Tags Posts tagged with "sport"

sport

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Events at Royal Ascot this summer are likely to attract much of the attention in the world of horse racing, with record prize money at this year’s event helping to entice one of the most competitive fields in recent history. However, one horse who is yet to make a decision on its involvement at the iconic meeting is Ascot Gold Cup outsider Cookie Camp. The 20/1 shot with bookmakers Coral is likely to leave it until the final minutes before making a decision, with the ground at Ascot ultimately determining his fate. Having registered the biggest win of his career at the recent Yorkshire Gold Cup, seeing off the threat of the likes of Curbyourenthusiasm along the way, the Peter Nevin trained horse now faces an anxious wait before the big race.

Elsewhere, this year’s meeting at Royal Ascot looks set for more of an international feel to it, as a record number of overseas entries assemble on the Berkshire based course. With one hundred and sixty-four overseas entries beating the previous record by eight, with Aiden O’Brien perhaps unsurprisingly responsible for over half of the eighty-one Irish entries. With time still available for further additions, the US currently field eighteen runners, with a further twenty-one runners coming from Australia, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore.

Last year’s Breeders Cup Mile winner Tepin will undoubtedly be one of the stars of the show, as the horse who is unbeaten so far in 2016 go’s for glory in the much anticipated Queen Anne Stakes. With race odds of 3/1 from Coral, the US sprinter certainly has a lot of pressure going into the race. However, with a total of forty-one horses entered into the race, the favourite is unlikely to have things all her own way. Last year’s winner Solow will not be among those standing in her way however, with the horse taking a period of recuperation following recent exertions. Coral now back Irish horse Belardo as second favourite with odds of 6/1.

The withdrawal of Chautauqua from the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Ascot is one piece of disappointing news for race organisers. However, the quality still on display should more than make up for such an absence. Having claimed back to back wins recently, including Duke of York stakes, Magical Memory has emerged as the favourite in the Australian sprinter’s absence. The Irish horse is now the 6/1 favourite in the horse racing odds from Coral.

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How an Irish warrior is playing the American dream his own way


You may or may not be a fan of UFC or any MMA sport but one thing is for sure, you have heard the name Conor McGregor blast through your TVs, radios and social media apps.

I myself became bored with the lack of fluency and excitement of the UFC, especially after the likes of Tito Ortiz, GSP and Chuck Liddell left the scene. I missed the ongoing slaughter of the rivalries and pumped up builds to the fights. Yes there are many great fighters that enter the octagon in the present day, but sometimes, just sometimes a little entertainment goes a long way.

Conor McGregor quickly rose through the organisations of the MMA world, having only one amateur fight he was propelled into the professional ranks and sliced through opponents like he was burning carbs. A force to be reckoned with, it was only a matter of time before Dana White and Co took notice of such a fighter as McGregor.

In 2013 we saw the UFC give birth without any pain relief to a 24 year old Irish fighter who by then was chanted to the name of “Notorious”. McGregor did not need any build up to stamp his name into the faces of all who watched. Any eyes that were laid onto him in the octagon were scarred for life with the sheer brilliance of what they were witnessing.

Time and time again he turned well reputable fighters into piles of skin and bones. You really need to watch a fight with McGregor in it to truly appreciate his techniques, from his stance to his slash like jabs, there is no stopping this mans stand up game.

McGregor ripped through the likes of Dustin Poirier and Dennis Siver, not to mention the handful of what McGregor would call “bums” that he fought in the cage before those men. After the Siver fight in early 2015 things started to become very interesting when McGregor’s eyes focused onto the featherweight champion Jose Aldo, a well respected Brazilian fighter. McGregor wanted his blood and to smash his cranium off the canvas. Unfortunately Aldo became ‘unavailable’ for a while which left Conor to face off against an All American wrestler Chad Mendes…McGregor beat him…obviously.

Then the real entertainment came into play, Conor McGregor was able to play with Jose Aldo’s head for many months. I don’t know if it was because of the language barrier but Aldo stayed very quiet during the build up to their fight, this didn’t stop McGregor who became very efficient at using insults in Aldo’s native Brazilian tongue.

In December 2015 it was time to witness what everyone thought was going to be an epic battle of two warriors in the octagon…the cheese on my rustlers burger only just started to melt in the microwave when it was all over. 13 seconds it took for Aldo to run straight into the striking left fist of McGregor. Exactly how McGregor himself ‘predicted’. In the space of 2 years in the organisation Conor McGregor had made his mark and became the UFC Featherweight Champion.

Then the craziness really started! McGregor chose to face off against an opponent of a bigger weight class to try and accomplish the title of a duel weight champion. Unfortunately the lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos broke his foot in training, putting McGregor’s dreams of accomplishing this feat on hold. Instead the UFC decided to call in Nate Diaz to face off against McGregor meaning Conor had to yet again move up another weight class to fight his opponent at welterweight. McGregor’s transformation to welterweight was incredible and an aspiration to many who were out there trying to achieve their own body transformation goals. Sadly for McGregor he lost to Diaz in a second round submission even though he was dominating Diaz in the first with his stand up game. McGregor admitted while humble in defeat that his endurance wasn’t good enough at that time to fight at welterweight with all that his body had endured transforming for the fight.

McGregor rightfully wanted to go back to his weight division to defend his title…the UFC had different plans. They had arranged for Conor to face off yet again with Diaz at the UFC 200 event. While accepting this challenge McGregor has recently pulled out claiming he has retired at a young age…do not be fooled people, a legend like McGregor doesn’t disappear into the shadows as quick as that. Apparently the UFC were more concerned about promotion than the fighters actually preparing themselves for the fight and Conor wasn’t having any of it. Although there has been words from McGregor that he is back, the UFC have decided to drop him and Diaz from the main card.

We will see in weeks to come if Conor McGregor now 27 sneaks back into that main slot, after all he is probably the most popular and money making fighter the UFC has. In today’s Ultimate Fighting Championship it is McGregor’s show, he pulls in a main event worthy crowd just for a weigh in, he makes other fighters wealthy from fighting him and he has been the face of UFC promotions for the last couple of years including the latest EA sports console game (where it is believed Jose Aldo can still be defeated in 13 seconds by a virtual McGregor).

The UFC can not turn its back or consider shunning McGregor because of his defiance. It is this same defiance that got him here and re lit a spark in the industry of octagon fighting, he is the puppet master of this business. If this is a publicity stunt between both sides then fair play, if not then I know all fans of the UFC are waiting for McGregor to enter the octagon again and support him fully on his recent views and opinions regarding the UFC.

Love him or hate him, McGregor is keeping this sport alive and exciting and I’m sure we are going to see a lot more opponents fall to the skill of the “Notorious”.

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The game will be available on both current (PS4 and Xbox One) and old gen (PS3 and Xbox 360)


The first footage of gameplay for the highly anticipated Rugby Challenge 3 has been released ahead of the game’s launch on 22 April.

The game is a welcome return to rugby gaming fans (myself included) as it has been 3 years since their last release, Rugby Challenge 2. During the hiatus, Rugby Challenge had a rival competitor in the rugby gaming world in the shape of Rugby 15. The game was unanimously panned by critics and on a personal note, it was a truly disastrous gaming experience as it felt that the game was a half-finished product and was lacking in detail in comparison to the imperious Rugby 08, that was released 7 years prior to Rugby 15.  Rugby 08 was published by EA Sports and was the last in a popular series of games they published. There is no indication  of Electronic Arts (EA) requiting to the rugby world.

Although not as popular as the EA series, Rugby Challenge has been a refreshing inclusion into this niche market after their first instalment in 2011. Unlike the two previous incarnations that were developed by Sidhe, Rugby Challenge 3 is developed by the Australian Wicked Witch Software and has included more licensed teams than previous years. Sebastian Giampaolo, the managing director of Tru Blu (game’s publisher) said; “Now with some great new features, we have the Rugby game fans have been sweating to play. We feel that all the thrills and excitement of top-flight Rugby have been truly recreated in Rugby Challenge 3.”

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This weekend saw Dallas host the ‘biggest weekend in sports entertainment’ as pro wrestling’s marquee event WWE Wrestlemania took place on Sunday. WWE also showcased a Pay Per View event for NXT, its developmental division, on Friday. This would surely make for a fantastic weekend overall.

However, over the last few years oldschool and hardcore wrestling fans have observed that NXT has been outshining WWE’s main roster and so most were expecting NXT Dallas Takeover to overshadow the bigger names and the bigger crowd at Wrestlemania. Did that transpire? Well having watched both, let’s see who impressed the most…..

The Card

The main roster has had injury problems with the likes of Seth Rollins, Randy Orton and John Cena out for a long period. These three alone would have definitely played apart in proceedings on the mid and upper cards. This meant WWE owner Vince McMahon was scrapping around for high profile matches, in the end bringing back his own son Shane to face The Undertaker in the Hell in a Cell match. If Shane won he would takeover Monday Night Raw, if Undertaker lost he would never wrestle again (though this was ambiguously explained). The story line could have played itself out better on Raw and Smackdown but it didn’t.

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The title was to be contested by current WWE Champion Triple H and the disliked – fans feel he is being given the spot – contender Roman Reigns. Again the story hasn’t been built well and the lines of heel and face are blurred, Triple H is supposed to be heel but the fans boo Reigns. The much anticipated Divas three-way match between Sasha Banks, Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch would create the first ever WWE Woman’s champion (not true) with a brand new spanking belt. Inexplicably the men’s tag team belts were not even on the line as The New Day took on The League of Nations in a six-man tag match. The Intercontinental belt was put on the line in a multi-man ladder match…. just because…. and then there was the Brock Lesnar vs Dean Ambrose street fight… for no real reason at all. And who can forget the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal with just about everyone else from the roster that could fit in the ring and wasn’t already in another match.

NXT’s card was of course smaller but much better fleshed out. It included matches that made sense and story lines that had brewed for months, consistently built up week in week out. The demon Finn Balor had to defend his NXT title against obsessed badass Samoa Joe, who had worked hard to defeat Sammy Zayn and Baron Corbin in a three-way number one contender match which had more than a few complications. Still, it gave the feeling that Joe had fought through hell to reach Balor on this grand occasion.

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The female division in wrestling is at its best in both brands and another highly anticipated match was to see Bayley defend her NXT belt against the mysteriously alluring Asuka. The Revival, Dash and Dawson, were to defend their belts against Jordan and Gable of American Alpha. It’s important to note that all of NXT’s belts were on the line. Perhaps the match that had the biggest buzz of the night was the debut of Shinsuke Nakamura, up against Sammy Zayn just because general manager William Regal ordered it. Baron Corbin was forced to meet the retribution of another new signing, ‘the greatest man who ever lived’, Austin Aries, after he sabotaged his NXT reveal and introduction weeks before.

The Match Quality

Undeniably the match of the weekend was ‘king of strong style’ Shinsuke Nakamura vs Sammy Zayn. If the debutant’s entrance was not enough, his ring presence and charisma definitely was. Clearly a match to put Nakamura over as Zayn was heading over to the main roster anyway, the two wrestlers gave everything. The speed was electric, the moves and skill sets were varied, the fight displayed great passion and story, and the fighting was tough – Nakamura receiving a bloody nose for his troubles.

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The match of the night for Wrestlemania was the Diva’s three-way match between Banks, Flair and Lynch although the match ended in annoying fashion when Ric Flair predictably interfered to help his daughter win the new WWE Woman’s belt. The NXT Women’s title fight between Asuka and Bayley was also a great example that the woman’s division is becoming the hottest ticket and, as all are products of NXT, the developmental division is working.

NXT Takeover Dallas also had a meaningful tag team match in which the titles were not only on the line but eventually changed hands whereas as Wrestlemania had a throwaway match involving The League of Nations that not many cared about. The ladder match for the Intercontinental title was surprisingly good however but half the people in match shouldn’t have been there. Stardust, Zack Ryder, Sin Cara, The Mizz…. why? Should have just been Dolph Ziggler, Kevin Owens and Sammy Zayn.

As for their respective main title matches, you’d have to say NXT edged it with Samoa Joe and Finn Balor putting on an A-class match with Joe shedding a lot of blood in the process. Stephanie McMahon (looked very hot) introduced her husband Triple H extremely well and the match was decent but the main focus was the crowd’s displeasure with Reigns. The truth is the speed and technicality of NXT betters that of the cumbersome slower pace of the main card.

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The Atmosphere

The AT & T held around 100,000 whereas the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center held only 9,000. The atmosphere at the larger Wrestlemania event was electric, especially when the old timers turned up to reminding people how good the main card used to be during the Attitude Era.

Saying that, the atmosphere at NXT was extremely hyped as the fans were served no nonsense top notch wrestling. There was no need for filler and the crowd responded like they were grateful for what they were served.

The Surprises

Wrestlemania is the king of the surprise and this year was no different. After the nonsense tag team match in which The league of Nations defeated The New Day, we saw Cactus Jack, Shawn Michaels and Stone Cold appear to dismantle The League of Nations and later The New Day. The Rock later also made his (now tedious) appearance but that was thankfully interrupted by The Wyatt Family only for them to get buried (again) when John Cena turned up to back up Rock.

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Shaquille O’neil turned up in the Battle Royal which proved pointless, however, the bigger surprise of Tatanka being shuffled in there was barely noticed or introduced. It was great to see Baron Corbin win it – a sign that Vince McMahon likes him for sure. Zack Ryder winning the Intercontinental Championship was a surprise also, well done to him it clearly meant a lot to him (will probably lose it within a week).

NXT’s surprises were in the results. Nobody could believe that Bayley dropped her title to Asuka on her first attempt after what was a great women’s match. The crowd were visibly silenced after the result. American Alpha triumphed over The Revival and that was a welcome semi-surprise but other than that this PPV focused mainly on top quality wrestling rather than cheap cliched over-done gimmicks of nostalgia driven entertainment that plagued Wrestlemania.

The Fans

Despite having a smaller capacity it appeared that the NXT crowd was way more hyped and in awe of what they saw. Looking on screen it appeared the fans at Wrestlemania were not enthused throughout whereas there seemed to be more of an intense interest in the matches that were happening at NXT Takeover. Some of the chanting was inspired especially when doctors were hovering around Samoa Joe when he cut his head against Finn Balor. “F**k PG” and “Let Joe bleed” could be heard.

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The Wrestlemania crowd did get hyped at the obvious spots ie. The ladder match spots, the legend cameos, The Rock, John Cena and Shame McMahon jumping off the top of the cage but the matches and in-ring work didn’t wow as much. They were audibly trying to make a statement against Roman Reigns in the title match. “Roman Sucks” chants could he heard reverberating around the stadium. Every time Reigns was beaten they cheered, every time he fought back against The Game they booed.

The Anouncement Teams

Michael Cole and JBL weren’t so bad this time but can someone explain what Byron Saxton is supposed to be there for? He barely gets a word in edge ways and he makes those two look acceptable when they’re not. The best bit about that Wrestlemania commentating team is that they had to work over an hour without a table after Shane McMahon decimated it jumping of the Hell in the Cell*. NXT’s team of Corey Graves and Tom Phillips were great. Corey Graves is the man and surely the future of commentating in the WWE.

Overall

NXT win hands down, they gave a 9.5 and Wrestlemania gave a 6. The matches were better, the storylines were better thought out and more realistic, and the fans were treated to wrestling of the highest quality from start to finish. The main WWE roster is currently insulting the intelligence of the fans and not even using the biggest stage to showcase some of its belts. For instance where was the United States Championship and how come the holder didn’t appear at all? Why were the Tag Team belts not on the line, it was clear that was done so The League of Nations could get a win. Why is the crowd more invested in NXT, even chanting it during Wrestlemania matches.

I get it’s Wrestlemania so the legends have to appear but it stinks of cliche and a creative team that have run out of ideas. Having to wheel out the oldies to put the show over proves that the current roster or WWE creative is struggling at entertaining the fans. The Rock defeated Eric Rowan in a record six seconds? Zzzzz. Why bury the Wyatt family? The Brock Lesnar vs Dean Ambrose match was stupid, as Ambrose got buried again and the street fight didn’t take place on the street, nor was it extreme and Lesnar’s multiple suplexes are becoming annoying. Everyone knew Reigns would walk away with the belt. Why does Ric Flair have to play apart in the Divas match? To prove that a woman needs help to win? So many plot holes.

NXT Takeover Dallas triumphs because even though it was a smaller show all the amount of concentrated action meant it gave the audience more than it could have hoped for with a script that played out fairly in-ring. Well done NXT Takeover Dallas.

*Special shoutout to Shane McMahon for jumping off the cell, that was mad and looked great!

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Major and minor criticisms on Channel 4's opening F1 coverage


Last weekend will be one to remember for various reasons, most of them positive. It was Easter, certain people were off work, some may have gone to certain pre-planned events or sporting fixtures and eggs or more specifically chocolate were the flavour of the day. The only real negative of this one-off annual weekend was the absymal but British weather.

For Channel 4 on their opening slice of F1 coverage, the previous weekend however, there were probably as many negatives as there were positives, but I must stress, not all of them their own making. Having been handed the reigns by the BBC in December of last year, they are now the UK’s terrestrial rights holders until the end of season 2018. Bernie (Ecclestone) has since agreed an exclusive deal with Sky for 2019 onwards, so, rather like the new qualifying format (which I reported on last week), they know they have a tough job to maintain interest. A bad start will make it twice as troublesome.

The first big point, aside from their opening Grand Prix of the 2016 Formula One season was the Motor Racing presenting debut of Steve Jones, formely of T4 and the first series of The X Factor USA. He certainly has the looks to impress the female F1 fans out there and also the team to help him on his new venture, in the form of David Coulthard (DC) (moving across from the BBC), Mark Webber (MW), and for live races Eddie Jordan (also from the BBC), but does he have the skill and/or right personality to present not just a sport, but what is considered by many (although recently slipping somewhat) to be the pinnacle of motorsport? After his inaugural show last week, many would say not.

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I must stress that Channel 4 have not actually presented anything live yet, and, when faced with such an instant and reactive scenario (ie this weekend), Jones may transpire to be a complete natural, but last weekend, particularly during the qualifying show, it is fair to say events did not flow naturally.

Now there is a danger that this could just become a rant about Steve Jones and all his failings so far. So just to make sure it is not, it is worth saying that to be fair, many aspects of the production were actually well constructed.

For starters, the once again new opening title sequence was stirring to say the least. This has been changed ever-frequently over the past decade, primarily due to the coverage switching between ITV, BBC and Channel 4, however the newest version is arguably, the best of the lot. ‘The Chain’ music has been retained, combined with a standout black and white canvas. This is mixed with the right amount of colour and imagery, as well as current personnel and recent millenium moments that are still fresh in people’s minds. The BBC’s, although good was a bit too dark for people’s liking and included clips that the modern day formula 1 fan will not necessarily always remember, or at least identify with.

Good too, was the opening VT of the new season, as two of the new team took us for a tour in the air, Jones and new analyst Mark Webber in a Helicopter, high over Melbourne and Albert Park. With the aim being to set the scene as the opening image of the first programme, they did well and summarised what we were to expect from the circuit, the setting itself and in a semi-conscious way the men themselves. This was then added to with another seperate VT which some would argue was not needed back to back. Fundamentally however, it summarised recent moments seen in the title sequence, described by adjectives, given by each member of the new Channel 4 team. It was a good end product, but possibly not so vital in that segment of the programme. Even so, it flowed well, and you did not stay ruffled by it, as the show went on.

Like with any broadcast nonetheless, there were areas with room for improvement, most notably the initial namecheck of the new presentation team itself. We heard of introductions concerning Alain Prost, Susie Wolff and Murray Walker, but Jones failed to also introduce Lee Mckenzie, Karun Chandhok and Bruno Senna. The former two both working on the broadcast that weekend. Maybe this was planned as the entire team had been announced online a week before but given this was Channel 4’s first weekend broadcast, as a producer I would have fundamentally made sure that their FULL team was introduced once more.

As it was, we were cued an interview with Fernando Alonso, conducted by Lee Mckenzie, with most probably many not having any idea who Lee Mckenzie was. The same could be said of a later interview with Pay Symonds of Williams, conducted by Karun Chandhok. Jones introduced him in even more relaxed fashion by way of , ‘Our Karun’s with Pat Symonds of Williams’. Considering Chandhok’s only previous involvement with Sky and his short stint in F1 itself, even some of the more hardcore viewers will have been struggling to aquaint themselves. The one other notable weakness during the inaugural Channel 4 broadcast had to be Daniel Ricciardo’s attempt at playing ‘The Chain’ in the lead to the final pre-qualifying break. It is obviously an unknown as to who authorised such a broadcast whether it be producer, director or Ricciardo himself, but what we do know is that it seemed like a slight misconception both literally and metaphorically.

Obviously once we hear Daniel himself saying, ‘This is my version of The Chain’ that is what we expect to hear. What came out seemed very very different. Clearly once this had been shot there was perhaps no room for manoeuvre in terms of content but was I the only one wondering if the final result was actually achieved, or were their some just not brave enough to question this? Allegedly Ricciardo is not a bad musician, but next time lets hear a full song or at least a verse, not one chord. Whether he messed up or the edit was wrong, we will never know, but what is clear, is that such a result cannot happen again.

Finally, presentation formation. Decide on a sequence Channel 4, and stick to it. The new team had begun with Steve Jones himself on the left of the screen, DC in the middle and MW on the right, straightforward and basic presentation, in order of presenter and the newest pundit first. For some reason however, after the first commercial break they had switched round. DC had taken up a position on the left-flank, MW running the central field and presenter Jones, setting the tempo from the right. Your guess is as good as mine folks! What I do know is that frequent visible movement of the presenting team will not only irritate your audience, but also leave them wondering whether you quite understand what you are presenting next. What matters is structure and content, not the order of your on-air contingent. Don’t draw attention to it yourself and the majority audience will not notice either.

In between other not so polished areas of the show, positive moments were again seen though, such as the plugging of the upcoming British Grand Prix by Jones when reading through this years world championship schedule. ‘Get your tickets while you can’ did not just promote the event but also hinted that it IS going to sell out if you don’t, without any questions. Anything else that was new for this season was also well linked into and professionally executed, including a once-over of new American Team HAAS and Renault’s English rookie Jolyon Palmer.

Going back to Steve Jones, the new Welsh presenting supremo himself, we should remember that this was his first ever gig presenting a live sports event so there were always bound to be a few nerves. What was worrying though were the amount of apparent faults in his presentation. If he was like this for a pre-record, what will he be like when Channel 4 are live this weekend in Bahrain? I accept that he improved considerably for the main race broadcast, but, like I am sure many are thinking, he cannot afford for (what are most likely) old habits to creep back, throughout the rest of this season.

Some of these habits, may just be plain enthusiasm, in which case they can be toned down. For example, his opening words were, “Hello and welcome to a brand new season of F1 on Channel 4″. Good and getting the main message across, but then, why add to that with, “It feels pretty good to be saying that guys!” Ok I see he is happy about the the great chance he’s been given and the fact Channel 4 has been chosen to cover it but….there are other ways of expressing yourself to the nation on such a stage. Especially when you have only literally broadcast your first line covering a sport that you have never covered before, nor even seemed related to by the audience.

Other moments however, seemed slightly more affixed to him personally, like making pointless statements. In what was DC’s first contribution of the broadcast, and indeed this season, as he commented on the surprise arrival of falling rain, Jones decided to butt in with, “yea it is a little bit.” A similar cluster of excuses could be made as before but  ultimately, a pointless comment. Additionally, as DC broke full flow about the weather experienced already that day, in came Jones again with, ‘four seasons in one day’ combined with an equally daft facial expression. As DC could only pause in surprise, our resident countryman Mark Webber confirmed, “That’s right.” Revising it again now I can see the funny side, but on first viewing I was at odds. This set a worrying trend for the rest of the show with more prudent interruptions apparent as the broadcast went on.

I am all for energy and interest, but there will always comes a time when this has to be curbed. The subsequent effects of his actions could be detrimental, if not, with his tendency to make comments for no real reason, in an vain attempt to liven up the show. Let the zest come naturally, and don’t force it.

Sadly though, there was still time for Jones to impose himself farther on proceedings, slightly more than most viewers would wish.

After a frank discussion regarding Fernando Alonso and his equally impressive interview with Lee Mckenzie, Steve’s back announcement could only be described as a jittery jiggle on top of the now ordinary over excitable remark. An initial, “Soooo chilled out” was followed by a nervous walk, a pointless comment, “the question is” and the actually very well measured question, ‘Do you think he’s given up on ever winning another championship?” Yes, this proves Jones has potential, but then he let himself down by trying to answer the question himself, “It sounded a bit that way.” Even as DC and MW were giving their frank and forthright response, Steve felt the need to give us his own answer in between. “It makes me sad!” was honest, but unneeded and untimed. As if we didn’t have enough good responses already in the shape of 2 ex-drivers themselves!

Still not content Jones also had to give his opinion on a certain member of his own presenting team as DC summed up what we had just seen. Impressed to the extent in which Alonso had opened up to the Channel 4 viewers, DC stated “That, I think is an exclusive” before Jones levelled with, “It is an exclusive, cause Lee’s that good.” One, we already knew Lee was a good interviewer, two DC had stated he was of similar opinion and three, why did Jones feel the need to confirm it, along with trying to sound completely big-headed. The viewers have semi-consciously trusted C4 to pick an interesting and capable presenting team. He does not need to confirm his own colleagues are good at their job. Needless to say, MW’s deadpan expression confirmed he felt like most of the watching public while DC had to muster a simple ‘yea’ in reply to seem like he’d acknowledged what he’d already acknowledged himself.

The final and most berserk move of them all however was the one made towards the end of the pre-show. After discussing the current mental state of both World Champion Lewis Hamilton and team-mate Nico Rosberg in conjunction with Nico’s 2nd practice mishap, Jones seemingly decided to start his own class of superstition. His words were, “In the same session that Lewis gets fastest lap, Nico Rosberg crashes. Dare we read into that (with an eccentric expression)?”

Furthermore, upon realising that his question was not going to register with his well-informed colleagues, perhaps aware that a “yes” would irk more than most, a somewhat embarrassed Jones muttered, ‘We dare not.’ perhaps telling himself to not “dare” propose such a thing ever again. I get many events in Formula 1 can often seem too good to be true, plus, I’m sure there are many events which, contrary to many, are actually planned, but this suggestion no doubt went slightly overboard on the element of surprise.

Other specific examples included, questioning DC’s judgment on Rio Haryanto’s pit lane practice 3 crash with Romain Grosjean, laughing immaturely over the top of a team radio VT, asking DC the same question he had already posed while he was trying to give an answer, stating “if drivers are struggling that’s good news for us” (to which DC could only respond “yep”), asking MW during his analysis whether more tyres would mean “more pit stops?” stating the obvious to DC that a 90 second rolling knockout quali “sounds exciting”, declaring “wahooooo, that’s pretty cool in childish fashion as Australian fighter jets flew overhead in the pre-qualifying activities, and last but not least, youthfully referring to the commentary box as “the comm box” as he cued up his colleagues Ben Edwards and DC for the days main event. Stay calm buddy and tone it down.

Lastly, I should clarify that all of the above criticisms have been taken from solely the main qualifying show and that actually during the main race broadcast, Jones and the team overall were much improved. Keep it up Channel 4!

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A new season, a new qualifying format.


A new Formula 1 season kicked off at the weekend’s Australian Grand Prix in Albert Park, Melbourne, and with it, so too a new qualifying format. No sooner that it had got off the ground however, it has been foiled, it’s start aborted and if you watched the seasons first qualifying yourself, it is easy to see why.

So bad it was, that you could have even been listening to the tones of top James Allen commentary on BBC Radio 5Live and you still would not have understood your have’s from your have nots.

The main issue was with the ’90 second countdown’ introduced to try and and make qualifying more dramatic for the viewing public. It certainly did this, but not in the way anyone imagined. If you are a regular fan of F1 you will know that qualifying was fairly dramatic enough as it already was. Resultantly, despite the aim being to make a more challenging session for the driver, in reality the opposite was true.

The first thing noticable was that nobody, aside from the various race engineers, actually seemed to have any idea about what was to unfold. Now this does not mean something will be a definite failure but it soon transpired that in actual fact, it was! You would have expected the odd team principle to come out and explain how and why they thought it might benefit them, but all were keeping their cards close to their chests’, now we can see why.

Having watched the seasons opening race on the newly devised terrestrial channel 4 coverage, both commentators Ben Edwards (BE) and David Coulthard (DC) seemed confused as to when the the new ‘knockout’ format would take hold. During a lively opening 5 minutes, DC first proclaimed that it was “7 minutes into’ a session that was 16 minutes in total.” He was in fact right, although Ben then responded with, “at 7 minutes, the slowest car will be knocked out,” seemingly unsure as to whether “at 7 minutes” meant 7 minutes in or 7 minutes to go.  In reference to Lewis Hamilton, Edwards then went on to say

‘He may not decide to be around in the knockout session’ after Lewis had set the fastest time early on. It transpires in actual fact, he had already decided not to be.

The idea with the 90 seconds was that each of the slowest 7 drivers in Q1, Q2 and Q3 would have one lap to push themselves higher up the order and survive to the subsequent session. Many (including me) thought this meant a fresh 90 seconds for each driver, but however it did not. If a driver’s time did manage to jump him up the order (inside the 90 second window) the next driver would ONLY have what was remaining of the current 90 seconds to improve himself. If this were to keep happening, it would mean a dominoe effect whereby each driver would have less and less time to improve so one would eventually run out of time whoever was fastest.

Realising this, most engineers had told their drivers to not bother entering the circuit once the knockout phase began as doing so would only waste fuel and rubber. The even more ridiculous result of the format meant (as it transpired) that the last placed driver at the end of each session (Q1-Q3) would actually be able to finish his lap, regardless of whether the final 90 seconds had elapsed so therefore he most probably, would jump a fair amount up the order. The idea being the final two drivers would battle it out to be higher up the grid. As it transpired however, not much battling was on show. The drama of Saturday, was actually watching people realise this as it unfolded.

Just one simple look at Channel 4’s qualifying highlights shows you just how much confusion this supposedly improved format actually created, right to the very top of the commentary box and the first voices we hear on tv.

Having suddenly changed his mind that 7 minutes into a 16 minute quali session did not mean 9 minutes would be left, DC stated with 8 minutes to go,

“30 seconds or so to go until we get into the 90 second drop out…” suddenly believing it meant 7 minutes left. BE then adding “I think Wehrlein will be the first to be eliminated.” No Ben, if you look at the left side graphic his position (22) has gone red. He already has been.

Esteban Guttierrez and Romain Grosjean then both end up in the “knockout zone” while BE debated whether each would have enough time. You could slowly see people realising that cars in danger actually needed at least 3 to 4 minutes track time to get out and FINISH a hot lap which could push them up the order. With a laptime just shy of 1min 25, they needed to be on a hotlap ideally before the 90 seconds was on them. Edwards best comment coming when discussing Romain Grosjean,

“Grosjean…in elimination territory here…he’s on circuit and he should have time…” before conceding that actually, “I’m not sure he has got time either.” Finishing a hotlap inside the 90 second window was something DC really initially struggled to comprehend, saying repeatedly while drivers were on outlaps,

“He’s going to have enough time to get across the line..(to start his hotlap).” Sauber’s Felipe Nasr was a victim of such confusion as he made his way round to complete what he thought would be a perfectly legitimate lap. BE then sparked the first on-air verbal disagreement of the weekend and indeed of the season when trying to correct his colleague by stating that Nasr would not actually finish his hotlap before the computerised 90 seconds were up. Dani Kvyat in the Red Bull was about to be eliminated but hadn’t even bothered to enter the track. Sauber had had all possible time to jump Nasr up the order, but had still been beaten by the system. I understand any new system in any environment will always mean people need time to adjust, but please, not to the level it was affecting the teams here when the on-track action was relatively quiet.

We still had time for everyone including myself (I had initially got a quicker grasp of the system than the Channel 4 commentary team) to be completely flummoxed by the events effecting the end of the session. Brit Jolyon Palmer was the final man in the knockout zone as the session ticked towards a close, just below Marcus Ericsson. If his lap had been run according to everyone else’s previous, he would have also run out of time to move up the order. As it was, as he was the last man affected in the session, he was (and would be under the revised system) allowed to complete his lap, however long was left after the chequered flag had dropped. Over to you Ben Edwards,

“I think Palmer’s going to run out of time…..ahhh he’s the last one out yea….. so as he’s the last one, he will be allowed to stay out and the clock ticking down, wont effect him as it does the others…”. It transpired that Palmer’s lap was easily enough to get him into the top 15 although Marcus Ericsson, out at the same time as Palmer (eliminated if he couldn’t better Palmer’s time) was unable to challenge the Renault rookie himself. The Sauber man was thus the final driver to exit in Q1.

I appreciate this whole concept is complex so will spend as little time as possible on Q2, however BE inadvertently summed it up perfectly when opening the session to viewers,

“No top 10 shootout anymore, it’ll be just 8 cars in the final part…” Many believed that qualifying until this year was fine and did not need changing, only the race itself was in need of a shake up. The words “top 10 shootout” used here though sounded far more appealing than anything else on show at the time.

The outstanding moment from Q2 was Torro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz jumping out of the dropzone into the top 5, He would go on to be more than competitive in the race. This then pushed Alonso into danger and the other noticable problem had arrived. As mentioned earlier, when a driver in danger betters his time, this pushes another driver into trouble. The new driver does not get a renewed 90 seconds. Therefore Alonso (who was in the pits anyway) only got a final 10 seconds in which to get himself out of trouble. The 10 seconds which were originally part of Sainz’s 90. Fernando did not and could not bother to improve. Nobody could blame him.

In the space of just over 10 seconds the timing beam had gone through 3 drivers and it seemed that every driver was metaphorically gasping for breath, never really in control of their destiny.

As Nico Hulkenburg then did manage to improve (albeit only by one place) the second session petered out, as was the case with Q3, Hamilton spending a considerable time on pole with a very empty track as response.

Anyone could see that this ‘new system’ was flawed and without any doubt at all, it was scrapped the following race morning at an emergency meeting, not fit to be continued, but many have asked, why was it changed in the first place? I for one, am also one of these people.

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Another Six Nations tournament is behind us as England have finally won the holy grail, which is the Grand Slam for the first time in 13 years. Here are my awards for this year’s championship.

Player of the tournament- Stuart Hogg

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This was probably the hardest category as there were many players in contention such as Billy Vunipola and George North, however the Scotsman just pipped them to the line with his effervescent displays from full-back that dazzled many fans and critics alike. With rugby union increasingly becoming a more tactical kicking game, it was refreshing to see free-flowing, expansive play and Hogg was at the forefront of that throughout the championship.

Two personal highlights for me was his quick reaction flick pass to Tim Visser that virtually sealed Scotland’s win over France and his 55 metre try on Saturday against Ireland, which he initiated with a dummy pass that bamboozled the Irish defence.  If the Glasgow Warriors man maintains this form he is a serious contender to start at no.15 for the British and Irish Lions next year against New Zealand.

Breakthrough of the tournament- Maro Itoje

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Maro Itoje has taken to international rugby like a duck to water with his imperious displays for England. Although he has been held in high regard for sometime, not many could have predicted the Saracen’s meteoric rise with his dominant displays whether it be at the breakdown, ball in hand or winning line-outs. It’s no wonder that he has been given the moniker “the chosen one” by his team mates.

Try of the tournament- George North

Although Jamie Heaslip’s try is doing the rounds (and rightly so) I’ve gone for the alternative option and opted for George North’s try against Italy. The move started from the line-out that was collected by Alun Wyn-Jones and passed to scrum-half Rhys Webb who passed to fellow half-back Dan Biggar who saw the imposing figure of North running from deep as he saw a gap in the leaky Italian defence and took advantage. With still quite a lot to do North showed excellent balance as he sidestepped and fooled both Luke McLean and David Odiete in the process and to finish with aplomb.

Reneissance of the tournament-  Chris Robshaw and Dylan Hartley

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For this category I have chosen England’s ex-captain and his successor as they both came under scrutiny prior to the tournament. Robshaw was vilified by the media as one of the major reasons for England’s failure last year and Hartley was criticised when new head coach Eddie Jones appointed him as the new captain in February, considering his disciplinary history. Both proved their critics wrong as Robshaw seemed to play more freely without the title of captain, while Hartley seemed to thrive on becoming captain with a sense of authority with Jones’ maverick decision paying off.

Coach of the tournament- Eddie Jones

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A rather easy choice as he not only guided England to the title, but also to the Grand Slam at the first opportunity too. Jones’ mind-games seemed to ruffle a few feathers along the way however you can not discredit how much of an effect the Australian had on his players although he tried to diffuse his influence.

Best match of the tournament- England v Wales

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This game was widely anticipated as many thought that this was the championship decider. The match had everything you could ask for in a game with some added controversy along the way. Another sub-plot to the game was that Wales defeated England at Twickenham six months ago in the World Cup and how would they respond? They started emphatically as England raced to a 16-0 lead at half-time.  With 10 minutes remaining and the score at 25-7, England were still in cruise control until prop Dan Cole was sin-binned for collapsing the drive and then the wheels fell off as Wales scored two converted tries courtesy of George North and Taulupe Faletau. Wales nearly completed the smash and grab as North was closing in on the try line but was put into touch by Manu Tuilagi as England held on and won 25-21.

Worst match of the tournament: France v Ireland

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Both these sides had disappointing campaigns by their lofty expectations and it was evident on the rain-soaked pitch as the Stade de France as both teams never really got going and it was not helped by the French resorting to uber-physical tactics to nullify Ireland. It did eventually work as Maxime Medard scored a late try for Les Bleus in a forgettable encounter.

Think you don't have time to do yoga? Think again with this five-minute yoga sequence for a great start or end to your day.  


Stretching the body with yoga can have a profound effect on our general health.  Understanding the challenges that some of you have with fitting in exercise around a busy life, I have come up with the following five-minute sequence.

The routine can make you feel as if you have done a full yoga workout.  Perfect for busy periods!

Remember with all exercise please check with your doctor first for suitability. Exercise at your own risk.

My wake up five-minute yoga sequence for the body and mind

Starting the day off in a positive way helps to keep momentum; by having the right mindset we can get the best out of our days.  So instead of worrying about the future, instead, try to think of five things you are grateful for. No matter how small, a little bit of gratitude goes a long way. Try it!

Once you are ready to do the yoga sequence, lie on your back, bend your knees, so your feet are flat on the floor. Relax the shoulders and place hands below the belly button. Take five deep slow breaths in and out through the nostrils.

Now from this position come into bridge pose, so you are already on your back with your feet flat on the floor with legs bend but, this time, the palms are facing down on the floor. Inhale and begin to lift the buttocks off the floor followed by the chest. Keep the chest lifted and breathe deeply.  Hold for five breaths. Come out slowly working from the chest. The tailbone is the last bit to come down.

Next, come into mini sun salutations. I adapted this sequence for a client with and injury but found they also work a treat when you don’t have much space or time.

Stand up tall and reach for the sky with the arms. Bend forward and touch your toes or shins. Inhale look forward. Exhale look towards the legs. Now inhale and reach up, exhale, bring the hands by your side. Repeat two to three times.

Ardha Matsyendrasana yoga pose

Now let’s do seated twist. Sit up straight with legs extended straight on the floor. Bending the right leg bring it over the extended left leg.  See picture above.

Flex the foot on the extended leg as you ground your sitting bones. The spine lengthens upwards.

Now take a deep inhalation, then as you exhale, bend your left elbow, as you bring it in front of the bent right leg. Right finger tips are on the ground as you look over your right shoulder. Next, take another deep breath as you lengthen the torso and twist to the right a little further. Keep your neck long, and chin tucked in a little.

Keep this posture as you, press the fingertips of the left hand to the floor with the arm extended behind you. Hold for five breaths. Come out slowly and repeat on the other side.

Relax for a few breaths before going about your m.

Hopefully, this will brighten up your day!  So next time you think you are too busy for yoga, think again. Even a little bit can go a long way.

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The Six Nations comes to a climatic end this weekend as England could win their first Grand Slam since 2003 as they face a dispirited French team in Paris.

Wales v Italy

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Wales will be looking to close out their championship in style and build on from the last 10 minutes from their narrow defeat against England last Saturday. They have the perfect opposition, in the form of the Italians as they have been leaking in tries throughout the competition and conceded nine at the hands of a 58-15 demolition job by Ireland.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland knows that his team will need to be clinical and perform better to impress the ever-demanding Welsh faithful: “This weekend is all about finishing off the tournament well and putting in a big peformance.”

Gatland also stated that it was a chance for some players to regain his faith after their display on Saturday. The New Zealander added: “Saturday is a good chance for some of the players to redeem themselves.”

Italy have already claimed the unwanted wooden spoon for this year’s championship and are already looking to the future as Harlequins director of rugby Conor O’ Shea is poised to take over from current head coach Jacques Brunel from next season.

Dan Lydiate will captain Wales for the first time on Saturday as Rhys Webb replaces Gareth Davies at scrum-half, after his cameo against England inspired Wales’ rallying but insignificant defeat. The other three changes for Wales are imposed as Hallam Amos, Luke Charteris and Justin Tipuric come into the XV.  The Azzurri also have injury problems as they make five enforced changes with former Leicester prop Martin Castrogiovanni coming in for the Italians along with Tommaso Allan, Valerio Bernabo, Quintin Geldenhuys and Andrea Pratichetti.

Ireland v Scotland 

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Ireland host the Scots in what has been a disappointing campaign for them. They started the tournament having won the championship back-to-back and looking for their third in succession to shake off the cobwebs from their quarter-final exit World Cup exit to Argentina last year. The Irish have been largely uninspiring this year as they are still reeling from last year’s retirement of motivational leader Paul O’ Connell.

Last week’s performance against Italy was their best by far and they will be buoyed by a vibrant Aviva Stadium on St. Patrick’s Day weekend. Scotland have been gradually improving as the tournament has been progressed and will be looking to upset the Irish and claim their first win in Dublin since 2010. The opposition head coaches, Vern Cotter and Joe Schmidt know each other very well having worked with each other in their homeland New Zealand and in France with Top 14 side Clermont and talk of a “friendly rivalry.”

Ireland only make one change from the Italy game with Tommy O’ Donnell deputising for Josh van der Flier as captain Rory Best recovered from a minor calf problem. The Scots make three changes for their final game as Duncan Weir, Ryan Wilson and Tim Swinson come in for Finn Russell, Josh Strauss and Jonny Gray respectfully

France v England

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Can they do it? Judging by their shady record it will be an astounding no. Since the Five Nations, became Six in 2000 England have had five chances to complete the Grand Slam and have only done so once in 2003, with their nearest miss coming three years ago when they were trounced by Wales who won the title in the process.

This is arguably England’s best chance to win since 2003 as they are up against a French side that is going through a rebuilding phase, however they would want nothing more than to scupper their old foes Grand Slam ambitions in the annual Le Crunch battle. All indicators lead to a resounding English win and the statistics back it up, however to even the fair-weathered rugby union fan, Les Bleus are renowned for their unpredictability and seem to thrive on the big stage/occasion.

The build up to the Stade de France showdown hasn’t come without controversy as the Six Nations senior bodies decided not to sanction England prop Joe Marler for his “Gypsy boy” taunt at Welsh counterpart Samson Lee. The WRU (Welsh Rugby Union) said that they were “surprised” by the officials lack of action to which England’s outspoken head coach Eddie Jones claimed that they were trying to derail his side’s Grand Slam bid. “They are happy to do anything to upset us in the preparation for the Grand Slam.” The Australian added, “maybe the WRU don’t know whether they’re Arthur or Martha.”

Even though Marler has been cleared to play against France, Jones has dropped him in favour of Mako Vunipola. England’s other change comes at scrum-half with Danny Care replacing Ben Youngs. France head coach Guy Noves has also made two changes with Loann Goujon and Bernard Le Roux coming in for Yacouba Camara and Wenceslas Lauret respectfully in the back row.

This could be the start of something special under the Jones regime or another opportunity added to the near misses catalogue by England over the past 16 years.

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The RBS Six Nations has been decided on week 4 of the championship. England have won for the first time since 2011 after Scotland beat France on Sunday. Here’s my observations from the weekend’s action:

1. A tale of two captains

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The appointment of Dylan Hartley as the new captain of England last month seemed to ruffle a few feathers considering his disciplinary record that has seen him miss two World Cups and a Lions tour in the process. Many saw Eddie Jones’ decision as a huge gamble and he even said that he was “hoping and praying” that his decision did not backfire. So far it hasn’t and with a championship to boot it seems successful.

Hartley has gone about his business in the most proficient way, by producing on the pitch and gradually gaining the respect from his detractors. His predecessor Chris Robshaw was one of the scapegoats for England’s disastrous World Cup campaign, with many pundits believing that the Harlequins flanker will be left out of the squad for the upcoming championship. However Jones decided to retain Robshaw and has been reaping the rewards in the process, as the ex-captain has been playing his best international rugby in the past 12 months in an understated fashion.

Jones said of Robshaw: “To come back and play such a pivotal role in the resurrection of the team, I think it is just outstanding.” He added “to be splashed on the papers, basically the villain of English Rugby, and to have to endure the captaincy debate, which I didn’t help but was necessary.”

2. Itoje’s stock is rising 

Maro Itoje is swiftly becoming the most talked about player in the rugby world after another dominant performance in what was only his third cap (second start) for the red rose of England. He was deservedly named man of the match in England’s defeat of Wales. His all-action play was that of a seasoned pro, not of a 21 year-old rookie. I just hope for his sake that we don’t hype him up too much and put pressure on him as we have a tendency to do that too often to our young athletes.

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3. Hogg instrumental to Scotland’s success 

Scotland fullback Stuart Hogg was yet again a key component to a Scottish victory as he scored and superbly set up Tim Visser with a flick pass that sealed the victory for the Scots. The 23-year old is bringing together an excellent highlight reel for this championship as he also scored 3 points with a penalty kick from Scotland’s half. He is surely a contender for the player of the tournament as he is one of the main factors for a resurgent Scotland team who beat France for the first time in 10 years.

4. Cuthbert’s confidence is at rock bottom

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Alex Cuthbert has been the target of social media trolls for a while for his performances and his display against England may have intensified it with a beleaguered showing for Wales. The Cardiff Blues wing missed tackles on numerous occasions and seems bereft of the form and confidence that saw him play for the Lions in 2013.

5. Ireland finally put in an attacking masterclass

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Ireland finally won as they obliterated the Italians with a 58-15 onslaught. Having been rather subdued in their performances, the Irish broke their record and scored nine tries against the sorry Azzurri who had no answer for the constant wave of attacks from the boys in green. Andrew Trimble, who missed out on the World Cup seemed like a man possessed with his darting runs that replicated his 2014 form that saw him named Irish player of the year as he scored the opening try of the game. They’ll hope to put in a similar performance as they close out their championship against Scotland in Dublin on Saturday.