Posts Tagged ‘ FIJI ’

Irish Rugby Review 2013


The November series of 2012 led us into 2013 with a mixed bag of expectations, hope and a real feel of not knowing where Irish rugby was going. There was a sense that change was on the horizon, Declan Kidney was in charge of an ageing team but there were signs of talented youth on the periphery. South Africa were the first of the visiting nations and in a tight game they just did enough to keep Ireland from claiming a win. A scoreline of 16-12 suggested as much but it was a game that Ireland should have and could have won. The courageous performance of nearly winning was now becoming a bit too regular and the fans were becoming somewhat impatient, good performances no longer enough to keep them happy. The following week, an uncapped Ireland XV played host to Fiji in Thomond Park. It was a game that although one-sided, I as an Irish rugby fan, thoroughly enjoyed. Continue reading

Autumn Internationals – Schmidt Era Stutters Drastically

O'Connell's look of dejection sums things up adequately

O’Connell’s look of dejection sums things up adequately

France 38 – 18 Tonga

France started this game in brilliant fashion when Guitoune was setup with a superb cross field kick that gave them the early lead. Morgan Parra was on form from the boot, slotting three successive penalties despite missing the early conversion. France didn’t have it all their own way however as Tonga were creating try scoring chances that really should have been converted. Apikotoa slotted over two penalties to give them some respectability on the scoreboard.  Continue reading

Autumn Internationals – Schmidt’s First Real Test Awaits


Ireland v Australia

Ireland come into this game on the back of an easy win over Samoa, in a game that never really challenged them. Joe Schmidt will have been happy with his first game in charge as the Samoan defence had no answer to the force of his dominant Irish side.

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Get Ready For A Bruiser As Ireland Battle Argentina

It seems slightly redundant by now to harp on about selection, but unfortunately the Irish management seem to be hell bent on courting controversy. After the demolition of Fiji last week there has been a lot of arguments put forward for some of that match day 22 to see game time this weekend against the Pumas. As it stands, Declan Kidney has wrung one change, replacing Andrew Trimble with Craig Gilroy. Whilst nobody will argue with the inclusion of the hat-trick wizard Gilroy, what exactly did Trimble do to ask to be dropped from the team altogether? Are we to believe that it was him that was the weak link against the Boks? What about Paddy Jackson’s assured display in Limerick getting him a place on the bench? Or either of Cave or Marshall being tried at 12. Maybe Cronin deserves the start with Strauss a much more obvious fit for the “impact sub” role? What’s more, why does Mike Ross have to start three tests in a row when Michael Bent has proven in two showings that he is at least capable of keeping the tighthead position ticking over. We are supposed to be somewhat past the days of John Hayes being worked day in day out in the three jersey, yet Mike Ross is now turning into workhorse 2.0.

Oh well, much like the players can only play the game in front of them as they well did last week, the fans can only watch the game in front of them. And here’s how things are looking. On form, Argentina are definitely the better of the two sides for this Saturday. Admittedly in their inaugural Four Nations they looked somewhat like Italy did for their first few seasons in the Six Nations; slightly astray underdogs who can do best to hope for an admirable defeat. That being said they did manage that 16 all draw against South Africa, and then held New Zealand to a relatively small winning margin in the next fixture. On this tour they have performed remarkably well against a Welsh team in disarray and followed that with a loss to a French team who are looking incredibly dangerous. Then of course there’s that rivalry.

Yes Argentina and Ireland share a rivalry that is like no other, mainly because unlike all other rugby rivalries, it is less than twenty years old. Both teams have been clashing since 1990 but the legacy kicked off in 1999 with a crushing and high scoring encounter in Lansdowne Road and since then this fixture has always proven to be a hard fought and often ugly affair, which also somehow always manages to carry some weight with it, be it World Cup qualification, ranking points etc. With the selection he has put forward Declan Kidney would appear to be a fan of these bruising encounters, with the flair from last weekend being much more the MO of the young starters who have not made their way into the team. This is a safe selection, one which is probably enough to hold off the Argies and prevent them from getting the win that would see us out of the Top 8 in the world and so we come back to those pesky ranking points again.

Staying on that topic jut a little more, lets talk about exactly what these ranking points mean. If we were to fall out of the Top 8 we would find ourselves in the third tier of world rugby and would therefore be in a pool containing one of New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and, likely, France. The pool would also contain one of Argentina, England, Samoa and Wales. There is of course a chance that regardless of our standing we could find ourselves in the same group, but the second most important factor with rank is the schedule, with the last world cup showing particularly with Samoa how much the tournament looks down on the lower ranked nations. Ireland at the moment could not cope with the schedule that would be inflicted on them in three years time, nor would it exactly be the best confidence boost for a team in need of one based on their current slump in form.

So is it a win? Is it important? To put it simply, when your country’s team plays in any sport, the behind the scenes factors take second place. It is our jobs to bring you this information, but it is up to the fans to keep faith in the darkest times. Ireland don’t look anything like being at their best at the minute, but there is still a wealth of positives to be seen. We are coping admirably under serious pressure through injuries, the destruction of Fiji was provided by a group of young bucks with little or no time in green to their name and above all else, there is a clean home record against this opposition for Ireland as well as the general ability of these players to front up in this fixture and to come through for ranking points when they are on the line, Ireland should be able to do this. But it won’t be easy, it certainly won’t be comfy and it most definitely won’t be fun to watch. But Ireland should just about sneak it. Get ready for a bruiser.

Young Flyers Annihilate Fiji, Over To You Declan

Before discussing Saturdays ludicrously “non test” game against Fiji I want to remind readers about a moment in recent Irish rugby history. Cast your minds back to September 11th 2011,the day Ireland took the field against the USA in a miserable win for Ireland over a vastly inferior team. The result was never in doubt, but nodoby could have called it being so hard fought and so unconvincing. Not once did the USA look as though they could cause an upset and steal a win, but Ireland also never looked like they would make it next door near the far end of the pool. The point of this flashback is to highlight a point with regard to Saturdays encounter that most seem to be calling out, that is that you can only play what’s in front of you.

It is irrelevant that Fiji were abysmal and that they didn’t manage to register a single point, the Irish 15 still had two options, to either go out and arm wrestle and ugly win or to do as they did and show some serious cojones and skill regardless of opposition. Bar Sean Cronin’s try (which was still a bloody impressive drive) no other score in the game was by any means straight forward or old fashioned. Each and every try was oozing with flair, most notably the ice breaker produced by some fantastic running from Luke Marshall, the O’Driscoll-esque line cut by Darren Cave and the blistering breakaway that led to Gilroy’s third of the night. On top of this there was the assured performance at 10 by Paddy Jackson, although some of the simpler kicks at goal he missed could have been ones to haunt him in a bigger game. There was also some fantastic ball carrying shown by Henderson and of course Heaslip once again. Then there was the confident “part 2” appearance at fullback for Simon Zebo when he was introduced albeit for only a short spell. From 1 down to 23 it was quite hard to find fault in the Irish players performances, apart from some kissed tackles here and there that again would have been crucial in a more significant game. There also was probably one or two more tries there to be had but at the minute I guess we will take 53 to nothing. The little things, you know?

So what does it all mean for next weekend then? With Scotland well and truly removed from our world ranking threats but a win still very much needed against the Pumas, what does Declan do next? Well most encouragingly Kidney has said that these players have legitimately put themselves up for contention. Whilst these words have been said before, let us not forget that three years ago this fixture led to Jonathan Sexton starting against South Africa in the last match of an unbeaten year for Ireland. Now realistically there is no chance of Jackson taking 10 on Saturday, but there is now legitimate call for him to take a place on the bench, jarring as it would seem for him to usurp O’Gara out of nowhere (like a certain Mr Sexton). Gilroy too could definitely step into the team, although who to drop in favour of him is nothing short of a selection nightmare. In an ideal world Kidney would see the benefit of leaving D’Arcy out of the loop when his game improving Leinster partner is out of business. This would allow for a centre pair of Earls and McFadden with Bowe and Gilroy taking the wings and Trimble taking the impact sub mantle on the bench. Unfair as it may be, it has to be done to progress before the Six Nations.

Being less optimistic the only possible changes are really Paul Marshall in and Jackson possibly warming the bench, as Kidney I’d likely to employ his concept of players from a previous fixture proving themselves and writing wrongs in the subsequent test. It’s not ideal but credit has to go to the man, two weeks on the go he has got the selections nearly perfect and in week two he also seems to have got more of a grasp on how to utilise subs. For now let’s just relish in what is a rare Irish victory these days, one that came through flair and invention rather than a shunting match and one which shows there’s one he’ll of a future in green for Irish rugby fans, though they seemed to be the only ones that already knew that.

Autumn Internationals Round-up

Scotland 22 –v-  New Zealand  51

Dan Carter guided World Champions New Zealand to victory against Scotland in front of a full house in Murrayfield.  Carter is peerless in world rugby and today he showed all his skills as he orchestrated three of the All Blacks’ tries and amassed 21 points with his boot.  Before kick-off, a fiery Scottish side marched forward to meet the haka, signalling their intent.  Throughout the match the Scots endeavour could not be faulted but the gulf in class was always evident as New Zealand never looked troubled.

It only took two minutes for the All Blacks to register points in this game courtesy of Carter’s boot.  Then Scotland struck.  In what was his only mistake of the game, Carter threw a pass that was picked off by Scottish centre Matt Scott.  He galloped free but had the presence of mind to pop a pass to his flying winger Tim Visser on his left shoulder who outpaced Corey Jane for the first try of the game.  It was converted and Scotland had the lead 7-3.  An aberration?  Indeed.  Minutes later Carter was making amends; with two breaks in quick succession he tore the Scottish defence asunder.  Each time he realised he was up against a forward – a mismatch – and stepped inside.  On the second occasion he fed Israel Dagg who crossed for the try. Carter converted, and normality was resumed 7-10.

In a ten minute spell from the 30 minute mark, scoring three tries in quick succession, the New Zealanders showed why they are the best team in world rugby at present.  Led by their captain Richie McCaw’s example they got their hands on the ball, rucked mercilessly, passed deftly and ran at space; no other team combines all these skills as they do.  The second try summed it up.  It was quick hands all the way across the field but each man, no matter what number was on his back, especially Adam Thompson, displayed the hands of a first class centre.  It is the simple skills but they have mastered them and they do it at such pace.  Scotland could not live with them as Piri Weepu displayed the same deft handling down a narrow channel before Andrew Hore crossed for the try.  With three hammer blows this game was effectively won and with panache.  It threatened to get ugly with the All Blacks scoring at will but Scotland fronted up again and they were rewarded deep into first half injury time with a score of their own.  After a number of quick tap penalties, Geoff Cross slipped under Richie McCaw’s tackle for the try that did not need the TMO.  Scotland went in 17 – 34 down.

In the second half the All Blacks were down to 14 men when Adam Thompson stamped a Scottish player in the head while he was lying prostrate in a ruck.  He will be cited for the offence and could miss the remainder of the tour.  Scotland took advantage of the numbers as Visser went over for another try.  Warren Gatland got proof today that Visser is a test level winger.  Visser and Richie Gray could be the only Scottish players on the starting Lions team when Gatland’s men tour Down Under at the end of the season.  New Zealand received a penalty shortly after this try and they elected to kick for goal this was a measure of the resilient Scottish performance.  Two further All Black tries inevitably came to put a gloss on the scoreboard but Scotland will take pride in their resolve and the fact that they scored three tries and 22 points – more than any other team has put on the board against New Zealand in the last two years; moral victories are made of such.

These Autumn Internationals will showcase the All Blacks in the first stage of transition towards the 2015 World Cup in England.  Their squad is a mix of fresh caps, new combinations, experience and excellence.  Hanson and his coaching team know that in three year’s time they will come to the Northern hemisphere to defend their World Cup.  The All Blacks’ conveyor belt looks as healthy as ever and the transition appears seamless – it doesn’t bode well for the rest of us.  Next year, Captain McCaw will take a six month sabbatical from the game which will see him miss the whole Super Rugby campaign.  This is in order to increase his longevity in an attempt to have him play until 2015.  It’s a long shot but Hanson is willing to do whatever he can to keep his inspirational leader, together with his playmaker Dan Carter, on the international paddock for as long as possible.

France 33 –v- Australia 6


France were the only Six Nations team to beat their Rugby Championship opponents this weekend and they did so convincingly.  Warren Gatland will bemoan the fact that he can’t select any of the Gallic men for his touring squad at the end of the season but he will draw comfort from the weak state of Australian rugby.

The Wallabies have to select from a smaller pool of players than their fanatical neighbours New Zealand as a result of the sport being the fourth most popular code in the country.  Yet in the face of this they have always managed to produce attacking players of the highest calibre but with an injury list including most of their marquee names their strength in depth will be tested on this tour.  The Wallabies have failed to cross the whitewash in their last two tests.  This doesn’t signal a crisis for coach Robbie Deans but he will know that England will be targeting next weekend as a chance to put one over on the Wallabies.

French intensity at the breakdown and scrum-time blew away a callow Australian team.  The men in blue were led by Freddie Michalak – plying his trade in Super Rugby with the Sharks franchise – he kicked two penalties, three conversions and a drop goal for a total of 15 points from his boot.  The mercurial fly-half has been out of favour with the national team. This was only his third test in so many years but with current form he looks ready to guide this team.  The French at home are hard to live with but the Wallabies will need to re-group and fast or this will be a long Autumn tour.  They will be boosted by the return from injury of their captain David Pocock and winger Digby Ioane.

Wales 12 –v- Argentina 26


Argentina have emerged battle hardened from their first year in the inaugural Rugby Championship competition and this showed in their defeat of Wales in the Millenium Stadium.

It was a gruelling encounter as is always the way when the Argies are involved.  The game saw the re-introduction of Felipe Contepomi to the test arena but this was short lived as he came off injured only fifteen minutes in after tackling George North.   Welsh centre Jamie Roberts, who has become the latest Wales international to announce that he will leave the Cardiff Blues for the lucrative French Top 14, also came off injured after 25 minutes because of a head clash.  He was replaced by James Hook who is already playing his club rugby in France.

All the Welsh points in this game came from the boot of Leigh Halfpenny.  Argentina were 9 – 6 down at half time but they came out in the second half and scored two tries to take victory.  Argentina more than matched Wales throughout the game and their reward came on 55 minutes when Juan Imhoff beat Leigh Halfpenny to score the first try.  Gonzalo Camacho also scored in the corner.  Both these tries were converted by out-half Nicholas Sanchez who also added a penalty that gave them the deserved win.

The Welsh team were bereft of attacking ideas during the game and the home fans showed their dismay at the final whistle by booing the team.  Rob Howley, who is interim coach with Warren Gatland on Lions duty, has now presided over four defeats in five games in charge.  Perhaps the Welsh team’s gruelling Polish training camp has them a little flat on the field or maybe the mass exodus of players is having an effect on the international side.

In the other games on the weekend England hammered a weak Fijian side – England 54 –v- Fiji 12  and Italy narrowly defeated Tonga –  Italy 28 –v- Tonga 23.