Ireland v Wales 2024 6 Nations

Ireland will take on Wales on Saturday in round 3 of the 6 Nations looking to maintain the winning start that has seen them on top of the table on 10 points. They will play Wales at 2.15pm in Dublin. Ireland may be without Hugo Keenan who has been a near ever present during Andy Farrell’s time in charge.

If he isn’t fit to play on Saturday, the smart money will see Ciaran Frawley in the 15 jersey with Jack Crowley continuing his time in Ireland’s 10 shirt. It will be interesting to see how the 23 will look when it is announced on Thursday at 2pm. Ireland will want to push on from week 2 where they defeated Italy 36-0.

Wales for their part will be looking for a first win of the campaign and will come to Dublin with nothing to lose and plenty to gain and are again of course under the care of Warren Gatland but unlike his previous tenure this period will be about building a squad and squad depth capable of competing over the next few years.

Welsh rugby is under the cosh at the moment and the WRU will want to see there national side put in strong showings to round off this year’s tournament. They will know a win is unlikely on Saturday but not impossible.

That will make them a sticky proposition on Saturday but the way Ireland have started this year you have to think they will guard against that complacency and look to put in another statement type performance from the off.

Ireland will have to make a few changes but it looks as if they will selected from a settled wider squad and that will help with disruption. Tom Ahern and Oli Jager will look to push on this week for inclusion in the 23 after solid performances this past weekend for Munster against the Scarlets.

Ireland will revert back to a 5/3 split on the bench one thinks and that will leave scope for the bench selections. Will Conor Murray come in for Craig Casey with Jamison Gibson Park likely to come back in to partner Jack Crowley. Some interesting calls but calls that Farrell isn’t afraid to make.

Wales with look to youth again on Saturday and while that may not reap immediate reward it is defiantly the long game for Ieuan Evans and the much maligned WRU board. They will know they are in the territory of kicking on if they can summon a strong performance to see can they knock Ireland off kilter and see where that will leave them at the end of the 80 minutes on Saturday.

I will select the 23 I think we will see on Saturday :

15 Ciaran Frawley

14 Calvin Nash

13 Robbie Henshaw

12 Bundee Aki

11 James Lowe

10 Jack Crowley

9 Jamison Gibson Park

8 Caelan Doris

7 Josh Van Der Flier

6 Peter O Mahony

5 Tadgh Beirne

4 Joe Mc Carthy  

3 Tadgh Furlong

2 Dan Sheehan

1 Cian Healy

16 Ronan Kelleher

17 Andrew Porter

18 Finlay Bealham

19 Ryan Baird

20 Tom Ahern

21 Conor Murray

22 Garry Ringrose

23 Jordan Larmour

Aviva Atmosphere Issues

I was at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday to see Ireland defeat Italy 36-0. The talk of the atmosphere needs to be brought up again. I know as I have seen in recent years the talk of the poor atmosphere generated at Irish rugby internationals as even with the performances of recent times of the Republic of Ireland the atmosphere generated is still very good.

I saw first-hand the issues again that a number of ex Irish internationals speak of and it needs to be urgently addressed. Of course it won’t be but something needs to be done. The constant in and out is a pain to get “refreshments” needs to be stopped and this is not just because this author is a non-drinker but I spent a share of my time moving to allow people who of course are full of apologises to come in and out.

It is clear in the emails to remind you to have your phone fully charged for access to match tickets etc in the days leading to the game that you are advised to “please remain seated until a break in play” now I understand that people will get caught short and you are also allowed to do as you please as you paid for the ticket.

This is the crux of the problem, rugby supporters are allowed alcohol unlike football fans for example who are not allowed alcohol in there seat but this needs to seriously considered by the IRFU or at least tell people drink to your hearts content on the concourse outside but once you are in, you are in and barring a toilet break no constant in and out…

It causes friction as I saw on Sunday and have seen previously, people get annoyed and then things can get heated. It won’t take much to come to some sort of compromise which will really need to be looked at.

I know it is a sport event with many people paying good money to attend and they should be allowed do as they see fit but people need to use some sort of cop on and I know too that a certain section are trying to impress clients they may have invited to the game but there are still genuine fans that would like to watch the actual game at not spend periods having to duck and weave to see the pitch or in most cases the screen.

The atmosphere was poor on Sunday and that is down to the above and also large sections of so called “fans” could not really care what is actually happening on the field of play. It isn’t just an alcohol related problem. I know these things won’t be looked into but the IRFU would do well to look into certain aspects of the overall match day experience inside the ground as the experience outside is enjoyable….

South Africa – Fresh Coaching Ticket

South Africa will have some fresh faces in their coaches box for the summer test series with two new coaches coming into the set up to support to now full time head coach Johan ”Rassie” Erasmus with Jerry Flannery and Tony Brown joining up to replace Felix Jones who is now the England defence coach and Jacques Nieneber who is now with Leinster alongside Leo Cullen for the next two years at least.

Flannery and Tony Brown have signed on until the end of the 2027 RWC which will be in Australia in 3 a half years’ time. Jerry Flannery has recently been with Harlequins and Tony Brown has spent time with Japan at the recent World Cup in France.

Both men will look to add something new to South Africa although what you can add to a double World Cup winning squad is questionable but I suppose a third straight RWC title is the aim along with a few Rugby Championships between now and 2027 wouldn’t go a miss…

Duane Vermuelan will take up a role within SA Rugby and work with Erasmus and his now completed coaching ticket to set the course and stall out for the next few years.

The director of Rugby role will be made redundant but you can be sure SA Rugby won’t forget it if the right person becomes available and they see fit to re-introduce the role. Erasmus will report direct to the SA chief executive from now on.

From an Irish perspective it will be interesting to see how Mr Flannery can work his mind to stop Ireland in two games in July in SA. Munster as an organisation will see a large number of coaches that held varying roles over the past 10 to 12 years with the club in new positions in the International game.

Flannery with SA, Jones with England, Jason Holland is with Scott Robertson in NZ and as has been suggested Stephen Larkham could yet feature in an Australian coaches box with Joe Schmidt. So as the 6 Nations head to round 2 a number of other sides are getting themselves geared for action later in 2024….

2024 Six Nations

Ireland began their 2024 Six Nations by beating France in Marseille last Friday evening winning 38-17. It was a strong performance that of course was not perfect but I feel you’ll never really get that perfect performance even in victory. Ireland went into last Friday not knowing what was ahead after defeat to New Zealand last October at the RWC in a tight tussle 29-28.

With the dawn of a new campaign means it is time to put to bed any ill feelings of previous games. Of course as we all know It was the first time since November 2009 barring injury that Ireland were without Jonathan Sexton with Munster’s Jack Crowley given his chance to start a 6 nations game for the first time !! Over the course of the 80 minutes he showed he can handle the pressure and that bodes well for the rest of this Championship.

Ireland started well and led 17-10 at the break and one feels that lead could have been more and that will mean that Andy Farrell will look for more from his charges this week leading to a home game against Italy on Sunday at 3pm.

Italy lost 27-24 in Rome last weekend to England and they will know they had a real opportunity to get that elusive win over England but Gonzalo Quesada and his coaches will have been heartened by the finish of the game with Italy finishing with a flourish with Monty Ioane crossing for a well-earned try late on that Tommaso Allen converted.

Italy come to Dublin buoyed by that strong finish but Ireland have their own agenda and will look to push on after the victory in France. As is always the case what type of team Andy Farrell selects will be interesting to watch. A few changes will be expected but wholesale change is not the order of the day.

Trying to build new combinations might just see Craig Casey come in to partner Munster team mate Jack Crowley or Ciaran Frawley may get his chance to come in steer the ship from the beginning having seen game time from the bench late on last weekend. My money would be on Craig Casey coming in with Jamison Gibson Park or Conor Murray on the bench along with Frawley.

Continuity is very important so I would expect minimal changes with rotation in the front row, Cian Healy in with Andrew Porter dropping to the bench or Jeremy Loughman coming onto the bench in support of Healy. Ireland do need to develop the next generation of young props and that is ironic as I name Cian Healy and the ripe old age of 36 in place of Andrew Porter but that is simply the job of others to push ahead of Healy at Leinster and by others in the other three provinces.

Ireland may look to a different centre partnership for the game but we shall see as the talk is that Garry Ringrose will again miss out through injury but it is a chance to find another outside centre to try and challenge Ringrose in the short to medium term….

I will now select my 23 to face Italy in the first of three home fixtures in this Championship…

15 Ciaran Frawley

14 Calvin Nash

13 Robbie Henshaw

12 Bundee Aki

11 James Lowe

10 Jack Crowley

9 Craig Casey

8 Caelan Doris

7 Nick Timoney

6 Peter O Mahony

5 James Ryan

4 Joe Mc Carthy

3 Finlay Bealham

2 Dan Sheehan

1 Cian Healy

16 Ronan Kelleher

17 Jeremy Loughman

18 Tom O Toole

19 Tadgh Beirne

20 Ryan Baird

21 Jamison Gibson Park

22 Stuart Mc Closkey

23 Jordan Larmour

My Ireland XV to face France

My Team to face France in this weekend’s Six Nations Opener

15 Hugo Keenan

14 Jacob Stockdale

13 Garry Ringrose

12 Robbie Henshaw

11 James Lowe

10 Jack Crowley

 9 Jamison Gibson Park

8 Caelan Doris

7 Josh Van Der Flier

6 Peter O Mahony

5 James Ryan

4 Joe Mc Carthy

3 Tadgh Furlong

2 Dan Sheehan

1 Andrew Porter

16 Ronan Kelleher

17 Cian Healy

18 Tom O Toole

19 Tadgh Beirne

20 Ryan Baird

21 Conor Murray

22 Ciaran Frawley

23 Bundee Aki

Here is the team I would select for Friday night in Marseille in round one of this year’s 6 Nations. This campaign is set fair with 3 home games against Italy, Wales and the final round against Scotland…. It is time to defend the 6 Nations title won in stunning fashion on home soil against England.

Carbery leaves Munster for pastures new

Joey Carbery will leave Munster at the end of the season after 6 years in red. He has worn the red jersey 56 times scoring 477 points to date and most likely will add another few appearances before he departs for a new opportunity in June. He will leave Munster after injury disrupted tenure.

He signed with much talk and fanfare back in 2018 with the 18/19 season being by far and away his best in red. His performance away to Gloucester in the Champions Cup will be long remembered as he scored a try and help put Andrew Conway for one of his three tries that evening.

As I mention he signed with the hope he could really challenge Jonathan Sexton for the Ireland 10 jersey at that stage. He was selected multiple times by Leinster at full back with Sexton continuing at 10.

The move to Munster was seen as a real chance to allow him to flourish at out half and not having to shift from out half to full back. He has won 37 caps with Ireland winning his first cap in 2016. He came off the bench in Chicago when Ireland defeated New Zealand for the first time in their history and was also in the squad in the summer of 2022 when Ireland won a test series in New Zealand 2-1.

He was injured prior to the 2019 World Cup and although he went to that World Cup he never fully recovered from the injury and since that time he has had an unfortunate time with injury. He has had arm, wrist and ankle injuries.

But when he was fit he showed real quality. It will go down as a career in green as defiantly promised much but for injury to nearly always rob him of the chance to put in a consistent run of games after that 18/19 season.

We do not know the destination of his next move and I am sure much speculation will dictate the next few days along with tributes etc. Like RG Snyman, he will still have a part to play for the second half of the season. With two Champions Cup games and then in February with the resumption of the URC he will have a pivotal role with Jack Crowley more than likely away on 6 Nations duty.

To Joey, firstly thank you for everything in green, blue and red since bursting onto the scene in 2016. All the best to you with what might be next for you……

6 Nations Training Squad

Forwards – Cian Healy, Andrew Porter, Denis Buckley – LH

Ronan Kelleher, Dan Sheehan, Dave Heffernan – Hooker

Tadgh Furlong, Tom O Toole, Finlay Bealham – TH

Tadgh Beirne, James Ryan, Darragh Murray, Joe Mc Carthy – SR

Tom Ahern, Josh Van Der Flier, Jack Conan, John Hodnett, Caelan Doris, Cian Prendergast, Nick Timoney- BR/No.8

Backs- Caelan Blade, Craig Casey, Jamison Gibson Park- SH

Jack Crowley, Ciaran Frawley, JJ Hanrahan- FH

Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, Robbie Henshaw, Antoine Frisch, Stuart Mc Closkey- Centres

Robert Balcounne, Shane Daly, Jacob Stockdale, Jimmy O Brien, Hugo Keenan, Will Addison- Back Three/FB.

Here is a training squad I would select for the 2024 6 Nations. There is room of course to interchange players off the back of the final two rounds of the Champions Cup. The URC takes a break until the middle of February which gives certain players two games to push for inclusion in Andy Farrell’s plans.

Snyman-Destination Unknown

So, it has emerged by chance or by design and that Leinster is the supposed destination of double World Cup winning Lock RG Snyman, initial reports a few weeks back linked the lock with a move to Bath to link up with Johan Van Graan but now the focus has shifted to the east with Leinster apparently in the market for reinforcements in the second row.

Jason Jenkins is apparently off for a new challenge at the end of the current year. Of course this is still only speculation and we have been here before with Keith Earls supposedly off to join Saracens back in 2018 only for him to sign fresh terms with the IRFU. If it does come to pass that Snyman makes the move to Leinster. It will continue the trend of players switching sides.

The likes of Trevor Hogan, Paul Wallace, Brian O Meara, Stephen Keogh and more recently Joey Carbery have made the move from Munster to Leinster or vice versa. Rugby is a short career and given the rotten luck that Snyman has had with injury in his time with Munster suffering two ACL injuries in his 4 years with Munster.

The likelihood of Munster keeping Snyman after the end of the current season was slim anyway and when the choice of Kleyn or Snyman was made it was Jean Kleyn signing on until summer 2025. The likely destinations at that point would have been a SA URC team or Bath in The Premiership, even another term in the Pro League in Japan where he spent a few years prior to the 2019 World Cup.

As I say, it is only speculation but one does feel once it makes its way into the public domain, only time is the main sticking point of making any announcements either way. That process may have to be sped up for the sake of the player and clubs involved.

Rugby as we know is only a short career and only a small few make it to their late 30s in the modern game like Jimmy Gopperth and Jonathan Sexton, they are exceptions certainly not the norm.

More power to Snyman and his representatives for working away on a deal to bring him to his new destination wherever that may be, be that the Rec with Bath, The RDS with Leinster or elsewhere….

Champions Cup 2023/2024

The 2023 Champions Cup gets underway this Friday with Connacht in action against Bordeaux Begles and then Ulster and Munster spring in action on Saturday with Ulster playing Bath at the Rec with Munster taking on Bayonne in Thomond Park.

Leinster play last season’s winners La Rochelle on Sunday  who won’t have Ronan O Gara in the coaches box as he serves a one game ban and will have to sit in the stand like last season when Ulster’s home with fixture with La Rochelle was moved from Belfast to Dublin owing to poor weather.

All four provinces have started the URC in decent form and will fancy making it 4 from 4 on opening weekend but the opposition that each side will face will be stiff competition and those sides will have designs on starting the campaign on a positive note themselves.

Connacht will know they can’t allow what happened against Leinster happen more often and that is getting pipped late on in games. A number of key signings like Joe Joyce who played with Bristol Bears previously and JJ Hanrahan who has returned to Ireland after a spell in France with Clermont Auvergne.

The additions of John Muldoon and Scott Fardy has strengthened the coaching staff in Galway and that will help Peter Wilkins keep up the good momentum build up over recent weeks barring last weekend vs Leinster.

Connacht will know a win at home would be the ideal start and to stand any hope in the revamped Champions Cup you need to win at home and then take your chances away from home as its now only 4 group games instead of 6 as was the case previously.

Ulster will go to the Rec to face Johan Van Graan’s Bath side that has picked up a few key wins in the past couple of rounds in the Premiership.

They seem to be going places slowly under Van Graan who again has dipped into the South African market for a few signings with Thomas Du Toit who spent 3 months on loan at Munster a few season ago before returning to South Africa, couple that with Finn Russell at 10 and things are beginning to shape up for the boys from the Recreation Ground.

For Ulster it will be key for them to come away with some points from the opening away day if they can’t win the game come away with a losing bonus or even a try bonus and it will be considered a good day’s work. Of course they won’t look to come away with slim pickings, they will go all out to gain at least 4 match points and see where that might leave them for week two at home in the Kingspan.

Munster take on Bayonne in Limerick with Camille Lopez and Reece Hodge the familiar faces to most Irish fans. They are in 10th in the Top 14 at the moment but that won’t count for much in Europe as we have seen how well some French sides tackle the new look Champions Cup.

Munster have started the URC in ok form with 3 wins, two losses and a draw in Italy with Benetton. They will be without Peter O Mahony, Jean Kleyn and Jack O Donaghue with two of those three hopeful of returning for the trip to Devon on Sunday December 17th to face Exeter.

Munster should have enough in the tank to start the campaign on the right note on Saturday in the prime kick off slot of 5.30pm, no doubt Thomond Park will be in fine voice by kick off time…

Lastly Leinster, reacquaint themselves with La Rochelle who have bested them in the most recent games between the sides namely last May’s Final in Dublin. ROG will have his charges well fired up and these two teams have plenty of spice between them with a tunnel incident involving Ronan O Gara trying to make a point to a match official and being politely being kept away from doing so.

Leinster have mentioned that they have prepared well with the two games against Munster and Connacht ideal preparation to take La Rochelle on Sunday. Leinster have been physically matched by La Rochelle so Leinster will be keen to help turn that around as well as starting the competition in winning fashion.

Jaques Nienaber has been added to the coaching staff taking over from Stuart Lancaster who has the reins with Racing 92 now. It will be interesting to see how the double World Cup winning coach can impact the Leinster set up going forward.

My predictions for the Irish sides in week one are, Connacht win at home to Bordeaux Begles, Ulster to get something from the trip to the Rec like a losing bonus point and maybe even a try bonus point but Bath to get the win.

Munster to win in Limerick against Bayonne and start the group on the right note.

Lastly Leinster to finally gain a first win over La Rochelle who have not been in vintage form in the early rounds of the Top 14 and Leinster to take full advantage for the win..

Munster – High Gear Time

The 23/24 season is 5 rounds old this weekend and will see Munster face The Stormers in Limerick 6 months after beating them in the URC Final in Cape Town. It will be a chance for Joseph Dweba to come face to face yet again with the boys he wanted to in his own words “F*** up” in last season’s final and I am sure he will get a special welcome on the pitch and in the stands also. They have long memories in the stands as well as on the pitch Joseph !!

Back to the game, Munster have two wins, a draw and a loss so far this year. Looking to Saturday, it’s a chance to circle the wagons and focus the mind going into the next block of games that includes a trip to Dublin as well as a return to Europe in December.

 Munster know the standards haven’t hit the heights they did at the end of last season. It’s time for Munster to kick into a high gear from this weekend onward as the games will start to get bigger as the weeks go by.

John Dobson won’t need to motivate his side and for that matter Graham Rowntree won’t need to use the stick much in meetings to fire his charges up. The return of the internationals is well timed.

Unfortunately RG Snyman won’t be available for an extended period and his engine room colleague Jean Kleyn will come back into the reckoning if not this week, he should be knocking around to be involved against Leinster. We have seen a few guys grab the chance to be in the Munster second row with Edwin Edogbo and Thomas Ahern starting a number of games together, an eye to the future maybe !! Munster also have Fineen Wycherley and Cian Hurley will be back around the new year.

For the talk of the exits of maybe the two SA World Cup winners as the end of the year it is good to see Munster pushing the younger crew forward to start the big games as well as the odd game. Of course this is only speculation at the moment but decision time for new contracts is not too far away either.

Only time will tell will Munster manage to keep one of the two WC winners or will the IRFU say to Munster to let both go in favour of the young talent coming through. The hope among supporters will be to keep one as I feel they won’t hold onto both the end of the current campaign.

As for the back three spots which is quite light at the moment, Liam Coombes was injured in AIL action with Garryowen and that coupled with the retirement of Keith Earls and more recently Andrew Conway leave Munster with space in the back three area.

Opportunity knocks of course for those who will come in, Sean O Brien has seen game time on the left wing with Calvin Nash in the 14 shirt. Simon Zebo will also come back into contention over the next few weeks and that will help relieve the pressure at the minute….     

We have yet to see Munster take flight in attack and let’s hope they have ironed out the issues at both line out and scrum time. For Munster to really kick on both areas need to be sharper.

No better time than a home fixture against the Stormers before the run of games that will see a return to Europe…..