Welcome to my 80+ column, a new weekly post featuring final thoughts from the week of rugby just gone.
As I sit down to type this column, the official word of Stu Lancaster’s future is making its way through the ruggersphere so I’ll move this point up to top billing.
To go with my tongue in cheek initial thoughts, I first have state a general opinion that I really, really, don’t like the way announcements like these are made mid-season at the best of times, but absolutely not when the talks which led to the announcement involving two teams which are slated to meet in very important HCC encounters over the coming months.
Now I know how my complaint may sound. Like it means Lancaster would somehow be “compromised” when it came to those matches. But that’s far from what I mean – I have no doubt everyone involved is professional in their approach to every match regardless of what is due to happen when the season is over.
But still I believe questions need to be asked. Did Racing make their offer before or after the draw pitted them against Leinster? Is that not a reasonable thing to want to know, even if it’s unlikely to ever be officially known?
A similar thing happened to Leinster back when it was announced that Jimmy Gopperth was to join or HCup pool mates Wasps, again after the draw was made. Whatever about levels of professionalism, it just doesn’t sit well with me whenever it happens.
Some are saying it would be better for Stu to leave now because of the arrangement, but I wouldn’t agree. It’s not like he’s leaving because anything is going wrong, more like the exact opposite. Anyway, here’s hoping he and Johnny S can have the perfect end to their current respective employments.
BACK AT THE RDS
It goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway…it was BRILLIANT to be back at the RDS, so much so that, as I noted in the pod, I wasn’t even bothered by the first official rendition of “LEINSTER, LEINSTER” by the crowd in the opening stages. In the past I found it ok on its own yet totally unsuitable as our principal chant. But this time it sounded good to me.
On the way to the bus stop afterwards I saw a group of young lads coming towards me on Anglesea Road – there were three of them walking side by side and the one nearest the road had a rugby ball. When a tree blocked his path, without hesitating he ran towards it and made like it was a would(wood?)-be tackler and sent a neat offload around the back of it towards his mate. The future looks bright.
It’s always concerning when a matchday 23 is altered at the last moment and it seems to happen to Leinster and Ireland quite a bit. Last weekend it was James Ryan who was removed before kickoff. Then just five minutes into the match Caelan Doris went off for an HIA from which he never returned, and later we saw Ciaran Frawley, Jimmy O’Brien and Will Connors all replaced leaving us with an extremely makeshift backline in the closing stages.
The official line on the squad is now this…
INJURY UPDATE – AVAILABLE FOR SELECTION:
Joe McCarthy: came through the game at the weekend with no issues after recovering from an ankle injury and has joined the Emerging Ireland squad
Jordan Larmour: came through the game at the weekend with no issues after recovering from a knee injury
Jamison Gibson-Park: has recovered from illness and is expected to train as normal this week
INJURY UPDATE – FURTHER ASSESSMENT REQUIRED:
Ciarán Frawley: injured his shoulder late in the first half against Benetton Rugby and will be further assessed this week by the Leinster Rugby medical team after his removal from the Emerging Ireland squad
Will Connors: aggravated his back in the second half against Benetton Rugby and was removed as a precaution and will be further assessed this week
Liam Turner: will look to step up his rehabilitation this week as he recovers from a toe injury and aim to integrate into rugby training
James Ryan: was withdrawn from the match day XV against Benetton Rugby with a minor hamstring injury sustained in the captain’s run on Thursday. Will be further assessed this week
INJURY UPDATE – UNAVAILABLE FOR SELECTION:
Caelan Doris: was withdrawn for a Head Injury Assessment in the first half against Benetton Rugby and will now enter the Graduated Return to Play Protocols
NO INJURY UPDATE – UNAVAILABLE FOR SELECTION:
Hugo Keenan (abdominal & knee injury), James Lowe (calf), James Tracy (neck), Charlie Ryan (knee), Tommy O’Brien (knee)
With talk of Johnny Sexton being available for what could in all likelihood be his last match in Belfast this Friday evening, along with the injuries and those gone on the Emerging Ireland tour, I’m wondering if we could be looking at a Leinster XV close to this in our top of the table URC clash…
J O’Brien, Larmour, Ringrose, Henshaw, Kearney, Sexton, Gibson-Park.
Porter, Sheehan/Kelleher, Furlong, Jenkins, Ryan, Ruddock, van der Flier, Conan.
I reckon I’d be happy enough with that.
No need to a load of paragraphs here, just pointing out that the All Blacks won TRC, right after we won a series against them. I’m not saying that proves anything that’s going to happen in the future, I just enjoyed typing that sentence, especially the last bit.
Keego gave his thoughts on the pod, and in that “Front Five” segment I try to keep things brief so I held back my own until here.
Before we harp on what he did, we must put the whole thing in context. Stormers winger Seabelo Senatla was in a totally illegal position in the ruck, with his hand clearly on the ground as he tried to jackle.
Still, as the saying goes, two wrongs do not make a right, especially when the second one is really, really, REALLY wrong. It looks like Aki is making the same argument as the one there used to be for what was called “a good shoeing”. If someone is clearly being illegal at the breakdown, it is somehow fair game for some shithousery in kind.
Well, that’s fine to a point, but this goes way, way, way, WAY beyond that. “Where do you want me on the clean out?” Nowhere near his head, mate. Simple as.
If he had to make protestations to the ref he would have been better off letting the officials know what Senatla was doing in the moment, that surely would have produced a better outcome for his team.
To be clear, I’m a big Bundee fan. But this was not an isolated incident of poor discipline from him and while I certainly wouldn’t completely rule him out of the Irish centre debate because of it, we surely have to keep it in mind while having the discussion.
Two weeks into the season and though I am yet to win a round, I actually top the league for now. Those pesky Ospreys let in a late score for the second week in a row to cost me some points, and I would have made some decent ground had they not done so. The only other match I got wrong was Dragons v Munster but in that case, nobody saw that coming.
THE NEXT BATCH OF HARPIN’
It’s All About Ulster this week. On Tuesday evening I’ll be chatting to regular contributor Ian Frizell about his provinces’ perfect start to the season, then on Thursday shortly after the teams are named I’ll be recording the preview show with Mark Jackson. There will be the other usual features like Rugby on TV, TikToks involving clips from Leinster’s HCC opponents Racing and Gloucester, as well as the odd tweet here and there when something catches my eye.
So by all means join me on any or all of the social media platforms and of course, be sure to enjoy your rugby wherever you are. JLP