BBC BLOGS - Jim Neilly

Archives for November 2009

Sexton in for game of the year

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Jim Neilly | 14:37 UK time, Wednesday, 25 November 2009

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What a decision!

How many of us would have anticipated that Declan "Cool Hand Luke" Kidney would have axed Ronan O'Gara in favour of Jonny Sexton for the most eagerly anticipated of all the November fixtures, as Ireland take on World Champions South Africa at Croke Park?

Ireland coach Declan Kidney has opted to select Jonathan Sexton at fly-half

Despite Sexton's flawless, nerveless display against Fiji on his international debut, all the smart money was on Ireland's most capped fly-half and record points scorer returning to the starting 15, with Sexton looking likely to come in at the opening of the 2010 Six Nations campaign against Italy in Dublin in February.

To be fair, Kidney admitted, following Sexton's impressive performance against the Fijians, that it was going to be close call.

But O'Gara has been demoted for the first time since he and David Humphreys were competing for the number 10 shirt several years ago.

Sexton, at 24, three years older than O'Gara when the Munsterman made his debut against Scotland in 2000, impressed me right from kick-off at the RDS.

He caught the Fijian starting kick and, rather than just boot the ball back down the park, had a quick look and set off at considerable pace, taking the Fijian defence totally by surprise. Wow!

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Ireland to keep unbeaten record going

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Jim Neilly | 11:37 UK time, Friday, 13 November 2009

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Ireland's Test season starts this weekend, with Declan Kidney's side aiming to go through a calendar year undefeated. A tall order or a realistic target?

First up it is Australia, a poor third in the most recent Tri-Nations tournament. But, as England discovered at Twickenham last weekend, they are capable of matching anything northern hemipshere opposition can throw at them.

Brian O'Driscoll's Ireland are favourites to get a rare win over Australia.jpg

Mind you, weren't the chaps in white pretty dreadful, even allowing for the fact that they were missing a handful of front-liners?

Ireland used to dispose of the Wallabies with relative ease, but not since Fergus Slattery's side won both Tests on Australian soil 30 years ago, have Ireland been at the races.

The Australians, currently coached by former All Black Robbie Deans, have beaten Ireland in 16 out of the last 18 games, including all four fixtures in the World Cup, so Grand Slammers beware!

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