World Cup: Irelandwatch Episode 3

Just 10 days remain until Kidney names his World Cup squad, and last week’s performance and this week’s team announcment give us a little insight – but not too much – into who is likely to go and who isn’t.

On the surface, it all looks rosy for Donncha Ryan, who, having played in the second row last week,  is now given a chance at 6, and so can prove his versatility and bag himself a spot on the plane.  But think forward to next week, and the backrow could be something like Locky-Wallace-Heaslip, and the complexion would look somewhat different.  Would you rather play at home to France with Jamie and Wally beside you and Paul O’Connell in the second row, or go to Bordeaux with no O’Connell and Leamy at 8?

The same applies, to a lesser extent, to McFadden, who didn’t play well last week and finds himself out of the team – but next week in all likelihood BOD will be back.  If he was to play 12 inside BOD it would be seen as an endorsement of his chances. So it’s not all over quite yet for Ferg, though he looks odds-against at the moment.

Following the team announcement and last Saturday’s game we can infer a little about who’s looking good and who isn’t.

Practicing ordering fush’n’chups: All the back three. Rob Kearney came through 80 minutes and looked sharp.  He gets another start on Saturday.  Already a Kidney favourite, he can start laying a claim on the 15 shirt for the Australia game.  Luke Fitz looked a lot more confident, and though he kicked the ball away a little too often, he wasn’t exactly blessed with options by the time the painfully slow ball he was supplied with. Andy Trimble played with great intensity, as usual. All three look to be heading southwards next month.

Still hanging on the telephone: Donncha Ryan did reasonably well on saturday, but he will have a tough job on Saturday convincing that he’s an international 6. He’s up against Thierry Dusatoir dans la sud de France, so no pressure.  Jerry Flannery’s return was positive, but all he did was miss one throw. We need to see some of the old Jirry mongrel before declaring him back for good.

Buying their Electric Picnic tickets: It looks like Peter Stringer’s terrific international career may finally be up.  Sent to La Rochelle to play with Munster, he is the only scrum half yet to see action for Ireland.  Unless he starts at home to France next week, which he won’t, then the game will be up.  Shane Jennings always needed to make a big impression to win Kidney over, and injury looks to have robbed him of that chance. We are presuming Wally will get a start next week in the 7 shirt, with Jenno togging out against Connacht.  A pity.

As for the game itself, it could be a long night for Ireland.  It’s not the most defensively robust 9-10-12-13 Ireland have ever put out and Mermoz and Marty will most likely look to run at the goalposts and hope for some change.  Keep an eye out for the French debutant, Biarritz No. 8, Raphael Lakafia.  We haven’t seen too much of him, but he’s regarded as a huge prospect and someone who could star at the World Cup.

Finally, Meejawatch.  It was interesting that Brendan Fanning and not Gerry Thornley had the inside track on the team this week.  Could Kidney be playing them against each other?  Gerry will have to up his uncritical fawning over the regime and justification of tactics and selection, no matter how bogus, to get back into Teacher’s good books.



  1. Not quite sure what to make of O'Brien's selection at 7. You could only see that happening if Ferris was going to play 6 and its hard to envisage him starting after all his problems. Perhaps they are thinking of bringing ferris on around 60 minutes, withdrawing Wallace at that stage and leaving a back row of Ferris at 6, moving SOB to 7 and Heaslip at 8. Also could Ferris not then act as the 5.5 which management have been searching for?Really hope that its not the case that Jennings doesn't get an opportunity. That option would bring greater variety to how Ireland play if plan A goes South (of France, think Bordeaux vintage 2007).Equally I can see a place for Stringer ahead of Boss and Murray. Not to start, but springing him from the bench to fire passes out could breathe life to a stagnant attack, plus his experience could be critical in closing a game out. Murray is a fine player but his time is not yet. Boss' game doesn't have the same quality, though he has admittedly been a great foil to Reddan at Leinster (O'Leary is already there to do that for Ireland).Don't agree with Fanning that Kidney will be looking at this game to check out a DOC, Leo partnership. I reckon those two are fighting it out to be first choice beside POC, with Cullen shading it for moi.Elsewhere Wallace has nosed ahead of McFadden for the squad and Trimble and Fitzgerald are still tied to start at 11.Anyway, we'll have a good idea of where we are at after this one. If this team can stand up without a number of leaders in a French fugby heartland it will bode very, very well.

  2. Hey there Anon.. plenty of valid points raised there. Agree that it would be a shame if Jennings doesn't get a shot – especially if Ferris doesn't make it, he would become the obvious man to have on the bench in that case.I can't really agree on Strings though. Great and all as he has been, I think his pass is increasingly wayward, and he is starting to look his age. I think, for once, it's worth buying into the hype around Murray – I just feel if he gets the chance he could be the best of the lot at 9. Hopefully he gets a half hour this week with ROG outside him at 10.As you say, let's see how we go tomorrow. I've a feeling we'll fall well behind and fight back a bit in the second half and end up losing by 10ish.

  3. Yeah, to be in the mix would be a fair achievement when you consider the calibre of player not starting and the calibre of player on the other side. I do get a bit pissed off when people summarily dismiss Stringer (though I accept that isn't what you've done there PO). For a long time people have beaten up on him and all they've been doing is nit-picking really. He isn't this or isn't that, without appreciating how good he actually is. He has been the classiest of the scrum halves we have and the only reason I can't defend against your points is because bloody McGahan hasn't picked him lately! Not as physical perhaps as O'Leary, Boss or Murray and not just as nippy as Reddan but if you want service to good backs, nobody touches him, plus he ankle taps like George Gregan. You don't lose a pass like his. Its engrained in his muscle memory, just as much a part of him as his fingernails.I do rate Murray. Bit of the Mike Phillips about him, without appearing to watch himself in the mirror when playing as Phillips does and he's a decent passer too into the bargain. However coming off the bench to run show quarter final against S.A? or a semi against France? Would be a gargantuan ask for the fella, just a bit early.I get the sense this is one I won't move your opinion on and that's fair enough, but the way I see it, at the end of the day everybody's granny loves Strings, god bless the crater -hero of the underdog! 🙂

  4. Lads thanks for the responses to my comments – I really enjoy them. My apologies for always being anon but I don't know how to change that (i'm totally at odds with modern technology). This is the best discussion forum for rugby I've seen but I don't want to take ownership of the comments page so if I'm posting too much drivel and scaring other posters off give me a shout and I'll tone it down a bit.Anyways….very encouraging display yesterday. I am convinced we are better than the French, but we need to hold our own in scrum and lineout against their magnificent set-piece. That is tough to do, but is becoming a lot more achievable than at any time in Ireland's rugby history. The battle hardened edge will definately have been brought on a bit further and hopefully no wounded in action (get the cotton wool out for Mike Ross).Both hookers did well, but will be annoyed with their throwing obviously, the French pressure was also pretty useful too it must be said. I also thought both DOC nad Leo had very good games, yes making mistakes but battling back from them- very encouraging. Most impressed I've been with DOC for a while, but Cullen had a great game too. Both are capable of forming a formidable partnership with POC (who was simply magnificent – cotton wool here too please).Ryan was full of heart, was caught out a bit by a break down the blindside side from a scrum though (harsh to mention that as Ireland are scrumming more as an 8 – and much better. Perhaps we should be looking more at a 6 who can play lock, rather than a lock who can play 6 for that 5.5 position (i.e Ferris).Reddan was excellent. I felt his best game in an Irish shirt and O'Gara's ball stricking was as sweet as you could ask for. Paddy Wallace (again) did absolutey nothing wrong. There weren't many line breaks there despite being flanked by O'Gara (who tackled bravely) and Earls (who looked sharp despite absolutely butchering a try) on either side. Kearney and Trimble went very well, but Fitzgerald is putting himself under more and more pressure (reminds me of Keanu Reeves in any given sunday talking about quicksand). If he stopped trying to force it, things might come a bit easier for him.Jones has really put the cat amongst the pigeons with that display. On the telly Hook was bigging up Geordan Murphy, but surely he is now well behind Jones? Neither are guaranteed to go though by any means.Now to Buckley. Actually performed reasonably well in a few of the scrums. I would argue he covers both sides as effectively as Court (both will struggle). The two scrums in which he was pinged? Well in one the ball hadn't even been put in! The other was a very foolish call by the pack. What were they trying to do – out srum the French at that stage? We know Buckley is struggling with these guys-it is not a revelation. He has been brought on to get around the park not to wheel a scrum to the open side and yet we held the ball in scrum! It should be in out and get the game moving. Our substitution policy is improving, but we still haven't totally grasped playing smart and to our strengths. Perhaps I am entering the realms of a Buckley apologist, but I still see the potential. I would argue that scrum was as much a show of inexperience by Murray who should have just grabbed the ball out of it, as it was ropey scrummaging. Having said that Murray is clearly going to be a very good scrum half.Anyway, thats my stream of consciousness out of the way. What would be your 30 if being picked today?

  5. No worries Anon – we'd rather talk to you than no-one!I think you are right – it was encouraging. Especially for the second game back and being in a bear pit.I'm not so sure about the lock situation – Leo looked a bit ponderous, and the lineout didn't function. Donncha made himself an annoyance. On the back row, we though Leamy was poor – he isn't an 8 and was eclipsed by Ryan in the loose. He should be watching his back. But probably isn't. Ryan was decent again – we're torn between his form and Locky's HEC experience – but if McLaughlin isn't starting on Saturday I think he is in trouble.Reddan did well you are right, Rog is majestic – there is no better man for that kind of situation (although Sexto should still start). Murray's cameo was very impressive, so simple, get ot the ruck quickly, and bring men into play – he slotted in seamlessly. He should go, but still probably won't. Gerry played down his chances a bit this morning, and he is still Deccie's #1 pet pupil. I have a feeling we might see Strings on Saturday…Outside, Trimble was excellent, we thought Pwal played the second five-eighth role well, not so sure about Earls, not sure we saw enough of him really. Fitzy (again) let himself down. Its the same problems every time, he never seems to learn – I'm beginning to despair. Trimble should be in poll position now for the 11 shirt. Jones impressed as well, but if Murphy looks sharp, he will probably go – and tehre is no point in bringing 3 specialist full-backs.Have to say, I thought Mushy was terrible. The final scrum was an embarrassment. At a minimum, the tight head needs to take the hit and solidify the scrum for a few second so the 8 and 9 can get the ball out – he couldn't even do that. He is ahead of Hayes right now I think, but I imagine Hayes will get some time on Saturday. You would think Deccie knows 25 of his squad now, its down to 1 of Hayes/Mushy, 2 of Ryan/Locky/Leamy, 1 of Stringer/Boss/Murray and 1 of McFadden/Jones/Murphy. I think Fez and Dorce are going come what may.

  6. Agree that Ryan enhanced his chances, you couldn't say he died wondering. Still not convinced it will be enough to get him on the plane. He is slugging it out for the 5.5 spot and not sure if it is a good use of resources to bring Fez (who is in all liklehood to be used sparingly) as well as Lauchy or Ryan, who would be only be acting as cover really. Yep Leamy is still in a battle and I think Jennings would have the drop on him in order to have 7 well covered. You'd imagine McLoughlin will get a chance to stake a claim as should McFadden.Something I need to clarify – what happens when a player gets injured in this tournament? Can a replacement be flown out anytime or do you have to stick to the 30 picked? The intricacies of those rules might change things for me, would consider only two scrum halves.At the minute I would go:Props – Ross, Hayes, Buckley (i know, i know) Healy and Court (just over Horan at present)Hooker – Best, Cronin and probably Flannery has done enoughLock – O'Connell, Cullen, O'Callaghan5.5 – FerrisBack row – O'Brien, Wallace, Heaslip, Jennings and one from the three.9 – Reddan, O'Leary, Stringer10 – Sexton, O'GaraCentre – Darcy, O'Driscoll and Wallace (edging out McFadden at moment)Wings – Bowe, Trimble and Fitzgerald (just over Jones where Earls would then cover wing)Full back – Kearney, Earls

  7. Firstly, re injuries, I'm not 100% sure – you can definitely fly out new front rowers, but I have a feeling thats it.If they go 16-14, there is room for an extra outside back – Jones, McFadden or Murphy – the selection for the games this week should reveal all. I can't see Jennings going, I would say Ryan and Locky/Leamy.All the reserve props are rubbish – I have a feeling Buckley is ahead of Hayes if its 16/14, and surely Horan is nowhere….

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