I was at the Leinster v Edinburgh game at the RDS!

I had a great time at the Leinster game against Edinburgh! It was at the RDS and I went with my uncle Frank. It was a hard fought match, which Leinster won, 39-10 at the end.

On paper, it looked a straight win for Leinster. We were 3rd in the table, while Edinburgh were 9th. Leinster had won 12 out of 15 games in the Pro12 so far this year, while Edinburgh had only won 4.

Also, Leinster had won 5 out of the last 6 contests between the 2 sides. Leinster had won their last 18 home games and Edinburgh hadn’t won a game in Dublin since 2005! The odds were stacked against them.

Still, Edinburgh put in a strong performance in the 1st half and kept Leinster struggling for a lead. Ironically, it was after the break, when Leinster had a very disjointed back-line, that we started to get a grip on the game.

It was a bit like Ireland’s game against Australia in the November series. Joey Carbery, who started at no.10, moved to full back, with Ross Byrne coming on as replacement out-half.

Jamison Gibson-Park came on as replacement scrum-half, with Luke McGrath moving to the wing. Zane Kirchner moved from full-back to centre , to be partnered with Adam Byrne. Only Barry Daly, left-wing, finished the game in the same position he started.

It was a very attritional game, with a lot of injuries. My friend Jim McShane, who’s the Leinster, and Ireland, team doctor was kept very busy all night.

Both David Kearney, who was making his return to the side after a long layoff, and Josh Van der Flier had to go off. Van der Flier’s injury looked worrying for Ireland.

There was also a change in the forwards, with George Turner, replacement hooker, coming on to play at flanker. It all got a bit confusing. Still, the revamped side played very well in the end.

It was difficult for Leinster in the early going. Most of the top team were been rested for Ireland’s game against France and the side took a while to gel. They did well to keep Edinburgh from scoring after more than 10 minutes of sustained pressure.

Duncan Weir was the only Edinburgh player of note and he had a relatively quiet game, despite scoring all of Edinburgh’s points, with a goal (try and conversion) and a penalty. The Scotland no.10 failed to really control the game.

Overall, it was a very good performance by Leinster. Joey Carbery had a great game, as starting out-half and as replacement full back! He scored a brace of tries on his first match back since December.

He looks like a real star and will probably soon leap frog Paddy Jackson to become Ireland’s replacement out-half. His place kicking wasn’t great, though.

It was a great evening. During the interval, they showed some girl’s mini-rugby, with Greystones being one of the teams that featured. Leinster women had won the interprovincial trophy and paraded the trophy around the stadium.

A great evening out. Thanks again, Frank

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Ireland v Italy Preview: Shell-shocked Ireland need to get back on track!

CIan Healy and Donncha Ryan have been brought into the Irish side to face Italy on Saturday, 11th February, in Rome at 2.25 (Irish time). They’re the only changes to the XV that lost so decisively to Scotland on the opening day of the 6 Nations.
Healy replaces Jack McGrath, who moves to the bench, while Ryan comes in for Iain Henderson, who was injured in the Scotland game and isn’t in the squad. Ultan Dillane is the second row replacement on the bench.
Craig Gilroy takes the place of fellow Ulster man, Tommy Bowe, who has been released to play in Ulster’s Pro12 game against Edinburgh. Bowe made his first appearance for Ireland since the 2015 World Cup when he came off the bench against Scotland, but was way off his best.
Ireland were completely shell-shocked by a resurgent Scotland in last week’s clash. The Scots put in one of their most impressive performances since the 6 Nations started and completely overwhelmed the much fancied Irish side.
Scotland proved a lot of pundits wrong, myself included, by completely dominating Ireland, scoring 3 tries and leading for most of the game. Ireland were lucky to take the lead in the 2nd half, but Scotland wouldn’t give up and won the game with 2 late penalties.
Scotland full-back Stuart Hogg scored 2 great tries and put himself as first choice for the coveted Lions start in a man-of the match display. Alex Dunbar scored Scotland’s third try, running over unchallenged from a line-out.
It was one of the most gift-wrapped tries I have ever seen in any level of rugby. An inexperienced schoolboy side would have been embarrassed to concede such a score. You could tell that even the Scots were shocked that the move worked.
The Scots dominated all over the park but the stand out performances came from the 2 Gray brothers at second row. Richie Gray shined at the line-out and at the breakdown and Jonny Gray topped the tackle count with a Scottish record of 28. They should both be joining Hogg in the red of the Lions.
Greg Laidllaw also captained well from scrum-half and put in a perfect kicking display. He also kept opposing 9 Conor Murray quiet. It was one of the Munster scrum-half’s most ineffectual displays for Ireland.
Ireland hardly turned up in the first half and it seemed that they had been taken in by all their own hype. Scotland put in a very impressive display and will have caused a scare in the other teams. Their celebrations at the final whistle showed what an upset it was.
Ireland’s Grand Slam dream is over but they still have a chance to win the 6 Nations trophy. Perhaps the loss was a wakeup call that the team needed. They went into the game complacent and paid the price.
Pundits and fans can get taken in by the hype but the players and management and coaches must remain focused and never underestimate the opposition.

Ireland did come away with a losing bonus point which may help them when it comes down to the last games of the championship. Tadhg Furlong also did nothing wrong, playing well from the front and Devin Toner won 12 of 14 line outs.
Italy will be a tough challenge, especially with Conor O’Shea as coach. Italy led against Wales for the first half and if not for poor discipline, for which the referees possibly penalised them more than other teams, they may have finished the match much closer, than the 33-7 final score.
Former Ireland full-back and RTE pundit, O’Shea, will have the inside track on Ireland and will want to build on his sides historic win against South Africa last year.

They have one of the best no.8s in the world in captain Sergio Parisse, whom they perhaps rely on too much. Italy will be playing at home where they are at their most effective.

Ireland will need to remain strong throughout the game if they want to win and win comfortably. If the team had beaten Scotland, I would have rested some of the players but they will need to regain their confidence.

Ireland: R Kearney; K Earls, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, S Zebo; P Jackson, C Murray; C Healy, R Best (capt), T Furlong; D Ryan, D Toner; CJ Stander, S O’Brien, J Heaslip.

Replacements: N Scannell, J McGrath, J Ryan, U Dillane, J van der Flier, K Marmion, I Keatley, C Gilroy.

Italy: E Padovani, A Esposito, T Benvenuti, L Mclean, G Venditti, C Canna, E Gori, S Parisse, S Favaro, M Mbanda, A Van Schalkwyk, M Fuser, L Cittadini, L Ghiraldini, A Lovotti.

Replacements: O Gega, S Panico, D Chistolini, G Biagi, A Steyn, G Bronzini, T Allan, M Campagnaro.

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Well, the 2014 6 Nations has come to an end and it’s been a terrific tournament altogether. Some great performances and the winner was unknown until the very last minute. Like every year, each of the teams have different things to take away from their performances.


Irish eyes are smiling of course and England had a great season, very unlucky to have had the same record as Ireland (won 4, lost 1) but lose out on points difference. Still, England did manage to win the Triple Crown.


Wales didn’t reach the heights of their previous 2 years but should still be happy with 3rd place. France weren’t that great this year in terms of performance but still managed to be in contention for the title until the very last minute.


Scotland and Italy won’t be happy with their results, both suffered a real downswing in fortune and failed to build on the progress they had made last year.




Ireland came into this year’s tournament on the back of a heroic performance against New Zealand (though they lost). This was also Joe Schmidt’s first 6 Nations in charge. Ireland had performed poorly in last year’s tournament, 5th out of 6 and with only 1 solitary win. Ireland needed to do better this year.


Ireland got the ball rolling with tremendous wins against Scotland (28-6) and Wales (26-3), thrashing both teams with dominant performances. Ireland were unable to retain that momentum and were affected by a 2 week lay-off. They looked sluggish against England and lost the match, 10-13.


Ireland came back in style against Italy, winning 46-7 and atoning for their loss against the Italians the previous year. Ireland’s high points difference meant that they topped the 6 Nations’ table and had the best chance of winning the title. They only had to beat France in Paris, a feat they had not achieved since 2000 (and Ireland hadn’t beaten France anywhere since 2009)!


France were also going for the 6 Nations Title and the match was a close run thing until the final whistle. Ireland managed to hold out until the end and left as winners, 22-20. They had also achieved their first 6 Nations title since 2009 (and only their 3rd since 1985!).


Ireland finish the tournament in good standing, and though they say goodbye to the legendary Brian O’Driscoll (who was immense throughout the tournament) they will be buoyed by the tremendous showing of a lot of the team and some talented young players coming through.




Rob Kearney had a terrific tournament (though he was a bit overshadowed England’s Mike Brown) and Gordon D’Arcy showed that he still has a lot to offer. Andrew Trimble returned to the team in style and David Kearney is quickly establishing himself as a player of real class. Jonny Sexton has matured into 1 of the best out-halves around and Conor Murray has built on his great performances for the British and Irish Lions.




Losing Sean O’Brien before the start of the tournament was a big blow but Chris Henry took his place well and developed into 1 of the stars of the team. Peter O’Mahony is becoming a talismanic figure and Jaimie Heaslip is playing some of the best rugby of his life.


Paul O’Connell has had a resurgence and Devin Toner almost matched the great ones presence. Rory Best has turned himself around after a lacklustre Lions tour and Cian Healy and Mike Ross have possibly become the premier prop pairing in European rugby.


Ireland finish the 6 Nations in great health and even have some quality players in back up positions (Zebo, Earls). Ireland are in very good stead to do great things in next year’s World Cup.




England have a great record over the last few years. Since winning the tournament in 2011, they have won 12 of their last 15 6 Nation’s matches but have been denied the top spot in each year, losing out to Wales twice and this year to France.


It’s still a great record and they deservedly lifted the Triple Crown this year. They were unlucky to lose a very close game to France (24-26) at the start of the tournament but came back in real style and dominated the 3 Celtic countries and put Italy to the sword, 52-11.


Mike Brown was their star player at full-back and they have a very good out-half in Owen Farrell, probably their best no.10 since Jonny Wilkinson was at his peak. Amazing to think that Farrell is only 22. Chris Robshaw is also one of the best no.7s around and is a brilliant captain.


England are in great form. They’re are playing some very good rugby and have a brilliant defence. They’ll be looking to do some damage in next year’s World Cup (which they’re also hosting) and seem to be the best England team since the Golden Team of 2003.




Wales came into this year’s tournament having won the last 2 6 Nations. They were in great form, having contributed the most to the winning Lions’ Series and looked to be on the way to becoming the 1st team in history to win a 3rd consecutive 6 Nations title.


The warning signs appeared when they struggled to beat Italy (23-15) in the first round and then came completely undone against Ireland. They came back with a strong win against France (27-6) but their hopes and dreams were dashed when they were outclassed by England (29-18). They still had enough left to inflict a heavy defeat on Scotland (51-3) on the last weekend of the tournament .


Wales come out of the tournament in pretty bad nick. They’ve lost their captain, Sam Warburton and full-back Leigh Halfpenny for the rest of the season. Both are 2 of their key players and will be missed (though Wales have able replacements in those positions, the players themselves are inspirational and probably the 2 most important players on the Welsh team at the moment).


Paradoxically, it may have been the Lions tour that caused the problems for Wales this year. The players gave so much to the tour that they may not have had anything left for the 6 Nations. When Wales are back to full strength they’ll be dangerous.




France are a very difficult team to judge. They had a pretty poor tournament in terms of performance yet managed to remain in contention until the final whistle of the tournament. Much like in the 2011 World Cup, where they were imploding but still managed to make the final.


France were much improved on last year (they were absolutely terrible in last year’s tournament) which isn’t difficult but their only clear win was against Italy (30-10). They struggled to beat England and Scotland and lost comprehensively to Wales  and were beaten by Ireland.


Where to now for the French? They were missing their captain, Thierry Dusaoutoir, which must have had an effect on their performances but it goes deeper than that. Phillippe Saint-Andre has had a poor record as coach and France have lost a lot of their elan.


It’s not all Saint-Andre’s fault, though. The French clubs in the Top 14 have the real power and see their national side as an afterthought. In most countries, the international players are rested by their respective clubs so they’ll be fully fit on test-match duty. Not in France.


In France, the players play matches week in, week out (the Top 14 is ongoing throughout the 6 Nations) and the top players will often find themselves playing matches on consecutive weeks. While an Irish player like Brian O’Driscoll will only play the 6 Nations games while the tournament is on, the French players are looking to play twice that amount of matches in the same timeframe.


Something has to be done if France want to achieve things at an international level. They last won the GRand Slam in 2010 but have been quite poor since then. It might be old-fashioned but I believe that the international side should always get preference.




Scotland had done very well in last year’s 6 Nations, coming 3rd,  and it was hoped that they could built on that this year but they never really got going. They started badly with a heavy loss to Ireland and then compounded that by an even heavier loss against England (20-0).


They then struggled to beat Italy (before almost achieving a shock win against France, losing 19-17). They had a chance to do well against Wales but it all ended when they lost Stuart Hogg 20 minutes into the game. His absence seemed to knock the fight out of the team and Wales inflicted one of SCotland’s heaviest defeats in years.


WHere can Scotland go from here? They can’t get much worse, to be honest. They showed against France that they can still achieve some good things but their heavy defeats against Ireland, England and especially Wales shows that there is still a long way to go. THey were only saved the embarrassment of the Wooden Spoon by a single point victory over Italy (21-20).




Italy had beaten France and Ireland in the 2013 6 Nations tournament and hopes were high that they could improve on that this time around but they never really got going. They gave Wales a fight but were completely outdone by France.


They were then unlucky to lose to Scotland after a spirited performance, but followed this with heavy defeats against Ireland and England. Italy finished the tournament with 5 losses from 5 games, which is there poorest result in quieter a while (they usually manage to win at least 1 game).



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Well, Ireland have won the 2014 6 Nations Title after beating France in a heart-stopping final match, 22-20! It’s Ireland’s first Title win since 2009 and Ireland’s first win over France since 2000. The contest finished what had been an amazing day of rugby and a terrific 6 Nations’ tournament.




England still had a slim chance of winning the Championship going into their game against Italy but they needed to win the game by at least 50 points to stay in the reckoning for the Title. They didn’t quite manage that in the end, but they came very close. England eventually put Italy to the sword, 52-11!


Italy started the stronger team, putting the English scrum under pressure, which led to Italy gaining 2 penalties. England responded by scoring 2 great tries, both by full-back Mike Brown. Brown has been England’s stand-out performer during this tournament.


Things got worse for Italy in the 2nd half, with England adding another 5 tries. Italy managed a try 10 minutes before the end, after winger Sarto intercepted and ran in but at this stage it was little more than a consolation, as the score was 45-11 to England. England managed another try just on full-time to finish 52-11.


Although England failed to win the Title in the end, they should still be very pleased with their performance and their campaign overall. Though their play was somewhat disjointed and their scrum was unsettled they showed that they have a very potent back-line and should be able to build on that.


Italy, on the other hand, have had a poor tournament. While they challenged the English they still come away from the 6 Nations with a record of 4 losses from 4 games. All the progress they made last year seems to have evaporated. They’ll need to step up their performances if they want to compete in next year’s tournament and the World Cup.




While England were expected to make short work of Italy, few could have predicted the route Wales would inflict on Scotland. 51-3! Scotland had already suffered heavy defeats earlier in the tournament, from England and Ireland but Wales managed to score more points than either of those teams, combined!


Scotland’s fall started when full-back Stuart Hogg was red-carded 20 minutes into the game after a late-challenge on Dan BIggar. The referee had originally issued a yellow card but changed his mind when he saw the incident replayed on the big screen!


Hogg is the best player Scotland have at the moment and they completely imploded when he left the pitch. Scotland were already at a disadvantage after their captain, Kelly Brown was taken off with concussion.


 Wales were already 10-3 up when Hogg was sent off and they kept piling on the tries. They scored 6 more tries, including braces for Jamie Roberts and George North. It wasn’t all plain sailing for Wales though, as they lost their captain, Sam Warburton, to a dislocated shoulder.


It was the same injury that put Leigh Halfpenny out of commission last weekend. Both players will now be out for around 4 months and will miss Wales’ tour to South Africa. On the plus side, Halfpenny’s replacement, Liam Williams, played well, even scoring a try.


It was a terrific performance by Wales, who had recovered well from their loss to England last week. They end a disappointing campaign on a high note. They were unable to achieve their 3rd consecutive 6 Nations Title, but still come away with a good record.


Scotland have been dire throughout this campaign and were only saved from the Wooden Spoon by winning a very close game against Italy. Their high point was a close loss to France. Their low point was today’s match, the highest score against them in many years.




Brian O’Driscoll finished his international career in style, helping Ireland to their 2nd 6 Nation’s title in 6 years. The legendary centre was pivotal throughout the game and was awarded his 2nd consecutive Man 0f The Match title for his efforts.


Machenaud opened the scoring for France with 2 early penalties before Jonny Sexton took a great try at the 20-min mark. Sexton failed to convert, though, which kept France in the lead, 6-5! Trimble touched down soon after, to put Ireland in the lead, 12-6.


Sexton missed a conversion and a penalty, though, and those 5 points could have ended up proving costly for Ireland. France aren’t going to be out-done and score their own try soon after a brilliant cross-field kick. The TMO judges it a try and France go into the break, 13-12 ahead.


France put Ireland under pressure at the start of the 2nd-half, but Trimble intercepts from out of nowhere to run most of the length of the field before passing to Sexton, who canters in. Ireland now lead, 19-13! Sexton adds a penalty to increase Ireland’s lead to 22-13.


At around the hour-mark, France score another try and reduce Ireland’s lead to 22-20! The last 20 minutes are going to be painful for fans of either side. Ireland’s woes increase when the Talismanic Sexton is stretchered from the field with 10 minutes to go. Ian Madigan comes on for his 1st appearance in the 2014 6 Nations.


The last 10 minutes are agonisingly painful for fans of both teams. Twice, France have a chance to win the game but are denied both times. First a penalty attempt goes wide and then their try is disallowed. Ireland managed to hold on to win!


Ireland were saved from the jaws of defeat (much like in 2009, when Stephen Jones missed a penalty which could have won the match for Wales. Instead he missed and Ireland were awarded the Grand Slam).


So Ireland have won the 6 Nations Title, only their 3rd since 1985 and have ended their 14-year bogey in France. A terrific end to a very good Irish campaign. Their performance was patchy in places but they still achieved some impressive victories.


France saved their best performance ’til last but it wasn’t good enough to achieve victory (though they were unlucky when they failed in both their penalty and try attempts). Still, they have been really poor this season, they’re only really high point a very close win over England.


The performance may have been too little too late for Phillipe Saint-Andre. The French Federation will have to move quickly if they want him gone in time to get a replacement to coach France through next year’s tournament and the World Cup.


And so we say good-bye to Brian O’Driscoll as an international rugby player. He’s left us all some great memories over the last 15 years when he has been undoubtedly 1 of the greats of his generation and 1 of the best ever.


As well as great memories he leaves behind some terrific achievements as an international player as well. He retires as the world’s most capped player (141) and also 1 half of the World’s Most Capped Centre Partnership, with Gordon D’Arcy . O’Driscoll is also Ireland’s top try scorer with 46 tries. 26 of those tries he scored in the 6 Nations, making him the 6 Nations top try scorer as well!


He also played a major role in Ireland’s most successful era, helping Ireland win 4 Triple Crowns, a Grand Slam and 2 Championships during his career. He leaves Irish rugby in much healthier form than when he came onto the scene.


He will be sorely missed but he also leaves behind a tremendous team: The Kearney Brothers, Andrew Trimble, Gordon D’Arcy, Jonny Sexton, Conor Murray, Jamie Heaslip, Chris Henry, Peter O’Mahony, Paul O’Connell, Devin Toner, Cian Healy, Mike Ross and Rory Best. All had great tournaments.


Not to mention the injuries to players like Sean O’Brien, Tommy Bowe and Luke Fitzgerald, who will be great when they return. There is also the likes of Simon Zebo, Keith Earls, Paddy Jackson and Ian Madigan waiting in the wings. And, Stephen Ferris is finally on the road to recovering from injuries that have kept him out of the game for nearly 2 years!


Irish rugby is in very good health at the moment and should be for a while to come. There are still a few kinks to work out, but overall Joe Schmidt has done very well in his first 6 Nations Irish coach. Long may it continue!  And Thanks Brian for all the memories!

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Well, it looks like we’re in for a cracking day of rugby as the final series of 6 Nations’ matches takes place this Saturday, March 15th! Firstly, England will have to beware the Ides of March as they travel to Rome to face Italy at 1.30.
Then, at 2.45, Scotland travel to the Millennium Stadium to face last year’s 6 Nations champions, Wales. Finally, it’s the big event as France host Ireland at 5 o’clock (all times GMT). 4 teams still have a chance to win the Championship Title but the result all rests with the Ireland/France game.
England have retained the same starting 15 that beat Wales last weekend. The only change to their squad is bringing Manu Tuilagi onto the bench for Saracens full-back, Alex Goode. Tuilagi hasn’t played for England since last March, but his last test appearance was in the 3rd Test of the Lions vs Australia Series last summer, when he was picked on the bench ahead of Brian O’Driscoll
Italy’s inspirational captain, Sergio Parisse returns to captain the side (he was left out of Italy’s test against Ireland last weekend) but they will be without their great prop, Martin Castrogioavanni for the match. Italy will be in for a very tough time against an in-form England.
Italy have had a poor 6 tournament, having lost all 4 games so far this year, including heavy losses to France and Ireland. Still, their form hasn’t been all bad, with some very good performances against Wales and Scotland (who they almost beat). They showed some good work against France and Ireland as well.
England, in contrast, have been in very good form so far this season, losing only their first match of the tournament so far, a very close loss to France. Otherwise, they have looked dominant against Wales and Ireland and especially Scotland, who they beat 20-0.
Italy have a terrible record against England, having never beaten them in 19 attempts. The last 2 games between the sides were very close, though, with England only winning by 7 and 4 points . This year, England would have to win by nearly 50 points if they were to have any chance of claiming the 6 Nations trophy.
I think England will win the game quite comfortably but I don’t see them achieving a high score, probably by no more than 20 points. Italy had a great showing in last year’s 6 Nations (they beat France and Ireland) but they haven’t been able to carry that form into this year’s tournament.
Wales have made 6 changes to the side that lost against England last week. Full-back Leigh Halfpenny was injured  in that game and is replaced by Liam Williams. Rhys Priestland didn’t play well in last week’s game and is replaced by Dan Biggar at out-half. BIggar will also handle the kicking duties.
Mike Phillips comes in at scrum-half for Rhys Webb. The rest of the back-line is the same. Luke Charteris, Ken Owens and Rhodri Jones are the new faces in the pack. Prop, Gethin Jenkins makes his 105th test appearance, a new record for Wales.
Scotland have made only 1 change to the team that came so close to beating France last week. Dougie Fife makes his debut on the wing. He’ll have a tough time against the giant George North. Wales go into the game as favourites. Scotland have won only 3 of the last 13 games played between the sides.
This contest always provides some great rugby. Wales it has to be said have been a bit disappointing this season, after their great form in the last 2 years. That may have been part of it, though, the expectation and pressure of winning a 3rd 6 Nations title (which nobody ever has).
Wales had a tough time against Italy, were completely out-classed by Ireland, before thumping France and then been over-run by England. Scotland have a poorer record, been thumped by both Ireland and England, before narrowly beating Italy and almost beating France.
There isn’t that much chance of Wales winning the 6 Nations this year. There are too many factors working against them (they’d have to score big against Scotland, while hoping that Italy beat England and France and Ireland draw).  A win would salvage some respect for either team, though Scotland need it more.
This is the crunch game of Saturday. Ireland travel to France, hoping to achieve their 1st win against the French since 2000! It’s fitting that Brian O’Driscoll played such a big part in that match (he scored 3 tries, announcing himself on the world stage) as he will make his last ever international appearance there on Saturday.
Ireland are also going for their 1st 6 Nations trophy since 2009, which is also the last time they beat France anywhere! It’s a difficult game to call as the last 2 games between the sides both ended in draws!
Ireland have made 1 change to the side that beat Italy last week, Peter O’Mahony returns at blind-side flanker. Brian O’Driscoll makes his 141st (and last) test appearance (he has 8 appearances for the British and Irish Lions which are included in his caps total).
France have made 4 changes to the side that just narrowly beat Scotland last week. It’s quite a new-look team with Louis Picamoles picked on the flank instead of his customary no.8 position (French coach Saint-Andre said that the 2 players will alternate throughout the match).
Castres out-half, Remi Tales starts, with Gael Fickou coming into the centre. Racing Metro hooker Szarzewski has recovered from injury and comes into the side. Saint-Andre has also only picked 2 back subs on the replacement bench (the rest are all forwards) which is rare.
This should be a great game with it all to play for. Ireland have been in very good form for most of the season, their 1 blight been outclassed by England. France, on the other hand, have been lacklustre and quite disappointing. I feel whatever the result, Phillipe Saint-Andre will not be retained as coach into the next World Cup in 2015.
France, though, can never be underestimated. They are just the team to conjure up a brilliant performance out of nowhere and they’ll be especially keen to do well in front of an unforgiving home crowd.
There’s some added intrigue for Jonny Sexton as this will be the 1st time he faces his Racing Metro team-mates since joining the club last summer. If Ireland will they will win the 6 Nations trophy outright (England don’t score 50+ points against Italy. If France win, it will then become a matter of points difference with England and Wales (provided those teams win their games).
It’s gonna be a great day of rugby!
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Well, it was another terrific weekend of 6 Nations’ action! Ireland started slow but eventually put Italy to the sword, 46-7. France got a last-minute penalty to overcome Scotland in a very close match, 19-17. And, England proved too much for Wales, eventually winning their match, 29-18 and with it also winning England’s 1st Triple Crown since the golden era of 2003 (when England also won the Grand Slam and World Cup).
O’Driscoll was phenomenal in his record-breaking, last-home appearance. Setting up 3 of Ireland’s 7 tries and making himself a nuisance around the field. His performance was typified by the fact that he received the Man Of The Match award, despite leaving the field 20 minutes from the end, though the great man himself admitted that his award may have been more to do with the occasion than his performance, though his performance still ranks up there with his greatest games.
Jonny Sexton was superb as well, showing no signs of his earlier injury or suspected fatigue. Sexton scored 17 points, including 2 tries. Also touching down were Andrew Trimble, Sean Cronin, Cian Healy, Fergus McFadden (who replaced O’Driscoll, to a standing ovation from the home crowd!) and Jack McGrath. Italy were reduced to a solitary converted try, but they didn’t go down without a fight.
Ireland got the ball rolling with an early Sexton try, set up by O’Driscoll, but Italy were able to cut down subsequent threats by their hosts and proved to be the more capable of converting pressure into points when winger, Sarto, touched down before the half hour mark. The conversion made the scores level at 7-all. Sexton regained the lead with a penalty, before a great Trimble try, again set-up by O’Driscoll, put Ireland at a 17-7 lead before the break.
Ireland were able to assert more dominance over their opponents in the 2nd half, and 5 more tries were scored by the home team. Sexton failed to convert any more but his replacement, Paddy Jackson, converted the final 2 tries. Ireland now head to Stade France for a show-down with the French and a 6 Nations trophy very much in their sights.
Neither team had impressed before this match, though France were expected to achieve a relatively easy victory. Instead, the Scots shocked their home crowd, as well as everyone else, by putting in a spirited performance, even providing some champagne rugby, which not many believed they were capable of.
Indeed, adventurous play was once the hall-mark of the French, but they have been a shadow of their former selves for a few years now and were reduced to achieving points by penalties in the 1st half. Scotland, on the other hand, chose to run with aplomb and managed to score 2 tries, through Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour. Duncan Weir put in an assured performance at out-half, kicking very well, though 2 errors cost the Scots the game.
Scotland were all set up for a 3rd try, which would have likely sealed the win, the French were camped on their own try-line. However, Weir’s pass went astray and French wing Huget was able to intercept and run the length of the field to touch down. Weir also had a chance to win the game with an admittedly difficult penalty but his attempt drifted wide. France crushed Scottish dreams with a last-minute penalty, winning the game, 19-17.
Heart-breaking for the Scots, who were the better team on the day. France were pretty abysmal and it looks like it’s time for a new French coach. While the Scottish pack have been somewhat wayward in this competition, the French scrum and line-out have been equally poor. France having been 1 of the poorer sides in the tournament. Having said that, France still retain a slim chance of winning the 6 Nations title, if they manage to score high against Ireland and England fail to dominate Italy.
England put in a terrific performance to beat Wales and claim their first Triple Crown in 11 years. England dominated the Welsh for the whole game and some inspired running and rock-solid defence sealed the victory for the English team. England have probably been the form team in this competition (their hard-fought loss to France the only blot on their copybook) and look set to achieve some great things in the years ahead.
England were not without their faults but they proved too much for the more experienced Welsh side, and Owen Farrell easily won the battle at number 10, completely overshadowing  Welsh out-half Rhys Priestland, who was a spent force long before he retired at the hour mark. The English were able to nullify the illustrious Welsh backs and managed to score 2 great tries, through Danny Care and Luther Burrell.
Burrell almost got a 2nd try but he was thwarted by heroic defence from Welsh full-back Leigh Halfpenny. Unfortunately, Halfpenny suffered a serious injury in his heroics and has been ruled out for the rest of the season, which is a real blow to Wales. As well as being a great player, Halfpenny was Wales’ chief source of points, being their goal-kicker (indeed he had scored all of Wales’ points during the match).  
England seem to have usurped Wales as the dominant team in Europe, however the tournament finishes next week. England have been the most consistently good team this year and have been a superb team over the last 3 years (since Stuart Lancaster became coach). Indeed, England have come 2nd in the last 2 6 Nation’s competitions and have so far won 11 of their last 14 6 Nation’s games (losing only won match in 2012 and 2013 and their early loss to France this year). A great record.
We now come to the final weekend of what has been a terrific, exciting competition. It looks set to be an intriguing final series of matches. Scotland and Wales always provide an exciting contest and England will want to do 1 better than Ireland against Italy. But the real head-liner next weekend will be France’s game against Ireland.
Ireland are currently leading the 6 Nations table and if they manage to beat France they will win the Championship. For France to win the Championship they have to inflict a heavy defeat to Ireland and hope that Italy can keep England close. Ireland have a lot of momentum going into the game, and have the added incentive of O’Driscoll’s last-ever international, but they will be playing against a French side terrified to lose a home game in front of their own fans who are liable to give them a frosty reception. It’s a great way to end the 6 Nations! Can’t wait!   




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(Before I begin I have to say that I made a mistake in my last report. I had written that Mike Blair scored a try for England. I actually meant Danny Care! Mike Blair is a former SCOTTISH rugby player. Apologies!)
Well, Brian O’Driscoll looks set to make history when he runs out to the field on Saturday at the Aviva. His match against Italy will be his 140th test appearance, making him the world’s most capped player ever (he will have made 132 appearances for Ireland and 8 for the Lions)!
It’s a terrific achievement for the great man and does even more for his reputation as 1 of the best players ever and great to see him making that mark in his last international at the Aviva/Landsdowne (his home ground), but I wouldn’t have picked him to play against Italy.
I think O’Driscoll should have been rested for the Italian game as Ireland are playing France a week later and we need our best players in top form. The more games played the less potent the players will be. There are also the tough games ahead for the provinces in the Heineken and Rabo tournaments to think of.
Jonny Sexton has overcome injury concerns and is also picked for the game against Italy. However, I also would have kept him out of the game. He has already had a very tough season fro Racing Metro and has played 3 near-full tests for Ireland in 5 weeks.
That’s too much to ask of a player and expect him to remain on top form. He was clearly struggling in the last quarter against England. Taking nothing away from Italy (they beat Ireland last year, let’s not forget) but players need to be rested and Paddy Jackson needs to have at least 1 start.
Irish coach Joe Schmidt has made only 1 change to the team that lost to England 2 weeks ago, with Iain Henderson coming in for the injured Peter O’Mahony at blindside flanker (6). Italy have made some changes to their side, most notably bringing in Barbieri for Sergio Parisse at no. 8. Italian second row, Marco Bortolami captains the side, on his 103rd appearance for his country.
I would have liked players like Simon Zebo and Robbie Henshaw included in the team, both to give those players a start and to rest the more experienced players. Neither Zebo nor Henshaw are likely to be picked for the match against France, which means they will have not started a game in the whole of the 6 Nations. They would also provide more attacking flair, which Ireland are lacking at the moment.  
Italy will provide a pretty tough challenge for Ireland. Although Italy have yet to win a game so far in the tournament this year, they haven’t gone quietly. They lost narrowly to Wales and made a few mistakes against France before losing by a point against Scotland. Italy can never be underestimated. Ireland will want to make up for the 22-15 loss they suffered to Italy last year.
Ireland are still in the running for the 6 Nations’ title, being top of the table on points difference. If they manage a heavy defeat against Italy this should only increase  their lead as I don’t see big scores being achieved in either of the other 2 games this weekend. Ireland face Italy in the Aviva this Saturday, 8th March at 2.30 pm.
France and Scotland come into this contest with differing fortunes. France suffered a heavy defeat to Wales 2 weeks ago while Scotland narrowly beat Italy. France, however have had a better overall campaign so far, as they’ve also beaten England and inflicted a heavy defeat on Italy. Scotland themselves have suffered a heavy defeat against Ireland and an even heavier defeat against England in what was 1 Scotland’s worst performances in recent years.
Scotland’s record against France has been poor in recent years, managing only 1 victory in the last 11 years, a narrow 20-16 win in 2006. France have made a number of changes to the team that were steamrolled against Wales, while Scotland have reinstated captain Kelly Brown, who had been dropped after Scotland’s poor effort against Ireland and missed the subsequent matches against England and Italy.
Neither France nor Scotland have been particularly impressive so far this year, with both Phillipe Saint-Andre (French coach) and Scott Johnson (Scotland coach) coming under scrutiny for the somewhat lacklustre performances of their teams. Both countries are looking to restore pride to restore some pride. Scotland have the home advantage, which is a slight comfort. The match takes place in Murrayfield on Saturday at 5 pm. France are still in the running for the 6 Nations’ trophy but they’re last of the 4 contenders with only 1 solitary point difference!
Save the best ’til last! This match looks set to be the barn-burner of the weekend. Wales comes into the contest with 3 consecutive wins against England, including last year’s 30-3 drubbing. England came to the Millennium Stadium searching for their fist Grand Slam title in 10 years are were soundly beaten by a terrific Welsh performance.
Both sides are still in contention for the 6 Nations’ title, having won 2 and lost 1, though England have a much higher points difference (21 to Wales’ 6). England were narrowly beaten by France before coming back to thrash Scotland and overcome Ireland. Wales struggled to beat Italy before been thrashed by Ireland and thumping France. There isn’t that much between the teams.
Wales have a far better team in terms of player personnel (13 of the starting 15 all starred for the Lions) and they welcome back centre Jonathan Davies, but England showed against Ireland that they have the ability to shut down the opposition with a staggering defence. There are some great battles to look forward to, especially the 2 captains, Chris Robshaw of England and Sam Warburton of Wales, who are 2 of the best open-sides in the world.
I believe England may just have the stronger momentum to overcome Wales. I don’t believe that it will be quite the drubbing of last year when England welcome Wales to Twickenham on Sunday, March 9th at 3! It looks set to be another great weekend of rugby action and should make the race for the 6 Nation’s title a little clearer.
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