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Saturday, December 9, 2023

Why Ireland games are not as boring as the All Blacks would have you believe – The Irish Times

Ian Foster and the All Blacks are here to save rugby. No, seriously. Listening to the New Zealand coach after their 96-17 drubbing of Italy on Friday night, you’d think they have the game figured out.

Using the metric of ball in play time, Foster took aim at his side’s rivals for the World Cup title, making the point that New Zealand’s style of rugby caters better for neutrals.

“If you look at the South AfricaIreland game, it was a different game of rugby, he said. “The ball was in play for 27 minutes [actually over 29 minutes, according to Rassie Erasmus] throughout the whole game. It was a very stop-start game, very physical, very combative.

“You saw a different spectacle tonight [New Zealand vs Italy] and at some point the world has got to decide which game it would rather watch.”

First of all, New Zealand vs Italy only had just over two minutes more ball in play time than South Africa vs Ireland. Secondly, neutrals would rather watch a tight game over a 79-point hammering, irrespective of ball in play time.

Thirdly, from an Irish perspective, if Foster thinks ball in play is the key then Andy Farrell’s side is sitting very pretty. The World Cup opener, France vs New Zealand, had a ball in play time of 31 minutes 56 seconds (less time than the battering of Italy, I might add). Granted, this was higher than the 29:56 figure of South Africa vs Ireland, but every Six Nations game during Ireland’s Grand Slam run had a higher figure than both, according to the tournament website.

None the more so than Ireland’s thrilling win over France in Dublin, the ball staying on the park for a marathon 46 minutes 15 seconds.

Farrell’s Ireland are adaptable. They have found ways to win both energy-sapping contests where the ball is continually in play and slower, more stop-start clashes.

Whereas for the All Blacks, it sounds like it’s my way or the highway. Adaptability vs stubbornness? Looks like we’ll find out who’s right in a quarter-final sooner rather than later.

Boks’ Battlestats

Speaking of boffins, the Springboks have a new, original stat that they’re convinced gives them a competitive advantage. In a very on-brand piece of nomenclature, Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber have devised their own “battle stats”.

As explained by former ‘Boks coach Nick Mallett on South African TV during the week, this new metric measures how many positive impacts a player has via individual moments in a match.

“If you make a big tackle then get on your feet and counter-ruck, that’s two positive impacts,” says Mallett. “If another player gets tackled and you get over the ball, slow down the opposition ball, that’s another one. If you clean out a ruck, that’s another one. If you make a pass, if you support a player by driving them over the line, they’re looking for positive contributions to the team.”

The ‘Boks also measure the length of time between said positive impacts. The shorter the time between contributions, the better. Mallett said that South Africa measure this data for every player from all of their rival nations, using the numbers to create a ranking system.

The best player at his individual position? I can guarantee it’s not who you think. It’s Kwagga Smith, the backrow who has been a stalwart of the Erasmus era. Apparently, according to Mallett, Smith embodies “perpetual motion” with only one minute and nine seconds between his impacts on average.

Given he was on the bench against Ireland, it begs the question of why he doesn’t start more.

Reidy hangs up the boots

Munster’s double-header vs the Barbarians at Thomond Park over the weekend saw the end of an international career as Fiona Reidy called it a day.

Reidy, a prop, played her last game for Munster having debuted for the province in 2008 while she was a student at UL. During her studies, Reidy lined out for UL Bohemians.

As well as representing Connacht and Ulster, Reidy played 31 times in interpros for Munster. She also had a stint living abroad where she played for Abu Dhabi Harlequins.

Reidy earned 20 caps for Ireland, earning her first call-up during the 2016 Six Nations.

During Reidy’s last game for the province, Munster were outmatched by a Barbarians side that crossed the line seven times in a comfortable victory in Thomond Park.

Munster could only muster two scores of their own in response, Chloe Pearse influential in both. The backrow charged down a kick to set up the first try for Stephanie Nunan before crossing for a score of her own in the second half.

In the men’s clash vs the Barbarians, held immediately after the women finished at Thomond Park, Munster ran out 52-35 winners. Diarmuid Barron, Joey Carbery, Brian Gleeson (two), Shay McCarthy, Josh Wycherley, Fineen Wycherley and Neil Cronin crossed the whitewash for the hosts while Carbery added six conversions.


“We did a special presentation in the sheds with him. I actually had a whiskey. I’m not a big spirit drinker, I don’t really drink, but I said, ‘Mate, I’ll have a drink with you’.” – New Zealand hooker Dane Coles celebrates team-mate Sam Whitelock becoming the most capped All Black of all time.

Number: 242

The amount of points Romania have conceded in just three World Cup matches, an average of just under 81 points a game. They have scored just eight. Here’s hoping for some face being saved in their last clash vs Tonga.

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