PJ, Hold This Tackle Bag Would You?

Late last week and over the weekend, Deccie caught up on his provincial rugby for the last three months and reached some disturbing conclusions, and has made some additions to the Irish squad to reflect the newsflow.

Firstly, it would appear that the news from Frankie and Gerry wasn’t entirely accurate – it turns out it’s Ulster who have won every game this season and who are playing the best rugby. Secondly, there have been injuries to a few of the apostles – notably Rory Best and Drico. On the plus side, Ireland’s Tighthead Crisis showed signs of resolution with Deccie Fitz managed to go an hour without getting injured, and Michael Bent’s plane touching down without incident in Dublin airport. So, to give credit where it is due, even belatedly, the additions to Ireland’s squad give it a much fresher and more form-based look.

In the half backs, Paul Marshall and Paddy Jackson come into the squad. Marshall has been inventive and snappy from the base this year and his call-up is well-deserved. With Murray and Reddan both playing well, it’s unlikely he will start a game, but he does offer something genuinely different off the bench.  Plus, he knows Ruan Pienaar inside out, so a bench slot isn’t completely out of the question, though the Fiji game looks his best chance. One out, Paddy Jackson is the form 10 in Ireland, the peerless Sexton aside, and has 16 years on Rog – a no-brainer for a cap would you say? Clearly, but placating the once-great O’Gara is as important to the coaching set up now as it was three years ago when Johnny Sexton made his debut – if that takes precedence over success at RWC15, Rog will continue as first reserve.

Two exciting young wings get the nod – Tiarnan O’Halloran and Craig Gilroy. Both have started the season well, though Gilroy has had to make do with a role as first reserve to Tommy Tommy Bowe and Andrew Trimble. However, with the afore-mentioned pair, plus  Simon Zebo, Ferg and explosive up-and-coming wing Donncha O’Callaghan ahead on the pecking order, starts for the Ireland XV against Fiji are probably the best they can hope for.

At hooker, Sean Cronin is in to cover Rory Best and his provincial team-mate, Risteard O’Strauss; but it’s the position next to him that has created the most heat. A mere 24 months on from a 4-game series where the starting tightheads were John Hayes, Mushy and Tom Court, Ireland have had to resort to calling up a guy who said last Thursday:

They are not saying that [a callup] is going to happen, I’ve just to get over there and play a bit of footy for Leinster first before they can even look at me. It does sound pretty positive, but obviously I’ve got to prove myself first before they can look at me seriously.

Obviously, indeed. Or not. Let’s just hope he’s no Peter Borlase. By means of comparison, Bent comes over after 11 Super Rugby appearances (5 starts) for the Hurricanes, with a reputation for being slightly ambi-propsterous and a solid scrummager. Tom Court came over at the same age after three Super Rugby appearances for the Reds and a similar ability to play both sides. Court has since specialised as a loose-head, and, to be truthful, if we have resorted to poaching players from New Zealand club rugby, we’d take Test-able substitutes as an outcome. Bent comes straight off the back of a productive ITM Cup, so he is at least battle hardened and match-ready  It’s a remarkable call-up, but not necessarily in a bad way; a little creative thinking never hurt.  Some commentators may argue that it’s a kick in the teeth to the likes of Jamie Hagan or Stephen Archer, but neither player is anywhere close to the level required for test rugby.

Deccie Fitzpatrick is the other tighthead selected – there has never been any issue with his technical abilities, but staying injury-free has proved a challenge. His stints in New Zealand this summer were solid, and he’s likely to be the bench tighthead for the Springbok game.

Ian Madigan heads the list of those unlucky not to get the call.  Earlier this season he seemed to be on the cusp of an international breakthrough, but has been pressed into action at 15, where he’s mixed the good with the bad.  It’s not his best position, and it’s allowed Paddy Jackson to get the jump on him.  We’ve already posted on the tough decisions that lie ahead for Madigan, and it will be interesting to see how he responds to this non-call.  Felix Jones returned to action and must be in the management’s thoughts, but perhaps the South Africa game comes just too soon for him.  It would be no surprise to see him later in the series.

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15 Comments

  1. Morton Slumber

     /  October 30, 2012

    “Paddy Jackson is the form 10 in Ireland, the peerless Sexton aside, and has 16 years on Rog – a no-brainer for a cap would you say? Clearly, but placating the once-great O’Gara is as important to the coaching set up now as it was three years ago when Johnny Sexton made his debut – if that takes precedence over success at RWC15, Rog will continue as first reserve”

    Gents, I applaud you.

  2. LarryMilne

     /  October 30, 2012

    Risteard St. Ross, surely?

    Other than that, I’ve little to add; I’m sure everyone has their own opinions on various fine details of the squad selection but:

    1. It barely matters as I’ve no faith in Kidney anyway, surely the players cannot believe in where the team is going either, so this is all just killing time till we get another man in, start again, and hope the new direction is a significant improvement.
    2. The selection of O’Gara is ridiculous. Unmerited on form either in green (hasn’t been good for a while) or club (very average with Munster this year), he’s older than most rocks and both Sexton and Paddy Jackson have been offering up far superior fare this term.

  3. It is chilling to think that rog’s welfare is being put ahead of our next world cup campaign, but I guess that’s what has to happen when you have a player who is above international class.

    Do you not think that henshaw or Loughney have a right to feel hard done by at the minute? Loughney unlike hagan and afaik archer has at least played and trained with Ireland and played more rabo/Heineken rugby than either lately.

    Henshaw while green (in two ways) has shown remarkable talent and promise in a position that is not his regular, surpassing madigan at 15 by far IMO. He’s also played more rugby this season than jones has in three years out together and is the form fb at the minute. Granted I would not like to see him thrown to the saffers but I think he should feel aggrieved at being passed over without even the recognition of joining the training squad.

    • I don’t think Loughney can have any complaints until he can oust White, who has gone from a player Connacht had high hopes for to Connacht captain in a few short weeks. White has started 6 matches to Loughney’s 3 and Loughney wasn’t given the start last week when the Irish management would have been interested in seeing his performance before naming the squad (was this a V-sign to Deccie and the boys?)

      I’m in two minds about Bent, but not an equal split. I’m 70/30 against this. Yes I can see the arguments for it, and it’s possible that he’ll be capped just to lock him to Ireland, but this does not sit well with me. There is far too much desperation about this call up.

      • Sure but Fitzpatrick has not ousted afoa and archer is third choice at Munster (or lower?) so loughs is surely ahead of archer and equal to fitz by that reasoning.

  4. If Irish rugby is thinking of the next WC, then it should be bye-bye Darce, Drico, Donncha, Rog and Paulie. But as the WC is still 3 years away, and new players will be added all the way up to August 2015, it seems a bit early to discard the old soldiers.

    As for the merits of Rog’s selection (leaving aside the premature ‘let’s get the kids ready for 2015’ argument), he’s still the best rainy-day outhalf in the country. Madigan, Jackson and Keatley are all good attacking players, but I’d back none of them in a territorial kicking battle with Rog. There’s no evidence of the three’s ability to control a tough Heineken Cup game (because they haven’t done it), not to mind an International. As a hypothesis, an injury to Sexton, and Jackson starting against the Boks has ‘hauled off after 50 minutes’ as a time-saving placeholder in the post-match reports.

    Besides, the team has bigger problems than Rog’s presence on the subs’ bench or otherwise. Defensive and attacking organisation have been alarmingly poor at times, and there have been a number of games in the last year where the team have seemed tired and unmotivated. Dropping Rog from the subs bench isn’t going to solve any of those problems – unless you’re crediting him with some witch-doctory juju powers that activate on contact with the cameras.

    • What? You don’t believe he has those special powers? You underestimate the man.

      But yes, you’re right about the team having bigger problems. As we said last week, the main news in the squad announcement wasn’t so much the players named as the changes in the coaching team and what they might infer.

    • LarryMilne

       /  October 31, 2012

      Henry, my point re. Rog is a bit more complicated than “he won’t make the next WC – out”. It is a consideration but not the only one; his form in green has not been consistently up to measure in a long time, while his domestic form has also been worth very little so far this year. Combining those facts, together with his age, and I’d see him gone.

      I don’t believe in closing the door, don’t see the sense, but our national selectorial policy has become too heavily dictated by “experience” (and Deccie’s whims, although I appreciate any head coach must be given the opportunity to follow his convictions). It’s veered into Catch-22 territory, whereby we keep picking the same players because (some of) the alternatives have not played enough/at all in green (because the same players keep getting picked).

      Following the last World Cup, and with the associated player form since, I would have left Rog, D’Arcy and Donncha out of this squad (but not BOD, as I believe he still has great value, or O’Connell – for whom the next WC is perfectly realistic, incidentally) because, following the reasoning above, they are not making compelling cases for inclusion on the rugby pitch, and are old.

      With the injuries that have occurred, I would now select GD at 12 for the upcoming matches, because McFadden, Earls and Cave have all played very little at 12. Otherwise, with Darren Cave having been the best centre in Ireland for around 18 months, there would have been little case, in my opinion, for D’Arcy’s inclusion despite an increase in the quality of his performances for Leinster in recent months. He’s been too poor for too long, and just kept getting picked regardless.

  5. NiDave

     /  October 30, 2012

    Although there will always be differences in opinion on project players and residency/grandparent qualification I think it is something that we should explore. New Zealand have always embraced players born in the pacific islands with open arms with Sitiveni Sivivatu, Collins, So’oialo, Rokocoko, Kaino, Toeava all having been born outside of New Zealand. England are also guilty of exploiting the 3 year residency rule with Matt Stevens, Hendre Fourie, Mouritz Botha, Nick Abendanon and Brad Barritt all eligible despite being South African.

    Ireland simply are struggling in certain positions and I feel we need to take advantage of the rule as most other national teams are doing so.

    read this interesting article for more!

    http://www.theroar.com.au/2012/10/31/the-problem-with-eligibility-in-international-rugby/

  6. Xyz

     /  October 30, 2012

    Was shocked by the call ups. To paraphrase Tubs – “You lied to me, Declan. There is an Ulster.”

  7. zdm

     /  October 30, 2012

    With Kearney crocked and His Royal Bodness out, I’d love to see this back line:

    9: Reddan 10: Sexton 11: Bowe 12: McFadden 13: Cave 14: Trimble 15: Earls

    and for the Ireland XV

    9: P Marshall 10: Jackson 11: Gilroy 12: L. Marshall 13: Cave/Earls 14: Zebo 15: Jones

    there was some madness around the Independant sports desk today about Zebo being the best bet for 15 – it seems all you have to do to get a nomination for understudy to Kearney is be able to kick the ball forwards these days.

    I’m not sure which team is the designated “A” team for BNZ but I think Jared Payne looks like a cut above the rest – every time he gets on the ball for Ulster, the whole back line lights up and I think he could turn in to a very tidy player, if white/green colour blindness afflicting the Irish selectors is cured.

    • Bowe is a right wing and Trimble a left wing, so switch their numbers. It would be great to see McFadden tried actually in position (inside centre) for the first time ever for Ireland (after mixed outings at 11, 13 and 14) – I am not sure he is an international but until you try him, you’ill never know. Having been slow to come round, I am now convinced that Zebo is a future Ireland left wing and is almost there (all parts of his game apart from tackling seem to be in place).

      It will be interesting to see what Kidney actually does know his hand has been forced – injury having been the primary driver for squad development over his tenure. You would imagine he would revert to type and put faith in Munster players and the auld reliables, thus am expecting: Murray, Sexton, Zebo, D’Arcy, Earls, Trimble, Bowe.

      • Jolly Red Monster

         /  October 31, 2012

        It seems to me that what is blindingly obvious to most people, takes some time to sink in here. Zebo is pure class. Although he should be played on the wing if possible. Mcfadden? Not impressed. Agreed though, it will be interesting to see, maybe Kidney goes for broke….

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