Welcome to my 80+ column, a weekly post featuring final thoughts from the week of rugby just gone.
WRAP OF A WRAP
For a match that supposedly had no value to Leinster Rugby we certainly had loads to harp on and it was great to have Joe Sheppard back on the pod after a long absence, with also of course Rich Mifsud offering his quality takes once more. I can absolutely guarantee you won’t find a better podcast on Irish rugby featuring American, Liverpudlian & Gibraltarian accents anywhere on the planet and yes, you can quote me on that. 😁
If you missed it, check it out here or on most major platforms.
HARPIN ON…SAM PRENDERGAST & THE NEXT GENERATION
I had a feeling there might be a Twitter backlash against Leinster fans acknowledging Sam Prendergast’s Player of the Match performance and sure enough, the ol’ birdhouse didn’t let me down. But will that stop us harpin’ on his display anyway? What do you think???
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. We’ve been keeping the video channels pretty low key this season as we adjust to the pod format so we had a mini celebration of sorts here at Harpin Manor last week when we got our 100th subscriber! But obviously if you can help us get that number higher a little faster it would be greatly appreciated…
TOUR EXPERIENCE TIK TOK
Not only did we give the Rhys Ruddock All Stars praise for their win in Jo’burg but we also stayed grounded by acknowledging what this tour is really about for the province and Rich nailed it on the head here…
Right on the back of the announcement of Jacques Nienaber coming to Leinster, we found out Monday that Connacht were getting a defensive coach of their own, and what a name it is.
I always said that on top of his own personal awesomeness on the pitch at Leinster, Fardy’s contributions went way beyond that and just his mere presence in the setup had to be an inspiration to all our locks and especially our backrowers…in particular Ryan Baird who has really stepped up since the Wallaby left to play a much similar role for us. And if what I’m saying is right about Baird who was just coming into the team at the time Scott came along, I can only imagine what he’ll do with someone like Ciaran Prendergast who’s already banging on the door of the test team as it is.
URC FORMAT TWEAK
A lot of talk about Heineken Cup formats this season but here’s a couple of alterations being made by the URC for next season. They have to do with the Shields, which are the geographical sub-divisions within the competition that has four distinct tables for Irish, Welsh, South African, plus of course the Scots/Italian one.
Essentially there are three announcements here…
- First of all, it’s important to point out they are keeping the shields at all. Could have easily scrapped them but I believe they’re a good way to add spice to the schedule.
- My favourite portion of this can be seen in the tweet below – in fact I’m pretty sure I brought this up in an 80+ column earlier in the season. Now there will actually be a proper Irish Interprovincial Championship once more with actual silverware on offer. As if the interpros needed more of an edge, I know, but it’s still very welcome.
- Finally and the one that most people will be happy about, the silverware I mention above is the only prize guaranteed to the winners. Since it is now only based on the derby results, it wouldn’t be right to base Heineken Cup qualification on it anymore, which now means the most for Welsh and Italian clubs since they will have to qualify by finishing in the actual URC top 8 as nature intended.
FIFITA TRY CALLED BACK BY “DR. NO“
Earlier in the season when he refereed Leinster’s St Stephen’s Day trip to Thomond Park I gave Chris Busby the name “Dr No” for the way he kept shouting “NO!” to forwards at breakdowns saying to stay away from the ball…well on last Friday evening at Scotstoun it caught him out in the incident below.
Much was said about the try being called back, and I was surprised that the debate was only over whether or not Fifita was actually offside. For me, the referee’s call of “no” followed by allowing the player to take the ball was way too misleading for both sides and perhaps the best course of action would have been to blow his whistle immediately, own up to the ambiguity (easy mistake tbf we’ve all done something like that) and restart the match with a Glasgow scrum.
Instead Fifita ran the length of the pitch only for the incident to be looked at several times before being ruled offside which gave the Warriors a penalty. Obviously that is technically the right call but my point is that while I do like the way officials bark instructions at forwards to keep them from doing no-nos that will disrupt the flow of play, there will be times when they can get their instructions mixed up and I reckon this was one of them.
Another controversial decision from the weekend of rugby just gone was this one. As you can see, Couch Referee has quoted chapter and verse what the right call was and I can’t argue.
But there are some other factors in the debate which need addressing. First, the offence was NOT considered to be a red card one, and much of those grumbling online seem to be the same ones (including some actual current players sadly) who get their knickers in a twist for every red shown for a blow to the head.
The reason Woodburn had to leave the pitch was because this was his second yellow card offence. We may disagree as to whether or not it deserved a call at all (and tbh I wasn’t 100% sure myself – the ref based the PT award on the fact that Woodburn had dragged the player into touch when I thought it was Hogg).
Actually my own biggest issue with all of this was the fact that he looked at it at all. I have a feeling the TMO check might have been what kicked off the online anger because a lot of rugby fans seem to be WAY too obsessed with anything that might slow down the game. I know delays can be a pain but there have to be limits and foul play in the act of scoring, of which this was definitely in the ballpark on first look, need to be checked. Although having said that, the high tackle on Chris Cosgrave as he scored for Leinster was not only checked, it was called, yet not actual sanction was given but that’s another story I guess…
IN THE BUNKER
This looks to be sensible. Basically instead of “if in doubt, give a yellow and it will be looked at during the week”, we now have “if in doubt, give a yellow and we’ll have a look while you play on and will let you know if it’s a red”. This will avoid the absolutely bonkers incident involving Super Rugby recently when a flying headbutt went completely unpunished.
AI ON LEINSTER’S SUCCESS
Last week I used ChatGPT to produce a report on Leinster’s HCC quarterfinal against Leicester, and while it did get a lot of the players names wrong, the result was perfect and overall looked believable at least to someone with only a passing interest in rugby.
This week however the AI has gone one better as just for the craic I asked it to weigh in on a debate that was been raging in the ruggersphere lately…
Write 500 words on the reasons for Leinster’s success.
Leinster Rugby is one of the most successful rugby union teams in Europe, with a long history of winning championships and producing top-quality players. There are many reasons why Leinster Rugby has been so successful over the years, including a strong coaching team, excellent training facilities, and a relentless focus on player development. In this essay, we will examine these reasons in more detail.
One of the most important factors in Leinster Rugby’s success is the quality of its coaching team. The team has been led by many top-quality coaches over the years, including Joe Schmidt, Matt O’Connor, and Leo Cullen. These coaches have not only been successful in winning championships but have also put a strong emphasis on player development. They have been able to identify and nurture the talents of some of the best players in Europe, such as Johnny Sexton, Tadhg Furlong, and Garry Ringrose.
Another key factor in Leinster Rugby’s success is the quality of its training facilities. The team has access to some of the best facilities in Europe, including a modern high-performance center and a well-appointed training ground. This allows players to train at the highest level, ensuring that they are fully prepared for the challenges of professional rugby. Furthermore, the team has a culture of continuous improvement, with players constantly being challenged to improve their skills and fitness levels.
Leinster Rugby’s success is also the result of its relentless focus on player development. The team has a world-class academy system that identifies and nurtures young talent from an early age. This system has produced many of the team’s current stars, including Jordan Larmour, James Ryan, and Josh van der Flier. It is also renowned for its ability to develop players’ leadership skills, ensuring that the team always has a strong core of leaders on and off the field.
Leinster Rugby’s success is also due to its strong team culture. The team is renowned for its tight-knit group of players, who are all committed to the same goal of winning championships. This culture is fostered by the coaching staff, who encourage players to work together and support each other throughout the season. This has led to a team that is not only successful but also has a great sense of camaraderie and spirit.
Finally, Leinster Rugby’s success is due to its ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Over the years, the team has faced many challenges, including injuries and changes in the rules of the game. However, the team has always been able to adapt and overcome these challenges, ensuring that it remains competitive at the highest level. This is due in part to the team’s strong coaching and training systems, which allow players to develop a range of skills and techniques that can be applied in different situations.
In conclusion, Leinster Rugby’s success can be attributed to a number of factors, including its strong coaching team, excellent training facilities, and relentless focus on player development. The team’s great team culture and ability to adapt to changing circumstances have also been key factors in its success. All of these factors have helped to create a team that is not only successful but also a great ambassador for the sport of rugby.
“WADE-ING” INTO PUNDITRY
I’m bringing our “Eurowatch” feature back this week, where basically I study the latest match for Leinster’s upcoming European opponents and produce a TikTok summarising what happened. This weekend it was Toulouse v Lyon, and what a match it was, like “joué joué on steroids”.
That vid should be ready on Wednesday, but for this column I simply had to share this bit of commentary from Christian Wade. Earlier in the season James Lowe was commentating on a Leinster v Chile friendly and I thought his laid back approach was brilliant – well for this match Wade did a real “hold my beer” on that notion.
After the first try of the match this is what he said…
“See me I love tries, when I touch the field, when I get my hands on the ball it’s like I want to make something happen you know, it’s just in my blood to get like white line fever, I feel that there’s another feeling that’s more than white line fever that’s what I have”Christian Wade in commentary during 🚽 🚽 v 🦁
We need more of this IMO.
Unfortunately the term “Rhys Ruddock’s All Stars” for Leinster’s travelling squad to South Africa will have to be symbolic for our match against the Bulls next Saturday as he picked up a knock. In our Harpin WhatsApp group we have it between Dave Kearney and Max Deegan for the captain’s armband in his stead.
On the actual injury report itself it was really unfortunate for Vakh to follow up his superb try with a neck injury and hopefully he’ll be back soon. And as ever the “no further updates” section is full of nailed on HCC starters so I try to be in denial so I’d best go back to trying to work out a possible matchday squad for the weekend.
For me it’s all about finding a balance between keeping important units together and getting caps into as much of the touring squad as possible. For me I’d leave 11-15 and 4-8 untouched with the exception of Ruddock.
POSSIBLE 23 V BULLS
Cosgrave, T O’Brien, Turner, Brownlee, Kearney, Tector, Murphy
Byrne, McElroy, Clarkson, Deeny, Jenkins, Soroka, Connors, Deegan
Barron, Boyle, Lasisi, O’Tighearnaigh, Culhane, Gunne, Prendergast, King
(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:
Tommy O’Brien: came through the game at the weekend with no issues after his return from a long-term knee injury
INJURY UPDATE – FURTHER ASSESSMENT REQUIRED:
Vakhtang Abdaladze: was withdrawn from the game against the Emirates Lions with a neck injury and will be further assessed this week before a final decision is made on selection
INJURY UPDATE – UNAVAILABLE FOR SELECTION:
Rhys Ruddock: injured his hamstring in the second half against Emirates Lions and will be unavailable for selection this week
There are no further updates on:
Ryan Baird (shoulder), James Lowe (calf), Josh van der Flier (ankle), Johnny Sexton (groin), Jamie Osborne (knee), Rónan Kelleher (shoulder), Joe McCarthy (ankle), Cormac Foley (hamstring), Martin Moloney (knee) and Charlie Ngatai (hamstring)
There were a few ways the top 4 in the AIL1A could have changed in round 18 yet with the top 3 all winning it was as you were which means the league semifinals will both be Leinster/Munster affairs as Tarf will host the Cookies and Cork Con will travel to Lakelands next Saturday.
When it comes to relegation I have to offer a correction, as I have been covering the AIL all season I was wrong in how I was explaining the format. The way it actually works all through the divisions is that the 9th team in the higher tier is joined by 2nd, 3rd and 4th in the next one down in a knockout playoff for the one place in the higher division. This means Shannon, Old Wesley, Belvo & Highfield will all have a chance to win two matches and join 1B champs City of Armagh in next season’s Division 1A.
Further down the league it’s congrats to Queens, Greystones and Instonians for winning Divs 2A,B & C respectively, especially Inst who won all 18 of their matches.
I’ve said it many times before but it’s worth repeating, it’s a shame the AIL isn’t covered a lot more on an actual TV channel – there was some YouTube streaming but the 2:30 kickoff time on Saturday meant they clashed with both the Women’s 6Nations and the URC.
Ballynahinch 17-7 Lansdowne
Clontarf 50-29 UCD
Dublin University 66-14 Garryowen
Terenure 29-17 Shannon
Young Munster 26-36 Cork Con
Sat Apr 22
Clontarf v Young Munster
Terenure v Cork Con
Banbridge 16-10 Highfield
Buccaneers 24-31 City of Armagh
Naas 35-39 Old Wesley
St Mary’s 21-32 Old Belvedere
UCC 20-10 Malone
Shannon v Old Wesley
Old Belvedere v Highfield
CHAMPIONS : Queens University
PROMOTION PLAYOFFS : Banbridge v Barnhall, Blackrock Coll v Nenagh Ormond
RELEGATED : Dolphin
CHAMPIONS : Greystones
PROMOTION PLAYOFFS : UL Bohs v Sligo, Galway Corinthians v Dungannon
RELEGATED : Enniscorthy
CHAMPIONS : Instonians
PROMOTION PLAYOFFS : Galwegians v Bruff, Skerries v Tullamore
RELEGATED : Sunday’s Well
As I’m typing this section the news is just coming through that both Dave Kearney and Adam Byrne have announced they are moving to the MLR to play for the Chicago Hounds, a very interesting development indeed. Definitely a great move for Dave to see out his brilliant career but when it comes to AB I have to assume he’s doing it with a view to qualify for US Eagles caps but whatever the reasons we of course wish both all the best.
On this season’s comp I had intended to feature the Toronto v New England match as one to watch but once I got spoiled on the score over twitter, or more to the point when I realised what a blow out it was, I decided instead to focus on Leinster’s next European opponents Toulouse.
So as you can see by the tables below it’s the Free Jacks and Legion leading the way in the conferences at the halfwy stage
More on the league next week.
SD 48-24 CHI
OGDC 42-31 NYI
UTAH 41-35 SEA
HOU 33-21 DAL
NOLA 7-23 ATL
TOR 5-80 NEFJ
NEFJ V ATL
OGDC V UTAH
DAL V SD
CHI V NOLA
NYI V HOU
TOR V SEA
HARPIN’ PREDICTION LEAGUE
I CAUGHT HIM!!!! Slow and steady may not have won the race just yet, but having been behind Kino for most of the season, to overtake him with just 15 matches left to predict isn’t the worst timing ever. The key ironically was Leinster’s match in Johannesburg, I was very tempted to go for the home win but decided against it while Kino thought differently. Still many ways that 2 point lead can still evaporate however, and with Mark and Tom not a million miles behind either.
THE NEXT BATCH OF HARPIN’
So it’s the Bulls this weekend…Mark Jackson will join me on Friday for the preview, with Conor Cronin & Nathan Johns lined up for the wrap pod on Sunday. This will actually be the first Leinster match this season I’ve been unable to watch live, although I reckon my son’s birthday dinner is a decent enough excuse! We’ll still be doing our regular features where possible so do keep an eye out and get involved in the conversation when you can.
In the meantime, be sure to enjoy your rugby wherever you are. JLP