Posts Tagged ‘ Luke Fitzgerald ’

European Rugby – Snowball’s Chance In Hell?

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To say that Leinster will define their season this Sunday is somewhat of an understatement. Pro 12 involvement on the line, consecutive defeats worse than anything in the last decade and a general air of division amongst their fans; this trip to Toulon didn’t need added importance but it has it now.

Matt O’Connor fielded 12 changes in the Pro 12 in an effort to distribute game time ahead of playing a team absolutely spoiled for choice. It wasn’t entirely illogical but what it means is that Leinster are essentially out of the league and this European Cup is all that remains to sign off in some style on a mixed 14/15 season. The obvious backlash here is that they’ve put more pressure on a game that really didn’t need anymore but for the sake of optimism let’s look at it from another angle – Leinster are head first throwing all of their weight into this weekend. Continue reading

Rabo – Provinces Move On To Final Prize

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Once again, May brings the bad news. Irish interest has vacated the Heineken Cup and all the provinces can strive for is Celtic silverware. There has been whispers the last week of the insignificance of the Rabo these days, especially with the shake up it will receive next season due to increased relevance, but I defy you to tell any of these teams that it’s somehow lesser.
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Rabo – Connacht Fight For European Qualification

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Ah yes the news has finally officially come, the Heineken Cup is no more. Next year it will be replaced with the European Rugby Champion’s Cup (or, ERCC, hmmmm) and as well as having a second tier challenge cup there will also be a third tier competition. Arguably this is the best news of the entire deal, and that the ERC could never pull it off maybe justifies their exit from proceedings. The biggest news from this announcement however is that Connacht now know for certain that the final leg of the Rabo is crucial for their European dreams. Continue reading

Six Nations 2014 – Testing Times

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After the highs and lows of the November Internationals, Joe Schmidt must look to the Six Nations Championship as a chance to show what Ireland can really offer. The World Cup in 2015 is being held just across the pond and all eyes will be on England and their neighbouring nations. Schmidt has two Six Nations campaigns to get through before the World Cup becomes an issue to concentrate on. So what are Ireland’s chances in this year’s competition?

It wouldn’t be difficult to improve on last year’s dismal campaign, that had started so well. Beating the reigning champions at home in Cardiff was obviously the best start possible for the Irish. It wasn’t only the points that mattered but it was the way in which the team went about getting them. Yes, they were out on their feet for the last ten minutes or so and they allowed Wales back into that game just after half time, from a 3-30 score line, Ireland held on to win 22-30. It was the first half performance that included hunger, a controlled aggression and an ability to finish that left us feeling that maybe just maybe, another slam was on the cards. It must be said that Wales had suffered seven consecutive defeats (4 versus Australia) and were without their regular head coach Warren Gatland, previous to the Irish game. Still the Irish looked good. Ireland lost out at home to England in a kicking contest on a wet, windy day at home. England however were the favourites after taking care of the All Blacks, the previous November. For Ireland it went from bad to worse, losing to Scotland, drawing with France and for the first time, losing to Italy. Overall a dismal campaign that they will want to forget. Continue reading

Rabo Direct Pro 12: Munster And Leinster Emerge Victorious

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This post Christmas instalment of the RABO saw some great encounters as Ireland’s four provinces battled to earn the bragging rights heading into the new year, with Munster and Leinster occupying first and second place in the table. Continue reading

Heineken Cup: Irish Provinces Seek Further Dominance

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Treviso v Ulster

Treviso head into this game fearing an Ulster side who beat them 48-0 last time out. The Italian side won’t want a repeat of that fixture and they will keep the scores a lot closer this time. However it would be hard to see Ulster lose, especially the way that they play the game and their distribution of the possession is quite remarkable. Ulster’s Luke Marshall was exceptional last weekend and if Ulster play like that again, they will be a real force in this Heineken Cup.

Verdict: Ulster Continue reading

Heineken Cup: Clean Sweep For Irish Provinces

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Toulouse 14 – 16 Connacht

Toulouse started the game at a frantic pace and seemed certain of scoring an early try. However this never materialised and it was Connacht who took the lead courtesy of a penalty and a drop goal by Dan Parks to give them a six point cushion approaching half time. However Toulouse would have a big say before the break as Jean-Pascal Barraque gave Toulouse an unlikely one point lead with a brilliant try. Continue reading

Ireland Retreat To The Old Guard To Avoid Embarrassment

Another week, another test. And where last week that word applied mainly to the experimental selection of head coach Declan Kidney, this week it is a test of character that applies more than anything. The recall of Gordon D’Arcy to the team, though disheartening to Darren Cave to be leapfrogged, is not altogether surprising. Kidney wants to flood the pitch with experience, this game being the control to last week’s experiment. Trimble represents this ethos too. Where last week a daring experiment went horribly wrong, this week he seemingly wishes to see if the tried and tested can go wonderfully right.

Many will scratch their heads as to how this could happen given that the older players have already tried and failed at these big opportunities, and Kidney will tell you that this is a different team with a different attitude. But the truth is, Ireland have this unique opportunity to take two games worth of knowledge and, if properly analysed, turn it against the All Blacks next week. It’s never and ideal situation when a coach is seemingly happy to take defeat in order to breed a win at the end, but it does seem to be the approach this time around, though of course we would never have this clarified for us.

The other change in the team, excluding the welcome return of Mike Ross, is that of Peter O’Mahony dropping out in favour of Kevin McLaughlin. It is a surprise, given how much in competition the two are as opposed to it being a “young replacing old” type of situation. What can be drawn from it is that Kidney was unhappy with O’Mahony’s performance coupled with more desire still to bring in fresh faces, seeing as that O’Mahony remains on the bench.

Then as usual with this coach, there is the change that wasn’t. I’m talking of course about Conor Murray retaining the number 9 jersey ahead of Eoin Reddan. Reddan didn’t seem to provide any massive change when he came on last weekend and so it isn’t a case of him declaring a better stake for the start, but Murray was definitely not at his most comfortable last Saturday and of it weren’t for at least two try saving tackle efforts his attack alone would have warranted him dropping to the bench. Ultimately it has never hurt any player to get a bit of a reality check, see the four drops for the Scotland match in 09, Sexton being reminded he has a jersey to earn for his entire first season in green, and possibly the biggest example is Keith Earls who constantly warmed the bench, has been tossed around various positions and now finally shows promise that his efforts have paid off in that he looks ready to become a top class centre.

So, results. Well, it’s a no brainer based on history, the All Blacks will win this game. But what can Ireland get from it? Well of course, much like the thousands in Poland, we can hope for a win, it is of course possible if every chip falls as required. But more than that, an education is the best thing that can come from this game. We have seen how a few young bucks and debutants handled the pressure last week, this week we will see how the old guard is fairing. If the Irish management can do the right thing and enter the third test with a combination proven by the first two tests, we could have a game by next week. For now though, with the emotional return to Christchurch hanging over the fixture, it has to be New Zealand win

Something else worth paying attention to this summer is that, apart from Scotland’s shock win over the Aussies, the first weekend’s games has shown it to be a rought time for the old Northern VS Southern Hemisphere war. Both Australis and South Africa trumped their European competitors with nothing resembling a form performance. The hoodoo of Six Nations teams playing below the equator remains it seems. This doesn’t lessen the blow of Ireland getting an absolute spanking from the Kiwis, but it does put a general perspective on the divide that seemingly still exists between North and South.

In local news, Luke Fitzgerald’s woes just keep coming as he has been ruled out for another six months through injury and looks like he will have to settle for the lesser figure, possible less again still, that he refused earlier in the year. His contract will also seemingly not be a central one. All in all it leaves a still young and talented footballer out in the lurch and when the IRFU are keen to hand out central contracts to players such as Dennis Leamy who clearly had very little rugby left in him at the time, it does make you wonder. No disrespect meant to Leamy, but Fitzgerald was obviously the more promising talent at the time and the IRFU have blown it.

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