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Team of us, everyone.


N Right. Time for us to turn our attention to rugby. And I'd love to say Ronan O'Gara is where this Ronan enjoyer Noel Abbu, many happy returns.


How are you? I like to chat. What's your Christmas actually going to be like this year?


Oh gee, I haven't even thought it. Hopefully my parents will come over because it's a busy time for top 14.


So I'm well, it's a day or two, but kind of like that. I like the. Digging in and taking out for the 25th and then on and off in the twenty sixth. Yeah, no problems with that.


And in terms of the rugby, things couldn't be going better for you guys at the moment.


Oh, I wouldn't be saying that knowledge. I think we've had six home games for away games and one our home games and one half hour away games, which is. Yeah, we've made progress. Absolutely, most definitely made progress. But it's it's early in the season. But yeah, it would be an awful lot more negative, I suppose, after this pre-season if you weren't beginning to see, I suppose, growth shoots. Yes. So we are making progress.




Well, for anybody who's Ozona, where you're currently top of the table at the moment, as things stand, it's a better position to be in than looking up at people.


Yeah, it sure is. That's the other side of it. You I mean, I think when it's good, you got to acknowledge it's good to even for people that are very ambitious and very competitive. But everyone's looking for the perfect game or even trying to tell players the perfect game doesn't really exist. If you could actually imagine if you could play really well for 60 minutes of 80. You know, you'd be really, really, really difficult to play against.


So that means, obviously, if you've had a really good 60 Minutes, your opposition hasn't had really. So it doesn't take a genius to work out what I'm saying. No, you'll win a whole heap of games.


And this is very interesting time of year as well. Certainly the stories that we're hearing at the moment from a lot of agents are that the French and English clubs like to do their business in January so they know what the summer is going to be like. And the IRA feels that aren't having their conversations about contracts until they get a bit more visibility on what the year is going to be like in terms of crowds in the stadium ET. Is that true about French clubs?


Do you like to have all of your transfer signings business done by the end of January? Is there a deadline in your heads or is that actually just agent speak in this part of the world?


It's becoming a very interesting topic. I think. I would say even well before that, no, and that's more, I suppose, getting more experience in the game and especially in the top 14 hour club rugby, it's a business.


So there's a huge amount of financial side to it. And I give you the example of Skelton skeleton, who has signed from Saracen's, and he literally has transformed us. And that's a bit of a sweeping statement. But he's had a brilliant personality, but he's a brilliant rugby player and he's in the front side from side to side. Normally, if you win or lose games. And his profile, I think, to the top 14 is his strengths are really suited to to how we're probably, I suppose, trying to play.


And he has a winner's mentality. So one guy that alone has made a massive difference, but you're always trying to improve your squad, so obviously everyone has had a look at their books throughout the long period of covid in this financial outlook isn't great. So you have to get your signings right.


And even for next season, you know, where I've been made aware that the.


You mean do you on regional budget you thought you had. That's kind of going to be slashed and it's slashed again. So you really, really have to prioritize who you want and and go after those people. So in terms of for next season, it's it's we'd be 90 percent done. Right?


That is really interesting because it means that there are probably going to be some Irish bargains available over the next while. You know, Gordon Darcy was talking to us during the week and he was saying, look, it's got to be a period of Christmas where there are families with kids looking around, going where we don't have any income after June guaranteed. So somebody comes and offers me something for two years or three years. What am I going to do?


I'm going to I'm going to tell ya, if you are going to say, well, look, you know, we're not going to do anything for another couple of months. The bird in the hand, two in the bush, like, yeah, yeah.


It is a great it's a very, very. I mean, a realistic proposal are very realistic opportunity, depending on how you see it, and every player is very different. But I think also there's probably a mis perception or a misunderstanding in terms of the opportunities in France.


So, you know, we're allowed to have an 11 Nanji players next season, which means basically people who haven't had five years in a French set up as a as a young player between the ages of 18 to twenty are five years of a license, for example, from the ages of under eight to under 18.


So I haven't checked, but I knew I would be talking to you about this. And I think my my kids are qualified now because they've had a far license for five years, which is not a bad thing to have if they were to take the RoboRoach.


But in terms of how you can actually select your team from for a weekend, if I just explained to you, you can only have next season. So 17 of your twenty three have to be qualified. So, I mean, in terms of being able to you can go after any players in the world to sign them to play with Larochette. Let's play a French team. But you're only allowed 11 in your total squad. So there's a skill and that in itself is a skill.


And you can't select your, I suppose, most performing rugby team every week. There has to be a balance because you get nailed financially if you don't allocate enough players on your team sheet, if you can follow me.


Yeah, totally. Like, OK, it's really fascinating because it means that the there's an opportunity for teams to be smart. It's not just you against all the money the whole time. The the other sports, if you were on city, eventually your money is going to automatically guarantee that you're going to have the bulk of success with with this system, at least a little bit of room for you guys to be clever, at least so you can counterbalance the money that some of the owners are injecting.


Yeah, but also I think the players are becoming smarter, too, and I think, you know, the days of a one club man are over Beja.


I think the landscape is changing very, very quickly and the opportunities for certain players will always be there and they'll always be attractive. So it leads into your question about certain Irish players, but a lot of them would have, I'd say, have their homework done and they'd know of their position in terms of where they lie in the Japanese market, in the French market or in the English market as opposed to the domestic market. So these guys, I'd say, would have that way it up and then they have a decision to make.


But there's a reason they have a decision to make because they're obviously very good players and they're sought after players.


But a lot of players, I suppose, that are playing the club game plan for the provinces, it's not a good position to be in if you don't really know, especially if you're you have children in your and you're providing for your family. If you don't really know for months where you stand, that creates problems for everybody. Yeah.


Especially at that stage of your career where you're in your early 30s and you feel like you have a couple of years of top quality rugby left and this is your chance to cash in. One last question on this before I talk about the game at the weekend, there was certainly a period of time. There were a lot of French clubs wouldn't speak to the Irish players because they kind of felt like they were being used as bait to try and puff up the contract in Ireland.


Has that gone? Is that is the market change now or actually there will be. Do you expect it to be a few more hours players this year because of the circumstances that the Irish who find themselves in?


Yeah, I didn't. I just. That question probably on on a general scale, I probably have to apply that to an individual, as someone like Taig far along would be very attractive in the fact that he's world class. TATGE And I think his personality would be very adaptable to playing in whatever club he is. Yes, there's a driving force inside him that he wants to play for Ireland. So he has to make that trade off in terms of what he wants to do.


But I think to answer your question, you may well find that the Irish players will end up in the premiership are in France this summer because of maybe because of the the idea of a different challenge that that that is most definitely there. But I think the idea of of Debenham, I suppose, mass emigration, that will never happen, because the reality is, you especially know for six nations is an awful lot of domestic that takes place in the top 14 when the six nations are on.


But where are we with this unwritten rule? Are, for example, you mean it's too far along? Was the same for for Larochelle. Is he going to be not selected for Ireland? That's a difficult one. And if you're the president and if he's playing for Ireland, he wouldn't be that not attractive. I suspect that make a rule for Tiger because he's world class, the same rule made for Johnny Sexton, but somebody who's maybe on the in and out of the team at the moment.


I wonder if Peter Manning decided that he wanted a new challenge in life, for example. I'm not sure that they would pick him at this stage, but actually he would clearly be worth the place in the matchday squad. So and you can see somebody like him maybe thinking, actually, this is the right thing for me to do. Would you have gone there and expect as a player and played out your last couple of years if it meant you couldn't have had those last couple of years with Ireland?


I know. And to be fair, it's different times. I think it is. I was part of a club team where we are brought up on on loyalty and being unbelievably competitive. I'm like posterboard a broken drum for repeating. I played in 10 semifinals in Europe. There wasn't the bigger Boston that, you know, there was something that meant so much so that there was definitely offers to go. But as you said, you know, you've got to do a bit of a SWOT analysis and kind of weigh up what you want to do when your career is very short at the same time.


But at my time, you just can't leave Munster. It's too good. Yeah.


Now that's fair enough. And I guess things are definitely it is a different era now and I guess. Yeah, it is. And there's different opportunities and I think an awful lot of players are an awful lot more mature and they've probably started professional as a long time before we ever even thought about it. So they're quite advanced.


And yeah, it would have been really interesting to see what Pocono's career in France would have looked like as a player and how that would have fed into what happened and how many other people might have followed him along that path, given unfortunately didn't see it because of the injury. But I can see that there's probably there probably will be a trend in coming years where players were reached in the end. We'll go for those couple of years and see what that experience is like.


And, you know, even Rob, having experienced that, he's going to have that in Australia.


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Can we talk about the game at the weekend? And if I picked a very strong team for this match, the whole idea of this not being too important in the overall scheme of things, that's out the window because he's picked the team to win the game.


Yeah, of course he has. Yeah. But I think because there's probably been a I suppose, quite a backlash in terms of negative performances up to this point. So all of a sudden the narrative has changed. The fire has picked a strong team. Of course, he's picked a strong team.


He needs to win this game and he wants to win this game with these players that play for Ireland are good players. They have been good players for a long time. We've lost to what, England and France and and that can happen. But the other side of that, I think, is probably it's been managed or some performance of the Jahjah game was was dire. And I think, you know, that has to be said, the way his game was very far to go.


But whether our in the doldrums, there's no doubt about that. So I think this is probably a great indicator of a team under pressure, a team needing a performance.


Can they produce the Scots? Obviously, we dealt with them very well at the World Cup. But, you know, there were there was a Scottish team, which seemed to be tearing itself apart a little bit, had had internal affairs in the camp. They seemed to have progressed significantly from then to here. And we're unfortunate to lose against Ireland in the Six Nations last year. This is this is a good opportunity for them to say, OK, for Ireland to say we do have a plan.


You can see it here against a team who are improving and to take a break there before the six nations with some confidence as opposed to a lot of doubts. So there's a lot riding on us. There is.


There is obviously the result, too. But I think the performance and potentially the way I suppose Ireland would play the game, that's interesting to people, too, because people are looking for a shift. But when hope is played well, it's played pretty similarly by a lot of teams. If you win the collisions, you get in the front foot and you can kind of dictate the tempo of the game. We saw that against England in France. We didn't do that.


So it makes you look very average, especially the halfbacks. And that's what happens, I think, from the science point of view against Scotland. What is a major advantage to them is the fact that there's a new cap of ten and that's never ideal. If you're trying to, you know, jako vanderveldt will be so much better in ten games time than he is tomorrow. That just happens in test from Vienna at the start of your career. Scotland without Finn Russell are different team.


I'm absolutely convinced about that. And in the modern game, he's he's he's very hard to. Offended because I think he actually is the most instinctive player probably playing in Europe and he just trust his instincts, sometimes that backfire, as we saw once or twice in a European Cup final, but also without his instinct rushing wouldn't have got to a final. So they'll be weakened in the number 10 position. I think it's a great opportunity for for for the young Scottish Ten coming in, making his debut there.


I think the Scottish bench looks interesting. You look at their at their box replacements, the Dego clan playing there's. Maitland was obviously very, very experienced and its Jones is this huge Jones and I think is the other sub replacement and hugely experienced. So that's a lot of jobs.


There wouldn't be when you're on the pitch, for example, away from home and you see one of the three of them coming in, which will every happen, I think that would give a lift to them, because sometimes in Scottish teams over the years, you may be looking at or who's coming on here that's going to. Is this going to add or take away from us? I think they have a very underrated coach. And Steve Tandy, I spent a bit of time chatting to him.


And when I did my two seasons in Super Rugby, he was coaching the Waratahs, made a big input there. And I think he was head coach with the Osprey's, now specialising in the defence and their points conceded in last year's Six Nations, I think was ridiculously low so that they had more stuff in our plan from and I think they've they've tightened up a lot of things.


I just wonder tomorrow. I don't think if you number off, I don't think they have the quality to match Ireland. OK, so we would expect an Irish victory given the quality of performance and the quality of the team that we have and the experience that we have in the team, how are we trying to play? That's been the overarching question over the last three or four weeks. And we haven't really you know, we've heard this phrase has a rugby and then we heard any kind of quite pissed off with how the team played over the last couple of times.


What are they actually trying to do and why is it not working?


Well, I think, you know, Roger, I think what they're what they're trying to do and I'm speaking is, of course, they're what you're trying to do is you're trying to.


You're trying to get over it again to play a fast ball, and then you have a kind of an option of A, B and C, you know, that heads up probably a lot of people are probably making fun of that. I don't agree with that. I think it is the right way to do it. But it's not just heads up and heads up as if you've thought about it for the first time. So there would be a plan.


There's very different ways of positioning your forwards. Ireland seem quite similar to a lot of attack orientated teams, how they position their forwards in a kind of a one three, two, one one or a one three two to set up. And and and they play from that and they get within their game. And you saw against Wales and Italy, it worked, but it didn't work even last week. And it didn't work because I felt probably the scanning between the inside box wasn't on the outside box and the level of communication wasn't as effective as needed to be to identify where the space is.


So they need to identify where the space is to get into that space and then their game rolls push. And I think. There's never this I. I think there's probably been an overemphasis on what Stihler Ireland trying to play, they're trying to play like any smart rugby players are trying to do. They're trying to get the better of their opponents with quite a simple game plan. But the reality is, if you don't get over it again, I know if you're knock on doors, you don't win the Lino's.


It's hard to launch your game. OK, so we can't judge just yet until they fix this up and once they fix this. No, but I think the phase game was obviously was disappointing in charge of the fact that these guys are big men. And I think they were probably vulnerable to a little bit more footwork. But we ran probably consistently into brick walls where if there was a little bit of variation in terms of identifying a channel are to wager there would have been big opportunity.


But that that's I think it takes a few games to get to that stage and also. With the team, you have to ask where the confidence is to, you know, it's it's so underappreciated at top level sports, the teams I can remember myself from playing like the days when you go on autopilot, you don't even have to think of the game is so easy as the days when, you know, I mean, you have an hour or two with your first two actions and you're beginning to feel under the pump a little bit and you kind of go into your shell.


And if that's multiplied by even five in the box, it's not a good sign. I think it'll be good tomorrow to see where Henshaw's is. Individual try again. France leaves me scratching my head in the fact how good a score is that? But when did we see that? Before the game. Because if he has it in the locker room, it needs to come out more often and, you know, you see Lenzer, he can fling passes off your hands beautifully, he can play ball games, but we haven't seen enough of it.


Is that is that the malaise of the collective or is it. Is it down to the individual? I can't answer that because I he came into training camp when I was there, but I never really got to have the the great conversations with someone like Rob Henshaw.




It's just that it's replicated along the way. And it's not just the banks either, that so many of them don't seem to be playing to their potential at the moment. You definitely feel like this or listen to it feels like we need to have a patience with what Farrell is trying to do. And maybe at the end of the Six Nations, we can say, well, OK, there are clear signs of progress. He's got the team to a point where they're comfortable and they're confident in understanding what their responsibilities are, is giving them the confidence to play within that system.


Yeah, I think also, too, and the fact is probably worth mentioning, you know, you've gone from probably one system where I would say it was so coach driven to nowhere.


It's just kind of gone to empowering the players and that shift, because in Ireland, as we know, Gedera, the turnover of players between the squads hasn't been that great. Yes, there's been a few new caps, but the majority of the squad played on the job and now they're playing under under under fire as management. And they seem to be and I'm not able to comment from the outset because I haven't been in that camp. But it seems to be two very different, different approaches.


Bordewich Massive strengths. And we've seen obviously you don't mean hajo change.


I suppose the landscape for I shall be no one is doing it in a different way, probably more collaborative approach where he is back and his players and he's investing in them to drive standards, to drive game plans, to drive decision making. But as he said himself, against charges, that isn't good enough. And if it continues like that, then well, may maybe it has to become more more cultural ownership. Yeah, OK.


It sounds like a vehicle in order to win. Yeah, I am, I am, I do I think there's a big performance in the team. I watch a lot of these players regularly. I think I think they'll come out firing.


Right. Run and enjoy the game. Thanks a million. Cheers, Sinja. Thank you.


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