Mon Dieu – that was a tough game – but it’s England Next…

The French in Paris is always a tough game, but this time they were being criticised in the press for deliberately adopting aggressive tactics that ended up with several Irish players being injured. This has meant that there will be changes to the Ireland team for the match against England.

Rugby is becoming a more physical game every year. The levels of fitness and power of the players results in the ‘hits’ being harder and the potential for injury being greater with every match. Fitness works two ways. Firstly to be able to run fast and tackle hard, and secondly to be able to stand up to being hit hard in the tackle. Any instance were a team appears to deliberately set out to injure opponents is unacceptable.

Keith Woods believes that Ireland are going through a transition, as we see the side that has been so successful get older . I know all about that having retired through injury, but with age in there too.

Joe Schmidt has called up Craig Gilroy  who is having a stellar season for Ulster, and I hope he gets some good game time to show the rest of the Six Nations teams what a creative winger he is. It is great to see Stuart McCloskey getting his first cap, in my old part of the pitch, as centre, I am sure he will make an impact, like he has all season for Ulster. The forwards will be all set, with Cian Healy always great to have in the team, an old fashioned up and at them player. The bookies have England as 10 point favourites, but we like nothing better than being underdogs, so it may be a lot closer than that.

Last weekend saw the Quarter finals of the Ulster Schools Cup and the match of the weekend for me was between Campbell College (my old haunting ground) and Methody, who have won it more often than any other school. Campbell were  favourites, which does not happen often, but the side has been together since winning the Medallion (Under 15 Cup) and so has built a great spirit and hope to carry it all the way to St Patrick’s day at the Kingspan. The 11-10 win was closer than many expected, but perhaps flattered MCB a little, RBAI are looking strong, having beaten Sullivan 38-0, but I think Campbell is the name on the Cup.

Meanwhile Ulster lost to Scarletts on Sunday afternoon, a disappointing result. They had opportunities to turn possession into points, but were held on the line a few times by the determined Welsh, and it is to the Arms Park on Sunday to play Cardiff, and hopefully back to winning ways?

I hope you enjoy your weekend’s rugby.