The Offload: Wrong question gets you the wrong answer

Ireland Sevens crew join elite in World Series after their impressive victory in Hong Kong

Conor Murray celebrates scoring a try for Munster against Cardiff Blues at Irish Independent Park in Cork. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

"Is there any reason I cannot award this try?" Wrong question friend. Referee Marius Mitrea went upstairs for the try scored by Conor Murray in the 61st minute of their win over Cardiff on Friday. All good so far.

Mitrea was right at the scene of the try with bodies and twisted limbs piled up as Murray went over. Or did he go over and if he did go over was the ball touched down correctly and was the ball over the line or was there a Cardiff hand underneath the ball?

Mitrea didn’t know and so he asked the TMO for clarity. The TMO had a look at all the angles and came back to the referee with prevarication. Mitrea waited patiently and then asked “is there any reason I cannot award this try?”

But how did he know there was a try when the reason for going to replays was because he couldn’t see? He could have asked a whole range of things but decided to ask the most leading question. The TMO could see no reason not to award the try, but did the TMO actually see that a try was scored in the first instance. Had Mitrea asked the TMO if the ball had been legitimately grounded behind the line he might have gotten a different answer.


It brings to mind Nigel Owen a few weeks ago when he awarded a penalty but there was an additional issue of whether a red card was deserved or not. Again there was prevarication with the TMO and Owen, getting fed up, chipped in that in his opinion there was no intent and no card was required. He then asked "Do you concur?" Of course the TMO concurred.

Ireland’s three options for Olympic dream

Welcome to the F1 of field sports. The men’s Sevens team have earned a place in the World Series by beating hosts Hong Kong 7-28 in the Hong Kong 7s. That means Dubai, Capetown, Hamilton, Sydney, Las Vegas, Vancouver, Hong Kong, Singapore, London, Paris. The glamour.

But not quite the Olympic dream of Tokyo 2020 just yet. For that there are a few more hurdles to overcome, although it puts the Irish team in a better position than they have ever been since rugby was reintroduced to the Olympic schedule in Rio 2016.

Twelve teams qualify for Tokyo with Japan automatically in as hosts. The top four teams from the 2019-20 World Series, of which Ireland are now part, also go through leaving seven places.

There are six continental qualifying events in Europe (taking place in Colomiers in France), Africa, Asia, Oceania, South America and North America with one place on offer in each. That leaves one place left which will be decided in a final Olympic qualifying event next year.

In short Ireland can qualify for Tokyo 2020 in three ways. By coming in the top four in the World Series 2019-20, win the European Olympic Qualifying event which takes place in France next July or finally come out tops a final Olympic Qualifying event taking place in June 2020.

Statistics not telling the full story

It is time to call out statistics in rugby. More and more player ratings are judged on the stats provided after matches. The number of carries, the number of tackles, metres made etc all appear to validate whether a player did well or not. In fact the numbers are used to prove how well a player performed. But is it all just bunkum?

In Leinster's draw with a powerful Benetton side in the RDS on Saturday evening, a number of the home players crunched big numbers. Flankers Scott Penny and man of the match Max Deegan, number eight Caelan Doris and replacement Jack Dunne all made 25-plus tackles during the game. Dunne made 27. As we are very fond of saying when we can't find appropriate words 'those numbers are insane'.

But what do they say about Leinster’s performance and how they gave away ball and territory. On the face of it, the take away is those players did well but why so many tackles?

Leinster were forced to make that many tackles because in a physical contest Benetton forced them to. Benetton enjoyed 63 per cent of the possession on the night and 68 per cent of the RDS territory. Leinster were, on a number of occasions, frantically tackling to save their line. As much as the tackle numbers praised the individuals, it seems they also damned Leinster’s performance.

Conroy clocks fast time

36 – The speed in kilometres per hour Jordan Conroy hit at the Hong Kong sevens when the jets were turned on over the weekend. Usain Bolt tipped 44.72 kph in his 100m world record. But he wasn't carrying a ball in one hand.

Squad rotation

“Certain guys will go away according to our Irish player welfare system, certain guys will go to HPC (Munster’s High Performance Centre in Limerick) training, certain guys will get opportunities in Treviso.”

It could have been Leo Cullen talking but it was Johann van Graan 'spread sheeting' the complexities of squad rotation.