Nothing to Celebrate

It’s been a grim and tragic weekend in Europe, and rugby’s relevance has been put in perspective. The games in France were postponed, and only Toulouse in the ERC were demanded to play – incorrectly in our view. As for us, we’ve been a bit bogged down with the Mini Eggs and Petit Pallas, but, in lieu of a full article, we tweeted our predictions for Europe on Friday. And we weren’t positive – we expected all three provinces in the ERC to go out before the knockouts – nothing about the on-pitch action has compelled us to change that call.

Ulster look hopelessly weak in the backrow – in three of this weekend’s six games, backrow forwards won MOTM, and backrow forwards are often the difference between the best sides and the pretenders. Win the breakdown and you win the etc. In a key position like number 8, Ulster will be fielding Nick Williams in direct opposition to Louis Picamoles and Billy Vunipola – ouch. Plus they have so little depth, they have been flaking around the AIL, giving Steven Mulholland a start against the Dragons – to say it didn’t work would be an understatement. Ulster have been linked with Victor Vito – it would be better if a transfer was somehow arranged for one of the quality Irish number 8s – but one way or another, they don’t have much hope with Diack and Williams in the first team.

Four years ago, when Ulster’s run of knockout HECs began, in the absence of Fez they fielded a backrow of Diack, Henry (only a couple of seasons into his conversion from 8), Wannenburg in a shuddering defeat to the Saints – Courtney Lawes physically dominated Ulster single handedly, and that type of superiority can be expected when Toulouse and Globo Gym come calling. While Saracens may have continued a recent inability to get a fourth bonus point try in Saturday’s facile victory over Toulouse, it is hard to envisage Ulster being in a position to take advantage of such sloppiness. Only Oyonnax can realistically be beaten over two legs.

As for Leinster, our thoughts were that we didn’t see a path to four wins for them, and with more than 140 characters, we’d truthfully have said that three looked like an ask. Now, following a desperately poor home thumping by Wasps, the goal becomes winning any game in this extremely difficult pool – away to Bath then two games against Toulon are all unlikely games to win. When Bath come calling in early January, they may be desperate for points against an already eliminated Leinster – don’t bet on that being won either. In addition to the quality of the teams in the pool, Leinster have to deal with the fact that Bath and Wasps feel they owe Leinster one after last year – and the joy of the Wasps players was obvious.

Even Jonny Sexton’s return was unable to galvanise Leinster, and indeed it might have been his worst professional display since he was packed back to St Mary’s seven year ago – leadership within the squad was sorely lacking and Cullen has some serious work to do. For all Jamie Heaslip’s qualities, his captaincy credentials have to be questioned.  It is well and good leading by example, and we imagine he is thoroughly respected within the squad, but there are times when a bit of blood and thunder are called for too.  The players still seem insistent that the squad are in a good place and a performance is just around the corner – a mantra that has been consistent for over a year. Perhaps it’s time to accept that isn’t the case and something urgently needs to change to break the malaise.  It was telling that after Dave Kearney’s untimely slip let Wasps in fdor a desperately soft try, not one player came over to him individually.  It’s at such times that leaders need to step forward, but nobody did.  Troubling stuff.

Munster at least won their game, but in front of a sparse crowd, the rugby on offer was dire, with error after error, and a bonus point only secured against the weakest team in the competition in the 74th minute. CJ Stander looked about the only decent player on the pitch. We felt on Friday that Munster would struggle to qualify while missing Paul O’Connell and Peter O’Mahony. Last season, any time they were down two of O’Connell, O’Mahony and Murray, the level of performance was well lower.  Add to the loss column Tommy O’Donnell and, sadly again, Mike Sherry and things are looking grim indeed.  If we assume that Munster win their home games and beat Treviso away, bringing the pool down to bonus points, its going to be really tough to secure the necessary points without being at their best – which they clearly aren’t. Plus, at Saturday’s level of performance, they are unlikely to win all their home games. Next weekend in Paris will tell us a lot – a scoreline/performance like Saracens in January and the jig is likely up for Munster this year. It will be an incredibly emotional occasion for Paris and for Stade, and warning lights should be flashing.

On the bright side, we thought Connacht would win five games and get a home QF in the Euro Vase – even though they are 18 points ahead of the Hairsprays in the Rabo, this competition still carries a significant carrot. The Premiership sides should be favoured, based on last years engagement levels from the French, but Connacht have a good draw (the Siberian trip may have been arduous, but you’d be surprised how positive these things can be for team morale; the team that sleeps in the dugout together under a mountain of blankets stays together) and are playing better than at any time we can remember. Thank goodness for them.

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56 Comments

  1. ruckinhell

     /  November 16, 2015

    I watched (or endured to be more accurate) the Munster game on Saturday and speaking to people who were at the game it wasn’t evident just how bad the conditions were for a game of rugby. In that light, a bonus point was probably a good outcome, regardless of the laboured manner in which it was secured. I did think the maul and the one out runners actually showed up well, with Kilcoyne, O’Callaghan and O’Donoghue ably assisting Stander in these carries. It was Treviso though, so basically of no use in terms of a reference point.

    Against Stade next week, my fear is that without an genuine fetcher in the backrow we’ll struggle to deny them front foot ball ( I can but dream that the rumour that Rutchie is going to announce his retirement from rugby basically means he has decided to go to Munster for a year to just kill ball at the ruck and make a general nuisance of himself for 8 months without once actually carrying the pill- I’d take that) Stade were inaccurate and inconsistent against Leicester but when they got their offload game going they looked very dangerous. If we can turn this into an arm wrestle I think we can win, if it turns into Harlem Globetrotter rugby we’ll cop a hiding. Central to this is Ian Keatley who continues to look like a debutant rather than a very experienced European Cup player- he has flashes of excellence but this is mixed amongst indecision and poor execution. While JJ was not perfect against the Scarlets he showed enough to merit more time for the Saints at 10, I can’t help but feel that Axel backed the 10 with less upside and more vulnerabilities in his game.

    Next week will tell all for Munster and a bad beating might see the season (where we have sleep walked our way into decent results) come crashing to a halt. Losing bonus point from Paris an absolute minimum before heading into the back to backs with Leicester.

    • ruckinhell

       /  November 16, 2015

      A quick PS to the above- the moment when Kilcoyne decided to smash into contact in lieu of passing to a 6 on 3 overlap: ARRRGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

    • D6W

       /  November 16, 2015

      Agree, I thought Munster did well, albeit in a old school Munster 10 man rugby kind of way, even though the opposition were poor. Hard to believe Keatley was once vying for the Ireland #10 shirt in Sextons absence. He has gone backwards at a rate of knots since then.

    • That’s it. To keep qualification on track, Munster need 6 points from the next 3 games – its achievable, but Leicester in particular look better than expected.

      • Lop12

         /  November 16, 2015

        I think was a typical Munster v Treviso result; hard to watch, ugly, but points in the bag.

        Im not sure Stade are very good. Tigers look to be motoring well alright.

  2. Just a couple of thoughts from a Connacht perspective. 1.The other province’s display’s this weekend will have given Robbie Henshaw some serious food for thought regarding his rumoured future. 2. Due to ‘technical difficulties’ the Connacht travelling party is still stranded in Russia and the group has to be split in three to get them all home. This is an absolute shambles and combined with an already mammoth journey could be damaging to player welfare in such a packed fixture schedule.

    • Yeah, we saw that after posting, and it could indeed knock the morale boosting effects on the head. Shambolic for sure and a bad precedent for future European rugby games being played in Siberia!

  3. Sadly it’s hard to argue with your assessment of Ulster. As much as I’d like to say “ah now Robbie Diack makes a great option at the lineout” the fact is that Sarries have bullied Ulster twice in a row in QF’s, and the second of those involved Fez AND NWJMB. Looking across the pack it’s hard to see individual battles being won. That said, I’m keeping the faith,

    • …seems my laptop has other ideas though! Anyway, I think we might surprise a few people and stay unbeaten at home and nick an extra win away (hopefully at Sarries, those bastards).

      I can’t remember such a poor performance from Leinster in a long time, and I think it may have cost Heaslip the Ireland captaincy. Mole made a great point that the IRFU sold Sexton when he was near the peak of his powers and bought him while he’s enduring a dip. Getting absolutely smashed during a loop play was pretty much the best demonstration of that. Using the yardstick of the next 18 months, you’d doubt that Sexton would make it on the Lions tour ahead of Biggar, Russell and/or Ford.

  4. Accepting that there’ll be no simple answer, I have a question: how did we get to this position? I was at the Heineken Final in 2012, a competition that was probably the high point for Irish provincial rugby. All four teams competed, three made it to the knock-out stages, and Munster were knocked out there by Ulster, who went on to the final, where Leinster in their pomp awaited them. Even if you accept that Ulster benefited from a favourable draw, it’s a big come-down to a position where none of our teams are favoured to get out of the group stages.
    So is this down to the change to the Champions Cup? Turbulence in the coaching teams? (Connacht are in the best form and they’ve had the longest settled coaching ticket.) A change in the balance between provincial and national teams? (The Irish team, World Cup aside, has had a successful few years.) Player development problems? Are we unfortunate that so many of our teams find themselves rebuilding, or has the game either passed us by or reverted to the mean after a golden age?
    No simple answers, I imagine, but it’s not exactly a cheerful vista at the provincial level (Connacht aside again) at the moment.

    • It hasn’t exactly been a gradual decline, more of a cliff reached. Less than 2 years ago, Ulster went 6/6 in the pool stages and nearly beat Saracens in the Payne Game – a final was within reach. And the same season, Munster got to a second successive semi, and Leinster, while trumped by Clermont in the groups , were by common consensus among the top five teams in Europe

    • connachtexile

       /  November 16, 2015

      Of all those Ulster’s decline is the most unforgiveable. Their buying policy the last few seasons has being baffling. Like everyone I was impressed that they snagged Charles Piutau but was scratching my head wondering why go after a big name back signing when they clearly need serious work up front. Everyone and their mother knows that Ulster need some big name signings in their pack to give their immensely talented backs a platform which is why using a NIQ spot on another back regardless of how talented is nuts. I wonder how much of it to blame is Humphries fault or Anscombes? Hopefully with Kiss at the helm now we see the likes of Victor Vito coming and maybe dispensation for a backrow project player to shore up their pack.

      • Was it not a Bryn Cunningham coup that brings Piatau to Ulster?

        • connachtexile

           /  November 17, 2015

          If it was then questions need to be asked about Cunningham

          • World wide recruitment which resulted in local back room appointments. In effect until such times as the big crowds stop rolling in. Even then in effect until the other provinces make overseas appointments.

  5. Yossarian

     /  November 16, 2015

    Leinster world cup players looked completely jaded. Sexton has never been so poor. Mike Ross, Heaslip, Murphy and Dave K all below par. I wondered had Sexton been affected by events on friday after two years living in paris in a similar way to the Toulouse side forced to play? either way it looks all over for Leinster in Europe.
    I’m sure some provincial antagonism will have certain sectors of the irish rugby landscape enjoying the demise but in reality If connacht are the standard bearers for irish rugby in Europe things aren’t great.
    The goal/ideal of indigenous coaches looks great in a document on an IRFU desk but inexperienced men at the helm has hurt Leinster and to an extent Munster. An influx of fresh ideas is constantly needed in the irish provinces who need to stay ahead of the curve to beat the french and english sides. Unfortunately we don’t seem to have that. We play a similar game with less physically adept players.

    Wasps weren’t great but in their back 3 and 8 they possessed players with the physical edge Leinster lacked. Be it pace, power or both.

  6. Joe

     /  November 16, 2015

    Someone at Leinster needs to take responsibility for the shambles we now have at scrum half.

    Boss has been past it for a couple of years yet we have not properly blooded McGrath (who mixes a nice eyes for a try with worrying lack of the fundamentals needed to play the position). Cooney looks a better bet than both at the minute.

    Redden has displayed occasional form over the last couple of years but he has not been consistent over the course of a number of games for some time. His performance on Sunday was shocking. Over the course of 5 minutes or so he threw a number of terrible, terrible passes when under not a great amount of pressure. Killed our momentum at a time when we were very much in the game.

    We are paying a journey man Saffer on the wing (when he should be playing FB, but that’s another matter) when that money should really have been directed at getting a half decent 9.

    • Leinster at the minute can’t sign a NIQ/E 9 even if they wanted to at the minute. Pienaar holds the slot up at Ulster. For now you just have to hope that Girve will kick some fundamentals into McGrath or they get one of Blade/Cooney over from Connacht.

      • leinsterlion

         /  November 16, 2015

        Put Boss and Redden out to pasture, endure the dross and mistakes, Munster and Ireland did it with Murray, and look at him now. Its rare for a player to come fully formed, they have to play out their bad habits, we havent allowed a nine to do that, which is weird considering we have tens who have a running game, so its one less bit of pressure on the nines decision making.

    • This raises a couple of points:

      1. Boss. He is doing some coaching work with Terenure and the reviews and extremely good – perhaps now is the time to move him upstairs and get him in the system
      2. Wingers. Its not like Leinster have huge depth there either – remember they were trawling the AIL for wingers this time last year (McGrath, Fanning)
      3. Scrum-half. Is this officially a crisis yet for Ireland? Outside of Murray, there is very little in the locker. Kiss’s promotion of Shanahan ahead of Marshall is interesting in that respect – was looking forward to seeing how he went. Conor Young also has some potential up there – but none of them are anything like sure fire hits either

      • Mary Hinge

         /  November 16, 2015

        Scrum Half: Marmion and Cooney at Connacht both tasty players and should make the Six Nations squad.

        • Marmion has a while to go – his display for the Wolfhounds last season was very poor, and a shot Boss got the RWC callup for his 24 hour stint.

          • Kevin

             /  November 16, 2015

            That’s the sole chance he’s been given after being the most well rounded 9 in Ireland for years. Murray was absolute dog shit for about 20 caps but was given time to develop into a quite good player…before returning to dog shit (though I have sympathy as Joe’s gameplan seems to have him lobotomised). Marmion discarded after one poor showing in a meaningless Wolfhounds match where everyone was useless apart from 30 minutes from SOB if I recall (open to correction on this). You can hardly say Boss over Marmion(or indeed Cooney) was the right call? Some very good talent coming through Connacht that Joe won’t touch. If you play 2 or 3 Heineken cup games against crap position for Leinster/Munster you get capped e.g Kilcoyne, Conan, but you can play excellently for more than 2 seasons like Marmion and be ignored..it’s disheartening. Matt Healy’s another player who’s been flying for a year, that actually possesses pace, in a real problem position for us, and he’s not even looked at. Ireland is getting what it deserve thanks to their incredible misuse of assets, whether it be not allowing inter-provincial transfers, ignoring Connacht, stunting emerging talent with shit imports and older average players, playing attacking talent out of position and playing a 1950s gameplan.

          • ruckinhell

             /  November 16, 2015

            Hang on here- Marmion is discarded on the basis of one poor performance for the Wolfhounds and yet we still decide to call up a consistently woeful Boss to the world cup and give an inconsistent Reddan the back up slot? Regardless of the issues in his game, he’ll never improve if he’s not given a shot at the next level. Every time he’s mentioned his faults are raised, rather than the excellent aspects of his game that he brings to the table.

            One of my bugbears about Declan Kidney was his inability to manage in the medium term- the next game was all that mattered and selection policy reflected this. John Hayes was flogged to death and when he was no longer capable of playing we suddenly had a propping crisis with no alternatives to Hayes as nobody else was ever given the opportunity to play. This has been repeated to a lesser extent by Joe with Ross selected to start at almost every single available opportunity and a seeming unwillingness to trust anyone at scrumhalf who isn’t Murray, Reddan and Boss. He continued to select D’Arcy long after it was clear his legs were gone and we nearly paid for this in the November international against Oz last year.

            Joe is a fantastic coach and we’re lucky to have him but I do think that he has been given an easy ride at times by the media and the fanbase. Blind faith in his abilities and treating him as some sort of infallible rugby seer serves nobody in the long run, some constructive criticism from time to time should be allowed and will do no harm for all concerned.

          • I mean – we decried the continued selection of Ross until we started feeling like Cassandra’s, and Dorce’s inclusion any time after BOD retired (but particularly last season) was mystifying. I think we need more options at centre (Cave clearly isn’t up to it) and I don’t think Zebo is the solution at 15 – although he should be on the wing.

            The “in Joe we trust” meme is annoying, but we do win a lot of games and play very well – its tough to be critical in that environment. Kidney’s team had one good performance a series for the last 3 years of his tenure – a very different thing.

          • I think it’s a little unfair on Cave to say he *clearly* isn’t up to it. The only matches he ever gets he either gets moved to 12 (not his natural position) and/or gets thrown at lower quality opposition. I can’t actually remember the last time he had a game of consequence for Ireland, but for Ulster he’s been pretty good I thought, and his handling this season has gone up a notch too, he’s starting to stick offloads a bit more.

            I think there’s going to be a lot of expectation for Joe to diversify his squad at the 6N, he’s going to need as otherwise players are going to be knackered. The question is, is he willing to fast track players in? He’s such a big fan of “players getting to know the system”, but in a post-RWC 6N we’re already seeing signs of a hangover, so new blood needs to be brought in.

          • ehhweasel

             /  November 16, 2015

            Kevin, you almost had me there until you mentioned Matt Healy. Come on. #provincialbias

          • Matt Healy should absolutely be in the conversation for Ireland. Up there with Gilroy and Earls as the most dangerous outside back in the country. Nothing provincial about it.

      • D6W

         /  November 16, 2015

        What about Marmion?

      • The answer to the scrum-half question has been obvious for about two years. Kieran Marmion had a couple of months of poor form toward the back end of last season but, after Murray, he has clearly been the form player in the position for the guts of three seasons. The manner in which he closed the game out in the final moments against Ospreys a couple of weeks ago was especially striking; he looked like a guy who wanted to win games and knew how to do it. The fact that the Ireland set-up have invested so little time in him, with a constantly disimproving Isaac Boss consistently selected ahead of him, is a joke, and that’s true regardless of whether or not Marmion took his chances on the rare occasions when he was given them.

        Cooney is also bubbling under nicely and may ultimately end up back at Leinster and ahead of Luke McGrath. Alternatively, McGrath might prosper with a run of games. Who knows.

        We shouldn’t be at crisis situation for Ireland yet, and if we are it’s very much a problem of the coaching staff’s own making. Hopefully Marmion will slot into the 21 jersey from here on out and show the benefits of having been in camp for a prolonged period of time without getting much game-time that we saw with Robbie Henshaw.

        • Just seeing the replies posted in the interim period now. Nominating a single performance in a Wolfhounds game is not an especially convincing argument for Marmion to be behind Boss when the players’ respective form lines are so radically divergent in, I don’t know, nearly all of the other games they’ve played over the last two years at least. The fact that Boss was selected for the 24 hour stint isn’t evidence of anything other than the coaching staff’s preference for him, which is exactly what’s at issue tbh.

          • Lop12

             /  November 16, 2015

            Iv said this in the comments here several times over last 12 months. Cooney is far better than any of the options in leinster and I think probably better than Marmion as well. He has a decent pass and is very busy player. Really good to see a player improve as much as he did for gametime.

          • SportingBench

             /  November 16, 2015

            It is really, really hard to understand why Boss is still considered at all for Ireland. He isn’t good enough and therefore is filling a spot at both Ireland training and at Leinster that could be taken by someone who will not be any worse but may be better or at least will develop.

        • Kevin

           /  November 16, 2015

          ehhweasel: I’m not making out that Healy’s the saviour of Irish backplay but I do think it’s ridiculous players like Dave Kearney and McFadden make squads ahead of him. If players are to be picked on form then he should have at least been tried for a game or two. I’m sure there’s an Ulster replica of me getting ready to type the same thing about Gilroy!

          • ehhweasel

             /  November 17, 2015

            Kevin: Fair enough when you look at Dave Kearney racking up caps without ever really looking like an attacking threat at any level. My point is that it’s hard to accommodate any more players there as we already have a decent level of experienced, relatively young international wings and that it’s a harder to break in there with Earls, Bowe, Fitzgerald, Zebo and Trimble blocking the way by contrast to scrumhalf where there’s nobody backing up Murray. Dave Kearney is a good example to the contrary though, he does pick up caps without showing much. Would Matt Healy be playing for Ireland if he were Rob’s brother? Probably.

    • Yossarian

       /  November 16, 2015

      Every school in the schools cup work on producing a 9 each year but it is hard to figure out where they go from there. It is an exceptionally difficult position to play and the skills set is so varied. It seems to be a big issue in Irish rugby as a whole. two 9’s from Ireland over last 7 Lions tours. One of which was o’Leary says it all.(courtesy of demented mole article)

      • scrumdog

         /  November 16, 2015

        The same can be said of the lack of openside flankers who have all of the skills associated with the position.

  7. leinsterlion

     /  November 16, 2015

    Watched three games of rugby over the weekend, two were utterly dire. For Munster I dont buy the weather excuse, it was dire rugby against a poor team, if they were playing against a big and menacing outfit like Sarries and played like that in those conditions and won, you’d say happy days, but its the perpetually dire Treviso they were up against. Cant really comment on Munster as regards whats wrong as I dont have the time to watch them this season, but that was a dire performance. I was questioning my sanity as I watched it. I watched the Leicester Stade game, Leicester are a team chock full of average players and a crap defence, pity the French champions turned in a typical away performance, clearly have no interest, Leicester were theirs for the taking.

    I wasted my Sunday in the RDS reliving the MOC era, I entered the twilight zone, a bad initial team selection compounded by a ten not knowing what he was doing (and looking like a second division player), whilst the better ten is played out of position and also Zane Kirchner. I honestly thought we would pip wasps who formwise and what I’d seen from them, look like a mid table premiership team with a few tidy players and Piatau, nothing more, to get hammered is eye opening as regards where we are.
    The MOCalypse still lingers at Leinster. I looked at the possession and field position stats when I got home, and it was no surprise to see we were ahead in both, but our lack of physicality in the pack and incisiveness in attack and defence from the backs ultimately killed us. Noel Reid is a nice player, but his defence and aggression are not good enough, slipped tackles due to piss poor technique, and at one stage a ball was on the deck(in the Wasps red zone) crying out for him to leap on it, yet a slow Wasps lock came from further back and a worse angle to leap on whilst Reid’s brain still computed on what he should do. Reid is not HC quality, end of story.
    Redden is done, as anyone could tell you, the bigger fear is that Racing have broken Sexton, hopefully he is going through a bad patch(see Wilko post 2003 until he moved to Toulon, or Dan Carter 2009 until this WC) He has been playing like a drain for a while, Leinster cant afford it, we dont have the players to carry him, if he doesnt snap out of it, a short term break to get back in shape would be best for all, no sense exposing him to further risk of injury, play Madigan, it cant get any worse.
    McFadden and his cement shoes were present once again, its not that he did much wrong, its more the fact he has been shot at this level going on two years at this point? Why was the clearly superior Ringrose not trusted, massive massive black mark against Leo, if you are good enough you are old enough. That bosh and offload, beautiful. Dave Kearnage continued his poor form, silly errors, no high end pace, what can you do, he has to be firing on all cylinders to be an asset, when he is off by a little bit, his deficiencies really come to the fore, it pains me to say it, but the average Dave moniker fits. Kirchner….why…just why is he a Leinster player, him being put on the outside and being easily pushed into touch sums up his Leinster career, given loads time and space, producing fuck all.
    Our backrow carried back the Schmidt malaise from the WC, being utterly dominated by Wasps. I could basically copy paste what I thought about our backrow from the Argentina game and it still rings true, no aggression power, poor at ruck time, not enough go forward, not hard enough in D etc etc, really poor unit performance, Murphy looks like he needs a break and a pre season, way off the boil.
    Second row were below average, no dog and Devin Toner is who he is at this point, wishing him to hit rucks with venom and be a proper tighthead lock is just wishful thinking at this point. Hayden Triggs didnt impact, he might be a technically good player, but he certainly is not a physical specimen judging by his brief cameo, I wonder would we have been better served bringing in Quinn Roux and trusting the youth we have?
    Front row were anonymous, Healy continued his post injury mediocre play, he’s either not fit, or the injury has done for him, fingers crossed its a fitness issue, sad to lose a player who should be in his prime and was one of the best in the world. Marshmallow Ross turned in his usual open field non performance.
    I’m exempting Richardt Strauss, Sean O’Brien and Mike McCarthy from criticism or praise due to injury, Strauss is not the player he was but all three are essential cogs, McCarthy being our no1 lock imo.
    Tactically you could see some nice shapes, but we didn’t have the power to make it work, or it was easily read and wound up on the gainline by Wasps. We didnt suck in defenders at all, and as a result we never actually challenged Wasps on the overlap, rucks were dire, forwards carrying was dire, scrum was ok, lineout was ok. Leo is learning, but this is no where near good enough or sharp enough. The emanations from the camp of everything being hunky dory and sharp etc etc this soon into the season is a very worrying sign, we had two years of that crap from the players during the MOC era, dont treat the fans like mugs, clearly we are off the boil, say something substantive or nothing.

    • SportingBench

       /  November 16, 2015

      I thought this last season too for a while but part of the problem at Leinster is surely mental fatigue. That team has been together too long and something needs to change to re-energise them. That can be a new coach who shakes things up (MO’C didn’t take the squad with him nor did he create a strong spirit in the camp against him, worst of all worlds) or new playing staff, packing some existing under achievers or never quite justified their reputation players off or even perhaps some sort of off field distraction that can unify and galvanise them. Like the last two seasons they are playing on memory rather than with purpose and passion. Sure, some of the players might now be past their very best but there is enough paper talent for Leinster to be much more competitive on all fronts. Serious thought has to be given to how Leinster shake the malaise both for their own sake and for the benefit of the Ireland team as you can’t play rubbish for your provenance and become a world beater for your country the next week (unless you are Sam Warburton of course). At this point (and it is not being wise after the fact) the last thing this squad needed was a few old faces to return and a lot of continuity in the coaching box.

    • Bill H

       /  November 17, 2015

      Scrum was a real worry aswell, well below standard. Agree with most of the rest. Very poor team selection and then the team that was selected were embarrassing on the pitch. Expect more of the same against Bath!

  8. D6W

     /  November 16, 2015

    What about Marmion?

  9. andrew097

     /  November 16, 2015

    It’s the little things that give you away. Kearneys unlucky slip was not unlucky he was thinking more about the chase then gathering the ball when he slipped. A few miniuts later his opposite number was so focused on gathering first rather then thinking what’s next. The kick was cleaned up.
    Leinsters big players didn’t deliver to often good play was ruined by a kick out on the full sloppy pick up or a badly thrown two meter pass. It’s the old Irish story good play ruined by poor executio, to steal a phrase from the world of classical music tuition ” good technique liberates talent”

    Ps
    As for Boss coaching I can’t imagine him coaching a new generation of scrum halfs to play differently from the way he is playing, otherwise he would not be playing the way he is.

    • curates_egg

       /  November 16, 2015

      Boss was the best performing scrum half in Ireland from 2010-12. He’s past it now but he was essentially first choice at Leinster when Leinster were flying.

    • leinsterlion

       /  November 16, 2015

      As for Boss coaching I can’t imagine him coaching a new generation of scrum halfs to play differently from the way he is playing, otherwise he would not be playing the way he is.

      Ah you cant say that, its like looking at a shot Peyton Manning now and seeing the silhouette of the player he has become, and saying “he cant coach based on how he is playing, hes awful”. Boss was never a Peyton Manning of 9’s, but he has been around the block, played in enough high level set ups and played at a high enough level to impart some wisdom.

      • Chat to a few lads from Nure – they are raving about him. I know its only AIL and all, but he is trying to make them think while they are playing – be less mechanical and try and play what is in front of you. It sounds like what we want to be doing …

        And for the record – coaches need not necessarily be like how they played. Exhibit A: Saint-Andre.

    • That’d be my read on it also. Dave’s following the ball, then, instead of keeping his mind on his business, he has a glance over his shoulder to see what’s lurking behind him, and when he looks for the ball again, it’s taken an unlucky bounce, which sends him on his ear. Trying to do two things at the same time doesn’t work. p.s. @Whiff – luvved the mention of the blankies in the dugout in Siberia. Hints of Stalingrad. Obviously a moment to be cherished!!!!

  10. Lop12

     /  November 16, 2015

    I had the misfortune to need to travel from Cork to Limerick on a mid week day last week. Not surprised the crowds are poor!

    Firstly you need to negotiate (took me 45 mins, not sure how long would be at weekend)

    Works are taking place on the N20 Cork/ Limerick Rd at Mourneabbey until Thurs 17th December

    A stop/ go system is in place for works on the N20 Cork/ Limerick Rd at Mourneabbey from 9am to 5pm daily until Fri 4th Dec. Expect delays.

    then you face into these (id lost the will to live by now)

    Temporary traffic lights in place on N20 Cork/ Limerick Rd at Buttevant until March 2016 for works

    Temporary traffic lights are in place on the N20 Cork/ Limerick Rd through Buttevant until at least March 2016 for ongoing works. These works have been causing long delays and motorists are advised to divert off the N20 at Lisballyhea or New Twopothouse and travel via Doneraile in order to avoid those long delays.

    then face into Saturday limerick traffic…

    Not excusing the woeful crowd and obviously a huge amount of it is performance driven. but it isn’t easy get there from a lot of Co Cork that is for sure

    • Lop12

       /  November 16, 2015

      apologies for poor formatting there couldn’t change it.

  11. Lop12

     /  November 16, 2015

    Mentioned a few times here that Toulouse were forced to play. Think was published this morning that they were given option and chose to play (conditional on La Marselleise being played before the game apparently!) ..cant find link on twitter now.

  12. Deeply disappointed by the fact that after all the years of Thornley and Van Esbeck, I haven’t seen a single usage of the famous “you could throw a blanket over them” in reference to Connacht’s dugout.

  13. Bit harsh on Mulholland to start against the Dragons. Irish players for yonks have been notoriously star struck at representative level and given how long Kiss has been involved in Irish rugby, one would have thought that he would have sprung him from the bench. That being said the manner of the selection looked like Kiss was sending a message to the previous incumbents. Not sure that weakness in the backrow is as big a problem as being made out, more discipline around the breakdown. Robbie Diacks last game being the most recent example. The problems in the Ulster backrow appear to be missing a World Class work rate and Leadership to set a standard that whatever young backrows are in the squad can aspire to. Now that Les is putting down the new the standards seen in the defence at the last game. It will be interesting to see how much of an improvement he can make in the backrow or will it be a season too early?

  14. scrumdog

     /  November 16, 2015

    How about bringing back the Irish Trial when the inter-pros are wrapped up? Would it not provide J.S. & Co. the opportunity to see various combinations at work…particularly at mid-field and backrow? We’ve been playing at least two consecutive RWC’s without a genuine openside! We field two blindside flankers and an 8 at International level when if anything it should be two Sevens and an 8. This imposes limitations on any team.

    • Daire

       /  November 20, 2015

      Totally agree. That is why I wanted to see a backrow of O’Brien, Henry and Heaslip for Ireland.
      Not because Henry is a better player than O’Mahoney, but because he is at least an openside. And O’Brien is a better player than both so he can’t be the one to make way.

  15. andrew097

     /  November 17, 2015

    It’s death to a back line for a scrum half to take a few steps then pass, it just closes down the space available out wide. The speed of the ball into the out halfs hands is not dependent on passing but how quickly a scrum half recognises its available to play and the time it leves his hand. Stringer used to play the ball a meter in front of every other scrum half.
    As for kicking it was noticable that Wasps kicked for touch then reset their defence up the pitch it even gives them a chance to compete for the ball at the line out. we tend to kick up the field often poorly chased, the result is you have given away hard won ball instently for no gain as the pressure just comes back on a defence where there is a greater chance of mismatches.
    Taking steps and kicking away possesion has been a feature of Boss,s game over the last few seasons. Passing before you take a few steps or even passing off the ground is a fairly standard scrum half training drill. In this day of instant video feed back it’s hard to believe it has not been corrected. If you cant see the flaw in your own game hard to see how he could see that in others. Maybe he is great but it’s a big flaw to miss and not correct

  16. McShane

     /  November 17, 2015

    Just to clarify, Toulouse had the option of not playing. They weren’t forced to play just because the game took place outside of France.
    http://www.bbc.com/sport/rugby-union/34790698

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