The 80+ column : Stu’s talking, player’s names & November prep

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


I may have been a little harsh on the Welsh region with this message in the Harpin’ WhatsApp group after full time on Friday…

Obviously Scarlets fans won’t be happy with their performances this season but on second watch I have to say that even with the result going the way it did they probably didn’t deserve that bluntness since with a bounce of a ball going differently the result could have been closer, something you could probably say about most rugby matches.

But I still think Conor & Rich did a great job helping me sum it all up on our wrap pod, when two of the game’s six tries are PTs it doesnt offer much to harp on yet we managed to flesh it out ok.  Biggest concern during the recording was my spotting that the charge on my laptop was about to run out and many thanks to my son John for answering my WhatsApp call to sneak in and plug in the charger without my having to move!

Anyway back to the actual rugby, it’s hard to believe that the opening block of seven URC rounds is already in the record books, and when your team has won all of them opening a gap at the top of the table I can certainly have no complaints!  Plenty of rugby to be played this season of course but this definitely lays a lot of groundwork for our quest for a good playoff draw.


As any Leinster fan knows, Stu Lancaster interviews are as unmissable as they are rare, so I have to share this recent one from Off The Ball and if you haven’t heard it, you seriously need to find a window somewhere to tick that box.

My biggest takeaways without giving away too much –

  1. The realities of his day to day living in Dublin with ll the commuting to see his family, while doing all that awesome work is amazing, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t do it.
  2. The length of the “lessons learned at Leinster” list probably shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did
  3. That extra leadership meeting he speaks of gives a good insight to Leo’s ability to tweak things and make them better


If it were down to me, Ireland’s “alternate” jersey would always, always, ALWAYS be white.

But having worked in the sporting goods game back in the day, I know the unfortunate reality that even at test level teams are at the mercy of the manufacturers who have a lot more than fan preference to consider. They have colours and patterns and designs that they want to match their full range of clothing for that particular season.

To be clear, I’m not “defending” them, I’m just pointing out that they’re not doing it to be awkward, it’s more of a case that even when the fans aren’t happy, they firmly believe they’ll make more money in the long run doing it this way.

I just hope the conversation on match day isn’t dominated by complaints over the optics.


I have always been in favour of names on jerseys, though to be clear NOT squad numbers.  Rugby needs to keep things as simple as possible for new fans to the sport and the numbers 1-15 represent specific positions on the pitch and should be kept.

But when it comes to names I’m all for it – helps identify players for fans, helps with jersey sales, and I also like what they do in the Premiership with names for only jerseys 1 through 15, not for the subs that helps competitiveness for the starting positions within the club.

Were they to make them standard practice at senior level there would be no complaints from me.


It’s Autumn Nations Series time again and the bulk of its coverage is on Amazon Prime.

Now I know this is going to look like they’re paying me to say this,  I assure you they’re not (though I would be open to offers…) but I have to say I like do their presentation especially with the layout of highlights and individual moments like you see below.  

Obviously, nothing beats “free to air” when it comes to maximising coverage but maybe we’ll reach a stage when even those broadcasters will be offering services similar to this.


You might notice we’ve started to change the logos from blue to green as it is that time of year, which in turn means this injury report section will feature the Irish squad updates rather than Leinster.

I suppose my biggest concern for the week ahead will be to do with the fitness of Hugo Keenan and Jamison Gibson-Park – no doubt both will feature heavily in Andy’s plans particularly for the match this coming Saturday, but obviously the fact that neither set foot on a rugby pitch this season will be a concern.  I could see JGP on the bench but Hugo is a lot more of a “wear 15 or nothing” kind of player.

Also as I’m typing I’m seeing the Springboks have announced their team early and as expected it looks really badass so it’s fair to say we’ll need the strongest fittest 23 we can put together!!!  Not that we should lack confidence though, more on that later in the week.

Unfortunately, Tom Ahern has been ruled out of involvement in this week’s Ireland ‘A’ fixture but Diarmuid Barron, Caolin Blade, Jack Crowley, Shane Daly, Max Deegan, James Hume, Dave Kilcoyne, Marty Moore and Scott Penny all came through the weekend’s URC action without issue to join the squad.

Jamie Osborne and Roman Salanoa have both been declared fit after completing the return to play protocols while Connacht lock Gavin Thornbury has been called up in place of Ahern.

Nathan Doak and Tom Stewart, who both featured in the Emerging Ireland side in Bloemfontein, will also join the squad later in the week.


In a previous 80+ column I had a moan about a top of the table clash in the Women’s AIL between Railway Union and Belvo which was due to kick off around the same time as Ireland’s men were playing the Springboks up the road at the Aviva.  It seems now they have at least moved the time to 2:30 which makes it a lot easier for fans to catch both contests, but I still have my concerns over the scheduling of matches.

These clubs generally train twice a week and play matches at weekends so I wonder if it’s possible to put more of the top division matches during the week to encourage attendance?  There’s also a top of the table men’s clash this weekend, again it’s at a time where you can still catch IREvRSA but then again there are other test matches at the same time so maybe we need some outside the box thinking when it comes to scheduling; maybe even a broadcaster would take an interest in showing midweek action although I know things like the round ball Champions League in those slots might scare them off.

Women’s AIL

Sat Nov 5

Blackrock v Ballincollig

Railway Union v Old Belvedere

Wicklow v Galwegians

UL Bohemian v Suttonians

Men’s AIL

Round 4

Clontarf 27-9 Shannon

Cork Constitution 33-16 Garryowen

Dublin University 35-16 Ballynahinch

Terenure 58-5 UCD

Young Munster 13-20 Lansdowne

Fri Nov 4 

Shannon v Garryowen

Lansdowne v Terenure

Sat Nov 5

Ballynahinch v Young Munster

Clontarf v Dublin University

UCD v Cork Constitution


Bad, bad week for me.  Went for a couple of risky ones that went the other way and I have now dropped to third place, with Kino opening a really big gap in 1st place to end the first block of 7 URC rounds.

I mean I KNEW that tipping Them Pesky Birds to beat Connacht would be good news for the Westies, but also Munster and Lions falling short at home set me back a good bit.

Meanwhile down at the bottom, for the record I DO send Keego a reminder each week yet he still suffers from the affliction I had last season, namely forgetting to do the picks, which could result in him wearing the Jersey of Doom come season’s end if he doesn’t get back in the game soon.

HPL after Round 7

1 @RugbyKino  57.33

2 @hoomanbear  48.33

3 @HarpinOnRugby  47.83

4 @LeinsterRoyalty  46.83

5 @Kristian7Ross  40.66

6 @keegolaughs_irl 28.50


Test window time…for the URC our pod guests are obvs all Leinster fans but we’re going very interpro for the Irish team with first up Connacht & Ulster being represented on Wednesday as we have an overall look at the squad and our chances for November.  Then Kino will join to gloat about Superbru preview the Springboks match and then Tom Coleman and Michelle Tobin will help me wrap it all up on Sunday.  As always there will be the day to day features on all the usual social media channels in between so stay in touch. In the meantime, be sure to enjoy your rugby wherever you are.  JLP

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s