Saturday, October 31, 2020

Front Five - 31.10.20

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

ICYMI click here for our
France v Ireland preview


“He was an SCT player in fourth year and he was one of the best on the team even then. He was outstanding, a wrecking ball.”


Gerry Thornley - Irish Times
(possibly behind paywall)

"He is world-class and maybe the best out-half of the past decade...He’s tireless and has enormous experience."


Murray Kinsella - The42.ie

Five years ago, a record-breaking final day saw 221 points scored via 27 tries, 22 conversions and 13 penalty goals.


Jack de Menezes - The Independent (UK)

21-year-old Reid was a Grand Slam winner with the Ireland U20s in 2019 


Huge Rugby

Not once in 26 previous meetings have England lost to Italy.


Rugby World

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

Friday, October 30, 2020

Preview : France v Ireland

They say a full moon brings out the weirdos.  Imagine what comes out of the woodwork when a full moon happens to fall on Halloween night.  Hopefully on Saturday the “trifecta” won’t be completed with an Irish defeat to persuade the zombie army of Irish rugby begrudgers onto Twitter because I’m pretty sure I couldn’t take it.


No doubt that lot will be saying right now we haven’t a hope in Paris.  And no doubt this was based on a few highlights from the French victory over Wales last Saturday.


Well I’m here to advise you not to listen to any of that nonsense.  Yes, the French had some decent scores against the Welsh, and they also have a lot of quality through their squad despite Teddy Thomas not being available, especially in the backs with the likes of Dupont, Ntamack and Vakatawa.


But if you watched the full 80 minutes, you’ll see they are as yet far from perfect.  Their discipline wasn’t great, and had Dan Biggar brought his place-kicking boots the scoreline would have been a lot closer.  Also, while they showed exactly what they can do in broken play, they weren’t so hot when it was going in the opposite direction.


And that’s just on their side of the equation.  I won’t have it said that we’re incapable of getting the job done in Paris…


Before I continue, I should probably define what I mean by “the job”.  For me, that’s winning the title.  Assuming England are going to win against Italy, if we don’t get four tries against France we’d have to win by [(England’s winning margin over Italy minus 23) + 1] to be crowned champions.  And assuming England are likely to win big, we’ll probably need 4+ tries anyway, so either way, getting them and winning is “the job”.


...because while we did have some issues last weekend ourselves, there were also a lot of positives to show we’re capable of lifting our game.  And when it comes to our matchday squad, what more of a show of confidence do you want to see than a virtually identical selection bar the replacement of Garry Ringrose.


Robbie Henshaw is more than capable of filling his shoes and it’s not like he hasn’t teamed up with Bundee Aki before, be it in the green of Connacht in a major final or even the green of Ireland at the very same Parisian stadium.  And although I couldn’t see either of them being hauled ashore for anything other than injury for the 80 minutes, should that happen, we have in Chris Farrell a more than capable replacement.


And when it comes to the frailties the French showed last weekend, I reckon we are generally better set to capitalise.  If they ship the same amount of penalties, we seem to have a decent lineout/maul set up in place should we kick for the corner.  And if we get some broken play opportunities, from what we’ve seen of “Farrellball” our players have enough license to take full advantage of the situation like that offload from Peter O’Mahony.


Obviously when it’s French broken play we could well be vulnerable - and yes, I’m sorry, this has a bit to do with Stockdale, but I don’t think we’re expecting him to be everywhere on the pitch at once so it needs to be a team effort.  And the hope is that rather than worry about how we respond to those situations, we manage instead to keep them to a bare minimum.


I’m expecting defences to hold sway on the night.  Unfortunately this will of course make it very difficult to get to the four tries, but I guess what I want is for the lads to at least show us back home they’re going for it.  We might be technically just a few weeks into a “new season”, but whatever month it is, a Six Nations Championship is on the line so it’s definitely one of those “leave it all out on the field” kind of matches and I know this won’t be lost on them.


How do I see it going?  Well the bookies have France by 4 and I can’t blame them.  But imagine this - they lead us 27-23 with 5 minutes to go and we somehow have 3 tries on the board.  We win a penalty around midfield and it gets put to the corner.  We win the lineout, get good crash ball, and now we’re 5m from their line and rolling through the phases…


Maybe I’m a bit too hopeful with my example (not to mention specific) but basically I’m trying to say I believe we can do it.  And as fans we all need to let the lads know we do.  Come on Ireland, let’s win this thing and keep the twitter zombies at bay.  JLP 



FRANCE: 15 Anthony Bouthier; 14 Vincent Rattez, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Arthur Vincent, 11 Gaël Fickou; 10 Romain Ntamack, 9 Antoine Dupont.
1 Cyril Baille, 2 Julien Marchand, 3 Mohamed Haouas; 4 Bernard Le Roux, 5 Paul Willemse; 6 François Cros, 7 Charles Ollivon, 8 Grégory Alldritt.
Replacements: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Jean-Baptiste Gros, 18 Demba Bamba, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Dylan Crétin, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Arthur Retière, 23 Thomas Ramos.

Guinness Six Nations - Round 5
Saturday, October 31, 2020
KO 8:10pm
Stade de France

REFEREE: Wayne Barnes (RFU)
AR1: Matthew Carley (RFU)
AR2: Karl Dickson (RFU)
TMO: Luke Pearce (RFU)

Live on Virgin Media One


Front Five - 30.10.20

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 not obsessed with that, we’re looking to expand our game, grow it and part of that was sharing the kicking load at the weekend."


Sean Farrell - The42.ie

This is probably the best coached French side since their last title success in 2010 and the most settled as well.


Gerry Thornley - Irish Times

The Italian side have had a number of positive coronavirus tests within their ranks - so organisers will look to reschedule the match for early next year.


SkySports.com

His most famous feat – 4 tries in the same 4-match Lions’ Test series – ensures he will be talked about as long as rugby is played.


Ruck.co.uk

...he has been forced to step down as co-host the 'House of Rugby' podcast on Joe.ie a week after launching the show...


Ruaidhri O'Connor - Irish Independent

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...France and Fear

Jeff Pagano & Keego also have a podcast on the 2020 USA Presidential Election would you believe...check it out here

 



Check out Keego's podcast
at thecouchpundit.podbean.com
This Halloween Ireland march over the a locked down Paris to take on the resurgent French with the whiff of a title in the air. A whiff which is slightly different to the smell we had over the last 14 months.
As I write this, only the irish team has been named but what are the expectations for Ireland this weekend. What is realistic and what is a dream. Which part is the heart and which is the head.
Lets start with the head to head. Which made surprising reading for me. Ireland have won 4 of the last 5 games, and the 1 loss was by 1 point. When you are of an age to remember the 80’s and the hammerings by blue shirts, this is a nice and positive stat to start with.
Then if you look at the last 5 games each side has played, taking COVID into account we have France with 2 wins, 1 loss and 2 called off. The opening rounds of the 6 Nations 2020 feel like years ago now, but in that time they have played Wales twice and Scotland. Neither team that would frighten a top5 ranked side at the moment. Wales are rebuilding and Scotland are hot and cold like me playing golf. France did look good against Wales last week (winning 38-21). But not invincilble. The incredible Dupont stole a lot of headlines and papered over some cracks. If we look at the numbers, the French monsters look human. Ran 435 metres, had 52% territory for 53% possession, missed 10 of 117 tackles, and CONCEDED 16 penalties with a near 100% set piece.
If you look at that penalty stat that sticks out hugely. Ireland conceded 8 against Italy. Yes there is a difference in opposition but numbers are numbers. Ireland ran for 160 more metres, had 50/50 for possession and territory, missed 12 of 145 tacklesand again with a near 100% set piece.
France had 13 players in double figures for metres run against Wales, from all over the pitch. Ireland had 12 players in double figures, again from all over the pitch. With Keenan and Stockdale in the triple digits. The only issue with this is that you can see where the threats are coming from from Ireland. It is back row and backs from the green, whereas the threats are spread all over the pitch from France.
Now we start getting worried.
So what has to happen for Ireland to leave Paris with a win. I think that should be the aim, don’t worry about bonus points, get the win.
A big start is always needed, no relaxing your way into the game, start with a combative mind and really put the home side on their back foot. Send that early message to make the French retreat backwards as the French stereotype suggests they do. If Ireland can do that and move the ball well as was done in patches last weekend, there is a big chance of a win. There is no need to be scared of the big bad blue wolf.
France are in a similar position in terms of not having much to lose. In a rebuilding phase it is all about performance, gameplay and getting as many new players into the blue shirt as possible. They will be coming for the win, galvanised by last weekend, but they know the Irish defence will be waiting. They know that they can be scored on, will this affect their mentality especially if Ireland get the big start we want?
My heart and ¾ of my head says Ireland. But the French are galloping nicely.
Ireland have nothing to lose, the worry is, neither do France! Bring on Halloween!
Remember to tune into The Couch Pundit Podcast – www.thecouchpunditireland.com
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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Thursday, October 29, 2020

Rugby on TV : Oct 29-Nov 5

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


THURSDAY, OCTOBER 29

6AM
THOMOND PARK
DOCUMENTARY
EIR SPORT 2

7AM
THE TEAM THAT TURNED UP
DOCUMENTARY
EIR SPORT 1

8AM
SWING LOW : A BRIEF HISTORY
DOCUMENTARY
SKY SPORTS ARENA

10AM
PRO14 HIGHLIGHTS
FREESPORTS

11AM
BENETTON V SCARLETS (R)
PRO 14
EIR SPORT 1

11:30AM
RUGBY TONIGHT SEASON REVIEW
BT SPORT 2

12PM
PRO14 HOUR
EIR SPORT 2

12PM
SCOTLAND V ENGLAND (R)
WOMEN'S SIX NATIONS
SKY SPORTS ARENA

1PM
EXETER CHIEFS V WASPS (R)
PREMIERSHIP FINAL
BT SPORT 2

1PM
PRO14 HOUR
EIR SPORT 1

1PM
LEINSTER V ZEBRE (R)
PRO 14
EIR SPORT 2

2PM
EDINBURGH V CONNACHT (R)
PRO 14
EIR SPORT 1

3PM
OSPREYS V GLASGOW WARRIORS (R)
PRO14
EIR SPORT 2

4PM
LEINSTER V ZEBRE (R)
PRO14
EIR SPORT 1

6PM
PRO14 HOUR
EIR SPORT 1

10PM
THE LINE-OUT
VIRGIN MEDIA ONE

11:30PM
WHERE'S YOUR PRIDE?
DOCUMENTARY
EIR SPORT 1

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 30

8AM
CANTERBURY V OTAGO (L)
MITRE10 CUP
SKY SPORTS MAIN EVENT
SKY SPORTS ARENA
SKY SPORTS MIX

9:30AM
SWING LOW : A BRIEF HISTORY
DOCUMENTARY
SKY SPORTS MIX

10AM
PRO14 HOUR
EIR SPORT 2

10:30AM
ENGLAND V WALES (R)
WOMEN'S SIX NATIONS
SKY SPORTS MIX

11:45AM
PRO14 HOUR
EIR SPORT 1

12:45PM
OSPREYS V GLASGOW (R)
PRO 14
EIR SPORT 1

2:30PM
MUNSTER V CARDIFF BLUES (R)
PRO 14
EIR SPORT 1

3PM
MUNSTER V CARDIFF BLUES (R)
PRO 14
EIR SPORT 2

4:15PM
PRO14 HOUR
EIR SPORT 1

4:55PM
LIONS V GRIQUAS (L)
MITRE10 CUP
SKY SPORTS MIX

5:15PM
EDINBURGH V CONNACHT (R)
PRO14
EIR SPORT 1

7PM
THE LINE-OUT (R)
VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT

7PM
LEINSTER V GLASGOW WARRIORS (R-2014)
PRO14
EIR SPORT 1

8PM-12AM
SIX NATIONS HIGHLIGHTS
VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT
8PM - IRELAND V SCOTLAND
9PM - IRELAND V WALES
10PM - ENGLAND V IRELAND
11PM - IRELAND V ITALY

8:55PM
GLASGOW WARRIORS V MUNSTER (R-2015)
PRO14
EIR SPORT 1

10:40PM
ULSTER V DRAGONS (R)
PRO14
EIR SPORT 1

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 31

3AM
WELLINGTON V TARANAKI (L)
MITRE10 CUP
SKY SPORTS MAIN EVENT
SKY SPORTS ARENA

5:30AM
NORTHLAND V NORTH HARBOUR (L)
MITRE10 CUP
SKY SPORTS MAIN EVENT
SKY SPORTS ARENA

7:30AM-1:30PM
SIX NATIONS HIGHLIGHTS
VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT
7:30AM - IRELAND V SCOTLAND
8:30AM - IRELAND V WALES
9:30AM - ENGLAND V IRELAND
10:30AM - WALES V FRANCE
11:30AM - ENGLAND V WALES
12:30PM - IRELAND V ITALY

8AM
THOMOND PARK
DOCUMENTARY
EIR SPORT 1

8AM
AUCKLAND V WAIKATO (L)
MITRE10 CUP
SKY SPORTS MAIN EVENT
SKY SPORTS ARENA
SKY SPORTS MIX

8:15AM
AUSTRALIA V NEW ZEALAND (L)
RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
SKY SPORTS MAIN EVENT
SKY SPORTS ARENA

11:30AM
RUGBY TONIGHT SEASON REVIEW
BT SPORT 2

1PM
ULSTER V DRAGONS (R)
PRO14
EIR SPORT 2

1:15PM
EDINBURGH V CONNACHT (R)
PRO14
EIR SPORT 1

2PM
WALES V SCOTLAND (L)
SIX NATIONS
VIRGIN MEDIA ONE
BBC ONE
S4C

2:20PM
PUMAS V SHARKS (L)
SUPER RUGBY UNLOCKED
SKY SPORTS ARENA

3PM
OSPREYS V GLASGOW (R)
PRO14
EIR SPORT 2

4:30PM
ITALY V ENGLAND (L)
SIX NATIONS
VIRGIN MEDIA ONE
ITV

4:50PM
BULLS V STORMERS (L)
SUPER RUGBY UNLOCKED
SKY SPORTS ARENA

5PM
LEINSTER V ZEBRE (R)
PRO14
EIR SPORT 2

6:30PM
WORLD 10S SERIES
SKY SPORTS MIX
SKY SPORTS YOUTUBE

7PM
LEINSTER V GLASGOW WARRIORS (R-2014)
PRO14
EIR SPORT 2

7:45PM
AUSTRALIA V NEW ZEALAND (R)
RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
SKY SPORTS ARENA

8PM
FRANCE V IRELAND (L)
SIX NATIONS
VIRGIN MEDIA ONE
BBC ONE

10AM
ENGLAND V WALES (R)
WOMEN'S SIX NATIONS
SKY SPORTS ARENA

11:40PM
WHERE'S YOUR PRIDE?
DOCUMENTARY
EIR SPORT 1

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 1

3AM
MANAWATU V SOUTHLAND (L)
MITRE10 CUP
SKY SPORTS MAIN EVENT
SKY SPORTS ARENA

5:30AM
TARANAKI V COUNTIES MANUKAU (L)
MITRE10 CUP
SKY SPORTS MAIN EVENT
SKY SPORTS ARENA

10:30AM
ENGLAND V WALES (R)
WOMEN'S SIX NATIONS
SKY SPORTS ARENA

1:30PM
DRAGONS V MUNSTER (L)
PRO14
EIR SPORT 1
TG4

2PM
WORLD 10S SERIES
SKY SPORTS MIX
SKY SPORTS YOUTUBE

4PM
WALES V SCOTLAND (L)
WOMEN'S SIX NATIONS
BBC2
S4C
BBC ALBA

4:30PM
CONNACHT V BENETTON (L)
PRO14
TG4
PREMIER SPORTS 2

5PM
ITALY V ENGLAND (L)
WOMEN'S SIX NATIONS
SKY SPORTS ARENA

5PM-11PM
SIX NATIONS REPLAY
VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT
5PM - ITALY V ENGLAND
7PM - WALES V SCOTLAND
9PM - FRANCE V IRELAND

6:40PM
SCARLETS V EDINBURGH (L)
PRO14
EIR SPORT 1
PREMIER SPORTS 1

7:30PM
WORLD 10S SERIES
SKY SPORTS ARENA
SKY SPORTS YOUTUBE

9:30PM
DRAGONS V MUNSTER (R)
PRO14
EIR SPORT 2

10:45PM
CONNACHT V BENETTON (R)
PRO14
EIR SPORT 1

11PM
SIX NATIONS HIGHLIGHTS
VIRGIN MEDIA ONE

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 2

7AM
AUSTRALIA V NEW ZEALAND (R)
THE RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
SKY SPORTS ARENA

9:15AM
ITALY V ENGLAND (R)
WOMEN'S SIX NATIONS
SKY SPORTS ARENA

9:55AM
CONNACHT V BENETTON (R)
PRO14
EIR SPORT 1

11:55AM
DRAGONS V MUNSTER (R)
PRO14
EIR SPORT 1

1PM
LEINSTER V GLASGOW WARRIORS (R-2014)
PRO14
EIR SPORT 2

5:30PM
CARDIFF BLUES V ULSTER (L)
PRO14
PREMIER SPORTS 2
EIR SPORT 1

7:10PM
ZEBRE V OSPREYS (L)
PRO14
EIR SPORT 2
PREMIER SPORTS 1

8PM
GLASGOW WARRIORS V LEINSTER (L)
PRO14
EIR SPORT 1
PREMIER SPORTS 1

8PM
AGAINST THE HEAD
RTÉ TWO

9PM
CARDIFF BLUES V ULSTER (H)
PRO14
TG4

9:15PM
CARDIFF BLUES V ULSTER (R)
PRO14
EIR SPORT 2

10:30PM
ZEBRE V OSPREYS (R)
PRO14
EIR SPORT 1

11:15PM
GLASGOW WARRIORS V LEINSTER (R)
PRO14
EIR SPORT 2

11:35PM
GLASGOW WARRIORS V LEINSTER (H)
PRO14
TG4

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 3

7AM
BRUMBIES V REBELS (R)
SUPER RUGBY AU
SKY SPORTS ARENA

9AM
CARDIFF BLUES V ULSTER (R)
PRO14
EIR SPORT 1

11AM
GLASGOW WARRIORS V LEINSTER (R)
PRO14
EIR SPORT 1

1:05PM
ZEBRE V OSPREYS (R)
PRO14
EIR SPORT 2

7PM
GLASGOW WARRIORS V LEINSTER (R)
PRO14
EIR SPORT 2

9PM
CONNACHT V BENETTON (R)
PRO14
EIR SPORT 2

11PM
DRAGONS V MUNSTER (R)
PRO14
EIR SPORT 2

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 4

7AM
THOMOND PARK
DOCUMENTARY
EIR SPORT 1

10AM
DRAGONS V MUNSTER (R)
PRO14
EIR SPORT 1

10AM
GLASGOW WARRIORS V LEINSTER (R)
PRO14
FREESPORTS

12PM
CONNACHT V BENETTON (R)
PRO14
EIR SPORT 1

12:45PM
AUSTRALIA V NEW ZEALAND (R)
THE RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
SKY SPORTS ARENA

1PM
LEINSTER V GLASGOW WARRIORS (R-2014)
PRO14
EIR SPORT 2

3PM
GLASGOW WARRIORS V LEINSTER (R)
PRO14
EIR SPORT 2

9:30PM
PRO14 HOUR
EIR SPORT 1

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 5

10AM
RUGBY TONIGHT SEASON REVIEW
BT SPORT 2

10:15AM
PRO14 HOUR
EIR SPORT 1

11:15AM
GLASGOW WARRIORS V LEINSTER (R)
PRO14
EIR SPORT 1

1PM
CARDIFF BLUES V ULSTER (R)
PRO14
EIR SPORT 2
(1:15PM EIR SPORT 1)

4:55PM
PRO14 HOUR
EIR SPORT 2

********************

L = LIVE
R = FULL REPEAT
T = TAPE DELAY
H = HIGHLIGHTS

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 - 29.10.20

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

ICYMI click here for our latest podcast
featuring a chat with a Glasgow Warriors fan


Healy made his Ireland debut in November 2009 against Australia and has scored five tries for his country.


Conor Sharkey - LeinsterRugby.ie

The top side in Pool A, they will play Montpellier and Northampton Saints home and away and then pit their points total against the 11 other teams


Ruaidhri O'Connor - Irish Independent

The loosehead injured his ankle just seven minutes into Munster’s Pro14 clash with Leinster in August


The42.ie

Tournament organisers hope the tie can be rescheduled for next month.


RTÉ Rugby

It’s a genuinely smart move for Canterbury to create a Classic jersey that so closely mirrors the look of those vintage jerseys


Rugby Shirt Watch

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, October 28, 2020

Podcast : S02E016 - “Opposition view for #GLAvLEI featuring David Arnott @thepenGW”



Listen to the pod using the player above or better still,
subscribe to our feed we're on most major platforms

In the latest from our Opposition View series I asked one of Glasgow Warriors' biggest fans David Arnott to tell us about how their squad is looking this season.  Then as a bonus I’ve recorded an audio version of my Ireland v Italy match writeup.

To read our Leinster v Zebre writeup click here.

And you can follow David Arnott on twitter here > https://twitter.com/thepenGW

Front Five - 28.10.20

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

It's not Le Drop we need
it's Les Quatre Essais


"It does feel like a long, long time ago, but it's great to be back in that situation now where we have a trophy on the line"


Cian Tracey - Irish Independent

Thomas...has been forced out of the squad with a hamstring injury and has been replaced by Bordeaux out-half Mathieu Jalibert. 


RTÉ Rugby

"The disciplinary committee found that Mr Le Roux had committed an act of foul play but that it had not warranted a red card"


SkySports.com

The RFU is still investigating the events of last week and is expected to issue disrepute charges against a number of players by Friday.


The42.ie

It would have been a pain for (non Limerick based) season ticket holders to get there were these normal times but this game certainly lit up a bank holiday evening during lockdown


Gayl Kennedy - WestTerraceView

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

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Front Five - 27.10.20

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

ICYMI click here for our
Ireland v Italy writeup
titled "Farrellball"


The Henshaw-Aki combination was also in situ on Ireland’s last visit to the Stade de France, in February 2018


Gerry Thornley - Irish Times
(possibly behind paywall)

Gibson-Park presented some hamstring tightness following Saturday’s 50-17 thrashing of Italy at the Aviva Stadium.


Ciarán Kennedy - RugbyPass.com

It was a thoroughly entertaining affair that saw both sides go toe for toe throughout but Johann van Graan’s side deserved their victory


Simon Lewis - Irish Examiner

"Sean's actions last week with the Barbarians mean that he won't be able to rejoin our group now and we will review the situation in the coming weeks."


SkySports.com

"Mohamed’s journey has been tortuous at times. I believe he can still give a lot to the team"


The42.ie (via AFP)

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

Monday, October 26, 2020

IRELAND-50 ITALY-17

FARRELLBALL


No pressure, Andy!  Your task in taking over the Irish job is only to follow a coach who may not have reached the Holy Grail of a RWC semifinal but still shattered pretty much every other ceiling left for him by his own predecessors.  Oh, and if you wouldn’t mind just re-inventing a whole new style of play as well, that’d be grand…


And just to finish off the challenge nicely, what say we let you get three games into your first Six Nations before making you wait about seven months to resume - all you have to do then is get maximum points from two matches with no warmups, including a trip to Paris against a French team that’s a good one this year.  Not a bother to ya man!!  Quite the task when you spell it all out like that isn’t it?  


Normally as I watch my team play under a new coach like this I spend my time looking for that new style, but when I watched this match first, all I could think of was the bonus point win.  I guess you could put that down to 2020 being the way it is and I just wanted something super positive to cheer me up!


But when I watched it the second time, free from the shackles of not knowing how it would turn out, I saw something different altogether.  There was after all a definite pattern to the way we were approaching the game, definitely a departure from the Schmidt era, and remember, that’s not to denigrate Joe in any way, it was just time had moved on and we needed something new.


Central to the new order was always going to be the scrum half, and much has been said about how Conor Murray only did the two box kicks throughout the match.  This is true, but it was never going to be enough that he just cut that aspect out of his game.  We needed to replace it with something which had to be an improvement.  And it was, for the most part.


Don’t worry I’ll get to the actual match eventually, but I want to make some overall points first.  We may have nixed the straight up in the air kicking for now, but that doesn’t mean we’ve stopped putting boot to ball altogether.  We clearly had licence to put the ball into space when we saw it, and between Sexton, Murray, Ringrose and Stockdale, we had decent footballers who were able to do that effectively.


OK I’ve said the name Stockdale so I may as well deal with him here, as he’s another hot topic of varied opinion these days.  From a technical standpoint, I don’t think he had a good game as full back on Saturday.  There were positional issues, he completely fluffed a routine clearance from his own 22 that was lucky to bounce before the touchline, and while there were positives, the fact that his supposed defensive frailties weren’t really tested makes me anxious about what might happen in Paris next week.


All of that said, I can still see why the decision seems to have been made to try him out there in the first place.  I’m working on the (purely hot take) theory that this was a plan going back to the COVID break, and that he was returned to full back at Ulster in preparation.  That definitely made sense, particularly when you realise his handy left boot which is one of many strings we lost from our bow with Rob Kearney’s test retirement.


Thing is though, there’s another quality left boot about to qualify for Ireland, one that will bring a lot of other qualities to our back three.  And what’s more, we’ve a winger who just showed on his debut he belongs at test level that could easily move to full-back.  But that’s all down the line I guess...does my criticism mean I reckon Jacob should be dropped altogether for Paris?  Ugh.  Come back to me after I harp on the actual 80 minutes, will ya?


It certainly wasn’t a great start for Jacob, nor Ireland, as his attempt to keep the ball in play from their exit clearance after kickoff gave them good possession at halfway and shortly afterwards, a pass to their number 8 Jake Polledri that was just behind him meant he could grab it in such a way as to blow by his opposite number CJ Stander - within seconds Italy were defying the script from my preview by attacking our line.


Conor Murray was heroic in hauling his down his own opposite number Marcello Violi 5m out yet despite the best efforts of Alan Quinlan in the Virgin Media commentary box to exonerate him, I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t fully back referee Matthew Carley (who I thought was excellent throughout) in awarding a yellow card.  There was no release after the tackle, and whatever the time on the clock, I've often said penalties shipped in that exact scenario are one of the reasons why we have the sin bin in the first place.


So there we were, 3-0 down after a few minutes with a possible question mark over our defence, one we would go on to erase for almost the entire match.  We also had an immediate problem to solve in that the word to the wise in rugby circles is that the 9 is hardest to replace for 10 minutes, unless of course you have arguably the most well rounded footballer in test rugby on the pitch at that moment.


Just a couple of weeks ago we saw Garry Ringrose effortlessly kicking a conversion from the touchline for Leinster when required - now we needed him to get quickly to breakdowns and be accurate with passes for ten whole minutes.  Well, after Rob Herring, Tadhg Beirne and Bundee Aki provided the pressure after the restart to force a choke tackle, our starting outside centre did just that.


There really didn’t seem to be much lost from our game (and remember, were were a man down) as we ticked our way through the phases courtesy of relentless pressure until CJ Stander got the ball down over the Italian line and settled the nerves of all the Irish fans watching at home.


Eventually Ringrose proved he’s at least a bit mortal when a pass went astray but still we managed another 3 points without Murray, and what’s more, we clearly patched the hole in our defensive line.  If you told me afterwards we achieved a rake of jackled penalties I’d have presumed CJ Stander was responsible for them, but Herring, Porter & Connors were also in on the act.


For the next while we were struggling a bit to get the second try, mostly from our own doing when attacking lineouts went wrong and poor Ringrose was unfortunate to catch the knee of Edoardo Padovani, who was in the act of kicking as far as possible I might add, full in the jaw meaning the early introduction of Robbie Henshaw.


But Garry’s Leinster team-mate quickly proved his worth to the Irish set-up when a long looping pass following a sweeping play through the backs fell to debutant Hugo Keenan (NOT Keegan as many keep saying on the social meeja - get it right folks!!!!  You’ll be using this surname a lot I reckon!!!) and his rise and rise in recent times continued as he completed his task out wide to perfection despite the attention of multiple defenders around him.


Just a couple of minutes later he thought he had his second, and just as importantly Stockdale thought he had his YouTube moment breaking from deep and setting him us as we know he can, but the TMO spotted a “block” from James Ryan providing the space and called it all back.


Was it a block?  Meh - probably to the letter of the law it was, but I don’t agree with the officials in how they used his raised arm as evidence.  I think Marco Lazzaroni’s collision with Ryan is what forced the arm out and I’m not 100% sure he would have gotten to Stockdale anyway.  But the Leinster lock’s body language wasn’t the best I suppose.


Anyway, we needed to get back down the other end asap and after they pounded our defence with 17 phases in our 22, Caelan Doris ripped it free, managed to retrieve and charge out of our 22 before shipping it to Murray, who showed he’s not all about box kicking thanks to a perfectly weighted grubber ahead that sat up for Keenan and NOW he could get his second ever test try.


For the second conversion in a row, Sexton made the touchline kick for the posts look very easy and just like that we were one away from the bonus point with a handy 21-point margin as well.


I won’t lie - I was starting to get anxious about our ability to get that fourth try as the clock reached the high 50s.  And it wasn’t even the try the Italians scored in that time that made me feel that way.  This was a good read by Padovani on a Sexton pass to Henshaw which they ran back for an easy 7 points.   Not ideal of course, but not a stain on our defence either.


The problem was that although our play without the ball was impressive, especially during this patch, we were doing too much of it and in our own half to boot.  We just needed that one more five pointer and it needed to be soon if we could possibly pad the margin further afterwards.


Eventually we pinched a lineout at halfway and Sexton was able to straighten his line and break into opposition territory before a couple of quick penalties gave us a lineout close to their line.  From here it was pretty much a routine lineout - I reckon sub hooker Dave Heffernan was meant to take it at the back of the maul but instead it ended up with another debutant Will Connors, who may not score tries too often but in this scenario going low to get the ball down was no bother do him.  Phew!!!


What’s that?  There was a suggestion it wasn’t actually grounded???  Shush - someone might hear you!!!


Now the pressure was off, but like I said, we couldn’t let up from there, and the try of the match was to come.  Stockdale took a decent catch on the run in his own half, and when he offloaded to Ed Byrne, the prop did incredibly well recycling while keeping the ball in play despite being only minutes into his own first test cap.


From there I didn’t check closely but I dare say between clearouts and blocking runs all 15 boys in green were involved in the move that followed, including significant gains by Keenan, Stander and Doris, before Murray provided the final ball to Sexton to finish off try number 5.  


Now we had yet another Leinster man taking his international bow as Jamison Gibson-Park stepped in for Murray, and when Sexton got on the end of his cheeky little exit kick after the restart, it looked like we could well see a lot more of him.  Our attack was flowing really well for those last dozen or so minutes.


Eventually we got try number 6 courtesy of Bundee Aki and while everyone is rightly raving about the amazing offload from Peter O’Mahony that put him through, I’m not sure enough has been said about the rip from the breakdown by Will Connors that gave us that chance in the first place.  To be fair though, Will did go on to deservedly get player of the match but that was probably more for the try and fifty million daisy-cutter tackles, so I thought I’d mention this steal.  Awesome offload from POM as well of course!


Overall, we deserve credit for playing right to the end.  A brilliant touchfinder off a penalty from Ross Byrne put us 5m out and this time Heffernan was able to get it over the line to cap his own debut with a try.  And while Byrne has taken some stick for rushing his conversion to ensure another play, I myself would have been annoyed if he killed the match there, especially as the Italians seemed tired and exiting was one of our many strengths on the day.


In the end, O’Mahony was unable to gather the restart and credit to the Italians, they could have also killed the match yet it was their own rookie Paolo Garbisi (first player not alive in a year beginning with 19 to play in Six Nations apparently, how depressing is that) who got over the line and haul our winning margin back by 7.  Was there a block in the buildup similar to that by Ryan earlier?  Perhaps, but I guess we have to let it go.


So there we have it.  50-17 is a final score I would have easily taken at kickoff.  Although that late try does bring back memories from Rome 2007 (scoreline not far off either), and what’s more our chances of winning the title will also be decided in Paris, there is one important difference - this time we get to decide our own fate.


Now I have to go back to my earlier question - what of Stockdale?  Well for the sake of this particular tournament, I reckon our changes from this week to next need to be minimal.  Like I said, I don’t think he did great with a bright spotlight on him but we also have to remember the quality he can bring and I reckon he can definitely find it so better to leave him sort it out without risking a major change.


Obviously Ringrose will need to be replaced but for the most part I reckon the 23 should be kept the same and whatever score the English rack up against Italy, and whatever about the French continuing their form shown earlier in the year, I want to see us go out there with a mind to getting the four tries from the kickoff.


We have a set of matches before 2020 is up to use for experiment.  For now, Andy has his plan and I for one would like him to see it through.  There were definitely issues from Saturday’s 80 minutes, but nothing that can’t be readily fixed in a week.  Roll on next Saturday evening, I say.  JLP


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