Cold November Rain

Wow. Isn’t this exciting – we haven’t engaged in a proper spat of inter-provincial bickering since … February? By the time March came along, Ireland were gathering pace en route to a Championship and it seemed churlish, then it was all a bit half-hearted when Argentina came along. But now it’s here – yay!  November internationals!

But seriously, Schmidt’s first season was incredible – nearly beating BNZ, then winning the Championship. Like Deccie, who had an incredibly effective beginning to his tenure, the challenge will be backing that up with a second season – one that will effectively ends in a World Cup. Also like Deccie, the Milky Bar Kid got part of his success from a bounce from a previous season that didn’t reflect the real quality in the team – merely a previous coaching regime that had run its course. Eddie’s control freakery gave way to Deccie’s delegation to the players; which was in turn replaced by Schmidt’s technical coaching brilliance. Can the initial bounce be backed up?

One can reasonable expect some reversion to the mean this season, and retaining the Six Nations will be something they haven’t done since 1949 (although they shared in 1983 when going for a repeat, they would have finished second under today’s rules). While we should be realistic about what expectations for this season are – two wins in November, four in the Six Nations are the par score for this group – they have set their own standards. Also, its worth being aware that the players were grumbling about the tough schedule Schmidt put them through in Argentina – its unlikely that will drop off, and some degree of fatigue is a risk. Plus you-know-who has left a gaping hole in the team.

Two wins in the coming weeks means beating Australia or the Boks – all indications are the Wobbly game wil be the one targeted (like BNZ last year) and, given the injuries we have, and the scratchy form of the provinces, its a tough ask. Still – it makes sense to go for Oz – beating the Boks is tough enough, but without your primary ball carriers it’s virtually impossible – and we have lost DJ Church, Sean O’Brien, Iain Henderson and Andrew Trimble. That said, it’s not all bad – O’Brien missed the entire Six Nations, Henderson was a sub in that tournament and Church and Trimby would be adequately replaced by Tommy Bowe and Jack McGrath. Puts pressure on depth though, doesn’t it.

The first choice pack pretty much picks itself given the missing list – McGrath, Besty, Ross, Toner, O’Connell, POM, Henry, Heaslip. Only one man different from the 6N pack, but Besty is struggling for form, Ross needs matchtime to get up to speed, and Chris Henry hasn’t quite been at his best of late. Sean Cronin will provide decent bacup, another strong carrier and potential for weapons-grade impact late in matches, and will start one game minimum, but the rest of the forward squad ranges from the potential of Rhys Ruddock to the dicky lungs of Rodney Ah Here.

We’d ideally like to see a couple of names pitched in to see if they sink or swim – the likes of James Cronin, Dave Foley and Dom Ryan might have something to offer to the squad in a RWC year – they might sink without trace,  but at least we’d know – and we know what Dave Kilcyone, Mike McCarthy and Robbie Diack can do – and it’s not of the highest level. Ryan will most likely have to wait for the Georgia game but Cronin and Foley could make the bench against South Africa.  Two of Ah Here, Stephen Archer and Tadgh Furlong are likely to get the dubious honour of scrummaging against the monstrous Georgians – gulp.

In the backline, Conor Murray and J-Sex are miles ahead of their backups. The vigils for Sexton’s hamstring can begin now. Ian Keatley got rewarded for some decent early season form over a semi-fit Wee PJ but we suspect Ian Mad-Dog is Schmidt’s number 2, though he has only started at 10 once this season.  One suspects they’ll do whatever possible to get Sexton on the pitch. In RWC terms, Eoin Reddan and Kieran Marmion are pretty much on the plane – but we’d like to see Marmion get a start and see how he does – against Georgia he might be behind a pack being marched backwards early on.

And now, ah yes – time for the centres. We know this – Dorce will start against the Boks and Stuart Olding will see gametime at some point. Who will play outside? The concensus seems to have settled on Robbie “bosh” Henshaw (largely because BOD says it is so), but O’Reilly thinks Schmidt will value Jared Payne’s distribution and running angles more that the directness of the Connacht man. It certainly makes sense not to give Jean de Villers and Jan Serfontein what they eat for breakfast, but Payne has been pretty rubbish at 13 for Ulster. One suspects Schmidt won’t let the two guys shoot out on the field – there simply isn’t enough time for that – he’ll make his selection and stand by it. If it’s to be Payne or if it is to be Henshaw, let’s all make an effort, similar to the 2012 Six Nations when Keet Earls played the entire tournament there, to not jump down his throat each time he Isn’t BOD.

Provided they are fully fit, Bob and Tommy Bowe will be inked into the team – Trimble is a big loss but Bowe is a pretty decent replacement to have. The other wing spot, in shades of a more innocent era (2012), appears to be between Craig Gilroy and Simon Zeebs. Schmidt doesn’t appear to be a massive fan of Zebo, while Gilroy looks to have returned to some impressive form this year after his career stalled last season.  Nonetheless, while Zebo hasn’t been quite as stellar with ball-in-hand, he appears to be putting a lot of effort into working really, really hard and brings a decent kicking game; he might just shade it.  Zebo and Bowe for Trimble and Dave Kearney; it might be injury-enforced but Ireland don’t appear to be losing too much in the trade.

We already know Joe Schmidt is an excellent coach and Ireland have excellent players – if the success or failure of this series comes down to the Wobbly game, he’ll be up against another excellent coach and a team of excellent players. In a RWC year, its a good judge of where we are at, and how the team is shaping up – for you can be sure we won’t have a full deck in 11 months time.

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84 Comments

  1. Isn’t James Cronin out for 6 weeks? It’s getting hard just to keep up with the injury list…

  2. ” Trimble is a big loss but Bowe is a pretty decent replacement to have.”

    Jaysus. Didn’t think I’d see that sentence have truth to it a few years ago.

    • rugbygareth

       /  November 3, 2014

      I sense a little sarcasm in this line but would also agree with you that, even after being Ireland’s stand-out player in the Six Nations, to say that Bowe is a replacement for Trimble is quite un-heard off in the past few years.

      • Yeah, it’s a weird one. There’s obviously room for both of them in a team, and pound-for-pound I’d still take Bowe ahead of Trimble, but in effect Bowe is going to be replacing Trimble in the team.

      • No, genuinely, RG. I would have figured once Trimble dropped out of the first squad he was done. I’m really glad he worked his way back in as he was the oustanding player of our Six Nations team. Bowe at one point was unmovable from his position in his team, so it’s just (pleasantly) surprising to have so many options in the position.

  3. James Cronin is injured and will be doing well to make it back for Munster’s back-to-back against Clermont, I’m afraid. Kilcoyne will bench behind McGrath and offer excellent impact in the final twenty, and one of Andrew Warwick or Denis Buckley will presumably be called up as cover. Tadhg Furlong isn’t in the squad, and may not even be called up if Declan Fitzpatrick has enough credit in the bank to get called up, largely off the back of his excellent showing off the bench against New Zealand last year. I suspect Fitzpatrick will get the nod, but Furlong could pull ahead by the time the 6 Nations roll around.

    • Yeah, we’re working on the assumption that at least one of those will be called up. Leinster have started Michael Bent ahead of Furlong, so it looks a bit early for him.

    • Declan

       /  November 3, 2014

      Not to pile on a committed professional, who seems a nice guy to boot but Dave Kilcoyne cannot scrummage. Not even close. Wonderful around the park and all but he cannot do the very basics of the job of a prop. Isn’t that an automatic mark of Cain against him and international selection?

      • Kilcoyne’s scrummaging is a concern, for sure. I’ve never been that bowled over by him, but he does appear to do his best stuff when he comes onto the pitch after about an hour, so maybe it will work out ok.. ish… hopefully, possibly.

      • Kilcoyne’s scrummaging is a little bit of the lucky bag variety because he hits the deck so often, so if what you want is a reliable, stable scrum platform, he’s definitely not the best bet. That said, he was at the heart of an excellent Munster scrum under Rob Penney for the last two seasons (an area where we seem to have gone backwards this season), a scrum which went forward more often than not, and while he gets penalised a fair bit, his opponents get penalised plenty too, usually in roughly even proportions. There have certainly been very few games I can recall where he was dominated by his opposite number. He has two seasons of senior professional rugby behind him, so I’d say he’s going reasonably well and the criticism is overstated; certainly saying he’s not even close to being able to scrummage is massively hyperbolic. That said, I would back James Cronin to overtake him sooner rather than later.

        On a tangential note, I have to confess to some amusement at some of the snipes online at Kilcoyne, Archer, and Botha, especially from Munster’s provincial brethren. When was the last time another province comprehensively out-scrummaged Munster? You see people coming out with lines like “Kilcoyne cannot scrummage. Not even close” or the refrain of “Archer shouldn’t be making an AIL side”; a few times I’ve seen people say that Archer is in physical danger every time he goes into a scrum. Now I know very little about front row play, but I ask myself, why is it they don’t get destroyed in every interpro if all these fans agree they’re useless? A real mystery, given how bad they all clearly are, but one I suppose we’ll never fully know the truth of.

        • curates_egg

           /  November 3, 2014

          When it works for him, he seems to bore in, so it really depends on the ref.

  4. Cian

     /  November 3, 2014

    I was sure I had read a comment from Schmidt strongly favouring Payne for outside centre over Henshaw, but I can’t seem to find it now. Maybe it was all a bad dream.

    • D6W

       /  November 3, 2014

      When Schmidt was asked a last week whether he thought Henshaw was up to the job at 13, he replied “we will see in 9 days” IE Saturday 8th. So looks like Henshaw will strat against SA for sure.

      • I was unsure what to read into those comments. He said the ‘nine days’ thing but lots of other stuff that read (on the printed page at least) like he was leaning towards Payne. Still up in the air I think.

        • D6W

           /  November 3, 2014

          My take on that was that he inadvertently let slip that Henshaw was his starter against SA, and thus was bigging up Payne to keep everyone, including players, guessing.

  5. Leinsterlion

     /  November 3, 2014

    “Robbie Diack can do – and it’s not of the highest level”

    Come back to me when POMs average performances at 6 match those of Diack. Diack had a convincing tour of Argentina, bit soon to write him off. He is not spectacular, but that is not the remit of a blindside is it?

    “let’s all make an effort, similar to the 2012 Six Nations when Keet Earls played the entire tournament there, to not jump down his throat each time he Isn’t BOD.”

    So long as *insert selection here* puts in a good stint defensively I dont calling for said players head will be on the agenda, whoever is selected will not look like a blatant case of task awarded outstripping talent, as the Earls selection did.

    Say it quietly, I think we can take the Boks on upfront, not in the boshing/beefcake stakes, but in the setpiece I think we will shade it, Argentina are far and away the best scrum in the Quad nations, SA a distant second with Un-Zee a bit behind, we should take them. Also, Matfield should be running out of gas at this stage, shouldn’t he?

    • Amiga500

       /  November 3, 2014

      Sorry LL, Diack cannot cut it at the top level. He is just too average and rounded to have one part of his game shine.

      POM is someone who I haven’t traditionally rated, but he is better in pretty much every facet of the game* than Diack who is a 7/10 man every week until you play against the top top teams, where he becomes 4/10.

      *Lineout, rucking, ball handling, running with ball all go to POM. Tackling and running without ball/supporting play are about even.

      • Diack is POM-lite; a lineout-catching backrow with good ball skills, but just not quite as good and not capable of winning breakdown turnovers in the same way as POM.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  November 3, 2014

        POM is a better player, I’m not disputing that, but imo Diack is a better 6.

        • POM’s not a winger, LL; let it go…. 😉

          • Leinsterlion

             /  November 3, 2014

            Cmon, he would give Shane Williams a run for his money in the tackling stakes and hangs out there enough….

          • osheaf01

             /  November 3, 2014

            He’s probably a better winger than Average Dave, mind…who isn’t?

          • Leinsterlion

             /  November 3, 2014

            Im on the record here of stating my disdain for Dave Kearney as an international winger, he is a good Leinster player though. I am consistent with my bias for what I want in a player, unlike plenty on here.

          • D6W

             /  November 4, 2014

            What is your problem with Dave Kearney? He may not be as flashy as some other wingers, but for the game plan that Schmidt had last season, he was the ideal choice, as was Trimble IE Follow up kicks, tackle hard and ruck when necessary. And at the time, they were praised for their efforts.

            Obviously, if you wanted a winger who did nothing at all apart from run with the ball, and not that effectively either, then you would be looking down Munster way.

          • Leinsterlion

             /  November 4, 2014

            @D6W one word, pace. The Saveas, Speights, Norths, Rangers etc of the world are where wing play is at, not hard working one paced wingers, he is an anachronism in the modern game. I think he is an awesome Leinster winger and as you say can play to an international level in Schmidts system, but I think you need to have more than that to be a long term fixture at wing for your country tbh, DK is too one note imo.

            Add to that the fact he is coming off a case of knee knack and he wasnt that fast to begin with…a move to the centers could be an option, I honestly dont think he is the answer at wing for Ireland.

          • D6W

             /  November 4, 2014

            I agree, if Dave and Trimble had the pace of Habana, they would have everything. But is there any winger in Ireland with the pace you are talking about?

            And if not, would you really bring in Zebo who may be half a yard quicker, but has nothing like Habana’s pace. And has nothing like Dave and Trimbles defensive skills or work ethic. In fact, from the last few games I saw, Conway is the form winger in munster at the moment.

          • SportingBench

             /  November 4, 2014

            I certainly wouldn’t class Trimble as slow. Sure he isn’t Olympic speed but he is quick and has good acceleration which is more important in tight spaces than flat out pace.
            I think Schmidt’s approach to wing play is that a winger has to do certain jobs well, the hard jobs and anything more on top of that is a bonus. The Saveas, Speights, Norths, Rangers etc are all noted for being both spectacular and hard working and it is notablethat North came under heavy criticism last year when his work rate dropped – the kick chasing and tackling and hitting rucks so these skills are valued in a winger.
            I think it is good to focus on what our wingers can do which is a lot rather than covet others. Wing is not a position we are particularly weak. In fact the emergance of Trimble last year as a genuine force both with and without the ball was a major input to our rare 6N triumph. Yes we can always push to do better and look out for fresh talent but that is different than criticising Kearney because he is not something else

    • Cian

       /  November 3, 2014

      Tell the truth, LL, do you have some sort of bot set up that activates whenever the phrase ‘inter-provincial bickering’ or variations thereof turns up in a WoC article, finds any Munster players mentioned, and writes a disparaging comment about them? Actually, I kinda hope that’s what happens, because it’s more palatable than the idea that you do it manually every time.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  November 3, 2014

        Not just “any” Munster players, just the massively overrated ones who get a soft ride from a pliant media. Compare the reaction and reception any of “POM, Earls, JJ,” get, to say that of “Marmite” Madigan who even half Leinster fans dont rate due to the media bias.

        POM is like Croft, but he is somehow better, due to pretending to be hard and having paashun, Bakkies would eat him for a pre brunch snack. He is a good player, but he is no where near our best *insert any backrow position you want*.

        • Bakkies is seriously, seriously TOUGH and one guy I’d have second thoughts before challenging him to “bring it on”….

        • The media is biased against Madigan now? This is a new one.

        • Kelly Peters

           /  November 3, 2014

          Let’s not forget that Conor Murray used to be one of your targets. You seem to have given up beating that dead horse

          • osheaf01

             /  November 3, 2014

            Nope, I think he still wants Boss in the Test team ahead of him…

        • I see he’s also throwing JJ in the mix now. That promises to be not tedious at all.

        • Leinsterlion

           /  November 3, 2014

          Murray still has a slow pass and kicks too much, but his “rugby brain” has improved out of sight, he is a very good 9, that said, I still think we need someone with a faster pass as opposed to his kicking game with the team we have. We will see how much ball he kicks away with Sexton in the team and how/if he is punished by a higher quality of opposition, its ok to do control a game against Sarries like that, but AUS and the Boks will kill us if he is entrusted to do the same.

          I have no issues with JJ as player, I was merely contrasting his treatment vs that of Madigan. JJ will/should be starting sooner, rather than later.

          • Kelly Peters

             /  November 4, 2014

            What has JJ done to deserve being thrown into the mix? You use the contrast in treatment he and Madigan receive as the crux of you bringing him up. Would you mind elaborating on this point?

          • Leinsterlion

             /  November 4, 2014

            @Kelly Its fairly simple, I’m alluding to the obvious media bias and well precosity of Munster fans when it comes to their own, your reaction case in point. My utilising of JJ as an example or contrast is not a slight or even comment on JJ’s ability. A simple trawl through any Irish rugby forum will see the prevailing thoughts on either player, read the papers, JJ is being touted as the next big thing, its a case of when, not if, he displaces Keatley, he has gotten an extremely soft ride(not that he should not) in comparison to the media criticism and bashing Madigan gets. My comment was a criticism of the media rather than the player, I would have singled him out as I do with Pauline O’Mahoney and Earls, had I intended to slate him.

          • Kelly Peters

             /  November 4, 2014

            @Leinsterlion Is this supposed media bias still a thing? As for the precocity of Munster fans when it comes to their own I think that’s a trait shared by fans of all provinces. You use my reaction as a case in point. I reacted because you used the term massively overrated before bringing up JJ and then lumped him in with Earls and Pom, two players you’ve very little time for.

            Now to the crux of the matter. Of course they are view differently by fans and the media. For one thing JJ is a full 3 years younger than Madigan. JJ is still a prospect while Madigan is entering his prime. As for being touted as he next big thing he was the best flyhalf on show at a tournament that had Handre Pollard and Kyle Godwin among others. He has got a bit of a soft ride and it’s hugely disappointing that he hasn’t stepped up and made a real push for the jersey yet but at 22 he’s got time. Madigan on the other hand, with Sexton returning, is reaching a point where it may be time to move on.

        • osheaf01

           /  November 3, 2014

          That’s OK, most of us down south think Captain Fantastic (a no.8 whose “unseen work” rivals Easterby’s, when he (Easterby) was a busted flush, and who’s quite possibly the worst Ireland captain I’ve ever seen) and Average Dave, to name but 2 serial Test-level underachievers, get “a soft ride from a pliant media” too…I guess it’ll always be this way.

          • Leinsterlion

             /  November 3, 2014

            Go through my posts on here, I am consistent in my criticism of players who do not do their job, Heaslip and DK have not escaped my criticism, unlike the, brave and faithful, greatest fans in the world™(unless its pro12 game of course, then who cares), I am not loath to criticise players from the team I support, it just so happens, that for the majority of the time, Leinster players were in great form, or lightly less shit form then their counterparts elsewhere.

          • Stevo

             /  November 4, 2014

            Provincial bias is one thing, and preferences for certain players over another is often subjective, but you see the real bias come out when people talk about who they perceive as getting an easy ride from the media.

        • Scrumdog

           /  November 3, 2014

          If POM gets selected watch his work rate in defense in particular and at ruck time in general…..not many are convinced he’s an international level blindside by any standards, wish he was, and he has been given the time to grow in the green jersey more so than any other player that I can remember.. Heaslip and Henry have extra work to do with POM on the field and its not too harsh to say that two good games in the last 6N from the number of caps he has received since Kidney blooded him, doesn’t cut it at test match level. Soon there will be Ruddock, if not this weekend soon after, and then Stander, both of whom have a higher work rate as well as the necessary bulk and power to take on the ‘Boks pack and cross the gain line. Interesting to know if Easterby might influence the selection of the blindside as he
          was a huge tackler and breakdown player himself for Ireland and the Lions and wouldn’t be surprised if he pushed for Ruddock against SA.

          • seiko

             /  November 3, 2014

            POM’s job isn’t to be a tackler. Its his job to get to the breakdown fast and compete for ball i.e., doing the job that opensides do. Except he has a 6 on his back.

          • “not many are convinced he’s an international level blindside by any standards”

            You mean yourself and LL. Because literally nobody in Irish professional rugby has ever said or intimated anything to that effect in the last year.

            “If POM gets selected watch his work rate in defense in particular and at ruck time in general”

            His tackling stats have been brought up over and over, and they are a curiosity, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen anyone question his work rate at the breakdown. Thankfully I don’t have to do any leg work on this, as the most reliable indicator available to the public for O’Mahony’s breakdown work is probably Demented Mole’s outstanding Ruck Marks series. The links to his assessments of games in which POM was playing are here:





            If you want to dispute the merits of the stats, go ahead, but I’d place a fair bit of store in the methodology explained in the associated articles, as well as the spade work and assessment expertise that DM brought to them. O’Mahony’s breakdown performances are either outstanding or above-par, without exception. In all but one game, against Samoa, O’Mahony was adjudged to have outperformed Jamie Heaslip at the breakdown. That’s an extremely high commendation of a player’s work rate, I’m sure you’ll agree.

            Add that work rate to his peerless lineout abilities, his carrying (which was more effective than the much-lauded Ruddock in the first two rounds of the ERCC this season), his footballing skills, and his leadership ability and rugby nous, and you should be able to see why he’s rated so highly by so many professional coaches. I say “should”, but of course you won’t, and neither will LL, but whatever, I’ve had my fun with stats.

          • osheaf01

             /  November 4, 2014

            POM plays more like a “7” – rewatch the home game with Wales to see what he does. He is also an excellent lineout option. What he’s not is a brutal tackler. In this way, he’s completely different from Fez.

  6. WatchingCartoons

     /  November 3, 2014

    Long time lurker first time poster… A fine summation as ever.
    “Church and Trimby would be adequately replaced by Tommy Bowe and Jack McGrath” – I’m assuming not respectively here?
    The amount of injuries stacking up is really testing my perennial (blind?) optimism. My view on the squad is becoming increasingly like Homer in the Simpsons episode when Lisa pushes the rotisserie pig down the hill – “It’s just a little dirty! It’s still good, it’s still good! It’s just a little slimy! It’s still good, it’s still good! It’s just a little airborne! It’s still good, it’s still good!”

    • You don’t think Bowe could do a job at loosehead?!

      Yeah, we’re into rotisserie pig territory alright. One step beyond if Sexton is out.

  7. Stephen

     /  November 3, 2014

    For eighteen stones, Diack is bloody soft.

    Bowe for Trimble isn’t as interchangable as I’d like. Tommy hasn’t had a sustained run of good form since he came back from the Ospreys, essentially, whereas Trimble has been operating on a different plane since January. Agree that Gilroy has improved, but would fear for either of Gilroy/Zebo being my last tackler.

    Re Payne/Henshaw – the question, rationally, should not be “Are they as good as BOD?”, but rather “Are they as good as [delete as appropriate] Payne/Henshaw?” Currently I think Henshaw wins that question every time. De Villiers would walk over Payne.

    • Spot on about whoever plays 13. Why on earth should we be comparing them to BOD as he isn’t available?
      Can’t believe Uncle Joe hasn’t seen enough of Payne at 13 now to know that he is not ready to play international level there given his struggles in the Pro12.

    • Indeed, spot on chaps. It’s the raw athlete versus the craftsman. I’d vote for Henshaw if it was put to me. There’s also the D’arcy otion, but I’d say they’re most likely to keep him at 12.

      • D6W

         /  November 3, 2014

        WIth Sexton looking dodgy, the D’Arcy at 13 option looks dead. Madigan will be required to cover 10, and D’Arcy’s experience will be needed at 12. The Sexton/Madigan/D’arcy dream lineup (at least in my head) is dead.

    • curates_egg

       /  November 3, 2014

      I haven’t seen as much of Bowe this season but I saw plenty of him last season and would have had him a fair way down the list of wingers when all fit. Be nice if he could get some of his top form back: he is clearly a Rolls Royce.

      • I would agree that Bowe hasn’t been at his best for some time. I was disappointed at last year’s autumn internationals in particular. I think he’s one of the ultimate “good face” players whose substandard performances don’t seem to face rigorous analysis due to his great pedigree

        • I dunno…I’d cut all our wingers a lot of slack because we’ve been playing muck rugby for about 7 years! Our wingers main job are to chase kicks, and in Trimbles case pound rucks, which he does very well. That’s one of the reasons I feel Bowe at 13 would be a great option, as I don’t subscribe to the ”but that would weaken our wing” view, as while it is moving our best finisher, he would be far more influential in the centre than on the wing where whoever is selected is largely interchangeable.

          • curates_egg

             /  November 4, 2014

            The few times I’ve seen him at 13, he’s shown he has some of the skills for that position. That ship seems to have sailed though. He has only played once there for Ulster I think? Certainly, other (younger) horses are being backed at 13 now for them.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  November 3, 2014

        The question is, will he? Every players body responds differently to injuries.

  8. connachtexile

     /  November 3, 2014

    Regarding Ah You he took the criticism Joe gave him after the Argentina game and his cardio has improved massively. You’d often see jogging in the mornings around Galway he’s also a huge ball carrier for Connacht so will interested to see if that is utilised by Joe against the Saffers.

  9. I watched a good bit of the matches in the Southern Hemisphere during the Summer and I wouldn’t be too confident of our chances of beating either the Boks or Cheika’s Oz. That said I reckon we have an extremely talented array of backs and just have to hope JS can get the combination(s) right in order for na hÉireannaigh to withstand the attacking strength of Le Roux, Pollard, Habana et al and even turn the tables on them. In order for us ultimately to prevail, Rory Best IMO has to put in a similar performance to his recent one against Glasgow i.e. leading from the front, demon at the breakdown and getting all his darts. That he has it in him, I have no doubt. If the Ulster skipper brings his A game with him on Saturday, then we are in with a decent chance. If not we’re f***ed.

  10. I’m not usually so negative but I have a bad feeling about this. Our prop situation is thin at best, our first choice hooker has the throwing yips & our second choice hooker can’t, you know, hook. There’s a doubt over our first choice outhalf’s fitness & our second choice (should you be correct about Madigan) has had negligible time at 10 this season. We have a largely untested centre partnership, who ever it should be and one of the top choices for outside centre hasn’t impressed in the position at provincial level, plus we’re well short on ball carriers.

    My nerves don’t usually kick in quite this early but my stomach is already churning. Nonetheless, I’ll be there, hopeful & obnoxiously loud. Plus I’m bringing my boss who is a football fan so if nothing else it’ll be nice for him to see what the Aviva looks like when it’s full 😉

    • curates_egg

       /  November 4, 2014

      I struggle to see how we will achieve Schmidt’s stated goal of 2/3 games. We have no scrum and no ball carriers. It seems they will target the Aussie game (rather than the Boks) but that comes with risks: Cheika bounce and the fact it is the last game (so even more chance of injuries for our porcelain players in the interim).

  11. aoifehamill

     /  November 3, 2014

    Any thoughts on Mr. Glass/Luke Fitzgerald? He’s looked sharp since coming back – would be great to see him back for Ireland for some of the matches. He is in the Dove ad in the Ireland jersey after all – that has to count for something right? 🙂

    • SportingBench

       /  November 3, 2014

      Harsh it may bebut given his injury record I don’t think that Ireland should waste anymore time on Fitzgerald until he can prove he can stay fit long enough to be worth while. He’s not so good that it is worth giving him game time.

      • aoifehamill

         /  November 3, 2014

        I know there’s a certain amount of blooding players that needs to be done but really, the aim of the game is to win. I really can’t see how you think Ireland are “wasting time” in giving a fit player game time if they’re the best available in that position. By that logic you might not have brought Ferris to the last World Cup.

        • Once he plays his way into a bit of match fitness and form, he’ll definitely come back into contention. But it’s surely too soon to pitch him back into international rugby when he’s played so little rugby. Come the 6 Nations, if his body has held up and his form is good, he’ll be pushing for a spot.

        • SportingBench

           /  November 3, 2014

          I just don’t think that Fitzgerald has been fit long enough in recent times for anyone to know how much he can contribute these days. Therefore playing Fitzgerald has more than a little aspect of testing him out to see what level he’s at the moment like a younger, untried player. Until he can demonstrate that he is truly physically fit, it just doesn’t seem to be worth the time and is taking a place from someone else.
          I get the comparison with Ferris but I think Ferris was different in two respects; one was that Ferris was consistently world class, not just international level but one of the best in his position and therefore was worth any amount of effort and the cost of denying other options time on the pitch. Also, second despite injuries, Ferris when fit (at least before the final two years) would put together a string of performances before the next injury.

          Fitzgerald would do better staying with Leinster and showing can physically hack it as a professional rugby player. It is (probably) not his fault he gets these injuries but a little like someone who is physically bigger or faster, it is a physical aspect that should not be ignored. Hopefully Fitzgerald stays fit and comes into the reckoning for the 6N, has a few storming games for Ireland and Leinster and goes on to make people say BOD who? But I think that not giving game time to one of the other promising backs at this point would be negligent given the sad probability that Fitzgerald will get a long term injury again soon.

          • We had a chat about this topic amongst ourselves over frappucinos in the weekly house meeting. We decided it’s just too early for Fitzgerlad really. We all want to see him back playing for Ireland, but he has played one game in I don’t know how long. I think he’s best served getting back his match fitness with Leinster. He’s a fantastic player, I think he wold tick all the boxes for what Schmidt is looking for in a wing, so I can see the temptation in throwing him in, but I think the important thing is to be patient with him.

          • JT64

             /  November 4, 2014

            Fitzgerald is one of the (if not the) most naturally talented players Ireland has. I agree that the AIs are too soon (though he was called into camp this morning), so let him play his way back into form and fitness with Leinster over the coming weeks. My hope is that he will be stay fit and be in contention come the 6 Nations and all going well, he will be our first choice 13 in the RWC. It’s my humble opinion, but I think he has all the ingredients to make that position his own for Leinster & Ireland. I know BOD has neglected to mention him as a possible successor, but I think that has more to do with not putting any more undue pressure on him and let him just concentrate on his fitness. He has the best ingredients of both Payne & Henshaw which would make him the better option. Plus he’s still only 26 after all… Just saying that it’s certainly a possibility, and it could be a great battle long-term with Henshaw & Fitzgerald vying for that 13 jersey. Payne is clearly more suited to 15, and is possibly a better choice than Bob, but that’s a discussion for another day…..

  12. The gap between Sexton and his heirs is the most worrying. All 3 could do a good job there, but Madigan needs to play 10, Jackson needs to recover his form and Keatley needs to improve his place kicking. Also, whoever is the chosen #2, needs more experience at international level. The SANZAR nations all have 2 solid experienced 10s. NZ Carter/Cruden, SA Pollard/Steyn, Aus Cooper/Foley

    The same goes for Marmion. The gap between him and Murray wouldn’t be so large if he was given more time at international level. Ideally Ireland would have 2 quality guys in each position, experienced at international level, going to the WC.

    And there isn’t just a problem with gaining experience at international level, there are quality players in the provinces with potential, but never get game time. Something needs to be done about this by the IRFU…

    • Hear! Hear! On the Madigan front I’ve long been wishing for David Nucifora to give his compatriot MO’C a kick up the proverbial.

      • SportingBench

         /  November 3, 2014

        Surely there is a major issue if Madigan isn’t good enough to get a game at 10 for Leinster at the moment. Worrying with Jackson’s poor form and Keatley’s poor kicking from the tee. Our internationals shouldn’t require a free lunch at provincial level as if they can’t get a game for their province in their preferred position then in most cases it is just wishful thinking that they will suddenly be good enough to play there for Ireland.

        • The waters are a bit muddy there to be honest. It’s hard to gauge whether Madigan is ‘good enough to get a game at 10 for Leinster’ because injuries have dictated he has had to play 12. Personally, I believe he is a better 10 than Gopperth and while he’s a mixed bag in many respects I believe he would do well at international level, but I can understand why you might take me to task over that opinion.

        • Yossarian

           /  November 3, 2014

          Madigan is good enough to get his game at 10 for Leinste but the injury situation just hasn’t permitted it this year. Jimmy G has been given the game time to hang himself with a string of poor performances.
          Jackson showing he has a long way to go to be a top 10. Missing Piennar dictating things this year.
          Keatley improving but the feeling is his ceiling isn’t very high.

          maybe a small rugby nation has to accept the likelihood of two top 10’s is unlikely. when the 10 you have is a lions nailed on starter the gap is always going to be big.

        • garzoo

           /  November 3, 2014

          I think Madigan is more than good enough to play 10 for Leinster. As WoC said he has been needed at 12 and 15 due to injuries. Now that Leinster have a lot of their players back it should be 10 Mad, 12 Darce, 13 Mcfab/Fitzy

          Next year it will be a different story with Sexton back. He should either focus on 12 then (with Darce likely retiring) or move to Connacht to play 10 regularly.

    • I’d agree with the prescription, but Handré Pollard has 6 caps, Bernard Foley 14. Neither is a solid experienced 10 by any means. They’re both much better rugby players than our back-ups, which is our real problem! As for scrum-half, we do have Eoin Reddan as back-up, which is pretty decent depth, but obviously it’d be great to see Marmion put some big pressure on this month.

      • Handre Pollard is a long-earmarked boy wonder of a player – the fact that he is the Bok starting 10 isn’t a surprise, only that Meyer has had the balls to do it now and not post RWC15.

        I send Wee PJ is still injured – I wonder is elective surgery an option (like for NWJMB) to get him right for April and some gametime at the tail end of the season?

      • garzoo

         /  November 3, 2014

        There is a difference between capping someone from the bench or against teams like Georgia. Whoever our #2 is needs to at least be capable of starting against NZ/Aus/SA

    • Fetcher

       /  November 3, 2014

      Pollard is a wunderkid, three years at the U-20 World Cup, parachuted straight into the international team; there’s not a lot of players around like him.

      The biggest problem for Ireland’s back up tens is getting experience at their respective provinces. Paddy isn’t a international standard ten yet but how many are at 22? He’s game management is good and ability to bring his backs into the game is excellent but he does seem to lack.

      Keatley may just not be good enough at international level and Jj hasn’t received enough starts for us to know.

      The real frustration is Madigan, Gopperth’s form this season has been woeful and even last season he didn’t exactly star. O’Connor’s motivation seems to be not to lose first and to win second.

      Foley (48 Super Rugby caps) and Cruden (73 Super Rugby caps) have been consistently starting high level provincial rugby for some time before they cemented their reputation as international tens.

      • garzoo

         /  November 3, 2014

        Well said. I think the IRFU needs to present players with an option. If you are competing for an international jersey, but 2nd choice for your province, the IRFU should say, ‘x’ province is weak in your position, would you like to transfer? If you are young and have potential, but are 3rd choice, the same offer should be made, because players need game time to prove themselves

      • Is that really the problem Fetcher? Madigan has 70 starts for Leinster and another 45 appearances off the bench. I don’t think he’s lacking match time, though the Gopperth situation has been frustrating. In truth though, Madigan had an unfortunately-timed dip in form last season; he’s back to his old self this year, but injuries have dictated he play 12. I don’t think he’s lacked opportunity at Leinster.

        • Madigan out! Carty is the rugby hipster 10 of choice – his kicking from hand is as bad as madigan’s but his passing is already more rounded, AND more importantly, he does an even better mean mug than madigan.

          Also fwiw connachts scrum is the best of the pro12 thus far this season, although they still haven’t played ulster or Munster, so make of that what you will

          • Leinsterlion

             /  November 3, 2014

            Maddogs kicking from hand isnt horrendous, he has a good boot, its his choosing of the optimal time to play the corners that is the “problem”.

          • osheaf01

             /  November 4, 2014

            The problem with Madigan is he makes the wrong choices more often than he should. I remember tearing my hair out watching that “A” international vs England. He’s trying too hard to impress, and that means he often runs it himself too often. He should be made watch videos of Dan Carter – keeping the oppo guessing is one of the most important fly-half qualities.

        • Fetcher

           /  November 4, 2014

          How many starts came in the Heineken Cup or Champions Cup though? That’s the level of rugby he needs to be playing 10 at for these doubt to be assuaged.

          It could be argued he should have nailed down the 10 jersey last year but contrast the patience and opportunities shown to Madigan with any other young 10 in other provinces and I think he’s right to feel hard done by.

  13. Andrew097

     /  November 3, 2014

    Wonder how much of a problem will it be to Schmidt to have Ulster misfiring and Leinster and Munster both playing a diffrent type of game from Penny Ball and the Schmidt era. Connacht are trying but still a little short at times. Leinster can hardly string two passes together and are not even asked too. Munster are big on emotion and pick and go but the big teams of hairy forwards won’t get to bothered about that approach. Ireland will never beat England and the Boks Or France on successive Saturdays with emotion and bosh rugby and that is what you have to do at a WC.
    Madigan is in good form but playing all over the place now looks like MOC not being dictated to by ignorant NH rugby types because he can’t really justify it based on form.
    So will the players have the skills set practiced enough for Joe type of play or just a step backwards to kick and chase and emoting?

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