Friday, June 30, 2017

Preview : New Zealand v Lions (2nd test)


So the loss in Auckland was the fault of Peter O'Mahony and Ben Te'o, right?  Well, what other message could Gatland's changes possibly send?

Forgive me for not "toeing the party line" after all the reports from his press conferences ahead of this second test.  "We were destroyed at the breakdown" he says.  "We need a poacher like Warburton in there" he says (both paraphrased).

Well I ain't buyin' what he's sellin'.  You need a poacher and your tour skipper isn't fully fit?  Why not play Tipuric?  Or Rory Best at hooker?  There were other roads he could have travelled for that first test.

Now I've said all along I have nothing whatsoever against Sam Warburton...it's more about the over-hype surrounding him.  To back up these claims about his value to the team, he now needs the game of his life on Saturday.  Man of the match performance, Lions win, mostly down to him.  We'll see...and just in case there's any doubt, I'll be delighted if that happens!!!

Much like I believe the Lions would have comfortably won the third test in Sydney back in 2013 regardless of who wore 13, I also say we would have lost last Saturday regardless of who was wearing any red number.  That's because we would have played the same brand of rugby, and it would not have been enough.  It wasn't about poaching the ball when the All Blacks had it...it was about when WE had it, particularly those final 5 to 10 metres before the try line.

What the Lions need are solutions, not scapegoats.  Despite some positive displays & results for the tourists, the All Blacks' "hive mind" has both prepared for and adapted to Gatland's brand as this tour has progressed...and if we don't think outside the box even just a little, the margins are just going to get wider IMO.

Now to be fair to Warren's Wanderers, throwing Sexton in at 10 does represent a shift in thinking.  Gone might be the crashing runs down the 12 channel that Te'o brings, but now we have two "five eighths" that can really mix things up on the attacking front and what's more we shouldn't lose a whole lot on the defensive side of things.

It will come down to the decisions we make when the chances are there.  As always, I don't see the point of naming All Black players in previews...they're gonna do what they're gonna do.  Just like last week, I think they can be beaten, but I also think they won't, at least not this week.  

Nor is there any point in saying too much about the ref, though on my point earlier about what Warburton brings to the breakdown, we must not forget that we have a northern hemisphere mindset in charge of the whistle this time, so we'll need to keep an eye on how that goes.  Should we break into their 22 only to be halted by a penalty more than once, I might just switch off altogether if we don't see cards.

Hey - what do you know - turns out I found a way to say too much about the ref after all!!!! 😜

The bookies have a home win by 13.  I'm going to suggest the Lions do one of those things I hate most in sport - "lose with dignity".  We'll keep the margin in single digits (just) to lose the series yet still keep interest levels above water for the final test.

Of course I'll be cheering the lads on and wearing my jersey, but I'd be lying (lion?) if I said I'm not getting more concerned about Irish players suffering long term injuries than I am the success of the tour as the weeks go on.  JLP

New Zealand - I Dagg; W Naholo, A Lienert-Brown, SB Williams, R Ioane; B Barrett, A Smith
J Moody, C Taylor, O Franks; B Retallick, S Whitelock; J Kaino, S Cane, K Read. 
Reps: N Harris, W Crockett, C Faumuina, S Barrett, A Savea, TJ Perenara, A Cruden, N Laumape.

Second Test (NZ leads series, 1-0)
Saturday, July 1, 2017
Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Kickoff 8:35am (Irish time)
Ref: Jérôme Garcès (Fra)
ARs: Romain Poite (Fra) & Jaco Peyper (SA)
TMO: George Ayoub (Aus)
TV : Sky Sports 1

Front Five - 30.06.17

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

If a poacher is what the Lions "desperately needed"
and Warburton wasn't fit to start first test,
why not go for Tipuric?



It’s not always flashy but when Warburton is at his best he can be a right nuisance at that breakdown area, which is what the Lions desperately need.


Sarah Mockford - Rugby World



It could be said that journalism was in Fred’s blood and indeed as a teenage schoolboy he made his first contribution to the then Radio Éireann.


Edmund Van Esbeck - Irish Times



"We’ve only been here 10 days. It’s been so quick. I guess in time it will sink in what it really means to play for the Lions


Irish Independent



"We have a really competitive pool with Ireland, France and Japan and we know that there's no such thing as an easy game at a World Cup."


Alison Donnelly - Scrumqueens



'I would rather grab them than nothing!'


Murray Kinsella - The42.ie



Feel free to share any interesting links you spot yourself about t’internet by email, Twitter, Facebook, 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, June 29, 2017

A Lions Tour Diary by Michelle Tobin #8


On the road again...Sunday morning was an early start. Earlier for me as I had to do a donut run, having opted for four dozen donuts as a bus treat from my predict the Test XV winnings. Spotted Ben Te'o out for a morning jog as I carried the boxes up the hill, I did feel a little guilty at the thousands of calories in my arms!

Hit the road at 10am for Taupo once again, via Hobbiton. I'm not a Tolkien fan and haven't seen the films (though I did struggle through the Hobbit as a younger person) but even I was blown away by the set. The landscape is absolutely stunning and the detail of the hobbit holes and the flora and fauna was mindblowing. That the massive set covered only 1% of the farm it was based on was also staggering, though I'm guessing the 13,000 sheep on the farm needed the space. Having toured the set and been filled in on some of the filming stories for both the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, the tour culminated in a complimentary drink in the Green Dragon. We were absolutely blessed with the weather, our tour was dry but no sooner were we back on the coach when the heavens opened with yet another monsoon-esque shower.

Halfway around Hobbiton a recent arrival to our group asked me if I worked in Dublin. I said I did. He asked if I'd taken redundancy from one job, and walked straight into another, which I did. He asked if I remembered a taxi ride in June 2016 where I was so excited having booked the trip, and the driver had questioned me about the costs and logistics. Again the answer was yes. Turns out I was talking to that exact taxi driver, who had been so taken by my enthusiasm that he'd booked himself! Made my day!

On to Taupo again, a different hotel this time. A quiet night relatively speaking, dinner and very few beverages and an early-ish night. There's only so much burning the candle at both ends you can do!

Monday was our last long drive of the trip, we weren't sad to see the end of the one night stays that had punctuated the past fortnight but at the same time, the coach was one of the regular sources of fun. Our wonderful Maori driver Ricky would be leaving us after three weeks too that was one of the major characters of the tour who would be with us no more. Another early start as we were Wellington bound, today via the New Zealand Museum of Rugby in Palmerston North.

The Museum is relatively small but definitely worth the stop. Probably the highlight for me was the Munster v All Blacks programme, proudly displayed in the 1970s section but there really was a treasure trove of rugby memorabilia from over the years. Fascinating too to learn about racism in New Zealand rugby, some more about that Springbok Tour in 1981 and some of our party had great fun with the tackle bag, kicking and scrum machine interactive exhibits, though they did result in some interesting bruises!

On to Wellington, well we're actually staying in Lower Hutt, a suburb about 12 minutes on the train from the centre of the City. Wellington is a bit like Cardiff in that the accommodation available in the city itself is in no way adequate for the capacity of the stadium. To be honest I think the little bit of distance is no harm at this stage, an opportunity to slow down for a while.

The good folks of RTI had secured a VIP card for us for Wellington and for Queenstown, this gives us discounts on food and beverages in selected outlets. So Monday night we headed to the Lower Hutt venues for food and a drink or two. The charming thing about here is that there is a cluster of 4 venues included but you can order food from one, sitting in another, and it was brought to you. Not a concept I've encountered before but sitting in the sports bar, having pizza (possibly the best pizza I've ever had) delivered from the Italian restaurant was perfect!

Tuesday arrived, game day. Our last midweek game of the tour, how did it come around so fast? A gang of us headed into the city around lunchtime. We decided to investigate our pre-game venue, having stopped at traffic lights to try and work out where we were going, a kindly Kiwi asked if she could helped, turned out she worked in the venue so we followed her!

I opted for lunch in the venue, the value was incredible and the food was very good.  pre-match session always goes so fast, though there was time for yet another rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody. The newest arrivals were bemused by the vigour and passion the song was belted out with by some of the Kiwi gang, perhaps expecting one of the traditional rugby anthems.

My rugby friend from home joined us for a few hours, having traveled independently from Auckland. I'm pretty good at independent travel but having spent four weeks on the road, I'm convinced that for a trip like this, a tour (with the right agent) is the way to do it if you can. But choosing the right agent is important, I've heard a few horror stories from other tourists in the past few weeks, like the company that didn't secure accommodation in one of the South Island venues, resulting in 4+ hour drives each way to and from the game.

The game, happened. After 8 games you should be used to me saying something along the lines of that! Disappointing to throw away a lead like we had, one moment of madness proved very costly, but at least it wasn't a loss.

Westpac stadium is a great venue to watch rugby in, the arrival of the game ball by helicopter was spectacular, no Haka today. Have to say though, the stadium is a nightmare to exit. I remember meeting one of the chief architects of the new Croke Park in Paris at a 6 Nations game and he had been meeting with the team behind Stade de France to discuss designs that facilitated evacuation in minutes in the case of an emergency. Not sure whether it was just for this game but it seemed as if at least half the stadium was funneled through a single exit. It was good natured but the thoughts of what might happen crush wise were there an actual emergency occurred to all of us. Will be interesting to see if it's the same for the Test on Saturday.

On the drive back from the stadium, our host informed us that we had travelled over 4,300km by road on the trip. Didn't feel like it!

Some people retired after the game but some of us just didn't have that sense. Had a fascinating chat with Ricky about musical theatre, last thing I expected was that our driver who would still pass for an in form second row would have spent time on stage in Grease, Cabaret and Anything Goes!

The hotel bar shut at 1am, the more sensible of the night owls went to bed then but FOMO is a killer. The rest of us retired to the lobby and a number of bottles of wine appeared, along with a large bag of crisps and a bag of Haribo smurfs. Poor Pickles, the hotel cockatoo, didn't know what hit him as we had two more hours of craic in the lobby. Two of our rugby legends appeared late into the night, one went straight to bed, the other devoured the crisps before noting that several of us were in pjs (it was 2am and we were doing laundry!) before they too hit the sack. 3am arrived very quickly and we gave up and went to bed (laundry dry and folded!).

Wednesday was a lie in day, he have five nights in Lower Hutt so the opportunity to take a down day and not pack it with sightseeing was welcome. Hung out with some of the gang in the afternoon before ending up back in our Lower Hutt venue for dinner, drinks and the weekly table quiz. Team Kiwi tourists could have won but on some questions it may have been a "too many cooks situation". Still we were happy with our $75 drinks voucher prize for coming second. Have to mention here our oracle of rugby, geography and random stuff, a delightful Welsh gentleman. What he doesn't know about rugby really isn't worth knowing (unless it's the out half who scored the Blues' try against the Lions!)

And now it's Thursday, on the way back from our Martinborough wine tour. This was an optional extra and rather a few of us did it. It was the first activity for us since the Haka tour arrived that had a mixture of Kiwi, Maori and Haka tourists so there was an opportunity to mingle outside of a game day scenario. Four vineyards, six wines at each, a lovely elevenses and lunch, both of which factored in my cheese allergy. It's been a fun day. It's my roommate's birthday so bubbles were required and enjoyed at lunch. Their house bubbles were branded "La Michelle", it was surely meant to be?

Tonight we've been invited by another local rugby club to join them for food and drinks, so much so that they've laid on a coach to bring us there, really looking forward to that. 

Second test is looming too, team is out. Not totally enamoured with it but it is what it is and we're here to support the Lions and so we shall. At least 48 hours of fun to be had first. Bring it on!



Rugby on TV : June 29 - July 6

Rugby on TV is brought to you by
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DateTimeShowCompetitionChannel
Thu Jun 293:00pmTHE FOOTY SHOWNRLEIR SPORT 2
4:30pmBACKCHATNRLEIR SPORT 2
8:00pmTHE WORLD RUGBY SHOWSKY SPORTS 3
Fri Jun 308:00amJAPAN V IRELAND (REPEAT)TOUR MATCHEIR SPORT 1
8:30amTITANS V DRAGONSNRLEIR SPORT 2
10:50amBRONCOS V STORMNRLEIR SPORT 2
5:55pmSHARKS V BULLSSUPER RUGBYSKY SPORTS MIX
7:30pmCASTLEFORD V HULL FCSUPER LEAGUESKY SPORTS 2
7:50pmHURRICANES V LIONS (REPEAT)LIONS TOURSKY SPORTS 5
Sat Jul 17:00amHIGHLIGHTSSUPER LEAGUESKY SPORTS 2
7:30amNEW ZEALAND V LIONSSECOND TESTSKY SPORTS 1
8:00amSEA EAGLES V WARRIORSNRLEIR SPORT 2
10:30amRAIDERS V COWBOYSNRLEIR SPORT 2
12:15pmJAGUARES V KINGS (DELAY)SUPER RUGBYSKY SPORTS 3
2:00pmCHEETAHS V STORMERSSUPER RUGBYSKY SPORTS 3
4:10pmLIONS V SUNWOLVESSUPER RUGBYSKY SPORTS 3
4:55pmCATALAND DRAGONS V LEIGH CENTURIONSSUPER LEAGUESKY SPORTS 1
10:00pmNEW ZEALAND V LIONS (REPEAT)LIONS TOURSKY SPORTS 2
Sun Jul 25:00amKNIGHTS V TIGERSNRLEIR SPORT 2
7:00amRABBITOHS V PANTHERSNRLEIR SPORT 2
6:30pmNEW ZEALAND V LIONS (HIGHLIGHTS)LIONS TOURSKY SPORTS 1
11:30pmSUPER LEAGUE GOLDSKY SPORTS 3
Mon Jul 32:30pmHIGHLIGHTSPREMIERSHIP 16/17BT SPORT 1
10:00pmFULLTIMESUPER LEAGUESKY SPORTS 3
Tue Jul 41:15pmHIGHLIGHTSPREMIERSHIP 16/17BT SPORT 1
7:00pmNEW ZEALAND V LIONS (REPEAT)LIONS TOURSKY SPORTS 3
Wed Jul 52:00pmHIGHLIGHTSPREMIERSHIP 16/17BT SPORT 1
7:45pmSPORTING TRIUMPHS1989 LIONSSKY SPORTS 2
Thu Jul 62:00pmHIGHLIGHTSPREMIERSHIP 16/17BT SPORT 1
7:00pmWAKEFIELD TRINITY V CASTLEFORDSUPER LEAGUESKY SPORTS 1
7:00pmTHE WORLD RUGBY SHOWSKY SPORTS 2

Times generally refer to beginning of broadcast not kickoff
Check local listings for repeat showings
Feel free to let us know if something is missing! paganoblog@gmail.com



Front Five - 29.06.17

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

I'm no fan of Warren Gatland
nor am I crazy about bashing the media
but the clown was definitely OTT



The inclusion of Itoje and Warburton had been well flagged this week, but the starting role for Sexton will come as a surprise to many.


Ruaidhri O'Connor - Irish Independent



"This comes at a time when interest in Women’s rugby is at an all-time high”


Ryan Bailey - The42.ie



"It's one thing to have a bit of banter, and then you guys beef it up to make it bigger than it really is."


Matthew Southcombe - WalesOnline



“It’s a big chance. It might never happen again."


Duncan Smith - The Scotsman



A superb compilation of some of rugby’s best offloaders. #SkillSchool


EatSleepRugby



Feel free to share any interesting links you spot yourself about t’internet by email, Twitter, Facebook, 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, June 28, 2017

Front Five - 28.06.17

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

I can only have one response to what Sky Sports
are proposing : "It's about bloody time"



“It was definitely hard for me sitting there for those 10 minutes and watching.”


Richard Mulligan - Belfast Newsletter



The Leinster centre damaged the joint in the build-up to his side's first try and was replaced by Leigh Halfpenny after just 20 minutes.


Ruaidhri O'Connor - Irish Independent



"I was a bit horrified when I was listening to the mic because at first they were talking about nothing when clearly he was tipped well above the horizontal"


Patrick McKendry - NZ Herald



"What the 53-year-old is essentially saying to these players is this: 'Lads, I apologise, public opinion has made me change my mind, sorry for cutting short your summer holidays.'”


Sean McMahon - Pundit Arena



(The new channel) Sky Sports Arena will host other sports like rugby and tennis.


Robert Redmond - SportsJoe.ie



Feel free to share any interesting links you spot yourself about t’internet by email, Twitter, Facebook, blog comment or carrier pigeon – whatever works for you. JLP

Note - views expressed in "Front Five" links do not necessarily reflect those of HarpinOnRugby

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