Marty Moore should be back in the Ireland squad

Impressive Moore pressing for Ireland return

Watching Marty Moore in action for Ulster this season, there’s a reasonably strong argument to put forward that in playing some of the best rugby of his career, he should be back in the Ireland squad.

The 31-year-old tighthead prop was again impressive at the weekend, capping a fine performance with a try in the Irish province’s United Rugby Championship defeat to the Stormers in South Africa.

Noted for his ability in the scrum, Moore’s work ethic on both sides of the ball is first class and as Andy Farrell considers his options ahead of this summer’s tour to New Zealand, the Ulster prop should have pretty good claims based on current form.

Finlay Bealham and Tom O’Toole appear to be preferred options in terms of the national ranking behind Tadhg Furlong. Moore won 10 Ireland caps, all from the bench during Six Nations winning campaigns in 2014 and 2015 and missed out on a World Cup in the latter year because of a foot injury.

He joined Wasps in 2016 thereby removing the chance of playing Test rugby until his return to Ireland in 2018 when he joined Ulster. This season he’s been Ulster head coach Dan McFarland’s preferred choice in some of the bigger games and he has vindicated that faith. If he can stay injury free and retain his form then Farrell might be tempted to return him to the national squad.

Incoming All Black

Charlie Ngatai is set to join Leinster in the summer from French Top 14 side, Lyon. The 31-year-old New Zealander, who won a single cap for the All Blacks against Samoa in 2015, is believed to have agreed a two-year contract, according to reports in France.

The place-kicking centre played with the Hurricanes and Chiefs in Super Rugby and is a former New Zealand Maori captain who lined out against Warren Gatland’s British and Irish Lions team in 2017. Ngatai would have won more caps for New Zealand but for injury.

In 2018 he decided to move to France and joined Lyon for whom he has played 82 matches. The French media reported that Lyon expected him to sign a one -year contract extension but were instead “surprised and disappointed” to learn that he has instead agreed to join the Irish province.

Ngatai has played 16 matches for Lyon this season but will be sidelined for another month after fracturing the tibia in his right leg in February.

Leinster are losing three backs, David Hawkshaw (Connacht), Adam Byrne (Connacht) and Rory O’Loughlin (Exeter Chiefs) who are departing for fresh challenges next season.

Given that Leo Cullen’s side is the bulk supplier to the Ireland squad, the arrival of such a high-calibre player is an important acquisition for the group, someone who will provide leadership and quality.

Ngatai is a second signing for next season after South African secondrow Jason Jenkins agreed to make the short trip from Limerick to Dublin.

Lyon’s centre Charlie Ngatai is Leinster-bound. Photograph: Patrick Khachfe/Inpho
Lyon’s centre Charlie Ngatai is Leinster-bound. Photograph: Patrick Khachfe/Inpho

McFarland mystified

“I’ve got to be careful what I say here but I can’t understand why that’s not a try. If it’s not a try, then why is it a knock-on [against Ulster]? They deliberately knocked the ball out of our hands. I don’t get that.” – Ulster coach Dan McFarland after replacement prop Callum Reid was denied a potential match-winning late try in a defeat against the Stormers.

Generous gesture from Cork Con

€X: An unspecified sum of money presented by Donal Lenihan on behalf of Cork Constitution to Clontarf and Leinster flanker Alex Soroka. Con donated their gate receipts from Saturday’s AIL game between the clubs to Soroka, who is fundraising for Ukraine where his brother Ivan and parents were born.

Aboud steps down from Italy role

Stephen Aboud will leave his position as the Head of Technical Direction for Player and Coach Development at the Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) in June six years after taking up the role. During that time the Dubliner oversaw an unprecedented run of success for Italian underage teams from Under-18 to Under-20 levels.

This included age-grade victories over Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales teams as well as improved performances in later years prior to the pandemic in the Junior World Championships. In this year’s Under-20 Six Nations Championship Italy beat England for the first time in their history.

Young players like current captain Michele Lamaro, Paolo Garbisi, Jacopo Trulla, Gianmarco Lucchesi, Leonardo Marin, Niccolo Cannone and Tommaso Menoncello quickly graduated to the senior ranks.

Aboud put high-performance pathways and systems in place to facilitate the development of coaches and players but since the coronation of former international Marzio Innocenti as the president of FIR, some of the platforms and structures that the Irishman had put in place with regard to training camps and academies have been dismantled.

Under those circumstances it was always unlikely that Aboud would remain in a position in which he was susceptible to the whims of Innocenti and his acolytes. It will be interesting to note whether the positive gains made over the last six years survive the current administrative regime; it would be a travesty for Italian rugby if that positive headway was to come to a grinding halt.

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