The Rugby World Cup, the third biggest sporting event in the world after the Olympics and Football’s World Cup, is almost upon us. Form for club and country will be avidly followed in the build up to the kick off for clues as to who might lift the trophy on October 31st. To get you started the LineoutCoach team bring you a quick guide to the Rugby World Cup, featuring all the facts and figures you will need. Continue reading
USA Rugby Sevens team kicked off the latest round of the IRB Sevens against current tournament leaders the All Blacks in Hong Kong, former New Zealand winger John Kirwan told The Telegraph newspaper in the UK he believes the shortened format could fuel growth of the game in America following its inclusion as an Olympic sport in Rio 2016.
“Rugby has its international profile but sevens can make it a truly global game.”
“Look at the United States of America. It’s always been seen as a sleeping giant. Well, the Olympics has just woken that giant up. Every year there are 3,000 athletes in America that don’t make the grade for scholarships to elite colleges.
That’s a market to tap into. USA Rugby could have an incredible team in four years’ time. The IRB need to see this as a positive risk and not be turned off by the negative side of things. We mustn’t be scared of sevens.”
USA Rugby, under CEO Nigel Melville, have taken up the challenge of building towards the Olympics. In January, the USOC and USA Rugby announced that they were offering 23 full time professional 7s rugby contracts. The USA Rugby players are based in the Olympic Training Centre near San Diego, CA. These 15 men’s and 8 women’s professional contracts were the first to be awarded in the sport and signaled USA’s medal ambitions. The 2012 IRB Sevens marks the first competitive outings for these players and it has been interesting to watch their early development as individuals and as a team as the tournament has progressed.
Played on a full size pitch, 7s is aerobic intensive. Serious fitness is needed, as well as good defense, good handling and a keen appreciation for space.
Highlights of the Hong Kong Rugby 7s from 2011 – the biggest tournament in the series
There is no doubt that Rugby Sevens will continue to experience explosive growth throughout the “rugby developing” nations. The reason for this is pretty simple. The game is fast and not particularly technical, compared to the full 15-a-side version of the game. Therefore, 7s is relatively easy to understand without knowing much about the sport. It is quick and fun. Kids start off by playing flag or tag rugby, getting them used to the game in it’s non-contact form. This could prove to be the perfect breeding ground for tomorrow’s Olympic rugby players. Flag and Tag rugby has been an international success, with summer leagues taking place throughout the rugby playing world.
Some rugby purists are not excited by the growth of 7s and worry about its impact of the 15s moving forward. However, Kirwan believes there isn’t a conflict between the two.
“I just don’t see the two versions of the sport working against each other. There’s no reason to fear that. The two can co-exist. Of course, they can. The Olympics will make a massive difference and we’ll really see it take off.”
I believe the rugby community should embrace rugby sevens in all it’s glory. The sport will grow as it becomes an established Olympic event and it will produce phenomenal rugby athletes. Regardless of whether it’s 7s or 15s, the more rugby players in the world…the better!
My insider’s view of the Vegas 7s at Sam Boyd Stadium in February 2012
USA Rugby in the HSBC Sevens World Series Standings
USA Rugby remaining rounds of the IRB Sevens
|23-25 March||Hong Kong|
|31 Mar-1 Apr||Japan|
Gavin Hickie, The LineoutCoach, is a former Ireland, Leinster and Leicester rugby player now based in California and taking rugby to the USA. He writes for RugbyMag.com and other publications when not coaching for Belmont Shore and blogging on lineoutcoach.com
Geordan Murphy, Leicester Tigers legend shares his memories of his club and international career and what the future holds.
Denis Hickie – Part II: Rugby World Cup Momentum And Developing The Game
In Part II of Denis Hickie’s exclusive interview with Lineout Coach, Hickie discusses the importance of getting off to a good start Continue reading
England are celebrating the discovery of a new centre partnership, a first win on Irish soil in 8 years and a big boost in confidence. In stark contrast, Ireland, will be without David Wallace for the world cup, have lost all 4 warm up games and, most worryingly, are not currently playing to their potential. The Irish players and management argue that the world cup has not started yet and that the recent results are somewhat irrelevant. As true as that is, momentum is vital. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately so is losing. England will start the world cup looking to build on their 2 game winning streak. Ireland will be desperate to get back to winning when they kick off their campaign against the United States Eagles on September 11th.
England boast a formidable world cup track record. Out of the six world cup tournaments ever held, the all whites have featured in three finals including 2003 which saw them win the famous Webb Ellis trophy. In Pool B, along with Georgia, Argentina, Scotland and Romania, England are favorites to top their pool and advance to the quarter finals. Yesterday’s performance against Ireland has given the former world champions a number of reasons to feel optimistic as they board the plane to New Zealand.
It is a little early to over hype the centre partnership of Tindall and Tuilagi. Both men played well yesterday and looked like they could potentially form a dangerous partnership, but it was their first game together. On one of Jonny Wilkinson’s quieter days, Tindall became the maestro of the England backline. He pulled Irish defenders this way and that, created space for his teammates, provided a deft chip kick for Armitage’s try and defended gallantly throughout. This will be Mike Tindall’s last world cup. As one of the elder statesmen in the English squad and with plenty of international test experience, Tindall will play a huge role in England’s fortunes at the tournament. He may yet prove to be a perfect mentor for his young centre partner, and that could have devastating effects.
Most of the talk has been about the rising star, Manu Tuilagi. Manu is one of six Tuilagi brothers all to have represented Leicester Tigers but the first to represent England. While at Leicester Tigers I played alongside Henry and Alex Tuilagi. These men are forces of nature. They boast incredible physical attributes including strength, power and speed. So much so that Henry would have to take it “easy” on his teammates at training for fear of causing serious injury. That was three years ago but I remember the word around Leicester’s training ground at Oadby was, “wait until you see their younger brother”. Manu Tuilagi has arrived and will make a big impact at the world cup. Like his brothers, Manu is the real deal.
Somewhat overlooked is the fact that England beat Ireland on Irish soil for the first time in 8 years. This gives the whole English squad a massive psychological boost. The players will take a lot of confidence from the victory and Martin Johnson could not ask for better timing. Last year England looked set for a Grand Slam 6 Nations only to be thwarted by an impressive Irish display. The defeat left them crushed and soul searching. Mike Tindall, in his post match comments made reference to the “hurt” of last year’s defeat against Ireland but also to their collective willingness to put that right. England were a lot more hungry for a victory than Ireland yesterday and that was down to the team’s desire to work very hard for each other. This bodes well for their campaign. England kick off their world cup tournament against Argentina.
In the month of August, Ireland have slipped from fourth to eight place (a record low) in the I.R.B. rankings. In the same month Ireland have suffered four straight defeats. Included is the fact that Ireland have surrendered a proud a home record against the English. These are not good world cup preparations and Ireland’s fortunes need to drastically change soon.
Ireland coach, Declan Kidney will draw on whatever positives he can from the yesterday’s defeat. The Irish set pieces performed well for the most part. Flannery’s lineout throwing was accurate and repeatedly reached his target. The Irish scrum help up for the most part too. These are very important facets to get right as scrums and lineouts provide the backs with the ball. On top of this, there were a couple of notable Irish performances. Geordan Murphy stood out in both attack and defence. The Leicester Tigers man showed tremendous composure as he went it to tackle Tigers teammate, Manu Tuilagi and stop a certain try. Murphy has surely been in the exact same situation on numerous instances at training for his club. He waited until Tuilagi extended his powerful hand off, Murphy then pushed Tuilagi’s arm out of the way, allowing him to make a clean tackle. This action was done in a split second but saved a try. Moments later, Geordan Murphy won Ireland a penalty and subsequent 3 points when he got shoulder charged by England’s Courtney Lawes.
Paul O’Connell also had a very big game. This does not tell us much going into a world cup though. The rugby community knows what a phenomenal rugby player O’Connell is. He is the heartbeat of the Irish team and has been for many years. He leads the Irish pack and calls the lineouts. His presence on the team instill confidence in his teammates. O’Connell’s toughest challenge is to ensure his teammates live up to his high standards.
On the negative side, Ireland may be very fortunate that they face the United States in their opening game of the world cup. No disrespect intended whatsoever as the United States, coached by former Irish coach, Eddie O’Sullivan, will take great heart in the recent Irish performances. However, Ireland will still be expected to beat the Eagles, who are themselves on a losing streak of two losses to Canada. If the first game for Ireland was against Australia or even Italy, there may be more room for concern. Teams should get better by each game and momentum matters in the world cup. Having said that, Ireland face newly crowned Tri Nations Champions, Australia in their second game.
Against England, Ireland were physically dominated at the rucks and breakdowns. The ball was slow to come out and facing England’s rushing defence yesterday, Ireland seemed bereft of ideas in attack and only once in the whole game did the Irish manage to pass the ball along their entire backline. Like the previous week, the backs’ passing was too lateral and nothing came of the attempted attack.
The biggest negative for Ireland yesterday was the loss of flanker David Wallace. Wallace has played a key role in Ireland’s and Munster’s successes over the years. He is a complete No.7 who offers just as much in attack as he does in defence. Wallace has suffered countless injuries and setbacks but somehow always managed to come back from injury a better player. This would have been the 35 year old’s last world cup and he was destined to make a big impact. Very sadly it is not to be. Wallace is not a man for histrionics and looked in considerable pain when his studs got caught in the grass and his knee gave way. He is a huge loss for Ireland and I wish him well for a very speedy recovery. Injuries are without doubt the worst enemy of any sports person.
Every single sports person in the world needs luck. Wallace’s heartbreaking injury provides another player not included in Kidney’s original plans to get into the Irish squad. One assumes that selection has to be Shane Jennings. Ireland need a proper openside flanker on the team. Wallace was the only out and out 7 in the squad. It would be too risky to have Sean O’Brien at openside. O’Brien needs to be in the team but his bullocking runs are nullified when he plays at 7 as he has to work a lot harder in defence then he would do at blindside flanker. Openside flankers have a lot of work to do in defence. From lineouts they must stay on the inside of the outhalf and stop any attacks down that channel. From scrums, they should be the first man making the tackle or competing for the ball at the ensuing ruck. Shane Jennings fits this role to a tee. He can be seen constantly conferring with outhalf, Sexton on attack and defence for Leinster and Ireland. He communicates well and rarely does he miss a tackle. His introduction at half time in the Heineken Cup saw Leinster overturn a 16 point deficit and become eventual winners. Jennings is a very intelligent rugby player and along with Leo Cullen has strengthened the mettle of Leinster rugby since their arrival home from Leicester Tigers.
Ireland depart for New Zealand on Tuesday.
Cian Healy – One of Ireland’s most dynamic and strongest props. Expect a big world cup from Healy.
Mike Ross – Enjoyed a meteoric rise to the top. Very dependable and solid last year. Made the tight head position his own. Big challenge but undoubtedly up to it.
Tom Court – Big opportunity for the prop as he will get game time in New Zealand. Relatively untested but that will change soon.
Tony Buckley – The former Newbridge second row will be looking to have a big impact at the world cup. Only 4 props travelling means they will all get plenty of opportunities.
Jerry Flannery – Just back from injury but will probably be Ireland’s first choice hooker. Flannery’s last world cup, expect it to be his best if he can stay clear of injury.
Rory Best – Will be pushing Flannery for starting hooker. An impressive throwing display against France last week will have his confidence high. A leader within the team.
Sean Cronin – Would Kidney have picked 3 hookers if Flannery had not been injured for so long? Cronin deserves his place but may have limited game time.
Paul O’Connell – The leader of the forwards. O’Connell is one of the world’s best second rows and the heartbeat of the Irish pack. Plagued with injury over the past couple of seasons, this will surely be O’Connell’s last world cup. He will give it everything.
Donncha O’Callaghan – Has been very dependable for years and has formed a great partnership with O’Connell for Munster, Ireland and the Lions.
Leo Cullen – The Leinster captain will be hoping he can break up the partnership of O’Connell and O’Callaghan by forcing his way into the Irish second row. Had a fantastic season which saw his Leinster team crowned Heineken Cup Champions.
David Wallace – Needs to prove that his hamstring injury is not severe this Saturday against England. Playing in his final world cup, Wallace has been an incredible servant to Irish rugby. The only out-and-out No. 7 in the Irish squad will have a huge role in New Zealand.
Sean O’Brien – An aggressive, abrasive and dynamic loose forward. This is O’Brien’s first world cup and barring injury will not be his last. Could be a very big star after the world cup!
Donnacha Ryan – The Shannon man’s ability to play second row and offer himself as a lineout target may have proved instrumental in his selection. Will get his chance.
Stephen Ferris – The Ulster man is just back from a lengthy injury but is included in the squad. One of the stars of the 2009 Lions tour, Ferris’ inclusion comes as no surprise. Forms part of an exciting and potentially devastating Irish backrow.
Jamie Heaslip – One of Leinster and Ireland’s consistent performers. Heaslip has been outstanding for the past number of seasons and will be instrumental for Ireland at the world cup.
Denis Leamy – Injuries have plagued the Tipperary man but he will be delighted to get the nod. Ireland’s backrow is ultra competitive but Leamy’s ability to cover more than one position could prove important.
Eoin Reddan – Reddan enjoyed a very successful season at Leinster and looks to be Ireland’s first choice scrum half for the world cup. Forms a very good partnership with provincial teammate Johnny Sexton.
Isaac Boss – Still has a lot to offer and playing in his native New Zealand will stoke the fire all the more for Boss.
Conor Murray – One of the surprises of the squad. The scrum half has enjoyed a fantastic year. Making his debut for Munster only a few months ago, Murray’s inclusion meant Tomas O’Leary was omitted. A very exciting prospect.
Johnny Sexton – The key for Ireland’s world cup hopes. Sexton will be massively influential in any game he plays in. Undoubtedly now Ireland’s first choice outhalf, expect him to come back as a global rugby star.
Ronan O’Gara – Ireland’s two outhalves compliment each other very well and can be used very effectively by the Irish management. Expect Sexton to start games and O’Gara to close them out. A legend of Irish rugby. This will be ROG’s last world cup.
Brian O’Driscoll (Captain) – All good things must come to an end. This will be the captain’s last world cup. A mercurial talent who leads by example every time he plays. Will go down as one of the world’s greatest centres of all time. A privilege to have played on the same team as this rugby legend.
Gordon D’Arcy – Will be hoping to have a big world cup. D’arcy and O’Driscoll have been the spine of the Irish rugby team for close to a decade. His explosive runs as well his ability to stay on his feet should set Ireland on the front foot.
Fergus McFadden – A surprise inclusion? An exciting prospect who can also cover the wing position. McFadden gets the nod ahead of fellow Leinster teammate, Luke Fitzgerald.
Paddy Wallace – Can cover a number of positions and is a goal kicker. Wallace’s inclusion should not come a s a surprise. Will be used as a utility back.
Tommy Bowe – Since his omission from the world cup of 2007, Bowe has been in incredible form for the Ospreys and Ireland. The Monaghan man will be one of the first names on the team sheet.
Andrew Trimble – Has been one of the few notable performers during Ireland’s warm up games. The Ulster man has earned his place in the squad and will battle it out with Earls for one of the wing positions. May see him at centre also.
Keith Earls – Will be looking for a big world cup. His explosive runs will hopefully be his trade mark in New Zealand. Will probably be first choice winger along with Bowe.
Rob Kearney – Following his lengthly lay off through injury, the Leinster man has regained form just in time for the world cup. Kearney reminded everyone of his ability during Ireland’s warm up games and will probably be first choice full back.
Geordan Murphy – Finally Geordy is picked! The Leicester Tigers legend has been cruelly struck down with injury on numerous occasions so he knows how Felix Jones feels right now. Murphy had been told he was not included in the squad until Felix Jones’ injury against France. Without doubt Murphy thoroughly deserves his chance.
The 30 players listed above will represent Ireland in the highly anticipated Rugby World Cup taking place in New Zealand in just over two weeks. Choosing only 30 players from a much larger pool of top quality players is an unenviable task for any coach. It is often referred to as a “good problem”. It is a problem that all coaches want as opposed to only having a very limited number of players to chose from. All the members of the Irish squad deserve their place on merit, that is without question but what about the players not included in the final Irish rugby squad?
Luke Fitzgerald – The cousin of the Irish captain can feel very disappointed not to be included in Kidney’s plans for the world cup. Fitzgerald has struggled with injury and form since his British & Irish Lions selection 2 years ago ,but has shown signs of coming back to his best. His impressive performance last week against France was unfortunately too little too late for Kidney and the Irish management. Ireland’s loss is Leinster’s gain.
Tomas O’Leary – Along with Fitzgerald, O’Leary’s omission came as the biggest surprise. O’Leary was selected for the 2009 British & Irish Lions but suffered a broken ankle and never made the tour. Ireland coach, Declan Kidney has appeared to favor O’Leary at scrum half over the past few seasons so it makes his exclusion all the more surprising. Although O’Leary’s performance against France may not have done him any favors, it seems as though he already knew that he was not going to the world cup. The players were allegedly informed of their omission by the irish management last Thursday. Was this on O’Leary’s mind during the game against France?
Shane Jennings – Another player who suffered injury at the wrong time. Jennings broke his arm in the Magner’s League Grand Final against Munster last season. He was in a race against time to play a game before the world cup squad was announced. The flanker started against France last Saturday in place of the injured David Wallace but was unable to force his way into the final Irish squad. There seems to be a global shift away from the “fetching” flanker (No. 7 who competes for the ball at rucks). Competing at the break down is Jennings’ forte but Ireland and England have only included one of these “fetchers” in their squads, in Wallace and Moody respectively. Teams are committing less players to the rucks these days and relying on their defence. Thanks to the skill and incredible ability of New Zealand No. 7, Richie McCaw, referees will be looking to penalize players deemed to be slowing the ball at ruck time during the World Cup. The decision to only bring one recognized No. 7 means that Jennings loses out. Very disappointing for the man who’s introduction at half time of the Heineken Cup final saw a massive shift in Leinster’s fortunes.
John Hayes – It is hard not to feel for Ireland’s most capped prop. He has been a stalwart of Munster and Irish rugby for over a decade. I feel that Hayes still had a role to play in the World Cup but the Irish management obviously felt otherwise. It is vital that Ireland have a solid scrum and without doubt Hayes can provide that. Sadly this is a world cup too far for the veteran prop and it remains to be seen if Hayes has played his last game of rugby. An Irish legend.
Peter Stringer – Along with John Hayes, Stringer has been a mainstay in the Irish team for close on a decade. Although never really in contention for this world cup’s selection, the veteran scrum half deserves a special mention for his outstanding contribution to Irish rugby. Stringer and Hayes (along with many others) dragged Irish rugby, kicking and screaming, up to the high standard we now associate with the national team. They have been a credit to Irish rugby and it has been a joy to watch them.
The players who did not make the final squad will feel devastated. It is desperately unlucky to miss out when you have come so close. These players will have to put their disappointment behind them and focus on their provincial teams. It is tough, but that is the cut throat nature of professional sport.
The Irish team have played three warm up games and lost three warm up games. Kidney and O’Driscoll were quick to point out that the results were “not important and that the world cup has not kicked off yet”. This is true but Ireland need to get back to winning ways before the competition commences.
The Irish squad has been selected so it is time to get behind the team. Ireland have one more warm up game on Saturday. The opposition: England. This may be just the game Ireland need to get their world cup campaign up and running…
Rugby World Cup – who will be on the plane for Ireland?
In just a few hours Declan Kidney will announce Ireland’s 30 man Rugby World Cup Squad 2011. Although the last 3 matches would have helped Kidney decide upon one or two players, it is fair to say that the coach has known the bulk of his squad for quite some time. It has been said that the players found out if they were traveling to New Zealand or not last Thursday. That means the players would have known before the Ireland XV v Connacht game. If this is true, it must have been very disappointing for the players who then had to get themselves ready to play a game.
As always, it is very tough on the players who do not make the final Rugby World Cup squad of any nation. It is even tougher on guys who get injured so close to the main event. All eyes will be on Felix Jones’ scan results after he suffered a potentially nasty knee injury.
Here is the squad I believe Declan Kidney will bring to the Rugby World Cup.
15 R. Kearney 30. K. Earls
14 T. Bowe 29. A. Trimble
13 B. O’Driscoll 28. F. Jones (Injury Permitting)
12 G. D’Arcy 27. P. Wallace
11. L. Fitzgerald 26. R. O’Gara
10. J. Sexton 25. T. O’Leary
9. E Reddan 24. C. Murray
8. J Heaslip 23. T. Buckley
7. D. Wallace 22. T. Court
6. S. O’Brien 21. S. Cronin
5. P. O’Connell 20. R. Best
4. D. O’Callaghan 19. L. Cullen
3. M. Ross 18. K. McLaughlin
2. J. Flannery 17. S. Ferris
1. C. Healy 16. D. Leamy
Who would be in your Rugby World Cup Squad?
Much ado about nothing. England have decided to wear a black kit against Argentina in this year’s World Cup. It seems as though the media have blown this small matter out of proportion. Having said that, there have been one or two vocal Kiwis, who appear to oppose the idea vehemently. New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key has been quoted as saying, “There is only one team that wears black with pride and that’s the All Blacks.” It must be understood that rugby is a sport full of tradition and values. These elements contribute massively to the camaraderie and respect that are so prevalent in rugby throughout the world. Rugby is a very unique sport in that way. Whatever happens on the pitch stays on the pitch. You cannot say that about many other sports.
England did consult New Zealand Rugby about their black kit and they met no opposition to to the idea. It does seem a little odd that England would decide to wear a full black kit as opposed to just a black jersey. This is what really irks some New Zealanders. New Zealand are known as the All Blacks because of their famous all black kit. England traditionally play in white jerseys and shorts so the switch to black seems a little extreme. Kiwi legend, Jonah Lomu also gave his opinion “..in some ways, you are just disrespecting the legacy of past players…”. Therein lies the disrespect of tradition. It makes little difference what color shirt a team plays in really. As long as the country’s emblem rests on the heart of the player wearing the national jersey. That is all that matters,……right?
Tomorrow the 2011 tri-nations tournament resumes in Wellington and sees New Zealand take on South Africa. There have been many different opinions regarding the tri-nations competition this year. Much has been made of the Springbok’s growing injury list as well as the rumours circulating about a secret training camp for the World Champions. South Africa effectively have a second choice team taking the field tomorrow. It is always difficult to call any International XV a “second” team. There are two reasons for this.
Firstly, the players who will represent their country in tomorrow’s game, will certainly not be thinking that they are on a “second string team”. The team will wear their nation’s jersey with utmost pride regardless of the result. The player’s will feel that they have a point to prove to the public, while also making their own bids to be included in the squad for the World Cup. They will give it everything they have, win, lose or draw. Secondly, immediately following Saturday’s match, the scoreline will be between New Zealand and South Africa. Not New Zealand and South Africa “B”. So, tomorrow’s result will take it’s place in the annals of rugby and forever tell us who won between these two teams. The scoreline will never read “it was an understrength South African team”, it will simply read, South Africa. Unquestionably it is a terrific honor to represent your country in any sport, as it is for tomorrow’s South African debutant, Gerhard Mostert. It would be a mistake to think that Mostert is giving any thought to the lack of international experience in his South African teammates. I bet the only thing he is thinking of is representing his country tomorrow.
Another royal wedding! Although it will be nothing like the spectacle of Prince William and Kate Middleton, now the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, but, tomorrow sees England rugby star Mike Tindall weds Zara Phillips. Ms Phillips is the Queen’s granddaughter and 13th in line to the throne. The couple are due to wed in Edinburgh, Scotland and is being dubbed as a “sports wedding”, not a royal wedding. Stars from the world of rugby and equestrianism will be in attendance. Zara Phillips won a gold medal in the World Equestrian Games in 2006. One wishes the couple a fantastic day and a lifetime of happiness together.
A look at what is going on in the world of rugby:
Australia 39 – 20 South Africa
Australia have bounced back from their surprise defeat against Samoa last weekend to inflict a fairly heavy defeat on world champions, South Africa in the opening round of this year’s shortened, Tri-Nations. The Wallabies’ Quade Cooper was is scintillating form and contributed enormously to Australia’s five tries. Two late tries from the Springboks front rowers, Chilliboy Ralepelle and captain John Smit made the score line appear more flattering for the visitors. The Australians are looking like a very exciting team to watch. Scrum half, Will Genia was quick to recognize the quality of his forwards’ set piece play, “I’m very lucky as a nine that the pack was going forward,” he said. The Wallabies have not included Matt Giteau or Matt Dunning in their Tri-Nations squad.
Rarely is scoring 7 tries to your opponents 2 tries considered “stuttering” but that is how the All Blacks’ victory over Fiji has been described. Top performances are demanded of the New Zealand public every time the Kiwis take the pitch and anything less is usually met with criticism. New Zealand rested their key player, Dan Carter to hand Otago Highlanders out half, Colin Slade a test debut. Slade has had the misfortune of suffering two broken jaws this year but has still managed to make his All Blacks debut and score 19 points in the process, including a try. It is also worth noting the centres Conrad Smith and Ma’a Nonu have played 27 test matches together, just one less than the famous partnership of Frank Bunce and Walter Little. The pressure is on this year’s hosts to win the famous Webb Ellis trophy. The All Blacks will go into the World Cup as favorites and anything less than winning the tournament will be seen as a failure.
Saracens Home & Away
Aviva Premiership Champions, Saracens have applied to the ERC (European Rugby Cup), the RFU (Rugby Football Union) and the South Africa Rugby Union to play one of their home Heineken Cup matches in Cape Town, South Africa. The game in question is their round 5 match against French side, Biarritz. It would appear as if the French rugby union are behind the idea. The biggest issue here is for the Saracens supporters. Each team only has 3 home games in the pool stages of the Heineken Cup and to take one of these games away from the loyal Sarries fans would not go down well at all.
However, this could be a great step in promoting the Heineken Cup in the southern hemisphere. I have made the point that if this fixture goes ahead in South Africa, it may well be a prelude to the highly anticipated fixture of the Super XV Champions V Heineken Cup Champions. Why not? The fans would love to see this game and I am very sure that the players would be happy to play this one too. We have already seen Wasps take on Harlequins in the LV Cup in Dubai earlier this year. Saracens have moved their Heineken Cup match against the Ospreys to Wembley stadium, a venue that has seen regular season NFL games in recent seasons. This kind of expansion is good for the game. Perhaps we should have a Tri-Nations fixture moved to the United States and grow the game here too?
Declan Kidney signs new contract
Ireland hand coach Declan Kidney new contract before the World Cup. This is proving to be a thorny issue. I started the conversation about this on twitter (@lineoutcoach) and also on my Facebook page (Gavin Hickie). This issue certainly seems to have people talking one way or another. Back in 2007 before Ireland’s poor world cup displays, the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) decided to offer Ireland coach, Eddie O’Sullivan a new 4 year contract before the world cup. Ireland were poor by any standards at the world cup. As a result, the IRFU came under heavy criticism and in March 2008 O’Sullivan resigned as national coach. Now the IRFU has done something very similar and awarded Ireland coach, Declan Kidney with a new 2 year deal before the world cup. This seems incredibly reminiscent of past mistakes. For the record, I will be cheering for Ireland at the world cup and sincerely hope they can win the tournament. However, one cannot understand how any performance related contract can be handed out before a massive test like the world cup.
This is Kidney’s first world cup in charge of Ireland. This year’s tournament is the reason why he was installed as coach. So, if this world cup is the big test, how can you grant someone a new contract before the test? Without doubt Kidney has led the Irish team very well and won a fabulous 6 Nations Grand Slam in 2009, the first for Ireland in 61 years. His achievements as a coach should not be undervalued. We are quick to forget. As Ireland coach, O’Sullivan won 3 Triple Crowns with Ireland in 2004, ’06 and ’07.
Last year’s 6 Nations tournament was a completely different matter with a great performance against our old enemy, England, masking over some poor results. Kidney is right to have signed a contract extension offered to him. It is the IRFU who should be questioned on matter. One way or another, the public are going to scrutinize the coach after a tournament like the world cup. If he wins the competition, Kidney will warrant a massive contract and deservedly so. But if things go badly at the world cup, Ireland have the same coach for the next 2 years. Surely new contracts should be offered after a world cup. One thing is for sure, this world cup will sadly see some coaches lose their jobs, and as a result there will be some world class coaches looking for a new team come November. For better or worse, Ireland will not be in the market for a new coach. If they are, the IRFU have made a big mistake.