Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Front Five Special - The Top 5 HoR Matches of 2014

With 2014 winding down we've decided to give in to the online peer pressure to produce lists for once.

In a special 4-day edition of our popular "Front Five" feature we're going to share with you quotes and links from our writeups for what we feel were the five best Leinster & Ireland rugby matches of the year.

This post will update between now and New Year's Eve around 6pm each day.   Spoiler alert - the match in Thomond Park on Stephen's Day didn't quite make our top five...


#5

around the 60-minute mark, the stadium announcer informs us about a substitution.  “They’re taking BOD off?” I said in disbelief.  “He NEVER comes off unless he’s injured?  But he seems to be fine and he’s playing a blinder?  Why would they……oh."  THAT is when it hit me.


IRELAND-46 ITALY-7

#4


 ...for this one off test, I can offer nothing but congratulations to everyone involved.  Joe says transition is a continuum - if so I can think of no better coach in world rugby to be in charge of ours.

"ALL IN A WEEK'S WORK"


IRELAND-29 SOUTH AFRICA-15


#3


 ...I had to laugh watching back the RTE coverage as Donal Lenihan remarked that the Leinster fans didn't seem to know Cullen had taken the field...clearly the chants of “Leeee-o, Leeee-o” hadn't tipped him off. He won us a penalty at a key moment and got busy with his usual sterling work around the breakdown area. Again, a fitting way to end such a successful career.

"LEINST WE FORGET"


Leinster-34 Glasgow Warriors-12


#2


For many Irish fans the notion of those 109 years of hurt have instilled a sense of inevitability about how we see these matches; that no matter how valiant our efforts, the black-clad ones were just too good.  Well thankfully noone told that to Goose’s Glorious Green Goddesses.




IRELAND-17 NEW ZEALAND-14

#1

 ...if the three on that overlap were Tales, Huget and Dulin, the outcome would have been pretty much certain.  In this case, however, it was forwards Dubaty, Pape and Chouly and between them O’Driscoll and Dave Kearney did absolutely everything they could to prevent that ball going through the hands.

FORRRRRRRWARRRRRRRRRDDDDDDD!!!!!!

Go on, tell me you shouted it too, it’s ok.

 "REIGNING ON OUR PARADE"

FRANCE-20 IRELAND-22

*****

Thanks for following this post throughout the week and of course for following our writeups throughout the year.  Here's to an exciting and of course successful World Cup year of 2015!

Enjoy your celebrations tonight, see you on the other side!

JLP

Front Five - New Year's Eve 2014

Start your day with five eye-catching egg-chasing quotes & links from around the ruggersphere.

Later today here on HarpinOnRugby...
the top 2 in our list of
 best HoR matches of 2014


Jamie Heaslip, whose DNA was apparently fabricated in conjunction with NASA, remains the only front-line Irish international not to be scratched from action by injury under Matt O'Connor or, indeed, Joe Schmidt.

Jack Conan knows that game of patience is his virtue

David Kelly - Irish Independent




“It is something that plays on my mind a little bit. I don’t dread the day, but I don’t think it was ever my intention to keep on playing this long."

Paul O’Connell retirement rumours may be premature

Gavin Cummiskey - Irish Times




Leinster, like us (Ulster), aren’t in the greatest run of form and should we manage to escape the RDS with any kind of win then we will severely dent their top four aspirations as well as furthering our own. 
Adam McKendry - The Hound On The Hill




I know from playing there...that the people who go to watch Connacht don’t just go to be entertained. They go because they want their team to win and they get behind them no matter what. 
Mikey Traynor - Balls.ie




"Might not be on the NY list by the way."

Jonny Wilkinson in New Years Honours embarrassment after appearing to confirm knighthood

Daniel Schofield - Telegraph
 



Feel free to share any interesting links you spot yourself about t’internet by email, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, blog comment or carrier pigeon – whatever works for you. JLP
Note - views expressed in "Front Five" links do not necessarily reflect those of HarpinOnRugby

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Leinster squad update

From Leinster Rugby...


The Leinster Rugby squad trained again today in Donnybrook ahead of Saturday's sold out clash against Ulster Rugby (Kick Off: 2.40pm). 

Head coach Matt O'Connor has reported no new injury concerns ahead of the visit of Ulster although Dominic Ryan is still being assessed under the return to play protocols on the back of the injury sustained in the first half against Munster on Friday evening. 

O'Connor had positive news on the progress of a number of players. 

Marty Moore, Fergus McFadden and Ben Te'o have all taken a full part in training this week and are now available for selection, while Cian Healy and Sean O'Brien continue to make excellent progress and are still on track for a return in the next few weeks. 

However it was not all good news as O'Connor confirmed that after consultation it was decided that forward Kevin McLaughlin needed surgery on the shoulder he injured against Connacht and will be out for the next 12 weeks. 

Front Five - 30.12.14

Start your day with five eye-catching egg-chasing quotes & links from around the ruggersphere.

Later today here on HarpinOnRugby...
#3 in our list of top 5
HoR matches of 2014


IMG_1598
"I just know from working every day with (Matt O'Connor), my own feeling is that he is really knowledgeable, a really, really good coach. He's very organised and I'm always very impressed with him."

Luke Fitzgerald: There were definitely times when I lost hope

Ruairidh O'Connor - Irish Independent




Healy could conceivably feature in January’s Champions Cup games against Castres and Wasps while O’Brien has an outside chance of playing in the Six Nations.

Leinster’s Ben Te’o in the frame to face Ulster

Gavin Cummiskey - Irish Times




A security guard called the police who arrived after Hooper and his friend had allegedly attempted to rip a signpost out of the ground. 
ABC.net.au (via AAP)




With rugby teams playing during different periods of the year to football teams it would make it much easier to attract passive fans who otherwise may be otherwise engaged at football games. 
Dave Nicoll - InTheLoose.com




The Blues announced Adam Jones' signing in a novel way...by including him in their team photo.

From a row with One Direction to an aeroplane cockpit... the story of Wales' rugby stars on Twitter in 2014

Matthew Southcombe - WalesOnline
 



Feel free to share any interesting links you spot yourself about t’internet by email, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, blog comment or carrier pigeon – whatever works for you. JLP
Note - views expressed in "Front Five" links do not necessarily reflect those of HarpinOnRugby

Monday, December 29, 2014

Munster-28 Leinster-13


SKIN IN THE GAME

"You can't be inaccurate against Munster...you look after the ball and you don't give them soft scores."

There's a stark irony the above quote from under-fire Leinster coach Matt O'Connor, given that it came BEFORE this match kicked off.  

I do these writeups late Sunday evenings for a reason.  When you watch a sporting contest primarily as a fan, your ability to accurately describe what's happening in front of you is severely compromised.

Had I started this one shortly after full-time, my frustration on several different levels would have probably dictated the tone of the piece.  And since I want to reflect not only the match in question but also how it affects my team's season in general, it's probably better that I have at least one sleep and see the match again at least one more time before I start harping on.

But for this particular match, I felt it was important to take a snapshot of that frustration, because it's an emotion that has been spreading among the Leinster faithful from the moment this season kicked off, and it was even there last season despite the fact we were crowned league champions.

So if you want a sense of how fans were feeling after Nigel Owens blew the full-time whistle to put us out of our misery, click here for a sample or the link at the end for the full offering.

I can't say I agree with all of those opinions expressed, but one thing I certainly do understand is the frustration, and there was plenty to go round after this match.

Getting beaten by Munster by 1 point is frustrating, let alone 15.

Getting beaten thanks to stand out performances from players Leinster let go like Keatley, Conway and Jones is frustrating.

Getting beaten by any side that just has to do the basics well to beat you off the park is frustrating.

But getting beaten after doing the opposite of everything the coach said before kickoff you needed to do is probably the most frustrating of all.

So after having a couple of sleeps and watched the match back...is that frustration still there?

Well, yeah.  But at least now I can see the funny side of Dax The Destroyer BJ Botha's shirtless effort in keeping us out as the clock clicked down towards 80 minutes!

It was that effort which I felt represented the difference between the two sides, and we didn't just see it from Munster in the last minute - it was also there in the first, when an understandably-determined Andrew Conway soared into the air to take a clean catch of his own team's box-kick ahead of Zane Kirchner.

That set the tone for the entire contest and virtually every score Munster put on the board can be traced back to a Leinster error of some description.

And it's not like the home side were doing anything that much differently than they had back at the Aviva in October.  The support was there with the carriers, the phases were being ground out, the ball was being protected.  When we committed numbers to the breakdown, they sent it wide.  When we didn't, they picked up the ball and barrelled forward for a gain every time.  Simple rugby, well executed.

The stats say we made a whopping 224 tackles.  Taken on it's own, that looks like a good thing.  For this match, we needed to make more than 250 and we didn't.  And my question arising from that is...could we have played a different way to try and keep Munster's possession to a minimum?

Well the simple answer is yes, and more often than not we were masters of our own downfall.  The possession that led to the first Munster try came from them stealing the ball back immediately after Richardt Strauss had forced a turnover.  We were too slow to protect him and it was pinched back, and the home side were quick to exploit the transitional confusion in our backfield.

Nigel Owens was absolutely right to downgrade the sanction from penalty to scrum when he realised why Dominic Ryan hadn't rolled away at a ruck - when concussion is suspected, the play must be stopped.

But in a way it helped Munster in that rather than taking the three points as they surely would have, the scrum turned out to be an attacking platform for them and when Ryan's replacement Jordi Murphy went to tackle Stephen Archer off a ruck rather than the (also shirtless) CJ Stander who actually got the ball, the South African-born flanker had an easy finish.

What made try number two even more frustrating was that it came early in the second half and shortly after we had some decent possession.  All it took was one inaccurate kick from Ian Madigan and Felix Jones was able to pin us back eventually leading to an  attacking lineout for Munster.

The one area where I was sure we'd have an edge was at centre, but only if they got decent possession and that never happened.  Howard and Hurley weren't exactly world class at 12 & 13 for Munster, but they were certainly made to look it on the day and on this occasion a simple combination got them into our 22 where once again the error-less phases got them as far as the try line.

Again it was Jordi Murphy involved off the ruck - he and D'Arcy went for Keatley but the outhalf still got his pass away perfectly into the path of Conway who found a killer line which couldn't be stopped by as many as 4 Leinster tacklers (Jennings, Kearney, Fanning & Boss) before he got over the line.

Now before I go on I must say the match was over as a contest at that point.  There was no way in the world we were playing in such a way as to claw back 12 points without a bit of help, but it has to be said the yellow card for Darragh Fanning was certainly an un-necessary hindrance.

I still don't think Fanning is anywhere near as bad as many fans make him out to be...the argument seems to be that any mistakes he makes proves the point while anything solid or even good he does are exceptions.  But on this occasion he was definitely hard done by.

The ball was clearly out from the ruck when he went for the ball, and Nigel says he fell on it when in actual fact he scooped it up before protecting it on the ground.

Once more...to be perfectly clear...Munster won this match fair and square.  I have no arguments there.  But to say the yellow was harsh is an understatement, and even if there was a sliver of hope of us coming back, Keatley's penalty stretching the lead to 15 snuffed it out altogether.

The third Munster try came with the extra man, but it stemmed from yet another Leinster error in possession.  Mike McCarthy wasn't the intended receiver from Isaac Boss' pass but he went for it, dropped it, and a penalty from the scrum led to a Keatley attempt from halfway that fell short.

From our 22 drop out Munster hopped back on the phase train and by this stage we were pretty much tackled out.  For the record, this time off the ruck it was Jennings & Douglas getting in each other's way allowing Dave O'Callaghan to fall over the line way too easily.

Of course after that it was way, way too late, but I reckon Leinster's performance in the final 15 minutes needs to be noted, because often we have put teams away in the first three quarters only for fans to be critical if the oppostion claws back any late points.

Luke McGrath's introduction was key to our finding even a bit of mojo in the closing stages, and given that it was Reddan doing likewise against Harlequins a few weeks ago it makes you'd wonder if it's more about the replacee.

But right from the kickoff after the third try we played as we should from the start and again I have to question Nigel Owens because if the Fanning no-no was yellow, then why wasn't that of Eusebio Guinazu when he blatantly stopped our progress with a penalty having gotten under their posts?

Again...not saying it would have affected the result, just that it needs to be said to give a proper account of what happened.

Still, we did go on to cross the whitewash - thanks to a cheeky offload from Jack Conan to Shane Jennings.  It wasn't cheeky in that it fooled anyone, more because we don't seem to be set up to do them these days!

And although we didn't let up despite the fact another converted try wouldn't provide a bonus point, the Munster defence were able to find their own mojo again and we were kept at bay with the final margin pretty much where it should have been.

The errors I pointed out above were just the tip of the iceberg for us...lost lineouts, needless knockons, botched ball-booting, all there with bells on.  Munster made errors too and a try bonus would have flattered them, but it was their overall focus that kept them to a minimum.  They played as though defeat was no option...we played like it was our only one.

So overall it was a terrible end to the calendar year of 2014 for Leinster.  When the wins are ugly, at least we have the win as consolation.  There was nothing to salvage here.  

Has my position on Matt O'Connor's tenure changed?  No.  I still wish he would do things differently.  And I'm afraid he'll use Madigan's less-than-ideal (but not the worst by a long stretch) performance to restore Jimmy Gopperth to the 10 position next Saturday.

But as I keep saying every week, what is the point in screaming MOC out for any other reason than putting your (albeit understandable) frustration into as few words as possible?  It's not going to happen, at least not now.

Sure, the wins we're getting are ugly.  But none have come close to the Ugliest Leinster Win Ever, against Clermont at the RDS in 2010, under Michael Cheika.  

Sure, the performances are unacceptable.  And in this case, I could actually say that this was the most unacceptable I have seen since I started Harpin On Rugby in 2008...but the one it beats to that title was against Ospreys in 2012, and that was under Joe Schmidt.

Also we cannot forget that everything about Irish Rugby right now revolves around the World Cup.  If Leinster Rugby's form is a problem, fixing it is not going to be at the top of the list for the people that matter.

We have the coaching staff that we have.  For now anyway, they are working with the players to turn our season around.  All we can do as fans is get behind them.  We have at least 13 matches left this season, hopefully a few more.

And despite the doom and gloom within the Leinster bubble, outside it we still have bookies actually installing us as favourites to win the Guinness Pro 12 outright.  I know, I had to triple-check it myself!  If they believe, why can't we.

Let's take the turn of the year to wipe the slate clean and hopefully the boys in blue can do the same in time for the visit of the Ulstermen at the weekend.  If nothing else, let's make sure we're there to greet them in full voice. 

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL HoR READERS 

#COYBIB JLP



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Also in this round


Next round

Thursday, January 1

NG Dragons v Cardiff Blues, Rodney Parade, 2:05pm
Connacht v Munster, Sportsground, 5pm

Friday, January 2

Edinburgh v Glasgow Warriors, Murrayfield, 7:35pm

Saturday, January 3

Benetton Treviso v Zebre, Stadio di Monigo, 2pm
Leinster v Ulster, RDS, 2:40pm
Scarlets v Ospreys, 5:05pm

Front Five - 29.12.14

Start your day with five eye-catching egg-chasing quotes & links from around the ruggersphere.

Later today here on HarpinOnRugby...
our match writeup is titled 
"Skin In The Game"


IMG_1598
"The reality of it is that we have to fight every week to get into that top four. At the minute we are not consistently playing well enough to maintain those points."

'Grumpy' Shane Jennings keeps the faith after Munster massacre

Ruaidhri O'Connor - Irish Independent




“I thought he played fantastic. He is a very physical guy, a great defender and he is always getting over the gain-line and offering options on the offload"

New boy Howard hails Hurley heroics

Simon Lewis - Irish Examiner




“I have found in my time here that, in the interpros, we always get the toughest calls [against us]." 
Gavin Cummisky - Irish Times




Ulster looked content to contain their opponents and the game fizzled out as quickly 
John McMurtry - Front Row Union




There are some crackers in here, bone shuddering tackles that may want you to run into something after.

Presenting The Biggest Rugby Hits Of 2014

Paul Ring - Balls.ie
 



Feel free to share any interesting links you spot yourself about t’internet by email, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, blog comment or carrier pigeon – whatever works for you. JLP
Note - views expressed in "Front Five" links do not necessarily reflect those of HarpinOnRugby

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Front Five - 28.12.14

Start your day with five eye-catching egg-chasing quotes & links from around the ruggersphere.

Later today here on HarpinOnRugby...
We begin the countdown of
our top five Leinster & Ireland
matches of 2014


IMG_1598
During the week people had been complaining that the lack of international players devalued the fixture but pride in the jersey is more important to the team

Driving the Blues away

Gayl - West Terrace View




What an event! I believe we are ready to make that step

Realistic World Cup bid puts Irish rugby in the big time

Neil Francis - Irish Independent




"You've got to appreciate the four points in a local derby, but it feels a little bit of a hollow victory." 
BBC Sport




...he is also being ­recognised for his ­extensive charity work in Britain, including for the NSPCC 
Simon Boyle, Patrick Hill - Irish Mirror




“It is brilliant working with (Joe Schmidt), every meeting and every training session we learn something new — and you could almost be jealous that Leinster had him for so long."

Ireland can win World Cup – Paul O’Connell

TheScore.ie
 



Feel free to share any interesting links you spot yourself about t’internet by email, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, blog comment or carrier pigeon – whatever works for you. JLP
Note - views expressed in "Front Five" links do not necessarily reflect those of HarpinOnRugby

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A sample of post-Munster v Leinster online reaction

Normally we schedule a post on the HarpinOnRugby Facebook page for around full-time in a Leinster/Ireland match for fans to leave their comments.

Since yesterday's thrashing in Thomond was such a low point we thought we'd put together a selection of the opinion in a post here on the main site to give a representation of the general feeling.   

What you see below does not necessarily represent the opinion of HarpinOnRugby - we will offer our own take in our match writeup on Monday as per usual. 

Many thanks to all who have contributed throughout 2014 by way for tweets, favourites, RTs, comments, shares and any other social media methods I may have missed.  JLP

PS - the selection is listed in no particular order


Flat passes, miss Jamie's leadership, Munster outplayed us and one attribute Leinster didn't have Passion . Hurts to say well done CJ and Munster.

Nollaig O'Cuidighthigh

*****

Shockingly bad performance by Leinster..no passion, forwards were shite....I love Leinster & will support them week in and week out, but very disheartening and hard to watch.  #COYBIB

Audrey Hevey

*****

Don't see how O'Connor can dodge too much. Tactically we played simplistically. O'Connor appears to believe that a simple game will win. It will, with absolute perfection. So no plan B, and the blame for any loss us down to the players not executing. It's as if he doesn't believe good tactics are worthwhile.

Brian Connell (Google+)

*****

No doubt MOC will drop Conan for daring an offload - for Jennos try. Clueless, no plan B, take the ball into contact ad nausea and go nowhere. O'Con nor is a liability but what Cullen, hero for us a player butmade forwards coach without any iota of coaching experience. Jobs for the boys It seems.

Brendan McGrath

*****

My heart is officially broken  Talking about getting rid of MO'C now is futile. Earliest he can go is end of season and who would replace him? Unfortunately we need to make the most of what we have and the beatings that are to come.

Lornagh Coyle

*****

Some positives  - The front row all done ok, another game for both Strauss and furlong not a bad thing. Luke, Shane, jordi and Dave K all got another game under the belts. Luke McGrath is the best 9 we have and Conan also got another run.  Madigan and Luke looked good too.  Too many negatives to mention but in reality without a coach what do you expect.

Chris McDonnell

*****

I hope that result will put an end to the 'spoilt Leinster fans' line and people will accept that the fans are entitled to be annoyed.

@WhiffOfCordite (Twitter)

*****

It's not that head coach MOC is the problem. It's the whole Leinster coaching ticket is the problem. They are devoid of ideas the way Leinster play. The players play to the instructions they are given, so it's not really their fault in the results.

Gerald Williamson

*****

MOC to stay!

John Greene (Munster fan)

*****


Not good enough. Again and again I've said it. One poxy try against a weak and tired defence doesn't change the fact that our attack offers NOTHING. It is embarrassing at this point. No patterns, no intelligence, no penetration and the same game-plan of stupid, constant, unambitious kicking and one-runners off 9 and 10. In other words, shite rugby. 

I reject the notion held by some of the snobbish fans at this club that the people calling for this stubborn, league convert of a coach to leave this club are somehow inferior for having this opinion; that these are the 'converted Lunsters', or the football fans that hopped on the bandwagon. Well, I was born in 1996, I've been attending Leinster games since 2000, I've grown up with, and obsessed over this club. This is my 12th consecutive season as a season ticket holder, and I now have gotten to the point where I know quite a bit about this game we all love. 

What we have to ask ourselves, when we are forced to endure week after week of pure, unadulterated torture, is why we started supporting this team. What was it about Leinster that made us swoon in admiration? Because we weren't always the best in Europe, raking in the trophies. What we always had, though, was this wonderful tradition of running rugby. The team always went for it. If there was a chance to go, we went, if there was a 50/50 ball to be thrown, we threw it. And yes, at times, it was taxing (defeats against Border Rievers in 2007 and Edinburgh in 2008 in particular spring to mind).

However, what I have never seen before MOC came in, was this ultra-conservative, pathetic style of rugby, where our attack has become this stagnant, kicking dominated rubbish. I mean, what kind of world is it when we have been outplayed out wide by Munster and just about every English team we have come across in the last year and a half? It's embarrassing, and it goes against everything that Leinster stands for. 

Now I love this club and I'm going to stand by with the boys through thick and thin, but other fans will not be as forgiving. Mick Dawson, it's time to do the only thing that it makes sense for you to do at this point, and cut this league coach loose before he does any more damage to our club, or you will lose even more fans. 

Darragh Faughnan

*****

#COYBIB

Front Five - 27.12.14

Start your day with five eye-catching egg-chasing quotes & links from around the ruggersphere.

Later today here on HarpinOnRugby...
some of the best post-Munster v Leinster comments online


"They kicked the ball a lot, they chased pretty hard. They won those 50/50s. From there they go momentum."

Matt O'Connor laments 'harsh' yellow card but admits Leinster were second best

Irish Independent




Despite the absence of several big-name Irish internationals from both sides, this was a fiercely competitive, compelling derby clash

Munster complete PRO12 double over arch rivals Leinster

Colm Kinsella - Limerick Leader




It’s unlikely that Ruan Pienaar will return for Ulster against Leinster on January 3rd  
Gavin Cummiskey - Irish Times




I think we could have two crackers between the Ospreys and the Scarlets over the festive period. 
Gwyn Jones - Wales Online




In fairness to McIlroy, he took it very well

Rory McIlroy Reacts To Sweet Caroline Being Played On Stadium PA

Conor O'Leary - Balls.ie
 



Feel free to share any interesting links you spot yourself about t’internet by email, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, blog comment or carrier pigeon – whatever works for you. JLP
Note - views expressed in "Front Five" links do not necessarily reflect those of HarpinOnRugby

Friday, December 26, 2014

Preview : Munster v Leinster


You're welcome, Munster!  On behalf of Leinster fans, we hope you enjoy our (albeit one day late) Christmas present to you...a sold out Thomond Park ;-)

OK before the red-clad keyboard warriors prepare their retaliation I'm only messing - the RDS has hardly been packin em in this season either so relax - just a bit of festive banter to kick off my preview!

Speaking of festive...is there any chance we can get the mainstream media to refrain from calling this match a "Christmas cracker" as a present to those of us weary of unoriginal puns?  It's right up there with "Italian job" whenever we play Treviso or Zebre...

Anywho...on to matters at hand.

On paper, form (at least when it comes to results) points to an away win.  Also, player personnel would seem to point to an away win, as Leinster's replacements for injuries and player protection seem to have the edge over their opposite numbers.

Then again we must factor in the fact that it's Munster, playing Leinster in front of the famed 16th man of Thomond.  If anything can send the "paper" through the shredder it's that, and this could well be why the bookies have a home win by 4 points.

So...what's it to be?  Well, I reckon the spread will be vindicated, maybe by fewer points, but there is definitely a way Leinster can come out on top...stay away from a dog fight in the forwards.

This of course would mean straying away from what we have become accustomed to doing this season...and to be fair, it was our pack which helped us build our lead against Connacht last week, but this is arguably the most potent backline Leinster have put on a rugby pitch since the BOD/Isa/Shaggy/Sexton days, so it would be a shame not to use it.

First and foremost, for all of our constant calls for Ian Madigan to start in the 10 jumper, Matt O'Connor has finally granted us our wish...in a massive derby clash with no game or two beforehand to prepare maybe, but still it's what we want to see and Mad-dog is certainly the kind of player who had hit the ground running.

On top of all his gain-line busting options around him from 11 through 15 he has been known to drop his shoulder and charge ahead himself so it will come down to choosing the right options in the right scenarios today.  

All I'd be worried about is that he'd be expected to take the option of grinding out the phases too often which could play into Muinster's hands.

Obviously I don't expect our pack to be left out of the equation altogether, and when it's time to front up it could boil down to who keeps their cool the longest - no doubt the experienced campaigners on show like Shane Jennings, Mike McCarthy and Donncha O'Callaghan will be employing the "dark arts" to the fullest in order to get that edge.  Luckily Nigel Owens has the whistle because it will take a strong-willed ref to stay on top of it all.

Of the Munster players I'll be expecting top performances from the likes of skipper for the day Felix Jones, Robin Copeland and Tommy O'Donnell - those looking to catch Joe Schmidt's eye on a big occasion.   That's not to mention their "double-initial" brigade of CJ Stander, BJ Botha and JJ Hanrahan, each able to turn a contest around in their own way.

It should be tight, it should give us plenty to disagree over afterwards, it should be full of drama.  In other words, it should be a typical Munster v Leinster clash. 

My prediction is for Munster to win by 3, but I'm certainly not ruling out a Leinster triumph.  If I were Matt O'Connor I'd play the DVD of October's match in the Aviva on the coach down to Limerick...if that doesn't motivate the boys in blue to play to their fullest today, nothing will.

Here's to us all being buddies again in time for New Year's!  

#COYBIB  JLP

LEINSTER : 15. Zane Kirchner 14. Darragh Fanning 13. Luke Fitzgerald 12. Gordon D'Arcy 11. Dave Kearney 10. Ian Madigan 9. Isaac Boss
1. Michael Bent 2. Richardt Strauss 3. Tadhg Furlong 4. Mike McCarthy 5. Kane Douglas 6. Dominic Ryan 7. Shane Jennings>CAPTAIN 8. Jack Conan
BENCH : 16. Aaron Dundon 17. Maks Van Dyk 18. Jamie Hagan 19. Tom Denton 20. Jordi Murphy 21. Luke McGrath 22. Jimmy Gopperth 23. Noel Reid

MUNSTER : 15 Felix Jones>CAPTAIN 14 Andrew Conway 13 Pat Howard 12 Denis Hurley 11 Ronan O'Mahony 10 Ian Keatley 9 Duncan Williams 
1 John Ryan 2 Duncan Casey 3 Stephen Archer 4 Donncha O'Callaghan 5 Billy Holland 6 CJ Stander 7 Tommy O'Donnell 8 Robin Copeland.
BENCH: 16 Kevin O'Byrne 17 Eusebio Guinazu 18 BJ Botha 19 Dave O'Callaghan 20 Paddy Butler 21 Neil Cronin 22 JJ Hanrahan 23 Johne Murphy

Guinness PRO12 - Round 11
At Thomond Park, 5pm St Stephen's Day
Live on TG4/BBC Alba
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU, 116th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Mark Patton, Stuart Gaffikin (both IRFU)
Citing Commissioner: Eddie Walsh (IRFU)
TMO: Simon McDowell (IRFU)

It's called an offload guys!!!

Hope the morning after is treating you well, and that you're ready to celebrate the day St. Stephen took up boxing.  (According to legend he had a mean right hook)

We'll return to normal with our "Front Five" slot tomorrow morning, but of course with the big match down in Thomond today we can't afford to rest so to fill in the morning hours here's an interesting clip from a college football game in the USA where rugby saved the day...well, almost.

Central Michigan were down by 35 points with 12 minutes remaining against Western Kentucky in the "Bahamas Bowl" (one of about a gagillion bowl games for which it seems every college team qualifies) and having narrowed that to just 7 in the final play of "regulation" time they went for the "Hail Mary" pass play.



The pass was complete, but what has the American fans going wild is that rather than running until tackled like girdiron players are trained to do, they embark on a series of what they call "lateral" passes.

Hang on...you run until you're tackled and then you turn and pass it on to a player behind you??? What kind of sorcery is this???  If only there was another sport in which that was commonplace - imagine what a spectacle that would be?

Though having said that, maybe Leinster could do with watching the clip as a refresher course given offloading isn't exactly a top priority these days!

Sadly for Central Michigan, they went for the two-point conversion and failed which meant the comeback wasn't quite complete...they could have gone for the easy one-point kick in front of the posts but given they were playing a team from Kentucky you have to respect them for not chickening out.  Ahem.

Back with our Munster v Leinster preview around lunchtime.  JLP

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Front Five - Christmas Eve 2014

Start your day with five eye-catching egg-chasing quotes & links from around the ruggersphere.

Merry Christmas everyone!


IMG_1598
"when there is criticism coming about the style of play and not fully understanding the reasons and what's going on behind closed doors it is tough to hear because you take it personally."
Shane Jennings emerges to confront Leinster's critics
David Kelly - Irish Independent




"We're certainly not far off resolving things on the recruitment front right across the board really, so certainly by the end of January things will be a lot clearer."

Dai Young admits interest in Leinster fly-half Jimmy Gopperth

Sky Sports




"I'm looking forward to getting settled in and testing myself in the Aviva Premiership and top flight of Europe, but for the remainder of the season my focus will be with Glasgow." 
Talking Rugby Union




“The entry point was aggravated having regard to Dylan’s previous record and a week was taken off to reflect mitigating circumstances. 
Irish Times




Many have agreed with Katie’s comments, with much of the online commentary focusing on what they contend is the station’s obsession with rugby.

The Twitter Reaction Both For And Against Katie Taylor Over Her RTE Comments

Conor Neville - Balls.ie
 



Feel free to share any interesting links you spot yourself about t’internet by email, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, blog comment or carrier pigeon – whatever works for you. JLP
Note - views expressed in "Front Five" links do not necessarily reflect those of HarpinOnRugby

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