The 80+ column : Thompson documentary, water breaks, Worcester

Welcome to my 80+ column, a new weekly post featuring final thoughts from the week of rugby just gone.

ICYMI click here for our main pod this week where Tom, Rich & I harp on Leinster v Sharks.   

This was my 8th Sunday recording since switching to this new format and I really think I’m close to getting things just how I want it.  There’s a lot to sort out with planning, equipment and what not so it might be closer to Christmas when I have the whole process fine-tuned but the progress has been steady and of course the help of all my guest contributors is very much appreciated.


On the subject of guests on the pod, it’s natural that we’re not always going to agree on things and because we had so many tries to work through from Saturday evening’s match, rather than prolong the discussion I decided to put my thoughts that differed from the panel’s here instead.

For the first one I want to be very, very careful how I word it because in this age of sporting social media opinion, if you say one little negative thing about a player it’s assumed you’re totally against them, so hopefully my readers know me well enough to realise I’m not like that at all.  

On the pod the lads gave the Sharks a lot of credit for the success their backs had against us on Saturday and it’s true they scored some amazing tries.  But I still have these niggling doubts, which go all the way back to the preseason match against Quins, about Charlie Ngatai’s positioning on strike plays.

TO BE CLEAR – in other areas he has done extremely well, getting better every week with his trademark crash ball among other things with the ball, and even without it we had that superb last ditch challenge on Aaron Sexton in Belfast.  

But when the team was named for Saturday, I raised an eyebrow wondering if we might be vulnerable and happy and all as I was with the win, it still remains raised, although I must add that I am very confident that it is something he can put right with game time, with this being the perfect part of the season for him to do it.

Next, there was the challenge on Ryan Baird, where my view also differing from the lads’.  Obviously, I hope he is back quickly but I’m afraid having seen it a few times I actually do think it was a rugby collision.  Abrahams may not have left the ground but IMO he doesn’t have to if his eyes are on the ball, which they were.  Despite Chamberlain’s brilliant catch I really don’t think he was in a good position to be going for the ball at all – and I don’t mean in a legality sense, more of a coaching one – as his teammate had a much better angle.  All of which meant the three players came together awkwardly and Baird unfortunately came off worst.

But like I say, this “offering opinions” lark would be pretty boring if we all felt the same way about everything, so I’ll leave my thoughts there and let you decide where you stand.

One thing I absolutely did agree with the boys on was their appreciation of Sexton’s standing up for his team, I even did a TikTok featuring their views check it out here.


Like everyone else I had my doubts about this tour when I first heard about it, mostly because provinces would be denied a lot of the players they rely on at this stage of the season.  Obviously, the ability to use our “marquee” names went a long way towards calming those concerns, and as a Leinster & Ireland fan, I certainly can’t complain about the results for either side in that time!

The progression of matches fell absolutely perfectly for this patchwork squad, from Griquas to Pumas to Cheetahs we had a steady increase in opposition difficulty each time, yet over the 80 minutes the lads were always able to rise to the occasion.  

Player-wise there were many standouts, with possibly Jack Crowley the most impressive, and given all that is happening with his own province, he has certainly given them something to think about.

For Leinster’s part there were a lot of players we already knew could perform like Scott Penny, Max Deegan and Jamie Osborne, but for others like Joe McCarthy and James Culhane it was an invaluable experience which can only help them improve even more.

As I say on the pod the only downside to the tour was the fact that Ciaran Frawley didn’t get any game time, hopefully he will be back soon.

Finally kudos to the IRFU for donating their prize money to a local orphanage in Bloemfontein.


During the week there was a documentary on the BBC about one of England’s heroes from RWC2003, Steve Thompson, who is struggling with dementia after (have to say “allegedly” here because of an ongoing legal dispute but I make no secret of where my opinion lies) suffering from multiple concussions playing rugby over the course of his career.

Basically the programme suggests that in the transition to the professional game in the 90’s and early 00’s, the organisation of training routines was like the “wild west” and players were not only risking collisions in matches but also during the week as rugby was now their full time job, with little or no heed paid to the need for recovery time.

While I have no qualifications to offer any opinion on medical grounds or indeed the perspective of a professional rugby player, I do have concerns over the general debate being had among media and fans alike, and I know Twitter isn’t exactly an ideal source at the best of times but it still goes a long way to influence the actual top level discussions when they do happen.

My concerns are about where on the spectrum of opinion the debate is taking place.  It is often a misconception that the “sensible” way to find the right answer is to look for the mid point between the two extremes, but at the risk of straying too far down the political path, we’ve learned from things like Trump, Brexit & Anti-vax that some extremes can be stretched in a way that moves that centre point, so you have to be willing to lean in one direction if the other is looking a bit, shall we say, “less than relevant”.

And when it comes to the debate over safety in rugby, the way I see it the two extremes look like this – at one end you have parents who may not know much about rugby themselves but their kids want to play so when they see things like the Thompson documentary and hear about other life- and quality-of-life-threatening injuries, their instinct is to say “No way – play something like tennis instead”.  

Then at the other extreme we have rugby fans/supporters who have an aversion to matches lasting longer than they should.  I’m hardly wild about unnecessary time wasting myself, but it’s definitely not a hill I would die on, especially when you consider how other sports, particularly in the USA, go much, much longer.  It is usually the same Twitter accounts I see pushing back against what they perceive as over-precautious safety measures for fear of them supposedly “killing the game”.

So, if these are the extremes, does the answer have to be right smack in the middle?  Between parents with genuine concerns and impatient fans?  I think not.  For me, the real work to find proper solutions is being done by people like Peter Robinson and also the organisation “Progressive Rugby”, of which Thompson is now a member by the way, and they also recently added Carl Hayman to their ranks.

I’m not typing this because I 100% believe everything those people and organisations say, I’m typing it because I believe they are the ones we should be listening to as we make up our own minds, and also because it makes sense that they focus their efforts more towards parents who are worried for their children’s safety and less towards those (like myself) looking on from the stands or their armchairs who have to wait a minute or so longer while TMOs look at replays.

The likes of Robinson, Thompson & co are generally people who have had their lives directly and adversely affected by rugby, yet still want to be involved, still want to engage, still want the sport to thrive but just in as safe a manner as possible.  That is where the discussion should be in my view. The only thing that could really “kill the game” would be a failure to listen to what they have to say.


The World Cup is here, the kickoff times are generally super awkward, but hopefully the tournament gets the attention the women’s game both needs and thoroughly deserved.  Obviously from an Irish fan’s standpoint it’s hard to avoid wondering what might have been, but at least we know things appear to be heading in the right direction here and we’ll do our best here at Harpin Manor to help give Leinster & Ireland in particular all the exposure we can over the coming season.


Just to add to all the expressions of disappointment over that which has befallen the Worcester Warriors as an organisation, their staff, their fans and the local community in recent weeks, and which may yet also happen to Wasps and possibly one or two other Premiership clubs in the near future.

But one thing really eats at me…why are we in this situation NOW, after the season has already kicked off?  Throw all the complicated business and legal mumbo jumbo at me you want, but professional rugby is a seasonal sport and has been for years, so I find it hard to believe that there doesn’t exist some date on the calendar by which a club has to prove they are financially viable to fulfil their fixtures for the following campaign, preferably BEFORE fans are asked to shell out for season tickets. Should be a formality for the vast majority of clubs, but as recent events (and some not-so-recent tbf) show something like this is needed.

Sounds like PRL didn’t only drop the ball, they actually never really had it properly in the first place.


Unpopular opinion alert…water breaks in rugby don’t really bother me.  Sorry!  

I suppose it’s partly because of what I said in my earlier rant about Steve Thompson – IMO as fans the “why are we waiting?” card only gets us so far, and maybe a water break isn’t so bad when you consider another direction they might go; actually breaking matches up into four quarters with full stoppages after each.

However…one concern I would have about water breaks is that I hope it isn’t being brought in to prepare us for more top level rugby to be played in the likes of Qatar and Dubai…which brings me neatly to my next harpin’ point…


Forgive me for harpin’ on the round ball game for a bit, but IMO this affects all sports, and anyone watching the URC will know referees are now sporting “Qatar Airways” on their jerseys so we definitely need to be paying attention.

There’s a podcast I often listen to called “Pod Save The World” which interestS me because I am originally from the USA and this offers an American take on political matters all around the globe. They have teamed up with a football pod called “Men In Blazers” to produce a series called “World Corrupt” which looks at the 2022 Football World Cup in particular but also the concept of “sportwashing” in general and is very much worth a listen.

Not only is it important for us to know what went into the staging of the tournament in Qatar when it kicks off, but we also need to be wary of rugby’s powers that be chasing the same kind of questionable investment, or should I say more of it.


Great to see Doris back, he will likely get some game time in Galway this Friday. That’s a lot of players to be going into the RTP protocols after just one match but needs must and they should be back soon.

Really wish that “No further updates” section was a whole lot lighter though…


Caelan Doris: has come through the Graduated Return to Play Protocols and will be available for selection this weekend


Dave Kearney: picked up an adductor injury against Ulster Rugby but is expected to return to team training this week. Will continue to be assessed this week before a final decision is made on his availability

Jack Conan: was a late withdrawal from the Leinster Rugby match day 23 with a back injury suffered in the warm-up against Cell C Sharks. Will be further assessed this week


Rhys Ruddock: was withdrawn for a Head Injury Assessment against Cell C Sharks and has now entered the Graduated Return to Play Protocols

Luke McGrath: was withdrawn for a Head Injury Assessment against Cell C Sharks and has now entered the Graduated Return to Play Protocols

Ryan Baird: was withdrawn for a Head Injury Assessment against Cell C Sharks and has now entered the Graduated Return to Play Protocols

Jordan Larmour: was withdrawn with a foot injury in the first half against Cell C Sharks and will be unavailable this week as further tests are carried out


Rónan Kelleher (hamstring), Ciarán Frawley (shoulder), Hugo Keenan (abdominal & knee injury), James Lowe (calf), James Tracy (neck), Charlie Ryan (knee), Tommy O’Brien (knee)


We briefly harped on the AIL in the pod but I also plan to offer updates in this column every week so here it is.  After two rounds Nure, Trinity, Hinch & Tarf are all 100% with the last two going head to head at Ballymacarn Park at 2:30pm next Saturday, promises to be a cracker.

It was a shame Harry Byrne had to withdraw from the lineup playing for Clontarf last weekend, hope to see him back playing soon.  A scan of the teamsheets from the five top flight matches shows a host of players on the fringes of the Leinster set up like Ben Brownlee and Chris Cosgrove all getting much needed game time and at a decent standard as well.


source – Superbru

I still lead the Harpin League and I actually got my first yellow cap of the season this week…but do you think I’m happy?  Hell no.  I’m actually raging because I originally entered Glasgow to beat the Bulls before going back and reversing it.  

But you can be sure there’s no complacency from me despite my lofty position, far from it…there’s a pack of challengers hunting me down and I’ll have to stay on my toes to keep them from catching me.

Meanwhile at the foot of the table, where the “real prize” is to be “won” (namely having to wear the “Jersey of Doom”), Keego got rid of the wooden spoon for now, passing it on to Kristian Ross.


Sharks are up next for Leinster, at the RDS on Saturday evening.  I’ll be talking to AP Cronje about their squad during the week, then on Friday I’ll have Keego with me for The Preview Show, with the usual wrapup recorded on Sunday evening and of course all the regular features during the week, stay tuned to any or all of our social media platforms.  In the meantime, be sure to enjoy your rugby wherever you are.  JLP

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