Friday, 23 September 2016

Rugby Betting Week 3 - Friday Night PRO12 Games

Game 1: 7.05pm - Bennetton Treviso v Newport-Gwent Dragons

Treviso - 2, OVER/UNDER 41.5
Treviso are a better side than we give them credit for. The Dragons are worse than we think.

Treviso have started the season well, have a host of Italian internationals and quality imports in their side, and are at home.

They should win this game, and it wouldn't be a surprise. The idea that they are giving points is probably fair, but it does make you stop at pause.

Treviso's defense has kept Ulster and Leinster quiet however, so under 41.5 points looks attractive. I'd lean Treviso without taking the bet, but I'm taking the under.

Under 41.5 points, 1 unit.

Game 2: 7.35pm - Glasgow Warriors v Ulster

Glasgow - 3, OVER/UNDER 43.5
Glasgow are the best side in the tournament, and Ulster are the second best. Ulster welcome back Jared Payne to full-back, which sees Charles Piutau move to the wing. That will be interesting to watch how that plays out. Ulster's backs are their strength, with their pack a little light-weight. It's good enough to beat average teams - but not this Glasgow heavyweight. The pitch should be fast, so it could be a good game - but I'd expect Glasgow to win by 4-7 points.

Glasgow -3, 1 unit; Over 43.5, 2 units.

Game 2: 7.35pm - Leinster v Ospreys

Leinster - 6, OVER/UNDER 40.5
I'm not certain that Leinster will win this game, and the Ospreys are getting six points. That seems generous. It's the first time we've seen Johnny Sexton and Jamie Heaslip this season, while the Ospreys are welcoming back Dan Biggar. That means both sides could be a little rusty as their generals ease themselves back into the game. This Leinster side haven't looked like they are certain they know how to attack in their games this season, whilst the Ospreys have been on fire.

Ospreys +6, 2 units, Under 40.5 points, 1 unit.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

It's Back: The 2016 Guide To Super Rugby #FantsBants

Updated for 2016:

The #FantsBants leagues get bigger and more competitive every year. Here's hoping that this year is no different.

Following Super Rugby will not only entertain you, and get you excited for the World Cup; it will also give you a chance to build your knowledge about some of the best and upcoming players in the World.

Super Rugby Fantasy is an easy way to maintain your interest.

This year, the site has slightly changed. It takes a while to get used to, but overall it's improved. Here are the new updated points systems:

To join in simply, log onto the site at this link, and then you will need to join the group here. Please let me know on twitter (@BHHooker) that you've joined, so I can keep track and make sure you are participating in the "bants". Yeah I hate myself for saying that too. 

Humourous #fantsbants participants may get a follow. #Blackmail

The code is HRNJ5TMZ

Here's the 2014 "First Timer's Guide To Fantasy Super Rugby"

Tired of a boring Irish Times fantasy rugby that only rewards tries and man of the match performances? Are you already too far ahead or behind your competitors and seeking a new challenge? Super Rugby is starting soon, and the fantasy competition provided by is one of the best I've ever seen. Thinking of having a go? Here are some tips for the first time fantasy rugby player.

Look at the Rules first

(Provided below) Each fantasy competition is different, some reward points for tries and wins, others go into more detail. This is one of those competition. You wouldn't pick a world XV in a fantasy team geared towards tries, just like you don't pick a fantasy team solely to get tries for this fantasy.

Work Rate is key

Players who work hard, who make lots of tackles and lots of runs, the points add up quickly and are worthy additions to your team. Northern Hemisphere equivalents could be Courtney Lawes, Dan Lydiate or Theirry Dusautoir, players who work hard but never score tries. These players would consistently bring points.

Avoid Centres and Scrumhalves

Centres and Scrumhalves are traditionally the lowest scoring positions in the competition. Don't waste valuable budget money on getting expensive ones. Best served elsewhere

Players who play out of position

Players like Steven Luatua two years ago, who was down as a lock, but played as a blindside flanker, earned huge points as a second row. There is usually one player who plays several positions, and different positions generally give more points.

Pick Players who actually play

Crucial. The biggest problem for team owners is managing the schedule. Not every team plays every week. Plus the comp is long; at 16 weeks plus finals, players will be rotated in and out. You have to make sure that you have 15 guys earning you points every single week. Look ahead at the fixture list and try to avoid obvious conflicts early.

Also beware of picking the big stars, especially in New Zealand. Do you really want to pick Richie McCaw or Kieran Read when they’re likely to be put in cotton wool at the slightest hint of injury? Instead that money might be better spent on someone like Michael Hooper, who will play 80 minutes nearly all season long. Similarly, I’d be pretty wary about picking either Bernard Foley or Kurtley Beale until you get some sense of who’s going to be starting; you’d have to doubt that either of them will be playing a full match every week just at the moment.

Don't avoid weak teams

This competition is ultra competitive, that just because a team is miles down the table doesn't mean they don't have fantasy gems. Ben Smith was a banker last season for the underperforming Highlanders, while Ged Robinson gained huge points playing for the Rebels. (Robinson has since left the Rebels).

Value over Replacement

While Israel Folau is nearly guaranteed to get you mega points, it'll definitely cost you mega bucks. It might be worth going for someone less expensive who could still rake in the points. Some positions have more points depth than others. It's all about what works for you.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Stable Of Boys

Borrowed from "Around the NFL", my stable of boys consists of players who I have an unusual fondness for. It's not about the best players, but the ones you find yourself rooting for, and enjoy watching.

15. Nehe Milner-Skudder
14. Ciaran Gaffney
13. Malakai Fekitoa
12. Sam Arnold
11. Rene Ranger
10. Ross Byrne
9. Fumiaki Tanaka
1. Sona Taumalolo
2. Richardt Strauss
3. Conan O'Donnell
4. Big Brodie
5. Patrick Tuipulotu
6. Steven Luatua
7. Dan Leavy
8. CJ Stander

Full Squad:

Nehe Milner-Skudder
Ciaran Gaffney
Jonah Placid

Rory Scholes
Santiago Cordero
The Badge

Outside Centre:
Samu Kerevi
Tim Nanai-Williams
Rene Ranger
Malakai Fekitoa

Inside Centres:
George Moala
Sam Arnold
Luke Marshall

Ross Byrne
George Ford
Henry Slade

Fumiaki Tanaka
Luke McGrath

CJ Stander

Openside Flankers:
Dan Leavy
Ardie Savea
Jake Heenan
James Davies

Blindside Flankers:
Steven Luatua

Big Brodie
Patrick Tuipulotu
Ross Molony

Conan O'Donnell

Shota Horie
Nathan Charles
Ged Robinson
Richardt Strauss
Niall Annett
Zack McCall

Scott Sio
Sona Taumalolo

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Kearney Should Stay Put To Continue His Development

I want to make one thing clear from the off. I am a big fan of Mick Kearney.

What I'm not a fan of, however, is the rumoured move that he will make at the end of the season to Leinster. This isn't like the Henshaw rumours - Kearney is out of contract at the end of the year, so the implications of a switch wouldn't be as precedent setting, but I believe it would be a bad move.

It would be a bad move for Leinster. It would be a bad move for Connacht. It would be a bad move for Mick Kearney. It would be a bad move for Irish rugby.

It would be a bad move.

Mick Kearney remains the most impressive lock I've seen play for the Ireland Under 20s in the last 6 years. That includes Irish internationals Iain Henderson and Devin Toner.

Kearney's strengths are his lineout calling. He's a very good loosehead lock, whose workrate and tackling ability has been improving, and whose technical ability is very good.

The former Clontarf and Blackrock College second row has come through the ranks of Nigel Carolan's academy and has improved every year since the Under 20s. His breakthrough year last year came when the likes of Craig Clarke and Connacht legend Michael Swift were still in vogue.

He is now Connacht's premier second row, and while Quinn Roux and Aly Muldowney came come on leaps and bounds since the start of the season, Kearney a young second row to build a pack and lineout around.

He's not finished developing, but he's close. Another year or two in Connacht and Kearney will be banging fiercely on the international door.

That process will not get faster with a move. Leinster currently have Australian international Kane Douglas and Devin Toner as their first choice locks. Toner is an automatic first choice for Ireland. His main attributes mirror Kearney's and his physical attributes and development tip the scales in his favour considerably.

Douglas is a highly paid international, brought in to provide the grunt and shift of a classic tighthead lock. A fine partner for Kearney perhaps, but not a replacement. Toner and Kearney are too similar for that partnership to work in the long term, and Douglas is too well paid and valuable to be left out.

The man on the outside would end up being Kearney. Very similar to the last Connacht second row who decided to move East - Mike McCarthy. McCarthy is signed up for another year, and will prove another stumbling block for Kearney to overcome.

Not to mention the young second rows that Leinster will have in a few years. Ross Moloney is as close to a carbon copy of Leo Cullen as you can find. Moloney is an intelligent leader of men for such an inexperienced player, who is excellent in the lineout, and hardly puts a foot wrong. With such talent blocking his path, it won't be beneficial to anyone to add another player to the mix.

Kearney is better off served staying Connacht. For at the very least, another two years. Connacht's development should provide enough excitement to hold him until then, and the block in Leinster might just be down to Ross Moloney.

Mick Kearney to Leinster in 2015 is a very bad idea.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Sink Or Swim: A Lot Happens In A Year

Almost a year ago, I chronicled the journey of two young scrumhalves and their attempts to further their careers. At that point, Rhodri Williams was a few short months out from starting in Wales's Junior World Cup march to the final, had started two Heineken Cup games for Scarlets scoring two tries in their impressive unbeaten start to European rugby, and was justly rewarded with a place in Warren Gatland's international squad. Conversely, Kieran Marmion, despite an extra year out from U20 level, had started a full year for Connacht in the Heineken Cup and Pro 12 was not part of Joe Schmidt's 41 man squad announced for 2013's end of year tests.

What a difference a year makes eh?

Since that time, Marmion participated in every game for Connacht, eventually forcing his way into Ireland squads and finally being capped against Argentina this summer. There is no doubting that the Marmion of October 2014 is a better player than the October 2013 version. His slow rise has come about through the benefit of playing consistently against top level players in the Heineken Cup and Pro 12, and getting better coaching, both from increased resources at Connacht, and the meticulous attention to detail of Joe Schmidt, and his own dedication and extra training that he undergoes on a weekly basis.

Marmion is fully deserving of a place in Ireland's squad, and will be pushing for a matchday spot. But what of Rhodri Williams? Williams made his Welsh debut against Tonga that November, coming on as a replacement. That is where the rise finished however. Williams lost his Scarlets place to first, Gareth Davies, and then Aled Davies being relegated to 3rd choice Scarlet's scrumhalf. Gareth Davies was in fantastic form, finishing as the league's top try scorer. Rhodri Williams however, only made a handful of Pro12 starts from then on, with all of his remaining Heineken Cup appearances coming as a sub, much like the majority of his Pro 12 caps last season. He did manage to make Wales's 6 Nations squad, and has a grand total of 3 replacement caps for Wales.

Despite Williams's fall in Scarlets, Gatland curiously continues to pick him, although he may now get his chance given that both of the Davies's in Scarlet's ranks are now injured.

So I ask the question again? Is is better to throw young players in the deep end, or is their development better suited to easing them into it?

To read the original article click here, and note that other players mentioned have also had interesting years. Tom Prydie is back in the Wales squad, James Coughlan is now in Pro D2, Aaron Cruden has had recent disciplinary problems, Victor Vito is now back in the New Zealand squad ahead of Steven Luatua while Scotland's Mark Bennett had a dreadful season, but is now shining after another year's experience. Danny Cipriani was denied his place in the England squad today, although he has been included in the previous year, while Kurtley Beale is in even more trouble with the ARU.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Takeaways from the Irish Squad Announcement

For those who haven't seen it, this is the Irish Squad for the November Internationals v South Africa, Australia and Georgia.

Looseheads: Jack McGrath, James Cronin, Dave Kilcoyne.
Hookers: Rory Best, Richardt Strauss, Sean Cronin.
Tightheads: Mike Ross, Nathan White, Rodney Ah You, Stephen Archer.
Loosehead Lock: Devin Toner, Dave Foley.
Tighthead Lock: Paul O'Connell, Mike McCarthy.
Blindside Flanker: Peter O'Mahony (8), Rhys Ruddock, Robbie Diack (8).
Openside Flanker: Chris Henry (8), Tommy O'Donnell, Dominic Ryan
No. 8: Jamie Heaslip.
Scrumhalves: Conor Murray, Kieran Marmion, Eoin Reddan.
Outhalves: Jonathan Sexton, Ian Madigan (12), Ian Keatley.
Wingers: Tommy Bowe, Simon Zebo, Craig Gilroy.
Inside Centres: Gordon D'Arcy, Stuart Olding.
Outside Centres: Jared Payne (15), Robbie Henshaw (15).
Fullbacks: Rob Kearney, Felix Jones, Darragh Leader (11-14)

A number of things caught my eye from this announcement, but pre announcement there was a big campaign for the likes of Duncan Casey and Dave Foley to be included over players familar to the squad.


If there is one thing we have learned since Joe Schmidt has taken over, is that he will always favour those familar to his plans and system over those new to it. Form doesn't mean a huge amount when it's comparing a newcomer to a previous fixture in the squad. He's brought players in, and left them on the periphery to learn his ways before giving them a shot, and he will continue to do that.

This most likely spells the end of some players hopes of being included in the World Cup squad, unless they spend time around the squad in the next month.

A 37 man squad is a strange number of players, especially when you look at the lack of player in some positions, notably number 8 and wing, while a plethora of options at blindside and tighthead prop.

What's notable is that there are four tighthead props involved, and that one of them isn't highly rated youngster Tadhg Furlong. I've also decided I am not going to criticise those named in this post, no matter how much I want to.

Ulster losers

The next major talking point revolves around an in form outsider, and an out of form, slightly injured formerly favoured player. I think it's very notable that Ian Keatley has been chosen ahead of Paddy Jackson, one because not many saw it coming, but mostly because the influence of Les Kiss on the Ulster set up would have expected to bring in more Ulster faces. Instead, players like Jackson, Cave, Wilson, McCloskey and Declan Fitzpatrick miss out. Fitzpatrick may be permanently injured, but he was the one time hope of Irish tightheads, and now there are at least 4 options probably ahead of him.

Lucky Thirteen

It's also intriguing to note that the first real squad where a successor to Brian O'Driscoll can be found features a grand total of 0 natural outside centres. Of the players in the squad who have played professional rugby at 13, three are fullbacks - Robbie Henshaw, Jared Payne and Darragh Leader, two are wingers - Tommy Bowe and Craig Gilroy, one is an outhalf - Ian Madigan, and two inside centres - Gordon D'Arcy and Stuart Olding.

Despite this curveball, the announcement of two other fullbacks in the squad, while only three wingers, suggest that Payne and Henshaw are the de facto 13s, Leader is a back 3 cover and the wingers stay out wide.

A final congratulatory note to Darragh Leader's inclusion. He may not get any gametime, but it's clear that his involvement will only benefit him in the long run. A quiet guy that needs to come out of his shell more, will only develop with this confidence boost, and given the improvements Henshaw and Marmion have made to their games since being involved with Schmidt, I've no doubt that Leader will make similar strides which can only benefit the player, his province and maybe Ireland in the future.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Irish Eye On The World Cup Squad 2: PRE European Cups

A lot has happened since the last Irish Eye, so it's best to have a look at the top 31 in pole position to make Joe's squad for next year's squad and the closest contenders.

Injuries and form have changed a bit, and after these two weeks of European action, I expect more from Leinster, Munster and Ulster to put their hand up.

1st Choice 2nd Choice 3rd Choice 4th Choice 5th Choice 6th Choice 7th Choice
1 Cian Healy Jack McGrath James Cronin Dave Kilcoyne Callum Black Denis Buckley
2 Rory Best Sean Cronin Richardt Strauss Damien Varley Rob Herring Mike Sherry Duncan Casey
3 Mike Ross Martin Moore Declan Fitzpatrick Tadhg Furlong Nathan White Rodney Ah You Stephen Archer
4 Devin Toner Iain Henderson Donnacha Ryan Dave Foley Donncha O'Callaghan
5 Paul O'Connell Dan Tuohy Mike McCarthy Mick Kearney
6 Peter O'Mahony Rhys Ruddock Robbie Diack Kevin McLaughlin
7 Sean O'Brien Chris Henry Jordi Murphy Tommy O'Donnell Dominic Ryan Sean Dougall
8 Jamie Heaslip Robin Copeland Roger Wilson Jack Conan
9 Conor Murray Eoin Reddan Kieran Marmion Isaac Boss Luke McGrath Paul Marshall
10 Jonathan Sexton Paddy Jackson Ian Keatley JJ Hanrahan
11 Andrew Trimble Simon Zebo Dave Kearney Luke Fitzgerald
12 Gordon D'Arcy Ian Madigan Luke Marshall Stuart McCloskey Stuart Olding Noel Reid
13 Robbie Henshaw Jared Payne Darren Cave
14 Tommy Bowe Fergus McFadden Craig Gilroy Keith Earls
15 Rob Kearney Felix Jones

Major Changes:

I believe that James Cronin's form is better than Dave Kilcoyne. Their battle for the final loosehead spot will be fascinating, and one to watch. There is a real danger that the winner of this duel will be the only Munster front row representative in the squad.

Martin Moore's injury is putting him in doubt, but the biggest beneficiary of this is Tadhg Furlong, who may usurp Moore's position in Leinster, and find himself second choice Irish tighthead. This may or may not be dependent on Declan Fitzpatrick's permanent injuries.

Kieran Marmion's form has to place him in front of Isaac Boss, who should be under threat from Luke McGrath both at Leinster and in Ireland, but Matt O'Connor doesn't like good young players.

I've moved Ian Madigan from a 10 candidate to a 12 candidate, and put him on the short plane to England/Wales. Stuart McCloskey is putting pressure on Luke Marshall and Stuart Olding, and whoever gets the most gametime there will be a frontrunner, but it's much to early to see who that could be. With Madigan and D'Arcy however, it'll be a tight battle.

Fergus McFadden's injury coupled with Simon Zebo's form have swapped those two, although I expect that will only be temporary.

Jared Payne has been simultaneously keeping Darren Cave out of the Ulster team, and proving to Irish rugby that his best position is full back without a shadow of a doubt. If he gets time there, he could/should put Rob Kearney's first team place under threat, but Joe's a loyal guy.

Injuries to Andrew Trimble at the worst time benefit Craig Gilroy immensely. He'll be looking to leapfrog the inactive Dave Kearney when given his chance in the next two weeks.