Tag Archives: leinster

Leinster Through and Ulster power on

All 4 Irish Provinces Still In With A Chance Of Qualifying

Sitting in the Aviva Stadium at full time on Saturday, I wondered could anybody stop Leinster, and would we see an unprecedented 4 Irish provinces in the Quarter Finals of the Heineken Cup. Both of those questions could be answered with a “Yeah, but probably not”.

Leinster look far too strong after becoming the first side to reach this seasons quarter finals, and despite missing Johnny Sexton (more on him later) Northampton never got a look in. The best squad depth in Europe makes them favorites to lift both the Pro 14 and the Heineken Cup. However it’s not as inevitable as the first 11 games of the season have made it look. Leinster looked unstoppable at times during the last two seasons, and still only narrowly won the final in 2018, and were close but still very much second best last season against Saracens.

But every test this season has been past. Trips to the French and English league leaders resulted in wins, and in the Pro 14 games away to Glasgow and Connacht were not as close as would have been anticipated. For every game where fans may have felt things would be tricky, Leinster have over come it, mostly in style. Friday at the RDS offers a difficult test against a resurgent Ulster, but Leinster will still be favorites.

This week on Provincial Jazz, we spoke with Ulster Rugby Lad Perter Lockhart and Ulster fan Andrew Moffett. They raised the point that for Ulster to beat Leinster they have to keep the ball and refrain from kicking away possession. I’d add to that they have to be the most frustrating side Leinster have faced this season. They nearly beat Leinster in last seasons European Cup Quarter Final because they didn’t allow the boys in blue they play how they wanted to. Ulster have shown quality in their pool and look good to qualify. Their other aim should be securing a home quarter final in the league. Ulster are very much not the finished article yet, but they still have a lot of quality.

As for Connacht. Grit and Fight. That’s all you can say about how they finished their game against Gloucester. They showed a lot of grit and a lot of fight. They still have a lot to do to qualify from their pool, but they’ve kept themselves alive. They need depth, but have done great in securing the signature of their big names.

For Munster, they can always pull something off in Europe, but it’s tricky. Assuming they pick up 5 points against Ospreys, they need to beat Racing 92 away to top the pool. If they take a single point they’ll have 17 points, which could be enough to get through the as a best runner-up, but a lot will depend on where Saracens focus lies, and possibly favors from other teams.

The other news this week comes from the Ireland camp. Sexton is included despite his injury, but their are rumors he is wanted by Lyon. Could the fly-half be on the move if he is no longer first choice for Ireland? And then there’s Rob Kearney, is his Ireland career over? And if so,, could he be on the move?

After this week who do you think has put their hand up for selection? Surely Cooney, Ringrose, and Larmour have to be there now. Let us know, @PostToPostSport on Twitter.

The latest edition of our weekly Rugby Podcast Provincial Jazz is out now.

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Things Looking Good In The European Cup

We’ve had two weeks of the European Cup and the 4 Irish provinces sit in the top 2 of their pools. On a side note I call it the European Cup for two reasons:

  • It sounds vintage and classy, like the kind of tournament that has the 25 year legacy this one does.
  • I can’t remember if we are supposed to call it the Heineken Cup anymore or if that will upset some of our Six Nations friends.

It’s pretty amazing that there are 4 Irish teams in the premier European rugby competition. There was a time when Connacht would not have been near qualifying for it unless another Irish side won giving them a place. It shows how far they have come along.

Starting on Friday Ulster beat Clermont in a game that was much tighter than it should have been. On the one hand, a win against Clermont in Europe is always a good win. However one might wonder if Ulster are clinical enough to put teams away. We saw in the previous weekend’s games Toulouse were able to turn the style on in the 2nd half of their game against Gloucester, and I’d fear for Ulster if they have to play one of the top teams in a knockout game. At the end of the day an away losing bonus point for Clermont is not a bad result, all teams can afford to lose one away game. I don’t want to be overly negative, because Ulster have improved, and as we mentioned in this weeks Provincial Jazz Podcast, Ulster are a work in progress at the moment. A worry for them is that they could be without Will Addison for a few games now. Addison is a player, along side Cooney, I was surprised and disapointed didn’t make the Rugby World Cup squad. Addison has that level of versatility and quality at fullback, a position Ireland are absolutely lacking in depth in at international level. With Cooney, if you’re bringing only 5 halfbacks, it only makes sense to bring somebody who can play as a scrum half and a fly half.

Connacht were unfortunate not to come away with at least a losing bonus point . To be fair this was their most difficult game, and not one they would have absolutely had to have taken something from. But it’s still disappointing. It was an encouraging display that will hopefully erase the memories of a very out of character display against Leinster at the Sportsground a little while back. Connacht have a chance of qualifying in what will still be an uphill battle of a pool.

Leinster’s trip to Lyon was not the most exciting of games. It was a slog and Leinster toughed it out. A bright spark is that Sexton looked back to his best. I would be of the opinion that Sexton should be largely left out of the Ireland squad for the Six Nations, both to give him a break, and to develop a bit of depth. I thought he should have been rested for the tour of Australia in 2018,, as it was his only chance for a break leading up to the World Cup. Players need breaks at times, and Sexton would benefit from some time away from the Ireland set up. Leinster look good to qualify from what is a deceptively difficult pool, with Lyon and Northampton on good form domestically and Benetton having greatly improved.

And then we come to Munster. Do Munster have a history of special performances at home in Europe? Because they added to that history on the weekend. It was actually their first ever home draw in the European Cup. Ultimately Racing 92 will be happy with an away draw against what are likely their biggest competitors (Saracens will be more focused on avoiding relegation after their points deduction). Munster will need two big performances against the European champions, with Ospreys an absolute must and should win. Munster may well need a few other groups to be tight to qualify as a 2nd best team, but they are capable of winning the pool.

We have this weeks Provincial Jazz podcast up now, it’s out every Tuesday covering Connacht, Leinster, Munster, and Ulster in Europe and the Pro14.

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Thanks for reading, and as always, enjoy the rugby.