Willie Duggan A Life Lived To The Full

Two weeks ago on a bright Sunday morning, I took the DART railway from Lansdowne Road, which skirted beautifully around sun-kissed Dublin bay, before arriving at Blackrock, a sleepy seaside town that overlooks the bay.

A town synonymous with Irish Rugby, the home of Blackrock College RFC, one of the oldest senior rugby clubs in Ireland, established in 1882, the club that produced so many great players, including Fergus Slattery, Brian O’Driscoll, Alain Rolland, and one William Patrick Duggan.

Little did I think that just a short time later, I would be reflecting Willie’s entire life, after hearing the news, last Monday, of his sudden and untimely death at the age of sixty-seven.


Willie Duggan In Blackrock Colours

Willie Duggan was a larger than life character from the amateur and wild days of rugby, he was as hard as nails, played 41 times for Ireland, and toured New Zealand with the 1977 British Lions playing in all four tests against the All Blacks.

The 1977 Lions To NZ With Willie Duggan Circled

His first cap for Ireland came in the 12-9 defeat of England at Lansdowne Road, in the 1975 Five nations.

In 1977 he became the first man to be sent off in a five nations match, (along with Geoff Wheel), following a punch up during the Wales v Ireland match in Cardiff.

Duggan always maintained that he was never sent off. “The ref came towards me and said would you mind leaving the field”, I said “Sure not at all, I was b******d anyway”

He scored two tries for his country and captained Ireland in his final international, a 32-9 defeat to Scotland at Lansdowne Road in 1984.

A heavy smoker during his playing days, once when running on to the field at Twickenham, when Ireland were playing England, he handed his cigarette to referee Alan Hosie before kick off.

Willie had what he himself called a pathological dislike of training.

His one concession to fitness being a breakfast of half a dozen raw eggs on the morning of a match.

“I always had the philosophy that if you took 30 players out for a night, and made sure they were p****d before they got to bed at 3am, then got them up at 8am, trained the bejasus out of them, then you would know who was up to lasting 80 minutes in an international”

Willie lived and worked in Kilkenny, where he ran “Willie Duggan Lighting Ltd” the shop he took over from his father, and with his passing one very bright light has certainly been extinguished.

There was never a dull moment with Willie Duggan, particularly when he was in the company of his great mate Maurice Ignatius Keane, and the pair of them became “legends” on the 77 Lions tour for their riotous behaviour, where “Moss” Keane earned the nickname “Rent-A-Storm.

With “Moss” having left us in 2010, the two of them are now reunited, which is desperately  sad for us but heavenly for them.

Rest in peace boys.



WRWC Final 2017 Roses & Ferns Blooming Marvellous !

Cyathea Medullaris and Rosales were nearly everyone’s predictions for the women’s World Cup final participants at the start of the tournement.

Or to give them their non scientific names, Black Ferns and Red Roses, a final that could be described as a horticulturalists dream.

But there are startling similarities between the rugby and flora aspects of both.

The Black Fern can grow quite large, block out Roses and will take advantage of any open space regardless of sun and shade.

Red Roses are extremely versatile, hardy (or even Amy Wilson Hardy) and can be placed in a variety of locations where they will flourish.

Planted in Dublin on August 9 they blossomed in the mixture of rain and warm sunshine that visited the Emerald Isle through the tournament, and were  hoping to reach full bloom in Belfast on Saturday night.

The Red Roses put on a magnificent first half display showing their true colours, and  put the Black Ferns well and truly in the shade.

But in an astonishing second half the Black Ferns suffocated the Red Roses, they blocked out every space and every chunk of light, and they trampled all over them causing an inevitable wilting and a 41-32 final score line.

But Roses will flourish once again, so now it is important that any required pruning takes place,that they are tended, cared for and nurtured to enable them to bloom again in early February. 

Harlequins Launch Women And Girl Programmes

At a sunny Stoop this morning Harlequins formally launched their Women and Girls programme ahead of the 2017/18 season.

In doing so, the Club has reaffirmed its commitment to growing and developing the women’s game by creating a pathway from grassroots to elite international rugby.

Girls can be introduced to the game through the Harlequins Foundation’s Switch programme and can then become more formally affiliated with the sport through the Harlequin Amateurs girls’ section.

Developing through minis, junior and teenage rugby, the option to play at a social or elite adult level is available through the Harlequins Ladies third, second and first teams.
The Harlequins first and second teams will compete in the RFU’s elite structures, while the third team will compete within the National Challenge 1 SE West League.

Commenting on the launch, Harlequins Global Development and Academy Director Tony Diprose said: “Developing women’s rugby is a key part of Harlequins’ five-year strategy as the Club looks to support the expansion of the game into new markets. Today is a landmark moment for Harlequins and we are so proud to be able to offer a programme that will enable aspiring girls to play and represent this great club at a high level.”

Formally launching the programme at The Stoop, members of the Harlequins Ladies first, second and third teams inspired the future generation of players by running a coaching session for 50 children on the pitch.

Participants included those on the Harlequins Foundation’s Switch programme, affiliated community clubs, and Harlequins Junior Members.

Under the watchful eyes of Harlequins Ladies co-Head Coaches Karen Findlay and Gary Street, the session was an exciting beginning to this long-term project.

“Today was about putting Harlequins at the forefront of the women’s game,” Street said. “We are all incredibly excited to be part of this venture in driving the development of our sport in a local, national and international environment.

“The interest in women’s rugby is ever increasing and we will be capitalising on the success of the Women’s Rugby World Cup, in which Harlequins has nine representatives, ahead of the inaugural Tyrell’s Premier 15s competition and beyond.”

In February, the RFU confirmed Harlequins’ place in the newly-formed Tyrell’s Premier 15s competition, which kicks off next month.

Having partnered with League and Cup champions Aylesford Bulls Ladies last season, they have been formally brought under the Harlequins umbrella, alongside the Harlequin Amateurs and Harlequins Ladies 3rd XV, for the 2017/18 season. 

Playing their home matches at Surrey Sports Park, Guildford, the Club has also confirmed that three matches will take place at The Stoop, against Bristol Ladies, Richmond, and Saracens.

Womens Rugby Where Do We Go From Here ?

There are 2.2 million women and girls now playing rugby at all levels, an increase of 142% since 2012, making it one of the fastest growing team sports in the world.

Katie Sadlier is World Rugby’s general manager of womens rugby, and there is an awful lot of corporate jargon and business speak in what she has to say, from intergrated development pathways to best practice governance standards, but I guess ever since the day a clearance kick became a defensive exit strategy there was no going back grammatically.

But in plain English, by 2025 the governing body has an ambition is to be a global leader in sport, where women have equal opportunities on and off the field play.

To this end “World Rugby Women’s Plan 2017-2025” is due to be cibsidered by the World Rugby Council in November.

I have been told that this plan has involved a consultation process involving  fans, unions, regional associations and broadcast partners in an attempt to generate increased interest in the women’s game, attract new investment and maximise the sports commercial value.

There is no mention of the players being consulted, most of whom at this World Cup will end up severely out of pocket, and with all their annual leave used up, but sadly thats nothing new.

Women’s rugby is a sleeping giant, the queues of people outside the UCD Bowl last week begging for tickets to watch Ireland v Japan was something I hadn’t seen in rugby since Wales v France at Cardiff Arms Park in 1978.

Ireland v Japan UCD Bowl

The Irish Rugby Union could have trebled ticket sales for the pool stages of this years tournament had they chosen Donnybrook or a similar larger venue as opposed to University College.

Also media demands need to be met and catered for to spread the word, not just the newspaper journos but also those on social media and electronic mediums who with the touch of a button can bring the wonders of the great occasion to phones iPads and computers by the tens of thousands.

We await with interest the “World Rugby Women’s Plan 2017-2025” I’ve already got my dictionary on hand to decipher it.

If it mentions stakeholders, then mine’s a medium eight ounce rib eye.

Final Pool Matches Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017

The final pool matches at the Womens Rugby World Cup 2017 take place on Thursday.

This tournament will no doubt favour those countries with strength in depth, at a World Cup where teams are expected to win five matches in 17 days.

England, with a fully  proffesional squad, and great strength in depth, have a big advantage over their rivals, a fact confirmed by their coach Simon Middleton, and it is difficult to imagine that the Red Roses, along with New Zealand, will not make the semi finals.

That leaves the USA, Canada, France and  hosts Ireland to fight it out for the final two places.

Ireland have to beat an inform French team who demolished Australia last Sunday, whilst the host nation struggled to see off Japan.

Canada will probably need a bonus point against New Zealand to have a chance of going through as the best runner up, as the USA are a point ahead of them going in to their last game against England.

So the semi finals could end up with New Zealand playing Canada for the second time in four days, and England facing either France or Ireland.

It’s going to be an epic day on Thursday

Here are the fixtures and the current pool standings 

Canada v New Zealand Billings Park 12pm

Wales v Hong Kong UCD Bowl  5.15pm

England v USA Billings Park 2.30pm

Italy v Spain UCD Bowl 2.45pm

Australia v Japan Billings Park 5pm

France v Ireland UCD Bowl 7.45pm

Day One Round Up Women’s Rugby World Cup 

53 seconds, the time it took England’s Megan Jones to open her try scoring account in the opening game of the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup.

10 tries by the Red Roses saw them romp home against Spain 56-5

The Black Ferns made it a black day for Wales beating them 44-12 out scoring the ladies in red by eight tries to two.

Birthday girl Alhambra Nievas refereed the USA v Italy which resulted in a star spangled win for the Eagles

Canada demolished Hong Kong 98-0 scoring sixteen tries in the process 

The most exciting match of the day saw hosts 

Ireland narrowly defeat Australia 19-17, in a six try thriller which gave the Wallaroos a losing bonus point

Finally as the sun set on a glorious day in the Dublin the ladies from the land of the rising sun were soundly defeated by France and Makiko Tomita of Japanreceived a red card.

Twelve tries and a 72-14 win for the Blues

Boks Whistle Blower To Referee World Cup Opener


South Africa’s top female referee Aimee Barrett-Theron will celebrate Women’s Day on a memorable note on Wednesday as she takes charge of the opening match of the Women’s Rugby World Cup between defending champions, England, and Spain in Dublin.


Aimee and Cwengile Jadezweni, who was also a member of the referee panel at the World Rugby U20 Championship in Manchester last year, have been in Ireland since last Thursday preparing for the international spectacle, which runs from 9 to 26 August.


Jadezweni has been named an assistant referee for the match between France and Japan on Wednesday after being called up as a late replacement to the referee panel.


Barrett-Theron’s appointment as the referee for the opening match follows on an incredible two seasons in which she officiated at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, the Women’s Six Nations and the HSBC Women’s Sevens World Series, while she also took the whistle in Women’s Rugby World Cup warm-up matches in New Zealand in April.


Her other notable achievements include becoming the first female referee to take charge of an U18 Coca-Cola Craven Week match in July and in the FNB Varsity Shield, presented by Steinhoff International.


“It is an honour to be named as the referee for the opening match of the World Cup and to be part of this fantastic showcase of women’s rugby,” said Barrett-Theron.


“It is also a special way to celebrate Women’s Day.


“I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to officiate matches between some of the World Cup teams in New Zealand earlier in the year, and that was the perfect preparation going into the tournament.”


Barrett-Theron, who has become an inspirational figure for many young female referees, also offered advice to young women with aspirations to follow in her footsteps and said: “The last few seasons have been an incredible journey for me, and I encourage anyone who wants to take up refereeing to believe in themselves and do their best. If you give everything, anything is possible in life.”