Anglo-Irish Rivalry

Since 2007, when Leicester lost to Wasps in an all-English Heineken Cup final, the Irish have lorded it over the arrogant English © Gervais de Thornleille – four tournament victories to none, five finalists to three and ten semi-finalists to six … all from approximately half the tournament representation. The perceived advantage in qualification enjoyed by the three major Irish provinces was one of the drivers of the ERCC setup (even though it’s bollocks – under any qualification rules, the three would have cruised through in most seasons).

This weekend, all three provinces played English opponents – and they struggled mightily. The combined half-time score was 62-21 to the Premiership – an average of 21-7, although it should be noted that it was a very blustery weekend and in each case the English teams had the wind at their backs in the first half. In the second halves, all three Irish teams came out and fought for their lives in the tournament and began to show something like the quality we all think they have – Leinster and Munster eked out wins over Wasps and Sale, and Ulster got close enough to earn a bonus point and leave Leicester somewhat worried and mildly panicky. Combined, the score was 71-70 to les Anglais. Two of the three games were played in England, but still, this wasn’t by any means the cream of this year’s Boshiership season – the English teams stand 5th, 8th and 10th. Or in other words, the same berths occupied by Connacht, Embra and Cardiff in the Pro12 – none of whom are gracing this years HEC.

This was hardly an outstanding weekend from the provinces, and it really felt like muscle memory keeping them in it at times – BT Sport might be over-anxious to sell this as a brand-new tournament, but the provinces’ collective history and experience certainly told at times when there was a prospect of wipeout.

A quick word on each.  Munster were able to use the wind to good effect in the second half and Sale just couldn’t get out of their own half.  Any platform they did get, they found Peter O’Mahony and Dave Foley all over their lineout ball.  And in CJ Stander they have found a wrecking ball.  This was a performance for the ages, he just could not be contained.  At times he looked to be going into contact too upright, but is just so strong he could keep going.  Remarkable!  They still have a problem at centre though.  Hurley’s up-and-down season hit a trough here, and JJ Hanrahan’s nicely angled kick to the corner late in the match showed his contrasting style in a good light.  Also, Simon Zebo seems a little out of sorts?

Three yers ago, Ulster lost in Welford Road and showed no cutting edge whatsoever, and got beaten.  Those days are certainly gone, and Ulster now boast a backline capable of the sort of try that Tommy Bowe dotted down on Saturday night.  With such potency behind the pack, they’ll be annoyed they gave Leicester a three try start in the match.  Coupled with Jackson’s conversion blooper, it felt like an Ulster performance that only got to 90% intensity; never enough to win in a ground like Welford Road.  Still, they’re alive in the pool, but must beat Toulon this weekend.

As for Leinster, they were the only one of the three at home, but this was another bounty of handling errors and tear-your-hair-out stuff from them.  It’s becoming the default.  Injuries are a mitigating factor and once the team was announced sans Messrs. Kearney and Ross, this had the potential to be a banana skin.  Again, they dug themselves out of a corner, and used the wind to decent effect in the second half.  Amid the injury crisis, Dom Ryan and Darragh ‘Fanj’ Fanning have stepped up admirably this season, and continued that streak here.

There is no doubt the delight we take in beating English teams, and we find it hard to really rate them – perhaps they are better than we think… and perhaps we aren’t as good as we think we are.  Next week, things get dialled up a notch as Munster face Saracens.  The last installment of this rivalry was a damp squib, but a repeat is unlikely.  We’ll have a fair idea of where everyone stands afterwards.

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59 Comments

  1. ruckinhell

     /  October 20, 2014

    Think we’ll have a much better idea of where we lie after the next round of matches- Saracens and Toulon both visiting Ireland and Leinster away to Castre.

    A quick word on Christian Wade’s try. Wow, what pace and love to see a player back himself even though he had a huge amount to do when he received the ball. We might mock the Boshership but we also have to give praise when it’s due and that was a try to savour.

    • Very much so. Three very hard games for the Irish next weekend.

      Wade’s try was a beaut. He disappeared from view last season after getting called up to the Lions the year before, so it’s nice to see him back. Almost impossible to defend against!

  2. Lop12

     /  October 20, 2014

    Fair points. You didnt comment on the lineout efforts which to me were key factors in the games. Could have as easily done a blog called tale of three hookers…

    I think Ulster will be disgusted. . Best darts were so poor. Unfortunately he has a night like that once a season and it killed any chance of momentum. I am pretty sure if he had hit all his men for the night they would have had enough additional posession and pressure to score a couple of more times. Left Tigers off the hook repeatedly. Sean Cronin had similar issues which didnt have as costly as a result fortunately. In contrast, the completely unheralded Duncan Casey had a 100% day in Sale in very windy conditions.

    Thankfully Toulon didnt look like they are fully tuned up either so it is within Ulsters capacity to win and deny the BP next weekend which would put them back on qualification track. Quite possible both Toulon and TIgers lose two away games in this pool; Ulster certainly good enough to win away to Scarlets. May not be the disasterous result it felt like at the time.

    • Lop12

       /  October 20, 2014

      oh and Paddy Jackson..bloody hell man. talk about an energy sucking error.

      • I’d say Small Paul, Gilroy and Best were all guilty of energy sucking errors as well. To get a BP in those circumstances seems like a victory however it is hugely frustrating that without those errors, I think Ulster could have won handily.

        • We met for lunch Friday, and Palla thought Egg (Ulsterman) was joking when he said Marshall flinging passes 1m above Jackson’s head was his major worry. Then it happened

          • Marshall has done well for Ulster when he has come on as a replacement and injected a bit of zip but you can guarantee at least one major brain fart if he starts. His passing can be very scattergun as well.

      • Yossarian

         /  October 20, 2014

        The spine of a rugby team is the 2,8,9,10,15.
        Best=Throw was poor,Ulster lost 7 lineouts.
        Williams=one handed pick from scrum which he dropped forward to gift 3 easy points at start of second half
        Marshal=intercept pass and generally looked out of his depth
        PJ=Costly 2 points at a key time. Win was on had he got it.
        15=Ludik was solid.
        Too many players in key positions making costly errors. amazing they got the bonus point.

    • Yes, it was a windy weekend which didn’t help the throwers, but only made Casey’s performance all the more impressive. We did mention Munster’s defensive lineout, which I thought was just outstanding, O’Mahony in particular, and a huge factor in keeping the squeeze on Sale for the full 40 second half minutes.

  3. Wondering how one digs oneself out of a corner…
    😛
    (c) Gervais Thornley perhaps?

  4. Difficult weekend. Ulster made rods for their own backs at times with a dreadful lineout, a set of stupid penalties, and that casual conversion attempt from Jackson, but looked to have the quality necessary to turn that group around for themselves. Welford Road in the first round is essentially a free shot; it could have come off but it didn’t, and they still got a losing bonus point and denied Leicester a try bonus point. That sets them up reasonably well, especially seeing how they look like they’ll be scoring plenty of tries in the remainder of the pool games.

    Munster, by contrast and despite sealing the deal in stress-inducingly dramatic circumstances, look substantially worse off to me. I wasn’t expecting such an abject performance in defence when it’s been an area of some strength in the Pro12 so far this season (77 points conceded, bettered only by Ulster’s 76). It’s actually quite difficult to pinpoint exactly why it was so bad in this game and not in others, but the midfield defence was abysmal and the whole defensive line’s alignment repeatedly left wingers (mostly Andrew Conway) with the task of defending two- or three-on-ones. And this against the attacking might of Sam Tuitupou and Johnny Leota. If we defend anything like that against Saracens or Clermont we will get roasted, and I don’t know how much of it can be fixed, certainly by Friday. The scrum was also an unexpected worry after two seasons of solidity in that area and again needs to be turned around very quickly if the team is to compete in that pool. I’m no longer optimistic.

    I missed the Leinster match but it sounds like the main take-away from it is that Heaslip was in stonking form, which is great news from an Ireland perspective. Other players who did their chances of game-time in November some good were Duncan Casey and Dave Foley for Munster and Stuart Olding for Ulster, who immediately offered some excellent distribution off the bench. Stuart McCloskey was slightly peripheral bar one excellent run, but he was also oddly under-used in attack, so it’s difficult to judge much about his game. I’m surprised you picked out Zebo as being out of sorts, I thought he was quite good (but I may not have been in the most calm and collected state of mind watching that game…).

    • Nice assessment as per usual. Zebo just doesn’t quite look as free-running as he has done in previous seasons, though I think he’s working hard on the pitch and did make an important half-break to set up the drop-goal.

      • His positioning seemed a little off and he wasn’t getting on the ball in space as much as before and therefore wasn’t at his attacking best, but he made a couple of neat plays in attack. Cipriani nearly decapitated him twice as he looked set to make ground on the touchline (the first time somehow going completely unpunished), and as you say, his half-break was crucial in setting up Keatley’s drop-goal. I suspect he may be doing a little more hod-carrying under Foley than he’s been accustomed to, which will affect his ability to loiter around looking for chances to show his flair. He was surprisingly visible at the breakdown on Saturday, which both surprised and impressed me and will doubtless be looked upon positively by the higher-ups. I’d probably have him a solid third in the pecking order for Ireland at the moment.

      • Lop12

         /  October 20, 2014

        Id suggest that Schmidts constant praise of Trimbles less glamorous but more consistent work has provided a template for Zebo to get back in the International side.

    • Have to say that Heaslip put in exactly the sort of performance I was hoping to see, picking up the slack left behind by SOB/Healy and getting a little further away from the rucks and storming some barns, hopefully it continues!

  5. Is it just me, or did anybody else find the BT coverage grating. Whatever you might say about Sky, with their choices of commentators, analysts and guest their presentation has always had a decidely Home Nations quasi cosmopolitan feel. With BT it’s like the Europeans Champions Cups is simply Boshiership Deluxe. Oooooooooh Christian Wade. Ooooooooh Chris Ashton…. The proceedings in toto are reflected through a provincial home countries gaze, with all thoughts ultimately coming down to who’s going get the nod from Stuart Lancaster – will it we George Ford, Stephen Myler or the Farrell Brat at 10? A nation holds it breath!!! (lol) Provincial in the worst possible sense and a turn off for all non-Little Englanders.

    • munstermicko

       /  October 20, 2014

      Bt had me in stitches on Sunday with them constantly referring to the Ladyboys as “Dublin”

    • Good lord there was some English bias. I was home watching the Sarries/Clermont game (because the parents have BT sport with their internet package or something), and they proceeded to spend the entire game lambasting French play in general such as “If it comes off, it’s French Flair, if it doesn’t, it’s “having a go”, there’s no such thing as French flair”.

      Along with “Chris Ashton doesn’t seem to be doing terribly well, he seems to be trying too hard these days” followed up not two minutes later by “HOLY GOD CHRIS ASHTON IS PROBABLY THE GREATEST WING AT SCORING TRIES LIKE THAT EVER”. Sickening. Thankfully Ulster/Leicester was slightly more balanced, but in general it seemed more like three lads having pints while doing a commentary track.

      I only caught the first half of the Leinster game, but they didn’t exactly give BOD an easy ride did they? Mic not working for the first 10 minutes, and then they skip over his analysis of Fanning’s first try and just give it to Austin Healy at half time.

      • connachtexile

         /  October 20, 2014

        I think Bod is a good analyst but man is he a bad colour commentator he’s too nice. Especially asking him to commentate on his own team is never smart.

    • D6W

       /  October 20, 2014

      I was at the Leinster game, and everytime there was a score, two TV camermen came running on to the pitch and stalked the scorer and person taking the conversion. I can’t remember Sky doing that, but i looked totally over the top and a bit creepy. Maybe it made for good viewing on the box?

      • Another thing driving me mad with the BT coverage were the interviews with players and coaches while the match is ongoing. In the middle of the Sarries/Clermont match we had to have the thoughts of some England hopeful, who had just come off, for about two minutes, and look at his stupid mug, while in the background the match was continuing. Ah sure, was only a scrum, sure they’ll probably be scrapped eventually as boring and unentertaining, if the blockheads at BT get their way!!!!

    • Craig Doyle came out with a few classics before and after the Leinster win:

      “Dublin has been buzzing all week ahead of this game”… (I barely slept from Tuesday onwards, such was the anticipation)

      “There will be a few Leinster fans in late to work tomorrow after their sides win”… (first round escape against Wasps at home… again hardly), but thanks for patting us thirsty Oirish on the head from the studio Craig.

      If he toned down the hyperbole, he might stand a chance.

      • Gawd, in a way I’m glad I didn’t have a subscription so I couldn’t be exposed to Craig Doyle. That sounds just… awful.

  6. Tran

     /  October 20, 2014

    Definitely a case of a missed opportunity from Ulster. As ye and many others have said, if there was a time you wanted to be travelling to Welford Road, this time of year would be it (and then Tuilagi crocked himself again and everything!)

    Lineout was pretty terrible (certainly hails back to the 2013 howlers such as the Twickenham QF), and the backs pretty much each had a moment of stupidity (Bowe/Gilroy for doing their best “Jared Payne but with intent” impressions, Marshall trying too hard at times, Jackson’s conversion blockdown, Payne using his head for all the wrong reasons when he tried to tackle Tuilagi).

    I think it was very telling when we changed the backs to have Olding/Cave and Payne at 15 we suddenly started finding holes (having a clean lineout take didn’t hurt though for the first try). As good as McCloskey’s been, and as much as I was looking forward to him flattening Burns, Europe *may* be a little too soon for him.

    One thing that *really* pissed me off though, was Poite calling advantage over after Mele had kicked, and then the ball went dead and he decided “ok, actually it’ll be a green scrum because reasons”. Even the BT Sport commentators called him out on it! Ah well.

    Things are looking shakey, but at least we won’t go in with the curse of being unbeaten in the pool stages this year I guess! Silver lining is that we’ll have massive upgrades in the shape of Tuohy/Henderson by the time the last two rounds come around.

    • Rava

       /  October 20, 2014

      Nailed it right there at the end. Listened to Leinster fans bemoaning their injury list at the weekend but Ulster are still without Pienaar, Tuohy and Henderson (and Trimble). All are certain starters if fit. Marshalls game management isn’t good enough for this level and I’ve said that several times in the past.
      I think our preparation for the game amounted to trying to get the biggest players on the pitch – McCloskey & the unfortunate O’Connor – to combat the Boshiership of Leicester. Maybe that was a mistake.
      Olding has been singled out as a potential star of the future. He needs to be starting at 12 if this is the case. Leicester couldn’t handle his pace when he came on.

    • Would agree with most of that Tran, especially about Olding and Cave giving better structure.

  7. hulkinator

     /  October 20, 2014

    I just saw the Ulster and Munster matches. Both very similar in the way they went far behind at half time.

    Munster were all over the place and looked a bit bamboozled in that first half. The obvious cause for concern are the centres. Once again they looked far better when either Keatley or JJ plays 12. Smith so far looks like a bit of a waste of a signing.

    I couldn’t believe what I was seeing with Ulster. They were more than capable of winning but were determined not to! Leicester – who are injury hit – didn’t do anything wonderful but they done the basics well. Ulster kept making basic errors.

    PJs conversion summed up Ulster.

    • “PJs conversion summed up Ulster.”

      Agree entirely. Had my head in my hands, just absurd.

  8. Worst Ulster performance I’ve seen in ages. Leicester were crap and we made them look like world beaters in the first half. The second half was better, but still not good, and we weren’t coherent but out firepower – as mentioned in the article – gave us a puncher’s chance.

    Bowe was fantastic – the kick ahead (called back for the ghost knock on) when flirting with the touchline was superb. We need much more than that.

    Such a missed opportunity.

    • connachtexile

       /  October 20, 2014

      Agreed couldn’t believe Poite called them back.

  9. From an Irish perspective some of the performances were interesting/worrying.

    The no.2 shirt has to be seriously up for grabs. I am a big fan of Best but ala the Lions tour you just can’t pick him if the lineout is going to be a fiasco. I was joking with a buddy that someone must have said to Cronin “put in a performance today and you’ll be the Irish hooker for November” as it was the nerviest performance I have seen from him in ages, both at lineout time and in the loose. Duncan Casey hit his darts but I don’t see him as an international just yet. Strauss maybe?

    It is a shame Olding played so little of the game as a midfield partnership is still unclear. Noel Reid put in a decent shift bar a few errors but don’t see him progressing that fast. Darcy and Payne were probably the best on show. I’ll be lynched for this but wouldn’t we be better off if Henshaw was at Leinster so we could see him on a bigger stage? (or at Munster of course!!). Mads could still come into the picture, I thought he had a solid outting, the Wade try could have happened to anyone the guy is just electric.

    I was disappointed by the Munster front row performance at scrum time particularly Archer who I thought had improved since Australia last year. The new “wealth” of Irish props is pretty sparce truth be told. Jack McGrath was the only Irish qualified prop this weekend who looked up to scratch. Mike Ross is still arguably the most important player for Irish success.

    A backrow of O’Brien/Stander/ Heaslip/ could be world beaters based on the performances of the two latter this weekend. Of those actually available I think TOD has just edged out Ruddock for me.

    On a separate note why was Luke Fitzgerald on the bench yesterday. Was MOC trying to prove a point after the ROG spat? The whole country knew he was never getting a run!

    • I’d say the centres for November at the minute will be two of Olding, Payne, D’Arcy and Henshaw. Cave and McCloskey are outside chances (the former for the lack of gametime, the latter for relative rawness), but no-one else has massively impressed me. Madigan will be on the bench doing his usual swiss army knife impression.

      I can see where you’re coming from in terms of Henshaw moving, but I don’t think it would do him any good. He’s definitely well settled at Connacht, who are themselves hardly being kicked around all over the place at the minute (they aren’t the third best province in the Pro12 at the time of writing for nothing!).

      Front row in general is a bit of a worry, being an extension of the Leinster front row worries. As things stand we could be seeing Deccie Fitzpatrick or Michael Bent at TH against the Boks. Rory needs to sort his darts, but he doesn’t really have much time considering the pressure that Botha and Williams will put on the lineout next week. As things stand I would probably have him starting for his all-round game, but only just.

      O’Brien/Stander/Heaslip doesn’t look like it would have a huge amount of balance to be honest, granted SOB and Heaslip are great at the breakdown, but I’m not sure they’d be good enough as a unit. Henry got through a ton of work at the weekend, was one of few Ulster players to come out with credit imo.

      I had a chuckle when I saw Fitz named on the bench, seemed another round of silly buggers by MOC, so fair play for keeping him in the team. As for his keeping the bench warm for the whole match though…

      • Mary Hinge

         /  October 20, 2014

        We won’t need to worry about Bent or Fitzpatrick featuring against the Boks. Nathan White is now Iris-qualified and will understudy/challenge Ross.

      • col

         /  October 20, 2014

        I think POM is a nailed on starter for Ireland at this stage. Immense again on Saturday, never his biggest fan until his BNZ performance but I think he is our WC 6 now barring injury. With heaslip also nailed on 7 seems to be the only bib going which will probably be between SOB (fingers crossed) or Henry. Stander will have a tough job getting in there.
        all of that is assuming NWJMB is going to play lock from now on. If not all bets are off

        • Yossarian

           /  October 20, 2014

          I thought he was the least impressive of Munsters backrow at the weekend. Got smashed in contact a few times and the ref wasn’t allowing a contest at the breakdown which limited his effectiveness there. Very good at lineout time. Wasn’t blown away by Henry or Ruddock either so i reckon his place is safe. I think TOD might have been the big winner of the backrows in the race to join Heaslip and POM against SA.

        • I thought both O’Mahony was quite mixed on Saturday alright. His effectiveness really is limited if the referee allows attacking sides carte blanche at the breakdown. That said, he carried quite well overall and his lineout work is simply phenomenal. Saracens will demand a bigger performance. O’Donnell got through a lot of grunt work but didn’t come up with any big plays, the closest being a good line off Andrew Smith’s shoulder which was wasted by Smith’s poor offload to his knees.

          In the Ulster game I was unimpressed with Henry, which is unusual. He made one particularly dreadful attempt at a tackle which allowed Benjamin (I think) to make about fifty metres in a single burst. He certainly hasn’t looked the same player as he did during the 6 Nations, which is a worry as I’d expect him to be almost nailed on at 7 for November.

      • If Bent plays against SA I would seriously consider selling on my ticket, he would be eaten alive. I am pretty surprised by the generally positive reviews of his performance yesterday I thought he was fairly poor at scrum time, missed key tackles and inspected many a ruck.

        Nathan White would be an interesting option but for me Ross is potentially the best scrummaging tighthead of the home nations.

        Trans I am not sure how much stock I put in the mysteries of backrow balance. There are roles to be filled but with two all rounders like Heaslip and SOB and two very lift-able second rows I think we can afford to pick on form. For me right now Stander would walk on to the Irish team. Henry’s ability to slow down opposition ball and POM’s occasional big steal are factors for sure but I think both need to show more of last years form.

        Murray and Sexton look to be the best half back pair the 6Nations has to offer. Murray in particular has serious progress since the Lions. An injury to him would leave us in seriously bad spot as Redser best days are long past.

    • D6W

       /  October 20, 2014

      I was thinking the same thing re Luke. I believe so, as at the presser, M’OC gave no indicaion tha Luke would be ready this weekend. If M’OC really was proving a point, then taking a risk by tying up one of the bench spots.

    • what’s this Re: A ROG spat??

      • ROG made some comment about Fitz needing game time if he was to be in consideration for Novemeber internationals and RWC. A journo brought it up with MOC in a pre match interview and he got a tad teste. It was a storm in a tea cup really.

    • Michael Forde

       /  October 21, 2014

      I’m not having that at all Donal, get your grubby little hand of Henshaw… I know where they’ve been.

  10. I’d call it a draw between the pro12 and premiership, possibly the top 14 performance (although not results) slightly behind? The English sides can’t be feeling too hot this morning either like. Sale threw everything at Munster but came up short, wasps gave up a good position, Leicester have to be raging – they could have more or less eliminated ulster from that pool had they got a 5 nil, bath got whooped, Northampton made a balls of the end game when they were totally on top, Sarries had a very good win, but allowed clermont a bonus, which was good news for nobody. Could it be the year that the squeezed middle – ie ospreys and Glasgow – make their charge?

    Ulster salvaged their chances but they are really up against it to qualify now for me. Scarlets could be feisty enough (certainly in comparison to recent efforts) in that group too though and they denied Toulon a bonus. Hard to call any of it at the minute.

  11. On the rugby front, I was very relieved by Leinster’s win. Before the match and for the first half an hour I was afraid we were going to get rolled. The fightback was quite pleasing. It was a performance to build on. Bent held up well against Mullan, fair play to him, and Furlong continued the good work at tight head in the latter stages. Our lineouts left a lot to be desired. Thought Kane Douglas put in a strong shift after he came on for MMcC. Toner was very good. That grasping charge down, which led to the second Fanj try, was for me the turning point of the match. With Mike Ross, the Kearndashians etc returning from injury and Te’o soon to come on stream, I think we’re looking okay. Would still like to see Madigan at 10 though… and Luke McGrath (who was in flying form for the As on Friday again with two tries) in the mix for the senior team more often.

  12. I left the RDS yesterday feeling quite flat. For all the positives, and given the team we put out there are a lot of positives to take from the result, I still feel we missed a golden opportunity to take a bonus point from this game ad potentially deny Wasps one. With three trys and our nose ahead with twenty to go you felt we should have kicked on but instead we made a raft of changes lost our shape and were lucky in the end to hold out for the win. Also our handling errors let Wasps off the hook and in the first half gifted them 14 points. Great performances from Ryan, Ruddock, Toner, Douglas and Heaslip. Fanning to a lesser extent (great going forward with ball in hand but still looks a bit like a headless chicken in defence or chasing up). Best performance in a Leinster jersey from Gopperth (in a long time) and Bent (ever). Well done to Munster on another epic come back.

    • D6W

       /  October 20, 2014

      Agree with you for most part, and definitely Bent’s best ever game in a Leinster shirt. Although, even an adequate performance would have been his best game so far! Disagree that Gopperth had a good game, I think it was a mixed bag at best. He certainly made some good breaks and had some good kicks, but he also made some really bad kicks and decisions.

      Still you can be sure his place is not in danger, and when Te’o comes in, we all know who MO’C is going to drop!

  13. Quick question- is Stander going for qualification for the Irish team or is that out of the question since he trained with the 2012 Boks team?

    • He’s Munster’s Project Player I believe, and I think that he’s said he’s aiming for Ireland right now. That said I wouldn’t be surprised if Meyer wasn’t looking awfully closely at him.

    • Training with the Bok team does not rule him out for Ireland!

      I have a sneaky feeling he has his sights on playing for South Africa, but we shall have to wait and see. He certainly looks a test class player on current form.

      • Rava

         /  October 20, 2014

        It would be interesting to see what happens if the Boks need to bring anyone into the squad once they are up here. Traditionally they do tend to look to Europe for replacements.

        • seiko

           /  October 20, 2014

          Yes they do look for reinforcements close by. But I’m sure CJ will be aware that he will have to leave Munster/Ireland if he does get capped for SA. Wian du Preez – got one SA cap against Italy (I think).

          • I wonder if the Boks would cap him just for badness… Munster would need to honour the rest of his contract if they did.

          • Is it beyond the bounds of possibility that there’s an exit clause in there around to deal with that very basis?

            When he signed for Munster I got the distinct feeling this was a 2 year project that was never going to get renewed. So wasn’t too worried about that very situation now that there’s only real one series left for him to be capped in I’m a little bit more worried.

      • seiko

         /  October 20, 2014

        I don’t think so. I think the longterm aim is to become dual citizens (which means that they will have to stay here for 5 years). I think he was told by SA that he was too small for them. As well as that, he has a much better chance of having a long test career with Ireland, whereas SA just have so many options. I think they are well settled here – so well that CJ’s wife got stuck into Cian Healy about his tweet about the lap of honour!

        One thing that SH players like about playing in Europe is that they are not away from home for long periods of time which can be hard if they have a young family.

        A link to a recent interview with him.
        http://www.irishtimes.com/sport/rugby/european-cup/cj-stander-interview-i-need-to-play-the-best-game-of-my-life-against-toulon-1.1774283?page=1

        • To be fair from what I’ve heard CJ’s wife gets stuck into a lot of people on Twitter, not least Penney when CJ wasn’t being picked regularly.

        • She seems quite active on Twitter. We described him as ‘awesome’ and she favourite-d the tweet. Go Mrs Stander!

  14. Kelly Peters

     /  October 20, 2014

    Considering it looked like Ireland were going to go 1-3 over the weekend, it was somewhat of a relief to come out 3-1 with some late comebacks. Leinster and Munster both showed the nous and and ability to win that has become common practice in recent years. When watching them in close games I always feel like they’ll do just enough to get the win. Neither looked good but both will hopefully get stronger. The away win for Munster is huge considering the group. Leinster’s group isn’t as difficult so missing out on the bonus point shouldn’t come back to haunt them. Ulster on the other hand continue to find ways to lose. The Marshall interception was frustrating, while Jackson’s blocked conversion was ridiculous. You simply can’t let that happen in a game like that. There is simply no excuse for it.

    I’ll admit now I had only one eye on the Leinster game but is the ghost of BOD haunting every province besides Connacht (where Daragh Leader has looked good at 15 and Henshaw is growing at 13 with each game) this season. Munster’s partnership of Hurley and Smith is yet to click. Hurley has looked good with ball in hand at times but all over the place defensively while I can’t remember Smith making a positive impact in any game. In Ulster Payne looks half the player he was at 15 when playing 13 and the whole backline seems to be energised as soon as he is moved/substituted. It’ll be interesting to see how the centre positions pan out in each province in the coming months with such a mix of players. As a fan of the old 2nd 5/8 I’d love to see Hanrahan, Olding and Madigan at 12. Can Ulster send some centre’s to other provinces? Olding, Cave, McCloskey, Marshall and now Payne all have Ireland aspirations. Somethings got to give.

    Also we do a break down of the BT Sports old boys club. I find it very annoying. I get they’re going for the relaxed vibe but they’ve gone way to far the other side of Sky’s stick up the arse style. Craig Doyle calling Lawrence Dallaglio and Austin Healey by their nicknames of Lol and Aus drove me mad. As did the constant pro Boshership an England waffle. I get that if you watch England on the BBC your going to get Brian Moore’s blind patriotism but I thought BT would be a bit more universal in their coverage considering their broadcasting to Ireland, Scotland and Wales too.

    • Lop12

       /  October 21, 2014

      BT are the sole broadcaster of the AVIVA premiership. Why is everyone surprised they are bigging it up and not seeking to promote the other two leagues which they dont even have highlights for? Annoying for sure, surprising not at all!!!

      • Indeed, their advertising promotes *English* clubs in Europe and their choice of matches reflects this. It is rather ironic, though, that they choose an Irishman to front their coverage and they sponsor so many Pro 12 teams and a couple of stadiums…

        • mudngrass

           /  October 22, 2014

          I could well be wrong Alan, but I thought ‘local’ BT operations started sponsoring their local teams (eg BT Belfast / NI sponsored Ulster), a number of years ago. This was part of their marketing budget and used for local PR and inviting corporate clients to the box for a jolly. There may or may not have been an agreement in place for so many years sponsorship(?).

          However, when BT Sport launched in 2013, they took over all these local BT sponsorship arrangements, rebranded the shirts with ‘BT Sport’, supported some new clubs to annoy Sky but were then left with a bit of a hodge-podge of ‘assets’ that don’t quite fit their current direction.

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