RugbyThe Offload

Whirlwind week sees Dylan Donnellan move from amateur with a day job to the RDS turf

The Offload: Rugby has a problem if attacking is bad for you - Ireland’s resilience pays off with WXV3 title

Clontarf captain Dylan Donnellan was on his way to meet a client last Monday when he received a call that perhaps he hoped would have come roughly a decade earlier.

Donnellan, who once upon a time was a member of Leinster’s academy and the Ireland U20s squad in 2014, didn’t make it as a pro in Ireland. The Galway native and former Clongowes student instead had stints at Biarritz, under Eddie O’Sullivan, and Yorkshire Carnegie, at the recommendation of former Leinster coach and Yorkshire native Stuart Lancaster.

Donnellan eventually came back to Ireland. Now a sales rep with a laboratory supplies company, the 29-year-old finally earned an elusive first provincial cap when called in to cover for a personnel crisis at hooker.

“It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time,” said Donnellan after a 12-minute cameo off the bench in Saturday’s win over the Sharks. “At my age you probably think it’s gone past you.”


“I actually got the call on Monday, I was on my way to visit a customer ...[I was] togging out and then getting back into the suit and tie and going into work. I had a couple of funny faces from the lads all right. A different week but really enjoyable.”

Last weekend, John McKee suffered a hamstring injury in Leinster’s defeat to Glasgow. Gus McCarthy, captain of last year’s Grand Slam-winning Ireland U20s outfit, is also unavailable through injury. With Ronan Kelleher and Dan Sheehan not back from World Cup duty, Leinster needed a body.

“It’s an amazing story, isn’t it?” acknowledged Leo Cullen. “Clontarf is a great club. They’re very supportive of us. We’re thankful of his [Donnellan’s] employers that they were sympathetic to his and our needs.”

As for what happens next, that remains to be seen depending on when Leinster’s four other hookers return. Cullen admitted that it hadn’t been decided how long Donnellan will stick around. Regardless, even if it was just for a week, he finally got to live out his provincial dream.

He who dares, loses?

Does rugby have a style problem? New Zealand completed a perfect trend in Saturday’s final, that of every team that attacked more ending up on the wrong side of the result in the World Cup knock-out stages.

The All Blacks had more carries (150 vs 83), metres made (481 vs 358), line breaks (seven vs three) and defenders beaten (36 vs 13) than the Springboks. Yet, as with every other knock-out, attacking quantity doesn’t lead to more positive outcomes, with only 68 per cent of New Zealand’s possessions not ending with an error or turnover. South Africa’s figure? 80 per cent.

It’s been a long-held belief that kicking and defending well is a safer winning ploy, especially in knock-outs, than holding on to the ball. The chances of winning the territory battle are better while the likelihood of mistakes costing points in your own half diminishes.

But for not one single team in the World Cup knockouts to be an outlier and win while backing their attack over their defence and aerial game is curious, if not concerning. World Rugby is aware of the need to make some sort of change to promote attacking creativity. In recent years, laws have been tweaked, such as the removal of five-metre scrums when held up over the line. Is further action needed?

Rugby aficionados will always appreciate the beauty of a dominant defence and strong kicking display. Neutrals that only tune in during the World Cup, who we want to stay connected to the game, may not agree.

Resilience takes Ireland to silverware

Ireland co-captain Sam Monaghan praised her side’s resilience after rebounding from 13-3 down at half-time to beat Spain 15-13 to claim the inaugural WVX3 title.

Second-half tries from Grace Moore and Neve Jones cashed in on Ireland’s set-piece dominance at the maul, setting them up for a revenge win of sorts over the side that contributed to their failure to qualify for the most recent World Cup.

“At half-time I basically said to the team that I 100 per cent wholeheartedly believed we were going to win that match,” said Monaghan. “It’s not easy going into a dressingroom 10 points down at half-time with a yellow card. It just shows the character that we have in this group, that we can face a challenge and hit it head on.

“I think we stuck to our game plan, exactly as we said, and played where we wanted to play. Spain’s defence was probably the biggest defence we’ve come up against.

“Although this was a harder challenge this week [than previous victories in the competition], I think the resilience we showed and the decisions we made in the second half under pressure showed how much we’re building as a squad, and the confidence we can play with now.”

Number: 1

South Africa won their quarter-final vs France, semi-final vs England and final vs New Zealand all by one-point margins.


“I’m thinking caramel cheesecake. I saw it earlier at the hotel.” Springboks prop Ox Nche on his celebratory platter.

Nathan Johns

Nathan Johns

Nathan Johns is an Irish Times journalist