Welcome to my 80+ column, a weekly post featuring final thoughts from the week of rugby just gone.
WRAP OF A WRAP
Bit of a hectic weekend – first I was of course at the RDS on Friday night then I had commitments all day Saturday & Sunday which took longer than expected and for a while there it was touch and go whether I could do a wrap pod at all.
Thankfully I was able to find pockets of time here and there to cobble together a show and even more thankfully, Ciarán Duffy was able to lend his own pod producing experience to help me out and get a sizeable chunk of the recording done by the time I was finally able to dial in. Many thanks also to Tom Coleman for his patience and between them they did a super job harpin’ on the match on top of it all.
If you missed it, check it out here or on most major platforms.
HARPIN ON…THE STORMERS & LEINSTER’S NEW RIVALRY
No time to record a bonus clip this week so instead I just put out an excerpt from the pod where myself and Tom talked about the Stormers, how the approached the match at the RDS and how a new multi-national rivalry seems to be developing similar to that we had with the Ospreys back in the 2010s.
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’ PREVIEW SHOW TIK TOK
Didn’t have time to produce a TikTok from the main pod so I’ll use this segment to plug the Preview Show which we do generally soon after the Leinster or Ireland team is named during the week and can be found on our You Tube channel although we also put it out as a pod…
WOMEN’S SIX NATIONS
Like I said earlier I was busy Saturday so didn’t get to watch this match but by the sounds of things it was extremely disappointing. Since the failure to qualify for the World Cup there has been a good bit of positivity on the organisation side of things but it’s pretty clear that there is a long, long way to go and the problem is that as we try to recover the other nations are hardly going to pause and wait for us so by the time we reach a standard close to what we see from the top sides now, they would have moved on even further. And it certainly doesn’t get a whole lot easier for them as they face France next.
Of course it’s impossible to avoid contrasting this result with the achievements of the men’s team just a week earlier, but I hope you appreciate I don’t say this to be mocking, far from it. Maybe conditions for the women’s team are improving but it still pales in comparison to the long-standing infrastructure in place to support the men’s game. At the very least you’d hope there was enough support to provide for a dedicated sevens squad without depriving the XVs of the games top players in the process.
As always when I harp on women’s rugby here I must direct your attention to those who understand the issues much more and in the tweet below we have one such excellent source pointing out articles from another.
SEE ALSO THE SEVENS SECTION BELOW FOR A FURTHER UPDATE ON IRISH WOMEN’S RUGBY
DAN LEAVY TWEET
I was surprised by the reaction I got to this answer to a Twitter question, although I guess I can’t be surprised that I’m not the only one who thought Dan could have gone on to be one of the greats. In fact imagine if Leinster had himself, JVDF AND a never-injured Will Connors to choose from all this time!!!
Of course there was the odd bit of whataboutery in response but the truth is everyone was going to have their own choice in a question like this and the reality is that it’s one of those things where nobody is right and everyone is right all at once.
You’d like to think a player with the caliber and experience of Gareth Anscombe would be the best source of info on his own contract negotiations, yet Peter Jackson clearly thought he had a better one, and his reply below caused much amusement amongst the rugby Twitterati on Monday.
Who knows, maybe there is some truth in it after all, although I would have thought it was a courtesy to run an article like this by the man himself before publication? Come to think of it, maybe he did!!!
KING TROLL HIMSELF
TBH I’d much rather not have to mention Ewan McKenna’s name on these pages but once in a while it’s worth sharing his pseudo-man-of-the-people shite if for no other reason than to call it out as pseudo-man-of-the-people shite.
Kudos to Tom “Leinster Royalty” Coleman for coining the very tongue-in-cheek phrase “King Troll” in our WhatsApp group.
UNDER 18 FESTIVAL
Just going to copy paste some info from a press release, this series looks interesting and can be followed for free on a streaming service…
“The Six Nations Under-18 Festivals are a vital development platform”
· Under-18 Women’s Festival returns for its second year, strengthening the pathway for future stars of the women’s game
· Women’s Festival will take place from 7th – 15th April, and hosted at Wellington College, England
· The Men’s Under-18 Festival will be played at Energia Park, Dublin from 8th – 16th April
· Fans can follow every fixture across both festivals with a live streaming service on Six Nations Rugby digital channels
· The festivals will also offer a platform to support the development of coaches and match officials
Obviously the headline news here is about Johnny Sexton and to be honest, I’d rather not harp on it right now if you don’t mind, still processing the very real possibility that his start on New Year’s Day against Connacht was to his last in Leinster blue.
For now I’d rather turn my attention to our possibilities for selection for the Champions Cup this weekend, hosting an Ulster side who I am very sure will come to Dublin with a decent chance of knocking us out if we’re not careful.
The way I see it the immediate concern of the injury report is the HIA protocols for Ringrose, Keenan and Doris. Obviously it’s paramount that they see them out fully, but if as suggested by the injury report they could be available pending further assessment, I’m pretty sure all three would start.
Which leaves us with a quandary in the selection process, where we’d need to decide on back up if they are unavailable. We have tried several different options at 15 this season without HK but I’m thinking since Larmour wore the 15 most recently then he must be considered for Saturday. Then in the centre obviously Robbie will play 12 or 13 depending on Garry’s fitness with Frawley ready to play inside centre if required.
That all in turn makes the 23 jersey an interesting debate and I had no hestitation putting Liam Turner in the mix for it as he is having a fine season. And speaking of the bench I decided to also go for a 6/2 split option as with the likes of Jimmy O’Brien, Larmour and Frawley likely to be involved we could afford to beef up our pack replacements and while Scott Penny has done brilliantly of late I think Deegan might just pip him for the extra spot although it’s very, very close.
POSSIBLE 23 V ULSTER
Keenan/Larmour, J O’Brien, Ringrose/Henshaw, Henshaw/Frawley, Lowe, R Byrne, Gibson-Park
Porter, Sheehan, Furlong, Ryan, Jenkins, Baird, JVDF, Doris/Conan
McKee, Healy, Ala’alatoa, Molony, Conan/Ruddock, McGrath, H Byrne, Larmour/Frawley/Turner
(6/2 split bench) McKee, Healy, Ala’alatoa, Molony, Conan/Ruddock, Ruddock/Deegan, McGrath, H Byrne
(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:
Ed Byrne: came through the game at the weekend with no issues after his return from a knee injury
INJURY UPDATE – FURTHER ASSESSMENT REQUIRED:
Garry Ringrose: will continue to follow the Graduated Return to Play Protocols this week
Hugo Keenan: will continue to follow the Graduated Return to Play Protocols this week
Caelan Doris: will continue to follow the Graduated Return to Play Protocols this week
INJURY UPDATE – UNAVAILABLE FOR SELECTION:
Johnny Sexton: will see a specialist tomorrow and have a procedure on the groin injury picked up in last Saturday’s game against England which will likely keep him sidelined for the remainder of the Leinster Rugby season
There are no further updates on:
Jamie Osborne (knee), Rónan Kelleher (shoulder), Joe McCarthy (ankle), Cormac Foley (hamstring), Martin Moloney (knee) and Charlie Ngatai (hamstring)
With all of the top four at home in round 16 of Division 1A it was kind of inevitable that all would cement their places and the gap of 9 points to fifth place will be tough to close. It’s looking very much like we’re going to have two Leinster v Munster semifinals to look forward to.
Meanwhile down at the bottom although both UCD and Shannon lost the Students did manage a precious losing bonus which gives them a crucial four point lead over the Limerick side with both teams at home in Round 17 against mid-table opposition.
As you can see I’ll be including the race to qualify for next season’s top division in this section for the rest of the season. And what a finish it promises to be with not only four teams vying for the two top spots (winner goes straight up, runnersup get a playoff) but theres the added bonus of there being one club from each province in the four!!!! City of Armagh would appear to have the inside track but there will no doubt be more twists and turns to this division before the season is out.
Clontarf 24-14 Hinch
Cork Con 36-19 Shannon
Trinity 10-32 Lansdowne
Terenure 52-0 Garryowen
Young Munster 23-17 UCD
FRI MAR 31
Lansdowne v Clontarf
UCD v Dublin University
SAT APR 1
Cork Con v Terenure
Shannon v Ballynahinch
Garryowen v Young Munster
Banbridge 35-29 Malone
Buccaneers 7-27 Highfield
Naas 25-17 Old Belvedere
Wesley 13-6 City of Armagh
St Mary’s 40-32 UCC
ROUND 17 (ALL APR 1)
Old Belvedere v Banbridge
City of Armagh v UCC
Highfield v Naas
Malone v St Mary’s
Old Wesley v Buccaneers
For reasons I have still yet to find on the internet, the 2022/23 World Series Sevens circuit is making two visits to Hong Kong, at least for the men, maybe it’s to make up for an event lost to COVID?
The Irish men, who nudged up one place to 9th after a final four appearance in Vancouver, got themselves a stinker of a pool draw with New Zealand, South Africa and Kenya all finding their way into the deathiest of pools of death with us.
Meanwhile the women, still fifth despite a poor outing in Canada by their standards, don’t have it too much easier with Fiji, Australia and Brazil on the horizon.
Friday, March 31
6:04AM – IRELAND WOMEN V FIJI
8:04AM – IRELAND MEN V SOUTH AFRICA
10:28AM – IRELAND WOMEN V AUSTRALIA
Saturday, April 1
2:32AM – IRELAND WOMEN V BRAZIL
4:28AM – IRELAND MEN V KENYA
7:16AM – WOMEN’S PLAYOFFS BEGIN
8:49AM – IRELAND MEN V NEW ZEALAND
Sunday April 2
1:30AM – MEN’S PLAYOFFS BEGIN
UPDATE – The tweet below posted shortly after I published this article.
For this week’s feature match I stayed in the Eastern Conference to check out Old Glory DC as they hosted NOLA Gold.
The venue was the soccer ground of Loudon United, a feeder team for DC United from the MLS. It’s actually located in Virginia not Washington, although that’s not surprising as most of the people who work in the nation’s capital actually live in Virginia.
Normally I have issues watching these MLR games because of the visible lines on the pitch from other sports yet although you could see the soccer markings my attention was more drawn by the actual grass itself, it looked like it could have done with a wee trim that morning, the conditions underfoot looked a bit sub-standard.
And whether it was the grass or not the match itself was something of an error fest with several penalties and knockons and although the visitors did have a stingy defence, Old Glory must have concerns that it took them an hour to cross the line with all the possession they had.
They were winning penalties in the first half enough to go into the break with a 12-10 lead thanks to the boot of their former Puma outhalf Joaquín Díaz Bonilla although New Orleans made the most of their one chance as JP du Plessis finished off a fine exchange in loose play.
After the break the scrappiness continued with nobody seemingly able to control the ball until eventually Jordan Lautaro got them ahead only for Gold fullback and former Auckland Blue Jordan Trainor to hit straight back and with less than ten minutes left Aussie 10 Rodney Iona kicked the three points that gave the visitors the win.
Far from a classic but still both sides look well in contention for the playoffs.
More on the league next week.
OGDC 17-20 NOLA
NEFJ 10-9 DAL
UTAH 47-19 TOR
HOU 40-28 ATL
CHI 5-27 SEA
UTAH V NEFJ
DAL V TOR
CHI V HOU
NOLA V SEA
NYI V ATL
SD V OGDC
HARPIN’ PREDICTION LEAGUE
Not a good weekend for the actual predictions, with nobody ever risking a draw as their forecasted result plus there were unexpected wins for the Scarlets and Lions, but I still managed to claw my way closer to Kino at the top of the HPL with the gap now just half a point, although even with just 23 matches left you could say all of the top five are in contention. As for “No Picks Keego”, well, he’s clearing a space in his wardrobe for The Jersey Of Shame…
THE NEXT BATCH OF HARPIN’
I hate the chopping and changing around competitions as it is over the course of the European season, but this time of year it gets extra crazy as we must go from Six Nations to URC to Champions Cup in successive weekends.
But you can be sure I’ll be ready to give Saturday’s visit of the Ulstermen the full Harpin treatment with a preview Friday, wrap Sunday and all the usual features in between.
In the meantime, be sure to enjoy your rugby wherever you are. JLP