Countdown – T minus 365

After Week One’s crisis, turns out the provinces aren’t do bad after all, going 4-for-4 in the Pro12. Team Milky Bar are gradually leaking the big boys back into the provincial setups, and this week was noticeable for the injection of quality – in the two games we watched anyway (half of us were on the west coast watching Ms Ovale tear it up in the Ras na mBan – no, really). We have criticized the player management system in the past – particularly in 2013 when it seemed like every player Deccie wanted to pick got injured the second he donned provincial colours after what seemed like an age being “managed” – but while it isn’t perfect, there is no denying it has delivered for Ireland, and has enabled the provinces to build depth unimaginable a decade ago.

Breaking the Ireland team into Untouchables, Probables and Possibles can be instructive – here’s a look at how they did this week.

The Untouchables

In Schmidt’s Ireland set up, if DJ Church, Besty, Paul O’Connell, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip, Johnny Sexton and Bob are fit – they are in. End of story. Jamie Heaslip and Bob made their returns for Leinster this weekend, and it was like seeing a pair of Rolls Royce’s smoothly steam into a boxcar demolition derby – Heaslip was man of the match (well – he was in blue, that’s when he pulls the finger out, right?) and Bob scored a brace of tries. Up north, Besty didn’t have much fun. His very first involvement was to put down a pass for a walk-in try, and the lineout was a disaster, with four throws lost. The Zebras were utterly hopeless, and less errors would have been good.

The Probables

With a fully fit selection, at this point in time you’d expect Joe Schmidt’s wings to be Andy Trimble and Tommy Bowe. Probably. Bowe is the most experiened of all Ireland’s wings, but missed last years campaign due to injury and is effectively battling his way back to the team. Trimble, in turn, was a revelation in 2014 – and coming back into the Ulster team, he was a class apart – strong in defence, and scored a try to boot. In the second row, Devin Toner continued the pattern of the last 5 years and made incremental progress to become an international class lock last year. He’s probably battling NWJMB and Donnacha Ryan for the right to partner Superman at RWC15.  Big Dev has become Really Big Dev, as he looks noticably bulkier this year.  Word is he has gone from a feather-weight 122kg to a rock-solid 127kg.  Alun Wyn Jones made a similar transition from bean-pole to pack enforcer and made the leap from ‘already pretty good’ to world class as a result, captaining the Lions in their final test in Australia.  Can Devin Toner use his new-found bulk to make a similar step forward?

The Possibles

In the summer tour to a wintery Argentina, two of the players who came home with their reputations enhanced were Rhys Ruddock and Robbie Diack. With Fez finally confirming that the dream is over, Peter O’Mahony is battling with Chris Henry for the final slot in Schmidt’s championship backrow, but both the alternatives, Ruddock in particular, are breathing down the two Probables necks. But it was Diack who shone this weekend, looking like the best forward in Ulster’s pack, carrying well and getting through a mountain of work, both seen and unseen. Dan Tuohy also shone in the loose, but in the interests of fairness, needs to take some debit for the dogs dinner of a lineout. Tuohy could be a RWC15 squad member, as he offers something different, but it all depends on how Henderson and Ryan pitch up after spells out through injury.

Speaking of something different, step forward Mr I. Madigan of the Southside – and we aren’t talking about his hair. This time, anyway. Sexton is miles clear of the chasing pack, with Jackson and Madigan locked tight in the battle to back him up.  It looks a classic case of ‘Jackson would start if Sexton was injured, but Madigan offers more as an impact reserve’. In any case it’s likely that both of them will travel t the World Cup, with Madigan’s versatility a bonus.  Recall that Luke Fitzgerald missed out on the last World Cup because Paddy Wallace was needed, in case either ROG or Sexton got injured.

Madigan had a classic Good Ian night, kicking well and scoring a couple of tries – his star is rising again, particularly with Jimmy Gopperth’s difficulties.  But is he a 10 or a 12?  Does it matter?  Being able to play a bit of both will do his prospects no harm.

We’re going to start a RWC15 Player Power Ranking in a couple of weeks and try to quantify some of all this nonsense, but you can bet your bottom dollar all the Irish (and the New Irish like Diack and Jared Payne) are well aware of the ticking clock in Joe Schmidt’s mind which stops in around a year.

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68 Comments

  1. Barry

     /  September 15, 2014

    CONNACHT preview??????

    • It’s coming; tomorrow. Indeed, it’s already drafted. Breathe… Monday’s post usually takes into account the weekend’s action, before it becomes stale, hence the break in theme.

  2. Stephen

     /  September 15, 2014

    Is the Player Power Ranking going to be based on “hard” data (ESPN stats etc) or your own impressions, game-to-game ratings etc.?

    Not advocating one over the other, just curious.

  3. Keith

     /  September 15, 2014

    Not sutre that there is the same imperative to bring three outhalves, given the proximity of the tournament this time.

    • It’s an interesting point but to be honest I don’t see it having much bearing on things. As we all know, Schmidt is a details man and he won’t want to be drafting in players mid tournament if he can help it. I’d expect him to pick his squad the same is if it were in the New Zealand.

  4. Untouchables, probables, possibles… Hows about a few Wildcards lads? Always fun and there’s generally one or two in any squad.

    For me anyway, I wouldn’t be at all surprised is a piece of puuuure wexford beef made the cut as one of our tighthead options. The mole tipped him 3 years ago to be starting at the World cup. I actually think its more likely he’ll be gunning for a bench spot, but with Rossy 35, anythings possible. (see: “Dangers of hanging around for a WC when your a mid-thirties Tighthead”; Hayes, John “B”, 2011.

    • That’s Tadgh Furlong. Will he get the match-time with Moore and Ross ahead of him at Leinster. It seems Moore is further along the curve.

      But yes, much will depend on how Ross’, er conditioning, and for go throughout the season. Hayes’ level fell off a cliff and the same can happen once you ‘crest the hill’ and can no longer survive in the set piece. My money’s still on Mike Ross to be tighthead starter for the World Cup, with Moore on the bench, and probably Archer in the squad.

      • On the other side of the scrum Jack McGrath has been most impressive in the first two games of the season and would seem to breathing down Cian Healy’s neck for starting place in the Leinster first 15 – which can only be good for “Team Milky Bar”.

      • Mary Hinge

         /  September 15, 2014

        Let’s not forget Nathan White lads, who at Connacht is currently anchoring a pretty effective scrum. Denis Buckley at loose-head has also had a very impressive start to the season, and the Milky Bar Kid is thought to be an admirer!

        • Leinsterlion

           /  September 15, 2014

          Buckley destroying Edinburghs scrum on friday was a joy to watch.

        • Buckley is turning out to be a calss act. Great game again on Friday.

    • Stephen

       /  September 15, 2014

      Olding and Warwick are wild-cards at this stage. Admittedly, Warwick much wilder than Olding!

      • I actually think Olding is more like a Possible provided he stays fit

        • Madigan and Olding could well end up being an either/or selection.

          • It could, but it depends on how they play this season. Both look to be players with enormous ceilings. If Madigan plays fantastically, he could easily be the next 10 after Sexton. If Olding plays well he could yet be the best 12 in the country. We will watch with interest.

  5. Do you really think Donncha Ryan is the New Paul O’Connell, or are you just trying to avoid riling up the Munster crowd? To my mind he’s behind Touhy, McCarthy, Mick Kearney and Dave Foley for the last locking place in the World Cup squad; not because any of them are better than him (though the last two might be one day), but because Ryan seems to be the New Luke Fitzgerald. Poor guy hasn’t played for Ireland in a year and a half, and only managed about a dozen games for Munster last year.

    • D6W

       /  September 15, 2014

      Not sure that he is behind McCarthy. McCarthy’s performances have completely underwhelmed since he moved to Leinster. He has been unlucky with injuries, but even when fully fit, he has always seemed off the pace.

    • It really depends on which Donnacha Ryan you’re talking about – we raised the issue in our Munster piece. Over the last 12 months Ryan has done nothing of note, because he’s been in and out with injury. But back in 2012 he was fantastic and certainly a cut above the likes of McCarthy and Tuohy. We remain hopeful that he can put those injuries to bed and return to that form. But if he can’t hit those heights again then, yes, other players will have effectively passed him out. It’ one of our big ‘things to look out for’ for the season.

    • Leinster fans have seemed quite harsh on McCarthy since he’s moved over. Every time I’ve seen him he’s been one of if not the most hard-working and abrasive Leinster players on the park, and his specialty of shooting out of the defensive line in the narrow channels has been a huge part of Leinster’s more aggressive defence under O’Connor. He’s also a demon for the unseen work (not meant ironically, he adds serious power at scrum, maul, and ruck time).

      If Donnacha Ryan can get and stay fit (and I mean actually fit, not struggling-to-play fit like he has been for the bones of the last two years) he’ll be an option in green straight away. Schmidt clearly sees something in him, having called him into the 6 Nations squad toward the end of the championship last year and name-checked his work on the lineout off the pitch, and when he’s motoring he’s arguably the best enforcer-style second row available. There were glimpses of that late last season before he got injured again, so I think (with some measure of hope involved) that he isn’t permanently lessened as a player. Hopefully he’ll play against Zebre for Munster this weekend; if he can, a trio of O’Connell, Ryan, and Foley on the bench is definitely the best pool of locks in an Irish province, and should minimise the number of times we see O’Callaghan and Holland lining out in the row…

      • Nice assessment, thoughtless. Schmidt’s comments were noteworthy and we blogged the topic at the time. Schmidt has a habit of singling out individuals where appropriate, which other coaches tend to try to avoid. Without wanting to get ahead of ourselves, and noting that two of the names are injured, if Ireland can go to the World cup with a lock quartet of O’Connell, Toner, Ryan and Henderson, all in mint condition, it will be a case of all bases being covered. Fingers crossed.

  6. Glen

     /  September 15, 2014

    Good piece lads but less of the nicknames would be good. Deciphering all the nicknames is a pain (NWJMB ?)

    • What!! They are, loike, our favourite thing, rosyh!

      There is a glossary at the top of the page. NWJMB is New Willie John McBride – Iain Henderson

  7. Hairy Naomh Mhuire

     /  September 15, 2014

    Think there’s a ninth ‘untouchable’ at scrum-half. Fantastic to see Madigan’s performance at the weekend. With a relatively stable look to the team 12 months out, the real drama – as has been commented upon numerous times in this forum – is going to be what centre partnership develops. With ‘only’ 12 games to go (if you’re Irish) or a ‘ridiculous’ 12 games to go (if you’re Stephen Jones – nár lige Dia!) watching this develop will be fascinating. It could also be the defining factor between success (semi against jittery hosts) and failure (BNZ in the quarters).

    • Agree, you could add Conor Murray to the list. Centre certainly has a feel of everything being up for grabs, with nothing certain at any of the provinces or national level.

    • As I said at the start of last season, Sexton 10, Madigan 12 and Olding 13 could be some combination – or am I completely off the mark?

      • Sound Steve

         /  September 15, 2014

        I reckon that’s a bit fanciful for Schmidt. It would certainly wouldn’t be in keeping with Trimble and Dave Kearney on the wings.

        I think for that to have any chance both would have Madigan and Olding to have full convincing seasons in the respective positions. Even then I reckon that pairing would give you a few defensive heart attacks a game. Very light as well, I wouldn’t be keen on seeing Nonu, SBW, Tuilagi, Bastareaud being launched at them off first phase.

    • We’d have Murray as untouchable to be honest – but we have to recognise that Joe has a gra for Reddan and has selected him in his reign. Murray should be 99% Untouchable I reckon

      • Stephen

         /  September 15, 2014

        Reddan could start against Canada and Romania, conceivably: indeed in such a game, his pace could be the better option towards getting the TBP, which is surely the success criteria for those games.

    • D6W

       /  September 15, 2014

      Great performance by Madigan, especially after what MOC said about him during the week IE If you want to play at 10, find another team (http://www.independent.ie/sport/rugby/leinster-rugby/leinsters-matt-oconnor-eager-for-ian-madigan-to-stay-30581568.html).

  8. Stephen

     /  September 15, 2014

    1: Healy, McGrath
    2: Best, Cronin
    3: Ross, Moore
    4/5: POC, Toner, Henderson, Tuohy
    6: POM, Diack
    7: SOB, Henry
    8: Heaslip, Ruddock

    9: Murray, Reddan

    10: Sexton, Jackson
    12: D’Arcy, Olding
    13: Cave, Henshaw
    11/14/15: Trimble, Kearneys, Bowe, Zebo, Earls

    30-man squad.

    No Madigan :O

    • D6W

       /  September 15, 2014

      Only 2 number 10s???? BNZ had to play their 4th choice in the 2011 WC final. And who knows what state Racing are going to hand Johnny back in, now that they no longer have an interest in his future.

      • munstermicko

         /  September 15, 2014

        Lossehead

        Ciara healy( untouchable)

        Jacky McGrath( Pushing healy for a start at loosehead and can fill in at tighthead )
        Killer(dirttracking aganist the canucks)

        Tighthead
        Michelle Ross
        Martina Moore
        Archer(may be left out if they feel McGrath can cover both sides)

        Hooker:
        Rory Best
        Shauna Cronin
        Rebecca Struass

        The Row
        Paulie
        Devinne Toner
        Henderson(backrow option)
        Ryan/Touhy
        *Michelle Mccarthy on standby.

        Backrow:
        Janine Healip
        Shauna O Brien
        Pashun O Mahony
        Chris Henry
        Jordi/Rhys Ruddock

        Scumhalf:
        Murray
        Emma Reddan
        Marmion

        Outhalf:

        Radges Star Pupil
        Ginger Nordie
        Ishult Madigan(Cover all backline positions)

        Centres:
        Osama Bin Darcy/ferg(madigan can cover here too)
        Henshaw
        Olding

        Wing: Trimble Bowe, Zebow

        Fullback
        Roberta Kearney
        Payne(can cover centre)

        Thats more than thirty listed above so there will be some hard choices. I haven’t included Letica Fitzgerald or Keet above either.

        Lots of Backrowers knocking at the door in Diack & Copeland.

    • col

       /  September 15, 2014

      No Payne there either. Earls is another that needs a good year. I’d say he will get a run at 13 for Ireland at some point if he is fit but that’s a big if.

      I’d be curious to know what heading he would fall under for whiff. Probables/possible etc.

      • Well he’s definitely someone you’d like to have in your team, somewhere, if he can return fit and show his best form (weirdly recurring theme at the moment!). We’d also see him as still being a contender for the 13 jersey, even though plenty will deride us for that. I haven’t really heard Foley mention him as a possibility there for Munster though, and I think he’d need to be playing there regularly for his province to get a run there for Ireland. A lot of ifs and buts there. Fingers crossed we see him back in action soon. Pace is pretty valuable in the backline!

    • Interesting squad – maybe a touch Ulster-centric?! It’s very early for this sort of thing.

      What is it with the world cup and addiction to blindsides? Jordi Murphy has been the preferred back-up backrow and provides proper cover at 8, so I’d see him as ahead of Diack. Ruddock is not an 8.

      I’m guessing you’re putting Olding in as the ‘Paddy-Wallace 10/12, hence no need for Madigan. If the squad was being picked tomorrow Madigan would be miles ahead of Olding, but let’s see how they dvelop. Exciting players both.

      I don’t think any squad has ever gone with just four props, so you can probably take out one of your flankers – Diack, surely? – and replace with… Kilcoyne maybe?

      • munstermicko

         /  September 15, 2014

        If only 4 props is doable.

        Healy and Ross as 1st choice
        Mcgrath covers both sides with Martin more as reserve tighhead

  9. I thought we’d advanced beyond the Earls at 13 discussion. Why, oh why then, does it keep recurring? IMHO Earls is a top class winger and that’s where he should be played. His performances in the centre, be they in green or red, have never convinced me. One particular match against England in the warm-up to the last WC remains etched indelibly in my memory – for all the wrong reasons….. Something to do with a certain South Seas import dressed in white….

    • Fair point, and we wrote prior to the 2012 Six Nations that Earls, despite his faults, was an option worth persisting with – he had a good Championship then, when he got a run in the team. In our view, given how close we are to the RWC, and the need to have someone bedded in in a key defensive position, he’s the front-runner.

    • Worth noting that he comfortably outplayed Manu Tuilagi in the 2012 match, after his ‘mare in the warm-up in 2011. Probably the only Irish player you could point to that day who was comprehensively better than his opposite number.

      The issue may be moot, of course, if we’re to believe the leaked Munster depth chart, which lists Earls as a winger. Not definitive by any means, but there’s not much else to go on at this point. If he’s not at 13 for Munster he won’t be for Ireland; if he is, he has a shot. My gut instinct is that Henshaw is probably the front-runner and Luke Fitz could jump both if he could get a run of fitness and games in the hallowed blue 13 jersey, but only time will tell. Jared Payne is another name but he’s raised more doubts about his ability to operate at 13 with every game played there. I’m already extremely excited to see who Schmidt backs at 13 in November. Would like to be a fly on the wall for that selection meeting.

      • Who knows? A good run in the Pro 12 with Connacht could see Robbie Henshaw putting himself seriously in contention. That now I would like to see. Although if he were to run in a brace of tries against us in the Sportsground Dé hAoine seo chugainn, I might be a tad peeved…..

  10. Stephen

     /  September 15, 2014

    Probably a touch Ulster-centric; Olding over Madigan is a hypothetical, “if Olding has the season he is capable of” sort of call. Also, others might question Cave’s inclusion, but I’d concede that Henshaw may well be ahead of him by that stage and he’d be back up (whilst also providing backup for 12).

    As for four props – I don’t know how you can have 5 props instead of 6 (ie how do you justify having 3 LH and only 2 TH), plus I’d imagine it’s easier to call up a 3rd LH/TH in an injury pinch than it would be other players. Any one of Healy, McGrath, Ross or Moore should be capable, with another year behind them, of starting any WC match we might encounter.

    Finally, I was placing Earls in the back three, rather than at 13, although I can’t really offer an opinion of him at 13.

  11. I know its too early but since others have done it I can’t help myself:

    30 man squad:
    P: Healy*, Ross*, Moore, McGrath, Kilcoyne
    H: Best*, Cronin, Varley
    SR: Toner*, O’Connell*, NWJMB, Ryan
    BR: O’Brien*, Henry*, Heaslip*, O’Mahony, Murphy
    SH: Murray*, Redden, Marmion
    FH: Sexton*, Jackson (Back up= Mads/Old)
    C: Madigan*, Henshaw*, Olding (Back up 13= McFab/Bowe)
    W: Bowe*, Zebo*, Trimble, McFadden
    FB: Kearney* (Back up= Old/Mads/Hen/Zebo)

    * = starting 15

    • munstermicko

       /  September 16, 2014

      Swap Struass for varley on the above and you would be on the button. Fitz, Earls, Olding fighting tooth and nail for McFadden’s seat.

  12. hulkinator

     /  September 16, 2014

    Tommy Bowe, Earls, Donnacha Ryan, Sherry, Luke Fitz and Strauss all need too put their injury problems behind them to have a chance. Quality players BUT…. with a limited squad Schmidt will have to ask himself how many injury prone players he can risk. Those players mentioned need a good long run of being injury free.

    I the squad will look something like the following

    1, Healy, McGrath, Cronin
    2. Best, Cronin, Sherry
    3. Ross, Moore, Furlong
    4-5. POC, Henderson, Ryan, Toner
    6-8. SOB, POM, Heaslip, Henry, Ruddock
    9. Murray, Marmion
    10 + centers. Sexton, Hanrahan, Olding, D’Arcy, Henshaw
    Back 3. Rob Kearney, Trimble, Bowe, Payne, Zebo

    Talking points
    Hanrahan: Seriously talented with match winning potential plus an accurate kicker. He will have a good season I feel.
    Olding: Extremely gifted player who already looks like the best 12.
    Marmion: Improving all the time and stays injury free. Just needs a bit more experience this season.
    Henshaw: He’ll be Irelands 13 this season. What separates him from the other contenders is his defence and physicality. Very raw but gifted.
    Furlong: A beast in the scrum. Only a pup in propping terms but still good enough to make the world cup squad. Lack of time is his biggest danger.
    Sherry: Munsters best hooker and talented. His shoulder means he is in a race against time.
    Cronin: Looks a more solid scrummager than Kilcoyne. He is good in the loose also and by the time the world cup comes he’ll have doubled his professional playing experience.

    Some players who could also make the squad are Copeland, Dave Kearney, Kilcoyne, Paddy Jackson, Luke Marshall, Nathan White, Reddan, Mike McCarthy, Archer, Fitzpatrick, Strauss, Fitzgerald, Earls, Cave, Leader, McFadden, Felix Jones, Tommy O’Donnell, Jordi Murphy, Dom Ryan, Diack, Jack Conan, Noel Reid, Denis Buckley, Herring, Gilroy, Paul Marshall and a few other bolters. Wow, Ireland now has serious talent in nearly all positions.

    • hulkinator

       /  September 16, 2014

      Left out Madigan. Swap him for D’Arcy in my squad. You have Henshaw and Payne able to cover 13 and Olding, Madigan and Hanrahan can cover 12.

      • Stephen

         /  September 16, 2014

        Paul Marshall should be nowhere near an Ireland World Cup squad.

        • We’ll soon find out if his 2012 form was a flash in the pan – if you can do it against Toulon and Leicester, I’d be ok with him being 3rd choice scrummie at the RWC

    • Now that’s a really interesting point about injuries. Right now, you’d say Schmidt will bring the following (currently injured) players if they are 80% fit:

      Sexton, Bowe, Ryan, Fitzgerald, Earls, Strauss, Henderson.

      All in our opinion are part of Ireland’s strongest 30 man RWC squad – yet that’s nearly 25% of the squad not 100% fit – can you bring all of them??

  13. Seymore

     /  September 16, 2014

    Lads we need to move on from the Madigan at 12 daydream. He was all over the place in Glasgow, how would he fare in Twickenham or Paris with 16/17 stone centers running through him. He’s had plenty of time at 10 & 12 and he tackles like O’Gara at best. He is not international class at 10 or 12 because he cannot defend, and the games where he looks like a magician don’t occur against international opposition, they happen at home in the Pro 12 occasionally against teams like the Scarlets.

    Jack McGrath is turning into a top class prop, I can see him pushing Healy by the end of this year, and I’d imagine Moore will have moved into the no 3 shirt by the 6 nations. It’s hard to believe that Leinster can now chuck on a high-end prop with 30 minutes to go to improve matters.

    Toner is an example of how a limited pool of players can turn a poor player (but a good learner) into a very decent lock. Toner would never get the chance in England to learn his way into it – which is why England had a lost decade after they won the world cup – they had so many options that they threw players away after one game and gave up on them (Matt Tait one of dozens) – how times have changed since Lancaster identified his squad and gave them time to become a team. Would John Hayes, Shane Horgan or Easterbunny have gone on Lions tours if they were English? Whats the point…connaught is the point, we still are not using the west to bring through outstanding talent that are sitting behind established guys in the other provinces.

    Ruddock all the way in the no. 6 shirt, I don’t see anything in Diack to get excited about. We need O’Mahony and Ruddock in top form going into the WC fighting for the 6 shirt.

    For me, Hanrahan and Olding are fighting for the 12 jersey, who in gods name will play 13 – centers are up for grabs.

    • ‘Tackles like O’Gara at best?’ Not sure about that one whatsoever. As a 10, Madigan’s a very good defender. I’d agree there’s uncertainty as to whether he’d be big enough for the 12 channel, which gaces a lot of heavy traddic as you say, but I wouldn’t say it’s out of bounds. He’s not world class because he has issues with his tactical kicking and decision making, not because of his defence.

    • curates_egg

       /  September 16, 2014

      You can hurl lots of subjective stuff at Madigan but bad tackling is only something that could be hurled by someone that has never bothered to watch him. He is a decent defender in the 10/12 channel (a lot better than Gopperth, better than Jackson and maybe on a par with Sexton) and has a good tackling technique: a very good chop and manages to manage upper body tackles ok despite his size (he is exactly the same size as D’Arcy by the way)…check out the choke tackle he made last weekend on one of the Scarlets’ big men (not sure if it was Jake Ball but some behemoth anyway).

      • Yeah, it’s a nonsense comment alright. His tackling technique is very good, but he’s probably gained a reputation for defensive weakness as a result of his leading role in the concession of the Ryan Crotty try against New Zealand, which was a product of terrible decision-making rather than a Rog-esque lack of ability. I wouldn’t necessarily say he’s better than Jackson though, who’s pretty robust in the tackle, and frequently combines with Marshall to execute some impressive choke tackles. They seem pretty comparable to me.

        • curates_egg

           /  September 16, 2014

          Picking that one incident to judge his defense at 10/12 would be nonsense alright. Apart from the fact it was one incident (and the final one in a series of system failures), it was out in the wide channel i.e. not his usual channel (I would also say his role was no more leading than any of the other numerous failures in the preceding phases that led to the ball getting out there in the first place, and leaving him out of position…including the ref, who refused to ref the breakdown…but let’s not revisit that painful minute for Irish rugby).

          Jackson’s defense came on a heck of a lot last season alright.

          In short, I wouldn’t have any worries about either of them defensively. They both offer lots at ten in different ways. It seems Madigan will spend a lot of time at 12 this season though, so that may well be how he will be judged.

          As for Olding’s defense, I have to be honest that I have not paid enough attention to that aspect of his game but – conversely – I have not seen anything that sticks out to worry me either.

          • Hairy Naomh Mhuire

             /  September 16, 2014

            Sorry to be pedantic about the Crotty try but I think the reason Madigan in particular was singled out was because he left the line having made a judgement call that SO’B was not going to make his tackle. O’Brien duly did & the door was wide open for Crotty. There were some not so subtle comments about ‘trust in each other’ from O’Brien afterwards. I think those are the mistakes that good players will only make once in their careers. He was very unlucky in choosing the moment to do so and as you say he was far from alone in that particular passage of play. Indeed the main issue it raised was the on-going inability of besotted referees to make the big calls against BNZ.

          • I suspect, that his lack of trust in O’Brien in that moment, was a knock-on effect of the Wallabies match the week before, when Quade Cooper had gotten past himself and Luke Marshall to score a try under the posts. Marshall, fair play to him, held his hand up afterwards, but nevertheless I’ve always thought the residing memory of that moment might have led Madigan to make the wrong decision as Crotty bore down on our line. Which would make it somewhat more understandable and forgivable.

  14. curates_egg

     /  September 16, 2014

    Nice post but I definitely disagree with your comment about the wingers: “With a fully fit selection, at this point in time you’d expect Joe Schmidt’s wings to be Andy Trimble and Tommy Bowe.”

    If we are talking a fully fit selection on the wing, we would have Earls and Fitzgerald fully fit. Going into last November, Earls would have been in most people’s XV, whilst in December Fitzgerald would have been.

    Despite his experience and massive proven talent, Bowe hasn’t had really convincing game for Ireland in a while (controversial to some I am sure)…should he continue to be picked on reputation? Meanwhile Trimble, whose reputation outside Ulster was patchy at best, had a stonker in the 6 Nations…even though, by reputation and on fully fit lists, he probably wouldn’t have been in most people’s top 5 wingers (outside Ulster).

    I am not calling it one way or the other but I think it is wrong to assume Bowe and Trimble are definitely the best wingers if everyone is fit.

    Note I haven’t even mentioned Ron Jeremy and the much-maligned McFadden, nor the Munster army’s favourite object of hatred “average Dave”.

    • Stephen

       /  September 16, 2014

      Trimble seems to be Schmidt’s type of winger. Isn’t flashy in ANY way, but scores tries, makes tackles, and turns up all over the pitch.

      Agree with you re Bowe, though. He’s got ground to make up this season.

      • curates_egg

         /  September 16, 2014

        “If everyone’s fit”, I am not sure I wouldn’t go for Fitz and Earls (#X (c) Gerry)…but it is very, very, very hard to overlook Trimble at this point alright.

        You can add Gilroy to my list of the wingers I didn’t mention. Looked sharp at the weekend. At his best, probably my favourite of that amazing U20 back 3 of Zebo, Gilroy, Conway.

        If only it were that easy in the centres.

        • I’m a Leinster supporter and whenever I watch him I think of him as “average dave” too. I know he must be good because he is first choice at Leinster and Ireland, but I don’t see why. I also don’t rewatch games and study the data like the coaches, so could someone tell me what his appeal is??

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