Ireland, Organised Chaos?

29 08 2011
Pic: Ken Sutton -

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!


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

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!

Tuning in channels on Sky for Magners League rugby

4 08 2010

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Magners League 2010/11

The Magners League fixtures for 2010/11 have been announced and are available here.

It was announced in June that Setanta lost the TV rights to Magners League rugby to RTE, TG4, BBC Wales, S4C, BBC Alba and BBC Norther Ireland until the 2013/14 season. Almost all of the games will be broadcast by the above channels free-to-air, but they do require tuning into a Sky Satellite box, they do not appear by default. Please note there has not been a broadcaster announced as yet for the Italian team’s home games.

To add channels to your “Other Channels” option, do the following –
With your digibox turned on, press the “Services” button (near the top of the remote).

Select number 4 (System Setup), and then 4 again (“Add Channels”).

In the appropriate fields enter the following (you move through the fields using the up and down arrow keys).

In the Frequency field enter: 11.954
The next three fields are toggle fields, i.e. using the left and right arrows will change the value.
Toggle Polarisation to : H
Toggle Symbol Rate to: 27500
Toggle FEC to : 2/3

Then select the last button – Find Channels.

After a few seconds the channels should appear. Use the Yellow button to place a tick beside each one you wish to store and when you’ve finished ticking press “Select”. These channels will now be stored.
You can view them by pressing the “Services” button, then 7 “Other Channels” (Other Channels is option 9 on Sky+ and Sky+ HD), use the arrow keys to move to the channel you want and press “Select”.

Use the same process to add the rest of the channels required…

11954 H 27.5 2/3
BBC Alba

10803 H 22.0 5/6
BBC Two Northern Ireland
BBC Two Wales

S4C – Channel 134

A full list of channels that can be added can be found here

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

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

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