80+ column : That song, The Marler Line, Women’s Interpros

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


It was a near perfect start to 2023 in every sense for this Leinster fan when it came to my RDS experience.  

First there was the actual journey to Ballsbridge; normally at this time of year the bus doubles as what I call “The Funderland Express” on which I’ve been forced in the past to sit upstairs with dozens of 10-14 year olds passing around naggins and spliffs for over half an hour.  This time while the numbers of youth were about the same as always, their behaviour was not, thankfully.  They were mostly silent looking at their phones.

Then we had the match itself, which Tom & Conor did a perfect job helping me wrap on the latest pod, and as a fan I can’t have too many complaints about a bonus point win that wasn’t always a one-sided affair, the obvious wrinkle of course being the injury to Johnny Sexton, more on that to come later in the column.

Last but certainly not least there was my journey home; generally I leave the ground anxious to get my bus home as often I can be left waiting for up to an hour but this time I was at the stop just a few minutes before it arrived so like I say it was a near perfect night all round.

If you missed the pod, check it out here or on most major platforms.


Predictably there was a lot of reaction to the incident which resulted in Johnny Sexton’s injury, a lot of it maybe a bit OTT from certain quarters but I’ll touch on that a bit more in the next segment – for now here’s this week’s extended YouTube clip taken from the podcast where I reckon we provide an honest take on both Sexton’s collision itself and how it probably should have been dealt with by the officials, as well as comparing it to the Jack Carty sanction which came just before it.

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.


I mentioned earlier about rushing from the RDS to get my bus, and when I’m travelling on my own I generally play music on my headphones so when I say I didn’t hear the controversial song played after the match, I mean it as truth and not in the “Karl Dickson says he didn’t hear anything” sense.

My view on the matter itself is simple.  It should not have been played, there are literally thousands of other songs that would have worked that don’t even have a hint of controversy about them, but IMO we should take at face value Leinster Rugby’s statement (which was issued while I was still on that bus home btw so they dealt with it fast) which implied that it was done without the knowledge of senior management.  All of which means the matter itself should be done.

But is it?  Of course not.  We live in a social media age where everyone is looking for attention so it was inevitable that this was going to be dragged through a couple of news cycles.  

To be fair, in some cases I agree the continued discussion was warranted, especially when it comes to a comparison between the reaction to this and what happened when the Irish women’s soccer team was filmed singing after qualifying for the World Cup finals.  No questioning the disparity here, that’s for sure.

But there was much indignation from other angles too, and one which really got me was a suggestion that Leinster were getting a “pass” that would have been denied to other provinces.  For me this was drifting towards something we were talking about on the pod in pre-season, namely the “ABL Narrative”, which I define as a groupthink within the Irish rugby discourse that essentially looks for ways, if not to actually demonize Leinster itself, to at least diminish the province’s success by suggesting there is a prevailing favouritism from media and blazers alike. The same mindset was often applied to the non-call of Sexton’s challenge.

Again…was this a mistake? Yes.  Do we need a long drawn out debate about the songs themselves?  No.  Should a statement acknowledging the mistake be sufficient to put it all to bed no matter what the province, sport or gender involved?  Absolutely.


On last week’s column I disagreed with Scott Penny being named Player of the Match, thinking it should have been Dan Sheehan.  Again I’ll point out I don’t share that opinion because I’m against the former player, nor because I’m biased towards the latter, it’s just how I felt about that particular 80 minutes.

Well the same kind of happened in the Connacht match, although when Larmour got his second try I was pretty sure he’d get the award even though it was early in the second half.  However over the 80 minutes I am pretty much in agreement with Tom in this clip…


A clip from our #LEIvCON wrap pod available now at anchor.fm/harpinonrugby and most major platforms

♬ original sound – Harpinonrugby.com


I harped on this in last week’s column, but the incident was always going to bleed into this one given there has been a ruling on it since.  Again we had pretty much full agreement on the pod that two weeks was a ridiculously low sanction, and the most annoying element to all of this has been the reaction which comes from a place of “FFS it’s a man’s game, things are said on the pitch, let them play”.

Yeah, about that.  For one thing, that narrative suggests it was Heenan that had the problem, when in actual fact the whole thing escalated when Marler was responding to something said to him.  All of which means that while of course there will be an element of “sledging” in pretty much every team sport, there surely has to be a line drawn and officials need to know where that is.

Now while I appreciate that finding the right words to effectively define “wrong” words is far from easy, and I’m glad I’m not being paid to find them.  But the fact is, those running the game ARE being paid, so they need to crack on with it.

When it comes to Marler’s punishment, I couldn’t understand why saw any mitigation at ll given he has been done for this before.  The previous incident involving Samson Lee wasn’t even mentioned in the report that I could see.

Maybe if and when the officials do find a way to define “the line”, we can name it after Joe and let the effect on his legacy be the punishment since he seems comfortable with having this reputation?  Just a thought.


The Women’s Interpros kick off this weekend, including Leinster’s only home match of the campaign against Connacht at Energia Park.

Personally I’d prefer it if the competition could be a full six rounds with everyone playing each other home and away, but I do appreciate that while the women’s game does need to progress it has to be measured until they reach full professionalism and besides, there are already extra matches to the schedule what with the new Celtic Nations competition which will take place before the Six Nations kicks off at the end of March.

As for the Leinster squad it’s exciting to see the first competitive squad being named by new head coach Tania Rosser and I look forward to watching her side compete over the coming weeks.  The full competition is getting live broadcast coverage courtesy of TG4 and BBC NI.

Saturday, 7 January 2023 – Round One

Leinster v Connacht, Energia Park, 2.30pm (TG4) 

Munster v Ulster Musgrave Park, 4.45pm (TG4)

Saturday, 14 January 2023 – Round Two

Munster v Leinster, Musgrave Park, 12:15pm (TG4)

Ulster v Connacht, Kingspan Stadium, 2.30pm (BBC NI)

Saturday, 21 January 2023 – Round Three

Connacht v Munster, The Sportsground, 1.00pm (TG4)

Ulster v Leinster, Queen’s University Upper Malone, 5.30pm (BBC NI)


News of Ben Healy’s move to Edinburgh with a view to qualifying for Scotland is just coming through as this is posting so I’ll just add my initial thoughts…it has been expected for a long time so it’s no great surprise.  What is interesting is that they announce it right after he produces a match-winning seven points at the Kingspan!  Also there are rumblings that Ulster’s John Cooney could be making a similar move.

Overall it’s hard to blame players for taking advantage of the change in “second nation” rules, in fact it’s good to see more options available.  Is it a “mistake” on the part of Munster & the IRFU to let them go?  I’m not so sure, but that is in no way a reflection on Healy himself or indeed any player.   

When it comes to province and country, we have to make decisions on pecking order in every position and if those who find themselves fourth or lower have an opportunity to go elsewhere, they should be free to take it.  And we should wish them all the best, so much so that even if they succeed in their new role it should be celebrated rather than used as “proof” that the initial decision to let them go was wrong.

Obviously the ideal scenario is to have all Irish players at the provinces all the time but for several different reasons, one big one being simple maths, that’s just not possible. There will always be opportunities outside our “bubble” and that’s just how the world works.


We were all waiting on reports on Sexton’s cheekbone but the text doesn’t really tell us anything we didn’t already know apart from the date of the “procedure”.  A trusted source passed on this message over WhatsApp… 

[“A mate of mine who is a maxillofacial surgeon looked at that photo and said it’s probable he’s broken’s his zygomatic arch and would say 4 to 6 weeks recovery if that’s what has actually happened!“]

…BUT do please appreciate that the above is at best second hand information and we can only go by official releases by the province & IRFU.

Elsewhere I’m hoping that both Furlong & Connors will be available for selection soon and when it comes to next weekend’s trip to Swansea I reckon we could be looking at a fair amount of cotton wool in our selection with a starting XV of something like this…

Cosgrave, Russell, Turner, Osborne, Kearney, H Byrne, Foley.

Milne, McKee, Ala’alatoa, Deeny, J McCarthy, Soroka, Penny, Ruddock

Still a decent squad in fairness although the Ospreys do seem to be on a decent run of late which could make it an interesting contest.


Tadhg Furlong & Will Connors: will again look to step up their rehabilitation programmes from ankle and bicep injuries respectively


Johnny Sexton: suffered a cheek bone injury during the game against Connacht Rugby and will have a procedure today and will be further assessed then

Luke McGrath: will be unavailable for selection for the Ospreys game after picking up an ankle injury

Max Deegan: will be unavailable for selection for the Ospreys game after picking up an ankle injury

There are no further updates on:

Thomas Clarkson (arm), Ed Byrne (knee), Jason Jenkins (hamstring), Robbie Henshaw (wrist), Martin Moloney (knee), Ciarán Frawley (knee), Charlie Ryan (knee) and Tommy O’Brien (knee)


Club season is over for the women while the men are only at the halfway stage and Division 1A has two big rescheduled matches this weekend taking place at either end of the table.

Dublin University and Cork Con both have 29pts lying 3rd and 4th respectively and they go head to head at College Park, with a familiar name holding the whistle in George Clancy. 

Meanwhile as Garryowen look like they need a miracle to avoid relegation 9 defeats from 9 to start the season, there’s some congestion above them for the other spot including Ballynahinch and UCD who meet at Ballymacarn Park.

Men’s AIL

Sat Jan 7

Ballynahinch v UCD

Dublin University v Cork Con


I made up a bit of ground on Kino this week in a round where there were more unexpected results than usual.  Tom got the Yellow Cap while Keego, well, I really don’t think there’s any coming back from there.


We play Those Pesky Birds next, and as I suggested in the Injury Report section they might fancy themselves to nick this one so we’ll be talking about that in our Harpin Preview on Friday when I’ll be joined by Ciarán Duffy, with the wrap pod being recorded on Sunday evening, with of course all of our other usual features in between.

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

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