Ozer McMahon is here to keep us up to date with the actions of the Irish rugby players plying their trade away from the Emerald Isle.
While the IRFU has always managed to do a good job in keeping the country’s best players in Ireland and keeping the provinces stocked with young local talent, indigenous coaches have found it harder to land the top jobs within Irish rugby. Currently four of the five top jobs in Ireland are held by overseas coaches.
Indeed the Aviva Premiership employs more Irish coaches than the Pro 12 and it is former Ulster coach Mark McCall who has guided his side to the top of league after 4 rounds of fixtures. Saracens are many people’s favourites to win the Premiership having fallen at the final hurdle both domestically and in Europe last season.
Munster fans will also be keeping an eye on Sarries’ fortunes as they meet later in the season in the pool stages of the European Rugby Champions Cup. Saracens cruised to a 40-19 victory over Sale at the weekend which sees them maintain their perfect four from four start.
Fellow Ulster legend David Humphries is still finding his feet in the Director of Rugby role with Gloucester, but the former out half saw his side romp home against newly promoted London Welsh on Friday night. Gloucester spent heavily over the summer and will need more victories like this 10-46 triumph in order for Humphries to test himself against the best coaches at the business end of the campaign.
Last week Humphries best laid plans were undone by the metronomic boot of another Ulster man, Gareth Steenson. Steenson has built an excellent reputation at Exeter and his continued excellence surely merits some international consideration given the current injury travails of Jonny Sexton.
Steenson was joined on the field by Ian Whitten at inside centre for the last 20 minutes. Whitten’s versatility is helping his search for gametime, as he has now played 12, 13 and 14 in this campaign. Steenson kicked 15 points as Exeter put Conor O’Shea’s injury ravaged side to the sword on a scoreline of 36-13. O’Shea later described the performance of his side as “embarrassing and unacceptable”.
Last weekend Peter Stringer helped put the gloss on a hefty Bath victory, this weekend the veteran scrum half almost inspired an amazing comeback at his side fell just short against reigning Premiership champions Northampton. Stringer came on for the last quarter with his side 21 points behind but he helped up the tempo and Bath managed to squeeze a bonus point out of the match thanks to his efforts, eventually losing 31-24.
Having seen the impact Stringer made against Leicester last weekend another former Munster scrum half triumphed over the Tigers this weekend as Tomas O’Leary came on for the final half an hour to help London Irish cause a huge upset by beating Leicester at Welford Road for the first time in 11 years.
O’Leary was joined late on by centre Eamonn Sheridan who appeared from the bench in the 54 minute. Former international prop Tom Court was also part of this historic London Irish 19-22 success, putting in a good hour up front.
Ozer McMahon, Pundit Arena.