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By Pete Moore On January 19th, 2019

Just thought I’d get that one in.

And with a quick change of sport, a rugby prediction. The group stage of the Heineken Cup (rugby’s equivalent of the Champions League) is as good as done. I can’t see a winner outside of Saracens, Leinster or Racing 92. Those three are out in front as the best club/provincial sides in Europe.

The strength in depth of Irish rugby at the moment is frightening. It’s not that they’re not weak in any position, it’s that every position has a queue of quality players, and every one of them seems to know exactly what to do at every moment. There’s a clarity to their play at all times, and that’s a huge advantage in a game of fine margins.

So I’m calling it now: Ireland will win the Six Nations, which begins in a fortnight, and the World Cup later this year.

21 Responses to “UP THE ARSE”

  1. Eddie Jones named a 35 man panel for the up coming Six Nations. It has players from 12 different teams. The team with the most (Saracens) have 7 players represented. Joe Schmidt has named a 38 man panel for the Six Nations. It has players from 4 different teams (the four Irish provincial sides). The team with the most (Leinster) have 16 players represented.

    I think one of the major strengths in Irish rugby at the moment is the almost unity of purpose. All the teams play broadly similar styles and have bought in massively to Joe Schmidt’s philosophies. It means that when players are playing for their province they are almost always playing in a very similar way to the manner that they will play for Ireland. England on the other hand has no real link between the national side and the Premiership. Teams will do their own thing. It means, firstly, a lot of the guys playing for England don’t play with their partners on a regular basis. It also means that they will often be playing very different styles from what they will be doing when playing for England.

    Probably the closest in the northern hemisphere to Ireland (set up wise) is Scotland, who are probably one of the most improved sides in recent years. 38 man panel and 18 of them play for Glasgow, and 12 play for Edinburgh. It firstly allows the national side to enjoy greater continuity but it also then helps the club sides as well – as they have far more players playing International rugby.

    All of the Irish sides in the Heineken Cup got to the knockout stages. All of the Scottish sides in the competition got to the knockout stages. Only 1 of the 7 English sides got to the knockout stages, and only 2 of the 6 French sides got to the knockout stages. Ireland and Scotland are pooling their talent in a manner that the other nations are not. And it is paying dividends for both nations (for both international and club/provincial sides).

    There are 4 major Irish teams. There are 2 major Scottish teams. And if you looking further South there are 5 major New Zealand sides, 4 major South African sides, and 4 major Australian sides. There are 14 (arguably 30) major French teams. There are 12 (arguably 24) major English sides. The talent is too diluted in both England and France. And Wales are the most badly organised tier 1 rugby nation.

  2. Seamus

    Are you ready for some American Football today? The temperature in Kansas City is supposed to be 20F when they play New England. I’m looking forward to the Rams-Saints game this afternoon.

  3. “Are you ready for some American Football today?”

    Should be good. It’s not common for the top 2 seeds in both conferences to be playing the championship games. Though the last time it happened was in the 2015 season – and the two #1 seeds won that day. So that should augur good for Kansas City and New Orleans.

    The weather was poor in Kansas City last week. In fact the referees (and Andy Reid) had to admonish the crowd for throwing snowballs at players. The poor weather will probably suit New England (who are more used to it) than Kansas City (who’s offense would probably do better with better conditions).

    Saints Rams should be a better game. Two explosive offenses in a dome. Should be a lot of scoring.

  4. Seamus

    It will be interesting to see if the Saint’s defense can stop the Rams Gurley and Anderson on the run that devastated Dallas so badly. I;m looking forward to that game as well!

  5. I think the Saints plan is to get a big lead and take Gurley out of the game that way. Its what they did in the regular season. Gurley averaged 5.2 yards per carry in the game but only carried 13 times. The Saints scored 35 points in the first half – effectively forcing the Rams to pass the ball.

  6. Don’t forget to say a little prayer for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick today

    If we are lucky, America’s team will win once again

  7. Go KC!

  8. This is almost getting as bad as your Yankees nonsense a few months ago.

  9. What nonsense

  10. Bill Belichick is Satan. There is no other explication.

  11. Every true Irishman must support Tom Brady.

  12. “Every true Irishman must support Tom Brady.”

    Reid is a pretty common Irish surname as well.

  13. England on the other hand has no real link between the national side and the Premiership. Teams will do their own thing.

    Another advantage for Ireland is that the IRFU owns the four provinces, so the national team is prioritisd. The national players hardly play outside of internationals and Heineken Cup games. So when the provinces play in the Pro 14 it’s with much weaker squads than in the Heineken Cup. If Joe Schmidt doesn’t want Sexton playing for a few weeks, to keep him fit for Ureland, then he doesn’t play.

    England’s clubs are independently owned and do their own thing. Every week they play their strongest teams because they either have to avoid relegation or qualify for Europe. If Eddie Jones asked Saracens to rest Owen Farrell they’d tell him to get lost.

  14. “So when the provinces play in the Pro 14 it’s with much weaker squads than in the Heineken Cup. If Joe Schmidt doesn’t want Sexton playing for a few weeks, to keep him fit for Ureland, then he doesn’t play.”

    Exactly. Most top Irish internationals have minute limits placed on their play. So they can only play so many games per year. Keeps them fresh. While the English sides are tending to get into yearly pissing contests with the RFU over international games being played outside windows and so on and so forth.

    I think only the Welsh mismanage their rugby more than England and France. If England and France operated their setups the way Ireland, Scotland, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia did then England or France would easily be the dominant team in world rugby.

  15. Seamus, the officials will never get out of New Orleans alive!

  16. I can’t believe that non-call. There are two fouls. First he leads with the helmet and hits the other guy in the head. That’s a personal foul. You can’t do that. He also tackles him before the ball gets there. That’s pass interference.

    It is the easiest call to make and they miss it.

    The only upside from it is that it will likely be a big news story during the offseason. And normally when that happens they change the rules to prevent it happening. I’d imagine that moving forward coaches should be able to challenge non-call penalties. I wouldn’t be surprised to see that rule change.

    They also arguably missed another one on the interception. The hit on Brees you aren’t allowed to make contact with the Quarterback’s head. Even incidental contact is a penalty. And he clearly catches Brees’ facemask.

    The officials will likely get death threats from this.

    And somewhere Brett Favre and the 09 Vikings are feeling a little bit of schadenfreude about the whole thing.

  17. I wouldn’t be surprised to see that rule change.

    Excellent idea. The Saints really got screwed today. I hate to see a team kept from the Superbowl over a non-call.

  18. Yes!

  19. Holy mother of God

    Go Patriots!

    They were dead and buried but they got back up

  20. So it’s the Patriots and the Rams for the Superbowl. The Saints were the better team, and would be in the Superbowl except for a blown no-call penalty.

    I think New England has already won! Phantom will be a happy man!

  21. The key was winning the coin toss in overtime. Neither defence had anything left in the tank at that stage. Both teams were able to move the ball with relative ease in the fourth quarter. I think if the Chiefs had won the coin toss then they would have marched the ball down the field with the same sort of ease that New England did.

    Dee Ford being offside in regulation on an interception really didn’t help the cause either. If he is an inch or so further back then the same play likely happens the same way. And that would have been game over. Shows how much the game is, to quote the cliche, a game of inches.

    The Superbowl will be interesting. Firstly it remains to be seen if Todd Gurley is fit. He was limited in his snap count last night and spent most of it on the bike on the side line. That says to me he was battling a muscle injury. If Gurley is fit and can get the Rams run game going then I think the Rams will win. Their entire offense relies on them getting the run game going. Even their passing game – which uses a lot of play action.

    If it is Brady against Goff there is only one winner.

    With Gronk set to retire after this season you wonder if the Patriots window is about the slam shut. You even saw it last night. If Gronk and Edelman were double covered then Brady struggled to move the ball. He simply has no other weapons of note on that offense. Lose Gronk and the Patriots are in big trouble offensively.

    So you could very much so have a situation where the Tom Brady legend began with the Rams. And may just end with it.