Naturalised Kiwis? I’ll Take Two

Joe Schmidt pulled a surprise yesterday by announcing his panel for the November internationals a week early. We don’t know what the logic behind the premature announcement is; perhaps he just likes to keep us on our toes, the scallywag.

As invariably happens with these things, the squad is pretty large so talking points are kept to a minimum. The real sniping only really gets going when the team is announced for the first test, so keep your powder dry folks! Nonetheless, with five new caps, 15 injuries and one or two notable omissions there was a bit of information to be gleaned.

Jared Payne has long been earmarked for a role as a naturalised Irishman and his moment has finally arrived. Will he be auditioned for 13, where he still doesn’t appear entirely comfortable, or seen as back-up for Rob Kearney? A test debut seems probable in any case.

Connacht’s Darragh Leader is the beneficiary of both Connacht’s good start to the season and a scattering of injuries in the back three. He’ll be competing with Bowe, Zebo and Gilroy for selection on the wing and at the very least will get valuable exposure.

Dominic Ryan is rewarded for a strong start to the campaign after his career looked to have stalled. He was among Leinster’s better players against Wasps and in the absence of Sean O’Brien and Jordi Murphy, he adds welcome depth.

Munster’s Dave Foley looks a good pick having looked solid throughout Munster’s up-and-down start to the season. It wouldn’t be entirely surprising to see him named on the bench, because Mike McCarthy has looked a bit leaden for Leinster.

Of the five newbies, the biggest impact could be made by another naturalised Kiwi, Nathan White, Connacht’s rock-solid tighthead. With Marty Moore injured, there’s every chance he will leapfrog Stephen Archer and maybe even Rodney Ah You, who somehow remains in the panel, to perform the sizeable role of seeing out the match after Mike Ross collapses from exhaustion.

Elsewhere, the main talking point was Paddy Jackson’s omission. Schmidt has left out the Ulsterman in favour of Ians Madigan and Keatley. It’s a form call and one imagines if it was tight in the first place, this weekend’s events may have been the decisive pendulum-swing. While Keatley was being lauded for his drop goal heroics, Jackson rather summed up Ulster’s night in Leicester with a lackadaisical conversion which was charged down. It’s a very definite boot up the arse for Jackson, who will be well aware that in a World Cup year, one of he, Keatley and Madigan will find themselves squeezed out of the touring party. Get your game face on fella, starting this weekend against Toulon.

One player a shade unlucky to miss out is Duncan Casey. His lineout stats are unmatched in Europe this year, and neither Cronin nor Best are exactly technicians, so he would have dovetailed nicely. Richardt Strauss hasn’t done anything of note this season, but clearly Schmidt is a fan. Also missing out is Darren Cave, whose ship appears to now have sailed. Squeezed onto the bench at Ulster having failed to take his chance with Ireland this summer, it looks like other options will be explored.

There was better news for Tommy O’Donnell who is recalled. The Tipp man hasn’t quite hit the barnstorming heights of his early 2013 form, but he is at least out of the doldrums of last season. Another player who has been on the same up-down-up trajectory is Craig Gilroy, who looks back to something like the razor-sharp runner who stunned Argentina in one of the most memorable test debuts in living memory. Both play in positions with notable absentees and have a chance to stake a claim.  Now gentlemen, no more injuries, please.  Pretty please.  With sugar on top.

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71 Comments

  1. Nice to see Madigan down as “outhalf”, if nothing else….

  2. Payne’s selection will be interesting as there are plenty of mutterings from Ulster than he is being played at 13 at D4’s behest and so far in this position he really hasn’t come close to the level of performance we’ve seen at 15.

    I had Ooooooooooooohhh McCloskey as a bit of a dark horse to at least train with the squad but there is plenty of time for him yet.

    Wee PJ definitely needs a kick up the arse after a couple of nondescript performances following his return from injury and I’m sure Joe is smart enough to let him know exactly what is required.

    • Amiga500

       /  October 22, 2014

      Ooooooooohhhhh…. gooooood call.

      [especially without DJ Church vs. Farmer Dan – I go Cruising in my Massey]

  3. D6W

     /  October 22, 2014

    “Mike McCarthy has looked a bit leaden for Leinster” Definitely. He is very lucky to make the squad.

    It is interesting how things have changed regarding life after BOD. Last season nobody really knew who would replace him, with Jared Payne been considered the best option, despite Ulster playing him at #15. But the fact that now D’Arcy has proved he can play at #13 to a high level has blown the field right open. All our centres now have a chance of breaking in to the team, even if they are specialist #12. And when all fit, Joe will have quite a few to choose from.

    Right now, D’Arcy is looking like the form #13, and it is the #12 spot up for grabs. I was disappointed McCluskey did not make the squad.

    • D6W

       /  October 22, 2014

      I admit bias here, but Sexton, Madigan, D’Arcy at 10,12,13 would be a pacy, attacking back line that I would love to see get a run.

      • It would be hard to argue against that midfield to be honest. Although I’d maybe argue with you on having “D’Arcy” and “pacy” in the same sentence. I think the most likely twelves at this point are Madigan/Olding (who are probably related somehow, given how similar they are in their games and can be interchanged in the last paragraph of this comment), with D’Arcy probably playing 13 for the big games and Payne/Henshaw duking it out for the Georgia berth.

        Or hell, Madigan and Payne make the bench for utility and Olding/D’Arcy or D’Arcy/Henshaw start building up a partnership. WHO KNOWS?!

        • garzoo

           /  October 22, 2014

          The best bench for utility would surely be Mads & Gilroy. M covers FH, Ct & FB. G covers Wg & FB. M is not a 13, but if you play Darse at 12 you can switch them around

    • Amiga500

       /  October 22, 2014

      Sorry stop… what!??!

      “But the fact that now D’Arcy has proved he can play at #13 to a high level has blown the field right open.”

      Last time D’Arcy had a run at 13 for Ireland, he showed himself to be just slightly above average; only going and being named man of the 6 nations tournament.

      D’Arcy was always a 13 – he just had to play at 12 ‘cos some other bloke was a 13 too.

      • ehhweasel

         /  October 22, 2014

        Agree with this very much.

        D’Arcy’s ability to gain yards off shitty ball is extremely useful at 12 (definitely more so than at 13) but people are acting as if he’s always been a natural 12 who has now hit a renaissance at 13.

        If a young D’arcy was hitting the scene today there would be no debate and he would go straight in to 13 and go some way towards making the 13 jersey his own.

        • toro toro

           /  October 23, 2014

          Yep.

          If by “a young D’Arcy” you mean three or four years or so after he made the Leinster team, when he was widely regarded as a failed winger, and Le Thornbird had noted the national management’s possession of “an especially long bargepole for the express purpose of not touching him with”.

          People forget how good he was as a thirteen (in the twelve shirt!), but they also forget he only played there as a last resort when Leinster were desperate after an injury to His Bodness.

          • D6W

             /  October 23, 2014

            In my defence, I was aware that D’Arcy was originally a #13. I should have phrased that as “But the fact that now D’Arcy has proved he can STILLL play at #13 to a high level has blown the field right open.”

          • ehhweasel

             /  October 23, 2014

            I’ve never actually seen him play at fullback I don’t think though I gather he was quite good there for a spell. Maybe that’s Joe’s thinking- He wants an entire backline of fullbacks?!!

      • molf

         /  October 23, 2014

        Sorry lads. D’Arcy was not a 13. A FB was he. played there at schools level and called up by Warren G as a FB and played for Leinster as a FB
        http://www.herald.ie/sport/rugby/leinster-centre-gordon-darcy-insists-hes-everready-for-munster-clashes-30624508.html

  4. connachtexile

     /  October 22, 2014

    Think Kilcoyne was lucky to get in. James Cronin has being playing a blinder for Munster. You add on top of that Dennis Buckley’s stellar form and the rise of Warwick at Ulster and that try he scored this week looks more important than ever for him.

    • Agree. I’ve never been especially blown away by Kilcoyne and I think it’s a matter of time before Cronin gets the jump on him at Munster.

      • Despite the try, I was puzzled to see him named in some of the squads of the weekend, thought the front row really struggled against Sale & Cronin made a big impact there.

        • I’d agree there Kate. Actually thought it looked like a turning point-he and Cronin have been pretty close to neck and neck but Cronin perhaps has now edged ahead this season? I’d rate kilcoyne but Cronin has been excellent. To my ignorant eyes both could be doing with flattening their back at scrum time though.

          For Ireland I’m not particularly worried about the loosehead side at all (barring further injury), even with losing a player like Healy. I’d personally view McGrath as more suitable to a starting role anyway given that he is probably the best scrummaging loosehead we have. The 2 cronins would be a good change up as impact subs towards the end, but obviously the scrums may take a hit compared to best-McGrath and whoever of the raw at this level tighthead group joins them.

  5. As you say, not much to argue with in the panel. After my initial “ULSTER SAYS NO” to PJ being dropped, it definitely seems that it’s more a case of Keatley playing out of his boots rather than PJ doing a huge amount wrong (although his protracted start to the season and the Tigers match certainly won’t have helped).

    It’ll be interesting to see who Schmidt goes for in at midfield. For SA I could see it being Mads/D’Arcy with Payne at 15 if Bob is still rocking the zimmerframe. The IT seemed to be fawning over the prospect of Payne at 13 again, but I’m admittedly more and more on the fence about it (plus I think Payne vs Le Roux would be a class head-to-head battle to watch, but I’m just self-indulging).

    Obviously Trimble is a loss, but I’m looking forward to seeing any two of Bowe/Zebo/Gilroy on the pitch for Ireland again. Random question to people in the know at Connacht, is Leader decent at wing or is he more of a specialist full back? Because we seem to have an awful lot of cover for Bob compared to the wings (Bob/Leader/Jones with Payne/Henshaw/Olding/Mads in a pinch despite being earmarked as centres/utility)

    • Leader is primarily a fullback who’s played every game bar one there this season. However he’s already played every backline position bar scrumhalf for Connacht so that might stand to him in terms of getting on the bench for Samoa.

      As for the SA game, given the media comments (notably our past 13’s musings on Henshaw’s qualities, every one of which was also a not very veiled criticsim of Payne) and form/gametime of the available players, I’d be surprised if the centre partnersip isn’t D’arcy and Henshaw.

    • Michael Forde

       /  October 22, 2014

      I can’t remember every seeing Leader play on the wing for connacht, and can’t imagine he’d be good enough there at this level either. He has play at 13 though, not that I am suggesting him as an International 13. I don’t expect him to get much game (maybe a cameo against Georgia) but if he continues to progress as he has done I could see him challenging for the 15 shirt in a couple of years (needs to work on his high ball skills most of all).

      On another matter I just can’t see past Henshaw as 13. Especially against SA, which is likely to be mainly a rearguard action. He has been immense in defense form 13 this season and his reading of the opposition has reminded me of a certain form Irish international center at times. Not to mention he is just simply a bigger guy than an of the other contenders, which against the physicality of the springboks might make all the difference.

      • Hmmmm, interesting. With Felix and Payne in the squad to cover Kearnage, and only three recognised wings I had assumed that’s what they were planning for Leader, alhtough as you say he seems predominantly a 15. We shall have to wait and see.

    • hulkinator

       /  October 22, 2014

      Leader is a very good player in the making. He is very solid under a high ball, defensively solid, has a big long kick, is a dangerous runner and a good passer of the ball. In other words he is a good all round player. A bit raw yet and needs a bit more arrogance but obviously working with Lam, Muliania and company in Connacht is really improving his game.

  6. curates_egg

     /  October 22, 2014

    Was a gutsy call on Jackson but for me the biggest issue about this 37 man squad is the injuries. For all the depth Schmidt has been building, if we pick up one or two further injuries in a couple of positions, we will really be in trouble. If anything happens to Ross or McGrath, we’re as good as goosed…and, even if it doesn’t, I would not be that confident about a front row of Kilcoyne, Cronin, Archer finishing against the Boks. Neither Ross nor McGrath should play against Georgia anyway (who are always good scrummagers).

    All things considered, we might struggle to win against either the Boks or Aus, who might be revitalised with Cheika there and boosted by their performance vs the All Blacks.

    • White will sub for Ross. Archer and Ah You are only there because Moore isn’t. If we limit Ross and McGrath to 60 minutes and they avoid injuries it’s whichever Munster prop is loosehead sub I’m more worried about.

      • curates_egg

         /  October 22, 2014

        And you are fine with White facing the Boks? Let’s see what happens in the end but it seemed Archer was 3rd in line last year.

        • Obviously I’d rather Moore was fit. But since he isn’t, I’d be a lot happier to see White – who’s mulched whatever he’s come up against (that includes Glasgow and Leinster) this season – on the bench than Archer, who got the hook 4 minutes into the second half last week. Against Sale.

  7. hulkinator

     /  October 22, 2014

    I’ve read a bit about Payne being picked by D4 but I don’t believe that. If they had that much of a say then why not order MOC to play Madigan at 10… for a game or two at least! Cave had his chance in Argentina and didn’t take it. I think he is a good player but the big downside is his lack of pace and athleticism.

    Of all those who missed out Stuart McCloskey should feel hardest done by. His time will come though.

    You get the sense that Schmidt doesn’t like to change things too much. He likes to work with players over time before he brings them into a squad. McCloskey and Duncan Casey – 2 form players – have not started many games for their provinces yet. Same goes for Andrew Warwick.

    Key man this autumn will be Simon Easterby. If he can get the pack running as smoothly as Plumtree then we’re in good hands.

    • I don’t get why everyone thinks McCloskey was practically anointed to make it into the squad (well I can, but I’m going to play devil’s advocate for a bit). He’s played a handful of games and had a MotM award or two, but he’s got nowhere near the experience needed for international level just yet (one burst aside he was anonymous against Leicester), and the AI’s are almost certainly too soon for him. Yes, he had kept Olding off the Ulster starting team for a few weeks but that was as much to do with Olding’s versatility (for an example of this, see “Number 10 by Gopperth and Madigan”) as McCloskey’s form (personally I’d have Olding at 12 most days of the week). As people have said, his time will come, but I don’t think it was going to be this soon.

      …He could still bolt for the WC though.

      • Rava

         /  October 22, 2014

        100% agree with you regarding McCloskey. He isn’t experienced enough to be starting HC games for Ulster, never mind at International level. I think Ulster’s tactics for the Leicester game was based on having the biggest (as in size) players on the pitch.
        As for Olding, I hope we see him at 12 in November in some if not all of the games. I honestly believe he is capable of being a massive player for Ireland in the future.

      • Billy

         /  October 22, 2014

        Not sure on that given Madigan has probably played approximately 10 pro or otherwise) games at 12 and you seem comfortable with him as an international 12 (I don’t). By that token, I don’t think it’s fair to say McCloskey lacks experience, given he is an actual 12, as opposed to a converted 10.

        Not having a go at McCloskey as he seems like the real deal to me and (until last weekend anyway) had usurped the people’s favourite, Olding, and a recent Irish international 12 in Marshall for the Ulster 12 jersey – not bad for your first two months as a full-time pro…

        I would imagine we will see Olding-D’Arcy and D’Arcy-Henshaw as combinations this Autumn. I really, really hope we see Olding-Henshaw at some point but given Schmidt’s pragmatic approach I won’t hold my breath.

        • ehhweasel

           /  October 22, 2014

          Would like to see D’arcy used in a “changing of the guard” process as you say.

          He can provide the stability for Henshaw and Olding while they build up game time before the WC. Both are helped by their versatily as they can slot onto the bench to cover a couple of positions unlike, say, Darren Cave RIP

    • curates_egg

       /  October 22, 2014

      Easterby will have a pack minus two Lions (and our two main ball-carriers), a callow-looking front row (deprived of two front line props) and missing two of the 4 second rows from the 6 Nations campaign…with the Boks first-up, he could be forgiven for being slightly concerned. At least Greg Feek is still around…

    • Rava

       /  October 22, 2014

      10 isn’t a problem area for Ireland with Sexton being the nailed on starter and having Madigan, PJ and Keatley fighting it out for the crumbs from his table.
      So it isn’t entirely unbelievable that the IRFU issued a directive to Ulster and Connacht to play Payne and Henshaw at 13 as much as possible since the middle of last season.

    • This season anyway, D4 was picking Payne at 13 given Les Kiss was temporary head coach.

    • D6W

       /  October 22, 2014

      I agree, if D4 were giving selection directives to the provinces, Madigan would be getting a decent run at #10.

      Whoever has been picking Payne at #13, it has been a useful exercise in that it proves he is not the centre Messiah, just another wannabee (wanted to finish that with “just a very naughty …”, but couldn’t make it work:)).

      • Stephen

         /  October 22, 2014

        13 is a significantly bigger headache for the IRFU than 10, at the minute. Although Schmidt has just denied having any involvement . . .

        • D6W

           /  October 23, 2014

          “Clearly on Schmidt’s orders, Henshaw, Payne and D’Arcy have been selected at outside centre for their provinces this season. Darren Cave has lost out in Ulster, Brendan Macken in Leinster, and perhaps sensing a cull, Eoin Griffin left Galway for London Irish.”

          That is what Gavin Commiskey wrote yesterday in IT. It is a hell of a charge, no wonder Schmidt denied it.

    • ehhweasel

       /  October 22, 2014

      G’way outta that. McCloskey looks good but he’s been on the scene for about as long as it takes the head to settle on a pint of Guinness.

      If he keeps up his level of performance and doesn’t make an Irish squad in a year’s time, then maybe there’s a case.

  8. I think the centre should be D’Arcy-Henshaw or Olding-D’Arcy. D’Arcy has to start and they are the two best runners up. Madigan should stay on the bench because he is the perfect sub and I see Payne as more of a 15. The way Kearney’s injuries have been going I wouldn’t be surprised if Payne started 15.

    So basically… McGrath, Best, Ross; Toner, POC; POM, Henry, Heaslip; Murray, Sexton; Zebo, D’Arcy, Henshaw, Bowe; Kearney. Subs: Cronin, Cronin, White, Foley, Ruddock, Marmion, Madigan, Gilroy.

    • Looks like a nice side. I would like to see Olding selected this week and if he goes well against Toulon I think he could come into consideration. If he’s on the bench again his chances recede.

    • Garzoo I agree with most of what you are saying but I’d have issues with your pack selection. The backrow is v. light particularly to play SA.

      Who is going to truck up sh*t ball in that pack? Outside of Heaslip (based recently on a single performance) there isn’t a second real ball carrier. POC had a good game in general in the H-Cup but he got smashed every time he tried to carry, I would prefer to see him not having those responsibilities for Ireland. Maybe utilise McGrath as a carrier more?

      I would go for TOD or Ruddock in place of Henry and move POM to openside. I would also start Cronin ahead of Best (maybe…and with considerable worry). Truth be told I think SA’s pack might be a bridge too far without SOB and Healy.

      • D6W

         /  October 22, 2014

        That is why S. Cronin has start at hooker. He has been shouldering the ball-carrying load at Leinster that would normally have been done by Healy/SOB. And making a decent go of it.

      • I see your point, there is a lack of ball carriers, but I think Ruddock, POM and Heaslip is unbalanced. For me it is Ruddock vs POM for 6 and Henry vs TOD for 7. Also, Henry was Ireland’s top tackler in the 6 nations and the demented mole ranks him as Irelands top rucker, so I would rather see a back row of RR, CH & JH.

        • Best hasn’t been hitting his darts to regularly either, to win against the Boks we are gonna need to punch big holes and hence Cronin has to be given a start, the risk needs to be taken, if we go with Best it smacks of damage limitation.

        • Garzoo you could be lynched in Munster for a hint even a of dropping POM 😉 I have watched most of Ulsters matches this season and Henry hasn’t stood out but then again with his style of play it mightn’t. In 6 nations he was undoubtedly immense. Schmidt rates him and always has.

        • Scrumdog

           /  October 23, 2014

          Ruddock’s overall work rate…tackle count, ball carries, turnovers and line outs surpass that of O’Mahony (at provincial level)and are close to what Ferris produced at test level. Ruddock brings more power for gain line penetration and body mass to the rucks, mauls and scrum. O’Donnell and Henry will likely be the openside. The Boks are huge and the extra few kilos will be needed. Ruddock-Heaslip- Henry to start.

    • Leinsterlion

       /  October 23, 2014

      What has POM done to warrant being selected? Besides looking very angry at times.

      • Scrumdog

         /  October 23, 2014

        Additionally, it should not be forgotten that Simon Easterby was a World class blindside flanker for Ireland and the Lions, who will look for a balanced backrow and no doubt his input and influence on forward selections will carry much weight.

  9. connachtexile

     /  October 22, 2014

    Just wanted to add I’m really glad that Joe is picking on form and not ‘names’. Would love to see the untouchable tag buried once and for all.

    • SportingBench

       /  October 22, 2014

      Seconded. Signs are good so far judging on the past year.

  10. To be blunt, I think selecting Strauss is mad. This is a guy who, since the start of last season, has the equivalent of about six games played in terms of minutes on the pitch. And he’s not comparable to Murray or Healy or O’Brien or O’Connell, where his pedigree obliges the coach to select him as soon as possible on return from injury; he’s a very good player just back from a prolonged spell on the sidelines who hasn’t proven that he’ll recover from his injury and health issues and regain his previous form. He should have been left with Leinster to gain fitness and find form. Duncan Casey can feel very aggrieved, what with being the in-form hooker on the island, with frankly phenomenal lineout stats (something like 57/59?) and a high work rate around the pitch (Munster’s top tackler last weekend with 13 made and none missed). He would have really benefited from time in the Ireland camp and it would have benefited Ireland in future, because at 23 I’d be pretty confident he’ll be there or thereabouts for Ireland over the coming years.

    That aside, the rest of the squad looks good to me. In the backs, it’s interesting to note that 12 of the 16 selected have significant professional experience at full-back, which is a bit unusual, but I think a large part of Schmidt’s coaching philosophy with Ireland relies on making us one of if not the best team in the air in the world, a tactic which makes sense given the kind of athletes we produce. The forwards lack ball-carriers, and that may play in Rhys Ruddock’s favour, but that was always going to happen with O’Brien, Healy, and Henderson out.

    Personnel-wise, Isaac Boss has been shuffled off stage with a minimum of fuss and we’ll hopefully see Kieran Marmion get some meaningful game-time. Paddy Jackson is slightly unfortunate but I doubt his is a long-term absence; he’s only played two games this season and once he finds good form again I’d expect him to be very firmly back in the frame. I’m particularly delighted for Ian Keatley, who was unlucky to be behind Ian Madigan over the summer given their respective seasons, and it’ll be fascinating to see who occupies the number 22 shirt, especially because in this contest Madigan has no versatility advantage. McCloskey could have been included, maybe at Leader or Jones’s expense, but he has so little experience that it’s not too surprising.

    Up front I’m always slightly underwhelmed by Dominic Ryan, but there is a real shortage of options for that spot right now. Seeing Mike McCarthy in there is also slightly underwhelming, but the alternative was probably Mick Kearney, who, good a player as he is, is hardly a massive improvement. Dave Kilcoyne is slightly fortunate, given Denis Buckley’s form in particular, but he has some credit in the bank and a good game this weekend will change a lot of opinions.

    All in all, it’s an exciting squad, but given the biblical plague of injuries and the quality of opposition, I’ll be looking for good performances rather than getting too hung up on results.

    • Hairy Naomh Mhuire

       /  October 22, 2014

      Very balanced assessment & (to my mind) bang on the money. As with McCloskey, Casey’s time should come but hard to see Strauss ahead of him. For all the talk about picking on from Joe also has that streak of conservatism / pragmatism when it comes to shifting a more established squad member for a rookie. With the afore-mentioned callow look to the front row and the always tight window he obviously decided he wanted a hooker who knew his way around the place. Reasonable to assume that had, say, Healy & More been fit, Casey may have made it.

    • Billy

       /  October 22, 2014

      Completely agree on the Strauss – very much a “I know this player and what he’s capable of” call – the kind that nearly got DK lynched!

      I see your point on ball carriers but we won a 6N without any major carriers in the back row (to my surprise). Based on that 6N, maybe we don’t need them if Schmidt continues to focus on set piece, defence and kicking!

      • Jesper

         /  October 22, 2014

        Well said thoughtless and Billy re Strauss. I’ve always felt that Schmidt uses these ‘work-ons’ as a way to keep players on-side and at the same time allow him to pick who he wants, form be-damned. I felt Keatley last season, despite playing well all the way thru a HEC s/f yet not getting the nod for Argentina, was an example of this.

        • D6W

           /  October 22, 2014

          Agree with the Strauss call being strange and maybe Casey should have got the nod, although S. Cronin is the form hooker on the Island at the moment. That said, it is completely wrong to say Schmidt is picking who he wants regardless of form ala the Kidder, the rest of this squad proves that.

          • curates_egg

             /  October 22, 2014

            You mean Sean Cronin, who is missing lineouts and can’t hook the ball? Depends what you are using to measure the form I guess.

          • labrecha1

             /  October 22, 2014

            I agree, Cronin had mainly been hitting his darts except for last week which I think has coloured his overall performances in people’s eyes, he needs to start IMO, we will not win against the Boks unless we can punch holes and he is brilliant at this( running lines, speed, power), this is the boks no.2 team in the world and not far oof NZ, we wont win just on solid set piece.

          • It’s genuinely crazy how unable he is to hook the ball. Don’t think I know any other hooker as incapable of that basic function of their position. Good bench option though.

          • curates_egg

             /  October 23, 2014

            My reading is that he is just not a very strong scrummager and therefore needs all the power he can get from both his pegs, so doesn’t hook and the team hope forward momentum take them over. It’s a high-risk strategy against a strong pack. He is, however, about the only ball-carrier we have left.

  11. I think Olding and Bowe is probably our best centre partnership. Somewhat sadly (as no one else has put their hands up), Darcy is our form centre as either a 12 or 13. Madigan and Darcy could also work. If Darcy was dropped from Ireland all year he would still fit in seamlessly at 12 or 13 in the World Cup. We all know what he can do. However, I would consider him if he was playing with one of the young lads in/outside him. A Sexton Madigan Olding axis could be thrilling but they could also get torn to pieces!

    Can anyone confirm the rumours that Matt O Connor asked Schmidt to play Madigan at tight head??

    • Lop12

       /  October 23, 2014

      your last line is as sensible as your first line

      Has Bowe played in the centre this season? He isnt going to be played there for Ulster, and converting a winger when we have plenty options up and coming is a bit odd of a suggestion.

  12. I see Henshaw has received the nod from BO’D in today’s IT:

    ‘O’Driscoll’s believes that Henshaw has adapted quicker to the intricacies of outside centre play, since both men switched from fullback last season. Payne, who recently qualified for Ireland via residency, previously played centre for Auckland.
    “Robbie’s a very quick learner,” said O’Driscoll, who personally worked with Henshaw last season. “He has taken a lot on board. Reads situations well. Very good basic skills. Nice feet. Powerful.
    “Defensively, he’s come on leaps and bounds in the past 18 months and really understands the position a lot more. And he’s an unbelievably nice fella. And he’s a huge man.”
    Above all, it’s the physicality Henshaw can bring to the Irish midfield that gets O’Driscoll’s seal of approval. “You know what, he has an appetite for hurting people. He has an appetite to go after a hit. If it’s there to be hit he is going to give it everything.”
    Is that aggression your favourite trait in a rugby player?
    “Yeah.”’

    Stirring stuff alright à la “bring it on”. Wonder will he get grief again from the ignorami for “condoning” violence? Whether or which, the Great One’s opinion would seem to count with the Milky Bar kid, as elsewhere in the article there’s mention of occasional brainstorming sessions between the two. And sure why wouldn’t there be? Isn’t it all in the cause of Dear Old Ireland? Have to agree with Hairy’s take on the Strauss/Casey selection. Strauss may not be anywhere near top form yet, but he’s got a heap of experience in pressure situations to bring to the table. Also if there’s any one player in the squad, who’s not going to be bullied by the Boks, mentally, physically or any other way, it’s him. At Test level stuff like that counts – big time.

    • Jesper

       /  October 22, 2014

      I’d leave poor Strauss well out of the squad for the SA match – last time around they destroyed the poor fella – we don’t need to be riling them anymore than necessary!

      • labrecha1

         /  October 22, 2014

        Destroyed!? Very harsh.

      • Riocard Ó Tiarnaigh

         /  October 22, 2014

        I’d forgotten that. Now that you say it, his performance on that day did leave a little to be desired….

      • I can’t recall being disappointed by his performance, but he certainly took a beating. Never took a step back though. I’m a big fan of Strauss as a character: tough as nails, clearly an incredibly hard worker, and I know it’s a shallow kind of sentiment, but I loved how he took the time to learn Amhrán na bhFiann and belted it out on his debut. Really hope he recovers well over the course of the season.

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