Munster’s new signing, Jean de Villiers, looks set to break De Wet Barry’s record as the most capped Springbok centre when he lines up in midfield for the 40th time against Australia in Capetown next Saturday.
The Boks, the reigning World champions, go into the Tri-Nations clash with the Aussies having beaten the All Blacks twice on the bounce to command pole position at the top of the table with eight points.
de Villiers inked a one year deal, believed to be worth in the region of €350,000 per annum, with an option on another twelve months, with Munster last month, but Reds fans are keen to know if he will be eligible to play in the upcoming European Cup.
The 28-year-old, who is contracted to Western Province until October 31, will join Munster after the Tri-Nations. However, the registration deadline for the European Cup is September 17.
It ‘s understood that Western Province will release de Villiers, who played in two of the first test against the Lions this summer, in time for next month’s EC deadline, but there has been no confirmation yet.
Meantime, Vive la France ! French prop Julien Brugnaut will create a piece of rugby history in the upcoming season when he becomes the first French international to play for Munster.
Brugnaut penned a one year contract with the two times European champions last week, with an option of another twelve months – and then admitted that he was having difficulty coming to terms with it all.
He told French newspaper, L’Equipe:
I am living a dream. My agent Miguel Fernandez warned me that Munster were interested. At the start of last week, he called me to say we were going up to Dublin to meet their directors. It was unbelievable.
It is all the more unbelievable as the 27 year old ex Montpellier and Bordeaux-Begles ace has been without a club since the end of last season after bidding au revoir to French side Dax.
He added: I gave up my contract with Dax in view of joining a top six team in France and I find myself in a top six team in Europe. I’m still having trouble believing it !
Every Leinster player was better than his opposite number, with the possible exceptions of Doug Howlett and Jerry Flannery.
Leinster were better than us and we have no cause for whingeing. The better team won.
The first half was played almost entirely inside our 22, it seemed to me, and whenever Munster counter-attacked, Leinster dug in with the sort of intensity we’ve never seen until recent times. They defended everything and Munster rarely looked likely to score anything. Going in at half-time only 11-6 behind, I thought we were lucky to get off so lightly, and the other Munster supporters I spoke to agreed. Everyone felt unhappy with the shape of the game.
I don’t know what the plan was. Did the management team become complacent? Did the players just assume we’d win? I’d find that hard to believe, but nothing is impossible. On the other hand, credit has to go to people like Brian O Driscoll, Luke Fitzgerald and Rocky Elsom who had a huge game, and who was, in my opinion, instrumental in the Leinster win. We were never going to shove the ball over the line, and they stopped us from running it despite one or two nice Munster breaks.
When O Driscoll intercepted a pass and ran the length of the pitch to score a try between the posts, we were dead. There was no coming back from that.
All in all, it was a comprehensive win for Leinster which they fully deserved and there can be no complaints about it.
The atmosphere in Limerick reminds me of the old Max Boyce story about a funeral inthe valleys. As they were burying the deceased, one of the mourners was listening to the rugby on a small radio, and just as the coffin was lowered into the ground, word came through that the local team had lost.
You know, he said, it cast a terrible gloom over the whole thing.
A gang of likely lads headed off to Girona last Wednesday and I havent heard a word from them since. They were planning to pick up a car and head north, stopping in Andorra for a couple of days to do a bit of skiing.; That was the main reason I dropped out, even though my flight was booked and everything.;
I have no interest in skiing.; Could you imagine me tottering around on the nursery slopes, grunting at people who tried to help me.; Fuck off you miserable Andorra-type bastard person!; Not for me this skiing business.
Of course, as you know, my decision turned out to be prescient indeed, since all of northern Spain and southern France were attacked by a goddam hurricane yesterday, forcing the postponement of the match.; I presume that such storms are no respecters of tiny Pyrenean principalities, and therefore it only seems logical that Andorra had the shit blown out of it too.
So heres the question: where are the lads?; Did they get blown off a mountain? During todays match, I received not even a single text, despite Munsters rampaging 39-13 dispatch of Montauban.; This is unusual.; Normally you cant shut them up, and now Im worried.
Where are the muck-savages?; Did they make it to Montauban at all?; Did they see the match?; Do they even know we have Ospreys in Thomond Park for the quarter final?
If youre reading this in south-western France or northern Spain in the Toulouse – Barcelona region, would you keep an eye out for a bunch of rough-looking customers, unshaven, beer-headed and wearing slept-in Munster rugby shirts?
Storms have forced the postponement of the big match until tomorrow. Hundred-mile-an-hour winds are causing havoc in south-west France and northern Spain, and the match organisers have been forced to cancel today’s game for safety.
This is a bit of a problem for all those Munster supporters who travelled to Montauban and Toulouse because many of them have booked return flights for tomorrow and they’ll have to miss the game. I was supposed to go myself, but for various reasons decided not to travel. Bock the psychic.
I’ve been in contact with some of our people in France and they report very difficult conditions, but they’re doing their best. They’ve all taken shelter in Trevor Brennan’s pub and they’re doing their best to survive by drinking beer and singing.
I gave the Bullet another heap of money to fuck off around town and leave me alone for an hour.Ã‚ The Big Fella, the Small Fella and the Young Fella are in some filthy drinking house trying to kill their hangovers, while the Stoned Fella is wandering the streets propositioning young ladies, as usual.
Nearly there now.Ã‚ Yesterday was a bit extreme as we dragged the last out of the celebration, ending up in some foul, reeking bordello boozing with swaying cripples and shifty Lascar sailors.
This must end.Ã‚ I am not a young man.
This evening, we fly home, if all goes to plan, and I intend to sleep for a week, but first I promise to put up some pictures, and I’ll give you a full account tomorrow.
Tomorrow, Munster meet Gloucester in a make-or-break crunch game that will either see us progress to the semi-finals or crash out of the competition.
Already, we’re wondering why Tomás O Leary is in and Peter Stringer is out. Why there’s no place for Shaun Payne. If Paul O Connell is up to a full game. Why Foley isn’t in the starting fifteen. If Quinlan will keep his discipline. What magic Dougie Howlett will produce.
Make no mistake: this is a serious business, and folks around these parts are serious about it. The travelling multitude of Limerick people have already left for Gloucester, and those left behind are starting to wear that tell-tale anxious frown. Two years ago, when we beat Biarritz in the final, Bullet and myself were among that travelling host, and perhaps if we make it through this year, we might go again, but tomorrow we’ll have to settle for the telly, along with a hundred thousand other Limerick people.
Tomorrow will be a grim day of cheering and Guinness and hands over eyes and more beer and more cheering and hiding behind chairs and screaming and looking through your fingers and jumping up and down and with any luck everybody hugging each other and more Guinness. And a party one way or the other.
Munster 16 — Gloucester 3
Well, that was a comprehensive win, wasn’t it? I take back everything I said about Declan Kidney’s selection. I was wrong. Tomá¡s O Leary had a fine game at scrum half and so did Denis Hurley at full back.
There were no passengers on the Munster team. Everyone pulled their weight and some were absolutely faultless. Doug Howlett gave everything and was as effective in defence as he was in attack. The back three were simply beyond comparison, and Tipoki at number 13 was terrifying. Ian Dowling returned from injury at number 11 and showed the kind of skill as a winger that would earn him a place on any team in the world.
And that’s only the backs.
Do you want to talk about the forwards?
Paul O Connell? Massive.
Freddy Pucciarello? Savage as ever.
Donncha? Do you need to ask?
Denis Leamy? Maniac.
I could go on with this shit all night, but you wouldn’t listen. Look. Let’s just confirm that Munster went to the cauldron of Kingsholm, the home of Gloucester rugby, and dismissed the home team summarily.
But let’s not show disrespect to the Gloucester side. I was proud of Paul O Connell when he gave the post-match interview, because he didn’t gloat, nor should he. Paulie acknowledged that we were lucky when Chris Paterson missed the three penalty kicks, giving us momentum, and without that it could have been a lot different.
But it wasn’t, and now Munster march on to the semi-final. Keep the faith.
Isn’t that a bastard, after I had it all figured out? Jerry was suspended for eight weeks, keeping him safely away from any injury in the Six Nations, but back in time for two Magner’s League matches to get him nicely match-fit in time for the Gloucester game. What could be better?
But look now what’s happened.
An appeals committee have decided that Jerry didn’t deliberately stamp on Julien Bonnaire. He was reckless, they said, and reduced his suspension to four weeks.
This is terrible news. What if Jerry gets injured playing for the Stepford Fifteen? Where does that leave Munster?
Message to appeals committee: You’re wrong. It was a vicious assault. I saw it myself on the telly.
Like Ronan here, I went home with two smiles on my face, and Bullet had another two, but that was fine. There were enough smiles to go round for everybody last night, and even though we were all soaked to the skin, nobody cared. It isn’t every day you welcome the mighty London Wasps, reigning European Champions, into your football ground and send them home with nothing.
My God, did it feel good.
And let me add that London Wasps are not only the Champions, but a very hard crowd of bastards indeed. Serious professionals led by a consummate professional in Lawrence Dallaglio, and an outfit to be both respected and feared. A bunch who did not come here for fun, or for a weekend in the pub, but to extinguish our challenge. Unfortunately for them, it didn’t work that way, as Munster calmly and professionally dismantled them, outplayed them, outwitted them and sent them home bereft of title and of hope. And wet.
(By the way, Wasps have an excellent blow-by-blow match commentary on their site here).
It was a grim day. Grim. Damp. Brooding and dark. Did I mention grim? It rained, and then it rained some more. And then it rained. It was one of those days when you’d prefer to be stranded in the middle of the Sahara, with volcanoes erupting all around you and an iceberg crushing you to death while wild Tasmanian devils gnaw at your armpit. At least it wouldn’t be raining.
Wasps started well with an early three points, but that was the end of their success and we went in at half time, ahead 9 points to three. When Dougie Howlett put in this tackle in injury time, Wasps knew they could look forward to a testing second half, and Munster fans began to relax, after they’d stopped laughing.
Now, my friends, I have an apology to make. I’m afraid the quality of photography is poor because the dampness, and the rainingness, and all the wetness steamed up my lens and eventually forced me to put the camera away for its own safety, but still, I have a few of my own pics for you as well as the ones I stole from Wasps and Munster Rugby.
Here’s the half-finished construction site that we call our stadium. It’ll be great when it’s done, but right now, it’s all a bit strange and a bit surreal, and probably an intimidating place for most visitors, though not for London Wasps who really don’t care what the supporters think of them. I mean that as a compliment.
And here’s the Munster crowd: fine honest upstanding men and women every one of them. A bit blurred, I’m afraid, but you have to remember these pictures were taken underwater.
I noticed this outside a church on the way to the game, and it gives you some idea of how rooted rugby football is in this town:
This is just a miserable shot of a miserable day as people make their way there.
And these are the mounted police. So necessary at a rugby match in Thomond Park, where there has never in recorded history been a single instance of crowd trouble and where any sort of ugliness, except on the field, would be unthinkable. Still, the horses looked nice.
Here’s a few action shots in the murk and the mud.
There’s Lawrence Dallaglio, encouraging his troops during a lull in the game. The crowd love him and hate him at the same time. They sang Cheerio when he was sin-binned, and booed him when he came back, but you just know that every one of them wants to bump into him in some Limerick pub after the match and talk football.
It was wet. It was damp. And it was cold. I put my camera away to save it from destruction, and then, when it was safely in its bag, Denis Leamy went over the line for the try, right in front of us. Shit! The crowd went apeshit, Wasps’ heads sank chestwards, and the sky began to clear. I kid you not. Once Munster’s victory was assured, the elements decided they’d done their job and closed up shop.
We left the ground with only the lightest of mists swirling around in a light breeze, and as we strolled back to town, Bullet turned to me.
You know, he said, I’ve just realised something. Wasps are out. Clermont are out. And we’re through. Who’d have thought it?
You know, Bullet, I replied, you might well be dead right. How about that?
And then we went for fish ‘n’ chips.
——————————— I love this
This is the draw for the Quarter Finals on the weekend of 4-5-6 April.
Was that simply astounding or what? I’d safely say that the first half was one of the worst performances I’ve ever seen by Munster, and the second half was one of the best. When Munster went in at half time 20 – 3 down, I really thought we were screwed, and although I know we still lost, we got what we went to France for: the vital bonus point. Now it’s down to an old-fashioned slug-it-out showdown here in Limerick next weekend between our guys and London Wasps, a hard crowd of bastards.
Aha! Last time we met, they beat us by one point, and that was in their backyard. Wait till they come to Limerick and we’ll see what they’re made of.
It looks like we might be without this fellow.
Jerry seems to have inadvertently viciously stamped his boot into the face of Julien Bonnaire and it looks increasingly likely that he’ll be cited for it, with a good chance of being suspended. Not good.
Nevertheless, yesterday’s second half was a truly uplifting spectacle as the Munster team dug deep into the reserves of fortitude only they can produce, and delivered a huge onslaught that left Clermont a little stunned and no doubt cursing their own complacency.
What’s more, it looks like this guy is going to fit right in at Munster, unlike his taciturn compatriot, Chris Cullen, who came here for a highly-paid holiday.
Even though Dougie hasn’t had a competitive game since September, the All-Blacks’ top try-scorer looked every inch a Munster player in his commitment and he’ll be even better next Saturday. We don’t mind if he jumps on a few parked cars to celebrate.
But you know, it won’t do to be too casual. Come next Saturday, I guarantee you there won’t be a sane man or woman in this town. There will be thousands and thousands of nervous wrecks as the 80 minutes play out, and I guarantee you something else. It will be no routine game of football.
This will be open warfare as the Wasps death star comes to town, led by their very own Darth Vader.
These boys are not coming here for fun and this game is going to be a very grim affair. Very grim indeed, one suspects.
I’ll be there. So will Bullet. I’ll let you know how we get on.
Jerry Flannery will be able to play on Saturday. The disciplinary hearing won’t be held until next week.
If there’s one thing I hate more than children, it’s their parents.
This morning I wandered around the Market, as is my habit, and afterwards went for coffee with my newspaper, where I bumped into Parkenstein.Ã‚ Now, you possibly might not be aware that this is a bit of a worried weekend because tomorrow we meet Clermont-Auvergne in the first of two crunch matches to decide who goes forward to the knockout stages of the Heineken Cup.Ã‚ Next week, we meet London Wasps at home — a tall order if ever there was one — and I have tickets for the Bullet and myself, so I should be able to bring you a few good pictures, all going well, but that’s for another day.
Limerick is looking slightly deserted at the moment, which is not surprising as a good proportion of our citizens have travelled to France for tomorrow’s game, though I’m not one of them, and neither is Parkenstein. Those remaining in the town can think of little else but Clermont, and a great stillness has fallen over us.Ã‚ The City Council has imported a giant shipment of tumbleweedÃ‚ and people are wandering around, aimlessly kicking tin cans in front of them and hurling foul language at passing urchins.
What to do?
I know! said Parkenstein.Ã‚ Why don’t we go and watch the Leinster match?
Ack! I replied.
No.Ã‚ Seriously.Ã‚ Let’s go and get a bit of lunch in one of those anonymous, bland, suburban formula-pubs with the large screens.
Oh, all right, I agreed.Ã‚ Why not?Ã‚
Why not indeed.Ã‚ I was beginning to gather up a bit of enthusiasm (which is more than you can say for most Leinster supporters) and by the time we kicked in the front door, I was snarling.Ã‚ Come on, fuckin Leinster, rip their fuckin heads off!!
Look, said Parkenstein.Ã‚ Not too crowded.Ã‚ There’s a table — come on.
And we sat down beside a man and his little son, a sight that would gladden your heart and that brought me back to the early days out in Thomond Park with little Bullet on my shoulders and my careful coaching of the dear littleÃ‚ fellow: No son, it’s Fuck You, Referee, you fuckin fool!!Ã‚ Now, try one more time …
But this father was of a different ilk: this father was the sort who go to a pub with their small son so that he’ll fuck off and annoy the other customers by running around pretending to be a fire engine, while fat fuck father watches the match in peace, the fat fuck bastard.
And you want to know the other thing that pisses me off?Ã‚ It’s parents who are too fucking stupid, or selfish, to give a shit that their pre-ADHD little psychopath is draining all the enjoyment out of your day by running around knocking over your drinks and your lunch and pissing you off shouting his stupid, soon-to-be-separated head off.Ã‚ Parents who are so fucking stupid that they go the bar and come back with a glass of fucking Coca-Cola for the little bastard, just in case he was about to calm down.
They might as well order a cocktail of psilocybin, lysergic acid, speed, cocaine and Red Bull.Ã‚ There ya go, Son.Ã‚ Enjoy yer fuckin drugs.
Bastard.Ã‚ Draining all the enjoyment out of the game.
Oh wait.Ã‚ Hold on a minute — did I say enjoyment?Ã‚ Sorry.Ã‚ It was a Leinster match.