T Minus 400 – Part One

Following the November series / Autumn internationals / over-marketed “Irish” drink owned by London-based multinational series, Ireland now have the following games left on their pre-RWC schedule:

  • 5 Six Nations games (Italy, France, England, Wales, Scotland)
  • The Barbarians in the Debt Star in May
  • four World Cup warm-ups (Wales x 2, Scotland, England)

Ignoring the money-spinner in Thomond, and taking the reasonable case that Joe Schmidt will have his RWC15 squad close to finalised before the warm-ups, that gives Ireland’s players 400 minutes to cement their place in the squad .. or not, in some cases. We can’t, of course, ignore that possibility that someone will play themselves out of the squad in August, as did the unfortunate Tomas O’Leary four years ago, but then again it’s unlikely Joe Schmidt will persist for someone so badly out of form for so long that it becomes feasible. What is more likely, given the attrition rate in general, and even for the well-managed Irish players in recent years – only Jamie Heaslip of the notional first XV has avoided injury in Schmidt’s time – is that certain players will need to prove their fitness in the warm-ups. But that’s an unknown. For now, anyway. And the warm-ups themselves might result in injuries – Wally, and then Jirry (in training) were casualties in 2011.

It seems a good time to review what the composition of that squad might look like – and there is very little scope for experimentation left, so it’s unlikely we’ll see many changes from here (injuries, as ever, excepted)

This time out, the RWC squad will be 31, with the extra player presumably designed to be a tighthead prop – 23 man matchday squads in international rugger are an innovation from this cycle. In the three previous World Cups, Ireland have gone for splits of 17-13 (2003) and 16-14 (2007 & 2011). A working assumption of a split of 17-14 seems like a good starting point. Based on previous picks, we can expect the following:

  • 3 hookers
  • 5 props (1 more than in 2007 and 2011)
  • 4 second rows
  • 5 backrows (note: do not need all to be specialist blindsides)
  • 3 scrummies
  • 2 fly halves
  • 3 centres
  • 4 wingers
  • 2 full backs

While some Irish players, particularly in the backline, are multi-functional in nature, they are not necessarily viewed as Swiss army knives by the coach. For example, while Mad-dog might provide bench cover in several positions, most indications from Schmidt are that he is seen primarily as a fly-half. Equally, Ferg has played centre for Ireland (most recently in Argentina) and provided bench cover for centre during the Six Nations, but was used exclusively as a wing in Schmidt’s final season at Leinster, and started his 8 tests prior to Tucuman on the wing. It feels unlikely that he’ll fall into the centre bucket, but is really a wing who can cover centre if necessary.

Let’s have a look:

Hooker: Besty and Sean Cronin are miles ahead of the pack and are on the plane – Besty is a key lieutenant on the team, valued for his work in the scrum and at rucks; and Cronin is a very different player, an excellent carrier who offers dynamism, if not quite the same technical attributes as Best. Both players are prone to the yips – there was genuine surprise when Cronin, the hooker, was able to … er … hook effectively against the Boks; and Besty’s radar has the habit of going down for games at a time – even resulting in his omission from the original 2013 Liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiions squad. After that, Risteard O hOstrais is next in line, and had a good November series coming back from injury. Damien Varley stepped in for Jirry in 2011, and he’s the most Best-like replacement – questionable throwing, good scrummager and brilliant breakdown merchant. He’s injured right now, but could be in the mix. With Mike Sherry’s perma-injury problems showing no sign of abating, Rob Herring, who did well in Argentina, hs some credit in the bank but has been a marginal figure at Ulster this season. One bolter is Duncan Casey, whose lineout stats this year are exceptional.  He didn’t even make November’s training squad – but it’s early days for him and Ireland’s lineout wasn’t any great shakes this series, so his throwing could make him a valuable option.  If he keeps on playing like he is, he could come into the reckoning.  But currently, all signs point towards Best, Cronin and Strauss.

On the plane: Besty, Cronin. Most likely for final seat: Strauss Also in the picture: Varley, Casey, Herring, Sherry

Prop: The flogging of Mike Ross continues unabated – he’s started every game under Joe Schmidt, and his importance of the team is illustrated by the 80 minutes he played against the Wobblies. However, it’s worth noting that the next two best tightheads were injured, and by all accounts the plan was to reduce his workload until injury stepped in. Rodney Ah Here was his backup both in Argentina and this November but, if fit, Marty Moore should be the number two to Ross. Of the other options, Nathan White had been pencilled in for Ah Here’s role until he got crocked, Deccie Fitz might be the best scrummager in Ireland (bar none) but struggles for 20 minute shifts these days, and Stephen Archer is behind Ah Here, which isn’t saying much. On the other side, DJ Church and Jack McGrath are on the plane.  It could be Schmidt picks two specialist tightheads and uses McGrath as the filler inner in case of tighthead emergencies. Dave Kilcoyne had a good series and has probably put some clear blue water between himself and James Cronin at international level – even if Cronin out-wrestles him by the end of the year, Schmidt will put some value on his being involved in the camp up to this point.

On the plane: Ross, Moore, Healy, McGrath Most likely for final seat: Killer Also in the picture: Cronin, White, Ah Here, Archer, Fitzpatrick

Second Row: The incumbents are the mighty, manic Paul O’Connell and the ever-improving Devin Toner – this pair are on the plane. Next up, its Iain Henderson, the new Willie John McBride. Henderson is laid up having taken elective surgery to be in prime nick for the RWC – taking one of Ulster’s best players out for 4 ERC games, when the backups are average, shows his importance to Ireland. We expect Henderson to slot straight into the Six Nations 23, and perhaps even start a game – Henderson still likely has bulking out to do, but, of Irish locks of the same height (198cm) he is already 6kg heavier than Dave Foley (4 years older), 1kg heavier than Dan Tuohy (7 years older) and 2kg heavier than O’Connell (13 years older). And all that while being the best ball carrier in the unit, and a skillful and influential player already. The kid is a phenomenon. The last place is a shootout between that aforementioned Foley and Tuohy, the possibly sometime returning Donnacha Ryan and the slowly sagging Mike McCarthy. If Ryan comes back from injury the player he was 3 years ago, he’s red hot favourite – at this stage however, the question seems to be if he comes back at all, not what type of player he comes back as. McCarthy has been slowly regressing since that performance against the Boks two years ago, and appears unlikely to reverse that career graph. Dan Tuohy was unfortunate (in our view) to miss out on the RWC11 squad, and offers something that the others don’t – good hands and a handy eye for the tryline. However, Foley feels like he is a nose ahead right now – if he keeps up this seasons form, he is favourite. You would have a slight qualm about dropping him in against the big second rows Italy and France like to field – Will Skelton treated him like a speedbump on Saturday – but he’s 4th choice, hopefully that won’t be necessary.

On the plane: O’Connell, Toner, Henderson Most likely for final seat: Foley or Tuohy Also in the picture: Ryan, McCarthy

Back Row: At one point, we seemed like we  might have a mighty fight over the last slot in this unit, but if we bring five players, it looks like we know who they are. Rhys Ruddock was our best player in the Argentina tour, and stepped into the stricken Chris Henry’s shoes with aplomb, putting in two excellent displays against two very tough (and different) opponents. He appears to have put himself in an excellent position to be on the plane. And speaking of Henry, if he comes back from a frightening brain injury, he’s likely to travel as well – Henry is one of the very few players than Joe Schmidt has specifically tailored a gameplan for (the 2012 HEC final) and was a huge influence in the Six Nations. But little can be taken for granted with such a serious condition; Ulster have said they are ‘hopeful he will return to professional rugby’, so it’s a case of fingers crossed for now.  Moving on to more clear-cut matters: Jamie Heaslip – he’s in, and Peter O’Mahony – he’s in too. Which leaves one of the few world class players in our ranks – Sean O’Brien. If fit, he is most certainly not only going, but playing. But he’ll have been out for so long, he will have to show that he’s capable of being the same player as previously.  So assuming the best for our two injured men, that’s the five – simples. Now, this is a very tough and attritional position, so, to be frank, we’d be pleasantly surprised if we get to September with all five ready to play. So hope remains for the rest. Of those, Jordi Murphy, backup during the Six Nations, is probable first reserve. Another in contention would be Tommy O’Donnell, who looks close to his form of 2013, although not making it off the bench against Oz didn’t speak volumes to the coaches confidence in him. Robbie Diack has had a steady start to his international career, albeit an unspectacular one – to be frank, it’s difficult to see us winning the tournament if we are this far down the depth chart. Dom Ryan and Robin Copeland, a genuine number 8, saw gametime in November too, and got some good reviews, but both are likely to be thinking about provincial starts before the World Cup is in their mind.

On the plane: Heaslip, O’Mahony, Ruddock Fitness permitting: O’Brien, Henry Also in the picture: Murphy, O’Donnell, Diack, Ryan, Copeland

So that’s the forwards, and, of the 17 slots up for grabs, we reckon 14 are pretty much decided, injuries allowing. That’s a pretty good and stable base to be building from. Our eyes and brains are getting tired now, so we’ll be back tomorrow with the backs, where we have a bit more uncertainty.  We have question marks at inside centre, and wing is a position where there is scope to take form into account a little more, plus we have two giant elephants in the selectorial room – no, not Ah Here and Deccie Fitz, but Keith Earls and Luke Roysh – their performances could range anywhere between ‘never play again this season’ or ‘break into the Ireland team’ – we simply have no idea. But we’ll talk more about that tomorrow.

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64 Comments

  1. All very sensible and reasonable, which means the comments may be a bit more… subdued than the last post.

    Apparently the news is good on Donnacha Ryan, but given the earliest he’s projected to be back (on the basis of the most recent official source) is the end of January, he’ll have to really blow the doors off on his return to get back in the picture. He’s capable of doing that because he was apparently in excellent condition in all respects apart from the weird toe injury he had, but it’s still a big ask. Joe does seem to have great time for him, though, so that’s something.

    • Yeah – its been very frustrating – he can do everything but scrummage

      • …or call lineout.

        • seiko

           /  November 26, 2014

          Didn’t Ryan call the lineouts when POC was out injured for Ireland when POC was out. He was certainly doing it for Munster.

          • When he was paired with DOC, pretty sure he called

          • He did yeah. Ryan is an outstanding lineout analyst. The following from Schmidt back in March:

            “The wider group, again, contributed massively. There’s a number of them that you’d mention but I’d probably leave someone out. Someone I would mention is Donnacha Ryan who came in for the last two weeks. He had one full game of rugby but took over running the opposition line-out preparation and was phenomenally good at it.”

      • aoifehamill

         /  November 26, 2014

        Ha – I don’t know, I’m sure there’s something to fight about.

        The moron who sits behind me at Ireland matches is constantly giving out about Toner. Even in fact when he’s not on the pitch (beginning of the Georgia match he was giving out about Toner screwing something up). I don’t know is this an isolated case but he doesn’t seem to have a great reputation with the greater rugby-viewing public despite having become in the last few years a very good player (in my opinion at least).

        Really good post anyway – I know this doesn’t add much to the comment section but hey, everyone likes good feedback…

        • D6W

           /  November 26, 2014

          Maybe it is because Leinster fans have been following Toner for a long time before he has broken through for Ireland. During that time he had a real ball handling problem IE he couldn’t catch a cold.

          His hands are abbsolutely better now, but I stll can’t help having an Ohno moment when I see the ball being passed to him.

          • Toner’s tackling is the main worry with him, in my view. Great at the choke in tight, close quarters, very bad reactions if a guy is coming at him at pace.

          • Kelly Peters

             /  November 26, 2014

            @rmkf Unfortunately I think the tackling issue is more of a size issue than a technical issue which is a pity. The perks of being 8ft tall.

        • The real question is, out of everyone, how could you not be clear as to whether Toner’s on the pitch or not? He’s bulked out & is now even more unmissable.

          I had three guys behind me constantly giving out about Quade Cooper’s antics in the 1st half last week. I have no idea who they were looking at. They also referred to James O’Connor as “that guy, Fitz something, he was great, pity he fell out with them.”

          • aoifehamill

             /  November 26, 2014

            I love it. Yep, difficult to miss Toner alright. Same guy was extolling why he would pick Madigan over Sexton… And gives out for us “kicking it away again” when clearing from our own line. GAH!

            I’m sure the people who sit in front of me think I’m completely charming and wise on rugby matters of course!

        • Leinsterlion

           /  November 26, 2014

          For years toner was way too light for his height, couldnt ruck, was an awful carrier and really just seemed like a tall guy who was good at lineouts by virtue of being tall. Two years ago I would have bet on him being bottom of the pile in terms of Leinster locks(never mind international), did not rate him, but credit to him, he has improved out of sight. I still reckon he has a bit to go, and could add more mass, his frame can handle it.

          • Yeah I always thought McCarthy bulking up was the ruin of him & Healy talk about putting of 5 kg & dropping it again cos it affected his mobility but it’s definitely improved Toner’s game, along with a lot of graft on every aspect I’m sure & he could probably take more. Which is crazy when you look at him now!

  2. Hard to believe that killer is ahead of Cronin when he also wasn’t trusted off the bench against aus. And joe has tried McGrath at th multiple times in the past and it had never worked. Ross, Moore and white are nailed down in this position if all are fit. I personally don’t believe deccie fitz is the best scrummaging th in Ireland but even if he were he can’t manage more than a dozen games a season.

    • seiko

       /  November 26, 2014

      I would not read too much into not giving Kilcoyne a run as McGrath was going well defensively at the end (and wasn’t it him who messed up against the ABs last year?). There was enough concussion disruption going on in the backs without making further changes.
      Kilcoyne got 80 mins against Georgia while McGrath was on the bench.

      However, Schmidt obviously doesn’t rate Tommy O’Donnell so I don’t see him making the plane.

      Schmidt needs to look at the lineout though to provide a decent attacking platform, especially with having so many good kicking options. Easier than trying to run over the opposition with ball carriers we don’t have. Perhaps he could get Jerry Flannery involved in a coaching capacity if Duncan Casey is an example of his coaching. Varley has improved a lot as well.

      • I don’t think O’Donnell is out of the picture just yet. He’s benched for Ireland in four games under Schmidt and started another. He didn’t get off the bench against Australia, but Jordi Murphy didn’t get off the bench against France. I’d say that’s a trust issue rather than a straightforward case of not rating someone. Ruddock and Henry are clearly ahead, but sixth spot in the pecking order is open. O’Donnell will get his “work-ons” from this November just like Trimble did last year and if he improves his game in the ways that Schmidt wants from him, and keeps up his excellent form more generally, he’ll presumably still have a good shot.

        Varley’s throwing has been on an upward curve for a while, but I do actually think it’d be great if Flannery was involved with Ireland (although it might be a little odd for Best to get coaching from a former direct competitor for the hooker jersey).

        • Cian

           /  November 26, 2014

          I’d love to agree with you, but as I see it all the evidence points to TOD being way down the pecking order. I thought Ruddock did extraordinarily well against the Boks, and I have thought for years that he’s a serious talent, but I was not so impressed with his shift against the Wallabies. He looked a little slow, and his tackle on Foley for the try was just woeful. Considering that Ruddock was (at the very least) not having a great game, and it was the type of game that might suit a mobile 7, leaving TOD riding pine for the 80 told me that he’s just not rated.

          • Leinsterlion

             /  November 26, 2014

            Ruddock was on the field for his carrying he was out best foward on the night imo in terms of hard yards, streets ahead of both Healip and POM who left a lot to be desired. I think he was shot by the end yet Schmidt couldnt take him off a we had no other carriers.

          • curates_egg

             /  November 27, 2014

            Sometimes, I’d love to watch the game through another person’s perspective. I thought Ruddock was again outstanding on Saturday.

  3. JacksonP

     /  November 26, 2014

    I know that you’re probably going to mention him in the backs roundup tomorrow, but you can add Felix Jones to that list of players who got crocked in RWC11 warm-up games.

    • Of course – how could we forget that haunted look on his face as the realization the dream was over sunk in. He has only recently recovered anything like the form he had back then

  4. D6W

     /  November 26, 2014

    You have said previously that a player like SOB has to be starting so long as he is fit, but actually he needs to bring more to the table than simply being declared fit. He was declared fit last May, but he was literally half the player than he was pre-injury. I’m really hoping that was due to the at the time undiagnosed infection, and when he really is fit he will be the “Tullow Tank” of old.

    There are other very good flankers to choose from, so he has to be fit AND back to his old rampaging ways to be the dead- cert he is oft declared to be.

    • We expressly made that very point in the above piece.

      • D6W

         /  November 26, 2014

        Apols, I re-read and realised you did make that point. Focused on your preceding sentence:(

    • Leinsterlion

       /  November 26, 2014

      Even then, when he came back from the injury before the injury that sidelined him until may he was still not the player he was, played well in fits, but he is no Ferris when it comes to jumping straight back in at 100% after a lay off. I would bet on him not making the squad, especially in the risk averse climate Schmidt has created.

    • A less than 100% SOB is still better than anything we have

      • Leinsterlion

         /  November 27, 2014

        No doubt.

      • SportingBench

         /  November 27, 2014

        I really don’t think this is true and I think that in the past this approach to star players has hurt Ireland with Ireland having to carry passengers with big reputations in the hope they play their way into form and/or fitness.
        If SOB or any other injured player comes back particularly after long lay-offs, we have to judge them solely on what they are doing now. Anything else is just nostalgia and wishful thinking. At his best SOB is definitely amongst Ireland and the world’s best (though I always think he gives away too many penalties for the good of my temper!). If he is not 100% who knows where he ranks but we have enough quality in the back row not to take a punt that he might rediscover some form/ability.
        I sincerely hope that all the injured players but particularly SOB comes back firing as he could give us something we were definitely lacking this autumn in terms of smashing over the gain line. But if he is not giving that then why would he be picked?

    • Billy

       /  November 27, 2014

      From reliable sources, I’m afraid to say SOB is on the brink of retirement. His last op is something of a last chance saloon. Apparently they’re trying to graft bone onto his shoulder and if it doesn’t take – it’s curtains.

      A serious shame as I honestly believe he was the most effective back row player in the world (based on form) at one point.

  5. Unfortunately (I say unfortunately, obviously we’re all delighted it wasn’t worse) the talk in the press is about Henry coming back “next season” after his heart surgery. Likewise you can probably write off White. The very earliest he’ll be back is March, after the 6 nations, but there is a possibility he might not play again this season (Jason Harris-Wright took 6 months to some back from the same injury, and this week of the Welsh props is out for 6 months after pectoral surgery too).

    Mind you at least we’re in the situation where the squad picks itself injuries asides, rather than the team being set in stone as per 2007.

  6. Hairy Naomh Mhuire

     /  November 26, 2014

    Looking at above it would certainly appear that second row will give JS most headaches within the forward selections. Imagine if Tuohy, Foley & Ryan are all back to fitness & form & only there is only room for ONE!!

    • Cian

       /  November 26, 2014

      I know Toner improved massively last season, and I have been hugely impressed with him, but if those three are all fit and firing wouldn’t there be a reasonable call for leaving him out? Ryan (I think) has a higher ceiling than Toner, Tuohy brings a more varied game, and Foley is a younger man, continually improving.

      My point, when I get to down to it, is basically this: Toner’s good and all, but isn’t he effectively just a (considerably) lesser POC?

      • This “higher ceiling” thing – this has come up before (not in this context admittedly). Second rows these days seem to peak in their early 30s – and beyond (Bakkies, Shawsy, Big Bad Brad, etc). Ryan is 30 and Toner is 28 – Ryan has come off an injury addled 2 years and all signs are his career is at risk. Toner, on the other hand, has improved incrementally every year for 6 years – there is little sign he has reached a ceiling in his development.

        • Ioannes

           /  November 26, 2014

          Nathan hines as well.
          Leaving Ryan aside though, you could make a case for POC, NWJMB, Foley and Tuohy as the 4?

          • I don’t see how Foley gets in ahead of Toner tbh – for two pretty similar players Toner is way ahead in terms of experience. Tuohy I can at least entertain as an option over either (if returns to previous form) as he offers something different, but Toner-Foley only has one winner right now

        • Cian

           /  November 26, 2014

          I’ll have to concede to others with greater knowledge of Toner’s career graph to date. From my POV it looked like he improved (from a very low base, in terms of international standard locks) considerably two years ago and immensely last year. Can someone remind me how he’s been playing for Leinster so far this year? My worry is that he might have hit unsustainable heights (no pun intended) last season, because for Ireland this year he’s been solid but not great (subjective opinion of course).

          I also think Foley isn’t exactly the finished article, and last year he was overrated in Munster, but in the Super Champion’s Cup of Most Winningest Champions he’s been outstanding so far. The argument for him getting in ahead of Toner would be on form this year.

          • Prescribed reading for Cian: our Good Face article from a while back. Toner started every game in the Six Nations win, every game this autumn and last autumn too. Dave Foley has started one game for Ireland, against Georgia. The idea that Toner is about to be canned is far fetched indeed.

          • D6W

             /  November 26, 2014

            Toner’s form for Leinster reflects Irish form, IE Improved immensely over last 2 years. Inversely to Leinster form in some ways.

          • Cian

             /  November 26, 2014

            Good face is perhaps a subconscious aspect of my rating of Toner! Although my point was more about the balance of his game compared to POC’s and that of the other possibilities. To be honest I didn’t intend to suggest he was about to be canned, or anywhere near it, just that two of Ryan, Tuohy and Foley (the latter being the least likely) might overtake him by RWC time. I wouldn’t bet on it, but I’d have thought it was a possibility given their different areas of strength. I’d certainly consider it a strong possibility that two of Henderson and the above three would beat him to the match day 23. The injury gods are never likely to allow it, but can you imagine POC and NWJMB hitting their stride in the same match?!

          • Now that’s a thought ….

          • Cian

             /  November 26, 2014

            Further clarification: if our other locks do overtake Toner I think it’ll be because they’re playing very very well. I would be happy to see him in any match day squad these days.

      • Scrumdog

         /  November 26, 2014

        I’d go for Tuohy and Ryan. Foley is not a test match lock.. yet… and was just given a taste of it in the Autumn Series because of all the injuries. In addition, I wouldn’t bank on Healy or O’Brien or any other multi-capped player who is starting to pick up and collect serious and repeated long term injuries, that doesn’t auger well ! I’d like to see C.J. Stander training with the Irish squad now, so when he is eligible (September) he’ll slot right as a ‘bolter’ in if needed at the RWC..is this possible?.
        Regarding muscle/ligament injury, there’s been a bit of talk lately about too much time spent in the gym (and shakes) bulking up has a negative effect on the skeletal frame which isn’t designed to carry such excessive muscle weight and results in serious tears..sometimes off the bone. Apparently the All Blacks have reduced the bulking up (though some Irish players might need to) and are going for more skill and mobility throughout the squad in general and the pack in particular.

        • Stephen

           /  November 26, 2014

          Who are we thinking, scrumdog? Healy, SOB? Certainly seems like an unearthly skeleton-muscle ratio is what did for Ferris . . .

          • Fetcher

             /  November 26, 2014

            Luuuke is bedeviled by injuries and isn’t exactly musclebound. Any theories espoused as to what caused a career ending injury is going to result in uneducated conjecture.
            Mils’s comments on the All Blacks doing more power based lifting is interesting but Kaino doesn’t look shy of a squat rack.

          • Leinsterlion

             /  November 26, 2014

            Ferris was bad luck, plant your foot wrong…..BAM, nothing to do with him being half Islander.

        • AFAIK the RWC squads will be announced by the end of August so the IRFU wouldn’t be able to announce a player who isn’t eligible as I’m assuming they would need to have all the player registration details proving eligibility for the announcement.

        • Stander won’t be eligible for Ireland until 30 October 2015, so just misses out on the possibility of competing for a place is the squad.

        • Leinsterlion

           /  November 26, 2014

          Unless the S&C coaches are prehistoric(which they aren’t) gaining muscle mass does not lead to an increase in muscle/tendon injuries. those types of injuries either happen through freak accidents(see Wallace bojangled by tualigi hit) or due to doing the wrong thing in training and creating muscular imbalances which leads to stress, which leads to tears etc. these myths about S&C do my head in, its a well researched area, there is no risk involved in bulking up and getting stronger, its a moot point.

      • If all locks are fit POC, Hendo, and Ryan are the three clear best imo. While Toner is good and gets through alot of work those three go further and put their own stamp on a match whether it be big hits, turnovers, or serious ball carrying. I’d also rate Tuohy ahead of Toner also but thats a close one.

        • SportingBench

           /  November 27, 2014

          One additional thing that Toner has in his favour is that while being unspectacular he is resilient and stays fit more than some such as Tuohy. Fitness is an important characteristic and Joe clearly values people who are able to be in camp and soak up the game plans even if they are not playing.

        • Hairy Naomh Mhuire

           /  November 27, 2014

          If Henderson stays fit there is every chance he could get ahead of Toner as regards first choice starting 15 – calling him a phenomenon is no exaggeration – but the purpose of this exercise is not the starting 15 but who packs their bags & based on his consistency & experience in ‘the ways of Joe’ I cannot envisage a fit Toner not getting on the plane.
          P.S. slight aside re Toner / Bad Face, watching Fra / Aus last weekend it occurred to me that Dusautoir must be the ultimate ‘good face’ rugby player on the planet right now!

  7. @edserburke

     /  November 26, 2014

    Hard to argue with any of that really, the only minor difference of opinion I would have is that I would see Dan Tuohy as being marginally ahead of Foley if he can get back to fitness. With POC and Toner we already have 2 proficient lineout experts so I don’t think theres a need for a 3rd in the squad, and Tuohys greater aggression might get him the nod.
    I do disagree slightly with you on the backs split, although we can leave it for tomorrow perhaps. I would see 4 centres and 3 wingers, given 2 of the centres would probably be comfortable enough on the wing. I can see Olding getting in, along with D’arcy, at 12. We may have only brought 2 outhalves in previous tournaments, but there was always Paddy Wallace to fill in for an emergency, and I think Olding might fill that role. It does mean that we’re overloaded with possible 12’s though: D’arcy, Olding, Henshaw and Madigan. This is probably how Eddie ended up with all those 6’s……….

    • Pff, centres/wingers. Full backs are the new Blindside Flankers.

    • Stephen

       /  November 26, 2014

      Edser – who of our centres would be comfortable on wing?

      I’d distinguish 15 from 11/14 – I wouldn’t be comfortable having Madigan or Olding on the wing outside of Romania/Canada. Very different positions, both in attack and defence, and neither Olding or Madigan have got nearly as much time at 11/14 as at 15 (I don’t recall Olding ever playing there).

      • @edserburke

         /  November 26, 2014

        No, neither would I. Was thinking more of Henshaw & Payne. And only really in the context of Canda or Romania. With 3 proper wingers, you would hope they wouldn’t be required for bigger games. Jones or R Kearney an option too if needed.

        • Stephen

           /  November 26, 2014

          Has Henshaw played wing? Honest question. I don’t think Payne has . . . but yes, Canada/Romania the only options for fecking around.

    • Scrumdog

       /  November 26, 2014

      Just ruined my day..I’m having flashbacks to Hamilton,2012 after seeing Paddy Wallace’s name mentioned!

  8. garzoo

     /  November 26, 2014

    I reckon there will be 6 props because they don’t seem to be played for as many minutes as they used to. In fact I’d personally like to see 6P, 3H, 4SR, 5BR, 3SH 2FH 8backs.

    At the end of the day you wanna be able to field 23 guys from your squad even if there is an injury. With your above selection an injury to Moore or Ross would mean calling a player in from outside the camp to go straight into a game

  9. Shunting Yard

     /  November 27, 2014

    Fascinating stuff. No doubt fitness and injuries are going to dictate a lot of the selections, particularly in the back row.

    Looking forward to the backs post today. Trying to choose four wingers if all contenders are fit and available (won’t happen i know) is no mean feat. Bowe, and probably Trimble, surely nailed on if fully fit but how do you choose two from Zebo, Gilroy, Kearney and McFadden?! Earls and Fitzgerald could potentially be back in the running next year too. One way or another, there’s going to be some pretty good players not making the squad.

    • SportingBench

       /  November 27, 2014

      Easy, you select Zebo and McFadden. Job done 🙂

  10. seiko

     /  November 27, 2014

    Neil Francis singling out Jamie Heaslip for the problems in the scrum. Worth a read.

    http://www.independent.ie/sport/rugby/autumn-internationals/soaring-towards-world-cup-but-schmidt-must-fix-costly-flaws-at-scrum-and-lineout-30778278.html

    He also says the lineout needs to be sorted out as well.

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