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Posts Tagged ‘ Mike Ross ’

Six Nations 2015 – The Old Enemy

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Dual blogged on I’m Talkin’ Here

There is no sweeter victory for an Irish rugby team than one sealed over England; 800 years and all that. Geoghegan, Horgan, Gaillimh, McLaughlin – through the years this fixture has had a tendency to turn players into legends of the game. It barely needs to be discussed but a litany of (sporting) history explains why. Continue reading

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Guinness Series – Too Soon To Be Cocky?

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Yes we beat the second best team in the world, after they just beat the best. Yes the hype and hysteria was completely justified. Yes – all talk of winning the World Cup has ramped up massively. Maybe that isn’t quite so justified. Either way questions of whether or not Georgia can cause an upset here should be gone now. Without wanting to sound too cocky, the question is how much Ireland will win by.

Seven years ago Ireland nearly suffered a fate worse than death – elimination from the World Cup at the hands of Georgia. They were only squaring off in the second game of the pool, but suffice to say had Ireland fallen in that game none of the residual hope would have spilled into the games against France and Argentina. But the times have changed, as last week showed, and the chances of limping home by four points this time are nil. Continue reading

Rabo Direct Pro 12: The Leinster-Munster Juggernaut Returns

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Ah its back again. Post-Six Nations hangovers are worse when you’re successful, no doubt about that. There’s little to win in the muddling Rabo games that arise between the end of the Six Nations and the Heineken Cup resumption. But then along comes the colossus, the manly Munstermen versus the Leinster ladyboys, a fixture that defies all logic and at times elevates above European standard. Ah yes, it’s good to be back.
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Three Uncapped Players In Ireland Squad For Guinness Series

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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

Bon Voyage, Jonny

JSSo yes it was confirmed by the IRFU last week, Jonathan Sexton will not be playing his club rugby in Ireland for the next two seasons at least. Of course, where he will be playing it remains a mystery as Racing Metro are still maintaining they have not signed him but with French regulations stipulating that transfers and new signings cannot be announced until later in the season, don’t expect any confirmation for a while, though how it will remain a secret until April is a mystery in itself. Still the fact remains that Ireland is losing one of its most talented and influential club players and with that has come extremely mixed reactions. Continue reading

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.

Leinster Scrum Keeps Them Moving In The Right Direction

In the Heineken Cup nobody remembers performances in October, only results.  So in that regard Leinster will be satisfied with their two wins from two as they ran out 20-13 winners on the road against the Scarlets (having narrowly accounted for Exeter at home the week before).  Up front last Saturday’s performance was more convincing from the champions but their levels dropped in the second half letting Scarlets back into this encounter.  Leinster lacked their characteristic attacking flair and second half sloppiness meant it was much closer than it should have been. In December they will need a much more sustained 80 minutes to live with pace-setters Clermont who have revenge on their minds.

The two out-halves on display in this game are the top contenders for Warren Gatland’s number 10 jersey comes the Lions tour.  Both were lacklustre; neither playmaker made a strong claim for the position.  Jonathan Sexton remains the favourite but it was his sloppy kicking from hand in the second half that allowed Scarlets the field position to claw their way back into the game.  Sexton kicked four penalties and a sublime drop goal but he missed a few that he would normally get which would have closed out the game.  He also kicked a couple of balls out on the full surrendering crucial field-position.  Welsh out-half Rhys Priestland had a nightmare from the tee.  He was given a number of chances to punish Leinster’s indiscipline but he could not, missing three shots at goal.

The two tries scored in this game pitted youth against experience.  In a fifteen man game one-on-one battles are rare but decisive.  In Parc Y Scarlets the game’s two tries came as a result of two match-ups created by the grit and grind of their team-mates but finished off superbly by individuals.  The first was when Leinster had a penalty advantage and Sexton used it well placing a cross-field kick right over the try line.  Isa Nacewa had the momentum and rose above the towering George North to claim Sexton’s kick.  He still had a lot to do as he tore himself free of North’s grasp and deftly touched down all in one movement.  The touch-judge correctly called it a try and the TMO was not needed.  North’s talent and promise is as large as his 6ft 4 inch stature but Nacewa’s guile and determination showed that the Welsh youngster still has quite a bit to learn.  One nil to experience.  However youth would have its moment later in the game.

Scarlets’ centre Gareth Maule would have seen his battle against Brian O’Driscoll as the biggest test of his rugby career to date.  O’Driscoll, as an outside centre, has had few peers in his thirteen year reign.  He alerted the world to his talents on the 2001 Lions tour to Australia and this summer he will look to book his place on a fourth Lions tour and his second Down Under.  On 52 minutes, off a lineout, Maule caught a skip pass from his out-half Priestland.  The centre checked briefly which caught O’Driscoll on his heels.  The Irish captain never recovered from his momentary flat-footedness as the centre glided around him and through the gap showing a sharp turn of pace.  The veteran, tracking back, dived in desperation but couldn’t grab a firm hold of his opponent who slipped away to touch down in the corner.  This was the only time in the game that the Leinster defence was breached in what was an otherwise excellent defensive display.  Maule will never forget the try and it brought Scarlets right back into the game.

The visitors’ response was led by their front-row, anchored by Mike Ross and bolstered by the introduction of the South African pair Heinke Van Der Merwe and Ricardt Strauss, which obliterated the Scarlets’ eight running them backwards, ensuring that Sexton’s boot could guide his team to victory.

Leinster’s cup winning mentality has been founded on an abrasive defence.  Led by the ever vocal Shane Jennings they tackled ferociously and competed for every ball at the breakdown.  They stifled the Scarlets’ backline, who are not only the top domestic scorers with nineteen tries but two months ago had put 45 points on a shadow Leinster side.  The Welsh region was clearly missing their tank, Jonathan Davies, at inside centre and so they lacked the dynamic go forward ball that he gives them.  Over the last two years he has made a habit of crossing the whitewash against both the provinces and our national team so his absence was noticeable.

Coach Schmidt a month ago was nervously staring into three important games with his team misfiring.  Their resurgence started with their win against Munster and they have found themselves on the right side of Heineken Cup results, which is what matters.  Now he can address performance issues.  He will look to sharpen Leinster’s attack and that will be aided by the return of a number of marquee players from injury.  He has a month in the Rabo Direct for his team to improve and with continuity they should.  The double-header against Clermont in December will determine who will have the home quarter-final.

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