I Heart 2006

Ten months before a World Cup and Ireland have done what looked unthinkable given their injury list – beaten Australia and South Africa, eaten a minnow for breakfast and risen to third in the world rankings. And all with Neil Best in the team … phnar, phnar, but yes, the comparisons with 2006 are so obvious it’s almost incumbent upon every commentator to remind us of the awfulness that followed. But the bad portents of RWC07 can be ignored for now and we can bask in the excellence of this series – three wins from three and a couple of handy finds. On the flip side, we might be highly effective at it, but we still only have one dimension – kick-chase and defend is wot won it, with nary a decent carrier or creative influence in sight. The 2007 Springboks with a fly half, if you will. There’s homework for 2015.

The big plusses from the series (apart from the wins) in terms of players were the emergence into international football of Robbie Henshaw and the continued progression of Rhys Ruddock, and the development of Conor Murray and Jonny Sex-bomb into the best pairing in the hemisphere.  Henshaw’s bulk in midfield was most un-Irish given our addiction to micro-centres and he mixed his game well, using the boot effectively and looking to the manor born at this level – he looks the 13 for the Six Nations .. unless of course he steps inside to accomodate Jared Pyane.  On l’autre hand, a pair of humdrum showings from Dorce that suggested nothing less than the end for a fantastic player, and the scatty, wayward performances from Zeebs, who mixed sublime finishing with poor decision-making, probably failed to convince Joe that he is the man he’s looking for. He had his moments, but with Trimble, McFadden and Dave Kearney all likely to be putting pressure on in the Six Nation, Zebo probably didn’t do quite enough.

On Saturday, Ireland put the Wobs away with a helter-skelter performance in a thrilling match. The first half was barmy, with unstructured and slightly manic play to the fore.  At times it was reminiscent of last year’s visit of Australia, as Ireland couldn’t get a handle on their attacking speed, but forunately Ireland had a 17 point headstart to work with.  Once the second half settled into Schmidt-ball, Ireland had reduced a team blessed with the creative brains of Phipps, Foley, Genia, Cooper, Toomua, Beale and Folau to boshing it up the middle. In truth, we were relatively fortunate to come away with the win – when 10-0 up, Nick Phipps got all Ben Youngs and crabbed across the field for 5 metres before being swallowed up, when a quick pass would have led to a certain score with a five-on-one outside him. The very next phase, he O’Leary-ed the ball directly to Tomy Bowe’s breadbasket when they had a three-on-one.  It was a 14 point turnaround. In a game decided by a questionable penalty call by Glen Jackson, that’s the winning of it right there.

After going 17 points up, Ireland decided the thing to do was pile on the agony and out-Wobbly the Wobblies – attempting crazy offloads and offering up cheap possession went predictably awry. One suspects the 15 minutes from 17-32 in this game will be the ones on Joe Schmidt’s mind all winter – the combination of taking the eye off the ball and the harrassment of Ireland’s halves by the phenomenal Michael Hooper (surely he will challenge Ruchie’s captaincy caps record if he stays fit – that’s how good he is) led to Murray and Sexton’s radar going temporarily off, and nullifying Ireland’s one dimension. Schmidt won’t want that happening again.

A word on the forward-pass try.  It seemed beyond ridiculous.  We are not so blind to the laws of physics that we fail to understand that passes thrown with running momentum can drift forward relative to the ground, but when the scrum half throws a ball from the back of the ruck he has no forward momentum; if it finishes in front of him, it has gone forward.  It looked a terrible call from the TMO and calls into question what the point of him being there was.

Anyhow, enough of that.  If we are to go into the World Cup with a mind to win it, as we surely (and rightly) should be doing, we’ll need to bring more to the table. The selection and gameplan was pretty much dictated by injuries, but it’s simply essential that DJ Church, Iain Henderson, Sean O’Brien and Andy Trimble get back in the setup as soon as possible to give us the tools to beat the best Southern Hemisphere teams at their peak.  Ireland had a superb series and tactically, Schmidt got it absolutely right, extracting pretty much everything he could out of the players available to him.  He recognised we didn’t have our best carriers fit, so instead Ireland looked to gain territory through a strong kicking game, with a huge emphasis on regathering up-and-unders.  No team coached by Schmidt will ever be lax at the breakdown, and if Ireland lacked carriers, they had a backrow stacked with breakdown menaces.  That was enough on this occasion.

With O’Brien and Healy hopefully back in the spring, Ireland will surely look to vary their game.  Without them it’s impossible, as any sort of expansive game starts first and foremost with front-foot ball.  But if the pair can return to form and fitness, there may be knock-on effects in the back division.  Outside Sexton, it seems like the Henshaw half of the pairing can be nailed to the teamsheet. There’s a shirt up for grabs beside him.  Ian Madigan showed in this series that he has the temperament for international rugby, although we still have the feeling that even if Matt O’Connor sees him as a 12, Schmidt is reluctant to.  Stuart Olding’s cameo against Georgia gave a glimpse of his rare talent, and he remains the best bet to be the next long-term 12.  He was unfortunate to get injured early this season and, similarly to Madigan, his versatility may count against him as he moves around the backline.  If he can deliver a productive couple of months for Ulster, hopefully consistently in one position, he may find himself in the starting team come the Six Nations.

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125 Comments

  1. ruckinhell

     /  November 24, 2014

    On the Irish style of play, it seems to be some sort of accepted truth that we’ll need to “expand” our game to be there at the business end of the RWC. That is utter bollocks, the games tend to contract from the Quarters as the pressure and stress rises. Teak tough packs and a reliable place kicker are key. England 2003, SA 2007 and even NZ scored a sum total of two tries in their semi and final victories. Tight finishes and fine margins, centred on error reduction and converting all chances. That’s our game and its a well crafted one.

    • An interesting argument, ruckinhell, and one with plenty of truth in it. I’m not sure we can kick-chase our way to a World Cup final thoug – playing so much without the ball might just prove too fatiguing over successive weeks. I do think we’ll need to enhance our phase game.

  2. bozo

     /  November 24, 2014

    It could have been very different if Foley hadn’t duffed 2 easy conversions.
    I hope Olding gets 12 for Ulster nailed on… Henshaw and Payne can compete for 13 and it’s Robbies to lose

  3. Superb match, aged me a lifetime, Aussies were very good overall and we still managed to win – and I wasn’t even thinking about the injury list while watching.

    You’re absolutely right about an absence of attacking, momentous phase play. We showed little against the Boks and Qantas, while even Georgia kept us out while they were fresh – that’s a disappointment, and definitely something that can be worked on. For mine, though, the one thing we’ve really been lacking is consistent power running to generate space.

    I can feel the danger of an overly-long post over my shoulder, so I’ll try and keep this reasonably brief – I get that we put more emphasis on quick rucks than yards after contact, and I think this should remain the case, but having heftier carriers in the first place will still bring extra benefits. SOB and Healy are two of our three superstar forwards and both are beastly with ball in hand. They’re close to essential if we want to try and boss the best teams (emphasis on try…). Trimble is not in the same league as a player, but he makes the most of what he has and clearly is useful at arriving to punch holes across the backline – on his wing, in midfield and at the fringes. Getting them back in the side will give us more chance to lay a platform to run the ball.

    I actually thought there were some very sharp moments from our back to capitalise on space when it appeared. However, we did not create that much space in the first place. D’Arcy, however, looked short of the pace required at that (nosebleed) level, though, a real shame. Henshaw and Payne, with Madigan, Olding and maybe McCloskey as the other options IMO.

    Final points: you could say we were fortunate to win – Cheika said Oz were unfortunate to lose – and that’s true. But, had the Aussies done it, they’d have been lucky too. That’s fine margins for you. Also, POM made 17 tackles – that’s the ticket, fella, great performance.

    • osheaf01

       /  November 24, 2014

      “Also, POM made 17 tackles – that’s the ticket, fella, great performance.”

      Now, now, you’ll be giving LeinsterLion a coronary. POM is He Who Must Not Be Praised.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  November 24, 2014

        Ha, I stand by all my criticisms of him, once he does whats standard for a flank, I have no issue. Press and fans praising him for not doing anything special, putting in substandard performances and getting feted is what gives me a coronary……

        • Scrumdog

           /  November 24, 2014

          I agree with Leinsterlion. Its the first time POM has exceeded 8 tackles for Ireland and got a toe into ‘Ferris-like waters’, congratulations! Admittedly they are two different style players and Fez was an intimidating ball carrier. Whatever works for Joe S. works for me but POM needs to keep the tackle count ‘up there’ as well as the other work required of the position! He had a fine ‘DESTRUCTIVE’ game. The backs missed 9 tackles so POM made a real difference on Saturday and was good at the breakdown. Credit where credit is due. I think Ireland is lacking ‘bulk’ in the scrum and need a bigger scrummaging Lock pushing on the tight-head (McCarthy/Touhy) to anchor the scrum early on or later in the game.
          The Wallabies will be a different kettle of fish when their injured brigade returns, as will Ireland.

          • Leinsterlion

             /  November 24, 2014

            Exactly, no one is bashing a player for the sake of it, if POM matches that game week on week, you will not hear a peep from me.

          • osheaf01

             /  November 25, 2014

            “if POM matches that game week on week”
            Good to hear. My bugbear, Heaslip, also played pretty well, so not a peep from me about him, either!

    • Is Luke Marshall totally out of the picture?

      • It genuinely looked like he was down to third choice IC, playing for the Ravens in the B&I Cup, then he did his knee and is now out for the season or thereabouts… you’d have to think his WC chances are sunk anyway.

        • It’s been unfortunate. His multiple concussions have stopped him building any momentum and there are now two seriously good players fighting to play 12 for Ulster.

          He may come back but it looks a long hard road to get back to being an international centre.

          • Lop12

             /  November 25, 2014

            send him down to Munster. We will take him with open arms.

        • Marshall is due back next month. He had some poor form but he already has two starts under Schmidt and generally performed well in both, so if he can get back in the Ulster side (a big if) you’d imagine he’d be a strong contender to partner Henshaw. He’s become a bit of a forgotten man but if he can find the form that propelled him to international selection in the first place, Marshall-Henshaw looks to me like the most balanced partnership available.

          • Hes poor defensively , and lacks a bit of attitude for me ,Just a bit timid , Henshaw is miles ahead , dont get me wrong at first I thought Marshall was a star in the making , he still might be but at the same time , Olding and Mcloskey Id rate higher , hes a lot of improving to do.

  4. I actually wouldnt be too worried about the 07 World cup comparisons when a lot that went wrong then was just poor preparation in the lead up and Ireland were undercooked. The 07 Six Nations also saw Ireland probably play their best ever rugby under Eddie O’Sullivan too. I also think that Schmidts record is key when you consider Leinster went on a 20 game unbeaten run when he was in charge as well as Ireland winning nine out of ten now. It just shows he knows how to get his team to perform to its peak on a consistent level

    • bozo

       /  November 24, 2014

      Can down on the Joe praise, if the Kiwis get wind of it they’ll try and give him the keys to Eden park

  5. L.P.O.

     /  November 24, 2014

    Just on that forward pass a second: the sound went right down in the pub, but you lads are right… did I hear O’Shea mention momentum over a shiny new graphic? Momentum of course demands the passer be moving forward, and at a decent pace to have a noticeable effect, whereas in this case he was static. What was that about?

  6. montigol

     /  November 24, 2014

    Firstly, Hooper won’t get near any records set by McCaw, even if he is a very good player. Particularly not 100 caps as captain.

    Madigan’s performance were no particular leap forward from previous test performances. He’s been as good before now. Seems like it should be between him and Olding for the 12 jersey during the 6N. We definitely need to add a couple more strings to our bow in the backline, but the maturity of the performances was still hugely commendable.

    • Agreed – we’re not saying he wasn’t good previously, more that we were really impressed by just how comfortable he seems at this level. He brings a natural confidence with him when he comes on to the pitch. I think O’Connell commented on it, saying he was very impressed.

      • Jimbob

         /  November 24, 2014

        Check out Green and Gold rugby.. Some of the comments below the line about Hooper are ridiculous!

  7. ruckinhell

     /  November 24, 2014

    Disappointed about your comments on Zebo as well, he was over indulgent and greedy against Georgia but had very good games against both SA and Oz. The offload and a poorly executed chip aside on Saturday he was hard working, clinical and made several top class reads in defence, with indecision in defence being a criticism that is often levelled against him. He is a far better player now then 12 months ago and physically has a far higher ceiling than Dave Kearney. You can improve on work rate, accuracy and concentration but you can’t learn pace, Kearney would not have scored that try against Oz.

    For what its worth though, all being fit I’d have Bowe and Trimble in the side. Even with Healy, SOB and Henderson back we’re short of power players and those two lads offer the best mix of power, pace and front foot ball along with workrate and the accuracy Schmidt is seeking.

    • curates_egg

       /  November 25, 2014

      I would agree with that. He has improved a lot, made some crucial tackles on Saturday and offers more creativity than most of the other wingers in the country, if he can knuckle down.

      The grating thing was the outlandish praise of Zebo’s performance on Saturday. He made a few excellent tackles but he was positionally way off at times both in defence and when we had the ball (overrunning players).

      As someone who would like to see him in the mix, it would be great if the media and fans could apply some sense of balance. Lavishing praise on him for a curate’s egg performance does not help matters.

      If everyone is fit, you also need to add Earls and Fitzgerald into the mix…both of whom just seem to ‘get it’ a bit more than Zebo. As you say, he is an exciting player though, so hopefully Schmidt can bring him on to the top level. It’s a nice debate to be able to have anyway.

      • Stevo

         /  November 25, 2014

        I’d agree with everything you said here, but I am loath to praise you given that all your performances are curate’s egg performances by definition.

  8. Leinsterlion

     /  November 24, 2014

    “.. kick-chase and defend is wot won it”, Its terrible, we are expecting, nay, relying, on injured players coming back to give us a palatable form of rugby. In 06 we were a lot easier on the eye then the dross we have served up so far under Schmidt. You can point to the W column, but its been shown time and time again, you need more than just a kick chase to win long term, you need physicality in attack, and we dont have that, we need to expand our game. Brilliant 20/30, great intensity, then back into the Schmidt shell. Schmidt has a hell of a job on his hands to bed in returning injured players and implement a new system before the WC.

    Dave Kearney wont be challenging anyone judging by his showing on Sun, least of all Zebo, I know he is coming off a case of knee knack, but he wasnt that good to begin with, where is the improvement going to come from, he doesnt look any bigger or quicker.

    • LL – you forgot to mention POM 😀

      • Leinsterlion

         /  November 24, 2014

        Literally posted and remembered, and made an addition, see below 😉

    • Leinsterlion

       /  November 24, 2014

      Also, POM played like an international flanker(at least in work rate and tackle count) for the first time, he is finally an option, giving us more depth, good showing.

    • osheaf01

       /  November 24, 2014

      Judging by Sunday…how DOES Gopperth get picked ahead of Madigan??

      POM was terrible on Saturday, salmsonconnacht – clearly not a Test ‘6’, and clearly yet another sub-par Munsterman taking a LeinsterLion’s rightful place in green.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  November 24, 2014

        MOC is displaying his monumental ego, no other reason I can think of, putting his job, results, everything on the line by picking Gopperth, when Gopperth is clearly a championship outhalf and nothing more, bizarre stuff.

        He had a good game, high work rate and a good tackle count, that is basic for six, the fact it has taken him, what, nearly thirty caps to do it, is an indictment of his previous play, Dan Lydiate(a basic, slightly above ordinary player) was doing that from day one. Still cant make big hits and cant carry, dont get ahead of yourself, he is no Kaino(as much as Munster fan and the indo wish him to be).

        • Billy

           /  November 24, 2014

          The sport doesn’t follow a “there’s a tackle to be made; quick, call the 6!” or “there’s a breakdown, someone go get the 7” pattern – the game has evolved!

          The “rugby by KPIs” thing is by far the most annoying habit of the armchair rugby fan

          • Leinsterlion

             /  November 24, 2014

            No but that is the way it has been for for eons, there is a reason “jobs” are assigned or “fall to” certain numbers or players, you can have light variations in this with a playmaking 12 as opposed to a bosher, a light lock as opposed to a grunt, but if you dont do the basics of your position, someone else has to pick up the slack and the team suffers. More often than not said player gets found out and dropped AKA Issac Ross, brilliant/class rugby player, just not hard enough for a lock.

    • To be honest, I don’t mind the carpet bombing tactics whenever they’re done so consistently well, and I would apply that to most other gameplans. The thing that Schmidt has shown (and which Gatland is now consistently not showing) is the ability to plan for both his team’s strengths and opposition weaknesses. It’s fascinating to see.

      Obviously the kick chase style won’t beat a team like the AB’s (who let’s not forget are the team in world rugby who happen to kick the most, and yet it’s not a criticism levelled at them), but I agree with WoC and think once Schmidt has at least some line-breaking players (I felt the backrow were anonymous with ball in hand, which was disappointing given how Heaslip/Ruddock have gone recently).

      Ironically enough, my main concern with our attack is with Sexton. One thing I noticed from the SA and Australia games is that he rarely got the midfield involved in a meaningful way. If we want to succeed at the World Cup, we need to spend the 6N building rapport between Sexton and Olding/Henshaw/Payne/Madigan (and [whisper it] maybe even McCloskey?) so the backline can start challenging defences instead of challenging for high balls.

      • I dont agree that the kick chase tactic is a gameplan that feeds on Aus weakness. This is a country with Australian rules after all. They are probably the last people you want to do it to, considering their dangerous runners as well. I think it is more a tactic based on our strength (GAA) and based on the fact that we beat Australia using it, we are pretty damn good at it!

        I would still like to see more creativity in the midfield for the sake of having more options. Darcy and Henshaw are great players, but neither are too creative. Playing Olding or Madigan with either of them would be more balanced. My 1st choice would be Olding-Henshaw of course, with Madigan on the bench covering outhalf

        • Henshaw is an extremely creative player , do you watch him at Connacht , good brain , good hands and nice movement , I actually think hes very like O’Driscoll , and like O’Driscoll I think he will begin to show it early , I think hell be a star come the world cup , Mcloskey – Henshaw , long shot but Im hoping

        • CompleteBore

           /  November 24, 2014

          I’d never seen AFL being presented as a reason for the Wobblies being good in the air before. I have a feeling (without the necessary desire to actually check) that very few of these players would have played much AFL as kids. While both codes are deperately trying to break into each others traditional strongholds, the reality still seems to be most of these guys will be from NSW/QL where league and union are the main sports.

          And while everybody loves to mention Folau playing AFL, nobody seems to mention that he was bloody awful at it.

          • SportingBench

             /  November 24, 2014

            I lived out there for a while and you are right, the sporting environment is more like England were people tend to only be interested in one sport with much less crossover than you get in Ireland therefore most Rugby players will not have played much AFL at all even as kids.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  November 24, 2014

        What happens when we have to chase a game, how will playing shit rugby help us, we will have no learned patterns, no experience of it, we have not changed our basic approach since Joe took over. We might as well have thrown a wedge at Jake White as opposed to Schmidt, as I have seen nothing spectacular in our skill levels or gameplan, its intellectual Kidney rugby at its worst. I can’t be the only person waiting for us to kick up a few gears since he took over?

        As for Sexton, crap kicking, yes, but, Darce is too slow inside for him to threaten as a passer and runner. 6/10 game from him, he is a quality player so I wouldn’t worry. Get a 12 who is a threat, instruct him to vary his game outside of booting the ball and get quick ball from Murray and make a judgement then.

        • roldustyyatasil

           /  November 25, 2014

          Your dead right , although I think theres been mitigating factors as to why we havent seen more of an expansive , innovative game , except vs Alll Blacks , where I beleive we played the perfect game , end game excluded

        • osheaf01

           /  November 25, 2014

          We had that problem at Twickenham when losing 10-13 last season. Ironically, we put Average Dave in space at the death and he flunked it – no surprise there…

  9. In 2006 it was the inventive back play that did for S Africa and Australia while in 2014, Ireland’s tactics were to try and bypass the centres altogether…

    I assume Joe knew he was unlikely to get much of a cutting edge from the centre partnerships hence the aerial approach to try scoring.

  10. I’m not sure of that assessment of Zebo’s performance at all at all. Re the offload, we were 17-0 up, he took the initiative to step in at first receiver and hold in the Oz defence, he got a call from Sexton outside him who saw that a try was on if the ball came through to him, he successfully got his hands through the tackle, and he attempted the offload. It didn’t go to hand, which happens sometime with offloads. It’s a bit odd to say on the one hand that we need to develop a second dimension in attack and then criticise a player who attempted some attacking creativity when an otherwise good decision informed by good communication from the man outside him didn’t come off, and the cover defence then make an absolute meal of shutting down the opportunity created as a result. I can only presume this is the basis for the criticism because otherwise Zebo probably had his best game in green on Saturday, in particular through his enormous defensive contribution: ten out of ten tackles, including one Hickie-esque sequence of two tackles in a row and a couple of big hits based on excellent reads to shut Kuridrani down behind the gain-line. And a try which I’m not sure at least one of the identified alternatives would have had the pace to collect. I’d say he’s firmly in third in the pecking order right now, behind Bowe and Trimble, and that position is most vulnerable to Earls and Fitzgerald.

    On the forward pass try, I think the reading was that Phipps released the ball as he was being hit by a tackle at the ruck, and the backwards momentum of that tackle is what made the pass seem drastically forward. I’m not sure about the decision, but I don’t think it was cut and dried. The real problem was Ruddock’s abysmal attempt to stop Bernard Foley from two yards out: chopped the legs and fell backwards without attacking the ball at any stage. That’s unforgivable, especially from a blindside flanker on a fairly diminutive out-half.

    Other than that, the rest seems a fair assessment. The pack made 23m from 42 carries, which reflects the absence of ball carriers. Healy and O’Brien will make the biggest contribution on return in that respect, but Henderson may also push Toner for a starting spot partially on that basis. It also had an obvious knock-on impact in terms of the backs’ ability to make ground in attack. That said, D’Arcy looked particularly out of place going forward. He also missed three out of six tackles, and when Madigan looks as good as he did coming off the bench, you have to wonder if the old war-horse really can keep going. My feeling is that Madigan deserves a crack at 12 in the 6 Nations.

    The series was also revealing in the sense that it showed us that Schmidt doesn’t trust any of Kilcoyne, Ah You, or O’Donnell yet, which I think harsh on the latter, but they’re all in a good position to change his mind. Kilcoyne needs to work on his defensive positioning, which is caught out a surprising amount for a guy with a fairly simple role most of the time and mobility to compensate for it, and Ah You… Well, I guess he needs to stop missing tackles and display some aerobic fitness. The issue with O’Donnell I can’t wrap my head around, but I’m sure there is one.

    All in all, enormously encouraging. The highlight for me was O’Connell’s hit on McCalman in the 77th minute. Just titanic. With Schmidt at the helm, with a set of able deputies around him in Kiss, Easterby, and Feek (although there’s work to be done on their fronts), and on-field leaders like Sexton and O’Connell, it feels like we’ll continue progressing and this won’t prove a false dawn.

    • SportingBench

       /  November 24, 2014

      It is interesting on Zebo. I think the offload was a forgivable percentage play and I’m sure analysis of the resulting try will focus on the poor positioning and missed tackle opportunities rather than the attempted offload itself which as you say, was very nearly a spectacular try for Ireland. However I finished watching the game feeling Zebo had a very mixed day and particularly defensively appeared to step inside into the wrong place too often. However, I am no expert in that and know that other people’s poor positioning can make a defender look out of place when it is really not their fault so I would be interested to see what the more analytically capable make for his game but I think it is fair to say that he didn’t play so well to have a lot of credit in the bank for when Trimble returns or another winger develops/gets hot.

    • Definitely agree on Zebo. Liam Toland’s analysis in the IT singles him out for defensive praise, and the two-quick-tackles sequence you mention above was fantastic. Criticising the offload seems like a classic case of focusing on the outcome rather than the process, which isn’t usually Schmidt’s way. Kiss specifically said after the game that the tackles should’ve been made after the knockdown, which was my reading after the game – all due respect to Oz, but I absolutely couldn’t believe the poor quality of the tackles in that sequence from players who are usually rock solid. That would be my main worry from the game, rather than the relative lack of ideas in attack – any team that likes to offload is going to think they have a serious chance against Ireland, because too many times on Saturday they showed a total inability to adapt to passing in the tackle.

    • Bueller

       /  November 24, 2014

      Agrees with a lot of the above. As for the ‘forward pass’ thescore.ie did a good analysis of it earlier and in fairness to the referee both he and the TJ where right beside it to make a judgement : http://thescore.thejournal.ie/bernard-foley-try-ireland-australia-1795684-Nov2014/
      Also thought highly of Zebo’s performance, while the offload was not a great option, thought he put in a good shift aside.
      Pretty encouraging to beat SA ans Aus with the injury list we had but I have to agree with much of the sentiment that we were not entirely convincing throughout either game. Still though its a good place to be.
      Have to say the most annoying thing of the weekend for me was definitely the ridiculous first up missed tackles for every try conceded. The scramble defense for the first was shocking, an out-half catching receiving a hospital pass and still burrowing over our 7 with 2 a supporting defender either side and 3 one-on-one missed tackles for the third are all in-excusable if you ask me. Zebo’s offload is a clear mistake with poor judgement, but a mistake like that in attack is surely superseeded by the shocking defense that came after it

    • D6W

       /  November 24, 2014

      The issue with the offload was that it was not really on. He tried to force it and the result was disasterous. But what has not been mentioned was that he could have passed the ball before he went into contact when there was a small gap on the outside. Instead he chose to go for a gap that was not there. So it was two misjudgements in the space of a few seconds.

    • Billy

       /  November 24, 2014

      Disagree on the Zebo offload point – sure, it wasn’t the only mistake in the passage of play but, to me, it reeked of complacency – “sure we’re 17 points up, let’s have some craic”. Depending on what way you look at it, it was either a poor decision or poorly executed, or both. It was far from the worst error committed on the day but I think it sums up most people’s issue with Zebo – his willingness to take risks will cost you tries as much as it will score you tries.

      • Well he has 36 career tries for Munster and Ireland, so if you want to tot up the 36 tries he’s cost both sides, be my guest.

      • Bueller

         /  November 24, 2014

        Fair point Billy man like, it definitely was a major error, but an intercepted offload in the opposition half to me should never result in a try if the surrounding players had reacted as any international player should (hence the superseeded mention). Mistakes and turnovers happen but multiple missed tackles definitely shouldn’t. Kearney bought a pretty meagre dummy and was in two minds as to what to do, stood up and allowed a clear run to the line eventhough there was a man outside him. Best tried but was too slow to be effective. Definitely Zebo’s fault for needlessly giving away the ball but it should never have resulted in a try. I’m not seeing any chastisement for the numerous players pathetically slipping off for the 3 tries yet Zebo gets flack for an attacking attempt, purely because he is so ‘divisive’. I thought he played well in the rest of the game, but maybe I am watching with tinted glasses as I am a Munster and Zebo fan.

    • curates_egg

       /  November 25, 2014

      He made a few excellent tackles but he was positionally way off at times both in defence and when we had the ball (overrunning players). (I won’t even go into the offload but you would want to have pretty rose-tinted glasses to absolve him for that.)

      As someone who would like to see him in the mix, it would be great if the media and fans could apply some sense of balance. Lavishing praise on him for a curate’s egg performance does not help matters.

      He has come on a lot and his tackling was very good at the weekend, when he was in the right position. Both our wingers shut down try scoring opportunities. Zebo is an exciting player and I hope Schmidt can get him to knuckle down. If all our wings are fit (Bowe, Trimble, Zebo, Earls, Fitzgerald – before you get to players like Kearney and McFadden), it is a nice selection dilemma to have anyway.

      • Bueller

         /  November 25, 2014

        No-one is lavishing praise on him in fairness, just saying he played OK aside from a terrible offload, which again nobody has ‘absolved him of’ – just pointing out that to my mind it is insane to pin the try solely on him. The reason people seem to get so irked with the over-criticism of these ‘divisive’ players is that there is almost always one common denominator and that is that they are young Munster players – POM, Murray, Zebo, Kilcoyne, etc. Maybe I am overly sensitive but you don’t see the same level of reaction to players from alternate provinces (on blogs like this anyway – I will admit the Munster fans forum etc. is completely irrational).

        • curates_egg

           /  November 25, 2014

          There are even posts here (and everywhere) saying it was his best game ever and similar tripe appears in the mainstream media. If that was his best game ever, he has a long way to go still. I hope he gets there anyway.

          I think you are oversensitive to be honest. You can create a similar list of players from any province who come in for opprobrium (for Leinster, Heaslip, D’Arcy, Dave Kearney, Toner, McFadden all come in for some grief from Munster fans).

          I think where fans from other provinces have gotten chips on their shoulders is that Munster players have tended to get a pretty easy ride to Irish sides in the past and had their deficiencies glossed over. That is in nobody’s interest.

          To go back to this point, Zebo had a decent showing on Saturday but he also showed that he is still some way off being a seamless piece of the Schmidt puzzle. As someone who likes the the flair he brings to attack, I hope he can make himself a seamless piece of the puzzle. To that end, I think one-eyed praise helps neither him nor Ireland.

          • Don’t make me don my Ulster hat and talk about perceived injustices! I mean, Paddy Jackson only made number 49 in Cummiskey’s random number generator Top 50 Irish PLayer Evah *foam* *froth*

          • curates_egg

             /  November 25, 2014

            Surely Court, Wallace, Cave would be higher up the lightning rod list?
            I did not take the bait and click on the Cummiskey list. His general writing style has also gotten really a bit weird over the past 12 months…not that Dexies’ is excellent.

          • Literally no-one here said it was his best game ever, but congrats on beating up that straw man. I said it was his best game in green, but it’s not like there are that many alternative choices, given that he only has 11 caps. If you think that’s tripe, feel free to suggest other games in which he performed better. His previous game against South Africa at full-back maybe. He’s obviously had better games in red.

            As for the rest, I tend to switch off when people criticise back three players’ positioning when it’s not substantiated with, y’know, any evidence of bad positioning. I didn’t see any, and two analysts whose opinions I respect (Toland and Kinsella) both identified it as an outstanding defensive performance from him, so I feel fairly comfortable in my initial assessment.

            On an unrelated note, Paddy Jackson is one deeply unfortunate young man.

          • Bueller

             /  November 25, 2014

            ‘Munster players have tended to get a pretty easy ride to Irish sides in the past and had their deficiencies glossed over’ is a classic example.
            I am not even going to go into the relative merits of the current ‘divisive’ Munster players, the past ‘liginds’ or even the other young players from other provinces who could easily be described as benefiting from an ‘armchair ride’ to the Irish squad, as it is utterly ridiculous to believe that any international coach, no matter what province he is affiliated with would display such unprofessional bias.
            Conor Murray had to prove his credentials as the arguably the best scrum-half in Europe before people would stop bellying on about which province he was from (when incidentally the alternative player was is also from Limerick!). Peter O’Mahony still gets constantly berated relatively inexplicably (although in fairness to LeinsterLion at least he sticks by his guns and genuinely just seems to have a stringent attitude to back row necessities). etc.etc. I am not saying that these guys were the finished article from day one….but by definition that would be a paradox! Zebo is just another young player who will develop over his career and I don’t see the point in singling out his mistakes as opposed to those of others (Rob Kearney could easily be directly blamed for 2 tries with poor defensive one up tackles, Toner certainly for one and Rhys Ruddock is the only international 7 I can think of that could possibly allow Foley score that try……..but it its reductive and I don’t think an accurate reflection of the players merits as other than that I though Ruddock and Kearney were fantastic!)
            It is great that we seem to have a crop of 23-28 year olds across every province capable of stepping into the front-line Irish squad when needed and I don’t see the benefit in wanting them out or saying they are getting an ‘easy ride’,etc. They will have deficiencies but they will also have variable strengths to their game that others won’t, etc. etc..

          • seiko

             /  November 25, 2014

            Jonathan Sexton now having to defend Zebo.

            “JOHNNY SEXTON doesn’t think Simon Zebo should be criticised for an error which led to Australia’s first try on Saturday.

            Zebo’s attempted offload to Sexton in the 18th minute, with Ireland 17-0 up, was tapped down by Bernard Foley and collected by his half-back partner Nick Phipps, who scampered clear to score.

            However, Sexton believes the Munster winger’s attitude should be applauded not castigated.
            “I think you never want to take that away from a player, that instinct, if he sees the space.

            “He went into a lovely gap. I’ve seen him do it before when he’s got passes out the back. I ran into the space, because I knew he had the ability to get his hands free. On another day, it sticks and we score.

            “And we probably should have stopped it anyway. The ball bounced free and we had a couple of chances to stop them. We speak about when the ball does go loose that we kill it, and we didn’t.

            “I thought Simon had a great campaign and put his hand up going
            forward into the Six Nations. It’s great that we have such strength in depth now, especially in that position.”

  11. SportingBench

     /  November 24, 2014

    The really important improvement is Ireland now winning big games when some things go wrong and some players don’t play well. In the past Ireland had to be better than the opposition to win and now we have a chance regardless of setbacks, mistakes and refereeing mishaps. That is a real improvement. Brian Moore writes in today’s Telegraph that Ireland need to learn how to play when expected to win but I think he hasn’t been following closely enough as this autumn showed a different mentality and an expectation of winning that for SA at least, most of us fans and all the pundits have yet to share.

    The biggest difference between this year and 2006 is that it was Ireland who left experience players at home to get fit for the WC this time round whereas in 2006 both SA and Aus left a couple of players out. This year both really wanted to win but came unstuck against Ireland. Obviously they wanted to win in 2006 but the tenor of both teams that year was more about trying things out and developing promising fringe players given the squads they selected.

    Finally, it will be exciting when Healy, SOB, Henderson, Moore et al return. It will provide more impact from the bench if nothing else (in that regard anyone else worried that Ross’s superhuman efforts this autumn may finish him? Definitely took 3 for the team this autumn) but I hope they don’t automatically walk back into the team until they regain the sort of form that would make them automatic choices. I have high hopes Joe will select on current form and with a touch of horses for courses genius thrown in rather than being clouded by what a player was like a year or 18 months before injury.

    Finally, finally, is it any wonder our team are now as hard as granite when Joe Schmidt clearly asks nothing more from them than he’d give himself…

    • D6W

       /  November 24, 2014

      ” I hope they don’t automatically walk back into the team until they regain the sort of form that would make them automatic choices. I have high hopes Joe will select on current form and with a touch of horses for courses genius thrown in rather than being clouded by what a player was like a year or 18 months before injury.”

      Lookout Bench. I was castigated by WoC for suggesting the same thing re Best for the Oz game!

      • Ha! Now, come on, nobody was castigated, we just politely disagreed! 🙂

        A year or 18 months is a long time out due to injury and when it gets to that length of time there’s always an element of having to prove that you’re still the same player you were before injury. That said, Cian Healy and Sean O’Brien are two players who, if fit and available, you would have to have a very, very good reason to leave out of any team.

    • “The biggest difference between this year and 2006 is that it was Ireland who left experience players at home to get fit for the WC this time round whereas in 2006 both SA and Aus left a couple of players out.”

      This, by the way, is a point well worth noting and makes this series all the more impressive. There was always that asterisk beside the 2006 series.

      Against that, what really stood out in 2006 was just what a brilliant brand of rugby Ireland played. ROG had never stood so flat or passed so well and D’arcy was at a career peak. Neil Best looked briefly like a worldbeater! We ran in some unbelievable tries against South Africa.

      • Rava

         /  November 25, 2014

        Oh aye……. Neil Best!! What ever happened to him? 😉

  12. Riocard O Tiarnaigh

     /  November 24, 2014

    Our set pieces in the Autumn Series were nothing to write home about. We need serious improvement in that department come 6 Nations and RWC 2015. I think Zebo came out of the series with his reputation enhanced. Mucked in when necessary and gained useful experience – some negative, most positive – at Test level, which will stand to him in the future. Unless Darce can up his form in blue in the next few months I find it hard to see him making the 6 Nations squad. My own preference at 12/13 would be Olding/Henshaw. Hopefully the former can nail down said jersey for Ulster, thereby staking his claim in green. Whatever about Madigan’s usefulness as utility sub for Ireland, I think time has finally come for Matt O’Connor to install him as starting number 10 from now until the Spring. Leinster were a disaster against Treviso. Gopperth made a whole heap of mistakes. MO’C has at his disposal the best outhalf currently playing in Ireland. If he doesn’t back him in the way Joe Schmidt does – and we can all see what results that brings – then I think Leinster should get a new coach.

    • SportingBench

       /  November 24, 2014

      I wonder if Jackson can rediscover some form to help Schmidt with his options here. If Jackson is playing well (which he isn’t at the moment) then playing Madigan at 12 for Ireland is surely a more attractive option as we are as reliant on him covering 10 which he has to do currently.

      • montigol

         /  November 24, 2014

        Madigan will be probably be playing 12 next year for Leinster with Sexton’s return though, so it might make more sense for him to aim at securing that position in the long run for Ireland.

      • Riocard O Tiarnaigh

         /  November 24, 2014

        Don’t agree there bench. I want to see Madigan playing at ten for Leinster as he’s currently the best replacement, should anything happen to Sexton. All this discussion about his abilities at 12 detract from his primary function/usefulness to Leinster and Ireland. There are enough other centres – Payne, Olding etc. – to fill out the 12 jersey, if Darce’s race is run. Joe Schmidt wants depth in all positions. The best way to achieve at that at 10 is for Madigan to play regularly and in the big matches for his province in that position. End of the discussion!!!! I don’t to hear anymore about Madigan at 12 from Matt O’Connor or anybody else!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • “Our set pieces in the Autumn Series were nothing to write home about.”

      Indeed. Our scrum was always going to be up against it with the prop injuries we had and Rosser’s lack of gametime before the series. I guess it just about held up; now there’s a familiar story.

      There’s no reason for Ireland’s lineout to have been so shaky though, especially with both Ruddock and O’Mahony selected, as it give us no less than four outstanding lineout catchers.

      • SportingBench

         /  November 24, 2014

        Not an expert but to the naked eye the lineout problem appeared to be that the lifting was so labourious that the opposition had time to look, see where the ball was going and get their own jumper up in the air. Surely the timing of the whole thing and efficiency of the lift can be worked on particularly in camp in the run up to the WC if not before.

    • col

       /  November 24, 2014

      here here!

  13. Billy

     /  November 24, 2014

    People need to decide whether they want aesthetics or results. We simply don’t have the players to outplay an NZ, Australia or SA. Look at our outside backs – outside of possibly Tommy Bowe, is there one outside back who would make an Aus, SA or NZ team? I would firmly say no.

    Madigan or Olding at 12 is not the answer as the issue is more fundamental than having a 12 with good distribution skills – firstly you need to create overlaps to exploit and we do not have the size and power to do this against top tier countries. Olding showed against Toulon that physically he is not at the level required to be an international 12. Under Schmidt, I would expect McCloskey to be capped at 12 before Olding. Why pick a 12 for their creativity and distribution when the gameplan has no role for that? And why evolve a gameplan when it plays against our strengths?

  14. A lot of comments on Zebo – thanks everyone. Maybe we came across a bit harsh, and don’t want to be too down on him because we like Zebo a lot, but we were looking at it from the perspective of Zebo really needing to put down a marker to show Schmidt he is the player he’s looking for. He did plenty of good things, including one great defensive read late in the first half, but on the series as a whole I’m not sure he’s done enough. If I was a betting man, I’d have Trimble and Bowe down as Ireland’s starters if everyone was fit.

    • I think a lot of it will boil down to who has the better provincial form that Joe’s looking for. Trimble has earned credit from the 6N and Argentina tour, while Zebo has earned credit from the Tour and Autumn. Only Joe knows at the end of the day, and while Zebo didn’t regularly set the pitch on fire, he did take most of his chances and didn’t ever really get himself caught out (except for the offload and kick into Speight).

      On reputations alone, I’d probably agree with you WoC, but I wouldn’t be putting money on it!

    • D6W

       /  November 24, 2014

      I think you were right the first time. Zebo showed world class pace to score the try, but the othe aspects of his game were poor. And while he may now be working hard enough on the aspects of his game to convince Joe to pick him for the AI, are the outcomes any different? For example, now that he does bother to hit rucks and chase kicks, is he effective doing it. Sadly I would say no, not at the moment. And while he does now tackle (10 tackles, really???), his technique is pretty poor from the ones I saw.

      PS Gavin C. in the IT gave him a player rating of 8, while giving Sexton a 7! How is that possible???

      • No change of view, just wanted to offer some context.

        Man, Cummiskey can be just baffling at times.

        Yeah, I agree with you on Zeebs. I think the issue is that some of his errors (for example the offload that led to his try) are so exactly the opposite of what Schmidt would have wanted him to do that they became glaring. As I understand it, Schmidt’s mantra is high-tempo, low error rugby, and to be conseravtive on 50-50 plays. Zebo’s offload falls into the category of an expensive wrong-headed decision. It was the same flick against Georgia, it just looked like the sort of thing that explained why Schmidt didn’t pick him in the first place. But he did some good stuff too.

        • I don’t think that type of attitude is a Schmidt thing so muach as a NZ thing. After the Connacht game Friday night Mils Muliaina must have said the phrase “no 50-50s” about 4 times in his interview. Whereas Toner and POM will get pulled up fir missed tackles in the leadup to the Oz tries, Zebo will likely shoulder most of the blame on 2 on the tries for forcing it and turning over the ball.

        • Stephen

           /  November 25, 2014

          Although I agree with the view that Zebo’s offload was the wrong decision, it really has to be acknowledged – Sexton was calling for that offload. In the replay you can see him running the trail-for-offload line and screaming for the ball. If you have Jonny Sexton making a 50-50 call for you on the pitch, you’re probably gonna do it (indeed, you’d be castigated if you didn’t). I’ve no doubt Sexton would acknowledge as much in the review sessions.

          You can also see in the replay that, as Zebo moves to make the offload, there is an Aussie defender quite simply square in between Zebo and Sexton, and Zebo had time to “cancel” the offload. So still a poor call.

          Currently, Zebo has to beat one of Bowe, Trimble or Dave Kearney to be in the Irish 23, and must beat 2 of them to get in the starting 15. I don’t see that happening yet.

          • seiko

             /  November 25, 2014

            WOC, in a discussion on management, leadership etc. on The Business programme last Saturday morning, Frankie Sheahan told the story about a Joe Schmidt video analysis session where they were reviewing a turnover where Gordon Darcy had thrown a poor pass to Drico. Schmidt turned to Drico and said to him apparently, Brian, you could have done better on getting the pass as a world class player. Drico accepted the criticism and agreed he could have done better.

            From that I take it that the 3 musketeers with the mistackles might be in for a grilling.

          • Kelly Peters

             /  November 25, 2014

            I didn’t realise Zebo had the advantage of being able to use slow motion replays to make decisions on the rugby pitch.

      • This is comical stuff. He bothers to chase kicks now, does he? I must have imagined him being Munster’s most effective kick chaser off restarts for the last three years, or dominating Rob Kearney in the air in the Aviva last season. He hits more rucks than any other outside back against South Africa, so we move on to the question of just how effectively he’s resourcing those rucks. Dave Kearney would have prevented the Foley try by ploughing through the ruck beforehand and winning a turnover single-handedly I’m sure. He makes ten out of ten tackles, including twice wrapping Tevita Kuridrani, one of the most dangerous 13s in world rugby, and bringing him to ground about ten metres behind the gain line and there’s caviling about his technique. You couldn’t make up how wedded people are to their narrative of Zebo.

        As for Sexton’s rating, he was probably a 7 because his garryowens, the mainstay of our game plan, were crap for much of the game. A little harsh, but he repeatedly made bad mistakes in that respect, where the guy you’re pillorying made one, so I guess I can see where he’s coming from.

        • I don’t think Zebo’s work rate can be in question this series, he’s always been a good chaser. It’s just his decision making at times is a little wayward. For the record, we’ve always liked Zebo and wanted him in the team last year, and would still like to see him in or around the team.

          If he can improve his weaknesses he obviously has that top end speed that none of our other players can match.

        • I actually agree with that , He had a good performance , no doubt , but is a better player than Trimble? Hard to know I think , for me Id say Trimble , and lets not forget the massively underated D.Kearney , that guy is going to be brilliant.

          • seiko

             /  November 24, 2014

            SA & Australia are a bit more challenging than any 6Ns country, so its not an even playing field when comparing Trimble in the 6Ns and Zebo in the AIs. Zebo was one of the standout players on the Argentinian tour (with Ruddock). Trimble will be judged v Bowe for the right wing as that is the wing he performs best on. Neither Bowe or Trimble perform as well on the left wing. Zebo’s competition for the left win will be Fitz & Kearney (if they both can get fit).

            Henshaw looks like a fullback playing centre, great in the air etc., but he missed a lot of tackles at the weekend (along with Darcy doing the same) – Zebo had his work cut out for him defensively outside those two and I think he passed that one fairly well with his 10 successful tackles. Just for the record, Liam Toland is congratulating him in the IT for his great decision making.

            As for Henshaw – he is definitely a work in progress. He was well minded by those around him, but Ireland’s attack is not going to be much use with 2 centres who don’t pass. In the combined no. of passes made by the centres v. Aus – Ireland Centres: 3. Australia Centres 32.

          • osheaf01

             /  November 24, 2014

            “Zebo’s competition for the left win will be Fitz & Kearney (if they both can get fit).”

            Earls. If he ever gets fit again…or Gilroy, then Fitz.
            Average Dave isn’t a remote relative of a Test winger.

          • Lop12

             /  November 25, 2014

            Whatever else Dave Kearney is he aint underrated!!

            He has 15 tries for Leinster in 72 appearances (60 starts). NONE in the European cup. 2 in 7 for Ireland (vs. Samoa). Average of one in every 5 games, playing for a Leinster team which rampaged through most competitions they played in for most of his time in the squad. One in every 4.65 games.

            Zebo by comparison has 36 in 84 appearances (club and international) including 5 international tries and 11 at European cup level. During a period when Munster were (apparently) rebuilding!

            Trimble has 80 in 245 appearances (16 international tries, cant see immediately how many EC on the Ulster site).

            Now I am all for resourcing rucks and working hard off the ball. But you still, as a winger, need to get your share of tries. So whilst Dave Kearney is a decent player no doubt about it, I personally don’t think all the workload in the world compensates long term for a lack of scores as a winger. So whilst he may be rated, I don’t think he is underrated!!!!

        • D6W

           /  November 24, 2014

          OK, I take your point on Sexton. But he gave Murray and Kearney 7 as well, and they did nothing wrong on the day. Not to mention he gave Henshaw a 6!

          As for Zebo, I will take your word for it that he is doing all these great things for Munster. The Munster matches I have seen him in he appears disinterested. Personally, I would say Conway is a more effective winger for Munster at the moment. But hey, if Munster fans are happy with Zebo, fine. You think he can dominate Rob Kearney in the air, fine.

          But in the green shirt, he does not hit rucks, he joins them a best. And as for his tackle stats, he must have got credit for double hits, because no way did he make 10 clean hits on Saturday. As for his kick chase, Yes,he certainly does chase up with intent now, but I don’t think he is any more effective.

          • There’s really no defending Cummiskey’s product in the Times I’m afraid. I was just pointing out that Sexton was not flawless to the extent that one would be shocked that he was outperformed by someone else in the side.

            As for the rest, I don’t think there’s any point responding as it’s nonsense all the way through. Your notion that he does things in a “disinterested” (sic) fashion says more about how you view his game than it does about his game.

    • I think how well you think Zebo played at the weekend is largely influenced by what you already thought of him. The off load was a obviously wrong call but I don’t think it would have gotten the same level of scrutiny if someone else had thrown it. As discussed he was good defensively and is very much in the mould of the player Schmidt wants. However you do seem to have lost a little something in that process. At one point in the second half there was a moment where he could have put the burners on and tried to scorch his man on the outside but instead cut inside to take the ball into contact. You could very much see him make the decision to do, it was probably the safer option so & it’s clearly plan but I do wonder if, particularly given our running game & line breaks are probably the area of most concern, by moulding a player to fit into the larger scheme of things better, you’ve diminished his capacity as a game-changer.

      I note he’s abandoned his try scoring celebration as well, no doubt to the joy of many. Talk about a mountain out of a molehill!

      • The great philosophical debate of team sports: The X-factor Player vs. The Cult of the Coach.

        Reading your post (specifically: “by moulding a player to fit into the larger scheme of things better, you’ve diminished his capacity as a game-changer”) it occurred to me that while Saint Joe may give us a good shot at a world cup win, and while is almost unquestionably the best coach in the world, he’s really a well-mannered Jose Mourinho, isn’t he?

        In which case Zebo will do well to make the squad, never mind the team…

      • D6W

         /  November 24, 2014

        Why is it OK to criticise Chris Ashton for his celebrations, and give Zebo a free pass on his? You may say it is making a mountain out of a molehill, but I say it is a blatent disrespect for your opposition and the traditions of the game. Say what you will about BNZ, but they always respect the game and the opposition, and you will never see an AB make a crass try celebration. If you did, you would never see that AB again.

        Anyway, I am glad Zebo seems to have given up on it. And you are probably correct in that how we saw Zebo’s play at the weekend is coloured by what we already thought of him. I have never been convinced by him, and I am yet to be. Not to say I won’t come around, but it seems he is becoming the new post-Earls’s Munster ause célèbre.

        • seiko

           /  November 24, 2014

          Chris Ashton is showing off/celebrates scoring a try (on his own) before he actually scores!

          Zebo celebrates (usually with his team mates) after he does it.

          • Thanks Seiko. If Ashton wants to re-inact Pavlova’s Dying Swan after he’s grounded the ball then godspeed. It’s a specious comparison in my opinion. I don’t think that showing a sliver of personality amid a sea of indentikit players is automatically arrogant or disrespectful

            I don’t really buy your All-Blacks comparison either to be honest. How is the haka, and the lack of response mandated, respecting your opposition? Or indeed O’Driscoll’s infamous spear tackle and the subsequent player and media reaction. I’m not saying they’re better or worse than anyone else but you’ve roped them in there for some reason so it bears looking at.

            And as much as I love Joe Schmidt I’ve yet to see him rock a well-tailored overcoat as well as Jose! But on balance I’ll take the version we have!

        • Kelly Peters

           /  November 24, 2014

          How’s the view from up there on mount pious? I agree that no All Black would ever do something so crass as celebrate a try in such a manner.

          http://static2.stuff.co.nz/1339275515/663/7074663_600x400.jpg

          Well maybe Adam “You can’t see me” Thomson can do his WWE thing. And he’s been shipped off to Japan anyway.

          http://sp.imgci.com/PICTURES/CMS/21000/21028.jpg

          And that Israel Dagg’s a well known ejit. He’s always causing trouble

          Conrad Smith’s only got 85 caps so it doesn’t count.

          Like I mean what sort of ejit would make some silly gesture with his hands after scoring a try?

          • I think I might frame this

          • Outstanding.

          • D6W

             /  November 25, 2014

            The view is fine from here thanks. And if taking the ethos of the game of respecting your opponents seriously makes me a recidivist, I’m ok with that.

          • On Drico, the story behind the big O is amazing. If you haven’t read his autobiography you really do need to.

          • Kelly Peters

             /  November 25, 2014

            I actually like the ethos of respecting your opponent. I agree totally if it’s going to a stick that you use to beat all players with and not just ones you dislike. Just pointing out that our opinions of players/teams are often bias. Non-Munster fans seem to dislike Zebo and that plays into their opinions of him as a player and exaggerates things like his celebration. Cian Healy used to/still does his celebration numerous occassions and I never heard a peep out of Leinster fans but when I went home to Munster all my mates there would give out about it. And now with Zebo it’s vice-versa.

            And tran I’ve read the Drico book (what self respecting rugby fan hasn’t) and agree that the story behind the celebration is great. I remember all the intrigue behind it at the time too. Gas stuff

      • D6W

         /  November 25, 2014

        “I note he’s abandoned his try scoring celebration as well, no doubt to the joy of many. Talk about a mountain out of a molehill!”

        Btw, if it really is a mountain out of a molehill, then why has he actually stopped doing it? Is it
        a. Because he has caved in to the traditionalists who don’t like it
        b. Because he himself might now see a problem with it
        c. Because his teammates don’t like it
        d. any other reason?

        If he really believes there is no problem with it, then why has he stopped doing it?

        • I never said he thought it was making a mountain out of a molehill. I have no idea what he believes & I’m not devoting a bullet point comment to hypothesising on what that might be because I don’t know. I think it’s a mountain out of a molehill, not unlike the fact you’ve devoted a number of comments to my two sentence remark.

          • Also I think the point raised was that you’re selectively “taking the ethos seriously” rather than across the board.

          • D6W

             /  November 25, 2014

            As for selectively applying the ethos, certainly the Kelly post proves that maybe some AB have made crass (IMO) try celebration..Don’t want to give BOD a free pass, althongh his is more a weird signal than a “look at the great me” celebration. But I am happy to go on record to say I don’t like it, no matter who does it. If a Leinster player does it, I will be first to condemn it.

            You certainly contributed more to the debate than 2 sentences IE Dying Swan etc. But I venture to say it is tiresome now for both of us, we will have to agree to disagree. As we clearly do on the merits of Zebo as a player, which is the more important debate. But hey, if he can score as many international tries as Conrad Smith…

            .

        • Lop12

           /  November 25, 2014

          Hes already well on his way to matching Smiths try scoring exploits at international level; run rate of one in every 2.2 games vs Smith one in every 3.4 games 🙂

          • D6W

             /  November 25, 2014

            Who knew Smuddy less effective than Zebo. I take it all back 🙂

        • Kelly Peters

           /  November 25, 2014

          Come on D6W your really taking this a bit far. To your points I highly doubt –

          – he’s sitting at home wondering what traditionalists on blogs such as this are saying about him
          – that he thought his celebration was a “problem” that would hold back his career
          – that his teammates would say “look Zebs we know you’ve scored 31 tries for us but can you lay off the celebration”

          I would like to posit that maybe he stopped doing it because he woke up one day, realised that he was 24 years old and looked like a twat doing it and decided it was time to stop doing it.

  15. On Zebo – I was watching on Sky as my stream for the RTE player was very jumpy. The commentator (Mark Robson I believe) was all over Zebo any time there was a hint of an error. It was kind of weird – Quinlan was in co-commentary and seemed a bit bemused as Robson continuously referred to the attempted offload through all the replays of that try. Then in the 2nd half Sexton popped a pass to him he wasn’t expecting and it bounced off him, causing a turnover and Aussie scrum. “That’s what Joe Schmidt will look at it isn’t it Alan?” he said it almost gleefully. I’m sure Schmidt will look at the offload, but similarly I’d hope he’ll praise Zebo for he tackling and decision making he showed in defence.

    Presuming Trimble comes back from injury and picks up where he left off, I don’t think anyone will argue that Trimble and Bowe are our starting wingers. In that respect yes, I don’t think Zebo did enough to this series. But that’s more an indication that Trimble was our best player of the 6 Nations – to displace him Zebo would have had to do everything he did, as well as the offload coming off, and more besides.

    • Robson’s a terrible commentator and gave Zebo an unneccessarily very hard time. Mind you Quinlan is as biased, just in a different direction (e.g. when POM completely missing his man he “fell off that tackle a bit”).

      • seiko

         /  November 24, 2014

        POM made 17 tackles (missing 1). Ireland’s top tackler and you think Quinlan should be laying into him? What did Quinlan say about the fiasco between Best, Toner & Kearney for Phipps’ try?

        • Hey – I’ve no axe to grind here, and certainly not against POM, he had a great game. I was merely making the point that *both* Robson and Quinlan were verging on comical in their inability to speak bad of their respective provincial compatriots.

          For the record, I can’t recall what Quinlan said about the Phipps try but I’m fairly sure Robson exculpated Best of guilt.

          Anyway, so long as everyone missed Henshaw’s chip to nowhere I’m happy.

          • seiko

             /  November 24, 2014

            So Quinlan didn’t berate the defence lapse where there were no Munster players involved. That sound more like an even handed approach to criticism to all the players rather than showing any provincial bias to Munster. Robson is different though about Ulster.

  16. On the game itself, and the series as a whole, I’m just impressed with our resilience. It’s a “next man up” attitude which is fantastic to see. Chris Henry pulls out – Ruddock steps in. It’s seamless and testament to the preparation and trust that is placed in these players to understand their role and what is expected of them.

    It wasn’t always pretty but I would argue playing these types of games will stand to us a lot more in the knockouts of RWC than being expansive will.

  17. col

     /  November 24, 2014

    agree with most of what has been said about our limited game plan but the thing we, as fans, craved above all 24 month ago was some bloody consistency from the players in green from game to game. we now have that! the last time we got something like it was 09 and that was with an infinitely more reductive game plan.
    also completely agree that joe’s biggest worry will be the second quarter when we completely lost the plot, im not too critical of what zebo did as the whole team seemed think we would finish them off by the break.

    a few other thoughts from the series:
    – ross worryingly seems to be approaching bull hayes’ level of importance to the team
    – murray. what a player
    – set piece has gone backwards a bit under easterby, is that unfair to say?
    – henshaw seems to make some excellent decisions, something i was keen to watch this series and delighted with.

    • ‘agree with most of what has been said about our limited game plan but the thing we, as fans, craved above all 24 month ago was some bloody consistency from the players in green from game to game. we now have that! the last time we got something like it was 09 and that was with an infinitely more reductive game plan’ Nailed it.
      By the by, this is a great and educational blog on Rugby but even on here the provincial squabbling is becoming downright tedious, even if it’s nothing on a par to other sites, can we please treat players in international matches as first and foremost Irish and be done with the provincial(in both senses of the word) crap.

    • curates_egg

       /  November 25, 2014

      Isn’t Feek still the scrum coach? Hardly Easterby’s fault anyway. Given the personnel hasn’t really changed, and Feek is highly rated, we will need another scapegoat I think.

      I have never been a fan of Toner in the scrums and I think you notice a difference when he is not scrummaging. Is that mitigated by his lineout work? Certainly, the lineout woes had nothing to do with him. I wonder if he will start the 6 Nations though. Apart from the 2 European games for Leinster, he has looked middling at best. With Henderson back and Foley looking the real deal, he should be shifting on his seat anyway.

      • Scrumdog

         /  November 25, 2014

        Has it not been the way of the world to put your best scrummaging Lock (and usually the heaviest/bulkiest) at 5 pushing on the Tight head? Think… Brad Thorn. Our primary Locks are very long and narrow in the torso. When Touhy or McCarthy are available to starti or inserted from the bench POC should probably shift over to the Loose head side. Take a trip back to the NZ summer tour 2012 and we gave NZ a torrid time in the scrums…and POC missed that tour. It was O’Callaghan and Touhy in the engine room. Our pack lacks some bulk behind Ross to make our scrum better..not being critical of POC here but the need to improve our scrum.

        • I like it call the tighthead lock number 4, just because bakkies wore it. I know South Africa do it that way round and I know tighthead locks existed before him, but it just feels like he defined the position until his recent international retirement. A bit like the ‘the makelele role.’

      • D6W

         /  November 26, 2014

        Agree. A scrum always feels a bit unbalanced when there is a big height difference between the 2 second rows. I imagine the professionals have ways around this ,but…

        Anyway, it seems that we have waited a long time at Leinster for Toner to reach his potential, and maybe some of us are slightly sceptical now that he seems first choice at Ireland. I am still not convinced that what he brings to the lineout makes up for the some of the lesser facets of his game. But to be fair to him, the visible work he seems to put in around the pitch has definitely stepped up in last 2 seasons.

        • Scrumdog

           /  November 26, 2014

          Toner makes a lot of tackles, usually a double digit count, hits rucks and is good in the line out for the obvious reason but only won two on Saturday. I think it will serve Ireland better when all of our test players in the Schmidt stable have fully assimilated to his methods and he can select in form ‘horses for courses’..depending who the opposition is. Most will agree that the series sweep was brilliant despite such an injury list and proves Ireland now have solid depth but for one or two positions. The front row depth has to be a concern and so Moore and possibly James Cronin need a couple of 6N games from the bench? Taking a backward step to an Aussie scrum was the pits, our maul was rendered pretty useless and our line out was a shambles. Cheika did his work.

  18. Yossarian

     /  November 25, 2014

    Wow,late checking out the blog and there are 120 comments and it appears zebo is the new POM! Now that POM hit double figures for tackle count that has been put to bed!
    Great autumn,Henshaw what a find.
    Are Ireland Argentina 2007?kick chase. Disappointing no evolution of our attacking game and I’m not sure we can keep blaming sob absence for it. Eagerly await the 6 nations!

    • POM felt like a geniune debate about what one could expect their blindside flanker to bring to the game, and fed into a whole other range of gripes that people had about the Deccie team.

      Zebo feels like more of a storm in a teacup – we wanted him in the team in the Six Nations ahead of DK, and everyone seems to be agreed he has a lot to offer. Its just it doesn’t feel like he played like a Schmidt winger in this series.

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