First Box Ticked

So the Schmidt era is off and running – the scoreline was certainly more impressive than the overall performance – Samoa might have been fed a 50-burger by the Big Bad Boks in their last game, but South Africa added 20 points in 20 minutes after Oooooooooooooooohh Alesana Tuilagi got sent off for straight-arming Jean de Villiers’ twin brother, but before that you need to go back to 2009 when France won 43-5 for a similar result against Samoa.

As for the performance itself, Ireland maintained their intensity for 80 minutes, played with increasing accuracy and precision. After an underwhelming first 40, Ireland got some patterns going in the second half and purred away. Sure, they were helped by injuries to key opponents, but you still have to go out and take advantage of it. Seeing an Ireland team finish strongly was an alien experience as well, and the replacements kicked the team on, as opposed to muddling it up. Positive.

In terms of selection, the irony is that the more progressive a pick was, the more of a success it was.

PJ at outhalf had a solid game, linked play well, kicked his goals in an assured fashion, and used his boot increasingly well tactically as the game went on. The Kildare Lewis Moody might seek contact as much as Shontayne Hapless, but he got through a mountain of work and was certainly more prominent than his more heralded colleague on the other wing. Sure, this might be as much as you can expect from him at this level, but that doesn’t mean  there is no place for it – he’s unlikely to be first choice when everyone is fit, but is a pretty good reserve to have.

At loosehead prop, Jack McGrath was responsible for giving Ireland a really good platform up front and was given man of the match on debut (albeit rather romantically from Wardy) – not bad. He reminded us of the impact (in a different way admittedly) another young Leinster loose-head prop made on Ireland debut a few years back. Who knows, this whole “competition for places thing” might even catch on. Chris Henry started the game well, and Ireland’s backrow even looked – whisper it – balanced until he was forced off with injury. His international career has been bedevilled by poorly-timed injuries and it’s a real shame, for he adds a different element to the other flankers in the squad.

Peter O’Mahony had a great game on the other flank.  Our main beef with him is that he can go long stretches of the game without involvement, but he showed a great nose for the action.  For the last try, he sniffed the turnover on the cards and quickly got into the role of scrum half and moved the ball at the first opportunity.  And Sean O’Brien, well, he’s just Sean O’Brien.

Pleasenst surprise of the day was Eoin Reddan, who we expected may be about to adopt the sort of role Chris Whittaker had for Australia – sitting on the bench for 80 minutes in every game.  But for all Murray’s brilliance, Eoin Reddan – on his day – is still the quickest in the country at getting the ball to 10, and has a role to play in the last 20 minutes of test matches.  Expect to see him around the 60 minute mark again against Australia.

On the other side of the ledger, the “sure we know what they can do” selections didn’t work – Mike Ross was under pressure for most of the game, Mike McCarthy looked too cumbersome for this level and gave away silly penalties, and Gordon D’Arcy was all over the place. Considering all three were picked for solidity, it was effectively a waste of three picks. How much worse could Ireland have been if say Marty Mooradze, Dan Tuohy and Stuart Olding were picked. For the Wobblies game, Luke Marshall and Paul “Minister for Passion” O’Connell will come in, but we’ll still be stuck with Ross. Thankfully, the Australia scrum won’t give him much bother, but then its straight into BNZ with the options either to pick him again, or dump in Deccie Fitz or Moore at the deep end.

However, the worst aspect of the entire day was the venue. When Ireland were under pressure in the first half, far from getting behind the team, the crowd spent its time engaging in Mexican waves, even while Tusi Pisi was lining up a shot at goal. Imagine if we were playing in, say, Twickenham, and the crowd cheered a wave while Johnny Sexton was lining up a kick – the horror! Then there was the sand section – the last game on this pitch was a couple of weeks ago when the soccer team played Kazakhstan, and the weather has been pretty clement – couldn’t we have prepared a better field of play? When the Palindrome was a library in previous times, we have always been assured that the Mass time kickoffs never suited us, and we preferred a drink-fuelled evening start. Well, we had one of those, and the crowd were disengaged and distracted.

Anyway, we don’t have the answers to that, but its mighty annoying.

Looking forward to Oz, it would be nice to see the upward curve continue – another cohesive and inventive performance will do that, break the cycle of one decent show a series, and give us something to build on for BNZ. The result itself will probably be dictated by how much space Quade Cooper gets and how we deal with it – if our defence plays like it did in the first half, we’re going to see Israel Folau and co dotting down multiple times. Consistency of performance has eluded this team for a long time, and that has to be priority one. If we lose, let us at least hope that we have made the Honey Badger and co work for it.

Advertisements
Next Post

78 Comments

  1. Decent outing alright, first half was tough to watch but we finished strongly.
    I really don’t want to appear as if I’m bashing Paddy Jackson but I thought he was pretty ordinary.

    I accept that the out to in Samoa defense means you have even less time on the ball than usual in midfield but he was so deep on occasion, especially in the first half.

    Whether that was a genuine ploy to get enough time to get it wide and get our midfield involved I don’t know but it was frustrating seeing him 10 odd metres off the gainline so frequently.
    To balance that, I thought his kicking was excellent – yes we got a lucky bounce for the BOD piece of magic but Jackson spotted the space, and the opportunity and put it there. Well done!

    I thought D’arcy had a bit of a shocker again. I thought he very nearly messed up McFadden’s try by trying to be too clever in fixing the man, and his defensive alignment at times wasn’t great. I hope Marshall gets his chance now, he deserves it and we need him for the World Cup.

    All in all though a moderately pleasing game – a tonne to work on but enough to give me hope! Great to see some depth being established in key positions too!

    • Yossarian

       /  November 11, 2013

      of all the things to criticise D’Arcy about you can’t say he did poorly for McFadden’s try. PJ was so deep he didn’t fix a man before giving it to D’Arcy and the 3 v 2 became a 2v2. D’Arcy fixed two men before freeing McFadden making the try.

      • What Yossarian says

        • Chogan (@Cillian_Hogan)

           /  November 11, 2013

          I’ll third that statement

          • I’ll try to catch it again but I thought D’arcy was nearly too late giving the pass. He was being tackled as he gave it, rather than passing just before the tackle. Just thought it was an unnecessary risk to delay that long…

            Suppose better to almost butcher a try than almost score one!

          • curates_egg

             /  November 11, 2013

            D’Arcy started badly but finished pretty well. He was excellent for the try (which Jackson made difficult). It is fair enough to suggest his performance confirmed doubts about his selection…but not by picking out the best thing he did! Marshall will start Saturday anyway, and we are all looking forward to that.

          • “nearly too late giving the pass”. Sounds like the perfectly delayed pass, then. Isn’t that exactly how to fix your man in that sort of situation? Dorce didn’t have a great game but he did really well for the try.

      • osheaf01

         /  November 11, 2013

        In a nutshell. D’Arcy showed class in drawing 2 men for that try. Jackson’s pass was way too premature.

  2. Ah I think the stop-start nature of the game was what led to a lot of the crowd restlessness. I was at the game in the West Stand and one of the highlights of the match was watching a paper airplane glide serenely down from the heights of the rear seats to gently prod Leiua who had no idea what the hell just happened.

    The game was good, but I felt our attack lacked any form of penetration and we let way too many Samoans break the line in the first half.

    Also, no mention for the mighty Steve Walsh today lads? I thought he had a fair lash at the game, and the Indo summed up his performance pretty well: http://www.independent.ie/sport/rugby/ireland-vs-samoa-ref-link-review-29742750.html

    • Our favourite was when BOD asked him about the TMO and he said “You were bloody close, mate” like he was grading him out of 10. Brilliant

  3. Were you guys on Twitter suggesting O’Brien at six? Surely not? Especially with the other options we don’t have there at the minute. Surely SOB wears seven in Ireland’s strongest XV (Ferris or no Ferris, to be clear)?

    POM was good but again I look at his tackle count and wonder why he’s the least involved of the forwards, again. Hopefully Joe will sort that out.

    I’m not that far away from you on Ferg McFerg’s performance, but I suspect “feisty but inaccurate” is exactly the sort of performance Schmidt will think about dropping you for. Disheartening to see that Bowe is a doubt for next week.

    Taken as a first game under a new coach, Saturday was OK, broadly positive given the result. Measured objectively as a performance from a team that wants to sit at the top table, we were poor. Need to improve in all areas. Don’t know what’s going to happen on Saturday, but if we kick that much and that aimlessly to Folau and the others, conducted by Quade, we’ll get ripped to shreads, albeit in an attractive fashion.

    Re. the crowd – this weekend will be my first visit to the Aviva. I’ve heard many terrible stories, but also some good ones. Hopefully it won’t be loads of folk who’ve only seen a few games of rugby (absolutely nothing wrong with that, obviously) and are going along to be part of the event (again, no problem) and be boorish and arrogant in public (herein lies the issue). Unfortunately I’ve heard that’s a new trend.

    • @Completebore

       /  November 11, 2013

      Regarding the crowd, I have a theory that availability of tickets can be a tipping factor here – as Samoa wasn’t a sell-out there will have been quite a few curious on-lookers (friends and partners of people who really wanted to be there) whereas the Oz and BNZ games will probably have more hard-core supporters in attendance (although that is no guarantee of increased behaviour). Still no excuse for the bloody mexican wave which should lead to immediate bans from all sporting occassions for all participants.
      And whoever is in charge of the PA in the Aviva should be given a stern word. The crap music drowning out the actual fans cheering is a pox on the game and should be done away with (its the one thing that sours games in Ravenhill for me).

      • PA music at games is – without fail – woeful. And I don’t say this as a fuddy-duddy, I was still at school when modern Irish rugby was born, delivered by Midwife Gatland, with the five debuts in 2000. All such music should be stopped. Ravenhill now, thankfully, seems to have a live brass band playing at their leisure, with the canned music out on its arse. Much better.

      • The choice of tunes didn’t help either. Playing the Fields on numerous occasions bordered on provocative. Totally unnecessary on so many fronts.

      • Unfortunately I think it will be the opposite with regard to atmosphere, NZ (and to a lesser extent Aus) bring out the most fairweather of fans. The last time Murrayfield sold out afaik was the NZ game. That doesn’t mean there won’t be rugby fans there too but they’re not necessarily there to make noise.

        Also agree the music sounded horrible and I think the whole concept of creating atmosphere was ruined from the start with that horrendous choir. I won’t suggest we need to drop an anthem but they do create a stop-start beginning and neither are particularly rousing. Contrast those anthems with what other fans get to sing (I’d nearly sing along to Flower of Scotland if I ever found myself at an Ireland-Scotland game). I realise there’s no easy fix but they could at least have better singers for the anthem.

    • O’Mahony was very prominent and seemed to have a great game but it is a worry if our blindside is not making tackles.

    • Cian

       /  November 11, 2013

      I wouldn’t be worried about O’Mahony making fewer tackles unless he was obviously shirking them, missing them or more tackles needed to have been made. I thought he had a great game, really utilising his skill set (handling, running in a bit of space, winning turnovers) and Heaslip also had a great game doing what he has done best for Ireland in recent years (making tackles and really smashing rucks effectively). I doubt Schmidt will be upset that they’re dividing the roles between them in that way so long as the work is being done and done well.

      • Peter O’Mahony has never got to double figures for tackles in a test match, using ESPN’s numbers. He’s had 13 starts now, 17 caps.

        For a point of reference, all the starting pack got into double figures at the weekend, except Chris Henry (7 tackles in 34 minutes), Rory Best (9 in 69) and O’Mahony (7 in 74). Sean O’Brien made 9 in 46 minutes (mostly the second half as well, when our possession went from 39% to parity), and Paulie 8 in 27 minutes (again, all second half).

        Stats aren’t everything. I’ve not gone through the game and analysed it between every breakdown and set piece. But a casual look at tackling numbers in tier one internationals by back row players shows that making it to double figures is far from uncommon. I’d say, on average, over 80 minutes a back rower will make over ten. Not making ten tackles in one match – well, so what? To never have done it..? it’s worrying.

        I don’t say this because I’m not a Munster fan, I’ve no interest in “mine’s better than yours”. But I’m an Ireland fan, Peter O’Mahony has the ability to be a world class player, win 80+ caps in a competitive position for the team, etc etc, but at the minute he’s our version of Tom Croft. Now, I now Crofty has his fans – WoC included – but I think he’s shite, basically.

        To briefly consider some of the less-polite provincial fans (we all have them – actually, maybe not Connacht): one of the big funnies of this situation is that Peter O’Mahony, he of the “honesty” and “never a backward step”, is actually the player some Munster fans like to accuse Jamie Heaslip of being. Which is pretty funny, I think.

        • I’m a great big fan of O’Mahony, especially when he is at 8. I sometimes really struggle to separate my blind fury at the lazy analysis which surrounds him (warrior … never takes a backward step … sticks his head where he shouldn’t – basically a continuation of the Axel / Wally narrative) with my admiration of what he does well (open-field runner … good hands .. lineout option …. great reader of game …. well-respected by his colleagues).

          I just can’t fathom why you would intentionally ignore all the great stuff he does and insist he is Stephen Ferris, which he manifestly isn’t. I don’t think he’s limited to being our Tom Croft (not that there is anything wrong with that), he has the skills to be, say, our Harinordoquoy or something, but then I’m not paid for my opinions, so don’t need to mould them to the prevailing winds.

          Once I can file away all the bullshit and appreciate what POM can do, and how we can use it best, I find myself more comfortable. I’m now beginning to wonder what a SOB-Henry-POM backrow might look like. Would we miss Heaslip? Absolutely. Is he a nailed-on 100% starter the way BOD or Sexton are? No, not 100%, maybe 80% – we have a decent alternative now. Again, just daydreaming, but if POM’s tackle stats are not thos of an international blindside, maybe we just aren’t using him right. Worth considering anyway.

          • curates_egg

             /  November 12, 2013

            If you leave Heaslip out for that formation, one of the backrows will have to adapt their play to pick up the defensive and breakdown work he is now doing for Ireland. Put another way, POM probably couldn’t play the same way he played on Saturday: somebody’s got to chop the people down and hit the rucks, so that others can effect steals and make glamorous line-breaks.

        • Cian

           /  November 11, 2013

          I’m still not entirely sure what your point is here. As a Munster fan I have thought that plenty of O’Mahony’s performances for Ireland have been less than stellar; I’d have preferred Henry for last year’s 6N for example and would consider it a pretty close call between them now (injury aside) that would possibly be made on the basis of pack cohesion. We all know that a lot of O’Mahony’s Ireland matches involved him doing a Tom Croft and standing wide an awful lot, often in matches in which Ireland played shite and everyone felt he could have been doing more elsewhere.

          However, I have two points to make about that. First, he was almost definitely being instructed to play that way by the previous coaching regime. It’s not how he plays with Munster (he has put in double-figure tackle counts in big matches and generally plays a lot tighter) and if he wasn’t acting under instruction he would surely have been dropped.

          Secondly, I really don’t see why you would bring his low tackle count up as a problem now of all times, after a match in which he contributed massively both in a somewhat limited role at the breakdown (mostly jackalling) and in more broken play, passing excellently in the line and (as WoC mentioned) getting quick ball from a turnover to play a part in a try. My read of the game was that he was finally being the player he could be last Saturday, that Schmidt’s gameplan allowed him to make use of his skills with ball in hand that are rare for a forward, even a back row.

          I just really don’t think that Joe would have been unhappy with that performance and have said “next time, Peter, make more tackles even if you have to sacrifice some of the rest of your game”. Apologies for the long-windednesss.

          • @Cian – Quite clearly my point was not about this one game, it is only a point that has any merit because it’s a trend. And the trend continues.

            Right now, I worry he doesn’t get involved enough in games. As I said, I think he’s very talented – and obviously he’s capable of massive interventions – but he isn’t involved enough. The tackling stats are something quantitative that point in the same direction.

            @WoC – he doesn’t have to be another Ferris, but are you not slightly bothered by the figure? Never having got to that many tackles? Anyway, as I said to Cian, it’s just a buttress for a worry I have anyway, rather than the source thereof. You yourselves have questioned his workrate before. For what it’s worth, I think he’s a way to go before he should be considered a better player than Heaslip.

          • I certainly think it could improve, no doubt. It will have to when BOD retires!

          • Cian

             /  November 11, 2013

            Apologies if I implied I thought you were talking only about the one game, my point was his role, which has been the same for many games, seems to have finally started to pay off now. That’s why I thought it was odd to bring it up as a negative; I saw on Saturday a great example of exactly why he is told to play that role. Also, HenryFitz’s argument below is more concise and pretty convincing.

        • Option A: He’s shirking the work and the coaches have somehow not picked up on it in spite of all the GPS and video-recording equipment available to them plus the epic longueurs between international windows when they can do any analysis they choose.

          Option B: He takes up the positions he does on coach’s orders and his role within the team generally involves him covering the wide channels to either steal ball or slow the opposition’s recycling.

          I think Option B is more likely. Coaches are not in the habit of picking players who don’t follow their instructions. It’s one of the reasons why Joe’s team is so similar to Deccie’s team. These are the players who are good at doing their jobs on the pitch.

          • Option C: despite having flaws he is still considered the best player available.

            Henry, I’d still pick him, even with my opinion as it is. I’m not saying he’s rubbish, just that (I think) he could be a lot better than he is at the minute.

          • Lots of interesting stuff here. I think you have to consider that our back-row numbers are still a bit mixed up, and beyond a phase or two, Heaslip is really doing the work of the blindside, while O’Mahony is playing more like the No.8, standing a bit wider. Basically, Jamie the workhorse allows us to make use of O’Mahony’s rangy skills.

            It can be easy to get hot-and-bothered about individual stats. Heaslip made 15 tackles on saturday, Henry and O’Brien made more than that between them. Add in O’Mahony’s seven and you’ve a load of tackles from the backrow as a unit.

            I remember Frankie Sheahan, in a rare moment of insightfulness, saying in the aftermath of the 2007 World Cup that he felt management had become too obsessed with individual player stats and at the post-Argentina-match dinner he asked Roncero if they focussed on them. Roncero responded ‘No. We don’t care if a player makes 100 tackles or 1, so long as if a takckle has to be made, it’s made.’

          • I’d agree with that. The backrow as a unit, and the team, certainly haven’t had any great problems defensively since Hamilton. There were 35 minutes against Wales which were pretty ropey, but that seemed to be due to a tactical misread. Attack-wise, they’ve made a decent number of metres collectively without ever looking as destructive as Ferris-Wallace-Heaslip.

            There are certainly questions about their ability to maintain continuity and produce quick ball, but to me that’s seemed like a front-five issue as well as a problem with predictable forward patterns. Henry’s 30 minutes on Saturday did not coincide with a sustained period of Irish possession, so it’s hard to know what he would have contributed.

  4. “but we’ll still be stuck with Ross”

    Wow, we must be making progress – for the last few years, we’ve all been praying that he stays fit!

    If you’ll forgive a slight digression on the same point, does anyone in the know rate Ricky Lutton? I know absolutely nothing about propping but he seems to give away fewer penalties than Archer in what I’ve seen of them both. And, honestly, it’s not a provincial thing…

    • It’s probably a little soon for Lutton as he’s behind Afoa and Fitz for Ulster. He seemed good towards the end of last season, but hasn’t been quite as sharp this season I feel. Just my very un-educated opinion though!

      • Bowe Gathers

         /  November 11, 2013

        Lutton is consistently playing above his level when it comes to the set piece. Problem is her offers little else in the way of actual skills – he’s a reverse Tony Buckley. Fitz is deservedly a peg ahead.

  5. osheaf01

     /  November 11, 2013

    “Peter O’Mahony had a great game on the other flank.”
    “But for all Murray’s brilliance”
    WOC, I warned you on Friday…you really are risking LeinsterLion’s mental health here.
    Here’s the LL Rule to live by: You MUST NOT praise Munster Players EVER.

  6. Len

     /  November 11, 2013

    I was happy to see McGrath reward JS call. He had a great game. I think one of the best points of the whole day for me was getting a coaches post match interview that involved actually giving a realistic opinion of the match and specific details. As an Irish rugby fan I can’t remember the last time that happened.

  7. Declan

     /  November 11, 2013

    What about the attempt at atmosphere. Paddy reilly being blasted out was cring-worthy. So too is the forced clapping. I’m was very annoyed and so was everyone else around me. Look if the crowd is gonna cheer they’re gonna cheer. If there not they’re not. Wasn’t Saracens rightly slammed for the ‘stand up for sarries’ tannoy embarrassment when playing against Munster last year? Now we’re at it. Please stop IRFU, never again. Oh and good riddance to Mr Kidney too.

  8. “Chris Henry started the game well, and Ireland’s backrow even looked – whisper it – balanced until he was forced off with injury.”

    Blatant question-begging. How did this balance manifest itself in the 34 minutes or so he was on the pitch? Did Ireland suddenly become better at the breakdown? Did they retain more ball? Was their defence much better? Did POM (the 6) win his turnovers simply because the backrow was more balanced?

    Personally, I can see no reasons for making this assertion and do not understand how the conclusion could have been arrived at without it being an implicit premise.

    • toro toro

       /  November 11, 2013

      Only since you’re so continually pedantic with others, it would be nice if you checked what “question-begging” meant before using it.

      Hint: it doesn’t mean “raises questions”.

      Lol.

      • Cian

         /  November 11, 2013

        In fairness, his last paragraph is pretty much defines “begging a question” and suggests he definitely knew what it meant before using it (confession: I didn’t until looking it up just now).

        • toro toro

           /  November 11, 2013

          Nope, not having it. The original quote from WoC is a claim or assertion, not an argument. So it’s not even the *sort* of thing that could have a premise, implicit or otherwise. I’d fail my first years for this kind of elementary confusion.

          What Henry means, I assume, is that the assertion is not supported, and not – in fact – true. But if that’s so, that’s what he should say. Throwing in talk of fallacies where they’re not appropriate is just so much verbose bluster.

          • Cian

             /  November 11, 2013

            I read it (once I knew what begging a question meant) as suggesting that WoC thought the back row looked more balanced with Henry in it because he’s the type of player that they thought should balance a back row of POM and Heaslip. From what I’ve just now read on “assertion vs argument” I can see no distinction between the two that is relevant in this discussion. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I read that argument = assertion + reasoning (roughly). It hardly seems dangerous to assume that WoC’s assertion had some reasoning behind it, making it an argument, and in this case Henry suggests that the reasoning was circular.

            I could be talking out of my arse here, but I certainly don’t see anything in Henry’s post to suggest he thought that begging the question meant raising questions.

          • toro toro

             /  November 12, 2013

            First, on the distinction between and argument and an assertion, an argument will consist of several assertions (“premises”), and a conclusion which can be inferred from them. That is patently not what the passage quoted was.

            Second, on “raising questions”, he followed the quote with the words “blatant question-begging”, and a series of questions he thought had not been addressed. If that doesn’t suggest that he thought the raised questions – most of which are perfectly legitimate queries – were “begged”, it is hard to imagine what *would* suggest that.

      • Hey, tough guy. As the kids say, epic fail in the old reading skills. Best of luck with your affliction, whatever it is.

        • To answer the original question, thought Henry put in a load of tackles, and he seemed to defend the 10 channel well. Neither are the forte of his colleagues. Your thoughts?

          • SOB usually puts in a load of tackles. I’m not sure that he defends the 10 channel badly either. Do you mean off set-piece, or broken play, when the defence realigns?

          • Bowe Gathers

             /  November 11, 2013

            Surely a bit of both. I’m a massive Henry fan and would definitely let him have a shot at the number 7 jersey. Time and again he flew up, made two legal and one odd half turnover and put the Samoan big runners under pressure. Obviously SoB can do that, as can Heaslip at times, but the question obviously is would they be better employed swatting away mere mortals with ball in hand. If SoB didn’t have to make all those tackles (as O’Mahoney doesn’t) would his own strengths not shine through all the clearer?

            ps – that question is rhetorical. I have an English degree, me.

          • I’ve never been in the coaches’ room. But maybe SOB would not be employed in the wider channels the way O’Mahony is because he’s potentially a much more destructive tackler close in. He would perhaps be used as a more ‘classical’ blind-side and spend much of his time fringing the tight five and hitting whoever comes along.

            The issue with SOB playing 7 is what he does in attack. If he’s providing continuity and clearing rucks, does he have the opportunity to make those charges? Difficult question to answer. Against Scotland, he carried the ball 22 times, so it’s obviously not an issue in every game.

    • I was going to ask them same question, but yours will do no matter how muddled it gets towards the end.

  9. bkelly39

     /  November 11, 2013

    Re atmosphere.

    I was at it. The fake drums and recording of the fields of athenry being blared out just p*ssed me of, it should happen organically and trying to force it is not going to help. There was a very young crowd at the match due to the cheapness of the tickets. Hopefully when the bigger draw of oz is there it should hopefully improve the atmosphere. The fact its named after s sh*tbox insurance company doesn’t help in my opinion

  10. zdm

     /  November 11, 2013

    Did anyone else think our second rows looked a bit bewildered out there? McCarthy seemed to arrive at every play just as the ball was leaving and at one stage, Toner was defending a ruck facing away from the opposition. Both seemed out of sorts.

    • Toner had a vry fine match I thought. Ruled the skies and got around the park, showed his good handling skills once or twice. McCarthy not so much; he looks a bit leggy, as they say, though he did appear to be right at the heart of teh maul-and-try in the first half, so he gets some credit.

      • zdm

         /  November 11, 2013

        Toner is a puzzler – he looks to be the perfect foil to our other options at lock but looks a bit short of whatever magic dust it is that makes an international lock and I thought he was a bit “fairweather”.

        In essence, I think the opportunity was there for both him and McCarthy to lay down a marker and neither did.

        • I don’t think Toner will ever have the bulk to be a consistent Test starter at lock. But he has some serious skills about him and is probably the most improved player in Leinster this season.

          I thought he played to his strengths against Samoa but have a fear his lack of bulk will be found out against Aus and NZ.

          However playing with Paulie could well mean that as a pair they are adequate for this series. I’d have Toner in before McCarthy based on Saturday’s performance.

          Ryan and NWJMB would be definite starters ahead if either was fit I think.

  11. Jaysus, you’re very harsh in main piece above about Mike Ross. He had an average day at the office but he’s still an excellent scrummager. It wasn’t so long ago he was the long- awaited answer to all our scrum problems, It’s a bit harsh for you to be saying now after one poor(ish) showing, “we’ll still be stuck with him” (against Oz and BNZ). Lads!

    Agree with many of the commentators above, D’Arcy looked out of sorts, I’ll give you that. I still think its easy to overlook some of the almost invisible, organizational and positional work he does in defense. Sort of thing one only notices when it’s missing, no? But have to agree with you, Luke Marshall must be given a run. He’s earned it.

    As for the atmosphere, i wasn’t at the game, but watching it on a hotel screen in Kilkenny, it was seriously dreary. Not helped by some nasty collisions and injuries & delays of course, but having been to other matches at the Aviva now, i just think the place has its own, inherent atmosphere-deficit. Something to do with the architecture, the acoustics, and/or the position and rake of seats, it’s all just too open or something. Real shame, because as you say, the place has been built now, its too late & there’s nothing we can do about it now. It’ll be great still for the monster matches, but in all other cases, unless the game itself sparks everything to life, the stadium itself does not help generate that sort of passion.

    On our second-choice 10 (yep, sorry, that endless debate) I really thinks PJ gets the back-line going pretty well, but that won’t be quite enough, there is none of the spark of magic there that we’ll need to beat the really big teams above us (I’m talking about the Boks and yep, more to the point, BNZ) Madigan has that spark. He’s as unpredictable as a Quaide Cooper and actually makes less errors. If i was a coach and 10-15 points down going into last 20 mins against BNZ, I’d actually hook Sexton (yep even Sexton) for Madigan, because- sometimes- magic is more important even than game control.

    One final word, on Mike McCarthy. I really liked the look of him when he came along, big powerful guy, good in the set-piece as far as i can judge and certainly decent & very hard working in defense.
    But in open, attacking play, I’m starting to wonder if his mobility, and (especially) his handling, are quite up to the very top level. How many times has he knocked on in the last 3-4 matches I’m seen him in? Think its approaching double figures anyway. Gives me no pleasure to say it because he’s otherwise a very good, very honest player, but he really has to improve that area of his play, quickly, or he should be given an international sabbatical.

    Thoughts?

    • Yeah, maybe a bit harsh on Ross, but he’s been struggling all sesaon and we’re genuinely concerned that the new scrum calls don’t suit him. They’ve thrown the understood scrummaging hierarchy all over the place. “Everything you know is wrong”.

      I get the feeling Mike McCarthy has bulked up a bit in an attempt to fit the mould of powerhouse lock and isn’t wearing it especially well. He needs to get back to his fighting weight. You’re right about his handling too, it’s awful. Tuohy would be our preference in the 4 shirt, although against Australia it might be worth thinking about a Dev-POC partnership.

      Just so we’re not being totally unfair to McCarthy, it looked like he put in a monumental shift in the maul-and-try in the first half.

      • I actually prefer Mike McCarthy to Dev Toner overall, poor Toner just isn’t rough, tough, mean or scary enough to damage 1st class, SH teams. He has bulked up too I notice, but he wouldn’t even scare me. (I was a very average sort of schools player but used to relish tackling players like that). He doesn’t seem to have a hand-off, now i think of it., Nor does he step aggressively enough away out of the lower sort of tackles
        And yes, totally agree with you about McCarthy’s efforts for try, was very good. In general he’s a very good player, in the set pieces, the ruck and maul, and in defense. My only real concern is his handling. If he can sort that out he may be the long-term answer. But he does need to sort it out. Because sooner rather than later it could be, and probably will be, the difference between a massive win against a major scalp / historic rival and a narrow, heart breaking loss. I’m still traumatized (loosely speaking) by Victor Costello throwing a very, very bad, hurried pass years ago and costing Ireland a victory against France and (if i remember right) Championship points. Granted, M.McC tens to drop balls when he is receiving a pass rather than giving or off-loading one; but you know what i mean.

        • I’d say your perilously close to stumbling into the Good Face pitfall there. I wouldn’t be too concerned by how scary Devin Toner looks, or doesn’t look. It’s easy sometimes to focus on what players can’t do rather than what they can. As we said in our preview ‘when it comes to the crucial business of catching lineouts and restarts he is the next best thing [to Paul O’Connell].’ The point holds after Saturday where he was the dominant player in the aerial contest.

          • You may well be right, and so, conversely, i may be the one being overly harsh now, on Dev Toner, although I promise, it’s not his pleasant youthful face that influences my critique!)
            Absolutely,. naturally his huge height makes him an asset at lineouts & restart times, how could it do otherwise, (unless his hands were truly brutal)
            But it is all crucial, alas, and his nice face quite apart, I just don’t think he looks quite pro-active enough or (bear in mind this is all relative of course) quite aggressive enough, in the loose and at the all-important breakdown.
            But I do concede he is improving, no doubt about that. And anyway, it’s definitely one of these cases where i would be glad to be proved wrong.
            So, if Dev Toner starts, or comes on against Oz or BNZ and has a stormer, I’ll be the first to hold my hand up here, and to congratulate the guy. Fair enough?

          • Leinsterlion

             /  November 12, 2013

            Toner is too tall and gangly to ever be truly effective at international level. Compare him to Gray, Gray carries himself better for his height, Toner just looks slim and awkward at all times, I honestly think he would be twice the player he is if he put on about 10-15kg and learned to properly blow up rucks. He would benefit from the training McGurn put the lads through in 07 in Spala, where they all came back buffed. Toner just doesnt look like he can hurt people.

          • Paddy

             /  November 12, 2013

            As long as he doesn’t forget how to play rugby a la the Irish pack post Spala 07. If that happened he’d be sh*te like the Irish pack post Spala 07. I think both Heaslip and POM lack bulk for their position but are competitive and effective by means of being effective in what they do. The bulk thing only matters when they loose that.

  12. Leinsterlion

     /  November 11, 2013

    If we start the way we did and play a first half like we did against Samoa, Un-Zee and Oz will crucify us, both had bad spells defensively, so we could claw back some points, but they both looked potent enough to rack up the points against a very lethargic looking Irish team.

    Grading our starting line up.

    Front row was pretty average, so are Oz and Un-Zee so no loss there. We could call up lads from the AIL and we would gut the Aussies such is their lack of class up front.

    Second row. Immobile and undynamic, not international class, advantage Un-Zee and Oz

    Back row. Heaslip aside, ordinary unit. POM, odd moments of adventure with ball in hand and good offload ruined by lack of support aside was his usual anonymous self. Henry was solid, 6/10.

    Half backs, Jackson did nothing spectacular, Murray also. No surprise, neither are elite players.
    Centers. Old and ineffective, grew into the game but both lacked athleticism or ability to carve teams up( lovely handling moments aside).

    Wingers: Workmanlike. Dare I say it, this team badly missed Earls and/or Zebo *shoots self*.

    Full Back . Kearnage, best back on display.

    Bench; Along with Injuries to the Samoans and their lack of class in replacements, made all the difference to the scoreboard. Good performances and selection. DK and SOB made big cameos.

    For the next match we need a revamped Locking dept, no POM, new halfbacks, Marshall back in the harness at 12, and some pace on the wings. This team would have been hammered by a good outfit, no matter how many warm up games they had together, too many ordinary players. People are deluding themselves if they think the likes of McCarthy, Toner, both Halfbacks Darce and our wingers are good enough to face Oz/Un-Zee, none would even make their training squads.

    • zdm

       /  November 11, 2013

      Are you BubbaK’s agent or something? He wasn’t even the best back named Kearney on Saturday.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  November 12, 2013

        Best back who STARTED the game, Darce ponderous first half overshadows his good second, Dricos nice hands aside, he was pretty redundant. McFadden and Bowe were ordinary, ditto for the Halfbacks. Kearnage had a good solid game, he was the pick of a poor back division imo.

    • ruckinhell

       /  November 12, 2013

      I actually agree with you LeinsterLion on much of what he’s written ( the need to get Luke Marshall and a bit of pace into the backline) and that Rob Kearndashian was our stand out back. Kearndashian Jnr. is a tidy player but I just wonder if he is quite good enough for top level Test rugby. A pity Zebo is out, he’d slot in nicely into that backline and give it some gas. Hopefully Bowe will put the oddly sedate performance behind him and tear it up over the next two weeks.

      As a matter of interest LL, were you horrifically rucked in an Under-12s trip to Cork or Limerick that has resulted in a pathological hatred of all things Munster? It’s really quite endearing and gives me a warm sense of recollection to the good old days when other teams hated (and secretly feared) playing Munster. Now that the team are decidedly “meh”, your hatred isn’t warranted but is certainly welcome! There’s clearly no point arguing with you on the contribution of POM as you can’t talk someone out of something they haven’t been talked into. If you aren’t willing to accept that he had a good game then more fool you, there’s nothing sadder than people who can’t drop their provincial allegiances when it comes to following Ireland. I would certainly wholeheartedly encourage mistrusting anyone coming from Shanning or the Chaps as this is merely a sensible precaution, but basing your worldview on your affinity with provinces which have effectively only really been corporeal beings for the last 15 years is terribly nouveau old bean!

      • Steve

         /  November 12, 2013

        I think LeinsterLion is still suffering PTSD from the days when the fancy dans of Leinster with were regularly bested by those mucksavage liginds from down south. The devotion to 100% mercurial all-out running rugby, the aversion to those supposedly Munster attributes of pride, honesty of effort or indeed pragmatism, it’s a classic defense-mechanism. He does provide a useful counterpoint to HenryFitz’s red-tinged contrarianism.

        • ruckinhell

           /  November 12, 2013

          And now Munster are the fancy dans with their skip passes and offloads and a not quite good enough pack and it’s Leinster providing the hard edge to the Irish side (particularly up front). All’s changed, changed utterly…..Hopefully Ulster will continue to advance and can add to the established provincial duopoly of spite- I know many a good Ulsterman who can deliver unadulterated scorn at a Test match level but in the past it was almost half hearted roars of “Bring on Rory Beshhttttt” every now and then during the lulls in a match. Now that they’ve surpassed Munster and are threatening Leinster I’m hoping for a more established drive for spectator and fan supremacy from our brethren up Norn.

        • labrecha1

           /  November 12, 2013

          Agreed, the pair create an entertaining balance between red v blue provincialism.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  November 12, 2013

        Until POM starts playing like a 6, I wont rate him,a few good carries and hands(which I mentioned) aside he did nothing that you would look for in an international 6. His contribution is on par with the likes of a Croft or Ali Williams in his declining years for NZ, zero graft or hard yards or big hits.
        Hes playing rugby, hes not being shown up(out of position missing tackles, bad hands), its just he’s not playing rugby as a six should and his -performances for Ireland have all been utterly average because of that. He should be aspiring to emulate Jerry Collins, Juan Smith etc not Tom Croft, who is shite. Its not provincial otherwise I would be clamouring for the sizable Leinster contingent that started to retain their places, which I am not, rugby should be played a certain way depending on your position, hence every other nation having a prototypical player for each position and trying to replace like for like at all times. You would not see Un-Zee or Oz going into a match without a 7 at 7, 6 at 6 and an 8 at 8, except on very rare occasions, why we try to do it, is beyond me.

        • ruckinhell

           /  November 12, 2013

          I rewatched the game on Torrents yesterday and POM was involved singly or jointly in 4 turnovers over the course of the game, 3 in the first half (2 for penalties, one a turnover proper). His tackling wasn’t at the same level as the other two backrowers but he certainly didn’t lack for workrate and he has a propensity for “big plays” that can affect the game.

          The positional argument you make is , quite frankly, incorrect with regards to backrow. I say this based on experience, having played flanker (at various grades, mostly lowly!) for the past ten years in France, Ireland, Argentina and (ahem) Norway. New Zealand play, and pioneered, the traditional 6/7/8 format and breakdown of roles but it’s far from a universal alignment. The French invert the numbers and the two flankers switch from open to blind often on the basis of set pieces. One (or even two) of the backrowers will often be the key man in the lineout and the non jumping backrower is usually the “open side” on lineouts. Conversely, the jumper is often the most athletic of the backrowers and will be place on the open flank at scrums to potentially cover the larger distance to first collision. Think Jean Bouilhou of Toulouse glory days.

          The Argentines don’t even have a word for openside flanker, they’ll often just play left and right flankers which don’t interchange based on positions of scrums. The number of the jersey is immaterial normally. Ditto for a lot of South African backrows and Jake White famously eschewed what he called a “fetcher” or in your words a “prototypical” openside flanker. Obviously his inability to listen to your conventional wisdom cost him badly, as the Boks never won anything of note like a 3Ns or a Rugby World Cup or a number 1 IRB World ranking under the myopic and misguided White.

          The All Blacks have the best 8 in the world at present in Read and the best 7 of the last decade in McCaw. They can play the roles of “traditional” 6/7/8 as this is how the game is taught in New Zealand and they have the perfect players to fulfil these roles. Just because we don’t have exact carbon copies of these players doesn’t mean that our backrow can’t be competitive and functional. Although the AB backrow is the best, I think it has more to do with the quality of the players rather than the necessary alignment and task division.

          To echo the sentiments expressed above by WoC re Roncero post RWC 07, I don’t care the number of the jersey making the play once the play is made. If Ferris is fit he’d go straight into the team at the expense of POM but at present he’s probably the best jigsaw piece we’ve got for the backrow alongside SOB and Heaslip. But go ahead and find another strawman argument to fulfil your dislike of him but the “positional” one doesn’t really stand up to any scrutiny.

          • Steve

             /  November 12, 2013

            Ruckinhell, that’s the best analysis of ‘backrow theory’ I’ve read in a long time. You’ve cut straight through the reams of bullshit that’s been spouted on the subject since RWC 2011.

          • Thanks, the schooling I needed in backrow theory, brill.

          • Cian

             /  November 12, 2013

            +1, that was a great read Ruckinhell. A very well-supported argument.

          • curates_egg

             /  November 13, 2013

            Nice

          • Leinsterlion

             /  November 13, 2013

            Nonsense, you cite France and SA as teams who dont play with a traditional backrow. In 07 white picked three 6’4 18 stone bruisers in Burger, Smith and Roussouw. We dont have that luxury and the rules have changed to work against such a combination even if we had players to match that. Since then they have fielded a variety of ineffective combinations largely due to their version of POM in the workshy Pierre Spies, go onto any non-Bulls site to verify this. France with Harinordoquay, Dusatoir and Bonnair granted was a line up made up of two 6.5’s and an 8 and it worked well…back in 11, since then? Look at their shite performances and general decline across all areas of the pitch especially the backrow. Again you cite Argentina, great team, regularly beat the top teams…….
            In short you accuse me of building strawmen when in fact you have cited a bunch of one of teams who played in a non traditional fashion only two of whom have had success and on both occasions they had three world class players. We dont, why try to shoehorn a system that hasnt worked for us or any team not named Giant Afrikanners coached by Jake White.
            I dont wish to get into a one upmanship contest but im currently playing in the AIL, as an openside, a traditional one at that. And any team I have played on has worked best when the openside is out running of shoulders and generally lurking in the wide channels and the 6 working tight and blind with the eight. It creates mishmatches and requires no confirming of responsibilites come set piece time.
            POM just isnt at the races and when we get cleaned by Un-Zee and AUS I wont be surprised.

          • Great post ruckinhell. Thanks for posting on here.

  13. Ferg had a decent outing but his defence looked a bit dodgy on occasion. For all his industry and kamikaze tendencies I would still much rather have Andrew Trimble on the wing. The tackling would improve massively and I’d get to watch the game with Mrs L.

  14. Paddy

     /  November 12, 2013

    Re McFadden, Is it better to kick the ball away or back yourself and carry it into contact thus not turning the ball over. He’ll never skin a top tier defender on the outside so always takes the contact. Not always spectacluar but dependable. A team/squad player if ever there was one. He doesn’t turn over the ball cheaply by kicking it away, getting isolated(having backed himself), or silly attempted offloads(forwards do this too). he’ll never be a great player, but seems to make good decisions on the pitch. I don’t see him there long term, but if plays like that again against Oz he should be retained so that others(Earls, Gilroy, Zebo) up their play accordingly.

    • curates_egg

       /  November 12, 2013

      For Aus, we need our best defenders on the wings. Look at where Australia’s tries come from – Honeybadger and Folau out wide. It is a real shame Gilroy is not fit and firing this year.

      I shudder at the thought of Trimble coming back near the Irish set-up. There are so many better options for Ireland (even if 3 are injured at present). Ulster fans should appreciate what he brings for Ulster…and be happy to keep him fit there.

  15. hulkinator

     /  November 12, 2013

    POM made 19 tackles in Munsters top of the table clash against Glasgow.

    Its funny that he was ONCE AGAIN one of if not the best player on the pitch and his place is still being questioned. How about 6 SOB, 7 Jennings 8 POM?

%d bloggers like this: