Everyone’s Invited

As usual, while the other five nations announce squads of around 30-32 players, Ireland have once again named a 40+ panel for the upcoming Six Nations and Wolfhounds games.  Everyone’s invited to the party.

It won’t be until the panel for the opening game is announced that we’ll get anything like an insight into who’s in favour and who isn’t.  There were arguably a handful of names who constitute notable absentees and a few new names to get excited about.

Kevin McLaughlin is the most high profile casualty, not least because he was a key performer in the New Zealand match, stepping off the plinth to noticeable impact.  But his form has been quiet since then, not helped by injury it would appear and he was way, way off the pace in Castres on sunday.  His spot is effectively taken by the increasingly prominent Rhys Ruddock.

Paul Marshall’s chances of playing for Ireland are receding.  Kieran Marmion gets the call-up and Marshall misses out.  He can be a livewire, but he doesn’t appear to have brought his best form to this season, and rarely looks all that good starting matches for Ulster.

James Coughlan takes a backward step.  He’s always a likely candidate to captain the Wolfhounds, but he doesn’t appear able to conjure up the energy of a couple of seasons ago, as he’s now pushing on a bit.  It makes sense to give Robin Copeland a chance for the second stringers instead.  He’s a bruising ball-carrier in a similar vein and will probably be Coughlan’s replacement at Munster next year.

The Is-Tom-Court-In-Or-Out-Of-Favour-Swing-O-Meter has moved again!  What a sensitive thing it is.  The Ulster prop is on his way to London Irish and while you can never write the chap off, he has surely played for Ireland for the last time.  David Kilcoyne has had a quiet-ish season, but he gave a timely reminder of his qualities at the breakdown against Gloucester and is worth bringing back into the fold after missing out in November.  The two Leinster looseheads are comfortably at the top of the tree for now.

There were some excitable calls for JJ Hanrahan to get a taste of the action, but it makes sense for now to let him get gametime with Munster with Jackson and Madigan much more established and able to provide cover for Sexton.

Players getting good news include Marty Moor(adz)e, Rob Herring, Jordi Murphy and somewhat improbably, Rodney Ah You, the naturalised Connacht prop who was on the way to becoming the latest southern hemisphere propping joke, before the change in scrum calls saved his professional career.  Herring and Mooradze (and Ah You, it must be said) are understudies to well established players at the moment, and winning good reviews for their efforts. Mooradze in particular seems to be on a fast-track to being the new sherriff in town sooner rather than later.  Don’t be too surprised if he finds himself capped in the summer, or even this series because Declan Fitzpatrick is not named in the squad, but will presumably be added if he proves his fitness.

Jordi Murphy continues his impressive rise, and Sean O’Brien’s absence has created a tank-sized hole at 7.  Murphy has the look of Wolfhounds openside; the game against Castres showed him where his breakdown work needs to get to to further press his claims.  O’Donnell and Henry will fight it out for the 7 shirt in the Six Nations, with Henry the likely starter.

And finally, it appears to be finally curtains for Donncha – he’s out of the squad for good now. You don’t get 90+ Ireland caps and tour with the Lions twice without being a pretty able player, but, equally as relevant, he has been a big personality in the squad for over a decade and his absence will surely impact the dynamic. Time for a new joker – don’t suppose Ah You knows any classic party tricks?

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27 Comments

  1. connachtexile

     /  January 15, 2014

    While Ah You was a dire prop for Connacht the last few years this season he has come on leaps and bounds and at 24 he is a puppy in propping terms and has being improving a lot, also he is a ball carrier who can break the line with his bulk and with Ferris & SOB out of the 6N and Healy just back we need guys who can do that. Don’t think Dave (his connacht nickname after Rodney from Only fools and Horses) is a joke at all and could be an asset for Ireland in the future.

    • Easy tiger – we said he ‘was on his way to being a joke’. From what we have heard from Connacht fans, they were disbelieving that his contract was renewed. But the change in scrum calls have changed things.

    • Yossarian

       /  January 16, 2014

      Ah You under Pat Lam is similar to the change in Nick Williams under Anscombe. Remarkable turn around.

  2. curates_egg

     /  January 15, 2014

    Hoardy Murphy has been fantastic this season, kicking on from last season, with sterling performances at 6 and 8 (and 7 against Connacht) but he struggled as a 7 on Sunday. It was always a big ask to expect him to perform in a position in which he effectively hasn’t played for a few seasons at such a high level. He was outplayed by his opposite number (who was my MOTM) and prevented from effective ballcarrying as he was marked out of it (if you take away his 25 metre sprint for the try, he made 17 metres with no defenders beaten as our main ball carrier). I am not sure he is ready to fill that position even for the Wolfhounds.

    He is very close to being a first choice first team player for Leinster but Leinster need to decide where they want him to play. His enormous levels of skill and power means he can perform well in any backrow position at Pro12 level. As such, he might be shunted around like SOB was. This will hamper his progression to the next level. He would be better served by staking claim to a position. If Heaslip goes, he looks set to be our 8, with Ruddock now nailing down the 6 slot.

    I reckon the IRFU should remortgage their half of Landsdowne Road to pay for SOB’s contract. It will be impossible for Leinster to replace either Heaslip or SOB just like that but, with SOB so central to Ireland’s game (as Demented Mole has made clear) and RWC just round the corner, the Irish management needs to ensure his destiny is in their hands (and not that of a flaky French millionaire). I think Heaslip would manage the transition better and his Irish game might even benefit but not O’Brien’s.

    For the other newbies in the squad, I would like to see Marmion and Moore in matchday squads during the 6 Nations, as I think both will be important in the world cup.

  3. 23 starters in each province = 92 players. Take out the 20 overseas players such as B.J. and Pienaar and remove the injured or over the hill guys like DOC and Court and there aren’t many left. There are about 15 pro players not in the mix. I wonder how they feel this morning?

    • curates_egg

       /  January 15, 2014

      Here is a quick squad of those fit and playing last weekend not making the cut: Cronin/Wilkinson/Court, Casey/Harris-Wright, White (who must be almost Irish qualified now?), Foley/DOC, Leo, McLaughlin, Jennings, Coughlan/Wilson, Marshall/Tomas O’Leary, Hanrahan, Zebo ;), Downey, Griffin, Healy/Carr/Murphy, Duffy

      • Zebo and Wilson are staying with the province by design for gametime purposes, as are Gilroy, Bowe, Deccie Fitz etc – they didn’t really miss out ..

        But your point is well-made – pretty much everyone is in!

        • curates_egg

           /  January 15, 2014

          Bowe, DFitz and Gilroy are officially injured – Zebo was the tongue in cheek inclusion. Of course you would imagine they will all be in the mix.

          Zebo and Gilroy front runners if fit and on form. For me, Luke Fitz and DKearney are ahead of Bowe on this season’s form. If McFadden returns to his autumn international form, it makes for enormous competition. It is good to see such competition, with a Lions starter under serious pressure on multiple fronts.

          • The statement named a number of players that could be added to the squad once fit. Zebo, Gilroy, Bowe and Fitzpatrick were all included, as well as Roger Wilson, Donnacha Ryan and, hugely encouragingly, Richardt Strauss.

          • curates_egg

             /  January 15, 2014

            I know. I read. But it is not factually correct. McFadden has yet to start (i.e. is injured), whereas Zebo played last weekend – Gilroy, Fitzp, Ryan and Bowe actually are injured.

            They should really not rush Strauss back. Many sportsmen never recover from the procedure he had. If he has recovered, great but take it easy.

          • curates_egg

             /  January 15, 2014

            Jeez. I forgot Earls. Will be an even tougher conundrum. That pushes Bowe even further down on my list. On form, its Fitzgerald-Earls; if they can prove themselves, its Zebo-Gilroy; Kearney has had a better season than Bowe and McFadden far out performed him in the autumns. That pushes Bowe down to our 7th choice winger…or 8th if you prefer Trimble.

          • Stevo

             /  January 16, 2014

            “or 8th if you prefer Trimble.”

            Let’s not lose the run of ourselves.

      • The only omission I’m disappointed with is Griffin. There aren’t a wealth of options at 12 in the squad (D’Arcy and Marshall, and after that you’re into converted wingers territory), and he’s been playing very well for Connacht. Seems to have gotten over the hamstring problems, is carrying well in contact, and has excellent handling and passing skills. I would have liked to have seen him with the Wolfhounds at least.

        Conversely, it’s excellent to see Copeland in the squad. Really looking forward to his arrival at Munster.

        • Griffin is an outside centre but has done a great job at 12 in the absence of McSharry and Tonetti who have been injured on and off (mostlly on) for a year and 2 years respectively. He’s generally been excellent but had an absolute mare against Zebre last weekend. Plus the Irish management seem far more enamoured of Henshaw in Griffin’s actual position. From a Connacht supporter’s POV I’m happy enough with our representation, after the 3 boys selected our best performers (Wilkinson, Kearney, Muldoon) are in positions where Ireland is absolutely stacked with talent.

  4. hulkinator

     /  January 15, 2014

    Anyone else think there are too many project players now in the Ireland squad?

    Henshaw is looking good lately playing outside center. He seems to be maturing quickly this season and looks more polished than last season. He is still a young man but I fancy him to be next in line after the great one. Griffin can count himself unlucky and should at least be included in the squad to get some experience.

    Its the end of Tom Court in the green jersey alright. He has been a good servant but moving to London Irish and his form means we probably won’t see him again.

    Copeland could be the bolter to start a match or two. He is playing better than Heaslip this season and looks a real powerful ball carrier, always making yards. He could really blossom playing for Ireland.

    I think Martin Moore is almost guaranteed the sub spot. He is outperforming Ross this season in the scrums. Still, Ross played well in the AI’s. That suggests to me that he is focusing more for Ireland than Leinster. Archer is too hit and miss still. Deccie Fitz is a solid option if he can stay fit.

    The wingers are anyones guess!

    • Paddy

       /  January 15, 2014

      No to you’re first question. How many is too many?

      Copeland hasn’t been playing better than Heaslip this season on the other hand it appears he’s better dressed in public and he doesn’t have a tongue ring! The closest he’ll get to starting is for the wolfhounds. I’d rate the chances of Ruddock and TOD a lot higher given POM will cover 8(I think Henry played there once too). That said as the most experienced back rower available I think Heaslip will feature in every game.

      I don’t think Griffin is unlucky just yet. It’s already a big squad(too big IMO) with more players to possibly be added provided they come back uninjured. Schmidt will have little enough time with the players already without further diluting it. Being 3rd or fourth choice in your position in an Irish squad will see further away from the starters jersey as you’re better
      off staying with your team and playing you’re way into the squad.

    • Hmmm, ‘playing better than Heaslip’. I expect what you mean is ‘made more eye-catching runs where he smashes a fellow out of the way than Heaslip’, but then he is the principal carrier in his team, while Heaslip is not. He’s a good carrier for sure, but he doesn’t have anything like the work rate or all round contribution of Heaslip.

      But then he doesn’t wear those headphones…

    • Stevo

       /  January 16, 2014

      “He is playing better than Heaslip this season”…in what sport?

  5. Paddy

     /  January 15, 2014

    If Cave doesn’t get a look in for the Wolfhounds game I think his Ireland career is finished bar a massive injury crisis

  6. Sgt Unruly

     /  January 15, 2014

    Honestly, I don’t think O’Driscoll should be our starting 13. Northampton away aside, I think he’s been totally anonymous this season. Henshaw has been impressive for Con this year and Cave has been great for Ulster and this is the season when we should be using them.

    Personally I think he made the wrong decision to not retire.

  7. I’d tend agree. Now is the time to be blooding potential 13s at a competitive international level. Personally, I think Payne is nailed on to become our 13 as soon as this year’s AIs come around. Going to be refreshing to have a real, genuine attacking threat in that channel – Fitzgerald will come into the equation too from next season (injury permitting touch wood). Now I would never speak ill of the great man, but I would wager a guess that Joe will certainly play him in the away games, but might look at Scotland/Italy at home to give some game time to the likes of Henshaw.

    Joe is no fool, and knows we need a succession strategy.

    Personally, I’m very excited at seeing some of the new faces in green.

  8. Yossarian

     /  January 16, 2014

    I wonder will we see some unexpected calls in a bid to make up for the loss of SOB?Henry wouldn’t cover the ball carrying aspect while TOD wouldn’t cover the ground work/defensive duties. POM under pressure as we can’t afford a back row like him?(lower work rate-never hit 10 tackles in an international) I think people over estimate copeland as his regular runs make him eye catching but potentially play him 6 to compensate for SOB?don’t see it happening but Henry,Heaslip,Copeland looks pretty well balanced compared to Henry, Heaslip, POM which might lack for carrying options.

    • Cian

       /  January 16, 2014

      Nobody’s going to cover all aspects of SOB’s work, because nobody else is as good as him. TOD would come as close as anyone else to covering the defensive duties and carrying, if he gets back to last year’s form. He’s far closer to a like-for-like replacement than Henry, although it may be that the latter’s disruptive breakdown play is considered more valuable. Maybe Joe will even have the nous to play horses for courses back row.

      Also, the point about POM is rubbish – Joe hasn’t been picking an inferior back row because SOB was good enough to cover his inadequacies, and now he’s going to be forced into picking a better player. He’s been picking a back row with specific duties, and POM has in general carried out his as well as anyone else (bar SOB, because he’s better).

      • Yossarian

         /  January 17, 2014

        sorry point on POM might not have been clear, he is there to offer a different type of ball carrying/distribution in the back row and hit a reasonable number of rucks. Without SOB we look light on carriers and a tackle machine and i wonder could that swing some of the positional debates Cronin/Best, Tuohy/Toner and potentially the make up of the back row.

        • Cian

           /  January 17, 2014

          Ah I see your point now. I think the root of the problem, though, is that whoever replaces SOB isn’t going to be as good in at least one major facet of back row play. I agree that there’s going to be a tricky balancing act to be done across the entire pack in terms of ball carrying, breakdown work, tackling, and link play.

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