Stepping up to the Plate

Leinster’s season in Europe is hanging by its fingernails.  It’s more than a little reminiscent of Munster’s exit at the group stages in 2010 when they surrendered meekly in Toulon and failed to qualify.  That had an air of ‘end of the pier’ about it, with the great Generation Ligind team finally grinding to a halt.  But though leaving Europe in the pool stages left an indelible scar, Munster’s season wasn’t a total wipeout.  They salvaged dignity by winning the Magners League, and more importantly, went some way to securing their future competitivenes by promoting the likes of Conor Murray, James Cawlin, Donnacha Ryan and Felix Jones above some of the more established names to the first team and recruiting BJ Botha for the following season.

If Leinster do go out of Europe, and it’s likely they will, they too will need to use the remainder of the season to embark on something of a re-build.  The job isn’t quite on the scale of that which is still ongoing in Munster, but certainly a new corps of troops needs to come through.  Two years ago, Leinster looked to have unrivalled squad depth, as a slew of talented academy players made waves in Europe and the league.  But a number of these players’ careers have stalled in the last 24 months.  2013 is going to be a big year in the lives of a number of players, and while the phrase ‘make-or-break’ isn’t one we especially like, and can tend to overdramatise things, in terms of building careers as first team players at Leinster, the next 12 months are going to be significant for these fellows:

Luke Fitzgerald

Grand Slam winner and test Lion, Luke’s talent needs no introduction, but his career has endured something of a crisis in the last 24 months.  At his best he’s a brilliant defender and the best player in Ireland – possibly excepting Craig Gilroy – at changing direction and escaping from heavy traffic.  Given his mid-career troubles, there’s a huge amount of goodwill towards Luke Roysh, and as a nation we produce few players with his natural talent.  But a couple of issues must be overcome: he has to stop overrunning the ball carrier, and must improve his strike rate.  And he must focus on one position – and it might just be outside centre, where he could be the replacement for  BOD that the world is waiting for.  His return from injury is imminent, and feverishly anticipated by a Leinster team in real need of some invention in the backline.

Eoin O’Malley

Diminutive centre, but on song, he’s a natural who makes the game look easy.  Showed his class in each of the last two seasons before being laid low by serious injury at the tail end of last season.  Not a big fellow by any means, there will always be those for whom he is just too small for rugby at the highest level, but is nonetheless a (nother) contender to succeed BOD at outside centre for Leinster, and as such, the next twelve months will be huge in his development.

David Kearney

Made huge strides last season, making the Irish bench for the Six Nations opener against Wales, and has been badly missed through injury this season, with resources stretched in the back three.  Although not exceptionally quick, has a good kicking and chasing game and is a dangerous broken field runner and fine ball-handler.  His defensive game – like that of his brother – needs work.  If he can bring it up to the required level, he can be close to being a regular starter for Leinster.  Should have plenty of chances once fit and firing.

Dom Ryan

Generated significant hype following two-try performance against Saracens in the RDS two years ago, and produced a brilliant cameo against Toulouse in the semi-final.  Since then, has been scarcely spotted, as one injury after another have restricted him to a handful of appearances.  Recent comments from Joe Schmidt contrasting his progress to that of Jordi Murphy suggest management are not entirely happy with him.  On a good day he looks to have it all – physicality, great ball-tracking, and superb groundwork – but he is just as capable of total anonymity.  If he can learn from Shane Jennings to keep himself at the heart of matches, Leinster have a player on their hands, but he must now put a run of games together and remind us what we’ve been missing.

Rhys Ruddock

Capped as a 19 year old, and following an explosive performance in Paris against Racing Metro, Franno declared that his potential was unlimited.  But has done little since then to justify the billing.  He can look decidedly undynamic in the loose, and his too-upright carrying style can have fans watching through their fingers in anticipation of another dreaded turnover.  Has rejected overtures from Munster to stay at Leinster, but appears to be an ambitious individual who has no desire to warm the bench, even at a big club.  It’s time to establish himself and make good on the early promise.

Devin Toner

Now this genuinely is make or break – Leinster’s resources in the second row are the worst in the country, yet the big second row just can’t seem to finally break into the first team, having been on the cusp of it for years: he was the reserve second row in all three of Leinster’s Heineken Cup finals over the last five years.  Mike McCarthy’s imminent arrival isn’t necessarily the bad news it may appear, as the two play on different sides of the scrum; Leo Cullen is his real obstacle to regular first team rugby, and the old boy can’t go on forever (can he?).  Last year Toner looked to have made the necessary progress to finally become a first-pick, but this season he’s been fairly ho-hum.  Are his deficiencies – in part brought on by his unique frame – simply too great for him to be a Heineken Cup regular?  The strange thing is that for all the focus on his lack of oomph in the tight, for a seven-foot-tall fellow, he doesn’t pilfer much opposition lineout ball. We are on the verge of saying that if he can’t make it now, he isn’t going to.

Ian Madigan

Woah! Did they just go there? Isn’t Ian Madigan a great young prospect? Doesn’t he have the best eye for the tryline of any 10 in Ireland, and can’t he look magic with ball in hand? Sure, all of the above boxes are ticked, but there is a problem – Jonny Sexton. Sexton is Leinster’s franchise quarterback, and he ain’t going anywhere, except to Oz as Lions starter and potential captain. Madigan’s career is about to reach a crossroads – stay at Leinster and move position, or move on for regular rugger at 10. If he stays, where does he see himself playing? Fullback? Unlikely, with Bob back in tow. Centre? Possibly, but Leinster have lots of competition there (see above) and he has no experience to speak of in the position. And if he moves on, where will he go? All of the other provinces have no need, neither do any of the big English clubs, so it’s probably to France. The answers to these questions are likely to determine how Madigan’s career unfolds from here.

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45 Comments

  1. Two great new posts to start the new year. Thanks guys.

    What do you make of the theory that Leinster has been too successful in bringing through backrow players? The constant flow of Heineken Cup quality back rows (Heaslip, O’Brien, McLaughlin, Ruddock, Ryan, Murphy, Marshall – to name some) has naturally limited the collective game time.

    Am personally a big Ryan fan – a true openside, who runs great lines (and has had other big games than those mentioned above). However, injuries seem to be a big issue and he is decidedly hot and cold.

    As for Devin, you guys are nothing if not loyal and consistent in flogging that dead horse. I hear Flanagan is back playing rugby.

  2. Zaccone

     /  January 3, 2013

    Toner is always mentioned as having an awkward frame but I don’t really buy it. To use two other young secondrows for comparison:

    Toner is 6ft 11 and 124kg (26 years old)
    Richie Gray is 6ft 10 and 128kg (23 years old)
    Eben Etzebeth is 6ft 8 and 123kg (21 years old)

    If he pushed himself to hitting 130kg surely that would improve his “heft” both in the scrum and around the field. At his height and age it should be doable – he still looks nowhere near fully filled out.

    • He already doesn’t contest lineouts though. If he put on more weight, surely this would reduce his effectiveness there, whilst presumably not compensating enough for his long, unscrammageable frame?

  3. I wonder should Leinster exit Europe, and as mentioned, unfortunately it is likely, does that take the pressure off Madigan to stay? There seemed to be a touch of “sure they’re the European Champions, he’d be mad to go”, whenever a move was discussed earlier in the season.

    Firstly, there’s nothing wrong with not being European Champions. As we’ve no doubt all noticed, most teams are not and some of them are fairly handy. And this is also not meant as disrespectful in anyway towards Leinster who have been peerless for the last few years & brought an incredible amount of enjoyment to the rugby watching public, not least me.

    Secondly, it brings up that interesting argument, are you better off at a lesser (slightly or otherwise) club and getting more starts than at a top tier club? For Madigan it seems to me he’d be better elsewhere, other than hanging around in case J10 gets injured. He’s not doing himself or the club any favours playing at fullback and provincially & internationally that route is being closed off by Kearney & Zebo. I think he can be a quality outhalf, but, shockingly, he needs to be playing regularly at outhalf for this to happen. It could also help his quest for international recognition, providing of course, going abroad doesn’t leave him out of sight & out of mind of the Irish management. I wish they’d stop doing that. It’s definitely a factor in stopping Irish players with international ambitions going abroad, even if it’s best for them, which I’d imagine doesn’t bother the IRFU much.

    I always had admiration for the way Keatley left the relative safety of another year at the Leinster academy to go west & he became a better player for it. Obviously this is not a direct comparison but Madigan needs to find his Connacht.

    Also, regarding Dom Ryan, I commented at the start of the season it was really crucial for him to stay injury-free. Unfortunately this hasn’t happened to his major detriment. Firstly, it’s a big issue for him personally but secondly I wonder if it’s symptomatic on the growing concern I have over younger players. They are enormous and it seems part of the focus in the academies is getting as big as possible as fast as possible. I’m not naive, I know this matters but we seem to be seeing more and more long-term injuries to our bright young things. As Tom McGurk pointed out last year, skeletons, ligaments & tendons don’t bulk up along with the muscle and the hits are only getting hard. Should this be a serious concern and what can be done about it?

    • and also that should be “mad to go” rather than made to go. Important vowel there!

    • There is a timely piece on Eoin Sherriff in the IT today, who is doing ok at Sarries. Morris and Monahan are having decent seasons as well in England.

      But we can’t see how Madigan would fit in in the Premiership – Leicester (Ford, Flood), Saracens (Hodgson, Farrell), Quins (Evans), Gloucester (Burns), Saints (Lamb, Myler) or even Bath (Donald, Heathcote) don’t have a need at 10, and the rest of the teams aren’t consistent HEC qualifiers. Which is why we thought France might be an option!

      • Hmmm, I think Mallinder would create a Wile E. Coyote style dust cloud if you offered him an option on Madigan, whipping together a big acme box addressed to “Saviours, Shiny Curvy Glass Thing, Dublin D4” which, after it arrived and he took his stanley knife to the packing tape, would turn Joe Schmidt’s curiosity into horror as he discovers the crate contains not Myler, not Lamb – but both.

        On a serious note – surely long-term planning is fuzzy at best until the future of the HEC is decided? Players obviously moves clubs to play with better teams or more regularly in important matches. It’s hard to make sense of the latter when one doesn’t know what’s coming.

    • Kate, you buried the best point in the last paragraph, you’re not involved in communications for a political party are you?! There’s a pHd to be completed and job in professional rugby for someone who can produce an academy program (more) relevant to Irish rugby.
      It may be that the current approach is the best but I wholly agree with you, the priority that young players seem to be given is to become huge. I imagine that the rationale behind this objective is to equip young players for the physical rigours of the pro game. However, it seems to be done at the detriment of their rugby.
      I thought that last season’s u20 team played an uninspiring quality of rugby in the Six Nations as a collective and hadn’t the nous to deal with an English team that were bigger than them but not necessarily better than them. Give the same team some time together on the pitch in South Africa and let them play ball…the results and performances speak for themselves.
      A situation where academy players represent a team on a regular basis may be a solution – could the u20 team compete in the AIL, for example? At the pro level where everyone is huge it is skill, nous and decision making that seperate the best from the rest. In the academies, the concentration is on becoming huge. Identifying the players capable of the highest level of skill and decision-making ability then getting them up to the physical standard required seems a more profitable route to follow but one that is more difficult to measure than max bench press and highest vertical leap.

      • I’m flattered you think there was enough structure on that ramble to deliberately obfuscate key points, it was more a lunchtime stream of consciousness than a party political broadcast.

        For me it’s getting to the point where it’s becoming less about the rugby (not that that stops mattering!) but the current and future quality of life for academy players, as injuries seem to be more and more prevalent. I also think it’s particularly tough when such stress is being put on the body of someone who isn’t even guaranteed a career in professional rugby (I’m aware there are no guarantees in sport ever but you see what I’m driving at).

        It’s also going to limit the pool of experienced players available to us in 10 years. It’s highly unlikely players that are being injured so seriously this early on in their career will have the longevity of Ronan O’Gara or Brian O’Driscoll. Plus the long-term care needs of retired players will be massive in day to day life.

        Also to swing in back to the current day, large men do not always great players make a la Mushy. Furthermore, when you’ve bulked up out of proportion to your frame, it seems to follow it will have a negative effect on your skills and the things you can do in the game that make you you. So we’ll be left with a cartel of large men who can hit hard and play the game but all resemble each other, not playing to their full potential and are bereft of spark.

        Alas with my complete lack of medical or physiological knowledge, as well as only a limited understanding of what’s best for the Irish game (I mouth off but I know my limits) that PhD and glorious life of employment from the IRFU coffers are not for the likes of me. I am just a worrier with a love of the game who’s noticed it’s getting harder and harder to squeeze into Juniors between the bulk. But it’s clear that something has to change for the health of our young players and for long and short-term development of the Irish game. I suppose things go in and out of fashion a la total football. But there’s more serious repercussions from this bigger is better culture than from your centre half being able to smash one into the top right hand corner

      • zdm

         /  January 4, 2013

        A couple of years ago, a paper was published in to the injury rate of Guinness Premiership players and it was startling – some clubs had up to a third of their playing staff out injured at any one time and over 50% of front row forwards will end up with lower limb arthritis after a career in pro-rugby. I can’t remember the source or even if it was a serious quote but I think I recall someone at the time saying that the only profession with a higher rate of physical injury is among members of the armed forces.

        This is a startling state of affairs for something that is essentially an entertainment industry and makes me wonder where we go from here. Where it says “career ending” injury, you can safely assume this means “painful, lifelong” injury and some of these players are barely out of their teens.

  4. Morton Slumber

     /  January 3, 2013

    I wonder has Madigan or Schmidt considered playing him at scrum-half?
    He has the best pass in Irish rugby, a great break, and his kicking is improving all the time.

    • Totally agree. I wonder how Madigan feels about that. Wouldn’t be keen at a guess

      • Morton Slumber

         /  January 3, 2013

        He’s certainly shown no inclination to play 9. Reddan & Boss won’t be around forever so there’s an opportunity there for Leinster. Personally, I think he’d give Murray a run for his money for the Irish jersey -actually, I think Marshall would be the real competition there once we get a new manager who doesn’t feel that Murray is undroppable.

  5. Tommy Kennedy

     /  January 3, 2013

    I just wonder as this Leinster cylcle feels like it is coming to an end is it best to hold Joe Schmidt till the 13/14 season? (sounds insane)

    If you look at Munster in 08 it was obvious a rebuilding job was required but McGahan instead held onto the liginds for another season and they nearly won it only for Leinster to catch them in croker but that season was in hindsight wasted and left Munster in a bigger mess the following year. I wonder would Schimdt be tempted to hold onto the likes of Cullen, Darcy, Drico etc for another tilt at it next season it might be the case where a new coach could really do with being in charge next season where the rebuilding job wouldn’t be too huge a task. If all those players ye outlined don’t make the break through in the next year they could miss the boat altogether.

  6. Two points, firstly the Ireland full back situation will become even more crowded when Payne becomes IQ,
    Secondly I suspect even though an Ulster supporter that Marmion cud be a better prospect at scrumhalf.
    Finally with regard to Toner he also has the Emerging young Henderson who talent will surely find a place in the Ireland XV. He has the skills, mobility and agression that Toner lacks

  7. Tommy, that does sound insane. “Thanks for the two Heineken Cups you won us Joe, but listen, we know you’re regarded as the best coach working in Europe, but we’re going to cancel the contract you signed to stay with us because we reckon you’re not ruthless enough to drop the old lags.”

    It’s well recognised that Schmidt is a ruthless coach who is well capable of making tough decisions, and is also one who has a record for promoting youth. It’s Schmidt who has given the players named above the majority of their game time. I don’t really understand what the mistakes of McGahan’s reign at Munster have to do with Joe Schmidt and Leinster.

    • Tommy Kennedy

       /  January 3, 2013

      Usual Schidmt brings through the youth crap. Of the Leinster 15 versus Ulster in the final last year all players were well established in Cheikias Leinster side or signed by Schidmt barring McFadden. He hasn’t really given a younger lad the start in Heineken Cup matches over older players barring injuries. So his record of bring through the youth isn’t as good as people make out.

      Because the mistakes are more then likely going to be repeated and given Leinster probably have more future internationals then any other province in their squad it is frustrating.

      • All the players listed above have had Heineken Cup starts under Schmidt, as well as umpteen league starts. O’Malley, Ruddock, Ryan and Dave Kearney all have between 40 and 50 appearances for Leinster already. That’s buckets of exposure. Pointing to the final – where of course Schmidt is going to put out his best available team – is a bit selective. Now those players need to really put their hands up and make themselves undroppable, just as Sean O’Brien did in Schmidt’s first season.

  8. Firstly, I’ll be a bit mischievous and wonder aloud how much better it would be for everyone (Leinster excepted) if a few of those guys weren’t playing a wee bit further west in some fetching green shirts and dark shorts? Parks is the perfect age to work in tandem with a young ten who needs to play more and more, Rhys Ruddock would start HEC matches, O’Malley would see a lot more action too, etc.

    But that’s not really what your article’s about. I think LF and Dom Ryan stand out (by quite a way) as the most gifted of the above list of fellas. But Dave Kearney (for instance) looks like a learning rugby player, while I’m not convinced Luke is (that over-running thing was obviously in part trying reeeeeally hard to find some form, but it’s not good to see someone you think could be amazing repeating an elementary mistake over and over). I agree with your views on RR’s unwieldiness but, again, maybe he will have a better career under the lights than Dom Ryan will – because one has to worry about the latter’s work ethic and maturity if meek-and-brilliant Joe is sounding off. Talent’s not enough.

    We’re all hoping it will come together for all of these fellas (come on Devin, one more Big Mac…and again… and another!) and I think you guys are pretty close to spot on in your views on where they are and the direction they have to go. Some of them, at least, will be disappointments. Paddy F. Wallace, for whom I (and many Ulster fans) do have a lot of time, did not become the new Mike Gibson, for example.

    The Leinster academy is quite a wonder, though, and shows that there are many things Irish rugby is doing right. Can’t knock the amount of ability that comes through the system.

  9. Len

     /  January 3, 2013

    Good work lads on highlighting the current players on the cusp but not quite there. With most as you point out its cause their not getting game time as there is someone better (or at least perceived to be better) ahead of them in the pecking order.

    In the case of Toner though I don’t think that applies any more. Simply put, he’s not there because the cons out weigh the pros. Yes he’s the tallest second row playing with the provinces? but it appears he’s a bit of a lazy or just awkward jumper so we rarely see him tower over the opposition as he should. This could also explain why he doesn’t contest ball like other seconds. Add to this the effect he has on the scrum and I’m beginning to think that Leinster may have to cut their losses here. it would be a pity as he’s a player who has come on but potentially has reached his limits. I’d like to see McLoughlin given a proper run at second row for the rest of the season. He has the grunt required for scrums and is almost Usan bolt like compared to our current duo of Browne and Cullen.

    Ryan is a player I’m always happy to see. Two seasons ago he looked like the obvious successor to Jeno at 7 and the hits he puts in are epic. Like many other young players he is very injury prone and @Kate McEvoy this worries me. If he could stay injury free for the rest of the season I suspect he could force his way back into the succession slot. The other question here is when will Jeno call it a day. Wouldn’t be surprised if this was sooner rather than later.

    Mad dog at 9? That could be very interesting but at the minute he would move from second spot to third. Would he be willing to make such a move?

    On a side note I’m hopeful that a new coach for Ireland could see players utilised in their correct positions like McFadden and O’Brien.

    • I do feel Locky has had a disappointing run this season, especially given he’s a player I’m fond of. There’s slow starts and there’s being left at the gate. Given the problems Leinster have had at 2nd row I can’t help but feel he’d have been given a run at second row in management felt he was up to it.

    • The McLaughlin for second row drum was being banged loudly last year before Thorny was signed but it never played out (bar one or two experiments). As someone who banged the drum, and still think it makes sense, you have to wonder whether (a) he simply doesn’t want to play there or (b) the management doesn’t think he is up to it. Either way, it seems not to be an option anymore.

  10. B

     /  January 3, 2013

    I’m sure both Munster and Connacht could find a use for a player like Madigan, although I would question whether he would be capable of living up to his potential at Connacht. He has shown in the past that he finds it hard to control a game (imo at least) and Connacht can too often be a bit headless, it might not be a good match.

    • Jimbob

       /  January 3, 2013

      Munster don’t need Madigan, they’ve got Keatley and Hanrahan there. Madigan could learn a lot from Parks in Connacht and while they’re still a bit headless at times, I think they’re becoming more consistent and controlled in games.
      While I think it would be individually beneficial for Madigan to move on, Leinster wont find a better back-up 10 in europe if he does.

      • B

         /  January 4, 2013

        They could definitely find a place for mads at munster if they wanted to, especially if laulala moves on in a year or two. Likewise Downey is doing fine atm but has not set the world alight (nor has he been terrible), and who is the back up 12 after him anyways? Keats or JJ at 12 with madigan at 10? Keats at 15, jj 12 mads 10? Keats 23 jj 10/12, mads 10/15? Endless mix and match options. I haven’t seen jj play yet but I know that both keatley and madigan are capable of playing attacking running rugby and it seems like jj is too. What I don’t know is how attached each player is to a respective jersey number but I still think it could be a runner.

        Likewise I would like to see madigan at Conn but as I said they can be headless and I’m afraid 3 nil games in half a season does not suggest increased consistency, and that’s coming from a Connacht man.

  11. pete (buachaill on eirne)

     /  January 3, 2013

    Great article lads, really enjoyed the read

    Luke:
    His natural instincts are scary! He is so good in that regard. He does make some (a lot) of basic errors generally in handling regards but his footwork and vision are out of this world good couple this with the best defence of any back 3 in Ireland and we have a guy who needs to play. He is starting his first game back tomorrow night so that will be telling.

    I believe he should stay at Leinster as there are going to be two centre spots open within 9 months I think. He is going to get one and I think it will be a shoot out between O’Malley and McFadden for the other (Fitz-EOM or McFadden-Fitz)

    He was playing some great stuff after he didn’t get to the World Cup remember that game against Bath or the try he assisted against Cardiff. This guy could be real quality if stops doing him from behind.

    Eoin:
    One of my favourite players and a really nice guy to boot. He is quick, lightening quick footwork, excellent pass and IMO a good defensive game. He has missed high profile tackles however before. I don’t know how good he will ever be, is he an international? I don’t think so. 😦

    Dave:
    A great player but again I don’t think he will make it to international level to any great degree. Should stay at Leinster as he should break in to the first team if McFadden and Fitz end up in the centres, he is a very strong guy and has good vision. I’d like to think he will become a quality player.

    Dom:
    Was a huge fan of his a year or two ago. Good on the floor, great workrate, tackling like a grizzly bear and got on the end of a few tries too. Huge potential. I think he is a guy who needs consistent games and I do not believe Leinster can offer him that yet and especially if he is injury prone and Jordi Murphy is getting and taking chances.

    Rhys:
    Want to keep this simple: huge potential has to take the finger out and live up to it.

    Dev:
    Was a big fan of his last year, like Fitz he was playing really well this time last year and I was disappointed we signed Brad as I think Toner was doing well. I fully believe that he has the skill required for HCup rugby, his ball skills, vision and decision making are way up there when his game is analysed from first receiver, couple this with the fact that he is 26 and some locks don’t mature until they are 30 and maybe he should be retained. He was definitely at his best last year; his ball carrying was transformed and his tackling was very efficient. The scrum was going forwards and the lineout was doing well.
    I don’t know what happened this season but personally I am very disappointed.

    Jamie:
    Jamie Heaslip!? No, Mr.Hagan. He is in a pickle. He moved to Leinster to take his career up a notch. This he has not achieved and now there is another Tighthead in Leinster in the form of Michael Bent. There are rumours of Ross moving to Munster but these do not look like they will come to pass and now he has Moore and Furlong casting shadows behind him that will in a season or two smother him. Hagan has to move IMO. Munster may lose Botha and Archer is pretty bad, he could go back to Connacht but I am not sure how well he’d do back there with White in the mix. Ulster are not able to rely on Fitzpatrick but Macklin is a young guy with promise. The Top14? The Premiership? The Lower leagues in England? Props can develop late, especially tightheads but he has to get on his bike. Now.

    • pete (buachaill on eirne)

       /  January 3, 2013

      Forgot Ian! Flip!

      Ian:
      Is he too good to be a back up? Is he anything other than a 10? His potential would tell you that he could be an Irish flyhalf one day and he has outplayed Keatley, ROG and Jackson this year and last in match-ups. Great acceleration and an ability to pass flat and far while running at speed. Furthermore he has the vision to utilise this passing game. His goal kicking is far better than many of his naysayers predicted and his tactical kicking can be very good. If he can control a game then he has everything. He could be better than Jonny, he has all the raw materials and he has the brain.

      I’d see if he likes Galway

      • Johnny

         /  January 3, 2013

        Am I the only one who thinks Madigan could be great at Ulster. Would suit his style i think and with NOK not up to it and RP likely to move on in another year and a half they need another 10. Olding is promising but still very young.
        Would love to see PJ and IM battle for the 10.

  12. pete (buachaill on eirne)

     /  January 3, 2013

    What’s the difference between Madigan and Sexton battling it out to Madigan and Jackson battling it out though?

  13. jojo

     /  January 4, 2013

    Rave Kearney has brilliant rugby instincts and i think would of the most underated players in ireland. he can change a game out of no where.

    Dom Ryan was so exciting when he came on the scene with massive hits etc.. but since then i cant remember the last time he put one of those massive hits in. saw him in person and was shocked at how small he was.

    Ruddock for some reason seems to lack upper body power and agree gives away too many turnovers. not really what you want from your back row.

    I’m probably one of the biggest madigan fans out there. I feel he is the type of player who will always be underutilised and underappreciated in Ireland. This sometimes speculative notion of ”controlling” a game will always get a steady ROG esque player picked ahead of him. eg versus connaught a ”controlling” out half would not have tapped himself in front of the posts(easy 3) and gone over for a try. He has no objective flaws in his game. I actually would like to see him in France getting proper game time. I dont see what he can learn from Parkes (apart from dodgy side burns). Now im gonna play devils advocate, would leinstersrecent poor try scoring record improve if he was starting more.
    Ps also massive sexton fan.
    and also Munster have comparable situation, I way prefer Keatley starting

    • Buccaneer

       /  January 4, 2013

      Kearney jr is a very good ball player, no doubts there. i think a big part of the problem has been the size of Leinsters squad. Over the last 3 or so seasons, when everyone was fit, the only player mentioned in the blog that would get near the team for a big match is Fitz. competition for places is obviously good but for the last few years the huge amount of options in the back row and 3/4 line has hindered the development of the above IMO.

      Completely agree about Madigan! would love to see him grow into the Michalak type player i think he is capable of becoming. I think he would suit the Penny evolution perfectly but couldn’t see a Dublin lad going south. France could be a perfect fit as long as he dos’nt drop off the international radar

      • There are 3.5 Dubs already in the Munster backline! Keatley, Downey, Jones and Johne Murphy (who’s from Newbridge, Co. Kildare) haven’t been scared to go south.

      • Roro

         /  January 5, 2013

        Watching ROG today Munster desperately need a 10 to threaten the line the way Madigan does. All the RTE commentators are fixated on the side to side nature of Munsters play, terrified to criticise ROG for kicking away good possesion or just shipping the ball across to the next available player without moving forward at all. Gifted Cardiffs first 3 points which could have been 7 by kicking in opposition 22″ when they had good field position and possesion. The game he plays,The “traditional munster,” worked when you had an international pack playing club rugby but not when faced to a side that gets parity up front. I think Penny has the right idea Munster needed to change their game to suit having a less dominant pack but the execution clearly isn’t up to scratch. Madigan could be a player to make his system work but in Keatley they sort of have that guy already but just aren’t picking him.

        Enjoyed Leinster and even Ulster overtaking Munster in the interprovincial ladder but for the good of Irish rugby their slide needs to stop.(NOT an Ulster are bad for irish rugby “indo” statement! Just we need 4 strong provinces and we only have 2 at present, Munster through poor accademy structures and connacht through lack of an equal financial playing field but thats a whole other thread)

      • Not sure the poor academy structure at Munster is strictly accurate. The real issue is that Munster had a poor academy set-up so there’s a gap between Generation Ligind and the young guns coming through now. I think that, counter-intuitively in some ways, it also impacts on the on-field development of the youngsters coming through. If you look at Ulster the on-field coaching by their Saffer contingent has undoubtedly been hugely beneficial. Between retirement and injuries to Munster’s older core of players the lack of leadership on the pitch at times is palpable. fOr more on this check out this Mole article http://dementedmole.com/2012/01/05/m85-86/

        I’m not sure as to what the solution to this is. Firstly, there are now better young players coming through the youth system, or perhaps young players are coming through it better if you catch my drift. But other than that the mid-group of players we have will have to take more ownership of the fact that they are the senior players now. Is there an argument for some key experienced imports also of a very high standard? I’m thinking a tough as nails centre, or pack-man Probably. Let’s just gloss over the whole Jean de Villiers thing. Cos that, that didn’t go well.

  14. jojo

     /  January 4, 2013

    I think he’d be more likely to go to Ulster out of any of them.

    • As a Leinster fan, I would hate to lose him but I think he is better than Jackson, so would get his game at Ulster.

      Can’t see how Connacht would be in his interest: he is much further on in his development as a player than Keatley was and Connacht will likely not be in the H-Cup in the coming future.

      I also think he is better than Keatley but, with Hanrahan at Munster too, can’t see a move south being in his interest…even if he would be uniting with all the Dublin backs down there 😉

      Does he surf? He could surely get in ahead of Berquist at Biarritz, and Peyrelongue and Yachvilli ain’t gonna be around forever. Or, if he skis, maybe he could join Birch at Grenoble (although the players probably have it in their contracts not to play).

  15. TJ Hooker

     /  January 5, 2013

    I am always mystified when the issue of LF’s extraordinary talent is raised. Can anybody point me to the instances where he demonstrated it? All that sticks out in my mind is the overrunning the ball issue and his poor passing. I don’t think the unjustified hype helps anybody, particularly the player himself.

  16. pete (buachaill on eirne)

     /  January 6, 2013

    The Dublin lads in Munster are not doing well. They all went down on the back of playing well in an expansive environment and are now quite poor I think.

    Downey isn’t be used according to his strengths.

    Murphy has regressed hugely.

    Keately is actually learning something in all fairness.

    Jones has been injured a lot in all fairness but his running has got more confrontational and less elusive. When was the last time he made a good break on the counter or picked a good line from deep? I think he has gone from being a possible Irish World Cup squad player to being pretty average.

    TJ- Here ya are son

    • TJ Hooker

       /  January 7, 2013

      I suspected the Bath game would be exhibit A offered in support of Luke Fitzgerald’s exceptionalism. But it was against Bath, and everyone in the Aviva scored a try that day.

      • Here you are TJ:

        I think some people forget just how good he can be. Let’s remember that this was a Lions test starter, with such raw talent that he’s been constantly mentioned as successor to O’Driscoll. He’s got the step, tackle, jackal and pace to be a great player, but it needs to come very very soon.

  17. Fetcher

     /  January 6, 2013

    Where did Schmidt compare Ryan and Murphy? Tried to find it online but couldn’t source it. Murphy has been very good this season whenever given the chance whereas Ryan has been pretty anonymous, even allowing for his return from injury.

    • I’ll try to find a link but in the meantime, please accept our paraphrasing. He said ‘A lot of people are talking about Jordi Murphy the same way as they were talking about Dom Ryan a couple of years ago, he’s really impressing everyone’, or words to that effect.

      • Fetcher

         /  January 7, 2013

        I remember Jordi Murphy being compared to Rocky Elsom while in secondary school by a notable rugby writer *cough* Franno *cough*.
        Ryan did seem the better prospect watching the Ireland U-20s in my opinion but he’s has some catching up to do.

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