Mythbusters Part Deux

In and around any international series, it has become inevitable that a number of bizarre viewpoints take on the status of hard facts, whether by being repeated by influential media personnel, through selective memories of those involved or good old-fashioned provincial bias.  Last season it was decreed that Ireland needed huge backs and that Sean O’Brien couldn’t play openside.  This year, a few more are circulating already.

Myth Number 1: Keith Earls can’t play 13

Perpetrators: A lot of people who don’t come from Limerick

Last week our comments section became weighed down with folk of the fixed opinion that ‘Keith Earls can’t/shouldn’t/isn’t a natural/isn’t a test class 13’.    Now, we don’t want to be picking a fight to our loyal readership, but we’re just not buying this one. 

Lets start by going back to last year when we posted this piece. Since then (in fact, pretty much since the World Cup), Earls has done everything asked of him.  He shone like a beacon amid Munster’s abysmal back play last season, all from the position of 13, and in spite of incompetence all around him. He threw in a shocker of a performance at home to Castres, but since that day has been excellent.  Remember the pivotal Ulster game in Thomond Park?  Earls was brilliant: he showed quick hands to get Zebo into the corner for his try and the highlight was his sumptuous pass to Felix Jones late in the second half, which looked to have put the full-back into open country, only for him to inexplicably drop the ball.

In the Six Nations he performed admirably in the role, in the absence of O’Driscoll, and generally won good reviews for his performances.  His good form in the role continued into this season, when he looked pin-sharp before his injury. The argument that he can’t actually do it is based on a few things: that Earls lacks the size to play the role, that he is a poor defender and that he lacks the distribution and awareness of space.

On the last point, we would direct anyone of this opinion to the video below, of a try in Ravenhill this season.  Yes, you can prove anything with a highlights reel, but in this try Earls touches the ball three times, and every touch shows such natural footballing intuition that it can only come from a player with keen awareness of space and good distribution.  His first is an expertly timed round the corner pass to put Billy Holland into a gap, his second a beautiful, fast pass in front of Laulala to open up the space out wide.  Does he stay take a moment to marvel at the splendour of his skill?  He does not, instead making a beeline to support the men out wide and gets on the end of Hurley’s inside pass to score a try.  It’s the sort of skillset that can’t be taught or manufactured.  It’s classic midfield play.

Then we have the size argument.  True, he is not a huge man.  Keith Earls tips the scales at 90kg.  That’s three kilos lighter than both Brian O’Driscoll and Fergus McFadden and four lighter than Wesley Fofana, who plays in the traffic-heavy 12 channel.  But more importantly, the size argument is frequently ill-deployed.  Most ‘Earls is not a 13’ campaigners are happy to continue to select him on the wing.  But in these days of George Norths and Tim Vissers, the wings are no more suitable for lightweights than the midfield.  Either you can defend well enough to play in the three-quarter line or you can’t, and we’d argue that Earls can.

There’s a sense that certain high profile bloopers have been over-played – compare and contrast the reactions to the Manu Incident in August 2011 and Gareth Maule’s burning of BOD a few weeks ago. Incident 1 has been re-treaded ad infitum (and we are as guilty as anyone in that regard), yet Incident 2 is written off as an obvious freak, something that will never happen again – which of course it probably was, since those things happen to everyone from time-to-time, even BOD. And Keith Earls.

Earls has shown in the last 12 months he has the football to play at 13, and he looks like he has the mental too – we’d pick him at 13 for this series, in spite of the form of Darren Cave – he’s one of our best players and its his best position.

Myth 2: Someone Other Than Jamie Heaslip Should Be Captain if Paul O’Connell isn’t Fit

Perpetrator: Many hacks, most notably Keith Wood

Brian O’Driscoll has been Ireland’s captain for over a decade. His on-field pack lieutenant for most of that period has been Paul O’Connell. Rory Best is the other key member of the leadership triumvirate for the national side. So who should lead the team if all 3 are out?

The first and most obvious requirement is that they are actually in the team in the first place, and are guaranteed their place, not just now but for the medium-term – there is little point in giving the armband to Dorce, no matter how well his is playing. So, on that basis, who are the contenders? We’ll go with Cian Healy, Mike Ross, Stephen Ferris, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip, Johnny Sexton, Tommy Bowe or Rob Kearney – there are no other automatic selections with a fully-fit panel.

Fez, O’Brien and Kearney are injured, so they are out. Mike Ross is a key player in a key position, but is 32 and has shown no desire or aptitude for captaincy in the past – he’s out too, and Tommy Bowe, for all his qualities, is patently not major-general material. Which leaves Healy, Heaslip and Sexton.

We’d argue that Healy is just too individual and introspective to be the national captain – plus we aren’t sure he would want it. He’s a quiet and determined chap on the pitch, not quite a Johnno-esque over-the-top type – we don’t think he’s a candidate. Sexton is a key player and probable Lions outhalf, should now be a member of the inner sanctum, but he’s simply too cranky on the pitch to the the Man. His leadership qualities aren’t in doubt – look at his many inspirational performances for Leinster – but he has enough on his plate at out-half – keep him close, but don’t let him toss the coin. Which leaves Heaslip – a natural leader, captaincy experience, guaranteed his place on the team and a mature head with over 50 Test caps. He’s the only credible captain.

Woody’s contribution to the debate was to suggest Sexton or Peter O’Mahony. Sexton’s qualities are discussed above, but its simply madness to consider POM. The hype surrounding O’Mahony has done him no favours, resulting in unrealistic expectations, being shunted back and forth across the backrow, merely allowing top-class opponents (Ruchie, Adam Thompson) to highlight his weaknesses, and being rested at Deccie’s behest when playing might be in his longer-term interests. O’Mahony might make a brilliant Ireland captain in the future, but that day, if/when it comes, will be at least 5 years away – right now, he should be concentrating on getting a position, gaining experience, playing time and maturity, and listening to the Mole instead of Keith Wood.

Note: we aren’t totally down on the idea that a long-term view should be taken, but a balance needs to be struck. If we were only thinking about RWC19, why not go the whole hog and give Iain Henderson the armband?

Myth 3: Ireland’s Management Are In No Way Responsible for the Tighthead Crisis

Perpetrator: Largely Gerry Thornley

After Michael Bent’s incredible call-up to the Ireland squad shortly after landing in Dublin airport, its hard to know who was more incredulous – the fans or the player himself. However, after a bit of thought, its not clear what alternatives the management had – Deccie Fitz is notoriously injury prone, so a third tighthead was needed, and who else was there? Ronan Loughney is behind Nathan White in Connacht, and Stephen Archer is not at Pro12 level, never mind international.

So Bent gets the nod, which is fine. But how did this situation arise? Why simple, say Gerry et al – “there was a lot of investment made in Tony Buckley, which didn’t pay off”. Hmmmm, true, but only to a point. A more accurate and complete description would be “the IRFU and the Ireland management team made a lot of investment in Tony Buckley, which didn’t pay off”.

So Ireland’s Tighthead Crisis is not, after all, completely exogenous to management. In fact, they, to a degree, are responsible for the situation they now find themselves in. Mike Ross was completely ignored until he became last man standing (February 2011, after Mushy failed to make it 80 minutes in a Woflhounds game) and the November 2010 series was a travesty for tighthead development. Is it any wonder we find ourselves where we are?

Now, to be fair to Deccie, its not like there are piles of tightheads whose development he is ignoring – he only gets to ignore them when they make it into the Leinster/Ulster/Connacht teams. The blame for the lack of youngsters coming through lies largely at the door of 10 Lansdowne Road – at the blazers who run the IRFU. There is no scrum czar, no national director of scrummaging, and no development plan for promising tightheads. Adam Macklin played 8 in school, not because he couldn’t push in the scrum, because he is built like a tank and since, for safety reasons, you can’t scrummage at full power in the schools game, so Methody could best utilise him at 8 – if there was a professional director of scrummaging, he may have been far keener on Macklin playing in his proper position. Would he have been put at 8 in New Zealand?

We’re going to be stuck with this situation of digging up graves in the Southern Hemisphere to find Irish grannies until we put a proper professional development structure in place to develop props. As O’Reilly said yesterday, the amateur hour IRFU are an increasing anachronism in a professional game – time they did the likes of Macklin and Tadgh Furlong a favour and put their careers in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing.



  1. I think you are missing the point on the Tighthead situation. Buckley was the only TH regularly playing when he was in the Ireland squads. Ross took a bit of time to come up to speed when he joined Leinster and despite winning plaudits in the Premiership he was unfit when he came home.

    People have also mentioned Hagan after his first start in ages yesterday. Personally I think he made a huge mistake returning to Leinster to warm the bench. Had he stayed in Connacht he would have been 1st choice TH in the Heineken Cup last season and would have been a serious contender for the summer tour. I don’t know the guy but maybe he is content with his lot.

    Australia played for a number of season with a serious lack of props – it is an issue in many countries where parents don’t want their kids to play prop and where health & safety have neutered scrums at under age. NZ have rules on this also – for example.

    • Ultra Sur

       /  November 5, 2012

      I disagree on Hagan – he was going nowhere in Connacht. Don’t get me wrong, I’m in favour of Connacht being elevated in personnel and prestige but when he came back to Leinster, he was palpably not at Heineken Cup level. It’s fine being a first team regular but Connacht were not destroying opposition scrums with him at tighthead. Generally, they were on a par at best. He had gone as far as he was going.

      The main benefits to the player personally on his move back were access to superior training methods, a highly charged professional atmosphere and personnel – i.e. Feek. Initially, at the start of last season, he actually appeared to have taken a step back in development. He was getting shunted all over the place, alarmingly so in some games and generally looked to be a busted flush.

      However, he has clearly made it to a new phase in his development. it appears to me that the prior to his return, Hagan had gone as far as he was going on his then technique and fitness. Feek seems to have started again, moulded the player into a different animal and, like Mike Ross, it took some bedding in before he was ready. Last year, Duncan Williams would have made a mess of him.

      I do not subscribe to the thinking that staying at Connacht would have been better for him long term.

      You can have Fionn Carr back. Please.

      • “Last year, Duncan Williams would have made a mess of him.”

        A bit harsh. Williams has mostly been playing 9 for his career. Whatever his natural talents, I think Hagan would still, just, have enough to gain parity.

      • Ultra Sur

         /  November 5, 2012

        Apologies, Duncan Jones obviously!

  2. Morton Slumber

     /  November 5, 2012

    Ben, I see what you’re saying about Buckley being the only TH playing regularly in Ireland, but the issue is that the management did nothing in terms of looking for other TH’s (given Buckley’s long standing issues, surely management should have been looking at the alternatives; Ross in Harlequins being a classic example).

    Granted Ross may have been heavier when he played with Quins, but as he said himself, his role in that team was to lock the scrum, ability in the loose was not required. I’d be of the opinion that all you want from your TH is to anchor the scrum, ANY other ability is like money from America.

    Couldn’t agree more on Hagen, he should have stayed in Connacht & you’d have to think Carr should have stayed too.

  3. Props improve by playing at a high level week in week out there isn’t much doubt Hagan would have improved playing Heineken Cup level rugby with Connacht.

    Ross wasn’t at international level when he was at Quins but that doesn’t excuse the managements non selection of him when he was clearly one of only two viable candidates to take over from the Bull.

    Big problem for Irish props is game time. I think it would be excellent if the IRFU sent some younger props down to pro 2 teams in France. It is savage for scrummaging. The exposure it would give young lads would excel their development. The schools system hasn’t produced a tighthead prop in years both Ross and Hayes are products of the club game. We need to get a plan together but also think outside the box.

  4. Contraflow

     /  November 5, 2012

    Ultra Sur to you mean Duncan Jones not Williams? Hagan handed Jones his ass on Sunday. Hagan went off injured in the home league game against the Ospreys after being smashed in a scrum last year. Can’t remember who he was scrummaging against. Ospreys went on to win by destroying the Leinster scrum. Pity Leinster didn’t use their dominant scrum to win a plethora of penalties on Sunday. Hagan seems to be coming good. I worried he might be overawed by the company he was keeping but it seems he is making good progress this season. Good news for Leinster and Ireland.

    Even with Earls at 13 & Jamie as captain this Autumn will will be a long one for Ireland. I have a bit of a sinking feeling about the whole thing. The 60-nil stain still hangs over the team and management, they have been holed beneath the waterline in my opinion and it’s only a matter of time before the ship sinks.

    Our only saving grace is something better will emerge from the wreckage.

    • Ultra Sur

       /  November 5, 2012

      Yes I meant Jones. Got mixed up between the two Welsh surnames.

    • Stevo

       /  November 5, 2012

      Contraflow, Hagen was scrummaging against Paul James last year, who I seem to recall making mincemeat of every Leinster tighthead he came up against that season!

  5. The Tony Buckley excuse doesn’t wash with me. The Irish set-up only really seemed to take an interest in him after Munster had tried everything in their power to improve him as a player & it was patently clear to any rugby fan that he was not international standard. Too little, too late, and bigging him up as the great white hope was inaccurate & unfair both to the players & to everyone else.

    I think Keith Wood’s recent points about the academy set-up not being ideal for props have some merit. It’s a position that players develop into much later. Is there more benefit to them playing AIL or Pro 2 as mentioned above? I feel you’d learn a lot more going up against a wily old campaigner who’ll destroy you with superior technique & tricks of the trade than piling on bulk in the gym.

  6. Dave

     /  November 5, 2012

    1. Agree on the Earls issue, every player makes a mistake but for some reason his missed tackle on Oooooh Manu Tuilagi is being used as a stick to beat him, while BOD’s, Bobs, Ferg’s and Darce’s misses don’t seem to hold as much sway.

    2. Heaslip to captain if Paulie is not fit. End of.

    3. Certainly the management have to ship some of the blame but the vast majority lies at the foot of those in blazers. As pointed out we don’t have a dedicated scrummaging director but Christ up until last week we didn’t have a dedicated attack or defense coach. Massimo Cuttitta was earmarked as the scrum general but he only wanted it on a consultancy basis. A little bit of lateral thinking on the tight head situation could prove beneficial before ultimately a propping academy should be introduced at a national level, a sort of elite prop system, and make every effort to sex it up! There are 10 division 1 teams in the AIL and all have at least one tight head prop. Have a look at them and see if they are any use. Leinster did something of the sorts a few years ago where they asked anyone over 6’5” (correct me if I’m wrong) to come in for a sort of second row audition. Desperate times call for desperate measures! Thank God Brad Thorn read the ad and turned up.

  7. It was over 6’6″ and was called Route 66. See what they did there?

  8. Kenny

     /  November 5, 2012

    contraflow , Hagan was scrummaging against Paul James who is quite a destructive loosehead and is now playing at bath rugby

  9. Roryokane_raz_

     /  November 5, 2012

    A good article, however i can’t help but notice whilst talking about Earls defensively you failed to include the fact that he missed 5 of his 8 tackles against wales in the RwC. Id much prefer cave at 13 and earls at 15

    • Actually, we did – in the original article in January which we linked to

      • The standards are little high for goodness everybody has a bad game. Sense the Wales game Earls has played against Fofanna, Rougerie and Smith, Nonu which are two of the best centre partnerships in the world and done OK. Earls has 12 tries in 35 games for Ireland and gone on a Lions tour against Cave who has performed well for Ulster but has no experience at International level it is a no brainier Earls would start ahead of him.

      • McFadden is a good defender but at inside centre only. He isn’t so good at outside centre IMO.

      • I’ve been critical of Heaslip in poirevus seasons as someone who was to a certain degree living off one great season (08/09) but he has shown leadership qualities especially when deputising for Leinster and does meet the requirements. I hope the management take the view you have that the captain must be someone guaranteed his place and not someone who’s place is guaranteed because they’re the captain as seems to happen to often (see Leo Cullen this season for Leinster). Earls at 13 will continue to be a contentious issue until BOD retires or a better candidate with universal appeal is found or Earls puts in a BOD in Paris like performance to silence the doubters.The tighthead situation is nothing new. For the last decade we’ve had John Hayes and then occasionally when he was injured we roped in someone else, generally lack lustre and with little or no international experience as they were seen as at most a ten minute sub. Now after a few shaky seasons we have a proper tight head in Mike Ross and the Irish Management continues it’s over reliance on a single quality player in that position. Really coming into this season we’re better off at tighthead than we have been for some time. We have actual options who, while they might lack international game time, can actually play tighthead, unlike Tom Court who has bee shoehorned into the position on too many occasions to fill a gap. Hopefully Decci Fitz can stay injury free and the nonlinear one turns out to be as good as we’ve heard. With Fez out what are the odds of D Ryan starting at 6 I wonder?

    • Plus one Rory. To each of your points.

      • People keep picking out isolated incidents Earls post world cup form at thirteen has been excellent. If you are arguing Cave is a better defensive option then that brings McFadden into the argument as he is a better defender then both

  10. Len

     /  November 5, 2012

    I’ve been critical of Heaslip in previous seasons as someone who was to a certain degree living off one great season (08/09) but he has shown leadership qualities especially when deputising for Leinster and does meet the requirements. I hope the management take the view you have that the captain must be someone guaranteed his place and not someone who’s place is guaranteed because they’re the captain as seems to happen to often (see Leo Cullen this season for Leinster).

    Earls at 13 will continue to be a contentious issue until BOD retires or a better candidate with universal appeal is found or Earls puts in a BOD in Paris like performance to silence the doubters.

    The tighthead situation is nothing new. For the last decade we’ve had John Hayes and then occasionally when he was injured we roped in someone else, generally lack lustre and with little or no international experience as they were seen as at most a ten minute sub. Now after a few shaky seasons we have a proper tight head in Mike Ross and the Irish Management continues it’s over reliance on a single quality player in that position. Really coming into this season we’re better off at tighthead than we have been for some time. We have actual options who, while they might lack international game time, can actually play tighthead, unlike Tom Court who has bee shoehorned into the position on too many occasions to fill a gap. Hopefully Decci Fitz can stay injury free and the nonlinear one turns out to be as good as we’ve heard.

    With Fez out what are the odds of D Ryan starting at 6 I wonder?

    • Kinda agree with you on HEaslip but when you watch him closely he is doing a lot of the donkey work especially sense O Brien burst on the scene. I think Heaslip nearly sacrifices himself to allow O Brien do what he does

  11. Roryokane_raz_

     /  November 5, 2012

    And does anyone think Taigh Furlong would have been a decent option ahead of Archer? He was super at the JWC against Stephen kitshoff who was the Stormers starting loose-head in the super 14 final. (Hardly a slouch) as well as strong performances against the big french and english packs. He has shown more ability than archer. I know he is inexperienced but most of the worlds best props or players even. Were given their chances early. Look at our own golden generation and how many were thrown in despite being inexperienced. Other teams in similar situations are doing the same with players who have shown even less promise. Ie/ Wales with Samson Lee and Australia a few years back with James Slipper.

  12. Leinsterlion

     /  November 5, 2012

    The “Keet” issue is going to run and run and run……Trying to justify Earls slight physique by comparing to other similiar weighted centers doesnt work.Earls does not play or hit at his listed weight.Drico is what 5’9 and and 90 odd kg buts hes generally regarded as one of the best defenders of the 13 channel in world rugby,Keet hasnt shown anything close to that. Fofana and Darce have shown burst and explosion in contact that Earls has only shown in Kidneys dreams.In short im waiting to be proven wrong
    Heaslip Should be next up as captain..but this is DK we are talking about…Hes probably enconsed in his Carton House bunker pining for Mick O’Driscoll and watching a DVD of Radge drop goals and kicks for the corner, on repeat….I’d say Radge is next in line or some other Munster Acolyte.
    Completely agree on propping situation.. but cant believe you wrote an article on Irish propping with nay a mention of Roly Meates.. heres a good interview with him doing some grassroots work

  13. A bit disappointed in the Earls post – which I was looking forward to. The main reason I am not convinced by Earls as an international 13 is defensively…and you have not really addressed that…despite mentioning it is an issue. I have no doubts about is silky skillset. I am also not a subscriber to the Earls as a wing. I like Earls as a linebreaking fullback…but it will never be. I should stop worrying and learn to accept Earls13.

    • Farmer Farrelly and Colonel Poltroon Thornley are an ignoble pair who are ibclpanae of clear objective analysis, they wallow in cowardice and the back slapping, hail fellow well met school of blazer journalism’. DK has the authority and the power to pick whoever he wants, the real issue is that he has no game-plan, no vision, other than the past and it is to the past he continually reaches out to. Hence DOC and ROG and Paul Wallace are brought on tour, though in the latter’s case he was disgracefully dragooned when DK already had cover to hand. What we saw, not just in NZ but since the GS is a turgid unimaginative brand of football, placed in stark contrast by the Provinces and particularly by Leinster. Moreover, I as a supporter am getting increasingly frustrated by DK’s delphic utterances which are by now so threadbare as to provide no sustenance for even the most starved of moths. Hagen, Fitzpatrick, Loughney, Marshal, Cave etc etc have all been ignored, instead he looks South to DOC and ROG who should never have been on the tour. I write this as a Munster supporter but DK’s time is at an end. The players and the supporters deserve more than this mediocre melange that the IRFU appear happy to continue with.

  14. LarryMilne

     /  November 5, 2012

    Made my points on Earls last week. Suffice to say, I agree with you guys. And I was at Ravenhill for the Ulster-Munster game featured in the video. Keet’s untouchable, simply put, when he has a sliver of space you (in this case it was we) are in trouble. His is a rare talent.

    That said, I don’t really know what more Darren Cave has to do to get an Ireland cap. Maybe it’s only people who watch a lot of Ulster will realise that we’re half the team when he’s not playing. He ties the whole attack together.

    On LHP: John Andress? 28, a starting tight head prop in the AP. Before anyone says “starting for Worcester” – Worcs are an awful rugby side who avoid relegation through granite set piece, Andy Goode’s right foot and a lot of tackling. Andress must be doing something right.

  15. On the Terrace

     /  November 5, 2012

    Come next season you could see an all ulster centre partnership with Luke Marshall probably replacing Paddy Wallace and Jarrod Payne becoming IQ.Luke Marshall is getting game time of the Bench this Season and must be a threat to Wallace.He is now beginning to really fulfill the promise he showed at the opening of the Aviva. Payne is just a class act.
    I think that there is another Golden generation starting to emerge with Jackson Henderson Henshaw,, JJ,Furlough,Macklin, and also two injured Ulster men Paddy and Farrell who are missing a seasons development. I think whilst thing are abit bleak at present there is a FloodLight at the end of the Tunnel ahead

    • Nice to see some positivity. Can Payne play 13? Don’t forget Munster have a few coming through too such JJ Hanrahan, Luke O Dea, Sherry Dave O Callaghan etc,. I think McSharry is an intriguing prospect at twelve for Connacth

      • zdm

         /  November 5, 2012

        Paynes regular position was 13 down under but has been mostly utilised as a full back by Ulster (and was bought with that role in mind). I wasn’t sure which is considered the BNZ second representative side – Payne has played for their U21’s but I was under the impression that he is a project player and not a NIQ at Ulster.

        Personally, I would like to see Payne stay at 15 – we are currently seeing how shallow the back up to Kearney is and having Kearney and Payne vyying for the full back jumper would be a tasty prospect indeed.

  16. zdm

     /  November 5, 2012

    Ireland’s front row issues are not confined to the loose head – we only recently found ourselves with 3 decent hookers and really have Rory Best’s Nordie farmer toughness (prior to this series) to thank for this not being exposed prior to Richardt Strauss applying for a passport.

    I think the point that there is no elite structure to find and nurture young props is extrememly valid but the arguement should be extended beyond that – I find it remarkable that Ireland manages to punch so above it’s weight, given that our population is half that of London and rugby is the 3rd or 4th most popular sport in many regions of Ireland. I find it astonishing that Ireland punch so high above their weight given that the IRFU does very little to widen the popularity of rugby among school children who don’t attend the traditional rugby schools.

    Take, for example, the local lads in the Ulster first team – over 75% of them are drawn from maybe 6 schools, with close to 50% having attended the big 3 Belfast rugby schools. This situation is magnified when the clubs are synonymous with the schools and don’t bother recruiting beyond old boys. That’s a remarkable lack of foresight from a supposedly professional organisation.

    The IRFU needs to do much, much more to support non-rugby schools in developing teams and in the local clubs recruiting outside their normal catchment areas. Half a generation of players are passing the sport by because they have never been given the opportunity to play and this is bound to catch up on a relatively small nation very soon.

  17. Jimbob

     /  November 6, 2012

    Agree that Heaslip should be captain in the event that POC is deemed to still be concentrating on his recovery. I would’ve liked a captain announced at this stage though. There’s a few players who will be happy to speak up and lead but there is a possibility of having too many voices in the week leading up to a game. Maybe a few players have been designated to deputise already but the possibility of communication errors is there if there aren’t.

    • Len

       /  November 6, 2012

      And I thought Hurley was pushing things. All the talk is that having Earls, Bowe, Zebo and Hurley in the panel means they’ve enough cover and don’t need to call up Jones. A centre, two wings and a second string provincial full back are enough cover? Our injury list is making a mockery of the autumn series and Decci can’t be held responsible for most of it. He’s got a get out of jail free card. If by some miricale we win he’ll look like a great coach and if we loose he can blame the huge injury list.

      • To be fair, from what I have seen of Zebo this season, he has all the attributes to make him a cracking fullback (great under the highball, runs great attacking lines, huge boot) but to throw him in there against the Safas, one of the best teams in the world, who kick a lot of ball….

  18. Rich

     /  November 6, 2012

    Props – everyone struggles with front row – We d prob be as well going down the Strauss route for front row, no one in Ireland wants to play there. We are blessed with Healy who is the best prop in the uk.

    Captain – heaslip powers thru the work, ultimate led by example, can t see him getting into an 80 minute debate with refs like poc does either

    Earls – can t help notice that little mentioned about his defence…….he is a very good attacker, I have nt seen anyone doubt that, but his constant missed tackles and being palmed off seems to hav been missed. Looking likely he ll slot in at 13 and good luck to the boy, but as ever, SA will get a lot of yards from his poor defence, if he makes up for it in attack I have no prob with him tho!

  19. Len

     /  November 6, 2012

    Considering the injury enforced options at 15 and the likely Saffa game plan of kick and chase I think Earls needs to move to 15. We need someone solid there and the other 3 options don’t fit the bill. If that happens I’d be hoping Decci bites the bullet and puts Cave in. I think it’s time we saw him at international level.

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