• Thomas

    Great video. Wish other prominent rugby people/journalists would do something similar, especially for so-called tier 2 nations. Just want to make a couple of points

    Shane O’Leary has stated he wants to play for Ireland….but a world cup is a big carrot

    What are your feelings regarding Richard Thorpe suddenly deciding to play for Canada after years playing in the premiership? Is it great a professional player wants to play for Canada, or are you slightly more cynical?

    Finally what’s the ambition for the group stage. Beat Romania, compete against Ireland/France and see what happens against Italy.


    • raysrugby

      Cheers, not sure how many have the knowledge to do something similar. Most rugby writers are journalists, good at getting a breaking story or doing interview pieces, whereas I’m an analyst, my focus is player performance and on the rugby itself. I thought about doing a video for other Tier 2 countries but it’s massively time consuming and my main audience seems to be Canadian, so that’ll be it for now.

      O’Leary said he was keeping his options open when he went to Connacht, certainly didn’t rule out playing for Canada. He has to realise by now that if he wants to play in a World Cup, his ticket is in the red jersey, not the green. Sexton has a couple years left, Madigan and Jackson will be around for awhile, and Carty is ahead of him at Connacht. I rate Ross Byrne, the current Ireland u20 outhalf, very highly, and suspect he will move up the ladder quickly once he graduates to senior rugby. You never want to count anyone out on their dream, but he needs to weigh up whether the outside chance at a cap or two is more attractive than a World Cup and a realistic chance of a decent international career.

      That’s a very good question about Thorpe, and one that conjures mixed feelings. On one hand it’s great to have another professional player to add in the ranks, it’s not something we have in great abundance. On the other, he’s known about his eligibility this whole time, and has never been in close contention for an English cap. Why has he been unprepared to commit until now? The cynical view is obviously that he is coming to the latter stages of his career and wishes to take part in a World Cup. I can’t begrudge him that, at least he made himself available the year before as opposed to the year of, which so many New Zealanders do for the Pacific Nations. The other thing to consider is how playing for Canada might have affected his contractual status. The Premiership has restrictions on non-English qualified players and rewards clubs for keeping their percentages high, it’s a similar situation in Super Rugby where a player might opt not to play for Samoa or Tonga because their contract might then not be renewed. At the end of the day as long as he is selected on merit, I’m happy to have him in the side. If George Kruis had opted to play for Canada instead of England (his father is Canadian) we would have jumped for joy. Can’t really do anything but accept Mr. Thorpe with open arms.

      Our ambition must be high at the World Cup. There’s a real chance we could come out with no wins, but our goal must be to beat Romania, who we have struggled against recently, and Italy, who we haven’t defeated in almost 15 years but are in poor shape at the moment and unlikely to improve much until a new coach arrives post-World Cup. To do so we will have to minimize the inevitable problems in the scrum, be acutely disciplined in defense, and be maximally efficient at the lineout and with our tactical kicking. Not easy but achievable. A respectable performance against Ireland is the best we can hope for, and who knows with France. They can be complacent in matches like that, as we saw against Tonga, but we will be on 4 days rest and they will be rolling out a rested first choice side. Realistically it would be a monumental upset.

      • Thomas

        How badly has the increase in importation of southern hemisphere players into France/England affected Canadian players. When I think of Canada circa 95-03 there was a lot of players at high level European clubs. Now there are roughly five playing regular top division rugby (VD Merwe, Cudmore, Hassler, Ardron, Sinclair).

        In my opinion (and speaking as Irish) O’Leary should choose Canada. His path to the Irish team is blocked, at both fly and centre. If he does declare for Canada, though his prospects of a contract at Connacht diminish, similar to Thorpe (although O’Leary is highly rated in France).

        Even at Connacht, he is at best fourth choice behind Carty (excellent young prospect, needs to improve goal kicking), Nikora (experienced, now also Irish qualified) and Ronaldson (probably better at 12, has had game this season at 10). As for the rest, Sexton, Madigan, Jackson, Humphreys, Keatley, Hanrahan, Scannell (youngster at Munster, started two weeks ago v Cardiff) are ahead of him. Have not seen a lot of Ross Byrne (only u20 v France). Will be interesting to see him both for rest of season at u20, and early next season with Madigan/Sexton at rwc.

        • raysrugby

          Not sure the influx has made any difference at all. Canada has fewer players at the top levels but a relatively healthy contingent in the second tier, and a few just below. I think that is more a reflection of the quality of our players more than anything. We used to regularly export giant second rows, and we just haven’t been able to replace the likes of John Tait and Mike James. We’re lucky to still have Cudmore available at nearly 37 years old, and realistically have nobody coming down the pipeline of his quality. We seem to be having better luck at prop with a number of big meaty lads on the way up, but quality big men at 6’6″+ just don’t seem to be happening. We had a couple a few years back but one switched to basketball and another went to college football and then disappeared. It’s a real problem.

          It would be nice if the Kolpak ruling was extended to include Canada, I really don’t understand how a Tongan could be considered less of an import than a Canadian, but that’s one for the legal types to figure out and to be honest it won’t be a night-and-day change. Establishing a professional NA league is vital if we hope to attract and retain better athletes.

          Agreed on O’Leary. He could always head back to Grenoble to reunite with Prendergast.