Friday, March 07, 2014

The Pagano Preview Mar 7-9

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I have been pretty quiet all through the week about BOD.  No lists of 13 things, no YouTube montages of his greatest moments, just the odd passing mention.  Plus a banner to sit atop my preview of course.

That is not because I have anything against him - far, far from it.  But although I appreciate the significance of this being his last game for Ireland at HQ, the fact that there is so long left in his final season makes me prefer to focus my energies on the build up to the match itself, much the same as he would.  There’s a Championship to be won goddammit!

One thing that IS worth mentioning is that he is breaking George Gregan’s all-time caps record and that really is some achievement.

Still, even that has my superstitious gland working overtime.  We know he definitely won’t have “one more year”, but hopefully he’ll still be good for one more game the following week in Paris!   Plus there’s the small matter of a trip to Toulon in April!

Especially for someone who has given so much of himself for the jersey, it’s going to be hard enough for him this week and indeed for the rest of the season to focus on the job at hand.  IMO we can wax lyrical about his amazing career afterwards.  Between now and the end of the season let’s just savour every pass, every tackle and every try.

Now it’s time for me to get a whole rake of match predictions horribly wrong same as I do every week…


Click here for TV listings

Friday, March 7

Under 20s Six Nations

Ireland v Italy, 7:05pm

No prospect of a title for Mike Ruddock’s Wolfpuppies this year, but definitely a chance for them to play some winning rugby tonight.  The likes of Ross Byrne, Sean O’Brien óg and Adam Byrne will start and watch out for Harrison Brewer (son of Mike) off the bench wearing 23 - played at centre in school for Terenure and definitely has the potential to go far.

Of course even though silverware is off the table there’s loads to play for - the small matter of a trip to New Zealand in June for the Junior World Championship and a pool which includes Wales, Fiji and our opponents next week, France.

Saturday, March 8

Remaining previews will be here Saturday morning.

RBS Six Nations

IRELAND v ITALY, 2:30pm

CLICK HERE FOR MY PREVIEW ON THE FANTASY5LIVE BLOG

SCOTLAND v FRANCE, 5pm

If the Scots are to have any hope of causing an upset today they will need to rely on two things, one they cannot control, the other they most definitely can.

The woes in the French squad have been well-documented…when that dressing room turns against its coach it’s almost impossible to win them back, but there is always the possibility of them playing for themselves so as usual, we will have to see which set of Les Blues turn up at Murrayfield.

One thing is for sure - if they do perform it will only be after wholesale changes to their lineup - deprived of game changers such as Fofana, Picamoles and Parra for widely contrasting reasons, the side certainly isn’t one I’d pick even with the players available but like i say there’s every chance they could click.

For the Scots’ part they very much need to channel the good will brought about by that late winner in Rome and be sure and come at the French with everything they have from the kickoff - anything less would surely be a major disappointment to the home faithful.

So basically what I’m saying is that despite the fact that my prediction goes the other way, I can still see a path to a home victory.  Claassen and Fickou off the bench could be the key should the French need to pull something out of the bag late on.  France by 8

Women’s Six Nations

Ireland v Italy, 5pm

Of course it’s a super idea to hold this at the Aviva, particularly on International Women’s day.  I just hope they get a decent turn out…fans from the men’s game can stick around if they want but many will be tempted to hit the pub for Scotland v France so this match could well have a “Edinburgh Pro12 match in Murrayfield” atmosphere.

Still, as skipper Fiona Coghlan pointed out on a 2fm panel during the week, the girls are very much looking forward to this unique opportunity to play at HQ and you certainly can’t deny they deserve it, particularly after the conditions they had to endure in the reverse of this fixture last season to secure the Slam!

Ulster Bank League Division 1A

Ballynahinch v Old Belvedere, 2:30pm

LV= Cup Semifinal

Northampton Saints v Saracens, 12:30pm

Super Rugby

Crusaders v Stormers, 6:35am

Western Force v Melbourne Rebels, 8:40am

Bulls v Blues, 3:05pm

Sharks v Lions, 5:10pm

Sunday, March 9

RBS Six Nations

ENGLAND v WALES, 3pm

The Bosh Bowl.  This certainly won’t be one for the faint-hearted.  Stuart Lancaster will have his boys well-drilled as usual with a gameplan while Gatland’s will be doing everything they can to help them forget it.

But while I can see the benefits from making only injury-forced substitutions after the hard-earned win over Ireland, I thought Jonny May wasn’t up to scratch that day and could be seen as a weak link to be exploited out wide by the likes of Cuthbert & Faletau early on.

Also I reckon the Welsh have the stronger bench with Coombs, Tipuric & Phillips all well able to provide instant impact in their specific areas if required.

Still though, we can’t let this England team play the humble underdog card forever, can we?  I want to see them under some decent pressure before these matches and if their home media won’t do it, then it should be us.

Though this is likely to be a tight one, it could well rest on refereeing decisions and 80k simultaneous renditions of Swing Low are bound to sway Monsieur Poite towards a home win.   England by 4

LV= Cup Semifinal

Bath v Exeter Chiefs, 1pm


Be sure and enjoy your Six Nations weekend wherever you are. And if you’re at Lansdowne Road, be extra sure to enjoy yourself.  It’s meant to be a celebration of an amazing career, not a sad farewell. JLP

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