World Cup: Irelandwatch Episode 2

It sort of crept up on us. One minute it was the middle of the summer and the next Ireland were playing an international rugby match.  Declan Kidney named his team at luncheon yesterday, and true to form, trying to infer a whole lot from it is like trying to pick up mercury with a fork.   It’s hard to reason that the selection advances or hinders anyone’s possibilites of touring.
First of all, there is good news that Rob Kearney, Jerry Flannery and Tomas O’Leary are back in action and fit for selection.  Expect to see Kearney and O’Leary feature heavily over the next four weeks – both are seen by management as key First XV players, and both need the gametime badly.  Given Flannery’s history of aborted comebacks, management might be more careful with regards to him, but we expect he will be dying to get out and play.

Now for the spots still up for grabs:

  • This was possibly Conor Murray’s best chance of seeing action, and his touring chances could be receding.  There have been indications he is not considered as close to the squad as we had hoped, and this is another.
  • In the backline it’s a big opportunity for McFadden to show what he can do.  He’s pretty adept at 13 as well as 12 – we all know how well he played last year, he just needs to take up where he left off.
  • Don’t worry too much about Niall Ronan’s surprise appearance.  The Lunsterman had a pretty ineffectual season last year, and won’t be anywhere near the final squad.  He’s just keeping the shirt warm – Jennings is available for selection next week and Wally and SOB will be in the mix too, so Ronan will be thanked for his time and bundled back home.
  • Confession time – we know next to nothing about Mike McCarthy, though we understand he had a good seaon last year for Connacht.  He’s probably behind Locky and Donncha Ryan in the shake-up for the 4/6 spot (although Brendan Fanning suspects otherwise), but we look forward to seeing him
  • Ligind watch: the entire Munster 2008 front row is on the bench – we could see a very poignant triple substitution around the 60 minute mark
Finally, it’s great to see Leo Cullen captain the side, the 100th man to lead out his country.  The Wicklow lock has been harshly treated in the past, and while he may not be the most eye-catching player, he is a fine captain, firm but polite in dealing with referees, and he knows when to talk and when to walk away.

And, regarding the game itself, it could be a scrappy affair (read: GRIM). Scotland look to have a slightly stronger pack out and should just about shade it.

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10 Comments

  1. Hadn't picked up on the three Munster props on the bench thing. I would be very disappointed in the management if this is being used as a fare thee well boys, farewell. World cup preparations are not the place for that kind of sentimentality. Initially thought it was very interesting to have a tight head and loosie on the bench (5 to 2 split) and felt it was very good news for Buckley that management are considering such a strategy. I know I've banged this drum before and won't go over all of it again, but that fella could be a serious impact sub at world cup (though it would most likely mean a third tight head – Hayes or Hagan – making the trip; Court should not be considered a tight head option).Other than that I reckon this game will be about making decisions on some of the trickier selections for starting xv and squad. i.e Trimble v Fitzgerald, Wallace v McFadden, Kearney v Jones, and one from Ryan/McLoughlin/McCarthy. Leamy is also fighting for his life in there.Really hope Cullen doesn't end up like Narraway with the captaincy thing – great guy and would have him ahead of O'Callaghan in team.Its also a chance for O'Leary and Sexton to play together – a clear indication of where the management preference lies (and I agree with them), but Boss will get a chance to upset that apple cart, if he can take it.Overall, an intelligent selection, but it will be more about the individual performances than the team result.PS: Can't agree with you on Niall Ronan. Seems to me to have been treated pretty averagely by McGahan and the evidence suggests Kidney rates him. Having said that, he shouldn't displace Jennings, who we badly need to be on that plane. I think Ronan's selection is more of a statement of faith in the guy from Ireland camp and to say to Munster "here is a damn good player – give him a chance".

  2. Lets see Anon – I was expecting grim slugfest, but for some reason have woken up this morning looking forward to a rather polished display from Ireland.Probably all nonsense of course … we'll see!

  3. You don't know whether to be a cynic or an optimist Egg Chaser! Years of false dawns will do that to you. Like many Irish supporters I have battled with that mild schizophrenia myself!I'm hoping for an open game, I think Kidney's emphasis on the breakdown in interviews would suggest Ireland will be looking a good tempo, a la Leinster. The forward pack are very mobile and handle well too, which should lend itself to an open enough game. Suppose it depends on how Scotland approach it as the home team and at least they don't have Parks at fly half! Would settle for Flannery getting 60+ minutes without injury and Paddy Wallace either having a stormer or a stinker, so we can put that one to bed prior to world cup one way or the other!

  4. Meant 20+ for Flannery there apologies.

  5. I agree 100% on all points – especialy the schizophrenia!And Paddy Wallace. Last night, I found myself singing (to the tune of Let It Be:When I find myself in times of trouble, Paddy Wallace comes to me …

  6. Lol. Could the beatles have been referring to the Wallace – BO'D axis?……."For though they may be parted there is still a chance that they will see, there will be an inside centre. let it be."Anyway on the game itself: you were probably right the first time. There was more scrappy footage than an episode of scooby do. It was all very adequate in attack but no taking them on (too many "distributors") and Fitzgerald must have kicked as often as Sexton. As far as personal duels for places goes it was pretty much a scoreless draw, although Leamy and O'leary had some good moments; Kearney and McFadden maybe not so happy.Best thing was the defensive discipline without a doubt. Credit particularly to Leo Cullen as a leader in that department, but all players were on the same page – it was excellent. Its a good canvas to start from and a big improvement from the 6 nations game as far as penalty count goes. Would O'Callaghan have harmed that good work had he been playing?Good to see the return of Horan, Flannery, Kearney to this level but its a game that will be long forgotten come Sept 11.

  7. Not one for the annals alright, Anon. But I think the cover of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy probably sums it up best: DON'T PANIC. Sure, it was pretty awful, but then we knew it would be. It was our 2.5th choice pack, we'll be a different animal once the big boys return. Also, it has to be borne in mind that Ireland aren't going to be giving too much away by showing off an array of training ground moves, so don't be too surprised if they look a bit pedestrian on first phase before the tournament. When you saw Moody and Stoddart leaving Twickenham injured, you realise things could be a lot worse.I'd have to disagree with you on Kearney though – I thought for a first game back, he looked pretty sharp. He can look at nailing that 15 shirt from here on – he even showed terrific hands at one point in the first half, not normally his best suit. The augurs are good there. Fitz and Trimble were also positives – both looked pretty sharp and will be competing for a starting berth once the real business begins.Flannery was a bit tenative (understandably) and I'm still not convinced O'Leary is our best option at 9, not by a long way. But still, it was their first games back, so it's to be expected.One key area of concern, though, is midfield, especially with Dorce touch and go. The centre partnership failed to spark. We've not been shy in saying McFadden should be in the squad, but he missed a chance to impress on saturday, and will wince when he sees the winning try. One of Earls or Bowe could come in to 13 for the French game, with McFadden maybe moving to 12 – it will be a selection to watch with interest.

  8. Yeah I can't argue – I was harsh on kearney. I was thinking of him coming off his wing for the try (which he later blamed on cramp in fairness); Paddy Wallace actually had that move covered. He also gave away a cheap penalty at ruck time (but appeared to me to still be in the mindset of the old rules re:tackler release – fair enough given first game back). He showed potential and looked very keen for contact. It will be difficult for Felix Jones or Murphy to usurp him in truth. I am a fan of Jones though.Also the thing about Fitzgerald kicking wasn't a criticsm – it was more that he was forced to kick because of overly lateral play inside. His ability to kick is a big asset which he holds over Trimble. I have heard it said that Fitzgerald is in a fight to be on the plane, but not in my book and would like to see him start.Felt sorry for McFadden. He did little wrong and had so little ball, but he didn't look like a player who was ever really going to express himself. He had the lesser game of the two centres on Saturday. It is my only criticsm of management team that they haven't unearthed someone, somewhere to truly challenge d'Arcy. Both options at the moment you could argue are unproven at 12 at international and for McFadden even provincial level, even though both are admittedly good rugby players. I'd even be tempted to try Trimble there (he did ok there before when first starting out with Ireland) or – at the risk of incurring the wrath of Egg Chaser for attempting to convert a forward- Dennis Leamy. OK that is very very left field and won't happen, but the quality and skill set of he and other back row players who will be on bench or possibly at home just seems such a waste to me.I know i'll be tore to bits for that but the long and short of it is – you are quite right, centre partnership options are a looming problem. I'll talk more to you about scrum half another day, where I will outline my reasons why Kevin McLaughlin should be handed the 9 jersey 🙂

  9. The good news is BOD has been declared fit for action, so he will almost certainly start on saturday. So I guess we're back to who should play at 12 alongside the great one – a more manageable proposition! Personally, I'd like to see Fergus give a go there and see how he goes in his best position with a top player outside him. As for Denis Leamy… come on Anon, I know you're better than that!!

  10. Aye i know PO, i suppose its more of a lament about how someone will be unlucky in the back row.McFadden does deserve a proper crack 12 again, but if it doesn't go well it will be hard enough to make a case for him over others. Maybe I'm reading too much into what was basically a training match, but what else are these games for?All my bs aside, I am so impressed with the application of all the Irish players and their respect for one another – I don't think I've seen or heard any players self promoting themselves over others. It will be very cruel when the axe falls and what have they done only be a credit.

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