QUOTES OF THE WEEK: "The try may never come, but it would be nice to get one in playing 10 years of rugby! I think it is try line fever I have, once I see the chalk, something happens."
- Ulster centre Jonny Bell, capped 36 times by Ireland, tells the Newsletter of his long search for a try after another scoreless 80 minutes in the province's 24-17 defeat of the Dragons last Saturday. The 32-year-old Bell's scoring exploits are not as bad as he thinks, although he really could do better than two tries in the last three seasons.
"O have come over here for a long time and hopefully to get a crack at the green jersey at some stage. But I still have to nail down the Ulster spot and the New Zealand thing isn't an issue."
- Ulster's New Zealand-born scrum half Isaac Boss, speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, reaffirms his commitment to play for Ireland after a man-of-the-match display against the Dragons. Boss, who turns 26 on April 9, qualifies for Ireland through his County Antrim-born grandmother. He missed out on his first Ireland "A" cap against England "A" earlier this month, due to injury.
WHEELCHAIR RUGBY IN CLONTARF: The Triple Crown trophy will be on display at the Irish Wheelchair Association's grounds in Clontarf this Saturday as the Gaelic Warriors Wheelchair Rugby team host Ireland's leg of the GBWRA Coloplast League.
The Warriors will be hoping to add to their one league win to date - a 37-30 triumph over Newcastle in Stoke on March 11. The Irish leg will take place at the IWA grounds over the duration of the weekend, with the match schedule as follows:
SATURDAY, APRIL 1 - 9.00am - Warriors (Ireland) v Nottingham Mauraders; 11.00am - Cardiff Pirates v Newcastle Bulls; Lunch - 12.30pm; 1.00pm - Mauraders v Pirates; 3.00pm - Warriors v Newcastle
SUNDAY, APRIL 2 - 9.00am - Warriors v Pirates; 11.00am - Marauders v Newcastle; Lunch - 12.30pm; 1.30pm - Newcastle v Pirates
UNDER-12S TO DESCEND ON GIBSON PARK: Ireland stars Tommy Bowe and David Humphreys were recently on hand to help launch the annual Four Nations International Under-12 Tournament, which will take place at Malone RFC's base of Gibson Park on April 8 and 9.
The third year of the Belfast City Council-backed event promises to be as hectic and enthralling as ever with teams from Scotland, Wales and England competing with homegrown talents from Munster (Old Crescent, UL Bohemians, Young Munster), Leinster (Clontarf) and Ulster's own Ballyclare, Ballymena, Bangor and hosts Malone.
Bowe, who attended last year's finals, said: "Last year I saw some fantastic rugby you might expect from slightly older players - it's great for the young players to have tournaments such as this at such a young age as it gives them the experience of playing against teams they wouldn't normally get to play and compete against. It's a great learning curve for them."
The teams from England will include the minis from Guinness Premiership outfit Saracens, whilst Glasgow Hawks and Boroughmuir will compete for Scotland, and Caerphilly and Dunvant will fly the Welsh flag at Gibson Park.
...Sean Fitzpatrick - in action for the All Blacks in 1993...
FITZPATRICK: IRELAND COULD GO A LONG WAY: Former New Zealand captain and hooker Sean Fitzpatrick reckons Ireland have the ability to go "a long way" at next year's World Cup in France.
Speaking on Total Rugby Radio, the 43-year-old Kiwi legend reviewed Ireland's 6 Nations performance. He said: "Ireland relied heavily on (Ronan) O'Gara with his kicking game, to get them into positions on the field so that they could unleash their potent backs. In saying that, their forwards struggled at the set piece.
"But they are a team that has developed enough to give me confidence that they could go a long way at the World Cup next year."
The IRB's Game Analyst Corris Thomas also revealed that Ireland, in this season's 6 Nations Championship, had "changed dramatically the number of passes" they throw in a game.
Thomas surmised: "Last year, Ireland were the lowest passing team and lowest rucking team. But in 2006, they took their average passes per game from 106 to 161 - making them the highest passing team in the championship."
SHANNON V BELFAST HARLEQUINS LIVE ON RTI TWO: It has been confirmed that the forthcoming AIB League Division One clash between Shannon and Belfast Harlequins will be televised live on RTI TWO on Saturday, April 29 (kick-off 3.00pm).
The repeat of last year's top flight final, which Shannon won 25-20, will take place at Thomond Park and it could have a very big effect on the line-up for the semi-finals. Shannon currently sit third in the table and are hunting for points for a home draw, whilst Harlequins - back in sixth and nine points behind the fourth-placed Cork Constitution - still have a mathematical chance of making the last four. However, Con do have a game in hand on Andy Ward's side.