Damage Limitation

Kidney’s team to face New Zealand in the second test in Christchurch bears all the hallmarks of a damage limitation exercise – the hatches have been well and truly battened down. If the team for the first test looked designed to have a cut and try to play fast and loose, this has the looks of a rainy-day selection designed to muck in in the trenches and keep the score down.  With Earls missing through injury and Mike Ross back fit, two changes were inevitable.  Kidney has made two more, with Andrew Trimble replacing Simon Zebo and Leinster’s Kevin McLaughlin replacing Peter O’Mahony.

Conor Murray wins this week’s Fortunate Starter Hailing From Munster Of The Week Award; presumably his defensive strengths have kept him in the team (in keeping with the theme of keeping the score down) beccause it can’t have been his service to the backline, which hasn’t been good for Ireland since the World Cup match against Italy.  He and Sexton just don’t look like a happy partnership, but Kidney is determined to persist with it.

By contrast, Simon Zebo is a touch unlucky – after being fast-tracked into the squad and team, it’s hardly sensible (or a ringing endorsement) to be dropped after your first cap.  Andrew Trimble takes his place on the left wing, when he’s more used to the right, and was the obvious choice to deal with the threat of Savea.  The Ulster wing is a physical, commited defender and has much more experience on the right wing than McFadden (who has played 11, 12 and 13 more often than 14).  Trimble (14) and Zebo (11) looked a more balanced pairing, and Zebo’s absence – coupled with that of Earls – robs the backline of its only source of top-line speed. Still, as Deccie says:

We could (switch), but left wing and right are two totally different positions, so if you’re exposed on the right you’re definitely going to be exposed on the left.

If the positions are so different, why are the players not playing in the roles with which they are most familiar?  Answers on a postcard please.

By all means pick your best defenders, but at some point they will break our line and we’ll have to scramble; pace is an asset in defence as well as attack.  Again, we have a centre playing out of position on the wing while real wings twiddle their thumbs – New Zealand will doubtlessly attack Ferg again, so we have to hope he has learned the harsh lessons from the first test. There was no need to drop him altogether – he could have moved inside, which brings us neatly to ….

Gordon D’arcy, who has a chance to show he’s not done and dusted yet.  Will we see the D’arcy who looked a busted flush in the Six Nations, or the one who took flat ball over the gainline in the Heineken Cup final, and had a double-digit tackle count in the semi-final? Lets hope its the latter, but either way, it’s a retrograde step in the long-term development of the team.

McLaughlin looks a good pick, and deserves a chance to show what he can do after an excellent season with Leinster.  He’s one of those who might get caught in between being a great provincial servant, and a test level rugby player, but unfashionable workhorses can surprise on the upside too.  He’s been cast as Leinster’s Jean Bouilhou before – now he has to become Ireland’s Tom Wood.

This is a team that gives Ireland no chance of winning the game, even if everyone plays out of their skin.   With a one-paced backline, the biggest backrow available and mismatched, but robust half-backs, it’s hard to see where Ireland can hurt New Zillund.  Squad development has also taken a back seat, with all four changes significantly increasing the age profile of the team.  The tour has become about avoiding embarrassment, getting the games out of the way and getting home with what little dignity can be salvaged – Deccie will consider a defeat by less than 32 points a moral victory.  Ian Madigan and Craig Gilroy might be better off at home after all.

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13 Comments

  1. John Cowan

     /  June 14, 2012

    Lads, it’s Bloody New Zilund! Great comment. Regardless of selection, we haven’t played in a way that could conceivably beat them since england 6n 2011.

  2. Cena2j

     /  June 14, 2012

    It would be great if we had a better coach

  3. Alan

     /  June 14, 2012

    While I’ll get up early again and watch Ireland this weekend, I’m beginning to wonder how many others will. Several of my friends, all erstwhile Ireland fans, have already abandoned supporting the national team under Kidney. The IRFU should be beginning to fret that Kidney is turning away punters who support their provinces to the hilt, but are apathetic towards the men in green.

    Regarding the team, some of the calls are harsh on the players involved – McFadden is being hung out to dry again – while some are just contradictory. Can Kidney justify dropping Darren Cave completely, presumably for his less than stellar cameo, yet persist with Conor Murray, despite his less than impressive performance? A consistent approach to selection and non-selection isnt too much to ask. However, I think Declan is justifyed in picking Murray, IF we are looking at this tour as a developmental tour. Scrum Half is Ireland’s weakest position by a furlong, and like it or not, Murray has more “upside” than Reddan. By the same logic of course though, we should be looking to blood centres…

  4. Anonymous

     /  June 15, 2012

    I don’t see how anyone can critisise the management for bringing in the 32 year old D’Arcy at centre while in same breath calling for the 31 year Reddan to start. I understand that Murray’s form has been patchy at best and Reddan’s is good but Murray is 9 years younger. If you want to develop a partnership between Murray and Sexton for the future, they need to play together. They’ve started a total of 5 games together so far. That number has to increase.

    The problem for Kidney is that no-one knows if that’s *his* logic behind that selection and the reinstatement of D’Arcy would appear to be contradictory to that. While comments from Kidney have never revealed much, he is now falling into a genuine communication crisis where his public pronouncements make less and less sense and even begin to contradict his actions. It’s a path we’ve seen many managers/coaches in different sports go down and we rarely see any recover from that position.

    • Anon – it’s a fair point, but I think you’ve explained our logic yourself in your second paragraph! If we felt this tour was being used to try and develop a few partnerships, then we’d have no problem with the Murray-Sexton combination being given another run out (we have been Murray fans since he burst on to the scene, and he is clearly a good player, but enduring a very sticky patch). But with not even a cursory nod to development elsewhere in the team, it’s hard to believe anything other than Kidney seeing Murray and Sexton as his best halfbacks for this particular match – with which we cannot agree.

      • Sorry, I should have been clearer (and remembered to sign my name). My issue is with the comentariat (Twitter) calling both D’Arcy’s inclusion and Murray’s retention a bad idea. It’s hypocritical to decry D’Arcy starting cos he’s nearing the end of his career and simultaneously wanting Reddan, who’s of a similar age, to be brought in at the expense of a 22yr old. I wish Kidney was playing Murray for right reasons, which I don’t think he is, but maybe we should be grateful for small mercies; the development of a young, new partnership.

        I don’t think we’re going to beat New Zealand, but in a match your not going to win against the highest quality opposition, do you play an young guy with 10yrs of rugby ahead of him or a more in form player in his 30s? We’ve ended up with the right combo, even if it is for the wrong reasons.

        • Ah, ’tis yourself. Fiar points all, Ronan. We can’t speak for the twitterati, only for ourselves, but our main gripe with the coaching ticket is a lack of vision and direction – we seem to be lurching from match to match. It’s very hard to see where Kidney is taking this team (as per your first comment).

          Also, it has to be said that player development is hugely important (obviously), but it does have to be tempered with a dose of pragmatism. There comes a point where a certain player just isn’t playing well enough, and you have to make a call that might look like a backwards step in the interests of the team and the player involved. Murray is having some pretty fundamental issues with his game at the moment, and while we don’t doubt he has the talent to bounce back, hoping for him to come right in the white heat of test matches against the world champions may not be beneficial to team or player. It’s hauntingly similar to the approach Kidders took with O’Leary, who is now a ruin of a player.

      • Amiga500

         /  June 15, 2012

        I can’t seem to reply to whiff’s last post in the chain, so sticking it here.

        “There comes a point where a certain player just isn’t playing well enough”

        There is also the possibility he is just not good enough or is just not taking on board what he is being told (which = not good enough). Therefore, in 2 years time, we’ll be looking for another scrum half anyway (Marshall?).

  5. anoonamous

     /  June 15, 2012

    I am really beginning to fear for Murray. He’s in proper TOL/LOOke territory where Deccie’s trying to play him into form. You don’t play your way into form against the ABs. You need games against inferior teams not far far superior teams to get back into form. An advancing scrum, a functioning lineout and a good breakdown is what a SH needs. I will never understand Deccie’s attitude to the halfbacks. Not only are Murray/ROG & Reddan/Sexton familar partnerships, they also make sense defensively. Murray covers ROG, Sexton covers Reddan. Please play Reddan/Sexton for 2 or 3 games in a row. Please Deccie! Please!

  6. Shielded blog bullshit

     /  June 16, 2012

    Full of hidden in the shadows shite, as usual, maybe get off the couch ‘Whiff’, stop ordering takeaway and you would have a clue, blogs rule??????????????

    • Xyz

       /  June 16, 2012

      Good one Hugh! Don’t forget the underpants reference – wait, do we want WoC to take their underpants OFF or leave them ON?

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