Keep Calm and Carry On (Picking Donncha)

Deccie announces his Six Nations squad tomorrow.  It’s his first since the World Cup, in which he made a couple of bold, surprise calls for the squad.  Deccie doesn’t throw too many curveballs, and tends to give as little away as possible until the actual team has to be picked for the first game, so don’t expect to learn too much tomorrow.  Nonetheless, we expect a little culling around the fringes, with ageing tackle-bag holders moving aside for younger, fresher tackle-bag holders.

Last season he announced a 32-man squad as well as a 22 man Wolfhounds squad of players who were ‘still in contention for the first game’.  And sure enough, Tomas O’Leary played so well in the Wolfhounds’ defeat to Scotland that he gazumped all the other scrum halves to start against Italy, where he utterly justified his selection.  He must have, right, why else would they have stuck with him for the France game the week after?

Senior Squad: Cian Healy, Tom Court, Tony Buckley, Mike Ross
Wolfhounds: Brett Wilkinson, Paddy McAllister, Stephen Archer
Thanks for the memories: Marcus Horan, John Hayes
Very much a case of ‘as you were’, with few alternatives emerging.  Lamentably, Tony Buckley, being used mainly as an impact sub by Sale, will make another senior squad, but can expect to be on Eddie Rockets duty.  Court maintains his hold on the No.17 jumper, as he can scrummage badly on both sides.  Paddy McAllister looks the real deal, despite injuries curtailing his impact, but should still make the Wolfhounds.  Brett Wilkinson is a mainstay at that level, and Jamie Hagan and Stephen Archer will fight it out for the last spot.  It could go either way.  Hayes has retired and Horan’s days as a test level prop are long since gone.  There’s little point in calling him up.
Senior Squad: Rory Best, Sean Cronin, Damian Varley
Wolfhounds: Adrian Flavin
With Flannery still out and Mike Sherry also injured, the cupboard is pretty bare beyond the first three.  Varley might have to play the Wolfhounds game before joining up with the main squad. Are we missing anyone? Except Nigel Brady obviously.
Second Row
Senior Squad: Paul O’Connell, Donncha O’Callagan, Dan Tuohy, Donnacha Ryan, Devin Toner
Wolfhounds: Damian Browne, Ryan Caldwell
Thanks for the memories: Leo Cullen, Mick O’Driscoll
As we’ve already discussed at length, we can expect some change in this division, with Micko and Cullen making way for some bright young things.  Ryan, Toner and Tuohy have all stepped up admirably this season, and each deserve the chance to earn caps this Spring, even if its for 4 seconds.  It’ll be a case of one from the pack to partner the great O’Connell.  O’Callaghan will still make the senior squad, but his place as a mainstay in the team must be under pressure, with Ryan displacing him at Munster.  We suspect one of Tuohy or Toner may be sent down to help out with the Wolfhounds, before joining the main squad.  Failing that, Caldwell deserves to be reminded that he’s in the picture following some abrasive performances for Bath. One hopes Paddy McAllister’s lifting of Johann Muller has given him adequate muscular power to lift Damian the Hutt.
Back row
Senior Squad: Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip, Stephen Ferris, Kevin McLaughlin, Peter O’Mahony, Mike McCarthy
Wolfhounds: Chris Henry, Willie Falloon, James “Cawlin” Coughlan, Rhys Ruddock
Injured: David Wallace, Niall Ronan
Thanks for the memories: Denis Leamy, Shane Jennings
With Denis Leamy hurt, it appears injury has once again been Ireland’s best selector.  It was surely time to cut the Munster reserve flanker loose anyway, as a Deccie mainstay he would probably have been called up again.  Likewise, Jennings’ time has surely passed.  Mike McCarthy has played some great rugby in a poor side, and Kevin McLaughlin is a solid presence and good lineout option.  Peter O’Mahony has had a positive impact with Munster, and should get the call, although whether he has been better than Chris Henry (who won’t make it) is a debate for another day.  All three will be scrapping for a place in the matchday squad.  James Coughlan would be an ideal candidate to captain the Wolfhounds, for whom Henry must be on the verge of breaking some kind of appearance record.
Scrum Half
Senior Squad: Eoin Reddan, Conor Murray, Isaac Boss
Wolfhounds: Paul Marshall, Tomas O’Leary
Thanks for the memories: Peter Stringer
Boss holds on to his squad place by his fingernails.  Paul Marshall has impressed hugely, but until he’s a nailed on starter with Ulster, may find the full breakthrough elusive.  Nonetheless, he deserves a chance to impress with the Wolfhounds.  Tomas O’Leary has started the season where he left off, i.e. playing dreadfully, despite Quinny’s assurances to the contrary on Saturday, and looks to be falling further off the radar. [Aside: while we have been impressed with Quinny’s musings in the IT, would truth-telling about Munster players get him banished from Club Ligind?]
Out Half
Senior Squad: Johnny Sexton, Ronan O’Gara
Wolfhounds: Ewan Madeegan, Ian Keatley
Thanks for the memories, such as they were: iHumph
The senior squad-members pick themselves.  In the Wolfhounds, as we’ve discussed here, it’s time for a look at the exciting talents of try-happy Ian Madigan in green.  iHumph departs the scene – a talented player, but one unlikely to make the step up to test rugby.
Centres & Utility Men
Senior Squad: Gordon D’Arcy, Paddy Wallace, Fergus McFadden, Keet Earls, Darren Cave
Wolfhounds: Ian Whitten, Eoin O’Malley
Injured: Brian O’Driscoll
Yes, Paddy Wallace, but hold on for a sec …. the burning question first.  Just who will play 13?  We’ve been over it many times, and one thing’s for sure: we won’t find out tomorrow.  We’ll come back to this issue before the team announcement, but suffice to say Keet Earls’ awful performance on Saturday didn’t do him any favours.  Eoin O’Malley’s lack of recent gametime is likely to leave him out of contention, but he should get a run with the Wolfhounds.  We think Paddy Wallace will just about squeeze into the squad after a successful comeback on Friday night, where he hilariously dumped Lionheart Croft into touch.
Outside Backs
Senior Squad: Luke Fitzgerald, Tommy Bowe, Rob Kearney, Andrew Trimble
Wolfhounds: Craig Gilroy, Denis Hurley, Dave Kearney, Tiernan O’Halloran
Thanks for the memories: Shane Horgan, Geordan Murphy, possibly Gavin Duffy
A big welcome back to Luke Fitzgerald, whose return to form ensures a return to the squad.  He’ll be duking it out with Trimble to fill the 11 jersey, as we’re still assuming Keet will be picked in centre.  Tommy Bowe and Rob Kearney are nailed on starters. Gavin Duffy could make the seniors (he generally does) as a second specialist full-back, probably at the expense of Wallace or Cave.  A number of other good players are knocking on the door, but will have to settle for Wolfhounds action.  O’Halloran has caught the eye, while Simon Zebo hasn’t been included in our list, but could feature.  Hurley will provide security at 15.


  1. Wow, I had an inkling but this blog is very very pro-Leinster. Nonetheless spot on predictions overall. On a personal note I think D'Arcy must be up there with TOL in terms of form and the management are probably aware of that. The guy doesn't do enough anymore for me. I would love to see Ferg-O'Malley/Earls but reckon Deccie will play it safe.

  2. Hi Anon. Pro Leinster, eh? We don't claim to be neutral (one of us is Leinster, the other Ulster) but we do try our best to maintain a balanced view. Leinster are European champions and are generally acknowledged as the dominant province in Irish rugby right now, so naturally, we think they're a decent side. That said, our most read piece on the blog this month was somewhat critical of their weaknesses… but anyway, feel free to take us to task, we welcome feedback of all kinds.I don't think Dorce is quite at the Tomas O'Leary level, and I think he tends to be taken for granted a bit, but, yes, he is a force on the wane. I think if BOD wasn't injured his Leinster and Ireland place would be under serious threat from Ferg (who we see as a better fit at 12), but the great one's injury is likely to work in his favour, as it's unlikely Kidney will want to change both his centres, for better or worse.

  3. STOP PRESS! Darren Cave is out for six weeks. Awful news for Ulster, especially with Spence out too; it leaves them really short in midfield vs. Rougerie and Fafana, who are a mighty partnership. It's also desperate timing for the lad himself, as an Ireland call-up was surely imminent, and cuts him down in the form of his life. As for Deccie's squad, the most likely event is O'Malley getting bumped up to the seniors, perhaps after playing or the Wolfhounds – alternatively, Griffin could step in to the Wolfhounds squad in O'Malley's place. Oh, and Keet Earls' grip on the 13 shirt just got a bit tighter…

  4. For a 'balanced' blog, there sure are a lot of snide comments about Munster players.I won't be back.

  5. I agree anonymous, utter tripe, all this blogging about Peter "I can turn water into wine" O'Mahony and not a single mention of Robbie Diack soon qualifying for Ireland!!

  6. The truth hurts …

  7. Shit Anon – we appreciate the debate.Wouldn't mind directing you towards our gra for Conor Murray who we called for Ireland 9 way back in April-ish. Also how the mighty Rog is down there as one of my favourite players in the 'About Us' section. And how we preferred Ryan to Locky for the RWC.I'd like to think the snidest remarks get left for Oooooooooh Matt Banahan, Gerry and Biiiiiiig Bob Casey but there you go.We don't apologize for calling it as we see it, but thanks for visiting!

  8. If you want to be taken seriously just cut the 'Keet' crap and show a little respect for the players. Displaying joy that a player won't be selected because they are injured (Leamy) is what semi-literate posters on soccer forums write.

  9. Anon – re Keet, I'm not sure of the issue here – is it because we are referring to his Luimneach roots? Note we often call Fitzgerald LukeRoysh and make continuous references to Bible-thumping at Ravenhill – are regional stereotypes only non grata in particular cases? Besides, lighten up there fella! The blog is meant to be a little bit irreverent and fun – it's not life or death! Paddy Wallace has an ironic appearance in almost every poll we’ve published.We didn’t express any joy that Leamy is injured, and would never do so over any player's misfortune – all we said was that his injury will result in someone we believe is better getting picked. That’s just how we see it, but it doesn’t mean we’re delighted he’s injured.

  10. You can't please everyone lads!And let's face it Munster fans are famously the most irritating in the world (though perusal of the planetrugby comments section shows die hard Leinster fans are closing in fast).Keep up the good work.

  11. Will you be claiming that "With Leo Cullen hurt, it appears injury has once again been Ireland’s best selector" or should we be expecting some great new witicism.PS – DOC & Donncha Ryan have exactly the same amount of playing time this season in the Heineken Cup. Its a little bit like Boss & Reddan or Healy & VDM in Leinster – a horses for courses selection.

  12. It would be apt, but personally speaking I would hope for new material. Are you one of those "play the hits" kinda guys?Doesn't "this season" mask the fact that one was first choice until the start of December and the other has taken over since?

  13. Anon – we don't want to be getting into an unseemly public tete-a-tete with you. If you don't like our blog, that's fine, we can handle it.We were calling loudly for Cullen to be cut in any case, as you'll have read above. However, Kidney, rather than injury, has been a particularly bizarre selector, picking him anyway in spite of him having to go for surgery. Who knows what the hell is going on.

  14. who knows what is going on there …. maybe Leinster didn't inform Kidney that they were sending Leo for surgery? Why don't you speculate on whether that was a deliberate snub or just plain bad manners.As for DOC, surely its a good thing that Ryan is playing so well at the moment.I'd be pretty sure that even the European Champions would be delighted to have DOC at their disposal at the moment.

  15. what has nagle done to get ahead of toner and tuohy? be from munster? is he still living off that one game against australia?

  16. @Anon – for someone who said they 'won't be back', you are becoming our most regular cntributor. I think you're right though, Leinster were hoping to sneak him off to Sweden without Deccie noticing, the filthy swines. Bang to rights!@bedlam9999 the six 'additional players' are just there for the first week to help out with training – essentially to bring the training squad up to 30. They're not in contention for selection, and will depart after the Wolfhounds game. Someone was saying on the messageboard that Donncha O'Callaghan wrote in his autobiog that he once got called up in the same circs, and the experience wasn't especially pleasant – the senior team just beat the lard out of the young lads, apparently!

  17. Munster fans seem to have lost their sense of humour since they stopped winning heineken cups.and as for respect for players, everyone uses nicknames for players, get over it, go read a munster blog if you dont like it

  18. Maybe Munster fans are not easily amused. Only Leinster fans could think that Ross O'Carroll Kelly is remotely funny.Bear is a nickname, Fester is a nickname, Axel is a nickname, The Bull is a nickname.Only in ROCK books would 'Keet' be considered a nickname.Palla, maybe Leinster decided that Plug wouldn't be even missed by the national side.

  19. Ah now Frankie come on. We all know it's you … Unmask yourself!

  20. @PalleIn fairness, given that anyone can call themselves anonymous, maybe it's a succession of different people you're corresponding with each with the same point of view and each leaving forever after you post!@AnonymousRoss O'Carroll Kelly was set up to parody Leinster stereotypes. Pretty much everyone in Ireland with some social awareness liked it (or at least its premise), including – to the surprise of some – Leinster stereotypes. While it has blurred the lines between laughing at and laughing with over the last few years, only the most myopic sort of Munster "fan" could think that only Leinster fans find it funny!

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