Martin Anayi Programme Notes: “For club and country we saw some powerful reactions last weekend which shows why so many care deeply about the game”

Adam Redmond
01 March 2019

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No matter what level of rugby you watch or play in, last weekend was a great reminder of the indelible memories that our sport can create. Memories that last a lifetime.

Watching Wales’ win over England in Cardiff provoked some powerful reactions whether you were at home or watching on TV. It was the type of drama that makes the hairs stand up because so many people care about this great game.

But you don’t have to be caught up in the passion show at the Principality Stadium to spot the magic moments rugby provides. Last Sunday it was terrific to see Leigh Halfpenny back on the field for Scarlets as the took on the Toyota Cheetahs and not only was it his first game since November, it was Leigh’s first run-out in front of his little baby daughter Lily and that will have meant so much to him.

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Returning to the international game and the weekend provided a proud moment for Connacht’s Jack Carty. It may have lasted little more than a few minutes, but they will be treasured by the player, his family and all of those who helped him get to the Test arena.

Carty’s first international appearance means he is the fourth player from the Guinness PRO14 to make his Test debut in the Six Nations so far. Last year we had close to 300 internationals appear in the Championship and of those 76 made their Test debuts during the season. That proves that you are always getting to see the best talent in the world game along with the next generation of stars in the Guinness PRO14 – a mix which creates such fast-paced, entertaining rugby.

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The fuel for such adventurous rugby comes from competition. Round 17 may throw up the ultimate juxtaposition in the Guinness PRO14. A win for Leinster would see them earn a home Semi-Final in the quickest time ever – however, with 10 teams battling it out for the five remaining knock-berths the competition is as intense as we’ve ever seen it.

There are must-win games wherever you look across the Championship this weekend. The Toyota Cheetahs will need to surprise Leinster to keep in touch with Cardiff Blues, Connacht and Ospreys for a Guinness PRO14 Final Series.

Connacht and Ospreys meet in Galway in a game that will have direct consequences for the title hopes of both teams while the games in Treviso keep getting bigger and bigger for Benetton Rugby with Conference B rivals Edinburgh arriving trying to make up a four-point gap in the table.

Italian rugby is right on the precipice of some real achievement and if Benetton were to qualify for the knock-out stages that would provide a real boost to the Guinness PRO14. We saw good news last week in Robbie Henshaw’s decision to sign a new contract with Leinster and the IRFU – the significance of this is that it marked the 20th of our 26 squad members from the 2017 British and Irish Lions tour who has either been re-signed or been repatriated to their home union.

In Wales not only have a host of top-name players renewed their contracts but we’ve seen Jonathan Davies, George North, Leigh Halfpenny and Ross Moriarty all return to regional rugby and having front-line Test players back in the principality helps grow the interest in the game.

With so many teams still in contention for the knock-out stages the Guinness PRO14 Final is coming up into view at Celtic Park on May 25. Without even making a tackle you can guarantee your place by going direct to  to get your tickets.

The Guinness PRO14 Final has become a great event for supporters of all our clubs and if you fancy treating yourself, or perhaps surprising that passionate rugby fan in your life, then a trip to Celtic Park on May 25 should do the trick!

Enjoy the games,

Martin Anayi

Watch every game in the Guinness PRO14 by subscribing to eir sport or Premier Sports


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