Welcome to my 80+ column, a new weekly post featuring final thoughts from the week of rugby just gone.
A WRAP OF A WRAP
I can’t even begin to say how grateful I am for my contributors to all of the Harpin pods. If you’re new to the site, while we’ve been harpin’ overall since 2008, this is only the fourth season of the podcast and for the first three we’d only do one per week but now it’s 2-3 as it has become our main platform which of course means I need my group of contributors more than ever.
And during what has been a very experimental (and also just plain mental) first few months they have all been absolutely amazing giving up their time, not just spent on the Zoom calls themselves, but also in what is clearly excellent preparation, so it goes without saying this will not be the last time I thank Tom & Mark this week, and also Keego, Conor, Rich & Kino from the “core Leinster crew” and also Michelle, Ian & Padraig on whom I usually call for a view from the other provinces, plus all the others who gave joined me for a chat over the past while. All truly awesome fellow rugby nerds/nuts.
This latest wrap pod went really well I thought, why not listen for yourself, and when recording was finished it dawned on me that we have yet to do a show under the new format which covered a Leinster & Ireland defeat. Then I said that out loud so if you’re worried about my jinxing it by writing it here I’m afraid that train has already left the station!
On the main weekly pod we do a feature called “Front Five” where we offer quick thoughts on issues from around the ruggersphere – normally I would have used all five for other tests from the weekend but there were some areas I thought deserved more spotlight (IRE A, IRE 7s & Women’s RWC) so we just looked at the two matches which finished 30-29, Fra over Aus because we play the Wallabies in a couple of weeks, and Arg over Eng because, well, do I need to explain that one?
To turn the spotlight on the others briefly, I also got to see our other November opponents Fiji playing at Murrayfield and I have to say it will be very interesting to see hat kind of team we name because although the Scots did put them to the sword, it took them a while to get in control and seeing how we’re likely to name a 23 closer to the A than the elite, we’re probably going to need our boys to gel quickly because if you open the door to these Fijians to play their way just a bit, they can really hurt you.
Then there’s Wales – to be fair they had a few flashes of good rugby but were really overpowered by an All Black set up clearly still hurting from results earlier in the year and not at all content with the 2022 Rugby Championship crown. For me the main highlight of this match was the duel between two of the top number 8s on the planet right now, Toby Faletau and Ardie Savea – obvs the latter doesn’t always play there but it helps my narrative to put it this way!
On a side note, fair play to not only the guy who typed this on his Guardian live blog feed, but also the newspaper itself for leaving it there. I know some take issue with the sentiment, using the whole “Why not give them a second chance” argument, but those same pearl-clutchers are often the very ones complaining about the right to free speech and “being cancelled” so maybe they’re not quite sure what they really want.
With the Women’s RWC final next Saturday and the corruptly-hosted mens football version starting shortly afterwards, I suppose you could say it’s easy to forget the men’s RWC in France which isn’t until September, although of course Ireland’s win over RSA was a dress rehearsal for our Pool B encounter.
However I’m still a bit disappointed that the final qualifying tournament isn’t getting more coverage. Maybe given what I said about corruption in the last paragraph, it’s a little disconcerting that it is taking place in Dubai, which together with the words “Qatar Airways” appearing on URC officials jerseys suggests our own powers that be are also having their heads turned by that corner of the world.
Still, when it comes to the rugby on the pitch, there’s one spot left up for grabs between USA, Portugal, Kenya & Hong Kong with the winner taking their place in Pool C alongside Wales, Australia, Fiji & Georgia. The first round of matches saw USA & Portugal registering wins, and with them also avoiding each other this weekend it could set up a winner takes all match up which I’d hope would attract a decent amount of attention in the ruggersphere.
FROM MUSK TO NEW (MASTO)DAWN
I have been contemplating a ‘blue tick’ on the twitter for a few years now but let’s just say that is definitely not happening now! Doesn’t mean I’ll ditch the platform altogether, I still think it is a decent one for rugby the way things stand, but with all the hullabaloo over this new thing Mastodon, I could hardly not join the crowd setting up over there so if you are also partaking, by all means follow me > LINK HERE
For now I’ll keep an eye on how things are progressing there when I can although the main conversation still has to be with the little bird as things stand. Replacing it completely with similar numbers is definitely a mammoth task, pun fully intended, of course.
MUSIC AT MATCHES
Since we are primarily a site for fan opinion, I guess I really should weigh in on a number of issues that have cropped up ahead of the internationals, especially since my view seems to differ in many cases to that of the majority if social media posts are anything to go by.
At both the RDS on Friday and the Aviva on Saturday, they tried out playing little bursts of music during breaks in play. It did not seem to go over well at all. Since I wasn’t physically there either time, I can’t speak for the volume which may have been too loud but once they tone it down I have to say I can’t see it bothering me too much, sorry, I guess we can’t agree on everything!
I did particularly like the use of U2’s Vertigo after Mack Hansens try, really gives the celebrations a good little boost, although one wrinkle is that there’s always the possibility of it being called back by the TMO. Going by the crickets I heard after tweeting about this on Sunday, I guess I’m on my own here too!!!
I remember the kerfuffle the last time we hosted the All Blacks in 2017, we wore the Jersey with the “anthracite” colour. I actually have that one (tho I didn’t buy it, got it in a Canterbury promotion) and I still wear it because it reminds me of the 2018 Grand Slam.
My complaint about what we wore on Saturday, however, has nothing to do with the possibility of a clash with our opposition. It just doesn’t look at all like a test jersey. And by that I don’t even mean the lack of collar (although I am quite partial to the old fashioned rugby jersey look) no, I mean the design would be fine if it was part of the kit they were warming up in, just not the one they actually play in.
Keep the alternate ones mostly white with green trim, I say.
My policy on anthems has been consistent over the years but these 80+ columns are relatively new so I’ll lay it out once more here.
Ireland’s Call may not get the pulse racing like Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau or La Marseillaise, but the constant complaining about it from the same people, many of whom I respect and agree with on virtually everything else to do with rugby, is something I find disappointing. Some try to cop out by saying they just don’t like it because it’s a poor song but I reckon they wouldn’t be happy whatever the tune.
There’s a very specific reason we add it to Amhran na bhFian at home, and sing it on its own while away. And it also happens to be a very good reason in my book, and once more I apologise if others disagree.
Plus it seemed like the Aviva crowd were giving both songs a really good airing on Saturday, although that may have been the positioning of the microphones.
This one I’m actually in agreement with the majority on, if you can’t make it to your seat before a half kicks off then you can wait. Stewards can maybe look for a break in play to allow people in but that would be at their discretion and as they have many other roles, the stragglers need to be prepared to wait.
Despite the fact that for the second week in a row the official report begins with the word “unfortunately”, I would call this a positive report, although not so much for Conor Murray who defied his critics with a good showing for his 100th cap before being forced off. Hopefully he’ll be back soon for Munster at least because they definitely need him.
Elsewhere I’m delighted for Stu McCloskey and Tadhg Furlong because especially the former did not look good leaving the pitch on Saturday and definitely earned the right to feature again in this series. Personally while I’d like to see Bundee back fighting fo his place in the future, whether or not he is available to face the Wallabies I don’t think he should unless it is absolutely necessary.
Meanwhile it’s more bad news on the injury front for Ciaran Frawley he really needs a decent run of games under his belt yet keeps getting denied, he’s getting into Carbery territory at this stage.
Unfortunately, Ireland’s latest centurion Conor Murray has been ruled out of the rest of the Series with a groin strain and will commence his rehab at Munster.
Robbie Henshaw, who missed out on Saturday’s game due to a hamstring issue, will reintegrate to training this week. Stuart McCloskey is recovering quickly from the arm issue that forced him off early against South Africa and will train this week.
Tadhg Furlong (ankle) is expected to take part in training this week while Ireland captain Johnny Sexton is recovering well from a dead leg.
From Friday night’s A game against the All Black XV, Ciaran Frawley suffered a twisted knee and will continue his rehab at Leinster. Joe McCarthy and Ryan Baird will continue their return to play protocols at Leinster.
Michael Milne, who featured against both the Pumas and the Cheetahs for Emerging Ireland in Bloemfontein, will train with the Ireland squad this week.
There were top of the table clashes in both Women’s and Men’s top divisions last weekend, and by all accounts both were thrillers. It took a late try from Aoife O’Shaughnessy to clinch victory for Railway Union over Belvo, and for the second weekend in a row they will host a fellow 100% team when they host Blackrock College.
Meanwhile in the men’s top division it was another comeback as Clontarf reversed a 16-point deficit to overpower Dublin University although while they are still 100% their game in hand has them second behind Terenure who won convincingly at Lansdowne and host Ballynahinch next weekend while Tarf travel to play Young Munster.
Blackrock 71-7 Ballincollig
Railway Union 15-11 Old Belvedere
Wicklow 16-14 Galwegians
UL Bohemian 43-5 Suttonians
Sat Nov 12
Suttonians v Ballincollig
Cooke v UL Bohemian
Old Belvedere v Wicklow
Railway Union v Blackrock College
Shannon 30-19 Garryowen
Lansdowne 12-32 Terenure
Ballynahinch 25-20 Young Munster
Clontarf 38-33 Dublin University
UCD 31-36 Cork Constitution
Sat Nov 12
Cork Con v Lansdowne
Dublin University v Shannon
Garryowen v UCD
Terenure v Ballynahinch
Young Munster v Clontarf
THE NEXT BATCH OF HARPIN’
I’ve been neglecting the TikTok account of late unfortunately, haven’t had the time if truth be told, but will get back to it soon. Definitely happening this week will be giving the match against Fiji the full Harpin treatment, with Mark Jackson returning for the preview on Friday, then Caolan Scully and Rich Mifsud pencilled in to do the wrap on Sunday. Other regular features like Rugby On TV will still be posted as well so as always, stay tuned to all our regular social media channels, and also our new one on Mastodon if you dare.
In the meantime, be sure to enjoy your rugby wherever you are. JLP
What a game. Losing players to injury before and during would’ve knocked us hard 5 years ago, but players stepped up and did everything asked of them.
Great awareness by Josh for his try, great calm heads in making sure the second was scored, not one player shirked his duty. That’s a compete team performance against some massive guys who tackle hard but Sore bodies will feel a little nicer for that win
Brain beats brawn. Delighted with the performance and how they adapted throughout.
A player must not lift an opponent off the ground and drop or drive that player so that their head and/or upper body make contact with the ground.
The above is from the laws.
A history making double red, maybe a red and yellow if I was been nice.
The officials were disgracefully weak, and the players know the laws. Once again SA rugby displays the worst of their rugby culture. It’s a shame,as they are better players than that.
McBride had their cards marked a good punch in the head is all they understand.
Will World Rugby wait until we see a serious incident on the TV before they back Refs to the hilt to end this stupidity.
What a game. A true test match. Kolbe’s tackle was a stone cold red card. He changed his grip and drove Hanson into the ground. However, in hindsight I’m glad he stayed on. At least the SA journos can’t use a red card as an excuse for Ireland’s win. The world champions were beaten fair and square; 15 v’s 15!
It’s hard not to be happy with the win, but I think we’ve gotten so used to being in control that that one didn’t feel so good.
Murray and McCloskey were excellent until they were forced off.
Unlike A against NZ last night the senior team stayed in the fight and the scrum held up great as well. It was good to see SA front row walking away from penalties disgusted.
I know Porter is number 1 by a long shot but it was good to see Healy roll back the clock and get a good bullocking carry in.
I know it was surprising SA missed touch with that late penalty into the corner but thought Ireland should have dealt with it better.
Considering how much time Ireland were on the back foot in the first half 6-6 was a great half time score.
Can’t say the ref affected the outcome but I can say I didn’t like his performance and felt he was bad for the game rather than for one team.
Great to see JGP back and so quick with ball bar one or two box kicks. O’Brien did well when he came on. McCloskey and Murray were doing well until too they had to go off. Bealham did well too and we need a good scrum when the front 3 go off. Kelleher to come back will be a big boast when he does. Still need to blood some more players. Rest Johnny until the 6 nations. Give some 10s a chance.
Welcome to my 80+ column, a new weekly post featuring final thoughts from the week of rugby just gone.
A WRAP OF A WRAP
I may have been a little harsh on the Welsh region with this message in the Harpin’ WhatsApp group after full time on Friday…
Obviously Scarlets fans won’t be happy with their performances this season but on second watch I have to say that even with the result going the way it did they probably didn’t deserve that bluntness since with a bounce of a ball going differently the result could have been closer, something you could probably say about most rugby matches.
But I still think Conor & Rich did a great job helping me sum it all up on our wrap pod, when two of the game’s six tries are PTs it doesnt offer much to harp on yet we managed to flesh it out ok. Biggest concern during the recording was my spotting that the charge on my laptop was about to run out and many thanks to my son John for answering my WhatsApp call to sneak in and plug in the charger without my having to move!
Anyway back to the actual rugby, it’s hard to believe that the opening block of seven URC rounds is already in the record books, and when your team has won all of them opening a gap at the top of the table I can certainly have no complaints! Plenty of rugby to be played this season of course but this definitely lays a lot of groundwork for our quest for a good playoff draw.
LOOK STU’S TALKING
As any Leinster fan knows, Stu Lancaster interviews are as unmissable as they are rare, so I have to share this recent one from Off The Ball and if you haven’t heard it, you seriously need to find a window somewhere to tick that box.
My biggest takeaways without giving away too much –
The realities of his day to day living in Dublin with ll the commuting to see his family, while doing all that awesome work is amazing, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t do it.
The length of the “lessons learned at Leinster” list probably shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did
That extra leadership meeting he speaks of gives a good insight to Leo’s ability to tweak things and make them better
If it were down to me, Ireland’s “alternate” jersey would always, always, ALWAYS be white.
But having worked in the sporting goods game back in the day, I know the unfortunate reality that even at test level teams are at the mercy of the manufacturers who have a lot more than fan preference to consider. They have colours and patterns and designs that they want to match their full range of clothing for that particular season.
To be clear, I’m not “defending” them, I’m just pointing out that they’re not doing it to be awkward, it’s more of a case that even when the fans aren’t happy, they firmly believe they’ll make more money in the long run doing it this way.
I just hope the conversation on match day isn’t dominated by complaints over the optics.
NAME OF THE GAME
I have always been in favour of names on jerseys, though to be clear NOT squad numbers. Rugby needs to keep things as simple as possible for new fans to the sport and the numbers 1-15 represent specific positions on the pitch and should be kept.
But when it comes to names I’m all for it – helps identify players for fans, helps with jersey sales, and I also like what they do in the Premiership with names for only jerseys 1 through 15, not for the subs that helps competitiveness for the starting positions within the club.
Were they to make them standard practice at senior level there would be no complaints from me.
It’s Autumn Nations Series time again and the bulk of its coverage is on Amazon Prime.
Now I know this is going to look like they’re paying me to say this, I assure you they’re not (though I would be open to offers…) but I have to say I like do their presentation especially with the layout of highlights and individual moments like you see below.
Obviously, nothing beats “free to air” when it comes to maximising coverage but maybe we’ll reach a stage when even those broadcasters will be offering services similar to this.
You might notice we’ve started to change the logos from blue to green as it is that time of year, which in turn means this injury report section will feature the Irish squad updates rather than Leinster.
I suppose my biggest concern for the week ahead will be to do with the fitness of Hugo Keenan and Jamison Gibson-Park – no doubt both will feature heavily in Andy’s plans particularly for the match this coming Saturday, but obviously the fact that neither set foot on a rugby pitch this season will be a concern. I could see JGP on the bench but Hugo is a lot more of a “wear 15 or nothing” kind of player.
Also as I’m typing I’m seeing the Springboks have announced their team early and as expected it looks really badass so it’s fair to say we’ll need the strongest fittest 23 we can put together!!! Not that we should lack confidence though, more on that later in the week.
Unfortunately, Tom Ahern has been ruled out of involvement in this week’s Ireland ‘A’ fixture but Diarmuid Barron, Caolin Blade, Jack Crowley, Shane Daly, Max Deegan, James Hume, Dave Kilcoyne, Marty Moore and Scott Penny all came through the weekend’s URC action without issue to join the squad.
Jamie Osborne and Roman Salanoa have both been declared fit after completing the return to play protocols while Connacht lock Gavin Thornbury has been called up in place of Ahern.
Nathan Doak and Tom Stewart, who both featured in the Emerging Ireland side in Bloemfontein, will also join the squad later in the week.
In a previous 80+ column I had a moan about a top of the table clash in the Women’s AIL between Railway Union and Belvo which was due to kick off around the same time as Ireland’s men were playing the Springboks up the road at the Aviva. It seems now they have at least moved the time to 2:30 which makes it a lot easier for fans to catch both contests, but I still have my concerns over the scheduling of matches.
These clubs generally train twice a week and play matches at weekends so I wonder if it’s possible to put more of the top division matches during the week to encourage attendance? There’s also a top of the table men’s clash this weekend, again it’s at a time where you can still catch IREvRSA but then again there are other test matches at the same time so maybe we need some outside the box thinking when it comes to scheduling; maybe even a broadcaster would take an interest in showing midweek action although I know things like the round ball Champions League in those slots might scare them off.
Sat Nov 5
Blackrock v Ballincollig
Railway Union v Old Belvedere
Wicklow v Galwegians
UL Bohemian v Suttonians
Clontarf 27-9 Shannon
Cork Constitution 33-16 Garryowen
Dublin University 35-16 Ballynahinch
Terenure 58-5 UCD
Young Munster 13-20 Lansdowne
Fri Nov 4
Shannon v Garryowen
Lansdowne v Terenure
Sat Nov 5
Ballynahinch v Young Munster
Clontarf v Dublin University
UCD v Cork Constitution
Bad, bad week for me. Went for a couple of risky ones that went the other way and I have now dropped to third place, with Kino opening a really big gap in 1st place to end the first block of 7 URC rounds.
I mean I KNEW that tipping Them Pesky Birds to beat Connacht would be good news for the Westies, but also Munster and Lions falling short at home set me back a good bit.
Meanwhile down at the bottom, for the record I DO send Keego a reminder each week yet he still suffers from the affliction I had last season, namely forgetting to do the picks, which could result in him wearing the Jersey of Doom come season’s end if he doesn’t get back in the game soon.
HPL after Round 7
1 @RugbyKino 57.33
2 @hoomanbear 48.33
3 @HarpinOnRugby 47.83
4 @LeinsterRoyalty 46.83
5 @Kristian7Ross 40.66
6 @keegolaughs_irl 28.50
THE NEXT BATCH OF HARPIN’
Test window time…for the URC our pod guests are obvs all Leinster fans but we’re going very interpro for the Irish team with first up Connacht & Ulster being represented on Wednesday as we have an overall look at the squad and our chances for November. Then Kino will join to gloat about Superbru preview the Springboks match and then Tom Coleman and Michelle Tobin will help me wrap it all up on Sunday. As always there will be the day to day features on all the usual social media channels in between so stay in touch. In the meantime, be sure to enjoy your rugby wherever you are. JLP