Longford RFC Club News 22/02/2021   22/02/2021

By Tommy Butler Longford RFC PRO lrfconnects@gmail.com 

Rugby Digest

The weekend past was a rest weekend as far as the Six Nations was concerned.  However, the PRO 14 had a full round of games, with the Irish provinces all enjoying wins.  Munster are all but guaranteed a final appearance where they lead conference A by nine points from 2nd placed Connacht.  Leinster’s win versus the Dragons and Ulster not securing a bonus point in their win versus Glasgow means they have drawn five points clear of Ulster at the top of Conference B. However, a win or bust trip to Ravenhill to take on Ulster still looms on the horizon.  The PRO 14 weekend was a good opportunity for a lot of the players in the Ireland squad that have not been getting a game and players on the fringes of the Ireland squad to put up their hands for selection.  Jack Carthy was again good for Connacht, Craig Casey showed well for Munster and Harry and Ross Byrne started side by side at out-half and first centre in Leinster’s win away to the Dragons.  There has been a lot of calls for change, with Ireland out of the Six Nations Championship running.  However, anyone making those calls will be disappointed as the Ireland squad shows no change for the game versus Italy with all indications that Andy Farrell will play what he sees as his strongest team including starting Murray and Sexton.  Today we have a review of the Six Nations so far and a preview of the Italy game by our Director of Rugby Niall Moran and a preview of the Super Rugby Aotearoa competition, which kicked off on the weekend past by our Antipodean Senior Men’s Head Coach, Glenn Baskett.  Ireland line out in the first game this Saturday v Italy at 2.15 pm.

Ireland Six Nations 2021 Fixtures

Saturday February 27th Italy v Ireland 2.15PM

Sunday March 14th Scotland v Ireland 3PM

Saturday March 20th Ireland v England 4.45PM

Six Nations Review and Italy v Ireland Preview by Longford RFC Director of Rugby Niall Moran

In the lead up to this year’s competition, the noises coming from the Irish camp were of title winning campaigns. At the time, it did seem a little fanciful, but as the professional coaching staff keep informing us mere mortals, it is they, the educated providers of wisdom, that get to experience the efforts of the squad in the training environment, so by extension, they know best.

Such proclamations are dangerous at the best of times, but this is the year of even numbers, when we welcome the might of France and England to our patch. This invariably leads to talk of Grand Slams and Championship wins, a line that Andy Farrell maintained in the build up.

The difficulty for Farrell is that to win the Championship you have to a team on for, hitting their straps at just the right time. This would normally mean that selections are based on current form, and, just to confuse matters, where form isn’t evident, based on credit in the Bank. The head coach dipped a bit into column A and a bit into column B without ever actually nailing his colours to the mast.

The Welsh arrived in Dublin with their tails between their legs. 2020 had fallen well below their expectations, with wins only against the might of Italy (twice) and Georgia. The Irish selection dipped into the credit in Bank column, with Conor Murray, Jonathan Sexton and Peter O’Mahony keeping their places on the basis of what they are capable of delivering, rather than what they have delivered this season. John Cooney, Luke McGrath, Caelan Blade, Kieran Marmion and Jack Carty all failed to get recognition for their form to date tis season.

Nonetheless it look as if Ireland could win this one. Then Peter O’Mahony, in a moment lacking clarity, clears out a ruck dangerously, and Ireland play the next 60 odd minutes with 14 men. The effort was immense from the men in green, from the moment O’Mahony exited the pack, but that isn’t enough in international rugby. Tadhg Beirne and Robbie Henshaw led from the front in a performance that fell just short. Green shoots perhaps?

While everyone was focusing in the great heart and effort that the Irish team showed, the lack of accuracy in execution seemed to go unnoticed. James Lowe, again, showed an inability to defend. Its all very well and good, scoring tries in the Pro14 for fun with Leinster, but on the big stage, the slightest weakness gets exposed. Billy Burns collapsed in the final 5 minutes of the game. Never mind, the late miscued kick to touch, these things happen, what about the pass behind Garry Ringrose after quick ruck ball when we had actually gotten behind the Welsh defense. Not international level, but hey.

They say you be a luck general rather than a good one. Andy Farrell certainly isn’t lucky; we will find out if he is good over the next couple of weeks. Johnathan Sexton, Conor Murray, James Ryan and Peter O’Mahony all ruled out. The full brains trust of the Irish team gone. But his players played for Farrell. The French may have kept the Irish in the game, with uncharacteristic errors, but that is the pressure of an international arena.

A loss by two points is credible, to a French side on their game, and building to the 2023 World Cup, which they are targeting to win on home soil. The issue was again the poor execution. James Lowe had a mighty effort for a try ruled out, but his kicking, particularly in the last 5 minutes was again poor. Some scribes are talking about how well Jamison Gibson Park played. But when he box kicked, how many of them were retrievable. Its all very well adhering to the game plan, but execute it. The issue in relation to Jonathan Sexton number 2 is still not solved either after last week.

So, this weekend we go to Rome, having lost our first two games in the Championship for the first time since the Championship became the Six Nations. The pressure is on.

The business case is we need to win, and the general consensus is, we have too much for the Italians, but the performance this weekend is more important than the result.

Farrell has a full hand to select from, with the obvious exception of the suspended Peter O’Mahony, but he needs a performance. Our attack needs to function. If it does, we will crack on into Scotland with a real peep in our step. If we don’t perform, well, lets thing about that after the event.

Super Rugby Aotearoa Preview by Longford Senior Men’s Head Coach Glenn Baskett

Super Rugby Aotearoa kicks off again (the rugby competition played out in NZ due to Covid 19), and as it’s one of the only show’s in town with supporters allowed and it’s going to be a fascinating watch again as the home crowd will play it’s part in games, a fact that is not affecting a lot of Northern Hemisphere comps and the home team loses that advantage of the home crowd.

Auckland Blues

The Crusaders are going for their 5th Super Rugby title in a row, and their 2nd Super Rugby Aotearoa title and it will be them that the other 4 teams are chasing again in 2021.

The Blues from Auckland have been building well under ex Crusader Leon MacDonald for the last 2 years and they have finally started to blend the multi-cultural mix that is Auckland and tie the largest population of NZ together.  It isn’t easy bringing a culture to the Blues environment but after winning the NPC title 3 years previously with a good blend of youth and some experienced players, they were the team that ran the Crusaders closest in last year’s comp.

There are regular All Blacks in there, along with last year’s stand out All Black Caleb Clarke.

ONES TO WATCH: Jacob Ratumaittavuki-Kneepkins and Zarn Sullivan


Waikato Chiefs

The Chiefs had a really disappointing 2020 comp and failed to get a single win under Warren Gatland and for 2021 Gatland has taken a year out to coach the Lions in South Africa, so local man Clayton McMillan has taken charge. Having won 2 Super titles in the last decade they have the ability but are probably lacking a little depth to challenge for the top honours. But on their day, they are very capable of knocking over anyone, especially at home. Brodie Rettalick is in Japan playing Top League with Kobe so they do have a couple of young guys in the 2nd row in Naitoa Ah Koi and Tupoi Vaa”I but have real quality in the back row with All Blacks captain Sam Cane and probably the standout fetcher of last year’s comp Lachlan Boshier. Boshier has to be pushing for an AB’s selection.

ONES TO WATCH: Rivez Reihana, Kaleb Trask and Xavier Roe


Wellington Hurricanes

Hurricanes from Wellington have lost their talisman TJ Peranara who is also in Japan this season taking a break from NZ rugby. TJ was a captain and leader of the group and having lost Beauden Barrett to the Blues the previous season there is a bit of a void in there. Saying that Jordie Barrett is still in there with Coles, Umaga-Jensen, Ardie Savea, Ngani Laumape, Aumua and the return of Julian Savea is going to bring a wealth of international experience to the group. Head Coach Jason Holland spent time playing and coaching in Munster. They also have the capacity like all the NZ teams to knock each other over on any given day due to the spread of quality players in the franchises.

ONES TO WATCH: Luke Campbell filling the 9 role from TJ


Canterbury Crusaders

The kings of Super Rugby the Crusaders are the team to beat again even if there isn’t a lot between any of them. But Scott Robertson has continued adding to the Crusaders history and the culture they have grown in the greater Canterbury region but they have lost 3 quality backs in Braydon Ennor (for the season with an ACL), George Bridge and Manasa Mataele (half season).  However, there’s pretty good replacements in Leicester Faingaanuku who had a really good NPC comp, Will Jordan, Sevu Reece and the list goes on. Also boasting Richie Mo’unga and Jack Goodhue it’s an embarrassment of riches down south. Young Chay Fihaki is a really good young talent picked to shine. But it’s also the pack that boasts quality. Young Cullen Grace who got drafted into the AB’s at the end of the year is an outstanding back row. Throw in Sam Whitelock and Scott Barrett in the 2nd row and it’s a strong engine room. But the guy that’s getting everyone excited in the Crusaders is the Auckland boy Tamaiti Williams, a ball carrying tight head prop tipping the scales at a mobile 144kg. A tough team to beat this time around again.

ONES TO WATCH: Chay Fihaki, Tamaiti Williams, Cullen Grace and Will Jordan


Otago Highlanders

Highlanders of the deep south are again led by Aaron Smith and inspirational Hawkes Bay Magpies man Ash Dixon. Another ‘Lander House of Pain’ favourite is AB Liam Squire who is back after stepping away for personal reasons. Quality coach Aaron Mauger wasn’t asked to go again as coach, so his ex-assistant and Japan coach Tony Brown takes the reigns. Brown is a top thinking coach and highly innovative. He turned down the chance to coach the AB’s after the last WC as he felt it was something he was not going to get as much from as staying coaching Japan at that time, a bold move. He is a ‘Lander’ through and through so will definitely add to the environment down there. He has an attacking mindset in how he wants to play the game and that could be a big reason why the Highlanders could trouble a lot of sides this time round. Throw in the “Zoo” (the student home crowd) and it will be a difficult place to get results.

ONES TO WATCH: Folau Fakatava (Aaron Smith’s contest for the 9 shirt), Kazuki Himeno(Japan test star back row) and Sam Gilbert



All up, you could make a case for any of the franchises to be in the top 3 such is the quality and spread of the rugby talent in NZ. The fact the NZRU spread the centrally contracted players across the provinces and franchises to make sure all players are playing regularly with a view to the national team means this comp is relentless week in week out. Throw in the fact that there’s crowds at the games and this is going to be a great distraction for every rugby lover around the real world. Role on 26th February and Highlanders v Crusaders.


Longford RFC would like to express our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of our former Women’s Player Bernice Treacy who passed away on Thursday. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam https://rip.ie/death-notice/bernice-treacy-scramogue-roscommon/450495

Skills Challenges

Log on to our Club Community Rugby Officer Dylan Quinn’s Twitter page for weekly skills challenges from Dylan and other Leinster CCRO’s.  It is tough for everyone not being able to train but now is the time to work on your skills especially something you have always wanted to work on as hopefully come September rugby will be back in full swing.  Why not contact your coach and ask him to help you plan a training strategy which you can do from you own home?


All collective training is currently suspended in line with Government and IRFU guidelines.  At the moment, there is no date for a resumption of activities but needless to say we will be ready and willing as soon as we are allowed to do so.  It is possible that a Rugby 7s programme will take place during the Summer to allow players to get back playing rugby.  Rugby 7’s on faster harder pitches is normally a great spectacle.

We would urge all our players and members to keep active during this time.  The IRFU are currently running a series of free webinars for players and coaches, which can be accessed at the following link https://www.irishrugby.ie/2021/01/19/registration-open-for-new-level-up-player-workshop-series/   Why not keep your rugby brain ticking and sign up for the workshops? 


Great news, www.longfordrugby.com is back up and running with an updated club crest, which goes back to the future and an updated header and footer.  Check out our website for all things Longford Rugby and more.  If you want to contribute articles or pictures, they are welcome, please email lrfconnects@gmail.com.


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