The Last Hurrah

27 05 2010

As the final curtain draws on Michael Cheika’s time at Leinster, it is very difficult not to be impressed with what he achieved at the province. He has transformed them from nearly men with a soft centre to one of Europes powerhouses. The talent has long been there at Leinster but it took an excellent coach with a hard edge to uproot them from mediocrity.

It didn’t happen overnight and there have been some disappointments along the way but Cheika will leave the province in a great place. They have slowly but surely developed a tough exterior and, particularly in the last two seasons, a ruthless streak.  This is a different team with different values. The beginning of Cheika’s career at Leinster was typified by a heads-up, go from anywhere brand of rugby. It was free flowing and frequently pulsating stuff. Ironically, since this, his greatest successes as Leinster coach have been built upon the foundation of a solid defence.

It was this defence that was so impressive in the semi-final against Munster but it will have a sterner test out wide this Saturday against the Ospreys. The Welsh have a plethora of game breakers in their back line and none more incisive than Tommy Bowe. The form of the Monaghan man has been exceptional of late and people like Dan Biggar and James Hook are more than capable of unearthing a hole for the winger to gallop through. The danger doesn’t stop there with the likes of Mike Phillips, Lee Byrne and Shane Williams across the back-line. If they can get some quick ball, they will be dangerous for sure.

The battle of the backs looks mouth-watering as there is creativity and pace throughout both teams and the individual match ups will be crucial. You feel Eoin Reddan will have to be at his buzzing best to keep Philips busy and you can guarantee Jamie Heaslip will be keeping a close eye on him around the fringes. If Philips gets on the front foot, he can cause substantial damage.

There are interesting matches across the park and it will be very fascinating to see the two young out-halves come up against one another. Biggar has got quality but Sexton’s performance in the semi-final was assured and he looks to have put his kicking demons to bed. Jamie Roberts has already admitted the Ospreys will target Sexton but the young Dubliner doesn’t shirk a hit. The Ospreys will want to test him early on with some of their big runners, especially after seeing him nursing his jaw towards the end of the semi-final. One thing Sexton will not do is take a backward step and he will have his back row working for him.

The tussle in the back row looks similarly enticing with Marty Holah in particular a supreme operator and he will test Jennings massively. The big man Jerry Collins looks to be fit and he will put in his usual quota of hits but none of the Ospreys trio has the athleticism and class of Heaslip who once again could prove the difference.

The front five contest looks intriguing and Leinster will rue the loss of Cullen and hope to get their line-out motoring irrespective of his loss. The scrum should be tight but Leinster should have enough up front to shade it.

Ironically, the Ospreys are very similar to where Leinster were a couple of years ago: buckets of talent and getting very close but not quite able to take that next step. However Leinster’s experience in finals, coupled with home advantage, gives them the edge and they will go in as favourites.

It would be a fitting end for Cheika who has installed a winning mentality and has changed the whole culture of Leinster rugby. They are now winners who have a hard edge, not unlike the man himself.





Rooney Interview – Repressed Irishman

26 05 2010

Rooney’s first World Cup memory? Ray Houghton. USA ’94. Giants Stadium. Get in!!





Nike Write The Future [Full Version]

25 05 2010

World Cup fever is building. Check out full version of Nike World Cup Ad. Did they forget Ronaldinho didn’t even make the Brazilian squad?!





Footby?

19 05 2010

You often hear people watching a football match saying: ‘He would never make it as rugby player- too soft.’ But what premiership football players actually would make up a good rugby 15? Herein lies the first (and probably last) amalgamation of the sports.

Here is my Footby 15, who would you have in it?

  1. Claus Jensen
  2. Micah Richards
  3. Richard Dunne
  4. Peter Crouch
  5. Emmanuel Adebayor
  6. John Terry
  7. Michael Essien
  8. Rio Ferdinand
  9. Aaron Lennon
  10. Frank Lampard
  11. Nicolas Anelka
  12. Wayne Rooney
  13. Carlos Tevez
  14. Craig Bellamy
  15. Steven Gerrard

Subs:

  1. Brad Friedel
  2. Andy Reid
  3. Pter Cech
  4. Nemanja Vidic
  5. Cesc Fabregas
  6. James Milner
  7. Didier Drogba




Not for the Faint-Hearted

14 05 2010

Deep breaths everyone; the white-hot rivalry that is Leinster versus Munster is about to be resumed. Yes, we would have preferred if it was the final but no matter as this will not be one for the faint-hearted. Munster will come into this one pained by the results against their foes this season and will be hugely motivated. This will be a fiery affair to say the least with lingering tensions between the two sides.

Disappointment in their respective Heineken Cup semi-finals will be put to bed as this one will not be hard to get enthused for.  The venue remains the RDS despite calls for Croke Park to be used for this massive occasion. This suits Leinster better as it now remains a home semi -final, something they have been working towards all season, rather than an 80,000 free fall where Munster would have achieved parity at the very least in the supporters stakes.

There are battles all around the park which will help decide this one; not least the clash up front from two wounded packs after their scrummaging humbling in the Heineken Cup.  You would have to fancy the side whose forwards come out on top. The line-out in particular should prove to be interesting given both sides will be without their main lieutenants in this area in O’Connell and Cullen. Securing set-piece ball will be vital and the battle at scrum time should be extremely interesting. Cian Healy will be looking to silence his critics and gain the upper hand over John Hayes but the Munster front row will want to prove the doubters wrong themselves and Flannery will be frothing at the prospect of tearing into the Leinster eight. The Healy/Hayes battle will be one to keep an eye on with the two current Irish props eager to impress.

It looks as if Johhny Sexton will play which is a massive boost for Leinster. Once again, we arrive back at the O’Gara/Sexton debate. What fuels this one even more (not that it needs fuelling) is the genuine feeling that these two aren’t exactly best friends. Recent separate interviews with the pair would suggest that there is frostiness still there and both will want to emerge smelling of roses after this one as the Irish coaching team and the country will be watching. Both players will be looking to get their team on the front foot and steer them into good positions on the pitch. Sexton will have a cut at O’Gara early on, no question, but the Munster back row will be lurking. O’Gara will look to give Sexton a lesson in tactical out-half play. It will be a proper battle between these two fiery and determined characters.

Another interesting clash is in the centre where four quality players will face up to each other and the potential O’Driscoll versus Earls battle could be electrifying. A lot will depend who has the superior ball to work from but the old maestro versus the young pretender is exciting to say the least. The youngster has the edge in pace but you will not a find a more astute rugby game in the brain than O’Driscoll.

Munster will be glad to have Dougie Howlett back in the squad and the men in red will look to get their danger men in some space like they did against Northampton in the Heineken Cup Quarter Final. If they can again create that tempo (O’Leary will be crucial to this) and play smart rugby, chances may appear. Leinster will look to get Heaslip into the game and across that gain line early on and feed from that with, Reddan looking to continue his recent run of form.

Whichever side achieves quality, front-foot ball will come out on top in this one as both have quality strike runners and potent weapons in the back division. The last time the sides met here, the score line read 30-0. It will be nothing like that come Saturday and this will be a tight affair. As in true derby nature, form will not count for too much in this one and anything can conceivably happen.  Due to slightly better form and home advantage, Leinster go in favourites and may just shade it. However due to previous defeats this season to Leinster and the nature of them, Munster will want this massively. This is not just another Magners League game, there is a final and silverware at stake so fasten your seatbelts as this will be high-passion, high-octane stuff.





Johne Murphy Interview

10 05 2010

Well Johne, how does it feel to be coming back to Ireland to play for Munster?

Really looking forward to it, it’s a big move for me, I’ve been here 5 years now, just starting to miss home a bit, looking forward to being able to pop in the car and drive up to see family and friends instead of having to rely on Ryanair!!

Was it a difficult decision to leave the Tigers and what motivated you to do so?

It was a really difficult one, I’ve made friends for life here and leaving them will be hard, I owe Leicester a lot the gave me the break and took a chance on me and I’m very grateful for that, but its just time for me to move on now and start another chapter

You have matured into a top class finisher at Leicester, racking up plenty of tries. Is that something you have specifically worked on and how?

Not really! I’m just lucky I’m in the right place at the right time more often than not!! You get used to playing with guys and knowing what they are going to do next instinctively so you just play off that really.

Munster and Leicester seem to share many of the same core values. Did this attract you to Munster?

Yeah it did, hopefully that will help me settle in and get to where I want to be when I get down there

Were you surprised by Lewis Moody’s decision to move to Bath?

I knew Lewis was moving, had been chatting to him a bit during my move and stuff so knew he was probably going else where but didn’t think bath, I was a bit shocked but I’m delighted for him. They have signed very well, and himself and Sam Vesty going there next year will make them a force to reckoned with

What kind of captain and person was Martin Johnson?

I missed him by a season, he never captained me, but hearing from the lads, he just knew what to say and when to say it, he could feel the vibe in the room and know whether to shout or to keep it calm. As a bloke he is a really nice guy, quiet but a really good guy

Is it true you shared a house with Martin Castrogiovanni? How was that?!

I did indeed, he moved in with me when I bought my place! Lets just say it was messy!!!

Declan Kidney and Richard Cockerill seem like very different characters. Are they as different as coaches as their personalities would suggest?

Personality wise they are very different, coaching is hard to compare because no two coaches will ever be the same or have the exact same structures or ideas, so yes they would be different!!

The Six Nations ended in disappointment but with some quality rugby played by Ireland at times. What was your take on the tournament and how did you enjoy training with the squad?

Scotland are a very good side, they should have beaten Wales bar their implosion in the last 7 minutes of the game, and they had their chances to beat England, so they should have been coming to Dublin fighting for the triple crown, so I think people need to give Scotland a bit more credit they got. But it was bitterly disappointing for the lads, but I have no doubt they can pick themselves up and have a great tour this summer. I loved training with them every week, it gives u a taste of what it is like and makes u want more, it’s a really good bunch of lads and fingers crossed I’ll get the chance to train with them a lot more.

With the World Cup just over a year away, are you hoping to get capped in 2010?

Every players dream is to get capped, so fingers crossed ill pick one up along the way to retirement! Just going to concentrate on getting stuck in with Munster and hopefully playing a few games with them, and then take it from there. I would love to get capped and try to edge my way into the world cup squad but need to get my head down and look after playing and training with Munster and then see what happens.

What kind of an impact do you think Ireland could have on the 2011 World Cup?

They can have a serious impact, people will be expecting a good showing and some upsets from Ireland and I really think there is a group of players now that can cause any team in the world a lot of trouble.

Have the Munster players at Irish training given you any indication of what to expect when you arrive for the new season?

Not really, you just get to see what they are like in training and no short cuts will be taken, everything is done to best of your ability and that is all that is excepted so I’m looking forward to getting down there and stuck in.







World Cup 2011- Winners?

4 05 2010

With the Premiership season coming to an end, the focus will soon switch to the World Cup. Spain remain favourites in the bookies but it is anyones guess still. Who do you fancy?