David Wallace Q&A: Cats, Dogs and Peter Stringer

5 05 2011

Pedigree Adoption Drive Launched by David Wallace

Now in its fourth year, the Pedigree Adoption Drive continues to raise awareness of animal welfare and encourage Irish dog lovers to adopt a dog from their local shelter or welfare organisation. For every pack of Pedigree dogfood bought, during the Pedigree Adoption Drive, a donation goes to help Irish dogs. Pedigree plans to match last year’s achievements by donating €100,000 to Irish dog charities.

According to Ireland’s leading animal welfare organisations, there has never been a greater need for donations with many shelters struggling to cope with the demand for their services since the onset of the recession. The Irish Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) is reporting that calls to the charity tripled from 5,500 in 2008 to 15,000 in 2010, and this trend has continued into 2011.

Speaking about the campaign, David Wallace said “This is a really worthy cause. We have lots of dogs running around our house so I understand the fantastic role they can play in someone’s life. Supporting the Pedigree Adoption Drive not only means shelters receive much needed funds to give these animals the help they need, but adopting a pet will bring an adoring and loving companion into your life – something you just can’t put a price on.”

Also, for every new Facebook fan, Pedigree will donate a bowl of dog food to a re-homing centre – so  how about becoming a fan of the following page www.facebook.com/pedigreeadoptiondrive


ninetyninecall – Interview with Rory Best

7 04 2011

Keith Wood and Rory Best at the launch of Bushmills Brothers.

Conor Buckley: Ulster are playing in the Heineken Cup quarter final for the first time in over a decade next Saturday, what do you think their chances are going up against the Northampton Saints?

Rory Best: It’s obviously going to be very tough, You know logic would dictate that they are number one seeds, we are number eight, they are going to be heavily favorites but thankfully from our point of view that in sport, it often defies logic. It’s a great opportunity for us to first and foremost to go out and play and try to get to a level that we are happy with, not be too overawed with the occasion and go out and do ourselves justice.

CB: Ulster have had a big setback with the news that Stevie Ferris has to undergo more surgery on his injured knee and will miss the Heineken Cup Quarter final?

RB: From an Ulster Rugby point of view it’s absolutely massive, you know he’s a world-class player, for any team in the world to lose a player of that caliber will be a massive setback for them. We have a lot of strength and depth in our back-row especially, so Stevie’s unfortunate loss will be someone else’s massive opportunity to play in such a big-game. On a personal level, I am very very disappointed for Stevie as he has come through a lot and put in big performances to get us to where we are. You know as a person there is no-one that would want to play in this big game as much as he would.

CB: There is a lot of heroes shining through in the Ulster squad these days, Ruan Pienaar has been stepping up to save the day in the last few Ulster games, The Springboks in the Ulster squad have settled well?

RB: The big thing is that when you sign quality players they are going to do quality things for you, Ruan is just one example of that. The big thing that David (Humphreys) has done is that he has not just signed good players, he has signed good players that are going to step up to the mark in big games, as well as that they have to be the right fit for Ulster off the field as well. No doubt all the signings we have made so far are exactly that.

And you are losing one of your Springboks at the end of this season, BJ Botha is heading south to Munster?

RB: Yeah he is, he will be sorely missed, he was the first ‘so-called’ big name to come in whenever Ulster were struggling and I’m sure it was a massive leap of faith for him and his family to come at that time and no doubt that subsequent signings have been in-part down to him, and him being here. It’s sad for us to lose him, but we gain another good player John Afoa. From our point of view it’s a fresh new start for us next year with a new tight-head prop, a new emphasis and a new voice with regards to the scrum.

Rory Best was speaking at the launch of Bushmills Brothers in Belfast where an 18 square foot piece of street art was revealed on Great Victoria Street depicting Rory with his good friend Keith Wood. The Bushmills Brothers campaign draws upon the spirit of friendship and celebrates the experiences and stories that men share. The fantastic street art featuring Keith and Rory sum up the best of BUSHMILLS, namely genuine friends hanging out together and enjoying award winning Irish whiskey.

Original article written for TheRugbyBlog.co.uk

Heineken Cup – who needs what from Rounds 5 & 6

11 01 2011

As the Heineken Cup reaches the climax of the pool stages, here is how I see things panning out…

Pool 1

Only one winner from this group. Northampton (16pts) to qualify and they face Edinburgh this weekend and Castres away in last game. Although their form has stuttered somewhat in recent weeks domestically they should have enough to close this group out.

Cardiff and Edinburgh are both out of contention; Castres have a tiny chance of runner up spot but would require two bonus-point wins.

This weekend’s games: Blues v Castres, Saints v Edinburgh

Prediction: Blues by 3, Saints by 8

Only the Saints to qualify.

Pool 2

Leinster are riding high (14pts), 5pts clear of Clermont and Racing. The Irish side are hitting a rich vein of form at the moment despite going into the last couple of games with some injury worries, and they will claim the top spot.

Saracens are out, Racing Metro and Clermont are in a dogfight for 2nd, although I think it will be too little, too late

This weekend’s games: Leinster v Saracens, Clermont v Racing

Prediction: Leinster by 12, Racing by 3

Only Leinster to qualify.

Pool 3

Almost too tight to call: only 3 points separate Toulon (13pts), Munster (11pts) and the Ospreys (10pts). Only London Irish are out of this pool.

Toulon will not roll-over at home as they did in Thomond in October that’s for sure, and Munster will have to earn every single point on offer this weekend. This group is wide open, but I am leaning towards Munster to scrape through with their decade-plus of Heineken Cup experience.

This weekend’s games: Toulon v Munster, London Irish v Ospreys

Prediction: Munster by 2, Ospreys by 12

If Munster can win this weekend the pool is theirs…

Pool 4

Biarritz (16pts) look likely to qualify, but there is the threat of Ulster leap-frogging them, who travel to Ravenhill this weekend. It’s a tough place to go and win as Stade will testify from last season. Ulster’s recent poor form of late counts against them so I’m going to go for Biarritz. Aironi and Bath’s European dream is over for another season.

This weekend’s games: Bath v Aironi, Ulster v Biarritz

Prediction: Bath by 25, Biarritz by 2

Biarritz to win the group, whilst Ulster have an outside chance of going through to the quarters as a best runner up.

Pool 5

Another very tight group, and I’m predicting heartbreak for the Scarlets. Even though the Tigers sit in second position in this pool, I tip them to go through. They face first-placed Scarlets this weekend in what will be a cracker of a game, with two teams with very contrasting styles going head-to-head. Treviso are definitely out, and the other three spots are to be decided.

This weekends games: Trevsio v Perpignan, Scarlets v Tigers

Prediction: Perpignan by 15, Tigers by 10

Tigers to top the group, and next week’s final game of the round between Perpignan and Scarlets will probably see the winner go through to the quarters as a runner up.

Pool 6

A bit more cut and dried in this group with two teams riding high. Expect wins for both Toulouse (17pts) and Wasps (15pts) this weekend, which should be enough for both to go through. Glasgow and the Dragons were only making up the numbers in this group.

This weekends games: Toulouse v Dragons, Glasgow v Wasps

Prediction: Toulouse by 18, Wasps by 6

Both Toulouse and Wasps to qualify for the quarter-finals.

All going well (and my predictions rarely do!) this is how I see the Quarter Finals shaping up:

1. Toulouse v 8. Perpignan
2. Biarritz v 7. Wasps
3. Saints v 6. Munster
4. Tigers v 5 Leinster

Original article written for therugbyblog.co.uk

Nine points clear and playing uglier than a monkey’s armpit

9 01 2011

“We’re in for a hammering next week” was the general consensus as Munster fans walked away from Musgrave park last night after beating Glasgow 22-20. It’s not unusual that Munster play badly the week before a big Heineken Cup game. In the last two seasons they lost to Ulster twice before going on the beat Treviso and Northampton (2010) and Ospreys and Sale (2009) in the Heineken Cup. This season we win our Magners League game in January and the neigh-sayers are still writing this team off.

Munster are 9 points clear at the top of the Magners League. They have won 11 from 13 games. They have been consistent, professional and clinical in some of the finishes this season. But talk to any Munster fan and they will tell you something is not right with this team.

Since the start of the season they have struggled in the set-piece. Munster of old were kings of the lineout and scrum. They provided the core of the Irish pack. A quick glance at the team-sheets from the Autumn internationals reveals that the stranglehold Munster once held on the pack positions has been loosened considerably. Hundreds of articles have written off this ‘aging’ side, I don’t agree with this. I believe the problem is more of a psychological than physical. The majority of these players have 2 x Heineken Cup winners medals, Magners League winners medal, won four Triple Crowns, a Grand Slam, Six Nations championship… Outside of a World Cup winners medal, they have won just about everything the Northern Hemisphere has to offer. How do you keep the hunger, the drive? Munster traded off the fact they regarded themselves as underdogs, always had the parish mentality, them against us, “they say we don’t have a chance so let’s go show them!” It’s been different in the last couple of seasons where they have been going into games as favourites, a title that rests uneasily on the shoulders of these players.

Even though Munster have been so consistent in the League this season, for me there has only been one game where they have shown the ‘Munster Magic’ of past. This was the last meeting between themselves and Toulon in Thomond in October. The two weeks before that game Munster were like a wounded animal, first losing to Leinster and the following week getting beaten in the Majeski by a mediocre London Irish side. Big-boys Toulon were coming to town and the neigh-sayers were out in force, we were going to get beat and the season was over before it started! Munster outscored Toulon 6 tries to 2 and played some sublime clinical rugby. We play best when we are up against it and the next two weeks are going to be as tough as it gets in the Heineken Cup. Trip to Toulon followed by London Irish in Thomond the following weekend.

We are up against it and this is where the men are separated from the boys, Who can remember travelling to the then Top14 champions Perpignan last season, The long walk to Stade Aimé Giral where we would have gladly accepted a losing bonus point before the game. Well this ‘aging’ team had other ideas!

Munster sink Toulon 45-18

16 10 2010

A bright sunny Thomond park welcomed the big-spenders of French rugby, Toulon, on Saturday afternoon. Munster had a lot to prove coming off the back of two losses to Leinster and London Irish, and in the very first minute they had conceded a try to Toulon, hooker Genevois going over. It seems that Munster play their best rugby when they are up against it, and almost immediately they had Toulon pinned back in their own 22 pushing for a try. After 6 minutes Toulon flanker George Smith saw yellow for slowing the ball down, Munster twice chose to go for the lineout instead of taking the points, it was clear that they meant business and captain Denis Leamy went over for a try after 9 minutes of sustained Munster pressure which saw them have two tries disallowed by the TMO. Munster’s lineout woes from last week were behind them and prop Tony Buckley went over for a try halfway through the first half, with Dougie Howlett adding another before halftime leaving the score 21-10 after  40 minutes.

Toulon’s Johnny Wilkinson made an appearance early in the second half and immediately made an impact slotting over a drop goal. Toulon had the lions-share of possession in the second half but Munster still looked extremely dangerous on the break, Felipe Contepomi received a yellow card for a professional foul after 57 mins and this is where the game unraveled for the French side. Mick O’Driscoll scored a try soon after securing the bonus point and Dougie Howlett scrambled over for a try 4 minutes later to secure the game for Munster. Jerry Flannery made a brief return to action, he playing 20 minutes before limping off the field. Munster flanker James Coughlan powered over for the final try of the game 2 minutes from time to leave the final score a convincing win for Munster 45-18. Special mention for man-of-the-match winner Mick O’Driscoll who along with Ronan O’Gara and Peter Stringer who put in superb performances. This was an old-school Munster performance showing huge heart, sending out a warning to all other teams in the tournament, Munster are back!

International Scout Notes – Oct 12th

12 10 2010

Original article written for therugbyblog.co.uk

This weeks Irish notes do not feature two up and coming  young-guns, but instead a couple of guys who have been around a long time, but currently out of favor in the Irish camp. The November internationals could see them coming in from the cold and back in the Ireland squad.

Peter Stringer
Got his first Heineken Cup start since October 2008 due to the thumb injury sustained by Tomas O’Leary last week, and he was straight back into top form. Stringers snappier distribution allowed the Munster backline to be alot more dynamic, they were running from deeper and seemed to have a much better flow to their game than previous weeks. Ronan O’Gara had a superb game and this was aided in no small part by Stringers quick ball from rucks. This faster ball allows O’Gara an extra half-second to make decisions. Coming into the Autumn tests Stringer is certainly back in the mix, just behind Isaac Boss with Eoin Reddan snapping at their heels.

Bob Casey
Saturday’s game against Munster demonstrated that Casey still has alot to offer the Irish setup. He gave a commanding performance in the lineout enabling London Irish to turnover 4 of Munster’s lineouts. Casey has only been capped 6 times for Ireland due to the stranglehold that Paul O’Connell and Donnacha O’Callaghan have had on the Irish 2nd row berths. With O’Connell out of action until Christmas at best, there is a chance that Casey could return to the Irish fold for the November internationals. Ireland play the Springboks in the opening game of the Autumn series and Casey’s physicality would be a welcome asset it what is set to be a brutal affair.

New Munster rugby away jersey

5 07 2010

Here it is, the new away jersey for next season!

Comments welcome…
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Munster 2010/11 Away

Munster 2010/11 Away back

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