Posts Tagged ‘ Dylan Hartley ’

Ireland Set To Power Past England


Joe Schmidt may have set his stall out at the beginning of this Six Nations Championship as being happy with a top two finish but he and everyone else knows that there is so much more on offer for this Irish team. A win today is very much on the cards for a rejuvenated Ireland team. They have in their ranks the best positional kicker of a rugby ball, they have the better of the two packs and they have experience that money can’t buy. Leaders will be littered around the park in green jerseys. Paul O’Connell, Brian O’Driscoll and the latest leader by example Peter O’Mahony.

Ireland’s maul has been the weapon of choice for their first two games against Scotland and Wales and what a weapon it has proven to be. How England can stop this marching green machine without giving away penalties must be a severe head scratching exercise for their coaches. The simple answer is, they can’t, Irish body positions when they roll forward have been so close to perfection as to say that this maul is unstoppable. Will they get an opportunity to use it? With Devin Toner, O’Connell and O’Mahony in their line out, it’s difficult to see them not getting ample opportunity to break English hearts here. Ireland were slow off the mark against Scotland but impressively they didn’t panic. They bided their time and eventually broke down the opposition to win out comfortably. There was only ever one winner from the kick off against Wales. The better structure of the Irish game, the better decision making and the continued frustrating of the Welsh by pinning them back in their own half, time and time again reaped dividends. Continue reading

Lions Aim To Hit The Ground Running Against Barbarians

 Lions-2013-33099371,425 days since that third test in Ellis Park, Johannesburg and after months of speculation on selection the waiting is nearly over, the day is nearly upon us. The first warm-up game against the Barbarians kicks off tomorrow in the sweltering heat of Hong Kong. Its put up or shut up time for the Lions party. The players will be glad to see the day arrived and finally get on the field to prove to everyone why they have been selected.  Paul O’ Connell takes over as captain as Sam Warburton has been rested after picking up a knock in training. Expect Warburton to be ready for the Force in Perth on Wednesday night. O’Connell’s selection as stand-in captain won’t surprise anyone having lead the team on a full-time basis four years ago and one thinks everyone in the camp wouldn’t argue either.  Now don’t get me wrong there will be nothing “warm up” about any of the games outside the test matches with every side relishing the chance to cause an upset so Saturday and the rest of the pre-test matches will be hard-hitting, fast and very competitive, exactly what the Lions will want in preparation for the three tests against the Wallabies. Continue reading

Down To The Wire, But The Hoodoo Is Broken – Rabo Final Review


It wasn’t the game that had everything, but bloody hell it did well to come close. A card for either side, line breaks, heavy hits, tiny margins all over the field and a tense final five; this is what happens when you pit two teams of this standard against each other in a final. It is telling that there was such a difference between yesterday’s fixture and the Heineken Cup final last season. A year later and there is no denying that Ulster have evolved even further and that the gap between them and Leinster is closer than ever. But blue has been the colour the last few months, and now Leinster have bid farewell to many of their own golden generation by claiming every trophy available to them over the last two to three seasons, culminating in the hard fought slug for the Rabo Direct Pro 12 title yesterday and for now, they remain the force.

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Gatland Plays It Safe – Lions Tour 2013


Can the lions win their first series against Australia since 1989? Read on to find out

Ok, so there was no bolters in the end, no shock selections to any great degree bar one and as many disappointing omissions as you come to expect from a Lions squad selection. Warren Gatland has serious pressure on him with this tour as he is heralded as coach supreme due to his work with Wales and there is of course the fact that the Lions haven’t won a tour down under since 1989. With all of this in mind it’s understandable that he played it relatively safe when it came to selection, but on the other hand many of us hoped that the stubborn headed Gatland would have the bottle to pick outside the box too. Let’s have a look at the squad below so and muse over what might have been while we’re at it.
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Six Nations Round Up – Final Week

Another year; and another tonne of questions to be asked. Can Scotland recover from their worst tournament in a long time? And will Robinson step away from the ship he debatably sank? Has the French machine finally ground to a halt? Are Ireland looking at the demise of Declan Kidney with a career worst performance in New Zealand? Or, is there a chance that each of these teams has it in them to find the form they once had? On the other side, can Wales and England continue on in the fashion that found them finish 1st and 2nd respectively? And what can Italy do with a dogged but fine win with their final game against Scotland? In all it has been one of the more lacklustre Six Nations of recent times. When the bigger teams flop as spectacularly as Ireland, France and, to a degree, England did this year, the excitement is removed somewhat for the spectators. What need to be addressed are the reasons for these performances. Some are related to coaches, some to players and then a good portion to referees and new interpretations of the game. The unfortunate problem is that few of these are likely to be resolved.

On then to what analysis can be done of a somewhat mediocre final weekend. Up first is the battle of Scotland VS Italy. Last week I alluded to this usually being one of the more exciting games of the championship and, as has happened nearly weekly, I’ve been proven wrong. It’s not correct to say this was the most boring game of the competition, that accolade belongs to Scotland VS England, but it certainly is a close second. Italy did manage to spark some life with a well worked try but Scotland and their inability to perform so far in 2012 dragged the game down into the most drawn out arm wrestle ever seen. It was a relief even for viewers when the final whistle was blown. Neither team can take a huge amount from this year’s tournament but the statistics will show that Italy did not finish last and that Scotland did with little points or tries to their name. Both teams spent this entire match trying their best to control their nerves but not succeeding, the number of unforced errors from both teams clearly displaying this. The difference was that Italy were able to gain enough control to build some momentum, though not nearly enough to be credible. Scotland on the other hand chose instead to languish in mediocrity, never at any point looking like a team that could salvage anything from this game. Again though there was really not much good to be taken from this game for either side, except that Italy have secured another rare Six Nations win and hopefully that if one of these teams is to improve it will be them as they look to be the more deserving of the two. Scotland on the other hand are in dire need of a plan, proper coaching and a reinstatement of self-belief. Italy 13 – Scotland 6

Then came the clash of the titans, the big ‘un. Except it wasn’t. Wales VS France was anything but a vintage nail biter of a deciding match, save for the fact that for twenty minutes or so Wales looked as though they had kept their form of the last few weeks and we were potentially looking at a tight match that would come down to the wire. Once Cuthbert broke the French defence for a fantastically taken try, the form seemed to find Wales once again. Except it was nothing like the form that they showed off in the World Cup. And France, it has to be said, were as shockingly bad as they have been all tournament. Now, don’t get me wrong, as the competition has played out nobody was more deserving of the title and the Slam than Wales but being the best of a bad bunch doesn’t stand for much. The Welsh themselves will know better than anyone that they still have plenty of improving to do if they are to carry out a successful summer tour of Australia and find themselves fashioning out a world beater tag to keep hold of. A positive they can take from Saturday is that their defence is solid for France did have moments of vintage flourish but still couldn’t penetrate. But for the most part they were playing a French team that couldn’t string much of any competence together and relied mostly on a few good individual flourishes, notably Fofana and Fritz, that kept them from being completely embarrassed at their performances. So realistically this was by no means as bad as a game as the Scoland and Italy shambles and again it has to be said, three Slams in eight years is something to respect. But there is a lingering fear that rugby is returning to the old days of dogfights littered with coy moments where teams sit in fear of awarding penalties, never taking any time to run with the ball for fear of an error. The coaching system needs to be addressed but as said earlier, so too does the approach to the rulebook. The game needs alterations to push for more try scoring and above  all else, this game as well as the last of the day suggests that coaches need to spend more time ensuring that their squads are completely adept at handling the scrum and that the IRB and referees need to figure out how to regulate them. Most of what made this game stagnate came down to these factors. Wales 16 – France 9

And then we reach one of the darkest days of Irish rugby. England, on St.Patrick’s Day, following on from three relatively great performances in a row, Ireland should have least been able to compete more than they did on Saturday. Then, with the loss of Mike Ross the IRFU and Irish coaching teams lack of foresight was shown up for the joke that it is. No other European team boasts as little resources in the prop department as Ireland does and what is most painful is that it is not just down to squad depth, more of it comes from unwillingness on the part of the powers that be and coaches to blood the correct players. Mike Ross having to wait for injury to an OAP of rugby is proof of this. What happened then with this tunnel vision is that Ireland lost their first choice front row and it turned out there was no bona fide plan B. Tom Court is not a tight head, simple as. Who else is? Well on an international scale the answer is simple; nobody. Marcus Horan and John Hayes in 09 were the first choice front row. Subs fluctuated between Tony Buckley and Tom Court for the next two years or so whilst Cian Healy eventually made it in due to Horan’s illness. Horan and Hayes are now gone from the international scene. Buckley is pretty much out of the picture after the embarrassment of not being able to even scrum against Russia. And Court is still hanging around but playing on the wrong side of the scrum. So what we wound up with was what happened on Saturday, the Irish scrum lost one component and there was no replacement on offer. Court’s performance was described by Kidney as valiant and it was, but should never have been. He should never have been played on a side of the scrum where the best he can offer is “valiant” rather than at least adequate. Once the scrum was removed, Ireland were lost. Individually, players on both teams were making uncharacteristic errors that all seemed to be a direct result of the malfunctioning scrum. Two individuals need singling out for different reasons however. Even though the entire team was falling apart around him, once more Rob Kearney managed to salvage some respect. Not his best performance by any measure but still good enough to show why he is one of the finest in his position European rugby has to offer. A Lions starter for sure. On the other hand, Thomas O’Leary is proof, if ever it was needed, that Declan Kidney is spineless as a coach. Once Murray was out of the picture, the obvious replacement was surely Boss but he was unfortunately unavailable due to personal reasons. The next in line from an experience perspective then is O’Leary but based on form the obvious choice is Marshall. But Kidney went with O’Leary who, apart from one bit of quick thinking that could have been fantastic had it worked, played the worst of the team even with only thirty minutes to his name. Kidney proved he doesn’t have the stones for bold and daring choices with his selection of O’Leary and proved that there was no hidden merit to him that we didn’t see once he put him out on the pitch. As for the English, once again they find themselves flattered by an underperforming opposition. They did of course deserve the win but were made to look all the more impressive by a poor Ireland, Ben Young’s try being the greatest evidence for this argument. It should have never happened; these are words that will echo form this game for a long time. England though can be proud of the win they achieved over a team that has traditionally handed out the hockeying over the last few years. They will however want to look carefully at the allegation of biting against Dylan Hartley. He is already a player with a despicable reputation and if he is found guilty here he will mar an otherwise successful Six Nations for his team. There is no place on the field for that sort of behaviour. England 30 – Ireland 9