80+ column : Grateful host, new platform, fan qualms

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


I can’t even begin to say how grateful I am for my contributors to all of the Harpin pods.  If you’re new to the site, while we’ve been harpin’ overall since 2008, this is only the fourth season of the podcast and for the first three we’d only do one per week but now it’s 2-3 as it has become our main platform which of course means I need my group of contributors more than ever.

And during what has been a very experimental (and also just plain mental) first few months they have all been absolutely amazing giving up their time, not just spent on the Zoom calls themselves, but also in what is clearly excellent preparation, so it goes without saying this will not be the last time I thank Tom & Mark this week, and also Keego, Conor, Rich & Kino from the “core Leinster crew” and also Michelle, Ian & Padraig on whom I usually call for a view from the other provinces, plus all the others who gave joined me for a chat over the past while.  All truly awesome fellow rugby nerds/nuts.

This latest wrap pod went really well I thought, why not listen for yourself, and when recording was finished it dawned on me that we have yet to do a show under the new format which covered a Leinster & Ireland defeat.  Then I said that out loud so if you’re worried about my jinxing it by writing it here I’m afraid that train has already left the station!


On the main weekly pod we do a feature called “Front Five” where we offer quick thoughts on issues from around the ruggersphere – normally I would have used all five for other tests from the weekend but there were some areas I thought deserved more spotlight (IRE A, IRE 7s & Women’s RWC) so we just looked at the two matches which finished 30-29, Fra over Aus because we play the Wallabies in a couple of weeks, and Arg over Eng because, well, do I need to explain that one?

To turn the spotlight on the others briefly, I also got to see our other November opponents Fiji playing at Murrayfield and I have to say it will be very interesting to see hat kind of team we name because although the Scots did put them to the sword, it took them a while to get in control and seeing how we’re likely to name a 23 closer to the A than the elite, we’re probably going to need our boys to gel quickly because if you open the door to these Fijians to play their way just a bit, they can really hurt you.

Then there’s Wales – to be fair they had a few flashes of good rugby but were really overpowered by an All Black set up clearly still hurting from results earlier in the year and not at all content with the 2022 Rugby Championship crown.  For me the main highlight of this match was the duel between two of the top number 8s on the planet right now, Toby Faletau and Ardie Savea – obvs the latter doesn’t always play there but it helps my narrative to put it this way!

On a side note, fair play to not only the guy who typed this on his Guardian live blog feed, but also the newspaper itself for leaving it there.  I know some take issue with the sentiment, using the whole “Why not give them a second chance” argument, but those same pearl-clutchers are often the very ones complaining about the right to free speech and “being cancelled” so maybe they’re not quite sure what they really want.


With the Women’s RWC final next Saturday and the corruptly-hosted mens football version starting shortly afterwards, I suppose you could say it’s easy to forget the men’s RWC in France which isn’t until September, although of course Ireland’s win over RSA was a dress rehearsal for our Pool B encounter.

However I’m still a bit disappointed that the final qualifying tournament isn’t getting more coverage.  Maybe given what I said about corruption in the last paragraph, it’s a little disconcerting that it is taking place in Dubai, which together with the words “Qatar Airways” appearing on URC officials jerseys suggests our own powers that be are also having their heads turned by that corner of the world.

Still, when it comes to the rugby on the pitch, there’s one spot left up for grabs between USA, Portugal, Kenya & Hong Kong with the winner taking their place in Pool C alongside Wales, Australia, Fiji & Georgia.  The first round of matches saw USA & Portugal registering wins, and with them also avoiding each other this weekend it could set up a winner takes all match up which I’d hope would attract a decent amount of attention in the ruggersphere.


I have been contemplating a ‘blue tick’ on the twitter for a few years now but let’s just say that is definitely not happening now!  Doesn’t mean I’ll ditch the platform altogether, I still think it is a decent one for rugby the way things stand, but with all the hullabaloo over this new thing Mastodon, I could hardly not join the crowd setting up over there so if you are also partaking, by all means follow me > LINK HERE

For now I’ll keep an eye on how things are progressing there when I can although the main conversation still has to be with the little bird as things stand.  Replacing it completely with similar numbers is definitely a mammoth task, pun fully intended, of course.


Since we are primarily a site for fan opinion, I guess I really should weigh in on a number of issues that have cropped up ahead of the internationals, especially since my view seems to differ in many cases to that of the majority if social media posts are anything to go by.

At both the RDS on Friday and the Aviva on Saturday, they tried out playing little bursts of music during breaks in play.  It did not seem to go over well at all.  Since I wasn’t physically there either time, I can’t speak for the volume which may have been too loud but once they tone it down I have to say I can’t see it bothering me too much, sorry, I guess we can’t agree on everything!

I did particularly like the use of U2’s Vertigo after Mack Hansens try, really gives the celebrations a good little boost, although one wrinkle is that there’s always the possibility of it being called back by the TMO.  Going by the crickets I heard after tweeting about this on Sunday, I guess I’m on my own here too!!!


I remember the kerfuffle the last time we hosted the All Blacks in 2017, we wore the Jersey with the “anthracite” colour.  I actually have that one (tho I didn’t buy it, got it in a Canterbury promotion) and I still wear it because it reminds me of the 2018 Grand Slam.

My complaint about what we wore on Saturday, however, has nothing to do with the possibility of a clash with our opposition.  It just doesn’t look at all like a test jersey.  And by that I don’t even mean the lack of collar (although I am quite partial to the old fashioned rugby jersey look) no, I mean the design would be fine if it was part of the kit they were warming up in, just not the one they actually play in.

Keep the alternate ones mostly white with green trim, I say.


My policy on anthems has been consistent over the years but these 80+ columns are relatively new so I’ll lay it out once more here.

Ireland’s Call may not get the pulse racing like Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau or La Marseillaise, but the constant complaining about it from the same people, many of whom I respect and agree with on virtually everything else to do with rugby, is something I find disappointing.  Some try to cop out by saying they just don’t like it because it’s a poor song but I reckon they wouldn’t be happy whatever the tune.

There’s a very specific reason we add it to Amhran na bhFian at home, and sing it on its own while away.  And it also happens to be a very good reason in my book, and once more I apologise if others disagree.  

Plus it seemed like the Aviva crowd were giving both songs a really good airing on Saturday, although that may have been the positioning of the microphones.


This one I’m actually in agreement with the majority on, if you can’t make it to your seat before a half kicks off then you can wait.  Stewards can maybe look for a break in play to allow people in but that would be at their discretion and as they have many other roles, the stragglers need to be prepared to wait.


Despite the fact that for the second week in a row the official report begins with the word “unfortunately”, I would call this a positive report, although not so much for Conor Murray who defied his critics with a good showing for his 100th cap before being forced off.  Hopefully he’ll be back soon for Munster at least because they definitely need him.

Elsewhere I’m delighted for Stu McCloskey and Tadhg Furlong because especially the former did not look good leaving the pitch on Saturday and definitely earned the right to feature again in this series.  Personally while I’d like to see Bundee back fighting fo his place in the future, whether or not he is available to face the Wallabies I don’t think he should unless it is absolutely necessary.

Meanwhile it’s more bad news on the injury front for Ciaran Frawley he really needs a decent run of games under his belt yet keeps getting denied, he’s getting into Carbery territory at this stage.

Unfortunately, Ireland’s latest centurion Conor Murray has been ruled out of the rest of the Series with a groin strain and will commence his rehab at Munster.

Robbie Henshaw, who missed out on Saturday’s game due to a hamstring issue, will reintegrate to training this week. Stuart McCloskey is recovering quickly from the arm issue that forced him off early against South Africa and will train this week.

Tadhg Furlong (ankle) is expected to take part in training this week while Ireland captain Johnny Sexton is recovering well from a dead leg.

From Friday night’s A game against the All Black XV, Ciaran Frawley suffered a twisted knee and will continue his rehab at Leinster. Joe McCarthy and Ryan Baird will continue their return to play protocols at Leinster.

Michael Milne, who featured against both the Pumas and the Cheetahs for Emerging Ireland in Bloemfontein, will train with the Ireland squad this week.


There were top of the table clashes in both Women’s and Men’s top divisions last weekend, and by all accounts both were thrillers. It took a late try from Aoife O’Shaughnessy to clinch victory for Railway Union over Belvo, and for the second weekend in a row they will host a fellow 100% team when they host Blackrock College.

Meanwhile in the men’s top division it was another comeback as Clontarf reversed a 16-point deficit to overpower Dublin University although while they are still 100% their game in hand has them second behind Terenure who won convincingly at Lansdowne and host Ballynahinch next weekend while Tarf travel to play Young Munster.

Women’s AIL

Blackrock 71-7 Ballincollig

Railway Union 15-11 Old Belvedere

Wicklow 16-14 Galwegians

UL Bohemian 43-5 Suttonians

Sat Nov 12

Suttonians v Ballincollig

Cooke v UL Bohemian

Old Belvedere v Wicklow

Railway Union v Blackrock College

Men’s AIL

Round 5

Shannon 30-19 Garryowen

Lansdowne 12-32 Terenure

Ballynahinch 25-20 Young Munster

Clontarf 38-33 Dublin University

UCD 31-36 Cork Constitution

Sat Nov 12

Cork Con v Lansdowne

Dublin University v Shannon

Garryowen v UCD

Terenure v Ballynahinch

Young Munster v Clontarf


I’ve been neglecting the TikTok account of late unfortunately, haven’t had the time if truth be told, but will get back to it soon.  Definitely happening this week will be giving the match against Fiji the full Harpin treatment, with Mark Jackson returning for the preview on Friday, then Caolan Scully and Rich Mifsud pencilled in to do the wrap on Sunday.  Other regular features like Rugby On TV will still be posted as well so as always, stay tuned to all our regular social media channels, and also our new one on Mastodon if you dare.

In the meantime, be sure to enjoy your rugby wherever you are.  JLP

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