Leinster 14 – Newport Gwent Dragons 16

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After the success of the Irish team less than 24 hours earlier, this defeat was made even more disappointing.  Leinster’s first defeat in the RDS since March 2013 was a torrid and depressing showcase of what rugby can be.  There were many matters of disappointment which I shall try my best to speak about!

No TMO:

It is astounding to me that a game in this modern age could have no TMO.  It makes a mockery of a league that is already facing an uphill battle against the big French and English leagues.  Even schools rugby games have TMOs, so this was baffling in my opinion.  There were at least two decisions which were questionable, which could have benefitted from the help of replays.

Leinster’s Performance:

Leinster seemed to lack cutting edge and accuracy.  This could be expected from a team which was missing 12 players to the Irish team at the time.  But at the same time, Leinster had 8 previous Irish players on the pitch.  It simply wasn’t good enough.  The result was even more upsetting considering Leinster played the game against 14 men for 20 minutes!  The amount of knock-ons or cheap penalties in the ‘red zone’ were too numerous and damaging for Leinster.

Concussions:

I don’t know whether the issue is getting worse or whether the public and now officials are just more conscious, but concussions seem to becoming more prevalent week after week in rugby.  3 Leinster players: Strauss, Reid and Denton all had to leave the pitch due to head injuries.  It is perhaps a sign of the game, where players are getting bigger, collisions harder and the game getting quicker.  It is hard to know what the solution might be, but I think everyone agrees that head injuries getting more common is worrying for everyone, from players right down to their families.  No one wants a situation where these players are faced with brain problems once they retire.

Hopefully this Friday’s game at home to Zebre should give this group of players a chance to redeem themselves and get back to restoring the RDS as a fortress that it used to be…Fingers crossed!

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Book Review- The Brain That Changes Itself: Norman Doidge

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The Brain that changes itself recounts various people’s stories of overcoming serious conditions.  Some for instance have suffered serious strokes, whilst others are unable to walk.  The problem with each of these people in the various narratives is that they have suffered some injury or issue in various sections of their brains.

And this is where the books main point emerges.  Traditionally scientists and physicians have believed that the brain was localised and each section had its own function.  Therefore damaging one part of the brain meant you would lose the function it was responsible for.  However with recent technology and these remarkable stories, Norman Doidge show that the brain is plastic.  This means it can compensate for lost or damaged areas through rewiring neurons. This has huge implications for neuroscience, but for humans as a whole.

It means that through training and various exercises, stroke victims who have been told they will never walk again, may in fact go back to their normal lives.  Norman Doidge shows us a vast array of patients or victims who have been given crushing news and have subsequently gone on to live relatively happy lives after.

I loved this book and would recommend it to everyone to read.  I think its message is profound and inspiring and challenges a lot of preconceptions related to the brain.  It is however a challenging book as it gets quite technical in sections.  However his writing style and interesting real life stories never makes the challenge boring.  Another tiny criticism is the long length of many of the chapters.  However these are minor issues when compared to how much enjoyment I had reading the book and the knowledge it provides in a field where I had little to none before.

Chicken Broccoli Bake

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This dish is perfect for Winter, where all you want is a nice, warm, filling meal!  I love this recipe because it uses white sauce instead of regular Cambells soup, and you can tweak the recipe to suit your preferences!

Ingredients:

Oil (I use Coconut or Olive, but any should do)

4 Chicken Breasts

1 Large Onion

3 Garlic Cloves, Crushed

60gr Butter

60gr Flour

400ml Milk

200 gr Grated Parmesan Cheese

Some Basil Leaves, Torn

600gr Broccoli

150gr Breadcrumbs (Wholemeal is preferable to white, but don’t be afraid to experiment, I made it with tomato bread and it was lovely)

100gr Pine Nuts

Sea Salt and Ground Black Pepper

Method:

1. This is one of those dishes where everything runs a lot smoother if you chop everything at the beginning!  As you’re chopping set the oven to 180C.

2.Set a saucepan on medium heat and add roughly 2 tablespoons of oil.  Throw in the onions and garlic for roughly 2-3mins or until the onion softens.

3.Add the chicken and season with pepper and salt.  Cook till the chicken is fully cooked and browning.

4. Get a different saucepan on low heat to make the sauce.  Melt the butter and then stir in the flour until you get a thick paste.  Stir the milk in, a little at a time, until you get a thick béchamel sauce.  At this stage, throw in the parmesan and basil leaves.

5.Get a large ovenproof dish and throw the chicken and onions etc. into it.  Arrange the broccoli around the chicken.  Pour your creamy béchamel sauce on top.

6.Sprinkle the breadcrumbs and pine nuts on top. Now its ready to go in the oven!  Leave it in for 20 minutes.