Playing Favourites

In the build-up to last week’s game against Fiji, Gerry Thornley mentioned not once, but twice that the selection of Mike Ross was due to managment’s unhappiness with his performance versus South Africa, where he conceded two scrum penalties before being substituted late in the game.  The articles are here and here and the quotations are as follows:

The selection is also notable for retaining Mike Ross ahead of Michael Bent, which suggests that management want more from their established tighthead than was shown last week.

The selection of Mike Ross to start again at tighthead rather than have a longer look at Michael Bent suggests the management were less than thrilled with the performance of Ross last week, when he was called ashore after conceding a costly couple of scrum penalties.

Now, we know Gerry Thornley has a direct line to the management, and we know Kidney uses him as a vehicle to get his message through to the public.  So it’s pretty safe to assume that this is not just Gerry throwing out a mad opinion, and that he is entirely correct: management were unhappy with Ross’ performance and asked him to prove himself in the Fiji game, and Thornley is to get the message out there.  Besides, it’s so left-field a notion that surely no journo, fan or otherwise would even think of it, unless they were told it was the case.  Wasn’t Mike Ross the player we were supposed to be having late night vigils for both before and since the Twickenham Debacle?

This being the case, this is some pretty shoddy man management.  Mike Ross is being singled out for Ireland’s multiple woes against South Africa.  Management are happy to go public, through the media, with criticism of his performance – and his alone.  Nice.  It’s particularly unedifying because Ross is a player we know Kidney has never been a huge fan of.  It was under Kidney’s watch that Ross’ Munster contract was allowed to lapse, and Ross only got into the Ireland team when all other possibilities (Hayes, Buckle and Court) were exhausted.  It smacks of hanging him out to dry at the first available opportunity.

Mike Ross has been a one-man bailout to the Irish management.  When their only plan for tighthead succession to The Bull (Tony Buckle) was doomed to failure, he came along, through none of management’s doing or planning, and saved their bacon.  He has held the Irish scrum up manfully, and occasionally destructively [e.g. England 2010], since the 2010 Six Nations and has become a key player.  Think for a moment where we’d be if Mike Ross were not around.  And this is how he is treated for giving away a couple of scrum penalties after an exhausting 70 minute shift, and against a Springbok loosehead fresh off the bench.  That’s not to say, of course, that he deserves a free ride if he plays rubbish, but have we really reached that stage because of a couple of poor scrums?  Incroyable.

Another prop being shabbily treated for his role in performing a thankless task is Tom Court.  Court has been Ireland’s unheralded ‘filler-inner’ for four years, taking his place in the number 17 shirt because he can just-about scrummage on the tighthead side, as well as being a fairly competent loosehead.  He endured a wretched experience against the English front row in Twickenham, but most right-minded folk would agree he was asked to do a job of which he is not capable.  On the loosehead side, he has never let anyone down.

Ever since, his form with Ulster – where a huge emphasis is being placed on the set piece – has been rock solid, and he has played solely at loosehead.  And with 23-man squads finally arriving into the international game, he can take his place on the bench solely having to focus on one role – loosehead forward.  Except that he’s been instantly demoted for David Kilcoyne, a nipper with literally a handful of starts with Munster.  Thanks for the dig-out Tom, but now that you might get a chance to show what you can do in your best position, we’re going to go with this other fella who’s started two Heineken Cup pool matches.  Kilcoyne is a decent player and has started the season well enough, but if Healy went off injured after 30 minutes against Argentina, would you prefer him or Court holding up the left-hand side of the scrum against the brutalising Puma front row?  I’ll take Tom Court, thanks.

Every coach has his favourites, and against that, every coach has players he only seems to pick out of necessity.  Safe to say, Mike Ross and Tom Court are not among Kidney’s favourites.

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  1. Great post yet again lads, I couldn’t believe it when I read this last week. Absolutely crazy, and the promotion over Kilcoyne, a 6 times capped Munster LH who has struggled in parts and impressed in parts this year over Court, who has what, 50+ Ireland caps I found insanity too.

    You’ve also got the likes of Hook stating that Bent is ‘sure to start’ this weekend or somesuch (from the Indo yesterday). Do these guys not realise how important Ross is to the Irish cause?

    Have really had enough of the Irish rugby media in general.

  2. Have to say you can’t have it both ways. You criticise Kidney, continuously, for being a conservative coach, unwilling to make changes or give youth a chance – so, he makes a change by picking a decent young prospect, Kilcoyne, ahead of Court, who’s never been more than adequate at Test level, on either side. Frankly, this is the sort of change he needs to be making more often. I’d be far more critical of his unwillingness to let go of old Munster veterans like DOC and ROG, who need to be pensioned off, than fast-tracking what appears to be an excellent young loose-head prospect to understudy Healy.

    I don’t disagree with the criticism of his treatment of Ross, who should be an automatic first choice.

    • You see, I think people remember Court’s performance against England and use it as representative of his career. He’s never been more than an adequate TH at any level, but he’s by far, and I mean by far, the second best LH we have. The decision to include Kilcoyne in the squad for these games was an excellent one, however, he would have been eaten alive against S.A.

      Let’s be realistic here, he’s struggled against Ross in the one major game he’s played, and also struggled against Racing for most of the game. I repeat, the guy has 6 Munster caps. In particular, dropping Court from the 22 last week was just a two fingers to a guy who has constantly given his all for Ireland.

      • It’s reminiscent of the dramatic move of Murray from a few good games for Munster to World Cup QF starter and guaranteed starter now.

        I don’t fully subscribe to the Munster bias thing with Kidney, just that he’s a bad manager, but take a look at the form of Paul Marshall recently for eg, on a much higher stage than Murray had done anything before he was elevated, and compare the treatment of both players.

    • @Fergal – thanks for the feedback. We’ve never really called for throwing young lads in for the sake of it, and all we’ve ever really asked is for Kidney to get his best team on the pitch. The message coming out from camp is very clear: this game will be treated like a cup final, a win is hugely important, all about the seedings etc. If it was any different, we’d agree wholly with you. But since it’s not, Kidney will pick what he considers the best 23 players he has. Court has been a key part of a pretty pulverising Ulster scrum over the last couple of seasons, and is – at this moment in time – a better loosehead than David Kilcoyne.

      • @whiffofcordite – you’re welcome, think this is a great blog, so keep up the good work. it’s not about picking youth for youth’s sake, true, but it is about identifying the future Test players and fast-tracking them. Sure, Court is a better prop than Kilcoyne now, but that’s inevitable given how raw Kilcoyne is, and that situation may pertain for some time – but, I have no doubt that Kilcoyne will develop into a prop of superior ability to Court, given time. Look at the current incumbent, Cian Healy; he endured plenty of criticism for his perceived scrummaging deficiencies, when thrown in at Test level while young and raw, but look how it’s paying off now, as Healy is one of the best looseheads in world rugby. I see Kilcoyne as potentially being good enough to push Healy for his place, in time, and with a similar trade-off of short-term pain, if he’s picked now, for long-term gain.

        Given the paramount importance of beating the Pumas, I would expect Kidney to go with Court, and probably POM at 6 ahead of Henderson but, like Henderson, i think that Kilcoyne’s elevation will not be long delayed. Gilroy, Hanrahan and Madigan are the other 3 youngsters who need to be blooded asap.

  3. Mike

     /  November 20, 2012

    Before America pummeled Baghdad….

    “Now even the American command is under siege. We are hitting it from the north, east, south and west. We chase them here and they chase us there. But at the end we are the people who are laying siege to them. And it is not them who are besieging us.”

    Gerry Thornley 1990

    Before New Zealand pummeled Ireland

    “There was, for sure, an argument for starting Ronan O’Gara at outhalf with Sexton at inside centre in a reprise of the combination which worked so effectively in the last half hour at Christchurch, but by keeping O’Gara on the bench Ireland have kept their ace-in-the-hole in reserve for the endgame.”

    Comical Ali 2012

  4. Sean sceal

     /  November 20, 2012

    Hear hear re Mike Ross.
    Maybe Tom Court being ‘rested’,is due to the high number of penalties hehasgiven away this season when playing for Ulster.

  5. Kilcoyne has made twelve appearances for Munster. He done very well this season and will be apart of the set up for the next three world cups. Surely this is what people want Court who is a very solid player and decent in the loose is now thirty two and will be a couple of weeks short of his thirty fifth birthday by the time the next world cup comes around. Is this not the forward thinking people constantly pillar Kidney for now showing?

    Do you find it crazy that Henderson who has only six appearances to his name and completed only two 80 minutes games in the pro ranks before the Fiji game is promoted also to the bench?

    Whiff of Chordite is excellent but it seems to me the rugby public of Ireland need to decide what they want. There is up roar from Ulster fans that more of their young players aren’t starting but they didn’t react too well to Kilcoyne starting ahead of Court. Likewise in Munster they say Murray should be persisted with because he is the younger player growing into the role, I wonder how they will react when Jackson starts ahead of Rog on the bench ? I can use examples of Leinster fans too but I think everybody gets the idea.

    • I’m referring to 6 starts for Kilcoyne.
      Do you think Kilcoyne has outperformed Henderson this season?
      Do you think he’s more potential than Henderson?
      Do you think putting a rookie prop on the bench against the Boks is the same as starting a 6 in a non test v. Fiji?

      • Sorry, you should have specified. Kilcoyne has done very in a position we are pretty short in. What ever about his potential compared to Henderson he will be in the squad for years. Henderson was also a sub versus South Africa….and to be fair Court hasn’t been has good this season as it has been in recent years. Already this season Kilcoyne has Deacon Manu, Afoa, , Luc Ducalcon, Geoff Cross and Mike Ross this season and has done well overall against some pretty good tight heads. He trains on a regular basis against Bj Botha and Mike Ross in the Irish camp so I think as far as rookie props go he has some decent experience this season. Also they were in camp for ten days nearly before SA any chance Kilcoyne out shun Court in the scrummaging sessions and Kidney took the chance ?

      • Leinsterlion

         /  November 20, 2012

        If he had played 6 games for Leinster, would he now be a capped international?
        If he had played 6 games for Ulster, would he now be a capped international?
        If he had played 6 games for Connacht, would he now be a capped international?
        Look Im all for player development,but this is not the area of the park where inexperience is rewarded. If Kidney had a consistent policy of picking the younger player where the upside is greater I would understand this selection. But he hasnt, he has always gone with the older guy 9 times out of 10, this smacks of bias. As WOC said, Kidney is thinking in terms of the next game,ranking points etcetc.So the Kilcoyne selection is just baffling using Kidneys history of developing of young players or Kidney statements and previous selections as a guide.

    • @Tommy thanks for commenting. We’ve never called for development for the sake of it. When players are past their prime and other better ones are available we’ve called for them to be replaced. We’ve only ever wanted our best team on the pitch.

      The positive side of Kilcoyne’s call-up (young loosehead who can potentially offer long-term back-up to Healy, fresh face in the matchday squad.) isn’t lost on us either, and we’re well aware there are two sides to every story. But the other side of this one is that Tom Court is a guy who’s performed a thankless task for years and as soon as the rules change to give him a chance of showing his true worth, he’s kicked off the team for a guy who he’s better than. That’s hard to take when management are talking about the game being a cup final, must win etc.

      It’s also a bit of a fudge to compare the front row to our injury-plagued backrow. If Ferris and O’Brien were available there’s no chance Henderson would be involved, but they are and he is. He took his chance in the game against Fiji far more emphatically than Kilcoyne. Experience also counts for vastly more in the front row than on the flank for obvious reasons. Props are rarely fast tracked to test level, but on the flank, if you’re sufficiently developed (and Henderson is), it’s more plausible.

      • Ya I pretty much accept all your points but Court just won’t be around the next world cup and Healy is always going to be number one so fast tracking Kilcoyne seems a good idea b/c he is going to find test starts at international level hard to come by so every minute he plays is going to be valuable experience. Great blog as always.

    • Amiga500

       /  November 20, 2012

      “There is up roar from Ulster fans that more of their young players aren’t starting but they didn’t react too well to Kilcoyne starting ahead of Court.”

      Personally speaking I am not too upset about it. Indeed, I think Tom Court is starting to come under pressure from Callum Black for his Ulster jersey. In fact, Black’s scrummaging has been better than Court’s so far this season.

      • Willie Joe

         /  November 20, 2012

        While on the subject of Callum Black, surely Kidney would want to be getting him involved with team Ireland at some point? He has been absolutely munting most opposition in the scrum this year and has contributed well round the field too.

        Short-arse loosehead props who make it into professional rugby tend to be pretty good. Think Thomas Domingo, Benn Robinson and Allan Jacobsen.

    • zdm

       /  November 20, 2012

      I don’t remember there being much uproar from Ulster fans when Kilcoyne was put in ahead of Court but I do remember there being a general feeling that he was being put forth as a sacrificial goat after he was asked to play out of position against a stronger scrummaging pack at Twickenham.
      Any Ulster fan will tell you that Court is not a tight head but he is a team player and a stubborn old bugger – if Kidney asked Tom Court to fill in at full back against South Africa, he would do it because he was asked to. He did this for Ireland for years – held up his side of the scrum 9 times out of 10 even when out of position but when the whole pack got destroyed due to vapid scrummaging and a lack of ideas from all 8 of them, Kidney hung Court out for the vultures.

      Promote youngsters when they appear up to the task, or at least as good as the incumbent and 5-10 years younger (e.g. Paul Marshall, Luke Marshall, Paddy Jackson) but don’t when the incumbent is miles better and there are questions over the younger player at provincial level, never mind internationally. For example, there are a number of other exciting young players at Ulster, Connacht & Munster who are likely to feature for them, and possibly for Ireland, in the future but who are just not ready yet (e.g. Michael Allen, David Kilcoyne)

    • Paddy McAllister, who’s a year younger than Kilcoyne, considerably bigger than him [185cm/6’1″ and 119kg/18st10lbs compared to 183cm/6′ and 112kg/17st8lbs] and has a better underage pedigree, had played in 40 games for Ulster [17 starts] at loosehead, including a number of run-outs in the Heineken Cup, before Kilcoyne made his first start for Munster.

      Given the presence of Tom Court and Calum Black at Ulster over those seasons, that’s a serious run of games for a 21 [2010-11 season] and 22 [2011-12 season] year old prop … and yet not so much as a bit of recognition, even for the Wolfhounds.

      My point isn’t that Kilcoyne is a bad player [he’s not] or that McAllister should have been picked head of him last week [he’s injured] but that if Declan Kidney showed even a fraction of the faith in young players from other provinces that he does in those from his own, Irish rugby would:
      a] undoubtedly be more exciting and
      b] would very likely be more successful than it is at the moment [which wouldn’t be all that hard, when you think about it].

      Kilcoyne is one of a crop of young looseheads [McAllister, McGrath and Buckley] who are evenly distributed amongst the provinces. We’ll be in a very good situation at LH next year, with Court & McAllister at Ulster, Wilkinson & Buckley at Connacht, Healy & McGrath at Leinster and Kilcoyne & du Preez at Munster [and others as well, like Black at Ulster and O’Connell at Leinster]. However, a new coach may see things differently than DK does at present, and instead of Kilcoyne being talked about in terms of ‘challenging Healy’ and ‘being available for three world cups’ he could easily get swallowed into the chasing pack.

      • Cheers for the stats Mole – completely agree. I think you had something similar in the summer when Deccie touted Kilcoyne as LH cover before he’d even started a HEC game for Munster.

  6. Bushmills

     /  November 20, 2012

    Great post again guys.

    Couldn’t agree more about Ross. With regards to Court, I feel he is yet another example of multi-tasking that the management seems to favor. And by that
    I mean use a talented player in a key position as a substitute that can cover 2 or more positions off the bench. Other players in this camp are O’Mahoney, Earls, McFadden, Fitzgerald. It does nothing to further thieir development as players and is terrible for team continuity.

    When, oh when, will we start using players in their correct position to drive competition for places? As another poster mentioned yesterday it highlights Ireland’s failure to tactically use the bench in a 23 man sport. As the no2 loosehead Court deserved a start this autumn. Could you imagine the impact if Healy had had to sit on the bench for 45 mins against the Boks or Argies??? He would hit the field like a man possessed!

  7. Redhanded

     /  November 20, 2012

    There is certainly a case to introduce a new LHP backup for Healy… the question is timing. A rankings deciding game against an Argentinian bajada scrum? The 6N? The 2013 tour to the USA and Canada?

    The suspicion remains that when opportunities come to give youth a chance, under Kidney you stand more a chance if you are a youth wearing a Munster jersey.

  8. Leinsterlion

     /  November 20, 2012

    Great post, Ive stopped giving the minister more than a cursory glance these days. Simply outrageous behavior, punishing our only proven TH for a performance that had negligible impact on the result( which was predetermined by Kidneys selection/tactics).
    Completely agree on Kilcoyne he should have started the fiji game,but to put him ahead of Court is just more evidence of bias and shocking man management. In other news Shane Monaghan started and scored for Gloucester over the weekend. Another young Irish winger worth keeping an eye on.

  9. Fergal C

     /  November 20, 2012

    Why does the consensus seem to be that Court as a prop will be past it at the age of 35? Should that not be during the prime years for a front row?

  10. jaybee965

     /  November 20, 2012

    Funny I had a different take on the Ross selection v Fiji. Had Fiji actually turned up on Saturday we might have needed to exploit the superiority in the tight that teams like ireland have traditionally had over the likes of Fiji. Given the experimental selections elsewhere in the team I can understand why management wanted to start our best tighthead given that there’s only him and Bent who remains around to fill that slot.

  11. @Fergal & Tommy – the logic you’re both presenting is spot on, and Tommy’s argument that Kilcoyne won’t necessarily have a huge number of opportunities in the foreseeable future because he’s going to be stuck behind one of our best players in Healy is particularly pertinent. As I say, we can definitely see the reasons for promoting Kilcoyne. But it doesn’t chime with any of the noises coming out of camp, or the approach to selection in other positions, which makes it a bit more difficult for us to understand.

    • I think we’re agreed then. It IS rough on Court, but the best management is often of the rough, unsentimental sort – think Sir Alex Ferguson knowing when to offload long-serving heroes, like Roy Keane. The best management IS heartless, ungrateful and harsh, sometimes. i should make it clear that I don’t hold Twickers 2012 against Court in the slightest – the English scrum is hard to handle even for Healy/Ross – but I just see this as Kidney giving the much younger man preference, given it’s only for a spot on the bench, as Healy is the undisputed Test starter. In fact, if Healy were to get injured, I would expect Court to start, with Kilcoyne benching.
      As to Deccie’s Munster biases, I think there’s far more potent ammunition in his (to me) inexplicable retention of DOC and ROG (and I speak as a Munsterman), when, at this point in the World Cup cycle, there are plenty of younger and better alternatives – Tuohy, Henderson, Ryan, Toner even; Madigan, Jackson, Keatley even. Perhaps they’ll be let go after the Puma Cup Final? One can only hope so.

  12. rosnarun

     /  November 20, 2012

    why does everyone forget the irish scrum was listing badly before ross came off againdt england. it was the best career move hr could make

    • This doesn’t stack up. He was hurting and badly affected from very early on in that match. He was left on out of desperation.

  13. Len

     /  November 20, 2012

    I think the jury is still out regarding the treatment of Tom Court and if this is a case of “so long and thanks for all the fish” or “just I don’t think your playing that well at the moment”. Either way for the future development of the squad it was right to start Kilcoyne against Fiji. The Mike Ross and potentially Tom Court treatment is indicative of Decci’s treatment of certain players.

    Two seasons ago when Wally got injured instead of calling up Jennings who was and remains the best actual 7 in the country he converts Sean O’Brien our best/2nd best 6 to a 7. The guy plays on the same team as Jennings and now Leinster have to tow the line and play O’Brien at 7 (IMO his third best position). That’s a pretty big middle finger to Jennings.

    Reddan gets dumped to second fiddle for Murray ignoring the fact he plays week in week out with Sexton. Last year at the 6N we suddenly found ourselves low on centres so instead of using McF or Downey he brings in Earls. But this is not a problem unique to Decci. Anyone remember how Paddy Wallace was treated at the 07 WC? Or Keith Gleeson? Hell even Jordan Murphy got snubbed at first. It would seem that this sort of behaviour is par for the course with Irish managers. What’s the answer? A coach can always defend his position by saying he feels the player he picks is the inform player. We might not agree but unless one of the blazers in the IRFU takes note we may just get used to it.

    On another note dose anyone know if the IRFU or Decci have confirmed that he is stepping down at the end of the season?

    • I’ll hold fire on the Kilcoyne selection. He appears to have some talent, but is very raw. I’m not convinced that he is better than a number of other young players out there who’ve had similar experience, but his age profile and his raw ability and attitude all look good.
      There is strong argument to say that O’Brien is the best no.7 we have, and have had in the last few years. Since he got onto the Leinster team it is more often Jennings who loses out than McLaughlin when all are fit – I doubt it is anything to do with a directive from Deccie, more that we lose lineout options if we pick an SOB, Heaslip, Jennings back-row.
      McFadden did get picked in the centre in last years 6N (vs Wales) and it didn’t go well for him. Downey is a 12 only (and pretty limited at that) and Earls is a 13 – chalk and cheese. I’m not even sure if Downey was fit and available last 6N.
      Was Wallace treated that badly in 07? I think he was only ever a ‘break glass in emergency’ number 10. Gleeson was a great player, but he was unfortunate to be around at the same time as Wallace, and when we also didn’t posess too many realistic options at 6 and 8 who had the dynamism and carrying ability that Wally could bring. Dunno what the Geordan Murphy snub thing is about. He was first capped at 22 (3 years before he nailed down the FB position at Leicester, and at the end of the season where he was anything like a regular on the team, albeit at wing). He was first choice FB not too long after and amassed 74 caps despite competing against Girvan Dempsey and making any number of defensive howlers over the years.
      As for your question on Deccies contract – pretty sure nothing has been officially announced anywhere

  14. ABROG

     /  November 20, 2012

    A petty and pathetic trial by GT is a new low. Smacks of a bait and switch, DK’s team can’t beat good teams so he needs to blame the players and not the management. Ross looked injured after the first Van Der Merwe scrum on the 64 min mark. Du Plessis the SA TH was off nearly 10 minutes at this stage. Meyer the supposed conservative SA coach at least knows that playing Bull’s inspired rugby means replacing TH’s early.

    Any thoughts on the Argentinian attacking tactic of obstruction? As seen here

  15. Morton Slumber

     /  November 20, 2012

    I’m not sure what’s worse, Kidney forgetting who’s got him out of a sticky situation since 2010 or Thornley just going along like a loyal but stupid lapdog.

    If Thornley had any integrity or intelligence he wouldn’t have printed that nonsense over the weekend. The fact is that the Irish scrum more than held its own for 50 mins against SA. By the time Hank Van Der Merwe came on everyone could see Ross was out on his feet. The real issue is that Kidney didn’t bring Bent on until after the damage was done (read Liam Toland’s article after the SA game for an excellent analysis).

    If management believe that Ross isnt the best man for the #3 jersey then they should pick another player in that position – and lets be honest Kidney and Co have a horrendous track record in terms of tighthead. Where was the groundwork in terms of a backup to Ross since 2010? The notion that Ross has to prove himself after what he’s done for ‘Quins, Leinster and Ireland is a farce. And for the lead rugby correspondent to print that idea like a gullible lemming (without even questioning it) is another step down the road to journalism irrelevance.

  16. Makes me mad thinking about Kidney’s dismissal of player such as Reddan, but to think that he is turning his nose up at Ross now is even harder to take. No doubt he does not like being proven wrong and to see a prop who he dropped become the corner stone of the scrum is too much for him.

  17. Rich

     /  November 21, 2012

    This is what Irish rugby is now. Public humiliation at the hands of our even more Embarrasing media. This disgusts me, but is in line with how kidney seems to treat everyone, contempt to the players for doing so well in the HC, contempt to the fans for not being happy (as they are too dumb to understand his 2002 gameplan) contempt to the untreated media – have u seen his interviews. Pathetic. I m all for selecting your best players, Ross was average but I don t seem to remember too many others putting their hands up……Yet another pathetic move from our management.

    Bent will play well and a bit of comp never hurt anyone – but once again, the methods of our powers than be are shocking.

  18. Hipford

     /  November 21, 2012

    I heard Kidney say in an interview that he thought Ross needed game time and that if he didn’t play him against Fiji he would have only played x amount of games in x amount of weeks and would be undercooked before meeting the Argie scrum, I don’t have the figures to hand, but maybe someone could say how many games Ross has played recently in the league?

    When Thornely expresses an opinion on Irish selection, are we to take that as gospel on the management’s thinking, or should we listen to the coach’s explanation of his thinking?

    • I think a pertinent point here is that, since January 2011, Mike Ross has been virtually and ever-present for Ireland and for Leinster in 2 HEC wins – that volume of gametime is far in excess of anything he has had before, and he looks patently shattered.

      The idea that it will improve his performance against Argentina by playing him against Fiji, in the context of the last 2 years, is questionable at best.


      For the record, here is Mike Ross’ Leinster biog, including playing minutes this season. He’s actually played seven consecutive games for Leinster, up to the Cardiff game, and six of those were starts. He didn’t feature aainst the Ospreys – as with the rest of the frontliners he was in Ireland camp. The idea that he hasn’t played enough minutes recently doesn’t stack up in any way. Compare with, say Keith Earls or Ronan O’Gara who have had very little game time recently due to injuries picked up in the weeks before the Saffer game. Odd to say the least.

  19. If he didn’t play versus Fiji he would have only 150 minutes under hiss belt sense October the 22nd I believe.

  20. Usually a big fan of this site, but this article is terribly biased, is jumping to conclusions, and is incredibly misleading.

    “Management are happy to go public, through the media, with criticism of his performance – and his alone.”

    This is a perfect example of misleading the reader. Kidney categorically did not publicly blame or criticise Ross or any of his players. If GT had quoted Kidney as saying Ross was to blame for the defeat to SA, then this blog post would be fully justified. However, for a blog as well respected as this to claim otherwise based on a theory is irresponsible and borderline defamatory.

    So now that we’ve established how Kidney DID NOT publicly criticise his player, maybe it’s probable that he told Ross he expected more from him. After all, as you pointed out, Ross gave away costly penalties against the Boks, something which for him is unusual. This is a fairly routine situation for a player and coach to find themselves in. A big name player returns from injury, looks rusty in his first match back, so his manager plays him the following week against much weaker opposition, in order to have him back to his best for their massively important game a week later.

    Is that disrespectful? Really? It’s similar to how a prizefighter might take on a tune-up fight on return from an injury layoff to keep himself ticked over for a more important title fight.

    • @Neil – thanks for commenting. For a start, Mike Ross isn’t returning from injury, he played all of Leinster’s recent matches, so it’s nothing to do with ring-rustiness from a lack of match-time. At best you could say he doesn’t have the highest level of natural fitness so probably needs a run of matches to stay fit – but Thornley never framed it in those terms.

      If you think that Thornley’s words have no connection with Kidney, then that’s fine – we’ve explained our logic clearly in the piece and we’re happy to stand over it. To underline the point, Thornley mentioned Ross again today in strange terms [in his now inevitable ‘Breaking Kidney’s Team Selection To The Public In Advance’ piece], saying he ‘the pack will almost certainly be unchanged now that Ross has had some more game-time’. The only game-time Ross has been denied of late is through the IRFU-enforced player welfare program for Leinster. The whole thing is very strange indeed, and we have no doubt whatsoever that Thornley is putting out a message that is coming from the management team that they are not satisfied with Ross and are happy to put the message out there for public consumption.

    • Rich

       /  November 22, 2012

      Yes Neil – it is disrespectful. Its blatently obvious that GT has been given info to go down this route – blatently obvious to all but you i mean. Also wonder what injury to Ross – he has started all big games recently for his club. Mike Ross has been solid as a rock for about 2 years now, he gets tired after 60 mins against teh best scrum in the world who rotate their props at the correct times, and gives away 2 pens? Thats warrants a public media bashing? Not with you at all on that one

  21. Alan Grace

     /  November 21, 2012

    Why the conspiracies about journalists being a mouthpiece for the management and their paymasters? I can’t imagine it being very difficult to pick which side is likely to play after sitting pitchside during training, it isn’t very hard to speculate WHY certain selections take place. My kids could probably do it. YOU or I could even do it.    
    I haven’t a clue why Tom Court was dropped and Kilcoyne brought in and neither does anyone who happens to stumble upon this blog or any journalist. Maybe, just maybe, Kilcoyne impresses? Maybe Court’s age comes into it? On reading past blog entries here, apparently people want progress and chances given. Maybe Ross needs gametime? How is his injury status? Is he rehabbing on anything from provincial duty? Why cotton-wool a player if they need to play, especially in an important game such as next week? Maybe Ross just isn’t playing well and does need to prove himself? Again, nobody outside management and squad knows the answers to these posers. 
    To butcher old coinage, its ‘Showbiz’, not ‘Showfriends’. Players get cut and players get drafted in. That’s sport after all, isn’t it?
    As a supporter of Ireland for over almost forty years, I couldn’t care less who is on the field and ensures the points standings in these November games, so long as they get the job done.
    Perhaps you might be reading too much into all this?

    Humbly yours in rugby,

  22. LooseHead

     /  November 21, 2012

    Ross got pinged because he was tired after 60 mins but also because Ireland picked 5 back row players and no recognized tight head lock. Back row players at 4 and 5 look great across the park but they mean the TH prop has to work much harde at scrum time and need to get replaced earlier. It’s another example of picking players with no respect to their ability in theie tight technical positions. We did it for years with the Bull and in general we undervalue the scrum.

    As for Court, I’m Ulster to the core, but he’s not an international LH prop. Strong, willing, but not there technically. I have him behind Black and McAllister in Ulster. So I was pleased to see Kilcoyne get a chance. Jury’s still out.

  23. Hi folks – this one keeps rumbling on, with Thornley having yet another go in today’s paper, and making it even clearer that criticism from Ross is coming from the management:

    “Elsewhere, there were clearly concerns over the performance of Mike Ross against South Africa after the concession of two penalties prompted him being replaced by Michael Bent. But Declan Kidney made it abundantly clear Ross needed game time in the aftermath of the Fijian game.”

    Also, the Independent’s comically biased new rugby hack Conor George has muscled in on the action, taking things a step further in saying that management have been unhappy with Ross since the England game – a bizarre statement given he was clearly injured from very early in that match. We wll not post a link to the article as we do not want to direct traffic to the writings of that journalist.

    We’ll reiterate that we find this a pretty unedifying shafting of a player who has been an unheralded hero in the last two seasons for province and country, but who is obviously not in Kidney’s ‘inner circle’. We fail to see how he should be singled out for blame for Ireland’s performance in the second half against South Africa. It reflects the obviuosly huge pressure the coaching team are under, but is a shameful attempt to stick the blame elsewhere to distract the public from their own shortcomings. It’s not something we’ve ever seen Kidney do before, and is a huge surprise to us, but then he has never been under the sort of pressure he is under now.


     /  December 5, 2012

    “But Declan Kidney made it abundantly clear Ross needed game time in the aftermath of the Fijian game”

    I would not agree with you that saying a player needed gametime is being critical of them. Lots of players get sent back to their clubs from international camps or elsewhere to get their match fitness levels up. Facts are that Ross did tire at about 60 mins against SA and Bent isn’t exactly proven yet for more than a few minutes.

  1. Kidney sending a signal to Mike Ross? - Andy McGeady - writing about sports, style & current affairs : Andy McGeady – writing about sports, style & current affairs
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