Crusaders 2020 Champions

The Crusaders have won the recently set up Super Rugby competition in New Zealand involving all 5 New Zealand based franchises, Waikato Chiefs, Auckland Blues, Otago Highlanders and the Wellington Hurricanes.

Rugby in New Zealand came back before elsewhere across the World. It has been a fantastic competition with extremely close finishes with the Chiefs unfortunately coming out on the end of 9 defeats under new coach Warren Gatland. On a number of occasions the Chiefs were only beaten by less than 10 points.

Back to the Crusaders who had a bye in week one and then went on to win 8 of their next 9 games only being beaten by the Hurricanes. They face the Blues this weekend in the final round of the current competition with plenty of discussions ongoing as to the way rugby will look south of the equator in 2021.

Scott Robertson has been in charge over the last 4 years winning the Super Rugby title 2 times and now adding the Aoteroa title to the ever growing collection in his impressive CV. Mark Jones ex Wales and Scarlets wing has been added to the coaching team replacing Ronan O Gara who moved to take over at La Rochelle.

When Steve Hansen left the New Zealand job, Scott Robertson was surely in with a shout of taking the big job and did go through the interview process but Ian Foster signed a deal through to France 2023. Scott Robertson will hope to continue to build on the recent achievements and build a stronger squad for 2021 and beyond.

Looking at the strength of the first 23 names on their team sheet players like Bryn Hall, Jack Goodhue , Richie Mo’unga , Sevu Reece and Will Jordan there play a open brand of rugby based on solid forward play and strong defence and then you add their backs into the equation you have a receipt for success !!

They have one game left against the Blues this weekend and Scott Robertson has already told his squad he wants to end the year on a high note by beating the Blues but you can be sure that Beauden Barrett will want to end his first season with a win before he moves to play in the Top League in Japan with Suntory Sungoliath, he will still be free to play with New Zealand if called upon while playing in Japan.

There is always going to be questions as to who the best club side in the World is and on both sides of the equator many will vouch for their chosen side but it would be an interesting clash between current European Champions Saracens and Crusaders. Only time will tell as to whether there is a real appetite for a clash between the two best sides North or South of the equator….

 

 

Lions 2021 Tour Go Ahead

The Lions tour of 2021 to South Africa has been penciled in to still go ahead in July and August 2021.  There will be 5 warm up games and 3 Tests with a very tight schedule between each game of 3 and 4 days.

It will be a very tough couple of weeks given how long the new season will be after the suspension of this year’s season where each season will restart over the next few weeks and then you’ll have a short break before the new season will begin.

It is great to see the organisers putting a plan in place as 2021 will be an extremely busy 12 months for sport as a large number of sporting events will take place across 2021, namely the European Championships, Olympics and The Ryder Cup that will now take place after being cancelled in 2020 due to the ongoing Covid 19 emergency.

The chief executive of South African rugby Jurie Roux hopes that the Tour will take place as scheduled in 2021 but one suspects that health experts along with the South African Government will have an impact on that but let’s hope that the original date that all concerned are hoping to use will work out and it will be all systems go in 12 months time.

There will be big opportunities for many players to put down early markers at the end of this campaign and all the way through the new season that will kick off at varying times over the next few months.

Many players have said that they have enjoyed the time off but now want to get back to training and then hopefully playing games in the near future. Warren Gatland has had a tough run in the new Super Rugby Aotearoa thus far and will want to finish that competition with a few wins before he will set his sights on South Africa in 2021.

Over the previous 3 tours, it’s a loss in 2009, a Test series win in 2013 and a draw in 2017 in New Zealand. Gatland will want to end his time with The Lions with a 2nd Test Series win after he masterminded the Test Series win in 2013.

Supporters will want to know exact details for certain as many will want to plan their trip accordingly. Sky will broadcast a 7th straight Tour after securing the broadcast rights.

Now that the current season will come to an end in the next few weeks and then the new campaign will kick into gear after a few short weeks of a break and then it will be full on until the Tour of 2021…

Tyler Bleyendaal

Tyler Bleyendaal today confirmed his retirement from rugby after the battle to return from his latest injury proved futile.

This guy signed for Munster under Rob Penney and unfortunately he was injured while still on the books of Canterbury Crusaders and this injury meant his start with Munster was delayed by many months but when he was fit he played some cracking rugby be it at out half or inside centre where he stepped in many times in his 62 games in the red of Munster.

He won honours with New Zealand at under 20 level in 2009 and would have been right in the reckoning for higher honourers in New Zealand had it not been for a certain number 10 named Dan Carter, what happened to him I wonder !!

Looking at his greatest game in red, it has to be vs Glasgow in 2016 a week on from the death of Anthony Foley in the Champions Cup. He scored a try that will be long remembered by everyone there that day. The performance that day was driven by anger and a desire to win that is tough to match. He also landed a key conversion vs Edinburgh last year in the quarter final in Murrayfield.

These memories will last a life time and will be a great keepsake for Tyler who is still short of his 30th birthday in a few day’s time. Munster has lost two 10’s in the last few years prematurely with Johnny Holland having to retire before his 25th birthday in 2017. For Munster they will now have Joey Carbery, JJ Hanrahan, Jake Flannery and Jack Crowley to fight for the Munster 10 jersey when rugby returns.

Tyler I am sure will look back fondly on his time in red although injury did disrupt his 5 years with Munster. He may now look to get involved in coaching with Munster or at club level where he has worked with Garryowen in recent times.

The world is his oyster now and with a young family to look after you can be sure he will choose wisely is his next career move. From this author I’d like to wish Tyler and his family all the best with whatever is next in life !! Thank you for all your efforts in Red since your debut in 2015.

Audrey Fulham Interview

Hi Audrey, It’s a pleasure to get the chance to chat to you,

Hi Cian, lovely to chat to you too!

You are a Leinster Branch rugby referee, how did you start out on that journey ?

I began playing straight out of college as I had focused solely on studying for so long I found myself with very few enjoyable hobbies. So I began playing tag rugby, which turned into playing 15’s and then from there I found myself inching towards possibly refereeing. I studied law in Maynooth University so I already found myself well equipped for reciting laws, spotting infringements and figuring out the appropriate steps to take following. I saw Joy Neville at the World Rugby awards in 2017 she won Referee of the Year and I thought it was amazing. I then saw Leinster Rugby had advertised a workshop specifically for female referees so I went along and from there I began my journey.

Did you play the game before picking up the whistle ?

I played for 2 full seasons with Tallaght Rugby club. The women’s team is young but growing every year, and we played in a development league. It was great to be a part of a team and definitely tough to go from a team environment to refereeing and generally being on my own a lot.

What has been the reaction when you have turned up to referee games ?

Sometimes I get a few comments about being a female or my looks which I know my male counterparts wouldn’t receive, but other than that it’s been generally positive. I’ve learned that when people make comments about my gender that it doesn’t come from a place of malice, but rather they just aren’t used to seeing many female referees and it’s new to them.

What sort of support is available to you through the branch or IRFU to deal with tough situations ?

The support within the Leinster branch and IRFU is amazing. There’s always someone on the other end of the phone to call and chat through a match. If you’re feeling you made a bad decision or even if it’s something like not being able to get positioning right at the breakdown there are so many people to speak to who will help you through this step by step. When I first began refereeing I was approached by Su Carty, a fellow referee, and she took me under her wing. She’s been a fantastic support throughout my entire time refereeing. We have had hour long phone calls discussing plans for my next games and I feel so lucky to have someone like her as a mentor.

What prompted you to begin refereeing ?

When I saw Joy Neville winning Referee of the Year I was so inspired! I mentioned it to a couple of people from my rugby club in Tallaght and the mens head coach Tom Leigh told me to go for it and a few others told me about the female referee workshop!

What type of referee are you, by the book or do you referee each game on its merits ?

I like to take each match on it’s on merits but you need to have some sort of structure and refereeing style. My main aim for each match is to make sure that each player is safe and that there is a good competition. You want to be consistent as well as approachable on the pitch. It’s also important to enjoy yourself and let the players play in good spirits. If your attitude towards the players is negative or unapproachable then you might lose that game management and respect of the players, so I try to stay as positive as I can before, during and after each match.

Which referee if any would you watch the way he or she deals with players on the field of play ?

I love watching videos on Youtube of referees speaking with players! I think George Clancy is fantastic, and Ben Whitehouse speaking to John Muldoon in a Munster v Connacht game in 2015 was brilliant. There are so many examples I could give but I have definitely tried to adopt these mannerisms and soundbites into my own match if appropriate. There is always a nice way of saying thing’s to players or captains and I think it’s important to keep that standard up at all times.

Rugby seems to have an advantage over other sports in the way players speak to referee’s, what are your own personal feelings on this ?

Rugby is definitely one of the most progressive and forward thinking sports in the world and I think a big part of that is respect for the referee at every match. I don’t think I would have it in me to referee soccer or GAA as things can get quite heated on the pitch!

What do you hope to achieve as a referee, would you have aspirations to go as far as you can or would staying local suit you ?

I always say to aim high and you might just reach under that, so I will say that I want to referee a World Cup final, so if that means I referee AIL consistently for a number of years then I would consider that a major win! I am working towards being put on IPAS at the moment which is a 1-2 year period of refereeing in all 4 provinces and being assessed by the 4 provincial associations. If they’re happy with you, you can get put up to the national panel, and that’s my aim at the moment.

What sort of fitness level do need to maintain throughout the year ?

A lot of referees have different levels of fitness, and depending what level you want to referee at this can change. For the last 2 years I have trained with other referees in Terenure Rugby Club run by Paul Haycock twice a week. Then a match, possibly two matches, on the weekend. In between that you would still go to the gym or go for a walk, jog, run. During our training sessions in Terenure we would do a lot of long distance training, speed training, positioning and we would always discuss situations we found ourselves in in our matches from the weekend.

Lastly Audrey, what are your hopes for 2020 ?

My hopes for 2020 have had to be changed due to the pandemic but in general I just want to stay fit and healthy, eat well and look after my mental health too. I’m not sure when rugby will be back at a domestic level, but if it’s this year, I would hope that I can use my learning points from this season and work on them.

Thank you so much for taking the time out to chat with me…..

New Questions :

How are things for you and your family in the current situation during the COVID 19 Pandemic ?

We are all safe and healthy, fortunately. I am currently living with my boyfriend in his parents house to save for a deposit for a house so I can’t say I’m ever lonely! I miss my own family a lot during this, particularly my little sister who is immunocompromised and is cocooning at the moment. However, I know they’re home safe and I will see them all when things go back to normal!

How did your exams go ?

My exams have been postponed to August 2020 which is good as I was finding it difficult to get any study done when there’s a global pandemic. I am so grateful they have been moved to a later date and my heart goes out to those sitting their Leaving Cert’s this year, as well as one of my best friends who is currently sitting final year exams in Trinity College and I can see the stress she is under, no one could have ever predicted thing would be this way  

How do you keep structure on your day’s ?

Well I’m working from home at the moment Monday to Friday so that helps a lot in keeping that structure. I think getting yourself dressed and putting on a pair of shoes, just to walk into a different room in the house to work really helps get you motivated and focused for the day. I’m also doing some home work outs a couple of times per week, there’s a lot of great content on Youtube and social media a the moment to help those at home all day. It’s strange because I always say that one of my favourite things to do is “to do nothing”, like just relax. I was always on the go, prior to the pandemic, with training, matches, workshops, area meetings etc. that I never get the opportunity to just sit and watch movies/TV shows or play the playstation, so I’m thinking of this as a positive, rather than a negative, in getting to enjoy simple pleasures.

 

Thanks Cian! Sorry for the delay!

Thanks

 

I just felt it only right and proper to put a quick note of thanks together to all who took the time out to wish me a Happy Birthday. Over the last 2 months life as we know it has changed and we will stay with the “new normal” for another while.

Many families haven’t been in a position to meet each other face to face for weeks and from May 18th, the restrictions put in place by the Government and National Public Health Emergency Team will begin to be eased but for the next two weeks we as a nation will need to continue with the restrictions for another while.

Turning 30 in Lockdown wasn’t too bad as with apps like Skype, Face time, House Party etc it is very easy to stay in touch with people. Of course just sending a text or making a phone call is just as effective.

This period is extremely tough for people, this situation doesn’t just affect one age group and so everyone needs to do what they can to help themselves and others. This is a strange time at the moment but also it is a time for people to take stock of their lives and priorities for the future. Maybe make that call or text you wanted to but never got around to doing…

It is a very testing time for so many and as I have so often said when I have written many pieces about my life and the struggles I have faced. There will be light at the end of the tunnel… It is much easier stay in touch with people in 2020 than it was when other crisis happened throughout the world.

Make the most of this time, get to know people by talking to them, we will get through this and get out the far side of it… To anyone who has lost a loved out over the last while, my condolences to you all.

We have always been seen as a resilient nation, it really is time to show that quality and that is easy to write down but let’s just see out this testing time and we will be hopefully be out the far side of all of this soon…. PS To anyone who will celebrate a birthday at this time, from me Happy Birthday !!!

30 and Not Out

I have been thinking of writing this piece for a few years. Why did I decide to end my life when I reach the age of 30? Don’t ask me to explain why I picked the age of 30 to end my life. This has been an ongoing issue for me. This plan hasn’t been spoken about because I have kept it hidden over the past few years.

I will turn 30 in May of next year, which is a huge achievement is given I was given the last rites in May 1990 shortly after I was born. I have always struggled in silence and even since 2014 I still stay silent on certain topics. I don’t speak about certain stuff and I am wondering over the last few hours why I have this plan still in my mind.

I do feel like I should talk to a professional about this situation and I will take steps to this end in the next few days. I am content at the moment but I still have that voice at the back of my mind telling me to act on my feelings.

I won’t act on them but the issues I face are very real and are not just made up in my head. I am trying extremely hard to move past the events of September 2016 and all that is associated with that.

Talking has helped me hugely in the past few years and also opening up might just be the key to figuring out why this plan has been in my head in the past couple of years. I haven’t told my closest confidents like Orlagh , Marion , Betty etc.

I am looking for advice about this. I am still blocking out my feelings on certain subjects and this might just be affecting me in daily life. I have this mad notion that me ending my life would solve all of my problems and also close that worst few years in the lives of my immediate family. This really isn’t a runner I know but I still have those feelings but I just hope now that I have written it down move past these feelings.

My 30TH Birthday is this day next week. I was in a very different head space the day I wrote this. The world has been turned upside down over the past few months due to Covid 19. I as I said have thought long and hard about releasing this piece given how over 1,000 families are in mourning for their family members who have lost their lives in the last while. My sympathies to you all.

This is not a pity me piece, it is just a brutally honest account of what it is like to suffer in silence. I always turn to writing at this time. Look I wrote this and was fully aware of what going through with this plan would mean for myself.

Since I penned this I have found some meaning in my life and as I look ahead to my 30th   I hope that this is my last piece I will put together like this.  Some day’s I will be up for the fight and more day’s that will not happen but those days are becoming very few are far between…

Thank you to everyone that has ever helped me out in anyway, I can’t thank everyone individually as I be hear for all day.  I hope everyone is safe and well and to all our health care workers. Keep up the good work !!

I know I had promised many people if I felt bad I’d be in touch straight away but I haven’t done enough of that But 12 months on I am getting much better at speaking up..

Emma Switch

  Hi Emma, It was great to make contact with you on Twitter…     Can you tell me how you got started out as a session wrestler ? I was yet working as a dominatrix for about 6 ,7 years before I started with mixed wrestling Because I have a muscular body more and more people began to ask me for mixed wrestling. One day a client told me he had a mixed wrestling company that was the first thing I heard about it. and I didn’t t give it much attention. About a year later I started bjj and was very excited about it Started to advertise for the mixed wrestling sessions and tour across europe. Now most of my sessions are mixed wrestling or muscle worship.       How do you keep yourself in shape ? I train every day, often twice a day (gym + bjj) and eat healthy I don’t believe in diets, if you can’t do it forever it s kind of senseless in my opinion happily I love healthy things   so yes lots of vegetables, oats ,salads, eggs I am vegetarian for 31 year well ,5 years  the following 16 years I started to eat fish once in a while no pizza no fries no sauces or prepared dishes or desserts so yes just clean things.           What sort of diet if any do you follow ? I train every day, often twice a day (gym + bjj) and eat healthy I don’t believe in diets, if you can’t do it forever it s kind of senseless in my opinion happily I love healthy things   so yes lots f vegetables, oats ,salads, eggs i m vegetarian for 31 year well ,5 years  the following 16 i started to eat fish once in a while no pizza no fries no sauces or prepared dishes or desserts   so yes just clean things   Do you mainly do work at home or do you travel to other places ? I am living in Romania where there basically are no clients at all, so I am dependent on travel i usually travel a week every  month  or 3 weeks when it s intercontinental    Can you tell me three things that people will not know about you ? I used to be a painter and hope to find the time and peace someday to return to that for those that didn’t t know yet, I am moving to the US this year so for the people who had me on their wishlist in EU, don’t wait too long and I have very cute burbs, someone told me to mention 🙂       Lastly Emma, what are the hopes for the future ? Professionally i want to work with lot more other sessionwrestlers and companies than I had the chance so far   but I hope a move will  definitely help with that as well   I hope to compete again and live happily ever after   Thank you for taking time out to chat to me in these strange times !!        

Brave New World

I have defiantly thought long and hard before putting these thoughts down on paper. The world as we know it has changed and when all of this ends one wonders what our “new reality” will be… What our new priorities will be or will we just return to the habits we had pre Corona Virus !!

What the restrictions have done is most likely make people sit back and take note of the World around us, the sounds of birds etc. I am in the category of essential workers and so I have doing a number of small tasks. It has been lovely and unnerving in equal measure to literally be the only one on the street early in the morning.

It certainly makes me think as I move around of what is happening in the world and of all those who are on the front line doing such a sterling job keeping us safe. All of health workers, retail staff and others that are working on a daily basis to keep Ireland going in the middle of this pandemic. We have a large number of health care workers living here in the village and also in the surrounding areas that are working long hours to preserve life. I salute you all…

Also for those people who are struggling, whether that is missing family, colleagues, friends whoever just pick up the phone and make that call or send that text you were threatening to always send… We are apart but technology allows us to be in family’s front rooms and even though it certainly isn’t the same as being there but  Face Time, Whatsapp, Skype and House Party allow people to stay connected…

When this is all said and done when ever that will be, there will be one hell of a party… But for now we just need to heed the current restrictions and look after each other by staying apart !!

Also I will turn 30 just before the current sets of restrictions are lifted on the 5th of May so I will be marking my 30th nice and quietly….

British and Irish Lions 2001 to 2017

My British and Irish Team from 2001 to 2017

15 Matt Perry

14 Tommy Bowe

13 Brian O Driscoll

12 Jamie Roberts

11 Jason Robinson

10 Jonathan Sexton

9 Rob Howley

8 Scott Quinnell

7 David Wallace

6 Richard Hill

5 Paul O Connell

4 Martin Johnson

3 Tadgh Furlong

2 Keith Wood

1 Tom Smith

Here is my British and Irish Lions team from 2001 in Australia up to the 2017 tour of New Zealand. I know I have left many big names out like Wilkinson but you can’t select 30 players on the field you can only pick 15…. It would be interesting to see what changes people would make !!!

My Irish XV from 2000 to 2020

My Ireland XV – 2000 to 2020

Like my Munster XV from earlier this week, I will now try and select an Irish XV from the past 20 years that has seen unprecedented success for the national team under Gatland, O’Sullivan, Kidney and Joe Schmidt. This XV will not be to everyone liking but that what is meant to happen, it is meant to spark debate.

15 Rob Kearney

14 Tommy Bowe

13 Brian O Driscoll

12 Gordon D’arcy

11 Keith Earls

10 Ronan O Gara

9 Peter Stringer

8 Anthony Foley

7 David Wallace

6 Sean O Brien

5 Paul O Connell

4 Donnacha Ryan

3 Mike Ross

2 Keith Wood

1 Cian Healy

Here is the XV  I would select from the past 20 years…..