Perfect Day

Well, wasn’t that nice? Brian O’Driscoll got the send off he deserved – an emotional Palindrome stood to applaud Ireland’s best player of the professional era for what seemed like a really long time. It had got kind of awkward – everyone was standing around smiling, delighted to have the opportunity to thank one of the greats, without reservation or glances at watches. A full ten minutes after the full-time whistle had blown, not a seat had been vacated as Ireland’s rugby fans paid homage. The umbilical cord between players and fans which was severed by the move from the rickety old Lansdowne Road 7 years ago seemed restored by 20 minutes of  soppy cheering at every glimpse of BOD on the big screen.

It was one of those “I was there” days, and O’Driscoll graced the stadium with a performance stamped with his personality. We have been fortunate to see such a day – not every player gets to end on his own terms – just look at some of O’Driscoll’s illustrious team mates from the Golden Generation:

  • Wally: carried off in agony on a stretcher in a meaningless RWC11 warm-up
  • Jirry: aborting comebacks until enough was enough
  • Rog: the conductor, sent into the wilderness following a shambolic performance in Murrayfield 12 months ago
  • Shane Horgan slid quietly out of view for Ireland before injury finished his career
  • Even knowing the end is coming in advance doesn’t always work out.  Denis Hickie pre-announced his retirement, but the the finale came it was in the abominable 2007 World Cup and nobody was in the mood for kiss-blowing goodbyes

At least John Hayes got a Thomond Park goodbye, but his Ireland career finished with even Mushy ahead in the queue; he missed the World Cup squad and that was that.

On Saturday, it helped too that the performance and game were so good – Ireland went out to win by a lot and ended the day 39 points up on the scoreboard. Devin Toner had possibly his best game yet (saying something), Eoin Reddan came off the benchset and set the tempo to greased lightning, and Johnny Sexton even pulled off the first successful Randwick Loop in years. Somewhere, Alan Gaffney is saying “I told you so”.

The bench contributed three tries and really iced the cake – in recent years the 60th minute has marked the time for Ireland to wilt and let the opposition dictate the pace of the game. Here they kicked on powerfully and professionally. Even Sergio Parrisse and Sandro Zanni would have made little difference, though undoubtedly Italy had one eye on next week by the end.

It was also a vindication of Schmidt’s selection, of which we were critical before the game.  Our concern was that without freshening things up, Ireland might have found their eyes flickering forward to Paris, but the focus was razor-sharp.  It’s a frequent occurance that a Schmidt selection raises eyebrows, but after the game it all seems to make perfect sense.  Will we never learn?

O’Driscoll himself did speak an uncomfortable truth after the game – that this will all count for very little if we lose in Paris. Ireland’s mental weakness in the face of the Gitane-smoking, stubble-faced, suave Frenchman will be thoroughly uninteresting to Joe Schmidt – the reality of the situation is that this French team are appalling and we simply must beat them and win the Championship. If we go out and lose in Le Stade, we’ll still remember the fond farewell we gave BOD, but he’ll still retire with just one Championship – nowhere near enough for a player who has contributed more than anyone in the Northern Hemisphere in the last 20 years, except possibly Johnno.

Even among fans, it seems there is still too much deferance to French rugby.  We should fear the backlash, apparently.  But what can France lash back with?  And wasn’t the Scotland game supposed to be the backlash to the previous rubbish performance?  And the one before that etc.?  They play at  glacial tempo, and the likelihood of them suddenly unleashing their inner Jauzion-Clerc-Heymans seems so remote as to be fanciful.  Schmidt, however, would appear to be just the man to cut through any such sentiment and ensure that Ireland have a healthy lack of respect for their opposition.  Heck, even Kidney’s stuttering 2012-13 vintage Ireland managed two draws with this lot.

BOD, and we, would prefer silverware to happy-clappy love-ins and we have put ourselves in a position to slay two ghosts – the too-long hangup about the French and choking within sight of the finish line [don’t mention the grand slam, we choked utterly in that game].  Let’s get the great man some more pots to show off in his dotage.

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76 Comments

  1. Bowe Gathers

     /  March 10, 2014

    I was really quite grumpy during the game (had played myself and been thumped) and was concerned with several players putting in poor performances by their own standards (Best, Sexton and PoC). However in hindsight playing keep ball against the aging Italian pack was exactly what was needed. Good to see Henry and Toner playing really well, as they were fringe players before this campaign.

    We just have to hope that the French keep on picking poorly and playing worse. Big monkey to get off the back next week: all 4 provinces have scored huge wins against seemingly impregnable French teams: time for the men in green to replicate that supremacy.

    • Agree that POC and Best were generally poor, but Sexton had a cracker of a game (obligatory poor kick or two aside). Being caught offside at a kick was a brainfart moment, and he took that bump after scoring the first try like only a WWE superstar/Premier League footballer can, but other than that he was pretty great.

      I thought D’Arcy was largely poor though, apart from when we were breaking out and had real go-forward ball. He’s a very safe pair of hands, but that little shuffle of his does nothing for us in attack right now. Interestingly though I thought he started straightening a lot more when Ferg and Jackson (both of who also had good appearances) came on.

      Picamoles and French-Hibbard are back to bosh at us this week, I’m sure Joe will know to shut them down though. I’m just praying Fickou doesn’t start.

      • Not usre POC was poor, I thought he had a good game. D’arcy didn’t have his best game.

        • He was largely grand (and at his nonchalant best during the handbags, which I had clean forgot about, so I’m going to let him off this week), but there were a couple of carries that looked a little 2010-esque in their placcidness. He’ll be grand against a Pape doing his best impression of a flappy Ben Youngs though.

          • I think your criticisms would be more accurate of his performance against England – thought his carrying was much improved from that game.

        • Hairy Naomh Mhuire

           /  March 10, 2014

          I’m no expert but looking at POC on Saturday I’m struck by the fact that he ALWAYS seems to carry into contact rather than looking for options to get the pass away?

          • I thought he looked at times, but didn’t have the confidence to go for it…I remember once in particular he was motioning to go for a one-handed offload to BOD, I wasn’t too confident he’d pull it off so I didn’t mind him trucking it up instead…

  2. I was a little surprised to hear that Murray had been up vomiting the night before, I felt bad for him having to soldier on for his 15 minutes or so. Reddan was very sharp though, unlucky not to add to the scoring. The Leinstertainment breakout from our own 5m line was a thing of beauty.

    The best thing for me is that so many players are putting in performances that could have them earn MotM: Sexton, Henry and Toner all stood out to me as candidates. Best moment of the match for me was when BOD broke through and looked like it was 2002 again, but then he realised how fuckin’ old he is and went all “where the hell can I get rid of this bloody ball?!” and finally kicked off Sexton’s second try.

    Most importantly though, I got on TV for a replay of the Italy try. I’ll be in my trailer if you need me.

    On the France game, I think Joe and Enda McNulty are going to have a job finding the balance between our irrational fear of France and the evidence of “France have been shit, and we’ll walk all over them”. While I doubt we’ll be throwing random miss-passes out to allow Huget in, any tiny mistakes are going to be costly. Minutes 17-35 in the Italy game *were* fairly poor, and from what I’ve seen of France this year all they need is a 20 minute purple(ish) patch to get them home. I think we can do it, but it’s going to be one hell of a battle both physically and mentally.

    …Still waiting for that through-the-legs special though, time for BOD to sign off in Shane Williams style!

    • Great post Phil! Had exactly the same thoughts as you when BOD broke the line and then ran across the pitch looking for the pass. Almost found myself laughing…

      As for France, yes, mistakes, absolutely. We’ve had plenty of days in Paris where we’ve been beaten out the gate, but surprisingly often we’ve been right in the game and hugely competitive, only for a couple of gun-to-foot moments to cost us dearly and allow momentum to slip. The recent draw, the game in Eddie’s last season, that crazy game where they scored six tried and then we ran in four…

    • Hairy Naomh Mhuire

       /  March 10, 2014

      I’m not sure I’d be wheeling Enda out much at all. I think we’re pretty clear on our game-plan at this stage and if we focus on bringing the kind of intensity that we showed against Wales & England then we should be fine – could even run up a score (particularly in our No. 10 wants to look good in front of his adopted countrymen). I’d leave worrying about France to the French.

    • curates_egg

       /  March 10, 2014

      Thought Reddan had a cracker. Based on the way we played it is very hard to fathom why he didn’t start: this game was made for him. Regardless, it was a very useful bit of boking by Murray because it means our back-up 9 now essentially has a full game under his belt.

  3. I like many others was blown away by events in Lansdowne Road on Saturday. BO’D’s sending off was just magical. Well done to all involved. Before the match I was hoping for points and momentum, both of which we got in spades. I was worried, when Italy brought the thing back to seven all, that there might be a wobble. There wasn’t. The attention displayed to the task at hand was palpable. Something we’ve been demanding for years, that when Ireland go into a match as favourites, they then put who ever it is to the sword big time, was fulfilled. Should Ireland keep their minds on their business and keep to their own game plan, there’s every chance that we will win in Paris. In this regard I would hope the match in Twickenham, where the pressure from the home crowd was immense and possibly made the difference in the end, will stand us in good stead. We have to be ready for France “showing up”, giving us one or other fright and to still come through at the end.

  4. BoD deserved every second of applause and adulation. Still sport can be cruel and unsentimental as you say and i have a horrible niggly feeling that his last actual appaearnce in a green shirt could be the sight of him slouching off at the St de France with yet another championship gone abegging! Hope i am wrong and agree that France have never been more beatable and Joe is the ideal man to have at the helm here and set the mentality but sport……….bloody hell! Also how any team can be favs having won once in 42 years in beyond me – any qualified statistician woud laugh that one out of town. I guess what i am trying to say is that I am hugely confused about next week Ted, we are a better team and we should win but we have no right to expect to win at the same time….Roll on Saturday!

  5. TERMAGANT

     /  March 10, 2014

    Just waiting for the first muppet to come online and tell us how if Zebo/Fitz/Earls (delete as appropriate) had been playing, we would have walloped Italy by an extra 15-20 points…

    My view beforehand was that it would have been deeply unfair to have Kearney/Trimble do the spadework against the better sides and then let other wingers come in and allegedly “show their stuff” against the probably wooden spooners.

    If any of those named above had played and we had won as handsomely as we did, it would no doubt have been argued that we would have beaten England. to me, this result shows that you just can’t make those kind of simplistic judgements.

    on a slightly different note, I think there is a unfair narrative for some players no matter what they do. Example = McFadden’s try. I thought it was exceptionally well taken but doesn’t seem to have aroused much comment because Ferg is not one of the players who seems to engender an enthusiastic/one-eyed following.

    if you don’t believe me, just imagine if it had been scored by a certain Munster player…

    • It’s a bit moot to talk about Fitz and Earls when neither is match fit.

      My personal opinion of the wing situation at the minute is that while Trimble and Kearney have done a fantastic job, they haven’t looked dangerous enough in the loose from anywhere outside the opposition 22 (Kearney’s run that led to Launchberry’s tap tackle aside), which we will probably need eventually. I don’t think there’s any need to change right now, but I worry about how much pace the French back three (and Gael Fickou) have against our backs.

      I actually thought Ferg had a great game (and wins tweet of the year for thanking the crowd for his standing ovation when he came on), and his try showed what we can do in the midfield when at least one centre has pace. Depending on how the next 8 months pan out, I could definitely see him taking over the 13 jersey.

    • Yep, we call it ‘Good Face’! McFadden may not have the classy running style of a Keith Earls, but he has a knack of doing it on the pitch, even if we still call him the Kildare Lewis Moody. Great try, superbly taken.

      I also think Sean Cronin’s try was well taken. A hooker with the outside break of a centre. His technical elements may hold him back from getting to the top rungs in the sport, but he sure has the fun-factor for the viewers.

    • Bueller

       /  March 10, 2014

      Ah would you come on. What is the obsession with invoking this imaginary one-eyed bias? McFaddens try was good but not exactly amazing. Zebo probably wouldn’t have made any difference but there was definitely an equally valid case for his inclusion as there was for his exclusion. Have to say I have no memory of DK doing anything at all (good or bad) in the entire game but he has been ‘grand’ in every cap he has had so probably deserves to keep his spot, if ‘grand’ is what we are looking for.

      • When somebody does something on the pitch that’s good it’s customary to say ‘well done’. I don’t see anything wrong with that. McFadden took a great line to score a fine try. It’s not his first for Ireland; his strike rate is surprisingly high. The poster is right in that McFadden, although he has a great record at international level, is never really thought of as a first line international. Mr Versatile, a decent man off the bench, not really up to this level, more of a grinder, Mr Average, The Kildare Lewis Moody etc. Only a few months ago he made five line breaks in a single test match against Australia, but nobody really remembers that because it doesn’t fit the accepted narrative.

        Whatever about Zebo, would a newly fit Bowe not make a more compelling case? We’ve said ourselves umpteen times we’d have Zebo in the team, but it’s obvious he’s out of favour with the management for reasons we don’t really know and can only speculate about.

        • Bueller

           /  March 10, 2014

          The problem isn’t with praising McFadden its with qualifying an argument with an opener like “Just waiting for the first muppet to come online and tell us how if Zebo/Fitz/Earls (delete as appropriate) had been playing, we would have walloped Italy by an extra 15-20 points…” and asking people to imagine the reaction if Zebo had scored it…..utterly ridiculous. If you want McFadden to get praise then come on and praise him.

        • The score are reporting that Bowe won’t be featuring this weekend. http://www.thescore.ie/ireland-france-injury-update-1354290-Mar2014/

          As much as I love Tommy, he hasn’t got the match fitness yet, and I reckon if he’d come back a match earlier, perhaps against Treviso, he could have barged his way in. As it stands though I don’t think anyone (bar Zebo, blah blah blah, yakkety schmakkety) has much of a stake on the wings, as Ferg is probably still on Standing Ovations from the Bench duty.

      • Jojo

         /  March 11, 2014

        Didn’t dk give a nice inside pass for one of the tries?

  6. Let’s face it, if it was a Heineken Cup match none of us would have a qualm.

  7. Stephen

     /  March 10, 2014

    O’Driscoll had the perfect centre-game, and the Irish performance lived up to the occasion. To name the good performances is pleasing – Healy, Toner, Henry, Henderson (a prospect), Reddan, Sexton, BOD and Trimble. Subs were excellent too: the whole replacement front row, Ruddock, McFadden.

    Have to say, it will probably be missed by everyone bar Schmidt because of the occasion but Jackson, when he came on, was electric. Hit the line, distributed, contributed to 2 tries and hit a difficult conversion (albeit missing a seemingly easier one with the last kick). I also loved the moment where he converted McFadden’s try with a drop-goal and hoofed it up the pitch, screaming at the rest of the team to keep at it – which did, eventually, result in a 7th try.

    This “mental weakness” against France – if we don’t break it now, with Scientist Schmidt at the helm, we won’t break it. I am, however, fully confident that we will.

    • Bowe Gathers

       /  March 10, 2014

      PJ’s tempo change could go under the radar, particularly with his missed kick (an old stick to beat him with). I thought he added a lot, actually, as JS looked far from his narky imperious best. Jackson does play on the line very well, and Reddan looked well suited to serving that. A minor note, but an encouraging one.

    • Thought Jackson was excellent when he came on. Passed beautifully and picked good options, had one phenomenally quick transfer of the ball under pressure, and one kick to the corner that was so precise in getting up to the Italian line that it would have been a one-metre lineout if that weren’t against the rules. My feeling is that Schmidt feels he needs Sexton’s pace and breaking ability in midfield as D’Arcy and O’Driscoll are not the line-breaking force of old (this is also why we’ve seen the Randwick loop used so often), and that’s why Jackson has seen limited game time to date. Hopefully a few of the Lions, but especially Sexton, get rested this summer, and Jackson gets a couple of starts against Argentina. Hopefully he also takes over as Ulster’s number one kicker soon. Once he does that, he’ll be a very viable alternative.

      • @Completebore

         /  March 10, 2014

        I know the ‘fact’ that PJ is not the first choice Ulster kicker has become accepted widely, but by my reckoning he has not kicked in 3 Ulster games this year (when picked) – the last two HCup games and the home game against Munster. Understandable that for tight games the kicking duties are given to the guy who can bomb them in from his own half. My fingers and toes stats has him making 53 kicks from 74 attempts for Ulster. Which isn’t a great percentage, admittedly, but he has improved after a pretty awful opening few games off the tee. But I’m pretty sure he’s kicking more than the other IQ 10’s in the provinces.

        • It also used to be a “fact” that Sexton couldn’t kick – and the identity of his rival for the 10 jersey didn’t help. Interestingly, BNZ did a study on kickers – when the “clutch” scenario was reviewed, Sexton and O’Gara had near-identical records at international level (73% success rate).

          • The media/fans will often tar players with a bad name, especially early in their careers. The narrative is hard to shift, as it was and still is for Sexton, given its recent recurrence. The “fact” that PJ is a dodgy kicker in clutch situations will keep on recurring, even if he spends years knocking them over in the tightest spots. It’s something that Zebo is going to have to deal with too – he’ll be a dodgy tackler even if he spends years levelling everyone who comes within arms reach of him.

          • Stephen

             /  March 10, 2014

            Statbunker has Jackson at 83% success rate for Ulster overall, and it seems to be up to date (it includes this year’s 6Ns so far).

            Obviously that number, and the impression it should bring, is hurt by a couple of high-profile displays of poor place-kicking in last year’s 6Ns. I wouldn’t be overly worried by the media narratives of Jackson or Zebo though – I don’t imagine Schmidt will be swayed overly by such things. If Jackson holds steady at the place-kicking, and Zebo improves whatever it is Joe has requested him to improve, they will join/ move up the matchday 23.

          • Yes, what Irish goal kicker was highest on the list? Bad Face Humphreys perhaps?

    • To add insult to injury, the Google translation of that article seems to think that PSA is Sam Allardyce: “Hammers manager Philippe Saint -André”.

      • osheaf01

         /  March 10, 2014

        That’s insulting to Signor Allardici.

  8. @Completebore

     /  March 10, 2014

    It feels wierd that it was just phase 1 of the retirement. We’ve still got his last Ireland game and last Leinster games to come. Even Gerry will run out of superlatives by then.

    And everybody in RTE who was involved in signing off that Robo-BOD travesty should be fired immediately.

    • By “fired” you meant burnt at the stake, right?

      • @Completebore

         /  March 10, 2014

        That may a little extreme…

        I assume these things go through a huge number of sign-offs and approvals and nobody stopped it.

      • jacothelad

         /  March 11, 2014

        No. Baked slowly in a kiln at 750 degrees Centigrade.

    • It was about the worst thing I’ve seen on RTE since, err, the week before when the Eurovision scoreboard only went up to 99.

  9. Will

     /  March 10, 2014

    If Ireland look like a really well coached team, France are the complete opposite. It’s such a shame for their fans, they probably thought they couldn’t get a worse coach than Lievremont….
    Parra and Trans Duck are not in the squad for Saturday, so no change in sight. I expect we’ll play territory, let them make mistakes and providing we’re clinical enough we should win by 10ish.
    The French crowd will cheer Ireland and BOD to victory. Pity for them that PSA won’t get the boot until after the WC.

    • Hairy Naomh Mhuire

       /  March 10, 2014

      It’s possible that the game in Rome will have some bearing on the French mentality. I expect Italy to be well up for it & they could make life awkward for Awesome England with their two leaders back & an extra rest day. We could do with Awesome England putting a reasonably good score on the Italians. +20 would leave their points difference over France at +50 leaving France no hope of winning the thing.

    • Leinsterlion

       /  March 10, 2014

      At least Lievremont got them to turn up occasionally, remember Clerc and Heymans literally running everything? At one point his only tactical contribution seemed to be go out and run. It all ended in acrimony and Joubert reffing them off the pitch, still, his four years of madness garnered a better return then both PSA and the likes of every England coach since Clive or Kidney. Also, he was the one who brought in Parra and Trinh-Duc…

  10. B

     /  March 10, 2014

    Toner has been excellent and perhaps still isn’t getting enough praise in the general media – he’s been our man of the tournament imo and seems to be growing into the grit and niggle of international rugby.

    I hope people can take an unemotional look at this statement, but I would be concerned about Bod’s tendency to go to the grubber kick the last few games. Its a low percentage move even for a good kicker, and it directly led to the Italian try. Imo he’s using it to try and make up for his loss of pace and after 4-5 games of fairly consistent use it will also be fairly predictable if France use a video analyst (you can never tell with PSA). Against the French with three excellent counter attackers it could be really costly.

    • ruckinhell

       /  March 10, 2014

      Toner has really stepped up this tournament. At the beginning, I rated him as a handy “fill the gap” kind of player until the injuries to the other locks were cleared but at this stage Ryan, McCarthy, Tuohy and Henderson (who I put at 3rd in line after the incumbents at present) will have to do something special to shift him. He has shown a massively improved work rate (check Demented Mole’s Ruck Marks for 6 Nations ) allied to very good fundamental skills. Our ability to deal with restarts, once a serious Achilles heel, is now is nowan area of relative comfort and a lot of this is to do with Toner who is excellent in this field.

      Two thumbs up for the tall man.

    • Murt

       /  March 10, 2014

      If we’re going to be unemotional…BO’D didn’t grubber kick the ball in the lead up to the Italian try. He tried to hack a loose ball forward after it got dropped in the previous tackle. He either missed the ball or sliced it Sarto managed to gather it up. Either way, trying to lash it forward against the flat Italian line was the right decision.

      I’d agree in general that there is an over reliance on the grubber by lots of players (and not just Irish players – Roberts made a hash of one against England yesterday) but to single BO’D out is a bit harsh. It can be hugely effective if the defence is up quickly. Most of the time the kick fails because of bad execution rather than a defence pre-empting the move.

      If you’re going to play someone whose pace isn’t there any more, you have to let him use his experience and spatial awareness to move the ball to places that he’s previously have run it to. If this involves grubbering into space behind the defence, so be it. I think he had a couple of useful grubbers against Wales.

      And if you let us be emotional about it…. how dare you criticise BOD on this of all days!

      • I don’t think you could call that a grubber kick – more of a fly hack of a loose, bouncing ball. But yes, it flew straight into the hands of the Italian wing and he galloped down the touchline, brushed off Kearney’s gentle pat on the back and scored.

    • Leinsterlion

       /  March 10, 2014

      I too nearly explode in rage anytime a player does a stupid grubber. Nothing will top both North and Roberts utterly blowing two certain tries against England though.

  11. Munstermicko

     /  March 10, 2014

    Para and Twin Duck left out is tremejus news. I don’t see any changes bar reinstating Pashun O Mahoney for the anthems over Hendomutant.

    I just cant shake the ominous feeling that somehow the French will decide to turn up. I’d like to think the lads will be too fired up to choke on Saturday but it is France in Paris.

    Someone mentioned a 10 minute purple patch by the French could spell disaster.

    Really hope they keep PSA at the helm until wc2015. Be great to dispatch them in the pools to feed them to the all blacks in the quarter finals.

    • Feed them to the All Blacks!! Hahahaha – feel the All Blacks to their one-off turn-up performance more like it!

      • toro toro

         /  March 11, 2014

        That would work too, give us a route to the Cup that didn’t even involve conquering our Fear Of A Black Jersey…

  12. Forewarned is forearmed: “France are tactically lost, but could yet blow Ireland away”,
    http://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2014/mar/10/six-nations-talking-points

  13. Finn McCool

     /  March 10, 2014

    And how about Andrew Trimble’s tackle that knocked the ball loose? Loved it. Also, do you have any stats on how many times Dorce has passed the ball in the last two games? I feel like he has ignored obvious wide passes to do his little shuffle/straightener almost every single bloody time he gets the ball. I realize the straightening thing is important in the modern game against disciplined defences but a little more imagination once in a while would be nice.

  14. Buzz the England Fan

     /  March 10, 2014

    Great send off for a great man. ‘Nuff said.

    As to France – well they’re playing at home aren’t they? Have you looked at the French Top14 results? Teams play like world beaters at home and just couldn’t care less away.

    Whilst they’ve been unbelievably sh*t this 6N does anyone remember the RWC? Thrashed by the ABs and humbled by Tonga they still made the final and should have won it.

    Notwithstanding that St Andre seems to have had a frontal lobotony since becoming France coach there’s still the chance that he, or the players, might somehow get it right next week. Monkeys, typewriters, Shakespeare etc.

    Couple that with the fact that your lads have won once in Paris in the last 400 years it’s not a foregone conclusion.

    Personally I’d like to see Ireland win by a point with a BOD try in the last minute and England win by 50-60 odd to take the 6N………….but I don’t mind too much if your lads do it because we still beat you.

    • “still the chance that he, or the players, might somehow get it right next week. Monkeys, typewriters, Shakespeare etc.”

      This is what I’m terrified of Buzz, well said! France on their day can beat anyone, and they’ve yet to have that one match where they really kick on (which sounds a lot like Ireland over the last few years, heh). Your point of home form is a good one too, although falls over when you consider France have only really played well at home this year for maybe 30-35 minutes, but again, individual brilliance is what’ll get France home if at all.

      I do think England have the tools to put a good score on Italy, but with Sergio and potentially Castro back it’s going to be a tough ol’ day at the office for ye in Rome.

      • Congrats on the Triple Crown, Buzz and, eh, good luck there trying to put a 51 point difference – minimum – over on the Azzuris.

        • Buzz the England Fan

           /  March 10, 2014

          Yeah it’s good to win a triple crown – no matter what Brian Moore says.

          TBH I don’t like the format of having to beat another side by a certain number of points. It would be better if it was done like Super Rugby/ Heineken Cup with losing bonus points and 4 try bonuses or even the old system of sharing the championship if you have an equal number of wins.

          To answer Phil Tran’s point – France may have only played well for 30-35 minutes at home but that’s 30-35 minutes more than they’ve played well away!

          I’d actually like to see the Frenchies get a good hiding off your lot. How England contrived to lose in Paris seems even more inexplicable now but, with hindsight, that loss probably did more good than harm.

          • Riocard Ó Tiarnaigh

             /  March 10, 2014

            At any rate we know what we mustn’t (!!!!) allow happen….

  15. Rob M

     /  March 10, 2014

    wow… I’m rather amazed by so many of the comments on this French rugby link in relation to next weeks match between Ireland & France…. apart from being very generous in their praise for BOD they seem to be up for Ireland to win… one or two even saying it would be a travesty for French rugby if France did win…

    http://www.rugbyrama.fr/rugby/6-nations/2014/tournoi-des-6-nations-2014-anglais-et-irlandais-favoris-pour-le-titre-final_sto4167767/story.shtml

  16. toro toro

     /  March 10, 2014

    On balance, I figured I could see the sense of keeping the team together, though I still thought Marty Moore was unfortunate, and could have been used to relieve some of Mike Ross’s extremely heavy workload.

    As it happened, I thought the scrum started going backwards on the TH side, after Mighty Mart came on. It’s the first time I’ve seen it happen, and the first time it’s really been apparent that he’s hit his current potential.

    There’s absolutely no shame there; he’s 22, and as the Mole points out (here: http://dementedmole.com/2014/03/07/ruck-marks-england-vs-ireland-2014/#more-3884) he’s played more international minutes this season then he did Pro12 last. It’s a phenomenal rise; but I think it became apparent why he wasn’t pushed a bit higher a bit faster, as many of us had wanted.

    No doubt at all that he’ll learn from it, and the ceiling for this guy is just astonishingly high.* But once more, it turns out; Joe Knows Best

    *Mind you, as a ‘Tarf boy I’m legally obliged to say that Tadhg Furlong is even better.

    • curates_egg

       /  March 11, 2014

      Furlong seems to have a higher ceiling…pity Bristol get to find out how high.

      • Yossarian

         /  March 11, 2014

        Moore left the stadium with his arm in a sling,picked up a knock that definitely affected him(poor lift immediately after treatment at 5m lineout) AFAIK Furlong still with Leinster- Jack O’Connell going to Bristol.

        • toro toro

           /  March 11, 2014

          I saw that, yossarian, and it won’t have helped – as far as I remember, though, he was under pressure from the first scrum on…

      • Stevo

         /  March 11, 2014

        Isn’t it Jack O’Connell that’s gone to Bristol?

        • jacothelad

           /  March 11, 2014

          Yes. Madness when you consider Ulster are losing all 4 of Court, McAllister, Afoa and Macklin. Surely to God Ulster could have offered him a deal. Ruaridh Murphy isn’t a replacement for all of them.

        • curates_egg

           /  March 11, 2014

          My bad. Rush of blood to the fingers.

          • Jojo

             /  March 11, 2014

            One great aspect of moores scrummaging is that he can take the initial hit , even go back , but has the ability to readjust and get a Counter shove on

  17. William Yates

     /  March 11, 2014

    Does anyone else find it odd that all of our provincial coaches together with our national coaches are all foreign, when this country appears to be brimming with so many alleged experts on message boards such as this. I think the consistent and extremely boring debates that take place over the wings is a case point example – DK never gets the respect he deserves… Apart from two huge figures in Irish rugby – Matt OConnor and Joe Schmidt – has anyone ever stopped to think about why that is? Why has MoC had him in situ all season over a SB highly paid international? Why does Joe rate him so highly? Mmmm… Could it be that he’s damn good? Could it be that these two proven experts know more than the rest of us? People saying DK did nothing in the Italy game – but JS alluded to one clear out that was ‘the glue that holds the team together’… A beautiful inside pass to Sexton. People want to see Zebo for the entertainment, the few ‘Hollywood’ carries, cheap gratification – they don’t care about the other mundane stuff that real, proper, proven coaches – guys that take time to analyse and understand – want in their team, because they know that’s what brings success. TB is a class act, let’s not forget he brought little to the table during November – the constant clamber for Zebo all 6N proves one thing. 99% of people are really poor analysts – driven by the same old lazy biases and inabilities that 99% of humans have to interpret situations correctly. But hey… everyone likes a good Hollywood story… Just not coaches who’s reputations depend on other things it it would seem.

    • @Completebore

       /  March 12, 2014

      But where’s the fun in everybody just accepting that the coaches are always right and we should know our place and keep quiet? We can cancel any coverage of sport that’s not score-lines and colour-less match reports. Every blog, newspaper column, podcast, radio interview and magazine can all just agree to bow to their betters. And every bar-stool argument is over before it begins. Are we going to read about the real world? Talk about our feelings?

      And the notion that coaches are always correct is nonsense. They work with more information and greater expertise than most of us, but it doesn’t mean they’re infallible. See PSA right now and the rump of Deccie’s reign for a couple of easy examples.

      “You may scold a carpenter who has made you a bad table, though you cannot make a table. It is not your trade to make tables.” – Samuel Johnson (probably…I read it on the internet, so it could also have been either Emo Philiips or Mark Twain).

  18. William Yates

     /  March 12, 2014

    All fair points, however one thing in relation to DK, and by that I mean Declan Kidney – that particular Emperor had no clothes, his mindless post match musings weren’t because he was being the typical cute auld irish fella saying nothing, but knowing everything – Id argue there’s a very high probability it was because there was a major possibility he literally had feck all else of substance to say. So argue away when it comes to Kidney, we probably did all know more than him.

    My point is Schmidt is a serious operator and renowned as being one of the best rugby brains in the business, and on course for his 4th successive year of silverware delivery – Matt O’Connor by all accounts seems to be cut from the same cloth as Schmidt. They both rate DK, can’t be just coincidence – humans consistently display a host of heuristics that hinder their ability to interpret situations correctly – people falls back on rules of thumb and memorable moments and lazily apply them to a situation. The whole Kearney/Trimble v Zebo and other such similar debates people like flogging to death except Les Kiss, Joe Schmidt and Matt O’Connor – seem to be bang on what I’m talking about.

    The whole McFadden – good face/bad face or whatever that ‘phenomenon’ people rabbit on about is exactly what I’m talking about too…

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