Neil Francis: 'Munster's lack of creativity could stop them going much further'
Coming into this game you got the impression that Exeter sensed opportunity. Many other English teams may have thought the same but Exeter...
Coming into this game you got the impression that Exeter sensed opportunity. Many other English teams may have thought the same but Exeter...
Remember this - everything is relative and scale is always open to interpretation! Last year the...
I was looking for a word to describe Leinster's performance. The word 'clinical' popped up but I'm not sure if you can justify using it on this occasion.
The perception is that Leinster have gears. These are never really used in the PRO14 because they are never required. Leinster chalk up big numbers in second gear during the season. It's like the...
1 THE CHAINBREAKER
In breaking news today, the Leinster Branch has issued a statement addressed to Premiership Rugby prior to the resumption of the Heineken Cup.
The flip side of success for a rugby player is injury. While the country basks in the feel-good factor after the win over the All Blacks, the players associated with the series enjoy their well-deserved credit and adulation. But those lying prone on the treatment table voice their congratulations through gritted teeth. It is hard sometimes to feign sincerity.
An elderly man is on his deathbed. Although he can feel the end is near, his senses are suddenly aroused by a wonderful aroma. He realises his loving wife of 60 years is baking his favourite cakes.
The big one last Saturday was just a sensational game of rugby. Two brilliantly coached teams went at each other with murderous vigour - no vegans at this one. Professional athletes playing at the height of power, dazzling offence and thunderous hits in defence - these are the boys who make the noise. The huge crowd got value for their money.
Reaction to the All Black loss back in New Zealand hasn't been as magnanimous as their vanquished rugby union side. Humble pie has been eaten so rarely that they had forgotten what it tastes like.
It wasn't that far back that Tiger Woods was charging $3m for an appearance fee if you wanted him to pitch up to your golf tournament.
It is a few weeks before the start of a Five Nations Championship and I am stuck at a red light at the junction of Alfie Byrne Road and Clontarf Road.
There is a smell of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage all over the Heineken Cup. An esprit de Brexit about the whole thing. Exit from the single...
I have been all over the world and never once have I seen in the parks and main drags of the cities I've been to, a statue or a memorial to...
I watched a little bit of the Bristol Bears versus Bath game on August 31 this year. First match of the season in the Gallagher's Premiership and I...
It is 9.0 on Monday morning. Maths class is 15 minutes old. I am not there though, I'm standing in a corridor in the Mater Hospital. The doors to the coronary theatre open up as Maurice Nelligan breezily comes out through the in door. Luckily there was no waiter with a carafe of Chardonnay and six glasses on a tray going the other way.
Skorpions Nightclub is an establishment on the island of Ios in the Cyclades Archipelago off the coast of Greece. The nightclub is situated on the side of a cliff and a wall forms a boundary on both sides of the club. I managed to fall off the wall one night - the drop was in excess of 100 feet but the fact that I am able to recount the story tells you that I survived.
The Rugby World Cup semi-finals will take place on October 26 and 27 next year in Yokohama, Japan. I went for a consultation with my fortune teller, Madame Zelda, and she assured me that the first semi-final will be between England and New Zealand and that the second semi-final will be between Ireland and Wales.
About 10 years ago after a comprehensive victory over Italy in the Stadio Flaminio, I ended up in the Stadio Olimpico the following day for my first taste of Serie A. I watched two games that day - my first and my last. Never again.
Lucky, lucky Leinster. They have become adept in these battles of the wills, and they played the conditions better than Bath, but if the West Country team had a full roster and a more definitive game plan they could have easily won this game.
A signature performance, a demonstration of resourcefulness and ruthlessness. A match played with murderous intensity. And Ireland the winners.
Apparently we have a rivalry with New Zealand on the rugby field. The Hype-meisters and marketing people have done it again. I have to confess to an undying sense of admiration for the way these people track reason. One win in a hundred years and we have a rivalry.
On the way to the Aviva Stadium yesterday I noticed that the national knitting and crochet event was on in the RDS. Maybe Ireland might pop down there tomorrow, because the ability to knit was something that was sorely missing yesterday.
Bloke goes down to the Slug & Lettuce pub on the Kings Road, walks in, sits down at the bar and says nothing. Barman comes over, yer man points at the beer tap. "Do you want a pint?" asks the barman.
Something wonderful happened at the European Athletics Championships in Berlin during the summer. I know some of you have given up on track and field athletics and the rest of you couldn’t be arsed, but give me a minute or so to persuade you.
It was Marvin Hagler who summed it up best when it came to the issue of addressing continued success, longevity of a career and the constant search for motivation and desire: “It is very hard to get out of bed and pound the roads at 5am in the morning when you are wearing silk pyjamas.”
Leinster play Wasps tomorrow night in the RDS to get this season's Champions Cup competition under way.
Some of you may find it hard to picture the scene, so bear with me. It is the 1980s and UCD Rugby Club have just won the McCorry Cup, an underage competition for Leinster clubs. UCD had gone through the Gobi for a long, long time. In the search for success, a cup, any cup, was worth celebrating and that is precisely what half the college did on that great day. The Belfield bar was...
This one was a bit like telling your kid brother to give it his best shot. The kid brother refuses because he knows he's going to get beat anyway. You make him an offer he can't refuse: "I'll tie my arm behind my back." Can't say any fairer than that. Go on - give it your best shot.
Fingers on the buzzers folks, a starter for 10 - the Revel Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey! Anyone?
For such a big oaf I have surprisingly dainty feet. Formal shoes or rugby boots - if they are not an absolute perfect fit then I'm like Neymar for the rest of the day. That is what I imagine it is like competing for a back-row position in an Ireland squad; like wearing a pair of shoes that are a size or two too small for you - horribly uncomfortable.
Dublin's win in the All-Ireland football final was satisfying on many levels. I think they will replicate their success again next season far more easily than their rugby confrères. I am not sure whether Joe Schmidt and Jim Gavin have ever met but they undoubtedly share the same DNA - same approach, same systems, same mental applications and the same work ethic.
Whatever you might think of rugby union, there has been one constant since the game went professional - it never stays still.
I feel a huge sense of pride in Ireland's rugby team. When it was easier to lose this game, Ireland displayed remarkable reserves of courage all the way to the finish line. The nation should applaud their appetite for the contest and their heroic virtue throughout the Test series.
In January 49BC, Julius Caesar received instructions from the senate to leave Gaul and return home to Rome. He received explicit instructions not to travel with his army and that no legion should cross the Rubicon which was situated at Italy's northern border.
What sport will the nation be watching next week? South Korea v Mexico perhaps, Belgium v Tunisia possibly, or maybe the highly competitive match between Dublin and Laois, or another compelling battle between Donegal and Fermanagh. Once again our rugby team shows the way. Our soccer team are not at the big show and the GAA just cannot compensate for the amount of poor-quality...
During this year's Six Nations, I popped in to pick up my accreditation in the ever-friendly and efficient IRFU offices in Lansdowne.
So the better team won yesterday, certainly the smarter side. Australia had a game plan that upset Ireland, and when the men in green are held try-less you have to consider just why they were unpicked tactically.
There is a line from the sitcom 'Friends' out there about the most unpopular transfer news on this island. It goes, "don't worry, we are going to be like Rachel. Better off with Ross than Joey."
On May 12 Leinster became European Champions for the fourth time. The match against Racing in Bilbao will be remembered as a titanic struggle with a low entertainment quotient.
A lot of rugby to absorb last weekend. The game at the Aviva, however, was the one to watch and admire. Two skilful teams playing the game beautifully. If there were three PRO14 teams in the Champions Cup semi-finals, am I wrong in saying that the PRO14 is where it's at?
I was only a small boy when the 1970 World Cup final was played in Mexico City. The match was well over and Brazil, probably the greatest football side of all time, were toying with their hapless Italian opponents. The Brazilians, not really wanting to humiliate the Italians, managed to sustain the pitch of their performance right to the end. The BBC's Kenneth Wolstenholme coined it beautifully when...
If I were fierce and bald and short of breath,
The stench of wasted opportunity was the overriding aroma in the aftermath of this match. What-ifs rolling off the tongue. Leinster, infinitely smarter, got the job done. Their challenge was a far more difficult task to deal with because the battle was not with Munster but with themselves.
The men's toilet is not normally a place where I introduce myself to strangers but it was the crest on this fella's jersey that initially garnered my interest. Independiente RC Santander - one of many rugby clubs operating in the Spanish Basque region.
A truly dreadful game of rugby and a match where the many neutrals, and particularly the Spanish, will be scratching their heads and wondering what all the fuss was about. This game wasn't even one for the purists but who cares?
Racing 92 played their last home game of the regular Top 14 season 450 miles from Paris in Vannes, Brittany. At that time they needed a win to ensure they got a bye and a home draw in the Top 14 semi-finals.
The word 'sinecure' comes from the Latin sine, which means without, and cura, which means care. A sinecure is an office or position requiring little or no work but giving the holder status or financial benefit. Leinster House is full of them and Leinster rugby picked a few sinecurists to play against Connacht last Saturday in the Sportsground.
We can say for certain now that pressure is not just for tyres and bra straps.
We begin this week with some Winston Churchill: "I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle."
What is it about home advantage? How is it that teams playing at home are far sharper, more cohesive, so much more composed and generally engage in the team dynamic far more naturally than they do when they play away from home?
Were we guilty of putting extravagant labels on this Llanelli side? Certainly this columnist was. They are still a very decent side and will have a big say in where the PRO14 championship goes, but at this level they were ruthlessly exploited.
In a week where we saw the power of sponsors and the financial straitjacket they placed on sporting bodies by their patronage, maybe just a cursory nod at the way things are.
And so the inevitable has happened and Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding have been dispatched by the IRFU and by their province.
On the final day of Champions Cup pool matches this year, everyone connected to their team would have been doing a little bit of mental and logistical arithmetic. Who would your team get? Where would they go? Toulon away? Phew! Clermont away? Jeez no! Saracens at the Allianz - wow. Even La Rochelle away - that is not somewhere where you get out of alive in a rugby sense, kind of like a Helmand province with a picturesque harbour and some nice restaurants outside the ground.
There have been some giddy finishes in the last couple of months — and the dénouement last Saturday in Thomond Park was certainly up there — but the crème de la menthe was the Keystone Cop spectacular in Paris during the Six Nations.
A vintage weekend of European rugby - we could decant all four quality matches they were that good. Yet we have barely the time to mask our complacency when we realise the tenuous hold on reality that some of our opposition have been engaged in.
The announcement of a verdict on Wednesday last in the Belfast rape trial, delivered after a period of time which surprised many, left both sides agitated and dissatisfied. Rather than concluding events, this not guilty verdict has set in train consequences which prior to this trial would have been unforeseen.
Well, here we are and strange though that it may seem the Ireland versus England reprise in the Aviva this Sunday just seems to have a little bit more bite than the main event at Twickenham.
Is it too easy to pen an 'aren't we great' article the week after collecting a Grand Slam? Ill-considered or ill-conceived to speak plainly about what we have witnessed - not just last Saturday but say since 2006 about where the oval ball game sits in the nation's affections. Is it stretching it too far possibly to say that rugby, now, is the nation's game?
On the evening before the big match at Twickenham I was at Keith Wood's W2 Charity black-tie gala ball at the Hilton on Park Lane, the hotel that used to host the post-match dinner for the England versus Ireland Championship matches.
And the responsorial psalm is: "Joe is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want." There were many things that could have gone wrong yesterday for Ireland but such is the confidence of the squad in their coach that victory was the only option open to them.
A good while ago I was part of an Ireland squad that flew to Atlanta, Georgia for some warm weather training in December/January. It was 10 days of horror training which was repugnant to my own particular constitution. We were treated like children and when we made mistakes we had to do a routine called 'Up & Downs.' These were basically goal line to dead ball line, slide down, get...
The new Scottish Rugby revolution and the Loch Ness Monster? There is a strong suspicion that neither exists. Yesterday's Test match? In the end what really mattered was what you did with what you had and this was demonstrated in a 20-point victory.
I couldn't sleep the other night - something just gnawing at me. Just something vaguely familiar about the way Ireland are playing their rugby. Get the pack going forward, one-out runners, get them around the corner and garner some momentum and a little room and then progress from there.
Before last Saturday’s game with the Welsh there seemed to be a flurry of articles on ‘The Punch’ as a backdrop to the simmering rivalry between the two countries on the rugby field.
The sense of missed opportunity always heightens any reprieve that you get in sport. Last year in Murrayfield, Scotland put 21 points on Ireland before the men in green could even get out of the blocks. It was a somnolent and scatty first half from Ireland but they came back to lead the game 22-21.
A truly sweet victory! To the loser a pitcher of warm piss - after such an invigorating game there can be no silver lining and the winner takes all.
Warren Gatland, more than any other coach in the world, has lived, dined and slept on the perceived slights of opinion thrown in his face.
Back in December, Racing 92 played Castres away in the third leg of their Champions Cup pool. It was an unremarkable game which Castres won 16-13 — an unremarkable game save for one moment.
How does that tiresome dirge go again? "Shoulder to shoulder, we'll answer Ireland's Call." He is a tough boy, Robbie Henshaw. You see it in his demeanour on the field. I don't think anyone actually enjoys tackling, but some people just garner an aptitude for it.
We all have nightmares - recurring nightmares; devils, demons, bogeymen and vampires - all stock stuff but not real.
I still have no clear recollection of leaving the Centre Hospitalier de Bretagne Sud other than the fact that I struggled with the sunshine in my eyes as soon as I left the hospital. I also asked for the music to be turned off in the car - it wasn't what Plastic Bertrand was singing, it was just that the noise aggravated my still-delicate disposition.
Take some of that you cheating French so-and-sos! If Ireland had come away from yesterday's encounter with a loss the nation would have been sick to the pit of its stomach with yet another injustice. Instead they came away with a victory in the most dramatic circumstances and once again Ireland's icon Johnny Sexton is central to it all.
The period from September 1, 1939 to May 10, 1940 was known as the Phoney War. From the time the Germans invaded Poland to the time they engaged their real enemy, the English and the French, well it was a time of inertia and anxiety.
A while ago I played a game of golf at the Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club, a fabulous course and way too good for the likes of me. The fourball that day was Scott Hastings, Derek Stark, Gregor Townsend and me.
While Castres were waiting the three hours for Thomond Park to dry out last Sunday, many things would have been circulating through the minds and hearts of the collectif.
Cooperstown is where they go to be venerated. It is a quaint little village in Otsego County, New York, where the baseball Hall of Fame is located. The game of baseball decided there needed to be a place to pay homage to 'the best of us'. The majority of its inductees are a shining beacon of athletic righteousness and forthright character, underpinned by a proper code of values and...
Wake me up when the team actually runs out on to the park.
'Cinderella story: This unknown comes out of nowhere to lead the pack out of Augusta." Bill Murray's classic cameo in the movie Caddyshack as the deranged greenkeeper taking the heads off chrysanthemums with his rake at Bushwood Golf Club. Pretending he is playing in Augusta. "Out of nowhere, former greenkeeper about to become the Masters Champion Oh he got hold of that one, I don't believe it, it's in the hole".
I remember bringing my youngest son to the World Wrestling Federation in the States. At that time he was just seven years old but was able to work out that if you come to the ring second with the better introduction, louder rock music, better make-up and the more outlandish budgie smugglers, well then it seemed you would be the winner all of the time.
The 2018 edition of the Leinster Schools Senior Cup begins this month. For the participants it is a competition which means everything, because at that time in your life it is the only thing. My thoughts here are a reflection on a famous game in which I played. What it meant to me. What it meant to two 'lesser' players on my team and what it meant to the two schools who took part in...
Jordan Larmour's rather good try in Thomond Park on St Stephen's Day was a signal moment in the affairs of rugby in this country.
My record is just too good to ignore. In the recent past, every time I have attended a regular season NFL game that team has won the Super Bowl. The New York Giants, Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots (twice) could all at the very least send over a private jet and come up with a corporate box on the halfway line. I will waive my fee.
In dodo land everything happens slowly. The neuro-transmitters that they gave you, well they were made in Taiwan. Somebody tells a joke, you don't get it, but you laugh anyway. Somebody explains the game-plan to you, they ask you if you have got it and you nod like the big sloppy St Bernard that you are. Are you sure? Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
In the 68th minute of a less-than-absorbing game in the Kingspan on Friday night, Elia Elia - so good they named him twice - was substituted by the little-known Charlie Piper.
If ever I go to a restaurant and I have no other choice and choose a Caesar Salad, it is rare that I will return to that restaurant. It is an uninspiring and stage stock choice of starter.
Takudzwa Ngwenya was certainly the first Travelling Wilbury who brought the rugby tourist concept home to me. He was famous for burning Brian Habana on the outside when the American Eagles played the Springboks in the 2007 World Cup, France's first World Cup (ahem).
Bloody Scots! We got no votes in our recent World Cup bid, and there was no shame either, and now after Glasgow's bonus-point loss to Montpellier we get no favours either.
Van Graan? Sounds like a German battleship sunk in the mid-Atlantic during the Second World War with all hands on deck.
I recently saw Danny Boyle's Olympic montage for the London 2012 opening ceremony again. In it there was a clip of Noel Mannion scoring his famous try in Cardiff in 1989.
This loosehead thing has exercised my mind a fair bit for the last couple of weeks. Last Friday our world-class loosehead Jack McGrath had the weekend off - no Dragons, no Pumas. Not that long ago, he played in all three Tests for the Lions against New Zealand and played well enough to suggest that he should start in all of the November Tests.
Those pesky Argies are like an old girlfriend who you have bad memories with and they just keep turning back up. Yesterday was one of the fonder moments, but damn it they just don't go away quietly.
Three of my all-time sporting heroes are called Joe. Joe Namath, Joe Montana and Joe DiMaggio. I shook hands with Broadway Joe Namath in a restaurant in New York years ago. You might think that someone you know has charisma until you meet someone who really has got charisma.
The issue playing in matches like these is that it's like getting a window seat on the Hindenburg. It could be a 60 or 70-pointer or it could be the end of your career.
Treachery and betrayal! Deceit and devious behaviour? Vested interest and greed. All in a day's work behind locked doors. In London yesterday the vote to host the Rugby World Cup 2023 went the way of all previous World Rugby Council votes - all the way back to 1987.
The panto season approaches and I have been inundated with work offers. So many roles, so much malfeasance to throw about. I can play anyone - Gaston, Jafar, Captain Hook, Cruella…
A strangely soul-less game in the Aviva yesterday. South Africa, a proud rugby nation, have a rich heritage in the game, but were clueless to the point of being lamentable. The limited nature of their game will rubber-stamp their descent into becoming a minor rugby nation. At no stage did they look like they would threaten Ireland's line, and their resolve and conviction was broken well before...
Finicky bunch that lot on Twitter, a few of them branding me racist for taking a hard line on something I feel strongly about. The fervent wish that anyone who represents Ireland at any sport at international level be Irish. A simple constitution - born here, raised here, or a passport holder or son, daughter or grandchild of Irish parents or grandparents. An authentic connection to the island irrespective of creed, code or colour. Is that too much to ask for?
This article is not about Eamon Dunphy, but he does appear in it a few times. As contrarians, do we agree with each other on what we say or think or should we automatically disagree by nature? When Eamon dies they could put a revolving headstone on his grave - philosopher on one side, bullshitter on the other.
If you ever get the chance you could do worse than listen to Buffy Sainte Marie's immaculate 'The Big Ones Get Away.' A truly beautiful song, wonderfully crafted with powerful lyrics about money, greed and corruption.
Three former Irish rugby internationals - a 60, 70 and 80-year-old - meet up for a chat one day. On balance things are good but life isn't as easy as it used to be.
At some stage today Joe Schmidt will release the Ireland training squad for the Guinness International series this coming November.
"But he that dares not grasp the thorn should never crave the rose." - Anne Bronte
Not exactly a "one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, now go cat go" start to the competition. Quality in the Champions Cup is as scarce as sponsors. The Irish teams all did better than could be expected but the gloss really has come off this competition.
To win the European Champions Cup you need a number of ingredients. You have got to have a scrum, you’ve got to get your goal kicks, you must be able to defend and you need good half-backs.
It is a sad state of affairs that the greatest moment of friction in the Leinster versus Munster game took place 20 minutes after the game was over in the safety and comfort of the West Stand as Peter O'Mahony took umbrage at Reggie Corrigan's line of questioning.
A low-quality game between two sides in a rivalry which has become just a little tiresome. Is there a premium to be paid for endeavour alone? Attitude is one thing; aptitude is what we expect in a match where there are so many quality players.
This one is supposed to be for the carnivores - Leinster versus Munster - you know blood, meat cleavers, a little bit of barely-disguised hatred. The build-up to these games over the last few years has been so lacking in colour that the match usually follows suit. Just different shades of mundane.
I watched two documentaries recently which brought into stark focus how the world has changed. RTÉ's series of programmes, Reeling in the Years, is excellent and '1970' was particularly so. The other was the compelling film, Mugabe and The White African by Andrew Thompson and Lucy Bailey, which received a BAFTA nomination for Best Documentary. It's a chilling and depressing film about life as a white farmer in Mugabe's Zimbabwe.
Time, I always thought, was a great facilitator. I thought now we might try and get some perspective on the Lions tour. The circus folded tents over two-and-a-half months ago and we are all struggling for cause and effect after a drawn series.
I'm not sure who was responsible for building those old dressing rooms in Stradbrook, perhaps a long lost cousin once removed from the Marquis de Sade. The long corridor with the dressing rooms at the perpendicular was right at the apex of the prevailing north wind. During the winter the 20-metre dash from the shower room to the first dressing room cut to the bone.
Sad to relate that I have to choose a Eurovision Song Contest analogy to get my point across on such a subject as the expansion of a rugby franchise, but here goes . . .
If you are looking for direction or wondering how you should feel this morning after the series was drawn yesterday - rejoice! The All Blacks expected to win the series 3-0 - be happy! The All Blacks should have won yesterday but regressed due to a feral combination of courage and resilience from their opponents - celebrate! The All Blacks have not lost a Test match in Eden Park since 1994, so a draw there is just cause to be happy.
I went to see one of my favourite Englishmen Ricky Gervais performing at the 3Arena recently. There is nothing more edifying than listening to him nail the politically correct to the wall.