Oval Digest: 5 Things We Learned as Warren Spilled the Beats and the Rabo Season Ended
Farewells, new appointments and injuries, here are five things we learned about rugby this week.
1: Ulster top the log
From a winning start to the year, Ulster’s form dipped in 2013, though the Ravenhill massive will be happy to keep the top spot going into the semis. With injuries clearing up, a leader with a point to prove in Best, and captain Muller marshaling the pack, the Northerners will have a good crack at the title. Their knockout journey begins with Scarlets next Friday, a hurdle that should be relatively simple.
2: Undeserved send off for Eric
Connacht went down fighting at home in the Sportsground for Eric Elwood’s last game, though it wasn’t nearly enough to take out an in form Glasgow team. Incoming subs Matawalu and Maitland warmed the Warriors up for another crack at the R.D.S. next weekend, while good old Eric bid a fond farewell. Samoan Pat Lam will take the reins for next year, and Connacht have already made some interesting signings – a NZ U20 capped young openside is said to be the latest.
3: 3 games towards two trophies for Leinster
Facing into a Summer of huge turnover, Leinster look set to give a few nice send offs, after a convincing win over former bogeymen Ospreys. Missing some key men, the Welsh side was fairly comfortably dispatched in the end, with both Jack McGrath and late inclusion Jack McGrath impressing. Departing wing Andrew Conway showed three glimpses of the talent he has all to infrequently delivered on in blue, while another departure, Jamie Hagan held up well in the scrum again.
4: Lions doesn’t live up to the hype, yet…
Despite Sky Sports going into overdrive with grainy shots of tours gone by and re-runs of BOD’s famous 2001 break, the Lions announcement left most feeling a little flat. Gatland, predictably, went for a Welsh captain, with Rory Best the biggest absentee.
The lack of playmakers looks like the biggest worry for the tour, and an injury to Sexton will mean a blunt edge to the backline. Bench impact could be vital, while Irish Lions will make up the backbone of the team, with likely starters at LH, SR, 6, 10 and 13.
5: Leinster close in on their man
With just two guaranteed games left in Joe Schmidt’s Leinster reign of power at this point, the men upstairs seem to have decided on the next power shift. Former Leicester Tigers head coach Matt O’Connor, an Aussie backline and defence guru, will likely be announced as the new man in charge this week. O’Connor has led Leicester to numerous European knockouts and to Aviva silverware. Crucially for Leinster though, he’s a hungry, detail oriented ‘young’ coach with a focus on attacking rugby and a willingness to be in charge. This looks like another appointment in the mould of a Cheika or Schmidt. Time will tell whether he’ll be as effective.