Question: Were you in New Zealand in September/October?
If the answer is yes, you can expect to be in Deccie’s core Six Nations squad, announced this lunchtime. If not, forget it. You could sum up the changes to the RWC 22 in one line: BOD is injured, so bring in Paddy Wallace and Ferg.
But as usual with all things Deccie (and don’t say we didn’t warn you!) the whole picture can be hard to see. There’s a 24-man squad, with six ‘additional players’ (translation: tackle-bag holders) who will train for the first week, and a 23-man Wolfhounds squad. There’s likely to be movement from one to the other, and you can’t hang your hat on a clear pecking order. Once the Wolfhounds game is out of the way, expect the six bag holders to make their way and six fresh young Wolfhounds to make their way up to the senior squad, but will they really and truly be in contention? Or will they simply be taking over the bag-holding. Therein lies the crux.
All said and done, this is yet another regressive squad from Deccie. Leo Cullen, Shane Jennings (a player Deccie never even fancied) and our dear friend Donncha are still in the 24 – leaving aside the fact it was announced Leo requires surgery this morning (Just what was the point in naming him in the squad?). Cullen was just about international class at his peak, which is long past, and all three have been outperformed at provincial level. Paddy Wallace makes the cut despite playing just once (admittedly playing well) since returning from injury.
The worst case scenario here is that Deccie has decided on his matchday 22 already, with precious little of it based on this season’s form. How else to explain the presence of – you know it’s coming – Munster reserve lock Donncha O’Callaghan ahead of the marauding Dan Tuohy. If this does prove to be the pecking order, expect us to be very cross indeed. The more optimistic outcome (probably too optimistic) is that Deccie wants to see how the likes of Tuohy and maybe McCarthy or McLaughlin perform with the Wolfhounds before giving them their head at test level. But we won’t be holding our breath.
The Wolfhounds side itself isn’t that inspiring. The explosive Paul Marshall will have to content himself with playing for Ulster while Slow Hands gets another
chance, despite showing no spark of form whatsoever. Anyone with eyes on their head could see Marshall is a better player. Isaac Boss, 31, is also selected – what more do we stand to learn about him?
We have just started a new RWC cycle, and Ireland have made zero unenforced changes, to a team which wasn’t exactly in the first flush of youth to begin with. We’re not calling for Lievremont-style experimentation, but we’d have thought this marked a line in the sand for older fringe players, and a time to bring in some new blood. Now, things might change through the tournament, but Deccie has given an early signal to the young tyros of Ireland that they will have to wait in the queue while their seniors play out their dotage. We can only be thankful that Darren Cave didn’t have to feel the disappointment of being left out.
Ireland Training Squad
Rory Best (Banbridge – Ulster)
Tommy Bowe (Ospreys)
Tom Court (Malone – Ulster)
Sean Cronin (St.Mary’s College – Leinster)
Leo Cullen (Blackrock College – Leinster)
Gordon D’Arcy (Lansdowne – Leinster)
Keith Earls (Young Munster – Munster)
Stephen Ferris (Dungannon – Ulster)
Cian Healy (Clontarf – Leinster)
Jamie Heaslip (Naas – Leinster)
Shane Jennings (St.Mary’s College – Leinster)
Rob Kearney (UCD – Leinster)
Fergus McFadden (Old Belvedere – Leinster)
Conor Murray (Garryowen – Munster)
Sean O’Brien (Clontarf – Leinster)
Donncha O’Callaghan (Cork Constitution – Munster)
Paul O’Connell (Young Munster – Munster)
Ronan O’Gara (Cork Constitution – Munster)
Eoin Reddan (Lansdowne – Leinster)
Mike Ross (Clontarf – Leinster)
Donnacha Ryan (Shannon – Munster)
Jonathan Sexton (St.Mary’s College – Leinster)
Andrew Trimble (Ballymena – Ulster)
Paddy Wallace (Ballymena – Ulster)
Ian Nagle (Cork Constitution – Munster)*
Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution – Munster)*
Tiernan O’Halloran (Galwegians – Connacht)*
Paddy McAllister (Ballynahinch – Ulster)*
Andrew Conway (Blackrock College – Leinster)*
Simon Zebo (Cork Constitution – Munster)*
Stephen Archer (Cork Constitution – Munster)*
Isaac Boss (Terenure College – Leinster)
Gavin Duffy (Galwegians – Connacht)
Luke Fitzgerald (Blackrock College – Leinster)
Chris Henry (Belfast Harlequins – Ulster)
Denis Hurley (Cork Constitution – Munster)
David Kearney (Lansdowne – Leinster)*
Ian Keatley (Young Munster – Munster)
Ronan Loughney (Buccaneers – Connacht)*
Ian Madigan (Blackrock College – Leinster)*
Mike McCarthy (Buccaneers – Connacht)
Kevin McLaughlin (St.Mary’s College – Leinster)
John Muldoon (Galwegians – Connacht)
Tomas O’Leary (Dolphin – Munster)
Eoin O’Malley (Old Belvedere – Leinster)*
Rhys Ruddock (St.Mary’s College – Leinster)
Mike Sherry (Garryowen – Munster)*
Nevin Spence (Ballynahinch – Ulster)*
Devin Toner (Lansdowne – Leinster)
Dan Touhy (Ballymena – Ulster)
Damien Varley (Garryowen – Munster)
Brett Wilkinson (Galwegians – Connacht)*
Not considered due to injury:
Brian O’Driscoll, David Wallace, Darren Cave, Felix Jones, Jerry Flannery, Eoin Griffen*, Denis Leamy, Niall Ronan.
N.B. * denotes uncapped player