Oh Captain, My Captain

Brian O’Driscoll was announced as Ireland captain for the November series yesterday.  But, at the risk of commiting heresy, we must ask: is he the right man for the job?  The answer is still a ‘yes’, but it’s worth taking some time to think through.

Time waits for no man, as they say, and just as the clock has ticked past the point where Ronan O’Gara should be an international selection, so too it will reach the point where BOD is no longer the best 13 in the country.  That day may not necessarily coincide with the day the great man retires, and could even precede it.  At some point the time may come when BOD has to be left out of the Ireland team.

It’s worth casting an eye over the form-book.  BOD has played poorly in Leinster’s two Heineken Cup games this season.  Against Exeter he was guilty of taking insufficient care of the ball, while against Scarlets he showed a rare moment of hesitancy in defence to allow Gareth Maule to skate in for a try.  Going further back, he had a fairly indistinguished summer tour in a green shirt.  Casting back slightly further, he did have a stellar Heineken Cup final, with his memorable break and offload to Sean O’Brien the highlight of the match.  The old magic has not disappeared.

The alternatives for the position are Ulster’s Darren Cave and in particular Keith Earls, who played well there in the Six Nations and has made little secret of his desire to play in the 13 shirt and not on the wing.  The pity of it is that Earls has been injured over the past fortnight, and has missed an opportunity to put huge pressure on O’Driscoll.  He had started the season with great gusto.

Any pressure is further diluted by Rob Kearney’s absence, which is likely to see Earls deployed at full-back in any case.  Kearney is close to irreplaceable (particularly keeping in mind the nature of Ireland’s opponents in this series), so taking another of Ireland’s totems out of the backline would leave Ireland looking a bit callow in that division.

BOD is the greatest player ever to pull on the green jersey, and his experience, leadership, class and nose for the tryline should not be discarded lightly.  He still has much to bring to test rugby, so long as his legs are functioning.  Peter O’Reilly wrote that even dead, you could strap him to his horse and send him into the ranks of the enemy.  But even the greatest of men should not be picked based on what they have achieved in the past.  We endorse his selection as captain for this series, but he should not be considered an automatic selection.  Thirteenwatch has not gone away just yet.



  1. Amiga500

     /  October 25, 2012

    Assuming BOD steps down after the Lions tour – if Keet doesn’t nail down the red 13 jersey over the next season or so… can he really be considered for green 13?

    Would it not then tend toward Darren Cave by default? [Or Eoin O’Malley assuming he steps into BOD’s sizeable boots at Leinster]

  2. Leinsterlion

     /  October 25, 2012

    Questioning Dricos omnipotence? BLASPHEMY!!! Honestly though, I dont believe any of Dricos interchangeable bag holders…er back ups have what it takes to do anything more then interchange and rotate until the next generation comes through in 2-3 years time(fingers crossed).
    No one at Leinster is remotely up to the task on current evidence. O’Malley is a midget(who’s injured),McFadden is a 12 end of story. And all of Leinster supposed strength in depth was shown to be false with the mediocre back back play from Macken,Hudson etc.
    At Munster,Barnes lacks top end pace and hasn’t shown that he has the guile to compensate for that.My opinion on Earls as a 13 hasnt changed,hes to small,defensively frail,lacks vision,cant run lines etc etc etc.
    At Ulster, Cave appear to be best placed(out of all the pretenders to Dricos throne) in terms of his track record playing at 13, and his size,line running and quickness. I would rank Cave as the second best 13 in the country
    The rank outsiders to the position in my opinion,would be Griffin and Fitzy. Griffin cant really be considered unless hes playing for one of the “big three” (apologies to Connacht fans but thats the reality).
    Fitzgerald is in consideration as hes essentially a bigger quicker more skilled version of Earls and if Earls is in serious consideration for the 13 jersey despite playing all his best rugby from the wing and being currently injured………..Fitz is in pole position using that same criteria that has anointed Earls as the successor to Drico.
    Then again there’s always Tommy Bowe………

    From the artist formerly known as KeithEarlsisnota13

  3. Big Jim

     /  October 25, 2012

    Gareth Maule didn’t “skate past” him. He stood him up and went outside him and O’Driscoll got back to him and then missed that tackle. I don’t think speed was the issue here. Outside of that he had a pretty good game making a few turnovers.

  4. Although his 2 HEC outings were mediocre, I thought his BODness started the season in great shape and form. His try against Treviso was like the lines and timing of old and he was generally showing exquisite touches around the field. He looks in fine shape and obviously is up for his 4th Lions tour.

  5. Rich

     /  October 26, 2012

    Usually i agree and nod the head when reading the WoC opinion on recent events, but i reckon this article is about a year too early. Maule putting a decent move in hardly spells the end, he is the most solid defender in the team bar Ferris. Earls has, and will continue his wholecareer, to get beaten on the outside 13 channel and Kidney will never pick Cave in any case. Also reckon he ll retire before he turns into…….ROG

    • @Rich – we agree! Don’t forget that we’re concluding that he’s not finished and should continue as captain. But it’s worth pausing to reflect on whether he should still be Ireland’s 13, even if the answer is ultimately a ‘yes’. Agree about Gareth Maule – it was a result of a second’s hesitancy rather than a ‘oh, his legs are gone’ moment.

      • Anonymous

         /  October 27, 2012

        True – Just watched the rerun of the Leinster game and he has picked up an injury – so could well see a young pretender at 13! Good luck to whoever gets it. Also in that game Toner put his hand up I thought and Madigan looks a class act. What a pity the Ireland coaching staff will have been watching reruns of the Munster v Biarritz 2006 Heineken Cup final

    • Dave

       /  October 28, 2012

      @Rich Earls has improved defensively beyond recognition in the past two seasons. His big notable outside missed tackle was on Oooooh Manu Tuilagi in his first start at 13 for Ireland. It doesn’t stop him from being a great player just as it deosn’t stop BOD from being a great player when Ooooooh Mathew Basteraud glided past him in Paris a few years ago, or Ferg when George North sat him on his arse, or Darcy when Rougerie did likewise.

  6. gibbsey

     /  October 27, 2012

    I have a couple of thoughts about the center pairings for the 6 nations. I don’t think Darce should start any of the games, great servant though he has been I think his time has come. Secondly, if fit, should BOD be considered an automatic starter for all five games?

  7. Rava

     /  October 27, 2012

    Yea, I think you should watch any video coverage of this seasons performances by Darren Cave.

    Thats All.

  8. Rich

     /  October 29, 2012

    I know Earls gets a rough ride for he Tuilgi tackle and to be fair to boy, not many would have stopped Manu on that angle. But he is weak there, he has missed more than just that one, and will get caught out again, and long term attack coaches will go for him, and go again, and we will lose games because of his poor defending. Cave has been fantastic for the last 18 months but Kid does nt like him – plays 7 mins on the NZ tour then put on a weights program according to twitter – waste of time for all involved. If all fit – I d play cave and odriscoll, Driscoll at 13 defending at 12 – cave deserves a full game.

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