Heineken Cup Quarter Final Weekend


Frauds can take many forms. They can appear as flash players, one-trick coaches or style over substance teams. Fraud teams win the games that don't matter and don't turn up for the ones that do. At home they play like they never want to leave the field and when away, they keep their suitcases on the sidelines so they can run straight to the airport.

If a team is a fraud it will be discovered during the quarterfinal weekend. Kidney's Leinster, Deano Richards' Harlequins and almost every Stade Francais team to enter the tournament have suffered a communal castration when the pressure of knockout rugby dawned on them.

Biarritz is the biggest fraud in operation. It is the crooked car salesman of the tournament. We know they are rotten but somehow we have yet to prove it. They reverse into the knockout stage every year with the aid of handy draws and Italian opponents.

Luckily Leinster's culture has changed and they will face Leicester with complete confidence. That match six years ago was the perfect storm of a terrible team selection and a gutless team performance that made you wonder if players like O'Driscoll and Horgan would ever win anything. Kidney's mismanagement of the game- Shane Jennings was lost for two seasons because of it- seems to have been expunged from his record and was every bit as bad as his Grand Slam achievement was good.

Like on that occasion, this Leicester pack has the ability to trouble Leinster. Tom Croft is back to his Lions form and Castrogiovanni will look to torment the Leinster scrum again. Leicester also boast Thomas Waldron, who is being touted in England as "the next Nick Easter .

Although if anyone knows why England would want a second Nick Easter feel free to let me know.

Northampton and Ulster is an interesting one, in the sense that either side could implode/explode. Northampton could go the way of Richards' Harlequins, although probably without the JFK style conspiracy. (Was Tom Williams acting alone? Was Dean Richards the second shooter?)

Sky Sports' inflate the Aviva Premiership sides' egos to such an extent that they can be unprepared if their opponents stand up to them. Bath and Saracens were both comprehensively outplayed by Irish opposition in the pool stages and they are meant to be two of England's best sides. Sky portray Northampton prop Tonga'uiha and centre James Downey as wrecking balls, which they are in the sense that they follow forward bursts by slowly moving from side-to-side. The flip side is if Northampton starts well the confident play of Ashton and Foden will make life very difficult for Ulster.

Ulster can be hopeful though. The Ulster mercenaries have been money well spent. They all sound like Danny Archer from "Blood Diamond  and have improved the spine of the side hugely. There is a famous quote from the creator of "The Muppet Show  Jim Henson (who oddly didn't create Gavin Henson- arguably the biggest fraud in world rugby) which is "You always have to keep believing and keep pretending 

After this weekend it's doubtful these frauds will be doing either.