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6 Nations

Who’s in Line for Schmidt in Ireland’s Scrum-Half Crisis?

The reality facing joe Schmidt is that one or none of his back up 9’s will be available for Ireland’s opening game against rivals England on February 2nd.

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Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Over the weekend the Irish provinces completed a clean sweep of victories in Europe, but as the clubs are booming the nation begins to switch to the country’s 6 Nations defence and ask who is our back up at scrum-half?

The worrying sight for the provinces was that out of four only one had their first choice No.9 fully fit by the end of the game.

Ironically, that man is Conor Murray the one scrum-half that was missing during Ireland’s November Series wins.

Leinster fans celebrated a 29-13 win over fellow giants Toulouse with a bitter sweet feeling after seeing Luke McGrath helped off the pitch by medical staff in the second half with a leg injury.

Today, it was confirmed that he has suffered knee ligament damage and could be set to miss up to eight weeks out on the side-line. In other words, the entire 6 Nations.

McGrath’s injury was followed by news that Ulster’s John Cooney had pulled out of their clash with Racing 92 due to back spasms caused in training.

Before all of this, Kieran Marmion, Ireland’s second choice, underwent surgery on his ankle after the 16-9 win over the All-Blacks in November and is expected back soon.

The reality facing joe Schmidt is that one or none will be available for Ireland’s opening game against rivals England on February 2nd.

Names that have been thrown around are Ulster’s David Shanahan, and Munster’s Duncan Williams.

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However, the is a shining light is Connacht’s Caolin Blade, who has been covering for Marmion since his surgery, has held his own over his 18 appearances so far this season.

The word on the street is that a man, who only as far back as last month said,

“I haven’t really spoken to anyone about that, more so trying to play well here and try get number one here [Connacht] first of all, that’s my aim” when asked about Ireland duty, will be called up.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise as he has helped Connacht to fourth in their Pro14 conference and within touching distance of a quarter-final place in the Challenge Cup.

Some even wonder if Marmion will find it hard to get back into the Connacht team after Blade’s displays let alone the Irish team.

All of which means, that when Schmidt names his extended squad for the 6 Nations tomorrow don’t be surprised to hear Blade’s name.

In fact, the Galway hopeful could be about to show his abilities on the international stage and make a last gasp bid to claim a stake for a ticket to Japan later this year.


6 Nations

Referee Appointments Made For November Internationals

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The match day officials for Ireland’s international fixtures in November have been announced by World Rugby and the IRFU High Performance Referees will have a busy month on international duty.

For our teams in green, the RFU’s Adam Leal will take charge of the game between Ireland ‘A’ and the All Blacks XV at the RDS on Friday, 4th November. The following day, Georgian referee Nika Amashukeli has the whistle for the game between Ireland and World Champions South Africa at Aviva Stadium.

South African Jaco Peyper is in charge of Ireland v Fiji and New Zealander Ben O’Keeffe is the man in the middle for Ireland’s final game of the Autumn Nations Series against Australia.

IRFU referee Andrew Brace takes charge of two games during this international window – England v Argentina and France v Japan. Joy Neville, who will have just returned from the Women’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, is in the TMO hot seat for the France game against the Brave Blossoms.

Frank Murphy in on duty for Scotland against New Zealand at Murrayfield and Chris Busby has the whistle for the French Barbarians against Fiji in Lille.  Both Chris Busby and Eoghan Cross are on duty in Dubai for the World Cup Final Qualifier tournament.  Chris is refereeing the game between Portugal and Hong Kong with Eoghan in the AR role for that game and the clash between the USA and Kenya.

Friday 4th November, 2022
IRELAND A v All Blacks XV
REF: Adam Leal (RFU), ARs: Luc Ramos (FFR), Benoit Rousselet (FFR)

Saturday 5th November, 2022
IRELAND v South Africa
REF: Nika Amashukeli (GRU), ARs: Mathieu Raynal (FFR), Andrea Piardi (FIR)

Saturday 12th November, 2022
IRELAND v Fiji
REF: Jaco Peyper (SARU), ARs: Tual Trainini (FFR), Jordan Way (RA)

Saturday 19th November, 2022
IRELAND v Australia
REF: Ben O’Keeffe (NZRU), ARs: James Doleman (NZRU), Tual Trainini (FFR)

IRFU High Performance Referee Appointment

England v Argentina
REF: Andrew Brace (IRFU), ARs: Frank Murphy (IRFU), Pierre Brousset (FFR)

USA v Kenya
REF: Tual Trainini (FFR), ARs: Damian Schneider (UAR), Eoghan Cross (IRFU)

Portugal v Hong Kong
REF: Chris Busby (IRFU), ARs: Damian Schneider (UAR), Eoghan Cross (IRFU)

Scotland v New Zealand
REF: Frank Murphy (IRFU), ARs: Andrew Brace (IRFU), Chris Busby (IRFU)

Romania v Samoa
REF: Mathieu Raynal (FFR), ARs: Eoghan Cross (IRFU), Shota Tevadze (IRFU)

French Barbarians v Fiji
REF: Chris Busby (IRFU), ARs: Ben Blain (SARU), Adrien Marbot (FFR)

France v Japan
REF: Andrew Brace (IRFU), ARs: Frank Murphy (IRFU), Christophe Ridley (RFU)
TMO: Joy Neville (IRFU)

England v South Africa
REF: Angus Gardner (RA), ARs: Andrew Brace (IRFU), Pierre Brousset (FFR)

Wales v Australia
REF: Matthew Carley (RFU), ARs: Luke Pearce (RFU), Chris Busby (IRFU)

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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6 Nations

Emerging Ireland Ready For Currie Cup Champions

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The Emerging Ireland Match Day Squad to take on Currie Cup champions, the Airlink Pumas, on Wednesday in Bloemfontein has been named by the Ireland coaching team.

Emerging Ireland started their Toyota Challenge campaign with a 54-7 victory over the Griquas on Sunday and will take on the Pumas on Wednesday afternoon at Toyota Stadium (Kick-off 4pm Irish time, live on IrishRugby.ie).

Cian Prendergast, a member of the touring party leadership group, will fulfil the captain’s duties against the Pumas.

Prenderast will line out on the blindside flank with John Hodnett in the number seven jersey and James Culhane in the number eight slot. Cormac Izuchukwu and Brian Deeny are named at lock with Callum Reid, Diarmuid Barron and Roman Salanoa in the front row.

Michael McDonald and Jake Flannery will steer the team from half-back with Cathal Forde and Antoine Frisch in midfield. Ethan McIlroy is joined in the back field by Sevens duo Chay Mullins and Andrew Smith.

The replacements named are Dylan Tierney-Martin, Josh Wycherley, Sam Illo, Tom Ahern, David McCann, Ben Murphy, Jack Crowley and Shane Daly.

The match will be streamed live on IrishRugby.ie, while there will be updates on Irish Rugby social media channels.

Emerging Ireland v Airlink Pumas:

Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein, Wednesday 5th October, 2022, KO 4.00pm (Irish time)

15. Chay Mullins (Connacht/IQ Rugby)
14. Ethan McIlroy (Ulster/Ballynahinch)
13. Antoine Frisch (Munster)
12. Cathal Forde (Connacht/Corinthians)
11. Andrew Smith (Leinster/Clontarf)
10. Jake Flannery (Ulster/Ballynahinch)
9. Michael McDonald (Ulster)

1. Callum Reid (Ulster/Banbridge)
2. Diarmuid Barron (Munster/Garryowen)
3. Roman Salonoa (Munster/Shannon)
4. Cormac Izuchukwu (Ulster/Ballynahinch)
5. Brian Deeny (Leinster/Clontarf)
6. Cian Prendergast (Connacht)(captain)
7. John Hodnett (Munster/UCC)
8. James Culhane (Leinster/UCD)

Replacements:

16. Dylan Tierney-Martin (Connacht/Corinthians)
17. Josh Wycherley (Munster/Young Munster)
18. Sam Illo (Connacht/Buccaneers)
19. Tom Ahern (Munster/Shannon)
20. David McCann (Ulster/Banbridge)
21. Ben Murphy (Leinster/Clontarf)
22. Jack Crowley (Munster/Cork Constitution)
23. Shane Daly (Munster/Cork Constitution) 

Emerging Ireland Toyota Challenge Fixtures 2022:

Airlink Pumas vs Emerging Ireland
Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Wednesday 5th October 2022, KO 16:00 (Irish time)

Toyota Cheetahs vs Emerging Ireland
Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Sunday 9th October 2022, KO 14:00 (Irish time)

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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6 Nations

Aki Banned For Eight Weeks

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Aki will be unavailable for the westerners’ next five URC games, including the derby clashes with Munster and Leinster, and will also miss at least the first two of Ireland’s Autumn Nations Series fixtures.

He will definitely be absent for the Tests against South Africa and Fiji, but could return to face Australia on Saturday, November 19 if he ‘successfully completes the Head Contact Process Coaching Intervention programme’.

After an act of foul play against Stormers winger Seabelo Senatla, referee Gianluca Gnecchi showed Aki a red card in the 60th minute of the game under law 9.20(a).

The particular law states that a player must not charge into a ruck or maul. Charging includes any contact made without binding onto another player in the ruck or maul.

In his responses to the judicial officer overseeing the disciplinary process (Pamela Woodman from Scotland), Aki had accepted that he had committed an act of foul play which warranted a red card.

She determined that his actions towards Senatla were reckless and took into account, among other things, the speed, force and high degree of danger in his actions.

Ms. Woodman determined that, had it been based on this conduct alone, the offending would have been categorised as mid-range on the scale of seriousness.

However, she also considered Aki’s actions and demeanour towards the referee in connection with the issue of the red card, which she found did not meet the expected standards of conduct or respect.

This was also taken into account (in accordance with URC’s disciplinary rules) in determining that his offending was at the top-end on the scale of seriousness, which warranted an entry point sanction of 10 weeks.

The judicial officer then considered if there were any mitigating factors and found that Aki’s acceptance that he had committed an act of foul play (during the off-field disciplinary process), expression of remorse, apologies to both the opposing player and referee, and willingness to engage with his provincial coaching staff on a plan to address this issue, were relevant mitigating factors.

These mitigating factors warranted a reduction in the sanction of four weeks.

Aki’s previous suspensions for red cards in 2019 and 2021 for foul play involving head contact, as well as his suspension and warning for previous conduct relating to interactions with referees, were considered aggravating factors, which the judicial officer decided warranted a further two weeks of sanction.

As a result, the Ireland international will be suspended for a period of eight weeks. As previously stated, should he complete the Coaching Intervention programme then the sanction will be reduced by one week.

Fixtures Bundee Aki is unavailable for:

Vodacom Bulls v Connacht, September 30, BKT URC
Connacht v Munster, October 7, BKT URC
Connacht v Leinster, October 14, BKT URC
Connacht v Scarlets, October 21, BKT URC
Ospreys v Connacht, October 29, BKT URC
Ireland v South Africa, November 5, Autumn Nations Series
Ireland v Fiji, November 12, Autumn Nations Series
Ireland v Australia, November 19, Autumn Nations Series (substituted if the player successfully completes the Head Contact Process Coaching Intervention programme)

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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