Ireland Second Rows in 2016 – The Post-Paul O’Connell Era

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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

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Ruck Marks: England vs Ireland 2014

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.

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

Ireland vs England Match Reaction

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.

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

Play La Marseillaise; Play It!

Freddie’s back at No10 and Les Bleus have scored 94 points in three games in front of clamourous home crowds, hammering the Wallabies 33-6 before gutting the Pumas 39-19, then breaking down a super-physical Samoan challenge to ride out 22-14 winners and end their series undefeated. Something is very, very right with French rugby at the moment. That isn’t a good advent for Ireland, but it does wonders for the rugby world as a whole. Continue reading

Match Reaction #2: Where The Game Was Won And Lost

The England scrum is about to disappear stage right in about three seconds ...

Twenty-four of England’s thirty-point haul came directly from scrum penalties; the other six were from two penalties late in either half for offside. Rory Best was pinged for “taking up the space” on the English side of a ruck on about 33 minutes, and the Irish defensive line were penalized en masse at 76 mins in front of the sticks, from which Farrell mercifully took the points instead of inflicting another scrum. Yep, it could have been even worse …  Continue reading

Match Reaction #1: Sins Of Omission

From an English perspective, it has been a hugely encouraging Six Nations:  the team improved with every performance, won four out of five games, were narrowly [and somewhat controversially] beaten in the single game they lost and finished with a resounding thumping of a team who have had their number in recent years.  Continue reading