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Video Highlights – Connacht beat Cardiff to reach 2019/20 Champions Cup Rugby

It was a great night at the Sportsground as Connacht beat Cardiff Blues to secure champions cup rugby for the 2019/20 season.

It was Connachts fourth successive Pro 14 win which secured a top three spot as well as quarter final place at the Sportsground on Saturday evening last. Conditions were tough for both sides with the wind swirling around.

Caolin Blade got the first try of the game on 11 minutes, with some fancy footwork he got past the last defender to score. Paul Boyle though made the try with some superb work after he broke through the defence and offloaded to Blade. Man of the match Jack Carty kicked the conversion and it was 7-0. Cardiff though would hit back. Owen Lane burst through the Connacht defence with speed to race underneath the posts for a well taken try. Welsh fly half Gareth Anscombe kicked the extras as the scores were tied. Gavin Turnbury was next to score for the home side, a driving Connacht maul powered over with Turnbury on the end of it. Carty once again converted the conversion, 14-7 and that was the score at the break.

Carty converted a penalty on the resumption with Connacht now playing into a stiff breeze. That penalty made him top scorer in the PRO 14 for 2019. He then finished off a well deserved Connacht try on 49 minutes after some superb build up play Carty got the ball chipped it past Matthew Morgan collected the ball and touched down. He kicked the conversion and it was 24-7. Cardiff kicked a penalty to narrow the gap to 24-10, once again it was Anscombe. Then came some controversy in the game, Cardiff were over the line for a try or so they thought ! Seb Harries pounced on a loss ball and he put Jason Harries in space in the corner to touch down. However, the TMO was called into action. The replay showed that Harries had touched the ball down while his other hand touched the sideline. The score was cancelled amid protests from the Cardiff players, but the referee paid no heed to them. Connacht got the bonus point try on 70 minutes then when Matt Healy made the most of some poor defending to touch down in the corner. Cardiff mounted a comeback though with two tries. First, Turnbull crossed the line after a driving maul on 70 minutes.

Anscombe then put Harries over in the corner on 79 minutes to give the visitors at least some hope. However, Connacht managed to turn over the ball in added time and kicked it straight to touch to secure their first quarter final in four years.

Ireland’s Rugby World Cup history – Part 2 1991

The ninth edition of the Rugby World Cup will get underway in Japan on September 20th when the hosts take on Russia in Tokyo. Over the next six weeks the twenty qualifying nations will battle it out to get to the final in Yokohama on Saturday, November 2nd.

An Irish side has competed at each of the previous tournaments, with a niggling feeling of Deja Vú each time we reach the quarter-final stage.

This week sees the third part of our look back at Ireland’s Rugby World Cup history. In early August I looked at the background to the very first Rugby World Cup and the reasons why it took until 1987 to hold the first official tournament.

While here is what happened in our first tournament in 1987 – Ireland’s Rugby World Cup History – Part 1 1987

The 1991 tournament was originally supposed to be hosted solely by France, however, as we’ve seen often over the years, political wrangling and horse-trading between the Five Nations unions – The tournament didn’t evolve into the Six Nations until 2000 when the Italians joined – led to Marcel Martin of the FFR (Fédération Française de Rugby) declare that the French were incapable of hosting the tournament on their own. So, as a result, the games were shared out between the five countries and each of the unions got a share of the pie.

From an Irish perspective, this was positive news, both financially for the IRFU and also for the national team as they would now have two of their pool games at home. Landsdowne Road was also nominated to host a quarter-final and semi-final for the tournament, while Ravenhill would host the pool match.

Ciarán Fitzgerald’s side were drawn in Pool 2 alongside Scotland, Japan and Zimbabwe. Ireland easily dispatched Zimbabwe in their pool opener by 55-11. In a one-sided match they were 33-0 ahead at the break before taking their foot off the gas somewhat in the second half. They ran in eight tries to Zimbabwe’s two. Tries from David Curtis, Simon Geoghegan, a brace from Nick Popplewell and four tries from no.8 Brian Robinson as well as four conversions and five penalties from Ralph Keyes gave Ireland a 44 point win. (A Try was still worth 4 points at the 1991 World Cup, the change to five points didn’t happen until an IRFU board meeting in April 1992).

Three days later Ireland were back in action against Japan. Two tries from Connacht back row Noel Mannion and one apiece from fellow back-rower Pat O’Hara and full back Jim Staples along with two conversions and four penalties from Keyes saw Ireland win by 32-16.

Scotland had home advantage for the crucial pool decider between the two sides at Murrayfield. The Scots had also enjoyed one-sided wins against our other pool opponents, running in a total of fifteen tries in their 47-9 win over Japan and a 51-12 victory against Zimbabwe.

It was Ireland’s third game in nine days, but there was no shortage of motivation, as the winners of this game would top pool 2 and secure an easier route to the semi-final. Thanks to Western Samoa’s shock 16-13 win over Wales at the Cardiff Arms park earlier in the tournament, the little Pacific nation had already sealed the second qualifying spot form Pool 3 and would face the winner of the Pool 2 clash between Scotland and Ireland, while Australia who topped Pool 3 awaited the second-place side from our pool.

The first half went well for Fitzgerald’s men and three penalties and a sweetly struck drop goal from Ralph Keyes off his left foot saw Ireland lead 12-9 at the break. Scotland’s first-half points came from two Gavin Hastings penalties and a Craig Chalmers drop goal. Keyes extended that advantage to six points with another penalty after the resumption. However, that was to be the last score for Ireland as the Scots dominated the remainder of the game. Tries from Gary Armstrong and Graham Shiel saw the home-side win by 24-15.

Thanks to the way the schedule fell Ireland had eight days to recover from that Murrayfield defeat before hosting the hotly fancied Aussies at Lansdowne Road. Ciarán Fitzgerald took his squad down to Parkinsilla in Kerry for a few days recovery and relaxation before their crunch encounter.

The southern hemisphere nation were considered to be fitter, faster, stronger and better drilled and were expected to advance easily to the semi-finals. They had a team full of household names such as Tim Horan, Phil Kerins, John Eales, Nick Farr-Jones, Michael Lynagh & David Campese. Incidentally, on the Australian bench that day was Ireland’s current high-performance director David Nucifora.

The match started along expected lines as David Campese waltzed in for an early Aussie try after 16 minutes, it was duly converted by Michael Lynagh and Ireland were 0-6 behind. However, Australia failed to build on this early lead and in a repeat of their 1987 meeting scrum-half and captain Nick Farr-Jones had to be replaced inside the first twenty minutes after picking up a recurrence of a knee ligament injury. A Ralph Keyes penalty halved the deficit for the Irish on 24 minutes and then another strike from Keyes levelled up the game at 6 apiece before the break.

A penalty from Lynagh edged Australia back in front early in the second half,  but the Aussie’s couldn’t pull away from a tenacious Irish side, who’s ferocious tackling and superb work rate constantly disrupted the flow of the Australian side. A Ralph Keyes drop goal, this time off his right foot, levelled up the game at 9-9 after 50 minutes.

A second David Campese try after a nice loop move by outside centre, Jason Little, off the back of a scrum gave the Australian’s the lead once again and after Lynagh converted they were back ahead by 6 points, Ireland then had their best spell of the game as Jim Clarke was twice denied in the corner by last-ditch Campese tackles. Another Keyes penalty ate into the Australian lead and Lansdowne erupted on 74 minutes, when Ireland took the lead for the first time in the match after Ballymena flanker Gordon Hamilton burst onto a pop pass from Jack Clarke to race home from 40 meters out.

After a mini-pitch invasion from more than a few delirious Irish fans had been cleared off the grass, Ralph Keyes converted and Ireland had a scarcely believable 18-15 lead against their highly-rated opponents as the clock ticked into the last five minutes. But just as the Lansdowne Road faithful started to believe that their side were on the brink of history a last minute Michael Lynagh try broke Irish hearts.

So for the second tournament in succession, albeit in very different circumstances to their 1987 hammering in Ballymore, Ireland had lost out to the mighty Australians at the quarter-final stage. The Australian team were relieved to survive such a close shave and they would subsequently go to beat New Zealand 16-6 in the semi’s and then lift the trophy after a 12-6 win over England in the final at Twickenham.

Match details courtesy of  RugbyWorldCup.com

The 2019/20 Pro14 Final to be held in Cardiff

Cardiff City Stadium will play host to the 2020 Guinness PRO14 Final on June 20, as one of the most exciting days in the club rugby calendar comes to Wales!

After a record attendance in Glasgow last time around and expected high demand, tickets go on-sale exclusively to Guinness PRO14 XTRA members next week, 48 hours before General Sale.

To ensure your chance to witness the 2019/20 Final in Cardiff, simply register to become a Guinness PRO14 XTRA member for free, with the chance to win a £1,000 cash prize. Membership gets you loads of extra benefits including access to PRO14 highlights and content. With limited availability at Cardiff City and prices rising at the conclusion of the early-bird window secure your tickets early.

Ireland starting 15 against England – Kick off 3pm Saturday

The Ireland team to play England on Saturday has been named, the game is live on Sky Sports at 3pm.

The big news is that Ross Byrne comes in to make his first test start, he won two caps off the bench to date – against Italy in Chicago in November last year and as a replacement for Darren Sweetnam in the last of Ireland’s autumn internationals against the USA three weeks later.

Connacht number 10 Jack Carty is named on the bench as Schmidt prepares to give some big-match experience to both fly-halves in the light of the ankle injury which has put Joey Carbery’s place in the World Cup squad in doubt.

Byrne appeared to slip down the pecking order in last season’s Six Nations as Carty was called up as Johnny Sexton’s understudy after Carbery was sidelined with a hamstring problem.

Carty made three appearances off the bench during the tournament, before making a fourth in the opening warm-up game earlier this month.

Byrne was one of three fly-halves who were part of the squad to tour Australia in June 2018 but despite being named among the replacements for the third Test of that series he remained unused.

The Ireland coaching group have made several other changes to the side that faced Italy two weeks ago as the squad continues its build up to the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Rory Best will captain the side to play England at Twickenham on Saturday and is joined in the front row by Cian Healy and Tadgh Furlong. Iain Henderson and Jean Kleyn lock down the second row with Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier and CJ Stander named in the backrow.

Rob Kearney lines out at fullback with Jordan Larmour and Jacob Stockdale on the wings. Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose are the midfield partnership with Ross Byrne and Conor Murray named at half-back.

The replacements named for Saturday’s game are Sean Cronin, Jack McGrath, Andrew Porter, Devin Toner, Tadgh Beirne, Luke McGrath, Jack Carty and Andrew Conway.

The match will be broadcast by Sky Sports.

IRELAND Squad v England – 2019 August International
Player/Club/Province/Caps

15.Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster) 90 caps
14.Jordan Larmour (St Mary’s College/Leinster) 14 caps
13.Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster) 21 caps
12.Bundee Aki (Galwegians/Connacht) 17 caps
11.Jacob Stockdale (Lurgan/Ulster) 19 caps
10.Ross Byrne (UCD/Leinster) 2 caps
9.Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster) 72 caps

1.Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster) 89 caps
2.Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster) 117 caps
3.Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster) 33 caps
4.Iain Henderson (Queens University/Ulster) 45 caps
5.Jean Kleyn (Munster) 1 cap
6.Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster) 57 caps
7.Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster) 17 caps
8.CJ Stander (Shannon/Munster) 31 caps

REPLACEMENTS
16.Sean Cronin (St Mary’s College/Leinster) 68 caps
17.Jack McGrath (St Marys College/Leinster) 55 caps
18.Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster) 15 caps
19.Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster) 65 caps
20.Tadhg Beirne (Lansdowne/Munster) 6 caps
21.Luke McGrath (UCD/Leinster) 11 caps
22.Jack Carty (Buccaneers/Connacht) 4 caps
23. Andrew Conway (Garryowen/Munster) 13 caps

Video – How does World Rugby fund the global game?

World rugby invested 482 million between 2016 and 2019, this is mainly funded by the Rugby World Cup. This is a rise of 38%.

Amazingly 90% of the revenue made by World Rugby is made by the commercial success of the Rugby World Cup. The 20 teams and all their fans buying tickets and the advertising that goes around the event. There has been an increase in a million people playing in the game in Asia.

World Rugby have recently released £18.6 million of funding over three years for developing rugby nations Canada, the USA, Japan, Romania, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga. Argentina will also receive additional support to enable it to retain its tier one status. The money, built up from successful World Cups, was released following a report commissioned by World Rugby highlighting the growing disparity between tier one and tier two nations. This is in addition to the £10–12 million it normally gives out grants and tournament costs. The emphasis is on three areas infrastructure, high performance units and cross border competitions.

It was announced in April 2016 that tier-3 rugby nations Georgia, Portugal, Tunisia and Russia were identified as the key investment nations over the next three years. The program is designed to increase the competitiveness of international rugby union.

Rugby transfer news – List of players that moved club for the 2019/20 season

Rugby transfer news – List of players that Connacht, Leinster, Munster, Ulster have signed and let go for the season ahead. 

Its a world cup year so it will be all about squads this season and maybe Connacht can reproduce their giant-killing season four years ago.

Rugby transfer news – Benetton

Rugby transfer news – Cardiff Blues

Rugby transfer news – Cheetahs

Connacht

Dragons

Edinburgh

Glasgow Warriors

Leinster

Munster

Ospreys

Scarlets

Southern Kings

Ulster

Zebre

Ireland U18s win the European 7s title for 2019

A brace from Kilkenny College’s Success Edogun, either side of a Conor McKee effort, secured a 26-12 final win and a third Rugby Europe U18 Sevens title for Ireland in four years. Their predecessors were victorious in 2016 and 2017 before last year’s team were edged out by France in Lithuania.

Allan Temple-Jones, the IRFU Sevens Head of Athletic Performance, coached a talented young squad which was led in impressive fashion by Letterkenny’s Charlie Worth. After losing a pool decider to Georgia yesterday, Ireland bounced back to go undefeated on day two as they ended the hopes of both Germany (15-5) and France (24-14).

Speaking after the trophy presentation, team manager James Topping said: “It was a great experience for the players, most of whom were playing their first Sevens tournament. After two good wins yesterday, the defeat to Georgia proved a real opportunity to show resilience and learn as a group.

“Today the players lifted their levels of intensity and accuracy to keep pressure on the opposition, both in attack and defence. Hopefully this will provide a platform for some of these guys to progress further through the pathway, both with the IRFU Sevens Programme and their provinces.”

The newly-crowned European champions scored 26 tries across their six matches, with Wexford Wanderers winger Josh O’Connor (pictured above) finishing as the top scorer with seven tries. RBAI’s Jude Postlethwaite had a key contribution in the forwards and as a scorer, notching five tries, while Edogun claimed four.

The breakthrough in this morning’s quarter-final against Germany came in the fifth minute as the ever-threatening O’Connor and scrum half Michael Cooke exposed some gaps, the latter caught with a high tackle for a German sin-binning. Postlethwaite took immediate advantage as he shrugged off two defenders to crash over in the left corner.

The physical German outfit hit back with a well-worked breakaway score from Oliver Stein, but Ireland crossed right on half-time to take a 10-5 lead. O’Connor backed himself from 70 metres out, using a strong hand-off to gain momentum, and his pace took him clear up the right wing.

Important tackles from James Langston, Worth and Postlethwaite prevented Germany from hitting back during a scrappy second period. A hard-fought 15-5 victory was clinched in the dying seconds when replacement Edogun sparked a break from deep, and Aaron Leahy and McKee kept the move going before O’Connor finished off out wide.

The semi-final was a repeat of last year’s decider and it was another tight affair between Ireland and France. Cooke and Edogun stretched the French defence inside the opening three minutes, and Postlethwaite then swooped on an overthrown lineout to dive over from a few metres out and reward his side’s early endeavour.

The tall Ulster Schools winger added a quick-fire second try as France failed to gather the restart and Postlethwaite got his fingertips to it before plucking it down, just outside the French 22, and using a powerful hand-off to complete his first half brace. Alfred Parisien’s late seven-pointer from inside his own half cut the gap to 10-7 at the break.

France hit the front after Parisien broke from deep and passed for Simon Desert to make it 14-10, but Ireland had more in the tank. With Thibault Debaes seeing yellow, the numerical advantage allowed Postlethwaite to set up O’Connor to raid in behind the posts. Cooke converted and then gathered his own chip kick to unleash O’Connor for the match-winning try – another powerful burst from the winger from far out.

Spain book-ended the first half of the final with tries to lead 12-7 at the turnaround. Anton Legorburu collected the first from a well-weighted kick through by Xabier Martin, before Cooke’s slick sidestep at a midfield ruck – brilliantly won by fellow IQ Rugby recruit Langston – saw him ghost in under the posts to nudge Ireland ahead.

The tenacious Spanish side were thwarted by Edogun’s try-saving tackle, only for another kick to deliver the goods a couple of minutes later. Worth blocked it in front of the Irish posts and was unfortunate not to gather it fully, the loose ball instead being scooped up by the inrushing Arnau Andres who touched down and added the conversion himself.

An early O’Connor break got the Irish attack firing on the resumption, with Postlethwaite also causing problems for the Spanish defence. Jack Ward Murphy looped a pass out for Edogun to cut in from the right wing and allow Cooke an easier conversion, which gave Temple-Jones’ charges a narrow lead.

Despite missing the injured Ben Moxham for the knockout rounds, Ireland dug deep to see out the result. O’Connor covered a Spanish kick back to halfway, the possession leading to Cooke’s excellent offload off the deck which McKee expertly burst onto and carried right to the near corner for a crucial five-pointer.

Ireland kept the pressure on from the restart, the onrushing Worth swarming onto the loose ball. Postlethwaite was fed to the left and his well-directed offload out of a tackle created the opening for Edogun to step inside the covering defender and confirm the win. Cooke crisply converted for good measure, leaving the final margin at 14 points.

The full results and final standings are available here on the Rugby Europe website.

IRELAND U18 MEN’S SEVENS SQUAD (2019 Rugby Europe U18 Men’s Sevens Championship, Kompleks Sportowy Gdansk, Poland):
Diarmuid Kilcommins (Galway Corinthians RFC / Connacht)
Michael Cooke (Ealing Trailfinders RFC / IQ Rugby)
James Langston (Wasps Rugby Academy / Harrow School / IQ Rugby)
Success Edogun (Kilkenny College / Leinster)
Josh O’Connor (Wexford Wanderers RFC / Leinster)
Aaron Leahy (CBC Cork / Munster)
Jack Ward Murphy (Garryowen FC / Ardscoil Ris / Munster)
Charlie Worth (Letterkenny RFC /Royal School Armagh / Ulster) (capt)
Ben Moxham (Ballymena RFC / Ulster)
Conor McKee (Sullivan Upper School / Ulster)
Jude Postlethwaite (RBAI / Ulster)
Rory Dwyer (Belvedere College / Leinster)

IRELAND U18 SEVENS MANAGEMENT TEAM

Head Coach: Allan Temple-Jones
Manager: James Topping

2019 RUGBY EUROPE U18 SEVENS – IRELAND RESULTS:

Saturday 17th August:

Pool B

Ireland 43 Luxembourg 0

Scorers: Tries: Aaron Leahy, Jude Postlethwaite (2), Rory Dwyer, Josh O’Connor, Conor McKee, Diarmuid Kilcommins; Cons: Michael Cooke (4)

Team: Jude Postlethwaite, Jack Ward Murphy, Ben Moxham, Michael Cooke, Rory Dwyer, Charlie Worth (captain), Aaron Leahy.

Subs: Success Edogun, Diarmuid Kilcommins, Conor McKee, James Langston, Josh O’Connor.

Ireland 43 Russia 0

Scorers: Tries: Ben Moxham, Michael Cooke, Josh O’Connor (2), Success Edogun (2), Aaron Leahy; Cons: Michael Cooke (2), Conor McKee (2)

Team: Jude Postlethwaite, James Langston, Ben Moxham, Michael Cooke, Conor McKee, Charlie Worth (captain), Josh O’Connor.

Subs: Jack Ward Murphy, Success Edogun, Diarmuid Kilcommins, Rory Dwyer, Aaron Leahy.

Ireland 7 Georgia 31

Scorers: Try: Charlie Worth; Con: Michael Cooke

Team: Ben Moxham, Jack Ward Murphy, Diarmuid Kilcommins, Michael Cooke, Rory Dwyer, Charlie Worth (captain), Aaron Leahy.

Subs: Jude Postlethwaite, Success Edogun, Conor McKee, James Langston, Josh O’Connor.

Sunday 18th August:

Cup Quarter-Final: Ireland 15 Germany 5

Scorers: Tries: Jude Postlethwaite, Josh O’Connor (2)

Team: Jude Postlethwaite, Jack Ward Murphy, James Langston, Michael Cooke, Rory Dwyer, Charlie Worth (captain), Josh O’Connor.

Subs: Success Edogun, Diarmuid Kilcommins, Conor McKee, Aaron Leahy.

Cup Semi-Final: France 14 Ireland 24

Scorers: Tries: Jude Postlethwaite (2), Josh O’Connor (2); Cons: Michael Cooke (2)

Team: Jude Postlethwaite, James Langston, Success Edogun, Michael Cooke, Rory Dwyer, Charlie Worth (captain), Josh O’Connor.

Subs: Jack Ward Murphy, Diarmuid Kilcommins, Conor McKee, Aaron Leahy.

Cup Final: Ireland 26 Spain 12

Scorers: Tries: Michael Cooke, Success Edogun (2), Conor McKee; Cons: Michael Cooke (3)

Team: Jude Postlethwaite, James Langston, Success Edogun, Michael Cooke, Rory Dwyer, Charlie Worth (captain), Josh O’Connor.

Subs: Jack Ward Murphy, Diarmuid Kilcommins, Conor McKee, Aaron Leahy.

Video – Recommendations for Ulster Underage Rugby to be implemented for 2019/20 season

As a result of a comprehensive stakeholder consultation of Age Grade Rugby in Ulster, a series of recommendations will be implemented in the coming 2019/20 season.

Video – Leo Cullen reaction after Leinster Rugby beat Coventry

Tight-head Vakh Abdaladze,  Adam Byrne, Josh Murphy Max Deegan and Harry Byrne all scored tries for Leinster as they beat Coventry 47-17.

Harry Byrne, Ross Bynes younger brother was the star of the game kicking six from six.

Leinster: C Kelleher (R Russell 52); A Byrne (J Kelly ht), G Mullin (A La Grue 52), C O’Brien (J O’Brien ht), B Daly (L Turner ht); H Byrne (R O’Loughlin 52), R Osborne (P Patterson ht); P Dooley (M Milne ht), R Kelleher (J Tracy 49), V Abdaladze (J Aungier ht, R Salanoa 66), R Molony (capt, J Murphy 59), J Murphy (R Baird ht), M Moloney (M Deegan ht), R Foley (R Watters 59), W Connors (M Moloney 59).

Coventry: J Stokes; A Bulumakau, H Stevens (capt), D Lewis, M Trimble; W Maisey, W Flinn (T Kessell 20); J Gibbons, D Dawidiuk (S Tolmie 20), G Denman, S Russell, A Woolford, B Adams, S Nayalo, B Nutley (A Peters 31).

Referee: C Busby, IRFU.

Ireland’s Rugby World Cup history, Part 1 – 1987

The ninth edition of the Rugby World Cup will get underway in Japan on Friday, September 20th when the hosts take on Russia in Tokyo, while Ireland’s adventure begins two days later on Sunday morning against the Scots in Yokohama. An Irish side has competed at each of the previous eight tournaments, with a feeling of foreboding and Deja vú each time we reach the quarter-final stage.

Last Friday I looked at the background to the very first Rugby World Cup and the reasons why it took until 1987 to hold the first official tournament.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll take a look at how Ireland have performed in each of the eight previous tournaments. This week I’ll focus on that first tournament in 1987, hosted jointly by Australia and New Zealand.

As one of the founder members of the International Rugby Football Board (IRFB), Ireland were one of seven teams that automatically qualified. The other six board members were England, Scotland, Wales, France, Australia and New Zealand. South Africa also had a seat on the IRFB board but were not invited due to a sporting embargo caused by the pro-apartheid policies of their government.

The IRFB also issued invitations to nice associate members to bring the tournament total up to 16 teams. Argentina, Canada, Fiji, Italy, Japan, Romania, Tonga, United States and Zimbabwe all made the trip to Australia and New Zealand for the inaugural competition.

Ireland were drawn in Pool 2 alongside Wales, Canada and Tonga. However, disaster struck before their opening game when their coach and former international player, Mick Doyle, suffered a heart attack at the official opening dinner in New Zealand. He was admitted to hospital in Auckland to recover and fortunately, the Kerryman made a good recovery and was back in charge before the end of the Pool stages. He later retold a story of a call he received while recuperating from the then Taoiseach, Charlie Haughey, who said to him “it must only have been Guinness withdrawal symptoms”, while Doyle retorted that it was a good job it didn’t happen while at home in Ireland given Haughey’s governments propensity for closing down hospital wings.

Ireland lost their opener to the Welsh on the 25th May in Wellington by 6-13, Mark Ring got the only try of the game for the Welsh and two Jonathan Davies drop goals made sure of the result. Ireland’s only scores coming from two Michael Kiernan penalties.

Five days later they were in action again, this time in Dunedin against Canada. It was a to prove a comfortable 46-19 win for the Irish with Keith Crossan (2), Michael Bradley, Brian Spillane, Trevor Ringland, and Hugo MacNeill accounting for the tally of seven Irish tries, while Michael Kiernan converted five of the tries and also added two penalties. Canadian hooker, Mark Cardinal, crossed for their only try, while Wasps player Gareth Rees kicked three penalties and a drop-goal.

Before their final pool game, just four days later against Tonga on the 3rd of June, the Irish squad had to move camp from the South Island of New Zealand to Brisbane in Australia. Despite the tight schedule and travel time, the Irish enjoyed another convincing win in front of only 4,000 at a rather empty looking Ballymore. Irish centre Brendan Mullin ran in a hat-trick of tries and Hugo McNeill added another two as the Irish outscored their Tonga opponents 5 tries to nil. Three conversions from Tony Ward and two penalties also added gloss to Ireland’s 32-9 win.

Second spot in Pool 2 gave Ireland a tough quarter-final assignment against the winners of Pool 1. In the key match in that pool the co-hosts Australia had beaten England 19-6 to seal top spot. So for Doyle and his squad, it was off to Sydney to take on the formidable challenge of a quick and skilful Aussie side.

Ireland were up against it and needed a good start over their more illustrious opponents, however, it was the home side who struck first after there minutes. A fired-up Philip Matthews launched himself into the air in an attempt to block down Nick Farr-Jones’ garryowen and as he turned his body away from Farr-Jones he caught him square in the face with his hip.  Match referee Scotland’s Brain Anderson awarded a penalty to the home side, which Michael Lynagh duly converted. An example of how refereeing has changed since 1987 is illustrated by the fact that an almost carbon copy of this incident saw CJ Stander receive a straight red card after catching Patrick Lambie during Ireland’s 2016 tour to South Africa.

The injured Nick Farr-Jones was replaced at scrum-half soon after by Brian Smith, who would later go on to represent Ireland. Andy McIntyre got the games first try after both Michael Bradley and Hugo McNeill spurned chances to clear the ball. The substitute Smith added a second try off the back of a 5-meter scrum a few minutes later and it was to get worse for the Irish when their defence was torn open by Matthew Burke for a third Aussie try. At half-time, Ireland were 24-0 behind and a rout was on the cards.

Things got worse before they got better, as another Lynagh penalty after the break increased Australia’s lead. Ireland finally broke their duck when Michael Kiernan converted a penalty to take the bare look off the scoreboard. Quick hands from the Australian backline saw Matthew Burke cross for his second try before a late mini-revival from the Irish side. Hugo MacNeill gave the travelling fans something to cheer about with cheeky dummy creating space to run untouched under the posts after a cleverly worked move off the back of a tap and go penalty from 5 meters out. Ireland added a second try late in the game from Michael Kiernan, which came after a great bursting drive from prop Phillip Orr and a strong carry from Philip Matthews.

Little did we know at the time, but quarter-final exits were to become a familiar theme in Irish rugby.

As for the victorious Australian’s, they would fall at the next hurdle. The co-hosts went down by 24-30 against the French in the semi-finals. While in the other semi-final, our pool opponents Wales suffered a heavy 49-6 defeat to the All-Blacks.

New Zealand became the first side to lift the Webb-Ellis Cup after defeating France 29-9 in front of an adoring home crowd at Eden Park, Aukland. Grant Fox was the star of the show with a conversion, a drop-goal and four penalties.

Ireland could rise to the top of World Rugby’s rankings this weekend without kicking​ a ball.

Ireland in action against current World Rugby rankings leader, New Zealand in November 2018. Photo credit: Shane Tighe

Joe Schmidt’s Ireland could rise to the top of the World Rugby ranking this weekend without kicking a ball. However, a bizarre series of results would be needed for this to happen.

After New Zealand’s shock 47-26 defeat to Australia in Perth last weekend their reign at the top of the world rankings could be under threat this weekend.

Wales missed the opportunity to claim top spot last Sunday, any win would have seen then claim the top spot, however, a 33-19 win for England saw them claim the ranking points instead. Those two results create a few interesting scenarios this weekend.

New Zealand play Australia in Eden Park at 8:35am Irish time on Saturday morning (Sky Sports Action). The odds are stacked in the home sides favour for what will be Steve Hansen’s 100th match in charge of the All-Blacks. They are unbeaten in their last 42 games at Eden Park,  a record that stretches all the way back to a 20-23 loss to France in 1994.  A draw or a Wallabies win would see Australia lift the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 2002.

Regardless of the result in that game, Wales will have another chance to claim top spot when they face England in Cardiff at 2:15pm (Channel 4 & Sky Sports Action). However, a win for Eddie Jones’ men by a margin of 15 points or more would see England claim top spot for the first time since 2004. This game will be the 134th meeting between the side, with the English edging the win count 63-58, and the other 12 games ended in draws. Wales will be eager to make amends after last weekends loss in Twickenham and will be confident of victory in the Principality Stadium, where they are unbeaten in their last 10 matches.

Ireland will enter the permutations for top spot if New Zealand fail to beat Australia and Wales and England then draw in Cardiff. A draw would see Wales drop below Ireland, but would not give England enough points to overtake us…… it’s a long-shot, but far from impossible. From the sats above we can see that there have been 12 draws from the 132 games between England and Wales, that’s one draw out of every eleven matches.

Betfair currently quotes the draw at 28/1 while Paddy Power have it at 23/1, however, the spread on the game is tight with Paddy Power offering Wales-2/England+2 and Betfair similarly tight at Wales -2.5/England +2.5.

 

 

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