…Crowley Piecing Things Together For Canada…Ireland v Canada: Through The Years…Kiss Settling In Well…Say What?…Numbers Game…
CROWLEY PIECING THINGS TOGETHER FOR CANADA: New Zealander Kieran Crowley has slotted quickly into the role of Canada head coach and it will be interesting to see what results they can achieve against Ireland, Wales and Scotland in the coming weeks.
Having beaten the USA 26-10 in last summer’s Churchill Cup and accounted for Portugal (21-13) in Lisbon last week, the Canucks will be no pushovers.
And although Crowley, who officially took over from Ric Suggit as coach in April, admits that Ireland, Saturday’s opponents, are in a different league in terms of preparation and their professionalism, he feels the Canadians have the capabilities and will to test the home side.
“We are playing an Irish team with 22 full professionals. We have players of differing levels of experience. If you were a betting man, who would you put your money on?”, he said.
“But what I expect from our guys, what I find with Canadians is that they will do anything. You ask them to run through a brick wall and they will do it.
“As long as we can go out there and put a performance in place that we want to and be able to review the game and say yeah, we did this well, then that is what I am expecting – that and a hard game.”
The Kiwi agreed that he is looking forward to seeing some of his English-based players in Test action for the first time this weekend.
“These are our best players for this particular game so we are pretty happy where we are at.
“It is my first experience with some of these guys – we have eight professionals and five of them play Division One rugby in England.
“I had experience with a couple of them in the Churchill Cup but not with the like of Sean-Michael Stephen, who plays for Plymouth Albion, and the Bordeaux Begles lock Josh Jackson. So it will be interesting to see how we go.”
IRELAND V CANADA: THROUGH THE YEARS: Saturday’s clash will mark the fourth time Ireland and Canada have locked horns in the Test arena. Interestingly, Luke Fitzgerald’s father Des lined out at tighthead prop for Ireland when they first met Canada during the 1987 Rugby World Cup.
That Carisbrook pool game ended in a handsome 46-19 win for the Irish with Keith Crossan (2), Hugo MacNeill, Trevor Ringland, Michael Bradley and Brian Spillane sharing out six tries.
Michael Kiernan, playing at outside centre, kicked five conversions, a drop goal and two penalties, while Tony Ward, who partnered Bradley at half-back, chipped in with a drop goal.
A 20,670-strong crowd turned out for the Ireland v Canada friendly at Lansdowne Road in November 1997.
Had Ireland’s most-capped player Malcolm O’Kelly been selected in Saturday’s squad, he would have been the only surviving member from the 1997 side that faced Canada.
As it was, the game will be most remembered for full-back Kevin Nowlan scoring a brace of tries in the second of his three outings for Ireland. Kevin Maggs, Conor McGuinness and Victor Costello also grabbed tries.
The 2000 encounter between Ireland and Canada was a lot tighter, with the Irish needing a last-minute penalty from Ronan O’Gara to salvage a 27-27 draw in Ontario.
Tries from full-back Winston Stanley, prop Phil Murphy and 17-point out-half Scott Stewart shot the Canadians in a surprise 21-8 half-time lead, with Shane Horgan managing to touch down at the other end.
It had been a tough but rewarding tour for Warren Gatland’s men, who lost to Argentina but mustered an 83-3 win over the USA in response.
Ireland fought back in the second half against Canada, scoring tries through Justin Bishop and Paul Wallace, with O’Gara coming off the replacements bench to kick three vital penalties.
Of Saturday’s matchday squad, Horgan, Peter Stringer, O’Gara and John Hayes are the only surviving members from the 2000 panel, while scrum half Morgan Williams and props Jon Thiel and Kevin Tkachuk togged out eight years ago.
KISS SETTLING IN WELL: Les Kiss, Ireland’s defence coach, has been knuckling down to the hard graft since his arrival on these shores in the summer.
With ‘digs’ in Donnybrook now and an autumn series and his first ‘Irish’ Christmas to look forward to, the Australian is excited about what lies ahead over the coming weeks, months and years, but how did his IRFU appointment come about?
He explained: “I was in Australia. I had my name in the running for the Waratahs coaching position and out of the blue came a phone call from Paul McNaughton and Declan Kidney, jsut wanting to touch base with me when they were in Australia (for the summer tour) and see where things stood.
“My situation was that I was hopeful of furthering my career in Australia but this opportunity came up and things just rolled on from there. I was appointed towards the end of June.”
Kiss’ general knowledge of Irish rugby was quite good, with Brian O’Driscoll, Ronan O’Gara and Paul O’Connell readily name-checked, but he concedes that he did not know ‘about the depth of talent here’, before his arrival.
“On a previous visit, I did go to a Leinster training session and see a young Luke Fitzgerald jinking around on the park, it must have been two or three years ago now. So I knew that there was some exciting talent coming through.
“Chris Whitaker, who I had coached at the Waratahs for about four years, I gave him a phone call just to talk about the opportunity and he assured me that there’s some absolutely fantastic talent around the country in each of the provinces.
“Once I got on the ground and could see what’s there, it was quite exciting.
“The depth of knowledge I had about the squad wasn’t immense. But it hasn’t taken us long to get our feet on the ground I guess, and see what it’s all about,” he added.
To watch Les Kiss’ full Irish Rugby TV interview with Jim Sherwin, please click here.
“I was feeling low for over a month, I had no energy, was exhausted after training. I would sleep for three hours, a feat in itself when you have two young kids, and I just couldn’t explain why.
“I tried to train and play my way through it but I wasn’t doing myself any favours.
“I knew I was playing badly but there was nothing I could do – the more I tried the worse it got, at training I could hardly even catch or hold a ball. I just about got by with my scrummaging but I could do nothing else right.
“But thank God it’s over now because it was driving me crazy not to know the cause of the problem.”
– Prop Tony Buckley, who will make his first start for Ireland this weekend, talks about the mysterious illness that dogged his start to the current season. Blood tests revealed that the Corkman was suffering from a form of pneumonia, which was successfully treated
“We only have to look back to the World Cup to remember what can happen to the bunch of 15 guys opposite you when they pull on their national jerseys.
“The levels of pride, emotion and belief in the Canadians will be sky high and they will use Namibia and Georgia as examples of what can happen.”
– Scrum half Eoin Reddan warns his Ireland team-mates that they should take nothing for granted when facing what is sure to be a pumped-up Canada team at Thomond Park Stadium on Saturday
“We didn’t do all the things we wanted to do. We didn’t do all the things as well as we wanted to do. But we did some good things and we did some things well.
“We bounced back after some bad periods. We held onto the ball a couple of times for eight or nine phases. I think for us it shows the growing composure.
“We talked about building pressure from phase play and in the past when we got to the higher number of phases we tend to break down. Part of it was lack of composure and a bit of fitness.
“I think we are definitely fitter than we were at the Churchill Cup and we are growing together. It shows that the individual players are growing, as well as the team.”
– Hooker and team captain Pat Riordan reflects on some positive points from Canada’s 21-13 win over Portugal in Lisbon last weekend
17 – The number of years it has been since current Canada coach Kieran Crowley made his last appearance for the All Blacks and ironically, it was at Lansdowne Road. Gaining his 19th cap, he lined out at full-back for New Zealand’s 1991 Rugby World Cup semi-final to Australia
44 – The number of Six Nations matches prop John Hayes has started for Ireland since he made his international debut in 2000. A remarkable testament to his fitness and how vital a presence he is in the Irish scrum.
That equates to five Six Nations games over each of the last eight seasons. He was not selected for the opening game of 2000 campaign, away to England, but then made his debut in the following fixture against Scotland
11 – The number of years that have passed since prop Jon Thiel toured Ireland with the Canadian national squad. The Bayside clubman, 33, played against Ireland ‘A’ at Ravenhill on that 1997 tour and will win his 43rd Test cap against Ireland this Saturday