Archive for March 2013

Blues Talk TV – Episode 104   2 comments

This week on Blues Talk TV, we take a look back at Leinsters victory in the top of the table clash with the Glasgow Warriors and preview the big derby match with third place Ulster. We discuss Isa Nacewas decision to retire, Jamie Hagens move to London Irish and Luke Fitzgeralds decision to stay with Leinster.

Also available as an audio-only download from here

Blues Talk TV – Episode 103   Leave a comment

This week on Blues Talk the team look back at the final fixture in Irelands disastrous 6 Nations, against Italy. We also take a look forward to the return of Pro12 action with Leinsters top of the table clash against Glasgow and the rest of the weeks rugby news

Also available as an audio-only download from here

Posted March 21, 2013 by bluestalktv in Ireland, Leinster, Rugby

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Blues Talk TV – Episode 102   Leave a comment

This weeks episode sees the team take a look back at Irelands draw with France in the RBS Six Nations. We preview Irelands final fixture, against Italy, and discuss the rest of the weeks rugby news.

Also available as an audio-only download here

Close, mais pas de banane   Leave a comment

I’ve been following the Team Ireland fitness programme, so expect this article to start off well but to tail off badly towards the end – actually some will probably say it doesn’t start well either. What on earth is going on with Ireland in the second half of matches in this Six Nations Championship? We led against Wales, Scotland and France at half time before losing the second halves 19-7, 12-5 and 13-0, and the last two games entirely. We don’t get many chances to beat France, either home and away, and having outplayed them completely in the first half one would have thought that a 13-3 lead against a team poorly selected, with little or no game plan other than ‘give it to Picamoles’ and coached in what can only be charitably described a mercurial style by Phillipe Saint Andre would be sufficient to push on in the second half and secure the victory.

But it wasn’t. Somehow France realised that as limited as their game plan was, ours was equally so. Touch – line out – maul – Box Kick – chase. That was it. That it was successful in the first half is more an indictment of France’s paucity of effort and preparation than it was of any great tactical insight from Ireland. This was shown to be the case when Conor Murray, who was excellent, was withdrawn to be replaced by Reddan. Eoin Reddan has many virtues, in the recent past when he has played well Ireland have played well and with pace and invention.

Saturday was not a game for pace and invention though, it was a game for doing what Murray was doing well, negotiating his pack around the field, and creating further opportunities for them to cause trouble with well placed box kicks. And they were superbly well placed. Each one was long enough to get his pack moving forward, but not so long as they couldn’t be contested by the chasers, and in this regard his chasers, most regularly McFadden and Earls didn’t let him down. They were supported in this by a much improved performance by the Irish back row both as a unit and individually. But all this ended when Murray was substituted just after the hour with Ireland leading 13-6. Why?

France did as French teams always do, on the hour mark they made changes to their front row. This was not an option for Ireland with Kilcoyne – a player Kidney didn’t trust to start against Scotland despite benching for the two previous fixtures – and Archer – a player who has kept his ability well hidden – on the bench. You get the sense that these positions are just placeholders as far as Kidney is concerned, “we have to have 23 players on the bench, I have no intention of using the bench, sure stick them on it, what harm”. But Kidney knows that its the done thing to make changes on the hour mark, so he did an eeny meeny miny mo and off came Murray. There is no other explanation. After the match Murray came out and said he was tired, but thats the usual Post Hoc rubbish that this coaching team likes to indulge in.

I mentioned PSA’s mercurial coaching style already, his selections make Mad Marc Lievremont the Mad look like a bastion of sanity, but for all that he has weight of numbers behind him. There are enough good players in France that by a process of elimination they usually end up with the right XV on the pitch for at least part of the championship. Kidney doesn’t have that luxury and he and his coaching team are simply out of their depth at this level. Kidneys apologists have two fall back positions they use to defend their man, but neither are consistent. The first is – “Sure didn’t he win the Grand Slam”. Fair enough, but if he takes the credit for the Grand Slam, then he must also take responsibility for the worst set of results from an Irish team in the professional era, therefore he must be disposed of. The second is – “Its not the coaches fault, its the players” in which case the players take the credit for the Grand Slam and Kidney has done nothing since taking the job.

Now neither of those positions are correct, the truth is somewhere in between, but it still adds up to the same thing. Ireland are a poorly coached, poorly motivated and poorly selected side with a limited game plan that is entirely dependent on the starting XV playing at the top of their game constantly because their ability is enough to cover the holes in the strategy and there is no one else available on the bench. Every player in the Irish squad when they cross that white line will give everything they have, of that I have not one iota of doubt, what I question is after a month of Camp Kidney, what do they have to give?

Posted March 11, 2013 by bluestalktv in Ireland, Leinster, Rugby

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Blues Talk TV – Episode 101   Leave a comment

This week on Blues Talk TV we take a look back at Leinsters win over the Dragons in Rodney parade and review the rest of the Rabodirect Pro12 action. We then take a look forward to Irelands RBS Six Nations game against France and discuss the dropping of Ronan O’Gara

Available also as an audio-only download from here

Blues Talk Blog – Ooh wot a loverly pair of drawers   2 comments

It was a strange weekend for the Leinster and Ireland fan. Leinster won, Ulster and Munster drew and Ronan O’Gara was dropped from the Irish squad.

Leinster picked up a winning bonus point over in Newport in a game that wasn’t televised. Going by Leinster Rugbys excellent Twitter commentary, we started well, dropped off, then picked it up again. Jim was at the match and will be discussing it on this weeks Blues Talk TV. The Dragons have been going through a rough time recently. Setting a new record for the biggest home loss in the Celtic League (in its various guises) was bad enough, but the word on the grapevine is that the cost cutting sights of the WRU are fixed firmly on the Men of Gwent. That would be a pity because despite Newport being no ones idea of an ideal holiday destination Rodney Parade has always been one of the most rambunctious and earthy grounds in the league and Dragons fans have come back year after year no matter how disappointing that which has gone before has been. But what made the weekend strange was not one, but two draws involving Leinsters Pro12 rivals.

Up in Ravenhill on Friday night, Ulster and Benetton Treviso served up an absolute thriller. Both teams were understrength to varying degrees, but neither allowed that to impinge upon the ambition they displayed. Ulster managed to build leads at various times in the match, being 17-3 and 20-10 up, but the leads didn’t reflect the balance of play and Ulster were unable to maintain them. Dean Budds hat-trick try at the death brought the sides level but the missed conversion meant they couldn’t take the win. The draw cost Ulster first place, with Glasgow taking over after a bonus point win against the Blues. Much like the Treviso game, Ulster had built up a huge lead at the top of the Pro12 table, but now, after just two wins from their last five, they’ve slipped to second, level on points with Glasgow (five wins from their last five), and just two points ahead of Leinster (also five from their last five) in third. The Six Nations period can often cause big shifts in the standings, and this year, whilst the positions are not particularly different than before the Spring Internationals, the gap has contracted significantly.

Down in Limerick Munster faced the only team they dislike more than Leinster, the Ospreys. These games are always feisty affairs, with more action off the ball than on it being par for the course, and Saturday night was no different. Whilst the end result was the same, the game couldn’t have been more different than the previous nights fare in Belfast. The Ulster – Treviso game had two teams who were going out to play rugby and if there were errors being made, they were errors caused by ambition. Munster and The Ospreys went out to grind each other down and not lose. The game was error strewn, and unlike in Belfast, they were errors of competence. Again, the draw was the fair result, both teams being as bad as each other.

This weekend also saw the latest instalment in Declan Kidneys increasingly bizarre talent show – ‘Out-half Factor’. In this show, three out-halfs go head to head in different games to win the approval of Simon Cowe…sorry, the Irish coach. The coach will then look at the performances and make a selection based on almost anything else. This weeks episode was an absolute humdinger. Plucky old-timer O’Gara took on the young blades Madigan and Jackson, and despite doing what he’s been doing for the last number of years, the same way hes always done it to retain his place in the Irish squad, he was booted out of the Big Brother house (well Carton House actually) without a ‘by your leave’. This of course presents a major problem for the gentlemen of the Irish media. For so long have O’Gara and Kidney been as one in their minds, and for last year or two they’ve spent metres of column space and a small rain forests worth of paper defending both, or either, because to defend one is to defend the other. Now what do they do? They are going to have to pick a side – this should be interesting.

Joking aside, is this the last of Rog in the green of Ireland? Probably. Should it be? Again, probably. Should it have ended like this? Most certainly not. ideally Rog should have retired from International duty after the 2011 Rugby World Cup where he could enjoy the plaudits his many years in the Irish jersey have earned him. His heated outburst after the Australian game however, where he said he was going to do so ironically meant that he couldn’t. Unless you’re Kevin Keegan you don’t go out on an emotional post match interview in the heat of the moment.

For me, it all started to come apart for O’Gara in the 61st minute of the Heineken Cup semi-final in 2009. O’Gara always had a small tell in his skip pass – a little double pump before release than no one really noticed until then. One person had noticed however, ironically one of his best friends on and off the pitch, and O’Driscolls intercept try laid it bare in one of the sports biggest games for the whole rugby world to see. It might seem like a small thing, but think back to O’Gara in his pomp for Ireland or Munster.

A favourite move of both teams when in their own third of the field, from the mind of Alan Gaffney, was a skip pass off quick ball (preferably off the top line out ball) where O’Gara hit the player in the outside centre slot (usually after the actual 13 running a dummy inside line to create a gap for the 12 drifting outside him) with an bullet to put him through that gap. it worked time and time again, and like Gaffneys loop play so loved by a succession of Leinster outhalfs was very difficult to either predict or stop. With that pass taken out of the equation though, teams with O’Gara at the helm found themselves limited and the player himself seemed to be hesitant when required to move the ball. And whilst his kicking game was still as long and accurate as before, changes to both the laws, and the way the laws were to be applied, especially at the breakdown, meant that all a kicking game really did was give the ball back to the opposition, and if they were any way competent, they weren’t likely to return the favour.

If this is the end for O’Gara, then a look back at his career numbers is monumentally impressive. He is Irelands second most capped player of all time and the record holder for Irish caps. He has been on three Lions tours, won two Heineken Cups, three Celtic Leagues, a Celtic Cup, a Grand Slam/6 Nations Championship and 4 triple crowns along with setting so many records for points scored that I can’t be arsed listing them all.

There may have been ‘better’ Irish Out-halfs, but there has never been a greater Irish Out-half.