Paul O’Connell has arrived in London. Rumour has it that tomorrow Ian McGeechan will announce Paul as the man who will lead the British & Ireland Lions in South Africa.
It’s not going well, is it? Two games in against the weakest sides in the pool and we’ve barely managed to scrape by.
The game against Namibia was atrocious, with far too many handling errors and too many tactical mistakes. It was like watching a car crash in slow motion. Luckily, we managed to escape that game with a bonus point because of a try that shouldn’t have been.
In some ways, the game against Georgia was even worse. Our handling was slightly better, but tactically, Eddie O’Sullivan got it wrong, and Georgia were able to take us on physically. If it wasn’t for some last ditch defending and quite a bit of luck, we would have lost that game. Georgia played out of their skins, and there’s a valid argument that they deserved to win that game.
France are up next, and we have to win. If we don’t, then we face the possibility of trying to get a bonus point win over Argentina in the final pool game. Considering that we are not playing rugby, a bonus point win in the last game is an unattainable goal. At the moment, just beating France is looking like it’s a step too far.
I don’t think we are going to do it. I don’t think we’ll beat France, and I don’t think we’ll beat Argentina. I’ll be a nervous wreck watching both games because I sincerely hope I’m wrong.
There are reports this morning that Munster Rugby have lodged an appeal with the ERC regarding Fridays Heineken Cup match against Llanelli Scarlets. Apparently Munster have raised issues with the Citing Commissioner regarding the eligibility of some of the Llanelli players.
Following the 24-15 loss, the Munster coach, Declan Kidney, is said to be furious with the Scarlets: “Llanelli went out there tonight and played a good game, and deservedly won. But they did so illegally. Yes, they had the better team, and the better tactics, on the night, but they did so in contravention of the Laws of the game of Rugby Union. We have accordingly contacted the Citing Commissioner and have reported them for not complying with Section (5) Rule (1) of the Munster Rugby Laws.”
As disposed European Cup champions, the Munster Rugby Branch are required to hand back the cup immediately to the ERC. As a result of this dispute Munster have announced that they will not do so.
In a statement released on behalf of the Munster Branch, President Ralph Murray said, “Munster Rugby have brought a proud tradition to this Cup, and we have worked hard to earn our right as European Champions. Therefore, as we do not recognise that the loss against Llanelli Scarlets is a valid game, we have decided to withhold the Cup from the ERC until such a time as an amicable solution can be found.”
Ralph Murray went on to elaborate on the Munster Branch’s preferred solution to the impasse, “Our position is that as we have lost a considerable amount of respect in world rugby circles, we should be given a bye straight into the Heineken Cup Final to be held in Twickenham on May 20th. Our preference for the opposition on that day is Leinster. We have beaten them before, and we feel that an easy match such as this would do much to reconcile the Branch with the ERC.”
In response, Jean-Pierre Lux, Chairman of the ERC, responded that the ERC are willing to consider Munsters claims, but that as the issue stands, the Munster Branch must first return the Heineken Cup. According Mr Murray, the Munster Branch are more then willing to return the Cup provided that it is presented to them on the 20th May. It is thought that the ERC are unwilling to make such a guarantee.
Following a brief exchange of words, relations between the ERC and the Munster Branch were suspended when Mr Murray called Mr Lux a “Cheese-eating surrender monkey”, and went on to say that “A true, red-blooded Munster man would rather die than to give in on a matter of pride.” He ended his tirade shouting that if the ERC wanted the Cup back, then “They could come and get it.”
The location of the cup is currently unknown, but there are rumours circulating the city that members of the McCarthy-Dundan gang have been seen in their local drinking from a rather ornate chalice. These have yet to be corroborated.
Note: Section (5), Rule (1) is a little utilised rule that basically states that when confronted by much better opposition, a Munsters win must be in inverse proportion to the difference in quality between the two teams. For example, if Munster play a team that is close to, or beneath, them is terms of ability, then they will merely scratch out a win. However, if the team is a class above them, then they will win by a cricket score, and play the type of rugby that makes Limerick dock workers cry and compare the game to a beautiful sunrise over Lough Derg. This rule also applies when Munster take part in a game that requires them to win by a specific number of tries or points. Usually referred to as the “Miracle Match Rule”. See Munster vs Gloucester for an example.
The dream for this year is over after Munster suffered a heavy defeat to Llanelli Scarlets in the Heineken Cup. The final scoreline of 24-15 doesn’t adequately reflect the gulf between the two teams – 12 of Munster’s 15 points came in the last 13 minutes. Munster just weren’t good enough, and they were completely outclassed by the Scarlets.
We were penned back in our own half for much of the game, and the scoreline of 17-0 at half time was just too much to claw back. The second half did see an improvement, but it was too little, too late.
Congratulations to Llanelli, well done and best of luck in the Semi’s, and to Munster, there’s always next year.
That’s how far we were from winning the 6 Nations. Today was a day of IF’s.
If we had put the ball out when the 80 minutes were up, the Italians wouldn’t have scored that try, and we would have been champions.
If the TMO hadn’t have given the French a dubious try, we would have been champions.
If the referee hadn’t missed all the forward passes in our game, then we wouldn’t have been given at least 2 tries, and we wouldn’t even have been in with a shout.
If we hadn’t lost our concentration in the last 2 minutes against the French, we would have won that game, and todays scores wouldn’t have mattered so much.
That’s the funny thing about IF’s, they can go both ways. In fairness, the team did their best. It wasn’t good enough today, but if today is to have any meaning, we have to learn from it and carry it into the World Cup. If only.
What a game that was. In all my wildest dreams, I couldn’t have imagined that Ireland would put England to the sword in the manner they did. Apart from the first couple of minutes, this was Ireland’s game. This was Ireland playing the way that we know they can. This was Ireland’s biggest ever win over England. This was England’s worst loss in the 5 or 6 Nations. Ever. This game was glorious.
Ireland fully deserved the margin of victory. They were worth every point. Ronan O’Gara’s place kicking was immaculate. The forwards put in a herculean effort to deny England any space – whether they were going forward or defending. The backs were mercurial. Backs and forwards clicked in the same manner as they did against Australia in the November Internationals.
While Jonny Wilkinson did make an impact on the game (he was the top tackler in the match), he was generally denied any meaningful attempts at goal. He scored two penalties from 3 attempts, and one conversion. Compare that to Ronan’s 5 penalties and 3 conversions. Then factor in that we out-scored England by 4 tries to 1. Add to that the fact that we were on top of England in almost every department, and you have a record-breaking result. Here are the full match stats, if you’re interested.
Ireland are now 9 – 1 for the World Cup and 2 – 1 for the 6 Nations. France have England away and Scotland at home to face, and Ireland have Scotland and Italy away, so I’d say that the odds of us winning the 6 Nations are rather long. Though, here’s hoping that England do us a favour. Though I don’t see it happening, do you?
The draw has been made for the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup. If Munster can get past Llanelli, we’ll face either Leicester or Stade Francais.
On the other side of the draw, if Leinster get past Wasps, they’ll face Biarritz or Northampton, setting up a possible all Irish Heineken Cup Final.
Of course, that’s a long way away, but it’s something to look forward to all the same!
The draw has been made for the quarter finals and Munster have been drawn against Llanelli Scarlets. As one of the two teams that won all 6 pool games, Llanelli are going to be a tough team to beat. But once again, we’ll just have to do it the hard way.
The quarters take place at the end of March, and the 6 Nations finishes in mid-March, so that gives us two clear weeks to re-group and get our game together.
Yesterday brought the curtain down on Heineken European Cup rugby in Thomond Park as it currently exists. Given Munsters proud record in the Heineken Cup at the venue, it was disappointing to see them lose to Leicester.
Before yesterdays match, Munster had not lost a Heineken Cup match in Thomond Park in the 12 years since the Cup started. That’s an unbeaten run of 25 successive matches. No other team could claim to have achieved such a feat.
While the fans always knew that our fantastic home record would go some day, I don’t think anyone expected it to be yesterday. And especially not against Leicester.