Welcome to my 80+ column, a weekly post featuring final thoughts from the week of rugby just gone.
WRAP OF A WRAP
Now I’m glad I didn’t bore you every other week in this column with my disaster stories travelling to and from the RDS/Aviva for home Leinster matches because last Saturday everything went absolutely swimmingly. Short wait time for buses in both direction, no getting lost in the lower reaches of the Stadium which made me go the looooong way round to my seat because I turned left not right, no hitches of any sort which I thought wasn’t possible.
Oh, and Leinster also won on top of it all, maybe with a hitch or two, but still with some cracking scores along the way. And all of the last bit was brilliantly summed up by both Tom and Nathan on Sunday night’s pod. If you missed it, check it out here or on most major platforms.
HARPIN’ ON…GARRY RINGROSE : LEADERSHIP & FORM
For our extended clip this week I thought it was the perfect opportunity to harp on Garry Ringrose who has really grown into the captaincy role this season and it definitely looks like one he could be taking over once Johnny Sexton hangs up the boots.
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.
JASON JENKINS TIK TOK
We have a core team of Sunday podsters but I’me very grateful to Nathan Johns for being able to step in the odd Sunday, he works for the Irish Times and covers a lot of Irish cricket including the recent T20 World Cup but as you can see in the TikTok below he also provides great rugby insight like this point about Leinster’s defensive maul.
THE OTHER PROVINCES
“All four provinces into the knockout phase” is the most important takeaway. Sure there were some disappointing results along the way, and it’s not ideal that three must play away and also two of us have to play each other in the round of 16, but still progression is a major goal when the process starts and should be applauded. I’m skirting close to the format debate here so I’ll save that for a later point.
I have to be honest, squad announcements are actually starting to get boring, if only because the reactions are so predictable. With the list being announced during a pair of HCC weekends it’s not easy to remove the provincial goggles I suppose, but I’m not sure they’d be taken off under any circumstances.
Even when a coach has a record that suggests his choices can be trusted for the immediate future, still the accusations of bias over form get bandied about. Really, really, boring.
Did the Carbery omission raise an eyebrow? Of course it did, although with Ben Healy’s decision they did have to take Munster’s current situation into account – still not guaranteed HCC qualification for next season so the mid 6N URC matches will be vital – and also if it was down to himself and Crowley I dare say the latter would certainly benefit more from time with the test squad while Carbery can easily slot in later in the comp if required.
MY FINAL DEVIL’S ADVOCACY OF THE HCC FORMAT…
Yes, yes, I know I’ve harped on this a lot in recent weeks, but in my defence, so have most people on social media before during and after each of the four pool rounds so I reckon I’m entitled to another swing at pushing back just a bit.
Once again, to be clear…this is NOT my ideal format. However, the things many people are complaining about seem to be things that won’t be necessarily solved by returning to 5 or 6 pools of four.
“You can win just one match and still qualify for the knockouts”
First, can we please all be clear that “knockouts” means something different in the two formats? Here it’s getting you into the last 16, while “the old way” it was into the last 8. And under that regime, I clearly remember teams going through having won just 3 of their 6 matches while others got nowhere despite having won 4. And under this current system, sure, you can win 1 and progress like Ulster did however (a) they needed bonus points, all of which were hard earned, to just about get them into 8th spot, and (b), look at the task ahead of them in the Last 16.
Another mark against the old way of knockouts was that I hated the way you could meet a team in the quarterfinals that you already played twice in the pool phase. Seems strange that everyone is going wild about the quirks about this current format while forgetting those from the last one.
Overall I still contend that simply switching back won’t make all things fine and dandy…if you really want to give the competition the elevated status it deserves then we can carve out a block of the season and play it in successive weeks so that all the coaches can have full access to all their squads from start to finish, which I always feel is the best way to run tournaments for our wonderful sport.
Right, that should be that when it comes to me going on about formats. Until the draw for next year’s comp, of course…
TACKLE HEIGHT IN ENGLISH LOWER TIERS
And as the format debate recedes, another one takes its place. This has mostly been on English social media of course given it’s an RFU ruling, but the change is bound to be observed by all other unions as well and besides, Johnny Sexton weighing in at the Six Nations Launch certainly got the Irish rugby world involved.
Like I always say about this issue of concussion and tackle height, the most important thing is the discussion. First that there is one, but more importantly that it is being conducted by people acting in good faith. Unfortunately I feel this RFU ruling for lower tier grades might be a few steps too far in the other direction, which gives the “ruining the game” brigade the opportunity to opine without the need for ridiculous superlatives like they usually do over this matter (although I have heard that some are saying they’ll quit the game altogether over this, which seems absurd).
One element of the pushback against this announcement that is concerning is that it appears the RFU didn’t do a whole lot of consultation with grass roots clubs before reaching this decision, which could mean they were more about preventing further litigation than they were actually helping the game.
But overall I feel we have to be ready to accept some changes to the laws that will make the game safer. Yes, I get that tackling low can still lead to a head knock, but the guidelines also state that the player carrying is meant to stay upright so, at least in theory, it’s possible just as many penalties will go the other way. The only way to know for sure is to test it in actual matches, although maybe running the test across the vast majority of clubs in England was a bit hasty.
DOWNLOAD THE FANZO APP
6Mas Day is just around the corner, and this year we’re partnering with the Fanzo App to run a prediction league throughout the Six Nations where you can win a free pint for yourself (regardless how others do, more info to come later).
Basically we’re offering a prize ourselves for the best predictors over the five weeks of the Six Nations, but also you can help us out here at Harpin Manor just by joining the league. We’ll post more details on the site over the next week or so but feel free to join know if you like, just download the Fanzo app, click “Let’s Go” in the “Guinness Pint Predictor” tab, tap “Leagues”, then “Join or Create a League” and finally the code is “Harpin”.
Congrats to Munster on their title, and also to all in the Leinster squad for bouncing back from last week’s disappointment to post a convincing win in the final match against Ulster. Again, it’s a shame they didn’t at least have a home and away schedule, something Tania Rosser herself pointed out on Twitter, especially when you consider that it’s conceivable that the senior Leinster Women’s team may not take to the field again until 2024!
But there is still a lot of top level rugby to look forward to, starting with this new Celtic Challenge competition, where Ireland Scotland and Wales each have one team for now but probably two next season and maybe eventually this can become something of a URC in its own right. We named our squad for the competition and hopefully there will be some kind of broadcast coverage to see how they’re getting on ahead of the Women’s Six Nations.
Both squads were involved in the Hamilton 7s last weekend, with the women faring best as their fourth place finish after a quarterfinal win over France means we remain in the top 4 on the overall standings.
Meanwhile the men also got out of their pool only to run smack back into the hosts New Zealand but a win in the placings playoffs scored a few axtra series points with a 6th placed finish leaving us 9th overall on the ladder, with a good bit of daylight between us and 10th meaning we can hopefully move our way up in the remaining rounds.
Next on the circuit is Sydney next weekend, I don’t see a schedule as I type this column so maybe check back in later in the week.
“No new injury news” is always good news, although it would still be nice to see names moving out of that list down at the bottom. Not easy to tell what kind of team we’ll have for the visit of Cardiff this coming weekend, although I’m thinking one or two might still be available despite being named to the Irish squad.
Cosgrove, Russell, Turner, Osborne, Kearney, H Byrne, McGrath.
Milne, McKee, Ala’alatoa, Molony, Deeny, Ruddock, Penny, Deegan.
Bench : Kelleher, Hanan, Clarkson, J McCarthy, Connors, Foley, R Byrne, Brownlee
(note – the above team is purely from my imagination, it’s not one of those Thornley teams which is always 22 out of 23 correct)
INJURY UPDATE – AVAILABLE FOR SELECTION:
Caelan Doris: rolled his ankle in the second half of the game against Racing 92 but is expected to join the Irish Rugby squad as planned this week
Josh van der Flier: suffered a dead leg in the second half against Racing 92 but is expected to join the Irish Rugby squad as planned this week
Joe McCarthy: came through the game against Racing 92 with no issues following his return from an ankle injury
Luke McGrath: came through the game against Racing 92 with no issues following his return from an ankle injury
INJURY UPDATE – UNAVAILABLE FOR SELECTION:
There was no new injury news from the game against Racing 92 at the weekend
There are no further updates on:
Johnny Sexton (cheek bone), Tadhg Furlong (calf), Charlie Ngatai (hamstring), Ed Byrne (knee), Jason Jenkins (hamstring), Robbie Henshaw (wrist), Martin Moloney (knee), Ciarán Frawley (knee) and Tommy O’Brien (knee)
Some big matches in Round 11 of Division 1A which had some big results that left some big consequences. Cork Con’s win at Tarf meant Nure extended their lead at the top to 6pts after beating Trinity, which in turn meant Ballynahinch have moved themselves to just two points off the top four. Down at the bottom it looks like Garryowen are close to the trap door while Shannon and UCD are close for the second spot, which makes their meeting on Saturday a critical one. Nure have another top four battle to come when they host Tarf at Lakelands which Cork Con will try to keep the pressure on although Hinch won’t make things easy for them.
Lansdowne 23-20 UCD
Clontarf 12-24 Cork Con
Trinity 7-12 Terenure
Hinch 24-7 Garryowen
Cookies 31-27 Shannon
Sat Jan 28
Cork Con v Ballynahinch
Garryowen v Lansdowne
UCD v Shannon
Young Munster v Dublin Univ
Terenure v Clontarf
SCHOOLS CUP TIME
It’s that time of year again with the kick off of the Leinster Schools Senior Cup where we get to watch the future stars of the game in action. As I type I have received word of broadcast coverage of the first round so here are the details…
(everything in italics below is from Leinster Rugby)
Bank of Ireland Leinster Rugby Schools Senior Cup, First Round:
Sunday, 29 January
St Michael’s College v Belvedere College at 3pm in Energia Park (Streaming Available)
Monday, 30 January
Blackrock College v Presentation College, Bray at 3pm in Energia Park (Live on Premier Sports)
Tuesday, 31 January
Newbridge College v Kilkenny College at 3pm in Energia Park (Streaming Available)
Wednesday, 1 February
Terenure College v Clongowes Wood College at 3pm in Energia Park (Streaming Available)
Thursday, 2 February
St Mary’s College v Wesley College at 3pm in Energia Park (Streaming Available)
The streaming will be available on a subscription basis with each game costing €7.99 for the live and €8.99 for the VOD (video on demand) option.
There is also a five match bundle that can be purchased for €35.00 and the subscription can be purchased through the Videos on the Net platform, www.irishrugbylive.ie
Leinster Rugby can also confirm that similar to last season there will be no cash accepted at the turnstiles for games played at Energia Park.
All tickets can be purchased online at the following link HERE, with student and OAP tickets costing €6, and adult tickets costing €11.
THE NEXT BATCH OF HARPIN’
Next up it’s Cardiff Rugby…we’re planning a bonus pod recording for Wednesday where we’ll be chatting to hosts of a Welsh pod to get an “opposition view” not just for Saturday but also for the Six Nations opener, then it’s all the usual features like Rugby on TV, preview, wrap pod, etc, you know the drill.
Follow us and/or subscribe to all our social media channels to keep in touch and get involved in the conversation when the mood takes you.
In the meantime, be sure to enjoy your rugby wherever you are. JLP