Schmidt’s Ireland

Joe Schmidt named his first proper squad yesterday and, as usual with these things, it was hard to infer much from the panel, with the big decisions being made closer to the matches themselves.  As always, it was a case of trying to recognise who wasn’t there that might be considered unlucky, and trying to map these to a narrative.

David Kilcoyne – loosehead is more or less locked up by Cian Healy, but the role of first reserve is very much open.  Kilcoyne won rave reviews (slightly overboard in our opinion) last season and forced himself into contention but has had a subdued start this campaign, and was notably lacklustre in the Edinburgh defeat.  His starting place at Munster could even be under threat from the explosive James Cronin.  Jack McGrath is preferred and it’s a form call which is good news, while the Is Tom Court In Or Out Of Favour This Week—o-meter’s dial has once again taken a huge swing, this time to the ‘Yes’ side.

Andrew Trimble – his abysmal showing against Leicester can’t have helped his chances but he improved in Montpellier and scored a try.  Nonetheless, it’s starting to feel that for all Trimble’s obvious qualities he has never really imposed himself at test level in spite of getting plenty of chances.

Luke Fitzgerald & Craig Gilroy – neither are listed as injured, but both are coming back from injuries.  One suspects that these are both on Schimdt’s radar and if they can prove their match-fitness over the coming fortnight they will be brought in.  Ireland could certainly do with them.  With Simon Zebo injured, the back three options lack a little pizazz, and both these two would provide a bit of – Gerry Thornley moment – an X-factor.  Put it another way: Dave Kearney and the Kildare Lewis Moody will not put the frighteners up any of the southern hemisphere sides.  The good news for Schmidt is that Keith Earls is playing like a dervish and has the look of a man making up for lost time after last year’s disastrous campaign.

Kieran Marmion & Paul Marshall – these two constitute the chasing pack trying to oust the older hands Isaac Boss and Eoin Reddan.  Those hoping for a progressive selection from Schmidt are entitled to be disappointed that Marmion hasn’t been picked, while Paul Marshall looks set to be one of those players who falls just short of test level despite being a good provincial player.  Besides, Isaac Boss and Eoin Reddan are not done yet.  Boss has been in very good form for Leinster this season, and while Kidney never wanted much to do with him, it was always likely that Schmidt would see him as an option.  Eoin Reddan showed his first glimpse of good form since an awful injury at the weekend, and remains the best option to change things up if Murray has an off day.

Donncha O’Callaghan – second row is the area most affected by injury, with Donnacha Ryan and Iain Henderson both out of the series.  It’s a dire loss.  We suspect they’d both have been in the 23, so it leaves a couple of test spots up for grabs.  Mike McCarthy would be the obvious choice, but he looks palpably unfit for Leinster.  Devin Toner is the form option and is having a brilliant season, but isn’t a good dovetail for Paulie.  It leaves Dan Tuohy looking like a possible wildcard.  After some fairly ordinary performances last year, his return to his most abrasive form against Montpellier looks timely indeed.  Given the paucity of outstanding options, Donncha O’Callaghan can count himself unlucky.

Elsewhere there was good news for Connacht’s Robbie Henshaw, who made the cut.  Seen by many as a future 13, he’s most likely in the squad to provide back-up to Rob Kearney, who is the only other full-back selected.  In the backrow Kevin McLaughlin is rewarded for his good form.  He’s another player who Kidney never rated especially highly, but has always been a firm favourite of Joe Schmidt, especially in away games.  Finally, James Coughlin makes the cut in what looks a somewhat curious selection, despite our longstanding admiration for him.  Having been demoted to the bench against Gloucester and had to watch Peter O’Mahony’s man of the match performance, it appears his career may be about to start winding down.  The time to pick him was surely two years ago when he was playing out of his skin.  Roger Wilson – another whose form this campaign bears little relation to last year – would have been a better pick, but it should be immaterial.  Heaslip will start and should anything happen to him – it never does, though – Peter O’Mahony should be the first line of cover.

The way the fixtures lie leaves little room for experimentation.  The Samoa match would be the obvious one to rotate in a few new faces, but because it comes first it’ll probably be treated as a dry run for the following games.  Besides, Samoa these days cannot be treated as a second-grade test.

A test team of Healy, Best, Ross, Tuohy, O’Connell, O’Mahony, O’Brien, Heaslip, Murray, Sexton, Earls, Marshall, O’Driscoll, Bowe and Rob Kearney looks likely.  The personnel will be familiar, but the acid test will be whether Joe Schmidt can transfer the same sort of gameplan that worked so well at Leinster to test level.  A fan of repetition until moves are ingrained in the muscle memory, his challenge is a lack of time with the players.  Under Kidney, at times it was impossible to work out what they were trying to do, so just getting the team a playing identity will be a starting point.  Schmidt’s Leinster were also notable for looking like they were having fun – all smiles and laughs at try time (except for His Royal Crankiness at 10 of course).  Ireland looked weary and woebegone in Kidney’s latter seasons, so injecting some energy and adventure will be something Schmidt should be well able to do.  Everyone who has worked with him has spoken of learning new things on a daily basis.  The only way is up.

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  1. Agree with most of what you said. I feel there will (and should) be some rotation for Samoa – this being theoretical rotation, as it’s Joe’s first squad – with just about first XVs for the remaining two games. Important things for me are: Mike Ross should play two games maximum, Sexton should only start the two big games, while Conor Murray and Heaslip should play all three (I have reasons for this, but work’s tight right now!).

    The second wing slot is a bi question mark, while I don’t know who our second hooker should be, and you’ve correctly identified the quandary over who partners Paulie. Toner doesn’t work, so it’s McCarthy or Tuohy. Leave O’Connell out against Samoa, start Toner plus one, give the sub at least half an hour, then make your choice for the next week.

    Madigan/Jackson for the second OH slot..? I’d pick IM, just about.

    Also, the players will be at very different stages in terms of fitness/tiredness. Some might benefit from playing as much as possible, it’s impossible as an armchair Napoleon to do more than guess about all that.

    So, teams:


    Healy, Cronin, Fitzpatrick
    McCarthy, Toner
    McLaughlin, Heaslip, O’Brien
    Earls, D’Arcy, Marshall, McFadden

    B: Sherry, Court, Archer, Tuohy, Henry, Reddan, Jackson, D’ Kearney


    Healy, Best, Ross
    McCarthy/Tuohy, O’Connell
    O’Mahony, Heaslip, O’Brien
    Earls?/D. Kearney?, Marshall, O’Driscoll, Bowe
    R. Kearney

    B: Cronin, Court, Fitzpatrick, Tuohy/McCarthy, Henry, Reddan, Madigan, McFadden

    We can’t go Kidney and pick the same guys forever, but too much tinkering is not helpful at this juncture either. Think that’s some sort of balance.

    • ruckinhell

       /  October 24, 2013

      A general question, why is it an accepted fact that Toner cannot partner Paulie? At 124 kgs he is our heaviest lock forward. He may not have much experience at tighthead lock but it’s not as if he’s a 88 kg in a wet jersey snivelling weakling. In some ways I’d like Paulie to focus on the tight work, he pops up at 1st receiver far too often!

      • Completely agree and with the new scrums his relative lack of power isn’t as much of an issue due to lack of “da hit”. The Leinster scrum has done pretty well with McC and Toner in the engine room so far this season so I wouldn’t have any concerns about Toner at all & actually think he would be a good foil for POC – another dominant lineout jumper, much better around the park this season and slowly but surely becoming a technically proficient and aggressive clearer outer of rucks.

      • Tighthead lock looks extra important for us due to the questions at tighthead prop.

        Of course, the dynamics may change (have changed) with the new laws. But I’d not be comfortable with a Toner/O’Connell partnership. Which means hard luck Dev.

        Also, I’d put McCarthy in the Samoa starting line up to give him a chance. My inclination would be to select Tuohy ahead of him at the minute, he’s been excellent for Ulster.

        Pity Henderson isn’t fit.

        • I thought Paulie can play tighthead lock & has done on quite a few occasions? Could be wrong…

          • He can and has, but (anecdotal armchair evidence here) the scrum tends to look weaker when he does.

          • He can, and has done, but it’s not really the best use of resources, and there’s been a few consequences (first Lions tes) where the results have been disastrous. He’s miles better when paired with somoene who can provide a bit of grunt, and as LarryM mentions, our tightheads will need all the help they can get.

          • Bueller

             /  October 24, 2013

            Totally agree. I think it is high time O’Connell was permanently deployed on the tight side (he has played there loads of times-he’s big enough and strong enough and has the required belligerent attitude). If only to get him away from the ball as much as possible. For all his talents ‘a rugby brain’ isn’t one of them and he is perennially running poor lines, making no yards and knocking on. He has all the athleticism required to be an excellent loose player but he doesn’t have a cool head near the ball and hasn’t developed one on the past decade. He could still easily operate the line-out from 4 with Toner at 2 and we should have O’Mahony in the mix also. I have never been a massive admirer of Toner, but I am glad to say that so far this season he is proving me wrong….
            We are resigned to the fact that we wil have 3 number 8s in the back-row, why not two number 5s in the second row?

          • I’d love to know if the power quotient for a tighthead lock has reduced somewhat due to the lack of a hit in the scrum. Reading Mike Ross’ interview today, he refers to the fact it’s more of a wrestle in the front rows now. By inference then the need for ballast from the second rows is lessened. Would have thought therefore that Paulie would be more than capable at TH Lock…

  2. Shelflife68

     /  October 24, 2013

    Marmion needs to be capped soon, it was a big mistake not to cap him during the summer and to tie him to Ireland. He still has options and we could well rue the day if he turns up in a red jersey someday.
    You mention that Macca looks unfit, havent noticed it myself but do you think its a throwback to his Connacht days or just that the work hasnt been done preseason?

    • He tubbed up after making in into the Ireland squads. I don’t know if this was a requirement as they tried to make him a specialist tighthead lock, but after it was announced he was moving to Leinster his production dropped as his weight increased.

      Of course, that could have been confirmation bias on my part 🙂

    • Paddy

       /  October 24, 2013

      He’s seems to be leaning on his knees while he slowly gets up from a ruck blowing hard too often. Not after 60-70 mins but in the middle of the game. Looks unfit!

  3. ruckinhell

     /  October 24, 2013

    Spot on as usual Whiff with your analysis. I would have liked to have seen both Marmion and Olding in the squad with one eye to the future. I know that Schmidt’s overarching priority is to start building up momentum with wins and it’s not inconceivable that we could end the series 0-3 against a very strong (in every sense of the word) Samoa, a revived Australia who played superbly in their last Test and finally BNZ, who are BNZ. That said, Marmion is in superb form and seems to have the potential to be a serious challenger to Murray and I’m not convinced by either Boss or Reddan. I’m also annoyed that Olding can’t be accomodated in this team but D’Arcy can. Olding may suffer from his versatility but everytime he comes on the pitch he makes something happen. He has something special about him. I love Uncle Joe and can’t wait to see “his” Ireland play but some of these selections are similar to Uncle Deccie and his favourite schoolboy selection (I’m looking at you, a bit too old Mickie Drick and a way way too young Stephen Archer.) This is minor quibbles over fringe players and I accept that you’ll always trust the guys who have delivered in the past but when we going to get a chance to blood the next generation if we keep persisting with the likes of D’Arce and Boss?

    • Archer was an “Uncle Deccie favourite schoolboy selection”? What? Schmidt literally just selected Stephen Archer. Has he become a radically different player since Schmidt took charge?

      • Ah, he is a bit better these days. He was abysmal at first (twisted six ways from sunday by the Scarlets reserve front row anyone?) but he’s passable enough at the moment. I think Marty Moore will jump the queue over the next 12 months, but in the meantime, as third choice tighthead, he’ll do.

      • ruckinhell

         /  October 24, 2013

        Archer was an “Uncle Deccie favourite schoolboy” selection as he was selected for Irish squads when he was patently not good enough for the Rabo, let alone International Test rugby. I think he is now there on merit but certainly not last year. Love the look of Marty Moore, think he’s a real tank and could be a great replacement for Mike Ross.

        • “[H]e was selected for Irish squads when he was patently not good enough for the Rabo, let alone international Test rugby.”

          I repeat, what? His first selection in an Irish squad was March this year. Has he gotten radically better since last March? As in, has he gone from below Rabo standard to adequate Test-standard tighthead prop in the last seven months, which included the off-season? You’re talking out of your arse, frankly.

    • Olding’s only really had cameo appearances so far this season, I don’t think his versatility is holding him back rather than his lack of concrete form. D’Arcy’s been solid this season, but I don’t see him getting past Marshall now, and I can definitely see Marshall/Olding locking down the Ireland 12 jersey by the time the 6N rolls around though.

      The lack of Marmion is a bit of an issue. Are Boss/Reddan *really* going to be around for RWC15? Why not start working Marmion up the ranks now (even putting him in the training squad or something) so by the time Twickenham beckons we have an option at scrum half that isn’t Murray and isn’t in a zimmerframe.

      • Not sure Darcy has been that solid he’s had a few howlers and Marshall will certainly be pressing hard. Altho Darcy does now have that magnificent beard so that could shade it for him.

        • Darce had a shocker in Thomond for sure, but two very good games in the last two weeks. Marshall looks the better pick though, and he did enough last time he was in the shirt to suggest he can be a mainstay there.

          Then again, that beard…

          • I think part of the reason you go for experience is consistency. Darce can be shockingly inconsistent, and not just this season, for a player with his level of experience. It’s a bit of a gamble if you’re going to get the ridiculous or the sublime with him.

            We talked about this briefly on Twitter (I’m sure all the talk of Twitter for any non-users can get old so sorry) but if you compare that to the selction of Coughlan who’s watch word has been consistency bar his two most recent games. I think Schmidt picked him cos he was confident of what he was getting, probably moreso for training with the rest of the squad than the match day side I would hazard a guess. Seeing Darcy on a teamsheet can make me feel really uneasy which you’d expect from an untested quantity but it’s a bit mad from a player of his age.

  4. Whilst Schmidt couldn’t ever be accused of being a conservative selector for Leinster I think he could well be conservative against Samoa. Given they are the “weakest” team we play in November, there should be an element of experimentation and giving fringe players their chance.

    But I can’t see this happening for three pretty obvious reasons:
    1. Samoa are monsters and we need to have our best XV out or we’ll get spanked
    B. This is Schmidt’s first game and he’ll be desperate to start with a win
    III. Momentum will be massive, start with a win with a bit of Schmidt style infused into the group and NZ and Aus might be historic occasions.

  5. Cian

     /  October 24, 2013

    As I said to WoC on twitter yesterday, I think this selection suggests strongly that Joe Schmidt does not see it as part of his job to bring through new players. While there is an argument to be made that all those selected deserve their spot, I think you’d be hard pressed to argue that Marmion wouldn’t have gotten the edge on Reddan if blooding the youth had been considered even a little bit.

    I’m not suggesting this is a black mark against Joe by any means, in fact I think on balance that he’s correct – if an Ireland coach uses the best players at his disposal to win as many games as possible, and is amenable to bringing in younger players when they overtake the incumbent at provincial level, then he’s done more than enough to keep me satisfied.

    It would be nice, though, if this could put an end to the stick of “not blooding the youth” being regularly brought out to beat Deccie with. Ireland were sub-par tactically under his reign, and I look forward to a significant improvement in that regard with Joe. That (along with the fact he lost a lot of games) was more than enough to justify Kidney’s departure, and we don’t need to be pretending he failed in a field that isn’t even part of an international manager’s remit as well.

    • Even if he’s not selecting with a view to developing players, Marmion looks a better player than the other two available I’d say. His performance against Saracens was particularly excellent, well above anything the other Irish SHs have produced so far this season.

    • No Irish coach will ever be allowed to use the test team to ‘blood youth’. Our issue with Kidney was never anything to do with not blooding youth, it was failing to get the best team on the pitch. Lest we be going over well travel ground, we’ll be brief: he had a tendency to pick players way past their sell by date or persist with his preferred players even when struggling for form. Relentlessly picking Tomas O’Leary when he was playing like a drain, sticking with O’Callaghan when Ryan had surpassed him at Munster; that sort of thing. We didn’t want O’Brien in the team in November 2010 to ‘blood him’, we wanted him in the team because he was ABSOLUTELY BEASTING EVERYONE. He didn’t even get on the bench, with Denis Leamy picked instead. Lord have mercy on us all.

      • To be fair to Denis, there was before-the-injuries Leamy, and there was after-the-injuries Leamy… however, this only makes your Kidney point stronger.

      • Xyz

         /  October 24, 2013

        Meh, if the job the Irish coach is given is to win the next match, then you are right. But if the job is to build towards a semi final berth in 2015 then some thought needs to be given to ensuring that the snappy youngster today isn’t an international novice then.

        Of course, that is easier if you are BNZ – have most games won by 60 minutes and you can blood the young pups on the bench at your leisure.

      • Cian

         /  October 24, 2013

        That’s fair, I know this “bringing players through” thing isn’t something you called for yourselves, but I do recall a lot of discussion under various posts towards the end of Deccie’s tenure about how there had been a general failing to refresh the international pool of players during his time. It’s as much a general desire to see the end of this belief that an international manager should bring players through as a specific one to defend Kidney that motivates me. Although I do still think that his problem was more tactical than selectional.

  6. ruckinhell

     /  October 24, 2013

    Sorry, it isn’t just about getting the best team on the pitch “now”, there has to be a certain amount of thought to the medium-long term. I am not talking about Joe Schmidt sitting down with a promisingly portly 6 year old and chanting “bind on, bind off” like a rugby Mr, Miyagi. This is not about “youth” development. This is about acknowledging that in every team there are certain demographic realities which mean that within 12-18 months the current first choice option will either no longer be playing or else will no longer be adequate. You cannot keep repeating “we need to get the best team on the pitch NOW” over and over again. This was best highlighted in the John Hayes “he’ll never get old, he’s a real bull” Kidney tighthead farce. Hayes was played well past his prime, played until the age of 38 in one of the most physically demanding positions in rugby, irrespecitive of his freakish strength. This was primarily driven by Kidney’s unwillingness or inability to accept that the incumbent was no longer able and that the other options which he had hithertofore not rated in the slightest would have to be selected. Thank God Ross was able to stand up to the scrutiny of Test rugby but he was most certainly thrown into the depe end with little or no efforts made to “ease” him into Test rugby. I hope we’re not presented with such an exptreme again but you can’t select each team on teh basis that it is some one off fixture and that the future of your team has no relevance.

    • I think for November and June internationals there has to be a bit of forward thinking, especially in the year or two years up to the World Cup. Case in point is 13, we all know that BOD is not going to be there, so there has to be some planning going on now so we don’t fall off the cliff when he retires.

      Obviously we’ll never be able to replace the greatest player we’ve ever had but these coming internationals and next June’s should be used to give someone a run in the 13 journey to show what they can/cannot do.

      I don’t think this will happen for these November internationals due to the fact there’s so much other change going on. Schmidt needs to have 100% trust in the players he puts out that they are the absolute best available so that he can try to implement his vision/strategy and tactics. I think giving untested players a chance is just too much of a risk for these games.

      • Cian

         /  October 24, 2013

        I think these two posts neatly sum up the problems with this debate! I absolutely see your point, Ruckinhell, about the team being best served in the long run with a bit of forward planning, but I’m not sure at all that any Irish coach has had the leeway to implement same. It’s quite possible that they are told at time of appointment that they must pick the best 23 to win every match or, alternatively, the best squad to see them through a single campaign (AIs, 6N, WC).

        Rob: your point about trying out a new 13 with only two international windows in which to do so, and about there being reasons not to use one of them, is perfectly valid. However, I think the same point could be made pretty much all the time! There will always be a reason to select your best players only, and I suspect that is what an Ireland coach will always do.

      • moreinhope

         /  October 24, 2013

        I agree. Management have to plan for the future and players need to be blooded at some point. It’s well worn ground but as regards the Kidney era WOC’s point still stands that he wouldn’t play the best players in the here and now never mind good prospects.

        On the here and now, I really hope somebody can put pressure on Rob Kearney. He has been de-facto full back for too long. Unlike others he perversely benefits from having neither the step/speed/hands nor footballing brain to play anywhere else. The likes of the more talented Nacewa have had to be redeployed elsewhere while Kearney gets a consistent run at full back. He is seen as literally and figuratively a safe pair of hands but against Cardiff/Munster/Castres has been defensively suspect on a number of occasions and his ‘siege-gun left boot’ has been wayward. I would love to see somebody else step up and make a case for inclusion at fb. Zebo, Henshaw, Olding (now he’s playing there), Earls or Fitzgerald (the last two assuming they are not going through one of their patented dips in confidence). I’m not saying Kearney is a beaten docket but I would like to see his ownership of the jersey be put under pressure a little. He might benefit from it. He seems to have the untouchable status that O’Connell, O’Driscoll and Sexton have but I don’t think his form warrants it.

    • @Ruckinhell – of course you’re right. We said to Cian yesterday on the tweetbox that the coach should be looking to get his best team on the pitch, while having an eye on succession. The summer tests generally offer the best chance to drop a few new names in, especialy as there are usually lots of injuries at that time anyway. We regularly held Kidney to account over the issue, especially when ROG was getting into his dotage and he resisted every opportunity to give an in-form Ian Madigan a call-up to the squad.

      The Hayes/Ross issue was dreadful management, but to be fair, management did appear to have a succession plan in place. Trouble is they backed the wrong horse. Mike Ross was a one man bail-out for them. Kidney never wanted to pick him, but overnight he went from personan non grata to the team’s most important player.

    • The two sides of this debate and the conundrum faced by the international coach when it comes to picking youth and protential over experience have been really well articulated in these two posts. however I think it’s important to pay tribute to the use of the phrase:portly 6 year old” and the ensuing metaphor are absolute genius

  7. Bueller

     /  October 24, 2013

    On the topic of selection Rob Penney has just selected a very green bunch for a trip to Scotstoun. A potentially very exciting back-line could also get ripped apart if it doesn’t work out (Glasgow have switched in the 2nd choice half backs but still look quite strong). Wil make for an exciting game at the very least, With no 10 on the bench who is covering? Keith Earls? Good to see CJ Stander getting a run in an exciting back-row also.

    • It’ll be Murray you’d imagine, he played there underage and seemed to be standing at 10 at the end of last week’s game when Munster were (for the second week running!) hit by a biblical plague of niggles in the backs. Murray at 10, Duncan Williams at 11; it’s a brave new world.

  8. There’s only one certainty of this series: NZ will beat us. Why not experiment with a few players in that test? Kidney picked the best 15 available (apart from Paddy Wallace) the last time we played them….and we lost 60-0. NZ will be out of sight after 55 minutes no matter who we pick, so why not give lads LIKE Henshaw (at full back), Marmion and Olding (even though they weren’t selected), Madigan etc a go from the start?? I’m not for one second proposing we pick an Ireland A side against BNZ but why not incorporate a few exciting talents alongside our key men (POC, SOB, JS, RB, BOD etc) in a game where we’ve nothing to lose, as opposed to a 6 Nations game – a tournament we actually have a possibility of winning!

    Picking a side against NZ containing for example Boss/Reddan, Darcy, Mc Fadden on the wing and Rob Kearney and losing 35-13 doesn’t do anything to improve our squad, 6N chances or WC chances…Shake it up a bit Joe!!

    • Incredibly defeatist attitude and one I sincerely hope the Ireland squad don’t subscribe to.

      you could argue that NZ will be shattered following a tough Championship, lacking in mental edge and desire as they’re at the end of their season and therefore ripe for a historic defeat.

    • Sounds like sending out lambs to the slaughter. Naturally, I cannot see any circumstances under which we can win the game either, but I would expect the players will see it differently.

  9. curates_egg

     /  October 24, 2013

    Gilroy is injured according to the meeja. JOS in the Irish Times states he was declared by Ulster as having an ankle injury.

    As for the rest, it seems everybody else is watching a different Dave Kearney to me. His selection is because of his form and he has all the skillset to make him a very good international winger.

    As for Samoa:
    -you suggest Sexton will start against Samoa. I hope he doesn’t for his and Ireland’s sake. He will need a rest and it would be a great game to give Jackson 50 minutes and Madigan 30 minutes. Murray-Jackson, Boss-Madigan would be well worth the try, with an eye on the rest of the season.
    – You also suggest Ross will start: again I think this would be a mistake. Samoa are not technically brilliant scrummagers, so we should use the opportunity to give one of the pretenders decent pitch-time.
    – assuming O’Driscoll doesn’t start, D’arcy-Henshaw might be more likely (Marshall to come on). Marshall-O’Driscoll for the last two.

    • Kearney is a good player and deserves his call-up but I cannot see him becoming a regular test winger until he seriously improves his try-count.

      • WOC, I had the same thought as yourself when myself, Curates and a few others were discussing DK on Twitter. In fact, when I then actually bothered to check, DK has one of the best try/game ratio’s of all of our wingers at provincial level, with only Zebo and possibly Bowe (Ulster’s stat’s page is so awful it’s too difficult to do this quickly) being better.

        • You sure? He has 13 in 59 appearances, which is shy of one-in-four. Keith Earls has 24 in 85, which is better than one-in-four. Craig Gilroy is at 16 in 63 appearances which, again, is just better than one-in-four.

  10. zdm

     /  October 24, 2013

    No argument with the marginal calls I used to get irritated when Ulster players missed out on the marginals but with all Ireland squads, “marginal calls” equals “tackle bags” and after last time when Jackson and Marshall were called up for a two-tests holiday to the detriment of Ulsters form, I’d prefer if our players weren’t called up to the “marginals” anymore.

    It’ll be interesting to see how the back row takes shape for the tests – I remember an argument about Ireland having too much style and not enough substance in the back row this time last year. We desperately need a grunt on the park and we definately need a “good arsehole” in our pack. In my opinion, we definitely need Chris Henry on the pitch, especially against BNZ who will crush us if we are passive at the ruck. The problem is who to leave out – its a situation that Ireland have been in since I started watching rugby – do we select our best three backrow forwards at the detriment of balance or do we select our best backrow and leave talent on the bench?

    The selection of McLaughlin and Coughlan is interesting – both are very valuable to both their provinces but, a bit like Trimble with Ulster, I’m worried that they are at the limit of their capabilities as good provincial players and that they have been prompted beyond the level of their competence. Still, I’m willing to be wrong here.

    I’d like to see Jackson and Madigan on the pitch together – as I’ve said previously, only having one creative outlet in your backs is very limiting and given that half of our second choice back line is unavailable, I’d prefer to experiment with playing style against Samoa that handing out debuts to players who will be third back up.

  11. Len

     /  October 24, 2013

    First off I think suggesting that Joe is not going to blood young players based on this squad is jumping the gun a bit. He’s included debutants which is pretty good going. Secondly I don’t think this series lends itself as readily to experimenting with inexperienced players. How many times in the past have coaches put on a young player against a big team only for it to back fire and destroy the player in the process (credit to PJ that he hasn’t let last years 6n, the media muppets or being benched for the summer tour negatively effect him). I do agree that we need to be developing replacements for key personnel who are on the way out or in key positions. I’d be looking for a real effort to give tight head, tight lock, scrum and out half and 13 replacements between 10 and 20 min in each 6n match.

  12. ruckinhell

     /  October 25, 2013

    Can I just add how great it is to see such analysis and insight both above and below the line on this blog? It can never be said enough, but blogs such as WoC and Demented Mole are a Godsend to rugby fans who want a bit more analysis than George Hook’s demented gibberings, Thornley’s “Shaggy and I are mates” quips or the collective hagiographic works of Conor George. Keep it up lads!

  13. Sean

     /  October 25, 2013

    Here here!!

  14. labrecha1

     /  October 25, 2013

    Here Here!

  15. zdm

     /  October 25, 2013

    Interesting to see the Ulster back line for tonight’s match.- looks like Joe has picked the Ulster backs a few times this season and the implication would be that Ireland are putting all their eggs stamped “future 13” in the basket marked “Jared Payne”

    • KM

       /  October 25, 2013

      Let’s not forget Luke Fitz is lining up at 13 this weekend as well :). I’d LOVE to see him succeed Brian, at least provincially.

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