Deccie – Get Out There And Sell Some Tickets!

Tomorrow, Deccie names his 30 man squad for the November Internationals against the Boks and the Pumas, plus a Wolfhounds-type panel for the “Ireland XV” against Fiji in Thomond Park. He’ll be holding a press conference, which doesn’t normally happen for a mere squad announcement, but the IRFU is keen to promote the games to boost sluggish ticket sales.  Quite what sort of a boost a Deccie squad announcement will provide we’re still trying to figure out, but as far as we know tickets already purchased before the announcmement are non-refundable, so that’s something.

He isn’t one for surprises, so expect plenty of Munster players famliar names and faces. But outside of Ireland’s key key men (e.g. the front row, POC, Fez, SOB, Heaslip, Sexton, Earls, BOD, Tommy Bowe, Bob), there is actually quite a bit of jockeying for position.

On the one hand you have the familiar Murray/Reddan or Dorce/Ferg debates, but below that, the last 8 or so squad names are still in flux. Here’s five players who have put their hand up this season, and five who have struggled to get teacher’s attention.

Hands up:

Iain Henderson: New Willie John McBride indeed. Henderson was a revelation at last years U-20 World Cup and looked to have the tools to make it. We thought he would get some gametime at blindside this year, but in the Rabo, certainly not in the Heiny. But it’s tantamount ot the impact he has had that Fez has not been missed one iota – Hendo has been a MOTM contender in both games and looks to the manor born. Of course, he is a second row by trade, so some of the names beneath him here should be watching out. He surely isn’t ready for the ‘unforgiving environment of test rugby, but we can’t be sure about that – no harm in bringing him along for the ride, and he might get on the pitch against Fiji.

Chris Henry: Sean O’Brien is still injured, Shane Jennings is not a friend of Deccie and Peter O’Mahony is patently not an openside (more of which anon) – by process of elimination, Chris Henry is the man. More importantly, he was our MOTM against Glasgow and has picked up where he left off in Thomond Park last season (he wasn’t fully fit after that). He only got about five minutes in New Zealand, where his most notable (and funniest) act was to barge over Romain Poite. He’s been the most consistent 7 in Ireland for a year now evne if he is not built in the classic openside mould – in O’Brien’s absence it’s time he got a shot at the green jersey.

Paddy Jackson: Jacko was like a rabbit in the headlights in the HEC final, but it turns out he was staring at Johnny Sexton and learning oodles. It was the type of experience that can haunt a fellow, but his recovery has been impressively swift.  He looks like a proper player now, not a youngster out of his depth. He has solid defence and has done a decent job of igniting Ulster’s backs. At his age, he is still one for the future, but as the second best 10 in Ireland right now (Madigan has been playing 15 for the last month) and one who is only going to improve, we think he makes the cut.

Paul Marshall: Eoin Reddan is going strongly for Leinster and despite his costly nightmare in Paris, Conor Murray has in fact started the season well.  That leaves the test jerseys more or less locked away, but Marshall should be in line to play against Fiji.  His form is terrific, and his only competition for the jersey is Isaac Boss, who is just back from injury.  Kidney has been reticent to pick Marshall up to now, but with Tomas O’Leary exiled, the time has come.

Simon Zebo: Still tucks the ball under one arm to carry it, but Simon Zebo looks like the most threatening runner in the Munster backline, perhaps even more so than Earls.  The try-count was eye-catching last season, but this year he looks a better all round footballer.  Wingers are best picked when young, fast and in form, and Zebo ticks all the boxes.  With Keith Earls still injured, Zebo has a real chance of squeezing into the test 11 jersey.

Hands Down:

Kevin McLaughlin: Ireland’s Tom Wood finished last season strongly, impressing in the Heineken Cup final and the second test in New Zealand, but he’s yet to get into his stride this season, which has been characterised so far by powder-puff carries and knock-ons in the opposition 22.  With Ferris back in contention and any number of potential blindsides in the mix, Locky is likely to have to settle for Ireland XV action.

Peter O’Mahony: We said last season the over-hype from certain corners about O’Mahony would do him no favours, and now his versatility may be working aginst him. After starting his first three games for Ireland in three different positions, he has merely had his flaws highlighted by very tough opponents. He has played 6 and 8 this season, but with Ferris and Heaslip around, he is unlikely to barge his way into the test team.  Openside is the position with the word ‘Vacant’ outside the parking lot in neon letters, but not having played there this season hasn’t helped his chances of being picked there.  Besides, he hasn’t stamped his authority on the season just yet – though he played well against Embra, Munster looked much more effective with a natural No.8 (Paddy Butler) there.

Ronan O’Gara (WoC ducks for cover): It’s honesty time. An intervention is needed. Despite what Gerry says, the heroic Rog has been largely ineffective this season. He’s also injured.  Father Time can’t tick backwards, and not only is Paddy Jackson a better option (see above), but so are Ian Madigan and (whisper it) Ian Keatley. Deccie might like an easy life as much as anyone, but O’Gara simply no longer justifies selection – it’s time to move on.

Donnacha Ryan: Not a criticism of Ryan as such, but he is not playing in his favoured position, as Rob Penney has stuck Stakhanov in the team, apparently for his play on the wing, and is using Ryan to beef up his light-ish back row. If any of the rest of Ireland’s myriad of ok-but-not-amazing second rows were putting their hands up, he might be under pressure for his test place. As it is, with Dan Tuohy more concerned about Lewis Stevenson, Mike McCarthy playing for Connacht (a major negative it seems) and Devin Toner struggling (see below), he should start – but it’s disappointing he hasn’t been able to persuade the coach he is an indispensable member of the Munster second row.

Devin Toner: Huge strides made last season, but still can’t get into the starting team of the provincewith arguably the weakest second row of the four.  His work at restarts is excellent, but there are still concerns over his lack of power.  Time is still on his side, and Leo Cullen’s legs will eventually grind to a halt, but cannot expect to be in the squad until he finally nails down a place in the Leinster team.  Ireland XV action at best.

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  1. contraflow

     /  October 23, 2012

    Autumn internationals… yawn! Just killing Kidney time.

  2. Morton Slumber

     /  October 23, 2012

    Excellent piece gents, one quick point if I may.

    I think we all agree that there are two type of squad predictions. The squad we wish he would pick & the squad we fear he will pick.

    Of your 5 “hands up”, how many of those do you think he actually will pick?

  3. Jimbob

     /  October 23, 2012

    I’d like to see Marmion and Henshaw included in the training squad too; lots of time for them to be capped but they could even get a run out against Fiji.
    I’m guessing Deccie will pick Bob at FB assuming fitness, if not it’d be good to see Jones back in provided he can stay healthy for 3 weeks!
    Disappointed to see Ryan out of the 2nd row, had he locked it down at munster I think kidney’s decision would be made already.
    Most interesting is who will play 10 against Fiji,as you said, at the start of the season it was all about Madigan but now it’s a toss up between any four (ROG included unfortunately). Personally I would choose Madders, being a biased Leinster fan, but selecting the much improved Keatley or Jackson is still a move in the right direction – he’ll probably pick Radge:(

    • Amiga500

       /  October 23, 2012

      I’d rather have Denis Hurley in there at 15. (Or as Jimbob says on down, Henshaw.)

      There is little benefit to giving game time to someone (Jones) who, based on probability, is most likely to be injured come tournament time.

      • Jimbob

         /  October 23, 2012

        Jones has been injury prone recently but it’s a bit harsh to disregard him if he’ll probably be injured again…he could go three years without an injury! Selection should be based primarily on form taking suitability and experience into regard too. If Jones has two excellent games in the Pro12, he probably deserves to start.

      • Hurley is a good honest player in the Munster 3/4 mold but he is not an international full back. Sorry. If that is the next best, then we better hope Jones never gets injured again.

        Worryingly, I have read a number of places that Madigan has been earmarked by the blazers as a future Ireland 15 (even if we would all love to see him standing close to a zippy scrumhalf). Watch this space.

  4. Alan

     /  October 23, 2012

    Given Declan’s job is on the line, the team will be as tried and trusted as possible. More interesting than the squad selection though is the squad announcement, and the apparent decline of ticket sales. Given Ireland’s poor economic state (says an ex-pat) and poor performances in recent times from the national side, the IRFU must be waking up to a potential deficit if the turnstiles don’t generate their expected revenue.

    One would imagine the IRFU will now be especially concerned with the performance of the team in November with an eye on filling the Aviva in February and beyond. In a sense, Declan is in a lose-lose scenario. If Ireland lose the tests, he will more than likely lose his job. If Ireland win the tests playing dire rugby, the swinging punter will be more likely to watch his exciting, successful and much cheaper provincial side play.. Declan has an added challenge of getting Ireland to play heads up, attacking rugby, and winning, and has little time to do so.

    Working on the hypothesis that the latter scenario is a jump too far, the IRFU should seriously consider pushing Declan before the end his contract, take the financial hit, and drum up Six Nations interest a la England last year with the search for a new coach and the promise of a fresh start. At least it might put bums on seats.

    • Alan

       /  October 23, 2012

      My lack of debating the team comes from the sad reality that in all likelihood there will be little debate for Declan come the “proper” matches. We all have a good idea what that will be.As I’m sure everyone understands, I’m just a little desperate to see Ireland play to their potential, as we have stagnated under the present regime.

      With regards the Fiji team, the Connacht back line with Jackson and Gilroy should play. Very impressed with McSharrey this year. With an experienced pack (and Henderson) it would make for an exciting game.

      • Gilroy hasn’t even been making the Ulster team unfortunately (I’m a big fan and thought he was more promising than Zebo last season) – so he is hardly going to make the Ireland squad with wingers like Bowe, Trimble, Zebo, Conway and (although he is clearly not a winger and has been playing brilliantly at his position of inside centre but that doesn’t matter to Kidney) McFadden.

  5. Maybe it says more about me than anything else, but a discussion of what players will be in the mix for the XV against Fiji excites me more. Oh well.

    • gibbsey

       /  October 23, 2012

      here here!

    • LarryMilne

       /  October 23, 2012


      I know what you’re saying, though there are tonnes of options and probably not enough game time for everyone. I don’t think we should send out a team of naifs to get vandalised, but I would surely have an emphasis on youth (ie. no Isaac Boss, etc), with perhaps a couple of older heads (Muldoon-type thing) to lead the side. My first team squad is posted elsewhere (below) so, given that choice, I’d probably select something like:

      Kilcoyne, Cronin, Fitzpatrick
      Tuohy, Toner
      Henderson, Muldoon, O’Mahony
      O’Halloran, Downey, Allen/Griffin, Gilroy

      BENCH: Sherry, Wilkinson, Hagan/Loughney, McCarthy, Faloon, Marmion, Jackson/Madigan/Keatley, Hurley/Henshaw

      Selecting a guy like Downey is taking a shirt from someone with the potential to be a much better player, but he’s an ideal fella to help out the kids in a young backline. In general I’ve picked the young players getting provincial game time ahead of others whose potential may be greater (eg. JJ Hanrahan).

      If Dave Kearney gets back to fitness I’d have him involved somewhere.

      • Its nice to give youth a chance but that team would get hockeyed in the Pro12 – not to mind in an international match against the 14th ranked team in the world.
        For me, the XV match should be used to try players who you think – at this stage – will be in the matchday squad come RWC time. Of your selection, I would keep Jones (maybe depending on fitness), Madigan/Jackson, Marshall (definitely), Henderson, O’Mahony, Dominic Ryan (if fit),Cronin and Fitzpatrick. Of the other young fringe players, I would add Zebo and play McFadden in the centre. That would already be more experimentation than you could hope for in your wildest dreams, and still leave plenty of room for experienced internationals to chaperone the young blood.

  6. john conroy

     /  October 23, 2012

    who is stackanov??

  7. On Zebo. I criticised his lack of core skills but he seems to have brushed up everything apart from the defensive position/tackling (he has been excellent under the high ball and with boot). However, surely you are overlooking the obvious choice, who has now played two H-Cup games on the wing: Stakhanov.

  8. LarryMilne

     /  October 23, 2012

    With O’Brien and Earls injured, one would imagine Zebo and Henry, as the form horses, would come in. I expect Trimble and O’Mahony. Dan Tuohy’s having a decent season but surely Ryan chiseled his name into the first XV during the summer?

    Re: Rog – he cannot possible be picked. But he’ll be there, in the 23, with the camera cutting to him every time Sexton makes the merest mistake. Kidney might even pick him to start if we lose the first game.

    The centre spots are interesting. D’Arcy will play, obviously, but I watched with interest when Darren Cave moved into 12 for Ulster earlier in the season. OK, if I remember right it was Cardiff, not the All Blacks, that Ulster were playing, but a hiding is a hiding – but crucially DC (if only) dealt very well with boom boom Roberts, who himself had a decent game. I do feel that Cave’s strengths in attack – tremendous awareness of space, subtle lines and a strong close passing game – perhaps run a little similar to what BOD tries to do nowadays. However, in the second test in Nu Ziln Drico acted as more of a strike runner (nothing subtle, he pretty much went at Conrad Smith’s inside shoulder all day, though it reaped huge rewards) and I think there is potential in that combination. Anyway, Cave is the best centre in Ireland not called O’Driscoll and probably has been for 18 months – his absence from your post is probably the only thing I would take issue with – and on that basis alone he deserves a shot.

    (The case is all the stronger, bearing in mind I would never pick D’Arcy or Paddy Wallace again, both because McFadden has not had time at 12 and also Earls/Cave could well be our partnership at the next World Cup – it’s a blend with potential, anyway).

    Larry’s first XV:

    Healy, Best, Ross
    Ryan, POC
    Ferris, Heaslip (back in form), Henry
    Zebo, Cave, BOD, Bowe
    Kearney/Felix Jones/Hurley (in that order)

    BENCH: Strauss, Court, Fitzpatrick, Tuohy, O’Mahony, Marshall, Jackson/Madigan/Keatley (all should be involved in some capacity in the three matches), McFadden

    • zdm

       /  October 23, 2012

      Agree completely that Cave is the best centre after His Royal Bodness. The lines he runs are a different class to any of the other candidates.
      I see him as more the heir to the 13 throne than a 12 but wherever he gets game time is a good start. I’d like to see McFadden at 12 and Cave at 13 at some stage as this looks like the most promising combination for the future. McFadden has the ball skills and the carrying ability to be a 12 but I think he lacks the extra spark that sets apart a truly world class 13.
      Earls is not, not, not a centre, no matter how much he wants it and it is a waste to use him as a centre given his skills. If Ireland didn’t have Bob at 15, I think Earls would have been moulded in to a full back which is the position I think suits him best.

      Zebo, I’m not so sure about – he’s having a great start to the season but looks paper thin in all aspects of his defence. I’m a big fan of having one fleet-footed flyer and one more direct winger and I think that Ireland’s best combination at present is Trimble/Bowe. Wing isn’t a position we need to tinker with too much – it would be the part of the backline with the most depth but it seems pointless to tinker here instead of somewhere else.

      • Rava

         /  October 23, 2012

        Although he won’t be in the mix for the AI’s or the Six Nations, I believe Luke Marshall will be the answer to the 12 conundrum for the future. Guy has pace and power and loads of talent. I can see him in the Ulster 12 jersey by the end of this season.

      • +1 on Earls at fullback. Its where he played – and played so well – in his breakthrough season. He has yet to match those performances IMO.

      • Ultra Sur

         /  October 24, 2012

        I like the cut of McFadden’s jib. He’s a hardworker and has his talents. However, ball skills is not one of them. He doesn’t have much of a step and tends to put the end down and bosh. I don’t think he’ll shake off the utility back tag but then I don’t think that’s a bad thing. With his range of skills, mostly developed, he has made himself a handy player to have in international XXIIs.

        He is not and will never be world class though. Schmidt seems like a man who gives anyone a chance and McFadden didn’t manage to usurp Darce last year when the latter was having bad game after bad game. Whatever about Deccie, who I have very little time for as a selector or coach, if Schmidt doesn’t pick him….

        Re fullback, Kearney’s out for 10 weeks. Hurley would get exposed badly at international level. I think Earls is our best bet with the winger options we have.

        @Curates Egg, I agree re Zebo. I thought he was all flash and not much else last season but he’s improved deficient aspects of his game this season. Encouraging signs.

  9. Good piece. O’Mahony is a blindside, the sooner he is settled there the better. Surprised you didn’t mention Connacht’s McSharry & Henshaw but this is probably more a reflection on the hard time Connacht players get looking for caps than anything else. I know Healy is a fine loose head but If he fails to stay fit (I hope he stays fit) I’d sooner see Kilcoyne than Court at loose head. He can scrummage and unlike POC & DOC seems to love the wide open spaces.

  10. Paddy Logan

     /  October 23, 2012

    Great piece as always – the Stakhanov line’s a classic..

    If you’re good enough, you’re old enough therefore Henderson should play if Fez doesn’t make it. If Gatland were the coach he would but a run against the Fijians at Thomond is probably the best he can hope for. If Henry doesn’t play it would be a travesty and McCarthy’s form demands that he start alongside POC. Connacht’s performances this season mean that Deccie is going to have to visit Galway more often and he should take a very close look at Dave McSharry who was outstanding against Harlequins.

  11. Jesus wept. 7 blindsides, Radge, Stakhanov and no FB (Earls still injured afaik). If I was still in Dublin I would refuse to go to this.

  12. Jimbob

     /  October 24, 2012

    Pretty restrictive squad selection from Deccy; McCarthy/Muldoon only in there for training purposes. Harsh on Cronin to be completely omitted. No Madigan or Keatley despite their versatility. No solid backup for Ross and no nailed down fullback.
    going on the announced squad my 22 (if all fit) would be;

    1. Healy
    2. Best
    3. Ross
    4. Ryan
    5. O’Connell
    6. Ferris
    7. Henry
    8. Heaslip
    9. Murray
    10. Sexton
    11. Trimble
    12. D’arcy/McFadden – really hard to choose
    13. BOD
    14. Earls
    15. Bowe – I don’t trust Earls at FB

    16. Strauss
    17. Kilcoyne
    18. Tuohy
    19. O’Mahony
    20. Reddan
    21. ROG – Really unhappy about this
    22. D’arcy/McFadden/Cave

    • zdm

       /  October 24, 2012

      The Good
      1) Finally noticing that the D’arcy/O’Driscoll partnership is in its final stage – was surprised to see Luke Marshall’s name on the list but only because I did’nt expect Deccie to consider his name. He is making all sorts of ructions up north and is hotly tipped as a star. Would be great to see him line up against the Fijians but I suspect he will be a bencher for that one.
      2) Richardt Strauss – of all the pretenders to Ireland’s front row throne, he looks the most likely to be able to step up
      3) Finally adding to the coaching ticket – although Ireland are still leap years behind the southern hemisphere, and even the provincial teams in terms of a specialist backroom.

      The Bad
      “Hi, I’m Paul Marshall, you might remember me from such shows as “Ulster’s Run to the HC “, where I starred along side Ruan Piennar and “When Ulster Met Castres” – seriously, if amateur rugby “pundits” such as on these boards are questioning whether a player deserves to oust a World Cup winning, 60 capped Springbok then why is he not even at the gig? Clearly this is a position where reputation and who you are passing to is more important thant form.

      The Ugly
      1) ROG – his position at Munster is being challenged by a player that I would probably rate as the 4th best Irish fly half this year and yet he is one of 2 in the international panel

      2) Stakhanov. I don’t think this one needs any further discussion.

      The Looked Good But Now That I’ve Thought About It
      Ian Henderson – “the next Willie John McBride” , “Ireland’s future captain” “a long career as an international lock”. All well and good, an insightful pick to get the youngster familiar with the international set-up, even if it’s just for 5 minutes against Fiji BUT he is tipped for a future as a LOCK and Ulster have been playing him as a FLANKER to blood him to provincial rugby – so what is he in the Ireland squad? Is he there to risk injury to himself by scrummaging in the second row against O’Connell and O’Callaghan in training? Is he going to play as a flanker? – unlikely with the number in the squad. Why not leave him where he was, where he was getting valuable game time and where Ulster have lost a key second row forward to a medium-term injury where he might even get a run at lock?

      • Jimbob

         /  October 24, 2012

        Agreed that Marshall’s omission is criminal, his pace puts fear into a team…even if its only for 20 mins.
        Unsure about Kiss as an attack coach; great in defence but the attack end has yet to be seen. In saying that, the fact he has more time to dedicate to attack means the less influence Deccy has on it and he might be given an opportunity to get some feedback from the players too.
        Re: Stakhanov; he had a cracking game on the wing against Edinburgh, maybe he’s the one who can cover fullback….

  13. David_Puddy

     /  October 24, 2012

    We won’t know Deccie’s thinking until Dexy’s tells us in tomorrow’s Irish Times

  14. So, Ireland’s hailed defense coach is now an attack coach, whilst Munster’s relatively new forwards coach becomes Ireland’s defense coach.
    The rats must really be jumping overboard if that is the best duct-tape job they can do.

    Why take your best coaching asset away from the job he was doing well and shift him to a job that he was half-doing badly, and replace the vacancy in the job he was doing well, with a relative novice, who is not a specialist in the area? It all stinks.

  15. LarryMilne

     /  October 24, 2012

    Tell you what, there’s nothing like picking Stephen Ferris, Peter O’Mahony, Donnacha Ryan, Mike McCarthy, Iain Henderson, John Muldoon and Kevin McLaughlin in one 31-man squad for a three-game series. Never have enough options at six! Thank God Tuohy’s played there too, I thought we’d be short and may have been forced to play one of our many full backs in the forwards.

    • Kidders the arch troll has done it again, no fb and an injured rog named in the squad, brilliant! If McFadden has not played at fb before then I fully expect him to be forced in there with sexton at 12 and an unfit rog at 10 against south Africa, after which McFadden will be scape goated a la Wallace.

      I’m actually glad henshaw and Marmion have not been selected for pad duty, don’t want deccie messing them up. Also, bringing Loughney to the last training camp and forcing him to rest at the start of the season then not including him in the squad, masterful trolling of Connacht on multiple levels.

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