What a Six Nations. Unbelievable, incredible, absorbing, awesome. The list of words to describe that the final day of the 2015 Six Nations could go on forever. We can safely say that we have never witnessed a day of frenetic, frantic and fearless rugby quite like it. Who foresaw Wales putting 60 plus points on Italy in Rome to seize the upper hand in the points race and seemingly dash Irish and English hearts? Or for Ireland to then come out and inflict their heaviest ever defeat upon Scotland in Murraryfield , wrestling the title back within touching distance and crushing the hopes of the Welsh in the process? Even if you saw one of those results coming, not a single person on the face of this planet, or any other, could have predicted the fireworks that would follow in Twickenham. England came out to play, they had no choice, but the French went toe to toe with them in one of the greatest games of rugby we have witnessed in a long time. Sitting in the West Stand in Murrayfield with 10,000 others, chanting “Les Marseillais” and “Allez les bleus”, imploring France to keep England away from that magical 26 point winning margin put each and every one of us through a range of emotions unlike any we have ever experienced. Yes, the French shipped 55 points, but they were ominously reminiscent of the France of old. They threw caution to the wind and they ceased trying to bowl the opposition over through sheer brute force. Instead, they pinned their ears back and ran anything and everything they got their hands on. If they keep on that path, instead of reverting to type, then they will be a serious threat to the Irish aspirations of topping Pool D.
We are now two games into a Six Nations campaign which many in the media are slating as being underwhelming and uneasy on the eye, and they aren’t wrong. Ireland’s performances so far have been about winning, whatever the means. That being said, back to back wins over the French is something which bodes well heading in to the World Cup. Italy appear to have taken a backwards step or eight since they defeated both Ireland and France in their most successful Six Nations to date. Those results would have seen them top a hypothetical World Cup group at the time, but their shortcomings at out-half are still plaguing their progress. They have once again turned to nomad imports to try and solve the conundrum, with no obvious answers coming from their youth system. Keeping to form, they shouldn’t play a role in the outcome of Pool D, with France -v- Ireland in the Millenium Stadium on Sunday, 11th October at 16:45. Continue reading
With the Six Nations season about to come back in to focus, and with Rugby World Cup 2015 looming on the horizon, the next 9 matches and 34 weeks take on a whole new dimension. Here at The Ankle Tap, we will take a look each month on who looks most likely to occupy a seat on the plane to Cardiff. The window to impress our man Joe is diminishing by the day, and if past squad selection is anything to go by, the majority of the seats may already be occupied. Unfortunately for some, injury will ruin their chances of playing a part on the biggest stage of all à la David Wallace in 2011. With this in mind, we will take a look at the depth at each position, and try to keep you updated on injuries and form as we edge ever-closer to a tilt at the Rugby World Cup. With only 31 places up for grabs, there will be plenty of despondent and disappointed players come the start of September. There will be a number of players, possibly even some former Lions tourists, left out of the RWC squad, and this just goes to show that Irish Rugby appears to be in its rudest health yet.
So the curtain has come down on 2014, and while Irish rugby is coming off a fantastic year, and is most certainly on the up as a whole under the stewardship of our man Joe, it is fair to say that there is a large sense of dissatisfaction permeating throughout the provinces of Ulster, Munster and Leinster. The new dawn of the
Heineken European Rugby Champions Cup has been a resounding disaster for Ulster and Munster especially, and barring more January miracles à la Gloucester in 2003, and a large slice of lady luck, both squads will be left to rue costly defeats at home against French opposition. Continue reading
In the modern age of rugby, there is much to be said for constructing a game plan for your opposition. Much has been made of the benefits of video analysis, and it is a well-known fact that every team in the professional age now spends much of their time completing and digesting analysis of both themselves and their opponents. This is something for which Joe Schmidt has become renowned for. For numerous years it was believed that there were a multitude of variables, far too great to counteract, in the world of rugby. I am ashamed to admit that up until a few weeks ago, I would have been one of those naysayers. Continue reading