Welcome to my 80+ column, a weekly post featuring final thoughts from the week of rugby just gone.
FANZO GUINNESS PINT PREDICTOR LEAGUE RESULT
Well, this got awkward…
“Back in the day” we used to hold competitions under a format I called “the unriggable raffle” where we got 100 entrants to earn a square on to a 10×10 grid and the winner would be determined by the final score of our feature rugby match of the weekend. We only stopped doing them because the admin became too much but one thing you can say for sure was that I had no possible say in the winner.
Since those times we have had a few more conventional competitions and the latest one was in conjunction with the FANZO app which ran a prediction league for the Six Nations. There were pints on offer for getting individual results right but you also won points on a league table so over the five weeks we were working towards an overall winner.
HOWEVER…to encourage people to join the league even after the Six Nations kicked off, we had an extra prize for Best Score In A Single Round and going into Super Saturday it looked like Andrew Byrne had posted an unassailable 67 in round 3. As I was in town celebrating the Grand Slam a mate texted me to point out that I had gotten TWO of that Saturday’s winning margins bang on (including Ireland’s) which meant not only had I jumped to the bronze medal slot in the overall league, I also won the bonus prize with my score of 70!!!!!!!
Now the reason my mate was interested in letting me know was that he could also tell me that he actually jumped to second overall ahead of me!!! And in a final twist to the whole thing the overall winner was actually fellow content creator Stephen “Master of None” Murphy, who also won his own Fanzo competition!!!
We plugged the competition with lines like “see if you can beat the experts”…I suppose with the exception of Ken, ye couldn’t ha ha ha….and just in case I need proof of my predictions here they are…
Seriously though, many thanks again to the FANZO crowd for getting involved it definitely added to the experience over the past couple of months.
Please get involved in the actual raffle below, an awesome prize for an extremely worthy cause.
WRAP OF A WRAP
Obviously it was an even greater pleasure to wrap last weekend’s match, and many thanks to Conor & Kino for being on hand to help me do so. It was great to be able to say the words “Grand Slam” out loud on the pod again although shortly before recording I came up with a loophole for future years…once I make it clear that I’m actually talking about an elderly relative’s cooking, ie “Gran’s Lamb”, then I should be able to say it freely in future years.
If you missed it, check it out here or on most major platforms.
HARPIN ON…SIMON EASTERBY & IRELAND’S DEFENCE
For the bonus clip this week we looked at what I consider to be the bedrock of Ireland’s success and wait until you get a load of the stat Kino highlights about tries conceded…it’s mind-blowing.
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.
IRELAND’S RWC CHANCES TIK TOK
Two TikToks to share this week, first a great point made by Kino as he wrapped up his pod contributions…
…and this other one I’ll just link to (click here) I vowed to break my “Grand Slam” embargo as soon as possible after full time if we won so what you see is a rather drunk me talking to my phone outside a pub on King’s Street Dublin between 7 and 7:30 Saturday evening…
Much has been said about that Freddie Steward red card all over social media I know, including by yours truly on the pod, but I still have a few final points to make.
First, while I try to be open minded and take in views from the other side on decisions like this one, I now have a policy whereby should I hear something like “that was no way intentional” then I just stop reading or listening. It’s not about intent. It’s about duty of care. And reckless can also be red.
Finally I’d like to show receipts from my views expressed on the pod. When we see Twitter clips of the Steward/Keenan collision they always make it look like the two players’ starting positions were just feet apart, with the implication being that Steward had little or no time to react.
IMO this photo tells a different story. Steward came from a good bit away and Keenan was always his man so he had a lot more time to prepare for the collision than many are letting on. And again…to be very clear, that doesn’t mean he set out to clatter him in the head, I’m just saying he had more time to prepare better for contact.
You could even argue that those saying he had little time to react are effectively saying he’s a shit full back because one of the most important roles they play is seeing all that is happening in front of them!
I mean, even if he WAS just “bracing for impact” like he claims, you can do that in many different ways and when you do it by turning your elbow you put yourself in a position to cause damage. THIS is why the decision is red, in the hope that he, and others looking on, will change their behaviour in future. But that objective becomes trickier when a host of commentators, including decorated former players like Matt Dawson, try to make it out like nothing was wrong about it.
UPDATE : the commission ruling has since dropped…
The player denied that he had committed an act of foul play worthy of a red card as described in Law 9.11. Having reviewed all the evidence, the Committee decided that: (i) head contact with an opposing player had occurred; (ii) there had been an act of foul play in breach of Law 9.11 in that the Player had been reckless in his actions and in his upright positioning as he approached and came into highly dangerous contact with the other player; and (iii) there were sufficient mitigating factors including the late change in the dynamics and positioning of the opposing player which should have resulted in the issue of a yellow card rather than a red card.
On that basis, the Committee did not uphold the red card and the player is free to play again immediately.
Guinness Six Nations press release
Obviously social media is going to be full of “I told you so’s” over the next few days but FWIW I still hold my own opinion expressed above and I’m really not sure what this outcome does to help the overall intent of these guidelines which I thought were designed to change behaviour. It also makes a mockery of Jaco Peyper’s on-field interpretation.
GRAND SLAM GROAN SLUMP
Can we not just have at least a couple of days to be happy about a double Grand Slam??????? I mean, is that too much to ask???
To be fair, I expected the taunts from outside of Ireland, like the “bet you still won’t get past the RWC quarterfinals”, so that isn’t included here.
But to see tweets from Irish fans, clearly still upset that so many from the 23 were from Leinster no matter what the achievements of the team, drudging up the age old debates about provincial selections and “private schools” and such was really really disheartening.
I mean, let’s be clear, those debates are worth having, but no matter what the composition of the team at the weekend, it was still Ireland, and they won the tournament comfortably which makes the selection process extremely difficult to argue against.
Even on the subject of supposed favouritism towards Leinster, which I already harped on last week’s version of this column, there is news of change going forward with the proposed Munster Centre of Excellence, so maybe if it’s balance we’re looking for we could also bring it to the discussion from the other side as well.
One area where I didn’t mind a spot of post-Grand Slam negativity was with women’s rugby. Things in general are improving for the Irish team and I wish Nichola and all the squad the best of luck in their Six Nations campaign which kicks off next weekend.
But there are still a host of issues which have yet to be addressed and one of these is that members of the heroic 2013 Grand Slam squad were unbelievably without tickets for Saturday’s decider despite their being celebrated during the week. Also there was an article in the Indo by John Cronin outline many of the outstanding problems (here’s the link though it’s unfortunately behind a paywall) so clearly it’s a case of some things done, more still to do.
WORLD RUGBY BLUEPRINTS
An exclusive this morning in the Telegraph about World Rugby’s plans for the future, also behind a paywall, but above you see the main points. Here’s what I thought about it.
WINS AS A TIEBREAKER
Many congrats again to Richie Murphy and his Under 20s or “Wolfuppies” team that also won the Grand Slam with their own convincing win over England at the weekend, the similarities in that game in Cork and Saturday’s in Dublin were uncanny.
But on the competition overall I’d just like to find a tiny kernel of fault if I may…as you can see from the table below, the Italian Under 20s did an amazing job in finishing 3rd on the overall table and I have no doubt that it will do the sport there a world of good and we can hope that these underage squads will go on to serve their test performances well in the years to come.
However, as much as we Irish fans would much prefer to see Italy above England in any league table, I wonder if it’s fair that they got ahead of them here. All I’m saying is that when we’re using bonus points, while I get why points difference is an important tie breaker, I’m not so sure it should be the first on the list behind matches won. Sorry, but IMO England’s 3 wins should beat Italy’s 2 and I reckon we’d be shouting from the rooftops if an Irish team missed out this way, especially in the senior Six Nations where the financial difference between 3rd and 4th is great.
WORLD CUP DRAW
Here’s a pair of tweets I agree with, despite the fact that they contradict each other. In the first one, a Leicester Tigers podster shares my view that we might be making too much of this “World Cup draw” situation. Is it a fiasco? Yes. Is there anything we can do about it before RWC2023? No.
That said, it was interesting to see this mock up of how the RWC2023 draw would look had the rankings been based on current standings, although I do wonder if the draw would allow for three from the six nations to be in the same pool.
Biggest downers from Saturday for Ireland but more immediately Leinster were the early withdrawals of Messrs Keenan & Sexton, and the injury reports do not look good although neither were ever going to feature in the the top of the table URC clash on Friday against the reigning champion Stormers.
It was however extremely good news that Tommy O’Brien and Ed Byrne are back available for selection and while I have a feeling there won’t be too many changes to Leinster’s 23 than the one from Edinburgh, they could feature on the bench…
POSSIBLE 23 FOR FRIDAY
Cosgrove, Larmour, Turner, Frawley, Kearney, H Byrne, McGrath
Barron, E Byrne, Clarkson, Deeny, Connors, N McCarthy, Tector, T O’Brien/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)
INJURY UPDATE – AVAILABLE FOR SELECTION:
Tommy O’Brien: has returned to full training after recovering from an ACL injury
Ed Byrne: has returned to full training after recovering from a knee injury
INJURY UPDATE – FURTHER ASSESSMENT REQUIRED:
Garry Ringrose: will continue to follow the Graduated Return to Play Protocols with Leinster Rugby
Hugo Keenan: will continue to follow the Graduated Return to Play Protocols with Leinster Rugby
Caelan Doris: will continue to follow the Graduated Return to Play Protocols with Leinster Rugby
INJURY UPDATE – UNAVAILABLE FOR SELECTION:
Johnny Sexton: will have a scan today on a groin injury picked up in Saturday’s game against England
Jamie Osborne: Sustained a knee ligament injury in the game against Edinburgh and will be unavailable for a number of weeks
There are no further updates on:
Rónan Kelleher (shoulder), Joe McCarthy (ankle), Cormac Foley (hamstring), Martin Moloney (knee) and Charlie Ngatai (hamstring)
Meanwhile on the Stormers side of things I hear they could well be bringing a few Springboks to the RDS so that should make it a very interesting occasion indeed.
This week I decided to check in on the Eastern Conference for once and no better match than the rivalry between the New York Ironworkers and the New England Free Jacks.
The Irish interest in the lineups wasn’t as strong as I thought it would be all I could see was the New England scrum half John Poland who played for Ire U20s and had a cap for Munster before moving stateside – on the New York side there was just their Aussie-born outhalf Sam Windsor who has 8 Ulster caps from the 2015-16 season.
It was played at the Memorial Stadium at Mount Vernon in New York – I winced at the sight of both gridiron and soccer lines on the pitch but in the end it wasn’t too bad.
Overall although New York led a couple of times including as late as 55m, the visitors were always in control as their halfbacks Poland and Jayson Potroz always seemed to have a score in them and once they got back the lead going into the final quarter there was only to be one winner and they will be more than happy with a 5-0 points split away from home, especially as the teams went into the game level at the top of the conference.
More on the league next week.
NOLA 37-14 UTAH
ATL 10-35 SD
OGDC 29-3 TOR
CHI 24-22 DAL
NYI 18-33 NEFJ
OGDC v NOLA
NEFJ V DAL
UTAH V TOR
HOU V ATL
CHI V SEA
HARPIN’ PREDICTION LEAGUE
Obviously there has been no change in the league since the last time I included it in this column but I thought I’d post the table again anyway as there are just three rounds left and it’s getting close at the top, if not so much at the bottom!!!
THE NEXT BATCH OF HARPIN’
The original plan was to have a bonus pod to look back over the Six Nations but I chose instead to give myself the week off; this has been an enjoyable period for content creating here at Harpin Manor of course but also very hectic admin wise so we could do with the few extra days without another pod to process.
Then we turn our focus back to the URC and the visit of the Stormers 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
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
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.
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.
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