80+ column : Sportsmanship – some good on the pitch, some bad off it

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


With all due respect to Fiji, matches against them and others like Georgia are meant to be the “off” weekend in November but to us rugby nerds in particular they can be just as fascinating as the marquee matches.

Maybe last Saturday’s match wasn’t the best example of this but still on the Sunday pod (can’t believe it’s already the 3th under the new format) I was joined by Rich Mifsud and Caolán Scully to look back over the match as well as a few other bits and pieces from the rugby world, and between us I reckon we did a decent job making some points out of it, why not check it out yourself by clicking this link.

On the pod we follow a rigid enough structure to keep the whole recording under the hour so normally only one of us will get to harp on a particular topic before we move on, but my guests are encouraged to jump in if they want to prolong a conversation because even if it’s cut from the pod I can always release it separately and as you can see below there was one subject in particular we wanted to go into bit more detail on.

Hey, if he can make videos when something pisses him off why can’t we?


So below you can see the chat we had on the pod surrounding Rassie, and here is a comment I got on our YouTube channel, along with my reply.

Albert Van den berg OK. Help me. The things that he shows on video, that is true. What will you do when it’s your team. And world rugby don’t do anything? What’s the use to play rugby. And the ref does not blow right. Please help me understand.

Harpin’ On Rugby Happy to help.

1) a few selected clips do not reflect the overall context of a rugby match. Does it confirm the same incident didn’t happen the other way?

2) You and I should of course be free to post all the videos we want on social media, that’s what it’s for. But a DoR of a top tier nations who has already been banned for the same thing? Absolutely not. There are mechanisms in place for him to make his concerns known and he should stick to them.

3) Rassie (who I admire as a coach, earned all of his success to date) knows all of the above yet still persists in dealing with what can only be called “referee coercion”.


You don’t need me to tell you that I’m a big fan of both Messrs Sexton & van der Flier but even I have to admit I was surprised to see both in the four-man shortlist for World Player of the Year, and naturally there was a flurry of tweets suggesting those who were left out. Some referred to the national imbalance (France had a more successful year) while others put forward individual names they thought were missing.

Now I’m not suggesting this solution would prevent the whinging, because nothing will ever do that, but I do think it’s possible to maybe make that list a little longer.

Whatever about the fans’ opinion, going by the official graphic only the Irish lads are happy about being nominated…


I love Bundee Aki as a player and I do think he should play a part in Ireland’s RWC preparations, so I do get why he’s in the frame for selection this weekend against the Wallabies, plus we’re down a couple of leading centers to injury, but still…given the recent ban was not his first I don’t think it would have been the worst idea to leave him out of the Irish squad for November.

Watch him get the winning try on Saturday after me saying that.


Lot of talk about bad sportsmanship in rugby this week so how about a view of the other side…right after Ben Donaldson (on his test debut) missed the crucial kick at the end of #ITAvAUS not only did his team mates not hesitate to go console him but so did Italian 10 Tomasso Allan who chose to take the time to do likewise before celebrating. Awesome to see.


I recently saw someone describe Twitter as a “cess pit”, ironically in a tweet.

That narrative really, really bugs me because from my experience Twitter has enhanced my experience of rugby by a factor of infinity. Yes, there are those who either have no idea where “the line” is or worse, know full well and happily leap over it, but that’s what the mute, block and report buttons are for. Those muppets are far outnumbered by decent people who know how to have a conversation with dignity and this should never be forgotten.

And yes, I know Elon is there doing whatever it is that he’s doing so the censoring may not always work, but it should never prevent us from keeping the discussion going. A recent exchange on twitter involving someone I have a lot of respect for (without always agreeing, that’s how it’s supposed to work) was particularly annoying.


It’s Transgender Awareness Week from Nov 13-19, click here for more information. I have harped on the trans rugby issue before in this column so all I’ll do is repost it below.

You may recall over the summer there was a pretty intense discussion over transgender participation in rugby. My position was, well, let’s just say, complicated, and I struggled to explain it the way I wanted to in the ruggersphere.

What I was trying to say was that as much as we want to leave politics out of sport, in areas like this we have to acknowledge the wider topic because it can often lead to abuse from verbal all the way to physical.

Essentially the argument of needing an outright ban simply because we’re imagining a grown man posing as a woman just to play rugby and the dangers that entails falls way short of the conversation that needs to be had on the matter.

Thankfully John Oliver did a decent job laying out the wider issue IMO so here’s his recent (NSFW) piece on it…


With the URC returning the weekend after next we got two injury reports and unfortunately there was not a lot of good news, especially for Ciarán Frawley who just can’t string a run of games together at all.

There’s also a lot of concern over the “no further updates” list, that’s usually where my eyes go first.


Joey Carbery will complete the return to play protocols at Munster following his removal on Saturday for a HIA. Robbie Henshaw’s hamstring issue will rule him out of this week’s game against Australia, and he will continue his rehab at Leinster.

Jimmy O’Brien will complete the HIA process today and is expected to be available to train tomorrow.

The players who picked up knocks against South Africa – Johnny Sexton, James Ryan, Andrew Porter, Josh van der Flier and Hugo Keenan – will be monitored across the early part of the week and re-integrated into training according to their individual management plans.

Joe McCarthy returns to the squad having completed his return to play protocols.

Bundee Aki, who has trained with the squad for the past few weeks, is now available for selection having completed his suspension and the coaching intervention programme.



Joe McCarthy: will be available to train this week following his return from the Graduated Return to Play Protocols and has joined up with the Ireland squad


Harry Byrne, Jordan Larmour and Rónan Kelleher: will step up their rehabilitation this week as they return from hamstring, foot and a hamstring injury respectively


Martin Moloney: injured his ACL in the game against Scarlets and has had a procedure. He will be unavailable for the rest of the season.

Ciarán Frawley: will have a procedure tomorrow for a knee injury and will be unavailable for a number of months.

Robbie Henshaw: has returned to Leinster Rugby where he will be assessed for a hamstring injury

There are no further updates on:

Ryan Baird (concussion), Will Connors (bicep), James Lowe (calf), James Tracy (neck), Charlie Ryan (knee) and Tommy O’Brien (knee)


The Women’s AIL is nearing its conclusion with just one more round of matches before the top four go into the semifinals. Rock ensured they will be at home with their 19-17 top of the table win at Railway Union ensures both clubs will be at home in the playoffs, with Belvo having already clinched their place. The fourth and final spot is up for grabs this weekend and two of the teams in contention UL Bohs and Galwaegians play each other while Wicklow have a tougher task against RU.

One extra thing about Wicklow RFC, it’s quite something to see them in contention for the final four this season after receiving much ridicule from some quarters (and not just them but the women’s game in general) following a series of heavy defeats.

Meanwhile over on the men’s side of things Terenure’s perfect start continued, with a 38-21 win over Hinch at Lakelands keeping them top, can’t do better than 30 points from 30! They travel to Castle Avenue to play Tarf next in what’s clearly the tie of the round although that’s not until the weekend of the 26th.

Women’s AIL

Suttonians 24-12 Ballincollig

Cooke 12-55 UL Bohemian

Old Belvedere 17-8 Wicklow

Railway Union 17-19 Blackrock College

Sat Nov 19

Ballincollig v Cooke

Blackrock College v Suttonians

UL Bohemian v Galwegians

Wicklow RFC v Railway Union

Men’s AIL

Cork Con 36-25 Lansdowne

Dublin University 34-28 Shannon

Garryowen 22-47 UCD

Terenure 38-21 Ballynahinch

Young Munster 24-19 Clontarf

Sat Nov 26

Shannon v UCD

Ballynahinch v Cork Con

Clontarf v Terenure

Dublin University v Young Munster

Lansdowne v Garryowen


All about the Wallabies this weekend, with Tom Coleman joining me on Friday evening for a preview pod, while after having Munster representation for the wrap last Sunday, there will be harpin’ from Ulster and Connacht as Ian Frizzell and Stephen Murphy this time around. Plus of course there will be all the regular features to stay tuned to our social media channels, including Mastodon where we having been posting first of late.

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

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