Friday, July 31, 2015

Tonga 33-19 USA (8-0-review)

Both sides have questions to answer in this Pacific Nations Cup ahead of RWC2015.  For Tonga it’s whether they can beat Argentina to 2nd spot in Pool C; on this evidence it seems they can once given opportunities - not so sure they can create them. On the Eagles’ side they must stop providing opportunities like non-existent tackling and basic errors. Whatever the particulars with the “Saipan-esque" situation viz-a-vis their experienced skipper Todd Clever, they’ll need to resolve them pronto.
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Front Five - 31.07.15

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

ICYMI click here for our interview with Sharksworld editor Rob Otto on reported new Leinster recruit Conrad Hoffman

Later today on HoR…new “8-0-reviews” from the Pacific Nations Cup


The 202cm, 119kg forward expressed his delight over the signature, with personal circumstances highlighted as a reason he moved to the sunshine state.

Kane Douglas signs with the Reds, will be available for World Cup

The Roar

If he is picked, this will be Cudmore's fourth World Cup. He currently sits on 33 caps.

Cudmore hands Canada a welcome Rugby World Cup boost


“for a kit launch to see so many people here and create the atmosphere that they did shows the appetite there is for rugby in Ulster.” - Rory Best

Ulster stars unveil new kit at packed Kingspan

Belfast Newsletter

Not gone yet, nor will he ever be forgotten.

Paul O’Connell receives standing ovation from Munster fans in Cork

Patrick McCarry -

Well, there’s certainly some sound advice in there. Let’s hope the boys take it all in.

Don’t do that…

Sam Roberts - Double Dummy Scissors

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

Thursday, July 30, 2015

So....about potential new Leinster recruit Conrad Hoffman....

So earlier this week we had reports that scrumhalf Conrad Hoffman of the Sharks Currie Cup/Super Rugby outfit was being looked at by Leinster for a possible 3-month deal as cover during the World Cup.

Nothing has been formally announced as yet, but as it's an off week we decided to have a look at his career and performances throughout the Super Rugby season just gone to get an idea what kind of role he could play in D4 should he make the journey.

Well for the first, easy part of the research, we did the whole Wikipeadia thang.  Chap's been around - coming up at Western Province and moving on to the Stormers in Super Rugby yet with just the 1 appearance between 2008 and 2011 it would appear injury may have hampered him - he came back to top action with Natal and bar for a 2014 stint in Canberra with Jake White's Brumbies has been there ever since.

Then we looked at the Sharks' disappointing 2015 Super Rugby campaign to see how much action he saw.  It wasn't much.  Just the one start against the Force at the end of March - the rest of the time he was a little-used sub, mostly making 2- and 3- minute cameos at the end of matches.  He wasn't able to dislodge the regular starter Cobus Reinach.

But that wasn't enough for us...we wanted to actually see him in action so we got a recording of that clash with the Force where he got all of 60 minutes from the kickoff, playing as halfback alongside Francois Steyn.

Yeah - let's just say I could see why he was getting so little game time.  

OK - maybe that's not ALTOGETHER fair on the was altogether a dismal outing for the Sharks where they couldn't muster a single point in the first half and however mediocre Hoffman was, Steyn was worse.

In the interest of full disclosure, here are the notes I took as I watched...

  • 0 pts in 1st half tho prob mostly down to F Steyn
  • fair enough distribution passing-wise
  • kicking erratic, one good one, a few bad ones
  • bounced off a few tackles but made a key covering tackle before halftime
  • had a role off a scrum for try after halftime
  • to be fair, all the above criticisms could be levelled at several other Sharks players

Below you see a Vine of that tackle I mention in the notes...

But even THAT wasn't enough research for us...we got in touch with Rob Otto, editor of (a "Harpin On Sharks" of sorts, if you will...or should that be "Sharkin On Rugby"?) for an online chat to get some low down on the player, and he very kindly agreed to share some thoughts - here's how it went...

Just looking to do a piece providing a bit of fan-driven info on Hoffman but first maybe you can give a brief description of Sharksworld and its history?

I guess very similar to what you do for Leinster.... fan-driven blog site about the Sharks been up and running since 2008 popularity has waxed and waned over time, but we have a pretty hard core readership

Now to Mr Hoffman - I had a look at his one Super Rugby start last season against the Force...would I be right in saying "Ruan Pienaar he ain't?"

I've been trying to work up to this conversation  :)

I always try to be as nice as I can about players.... but shit. Hoffmann has been a disappointment in Sharks colours can't really put it any more plainly than that

Yeah the fact that it was his only start for the whole season doesn't bode well...the rest of the time it seemed to be 2 to 10 minute cameos at the end of matches, if at all

Conrad started out as possibly one of the brightest age-group prospects we've ever seen at scrumhalf the guys in Cape Town (where he played junior rugby) raved about him and reckoned he had Springbok written all over him

Though to be fair the "zero points" in the first half were more down to F Steyn at 10 than himself I thought

yeah look - the whole Super Rugby season was a disaster for the Sharks...Conrad really suffered a lot from injuries. They allowed others to leapfrog him at WP, but it was still seen as a coup when the Sharks first signed him in 2011 he was with us for 2 years and spent about 18 months of that time injured

Basically at Leinster we're not looking for a Ruan Pienaar...

we have two test 9s who will probably be away during the RWC and 2 up and coming ones who have limited game time...essentially we need someone who can, to use the cliche, "come in and do a job" in the Pro12...

Hoffman's journeyman - type career seems like he is well used to both travelling and playing second fiddle in recent years

I think he'll be ok for that...

...after his spell at the Brumbies, he came back to the Sharks and has actually managed to stay injury free for almost a year 

... in fact, after his first Sharks stint, he retired from the game, before Jake White took him to Canberra so Conrad is under no illusions anymore about being a test player in waiting

That's some brilliant info thanks Rob!  Now enough about soon-to-be-ex-players-you-care-about lol one final question before we wrap - how are the Sharks looking for the Currie Cup this year?

an unknown quantity...lots of new I reckon we're probably in "dark horse" territory, but in reality, most likely losing semi-finalists

Great stuff.  Well many thanks for the taking the time for the chat Rob and best of luck to the Springboks for the World in Ireland we'll look forward to meeting you in the final haha!

I wish I felt at all confident that we'll get that far, mate! But thanks all the same!


So there you have it.  With Pro 12 and B&I matches to cover during the World Cup I guess he's just about the guy we need - hopefully priority will be given to the likes of Luke McGrath and Nick McCarthy but from the looks of it Hoffman will be well aware of where he will fit in.

One thing's for sure...after all this work he bloody well better come to Dublin now! ;-)

Many thanks again to Rob from Sharksworld for the info.  JLP

Rugby on TV : Jul 30-Aug 6

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Front Five - 30.07.15

Start your day with five eye-catching egg-chasing quotes & links from around the ruggersphere.
Today marks the 1-year anniversary of this Front Five feature.
Click here for the first-ever edition.
Click here for our post on
the reports of Leo Cullen’s appointment
as Leinster head coach
The prop was in sharp focus and full flow at Joe Schmidt’s session

In pics: Cian Healy training with Ireland in Cork

Sean Farrell -

"Jack will take the opportunity and he'll be hungry for it. It's his first World Cup so he'll be chomping at the bit."

McGrath must show maturity if he's to step up at World Cup - Jennings

Cian Tracey - Irish Independent

The countdown is on to the Women’s Sevens Dublin tournament in UCD on August 22-23. (via

Ireland have been mentioned previously as a potential opponent for the All Blacks in either Boston or Chicago, where many people with Irish connections have settled.
Wynne Gray - NZ Herald
[hat-tip to Andrew Byrne]

...he accelerated, swerved, pierced through a gap and sauntered over to score.

Zinedine Zidane scores brilliant solo runaway try in charity rugby/football match

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

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Leo Cullen, Lengthy Contracts & Leinster Culture


logo post blueI have put off writing this post for long enough...although nothing has been formally announced, there have certainly been enough rumblings around the media to suggest that Leo Cullen is to be the new head coach for Leinster, so I suppose it’s about time I gave some thoughts on it.

Of course to anyone who knows the game, the move would be considered a risk.  Though I find some of the comparisons being made to appointments in the past to be very baffling.  Steve Staunton?  Eh, no.  Chalk and cheese, mate. 

Sure, Stan made a bucketload of appearances for and was a part of the successful times for the team he was taking over, but his involvement with the Republic of Ireland consisted of about a dozen or so appearances per season while the rest of the time he was with his club of the day.

In Leo’s case, we are not only talking about a club with which he has spent the bulk of his professional career, however unfortunate or indeed unfair his limited Ireland caps total may be, it means he has probably clocked more working hours around the provincial set-up since the start of our “glory days” than any other.

Or to put it another way...if we were to confer the title “Mr. Leinster Rugby” on any individual, I can think of no better man to receive it. 


So when it comes to stepping into this role, one big advantage he has over Staunton is a near perfect knowledge of virtually every aspect of the organisation surrounding the head coach’s chair without ever actually having sat in it.

If we must compare this appointment to an iffy decision from history, I’d be more inclined to go for Martin Johnson’s for  England (yes, that actually did happen, as much as the press across the water tries to airbrush it out of history).  I mean the similarities are very easy to find...legendary lock/skipper who led the side to the highest honour his team could achieve. 

But even that comparison has flaws - I mean, for one thing, I doubt we’ll be hearing stories of dwarves being tossed around Krystle night club any time soon!!!  Joking aside...the assumption around the RFU’s decision with Johnson seemed to be that he’d be an instant success.  That the spirit of 2003 was one that could be bottled and spread to future generations of players.

I think it’s pretty widely known that Leo was never the first choice for the job, and we have all heard the Who’s Who of Rugby Coaches that has been linked with the post.  And given his personality I’m sure he will approach the position with an air of pragmatism as opposed to the air of arrogance that went with Johnson.

So that brings us to the next area we need to the decision of who gets the job is actually made.

With the success of Leinster and Munster in Europe since 2006, the two provinces are quite rightly considered up alongside the great outfits in European rugby like Toulouse, Leicester Tigers, Wasps and of course most recently Toulon.  And it’s hard not to cross-over to the round ball game and draw comparisons to Champions League greats like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Manchester United.

There is absolutely no doubt that the head coach role at any of those institutions is one of an importance near to (if not more so in soccer’s case) international equivalents, and whenever those positions go on offer, the debate over who will fill them is extensive.

But here is where we must draw attention to one very important distinction.  Toulouse, Wasps and Man Utd are CLUBS.  The Irish provincial teams are not, at least not in the traditional sense.  They are branches of the national rugby union.  Many soccer clubs answer to shareholders alright but never to their football association.

At Leinster, Mick Dawson as CEO leads an extensive organization that has a mountain of work to get through from spreading the sport around the 12 counties to organizing match days to putting plans in place for improvements to the RDS Arena.

But when a big decision like a head coach appointment comes around, while I certainly wouldn't say it’s “out of their hands”, it does need to be looked at through an IRFU-wide lens rather than simply a Leinster one.

The reason I was reluctant to do this post was that I had hoped that my last one on Matt O’Connor meant I could put the matter in a box and file it away in the HoR archives to gather dust but here is where I must drag it up again if only briefly.  As far as its head coaching position is concerned, Leinster Rugby together with the Leinster Professional Games Board and the IRFU had a plan already in place for this coming season...namely the last year of O’Connor’s 3-year contract.

And putting the disgruntled Leinster supporters aside just for a moment, this arrangement seemed to be one that suited everyone, given that right now, in the summer of 2015, the Prime Directive of Irish Rugby has to be preparation for our assault on the Rugby World Cup - and I sincerely hope nobody has any argument with  that!

Yet now we must bring the supporters back into the equation.  We can look at them two ways...the reality is that over the past 12 months there have been extremely varying opinions on Matt O’Connor’s tenure at Leinster and these have all been expressed on this site by several different contributors.  Then there’s the perception that the Leinster fan base is all of one mind and never wanted O’Connor in the first place.

That external perception would still seem to hold to this day, and to be fair, when Leinster had their worst dip in form of the season during the Six Nations, more and more fans were warming to the idea that change was needed and even coming within the width of a goalpost of defeating Toulon and reaching another European final wasn’t enough to claw it back.

Given that wave of what I called “Anti-Matter” opinion, the Leinster management could well be entitled to raise an eyebrow when those same fans have qualms about anyone who assumes the role. (“Leo Nay-Sayers”?)

Say you’ve been waiting for a table at a busy restaurant and they offer you one but you don’t want to sit there because it’s too near the kitchen, so the maître d goes out of his way to find you another one, only for you to complain about that for a different reason.

Given it’s a World Cup year, the coaches with CVs worthy of a 3-time European champion outfit are all either in contracts or at least are on career paths that revolve around the four-year World Cup cycle...meaning the summer just before one is a marketplace similar to the busy restaurant I mention above.  And I suspect those involved in the Leinster decision were well aware of this when they installed the word “interim” in Leo’s title, just in case.  It would appear the “in case” has happened.

If we like, we can convince ourselves that we have been “stuck” with Leo.  We can doom his tenure to failure before it even begins.

Or…we could pay attention to someone like Bernard Jackman, himself a table in that restaurant that is already taken.  I strongly recommend you listen to his contribution on Second Captains' Monday edition but here are some of the things he had to say in Leo’s favour…

“Leo Cullen’s great strength is in powering others”


“Culture is what wins you championships and Leo Cullen is very clued into that”


“His skill set probably suits being a head coach more than being a unit coach”

I also suggest you read this post from Big Joe Shep here on this site looking at the new Leinster coaching ticket more as a “collective”.  With hopefully a quality backs coach appointment on the horizon (preferably from the outside) to finish it off, it actually is quite a decent mix of talent and with someone who both “gets” the Leinster culture and has been heavily involved in making it work within the Irish framework at the helm, I definitely cannot classify the move as a “disaster” as some suggest.

On the point that he was part of the coaching staff responsible for the disappointing effort last season, it’s hard not to concede that as a negative but a bit like the point Berch makes, if we’re going to tag Leo with the ills of our pack last season then this new set-up has given responsibility to someone else so we’ve every reason to expect an improvement.

And talk of a 2- to 3- year deal also seems baffling when hearing it first, but once more we have to consider all the angles...Leinster will want the matter decided sooner rather than later, and no doubt Leo’s representatives in the negotiations will do what they can to get the most security out of the deal.  It’s simply how the modern game works.

Finally as fans we have to look at our expectations for the future in general, and this coming season in particular.  Are they the same as they have been in recent years?  Is it really silverware or bust for us in the 2015/16 campaign?  I’m not so sure.

And given all the variables surrounding the province this much talent being away for the first couple of months,  the possibility of some getting injured at the World Cup, the absolute stinker of a Rugby Champions Cup pool, the likelihood of limited integration time before it kicks off, the necessity of blooding a raft of promising youngsters into the senior squad...I’m not sure there’s a head coach out there who could walk fresh into the job and make it an instant success - and yes, I’m including Joe Schmidt in that list.

If I had to set a minimum target on the results front, I would go with a return to the final four of the Pro12 and at very least a decent effort to get out of that Euro pool.  Does this mean Leo should lose his job if we don’t make that goal?  Absolutely not.  There are several other factors like the style of rugby we play and the type of team selection decisions we make to consider, but it would certainly be nice to have more than one match in May again.

So before we look away from these Leinster headlines and back towards the World Cup ones (which is absolutely what I will be doing after this post!), my advice to fellow fans would be to consider the big picture for Irish rugby at this particular time and get behind our teams both blue and green in every way we can.

Not so much a “wait and see” approach, rather a much more interactive and constructive “Come On You Boys In Blue” one.  JLP


Thursday we’ll look at another reported Leinster transaction - scrumhalf Conrad Hoffman is meant to be joining us from the Sharks in Super Rugby and we spoke to the operator of the Sharksworld blog about the player’s history and prospects.


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