Posts Tagged ‘ Conor Murray ’

Far Away Fields Are Greener, The Near Ones Are Still Black


Far away fields are greener but today, far away they still remain. The All Blacks were in town, with them they had a box that contained Irish rugby history. That box was open for eighty minutes yesterday before they unapologetically stuffed the history books back in and closed the lid, as we watched on helplessly. I knew walking into the stadium yesterday that it felt different. The crowd were up for it, more importantly the players were really up for it. Sport is cruel, it wouldn’t carry with it the highs and lows that it does otherwise. There is however no sport on the planet that could have had so much at stake during a ‘friendly’. Last week’s display was still fresh in the minds of the home support but they were up for ‘giving it a go’, Irish teams seem to play better for some reason when nothing is expected of them, when a good performance will count as a result. The air was thick as the formalities got underway, if I swung a samurai sword at that point in time, it would have stuck fast in the unyielding thickness of atmosphere. Three national anthems later we were ready for that tradition of all traditions. As far as watching grown men slap their legs and arms in an act of intimidation goes, yesterday’s didn’t weigh in with the threat that it usually carries. It was short and sweet, too short, too sweet. Continue reading

Three Uncapped Players In Ireland Squad For Guinness Series

The Ireland coaching staff have announced a squad of 34 players for the forthcoming GUINNESS Series against Samoa, Australia and New Zealand at the Aviva Stadium in November.

The make-up of the squad is consistent with recent years. The sole exile included is British & Irish Lions outhalf Jonathan Sexton.

There are three uncapped players included in the squad – David Kearney, who was on the bench for Ireland back in 2012, is included alongside Jack McGrath and James Coughlan. Continue reading

Lions Ready To Break The Force


The Lions Tour to Australia officially kicked off last Saturday in Hong Kong as the Lions comprehensively defeated a lacklustre Barbarians side 59-8 in a match that fulfilled their commercial obligations en route to Oz. This was as far removed from a Test match as they will experience and the real opposition in the Ex-Pat citadel was the weather with temperatures as high as 30 degrees during the game and with unbearable humidity to boot. This was a training session conducted in extreme conditions – think literally the polar opposite of the cryotherapy chambers that the Welsh team have trained in previously under Lions Head Coach Warren Gatland to get some sort of idea of the extremity of it. Now that everyone seems to have come through unscathed and having run in a number of tries we can move onto the real business. After the Test series this chapter will either be lauded as great prep or pure madness; only hindsight really knows. Hong Kong was the prelude and with the Lions reaching Perth, the most Westerly city in the Australian continent and home to a booming mining industry, this much anticipated tour Down Under starts in earnest when they meet the Western Force this morning (11am kick off Irish time). Continue reading

O’Connell Named As Lions Captain Against Barbarians


Paul O’Connell will captain the British and Irish Lions this weekend when they face the Barbarians on Saturday.

O’Connell takes charge of the team because of injury to Lions captain Sam Warburton which ruled him out of the game.  The 2009 tour captain is also the only Irishman named in the tour opener this weekend with nine Welshmen being named in the starting 15. Continue reading

They Stand Alone, Unchanged – Six Nations Preview Week Four

Firstly let me say how happy I am there is only the one fixture this weekend as there is an entire plethora worth of material to be discussed on Ireland after the last few days. Also I would like to point out something I forgot last time, that is how fantastic it was to see the look on Tom Court’s face when his try was given against Italy. If ever a more solid argument for whether or not the Irish qualified players invest in the national team as much, I will let you know. Moving on.

Does it even need to be said? Is there going to be any surprised looks at me berating Declan Kidney for deciding the same starting 15? Of course not, this is how he does it. What are my feelings then, for what it’s worth, on the selection? Well, for one thing I do agree with what most are saying, that if this team were good enough first time around, how can they not be now? The selection at scrum half has been talked up far too much in the media since the Italy game for one thing. Even I noted Eoin Reddan made a difference, but when he is such a game changer from the bench, why start him? It is the same argument for O’Gara VS Sexton, if a player has more impact from the bench either to close out or rescue a match, on the bench they will stay. Another point to note, all these people that are calling for Conor Murray to be dropped after only three Irish starts, are they the same people who complained when Kidney dropped Sexton in favour of O’Gara against Russia? Murray and Sexton are the young blood, they are the way forward as of now anyway. So they need high intensity, top level game time together, simple as. The other replacements can feel much more hard done by, Ryan in particular must be starting to lose faith at this stage. In both games he has come off the bench he has made more impact than the entire team has in the hour that has passed. He is dynamic and forceful and coupled with Ferris is one of the best wrecking balls Ireland has at its disposal. Donncha O’Callaghan on the other hand became more anonymous than ever against Italy, yet still gets Uncle Declan’s faith.

But is there really a call for the bench players to step up? Well, probably not. One statistic worth noting is that of the 15 starting on Sunday, 10 of them played this fixture last year and eight the year before. The point here is that there is players in the starting team that don’t have the hang ups of the past, they don’t see France as being unbeatable. The last time we beat France in this fixture we had a similar situation. In Croke Park in 2009 the team was a mix of veterans and young faces. Stephen Ferris has noted in the past how the 09 game was Paul O’Connell’s first time beating France whereas for Ferris it was his first time playing France. Even though for the fans it seems like we’ve been seeing the same team for months on end, the truth is that we can bring something new to France this year, as has to be done anytime Ireland are to have a chance of beating them.So whilst the selection is not the ideal one, there is some argument to be had that it could have been worse. Kidney after all is the type of coach who would try talk The Bull out of retirement, convince Willy John he still has it and relegate Sexton to the bench in favour of Jack Kyle. In that sense, the selection stands better.

What then of France and their selection? Well, not much change there either but then they are not in the same dire straits Ireland could be heading for. Saint-André has only two changes, one of which was forced through injury but his own arguments are a common theme for French rugby, that the Irish team “know each other” as an offshoot of Irish players playing club rugby locally in a small country. Therefore he wants to keep his players close knit and as a tight unit. The one voluntary change he did make however is that of Bonnaire in order to cause hassle for Ireland at the lineout. Saint-André does his homework. Apart from a few blips Ireland’s lineout has been one of the more consistently impressive features of recent games. If France do nullify the lineout and find parity in the scrum, that will be one of the big deciding factors in the game.

So head to head and as they are, how do both teams chances stand up? Well looking back over the last two years of this fixture there is some interesting stats worth noting. First off, Ireland’s last Six Nations loss in France was to a French team that could have beaten the All Blacks twice that day. They were absolutely mesmeric to watch. This does not forgive the loss, but it does slightly forgive the rout Ireland received. The next fixture then was last years in the Aviva. That game is a more clear indicator of what France are looking like now. An early try from McFadden shut them up and they never really recovered, the win coming mainly from the Irish penalties conceded needlessly. On that day Ireland outscored France 3 tries to 1, they were better, simple as. What Ireland need to beat France in Paris is simple; a quick start, confidence and discipline. These three factors should come as standard in every match but they are all that is needed for France to fall. Realistically, looking back through the matches, France have not very often been better than Ireland. It has been Irish weakness and inability to lose the French hoodoo that has cost the game. Fix these problems and team selection really is bottom of the list. The Irish team is a well oiled machine that doesn’t believe it is, if they do they will be unstoppable. Ah, to hell with it Ireland win

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