Throwback Thursday : #IREvENG from 2015

For our latest #ThrowbackThursday we look at Ireland playing England at the Aviva in 2015 which was interesting for many reasons, like it was also before a World Cup, and it was Joe Schmidt v Stu Lancaster. It may not have been decisive for the five-win distinction that Ireland are playing for this coming weekend, but as regular readers/listeners will know we’re avoiding that phrase here at Harpin Manor right now.


Stuart Lancaster did mention his side’s lack of discipline in his post-match press conference alright.  And in true rugby fashion, the English press were happy to pick up that ball and run with it as the primary reason for this result.

But to be fair to the English coach, that wasn’t the only reason he gave, and I certainly don’t believe it went anywhere near explaining just how this match went.

Preparation was always going to be the prevailing theme of this contest.  It’s not so much that talent was irrelevant, more that talent was only going to get you so far in  the approach for either side.  And right from the very kick off, we could see what England’s plan was…territory over possession.

And to be honest, who can blame them?  Since these teams last met, Ireland had won every time they took to the field and while there were always little strategy tweaks made to suit the opposition, there were greater themes to be noted like power plays, lineout/mauls and yes, even that blight on the game called the choke tackle (which didn’t help Ireland this weekend but ironically DID help Wales at one stage in their match).

So for the English to come to Dublin with a plan in place to put the ball as deep as they could in Irish territory in order to try and force a mistake makes perfect sense.

But here’s the thing…particularly in those key opening exchanges, we barely made a significant mistake, and my contention is that if the English hadn’t conceded the kickable penalties that had us 6-0 up with 95% possession after 7 minutes, the margin could very easily have been 14 or even more.

And while we’re at it, what say we look at themes other than discipline – like experience.  George Ford certainly has the qualities to not only make that white 10 jumper his own but also to have success with it, but on this day, he was made look like a schoolboy by his opposite number.

In other areas where England had talent, like on the wing with Anthony Watson, they had some bright spots which were outdone but some not so bright ones like getting caught offside after a knockon, possibly one of the most frustrating things you can be pinged for.  But much like Ford, that’s not to say his coaching staff should lose all faith in him for the future based on this display – imagine if Ireland had given up on Simon Zebo?

Speaking of Zebo, it was his strong tackle on Watson that led to the lone Irish try.  And oh, what a try.  We’ve all seen it a gagillion times even just a couple of days later, but I could easily watch it that many times again. The first thing to stand out for me is the reaction of Conor Murray to the penalty advantage.

The scrum half has enough to process going to the base of every ruck as it is without having a play like this one ready to roll out should the ref stick his arm out.  But when Craig Joubert called the high tackle on Kearney, Murray had no hesitation in looking sideways to give the call.  Right on cue, not only did Henshaw get himself where he needed to be to get the perfectly-weighted kick, but also his centre partner Jared Payne was running in support just in case Robbie felt knocking it to a team-mate was a better option than catching it.

Of course before we get to the try itself we mustn’t ignore the build-up – Zebo’s tackle was strong but wouldn’t have led to much if he didn’t have the support of his forwards to swarm over Watson and win the ball back, and in the half a dozen or so phases that followed, all 15 in green jerseys were involved in finding soft shoulders, clearing out, and even when someone the calibre of Robshaw found a way through to disrupt, tidying up before Kearney drew the penalty advantage and Murray put up his kick.

But once up in the air it was all about Robbie Henshaw.  Alex Goode wasn’t a guaranteed starter for England but he was certainly one of their best, most consistent performers on the day so the Connacht star’s task was to compete with both him and the dead ball line and then both catch the ball AND touch it down.  Would have been a tough ask for someone with 100 test caps, but he made it look like he had all those and then some.

And it wasn’t just the try which earned Henshaw the man of the match award.  The statman credited him with 6 missed tackles, but he still led the side with 14 made, and some of the ones he missed wouldn’t have even been attempted by most test 12s – he was a man on a mission and one of the keys to Ireland’s success so far in this year’s Six Nations is his partnership with Payne which is looking more and more like an inspired selection with each passing game.

Then we have another key partnership, at halfback.  I have already highlighted Murray’s excellent role in things but someone needs to link up the Munster man with the Connacht and Ulster centres and what can I say about the job Mr J Sexton is doing that pretty much every commentator in the game hasn’t already said?  When you show disappointment in an outhalf for pulling just one placekick wide and putting one garryowen a tad too deep into the opposition 22 then you know you have someone special pulling your strings.

My personal favourite Sexton moment in the match was his crossfield kick to Tommy Bowe in the opening minutes.  You’d think in rugby union that any plan which involves putting boot to ball constituted a risk but every aspect of that kick shows the intense technical detail that went into the planning of the move.  Sure – it needed skill and accuracy, but at this level, that is demanded anyway and Goode was left with absolutely no choice but to run the ball dead after his catch given the trajectory it took and the way Bowe challenged for it.

I could go on in my praise for Irish performances…Rory at hooker was living up to his surname,  Jordi Murphy almost had you asking “Jamie who?” and Tommy O’Donnell pretty much did the same re: Seanie after he was forced from the action.  Our locks were as devilish as ever around the park with Paulie the consummate leader and Toner stealing lineouts one minute and playing stand-in scrum half the next.

But once again in my writeup for this great Irish team, I cannot ignore the glue that is keeping them together.

Of course even now you’ll get curmudgeons like George Hook saying this isn’t the type of rugby they would ideally like to see.  But when you stop watching through goggles from the amateur days and appreciate the realities of the modern game you can most definitely see the beauty in how Joe Schmidt has his squad operating.

You can turn to someone watching with you and say : “See this lineout?  Watch how two phases later we’ll be ten metres further up the park with England on the back foot” and that’s what will actually happen.  

You can admire all the hard work put into banishing all our demons in this fixture from the scrum for good not just by technique, but also by tailoring our game to keep them to a minimum.

And most importantly, you can look at all three of our performances in this year’s tournament and appreciate that what we have seen so far isn’t necessarily what we’ll see in future contests so the upcoming opposition are bound to be kept on their toes as they prepare.

Hopefully when you use that lens you will see Joe Schmidt’s Ireland for what it is – a constantly evolving project which has its players growing more and more accustomed to success with every second spent at Carton House.

Sure, with a makeshift team towards the end on Sunday we let the visitors come back at us.  And that is always a possibility for the final 20-odd minutes of any test match but if I had a plan which gave me a 16-point cushion when I get to that stage, whatever personnel I had on the park I’d fancy my chances against any team on the planet, at any venue and in any competition.

Now for all the gushing, it is worth noting that of those 10 wins in a row we keep hearing about, 6 of them were at the Aviva and our next two are away so cliché or no, there’s much rugby to be played yet before this Six Nations is done.  But can you think of anyone else you’d want in charge?

#TrustJoe #ShoulderToShoulder #COYBIG JLP

80+ column : Over-reacting to over-reacting

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


First things first…a reminder of the prestigious Harpin Guinness Pint Predictor League.

Our leader in the “Best Score In One Round” category is Andrew Byrne’s 67, including a spot on prediction of Ireland’s 14-point win over Italy.  The prize will be a signed copy of Brian Moylett’s “The Book On How You Become A Pro Rugby Player”.  Jack Fogarty still leads the overall table with seven points to spare. 

REMEMBER YOU CAN STILL JOIN THE LEAGUE AND WIN PRIZES  we’re accepting entrants right up to the final round so you can still beat Andrew’s Round 3 score, also every Six Nations match gives you the chance to win a free pint so by all means download the app and enter the league using the code HARPIN and see how you get on.


Mark & Ciarán did their usual excellent job helping me wrap our latest feature match, I on the other hand had issues with my audio – when I heard it back it sounded like I was talking while being locked in a box.  Thankfully it didn’t take long to re-record my parts and the result turned out ok if I do say so myself.

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


We’ve been mostly using these YouTube bonus clips as an opportunity to turn the spotlight on certain players who don’t always get the recognition and if anyone in the current Leinster squad deserves this it has to be Dave Kearney.  Thankfully his excellent finish in Edinburgh provided the platform for a decent bit of appreciation from our panel.

If you’re playing the clip above maybe pop over and subscribe to the channel too?  That’s where we post our Preview Show as well as other content throughout the week.


Unlike the YouTube clips, I never go into our pod recordings knowing what I’m going to you for the brief TikTok promos, it’s one of those things where I’ll know where I hear it and sure enough once Mark said this about Liam Turner definitely knew it.

It might sound like feint praise to say of a player “he’s a definite candidate for our 23 jersey in Europe” but when you’re talking about a squad with the depth of Leinster’s back three talent, that’s some statement yet one I’m more than happy to make about Turner he has had an outstanding season.

On a more personal note we’re proud here at Harpin Manor to have passed 400 followers on TikTok we’re not exactly pushing it as our top platform, simply posting regular clips so we’re happy that the numbers continue to rise and will no doubt do something special if and when we reach 500.


A clip from our latest wrap pod available on most major platforms #EDIvLEI #URC

♬ original sound – –


Ardie made a slit throat gesture to an opponent as he was leaving the field.

He publicly apologised at the earliest opportunity.

He has been cited.

That’s the above water part to this iceberg of a story.  If you hold your nose and plunge into the depths though there was a whole lot more. 


My initial thoughts were that if you made it publicly known that you were going to kill/injure someone out in the “real world” you wouldn’t or at least shouldn’t get away with it.  So once my mind went to a place where I wanted to suggest on twitter that I thought this wasn’t cool, you can see where I landed.

I guess I assumed that by using the words “straying towards” I would be making it obvious that no, I do not actually think that there should be criminal charges brought against the Hurricanes & All Black number 8.

Enter the “Game’s Gone Soft” crowd.  Or the “Woke Hunters” or whatever you want to call them.  You see, my “mistake” was that the words “criminal charges” became a beacon for those rage scrolling the second the incident appeared as a clip on social media because, of course, they were actively searching for a poster child.  I provided it for them.  Do I regret it?

You know what – ten, maybe even five years ago, I definitely would have.  I may even have gone so far as to remove the tweet.  

But now, fuck it.  I know what I meant.  And if I’m tailoring my opinions based on how I think a certain corner of the opinion spectrum (especially this one) is going to respond well then I may as not bother.  And since I’m a firm believer in sharing opinions, that only leaves one conclusion – leave it there, maybe add a tweet or two to explain what I meant (I even acknowledged that I probably did a bad job wording it but I still couldn’t change my view), and then let the backlash wash over me.

To summarise, we had people over-reacting to my over-reaction to Ardie’s initial over-reaction.   Or to put it another way, an average day in the bird house.

I know there are those who will take this as “proof” that “Twitter is a cess pit” but even after last Friday I still disagree.  If we defined every pursuit by it’s bad actors then the world itself would be a cess pit.  


I always make it clear when I’m about to harp on Welsh rugby that I am very aware that I’m far outside the “bubble” and thus am unsure of the minute details and dramas going on between the regions, cities, clubs and personalities across the nation.

But being a URC/Six Nations fan I do claim to have a tangential interest and from where I’m sitting it looks as though they have reached a point where they are going to have to rely on outside investment to get out of this cavernous hole they find themselves in.

And once you have to put your eggs in that corporate basket, you have to accept that there are going to be some options available which will make “unthinkable” actions very thinkable.  Like merging one of the regions with a club that keeps on doing well in the RFU’s second tier while being denied entry into its first.

Does that mean it will definitely happen?  Of course not.  But my point is that if it does become possible they should definitely consider it, while if it doesn’t they need to get ready for another offer which may sound equally ludicrous at first.

Once rugby union went pro, the sport was always going to have to think outside the box, and to be fair, while it’s still far from perfect it’s still a better box for the most part IMO.


Leinster tend not to issue a full report until the Monday before their next match so that would be March 20th.  But going from the Irish squad update it looks like Ciaran Frawley has been called up to camp while Scott Penny and Jamie Osborne have been held back for minor knocks so hopefully they are indeed minor.  Meanwhile we’re wondering whether or not the likes of Furlong, Gibson-Park, Sexton and Henshaw will be involved at Murrayfield next weekend.  


It’s “as you were” at the top of Division 1A as both Tarf and Nure secured BP wins away to Shannon and UCD respectively.  Familiar names to Leinster fans among the tries include Ben Murphy and Jordan Coghlan. 

Meanwhile in the race for the top 4 it’s looking like we could have two Leinster v Munster semifinals as both Cork Con and Young Munster also won away from home although Ballynahinch’s win over freefalling Trinity (the only home win of the five) keeps them in contention.

Down at the bottom it’s looking like a three-way fight to void joining Garryowen with Lansdowne, UCD and Shannon all having tricky away assignments in round 16 on March 25.

Men’s AIL


Ballynahinch 36-15 Dublin Univ

Garryowen 21-29 Cork Con

Lansdowne 10-15 Young Munster

Shannon 3-33 Clontarf

UCD 10-32 Terenure


MAR 25 (all 2:30pm)

Clontarf v Ballynahinch

Cork Con v Shannon

Dublin Univ v Lansdowne

Terenure v Garryowen

Young Munster v UCD


Mixed fortune for the Irish squads in Canada – both started brightly with wins over the host nation and South American opposition but then they went their separate ways.  The women went on to lost all their remaining matches and although they remain a respectable 5th in the standings, a gap has appeared above them and they will be anxiously looking over their shoulders for the remaining rounds.

Although the men couldn’t avenge the Aussies in their final pool match, they still made the quarterfinals where a Zac Ward try deep in extra time got them past the USA and into the final four where they may have fallen to Argentina and again Australia but still the points were valuable and put us back into the top 8.

The circuit now moves on to Hong Kong at the end of March.


My goal is to watch at least one MLR fixture each week, starting with Houston v San Diego from round 3 they’re all available for free on

To be clear I won’t be following this competition merely to comment on the rugby.  My main interest is in watching how the sport is growing in the USA.  I reckon they have a decent model in the MLR to bring it forward but the league hasn’t been without its challenges especially last season when they lost the two Adam Gilchrist-owned teams (though considering the dumb nicknames they had they probably won’t be missed too much in the long run).

So with this in mind I checked out the replay of the Houston Sabercats v San Diego Legion, probably the biggest clash of Round 3 as both are expected to make the playoffs.  The familiar names were mostly on the San Diego side which features skipper Blair Cowen, Ma’a Nonu and Mikey Te’o.

The US presentation of the match was pretty much as expected, with a two-man team for commentary with the analyst seeing his role not only to provide “colour” but also to explain some of the more complicated rules, which is a good thing in my book.

One good feature of this match is that it was played on a pitch that wasn’t besmirched by lines from American football, something we do still see in quite a few MLR matches.

It seemed a decent crowd at Sabercats Stadium but it was the visitors who jumped out to an early 14-0 lead with Nonu heavily involved in both tries in the first 10 minutes.  Needless to say the defences won’t be up to the standards we’re used to in European rugby but still the general attacking play is to be admired at times.

Houston did manage to claw them back including an intercept try from winger Labuschagne which nudged them in front but a quick pair of San Diego tries created 26-17 advantage going into the last ten minutes.  This should have been enough to secure the win but a pair of yellow cards in succession to Sears-Juru & Poidevin gave the home side an opening and they sailed through it with two late converted tries including the winner from their big number 8 Gideon van Wyk to win the day.

Again, if you’re a rugby purist, don’t bother watching these matches.  But if you appreciate how the sport can benefit from the game growing, plus that it will take time for a league to establish rivalries and traditions of its own, then you can certainly enjoy keeping an eye on how things are going.


DAL 10-35 SEA

ATL 29-16 NOLA

CHI 10-14 UTAH


HOU 31-26 SD








I checked back in the records and after being in 1st place after the first couple of URC rounds I had dropped to 3rd by round 7, a whopping 9.5 points behind our resident stats expert RugbyKino, but as you can see I have clawed eight of those points back so I’ll be gunning to retrieve that top spot by the end.

This league is meant to be a race to avoid the bottom spot which rewards you by having to wear The Jersey Of Shame in a social media phot but it would appear Neil “No Picks Keego” Keegan wants that honour for himself so he’s welcome to it!!!


The Six Nations is back on the menu and for a bonus pod during the week I will be the Leinster representative on an all-provincial panel giving an overview of the 2023 Six Nations as it stands.  Then we turn to our focus to Sunday’s “Triple Crown decider” in Murrayfield with a preview show before, a wrap pod after and also all the other usual features in between so be sure to follow us on any or all of our social media platforms to keep up with it all.  In the meantime, be sure to enjoy your rugby wherever you are.  JLP

80+ column : Anthems, Contracts, Updates

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


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

We have a new leader in the “Best Score In One Round” category as Andrew Byrne’s 67, including a spot on prediction of Ireland’s 14-point win over Italy, put him in pole position.  The prize will be a signed copy of Brian Moylett’s “The Book On How You Become A Pro Rugby Player”.

As you can see despite being knocked off his perch Jack Fogarty still leads the overall table with seven points to spare. 

REMEMBER YOU CAN STILL JOIN THE LEAGUE AND WIN PRIZES we’re accepting entrants right up to the final round so you can still beat Andrew’s Round 3 score, also every Six Nations match gives you the chance to win a free pint so by all means download the app and enter the league using the code HARPIN and see how you get on.


Apart from a big mishap on my part where I got the seniors and U20s mixed up in my selection of Front Five articles, Sunday night’s recordings went well and Tom and Conor did their usual sterling work in describing the action. 

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


For the bonus chat this week we looked at Ireland’s options as centre and looking back at it now we even missed some names like James Hume and Luke Marshall who have both of course done well when called upon. Still I think it’s important to acknowledge that when everyone is fit there is only one pairing for Ireland that ticks all boxes both with and without the ball and while we try to repress the bias when talking about Ireland, I wonder in this case if it’s actually better for Leinster fans to make that point. 

If you’re playing the clip above maybe pop over and subscribe to the channel too?  That’s where we post our Preview Show as well as other content throughout the week.


Here’s a bonus bonus clip if you will. After Tom described Italy’s interception try at the end of the first half I asked him about Ireland’s mindset in not killing the half after winning the lineout after the clock went red given the BP was in the bag. 


Halfway through this you’ll see me writing something down, for the record it’s a note to myself reminding me to use Tom’s mention of O’Toole’s display for this week’s TikTok clip. As you can see I remembered! 


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

♬ original sound –


There has been a lot of light hearted indignation on social media about the Italian rendition of Ireland’s Call before the match, and to be honest while I wanted to join in, the fact that the issue was easily sidetracked into that annoying “debate” over whether or not that should be played at all for Irish rugby made me pause.   But this column is a much safer space for me to express my thoughts without all that nonsense. 

It should be a simple matter – each union should be able to decide on how their anthem is played.  Full stop.  I’m not even sure why it’s up for debate.  Even giving the Italian organisers the benefit of the doubt in that this wasn’t a case of intentional head-wrecking, they still shouldn’t be put in a position where an error can be made.

The anthem playing is a “formality” in every sense of the word.  First, it’s a reminder to the player of the extra prestige of playing test level rugby for their native or adopted country (another rabbit hole I’d want to avoid in this discussion) but more relevant is the way we’re not supposed to have the rendition of the anthem as a major talking point especially in something like the Six Nations!!!

You’d hope that regulations wouldn’t be needed for this, but that fiasco would seem to warrant them. 


A friend texted me on Monday “Just drove past the Leinster HQ in UCD.. lots of press outside” and within an hour I had learned exactly why.  This had been rumoured for a while but the confirmation was obviously very welcome news.  With Stu leaving for Racing at the end of the campaign, this provides much needed continuity and I very much doubt there’s a single Leinster fan unhappy about it.

On Stu’s replacement, we’re hearing talk about Leon MacDonald, currently in charge of the Blues in Super Rugby and formally involved with Tasman, the Crusaders and the All Blacks so not a bad resumé at all, plus he has worked with Andrew Goodman.  But before I get deep into details like how he takes his coffee, I should point out that nothing is confirmed as yet although apparently this will be sorted over the coming weeks.

Last thing I’d say on it is that a senior coaching position at Leinster Rugby isn’t exactly a tough one to sell to the best coaches. 


“The funds are there. It’s just a case of going through the boring bit around plans and tenders, dates and project plans. All that boring stuff. That’s all happening now. It’s all systems go. I think we should have something really exciting in the next couple of months to show.”

Obviously COVID knocked back the planned redevelopment of the RDS a good bit so it’s good to see it’s still on track and every update on its progress is welcome.  I love going there but still this work is very badly needed.


After a replayed first round tie set things back a bit, we now finally know the semifinalists in this season’s Leinster Schools Senior Cup : St Michael’s College v Blackrock College, Newbridge College v Gonzaga College.

Both should be quality matches but the first one puts me in mind of the final from ten years ago which featured players like Garry Ringrose, Jeremy Loughman, Oliver Jager, Nick Timoney, Cian Kelleher, Ross Byrne, Nick McCarthy, Ross Molony, James Ryan, Josh Murphy & Max Deegan.  It was also the day I took this photo which got some decent reception about t’internet and (eventually!) inspired me to start the Harpin Instagram account.  

Very much looking forward to both semifinals next Monday & Tuesday.



Biggest news is unfortunately Finlay Bealham’s injury and although his Championship is over his contribution to this campaign cannot be overstated.   

Even without the Leinster goggles it has to be good news that Messrs Sexton, Henshaw, Furlong, Gibson Park & Ringrose are all included in the “mini-camp” in the hope that all will be available to face Scotland and England.

On the players sent back to their provinces, well I don’t want to repeat myself from last week on the consternation from certain fans over supposed bias in these decisions, I’ll just say that with a full round of URC matches at a crucial portion of the campaign, I’d say the provinces will take all the personnel they can get.


The news on Joe McCarthy was unfortunate but not surprising, hopefully he’ll be able to play some part at the business end of the season.

Speaking of which, nine points from Leinster’s final four matches will mathematically clinch 1st place, though with standards at the province as they are I doubt that’s a factor in team selection this coming weekend.  Word is they were considering our matches against Cardiff, Dragons, Edinburgh & Stormers as a block which would mostly see the same combinations so we can expect a similar lineup this coming weekend.




(note – the above team is purely from my imagination, it’s certainly not one of those quasi-leaked Thornley teams which are always 22 out of 23 correct)


Jason Jenkins: came through the game against Dragons Rugby with no issues following his return from injury


Ciarán Frawley: will look to increase his training load this week as he continues his recovery from a knee injury


Joe McCarthy: has had a procedure on an ankle injury and will be out of action for two months

There are no further updates on:

Charlie Ngatai (hamstring), Cormac Foley (hamstring), Ed Byrne (knee), Martin Moloney (knee) and Tommy O’Brien (knee)


First of all congrats to the Combined Provinces XV for their clean sweep of wins in the inaugural Celtic Challenge, no doubt they gave the test coaching set up plenty to think about over the four matches, and the squad for the upcoming Six Nations was announced on Tuesday, albeit over the backdrop of the tragic news of the passing of Tom Tierney.

Back to the Men’s AIL, Jack Boyle, Alex Soroka & Ben Murphy were among the Leinster players bagging tries in another important round of 1A matches.  Tarf stayed on top with a good win at Trinity while Terenure stayed close to them by overcoming Lansdowne.  

Meanwhile down at the bottom Garryowen finally slipped through the trap door although the race to avoid joining them is really hotting up and for the remainder of the campaign I can’t see there being too many dead rubbers.

Men’s AIL


Cork Con 29-34 UCD

Dublin Univ 21-38 Clontarf

Garryowen 16-26 Shannon

Terenure 43-24 Lansdowne

Young Munster 21-0 Ballynahinch


MAR 4 (all 2:30pm)

Ballynahinch v Dublin Univ

Garryowen v Cork Con

Lansdowne v Young Munster

Shannon v Clontarf

UCD v Terenure


Just the men’s World Series resumed last weekend and to say Ireland’s fortunes varied over the two days would be an understatement.  On Day One which was marred by torrential rain and several delays we won all our pool matches, including a win over the Blitzboks, to set up a quarterfinal against Australia, yet on the Sunday we just couldn’t stop shipping penalties and slipped to two defeats which meant we also slipped further down the series table to 9th after 6 of 11 rounds.

The circuit now moves to Vancouver, Canada where we get a chance for revenge over the Aussies in our pool and we also face Chile and our hosts.

Meanwhile the women return to action as well and with just three rounds to go we’ll be looking for another final four appearance to get us higher than our current fifth position.  















Getting pressed for time as I type so I’ll just leave the results, table & fixtures in this section.  Hopefully I’ll have time to catch a game or two soon, they’re all available for free on


SEA 28-22 ATL

UTAH 33-25 DAL

HOU 35-14 NOLA


SD 29-12 NEFJ








Kudos to Cian “RugbyKino” O’Muilleoir for reminding us all of the extra URC matches last weekend, I chose to reward him by being the only one to take a punt on Ulster winning in Durban, thus allowing me to narrow his lead down to just two and a half points!!!  We both got the Lions/Glasgow game wrong though, which has us both anxiously looking over our shoulders at Mark Jackson in 3rd so there are a few interesting weeks of Superbruing ahead for us.  Oh, and we’d also like to announce Keego’s new full official nickname of Neil “No Picks Keego” Keegan…


Obviously we’ll be turning our attention to Leinster’s trip to Edinburgh next weekend and we’ll have an Opposition View pod during the week talking to Sandy Smith although it would be rude not to also ask him about the Scots whom Ireland play in the same city a week later.

Then we return to our URC focus with a preview show before, a wrap pod after and also all the other usual features in between so be sure to follow us on any or all of our social media platforms to keep up with it all.  In the meantime, be sure to enjoy your rugby wherever you are.  JLP

Throwback Thursday : IREvITA 2018

For the latest dip into the Harpin archives we go back to when we played Italy in 2018, maybe not the perfect choice ahead of Saturday’s clash in Rome since 1) we were at home then and 2) we’re ‘outlawing’ the full use of the GS phrase on the Harpin platform for the forseeable future, but I thought it was interesting in that there are kind of parallels with Robbie H & Tadhg F picking up injury concerns. Plus it’s an opportunity to compare the Farrell and Schmidt eras, not necessarily to see which one was better, rather to notice the differences.


O what we wouldn’t give to see Robbie still able to do that with a rugby ball right now!  And to have Tadhg Furlong fit and ready to face Wales.  AND to have prevented the Italians posting their highest ever points total at the Aviva Stadium.

[Update – just getting word from the Irish camp before posting, not good news for Robbie but it looks like Tadhg will be ok so that’s another plus]

Yet here at Harpin Manor we seem to have something of a reputation for accentuating the positive, so I don’t see any reason for changing when it comes to this match.  Much better to focus on the 56 points more than the 19, the eight tries for more than the three against and the quality of our performances more than the quantity of our injuries.

I mean, when all is said and done, this result is overall a good thing for Ireland?  Right?  Time to scatter a few headings down the page and tack on a few paragraphs to each…


Loads of Irish online comments were negative at full time, but I’m wondering how much of that was down to the fact that our second half, and thus the most recent in the memory, was far inferior to the first.  Yet even that forty minutes was won 28-19 with a bonus point won even not counting any scores from the first half.

But when taken in isolation, I’m not sure we could possibly hope for a better demonstration of the way Joe Schmidt wants test rugby played than minutes one through forty.  Fine, maybe the opposition wasn’t exactly world beating, but do I really have to dig up the phrase ‘you can only play what’s in front of you’?  I guess I do.

The Italians took the opening kickoff and right off the bat we were able to settle into our familiar pattern, getting front foot ball here, creating space for the backline there, before we get all the way to the visitor’s 22.  Yes, they were soon able to clear, but the resulting lineout being still in their half was very much a contingency of our initial exit strategy.

Over the next couple of minutes, some things didn’t go to plan – a knockon from Aki running a hard line for example – but when that happened and Italy tried to get going, we were able to seamlessly revert to defensive mode and it wouldn’t be long before we were on the attack again.

Before long we’re winning a penalty, getting back into their 22 and then we’re hammering away at their line…Conor Murray gets over and is held up but not to worry, after the following scrum Robbie Henshaw is running a line with more than enough momentum to get him over.

Just 11 minutes gone, it’s already 7-0 and just four minutes later Sexton is already lining up another conversion after some great link play between Stockdale and Conan puts Murray over in the corner…and not surprisingly our star outhalf made light work of the touchline extras.

By the end of the first quarter, we’ve a third try in the bag after maul gets to the line and Bundee Aki gets his first for Ireland with a similar line to that of Robbie earlier, now it’s 21-0 and time for the game’s longest spell without a score – eleven whole minutes!!!

During that time Conor O’Shea’s men tried to make some headway yet found yards after the tackle extremely hard to come by until eventually Dan Leavy burrows the ball out of a ruck before putting Aki through and with Earls in support it becomes an easy finish.  It hardly feels like we’ve broken sweat and we’ve the try bonus wrapped up already.

Whatever the opposition, that was a dream first half.  They won’t come oftenat test level but when they do it should be applauded.  The only drawback in that time of course was the early removal of Furlong but it came as no surprise to Leinster fans in particular that Andrew Porter was ready to step in and put in a decent shift in his place.


Is there any chance I can suggest Robbie Henshaw deserved man of the match without anyone thinking I’m only saying that because he’s Leinster and the actual winner Conor Murray is Munster?  Well I guess I’ll just have to take that risk but in my defence I was tweeting the opinion as he was being stretchered off before the award was given.

The guy has world-class ability, world-class work rate, world-class knowledge of the game, and he is clearly getting world-class coaching.  I sincerely hope nobody has him in their ideal XVs at full-back anymore…he belongs in the centre and is first choice there when fit.

However – since he’s now unavailable for a while, we need to crack on.  If we really think we can reach the final four of a World Cup, we have to be able to handle absences like this.  So who do we go for?


Here’s another Irish starter at the peak of his powers.  It would have been more surprising if Earls WASN’T among the tries when we got as many as eight, but his contribution will be most remembered for ‘that tackle’ at the very end.

Is there any chance I can suggest that Mattia Bellini missed a trick in his run that could have resulted in a try without anyone thinking I’m trying to take the shine off of yet another Munster player’s achievement?  Well I guess I’ll just have to take that risk.  

Actually I think Earls did everything he could do to catch the Italian, picking where he thought his prey would be caught in a straight line, and setting off at full pace hoping the sight of him in the rear view would cause Bellini to panic.  For me, that’s exactly what happened – a quick step at the 22 could well have gotten around Keith but the overall intimidation factor plus the actual tackle which still had to be made were a delight to watch.

Perhaps Chris Farrell is a more ‘like for like’ replacement for Robbie in the 13 jumper against Wales but my instincts tell me Earls is the way to go, assuming Ringrose won’t be ready of course.  He has played there before for Ireland, he has already spent about half an hour there with Aki, he has two whole weeks to prepare, and he’s in the form of his life right now.  Plus, we have plenty of wingers to take his place.


Bundee Aki looked like he belongs in Joe Schmidt centre pairing from the opening minutes against the Springboks, and he seems even more settled as he goes along.  I still think ‘Henrose’ is our ideal pairing but like I say it’s all about having alternatives and Aki is a huge part of our plans for the rest of this championship.

Jacob Stockdale played like someone who was keen to put Paris behind him, especially the way he took his second try.  I was delighted he got another chance to start and now I see no reason why he should relinquish his starting jersey just yet.  And towards the end we got a little taste of what Jordan Larmour can bring though I really do believe he needs to playing in a more central position to fully display his talents.

And I have one more of these…is there any chance I can suggest that Luke McGrath is a better option to play with Joey Carbery off the bench without making it look like I can’t let go of my Leinster bias?  I guess I’ll have to take that risk.  The pair of replacement halfbacks started well when they came on but I just feel Luke has done better with his test chances than Marmion.

Meanwhile our pack was relatively quiet by their standards, with only captain Rory Best getting his name on the scoresheet among them, though as I suggested earlier it was the prolonged cameo from young Andrew Porter which was the highlight.  The decision to swap him to tight head might go down as one of the more important ones in recent Irish rugby history if he keeps going the way he has been.

Also once the numbers were crunched we were 8/8 in scrums, 15/15 in lineouts, a mere six tackles missed in total and just three penalties conceded so if that’s not a good day at the office for the forwards I don’t know what is.


Of course we can’t ignore the mini Italian fightback, one which very nearly earned them an unlikely try bonus point.  The likes of Leavy, Larmour and Stockdale will all have defensive questions to answer at the DVD session on Monday, but I’d much rather let Joe handle those technicalities, especially when we had as many as six converted tries on the board before our guests had as much as one.

But can I make one point about those three Italian tries…I really do think they should have seen yellow at some point and I very much doubt their score gets near 19 if that happens.  It’s like we had a homer ref in Paris and one sympathetic to an inferior away side in Dublin.

Devin Toner had two knock ons in the space of a few minutes at the start of the second half…I point that out not because I wish to have a pop at him, rather than because overall errors were so few and far between that his were head and shoulders above most of the others [pun intended] although neither really cost us.

After the injuries, the only other negative I can think of from this match is that the poor quality of opposition made it difficult to prepare for the Triple Crown contests that lie ahead for us, but that’s hardly our fault.


Now it’s time to evaluate where this leaves us in the Championship.  Two wins out of two and nine match points out of ten is exactly where we want to be.  And I really don’t know what to say to those who look at our displays against France and Italy and say ‘Well you wouldn’t want to do that against Wales or England’ because the simple fact of the matter is that we’ll be set up differently on those days.

Elsewhere on the second weekend, England had some great individual performances yet overall were as vulnerable at Twickenham as I have seen them in a long while, Wales should be forgetting that ‘try that should have been’ and instead ask themselves why the couldn’t get over the line with their other chances, while Scotland will be on a high after a slew of second half penalties seem to have eliminated the French.

All of the above tells me the road ahead for Ireland is only going to get tougher as we travel along, as if we didn’t know that going into this Six Nations.  We will need to make the most of the two-week break but on the evidence of these opening matches, I have seen plenty to make me believe that we have a squad of players that are up to the task, with the right coaching staff at the helm.  Bring on those Welsh.  JLP

80+ column : Competition update, troll’s tropes, taboo phrase

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


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

As you can see an amazing round by Jack Fogarty including a perfect prediction of IREvFRA catapulted him into first place in both categories; ‘Overall score’ as you see in the graphic, and also ‘best one round score’.

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

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


That was a real Six Nations classic at the Aviva on Saturday, and we thought it might take myself, Mark & Conor about six hours to record the wrap.  In the end it was more like an hour and a half so a lot had to end up on the cutting room floor although as you can see below I managed to salvage a couple of bonus YouTube clips.

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


Thankfully, Wayne Barnes’ decision that “I’m not starting at a high degree of danger” didn’t affect the result too much in the end, and pretty much everyone who saw the match was expecting news of Atonio’s citing on Monday, we’ll see how the hearing goes.

Unfortunately, the non-call brought two of my most hated tropes to the fore on the social media, the “go overboard slagging off the ref” and the one I pointed out here.


I got given out to on our YouTube channel for apparently copying a theme recently highlighted by Squidge, well as much I love his work I have to point out that I did not see that video and even if I had, I still wanted to let Mark, an actual head coach at Nat 2 level in the English system, a chance to harp on the topic in his own words.

If you’re playing the clip above maybe pop over and subscribe to the channel too?  That’s where we post our Preview Show as well as other content throughout the week.


Mark also gave some decent background on the omnishambles at Worcester so I included the extra chat in a “bonus bonus clip”.


Couldn’t let Mark get all the social media airtime so Conor’s depiction of “That Doris pass” made for a perfect TikTok promo and seems to be getting decent engagement so far…


I might get into trouble here as it’s going to look like I’m slagging off two world class players, but I can’t help wondering if we’re going a tad overboard gushing over Antoine Dupont’s holding up Mack Hansen around the try line at the Aviva?

Don’t get me wrong, it did show great strength but I don’t see anyone pointing out that Hansen had zero momentum when AD grabbed him plus, while the Connacht star would definitely kick my ass one on one, he’s not exactly our biggest player?  Would he have held up James Ryan the same way for example?

Again to be absolutely clear, I’m not saying the try denial wasn’t impressive, just that maybe the praise needs dialling down a few notches.   I’ll shut up now, it’s probably for the best.


This point is very simple, and shouldn’t need any explanation to long time readers, although according to this tweet by Ulster fan and occasional contributor Ian Frizzell the BelTel subeditors definitely need a crash course.

After two Irish wins to kickoff this season’s Six Nations, ALL MENTIONS of that two word phrase that rhymes with “bland jam” are OFF LIMITS whether spoken, typed or signed until further notice.  Please observe and pass it on to all around you.



On top of the concerns we already had that Robbie, JGP, Tadhg & Dan would miss the remainder of the Six Nations, now the other Tadhg and even Sexton have become doubts.  All are presumptive starters but as we have seen so far the wider squad have earned themselves a ton of good faith so hopefully the supporters will buy in.


Most encouraging bit of Leinster’s report was JJ moving out of the “no further updates” category we could really do with having him back when the knockout matches come around.  Given we’re also getting four back from Irish camp all in need of some game time I reckon we can put out a pretty decent lineup at the RDS on Saturday night…

J O’Brien, J Larmour, L Turner, B Brownlee, D Kearney, H Byrne, L McGrath

M Milne, J McKee, M Ala’alatoa, R Molony, J McCarthy, R Ruddock, W Connors, M Deegan

T McElroy,  M Hanan, T Clarkson, B Deeny, S Penny, N McCarthy, C Tector, R Russell

(note – the above team is purely from my imagination, it’s certainly not one of those quasi-leaked Thornley teams which are always 22 out of 23 correct)


Will Connors: came through the game against Cardiff Rugby with no issues following his return from injury


Jason Jenkins: will look to increase his training load this week as he nears a return from a hamstring injury


Cormac Foley: picked up a hamstring injury training last week and will be unavailable for selection

There are no further updates on:

Charlie Ngatai (hamstring), Ed Byrne (knee), Martin Moloney (knee), Ciarán Frawley (knee) and Tommy O’Brien (knee)


First a word on the Women’s Celtic Challenge, the Irish Combined Provinces XV had a week off and resume their campaign with a match against the Welsh at the Kingspan on Saturday hoping to make it three wins from three, best of luck to them.

Next the men’s AIL is back with some interesting 1A matchups in round 13 as you can see.

Finally ICYMI our bonus pod last week was an interesting chat with Justin Middleton where he outlined his route to becoming the voice of the AIL and he also talks about what can be done to help promote the league to a wider audience.  Do check it out here.

Men’s AIL

Sat Feb 18

Ballynahinch v Terenure

Clontarf v Young Munster

Lansdowne v Cork Con

Shannon v Dublin University

UCD v Garryowen


As I said earlier our bonus pod this week features an interview with Brian Moylett about his book.

Then of course we will turn our attention back to the URC with the rebranded Dragons coming to the RDS on Saturday and of course the match will be getting the usual Harpin treatment with a preview Friday featuring Keego, a wrap on Sunday plus a whole lot of other features in between.

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

80+ column : Predicting Prowess, Rank Rankings & Emoji Empathy

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


To important admin business first, serious kudos to Christy O’Connor who finished top of the pile in the first round of our Guinness Pint Predictor League on the Fanzo app.

His forecasts of Ireland by 16, Scotland by 4 and France by 9 were closest of the lot so he not only won some free pints for himself but he’s also given him a shot at winning two league categories, namely Best Round Score and of course Overall Winner.

As for the added challenge of beating our Harpin panel of experts, well…let’s just say we’re all a little bit further down the ladder for now but as the saying goes it’s early doors and all that…

REMEMBER YOU CAN STILL JOIN THE LEAGUE we’re accepting entrants right up to the final round and you can still beat that one round score of 46 (top score overall on the app was 60) and also every Six Nations Match gives you the chance to win a free pint so by all means download the app and enter the league using the code HARPIN and see how you get on.


Rich Mifsud & RugbyKino helped me wrap the Welsh match and as ever did a bang up job going back over the eighty minutes and offered some excellent insights, as well as harpin’ on stories from beyond the Irish men’s senior bubble in our “Front Five” feature.

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


This week’s bonus clip was on Leinster & Ireland’s nailed on starting full back Hugo Keenan.  Often I disagree with the selection of Player of the match and for Saturday’s match at Cardiff there certainly could be a cae made for Caelan Doris but having said that Keenan is long overdue a prolonged discussion and like I say in the clip if we don’t make a point of having it, he could go his entire career with us taking his high standards for granted.

If you’re playing the clip above maybe pop over and subscribe to the channel too?  That’s where we post our Preview Show as well as other content throughout the week.


I never go into my pod recording knowing what portion I’m going to use but the second Kino said this I knew I had my TikTok clip.


Check out our latest wrap pod at and most major platforms #GuinnessSixNations #WALvIRE

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A curious thing happened on Monday, well two curious things, the first being the new Bank Holiday but the second was a flood of posts in my rugby timeline pointing out that Scotland’s win over England moved them up the World Rugby rankings to ensure that all of the top five are now on the same side of the draw in RWC2023.

That, of course, is ludicrous, but maybe it is also ludicrous for us to keep going on about it because I very much doubt there is anything that can be done to change it.  The practice of holding the draw three years in advance (supposedly in part because it offers a bit of a competitive edge to that year’s November internationals???) has been going on for a few RWC cycles now so it’s nothing new.  

Obviously this “top 5” element is an extreme outcome but the thing is we have known about it for years and this was pointed out as a possible consequence long ago.  We’re just going to have to grin and bear this one and hope they fix things for 2027.

What could be done instead?  I’m not sure if holding the draw later is necessarily a solution because the rankings always change, but maybe they could drop the “fixed bracket” element of the quarterfinal makeup?  So keep the pool winners apart in the last 8 but have their seeding in the draw determined by the rankings at the time?

That of course leads this point towards the rabbit hole of reforming the entire World Cup format altogether so I’ll stray away from that for now, but it’s an interesting one to think about all the same.


Interesting tweet from Jay Long here on twitter Emoji etiquette.  He went on to get a good deal of negative reaction to pointing this out but I don’t see the problem with reminding folks of the make-up of the Irish rugby team.

As Jay points out, often people don’t mean anything by it, but I dare say the vast majority of times people use the tricolour it has no added meaning, and once they learn of this they’ll use the shamrock in future.

I also added that it’s critical to be sure to use the three-leaf emoji rather than the four otherwise you could find yourself in serious “trouble”!!!


Obviously the news that Messrs JGP, Furlong & Healy will also be unavailable to play France was less than ideal news, yet still their standins all did extremely well in Cardiff and I see no reason why we can’t be confident going with the exact same 23 and in many ways the fact that all appear to be available makes this overall a decent injury report for Andy Farrell’s squad.  Plus, it was great news that Rónan Kelleher has resumed full training, and congrats to both Caolin Blade and Michael Milne for their call ups.


Short but sweet 80+ column this week, on Wednesday we’ll be posting an interview with Justin Middleton about his career as a rugby commentator so far as well as a chat about the All Ireland league.

Then of course we will turn our attention back to the 6N starting with our massive clash with France getting the usual Harpin treatment with a preview Friday featuring Rugby Kino, a wrap on Sunday plus a whole lot of other features in between.

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

80+ column : 6N on-pitch anticipation, off-pitch frustration

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


The countdown to “6Mas” gets closer to zero and this year we’re launching a prediction league in conjunction with the Fanzo app, if we get good engagement we’ll offer some prizes for the best players so you’ll really help us out by joining and/or sharing the above graphic with your rugby loving pals.

Here at Harpin Manor we’re running a separate league among our squad of Six Nations podsters, namely myself, Keego, Mark Jackson, Tom Coleman, Conor Cronin, Rich Mifsud & RugbyKino.  And don’t tell them I said this but none of them think any of you have a hope of beating them when it comes to forecasting so I guess you’ll just have to prove ‘em wrong won’t you 😜


Unfortunately Rich Mifsud had to sit our our wrap pod at the weekend due to illness and we hope we returns to fitness in time for next Sunday.  Thankfully RugbyKino was able to answer the call and along with Conor we got an excellent summary of what was expected to be a much closer contest at the RDS.

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


For the pod I try to even out the portions of the match I get my guests to cover as best as I can, yet sadly I didn’t realise Kino had done a lot of preparation on Leinster’s success rate with short tap n go penalty options when I allocated our two tries against Cardiff to Conor.  But when we finished recording the main pod Kino still shared the information and unbeknownst to him the mic was still “hot” so I got it all and made it into a bonus clip for YouTube which you see below.

If you’re playing the clip above maybe pop over and subscribe to the channel too?  That’s where we post our Preview Show as well as other content throughout the week.


This week the TikTok spotlight turned to Harry Byrne, this was an important start for him and we thought he did realy well.


Our #LEIvCAR wrap pod is now live at and most major platforms

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Folks, what the hell is going on here???

I’m doing my best to keep myself from donning the tinfoil hat but it would appear that unions from all Six Nations are experiencing varying forms of governance issues in the weeks leading up to the game’s greatest championship kicking off, almost as if (a) we’d have difficulty focusing on everything at once and (b) once the rugby starts we’re expected to forget it anyway.

None of it is pretty, and yes I do mean all unions are involved. 

Recently we had the terrible allegations of systemic misogyny made against the WRU in a documentary, which of course simply sits atop a whole host of other issues there.   

Also last week there was further development in Bernard Laporte’s saga which doesn’t look like straying too far from the news cycle, something the FFR could do without in a RWC year.  

Although what happened in Italian rugby, namely the disgusting “secret Santa” present, was confined to one club, it was their biggest and surely warranted involvement by the union and the response has been extremely insufficient.  

Meanwhile in Scotland the SRU has fallen well short addressing the tragic death of Siobhan Cattigan.  

Then there was the RFU making an absolute hames of introducing new tackle laws at lower levels (in every sense), a problem with communication that by all accounts is nothing new over there.

As for Irish rugby?  Well perhaps on the surface there’s nothing in the front line news, yet while steps are being taken to improve the Women’s game with professional contracts and new competitions being announced, there is information being put out there by a particular twitter account that suggests a lot more needs to be done.

Each issue is vast and extremely difficult to summarize in an article like this one, but the reason I had a stab at it was to present the overall view from just outside the 6N bubble.

We love rugby on the pitch; I’m writing this article and you’re reading it so that goes without saying.  But knowing so much negativity is going on behind the scenes is certainly not acceptable, especially when the governance issues are so widespread.  No organisation is ever going to have everything perfect all the time, but what does seem to be a common thread in the above stories is that the failures are in areas where you’d expect to have set standards throughout the sport, something I would have thought a body like World Rugby was there to fix.


Another strong showing by the Irish women, this time reaching another semifinal after an impressive quarterfinal win over Fiji which put some distance between us and them in the overall series standings and keeps us within reach of the top four.

Meanwhile the men also reached the last eight but a couple of early mistakes against the Blitzbokke made a fightback impossible so we are continuing to struggle to match the excellent silver medal in Dubai.

Next on the circuit is Los Angeles for the men at the end of February, while both they and the women join them in Vancouver the following weekend.  Without researching I just have to say on the surface it does seem odd that LA can’t provide for a women’s leg in the series.

But that just brings me to the point I always like making when discussing the World Sevens Series…


Before I harp on the Men’s AIL, a quick shout out to the Women’s Combined Provinces XV – clunky name I know,  but apparently it’s just for the one season as the new Celtic Challenge tournament is meant to expand from one team per nation to two next season.  Anyway – they opened their campaign with a 27-26 win away to their Welsh counterparts in the opening match.

Now to Division 1A and in Round 12 there was so much going on at both ends of the table it’s hard to know where to start.  I guess it’s best to “take it from the top” as league leaders Terenure suffered only their second defeat of the season, this one at home to rivals Clontarf and with Cork Con also winning, it means just three point separate the top three. Then there’s the race for that fourth semifinal berth as Young Munster scored a home win over Trinity to leap frog them.

But arguably the biggest result of the round was Garryowen finally kicking the duck egg out of their win column by beating Lansdowne, who in turn got dragged back into the relegation battle as UCD also did some leap-frogging, sneaking out of the bottom two at Shannon’s expense.

The clubs now get a couple of weekend’s off to let punters catch the Six Nations in their bars (seriously, if you can, do get down to your local clubs to watch if you can, it really helps them out) and they return to action with some big matchups as you can see below.

Men’s AIL

Cork Con 14-3 Ballynahinch

Garryowen 21-17 Lansdowne

UCD 22-19 Shannon

Young Munster 17-10 Dublin Univ

Terenure 24-29 Clontarf

Sat Feb 18

Ballynahinch v Terenure

Clontarf v Young Munster

Lansdowne v Cork Con

Shannon v Dublin University

UCD v Garryowen


I’d like to say here “from now on we’re switching into FULL SIX NATIONS MODE for the next couple of months”, but of course I can’t say that because there’s a bit of URC thrown in there plus I have another couple of pods lined up on other topics for good measure.

But still, obvs the bulk of the coverage is going to be on the 6N starting with an overview pod which will record Wednesday evening, then the tournament opener in Cardiff will be getting the usual Harpin treatment with a preview Friday, wrap on Sunday plus a whole lot of other features in between.

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

Throwback Thursday : Leo Cullen, Lengthy Contracts & Leinster Culture (July 2015)

To commemorate the news of Leo Cullen staying on at Leinster’s helm for another two years, I’m posting this article I wrote back in July 2015 just before it was officially announced he was taking on the role.


I have put off writing this post for long enough…although nothing has been formally announced, there have certainly been enough rumblings around the media to suggest that Leo Cullen is to be the new head coach for Leinster, so I suppose it’s about time I gave some thoughts on it.

Of course to anyone who knows the game, the move would be considered a risk.  Though I find some of the comparisons being made to appointments in the past to be very baffling.  Steve Staunton?  Eh, no.  Chalk and cheese, mate. 

Sure, Stan made a bucketload of appearances for and was a part of the successful times for the team he was taking over, but his involvement with the Republic of Ireland consisted of about a dozen or so appearances per season while the rest of the time he was with his club of the day.

In Leo’s case, we are not only talking about a club with which he has spent the bulk of his professional career, however unfortunate or indeed unfair his limited Ireland caps total may be, it means he has probably clocked more working hours around the provincial set-up since the start of our “glory days” than any other.

Or to put it another way…if we were to confer the title “Mr. Leinster Rugby” on any individual, I can think of no better man to receive it. 

So when it comes to stepping into this role, one big advantage he has over Staunton is a near perfect knowledge of virtually every aspect of the organisation surrounding the head coach’s chair without ever actually having sat in it.

If we must compare this appointment to an iffy decision from history, I’d be more inclined to go for Martin Johnson’s for  England (yes, that actually did happen, as much as the press across the water tries to airbrush it out of history).  I mean the similarities are very easy to find…legendary lock/skipper who led the side to the highest honour his team could achieve. 

But even that comparison has flaws – I mean, for one thing, I doubt we’ll be hearing stories of dwarves being tossed around Krystle night club any time soon!!!  Joking aside…the assumption around the RFU’s decision with Johnson seemed to be that he’d be an instant success.  That the spirit of 2003 was one that could be bottled and spread to future generations of players.

I think it’s pretty widely known that Leo was never the first choice for the job, and we have all heard the Who’s Who of Rugby Coaches that has been linked with the post.  And given his personality I’m sure he will approach the position with an air of pragmatism as opposed to the air of arrogance that went with Johnson.

So that brings us to the next area we need to consider…how the decision of who gets the job is actually made.

With the success of Leinster and Munster in Europe since 2006, the two provinces are quite rightly considered up alongside the great outfits in European rugby like Toulouse, Leicester Tigers, Wasps and of course most recently Toulon.  And it’s hard not to cross-over to the round ball game and draw comparisons to Champions League greats like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Manchester United.

There is absolutely no doubt that the head coach role at any of those institutions is one of an importance near to (if not more so in soccer’s case) international equivalents, and whenever those positions go on offer, the debate over who will fill them is extensive.

But here is where we must draw attention to one very important distinction.  Toulouse, Wasps and Man Utd are CLUBS.  The Irish provincial teams are not, at least not in the traditional sense.  They are branches of the national rugby union.  Many soccer clubs answer to shareholders alright but never to their football association.

At Leinster, Mick Dawson as CEO leads an extensive organization that has a mountain of work to get through from spreading the sport around the 12 counties to organizing match days to putting plans in place for improvements to the RDS Arena.

But when a big decision like a head coach appointment comes around, while I certainly wouldn’t say it’s “out of their hands”, it does need to be looked at through an IRFU-wide lens rather than simply a Leinster one.

The reason I was reluctant to do this post was that I had hoped that my last one on Matt O’Connor meant I could put the matter in a box and file it away in the HoR archives to gather dust but here is where I must drag it up again if only briefly.  As far as its head coaching position is concerned, Leinster Rugby together with the Leinster Professional Games Board and the IRFU had a plan already in place for this coming season…namely the last year of O’Connor’s 3-year contract.

And putting the disgruntled Leinster supporters aside just for a moment, this arrangement seemed to be one that suited everyone, given that right now, in the summer of 2015, the Prime Directive of Irish Rugby has to be preparation for our assault on the Rugby World Cup – and I sincerely hope nobody has any argument with  that!

Yet now we must bring the supporters back into the equation.  We can look at them two ways…the reality is that over the past 12 months there have been extremely varying opinions on Matt O’Connor’s tenure at Leinster and these have all been expressed on this site by several different contributors.  Then there’s the perception that the Leinster fan base is all of one mind and never wanted O’Connor in the first place.

That external perception would still seem to hold to this day, and to be fair, when Leinster had their worst dip in form of the season during the Six Nations, more and more fans were warming to the idea that change was needed and even coming within the width of a goalpost of defeating Toulon and reaching another European final wasn’t enough to claw it back.

Given that wave of what I called “Anti-Matter” opinion, the Leinster management could well be entitled to raise an eyebrow when those same fans have qualms about anyone who assumes the role. (“Leo Nay-Sayers”?)

Say you’ve been waiting for a table at a busy restaurant and they offer you one but you don’t want to sit there because it’s too near the kitchen, so the maître d goes out of his way to find you another one, only for you to complain about that for a different reason.

Given it’s a World Cup year, the coaches with CVs worthy of a 3-time European champion outfit are all either in contracts or at least are on career paths that revolve around the four-year World Cup cycle…meaning the summer just before one is a marketplace similar to the busy restaurant I mention above.  And I suspect those involved in the Leinster decision were well aware of this when they installed the word “interim” in Leo’s title, just in case.  It would appear the “in case” has happened.

If we like, we can convince ourselves that we have been “stuck” with Leo.  We can doom his tenure to failure before it even begins.

Or…we could pay attention to someone like Bernard Jackman, himself a table in that restaurant that is already taken.  I strongly recommend you listen to his contribution on Second Captains’ Monday edition but here are some of the things he had to say in Leo’s favour…

“Leo Cullen’s great strength is in powering others”

“Culture is what wins you championships and Leo Cullen is very clued into that”

“His skill set probably suits being a head coach more than being a unit coach”

I also suggest you read this post from Big Joe Shep here on this site looking at the new Leinster coaching ticket more as a “collective”.  With hopefully a quality backs coach appointment on the horizon (preferably from the outside) to finish it off, it actually is quite a decent mix of talent and with someone who both “gets” the Leinster culture and has been heavily involved in making it work within the Irish framework at the helm, I definitely cannot classify the move as a “disaster” as some suggest.

On the point that he was part of the coaching staff responsible for the disappointing effort last season, it’s hard not to concede that as a negative but a bit like the point Berch makes, if we’re going to tag Leo with the ills of our pack last season then this new set-up has given responsibility to someone else so we’ve every reason to expect an improvement.

And talk of a 2- to 3- year deal also seems baffling when hearing it first, but once more we have to consider all the angles…Leinster will want the matter decided sooner rather than later, and no doubt Leo’s representatives in the negotiations will do what they can to get the most security out of the deal.  It’s simply how the modern game works.

Finally as fans we have to look at our expectations for the future in general, and this coming season in particular.  Are they the same as they have been in recent years?  Is it really silverware or bust for us in the 2015/16 campaign?  I’m not so sure.

And given all the variables surrounding the province this season…so much talent being away for the first couple of months,  the possibility of some getting injured at the World Cup, the absolute stinker of a Rugby Champions Cup pool, the likelihood of limited integration time before it kicks off, the necessity of blooding a raft of promising youngsters into the senior squad…I’m not sure there’s a head coach out there who could walk fresh into the job and make it an instant success – and yes, I’m including Joe Schmidt in that list.

If I had to set a minimum target on the results front, I would go with a return to the final four of the Pro12 and at very least a decent effort to get out of that Euro pool.  Does this mean Leo should lose his job if we don’t make that goal?  Absolutely not.  There are several other factors like the style of rugby we play and the type of team selection decisions we make to consider, but it would certainly be nice to have more than one match in May again.

So before we look away from these Leinster headlines and back towards the World Cup ones (which is absolutely what I will be doing after this post!), my advice to fellow fans would be to consider the big picture for Irish rugby at this particular time and get behind our teams both blue and green in every way we can.

Not so much a “wait and see” approach, rather a much more interactive and constructive “Come On You Boys In Blue” one.  JLP


80+ column : More format issues, Away fans, 7s return

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


Another strong performance by Leinster in Europe for us to wrap in the latest Sunday pod, and also another strong performance by both my guests Mark Jackson and Conor Cronin as they highlighted the positives but also acknowledged the things that we need to work on for the latter stages of the competition.

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


For this week’s ‘bonus clip’ we harped on the career of Cian ‘Proper Church’ Healy who made his 100th appearance in Europe for Leinster, becoming only the 5th player in the history of the competition to do so.  The other four are also Irish as I say in the clip, which probably should come with the caveat that in the first years of the competition the provinces were nominated by the IRFU as opposed to qualifying as did the English and French clubs which is why they don’t have names as high up on the list, but it still counts as an honourable milestone in Healy’s career and as I also say in the clip, it’s not like he’s finished quite yet. 

If you’re playing the clip above maybe pop over and subscribe to the channel too?  That’s where we post our Preview Show as well as other content throughout the week.


Munster and Connacht both had good wins on Saturday, maybe one was a tad more comfortable than the other, but still good to see both on the way to the knockouts.

As for Ulster…they really can’t buy a bit of luck these days, can they.  How could Leinster fans in particular have anything but empathy for them as they were desperately trying to hold out La Rochelle in the dying minutes after what had been a torrential slog up to that point and they obviously considered themselves unlucky not to have been even further ahead by that point anyway.

Thing is though, they can still qualify for the knockouts with a decent win over Sale at the weekend, and maybe there’s a strong possibility their “reward” will be a trip to the Aviva in the last 16, but still a good performance against the Premiership outfit could well be the kick start they need for their season and I wish them all the best as we always want to see all four progressing beyond the pool stages whatever the format.


It’s still a bone of contention with many on HCC weekends; I have pushed back against the complaints before on these pages but I feel I must again.  Once more I agree it’s not ideal, but I do wonder if the flaws people keep finding in it are necessarily solved by going back to the way the tournament used to be run?

Like I said in the previous segment about Ulster, even though they have lost all three of their matches, the fact that they picked up some BPs along the way means that with a win over Sale at the Kingspan on Saturday they can move into the top 8 and reach the last 16.  Pretty much everyone giving out about the format says this “one win to qualify” thing is a negative, yet without it, this match against the Sharks could be a dead rubber so I’d argue it can at least be looked at from both directions.

When you compare this format to the previous one, the round of 16 is effectively replacing pool rounds 5 and 6 so I really don’t think it’s all that ridiculous for it to be easier to qualify.  And even if you do scrape through with one win, it means you probably have to travel to the home of a team that has won all four, which means you’re either going to go no further OR you have to produce one of the all time great results in the competition.

Also, while I presume all the competing clubs knew the rules from the outset, one or two are just coming to light this week when it comes to the general public.  

First we have a stipulation that if a South African team reaches the semifinals, they must give up home advantage even if they have earned it through the seeding from the pool stages.  Again this is far from ideal from a fairness perspective, but right from the moment I first heard they were joining the competition I wondered what the organisers were going to do to limit the amount of travel, and this appears to be it.

Clearly that does put the SA teams at a disadvantage, but I should also point out something about this season’s competition that does work in their favour.  With the Springboks not being involved in the Six Nations (yet?), this means that from the end of the pool stage to the knockouts they know none of their players are going to be involved in any test matches.  Sure, there may be a few URC rounds in that time, but at least there they have control.   The European clubs have none.

Just to be clear, I’m not pointing out the “no 6N thing” because I think it somehow cancels out the “no home SF” thing; on the contrary I reckon they are two wrongs which do not make a right.  Still, I don’t see anyone else making the point about the 6N so I felt I’d do it here.

I will always contend that the one format tweak that would come closest to a “silver bullet” to fix all the problems we keep pointing out would be to play the tournament from start to finish in successive weeks.  Or to put it another way, “It’s the calendar, stupid”.


…well, I’m not! 

Caolan Scully, who has appeared on the pod a few times, pointed out on Twitter a little quirk in the method the HCC uses to rank teams in the pool stages.  If two or more teams are tied on match points, points difference AND tries scored, the next thing to be looked at is apparently the amount of suspensions incurred by the clubs.

Granted, it’s HIGHLY unlikely this will ever actually need to be used, but it’s still a very curious thing to have as a possibility – imagine if two clubs vying for top 2/4/8 spots ended up tied on everything else while one of them was waiting on a citing during the week, meaning effectively the ruling from the commission would determine the final standings?

Unlikely or not, I would NOT want that to be even possible.  In fact, I’m not too wild about the next criterion down on the list either, namely the tossing of a coin.  My suggestion would be come up with a ranking system for all European clubs based on previous performance (similar to UEFA’s coefficient) and this ranking will force a separation between ALL clubs which means you can get a result no matter what the eventuality.

Apologies for the nerdery here, but I guess overthinking comes with the territory when you run a rugby website/podcast!!!


I see there’s a debate on the twitter machine about the possibility of ensuring all the away fans are together in a ground on match days.  

Personally, I think it’s a good idea overall, since in many cases they would have travelled quite a way to get there and also it gives the visiting team’s players somewhere to aim at after the final whistle to show their appreciation.  But that said, mixing isn’t the worst thing either and I’ve often had great chats during the match whether I’m for the hosts or the visitors.

What I want to point out here isn’t so much about the debate itself, rather the attitudes of some in the tweets on the topic.  “We don’t want this in our sport, it’s too much like football”.  You have no idea how much I dislike that narrative and I will always call it out when it rears its ugly head, and for this topic it was always going to.

The way I see it, if there’s anything that’s going to “ruin the values” of “our sport”, it’s outright snobbery.


For once I actually agreed with the TV broadcaster’s choice of Player (or ‘Star’ in HCC matches) of the Match, even it is was a previous holder of the Leinster 12 shirt who awarded it, there’s no doubt Jamie stood out as Conor explains in the TikTok below.


This is another point that’s more about Twitter opinion than the topic itself.  Owen Farrell was cited for a tackle, although given both his history and his profile there was chatter and GIFs all over social media minutes after it actually happened.

All of which meant there was always going to be scrutiny over the decision, and what do you know, it turns out he was banned in such a way as to make him eligible for England’s Six Nations opener.

Which leads me to a simple question…are we REALLY that surprised?   And while he’s hardly a big hit with Irish fans (despite his aul fella doing so well with our test team) I reckon we have to remind ourselves of the biggest factor behind this particular decision, namely the fact that the top rugby unions all retain a great deal of control over their own affairs.

So maybe when we see the RFU orchestrating an advantage out of some adversity, we should ask ourselves if there are other areas of the game’s administration where the IRFU does as well?  Not to mention all the other unions?  If we’re not going to have a central administrative body that regulates the majority of systems in an attempt to create a level playing field, then these stories will continue to happen, it’s as simple as that.


To be honest, nothing that happens with this guy surprises me anymore, and if anything his taking over of the Wallabies ahead of RWC2023 makes that side of the draw even more interesting.  Remember – we have NZL, FRA & RSA to contend with on our side, while it’s likely one from ENG WAL & AUS will reach the final, so to watch them go at it with new coaches plus a lot of recent history will make it worth getting some extra popcorn for sure.


Unfortunately Leinster fell short in what was always likely to be a decider in the Women’s interpros at the weekend, but it has to be said that Tania Rosser’s remit as coach was more about giving the squad game time at this level than it was results and she seems to be doing a bang up job so far by all accounts.

It may have taken them a while to get on the scoreboard in the opener against Connacht last week but given she has included so many different clubs in the wider squad there was bound to be a bedding in period and again I say this will benefit them in the long run.  Best wishes to them against Ulster in the final round this weekend.

As I said in the preview pod it was a real shame that their big match in Musgrave Park had to clash with the men’s Heineken Cup match on Saturday, I certainly don’t want to quibble about which was “more important”, simply because we really shouldn’t be forced into making a decision like that.  To be a little fair, given all four Irish men’s provinces were playing that day, some allowances had to be made – with the women not being full professionals (yet, hopefully) I’d say Saturday would be the best day over the weekend for everyone to be available.  Still, I’d hope the overlaps can be avoided in future.


Sometimes I don’t need to add much to the headline to get my message across, apart from the fact that both men and women are in action for the next two weekends in New Zealand and Australia respectively.  Also it’s great to see Billy Dardis & Terry Kennedy back in the men’s squad.  Below you see the schedule for their pool matches in NZ, if possible be sure to watch them for free via the World Rugby site and tweet your full support to show we’re ready to host a leg here asap.

Friday, January 20 –

  • Ireland Men v Uruguay, 8.54pm Irish time
  • Ireland Women v Brazil, 9.38pm Irish time

Saturday, January 21 –

  • Ireland Men v USA, 12.44am Irish time
  • Ireland Women v Spain, 1.18am Irish time
  • Ireland Men v Japan, 3.50am Irish time
  • Ireland Women v USA, 4.12am Irish time

Saturday, January 21 –

  • Play-off matches.


Always good to see no new injuries after a weekend, also the five returnees will all benefit the wider squad in many ways.  I’m particularly pleased to see Will Connors is close to a return and I really hope he gets a good healthy run he certainly deserves it.

Still, that’s a lot of quality languishing in the “no further report” column although reports are coming through as I type that Sexton took part in training on Monday and hopefully he’ll at least be recovered in time for the Six Nations.

Here’s a possible matchday squad for the Aviva next weekend, would like to see Tadhg F get a few minutes in his boots if possible…

15 Keenan 14 Larmour 13 Ringrose (c) 12 Osborne 11 O’Brien 10 R Byrne 9 Gibson-Park

1 Porter 2 Sheehan 3 Ala’alatoa 4 Molony 5 Ryan 6 Baird 7 van der Flier 8 Doris

16 Kelleher 17 Healy 18 Furlong 19 J McCarthy 20 Conan 21 McGrath 22 H Byrne 23 Turner


Will Connors: is expected to train fully this week after recovering from a bicep injury

Thomas Clarkson: is expected to train fully this week after recovering from an arm injury

Max Deegan: is expected to train fully this week after recovering from an ankle injury

Luke McGrath: is expected to train fully this week after recovering from an ankle injury

Joe McCarthy: is expected to train fully this week after recovering from an ankle injury


There was no new injury news from the game against Gloucester at the weekend

There are no further updates on:

Johnny Sexton (cheek bone), Tadhg Furlong (calf), Charlie Ngatai (hamstring), Ed Byrne (knee), Jason Jenkins (hamstring), Robbie Henshaw (wrist), Martin Moloney (knee), Ciarán Frawley (knee), Charlie Ryan (knee) and Tommy O’Brien (knee)


The AIL has moved into the second half of its regular season, with some interesting results in Round 10.

Nure & Tarf both got wins over Munster opposition to keep themselves in the top 2, while Cork Con got the better of Trinity to move ahead of them into 3rd.  Meanwhile at the bottom Charlie Tector guided Lansdowne to a crucial win over Shannon which allowed them hop two places with Ballynahinch’s whitewash of the Students at “the Bowl” actually putting them into the playoff picture.

There are some big matches in Round 11 with the top four playing each other plus there’s bound to be a lot of Leinster involvement on the back pitch at the Aviva as Lansdowne face UCD in a relegation battle.

Men’s AIL

Garryowen 13-19 Clontarf

Cork Con 32-27 Dublin University

Shannon 24-34 Lansdowne

Terenure 21-11 Young Munster

UCD 0-24 Ballynahinch

Fri Jan 20

Lansdowne v UCD

Sat Jan 21

Ballynahinch v Garryowen

Clontarf v Cork Con

Dublin University v Terenure

Young Munster v Shannon


Next up it’s Racing at the Aviva; we will of course be giving it the full Harpin treatment with a preview featuring Keego on Friday, a wrap with Tom Coleman & Nathan Johns on Sunday as well as all the usual features in between.  Follow us and/or subscribe to all our social media channels to keep in touch and get involved in the conversation when the mood takes you.

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

80+ column : Rule changes, Twitter trolls & Counting to 4

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


Hard to believe this week’s wrap pod is the 19th under the new format, and it was good to have Ciarán Duffy back on along of course with Mark Jackson to talk about St Stephen’s Night’s victory down in Thomond Park.

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


With the week that’s in it I’m leaving out a few of the website’s regular features, including YouTube & TikTok clips from the wrap pod.  Back to “normal” next week all going well.


I hope it’s obvious that when I disagree with a Player of the Match selection it doesn’t mean I have anything against the winner of the award.  Scott Penny got the gong from the TG4 commentary team at Thomond Park while I felt it should have gone to Dan Sheehan.  It’s a simple point and since I write this column every week I might as well bring it up but I certainly don’t do it to put anyone down.


Maybe one of the reasons I don’t want to produce too much extra content from the wrap pod is that I made a major howler in the recording that I’d rather forget!  Although I will offer full disclosure here as it involves an issue I’m interested in… 

As I watched the game live, let’s just say, I had been enjoying “the Christmas spirit” a bit too much which, let’s also just say, “clouded my judgement” a tad.  One thing I misjudged was the amount of tries Leinster had scored, and in that final sequence as we were attacking the Munster line I was really hoping we’d go for it because I thought it would give us a fourth try and a BP.

Then my thoughts went on to the BP system itself, and how we’ve been saying on the pod this season that the “4 try” method used in URC, Prem, 6N & RWC isn’t as fair as the “3 tries more” one used in Super Rugby & the 🔝🐱🐴.  This led me to form the “harpin’ point” that if we had gotten the try it would actually prove the 4-try way needs to be scrapped as it wouldn’t have been right that this particular match could possibly end in a 5-0 split of match points to the visitors.

Now that’s all well & good when I had a few beers on me (ok, maybe more than a few) but somehow my brain held on to the harpin’ point for 24 hours and I brought it up on the pod only for Mark to rightly explain that we had in fact only scored the two tries so the point was as moot as moot could be.

So as you can imagine that clip didn’t survive the editing process, however I still think the bonus point system needs to switch to the “3-tries” method.


I am so, so, sick of this sequence and would love for it to be broken.  Sadly it usually comes to my attention most whenever Leinster play Munster 

  1. Thing happens in rugby match
  2. A few people claiming to be “fans” of one team get abusive on social media towards fans of the other
  3. A few of those fans on the receiving end then expose the abuse, making it look like this is what fans of that team are like
  4. A long exchange ensues which many blame entirely on “rugby twitter”

To be absolutely clear, the 2nd stage of the sequence is the worst by far.  Obviously.  All forms of insults, abuse and bullying are wrong wherever they are found and need to be called out.

But someone also needs to push back on stages 3 and 4.

No, this is NOT what fans of that team are like in general.

No, this is NOT what fans of rugby are like in general.

And no, this is NOT even what Twitter itself is like in general.

IMO people who are capable of this behaviour don’t need to follow any particular team, follow any particular sport, or even use one or another particular platform.

When it comes to these exchanges, we need to make sure 100% of the negative attention goes on these instigators, yet when we respond by tying them to decent people who follow the same team, or same sport, or use the same platform, I reckon we siphon off some of that negativity for ourselves.

Call out the assholes as assholes by all means.  But we must also be sure to separate them from the decent people who just want to have a conversation.  And most of all, mute/block them.  It may be a vicious cycle the way things are now, but I believe it is one we have the power to stop.  

It might be a worn out cliché by this stage, but “haters gonna hate” is as true as it is concise.  


Speaking of assholes, Joe Marler.  

And actually he seems to be getting positive attention on social media because he apologised for what he is reported to have said to Jake Heenan on the rugby pitch.

Eh, no.  He’s got form.  He’s certainly no hero for apologising, that is the bare minimum of what he should have done.  Maybe, just maybe if he can go a whole calendar year without it happening again we can celebrate that, but in my book he has ruled himself out of any praise until then at the very very least.


This week’s column has already gone longer than I intended, with this point being the only one I originally intended to harp on.

Obviously I want to see rugby take measures to speed things up, yet I still feel somebody needs to push back a little against this introduction of rule changes, because I definitely have concerns.

First of all, while I know the rugby calendar is different all over the world, to make significant changes right smack in the middle of the European season goes against pretty much everything I believe is fair for a sporting competition.  I shouldn’t have to spell out reasons for why a tournament shouldn’t change its rules halfway through.

Plus there’s the added factor that we’re making changes just before a World Cup.  Maybe, just maybe I have too much “skin in the game” on this point being a Leinster & Ireland fan because Johnny Sexton does have a reputation for taking time on his placekicks, but since he’s such a high profile player, to bring the change halfway through a club season as well as three-quarters of the way through a RWC cycle would seem to affect him more than others.

But my biggest reason for pushing back on these changes has to do with player safety.  

Yes, we want to avoid time wasting in the game where possible and this will definitely help keep the “casual fans” interested, but I have to ask, just how much of a problem is this REALLY?  Is it possible we might be over-reacting a bit when it comes to stoppages?

The actual playing time of a rugby match is one hour and 20 minutes.  Factor in fifteen for halftime and you’d really hope the final whistle will blow well short of the two-hour mark after kickoff time.  And that’s what we should be aiming for.  

For example, Leinster’s recent Heineken Champions Cup match against Gloucester at the RDS kicked off at the later than usual time of 8pm of a Friday night.  That meant I was always going to be anxious getting my bus home as it can often take a while leaving the ground given the press box is right at the back of the Grandstand so I have to wait until the bulk of the supporters leave before I can.

Yet I not only made it to my bus stop to catch it at 10:15, I actually waited seven minutes before it came.  Maybe the one-sided nature of the scoreline helped but I still didn’t stand up to leave until the final whistle blew.  And for me personally, that’s fine.  I really don’t know how many tweaks and changes to the Laws we’d have to make that would actually be worthwhile getting me out of there any sooner.

On the subject of water breaks, they don’t bug me as much as they do most other viewers although one concern I would have about them is that I fear they are being brought in to facilitate matches being played in places like Dubai & Qatar in future, and there have been rumblings in the press recently that this does look like happening.

Which brings me back to player safety.  For me, this is a much bigger issue we need to address, and there are areas when it comes into direct conflict with the time-saving.  Whether we like to admit it or not, tackle technique is still a major grey area in our beautiful sport and it’s one we have to keep working at.

And unfortunately some of this “work” involves teams of officials making sure they get their calls right especially in the high profile matches as their exposure will hopefully trickle down to all levels through the sport.

So as I have said before on these pages and I won’t tire saying it again in the future, when it comes to TMO calls the last thing the officials need is added pressure from the viewing public simply because we’re worried about a few extra seconds being somehow taken from us.

Like I say, if matches start lasting two hours or more then we know things are going wrong, but we should also appreciate that efforts need to be made to help ensure that actual careers last as long as they possibly can.


Good news, there were no new names added to the list and it’s great to see Messrs Furlong & Connors close to being available.

The final group still contains many concerns however.  I don’t like suggesting some injuries are worse than others but Henshaw is a name Leinster & Ireland would want to see moving up the list sooner rather than later and for the province it doesn’t look good to see Jenkins there either. 


Tadhg Furlong: will again step up his rehabilitation this week from an ankle injury and will be assessed as the week goes on

Will Connors: will look to step up his rehabilitation programme further this week as he nears a return from a bicep injury

There are no further updates on:

Thomas Clarkson (arm), Ed Byrne (knee), Jason Jenkins (hamstring), Robbie Henshaw (wrist), Martin Moloney (knee), Ciarán Frawley (knee), Charlie Ryan (knee) and Tommy O’Brien (knee)


The 22 portion of the 22/23 is done for Leinster and we kick off the 23 at the RDS with Connacht the visitors.  We’ll have the preview on Friday and the wrap will record on Monday.  In the meantime, have a happy and safe New Year and be sure to enjoy your rugby wherever you are.  JLP