Firstly, I hope everyone reading is safe and well. I hope the lockdown and our way out of it has not been too hard for you. It is tough on everyone, but together we can get through this.
Now onto the rugby. Our game is back this weekend. The pro14 is back this weekend starting with Leinster v Munster on Saturday 22nd August followed by Ulster v Connacht the following day.
So coming in I think we should put our views forward on if this season should be completed or written off. Some have been on both sides of this argument. For me, I feel it is important for a team’s work and effort to be repaid. I thought initially this season would commence next April then run into May followed by time off for the Lions and then into the next season. This would allow time for a vaccine etc. to take place. But in no way should this season be cancelled. Not just because of my blue underwear. If it were Munster in the midst of a season like Leinster, my answer would be the same.
It is always important for hard work to receive its rewards, whether it is a win or a loss at least there is closure.
With Covid, this changes a bit. Everyone is on tenterhooks regarding this. Especially after last Sunday’s cancellation of the game in Auckland. The positive result of the test of the Munster academy player (with a close contact of a senior player) was a wakeup call for all (if they needed it) to stick to protocols and keep away from us normies. I know this is hard, but that is why they draw a wage, to be professional.
So let’s look at the expectations of the provinces this weekend. As always, let me know what you think either on Facebook or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is all about momentum, about bringing back Leavy, dealing with the injury to superman Ryan and seeing through the work. A massive season was in progress pre Covid, the standard was being raised massively. This was seen through the 6 Nations this year. As great as that spell was, it is very hard to get that train moving again. Habits where built during that time, the bodies where battle hardened and they had a long break. Good for the bodies, but difficult for the muscle memory. Team selection will be interesting, will Leo and Stuart start with the big guns this weekend and then rest the following weekend? With the quarter final against Saracens looming in the distance, not only do the players need to be kept Covid free, but they need to be kept injury / niggle free and there is no way we won’t have injuries after this weekend.
I am hopeful that the team will run close to optimum this weekend, the noise from camp is sounding good. Big start needed to get that habit back. Early simple play working well to settle the nerves and then proceed to strangle Munster.
Munster are a team that appear to be actively avoiding the SUAF ethos that we were all jealous of. Before my Munster brothers and sisters set me on fire here, we need to look at the signings over the last 5 years. There are very few Standers and more short term Groblers. Short term (mostly South African / no issues there if they become part of Munster) that have shown short-term thinking causing long-term issues.
The gutting news about Carberry being out for undetermined amount of time is heartbreaking. No matter what provincial jersey you wear, he is a class player and a massive part of the future in the green jersey. It also shows that maybe he should have had last summer off. I was at the Italy game where he was injured and it looked horrific. Get well soon!
In saying all of the above, Munster have a shot to change the narrative. A win against Leinster is the best reset they could hope for. But when they are up against it, and the team look around at their teammates, how many of them know the words to stand up and fight? That is key!
Ulster once again have coming through the transfer window with the best business being done. Bringing back Ian Madigan to Ireland was another sign of positive and forward thinking up north. They just need to add his experience to the other experience in the squad, promoting from within instead of overly buying from outside builds confidence in the setup and the squad.
If they can get the Ulster machine rolling against Connacht this weekend that is another tick in the setup column that will build momentum towards Toulouse in the Heineken cup.
The province that always leave everything on the pitch. The team that is still (unfortunately) seen as the red headed stepchild (apologies to the redheads) of the IRFU and a team that is THISCLOSE to sticking it to the man. Connacht go in against Ulster with a set piece % that is on par with Ulster. Everything else is against them in terms of the numbers. But I am not sure there will be a team hungrier to get going post Covid. They are close in the pro14 for a semifinal spot, which would mean there is a possibility of 3 Irish provinces in the semis.
I would never write Connacht off, time for the leaders to step up more than usual this weekend.
So there we have it, all that’s left is the watching, the screaming, the crying, the drinking and the banter. All from social distance.
As usual, spread the word; contact me with your agreements, disagreements and/or abuse. It is all welcomed