Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The World Cup Round Up

The New Zealand government an the IRB has to be extremely pleased with the way the Rugby World Cup has gone so far. With just the final to be played ticket sales target of 1.3 million has almost been met, generating revenues of $286.5m and although the tournament as a whole will result in a financial loss in the region of $40m for the New Zealand exchequer, it is far less than the pre tournament predictions. The long term financial benefits from advertising this beautiful and picturesque country to a global audience may far outweigh the short-term losses the tournaments makes initially.

The IRB will also be pleased that the rugby on show has been far superior and competitive than the 'kickfest' the 2007 tournament proved to be. It is also obvious that the gap that existed between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres has been reduced with Ireland's victory over Australia and Wales' narrow defeat to South Africa showing the improvements that have been made by the Home Nations, which has only improved the competition. So why has the tournament not quite feed the competitive appetite of all die hard rugby union fans?  

There are many reasons this World Cup as a whole still those not live up to the expectations of rugby fans. The form of the Pacific Islander's has been one reasons for this, with their flare and power usually being one of the highlights of previous World Cups, not being present this time round. Fiji were particularly awful, as their lack of structure and the invention usually associated with the Islander's was greatly exposed in group D. Tonga managed one good performance when they shocked France but failed when it really mattered against Canada while a promising Samoan team were partially undone by the fixture list, which highlighted the poor treatment of the minnows at this tournament which has also left a foul taste for fans. The main reason that this world cup has not being as captivating as the IRB might have hoped is because from the off the Web Ellis Cup has seemed destined to go to the home team since way before the tournament began. The only hope is that a France team that has been playing poorly and with obvious trouble within the camp resurrects herself for one one-off game and makes the final at least competitive. 

However in saying this since the All-Blacks won the first World Cup in 1987 they have been instilled as odds-on favourites at every world cup since and have yet to win their second Webb Ellis Cup. France twice have been their conquerors and have the potential if not the form to do something similar this time around. Its a World Cup Final after all and anything can happen. That's why I love this tournament.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Fitzgerald and McFadden battle for wing spot as Leinster make the Magners Grand Final

Leinster made the final of the magners league by defeating Ulster on a scoreline of 18 points to 3. The game started out at a fast placed with the Leinster players particularly O'Driscoll, O'Brien and McFadden playing the game with enormous discrimination and physicality that Ulster struggled to match. After Fergus McFadden scored Leinster's first try on 21 minutes the game had a certain inevitability about it. The game petered out with Leinster content on running down the clock and Ulster never really threatening the Leinster try line. Leinster made a raft of changes early in the second half as a result of injuries and giving key players like Sexton a rest.
The win may have come at a huge cost with 4 of Leinster's key player's, namely Brian O'Driscoll, Rickardt Strauss, Mike Ross and Isaac Boss being taken off injured. Strauss' injury in particular looked like it might force the player out of the Heineken Cup final next weekend. With the Heineken Cup final a little over a week away all 4 will struggle to be fit in time. The resulting substitutions did not seem to have much impact on the game as Leinster dominated the latter stages culminating in Luke Fitzgerald's try.

Before the game the main story was the battle between Fergus McFadden and Luke Fitzgerald for the second wing spot on the Leinster team for the Heineken Cup Final in Cardiff next weekend. McFadden has being pushing for a place in the full team in recent months with some fine performances that won him man of the match against Glasgow last weekend. Fitzgerald on the other hand has being struggling for form all season after coming back from injury. He has falling into the trap of trying too hard to make an impact, over running the ball and missing scoring constantly in the last few months.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Mike Gibson enters IRB hall of Fame

Mike Gibson playing for the Lions against New Zealand
 For any Irish supporter the number 13 jersey will always hold a special pride of place in Irish rugby. Over the last decade Brian O'Driscoll has set the bench mark for outside centre play in world rugby. His creativity in the midfield, his eye for a gap and his determination in defence have highlighted Ireland's and Leinster success over the past decade. With this it easy easy to forgot other great Irish rugby players to wear the number 13 jersey, no more great than the ever young Mike Gibson.

Gibson rugby legacy was recognised on a world scale on Tuesday night as he became the 5th Irishman to be inducted to the IRB hall of Fame. Gibson joins Jack Kyle, Willie John McBride, Syd Millar and Tony O’Reilly as the Irish representatives in the IRB Hall of Fame. The category which was introduced in 2006 to recognise players who performed consistently to a high level in the world game.

Gibson was a similar type of player to O'Driscoll and was capped 69 timesduring a 15 year career than began in1964, a record not surpassed till big Mal O'Kelly broke that figure against Scotland in 2006. He represented the Lions on 5 separate occasions and is a worthy winner of the IRB Hall of Fame award.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Gavin Henson to return for Wales

Gavin Henson is to return to the Welsh fold for the non-test match against the Barbarians on the 4th of June, in the Millennium Stadium. If selected for the match, it will be Henson's first appearance for Wales since the final Six Nations match, against Ireland in 2009. That match ended in disappointment for Henson and Wales, with Henson taking an 18 month 'break' from rugby afterwards.

Since then Henson has took part in various television series on what seemed to be a personal quest for fame and appreciation. His rugby comeback has also being filled with controversy, snubbing the Welsh regions to join Saracens, Henson still had eyes for international rugby, stating, "I know I still have so much to give to rugby and I can't wait to get back on the field, playing for Saracens and hopefully for Wales,". His stay at Saracens wasn't a happy one, struggling with weight and injury problems his game time was restricted, missing Wales Six Nations campaign at the same time. As his Welsh colleagues were performing on Europe's biggest rugby stage Henson was busy changing clubs again after he was released by Saracens after only 4 games for the club.

John Smit to join Saracens

South African world cup winning captain John Smit is to join English club Saracens after the World Cup. Smit who captains South Africa in the World Cup, is believed to have signed a two year deal with the club. Smit who can play at hooker or prop has been capped 102 times for his country and will be joining Saracens from the Sharks. He will add to Saracens' already large South African contingent.

Pienaar heading home?

Ulster supporters should be nervous of the rumblings from South Africa at the moment as Peter de Villiers lines up his options for the fourth coming world cup. It is rumoured, that the controversial coach wants Ruan Pienaar, as his scrumhalf option, in the tournament based on this recent form for Irish province Ulster. Pienaar can take great credit in his performances for the province this season, helping them to a play-off place in the Magners League and to the quarter-finals of the Heineken cup, for the first time since they won the trophy in 1999.

Dickson signs contract extention with the Saints

Northampton Saints have been boosted ahead of their Heineken cup final with Leinster with the news that Lee Dickson has signed a new contract with the club. The scrumhalf who has been in fine form as the Saints chase silverware on two fronts. Dickson who was overlooked for the Six Nations in favour of Ben Youngs and Danny Care has been arguably the form English scrumhalf in the last few months, with Youngs struggling for his best form.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Nacewa wins Leinster Player of the season award

Isa Nacewa has capped of a fine personal year playing for Leinster by claiming the Bank of Ireland Players Player of the year award at the Annual Awards Ball in the Burlington Hotel on Saturday night. This is Nacewa second major award this week after also scooping the IRUPA player of the year award for the 2010/11 season. It marks a remarkable year for the 28 year old who played in all but one of Leinster's games this season.

Rebels Leave Cipriani Behind

Danny Cipriani's turbulent career continues to cause controversy. In his latest fall from grace, Cipriani has been omitted from the Melbourne Rebels squad for their two match tour of South Africa. The young English fly-half's omission comes on the back of a number of breaches of the clubs strict curfew rules which also prevented him for lining out for the Rebels last Friday against Quennland.

Undoubtedly a very talented fly-half with ball in hand Cipriani has struggled in recent months, after a strong start with the Rebels. After lighting up the early rounds of the Super 15 with his running game and his kicking, Cipriani has found himself having to answer more questions regarding his defensive duties which have been found wanting in recent times.

Saints claim final Semi-Final place

Northampton Saints came from behind to defeat a brave Leeds side 31-24. Leeds who started very brightly with tries from  Hendrie Fourie, Rhys Oakley and Peter Wackett at led 24-15 at half time with Saints tries coming via Phil Dawson and a penalty try. A further try from England wing Chris Aston and penalties via the boot of Stephen Myler resulted in a win for the saints. The result secured forth spot for the Saints and kept them in the hunt for the double. The result also meant relegation for Leeds.

Magners League playoff places finalised

Before tonight's round of games only Munster had secured their place in this years Mangers League semi-finals. They had done so by securing top spot  and a home semi-final in the process. For this reason most of tonight's attention focussed on who would secure the second home semi-final place and the remaining play-off places. On a night when the fourth place position changed often it led to a tense night for the supporters of Leinster, Ulster, Cardiff Blues, Scarlets and the Ospreys.

The first team to ease their supporters nerves were the men of Ulster who secured third place in the league by defeating the Dragons on a scoreline 20-13 at Rodney Parade. Centre Nevin Spence went over for two early tries for Ulster, with Pedrie Wannenburg adding a third before half time. Dragons who have been one of the form teams in the league over the last few month's responded with a try from Tom Riley but Ulster held on for the win.

RBS Six Nations

Friday, 15 April 2011


Almin Challenge Cup tables

Pool 1 Table Friday, 15 April 2011 17:03 UK
4Cavalieri Prato61057730304

Pool 2 Table 
4Cetransa El Salvador61056936804

Pool 3 Table 

Pool 4 Table
1Stade Francais660021673529
2Leeds Carnegie640217188319
4Rugby Parma61057022215

Pool 5 Table 
1La Rochelle650119791323

Magners League table

Friday, 6 May 2011
6Cardiff Blues228760
7Newport-Gwent D'gons22-1849

Aviva Premiership table

Saturday, 7 May 2011
6London Irish22110115234591054
12Leeds Carnegie224018315590723

Heineken Cup Tables

Six group winners and the two best runners-up on points go through to the quarter-finals on 8, 9 and 10 April.

Pool 1 Table 
2Cardiff Blues6303107113214

Pool 2 Table
2Clermont Auvergne640211494319
3Racing Metro 92620410415119

Pool 3 Table 
4London Irish620410714119

Pool 4 Table 

Pool 5 Table 

Pool 6 Table 
4Newport-Gwent D'gons60067716122