80+ column : Doddie’s legacy, TMO suggestion & Sevens’ return

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


WRAP OF A WRAP

All due respect to the Glasgow Warriors, but let’s just say Leinster’s win last Saturday is not one that will go down in the memory. Or at least not one that will inspire the province to bring out the available players who took part at half time in a match 10 years down the road, like Leinster did with the 2011/12 HCup winning teams!

Despite the comparative lack of importance, I still think the lads did a really good job describing the action in our Sunday pod, each of them providing their own expertise with Keego bringing the witty references and Mark the coaching expertise, just goes to show what a wide variety of Leinster fans are out there and while I have said it before I’m happy to say again that I’m lucky to have such an awesome set of contributors.

I also consider myself lucky to be able to go to these matches at the RDS since no matter what the overall importance of the occasion I never fail to enjoy being there on matchday.

Follow us on Instagram @harpinonrugby

HARPIN’ ON LEINSTER’S DEFENCE V GLASGOW

Our extra chat this week was on Leinster’s defence, we have harped on it before but as we continue to remain this consistent without the ball no matter what the lineup, I’ll feel like bringing it up again and again on these pages until the standards start to slip. And as I bring up the near perfection I see week in week out, it’s always good to have fellow fans to bring me at least a little bit back down to earth as you can see in the clip below.

Mark’s point that Glasgow didn’t really challenge us and Keego’s that we need to be wary of relying too much on it are both well made, in fact that all comes into play in last season’s Champions Cup final. We not only found out that keeping the opposition’s score down isn’t worth much if you can’t find the tries yourself, but also if anything our defending was TOO perfect in those closing minutes – ironically if we had let La Rochelle score much earlier in their late seige we would have at least had time left to respond! Anyway, here’s the chat…have a listen for yourself and maybe subscribe to the channel too if the mood takes you…


DODDIE WEIR

A Lions Tour, 61 caps for Scotland where he scored 19 points from four tries (one under the old money of four points) and starring for both Newcastle Falcons and Border Reivers as the sport was just turning professional is a brief summary of Doddie Weir’s achievements on the pitch, but it’s what happened after his retirement for which he will be most remembered. Of course I don’t just mean the tragic ailment of MND but of course the lengths to which he went to help raise awareness through the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation. Here’s the opening couple of paragraphs from their post from Monday, click here for the full article and by all means feel free to contribute if you can.

Instantly recognised as an outstanding rugby player, Doddie was diagnosed with MND just two days before Christmas in 2016, eventually going public with the news the following summer on what was Motor Neuron Disease Awareness Day.

Since making his condition known, Doddie has championed the campaign for more to be done for sufferers of the disease, both in terms of finding a possible cure, and with the treatment and welfare of patients and their carers.

My Name’5 Doddie Foundation

@IRISHWOMENS

We have interviewed the owner of the @IrishWomens account a few times for the pod, but understandably they wish to remain anonymous as their aim is to further the cause of the women’s game throughout the four provinces. We’re very sorry, if not entirely surprised, to learn that they have received a good bit of abuse on social media, especially recently and I hope my readers would join me in offering them and indeed anyone encountering such treatment online our full support.

I was glad to see this particular situation was resolved and I hope it doesn’t happen again although unfortunately I fear there are more bad faith actors than this one so we need to look out for each other and call it out when we see it.

Meanwhile those of us with a genuine interest in full inclusivity in the sport can go on having our rational adult discussions.


TMO ANGLES

Rob Russell’s 1st try for Leinster on Saturday, coming as it did after an out-of-this-world offload by Charlie Ngatai, reminded me of technology I have seen in rugby league which could really be used in union.

Thankfully for the boys in blue the try I mention above was clear cut after a couple of looks on the replay, but often in tries in the corner it is difficult to see whether the grounding was made before or after a trailing foot drags into touch. Or at least it’s difficult when you only see one angle at a time.

I have to admit I don’t watch a whole lot of rugby league but I am pretty sure I have seen a feature used where your can watch four different angles at once played simultaneously so everyone can see exactly what they need to see to make a decision. Baffles me how something as helpful as that can’t be brought into Union. We often complain about TMOs for wasting time but sometimes maybe they can be improved.


SEVENS ARE BACK

Unfortunately for all I have said on these pages about football being played in Qatar, Dubai isn’t a whole lot better when it comes to human rights and after the final RWC2023 qualifiers taking place there over the past few weeks, it’s now time for the Sevens circuit to pass through with both Ireland’s Women’s and Men’s teams taking part.

Both squads will be looking to improve on their respective 7th place finishes in Hong Kong in the first round, and the action is all being streamed on the World Rugby website from 5am (Irish time) on Friday.


INJURY REPORTS

Delighted to see Messrs Larmour & Lowe continuing to move up the list and it would be great to see one or both of them involved against Ulster at the weekend. The news is not so great for Robbie Henshaw however and I doubt we’ll see him before the start of the 2023 Six Nations. That also means of course it would be extra beneficial for Leinster if Charlie Ngatai’s injury isn’t as bad as it looked when he was removed at halftime last Saturday, especially as he was playing so well.

INJURY UPDATE – AVAILABLE FOR SELECTION:

Harry Byrne and Rónan Kelleher: came through the game at the weekend against Glasgow Warriors with no issues after their return from hamstring injuries

Ryan Baird: came through the game at the weekend with no issues following his return from the Graduated Return to Play Protocols

Jordan Larmour: will train fully with the squad this week after his recovery from a foot injury

James Lowe: will train fully with the squad this week after his recovery from a calf injury

INJURY UPDATE – FURTHER ASSESSMENT REQUIRED:

Johnny Sexton: will be further assessed as the week goes on for a calf injury before a final decision is made on his availability

Charlie Ngatai: will be further assessed as the week goes on for a shoulder injury before a final decision is made on his availability

INJURY UPDATE – UNAVAILABLE FOR SELECTION:

Robbie Henshaw: had a procedure on a wrist injury last week which will rule him out of action until early in the new year

There are no further updates on:

Martin Moloney (knee), Ciarán Frawley (knee), Will Connors (bicep), James Tracy (neck), Charlie Ryan (knee) and Tommy O’Brien (knee)

AIL UPDATE

The Women’s AIL plays to a finish before Christmas with teams vying for a place in the final which will be screened live on TG4 on Dec 9. This weekend sees the semifinals with 1st seed Rock hosting UL Bohs in one while the other is a Dublin derby between Railway Union and Belvo.

Meanwhile in the men’s version they are at round 7 of 18 with Terenure continuing their perfectly perfect start with 35 points out of 35 although Clontarf did stay close enough to them in the round’s biggest clash for a losing bonus. The Nure have another 1st v 2nd clash in the next round when they host Trinity at Lakelands.

It was a good weekend for most of the Munster clubs in Div 1A with Shannon and Young Munster both defeating Dublin opposition while Cork Con stayed in touch at the top thanks in part to the ridiculously long penalty by George Coomber you see in the clip below.

Women’s AIL

Dec  3

SEMIFINALS

Blackrock v UL Bohemians

Railway Union v Old Belvedere


Men’s AIL

Sat Nov 26

Shannon 36-24 UCD

Ballynahinch 13-20 Cork Con

Clontarf 24-29 Terenure

Dublin University 24-25 Young Munster

Lansdowne 47-28 Garryowen



Sat Dec 3

Cork Con v Clontarf

Garryowen v Ballynahinch

Terenure v Dublin University

UCD v Lansdowne

Shannon v Young Munster

HARPIN’ PREDICTION LEAGUE

The return of the URC also means the return of the Harpin’ Prediction League and the good news for me this week is that I made up a lot of ground on Kino who was getting a little too comfortable at the top. However the bad news for me was that I’d be an extra point closer if only I had remembered to get my prediction for Stormers and Scarlets in on time!!! Still though, at least the Ospreys came through for me this weekend, while the URC’s 2 upset results, namely Benetton beating Embra and Cardiff’s shock whitewash of the Sharks, not being forecast by any of us. Down at the bottom of the table as you can see, it’s not looking good for Keego who may have to don The Jersey Of Shame at season’s end.


THE NEXT BATCH OF HARPIN’

Ulster up next at the RDS so we’ll have Ian Frizzell back on the pod to offer an opposition view on Wednesday, Keego will be helping me with the preview and then for the wrap on Saturday it will be Conor Cronin and Tom Coleman on duty. Also we’ll have all the usual features including the return of Eurowatch with some TikTok videos showing how Leinster’s Champions Cup opponents are getting on in their domestic competitions.

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

80+ column : Josh & Terry, Justin & James, Nic & Matt

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

WRAP OF A WRAP

Was happy to have Ian Frizzell and Stephen “Master Of None” Murphy on the pod this week to harp on the narrow win over Australia, always good to get a perspective from outside Leinster although we pretty much agreed on most of what went on, ICYMI you can check it out by clicking this link.


HARPIN’ ON NIC WHITE’S HIA

As often happens with our Sunday pods, while we have a tight schedule of topics for the show itself to keep it under the hour, sometimes the conversations do go on and I’m happy to let them – even if they get cut I can always produce videos for the YouTube channel and this week we had two such clips.

First up we have the chat over Nic White’s HIA which was the focus of a post match discussion on Virgin Media with Matt Williams’ poor attempt at defending the decision. I’ve seen some opinion out there that we shouldn’t attack him so much as the officials but IMO it’s about much more than this one incident. A lot of people watching what these pundits say will likely be involved one day in making important decisions way below test level and I believe we should all be on the same page with the message “if in doubt sit ’em out”.


HARPIN’ ON JACK CROWLEY

We had another good chat about Jack Crowley’s start and for me it was a good chat to have because we had opinions from three non-Munster provinces and all were positive, check for yourself…


LEINSTER 40-3 CHILE WRITEUP 

One feature of this season is that assuming there are no COVID-style interruptions to the calendar, Leinster & Ireland aren’t scheduled to clash on the same weekend, which is really good news for fans of both who are watching their pockets.

But if there absolutely had to be a clash, this match at Energia Park in Donnybrook is almost exactly what makes a good exception to that rule, I say almost because of the 2pm Friday kickoff which would have been a struggle for many, although they did allow for that by offering both free admission plus live streaming on YouTube (it’s still up if you didn’t get to watch just click this link).

Meanwhile here at Harpin’ Manor although I have enjoyed the switch from article writeups to podcast wrapups, I do miss the old way so maybe matches like this one can be an opportunity to briefly go back to the “old way”.

Actually myself and Tom Coleman did do some brief harping on the match in last Friday’s Preview Show, although that recording was not long after the match finished and now I’ve had a chance to watch over it again, I do have a few headings under which I’d like to share some thoughts…

DEFENCE – One observation I made on the preview show was that “this match reminded me of the old British & Irish Cup matches down in Donnybrook where it was Boys vs Men and the boys winning handily”. I still believe this to an extent, but I should probably add a caveat because Chile were clearly a much better outfit than some of the sides Leinster A faced back in the day.

They definitely came to play but not for the first time a Leinster side has posted a scoreline like this where I’m much more impressed by the “3” in the scoreline than I am by the “40”. From the first minute to the last while “Los Cóndores” did everything they could to add some five-pointers to the penalty they converted in the sixth minute to take the lead, they just could not break down the home side’s defensive organisation which is yet another clear indicator that it matters not if it’s the elite XV or a side like this with mostly academy and club hopefuls, the standards without the ball seem to run right through the squad.

I’ll mention individuals in a later point but for this one it would be unfair to single people out as there did not seem to be a weak link in the chain and even on the rare occasions there was a line break it was always snuffed out by excellent scrambling. Not a bad quality for a trophy-chasing club to be able to rely on.

SIX TRIES – But of course no matter how well you’re defending you also have to put points on the board and after settling in with a couple of “penalty-lineout-maul-Lee Barron try” scores, our third was an amazing tap n go penalty by Cormac Foley where he started 10m in his own half, jinked around 3 forwards like they weren’t there and then accelerated through the backfield sevens-style for the score.

The “bonus point” try came with the visitors being a man down as this the set move of an attacking lineout went through the backs where Andrew Smith, who overall didn’t have the best day with a few missed chances, made no mistake here with a neat in-out step to get around the final tackler.

Early in the second half right at the end of the sin bin period skipper for the day Liam Turner ran a lovely line to take a pass breaking through under the posts to make it 33-3 while on 49 minutes we got our 6th and final try when number 8 Sean O’Brien took an offload after a Nick McCarthy snipe to go over.

Being the defensive nerd that I am I actually didn’t mind the lack of tries in the final half hour as Chile really did all they could to get their side of the scoreboard working again only to be denied even after we went heavily into our bench. For me, that kind of defiance is as good as a seven pointer.

STANDOUT PLAYERS – Charlie Tector got PotM yet while I do think he played well and seems to be progressing nicely after his U20 Six Nations heroics earlier in the year, if Cormac Foley had played the full 80 (he left the action on 44m although did come back on briefly for McCarthy later) I’d have gone for him, not only for the “worldy” try, but also for his over distribution and decision making which was mostly at the heart of everything positive for our attack.

Others that stood out for me were second row pairing Brian Deeny & Cormac Foley, and back rowers Conall Boomer and Seán O’Brien. Also having already harped on the team defending, there was an amazing individual effort from Liam Turner in stopping a certain try with a last-ditch tackle in the corner, his stock is definitely rising in a Leinster set up already well stocked with quality centres.

JUSTIN & JAMES – I remember a Leinster match back in the old Pro 14 (though not the opposition sadly) when the TV commentators were Reggie Corrigan and Bernard Jackman and I remarked that they would be perfect for ALL Leinster matches, even if just as a red button option if that could be organised.

But I reckon Justin Middleton & James Lowe did a decent job putting themselves forward for such a role on this match, not only did they describe the action perfectly but we also got to know some of the lads’ nicknames, like Rob Russell “The TikTok Dancer”, Tom Clarkson “The Italian Stallion”, and also according to JLowe it seems Michael Milne is a bit of a grumpy sod!

Imagine people with accents that are definitely not Irish banging on about Leinster Rugby like that? I doubt anyone else would dare giving it a go…

FINAL THOUGHTS – All in all a good run out for all involved and a decent bonus to have on the calendar to help get us back into the URC mindset after the Autumn internationals. And I’m pretty sure the occasion helped greatly in Chile’s World Cup preparations, too. The mini-bustup at the end (or dare I call it a “mini-Donnybrook”?) shows just how seriously both sides were taking it.


JVDF & TK = 🌎 POTY

“And when Irish Men’s Rugby saw the breadth of its domain, it wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer.”

Obviously that’s tongue in cheek but whatever happens in the future we can always say we remember a time when Ireland’s XVs team were ranked number 1, we had the best XVs player in the world, the best 7s player in the world, plus of course a World Cup 7s bronze after only taking the discipline seriously a few years ago.

Absolutely delighted for Josh & Terry on their much-deserved awards, obviously there are many out there who will highlight the case for others to have gotten them but just let them grumble.

Next up, as well as keeping the men’s standards where they are heading to RWC2023, we can also aspire to bringing the women’s game up to those levels as well.


RAS-TOO-FAR-IAN

Ugh. I’m sick and tired of harpin’ on f**kin’ Rassie. But he gives me no choice. I do my best to stay level headed on the social media as others seem to find themselves all too easily “triggered”, but when he posted last week about his spate of tweets and videos after the Boks lost to both Ireland & France in successive weeks, suggesting that the posts were “not aimed at the officials,but to our fans on what we should do better”, I’d had enough of the BS and had to respond.

Not surprisingly a lot of South African fans replied with not too kind suggestions as to what I could do for steps 5, 6 and sometimes even 7, but I realise I did kind of leave myself open to that with the framing and I certainly don’t regret posting the tweet at all.

It later emerged that he had been banned for two more games by World Rugby [very weak sauce IMO given his previous but at least it was something] so I’m assuming his tweet was done having found out about the sanction before us.

Whatever the reality behind the scenes, the guy really needs to stay in his lane.


A BRIDGE TOO QATAR

I’m definitely not “one of those” rugby fans who likes to turn up his nose at football, but when it comes to the 2022 World Cup that just started last weekend, I’m definitely a rugby fan who is happy to turn his back on it for a few weeks. Plenty of URC & Heineken Cup action to satisfy my sporting taste buds in that time.

Sadly, as I have said before on these pages, with Qatar Airways sneaking on to the URC officials jerseys and the final RWC qualifiers taking place in Dubai of all places, I fear our own sport might be tempted down a similar road.


PARABÉNS PORTUGAL!!!

I don’t know very much about my Portuguese heritage on my father’s side, but after their dramatic last-gasp penalty to clinch a draw against the USA which was enough to get them to RWC2023, I might find out a bit more so I can get behind them as my second team when the tournament comes around. Massive achievement for them although I reckon Francisco Issac, who appeared on our pod talking about the Rugby Europe Super Cup a few weeks ago, explains their journey a whole lot better in this Squidge-esque video…


INJURY REPORTS

Biggest news in this week’s Leinster list is Rónan Kelleher reaching the “Available for selection” portion although of course it’s great to see Ryan & Harry there too. As great and all as it has been to see Dan Sheehan tearing it up this season, it won’t hurt to have Rónan back to his best as well and he must be chomping at the bit to get out there.

Meanwhile down in the dreaded “no further update” portion it’s not good to see Henshaw in there for sure, although it is definitely good news to see James Lowe move out of there, as much as I enjoyed his commentary I’d enjoy seeing him in a Leinster jersey a whole lot more.

INJURY UPDATE – AVAILABLE FOR SELECTION:

Harry Byrne: will be available to train this week following his return from a hamstring injury  

Ryan Baird: has completed the Graduated Return to Play Protocols and will return to full training this week

Rónan Kelleher: will be available to train this week following his return from a hamstring injury

INJURY UPDATE – FURTHER ASSESSMENT REQUIRED:

Jordan Larmour and James Lowe: will again step up their rehabilitation this week as they return from foot and calf injuries respectively   

INJURY UPDATE – UNAVAILABLE FOR SELECTION:

Johnny Sexton: will be assessed this week for a calf injury sustained in the build-up to the Australia game on Saturday

There are no further updates on:

Martin Moloney (knee), Ciarán Frawley (knee), Will Connors (bicep), Robbie Henshaw (hamstring), James Tracy (neck), Charlie Ryan (knee) and Tommy O’Brien (knee)


AIL UPDATE

The round robin portion of the Women’s AIL came to a close last weekend with UL Bohs clinching their spot in the semifinals with a home win over Galwegians, although their chances of progressing further look slim as they have to travel to play 100% Blackrock College, who just put the 79 points on Suttonians. The other semi looks to be a lot closer as Railway Union’s 22-5 win in Wicklow meant they will host Belvo for a place in the final on Dec 9, which will be televised on TG4.

Over in the men’s they had the weekend off and they are back in action this weekend with the big match in Division 1A being 100% 1st place Terenure travelling to Castle Avenue to play 3rd place Clontarf, a match which should feature several of the players who did so well in Leinster blue against Chile last Friday.

Women’s AIL

Ballincollig 15-3 Cooke

Blackrock College 79-0 Suttonians

UL Bohemian 13-7 Galwegians

Wicklow RFC 5-22 Railway Union

Men’s AIL

Sat Nov 26

Shannon v UCD

Ballynahinch v Cork Con

Clontarf v Terenure

Dublin University v Young Munster

Lansdowne v Garryowen


THE NEXT BATCH OF HARPIN’

The Best League aka the URC is back in action this week, and Leinster hope to continue their unbeaten start to the season by hosting Glasgow at the RDS on Saturday afternoon. I’ll be speaking to Warriors fan David Arnott on Wednesday for a bonus pod to see how their season has gone so look out for that, then on Friday Keego will join me for the Preview Show, with the wrap as always getting recorded on Sunday evening.

Also there will be the usual features on our various social media channels, including Mastodon which seems to be attracting more and more rugby fans each day so why not check it out if you haven’t already.

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

80+ column : Sportsmanship – some good on the pitch, some bad off it


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


A WRAP OF A WRAP

With all due respect to Fiji, matches against them and others like Georgia are meant to be the “off” weekend in November but to us rugby nerds in particular they can be just as fascinating as the marquee matches.

Maybe last Saturday’s match wasn’t the best example of this but still on the Sunday pod (can’t believe it’s already the 3th under the new format) I was joined by Rich Mifsud and Caolán Scully to look back over the match as well as a few other bits and pieces from the rugby world, and between us I reckon we did a decent job making some points out of it, why not check it out yourself by clicking this link.

On the pod we follow a rigid enough structure to keep the whole recording under the hour so normally only one of us will get to harp on a particular topic before we move on, but my guests are encouraged to jump in if they want to prolong a conversation because even if it’s cut from the pod I can always release it separately and as you can see below there was one subject in particular we wanted to go into bit more detail on.

Hey, if he can make videos when something pisses him off why can’t we?


MARTIN SCOR-RASSIE

So below you can see the chat we had on the pod surrounding Rassie, and here is a comment I got on our YouTube channel, along with my reply.

Albert Van den berg OK. Help me. The things that he shows on video, that is true. What will you do when it’s your team. And world rugby don’t do anything? What’s the use to play rugby. And the ref does not blow right. Please help me understand.

Harpin’ On Rugby Happy to help.

1) a few selected clips do not reflect the overall context of a rugby match. Does it confirm the same incident didn’t happen the other way?

2) You and I should of course be free to post all the videos we want on social media, that’s what it’s for. But a DoR of a top tier nations who has already been banned for the same thing? Absolutely not. There are mechanisms in place for him to make his concerns known and he should stick to them.

3) Rassie (who I admire as a coach, earned all of his success to date) knows all of the above yet still persists in dealing with what can only be called “referee coercion”.


WORLD POTY

You don’t need me to tell you that I’m a big fan of both Messrs Sexton & van der Flier but even I have to admit I was surprised to see both in the four-man shortlist for World Player of the Year, and naturally there was a flurry of tweets suggesting those who were left out. Some referred to the national imbalance (France had a more successful year) while others put forward individual names they thought were missing.

Now I’m not suggesting this solution would prevent the whinging, because nothing will ever do that, but I do think it’s possible to maybe make that list a little longer.

Whatever about the fans’ opinion, going by the official graphic only the Irish lads are happy about being nominated…


BUNDEE’S BACK

I love Bundee Aki as a player and I do think he should play a part in Ireland’s RWC preparations, so I do get why he’s in the frame for selection this weekend against the Wallabies, plus we’re down a couple of leading centers to injury, but still…given the recent ban was not his first I don’t think it would have been the worst idea to leave him out of the Irish squad for November.

Watch him get the winning try on Saturday after me saying that.


CHIN UP MATE

Lot of talk about bad sportsmanship in rugby this week so how about a view of the other side…right after Ben Donaldson (on his test debut) missed the crucial kick at the end of #ITAvAUS not only did his team mates not hesitate to go console him but so did Italian 10 Tomasso Allan who chose to take the time to do likewise before celebrating. Awesome to see.


ANGRY BIRDS

I recently saw someone describe Twitter as a “cess pit”, ironically in a tweet.

That narrative really, really bugs me because from my experience Twitter has enhanced my experience of rugby by a factor of infinity. Yes, there are those who either have no idea where “the line” is or worse, know full well and happily leap over it, but that’s what the mute, block and report buttons are for. Those muppets are far outnumbered by decent people who know how to have a conversation with dignity and this should never be forgotten.

And yes, I know Elon is there doing whatever it is that he’s doing so the censoring may not always work, but it should never prevent us from keeping the discussion going. A recent exchange on twitter involving someone I have a lot of respect for (without always agreeing, that’s how it’s supposed to work) was particularly annoying.


TRANSGENDER AWARENESS WEEK

It’s Transgender Awareness Week from Nov 13-19, click here for more information. I have harped on the trans rugby issue before in this column so all I’ll do is repost it below.

You may recall over the summer there was a pretty intense discussion over transgender participation in rugby. My position was, well, let’s just say, complicated, and I struggled to explain it the way I wanted to in the ruggersphere.

What I was trying to say was that as much as we want to leave politics out of sport, in areas like this we have to acknowledge the wider topic because it can often lead to abuse from verbal all the way to physical.

Essentially the argument of needing an outright ban simply because we’re imagining a grown man posing as a woman just to play rugby and the dangers that entails falls way short of the conversation that needs to be had on the matter.

Thankfully John Oliver did a decent job laying out the wider issue IMO so here’s his recent (NSFW) piece on it…


INJURY REPORTS

With the URC returning the weekend after next we got two injury reports and unfortunately there was not a lot of good news, especially for Ciarán Frawley who just can’t string a run of games together at all.

There’s also a lot of concern over the “no further updates” list, that’s usually where my eyes go first.

IRISH REPORT

Joey Carbery will complete the return to play protocols at Munster following his removal on Saturday for a HIA. Robbie Henshaw’s hamstring issue will rule him out of this week’s game against Australia, and he will continue his rehab at Leinster.

Jimmy O’Brien will complete the HIA process today and is expected to be available to train tomorrow.

The players who picked up knocks against South Africa – Johnny Sexton, James Ryan, Andrew Porter, Josh van der Flier and Hugo Keenan – will be monitored across the early part of the week and re-integrated into training according to their individual management plans.

Joe McCarthy returns to the squad having completed his return to play protocols.

Bundee Aki, who has trained with the squad for the past few weeks, is now available for selection having completed his suspension and the coaching intervention programme.

LEINSTER REPORT

INJURY UPDATE – AVAILABLE FOR SELECTION:

Joe McCarthy: will be available to train this week following his return from the Graduated Return to Play Protocols and has joined up with the Ireland squad

INJURY UPDATE – FURTHER ASSESSMENT REQUIRED:

Harry Byrne, Jordan Larmour and Rónan Kelleher: will step up their rehabilitation this week as they return from hamstring, foot and a hamstring injury respectively

INJURY UPDATE – UNAVAILABLE FOR SELECTION:

Martin Moloney: injured his ACL in the game against Scarlets and has had a procedure. He will be unavailable for the rest of the season.

Ciarán Frawley: will have a procedure tomorrow for a knee injury and will be unavailable for a number of months.

Robbie Henshaw: has returned to Leinster Rugby where he will be assessed for a hamstring injury

There are no further updates on:

Ryan Baird (concussion), Will Connors (bicep), James Lowe (calf), James Tracy (neck), Charlie Ryan (knee) and Tommy O’Brien (knee)


AIL UPDATE

The Women’s AIL is nearing its conclusion with just one more round of matches before the top four go into the semifinals. Rock ensured they will be at home with their 19-17 top of the table win at Railway Union ensures both clubs will be at home in the playoffs, with Belvo having already clinched their place. The fourth and final spot is up for grabs this weekend and two of the teams in contention UL Bohs and Galwaegians play each other while Wicklow have a tougher task against RU.

One extra thing about Wicklow RFC, it’s quite something to see them in contention for the final four this season after receiving much ridicule from some quarters (and not just them but the women’s game in general) following a series of heavy defeats.

Meanwhile over on the men’s side of things Terenure’s perfect start continued, with a 38-21 win over Hinch at Lakelands keeping them top, can’t do better than 30 points from 30! They travel to Castle Avenue to play Tarf next in what’s clearly the tie of the round although that’s not until the weekend of the 26th.

Women’s AIL

Suttonians 24-12 Ballincollig

Cooke 12-55 UL Bohemian

Old Belvedere 17-8 Wicklow

Railway Union 17-19 Blackrock College

Sat Nov 19

Ballincollig v Cooke

Blackrock College v Suttonians

UL Bohemian v Galwegians

Wicklow RFC v Railway Union

Men’s AIL

Cork Con 36-25 Lansdowne

Dublin University 34-28 Shannon

Garryowen 22-47 UCD

Terenure 38-21 Ballynahinch

Young Munster 24-19 Clontarf

Sat Nov 26

Shannon v UCD

Ballynahinch v Cork Con

Clontarf v Terenure

Dublin University v Young Munster

Lansdowne v Garryowen


THE NEXT BATCH OF HARPIN’

All about the Wallabies this weekend, with Tom Coleman joining me on Friday evening for a preview pod, while after having Munster representation for the wrap last Sunday, there will be harpin’ from Ulster and Connacht as Ian Frizzell and Stephen Murphy this time around. Plus of course there will be all the regular features to stay tuned to our social media channels, including Mastodon where we having been posting first of late.

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

80+ column : Grateful host, new platform, fan qualms

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

A WRAP OF A WRAP

I can’t even begin to say how grateful I am for my contributors to all of the Harpin pods.  If you’re new to the site, while we’ve been harpin’ overall since 2008, this is only the fourth season of the podcast and for the first three we’d only do one per week but now it’s 2-3 as it has become our main platform which of course means I need my group of contributors more than ever.

And during what has been a very experimental (and also just plain mental) first few months they have all been absolutely amazing giving up their time, not just spent on the Zoom calls themselves, but also in what is clearly excellent preparation, so it goes without saying this will not be the last time I thank Tom & Mark this week, and also Keego, Conor, Rich & Kino from the “core Leinster crew” and also Michelle, Ian & Padraig on whom I usually call for a view from the other provinces, plus all the others who gave joined me for a chat over the past while.  All truly awesome fellow rugby nerds/nuts.

This latest wrap pod went really well I thought, why not listen for yourself, and when recording was finished it dawned on me that we have yet to do a show under the new format which covered a Leinster & Ireland defeat.  Then I said that out loud so if you’re worried about my jinxing it by writing it here I’m afraid that train has already left the station!

OTHER TESTS

On the main weekly pod we do a feature called “Front Five” where we offer quick thoughts on issues from around the ruggersphere – normally I would have used all five for other tests from the weekend but there were some areas I thought deserved more spotlight (IRE A, IRE 7s & Women’s RWC) so we just looked at the two matches which finished 30-29, Fra over Aus because we play the Wallabies in a couple of weeks, and Arg over Eng because, well, do I need to explain that one?

To turn the spotlight on the others briefly, I also got to see our other November opponents Fiji playing at Murrayfield and I have to say it will be very interesting to see hat kind of team we name because although the Scots did put them to the sword, it took them a while to get in control and seeing how we’re likely to name a 23 closer to the A than the elite, we’re probably going to need our boys to gel quickly because if you open the door to these Fijians to play their way just a bit, they can really hurt you.

Then there’s Wales – to be fair they had a few flashes of good rugby but were really overpowered by an All Black set up clearly still hurting from results earlier in the year and not at all content with the 2022 Rugby Championship crown.  For me the main highlight of this match was the duel between two of the top number 8s on the planet right now, Toby Faletau and Ardie Savea – obvs the latter doesn’t always play there but it helps my narrative to put it this way!

On a side note, fair play to not only the guy who typed this on his Guardian live blog feed, but also the newspaper itself for leaving it there.  I know some take issue with the sentiment, using the whole “Why not give them a second chance” argument, but those same pearl-clutchers are often the very ones complaining about the right to free speech and “being cancelled” so maybe they’re not quite sure what they really want.

RWC2023 QUALIFIERS

With the Women’s RWC final next Saturday and the corruptly-hosted mens football version starting shortly afterwards, I suppose you could say it’s easy to forget the men’s RWC in France which isn’t until September, although of course Ireland’s win over RSA was a dress rehearsal for our Pool B encounter.

However I’m still a bit disappointed that the final qualifying tournament isn’t getting more coverage.  Maybe given what I said about corruption in the last paragraph, it’s a little disconcerting that it is taking place in Dubai, which together with the words “Qatar Airways” appearing on URC officials jerseys suggests our own powers that be are also having their heads turned by that corner of the world.

Still, when it comes to the rugby on the pitch, there’s one spot left up for grabs between USA, Portugal, Kenya & Hong Kong with the winner taking their place in Pool C alongside Wales, Australia, Fiji & Georgia.  The first round of matches saw USA & Portugal registering wins, and with them also avoiding each other this weekend it could set up a winner takes all match up which I’d hope would attract a decent amount of attention in the ruggersphere.

FROM MUSK TO NEW (MASTO)DAWN

I have been contemplating a ‘blue tick’ on the twitter for a few years now but let’s just say that is definitely not happening now!  Doesn’t mean I’ll ditch the platform altogether, I still think it is a decent one for rugby the way things stand, but with all the hullabaloo over this new thing Mastodon, I could hardly not join the crowd setting up over there so if you are also partaking, by all means follow me > LINK HERE

For now I’ll keep an eye on how things are progressing there when I can although the main conversation still has to be with the little bird as things stand.  Replacing it completely with similar numbers is definitely a mammoth task, pun fully intended, of course.

MUSIC AT MATCHES

Since we are primarily a site for fan opinion, I guess I really should weigh in on a number of issues that have cropped up ahead of the internationals, especially since my view seems to differ in many cases to that of the majority if social media posts are anything to go by.

At both the RDS on Friday and the Aviva on Saturday, they tried out playing little bursts of music during breaks in play.  It did not seem to go over well at all.  Since I wasn’t physically there either time, I can’t speak for the volume which may have been too loud but once they tone it down I have to say I can’t see it bothering me too much, sorry, I guess we can’t agree on everything!

I did particularly like the use of U2’s Vertigo after Mack Hansens try, really gives the celebrations a good little boost, although one wrinkle is that there’s always the possibility of it being called back by the TMO.  Going by the crickets I heard after tweeting about this on Sunday, I guess I’m on my own here too!!!

JERSEY CLASHES

I remember the kerfuffle the last time we hosted the All Blacks in 2017, we wore the Jersey with the “anthracite” colour.  I actually have that one (tho I didn’t buy it, got it in a Canterbury promotion) and I still wear it because it reminds me of the 2018 Grand Slam.

My complaint about what we wore on Saturday, however, has nothing to do with the possibility of a clash with our opposition.  It just doesn’t look at all like a test jersey.  And by that I don’t even mean the lack of collar (although I am quite partial to the old fashioned rugby jersey look) no, I mean the design would be fine if it was part of the kit they were warming up in, just not the one they actually play in.

Keep the alternate ones mostly white with green trim, I say.

ANTHEMS

My policy on anthems has been consistent over the years but these 80+ columns are relatively new so I’ll lay it out once more here.

Ireland’s Call may not get the pulse racing like Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau or La Marseillaise, but the constant complaining about it from the same people, many of whom I respect and agree with on virtually everything else to do with rugby, is something I find disappointing.  Some try to cop out by saying they just don’t like it because it’s a poor song but I reckon they wouldn’t be happy whatever the tune.

There’s a very specific reason we add it to Amhran na bhFian at home, and sing it on its own while away.  And it also happens to be a very good reason in my book, and once more I apologise if others disagree.  

Plus it seemed like the Aviva crowd were giving both songs a really good airing on Saturday, although that may have been the positioning of the microphones.

LATE ARRIVALS

This one I’m actually in agreement with the majority on, if you can’t make it to your seat before a half kicks off then you can wait.  Stewards can maybe look for a break in play to allow people in but that would be at their discretion and as they have many other roles, the stragglers need to be prepared to wait.

INJURY REPORT

Despite the fact that for the second week in a row the official report begins with the word “unfortunately”, I would call this a positive report, although not so much for Conor Murray who defied his critics with a good showing for his 100th cap before being forced off.  Hopefully he’ll be back soon for Munster at least because they definitely need him.

Elsewhere I’m delighted for Stu McCloskey and Tadhg Furlong because especially the former did not look good leaving the pitch on Saturday and definitely earned the right to feature again in this series.  Personally while I’d like to see Bundee back fighting fo his place in the future, whether or not he is available to face the Wallabies I don’t think he should unless it is absolutely necessary.

Meanwhile it’s more bad news on the injury front for Ciaran Frawley he really needs a decent run of games under his belt yet keeps getting denied, he’s getting into Carbery territory at this stage.

Unfortunately, Ireland’s latest centurion Conor Murray has been ruled out of the rest of the Series with a groin strain and will commence his rehab at Munster.

Robbie Henshaw, who missed out on Saturday’s game due to a hamstring issue, will reintegrate to training this week. Stuart McCloskey is recovering quickly from the arm issue that forced him off early against South Africa and will train this week.

Tadhg Furlong (ankle) is expected to take part in training this week while Ireland captain Johnny Sexton is recovering well from a dead leg.

From Friday night’s A game against the All Black XV, Ciaran Frawley suffered a twisted knee and will continue his rehab at Leinster. Joe McCarthy and Ryan Baird will continue their return to play protocols at Leinster.

Michael Milne, who featured against both the Pumas and the Cheetahs for Emerging Ireland in Bloemfontein, will train with the Ireland squad this week.

AIL UPDATE

There were top of the table clashes in both Women’s and Men’s top divisions last weekend, and by all accounts both were thrillers. It took a late try from Aoife O’Shaughnessy to clinch victory for Railway Union over Belvo, and for the second weekend in a row they will host a fellow 100% team when they host Blackrock College.

Meanwhile in the men’s top division it was another comeback as Clontarf reversed a 16-point deficit to overpower Dublin University although while they are still 100% their game in hand has them second behind Terenure who won convincingly at Lansdowne and host Ballynahinch next weekend while Tarf travel to play Young Munster.

Women’s AIL

Blackrock 71-7 Ballincollig

Railway Union 15-11 Old Belvedere

Wicklow 16-14 Galwegians

UL Bohemian 43-5 Suttonians

Sat Nov 12

Suttonians v Ballincollig

Cooke v UL Bohemian

Old Belvedere v Wicklow

Railway Union v Blackrock College

Men’s AIL

Round 5

Shannon 30-19 Garryowen

Lansdowne 12-32 Terenure

Ballynahinch 25-20 Young Munster

Clontarf 38-33 Dublin University

UCD 31-36 Cork Constitution

Sat Nov 12

Cork Con v Lansdowne

Dublin University v Shannon

Garryowen v UCD

Terenure v Ballynahinch

Young Munster v Clontarf

THE NEXT BATCH OF HARPIN’

I’ve been neglecting the TikTok account of late unfortunately, haven’t had the time if truth be told, but will get back to it soon.  Definitely happening this week will be giving the match against Fiji the full Harpin treatment, with Mark Jackson returning for the preview on Friday, then Caolan Scully and Rich Mifsud pencilled in to do the wrap on Sunday.  Other regular features like Rugby On TV will still be posted as well so as always, stay tuned to all our regular social media channels, and also our new one on Mastodon if you dare.

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

The 80+ column : Stu’s talking, player’s names & November prep

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

A WRAP OF A WRAP

I may have been a little harsh on the Welsh region with this message in the Harpin’ WhatsApp group after full time on Friday…

Obviously Scarlets fans won’t be happy with their performances this season but on second watch I have to say that even with the result going the way it did they probably didn’t deserve that bluntness since with a bounce of a ball going differently the result could have been closer, something you could probably say about most rugby matches.

But I still think Conor & Rich did a great job helping me sum it all up on our wrap pod, when two of the game’s six tries are PTs it doesnt offer much to harp on yet we managed to flesh it out ok.  Biggest concern during the recording was my spotting that the charge on my laptop was about to run out and many thanks to my son John for answering my WhatsApp call to sneak in and plug in the charger without my having to move!

Anyway back to the actual rugby, it’s hard to believe that the opening block of seven URC rounds is already in the record books, and when your team has won all of them opening a gap at the top of the table I can certainly have no complaints!  Plenty of rugby to be played this season of course but this definitely lays a lot of groundwork for our quest for a good playoff draw.

LOOK STU’S TALKING

As any Leinster fan knows, Stu Lancaster interviews are as unmissable as they are rare, so I have to share this recent one from Off The Ball and if you haven’t heard it, you seriously need to find a window somewhere to tick that box.

My biggest takeaways without giving away too much –

  1. The realities of his day to day living in Dublin with ll the commuting to see his family, while doing all that awesome work is amazing, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t do it.
  2. The length of the “lessons learned at Leinster” list probably shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did
  3. That extra leadership meeting he speaks of gives a good insight to Leo’s ability to tweak things and make them better

ACCEPTING ALTERNATIVES

If it were down to me, Ireland’s “alternate” jersey would always, always, ALWAYS be white.

But having worked in the sporting goods game back in the day, I know the unfortunate reality that even at test level teams are at the mercy of the manufacturers who have a lot more than fan preference to consider. They have colours and patterns and designs that they want to match their full range of clothing for that particular season.

To be clear, I’m not “defending” them, I’m just pointing out that they’re not doing it to be awkward, it’s more of a case that even when the fans aren’t happy, they firmly believe they’ll make more money in the long run doing it this way.

I just hope the conversation on match day isn’t dominated by complaints over the optics.

NAME OF THE GAME

I have always been in favour of names on jerseys, though to be clear NOT squad numbers.  Rugby needs to keep things as simple as possible for new fans to the sport and the numbers 1-15 represent specific positions on the pitch and should be kept.

But when it comes to names I’m all for it – helps identify players for fans, helps with jersey sales, and I also like what they do in the Premiership with names for only jerseys 1 through 15, not for the subs that helps competitiveness for the starting positions within the club.

Were they to make them standard practice at senior level there would be no complaints from me.

PRIME DIRECTIVE

It’s Autumn Nations Series time again and the bulk of its coverage is on Amazon Prime.

Now I know this is going to look like they’re paying me to say this,  I assure you they’re not (though I would be open to offers…) but I have to say I like do their presentation especially with the layout of highlights and individual moments like you see below.  

Obviously, nothing beats “free to air” when it comes to maximising coverage but maybe we’ll reach a stage when even those broadcasters will be offering services similar to this.

INJURY REPORT

You might notice we’ve started to change the logos from blue to green as it is that time of year, which in turn means this injury report section will feature the Irish squad updates rather than Leinster.

I suppose my biggest concern for the week ahead will be to do with the fitness of Hugo Keenan and Jamison Gibson-Park – no doubt both will feature heavily in Andy’s plans particularly for the match this coming Saturday, but obviously the fact that neither set foot on a rugby pitch this season will be a concern.  I could see JGP on the bench but Hugo is a lot more of a “wear 15 or nothing” kind of player.

Also as I’m typing I’m seeing the Springboks have announced their team early and as expected it looks really badass so it’s fair to say we’ll need the strongest fittest 23 we can put together!!!  Not that we should lack confidence though, more on that later in the week.

Unfortunately, Tom Ahern has been ruled out of involvement in this week’s Ireland ‘A’ fixture but Diarmuid Barron, Caolin Blade, Jack Crowley, Shane Daly, Max Deegan, James Hume, Dave Kilcoyne, Marty Moore and Scott Penny all came through the weekend’s URC action without issue to join the squad.

Jamie Osborne and Roman Salanoa have both been declared fit after completing the return to play protocols while Connacht lock Gavin Thornbury has been called up in place of Ahern.

Nathan Doak and Tom Stewart, who both featured in the Emerging Ireland side in Bloemfontein, will also join the squad later in the week.

AIL UPDATE

In a previous 80+ column I had a moan about a top of the table clash in the Women’s AIL between Railway Union and Belvo which was due to kick off around the same time as Ireland’s men were playing the Springboks up the road at the Aviva.  It seems now they have at least moved the time to 2:30 which makes it a lot easier for fans to catch both contests, but I still have my concerns over the scheduling of matches.

These clubs generally train twice a week and play matches at weekends so I wonder if it’s possible to put more of the top division matches during the week to encourage attendance?  There’s also a top of the table men’s clash this weekend, again it’s at a time where you can still catch IREvRSA but then again there are other test matches at the same time so maybe we need some outside the box thinking when it comes to scheduling; maybe even a broadcaster would take an interest in showing midweek action although I know things like the round ball Champions League in those slots might scare them off.

Women’s AIL

Sat Nov 5

Blackrock v Ballincollig

Railway Union v Old Belvedere

Wicklow v Galwegians

UL Bohemian v Suttonians

Men’s AIL

Round 4

Clontarf 27-9 Shannon

Cork Constitution 33-16 Garryowen

Dublin University 35-16 Ballynahinch

Terenure 58-5 UCD

Young Munster 13-20 Lansdowne

Fri Nov 4 

Shannon v Garryowen

Lansdowne v Terenure

Sat Nov 5

Ballynahinch v Young Munster

Clontarf v Dublin University

UCD v Cork Constitution

PREDICTION LEAGUE

Bad, bad week for me.  Went for a couple of risky ones that went the other way and I have now dropped to third place, with Kino opening a really big gap in 1st place to end the first block of 7 URC rounds.

I mean I KNEW that tipping Them Pesky Birds to beat Connacht would be good news for the Westies, but also Munster and Lions falling short at home set me back a good bit.

Meanwhile down at the bottom, for the record I DO send Keego a reminder each week yet he still suffers from the affliction I had last season, namely forgetting to do the picks, which could result in him wearing the Jersey of Doom come season’s end if he doesn’t get back in the game soon.

HPL after Round 7

1 @RugbyKino  57.33

2 @hoomanbear  48.33

3 @HarpinOnRugby  47.83

4 @LeinsterRoyalty  46.83

5 @Kristian7Ross  40.66

6 @keegolaughs_irl 28.50

THE NEXT BATCH OF HARPIN’


Test window time…for the URC our pod guests are obvs all Leinster fans but we’re going very interpro for the Irish team with first up Connacht & Ulster being represented on Wednesday as we have an overall look at the squad and our chances for November.  Then Kino will join to gloat about Superbru preview the Springboks match and then Tom Coleman and Michelle Tobin will help me wrap it all up on Sunday.  As always there will be the day to day features on all the usual social media channels in between so stay in touch. In the meantime, be sure to enjoy your rugby wherever you are.  JLP

80+ column : Kleyn yellow, November squad, Women’s AIL

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

A WRAP OF A WRAP

Obviously I was very happy with that rugby weekend, Leinster v Munster is always a great occasion and although the match didn’t always look like it would end up in a BP win, I certainly didn’t feel like we were lucky once we clinched it.

The wrap pod gave us plenty to harp on, Keego and Tom did a top drawer job going through what happened.  Below you’ll see a bonus clip of our chat over the Kleyn incident – only Keego’s initial take made the pod but we did some back and forth as I disagreed with the notion that a red card would have been harsh, and for topics like this it’s always good that there’s disagreement.

Just to clarify my position, it’s important not to be too black and white about these things – I’m sure many would assume since I suggest Kleyn could have seen red it means I’m only watching with blue goggles.  In fact I certainly don’t feel it’s a slam dunk red, but that it is definitely worth a conversation as I say in the clip.  That’s not to say I feel nobody should ever try to block a kick, far from it, but only go for it if you know you have a decent chance of actually doing it otherwise you, or indeed your opponent, could suffer the consequences.  Contact to the head should ALWAYS put a red card in play in my book and since Kleyn’s jump was nowhere near the ball, let’s just say it mitigates any mitigation.

Anyway, you can judge for yourselves, here’s how the chat went (why not subscribe to our new YouTube channel while you’re at it, it’s the best way to catch our preview show each week)…

NOVEMBER REIGN

Look – I’m just as disillusioned with the rankings as the next guy but that said, when you’re number one why not at least acknowledge it?  Not a bad little bonus for our amazing achievements down in NZ and it really sets up the visit of the reigning World Champions nicely.

For me personally, I’d want to reward as many of those Wellington warriors as I possibly could so here’s my (call it a “fantasy”) 23 for the Boks from the named squad, with alternatives in brackets for injury worries…

Keenan (Carbery), Hansen, Ringrose, Henshaw, Balacoune, Sexton, JGP (Murray).

Porter, Sheehan, Furlong (Bealham), Beirne (Treadwell), Ryan, O’Mahony, JVDF, Doris.

Herring, Healy, Bealham (O’Toole), Treadwell (McCarthy), Conan, Murray (Casey), Carbery (Frawley), Frawley (O’Brien).

As you can probably tell, I’m deliberately ignoring form and a Bok-specific gameplan but like I say that squad is purely meant to be a nod to what we achieved over the summer since nobody seems to be talking about it anymore even when the panel was named.

We not only won a series in NZL, but we won it convincingly.  Of course we have to build on it, of course it guarantees nothing for RWC2023 but until we have another performance to harp on, I for one don’t mind still finding satisfaction from that sentence.

TRANSGENDER RUGBY

You may recall over the summer there was a pretty intense discussion over transgender participation in rugby.  My position was, well, let’s just say, complicated, and I struggled to explain it the way I wanted to in the ruggersphere.  

What I was trying to say was that as much as we want to leave politics out of sport, in areas like this we have to acknowledge the wider topic because it can often lead to abuse from verbal all the way to physical.  

Essentially the argument of needing an outright ban simply because we’re imagining a grown man posing as a woman just to play rugby and the dangers that entails falls way short of the conversation that needs to be had on the matter.

Thankfully John Oliver did a decent job laying out the wider issue IMO so here’s his recent (NSFW) piece on it…

NOVEL GRAPHIC

Been meaning to harp on this for a while – I’m very picky (nerdy?) when it comes to graphics being used by TV networks for rugby matches and there are things that should be standard across all networks that simply aren’t.  Phase counters that appear instantly once there have been 5 would be one.

Another is a timer for yellow cards, and as much as I’m mostly positive about the URC, this is a negative, albeit a tiny one.  But on South African TV, they have gone that extra step further again, by placing a number of the sin-binned player alongside the time, really nice touch and again, I’d hope they would all do this.

Trust me, I get the whole “why make things easier for the guy sitting at home” argument for these things but for one thing, a lot of those guys can’t actually make it to the game and for another, the game needs that market so any sensible way they can make the experience easier has to be a good thing. Below you see an example from the recent Cheetahs v Emerging Ireland clash while Cian Prendergast was on the naughty step.

LEINSTER INJURY REPORT

Obvs the Furlong situation is a concern but good to see Keenan, Josh & Whiskey on the right track with November around the corner.

INJURY UPDATE – AVAILABLE FOR SELECTION:

Luke McGrath: came through the game at the weekend with no issues following his return from the Graduated Return to Play Protocols

Rhys Ruddock: will train this week following his return from the Graduated Return to Play Protocols

Ryan Baird: will be available to train this week with the IRFU squad following his return from the Graduated Return to Play Protocols

INJURY UPDATE – FURTHER ASSESSMENT REQUIRED:

Tadhg Furlong: was withdrawn as a precaution from the starting XV against Munster Rugby having rolled his ankle at training last week. Will be further assessed by the IRFU medical team this week

Josh van der Flier, Hugo Keenan & Jamison Gibson-Park: will step up their rehabilitation this week as they return from injury and will be further assessed by the IRFU medical team

INJURY UPDATE – UNAVAILABLE FOR SELECTION:

Jamie Osborne: was withdrawn for a Head Injury Assessment against Munster Rugby and has now entered the Graduated Return to Play Protocols

There are no further updates on:

Jordan Larmour (foot), Will Connors (bicep), Rónan Kelleher (hamstring), Harry Byrne (hamstring), James Lowe (calf), James Tracy (neck), Charlie Ryan (knee) and Tommy O’Brien (knee)

AIL UPDATE

Just a reminder on the quality of the Women’s AIL, of the XV which started Ireland’s last test v Japan, ALL of the backline were in action for their clubs over the weekend just gone.  And to give this fact a little Leinster twist, they all hailed from three clubs, Railway Union, Blackrock College and Old Belvedere.

After 6 rounds those three have opened a gap at the top of the table, with only Belvo having lost a game and while they are all off this coming weekend, they return the following Saturday with the big contest clearly being Railway Union v Belvo at Park Avenue.  

Have to say 5pm is a curious kickoff time though.  You can almost see the DART which will be bringing fans to the Ireland v Springboks match at the Aviva from the Railway Union pitch, and that kicks off at 5:30pm the same day.

Anyway, over in the Men’s 1A division they took a weekend off and will return next Saturday Oct 29, with all 3 teams with 100% records Terenure, Trinity & Tarf all avoiding each other again playing Shannon, Hinch & UCD respectively.

PREDICTION LEAGUE

I’m starting to think it’s my duty to inform rugby fans of my Superbru pick for the Ospreys every week, or maybe instead of “inform” I should be using the word “warn”.

As I said on the pod, they seem determined to do the opposite of what I say.  Had I aa time machine I’d prove it to you by going back and switching my pick from Round 6 to be a Dragons win, trust me that would have ended well for fans of Those Pesky Birds.

Seriously though, there was no change at the top of the Harpin League, though at the bottom where the real “prize” is to be “awarded”, it was a great round for Mr Kristian Ross who not only got Leinster v Munster spot on but he created something of a gap between himself and Keego in the wooden spoon position.

THE NEXT BATCH OF HARPIN’

Leinster travel to Llanelli on Friday night to round off this early season block of URC matches…no bonus pod this week but everything else is as normal with The Preview Show on Friday, the usual wrapup recorded on Sunday evening and of course all the regular features during the week, stay tuned to any or all of our social media platforms.  In the meantime, be sure to enjoy your rugby wherever you are.  JLP

The 80+ column : Munster week, URC shields, HCC format

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

FINAL #CONvLEI THOUGHTS

Talk about making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear…Conor & Mark did an excellent job on our main pod this week pointing out key things to look out for in what looked like a forgettable contest.

What intrigued me most was our lineouts.  Although we have managed to win all our matches, we have still been shown just how critical the success of this set piece is to our chances.  Against Benetton the jumper was being hit again and again and again which led to a significant victory.  On Friday both Niall Murray and Gavin Thornbury were doing excellent jobs disrupting our rhythm and it kept the home side close right up to the closing stages.  Maybe in some ways it looks risky to be putting so much stock in one aspect of the game, and should we face an opposition that manages to stifle us BEFORE we manage to create a lead to defend, I hope we’ll be able to either fix it early or go an alternative route.

MUNSTER WEEK

Always, always, love Munster week no matter what the form book says, and besides, we’re bound to hear several times over the coming days about how said book “goes out the window” anyway.

They will no doubt be pumped up after that win over the Bulls, but that said, travelling to the Aviva might not be their ideal place to build on that confidence.  As I type, the injury report is yet to be released but I do see that Gerry “Thorinho” Thornley has already posted that although Sexton is poised to feature, the same cannot be said for Messrs Gibson-Park, Keenan and Lowe.

Here’s hoping the two lineups can be as strong as possible since it is rare we get to see that with these two great rivals.

A TWEAK TO THE URC SHIELDS?

Speaking of interprovincials, a thought occurred to me during the week…you know the way the URC awards a trophy to the winner of each of the four regional divisions, Ireland, Wales, South Africa and the ever-clunky Scots/Italian?

Well the table they use to decide those winners is based on the overall URC league table, which means for example if a team finishes 1st like Leinster did last season, then they automatically win the shield as well.

Just a suggestion…why not instead award the prize to the team that finishes first in a table created only from matches between the clubs?  Six matches each.  If that were happening in the Irish Shield now, the league would look like this so far…

Leinster P 2 Pts 8

Ulster  P 2 Pts 6

Connacht P 3 Pts 4

Munster P 1 Pts 0

Might raise the profile of the Shields a bit, especially as they will eventually no longer lead to HCC qualification anyway.  

Hey, even the Welsh might enjoy it.  Nah that’s pushing it, I guess.

RE-INVENTING THE PREMIERSHIP

Speaking of re-inventing competitions, and also speaking of Welsh anti-URC feeling, I see there are kites being flown all over the English media with suggestions of what to do with the Premiership after the demise of Worcester and Wasps (the latter’s administration being announced as I type) , with others reported to follow.

Much has been said about the obvious tragedy of these situations for the clubs, their staff and their fans, but it also has to be considered that the Premiership itself has to make drastic changes to its structure in order to prevent the possibility of similar things happening in the future.

One suggestion that was floating around was a 10-team Premiership, and as soon as I saw this I had only one thought on my mind which, naturally, had to go straight to the twitter machine…

I have to say I was surprised this got the reaction it did, but it is a point that cannot be ignored.

But going back to the Prem itself, I reckon the 10-team structure would work, provided there was also a league of 10 or more teams below it with some kind of promotion/relegation mechanism in place.  

Under this scenario, I can imagine Welsh ears pricking up thinking it might be a route for them to their Promised Land as I’m sure a lot of their fans would much prefer playing in a Premiership second tier instead of currently existing in a de-facto URC one.  Not so sure the RFU would see it that way though.

Whatever they plan to do, I really hope they sort something out soon because this season’s competition with all its cancellations, not exactly a million years after Saracens’ demotion I might add, really does make it look farcical.

HOT TAKE ON THE HCC FORMAT

Going back to that tweet posted above on the Premiership for a moment, a word or two on the current HCC format. 

I agree it is very confusing, but it also seems to be something the EPCR is determined to stick with.  Rather than the tried and tested pools of four leading to eight quarterfinalists, we now have two pools of 12 where everyone’s schedule is different.  Each plays two others from the pool home and away and the final table is made from just those four matches, with the top 8 making it into the knockouts.

One aspect of this that makes it seem really weird for European rugby is that for the format to work they need a specific number of teams. 20 wouldn’t fit so they had to expand to 24, even though just a few years ago many went to great lengths to explain to us that the two-dozen figure was too big.

So why do it this way?  Why indeed.  Well, I distinctly remember reading that UEFA wanted to employ a similar model for its flagship tournament the Champions League.  For them it would be an even bigger, clunkier competition with two pools of EIGHTEEN and each team playing six matches, home and away against three different clubs in each case.

The key element for this in a football sense is that it would provide a mechanism for the “elite” clubs, ie the Barcelonas, Citys and Bayerns, to avoid each other completely in the group stage and give them (theoretically) easier routes to the knockouts.

So why is rugby doing it?  Here’s where the smoking hot take of mine comes in, so hot that I probably need to be wearing a tin foil hat as I type it.  What if we were taking that format for a “test drive” for our round ball counterparts?  It was so unpopular last season in the HCC (albeit with COVID cancellations also playing a factor) that you’d assume EPCR would go back to the old way but they seem determined to stick with it.

Are we doing UEFA a favour?  If so, what are we getting in return?  Yeah, crazy I know, but this wouldn’t be a blog if I didn’t at least have one crackpot theory on the go every now and again, right?

⚽ WORLD CUP CLASHES

While I’m harping on things football related, in case you needed reminding we have the crazy situation where their World Cup is taking place in November.

Now I know a lot of people, even hardcore fans, are talking about boycotting the competition altogether, yet while there are people like myself who are so into rugby they write blogs and produce podcasts, and there are also people like yourself, who are so into rugby they read blogs and listen to podcasts, are definitely going to follow the egg-chasing no matter what else is on, we have to remember that our sport is also keen to attract those who might have their attention snaffled by a football World Cup.

So I’ve been interested to see how Leinster’s home matches go up against the competition schedule and here’s what I found…

Saturday, November 26, 3:15 pm : Leinster v Glasgow Warriors, RDS

clashes with : France v Denmark 4pm

Saturday, December 3, 7:35pm : Leinster v Ulster, RDS

clashes with : Rd of 16 match 1Cv2D (possibly Argentina v Denmark) 7pm

Thankfully these are the only times our home games come in any kind of conflict so hopefully it won’t be too much of an issue.

LA CRUNCH

As I said on the pod, I really enjoyed the big match in the Women’s World Cup at the weekend.  It was clear that England were the better side but the French were really well prepared to make thighs difficult for them to play and when they had a chance to score themselves they took it to make it a very close one.

LEINSTER INJURY REPORT

Good news about Messrs Doris, Frawley & Kearney, also nice to see Hugo Keenan’s name at least escaping the dreaded “no further news” section right at the end.

The one line that has three massive names from both blue and green camps, Conan, Ryan & JVDF, looks like it could go either way so we’ll see.

Connors out for 12 weeks and Kelleher out for 8 is a pain in the you know where.

Caelan Doris came through the game at the weekend with no issues following his return from the Graduated Return to Play Protocols and it was a similar update for Ciarán Frawley who came through the game with no problems after his own return from a shoulder injury.

In other positive news, Dave Kearney is expected to return to full training this week following his return from an adductor injury suffered against Ulster Rugby.

There are a number of players that require further assessment this week before a final decision will be made on their involvement against Munster Rugby.

Luke McGrath, Rhys Ruddock and Ryan Baird will continue to follow the Graduated Return to Play Protocols this week and subject to coming through, will be available for selection.

Hugo Keenan will also step up his rehabilitation this week from abdominal and knee injuries.

From the game at the weekend against Connacht Rugby, Jack Conan (eye), James Ryan (knee) and Josh van der Flier (ankle) require further assessment this week.

Unfortunately, there was less positive news on a number of other players.

Will Connors had a procedure last week for a bicep injury suffered against the Cell C Sharks and will be unavailable for up to 12 weeks.

While Rónan Kelleher and Harry Byrne both suffered hamstring injuries and will be unavailable for up to eight weeks.

There were no further updates on:

James Lowe (calf), James Tracy (neck), Charlie Ryan (knee) and Tommy O’Brien (knee)

AIL UPDATE

Normally when you want to do a brief feature on the AIL you would lead off with what’s happening in Division 1A, but even if the Tullow Tank hadn’t had his unfortunate injury in his debut for Naas in the next tier down, I reckon that match would still have grabbed the headlines.  I hope it’s not too bad, but as we all know hamstrings can definitely have you out for quite a while.

Meanwhile back in the elite division, Terenure with their host of names which would be known to Leinster fans like Marcus Hanan, Jordan Coughlan, Cathal Marsh and Adam La Grue, made it a maximum 15 pts from 15 with a third bonus point victory, this time on the very difficult trip to Dooradoyle to face Garryowen.

They now hold a 1-point lead over Clontarf and Trinity, both of whom also had way victories at the weekend against Hinch and Lansdowne respectively, with Harry Byrne now out for a number of weeks after being a late withdrawal for the Bulls last time out.

Down at the bottom of the table there is an unusual situation in that it’s not often you see as many as four clubs with 0% records in a 10-team divisions after 3 rounds but that is the case with Lansdowne, UCD, Garryowen and Shannon all having the dubious honour.

Over in the Women’s AIL, it is also a trio of 100% Leinster clubs leading the way, with Belvo at the top having played a game more than Railway Union and Rock behind them.

PREDICTION LEAGUE

OK first let me be absolutely clear – I have finally accepted that Those Pesky Birds (the Ospreys) do not play rugby for their fans, nor for the love of the sport, rather for the SOLE PURPOSE of screwing up my Superbru.  The evidence is indisputable.  A draw with the Stormers?   Really???

Seriously though, it was a bad week for me in the Harpin Prediction League with my lead evaporating and master statistician RugbyKino climbing to the summit.  In a way I am just happy to be far from last place where it is more than a wooden spoon waiting for whomever should sit there when all is said and done, but having been at the top for a few weeks I have to admit I was starting to feel comfortable!

It looks like there are three separate mini-battles going on in this league but much can change as we are only at round 5 of 18, with the playoffs as well in the mix.  Again I will say this kind of competition really does give following rugby over the weekend an extra edge.

THE NEXT BATCH OF HARPIN’

As mentioned earlier, Munster week awaits…  I’ll be talking to Caolán Scully about their squad and season so far during the week, then on Friday I’ll have Keego with me for The Preview Show, with the usual wrapup recorded on Sunday evening and of course all the regular features during the week, stay tuned to any or all of our social media platforms.  In the meantime, be sure to enjoy your rugby wherever you are.  JLP

The 80+ column : Thompson documentary, water breaks, Worcester

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

ICYMI click here for our main pod this week where Tom, Rich & I harp on Leinster v Sharks.   

This was my 8th Sunday recording since switching to this new format and I really think I’m close to getting things just how I want it.  There’s a lot to sort out with planning, equipment and what not so it might be closer to Christmas when I have the whole process fine-tuned but the progress has been steady and of course the help of all my guest contributors is very much appreciated.

FINAL #LEIvSHA THOUGHTS

On the subject of guests on the pod, it’s natural that we’re not always going to agree on things and because we had so many tries to work through from Saturday evening’s match, rather than prolong the discussion I decided to put my thoughts that differed from the panel’s here instead.

For the first one I want to be very, very careful how I word it because in this age of sporting social media opinion, if you say one little negative thing about a player it’s assumed you’re totally against them, so hopefully my readers know me well enough to realise I’m not like that at all.  

On the pod the lads gave the Sharks a lot of credit for the success their backs had against us on Saturday and it’s true they scored some amazing tries.  But I still have these niggling doubts, which go all the way back to the preseason match against Quins, about Charlie Ngatai’s positioning on strike plays.

TO BE CLEAR – in other areas he has done extremely well, getting better every week with his trademark crash ball among other things with the ball, and even without it we had that superb last ditch challenge on Aaron Sexton in Belfast.  

But when the team was named for Saturday, I raised an eyebrow wondering if we might be vulnerable and happy and all as I was with the win, it still remains raised, although I must add that I am very confident that it is something he can put right with game time, with this being the perfect part of the season for him to do it.

Next, there was the challenge on Ryan Baird, where my view also differing from the lads’.  Obviously, I hope he is back quickly but I’m afraid having seen it a few times I actually do think it was a rugby collision.  Abrahams may not have left the ground but IMO he doesn’t have to if his eyes are on the ball, which they were.  Despite Chamberlain’s brilliant catch I really don’t think he was in a good position to be going for the ball at all – and I don’t mean in a legality sense, more of a coaching one – as his teammate had a much better angle.  All of which meant the three players came together awkwardly and Baird unfortunately came off worst.

But like I say, this “offering opinions” lark would be pretty boring if we all felt the same way about everything, so I’ll leave my thoughts there and let you decide where you stand.

One thing I absolutely did agree with the boys on was their appreciation of Sexton’s standing up for his team, I even did a TikTok featuring their views check it out here.

EMERGING IRELAND

Like everyone else I had my doubts about this tour when I first heard about it, mostly because provinces would be denied a lot of the players they rely on at this stage of the season.  Obviously, the ability to use our “marquee” names went a long way towards calming those concerns, and as a Leinster & Ireland fan, I certainly can’t complain about the results for either side in that time!

The progression of matches fell absolutely perfectly for this patchwork squad, from Griquas to Pumas to Cheetahs we had a steady increase in opposition difficulty each time, yet over the 80 minutes the lads were always able to rise to the occasion.  

Player-wise there were many standouts, with possibly Jack Crowley the most impressive, and given all that is happening with his own province, he has certainly given them something to think about.

For Leinster’s part there were a lot of players we already knew could perform like Scott Penny, Max Deegan and Jamie Osborne, but for others like Joe McCarthy and James Culhane it was an invaluable experience which can only help them improve even more.

As I say on the pod the only downside to the tour was the fact that Ciaran Frawley didn’t get any game time, hopefully he will be back soon.

Finally kudos to the IRFU for donating their prize money to a local orphanage in Bloemfontein.

THOMPSON DOCUMENTARY

During the week there was a documentary on the BBC about one of England’s heroes from RWC2003, Steve Thompson, who is struggling with dementia after (have to say “allegedly” here because of an ongoing legal dispute but I make no secret of where my opinion lies) suffering from multiple concussions playing rugby over the course of his career.

Basically the programme suggests that in the transition to the professional game in the 90’s and early 00’s, the organisation of training routines was like the “wild west” and players were not only risking collisions in matches but also during the week as rugby was now their full time job, with little or no heed paid to the need for recovery time.

While I have no qualifications to offer any opinion on medical grounds or indeed the perspective of a professional rugby player, I do have concerns over the general debate being had among media and fans alike, and I know Twitter isn’t exactly an ideal source at the best of times but it still goes a long way to influence the actual top level discussions when they do happen.

My concerns are about where on the spectrum of opinion the debate is taking place.  It is often a misconception that the “sensible” way to find the right answer is to look for the mid point between the two extremes, but at the risk of straying too far down the political path, we’ve learned from things like Trump, Brexit & Anti-vax that some extremes can be stretched in a way that moves that centre point, so you have to be willing to lean in one direction if the other is looking a bit, shall we say, “less than relevant”.

And when it comes to the debate over safety in rugby, the way I see it the two extremes look like this – at one end you have parents who may not know much about rugby themselves but their kids want to play so when they see things like the Thompson documentary and hear about other life- and quality-of-life-threatening injuries, their instinct is to say “No way – play something like tennis instead”.  

Then at the other extreme we have rugby fans/supporters who have an aversion to matches lasting longer than they should.  I’m hardly wild about unnecessary time wasting myself, but it’s definitely not a hill I would die on, especially when you consider how other sports, particularly in the USA, go much, much longer.  It is usually the same Twitter accounts I see pushing back against what they perceive as over-precautious safety measures for fear of them supposedly “killing the game”.

So, if these are the extremes, does the answer have to be right smack in the middle?  Between parents with genuine concerns and impatient fans?  I think not.  For me, the real work to find proper solutions is being done by people like Peter Robinson and also the organisation “Progressive Rugby”, of which Thompson is now a member by the way, and they also recently added Carl Hayman to their ranks.

I’m not typing this because I 100% believe everything those people and organisations say, I’m typing it because I believe they are the ones we should be listening to as we make up our own minds, and also because it makes sense that they focus their efforts more towards parents who are worried for their children’s safety and less towards those (like myself) looking on from the stands or their armchairs who have to wait a minute or so longer while TMOs look at replays.

The likes of Robinson, Thompson & co are generally people who have had their lives directly and adversely affected by rugby, yet still want to be involved, still want to engage, still want the sport to thrive but just in as safe a manner as possible.  That is where the discussion should be in my view. The only thing that could really “kill the game” would be a failure to listen to what they have to say.

WORLD CUP 2021

The World Cup is here, the kickoff times are generally super awkward, but hopefully the tournament gets the attention the women’s game both needs and thoroughly deserved.  Obviously from an Irish fan’s standpoint it’s hard to avoid wondering what might have been, but at least we know things appear to be heading in the right direction here and we’ll do our best here at Harpin Manor to help give Leinster & Ireland in particular all the exposure we can over the coming season.

FROM WORCESTER TO WORSE

Just to add to all the expressions of disappointment over that which has befallen the Worcester Warriors as an organisation, their staff, their fans and the local community in recent weeks, and which may yet also happen to Wasps and possibly one or two other Premiership clubs in the near future.

But one thing really eats at me…why are we in this situation NOW, after the season has already kicked off?  Throw all the complicated business and legal mumbo jumbo at me you want, but professional rugby is a seasonal sport and has been for years, so I find it hard to believe that there doesn’t exist some date on the calendar by which a club has to prove they are financially viable to fulfil their fixtures for the following campaign, preferably BEFORE fans are asked to shell out for season tickets. Should be a formality for the vast majority of clubs, but as recent events (and some not-so-recent tbf) show something like this is needed.

Sounds like PRL didn’t only drop the ball, they actually never really had it properly in the first place.

WATER BREAKS

Unpopular opinion alert…water breaks in rugby don’t really bother me.  Sorry!  

I suppose it’s partly because of what I said in my earlier rant about Steve Thompson – IMO as fans the “why are we waiting?” card only gets us so far, and maybe a water break isn’t so bad when you consider another direction they might go; actually breaking matches up into four quarters with full stoppages after each.

However…one concern I would have about water breaks is that I hope it isn’t being brought in to prepare us for more top level rugby to be played in the likes of Qatar and Dubai…which brings me neatly to my next harpin’ point…

WORLD CORRUPT PODCAST

Forgive me for harpin’ on the round ball game for a bit, but IMO this affects all sports, and anyone watching the URC will know referees are now sporting “Qatar Airways” on their jerseys so we definitely need to be paying attention.

There’s a podcast I often listen to called “Pod Save The World” which interestS me because I am originally from the USA and this offers an American take on political matters all around the globe. They have teamed up with a football pod called “Men In Blazers” to produce a series called “World Corrupt” which looks at the 2022 Football World Cup in particular but also the concept of “sportwashing” in general and is very much worth a listen.

Not only is it important for us to know what went into the staging of the tournament in Qatar when it kicks off, but we also need to be wary of rugby’s powers that be chasing the same kind of questionable investment, or should I say more of it.

LEINSTER INJURY REPORT

Great to see Doris back, he will likely get some game time in Galway this Friday. That’s a lot of players to be going into the RTP protocols after just one match but needs must and they should be back soon.

Really wish that “No further updates” section was a whole lot lighter though…

INJURY UPDATE – AVAILABLE FOR SELECTION:

Caelan Doris: has come through the Graduated Return to Play Protocols and will be available for selection this weekend

INJURY UPDATE – FURTHER ASSESSMENT REQUIRED:

Dave Kearney: picked up an adductor injury against Ulster Rugby but is expected to return to team training this week. Will continue to be assessed this week before a final decision is made on his availability

Jack Conan: was a late withdrawal from the Leinster Rugby match day 23 with a back injury suffered in the warm-up against Cell C Sharks. Will be further assessed this week

INJURY UPDATE – UNAVAILABLE FOR SELECTION:

Rhys Ruddock: was withdrawn for a Head Injury Assessment against Cell C Sharks and has now entered the Graduated Return to Play Protocols

Luke McGrath: was withdrawn for a Head Injury Assessment against Cell C Sharks and has now entered the Graduated Return to Play Protocols

Ryan Baird: was withdrawn for a Head Injury Assessment against Cell C Sharks and has now entered the Graduated Return to Play Protocols

Jordan Larmour: was withdrawn with a foot injury in the first half against Cell C Sharks and will be unavailable this week as further tests are carried out

NO FURTHER UPDATES:

Rónan Kelleher (hamstring), Ciarán Frawley (shoulder), Hugo Keenan (abdominal & knee injury), James Lowe (calf), James Tracy (neck), Charlie Ryan (knee), Tommy O’Brien (knee)

AIL UPDATE

We briefly harped on the AIL in the pod but I also plan to offer updates in this column every week so here it is.  After two rounds Nure, Trinity, Hinch & Tarf are all 100% with the last two going head to head at Ballymacarn Park at 2:30pm next Saturday, promises to be a cracker.

It was a shame Harry Byrne had to withdraw from the lineup playing for Clontarf last weekend, hope to see him back playing soon.  A scan of the teamsheets from the five top flight matches shows a host of players on the fringes of the Leinster set up like Ben Brownlee and Chris Cosgrove all getting much needed game time and at a decent standard as well.

PREDICTION LEAGUE

source – Superbru

I still lead the Harpin League and I actually got my first yellow cap of the season this week…but do you think I’m happy?  Hell no.  I’m actually raging because I originally entered Glasgow to beat the Bulls before going back and reversing it.  

But you can be sure there’s no complacency from me despite my lofty position, far from it…there’s a pack of challengers hunting me down and I’ll have to stay on my toes to keep them from catching me.

Meanwhile at the foot of the table, where the “real prize” is to be “won” (namely having to wear the “Jersey of Doom”), Keego got rid of the wooden spoon for now, passing it on to Kristian Ross.

THE NEXT BATCH OF HARPIN’

Sharks are up next for Leinster, at the RDS on Saturday evening.  I’ll be talking to AP Cronje about their squad during the week, then on Friday I’ll have Keego with me for The Preview Show, with the usual wrapup recorded on Sunday evening and of course all the regular features during the week, stay tuned to any or all of our social media platforms.  In the meantime, be sure to enjoy your rugby wherever you are.  JLP

The 80+ Column : Best league, worst weather, average Griquas

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

Obviously, it was a good weekend to be a Leinster fan, no win in Belfast comes easily although we just about deserved the one we got on Friday.  Had a great chat as always harpin’ on it with the lads on Sunday, check out the pod if you missed it, and while you’re at it maybe subscribe to the feed too if you don’t mind.

MUNSTER’S SEASON & LEINSTER’S LINEOUTS

I try to keep the pods to under an hour but often that means leaving out material I really want to keep in.  That was definitely the case on Sunday night as during the “Front Five” section, where I try to keep things brief to get to the main topic quickly, Tom & Mark went off on an excellent riff about Munster’s season so far, so while I cut it from the main pod I thought I’d add it here as something of a bonus.  There’s also a bit more to the audio as I put in a question I asked them about Leinster’s lineouts v Ulster as opposed to those against Benetton the week before.

BEST LEAGUE GETTING EVEN BETTER

I’ll harp on our contributors’ prediction league further down the column but apart from the banter it provides it also makes me focus even more on the full slate of matches every weekend and I have to say it has been a cracking competition so far, even just 23 matches in.

Normally I’m something of a “defensive purist” and multiple scorelines where the losing side has over 30pts isn’t always my idea of perfect, but it’s more about the sides that were towards the end of the table last season doing well, like Zebre and Dragons, both of which have already given top 8 opposition a serious run for their money.

Absolutely no match is a given and that’s as it should be.  Who needs relegation eh?

RAININ’ HILL

I was obviously delighted with the Leinster win on Friday night but I always had soft spot for Ulster and I have said many a time over the years that they have had a continued run of shocking luck.

From losing key players for various reasons beyond the provincial branch’s control, to having controversial decisions go against them in big matches, to my personal favourite – in the one year they actually finish top of the Celtic League and earn a home final, that’s also the year they have to switch it to Dublin…and who do they happen to be playing???

And I know they deservedly did the double over us last season but in real terms that didn’t get them anything more than bragging rights as we ended up finishing first anyway, and even this weekend, the trademark Friday night downpour didn’t hit until after we had built a lead.

I was sure to bring that up when I was a guest on the Red Hand podcast on Saturday, check out the episode here.

EMERGING IRELAND

Not much I can add to Tom’s evaluation of the touring side’s opening fixture last Friday, only that perhaps the Griquas were playing as though they had been sampling some free Windhoek Draught courtesy of their sponsors.  That’s not to take anything away from our lads of course, as the saying goes you can only play what’s in front of you, and it is true that as the game wore on they really started to gel nicely with Jack Crowley pulling the strings.  

Obviously from a Leinster POV it was a shame that Ciarán Frawley was unavailable as he really does need some time in a 10 jersey so he can realise the potential we all know he has.  Still, there’s always room for another quality 10 with the initials JC in a green jersey!!!

INJURY REPORT

Not a whole lot in the line of good news in this week’s report, would wish for the likes of Messrs Keenan and Lowe to be moving up the list soon.  Also the withdrawals of Kelleher before kickoff in Belfast and Dave Kearney during halftime are both concerns, and with Sheehan getting so much game time the past couple of weekends I can’t imagine him also starting against the Sharks at the RDS on Saturday.

INJURY UPDATE – AVAILABLE FOR SELECTION:

James Ryan: came through the game at the weekend with no issues after recovering from a hamstring injury

Will Connors: came through the game at the weekend with no issues after recovering from a back injury

Liam Turner: has recovered from a toe injury and will return to full training this week

INJURY UPDATE – FURTHER ASSESSMENT REQUIRED:

Caelan Doris: was withdrawn for a Head Injury Assessment in the first half against Benetton Rugby and will continue to be assessed this week as he comes through the Graduated Return to Play Protocols

Rónan Kelleher: was a late withdrawal from the Leinster Rugby match day 23 with a hamstring injury and will be further assessed this week

Dave Kearney: was withdrawn at half time against Ulster Rugby with an adductor injury and will be further assessed this week

INJURY UPDATE – UNAVAILABLE FOR SELECTION:

Jamison Gibson-Park: picked up a hamstring injury in training last week and will be unavailable for selection this week

There are no further updates on:

Ciarán Frawley (shoulder), Hugo Keenan (abdominal & knee injury), James Lowe (calf), James Tracy (neck), Charlie Ryan (knee), Tommy O’Brien (knee)

ALL HAIL THE AIL

The Women’s All Ireland League kicked off a few weeks ago, with Old Belvedere leading the way, while the men returned to action the weekend just gone, with champions Clontarf beginning their defence of the title with a win over UCD.  There were also wins for Trinity, Terenure, Ballynahinch & Cork Con.

I always say it – I would LOVE to be able to give the club game more coverage, we tried it a good few years ago with a series called “Roots & All” where we reached out to 5 different clubs throughout the season but it became too time consuming.  What I’ll do instead is offer regular updates in this column, paying particular attention to players in the Leinster provincial system as I go.

For example, Charlie Tector was playing at 10 for Lansdowne as they  were edged out by “The Hinch” on the Aviva back pitch, while the Terenure side that scored an impressive 39-3 win at Shannon included Marcus Hanan, as well as some familiar names from days gone by like Harrison Brewer, Jordan Coghlan & Cathal Marsh.

PREDICTION LEAGUE

So in Superbru whoever earned the most points in a week gets a “yellow cap” but despite the fact I have yet to earn one in the three rounds of the URC I am still somehow top of the Harpin League.  I guess it’s a classic case of “slow and steady wins the race” or at least “leads the race after 1/6th of the race”…but like I’ve said before, this league is not about finishing first, it’s about not finishing last and having to wear The Jersey Of Doom and so far it’s Keego who sits in that position.  He actually did really well on Friday, predicting the Ulster v Leinster margin on the button, but I think going for a Zebre win by 3 at Musgrave Park might have been a risk too far…

THE NEXT BATCH OF HARPIN’

Sharks are up next for Leinster, at the RDS on Saturday evening.  I’ll be talking to AP Cronje about their squad during the week, then on Friday I’ll have Keego with me for The Preview Show, with the usual wrapup recorded on Sunday evening and of course all the regular features during the week, stay tuned to any or all of our social media platforms.  In the meantime, be sure to enjoy your rugby wherever you are. JLP

The 80+ : Lancaster, RDS, Injuries

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

LANCASTER

As I sit down to type this column, the official word of Stu Lancaster’s future is making its way through the ruggersphere so I’ll move this point up to top billing.

To go with my tongue in cheek initial thoughts, I first have state a general opinion that I really, really, don’t like the way announcements like these are made mid-season at the best of times, but absolutely not when the talks which led to the announcement involving two teams which are slated to meet in very important HCC encounters over the coming months.

Now I know how my complaint may sound.  Like it means Lancaster would somehow be “compromised” when it came to those matches.  But that’s far from what I mean – I have no doubt everyone involved is professional in their approach to every match regardless of what is due to happen when the season is over.

But still I believe questions need to be asked.  Did Racing make their offer before or after the draw pitted them against Leinster?  Is that not a reasonable thing to want to know, even if it’s unlikely to ever be officially known?

A similar thing happened to Leinster back when it was announced that Jimmy Gopperth was to join or HCup pool mates Wasps, again after the draw was made.  Whatever about levels of professionalism, it just doesn’t sit well with me whenever it happens.

Some are saying it would be better for Stu to leave now because of the arrangement, but I wouldn’t agree.  It’s not like he’s leaving because anything is going wrong, more like the exact opposite.  Anyway, here’s hoping he and Johnny S can have the perfect end to their current respective employments.

BACK AT THE RDS

It goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway…it was BRILLIANT to be back at the RDS, so much so that, as I noted in the pod, I wasn’t even bothered by the first official rendition of “LEINSTER, LEINSTER” by the crowd in the opening stages.  In the past I found it ok on its own yet totally unsuitable as our principal chant.  But this time it sounded good to me.

On the way to the bus stop afterwards I saw a group of young lads coming towards me on Anglesea Road – there were three of them walking side by side and the one nearest the road had a rugby ball.  When a tree blocked his path, without hesitating he ran towards it and made like it was a would(wood?)-be tackler and sent a neat offload around the back of it towards his mate.  The future looks bright.

INJURY REPORT

It’s always concerning when a matchday 23 is altered at the last moment and it seems to happen to Leinster and Ireland quite a bit.  Last weekend it was James Ryan who was removed before kickoff.  Then just five minutes into the match Caelan Doris went off for an HIA from which he never returned, and later we saw Ciaran Frawley, Jimmy O’Brien and Will Connors all replaced leaving us with an extremely makeshift backline in the closing stages.

The official line on the squad is now this…

INJURY UPDATE – AVAILABLE FOR SELECTION:

Joe McCarthy: came through the game at the weekend with no issues after recovering from an ankle injury and has joined the Emerging Ireland squad

Jordan Larmour: came through the game at the weekend with no issues after recovering from a knee injury

Jamison Gibson-Park: has recovered from illness and is expected to train as normal this week

INJURY UPDATE – FURTHER ASSESSMENT REQUIRED:

Ciarán Frawley: injured his shoulder late in the first half against Benetton Rugby and will be further assessed this week by the Leinster Rugby medical team after his removal from the Emerging Ireland squad

Will Connors: aggravated his back in the second half against Benetton Rugby and was removed as a precaution and will be further assessed this week

Liam Turner: will look to step up his rehabilitation this week as he recovers from a toe injury and aim to integrate into rugby training

James Ryan: was withdrawn from the match day XV against Benetton Rugby with a minor hamstring injury sustained in the captain’s run on Thursday. Will be further assessed this week

INJURY UPDATE – UNAVAILABLE FOR SELECTION:

Caelan Doris: was withdrawn for a Head Injury Assessment in the first half against Benetton Rugby and will now enter the Graduated Return to Play Protocols

NO INJURY UPDATE – UNAVAILABLE FOR SELECTION:

Hugo Keenan (abdominal & knee injury), James Lowe (calf), James Tracy (neck), Charlie Ryan (knee), Tommy O’Brien (knee)

With talk of Johnny Sexton being available for what could in all likelihood be his last match in Belfast this Friday evening, along with the injuries and those gone on the Emerging Ireland tour, I’m wondering if we could be looking at a Leinster XV close to this in our top of the table URC clash…

J O’Brien, Larmour, Ringrose, Henshaw, Kearney, Sexton, Gibson-Park.

Porter, Sheehan/Kelleher, Furlong, Jenkins, Ryan, Ruddock, van der Flier, Conan.

I reckon I’d be happy enough with that.

RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP

No need to a load of paragraphs here, just pointing out that the All Blacks won TRC, right after we won a series against them.  I’m not saying that proves anything that’s going to happen in the future, I just enjoyed typing that sentence, especially the last bit.

BUNDEE’S RED

Keego gave his thoughts on the pod, and in that “Front Five” segment I try to keep things brief so I held back my own until here.

Before we harp on what he did, we must put the whole thing in context.  Stormers winger Seabelo Senatla was in a totally illegal position in the ruck, with his hand clearly on the ground as he tried to jackle.

Still, as the saying goes, two wrongs do not make a right, especially when the second one is really, really, REALLY wrong.  It looks like Aki is making the same argument as the one there used to be for what was called “a good shoeing”.  If someone is clearly being illegal at the breakdown, it is somehow fair game for some shithousery in kind.

Well, that’s fine to a point, but this goes way, way, way, WAY beyond that.  “Where do you want me on the clean out?”  Nowhere near his head, mate.  Simple as.

If he had to make protestations to the ref he would have been better off letting the officials know what Senatla was doing in the moment, that surely would have produced a better outcome for his team.

To be clear, I’m a big Bundee fan.  But this was not an isolated incident of poor discipline from him and while I certainly wouldn’t completely rule him out of the Irish centre debate because of it, we surely have to keep it in mind while having the discussion.

PREDICTION LEAGUE

Two weeks into the season and though I am yet to win a round, I actually top the league for now.  Those pesky Ospreys let in a late score for the second week in a row to cost me some points, and I would have made some decent ground had they not done so.  The only other match I got wrong was Dragons v Munster but in that case, nobody saw that coming.

THE NEXT BATCH OF HARPIN’

It’s All About Ulster this week.  On Tuesday evening I’ll be chatting to regular contributor Ian Frizell about his provinces’ perfect start to the season, then on Thursday shortly after the teams are named I’ll be recording the preview show with Mark Jackson.  There will be the other usual features like Rugby on TV, TikToks involving clips from Leinster’s HCC opponents Racing and Gloucester, as well as the odd tweet here and there when something catches my eye.

So by all means join me on any or all of the social media platforms and of course, be sure to enjoy your rugby wherever you are. JLP