Tuesday, November 18, 2008

All Blacks vs. Munster today

The clocks get turned back momentarily today, as the old amateur-era mid-week tour match returns to international rugby.

Thirty years after Munster spoiled a perfect New Zealand tour of the UK, the All Blacks will help commemorate that famous 1978 Munster victory at the newly expanded Thomond Park.

Munster's night of glory has become legendary and inspired a theatrical play called "Alone It Stands." Lesser remembered by the potato-eaters is the discomort the All Blacks came into the match. See photo of AB prop Gary Knight, above. Packing down a front-row for 80 minutes with bandages like that can't be any less distracting than getting hit on the skull by flour-bombs dropped from Cesna's flying overhead.

The All Blacks will be led by halfback Piri Weepu, and their team selection looks greener than Ireland, and especially experimental in the forward pack. Another upset looms as a possibility. Having said that, European champions Munster will not be at their strongest either, although ex-All Black winger Dougie Howlett will be lining up to face the haka and start the game against opposing his homeland for the first time in his career. Maori centre Rua Tipoki will also face some old friends.


Munster: 1. Federico Pucciariello, 2. Frankie Sheahan, 3. Timmy Ryan, 4. Mick O'Driscoll (captain), 5. Donnacha Ryan, 6. James Coughlan, 7. Niall Ronan, 8. Denis Leamy, 9. Peter Stringer, 10. Paul Warwick, 11. Ian Dowling, 12. Lifeimi Mafi, 13. Rua Tipoki, 14. Doug Howlett, 15. Barry Murphy. Reserves: 16. Denis Fogarty, 17. Tony Buckley, 18. Mark Melbourne, 19. Billy Holland, 20. John O'Sullivan, 21. Mike Prendergast, 22. Jeremy Manning.

New Zealand: 1. Jamie Mackintosh, 2. Corey Flynn, 3. Ben Franks, 4. Ross Filipo, 5. Jason Eaton, 6. Adam Thomson, 7. Scott Waldrom, 8. Liam Messam, 9. Piri Weepu (captain), 10. Stephen Donald, 11. Joe Rokocoko, 12. Isaia Toeava, 13. Anthony Tuitavake, 14. Hosea Gear, 15. Cory Jane. Reserves: 16. Hikawera Elliott, 17. John Afoa, 18. Brad Thorn, 19. Kieran Read, 20. Alby Mathewson, 21. Richard Kahui, 22. Mils Muliaina.

Date: Tuesday, November 18
Venue: Thomond Park, Limerick
Kick-off: 19.30 GMT (2:30 p.m. ET (New York, Toronto))
Referee: Romain Poite
Touch judges: Christophe Berdos, C├ędric Marchat
TMO: Eric Gauzins
Rugby Planet preview
New Zealand Herald preview

Setanta Sports had been promoting the All Blacks vs. Munster match on-air as being scheduled Live, and their email newsletters were hyping the same. However, a quick check of their online sked displays a U21 soccer international *friendly* between England and Czech Republic in that same time slot, with the NZ v Munster rugby match re-scheduled (relegated?) to tape for broadcast later in the evening. Viewers don't know what to believe from Setanta's schedules any more, but for what it's worth (e.g. not much) check the Setanta schedule or local listings.

And don't be afraid to wrie Setanta and let them kow you've had a gutsful. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

It's been fairly obvious for the past year that soccer dominates the Setanta agenda and schedule, and that everything else runs a very distant second. Rugby is not merely a low priority to Setanta, it's an after-thought.

Paying subscribers who are rugby fans grudgingly accept that a rare commemorative match featuring the worlds' best international rugby team playing the champion club team of Europe in front of a sold-out stadium -- an Irish team playing at a new Irish stadium, for sake of irony -- should be deemed barely relevant by an Irish sports network with sole proprietary rights, and certainly beneath the dignity of a friendly soccer game contested by teenagers from nations outside Ireland in a half-empty stadium.

Rugby fans understand that Setanta cannot prioritize enough soccer for their subscribers. But what's most frustrating is that Setanta continually LIES and uses shifty BAIT & SWITCH promotions, then when fielding complaints responds with ever-increasingly desperate LAME EXCUSES every time this happens.

Make no mistake -- this scheduling hosebaggery is occuring far too frequently, and I can no longer tsk-tsk rugby fans who are turning their backs on official channels and instead seeking out the freebie bit-torrent files from pirates who actually care.


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