Irish Wolfhounds v England Saxons

Ireland have named their Wolfhounds team to play England Saxons this weekend.  As usual, this means two things: there’s a game of quasi-international rugby on, and we can maybe, possibly try to infer some things about what Schmidt’s thinking and who is likely to make the test team the following week.

All in all, it’s a decent looking team and most of those selected are starters with their province, or in the case of Robin Copeland, Welsh region.  Rhys Ruddock looks a sensible choice as captain as he has experience in the role for Leinster.  There aren’t too many of the experienced older hands in the side – the likes of James Coughlan or Gavin Duffy – though Isaac Boss could fit into that category.  It does seem a shame that Kieran Marmion wasn’t given the start at scrum-half. Most of the team are players on the rise who will see this as a stepping stone.

For the players themselves, no doubt some of them are trying to work out in their heads whether it’s good or bad news to be playing.  Is it a chance to put your hand up for selection against Scotland or proof that you’re still a little bit down the pecking order?  For Tommy O’Donnell it’s probably an indication that Chris Henry is going to start, as has always looked the likely outcome.  But then O’Donnell is still a little short of match-time and is in good enough form to get noticed.

Most selections can be taken at face value.  In the front row David Kilcoyne looks one rung off the test 23, behind Jack McGrath and the indomitable Cian Healy.  Rob Herring will be pleased to get the chance to impress at this level.   The all-Ulster second row will be out for blood.  Toner, O’Connell and McCarthy look like the test picks, but imagine the impact of springing NWJMB with 20 minuts to go?

Those who’ll be seeing the call up as good news will be Ian Madigan and Fergus McFadden.  For McFadden it’s likely that Schmidt is giving him match-time because he needs him for the test squd.  The Kildare Lewis Moody may be unfashionable, but his numbers in the green shirt are hard to knock.  And Ian Madigan has fallen behind Paddy Jackson in the race to back up Sexton and will be glad of a chance to remind us of his ability.  Can Schmidt coax the form he showed last season out of him? The news that Johnny Sex-bomb will be milked by Racing Metro on Saturday makes this a little more pertinent – if Sexton is to be rested for one game in the tournament by Schmidt (say, Italy), then there is a shirt up for grabs, for a game anyway.

Darren Cave will assuredly be even angrier after seeing a “12” next to his name – Jamie Heaslip will need to be mindful he doesn’t get blindsided by a tackle bag in training.  He’s now seemingly behind Robbie Henshaw, who is extremely raw at this level. No doubt Cave will feel that years of consistent form are going unrecognised, and he isn’t being given the chance to show what he can do. But with no centre on the bench, expect Cave to get some time at 13 in the second half after Keatley comes in and Madigan gets shifted out.

Possibly the most interesting performance to watch will be that of Marty Moore.  He came through his test against Ospreys impressively, and there is an increasing feeling that he will be capped – who knows, perhaps even starting – against Scotland.  Is this another screen test to see if he’s ready?  There’s still no sign of Declan Fitzpatrick so the matchday 23 is firmly within his grasp now.  He just has to bind on to it and wrestle it into the dirt, which he seems to be awfully good at.



  1. Paddy

     /  January 23, 2014

    Marmion was only cleared to play this morning after being cited at the weekend. He has only himself to blame.

    Otherwise I’d agree with most of that.

    • He has only himself to blame for a citing whose hearing never even went ahead? What?

      • Donal

         /  January 23, 2014

        The hearing did go ahead and the citing was upheld. They didn’t feel any further action was required. It was still silly of Marmion and likely cost him a starting spot here.

        • mohill11

           /  January 23, 2014

          Or it could mean Marmion will cover Murray off the bench next Saturday?

          • Highly unlikely. Reddan is in superlative form and is not about to be dropped from the squad.

          • Superlative? Really? He’s been big stripey pants in both games against Connacht this year, not to mention a few of the HEC games too (though in fairness the whole Leinster team have been up-and-down in the pool games).

          • @SC – Murray will obviously start, and Reddan has had some fabulous efforts off the bench this year. I’m not necessarily a fan of this word – and subs also have to provide injury cover from minute one – but in terms of impact, his ability to increase a game’s pace is a bigger trump card than any of the other nines have in their locker.

            In general, I think this selection all-but-confirms that Luke Marshall and Gordon D’Arcy will jobshare at 12 this 6N (if LM was only going to play one match he’d have played for the Hounds, while D’Arcy’s reborn). Either Henshaw or Cave (probably the former) will get a shot at some point, I’d wager (or even possibly Earls?) to both mix things up and give granda a break. Beyond that, I’m reading nothing into it – oh, aside from Chris Henry being nailed on for the first game (though I think his performances for Ulster since returning from injury probably sealed that to no-one’s surprise).

  2. Hope Madigan rediscovers the form that made him the highest points scorer in the Rabo last season. If he does, he’d be my choice for back-up No. 10 to Sexton.

  3. I think Marmion may be on the bench because they weren’t sure he would be free to play so they’ve been training with Boss all week, which is fair enough when you consider how little time they get together.

    Interesting to see that Jordi Murphy is behind Copeland. Maybe someone can inform me here, but who will call the lineouts? Does Tuohy do it much when Muller is out?

    • Sam

       /  January 23, 2014

      Yep Tuohy would be the deputy lineout-caller for Ulster.

  4. Barry

     /  January 23, 2014

    C’mon take off the Ulster shades – Cave isn’t International-level – honest, industrious but not slick enough for 13 and not big enough at 12

    • Bowe Gathers

       /  January 23, 2014

      He is literally the only person operating in Ireland who is a) a specialist 13 and b) Irish qualified. When BOD eventually goes there will be no other obvious candidate. He’s no dream I’ll grant, but he’s defensively sound and would be a competent player at international imo. The truth is that we don’t know, because he’s never been given a chance at that level.

      While I know we carp on about it, imagine how galling it is to have a succession of wingers try to fill the 13 shirt and fail while a positionally astute and industrious player hangs out and plays the dragon’s second string in February. I genuinely believe that if he were playing in red or blue he would have meaningful caps by now.

      • Donal

         /  January 23, 2014

        Cave has a great skill set but IMO his pace and power are a long, long way off international level. If you could move his brain into Trimbles body you’d have a superstar. Thankfully the answer is also at Ulster, Payne has all the attributes of a super 13 and come the Autumn internationals will be eligible.

        • therealspratt

           /  January 23, 2014

          Ah but then you’re wasting Payne in his second best position by a mile, Payne is so much better at 15 and I would add that Jared hasn’t really shown himself as much better a 13 than Darren in the opportunities he has had.

          • toro toro

             /  January 23, 2014

            Yeah, but it’s a question of using the resources available to you. Payne may be a better 15 than 13, but he’s also a far better 13 than Rob Kearney.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  January 23, 2014

        Other nations have had cause celebres in the center, Hipkiss springs to mind, Cave is just Irelands answer to that, an solid but utterly unspectacular option at 13, what has he done to deserve a call up? I’d rather stick McFadden there, at least he’d bosh someone.

        • Played extremely well for Europe’s top side in the HC pool stages – nothing at all really!

          • Leinsterlion

             /  January 24, 2014

            Dan Hipkiss, played for England top side of the last decade, couldnt get his game for England, I remember reading Barnsey and S.Jones articles bemoaning him not being picked. Same scenario, what can Cave bring to the table?

    • You could say the same about Jonathan Davies, he seems a decent enough centre.

      I’ve said it elsewhere, but I think Ireland’s idea of what will be required of an international centre are going to be hugely inflated because of BOD, which is why Cave probably won’t nail it down. But I think it’s a bit unfair to label him as not international level when he’s only had a handful of caps.

      • L.P.O.

         /  January 24, 2014

        That’s a great point- having been spoiled over the past 14 years, we’re really expecting a centre to have a huge skill-set and a large dose of a God-given gift, rather than someone to do an effective job.

        Other nations have gone in another direction entirely during that period, think Wales, England and even uncharacteristically the French for a period, picking for the BOSH(!) rather than the footballing, even to the extreme of picking centres who are not centres at all, but are just huge physical specimens.

        You’ve always had the two schools of thought on what kind of player you want at inside centre- either the bludgeon or the rapier… but outside centre wasn’t usually up for such debate. Recently we’ve seen fellows like Banahan, Bastareaud, Davies and now with North possibly being thrown in there by Gatland for the Lansdowne showdown, that’s another way of approaching the issue entirely.

        (Not saying North is devoid of skills, but that’s not the reason he’d be picked there)

        Look at the fellows who have been touted as being in with a chance of replacing BO’D: Bowe, FitzGerald, Payne- all with a huge range of footballing skills, all with a massive natural talent, and ne’er a bosher in sight. That’s the way we’re likely to look at it for the conceivable future, which must be largely down to BO’D, and is something very positive in my opinion.

        • toro toro

           /  January 24, 2014

          Bowe’s a big, big unit; and while he’s hardly a giant, Fitzgerald is no BO’D physically either.

    • Amiga500

       /  January 24, 2014

      The Ulstermen (and women) that see Cave and Payne play week-in week-out say “it’d be better to have Cave 13 and Payne 15. Payne at 15 adds extra dimensions to the back-play.”

      Everyone else says “no, no, can’t do that. Cave isn’t good enough for international level* and Payne should play 13 ‘cos we don’t want to drop Rob Kearney who can be quite good on occasion”.

      *based on their frequent viewings of him in an Irish 13 jersey of course.

  5. curates_egg

     /  January 23, 2014

    Cave has 5 caps right? He has certainly had a few chances to prove he has what it takes – for all his moaning. More than many equally talented players have gotten in any case.

    I didn’t see the US game but I did watch his appearance for Ireland previous to that (XV vs Fiji). I was rooting for him that day because I really hoped he might finally take his chance and show he has what it takes to fill the BOD-shaped hole. However, in the end, he was the only one of a very green backline who didn’t stand out – 3 of the others on show that day were his provincial colleagues (Jackson, Marshall and Gilroy) and they and two of the others (Zebo and McFadden) are now either in the 23 or knocking loudly on the door.

    It is a pity Cave doesn’t seem to be good enough at international level (because I really like parts of his game for Ulster) but it looks like the powers that be have decided to move on and look towards Henshaw and (long term) Payne (in spite of his playing for dastardly Ulster).

    Look, I get that Ulster and its players like moaning about not making the Irish squad – that is the prerogative of provincial blinkers – but it just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny and is starting to get a little bit grating. Why are Cave, Trimble and Wilson not starting for Ireland? Because there are better options. It is that simple. Why are Best, Henderson, Henry, Jackson, Marshall and Gilroy all there or thereabouts? Because they are the best options (just as Bowe and Ferris would also be if they were fit and firing). That is not a bad representation when you consider that 4 of Ulster’s best players are NIQ at present (one of whom will be in the Ireland squad next year). Tuohy is the only one I have some sympathy for (7 caps to Toner’s 10 does need seem a fair reflection).

    • I think Cave’s probably one of the unluckiest men in world rugby in that he’s gunning for the post-BOD 13. He’s synonymous with words like “solid”, “competent”, “defensively sound” etc, but that’s probably not going to be perceived as being enough for the Ireland 13 jersey, which is why Henshaw (young, exciting) and Payne (exciting) are perceived as ahead of him. Trimble is probably in the same boat now in that he does a job for Ulster, but he doesn’t exactly create anything anymore.

      I don’t think anyone has bemoaned Wilson only getting a single cap (Cave has said he was taken out of context on it but I don’t know more than that), he made a choice to go to Northampton, which never does your International career any good and he’s hardly a spring chicken now.

      Looking objectively at Ulster, I’d agree that outside of the players you’ve mentioned (including Tuohy) there aren’t many others knocking on the door for international selection. The only other ones that immediately spring to mind are Olding and Payne, who will start knocking on the door once they’re fit and eligible respectively.

      I don’t think there’s any point trying to whinge about selections until we’re at the other end of the 6N, because Joe’s said that he’s looking to build depth. For example, if D’Arcy and BOD were to start every game I would start to ask questions.

      • curates_egg

         /  January 23, 2014

        Here’s to hoping Schmidt has a remit to properly use his squads, rotating matchday XVs and using his bench for impact. We ain’t gonna win the 6 Nations without O’Brien but if we can develop a squad for the world cup, whilst winning games and developing a coherent gameplan (or gameplans)…that would be a major step forward. I can think of around 28/29 players I would like to see seriously involved (or maybe 30 depending on whether injured players return) but maybe that is too many.

        • I’d disagree about winning the 6N, I don’t think any team is an outright favourite to win, with the exception of maybe Wales who are probably the healthiest in terms of squad depth (France being France, England not having a backline, Scotland and Italy probably aren’t in the mix).

          Joe’s target of winning all the home games and aiming for a top 2 is a refreshingly solid short-term target compared to Kidney’s “ah sure we’re just looking to win the next game” mantra. I don’t think anyone’s realistically expecting a grand slam (hell, we’ll probably draw with France again), and I would be hoping to see a significant portion of the extended squad announced last week involved in matchday 23s, but I can’t see more than 2-3 positions being tinkered with per game, which gives us a strong chance in most matches.

          • curates_egg

             /  January 23, 2014

            That’d be about right on the rotation front, so long as we are also using our bench. So much of our game centres on O’Brien and I honestly think his absence will hold us back so much. I would love to share your optimism though. The Wales game is the big yardstick.

      • From some of the comments, I get the impression some people here have never seen Darren Cave play. His main strength is his short passing game and the trouble this can cause defenders at the gain line. This is also one of BOD’s (many) positives and I’m sure no-one needs convinced of just how much this can bring to the 13 shirt, when you often have traffic inside you but perhaps a squeak more space outside – being able to keep several passing options open very late before releasing the ball (or going yourself) can really make the difference to an attacking game and, before PJ became our controller and Payne our best back, he was the most important player in the Ulster three-quarters.

        Sometimes there are errors with his short-passing game, but players who don’t make mistakes (in attack, anyway) aren’t trying enough things; Cave sometimes errs on the side of trying it, but it’s a fine line; his judgement’s good.

        His long-passing game is less strong, chiefly as he doesn’t comfortably have big distances, but he’s still better than some international centres (Davies, Fofana come to mind – Rougerie too, actually… Bastareaud – theme developing!).

        In defence, he’s good if not a real stand-out. He’s not the quickest but isn’t slow either and moves pretty quickly. At the breakdown he’s again good, if not BOD. His kicking game doesn’t make much of an appearance, beyond the odd deliberate shift-to-13-then-boot move, which teams usually do as easy money as the whole point is to bring up the opposing backline to provide more space into which to kick – i.e. his kicking game is nothing to write home about (but obviously he’s got more footballing grace than Andrew Trimble).

        He’s a far better 13 than Earls and, from what I’ve seen thus far, Henshaw, who is still very raw. However, I can fully understand giving RH more gametime there, his age and potential are calling for it.

        Overall, however, this discussion is academic as the next Irish OC is coming Straight Outta Tauranga.

        • Leinsterlion

           /  January 23, 2014

          HAHAHAHA, mate Ive typed some serious wummery in my day but Cave a better center than Fofana, Bastareud? Fofana is big strong, quick feet and is widely regarded as one of the best 12’s in the business. Rougerie is big strong and fast, get you over the gainline, Daivies is..well, you’ve got me there. Basteraud is doing the business at Toulon and is a serious bosh merchant, both have tangible skills that put them above the competiton, aka, they are international class.
          Cave is just well. meh, what does he bring to change a game? Take Ferg, his WOC nickname “kildare Lewis Moody” sums up that extra factor he brings, kamikazi d and boshing/hard lines, you need to have some skill above the ordinary to be a consistent international, Cave doesnt.
          Even the much maligned Earls(not suggesting hes a better 13, hes not) at least had that “gas over 15-20m”, that could see him through a hole, I mean thats all he had, but it was something that stood out. Cve needs to develop something to make him a serious option at international level, whether its going to a sprint coach and gaining that 5m of speed to hit a gap, or learning to hit like Benson Staney, frankly he’s just too ordinary to be selected as is.

          • I didn’t say he was better than any of them. My point is that they have poor long-passing games, ie. it’s not necessarily an obstacle. For absolute clarity – he’s far off all of them (except perhaps a now aged Rougerie).

            As for Earls – if anyone can turn him into a serviceable centre, it’s Schmidt. His footwork and acceleration are probably why people keep trying him there; obviously if that all comes together (I don’t really think it will) it’s a serious option.

            If Cave brings anything it’s that short passing, the ability to use close runners off himself to trouble defences. I don’t know if he’s good enough for Ireland – but I don’t know he’s not, either. He might be worth ago but, again, this is largely academic as Payne is (IMO) a cert.

        • In relation to Cave and replacing BOD, the rather huge elephant in the room this season is that BoD has by and large been very poor. He will be targeted in the 6 nations and if he performs in defence as he did against Samoa, Oz, Castres, etc. he and Ireland will be badly exposed

          I know people decry Caves lack of pace but the Irish backline as a whole is quite 1 paced and the centre partnership is probably the slowest in the 6 nations and Cave probably has more gas than BoD at this stage

          fairly scattered thoughts in fairness but my main point is that Cave at this stage is not so much of a step down (if any) that Irish rugby fans should be dismissing him out of hand as some appear to be doing here and elsewhere

          • BOD is definitely at the end – it is not really an elephant in the room: every fan can see it, even if the media have the good grace not to bang on about it. The problem is that there is still nobody really good enough to play 13 at international level in his place (or not yet).

            Yes BOD has no pace anymore and his tackle defence has seriously dropped off (unless he is seriously minding himself) BUT he is still doing some great stuff at the breakdown and short-passing. So, as you put it (kind of), Cave wouldn’t be a step up from that (despite the obvious positives to his game outlined by Larry).

            Not a great place to be for Ireland but I would rather we invested in someone who may be a step up, with an eye on the future (like Henshaw, even if he is clearly also miles off an international 13 now), than play Cave in some kind of desperate stop-gap. Let BOD have his swansong and hold Henshaw’s hand in Carton House.

          • With BOD I think the biggest change is in consistency. He’s still put in some stellar performances, but now they’re occasional, rather than almost every game. Physically he’s tailed off as you say, but he used to be as reliable as he was brilliant. We’ll see, I don’t think a formidable 6N is beyond him, hopefully it won’t be a flat swansong.

        • Not Michael Bent

           /  January 23, 2014

          Surely the issue with Cave (and for the record, I do think he has been the second best outside centre available to Ireland over the last few years) and the simplest reason he only has five caps is that he is very much a specialist centre, and the man who in possession of the 13 jersey is very definitively the man in possession of that jersey.

          With three backs on the bench, one of whom is a scrum half and one of whom (up until last March at least) has been ROG or Sexton, that has meant that the other guy has to cover everything outside. If you had Cave as the 23rd man in the squad, and a winger went down injured, it’s him, BOD or Dorce that would have to cover the wide spot, and none of them can really do that.

          He’s a boom or bust selection, start at 13 or don’t make the squad.

          Ireland’s number 23/22 over the last two years have been:

          Fergus McFadden (SA 2012, Arg 2012, France 2012, Italy 2012, Scotland 2012, England 2012)
          Luke Fitz (Nz 2013, Italy 2013, France 2013, Scotland 2013)
          Robbie Henshaw (Oz 2013, Canada 2013)
          Dave Kearney (Samoa 2013, Wales 2012)
          Keith Earls (England 2013, Wales 2013
          Andrew Trimble (NZ 2012 (3rd test)
          Simon Zebo (NZ 2012 (2nd test)
          Darren Cave (NZ 2012 (1st test)) ** Earls Started at Centre
          Felix Jones (USA 2013) **Back three made up of Henshaw, McFadden and Zebo

          • Paddy

             /  January 23, 2014

            Good point. It’s similar to Marshall/D’arcy. Either your in or your out of the 23 altogether.

          • ehhweasel

             /  January 24, 2014

            Open to being shot down here, but what are the reasons for Luke Marshall *never* being tried at 13? He has the line breaking ability and creativity that would sit nicely outside D’arcy.

            Is it simply because Mr. Dependable is usually picked at 13 for Ulster?

            Would love to see Olding and Marshall in the centres in a few years.

  6. Peat

     /  January 23, 2014

    Half wondering if Boss hasn’t been selected to sit on Simpson and join in with the fringe warfare that seems almost inevitable against England. It seems his sort of game.

    p.s. Any argument on Wilson’s international disappearance being due to playing at Northampton has to take into account Neil Best’s comparative international involvement and club form at the same time – more involvement, worse form. Seem to recall Bob Casey and Johne Murphy both picking up Wolfhounds caps while involved in England around that time too. Personally, I can’t agree with the argument due to this.

  7. Matt

     /  January 23, 2014

    Does anyone else looking at the back three options in this team think that it suggests Joe will be playing one of Kearney or Trimble on the right wing v Scotland? There’s not many others in this team who look like starters, so you have to presume those left out will be starting

  8. hulkinator

     /  January 23, 2014

    I’ve always been a fan of Cave. He has a good rugby brain but maybe isn’t athletic enough for coaches to consider him top class.

    As for Henshaw, he looks more comfortable in the centre and has played well there for Connacht lately. That’s good going considering Connacht are very weak up front and struggle to make opportunities for their backs. Henshaw is a top athlete and getting better. Still raw but coming along nicely. Being able to play 15 also helps him get selected.

    The back 5 forwards look really athletic ball carriers. It should be interesting to see how that pack play. The offloading game could make it hard for England.

  9. 36 comments and I am astonished nobody has mentioned Luke Fitz as the ready made replacement for BOD at 13 next season.

    He’s got the turn of pace, intelligent running lines, passing ability, fearsome tackler (although not as good at jackaling), has a fantastic step off both sides, great reader of the game (now that he’s calmed down and stopped over running).

    He’s been put in there a few times before by Leinster but injuries prevented him from getting a serious run of games. Now that he seems to be over his injury nightmare I think he’s the most logical fit. I think he’s got all the abilities, and tactical brain to play there.

    • He’s played there for Ireland before – there was a few games he wore 12 but BOD lined up inside and Fitz outside

  10. L.P.O.

     /  January 24, 2014

    I’d consider that a very strong Wolfhounds team. Any news on whom the Sasanach are sending out?

    • L.P.O.

       /  January 24, 2014

      Ah, found it! Calum Clark captaining the side??? Scumbag. How can the Saints and the English tolerate and even encourage and reward such filthy, cowardly players? Hope we stuff them… and looking at the team, can see no reason why we shouldn’t.

      Bring it on! Come on the Wolfhounds: Awooooo Woof Woof Bark!

      E Daly (Wasps); A Watson (Bath), M Hopper (Harlequins), S Hill (Exeter), C Sharples (Gloucester); F Burns (Gloucester), J Simpson (Wasps); A Waller (Northampton), J George (Saracens), T Mercey (Northampton), C Matthews (Harlequins), G Kruis (Saracens), C Clark (Northampton, capt), L Wallace (Harlequins), D Ewers (Exeter).

      Replacements: D Ward (Harlequins), N Catt (Bath), S Wilson (Newcastle), E Stooke (Gloucester), S Dickinson (Northampton), D Lewis (Exeter), H Slade (Exeter), R Miller (Sale Sharks).

  11. Cautiously looking forward to this game but we all know wolfhounds v saxons will never be a classic. A chance for Henshaw to show some moves hopefully, would have possibly preferred to see him at 12 to bolster his bench options/experience and see what he could offer as a bosher at 1st/2nd receiver. However he is being marked out as a 13 which is fine and it gives Cave an opportunity to show utility which McFadden has shown is a way into the senior squad/XV.

    In theory I’d be interested in seeing Moore start against Scotland but people need to remember how shit our scrum was against them last year (and the year before?). Personally felt that was because Scots scrummaged as an 8 man unit whereas Ireland’s 6 and 7 popped up extremely early to watch the ball, but regardless it can happen again if Ireland don’t give them the respect they deserve.

    The second row selection and bench options is interesting, PoC and toner are nailed on imo against Scotland to counteract the size of their row, after that it could between McCarthy and Henderson (if he puts in a good shift in the scrum) to offer 4/5/6 cover and another backrow. Perhaps Tuohy is in the mix too but his selection here doesn’t say as much as Henderson’s.

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