Welcome to my 80+ column, a weekly post featuring final thoughts from the week of rugby just gone.
FANZO GUINNESS PINT PREDICTOR LEAGUE
First things first…the all important update in the prestigious Guinness Pint Predictor League.
We have a new leader in the “Best Score In One Round” category as Andrew Byrne’s 67, including a spot on prediction of Ireland’s 14-point win over Italy, put him in pole position. The prize will be a signed copy of Brian Moylett’s “The Book On How You Become A Pro Rugby Player”.
As you can see despite being knocked off his perch Jack Fogarty still leads the overall table with seven points to spare.
REMEMBER YOU CAN STILL JOIN THE LEAGUE AND WIN PRIZES we’re accepting entrants right up to the final round so you can still beat Andrew’s Round 3 score, 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.
WRAP OF A WRAP
Apart from a big mishap on my part where I got the seniors and U20s mixed up in my selection of Front Five articles, Sunday night’s recordings went well and Tom and Conor did their usual sterling work in describing the action.
If you missed it, check it out here or on most major platforms.
HARPIN ON…12 & 13 OPTIONS
For the bonus chat this week we looked at Ireland’s options as centre and looking back at it now we even missed some names like James Hume and Luke Marshall who have both of course done well when called upon. Still I think it’s important to acknowledge that when everyone is fit there is only one pairing for Ireland that ticks all boxes both with and without the ball and while we try to repress the bias when talking about Ireland, I wonder in this case if it’s actually better for Leinster fans to make that point.
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.
HARPIN’ ON…CLOCK GONE RED
Here’s a bonus bonus clip if you will. After Tom described Italy’s interception try at the end of the first half I asked him about Ireland’s mindset in not killing the half after winning the lineout after the clock went red given the BP was in the bag.
TOM O’TOOLE TIK TOK
Halfway through this you’ll see me writing something down, for the record it’s a note to myself reminding me to use Tom’s mention of O’Toole’s display for this week’s TikTok clip. As you can see I remembered!
IRELAND’S TIME-DELAYED CALL
There has been a lot of light hearted indignation on social media about the Italian rendition of Ireland’s Call before the match, and to be honest while I wanted to join in, the fact that the issue was easily sidetracked into that annoying “debate” over whether or not that should be played at all for Irish rugby made me pause. But this column is a much safer space for me to express my thoughts without all that nonsense.
It should be a simple matter – each union should be able to decide on how their anthem is played. Full stop. I’m not even sure why it’s up for debate. Even giving the Italian organisers the benefit of the doubt in that this wasn’t a case of intentional head-wrecking, they still shouldn’t be put in a position where an error can be made.
The anthem playing is a “formality” in every sense of the word. First, it’s a reminder to the player of the extra prestige of playing test level rugby for their native or adopted country (another rabbit hole I’d want to avoid in this discussion) but more relevant is the way we’re not supposed to have the rendition of the anthem as a major talking point especially in something like the Six Nations!!!
You’d hope that regulations wouldn’t be needed for this, but that fiasco would seem to warrant them.
A friend texted me on Monday “Just drove past the Leinster HQ in UCD.. lots of press outside” and within an hour I had learned exactly why. This had been rumoured for a while but the confirmation was obviously very welcome news. With Stu leaving for Racing at the end of the campaign, this provides much needed continuity and I very much doubt there’s a single Leinster fan unhappy about it.
On Stu’s replacement, we’re hearing talk about Leon MacDonald, currently in charge of the Blues in Super Rugby and formally involved with Tasman, the Crusaders and the All Blacks so not a bad resumé at all, plus he has worked with Andrew Goodman. But before I get deep into details like how he takes his coffee, I should point out that nothing is confirmed as yet although apparently this will be sorted over the coming weeks.
Last thing I’d say on it is that a senior coaching position at Leinster Rugby isn’t exactly a tough one to sell to the best coaches.
“The funds are there. It’s just a case of going through the boring bit around plans and tenders, dates and project plans. All that boring stuff. That’s all happening now. It’s all systems go. I think we should have something really exciting in the next couple of months to show.”
Obviously COVID knocked back the planned redevelopment of the RDS a good bit so it’s good to see it’s still on track and every update on its progress is welcome. I love going there but still this work is very badly needed.
SCHOOLS FINAL FOUR
After a replayed first round tie set things back a bit, we now finally know the semifinalists in this season’s Leinster Schools Senior Cup : St Michael’s College v Blackrock College, Newbridge College v Gonzaga College.
Both should be quality matches but the first one puts me in mind of the final from ten years ago which featured players like Garry Ringrose, Jeremy Loughman, Oliver Jager, Nick Timoney, Cian Kelleher, Ross Byrne, Nick McCarthy, Ross Molony, James Ryan, Josh Murphy & Max Deegan. It was also the day I took this photo which got some decent reception about t’internet and (eventually!) inspired me to start the Harpin Instagram account.
Very much looking forward to both semifinals next Monday & Tuesday.
Biggest news is unfortunately Finlay Bealham’s injury and although his Championship is over his contribution to this campaign cannot be overstated.
Even without the Leinster goggles it has to be good news that Messrs Sexton, Henshaw, Furlong, Gibson Park & Ringrose are all included in the “mini-camp” in the hope that all will be available to face Scotland and England.
On the players sent back to their provinces, well I don’t want to repeat myself from last week on the consternation from certain fans over supposed bias in these decisions, I’ll just say that with a full round of URC matches at a crucial portion of the campaign, I’d say the provinces will take all the personnel they can get.
The news on Joe McCarthy was unfortunate but not surprising, hopefully he’ll be able to play some part at the business end of the season.
Speaking of which, nine points from Leinster’s final four matches will mathematically clinch 1st place, though with standards at the province as they are I doubt that’s a factor in team selection this coming weekend. Word is they were considering our matches against Cardiff, Dragons, Edinburgh & Stormers as a block which would mostly see the same combinations so we can expect a similar lineup this coming weekend.
15 COSGRAVE 14 LARMOUR 13 TURNER 12 OSBORNE 11 KEARNEY 10 H BYRNE 9 MCGRATH
1 MILNE 2 MCKEE 3 ALA’ALATOA 4 MOLONY 5 JENKINS 6 RUDDOCK (C) 7 PENNY 8 DEEGAN
16 MCELROY 17 BOYLE 18 CLARKSON 19 CONNORS 20 DEENY 21 N MCCARTHY 22 TECTOR 23 RUSSELL
(note – the above team is purely from my imagination, it’s certainly not one of those quasi-leaked Thornley teams which are always 22 out of 23 correct)
INJURY UPDATE – AVAILABLE FOR SELECTION:
Jason Jenkins: came through the game against Dragons Rugby with no issues following his return from injury
INJURY UPDATE – FURTHER ASSESSMENT REQUIRED:
Ciarán Frawley: will look to increase his training load this week as he continues his recovery from a knee injury
INJURY UPDATE – UNAVAILABLE FOR SELECTION:
Joe McCarthy: has had a procedure on an ankle injury and will be out of action for two months
There are no further updates on:
Charlie Ngatai (hamstring), Cormac Foley (hamstring), Ed Byrne (knee), Martin Moloney (knee) and Tommy O’Brien (knee)
First of all congrats to the Combined Provinces XV for their clean sweep of wins in the inaugural Celtic Challenge, no doubt they gave the test coaching set up plenty to think about over the four matches, and the squad for the upcoming Six Nations was announced on Tuesday, albeit over the backdrop of the tragic news of the passing of Tom Tierney.
Back to the Men’s AIL, Jack Boyle, Alex Soroka & Ben Murphy were among the Leinster players bagging tries in another important round of 1A matches. Tarf stayed on top with a good win at Trinity while Terenure stayed close to them by overcoming Lansdowne.
Meanwhile down at the bottom Garryowen finally slipped through the trap door although the race to avoid joining them is really hotting up and for the remainder of the campaign I can’t see there being too many dead rubbers.
Cork Con 29-34 UCD
Dublin Univ 21-38 Clontarf
Garryowen 16-26 Shannon
Terenure 43-24 Lansdowne
Young Munster 21-0 Ballynahinch
MAR 4 (all 2:30pm)
Ballynahinch v Dublin Univ
Garryowen v Cork Con
Lansdowne v Young Munster
Shannon v Clontarf
UCD v Terenure
SEVENS – FROM LA TO VANCOUVER
Just the men’s World Series resumed last weekend and to say Ireland’s fortunes varied over the two days would be an understatement. On Day One which was marred by torrential rain and several delays we won all our pool matches, including a win over the Blitzboks, to set up a quarterfinal against Australia, yet on the Sunday we just couldn’t stop shipping penalties and slipped to two defeats which meant we also slipped further down the series table to 9th after 6 of 11 rounds.
The circuit now moves to Vancouver, Canada where we get a chance for revenge over the Aussies in our pool and we also face Chile and our hosts.
Meanwhile the women return to action as well and with just three rounds to go we’ll be looking for another final four appearance to get us higher than our current fifth position.
FRI MAR 3
6:43PM WOMEN V CANADA
9:45PM MEN V CANADA
SAT MAR 4
12:58AM WOMEN V BRAZIL
4:35AM MEN V CHILE
7:50PM WOMEN V USA
10:57PM MEN V AUSTRALIA
11:28PM WOMEN’S PLAYOFFS BEGIN
MON MAR 5
1:54AM MEN’S PLAYOFFS BEGIN
MAJOR LEAGUE RUGBY
Getting pressed for time as I type so I’ll just leave the results, table & fixtures in this section. Hopefully I’ll have time to catch a game or two soon, they’re all available for free on TheRugbyNetwork.com.
SEA 28-22 ATL
UTAH 33-25 DAL
HOU 35-14 NOLA
RNYI 39-3 TOR
SD 29-12 NEFJ
DAL V SEA
ATL V NOLA
CHI V UTAH
RNYI V OGDC
HOU V SD
HARPIN’ PREDICTION LEAGUE
Kudos to Cian “RugbyKino” O’Muilleoir for reminding us all of the extra URC matches last weekend, I chose to reward him by being the only one to take a punt on Ulster winning in Durban, thus allowing me to narrow his lead down to just two and a half points!!! We both got the Lions/Glasgow game wrong though, which has us both anxiously looking over our shoulders at Mark Jackson in 3rd so there are a few interesting weeks of Superbruing ahead for us. Oh, and we’d also like to announce Keego’s new full official nickname of Neil “No Picks Keego” Keegan…
THE NEXT BATCH OF HARPIN’
Obviously we’ll be turning our attention to Leinster’s trip to Edinburgh next weekend and we’ll have an Opposition View pod during the week talking to Sandy Smith although it would be rude not to also ask him about the Scots whom Ireland play in the same city a week later.
Then we return to our URC focus with a preview show before, a wrap pod after and also all the other usual features in between so be sure to follow us on any or all of our social media platforms to keep up with it all. In the meantime, be sure to enjoy your rugby wherever you are. JLP