No action for me and the ‘A’ team
UNFORTUNATELY, the Irish ‘A’ team didn’t get off to the same electric start as the seniors when pitted against the England Saxons at Donnybrook last Friday night. More to the point, we didn’t even get started.
As the Saxons already had a game under their belt following a 66-0 victory over Portugal, it was important that we got through as much work as possible in the build-up to the game to give ourselves a platform to play off.
However, having assembled in Dublin on Monday evening, the snow, sleet and frost did its best to disrupt our preparations.
Our team manager was well prepared to combat the adverse conditions, however, with two or three different venues ready at our disposal allowing us to press ahead under the coaching of Michael Bradley and Niall O’Donovan.
The bad weather was, of course, affecting both sides of the Irish Sea so the Saxons also had to adjust their preparations and ultimately their travel arrangements when their flight on Thursday afternoon from Heathrow to Dublin was cancelled after a five-hour delay. As if that wasn’t bad enough, their flight the next day was redirected to Belfast before finally arriving in Dublin just before lunchtime.
The pitch at Donnybrook was given the all clear at 10am and so even with all the altered preparations and freezing conditions, it was all systems go. We arrived at the ground at quarter past six and although our minds were on the game, we couldn’t ignore the conference taking place on the pitch amongst the match officials as the grounds staff worked tirelessly to make the pitch playable.
Continuing in our preparations in the belief that the game was going ahead, we togged out and went through our individual warm-ups before coming together at five past seven. Michael Bradley then confirmed that both management teams wanted the game to go ahead and that the referee, upon further inspection of the pitch, was happy to proceed with the half seven kick off.
With our warm-up completed, we headed back to the changing rooms to put on our jerseys and to hear one last word from our captain Bob Casey. We were looking for a big physical start in order to stamp our authority on the game, get the crowd behind us, and ultimately unsettle the Saxons.
When a knock on the door came we presumed it was the referee calling time but were surprised to see our management team come into the dressing room. ’Sorry lads, the game is off’ was the message. Some of the English lads had expressed an unhappiness with the pitch so that was it. We just stood there. Not knowing what to do next. The decision was made.
It was probably the right decision, as the pitch would undoubtedly have got harder as temperatures dropped, but it was hugely disappointing all the same. After togging in we had food with the Saxons and it was nice to catch up with some of the lads I played with in Harlequins who were also selected to play. Hopefully, the same Irish A team will be selected this week and we will get the performance we are looking for when we take on our Scottish counterparts at Donnybrook this Friday.
IRELAND OFF TO A BILLIANT START
IT was a different story for the Ireland seniors as they got their 2009 Six Nations Championship campaign off to a flying start on Saturday with victory over France in an enthralling, high tempo, and hugely entertaining encounter at Croke Park.
After seven consecutive defeats to the French since 2003, the 30-21 scoreline represents what is hopefully the start of an exciting and successful International season.
While expectation amongst the rugby public will have been raised after such an impressive performance, there is no fear of the Irish camp losing the run of themselves as they now must turn their focus to what will be a very physical and very different task in Rome against Italy this weekend.
Italy were better than the final scoreline (36-11) from their opening defeat in Twickenham would suggest as they gifted England three tries from poor basic mistakes that allowed the homeside more breathing space then they deserved.
The Azzurri possess the most bruising pack in the competition and if they can sort out the issues evident at half back they will get a better return from any dominance gained up front. Will their coach Nick Mallet continue with his experiment of playing flanker Mauro Bergamasco out of position and in the pivotal role of scrum half? Or will he opt for a more orthodox selection? Who knows?
In any event, Ireland will have to play with the same intensity and discipline that allowed them to prevail over Les Bleus.
To limit Lionel Beauxis to just one attempted shot at goal, which was in the 76th minute, was a massive achievement considering the waves of pressure the French exerted at times last Saturday.
Against the Italians, who have traditionally struggled to create try scoring opportunities, a similar effort will be required in order to make it two wins from two.
WELSH EXCURSION WILL BE NO HOLIDAY
CONNACHT are back in action the following week when we travel to Swansea to take on the Ospreys. Finding ourselves four points adrift of Cardiff at the wrong end of the Magners League, we are more than eager to make up the lost ground and get back in the hunt for a Heineken Cup spot.
Even with so many players involved in the Welsh national squad, the Ospreys can still field a very strong team with the likes of Filo TiaTia, Marty Hola and Jamie Nutbrown likely to feature.
An away victory would certainly be an upset but one I would like to cause none the less!