Connacht taught a lesson the hard way, says Keane
Connacht coach Kieran Keane defines himself as an emotional man. This doesn't automatically mean he wears his heart on his sleeve. Sometimes he has to cover it a bit, while at the same time...
Connacht coach Kieran Keane defines himself as an emotional man. This doesn't automatically mean he wears his heart on his sleeve. Sometimes he has to cover it a bit, while at the same time...
Twice in the second half of a pulsating game in the Sportsground Connacht took the lead against the odds. The first time it lasted nearly four minutes. The second, barely three. Neither time did the...
The standard advice if you wake up in the middle of the night, tossing and turning trying to shut...
On a pleasant June afternoon in Sydney in 1994, we ended up at a local derby between Randwick...
At the press conference after Leinster's win over Cardiff last weekend, Leo Cullen quickly turned his thoughts to South Africa. The squad would fly out on the Tuesday, he said. There was great excitement. He was up for it himself as, despite a long and successful rugby career, he had never been to South Africa. Pack yisser bags lads.
A week on from the shellacking in the evening sun at Kingspan, the Cheetahs arrived in Limerick expecting rain - and a bit more of the same on the match front. The weather was a bit better than they hoped, and the game was done and dusted by the time the clouds rolled in. But the darkness on other side of the equation was right on the money. Between Ulster and Munster their Irish adventure has seen them concede 93 points.
On a lovely summer's evening in August 2013, Leinster were wrapping up an uneventful pre-season friendly against Northampton Saints when they threw a 19-year-old flanker into the fray. With about 10 minutes to go it probably passed as the safe period, if there is such a thing against a Premiership side packing most of their firepower.
On the last Saturday in April this year Scarlets went to Galway looking for a lifeline. Would you believe it, it was wet and windy. Not the ideal conditions for a side described by a friend of ours, at the start of the campaign, as being "seriously underpowered". Not the ideal conditions either for a club with a poor record in big games.
It took us a long time to get over the fact that in 2001 the Celtic League was launched in a prefabricated cabin in Donnybrook. True, they were simpler times, but when Syd Millar stood up and announced the cross-border competition that was around the corner we didn't feel we were about to witness something special.
When a team scores two tries in three minutes in a game that was barely clear of its first quarter, it has a tendency to take the edge off things. And where there is no edge often there is little interest. Well, by half-time in Sydney yesterday that team had rattled up six touchdowns - a record in that time-frame in the fixture - and despite the debate as to the likeliest victor being over, you still...
By close of play in Belfield this afternoon, Ireland should have made another down payment on a place in the semi-final of the Women's Rugby World Cup. Having taken 72 points on board against France, the Japanese girls are in no shape to upset the hosts. In which case Ireland will play France on Thursday night looking to seal the deal. So far so good.
Some years ago we got a call from an irate coach of minis rugby about IRFU plans to take the heat out of blitzes at that level. Tired of the point of the exercise - playing and enjoying the game -...
If Harold Wilson had ever been on a Lions tour he never would have said what he said about the pace of political change over the course of seven days.
In the Six Nations of 2016 Josh van der Flier announced himself, pretty much from the outer reaches of Planet Contender.
After a sweaty week in Tokyo, where you weren't sure if the heavens were going to open or the sun would split the stones, we got the game we were supposed to get last week.
As the host nation, Japan has a wonderful opportunity to welcome the world's top players and their supporters to not just enjoy rugby at its highest level, but to experience the reality of modern Japan and the spirit of the Japanese people.
It wouldn’t be normal for players to stroll casually onto the field when afforded the honour of leading the team out for a 50th cap. But when it’s 29 degrees and 72 per cent humidity it’s best to conserve your energy.
Former Connacht coach Michael Bradley is expected to be named soon as coach of Italian side Zebre.
Former Connacht coach Michael Bradley is expected to be named soon as coach of Italian side Zebre.
The Ireland squad came through without incident from their final captain’s run of the tour, in Tokyo’s Ajinomoto Stadium this morning, in temperatures touching on 30 degrees.
In times past, the last few days of a June tour would take on a different air as the players would be seen downtown getting some shopping in: one eye on the final Test, the other on loose ends to be tied up before taking a break.
Joe Schmidt has hailed new Lions captain Peter O'Mahony as the Corkman prepares to lead the tourists into battle against New Zealand in tomorrow's first Test.
Joe Schmidt has included the uncapped John Cooney and the unused Sean Reidy in the squad to face Japan in Tokyo on Saturday, indicating that everyone who has travelled on this tour will go home with some game-time.
A tour like this in Japan is a reward in any case, but especially if for a few years you've been in a queue where the only thing you were feeling were sharp elbows from those around you. That was James Tracy's lot in Leinster. Then this season he managed to double his appearances in blue to 26 from 2015/16. Just like that.
Scrum coach Greg Feek pretty much passed all the Ireland players fit for the Second Test, in Tokyo on Saturday, and then speculated on the potential Irish contingent in the Lions side for their first Test against the All Blacks. Including Peter O'Mahony as likely captain.
Ireland scrum coach Greg Feek pretty much passed all the Ireland players fit for the Second Test, in Tokyo on Saturday, and then speculated on the potential Irish contingent in the Lions side for their First Test against the All Blacks. Including Peter O’Mahony as likely captain.
If the theme of this trip largely has been one of letting the kids loose, and watching them grow, then there are a handful who don't fit into that category. And Andrew Conway would be one of them.
Japan’s chances of squaring the series with Ireland in Tokyo on Saturday took another blow with the loss of centre Will Tupou who has been banned for three games.
At 13 his carries were second only to Dan Leavy, his yardage was behind only Keith Earls, and his 12 tackles were bettered only by Niall Scannell. He conceded no penalties.
The 20-minute walk from Aino train station up to the beautiful Ecopa Stadium in Shizuoka was lined with locals of all ages, decked out in red and white, handing out bits and bobs branded with World Cup 2019.
Going to the final Test of any tour with four fit second rows is what most coaches would consider a luxury.
Girvan Dempsey lands back in Dublin tomorrow, and then kicks off with Leinster again on Tuesday as they take a different approach to their pre-season: a little bit here, another little bit there. Coming off the back of a week here with Ireland in Japan, on top of the prep done with the squad in Carton House before they left home, it reflects where the coaching game is going as much as the playing side: when any useful window opens, you clamber through it.
In the tunnel of Shizuoka's magnificent Ecopa Stadium, Joe Schmidt was just about to field questions from the Irish press corps as his opposite number, Jamie Joseph, was heading in for the Japan press conference. Two Kiwis abroad, earning their corn at what that country does best: pretty much anything to do with rugby.
The speculation in these parts for the last couple of days was whether or not a 12-hour flight from Tokyo, and a three-hour time difference, was too high a price for Warren Gatland's shopping list of reinforcements. For if it was a close call then Keith Earls would have had one foot on the plane and one cheek on the bench for the Lions against the Chiefs on Tuesday.
Ireland are set to move back into third place in the World Rugby rankings after a 50-22 win over Japan in Shizuoka.
In the tunnel of Shizuoka’s magnificent Ecopa Stadium, Joe Schmidt was just about to field questions from the Irish press corps as his opposite number, Jamie Joseph, was heading in for the Japan press conference. Two Kiwis abroad, earning their corn at what that country does best: pretty much anything to do with rugby.
Japan coach Jamie Joseph was candid enough today to admit that their change at 10 for the Test against Ireland tomorrow was driven in part by the need to finish what they started.
It’s not often you hear a captain alluding to the following day’s Test as “a horrible experience,” but in fairness to Rhys Ruddock that’s exactly how he called what’s coming tomorrow in Shizuoka’s Ekopa Stadium.
A couple of hours after Joe Schmidt announced his side for tomorrow's Test in Shizuoka's Ecopa Stadium, we pulled out of Tokyo Station on the Hikari Express for Hamamatsu. For the next 90 minutes we travelled at speeds over 200kph through terrain where it was hard to see where one town ended and the next one started.
That this tour is strictly business is likely to be confirmed with the announcement tomorrow of the team to play Japan in Hamamatsu, less than two hours by bullet train from Tokyo.
The early part of week one in the US was spent wondering where the sweltering weather had gone to. And right on cue it was back in good time for game day.
Joey Carbery is out of the remainder of the Ireland tour. He flew home directly from New York on Sunday having picked up an ankle injury that will take four to six weeks to rehab.
Nothing illustrates better the seismic shift in producing modern Test rugby players than what happened in New Jersey's Red Bull Arena two nights ago.
By the time the Ireland squad arrive in Tokyo tonight, after the marathon trek from New York, Joe Schmidt will know if the first hurdle of this two-nation tour has been cleared successfully: the fitness of Joey Carbery.
There is a lot to be said for having decent depth in your Guinness PRO12 squad when the Six Nations is hogging the headlines.
Nine tries on a typically spirited but limited US Eagles side was perhaps what Joe Schmidt was aiming for.
The 10th meeting between America and Ireland, the sixth on US soil, and the sequence of Irish wins remains unbroken. This was Tier 1 against Tier 2 in every respect.
One of our fondest World Cup memories is from Bloemfontein in 1995. It's unlikely many people can say that about the capital of the old Orange Free State. Perched on the high veldt, back then it was dusty and drab and not very friendly. It has picked up a bit since.
If the US back three are unclear about what's coming their way this evening (10.0pm Irish time) then it won't take long to put a picture on it.
In brilliant sunshine in New Jersey's Red Bull arena yesterday Ireland ran through their standard pre-match routine.
Ireland got a taste of conditions for tomorrow’s test against the US Eagles when they had their captain’s run at New Jersey’s Red Bull Arena today. In brilliant sunshine and 27 degrees captain Rhys Ruddock counted them all out and counted them back in again, safely.
Before the tour of the USA and Japan, Joe Schmidt warned that being selected was no guarantee of going home with a cap - but now that five potential debutants are in the frame against the Eagles in New Jersey tomorrow, it's hard to imagine any of them not taking the next step.
Ireland could have another five new caps by the close of business against the US Eagles in New Jersey on Saturday after Joe Schmidt announced one new cap, in Jacob Stoockdale, in the starting lineup and another four on the bench.
It’s inevitable that in the current circumstances, where 23 of the touring squad have caps somewhere between zero and 10, that Keith Earls stands out. When you talk about lads in line for Lions call-ups, he was an original selection when the Lions went to South Africa in 2009. A lifetime ago.
Twelve months ago there was a wave of criticism washing over Joe Schmidt for his decision to leave Garry Ringrose out of the squad for the tour to South Africa. The clamour to include him in the Ireland side started pre Six Nations that season, and ran on to summer.
Lions attack coach Rob Howley has backed Johnny Sexton to bounce back from his "inconsistent" opening Lions performance, writes Ruaidhri O'Connor.
The first thing you think of when touring in the US is where the team will train, and how close will it resemble a rugby pitch.
Joey Carbery is virtually certain to start for Ireland against the US in New Jersey on Saturday as Paddy Jackson will not be joining the squad until next week in Japan.
In conditions closer to an Irish summer’s day – damp and dreary and just 13 degrees- Joe Schmidt’s Ireland squad loosened up with a light session this morning in New Jersey to kick off their tour of the US and Japan.
In late August, Connacht will play Bristol in the Sportsground as part of their pre-season warm-up.
We asked a bookmaker for odds on Simon Zebo being called up to the Lions tour at some point next week, when the Ireland wing is in the US. In other words, for lightning to strike twice. Four years ago Zebo was with Ireland's remainers in America when the Lions were in Australia. And he was not long off the pitch when he got called aside.
Bit of a mixed blessing being among the first out of the traps on a Lions tour: a good start against relatively weak opposition and you're in credit, but it's not a deal-breaker; finish on the wrong side of the ledger and, as in politics, if you're explaining you're losing.
In the summer of 1971 we were packed off as usual to our cousins in Limerick. They lived in Greystones, in the shadow of the Gaelic Grounds on the Ennis Road. The patch of wasteland behind the terrace at the east end of the ground was known locally as The Backs, a lethal mix of gravel and tufty grass where our matches of great importance were played out.
Not exactly a match made in the boardroom of Celtic Rugby, who had hoped for a full house attending Leinster versus Munster, and to compound it we got a game where the issue was put to bed with a penalty goal in the 44th minute. Thereafter Scarlets shifted from wide-wide mode to percentage rugby. It was a luxury they could afford thanks to a first-half performance that outranked anything we've seen in the short history of this competition.
Munster's plans for finishing a fine season with silverware were shredded by men in red at the Aviva Stadium last night. It was the Scarlets who got to wear their home strip and they looked thoroughly at home as they lifted only their second Guinness PRO12 title, with a crushing 46-22 win.
Faced with the prospect of an all-Welsh PRO12 final in Dublin on Saturday, you'd imagine a few of the secret society that is the board of Celtic Rugby didn't sleep too well on Friday night.
In Reading's Madejski Stadium on Wednesday night, London Irish play Leeds Carnegie in the second leg of the Championship final. In recent years this scrap to get into the Premiership has given us almost macabre entertainment such was Bristol's capacity to trip over their shoelaces.
It's unlikely that lessons for Joe Schmidt were uppermost in Leo Cullen's mind after Friday night's collapse against Scarlets, but you can take it that the Ireland coach was a bit rattled by it.
There are two ways to look at the task of playing Leinster away in a Guinness PRO 12 semifinal: either it’s a challenge that motivates you or one that melts your head, for not only were they 100 per cent from their six previous semifinals in this competition but never has the away side left with a smile on their face from the penultimate game. Safe to say Scarlets were up for it.
Back when Munster were at the top of their cycle we remember one of their main movers describing how hard it had been to get into the side. The problem wasn't confined to shifting the man ahead of you in the queue, he explained, it was about getting the right opportunity to make your case. And being part of a job lot of changes for an away game in Newport, in the depths of winter, didn't...
"In the future, the dream ticket for Ulster is that we are the world's best and people are coming here from around the world to see how we do it. Also that we are thriving in our clubs and schools, that the Ulster side is winning trophies, that our coaches and players are in demand in New Zealand and Australia and that we are recognised as doing things the best way - and also in a straight,...
If Joe Schmidt has had to work harder to keep an ear-to-ear grin off his face then it was good practice for what unfolded in Kyoto this morning.
Same venue, same teams, and thankfully much the same weather forecast: if we get anything like the same quality as last season's AIL final then making the trip to Lansdowne Road this afternoon will be well worth the effort.
The next few weeks will tick off a few important dates on the rugby calendar, for the medium and long term. On June 1, the bidding countries for the 2023 World Cup - of which Ireland is one, along with France and South Africa - must have their pitches submitted. And before that, in Kyoto on Wednesday, comes the pool draw for Japan 2019. Both decisions have bells and whistles...
Leinster finished the regulation phase of the Guinness PRO12 in second place - but with a home draw in the semi-final, against Scarlets - after they lost before a full house at Kingspan Stadium and Munster crushed Connacht in Limerick.
The fixtures at this time of year are scheduled in the hope that home derbies have more than local rivalry at stake. So imagine if Ulster went into this game - the last competitive outing for their talisman Ruan Pienaar, after seven stellar seasons - with a decent chance of taking up their usual spot in the last four of the Guinness PRO12.
Compare where you stood after Saracens had strangled Munster in the first of the Champions Cup semi-finals last month with your position the next day when business closed in Lyon. If you felt that Clermont, the side romantics want to win, had enough grease and grunt to slip out of Sarries' boa constrictor routine then you were probably in the minority. And if those odds of 1/2 on Mark McCall's men are justified, we'll have yet another chapter in the epic, Bridesmaids of the Auvergne.
Mike Ross knew from early in the week that, a few days after announcing his plan to retire at the end of the season, he would start for Leinster against Glasgow in the RDS. And then? Not quite sure.
The first anniversary of Ulster's whopping 46-26 win over the Ospreys in Swansea is just a week away. That unusual result last season secured an away draw against Leinster in the Guinness Pro12 semifinals. It was Ulster's fourth win on the bounce, a little sequence in which they were averaging a very healthy 35 points a game. Beating Connacht and Leinster in that run augured well for their chances in the knockouts, even if the RDS is always an unforgiving place for them.
It was a bit like the halcyon days of the AIL here last week: two Munster clubs preparing for the spin up to Dublin to assert their position in the rugby hierarchy, and give vent to their anger. As Anthony Foley described in some detail in Axel, his autobiography, the bitter pill is part of the diet in that part of the world.
Most coaches would be happy enough if, on a regular basis, their team was a nightmare to play against. If Mark McCall numbers himself in that group then more often than not, for him, match day is a happy day. And certainly Saracens looked well pleased with themselves, for not only did their fifth straight European semi-final appearance finish in comfort, it had all the appearances of a performance that started on a laptop and moved - with only the odd change in punctuation - through to the field.
Robbie Henshaw's JFK moment will be easily remembered. Unlike the rest of us, who randomly just happen to be somewhere when something momentous occurs - and it stays in our heads forever - his was choreographed. But nonetheless enjoyable despite the circumstances.
If the following welcome on-stage to Sam Warburton suggested a denial of the obvious – “Sam, many many congratulations…the secret is finally out” – then at least the unveiling of rest of the Lions squad had enough long-odds runners to keep everyone interested.
Adidas are set to take over from Canterbury as kit suppliers to Leinster in season 2018/19 on a five year contract.
It's appropriate that this interview should take place within striking distance of the Dolphin clubhouse. A week earlier, before their AIL win over Old Wesley, Niall Scannell had presented his Ireland jersey to the club who came late enough to his life, but had a positive influence on how he lived it thereafter.
At this stage of the season, every four years, the sight of a high-profile player being carted off has greater connotations than normal. Immediately you consult the calendar to check the following dates: initial assembly of the squad; first game on tour; last Saturday game before the first Test. And then with great insight we slosh about trying to figure out the chances of the wounded man being...
The endgame said it all about Ulster. Faced with the prospect of hanging onto the ball and taking the game into the red, until either a penalty or a decent drop-goal opportunity arrived, in the end they did neither. Instead they rushed an effort from Paddy Jackson which, if successful, would have won the game, but even before he put boot to ball you felt it was going anywhere bar on target. He had only just got back on his feet from cleaning a ruck.
Matt O'Connor and Declan Kidney wouldn't be two men you'd have as fellow travellers on the same train of thought, but that's how it felt last week as the dust settled on another momentous weekend in Ireland's love affair with Europe.
Ronan O’Gara is to join former teammates Girvan Dempsey and Felix Jones as part of an extended coaching team on Ireland’s summer tour to the US and Japan.
Leinster are back in the Champions Cup semi-final. And while the scoreline might suggest it was a handy day out, it was not quite that. Rather, it was a curious mix: Leinster looked a class apart in the first half, while Wasps looked a bit like the Keystone Cops. When in the last half hour the home side had lost a bit of their control, and their guests had given up on the world record chase for the number of unforced errors in a single afternoon, we had a different game.
If you wanted an illustration of how much the picture has changed for Irish rugby in the space of a season then virtually full houses in Lansdowne Road and Thomond Park for Champions Cup quarter-finals was perfect. A year ago Ireland's leading provinces weren't mapped. Now Leinster are preparing for a semi-final in the Champions Cup, in France, while Munster are at the same stage...
Many years ago a neighbour went through seven kinds of torture over a new car. It was a German model and even then we were conditioned to the idea that German was a byword for efficiency, so it was quite the topic of conversation. If it wasn't the fuel pump it was the fan belt, on and on until the poor man was afraid to drive to work for fear he'd get stuck halfway.
You can trace the remake of the Leinster Young Guns movie back to the home tie with Bath 14 months ago. Doomed to non-qualification, Leo Cullen opened the door suddenly to a raft of greenhorns - Garry Ringrose, Luke McGrath, Peter Dooley, James Tracy, Ross Molony and Josh van der Flier - and the effect sent the fans home happy. They had seen the future and were happy...
Ireland made it back-to-back record-wrecking performances when they denied England a Grand Slam at the Aviva Stadium yesterday. Having stopped New Zealand from setting a record for successive wins, with the win in Chicago, they did the same to England yesterday, leaving them stuck on 18 - alongside the All Blacks.
At the end of a tumultuous evening in Lansdowne Road we were treated to the not unique sight of an England captain receiving the Championship trophy when what he wanted was the Grand Slam. Unlike times past, however, there was the missed boat that was England's bid to become sole owners of the world record number of wins. It's a tough old business this Test rugby lark, as Eddie Jones will testify.
When Warren Gatland popped into the Wales dressing-room after they beat Ireland a fortnight ago he could easily have congratulated Alun-Wyn Jones on nailing down a place on the Lions tour.
With five matches under his belt against England – four of them as a starter – Peter O’Mahony will have had his antennae tuned from early this week for what was coming next. Of the hopefuls, he was top of the list. So were the signs indicating six games with four starts, or six with five?
One of the foremost authorities on concussion in sport, Dr Willie Stewart, is considering his position on World Rugby's Independent Concussion Advisory Group following another report into a player being left on the field despite a suspected concussion.
If you spotted the written judgment last week on the Conor Murray concussion case - if we might call it that - then it was only because you knew where to look. Buried under the blizzard of news and opinion surrounding the announcement of the Ireland side to play Wales yesterday, it merited not a line on the rugby pages of the nation's daily newspapers. Which, we imagine, was the point of...
It’s reasonable to guess that when Craig Gilroy was strolling back to the changing room in Stadio Olimpico last month he reckoned he might be getting a look-in again soon enough to the Ireland match day squad.
The press conference after the Italy game in Stadio Olimpico wasn't long running when Conor O'Shea threw out a comparison between Wales and Ireland. He framed it the context of how both had played against Italy, rather than what might happen when they met up, but you couldn't help but infer from the latter.
Friday night in Cardiff will be an anniversary for Donnacha Ryan. It was there, in the altogether different atmosphere of a World Cup warm-up on a sunny August afternoon in 2015, that the second row restarted his international career.
If you saw the way Scarlets dug themselves out of a hole in Thomond Park last weekend you reckoned that Leinster would be dealing with a team who don't do early exits. With only one defeat in their last 13 Guinness Pro12 games, they came to the RDS with high expectations. On a cold night where the swirling breeze carried some rain with it by the time the game was into its second quarter, our expectations were a bit off.
You won't get odds on Ireland retaining their lead at the top of the Six Nations table beyond this afternoon in Twickenham. England's modest points difference of plus 8, having had to battle their way through the first two rounds, will be a whole lot healthier by the time they are finished with Italy.
Two hours before kick-off at Lansdowne Road yesterday we had one of those downpours that had a mid-winter feel to it. If it continued it would close the door on a contest with as much tempo as grunt to it. But if it abated we might be in business for the latest instalment of what has become an interesting little rivalry between Ireland and France. It abated. And what we got was somewhere between the two.
If things go according to plan in Italy this afternoon Ireland's provinces will be 12 wins from 13 starts since the Six Nations window opened. On the surface that looks great, a continuation of the trend that last season saw Ireland, for the first time, squeeze all four provinces into the top six.
More than a fortnight ago we asked of Leinster manager Guy Easterby what was the story with Stuart Lancaster's future there. The dogs in the street were barking about a contract extension for a man who had transformed the place. The issue it seemed was simply about sitting down and putting an X in the appropriate box.
The last time we heard Joe Schmidt delight, in the middle of a tournament, in the bonus of having a virtually fully fit squad it was half way through the 2015 World Cup. And injury already was removing Jared Payne from the equation, with others to follow.
'Worth waiting for' might well be the slogan Ulster use to convey their happiness about Marcell Coetzee's fitness. And form. Just two games into his time here, after 10 months out following knee surgery, and the Springbok picks up the man of the match award in a bonus point win for the home side - their second in a row in this competition.
For most of us the year 2007 was a slow burner that singed more and more people the longer it went on. If the global recession didn't land on your doorstep then sporting disaster met you at the front gate. Ireland's Rugby World Cup? A shocker without a shred of mitigation. We weren't alone in that regard.
It sounds like some sort of team formation - 3-2-2 - but in this case it represents Conor Murray's profit-and-loss account from his French engagements. Hard to believe the first of 55 caps came less than six years ago, slipping in under the radar on a summer's night in Bordeaux. And equally hard to credit if, like the bulk of those who have played for Ireland, your experience of playing France was a negative one. To have lost just two of those seven Tests puts him in a happy minority.
If Super Saturday in March 2015 was the high point of the Six Nations then three years previously, on a freezing February night in Paris, was the other end of the scale. With most of a full attendance already in their seats, the game was called off.
The chances of Ireland, two weeks running, firing a hail of bullets - most of which would miss the target - were limited. Especially against opposition who have only beaten them once in the Six Nations, and even then when the contest had been reduced to an episode of the Keystone Cops, here in 2013, when the away side literally ran out of staff. Different times.