I Want My Rotation Back

Joe Schmidt is not rotating his squad for the Italy match.  The squad-building we so wanted (and really expected) to see is not happening.  Jim’s not dying and Dr. Sinnott’s not gone deaf.  I was thinking of two completely different people.

The only change is partly enforced, with Henderson coming in to replace Peter O’Mahony, who is not risked ahead of the France match, as he recovers from a hamstring injury.  It obviously makes sense not to risk O’Mahony, and Henderson presumably gets the vote ahead of Ruddock for his potentially explosive ball-carrying.  Ireland lack power-athletes in the pack in O’Brien’s absence and Henderson – although still raw and occasionally penalty expensive – provides just that.

It’s a slightly disappointing move from a coach who has shown himself adept at using his squad and making good horse-for-course choices in the past.  We can understand the desire to allow Johnny Sexton to play the England match out of his system before the Parisian showdown, and Luke Marshall’s injury certainly robbed Schmidt of a chance to switch things up at centre, but it looks like a missed opportunity to freshen things up and allow the next wave of players the chance to put pressure on the incumbents. Deccie was assuredly (and rightly) excorciated for making zero non-injury enforced changes in 2012 – Schmidt has made just one so far (Dorce for Bamm-Bamm for the Wales game), and it’s pretty disappointing.

Is it a case of Schmidt losing his nerve?  He has talked about using a squad, and mooted changes ahead of the England game, but in the end didn’t make any.  Having lost that match, has he perhaps lost a touch of adventurous spirit?  It certainly looks like a missed opportunity, not least to take Marty Moore’s development a step further.  Any Italian scrum deserves respect, but Moore has shown himself to be up to task against all-comers this season, although Mike Ross appears to have overcome his early-season difficulties with the new scrum calls.

And yawnsome as it’s becoming, the case for Simon Zebo, at least off the bench, was never more compelling.  If Ireland harbour title ambitions, which surely they do, they must be aware of the importance of points difference, and teams with little in the way of out-and-out pace tend not to run in bundles of tries against even mediocre opposition.  Simon Zebo coming off the bench against tired legs would surely be the last thing the Italians would want to see.

It’s a conservative move from Schmidt, and while we should win regardless, it leaves us with a slight sense of deflation ahead of kick-off.

Next Post


  1. Feel the exact same guys.

    It would be remiss of those who criticised Kidney for conservatism and wrong selection choices to blindly follow Schmidt (success notwithstanding) with this 23.

    Lots of opportunities for smart rotation missed.

    Disappointment is my overriding emotion too, though I still think we’ll win and very handsomely.

  2. Briano

     /  March 6, 2014

    Bit hysterical no? Schmidt was never one for wholesale rotation and although I’d have Moore and Zebo in it’s understandable that a familiar team is more likely to click and score more points against Italy.

    • No hysteria, dude, just as we describe it, a slight sense of deflation.

      You may well be right, and if we win by 30 points I expect the feeling will dissipate quickly.

      We did think rotation would be a good way to make sure minds were focussed on the Italy game as opposed to drifting a weeka head to Paris, so hopefully we’ll come out with the right menatility anyway.

      • Xy\

         /  March 6, 2014

        Even if we win by 30 I will see this as an opportunity missed (this 6N not just this match). The squad has not moved on enough, we have not seen enough players involved. Hell, even the tactics have been conservative.

  3. Mike

     /  March 6, 2014

    Lads I disagree.

    Italy are a decent team. They beat us last year and one of Schmit’s big things was to turn the Aviva into a fortress. We need to win, and win well. Going into the French game with a bit of momentum after the week off is important too.

    Also, its BoD’s last home game. I’d like us to send him off in style.

    • Absolutely fair comments, and we do need to win well, with points difference liable to be critical. To be honest, we favoured a bit of name rotation in order to do so. The likes of Jackson, Moore and Zebo coming in with points to prove would make sure nobody was keeping half an eye on next week. And to take it a step further, someone like Sean Cronin or even Eoin Reddan could be just the ticket if we wanted to play a little bit more fast-and-loose. There were lots of options, we weren’t suggesting all of them, but we haven’t used any of them.

      Hopefully you’re right, and if we win well against Italy we’ll be happy.

      • Mike

         /  March 6, 2014

        I wouldn’t argue with either Cronin or Reddan coming in as i think there is a legitimate argument for making them 1st choice in this game.

        Getting Jackson or Moore game time can wait. Besides the less Wee Paddy plays the less damage he can do to his confidence…

  4. Topsy Turvy

     /  March 6, 2014

    I agree and while I wouldn’t like to get too carried away (and we do want to send BOD off with a championship) the greater good has to be considered. The greater good and top priority has to be the RWC. That means developing a squad with options as you say. This is most assuredly the top priority for England and they just happen to be winning at the same time. This is a lost opportunity.

    • Mike

       /  March 6, 2014

      Disagree. The world cup isn’t a consideration in my opinion. We are a 20/1 shot. That’s a 5% chance. If we sacrifice everything, be it the 6N, the Heineken or the Rabo to achieve the best possible preparation for the world cup (a la Scotland at the last RWC), then we might go to a 8% chance or 10% chance. Its just not worth it.

      The 6 nations is more important than preparing for the World Cup. We need points on the board against Italy.

      • Agree with Mike. The World Cup can wait, there’s a Six Nations to be won. Just so there’s no confusion about our own thoughts, we didn’t want to see rotation for the sake of it as some sort of 2015-building exercise, more that some freshening up would have benefited the team, and having some hungry players come into the team might have been just the ticket to run Italy ragged.

        • Topsy Turvy

           /  March 6, 2014

          Hold your horses there lads. I wasn’t suggesting throwing in the towel by replacing all 15 players but rotation is a necessity. We should have brought in at least 3 players here – Zebo, Jackson/Madigan, play Henderson in position at lock maybe and Ruddock at 6. A team with these changes should still be enough to win the game comfortably and with an equal margin to that of the team picked.
          Regarding your comments about not prioritizing RWC I’m completely baffled. We must be the only top tier nation that isn’t seriously looking ahead to this. I have no doubt that commentors on this blog will be moaning about this come spring next year.RWC has to be a background priority always. Percentages and odds don’t mean a whole lot to me. If we win our group (which is definitely achievable) we have another great chance of making a SF for the first time.
          At this rate we will have one test quality Outhalf who may be overcooked and jaded or worse even injured. We’re seem to be relying on Jared Payne solving our future 13 problem. This may also backfire. Even if this isn’t the plan, nothing seems to be happening to push forward any other solutions – eg playing Henshaw, Olding or whoever regularly at 13. And were currently playing wingers who will probably not even make the squad for RWC while leaving Zeebs out again. Yes they’ve done well but “if it’s not broke don’t fix it” is not a policy worth following if you have any ambition.

          • toro toro

             /  March 6, 2014

            You’re not seriously saying – repeatedly – that 13 should have been rotated in this game, are you?

            In *this* game?

          • topsy turvy

             /  March 6, 2014

            good BOD no toro toro!!
            That’s why it wasn’t one of the changes I thought could be made that I listed above – Zebo, Jackson, Ruddock, Henderson at lock.
            That point about 13 was more directed at the lack of future planning. There should be insistence that Henshaw or whoever else play regularly at 13 provincially if it’s the master plan to play them there next year in a world cup. Not even Payne is playing regularly at 13. How are they expected to do it next year? Will Cave play in the WC? I doubt it.

          • Nugget32

             /  March 6, 2014

            “RWC has to be a background priority always.” A background priority? A background priority………..

          • toro toro

             /  March 6, 2014

            Oh, thank BOD.

        • Sound Steve

           /  March 7, 2014

          That’s it, I’ve lost all faith in the sense of Irish supporters.

          Are people being serious here? We have a great opportunity to win only our third championship in the last 29 years on points difference and people are complaining that we are not rotating key players?? If we bench Healy, Sexton, Ross, etc. by the time we pitch up in Paris they’ll have gone three weeks without a full game??

          And I will put any money that the same people who are pushing rotation now will be the ones lamenting the rotation if we miss out on this championship

          • Topsy Turvy

             /  March 7, 2014

            To Sound Steve and everyone else who seems to be completely twisting my arguments around, I would like to state once again that I am not suggesting we throw away this chance of winning a championship. I am making (or at least trying to make) a point that we can still focus on winning against Italy, whilst also making some changes.
            I personally don’t think the front row should change because the bench have been getting meaningful game-time all championship and I don’t see that changing.
            Jackson however must now be thinking that he is not regarded as a serious option for a starting place. So if Sexton were to get injured the rest of the starting team would have serious doubts about him filling the role adequately, far more so than if he started and won tomorrow. And as a bonus, wouldn’t it be great to have two proven test quality 10’s when the WC comes around?

      • Leinsterlion

         /  March 6, 2014

        Ignoring the WC(pretending Im a myopic, xenophobic, conservative IFRU alikadoo blazer for a second), there are issues outside of WC squad at stake. Where is the competition for places? Is Toner that far ahead of Tuohy Ryan and Hendo in the row? Is POM(Jerome Kaino MKII he is not) only droppable due to injury, the veritable plethora of similiarly talented blindsides(with SOB and Ferris to come back), Ruddock et all deserved a shot long before this. Is our back three undroppable all of a sudden? I dont think DK and Trimble could be catagorised as rapier-like, throughout the series, workmanlike, but about as threatening as a wax knife.
        Squad competition is just as important, especially when we have a squad that are more or less all of the same level, with no world class players outside of Sexton(and the injured SOB and Ferris), we can afford to chop and change with no discernable drop off in quality, Trimble and DKs initial selections are, ironically, proof of this.

        • Cian

           /  March 6, 2014

          Some good points LL, the feeling that there was competition for places has suddenly evaporated (to an outsider at least). DK did not play well overall against England. Industrious carries and wriggling in the tight don’t make up for failing to outpace a lock and making a serious defensive error to allow a try. And yet we’re told there are no other wingers in Ireland worth a go ahead of him against Italy? Hard to believe.

          Can’t agree with you that Sexton is world class, though. For Leinster, yes, for Ireland (under Schmidt now as well as Kidney) he is too unreliable. World class necessitates some consistency.

    • I’m of the opinion that while you can plan all you want for the World Cup there’s a lot of it comes to chance, form, opportunism and the fact that you don’t have to be the best team in the world to win the competition, you have to be the best team over six weeks – maybe not even, maybe a fortnight does it.

      Regarding rotation and the World Cup, NZ started eight players in all six RC games this season while another three started five games. McCaw and Carter started four and two respectively due to injury but would assuredly have started more if available. Andrew Hore started five then retired from international rugby at the end of the season so the RWC wasn’t a consideration regarding his selection.

      Regarding the preference for Six Nations, the Italian match is a sell-out. It wasn’t always like that and people were worried that it would never be. The Six Nations puts bums on seats and money in the IRFU’s coffers that it uses to pay Sean O’Brien, Heaslip, O’Connell, Murray etc. Criticizing the IRFU for making it a priority is naive.

      • Mike

         /  March 6, 2014

        DM, i agree. I think that you can make a decent argument that the Italy game is more important than the France game. Ticket sales are important – another defeat against Italy will effect ‘the brand’ but another loss in Paris won’t. Even a stuffing in Paris wont really. Also, if we don’t win by 10+ points the French game is probably a dead duck anyway.

        As for the world cup, if that’s your goal, you have to put in really young players. Zebo isn’t going to get any better because of one game against Italy. Neither is Cronin, Reddan, Ryan or McFadden for that matter. Most of the rest will face tougher challenges in Europe. Perhaps Marty Moore or Jack McGrath might benefit from facing the Italian scrum, but that’s about it.

  5. Cian

     /  March 6, 2014

    Excellent, fair and balanced post. All of the calls that have been made are understandable and legitimate, but that doesn’t make them any less disappointing. As a Munster fan I’m not bothered especially by the lack of representation: most of the changes I’d like to have seen don’t involve a Munster man either way (PJ for Sexton, Moore for Ross, McGrath for Healy, Zebo for McFadden and Ryan for Jordi Murphy being the exceptions). I’ve seen Leinster fans on twitter already preempting reasonable criticism of the unexpected conservatism by saying “cue the moaning from Munster” or some variation thereof, so it’s great to see ye sticking by your guns and holding Schmidt to the same standards ye did Kidney.

    We still seem to be tactically far better than we were last year, and I think we should still win the championship, but failing to a) beat the only potentially world class team this year (the Orcs) and b) achieve any strength in depth whatsoever really takes the shine off things.

  6. Guiseppe

     /  March 6, 2014

    And you guys slated Deccie for for being conservative.

    Boring Joe is playing it safe again.

    • Just so we’re clear, we slated Deccie for not getting the best team on the pitch. We never expected him to use the Six Nations to build his squad. Our frustration was with selections like O’Callaghan over Ryan when Ryan had passed out DOC in Munster colours; selections that made no sense, basically.

      Really, though, our main gripe with the latter period of Kidney’s tenure wasn’t the names on the teamsheet, it was that the team didn’t look like it had a clue what it was doing.

      We’re disappointed with Schmidt’s selection, we think it’s an opprtunity lost, but therere’s still a championship to be won, so let’s hold the ire until after the match and we’ll see where we are then.

      • The only question that has to be answered when making each positional call is “who will we get the best points difference with”. I’d include Zebo for Dave K or Trimble but that’s about it. The Italian scrum is far and away the strongest in the competition and our starting front row are our best scrummaging unit. Paddy for Johnny? I think we’re more likely to score more points with Johnny. I think the interesting call to include two back rows on the bench is being overlooked. It should keep us energetic in a key area.
        The truth is with Bowe, Luke, SOB, Ferris, Tuohy + TOD out and Ryan only back there isn’t much scope for change.

    • Mike

       /  March 6, 2014

      Team selection (with the obvious exception of RoG) wasn’t the main issue with Deccie. It was the shite conservative gameplan.

  7. Ireland's Answer (allthingsrugby1)

     /  March 6, 2014

    If you look at his rotation policy during his Leinster spell in the big games there was really only ever 3. Heinke for Healy, Jennings/Locky and Reddan/Boss. At that time they were all fairly close maybe healy a bit better than heinke but props need breaks more than must. If you look that Irish squad Moore is close to Ross, Ryan to Toner but after that I think there is a fairly big drop down in standard. Is Schidmt really the squad builder we make him out to be? I’m not as sure as some.

    From Schidmts first Heineken CUp starting 15 in 2010 to his last starting heinken cup 15 in 2013 there was 3 changes. Heinke started in 10 and Healy in 13, Jennings in 10 and Locky in 13 and N Hines in 10 and Leo the Lion in 13.

    • It was more than that I think. He used to rotate Toner and Damien Browne until Browne’s legs gave up (or was that until six months after Browne’s legs gave up?). And when BOD was missing he mixed and matched between O’Malley and McFadden at 13. Also Cronin and Strauss too, no?

      • Forced changes at 13 again though in fairness. And the Toner/Browne thing was less to do with rotation and more to do with not being overly happy with either (hence The Legend Thorn being sought). There’s a possible case at hooker I suppose. But really Joe knew his best XV for Leinster and played them in the HEC when and where possible. It’s much the same for the 6 Nations.

        It would be an interesting exercise to look at the XV named in the knock-outs of the HEC in 2011 and 2012 to see what unforced changes were made there. After all Jow has equated the 6 Nations to 5 knock-out games.

        • Sorry now, have to pick you up on the Toner and Browne comment. That scenario was probably one of the best examples of rotation that Schmidt uses. Browne, the bustling, bullocking TH lock was used against bigger packs, Toner was brought in to take on excellent lineouts and packs that Schmidt felt they could attack in the air or didn’t need the power against (Glasgow at home comes to mind).

          Healy/VDM, Cronin/Strauss, Toner/Browne, Locky/Jenno, Boss/Reddan were all regularly rotated based upon who Leinster were playing. It would be incorrect to say otherwise.

          • curates_egg

             /  March 7, 2014

            What Oval Digest said. On all points.

            Browne was the ultimate foil for Toner: the grunt needed for away games. His contribution was much underrated due to his lack of mobility but our scrums were indescribably more solid when he played too.

  8. Ireland's Answer (allthingsrugby1)

     /  March 6, 2014

    Still at the time I would say there was almost nothing between those players. Always felt Strauss was first choice under Joe for the important games. I think when one player is better than the back we will see little or no rotation.

    Tbf Reddan/Boss have been on the bench, Touhy,Henderson, D Ryan and TOD/ J Murhpy too it is better than before.

    • Fair comments indeed. We jsut felt this was the week where a bit of freshening up might have benefited everyone. Perhaps the two-week rest period just swung it the other way.

  9. abitofshoepie

     /  March 6, 2014

    There’s a championship on the line here guys……We probably need to put 20/30 points on Italy given England have yet to play them, we also need some continuity going into the France game. Joes plan will be to unload the bench as soon as.

    For that reason I probably wouldn’t have started BOD – there is a danger that His last game and the temptation He may have to do fancy tricks may distract from the goal of winning well and early enough so that Joe can unload the bench. I’d have put him on the bench, maximising the chances of Him scoring a hat trick when the Italians tire.

    • Mike

       /  March 6, 2014

      I guarantee you the greater distraction would have come from dropping him…

      Can you imagine the media storm? Hitler videos. Burning Schmidt effigies. Massive distraction.

      Its also really unfair to suggest that BoD will be trying fancy tricks and the like. He is a consummate pro.

      • Agree again, Mike! BOD is the ultimate professional, and wouldn’t dream of turning his last home game into a Harlem Globetrotters showpiece for himself. That just doesn’t sound like His Bodness at all at all.

        • abitofshoepie

           /  March 6, 2014

          Rewind a few weeks lads….an overly complicated move from Him in the last 20 at Twickers when Sexton just needed any pass for a near cert of a try. The expression on Sextons face said it all.

          • Mike

             /  March 6, 2014

            You cant pick and choose like that. Ambitious, yes. Fancy party piece, no.

  10. BOD for President

     /  March 6, 2014

    Slightly harsh on D Browne there. He seemed to give it all when selected and but for a shoulder issue may have given more! Good point on rotation but we need to nail this game first before we can worry about Paris.

    • Harsh? Possibly. Browne was a tough old nugget and gave good value for Leinster, but in that home defeat against Clermont it was clear the jig was up. As the Mole said ‘he hasn’t a fast-twitch fibre in his body’.

  11. I think it’s a dumb move by Schmidt. Italy and Scotland are 2 of the few teams we can afford to experiment against and due to Scotland being our first match it only leaves us with Italy. Although I posted recently saying Italy will be no pushover, they are a different side away from Rome and a loss would undoubtedly be a catastrophe. Jackson deserves a go, both due to his impressive club form and Sextons shite display last week. Moore, Donncha Ryan, and Zebo could come in without weakening he side and I think Jack Mc Grath deserves a shot aswell. In particular I think it would have been nice to see Jordi Murphy take Heaslips place. Heaslip has been good but he’s been comfortably our least impressive backrow, and I think Jordi offers explosive ball carrying which Heaslip hasn’t offered(despite his excellent workrate). I think ye hit the nail on the head when ye said we don’t want to see the half the team changed but a few changes would have done no harm and the fact we’ve only seen one that’s injury enforced is very disappointing, particularly with so many lads knocking on the door. An injury to Sexton, POC, or Darcy and Schmidt will look very foolish indeed.

    • Murt

       /  March 6, 2014

      I agree with most of that Kevin.

      Schmidt will be in trouble if BOD, Darcy or Sexton get injured. Nobody else in their positions is ready to go against France. God forbid Sexton gets injured in the last 15 mins against Italy, PJ has no gametime to speak of at all in this tournament. There really is no margin at all for an injury at 10 at all. I do feel that PJ has what it takes to play against France if necessary but I really think Schmidt has missed an opportunity to strengthen his back up out-half.

      Similarly in the centres and to an extent on the wings and front five. I think 3/4 changes could easily be made without really weakening the team. In certain areas, it might even add to their effectiveness against this opposition.

      I think Jordi Murphy is pushing the boat out a bit though! Maybe one day but not yet!

      • Yeah Murt I thought Murphy’s initial inclusion at TOD’s expense was unfair (I dont know was TOD injured though?) but he has been playing well and he looked good in his 10 minutes vs England (even though England must have been shagged by that stage). I didn’t go into it but one of the main reasons I’d like to see Murphy play is to give Heaslip a good kick up the arse and let him know he’s not undroppable. Like I said earlier he’s been playing well but nothing special..the inclusion of POM and Henry have freed him up significantly to become the brilliant ball carrier we all remember from 06-10 but he’s failed to do that, and the way he’s changed his game in recent years I fear he’ll never get back to that player. My argument is flawed as Heaslip is clearly ahead of Murphy at club level (and rightly so) but it could put the shit up him for when the time comes when Ferris and SOB are returning.

        • Murt

           /  March 7, 2014

          Assuredly the sword of Damocles hanging over Heaslip would bring his best out a la with the Lions!

          For what it’s worth I think he’s playing well even if he’s not making like he used to. That’s probably more to do with him playing tighter these days and not hanging out with the backs for a chance to burst through the three quarter line

        • Jojo

           /  March 7, 2014

          How exactly has it freed him up? Pom still isn’t tackling and last margh wasn’t doing turnovers. Heaslip has been the most consistent back row

  12. Colly Noonan

     /  March 6, 2014

    Sergio Parisse is being rested for this game. Looks like the Italians are targeting the English game. Perhaps the reason for strong selection by the Milky Bar kid.

  13. Leinsterlion

     /  March 6, 2014

    Terribly conservative selection, an awful Scotland side pipped Italy at the death, the fact Joe doesn’t have faith in our “second stringers” to do the same is sad, our second string players regularly beat and on occasion hammer their Italian counterparts across every competition. Italy are basically Scotland with some better individuals and a competent coach. When are we going to play these players, down in the SH, baptism of fire?

    Team should have been; 15:RK, 14:DK 13:BOD 12:McFadden, 11:That chap from down south whose name escapes me, Zauri? 10:Madigan 9:Redden. 8:Heaslip 7:Henry 6:Ruddock : 5:Hendo 4: Toner,1,2,3: Swap sub front row with bench.

    Waste of a game, we will beat Italy either way, but instead of using it to blood players(Like Lancaster has been doing, and Lieveremont did, and all the SH teams do) we err on the side of cowardice.

    • Stephen

       /  March 6, 2014

      If you’re looking for Zebo to be the creative, “flair” winger, let him replace DK, not Trimble; Trimble was far better (or less poor) against England and is a more reliable and consistent winger all round. (Though I do agree Zebo should feature in SOME form.) Henderson for O’Connell would never happen; he may have replaced Toner, but O’Connell is a nailed-on starter whether we’re playing our absolute first-choice 15 or blooding new players. No value to be gained from starting Reddan ahead of Murray – Murray is the best SH on the Isles and young, and Reddan is on the way out.

      Also, don’t know how Madigan gets ahead of Jackson in the pecking order. Less game-time, less HEC experience, less form, and not really any more versatility: the only reason Madigan has played 12 more than Jackson is because Jackson is nailed on as Ulster’s 10, and L Marshall is nailed on as the 12, whilst Madigan has to fight for a starting place with either Gopperth and D’Arcy.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  March 6, 2014

        Jackson is utterly average without Ruan running things, Madigan can actually win games by himself, its not even close between them. The only reason Madigan hasnt grasped the ten jersey is that MOC is an ordinary coach. Madiagn is a better player in every facet of the game, end of story.

        Whats the point of playing POC v Italy? Give the guy a rest for the big game against France.

        As Zebo replacing Trimble over DK, Zebo is a left winger, why would you put him on the right?

        Murray for Redden, well until Murray speeds up his service, Redden is still a viable option, and you need to occasionally start other options, especially in light of the incumbent failing to perform, squad competition is a good thing.

        • Stephen

           /  March 6, 2014

          We clearly disagree on several things, which is grand, but:

          1. Jackson is a good fly-half provided the scrum-half in front of him is competent. Pienaar is most assuredly that; the problem (for Ulster anwyay) is that when Pienaar is with South Africa or otherwise disposed, there is no other scrum-half near him (at Ulster) at the minute. While Madigan would be a good 12 (much in the same vein as Marshall, good speed, stamina and can break the line) he carries too much, and kicks/passes too little, to be an effective 10. (In my opinion.) Also, MOC’s use of Gopperth has worked fairly excellently.

          2. POC is captain, and from the sounds of things will be captain until the World Cup. Replace him if he’s injured, or an injury worry. No other circumstances.

          3. Whilst Zebo prefers left wing, Trimble can play right wing as comfortably as left, so Zebo for Trimble then Trimble for DK, if you see what I mean, would sort that.

          4. Reddan is lightning off a superior pack; however, off a pack that is disrupted at ruck/breakdown he is far less reliable. Murray is the better all round choice. I’ll admit, though, the gap between Reddan-Murray is relatively small.

          • Leinsterlion

             /  March 6, 2014

            MOC’s use of Gopperth has worked “fairly excellently”? Have you seen how shit we have been this year? Lateral backlines a constant, kicking the leather of the ball, Northampton away aside(incidentally with Madigan at 10) we have been garbage. Gopperth is a low level EP outhalf or Pro D2, the fact he is being selected above Madigan is a joke. Jackson is ordinary, fairly good at being a ten, Madigan can tear things up in a heartbeat, the fact he is being messed about playing 12/15 etc is disgraceful, we have a potential Carlos Spencer who is liable to turn into Shane Gegarthy if we dont nurture him.
            As for Jackson, the fact you dont view Madigan as a viable ten(because he is a running threat), and instead would select an ordinary shuffler of the ball, who has never done it without Pienaar alongside him (controlling everything) is pure parochialism.

          • Trimble’s actually better on the right wing. Has played there for Ulster even since Bowe returned.

            Jackson is, for my money, a better passer and kicker than Madigan, as well as a much better reader of the game. He’s also a couple of years younger and indisputably first choice for his province. It’s pretty much a no-brainer that he’s ahead, and Schmidt has recognised that by having him on the bench this 6N even though he offers less positional versatility.

          • Just to be clear, I mean that he’s a better kicker out of hand. Madigan is a better place-kicker.

        • Cian

           /  March 6, 2014

          Couldn’t disagree with you more about Madigan. I love watching the fella play, but he is often catastrophically bad at game management (mixing his kicking, passing and running, calling the right moves, kick selection etc). His performance for the Wolfhounds v Saxons was shambolic: our pack were brilliant and dominated the breakdown and tight play for at least 60 minutes and our two halfbacks combined to almost completely waste that dominance (yes I know they both scored tries). Accusing Stephen of parochialism for favouring Jackson is completely unfair: you only favour Madigan because you believe the primary purpose of rugby is to entertain, not to win.

          • Stephen

             /  March 6, 2014

            Hurray! A poster called “Leinsterlion” has called someone else parochial!

            Leinster sit 2nd in the Pro12 and in the QFs of the Heineken (above Ulster). You don’t get that far without a good fly-half; therefore, as Gopperth has been the first-choice fly-half for most of the season thus far, Gopperth is at least a competent fly-half.

            I don’t view Madigan as as good a 10 as Jackson, not because he offers a running threat, but because he is *predominantly* a running threat. This gives him the makings of a good 12, but (as Cian has said) Jackson has the more rounded game in terms of distribution and in-play kicking (would have to agree Madigan shades goal-kicking, though would like to see stats). In addition, Jackson is no less effective than Madigan at attacking the line and is probably superior in defense; this is simply a lesser facet of Jackson’s play than Madigan’s – and if you had the choice, making 50 yards territory is easier with a good kick than with a bruising run.

            The primary reason Jackson hasn’t seen time at 12 is because he is so nailed down as the Ulster first-choice 10, and Marshall is in a similar position at 12; indeed the Ulster site has him listed as a fly-half with the capability to play inside centre.* (As an aside, I’d quite like to see Jackson and Marshall switch positions for a couple of games.)

            Incidentally, you called me parochial, after I laid out reasons for our disagreements. Where, precisely, have I said that I am from, or support, Ulster?


          • curates_egg

             /  March 7, 2014

            Leinster top the Pro12. Stop living in denial.

          • osheaf01

             /  March 7, 2014

            Agree with this. I also watched that game, and Madigan ran the ball far too much, and took far too much out of it. It was like the polar opposite of O’Gara; always run it, never kick it or pass it. Good fly halves are good general, and good generals always keep the enemy guessing what they’re going to do. That’s not the case if the out-half runs the ball himself every single play.

            The best young out-half in Ireland is JJ Hanrahan, by the way; that lad is the real deal.

          • osheaf01

             /  March 7, 2014

            PS I’d suggest Schmidt agrees, given that Madigan didn’t displace Jackson after his Wolfhounds run-out.

        • “Whats the point of playing POC v Italy? Give the guy a rest for the big game against France.”

          He’s played two games in seven weeks. Just how many rests do you think he needs, exactly?

    • Stephen

       /  March 7, 2014

      curates_egg – you’re right, my bad.

  14. BOD for President

     /  March 6, 2014

    Alas there were plenty not up to the Job that day against ASM #justicefortheoyonnax1.

    But back on point, still slightly dissapointed Madigan didn’t get a nod for centre/OH and FB cover as may have provided a spark if needed cause i just cant see PJ giving it to us if by any chance our backs are to the wall.

    As for Sizzle Factor Zebo himself, we may need him to do a job keeping Fichou busy out in Saint-Denis so he may sneak back in for the finale!!!!

  15. B

     /  March 6, 2014

    Firstly it should be noted that there is a difference between conservative selection and negative selection, some people seem to be conflating the two.
    Schmidt’s conservatism stems from a demand for perfectionism from his players and he wouldn’t throw players in for the sake of it unless they can fulfill that demand. If you want pace off the bench McFadden provides that plus more cover and experience. Don’t give into the Zebo controversy lads he has six Ireland caps, we’re not talking about a seasoned international being unfairly excluded.

    Secondly just because the changes or lack of changes are injury enforced does not mean you can discount them. With TOD and POM out you can’t just change either Henry or Heaslip it would be too disruptive and pretty unnecessary imo.

    Bod’s last home game, nuff said. Marshall may have gotten a run but Schmidt might also have wanted The Partnership to get to finish up naturally, on its own terms. Doesn’t matter now.

    Half the possible second row replacements are injured or just back from injury limiting changes. Besides I feel there is a case to be made that Toner has been our most important attacking player and POC is obviously captain so no change there necessary.

    Front row might have seen changes but a lot of people talk about Moore as if he has been proving himself for several seasons now. The reality is this is his first proper season even if he has looked good so far there’s no reason to start him against a team that values scrummaging hugely. It will be far better for his development to bring him on with Ireland several points up and less pressure on him to deliver the winning of scrum ball on his own.

    Healy and Best might have been rested but I expect we will see McGrath and Cronin sprung early. Also Healy has seen a disrupted season/12 months and keeping him sharp and on form for France is a good thing.

    So much has been made about the structures Schmidt is putting in place, and the players have commented that subs are training as if they will start. Both of these things mean that although POM is injured Henderson slips into the structure and fulfills a pre-prepared role. Blind rotation would damage the structures for the sake of creating uncertainty within the squad about whether a player can expect to keep their place or not. Does that anti-man management seem in the best interests to anyone here?

  16. Thanks for all the great comments everyone.

    I guess it boils down to this for us – going for the conservative selection was something we did a LOT under Deccie, and it rarely worked, with this same group of players. Now, admittedly the coaching structure is very different, but continually picking the same players hasn’t worked for us lately.

    There is always an argument available that ends with “we should make no changes” – whether its the opposition, momentum, someone’s last game, someone has been injured and needs gametime; but there is always another, often equally as valid, argument for being pro-active and making those changes. And its often tougher to take the choice to make them – and making those tough choices was something Schmidt did really well at Leinster, it was one of the key elements of their success really, and to see him not do it at Ireland is a bit deflating.

    We’d hate to see the promise of the first two games in this tournament peter out this year, and, in our view, this selection makes that more likely. One way or another, we’ll be going to Paris with a chance to win the pot, and we’d like to have seen some changes.

    The reality is the difference between 3 wins and 4 is huge – 4 wins is a great year, 3 an average one. We really hope this works out well, but we think Schmidt has missed a trick.

    • In a way, you’ve highlighted here why I disagree with you (which is pretty rare!). We excoriated Deccie because the selections were not working. This team IS working by any reasonable measure: we are in with our best chance in years at winning the championship. Yes, we lost narrowly to an England side on the upswing, but Schmidt wasn’t wrong to say that was a tight game with tight margins, in which the difference was made only by a couple of mistakes and calls. Had that drop goal worked out, or Sexton’s kicks been just a tiny bit more accurate, or had Joubert given us any one of the three or four penalties we should have had in the last 10 minutes, we’d be looking at this game very differently.

      Like everyone else I instinctively cling to the notion that our backline needs more ‘fizz’ because it seems so self-evident – but if you take a step back, you have to ask, for what? We have a points difference of +42 with our stolid, un-fizzy backline; that’s twice what the next side in the table have got. Clearly we are scoring tries and, just as importantly, we’re not allowing opponents to rack up scores against us either. Conceding one try in three games is a massive achievement, and it is very much down to every player on the pitch putting in a huge shift both on and off the ball to ensure that all those fine margins go Ireland’s way.

      To my mind the only potential swap with a really strong case is Moore for Ross, but you’ve also said yourself many times that Schmidt doesn’t see this as a 15-man game. I would bet the house on Ross being the first player to come off the pitch tomorrow; Moore will see at least 20-25 minutes of game time, as the wily operators in the Italian front row begin to tire and need replacing. If we are running away with this in the last 20 minutes, you might expect to see most or all of the following on the pitch: McGrath, Moore, Henderson, Ruddock, Murphy, Jackson, and I think Toner 2.0 counts as well given how far he has come this year. Little Kearney cuts an establishment figure now, but this is also his first season of international rugby. All of these players will be going to Argentina and certainly will feature in the autumn too. There’s no way we can look at that and accuse Schmidt of failing to build a squad for the future.

      The idea that there’s something seriously lacking in this team just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, so why make changes that might risk jeopardising our very real shot at the title? Even the best player might struggle to fit in after being parachuted into the team and, maybe even more importantly, it seems to me to be a terrible idea to send someone like Sexton to Paris for the deciding game having had no rugby at all for three weeks. Now that Parisse hasn’t been selected it’s arguably even better to be playing what Schmidt considers our strongest team – we can put ourselves in a position to know that if we beat France even by one point, we’ll win the title. I’d take that in a heartbeat.

    • SportingBench

       /  March 7, 2014

      Worth saying that Deccie’s conservatism involved picking players regardless of form or even at times fitness. Hard to believe both Bowe and Zebo wouldn’t be spirited back into the team straight away and probably Ryan too if Kidney was still choosing. Schmidt not twisting is a different beast. No one has done enough to force their way into the team, no one has been so off the pace to be dropped.

  17. Yossarian

     /  March 6, 2014

    Kidney and steady Eddie often talked about the lack of international quality options. I think we (fans)confuse Heineken cup ability with international ability at times. Now if you feel the only way you can become that player is through game time you are stuck in a catch 22″ situation. If you include injured players as probable starters we are expanding our international pool of players. Toner winning 14th cap is hardly an established player who doesn’t benefit from the game time, likewise Henry and DK. Henderson is now getting his chance as well.
    Injured players plus the 26 different players used this campaign has us developing a 30 odd man World Cup panel nicely. Moore and I suspect PJ will get a chance in the Argentina tour. Only our 3rd championship is a real possibility, the bigger regret would be missing that chance instead of Moore and PJ etc having a start vs sub appearance cap to their name.

    • B

       /  March 6, 2014

      It won’t be our third championship if we win….

      Honestly even though I would have been happy to see Jackson start against Italy, I can’t see how much this experience could possibly stand to him if he were to have to play France a week later. He’s not going to level up like a pokemon if he gets a start versus a sub appearance, and if Sexton were to get injured Saturday as suggested above then we’re fucked anyways.

    • toro toro

       /  March 7, 2014

      I think this is the key thing, Yossarian; rotating guys in for experience when there’s lot of experience around them is one thing, but doing it when a lot of guys – particularly in the pack – are pretty callow at this level and still getting used to international rugby is a potential recipe for disaster, as well as for serious setbacks to the new guys’ confidence.

      • Yossarian

         /  March 7, 2014

        exactly-we are down two(3 if you include Ferris) starting backrow. Toner is only relatively new into the second row. we are not in a position of settled strength to be making changes.
        The Italians were well in it against the Welsh,nothing in it against Scotland and competed very well against the French,
        Hypothetical situation we change Hooker-lineout falls apart, Tight head-scrum falls apart and 10- we loose all shape in a backline that has not exactly been tearing it up. All of a sudden we are like England last year booting the ball off the pitch to hang on for a win. not saying that would happen but these are the risks in international rugby and i don’t think the championship is the place to do that.

        • What evidence is there that any of those hypotheticals would happen though? You can’t just make up hypothetical doom-mongering scenarios and justify selections on that basis. Cronin is one of the form hookers in Europe, Moore has started games ahead of Ross for Leinster this season and performed exceptionally well, and Jackson is 10 for the top-seeded Heineken Cup side having helped guide them to wins in Leicester and Montpellier. Each has faults and risks, but as we saw against England with Sexton’s abject second half, the incumbents have those too. That’s not to say I’d automatically be in favour of change for change’s sake, but the arguments against change because it’s risky are wrong-headed. There’s risk in all decisions, including retaining players.

          The biggest risk I see here is that Sexton gets injured for the Paris game and Jackson has to step in with limited game time. A game against Italy wouldn’t see Jackson “level up like a pokemon”, but game time is good for match sharpness and growing into your comfort zone, and starting a winning game at 10 for Ireland (something which Jackson hasn’t done yet) would be brilliant for his confidence, something he noticeably struggled with last season (but hasn’t this season).

          Personally, I would have started Jackson, Moore, Henderson in the second row and Ruddock on the blindside, and Zebo on the left wing with Trimble on the right. I think that team measures up to the team picked, and couldn’t be described as a wild risk while injecting some game-breaking ability for the sake of points difference. Two of the five starters are also intimately familiar with Joe’s systems from their time under him at Leinster, as must Jackson and Henderson be at this stage, at least to some extent, so Zebo is the only real risk, and with my not-at-all-impartial hat on I’d say he’s worth it. Toner, Sexton, and McFadden on the bench to steady the ship as necessary.

          • Just rememberd Jackson started against Samoa. D’oh.

          • Paddy

             /  March 7, 2014

            Some good points there. Just for completeness though, Cronin is one of the form hookers in Europe when he’s not trying to hook the ball. I’ve been a bit deflated with Schmidts use of the bench, particularly Cronin not coming in earlier. With Kidney it was his wobbly darts that kept him riding the pine and now it seems he has to learn a “new” skill to get a look in!

          • I almost typed that myself, actually, and it’s why I didn’t include him in my personal shopping list of changes. I really hope he does learn to do that properly, because with his throwing looking much less wayward he is a serious player.

  18. Yossarian

     /  March 6, 2014

    Sorry,3 outright wins in my life(this would be a fourth)80’s child. Half made point on lack of titles.

  19. zdm

     /  March 7, 2014

    Schmidt seems keen on individual roles and responsibilities within the unit, perhaps that’s why he has stuck with his relatively less glamorous wingers.

    It’s a tough call on Zebo who is a potent attacking threat but international rugby is much more dependant on team sequences and gradual advancement and less so on individual brilliance.

    If you haven’t played in the back three, its hard to grasp how much their off the ball work dictates the options open to the opposition and for me the sign of a good winger in defense is how little traffic comes down his channel.

    With Bob and Zebo both fond of a canter up field, that’s a lot of counter attack for one winger to handle and I think that’s probably why Zebo has missed out – if you have him in, Bob has to be more conservative and we don’t need that reduction.

    • The notion that you can only afford to carry one counter-attacker per back three is absurd.

      • zdm

         /  March 7, 2014

        There is more than one way to counter attack so the notion that only Zebo and Bob are capable of counter attacking because they are pacey steppers is equally absurd but if you include Zebo for his broken field running, you have to accept that he is more often missing from the defensive line.

  20. Don

     /  March 7, 2014

    I have a strong suspicion that if we had won in England, Joe would have made the changes here. There’s a couple of reasons why this could be true and you are all smart competent folks so I’ll trust yous to know what I mean but I am disappointed that we didn’t make 3-5 changes just to shake things up.

  21. Exile

     /  March 7, 2014

    Tomorrow’s game is full of emotions.

    BOD’s last home game in green. The tension of needing to win. The added (in my mind, false) need to score loads of points. The fact that we lost to Italy last year.

    All of those emotions, both on the pitch and in the stands, mean that if Ireland aren’t up by 10 points after 20 minutes, there’s a good chance that fingernails will start to be chomped and the atmosphere in the Palindrome will revert to the library-esque whisper-fest we’ve come to know and hate.

    If that were to happen, you hope that the players are able to keep the focus in their heads about the “process” and game plan. If you’ve changed the team around, and have the likes of Jackson/Madigan (in the crucial fulcrum position of 10), Zebo, Henshaw, Moore, McGrath, Ruddock, Murphy in the starting line up, there’s a strong possibility that this emotion and tension will suffocate them. Remember, too, that neither Bambi nor NWJMB are seasoned international campaigners. All of a sudden, you could have 7 of the 15 slipping into a panic and trying too hard to force the game. That’s a difficult, nay impossible, situation to reverse in the cauldron of an international test match.

    To that end, while I can understand the clamour for a “shake up”, I think the focus needs to be on the result. You use the players you are confident can win the game for you, as early as possible. If the result is starting to look secure, then you introduce newbies from the bench and look to use their enthusiasm to stretch away from the Italians in the final quarter of the game when the generally accepted wisdom is that the Italians will fade.

    The selection of Sexton at 10 is a shrewd one, in my opinion. Nobody could be delighted at his performance in Twickenham. So, to my mind, giving him 45/50 minutes against Italy to play Twickenham out of his system is a good idea. If he were to be left out of this game entirely, you send him to Paris with the monkey of Twickenham weighing on his back.

    As for the apparent need to win big against Italy tomorrow, I don’t think that is a truism. By making the changes Italy have made to their 23, it is clear to me that they are prepared to sacrifice the Ireland game with a view to having a serious crack at England in Rome. England must be favourites to beat Wales on Sunday, given home advantage. However, I don’t expect them to win by more than 10 points.

    This leaves England competing with the winner of Ireland/France for the 6N title, presuming Ireland beat Italy. As we go into this weekend, we have a +21 points difference over England. If England beat Wales by the <10 as I predict, then a single point victory over Italy will have Ireland at +10 going into the final game.

    In the final game, as I said below, I predict Italy going at England. It will be physical, gruelling and with some rested Italian players, I wouldn't turn down a bet of Italy to win. I'm reminded of 2007 when Ireland went to Rome, threw the ball around loads in order to bank an unassailable points difference. 7 years later, Italy are an entirely different proposition. However, an England victory is the overwhelmingly more probable outcome. Not by more than 15 though. In fact, I wouldn't even expect it to be by more than 10.

    So, in the above scenario of 2 England victories by approx 10 points, that England having struggled to catch up Irelands +21 points difference.

    The upshot of what I'm trying to say, probably not very coherently, is that the apparent need for a cricket score against Italy isn't something I'm buying in to. Win the game. Win vs France. Even a 1 point victory in both games will result in England needing an aggregate gain of 24 over Wales and Italy in order to secure the title. Or the alternative is Wales needing an aggregate gain of 39 points over England and Scotland.

    I don't see either of those happening.

  22. SportingBench

     /  March 7, 2014

    The job of any Ireland coach is to win the next game. I don’t think that an Ireland coach should be developing young players, the Provinces should do that and that is one reason why the HC is so important.
    I know it is fashionable to talk about building squads and getting international game time but it is fad. A good player is a good player based on performances. How people develop is not static and from a template. Some players might need to be around the Ireland set-up a while to get comfortable others may be on the money from the first day they are in camp. We have psychologists, nutritionists etc to prepare them and all season to play for the Provinces and clubs to “gain” experience. If you aren’t the finished product then you shouldn’t be in the Ireland team if we are actually going to win things. You should be contributing from the first minute of the first cap. I think one of the reasons Ireland don’t win many championships is the obsession with development and “talent” at the expense of what truly matters, performance levels and winning the next game. I’ve never seen an All-Black be excused a bad game because he is inexperienced. If experience matters so much then don’t select players until they have gained enough at club level.
    Schmidt is following the SH approach with this selection. There is a championship to be won so the team sent out is designed to achieve that goal. Schmidt expects every player to perform the basic skills to a certain standard with no excuses. That is why I suspect Zebo is missing out again as though I have never really noticed, I have seen it suggested his tackling is not up to the level expected. Successful teams don’t select players who fail at any of the basic skills regardless of other good points as at this level there is no hiding place.

    In summary, Schmidt’s job is to beat Italy this weekend. Italy will not be the roll over that some in the media are suggesting and if Schmidt thinks this is the team to do it them we will judge him on their performance. As has been said elsewhere, this is different than some of Deccie’s selections of players out of form etc. People don’t seem to be arguing that this is not the best team available (within the normal selection disputes) rather that we should bring in other, currently inferior players is pursuit of the greater good. After we have won a few more championships then maybe we can worry about other things. This year has to be all about winning.

  23. Zebo’s exclusion disappoints me but beyond that I’m not too fazed about rotation. It’s a five-game tournament, the 6N, there isn’t a huge amount of scope for giving guys a go. We probably would beat Italy with a lot of the bench given a game, but if that’s the case, then is it really a valuable step for any of them to just give them a lash tomorrow?

    That argument works both ways.

  24. curates_egg

     /  March 7, 2014

    Also disappointed not to see more rotation. I see so many risks from starting Sexton (and not having him for France) and so many negatives from not starting Jackson (for the squad). A case to be made for Moore too.

    HOWEVER, I would like to totally knock on the head the notion that Zebo should be on the bench. I would like to have seen him given a shot starting on the wing…but he is simply not versatile enough for our bench in the 6 Nations.

  25. Jimbob

     /  March 7, 2014

    I’m also a bit disappointed by the lack of rotation although it got me thinking about how the other teams have changed over the tournament and the reason for each switch. Rotation only being relevant to the previous match and starting XV only considered. ‘Injury’ is either a player out or a favourite returning from injury; ‘Tactical’ is the replacement of a fit player and ‘Discipline’ is Pouis Licamoles. So;

    Ireland; 3 changes total – 2 injury; 1 tactical
    England; 2 changes – 2 injury
    Wales; 7 changes – 6 injury; 1 tactical
    France; 11 changes – 6 injury; 4 tactical; 1 discipline
    Scotland; 10 changes – 2 injury; 8 tactical
    Italy; 13 changes – 5 injury; 8 tactical

    So 46 changes have been made so far in the tournament. 23 players injured or returning from injury. 22 tactical or rotational switches and 1 player clapping at a ref.
    Scotland and Italy have made the bulk of tactical switches with 8 each; and the 3rd worst team (France) have made 4. The top 3 teams have made only 2 tactical switches so far, while good guy Stuart Lancaster is yet to make a tactical switch.

    Make of this what you will but it looks to me that the coaches at the top half of the table are looking to have a level of consistency over the course of the tournament. If it wins us a tournament then so be it – I won’t be complaining.

    • Paddy

       /  March 7, 2014

      I think crediting Scott Johnson or PSA with making tactical changes is stretching things a bit. I think some of them have been attempts at correcting selection f*ck-ups(PSA) and others are just f*ck-ups(Scott Johnson).

  26. Jimbob

     /  March 7, 2014

    True maybe tactical was pushing it. Johnson hasn’t a clue who his 1st choice backrow is (where most of the changes have been) and PSA has been getting it all sorts of wrong this season.

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