235 : IRELAND V ENGLAND WRAP aka “Gran’s Lamb”

ⓒ INPHO/Billy Strickland





Mark Jackson

Ryan Baird immense ..kudos must go to all coaches n staff and squad

10 tries conceeded in 2 6 Nations campaigns combined telling stat..hats off to Simon Easterby for defensive work especially

James Griffin

England brought physicality but not a lot of game nous. Ireland, while not always as precise as in previous games, matched their physicality but in addition, had good game management and made good decisions at crucial times. Delighted for the entire squad; a fully deserved slam.

Gavin Hegarty

Not a good Irish performance but always great to get a slam.

Up for discussion is where rugby is going. A red card should be for a malicious act, not for what steward did. His offence was a yellow at most.



Tim Stickland  Congratulations Ireland. Great shift from Johnny Sexton. RWC looks fantastic with the French in great form too.

RichardMifsud It seems I’m required to force myself to have a celebratory #whiskey


  1. Nine tries, 66 points and a frantic finish – Gonzaga claim first Senior Cup after famous win over Blackrock – Independent.ie [Des Berry]
  2. RTÉ and Virgin Media secure Rugby World Cup 2023 rights | World Rugby
  3. Six Nations: Scotland survive incredibly nervy finish as Blair Kinghorn scores hat-trick of tries against Italy | The Scotsman [Graham Bean]
  4. Wales end Six Nations campaign on losing note against France – The Irish Times 
  5. Six-try Ireland U20s make history with back-to-back Grand Slam titles (the42.ie) [Sinead Farrell]



SCO 26-14 ITA

FRA 41-28 WAL

IRE 29-16 ENG




234 : Harpin’ Preview Show #IREvENG (aka “The Canned Ham Decider”)

IRELAND : 15. Hugo Keenan 14. Mack Hansen 13. Robbie Henshaw 12. Bundee Aki 11. James Lowe 10. Johnny Sexton (c) 9. Jamison Gibson Park

1. Andrew Porter 2. Dan Sheehan 3. Tadhg Furlong 4. Ryan Baird 5. James Ryan 6. Peter O’Mahony 7. Josh van der Flier 8. Caelan Doris

16. Rob Herring 17. Cian Healy 18. Tom O’Toole 19. Kieran Treadwell 20. Jack Conan 21. Conor Murray 22. Ross Byrne 23. Jimmy O’Brien

ENGLAND : 15. Freddie Steward 14. Anthony Watson 13. Henry Slade 12. Manu Tuilagi 11. Henry Arundell 10. Owen Farrell (C) 9.  Jack van Poortvliet 

1. Ellis Genge 2. Jamie George 3. Kyle Sinckler 4. Maro Itoje 5. David Ribbans 6. Lewis Ludlam  7. Jack Willis 8. Alex Dombrandt

16. Jack Walker 17. Mako Vunipola 18. Dan Cole 19. Nick Isiekwe 20. Ben Curry 21. Alex Mitchell 22. Marcus Smith 23. Joe Marchant 

Guinness Six Nations Championship 2023

Round 5

Sat Mar 18 KO 5pm

Aviva Stadium, Dublin

Referee: Jaco Peyper (SARU)

AR1: Ben O’Keeffe (NZR)

AR2: Pierre Brousset (FFR) 

TMO: Marius Jonker (SARU)

Live on: Virgin Media One, ITV1

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






Conor Cronin The wins in the previous 3 rounds with a big injury list, outdone by getting through that game in spite of the injuries.

We allowed the scots to dictate big parts of that game but once we took charge we’d 2 quick tries and that was it. raging for James Ryan not to get the score or the assist with that fine supporting run, and not to have got the BP.

Players really stood up and were counted, and while there were mistakes it’s the attitude of getting up and getting the next phase right that is the core of this team right now.

James Griffin What a very special group of men! To play through so much adversity and win is why they have the ranking they have. Speedy recovery to the injured.

Mark Jackson Think that covers most contingencies ..struggling to come up w new ones ..maybe Hugo Keenan as a LO jumper…Jukebox finally kicking for goal.

Kevin Kelehan Dogged in the extreme, not much more could have gone against them, the disallowed first try, the smashing of Doris in the air in the line out and no sanction, then Sheehan and then Henderson so early in the game. Today was proof that even a much improved Scotland with tails up in front of a noisy crowd could not derail Ireland seriously discommoded by injuries. Time to nail Farrell and Catt down for a contract extension before the World Cup!

Lee O Farrell They always talk about the rub of the green but the lads today made their own luck.

An incredible performance. One of the things that sets this group apart from previous Irish teams is the headspace. And these lads have it in spades!

Andrew Potts Every benefit of the doubt was given to Scotland by the Ref.

Even the fact he was joking around when Ringrose was being attended to for a serious injury was completely tone deaf.



Brian Nisbet Grand Slam still very much on. 7-22 in Edinburgh. Very scrappy match and concerning injuries, but still, it’s a win and any issues will be forgotten after the fifth win next weekend.

Marc Fritsche The players will be in nothing but ice baths for the week, that was extremely physical


  1. Portugal and Georgia to contest REC 23 Grand Final (rugbyeurope.eu) 
  2. Blackrock set up schools cup final rematch with Gonzaga after edging St Michael’s in thrilling finale – Independent.ie [Des Berry]
  3. Ireland close in on U20 Grand Slam defence after 75-point demolition of Scotland (the42.ie) [Lewis Stuart]
  4. Wales finally win a Six Nations match as old face returns to make difference – Wales Online [Steffan Thomas]
  5. Shambolic England given a France masterclass (lastwordonsports.com) [Charlie Inglefield]



ITA 17-29 WAL

ENG 10-53 FRA

SCO 7-22 IRE









231 : Harpin Preview Show – #SCOvIRE

IRELAND : 15. Hugo Keenan 14. Mack Hansen 13. Garry Ringrose 12. Bundee Aki 11. James Lowe 10. Johnny Sexton > (c) 9. Conor Murray

1. Andrew Porter 2. Dan Sheehan 3. Tadhg Furlong 4. Iain Henderson 5. James Ryan 6. Peter O’Mahony 7. Josh van der Flier 8. Caelan Doris

16. Ronan Kelleher 17. Cian Healy 18. Tom O’Toole 19. Ryan Baird 20. Jack Conan 21. Jamison Gibson Park 22. Ross Byrne 23. Robbie Henshaw

SCOTLAND : 15. Stuart Hogg 14. Kyle Steyn 13. Huw Jones 12. Sione Tuipulotu 11. Duhan van der Merwe 10. Finn Russell 9. Ben White

1. Pierre Schoeman 2. George Turner 3. Zander Fagerson 4. Richie Gray 5. Jonny Gray 6. Matt Fagerson 7. Jamie Ritchie (c) 8. Jack Dempsey

16. Fraser Brown 17. Jamie Bhatti 18. Simon Berghan 19. Scott Cummings 20. Hamish Watson 21. Ali Price 22. Blair Kinghorn 23. Chris Harris

Guinness Six Nations Championship 2023

Round 4

Sun Mar 12 KO 3pm


Referee: Luke Pearce (England)

AR1: Wayne Barnes (England)

AR2: Christophe Ridley (England)

TMO: Stuart Terheege (England)

Live on: RTÉ2, ITV1

230 : “The 6N 2-rounds left panel”

A bonus pod to set us up nicely for the remaining two rounds of the Six Nations featuring an all-provincial panel.

🏉 The 2023 6N so far

🏉 Ireland’s “work-ons”

🏉 Expectations for Rds 4&5



PÁDRAIG KELLY  :  https://the2ndrow.com/

CAOLÁN SCULLY : https://caolansrugby.wordpress.com/blog/

PETER LOCKHARThttps://www.theredhand.co/


Assembled an all-provincial panel for a bonus pod looking at the #GuinnessSixNations so far & more

♬ original sound – Harpinonrugby.com – Harpinonrugby.com

227 : Opposition view – Edinburgh & Scotland

DAM Health Stadium, Edinburgh

With both Leinster & Ireland playing in the Scottish capital the next two weekends, our perfect guest to offer an opposition view was Sandy “@theburghwatch” Smith.


More links : SUBSTACK BLOG


With both Leinster & Ireland playing in the Scottish capital the next two weekends, our perfect guest to offer an opp view was @theburghwatch

♬ original sound – Harpinonrugby.com – Harpinonrugby.com


2023 Guinness Six Nations Championship Round 3, Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy 25/2/2023 Italy vs Ireland Ireland’s Mack Hansen Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan


🏉 Centre, Backrow & Halfback options

🏉 ……..AAAAAAAA………

🏉 Italy’s improvement







Imelda Reidy Great Italian performance. Job done. 5 points. On we roll.

Andrew Byrne Today showed one thing in particular, that Gary Ringrose is a world class operator and is streets ahead of the rest of them at playing outside centre. 12 and 13 are two very different positions, as shown by our defensive lapses today.

Alan Murphy Brilliant. Two teams playing the game in a positive way. Italy have really improved. Let’s be honest, some of our team today were 2-3rd choice and a few played out of position. We scored a bonus point, left some tries out there and also managed to think our way out of danger today. Previously we would have lost this game. Building strength in depth. So positive from me.



Joanne  In fairness to Kieran Crowley, not only has he got Italy playing brilliantly, he’s got them believing too. So good to see and long may it continue.

Koochulainn Another win with a bonus point without conceding a losing bonus.

The performance wasn’t perfect, and Italy found some flaws in the defensive system, but you can’t get any more than five points.

Italy were great value for money too. After today and the 20s last night Italian rugby is heading in a good direction.

POTM Mack Hansen dropping an F bomb in the post match interview was a lovely coda

Colm Splendid match. Continued resurgence and improvement from Italy, and as usual this year, Ireland responded magnificently to pressure. Really looking forward to Murrayfield next month.


  1. Former Ireland international Tom Tierney, who coached Irish women’s team, dies aged 46 – Independent.ie [Ruairidh O’Connor]
  2. Ireland U20s withstand second-half surge to keep back-to-back Grand Slam ambitions alive (the42.ie) [Daire Walsh]
  3. Ulster stun Sharks with sensational victory in Durban | BelfastTelegraph.co.uk [Jonathan Bradley]
  4. Borthwick praises England’s tactical nous in ‘incredible Test match’ – england | Rugby365 [via AFP]
  5. Scotland suffer first Six Nations defeat in France despite valiant effort after early red cards | The Scotsman [Graham Bean]




ITA 20-34 IRE

WAL 10-20 ENG

FRA 32-21 SCO


MAR 11



MAR 12




SHA 24-31 ULS

LIO 35-24 GLA















225 : Harpin Preview Show #ITAvIRE

IRELAND v Italy : 15 Hugo KEENAN 14 Mack HANSEN 13 Garry RINGROSE Bundee AKI 12 Bundee AKI Stuart McCLOSKEY11 James LOWE 10 Ross BYRNE 9 Craig CASEY

1 Andrew PORTER 2 Rónan KELLEHER 3 Finlay BEALHAM 4 Iain HENDERSON 5 James RYAN (c) 6 Caelan DORIS 7 Josh VAN DER FLIER 8 Jack CONAN

16 Dan SHEEHAN 17 Dave KILCOYNE 18 Tom O’TOOLE 19 Ryan BAIRD 20 Peter O’MAHONY 21 Conor MURRAY 22 Jack CROWLEY 23 Stuart McCLOSKEY Jimmy O’BRIEN

Italy : 15 A Capuozzo 14 E Padovani 13 JI Brex 12 T Menoncello 11 P Bruno 10 P Garbisi 9. S Varney

1 D Fischetti 2 G Nicotera 3 S Ferrari 4 N Cannone 5 F Ruzza 6 S Negri 7 M Lamaro (c) 8 L Cannone

16 L Bigi 17 F Zani 18 M Riccioni 19 E Iachizzi 20 G Pettinelli 21 A Fusco 22 L Morisi 23 T Allan

Guinness Six Nations 2023

Round 3

Sat Feb 25  KO 2:15pm

Stadio Olimpico

Live on: RTÉ2, ITV1

Referee: Mike Adamson (SRU)

AR1: Wayne Barnes (RFU)

AR2: Craig Evans (WRU)

TMO: Marius Jonker (SARU)

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