Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Front Five - 31.03.15

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

There's another later today to enter our latest
"unriggable raffle" competition courtesy of dumpTackle
Click here for details


Fitzgerald (is) also an option to wear the No 13 jersey. However, O'Connor could stick with Samoan rugby league convert Ben Te'o

O'Connor weighs up options as heavyweights return for Bath

Ruaidhri O'Connor - Irish Independent

IRFU officials fear the organisation could be ostracised by the other home unions in the next round of negotiations for a new television deal in 2017.

IRFU could see broadcast revenue fall if Government keeps Six Nations free-to-air

Gerry Thornley - Irish Times

this Ireland team are...much more cerebral and ‘smarter’ in their approach under Schmidt, and anyone who assumes their approach is limited is really missing the point.
the Gain Line

We shouldn’t lose our sense of humour and our ability to laugh at ourselves sometimes. If we get to the stage where people are scared of shouting a bit of banter from the terraces, then sport and society has found itself in a sad place.
Nigel Owens - (English) Independent

Leinster’s third try sticks out nine seasons later as one of the province’s best.

Do you remember the time Leinster travelled to Bath and played the perfect game of rugby?

Will Slattery - The42.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

World's greatest players join Land Rover to lend a hand to the world's smallest rugby club

International rugby stars including Land Rover ambassadors Jonny Wilkinson, Sir Clive Woodward, and Bryan Habana go back to their roots to lend a hand at a grassroots game

The Event marks the global launch of Land Rover’s Rugby World Cup 2015 sponsorship campaign, ‘We Deal In Real Land Rover, a Worldwide Partner of Rugby World Cup 2015, is putting grassroots at the heart of its campaign.  Land Rover shares the same passion, resolve and integrity that sits within the core of Rugby

Whitley, UK, March 30th 2015 – Land Rover yesterday launched its Rugby World Cup 2015 campaign by asking some of its most high-profile Rugby ambassadors to lend a hand at a grassroots match in Hampshire, England.

Rewarding amateur side Racal Decca RFC, recognised as the 'Smallest Rugby Club in the World', for its commitment to Rugby, Land Rover provided a host of the game’s biggest names to assist in the routine matchday preparations and give the side a once in a lifetime experience.

As the side prepared to take on rivals Streatham-Croydon 3rds, Land Rover surprised the two teams by calling on a world class line up of Rugby World Cup winners from all across the globe. The legends past and present, which boasted five Rugby World Cup winners’ medals, fulfilled all the essential roles that thousands of amateur players at grassroots clubs around the world undertake in order to play a game of Rugby.

With neither side aware of the activity being conducted it came as quite a surprise when Sir Clive Woodward, Rugby World Cup winning coach with England in 2003, arrived to conduct a pre-match team talk. After putting on their matchday jerseys, which had been laid out with care by Will Greenwood, a team member of that 2003 winning side, and Bryan Habana, himself a Rugby World Cup winner with South Africa, the teams were put through their paces in a warm-up led by former Scotland captain Kelly Brown.

The event marked the launch of Land Rover’s Rugby World Cup 2015 sponsorship campaign, ‘We Deal In Real’. As a Worldwide Partner of the Tournament, Land Rover will be putting clubs such as Racal Decca at the heart of their campaign, showcasing the real spirit of the game around the world and putting grassroots clubs and players onto the global stage.

Hosted at a neutral venue in Hampshire, due to neither side having their own clubhouse, the teams were further surprised on arrival at the site of the coveted Webb Ellis Cup, which will be lifted by the winner of Rugby World Cup 2015 on 31st October.

With the game underway, Racal Decca were awarded a penalty in front of the posts by referee Hayden Sarjeant, a Maintenance Supervisor at the Jaguar Land Rover Castle Bromwich Assembly Plant, and a referee for the Warwickshire Society of Referees. After being handed the kicking tee by Jonny Wilkinson, kicker Robert Holmes confidently put three points on the scoreboard. Rugby World Cup winner with New Zealand Brad Thorn was on hand with the water bottles, while former French winger Benjamin Fall and Shane Horgan, who was capped 65 times for Ireland, ran on the oranges at half time.
After a hard-fought game, Racal Decca emerged victorious, beating their rivals 31-17.

Robert Holmes, Hon. Secretary and Treasurer of Racal Decca RFC, said, “We often struggle for numbers to make up the 15 places on the teamsheet, yet remain a strong community by priding ourselves on having fun whilst remaining true to the discipline and respect that Rugby teaches. To be rewarded with such a wealth of international Rugby talent assisting us with our matchday activities has been a truly unforgettable experience.”

Land Rover Ambassador Jonny Wilkinson said, “Racal Decca RFC and Streatham Croydon 3rds, just like thousands of similar small Rugby clubs around the world, have shown an incredible commitment to the game and it is admirable that a love of the game remains at the core of everything they do. Passion and commitment are the very foundations of the game of Rugby and Racal Decca are testament to that continued devotion to the sport.  It has been an honour to be part of today’s Land Rover event, and to remember what makes grassroots rugby so special.”

Land Rover ambassador Bryan Habana added, “Today has been a fantastic and enjoyable reminder to me, and all the players involved, of the true heart of the Game we are all so privileged to play at the top level. It was great fun to lend a hand and reward these two special teams.”

Mark Cameron, Jaguar Land Rover Global Brand Experience Director, said “Land Rover has been at the heart of rugby, from the grassroots to the elite, for over two decades.  We share the same passion, resolve and integrity that sits within the core of the game. It is therefore fitting that our sponsorship campaign around the pinnacle of the game, Rugby World Cup 2015, will bring the grassroots to the fore. Building on this long heritage within Rugby, ‘We Deal In Real’ aims to give grassroots clubs the opportunity to experience the media spotlight, whilst staying true to Land Rover’s brand values.”

Monday, March 30, 2015

Leinster-34 Glasgow-34


 You really need to tread carefully when analysing matches like this one, for the angle you take can reveal more about yourself than it does the match in question.

Do you focus on how Glasgow built their 20-point lead going into the break?  Or do you lead with Leinster’s unanswered 27 points in the half hour after it?  Or maybe you’d rather ask yourself how we let the visitors make their score-levelling try look so easy in the final minutes?  Or is it possible to treat the match as more than the sum of it’s parts? It’s definitely a challenge.

Well, coming from a Leinster viewpoint as is our remit here at HarpinOnRugby, it’s hard not to dwell on our form leading into this key fixture, which was far below the standards we have come to expect at the RDS.  The key series of matches during the Six Nations, where we have made a name for ourselves picking up handy points in the past, began with a dismal home defeat to the Dragons and never really got much better.

So taking that mindset into account it made for an extremely stark atmosphere in D4 as Glasgow’s Peter Horne knocked over a penalty to send the league leaders into the break with a whopping 27-7 cushion - what say we examine how that happened first.

The easy target would be our missed tackles, and it certainly doesn’t look good when the stats tell you all of your starters were “credited” with at least one bar Richardt Strauss.  But I really don’t think it’s as simple as that - our problems seem to run much deeper.

First of all, you have to admire the style of rugby Glasgow are playing these days.  Their focus has little to do with the man carrying the ball: it’s all about how those around him are honed in on their own job, whether it’s clearing out or receiving the offload.  And as you are facing this level of accuracy coming towards you, you need to take the odd risk to disrupt it and our tacklers tended to go high.

So while you’d never say we could be “forgiven” for falling off onrushing Warriors, even when you factor in the “Te’o Experiment” (with yet another different centre partner I might add) I’m not so sure this was the principal cause for Gregor Townsend’s men amassing that early lead.  Particularly in the early stages, they weren’t running that offloading style from even midfield, let alone their own half - with Peter Horne a late replacement in the 10 jersey for Finn Russell they were kicking for territory right from the start.   Maybe we need to ask ourselves how they were getting into those attacking positions in and around our own 22.

And for this, we need to examine why we gave away silly penalties in midfield like Jordi Murphy grabbing a ball from a ruck that clearly wasn’t his to grab, or why Ian Madigan threw such a risky long pass which was nearly intercepted shortly after we finally got on the scoreboard, or why Eoin Reddan put the ball in crooked to a scrum not too long after his opposite number had been pinged for same.

Each of these basic errors led to Glasgow points.  Of course the tackles should not have been missed but the way the visitors were set up we could certainly have at least contained them in that period had we not virtually invited them into our own 22.

But even the mistakes weren’t our biggest problem.  What stood out most for me in that first half was just how our poor we were with the ball compared to our opponents.  For while they had 15 men moving in unison for every bout of possession, I really don’t think I’m overstating it when I say for us it was more like one man with the ball and 14 team-mates watching him.

And having already shipped three tries virtually under our own posts, the final insult was to get caught in a “phase maze” inside our own half leading to a penalty as the clock hit 40 minutes allowing Horne to stretch his side’s lead to 20.

So....there we were at half time with nothing to do but lick our wounds.  I wanted to be positive, I wanted to believe my team could find it’s way back, but as the half-time minis had their fifteen minutes of glory on the RDS turf I simply could not see a way back for us unless someone in our dressing-room could find a speech of “Sexton in Cardiff 2011” proportions.

And it wasn’t just motivation we needed coming out of the break...also required were a slice of luck and someone on the Glasgow side willing to made an error or two themselves.  And for that last one we already had a taste in the first half in the form of Niko Matawalu.

I don’t watch Glasgow week in week out but it seems whenever I do the Fijian appears to be a human self-destruct button for them.  For example, anyone who thought Yohann Huget’s tap and go at Twickenham last week was ill-advised should look back at the one Niko did close to his own line against us with the clock running down on opening day back in September.

Already in this match it was he who picked up a ball clearly knocked on by his own player which gave us the attacking ball in their 22 we had been craving and even when we fluffed our lines at the ensuing lineout, he managed to feed the ball crooked to the scrum and after a series of phases some quick hands from Shane Jennings put Fergus McFadden over in the corner.

Then LITERALLY from the kickoff to the second half he made extremely heavy weather of a routine clearance and of all the Leinster players to provide the block it was Isaac Boss (on for Reddan who was going through the concussion protocols) and he was rewarded with a bit of luck in the way it stopped for him over the line for him to fall on it. (clarification : it was Bryce who had his kick blocked but Niko delayed getting the pass to him

So that definitely got the home crowd’s attention...though personally I was still seeing our glass as half empty because such blocks don’t happen all the time.  Any chance Niko could do something else?

Actually, yes.  Of course Cian Healy was looking for a reaction from him.  But that doesn’t mean the Glasgow scrum half had to provide it!  A raised elbow meant a yellow card and just like that we had a man advantage.  This on top of the Boss try gave a us a clear path beyond a losing bonus point and towards what would have been an incredible victory...the question was, could we take it?

Now here’s where we show our true colours as analysts.  We could be cynical and say we only ran in two more tries because we had the extra man.  But then again, over this poor run of form we’re on we have even struggled 15 on 14 more than once.  So it has to be said that in the opening half an hour of the second period we were able to find our mojo, bring it to our opposition (the introduction of Luuuuuke certainly helped here), find some decent running lines & even a few offloads, and we were duly rewarded with quality scores from both Jordi Murphy and Isaac Boss (with his second).

You had to rub your eyes to read the scoreboard on 70 minutes.  Does that REALLY say 34-27 to Leinster now???  And have we REALLY secured the try bonus???  No, we weren’t dreaming.  But the lead still had to be brought home, and unfortunately, there was to be another twist in the tale.

Right from the kickoff after Madigan opened the 7-point lead, Glasgow won it back and after winning another niggly penalty, put the ball back into our 22, a place they hadn’t been since the first half.  And once more, having gotten themselves that deep in our territory, they were able to convert and this was made look the easiest try of the lot - after just a couple of phases they had not one but two men out wide waiting for the service which was duly supplied for Bryce to get the touchdown.

It was left to Peter Horne to bring the scores level with the conversion.  Though Ian Madigan had struck over a few beauties earlier, this was easily the most difficult shot of the night given it was near enough to the touchline on the wrong side of the pitch for a left-footer.  But nail it he did making for a combined 12 from 12 by the placekickers.

As Nigel Owens blew the full time whistle, the RDS crowd were left in something of a stunned silence.  Had they been transported in time from the interval they would have been happy but the actual journey to that point was like a Funderland rollercoaster.

Looking back on it now, given that Munster, Ulster & the Ospreys all took maximum points as expected over the weekend, it’s hard not to see the result as two points dropped all things considered; and the five points we now need to make the playoff positions seem a near impossible target.  

By the way - that’s not a typo when I say it’s a five-point gap, even though it’s four on the Pro12 table.  Since “matches won” is the first tie-breaker and we are at least 3 wins behind all of those above us, we’ll need to get beyond them to finish any higher than we are.  It’s these pesky 3 drawn matches which are hurting us, and it hurts even more when you realise we were in winning positions each time.

Finally...before I put Friday’s match to bed for good it does need to be said just what a great game it must have been for the “neutral”.  If the previous weekend’s Six Nations trilogy was the epic advert for the competition everyone (myself included) said it was, then surely a league as oft-maligned as the Pro12 should feel good about itself after what we saw at the RDS.

But returning to matters Leinster...difficult though it may be, all the negative has to be evacuated from our minds before next Saturday.  Bath are coming to the Aviva (ironic sidenote - they have signed Matawalu for next season), and while I’m sure they’ll play the media game during the week bigging us up, they’re bound to be confident of turning us over based on our recent form.

And speaking of the media game...this quote from our head coach on Off The Ball last Saturday about his task ahead has me wondering if we need to re-name him “Moot” O’Connor…
"...if we can bring a little bit of the intensity that we had in the second half and cut out a little bit of the inaccuracies from the first half from last night, then we give ourselves every chance (against Bath)"
Ya think?

Here’s to a solid week’s work at our UCD drawing board for the lads - it will be great to have the Heaslips, O’Briens and Toners back in Leinster blue and one way we can help them have “every chance” is to make sure that Aviva Stadium is rocking next Saturday.  


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Also this weekend

Ulster 36 - 17 Cardiff Blues
Scarlets 15 - 26 Edinburgh
Munster 42 - 20 Connacht
Ospreys 53 - 22 Zebre
Benetton Treviso 17 - 32 Dragons

Next matches

Friday, April 10
Benetton Treviso v Ospreys, Stadio di Monigo, 7:35pm
Glasgow Warriors v Cardiff Blues, Scotstoun, 7:35pm

Saturday, April 11
Connacht v Ulster, Sportsground, 2:40pm
Zebre v Scarlets, Stadio XXV Aprile, 3pm
Edinburgh v Munster, Murrayfield, 7:30pm

Sunday, April 12
NG Dragons v Leinster, Rodney Parade, 4pm

Front Five - 30.03.15

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

Later today on HarpinOnRugby...

Our Leinster v Glasgow writeup is titled "The Drawing Board"

plus there's your first chance to qualify for our
latest "unriggable raffle" courtesy of dumpTackle clothing


“He was struggling when he came back and he got another bang on it. It’s just one of those unfortunate ones.” - Leo Cullen

Rhys Ruddock in danger of missing World Cup after arm injury ends season

Gerry Thornley - Irish Times

Bath rested their four current England internationals for the Champions Cup quarter-final against Leinster on Saturday knowing that victory here was as guaranteed as anything can be in sport.

London Welsh relegated after defeat by Bath but told to look to the future

Paul Rees - Guardian

After the drama of last weekend it was fantastic to have both Irish Captains – Niamh Briggs and Paul O’Connell with their Six Nations trophies – on the pitch at half-time to show our appreciation and admiration.
Gayl - WestTerraceView

Blues coach Dale McIntosh said after the match that the Ulster forward should have received a red card
Richard Mulligan - Belfast Newsletter

"Obviously the way sports people are, you like to take responsibility and myself and Johnny would probably have been the fall guys had they got over and converted the try."

Ian Madigan could have been "the fall guy" if Ireland were pipped to Six Nations title

Patrick McCarry - SportsJOE.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, March 29, 2015

DumpTackle Clothing Competition





Our popular "unriggable raffle" is back this week with the good folks at dumpTackle rugby clothing offering a celebratory Six Nations championship t-shirt to the lucky winner.

Here's a bit of info about the company...

We know Rugby…
We know T-Shirts…

We decided to put the two together and we hope you like the results…

dumpTackle was set up by two young and self-proclaimed handsome rugby fans who wanted to provide the rugby population with the t-shirts they deserve. We worked tirelessly, through day and night, thick and thin, and numerous mugs of tea, to distil the very essence of rugby banter to put on our clothing. We also use some of the best quality t-shirts around because we think our designs deserve the best treatment. This means that you will stay looking dashing in your tees for years to come… Which is nice, isn’t it?

Being the thoroughly pleasant chaps that we are, we want to hear your suggestions for designs and who knows, we may even print them for you. We can print on almost anything, within reason, so if you have any special requests let us know via a telepathy, carrier pigeon, smoke signal, bongo drums…or you can even email us at suggestions@dumpTackle.com

Please enjoy responsibly… Or irresponsibly, it’s your choice… 


As always, to qualify for the competition you will have to stay tuned to the HarpinOnRugby Facebook page throughout the coming week and follow the instructions when the posts are published.  Below you will see a grid showing the days, times and number of qualifiers for each post.


The rugby match which will provide the winning square for this competition is Leinster’s Rugby Champions Cup quarterfinal clash with Bath on Saturday, April 4, 2015.

The following extra rules are unfortunate but necessary.
  • The winner will be announced on this blog post Saturday evening.  
  • The winner has until 12 noon on the following Tuesday to contact us via Facebook private message (by the account they used to qualify) otherwise the prize will be put on offer to one of the other entrants in a manner to be determined by the organising committee.
  • only one entry per separate Facebook account is allowed each day, but it’s ok to enter once on each of the four days
  • each window closes 3 hours after posting – if all of the spots are not all taken, the extra ones will be allocated in a manner to be determined by the competition organisers.
  • when you are asked to leave an “exact phrase” this means you can use the phrase with OR without the quotes; also, since speed is a factor in the competition we will make allowances for typos once it is clear a decent attempt has been made to repeat the phrase
  • for some windows “edited” Facebook comments will not be permitted as entries…this will be outlined as part of the post where it applies
  • for transparency purposes your qualifying comment must remain on the social media post until at least two hours of completion of the rugby match that is to determine the competition winner.
  • be aware that Facebook have been known to display comments in a random order on the web; as competition organisers we will do all we can to ensure the timeline is properly followed in each window.
  • entrants’ positions on the grid are set and not open for discussion, nor are any other final decisions made by the competition organisers.

If you have any questions about the competition and/or its format or would like to sponsor one down the line, feel free to email we'd be happy to help.


Front Five - 29.03.15

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


"...if we can bring a little bit of the intensity that we had in the second half and cut out a little bit of the inaccuracies from the first half from last night, then we give ourselves every chance (against Bath)"

O'Connor on (Friday)'s comeback

Newstalk - Off The Ball (podcast)

The difference, in the end, was Munster’s efficiency in attack.

Connacht’s top six lead is down to a tiebreaker as Munster put six tries past the westerners

Will Slattery - The42.ie

“Does it not make sense that if the rugby league guys have come to put these systems in place then the best people to possibly break it down are the rugby league attack coaches?”
Daniel Schofield - The Telegraph

Lansdowne, who beat potential finalists Terenure in Lakelands Park, still don't know who they will have in their home semi-final, while Terenure are certain to be at home to Clontarf in the other semi-final.
Brendan Fanning - Irish Independent

It's like a sporty Cinderella story.

Welsh rugby player with size 21 feet finally gets boots that fit

Darragh Murphy - SportsJOE.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, March 28, 2015

Front Five - 28.03.15

Start your day with five eye-catching egg-chasing quotes & links from around the ruggersphere.
We have another "unriggable raffle" coming your way
Stay tuned for details


Not for the first time (Matawalu's) rash streak cost as much as it earns and while Glasgow’s fans will miss him, Glasgow’s title aspirations will perhaps not.

Leinster 34-34 Glasgow

Rory Baldwin - Scottish Rugby Blog

"We are fully aware that Munster at Thomond Park is a big challenge but we also have the self-belief that if we focus on our game-plan and work as a team, we can go down there and perform" - Pat Lam

Munster primed for derby revenge

Irish Independent

Henry was a 58th minute replacement as he made an earlier than expected return to playing having undergone heart surgery last November.
Richard Mulligan - Belfast Newsletter

Stringer chuckles when asked to address media conjecture about a move to Leinster...
John O'Sullivan - Irish Times

As he touched down in the corner, Wasps back-row forward Nathan Hughes’ knee collided with his face. Hughes received a red card.

Divisive Red Card Shown After George North Knocked Out Cold This Evening

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

Friday, March 27, 2015

Liveblog : Leinster v Glasgow

[note - live blog should auto-refresh with each new update]

Feel free to spread the word on social media about our liveblog here's the link > http://bit.ly/LEIvGLAliveblog

Preview : Leinster v Glasgow


Much has been written about the way Paul O'Connell motivated the Irish squad to help them both get over the disappointment in Cardiff and prepare them for their task in Edinburgh.   And of course we all know about the famous "Enfield accord" back in December 2008 when the topic of provincial cliques was aired out among the squad.

The thing about air-clearing sessions like that is you probably only hear about them when they produce results...both of those I mentioned above produced Six Nations titles.

I wonder if there was any chance of there being a similar type intervention happening behind the scenes after Leinster's well-below-par series of matches in February & March?  If not, they most certainly needed one.  For at a time when we probably had the strongest squad available for that time of year, we came out of it with just 8 out of the 20 points on offer, a pace that certainly won't get us anywhere near the top four.

Well, going by the media appearances this week, the approach would appear to be "business as usual" in the Leinster camp, and the quotes from Matt O'Connor about dissatisfaction with the player protection system certainly don't bode well about the overall mood.

All of which makes tonight's Ireland v Scotland matchup the polar opposite of last Saturday's test at Murrayfield.

For although the bookies are backing Leinster to make their home advantage count tonight with a 6-point victory, I wish I could be as sure.

It's not as though we don't have the talent throughout the squad...but as the saying goes "you're only as good as your last match" and there was plenty of talent on show against the Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets not too long ago, and the performances simply did not match it.

Plus there is the fact that I am disappointed, if not surprised, that once again Jimmy Gopperth has been selected at out-half.  I have nothing against him as a player, and I don't necessarily hold with the view that he has been "over worked" by Leinster this season, but I just feel that our biggest problems this season have come from an inability to adapt our offensive strategy to suit the team we're facing, and more often than not he has been the creative general.

Instead, the coach has gone with him at 10 and Ian Madigan at 12, which would seem to be the formation he is looking to field against Bath next week also.

Now I'm not saying this lineup cannot work.  Of course we can't rule out their clicking tonight.  But based on the evidence we have seen this season, they have struggled to keep the required standards going for 80 minutes and tonight more than any other we have Pro12 opposition who will make the most of any shortcomings.

You can be sure that if we succumb once more to what I call the "knock-on gremilns", Gregor Townsend's side, featuring a lot more bodies from last weekend than our does it has to be said, are likely to forego the scrum where they can and make maximum hay out of the sunshine from our transition to defensive mode.  Basically if we struggle with the ball as we have done in recent outings it could result in at least a 10-point swing to the Warriors, and good luck with our chasing that!

Look...I'm sorry for all the doom and gloom.  Those last few displays took a big chunk of my optimism from me, but it is not all gone.

If ball-carrying prowess is the way we wish to go tonight, then we certainly have plenty of it.  Conan, Murphy, Te'o, Madigan, & McFadden are all known for breaking the gainline while in reserve we have the likes of Cronin, Healy and Fitzgerald.

Then we have set-pieces...one positive area in that 4-game spell has been our scrum so if we're to have any hope of getting things going with the ball tonight we'll need that and our lineout to function.

Finally there's the x factor which the likes of Dave Kearney, Zane Kirchner, Ian Madigan and Luke Fitzgerald can bring.  Because as tight-knit a group as the Warriors may be, they too are bound to make the odd mistake and we certainly have the ability in our ranks to take advantage.  So please don't think I have written us off altogether tonight.  

But it really is becoming a "last-chance saloon" for us in the Pro12, for with no disrespect to the opponents (particularly Connacht) of the teams around us on the table chasing top four positions, defeat tonight could leave us with a six-point gap to close just to get into the top four, something that will not be easy to do in  four remaining matches, three of them away.  So in many ways, tonight's clash is every bit as much a knockout contest as the one at the Aviva next week.

That do-or-die aspect gives me hope, enough to just about predict a Leinster victory, though I can't go further than a one or two point margin.  

One thing is for sure...we can't do it without the full backing of the RDS faithful, so let's be sure to give them all the support we can out there tonight.  See you there!

If you can't make it to the RDS tonight, tune in here to HarpinOnRugby where we'll be live-blogging the match starting at 7pm.


GLASGOW : 15. Stuart Hogg 14. Tommy Seymour 13. Mark Bennett 12. Peter Horne 11. DTH van der Merwe 10. Finn Russell 9. Niko Matawalu
1. Alex Allan 2. Fraser Brown 3. Zander Fagerson 4.Tim Swinson 5. Al Kellock (Captain) 6. Rob Harley 7. Chris Fusaro 8. Josh Strauss
Replacements: 16. Pat MacArthur 17. Jerry Yanuyanutawa 18. Mike Cusack 19. Jonny Gray 20. Adam Ashe 21. Henry Pyrgos 22. Connor Braid 23. Richie Vernon

Guinness PRO12 2014/15 - Round 18
At RDS Arena, 7.35pm. 
Live on TG4 and BBC Scotland 
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU, 121st competition game)
Assistant Referees: David Wilkinson, Barry Kieran (both IRFU)
Citing Commissioner: John Cole (IRFU)
TMO: Seamus Fannery (IRFU)

Front Five - 27.03.15

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

Later today on HarpinOnRugby...

Our Leinster v Glasgow preview

plus we'll be liveblogging the match from 7pm


“If we’re talking about competing with the bigger Leagues in Europe, in relation to the Top 14 and the Premiership and the ability to maximise the commercial potential of those, we need to look at how often the very best marquee players are playing PRO12 rugby for Leinster.”

Leinster rugby coach Matt O’Connor hits out at the non-availability of stars for crunch clash

Brendan O'Brien - Irish Examiner

While McGrath, Healy, Ross and Moore are certainties to be in the World Cup squad, it likely leaves a spot each for a tight-head and a loose-head to make it in.

Six Nations form shows that Irish scrum has bright future

Neil Treacy - SportsJOE.ie

Con are fourth in the standings...but just five points separate them and ninth-placed St Mary's.
Daragh Small - Irish Independent

...there will be no play-offs for the 2016-17 Champions Cup with the 20th place in the tournament going to the winner of the 2016 Challenge Cup if not already qualified.
Rugby Week

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

What a day of rugby!

An actual angry bird, soot on the walls, some spilt curry...nothing was going to distract Kevin O'Brien from that Six Nations finale...

Someday we will win a 6 Nations Championship or a Grand Slam without half the country going into cardiac arrest. But you know what, where is the fun in that? Days like last Saturday are ones that will stay in the memory. For fans and players alike they are the sweetest of victories. The destination of the championship not decided until the very last second. Like Stephen Jones drop goal for the Grand Slam  in ’09 or the last minute forward pass in Paris last year this was a truly nerve jangling but ultimately magnificent occasion. Ireland, back to back 6 nation’s champions. It sounds so good.

The championship kicked off for me with a new Irish jersey which I was given as a present. It was the pro tighter fitting one which I was told would be an ‘ahem’ a slimmer fit. On the morning of the Italian game I got up stuck the jersey on looked at the match which in truth was a bit of a damp squib. We did what was needed no more no less. After the game I decided to hang the jersey back in the closet without washing it. Washing it you see might affect the mojo. Now I’m not superstitious but I didn’t want to chance it all the same. 

The following week PSA’s French giants were in town. A home win was perhaps expected especially now that Johnny Sexton and Sean O’Brien were back. The same routine was followed as the previous week. The first thing I did when I got up was the stick on the (unwashed) jersey. As expected the French were not the French of old displaying none of the old flair. They didn’t really threaten until the last 15 minutes or so when they brought on Parra to up tempo and attacking threat. Ireland’s excellent defence and greater efficiency was enough to see the win. To keep the routine going the jersey came off and was hung back in the wardrobe straight after the game. I had to hide it away in the back of the press to make sure my wife didn’t find it and decided it needed a wash. She wasn’t party to my paranoia. 

The next week brought the ‘would be’ grand slam champions, England, to town. They had a very strong win against Wales in Cardiff followed by a less convincing performance against the Scots where they fluffed several scoring chances. How costly that would be. Anyhow my routine was established at this stage and had to be followed. First job of the day was to put the now admittedly slightly musty smelling jersey. I had planned to watch the game in the pub as my favourite footy team Tottenham were also playing Chelsea in the Coca Cola, Littlewoods, Carling League Cup final. A good day out to be had. The pints were flowing. The rugby was good. Henshaws try was great. A victory over England was greater. It was a superb performance in my mind with a master class in half back control from messers Sexton & Murray. We were all worried about Ross v Marler in the scrum. Oh ye of little faith (me included). Ross did what Ross does, quietly going about the business of keeping the scrum together. All in all a comprehensive & impressive win. Little did I know  that disaster was to strike.

On my way home from the pub I had ordered a curry. It was a glorious curry. One of the best I had ever eaten I recall telling my wife on numerous occasions. When I stepped up from the table I noticed a great big blob of curry on my lucky unwashed jersey. A wee bit of panic was setting in as I realised the consequences of my sloppiness. The jersey had to be washed.

I was uneasy all week in the lead up to the Welsh game. The mood was not helped by the fact that the provinces had all lost on welsh soil the previous week. The Welsh were in bullish mood.  I was not. I mean my lucky jersey had been washed. The less said about ‘Flora- gate’ the better. Though it was good to see Mr. Francis squirm, when his words came back to bite him on the behind. Desperately Hoping I hadn’t ruined the mojo I followed the same routine. Got up put on the jersey etc but it just didn’t feel right. The game was a disappointing from an Irish perspective. The Welsh had the measure of us and raced into a lead they never relinquished. We did come back at them in the second half and could have snatched a draw but for an iffy penalty call right at the death. In truth Wales deserved the win and our performance was a few notches below previous  weeks. It was hard to take and for the record it was not Wayne Barnes fault. It was the curry’s!

The final day arrived with three teams in the shake up for the title. What a day it turned out to be. I had a feeling it would be the Welsh’s day as they were playing a limited Italian team with no Parisse. They would definitely put up a big score. Given our record in Scotland I just could not see us coming out on top. In a desperate act of hope I decided to give the jersey routine one last chance. After all it hadn’t been washed after the Welsh game. 

As we know now the final day was a monumental day of rugby. Last Saturday had absolutely everything a rugby fan, indeed a sports fan could want.  Drama, high octane exhilarating play, big hits, try’s galore & last minute tackles (thank you Mr Heaslip). To say it was gripping was an understatement. Seven hours of pure unexpected rugby heaven and let’s be honest if we hadn’t come out on top, well I for one would still be sick as a parrot. The jersey would have been in the bin.

And so the action finally kicked off in Rome. As the first half played out I was confident that the Welsh were out of the equation. But then they had that explosive second have. Tackling was optional but the Welsh put on a display and a huge score none the less. The Zen like calmness I was experiencing in the first half was replaced by well a bit of panic. My seventh cup of coffee wasn’t helping! We will never claw back that deficit. Then out of nowhere Sarto scores a try and Orquera perhaps unexpectedly nailed a touchline penalty. A glimmer of hope. 

I was reasonably confident of the win in Edinburgh but would we win by the required 21 points? Fear not Paulie was on the case early crashing over after 5 minutes. The performance levels were raised significantly from Cardiff the previous week. How good was it to see Sean O’Brien at his rampaging best? How good was it to see Healy put on a show of his awesome power? How good was it to see line breaks more attacking intent?  Twenty six points? Surely England would never beat the French by more. I was calmed by the words of Brent Pope saying it wouldn’t happen but then Conor O’Shea said an English win by such a big victory was possible. The nerves were off again.

 The English got off to a blistering start but once the French went into a 15-7 lead I decided it was to be our day. I mean the English would never do this now? Just after Nakaitaci’s try my wife asked me to light a fire to warm up the house. I argued I was already in a sweat due to the rugby but it was to no avail. Whilst keeping an eye on the game I set and lit the fire. The flames were lighting up nicely when I noticed two eyes looking at me from the back of the stove. A bird had flown down the chimney as the cowl blew off earlier in the week. Quick as a flash I reached in and lifted the bird out of the flames but it escaped my clutches. It’s soot covered body hit the freshly painted the sitting room wall in a hundred spots while my wife ran screaming from the room.

By now England had scored another try. I was cursing at the bird, who was flying around the room with me chasing it and the English for putting in such a performance. It was pandemonium. By the time I got rid of the bird England were 27-22 up. My twitter timeline was follow of Englishmen proclaiming ‘it's on, it's on.’ Oh me nerves. The sitting room was destroyed with soot marks but that was no matter a championship was on the line and looked like it could slip from us. 

It was a hell of a game. England continued to push for tries to reduce the points differential and the French kept reeling them back. Haskell goes to the bin and Debaty scores soon after and I start to feel like it’s going to be our day. Then Vunipola scores & it’s in the melting pot again. In keeping with the game Kayser stumbles over the line. Surely now this kills off the English? Nope, as Nowell goes over with five minutes left. They were five of the longest minutes of my life. And there still the sitting room walls to wash.

I will never forget the surreal feeling when Huget took the tap penalty. All I could hear was the words of the bauld George Hamilton saying ‘Danger here!’ It was 30 seconds of sheer blind panic. I still look back at that moment and wonder was it real. And then the sheer relief when sanity prevailed and Kockott kicked the ball out. Ireland were back to back champions. It was another glorious performance from a glorious group of players. A win and a manner of victory that will stay with us forever. My lucky unwashed jersey was lucky again. 

Upon reflection it was another strong showing from Ireland. Those complaining about the lack of style in the earlier rounds need to look at the fact that Championships don’t come around too often in these parts. And as for 2 in a row? Sure our performance levels dipped a bit in Wales but we have to remember too that that Wales side is also a very fine team who are very well coached. Just look at the disappointment of the Welsh & English players in missing out and the reaction of sections of their media. Perhaps in the England player’s case their moaning might be a bit understandable. Well they have come so close so often! From our point of view we won the championship with the best defence. We nursed long-term injured players back to form during the tournament. More importantly the squad continues to grow to the point where Joe will have a real headache picking a World Cup squad. We are in a really good place. Roll on September. As for my team of the tournament? Well quite simply it was Ireland.

The biggest message I have taken from the 2015 6 Nations however is not to eat curry whilst wearing the unwashed lucky jersey!!!

Kevin O’Brien (@marywards) : Rugby mad Leinster man exiled in Connaught. Father of 3 with wife who hates sport but tolerates rugby.



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Taken by JLP from RDS press box on Nov 16, 2019