Posts Tagged ‘ Brian O`Driscoll ’

Rabo Round Up: Ospreys spoil the return of BOD

Well, it had to end sometime. This however was not how you expect a team of Leinster’s calibre to finish a 20 game unbeaten run. As alluded to in the run up to the game, all Ospreys have left to fight for is the Rabo and they are giving it their all and, at a push, yes they deserved to win on Friday. But both performances in the RDS really made it one of those rare matches where both teams deserved to lose, through a lack of composure, silly errors and a lack of clinical finish. Leinster took a flattering scoreline into the changing room after an admittedly fantastic poached try form Ian Madigan, but they didn’t fully show any form on the pitch in the first half that suggested they could easily run out winners by the final whistle. For the Ospreys, they had Fussell and not much else to show some creativity, and even he by no means played the game of the season by his standards. With both teams so below par in the first half, the safe bet was that if either were going to snatch it, it would be the home side. What happened in the second half though was that Leinster somehow managed to cool off rather than up the intensity and this, coupled with the unfortunate but thankfully not as severe as thought injury to Hagan, led to Leinster looking directionless for the first time in quite a while. One wonders if Schmidt had maybe looked to this match as a much better time for them to remember they are mortal rather than another week or two closer to the Heineken Cup knock outs. That’s not to suggest that this was an experimental game of any sort but he is just about to get his internationals back as well as two returns from injury and one new signing, perhaps Schmidt was willing to use this game as an exhibition. As it happened, Ospreys ran out winners in the end thanks to a 50/50 TMO decision that was admittedly probably correct although Joe Schmidt disagrees, and a speculative kick that I personally feel should have been sent to TMO. Now, the touch judges obviously do have a better vantage point but it has to be said that in general Rabo games tend to be refereed somewhat similar to schools rugby, decisions are made on a whim and officials seem to think that the occasion is not as big as other matches. We’ve seen kicks go upstairs before, why not this time too? It probably doesn’t matter, the kick probably went over, but why in a sport that is one of the few that offers these technological interventions are there not more incidents of it being used? Some positives to be taken though are that Thorn, Cullen and most importantly, O’Driscoll looked good out on the field, Cullen in particular managing a full 80 that not many would have expected. Roll on next week as they head to Thomond to face Munster Leinster 22 – Ospreys 23

On then we move to a match that was always going to be interesting to say the least after Treviso’s shock win over Ulster in Ravenhill. As Ulster headed off to Treviso it was a hard call to make as to whether Ulster would travel well and do what these days they do best, or would there be a psychological hoodoo after that loss at home to this opposition. As it happened, it seems some of the hoodoo was there. Treviso raced into the lead after two minutes and once Ulster responded the best they could hold was a 10-7 lead, nothing to sit too comfortably about. All of a sudden Kris Burton found the kicking boots that would have helped Italy so much in the Six Nations and as well as two drop goals he had a conversion to kick thanks to a try twelve minutes from time by Alberto Di Bernardo. All looked lost for Ulster until Darcy and Wallace both crossed in the final ten minutes, Darcy’s try coming whilst the clock read 80. Nobody said it better than O’Gara that a win is a win and Brian McLaughlin has echoed that sentiment in his post-match statements but looking ahead to the colossal Heineken Cup Quarter Final Ulster have in Limerick against Munster, they will have to produce better performances than this in the next few weeks. When you are playing against a team that you manage to score two tries against in ten minutes, you should not be beating them by only four points. Treviso 23 – Ulster 27

Munster and Connacht had obviously been informed of the above match and how it played out because they provided a somewhat similar form of entertainment. Connacht sprung an early lead after Mick O’Driscoll stupidly got himself put in the bin and then Connacht did what Leinster could not and took advantage of the extra man. All Munster could offer in response was penalties and at the break Connacht lead 10 – 6. But of course when it comes to Munster you need to keep the intensity and Connacht could not. The next score, apart from a Connacht penalty, was a wonderfully worked move from Munster that sent Zebo over the whitewash to score a fantastic try. Keatley’s kick then brought the teams level at thirteen all. Connacht did take the lead one final time with a penalty but Munster once again worked well through Thomas O’Leary and O’Donnell crossed over for the try that eventually decided the 20 – 16 final score. What is important is that both of Munster’s tries came from purposefully made moves and that Connacht stayed in the game and had a genuine chance of recording a rare win over Munster. Of all of the Irish provinces in action this weekend though, Munster were the only ones to show any sort of a clinical edge, the edge that is the reason they are the only unbeaten qualifiers in the Heineken Cup. Leinster may be playing the flash rugby at the minute that wows the supporters, but Munster are still the number one team in Europe for eking out those wins when it matters most and never needing more than the time allowed to scrape a win if needs be. The only question is how long they can continue to do it. Connacht 16 – Munster 20

Another quick bit of rugby news this week is that of Thomas O’Leary’s move to London Irish after a deal with Perpignan apparently fell through. O’Leary was first choice scrum half for Ireland in 2009 and it has to be said, he earned it. But since his Lions tour ending injury that summer he has not come back to anywhere near the form he showed then. It cannot be said exactly what this is down to but perhaps if he makes his mark as first choice for London Irish the confidence will return and if that happens to be the case then this move will do him nothing but good and hopefully his three years are rewarding both personally and in silverware.

The other big news of the week is the stepping down of Paddy O’Brien from his coordinator position over the refereeing panel. It is claimed that O’Brien has left of his own accord and is taking up a similar positions over the Sevens code. The other big change in this area though is the lack of summer assignments to Wayne Barnes, Dave Pearson and Bryce Lawrence. All three referees had, it has to be said, dire Six Nations campaigns. Barnes and his gross misconduct in the opening match between Ireland and Wales, Pearson and his one sided display in the second half of Ireland VS France (seeing a pattern?) And Lawrence has a shocking display in a World Cup quarter final to his name, as well as plenty of priors. It is great to see some initiative being taken here in getting the referee situation sorted out and the plan going forward appears to be that they will be selected on form, much like players usually are. Hopefully we will now see more consistent performances as a result. But, if Pearson is not getting any summer games, why is he still taking charge of a Heineken Cup QF? Namely Leinster’s? Hmmmmm.

RaboDirect Preview: O`Driscoll Returns For Leinster

Now that the Six Nations is finished, all eyes in the rugby world shift to the club game. With the Heineken Cup knock outs looming, the RaboDirect Pro 12 takes on added significance in getting players back up to full speed and working the internationals back into the club game.

And this coming weekend is looking to be a great one for the Irish provinces to get a trial by fire. First up is Leinster VS Ospreys at the RDS which is looking to be a massive game for the Rabo. Tonight sees the return of Leo Cullen and Brian O’Driscoll to the pitch after both made remarkable recoveries from injury. Also included alongside Cullen is ex-All Black Brad Thorne on a short term loan. These three alone will spark an amazing atmosphere in the RDS as Leinster welcomes two of its favourite sons back to the stage. Leinster, lest we forget, are unbeaten since the start of the competition and this also include Heineken Cup matches. The statistic is not one to be ignored, it is the reason the All Blacks do what they do with such consistency. Leinster are used to winning. For the Ospreys, they have one weapon to their advantage that Leinster can’t compete with, a successful Six Nations providing plenty of momentum. For the returning Welsh internationals, the Grand Slam will provide major confidence that they will want to carry in to their club game and inspire the rest around them. As was seen in 2009 after the Irish Grand Slam, this is sound logic. Success breeds success. However, there is the issue of the recent form of the Ospreys and no amount of goodwill can change that. Obviously a direct comparison with Leinster is pointless as Leinster are running a stunning unbeaten run that is not all that common, but the Ospreys have been somewhat hit and miss throughout the Rabo, wins coming mostly by a score and some bad losses thrown into the mix. Coupled with their dire Heineken Cup form they do not have much momentum built as a club. That being said, expect them to now eye the Rabo as their only chance in club competition and they do have a precious third place spot to hold on to, a position they have three to four teams breathing down their neck to claim. Expect a good fight from the Ospreys but at home, with three giants entering the lineup, Leinster surely have this one in the bag. Leinster win

The next Irish action is that of Ulster VS Treviso on Saturday. Ulster have arguably been the form Irish province this season, even though they don’t have the winning streak of Leinster. They have constantly been evolving over the last two years and this season have mostly managed to win when it mattered most. They are in the plump position of having not too much or too little expected of them. They have the confidence of the public and their supporters as they should have, but they are not so flawless that they have mounting pressure to always win like a Leinster team does. That being said, and I don’t mean any great insult to them, Treviso are nowhere near adequate opposition for Ulster. Granted, Treviso deserve utmost credit for finding themselves eight in the table and ahead of the likes of Dragons and Edinburgh, but one could imagine that they couldn’t possibly have the strength to overturn this Ulster side. Treviso do however have two advantages that they would hope to exploit. One is the confidence to be gained from their shock win over Ulster in the first round of this fixture. The second is that Ulster are without three talismanic figures in Best, Ferris and Trimble due to Six Nations recovery. Whilst it is not true to say that Ulster are lost without this trio, a trip away to an opponent that previously showed you up at home is not made all that easier when you are down men. A tight enough match is to be expected, maybe one that even comes down to the last kick of the ball, but based on prowess and form (and the fact that Treviso are working on seven straight defeats) Ulster win

Then we top off the Irish activity with a nice little Irish derby of Munster VS Connacht. Connacht are a team that have done nothing but frustrate this season. Their inclusion into the Heineken Cup could instil nothing but hope in fans of Irish rugby and at least one stellar performance from them in the competition would have been thought to have been enough to gain them some respect on the higher stage. Though they eventually provided this against Harlequins in their final game; Connacht saw games slip away from their grasp against Gloucester both rounds and Harlequins in their opening game. It is a feature of their lack of top tier experience that they couldn’t hold onto leads built and couldn’t close out games, but they are still a team that can do much more than the current form they are showing this season. Unfortunately, they are getting a shot at redemption this weekend against a Munster team that looks to finally be getting itself back together. Munster looked somewhat hit and miss at the start of the season, scraping wins in the Heineken Cup through supernatural feats from the boot of Ronan O’Gara, but then against Northampton in the final pool game they managed to find a majestic form that carried into the Rabo for the most part. But they still have that absolute shock defeat to Aironi in their last match that will no doubt still be stinging. What must be asked is whether the Aironi defeat was a blip on an “off day” and are Munster going to come out Saturday with a point to prove? Or are Munster still a yo yo team, in terms of form, that cannot be assumed to get these wins due to a lack of gameplan. Were this match being played in Thomond, these questions would probably not hold as much relevance but at the Sportsground, Connacht have the potential to record a famous win over a European giant. Unfortunately for them however, we must return to Munster’s ability to pluck wins out of thin air and in a head to head of form, regardless of how back and forth Munster have been, they simply have to be favourites for this game. Munster win

Current table top 4:

Leinster          63 pts

Munster         52 pts

Ospreys         49 pts

Glasgow         47 pts

Ireland Advance to Quarter Finals

Ireland have beaten Italy 36-6 at the Rugby World Cup to book a quarter-final date against Wales next Saturday.

Declan Kidney`s side edged a tight first-half 9-6, with Ronan O’Gara and Mirco Bergamasco battling it out with a string of penalties, with the Munster man scoring three and the Italian restoring some parity with two in reply.

After the break, O’Gara added two more penalties to stretch the lead as Ireland`s position atop Pool C quickly strengthened .

O’Gara failed to extend Ireland’s six-point lead a few minutes later when he missed a drop goal attempt from just outside the Italian 22m.

Ireland soon began to obliterate their six nations foes  with Brian O’Driscoll going over for a try and Keith Earls grabbing two five-pointers. O’Gara added two conversions, while substitute Jonathan Sexton struck a penalty and conversion.

Nerves appeared to get the better of both sides in this crucial match as there was little flow to first-half play, but several handling errors and numerous penalties.

The closest to a try in the first half came when Ireland’s Tommy Bowe crossed the Italian line, only for play to be taken back by the referee for a forward pass from man of the match Sean O’Brien.

Ireland and Wales meet at 6am next Saturday in Wellington Regional Stadium to vie for a place in the tournament’s semi-finals.

Ireland primed for Australia test

Brian O`Driscoll will lead Ireland out on Saturday for his 115th cap and in doing so the hopes of a nation will rest upon the shoulders of the much admired captain.

The Leinster man will lead Declan Kidney`s charges as they face a stern test in the form of Australia in a match that will go a long way to determining the outcome of Pool C. Ireland are aware that vast improvements are needed after the 22-1o victory over the USA last weekend.

Kidney has opted to reshuffle his pack by making four changes. Leinster duo Sean O`Brien and Cian Healy come in to the side replacing Shane Jennings and Tom Court. Both players have overcome injuries and will deputise having been rested for the opening clash with Eddie O`Sullivan`s America.

Rob Kearney and Eoin Reddan are also thrown in from the start in place of Geordan Murphy and Conor Murray, with the latter failing to flatter on his Irish debut.

Kearney has been drafted in as expected with his big game experience bound to aid the Irish cause.The Leinster man has proved in the past that he can step up to the plate and his strong tackling and experience under the high ball will be a crucial asset against the Wallabies.

Jonathan Sexton retains his place at fly half, despite his poor showing against USA. Ronan O`Gara will be disappointed not to feature from the start but the Munster native has thrown in credible performances from the bench and may well be called upon to do so again.

Ireland V Australia is live on Saturday morning from 9.30AM on RTE 1.  

By Glenn Dowd

IRELAND team to face Australia in RWC 2011 Pool C at Eden Park, Auckland on Saturday, 17 September (9.30am):

15 Rob Kearney, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Brian O’Driscoll, 12, Gordon D’Arcy, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Eoin Reddan, 1 Cian Healy, 2 Rory Best, 3 Mike Ross, 4 Donncha O’Callaghan, 5 Paul O’Connell, 6 Stephen Ferris, 7 Sean O’Brien, 8 Jamie Heaslip

Replacements: 16 Jerry Flannery, 17 Tom Court, 18 Donnacha Ryan, 19 Denis Leamy, 20 Conor Murray, 21 Ronan O’Gara, 22 Andrew Trimble

Notable trio miss the cut as Kidney names World Cup panel

Ireland head coach Declan Kidney has today announced his 30-man squad for the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. 

The squad,captained by Brian O’Driscoll, contains a split of 16 forwards and 14 backs. 

15 players will be travelling to the Rugby World Cup for the first time, including the recently-capped Fergus McFadden and Conor Murray. Notable omissions included Tomas O`Leary and Luke Fitzgerald. Munster stalwart John Hayes has also been left at home, signaling an end to an impressive career in the green shirt.

Ireland play their final warm up game against England at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, before flying out to New Zealand the following Tuesday.

The boys in green will compete in Pool C where they have been paired with USA, Australia, Russia and Italy. First up for Kidney`s men will be a battle with the USA in New Plymouth on September 9th.

IRELAND 2011 Rugby World Cup Squad:

Backs (14) –

Isaac Boss (Terenure College/Leinster)
Tommy Bowe (Ospreys) *
Gordon D’Arcy (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster) *
Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster) *
Fergus McFadden (Old Belvedere/Leinster) *
Geordan Murphy (Leicester Tigers)
Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster) *
Brian O’Driscoll (UCD/Leinster) (capt)
Ronan O’Gara (Cork Constitution/Munster)
Eoin Reddan (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) *
Andrew Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster)
Paddy Wallace (Ballymena/Ulster)

Forwards (16) –

Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster)
Tony Buckley (Sale Sharks) *
Tom Court (Malone/Ulster) *
Sean Cronin (Leinster) *
Leo Cullen (Blackrock College/Leinster) *
Stephen Ferris (Dungannon/Ulster)
Jerry Flannery (Shannon/Munster)
Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster) *
Jamie Heaslip (Naas/Leinster) *
Denis Leamy (Cork Constitution/Munster)
Sean O’Brien (Clontarf/Leinster) *
Donncha O’Callaghan (Cork Constitution/Munster)
Paul O’Connell (Young Munster/Munster)
Mike Ross (Clontarf/Leinster) *
Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster) *
David Wallace (Garryowen/Munster)

* Denotes first Rugby World Cup

O`Gara Pulls Victory from Jaws of Defeat

A late Ronan O`Gara drop goal sealed a 13-11 win for an injury ravaged Ireland side against Italy in Rome.

The Munster man found the space in the final minute to convert the drop goal, much to the relief of manager Declan Kidney as his unconvincing side seemed destined for a first ever defeat at the hands of Italy in the six nations.

Ireland , who were missing a host of top names , got off to a sluggish start committing error after error. Their opening half performance left a lot to be desired, as they trailed the Italians 6-3 at the break, courtesy of two Mirco Bergamasco penalties to one by Leinster`s Jonathan Sexton.

Immediately after the break Ireland upped their game, with captain Brian O`Driscoll bagging a try just minutes after the restart, which was followed by a Sexton conversion. His conversion drained the confidence from the Italians as a host of handling errors crept their way into the game.

The Italians however were not the only side guilty of bad handling, with Gordon D`Arcy committing his third knock on of the match, with the try line only metres away.     

However, a sin-binning for Denis Leamy late in the second half, was followed by an Italian try courtesy of Luke McLean.Crucialy Bergamasco was unable to put the conversion between the posts, something his side would come to regret. 

O`Gara was sprung from the bench in the second half and provided the winning kick, once again outlining how big of an influence he can be to any Irish team.

After the match a deflated O`Driscoll was relieved at his side getting the win. “They nearly made us pay for our mistakes but we came back and showed just enough charachter. That was sub standard and we have got to expect a lot more from ourselves.

“Thankfully we got the win and that`s the only thing we can take from this performance”, said O`Driscoll , as his thoughts switch to next Sunday`s Dublin date against the French.

Ireland:Luke Fitzgerald,Fergus McFadden,Brian O`Driscoll,Gordon D`Arcy,Keith Earls,Jonathan Sexton,Tomas O`Leary,Cian Healy,Rory Best,Mike Ross,Donncha O`Callaghan,Paul O`Connell,Denis Leamy,David Wallace,Sean O`Brien. 

Replacements:Ronan O`Gara for Sexton,Leo Cullen for Paul O`Connell ,Sean Cronin for Rory Best ,Paddy Wallace for Gordon D`Arcy,Tom Court for Cian Healy,Eoin Reddan for Tomas O`Leary