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….

 

 

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!

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…..

My Munster Team of the Past 20 Years

Seen as Sport has stopped for the foreseeable future due to Covid 19 I have been wondering how to go back writing after nearly 4 weeks away. Here I will select the best 23 I have seen playing for Munster since 2000. There have been many quality men that have donned the famed Red jersey in the last 20 years and I will now select my best XV.

15 Paul Warwick

14 Doug Howlett

13 Rua Tipoki

12 Lifimi Mafi

11 Keith Earls

10 Ronan O Gara

9 Conor Murray

8 Anthony Foley

7 David Wallace

6 Peter O Mahony

5 Paul O Connell

4 Donnacha Ryan

3 BJ Botha

2 Jerry Flannery

1 Dave Kilcoyne

16 Niall Scannell

17 Marcus Horan

18 John Hayes

19 Donnacha O Callaghan

20 Alan Quinlan

21 Peter Stringer

22 Tyler Bleyendaal

23 Shaun Payne

Here is the 23 I would select and I realise I am leaving men like Mike Mullins, Anthony Horgan and more out but that just shows the strength of the Munster squad over the last 20 years. Looking forward to seeing what changes people will make..

Ireland Vs England 2020 Six Nations

The dust has settled on a 24-5 loss away in Twickenham last Sunday. It is Any Farrell’s first defeat as Ireland head coach. It will be interesting in the aftermath of the game what the reaction of the squad will be along with the coaching staff.

The performance left a lot to be desired and will need to be improved upon with the Italy game on Saturday week. Of course there are question marks over the Italian game due to the Corona Virus outbreak in Italy.

A number of sports fixtures have been already postponed and the Irish Government are keeping a close eye on the situation with the Six Nations also keeping abreast of the situation. Ireland will come together for a two day camp with 28 players involved with a number of players released to play in this weekend’s Pro 14 although Ulster’s game in Italy has been postponed and will be re fixed.

Looking at the team that could be selected, it could have a number of changes just to freshen up the 23 up. Players like Ross Byrne, Caelan Doris, Dave Kilcoyne and Andrew Porter will feel they can add something to the Irish side heading into the final two games of the Championship.

Over the last few years, the game against Italy has been the game where players have been interchanged more so than against the other few teams in the Championship. It has been a real test for Farrell with the manner of the Irish performance. He will now need to act and make sure that the same level of performance doesn’t happen against Italy or France.

Particularly against France the performance last Sunday just won’t make the grade and will need to be seriously picked apart to try and come up with a more attack minded game plan and that means Mike Catt bringing in some cleaver attacking moves that haven’t been seen before, yes there have been a few new things seen in the first two games but more needs to be seen in the next few games and in the Summer tour of Australia.

I will now try and select a 23 I feel will beat Italy in Dublin on Saturday week :

15 Jordan Larmour

14 Andrew Conway

13 Garry Ringrose

12 Stuart Mc Closkey

11 Jacob Stockdale

10 Ross Byrne

9 John Cooney

8 Caelan Doris

7 Josh Van Der Flier

6 CJ Stander

5 James Ryan

4 Iain Henderson

3 Andrew Porter

2 Ronan Kelleher

1 Dave Kilcoyne

16 Dave Heffernan

17 Jack Mc Grath

18 Tadgh Furlong

19 Ultan Dillane

20 Will Connors

21 Luke Mc Grath

22 Billy Burns

23 Robbie Henshaw

Ireland vs Wales 2020

It’s 2 wins from 2 games played by the Irish women after a solid 31-12 win over Wales this afternoon at a very stormy Donnybrook. This win was defiantly build on a solid defence that saw Ireland having to defend for large periods over the 80 minutes but this was also matched by some wonderful handling from the players throughout the 23.

As I said last week, there is most certainly a new style being bedded in and week on week it is getting better and better so heading for a tough fixture against England away from home in 2 weeks time this team will be brim full of confidence.

Adam Griggs and his coaches do seem to have new leaders emerging in this current group with players like Anna Caplice, Cliona Moloney and Edel Mc Mahon really leading from the front to help team captain Ciara Griffin in leading this young group which is still learning the ropes in terms of experience at this level.

All you can ask is to be 2 from 2 after two homes games to start the campaign and this squad has done just that and there cohesion as a group is getting better, there work in the tight 5 is getting better and also there ability to offload out of the tackle is getting better and this can only be a good thing going forward.

The weather conditions were terrible but both sides coped well in the extreme weather that last for about 20 minutes of the 2nd half and both sets of players have to applauded for the way they tried to continue to offload while to weather steadily got worse in that 20 minute spell.

It is now a two week break for both teams with England next up for Ireland and Wales will face France at home. Ireland can reflect on two good wins on home soil and will at least travel to play England in good form.

Roll on England in 2 weeks…..

 

 

Ireland Vs Wales 2020 Six Nations

Ireland women will hope to make it two wins from two when they play Wales on Sunday at 1pm in Donnybrook. After a tough game against a very well coached Scotland side Ireland will want to keep up the winning momentum by beating a Welsh side that they have had a decent record against in recent seasons.

Ireland will hope to have skipper Ciara Griffin back in harness after she left the field at half time in last week’s game. Ireland played well in only fits and starts last weekend with only a breakaway try on 65 minutes managing to see off an energised Scotland team.

Scotland will feel with a bit of luck they would have managed to win the game after soaking up some early Irish pressure they managed to turn the set piece to their advantage with a very strong scrum and very good defence these two aspects kept Scotland in the game throughout where Scotland worked there socks off and only for that try by Beibhinn Parsons, Scotland would have been well set to find a score to win this game but a strong Ireland defence kept them at bay.

Ireland will look to kick on and hope to improve in attack where they will know when they have the ball they need to keep it and try and get there outside backs into space and then go after Wales also in the set piece where Ireland were poor at the scrum and they will need to start the game on Sunday from minute one in the right frame of mind.

Players like Anna Caplice, Ciara Griffin, Sene Naoupu will need to lead Ireland from the front and there quality at the current moment will be crucial because Ireland are trying to play a new style that is still under development and thankfully the few warm up games have allowed Ireland to at least bed in the new style and those games also allowed for mistakes to be ironed out before last week and this week aswell.

It is time for Ireland to up the ante with Wales on Sunday and then away to England in two weeks time. Time for this side to show an upward curve with some big tests on the horizon in this campaign and then the World Cup qualifiers in September of this year. It’s another chance for this group to play in front a of a packed house at Energia Park.

The kick off is 1pm Sunday, so if you’re at a loose end h=get to Donnybrook if you can to support the girls in green…

2020 Women’s 6 Nations

Ireland will start there 2020 women’s 6 Nations campaign against Scotland in Donnybrook tomorrow at 1pm.  They will hope to start the Championship in winning fashion after only one win in 2019 to their opponent’s tomorrow afternoon. Ireland then lost their other fixtures and will also have to qualify for the 2021 World Cup at the tail end of 2020. 2020 is a big year for Irish women’s rugby which has gone through many turbulent times since the home World Cup of 2017.

Many players have left the squad through retirement and the players just haven’t come through as quickly as one would have hoped. Having to split there resources between 7s and 15s has been tough but this cannot be used as an excuse into 2020 as this has been the norm for a few years now.

With 3 homes games against Scotland, Wales and Italy the hope of a 3rd place finish is very much in Irish hands as one feels England and France will be fighting for top spot even though they face each other in round 1.

Momentum is a word used very often in sport but is a key message for this group and they know a win against Scotland will set them up for a another home game vs Wales on Sunday week. Adam Griggs has had a extra few training camps and training game vs Wales so they should be very prepared for the challenge that this weekend will bring.

Having Phillip Doyle in the Scottish corner will bring challenges he was the man that was in charge of Ireland for many years including a number of World Cups and he was the man who was in charge of Ireland when they won the Grand Slam of 2013 and Championship win in 2015.

Both he and Ireland have been on different paths since he left the Irish job. Ireland have lost the momentum of his time charge and have really failed to capitalise on the good work he and many more put in while he was charge.

The challenge for this current group is to try and win all three home fixtures and then they have two free hits against France and England although they won’t see either game as a “free hit“ against the heavyweights of England in round 3 and France in Round 5.

Time for all the talking to cease and for the girls in green to take charge and put all the lessons of 2019 to good use and make a winning start to the 2020 Championship on home soil against Scotland. 1pm in Donnybrook Sunday…