In a Hole

Three years ago, in this same Heineken Cup weekend, Munster scored a last minute try through Sam Tuitupoooooooooooooooooohh to secure a losing bonus point away to London Oirish. Gerry scoffed at any idea that Oirish had anything to celebrate, saying Munster’s losing bonus point was all that mattered. The more discerning of us worried that Munster had just lost their easiest away game, and with four wins being the minimum required for qualification, they were in a little bit of trouble.

One year ago, Munster lost in Paris to toffs Racing Metro, after a horrible ending in which they contrived to lose a game they had won – the aftermath focused on Conor Murray’s decision-making under pressure and wondered about Munster’s ability to dig out qualification from a tricky pool containing Globo Gym and the previous season’s surprise package Embra.

In the event, the sceptics were right three years ago, as Munster slumped to grim defeats in Ospreys (Adam Jones was man of the match without touching the pill) and Toulon (the lowest point in Munster’s Eurodysseys). Last year, Murray grew from his experience, and Munster scored easy wins over Embra and an epic Saturday night teary classic against a humbled Saracens to qualify for the knockouts, where they managed an even more epic pair of performances.

So which way will Munster go this year? Is this 2010 or 2012? The answer depends quite a bit on their outhalf.

The similarities with three years ago are hard to escape – Embra are an average side (at best), who mugged a complacent Munster, but they will struggle to win another game in this pool. To qualify, Munster will need to win either in Gloucester (easier, but Glaws are tough to knock off in Kingsholm) or Perpignan (like all French teams, a tough nugget on their home turf) – but then again, they have won in both venues in the recent past, albeit with an almost completely different XV. They should have the recovered Peter O’Mahony available – the backrow were swarmed all day, and POM’s aggression and attitude were sorely missed – and also Tommy O’Donnell, for the latter games at least.

Conor Murray looks a different player from 12 months ago – he is the creative heartbeat of this side and a key leader (Aside: why oh why aren’t the IRFU amenable to discussing contracts before the November internationals – this guy should be locked down for many years on whatever money he wants before Toulouse come calling). For Casey Laulala’s try, he ignored his captain, totem-pole behemoth Paulie O’Connell to go for a player in a better position. One of Munster and Ireland’s weaker suits of recent years has been when O’Connell’s rumbles into contact, gaining 70cm, necessitating the likes of O’Mahony and Heaslip (for Ireland; dream on Munster fans) to spend time clearing out rucks. It’s O’Connell’s role to call passes to himself, but it’s the scrum-half’s job to go elsewhere as O’Connell is an average carrier. To correctly ignore a man like O’Connell in a clutch situation shows maturity and impressive game-management.

The problem is outside him. If Ronan O’Gara was playing in that game, Munster would have won. Rog knew what was required to win filthy away games in Europe when your colleagues aren’t playing well (this is also the major input to Leinster’s success with Johnny Sexton that Ian Madigan will struggle to replace) – Ian Keatley isn’t there yet. The natives have been calling for JJ Hanrahan to be given the reins, but Hanrahan’s cameo appearance on Saturday showed how raw he still is at this level.  Given the predicament Munster find themselves in, it’s likely to be the safe option of Keatley used in the latter (crucial) games.

This one will be on Keatley. Does he have the game management skills to win in Gloucester or Perpignan? He will have one of Europe’s best scrum-halves inside him, and a more effective backrow unit, but he will still need to do it himself. One feels this campaign may come close to defining his future with Munster – if he pulls it off from here, he suddenly looks more than just a temporary placeholder for a popular youngster.

If we were made to call it, we think they might have blown it – in 2012, a bonus point defeat was the baseline score for the Racing Metro game. Munster had two games against Embra ahead to fill their boots. This time, they don’t, and that makes it feel more like 2010. Let us hope we are wrong, but we don’t see Keatley being at the level required to pilot his team to wins in Kingsholm or the Aime Giral. But hey – that’s professional sport, and Keatley will have longed for an opportunity like this to prove himself. Over to you, Ian!

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65 Comments

  1. Sound Steve

     /  October 15, 2013

    Delighted that the Madigan bandwagon has been derailed somewhat. If he was potentially international standard, he wouldn’t be getting his place taken by a journeyman ten like Gopperth (as good as he was on Saturday). O’Connor, like Schmidt before him, just doesn’t have the trust in him to steer the ship in a tight game and rightly so. He’s a showboat, great on the front foot, ordinary otherwise. Say what you want about Jackson but at least he’s showing more signs of being an international standard 10 of late than Madigan ever has.

    • Wasn’t this post about Keatley? 🙂

    • Hey I’m an Ulster – and by extension – a Jackson fan and I can categorically state that you are wrong about Madigan. You are even more wrong about Gopperth who is no journeyman player. His sojourn at Newcastle simply meant he played in a team surrounded by journeymen and he kept that particular team afloat single handed. Keatley is a fine player and it’s very easy to criticise a 10 because we expect them to be a mix of Carter, ROG and Barry John. The vile criticism of Jackson in the 6 N’s because he missed two kicks and a kick to touch would never have seen the light of day if ROG had missed the same ones. Just like in the game against Scotland, Munster’s forwards did enough to win but not enough to secure the game when a defensive wall should have seen Edinburgh repelled. Instead we saw cretinous penalty after penalty. Maybe some were wrongly given but the Munster side set the tone for the ref.

      • That’s a really good point. We bumped into Poite in the pub a few years ago, and asked him about the depth of feeling our friends in Munster have about him. He just said that when he was reffing Munster, they would give away the same type of penalty all the time and never modify their behaviour. Some of the penalties in Saturday’s game were a throwback to 2/3 years ago when they accumulated yellow cards like confetti under Ludd. Penney improved their discipline no end last year, but there was a definite regression.

        On the subject of PJ, the lowest point for me last season was on RTE during the Six Nations – Pope was asked about Anscombe’s remark that Jackson was under a lot of pressure, and he said “that tells me Jackson has some sort of mental weakness that only Anscombe knows about”. For a young guy starting out his career with Ireland it was nothing short of horrendous, and really deserved an apology.

    • curates_egg

       /  October 15, 2013

      Don’t feed the troll.

      • Yossarian

         /  October 15, 2013

        Not feeding the troll; Jackson had a very good game on Friday. Think he varied his game well and kept the score board ticking over, very close to picking up a try for himself as well. If he hadn’t been capped and was just a 21 year old in his second full season/3rd H-Cup campaign we would all be clamoring for his inclusion in the Autumn squad. Maturing nicely into a well rounded 10. (though i would love to see Olding developed there as well,feel he could bring the best of both Jackson and Madigan)

        • It is great to see Jackson doing so well, particularly after some of the grief he got. Shows he has the mental strength needed to bounce back.

          That opening comment is the ultimate trolling comment though: merely designed to provoke a response. Best not to reply to it and just make a separate comment about Jackson. Trolls shouldn’t be fed.

  2. It’s more than Keatley however that needs to show a higher level of operation. Even the much trumpeted Kilcoyne looked like a very average player for some reason, Sherry played like a drain, Archer was vaguely o.k. although his loose play was good – as usual with a penalty or two thrown in. Ryan wasn’t a shadow of the player we are told he is and even the mighty POC struggled to excite the troops. The back row, particularly as the game wore on, looked more and more harassed. The introduction of Stander brought a bit of relief but by then the dye was cast.
    You may well laud the excellent Murray but as we all know, if the forwards are under the cosh, the scrum half is less influential. Earls and Laulala looked like high class players even in a poorly functioning side. Jones and Downey and even Zebo didn’t. Once the worthy Hurley has to come on to rescue the game you know it’s all up.

  3. Actually on the subject of Irish 10s, did anyone appreciate the contribution of Steenson yet again for Exeter – who almost fell apart after he was subbed. I have wished for a few years that he was back at Ravenhill.

    • curates_egg

       /  October 15, 2013

      If you were looking for a controlling outhalf, Steenson ticks the box. Does seem strange how completely overlooked he has been, he is only a year older than Sexton.

    • abitofshoepie

       /  October 15, 2013

      Steenson has been the best alternative for Sexton for a few seasons now……I think his international prospects must have suffered from having a scandanavian sounding name and/or playing in an inferior league (tongue firmly in cheek) because there aren’t many weaknesses in his kick/pass/run/tackle/guide gameplay that the Irish scouts could have spotted. Im hoping that picking a Paris based outhalf (not ROG) will make it easier to pick a Devon based one.

      • I’d say picking a Paris based outhalf makes it well nigh impossible to pick the Devon based one. His age profile (i.e. pretty much the same as Sexton) works against him too. However good he is I reckon it would take the re-emergence of the Black Death for him to get an Ireland cap.

      • Amiga500

         /  October 15, 2013

        But he has to deal with the pressure of relegation, so couldn’t rest and/or focus his mind on internationals the same way the Rabo players can.

        😉

  4. curates_egg

     /  October 15, 2013

    ROG and Sexton knew what was required to win filthy away games…but how did they get that knowledge?

    It is not an innate skill a player is born with: it is gained through experience. In both their cases, they got it by being backed by their management at the right stage in their careers. It is learning by doing: the only way you learn it is by experiencing those away games…and making mistakes initially.

    At the moment, no Irish outhalf (other than Sexton and maybe Steenson) has had enough exposure to and support through the type of situation you describe. However, they need to get that exposure…stat.

    There is a wrongheaded attitude in the mainstream rugby groupthink which thinks that because they are not ready, they shouldn’t be trusted: this is the type of Kidney-think that will prevent any player from being developed. We need to bring these players through and put them in the pressure situations (with the right players around them) to ensure they come through – whether it be Keatley, Jackson or Madigan. It won’t always work (like with Sexton vs Castres in 2008, at the same stage of his career development as Madigan) but it is crucial to do it and do it properly.

    When Sexton announced his departure last year, there were 2 lines of though among Leinster fans: (1) get all we can out of him while he is still there; (2) give Madigan a run and get him the exposure and experience now, so he can hit the ground running next season. WOC was very much in camp 1, I was very much in camp 2: and still am. Due to the IRFU player management and bad luck with injuries, Madigan’s time at 10 this season has been limited to a good game against Cardiff and a mediocre game in a misfiring team at Thomond. The end result is that his career path has been retarded. If he had been given the reins for one of the two run-ins last season (Pro12 or Amlin), the situation might now be slightly different: we will never know.

    Hopefully, Jackson and Keatley get the support and exposure they need to allow them to develop. Otherwise, we are just in a perpetual groundhog day in Irish rugby.

    • Great comment curates, echoing our post the other day (which you disagreed with us on at the time, but I think we are more or less on the same page. Great out-halfs are made and not born and they can only get there by learning the (sometimes painful) lessons. Madigan is well on his way, and the comment above that he is a showboater is ridiculous and just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny (nor the one about Gopperth being a juorneyman). He has much to learn about playing on the back foot, but hopefully he will get the experience to do just that.

      Selection at the weekend will be fascinating – well though Gopperth played against the ‘Spreys, I do want to see Madigan picked from the start at home to Castres, both for his own confidence and because it would signal a desire to go after Castres and put the hurt on them by running the ball.

      • curates_egg

         /  October 15, 2013

        Interesting fact: the last away game Madigan started prior to Thomond Park was Thomond Park (April last season), when he did very well. In fact, prior to his start against Cardiff at 10 two weeks ago, that was also last time Madigan started at 10 for Leinster at all! Is that because he was playing badly or because Schmidt and O’Connor ‘don’ trust him’ (as our new troll implies)? The evidence would suggest not.

        Schmidt ensured he was picked at 10 for Ireland’s summer tour (ahead of the other 2 pretenders). IRFU player management and Leinster injuries meant the first time he could start this season was Cardiff – when he did very well. Thomond was a blip that wasn’t down to him alone by any means but unfortunately served as grist to the mill of the provincial bandwagons.

        Anyway, this blog is about Keatley and Munster. The reality is that Irish fans need Keatley (and Jackson and Madigan) to be given these chances. So far, all three have done very well on most occasions they have been asked to step up. We need the provincial bandwagons to stop using every time they do something wrong to lambast them, with a view to serving their own petty interests.

        There was far too long a period when, to paraphrase that most famous of rugby trolls Stephen Jones, if ROG got injured, Ireland’s only alternative at outhalf would be to roll out ROG in a wheelchair to replace him. We now look like we have 2/3 genuinely decent back-ups to the incumbent and we should hope they all do well, so we can finally have a proper shot at a World Cup run.

        • Rava

           /  October 15, 2013

          “Anyway, this blog is about Keatley and Munster. The reality is that Irish fans need Keatley (and Jackson and Madigan) to be given these chances. So far, all three have done very well on most occasions they have been asked to step up. We need the provincial bandwagons to stop using every time they do something wrong to lambast them, with a view to serving their own petty interests.”

          Couldn’t have put it better myself!

      • Sound Steve

         /  October 15, 2013

        WoC -Journeyman may be slightly harsh but he was plying in the championship last year and even with contemporaries such as Stephen Donald he was unable to trouble the All Blacks selectors. When Newcastle were relegated, rival clubs didn’t exactly beat the door down either. The guy is hardly a world-beater, just a safe pair of hands.

        CE – Ha, I wouldn’t call selecting Madigan for a home game against a Cardiff side who had just lost at home to Zebre a vote of confidence! Trying to discredit my arguments by saying I am trolling not only demonstrates your lack of knowledge and understanding in failing to supply an intelligent riposte but also marks you out as a pretty childish guy.

        • Chogan (@Cillian_Hogan)

           /  October 15, 2013

          If you’re trolling in ones opinion you’re trolling according to them. That is a million miles from that person not having a valid or well thought out opinion

          • Sound Steve

             /  October 15, 2013

            Unless that person simply accuses someone of trolling simply out of lack of a cogent response. It’s the online equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears. I understand that there’s a bit of a WoC love-in between a few regular contributors but forming a consensus between a few people doesn’t make you always right. In fact it more often than not just creates some sort of WoC house view, that is just in turn propagated by people that have precious little knowledge, such as Curate’s Egg. Examples:

            – Declan Kidney is the worst thing ever to happen to Irish rugby ever ever ever
            – Leinster uber alles
            – Ian Madigan is the best thing since sliced bread
            – Conor Murray is Ireland’s main impediment to quick ball
            – Peter O’Mahony is an awful player who sits on the wing for Ireland avoiding work

          • Leinsterlion

             /  October 15, 2013

            -He was, look at the performance graph and the turgid rubbish we played,we bludgeoned our way to a GS. The finest attacking center of the decades pick and drive for the line exemplified the myopic cave man tactics we played. An insult to true rugby lovers.DK was beloved by insomniacs, opiate addicts and cro magnon men, set Irish rugby back five years at least.

            Leinster uber alles, cant argue with that, premier side in Ireland for the past ten few, playing the best rugby seen on these shores for eons.

            -Madigan is better than sliced bread, he’s the best thing since Carlos retired.

            -Murrays service has improved, must be the double sessions he’s getting in with Zebo . He still isnt Stringer by a mile.

            -O’Mahony is an awful player who sits on the wing acting hard. He’s behind at least 5 sixes in the international pecking order by my reckoning. Juan Smith would piss in his cornflakes and he would eat them.

        • May you are new to d’internet but let me explain why your opening post is classic trolling:
          (a) totally off topic to pursue your own trolling agenda: the blog post is about Munster’s match and Ian Keatley, your comment had nothing to do with this.
          (b) deliberately provocative and ‘trolling’ for a response – x player is overrated y player is average and anyone who thinks otherwise is a fanboy who doesn’t have a clue.

          There is no point in responding to a trolling comment because feeding trolls serves their purpose of destroying online fora and debate.

    • Sound Steve

       /  October 15, 2013

      1. Winning “filthy away games” is simply effective game management which requires decision-making ability and a tactical kicking game which Madigan lacks. Schmidt recognises this, O’Connor recognises this. All the experience in the world didn’t help someone like Carlos Spencer become effective at closing out tight games. ROG was closing out tight games with less experience than Madigan has now. Sexton had far fewer Leinster starts than Madigan has now when he was able to close out games. Both Sexton and O’Gara have a solid tactical kicking game, that’s why. I understand that you may like Madigan because he has nice hair and can pass the ball super-super-fast but he is so far from being the 10 most people think he is.

      2. Did Kidney not start Jackson against Scotland?

      • curates_egg

         /  October 15, 2013

        Rar troll. Back into your cave.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  October 15, 2013

        “Closing out tight games” that old chestnut. LOL, the only reason the game was tight in most instances is due to a conservative “game management” and an inability of the 10 to get his team running on the front foot and thus scoring tries.. ROG’s “game management” was only needed in most instances as his inability to play within a Saturn V’s range of the gain line necessitated a kick chase game.
        Madigan has had one bad game behind a beaten pack and undynamic backs, yet his “flair” (read:blinding pace and ability to pass on the gainline) has won more games then it has lost in comparison to games lost by the Game Manger par excellence when his inability to play rugby cost his team. As for Spencer, look at how the Blues have fared since Schmidt showed him the door after winning S12 titles off his back.http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=A3tmQTah0wM

        2. Surely the fact that Kidney did something means any sane person would do the exact opposite?

    • Marty M

       /  October 15, 2013

      Madigan has 85 provincial and now 4 international caps, not sure if the ‘he needs the experience’ card is still viable. He should have proven himself beyond doubt at this point and if he has competition (Gopperth) then he needs to be able to prove himself beyond doubt when he gets the opportunities (of which O’Connor has given him 2).

      “Kidney-think”????? Remind me again who it was that was in management when “they (Sexton and O’Gara) got it by being backed by their management at the right stage in their careers.”

      • curates_egg

         /  October 15, 2013

        The Leinster management definitely deserves all the kudos for bringing Sexton through (Kidney totally messed up his international career). It was Gatland who threw caution to the wind and selected O’Gara for Ireland. You would want to have your head in the sand to argue that Kidney was actually good at blooding players: that was his ultimate downfall at Ireland and he left Munster in a mess when he left as a result of his overreliance on 20 players.

        As for your other point, Madigan definitely needs to be able to prove himself beyond doubt that he is number one. Nobody would disagree with that. The fact he hasn’t had chances this season so far is less down to free will on behalf of Matt O’Connor and more down to IRFU player management and Leinster injuries (which saw Madigan played in other positions, which Gopperth can’t play). Let’s see who is number one number ten at the business end of the season: any real Irish fans should hope it is Madigan but Leinster fans are certainly happy that we have signed such a quality 10 in Gopperth.

        • seiko

           /  October 15, 2013

          According to Johnny Sexton in his book recently, he said that he was playing AIL and on his way to France because he wasn’t getting a look-in with Leinster when Kidney contacted him out of the blue and persuaded him to stay with Leinster. He later selected him for an A game when playing AIL, much to everyone’s surprise.

          The fact that a very young Kidney coached Munster team with ROG & Stringer at halfbacks beat a Gatland Ireland team on the way to the world cup in ’99 might have made Gatland aware of ROG & Stringer’s abilities. Both were capped in the following 6Ns. ROG was 23 – hardly a child.

          • Haven’t read the Sexton book. I guess it was logical for Kidney to try and get Sexton to stay in Ireland: we had no decent outhalf other than ROG at the time. It makes it all the more bizarre how he (mis)handled his subsequent transition into the Irish team though.

      • I think the point about lack of experience is the nature/difficulty of the games he’s played in. Most of those Leinster caps were for Rabo games, i.e. not at an intensity that needs a tactical hand on the till.

        Sexton is the best outhalf in Europe NOW, he certainly wasn’t when he broke into the Leinster and Irish team. Remember, some of his early forays for Ireland were pretty poor but it is his mental toughness and self awareness that dragged himself back from those displays and learned from it.

        I stand to be corrected on this but I can distinctly remember Sexton getting hammered for poor kicking out of hand in some of his early Leinster and particularly Ireland days. It seems the mob (meejia and a large proportion rugby fans) are going to keep doing this cycle ad nauseam.

        In all other professions it is widely accepted that people learn in 70/20/10 mode.
        10% – out and out training
        20% – mentoring/one to one guidance
        70% – on the job personal experience

        Apply this to a professional sportsman and it’s blindingly obvious that every player needs to be in the situation to learn what to do the next time. Not playing them for fear of failure is bad management, plain and simple.

        Madigan should have started against Ospreys and has to start against Castre and should start for all future HEC games.
        Keatley has to continue to start for Munster
        Jackson has to continue to start for Ulster.

        To not do so is shooting the Irish team in the foot and hamstringing the players development. How will we ever know if they’re capable if we don’t try them???

        • curates_egg

           /  October 15, 2013

          Sexton was for all intents and purposes dropped after the disastre in Castres in December 2008. He came back with a massive bang in Croker: proof that he learnt from the experience.

          All Irish fans should hope that all three pretenders to the throne get backed at their provinces. As a Leinster fan though, I wanted Gopperth to start in Swansea, as Madigan hasn’t had enough time to work into the O’Connor game plan (due to IRFU player management and Leinster injuries) to allow him to operate seamlessly (and Ospreys away is such a challenge). By the same token, I hope Madigan starts this weekend: Castres play loose and from the hip and it should suit his heads-up style perfectly. It is also good for Leinster (as well as Ireland) to have 2 viable 10s.

      • Marty M

         /  October 15, 2013

        CE- you are constantly contradicting yourself. The Leinster management deserve all the credit for Sextons blooding, yet the Munster management (Kidney) deserve no credit for O’Garas? I can’t see how Kidney ‘totally messed up Sextons international career’. Would be intrigued to know. Also it took many more years than Madigan and injury to Contepomi for Sexton to get his shot by the Leinster management.
        Kidney trusted many young players and in fact doled out a substantial number of debut caps to ‘unproven’ (O’Brien, Henderson, Jackson, Gilroy, McFadden, Healy, Strauss, Murray, SEXTON, to name a few…). I’m not saying he was perfect (clearly he wasnt) but the idea that he stood in the way of young players is nonsense. Just because you are young and talented does not mean you have the divine right to the starting position in order to give you experience. The key phrase which you mentioned earlier is “at the right stage in their careers”…that doesnt mean ASAP.
        “He left Munster in a mess”…..where was he supposed to magically produce these quality players from? The Munster under-age system has not been producing the conveyor belt of players that Leinster and Ulster have for the past 20 years.

        • curates_egg

           /  October 15, 2013

          Are you Steve Sound? Are you and Steve Sound Declan Kidney or simply one of his old buddies, like Pat G? Whoever you are trying to convince, you are wasting your time with me because this is a nonsense comment.

          Seriously though:
          – Murray? Poor old Tomas O’Leary was utterly humiliated by Kidney’s insistence on picking him in spite of his having zero form…until finally, there was no alternative but to pick Murray
          – O’Brien and Ross were belatedly brought into the Ireland team after everybody in the country could see they could no longer be left out
          – Kidney insisted on picking ROG, who with all respect to him and he wonderful career he had had, was no longer up to it after RWC…he was finally totally forced into dropping him and parachuting Jackson into the team with almost no preparation.
          – Gilroy was overlooked when he was on fire for Ulster and then picked last season, when he wasn’t even starting for Ulster.

        • Sound Steve

           /  October 15, 2013

          Marty – it’s like banging your head against a brick wall with this fool. He only wants to hear arguments which support his own ignorant views. You could drive a car through the holes in his arguments.

          • Simmer down chaps and keep it civil. There’s a fair bit of middle ground between these extreme views. Madigan is no showpony, but nor is he the complete player yet. This was the very balance we tried to hit with our Bump in the Road piece last week.

            Marty, there’s plenty of revisionism there, and listing players Kidney capped completely overlooks how and why they were selected. He was very reluctant to change from his boys and usually the new kids only came in when injuries struck his preferred men down. He was never the most progressive of selectors, whatever his other strengths.

            Nor did Kidney do much for Sexton’s career. He dropped him in and out of the team and never really put together a game plan that was designed to get the team playing around him. At times it appeared that he wanted to pick Sexton for his robust defence, but when we had the ball wanted him to morph into O’Gara. It could be argued Michael Cheika didn’t manage Sexton all that well either, but got lucky wih how things panned out. It was Joe Schmidt who identified Johnny as the man around whom a supreme gainline-passing game could be built, and under his tutelage Sexton excelled.

          • curates_egg

             /  October 15, 2013

            Check the IP addresses – I would imagine it is same troll WOC (and I would hazard a guess as to who it is).

            Anyway, nowhere did I argue Madigan was the finished product, my point was and remains that we need our 3 pretending outhalves in Ireland to be given their chances and backed (and not provincially slammed if they make inevitable mistakes). The notion that Madigan has had enough exposure is laughable – he has not been given the chances in the big games yet but when he has (like at Thomond last year) he has shown he is up to it, as has Jackson at times, as has Keatley at times. Give the lads the chances, support them and they will deliver. They are all (but particularly the former two) exciting prospects for Ireland. No more stifling talent – we had to endure that for too long in the Kidney endgame.

          • Manga's League

             /  October 15, 2013

            I’d love to know how my comments are considered ‘trolling’. Merely because I have contradictory views?
            Revisionism? Is that not the basic premise of blogging?
            I’m not trying to have a go at anyone but I think the scape-goating of Kidney for our poor international period is stupidity.
            99% of players who have ever gotten an international cap has been through injury to the incumbent. That’s sort of how things work – you are a young pretender, you make a bit of a name for yourself, you knock on the door for a season or two, you might even get a cap against Fiji, you wait your turn and then hey presto – the man in front of you gets injured and you’re in (because that is the exact sequence of events that preceded his starting spot!).
            Sexton has only ever been benched 8 times for Ireland, that isn’t exactly yoyo-ing in and out of the team. He wasn’t good enough to start every game at the start and that was highlighted by his dodgey kicking at times. He is good enough now,because he wasn’t always just thrown in there. If he had been we would have lost many more games! (ROG went through the same process with Humph) He also has never been good enough for any team to ‘build their game plan around him’…very few are and the though that teams need to revolve around the out-half is archaic if you ask me.
            I don’t understand CEs point though…all young outhalves should be trusted at all times and start every game in spite of form/results? Yet Sexton getting dropped after Castres was the best thing that ever happened to him? And if any player shows a lack of form for Ireland they need to be dropped straight away for a ‘young pretender’? Do they not deserve the same trust to turn their form around that he would afford the young outhalves?

          • Sexton not good enough to build a team around? Three Heineken Cup medals with Leinster says he probably is.

          • Manga's League

             /  October 15, 2013

            * Manga’s league and Marty M are one in the same…….Sound Steve is just a young pretender but I like the cut of his jib.

          • Marty M

             /  October 17, 2013

            Again I’m not trying to have a go at Sexton. Think he’s a great player but there are about 20 players who have 3 heineken cup medals with Leinster; why not build a team around them. I think the proposal to build a team around the virtues of your out-half is regressive.

          • But Marty, Leinster did build a team around Sexton, that’s my point. Schmidt instantly identified Sexton as the fulcrum around whom his team would play. Everything Schmidt’s team was about was buit around Johnny’s passing ability on the gainline. When Schmidt was deciding whether or not to take the job, the two players he came to meet to discuss the set-up were Leo Cullen nd Johnny Sexton. He knew he had the goods right there.

          • Marty M

             /  October 17, 2013

            Personally I didn’t see it that way. Sexton is a very good out half but to my mind was a cog in a machine (you could have slotted a number of out-halves in there with the same results-the Northampton game aside) with the main attributes being a highly efficient pack, and an exceptionally threatening back-row and centre partnership inside and outside him. If you are to ask me the 2 players Leinster couldn’t have achieved so much without in that period were Heaslip and Drico In the same regard I don’t think Munster’s successful period was built around O’Gara-that was down to an exceptional pack, many other outhalves have good kicking games.

          • Ah Marty, get outta here! That is off the page to the point of absurdity. You’re taking ROG and Sexton for granted to an extraordinary degree there. Many other out-halves have good kicking games? Maybe, but not many hve 125 test caps, or whatever it was ROG accumulated in the end. To say you could have slotted a number of outhalves in for Sexton, to my mind, is madness. Look at Clermont for example – exceptional all over the park, except at 10 where they’re flaky as hell. How’s that working out for them?

          • Marty M

             /  October 17, 2013

            ‘Mup out of it WOC,everything I say can’t just be dismissed as trolling or mere absurdity. All due respect to ROG and Sexton both for being exceptionally determined and mentally strong (competitive) players but neither were/are exceptionally skilfull (perhaps I’m being unfair but that’s just an opinion) by international standards. I sincerely doubt either would have seen an international cap if they hailed from NZ. They have both achieved great things provincially and internationally but it just happened to coincede with a period where they had great teams around them (and specifically great packs inside them). J Sex’s start to his French oddyssey doesn’t seem to be world beating (and they could definitely be considered ‘exceptional all over the park’).

            Also Brock James has been with Clermont to 4 Top 14 finals (winning one) and a Heineken Cup final ….not the worst return (a few bounces here and therein other seasons also and things could read very differently but I wopunt go into the issue of ‘luck’).

            Other than that thanks WoC for all the entertainment of the past season and a half that I have been reading. I will refrain from commenting ever again unless I am in complete agreement with everything yourself and Curates Egg think and I feel compelled to express my admiration. Keep it up.

          • You’re a gas man altogether Marty and we welcome your comments on the blog whether you agree with us or not. You’re entitled to your opinion and we certainly wouldn’t dismiss it as trolling.

            We can’t agree with your assessment of ROG and Sexto, and we’d argue that the margin between being serial winners and serial nearly men is wider than you might think, but let’s leave it there for now, eh?

            Keep on keeping on.

        • Bowe Gathers

           /  October 15, 2013

          I think Deccie was typically equivocal about who owned the jersey, leading to insecurity, a confused game plan and ROG cam every time JS failed to make touch. Definitely added to the muddle over the way Ireland were supposed to play (which in the end boiled down to give it to SOB/Fez?Heaslip and pray for a line break. Which in the end left us ruined by the Welsh in the WC and everyone at the last 6N he coached.)

          He definitely stood in the way of several young players, only picking them when he had literally no option, but perhaps my Ulster bias leaves me out of this argument – we were left in the cold on every marginal call made under Kidney.

          And finally as you state the Munster under age system hasn’t been producing, certainly in comparison to what Lunster have been unearthing. Remind me who was in charge of Munster underage? Began his career in schools rugby? Then in charge of Munster as a franchise, with the right to alter and change the youth system to suit the growing demand for players? We’re still paying for Kidney’s (and the IRFU’s) deep conservatism, and I think we’ll see the legacy of his poor decisions in the World Cup cycle to come.

  5. Arlington Beech

     /  October 15, 2013

    Excellent point on O’Connell’s failings as a ball carrier Gents. The man’s a Greek God, but he shouldn’t be allowed to touch the ball in open play. I wonder will Schmidt be of the mind to tell him that.

    Keatley needs to be given a proper chance. The way the media have castigated him recently would make you think that Sexton/ROG never ever put a foot wrong in Heineken Cup rugby…

    • We’ll defer to the Mole on that one – he wrote an excellent post on it, but I can’t dig it out … Anyone help me?

    • pete (buachaill on eirne)

       /  October 15, 2013

      Totally agree, the ball dies with POC every single time he touches it. Great player, really top quality but mainly when he is trying to win the ball. He should only be used with ball in hand when it’s a maul or when we are on our line and trying to buy some time for the clearance

  6. L.P.O.

     /  October 15, 2013

    Thought you were going to discuss Connacht as well? There will be outrage a brewin’.

    Also, word to the wise… given Murray’s alleged propensity for canoodling with Munster teammates, perhaps certain phrases could be avoided, such as a pivot having ‘one of Europe’s best scrum-halves inside him’, or questioning whether ‘he pulls it off’. For goodness’ sake, don’t encourage him!

    • Mary Hinge

       /  October 15, 2013

      Maybe we’ll get the Connacht analysis tomorrow L.P.O.

  7. I know it doesn’t quite compare, but if I remember rightly, Madigan did quite a good job carving out a victory with his kicking for the Ireland team against the Yanks in June.

  8. You rightly pointed out Murray having the confidence to ignore Paulie for that try as a sign of his growing control. I was really impressed with the step up in his decision making and leadership at the weekend, in a year where it’s badly needed. It seemed to me that it was him & O’Connell making the calls. One would imagine O’Mahony will slot in there too on his return but I wondercould that have a negative effect on whatever 10 is playing for Munster improving the game-management skills that so badly need to be developed this season

    • That is a great point. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that PJ’s game management won’t get the chance to develop fully when he is playing outside someone like Ruan Pienaar. That’s a similar situation. Its tough to manage

      • Patrick O'Riordan

         /  October 15, 2013

        On the other hand, PJ will generally be getting accurate passes from Pienaar rather than stooping or jumping to catch small Paul’s scattergun efforts 😉

        • Harsh on Marsh – his pass is snappy and usually delivered out in front of the outhalf’s chest just as it should be. But I’ll agree it’s not quite as accurate as Pienaar’s.

  9. ruckinhell

     /  October 15, 2013

    The aneamic display by the pack was very worrying indeed. Coughlan looked and played like he’s picked up some horrible illness, I counted 4 bad knockons and countless miscontrols from a guy whose party piece in the past was hard yards and absolute reliability. Ronan struggled badly against a huge Edinburgh backrow and Ryan and O’Connell (excellent restart contest asides) were pretty undynamic. Sherry went from a 100% record in the lineout to an omnishambles. Kilcoyne and Archer were OK, but this was a pretty poor Edinburgh front row. Keatley mixed some very good passages with some poor ones. I thought Murray played quite well although he was completely eclipsed by the dominant personality on the pitch, Laidlaw. The two centres mixed the good and the bad, Lualua made plenty of ground but has an infuriating ability to eat up the space of his wingmen because he doesn’t straighten up, which is very odd for a Kiwi. Back 3 played in fits and spurts, poor supply notwithstanding.

    Hopefully Penny’s public dressing down will have the desired effect. POM and Stander both in and I’d drop Ronan completely and go with Dougall who I think is a far better linkman and a bit of a dog. That’s a far better balanced backrow then the one which started against Edinburgh and has genuine ball carrying ballast.

  10. Rava

     /  October 15, 2013

    Andy Trimble has a poor game by his standards!! 😉

  11. Yossarian

     /  October 15, 2013

    Thought i had slipped back to 2012 with the Kidney/sexton/ROG debate!some people can’t move on!
    With the Madigan/Gopperth debate going on i wonder is the Irish team a victim of the club sides success. Not going all Medja on it and saying their success is “bad” for the national team but 10 years ago the provinces would have been delighted with a Madigan at 10 flaws and all. There is a quest for immediate success meaning there isn’t even a small risk taken. Munster suffered for a few seasons trying to recapture a title that was just outside their grasp until the realised they had an ageing squad and nothing to back it up coming through. You have to make hay while the sun shines and i understand there is no point dropping a top player just to give a chance to a youngster-4 European titles in 5 years mean you have a particularly good group of players but there needs to be some willingness to trust the youth we have. I’m sure there was a few people about to pick up the phone to NZ/SA/Georgia/English div2 searching for a prop when Ross went down but Martin Moore stepped in and did brilliantly. He may or may not struggle next week against Castres but either way he will be a better player from it. If the H-Cup is gone next season maybe we will see a return to what the provinces should really be for-supplying the national side with international ready players.

    • Yossarian

       /  October 15, 2013

      p.s just to be clear i wasn’t worried about Moore-watched him since he was propping for Castleknock and always looked destined to play high level.Just reckon there would be some people who believe 22 is just to young for a prop-despite the 20+ stone compacted into 5’11

      • Paddy

         /  October 15, 2013

        Agree with all the above re youth and experience. The age profile of our international squad is really high compared to to other sides. I think it is a national mindset. I remember years ago Hook waffling on about how some young player(might have been Luke Fitz) was good but he needed to be held back because blah blah blah.

        Been really impressed with Moore so far. The scrummaging in particular, was able to right himself after a bad start in the Os game. Also his work in the loose is impressive. I think he should start next week even if Ross is “fit enough”, I think the experience will do him good wether he dominates at the scrum or not. But I think the issue he might have is playing a full 80 3/4 weeks in a row as it’s his first season at this level. He looks like a circle with arms and legs.

  12. Paddy

     /  October 15, 2013

    Have to agree with regard to Murray. He’s getting better, and he’s a key player for Munster now. Going back to something that was in the post TP clash. I don’t think Munster are in quite the upward curve they thought they were. The loss of Murray, POM and POC thru injury or transfer would see them in crisis IMO.

    Keatley hasn’t stamped his authority on the team consistently yet. I think he’d have been better served developing his game at Connacht. Always thought he was seen as a replacement for Warick rather than ROG, and has ended up in there by default. I think his development suffered from being a good utility back as well. I’ve heard it said a lot by Munster fans that he’s a stop gap between ROG and JJ but I think JJ has a way to go before he steps in. He hardly featured at all last season for Munster. Keatley needs a run of games at ten and see how it pans out, also rather than shuffling him around the back line to accomodate injuries move other players around.(though saturday was particularly hard I know)

    On another note of all the players who left that Connacht team back in 2010(?) only Cronin has kicked on properly. He’s the starter at Leinster now due to Strauss being injured but he was pushing for selection before that and has had more than a few cameo performances. I wouldn’t have rated his chances of becoming a regular at Leinster as a whole lot better than Keatleys, but I think he’s benefitted from being an impact sub whereas Keatley was never favored as the option to come on and close out a game, or make an impact.

  13. Yossarian

     /  October 15, 2013

    J.J Hanrahan is suffering the same way Nagle did. Nagle got MOM in a televised game against Oz, playing in a (then)potential problem position.We all saw him and were impressed and were looking to see him replicate that kind of performance and become a star.
    J.J got nominated for U20World Player of the Year, we all saw him play and were suitably impressed. now we are waiting for him to be able to replicate those performances on a regular basis. The problem is, the more we see of him the more his errors are highlighted and in h-Cup or even decent rabo you don’t get away with that. it takes time for these guys to come through, look at the list of previous winners/nominees and see the timeline for them to progress: anyone ever heard of Carl fearns?Winston stanley?nominated the same year as Aaron cruden back in 2009. Now you can look at the list and see who has come through(generally from NZ) but most players take time even from such bright beginnings.

    • Manga's League

       /  October 15, 2013

      Couldn’t agree more, but I think he has made a decent fist of his senior performances so far (poor chip kick aside)…
      Carl Fearns is the lad who decked Gavin Henson in the pub a few months back…

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