They worked on a results mindset with former Dublin Gaelic footballer Kevin McManamon. Ireland’s four officials for the upcoming France Rugby World Cup, referee Andy Brace, assistant referee Chris Busby and TV match officials (TMO) Brian McNeice and Joy Neville spoke about a wide range of issues, including working with former Dublin Gaelic footballer Kevin McManamon.
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A highly effective coach and sports psychology consultant across sports, McManamon (KevMc Performance) has previously worked with the 2019 Under-20 Grand Slam rugby team and has expanded his responsibilities to include Irish rugby’s elite referees.
Chris Busby explained: Kevin came in and started working with us at the beginning of the year, which is a good example of the support and development we are getting. We are looking for ways that we can improve and possibly make the levels the same as those of professional players.
He was a breath of fresh air; it helps with that kind of performance thinking. How do we deal with things both on and off the field, whether it’s reviewing, making decisions, trying to move on to the next decision. I think he has been excellent for us as a group for the last six months. There used to be support in terms of sports psychology, but it was probably a little less formalized and more sporadic. Kev is now much more accessible to us, he would have regular meetings with us.
From my point of view, he supported me in important moments, making a decision and then quickly moving on to the next one, because I think it can be very difficult for the judges. There are a lot of outside influences around you, you have a big screen, you can hear the crowd and sometimes it can be difficult to jump back in time and start preparing because the next big decision can be made in 30 seconds.
Neville, who will be the first woman to officiate at the men’s world championship, shared her thoughts on this milestone. It means a lot. This will be my sixth World Championship as a player and referee, between the 15th and 7th. Even though I have all this experience in both codes, with the Men’s Rugby World Cup, I still think I will learn a lot in these few months.
“This is a huge honor for me and my family. Andy mentioned the fact that we are a close-knit group. I think we are very unique in terms of IRFU. The support structures that we have include Johnny [Lacey, IRFU High Performance Referee Coach and Talent Manager) and Dudley [Phillips, IRFU Referee Team Leader] and support team in all provinces, but we also support each other. I’m sitting here happy and proud that I got here because of those support structures. I think we were all there for each other.”
From an IRFU perspective, Phillips underlined the success of the decision to create a high performance refereeing program which enabled Ireland to achieve the previous highest level of representation of four referees at the 2003 World Championships in Australia.
There are currently 559 referees in national rugby across four provinces and they have overseen more than 13,000 matches last year. Phillips confirmed that 115 new umpires were hired this year, but the net profit was only 25 due to injuries and retirement.
He added: When we look at the path that all four officials have traveled today, no matter what province they were in, there are members who are now looking at the election and thinking, Wow, this is brilliant. This is very exciting, we have an ongoing effort in the provinces to fuel our succession planning and with our development team led by David Wilkinson and an army of volunteers this will be a goal for the foreseeable future.
Four Irish officials on their way to the Rugby World Cup were asked if they remembered the first match they officiated. Busby: Ophir Seconds, Can’t Remember Rivals (2011). Brace: Munster Development Squad vs Garriowen U20. Neville: St. Manchins Under 14s (2014/15), I’ve never been more excited than before; pretty intimidating. I remember thinking that I would never want a referee again. Brian McNeice: I’m the grandfather here. UCD J3s against Guinness in 2002. Since then they have come a long way.
Is 2023 the year Ireland break the chokehold and become Rugby World Cup champions?
In the year of the Rugby World Cup, rugby supporters flock to predict the winners and justify the reasons for their team’s impending glory. I’m no different, except that I’ve developed a habit of picking not only a winner, but an outsider as well. They don’t have to win the tournament, but they are a team capable of doing exceptional things.
In 2015, my favorite was, of course, New Zealand. But my outsider was Ireland. Leading up to the tournament, I saw clips that showed the Irish could put on an inspiring game and beat any of the top five teams on their day. However, I was disappointed with their disappointing quarter-final performance against Argentina despite all the theoretical considerations required to win a significant amount.
Four years later, while Japan was my chosen underdog, Ireland once again proved themselves right as Rugby World Cup contenders ahead of the tournament with a victory over the All Blacks for the Six Nations title. But again, that was not enough they failed at the most important stage of rugby.
Twice in two campaigns the Irish failed to execute. It’s no secret that Irish fans or players are also keen to hide, with many wondering if Ireland has yet again peaked “too early” after winning the series in New Zealand in 2022.
Ahead of the northern hemisphere-dominated Rugby World Cup 2023, Leinster’s Herculean presence throughout the season has been the talk of the provincial rugby realm. European Championship final at Aviva? It would be remiss of me to assume anything but a landslide victory for Leinster.
However, just as I felt about Ireland’s underwhelming performance in 2015, I was disappointed by Leinster’s second-half explosion that gave La Rochelle back-to-back European titles. La Rochelle won the game? Or has Leinster lost? I don’t want to take anything away from La Rochelle’s performance because it was quite outstanding, but the collapse was reminiscent of the infamous Atlanta Falcons performance in Super Bowl 51.
I wonder if there’s more to Leinster’s game than meets the eye? Is this defeat the start of a routine Irish demise ahead of the France Rugby World Cup or could it be the catalyst for Andy Farrell’s side in October? With 20 Leinster players named in Farrell’s six-nation winning team, the skill and development of the Leinster club is quite remarkable. Leading up to and even in the first 20+ minutes of Saturday’s final, Leinster played brilliant rugby.
The combination of Aviva’s lush turf and Jamison Gibson Park’s continued development contributed to Leinster’s racquet speed and attacking breadth that rocked opponents all season, including La Rochelle (who were blown away by the impressive start they saw on Saturday).
Defensively, the Leinster players’ line speed and characteristic Farrell “connectivity” again prevailed in the early stages, throwing and putting pressure on well-known La Rochelle ball handlers. Leinster’s (and perhaps Ireland’s) problems lie in their performance in the second half. What bothered me was Leinster’s lack of ruthlessness – their ability to make the La Rochelle team surrender and dominate the match, as they did in the first 20 minutes.
A distinct stomping on the brake pedal at half-time gave La Rochelle a glimmer of hope. Not much, but enough for them to go into the break still believing in their ability to bounce back in the second half. It makes me wonder if this is a sign of things to come or a reflection of past shortcomings.
While at first glance it may appear that Ireland are going strong in their 2022/23 performances, the reality is that under stressful situations this is not the case. At the end of 2022, an undisciplined (albeit resilient) Australian team played the full 80 minutes and secured a less-than-convincing 2023 Six Nations victory at home against an English team still finding footing under Steve Borthwick.
As with Leinster at the weekend, when the Irish team was under pressure in a do-or-die environment (at home, no less), their play faltered. There were noticeable holes. Holes that a well-drilled team from France, South Africa or New Zealand can use in October. For more about Ireland Rugby World Cup Tickets.
However, make no mistake: I am not questioning the legitimacy of Ireland’s recent victories because they deserve them and deserve to be at the top of world rugby. It’s no secret that these recent successes have been based on their defensive prowess their suffocating style of play and their ability to withstand pressure and rack up points when the opportunity arises.
It might not be as flashy as the French style of play, but how else can you resist that kind of flair? The downside, I believe, and one that the Irish supporters will no doubt argue, is that the defeat delays Farrell’s men for the summer. Frustration lingers a little longer and the motivation to prove yourself gets a little stronger.
Farrell’s coaching history is no secret as he was instrumental in winning the British and Irish Lions series in 2013 and drawing in 2017. the shift needed among the players to secure the series win. It was about breaking patterns of thought, bringing the opposition into the arena of grievances, and adopting a ruthlessly victorious mindset.
Like the Lions of the time, and as Farrell will no doubt hint at September, the Rugby World Cup mentality in Ireland has long been associated with failure and underperformance. But I don’t see weekend hiccups causing Ireland to collapse in October.
Thanks to Farrell’s coaching style and his ability to appeal to the inner mongrel, I think there is too much class in this year’s Irish team to allow for a disappointing result. While other factors including venues and the post-pool draw will certainly play a role, Farrell’s men will be ready for a long and brooding summer.
While the Leinster performance is certainly a hole in the Irish sail leading up to the Rugby World Cup 2023, it’s the perfect opportunity for the Irish to not only continue to apply their stifling physicality to the teams, but for Farrell to instill the mental shift needed for adoption from Rugby World Cup chokers to title holders.
Scotland must treat warm-ups as part of tournament, says Chris Paterson
Scotland should treat their warm-up matches as an extension of the Rugby World Cup, says former international Chris Paterson. The Scots will begin preparations for the game against Italy at Murrayfield on 29 July. Gregor Townsend’s team will then face France at home and away ahead of their home game against Georgia.
Paterson said you need to change your mindset and stop saying you have four warm-up matches and then the France Rugby World Cup. I think they should run together. You almost run a whole streak of international matches, from the July match against Italy to the exit from the RWC, instead of making it two separate organizations.
I really like the fact that Gregor Townsend is talking about announcing the final line-up a little earlier because it has something to do with it. Scotland will play defending champions South Africa in Marseille in the first leg of the Rugby World Cup on 10 September.
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Earlier this month, head coach Townsend named a 41-man training squad and talked about cutting it down to a final 33-man squad for the tournament faster than four years ago for the Japan tournament. Maybe in the last two or three World Cups we sometimes focused too much on qualifying for the Rugby World Cup, Paterson, Scotland’s all-time points record holder, told the BBC Scotland Rugby podcast.
“Yes, it is a commendation and a reward for those who have been able to make it to this team, but sometimes exposing it can be too much. The introduction of those who have been selected to participate in the Rugby World Cup becomes a big event when in fact it is the starting point.”
Rugby World Cup: Winners and losers from Scotland’s 41-man training squad
There was no doubt that Stuart Hogg would be on the list, but the comment that he doesn’t enjoy rugby could have touched Townsend. Hogg doesn’t play particularly well for either club or country, but what will be his final dance certainly has some extra motivation.
The same can be said for Stuart McInally, who joined Ewan Ashman, Dave Cherry and George Turner as prostitutes on a larger team. A first-class player at his best, McInally has struggled with fitness and form for the past year and will retire after the Rugby World Cup to become a driver, but he has one last chance at the top level.
One of only two players left on the roster, the highly talented Glasgow Warriors center has been knocking on the door for some time now. At 6’4″ and weighing over 16 pounds, McDowell has the obvious physical ability to play international rugby, but he is also very skilled.
It will be difficult for him to get into the starting XV as the “Huwipulotu” partnership thrives in the Six Nations, but he needs to try his hand at the warm-up games to make his mark and we’re happy to see how he fares.
Another unsheltered player with a chance in the squad who has impressed Leicester Tigers this season is Henderson. The 23-year-old joined the Glasgow Tigers in 2020 and developed well for the first two years before becoming a regular in 2022/23.
Henderson is a smart player and a very good lineout option, but he is also physically fit and puts himself in a rather awkward group. With Johnny Gray potentially eliminated from the world tournament, this youngster has a chance to break into the 23rd place of the Scotland national team.
Missed the Six Nations with a neck injury and hasn’t played since December 2022, but Townsend is obviously appreciating him and returning to the squad for the Rugby World Cup. Walker has lagged behind Zander Fagerson on both the club and the national team, but the seasoned curmudgeon has a lot to learn, and coaches rate his set-piece work better than Simon Bergan, another Warriors curmudgeon.
Bergan has played two matches for the Six Nations – against England and Ireland – but is missing out on wider preparations for the tournament in France. As such, this gives Walker the perfect opportunity to challenge Fugerson and Edinburgh’s backup defensive player V.P. Nelu for a place in the 23rd. moment.
Much of the choice is based on reputation as the Gloucester player has been struggling with injuries this season. Hastings appeared against Fiji in the Autumn Nations Series but suffered a major blow that forced him out of the game for over a month.
He then returned in December, only to suffer a shoulder injury that required surgery during his first game. Hastings returned to the team in April and has since played two games against the Sale Sharks and Bristol Bears in the Premier League but looked understandably rusty. At his best, the 27-year-old is second to Scotland in midfield behind Finn Russell, but he has a lot to prove in the next few months.
Bradbury’s promotion to the Premier League did not help his international ambitions as he had yet to make it into the squad since signing with the Bristol Bears. His last match for Scotland came in the first Test match against Argentina last July, and since then he seems to have fallen further down the pecking order.
While Bristol had an unforgettable season, Bradbury scored in 18 of 21 Premier League matches and received the club’s Player of the Season award.
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The experienced second rower would have been the fifth player on the team on their way to a third Rugby World Cup were it not for the injury.
Gray dislocated his kneecap in the Exeter Chiefs’ semi-final loss to La Rochelle (47–28) in the European Cup and was apparently ruled out of the tournament in France. This is a devastating blow for the player, and even more so for Scotland, as he has proven himself time and time again at the highest level.
Centres miss out
The quality of the Scottish midfield means there will always be some great players who don’t make the cut, even with such a large squad. This time Edinburgh’s Mark Bennett, Glasgow’s Sam Johnson and Northampton’s Rory Hutchinson did not make it to the final. All three may resent not being in the lineup, but it’s hard to argue that the chosen ones don’t deserve to be there.
McDowell has been great at Glasgow this season and has outpaced the reliable Johnson when one of Sione Tuipulotu or Hugh Jones was unavailable. The latter pair ignited the Six Nations and continued that form with the Warriors and were a straight pick.
Meanwhile, Hutchinson has been superb this season for Northampton, playing 19 of 21 matches as they reached the Premier League semi-finals. However, he never made his mark on the international stage when given the opportunity, unlike Chris Harris and Cameron Redpath.
Perhaps two of the most surprising lapses in the Scottish squad came in the first line, with Glasgow pair Fraser Brown and Johnny Matthews missed entirely. Brown’s non-selection is particularly surprising as he appeared in all five Six Nations games earlier this year.
Teammate Matthews is in top form, scoring seven times in the Challenge Cup and six times in the URC. The dynamic prostitute scored five of those tries in a 73-33 thrashing of the Dragons, but he also adds a lot of grunt and athleticism to any team.
Again, prostitute is not a position that Scotland lacks, but Matthews’ form, experience and leadership by Brown would lead many to believe that one, if not both, would make the lineup.
The Ulster scrum midfielder is eligible for Scotland, having earned the last of his 11 caps for Ireland during the 2020 Six Nations, and has openly discussed the possibility of a change of test affiliation. Following the recent signing of a new contract with Ulster, Cooney hinted in an interview with the BBC that his eligibility for Scotland was being negotiated.
“People learn about other nationalities and things that can be difficult, but in terms of what I love to do and who I love to play as, it was easy in that regard that I want to play here, he said.”
Whether that means he agreed to join Ireland and Ulster by signing a deal is unclear, but the 32-year-old has undoubtedly returned to his best rugby this season. For more about Scotland Rugby World Cup Tickets.
He was linked to the draft during Six Nations, but performances by Ali Price, Ben White and George Horn quickly dispelled those rumors. Young player Jamie Dobie is the team’s fourth scrum half, providing a good balance of youth and experience, but one has to wonder what impact Cooney could have had on the team.
Rugby World Cup 2023: Jonny Gray not in Scotland training squad after injury
Scotland manager Gregor Townsend has said Johnny Gray is unlikely to qualify for the Rugby World Cup after spraining his knee last month. The 29-year-old, who has made 77 appearances, is not part of Townsend’s original practice squad.
Winger Darcy Graham, back row Rory Darge and prostitute Stuart McInally return after missing out on Six Nations. Row two Cameron Henderson and center Stafford McDowall are the only unrestricted players in the group of 41. Townsend, who has just signed a new contract until April 2026, is due to cut his roster to 33 for a tournament in France this fall.
Scotland are in Group B of the Rugby World Cup alongside defending champions South Africa and Six Nations winners Ireland. Tonga and Romania make up a group whose matches take place from 10 September to 7 October. Scotland will play warm-up matches with Italy, France and Georgia in Edinburgh in the summer and face France again away from home.
“The solidarity of the Six Nations has really helped us become a better team, Townsend said. This will be very important and interesting over the next few months as we will be working with players for three to four months, which only happens once every four years.”
We could easily put together a bigger team. That would be easy to do, but we think the right thing to do would be to keep it as tight as possible to create that cohesion. Some positions have required a lot of debate over the past few weeks. It shows the depth that we have to put aside some quality players.
“I really wanted to score 38 points, but then there was Johnny’s injury and a few other things. My goal is to get the squad up to 33 pretty quickly, maybe after the second warm-up.”
Hooker Fraser Brown, who has made four substitute appearances this year in the Six Nations, is ruled out along with center Mark Bennett and former England striker Ruarid McConnochie, who was in the Six Nations but did not play.
On the loss of Gray from Exeter, Townsend said: Will he become available at some point during the Rugby World Cup? May be. It will be at least four months before he is ready to play. He may have returned to full training, and a couple of weeks after the start of the tournament we got injured, but I think that today is unlikely.
Star quarterback Stuart Hogg and fellow former captain McInally have already announced plans to retire after the Rugby World Cup. Scotland failed to qualify from the group stage four years ago after defeats to Ireland and Japan.
Scotland Rugby World Cup training squad
Forwards: Ewan Ashman, Jamie Bhatti, Dave Cherry, Andy Christie, Luke Crosbie, Scott Cummings, Rory Darge, Jack Dempsey, Matt Fagerson, Zander Fagerson, Grant Gilchrist, Richie Gray, Cameron Henderson, Stuart McInally, WP Nel, Jamie Ritchie (capt), Pierre Schoeman, Javan Sebastian, Sam Skinner, Rory Sutherland, George Turner, Murphy Walker, Hamish Watson.
Backs: Jamie Dobie, Darcy Graham, Chris Harris, Adam Hastings, Ben Healy, Stuart Hogg, George Horne, Huw Jones, Blair Kinghorn, Stafford McDowall, Ali Price, Cameron Redpath, Finn Russell, Ollie Smith, Kyle Steyn, Sione Tuipulotu, Duhan van der Merwe, Ben White.
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