Mal and Quinnie scrum down for “Heroes Rugby Challenge”

7 11 2011


O’KELLY AND QUINLAN SCRUM DOWN FOR ‘HEROES RUGBY CHALLENGE’ FUNDRAISER AT TWICKENHAM

Former Ireland forwards Malcolm O’Kelly and Alan Quinlan have today announced that they will dust off their rugby boots and scrum down once more for the ‘Heroes Rugby Challenge’ at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday 3 December 2011. The match, which kicks off at 1630, aims to raise a substantial sum of money for Help for Heroes, the charity which provides practical support for wounded service men and women.

O’Kelly and Quinlan will be part of a Northern Hemisphere XV set to play against an all-star Southern Hemisphere XV. The two teams will comprise of players selected from the northern and southern hemisphere professional game and the best players from the Armed Forces. The two former Irish internationals join Danny Grewcock, Josh Lewsey, Kenny Logan and Serge Betsen as some of the big name signings that have committed to playing for the Northern Hemisphere XV.

This year’s fixture, which will mark the tenth anniversary of Britain’s Armed Forces Operations in Afghanistan, promises to be an even bigger attraction than the first Help for Heroes match in 2008 when over 52,000 spectators helped raise £1.46m for Help for Heroes.

Malcolm O’Kelly, who earned 92 caps for Ireland, said: “I’m absolutely delighted to be part of the Northern Hemisphere side. Not only is the Heroes Rugby Challenge a great opportunity to see some of the best rugby players in the world in action, it’s also an opportunity for rugby fans to come together and show their support for the brave servicemen and women who serve in areas of conflict.”

Alan Quinlan, commented: “The aim of the Heroes Rugby Challenge is simple – to pack out Twickenham Stadium on 3rd December and raise more than £1 million for Help for Heroes in the process. To achieve this, we need the public to really get behind this game and show their support by buying a ticket and encouraging everyone they know to do the same.”

Heroes Rugby Challenge supported by J.P. Morgan, Saturday 3 December 2011 at Twickenham Stadium, kicks off at 1630. Ticket prices start at £30 for adults, £10 for under 16’s, and are available through Ticketmaster www.ticketmaster.co.uk or by calling 0844 847 2492 For more information please visit: www.heroesrugby.org.uk





Brent Pope Rugby Legends Foundation Zambia Trip

26 10 2011

Mal O'Kelly and Brent Pope in Zambia last June

After a life changing trip to Zambia with Habitat for Humanity Ireland last June, popular rugby pundit Brent Pope and rugby legend Malcolm O’Kelly are preparing to go back in June 2012 and a friend of mine, Ciaran Kelly will be joining them. They will also be joined by Irish rugby legends Girvan Dempsey, Bernard Jackman, Paddy Johns, Alan Quinlan, Frankie Sheahan, Paul Wallace, Brian Spillane and Jeremy Davidson.

Between 6th-14th June 2012 they will live and work in the community and build five homes in partnership with local families. They will witness how a simple, decent home transforms a family’s life forever. They will also play a rugby match with our legends against the local community in Zambia!

Please support this worthy cause, any donation, no matter how big or small is appreciated. You can get involved by clicking the following link to bring you to Ciaran’s fundraising page – thanks

http://www.mycharity.ie/event/ciaran_alan_zambiatrip





RWC2011: Ireland Team preview

1 09 2011

Stephen Ferris gets to grips with England's Courtney Lawes. Pic: Ken Sutton

 

Rugby World Cup Pedigree:
Ireland have been off form for the most part of this year. The only game where they showed what they can really do was the 24-8 defeat of England in the final game of the Six Nations to deny England a Grand Slam. Since then they have lost all four of their warm-up games to Scotland, France (home and away) and England. While there has been much improvements in the forward play, the back line seems to be bereft of ideas and any penetration.

Track Record:
Ireland don’t have much of a track record in the World Cup, they have reached the quarter finals but never progressed beyond that stage four times. The only significant record they hold is the top points scorer of the tournament for Ralph Keyes the Irish fly-half. After a dismal 2007 World Cup in France, Ireland will be looking to make amends.

Best Rugby World Cup moment:
The most iconic moment for the Irish team in previous World Cups came in the ’91 quarter final against Australia, Gordon Hamilton scored a try to put Ireland ahead by 3 points with 5 minutes on the clock. Ireland did not seal the win as a quick tap penalty from Michael Lynagh led to him to score the winning try in the dying seconds leaving 40,000 heartbroken Irish fans wondering what happened!

Biggest Rugby World Cup win: 64-7 (v Namibia 2003)
Biggest Rugby World Cup defeat: 19-43 (v New Zealand 1995)

Key Player:
The Irish captain Brian O’Driscoll is heading into his fourth and final World Cup. O’Driscoll remains one of the greatest centres in world rugby to this day. He made his 100th appearance for Ireland against Wales in the 2010 RBS 6 Nations, has led Ireland to four Triple Crowns (in 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2009) as well as a Championship and Grand Slam.

One to Watch:
The ‘Tullow Tank’, Sean O’Brien has been in devastating for over the last two seasons. He picked up the ERC player of the Year 2011 after a barnstorming Heineken Cup run with Leinster. He is the complete back rower, combining awesome strength with speed and agility. The Carlow man started all nine of Leinster’s Heineken Cup matches, picking up three man-of-the-match awards, and was also first choice for Ireland for all their games in the Six Nations, being named man-of-the-match against Italy.

Rugby World Cup Fixtures:
11/09 – 07:00 BST v USA, New Plymouth
17/09 – 09:30 BST v Australia, Auckland
25/09 – 07:00 BST v Russia, Rotorua
02/10 – 09:30 BST v Italy, Dunedin

Key Clash:
As mentioned in our Australia preview a few days back, the key clash in Pool C is Ireland v The Wallabies. The winner of this game will surely top the pool and likely to face Fiji/Tonga/Wales in a quarter final. Ireland will have to contain the mercurial Australian back line of Genia, Cooper, O’Connor and Beale.

Odds: 40/1 to win the World Cup outright and 3/1 to win their pool.

Ireland coach Declan Kidney says:
Kidney is adamant that losing four warm-up games should not create a sense of negativity around Ireland’s preparations:
“If you don’t win it you are disappointed. But at times you have to see a bigger picture, see where you’re going. While we’re disappointed with our losses against England and France, I’d like to feel that if we had to play them again in five or six weeks’ time we’ll have learned from this experience and we’ll be the better for it.”

Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll says:
“This is my last one, I’m not going to look back in five or 10 years and wish that I’d been into it a bit more. I will enjoy the next six, hopefully, seven weeks and, hopefully, create some new memories along the way”
O’Driscoll is keen to point out the World Cup has not started yet: “We weren’t playing in the World Cup. The World Cup is our next game, We’ve a big two weeks ahead of us.”

Prediction:
It all boils down to the crucial game against Australia. A win means an easier path to the semi’s. So far we have not seen anything to expect Ireland to win that game, so, I predict a quarter final exit.

Position: Quarter final exit.

Original article written for therugbyblog.co.uk





RWC2011 – Ireland’s host towns and training bases

30 08 2011

Ireland depart for New Zealand today for the Rugby World Cup. If you are traveling to watch them, you might be interested in the below schedule of their host cities and training facilities they will be using.

Ireland hold an open training session in Queenstown Events Centre Sept 4th from 1:30pm, keep an eye on this page in the next week or two for details of more..

Ireland’s Host Town and Training Centres




RWC2011: Get the apps: Android

30 08 2011

RWC2011 Android Apps review

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

With the Rugby World Cup only around the corner, we are going to review the best free apps available for your smartphone, today it’s Android’s turn, will follow up with a post on iOS apps shortly!

Official Rugby World Cup 2011

Features:
- Access the Match Center for live match coverage, including live commentary, stats and video highlights.
- Get the latest news and keep up to date with the RWC Daily video.
- In New Zealand and want to know what to do? Go to the Fan Zone section to find out what events are on near where you are right now.
- Going to the match? Check out stadium locations, seating plans and facilities.

Our Verdict: Polished and packed full of info, would be handy if match times were localized.
Our Rating: *****
Marketplace Link

Rugby World Cup 2011 Tracker

Features:
- Live match updates
- Summary of the most recent match results
- All upcoming matches
- All match fixtures including stadium and referee info
- Group tables
- Knockout stage
- Team Information
- Localized match times
- News
- Background results updates and match summaries
- Reminders for upcoming matches
- Add a match to your calendar

Our Verdict:  Not as polished as the official app but a quality product none the less, we love the localised kickoff times!
Our Rating: ****
Marketplace Link

Rugby World Cup 2011 Free

Features:
- Live score updates
- top scorers
- fixtures and group standings
- squad lists and player records
- historical data
- all the results from every tournament starting from the first in 1987
- collated tables, see who has the best overall win loss record in world cup history
- head to head, see how your country stacks up against other teams in past tournaments
- see who the all time top points scorers are

Our Verdict:  Again, not as polished as the official app, Love the historical data from every RWC, will settle a few pub arguments no doubt!
Our Rating: ***
Marketplace Link






#RWC2011 Warm-up, Ireland v England player ratings

29 08 2011

Jonny Wilkinson tackled by Ronan O'Gara and Keith Earls. Pic: Ken Sutton

15 Geordan Murphy – 7
Great return to the international fold for the Tigers captain, showed he still has juice in the tank matching Manu Tuilagi for pace in a one on one situation. Assured under the high ball, Rob Kearney will have to watch his back!

14 Tommy Bowe – 6
First game of the warm-ups, took a long time to get into the game, This was not aided by Ireland’s repeated habit of drifting wide with no penetration in the center. Needs more game time.

13 Keith Earls – 5
Earls was at fault for Tuilagi’s almost unchallenged try early in the game but he was probably the only back that could break the line in attack. Multiple times he skipped passed tackles, but as he looked up he had no support to offload to.

12 Gordon D’Arcy – 3
Another anonymous game for D’Arcy, has not shown any improvement in the last 2 matches he has played. Made Mike Tindall look dynamic.

11 Andrew Trimble – 6
Another decent performance from Trimble, similar to Bowe hampered by the lateral play of the Irish backline. When he drifts infield he looks dangerous.

10 Ronan O’Gara – 6
Opting to kick for touch instead of taking easy points on offer was a big mistake in yesterdays must-win game. Other than this, he surprised everyone by opting to run with the ball on a couple of occasions and making some decent ground.

9  Eoin Reddan – 5
Did decently, was under quite a bit of pressure at the rucks as England were quite aggressive in this area and weren’t shy of letting their presence felt.

 

1  Cian Healy – 7
Industrious, took some real punishment from the English pack, seemed to be getting singled out for it quite often.  Unfortunate to sustain some damage to his eye socket which will mean he will miss Ireland’s first game against the USA in 2 weeks.

2  Jerry Flannery – 6
Looked comfortable, provide plenty of quality lineout ball for O’Connell and O’Callaghan to hoover up.

3  Mike Ross – 6
Scrums were on the whole, quite positive, winning one against the head in the first half should have been a big inspiration to the rest of the team but the scrum conceded a penalty 30 seconds later.

4  Donncha O’Callaghan – 6
Always looks a better player playing alongside Paul O’Connell, did well at the lineout and put in a good defensive performance.

5  Paul O’Connell (c) – 7
Extremely busy and committed, was Ireland’s best player on the day. Questionable decisions along with ROG on kicking for touch when points were on offer.

6 Stephen Ferris – 6
Ended up playing a full 80 minutes, was great to see him back with ball in hand, will need more game time to get up to match speed but looked in peak physical condition.

7  David Wallace – 6
Heartbreak for Wally, a seemingly innocuous tackle on the touchline for Tuilagi resulting in a serious knee injury has put an end to what was to be his 3rd World Cup.

8  Jamie Heaslip – 6
Only managed 34 minutes before being subbed off with a head injury. Unfortunate for Ireland as his ball-carrying abilities were missed.

 

Replacements

16 Rory Best – 5
First action was a lineout throw which was crooked but made up for it with an audacious steal minutes later.

17 Tom Court – 6
Held his own against a strong English pack, needs more game time which he will probably get against USA.

18 Donnacha Ryan – 6
Early introduction due to Heaslip’s injury, decent shift but didn’t offer the same carries that Heaslip can.

19 Denis Leamy – 6
Introduced after Wallace’s injury, the Irish backrow was completely unbalanced after the two forced substitutions and this really affected the whole team. Leamy was busy in defense and managed a couple of carries.

20 Conor Murray – 7
Another good performance from Murray, introduced some pace into the attack when he came on.

21 Jonathan Sexton – 6
Kicked the ball more that ROG had done in the preceding 60 minutes, doesn’t seem to have the ability to change the game in the same vein that ROG can off the bench.

22 Fergus McFadden – 6
Came on for Trimble with 10 minutes to go, didn’t get too many opportunities to show what he can do.

Original article written for therugbyblog.co.uk





Ireland, Organised Chaos?

29 08 2011
Pic: Ken Sutton - http://pa.sepaphoto.org/

Andrew Trimble gets smashed by Manu Tuilagi and Mike Tindall. Pic: Ken Sutton

This article has been floating around in my head over the last week and may be wishful thinking on my part, I’m still not convinced if it is true, but I’m going to put it out there and see if it gets some discussion going…

Ireland have lost all four of the World Cup warm-up games where they were expected to win three from four, at a minimum. They have dropped from 4th in the IRB rankings to 8th in one month, this is their lowest position since the rankings were introduced in October 2003. While there have been marked improvements in the set-piece, their once best-of-breed backline has now turned into the teams major weakness. It has looked sterile and bereft of ideas in the last few games, offering little or no penetration and seemingly no game plan. This beggars belief when you look on paper and see the caliber of players that have made the team sheets in the last 4 games: O’Driscoll, Earls, Fitzgerald, D’Arcy, Bowe, Trimble, Kearney, Murphy are all players that any team in the world would be envious of, but yet when combined in the current system they look one-dimensional. Does this strike anyone as strange?

What if…
Ireland purposely have been selecting strange combinations in the backline, They have played a total of 6 players in the centers over the last 4 games, even out half Jonathan Sexton got a run out against France in the 12 jersey. What if the backs have been told to tone it down, nothing fancy, just ship it wide as part of Declan Kidney’s masterplan. These are players that have won the Heineken Cup and Magners League last season and it’s a backline that failed to unlock the Scottish defense even once. Could it be plausible that Kidney has kept all his cards close to his chest on purpose. Is this the big plan to catch Australia unawares?

Besides the opening 20 minutes against France in Dublin, Ireland have hardly produced one decent backline move. They have scored 3 tries in 4 games, two of those coming when the French had all but given up. Jonny Sexton is the only Irish back to get a try in four games. As far as I can see there can only be 2 explanations for this, either Alan Gaffney (backs coach) actually does not have any kind of game-plan, or, the players have been deliberately told not to give anything away.

We are all fully aware what Genia, Cooper, Ioane, Beale and O’Connor can do after their Tri-Nations series victory, But what do Australia know about us if they review our last four games? They have no idea what the starting half-backs will  be, they won’t be sure of which centers will start against them. They will surely be expecting an easy ride.

Leinster were second highest try scorers in the Magners League last season with Munster and Ulster at joint fifth. You don’t forget how to score try’s in the space of a few weeks. Of our best centers, O’Driscoll has been wrapped in cotton wool and D’Arcy (top performer in the last Six Nations) is playing so quietly he looks as if he has been sedated before games. Could Gaffney and Kidney have planned this?

Ireland are going into this World Cup as write-off’s, completely under the radar. They will field a second string team against USA and should beat them, but is it possible that they could come out all guns blazing against the Aussies a week later and perhaps create a huge upset? Of course I’d love if this were true, guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Am I delirious/dreaming? Leave a comment!








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