17 April 2014

Running down the clock.

In recent times teams have become more adept at running down the clock. Despite the introduction of the TMO, one of whose jobs is to manage the game clock over the eighty minutes and inform the referee when time is up at the half and at the end, the practice by teams has become even more cynical.

Most teams leading with a few minutes remaining want to slow the game down, keep the ball away from the opposition and allow the …..

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08 April 2014

You have got to get in the air!

The red card brandished at Jared Payne in the Heineken Cup quarter-final has wrecked Ulster’s season. It is even more frustrating that they eventually lost the game by a mere two points playing with fourteen men for all of seventy-six minutes. If they had competed with a full compliment for the entire game Ulster have every right to believe they would have been victorious.

The decision, regardless of which way the TMO went, was always going to be controversial. The rights …..

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04 April 2014

Thoughts on the Heineken Quarters

Munster V Toulouse:

This is a clash of two of the great teams in Heineken Cup history. Both teams have had patchy form in recent times and Toulouse are just about hanging on to a play-off spot in the Top 14. But the Heineken Cup seems to bring out the best in both of these clubs so it will be an intriguing battle to open the weekend action.

Munster have always had the capacity to deliver the big performances especially at home …..

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27 March 2014

Qualification anomalies from the Pro 12 to the new Heineken Cup?

After much turmoil the Heineken Cup battle seems to have reached a resolution and the French and English Clubs can claim victory. It is difficult to argue with that as the LNR and PRL have achieved what they initially set out to do.

The European money will be split three ways between the French, English and the Pro 12 competitions. The new competition will involve a meritocracy for qualification. The Top 14 and Aviva Premiership each guaranteed six teams and a …..

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20 March 2014

What makes him the greatest?

The difference between a good player and a great player is a combination of talent and motivation. Some players are good because they possess talent, they are born with that ability it makes them a cut above the rest. Others players are good because they are so motivated they work and work to maximise their potential.

But the great players possess that rare combination of talent and extraordinary motivation.

Undoubtedly, Brian O’Driscoll was born with a phenomenal talent for playing rugby. But …..

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22 January 2014

Once again Ireland dominates the Heineken Cup

At the end of the day only one team can win the Heineken Cup each year. But to consider the success of individual countries it is worth calculating their success rate at qualifying for the quarter-finals of the tournament.

With the pool stages of this year’s Heineken Cup just completed and the seeding for the quarter-finals set, there is an all too familiar look to the proceedings. Even compared to the big spending French Clubs, once again Ireland has punched well …..

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17 January 2014

Canal+ deal dramatically distorts the rugby market

While the Heineken Cup is reaching the final round of the pool stages most people have averted their interest from the chaos surrounding the future of the competition. At this point it seems as if everybody has reached the point of fatigue on the subject. The weekly developments have become akin to a bad soap opera, the complete opposite to what is happening on the field of play.

At the same time, and almost below the radar, the Ligue Nationale de …..

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14 January 2014

Five-day turnaround just not smart

Both Leinster and Northampton have been handed a five-day turnaround between Round 5 & 6 of their remaining Heineken Cup Pool games.

We all appreciate fixture lists are constructed for broadcasters who want to optimise their programming and that heavily influences the scheduling of games. He who pays the piper calls the tune so to speak. But there has to be limits to this scheduling.

After all, these players are not machines and recovery is a crucial part of preparation between performances.

It …..

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10 January 2014

Round 5 could resolve a lot of Heineken Pool outcomes

With two pool games remaining in the Heineken Cup a number of teams can cement qualification to the quarter finals this weekend before the final round of pool games are completed. The difficulty of that challenge can depend on the opposition and the possibility of that opposition making the play-offs.

If the opposition is playing away from home and has no chance of qualification they rarely make a huge effort to upset the apple cart. But playing at home can make …..

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17 December 2013

Heineken dog fight is compelling viewing

This year’s Heineken Cup has turned into one hell of a dog fight. It is impossible, even at this stage of the tournament, to pick a favourite and who will even qualify for the quarter-finals is far from decided yet. In terms of sports drama it is compelling viewing.

Each of the six pools has it’s own tale to tell and their possible outcomes are largely unpredictable with just two rounds of pool games remaining.

In Pool 5, Ulster are the only …..

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