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06th Oct 2016

11 things casual rugby fans needs to know now that the GAA season is over

Mikey Stafford

That replay left you cutting it a little fine, but you haven’t really missed anything.

Every autumn, like clockwork, sports fans all across the country finally mute Joe Brolly and Pat Spillane, turning their attention to their winter hobby.

Sure you have the Premier League and NFL and UFC and the rest to occupy you, but we all feel a need for something a little more visceral, a little closer to home, something to make us as miserable as an unsuccessful Allianz League Division 4 campaign.

Thankfully rugby has been quietly limbering up in the background, just waiting for all you GAA heads to get your fill of black card controversiesPlayer of the Year controversies and social media controversies before begrudging the All-Ireland champions their victory, giving out shite about all the pundits and hitting ‘series record’ on Against the Head.

As if by magic, the whole All-Ireland tent is packed up and stored away just in time for the biannual grudge match between Munster and Leinster (and the ‘other’ grudge match between the reigning PRO12 champions and most in-form team in the league).

After 13,000 attended Leinster’s defeat of Ospreys two weeks ago, over 40,000 are expected at the Aviva on Saturday for the province’s sixth league game of the season, against Munster.

Among that 27,000 surplus there are sure to be a few morphing GAA fans coming in a little cold. Here are a few pointers to help you charge, like a rampaging flanker, head-first into another eight-month rugby season.

Munster are now the chumps at the poker table

Munster Rugby Squad Training, UL, Limerick 31/8/2016 Director of Rugby Johan 'Rassie' Erasmus Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Tommy Dickson

“When look at the pool, you look for the easy games and when you look at this group you quickly realise that you are the easy game. We have to change that perception,” said Rassie Erasmus at Wednesday’s Champions Cup launch.

Stand up and fight Rassie, FFS. Munster may not have made the knockout stages in a couple of years, but you were brought in for your Afrikaans doggedness, not your brutal honesty.

Leo Cullen is still in charge at Leinster, we think

Leinster Rugby Press Conference, Leinster HQ, Dublin 5/9/2016 Head coach Leo Cullen with new senior coach Stuart Lancaster Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

If a head coach and a senior coach got into a fight, who wins? Still, both Leo and former England head coach Stuart Lancaster look happy with the whole arrangement.

Connacht are still winning matches

Screen Shot 2016-10-06 at 16.15.52

Okay, they only just got their first points on the board after a tough start to the season for the champions. Pat Lam’s team are still playing pretty rugby, it’s just other teams are finding it pretty easy to score tries against Pat Lam’s suffering artists (who are suffering one hell of a hangover).

Rodney Ah You plays for Ulster now

I know, weird. The previously much-maligned, but now very in-demand prop will line out against his old buddies in Galway on Friday night.

Robbie Henshaw doesn’t play for Leinster, yet

Leinster Rugby Squad Training, Rosemount, UCD 26/9/2016 Robbie Henshaw Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Perhaps the most notable member of the Connacht exodus, there are whispers the Ireland centre – out since June with a knee injury since June – could make his bow for the city slickers against Munster on Saturday.

Concussion is still a headache


As if Connacht’s playing squad was not thinned out enough by departures, Ireland front-row Nathan White last week announced his retirement due to concussion. Declan Fitzpatrick, Kevin McLaughlin and Dave McSharry were all forced to quit the game early for the same reason, while Munster’s Mark Chisholm has not played since March and Ulster and Ireland centre Luke Marshall suffered his fifth concussion last month.

Niyi Adeolokun is the next big thing

The kid’s got wheels, or gas, as they say. If he was playing in Croker, you’d say he had speed across the ground.

Darren Sweetnam may be the next, next big thing

Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Semi-Final 22/4/2012 Cork Darren Sweetnam Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

The former Cork hurler has played every minute of every game for Munster this season. He muted Joe Brolly permanently.

But Charles Piutau is the current big thing


This guy could be starring on the all-dominant, all-singing, all-dancing All Blacks team. Instead he is in Belfast, making a mockery of everything we used to hold true about rugby. Get Lee Keegan and Brian Fenton out of your head, this is your new god.

Simulation is officially frowned upon


It is not enshrined in law. No more diving. Gaels will be glad.

But don’t worry, referees are as popular as ever

Guinness PRO12, Sportsground, Galway 30/9/2016 Connacht vs Edinburgh Connacht’s Bundee Aki chats to referee Nigel Owens after the game Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

It’s a measure of the soundest of Bundee Aki that he can share a joke with one of… them. Nigel Owens aside, referees are coming in for dog’s abuse once more with Irish ones hated by Welsh and Scottish fans, Welsh ones hated by Irish and Scottish fans etc etc. People are demanding neutrality and consistency… it’s just like the black card thing.

Enjoy the winter months!

The GAA Hour pays tribute to the unbeatable Dubs and ask where did it all go wrong for Mayo in the All-Ireland final replay. Listen below or subscribe on iTunes.