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…

 

Farrell names his XV to face Scotland 2020 Six Nations

Andy Farrell this afternoon named his first XV after plenty of shadow boxing in recent days with many trying to put their own sides together to see could they put a team together similar to the side that Andy Farrell named today.

He has given Caelan Doris his first cap after playing with Leinster over the past 2 seasons. He was part of the 2018 under 20 Irish side and was the captain of that side. He has taken his chance along with Max Deegan since Sean O Brien left Leinster to join London Irish and the injury that Jack Conan suffered at the World Cup.

What this team does suggest is that they will be very mobile at the breakdown and around the field with Josh Van Der Flier and CJ Stander teaming up with Doris in a back row that has plenty of experience.

At half back Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton will combine and John Cooney will have to wait his turn from the bench with Luke Mc Grath also having to wait at least another week for a chance to impress.

As has been pointed out 10 players who played New Zealand in the 2019 World Cup quarter final will be involved this weekend.

Players like Billy Burns, Luke Mc Grath and Stuart Mc Closkey should get the opportunity to play in this campaign and the early sound bites from the Farrell camp is that if your inform you will be given the chance to shine and although the fact John Cooney hasn’t ousted Conor Murray from the 9 jersey will be questioned, the inclusion of Ross Byrne does suggest that Farrell will give players a chance to come off the bench.

The hope is that the replacements will get more time than a token of 5 or 10 minutes toward the end of a game. We will have to wait and see what way this team will play with Mike Catt brought onboard as attack coach. The style of play can’t be second guessed until Saturday evening.

Andy Farrell will be thankful to how the fixtures have fallen in this campaign with two homes fixtures against Scotland and then Wales in Dublin before facing England in the 3rd game after the first break in the 6 Nations. If Ireland can win those first 2 games then everything is possible going into that game with England at Twickenham.

The focus will now hone in on Scotland and starting this 6 Nations with a morale boosting win. Scotland were beaten in the opening game of the 2019 World Cup by Saturday’s opposition and you can be sure Gregor Townsend will use that loss as a motivating tool to help his squad.

The decision to drop Finn Russell for a breach in team protocol would have stung but Adam Hastings will most likely benefit from the decision to leave Russell out of the opening weekend’s game with Ireland.

All roads will now lead to the Aviva Stadium for the start of the Andy Farrell era….

 

Ireland 2020 Six Nations Squad

The squad for the 2020 Six Nations has been announced in the last 24 hours with 5 new faces included and in a new departure under Andy Farrell 4 development players will travel to Portugal for the pre Six Nations training camp.

Although Joe Schmidt did similar he did so quietly but Andy Farrell has nailed his colours to the mast early by naming 4 young players who will be able to learn from the more experienced players within the group. He has also named Jonathan Sexton as the new Ireland skipper to succeed Rory Best.

Men like Ultan Dillane and Dave Kearney have to chance to kick start international careers that looked to have stalled in recent seasons due to loss of form and injury but these two men will see their inclusion as a real positive start to 2020 and the Andy Farrell era.

Men like Stuart Mc Closkey, Niall Scannell and Sean Cronin will be disappointed not to be included but strong performances this weekend in Europe or maybe an injury in the Ireland squad will re open the door back to the National side. The initial disappointment will sting but some good strong performances will put all those players back in the shop window.

Looking at the squad as a whole it is defiantly one that has a strong Leinster contingent and rightly so but that does not mean that the first 23 named by Andy Farrell will be all Leinster, players from the other three provinces will feel that some good training will stand to them when his opening 23 in named in just under 2 weeks time.

Here is my 23 to face Scotland in Dublin on Saturday fortnight….

15 Jordan Larmour

14 Andrew Conway

13 Gary Ringrose

12 Bundee Aki

11 Jacob Stockdale

10 Ross Byrne

9 John Cooney

8 Caelan Doris

7 Josh Van Der Flier

6 Peter O Mahony

5 James Ryan

4 Iain Henderson

3 Tadgh Furlong

2 Ronan Kelleher

1 Cian Healy

16 Dave Heffernan

17 Dave Kilcoyne

18 Andrew Porter

19 Devin Toner

20 Max Deegan

21 Conor Murray

22 Jonathan Sexton

23 Will Addison

South Africa 2019 World Cup Champions

South Africa have won their third World Cup after a 32-12 win over England in Yokohama in this morning’s World Cup Final. Given that England had beaten New Zealand last Saturday 19-7 and South Africa saw off Wales in an arm wrestle last Sunday the widely held belief was that England would win if they played somewhere close to the way in which they did against New Zealand.

South Africa did not get that particular memo and went after England in the set piece where they had real dominance throughout the campaign and the loss of Kyle Sinkler was keenly felt after he left the field after 2 minutes after being knocked out with Dan Cole being asked to play the duration of the 80 minutes and as we have seen in the past 12 months England have used Kyle Sinkler and others for over 50 minutes at least before bringing in the “finishers” as Eddie Jones likes to call them.

This time though his plan went out the window as the strength of the South African 23 came out in force and from the moment Jerome Garces awarded the first scrum penalty to South Africa after Sinkler’s departure the writing seemed to be on the wall.

Similar to Steve Hansen last weekend I feel Jones could have sprung Ben Spencer from the bench early on in the game as I feel Ben Youngs had a poor day at the office, the Saracens pairing at half back might have been able to put England on the front foot but like most of these teams no real deviation from the tried and trusted.

South Africa for their part were of course beaten on the opening weekend by New Zealand but since that game they managed to use a very structured game plan with a six/two split on the bench for the rest of the tournament which meant they could strangle the life out of teams and finish off sides by utilising a full front five on the bench in the final stages of games.

Looking at the way in which South Africa played this morning is very reminiscent of the Erasmus/Nieneber coaching template that they worked on while in charge of Munster from June 2016 to December 2017. The defence system employed by South Africa worked very well for Munster although they did lose out in two Semi Finals in the Pro 14 and Champions Cup.

A word as well for ex Munster coach Felix Jones who took up a role with South Africa in the summer where he was an opposition analyst for them.

He was wanted by Erasmus as soon as he took on the head coach role but bided his time and saw out his contract with Munster and then turned down a new deal and when this chance came he took it with both hands, congrats to Felix and Aled Walters who both worked with Munster in recent seasons.

Well done to South Africa who now join New Zealand as three time winners of the World Cup, only England in 2003 managed to break the southern hemisphere dominance as the only northern hemisphere winner with Australia winning two in 1991 and 1999.

South Africa were winners in 1995, 2007 and 2019. Francois Steyn won his second winners medal this morning after winning his first in 2007 as a 20 year old. All eyes will now focus on France 2023 where South Africa will defend their crown but not before facing the British and Irish Lions in the summer of 2021.

For the northern hemisphere it is back to drawing board, having two of the semi finalists in England and Wales but still England could not match the intensity of last week to see them through. We were told by Eddie Jones this week that England could play better than they had done in defeating New Zealand but unfortunately for Mr Jones, all his planning and preparation since 2015 hasn’t counted for little, yes this experience will help the majority of this squad when 2023 rolls around but for the here and now they were beaten by a well drilled and disciplined South Africa side.

All roads now lead to France 2023, it’s the beginning of a new 4 year cycle for each team involved and for those hoping to be involved. It is also time World Rugby seriously to try and evolve the global appeal of the game but that’s for another day….

England Vs New Zealand 2019 WC

England have booked a first World Cup Final appearance since France in 2007. They did that with a terrific composed 19-7 win over defending champions New Zealand. New Zealnd came into this game after a strong performance when swatting Ireland aside last weekend 46-14. On this occasion England had the ideal game plan that was certainly moulded from there narrow loss last November.

The axis of Tom Curry and Sam Underhill got the better of the Scott Barrett, Ardie Savea pairing that saw Barrett called ashore at half time to be replaced by Sam Cane.

The decision of Steve Hansen to pick Scott Barrett was a risk but on this occasion it did not work out and England who started like they had done throughout 2019 scored a cracking try after 2 minutes through Manu Tuilagi after some sublime handling that saw Kyle Sinkler provide a key tip on pass that finished with Tuilagi busting over.

England were very dominant in the opening 40 minutes and from the off they looked like team very in tune with the task at hand. From the moment the Haka took place and England formed a semi circle very similar to what England did in 1998 when the sides met in Twickenham. This was a signal that England would not fold easily in the face of taking on the World Champions.

Eddie Jones has worked very hard since taking on the England job in late 2015 after the disastrous efforts at the 2015 World Cup. His stated aim was to win a World Cup on Japanese soil. He worked very hard in 2016 to start his plan to get England back to the top of the tree where they feel they should always be. In 2016 they won the Grand Slam beating France in Paris in the final week to secure the Grand Slam. In 2017 they won the Six Nations and were continuing to integrate many of the players that were key to victory this morning.

Men like Sam Underhill who moved from Ospreys to play his club rugby with Bath, Tom Curry who alongside his twin Ben were key members of the England Under 20 side in 2017 also made waves and were in the wider England training squad as the Jones era took shape.

Eddie Jones also stated once he took on the job that he would work to build a new England side full of young players and this team is back boned by Under 20 World Championship winners from the last 5 years.

New Zealand did not look happy this morning and to me it looked as if the lack of tough games since facing South Africa on the opening weekend came back to haunt Steve Hansen’s men.  The lack of experience in his 23 this morning might also have come back to bite Steve Hansen who left experienced men like Ben Smith and Reiko Ioane out of his 23.

Youthful exuberance is great but when the pressure comes on it looked as if Sevu Reece and George Bridge were struggling. Both men were driven into touch and those moments were massive the overall scheme of things.

Owen Farrell and George Ford worked well in tandem where as Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett did not match the heights that they have done only a few times since this was first tried out in July. This move seemed to be made after the loss to Ireland in 2018 and also the narrow win over England on the end of year tour.

Many people have made plenty of the Irish failure from last weekend where some players were selected where others players in better form may have done a better job but the fact that Brodie Rettalick was brought straight into the starting team at the quarter final after only 30 minutes in the Pool phase may have also contributed to how under cooked New Zealand looked this morning. It is not often you can say that about an New Zealand team but this time Steve Hansen can have no complaints about the defeat. He and his side will now go into a third / fourth place play off next Friday.

England will now be able to fully focus on a World Cup Final at 9am next Saturday. They can now settle in and watch South Africa vs Wales and plan for whichever side wins in the second Semi Final….