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And now you're welcome along much to discuss, the pro 14 interposed continue at the stadium this weekend. Coming Leinster Ulster is at seven thirty five on the Saturday on Sunday Munster take on and as things stand, Leinster Ulster NBA all through to the semis with Munster still best placed to take the last qualifying spot to discuss William Toland. It was on commentary with ER over the weekend and Keane Tracey of the Irish Independent Chance. You're both very welcome Keane. We might start, though, with the breaking news from Ulster Rugby.
Yeah, so Ulster just confirmed that a group of their academy players have tested positive for covid, which is a huge blow obviously, to come in two weeks after the Monster Academy player. They haven't said how many players, but they said a number, which is quite concerning. And contract tracing is underway and one senior player is self isolating. So it's not what you want a few days out from a game and I suppose you'd have to wait and see what implications it will have for this weekend and what had happened in Munster today.
We're pretty sure that they had the virus under control. But the fact that it's a number of other players now is quite concerning.
That's the key point, isn't it? To what extent it's under control in Ulster? Does it put the game at the weekend in jeopardy? This was always going to be a precarious high wire act for Irish rugby.
Yeah, it is. And it just it doesn't just extend itself to the professional game and or the club game is is trying to work out the permutations of what happens if and all the different knock on effects. It's really worrying because just like we had a wonderful weekend, we just come by and only a few short days later, the future fixtures are brought into doubt because of this corporate world we're living in. So it's like it has the potential of of kind of turning out of control, which would be terrible, particularly because we had such a great starting weekend.
Is that just a statement that Australia released came in the last year?
Yes, literally. Just come out now. In the last few minutes, Jozo, the provinces were all tested again this week, I think on Monday as part of the Irish use testing program. Obviously, they've only just got the results back today. So the news is only coming out in the last few minutes. So that's all we know. Like I said, they haven't stated how many cases, but it's just it's another reminder of how precarious the whole situation is, because while Alistair Munster Kynaston Leinster can control a certain amount within their own four walls, like the players still have to go out the public.
And and that's the concern. And it's interesting that it's it's order. It's a group of academy players again, but it's with one senior players when there's quite cut off for the two. So, yeah, it's not great. It's a sobering reminder, like Liam says, because it was such a cracking weekend and you kind of dare to be positive again.
And this is an order, I think, step back and not to put you on the spot at Munster. There was a senior player as well about to isolate, wasn't there?
Yeah. So it was a monster. There was a senior player and five academy players who were identified as potential close contacts. So Alstrom said there's one senior at potential close contact. And again, they haven't given us an exact figure on how many players have tested positive for training has been cancelled for both the senior and academy team. I think that's the protocols that are in place. The same for Munster, and that ended up being pretty costly for a monster because they had to cancel a session that included er behind closed doors game against each other, which was seen as big preparation leading into the Leinster game.
So we'll have to wait and see how much of a disruption it'll be for Ulster, but it's certainly not ideal.
So top of my head thinking, you're hoping that that is the only senior player who's come into contact with those academy players with covid and he promptly test negative and the senior team can get back training very, very quickly. The game goes ahead. And obviously we wish everybody a speedy recovery in the academy. That's kind of best case scenario here. And that is possible.
It is. But I'm sure that there's each club, which would include the provinces, would have a corporate director or whatever title to give them. And he's probably got a bunch of binders and files that he's frantically running through in terms of what exactly to do, because like certainly my own experience, there was a torrent of information, knowledge coming down and just waiting for that first time when you have to open up the phone and say, listen, this is what we got to do.
The more often it happens, the more comfortable becoming it, obviously. But you were kind of fingers crossed, hoping that it would just be let's get on with it now. Let's get on with life. And it's a timely reminder. You just can't take that for granted. Detroit, can you isolate the bubbles down to minute to minute to save the fixtures, essentially, and not just to save the fixture, but we saw a monster with the injuries that they had through the fixture.
So we wanted the integrity of the fixture to survive as well. So you're not putting out a third string side or second. So you want to get the best players on the pitch, don't you?
Absolutely can. As I understand it, there's no hard. Fast rule from an era of your point of view, when there is a positive case, it doesn't automatically mean the game is off. It seems like it's a judge its situation on its merits approach.
Yeah, I suppose it's all new ground, isn't it, for everyone, really. I know in the monster case, in the immediate aftermath, the word was that if you were kind of adamant behind the scenes that it wasn't going to affect the Monster Leinster game going ahead, like I said, because it's more than one individual testing positive, it's hard to know if that would change their thinking. But, yeah, it's still up in the air at the moment.
But I think the one thing I would say is that it was inevitable that we were going to have more cases where it was impossible that you were going to go through rugby's return without getting these things. I think the Cubs will have been prepared, like that's why they're concentrating straight away. So there are protocols in place that also have adhered to just like one started.
OK, well, that's the breaking news again this evening. If you're just tuning in, a number of Ulster Academy players have tested positive for covid-19. One senior player has been identified as a potential close contact and a self isolating. No word that that senior player has tested positive, just that they are a potential close contact of an academy player who has tested positive. We don't have a number on how many in the academy have tested positive. We've been told a number by the Ulster statement training has been cancelled and the public health authorities have been notified.
So that is where we are. And if we'd been talking even half an hour ago, I would I would come on far more and said, geez, it's all gone very well. How was the experience for you? Kind of a conversation? How was the experience for you?
Well, I suppose in a nutshell, it's always a privilege to be involved in fixtures like that, whether you're a player or working in the media, in the crowd. But the weekend was bizarre because working on Lanzarote, it was like, you know, it was like Armageddon had just landed. There was no burger joints, there was no toilets, there was no atmosphere. There was no crowds, no guards. And just I would say without a shadow of a doubt, it was the cleanest, safest, least likely place you could pick up Corbould in Western Europe because I had to go through it and how many gates to get in to eventually get in.
And it was really well-run. I'm not saying that to take the place. I'm saying that is the reality. The one thing I did was a packed a matchday lunch because there was nothing there was nothing to be had. So it was like being in the killing fields during again and in back in the day where there was no there was no capacity or anything. So it was wonderful for me. I was selfishly I was really looking forward to seeing the two South African World Cup winners playing.
One lasted seven minutes. The other played out. And it was I just love the game because my expectation was relatively low for all the obvious reasons in the first game back, etc.. And the word mistakes in the words. And there were certainly times where certain players stood out and there was lot other times where units stood out, but no one really demanded. The entire fixture like Johnny Sexton was fantastic in many ways to just under if you took out his breakdown stills, would that have turned the tide in Lindstrom's favour to really go away?
Because he he was really, really important in slowing down the blue. We've had several times lots of other players really shot the corner Murray had during commentaries. I was reflecting on it how he he clearly is the maturity of all the lines and Irish internationals and all the fixtures he's played into to ease his way into the performance. We saw the on coming on like a million miles an hour. Kanamori didn't Overpressured really, really well, and he gave JJ a really good opportunity.
The questions for me around the nine, ten, twelve, thirteen from a monster point of view remain fascinating because I still think both sides that won the weekend in the Leinster did so off possession and less field position.
So their use of the ball in both cases was easier. The outcome with less possession. This field position was easier and I think there's lots of really interesting lessons around why that is the case came.
What did you make of it in broad terms?
Yeah, by Echo a lot of what Liam said. I mean, you never take this job for granted. And it was it was a privilege to be there. I mean, before you even get to the rugby itself, I just thought it was fascinating to see games and be able to hear what was going on. You got to hear who the vocal leaders were and things like that, I have to say, is I like the protocols and health and safety to get in before and during and after.
We're really good. So, I mean, it would give you hope that we've seen Murray Fielder due to welcome back crowds this week. I think it is. So it would give you hope that when we do finally get in position where you can get crowds, that it would be safe to do so. I was seriously impressed and I think there will be Justin Harper over two days, really capped it off. It was just it was gives a crack and we can leave to pick up.
Then you made several very interesting points to Sexton was very good. If we extend. The conversation to the half conversation generally, and if that is going to be watching these games very closely in light of the carbon use, to what extent did J.J. Hannon take the opportunity, said Connor Murray gave him and also talk to us about Jaka to keep order now and what they thought was very good. And then Maddigan and Billy Burns up and Ulster's. Another interesting scenario.
There's a lot going on with Irish tennis at the moment.
There is, and there has to be done there because of the world we're living in. And just like he's clearly an extraordinarily talented player and I think Chris Farrell is a man in the match for a few reasons which are worthy of looking into. But Chris Farrell, for me, when Onesta were playing at their best, he was playing his best. And when when one started to Egypt know, which is creating that there's a cause and effect to it.
But when you superimpose that on jaja, when the speed the recycled ball was quick, he was at his best. And I feel watching him, the less time he has to think about what's next option, the better he is. And some players are like that. You can see six in the Murray, they can think their way through the game. And there is huge advantages to that because you won't always have a quick recycler to at the weekend that maybe for 30 percent of their ball time they had quicker cycle, but for 70 percent they didn't.
So what's what's a good half supposed to do during that period? And that's the piece that when I'm watching selfishly at a game like this, I'm watching. What's JJ doing during that time? Not necessarily when everything is going well. If that makes sense to you and and you layer in between that, you get Delenda, who's obviously a fresh new guy. You've got Chris Farrell as well. So how much of those two senators will forgive him? Because you want to get to know the system, but how much leadership will ultimately be fed in from those two guys to and to help him control the fixture when the recycled ball isn't as quick as he can do it instinctively?
That's the piece. I think me personally watching him does the piece. If I was a back row player there, I'd be really interested in understanding is in managing the fixture when all isn't going as quickly as we'd like to do. And I think he can do it. I'm not so sure he achieved that on Saturday in that sense, but it was wonderful. Quick, recycled ball. He was brilliant. Like the keeper is try like like Luke Megraw got a reasonable shot and then brilliantly well and a lot of that came from Jaja the speedy ball.
So really good performance from, from Andrew. And that question is just my own personal question mark over how he manages it and how much leadership can come from the centers to help him do that, because he's, he's going to be the ten for the season isn't he. So it's an important part of the journey we should keep a close eye on regarding my character was brilliant to see him back and like, I don't know these guys, how much of a kick in the shins it is if you have a poor patch of form, if your patches form is for Ireland, etc.
So it's just great to see him back playing. And again, it's really interesting to see Comox performance of Less Paul and less territory against Alster, who are a good side too, I just don't think went into the fixture in the mental in the right mental space. But to see him play and play with the joie de vivre, it was great to see all the players playing off them as well. So really, really good. I'm less of less about Burns a ten in Austria and the American obviously started not in ten.
So there's a lot of answers to answer. Like the performance really was was disappointing. No, who you point fingers I, I think is the group entirely didn't go into the fixture the way we would hope they would have done. I think this weekend they have a much greater challenge because if they lose a second time, which is like is possible against Leinster, that's two losses. And they're all going into the semi final against Edinburgh. And I think that would be very poor preparation.
Macfarlane and his team came. What are your thoughts on those various ten options that Undefiled is going to have? We haven't mentioned Rosberg, obviously, as well, but given Sextons age, there is obviously a gap to next man. And who is next month?
I think it's hard to know, really. I think you would. I'd like to see a bit more of Osburn, but that's very hard when you have sex and obviously there and I thought Sexton was outstanding again. You know, just when you start asking these kind of questions, he delivers he delivers a huge performance. I thought Gajanan was was very good. And I still think there's elements of his game that the nuts and bolts that really do need tidying up.
And I know it's I know it's hard to say what he did, Mr Cake, to draw it again. And that's at the top. About half will be judged on. It was a very tough cake. But you mean you've got you've got to nail those if you want to be talked about in Johnny Sextons company, and I think they're all very different, would have put their game on Sunday to kind of gain was an ideal game, I think, for Jack Cafferty, because he just thrives when he has that freedom to play running rugby heads up rugby.
And it was brilliant. It was kind of that their absolute best. And when he gets the chance to play like that, it's all well and good. But that doesn't really translate to the international scene. I would suggest that Saturday's game between Leinster and Munster was much more like an international game. And then some days I had a bit of a preseason feel, Liem as well. I mean, Don McFarlane was so scathing about his own players after the game, saying that the game had been over on the sofa the night before when Edinborough had beaten Glasgow.
So, look, Andy Farrell has plenty of options. I think even if you were to look at fullback, I think is another one that's going to be massively up for grabs. I didn't think Jordan Larmer did himself any favors at all. And it's interesting that Jacob Stockdale is now playing more often at 15. So I think coming into a really busy autumn period, there's there's actually several places, probably more than we thought that are going to be up for grabs.
Yeah, I'd ask you about stock actually at the moment, but just on and your friend is going to pick an entirely new 15 for the monster game. They're back. And all this training, all this work for two games and then they'll head off again for pre-season and we'll see them again in October. How would you sum up the season they've had or the level of progress on the only friend? Well, they're not playing for silverware, so in that sense, it's a sense of disappointment, but you get a feeling there's an element to transition, like he's a number of players.
Is it six, seven, eight players have been kind of are moving on at the end of this season. So you get a sense that they're like the overwhelming evidence of a different if you look at Jakarta as an example, was they just seem to love playing rugby. And they seem to he seems to emphasize hugely that we've spoken about this a number of times. So he seems to emphasize all the positives of how to play rugby. And I got a sense that he feels that his squad just quite isn't good enough to match that type of the style of rugby for a start and also the ability to play that type of rugby as well.
So you can see he's making a number of changes, bringing in new players. So I think it's a sense of transition. I think there should be rightly disappointed on 40 points because they're a reasonable distance away from Leinster, for example, but they're not that far off getting into the semifinal stages. So even though it is a sense of transition, I think there's an awful lot there's some really good quality players within the group that within the group. So I would frame it as a sense of transition.
And I think we should start to get a little impatient if it doesn't begin to kind of miss the the the results in next season.
You might pick up on Ken's point, then Jacobs chucked out in the absence as much as anything of will out of and maybe even at the behest of Andy Farrell is spending plenty of time at 15. Jordan Lahmar generally talked about is looking uncomfortable at the weekend to some extent or other. The 15 situation.
Yeah, like again, I was obviously at the game at the Leicester game. Now we're seeing the evolution of the players. This the Leinster players on the box kick filling the field and giving in Jordan Armor's case the protections they possibly can to give them to feel the ball. I just think and maybe it's just the first game out. I think we could be we don't have to be overly critical of them, I think, because it's the first game out.
But his timing was at times was was poor. In other words, he was jumping into space for the ball, was never going to actually really land. And of course, we were used to seeing and many other players, Girvan didn't see so many players in the Leinster jersey just taking for granted us doing. I think it could we could put down as a as a one off. I think it's really interesting to see what New Colin does. How does he support this?
Because if he starts chopping and changing, I think it could set Lahmar into a negative place over time. I think we should look at it as a one off. The problem is the Saracen's we're watching as well as our other teams that Leinster are going to be playing against in coming times. And that's the that's the difficulty, something you just get right now from a low point of view, the Leinster players were filling into that area, had Lahmar cut the ball the way the referees are going to start refereeing that they're going to start saying, well, you Leinster player, as the ball was in the air, you were fine.
You didn't change your line. But now that line was comfortable. You could be pulled for obstruction. Right. So expect this weekend if Lahmar catches that ball and he's down in the deck. And the trigger giveaway is that the Leinster player, all the players, all the clubs are doing it. They put their hands up in there and they indicate to the ball catcher or in this case, to run through and then just block the oncoming defenders coming off defenders.
So we expect that. So I would say from I personally would give him a free pass. But he's good because if you if you change him now, it could be a cruel blow to his confidence, et cetera. Yeah. Overall, in all those names and a leader like Andrew Conway can play fullback, too, like Andrew Connery, pound for pound. Must be like keycards is outrageous under. Conway is in his shadow in a sense, but he is more than earned the right to be in that conversation as well.
And I very old fashioned to wonder, is he told enough fullback?
Can I look can you see him when you see him? When you see him in the ground on Saturday at the weekend, like he fights for like he was catching ball that taller, bigger men were jumping. They're not getting like he's he's hunger and he's he just doesn't like he just he just won't go away like he just can't get rid of them. Just leave me alone. Let me catch it myself. Why are you always in my face like he's competitive.
Spirit in the air is phenomenal. And he is short obviously. But I think he's well worthy of a conversation. Definitely.
And I certainly be be shame to see when competition really hot sauce for the Irish star, to be a shame to see a player like Andrew. We lose out because I think he's more than earned the right to be in that conversation.
Transform is hard to ignore. And I know he's talked about improving in the ER massively under Joe Schmidt in particular and Kane then that is the stock. I mean, he's played a little bit at fifteen hundred for Ireland as far as I know. What were you saying.
Yeah, so he was on the island under twenty team, that really outstanding team when James Rymes captain into twenty sixteen, the first Irish team to beat New Zealand and when they got to the world under twenty World Cup final and. He was really, really impressive and I was sort of surprised that he didn't kind of kick on more and become I flew back for Oldster, he Saturday was I think was a piece in today's paper was his third start at full back, which is more than he's had since he's basically started his career windows.
So I think that's probably telling in itself. I think the one person I think is worth mentioning in the conversation is Will Adderson. But unfortunately, he just can't keep fit. He's someone I'm really impressed with. Every time I see. I think he brings a sense of calm he brings into play. And I wouldn't be surprised if any. Farrell is having a word in Democrat Farallones ear etre. Now, their hand is somewhat forced, like I said, without Addison and Robert Callicoon is injured as well.
But yeah, I think his position is an obvious one that's going to have to work, work on also its distribution. If he's going to be playing fullback, he's got to bring others into play, which I think is also something John Larimer has to has to learn, because these guys, because they're so explosive and they're so fast and powerful, they tend to do a lot themselves. But I think it's important to bring the players in around you as well.
But I thought there was a lot of like from Stockdale, the way even the way he took his trial. You might look simple, but he times is ruined by hitting that line really good. So I don't don't think there's any question as an attacking force that he's really good. It's just his his defense and the wing has been called into question. And if that's if that has been the case, which it has been, I think teams will target him fullback as well.
But we're still talking about like Jordan or Derek and stuff that they're still young guys. And you think about I think we've been treated so much to Rob Karenni being so safe at the back. And there has been calls to get more of an attacking spark. But I think we've got to be, you know, get the right balance between calling for guys to be running the ball from their own twenty two and actually doing the nuts and bolts of fullback, which it probably went under.
Appreciate it. To be honest with Chiarini boy, a lot of people for years and you might even see him come back into the Leinster team now with what his brother days injury. So there's there's a lot for Andy Farrell to to ponder. But I guess if hopefully if the amount of games that we're talking about, go ahead. Overall, he'll get plenty of chances to look at these guys.
It's funny to look back at 09 and which culminated in the Lions tour where he was just ridiculous in the air Karnig. I mean, we quickly just chalk that up as a given and said, what have you done for me lately? And never really appreciated what we had on the and injury, which is obviously just horrific, dreadful. Like, you can't believe your look, if you're if you're your own fan, Graham, right now, six months minimum, are they going to bring someone else in?
Keane or. I think they were saying they were happy enough as they are.
Yes. I suppose the like first of all, it's absolutely horrendous. Like I mean, you just have to really feel for the guys as well. And also for your own background, who's bent over backwards to to get him in. And another key signing on the back of Joey Carbury being ruled out for the foreseeable future. But the injuries exacerbated by the fact that Jean Cloyne is also picked up a neck injury and is also going to be out for a long time.
So that's a lot of South African beef you're missing in your second row there. So, yeah, they've Steve Larkin was talking today and they are going to stick with what they have. But I mean, if you're if another injury becomes to someone like a Billy Holland or a Tyburn, then you're in serious trouble. I think they do have Thomas Ahern is obviously the name on everyone's lips and everyone wants to see him getting a go. Hopefully we will see him getting to go in under twenty stars.
Absolutely. Such a brilliant year hasn't played yet. And I think to be fair to monster supporters like they want to see these guys coming through, there's a real thirst to see these Academi guys because there is a good bunch coming through right now. I think this weekend would be an ideal time to hopefully see Thomas Ahern on the bench. And I think it's worth mentioning, if Leo Collin and everyone talks about how good Leinster system is and we don't need to go over that like it's sensational what they do, what you call them would have known that or Newman was going to start last weekend and he had absolutely no problem throwing a twenty one year old Ryan Bird up against him.
And he did really well. Now, I know it is like a year older than Thomas are only slightly ahead, but why not? Like, let's get a look at Thomas Ahern this weekend. Monster. She'll get the job done. We're talking about making fifty changes. Why not have them on the bench and give them a chance to get to that? Aviva Yeah, true.
Then we've touched on Jonathan Ulster, the bigger pictures, Ulster psychologically, not in a great place for that game and in this period of transition and hopefully progression. What about Leinster Monster big picture stuff? What did you see at the weekend?
Well, I saw a ferryboat, but I probably frame it in a way that it's how connected Leinster can lay a trap was was much better than how a monster and Australia. And what I mean by that is like you look at Delenda, who he's first going to carry was from a standing start. He was double team Burkean. And and I think Josh underfloor. It was no ground. But the first three set piece where he could have he could have really carried he was used as a decoy.
And I think that was disappointing because I think if you look at what Leinster at their best, they lay these traps all over the place that ultimately they can. Switch the position of the ball and they can attack down and you saw the change literally came from that, where we're trying to slip it on the blind side is a quality on the second row. And then James ought to finish off great hands, 3V to the converted in the way to go.
That's the piece that like if you look at C, just unavoidable. It was phenomenal the weekend. But one thing, if I was, you know, seeing what's the difference? He picked off the base and he obviously zoned in on Johnny Sexton and Johnny Sexton. We've just got to lot as brave, etc. If Seizures Thunder could actually get six and to think he's going to win out. But actually a couple of MGO changes, certainly changes in targets a week or shorter gives an off load that's kind of creating a trap that everyone expects just under to run straight into six and everyone expects six and eight to stand up and try and hit him.
But what would happen if sonder actually use that moment to do something different or if Delenda used that moment to do something different? And I think that's the key differences between Leinster and the two other sides. They're constantly laying traps around, shifting the ball and left it. The New Zealand teams play very across the pitch that they're not they're not massively in debt, whereas Monster, a lot of times are in debt or one or carriers and they're coming out and taking one or carriers, sort of protecting the ball.
And they protected very, very well, whereas Leinster and kind of are doing that. They're shifting the ball around an awful lot. And it is much more difficult to to to get your your defence set, and particularly if there's a blindside because you don't have the ability to kind of blitz on the blind side. So Leinster are constantly trying to create these mismatches and they're happy, impatient to get through to the fifth or sixth phase and then pull the trigger.
And that's the piece that I'm really looking forward to seeing as Monster evolve on the Larkham, etc.. Can they start to do that a bit? And I would say that's probably let's lay a trap in the other two teams are still probably not doing so for a variety of reasons.
OK, a final word to you. And again, on that point, monster work and that bit harder for their tries than Leinster was the general feeling.
Yeah, I definitely agree with that. I think there was a lot of detail about monster shape and what they were doing. You could see more, definitely more of what Stephen Narracan wants them to do. I was really impressed with Chris Farrell, obviously a lot of the match. But Delenda inside of him, I read aloud, freed him up to do more of what he wants to do. I think if there was one thing that kind of summed up the difference between the two teams is, was the guy Ringrose try?
I think Monster still have a habit of going root. One of them touched on there, whereas Robbie Henshaw gets the ball and you're almost expecting him to truck it up the middle. And then he puts in this lovely cake and we've seen how caking has become almost reinvented in the last couple of years. You look at England, the amount of kicking options with Elliott data on fire forwards that they've got in their Bactine, Saracen's do the same, New Zealand do the same to Crusader's.
And Leinster obviously spent a bit of time talking to the crusaders over lockdown, kind of picking their brain in terms of the coaches picking each other's brains. And I believe the caking was one of the big things that they focused on. And we're starting to see that more and more now because Gary Ringrose is a really good kicker, Jordan Lammers. And I think they're to kind of sort of nuances that monster are going to need to introduce their attack to break down defenses like Leinster, because Monster had to work a lot harder, like you said.
And when they're coming up against the tougher defenses, you're going to need something a little bit different, because I still feel like Leinster were in second gear in that game, whereas monster, we're working much, much harder.
OK, well, we'll see how they get on against Sunday, three o'clock. And hopefully we do have Leinster Ulster seven thirty five on Saturday in the game. I'm sure you're back in the commentary booth. Thanks very much. Ken Tracey of the Irish Independent. Thanks, fellas. Thank you.
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