Saturday, March 31, 2018

Preview : Leinster v Saracens


It has been an odd week, one where I've found it very difficult to know what day it is.  Thursday felt like Friday which made yesterday seem like Saturday, as will tomorrow as well as Leinster rarely play on Sunday.  So what does that make today?  You could probably tell me anything and I wouldn't believe you as one of the days is also April Fool's...

One thing is for sure - this is shaping up to be a monumental clash of European titans at the Aviva Stadium, and the question for Leinster fans is - should we expect the boys in blue to show their form from the pool stages or what they have shown since?

Well, after all my Grand Slam euphoria came crashing down thanks to our wake-up call in Swansea last weekend, the past few days [whatever they might have been actually called], have seen me grow more and more confident mostly down to the difference in standards between the Pro14 and Champions Cup.

Our performance against the Ospreys wasn't our only one that was sub-par this season, but the fact that we went six for six in a European pool where all of our opponents were top of their domestic tables shows that when the stakes get raised, so does our preparation.  Now of course in an ideal world our first seed status could have been rewarded by a quarterfinal against a team that wasn't the two-time reigning champions, but that's how the cookie crumbles.

I have to say this Leinster team announcement was my favourite for this season so far.  After losing Robbie Henshaw to the Six Nations, being able to name both Isa and Garry makes me feel a whole lot better and I strongly believe we need 80 minute shifts from the pair of them in every knockout game we play for the remainder of the campaign.

Then there's Luke McGrath - his making it through last weekend was the one silver lining and Johnny Sexton will benefit from the players around him every bit as much as he did during the Six Nations.

As I tried to predict the matchday 23 I assumed James Lowe would be sacrificed but instead they chose to leave out Jamison Gibson-Park as the surplus foreign player.  That's tough on the Kiwi scrum-half but we all know what Lowe can bring to the table; I think for this occasion he might need to play a bit more conservatively, but only a bit so we get the most from his style of play.

But the real battle royale will be in the forwards...hay carumba what a set of matchups we have in store there!  One thing I did get right about our selection was Fardy shifting to 6 allowing Ryan and Toner to play in the engine room...this not only gives us a host of lineout options but it also means we have gainline-busting carriers aplenty.

The key to our approach could be unpredictability - we'll need to show them something they won't expect, especially in the opening stages.  That said, I wouldn't be all that surprised if Sexton launched a high ball from outside the 22 to test Alex Goode just as he did Anthony Watson and if he does I hope Messrs Kearney and Ringrose are on hand to benefit again.

On the visitor's side of things, did any of you really believe all the '50/50' reports on Owen Farrell from their camp during the week?  It was pretty obvious he was going to start, and no doubt he and Wigglesworth will be keen for revenge after Twickenham, as will the other English test players.  I do think Billy V is a big loss to them however, as he was for Eddie Jones & co.

According to the bookies we'll win by seven - if we play the way we can  and impose ourselves from the start we can definitely make that a reality.  I'm looking for Scott Fardy in particular to shine after a disappointing outing last time out by his lofty standards, and if he and Dan Leavy get the better of the likes of Itoje at the breakdown we could prevail by an even bigger margin.

But as always on this massive occasions I'm not going to let over confidence get the better of me.  Just like the Grand Slam match, a one-point victory would be more than enough for me, though my prediction is ore in the four to six point region.  I'm thinking the ref might be reluctant to show his cards which means advantages will have to be fought for thus keeping it close, with hopefully the home advantage, plus the promise of more in the semifinal, seeing us prevail.

Here's to a happy Easter of egg-chasing at the Aviva.  Hope to see you there!  Best of luck of course to both Connacht and Munster as well this weekend.  JLP

#COYBIB

Saracens : 15. Alex Goode; 14. Liam Williams, 13. Marcelo Bosch, 12. Brad Barritt, 11. Sean Maitland; 10. Owen Farrell, 9. Richard Wigglesworth;
1. Mako Vunipola, 2. Jamie George, 3. Juan Figallo, 4. Maro Itoje, 5. George Kruis, 6. Nick Isiekwe, 7. Schalk Burger, 8. Jackson Wray
16. Schalk Brits, 17. Richard Barrington, 18. Titi Lamositele, 19. Dom Day, 20. Blair Cowan, 21. Ben Spencer, 22. Alex Lozowski, 23. Chris Wyles.

Rugby Champions Cup 2017/18 - Quarterfinal
Sunday, April 1, 2018
KO 3:30pm
Aviva Stadium

Referee: Jérôme Garcès (Fra)
AR1: Pascal Gaüzère (Fra)
AR2: Ludovic Cayre (Fra)
TMO: Philippe Bonhoure (Fra)

BT Sport 2

Front Five - 31.03.18

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

ICYMI click here for our
liveblog from Leinster A v Munster A


“What everyone underestimates is how physical [Leinster] are because you always see the beautiful tries or set pieces“


Gerard Meagher - The Guardian

Tries in each half by Peadar Timmins and Jack Kelly helped Leinster 'A'


Irish Independent

Generally, when he plays well, as he did in those back-to-back wins over the Tigers, Munster play well.


Donal Lenihan - Irish Examiner

Scarlets will face Leinster or Saracens next month for a place in the final.


Pundit Arena

Connacht have reached the knockout stages of the Challenge Cup in ten of the 19 seasons they have participated, but have only managed to reach the semi-finals on three occasions.


John Fallon - 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

Keego on...Leinster and Munster in Europe


Check out Keego's new podcast
at thecouchpundit.podbean.com
As we (or I) finally reach the grand slam comedown the rugby doesn’t stop. Leinster and Munster march into the business end of the European champions cup with a list of injuries, but how will they cope?

Munster welcomes the mighty, cash filled and star laden Toulon to Thomond Park. Munster are struggling with an injury list that is just getting to be mean and Toulon have a cheque book (to millennials a cheque book was a way of paying for things when you don’t have any real money) to constantly bring in top line players.
Now we begin hearing about the Munster wins of the past, the Thomond Park factor and the myth of stand up and fight is in full affect. It is a strange one to take seriously. In reality, Munster hasn’t been a semi-final team in a long time. The times the emotion and spirit has gotten them through a match they shouldn’t win has been few and far between in the last 5 years, but I still find myself wondering if they can do it. In reality it is a no, but let’s looks at what they can do.
Firstly, they have nothing to lose; there is no reason to play within them no reason not to try things. Even at full strength Munster would lose to Toulon 8 times out of 10 at the moment. Munster is in a transition with a new coach and hoping to put the calamitous last year behind them with a fighting performance. Keith Earls (knee), Duncan Williams (facial), Tyler Bleyendaal (neck), Chris Farrell (knee), and Jaco Taute (knee),Scannel and O’Donnell are missing this weekend with Zebo and Conway back in. It is beyond bad luck at this stage for Munster and this will be something they can use to step up against Toulon.
Secondly, Zebo being back along with Conway is beyond massive. Both players can spark magic and frighten opposition.  Zebo wants to leave Munster on a high and will be asking for responsibility and willing to put himself on the line. Conway is consistently a threat.  Both will look to be involved regularly and if they can get into the game they will be able to make a difference.
In reality, the starting 15 has a massive job to do. They have to get in the face of the visitors from the first second and not let up regardless of the scoreboard. The leaders have to lead and the players have to respond. Challenge everything everywhere and put a marker down early. The reason the clichés in rugby are clichés is because they work. The crowd has a massive job to do as well.
Unfortunately it is Toulon by 2 scores after a dogfight.
Leinster welcomes the once fearsome Saracens to the Aviva Stadium on Sunday, April fool’s day. Outside of an injured Henshaw and maybe O’Brien this is THE Leinster team. O’Brien wouldn’t be as nailed down as he once was, but Henshaw is always missed. Nacewa steps into 12 beside twinkle toes Garry ringrose. Not a step will be missed.
Saracens are not the force they once were. They are not the Mike Tyson of rugby anymore. Their English contingent has been dominated by their Irish counterparts for the last 2 years in the 6 Nations. Saracens will show up and fight, maybe a few dirty tricks, but English rugby is not able to compete at the top table. They do not have the class, skill and ability at club level and that is because of the club v country system that is in place. European form is heavily weighted in Leinsters favour, league form is neck and neck with Leinster having lost last weekend.
In general terms, if you were picking 1 team from the 2 sides, how many Saracens players would make the starting 15? Not many. Then look at the bench that both sides have, if you could only pick 1 bench, how many Sarries players would make the match day bench? For me it would be Brits instead of Tracy and that is only based on experience and me being charitable.
Leinster is on the cusp of challenging for the big trophy on a long term basis here. They have done massive work behind the scenes to bring this to where it is and this weekend, we see how it works under pressure. The green jersey experience will be massive for the newer players (Ryan, Porter, and Larmour) but the leaders are already there and ready to lead.
Leinster to win by 2 scores.
Keego (@nkeegan): Blogger, professional wrestler, sometime attempted rugby player (@TheThirsty3rds), professional procrastinator and attempted musician with a fondness for long walks on the bar, tea and the couch. Opinionated Leinster fan and constant gardener.

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Friday, March 30, 2018

Liveblog : Leinster A v Munster A [British & Irish Cup QF]

BLOGGING LIVE FROM ENERGIA PARK
[formerly Donnybrook Stadium]

apologies in advance for the tapas hypos typos

please allow a few seconds for liveblog box to load


Front Five - 30.03.18

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

ICYMI click here for our weekly list of
upcoming rugby on Irish TV

We're planning to liveblog
Leinster A v Munster A this afternoon


Leinster A also won five of their six games and will be Munster's toughest test so far this season.


Daragh Small - Irish Independent

Depending on injuries, six or seven players who should play against Saracens on Sunday lined out in 2012 against Ulster


Johnny Watterson - Irish Times

Leinster v Saracens - Referee: Jérôme Garcès


RugbyReferee.net

“There has been a lot of hard work that has gone in and we are in a good spot now, on and off the field. Hopefully, we can make it a special night.”


Rob Lloyd - WalesOnline

Rugby Europe justified its third postponement in a week of the meeting by stressing the need to gather more information


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, March 29, 2018

Rugby on TV : Mar 29-Apr 5

Rugby on TV is brought to you by
the IrishRugby TV YouTube channel


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DateTimeShowCompetitionChannel
Thu Mar 299:00 amOSPREYS V LEINSTER (REPEAT)PRO 14EIR SPORT 1
6:00 pmHIGHLIGHTSPREMIERSHIPBT SPORT 2
6:30 pmTHE WORLD RUGBY SHOWSKY SPORTS ARENA
7:30 pmWAKEFIELD V CASTLEFORDSUPER LEAGUESKY SPORTS ARENA
10:00 pmHIGHLIGHTSEIR SPORT 1
Fri Mar 307:30 amCHIEFS V HIGHLANDERSSUPER RUGBYSKY SPORTS MAIN EVENT
9:30 amSHARKS V STORMNRLSKY SPORTS ARENA
9:40 amREBELS v HURRICANESSUPER RUGBYSKY SPORTS ACTION
12:00 pmMUNSTER V SCARLETS (REPEAT) PRO 14EIR SPORT 1
2:00 pmBATH V EXETER CHIEFSANGLO WELSH CUPBT SPORT 2
2:30 pmOSPREYS V LEINSTER (REPEAT)PRO 14EIR SPORT 1
3:00 pmST HELENS V WIGANSUPER LEAGUESKY SPORTS MAIN EVENT
4:45 pmSCARLETS V LA ROCHELLECHAMPIONS CUPBT SPORT 2
5:45 pmFEATHERSTONE V TORONTORL C'SHIPEIR SPORT 2
7:30 pmNEWCASTLE V BRIVECHALLENGE CUPSKY SPORTS ACTION
8:00 pmPAU V STADE FRANCAISCHALLENGE CUPBT SPORT 2
10:00 pmCHIEFS V HIGHLANDERS (REPEAT) SUPER RUGBYSKY SPORTS ARENA
Sat Mar 317:30 amBLUES V SHARKSSUPER RUGBYSKY SPORTS ACTION
9:00 amBLACKROCK V BELVEDERE (REPEAT) LEINSTER SCHOOLSEIR SPORT 1
9:40 amBRUMBIES V WARATAHSSUPER RUGBYSKY SPORTS ACTION
12:30 pmCONNACHT V GLOUCESTERCHALLENGE CUPBT SPORT 3
2:55 pmMUNSTER V TOULONCHAMPIONS CUPSKY SPORTS MAIN EVENT
4:10 pmBULLS V STORMERSSUPER RUGBYSKY SPORTS ARENA
5:30 pmEDINBURGH V CARDIFF BLUESCHALLENGE CUPSKY SPORTS ACTION
8:10 pmHIGHLIGHTSCHAMPIONS CUPTG4
10:00 pmWHERE'S YOUR PRIDE?DOCUMENTARYEIR SPORT 1
11:15 pmCONNACHT V GLOUCESTER (REPEAT) CHALLENGE CUPBT SPORT 2
11:45 pmMUNSTER V TOULON (REPEAT) CHAMPIONS CUPSKY SPORTS ACTION
Sun Apr 12:45 amEDINBURGH V CARDIFF (REPEAT) CHALLENGE CUPSKY SPORTS ACTION
7:00 amBRUMBIES V WARATAHS (REPEAT) SUPER RUGBYSKY SPORTS ACTION
10:00 amBULLS V STORMERS (REPEAT) SUPER RUGBYSKY SPORTS ACTION
12:30 pmCLÉRMONT V RACING 92CHAMPIONS CUPSKY SPORTS ACTION
1:25 pmLIONS V CRUSADERSSUPER RUGBYSKY SPORTS ARENA
3:00 pmLEINSTER V SARACENSCHAMPIONS CUPBT SPORT 2
4:15 pmEDINBURGH V CARDIFF (REPEAT) CHALLENGE CUPSKY SPORTS ACTION
6:00 pmHIGHLIGHTSCHAMPIONS CUPTG4
7:00 pmBRUMBIES V WARATAHS (REPEAT) SUPER RUGBYSKY SPORTS ACTION
9:00 pmHIGHLIGHTSCHAMPIONS CUPBT SPORT 3
10:45 pmCLÉRMONT V RACING 92 (REPEAT) CHAMPIONS CUPSKY SPORTS ACTION
Mon Apr 23:00 pmWIDNES V ST HELENSSUPER LEAGUESKY SPORTS MAIN EVENT
5:00 pmCATALANS V HULL KRSUPER LEAGUESKY SPORTS ARENA
7:00 pmEDINBURGH V CARDIFF (REPEAT) CHALLENGE CUPSKY SPORTS ACTION
9:30 pmCLÉRMONT V RACING 92 (REPEAT) CHAMPIONS CUPSKY SPORTS ACTION
Tue Apr 31:00 pmTHE SUPER LEAGUE SHOWSUPER LEAGUEBBC 2
3:00 pmHIGHLIGHTSCHAMPIONS CUPBT SPORT 2
10:00 pmFULL TIMESUPER LEAGUESKY SPORTS ACTION
Wed Apr 47:30 pmTHE OFFLOADSKY SPORTS ACTION
8:00 pmRUGBY TONIGHTBT SPORT 1
8:00 pmTRY TIMENRLSKY SPORTS ARENA
Thu Apr 510:50 amRAIDERS V BULLDOGSNRLSKY SPORTS MAIN EVENT
4:30 pmSPORTING RECORDSINCL BODSKY SPORTS ACTION
5:00 pmSPORTING RECORDSINCL ALL BLACKSSKY SPORTS ACTION
6:15 pmTHE WORLD RUGBY SHOWSKY SPORTS ACTION

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