referred to as a ‘girl’ #destroyingthejoint,”. Unsurprisingly, Pocock's hit the nail on the head here, with quite the hashtag to boot. I have no idea what kind of writer Georgina Robinson is. I haven't read her work. I'm not fully immersed in the Australian rugby environment. To paraphrase Evelyn Beatrice Hall, I've no idea what you said but I'll defend to the death your right to say it. Robinson's gender is no more relevant to what she writes than Growden's was. By all means disagree with what she has to say based on fact and opinion not her chromosomal make-up. The same goes for any individual writing on any issue. There's really not a lot else to say on that topic.

That is until Campese came up with his response to being called out on being, in the words of Judi Dench, a sexist, misogynist dinosaur. His clarification was as follows 'I was trying to say is that the coach is under pressure and sometimes males give it to the coach as some females go a lot easier on them." I'm going to move away from the fact that no-one, Campese included, is an authority as to what constitutes typical male & female behavior (Holy Sweeping Generalizations Batman!) and move towards an issue that is becoming more and more prevalent in the rugby media, the pushing of agendas.

Campese has been a vocal opponent of Australia coach, the beleagured Robbie "Dingo" Deans. Now David, what's happened here is you've been caught rapid saying something stupid. And while the attention is on you, you are trying to tangentially associate said-stupid thing with your own band wagon. I fail to see what Georgina Robinson's gender has to do with a lack of Wallaby attacking flair you so bemoan. I am interested in what you have to say on that subject, preferably with slightly less comedic flailing about the place. Please try again.

This seems to be a fairly widespread phenomenon at the moment, albeit with less of a knee-jerk reaction as demonstrated by Campese. It appears that Kidney's treatment of Mike Ross both in the media and on the pitch has more to do with sending out a message as to who picks the team rather than a specific issue with the player. Gatland's recent censure of Chris Robshaw and French-based players seems to be setting up English rugby fans for a disappointment, throwing his support behind Sam Warburton and putting the frighteners on the Welsh diaspora, all over 6 months out from the Lions tour. This does not seem to be a sporting way of doing business but in the shifting rugby landscape, where the clamor of voices is getting louder and more fragmented the hypodermic needle model of media distribution doesn't cut it anymore. you're going to say one thing and mean another. In short, you're going to find different ways to disseminate your agenda.

Back to the specific matter at hand. The whole affair throws up some interesting issues, regarding both social media and rugby. Firstly, and pay attention here David, deleting something you have published on a public platform does not make it go away. This is something that has been repeatedly reiterated across a whole spectrum of issues but apparently bears repeating. If you say it you're stuck with it.

This has also got me thinking about a wider issue which ties two of my previous points together - the right to free speech with the indestructible nature of online published opinion. If you are well-known in whatever field, how do you reconcile a desire and a right for free speech with the fact anything you tweet has the potential to follow you around like a bad smell?

In the Twitter age, a whim crosses your mind, you iterate it, it's out there, it's gone. Such is the case for average bears such as you and I. It might be an opinion you subsequently change or is proven to be factually inaccurate. It might be you on a bad day, at a weak moment. You might say something you later regret. And unless it's blatantly illegal or baiting a celebrity you'll probably hear no more about it. However this does not apply equally to all Twitter users.

So from a rugby perspective how do outspoken figures such as Campese, Brian Moore or Nigel Owens balance broadcasting their own opinions with this state of affairs? I don't have an answer for this one but I do think the Twittersphere would be a poorer place without them. Campo, I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. But if you could find a way of voicing displeasure based on fact rather than prejudice and push your agenda without resorting to sensation I'd have a lot more respect for your opinions. And I hope my gender doesn't preclude you from listening to mine.

Kate McEvoy : Munster fan in a sea of Leinster blue. Raised on a strict diet of Bective Rangers. Earliest childhood memory is stud marks in the muck. Former hooker for a father & a mother with an eye for a forward pass bordering on freakish . Often to be found down Monkstown RFC/ A & E on account of the exploits of the better half. Best rugby memory, Toulouse main square, May 24th 2008. Epitaph will read “Knew a lot about rugby for a girl.” Can be found tweeting optimistically at @ImKateMc

Keego on…Decisions & December

Enough about the rankings, time to don provincial colours again, writes Keego…

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So here we are. The November games are over; it’s back to the blue jersey for me. I thought I would put forward my thoughts on the recent games.

Caution is advised as there is an old man rant coming…

There was this big thing about the new players stepping up. They did against Argentina (I do not count Fiji) which was great to watch. But we have to remember that a long line of luck lead us to this team. With the change in personnel the way we play the game was always going to change, luckily it changed for the better. Gilroy, who was magic, would not be on the pitch if Kidney had his first choice. Same for Zebo. Both of these players excelled, but will they be picked when the 6nations starts?

The media and all of us on twitter made picking Gilroy unavoidable. There was no way that team was going to take the field against Argentina without him starting. Kidney would not have picked him otherwise. Kidney is a great manager, but quite conservative. Taking into account the different level between the Pumas and the ‘Boks, we played a Kidney style against the second best team in the world. Quite conservative and seemed to be wary about using our backline. I think we had 2 line breaks in the whole game against South Africa.

The Fiji game was exactly what we needed, we were always going to win, it was just a matter of by how much. I think there was a lot of criticism on Kidney for picking Ross to start, rumors abounded in the twitter-verse ranging from he was annoyed with Ross for his ‘Boks performance to Michael Bent cant scrum. We found out the Ross is our number one prop forward. Gilroy, McFadden and a few other lads played blinders against Fiji which may have given some complacent players a kick in the arse. This was the best thing to take from the Fiji match.

Then we got to the Pumas. The pressure was on, the selection was right, considering the injuries and the team played a belter. It was great to see. I think it was our best first half in 12 years (excluding the wallabies in the rwc). It was great to see, everyone was firing at 100%, the bounce of the ball went our way and the Pumas where tired after a long season. Captain Heaslip was immense again and is another leader we will have on the pitch for the 6 nations, a huge positive. Sexto was also a man mountain …… of a man. Another leader on the pitch for the 6 nations. With all this luck leading us to this team, we will have a squad full of leaders going forward.

I would put huge importance on this game, it was a seeded team, a big tough team and a team that rarely lies down. The reason they lay down was because we put them down. After the opening kickoff going into touch we owned the game. We didn’t lose one collision on the pitch. We where brave, daring, confident and lethal in finishing. We did the simple things right, the lineout worked perfectly, the scrum was like a tank.A great way to finish and finally we can STOP TALKING ABOUT WORLD RANKINGS!

The last thing I will say on this is that I feel the talk about the rankings has costs us. There was time left thinking about these instead of just concentrating on playing our game and winning. When we win, the rankings take care of themselves.

The winner of the November games is without doubt Craig Gilroy. It was all luck that he ended up on the pitch, but he took advantage of it and has written his name on a starting jersey. The person I feel sorry for is Andrew Trimble, he had a bad game against the ‘Boks, but has not started enough games to be the starting winger. This affects him at Ulster too; Gilroy will have to be starting now.

I promise there will be no more giving out about Kidney…..at least not for a few months ;)

Back to the blue of Leinster.

We played Glasgow. Jaysus it was awful! We won 6-0 (I think, I had bouts of sleep during the game). Glasgow had too many kicks which would have had them winning the game. The worrying thing for me appears to be the lack of top backup/academy players coming through. I understand the injuries are piling up for Leinster, and the players that are injured this year guided the younger players last year. But even saying that, they should be playing better. We usually have a slow start to the season but this year has been alarmingly slow.

One option to fix this is making the AIL relax the rules on the amount of contracted players that can play in a match so that the academy players are getting regular game time in varying conditions. This is something that would help Leinster hugely, it may not suit the AIL though.

We have not had ideal preparation coming up to Clermont. If we show up with the same mentality we had against Glasgow they will eat us for breakfast both home and away.

Lastly, this week I got a bit of flack for giving out about the Glasgow performance and the Leinster season so far. People saying that I am not a ‘real fan’ by questioning how the Leinster season is going. If you want to keep your head under the pillow and pretend everything is ok then by all means please do. Blindly follow if you want to. I will continue to question what is happening this year. It is just not clicking as it should be at this stage of the season. Our slow starts usually end around the time of the first Munster match of the season. We have been getting worse. Me saying this doesn’t mean I am less of a Blue than you, this doesn’t mean that I am more of a blue than you, it means that I see a problem and you don’t.

Can you honestly say that the season so far has been what we would expect? Even taking into account the injuries. The academy is supposed to be providing top level players ready to slot in when the first team are away or injured. They have not been doing that.

I really should end my rant there. As usual I offer myself up on the firing line for you to debate/abuse on twitter @nkeegan. We had some great debates during the week; I look forward to another week of the same.

It is getting so cold I have been wearing my base layer for 4 days.

Until next week…..

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 Nov 29-Dec 6


UPCOMING RUGBY ON IRISH TELLY

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

Times refer to start of broadcast not kickoff

THURSDAY NOV 29

THE RUGBY CLUB
SKY SPORTS 2 – 8PM

FRIDAY NOV 30

IRB DUBAI SEVENS – DAY ONE
SKY SPORTS 3 - 6AM

SALE V NORTHAMPTON – PREMIERSHIP
ESPN – 7:15PM

SATURDAY DEC 1

IRB DUBAI SEVENS – DAY TWO
SKY SPORTS 3 – 6AM & 1PM

LEICESTER V BATH - PREMIERSHIP
ESPN – 11:30AM

ENGLAND V NEW ZEALAND – AUTUMN TEST
SKY SPORTS 1 – 1:30PM
(HIGHLIGHTS ON BBC 3 AT 7PM)

TOULOUSE V CLERMONT – TOP14
SETANTA SPORTS 1 – 1:55PM

WALES V AUSTRALIA – AUTUMN TEST
BBC1WALES/NI – 2PM

LEINSTER V ZEBRE – PRO12
RTE2 – 5:45PM

RACING MÉTRO V STADE FRANCAIS – TOP14
SETANTA SPORTS 1 – 7:35PM

MUNSTER V GLASGOW – PRO12
TG4/BBCALBA – 7:40PM

SUNDAY DEC 2

SARACENS V GLOUCESTER – PREMIERSHIP
SKY SPORTS 3 – 2:30PM

SCARLETS V ULSTER – PRO12
RTE2/BBC2NI – 3:45PM

MONDAY DEC 3

RWC2015 POOL DRAW
RTE NEWS NOW/ITV4 - 2:45PM

AVIVA PREMIERSHIP HIGHLIGHTS
SETANTA IRELAND - 11PM

TUESDAY DEC 4

LIONS TOUR 1997
ESPN CLASSIC – 7:55PM

WEDNESDAY DEC 5

TOTAL RUGBY
SKY SPORTS 1 – 7PM

THURSDAY DEC 6

OXFORD V CAMBRIDGE - VARSITY
SKY SPORTS 1 – 1:30PM

WORCESTER V PERPIGNAN – AMLIN CUP
SKY SPORTS 1 - 7PM

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

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Nelson try on debut the difference

For the second week running Ulster had to dig deep to prevail on Italian soil, writes Kristian Ross

Rugby Rabodirect Benetton Treviso vs Ulster

Ulster took the narrowest of wins in Italy for the second time in a week, as a single point was enough to give the PRO12 leaders victory over Benetton Treviso at the Stadio Monigo.

Ulster fell behind after just seven minutes , a good try following a crooked lineout saw decent offloading to allow Brendan Williams to give Treviso an early advantage and a great conversion by di Bernando gave the Italians maximum points from the play.

Mistakes were seemingly costing Ulster however they finally made a decent break with some good passing and Nick Williams managed to get over the line however the TMO adjudged it inconclusive. But it didn't matter as Niall O'Connor was on hand to slot Ulster's first points a minute later with a penalty following Treviso being penalised in the scrum.

And Ulster were smiling when Peter Nelson (pic) got his first try after a great break that saw Paul Marshall offload to the young Ulster full back whose excellent pace sent him over for a great score, and Niall O'Connor sent over a truly brilliant kick to give Ulster the extra two.

But Treviso were back level within a few minutes, Ulster giving away the penalty that saw di Bernado hit a good kick from range to make it 10-10.

With half time approaching, Ulster's line out was sloppy in the Treviso half, and the Ulstermen lacked any sort of flair as well as conceding needless penalties and were lucky not to have conceded any points five minutes before the interval, Treviso knocking on in the Ulster twenty two. But again it started to go awry when Treviso scored another try following more errors after a line out, this time the scorer Ludovico Nitoglia, di Bernando couldn't find the extras, but still the Italian side lead 15-10 at the break.

As the second half began, Ulster realised that a big effort was needed in the second half, less mistakes, and sorting out the lineout. However, Mark Anscombe would have been furious, Ulster making a mess of yet another line out two minutes into the half.

Ulster did well to win a line out against the head in the Treviso twenty two, and were rewarded when the Italians found themselves offside, and Niall O'Connor made it 3 from 3 to get the league leaders back within just two points. Ulster really started to make amends for the poor first half performance with some fluid passing and attacking. Nick Williams again denied a try via the TMO, the second time in the match, but a penalty advantage from the Scottish referee allowed Niall O'Connor to have a shot at the posts, this time pulling it just wide, and the chance to go ahead missed.
Again though, Treviso were penalised and O'Connor attempted to put Ulster in front, and that he did with a superb penalty from distance as the men in white now led by a single point.

As the game moved into the final quarter, Ulster knew a try would give them some breathing space but despite some substantial time in the Treviso twenty two, they were still unable to extend the advantage.

And with eight minutes left, Ulster nerves started to fray even more when they gave away a penalty just over the halfway line that was narrowly missed by Alberto di Bernando. A few minutes later Ulster were lucky not concede another penalty and not see Mike McComish binned after a silly deliberate swipe.

In what had already been a horribly scrappy game Ulster seemingly looked to be coming apart at the seams, and another penalty was awarded to Treviso. The Italian side opted for touch rather than go for goal and it set the game up for a grandstand finish. And when John Afoa came in from the side, Treviso had the penalty and Alberto di Bernando had the chance to win the game for Treviso. Incredibly di Bernando skewed it horribly wide much to the shock of Treviso fans and Ulster finally cleared two minutes later to give themselves an amazing victory under what seemed impossible moments before. 15-16.

On review, Mark Anscombe will be furious. Ulster for the second week in a row almost let slip into Italy through no fault of their own, needless penalties given away, and some serious shoddy line outs. The Ulstermen will count themselves thankful.

On the plus side, Peter Nelson's debut try was another side of things to come, as well as another good kicking performance by O'Connor. So with two wins from two in Italy, the Italian Job is well and truly complete. Next weeks game against high flying Scarlets promises to be a cracker!

As always…Stand Up For the Ulstermen.

I'm Kristian. 18. And my mind is filled with rugby shaped thoughts. Supporting Ulster Rugby, Newcastle Falcons and of course the mighty Ireland. Tommy Bowe is the MAN !!!! SUFTUM.

Leinster women aim to retain their title

Was an opportunity missed in the scheduling of the 2012 Women’s Interprovincials? asks Sarah Lennon

Women's Rugby column

With domestic league action done and dusted, the top women players in the country turn their thoughts to the IRFU Interprovincial Season. Munster have been the dominant force down the years, unsurprising when you consider the success of UL Bohemian in the woman’s game. However last season, it was the women in the blue of Leinster who secured the title with a comprehensive 25-5 defeat of Munster in Cork (pic). The Interpro series is typically a two horse race, however it would be wrong to write off Connacht and Ulster before the series begins.

In Connacht, the dominant team is Galwegians who won the AIL Cup in 2012 and finishing fourth in this season’s AIL. Many of the Connacht players are likely to come from the Galway side, but at the time of writing I was not able to find a confirmed squad. Connacht will play their games in the Sportsground in Galway.

The Ulster club season hasn’t gone that well, with Cooke relegated and Queen’s University experiencing a heartbreaking defeat in the playoff final for promotion. Nevertheless, there is a very experienced and exciting backbone to the Ulster side with Irish Internationals Stacy-Lea Kennedy who captains, Ashleigh Baxter, Nikki Caughey and the returning Amy Davis. The Ulster side will be delighted to have a player I tipped to watch in October (albeit for Leinster) back in the ranks after a time away. The Blackrock player can play anywhere in the back line and featured at scrumhalf for Leinster and Ireland last season. Her electric pace sees her most effective on the wing however and it may be there that she features for Ulster. Ulster will play their home game at Queen’s University in Belfast.

Munster will be champing at the bit after losing the title in their own back yard last season. Munster have named a 28 woman squad, 14 of whom are from this year’s league winners UL Bohemian. Irish Internationals Niamh Kavanagh, Niamh Briggs, Gill Bourke, Laura Guest and Joy Neville all feature in what is an extremely strong and experienced side. Munster will be looking for a more convincing run out this time, last time out as well as losing comprehensively to Leinster, they squeaked a win against Ulster by 6 points and Connacht by 10. This time around they will be looking for more impressive results, but they do face two of their three games on the road. Munster will play their home match in Musgrave Park, Cork and completed their preparations with a warmup victory against an Exile XV in Thurles last weekend .

What made Leinster’s victories all the more remarkable last season was that two came on the road in Ravenhill and Highfield. The Leinster coaching ticket has changed since last season and there is also a fresh look to the squad. League runners-up Old Belvedere are heavily represented as are Blackrock and curiously, UL Bohemian with three representatives. The Leinster squad is captained by Mary Louise (Maz) Reilly for this season and boasts the Irish captain Fiona Coughlan as well as internationals Ailis Egan, Deirdre O’Brien, Jenny Murphy, Nora Stapleton and Paula Fitzpatrick. Leinster are the only team to play their matches outside of a city as they take their games to Ashbourne RFC, where the Irish women also play. Leinster warmed up for the Interpro series with easy victories against Connacht and an Exile XV.

Although it would be foolish to write off Ulster and Connacht before a ball has been kicked or passed in anger (after all there were no mammoth scorelines last season), it seems likely that the climax of this season will be the game between Munster and Leinster at Ashbourne RFC. It’s bound to be a mouthwatering contest with Munster desperate to seize back their crown.

Under normal circumstances I would encourage as many people as possible to attend, but I’m afraid that the scheduling of this match will make it very difficult for rugby supporters, particularly in Leinster. The clash between Leinster and Munster kicks off at 1:30 in Ashbourne on December 15th, the same day that the senior men’s team play Clermont Auvergne in Lansdowne Road. The kick offs are 2 hours apart, meaning that attendance at both is essentially impossible and strikes me as a massive opportunity missed to promote women’s rugby . If the matches were to both kick off on Saturday then a Dublin venue for the women’s match could have meant a bumper crowd with the correct marketing. It’s not as if Dublin 4 is short of rugby venues. Alternatively a Sunday kick off, perhaps as a double header with Leinster A in Donnybrook could have made sense and provided another opportunity to market the women’s game.

As things stand, the women will play out what is supposed to be a highlight of the women’s rugby calendar in front of a crowd of people who will support women’s rugby wherever the location and whatever the date.

2012 IRFU Women’s Interprovincial Championship Fixtures

2nd December

Ulster V Munster @ 13:00 (Queen’s University, Belfast) Free Entry

Connacht V Leinster @ 14:00 (Sportsground, Galway)

8th December

Munster V Connacht @ 14:30 (Musgrave Park, Cork)

Leinster V Ulster @ 13:30 (Ashbourne RFC, Co. Meath)

15th December

Leinster V Munster @ 13:30 (Ashbourne RFC, Co. Meath)

Connacht V Ulster @ 14:30 (Sportsground, Galway)

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, November 27, 2012

Aviva Premiership Rd 9 - “NZ Boys and Penalty Tries”

Ranking points in the Premiership are a lot easier to sort out, Felix McCabe has the story from last weekend.

Aviva Prem column

Aaron Cruden wasn’t the only New Zealander making headlines this weekend for his kicking prowess as both, Stephen Donald (pic) and Nick Evans kicked their sides’ only points in Friday night’s game at the Rec. Donald would come out the better of the two fly-halfs, despite missing his first attempt, as Bath recorded a 21-18 victory over the league-leaders, Quins. It was very much a heads down and get the job done kind of game, with a good contest from both sides in the breakdown. A tad bit of indiscipline allowed Donald the opportunities he converted into points and ultimately brought about Bath’s victory. Harlequins were always in this one; not letting the game get away from them too much, but Bath’s never-give-up mentality let them hold on for the win and a crucial four points.

26943In Friday’s other game Sarries travelled to Sixways in what was a physical encounter for the men in black at the top of the table. Admittedly without a number of their top players (due to international duty), their pack looked weak against a Warriors side who were only missing Samoan captain, David Lemi. It was this physicality up front that afforded Andy Goode his kicking opportunities and inevitably won the game for the homeside. Neither team looked threatening in attack and propspects of reaching a try-line was a feat to far in this game. Like Friday’s other game, it was down to the kickers to create points and unlike their New Zealand counterparts, the kicking wasn’t as successful as it had been in the Rec. It finished 12-3 to Worcester at Sixways.

October’s Player of the Month, Freddie Burns set about proving why he was named such and why Stuart Lancaster has recalled him to camp before the New Zealand game next weekend. Trust the opposition in Sale Sharks wasn’t much, Gloucester still had to do the basics and get the formula right to get a result. A goal easily achieved when you look at the state of the Sharks set-up: seven defeats at home, a turbulent coaching situation and a team that just don’t seem to gel well together on match day. Burns slotted home 5 penalties in the first 24 minutes, replied by one from the boot of Danny Cipriani. The second half saw the homeside turn up the heat in the Shed; pressure paying off for the Cherry & Whites. Openside flanker, Akapusi Qera, touched down and then a penalty try was given after a series of scrums on the Sale goal line. Gloucester’s hooker, Huia Edmonds suffered a neck injury and was stretchered off after an incident in a maul. This delayed the game 10 minutes but Sale couldn’t capitalise on the introduction of the relatively young and inexperienced Korrie Britton. Final score Gloucester 29-3 Sale.

Torrential rain at the Gardens meant the clash between Northampton and London Welsh was always going to be a battle up front. It surely lived up to that with not one, but two, penalty tries! The Welsh pack struck first with a massive maul that easily travelled 25 metres before being pulled down over the Saints’ line. The result: a sin-binning for van Velze and a try for the visitors that Gordon Ross converted with ease. Twenty minutes later Northampton would take advantage of the sin-binning of Welsh’s Franck Montanella (for the same offense as van Velze) and scrummage over the Londoners’ line. A second penalty try was awarded. Saints would find themselves the opportunists again when winger, Dan Caprice, was sin-binned for taking Jamie Elliot out. The overlap allowed a Ryan Lamb to pick out Ken Pisi with a cross-field kick that bounced lovely into his arms for the wing to cross in the corner. Ross landed a late penalty to secure a losing bonus point for the visitors, but it was always going to be Saints who finally record a victory after a mini losing streak of three games.

Adams Park has become a bit of a lucky talisman for the London Wasps this year and fortunes didn’t fade Sunday when Leicester came a knockin’. Barely three minutes had passed when the premiership’s leading tryscorer, Tom Varndell, touched down his eight of the season. He added his ninth later on; leaving Tigers’ Mathew Tait eating grass on his way to the left-hand corner. George Ford scored four penalties for the visitors but the homeside managed to clinch victory through two second-half penalties from Lee Thomas. The win didn’t move Wasps anywhere on the table, but cost Leicester their play-off spot as they drop to fifth.

27010The weekend’s last taste of English rugby was another showcase for the kicking talent on offer in the Aviva Premiership. This time it was Ireland’s Ian Humphries and Gareth Steenson (pic) who were on the mark with eleven successful kicks between them. Phil Dollman started the Chiefs’ off to a great start; scoring the game’s opening try after just two minutes. The visitors were up for this game and it was evident in the early exchanges; Steenson punishing Irish’s mistakes with his boot. Luke Arscott furthered the cause with a try on the seventeenth minute after some clever play from Hayden Thomas and Matt Jess; Jess finding a gap in the defense before handing off to Arscott. Jess making this gap-finding a major part of his game in recent months. The homeside kept the game competitive with tries from Leo Halavatau and Topsy Ojo (his third of the season). Ojo’s try came from a smart chip in behind from Humphries and a good follow up from the Exiles’ winger. Steenson was the better of the kickers on the day and managed to out-kick his countryman by six successful kicks to five. It finished 23-27 to the visitors. Neither team moved up or down on the table; but Irish will need to get a win next week against London rivals Welsh if they are serious about moving up this table. The Chiefs will be looking to overtake the Tigers and could very well do that against London Wasps if they were to get a win and Leicester failed to bring the goods against Bath. But we’ll have to wait until next week for that; until then take it easy.

Results

Bath Rugby 21-18 Harlequins

Worcester Warriors 12-3 Saracens

Gloucester Rugby 29-3 Sale Sharks

Northampton Saints 23-16 London Welsh

London Wasps 14-12 Leicester Tigers

London Irish 23-27 Exeter Chiefs

Eng Prem table

Friday, 30 November 2012

Harlequins v Worcester, 19:45

Sale v Northampton, 19:45

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Leicester v Bath, 12:30

London Welsh v London Irish, 13:00

Exeter v Wasps, 17:30

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Saracens v Gloucester, 15:00

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.

Top two clash the highlight of Pro12 weekend

We’re not happy here at HoR covering just the Irish provinces in the RaboPro12, so throughout the season Liam Sinclair will keep an eye on the rest of the league for us.

non-Irish-Pro12_thumb2

So…… I played a mare last week.

I know the problem though and sourcing is the first step towards fixing. I mixed a hangover with attempts at cleverness. No more! Only attempt cleverness while alert and sober. It’s not all bad though.

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Using my poor photo editing skills I’ve taken out Bonus Points and compared the actual table (on the left) with my stats (right). I can be forgiven my Leinster bias and the only other things I’ve gotten very wrong are the Scottish teams. With a little over half the season left I’d be happy if things were that close come May.

Entertainment and discussion being the main goals here I’ll get on with this week’s preview.

Ospreys; A great run came to an end in Edinburgh leaving the ‘Spreys in 6th. They are within a few points of the play-offs but only a few above the chasing pack. They’re the champs so looking upwards will be the mentality and heads won’t have dropped too much. Their next two fixtures are home derbies and derby victories are the best medicine when recovering from a slump. Concentration and determination the battle cry.

Cardiff; Travelled too Italy and won their match with minimum fuss and minimum style. It was a first victory in five matches but Cardiff are still struggling against the tides of mediocrity. A November victory against league bitches Zebre won’t do much to convince their critics that they’ve turned a corner.

The Match; Home advantage, better squad, better form. Everything is stacked against Cardiff and this is the Osprey’s to lose.

Treviso; Metres away from ending rampant Ulster’s winning streak Treviso will, not for the first time, feel hard done by after a narrow defeat. Their general play has been good all season but they are struggling to translate performances into victories. The next few Pro12 matches are winnable and a good start would be a boost.

Dragons; Stuck it to fellow mediocrity merchants Connacht and closed the gap in the competition to be ‘best of the rest’. They’re only a point behind Connacht and Treviso making this a second ‘six (8?) pointer’ in a row. It’s not the lofty goal professional teams will have dreamed of but with this season essentially written off even at this early stage finishing above the other teams nearby is the best hope for building for next season.

The Match; The men from Newport do not travel well. They’ve returned defeated from every one of their away fixtures this season and while Treviso haven’t exactly turned Stadio Monigo into a fortress they’ve done decently there. One point defeats to Leinster and Ulster are not to be sniffed at. Treviso need to take this opportunity to turn performance into victory and the Dragons are there for the taking.

Connacht v Edinburgh; Edinburgh stopped the rot with a decent win over the Ospreys. They’ve cut a frustrated figure so far this season and will need to build on this to make good the promise of last season. They can throw all their energy into this fixture though because the upcoming European matches are a wet box of matches after their terrible start. Connacht are stumbling from one type of indifferent to another with the odd solid performance thrown in. Very hard to predict what they’ll do. It’s not going to be a great show but the added fire power the Scot internationals will bring should be enough to get Edinburgh over the line. Interesting to see Nick De Luca and Vainikolo’s re-acquaintance.

Leinster v Zebre; I really thought Zebre were in with a chance of popping their cherry here but I’m starting to think they might make us wait until next season before they get a win. Another opportunity is on the horizon with the Italian double header but the Leinster juggernaut has to be navigated first. It’s more of the same for Zebre and they’re in for a tough time in Dublin. Leinster to win by millions.

Munster v Glasgow; Glasgow are having a decent season. Lost at the weekend showing a lack of incision but returning internationals should bring them back some direction. They travel to Thomond to engage a wounded Munster team and I see the potential for match of the weekend. Both teams are close to each other in the race for the play-offs and close to each other in ability. With nothing in it I go to the default pick of a home win. Munster victory after a close match.

Scarlets v Ulster; Scarlets came away from last week’s match with a rare victory in Munster. It should be the boost they needed going into this top of the table clash but the WRU have thrown a spanner in the works. Showing their usual indifference to the regional set-up Wales have scheduled a fourth international for the November break depriving the Scarlets of whatever front line players they haven’t already broken. The Llanelli men are hit the hardest due to the importance of the fixture and if they don’t get a result there will always be a feeling of ‘what if’. This should be an opportunity for them to close the gap but it’s probably not to be. Ulster to get a precious victory here to widen the gap.

Looking forward to the weekend and then onto the European fixtures. Until next week.

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

Setback for Connacht but future still looks bright

Connacht couldn’t quite get things going in Newport, writes John O’Sullivan

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Connacht resumed their League campaign with a defeat to the lowly Newport Gwent Dragons. Indeed, as the Dragons had lost their previous seven games on the bounce, the defeat will hurt Connacht. The game, played in abysmal conditions at Rodney Parade, was a battle of attrition, as flowing rugby was made nearly impossible thanks to the swirling wind and torrential rain.

Coming from Galway as they do, one would have thought the visitors would be used to playing in such challenging conditions, as the Sportsground at the best of times can resemble a quagmire. The Dragons’, though, managed the weather better and with youngster Tom Prydie on form they secured a crucial victory. Prydie, who is the youngest capped Welsh player in history, added three penalties and converted Patrick Leach’s try.

Connacht took the lead through a Dan Parks penalty, and had a number of chances to score throughout the game, particularly through Tiernan O’Halloran, but the Westerners lost their composure at vital junctures.  They will also be concerned with their discipline throughout the game; both Andrew Browne and Jason Harris Wright were sin binned, and Leach’s try came when Connacht were down to 13 men.

Eric Elwood will be hoping for improvements with the Biarritz game looming large on the horizon and, firstly, the visit of Edinburgh to Galway next weekend.

In other Connacht related news, it was fantastic to see Mike McCarthy’s performances in Ireland’s November tests against South Africa and Argentina. McCarthy was imperious in the first test against South Africa and, although his second row partner, Donnacha Ryan, took all the plaudits, was solid and industrious against Argentina.

McCarthy’s ascendancy to the Irish squad sets a precedent for the rest of the Connacht squad to follow. Unlike previous Connacht squads, there is now a benchmark to aspire to; Connacht players will know, should they impress sufficiently, that their chance with Ireland will come.

There was more good news off the pitch for Connacht, as two of the province’s promising youngsters have committed themselves to Connacht for a further two years. Kieran Marmion has been superb for Connacht this season ,and should he develop as quickly in the next two years as he has in the last few months then Connacht, undoubtedly, have a future Irish and Lions scrum half. Promising young prop Denis Buckley has also committed the next two years of his fledgling career to Connacht. Although Buckley hasn’t been exposed to first team action as much as Marmion, he has still shown signs of quality in his appearances. It’s wholeheartedly encouraging that young players see their future at the Western Province. The likes of Marmion, O’Halloran, Henshaw and Buckley being exposed to Heineken Cup action will inspire future generations.

I’m John O’Sullivan, 20. Part time student, full time sports nut. Love rugby and am currently the PRO of Connemara RFC. I also do some radio work for my local station. One day, I would love to be a Sports Journalist/Broadcaster.

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