The Agony of Choice

So, what should we make of the win over Russia? It was wholely pleasant really, very unlike most games we play when we are expected to win. We ran in a few tries, a couple of lads put their hands up for selection, Mushy scored a try in his last game for Ireland, and Deccie has been left with some selection headaches for the crucial Italy game on Sunday – what is there not to like?

Italy’s bonus point win this morning over the USA! USA! USA!, coupled with our desperate failure  to get one on 9/11 means we have no room for manoever – if we had our Yankee bonus point in the bag, we could have afforded to lose by <7 points and still top the pool and qualify – not any more – a win is needed.

Now, what team will Deccie send out to do the business. He has decisions to make at 4, 10, 11 and 12 – lets look at them:

  • Second Row: Donncha O’Callaghan was not bad by any means against Russia; you got your usual combination of secure line-outs and hard work around the park – but it must nag that both Leo Cullen and Donncha Ryan looked more effective, at tight play and ball-carrying respectively. Donncha has held off an on-form Micko in Munster for 2 years now, and hasn’t faced serious challenge at this level yet. Deccie is a cautious man by nature, but picking Cullen against a lumbering and heavyweight Italian second row partnership isn’t a huge risk – its a possibility though, not a probability
  • Out-half: Here’s the question. Rog was named man of the match against Russia while Sexto missed a laughably easy kick just when the spotlight was on him. Its going to be an arm-wrestle, the logic goes, pick the man who can hit a barn door when required. However, its more complicated than that. Firstly, Teacher Pet tells us Deccie doesn’t want to pick Rog. Secondly, Sexton would be the horse for the Wales course – why drop him now? Thirdly, when we nearly lost in Rome in February, Sexton started. We think Deccie will consider that a worst-case scenario and stick with Sexton as his first-choice 10. Rog will undoubtedly have a part to play, but it will be from the bench
  • Left Wing: Andrew Trimble was again our most threatening broken-field runner from the left-wing. Its hard to see what more he can do to get a shirt, but Earls is the man in possession and is improving by the match. Trimble, to be truthful, deserves the shirt, but Earls has it – Deccie is unlikely to drop a man he has invested so much time in 
  • Inside Centre: If Dorce was fit, this wouldn’t be a question. But he isn’t, and he hasn’t been for a while. Paddy Wallace performed well last week, carrying well and bringing players into play where possible, and is clearly the backup 12. When Sexton came on, he filled in at 12 seemlessly, as he did earlier in the tournament. However, that’s not a serious option if winning the tournament is an actual ambition. You could move Bowe, Earls, McFadden or Trimble into the centre, but since Deccie has never done this, you assume he’s not going to start in a game of this magnitude. We have a feeling PWal might hold on to the shirt, unless Dorce proves his fitness of course.

There is a fair degree of nervousness about this game, most of it based on the display in Rome in February. However, we are quite sanguine about it all. Italy have the best number 8 in the world, but our back row unit is better. Set-pieces should break even. Semenzato is a good 9, but they have no 10. Tomasso Benvenuti looks a serious player, but will he see the ball? Italy have been purring up to now, but we think Ireland have enough to hold them at arms length, and maybe even pull away late on.

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1 Comment

  1. Fair points lads but as I indicated previously I think 13 is also a problem though clearly his Bodness will be first pick. Can Trimble come in for him if he is falling off tackles as he has been since the pre season?I assume you are thinking that once the Half back question is sorted 9 is determined?I'm excited for this game and if we were playing a 6N game this weekend I'd be brimming with confidence. But we're not and I find my self reflecting on the refrain of every Irish sports fan: "don't f@@k this one up". And I'm scared, very scared.

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