Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Tommy Bowe, 22 tries in 46 tests for Ireland

Fly-half Jonathan Sexton delivered a starring display as Ireland bagged their first win of the RBS 6 Nations campaign with a 42-10 win over Italy.

But it was Ulster & Monaghan star Tommy Bowe who scored two tries that had the biggest impact in a facile Irish victory at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

The Leinster No. 10 , Sexton, kicked 17 points at the Aviva Stadium as two scores from Tommy Bowe, a Keith Earls try and late efforts from Tom Court and Andrew Trimble halted a run of three consecutive home defeats as Ireland let out their frustrations on the Azzurri.

Italy more than played their part in the clash but after some early promise and a score from skipper Sergio Parisse ultimately their fly-half conundrum cost them.

Scrum-half specialist Tobias Botes won his first cap in the No. 10 jersey but while Sexton kicked seven from eight the Italian managed just two from five to reignite Ireland's campaign after their opening round defeat to Wales and postponed clash with France.

Italy had opportunity to draw first blood after less than two minutes but Botes' penalty slipped wide of the left-hand post after Mike Ross was penalised for not rolling away.

But with memories of his two glaring misses against England coming to the fore Botes settled his nerves after seven minutes with a three-pointer.

Ireland, somewhat forcing the issue in their attempt to hit the ground running, were penalised for not releasing through Sexton and Botes slotted over.

Sexton made amends on the ten-minute mark however when despite nursing a cut to the head he stepped up to make it 3-3 after the Azzurri were penalised for crossing.

Ireland's attacking intentions were underlined when they opted to kick for the corner rather than take a penalty as Italy were off their feet.

And the bold move proved to be the right one when Earls took his hot streak to six tries in four games burrowing over from close range and Sexton's conversion made it 10-3.

Italy wasted two opportunities to reduce the arrears in as many minutes approaching the half-hour mark. First the unlucky Botes saw his penalty attempt come back off the crossbar before a drop goal attempt was sliced well wide.

But the Azzurri got themselves level six minutes before the break when Ireland made a hash of lineout in their own 22. Robert Barbieri went on a charge for the visitors before Botes showed a calmness with the ball in hand that had eluded him with the boot to free skipper Parisse to cross under the posts.

Botes couldn't miss from in front of the posts to make it 10-10 but the home side ensured they went in at half-time seven points to the good with Bowe's 21st score for his country and Sexton's impressive conversion from out wide.

Rob Kearney picked off a pass from his toes in the build up before floating the ball out to Stephen Ferris. The villain of the piece from their opening round defeat against Wales could easily have bundled over but the blindside flanker opted to play it safe to put Bowe in.

The Botes kicking nightmare continued after the break when after Sean O'Brien was penalised for not rolling away the Azzurri fly-half was well off target.

Ferris went close again to redemption before being halted by an Alberto Sgarbi tap tackle but from the resulting scrum Ireland won the penalty which allowed Sexton to make it 20-10.

Just before the hour mark that lead was stretched to 13 points when Sexton made it five successful kicks from five with a penalty.

And the Ireland fly-half was catching the eye again on the hour mark when his perfectly weighted pass freed Bowe for his second score of the afternoon before converting.

With Ireland clear, the game looked to be petering out towards the end with the only incident bringing the home crowd from the seats the arrival of Ronan O'Gara to win a record 118th cap, replacing Gordon D'Arcy.

However Court's first international score stretch the Irish lead before the gloss was put on the win by wing Trimble's breakaway try.
Sexton shanked his final kick of the day from out wide but it took little away from a dominant Irish performance.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Yes, okay, he has won seven World Titles as a Formula 1 driver with Ferrari but his mealy-mouth interviews and his win-at-all costs attitude down the years has made him a villian in my eyes.

I just don't like the guy, tough Michael.


Eldrick Tont "Tiger" Woods (born December 30, 1975)[4][5] is an American professional golfer whose achievements to date rank him among the most successful golfers of all time. Formerly the World No. 1, he is the highest-paid professional athlete in the world, having earned an estimated US$90.5 million from winnings and endorsements in 2010.

Woods has won 14 professional major golf championships, the second highest of any male player (Jack Nicklaus leads with 18), and 71 PGA Tour events, third all time behind Sam Snead and Nicklaus.[8] He has more career major wins and career PGA Tour wins than any other active golfer does. He is the youngest player to achieve the career Grand Slam, and the youngest and fastest to win 50 tournaments on tour. Additionally, Woods is only the second golfer, after Jack Nicklaus, to have achieved a career Grand Slam three times. Woods has won 16 World Golf Championships, and won at least one of those events in each of the first 11 years after they began in 1999.

The selish and petulant swinger of a club was found to be nothing but a serial wife-cheater and an absolute low-life who's only saving grace is that he is a great golfer but a creep as a human-being. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Brendan Cole reviews the history of Ireland v France, and the scale of the task facing Ireland on Saturday

France are heavy favourites going into this clash versus Ireland 

It is true that these teams have played out some close encounters in recent seasons. France won two fairly loose Rugby World Cup warm-up clashes last August, and also took the last RBS 6 Nations encounter at Aviva Stadium, but all three of those wins were by one-score margins.

But Les Bleus are a different proposition at home in the 6 Nations, and that is particularly true against Ireland.

Two years ago, Ireland were beaten 33-10 in the latest of a long line of heavy defeats in Paris and in total, Ireland have won just twice away from home against France in 60 years.

Paris in the springtime is Ireland's toughest European assignment by far.

It is also worth taking note of where France are at. It seems strange to describe recent World Cup finalists as being about to start on an upward curve after a prolonged slump, but the circumstances of France's run to the decider make that appropriate.

Philippe Saint-Andre is far more capable of getting France to play to a high standard week on week than his predecessor was and that is bad news for the rest of the teams in this Championship.

It is also clearly in France's favour that Ireland have to cope with a six-day turnaround from a high-intensity clash with Wales whereas their opponents sauntered to an easy win over Italy the day before.

Ireland's scrum should survive with Ross at tighthead

There are some positives for Ireland. The scrum has often been the starting point for a Paris pasting - 2010 was no different - but this time, Ireland will have Mike Ross at tighthead, while France have opted to put William Servat aka the Log on the bench with Dmitri Szarzewksi starting.

In general play, the French wing-forwards Imanol Harinorduquy and Thierry Dusautoir are fearsome in attack and defence but number eight Louis Picamoles needs good go-forward ball to be effective and is no defensive workhorse.

Could he potentially be a luxury which France cannot afford? It is up to Ireland to make it play out that way.

In the centre, Wesley Fofana - nervous at times last week - is another player Ireland must ask questions of if they are to have a chance. Ireland should also get a break around the ruck, as Morgan Parra is no Mike Phillips. That can only improve things wider out.

But the key for Ireland must be the contest between the packs and everything possible must be done to test the fitness of the French up front, despite their extra day of rest.

Ireland cannot afford to spread the ball unless they have done the work up front - as Italy repeatedly found to their cost last week.

Pick and go could be key for Ireland

That means the main carriers in the tight five must seek a tempo that asks the fitness question. Ireland must also solve the mystery of the back-row carrying poorly over several games, especially the wing-forwards. The easiest solution may be to use the pick and go game that proved very effective when tried last week.

Obviously, that is a risk against defenders of the calibre of Dusautoir, but with Stephen Ferris and Sean O'Brien struggling to get on the same wave-length as Conor Murray at scrum-half, it may be a workable short-term solution.

The danger is that even if the pack does manage to upset the French ,  the backline will be unable to take advantage.

A massive test of the wide defence is in prospect with the 9-10-12 combination of Parra, Francois Trinh-Duc and Fofana set to spread the ball quickly to try to get Ireland scrambling at every opportunity.

As every 6 Nations side does now, France will also seek to target the centres with big carriers. Gordon D'Arcy's miss on Aurelien Rougerie in the lead up to the crucial French try last year will not have been forgotten and he can expect a difficult day with plenty of runners coming at him against the grain.

Outside him, Keith Earls decision making will be tested to the limit in the ultra demanding outside-centre position. French back-rowers can operate on a loose rein and the Munsterman may well have Harinorduquy to deal with at times, as well as Rougerie and the wide men.

Kicking and defence must get better

Ireland must also kick far better than they did in their directionless outings against the Welsh in their last two games. The lineout is a strength that must be brought into the equation, and the exceptional French back-three must be kept out of the game as much as possible.

Things may improve if Ireland restrict their attempts to go high for the choke tackle but it is not yet clear whether or not the Irish coaching group will decide that the technique is a busted flush.

On that front, there is a sense that this match will be a real test of the trust between the coaching group and the players, who will know better than anyone if there are genuine strategic or tactical shortcomings. Defence and kicking - the specialist areas of new attack committee Les Kiss and Mark Tainton - have been the main weaknesses of late.

It will also be a massive test of Ireland's belief and togetherness. O'Connell's leadership and captaincy are rarely found wanting in such circumstances and the likelihood is that Ireland will produce a much improved display.

History suggests a win is beyond them.

Prediction: France 28-14 Ireland

France v Ireland, RBS 6 Nations, Saturday 11 February, Stade de France, Paris, kick-off 8pm:

France: 15 Maxime Medard 14 Vincent Clerc 13 Aurelien Rougerie 12 Wesley Fofana 11 Julien Malzieu, 10 Francois Trinh-Duc 9 Morgan Parra 1 Jean-Baptiste Poux 2 Dimitri Szarzewski 3 Nicolas Mas 4 Pascal Pape 5 Yoann Maestri 6 Thierry Dusautoir 7 Imanol Hardinorquy 8 Louis Picamoles

Replacements: 16 William Servat 17 Vincent Debaty 18 Lionel Nallet 19 Julien Bonnaire 20 Julien Dupuy 21 Lionel Beauxis 22 Maxime Mermoz

Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney 14 Tommy Bowe 13 Keith Earls 12 Gordon D'Arcy 11 Andrew Trimble 10 Jonathan Sexton 9 Conor Murray 1 Cian Healy 2 Rory Best 3 Mike Ross 4 Donncha O'Callaghan 5 Paul O'Connell 6 Stephen Ferris 7 Sean O'Brien 8 Jamie Heaslip

Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin 17 Tom Court 18 Donnacha Ryan 19 Peter O'Mahony 20 Eoin Reddan 21 Ronan O'Gara 22 Fergus McFadden


Sunday, February 5, 2012


Leigh Halfpenny's last-minute penalty gave Wales a 23-21 win over Ireland in an enthralling Six Nations see-saw battle in Dublin.

The match looked to have turned in Ireland's favour after Wales were reduced to 14 men with Bradley Davies penalised for a dangerous spear tackle on Donnacha Ryan. Ireland made their man advantage count as Tommy Bowe latched onto Rob Kearney's precise pass to go over in the corner for a 21-15 home lead going into the final five minutes.

But a late George North try reduced the deficit to one and then a yellow card in the final minute for Stephen Ferris saw Halfpenny stroke home the penalty and give Wales the victory in a pulsating match.

After an early Jonathan Sexton penalty for an infringement in the ruck, Wales looked like the side who beat Ireland so convincingly in the World Cup, dominating possession and territory.

Following a sniping run from Mike Phillips from the base of the ruck, Ryan Jones bulldozed his way over the line, only for the TMO to adjudge him to have been held up on the line.

Following yet more phase play, Wales had their reward in the 13th minute, Rhys Priestland feeding Jonathan Davies down the left wing and the centre going over in the corner. Wales should have been further ahead moments later but the usually reliable Priestland missed a penalty right in front of the posts to let Ireland off the hook.

Sexton followed suit, missing a penalty to put Ireland ahead after a late hit from Phillips on Bowe. But despite more Welsh pressure, the hosts went ahead somewhat against the run of play minutes before the break. Slick passing through the backs found Bowe, who released Rory Best to go over in the corner for a 10-5 interval lead.

Ireland put clear daylight between themselves and Wales early in the second half, Sexton stroking over another penalty for an infringement by Rhys Gill in the scrum. But a Wales penalty moments later was followed by the move that put them ahead for the first time, North offloading brilliantly to send Jonathan Davies over.

Paul O'Connell then failed to get the ball away with a gaping overlap to his right but a further penalty edged Ireland back ahead at 16-15. And Ireland's chances of victory further increased when Bradley Davies was lucky to avoid a red card for a horrendous spear tackle on Ryan, the replays suggesting the offence to be far worse that Sam Warbuton's fateful tackle on Vincent Clerc in the World Cup.

Ireland made their advantage tell only three minutes later as Bowe scored in the corner but Sexton missed the conversion to give Wales hope at 21-15.

Halfpenny's conversion miss should have been decisive but with the clock ticking down, Ferris saw yellow for a dangerous tackle on Ian Evans and this time the full-back did not miss.

The place-kick by Leigh Halfpenny gave Wales a narrow victory at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


The Ireland team to play Wales in the RBS 6 Nations Championship opener at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday (kick-off 3pm) has been named.

There are three changes to the side that lined out against the same opposition in Ireland's last game in the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Keith Earls will start at outside centre alongside Gordon D'Arcy with Andrew Trimble coming into the team on the left wing.

In the half-backs Jonathan Sexton will win his 25th senior cap and he is partnered by RBS 6 Nations debutant Conor Murray.

The pack is unchanged from the last game with talismanic lock Paul O'Connell taking over the captaincy from the injured Brian O'Driscoll.

Meanwhile, the uncapped Peter O'Mahony receives his first call-up to the senior matchday squad. The 22-year-old has earned a spot on the replacements bench having impressed for Munster so far this season.

IRELAND Team & Replacements (v Wales, 2012 RBS 6 Nations Championship, Aviva Stadium, Sunday, February 5, kick-off 3pm):

15 - Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster)
14 - Tommy Bowe (Ospreys)
13 - Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster)
12 - Gordon D'Arcy (Lansdowne/Leinster)
11 - Andrew Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster)
10 - Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary's College/Leinster)
 9 - Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster)
 1 - Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster)
 2 - Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster)
 3 - Mike Ross (Clontarf/Leinster)
 4 - Donncha O'Callaghan (Cork Constitution/Munster)
 5 - Paul O'Connell (Young Munster/Munster) (capt)
 6 - Stephen Ferris (Dungannon/Ulster)
 7 - Sean O'Brien (Clontarf/Leinster)
 8 - Jamie Heaslip (Naas/Leinster)


16 - Sean Cronin (St. Mary's College/Leinster)
17 - Tom Court (Malone/Ulster)
18 - Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster)
19 - Peter O'Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster)
20 - Eoin Reddan (Lansdowne/Leinster)
21 - Ronan O'Gara (Cork Constitution/Munster)
22 - Fergus McFadden (Old Belvedere/Leinster)