Wednesday, September 30, 2015
We Thought It Fitting That The Headline For Our Review Of The Excellent Balls.ie Book Should At Least Be As Long As One On The Site
What you may not know is that we’re not exactly opposed to following teams from other sports as well.
Naturally as we’re slap bang in the middle of the pool phase of a World Cup we don’t have a whole lot of time to take in much more sport, but let’s just say in recent times we were pleased when the Dubs won Sam, when Spurs beat City 4-1, and when the Golden State Warriors won the NBA title. However, the Oakland Athletics being in last place in the American League West plus the San Francisco 49ers losing to Arizona by more than Romania did to Ireland haven’t pleased us quite as much.
Of course we do appreciate other sites which do follow all sports, and as you’ll see by their frequent links in our daily “Front Five” posts, Balls.ie is frequently a source for us especially when we’re looking for a chuckle at one of sport’s funnier moments. And when asked to review their new book “The Balls.ie Guide To Life”, we were more than happy to oblige.
If I write that this is essentially a load of their posts put in book form, that may sound as though it’s a bad thing. But if I TOLD you that fact I’d be sure to put it in an extremely enthusiastic voice like I was giving a TED talk, because it is in fact a very, VERY good thing.
It’s not one for reading cover to cover - it’s one for flicking through and landing on a random page at any given time. You leave this book lying around when you have company over and I absolutely guarantee you it will impress your visitors - just make sure their hands are clean as they are bound to pick it up uninvited and start skimming through (I’m speaking from personal experience here - can you tell?)
There are plenty of egg-chasing references to enjoy, such as this chapter titled “Unleashing the Beast - Rugby Spirit Animals” where as well as POC & BOD we see what wildlife the lads liken ROG, Henderson, Toner, Hickie to among others. (Let’s just say you can probably work out what they went with for John Hayes…)
But like I said, it’s a book for Irish sport in general, and you certainly don’t need to be an expert in soccer, GAA or other codes to appreciate the humour.
I particularly like the feature “Find yourself : 15 Irish Sports Fan Stereotypes”, which includes this one, “The Wannabe Yank” - it reminds of a Super Bowl party I was at years ago when I went to the bar and ordered a Budweiser (don’t usually drink it but they were half price in a promo that night) when the barman asked me to repeat my order. When I did, he says to me “I didn’t hear you the first time with your phony American accent!” before being rather humbled by learning I was actually born in California. Still, I do appreciate where he was coming from, as the stereotype definitely does exist.
So suffice it to say we heartily endorse this product :-)
While we’re on the subject of books, our debut publication “The Laighean, the Pitch and the Website : The Chronicles Of Harpia” is still in the works, keep an eye out for it in a bookshop near you!
Er….actually I was only joking about the Harpin book, but hopefully you believed it was possible at least for a moment! ;-) JLP
PS - In next week’s “unriggable raffle” competition we’ve a copy of “Six Nations, Two Stories” to give away courtesy of O’Brien Press, stay tuned for details!
Michalak holds the record for the longest playing career of a French international which is nearing 14 years.
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
A valiant effort from Burger & his men, Namibia gave it their all but penalties, a poor scrum and 30+ missed tackles caused them difficulties. A very loose game with turnovers & handling errors allowing game to open up. Tonga’s counter attack was very strong. Nimble-footed winger Veainu was incredible, scoring 2 of Tonga’s 5 tries. Tonga began losing control of the game in final quarter but Morath’s arrival on to pitch settled play and they held Namibia off for the win.
Emma McGarry (@EmmaKMcGarry) - Hugely interested in all aspects of rugby. Supporter of Irish and Leinster Rugby. "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad" - Brian O'Driscoll
After another weekend of #RWC2015 drama
Mark Jackson selects his team of the round…
The second round of games again saw the so called minnows impress , a backlash from the Boks and a highly anticipated clash at Twickenham with the hosts against their neighbours from across the Severn. Below is my selection of the best performances from this round .
15. Willie le Roux (SA) - A whole world of improvement from the Boks is no coincidence with le Roux at full back , classy footballer who adds an extra dimension out wide for the recharged South Africans , excellent in first receiver role taking some pressure of Pollard.
14. Santiago Cordero (ARG) - Retains his place from week one , 2 tries , more magic footwork , not the biggest winger these days but defensively sound and not afraid to back himself either ,always a good trait in a top class winger
13. Mark Bennett (SCO) - Two impressive games from Bennett , scoring twice against Japan and making yards with ball in hand every time he gets on the ball. Another solid outing against the USA see him claim the outside centre berth
12. Sonny Bill Williams (NZ) - After a nice cameo vs Argentina in Rd 1 SBW continued against an admittedly weaker opponent in Namibia. Some delightful offloads allied with solid defence and consistently setting up NZ attacks with gainline success must see the AB 12 jersey be a close contest .
11.DTH Van Der Merwe (CAN) - Regular Pro 12 viewers know the qualities of DTH and it was great to see him transfer it to the world stage. Tries in both games so far and already the scorer of potential try of the tournament. Gets through a mountain of work on the wing and never afraid to come in field and aid his pack to go forward.
10. Dan Biggar (WAL) - At times seemed he was both keeping Wales in the game on Saturday evening whilst also being treated for a number of bumps n bruises. A fantastic 80 mins from the Osprey , world class goal kicking , rock in the tackle and his recovery of his own kicks is top notch as well as getting the backline moving when Warrenball dictates it.
9. Greg Laidlaw (SCO) - Kept Scotlands scoreboard ticking over during the early stages of a tough clash against Japan. A good captain throughout for Scotland kept the Japanese backrow honest just edges out Tomas Cabelli of Argentina .
8. David Pocock (AUS) - 2 tries , 5 turnovers , Michael Cheika had to find him a place in his back row and along with Michael Hooper and Scott Fardy Australia's breakdown work is the envy of many. After 2 years out of the game great to see Pocock back to somewhere near his best.
7.Tinus du Plessis (NAM) - Normally every time Namibia play its all about Jacques Burger and usually rightfully so. However on Thursday evening a new cult hero emerged on the other flank . Du Plessis could easily be mistaken for a roadie with Iron Maiden (insert another 80s metal group) but his performance against the ABs was nothing short of inspiring . A nuisance at the break down ,massive tackle count and a willingness to stick his head where you wouldn't put your boot (ala his captain) see him win the 7 shirt.
6 Schalk Burger (SA) - Very close call ahead of TJ Ioane in the same game who was a one man wrecking crew at times. Burger looks more comfortable on the blindside than at 8. Lead from the front consistently making dents into Samoan line with ball in hand and in tackle , Try near the end was just rewards.
5. Tomas Lavanini (ARG) - Argentina are churning out some monsters again. 6ft 7 20st plus and a great skill set , this guy has scary potential . Scored the first try and could've had at least one more .
4. Eben Etzebeth (SA) - Couldve selected a plethora of locks. It is one position where there is no shortage of world class performers, Whitelock , Wyn Jones and Alemanno can feel hard done by for excellent outings but Etzebeth provided the go forward and lineout ball that the Boks converted into an impressive win .
3.Titi Lamositeli (USA) - Just turned 20 Lamositeli proved a thorn in the Scots side especially in first 60 mins , big powerful carrier , soft hands and will only improve as a scrummager as he gets ages. Saracens have found a diamond here.
2. Augustin Creevy (ARG) - Sean Fitzpatrick is firmly in the Dane Coles camp when it comes to the world's best hooker but I would pick this guy everyday of the week and twice on Sunday Strong in set piece and mobile to make an impact around the field and a born leader too. Argentina are peaking again at the right time
1. Mihaita Lazar (ROM) - Two strong games from the Romanian loosehead . Always scrums well and every tighthead he faces knows he is in for a tough game. If he was playing for a Tier 1 nation would not look out of place. Big and powerful and uses his size well.
Mark Jackson (@markusjacksonus) An Irishman in London....lover of rugby , NFL and family n friends not always in that order..consumer of meat , best friend to Wayne Barnes . All views my own and always open for a lively debate . Ireland , Leinster and the New York Giants fanatic.
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The new vision was a compromise to still feature rugby in the capital city, but also to meet revenue expectations.
Monday, September 28, 2015
I was working behind the bar in Gleeson’s of Booterstown and as Dave O’Leary was lining up THAT kick, a kid asked me for a Coke. Let’s just say he never got it.
The celebrations and good feeling all over the country were awesome from that moment. And even then it wasn’t just about the football itself, we were all mad keen to hear the words of Big Jack himself, and also back in the studio there was the trio of RTE pundits in Johnny GIles, Eamonn Dunphy and of course the late, great Bill O’Herlihy.
And we had only reached the quarterfinals!
Even then, although rugby was still amateur and nowhere near as popular on these shores as it is now, Ireland was definitely expected to reach the last eight at the very least.
But now those expectations have reached a whole new level. A level where the national broadcaster can’t even afford the asking price to cover the Rugby World Cup, or at least if they did go for it, they may have to scale back on the lucrative annual cash-cow that is the Six Nations.
All of this meant that RTE rugby’s answer to the soccer punditry triumvirate, namely Tom McGuirk, Brent Pope and Colonel Curmudgeon himself George Hook, were available to do a live assessment of this match at Dtwo Garden, Bar & Nightclub on Harcourt St downtown, and I have to say it was a welcome addition to the whole “watch the match down the pub” experience, and it raised money for Haven, ie George’s worthy Haiti charity, as well to boot.
Still though, as much as the lads tried to play off each other to make for some entertainment for those of us in attendance, there really were only two words on everyone’s lips (even George’s) afterwards…”Job” and “done”.
As far as I was concerned, I would have taken a winning scoreline of 20-19 to Ireland, provided it included 4 tries and crucially, no injuries. So on the proviso that Rob Kearney’s limp is nothing to be overly concerned over, you can bet I’m happy with a 44-10 outcome even if it could have been more.
But given this is meant to be a Monday match writeup I suppose I’d better start providing some actual analysis pretty soon!
First I have to make it clear what lens I used to watch - essentially no different to any other since the warm-ups began back at the beginning of August. If we simply scrutinise the 80 minutes and ignore all else that is going on the rugby world, then yes, there are many ways we can be critical - with all due respect to the Romanians and for all their committed tackling from the off, the scoreline should really have been closer to that which the Wallabies put on Uruguay earlier that day.
Of course we can’t just look at any of these matches like that. Joe Schmidt’s job was never to beat Romania, nor was it to beat Canada. It was to bring a squad of players through a tournament - yes, of course we needed those wins and with maximum pool points as well, but though we have been extremely lucky with regard to our schedule, it’s still up to him to make the most of it.
So while there may well be much “tutting” about the place over the fact that our “Tier 2” opponents each put a try on us, we have to make allowances for the chopping and changing to the starting lineup that had to take place to facilitate the rehab of key players such as Cian Healy (who had a good shift and seems ready). No Irish fan wants to see tries being scored on us, but context has to play a factor.
So what were the key positives on the day at Wembley, apart from the record-breaking crowd? For me the most encouraging sign was in our back three.
“If I’m to have any worries it will be over our back three. It hasn’t been a combination that has worked well together for us at all since the start of August and this trio in particular will know they will need to impress not only individually, but also in their roles as part of a unit.”
As you can see from my preview, I was paying particular attention to positions 11, 14 and 15 on the day. And thankfully, I need not have worried because it was clearly an area that bothered Joe as well. Between them Earls, Bowe and Zebo were pretty much involved in everything good Ireland were doing and even Rob Kearney chipped in with a score off the bench towards the end.
It wasn’t just the two tries each from Earls & Bowe plus the one that might have been from Zebo. And it wasn’t the slick accurate passing that put others in for scores. Nor was it the much improved kick-chasing that kept winning the ball back for us off the boot. It was the way they worked together as a unit - this is what Joe is looking for most of all from those positions and it was something that was very much lacking in previous encounters.
Personally when it comes to future selection, I think his ideal starting back three formation right now is RK-TB-DK. Bowe badly needed a stand-out performance against Romania to remind us all that he was considered “undroppable” back at the beginning of August and with his finishing, catching and carrying I think we may have seen enough to know previous quiet displays were but a glitch.
As for the bench, well as worthy and all as was Keith Earls’ man of the match award, I think Joe will probably go for either Luke or Simon - George Hook said he thinks Joe doesn’t really like Zebo...that made for a great clickbait headline but to be fair, he did qualify by saying he meant as a type of player rather than as a person.
If it were down to me, I might actually go for Zebo at 23, because I believe that jumper is exactly meant for his type of player, namely one who can come off the bench in a tight contest and make something happen. Having said that, Luke isn’t exactly a shrinking violet himself, plus he can cover 13 so I think he could get the nod.
Another area that I was keen on watching was the second row. I thought Devin Toner did exactly what he does best for this Ireland team, ie call the lineouts. The Romanians were targeting this area and although at 6-foot-loads he would always be the more obvious choice, he used himself as a decoy more often than not and there was great variation in jumpers between Heaslip, Murphy and Ryan.
The Munster lock seemed to have a decent outing but not enough to propel himself up the pecking order. I fear his return from injury may have come too late for this World Cup though if injury befalls anyone above him, we know the role will be in capable hands with him as he has much to offer, not least of which it attitude.
Now - to our centres. I am amazed by some of the analysis I see around the place on this area, though I guess if we all agreed it would be boring.
Jared Payne is only a “concern” for Ireland in the 13 jumper if we remain blinkered by what we perceive to be the role of an outside centre. We simply can’t afford to be. OK, maybe we’d see the position as one for attacking a la Jonathans Davies & Joseph, Conrad Smith, Bastareaud, or even, dare I say it, Robbie Henshaw.
But when Joe was hired to the job it came with a burning question - how to “replace” BOD in time for RWC2015. So in the time since he took up the role in mid-2013, he has no doubt devoted quite a deal of his considerable rugby brain power to finding an answer and it would appear that is Jared Payne. How can it be? We’d say. Not so much as one line break from the chap at Wembley.
Let’s think outside the box here people! Because for me, that’s what Joe has done. You look back on any Jared Payne performance for Ireland this year and you see a hell of a lot more on second watch than the first. He’s not ruled out of attacking moves altogether, but when he is involved, more often than not it’s in the wider channels to either find a man outside him or kick it forward into space.
And once he has done this, unless there’s a kick chase to be done, his remit is to get back ready to cover his defensive channel in case a turnover sees the opposition coming back his way. Against Romania he “only” made the 10 tackles, but still led the team despite being taken off at the 57m mark.
I’m not saying this interpretation of the centre role by Joe Schmidt isn’t a risk, but what I am saying is that Payne seems to be the one best placed to play this way and given it must link to everything else the team is trying to do out there, maybe we should stop looking for a generic 13 and appreciate the big picture more. Or to put it another way, we must find ways to “deal with the Payne”...
Finally, we have Ian Madigan. Again if you’ll allow me to quote myself from my preview…
“I can see Ian Madigan being given license to move the ball around taking opportunities where he sees them...he certainly seems to have come into this tournament in a good vein of form and after all the talk of whether he’ll also be covering 12, 15 or even 9, we can’t rule out the possibility that he could go through the tournament only ever playing out-half.”
I’m pretty sure this display has copper-fastened his role as the backup 10. At the risk of adding to the overkill of pops at the previous Leinster coach, Madigan would seem to have grown more in the out-half role since preseason began this July than he did in the previous two full seasons at the RDS. And the place-kicking has improved as well - a lot of the tries were in the corner yet his radar seemed to be well honed each time.
All of which leaves me with the conclusion that yes, the job was done. Yes, we have an injury worry in Rob Kearney but to be fair the rugby gods have been smiling on us for the most part in this World Cup compared to other nations. So yes, we need to feel good not only about being top of the pool at the halfway stage, but also about our chances going forward.
My matchday 23 to best execute “Schmidtball” in the pool’s crunch matches is as follows…
R Kearney, T Bowe, J Payne, R Henshaw, D Kearney, J Sexton, C Murray
C Healy, R Best, M Ross, D Toner, P O’Connell, P O’Mahony, S O’Brien, J Heaslip
S Cronin, J McGrath, N White, I Henderson, C Henry, E Reddan, I Madigan, L Fitzgerald.
Even as I typed that I was torn between the roles of Toner, Henderson and O’Mahony, but I landed in a place whereby the considerable heavy lifting of Henderson is covered by the likes of Healy and O’Brien before the closing stages where Iain’s addition could be invaluable, and in the meantime, we have a reliable lineout platform.
I know I haven’t mentioned too many Romanians (aka “The Oaks”) in this writeup, in fact I haven’t mentioned any at all. That’s because I have watched the game twice and at no point was I paying mind to the number on the back of one of their players. When watching the other matches at this World Cup, I can relax and take in everything that’s happening but when it’s Ireland, I’m sure I’m not alone in having on my maximum-strength green goggles!
Besides, the Romanians didn’t seem too disappointed by the result, given one of them chose to propose to his girlfriend on the pitch after the match! Clearly she was able to overlook the fact that he couldn’t even make the starting lineup in a team that just got crushed on the scoreboard and said yes ;-)
When Tonga play Namibia on Tuesday (where there’s bound to be another full house though of course it won’t be anywhere near 90k) the pool stage will be precisely at its halfway point with everyone having played two matches. Overall, this part of the tournament has exceeded expectations as far as I’m concerned and it is guaranteed to get even better.
As we fans go about our business during the week, we have seen precious little in Ireland’s displays to keep us from the overall outlook captured by the hashtag #TrustJoe.
To paraphrase Mr O’Herlihy one more time after the dodgily-punned headline, we’ll leave it there so and let them get on with it as they prepare for the Italians. JLP
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Not as flashy as last week but the job is done. Top of the group; can't argue with that. Hopefully R. Kearney is alright.
— Richard Mifsud (@Richmif) September 27, 2015
First team needs to stay fit. There are guys in the squad who aren't good enough at the moment to play a part in a matchday 23 come the business end of the tournament, so we need to stay match fit if we're serious about winning the championship.
Does anyone else think Cian Healy has been dreadfully conditioned? He's so big at the moment that his hands, pace and overall dynamism are nowhere near where they used to be. It's the rugby world cup, not the world weightlifting championships! Cian needs to get off the bench press and onto a treadmill IMO!
Other than that, it was a decent, effective, professional performance; and I have to give a shout out to the Irish fans! 90,000 odd crammed into Wembley! Superb stuff.
Ultimately, it's job done. 2/2, and we've avoided 2007-esc catastrophes. The real business begins now! #COYBIG
— CoalMerchantsDublin (@CrumlinFuels) September 27, 2015
Well deserved man of the match, Keith earls played a blinder
Ireland dominant as expected. Bigger tests will come - but they look ready for them. #IREvROM
— Graham Jenkins (@grahamajenkins) September 27, 2015
A great performance overall. Great to see Tommy Bowe's incredible finishing back. Zebo was excellent, as was Keith Earls. One concern I would have would be the amount of times earlier in the game that we were in the Romanian 22 and left with no scores. Need to work on that. Overall though a very impressive win against a physical side
Ireland, I imagine, will be delighted to let Wales and England take the headlines whilst they quietly go about there way.
— ByTheMin RugbyU (@ByTheMinRugbyU) September 27, 2015
A good win with no injuries hopefully but still with some issues for JS to focus on. Seems like a happy squad that is building nicely with each game. It gets tougher from now but quietly confident that even better to come from this group of players. Plenty of selection headaches and that, I expect, is exactly what JS wants.
— Ultimate Rugby (@ultimaterugby) September 27, 2015
Against Canada, the first choice players got to flex their muscles a bit and they made a solid statement of intent for the tournament. This week, we saw some of the squad players get some game time, run in a few tries and some even put their hands up for selection later in the competition. We still seem ok injury-wise and we have 10 points from two games. Perfect start
A few issues to address too, which I maintain is a positive at this stage, but Payne at 13 is the pressing concern. He's performed admirably in the transitional post-BOD era by providing solidity in that channel. That meant that Joe could build this Ireland team around him and Henshaw in the midfield. But now we're at the RWC and if we want to go the distance we need penetration in those channels. He's been stifling our attack and wasting a lot of possession so far, so right now either Cave or Fitzy look like better options. I'd lean towards Fitzgerald/Henshaw, and if Sexton and Zebo can both offer themselves as a first receiver and we continue to bring our SH into the play with switch plays that'll really take our attack to another level IMO
It's a big call, and a tough call in some ways, but I'd love to see that switch of intent. But, fortunately, it's not my call to make and whatever the decision I will continue to #TrustJoe #COYBIG
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) September 27, 2015
We got 10points let's not get carried away. Should have put 60 plus on Romania and didn't go to look at why. Zebo is good against weaker teams but against the better teams certainly not and definitely not at 15. Madigan had a great game controlled it well. When Jackson came on did nothing for us. Earls stand out today and has to start at wing for Italy and France along with Dave Kearney. Payne I'm still not sure of, doesn't give us that attacking line we need at 13. I think Henshaw 13 and Fitzgerald 12 that's are strongest. At both attacking and in defence. Let's just take the win and move to Italy now.
Less impressive than last week but mission accomplished and still on track.
Many thanks to all who offered opinions.
Look out for our match writeup later today. JLP
“The next evolution of Super Rugby has arrived and as well bringing three new teams, 15 more regular season matches and a new eight-team finals format" - ARU CEO Bill Pulver
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Sunday, September 27, 2015
The first-half saw the US outplay Scotland for large parts with Lamositele touching down to put the Eagles in front. There were back and forward passages when the ball could have gone anywhere but seven points remained the difference at Halftime. Just as they were on Wednesday, Scotland were clinical in the second-half, coming out of the gate much quicker than the US with two tries in 7 minutes. They showed quality in wrapping up the BP to go top.
Ciarán Duffy (@VoiceQuakeDuffy) is a Leinster supporter who would watch any game of rugby while undoubtedly taking it too seriously. He enjoys over analysing and taking a pessimistic look at the bright side while talking about Irish, European, and World Rugby issues on and off the field.
A strong Australian start saw them 2 tries up within 10 minutes. Despite a Quade Cooper sin binning Uruguay could score only 3 pts. Australia then added 3 more before the break to easily secure their BP. 2nd Half saw a workmanlike Wallabies add 6 more tries to complete the rout. In fairness, Uruguay never gave up, attacked but missed far too many tackles and on the occasions they got close they lacked the wherewithal to exploit the required finish.
@bigjoeshep is the Owner and Head of Information & Knowledge Management at Digital Knowledge Zone. An avid Leinster & Ireland Rugby fan, he came to rugby at the late age of 24, was a tight head prop, had at least 2 good runs in every game and retired at only 36 after 3 operations on his legs and now forms the 4th "virtual" person in a front row each time his beloved teams are playing (much to the annoyance of his suffering girlfriend who has to put up with being "embraced" by the Big Fella at each scrum!!!)
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