The Offload: Ireland’s talent pool keeps getting bigger

James Hume and Nick Timoney state their case; Irish try scorers for the Barbarians

James Hume lay down a marker during Ulster’s URC win away to Leinster. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

James Hume lay down a marker during Ulster’s URC win away to Leinster. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

 

Ireland’s talent pool keeps on growing

Ireland’s hugely successful Autumn Nations series, manifest in victories over Japan, New Zealand and Argentina, properly represented the work of the squad and coaching team in preparing and playing to a very high level. There would have been a quiet satisfaction in terms of what the group achieved and a positive outlook going into next year’s Six Nations Championship.

There will have been a small element of frustration for those who didn’t get many or any match minutes but Ireland head coach Andy Farrell will have impressed on those players that there is a 10-game window to state a case with their respective provinces before the start of the 2022 Six Nations.

Nick Timoney and James Hume laid down a pretty substantial marker at the RDS on Saturday night in Ulster’s thoroughly deserved victory over Leinster.

Timoney, a late call-up to the Irish bench on the morning of the Argentina game, produced a superb performance on both sides of the ball but particularly at the breakdown where he pinched a couple of balls and was a real nuisance. Noted for his speed and athleticism the 26-year-old has continued to refine his game over the past few years and it has deservedly attracted Farrell’s attention.

Hume admitted in his post match interview that he was disappointed not to see some game time with Ireland but channelled it positively to produce a super performance that earned him the official man of the match for his sharp footwork, good running lines and aggressive defence. Rob Herring was another to advance his case. Too many Leinster players never got to the emotional or technical pitch of the game.

Farrell will also have been enthused by Connacht’s brilliant win over the Ospreys, defying appalling conditions to play some cracking rugby. Mack Hansen was excellent again while Jack Carty and Kieran Marmion’s game management was impressive as were the performances of a couple of try scoring tyros in Shayne Bolton and Oran McNulty.

Quote of the week

“Playing Leinster in Dublin is the ultimate test in our league; it is as simple as that. If you can’t set your fire for that then what can you set your fire for? I thought the players did a magnificent job.” Ulster head coach Dan McFarland paid tribute to his players after a first victory over Leinster at the RDS since 2013.

Number of the week

2 - Irish try scorers, Lindsay Peat and Claire Griffin, in the Barbarians 60-5 victory at Twickenham in front of a world record crowd for a women’s match of 29,581. The men’s game was cancelled so the women filled the 2.30 slot rather than the 5.15 one. There was an added bonus that the women’s match was broadcast live by BBC television. The rush to get to Twickenham meant many of the players travelled there by Uber.

Etzebeth stood down for three months

South Africa’s Eben Etzebeth will spend the next three months on the sidelines after sustaining a brain injury during the Springboks’ defeat to England at Twickenham. It was the third concussion that he had suffered in the calendar year.

The 30-year-old secondrow plays his rugby with Toulon in the French Top 14 and it is in accordance with the strict concussion protocols imposed by the Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR) that he has been forced to stand down until the end of February.

Toulon released a statement which read: “After specialist advice and in accordance with the concussion management protocol of the National Rugby League, the player must observe a three-month break. Rugby Club Toulonnais wishes Eben Etzebeth a speedy recovery.”

Etzebeth had been outstanding for the Springboks and is on an official shortlist of six players alongside England duo Freddie Steward and Marcus Smith, French pair Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack and Ireland’s Caelan Doris, who scored tries against New Zealand and Argentina during the campaign.

Doris took time out of the game earlier in the year - it effectively ruled him out of being considered for the Lions tour - because of concussion related problems and spoke honestly about the issues he faced on the road to recovery prior to returning to play during the summer.

His Leinster and Ireland teammate James Ryan is currently sidelined following a head injury sustained against Argentina. The medical care in Ireland, provincially and nationally for professional players is first class complementing the national player management programme but it is heartening to see that governing bodies like the LNR in France taking a strong line when it comes to concussion.

Amee-Leigh Murphy brings up her century

The Dubai Sevens tournament saw the Ireland Men’s team finish seventh while the Women’s team managed ninth place with a playoff win over Spain. The squads stay in Dubai as the second leg of the HSBC series takes place there next weekend.

There were a couple of landmark achievements with Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe scoring her 100th try in the HSBC World Sevens Series - she increased that tally to 103 tries by tournament’s end - while Terry Kennedy scored 10 tries and finished as the DHL Impact Player of the Tournament, a metric that awards points for tackles, breaks, offloads and carries.

The Ireland Men’s team lost out to Argentina in injury time as they tried to make the Cup semi-finals, eventually finishing seventh. Ireland were without eight players from their Tokyo Olympic squad through retirement, injury and unavailability and gave debuts to Jude Postlethwaite, Zac Ward and Fergus Jemphrey during the tournament.

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