Wales win – opportunity lost?
A day where yet again the RWC fixture scheduling comes into sharp focus. A clearly fatigued Wales beat an entertaining Fiji 23-13 at the Millennium Stadium. The win was the minimum mandate for Warren Gatland’s charges but given the reaction of the Welsh management at the end of the game when several opportunities to score the elusive bonus point were spurned, you get the sense that Wales do not feel completely secure in the pool. The sense of insecurity could potentially grow if and a big if England were to defeat Australia at Twickenham on Saturday. Wales today will enjoy this victory, built on a promising open period where Davies and Biggar continued their rich vein of form. The locals may have expected Fiji to roll over in the second half but the Pacific Islanders relished their surroundings and proceeded to throw the ball around in quite spectacular fashion. Fiji’s style of play was probably the last thing Wales wanted today, lung bursting periods of play where the pack and back line were throwing the ball around like they were in the school yard in national school. Wales’ energy was not there in the second half and Fiji took full advantage with one of the tries of the tournament courtesy of Goneva. Wales’s squad depth is so depleted that forgotten man James Hook even got a cameo today. Biggar’s leg injury adds to the Wales casualty list. Gatland and management will realize that Wales’ energy levels will be far improved next weekend but the level of set piece execution has to drastically improve to compete with Australia, albeit the green and gold could do England a massive favor by dumping the hosts out this weekend. Ashes redemption, maybe not but revenge for the cricket would be priceless. No pressure for Lancaster and the England team.
Will the real France please stand up?
France produce the Jekyll and Hyde performance to either excite or create dread for Ireland rugby fans. You have to give massive props to Canada for sticking so long with Le Bleu considering the ridiculous lack of time to prepare for the contest. France showed tonight that they are more than capable of bludgeoning an opponent’s pack but also have the ability out wide to expose an opponent. Five try haul for France where the key point was quick ruck ball, when they provide that platform, they are extremely dangerous. Canada’s two try haul did expose French vulnerability in defense but given the bench depth, an upset similar to Japan over the Springboks was never going to happen. 41-18 is a bit harsh on Canada but France showed no mercy when presented with try scoring opportunities. There are still issues with France linking play between pack and back line but once Parra came on, the team grew in stature. Bastareaud in midfield is a battering ram and with Wesley Fofana’s pace and speed shown with his early try, Ireland three quarters will have their hands full next weekend. Ireland will realize that France have shown areas of strength and weakness. France’s maul was the strength and Canada unfortunately could not do anything to stem the tide. Ireland’s focus is Italy but provided that a performance is produced, all eyes will focus on France with renewed confidence. The keyword is performance for Ireland and France next week. Intriguing times ahead.
Mayo Football Woes (Now Off The Pitch)
A quick note for the Mayo footballers. When you decide to ditch your management team who dedicated their year to you, you better produce the goods on the pitch next season. This has a recipe for disaster written all over it. The county board will support Connelly and Holmes to the hilt while the squad will dig their heels in. Mayo players can complain about managerial tactics but were they not five points ahead of Dublin with fifteen minutes to go in the All Ireland Football semi-final replay? The management can only do so much. It is down to the players on the pitch to deliver the goods. It is down to the players to adapt the game plan when need be. It is down to the players to make the right decisions on the pitch. These facets of play have deserted this group of players year in year out when it came down to the crunch. James Horan could not provide the answer to the issue. The managerial duo installed this season could not stem the irreversible tide. The common denominator is the players. Be careful what you wish for Mayo footballers as I can speak as a Limerick man when the Limerick hurlers dug their heels in with Justin McCarthy a couple of years ago, it did permanent damage and Limerick hurlers are still plying their trade in NHL 1B. This is the scenario that could face Mayo if this crisis drags out over the winter. Time for cool heads within the county board, current senior football team management and players to resolve the issue. Jimmy McGuinness is not taking the job so who else would take it? Rochford may have won am All Ireland club title with Corofin last season but it is a massive step up to take on an inter county football team. Risky appointment in some quarters. Donie Buckley interest? Interesting times in lovely Mayo, let us hope they are singing off the same hymn sheet soon.
GPA Football Championship Proposal
The proposed GPA football championship (champions league format) sound good but what happens to the U21 and Sigerson Cup championships? Compressed schedule means the official end to the dual inter county player. How do the parish clubs fit into the equation, the heartbeat of the organization? The fixture (lack of) in the club scene is a disgrace. Do not get me wrong, the proposal has merits — teams waiting for seven weeks between championship games is not acceptable. Time will tell. Wonder if the GAA HQ will take these proposals seriously?