Future Now

So in the longer term, the day of Ireland’s first test win on Argentinian soil will probably be remembered less than Humph leaving Ulster for Gloucester (!) – we’ll get back to that later this week. The game, if it was memorable for anything, will be remembered as 1 CE, the first of the post-BOD era. Given we’re already on RWC15 countdown, its damn important we get someone comfortable in the jersey pronto.

First up was Darren Cave. How did he do? Fine actually – the defensive system looked good, he did the simple things well (except that Rivelino-style banana kick), he brought those around him into play, he threatened the line and he didn’t look out of place in the shirt. There is no point judging him by O’Driscoll standards, or even by Manu or Smuddy standards, as some seem so keen to do – he’s clearly not at that level. What he is is competent and solid – and that’s what he showed. Cave himself doesn’t seem to expect to last beyond this tour in the shirt, but, right now, he’s the best option there – Henshaw is injured and has little experience, Luke Roysh has that worrying perma-injury thing going on that often precedes retirement, the Kildare Lewis Moody hasn’t started a game of note at 13 in years and Jared Payne is both still Kiwi and a rare starter at 13. Keith Earls is the likeliest possible challenger, if he starts there for Munster next year. Time, perhaps, to start dialing down our expectations, begin appreciating what Cave can do, rather that point out who he isn’t.

One of the other winners was Robbie Diack, who, one awful piece of butchery aside, had a good day at the office, and certainly outshone Jordi Murphy – that is significant, as, the 2007 Blindside Army aside, Ireland have taken 5 backrow forwards to the last few tournaments. You would think Heaslip, POM, SOB and Chris Henry are inked in, which leaves 1, and 2 at most, places left. Murphy and Diack are battling it out with Rhys Ruddock for those slots (save for a bolter) – and, given Murphy might struggle for starts in big games next season, Diack might have stolen a march on him.

Aside from that – Simon Zebo looked eager but occasionally naive, Iain Henderson to the manor born, Mike Ross flogged and Johnny Sexton imperious – what’s new. While its great to see Zebo back, other wingers were more prominent – Andy Trimble looked (unsurprisingly) better versed in what Schmidt wingers do, and Miguel Montero simply looked monstrous – Zebo has more work to do to get himself in the RWC15 frame. Hendy was so awesome that Big Dev, possibly Ireland’s find of the season, might find himself back on the bench – his soft hands to set Jack McGrath piling into some Puma forwards at high velocity were gorgeous. The future has arrived.

The jury is split between whether we’ll see wholesale changes or a similar lineup, but assuredly the Milky Bar Kid won’t be impressed with the error count – too many missed tackles and a bit passive at times – end of season mental fatigue maybe. Ho hum, and maybe we’re just trying to read a little too much into these games at the fag end of a wondrous season.

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43 Comments

  1. Barry

     /  June 9, 2014

    Agreed – thought HEnderson was superb – fantastic tackle-rate.

    On the flipside, I thought our back 3 were very poor as was Marshall disappointedly

    • Marshall was poor – probably his worst performance for Ireland. You would have thought, if anyone, he would be fresh

      • Rava

         /  June 9, 2014

        I hope by now you will have read Murray Kinsella’s impressive review. It’s easy sometimes to overstate the mistakes and forget that there were actually some very positive contributions from Marshall.

  2. So we know who the winners in the squad were… The Ulster contingent of Diack, Henderson, Cave, Trimble, and also McGrath. Who were the losers? I think coughing up a try each will count against Marshall and Kilcoyne. Jones may have played his last game for Ireland. Anyone I’m missing?

    • Leinsterlion

       /  June 9, 2014

      Dont forget Ah You on the losers, what a mess, on the pitch ten minutes, sweating buckets, blowing out his arse and struggling to get back in the defensive line, ridiculously bad conditioning, rarely watch Connacht, but is he that unfit usually?

      • Bowe Gathers

         /  June 9, 2014

        Goodness gracious I thought both Ah You and Kilcoyne were channeling the spirits of older, fatter and less fit amateurs that the Irish front three used to thrive upon. They both looked burst in the last 5 minutes, which as a both a professional and a sub you cannot be forgiven for.

        • Agreed. Our impact-less bench of front rowers was mildly concerning

          • Mary Hinge

             /  June 9, 2014

            Agree entirely that neither Ah You or Kilcoyne are up to it at this level. With Bent also now written off, that leaves us a little tight on the propping numbers.

          • Whats the story with john andress of late? havent seen him play,
            and why dont ulster go after Furlong the leinster TH? definetly one for the future although oddly enough as third choice at leinster he will probably get considerable game time with moore and ross with Ireland and ross getting on a bit

          • Completely ludicrous to suggest that neither are up to it at this level. We were still well on top in the scrum after they came on, and Kilcoyne made a couple of physical carries, even if he didn’t beat the gain-line as he can.

            Speaking more generally, Ah You has improved massively this season but is certainly a prime candidate for some attention from Connacht’s shiny new strength and conditioning regime. Given Connacht’s record on strength and conditioning (see for example how badly conditioned Jamie Hagan was when he left for Leinster), it’ll be interesting to see what can be made of Ah You in an improved set-up. Worth noting that he is probably fifth- or fourth-choice for Ireland and liable to overtaken by Furlong, though, so we probably won’t be relying on him too much in any case.

            Kilcoyne already has a full 6 Nations worth of substitute appearances and two seasons as a key player for Munster. He’s more than capable of doing a job for Ireland, in particular as an impact replacement given how good a carrier he usually is. Writing him off at this stage is absurd.

          • Bowe Gathers

             /  June 10, 2014

            I have to disagree with you Thoughtless – Kilcoyne got beaten at pillar about 4 times in succession which led to their try. Marshall is being fairly castigated for one missed tackle in the midfield, but for a prop sub being trodden over in what should be your killzone is mortifying. Kilcoyne can carry, but the scrum wasn’t solid when he came on, rather the opposite. Given that we’ve never seen a dominant scrum in green (esp against Argentina) no-one really noticed, but his hips and height are weak and he was done over twice, putting us on the back foot.

            Ah You is a non starter, can’t scrum can’t carry can’t do much. Kilcoyne has more about him, but he feels like a very retrograde step into the days of Mushy and beyond.

  3. KM

     /  June 9, 2014

    Personally I’d quite like to see a bit of athleticism at 13 to complement the older legs at 12 (D’arcy), so in that regard I think we should look at Bowe with Henshaw as deputy. We have plenty of talent on the wings, why not let Bowe see out his days in the center? Suprisingly I think D’arcy might retain the 12 jersey into the WC. Marshal’s injury problems, coupled with his lack of form and still relative youth mean that he should no longer be the obvious heir apparent, especially with a couple of other tyros snapping at his heels (I’m looking at you Olding).

    I have to strongly disagree regarding Diack. Sure, he was industrious but not spectacular. It would leave a terrible taste in my mouth if he was selected over younger Irish players. I know both Jordi and Rhys have international links but at least I can believe they grew up dreaming of playing for Ireland. This is certainly not the case for Diack and I hate the idea of us taking on players who didn’t quite make it with their nation of origin.

    • Jimbob

       /  June 9, 2014

      Bowe to 13 was an option a few years ago when he played there a few times for the Ospreys (and did quite well) but it’s been too long since. Asking him to do it in green when it’s highly unlikely he’ll be doing it for Ulster is another reason why it won’t happen.

      Depending on how players are lining up for the provinces in september, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Marshall/Darcy combo at some point in November with Payne or McFadden or hopefully Olding providing versatile cover.

    • Sure, if it comes down to a 50-50 choice, choose the Irish (by birth) guy, but Schmidt is nothing if not a pragmatist

    • Jojo

       /  June 9, 2014

      Hmmmm Ruddock is fairly welsh

      • Ruddock’s Mum is Irish. His Dad is half Irish (Mike’s Mum was born in Ireland). He’s lived a good portion of his life in Ireland, and his brother is called Cíarán. What do you want, a Guinness t-shirt and an “éire 32” tattoo?

      • KM

         /  June 9, 2014

        His mother is Irish and he was born in Dublin. Fair enough he spent most of his life in Wales but he made Ireland his first choice.

        I understand your point on pragmatism Whiff, fact is the decision shouldn’t be the coach’s to make. The residency rule just doesn’t cut it. 3 years is a standard contract length and shouldn’t be enough to qualify to play for that country.

        • Make it circa eight years and I don’t think anyone could complain. Move to a country to which you have no ties when you’re 11 and you can play when you’re 19. Move when you’re 16 and it’s 24 – hardly that onerous.

          • KM

             /  June 9, 2014

            Agreed, a certain level of commitment must be displayed first.

          • So… if a Saffir comes over to Ireland at 22 he can play for Ireland when he turns 30. Meanwhile NZ can continue to put promising Islanders in NZ boarding schools at 13 and have them ready to go once they come of age. Asides from that being hardly fair, do we want rugby to go the way of football where entire leagues (e.g. Belgium) are based on a business model little short of human trafficking: importing cheap talent at 11 (usually from Africa) and discarding the majority before they’re out of their teens.
            This boat sailed in 1995 lads….

    • Left of the Dial

       /  June 9, 2014

      Have to disagree about Diack, who seems to represent the exact reason the qualification rules exist in the first place, to recognise players who develop an attachment to a country other than the one they were born in. He’s being here for six years, he’s signed up for another three so he obviously enjoys living here and feels some attachment to the place. Plus given he plays in the one position that Ireland doesn’t have a problem producing test quality players in it’s pretty clear he’s not just chasing caps. If he was he probably would have fecked off to France years ago.

      In interviews both before and after the game he seemed incredible earnest and excited about not just playing test rugby, but playing test rugby for Ireland. There are players who look to qualify on cynical grounds, but I’m delighted Diack got a cap, being Irish isn’t just about where you were born

      • Bowe Gathers

         /  June 9, 2014

        Anyone willing to emigrate into Belfast deserves a crack in a green jersey 😉

    • toro toro

       /  June 10, 2014

      As one of many Irish people who has, like Robbie Diack, moved to a different country for work, and spent a considerable number of years there at this stage, considering it now my (second) home, I sincerely hope he wins many, many caps for Ireland.

      Primarily because anybody who this upsets is awful, and deserves to be upset.

      • scrumdog

         /  June 10, 2014

        To read above that POM is ‘inked’ in is ludicrous. Every challenger for the Green # 6 racks up a higher work rate across the board.. Ruddock at Leinster, C.J. Stander at Munster when he got the opportunity (and is a project player) and now Diak who had a huge game… its a coincidence they are both South Africans…and both rack up double digit tackles, multiple line breaks lineout wins and steals. POM is a weak tackler with a low work rate and mainly is a lineout jumper in comparison and is lacking in bulk. Diak and Stander are of closer caliber to the recently retired Ferris who has set the benchmark for the green #6.

  4. “2007 Blindside Army”, heh, I had forgotten about that.

    I’m not sure I’d be as positive about Cave’s performance as you are here, or indeed as the meeja in general have been. ESPN have him and Marshall missing five out of fifteen tackles in midfield between them, which goes a long way toward explaining the porousness of our midfield defence. Equally I didn’t really see much of his trademark “bringing others into the game”; I can’t, in fact, recall a single significant piece of playmaking from him. His clean break through the middle was excellent, though, and should have resulted in a try, but for Diack’s complete and utter butchery of a three on one.

    I’d agree that Zebo was naive in shooting out of the defensive line needlessly off the Argie five-metre scrum, but he did succeed in spoiling the pass to Cordero, to be fair to him. Outside of that, he is, as usual, being criticised in a variety of places (not here!) for his defence and work rate, which strikes me as odd given that he’s listed as missing just one out of ten tackles (by contrast to Andrew Trimble, who missed an uncharacteristic 3 out of 8), as well as getting his mitts on the ball 21 times in attack, seven more times than any of the other outside backs. And that’s not to mention the excellence of his offload to Darren Cave, his as-always brilliant work chasing restarts, his very good cover tackle in the second half, and the fact that he should have had a try but for the aforementioned butchery from Diack. Honestly, I don’t think there’s any way he can win with some people.

    Outside of those talking points, Henderson continued his outstanding form in the row, Jack McGrath showed exactly why he’s still Healy’s prime back-up even with Kilcoyne making a decent impact off the bench, and Chris Henry looked like he needed a holiday. I noticed that Jordi Murphy was playing on a single occasion during the match, when he made that impressive bust up the middle; regardless of his versatility as a bench option, I simply don’t think he’s ready for international rugby, not least because of his lack of game-time. Lastly, delighted to see Marmion get his debut, and he showed a glimpse of what he can offer in terms of speed to the breakdown and accurate and intelligent passing. I’d very much like to see him start next week.

    • Barry

       /  June 9, 2014

      How about McFadden at 12 and Henshaw at 13?

      • I’d be very open to that, serious pace and strength in contact, but it might lack some of the guile that the likes of Olding, Payne, or an in-form Marshall would bring. McFadden looked good at 12 coming off the bench on Saturday, actually, and I’ve always liked him there (more than at 13).

    • colman stanley

       /  June 9, 2014

      Agree nearly completely with all your points.

      The back 3 suffered slightly due to a lack of creativity from the centres. Having said that Zebo usually brings himself into the game regardless, but Schmidt may have been instructing him to do otherwise.

      The overall performance isn’t as bad I think as people are making it out to be as the score could just as easily have been 45-10 to us. We were just missing some clinical play and defensive prowess. Also, Heaslip telling Mad to kick for goal at 26-10 was stupid.

      Hendo showed Schmidt what he was missing during the 6N which was good to see, and Jones showed him why he should not be near the Ireland squad. As much as I admire and love Schmidt it’s, refreshing to hear some criticism.

      Still really frustrated that Henshaw, Fitz, and Olding (our 3 best centres IMO, with a little more game time) are injured.

      Team I’d like to see for the next match: McGrath,Varley,Ross,Hendo,Toner,Ruddock,Henry,Heaslip,Marmion,Sexton,Trimble,Madigan,Cave,Zebo,Kearney …… Cronin,Herring,Ah You,POC,Murphy,Reddan,Marshall,McFadden

      • Leinsterlion

         /  June 9, 2014

        I think Heaslip is suffering from the amount of games he is playing, imo he is on the verge of doing a So’ialo(sp) and falling off a cliff, rather then turning on some form, I’d drop Murphy altogether(he was very poor against Argentina), leave Heaslip on the bench, and move Diack(though I regard him as a 6)or Ruddock to 8. I’d also like to see Marshall at 13 with McFadden at 12 as I do not rate Cave at all.

      • curates_egg

         /  June 9, 2014

        Henderson was there throughout the 6 Nations but in poor form (also went through a dip for Ulster). It is great to see him back to his best. MOTM vs Leinster and now this.

    • Poor Zebo, best counter attacker in ireland right now and consistently halts the defense but for some reason he is perceived as a nearly man with people prefering Earls,Bowe,Fitzy,McFadden and even dave kearney, sure he is out of position sometimes and makes some dodgy decisions but he only missed 1 tackle on saturday, Rob kearney misses the tackle bags half the time but theres no call for mr consistency Felix Jones or Craig Gilroy who is no pushover in defense,
      Where is kinsella with an in depth analysis of Zebo, surely journalism gold..

      • Leinsterlion

         /  June 9, 2014

        Apart from him looking a bit out of shape(not that it showed going forward when he had the ball) and his brain fart on our line that luckily didnt lead to a try, I think the positives outweigh the negatives, pace is valuable, Zebo has it, he has to play, end of story.
        One industrious, gritty, blue collar, high motor, loyal comrade to the way of Schmidt, Stakhanov winger and Zebo, strikes a nice balance imo.

        • I get the feeling that all four provinces would be starting him if they had him and he would probably get a game for all the six nations teams bar france,
          I agree balance is key here, off set plays Zebo would be a massive threat with ball in hand and have the magnetism of basteraud or BOD to be a lethal dummy runner not to mention in general play aswell.
          At the end of the day rugby is a running game, the argentines showed that with there relatively unknown backline causing problems.
          as spock might say it is only logical, so why all the controversy?

          • Leinsterlion

             /  June 9, 2014

            I actually think Penny was right(not at the time he said it, nor for the reasons he said it) when he talked about “tall poppy syndrome”, Zebo rubs people up the wrong way, same as Heaslip and other players, for whatever reason we in Ireland have a reverence for the mediocre and suspicion of perceived “flash harry’s)

  5. First up, I think all player assessments come with the “friendly” caveat. I know a lot of international test matches are stand-alone games that, in football for instance, would be classed as friendlies. However, not many of them have that feel. This one did, and that militates against guys who played well and perhaps mitigates the poorer performances.

    Luke Marshall I thought was poor, along with most folk. Outside him I thought Cave did well. Not much to add on others’ comments, other than I think both will be in the discussion come World Cup squad time. Here’s an idea, though: looking at Australia and England (and being aware of the one-trick-pony awesomeness of Bastareaud), and bearing in mind we’re a slender side (by the standards of top level international rugby), I’m worried that we might need to find a way to get Henshaw in the centres asap. Not that I think he’s not an option, my problem is the emphasis on the word “need”. Does anyone think a Payne/Henshaw partnership could be explored? Jared is a fantastic player and, while not possessing Larkham long passing (few do), is without doubt a natural playmaker and footballer. Henshaw is a beast. Before anyone asks which shirts they’d wear, I’ll answer by saying it doesn’t really matter. IMO units are more about balance (put in the context of a balanced team) and I think that’s a possible partnership that has yet to be mentioned.

    Beyond that, I thought Diack did well, but we had started the game splendidly and things dried up very soon after he butchered that overlap, when perhaps we could have put on a show had we turned our early pressure and good play into something tangible. Zebo seems to attract strong opinions… I thought he was a positive, even if his defence is a bit panicky. Henderson was great, as was McGrath. Good to see Marmion get a first cap, also. I saw him at Ravenhill this year and, while Paul Marshall got two tries (and presumably the plaudits), Marmion was far superior and at the heart of anything decent Connacht were about.

    Lastly, I’ll just say that Sexton is unreal. What a player, looked on another planet alongside a number of very handy players across the park. I know I said he shouldn’t have toured, and still think I have a point there, but if this Ireland team is going to do anything in the next couple of years he’s the man who’s going to point the way.

  6. Marmion looked sharp, while Rodney looked off pace. Both played in every Connacht game this season, but Rodders only featured in seven games last year, and I would venture he is in need of an off season (like many others).
    Diack showed why he won’t ever be a first teamer, despite a welcome addition of grunt.
    Murphy is definitively not an eight and would be better off gaining some mass and improving on his groundwork.
    Zebo was definitely busier but there were times when someone made a break and you could see Zebo jogging across the field on the edge of the screen – everything we’ve heard about Joe says he wants wingers getting across field for the full 80. He did it in parts but was not as industrious as either Trimble or Kearney have been this year.

    • Marmion didnt look out of place did he, id put money on him being the 21 come world cup time.

      • Marmion looked great but he played every game last season too so is at least more used to the experience. Its worth considering that he was brought on the tour of North America this time last year but specifically didn’t play because of his high domestic workload. I absolutely think Marmion will be sub sh for 2015 and he is my personal pick for Connacht captain if not this year then certainly next.

        • he seems to be a big leader already in Connacht with players visibly hungry to play when hes on the park (or maybe he just brings them into the game well) but captaincy seems a big step at such a young age. Another quality season with a strong world cup showing and you could well have your wish…
          if not before then.

  7. Riocard Ó Tiarnaigh

     /  June 9, 2014

    I too thought Marmion looked very assured, when he came on. That said, I’d love to see JS mix up the halfback pairings for the next match, with Marmion and Sexbomb starting and Murray and Madser to close it out, or vice versa. Also can’t wait till Olding and Henshaw get back from injury and into contention for Green 12 & 13.

  8. Lowering our expectations regarding Cave is fine, so far as to say that I’m pretty sure he isn’t the answer at all, one break aside I thought he was poor, Marshall also strangely.
    Zebo looked dangerous though indecisive at times. McGrath as usual is one our best prospects, Diack was ho hum. None of the above besides McGrath are potential first teamers when we have a full and injury free compliment.

  9. labrecha1

     /  June 9, 2014

    Complement*

  10. hulkinator

     /  June 10, 2014

    I’ve always thought Luke Marshall would wear the green of Ireland. However after a few season in professional rugby I’ve made my mind up about him. He is average. Average speed, average skills, average defense, average weight. He is a clever player and runs good lines but he isn’t or won’t be a top international player. His head injury’s are also a major concern at this stage. Craig Clarke made the correct decision to retire. Marshall should take a year out of the game IMO and then see how it goes.

    Cave played well and he has a bit more class than Marshall. I think 12 is Cave’s best position. Henshaw will be the next Ireland 13. He has size, skill, a brain and can play in more than 1 position. He also has a bit of an x factor. Payne will be competing for the 15 jersey IMO and covering 13.

    Felix Jones, Varley etc not good enough for Ireland. Kilcoyne is a good prop and hard working. He is certainly not unfit. Its amazing the way people are dismissing him just because he isn’t a Healy. Ah You is a different matter. He is unfit, like most Connacht players.

    Last week marked the first game after the BOD era. I think it also marked the rise of another potential star, Garry Ringrose. He was pure class for the U20s. The backline on Argentina was poor overall but theres great talent coming through in Irish rugby.

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