Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Irish Club Rugby Profiles by Mark Strange : Part 7 - Blackrock College RFC



Part 7

BLACKROCK COLLEGE RFC



This week we dip into Division 2B to take a look at one of the sleeping giants of Irish club rugby – Blackrock College RFC. The club is arguably most notable for being the home club of Brian O’Driscoll but there is so much more to look at when it comes to the side from Stradbrook. 

Founded in 1882, it is one of the oldest and most well-renowned clubs in Ireland. It has strong links to the famous school of the same name but is an open club for all. The club won its first trophy in 1889 when it captured the Leinster Junior Cup and they would go on to win it another four time before the turn of the 20th Century. 1900 saw them win their first Junior League but then followed a bit of a barren run until the 20s when the Junior League was won for a second time in 1922. What followed over the next two decades was an extremely successful spell for the club from the southeast of Dublin which culminated in an historic year in 1939 when the Leinster Senior Cup was won for only the second time along with the club’s first and, so far, only Bateman Cup. 

Fast-forward to the 50s and the first Blackrock man to represent Ireland was Niall Brophy. He made his debut in green in 1957 before also becoming the first ‘Rock man to pull on the red jersey of the British and Irish Lions in 1959 (and also 1962). Brophy was the first in a long line of men who wore the famous blue and white hoops to go on to represent the Lions. Ray McLoughlin and Mick Doyle also toured during the swinging 60s while legendary back rower Fergus Slattery was part of the 1971 and 1974 squads. Willie Duggan, Hugo MacNeill, Sean Finn, Brendan Mullin and Paul Wallace all were Lions between 1977 and 1997.




In the 21st century, Brian O’Driscoll was a Lion in an incredible four consecutive tours between 2001 and 2013. A sign of the longevity of the great man. We all remember his ‘waltzing O’Driscoll’ tour in ’01 and to come back again 12 years later to secure a test series victory was an incredible feat for him. BOD’s breakthrough was considered to be the sensational hat trick in Paris in 2000 but those who saw him in AIL action for Blackrock knew he was something special long before then! Shane Byrne accompanied O’Driscoll to New Zealand in 2005 while Luke Fitzgerald went to South Africa in 2009, where Schalk Burger wanted to see if he was wearing contact lenses…

As well as these great Lions players, Blackrock has also produced many current and recent Ireland representatives such as Jordi Murphy, Andrew Conway and Ian Madigan and was also the home club of former Leinster and Ireland hooker Richardt Strauss. Other ‘Rock men to gain full international honours include the likes of Bob Casey; Victor Costello; Guy Easterby; Neil Francis and a man known more recently for his whistling skills in Alain Rolland! Leinster head coach Leo Cullen is also a product of Stradbrook. 

It is not just the men’s game that the club provides internationals for. The current squad for the 2021 Women’s Six Nations contains NINE Blackrock representatives with Katie Fitzhenry; Emily Lane; Ellen Murphy; Beibhinn Parsons; Laura Feely; Nichola Fryday; Emma Hooban; Hannah O’Connor and Dorothy Wall all being included in Adam Griggs’ squad for the tournament which kicks off on April 10th. The women’s side at the club has also been extremely successful with five All Ireland League titles and three All Ireland Cups since 1993.

The club moved into their current home at Stradbrook in 1962 and the grounds have been recently upgraded since celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2012. In 2017, a gym, medical room and physiotherapy centre were opened and were dedicated to late club legend Barry O’Keefe while in 2019, a new all-weather pitch was installed. The honours list on the club’s website is extremely lengthy. A couple of recent standouts on that list include a Leinster Senior Cup in 1999 and an AIL Division 2 title a year later.

Club captain Brian Coclough and head coach James Blaney will be hoping to add to that honours list when play resumes hopefully sooner rather than later.

With many thanks to Erin Dalton for providing information for this piece.





Mark Strange (@realmarkstrange) : I am a freelance sports writer who has been published in soccer, rugby and baseball. I am also an avid fan of ice hockey and just returned last year from a year living and working in Vancouver. I previously played and was PRO for Randalstown Rugby Club before a knee injury cut me down in my prime! I became a Leinster fan when I was younger due to a certain Felipe Contempomi and I am the only blue in a sea of white in Ulster.

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Series lead photo taken from tallaghtrugby.com

Front Five - 31.03.21

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

ICYMI click here for a
Six Nations "Team of the Tournament"
selection by contributor Mark Jackson


The smaller group means that player versatility is likely to be a major factor when deciding squad members. 


PJ Browne - Balls.ie

Former Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt is heavily involved in the future direction of the game in his role as World Rugby Director of Rugby and High Performance.


Cian Tracey - Irish Independent

Munster...had to renege on their agreement after IRFU performance director David Nucifora vetoed the lucrative deal amid the sweeping financial cuts


SA Rugby Mag

Les Bleus’ loss to Scotland at the Stade de France last Friday meant England rebounded back to number three, while France were leapfrogged by Ireland. 


RugbyDump.com

"...I think the DNA of the Six Nations is a round robin where each team plays against each other with a Grand Slam at the end."


Sara Orchard - BBC Rugby

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, March 30, 2021

Six Nations Team of the Tournament by Mark Jackson

 

Well the last few weeks have thrown up a lot of talking points and discussions not least officiating, red cards and potential Lions. 

One thing is for sure is that we have been entertained and enthralled with the annual Northern Hemisphere shindig. 

I have put together my pick of the players whom impressed throughtout and am sure a few will disagree but isnt that the beauty of opinions 😉. 


15. Stuart Hogg (SCO) An impressive series from a player who has found his form after a quiet year or two..just edges Brice Dulin.

14. Louis Rees Zammit (WAL) Not just a gas man impressive skills and a fine kicking game too. The gas certainly helps.

13. Robbie Henshaw (IRE) A quality run of games in both 12 and 13 jerseys. His gainline successes and defensive nous were vital in Irelands 3 wins on the trot. Both Jonathan Davies and George North unlucky to miss out 

12. Gael Fickou (FRA) Still only 27 and improving year on year. Always been a danger ball in hand has become Shaun Edwards' defensive leader. Felt his move to wing made France weaker vs Scot but he was still a standout. 

11. Duhan Van der Merwe (SCO) 6 ft4 and 16 st plus is not easy to stop as France and England found out..still prone to the odd defensive lapse but what a handful. Anthony Watson unlucky to miss out on selection. 

10. Matthieu Jalibert (FRA) Not a vintage tournament for fly halves ..all had ups and downs. Jalibert's body of work was strongest for me , his link and support play were top notch and has improved his kicking game. 

9. Antoine Dupont (FRA) Easiest selection ..EVER. Next 

8. Taulupe Falatua (WAL) Excellent throughout after a full recovery from a few niggles over past two years. One of many Lazarus type comebacks from the Welsh in a Lions year. 

7. Hamish Watson (SCO) Edges Justin Tipuric in what was prob tightest call for me. Huge workrate and carrying and a nause at the breakdown. Rather have him with you than against you.

6. Tadgh Beirne (IRE) Finally getting a consistent run and showing his vast array of skills on and off the ball. Huge engine and deservedly nominated for Player of Tournament.

5. Iain Henderson (IRE) The talent was never in doubt ,simply the consistency. Finest series to date and stepped up on leadership front excellently. 

4. Alun Wyn Jones (WAL) Whatever they feed him in Wales..Unicorn or Dragon blood prob...they shpuld licence it. Simply immense..when he eventually retires not sure who's filling that void. 

3. Tadgh Furlong (IRE) All dancing possibly all singing too ..the Jukebox can scrummage a bit too. Ireland blessed w the two best tightheads in Europe at the moment. Porter will keep the Wexfordman on his toes.

2. Julien Marchand (FRA) More explosive with the ball in hand sees him take the 2 shirt from Ken Owens (Welsh Lazarus #3) another tight call. 

1. Cyril Baille (FRA) The Toulouse Teapot (trademark pending) had a strong tournament, in the tight and loose and allied w his club mate could be a thorn in more Irish scrums this coming weekend.

 

Mark Jackson (@hoomanbear) : 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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Front Five - 30.03.21

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

ICYMI click here for our
Guinness Pro 14 Final writeup

Below is an appearance I made on "The Rugby Room"
Monday evening discussing the final along
with Munster fan @overthehillprop



Both players are hoping to overcome knocks, with Harry Byrne probably in line to take the 10 jersey against the French giants if they don't.


RTÉ Rugby

“The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, I guess, is the moral of the story.”


Murray Kinsella - The42.ie

The one-sided nature of the final was unexpected, the scoreline says more about Munster’s tremendous defensive efforts that Leinster were not out of sight by half-time.


Gayl Kennedy - WestTerraceView

He will now be missing for Parisian club Racing 92 when they host Edinburgh in the Champions Cup on Sunday.


BBC Rugby

McKinley has been unveiled as the new head coach of AIL side Rainey Old Boys after hanging up his boots yesterday.


Michael Sadlier - 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

Monday, March 29, 2021

LEINSTER-16 MUNSTER-6

CELEBR8

It’s for matches like this one where places like Harpin On Rugby can have the most value for Leinster Rugby fans.  


Maybe I should have been annoyed that the prevailing narrative in the wider discussion in Ireland for the past week or so has been heavily Munster-leaning; before the match, it was “will they win their first trophy in ten years” and after it has been “what can they do to finally get to where Leinster are”.


Yet it’s far from annoyed that I’ve been feeling - in fact, my reaction has been mostly understanding.  Of course their perspective was always going to be the starting point, especially with the added news of the impending departures of CJ, Billy & JJ.  A Munster win would not only have been better overall for the game on the island, it would have also been really good for the Pro14 competition itself; even I can see that.


However I do have to be careful that all my understanding doesn’t end up morphing into guilt.  What have I to be guilty about?  While I want to respect the levels of disappointment that Munster fans must be feeling, at some stage you have to allow yourself time and space to be happy that a team you’ve devoted so much time to supporting over the years has won a major trophy - isn’t that why we do so much of said devoting?


Which makes this the perfect place to use as a safe haven for fellow Leinster fans who simply want to celebrate before the next challenge comes along, and let's face it, with all that's going on, we need all the opportunities to be positive we can get.


So for that reason the theme for this writeup is very simple.  Leinster won the league, and I am happy.  I’m not rubbing it in, I’m not making any declarations that this success means anything about what else is going to happen in the future, I’m just letting everyone know that as sporting weekends go, this was a really memorable one.


Because it’s not like we barely squeaked over the line, was it.  If anything we should have won by more, but considering it was cup rugby and there were no bonus points to be chased, you can’t watch that 80 minutes go by without being impressed that one team was in control throughout.


And since I believe that very control led to our success, I’ll start harping on the match by pointing out why I disagree with the choice of Player of the Match.  Naturally I mean absolutely nothing against Jack Conan whatsoever.  Back to his best after a dreadful run of injuries, his carrying was excellent and not only did he score the game’s only try but his catch in a sea of players is what led to the 3 points that finally stretched the margin over the critical 2-score barrier, so it’s not like he wasn’t a leading contender.


But that’s the point - he wasn’t the only leading contender.  You could go several different ways in looking to award the gong.  For one thing, others were busting through gainlines like there was no tomorrow - Rhys Ruddock, Robbie Henshaw & Ronán Kelleher to name just three have been doing it all season and certainly earned further recognition at the RDS on Saturday.


Then there were setpieces, especially the scrum, where we got the edge in the early stages and held onto it throughout, and with Andrew Porter also excelling in the loose his name deserves to be floated as well. And you can never ignore Devin Toner's lineout prowess as he broke Gordon D'Arcy's record for provincial caps.


Of course we also have to marvel at the standards in defence - Leinster have now gone 156 minutes in Pro14 finals without conceding a try and as I have said several times before on these pages, I get as much joy from watching our blue wall deny a 20+ phase stand as I do a try scored from our own 22.


However, on this day, we had a tough defence to crack ourselves.  You can’t go into a match knowing the likes Tadhg Beirne, CJ Stander, Gavin Coombes and Damien de Allende will be sniffing snaffles without having a plan to get it past them.  And even more importantly, you also have to be patient with your plan.


Which is why I can’t look any further than Leinster’s halfbacks when it comes to awarding the top honours for this performance.  First, there’s Luke McGrath who couldn’t possibly have responded better to seeing his team mate Jamison Gibson-Park leapfrog him into the Ireland set up.  Whether captaining or not he has fine tuned his all round game to his highest levels yet and this match was no exception.


For this final, if there was a way the stats people could come up with a percentage number to represent the amount of times a 9 picked the correct option on each phase, his could well be in the high 90s for this match.  For all the metres gained by Jack, Robbie & co on the day, it was generally a result of Luke’s speed of thought and accurate distribution.  


There was one scrum in the second half where we had been under pressure from Munster following the Conan try.  There were substitutions and resets before Luke finally got to feed the ball so while waiting I sent a message to a WhatsApp group I’m in that read like this : “Need to boot the leather off this from the scrum keep it down their end.


Sure enough, not only do we comfortably win the scrum, but Luke doesn’t hesitate to take responsibility himself by kicking it towards the touchline, and despite being in a central location he gets it well into their half and the bounce evades Keith Earls to roll perfectly into touch.  But even Luke doesn’t get my award!


Pretty much every player in every position in every team sport begins life at the highest level in someone else’s shadow, yet few arrived in a longer one than Ross Byrne.  And for good measure, he now has his little brother nipping at his heels too, with many seeing Harry involved in the line of succession for jerseys both blue and green long term.


And this wasn’t the first time Ross has started a match for Leinster knowing he would have to hand the reins over to his much-decorated club captain at some point, yet it has never been a match with so much at stake.  So add that pressure to all the talent and determination that was ready to come at him from the men in the red jerseys, and it’s clear he had his work cut out for him as he set to drop kick the ball to start the proceedings.


Not 14 seconds later, his kick chasers had earned us an attacking lineout and already the theme for the day was set.  Between himself and Luke we were to have a near perfect table set on every possession - Munster were never going to make it easy for us but while there was no doubt a lot of Contepomi and Sexton in the thinking behind the sequences of variation, the levels of execution still had to be top notch and they were.


“All” that was missing from each attacking set in that first half was a try.  The early 6-0 lead was hard earned, but that kind of margin was never going to be enough so when passes were going directly into touch and Fardy was going over the line without a latch to find himself well held up by Stander & Coombes, a pair of Carbery penalties which brought them back to parity before the break made it look like we could have blown our chance.


For the first few minutes of the interval I have to admit I was apprehensive, but then I thought “hang on - have I really seen anything to suggest we’re not going to just continue where we left off?”  That period after the restart has often been one where we put matches to bed and when a wave of double tacklers around halfway forced Kleyn to knock on, followed by another scrum penalty which got us back into their 22, the try really did look inevitable.


Munster wouldn’t be Munster if they didn’t offer strong resistance but our forwards were not for being denied again.  We were held up over the line a second time but from the resulting scrum, Conan struck straight from the base, Porter followed up well and soon after it was that number 8 getting low enough to drag it over.


Obviously there wasn’t a single Leinster fan who was going to feel comfortable with a seven point margin, no matter how strong our bench was.  So when Ross Byrne needed attention shortly after the try, stayed on anyway and then misjudged the conditions for a rare miss with his next penalty attempt, you might think another chance had been lost, and also his limping away from the kicking tee didn’t look too good for him either.


It was still a few minutes later before Sexton came on and of course with the lead intact that was still a great way for Ross to hand things over.  He could now take his seat knowing his work had been done.  Or could he?


Before I go on, a word about the breakdowns.  Mike Adamson isn’t the best communicator of a ref I’ve seen but to be fair to him, for the day that was in it I reckon he was doing his best to keep the game flowing.  Naturally everyone watching could see through their coloured goggles infringements that were being let go, yet the only criticism I could make of the officials were that perhaps more high shots could have been called for safety's sake - it wasn’t a case of either side benefitting from the policy, that's for sure.


Anyway - at one particular breakdown Johnny Sexton took a stray accidental boot to the face which meant Ross Byrne had to return to the pitch.   So basically having put in a great shift and thus easily handling all the pressure piled on before the kickoff, he now had to return and see the lead home himself, with a suspect leg thrown in for good measure.


Not three minutes into this second spell, Luke sends one high into the Ballsbridge evening sky, only for it to fall to Jack Conan who proceeds to charge into the Munster 22.  We then go through a few phases and I for one didn’t realise Adamson had given a penalty until he said “you still have the advantage” so when the move broke down and we went back to the mark of the offside call, there was a decision to be made that looked pretty straightforward.


Or so it seemed...when Adamson asked Ross what he wanted to do there was absolutely no hesitation - “shot called”.  You can bet your life that every Munster player was going to be fired up should he have missed it, and given his limping after his earlier attempt from around the same mark (if anything this was tougher) the odds were stacked further against him.


But here's the thing - Ross has hit many a similar pressure kick for Leinster over the years.  Hard to believe he made his debut way back in 2015 against Edinburgh; he’s just 2 shy of his century of appearances at this stage and as cool as you like he was able to slot it as if it was nothing to him.  


While I’m on the subject of nerves of steel, honourable mention has to go to Jordan Larmour following the Conan try.  To let the restart bounce and continue to roll over the line so he could dot down for a scrum back didn’t do my heart many favours for a few moments there, but the end result was definitely a further blow to Munster.


Much like the reaction of the English players after winning a free kick while chasing Ireland last week, the Munster lineout jumpers deciding not to go after a dart towards the end was an indication that they knew they had been beaten.


Anyway, back to Ross - the fact that it was he who kicked the ball out of play after the clock went red is what finally made me believe he was destined to be player of the match.  Now of course I hope you realise that in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter who got it so I won’t mind if you disagree...I just used my argument as a means of telling the story of the match.


The important thing is that we won our 8th league title and 4th in a row with a fine display from a group of 23 players, with dozens more also involved in the 17 matches who will be clambouring for places in the resumption of the quest for the fifth star to come.


But even though it’s a tight 6-day turnaround before we’re back in European action, as well as speculation over players who might be staying or going, as fans we should still allow ourselves a day or two to celebrate this achievement, these players, these coaches, this fine organisation.  They have approached yet another tournament with a championship-winning attitude and reaped the rewards.


Here’s hoping we’ll able be able to bring the #SeaOfBlue back to the RDS to watch them display the silverware in person before too long.  JLP




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Front Five - 29.03.21

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

ICYMI click here for a selection of online comments
after the fulltime whistle of the Pro14 final


"We didn’t manage the transition from winning the final against Ulster to playing a quarter-final of Europe particularly well"


Gerry Thornley - Irish Times

Centre Henshaw is in the form of his life...putting in a man-of-the-match display in Ireland’s final-day victory over England


Ruaidhri O'Connor - Irish Independent

If losing was bad, seeing your conquerors receiving their garlands was worse.


Garry Doyle - The42.ie

The Rugby Paper suggest the Rugby Football Union have sounded out Gatland and Rassie Erasmus amid doubts over the future of Eddie Jones.


Mark Orders - WalesOnline

Warren Gatland will confirm his 36-man travelling party to. face the Springboks on 6 May.


Ruck.co.uk

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

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Online comments after the #GuinnessPro14 Final

A selection of the “keyboard warrior” reactions after the full-time whistle of our featured matches of the weekend.

If you’d like to contribute stay tuned to our Facebook page for our “Feel free to leave your thoughts…” posts which show up around full time after Leinster & Ireland matches.


Michelle Tobin Leinster owned it from start to finish. To think you thought a 6 point spread was generous, and I thought Munster would win... Onwards and upwards to Europe and the Rainbow Cup. Now who are our first round opponents again 😂

(reference made to Friday's Opposition view podcast)


Conor Cronin It may seem unfair to say it, but offensively i don't think munster were ever in this. They had some great defensive moments, but that's not enough against a team of Leinster's class.

On leinster, constant pressure eventually paid off with a well taken try, there definitely could've been more if a couple of bad passes had been better, or if we'd been a bit more efficient in the 22. But they don't matter in the end. The record books won't mention them!

Delighted to see the touch of class that was letting Dev as most capped player, and unsung hero Michael bent lift the trophy


Brian Corr Really disappointed with a couple of first half bad passes and attacks that could have put the game to bed before half time.

Leinster are a well oiled machine that basically carried on despite some set backs and just rumbled by Munster.

In the second half Munster tried to inject pace but were met with relentless defence and then just fell away.

Coombes had a great game but Leinsters back row were superior by the sum of their parts.

Henshaw showed why he’s the top centre in the country and the few errant passes shows why Ringrose when fit is the other half of the best centre partnership in the country.

I hope people now stop calling for Casey to be starting for Ireland and allow him to develop his obvious potential. Not sure if it was the weight of expectation or just inexperience but nothing went right for him in the few minutes he had on the pitch.

Absolutely thrilled with the win, and hope for Munster POM is ok for next week.


Wayne O'Brien A resilient performance - we left a few tries behind first half, but thought our defence was immense. The last couple of mins in the Munster 22 defending then attacking epitomises so much that is great about the current Leinster team


Paul Smith By far the better team won. Absolutely delighted for them all but especially Dev. Brilliant game to break the all time appearance record for Leinster.


Gav Heg It would seem a little unfair that the final 15 were not the ones that got them there but how good was bent lifting the trophy with dev? To me he's been the best leinster servant for the last 6+ years. Never a step backwards.


Noel Hewson Henshaw, Ruddock and Conan were class and overall they owned the ball. They continue to set the standard. Munster most be so frustrated they are the 2nd best team by some way and in another era would have won plenty of trophies.

Bert McLoughlin We didn't play well but that doesn't matter when you know how to play and win finals


Daryl Kingston After all the media hype about Munster this week this was especially satisfying. Leinster just went about their business and to be honest they should have been further ahead. Great performance fantastic record and Ruddock was my MOTM

Lorcán Murphy The pack won the battle up front and the jacks had far more thrust and creativity


Andrew Potts Big fail for Munster, their best team out and still did not turn up. Need some clear thinking to close the gap.
Leinster not at their best but did not need to be

Brian Kielthy The fact that munster refused to wear ther runner up medals sorta sums it all up....


Henry Sellars Unbelievable we went in 6 each at ht. Poor execution in final 3rd in 1st half, but we (I) have loftier ambitions for us as a team that can do the basics perfectly every time.... Conan, Ruddock, Henshaw standouts.... unlucky for PoM, looked a nasty one....

John Peeters Toulon next week and Munster need to hope Toulouse don’t turn up otherwise they will be on the end of a bad beatomg


Many thanks to all who offered opinions.

Look out Monday for our match writeup JLP

Front Five - 28.03.21

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

Many thanks to the Munster fans
who have offered their congratulations


It was a textbook display of cool-headed dominance from Leo Cullen’s side as they suffocated their opponents


Simon Lewis - Irish Examiner

"He’s struggling a bit, he’s got a deep cut to his leg.  We will know a bit more later but it didn’t look good." 


Michael Glennon - RTÉ Rugby

"When you have a lad who is 6’11″, that doesn’t come along every day in Ireland."  


Ciarán Kennedy - The42.ie

"We will do a full and honest debrief and present those findings to the media. At this level of sport, performance is everything."


Paul Rees - The Guardian

Are we really expecting any of the players to be in a good mental place once they’ve spent weeks in a hotel room. 


Rugby Onslaught

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