“We can do this. But do we work on it? No.” The telling words of Morgan Parra after France’s humiliation at Twickenham. The veteran halfback questioned the preparations of the French team after their disastrous performance against England. “I think that we are capable of doing what the English do, but are we working on this during training? I think we don’t work on it enough, even not at all”.Embed from Getty Images
Parra has not made the 23 for this weekend’s game against Scotland, for what Jacques Brunel calls “sporting reasons”, so read into that what you will. Camille Lopez is in the same boat; after the game, he acknowledged that the French players were accountable, but he said I think it is not just us, and we are not alone in this disaster”. After watching the Wales game, you would’ve thought that French rugby couldn’t get much more disorganised, but when you hear stories of poor Romain Ntamack being sent on to the pitch not even knowing what position he was to play, there really must be something rotten in the state of France.
Selection policy is something French coaches generally have difficulty with. Whether its the pressure or expectation of the job, who knows, but most of the time its absolutely mystifying. This weekend’s backline is the most sensible one to be seen on a French teamsheet in quite a while, compared to last week’s rabble of four centres and a wing as the outside backs. Thomas Ramos is wearing the 15 jersey for the weekend. Ramos made his debut in Twickenham, limiting the damage in the second half to fourteen points, compared to 30 points in the first half.
France at home are a different beast to the shower of chancers that turned up to play England game. Last year it took a Hail Mary moment from King Johnny for Ireland to get over the line in Paris, and they came absolutely flying out of the blocks against Wales. Two early tries from Yoann Huget and Louis Picamoles and a peachy drop goal from Camille Lopez had Wales rattled. Wesley Fofana was a brute in midfield, Arthur Iturria and Louis Picamoles were making gains with ease up front. It looked for all the world like France were back.
The second half was a different story. Wales began defending and two gift-wrapped tries for George North later, France were behind. It is no coincidence that France really began to fall apart after captain Guilhelm Guirado went off. A rather alarming interview with Sebastian Vahaamahina revealed that late in the game there was such confusion in the French ranks that Vahaamahina didn’t even know he was captain.
France didn’t close out the Wales game when it was in the balance because the leaders among them didn’t cool the heads around, nobody was there to say “Boys! Take it easy! Keep it simple!” (or the French equivalent). Instead you had a second row throw a 20m miss pass that ended up being intercepted for Wales’ decisive try. The same thing happened in Twickenham. The lack of consistency in French selections mean that there is no real leadership group in the French squad. Guilhelm Guirado is a fantastic captain, that any team would be delighted to have, but there is only so much he can do, and playing in the front row as he does, he is rarely going to finish a game.Embed from Getty Images
Compare this to Ireland; Rory Best is captain. He leaves at the 50 minute mark, you still have Munster captain Peter O’Mahony, Leinster captain Johnny Sexton, and you have CJ Stander who has loads of experience captaining Munster. Sean O’Brien is not a captain, but is apparently one of the most influential voices in the Irish squad. This is the benefit of consistent selections. A group of leaders emerges in the squad, but if you pick a different pack every week, this just won’t happen.
For many years France have not had a non-French coach, and this is their downfall. They need a fresh voice, someone from outside the system. Guy Noves was good; his results were not, but there was signs he was building something, blooding players, trying to build combinations. You would be fascinated to see what someone like Vern Cotter or Joe Schmidt could do with the talent of the French backs, but given the FFR’s track record this is highly unlikely.
It is clear there is something rotten in the French team. The players can see it, the fans and pundits can see it, but whether the coaching staff will figure it out who knows. Scotland will arrive at the Stade De France this weekend with an injury plagued squad; as to what kind of France team will face them, nobody knows.Embed from Getty Images
Andy Farrell Names 40-Player Squad For New Zealand Tour
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has named an extended 40-player squad for the five-match tour of New Zealand this summer.
Jonathan Sexton will captain the squad in what will be Ireland’s first tour since their memorable 2018 series win over Australia.
Farrell’s men will play three Test matches against New Zealand in Auckland, Dunedin and Wellington, as well as two fixtures against the Māori All Blacks – in Hamilton ahead of the first Test, and in Wellington following the second Test.
Ireland have not toured New Zealand since 2012 and have never recorded a victory over the All Blacks in Aotearoa.
Five players in the current squad toured New Zealand in 2012 – Cian Healy, Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray, Sexton and Keith Earls – while Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, O’Mahony, Murray, Sexton and Robbie Henshaw were part of the British & Irish Lions squad that toured New Zealand in 2017.
There are five uncapped players included in Ireland’s summer tour squad – the Leinster trio of Ciaran Frawley, Joe McCarthy and Jimmy O’Brien, Munster prop Jeremy Loughman and Connacht flanker Cian Prendergast.
There are a further 12 players included who have won less than 10 caps for Ireland – Harry Byrne, Craig Casey, Gavin Coombes, Mack Hansen, James Hume, Michael Lowry, Ryan Baird, Dave Heffernan, Tom O’Toole, Dan Sheehan, Nick Timoney and Kieran Treadwell.
Robert Baloucoune, Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell and Ronan Kelleher have been ruled out of the tour through injury.
Ireland head coach Farrell commented:
This is the start of our Rugby World Cup campaign and it is going to be a fantastic challenge for our group facing five massive tests across the three weeks.
Due to Covid we haven’t had an opportunity to tour, and touring plays a massive role in teams gelling together and building cohesion on and off the field.
This group could also be the last to play a Test series in New Zealand which makes it even more special.
“We will learn so much about the players and the group as a whole as we have to front up for five incredibly tough fixtures, far from the comforts of home and in grounds where the home support will greatly outnumber travelling Irish fans.”
Connacht senior coach Peter Wilkins will join the national coaching group for the duration of the summer tour to assist in team preparation.
Mick Kearney has been reappointed as men’s national team manager following Gerard Carmody’s promotion to the IRFU Director of Operations role.
Mick previously held the position between 2012 and 2016 and will fulfil the role through to the end of the Rugby World Cup in France next year.
Geraldine Armstrong will lead team operations for the tour to New Zealand, while Carmody will continue to support team operations and planning for Rugby World Cup 2023.
Ireland’s summer tour fixtures will be broadcast live on Sky Sports across Ireland, and there will also be live radio commentary on RTÉ Radio.
IRELAND 2022 SUMMER TOUR SQUAD:
Bundee Aki (Galwegians/Connacht) 37
Harry Byrne (Lansdowne/Leinster) 2
Joey Carbery (Clontarf/Munster) 32
Craig Casey (Shannon/Munster) 5
Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster) 96
Ciaran Frawley (Skerries/Leinster) *
Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 17
Mack Hansen (Connacht) 4
Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Leinster) 57
James Hume (Banbridge/Ulster) 3
Hugo Keenan (UCD/Leinster) 20
Jordan Larmour (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) 30
James Lowe (Leinster) 12
Michael Lowry (Banbridge/Ulster) 1
Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster) 96
Jimmy O’Brien (Naas/Leinster) *
Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster) 42
Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) (capt) 105
Ryan Baird (Dublin University/Leinster) 8
Finlay Bealham (Buccaneers/Connacht) 23
Tadhg Beirne (Lansdowne/Munster) 30
Jack Conan (Old Belvedere/Leinster) 27
Gavin Coombes (Young Munster/Munster) 2
Caelan Doris (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) 17
Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster) 57
Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster) 116
Dave Heffernan (Buccaneers/Connacht) 6
Iain Henderson (Academy/Ulster) 68
Rob Herring (Ballynahinch/Ulster) 26
Jeremy Loughman (Garryowen/Munster) *
Joe McCarthy (Dublin University/Leinster) *
Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster) 84
Tom O’Toole (Ballynahinch/Ulster) 2
Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster) 43
Cian Prendergast (Connacht) *
James Ryan (UCD/Leinster) 43
Dan Sheehan (Lansdowne/Leinster) 7
Nick Timoney (Banbridge/Ulster) 2
Kieran Treadwell (Ballymena/Ulster) 5
Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster) 40
* Denotes uncapped player
IRELAND 2022 SUMMER TOUR FIXTURES:
Māori All Blacks v IRELAND
FMG Stadium, Hamilton, Wednesday, June 29 (kick-off 7.05pm local time/8.05am Irish time)
New Zealand v IRELAND
Eden Park, Auckland, Saturday, July 2 (kick-off 7.05pm local time/8.05am Irish time)
New Zealand v IRELAND
Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, Saturday, July 9 (kick-off 7.05pm local time/8.05am Irish time)
Māori All Blacks v IRELAND
Sky Stadium, Wellington, Tuesday, July 12 (kick-off 7.05pm local time/8.05am Irish time)
New Zealand v IRELAND
Sky Stadium, Wellington, Saturday, July 16 (kick-off 7.05pm local time/8.05am Irish time)
Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography
Sean O’Brien to retire from rugby
London Irish can confirm Seán O’Brien is set to retire from rugby at the end of the 2021/22 season.
The back-row forward will bring a storied 14-year career to a conclusion this summer after two-and-a-half years with the Exiles.
O’Brien spent eleven seasons with his home province of Leinster, winning four Pro12/ Pro14 league titles, four Heineken Cup/ Champions Cup honours and an Amlin Challenge Cup, whilst also earning the ERC European Player of the Year accolade in 2011.
He was capped 56 times for Ireland between 2009 and 2019 and represented the British and Irish Lions on two tours, firstly to Australia in 2013 and then to New Zealand in 2017.
O’Brien joined London Irish in December 2019 and has played a vital part across three successful seasons in west London, becoming a fan favourite amongst the Exile Nation.
On his decision to retire, O’Brien stated: “After much deliberation and consultation with my family and friends, I can confirm that I have decided to retire from playing professional rugby at the end of the season.
“I’ve had an incredible career and am thankful for every second of my time at Leinster, Ireland, London Irish and the British & Irish Lions.
“As a 20-year-old, I fulfilled my childhood dream by pulling on the Leinster jersey, and when I made my debut against Cardiff Blues in 2008, I never imagined what would then follow over the next 14 years.
“A special mention must go to Colin McEntee for his ‘big brother’ approach when I joined the academy.
“I feel lucky to have experienced so many wonderful highlights over the course of my career.
“At an international level, I feel privileged to have won 56 caps for Ireland.
“I gave everything I could possibly give, and I will always look back with great pride at every time I pulled on the Irish jersey to represent my country, my county, my friends, and family.
“I feel very fortunate to have had the career I’ve had but none of it would have been possible without the support of so many people.
“Firstly, I would like to thank my Mam and Dad for taking me to Ballon Rathoe Community Games and then Tullow RFC when I was 8 years old.
“They took me to every sport in my area which gave me the exposure to all types of sport.
“They were the perfect role models who taught me to not be afraid of hard work, which certainly helped me progress my career and I can’t thank them enough.
“I was lucky to play alongside some great players and under some brilliant managers and coaches during my time at Tullow, Leinster, Ireland, London Irish and the Lions and I would like to thank every one of them.
“I would also like to thank the backroom staff at each of those clubs, they all showed me fantastic support during my time with them.
“I would like to say a special thank you to some people who believed in me early on in my career, who are sadly no longer with us.
“Jim Kealy (Tullow RFC) and David Wilkie (Edenderry RFC) always said the right thing to me and gave me direction when needed.
“Away from rugby, I feel lucky to have had such a close group of friends that I have always been able to count and rely on throughout the course of my career.
“Thanks to all of you, especially James Foley and Daniel Davey.
“Finally, the most important thank you is reserved for my family.
“I can’t thank my Mum, Dad and brothers (Stephen and William) sisters (Caroline and Alex) enough for their unconditional support over the years.
“It has meant everything to me and to have 6 nephews watching means the world to me.
“There is still a lot of rugby to be played this season before the time comes to hang up my boots, and I am fully focused on giving my all in the London Irish jersey until then.
“I’m going to soak up every minute I get on the pitch and look forward to helping the team wherever I can.
“I am excited about the future and feel I still have a lot to offer the game, in whatever capacity that may be.
“I am currently taking my time to consider a number of options and will make an announcement with regards to the next stage of my career very soon.”
Dan Leavy to retire
It has been announced that Leinster Rugby back row Dan Leavy is to retire from the game with immediate effect.
The 27-year-old has played 79 times for Leinster Rugby since his debut against Edinburgh Rugby in October 2014 and has also won 11 Ireland caps.
Unfortunately, Leavy suffered a significant knee injury against Ulster Rugby in March 2019, and following expert medical opinion, and despite his best efforts, he has been advised to retire.
Speaking to leinsterrugby.ie, Leavy said, “I have done everything I can to come back from the knee injury I suffered in 2019 but unfortunately I can’t do any more or ask any more of my body.
“I’d like to thank Andy Williams, my surgeon, and Karl Denvir, my physio in Leinster, for all that they have done for me in the years since then. I can take solace from the fact that I tried everything over the last three years.
“From the early days in Old Belvedere to my time in St Michael’s College, all I wanted was to pull on a Leinster Rugby jersey. And then when you achieve that, it’s an Ireland jersey.
“I am very proud of all that I achieved in my short time as a professional.
“Some amazing highs with my brothers in blue and in green and I am beyond grateful for those days and those moments especially the highs of 2018 in Bilbao, the Aviva Stadium and Twickenham.
“More than that I am proud of how I carried myself, in particular over the last few years, and I hope I represented my club, my country, my family and friends to the best of my abilities in those years. I am beyond grateful to them all for their support and in particular to my mum and dad, Eilish and Donal, my sister, Rachel, and my brother, Adam.
“I am also very grateful to Leo Cullen. Leo has been an unbelievable support to me over the last few years. On the field, and off, and I cannot thank him enough.
“Not many people get to enjoy and experience what I have over the last 10 years representing my school, my club and my country.
“This is not the end I had hoped for, but as I look back, at the highs and the lows, they have all been shared with the best teammates, family and friends around me, and what more could I ask for?”
Leinster Rugby head coach Leo Cullen said, “Dan was a player earmarked from an early age as a special talent and I think everyone could see that, particularly in those few years in and around 2017, ’18 and ’19, just how dynamic and destructive a player he could be with Leinster and with Ireland where he went on to achieve unprecedented success at that time.
“While the public have seen very little of Dan since his injury, we have seen plenty of him in here and we have seen the same determination, character and drive that marked him out on the pitch as one of the best.
“Dan has also received incredible support from his family and all the medical staff here along the difficult path of trying to return to playing.
“Speaking on behalf of the support staff here at Leinster Rugby it has been a pleasure and privilege to have worked with Dan. He always brought such a positive energy to the group and we will all miss him dearly but would like to acknowledge the significant contribution he has made to the team during his time here.
“Talking to him, Dan is very appreciative of the times he has enjoyed in here with Leinster but now, it’s about us all supporting him as best we can as he starts that next stage in his life.
“I have no doubt that he will apply himself with the same determination that we have seen since he first pulled on a Leinster jersey in 2014 and that he will make a success of himself away from the rugby fields. We wish him well and I hope he knows that there will always be a warm welcome for him here in UCD or down the road at the RDS.”
Leavy, who played seven times for Leinster this season and last appeared against Ulster Rugby last month, made his debut in 2014 and has played 79 times in total for Leinster Rugby scoring 17 tries.
He was an ever-present member of the double-winning Leinster Rugby squad of 2017/18 and he brought that club form to the international stage when making his Irish debut in November 2016 against Canada at Aviva Stadium.
He made his Six Nations debut later that season coming off the bench against England at Aviva Stadium in March 2017.
During his Ireland career, he never lost a game in his 11 caps and was a key member of the Grand Slam-winning side of 2018.
Everyone in Leinster Rugby sends Dan our very best wishes for the future, and thank him most sincerely, for brilliant days in blue.
Dan Leavy Biog:
DOB: 23 May 1994
Height: 6′ 3″
Weight: 16st 7lbs
Leinster Caps / Tries: 79 / 17
Ireland Caps / Tries: 11 / 3