Leinster & The Lions

Well, they did it. Those boys in blue managed to succeed where the mighty Munster failed by winning their first European Cup final. If you got to watch the match, it was highly entertaining. A close score throughout kept the interest alive, with some good performances on both sides. Johnny Sexton played at the top of his game, which I felt was needed for Leinster to succeed. He showed great confidence to score his drop goal, and great nerve to take the final kick to win the game. Brian O’Driscoll showed once again why he’s having one of the best seasons of his career. Rocky Elsom was quite simply immense. Check out the clip below for some of his contributions during the game.

Check out that hit on Tuilagi! Quality. Anyway, the homecoming on Sunday was attended by several thousand fans, who turned up at the RDS to welcome home the new Heineken Cup champions. But, that of course means that another great season of European rugby has come to an end. Boo hoo!

The Heineken Cup stays in Ireland

The Heineken Cup stays in Ireland

Of course, there were four players missing from the homecoming event. Notably Brian O’Driscoll, Rob Kearney, Jamie Heaslip and Luke Fitzgerald who were all several thousand feet in the air on their way to South Africa. Yes, the rugby is not over just yet.

Injury has struck several players who were meant to be on that plane. I’ve already mentioned the loss of Tomás O’Leary. He was replaced by Scotland’s Mike Blair. Tom Shanklin (of Wales and Cardiff) became the second player to be lost to injury, but it was decided not to replace him. Another Munster man, Jerry Flannery, was replaced by another Scot, Ross Ford. Alan Quinlan was replaced by Leicesters Tom Croft, after failing to win his appeal against eye gouging in the Heineken Cup semi-final. Welshman Leigh Halfpenny dropped out of the tour, electing to have surgery on a knee injury. He is expected to rejoin the tour about halfway through. Because of this and the loss of Shanklin, James Hook has been called up to the squad.

So there’s been a bit of chopping and changing. Munster have suffered worst, losing three (although Quinny can only blame himself). If previous tours are anything to go by, then the injury list will not end there. James Hook is one addition to the team that I feel should have been included from the start. He has been brought in for his ability to play both centre and out half, but I feel he adds a different aspect to the No. 10 jersey that Jones and O’Gara don’t have. Looking ahead, the Lions have their first game on Saturday, against an invitational Royal XV team (K.O. 2pm GMT). The second game is on Wednesday, against the Golden Lions (K.O. 6.10pm GMT). All games for the tour are shown on Sky Sports.

Coach Ian McGeechan has already said that Saturday’s team will feature no Leinster and Leicester players. Apart from that, predicting the team is going to be impossible. McGeechan has already said he wants to avoid the weekend team and weekday team division that has been the norm on recent tours. So one can expect a large amount of experimentation, especially in the earlier games.

Ireland continue their tour of North America, with a match against USA Eagles, who are now coached by Eddie O’Sullivan. And no, I didn’t forget to write about the Canada match, I just don’t think its worth writing about. It was a poor performance and a boring match. The match is being shown live on Setanta Ireland, Sunday at 9pm.

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