The BOD Question

Having looked at Ireland’s pack yesterday, today we turn attention to the skinnier chaps who will be instructed with passing and running with the ball.  Yesterday’s main theme was that Ireland’s Tighthead Crisis was more or less a thing of the past.  Plenty of commenters were still nervous about the scrum, and with good reason, but at the very least we know we’ve options to get by even if a key player gets injured, which hasn’t been the case for years.

But if one crisis is over, another has sprouted up, and it’s at 13.  Maybe crisis is too strong a word, but this is Brian O’Driscoll’s last season for Ireland and his form is pretty terrible to say the least.  Naturally, you criticise BOD at your peril and there’s every chance he’ll roll back the years and conjure up a couple of big performances.  Unfortunately, it has to be considered that his body may not be capable of doing that.  When Keith Wood was being subjected to ‘you can never write Munster off’ arguments in a 2010 interview on Newstalk, he observed that ‘at some point you will write off this Munster side and you’ll be right, because they can’t go on forever’.  Same, sadly, goes for O’Driscoll.

Even forgetting about 2015 and focusing purely on this Six Nations, if there was an option available one might even think of starting him.  But there isn’t; not really. Darren Cave, whose face doesn’t fit, isn’t really a test class player – he was among the weaker echelons of the Ulster team in their recent win at Welford Road, and Robbie Henshaw was last seen ushering Saracens’ backline in for 11 tries.  The wait for Jared Payne – who has hardly had a chance to play centre anyway this season, with Bowe’s injury requiring him to continue at full-back – to qualify as Irish eligible goes on until next season.  So BOD starts .. until he doesn’t because he’s just too much of a liability.

Who to play alongside him, in perhaps the most closely fought position in the team?  Marshall or D’arcy?  It looks increasingly like Schmidt is going to run with the players who banked so much credit in the infamous New Zealand match.  That would mean D’arcy starting; he was exceptional in that game and has continued his good form for Leinster.  Scotland at home is one game where you’d like to see Marshall given the chance, with an expectation that he would offer a little more in attack in a game where Ireland can expect to win plenty of ball, but perhaps he’ll miss out by dint of Scotland being the first match and may have to wait for later (the Italy game?) to feature.

The half-backs pick themselves.  At this juncture, we all know how good Sexton and Murray are.  The getting-to-know-you phase is over, and what we really want to see is these two world-class performers unleash their inner test-match-animal.  It’s time they brought their influence and personality to bear on the tournament as a whole, and not just in the odd match here and there.  We’d like to see them dominate the series in the way that Mike Phillips does for Wales, or O’Gara – him again – did for Ireland.  Hopefully Eoin Reddan will return to fitness because his form has been electric, and it will be interesting to see if Schmidt uses his reserve halves.  Sexton and Murray are 80 minute men, but Schmidt likes a change-up at 9 in particular.

We’ve covered the issues around the back three in a previous post.  Luke Fitzgerald – assuming he can get over a troublesome abdominal strain – could be about to have a storming campaign, and as the incumbent from the New Zealand game, Dave Kearney looks likely to start on the other wing.  With Fitzgerald doubtful, it has compounded the strangeness of Simon Zebo not being called up, but it seems the Munster flyer is out of favour. The Kildare Lewis Moody is next in line – his international record should not be underestimated, but he isn’t the pin-the-ears-back type.

It looks like an all-Leinster 11-15, which hasn’t exactly sparked with their province this season.  The hope is that Schmidt’s gameplanning and eye for detail will get them to do so – and it’s likely he can, he saw them every day to up 8 months ago – otherwise he’ll be fielding some questions about a certain speedster and why he didn’t pick him.  It may all be immaterial in any case, as storms and floods are set to sweep the country.  It’s looking like a day to shove it up the jumper and grind Scotland down slowly. Bosh!



  1. Barry

     /  January 30, 2014

    Forecast is for a cold , dry day – Ireland by 20!

  2. Even though I’m a fan of McFadden, Fitzgerald being injured is very worrying to me. It’d be a real shame to lose out on someone in such electric form, and also one of the few backs Ireland have (in this squad) who can get into open spaces and do some damage. It really underlines the fact that there weren’t many of those kind of guys in the squad to begin with. It’s getting to the point where we’re relying on Sexton, Murray, a solid forwards performance and trust in Schmidt’s system to create scores. That might be enough, but it’s hard not to feel that most defences aren’t exactly going to be worried about our 11-14 running at them unless (a) Marshall/Darcy are regularly crashing over the gainline, or (b) O’Driscoll bursts back into form.

  3. therealspratt

     /  January 30, 2014

    Really because Bowe has been injured Payne hasn’t gotten a chance in 13? Nonsense, the reason is that Cave is fit, is in decent form(though there’s been a slight let up of late) and he is Ulster’s first choice 13, Payne is Ulster’s first choice 15, and the Ulster backline looks at it’s best when those two are in their best positions. Payne has only ever started at 13 against the likes of Zebre, and that’s I’m pretty sure when Tommy was fit though last time I think he was more there because they wanted to give Olding a go at 15.

    • Hmmm… not so sure. When they had their full backline available, it looked as if Gilroy was going to play full-back with Payne moving up to 13.

      • therealspratt

         /  January 30, 2014

        That struck me as more experimentation on the part of Anscombe, testing how he could shift things around should an injury occur to one of the two. Last time Payne played 13 was against the Blues off the back of the Montpellier win and after that it was back to service as usual.

        • Payne has said he wants to play more at 13, and I’d say Joe has been on the phone to Mark to get him there whenever possible (Ulster would do well to build some depth at both 13 and 15)

          • For Ulster it will come down to getting your best players on the pitch

            Ulster’s best backline is in my opinion (9)Pienar, (10)Jackson, (12)Marshall, (13)Payne, (11)Bowe, (14) Trimble, (15)Gilroy. I also think Olding will eventually oust either Marshall or Gilroy if he recovers from this current injury well. Cave is short of all these guys in ability despite been a solid performer.

            I am very excited by the prospect of Payne at 13 for Ireland. I have been speaking with some NZ fans about him and they are very well aware of who he is and were sorry to see him go.

          • Amiga500

             /  January 30, 2014

            Payne has said he is happy to play at 13 if required and may have to consider moving in when the legs get slower….

        • Patrick O'Riordan

           /  January 30, 2014

          Ulster’s back-ups to Payne at 15 aren’t convincing so I think line-ups with Payne in the centre were primarily because Anscombe wanted to try additional options at fullback rather than because Payne or the Irish management wanted to see Payne in the centre.

      • JP is the best 13 and 15 in the Ulster squad. Any selection issue just about boils down to picking two from Trimble, Gilroy and Cave. If this season continues as is, Craig will be benching against Sarries.

      • Peat

         /  January 31, 2014

        I’m not sure Payne is the best 13 in the Ulster squad; I do think he’s arguably the best 15 in the Northern Hemisphere. Moving him from 15 to 13, barring a proven failure in Cave’s game at international level and all of the potential up and comers making no ground, or a youngster going supernova and becoming Payne good overnight, strikes me as close to insane. He’s a pretty sweet option at 13 but he’s not the gainline bruiser that most 13s are these days in defence and while he’s at 13 – he can’t pop up where ever he likes as playmaker; he can’t dictate the game from the back with his kicking.

    • therealspratt

       /  January 30, 2014

      I suspect though in the coming weeks with Cave probably still in the Irish squad we’ll be seeing him at 13 for Ulster with Nelson or Scholes at fullback.

      • Bowe Gathers

         /  January 30, 2014

        Don’t forget Mike Allen, who usually acquits himself admirably and seems to play 11 13 14 equally well – an unusual skill. I still believe our best 15 starts Cave in the middle with Payne in the back field: he’s just so good at running from depth.

        • therealspratt

           /  January 30, 2014

          Aye I’d say Allen’ll start one of the games at 13, it’s fantastic to see how he has kicked on this season. And yeah it just seems like those few extra seconds give Payne time to analyse the defence and figure out how what little piece of magic he’ll pull off this time. I really want to see Scholes get a chance though, quite a bit of promise in the young lad.

      • Who is Scholes playing his club football with and has he been injured this season? Has he played any 13 at all? I thought he had all the skills to play there from what I saw in the JWC last year.

        • Yer Man

           /  January 30, 2014

          Been injured most of the season, made a comeback in the final Ravens B&I Cup game. Scored and/or made a try, looked sharp.

  4. zdm

     /  January 30, 2014

    Whatever way you cut it, the Scotland encounter calls for the Good Ship Bosherly so the open space abilities of our back 3 will be a secondary consideration.

    More important is that Scotland have loaded their bench so keeping some defensive grit in reserve would seem sensible. Without wanting to confuse people in to thinking I’ve become a soft southerner, I’d be happier to start with Toner and Bambam to try and get some scores on the board, springing Big Dan T and Gordon “Hot Fuzz” d’Arcy for the final 25.

  5. Rocky

     /  January 30, 2014

    Unquestionably, the best centre pairing in Ireland for all of this season has been that of Marshall and Cave. Indeed, had Olding been fit, the debate would have been between Olding and Marshall. No-one can suggest that Cave (or anyone, for that matter) is as good as an in-form BOD but I would suggest that the last time he was in form was against Wales last February – in attack, anyway. It’s no co-incidence that Ulster’s defence has been the best in the Heineken this season, in terms of conceding tries, and their attack hasn’t been too shabby either. Cave hasn’t scored many himself but he has plenty of “assists” and he is the man around whom the defence is built. I think you do him something of an injustice. The simple fact is that he has not been given any chance to demonstrate how good (or not) he is at the highest level. He has, surely, proved he can play at Heineken level and while it may be another step up to major internationals, it isn’t all that big a step nowadays. He deserves a chance; sadly, there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that Schmidt will give him one. He will play McFadden or the entirely unproven Henshaw first and, in my opinion, he will be wrong.

    • Hansie Macdermot

       /  January 30, 2014

      I agree, I do not think that BOD will have 5 poor games but the romantic view that he is saving up 5 vintage performances belongs to the world of grand opera.
      Sadly it looks like the attack threat from Darcy and BOD is very low.
      I would go with Marshall and Cave against Scotland.
      When Bowe returns, I hope that we do not see any talk of him being moved to No 13.
      EOS tried that with Shaggy once and the result was not a success.
      Shame about FItz being injured again.

      Also,For all the talk about poor quality Scotland backs – Do we have anyone as fast as Hogg or Maitland ? suspect not.

  6. hulkinator

     /  January 30, 2014

    When people were writing BOD off before 09 I thought it was nonsense. This time however I’m writing him off myself. His physicality is gone, he is a few yards slower than before, his rucking isn’t as good and his defensive work has been very poor.

    I wouldn’t worry about BOD against Scotland. Its against Wales that worries me. I reckon they’ll target him with their big runners.

    I think Henshaw is a much better 13 than fullback and seems to be maturing and coming into form. I didn’t see the Saracens game but defensively, for the wolfhounds he was good. He is a much superior athlete now to BOD. He doesn’t have the experience yet but he is getting there. Against Wales I think he would be the best option but thats not going to happen.

    • Almost no Connacht fans think Henshaw is as good a 13 as he is a fullback, not yet anyway. He’s repeatedly made some really bad reads in defence and in attack his early performances at 13 this year were not up to those produced at 15 last season. His first really good game at 13 was probably against Leinster over Christmas (where, incidentally and worryingly, BOD was by far the worst of the 4 centres on display).

      • hulkinator

         /  January 30, 2014

        It doesn’t matter what Connacht fans think. From what I’ve seen of Henshaw he has been very error prone at fullback while solid at center. Do the fans take the errors into account?

        I think its more a case of wanting him to play fullback because they already have Griffin in the center. Schmidt and his coaches see him as a 13 and so do I.

        • Paddy

           /  January 30, 2014

          It’s a handy sample size of people who’ve followed his progress over the past while and I personally am happy to hear what they think. And I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Schmidt may want to see him at 13 but he might not be much better there than Brendan Macken. Solid bosher with iffy defense.

          • Yossarian

             /  January 31, 2014

            he looked good at 13 vs Saxons where he did a lot of defending. Hardest channel in rugby to defend these days, he will make mistakes but he is only 20!very promising for the role.

  7. Shelflife68

     /  January 30, 2014

    I dont think that BODs form entitles him to a starting place, I would however be loathe to drop him because as you say the replacement isnt clear cut.

    Its a bit unfair to throw saracens 11 tries in henshaws face, as he was part of a total team cop out on the day. I thought his defence in the Wolfhound game was excellent and feel that he will come on for that.Id def have him on the bench with an option to spring him early if the game allows.

    Darcy to start as well for me, Fitz would be a loss but ive always liked mcfadden, theres a bit of a dog in him which may well be needed on sun.

  8. LumberingForward

     /  January 30, 2014

    ’Same, sadly, goes for O’Driscoll.’ – I don’t know about that. What if he has a six nations for the ages and walks away into the sunset with his head held high? People would have been wrong to write him off then. Unlike Munster he’s not a province or professional team which we can expect to exist as long as the game is played, he’s a brilliant player with a finite career, which ends in May. With regards to terrible form, it wasn’t very long ago at all that he gave a master class at Franklin’s Gardens, and even in a bad performance against Castres he produced the odd big play, winning a turnover in his own 22 when Castres were in an ominous position. This is a very intelligent, experienced player with a lot to prove after last season and to suggest his career will finish because he’s too much of a liability seems unduly negative.

    • “What if he has a six nations for the ages and walks away into the sunset with his head held high?”

      That’s basically the most romantic view someone could have, and it’s a huge “what if”. Obviously it would be brilliant if he lined out and put everyone and their dog through for tries and went full Ruchie on the breakdowns and threw a through-the-legs-special to set up a match-winning try, but that requires a helluva lot of crystal balls. I’d still pick him against Scotland, but he needs a big game, especially if a certain Mr Davies lines up for Wales next week.

      That said, I heard BOD talk after the 6N last year, and he mentioned about to be able to switch on an focus whenever the going gets tough (and he’s talked about it again recently with the whole “emptying the tanks” stuff).

  9. Also, interesting point with regard to Henshaw, that prompts me to ask what I think is an important question – how much are commentators going to punish him over the next two years for playing for Connacht? Connacht have had some massive results this year and over the last few, but they’ve also had some atrocious runs of form, and given their league position and the new qualification-on-merit stipulation, they’re not likely to feature in whatever European competition there is next season. That means that for two years in his early prime, Henshaw is probably going to be part of a team that looks unlikely to match his performance levels, and that won’t give him access to the highest level of competition. So how much is that going to hurt his international prospects? He’s clearly a huge talent, but re-signing for Connacht could seriously hurt his prospects. I’m sorry if Connacht fans find what I’m saying to be insulting, but I’m just trying to be realistic – your teammates are a huge part of what makes you look good as a player, and so is the level of competition you play against.

    • No insult taken (or intended obviously). Would argue a few points though: (1) Connacht are no more going to be “left out of Europe” than the other provinces: two options (no HEC, gelded sans-English HEC) have the same result for them as the other 3; while normal service resuming would put Connacht back in the Amlin, where they played for a decade and a half before Leinster’s largesse. It’s not like Henshaw won’t be playing. (2) Playing at Connacht is probably less damaging to your international prospects than, say, playing abroad. See: Niall Morris, Trevor Brennan, etc. and so on. (3) He may of course move on in the future (I think he’s only signed on for one more year after this, not two) but playing for a struggling team didn’t stop Rory Best and Andrew Trimble getting caps 5 or 6 years ago when they were every bit as poor as Connacht (on multiples of their budget), or Jonny Wilkinson for Newcastle, or the plethora of All Blacks who fall over their feet every Saturday playing for the Highlanders, so I don’t think he’ll be held back by the undeniable limitations of some of his teammates.

      • Good points all! I don’t have much to say in response except the following:
        (1) The sans-English HEC the other three provinces would be involved in, hypothetically, would be better than the Amlin
        (2) I’m not sure if you can say that anymore, and Niall Morris has been involved in an Irish squad recently – I don’t think it’s curtains for him yet, and I think playing for a top tier English side like Leicester probably gives you a reasonable chance of selection, but in his case Ireland have been stacked with high quality provincial players. I don’t think Schmidt could turn down an excellent Irish 13 playing in England.
        (3) Good news for you from what I can read, according to this ( he’s signed through 2016. At least my understanding is that a contract signed this season would kick in next season, meaning he’s play for Connacht through 2014/15 and 2015/16.

      • Stevo

         /  January 30, 2014

        The Welsh have proved that you don’t necessarily need to be playing for a top side to be able to raise your game for test rugby, with even the Dragons having a couple of top internationals in Lydiate and Faletau.

    • Ro

       /  January 30, 2014

      would lovwe to see henshaw give a run at outside centre this Six Nations. Thought he was impressive there for Connacht. The fact he is on a contract does not necessarily mean he cant move within Irish rugby. Look at Conway, he was mid contract in Leinster when he moved south.

      • As I remember that was misreported, Conway had a player option for another year but wasn’t actually signed to Leinster when he left. Also, going against my original comment now, if obviously the best thing for Irish rugby would be if Henshaw and Connacht start putting together performances and became a legitimately competitive team (at least at a certain level). I’d love to see that, I just…worry for what’ll happen to Henshaw if it doesn’t. As Salmson points out it’s not necessary to be at a high quality club to succeed internationally…but I think it would help.

  10. Leinsterlion

     /  January 30, 2014

    Joes 6 nations depth chart for outside center= BOD or bust.

  11. TJ Hooker

     /  January 30, 2014

    I think Schmidt has done the right thing in omitting Zeeeebs from the squad. I think he has yet to play 80 minutes since his return from injury and the days when certain players are parachuted into the team at first availability should be gone. Also, it’s no harm to give Zebo a kick up the arse, he strikes me as the kind of fella who could with it; all the same, if he shows some form in the next few weeks by all means return him to the fold after the first two matches.
    Regarding BOD I wouldn’t underestimate him; the days of his unreckonable genius are most likely gone but if the Irish pack can control the tempo he can still be lethal. I still hope Schmidt tries out alternatives during the championship; BOD is no longer an 80 minute man.

    • Leinsterlion

       /  January 30, 2014

      I think not getting the Munster captaincy probably knocked him a bit, a kick up the arse will do him good.

    • Ro

       /  January 30, 2014

      I wonder if he eeeh ‘acting career’ has given him a profile which the IRFU dont care for?

  12. Sometimes it reads as if you’re worried you give Leinster too much praise, so you hype Fitz and put down McFadden. What does ‘he isn’t the pin-the-ears-back type’ even mean? It surely can’t be a reference to his pace?

    Re: Bod, its a conundrum. Its pretty clear he doesn’t offer the line breaking threat that he used to but rather than accept it and adapt, he seems to be forcing things, attempting way more grubber kicks this season than would ever be considered reasonable. There’s a tiny chance this has all been an elaborate ruse and he will show some magic in the next couple of weeks, but I fear a grubber kick to nothing is in our future against Wales….

    Re: Henshaw, I actually think he’s looking handy at 13, he been playing with a 10 in a terminal spiral and a 13 at 12 who may not be that happy at connacht atm and wants to be a crash ball merchant when he can’t do it – Henshaw’s chances have been extremely limited as a result.

  13. Sgt Unruly

     /  January 30, 2014

    “Darren Cave isn’t really a test class player” – based on what? 5 minutes against New Zealand?

    I hate phrases like this. He hasn’t been given any sort of chance at international level. By chance I mean selected as part of a strong balanced team that will give each player the best opportunity to perform. So Darren Cave may not come in and win games single handedly, would we expect that from any new player? He is a good, NATURAL 13 who deserves a chance based on the form he’s shown.

    Same applies for Henshaw by the way. They have both been good this year.

    I’m worried by the prospect of O’Driscoll starting. I have loved watching him throughout his career and God knows he has given his all for Ireland but, for me, he has tarnished his legacy by staying on for one more year. It was a decision made by his heart over his head and that has been partly proved by his form this year. The same thing happened with ROG last year, and his last contribution to international rugby? A crazy crossfield kick which almost conceded a try.

    Its the nature of these players to believe that they can still pull out a big performance, and its what has made them such fine players in the past but we (coaches, fans, media) should be far more realistic with our expectations.

    Good luck to BOD if he plays, and I’ll be happy to eat my words, but something tells me its not to work out like that. Life is rarely so compliant.

    • It has nothing to do with the outtings he’s had for Ireland. Darren Cave, despite being a solid professional and a decent player, is regularly the least impressive of Ulsers very strong backline. He just isn’t strong enough, fast enough, doesn’t have amazing foot work, isn’t a particularly strong defender. He has really good awarenes of space and is a good passer. Even with the BODs awful form he’s been picked ahead of him. If BOD was out Henshaw would start. If Henshaw was also unavailable maybe Cave would start, but I’d say they’d dove Darcy to 13 and Marshall to 12.

      Again I’m not bashing Cave here. He’s a good provencial player, but I agree with WOC that he isn’t a test class player.

      • “Darren Cave, despite being a solid professional and a decent player, is regularly the least impressive of Ulsers very strong backline.”

        That’s just not true (in my opinion – and I watch all the games, no matter how dreadful).

      • Sgt Unruly

         /  January 30, 2014

        Look, I’m an Ulster fan and IMO, he’s one of the most important members in our backline. He is essentially the glue that holds us together. He is a very astute defender and is always available as support. He’s easily strong enough, in his 5 minutes against NZ he managed to bust one of their 2nd rows. He’s never going to scorch in 3 tries when on the back foot but he can keep a side ticking over, an underrated quality.

        Either way, it’s not fair to say he’s not test class. He’s never been given a chance. Frankly, if he ever does get one, the amount of stick he’s going to get for not being BOD is going to be unbearable.

        • Sgt. test rugby doens’t work that way. You force your way in by excelling at club level, and Cave hasn’t forced his way in.

          Larry I watch all of Ulsters game too, and I think Cave plays really well the more time he has. In slow games he can play some really clever rugby picking out players running good lines. When the game speeds up more I think he struggles a bit.

          As a Leinster fan I could still like to have him ahead of Macken as our sub 13, but as an Irish fan I wouldn’t feel confident with him starting or on the bench, We’re all guilty of overrating our own until we see them against th best. When Cave came up against a very different BOD in H Cup final two years ago he was made to look very ordinary. He wasn’t a kid then either he was 24.

          • Sgt Unruly

             /  January 30, 2014

            Who knows what works at test level? We certainly don’t!

            BOD has made plenty of centers look very ordinary. In the Wales games last year he totally outplayed J Davies.

            I suppose all I’m saying is, you never know, he could well do a good job for Ireland.

        • Yossarian

           /  January 31, 2014

          Ulster fans won’t accept that he lacks certain elements that a required to play test match 13. Henshaw is clearly being prepared for the role and Payne will be considered there as well. he will remain at best 3rd choice outside center. The Irish management clearly value a lot of his attributes otherwise he wouldn’t be in the squad, but it is as a 12. He has terrific vision and passing range(i have never heard any of his detractors or fans say otherwise) and that’s why his wolfhounds appearances have been in that 12 role.

  14. ehhweasel

     /  January 30, 2014

    Begs the question *again*:what is preventing Marshall being tried at 13 with D’arcy at 12?

    I don’t get it.

    • This is an interesting point.

      Marshall played 13 at least once early in the season, and I felt it might be worth exploring more – though this is more useful for Ireland, as Ulster have more depth in players who like being a little wider – as he looked pretty handy there. In fact his Bamm-Bamm mad crash balls worked better because he wasn’t running into a wall of defenders as if oblivious to their presence: more space meant more success, and better chances to get a pass away just before or after contact.

      Don’t know if it was a genuine exploration of Marshall at 13, or just a needs must for Ulster in the given week (can’t remember), but it went well enough.

      • ehhweasel

         /  January 30, 2014

        Yeah, I agree it actually makes more sense for the Irish XV to have him comfortable at 12 & 13 than at Ulster.

        Great observation, he’s not a player who goes looking for contact per se, he just happens to be faced with a lot of traffic, when there’s space he goes for it.

        I think he has the creativity and line breaking ability to make a great 13. And since we’re not as desperate at 12, I find it crazy that the idea of shifting him out isn’t given more consideration.

        Why should we choose between our two strongest centres when we can have both?

        • Could you imagine Olding at 12 and Bamm-Bamm at 13? Now THAT is a centre partnership I want to see!

          We should pitch this to Anscombe.

          • We had visions of this partnership .. the other way round – Olding outside Bamm-Bamm. Lip-smacking

          • ehhweasel

             /  January 31, 2014

            I said as much in a previous post here last week, Phil. There’s a pairing for World Cup 2019!

            Whiff, isn’t Olding already an outhalf playing at 12? Although that’s no reason to disregard him at 13 too I suppose (taking BOD as a precedent). Open to being corrected.

          • It must have lingered in the memory ehhweasel!

            I know Olding can play 10, 12 and 15, and while I’d prefer him to pick a couple of positions (dreaded “utility” status and all that), I’m sure he could slot easily enough into 13.

            I reckon Olding at 12 may be the better shout as he has more of a tendency to dart between defenders to create space and then Bamm-Bamm could just smash the last man standing, but either way, they’re both class players who I can see making an impact for Ireland for years to come.

          • Peat

             /  January 31, 2014

            Olding played a few games at 13 for Ireland U20 and looked pretty decent there. He’s got an outstanding distributing game for the position and you’d think his step could really flourish in all that space. Wouldn’t mind seeing it tried.

  15. It would be a real shame of Luke Fitz is injured. Lad needs a break.

    Re. BOD – I think he’ll be fine. Obviously his form this season has been mostly below par – with some spectacular exceptions – but, were I a betting man, I’d wager he has enough to give this 6N a serious lash.

    However, I’m glad this is it. Another season, or the World Cup? Can’t see how that would work. I think his retirement timing looks solid.

  16. Will

     /  January 30, 2014

    Crisis at 13? BOD a write-off?
    In the words of Danny the drug dealer in Withnail and I, “very foolish words man…. Very foolish words.”
    I’d like to see Cave and Henshaw get a start each, against Scotland and Italy, though. BOD to drag us over the line in the big 3.
    Such a pity Kidney wasted so much time on Earls at 13.

    • Earls’s performances at 13 in the 2012 6 Nations stack up well against O’Driscoll’s last year. It’s quite possible he’ll be shifted back in there for Munster next season with Laulala leaving, and with regular game time in the position, he tends to look pretty good. In which case, I’d expect him to be a live option for Schmidt, along with Henshaw and Payne, which is a good and diverse set of options. By contrast, while I rate Cave as a very decent player, I can’t see him making the step up to being anything more than a competent stopgap at 13.

  17. Len

     /  January 30, 2014

    I think that no matter who replaces the great one they’re likely to take a lot of stick unfairly for simply not being a bloke named Brian. This has been compounded by the slightly unusual situation that no other 13 in the land has really made a serious bid for selection. Earls got a run and made a lot of mistakes which put people of him despite his positives like pace to burn. Cave is a solid defender, reliable support player and in days gone by would have been a shoe in for a test slot, however we have been spoiled over a decade by having one of the all time greats in the team. We need to readjust our expectations with regards to BODs replacement. As I see it the options are Henshaw from Connacth, Fitzgerald, McFadden or (short term) D’arcy from Leinster, Cave, Payne or Bam Bam from Ulster and [Insert Munster Players here] (help appreciated from any Munster fans here as I haven’t seen enough of the fringe centre options to make any kind of judgement bar Downey and he’d be short term as well]. I’d love to think that we might start putting someone in BODs place before the end of the 6N so that they’d have some experience, even if its only 10 minutes a game, before we hit the Summer Internationals. Happy to be corrected on any of the players above. I also worry that a backline missing Fitzy and including McF and Dave Kearney doesn’t offer enough contrast in attack, also IMO McF is a better centre than wing.

    • Sadly there simply aren’t that many centre options at Munster. Earls might have a mid-career renaissance, or one of the kids in the academy might make a sudden breakthrough (Dan Goggin is one to watch for the u20s this season, apparently, albeit I’m only working off hearsay), but outside of those scenarios, we won’t provide the solution to the 13 problem.

      Stuart Olding in Ulster is a sublime footballer who perhaps lacks top-end gas, but he who could be added to the list of options above. I’d very much like to see him and Luke Marshall paired together at some point. Then there’s the enigmatic Chris Farrell, who looked a very good player at times but has had serious injury problems.

  18. Looks like Gatland may have done JS inadvertently a favour; the Milky Bar Kid doesn’t have to worry about being the first coach to drop Ireland’s greatest ever player.

  19. Not Michael Bent

     /  January 30, 2014

    (Time to play devils advocate)

    I know it’s very enjoyable to talk about how Brian O’Driscoll is done, and hasn’t played well since the days of Jack Kyle (or at least since the Wales game last February), but it’s kind of a load of rubbish.

    I will freely admit that he hasn’t been incredible all season, but I remember seeing him in September against Cardiff in the RDS and he was just absolutely flying. Same again in first Northampton game at the start of December.

    In the other Leinster games since, it’s kind of hard to blame him anyway – the overall team performance has been sloppy, just grinding out results, and I’ve said to anyone who will listen to me (not many people) that Gopperth’s tendency to show the outside pass and go himself (while it worked in Castres) has mostly been killing the outside backs.

    I know as a leader he should be taking control and grabbing those kinds of games by the proverbials, but he really hasn’t been that bad (in the context of the team).

    • His tackle completion rate in the HEC pool stages was around 61%. The concerns are not a “load of rubbish”.

    • Sgt Unruly

       /  January 30, 2014

      Just to clarify, I don’t enjoy talking about how he is done. I take no great delight in it. I just think he is, and it could cost us.

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