Well, there are 2 great matches to look forward to in the penultimate weekend of the 2012 Six Nations. First Ireland go up against Scotland at 5pm, on Saturday at the Aviva Stadium. Then, in a real heavyweight match, England face France on Sunday in Paris, 3pm.
Ireland will have a very tough time against the Scots. Scotland are looking for their first win this season, and will be going into the match as underdogs, which is their favoured position. They’ll also have had a rest last weekend, while Ireland were facing France.
Ireland put in a great 1st-half performance against France, probably they’re best 40 minutes of rugby since the Australia game, but it wasn’t enough to put France away, and the French came back to the end the match in a draw.
It was terrific play by Ireland, though the line-out was a bit of a shambles. They completely nullified the French back-line, Rougerie hardly featured. There was also some great attacking play by Ireland, especially Kearney at full-back, and Tommy Bowe, who scored 2 tries.
Ireland finished the first-half with a lead of 17-6, and it looked like they were on their way to a great win. Unfortunately, they seemed deflated in the 2nd-half and were unable to even score a single point. France got back into the game, and it finished 17-all.
As I overheard someone say, before the game started I would have gladly accepted a draw considering Ireland’s poor performances, and the record against France. I thought we were going to be hockeyed! I got it wrong though, certainly in the first-half.
A draw is a pretty good result, on the face of things, but we were so close to a win, which was sorely needed. That could turn out to be our best chance against France, for quite a while.
Now we face Scotland, who will give us a tough game. Our chances aren’t helped by the injuries to Paul O’Connell, Conor Murray and Sean O’Brien. O’Connell is a big loss. We have no-one that can match his great presence on the field. He was also having one of his best seasons, and when he’s playing well, few are better.
Donncha Ryan will replace O’Connell. Ryan is good, but the hope was that he would replace Donncha O’Callaghan, as we need someone of O’Connell’s stature at lock. O’Callaghan’s never really fronted up and he seems to have dropped a few levels in performance. Second-row could be a weakness against Scotland.
Eoin Reddan comes in for Murray, who hadn’t been playing very well anyway, and O’Brien is replaced by Peter O’Mahony. All three new players have been waiting to show what they can do so let’s hope that they have great games.
Ireland always do poorly when they’re favourites, and Scotland have a good chance of scoring an upset (they came close to beating France). It will be tight.
England v France is always a barn-burner. While neither team is at its 90’s peak, where they shared the 5 Nations spoils for most of the decade (between them they won 7 of the 10 tournaments in that decade), they still are up there with the top teams in the world.
While France can no longer win the Grand Slam (after drawing with Ireland), they still have a chance to win the 6 Nations trophy. They have yet to reach their best form this year, and almost lost against Scotland.
England were the victors last year in the 6 Nations but France knocked England out of the World Cup later in the year. Both teams have gone through a lot of changes since the World Cup, with France faring the better.
France will need to be at their best if the want to win this game. England haven’t been playing that well so far, but they always manage to motivate themselves against the French. This will also be the crunch game for England, to see if the new team/new coach is working well, or will there need to be more changes. Should be great!
In the final match of the weekend (actually the first match), Italy face Wales. Wales are going for the Grand Slam while Italy have yet to win a game. Wales should be careful not to get too ahead of themselves as the Italians would love to score an upset, like they did against France last year.
In a final rugby note, I’m delighted to announce that my old school, St Michael’s are in the final of the Leinster School’s Senior Cup, for the 2nd time in 3 years. Unfortunately, they face Clongowes, who beat them in 2010. Clongowes are actually going for the treble, having won the Cup in 2010 and 2011.
Michael’s haven’t had a very tough route to the final, on paper anyway. They faced off against Roscrea in the first round, which went to a draw. They won the return match and then beat Pres Bray (quarter-final) and CUS (semi) to reach the final.
Clongowes have had a much tougher route, beating Belvedere, Castleknock and Terenure to get to the final. They’ll be much more battle-hardened in the final, than Michael’s.
Michael’s actually beat Clongowes back in 2007 to win their only Senior Cup trophy so far. Hopefully they can do it again. It’s great to see Michael’s appear in the final more regularly. When I was there the best we could manage was a quarter-final!
I might have mentioned the family connections with both schools. My four brothers and I all went to Michael’s. While 4 of my uncles, and my grandfather, went to Clongowes.
Clongowes is also the alma mater of current Ireland stars, Rob and David Kearney, Gordon D’Arcy and Fergus McFadden. No Michael’s guys on the Irish team, yet.
The final will be played on Sunday, 18th March. It’s usually on Paddy’s Day but they had to move it due to Ireland’s game against England taking place on that day. See you in the RDS on the 18th!