Shane Jennings talks exclusively to LineoutCoach.com
Shane Jennings talks exclusively to LineoutCoach.com
Excerpt from The Irish Times
Brave USA effort won’t be enough to cope with Ireland
….”There is an appetite for rugby in the US through its colleges and coastal towns but the US simply don’t back a sport that doesn’t make money independently (TV etc).
Hickie hopes to give back to US rugby what he gained from his time at Leinster and Leicester before injury struck; through coaching in California. Tough job!”….
Read the full article HERE
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→
The 2010/2011 rugby season is over (except in France). The champions of the various leagues and cups have been confirmed and an exciting season has been enjoyed by all. In the Aviva Premiership, Saracens became the new Champions of England. In the Magners League, Munster were crowned Champions and in the Heineken Cup, Leinster joined an elite group of clubs who have won the prestigious trophy more than once.
Another big winner from the season just gone is the Irish provincial side, Connacht. A huge congratulations to the Galway team for qualifying for their first Heineken Cup next season. Connacht have endured some tough times and it is fantastic to see them qualify for European rugby’s biggest competition. Coach Eric Elwood is a former Connacht and Irish player with 168 caps for his province and 35 for his country. Elwood seems to have made the transition from player to coach with relative ease and I wish him and his team all the very best of luck for next season.
It seems somewhat silly to think that the season is over. Tomorrow see Wales take on the Barbarians in Cardiff. Much has been made of the recall of Wales centre Gavin Henson. Henson’s off field antics have been well documented and much criticism has been aimed at Wales coach, Warren Gatland for selecting the former Toulon, Saracens and Ospreys player. One hopes Henson will move on from here and focus on his rugby. He is such a talented player and very exciting to watch. All eyes will be on him tomorrow. Tomorrow also sees the kick off of this year’s Churchill Cup, taking place in England. This years competition provides all the players with another chance to make it into their respective country’s world cup squads. This factor alone should ensure the games are very competitive.
Back to the supposed “off season”. Most players are on their holidays now. These holidays are usually for four weeks, ending at the start of July. Although the players are meant to take a holiday and get some much needed rest, the month of June can often be the busiest period in a players annual calendar. Unlike most professions, sports people have a compulsory holiday period. They cannot request their holidays in the middle of the season and bank holidays are non existent. So, the off season sees the players cram in things like holidays, surgery, relocating to a new club as well as weddings!
Players moving to new clubs would usually spend considerable time finding a suitable new area to live in. They must ensure that they are happy with their new unfamiliar surroundings, as well as making sure that they are happy with all the amenities, including schools for their children and hospitals in case of emergency and so forth. A rugby players partner may need to search for work in their new home town. All of which can be very stressful. Not much of a break!
2011 is a World Cup year. This can put extra strains on players to ensure that they are fully fit and ready should they be included in their country’s world cup squad. Injuries are a player’s worst nightmare and if there are any surgical procedures that a player has been holding off from during the season, now is the time they go under the knife. Two Irish players who will both be hoping for a spot in Irish coach, Declan Kidney’s world cup squad underwent surgery over the past few days. Leinster’s Shane Jennings broke his arm against Munster in the Magners League Grand Final last Saturday. Jennings had a plate inserted into his arm to aid the healing of the broken bone. One wishes him a very speedy recovery as he is sure to be included in Kidney’s plans for New Zealand, later this year. Jennings has had another fantastic season. His introduction at half time in the Heineken Cup final marked a very significant change in Leinster’s fortunes. Jennings played a huge role in overturning a 16 point deficit as his team went on to lift their second European title. Although competition for Ireland’s backrow is ultra competitive, one would think that Jennings’ performances certainly warrant a seat on the plane to New Zealand.
Another Irish player who underwent surgery very recently is Ulster’s Ian Humphreys. The Belfast man performed magnificently for his home province this season. The 2010/2011 season saw Ulster reach the quarter finals of the Heineken Cup this year for the first time since they won the competition back in 1999. They also made it to the semi finals of the Magners League but lost to Leinster. Humphreys had a very influential role in Ulster’s fortunes this season. The highly talented out half kept his exciting, young back line on the front foot for most of the season. Allied to this, he possess great skill and an exquisite left boot which has proved to be highly effective in tactical and place kicking. Surely Humphreys is next in line to challenge Sexton and O’Gara for Ireland’s number 10 jersey. If he is, he will have to wait until he recovers from his SLAP tear surgery. SLAP tear is a shoulder injury and it stands for Superior Labrum from Anterior to Posterior. The procedure involves securing the torn labrum (shoulder cartilage) back down to the shoulder socket. Usual recovery time for this injury is about 3-4 months. Humphreys will be solely focused on his recovery and one thinks we will see him back well before then.
The short off season also sees many players tie the knot with their partners. Girlfriends and wives of professional rugby players endure a huge amount throughout the season. They experience the ups and downs of their rugby playing partners’ fortunes. They usually have to display patience and understanding as well as making sacrifices. Leinster’s captain, Leo Cullen weds his fiancèe, Darina Kennedy in Wexford tomorrow and Connacht’s Frank Murphy ties the knot with fiancèe, Nicola Slyne in Crosshaven, Co. Cork. This off season doubles up as a honeymoon and a recovery period for both Leo and Frank. I would like to take this opportunity to wish both couples a very happy day as well as a lifetime of happiness together.
Many players have other types of commitments in their off season. Jamie Heaslip is presently in Kolata, India. Heaslip is helping communities in this impoverished region through his work with Irish charity Goal. A very commendable and selfless act during a player’s much coveted off season.
While some players are enjoying their holidays somewhere nice, others are putting their finishing touches to their DJ sets at this year’s Oxegen music festival!
Not much of an off season, is it?…..
Leicester Tigers roar into another final!
Sports fans around the Europe are in for a treat tomorrow. In soccer, Manchester United take on Barcelona at Wembley in the Champions League. This is the second year in a row that the showpiece of European soccer will be staged on a Saturday. The organisers wanted to catch a larger audience, so they moved the game from Wednesday to Saturday. The move seems to have worked well.
The Champions League Final of 2010 saw Inter Milan beat Bayern Munich. More significantly, the game was apparently watched by over 170 million people. Tomorrow we see two of the biggest names in world soccer take to the pitch so one guesses that those numbers will increase significantly. The Champions League Final now commands more of an audience than the Super Bowl.
Although rugby cannot compete with soccer in terms of viewing figures, last year’s Six Nations Championship saw a record average of 4.4 million viewers per game. Leading up to this year’s World Cup in New Zealand, rugby appears to be in a healthy state in Europe. The time difference between New Zealand and Europe will hopefully not affect viewing figures.
Before we concern ourselves about the upcoming World Cup, there is the little matter of this Saturday’s Aviva Premiership Final between Saracens and my old club, Leicester Tigers.
There have been significant changes in the playing staff at Leicester Tigers since my time at the club. Friends like Luke Abraham, Brett Deacon, Jim Hamilton, Ian Humphreys, Frank Murphy, Johne Murphy, Harry Ellis, Andy Goode, Leo Cullen and Shane Jennings have all moved from the midlands outfit.
Leo and Shane have another final this Saturday for Leinster who take on Munster in the Magners League Final at Thomond Park. An unprecedented double is on the cards for the Dublin team who last week won the Heineken Cup.
Leicester Tigers ethos
Leicester Tigers is a phenomenal rugby club. There is an ethos at the club that has to be experienced to be believed. The Leicester Tigers training facilities in Oadby are second to none. The club argue that if they provide everything for the player, then the player has no excuses to under perform. This theory sees Leicester Tigers provide breakfast and lunch for their players. Of course, the food is regulated by the club’s dietitian and each player has his own dietary guidelines of what he can and cannot eat. The club also provides every player with clean kit each day. After training, players leave their dirty kit in bins provided in the dressing rooms to be washed for the next day. Brenda Hargrave has been washing the players kits for 8 years now. Leicester Tigers leave nothing to chance.
Leicester Tigers and the Welford Road Faithful
The people of Leicester passionately support their beloved Tigers. Rugby seems to overshadow everything, even soccer in the midlands county. Leicester City is a very well supported soccer club and boasts legends like Peter Shilton and Gary Lineker, whose family still run their fruit and vegetable stall in the City’s outstanding food market. The people of Leicester’s love affair with all things rugby is understandable when you consider that tomorrow marks the seventh year in a row Leicester Tigers are in the Premiership Final.
Sadly, Tigers Captain and fellow Irishman, Geordan Murphy will not take any part of tomorrow’s final. Geordy has had a tough run of injuries this season but hopefully he will be back in time to represent Ireland at the World Cup.
He has been a big loss to Leicester Tigers this season but no doubt he will deliver an inspirational speech to his fellow teammates before tomorrow’s big game. Geordy is Tigers through and through. He is loved at Leicester Tigers and rightfully so. Loyalty and honesty goes a long way at the club, qualities Murphy possesses with abundance.
Leicester Tigers young stars set to shine
It has been very satisfying to watch the progress of a few of my former colleagues. When I was at the club, Ben Youngs, Tom Croft and Dan Cole were young guys trying to break into the Leicester Tigers 1st XV. These guys had to earn their spurs playing plenty of Monday night second team games before they got a chance with the senior squad. Now they are seasoned international players and the three of them will play a massive part in England’s Rugby World Cup bid this year.
From a personal point of view, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching their progress. Each one of them have worked incredibly hard to get where they are now and fully deserve all the rewards that come their way. Hopefully that includes another Aviva Premiership Crown as Leicester Tigers players tomorrow.
Go Leicester Tigers!
No matter who you support, tomorrow is a feast of sport. Leicester Tigers take on Saracens at 3:00pm. Leinster face Munster at 5:05pm and finally Manchester United square off against the mighty Barcelona at 7:45pm.
Gavin Hickie, USA Rugby U20s Forwards Coach, is a former Ireland, Leinster and Leicester Tigers 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 #busy