…Big-Hearted Simon Making A Difference Off The Pitch…Cardiff Braced Gor Irish Invasion…Scotland Match A Big Draw On RTE…Say What?…Numbers Game…
BIG-HEARTED SIMON MAKING A DIFFERENCE OFF THE PITCH: Simon Easterby also played with his heart on his sleeve when serving Ireland so well during his Test rugby career.
The affable Scarlets captain, who won 65 Ireland caps between 2000 and 2008, is in the midst of his testimonial year and a number of events have been planned.
Timing it to perfection, with both nations still in the running for the Championship, there is sure to be a big crowd at Easterby’s testimonial dinner next Friday night, dubbed the ‘Clash of the Celts’ Wales v Ireland Six Nations dinner in the grounds of Cardiff Arms Park.
Many Welsh and Irish rugby legends will be attending and anyone interested in securing a table of 10, they are priced at £600. Please ring 0044 (0) 1554 700 600 for further information.
Thr proceeds from the gala night will go to a number of charities, including Temple Street Children’s Hospital in Dublin.
Easterby explained: “It’s nice to give support and help in any small way. I have a lot of friends and family from my mother’s side who still live in Dublin.
“Obviously, with my brother Guy’s connection with Leinster (as chief scout), we’re hoping that some Ireland supporters will be able to come along and support the event.
“You expect hospitals to receive 100 percent funding from the Government, but that’s not the case, so hospitals like Temple Street rely on contributions and all the fundraising they can attract.
“As bad as the days can be when you lose, a child takes the pain away. When you see the struggles that children go through at a young age, it reminds all of us how lucky we are.
“Rugby is an important part of my life, but there’s the bigger picture as well that you can’t lose track of.”
CARDIFF BRACED FOR IRISH INVASION: With so much on the line next Saturday, a huge number of Ireland supporters are expected to make their way to Cardiff for the ‘Super Saturday’ finale to the 2009 RBS 6 Nations.
Planes, ships and other methods of transport will be used as hordes of green-shirted fans try to make their way to the Millennium Stadium, with many of them destined to travel without a ticket.
Ireland’s ticket allocation was 5,500 and those tickets were distributed as normal through affiliated clubs with none going on sale directly to the public.
However, resourceful as ever and determined to be on site for what could be a very history day for Irish rugby, the number of Irish fans that actually make it into the ground is expected to swell to 10,000 or more.
Fans who unfortunately end up without a ticket will be pleased to know that the pubs in Cardiff’s city centre can hold a maximum of 80,000 people so there will be a number of venues from where they can watch the big game.
Cardiff City Centre Manager Paul Williams said: “Once again Cardiff is going to be the place to be for the exciting climax of this year’s Six Nations tournament with both the Grand Slam and Triple Crown up for grabs.
“The event will attract a huge audience, which will be descending on the capital from midweek and culminating in a sell-out crowd at the stadium with hotel rooms full and both leisure and retail outlets benefiting especially as the kick-off is later in the day (at 5.30pm).
“The expectations of Wales and Ireland are at fever pitch and our city will be at the forefront every step of the way as the atmosphere ignites.”
SCOTLAND MATCH A BIG DRAW ON RTE: Ireland’s win against Scotland at Murrayfield last Saturday drew yet another massive TV audience with a peak of 826,000 viewers tuning in during the closing moments of the match.
Of those watching TV during those final minutes, 60% were tuned in to watch Ireland keep their Grand Slam dream alive.
This is RTE’s second highest minute-peak audience recorded of the 2009 RBS Six Nations after Ireland’s defeat of England last month at Croke Park, which drew in a peak of 1.01 million viewers in the closing minutes of that game.
Glen Killane, RTE’s Group Head of Sport, said: “Ireland has kept their Grand Slam hopes well and truly alive by defeating Scotland and we can now look forward to a hugely exciting final weekend of Six Nations action when we face the holders, Wales, in Cardiff.
“Fans will delight in this historic game and we’re thrilled to bring it and the other two final games live and free-to-air next Saturday.”
RTE Two will broadcast live coverage of the final three RBS 6 Nations games next Saturday starting at 12.45pm. There will be live coverage of Italy v France, kick-off 1.15 pm, with Hugh Cahill and Tony Clement commentating.
This will be followed by England v Scotland live from Twickenham at 3.30pm with George Hamilton and Ralph Keyes commentating.
The third and final game will be live from the Millennium Stadium where 2008 Grand Slam winners Wales face Ireland – kick-off is at 5.30pm – Ryle Nugent and Tony Ward will be the match commentators.
As ever, Tom McGurk will anchor all the action with George Hook, Brent Pope and Conor O’Shea on the panel.
“Jamie (Heaslip) was roaring at me from about 15 yards away and thankfully he was there on my inside to finish it off.
“You know the support is going to get to you. You try and buy as bit of time and keep the defenders guessing. I heard him (Heaslip) from a good bit away and I just tried to buy a bit of time and draw the defence.
The line I took was close to the forwards; I knew if Jamie wasn’t involved in (winning) the lineout, he’d be running a support line.”
– Ireland scrum half Peter Stringer describes his involvement in setting up the only try of Saturday’s 22-15 win over Scotland for replacement number 8 Jamie Heaslip
“After half-time, it was a tale of elementary errors as far as we’re concerned. The thing about Ireland is that they are remarkably error-free.
“I thought the attitude of the players was outstanding, the way in which they approached the game.
“In the first half, it looked as if we were on the verge of a special kind of result. In the second half, the attitude was there but the ball wasn’t in our control.
“Then after 54 minutes, when we had a lineout on the edge of the 22, it was extremely disappointing to see our scrum half ‘scragged’ by the blindside winger. Thereafter, we rarely had any joy pushing out of our half.”
– Disappointed Scotland coach Frank Hadden reflects on Saturday’s defeat to Ireland, which saw the hosts control much of the first half before being bossed for large chunks of the second
“Oh I’ll leave that to Deccie (Declan Kidney). I’ve got my own thoughts on that but I’ll leave that to Deccie.
“I didn’t score many when I played and I like to put it down with two hands.”
– With a wry smile, Ireland backs coach Alan Gaffney gives his opinion on the one-handed touch down which Jamie Heaslip performed when scoring against Scotland in the second half at Murrayfield
3 – Jamie Heaslip’s second half score against Scotland was his third Test try this season.
The athletic number 8 broke his try duck against Canada in the first of the GUINNESS Series Tests in November and also scored in the RBS 6 Nations opener against France. If he earns game-time against Wales next weekend, it will be his 15th successive cap
54 – Peter Stringer, the RBS man-of-the-match from the win over Scotland, has now made 54 Test starts alongside Ronan O’Gara as Ireland’s half-backs.
Stringer won his first 79 caps spread across 86 Tests before Eoin Reddan and then Tomas O’Leary edged ahead of him in the battle for the ireland number 9 jersey. He has gained nine more caps in Ireland’s last 16 matches (2 starts)
63 – Kildare man Geordan Murphy will equal Willie John McBride (63 caps) on the Ireland caps list if he plays against Wales next Saturday in Cardiff.
Murphy, who was used as a second half replacement against Scotland, has a very good record against Wales, having scored three tries (two in 2003 and one in 2005) in six outings against them