A Look Ahead- An Alternative XV For the 2020 Six Nations

As the dust begins to settle on another World Cup Quarter Final exit for Ireland, people will now be looking at the new regime under new head coach Andy Farrell who will be assisted by Mike Catt, Simon Easterby and Richie Murphy.

Many Irish players who didn’t get a look in under Joe Schmidt will feel that the slate is wiped clean under new coach Andy Farrell. People may also think that the regime might not change too much under Farrell who has been Ireland’s forwards coach since 2016.

But if things are to change within Irish rugby it is important that all available players are looked at over the next few months to try and rebuild the shattered confidence after the heavy loss to New Zealand.

It will take all 31 players time to get over the manner of the defeat but for some of the 31 while this weekend in Round 4 of the Pro 14 will be too soon you can be sure that the interprovincial derbies in Round 6 will see all 31 back in action with some guys returning in round 5 depending on how many minutes were played by each individual in Japan.

Munster will benefit straight away as will Connacht with men like Chris Farrell, John Ryan and Jack Carty all sure to be back in contention ahead of Round 5.

As I mentioned it will take time for all the players to recover from this loss both mentally and physically but with the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup on the horizon they won’t have much time to dwell on what might have been…..

Looking to the 2020 Six Nations in February 2020, Ireland are certain to have fresh blood in the first 23 to play Scotland , I look at the possible 23 that Andy Farrell may look to include…

15 Andrew Conway – Munster

14 Jacob Stockdale – Ulster

13 Gary Ringrose – Leinster

12 Chris Farrell – Munster

11 Matt Healy – Connacht

10 Joey Carbery – Munster

9  Conor Murray – Munster

8 Max Deegan – Leinster

7 Josh Van Der Flier – Leinster

6 Tadgh Beirne – Munster

5 James Ryan – Leinster, Captain

4 Iain Henderson – Ulster

3 Tadgh Furlong – Leinster

2 Niall Scannell – Munster

1 Eric O Sullivan – Ulster

 

16  Ronan Kelliher – Leinster

17 Dave Kilcoyne – Munster

18 Andrew Porter – Leinster

19  Ultan Dillane – Connacht

20 CJ Stander – Munster

21 Luke Mc Grath – Leinster

22 Ross Byrne – Leinster

23 Jordan Larmour – Leinster

Here is one selection I would go by, I know I have left out certain players but there would be room for those players in the wider squad. Just trying to show an alternative XV to what played last Saturday.

 

 

 

World Cup Quarter Final 2019

Ireland will play New Zealand in the 2nd World Cup quarter final this Saturday at 11.15am. Ireland have faced New Zealand 4 times under Joe Schmidt and three times since the 2015 World Cup, winning twice in 2016 and 2018.

The questions of the Irish campaign have started up again after mixed performances against the 3 opposing teams in Pool A. The manner of the display against both Samoa and Scotland gave rise to some real positivity but the loss to Japan quelled some of that good mood.

New Zealand will be well warned of what to expect when facing Ireland and after being beaten by Ireland in November 2018 New Zealand will be going full throttle to make sure Ireland don’t register a 3rd win over New Zealand under Joe Schmidt. It could be Joe Schmidt’s final game at Ireland head coach if the result does not work out so you can be certain he will have 1 or 2 tricks up his sleeve that supporters will not have seen before.

Steve Hansen has indicated he make try and “trick” Schmidt with some moves we haven’t seen before. For an Irish rugby player the sight of an England shirt usually does enough to get people up for the challenge and you can put that famous shirt with the silver fern on that list.

It is another chance for Ireland to make a World Cup Semi Final where they are pencilled into face either England or Australia… Here is the XV I would select to play New Zealand to play in the Quarter Final….

15 Andrew Conway

14 Keith Earls

13 Gary Ringrose

12 Robbie Henshaw

11 Jacob Stockdale

10 Jonathan Sexton

9 Conor Murray

8 CJ Stander

7 Josh Van Der Flier

6 Tadgh Beirne

5 James Ryan

4 Iain Henderson

3 Tadgh Furlong

2 Niall Scannell

1 Cian Healy

16 Sean Cronin

17 Dave Kilcoyne

18 Andrew Porter

19 Rhys Ruddock

20 Peter O Mahony

21 Luke Mc Grath

22 Joey Carbery

23 Chris Farrell

World Cup 2019- Quarter Final Time

The World Cup Quarter Final line up is complete, England will play Australia at 8.15am next Saturday and then in the second quarter final Ireland take on New Zealand at 11.15am. Sunday will see Wales vs France at 8.15am and hosts Japan play South Africa at 11.15am.

Ireland had hoped if they had qualified to be playing next Sunday against either South Africa or New Zealand and after the 19-12 loss to Japan it was felt that the most likely opponent was going to be 3 times winners New Zealand. Since the crushing loss to Argentina in Cardiff 4 years ago, the hope was that Joe Schmidt would firstly sign up to lead the Ireland charge and then after he did so it was hoped he could make Ireland hard to beat and finally be in a position to challenge for at the very least a Semi Final spot in Japan.

He has achieved that goal and has also hit some big markers in the 4 years since that big quarter final loss, winning in South Africa in 2016, beating New Zealand twice in late 2016 and again in 2018. He has also masterminded a Grand Slam win in 2018.

These are the markers with which the 2019 World Cup campaign was going to be judged and after a poor 2019 it looked as if the whole positivity surrounding the Ireland camp from 2018 was going to count for very little but Ireland managed to make a 7th quarter final and the hope of making a first semi final will be severely tested by the triple winners New Zealand who were winners in 1987,2011 and 2015.

So far in this campaign, the Irish performances have not been what is required to show they are true contenders but now that they are in another quarter final, all the talk can stop and they can fully focus on a shot at the world champions who they have faced 4 times since the 2015 World Cup winning twice.

With the involvement of Bundee Aki to be decided tomorrow the other 30 players can fully focus on the task at hand with the likes of Chris Farrell on standby to step in should Bundee Aki miss out through suspension.

New Zealand will be well rested having had there last pool game called off due to the typhoon that struck in Japan this weekend.

They will also know that they haven’t had it all their own way in recent times against Ireland and with the possibility of this game being Joe Schmidt’s final game in charge of Ireland after 6 years at the helm that will spur Ireland on to hopefully do what they have so far failed to do in the other 7 World Cup’s since 1987 and that is make a first Semi Final and then who knows what may happen but for now, it’s all eyes on the Quarter Final next Saturday at 11.15am Irish time.

Maurice Hartery – Limerick Man and Northampton Saints Team Manager

Maurice Hartery

Hi Maurice, It’s great to get the opportunity to speak to you about your recent move to take up the Team Manager role with Northampton Saints.

How did the move to Northampton come about ?

I saw the post advertised on Twitter said I would chance handing in my CV. Got called for an interview and got the job. It came as a surprise really but it was something I was actively looking at.

 

What role’s did you fulfil with the clubs you were involved with here at home ?

I had been manager of Thomond RFC for 4 seasons as well as Ireland clubs for 3 seasons. I also managed Munster U18 for a season and was Manager of SCT in Castletroy for 2 years.

 

When did Northampton approach you about taking on the Manager role ?

As mentioned above they didn’t approach me, I put in my CV and got called for an interview, which I did in South Africa when I was on honeymoon. When I arrived back from South Africa, they flew me over to Franklin’s Gardens to meet the relevant people.

 

Do you work closely with the coaching team including head coach Chris Boyd ?

I would work very closely with Chris, more so than the coaching team. He is an unbelievably nice man and is very laid back and easy to get on with.

 

Can you explain your role on match day ?

Most of my work is done before matchday to be honest. I’ll come in maybe 3 hours before Kick Off, make sure the dressing room is correct and everything is in order. The players will start to arrive about 1pm and from then on it’s helping them in anyway I can. The main one is ensuring that their tickets are available for collect by their family members so they aren’t receiving calls taking their focus. Once the match starts I am in charge of the technical area and making substitutions and ensuring all rules are followed.

What sort of qualifications would a professional team like Northampton look for when recruiting a member of their staff ?

Like all businesses they would be looking for the most suitable person available. There is a young staff in place right across the club which is excellent.

How have your family settled in to your new surroundings ?

I have moved over on my own for the time being. My wife flies over for all the home games or close away games. It is a massive burden on her but I will try to get back to limerick when I can later on in the year.

 

During the week, what do your day’s look like ?

During the off-season it was crazy. You could be pulled left, right and centre with small issues but now that the season has started it is more structured. I try to get in for 7.30am and from there it depends on the daily schedule. I try to get on the field for training every day if possible.

What has the reaction been like here at home when people heard you were taking up the position of Northampton Saints Team Manager ?

Shock was the main reaction. But in fairness people have been unbelievably nice with congratulations etc. castletroy college were fantastic and allowed me take the opportunity by granting me a career break.

 

What do you hope to achieve in your time with Northampton ?

Enjoy it. I can’t control any results on the pitch but working in an environment like Pro Rugby is a privilege and I am learning new things every day.

 

Lastly Maurice, For anyone who may read this and think they may want to follow in your footsteps. Have you any advice ?

Be yourself. I have had this question a lot since people heard the news but if you are doing this job you are more than likely organised and outgoing anyway. The key is just be yourself and enjoy it.

Thank you for taking the time out to chat to me Maurice. All the very best for season 2019/2020….

 

 

Ireland vs Russia WC Match 3

Ireland managed to beat Russia 35-0 after stumbling for well over 60 minutes. This win will do nothing to convince the masses of Ireland true credentials to finally make a Semi Final or even for the bravest of Irish fans a place in the World Cup Final.

The late withdrawal of Joey Carbery will also have people concerned although Jack Carty’s cameo in the 2nd 40 minutes will ease concerns over both Sexton and Carbery as Sexton was replaced at half time although kicking coach Richie Murphy has said it was a tactical change rather than an enforced change.

The hope that this game would lift the gloom after the loss to Japan was mistaken as this performance will have done little to help the squad. The lack of a Plan B was missing again today as on a few occasions when keeping the ball in hand looked to be the better option players like Andrew Conway, Rob Kearney and late on Jordan Larmour all needlessly kicked away possession when holding onto the ball and trying to attack Russia with width looked to be an easier option.

Russia for their part played very well although being niled would say it wasn’t the best day at the office but twice they had a man in the sin bin and only conceded one try over the 20 minutes they were down to 14 men.

The most concerning aspect was the real lack of imagination in attack, numerous times the ball was knocked on or lost in contact which will disappoint Joe Schmidt and the lack of imagination is again a issue there is a real sense of de ja vu with this aspect of play and we are now in a situation where there is no more time to fix this before the competition as we are 3 games into the Pool.

On the plus side Ireland did get the required 5 points to push clear at the top of the Pool and are now on 11 points with a +52 points difference and now the focus will be back on Japan when they play Samoa on Saturday morning. Japan will look to regain control of the Pool with a bonus point win that will push them onto either 13 or 14 points heading into the final round of games where Ireland face Samoa on Saturday week with Japan facing Scotland both games will be extremely interesting as to the outcome of the Pool.

For Ireland, it will be a extended break of 9 days before they play Samoa where a few players will hope that there knocks clear up with Robbie Henshaw the only member of the travelling 31 still looking for match minutes and it may also see others players join up as recently arrived Jordi Murphy may yet be on his way home depending on the severity of his rib injury. Men like Tommy O Donnell or Sean Reidy may look to dust off the passport as they may yet receive the call to head for Japan.

Here is the XV I would select to play Samoa in 9 days time. I realise players may not make it due to injury or something else cropping up over the next week and a half.

15 Andrew Conway

14 Keith Earls

13 Gary Ringrose

12 Robbie Henshaw

11 Jacob Stockdale

10 Jonathan Sexton

9 Conor Murray

8 CJ Stander

7 Josh Van Der Flier

6 Peter O Mahony

5 James Ryan

4 Iain Henderson

3 Tadgh Furlong

2 Niall Scannell

1 Cian Healy

16 Sean Cronin

17 Dave Kilcoyne

18 Andrew Porter

19 Tadgh Beirne

20 Rhys Ruddock

21 Luke Mc Grath

22 Jack Carty

23 Chris Farrell

Ireland vs Japan 2019 WC

Ireland had it all after winning against Scotland last weekend but the 19-12 loss to hosts Japan has put the cat among the pigeons for the rest of the Pool with Ireland facing two games against Russia next Thursday and then Samoa the following Saturday to see can they qualify for the quarter finals of Japan 2019.

They will need at least the full 10 points from the two games to get to 16 points and then they will have to wait and see where that will leave them as Japan will now fancy their chances of winning this Pool after their composed 19-12 win.

Japan played this game at 100 miles an hour but they always play that way so the game plan would not have been a shock to Joe Schmidt and his squad. This result was not expected but let’s be honest it just shows what will happen if you don’t perform to the required levels each time you go onto the field. The result shows the romance that is sadly lacking in modern sport is still there how even if it only happens once in a blue moon.

Ireland  played the game on their terms after the opening 25 minutes and then Ireland failed to score in the final 60 minutes and no matter the opposition you will not win most games by failing to score in 60 minutes of play.

Ireland will need two absolutely massive victories over Russia and Samoa to make certain they will not be coming home early from Japan. It is up to this squad to prove the doubters wrong and show us they can perform consistently for the final two Pool games. This result is not the end of the road but one more slip means it curtains for this World Cup.

The lack of a Plan B was again a glaring issue in this game. When Ireland needed to come up with a match saving move late on they failed to convert pressure into points.

People again pointed to a lack of leadership in the crucial final 20 minutes when Japan lead by 7.

Over the last 6 years under Joe Schmidt when the game plan has gone wrong his teams have struggled to come up with a Plan B in pressure situations and throughout 2019 Ireland have been physically matched by England, Wales and in some respects by Scotland but in only one of those games against Scotland did Ireland manage to wrestle back control. Ireland beat Scotland back in March 2019, 22-10 and last week in match one of the World Cup 27-3.

Unfortunately for Ireland it still seems that when teams match Ireland physically no matter the team they will beat Ireland as Ireland struggle to change tact and play what’s in front of them. After the disappointment of 2015, we were told that injuries would not impact on the Ireland squad again and that may turn out to be the case but the unnerving thing is that this campaign may go the same way as the previous World Cups if they don’t put in two clinical performances against both Russia and Samoa. The time for action is now and no amount of excuses will cut it this time.

This squad has had its set back and now it is time to react to the defeat because all the other sides in the Pool will feel they can capitalise on Ireland’s loss yesterday. It’s Russia next up at 11.15am on Thursday morning.

Here is the XV I would select for the Russia game :

15 Andrew Conway

14 Keith Earls

13 Gary Ringrose

12 Bundee Aki

11 Jordan Larmour

10 Jonathan Sexton

9 Luke Mc Grath

8 Jordi Murphy

7 Rhys Ruddock

6 Tadgh Beirne

5 Jean Kleyn

4 Iain Henderson

3 John Ryan

2 Niall Scannell

1 Dave Kilcoyne

16 Sean Cronin

17 Cian Healy

18 Andrew Porter

19 CJ Stander

20 Josh Van Der Flier

21 Joey Carbery

22 Jack Carty

23 Rob Kearney

 

Ireland Vs Scotland WC 2019

Ireland today started there 2019 World Cup campaign with a comprehensive 27-3 win over a Scotland side that will truly wonder did they even get off the bus before the game. Ireland went into this game after winning three of four warm up games only coming a cropper against England losing heavily 57-15. England today started their campaign with a comfortable 35-3 win over Tonga.

Back to the International Stadium in Yokohama where Ireland faced the supposed stiffest test of the group against a Scotland side looking to make it to a 2nd Semi Final after 1991. Ireland started both Andrew Conway and Jordan Larmour in the back three alongside Jacob Stockdale.

Both men started off being very shaky with Larmour off loading a ball in a tackle early on that was turned over by John Barclay and then Conway knocked on a catch but as the game wore on these two grew into the task at hand. Men like Conor Murray and his sparring partner at half back Jonathan Sexton did very well early on bringing the centre combination of Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose into play in attack and both of these men were strong in defence.

Ireland came into to today’s game with a few questions over the set piece and the non selection of Devin Toner but as has so often been the case under Joe Schmidt, Ireland had some cleaver moves lined up that saw Peter O Mahony go up for the first few line outs and then Iain Henderson took a few but they were shrewd that James Ryan only was called upon a few times as it looked likely that Scotland were set to target James Ryan as they may have felt he was the main target at line out time.

This failed to happen on so many occasions over the 80 minutes. That show’s that Ireland are being very cleaver in the video analysis room and making small tweaks to their game plans throughout the week. The performance this morning is far removed from the England game back in early August.

Some will say, it was cleaver thinking and planning in the team room and training pitch. All 23 played very well with Chris Farrell and Jack Conan being drafted in early on to replace Peter O Mahony and Bundee Aki who both failed Head Injury Assessments and will be touch and go whether they will be involved in match 2 against Japan next Saturday at 8.15am Irish time.

The Irish team will see a number of changes just to freshen things up and reintroduce a few men like Keith Earls, Rob Kearney and Robbie Henshaw if they are deemed fit to join in over the next few days. The show moves onto to face hosts Japan. The World Cup has started in strong winning fashion and they will hope to continue that winning form next week against Japan.

Here is the XV I would select to face Japan next week….

15 Andrew Conway

14 Keith Earls

13 Garry Ringrose

12 Chris Farrell

11 Jacob Stockdale

10 Jonathan Sexton

9 Conor Murray

8 Jack Conan

7 Josh Van Der Flier

6 CJ Stander

5 James Ryan

4 Iain Henderson

3 Tadgh Furlong

2 Rory Best

1 Cian Healy

16 Sean Cronin

17 Dave Kilcoyne

18 Andrew Porter

19 Tadgh Beirne

20 Rhys Ruddock

21 Luke Mc Grath

22 Jack Carty

23 Robbie Henshaw

2019 World Cup Match Day 1

Here is my XV for Ireland’s opening game of the 2019 World Cup against Scotland. I am taking into account the fact that a few of the Irish squad may not be available through injury.

15 Andrew Conway

14 Jordan Larmour

13 Gary Ringrose

12 Bundee Aki

11 Jacob Stockdale

10 Jonathan Sexton

9 Conor Murray

8 Jack Conan

7 Josh Van Der Flier

6 Peter O Mahony

5 James Ryan

4 Iain Henderson

3 Tadgh Furlong

2 Rory Best

1 Cian Healy

16 Sean Cronin

17 Dave Kilcoyne

18 Andrew Porter

19 Rhys Ruddock

20 Tadgh Beirne

21 Luke Mc Grath

22 Jack Carty

23 Chris Farrell

Here is the 23 I would select for the opening game of the 2019 World Cup for Ireland at 8.45am on Sunday morning.

5 In A Row Achieved

The mythical “5 in a row” has been achieved after Dublin beat Kerry in yesterday’s All Ireland Final replay with a 1-18 to 0-15 win at the second time of asking after a draw two weeks ago. Kilkenny and Kerry both tried to reach this magical milestone in the early 80’s for Kerry and in the late 2000’s for Kilkenny who were beaten by Liam Sheedy’s Tipperary in 2010.

What Dublin have managed to achieve is special and this group will now go down in the annals of GAA history as the first team to win the “5 in a row”.  This loss will sting in the Kingdom for a few months but when they look back on making the All Ireland Final they will realise how well the year went. It is tough to look back at this point but give it a few weeks and you will then realise how well Peter Keane and this young group did to reach the Final.

There is always next year although that won’t be any consolation at this stage, Kerry showed how well they are capable of competing but like most sides since Kerry last won the All Ireland in 2014 this Dublin team has proven to be a class apart from all contenders since 2015.

The 2nd half yesterday was very reminiscent of another team sponsored by AIG, Dublin were extremely clinical in everything they did after Eoin Murchan stroke in the opening minute of the 2nd half. The work done by Dublin in possession was a sight to behold and even though it upset the Kerry support it won’t matter to Dublin this morning as they are the All Ireland champions for a record 5th time in a row. Like Donegal in 2012 the way in which the win was achieved will only concern the beaten team.

Dublin will be thankful to key men like Stephen Cluxton, Jack Mc Caffrey, Ciaran Kilkenny, Con O Callaghan and Dean Rock all hit the right notes yesterday where in the drawn game they failed to make a telling mark in the contest. Yesterday was a different story as the much famed possession game was in full view in the 2nd half of the contest.

Jim Gavin has done very well to continue to work that was started by Pat Gilroy and Paul Caffrey. He and his management team have moulded a team with a huge work rate and appetite for success. The 5 in a row has been reached and now the clamour for the “surge for 6” will begin. Jim Gavin has said he will speak to the Dublin County Board in the near future about his own future and his management team will surely all speak to him about their own futures.

The “5 in a row” has been achieved, I am lucking to have live through a period where many sporting records have been broken, Ireland beating New Zealand, the grand slam being won and now the mythical 5 in a row has been achieved. Not since 1982 was this close to being done but now Dublin have managed it and will want to continue their impressive record into the 2020 season. For now though they can bask in the glow of their win yesterday.

For Kerry, it will take time to recover from this set back but with time they will be back to challenge again in 2020….

Life Changes 2019

It is amazing how quickly life changes, relationships and people change beyond all recognition when a big moment happens in life. You try extremely hard to return to your own self but your head and other factors stop you from doing things as you had hoped.

It has amazed me in particular how quick you lose touch with people. I have trusted more people in the last 5 years than I ever trusted in the previous 24 years. I have always been the guy to make others laugh and try to crack a joke.

Yes I seem to be Mr Serious and the look on my face seems to always suggest to people that I am in foul humour but that is so far removed from the truth in recent times. To some I may not have changed or moved on, to more I may seem like I haven’t a clue what to do with life or in life but as I have said so often before I will get there wherever there is in my own time. Again as my 29th birthday looms next week I am taking stock of where I am and where people expect you to be to keep up with the social norms of being in such and such a spot by 21, 30 and so on.

I have always done things stuff at a certain pace and in a certain way. I have given up listening to people who seem to be passing on pearls of wisdom because they feel it will benefit you in some way. I have heard so much “friendly” advice whether I wanted it or not in the last 2 and a bit years. Some decent advice but some utter crap from people who feel it is there right to fill in the void my Mam left.

I take advice from only a small number of people who have some idea of the situation I have been in since late 2016. It may also just be in my head but that is for me to figure out in time. I have spoken to so many and kept in touch with so many. I am at peace at last.

That plan of a few years ago to end my life at 30 has gone by the way side but I still think about what would happen if it did happen. Would I be missed, very doubtful from my perspective at this point but such is life.

I enjoy writing and recording but I will seriously have to think about what is really next on the agenda as I will turn 30 in 2020. I have time on my side and to use the skills already at my disposal and maybe add one or two more.

I still need time to process things in my own way and not just to suit others. I honestly feel like I make a choice and then I get advice helpful or not straight off the bat. Time to take full control of my life and drive on and not be sitting here in April 2020 writing a similar piece……