Roll Out The Big Guns

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off the bench, but we can’t help feeling NWJMB would be a better impact option, particularly given O’Connell won’t be withdrawn.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?

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  1. You just never know with Philips. When he’s bad, he’s bloody awful. Like on the Lions tour. Hopefully this weekend can be the one where Murray eclipses him for good, as he’s been threatening to do with the work and improvement he’s shown in the last couple of years. (And his third test cameo for the Lions.)

    Too edgy about this game all week, bring it on…

  2. I think D’Arcy is a safe bet – Ulster have named Marshall to play against Ospreys…

  3. curates_egg

     /  February 6, 2014

    While I can understand the assumed D’Arcy call, a large part of me would like to Marshall given a run beside Drico before he hangs up his boots. It is pretty clear Marshall is our 12 at the world cup, if he stays fit. He is already doing great things on the international stage as well.

    This fantastic analysis from Murray Kinsella is presumably why D’Arcy will get the nod vs Wales, just as he did for the All Blacks’ game: – There is no doubting Marshall is already a better strike runner than Dorce and he is very physical in the tackle but – as with the Australia game – it seems he is not fully bedded in with the Irish set-up (in particular as regards defensive systems). Given this is our make-or-break game – and the obvious pressure the midfield will be under against the Welsh gameplan – it probably makes sense on balance. It’s also not like Dorce is out of form.

    I would really like to see Marshall start against England though. I think that is a different type of game and he should be more than capable of gelling with the system required in midfield.

    A big question is who will get selected vs Italy. Can BOD start all 5 games? Their new 13 did look dayshunt on Saturday though.

    • I thought it was very odd that Murray Kinsella’s analysis pins those errors on “the partnership”, rather than O’Driscoll and Sexton. The pass that Sexton threw to touch was dreadful, and even if Marshall had somehow got his hands to it as it flew several feet in front of him, he’d likely have knocked it on, or alternatively had to slow to juggle it. The first two defensive errors are both straight up bad defending from 13. It’s not Marshall’s fault O’Driscoll doesn’t have enough familiarity with or trust in him to make a tackle and loses his man as a result; it’s O’Driscoll’s. Marshall is positioned to make his tackles both times. I don’t mind D’Arcy starting at all, he’s in great form and will hopefully carry that through this Saturday, but the idea that Marshall’s presence in the centre, and the ensuing “unfamiliarity”, are what led to those errors is odd. It might be true, but it’s not his fault, if you know what I mean.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  February 6, 2014

        Spot on, if Marshall makes the wrong read, its on him, but its all down to Drico thinking Marshall is making the wrong read and going in to help that is creating the space out wide. Surely the argument should be on why Drico has retained his place as opposed to Marshall being dropped.

        For the record I’d start Darce and Marshall(unless they have already tried this in training and it went all Keith Earls.

    • Kinsella’s analysis is fairly accurate, and he does make the point that BOD and Sexton maybe don’t do enough to help him out.

      I think D’Arcy is the right call for this game (as long as he plays like he did against the ABs rather than how he played against Samoa), but Marshall needs as much gametime with Sexton as possible if he’s going to be our next long-term 12. Having him gel seamlessly with BOD should not be the main priority for Joe given he’ll only have 3-5 games at *most* with him.

      • curates_egg

         /  February 6, 2014

        That’s it in a nutshell. Go with the safe bet for this one but go with Marshall for all other games (unless we are sticking a relative novice at 13 to give BOD a rest). The thought of this backline: Sexton, Fitzgerald, Marshall, BOD, Bowe, Kearney vs this one Farrell, Nowell, 36, Burrell, Ashton, Goode…leaves me feeling all warm and fuzzy.

    • Amiga500

       /  February 7, 2014

      “It is pretty clear Marshall is our 12 at the world cup, if he stays fit”

      Hmmm…. I’d reckon that will greatly depend on how well Stuart Olding returns from injury.

      I’d reckon he’d have been first choice Ulster 12 by the end of this year.

      • The Olding Question is a big one for Ireland. We like him as a potential 13 you know … which would mean both him and Marshall keep their places!

  4. curates_egg

     /  February 6, 2014

    PS as for the bevy to distract Philips, I think it doesn’t matter whether it’s blonde, amber, brown or a good old pint of porter #neknominate

  5. The changes the welsh team have made since last week have all arguably strengthened them (remains to be seen what form Jenkins is in). With the six day turnaround in mind swapping Darce for Marshall makes sense as a substitution in the centre will be required and Darcy is presumably the less fatigued player this week. Surely Ireland are more likely to kick long to get behind the wings rather than risk putting a ball into Norths hands? Also although I want POC starting as much as anyone the question remains how much the chest infection has taken out of him and whether it will effect his pace/conditioning in a fast paced game.

  6. Will

     /  February 6, 2014

    Hard on Marshall but probably the right call.
    Which Irish player do you think Wayne Barnes will send off on Sunday? I’m not totally sure of our stats with him but its something like 5 losses and 1 win. The win was the Wales match in 2009, which he did his best to avoid.

    • osheaf01

       /  February 6, 2014

      Wayne Barnes is a good ref – he communicates well, he’s generally consistent, even if you disagree with his interpretations, and is scrupulously fair.
      At least it’s not the penalty tombola that is the Inscrutable Romain Poite, or the “too posh to push” in scrums/rugby-league-rucks*/crooked-feed-what-crooked-feed refereeing annoyance that is Chris Pollock.
      Nigel Owens used to annoy me when he started out, now he’s the best ref around, and I feel Barnes has also improved greatly as he’s gained experience.

      *Side with the ball must retain possession.

      • And Steve Walsh?

      • curates_egg

         /  February 6, 2014

        I take issue with this “Nigel Owens is the best ref” stuff that is repeated ad hominem at the moment. He refs the game and the breakdown as specific way and is entertaining. If it works on the day, it is good to watch but it works against teams at times. Of course, there are plenty of bad refs out there who Owens is clearly better than but I don’t accept the line that he is best in an absolute sense. He is a good ref though. No doubt.

        • osheaf01

           /  February 6, 2014

          Think you mean “ad nauseam”?
          Steve Walsh is also an excellent referee, who has much improved once he realised it’s not all about him.
          The worst ref I’ve ever seen is James Jones.

          • curates_egg

             /  February 7, 2014

            Somewhere between the two 😉 My Latin went swiftly downhill after I left the Js as a wee whipper-snapper. A puerus-whippus.

        • Yossarian

           /  February 7, 2014

          Agree, Owens chooses not to enforce holding on or the team in possession as much-this allows them to build phases and makes for a better spectacle. The thing is rugby is a game contested between the 30 men on the pitch, the rules are the rules and if that lessens the spectacle at times so be it. It’s not his job to enforce the rules he likes and discount the rules he doesn’t.
          All said i’d Still take him over any other ref around!!!

  7. ehhweasel

     /  February 6, 2014

    Dave Kearney. Dave Kearney. Dave Kearney. I keep reading the teamsheet but I can’t believe it.

    I thought it was going to be a tight game, now I think we are going to lose.

    Whatever about experimenting against Scotland who, as Denis Hickie says, don’t pose any tryscoring threat, but against the incumbent champions.

    Unless Sexton has been given a brief to go down Trimble’s wing all day, where George North will be waiting with outstretched arms.

    • osheaf01

       /  February 6, 2014

      The weather will have an enormous bearing, as it will be akin to the England game last season. One would rate England’s strengths as being overwhelmingly in the pack, so a rainstorm plays (and played) into their hands. On the other hand, Wales’ strengths would be their backline and continuity play, but their pack, while good, is not boshtastic. Whichever team gets on top in the tight, and in the ping-pong exchanges, will win.
      I also think having the superior out-half will help immensely.

      Let’s just say that if we play England in Twickenham with a similar forecast, I would be very pessimistic about our chances.

  8. Jimmy B

     /  February 6, 2014

    Bevy of blondes or a few big macs!

  9. Ciano

     /  February 6, 2014

    Very worried about North/Cuthbert/Halfpenny Vs. Kearney/Trimble/Kearney but up front I think we can mince them. I don’t know where this narrative of them having a more physical team comes from (except back three of course).

    • hulkinator

       /  February 6, 2014

      I agree with that Ciano. I think the Welsh pack are seriously overrated. They’ll need Adam Jones to be good in the scrum, they’ve a very poor lineout and few ball carriers. The backs do all the ball carrying for them.

      If anyone thinks I’m being harsh then have a look at their record against the big 3 from the southern hemisphere. Gatland has beaten them once in over twenty matches.

      Under Kidney Ireland always walked right into the Gatland trap ie they would have a kicking contest with Wales and end up losing territory every time. Good old Deccie never copped on to this and so the pattern repeated. Schmidt won;t make the same mistake and if he does it will be fixed at half time.

      • Ciano

         /  February 7, 2014

        Absolutely bru! If Healy goes berserk again and if he get a few good kicks into touch for attacking lineouts I don’t think they’ll be able to deal with us…I do feel we’re a bit weak for strike runners though, I’d feel like we had more teeth if we had the likes of Fitzy and Zebo!

  10. Hard game to call. They’re probably the favourites, but you’re right IMO about where it will be won and lost. Our defensive line has to be something like the opposite of two years ago – might be an idea for the players to watch some video of that debacle.

    The tackle battle will not just have the big and obvious effects of cheap metres or not, but will probably also have a huge effect on how the breakdown goes, given the packs are both really quite good.

    Not confident, though I expect Schmidt to have the team far better prepared than Kidney too often did when playing this side.

  11. Jojo

     /  February 6, 2014

    I’d like to see Dave Kearney try get on ball more. He has the ability to make something happen close in, on nothing balls… (Or is this just against rabo teams) . Tbh I think he is one of our my most exciting prospects and predicted he could be a more potent attacking force than his bro. Although , in this opinion I fear I maybe looking through blue tinted glasses. (Sometimes fear for his tackling technique where he just tries level the guy without proper arm position)

  12. kevin

     /  February 6, 2014

    WE HAVE 1 CREATIVE PLAYER AND 1 TACKLE BREAKER IN THE ENTIRE TEAM, I REALLY DONT SEE HOW WE’RE FAVOURITES APART FROM HAVING SUPERIOR HALF BACKS (apologies for capitals). Our back 3 possess zero counter attacking threat or creativity. Its not hard to beat wales, theyre basically a shit version of SA..but the loss of Ferris and SOB dont make playing 10 man rugby as attractive an option as it would normally be

  13. Hansie Macdermot

     /  February 6, 2014

    Barnes tolerates polite queries from the team captain only. An aggressive question or one
    posed by a “soccer style” mob will annoy him and he will turn against that team. (POM silence please.)
    Otherwise he tries his best, made some howlers early in his career but they all do.

    As far as the result is concerned, I am relieved that the match is not being played on
    paper. If all 30 play to their maximum, then I would have 5 Irishmen in a composite 15.
    (Healy, Best, POC,Sexton,BOD).
    If Ferris,SOB,Zebo and Bowe were fit , then I would have 9.

    But if Jamie plays as against BZN he can match TF or better. Likewise if Warburton
    is not up to speed then we may have an edge there.

    Phillips always seems to play well against us, but if he is slightly off then Murray will
    be ahead in that contest.
    Darcy is another one that needs to replicate his BNZ form, not his V Rougerie form.
    I would have picked Marshall.
    They cannot be seriously thinking about Darcy for the WC, even Gibson was over the hill
    by age 35.

    WOC; very good point about loose kicks to North. During the OZ v Lions first test Folou
    contested a less than 50/50 kick chase with him, While Folou was off balance, GN fielded, spun away and sprinted in for a try.
    If an Irish player is chasing a lost cause, then let North catch it, get set and halt him before
    he gets into his stride. Do not get airborne and hope.

    All in all, with home advantage and filthy weather we may prevail. I hope so but feel that
    Wales are more likely this time..

    • Paddy

       /  February 6, 2014

      I’d take POM and Murray over Lydiate and Philips in a heartbeat. Teams seem to have discovered that if you don’t run at him he’s not much use. Philips was 2nd best to Murray on the lions tour.

      Agree on the Heaslip/Faletau call.

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