80+ column : HCC revamp, Venue SNAFU & Rock champs

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


Some might say there’s not a whole lot to talk about after a 57-0 drubbing.  I am not among that “some”, and thankfully neither were Tom Coleman & Nathan Johns who found plenty to harp on for this week’s wrap pod.  After all, we are Leinster fans and we love talking about a rake of tries when we score them, but we also found a load of other angles as well.  If you missed it, check it out here or on most major platforms.


In last week’s 80+ column I offered a quasi-defence of the HCC format, suggesting that while maybe this current one has flaws, it should be pointed out that the old one was far from ideal in itself.  As you can see I let my guests offer their own takes on the situation in this week’s You Tube clip.

Only thing I will add is that I suggested last week that I would do things differently altogether so I may as well give a taste of it here…remember, I KNOW this will never happen but my ideal scenario would be to scrap the current set of competitions altogether in favour of one pan-European/SA pyramid structure with something like a pair of 16-team top divisions playing round-robin.  

“A” would be the elite offering 6 or 7 qualifiers for the championship quarterfinals but I’d also have a “B” level where not only would there be promotion but also the top 1 or 2 would get a shot at the knockout rugby as well, meaning 32 clubs would begin every season in contention for the title.

Below that would obvs get tricky, but regional divisions feeding into the top 32 is definitely do-able and the important thing would be to keep the door open for clubs from any nation logistically able to join.  

Again, I’m not suggesting this is ever likely to come into being, but what’s the point in complaining if you’re not going to offer an alternative?   Anyway…here’s what the lads had to say…

If you’re playing the clip above maybe pop over and subscribe to the channel too?  That’s where we post our Preview Show as well as other content throughout the week.


This is of course a site for Leinster & Ireland fans to offer their opinions not only on what happens on the pitch but also off it.  Obviously it goes without saying that if the reigning European champions were due to play at the RDS only for me to find out first that the match had been switched to a two-hour drive up the road, but also to then find out that fans aren’t allowed to travel as well, let’s just say I wouldn’t be happy.

Next while the match is going on, as my team is getting off to another poor start into the bargain, I find out that there are actually travelling French fans/”delegates” cheering their side in the stadium anyway???  

As it turned out the only thing close to a saving grace for Ulster supporters was their performance in the second half, digging out two bonus points which keeps their hopes of getting to the knockout stages alive.  Still, I really think an independent investigation outside of EPCR & Ulster Rugby needs to be done on the whole affair in the hope that it can be avoided in the future.

Of course I know pitches do freeze over, but maybe we need to be better prepared for alternative venues especially at this time of year?


I’m not one of those rugby fans who tries to pretend the round ball game doesn’t exist and I’ll freely admit I was watching the World Cup Final and congratulations to Argentina for their victory.

Since then the Twitter account for the Guinness Six Nations posted a standard enough question…

…but to be clear, I don’t bring it up to have the debate on this pages.  Instead I’d like to harp on that symbol.

You don’t need me to tell you that it is a “goat” to represent the acronym “greatest of all time”.  And obviously in sports we love having these discussions and I for one have taken part in many of them over the years.

However I feel we still need to be mindful of what this kind of absolutism can do to our opinion forming, especially in the social media age when we feel we want to comment on something amazing we have just seen and assume it won’t get noticed unless we point out that it has to be the very, very best of all time ever in the history of everything.

This annoys me quite a bit and while I’m at it I might as well add my dislike of the response “one hundred percent” when having a debate about something.  For one thing, generally when I hear that it tends to be followed by a counter point but my overall problem is that there’s no need to go all in on what anyone else is saying.  If we’re all “100%” with each other there’s no point in debating at all and where’s the fun in that?

Maybe we could adapt it and ban the use of 100 and instead encourage people to come up with a more realistic number before offering a reply.  Or, instead, maybe just ditch the numbers altogether…

Sorry, it’s just a bugbear of mine, and where better a place to put it in writing?


Posted this already on Monday with the wrap pod but definitely worth posting again.

16 December 2022; Leinster captain Garry Ringrose and Gloucester captain Ben Meehan, pictured with referee Luc Ramos, donate jerseys for a raffle in aid of the Ed Slater foundation before the Heineken Champions Cup Pool A Round 2 match between Leinster and Gloucester at the RDS Arena in Dublin. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Earlier this year, Gloucester Rugby lock, Ed Slater, announced his retirement from the game with immediate effect after his diagnosis with Motor Neurone Disease (MND).

To help support Ed and his family, Gloucester Rugby opened a JustGiving page and to date over £220,000 has been raised to help support Ed, his wife Jo and their three children.

With Gloucester Rugby playing Leinster Rugby last weekend in the Heineken Champions Cup, both clubs wanted to mark the occasion and also use the opportunity to highlight Ed’s illness and to try and raise even more funds for him and his family.

As a result, two unique Leinster Rugby and Gloucester Rugby jerseys were signed by the match day squads, with both jerseys bearing his name and the number four.

Captains Garry Ringrose and Ben Meehan presented the jerseys to each other before the game and the jerseys will now be used as a raffle item on the Leinster Rugby Instagram account.

To enter, you only need to reply to the post on Instagram and then donate a minimum of £20/€20 to the JustGiving page set up for the Slater family.

The winners will need to show proof of donation before their prize will be allocated to them.

To donate, please click HERE.


Report came about 24 hours later than usual, just before I’m ready to publish this article in fact, so you’re getting my initial reactions and it’s good to see Will Connors moving up the list although it’s a bit worrying that Tadhg Furlong hasn’t moved at all.

And as for Ed Byrne, that’s a horrible outcome, hopefully he’ll be back in time for the business end of the campaign, in the meantime we’ll be giving the likes of Michael Milne a chance for more game time.


Johnny Sexton: came through the game at the weekend against Gloucester Rugby with no issues after his return from a calf injury

Jordan Larmour: came through the game at the weekend against Gloucester Rugby with no issues after his return from a foot injury


Tadhg Furlong: has again increased his training load further towards the end of last week and will be further assessed this week for an ankle injury ahead of a final decision later in the week

Will Connors: will look to step up his rehabilitation programme this week as he nears a return from a bicep injury


Thomas Clarkson: picked up an arm injury playing with DUFC and will be unavailable for up to eight weeks

Ed Byrne: picked up a knee injury in the game against Gloucester Rugby and will have a procedure this week which will rule him out of action for up to 12 weeks

There are no further updates on:

Jason Jenkins (hamstring), Robbie Henshaw (wrist), Martin Moloney (knee), Ciarán Frawley (knee), James Tracy (neck), Charlie Ryan (knee) and Tommy O’Brien (knee)


Energia All-Ireland Women’s League Division 1 Final, Energia Park, Dublin 17/12/2022Blackrock College vs Railway UnionBlackrock team celebrate after the gameMandatory Credit ©INPHO/Lorraine OSullivan

After the previous week’s postponement it was good to see the Women’s AIL final take place on Saturday with the full TV coverage on TG4 and it was to be Rock’s year as they avenged last year’s champions Railway Union to lift the trophy after a strong second half showing led to a 27-7 victory. Next up for women’s rugby is the interpros in January, also with TV coverage, providing a great platform for selectors ahead of the Six Nations, except for the absence of the sevens players, of course.

Meanwhile on the men’s side, Lansdowne and Shannon got mixed up in the Ravenhill debacle when they got shoved on to the Aviva back pitch but between them the two matches produced a total of 137pts as Shannon made their trip worthwhile thanks to a 41-31 BP victory.  

I harped last week on the fascinating 5-way battle developing for the 4 semifinal slots at the top, but there’s also a scrap at the other end as this victory moves Shannon out of the bottom 2 yet there’s still only 5pts separating UCD in 9th and Hinch in 6th.  And guess what – those two clubs meet each other in a rearranged fixture in the new year.   Funny how that works out!

Women’s AIL

League final

Blackrock College 27-7 Railway Union

Men’s AIL

Round 9

Sat Dec 17

Lansdowne 31-41 Shannon

Sat Jan 7

Ballynahinch v UCD

Dublin University v Cork Con


Christmas week is upon us, although we’re not done harpin’ yet before the big day as the Leinster team to play in Thomond Park will be named at Friday lunchtime so I’ll be recording the preview show with Keego shortly after that, with our wrap pod moving to Tuesday from the usual Sunday, when I reckon I might be busy doing other things.

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

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