80+ column : Penny pushing, WRU SNAFU & MLR crowds

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


First things first…the all important update in the prestigious Guinness Pint Predictor League.

After a week off the Six Nations returns so be sure to get your predictions done in time, seems like a pointless reminder but I’ve forgotten how many times I’ve forgotten over the years.

REMEMBER YOU CAN STILL JOIN THE LEAGUE AND WIN PRIZES we’re accepting entrants right up to the final round and you can still beat Jack Fogarty’s Round 2 score of 58 and also every Six Nations match gives you the chance to win a free pint so by all means download the app and enter the league using the code HARPIN and see how you get on.

The prize for the Best Score In One Round category is a signed copy of Brian Moylett’s “The Book On How You Become A Pro Rugby Player” [he was a guest on our bonus pod last week] so like I say there’s still plenty of time to throw your hat in the ring.


Some might say Leinster’s BP win over the Dragons last Saturday evening at the RDS was “run of the mill” but here at Harpin Manor we always find plenty to keep us going for a wrap pod and Tom “@LeinsterRoyalty” Coleman & Ciarán “@PostToPostSport” Duffy were on hand to get ‘er done.

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


Last week I brought back a strict rule on these pages, namely that in a year when Ireland wins the first two matches in the Six Nations, that two-word phrase which rhymes with “canned ham” is considered taboo on all Harpin platforms unless stated otherwise – Tom let one slip on the pod Sunday evening and was so amused by the look on my face that he kept doing it, with of course Ciarán joining in with a few of his own!  Thankfully I had editing privileges on my side which is why you hear a few buzzer sounds on the pod.


For this week’s bonus clip we looked at the career of Rhys Ruddock and his invaluable contributions to Leinster & Ireland rugby going back to 2009, or to put it another way, since Harpin On Rugby first came into being.

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.


In the pod I asked Tom for his take on Harry Byrne’s chance to shine with Leinster during this block of the season and as always he came up trumps.


A clip from our latest wrap pod subscribe on most major platforms #LEIvDRA

♬ original sound – Harpinonrugby.com


Ireland Rugby Squad Training, IRFU High Performance Centre, Sport Ireland Campus, Blanchardstown, Dublin 21/2/2023Peter OMahonyMandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

I’ve said it many a time on these pages but I’ve no problem saying it again, Peter O’Mahony is an absolutely crucial presence in the Irish rugby squad, on the pitch in play, on the pitch out of play, and in the dressing room.  Which means I’m delighted to see him sign an extension to his contract.


So with tongue firmly in cheek I posted the above tweet on Sunday.  Nothing in particular provoked it at the time it was just a general observation.  But on Monday we went from the general to the particular, with the announcement of Scott Penny’s addition to the Irish training camp causing a predictable response from the online provincial factions, mostly from Munster fans speaking up for John Hodnett, but also from Ulster fans who suggest Nick Timoney is more worthy of the call up.

Ireland Rugby Squad Training, IRFU High Performance Centre, Sport Ireland Campus, Blanchardstown, Dublin 21/2/2023Scott Penny Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ben Brady

This time, to be fair to the objectors, the bulk of them have gone out of their way to point out that they do consider Scott to be a quality player, which was nice of them.  But they then go on to paint this selection on the canvass of the “The IRFU is biased towards Leinster” narrative and this is what took most of the oxygen amongst the Irish rugby twitterati throughout Monday, so much so that Balls.ie were able to harvest a ton of clicks from it with an article entitled “Munster Fans Have Had A Lot To Say About Scott Penny’s Ireland Call-Up” (you’ll forgive me if I don’t include a link).

Apparently the mic-drop defence of the bias accusations is the fact that Scott Penny has only played 10 minutes of European rugby in his career to date.  This is true, and it is also a valid point.  But is it the only one?  Of course not, and I dare say a lot of the social media pot stirrers know this full well.

For one thing, while Heineken Cup is supposed to be a means of getting close to test standard, I’m not sure this applies as much now as it would have done five or more years ago.  As many of the same Penny doubters would have pointed out at the time, Leinster’s four European pool matches were “far too easy”.

But more importantly, I don’t see anyone talking about the Emerging Ireland tour from last October, where the Irish test coaching setup travelled with both Penny and Hodnett training day in day out and sharing the 7 role in our three matches.

And I also don’t see many people exploring the possibility that Penny being further down Leinster’s pecking order might be the feature rather than the bug.  

Call this “trolling” if you want, but the remaining rounds of the URC have match points up for grabs that are much more valuable to Ulster (who also have an extra match next weekend btw), Munster & Connacht so maybe, just maybe, having Penny hold the tackle bags rather than Messrs Timoney & Hodnett might actually make sense in this case.

But no, let’s just go with a single-issue framing that stokes the provincial feuding, I guess that’s better for clicks and impressions.

Like I always say – I’m ready for a rational discussion about the possibility of lopsided treatment of the provinces from the likes of Mr Nucifora, once it actually IS a rational discussion which looks at the full picture. 


Can’t add much more to my sentiments in the above tweet, only to give a shout out to our friends at the Welsh Regional Rugby Appreciation Podcast who had a very rational and informative pod recently outlining in a level headed way the ins and outs of the current crisis.  They even referenced The West Wing which got extra points from me.  [also as I post I see they’ve just published another pod featuring an interview with Squidge]


I already addressed the row over one addition to the Irish squad, but there were of course other announcements, like the call up of Joey Carbery which means it’s very possible we won’t see Sexton playing in Rome (on the IRFU page their training session includes two pics of Ross Byrne if that tells us anything, probably not).

Also it’s good to know Dan Sheehan & Cian Healy are back in the group and also the much less controversial additions are Caolin Blade, Gavin Coombes, Jordan Larmour, Jimmy O’Brien, Jamie Osborne, Cian Prendergast, Roman Salanoa, Jacob Stockdale and Kieran Treadwell.  Very happy to see all those names involved with of course in each case there are at least one or two others who just missed out.


First a word on the Women’s Celtic Challenge, congrats to the Irish representatives Combined Provinces who made it three wins from three with a 19-0 whitewash of their Welsh counterparts at the Kingspan last weekend, and best of luck to them aiming for a perfect campaign when they travel to Scotland to play the Thistles.

Now to the Men’s AIL and there were some fascinating results in Div1A as Terenure were knocked off their perch at the top following a narrow 8-10 defeat to Ballynahinch who had Marcus Rea and Jake Flannery in their ranks.  Taking over at the top are Clontarf, who didn’t have things their own way either but with Mick Kearney and Alex Soroka in their pack they stayed ahead of Young Munster at Castle Avenue.

Down at the bottom UCD badly needed all five points against surely-doomed Garryowen and Ben Brownlee was amongst the tries in their 52-12 victory.

Pick of the matches in Round 14 would seem to be Cookies v Hinch as the race for the top four now seems wide open.

Men’s AIL


Ballynahinch 10-8 Terenure

Clontarf 27-24 Young Munster

Lansdowne 25-19 Cork Con

Shannon 43-17 Dublin University

UCD 52-12 Garryowen


Feb 25 (all 2:30pm)

Cork Con v UCD

Dublin Univ v Clontarf

Garryowen v Shannon

Terenure v Lansdowne

Young Munster v Ballynahinch


Even with the Six Nations and a bit of URC action to look forward to at the weekend, I’m always here for some World Series Sevens action as well, although whatever the reason may be for only the men taking part in the LA leg, it’s still a shame.

The Irish men will really need to push for a top four finish here if they are to move up the rankings and while they find themselves with the Blitboks in their pool, with good performances against Uruguay and Canada they can cement their place in the knockouts by then.  Best of luck to them.









I’m already keeping track of the AIL and Sevens in this column but since I am hopeful of pro rugby taking off in my nation of birth I guess I should probably show more of an interest in the MLR which kicked off last weekend.

Of course with last season’s shenanigans with the two Gilchrist owned teams having to withdraw making a mockery of the playoffs didn’t help, but there was definitely some positive news to kick off the 2023 season with a league record 11,423 tickets sold for the San Diego Legion v Utah Warriors match at Snapdragon Stadium in southern California.  I can think of a few URC grounds, maybe even Premiership ones two, that wouldn’t mind that kind of attendance.

I’ll be posting the results, table and next fixtures here throughout the season and will do my best to catch a game or two as they’re all available for free on TheRugbyNetwork.com.


ATL 17-10 TOR


OGDC 42-27 CHI

SD 33-17 UTAH

SEA 25-11 RNYI

DAL 12-33 HOU








It’s back to the Six Nations we turn and first in a bonus midweek pod I have an all-province panel to go over the two rounds so far with me, I wonder if the Scott Penny thing will come up???? 

Then of course we will turn our attention to Ireland’s match in Rome on Saturday which will be getting the usual Harpin treatment with a preview Friday featuring Keego, a wrap on Sunday plus a whole lot of other features in between.

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

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