I’m just back from London after visiting for London Wasps vs Leinster . A very friendly and respectful crowd, and understandably happy with their result. A poor showing from the Leinster team with Dr. Phil again showing bad form on a big match day, and with the backs only making the one line break all evening. One good thing from the game was that the small number of Leinster fans outshouted the Wasps-Wasps-Wasps fans for the majority of the game (until they were 20 points up, and our voices were gone). Big thanks to our hosts!
So along with the fairly decent thrashing Munster received on Friday night (which I watched without sound from the dog-racing in Galway) this makes for a bad month for Ireland . I think both provincial teams will accept that being in the top 8 clubs is Europe is nice, but below their potential.
Last month I didn’t comment on Scotland vs Ireland, because I was disappointed with our performance, and because I’ve been very busy elsewhere. There’s not a lot left to say at this point about 6n ’07. To address one thing mentioned in the media, I think that Irish rugby fans and players are not devaluing the Triple Crown, but since this is our 3rd time winning we’ve set our targets higher. For me, personally, the target was not the Grand Slam (unlike many of the media pundits it appears). No, I wanted our first Championship in many years (we’ve won twice in my lifetime, 1982 and 1985).
That leads nicely to the final weekend of the tournement where France did it again, stealing the Championship from Irish hands at the last second. Again? Points difference Championship win in 2006, last second try to destroy our Grand Slam 2007, last second try against Scotland to take Championship on points in 2007. Three times in 2 years, sign of a good winning team, even with their fluctuating form.
And what of Irish rugby now? Well in 2007 we have the relatively minor matter of the Celtic (Magners) League. Leinster are out in front, with Ulster and the Ospreys still threatening. Hopefully an Irish win for sure this year, but not a certainty based on recent results.
More importantly, Autumn brings us Rugby World Cup 2007, in France (of all the luck). Ireland will now give total concentration to preparations for our group stages meetings, notably with Argentina and France. The bookies have us pegged to win one, lose one, giving us the task of taking the All Blacks in the first match of the knock-out stages. Interesting!
Prior to the RWC we have a well-planned tour to Argentina (I bet the tour organiser is rueing that decision in hindsight of the RWC draw). Expect to see our squad’s key players rested and young players having their metal tested against the tough Pumas.
Can Ireland do well in this World Cup? Certainly. We could even win it, should we play to our best form and have some luck with injuries. Recent form has shown us performing poorly in many games (Wales, France, Scotland) and brilliantly in others (Australia, England, possibly Italy). Our recent tour to New Zealand (summer 2006) had them on the ropes for the 1st test, with 2 mistakes costing Ireland the game. On the other hand New Zealand are worried about the unpredictable form of the Irish, and their own habit of choking in the World Cup. We’re hearing wonderful things from the New Zealand media, about an 80 player squad of 9 foot tall, fire breathing, man eating monsters! We shall see 🙂