We’ve been here before – green around the gills

So after the complete shambles that passed for a test rugby performance from Ireland last weekend in the face of a absolute pearler from England, where to now for the boys in green?

For the first time in a long while, Schmidt and Farrell have had it with both barrels from media, fans, and punters alike.   Some have wondered if Schmidt is now running on empty – he’s burned out, he’s hit a wall, his exit was badly timed publicly, and his methods and game plans have been worked out by all and sundry. And Farrell is now not far behind in receiving brickbats with attacking lines seeming to run through Irish defensive lines at will, particularly last weekend.

It only seems like yesterday, well okay last November, that Ireland were riding high in the rugby world with their home win against New Zealand to follow up a Grand Slam and another series win in Australia, but like that old maxim goes – pride comes before a fall.   They were wonderfully lacklustre in the Six Nations, rightly hammered by England and Wales, but not Scotland (tiny ray of hope), or France.

Their first RWC warm-up match featuring a mixum-gatherum of possible bench players who might squeeze onto the flight merely served to confirm who’d be returning to their province before very long.  Jean Kleyn put in an understandable strong first cap performance, but Tadgh Beirne’s arrival and quick ruck steal pointed to a greater flexibility for the fourth lock slot after the seeming shoo-ins of Toner, Ryan and Henderson.

Kleyn got a second opportunity to showcase his skills in the English match and came up well short for confirming his inclusion in the RWC 31.

Meanwhile the back row and the backline are showing up lots of brittleness, lack of coherence, lots of missed tackles, and only about 70% of the required speed to get to the ball, and making ground once they had it.  Stander or POM are not making the impact they used to.   Watching the backline pass the ball wide to the wing – every pass telegraphed with time to spare – and Larmour or Stockdale (bar one occasion) get snuffled out was excruciating.   No devil, no pace, no sleight of hand, clever angles, and what appeared to be a poor imitation of England’s tactics in kicking through in the hope of beating man to ball.

Ross Byrne, making his first start at 10, tried valiantly but got nowhere.   He mightn’t know Aki that well, but he’s played often enough with Ringrose (the only decent player on the pitch) to have been able to engineer something like a scoring chance during the game.  Carty gets the nod in the continuing absence of Sexton and Carbery.

Aki may have scored a good scamper’s try at the end, but he’s not floating my boat as the first choice 12, and I can only hope that Henshaw makes sufficient impact and added understanding with his Leinster partner at 10 and 13, to add some more devil to our attacking plays.

As for the back three, I’m not sure who I want to give kick up the arse more to – Stockdale or Larmour.   But one or both of them is getting dropped to make way for Earls/Conway against Wales, with Addison waiting in the wings to wear the 23 shirt.    Simon Zebo has been enjoying himself sending barbed tweets about whether Schmidt is missing him – a tactic that ensure there’s a snowball’s chance in hell of the Kiwi ever changing his mind.

Lastly, Schmidt’s biggest headache.  His captain.  He’s stuck with Rory Best – the most successful captain that Ireland has had in the professional era, but is Rory now subtracting from the team, rather than adding or at last holding his own?   Sean Cronin is not a starter (and normally a great sub), so it’s time to look at Scannell or Herring as a just in case.  He’ll probably pick Best for Cardiff and maybe switch to Scannell for the return match.  Unless he wants to give Best his last test runout at Lansdowne.

Clearly, there’s a strong malaise that has enveloped the team, and at times, I wonder if Schmidt has lost the dressing room.  If he has – temporarily – then the team owe it to him and themselves to get back on track.   I don’t know what the planned line-up from Wales is for this weekend, but no doubt Gatland is stirring their juices and eagerness to put another nail in their celtic rival’s coffin before they even get to Japan.

Ireland have to dig deep within themselves, and find their own mojo – Schmidt or Farrell can’t do it for them at this stage.   A strong, combative performance where the team shows that they still care about winning and acquitting themselves with pride – win or lose – at the Principality might just get the cart back on track.  A win, and they might head to Lansdowne with something approaching confidence before they get on the plane.

Schmidt’s23 for this weekend:

  1. Dave Kilcoyne
  2. Niall Scannell
  3. John Ryan
  4. Iain Henderson
  5. James Ryan
  6. Tadgh Beirne
  7. Peter O’Mahony (C)
  8. Jack Conan
  9. Kieran Marmion
  10. Jack Carty
  11. Jacob Stockdale
  12. Bundee Aki
  13. Chris Farrell
  14. Andrew Conway
  15. Will Addison

Reps: Rory Best, Andrew Porter, Tadgh Furlong, Devin Toner, Jordi Murphy,  Luke McGrath, Garry Ringrose, Dave Kearney

The Mighty Springboks WC Squad

Good day all,

Hope this segment finds everyone happy, healthy and excited for the RWC’19 coming soon.

I don’t see anywhere on the boards the Squad announcement for the Green and Gold so I thought I can drop a mention in.

Just a mention that this squad will leave RSA for Japan in this week. Apparently Rassie wants to acclimatize to the Japanese heat and weather. A bit extreme, but I don’t know the weather situation.

Has anybody been to Japan or is going to the RWC? Hows the climate?


Tom and Deany DTRR Flannagans Challenge Cup – Any late contenders?

Forget about the RWC in the Land of the Rising Sun, the battle for the DTRR’s “Tom and Deany DTRR Flannagans Challenge Cup”, in memory of two great DTRR’rers very sadly taken away from us way too early.
Gentlemen, with this Challenge Cup we both honour and remember them. Mani already has the Flannagan’s Cup and a fine bottle of something or other will accompany the Cup to the winner!

The objective is simple: who can most accurately predict the Premiership 2019 table. Entries must be in before the Friday 18 October at 19.45 with commencement of the West Country battle of Bristol v Bath. After each round a table will be produced (by the “Really Unnaceptable Face of Capitalism”, me). Positions will be determined by the lowest variance between predictions (as submitted for final positions) and the actual Premiership table. The final table will be the end of Final Round (ie pre-play off positions when all teams have played each other twice only). In the event of a tie-break, the tied party that most accurately predicts the points scored by the play-off winner in their two play-off games, will be the Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner and the Recipient of the Challenge Cup, if you haven’t joined in you have time. You can change your mind right up to kick-off on Friday 18 October, as long as I’ve received your update by then.

I urge you all, friends old and new (including you lurkers, you know who you are and we want to see you join in), to send me your predictions and do battle with the fools who think the Chiefs will romp home!

The final rule: “There can be only one final decision maker and it’s me!”

Tables so far received from: Sarries Fez, Monty, Grump, Slamma, Mani, Anonymouse, Gladders, Novo, Tanker, Adrian, George, GlobalFan, GEPC, Bart, Tomski, DaltonLad, D Hanley and me. If I’ve missed anyone then please post on this thread, I can blame the Disqus migration thingy for cocking up…

I will be posting updates after every round with everyone’s position.

Donations – Thank you

Hi all
Just a quick thank you to all who have donated, your generosity is very much appreciated. Within a few days of setting up the site we are 2/3rds funded for the year, which is amazing. Thanks all.

Regarding the last 3rd of that funding. We had a brief vote on trialing adverts to help fund the site, and although not many voted, the result came back 8-3 in favour. Will of the People being Will of the People etc, expect wall to wall popups, viagra emails, etc, because Adxit means Adxit. Kidding. I’m going to try out a few different advertisement plugins over the coming week and see if we can do something that is low key, and isn’t particularly intrusive. We will trial it for a month, then review.

In the meantime, I’m suspending the donate plugin, and we’ll see how much of the final funding we can get from doing this. If you still desperately want to send me money, send me a PM and i’ll send you the details of my offshore Cayman Islands account, just mark up the payment as “CMJS retirement fund”.

Otherwise, please click on the wonderful products and/or services that are soon to be advertised on this site and/or send abuse and/or feedback via the Direct Messaging facility on the site, directly to me.


What did we learn from Eng v Ire?

Difficult to say just how much England or Ireland learned from that game without knowing the team’s relative workloads in preparation, how much the coach’s are willing to show their hands etc

Summary version: for those who do not like the flowery version:

Eng, Ire & Wal need to adapt to referees that do not suit their systems.

Daly poor missed tackle but excellent overall.

Youngs poor core skills but other parts of his game influential to England’s successful attacking shape.

2 lineout options can work.

Undercurry looked good for first time in combo and not the game to highlight the benefit.

LCD turning potential into performance.

Flowery version: for those with time on their hands.

One thing I haven’t seen anyone else mention yet is the impact of Owens. That’s the best he’s refereed England in a while. Said before the game he generally gives the attacking team opportunity to clear the jackal and he did that for the most part yesterday and that benefitted England. There was one where Henderson was awarded a pen which for me was the wrong way, later in the game LCD was correctly pinged in a similar situation. However that was the anomaly and no ref is going to get it right every time. Couldn’t hear his explanation for not referring the apparent forward pass at the club yesterday, but said he didn’t because for him it wasn’t clear and obvious. I’m fine with that in principle, but think most refs would have checked so there could be an issue with consistency and when a try is scored it could decide games in the future.

I think it highlights possible concerns for England, Wales and Ireland. England have struggled when the ref allows shenanigans at the breakdown, Wales and Ireland struggle when they do not. The interpretation of the referees does vary widely so all these teams will need to work out ways to win with refs who do not suit the way they play. Not as easy as it sounds.

England were offloading in contact a fair bit, that might be them trying one way to combat it, high risk and one for good conditions. Ireland remained fairly predictable, sticking to the script, without a man at 10 brave enough to break the system, as Sexton and Carbery might have the confidence to do, it was a bit too easy to defend.

Daly should have done better for the Aki try, have no issue with decision to go high as that is the best way to prevent the score, but he has to go low to high and that’s where the execution was poor. Makes those week in, week out for Wasps, so will need to reset after that one. Overall though he was excellent, counter attacked well, good decision making and execution ball in hand. Stepped into 10 channel more and it worked nicely. My preferred starting back 3 is Watson, Daly, May, with Coka on the bench.

Lots of criticism of Youngs, much of it fair in that his core skills let him down. The 24th minute is one to forget, pass along the floor cleared up by Kruis, then another to Manu, cleared up superbly (how did he break the gain line there?) and then the pass at Healy. A box kick straight out which is uncharacteristic. I do think there is much hyperbole here though as people do not like him and if this was a popular player these mountains would remain molehills. There is much more to scrum half play than the core skills. To have a good game you have to get them right, so he certainly wasn’t troubling the MotM trophy, but much of England’s fluidity came from his subtle manipulation of the breakdown fringes. His work off the scrum for the first try was great, he starts the wheels in motion by getting to Carty, then timing his pass nicely to Ford, from there the pieces fall into place. He hasn’t played much competitive rugby thus far so I can forgive ring rusty errors and take the positives, still the starter 9 for me. Heinz justifying his selection with another good performance and that combo looks good imho.

England’s lineout work was very good on own and oppo ball. Pleasantly surprised by that as only 2 specialist jumpers in the side. In contrast Best and Cronin will be upset with the execution of the lifters and also upset with themselves.

Undercurry – despite what the pundits say, it is not Pooper or Saveane who started this, in my memory it was Waugh and Smith? Can anyone else think of an earlier double 7 combo? Either way I think it worked reasonably well for a first time out. Wasn’t perfect I think both players individually perform better playing as a 7 with a Wilson/Shields/Lawes at 6, but collectively I think it could prove to be better. Owens the wrong ref yesterday to see the best of the combination probably, Gauzere/Farces will be better examples.

LCD finally turning potential into performance on Intl stage is great to see. Has had a shaky start to his intl career with the exemplary lineout work of Hartley in particular and George for the most part highlighting a weakness there. Looks like he’s benefitted from extra time with Kruis/Ewels etc in camp and his work outside the set piece has been very good.

Was great to see Mako and Wilson get on the field but just as disheartening to see Mako limp off shortly after. Hope his and the Irish boys’ (even Healy) injuries are not tournament ending. I think some question the necessity of these games and injuries picked up are certainly in the cons column. For me it’s more important to be battle hardened and ready, especially in a tough group like England have. They are a risk worth taking in my opinion and seems to be the conventional outlook from most intl teams. The danger is peaking too early and that is a concern.

Can Ireland turn it around and take on the Welsh next week as part of the building process, having England timed it wrong and are the Welsh going to open up some attacking patterns?

We will see! Fascinating warm-up season thus far though.

Apols for lack of Scots content, haven’t seen any of the games.

Lions 2021

The current MrsWu and I are planning to follow Gatland’s 3rd Lions, hopefully for the whole thing, certainly all the tests. So.

1. Anyone else planning on going?

2. Anyone with any experience/tips on following Lions tours? Or SA generally? *cough*Bart*cough*

3. Any views on this  https://www.lionstour.com/priority-access-pass/?utm_campaign=1073540_PAP%20launch&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Lions%20Rugby%20Travel&omhide=true&dm_i=4J24,N0CK,56N0VU,2PCLD,1  which is Micky Burton’s mob as official tour organisers offering guaranteed tour places for a fully redundable £250 deposit?

4. Who will be AWJ’s vice captain?