RWC2011 Warm-up, Ireland v England Preview

26 08 2011

Date: 27th August 2011
Time: 14:30 GMT
Venue: Lansdowne Road, Dublin
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)

To say that this was an important game for both sides, would be a massive understatement. It’s the last game either team play before they head to New Zealand next week for the World Cup.  Ireland are probably under more pressure than England going into this game they have lost all three of the warm-up games. England have beaten, and been beaten, by Wales in their two warm-up games.


Martin Johnson has made 6 changes to the side that lost to Wales a fortnight ago. The new centre partnership of Tindall and Tuilagi has no doubt given Declan Kidney nightmares this week. Jonny Wilkinson claims the out-half jersey from Toby Flood and is joined in the half backs by Saracen’s Richard Wigglesworth. London Irish scrumhalf Joe Simpson makes the bench in what is set to be his international debut.

The precautionary absence of Brian O’Driscoll following a minor shoulder injury in the France game, means that the captaincy will be in the safe hands of Paul O’Connell. More worrying for Kidney is the news that Sean O’Brien is set to be out of action for a fortnight after picking up a knee injury. Stephen Ferris starts his first warm-up game as does Munster’s Jerry Flannery and David Wallace. Veteran fullback Geordan Murphy also starts and travels to New Zealand following the ankle injury to Felix Jones.

What to expect:
England will be keen to get some decent attacking backline moves, we all know what their pack can do and going into the World Cup they could do with an extra string to their bow. Tommy Bowe is making his first appearance in a green jersey since the 6-Nations and will be keen to make his mark. The Irish pack did well in the scrums last week against France and they will be keen to keep parity against a much bigger pack this weekend.

All eyes on:
England’s physical dominance over the Irish is most evident in the mis-match of the center pairings, Mike Tindall and Manu Tuilagi will face Gordon D’Arcy and Keith Earls. I would also expect England to target the Irish 10-12 channel as this is where they are weakest. Jonny Wilkinson will no doubt provide plenty of opportunities to test Irish lineout, which has shown a great improvement in the last two matches.

Last fixture:
March 19, 2011, Ireland 24-8 England, Dublin.

Weather: Chance of showers.

Ireland will be keen to get a win under their belt and always up their game when England come to town, so on that basis, I’m going for an Ireland win by 6 points.


RWC2011 Warmup, Ireland v France – Ireland player ratings

22 08 2011





15  Felix Jones – 6

Had a cracking first half, but showed some nerves early in the second half, slicing a ball into touch on the full. Extremely unlucky to fall awkwardly on his ankle while contesting for a high ball, unfortunately his World Cup is over before it began.

14 Andrew Trimble – 6

For the third game running, Trimble has looked in good form, always looking for work and using his physicality to break the line.

13 Brian O’Driscoll – 6

Seemed to take a little too much on himself rather than distribute the ball a bit earlier. Utterly committed at the breakdown put his body on the line, to the gasps of the Irish supporters.

12 Gordon D’Arcy – 5

In his first game back since the Heineken Cup final, D’Arcy was off the pace and didn’t manage any line breaks. Rougerie and Heyman sliced D’Arcy and O’Driscoll open for their well taken try.

11 Keith Earls – 5

While providing a real attacking threat early on, when things started to go down-hill, panic set in. In his defence, the centers were drifting too far wide and not offloading earlier giving the wingers almost no room to operate in.

10 Jonathan Sexton – 6

Had a decent game, showed some great defensive play, was moved into center when ROG replaced D’Arcy. Acquitted himself well, was rewarded for his hard work with a try in the second half.

9 Tomas O’Leary – 2

Started brightly, great speed on the pass, nice distribution. Fell apart after the first 20 minutes, one brainfart after the next. One could be forgiven for thinking he doesn’t like New Zealand!?

1 Cian Healy – 7

Good performance from Healy, always looked lively in the loose and performed well in the scrum. Gave Kidney heart failure as he limped off the field with what turns out to be a bruised foot!

2 Rory Best – 6

Set-pieces were much improved this week for Ireland and the hooker is integral to that, seemed much more at ease and confident this week and it showed in his throwing.

3 Mike Ross – 6

Ross’ main job is the scrummage well, and that he did, His fist XV spot is nailed on and he knows it!

4 Donncha O’Callaghan – 5

Quiet day for O’Callaghan, claimed a couple of lineout balls and setup a nice rolling maul. Not sure if he has done enough to warrant a first XV spot?

5 Paul O’Connell – 7

Best 80 minutes Paul O’Connell has put in since returning from his long injury lay-off, Seemed willing to carry the ball more and was the decoy in the lineout all day. Needed to settle the team on the half-hour mark, instead they collectively lost the run of themselves.

6 Sean O’Brien – 7

The Tullow-Tank rolls on, great performance. Made more runs and tackles than anyone else on the team and was rewarded with a late try.

7 Shane Jennings – 3

Metres run with ball: 1, Tackles made: 1, 60minutes of ball-watching. Looked out of his depth.

8 Jamie Heaslip – 5

Went missing in the second half for long periods of time, Was partially to blame for O’Leary’s gift of a try to Trinh-Duc. Worked well in the lineout claiming two throws.


16 Jerry Flannery – 6

Keeps the tempo of the game up, his throw-ins are quick and accurate. Needs to get a hearing aid to avoid being penalised for not using the ball.

17 Tom Court – 5

Pretty anonymous around the park but held the scrum together well.

18 Mike McCarthy  – Not on long enough for rating

19 Stephen Ferris – 6

Delighted to see Ferris come through his 20 minutes, some nice carries and huge collisions, his trademark.

20 Eoin Reddan – 5

While O’Leary was diabolical, Reddan didn’t offer much more in attack, but managed not to make the same amount of mistakes as his counterpart!

21 Ronan O’Gara – 6

Actually combined quite well with Sexton in the center, A combination that I doubt will be repeated any time soon however!

22 Luke Fitzgerald – 6

Much improved performance from Fitzgerald, made beautiful runs from deep to setup both Sexton and O’Brien’s try’s.

Munster 0-15 Wasps – Photo report

19 08 2011

In their first pre-season game, Munster welcomed Wasps to Musgrave park. Wasps were the deserved winners scoring two tries on the night. The weather held off to produce a lovely evening in Cork, Everyone delighted to have some live rugby to watch! Click on the thumbnails to view the photos below:

RWC2011 Warmup Ireland v France Preview

19 08 2011

Date: 20th August 2011
Time: 17:00 GMT
Venue: Lansdowne Road, Dublin
Referee: Craig Joubert (S.A)

Last Saturday saw a game of two halves, France dominated early on, Ireland showed much promise in the second 40 minutes in Bordeaux. However, Ireland need to lay down a marker this weekend and get over the tryline. Declan Kidney has named the strongest XV available to him for Saturdays game including Steven Ferris on the bench in his first appearance since last January.

French coach Marc Lievremont makes a total of 13 changes to the team that beat Ireland last weekend, The only survivors are wing Alexis Palisson and hooker Dimitri Szarzewski. Palisson is joined in the backline by fullback Cedric Heymans, winger Maxime Medard and a return for Aurelien Rougerie to partner Fabrice Estebanez in the center. The other notable change in the French team is the considerably weaker backrow named for this week (Quegraogo, Bonnaire and Picamolesthan) in comparison to last weeks backrow of Dusautoir, Harinordoquy and Lakafia, this may be the chink in their armor.

Kidney’s preferred center partnership of O’Driscoll and D’Arcy is the big change for Ireland, Hopefully they can bring some much needed creativity into midfiled that has been lacking in the previous two games. This is the first choice Ireland pack that has been selected, Paul O’Connell starts alongside fellow Munster lock Donnacha O’Callaghan. Irelands backrow of O’Brien, Wallace and Heaslip is where I see Ireland getting the upper-hand in this game. All three are expert ball-carriers and should be able to put the French backline under some considerable pressure.

What to expect:
Ireland need to start producing results in the next two games. The 22 players named on this matchday squad are almost guaranteed a spot on the plane to New Zealand. Kidney names his 30-man squad on Sunday so all will be keen to leave a positive impression on him.

All eyes on:
Felix Jones makes his first international start for Ireland, he will be keen to make a good impression in Rob Kearney’s absence. Geordan Murphy’s rather cryptic tweet the other night “The obese lady has opened her vocal chords!!” does this indicate that Jones has cemented his place on the plane to NZ as backup to Kearney? Alos the return of O’Driscoll and D’Arcy is sure to get much attention in what will be a tough physical game for both facing Rougerie and Estebanez

Last fixture: 13th August France 19-12 Ireland, Bordeaux, France

Weather: Mild, Dry.

Ireland gave a glimpse of their potential in the second half last week, I think they will tun the French over here, I’m predicting and Irish win by 8+.

Original article written for

France v Ireland – Ireland player ratings

15 08 2011

France v Ireland – Ireland player ratings

Rob Kearney – 6.5
Decent shift put in from the Leinster fullback, made a few searing runs from deep, never easy to bring down in the tackle.
Andrew Trimble – 7
Another good performance from Trimble, Looks to have his wing spot almost nailed down. Looked busy and put in a quality physical performance.
Keith Earls – 6.5
Provided some creativity in the center, defensively good, unlucky not to score from a chip and chase in the second half.
Paddy Wallace – 4
Not at the races again, only positive I can see with having him on the field is he provides a decent kicking option that you don’t normally have at 12.
Luke Fitzgerald – 5.5
Not a fantastic game by his standards, conceded 4 turnovers and only made 8 meter running gains. Will need to improve to keep Tommy Bowe out of the 11 jersey.
Ronan O’Gara – 7
Kicked all of Ireland’s 12 points, strange decision by him and Paul O’Connell to kick for 3 points when they had France on the rack in the 2nd half rather then pin the French on their own 5M line.
Eoin Reddan – 5.5
Had a pretty physical game but like Tomas O’Leary last week, labored his pass. O’Leary, Reddan and Boss should be very worried about Conor Murray.
Cian Healy – 6.5
Fantastic to watch in the loose, put in a great defensive performance also, Definite starter for the World Cup.
Rory Best – 4.5
Poor show in the lineout, too many throws going astray, not completely to blame for Ireland’s lineout woes, but contributed.
Mike Ross – 5.5
Decent show in the scrum despite conceding a couple of penalties, Kidney must be having nightmares about Ross getting injured, there is no alternative.
Donncha O’Callaghan – 5.5
Isn’t the same player without Paul O’Connell beside him. Wasn’t used enough in the short, Massive game defensively, made more tackles than any other player.
Leo Cullen (c) – 5
By his standards a poor performance, was calling the lineout which was in disarray in the first half. Didn’t carry the ball at all while on the field.
Donnacha Ryan – 5.5
Big defence from Ryan but needs to carry the ball more, his flexibility in playing lock and backrow may get him onto the plane.
Sean O’Brien – 7
Great to see O’Brien with ball-in-hand, delight to watch. Huge carries and defensive performance.
Denis Leamy – 6
Put in a decent performance, popped up all over the field and made some counting tackles.

Jerry Flannery – 6.5
Made twice the amount of tackles in 20mins than Best made in in 60. Lineout throws were perfect, found their target each time. Has to start next week.
Tony Buckley – 4
Taking alot of flack for the scrum performance, some blame has to lie at Kidneys feet, playing Buckley out of position at loosehead at a crucial part of the game did him no favors.
Paul O’Connell – 6.5
As soon as he steps on the field the collective performances of his teammates improved, Was the target in the lineout and salvaged what was a poor lineout performance.
Jamie Heaslip – 6.5
Like O’Connell, the effect of his introduction was immediate.
Conor Murray – 7
Would love to see him get 60 minutes next weekend, is a wonderful, natural passer of the ball, offers more in attack than any of his competition for the 9 jersey.
Fergus McFadden – 6
Couple of decent carries, not really on long enough to make a decent impression.
Felix Jones – 6.5
Showed plenty of confidence and class when he came on, didn’t look out of place at this level, needs more gametime.

Original article written for

RWC2011: France v Ireland preview

14 08 2011

Date: 13th August 2011
Time: 19:45 IST
Venue: Stade Chaban-Delmas, Bordeaux.
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)

Ireland face France in the first of their two leg World Cup warm-up games. (Return leg in Dublin next Saturday) Ireland line up with what is a vastly more experienced side than the team that faced Scotland last weekend. The French have named an almost full strength team with only one new cap, Biarritz back-row Raphael Lakafia.

Lakafia will be joined in a very strong back row by French captain Thierry Dusautoir and fellow Biarritz player Imanol Harinordoquy. Vincent Clerc starts on the wing and he will be hoping to maintain his quite amazing try-scoring record against Ireland. Saturday also sees a return for French centre Maxime Mermoz who makes his first appearance since suffering a serious shoulder injury during their Six Nations game against Scotland in February, Mermoz is one player to keep an eye on at the World Cup, he was very impressive early in the Six Nations.

Two new partnerships to be tested for Ireland, Paddy Wallace and Keith Earls play alongside each other for the first time in the centres, as do Leo Cullen and Donnacha O’Callaghan in the second row. Wallace will be expected to deliver a stronger performance than last weekend’s, although I suspect France will have reviewed that game and seen how how Scotland targeted him in particular, expect more of the same. Ronan O’Gara starts this week alongside Eoin Reddan, while most fans are eager to see Munster scrum half Conor Murray come off the bench and show what he can do at this level, this is a huge game for him to stake a claim for a World Cup place.

What to expect
This could be a very fast open game with conditions that will suit spreading the ball wide. Earls at centre should be able to provide some much needed creativity that was lacking last weekend against Scotland. France have not named a full strength starting front row, allowing William Servat and Fabien Barcella (travelling as 23rd man) much needed recovery time from their respective injuries. This may allow the Irish pack some chance of parity in the scrum, giving them a platform to build from.

All eyes on
Much focus from an Irish perspective will be on Keith Earls at centre, is he the player who can replace Brian O’Driscoll in the long-term? Jerry Flannery came through his 20 minute appearance last weekend and will be keen to get much needed game time under his belt. Leo Cullen did a fantastic job last weekend in rallying the pack when under considerable pressure from the Scots throughout the game, and I feel the team will rely on his leadership again to get through this much sterner test. For the French, much focus on how the new cap Lakafia embeds into the vastly experienced back row.

Last fixture: 13th Feb: 6 Nations, Ireland 22-25 France, Aviva Stadium, Dublin

Weather: Sunny, warm, temps in the low 20′s

A high scoring game could be on the cards, I’m going to go with a home win, France by 8.

Scotland v Ireland player ratings

10 08 2011

Tom Court – 6.0
Decent performance, didn’t make any howling mistakes to jeopardise his place on the plane to new Zealand. Will travel for his ability to cover both sides of the scrum.

Sean Cronin – 6.5
Made some lovely breaks with the ball in had, line-outs were under pressure throughout but his throwing seemed to be fine, if a little slow. Looks to be a certainty to travel.

Tony Buckley – 7.0
Excelled at the breakdown, made a couple of nice steals. Was busy defensively. If only his scrummaging could improve as much as his loose-play! Will travel as a replacement prop.

Donnacha Ryan – 6.5

Performed well in the lineout and showed amazing aggression and tenacity in defense. Will probably trave to NZ as he can provide back-row cover.

Leo Cullen – 6.5
Marshaled his pack well, did well at the lineout. At this stage its unclear whether his will ever displace Donnacha O’Callaghan, but so far we know that we have a decent vice-captain in Paul O’Connell’s absence.

Mike McCarthy – 6.0
Did well for his first cap, looked busy in defense but I don’t think will travel to new Zealand, back-row competition is cut-throat and don’t think McCarthey did enough to warrant a place on the plane.

Niall Ronan – 5.5
Looked out of his depth at this level, will not make the final squad. Doesn’t have the ball-carrying abilities or physicality required for international rugby.

Denis Leamy – 6.5
Defensive work was excellent but didn’t see enough of Leamy in attack. Some huge tackles put in and the highlight of the match for me when Leamy and Buckley carried one of the Scottish backs 6 meters back in a tackle.

Tomas O’Leary – 6.5
Not a bad performance for a player who hasn’t played at the level in such a long time. Although the pass seemed laboured at times, made up for it in defense when he made some crucial tackles.

Jonathan Sexton – 7.0
Decent, professional shift put in by Sexton, Mixed his game well. Will travel as number one outhalf.

Luke Fitzgerald – 7.0
Good return to the green jersey for Fitzgerald, looked dangerous in attack, Glad to see his has regained his mojo which was missing for a long time.

Paddy Wallace – 5.0
I went into this game with an open mind but still can’t find anything positive to say for Wallace. Was targetted by the Scots attack and did not pass with flying colours. Lacked imagination going forward and didn’t distribute the ball well.

Fergus McFadden – 6.5
Busy afternoon for Fergus, popped up all over the field, both in defense and attack. Ireland can afford to lose one of their first-team centers but demonstrated that to lose both could be disastrous.

Andrew Trimble – 7.5
My man of the match, was extremely involved in everything that was good by the Irish backline. Always looking for work and showed some excellent physicality. Could he be considered as a replacement 12? Possibly.

Rob Kearney – 6.5
Put in a splendid performance on his return to international rugby. Confident and safe under the high ball. Didn’t offer as much as usual in attack but plenty of time to work on that. Number 15 jersey should no longer be a worry for Kidney.

Flannery – Came through with flying colours, should have done enough to warrant a start next weekend.
Horan – Difficult to know if Marcus will make the final squad, deserves more game time to show what he can still do.
Hayes – The Munster veteran put in a solid 20minutes, Will almost definitely travel to NZ as a replacement prop.
O’Driscoll – Unlikely to make the traveling squad
McLaughlin – Decent performance, another player that needs some big performances to assure his place on the plane.
Boss – Didn’t offer a whole pile different from O’Leary,
Jones – Decent first cap for Jones, looked full of life and confidence, did enough to deserve more game time.

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