Brave New World

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

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

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

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

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

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

British and Irish Lions 2001 to 2017

My British and Irish Team from 2001 to 2017

15 Matt Perry

14 Tommy Bowe

13 Brian O Driscoll

12 Jamie Roberts

11 Jason Robinson

10 Jonathan Sexton

9 Rob Howley

8 Scott Quinnell

7 David Wallace

6 Richard Hill

5 Paul O Connell

4 Martin Johnson

3 Tadgh Furlong

2 Keith Wood

1 Tom Smith

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

My Irish XV from 2000 to 2020

My Ireland XV – 2000 to 2020

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

15 Rob Kearney

14 Tommy Bowe

13 Brian O Driscoll

12 Gordon D’arcy

11 Keith Earls

10 Ronan O Gara

9 Peter Stringer

8 Anthony Foley

7 David Wallace

6 Sean O Brien

5 Paul O Connell

4 Donnacha Ryan

3 Mike Ross

2 Keith Wood

1 Cian Healy

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

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