Five Years of Hurt

That was a tough series for Ireland wasn’t it? And we won it – the first and second test wins in Argentina. Argentina is a tough-ass place to go in June – long journey, different seasons, no-one, no-one, speaks English, plied with Malbec, tough local backrow forwards smelling blood looking to make a name. And all after a seriously intense season – we’ll remember this year for the Championship win in Joe Schmidt’s first season, but when Paul O’Connell comments on the intensity of the Schmidt regime from day one, you can be sure, its physically and mentally demanding. Its ten months since Schmidt first got his hands on these players, and in this, the final action of the season, he has made sure he has got his pound of flesh, with no let-off in the demands – as high as ever.

And rightly so – in the weekend England assured us that they will be RWC contenders (with Chris Ashton’s WINNING try! What? They lost? So why did he do that stupid dive? … never mind .. prick), South Africa showed us the standards we will need to attain, and we don’t have long to get there – no wonder the Milky Bar Kid is in a rush. Fatigue can wait, there are trophies to win – and its not the Guillermo Brown Cup he cares about.

So short-term, results-wise, the tour was a success and Joe Schmidt got more time with the squad. What about the longer term planning for RWC15? Well, we learned four things from this tour:

  1. In the month Fez retired, Rhys Ruddock showed his credentials as an international backrow – with SOB already awaiting re-integration to a high-functioning unit, this is a “good problem” for Schmidt. With injury rates as they are, having Ruddock (and Diack and Murphy) around is useful
  2. Brian O’Driscoll and Dorce’s partnership will be very tough to replace – more of this later
  3. There is room for Zimon Zeebs in a Joe Schmidt technocrat rugby team – we finally got a glimpse of his game-breaking in the second test. Andy Trimble and Little Bob are a little samey if you want to beat the best, Zebo can offer the *groans* X-factor that we might need. Although, we scored plenty of tries in the Six Nations – we aren’t fully bought into the idea that we need flair for flairs sake, but Zebo is a great player and its great to see him involved
  4. Rodney Ah Here. Ah here

Now, to the centres. We said ahead of the tour the biggest to-do was to start the post-BOD process. After a decade of Dorce-and-BOD plenty, we might be realizing how tough its going to be to replace not just the greatest player in our history, but his reliable sidekick as well – any player wearing 13 is already going to be damned by “well, he isn’t Brian” comment, but then any breakdown in communication with their centre partner will be magnified into a “well, where is Dorce” situation.

Darren Cave played well in the first test, but had a bit of a shocker in Tucuman – the Irish midfield was pourous looking all game, and then not having the pace to finish off the try felt terminal for his international ambitions – even for us used to the one-paced Dorce/BOD combo, Cave looked like he was running in clay. Outside him, Ferg was gamey but doesn’t really have the distributive skills for an international 13. Bamm-Bamm was withdrawn early in the first test with (another) possible concussion, and hasn’t quite got a Plan B into his game yet. So we are 0 from 3 when it comes to new centres – and, as we said before the tour, the point of the tour was really to start this process, so its basically been a bit of a fail in that regard, and the games before RWC15 are slipping by.

The next to audition cohort is likely to go be Kiwi attacking talent with dodgy defence Jared Payne, pure-bred rosey cheeked bosh merchant Robbie Henshaw, and creative youngster Stuart Olding, who will all likely get a callup in November, and hopefully gametimes – its getting very late for experimentation, but desperate times etc.

Its very easy to say we need to get behind BOD (and soon to be Dorce’s) successors, but we need to know who they are first – we sucked deeply on the addictive weed that was BOD to get our Championship win, but we are liable to pay now, and time before RWC15 is short. In 2012, we exhorted folk to stand behind Keith Earls, be aware he was likely to make a few defensive clangers, but give him time to grow in the 13 jersey – we did, and he did, but then he was clearly the best option. Now its not as clear.

If we were betting folk, and we wouldn’t ever do something that is so abonimable to God, we think Joe might decide on a Dorce/Keith Earls centre partnership for the RWC and play it in the Six Nations – they are known international quantities and dovetailed well in 2012, and they are the lowest risk to meet a short-term need. If there is a player to play their way into that base scenario, its probably Payne – Olding is likely to be backup fodder until he breaks into the Ulster starting XV, and Henshaw is very raw. Which makes the whole “future” debate essentially about RWC19 – for RWC15, we just need to get something in place, and quickly.

Cnetre-wise, all we can say after Argentina is that Ferg is an emergency option (at best), Cave probably doesn’t have it and Marshall needs to put his health first. Mind you, no-0ne said this was going to be easy.

Previous Post


  1. Barry

     /  June 16, 2014

    I was in Bucharest at the weekend (Don’t go! A terrible s**thole) to watch Emerging Ireland take on Russia – a thunderstorm and a seriously heavy downpour curtailed the game early, v early, in the second half but not before Ireland had cut Russia apart 66-0.

    You can definitely add Robin Copeland to our backrow ‘problem’ – a world cup bolter in my opinion. The backs looked superb but maybe becuase Russia were so inept. It actually showed how much ‘speed kills’. Russia were clearly expecting a good old forward-oriented grind of a game but we just counter-attacked everything and destroyed them.

    • connachtexile

       /  June 16, 2014

      My problem with Copeland is his discipline. He got what? 1 red and a load of yellows this season past? For a coach like Schmidt who demands a zero penalty count Copeland isn’t going to get a look in until that part of his game improves greatly.

      • Jojo

         /  June 16, 2014

        And his inability to execute a 2 v1. Selfish glory hunting player. Needs to mature

    • ruckinhell

       /  June 16, 2014

      Really Barry? I toured there with my club side a few years ago (2012 I think) and we had a cracking time in Bucharest. Lovely people and the city centre is very nice. I was smashed for the majority of the time so perhaps it was the beer goggles!

  2. takyu

     /  June 16, 2014

    With Trimble and Dave Kearney doing well on the wings, how about Bowe moving to 13? He’s played there often enough for the Ospreys and did a few stints there this season for Ulster, and I personally thought he was far more impressive there than Payne. Granted that the fact he’s a bit older than the other contenders means he won’t be the long term solution as such, but a player of his class needs to be in the international team.

  3. I think Iain Henderson definitely put his hand up as well, getting the majority of gametime alongside POC (even if it was enforced in Tucuman by a concussion to Toner).

    The centre conundrum is certainly a problem, and I don’t think it’s going to be sorted between now and the 6N at least. It may simply come down to which regular provincal centre combination between Leinster and Ulster (I can’t see Munster coming up with an international Irish qualified mid-field unfortunately) is working the best next season to get the nod. I’d love to see Madigan given more gametime at 12, but I think it’s more and more likely he’ll become our Duracell Bunny to James-Hook’s-normal-lithium-batteries and come off the bench and make an absolute nuisance of himself.

    I also think that losing PJ was a major blow on this tour (as was a protracted amount of gametime for Madigan in the end), as we seem to be relying on Sexton more than ever in attack, which is fine until all of a sudden he gets nailed after trying three wraparounds in a phase or something.

  4. so agree with your comment about Luke Marshall. Can’t understand why he hasn’t been wear a scrum cap all along .. I think the time must be coming when a family member steps in and says enough is enough.
    Yes, midfield partnership looked all at sea, not easy to see where the new captain will come from but we need it fast!
    I know everybody sick and tired of all the fuss about Zebo but hopefully he is now firmly back in the fold and it can be parked.
    Suppose we’ll be getting no more Monday missives for while now that everybody heading off for a bit of well earned rest? Will miss them!

    • We’ll probably dial it down a bit, unless something interesting happens alright! But we want to post on Fez, and on concussion, so we aren’t done yet

    • I think the reason that he hasn’t worn a scrum cap is that they don’t prevent concussions as far as I know, they can only really protect against scrapes/bruises.

      I don’t disagree that Marshall has not done himself any favours, but I’d also say that at least one or two of his concussions weren’t his fault (he also wasn’t concussed on tour according to the Ireland medics, but he was taken out as a precaution, which was probably the right thing to do anyway).

    • LumberingForward

       /  June 16, 2014

      Robannsbeef, the Marshall concussions are definitely worrying. I’m not sure how much scrum caps help, I remember reading Cipriani always wore one because he’d had concussions but also remember Berrick Barnes saying he wanted to be allowed to wear a boxing style helmet because scrum caps weren’t good enough.

      I didn’t see it said much after the game but I would also be a bit worried for Sexton. Two concussions in four months is scary, and it seems like once you’ve had one or two, you’re more likely to have subsequent ones. He’s a huge player for his club and his country and I hope he’s well looked after by both going forward.

      WoC, I will also miss your blogs when you wind down for the summer break.

      • Stevo

         /  June 17, 2014

        Haven’t they taken the helmets out of amateur boxing because they were found to increase the risk of injury? Given the level of focus on concussion in the NFL in recent years, a sport were players wear large, hard helmets, I don’t think any kind of headgear is the answer to the concussion issue. It seems the consensus now is that while headgear can prevent bruising, fractures etc. concussion is a different matter entirely, as it’s caused by the brain moving around inside the skull as a result of impacts or sudden movements, which helmets won’t prevent.

  5. LumberingForward

     /  June 16, 2014

    No thought for Tommy Bowe at 13? Schmidt say he’d be considering him there. Better vision and passing than McFadden, pacier than Cave, less raw than Henshaw, probably better defending there than Keith and brings an eye for the line. Plus it would mean Mr X factor could then come in on the wing. I suppose with Payne and Cave he’d struggle to get the gametime for his province there but if he was given a go and looked good there Joe could have a word..

    • scrumdog

       /  June 26, 2014

      Bowe at 13 would make room for additional speed in the backs at 14. Bowe has played there for the Ospreys and the 2009 Lions in S.A…so why not? Ulster may just start him there next season and run Gilroy on the wing.

  6. A lot of people will have a problem with what you’re saying about Earls, but he’s probably the most reliable, internationally-experienced option at present. On the other hand, Foley is on record saying he likes more of a ‘hard runner’ at 13, with a stepper inside him, which appears to be the reasoning behind the Bleyendaal-Smith combo, so Earls might find it hard to get club game-time there. Similarly, if Anscombe decides he prefers Cave to Payne at 13 (or rather, Payne to anybody else at 15), then Cave, Henshaw, Eoin Griffin and Ferg (or whoever Leinster go with) might be the only Irish players getting top shelf experience at outside centre next season. I wasn’t overly enamoured of Cave’s pace in the second test either (and indeed, he should have finished in the first test when Zebo put him away), but the entire team looked disorganised. I wonder if there’s a way to organise around his relative lack of pace that Schmidt just hasn’t hit upon yet? His distribution skills are the best of the bunch (although Earls’ issues there are often misrepresented – he has a good short game, but his long game could use work). Schmidt has sacrificed athleticism in the past for other traits he valued more, and indeed put players previously perceived as lacking in outstanding pace in positions where they were able to make big breaks (see Kearney, The Younger). Maybe he can do the same for Cave – but if one of the other three I mention starts putting in quality performances at 13, this series could come back to haunt Cave.

  7. A scrumcap isn’t going to do anything for Marshall. I blogged about ulster last week fwiw and imo he could either be the starting 12 at the world cup or retired by that time, and the latter is becoming more and more likely.

    Henshaw is much more than a bosh merchant, its unfortunate that he didn’t get the chance to show his ability on this tour but the other contenders have shown they don’t have all that much about them and don’t have the combination of qualities that he has. He’s likely to start against South Africa in November.

  8. I agree with Phil Tran, that one, the midfield problem must be sorted out in Ravenhill and at UCD/RDS and two, too great a reliance on Sexton is a recipe for disaster. At the risk of sounding like a cracked record, I think Ian Madigan could be the solution to both problems. I’d like to see him playing more regularly for Leinster than last season at outhalf and at 12. The guy is full of beans and essentially what he needs is a coach and/or coachs, who will back him and help him raise his game. He could therefore be the starter 12 for Ireland, moving to 10 if anything happened to Johnny. To continue relegatin him to a role as Ireland supersub or Gopperth’s understudy at Leinster would be not making the use of one our most talented players, who can get you over the line, when it counts. Ideally I’d like to see Olding fasten down the 13 shirt in white and green, am not sure though, if that’s a realistic option for RWC 15. Earls should be kept on the wing. Centre is definitely not his forté.

    • Don’t really see how Madigan can be the solution to both problems without becoming even *more* of a candidate as a supersub. If he swaps starting at 10/22 for Leinster to 10/12 on a week-to-week basis, it isn’t much of an improvement to his chances of starting in either position in my opinion. I do think that he’s going to be key for Ireland in some shape or form though!

      • If he doesn’t play regularly enough at ten for Leinster, he will never be an adequate second choice for Ireland in that position. Were he to play 12 on those occasions, when MO’C wants Gopperth at ten, he could gain experience at inside centre and insight into his elder team mate’s game management abilities. Personally I think 10&12 would be a better arrangement than 22 and occasional 10.

        • Leinsterlion

           /  June 16, 2014

          And could wind up as another Gegarthy, Barkley, Michalak, Staunton, Berrick Barnes, McAllister etc, players who could have been top quality tens, messed about positionally and end up as ok to good players, but no where near reaching their potential.
          He is a ten, he would get killed at 12 long term.

          • Sound Steve

             /  June 16, 2014

            To my eye, you’ve just listed (Barnes aside) a group of players who had plenty of promise but weren’t quite up to it when push came to shove. If Madigan continues at 10, I’m sure he’ll join that group. He’s shown plenty of promise at 12. I reckon Leinster should sign another 10 (or promote Marsh) and tell Madigan that, barring disaster, he’s playing as a 12 next year and let him concentrate on it. I agree with you that it’s not good enough if he’s just shunted about from week-to-week.

          • Leinsterlion

             /  June 16, 2014

            He’s too old to be considering switching to 12, Shane Gegerthy did an interview recently and bemoaned being switched around and how it hindered him as a player. I cant see how any transition for Madigan would go differently, I would have zero faith in him as a playmaking 12 up against any international centers on the go atm, even the likes of Serfontain would be dangerous against him.

          • Kelly Peters

             /  June 16, 2014

            While been switched around played a part in those players not reaching their “potential” I doubt that was the main reason. Plus what is potential? For me a huge part of what we call potential is hype. All those players had huge hype coming through but their potential is up for debate.

            You say he’s too old to switch but our current incumbent was 24 when he made the switch. Plus Madigan doesn’t have have as big jump to make in terms of skill-set and has more experience in the position. Also he’s the same size as D’Arcy and known for punching above his weight in defence and attack.

            For me we need to have our best 15 players on the pitch and if that means moving Madigan to 12 then Ireland need to consider it. Position’s these days are much more interchangeable than ever, just look at the Aussie backline will tell you, so it all comes down to how Ireland want to play the game. If he has the skills to fill the role that Schmidt envisions then he will surely get a shot. I also think he should consider it from his own point of view. He’s only 3 years younger than Sexton so his long term prospects at 10 don’t seem all that rosy.

  9. curates_egg

     /  June 16, 2014

    If – 2 1/2 years on – we are back to Earls at 13 being our best bet, it really is a shambolic reflection on the IRFU and our succession management. It’s not just his defensive jitters in the position (he has been great defensively at wing this season btw), it is the fact he is still relatively light, not a line-breaking runner at 13 and has poor distribution. However, the strongest indictment is that he himself has said he doesn’t want to play there a number of times.

    You label Henshaw as a bosh merchant. I have seen plenty of evidence that he is a good passer though. Very, very raw of course.

    We are very late in the day though and whoever plays at 13 in the 6 Nations and RWC will not have had a lot of time in the position (unless it is Cave and I think this tour may finally have put that one to bed).

    This will rub lots of people up the wrong way I know but it is looking quite likely D’Arcy will be playing a lot at outside centre for Leinster next season. Who knows if he might be the solution for Ireland too. He has played there before. If I remember well, he wore 13 in the 2004 6 Nations (when he was player of the tournament), although he and BOD swapped around a bit.

    • On Earls, I’d say it’s a bit harsh to blame the IRFU, who can’t magic outside centres out of thin air. I’m not going to rehearse the regular arguments about his defence and distribution, but I will say that this is the first time I’ve heard it said that he’s not a line-breaking runner at 13, something which the evidence just flatly contradicts. Look at his 6 Nations 2012 record (using ESPN Scrum stats, which are obviously imperfect, but the imperfection isn’t particularly relevant in this instance for reasons that will become clear). In four games, he made 197m, 6 clean breaks, and beat 6 defenders. For comparison, in 2013, O’Driscoll in five games made 23m, no clean breaks, and beat two defenders. This isn’t to suggest anything about the two players’ repsective overall performance levels (although one could if one were so inclined), but I think it’s extremely clear that Earls’ record as a line-breaking runner at 13 in a major competition stands up to scrutiny.

      I’d agree with you on Henshaw’s overall ability, and he would be my personal preference to nail down the 13 shirt, but he really will need to take whatever opportunity he’s given with both hands because I doubt he’ll be given a long bedding-in period.

      As for D’Arcy, he did indeed play 13 in 2004 (while wearing 12, oddly), but he has extremely little recent experience in the position and at this point there is essentially zero chance of him making an outside break. I would prefer to take the chance on one of Payne, Henshaw, or Earls at 13, who may not be as assured in midfield positioning, but offer a lot more going forward. I’d also suggest that both Henshaw and Earls are more likely to make offensive tackles, but the worth of that is mitigated by their occasionally poor positioning and decision-making. That reasoning may not chime with Joe’s emphasis on accuracy over all else, though, so I think there is a good chance we’ll see him there.

      • curates_egg

         /  June 16, 2014

        Don’t get me wrong. I am a big Earls fan. He would have been in my Ireland XV without a doubt this year. His defense on the wing has been excellent this season (strong in the offensive tackle, as you note) but he has been caught out so often for Ireland that it would be hands-over-eyes stuff for me. Maybe he is worth another shot but will he get that under Foley? I have seen no evidence that his passing has improved (despite the other areas of his game that he has improved).

        • It’s difficult to point to examples of improved passing, and he’s certainly had a few defensive clangers for Ireland, but I think the frequency with which he makes those kinds of mistakes has been magnified in the public eye by people’s perspective on him, which was largely formed years ago. His short passing is quite adept and he’s well able to put his man away when needed; if you have a gander at the Simon Zebo tribute videos on Youtube (they exist), it’s quite striking how often Earls has put him away for Munster when playing at 13. And then there’s his offensive tackling, which is absolutely huge these days, as Ryan Grant will testify.

          He’s also looked good on the rare occasions he played at 13 this season and last, including being about the only bright spark in Munster’s loss to Glasgow at home. Foley seemed to suggest in a recent interview he wanted to give Earls another shot there, and based on glimpses of him there over the last couple of seasons and his overall increased confidence and maturity, I think he might take the opportunity, probably with Andrew Smith at 12. If not, it’ll be Smith at 13 and the Earls to 13 ship will have sailed for the last time.

          • curates_egg

             /  June 17, 2014

            I will try and be open-minded. We do have a glut of wingers but I really thought he was the stand-out winger in Ireland this season.

    • Hairy Naomh Mhuire

       /  June 16, 2014

      In hindsight what should the IRFU have done around succession management at 13? BOD was in situ for Irl & Leinster. Both Ulster & Connacht had Irish players at 13. Were not too many queuing up in Munster. Not sure that this situation was particularly avoidable bar dropping O’Driscoll in his final season.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  June 16, 2014

        Threw some money at a talented uncapped player from the SH/NRL three years ago.

        • Hairy Naomh Mhuire

           /  June 16, 2014

          Suspect they’re not losing tooooo much sleep over that one.

          • curates_egg

             /  June 16, 2014

            Maybe…but they are doing it now.

      • Don Alfonso

         /  June 16, 2014

        They had a succession plan – Nevin Spence had already been in multiple Irish camps and seemed earmarked to feature in the 6N in the 2012, if I recall, but was injured.

        • curates_egg

           /  June 16, 2014

          That is true. There is no accounting for that tragedy.

      • curates_egg

         /  June 16, 2014

        I guess it is a bit unfair to totally blame the IRFU in hindsight. As pointed out, Nevin Spence was penciled in, as was Eoin O’Malley. The last two seasons do seem to have been a bit wasted though. Nobody would deny that BOD was overused over the past year. We seem to have been putting all our straws in the Payne basket, which is now looking like a pretty shaky basket.

      • curates_egg

         /  June 16, 2014

        Jaysus: if you add Fitzgerald to that list, it is starting to luck curse like. No wonder McFadden and Earls have said they don’t want to play there. Let’s hope we don’t have a Babe Ruth like curse lingering over 13.

  10. I am open to correction as I admit being a Leinster fan I wouldnt be watching Ulster week in week out, but I don’t really see where the calls for Payne at 13 are coming from. Everytime I have seen him at 13 in a big game he has looked average at best there. As an attacking weapon he looks much more suited to having the time and space afforded to a 15 coming from deep. Defensively he also hasnt seemed to be able to adjust to the different duties of a 13.

    • In a way it actually goes back to the previous discussion about perceived antipodean superiority – payne had one season at 13 in super xv (while still moving between 13 and 15) and suddenly he is the answer, despite the fact that he’s never been able to nail down the 13 jersey at any club.

      Personally I think Ulster have been looking at Cave 12/Payne 13 because they are starting to run quite short at centre and need to look at all options – a more boring answer than OMG SCHMIDT PICKED HIM AT 13 but more likely imo. People have forgotten Ulster lost a 12 this season, while Marshall is at a crossroads and may not be a professional rugby player much longer if he keeps getting concussed.

  11. hulkinator

     /  June 16, 2014

    Henshaw is raw but he is a big prospect. He is a big athlete compared to the other options but he is far more than a bosh merchant. He has good awareness, passing and offloading skills. He is a good kicker of the ball too. He can play fullback because he has good all round skills. The key for him will be how he gets on defensively. He should get plenty of practise playing there this season. A bosh merchant he isn’t.

    Cave, Marshall, Earls, McFadden and even 34 year old D’Arcy are not good enough for top international rugby. Henshaw and Olding probably are. So play them asap. What the tour has shown Schmidt us he needs a big rethink about center and it might actually be better to play inexperienced quality than stop gap players.

    Hanrahan, McCloskey, Payne and some other bolters could have good seasons next season. Everything is to play for regarding centres. There’s some excellent talent coming through. As always much depends on how much game time they can get with the provinces.

    • Cave, Marsha,, Earls, McFadden, and D’Arcy all not good enough… Glad we have that sorted then. Presumably after a couple of poor performances neither will Henshaw or Olding and you’ll be clamouring for Garry Ringrose and Stuart McCloskey.

      • hulkinator

         /  June 16, 2014

        Well thoughtless, do you think they’re going to worry the top teams? None are top class and personally having watched underage sides for years, I know theres better talent coming up.

        McCloskey has to brush up on his skills and Ringrose is a few years away but obviously talented.

      • curates_egg

         /  June 16, 2014

        The calls for Ringrose at Leinster are already there, poor kid. Lots of pressure.

    • (WordPress badly needs an edit function.)

  12. Stephen

     /  June 16, 2014

    A backline of


    With Reddan, Olding and (if there’s room) Payne on the bench, would do well in the World Cup. Bowe will rarely be played at 13 for Ulster, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t be converted in the Irish set-up. He’s a brilliant strike runner at 13 or 14.

    • KM

       /  June 16, 2014

      I’d be a fan of that line-up Stephen.

    • Leinsterlion

       /  June 16, 2014

      Outside of Italy’s dodgy centers, that would be the weakest, defensively suspect center partnership in the 6nations.

      • LeinsterLion is completely right. (That felt strange to type.) On top of that, Bowe isn’t much of a passer, especially off his left. An only-in-emergencies option at 13 for me.

    • D6W

       /  June 16, 2014

      I would have Dave instead of Trimble, and Trimble ahead of Zebo, at this point in time. Although Zebo has definitely had a good tour, would like to see him maintain that level for Munster before saying he has stepped up to the level required. But he definitely stepped up on this tour, so fair play to him.

  13. Sound Steve

     /  June 16, 2014

    Most likely not a popular call but I think there are great opportunities for us with BOD gone and GD on the way out. It’s hard to lament Cave’s lack of pace when we haven’t had any pace there for a few years now! I like the idea of Madigan at 12 (with 5 kgs on him) provided that he’s partnered by a complimentary 13, which would mean Henshaw or even Bowe, as someone already mentioned. Bowe has started on a winning Lions test team at 13 after all and should be considered. The number of options in midfield now is mind-boggling. I would hope that whoever fills the respective jerseys are first choice there for their provinces also, which may also rule out Bowe for 13. I think it’s there’s a decent chance D’Arcy could line out 13 with Reid (or Madigan) at 12 in the first choice Leinster backline next year which complicates things further.

    • col

       /  June 16, 2014

      I love the idea of a madigan – bowe partnership for ireland. it disappoints me that people who seem to know far more than I do dismiss madigan as a centre long term. just imagine how often madigan would put bowe in to acres of space with his passing. it would be f***ing sublime lads.
      i seem to remember a post on this blog a few years ago talking about the possibility of 9 being a long term option for madigan with his path seemingly blocked by sexton at 10 (these may have been the mole’s thoughts but im pretty sure that post had the whiff). surely we cant write him off as a centre yet. was ferg not still a centre at madigans age?

  14. “Bamm-Bamm was withdrawn early in the first test with (another) possible concussion, and hasn’t quite got a Plan B into his game yet.”
    I’m going to play devil’s Advocate here.
    Do you realise that in the 56 minutes that Marshall was on the field he passed the ball more than anyone except Murray. He didn’t simply try and batter his way through nor kick the ball aimlessly. His passing was excellent. Constructive, crisp and accurate putting people into space and his defence when Argentina were battering on our line was immense. He actually won the ball when they should have scored. That is where he got injured. His ‘Plan B’ looked fine to me but then I was actually looking to see what he did rather than simply fall back on stereotyping. It’s weird that all the other players who slipped off tackles or who were beaten by good play get a free pass – step forward Sexton – yet Marshall is selected for special opprobrium. It wasn’t his usual stellar defence I admit but given the crap that was going on around him, it wasn’t as if he was the only culprit.
    Cave may not be the answer at 13 even though he did well there but playing him at 12 was a fairly poor choice by a very good coach.
    You seem to be keen on allowing Payne and Henshaw – a raw and erratic if talented 15 -the time and opportunity to become the 13 but are also keen to deny Cave the same and opportunity. If Cave played as ‘averagely’ as BOD did (being kind here) in the 6N’s you might have a point but he didn’t. Brian was running on fumes and let’s face it – very little criticism – rightly – was directed at him – he even got a MOTM for simply being on the pitch.. Not good face for Cave maybe? Why is that? When if comes to Ulster, Cave makes the backs tick and organises the defence well. So Payne – a 15, Henshaw – a 15, Bowe -a 14, Earls an – 11, Fitz an 11 and Uncle Tom Cobbley are to be given time and games to come up to speed but poor old Darren – an effective outside centre – is written off at 13 because while you admit he played well there he is doomed by being shoved out of position. This is the exact prescription you are touting as the cure – moving all the other players out of position to see if they fit. Bizarre logic. Cave didn’t come up the Liffey in a bubble to become a 13. He has been doing it and doing it well for years.

    • Well said. I had another look at the first test again last night and I thought Cave gave a very good, if not breathtakingly so, account of himself.

    • Stephen

       /  June 17, 2014

      Well said jaco. The Score had an analysis of the first Test up showing Marshall’s utilisation as more of a playmaker than hard runner (

      I really hope Schmidt utilises him as a second five-eighth, instead of the gash he’s being made to execute week-in, week-out for Ulster. It’s always good to have the versatility of two first-receiver playmakers, whether for Ireland or Ulster – also would probably reduce the risk of further concussions.

    • hulkinator

       /  June 17, 2014

      I don’t think Cave and Marshall are very suited as a partnership. They don’t offer a big physical presence, skills are not lacking but not exceptional, they’re not very fast and basically lacking an xfactor.

      Both are good players but I think they need someone else as a center partner. Some different type of player. Henshaw and Olding have an x factor about them which is why they’re being talked about alot.

    • Bowe Gathers

       /  June 18, 2014

      Completely agree Jaco: we’ve tried McFadden inside and outside and he’s never ever looked convincing, so why is DC any different? Cave’s only ever played one position, and he played a good game in it during the first test. It’s foolish to criticise him for a lack of pace which he never has or ever will have. He has a game to play, and it’s low key, defensively sound and (Shmidt buzzword alert) largely based on short range accuracy rather than long range mazy runs.

      Truth is we’ve got to learn to love the 13 he is, rather than writing him off and calling for Bowe/Henshaw/Any other player who might be shoehorned in to the hardest position in the backline.

  15. pete (buachaill on eirne)

     /  June 18, 2014

    I read the score article as well when it came out, really impressive piece IMO.

    I thought apart from one poor long pass and “that missed tackle” Marshall did really well in the first test. He was pretty darn positive in attack and his defense was good. That being said, if he keeps getting injured his career is in danger and I don’t think he is a million miles away from that.

    Cave also had a good first test (bare in mind I haven’t seen the 2nd test yet). Not sure Cave is ever gonna be that great, his physical attributes (strength, speed, agility) are relatively unimpressive but he has got a brain and can do a job there at the very, very least.

    Henshaw is far more than a bosh merchant. He has great skills as seen in the Saxons game he played at 13 (Cave at 12), he made great defensive reads, good handling, great offload lad, good fielder, good kicker, good runner. Decision making is the only thing I could think of that needs to come up massively, that and experience obviously.

    McFadden, Earls and Bowe are wingers IMO.

    Payne has massive smarts. His physical attributes are great. He has great skills. None of these things are in doubt. More game time at 13 and that decision making will come. He was awesome there for the Blues.

    Olding is 100% my choice for 12 if he comes back to the level he was at when was fit. His skills are sickening. He is massively elusive. I’ve never seen him as an issue defensively. He has serious decision making. I want him playing right from the get go at Ulster at 12 and 15.

  16. Seymore

     /  June 22, 2014

    That was a great exercise, we now know who won’t be playing in the 12 and 13 shorts next year – Marshall is not smart enough or slick enough for international rugby, Darren cave is one paced, has mediocre hands and wont play for Ireland again. McFadden is incredibly brave but does not have the extra something for the 13 shirt.

    Who that leaves us closer to the solution, which is Olding, Henshaw or Payne. Schmidt needs to choose between them from November and stick with it all year. I’d imagine Payne and Olding will get in and stay there.

    Olding is a much more fluid D’arcy and must be fast-tracked.

    Our back play is so strange under schmidt so far – the backs are all running at 20 degrees to the gain-line and no-one is cutting back to fix the defence, we are too easy to defend against.

    Plumetree is a huge loss for the forwards – he has made a huge difference. I think this should form part of your next article….who do get next, it’s a big problem to fix.

    • pete (buachaill on eirne)

       /  June 24, 2014

      I think we are trying to test teams in the wider channels in a slightly unorthodox way….

      Schmidt is looking for teams to use the drift defense against us. We are rarely breaking the line but we do tend to make some yards when we go wide. Our skills were good in the 6N so it made going wide a clever move. More so when (and here is the tactical side of it) we have backs who can ruck really well and secure that ball. From our 10metre line and upwards it isn’t a bad tactic.

      I think Olding would be a great shout. Needs to really cement himself in Ulster first and then onwards an upwards for him.

      Don’t think Marshall is a lost hope at all, I think he did well against Argentina, two clangers aside. I would pull him more for medical reasons.

      I would also be very interested in your thoughts on Plumtree’s replacement.

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