This is the Magners League Final, not a homecoming for the Heineken Cup.

27 05 2011

The view from the South…

To look at this match on paper alone you would have to fancy Munster, in reality this game is going to be tight affair. Munster who had a record-haul of 83 points from the league campaign, the best defense in the league, the best attack in the league, lining out against the Heineken Cup heroes, Leinster.
Munster have only lost three games in the Magners League all season, have won all their home games, yet the bitter taste of being knocked out at the pool stages of the Heineken Cup is what this season will be remembered for by most.
Leinster are riding the crest of a wave after the second-half heroics in Cardiff last weekend. Munster need to watch that first half and take note of the pace that Northampton played at, starving Leinster of possession. Leinster’s big disadvantage is that last Saturday would have taken a lot out of them. Munster need to capitalize on this in the second half when Leinster could struggle.

Head to Head: Big match-ups all over the park, yet again its the match-up between ROG and ‘golden boy’ Jonny Sexton that will take most of the attention. But for me the real match-ups are going to be in the front and back rows. Can the Munster scrum put Leinster under the same pressure that Saints did last weekend?
This is a golden opportunity for some of the fringe-players in the Ireland squad to step up and claim a spot for the World Cup in September, players like Felix Jones and Conor Murray have a golden opportunity to impress Declan Kidney, who will watch most of this game through the cracks in his fingers no doubt! Both teams are due to be announced on Friday lunchtime.

Weather: If the forecast is correct (wet) the game will probably suit ROG kicking for the corners, if it’s dry, Sextons running game could hurt us.

Prediction: If Munster can stay in touch with Leinster over 60mins I can see them winning by a score once all the West-Coast-Cooler celebrations from last weekend catch up with the Leinster boys!

Originally written for

ninetyninecall – Interview with Keith Wood

31 03 2011


I had the opportunity to have a chat to Munster, Ireland & Lions legend, Keith Wood….

Conor Buckley: Looking forward to the big game between Munster and Leinster this weekend Keith?

Keith Wood: It’s obviously a huge game for Munster considering they have lost the last 5 in a row, Munster are really proud, they haven’t lost at home this season, I don’t think they’ll want to let that happen. It all depends exactly how they have got over the 6-Nations. It’s a really big game for Leinster, and a huge game the following week against Leicester, so it’s an awful lot of pressure on them to perform. Leinster are probably favorites but it’s very hard to call!

CB: In the Magners league there is the exciting prospect of three Irish teams making it into the knockout stages. In your opinion does this indicate that Irish rugby is stronger than ever?

KW: You know I think the four provinces have concentrated on on the Magners League to ensure they have a level of contingency for the whole year – they haven’t just targeted the Heineken Cup, they have gone after both, and I think that’s a sign of maturity. Previously they would have only focused on the Heineken Cup now they have the strength and depth in the squads to cover both. Delighted for Ulster, they have had a hard time in the last two years, haven’t really achieved what they would have liked to have, and to be in a quarter-final of the Heineken Cup along with being in the top 3 of the Magners League at the moment is a great achievement.

CB: There has been some bad news for fellow hooker and Munster player Jerry Flannery after it was announced he will not play for the rest of this season, and is to undergo further surgery on his injured calf.

KW: Yeah it’s a shocker. I know what it’s like, I had years when you kept trying to come back from different injuries and nothing was really happening. The killer for Jerry is that nobody seems to know what the hell is wrong, hopefully this exploratory surgery figures out exactly what it is and he gets back to play, in many ways it’s the last roll of the dice to get back for the World Cup and I’d just like to wish him well.

CB: OK Keith, I’m gonna put you on the spot, whats your prediction for this weekend, Munster v Leinster?

KW: You can put me on the spot but I’m going to sit on the fence! I don’t know, the games immediately after the 6-Nations are the hardest games to call… Sure we’ll go for a Munster win, it’s time for them to break their duck.

Keith Wood was speaking at the launch of Bushmills Brothers in Belfast yesterday were an 18 square foot piece of street art was revealed on Great Victoria Street depicting Keith with his good friend current Ireland International rugby player Rory Best. 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.

Look out for my interview with Rory Best next week, previewing the huge Heineken Cup quarter-finals.

Original article written for

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

Panorama – Lansdowne Road

6 10 2010

Here’s a panoramic shot from inside the new Lansdowne road that I took at last weekends game… Click the image for larger size.

Panorama from inside the new Lansdowne Road October 2010

International Scout Notes – 5th October

5 10 2010

Original article written for

International Scout Notes is weekly piece, where we identify a few players that have stood out and might be making a case for national selection

Fionn Carr
Despite being the top try scorer in the Magners League in 08/09 season and 4th top try scorer in 09/10, Carr is yet to make his senior debut. The Connacht winger bagged a hat-trick of tries against the Scarlets two weeks ago, and brings his season total to 4. Carr offers pace that is unmatched in the senior setup, he has a fantastic step, and is a natural finisher. Thursday night’s game saw him matched up with Leigh Halfpenny and Carr seemed to have the edge on him. Declan Kidney will have to sit up and take notice this Autumn.

Sean O’Brien
The Leinster flanker had a storming man-of-the-match performance on Saturday night at Lansdowne road and was the stand-out player in the Leinster pack. His probing run on the blindside and sublime offload to Brian O’Driscoll in the 70th minute set up the winning try. O’Brien’s form is even more remarkable since he missed most of last season with a broken leg. If O’Brien can maintain this performance he will definitely be in Kidney’s plans for the Autumn internationals and potentially a spot on the plane to New Zealand in September.

Leinster v Munster, a history lesson

11 05 2010

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This Saturday sees the 18th time Leinster face Munster since 2001. The score at the moment is Leinster 9 wins, Munster 8 wins. Leinster are on the verge of 4 wins in a row which has never happened before!

All below results from

Sat 15th Dec 01 Leinster 24 – 20 Munster Lansdowne 30,000
Fri 5th Sep 03 Leinster 8  – 15 Munster Donnybrook 6,000
Fri 13th Feb 04 Munster 24 – 13 Leinster Musgrave 5,400
Sat 18th Sep 04 Leinster 17 – 15 Munster Donnybrook 6,500
Sat 1st Jan 05 Munster 19 13 Leinster Musgrave 8,000
Sun 9th Oct 05 Munster 33 – 9  Leinster Musgrave 7,500
Sat 31st Dec 05 Leinster 35 – 23 Munster RDS 14,135
Sun 24th Ap 06 Leinster 6  – 30 Munster Lansdowne 48,500
Fri 6th Oct 06 Leinster 27 – 20 Munster Lansdowne 27,252
Wed 27th Dec06 Munster  25 – 11 Leinster Thomond 13,200
Fri 30th Nov 07 Munster 3 –  10 Leinster Musgrave 8,300
Sat 12th Apr 08 Leinster 21 – 12 Munster RDS 18,500
Sun 28th Sep 08 Leinster 0 – 18 Munster RDS 18,500
Sat 4th Apr 09 Munster 22 – 5 Leinster Thomond 26,043
Sat 2nd May 09 Munster  6 – 25 Leinster Croke Park 82,000
Sat 3rd Oct 09 Leinster 30 – 0 Munster RDS 18,500
Fri 2nd Apr 10 Munster 15 – 16 Leinster Thomond 26,043

Johnny Sexton’s replacement for Semi

28 04 2010

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Johnny Sextons worthy successor at numer 10 🙂

Only a bit of fun!

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