Wednesday Shorts

It’s the middle of the week and there’s plenty to wrap up before moving on to the Heineken Cup, so here’s a little about a lot.

Go and Learn To Beat France

Ireland have been pitted against France in the 2015 World Cup draw, and our history against them, especially in the World Cup itself, is fairly lamentable – the names Emile N’Tamack, Frederick Michalak and Vincent Clerc may ring some pretty painful bells.  Still, at least it gives us three years to work out how to beat them.  Ireland don’t really do ‘building for the World Cup’ in the same way as some other nations target it from far out, but you could be forgiven for thinking the gameplan they had going in to the last World Cup (essentially choke tackle everything in sight plus Give the Ball to Seanie or Fez) was tailored specifically to beating the Aussies.  It was certainly fit for purpose, but when it came to doing away with Wales, it was exposed as too narrow and one-dimensional.  Ireland now have three years to put together a gameplan that will beat France, because beat them we must or the BNZers await in the quarter finals.  Choke tackling probably won’t be as high on the list of priorities this time around.  Who knows, pace and offloading could – and should – come to the fore.  And somehow finding a way to deal with Louis Picamoles.

En-ger-land

Whatever you make of Lancaster’s mob, and whatever the details of the Kiwis’ succumbing to norovirus in the week, that was a performance to stir the soul.  English rugby will do well to keep its feet on the ground, but it’s a win worthy of a little getting carried away.  England’s commitment to the breakdown was especially commendable.  Wood, Launchbury and Youngs were outstanding in that area, repeatedly slowing down the Kiwis’ ball.  Whatever about Ashton’s loathsome swan dive, we were especially happy for two of the good guys in the team: Chris Robshaw for responding so well after his leadership credentials were questioned and Tom Wood for his best performance since being out for so long with injury.  Wood is a class act and had the grace through the adrenalin rush to wish the womens’ team the best of luck in his man of the match interview.

Professionalism Calleth

And so, the IRFU hurtle towards professionalism, with an Elite Performance Director soon to be appointed.  The role appears to involve developing and running the game, appointing coaches and trying to get the national team and provinces to work together rather than driving wedges between one another.  Time is very much of the essence – particularly, we imagine, with Deccie and his coaching team’s contracts up at the end of the year.  The role appears so well suited to Conor O’Shea it’s almost silly.  He has links to both Leinster and Munster and appears to have vision and terrific organisational capabilities.  Plus, he’s a smoothie who’d be highly capable at dealing with the public.  It’s a no brainer.  Could he be prised away from the Harlequins project for what would be a pivotal role in Irish rugby?  As Irish rugby fans, we would certainly hope so.

Filling Spaces

So, we turn our attentions to the Heineken Cup.  We’ll be looking in depth at the significance of the double headers on thursday, but a quick look at selection issues at the provinces is in order.  Ulster had the luxury of auditioning both Gilroy and Trimble for the play on the wing opposite Tommy Bowe, but Munster and Leinster appear not to be so fortunate right now.  In the back five for Munster, and the backline for Leinster, it’s become a case of finding enough good players to fill the spots, such are the injuries they’ve to withstand.  For Munster, O’Connell, Stander, Dougall and possibly Niall Ronan are all out, while Leinster must make do without O’Driscoll, Rob Kearney, Eoin O’Malley and Luke Fitzgerald.  We expect Munster to line out with O’Callaghan-Ryan-O’Callaghan-O’Mahony-Cawlin from 4 to 8, and Leinster to run with Madigan-Kearney-McFadden-D’arcy-Nacewa from 15-11.  A daunting weekend lies ahead for both.

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25 Comments

  1. Just to (ahem) complete the provinces selection issues

    John Muldoon, George Naoupu, Michael Swift, Rodney Ah You, Gavin Duffy, Mata Fifita, Eoghan Griffin, Frank Murphy & Kyle Tonetti are all out for Connacht. This was a match many fans had high hopes for, but missing three starters from the pack, two in the back row, does not bode well.

    • Thanks for the heads up on Connacht ummm,. Significant injury list for sure. Who’ll fill the backrow spots?

      • Andrew Browne ((Damian’s li’l brother) would probably be the choice for 6, with McKeon at 8. Browne has heft and skills, not overly worried there. McKeon is very young but has done well in the past when surrounded by experienced heads. Don’t know how he has done recently without Mul & George because the matches weren’t televised.

        Mick Kearney (ex Leinster Academy, had a very good year last year) would probably be the choice in the 2nd row, but both he and Browne can both play 6, so either way they should be starting. But David Gannon is back from injury as well

        Last week both Browne and Kearney were in the second row. If Macca isn’t passed fit that may happen again, with Johnny O’Connor and Falloon starting on the flanks, ironic in an age where teams are crying out for natural 7s we had the opposite problem.

  2. Jimbob

     /  December 5, 2012

    Not sure if Leinster will look like that on Sunday; Bent and Goodman have been added to the squad which probably means it could be a very similar backline to the one we saw against Zebre (Boss coming in for Reddan probably). I expect it to be something like Isa, Kearney, Dorce, Goodman, Ferg, Sexy, Boss, Heaslip, Jenno, Seanie, Browne, Cullen, Ross, Strauss, Healy. Bench might be Cronin, VDM, Bent, Toner, McLaughlin/Murphy, Reddan, Mad-dog, Conway.

    • Len

       /  December 5, 2012

      I agree with you re selection but am currently praying that after last Saturdays game Browne might be dropped favour of either Denton or Toner. Browne’s main skills appear to be going to ground (or just falling over) the instant he gets the ball and moving so slowly that time stops.

      • The man is exceptionally slow. That try he scored earlier this season where he had to flop over the line and almost failed to do so could have been put in Brainiac’s ‘Things, But Very Slowly’ section.

        But he does add considerable heft to scrums and mauls, and that’s why he’s a starter ahead of Toner.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  December 5, 2012

        Toner in for Browne? when Toner adds grunt to his game yes. But until that long awaited day Browne has his spot. As for carrying, Browne is in the same boat as POC he shouldn’t do it and its up to Leinster to keep the ball away from his mitts,if hes carrying on the wknd something has gone horribly wrong.
        Roux is terribly unlucky, hes playing amongst the weakest group of Locks in Leinster history and is practically guaranteed his spot….and then he gets injured.

      • On Browne, he may be a lump but he is a hefty lump and has been putting in some good defensive work this season. Would say he is a shoe-in to start away from home. We need the grunt (and Toner is going backwards).

        With Jimbob on the likely team selection (if Bent doesn’t start, he will see at least 30 minutes). Doubt Madigan will be chanced at 15 in the Michelin. Hard to see Leinster, with this depleted backline, doing anything other than damage limitation and going for the losing bonus. Hence Ferg to start on the wing.

        Am very excited to make my first trip to Clermont. Its a bugger of a place to get to from where I live though.

      • Lamo

         /  December 6, 2012

        Surely the heftier ‘away’ selection will be utilised, if the last two years are anything to go by? And while the Mad-Dog may be Fresh Prince of Ballsbridge, I don’t like the thought of him playing fullback against such a boshtacular backline in Marcel Michelin – particularly when he’ll no doubt be called into making (or attempting to make) some last-second interventions whenever Dorce misses a tackle. Hence (15-1): Isa-Isa-Isa, Lil Dave, Dorce, Goodmanyourself, Ferg, Isaac ‘Give Yourself A Clap’ Boss, Slipper, TT, The Glock, Leo, Slow Down Browne, Rosser, Risteardt, Church.

  3. What do ye make of Pennys first couple of months at Munster? I think he badly needs to promote JJ Hanrahan, Ian Nagle and Ian Nagle to the bench and first team respectively.

    Also Dave O Callaghan really deserves his shot in the six jersey fantastic player.

    • Let’s hold off until after the double header with Saracens before making a judgement. This is the meat of the season right here.

      I’d go easy on the expectations for some of the younger Munster players, though, Tommy. If Ian Nagle hadn’t had one famous performance over two years ago his name would be on precisely nobody’s lips. He’s been scarcely visible since. JJ Hanrahan is obviously going to be a talent but he’s still third choice 10, and that’s the best place for him right now. Playing 10 for a big team is the most visible position on the pitch, and when it comes to fans and media, the most pressurised. Anyone coming through will have a bumpy ride, and precocious talents need to be carefully managed. Even a brilliant player like Johnny Sexton endured some tough times before he was up to starting the big games.

  4. zdm

     /  December 5, 2012

    I’d love to see Conor O’Shea involved in the national team in any capacity we can get him in to – I’m normally very sceptical of the “director of rugby” role, preferring “if anybody questions me, I’ll kill their dog and eat it” type of national team coach who answers to nobody but a rugby god he believes he has a direct line to but O’Shea is so cool and savvy that you believe everything he says.

    At the end of last season or the one before, there was an interview on Sky Sports with the coaches of the top 4 finishers in the GP (O’Shea, McCall, Cockerill and someone else) and he was so eloquent and persuasive, you’d have thought he was quoting scripture.

    If we had O’Shea as a director of rugby, we would need a coach who would just go and coach. I’m going to risk a bit of derision here but I’d love to see Mark McCall in that role. He was punted out of Ravenhill as a sacrificial goat so that Ulster could ignore the fact that the team was shite. He always seemed a little too quick to take criticism of the team personally and was a bit too willing to believe the nay-sayers who blamed him for the teams demise.
    Since he has take over at Sarries, they have become the archetype of a team who wins ugly, grinding out the result and chocking the other team in to submission and you rarely hear from him in the media – he just seems to coach the team to believe they are better than the opposition and lets them at it, exactly what Ireland are crying out for at present.

    To sweeten the deal, if O’Shea is acceptable because of his Munster/Leinster links then McCall’s Ulster/London Samoa links should help too (sorry Connacht).

    • Jimbob

       /  December 5, 2012

      O’Shea is the dream but McCall is not; while Sarries will do well in the premiership they won’t win any HC’s (or get close). Ireland need a coach with definitive game plans and fresh ideas, while self (national) belief might be Kidney’s issue I don’t think it’s an issue for the players.

      Unfortunately, I’m unsure if O’Shea would take on the role just yet if offered. Eddie and Deccy went from national heroes to ultimate villains. Not saying that will definitely happen to him or any other director/coach that’s up next but I’m sure he wouldn’t want the same treatment. I reckon he’s happy enough in Harlequins for the time being building a very healthy club without the heavy burden of a national team on his shoulders.

    • Leinsterlion

       /  December 5, 2012

      COS as director is a must or (this may be blasphemous in some quarters) Clive Woodward, if he’d take the job would be a good a selection as any.
      As for HC, choose from Vern Cotter, Schmidt, Mallet even Ruddock would be worth a look or my personal favorite David Knox….

    • O’Shea and Ruddock – would that work?

      • Leinsterlion

         /  December 5, 2012

        Well Ruddock is working at the bottom of the rung atm, and if the remits and responsibilities are clearly laid out, I dont see why not. Our next coach will only be a 3 year deal(or should be) so two years to build a team for the WC and thats his concern, whereas O’Shea will be looking at the big picture.

      • He’s won a Grand Slam (at 2 levels) and knows where all the current young talent is at (check out his Irish under 20 GS winning squad http://www.irb.com/jwc/teams/team=3227/index.html ). If the accounts are true that the Welsh players hated him, that has to be a good thing…bunch of spikey things that they are 😉

      • I meant the 2011 squad…my point being that a lot of these guys are the guys we need to bring through over the coming few years.

      • Len

         /  December 5, 2012

        I think you could be on to something there. A few months ago we were discussing the options for next coach and ruddock didn’t get much support. He must be on the list assuming he’d want the job.

    • zdm

       /  December 5, 2012

      I’d love O’Shea to be involved in any form – even if he just carries on the water and kicking tee.

      Cotter, Mallet and Schmidt are all in the Kaiser Wilhelm mould of coach I mentioned above – can’t see any of them being willing to defer to a director of rugby for the cutting of half time oranges never mind the development of young players etc.

      When Ireland won the Grand Slam (those were the days, eh lads) the overwhelming cause eminating from the squad in interviews was that they were just allowed to get on with it and play the rugby they wanted to play – we need more of the same.

      Oh and a coach that knows what the players numbered 11-15 are for would be a bonus.

  5. thehighground@iol.ie

     /  December 5, 2012

    curates_egg: I don’t think that U20s squad won anything with Ruddock in charge (appointed in 2010 – Worchester coach up to April 2010). 3rd & 4th place I think in the 6Ns with him in charge. I’d also question some of his selections – I can’t understand why he keeps making hookers & outhalfs the captains when they seem to fall to pieces under the pressure (Annett & Jackson, Scannell was ok this year). We probably would never have seen Hanrahan & Marmion together if Ulster hadn’t pulled Jackson, so I’m really not sold on his credentials as a coach.

    The U20s 6Ns table:
    http://www.rbs6nations.com/en/u20/u20s_match-centre_tables.php?includeref=741&season=2011-2012

    WoC – do you have the official job description of the new post? What is Wigglesworth’s function now?

    Wouldn’t surprise me if Kidney will take over this job (who has worked at both provincial & Ireland level). Kiss to be the next Ireland coach!

    • Anonymous

       /  December 5, 2012

      The impression I had when Jackson was with the underage squads was that he was a key player and cool as you like?

      Thus far, I’ve only ever seen him rattled in one match which was probably understandable given that he had gone from schools cup final to heiniken cup final in 2 years.

      I do agree that Ruddock isn’t the man we want. An acid test of the new coach has to be that he is at least par compared to the provincial coaches and he is not even close to any of the 4 in my opinion.

    • They won as many games as everyone else last year. I am sure there are better international coaches out there but would they take the job? If he is going to Connacht though, I guess that seals it.

  6. Connachtexile

     /  December 5, 2012

    There’s a good chance that Ruddock could be the next Connacht Coach so I don’t think he’d be in the running. I think it will also be someone from abroad who’ll get the job. Can’t see the blazers been to happy taking orders from the likes of Kidney or Allen Clarke the current IRFU High Performance Manager. O’Shea is onto a good thing with Harlequins so it would have to be a big contract for him to leave them.

  7. Rich

     /  December 9, 2012

    Ruddock at Connacht would be interesting. Wondering on the value of Hanrahan going there for a season to get some game time….. At his age he needs games and he is nt getting that at Mun – I know we all expect ROG to step aside but not looking likely….

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