Peter Stringer interview: Legendary Ireland star on Six Nations, Schmidt and playing on at 40

Alex Broun 6/03/2018
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The most capped Ireland scrum half of all time Peter Stringer was a busy presence at the base of the Irish ruck for over a decade from 2000 to 2011.

He formed a superb combination with fly half Ronan O’Gara as Ireland won the Triple Crown in 2004, 2006 and 2007 and again in 2009 when Ireland won the Six Nations and Grand Slam for the first time since 1948 – and only the second time in their history.

Stringer is Munster’s most ever capped player with 230 appearances and scored a try when the province won the European Cup for the first time in their history against Biarritz in 2005-06.

After leaving Munster he had spells with Saracens, Newcastle, Bath, Sale and Worcester, who he left in 2017 at the age of 40. But his playing days may not be over yet.

What are your thoughts on the Six Nations so far?

It’s an exciting championship as it always is. Many upsets and a lot of surprises I think along the way.

From an Irish point of view – a tough game against France, particularly over at Stade de France. Ireland had to fight so hard to get the win and only pulled off an incredible victory in the last couple of seconds.

Ireland are in a good place at the moment with the win against Italy and Wales.

I think we’ll see them go into the final game of the championship against England at Twickenham as favourites.

19 Feb 2000: Peter Stringer of Ireland celebrates victory over Scotland in the Six Nations Championship match at Lansdowne Road in Dublin, Ireland. Ireland won 44-22. Mandatory Credit: Ross Kinnaird /Allsport

19 February, 2000: Stringer celebrates victory over Scotland 44-22 in his Test debut.

How does this Ireland team compare with great Irish teams you played with?

It’s difficult to compare. We were a side who had a lot of work and built up a squad over a number of years.

I think probably the difference with the squad comparing from when I was playing, you’re looking at 40, 45 guys now who are capable of slotting into that green jersey.

Whereas back when I was playing you had a squad of probably 25-30 guys who were capable of playing at that level and if you were to lose any guys to injury of your starting team, you’re delving into guys who wouldn’t have had exposure at that international level.

So looking at Irish Rugby as a whole you feel it’s currently in a good place?

I think you have to be happy. There was a bit of a lull there in the last couple of years where you’re competing against French money and English money with these big foreign players coming over and New Zealanders.

There was a bit of a lull there from an Irish point of view in Europe – Munster and Leinster were struggling to get out of their groups when they had been winning it in previous seasons.

Now Ireland are back up there and certainly Munster – I’ve been watching them quite closely. A lot of guys coming through, putting their hand up.

Since the terrible passing of Anthony Foley there seems to have been an incredible revival and the coaching staff that had worked with Anthony and the new guys that have come in have just bought in to this whole new concept of playing and playing for each other and its done incredible stuff for the province.

CARDIFF, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 21: Peter Stringer of Ireland celebrates winning the Grand Slam during the RBS 6 Nations Championship match between Wales and Ireland at the Millennium Stadium on March 21, 2009 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Match 21, 2009: Stringer celebrates winning the Grand Slam after beating Wales in Cardiff.

You were great friends with Anthony. His passing must have hit you hard.

It had an incredible effect on people.

I was playing in Sale with Sale Sharks at the time and came back over for the funeral and attended the Munster-Glasgow game the day after and I’ve never seen atmosphere or emotion like it in the stadium.

Not only in Ireland.

I think the effect it had on people all over the world and in world rugby, it showed the mark of the man and the character that he was and I just know that the players who are there now, I know how much he meant to them as a friend, as a coach – some of them as a fellow player.

He had a passion for the game, he was from the area and all he wanted to do was coach Munster.

Speaking to a lot of the guys now who were there – a lot of his ideas and his tactics and his moves, everything is coming to the fore now and the coaches who have stepped in are using he foundation that Anthony and his team would have put in place.

In Ireland as a whole, the way the national team showed a mark of respect before they played the All Blacks in Chicago forming a No8 on the field before the kickoff.

He was an incredible guy, he was very close friend of mine, my No8 for the best part of ten years.

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 20: Anthony Foley, the Munster head coach looks on during the European Rugby Champions Cup match between Leicester Tigers and Munster at Welford Road on December 20, 2015 in Leicester, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Anthony Foley, former Ireland No8 and Munster head coach, who passed away suddenly in 2016.

You are 40 now but still incredibly fit. Are you considering playing on?

I’m back in Ireland at the moment with the wife and our ten month old baby boy.

For the best part of the last five or six years recently we’ve been in the UK and especially with the new arrival it’s nice to be around family.

I’m looking at a couple of options but it’s not just me that I have to think about now it’s my wife and Noah my son – he started walking the other day, he’s very active.

I’m just happy at the moment to keep my ear out and if something does come up that I’d be happy to go for then certainly I would be ready for it.

You’re a regular visitor to Dubai. Any chance we might see you out here playing or coaching?

I’ve been to Dubai 16, 17 times over the last number of years so it’s a place I like. I have lot of friends out there as well. A good friend of mine Mike Phillips has moved out there recently as well. You never know, you never know.

So if you’re a rugby club in Dubai looking for a good No9 for next season – you might like to give Peter a try.

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Three All Blacks who could soon be on their way to Harlequins as part of new deal

Alex Broun 2/03/2018
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The All Blacks can’t completely control the flood of New Zealand players heading overseas so they have done the next best thing.

The NZRU’s new partnership with English club Harlequins could see a number of high profile All Blacks heading over for a northern sabbatical/cash grab, especially after the 2019 RWC.

Here’s three All Blacks who could be heading north:

THE DEFINITE 

Beauden Barrett

New Zealand star Beauden Barrett

New Zealand star Beauden Barrett

The two-time World Rugby player of the year has already played 62-Tests for the All Blacks and at 26 the NZRU will be hoping to have him around for the next two Rugby World Cups – Japan 2019 and France 2023.

But after the RWC next year Barrett will be looking for a change rather than slugging it out in Super Rugby for four more years.

With Lima Sopoaga already departing – perhaps never to return – NZ need to manage BB very carefully and a few seasons up north could be exactly what he needs to top up the retirement funds and keep him fresh to return to NZ in 2022.

THE RISING STAR

Luke Jacobson

Luke Jacobson in action during the World Rugby U20 Championship Final in 2017.

Luke Jacobson in action during the World Rugby U20 Championship Final in 2017.

The captain of New Zealand’s all-conquering team at last year’s World Rugby Under 20 Championship, the 20-year-old is now part of the Chiefs squad for Super Rugby.

But once Super Rugby finishes it’s unlikely he’ll be blooded this year for the All Blacks with Steve Hansen probably opting to give him a few years to mature.

Jacobson is already being talked about as a future All Blacks captain and the perfect way of fast tracking his skills could be a northern winter with Quins at the end of 2018-19.

The other option would be Mitre 10 Cup and a pre-season for Super Rugby in 2019 which may not be enough to gauge his readiness for RWC 2019.

THE WILDCARD

Sam Cane

Sam Cane - a few seasons up north could see him back in black for the RWC 2023

Sam Cane – a few seasons up north could see him back in black for the RWC 2023

The Chiefs flanker has started this year’s Super Rugby in exceptional form and although it seems like he’s been around a long time – like Barrett he is just 26.

And just like BB the All Blacks will hope he can last two more RWCs so a spell at Harlequins after RWC 2019 makes perfect sense.

Captain and No8 Keiran Read will be 34 at the end of RWC2019 and will likely retire so NZ will need Cane even more come 2023 – hence the need to manage him carefully.

The one factor to consider is the toll of the northern game on loose forwards.

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Franco Mostert off to Gloucester and Danny Cipriani heading to France - here's the latest rugby rumours

Alex Broun 14/02/2018
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All the latest from the rugby rumour mill with Springboks going back and forth and lots of stars on the move in England. Here’s our round-up:

David Denton

Worcester Warriors back-rower David Denton will be leaving the club after just one season, with rumours flying that he is set to link with Leicester Tigers.

The 28-year-old has made 14 appearances for Warriors since moving to Sixways last summer.

Warriors Director of Rugby Alan Solomons said: “We’re sorry to see Dents go but that’s the nature of professional sport.

Denton said: “I’ve really enjoyed my short time here and would like to thank the Club and fans for making me feel so welcome.”

Obviously he hasn’t enjoyed it too much or he wouldn’t be heading for the exit door so soon.

Danny Cipriani could be on the way back to France

Danny Cipriani could be on the way back to France

Danny Cipriani

Not surprisingly the former England fly half is leaving at season’s end with the arrival of All Blacks No10 Liam Sopoaga making him surplus to requirements.

But where will the 30-year-old go to next?

He’s been heavily linked with a number of French clubs – Toulon, Stade Francais and Lyon all believed to be competing for his signature.

However, Sale Sharks has also been rumoured to be in the running to bring Cipriani back to the AJ Bell Stadium after his four-season stint from 2012.

This was the 14-caps England international second spell with Wasps after returning to the club in 2016 after short-lived spells at Melbourne Rebels and at the Sharks.

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - MAY 20: Franco Mostert of the Lions challenged by Jesse Kriel of the Blue Bulls and Rudy Paige of the Blue Bulls during the Super Rugby match between Emirates Lions and Vodacom Bulls at Emirates Airline Park on May 20, 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Franco Mostert could soon be in a different shade of red

Franco Mostert

Big news for the Cherry and Whites with the buzz that they have lined Lions and Springbok star Franco Mostert to replace departing Kiwi Jeremy Thrush

Former All Black Thrush is out of contract at the end of this season and he is expected to leave the club with France likely to be his destination.

With doubts also over Argentina international Mariano Galarza’s future, Gloucester are in the market for a top-class lock for next season and look set to pull off a huge coup by signing Mostert.

Mostert’s contract expires with the Lions at the end of the 2018 Super Rugby season and, although he has reportedly attracted the interest of several Premiership clubs, Gloucester are thought to be the favourites for his signature due to South African coach Johan Ackermann who used to coach the 27-year-old at the Lions.

GLOUCESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 15: Mike Haley of Sale Sharks in action during the Aviva Premiership match between Gloucester Rugby and Sale Sharks at Kingsholm Stadium on April 15, 2017 in Gloucester, England. (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images)

Mike Haley – looking for an escape route

Mike Haley

Talk is the Sale Sharks’ full-back is on the move with the 23-year-old keen to leave the Manchester club.

He was recently in Ireland to discuss a potential move to Munster, although his preferred move may actually be to the reigning premiers, Exeter Chiefs.

The stumbling block with Exeter is that Haley still has another season to run on the three-year contract he signed back in 2016 and if he were to leave for another Premiership club, Sale would demand significant compensation.

There’s a problem with Munster as well as Haley is no longer Irish-qualified, having played for the England Saxons in 2016 on their tour of South Africa.

Watch this space.

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 02: Vincent Koch of Saracens lunges to score their seventh try during the Aviva Premiership match between Saracens and Northampton Saints at Twickenham Stadium on September 2, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Vincent Koch is a big coup for the Bulls

Vincent Koch

The Rassie Erasmus effect already looks to be paying off with reports circulating that the 27-year-old tighthead has agreed to cut short his stay with Saracens and return to Pretoria at the conclusion of the current English Premiership.

This is good news for the Bulls but the real winners are the Springboks.

Erasmus, back in his role as SA Rugby director of rugby for less than three months, was at Twickenham on Saturday, scouting England’s performance against Wales in preparation for a three-Test tour to South Africa by the Roses in June.

He already has a potent group of tightheads that includes Wilco Louw, Coenie Oosthuizen, Frans Malherbe and recently-retreaded loosehead, Thomas du Toit.

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