If Gerry is to be believed (and, let’s face it, Gerry could only be more believable if he was wearing Joe Namath’s coat) Dorce and Paulie will be drafted back in to the Ireland XV for the boshfest with the marauding tank divisions of the Red Army.
O’Connell for Tuohy is a no-brainer – as good as Tuohy was last week, and he was very good, completely not making us look like fools for calling for his inclusion for 2.5 years, POC-Toner is a more balanced partnership. Tuohy offers some change-up off the bench, but we can’t help feeling NWJMB would be a better impact option, particularly given O’Connell won’t be withdrawn. Tactically, anyway (Graham Taylor moment from the Milky Bar Kid aside).
Inside some-bloke-called-Brian, the choice was far less clear cut – we’d have given Dorce the nod purely on experience and guile, but it’s not a slam dunk. Bamm-Bamm was one of our best players last weekend, and offers a more acute attacking threat than Grizzly Adams does. Dorce may have been brilliant against BNZ, and he may be enjoying an extended career Indian summer with Leinster, but his form since RWC11 in green has been patchy.
The rest of the 23 will be unchanged, which is reward for some good performances last week – Luke Roysh would probably have come into the team were he fit, and his absence leaves Ireland looking pretty blunt out wide. But then, this game is going to won and lost by how Ireland defend against the big and boshy Welsh three-quarter line when they truck it up the middle. It’s going to be exhausting and dirty, the weather is going to be pretty awful with rain and wind forecast and maybe it’s a game for Johnny Sexton to take the aerial route. He’s bound to have had plenty of experience with Racing in teams booting the ball really high and sending monsters down the field to chase it (albeit, without much success on the scoreboard) – if the Welsh backs are running backwards they can’t run down your throat. That’s the idea anyway.
Eddie O’Sullivan and the rest of the third division of panellists on Against the Head stressed the importance of Ireland improving the accuracy of ‘contestable’ kicks, so both Murray and Sexton will be mindful to give the chasers a better chance of winning the ball. Against Scotland they kicked slightly too long on a number of occasions. The chasers must also be sharp. Trimble is great at getting to the pitch of the ball, but occasionally lets his opponent jink his way out of trouble. With George North, such indiscretions will be severely punished. He needs to pin his man down to the ground and once that’s accomplished, we expect the forwards to flood the ruck like nobody’s business to effect the turnover or penalty.
This fixture has a curious record of away wins so Ireland’s status as marginal favourites, which is presumably based on home advantage, doesn’t amount to much. We said before the tournament started that Mike Philips was one of the key men – as he goes, Wales often go. If he is prominent, we are in trouble. Get him harrassed and off his game, and we are in business. Anyone know a bevy of blondes we can put on the sideline to distract him?