22 May 2009 www.RUGBY TIMES.com
IRISH LEFT KICKING
London Irish will learn from the mistakes
that possibly cost them the Premiership title
Sky Sports’ main rugby union
HARRISON, says London Irish will learn from missed opportunities
at Twickenham in the 2009 Guinness Premiership Grand Final
RIVING to the Pennyhill Park in behind the Saints’ efforts to keep all
Bagshot this week for the Lions’ their players focussed on what is a
pre-tour media day took years off massive match against Bourgoin
me – no, honestly, it did! OK, I admit tonight.
that it may have not looked that way I understand, too, that
on the outside but, inside, believe me, Northampton have had one day less to
as I got nearer to the hotel that tingle prepare their team this week than
of excitement returned, the one that I Leicester and Leinster have had for
felt all those years ago when attending their own European final. But they did
a similar event in Weybridge prior to not have a game last week and I am
the 1997 tour to South Africa. disappointed as a rugby fan that there
And when manager Gerald Davies was no flexibility of thinking from
opened the news conference in his Northampton.
lyrical way with the words, ‘The show Whether or not the date of the
ELL, in the end, it wasn’t
Indeed, three out of the four semi- frankly, are finally ready to become
is now on the road,’ - he knew and we Challenge Cup final falls outside the
the playing spectacle that
finalists in the Guinness Premiership European Champions for the first time.
knew that after all the hype and talk, international release period should be
we had all hoped for – the
were headed up by homegrown Men like Brian O’Driscoll and Malcolm
our journey had officially begun even immaterial on this one.
2009 Guinness Premiership Grand
coaching talent and, as the season O’Kelly will see this as a day of
though we were still on home soil. It Surely there was time enough for a
Final will be remembered for being
ends, there are seven English, two destiny.
made the hairs stand up on the back of professional like Murray to fulfill his
Welsh and just three overseas directors There is, though, another man who
a great occasion but not a great
my journalistic neck. Lions’ duties on Monday and then
of rugby in the Premiership. This Leinster have acquired more recently
Once the media had done their bit, switch fully on to his task in club
augurs well for the future of coaching who is set to be the one to make the
the first day of ‘Week One on Tour’
But like so many matches in the
colours for the remainder of the week?
in these Isles. difference this weekend.
was all about the players getting to
league this season, it certainly was
It is not a long trip down from the
Australian Rocky Elsom has been
know each other, being issued with kit, Midlands to the Lions’ base in Surrey
tense and, although London Irish
ROCKY CAN PUT TIGERS
simply outstanding this season and
being part of the famous pre-tour and the Lions management had
clearly had their chances, the Leicester
ON THE ROPES
particularly in the Heineken Cup. He
photograph… you know the kind of promised there was no training
Tigers deserved their success, was man of the match against
things. For them, it was not just a involved and that all players would be
regardless of how narrow the win
TOBY BOOTH’s men can now head to
Harlequins in the quarter-final and
tingle but the stuff of boyhood dreams back with their club or provincial
turned out to be.
the beach; for Richard Cockerill’s
could well have been again in the
squad, it is a trip to Edinburgh for
and a day that any new Lion would teams on Monday night.
Irish should have taken those three semi-final at Croke Park - I bet he’s not
anything but a touristy jaunt.
hate to miss. Why deny one player what is a
points when they were on offer just
too far away from the accolade at the
Leicester know they will have to
Therefore, I found it immensely very special moment in his career?
before half-time. Hindsight is a
final whistle on Saturday evening.
play a whole lot better tomorrow than
disappointing that the Northampton Murray was selected as a Lion for,
wonderful thing in life, let alone sport,
If he does win the ‘gold award’
they did at Twickenham if they are to
prop, Euan Murray, was not there to be amongst other things, his
but finals are finals; when a score is so
then he will surely be winning a gold
make it a double triumph by taking
part of it. professionalism and, undoubtedly, he
clearly there for the taking, even with a
medal to go with it. Above all others,
Leinster out en-route to another
Stepping aside from the issue of would have returned home buzzing
kicker struggling at close range, then
Elsom is the man that Leicester must
Heineken Cup title.
communication or the apparent lack of with the desire to repay his club for
history shows that you should bag it if
stop; if they don’t, I reckon the Cup
Leinster looked so hungry in the
it between Northampton and the giving him the platform this season;
will be staying in Ireland.
semi-final against Munster and, quite
Lions, I understand the argument not with his head in the clouds.
Irish will learn from that and a
whole lot more besides as they have LET’s turn to Super 14 and here is a
set does slightly devalue the warm-up
now had the kind of experiences that
confession and a rather sad one at that:
perhaps a team has to go through if Nothing to be scared of...
games as a package.
I’ve watched all games involving the
In 1997, the Lions lost to the Bulls
they are to make their challenge a long South African teams during this year’s
in Pretoria and it would have been
term and sustainable one. competition – all in the line of duty, large, their form has been falling away the Super 14 this season have been the
great to see them have the chance to
We will learn more on that front you understand! week by week. Bulls, the only Super 14 team not to be
even the score. Mind you, at fortress
next season but London Irish look well The conclusion is that, although
However, last weekend there was playing the Lions. Loftus Versfeld, this might have been
placed to push on, despite their defeat the four franchises to be faced by the
a bit of a change as the intense In the ‘Shark tank’ last weekend, the one to get away again!
last Saturday. They have had an British & Irish Lions will provide very
competition in the two Springbok they had the added incentive of the In the absence of the powerful
excellent, if ultimately trophy-less,
stern tests, there has been nothing ‘derby’ games did fire another chance of claiming top spot and a Bulls, can the Lions make it to the first
from the Sharks, Stormers, Lions or warning shot or two for our Lions and home semi-final and, therefore, Test unbeaten? Well, like you, I can’t
Just as an aside, one refreshing
Cheetahs to suggest they cannot be you sense that this was inspired by the possibly the final. And this is the one wait to find out and I’ll write to you
aspect to the conclusion to the English
overcome. South African players’ desire to get pre-tour sadness for me. The fact that from Johannesburg next week with my
season was the presence of two English
At the start of the Super 14 they all selected to play the tourists. Ian McGeechan’s team are not playing final thoughts of the season before the
head coaches on finals day.
came out guns blazing but, by and Of course, the star performers in the Blue Bulls to complete the Super 14 much-anticipated first game.
By SAM THOMAS
NGLAND have made two
changes to their Under-20
TIGERS DUO HANDED UNDER-20 CALL
squad travelling to Japan this
month for the IRB Toshiba Junior
this season, appeared in all of England's centre, scoring 15 tries. throughout this season, while Jack has May 27. The second seeds start the
World Championship. RBS Under-20 Six Nations games this "It's always a shame when you lose been in good form for Nottingham on tournament with Pool B games against
Leicester Tigers pair Jack Cobden year, scoring a try against Ireland in players to injury but in Will and Jack we the wing and in the centre, as well as hosts Japan on June 5 (7pm), Scotland
and Will Hurrell come into the group in Athlone. have two high-quality replacements playing at full-back for Leicester's A on June 9 (5pm) and Samoa on June 13
place of injured centre Tom Casson Cobden, 20, joins the squad at the who have a great chance to make a team, so he gives us extra flexibility." (1pm), all at the Prince Chichibu
(Saracens) and wing Seb Stegmann end of an outstanding season on loan mark on the world stage," said England Both players joined the squad for Stadium in Tokyo.
with National One side Nottingham Under-20 coach Mark Mapletoft. last week's six-day training camp at The semi-finals and finals are
Hurrell, 19, on loan with Coventry
playing on the wing or at outside
"Will's been involved with us Loughborough and will fly to Tokyo on scheduled for June 17 and June 21.
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