Donnacha Ryan and Devin Toner celebrate Ireland’s victory over the All Blacks in Chicago. They’re neither the most complementary second row partnership that Ireland have fielded in the professional era, nor the most individually talented locks, but they’ve succeeded where more illustrious pairings have failed.
Given the number of headlines sent to print and the variety of plaudits doled out for Ireland’s performances in November, it has been telling that very few of those made a hero of Devin Toner, one of only two Irish players to have gone the full 80 minutes in the three games against Southern Hemisphere opposition. Continue reading →
Conor Murray and Andrew Trimble make an effective last ditch tackle on England wing Johnny May to prevent a certain try early in the game [photo copyright – Mark Pain].
Narrow margins! England versus Ireland was a high intensity game, and a different standard to the rest of the championship thus far. English coach Stuart Lancaster isn’t given to exaggeration, and his description of the game as “a real test match” was both accurate and, in its way, laudatory. The action was genuinely high-paced for much of the 80 minutes, and with that came individual errors from a lot of players on both sides of the pitch. Unrelentingly high impact collisions from gun to tape will do that to you. Continue reading →
Devin Toner goes high to claim one of the six lineouts he took against Wales. The lineout was the most important set-piece of the game, and dominance in the air paved the way for a resounding Irish victory.
Since Ireland ground Wales into the dirt of Lansdowne Road, the defending Six Nations champions have reclaimed their honour by thumping a patchy – but until that point unbeaten – France in Cardiff. Ireland narrowly lost to England the same weekend in Twickenham, a trial the Welsh have yet to undergo. Continue reading →
Paul O’Connell’s expression says it all. Ireland were seconds away from a first win over New Zealand in the history of games between the two countries, but it was snatched out of their hands.
Amidst no small dollop of carping and moaning about what a pain in the arse it was, we mentioned at the end of the last Ruck Marks article that we’d try and run a similar exercise using Ireland’s November tests as our subjects. We surprised ourselves by actually carrying this through [just like we carried through our tag index … all the way up to ‘D’] with a Boxeresque appetite for dumb labour. Continue reading →
Not an oul fellah in sight: Ben Youngs, Joe Launchbury, Peter O’Mahony and Cian Healy are four youngsters who will have big parts to play over the coming decade in these clashes. The torch has been well and truly passed in England, and Ireland have some catching up to do.
There are always a dozen good reasons why a team loses a relatively close match – invariably, some of them are to do with the other crowd playing well. Continue reading →
A classic ‘game of two halves’ started with two prominent absentees. Warren Gatland’s appointment as Lions coach has left his Welsh team without their galvanising force and they looked shorn of purpose for much of the first half. Justin Tipuric’s omission amazed the Mole, particularly in light of Ryan Jones’ thumb injury. Continue reading →
Roger Wilson bursts through a gap for Northampton. The two-time Ulster Player of the Year has returned to his home province, having spent four busy years with the Saints. It will be interesting to see if his performances in the white No8 jersey can push him forward for international contention, or if there’s too much track worn off the tires.
Roger Wilson: since making his debut for Ulster as a 21-year old in September 2002, the Belfast-born No8 has played an enormous amount of professional rugby. In five seasons with Ulster he played 116 games [101 starts] and since moving to Northampton at the end of the 2007-08 season he hasn’t let up, playing 117 games [108 starts] for the Saints. In total, he has played 46 Heineken Cup games, all but one of them from kick-off.
How many tests for Ireland has he played? One. Against Japan. Seven years ago. Continue reading →
The idea that test matches are a neat block of matches played at one level, with Heineken Cup games forming another distinct grouping a step down from that in intensity, speed, skill levels, physicality, time allowed in possession and tactical appreciation – and Pro12 matches a discrete block a further notch down from those Heineken Cup games – is one to which The Mole doesn’t subscribe. Continue reading →
Sure, there are a lot of moving parts in a team and they all have to do their job, but some are more vital than others.
Many moons ago, when the Mole was a nipper and student transport offered only two options – the heel-toe express or the push bike – to get to training or school or any of the other ‘priorities’ of our young lives, he learned all about the linchpin. Uniquely shaped [square at the top and tapering smoothly within its two inches to a round threaded base], the linchpin connected the crank-arm of the pedal through the centre of the big cogs of the front chain ring to the joint of the frame where the seat tube met the down tube. It seemed insignificant in the overall use of a bicycle: it wasn’t a wheel which covered the ground, and it wasn’t a pedal which took the weight. But without a linchpin, the bike wouldn’t go. You couldn’t apply power and you couldn’t cover ground. Continue reading →
Steve Hansen was right: New Zealand didn’t play that well in the Christchurch test. Some of that was forced on them by an aggressive, hard-nosed Irish performance, but they also made a number of unforced errors. Ireland didn’t perform cleverly or with the required level of concentration and aggression in a number of areas in the Auckland test [especially after the first half hour] and as a result handed New Zealand not just the result, but also the big performance. England caved in a similar way in Lansdowne Road in 2011, and let Ireland play close to their potential. Continue reading →