Have withdrawal symptoms set in yet? At least we have some Ireland games to look forward to in June and August, see details below. The wind of change continues to blow through Munster as highlighted by the recent @Inphosports tweet
But change is the one constant, Leinster only have 13/23 remaining from the same final so the challenge is to implement the best tactics and team selection to maintain and indeed improve on results. Wouldn’t it be great to get to a final next season and to win some silverware? The supporters need to allow the new management team settle in, (remember the inauspicious start to Joe Schmidt’s tenure at Leinster) but hopefully we will see an improvement in consistency and the re-establishment of the fortress reputation of Thomond after the disappointing final 2 league games there this season. If Jerry Flannery and Mick O’Driscoll bring the same drive and passion to coaching as they did to their own playing careers we should have a slick lineout and maul next season! I look forward to seeing Brian Walsh get the best out of the speedsters in the backline.
At the end of last season I wrote about Ronan O’Gara and Doug Howlett (see here). The recent news that James Coughlan is moving to Pau means that three of this seasons starting 15 need to be replaced. Coughlan has been a stalwart for Munster in recent years, his experience and skills will be missed but we will not forget his contribution to the team including highlights like his blockdown of Jonny Wilkinson’s drop goal attempt at the semi-final in Marseille and this clip of him scoring a try in Musgrave Park earlier this season after Ronan O’Mahony back heeled a ball to him:
His recent unsung hero award at the IRUPAs was well deserved and he also was the Munster player of the year in 2011. Being shortlisted for that accolade also in 2012 and 2014 is a measure of his consistency. Munster rugby have posted a collection of photos throughout his career here including one from the classic All Blacks game in 2008: http://www.munsterrugby.ie/rugby/18600.php
The new centre partnership will be of great interest next season but for now it is time to say goodbye and good luck to the departing James Downey and Casey Laulala. Munster Rugby posted these tributes to the players on YouTube:
Another Munster legend, who also starred in the games against New Zealand and Australia and was the king of the drop goal, Paul Warwick had to retire due to injury recently. I enjoyed reliving his highlights in this compilation and would like to take this opportunity to wish him well:
So Toulon went on to win the last ever Heineken Cup after victories over Leinster and Munster in the knock-out stages. Glasgow put it up to Leinster in the last ever Rabo sponsored Pro12 final but were comprehensively beaten in the final quarter when they were trying to chase the game. Home advantage along with greater experience and impact subs stood to Leinster but they deserved it after finishing top of the league, an impressive achievement considering how many players they lost to Ireland during the Six Nations window. After winning the B&I Cup also with their A team their future looks bright despite losing Brian O’Driscoll and Leo Cullen.
I enjoyed writing this blog for the full season, even if it felt a bit of a cheat to write some weeks about watching the game on TV. Thanks for the follows, retweets, shares and supportive comments. Special shout-outs to:
- Daryl Feehely from Cork but an exile in Dublin like me whose excellent action photos help bring the blog to life. He can be found on Flickr here
- Patrick Hogan from Clare, only known via Twitter, long time supporter of the blog and regular sharer of it on Boards.ie (providing almost 500 views this season) and Patrick also provided an eye witness report from the Sportground.
- Peter Davies in Wales (also only known via Twitter) who has been the most frequent commenter with 17 this season! Peter also attended the league games in Wales and provided his eyewitness account for those games.
If by phone is there too much scrolling, should I aim to write less?
Looking at the views over the year, it is great to see an upward trend but as the biggest interest is in the European Cup games maybe I should just write about those or do you enjoy the weekly reports?
Most views come from Ireland but the map below shows where other viewers are based.
Ireland games to look forward to during the summer.
Joe Schmidt has opted to rest some of his senior players and this gives an opportunity to several Munster players including James Cronin who will hope to earn his first Irish cap and others who had hoped to be involved in the Six Nations like Dave Kilcoyne and Simon Zebo in the senior team tour to Argentina. Unfortunately Keith Earls injury woes continue and he was a late withdrawal. Those matches are to be played on June 7th and 14th. Update June 8th: Ireland won the first test 29-17.
Before that the Under 20s will begin their Junior World Cup campaign in New Zealand, captained by Waterford back row Jack O’Donoghue. Their pool games will be shown on TG4 and are on June 2nd, 6th and 10th, against France, Wales and Fiji respectively. Updated June 2: Ireland U20s went down 19-13 to the French. Unfortunately they were turned over when in a great position a few times in the second half and won many penalties off strong scrummaging.
A strong performance against Wales secured them a bonus point win (35-21) puts them in a strong position to qualify for the semi-finals.
Emerging Ireland will play in the IRB Nations Cup in Romania, and includes 10 players from Munster – Paddy Butler, Andrew Conway, Sean Dougall, David Foley, JJ Hanrahan, Billy Holland (a late call-up to replace Mike McCarthy), Ian Keatley Tommy O’Donnell, Johne Murphy and John Ryan.
2014 IRB NATIONS CUP (Bucharest, Romania):
- Friday, June 13: EMERGING IRELAND v Russia, 3pm Irish time
- Wednesday, June 18: EMERGING IRELAND v Uruguay, 3pm Irish time
- Sunday, June 22: Romania v EMERGING IRELAND, 5pm Irish time
Then after a break it is the turn of the Women’s team to take centre stage as they head to the Women’s Rugby World Cup in Paris in August:
Before you know it the pre-season friendlies will kick off, with Munster away to Gloucester the weekend of August 22nd and at home to London Irish the following Friday August 29th. I read that the pools will be drawn for the new European Competition on June 10th so planning any away trips can start then! In the meantime, enjoy the summer.