Don’t Cry In Front Of The Mexicans: Ulster’s 2020-21 Season [And How They Must Keep Twirling, Twirling, Twirling Towards Freedom in 2021-22]

What are you looking at? A season falling apart.

Ulster’s season was marked by drama but lacked tangible achievement. The province started the season in two competitions and ended up playing in four: in two they were competitive [the Pro14 and the Challenge Cup], and in the other two [the Champions Cup and the Rainbow Cup] they were lacklustre. 

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Leinster – A Tale of Two Units

For the fourth season in a row, Leinster came out on top of the Pro14. Over the course of those four editions of the tournament, the Blue Machine have won 64 games and lost 13, with only two losses in the last two seasons. It has been an era of unprecedented domestic dominance, but each campaign has had its own shape and eccentricities.

Leinster took their fourth consecutive Pro14 title – and eighth league title overall – with a terse and professional win over close neighbours and long-time rivals Munster in a deserted RDS a couple of weekends ago. The mid-season final brought a sudden close to what has been a strange, arhythmic competition: Glasgow Warriors and Benetton Treviso played out their practically meaningless fixture in Scotstoun at lunchtime on the same day, as if to highlight the ungainly scheduling that saw a league final played just a day after the last match – albeit a rearranged last match – of the Six Nations. 

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Connacht Locks

When recently announcing the promotion of six players from the academy, Connacht coach Andy Friend was effusive in his praise for 20 year old Buccaneers lock, Niall ‘Bruce’ Murray: “Because he’s tall and lean there’s a bit of a narrative out there that he may not be physical enough. Mate, he’s very physical and he’s very smart too. He’s a good footballer, moves well and a very, very good lineout player defensively.”   Continue reading

Janus 19|20 – The Second Row

The demonstration of the Springboks’ scrummaging might in the World Cup Final showed a definite logic behind Joe Schmidt’s pre-occupation with the set-piece prowess of his own second rows. Like the rest of us, Schmidt probably expected that we’d wind up playing South Africa in the quarter-final; hope for the best, plan for the worst and all that. Continue reading

Leinster’s League


Leinster ground and brutalised their way to a sixth league trophy in a manner that was redolent of Joe Schmidt’s Ireland at their peak. Up against a raucous hometown crowd in a tight stadium on a wet day, the reigning champions measured pragmatism against ambition and tuned their game to the key of W.  Just win, baby. 

If you get to the Pro14 final, and you’re not Leinster, odds are that you’re going to face them there. The Big East have appeared in eight of ten finals since the competition adopted the playoff format.  Continue reading

Selecting Ireland’s RWC Squad

Robert Kearney is not given to off-the-cuff comments; there’s a whole Twitter persona — with 86,500 followers! — that is built on that premise. So when, in the immediate aftermath of the Grand Slam victory against England on St Patrick’s Day 2018, he gave a brief interview to Sinead Kissane of Virgin TV in which he said “For the next 18 months, this group and our coaches will have our focus entirely on the World Cup…”, he revealed more than usual in a spot made mandatory by media demands.

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Showdown at Ravenhill

Ulster Rugby_Tommy Dickon_INPHO

Ulster are giving their fans something to cheers about after a couple of dreadful seasons where the province has let its supporters down, both on and off the pitch. A real test of their mettle is around the corner when rivals Munster make the trip up to Ravenhill at the weekend.

Munster are travelling up to Ulster on Friday night for the first of the Christmas season interpro series, and The Mole was just struck by the realisation that, at this moment in time, both sides sport identical records for the season: P14 | W9 | D1 | L4 Continue reading