Thursday, May 28, 2015

Preview : Ireland v Barbarians


Well there I was with my Leinster jerseys put away, all my Ireland ones taken out and pressed, the website and logos changed from blue to green, all set to get my head to a place where I’m thinking less about the provincial season just gone and more about Ireland’s journey from two-time Six Nations Championship to an uber-serious assault on RWC2015.

Then I see the lineups for the Ireland v Baa Baas. Despite the fact that it’s at Thomond Park, with Munster having other matters on their mind this weekend, that leaves us with just three provinces to choose from for this selection for the boys in green, and all told between the two sides there are as many as 20 with ties to  Leinster, and the only reason I don’t count Ben Marshall is so that Connacht have some representation.  To be honest, after what happened to them in Kingsholm last Sunday, I wouldn’t blame them for sitting this one out even without the short turnaround.

So if this fixture wasn’t so relatively far away on a Thursday night, I’d be there with bells on.  In fact sitting here as I am at lunchtime I’m still trying to work out if I could hop in the car to make it down for the match and back without losing too many brownie points (spoiler alert...that ain’t gonna happen!).

There are several intriguing matchups around the park...Jamie Heaslip the current Leinster skipper leading Ireland out with retiring legend Shane Jennings opposite him.  Rob Kearney at 15 for Ireland with the man who takes his place for Leinster Zane Kirchner opposite him.  Devin Toner likely to square off at some point against another about-to-retire-former-Leinster-hero Nathan Hines.

But the battle that jumps off the page has to be at number 10, with Ian Madigan on one side, and not only Jimmy Gopperth on the other, but also a Jimmy Gopperth who we actually know will have been told by his coach to fling the ball about no matter what happens.  The possibilities are endless.

The Ulster contingent could be a bit stronger for this contest though I suppose their fans would say they’d much rather have no involvement at all with an eye to the weekend.  Still, the match is an opportunity for several of their players pushing for more test caps in Jackson, Gilroy, Tuohy and Luke Marshall.

On the youth side of the equation the occasion will do the world of good for Luke McGrath, Collie O’Shea and Cian Kelleher.  When it comes to international talent there is always bound to be plenty of that when the BaaBaas are in town and there’s the likes Adam Jones, Rokacoko, Pienaar and George Smith.

So as you can see, though I can’t make it there in person, you can be sure I’ll be glued to this one from kickoff to full time.  Not quite sure how much intel we can gather re World Cup hopes from it, but it certainly never hurts to put in a good outing.


I’m predicting something very predictable...a high-scoring affair.  I won’t bother to call it either way but of course I’d like to see an Ireland win.  Here’s to a great night for those who can make it, no matter how jealous I may be!  JLP

The match is live on Sky Sports 1, coverage starts at 7:30pm
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