Say it is so Joe

The first order of business for Joe Schmidt’s new job as The Messiah is to consult with Les Kiss to pick a squad for the tour of North America. Kiss will be taking the tour, but expect Schmidt’s stamp to be on the squad.  He’ll be without his nine Liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiions, all of whom would be guaranteed starters in a first-choice Ireland team. Co-incidentally, Ireland toured North America four years ago when the Liiiiiiiiiiiiiiions were in South Africa – they took a backline full of Ians, none of whom knew all the four verses of Ireland’s Call that were rolled out in Thunderbird Stadium – the Canadian announcers were mystified, eh, when the small band of travelling support didn’t join in the anthem.

In terms of squad development, the tour was pretty pointless – Micko and Biiiiiiig Bob Casey kept Ryan Caldwell on the bench, and only Darren Cave of the backs is even close to pushing for international selection four years on. Rory Best captained the tour, in which Mike Ross made his debut, but Ross was famously not seen again until all other props were deemed useless.

This time out, we expect St. Joe and Les ‘Last Chance’ Kiss to be a little more progressive than that – Ireland have had conservative selectors for over a decade, and we fully expect greater variety in selection for the next 2.5 years (and more hopefully). There’s also a touring group, described variously as emerging, or developmental, heading to a quadrangular tournament in Georgia (the other competing nations are Uruguay and the Emerging Springboks).  Here are a few thing we want to see from Joseph and his Technicolour Backline Playbook:

Leave Mike Ross at home: Rosser is Ireland’s best prop by a million miles, but he’s also big and has played lots of rugby over the last 24 months, most famously having to prove himself in a gunfight against Fiji in November. Ireland know exactly what Ross brings, and, in the long run, would fare better letting him rest. Stephen Archer, while not even close to the level required for a test prop, should get a chance, and if Declan Fitzpatrick can stand without the aid of a lean-to, he should also tour.  Off to Georgia goes Ricky Lutton, who has impressed in the last few months and see how he swims against the Georgian brutes. On the bench, why not throw one of the Leinster tyros, Martin Mooreadze or Tadgh Furlong.

I’ve seen the future and it’s NWJMB: Iain Henderson will be in this Ireland team for a very very long time. At Ulster, he has been used on the blindside, where they need him, but ultimately he seems destined to be win many test caps as a second row, but his carrying and ball skills look like they could add a new dimension to a line where Ireland have historically looked to (unseen) work horses. Despite Hendo’s inability to get Johann Muller out of the Ulster side, Schmidt should play him in his long-term position and see how he goes.

Rory Best gets a rest: Besty is another who should get the summer off to put his feet up and look after his prize cow.  It’s been a long season for him, and there are no less than three high quality players in the queue who would benefit from the experience: Richardt Strauss, Sean Cronin and Mike Sherry.  Heck, there might not even be room for all three in the touring party.

It’s Maddog Time: Refusing to pick Ian Madigan was the last great folly of the previous regime, it’s hard to see Joe Schmidt doing anything other than selecting the Leinster player of the year at 10.  High on confidence and full of running, his graduation to international rugby begins properly here.  Pairing him with Ulster’s Paul Marshall would be exciting and plenty of fun to watch. Paddy Jackon can start the other game – the audition for the role of understudying Sexton starts here.

Ulster centres get their moment.  With D’arcy injured and Luke Marshall being allowed to rest his weary head, it might be worth a look at the Olding-Cave partnership in the centres.  Stuart Olding is barely established, but looks set to start in a final next weekend, and is clearly in it for the long haul.  In the back three, the Munster-via-Leinsters Andrew Conway and Felix Jones have finished the season strongly and are worth bringing alongside semi-established fastmen Simon Zebo and Craig Gilroy.  If nothing else, the back three would be lethally quick.

So that’s what a Genuine Openside (TM) looks like.  We’ve heard about them, we’ve seen old black and white pictures of them, now we might be about to see one in the flesh.  Yes, hopefully George Hook will be able to contain hmself, because Ireland should be starting these games with a Genuine Openside.  Neither of the previous two coaches had much interest in a linking player / breakdown specialist in the team, relying on the likes of Brian O’Driscoll, Sean O’Brien, Peter O’Mahony and Jamie Heaslip to perform the role between them.  But Tommy O’Donnell was the surprise package of the season, at times sensational for Munster, and his integration to test rugby should begin here.  The last few weeks have shown that Jamie Heaslip still has the ball-carrying ballast when he plays in a more conventionally structured backrow.  Ireland haven’t gotten far with their confusing mix of 6.5s and an 8 playing like a 6.67 (or something), so at least investigating how we can utilise a linking player in the backrow should be top of Joe’s to-do list.  Perhaps this will be the start of something wonderful.

Donnacha Ryan as Tour Captain

With most of the leadership corp on Lions duty, the opportunity is available to give Donnacha Ryan a shot at leading the troops.  By all accounts he’s well regarded by his team-mates and should settle comfortably into the role.

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108 Comments

  1. No mention of any of the Connacht tyros? Henshaw & Marmion surely …..

    • Agreed, Henshaw has to travel. What does WOC think about bringing Hagan at tighthead? He’s surprised me the last few weeks but is he of the calibre of Archer & Fitzpatrick?

    • Amiga500

       /  May 15, 2013

      Was about to say the same.

      Paul Marshall has demonstrated a few times lately why he should not be considered at international level – just not enough control. Marmion should be given his chance to stake a claim for the jersey.

      • Connachtexile

         /  May 15, 2013

        Agree with Marmion and it would stop Wales sniffing around him as well if we nailed him to our colours. Henshaw definitely and I’d like to see Callum Black traveling as well. Morris should travel with one of the two squads.

    • Is Henshaw not injured? Most definitely should eb in the qsquad if fit. Marmion also worth a look to back up Marshall.

  2. If any players needs a rest it is Donnacha Ryan took a serious amount of physical abuse during the six nations and was touch and go for both Munster QF and SF the only two games he has played since the Six Nations. Wouldn’t be surprised if he is going for an operation on that shoulder.

    • You’re right Ireland’s Answer, he is a bit knackered, been playing hurt since the middle of the Six Nations. Step forward the leader extraordinaire, Mr. Brave and the Faithful Himself, Peter O’Mahony?

      • Connachtexile

         /  May 15, 2013

        Chris Henry for Captain!

      • Methinks ye protest too much on the POM front WOC.

      • Cillian

         /  May 16, 2013

        O’Mahony captaining from 8 would be a great shout I think. Already has experience captaining a side and I’d love to see him at 8 too.

        • Maybe he could play on the wing and coach the backs? Has experience on the wing and coaching too. Sure it’s only the national side anyway.

          • Do feel free to enlighten us as to your alternative choices. Best will captain if he tours; if he doesn’t, who are the better options? Chris Henry, who is firmly behind O’Mahony in the pecking order, and facing stiff competition at 7 from Tommy O’Donnell, the form player in the position?

          • I’d start Henshaw at prop and make him captain. Or – here’s a thought – we could pick players in their positions and let players with captaincy experience captain the national side – revolutionary I know.

          • Happy to eat humble pie on this. Looking at the final squad (with no Best or Ryan) he is pretty much the only choice other than McCarthy and it makes sense with an eye to the future. Henry is not guaranteed a start with O’Donnell there. Do think it is a lot of pressure to ask O’Mahony to play in a position he is not familiar with against a decent international side AND to captain the team but that is where we are, so hopefully it goes well for him.

  3. Surely Hagan deserves a shout at TH also? He’s been one of the most improved Leinster players of the last 4-5 months, and we need all the options we can get.

    Reckon it’s a big mistake from Leinster to let him go.

    • Rob

       /  May 15, 2013

      Completely agree. I was going to post the same comment. Finally when he gets a run of games, and the uncertainty of contract negotiations is removed, Leinster start to see his potential. Just after he’s been let go. I think it’s a mistake by Leinster given Rossy’s age, and with Bent really showing no sign of being up to the standard required. Hopefully the same mistake isn’t made at international level.

    • +2 – Good buy for the exiles.

    • Sound Steve

       /  May 16, 2013

      I can see Hagan coming good in a big way. While in the academy he was considered the most dedicated player around (and broke most of Cian Healy’s gym records), he showed a lot of promise at Connacht and I think the return spell at Leinster might have ironed out a few kinks. For example, I recall Schmidty picking him out being for being lazy with the kick chase. Now he looks ready to really hone his craft at London Irish in a tough scrummaging league and return to Ireland in time for his peak! Bit optimistic perhaps…

  4. Indeed Hagan must be third choice tighthead behind Fitzpatrick. Will players on call for the Lions travel or sit watching sky sports news all day hoping of an injury?

  5. Len

     /  May 15, 2013

    I’d love to see Jack McGrath involved in either tour. He’s had an impressive season and seems to have slotted himself neatly into the HVDM shape hole on the bench. To be honest I’ll be happy if their used as actual development tours and not just a way of handing out soft caps to journeyman/fringe players. Also agree re Hagan, he much like Conway is finally finding the form which would have him challenging for more game time, just unfortunate timing.

  6. Sound Steve

     /  May 15, 2013

    Completely agree with the point regarding Henderson. From this point, he can be a decent 6 or a world-class lock. I’d love to see him use his athleticism and power in the tight more and I hope that Muller is taking him under his wing and showing him how to run a lineout. I also hope that by becoming less conspicuous as a lock, he doesn’t consequently find himself on the receiving end of criticism typically reserved for DOC. The game may have evolved but locks are still responsible for a lot of the unglamorous work and they shouldn’t be criticised for this.

    Also, TOD is as much a genuine 7 as Chris Henry is. Irish rugby doesn’t produce genuine 7s in the southern hemisphere mould. Look at the provinces and their respective academies, we don’t produce them. No position in the forwards is as well suited to the typical Irish physique as 7 and we still don’t produce them.

    Finally, while the last US tour may have been a bit of washout, the Churchill Cup that summer was an unmitigated success with about 10 players in the current set-up taking their first steps there under DK. I hope the Emerging Ireland tour is as successful.

    • Amiga500

       /  May 15, 2013

      A decent 6?

      Seriously? Right now, considering his performances and age, he is ahead of a certain S. Ferris on the development curve. [Unless you think that Fez is just a “decent” 6…?]

      • Sound Steve

         /  May 15, 2013

        Well considering Robbie Diack is keeping him out of the Ulster team at the moment, I wouldn’t consider him to be much better than decent at the moment. I just don’t think he has much more potential as a 6, well not as much as at lock anyway.

        As for the Ferris comparison, I think they key differentiator between the two is that Ferris always had a bit of edge to him whereas I feel like Henderson is a bit passive at times.

        • Amiga500

           /  May 15, 2013

          Robbie Diack is the form 6 in Ireland right now and would have been my player of the year instead of Andy Trimble. Hendo has been playing at lock recently due to Dan Tuohy’s poor form and not looking too great at it either.

          Henderson passive? I get the feeling this conversation has little further point as you obviously haven’t watched the man in action.

          An example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibS93sanGZc

          • Sound Steve

             /  May 15, 2013

            One run – good argument!

          • Amiga500

             /  May 16, 2013

            Oh… sorry, not used to debating with a 5 year old. Get a dictionary and look up the definition of “example”.

    • Connachtexile

       /  May 15, 2013

      I have disagree Jennings at Leinster and Faloon at Connacht are both genuine 7’s.

    • Spice

       /  May 15, 2013

      Keith Gleeson is the only “genuine 7” I can remember playing either international or provincial rugby in Ireland for years and he’s an Aussie. As Steve mentions above we dont seem to produce players in the mould of Warburton or Pocock, but I dont see this as a bad thing. O’Donnell has had an awesome season and should def start in America but I hope he is not requested to play as a ‘groudhog’. He should continue with his own game and we may have another David Wallace in a few years. Sean Dougall is the only backrow I can think of who plays in the traditional mould and he is Scottish (and not great imo).
      Personally I think Ireland should forget about the ‘traditional 7’ and embrace the athletic ball handling back-rows which we do produce.
      On the other hand we have always produced very athletic hookers who often act as 4th backrow options, perhaps this can be utilised to ‘fill the void’.

      • Spam

         /  May 15, 2013

        Perception is a funny thing. Here in Wales people sometimes comment that Warbuton is not an ‘natural’ 7, despite his obvious attributes – such as being world class on the deck. Some would see Tuperic as more of an out-an-out openside, who boasts a combination of fluid linking play, great hands, while being a menace at the breakdown.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  May 15, 2013

        Has playing 3 ball carrying athletic backrows ever worked for us?

        • Ferris, O’Brien, Heaslip could have been our best ever back row. I think Aus in the WC was the first time they started together? Pity Fez is now busted.

          • Leinsterlion

             /  May 15, 2013

            Best ever back row? Maybe our best ever back row players, minus Wally and Gleeson, but certainly not our best back row. The Aus game we weren’t facing Pocock. Ferris,Heaslip and SOB is great in theory but it hasnt worked in any shape or form, they are all too similar.

          • It worked in that game, and has hardly played since.

            And all of those players are much, much better than Gleeson (while Slattery surely remains our finest ever back rower?). KG was good, but far from amazing.

            As Sound Steve says below, back row has not been an issue for us for ages. Genuinely think that could have been Ireland’s finest ever trio.

          • Leinsterlion

             /  May 15, 2013

            Backrow is a massive issue for us, we finished second from bottom to Picamoles, Fofana, a half fit Dusatoir and a front row, playing by themselves with a man who made Lieveremont look sane at the helm. Its clearly not working, Heaslip spent the entire tournament buried in rucks, POM hung out with the backs and hit things occasionally, SOB ran into things and generally gave the best headless maniac Schalk Burger impression I have ever seen, while not actually being very effective and carrying lots of ball to no avail.
            In no way shape or form was our backrow play good or conducive to the team as a whole. Its emblematic of the muddle that was Kidneys reign.

          • Amiga500

             /  May 15, 2013

            Spot on Leinsterlion.

            The backrow was poor. I would largely blame that on 2 men trying to do the work of 3 with a certain backrower posted AWOL somewhere outside the 13 channel for most of the games. Even when we got the ball, there was very little in the way of link passes from backrow->9, backrow->10, backrow->12. So our attack was either 1-out trucking with the forwards or wide-wide from the base of a ruck.

            The shameful thing is; Declown had probably the best running 6 in Europe, possibly the world, buried in the rucks or one out trucking.

        • Sound Steve

           /  May 15, 2013

          When has it not? Surely the hallmarks of a team of a team lacking a 7 would be a high level of turnovers against at ruck time and an inability to turnover/slow down opposition ruck ball – neither are problems for us at all. In fact I’d say we are one of the outstanding teams defensively at ruck time.

          • Leinsterlion

             /  May 15, 2013

            7’s do more then turnover or prevent turnovers they are their to link attack, and provide an extra pair of hands. I’ll point you to the second half against wales when tirpuric came on as a prime and recent example of when playing without a balanced backrow worked against us.

          • Sound Steve

             /  May 15, 2013

            I’d put the second half of the Wales game down to being 30 points up away from home and taking our foot off the gas in a big way against a quality outfit. And anyway, Wales started with Warburton, is he not a ‘genuine’ 7?

          • Leinsterlion

             /  May 15, 2013

            A horribly out of form Warburton, who got destroyed by Dom Ryan in the Cardiff/Leinster game. Tirpuric turned that game. Whats more plausible, Tirpuric providing quick ball and putting Ireland on the back foot while at the same time destroying Ireland ball. Or, the entire Ireland team mysteriously thinking the game is won and and “taking their foot off the pedal”, I’d like to give the opposition some credit.

          • Spice

             /  May 15, 2013

            I would be interested to see an Irish backrow with a ‘traditional 7’ also but seeing as I have never seen any Irish player capable of carrying out this role I reckon we need to explore a different tack. Chris Henry despite all the clamour a couple of months ago is not a ‘genuine 7’ nor is Jennings as some people look to suggest. Willie Faloon I must admit is one I didnt think about and is pretty close to it and probably deserves a shot at the squad soon.
            I have to agree with Steve in that I dont think it is the back-row that has ever held us back. As for Wales this year, if Tipuric changed the game v Wales did we not bring on Chris (7) Henry around the same time to no effect whatsoever?
            We would find it difficult to form a balanced back-row anyway as we do not have a ‘genuine 8’ on the island either. Heaslip is a fantastic 8 but not in the traditional ‘bruiser’ mould.
            Why do we have to play a ‘traditional’ team? There is no mystical positional rule-book to which we must adhere. Let us play our own game well enough and a Pocock or Warburton on the opposing team won’t matter.

          • Leinsterlion

             /  May 15, 2013

            Well, when we come up against an in form 7 (as happens to every team going against “tradition”) we get destroyed on the deck, cant get front foot ball and end up losing. Why try to rewrite the game? playing with people in specific roles works.Look at every successful team, they inevitably have a guy who fits some or all of the “traditional” aspects of 7 play, alongside a stereotypical 8 or a 6 to varying degrees.
            No successful team as of yet has succeeded in winning anything with the mishmash styel from the Kidney and EOS era’s, it literally hasnt happened. Arguably the Boks did under JW, but they didnt play a team with a top class 7 or back row during the entire tournament. Even the final SA had the better, bigger and fitter version of their English counterparts.
            Why ignore sucess, successful teams put out combinations, bad teams put out the best players and hope they sort it out between themselves.

          • Spice

             /  May 15, 2013

            So South Africa and England both had ‘imbalanced’ back-rows and both made it to a WC final? Presumably there were no ‘in-form 7s’ in world rugby that year….
            Look I have nothing against playing a ‘balanced’ back-row. I just dont think the traditional back-row is an option in Ireland as we dont have those ‘traditional’ players. You can play players with specific roles withouth them necessarily being the specific roles of every other team in the world, hence my earlier suggestion of redefining our hookers role to augment the back-row.
            South Africa have rarely played with a trad 7 (it isnt just the numbers on their backs that they mix around), France tend to play 2 playmakers at 9 and 10 and interchange whenever possible…there are plenty of opportunities to ‘rewrite the playbook’…

          • Sound Steve

             /  May 15, 2013

            Haha! To say Tipuric was solely responsible for a 60 point swing in that game is just laughable. And please tell me when was the last time we were ‘destroyed’ on the deck? NZ in the summer – I think it’s fair to say we were destroyed in every department in that game – but I’d love to hear an example of a game we lost primarily because of an opposition 7

            Also, how about when SOB plays 7 for Leinster – seems to work from where I’m sat

          • Leinsterlion

             /  May 15, 2013

            @Sound Steve. I’m not saying Tirpuric single-handedly won the game, but he had a lot to do with it. Saying “we lost” as opposed to Wales winning is arrogant in the extreme. Tirpuric played a blinder and outplayed our backrow, that is not in dispute. The last time we were destroyed by a 7? The Wales game and during the WC. Scotland have done us on many occasions, NZ practically everytime we play them, Heaslip knee+red to McCaw, case in point. Its not primarily because of a 7, its a balanced backrow vs players playing out of position thats the problem. SOB playing 7 for Leinster? Jennings is the better option any day of the week, SOB is a 6, Heaslips “resurgence” proves that.
            @Spice. There is more to it then that, France bottled it and so did NZ. SA didnt face a top team, Andrew Sheridan minced AUS, negating any backrow contest. So automatically due to vagries of the draw, NZ inexplicably losing and AUS not even pretending to have a scrum, we have an SA v ENG final.
            As for SA, Brussouw is clearly their best 6(7), their lack of cohesion and utter duffness without him is obvious, witness their witless hoof and chase game they play without him to link and provide a conduit to the backs. With Schalk in prime form with Smith at the time the best 6 in the world doing the work of two men, they could get away with it, with both men gone, they cant.

          • Spice

             /  May 15, 2013

            Great so all we need are a couple of mammoth props capable of destroying srums and we will be away with it. Except we dont produce those either (never have and never will).
            I reckon we just need to play to our strengths and build a game around that. Groundhog 7s and/or destructive scrummaging props are not our strengths!

          • Leinsterlion

             /  May 15, 2013

            But to do that we will be reinventing the wheel, or creating an alternative that doesnt exist. Outside of teams with gargantuan props, I literally cant name one team that plays without a backrow balance, successfully, can you?
            Whats your template/basis for your ideas? Your entire argument is theoretical, “we have brilliant individuals to fill the backrow spots,we have to make this work!”

          • Spice

             /  May 15, 2013

            Yes that is my thinking exactly. What is yours? “Lets play a balanced back-row including a world class ‘traditional 7’ which we dont have.”?

          • Leinsterlion

             /  May 15, 2013

            I would do the next best thing, in lieu of having an out and out 7. Which is playing players in their rightful positions. Eg: set up a depth chart and play next man up for injuries as opposed to shoehorning players into positions in a bid to get all the best players on the field.Try to achieve a balance in selection and styles.
            6:Ferris/SOB/Diack/Muldoon/POM/Locky
            8.Heaslip/Wilson/Coughlan?Ruddock(Williams would be there if IQ)
            7.Jennings/Henry/Faloon/TOD/Ryan

          • Spice

             /  May 15, 2013

            I guess it is a case of agreeing to disagree, as i do not see any of your 7s as filling the traditional role or being of international standard at this stage.

          • Sound Steve

             /  May 15, 2013

            1. We won the Wales match. It was 30-3 when Tipuric came on. Going by your argument, bringing on a 7 for a 7 shouldn’t alter the balance of the back row.
            2. Also, Wales played two 7s against England – lack of balance, fantastic performance.
            3. In looking for the reason for poor performances from Ireland in recent years, back row balance is the biggest red herring of all. Endless slow ball and aimless multi-phase play are tactical issues rather than back row issues. I blame Gert Smal’s influence for the insistence on one-out runners and pick and gos – it’s very South African. Every time NZ (or any team) get quick ball it isn’t purely because their 7 has played a blinder in the last ruck.

      • Yossarian

         /  May 15, 2013

        Connacht just signed the baby blacks 7 Jake Heenan on a 3 year deal.hopefully that means he is a project player.haven’t seen him play but fingers crossed he turns out to be a “genuine” 7

    • ORiordan

       /  May 15, 2013

      ” the Churchill Cup that summer [2009] was an unmitigated success”

      I took a look at the squad for that competition and the players who have pushed through were Sexton, Ryan, SOB and Healy. There were some other players (Henry, Cronin, Toner) who are on the fringes of the Ireland team. Sexton was the only back to have progressed to a first choice player… a back line of Frank Murphy, NOC, Johne Murphy, James Downey, Fergus McFadden, Simon Keogh and Felix Jones was one example.

      • Sound Steve

         /  May 15, 2013

        Apologies that what was effectively a third choice Irish team spanked a highly fancied English A team, produced ten internationals and ONLY three players became Lions four years later. If we got the same return from our Emerging Ireland team in four years I would be delighted

  7. skelpt lug

     /  May 15, 2013

    I hope Angry Andy is reading this, Kidney did wonders for his motivation and being ignored again will set him up nicely for the Rabo final.

  8. 9 Marshall
    10 Madigan
    11 Gilroy
    12 Olding
    13 Cave
    14 Zebo

    Shameless Ulster bias, but will this not entertain?

    • Connachtexile

       /  May 15, 2013

      Add Henshaw at 15 and I’m sold. I’d also swap the two wingers around.

      9 Marshall
      10 Madigan
      11 Zebo
      12 Olding
      13 Cave
      14 Gilroy
      15 Henshaw

      • That is a green looking backline. Need an older, more international experienced head in there somewhere surely? Boss, Earls, McFadden, Trimble.

  9. Exiled

     /  May 15, 2013

    What about Gareth Steenson? He’s been in fantastic form for Exeter, scored around 250 points this season. Don’t suppose the appointment of Schmidt will result in overseas players being selected, bar Sexton of course?

  10. From Connacht, Marmion has to go given the dearth of youthful quality at nine below Murray, Boss, Reddan and Marshall, and serious consideration should be given to Henshaw and also (seeing as you brought up the reference to Genuine Openside) Willie Faloon who has been the standout forward for Connacht this season and probably the standout Openside in the country.

    He has been sensational since his arrival at the start of the season, player of the month in February and the Supporters Player of the season (and this despite missing a good few games with some unfortunate injuries) show that he has been delivering. The Hard summer grounds of US & Canada, and the massive hard hitting beasts that the North American will pick demand that a genuine 7 (or two) are picked to slow down oppo ball at the breakdown and also link and speed up own our attacks.

    Two Blindsides packing down is fine in a Northern Europe winter but horses for courses should demand that one (if not both) of Faloon and O’Donnell should travel…

    • Leinsterlion

       /  May 15, 2013

      Agree on Faloon and O’Donnell, they are the future at 7. I’d start Marmion in every game rotating with Marshall. No point in Redden(injured probably wouldnt make it anyway) or Boss, we know what they bring at this stage

  11. Chogan (@Cillian_Hogan)

     /  May 15, 2013

    Olding and Henshaw are not world beaters like a James O’Connor, yet.
    Send them away with the Wolfpuppies and give them and that squad a chance of competing. It will be of greater benefit in developing more players to a higher standard

  12. therealspratt

     /  May 15, 2013

    Robbie Diack should be in with a shout surely? The guy’s had a fantastic season! And I don’t know about Henderson in the second row, seems to get a bit lost in there, where he’s just unbelievably good in the back row!

    • Diack will defineitely be in the picture I suspect. Lots of good suggestions above, thanks to everyone for augmenting our wishlist. Jack McGrath is definitely one to consider. I expect David Kilcoyne will be starting the atches, but McGrath could well be his back-up.

  13. Henshaw and Marmion will be with the senior squad from Connacht. I doubt Faloon will. As good a 7 as he is, he still looks underpowered a lot of the time. He could well be in Georgia, though.

    Donnacha Ryan is presumably going to be allowed to take the summer off to rehab/get surgery on the shoulder injury he’s been playing with since the Six Nations. The squad will need a captain, and I’d imagine it’ll be Best, who may need to stay sharp in case of an injury to one of Messrs Youngs, Hibbard, or Hartley. If Best is left at home, then the officer corps will have been greatly depleted, and I would be unsurprised if one of O’Mahony or (wilcard!) James Coughlan was selected as captain. (Cue bleating.) There are simply very few other options available.

    Olding will surely be with the senior squad as well, given the dearth of options at 12. With D’Arcy and his heirs presumptive (Luke Marshall and McSharry) all out for the summer, there are simply too few options there for him not to tour. Downey? Madigan to 12 alongside Jackson? Either option would be fine, but you’d have to imagine Olding will travel anyway.

    On O’Donnell, he’s actually even less of a “Genuine Openside” than Henry is. His work on the deck has been the most underwhelming aspect of his play this season (having been excellent at times last season). He’s a reasonable link man, but it’s not his USP; carrying is. The David Wallace comparison is the most apt, although obviously there are no guarantees that he’ll turn into anything like the player Wally was.

    On the foreign front, Niall Morris is a very tidy player who goes about his business very effectively at Leicester, but it’s worth bearing in mind that Johne Murphy was similarly successful there and now can’t make the first choice Munster team (while nevertheless being a very valuable squad player, imo). Success in the Aviva Premiership is no guarantee that a player is better than a player who’s been kept on in Ireland. I would have Conway, O’Halloran, and a fit Luke O’Dea ahead of him. Denis Hurley is also likely to be in the squad, as will Trimble and McFadden, so I don’t see how he can squeeze in. Steenson is an excellent player, but there are too many 10s kicking about for him to make the senior squad. He might tour Georgia with Keatley and JJ Hanrahan.

    If I were to pick a side, it would probably look like:

    1. Kilcoyne
    2. Best (c)
    3. Fitzpatrick
    4. McCarthy
    5. Henderson
    6. O’Mahony
    7. Henry
    8. Coughlan
    9. Marmion
    10. Madigan
    11. Zebo
    12. Olding
    13. Cave
    14. Gilroy
    15. Henshaw

    There would also have to be some rotation, with O’Donnell and Jackson certain to start a game.

    • Yossarian

       /  May 15, 2013

      Luke o’dea played two rabo games this season,to put him ahead of Morris is a little out of proportion even if we are taking the stance that the premiership is over rated. He played very well in the semi-final,showed brilliant skill to keep one ball in play,scored a try and think got an assist.deserves to tour North America with the squad(as does steenson). send Luke O’Dea to georgia.
      Cave’s consistency deserves his go but i think he lacks the out and out gas for international rugby at 13.last years H-Cup final got shown up by an ageing BOD and struggled in NZ. Excellent club player but not quite international level.

      • Yossarian

         /  May 15, 2013

        7 games sorry,not 2

        • Ah here, how many wingers would you have tour North America? Leaving aside O’Dea, who probably won’t be fit anyway, he’s obviously behind Trimble, Gilroy, Zebo, and McFadden. Conway would be a better investment even if he doesn’t yet have as much big game experience. I don’t know if I’d have him ahead of Dave Kearney or Tiernan O’Halloran. He’s quite possibly behind Hurley. That’s eight names, excluding O’Dea, with maybe four or five wingers set to tour. Who does he jump in the queue? Why pick a guy who’s doing well with Leicester when he couldn’t make it at Leinster? Why pick a guy who’s playing abroad when there are abundant option available who are playing in Ireland?

          • Morris, quite rightly, moved because he was behind a fit Fitzgerald and Nacewa. I might be getting my years mixed up but he could well have been behind Shaggy as well. He was right to move to get game time and has done very well at Leicester. He shouldn’t be ignored just because he doesn’t play in Ireland.

            Various coaches did that with Geordan Murphy, one of the most skillful backs we’ve ever produced.

          • @Rob, Geordan Murphy got 74 caps for Ireland, and would have had even more but for that terrible leg break against Scotland in 2003. He was never ignored, that’s one of the bizarre myths that have sprung up in recent years in Irish rugby.

            There are sound policy reasons to not pick players based abroad, principally the fact that selection for the national side is a very powerful incentive for players to stay in Ireland and make their provinces more competitive, but there’s also the greater degree of access that national coaches have to players based here. Only truly exceptional players should be exempt, as Geordan Murphy was, with Sexton soon to fall into that category. Morris is a very good player, but he’s not Geordan Murphy. He’s not better than Gilroy, Zebo, McFadden, or Trimble either, and whether he’s better than Dave Kearney, Conway, or O’Halloran is very much up for debate. He won’t be picked.

  14. Ignoring the previously mentioned Connacht players who will definitely be going to hAmericay like Henshaw and Marmion [ obvious omissions one would have thought, WoC, you might want to double check you didn’t forget Madigan and Tommy O’Donnell from your putative squad while you’re at it 😉 ] and the one who likely won’t (Faloon), I’m kind of surprised nobody’s even suggested Harris-Wright for hooker. He has his faults (such as being a penalty/card generator at times) but he can do one thing none of the other suggested hookers can: Throw.

    • The list wasn’t exhaustive, but if Henshaw is fit then he certainly merits inclusion, and Marmion should be the second scrum half in the squad. Hardly makes sense to bring Reddan or Boss.. or Duncan Williams, for other reasons!

      Harris-Wright will go to Georgia I think. Even if Best doesn’t go, there are three fellows ahead of him in the queue. Cronin, Strauss and Sherry are all still underexposed at test level for the quality they bring to the position.

  15. I think I’ve put it on record that I think the Proper 7 stuff is nonsense; otherwise I largely agree.

    My squad:

    Kilcoyne/Court, Strauss/Cronin/Sherry, Archer/Fitzpatrick (Hagan if he’s crocked)
    McCarthy/Henderson, Ryan/Toner
    Ryan/O’Mahony, Ruddock/Diack, O’Donnell/Henry
    Marmion/Marshall/? (Cathal Sheridan looked amazing in the one Pro12 game in which I saw him… if someone has seen a bit more please make it good news!)
    Madigan/Jackson
    Zebo/O’Halloran, Olding/Hanrahan, Cave/McFadden, Gilroy/Trimble
    Henshaw/Jones

    If there’s overspill, fellas go with the Wolfhounds. I saw something about a 28-man squad which is clearly less than I’ve suggested.

    There a couple of guys with little to learn on this tour but it shouldn’t be all under-23s. A dash of been-there helps, IMO.

    • Sheridan looks tidy, but he’s not really had enough game time to merit selection. We’ll know more about him next season. I think Marmion and Marshall should be enough, with Madigan capable of covering in an emergency,

      • Like I said, I happened to be watching one game recently – think it was his first start – and he was excellent.

        But if one starring performance in a Pro12 match I can’t remember gets you an Ireland call-up… we’re not in a good way (say nothing about Michael Bent!).

        • Yossarian

           /  May 15, 2013

          Only saw him play a couple of games but better than Duncan Williams!he is hopeless!

    • The Openside issue is not nonsense it just show a lack of rugby knowledge on your part or a predilection for big lads bashing each other. With ever efficient defences prevalent, speed of ball from the breakdown is an absolute essential. The Yanks and Canadian packs will be massive, and we don’t want to get drawn into a slugfest of around the corner carries in 90° plus, chasing up and unders because of slow ball.

      We will have far more skill from 9-15 than the yanks because their players still come to the game so late age wise, so a continuity game is by far the smartest way of beating them, not percentage/kick/rumble/pressure rugby…

      • OK, explain to me how my ideas about the game – which I have not expressed in the above post – are nonsense. If you can, I will bow down to your superior wisdom but, more impressively, your psychic powers. When did I ever say I like big guys? If you can also tell me what you think a proper 7 is, and provide examples in the modern game, I will happily expand with my own thoughts.

  16. Andrew

     /  May 15, 2013

    Henderson needs gametime, massive prospect for Ireland, but right now Diack is a better all round 6 at everything but carrying (Henderson is a beast obviously) and Tuohy is better lock than him. I expect him to be on the bench for Ulster in the Pro12 final.

    So the question is; development or form? Right now he is one of the most promising young players in the Ireland set-up, but Diack and Tuohy are ahead of him on merit for Ulster.

  17. Andrew

     /  May 15, 2013

    Anyhow, I’d like to see something like;

    1. Kilcoyne 2. Best (c) 3. Fitzpatrick 4. Ryan 5. McCarthy 6. Diack 7. Henry 8. O’Mahony 9. Marmion 10. Madigan 11. Gilroy 12. Olding 13. Cave 14. Trimble 15. Zebo

    16. Cronin 17. Court 18. Archer 19. Henderson 20. O’Donnell 21. Marshall 22. Jackson 23. Henshaw

  18. Ross, Ryan and Best should be given the summer off.

  19. B

     /  May 15, 2013

    I suspect Fitzpatrick will stub his toe between now and the internationals and be out for six months so it would probably behoove Joe to just jump straight past him to find the next th in line imo. Also I would hate to see what sort of beating Donnacha Ryan would inflict on himself if he missed a line out or tackle while captaining Ireland!

  20. pete (buachaill on eirne)

     /  May 15, 2013

    Les and Joe are selecting 28 players so that is 15 forwards and 13 backs

    Kilcoyne-Court
    Best (c)-Strauss-Cronin
    Archer-Hagan
    Henderson-McCarthy-Toner-Tuohy
    Diack-TOD-POM-Henry

    Fitzpatrick needs to up his fitness IMO. McGrath is unlucky here I think. Best should tour to re-find some more form and for leadership. Henderson covers backrow as well, and Ryan is given the summer off for his operation. POM to be tested at 8.

    Marmion-Boss-Marshall
    Madigan-Jackson
    Olding-Cave-McFadden
    Gilroy-Zebo-Earls-Trimble
    Henshaw

    Bringing 3 specialist scrumhalves (1 with experience).
    Absolutely no place for ROG on this tour.
    Griffin, Marshall and McSharry can all feel unlucky (for different reasons) not to tour.
    Earls, Zebo and Madigan can cover 15.

    I’d consider 7 of the 28 experienced (not necessarily internationally but who can say that Henry isn’t a calm head with big game experience) which I consider to be a good balance between young lads and guys with a bit more street nous.

    As a starting team I’d go for:

    Kilcoyne-Best (c)-Archer
    Henderson-McCarthy
    Diack-POM-Henry
    Boss-Madigan
    Olding-Cave
    Zebo-Henshaw-Trimble

    Strauss-Court-Hagan-Toner-TOD-Marmion-Jackson-Earls

    • Earls is injured for the summer, I believe, which could leave room for Griffin, who completely slipped my mind and is an excellent shout.

      • pete (buachaill on eirne)

         /  May 15, 2013

        In a way I think that is a good thing for Ireland, we need another guy to get some gametime at 13 for Ireland and try and stamp his mark.

        Cave, Griffin, McFadden are all options although I don’t think any will end up there in a meaningful way for Ireland. I’m expecting Bowe to move inside in a year or two or else Payne to take over the O’Driscoll shirt for the RWC.

  21. SUFTUM

     /  May 15, 2013

    This’d be my team, presuming Ross and Ryan are left at home, I think Besty will come, while everyone is desperately hoping for an injury it ban to Hartley 🙂
    1 Kilcoyne
    2 Best (c)
    3 Archer
    4 McCarthy
    5 Henderson
    6 Diack
    7 Henry
    8 POM
    9 Marshall
    10 Madigan
    11 Gilroy
    12 Olding
    13 Cave
    14 Trimble
    15 Zebo
    The second game then I would have Paddy at 10 and have Maddog at 12, Olding can have a wee rest. He’s looked great at 12, but I’d love to see a bit more of him at 10 for ulster next year. I imagine he’d be rather good at taking the ball to the line, although he struggled at 10 against the Ospreys I thought, but behind a dominant pack he’d be interesting.

  22. Peat

     /  May 15, 2013

    I smell round 33 of my favourite argument…

    Personally, I’d have thought anyone watching Ulster this season would tell you young Henderson is far, far better suited to blindside than lock at the moment. This truth I hold to be entirely self-evident. He lacks the stamina to push hard in the scrum, get loose to where he is most effective and make a telling contribution in the loose at senior level. At blindside he gets to do a lot of that and looks amazing. Right now, he still has some breakdown skills to pick-up, which is why he’s behind Diack – that and Diack’s been very good while Henderson’s looked average (to be kind) in the second row.

    I get that Ireland have a looming problem at second row and that Henderson is the only guy who appears ready to fill it with anything like the right body shape. I’m not ruling out Henderson might be the man there. But anyone who says its the future after this season, well… the future I saw involved a gangly manchild getting the number six tattooed onto his back. I’d like to see Henderson look as good at lock as he has at six before I annoint him as anything else.

    • B

       /  May 15, 2013

      Agree with all of this but is the reason Henderson is on the bench not in part because he is a utility option? If I had a choice between diack and hendo to come on in the second row I know who I’d pick…

    • Sound Steve

       /  May 15, 2013

      As someone who hasn’t seen him play much lock this season, is it purely a case that Henderson is less conspicuous as a lock or what is the issue? Whenever I hear criticism of him as a lock (or any lock) I assume people don’t get understand there aren’t as many opportunities in the loose for locks and automatically assume that they’re sitting around scratching their arse

      • Peat

         /  May 16, 2013

        Steve, it is partially because he is less conspicuous, but even when he does get on the ball his carrying lacks its usual venom – and he gets on the ball a lot regardless of whether he’s at lock these days. Of course, if I am right that it is mainly a stamina issue, then it should go away over a couple of seasons – less really – but he’s never going to get the carrying opportunities as a lock he does as a blindside, and that’s the thing he’s done phenomenally well.

        B – I’d pick Diack! Props might not thank me but the rest of his game doesn’t seem affected. Shame Diack isn’t two inches taller. What I’d really pick though is Stevenson as lock cover, one of Henderson or Diack on the bench, and Mike McComish banished to Jersey.

        • Not Michael Bent

           /  May 17, 2013

          Just to pick a little bit of a hole in your logic, Peat;

          “I’d like to see Henderson look as good at lock as he has at six before I annoint him as anything else.”

          Well, OK, so let’s play him at lock. It’s games against the USA and Canada. If he can’t look good in the second row against them, then we can start to panic. And if he plays well, we can continue to push the hyperbole (or to give it it’s US name, HYPERBOWL) about NWJMB.

          And to continue the argument, locks don’t generally break through at international level at 20 (Eben Etzebeth excluded). They can have longer careers than a back row, but, as you said, the stamina thing is the issue for younger lads, as opposed to the explosive nature of back row rugby.

          I suppose all i want is him to keep playing rugby at a high level, but let’s keep him in mind as a second row for the future, even if he’s playing back row for now. (Like happened Donnacha Ryan)

  23. I’d give Ryan the summer off to get himself back in top shape. My 23 for the US test would be:

    Killer
    Risteard
    Deccie Fitz
    McCarthy
    NWJMB
    Diack
    Henry (c)
    POM
    Marshall
    Mads
    Zebo
    Olding
    Cave
    Trimble
    Henshaw

    Cronin
    McGrath
    Hagan
    Toner
    O’Donnell
    Marmion
    Keatley
    Jones

  24. zdm

     /  May 15, 2013

    A few good suggestions and a few “Hail Mary’s” among the comments – we were so starved of “new blood” recently that we are in danger of getting what we wished for.

    I think we would be better served by letting the dozen or so players knocking on the door tour with a few “old heads” than throwing a whole bunch of kids into a bosh-athon – specifically would like to see if NWJMB, PMarsh, Marimon, Henshaw, Ruddock, Diack and Falloon can make the step up (among others) with the help of a few players in the “twilight” of their careers for manly chats and slaps on the back – dare I mention it, ROG would be a perfect mentor for Jackson and Madigan at this stage in their career. Perhaps even Reddan (who is the best 9 for Jackson/Madigan 10 in my opinion) and the much-maligned PWal might be useful additions.
    It’s now or never time for a few boys – most notably Darren Cave – he needs to impress Joe early on to make it as a regular starter for Ireland.

    Best needs a rest, a stiff whiskey and a free pass to Eurodisney after being made the fall-guy for Ireland’s inability to organise a line out and Ryan could do with joining him for the whiskey at least.

    Henry should be made captain – Leinster made great noises about him being a key player for Ulster last season so perhaps he will feature more for Ireland now that Joe is in charge.
    Cave as vice captain so he can lead the defensive line.

    • Not Michael Bent

       /  May 17, 2013

      Sorry to knock your points, zdm, but if there is no chance either Reddan or the much maligned PWal will be travelling – based on news reports around the time of the respective injuries, it will be surprising if either were even fit by the start of next season.

      Could see Boss going to babysit Jackson/Madigan. He takes enough ball on himself and is a physical enough presence to buy them an extra yard or two. Would really like to see Paul Marshall get a good run though.

      I also would disagree with the suggestion that ROG would be a good mentor for anyone. Unless we want them to learn to grow up to be self-interested narcissists (which I have the greatest fear that Mad-Dog may become).

      Do like the suggestion of Henry as captain though, and resting Best and Ryan.

      • zdm

         /  May 17, 2013

        Didn’t realise the injuries would keep them out of the summer tour.

        I’m a big fan of pairings in rugby – you pair your back 3, your locks to your props etc and the most crucial partnership is the 9/10 couple.

        This is where the tempo and the style of an attack is dictated and as long as the grouping is capable of making decisions and dictating the pace of play, it doesn’t matter who does what – contrast Pienaar/Jackson with Stringer/ROG for example. It is crucial that the balance is correct though – Stringer/Jackson just wouldn’t work.

        Ireland currently have in Madigan a 10 who is a great front-foot player, capable of breaking games wide open on his own but who can be absent if ball is slow or the game needs a lift.
        In Jackson, they have a 10 who can execute the most beautifully precise plays you will see but is in need of guidance and encouragement at times.
        Both need a 9 who will boss the game – Reddan is currently the best at this in Ireland(well, Pienaar is but you know what I mean), then Boss. Marshall and Murray are more suited to a General at 10 (like Johnny or ROG) so I’m not sure where that leaves Marshall for this tour – I would love to see him get a shot for Ireland, his pass is like a bullet and he is rapid but he just doesn’t suit the 10’s we will bring.

        While ROG is a feckless arse at times, Madigan and Jackson could learn a thing or two about how to sulk your way to victory from him so I’d like to see him play some role, just maybe not social secretary for the tour.

        • Think Murray has been growing into the “general at 9” role lately. Witness his man of the match performance against France, for instance. I wouldn’t identify Reddan as a game-controlling scrum-half at all. to be honest, he’s all about servicing his fly-half at speed.

          • zdm

             /  May 17, 2013

            In fairness, Murray is our best 9 by a way. I get the feeling his natural game is more about being a buggering nusciance and in being unpredictable at the base but he has worked hard to improve his game management skills. Hopefully now that “aimless kicking to the rafters” is off his menu, he can develop this further.

            I also think that Reddan is playing the game he is asked to play – he doesn’t really need to manage the game much with Johnny in the harness but he was capable of it at Wasps and I think could pick it up again if needs arise.

  25. Apart from his hatrick, I would contest the claim that Conway is finishing the season strongly. He was badly revealed a couple of times against Glasgow and I very much hope he doesn’t start on Friday

    Given Dave Kearney seems to be back after his 5 week “nothing happened” injury, he should get the nod on Friday and also go on the tour.

    • Had a good outing vs Stade though. One or 2 defensive lapses aside. Good signing for Munster: a Zebo-Jones-Conway back 3 is a tasty, youthful prospect and all Irish.

  26. zdm

     /  May 16, 2013

    Baby K should have been on my list above also. Have to confess to not knowing much about Conway prior to the Glasgow game – is he to the manor born or just a potential at this stage?

    • Conway debuted for Leinster in the 2010-11 season and shone in the Ireland U-20 side that year that included Zebo among others. He has been apparently frustrated by his failure to progress at Leinster and has signed for Munster for next season. He never really fully convinced since that first season though. Scored a hatrick (and played well) two weeks ago against Ospreys and then looked pretty mediocre vs Glasgow.

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