Munster- Semi Final Time Again

Munster are in another Champions Cup Semi Final, It’s a 12th semi final appearance since 1995. This squad with a few additions is the same one that has progressed to three successive semi finals since 2016. The time is now to progress further than the Semi Final as a number of this Munster squad are in the prime of their careers and will want to get to a first European Final since 2008.

Players like Peter O Mahony, Conor Murray and CJ Stander have achieved plenty in the green of Ireland over the last few years but there is still no trophy in club colours for these guys and the Semi Final against Saracens in three weeks time represents another shot at a team that has the Indian sign over Munster in the last few meetings.

Saracens will feel they will walk this Semi Final, all the talk even at this stage is that they will get past Munster with ease down in Coventry at 3.15pm on the 21st of April. Yes the Munster performances in recent times would suggest that they have it all to do in this game but this group has it within them to put all missed opportunities behind them. The talk from certain personalities seemed to suggest that the trophy could nearly have been handed out after their impressive 56-27 win over Glasgow.

They did it well without Owen Farrell who welcomed his 1st child into the world last weekend. Alex Goode stepped into the 10 role as he has done many times in the last few years with Max Malins getting a spot on the bench. They have the strength in depth to win a third Champions Cup but Munster will have a shot at stopping that particular dream and the manner of the loss in 2016 in Dublin will prove that Munster have work to do but having Conor Murray available this time round unlike 2014 and 2016 will help the Munster cause.

Although the availability of Joey Carbery remains to be seen and he will be carefully managed in the next few weeks with an eye on getting him fit and ready for the game in the Ricoh Arena.

Tyler Bleyendaal came on early last weekend and landed two big kicks at goal and rescued a wayward Munster line out to help in setting up the 2nd Keith Earls try. If Joey Carbery does not make the Semi, Tyler looks to be in pole position to get the out half slot if Carbery is ruled out.

It’s seems like Saracens have one foot in the final already and the Munster squad have plenty of material already that they can use the adorn the wall of the dressing room because a large share of people have Saracens pencilled in to play in St James Park on May 18th.

Munster will need to summon up there powers that saw them squeak past Edinburgh last Saturday. Not many will be in the camp, but sport doesn’t all run smoothly and Munster will need an 80 minute performance and not just play for short periods as they have done in the last two Semi Finals.

Johan Van Graan and his coaching team has had their honeymoon period and the time is now to show they have learned those hard worn lessons of the past two seasons. Will Munster make a first European Final since the win in 08, the game in Coventry on the 21st will tell a lot. It will be 11 years after Munster last played there against Saracens on that afternoon they won through 18-16….  A two point win would do the trick in a few weeks. Roll on Saracens in a few weeks time…

Time for this Munster squad to come of age and not just tell us about lessons learned and we will be back in 12 months time… 2019 can be the year that this squad puts those heart breaking losses to bed and start putting wins in the columns alongside these Semi Finals…..

Carbery Commits Long Term To Munster

Joey Carbery has committed his long term future to Munster after signing a two year extension to his original 2 year deal which would have ended in June 2020. His commitment to signing a new deal has to be commended as many people may have assumed his the original deal would have been like an unofficial “loan deal” which would have seen him re join Leinster in 2020.

Leinster though have been proactive since he joined Munster bringing Ciaran Frawley into the senior set up and also with Ireland under 20s out half Harry Byrne waiting in the wings watching his brother Ross doing special things in the blue of Leinster and also the green of Ireland having been capped in November 2018. The rewards are there if you work hard enough and both Ciaran Frawley and Ross Byrne are putting in that graft.

Carbery will know that his performances have been scrutinised more closely since his move south and he has taken to the Munster 10 jersey like a duck to water performing very well against Exeter away and Gloucester away in January. Since then injury has intervened and he is still on course to return to the Munster 10 shirt against Edinburgh in BT Murrayfield on Saturday.

With Connacht’s Jack Carty getting capped during the Six Nations this year , Ireland are lining up a number of guys to challenge Jonathan Sexton and Joey Carbery will know his performance levels will need to stay on an upward curve if he is the fight off the genuine competition from Carty and Ross Byrne.

He has struck up a good rapport with Alby Mathewson and Conor Murray when he has been partnered by either of them. This has helped him gain confidence and if he is declared fit to be involved this week, it will be a major boost to Munster who will want to get to another semi final with the hope of progressing beyond that stage this season if they manage to get past Edinburgh then the fitness of Joey Carbery will be key to the success or failure of that particular goal.

Munster will of course now need to use the experience of Bleyendaal and Carbery to bring Bill Johnston and others like Jake Flannery and Ben Healy who were involved most recently with the successful Ireland under 20s side that won a Grand Slam on Welsh soil through to get capped at A or senior level over the next few seasons by Munster. Munster have a squad that should now be in a position to challenge for the major honors again after a few years of near misses and Joey Carbery will be key to making those dreams a reality….

Champions Cup / Challenge Cup Preview

This weekend, all four provinces go into quarter final action with Connacht facing Sale Sharks on Friday evening in the Challenge Cup quarter finals. This will be a great chance for Connacht to get into a European Semi Final and go one better than a few years ago when Toulon beat them in Galway to get through to take on Cardiff Blues in the 2014 Challenge Cup Final.

There first choice half back pairing of Kieran Marmion and Jack Carty are in good form having returned from Ireland duty with a spring in there step. That will not be enough to win them this game that is away from home. Men like Ultan Dillane, James Cannon and Gavin Thornbury will be important because it will take a huge effort from the forwards to see Connacht home in this fixture.

Looking at their performances in Europe, they seem to have reserved their best performances until the European weeks this year. This game won’t be easy although they have already gone to Manchester and let’s hope that experience will stand to them on Friday evening. For both teams they will know by winning this competition that they will get a ticket to the Champions Cup for season 2019/2020.

Andy Friend has done a good job and has Connacht playing really well and although some performances in the Pro 14 have left a lot to be desired, the Challenge Cup campaign has brought some real quality rugby to the fore. This weekend will be a real test of how far Andy Friend has brought this squad this season. A win in Manchester will show how far that they have gone this year. Connacht to win by 3….

Munster take on familiar foes Edinburgh this Saturday at 12.45pm in BT Murrayfield. It is the opening quarter final in this year’s Champions Cup and will hopefully see the return of many Irish Internationals to the Munster 23 in their quest to reach yet another European Semi Final. They have reached this stage in the last few season’s only to be well beaten in those Semi Finals by Saracens and Racing 92 last year. Many of the players have said they don’t want to experience another loss at this stage in 2019 after those two defeats.

Time now for Munster to take that faithful step and hopefully having Joey Carbery back fit will help them to find a way past a gritty Edinburgh side that will have a vocal home support behind them but Munster will be able to count on the red army who will travel in big numbers this weekend in the hope that there side will get past Edinburgh and make another Semi Final that could yet be in the Aviva Stadium depending on the result of the 2nd quarter final at 3.15 between Saracens and Glasgow Warriors. If Glasgow win that tie then Munster will have home advantage in Dublin if they beat Edinburgh.

Edinburgh haven’t been here where this Munster team has been here in the last two years and will hope that experience will help them defeat Edinburgh who won against Leinster at home on Friday evening, good preparation for the upcoming challenge vs Munster.

Munster to win by between 3 and 5 points.

Leinster and Ulster head to the Aviva Stadium this weekend to renew hostilities after the 2012 Heineken Cup Final, Ulster will want to redress that balance and although they won’t be many players on the Ulster side, they will be hell bent on winning this one and with John Cooney and Billy Burns at half back they will fancy taking on the duo of Luke Mc Grath and Jonathan Sexton.

It’s another mini Irish audition with the World Cup in firm focus. All road will lead to the European Semi Finals and with what happened during the 6 Nations, it’s great to see all four Irish sides in action this coming weekend. We will have least 1 side in the quarter finals across both competitions but let’s dream for a second and imagine that 3 out of the 4 sides will get through although one will lose out between Ulster and Leinster…. Roll on 7.45pm on Friday for Connacht to kick start the Quarter Finals weekend…

Ireland vs Wales Review

So the rare chances of a Championship with victory over Wales have been empathically dismantled by a focused and disciplined Welsh side led by Alun Wyn Jones who today won his third Grand Slam. This game started with another early try this time set up by Gareth Anscombe and finished by Hadleigh Parkes both of whom won a Super Rugby title in 2013 with the Chiefs alongside Ireland’s inside centre this afternoon Bundee Aki.

Ireland will look back on this game when they regroup for a de brief either tomorrow or Monday they will realise that this game will taken plenty of time to recover from, Wales were full value for the 25-7 score line at full time but the Irish discipline and tactical know how that we have been so used to seeing in the past two years in particular were so sorely lacking this afternoon.

Our much vaunted half pack pairing will need to go into the video review with helmets on as they extremely poor this afternoon, yes they were not alone in that regard as others will have to look very deep for reasons as to why this display was so poor and abject. Poor kicking, extremely poor handling, yes the roof was opened and left opened but this constant theme that the weather was going to play a major factor is a non runner as far as I am concerned as we play most of our sports in this part of the world in the rain and the wind is also a big factor but this theory that you needed the roof  to be closed to help Ireland and Wales produce a quality spectacle.

Well Wales certainly answered that question by producing a performance that was much stronger and more clinical than even the England game in the Principality Stadium. The early injury to George North may have been a blessing in disguise as this then meant that Dan Biggar came into the game very early on and Gareth Anscombe moved to full back and this arguably strengthened the Welsh side and as soon as Biggar entered the fray his was able to kick the corners and distribute the ball to willing carriers throughout the Welsh side.

The back row of Navidi, Tipuric and Moriarty out played their counterparts O Mahony, Sean O Brien and CJ Stander, all three were British and Irish Lions in the last two tours. Ireland were very poor at set piece and they also had some very poor in attack with our half backs faltering and the question will need to asked why both Murray and Sexton were left on until the 70th and 73rd minute when Marmion and Carty could and maybe should have been introduced earlier in the game. Those two were not alone, others like Rory Best should have been called ashore earlier than they were.

Wales were fully deserving of their victory this afternoon and with that win Warren Gatland will end his time in charge of Wales in the Six Nations like it began with a Grand Slam win. Joe Schmidt will also end his time in charge of Ireland in the Six Nations having not beaten Wales in Cardiff something I am sure that will bug him when he goes through his own personal de brief next week.

The manner of this loss will sting for a few months but there won’t be time to dwell for the players as all the Irish squad will be back at their provincial bases from Tuesday. For the Irish management team, next week will be very tough to stomach when they will go through an extremely long and hard process of sifting through the debris of the past 8 weeks and trying to pick up the pieces of what has been a mixed Championship that will see Ireland finish 3rd in the table behind Wales and England.

The preparations for the World Cup will be very interesting to say the least at this stage. The players will have to focus on club matters for the latter part of the season where they will be battling for European honours and domestic honours also. The two defeats have rocked the confidence of everyone, players, coaches, supporters and it will take serious powers of concentration and ambition to look each other in the eye and be honest with each other and know that today and on the opening evening against England that this wasn’t good enough to do anything special at the World Cup in September…..

Congrats to Champions Wales who completed the Grand Slam by beating Ireland……

My Team Of the 2019 Six Nations is :

15 Liam Williams – Wales

14 Jonny May – England

13 Jonathan Davies – Wales

12  Hadleigh Parkes – Wales

11 Keith Earls – Ireland

10 Owen Farrell – England

9 Gareth Davies – Wales

8 Billy Vunipola – England

7 Justin Tipuric – Wales

6 Josh Navidi – Wales

5 Alun Wyn Jones – Wales

4 James Ryan – Ireland

3 Tadgh Furlong – Ireland

2 Ken Owens – Wales

1 Rob Evans – Wales – 9 Welsh, 3 Irish, 3 English in the team of the year.

Drinking at Sports Events

Last weekend I was at Ireland vs. France in the Aviva Stadium, I made my way to my seat around an hour before kickoff nothing strange with that but as kick off approached and everybody made it in time for the 3pm kickoff, and then it began the constant in and out to the bar and then in and out to the toilet.

I realise that a sports event is much more than the duration of a match or whatever the event is, people want to be entertained for the admission price alone. But if you’re going to dispatch someone out to the bar every 15 or 20 minutes to refill your glass, either stay outside or leave the Stadium altogether. There is nothing worse than having to move out of the way to let a patron in and out on multiple occasions to go and refill a glass or empty themselves of the excesses of the afternoon.

Yes I am a non drinker so will never have to wonder what it’s like to want a drink during a game. I am not for one minute complaining about parents who may need a child to the toilet but the majority over the age of 18, It is a constant stream of people and that can annoy people no end not just myself but having asked a few people this week about this situation they have all said it can be a major distraction to the given event.

I realise that people will want a drink while they watch the match but how you can enjoy anything when you’re constantly wondering when will I get my next pint, I think it is then time to decide to go to the game or just stay in the Bar. Not a big decision to make but the majority of punters would appreciate not having to nearly sit on a swivel chair and having to constantly move in and out.

I appeal to everyone to please be on time to the games and please oh please keep the movements to an absolute minimum and come and enjoy the sporting event. If you can’t keep away from the bar, just stay at home……

Ireland Vs Wales 2019

Come 2.45pm, all the talking can stop and all players and fans can focus on the game that will either see Wales win a third Grand Slam under Warren Gatland or Ireland will be in with a shout of holding on to the crown won last March in Twickenham. Of course in the event of a draw, neither side will win the title.

This game is evenly balanced after Ireland regained there mojo after defeat to England in Dublin on the opening weekend. Ireland don’t have a great record under Joe Schmidt in Cardiff and will want to tick that box off in Schmidt’s final 6 Nations game as Ireland Head Coach.

Gatland will want to do likewise as he brings down the curtain on 12 years as Wales supremo in the 6 Nations.

Of course he will have a World Cup to contest for in less than 6 months time in Japan. Having guided Wales to Semi Final in 2011, he will want to go a step further in Japan. The focus won’t be on Japan, it will be on Ireland who pose quite a big obstacle to Wales winning another Grand Slam under Gatland’s watch.

Unlike 2005, I doubt Ireland will buckle under the pressure of a Grand Slam decider for Wales. Unlike 12 months ago all the expectancy will be on Wales in front of an expectant home crowd. Ireland will feel this is a free shot given how unlikely it may be that they will win the Championship this year. Yes it can still be done but results will need to go their way for it to happen. Joe Schmidt would love nothing more than to spoil the Welsh party on his final 6 Nations trip to Cardiff as Ireland boss.

The side he has selected may be in a position to do that and although Iain Henderson will not be involved Tadgh Beirne has been selected alongside Ireland’s player of the Championship in my mind James Ryan who will call the line out this week. What Devin Toner’s injury has done is it a put certain players in a place where they need to perform knowing he will not be involved to help them out of a sticky situation if it arises.

Jack Carty has been rewarded with a place on the bench after his impressive half an hour last Sunday. Even if Joey Carbery had been in the shake up for selection I think Jack Carty would still be worthy of a spot in the 23.

Again we have seen three men vying to take Jonathan Sexton’s spot namely Carbery, Ross Byrne and Jack Carty. It is great to see this situation crop up as for many years it was O’Gara and he alone. Again the work on the depth chart has come up trumps for Schmidt.

Have no doubt that Jack Carty will do an adequate job if called on early this weekend. He will have experience will inside him with Conor Murray and Kieran Marmion who is also on the bench this week. This weekend is a last chance to regain the crown won in such empathic fashion last year and 12 months on, the time is upon the 23 men selected to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and deny Wales the party they seem hell bent on having and although the likelihood with an Irish win would mean Eddie Jones’s England would sneak in to nick the title with a win against Scotland in Twickenham.

Plenty of rugby to be played before the 5pm kick off in the Calcutta Cup game and there will be thrills and spills in Cardiff before the action in Twickenham. To the Irish 20s, It will be full steam ahead to see can they claim a Grand Slam of their own in Colwyn Bay at 7.05pm on Friday evening. Noel Mc Namara’s men will have Harry Byrne and Craig Casey at half back and that slection alone could be key to see where this game will be won and lost….

The Irish women will hope to end a most disappointing campaign with a much needed win on Sunday at 1.30pm. The side will need to hit top gear or somewhere close to see off this Welsh side but Adam Griggs will want his charges to go out and finish this Championship on a positive note….

Ireland Vs France Review 2019

Last night Ireland tasted defeat for the 3rd time in this year’s 6 Nations campaign and off the back of the 47-17 loss, Ireland will now need to beat Wales away from home to stand any hope of finishing in 3rd place in the Championship. The game started well with Ireland replying to an early French try but Ireland got back into the game with an unconverted Ciara Griffin try. It was tit for tat for the opening 30 minutes with Ireland showing up well in close quarters and putting in a strong shift up front.

Unfortunately for Ireland they could not keep playing the game at the same pace as the French whose ball handling skills were a sight to behold when they got into the open spaces with 2018 World Player of the year nominee Jessy Tremouliere playing a key role in keeping France moving forward and moving the Irish defence around and then in turn the French scrum was rock solid and put Ireland on the back foot from the start.

For Ireland, players like captain Ciara Griffin, Claire Molloy, Sene Naoupu and Enya Breen who made her first Six Nations start at outside centre all stood up and were counted even when things were beginning to get away from Ireland in the 2nd half.

The tough questions will again be asked about the basics of taking out the player and then pass but there can be no disputing how strong France were throughout the field and even with the heavy hitting pair of Lena Corsin and Safie N’diaye not in the 23, France still had plenty to spare and they will do everything in their final home fixture and finish in 2nd spot behind England who may now go on and complete the Grand Slam against Scotland away next weekend.

For Ireland, focus will now turn to Wales away next week and the players will have a final chance to find a performance to end the Championship on a positive note.

This Championship has been mixed but one final chance at picking up a morale boosting win is still there and this week although it will be hard to keep up the positive feeling around the squad but that is just what Adam Griggs, Jeff Carter and Mike Ross will need to do and let’s hope they can take out the frustrations of the last two performances out on Wales who beat Ireland in the World Cup in 2017……

Ireland Vs France 2019

Ireland will look to get there stuttering Women’s Six Nations campaign back on track this evening in Donnybrook at 7pm live on RTE. They face France who will be looking to pick up a win that will keep them in touch with Championship leaders England.

For Ireland, it will be about find the right blend in attack and defence that will help them to defeat France who have made a few changes coming into this game and have welcomed back Jessy Tremouliere who has been out since last Autumn with a leg injury.

Ireland have made a few changes to the XV that took Italy last time out with Claire Mc Laughlin coming into the side at number 8 in place of Anna Caplice who has a spot on the bench. Enya Breen replaces the unfortunate Michelle Claffey at outside centre and Sene Naoupu will need to help her younger college through a tough 80 minutes.

The Irish side can look back to 2017 for inspiration where an aggressive display in defence led to an Irish win by a tight margin. This campaign has been mixed with a heavy loss to England in week 1, then followed by a morale boosting win over Scotland and then a tight contest in Italy which Italy deservedly won 29-27. So It is time for Ireland to find form and no better way then to beat France in Donnybrook with a game against Wales to come in the Final week.

Over the last few seasons, a number of new players have been blooded to replace many of the 2013 Grand Slam side and also the winning members of the 2015 Championship winning side. A few players like Jenny Murphy may make a re appearance having stepped away from rugby after the 2017 World Cup on home soil.

This evening is a massive chance to marry both defence and attack and see will that be enough to gain a much needed win. All roads lead to Donnybrook at 7pm this evening….

Our Under 20s have gone under the radar and secured the Six Nations title with a week to spare after a tight 31-29 win in Irish Independent Park. Having beaten England in week 1, people sat up and took note of this squad that has made a number of changes from last year.

Harry Byrne who wasn’t at 10 last night due to injury has been playing really well but he deputy last night Ben Healy who is a Garryowen player having won the Munster Schools Cup last year with Glenstal made himself feel really at home and did a great job in attacking the French defence when called upon.

His partner in crime Craig Casey was like a Duracell bunny last night he was doing everything, tackling, snipping, passing and box kicking. Hopefully the injury that ended his evening with 10 minutes remaining isn’t serious enough to rule him out of the Welsh game in Colwyn Bay next Friday.

Noel Mc Namara has done a great job getting this side to play heads up rugby and they will now want to finish the job they started by beating England in week 1. This team has benefitted from a few sessions with the senior team and you could see that a number of times last night in the scrum and also in close quarters where the Irish defence held up the French maul numerous times including in the final minute that brought the game to a successful finish.

Time now, for the 20s to try and finish the job next Friday evening and complete the first Grand Slam at 20s level since 2007 when Cian Healy, Simon Zebo and Peter O Mahony were members of the last side to win the Grand Slam at this level….

All the best to Noel Mc Namara and his charges next week….

Proposed New World League

This week, we have seen talk of a proposed World League that will include Japan and the USA that could begin in 2020. It will not include the pacific nations, Samoa, Tonga and Fiji and others. The proposals would see the new competition set in stone for a ten year period. It may also include promotion and relegation to give sides like Russia, Georgia, Japan and others the opportunity to claim a place in this proposed new competition.

Earlier this week the International Players Council held a conference call that saw 9 captains from leading Test sides join chairman Jonathan Sexton in questioning the reality of setting up this competition. The competition is supposed to take place during the Test windows in November and December with the Semi Finals and Final in the June Test window.

The International Players Council have expressed concern that an already tight schedule will get even tighter and tougher if this proposal gets the green light. The Pacific Rugby Players Welfare has spoken of their dismay at the idea of this competition which may isolate teams like Samoa, Fiji, Tonga and more.

This idea is based around helping to grow the game and to also bring it to a bigger and wider Television audience in untapped Television markets in Japan and the USA. It also says any revenue made from it will be dispersed throughout all rugby playing nations.

Another down side will be the loss of interest in the World Cup which takes place every 4 years. It would mean more games for the so called bigger nations and would also see other sides missing out on these proposed new revenue streams.

Let’s hope that all sides will come together and work out a plan to bring all the relevant parties to the negotiating table and hopefully this whole situation can be brought to a successful conclusion. In my opinion this idea seems flawed and has been rushed to get it passed the winning post.

This proposal could have dire consequences for the game of Rugby if the issues highlighted by some of the World’s best players are not taken seriously, after all these men are currently playing the game in the current climate.

For now though, it is back to playing for all these players whether it’s with the club, or country. Time also for World Rugby to sit up and really take notice of the issues for and against this new competition being set in stone and not alone that the ring fencing of it if it was to happen would do more harm than good and will have consequences that will dictate where the game will go over the next ten or so years.

A lot of thinking and talking to be done by all sides before this situation will hopefully reach a suitable conclusion for all the stakeholders, those inside and outside the supposed chosen few……

Ireland vs Italy -2019 Review

Rome wasn’t built in a day, this statement is very apt given the performance in the Stadio Olympico where Ireland won 26-16 but it was the manner on the victory that has people asking legitimate questions in the aftermath of the game.

How has a team that conquered all before them in 2018, begun to falter and even though they were only beaten once in the last three games in this season’s Six Nations, the questions that one loss has stirred up is incredible. As late as last November this team was being hailed as a real contender to knock New Zealand of their perch next September at the World Cup in Japan.

Now all the work that has been done since the last World Cup in 2015 is being questioned, now we see people coming out to question the squad depth, the attacking game plan and so on.  Sean Cronin started his 1st Six Nations game yesterday and his line out throwing was poor but he can’t just be hung out to dry, the lifters have to take some reasonability in that area also. This particular facet can be fixed in the next two weeks and even Sean Cronin’s replacement Niall Scannell missed his man with his second throw when he came on.

When you don’t have a solid set piece it makes life very tough and the Irish game plan has been based around this aspect being extremely solid since Schmidt came on board and will need to be solid gain so Ireland will again need to go back to basics before the French arrive here. Like the win over Scotland, it wasn’t pretty but they got the win and can try and move on now from here.

Both Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton should have been replaced earlier than they were purely to give Jack Carty and John Cooney the opportunity to see could the unlock the Italian defence in that final 20 minutes. We constantly hear the game in now a 23 man or 30 man game and the guys in the squad need the chance to see can they effect the result.

The fact that Joey Carbery was injured last week in the build up didn’t help matters and probably put Schmidt’s team selection on ice for another time because Sexton and Murray will start against France in Dublin looking to find form ahead of Cooney and Carty. Carty will keep his spot on the bench as Carbery could be ruled out of contention for the French game at least with a hamstring injury. This will open the door for Carty or even Ross Byrne if he performs well with Leinster next weekend.

The attack will have questions to answer in the final two weeks of the Championship against France and Wales in Cardiff. The attack faltered because of lapses in concentration and poor passing nothing more or less again it can be solved and for all the soul searching that has be called for, Ireland still created a few good chances that but for poor passing would have been finished off and would all the questioned be asked  have been asked ??

Time now for this Irish set up to reset the clock heading into the final two games of this Championship and let’s see what happens, they still have an outside shot at the Championship, it’s a long shot given the opposition that Ireland will face and that the Irish record in Cardiff under Schmidt has been patchy to say the least. France in Dublin will be tough given how well France did against Scotland.

This Championship has brought up many questions but let’s not forget this year is long and the old say of “form is temporary, Class is permanent” It is quite important to remember that the World Cup is a few months off yet and the squad has time and the players to fix the problems. Put it another way, win the next two games and who will remember the last few weeks. That particular job may be tricky at the moment but it would just be the tonic to atone for the supposed fall off in form.

Murray and Sexton will come good again, they have too much quality not to and need to be allowed to and in the mean time, others need to be trusted to do the job if required in the next few weeks…..

The Irish women will be bitterly disappointed to have been defeated but they could not live with the power and pace of the Italian attack whose two centres where terrific and although it was a first loss to Italy at this level, the loss could have happened 12 months ago also but this squad like the men will have two weeks to find the solutions to the problems created.

The ladies will need to put this defeat to one side and move on. 3rd place is still up for grabs….

The 20s did well winning 34-14 and will be confident going back to Irish Independent Park to take on France. This side is on course for a Grand Slam and will look to continue the good run with a win over France on home soil. Keep an eye on this side coached by Noel Mc Namara. They play an open brand of rugby….