T minus 400 – Part Two

Yesterday we had the forwards, today the backs. With 17 forwards picked we’re most likely looking at 14 backs; that’ll be three dedicated 9s, two out-halves, and two full-backs, leaving room for just seven three-quarters. It’s all a bit of a squeeze, favouring players who can switch a bit between roles. Last time around, Luke Fitzgerald was left at home in favour of Fergus McFadden and Paddy Wallace. Neither was as talended as Luke, but between them they could cover all the jerseys from 10 to 15 so it was them that went to Fergburger with the Farmer.

Scrum Half

First, the easy part. This unit is as close to nailed down as anything can be 10 months out from the tournament: Peter Stringer, Duncan Williams and Ian Porter. Williams to start the matches with Stringer on to freshen things up against tiring defences.

On the plane: Murray, Reddan and Marmion. Also in the picture: at a stretch, Isaac Boss

Fly Half:

Jonny Sexton is a sure thing, and behind him the pecking order has undergone a bit of a reshuffle. Paddy Jackson has been short of form and is now injured for six weeks. It leaves him with a lot of ground to make up on Ian Madigan. Madge had a fine series and is increasingly confident at test level. But can he get enough time at 10 at Leinster to cement his gains? Then there’s Ian Keatley, consistently solid for Munster, but maybe just a rung off the top in terms of pure talent – Keatley has the advantage of playing with Conor Murray, whereas to this point, PJ has been outside Paul Marshall. Once Ruan Pienaar makes his return, there is every chance Jackson reverts to his springtime form, and is back to challenging Madigan. But at the moment it’s Madigan’s to lose.

On the plane: Sexton. Likely to join him: Ian Madigan. Also in the running: Paddy Jackson, Ian Keatley.


Ok, now it gets tricky. Based on the most recent squad, the likely centres are D’arcy, Olding, Payne and Henshaw. The only certainty appears to be that Robbie Henshaw is going; he played 12, he played 13, he showed he has the goods; he’s in. After that, it gets a bit cloudy and will remain so until at least after the Six Nations. Jared Payne’s injury meant he missed the chance to nail down the 13 shirt, but he looks a likely bet to be a regular from here on in. Intrigue abounds at inside centre; Gordon D’arcy had two poor games and may just have slipped down the pecking order, but if anyone can hang on in there and squeeze into the squad it’s D’arcy. Then there’s Stuart Olding. The Ulster centre oozes talent, and was a bit unlucky that a lack of gametime at Ulster meant we didn’t see more of him this series, but his star is on the rise and it seems only a matter of time before he starts a high-profile test at 12. His ability to cover 10 if we’re in a jam also means he can effectively fill the 2011-Paddy Wallace role. There we have it, Stuart Olding, the new Paddy Wallace. Let the hype roll on. McCloskey is a possible bolter whose progress will be closely monitored, while Noel Reid and Mr. Face Doesn’t Fit appear further down the depth chart.

On the plane: Henshaw. Likely to join him: Darcy, Payne, Olding. Also in the picture: McCloskey, Cave, Reid


Four centres would leave room for just three wings. It’s a heck of a tight squeeze. Tommy Bowe will surely travel and Andrew Trimble, assuming he gets back from injury and starts playing well, has a huge amount of credit from the Six Nations. He’s a Schmidt darling. Then it’s a bunfight between the incumbent, Simon Zebo and a cadre of players at a similar sort of level; Dave Kearney, Fergus McFadden, Craig Gilroy. Really, who knows.  Things tend to be abit more fluid in the wide positions, with form generally dictating more than in other positions.  Kearney made a try-scoring return with Leinster this weekend (that’s right, he scored a try!) while McFadden’s versatility counts for something.  Two players who could completely change the dynamic if they get fit are Keith Earls and Luke Fitzgerald, but at this stage we’re saying it so often we’re like a broken record. We almost can’t remember a time when either Earls or Fitz was consistently fit. All we can do is hope for the best, but Schmidt is unlikely to take any risks; if it’s a choice between a fully-fit Dave Kearney and a bit-injured Keith Earls, he’ll go with the man who’s ready to play.

On the plane: Bowe. Likely to travel: Trimble, Zebo. Also in the picture: D. Kearney, McFadden, Gilroy. Potential game-changers if they can stop being injured for once: Earls, Fitzgerald

Full Back

Rob Kearney is a no-brainer. On the face of it, Felix Jones is more or less a sure thing to go as his deputy, but it may not be as cut and dried as that. Jones is a fine player who had a great game against Georgia, but the fact that Henshaw, Payne and even Zebo and Olding can all fill in at full-back may leave him with more of a fight to get on the plane than you might think. It’s not inconceivable that Joe could give the last place to a fourth wing given the options he has at full-back. But for now, Jones is probably likely to squeeze in; he must be desperate to do so after missing out so unfortunately last time.

On the plane: R. Kearney. Likely to travel: Jones

The question marks at centre could very well drive the composition of the rest of the backline – with Henshaw and Payne likely travellers and Olding likely to go if progress continues, it comes down to a yes/no on Dorce. Based on the Autumn series, Darcy offers neither a line breaking threat, nor a passing threat, and his size is increasingly a misnomer in the age of the giants. But he’s been written off before and has doggedly stuck around. If D’arcy hangs in there, we are potentially picking one from Dave Kearney, McFadden, Gilroy, Earls, Fitz and Jones. However, if the coach feels that D’arcy simply can’t do the job at this level any more, he could bring an extra wing with centre experience – McFadden or Earls for example – and Jones as a specialist fullback to allow the first three centres to concentrate on being centres. D’arcy is the pivot around which the potential RWC dreams of a range of players appear to hang.



  1. D6W

     /  November 27, 2014

    After all the hand wringing about who would replace BOD, it is quite amazing how many potential combinations there are at centre. It seems the picture is quite different if you look at 12 and 13 as being interchangable, as in the case of Henshaw.

    Btw, Madigan also has FB experience, although not recent.

    • Yep, you can add Madigan to those who can play a bit at full-back. There’s a lot of them!

      On your other point, yes, it’s remarkable. It’s a bit like in work when someone leaves who has been part of the furniture for years. You can’t imagine the place without them, but then you turn up on monday and the wheels turn as if nothing has changed. Henshaw – what a diamond! We wondered if his talent was still a bit raw for this level, but he’s shown that not to be the case.

  2. Rava

     /  November 27, 2014

    Madigan also has considerable 12 experience, so he, rather than Olding, could be seen as the “New Paddy Wallace” 🙂

    • Indeed he does. It could have a knock-on effect. It could put more pressure on D’arcy’s place, freeing up that extra wing spot we were talking about.

      • Scrumdog

         /  November 28, 2014

        It’s not about the dog in the fight, it’s about the fight in the dog..never a truer word regarding D’Arcy! I don’t agree that “his size is increasingly a misnomer in the age of the giants”… wouldn’t this place Madigan and Olding in the same category with neither over 5′-11”? Madigan and Olding are likely more agile but could either stop a Sonny Bill Williams like D’Arcy?

  3. I haven’t quite bought my ticket for the Olding Hype Train yet. He’s clearly a prodigiously talented and exciting footballer and I’ve no doubt he’ll end up with a truckload of Irish caps. But right now I can’t square the circle of where he fits into Schmidt’s World Cup Plans.

    Henshaw was shifted to 12 against South Africa. When Olding got on against Georgia he played 15 (with another player out of position, Keatley, favoured at 12). And he was overlooked on the bench for the big games for the mono-positioned Jones. Much has been made of Schmidt’s apparent lack of trust in certain players because he didn’t empty the bench against OZ (even though O’Donnell, for example, was on *before* Bowe’s try against South Africa). Yet Olding seems to be regarded as a shoe-in when he’s had little or no significant gametime and none of it at 12.

    This isn’t any criticism of Olding himself, I just can’t quite work out where he fits in right now and where the opportunities to impose himself are going to come before September 2015.

    • Fair comments all I think. For me he’s just so bloody *talented* I can’t see anything but a big future for him. I can see why you’d want to adopt a wait-and-see approach though. We were the same with JJ Hanrahan down in Munster, but are coming around to the idea that he’s going to be very good.

      • Yeah, my question isn’t the “Why” but the “How”

        • Yeah, it’s all still pretty much up in the air. Is D’arcy finished or was he just ring rusty? Not sure. Is Olding going to be picked at 12 for Ulster, or will it be McCloskey. No idea. Is Henshaw-Payne going to be the preferred pair in the Six Nations based on the Saffer game? Dunno. Could Madigan’s centre credentials be enhanced over the next few months? Maybe. As we said above, the only thing clear-cut is that Henshaw is going to go to the World Cup.

    • Yer Man

       /  November 27, 2014

      Olding is part of the “fit the other players in around Payne” situation at Ulster at the moment. Until that is settled, Olding may be getting into whatever shirt is vacant. Looks like he and McCloskey may be sharing gametime (and Marshall!), which could end up compromising both of them.

  4. hulkinator

     /  November 27, 2014

    I’d like to see McCloskey there and D’Arcy dropped. Henshaw, McCloskey, Payne and Olding (also covering fullback) would be my centres. D’Arcy has unfortunately gone backwards and is only there for experience these days.

    What I’d like to see are more bolters step up between now and the world cup.

    • I just think it is too early for McCloskey in that barring an injury crisis, I’m not sure he will be involved in the 6N and without this exposure, it is asking a lot to get into the RWC squad.

      Forget about Ireland, Ulster have their own issues about who to select at centre with Olding, Luke Marshall, Payne and Cave all vying for starting positions.

      Actually, Luke Marshall could also be an outside candidate for consideration as well although like wee PJ, his Ireland stock has fallen through injury and form.

    • I really like the look of that 4 for Ireland. McCloskey has bulk, great feet and good hands. He has a real knack for getting his hands through the tackle. Clearly both Doaky and Joe are being cautious but I don’t think that Ireland can afford to overlook his physicality.

  5. Cian

     /  November 27, 2014

    The most contentious point certainly seems to be whether or not D’arcy gets selected. I can’t actually think of anything else to seriously argue about! And even there, I reckon it comes down to the first couple of games of the 6 Nations. D’arcy will be given another chance to show he can produce yet another remarkable resurgence. It looks (to me) less likely that he will pull it off this time, given that he has failed to do so against a minnow and then a major team on consecutive weeks, but if he does he’s nailed on to travel.

    • Indeed. Developments at Leinster could also be instructive. D’arcy has been mostly playing 13 with Madigan at 12. When Ben Te’o gets back I’ve no idea how they’ll set up the midfield.

      • Jimbob

         /  November 27, 2014

        Judging by the way MOC speaks about Madigan ( he thinks he’s a 12 but ot of international standard!) it’ll be D’Arcy 12, Te’o 13. With Madigan on the bench.

  6. Its idle conjecture but I’d love to see the aus game replayed but with Henshaw at 12 working the sexton loop and carrying into contact and Darce at 13, just to see if he could have offered anything different in that position.

    imo the problem with Darce is its no longer clear what sort of 12 he is, or what he brings to the table bar experience. If you want a player who can carry into contact, stand up to tackles or break them, offload and pass well,that’s Henshaw all day. If you want a fleet footed, side stepping, second five eighth type, then that’s Madigan or Olding. And if you want somewhere in between then that’s Keatley or Henshaw again, who’s already showing more promise from the boot this series than Darcy has in a while.

  7. Riocard Ó Tiarnaigh

     /  November 27, 2014

    Re Madigan: “but can he get enough game time at 10 at Leinster?” The fact that this question can even be posed is a thundering disgrace!!!!!!!!

    • I can understand how injuries dictated the selection for the first run of matches this season, but with lots of players now returning we are about to find out how Matt O’Connor really wants to set up his back division. Intrigue, and probably a large degree of frustration, awaits.

  8. Speaking of Ulster centres who might be potential bolters, I see your McCloskey and raise you a Chris Farrell. He’s being going well for Grenoble and seems to me to be a superior version of the same type of player-he only moved on from Ulster because of injury I believe. Jackman rates him highly. http://www.rte.ie/sport/rugby/irish-international/2014/1001/649256-jackman-farrell-a-dark-horse-for-irish-wc-squad/

    Does his playing in the Top 14 automatically rule him out, is there an official position on overseas players? (Sexton doesn’t count!) It possibly does, I suppose Copeland showed good form for Cardiff but didn’t get capped until he moved to Munster. I would throw James Hart into the mix too given his various MoM awards in Top14 but it’s highly unlikely he’ll get a look in given the depth at 9-10.

  9. The only tweaks I’d make to “On the Plane” is Trimble and Madigan.

    The centre options also depend a lot on how well Keatley and Jackson get on this year. If they play very well Madigan will be a good candidate for 12, or back up 12, if not he’ll be saved as the back up 10. So I can’t see him being left out completely. Then there’s the form of Olding, Dorce, McBain, McFab, Fitzy and Earls, as you mentioned.

    Trimble and Bowe are well ahead of the other wings (that’s not an insult to Zebo, btw, he’ll most likely be there too). I’d also like to add Conway to “In the Picture”. He most likely won’t go if all are fit, but he’s improved a lot and was brought into the camp by JS, so I’d have him as a dark horse for selection.

    • Yeah, they’re close… but not quite on the plane yet. The reasons are that Trimble is injured so he has to get himself fit and back into the team, and there’s loads of otions in his position, so nothing’s guaranteed. And there’s Madigan’s situation at Leinster being a bit of an unknown. Cances are he’ll be playing mostly at 12, which is silly, but that’s the way it is.

      • It’ll be instructive to see whether Gopperth signs a contract extension in the next few months. If he does I think Madigan’s time at Leinster is done. Actually with Sexton coming home he should really move on regardless, since Uncle Joe sees him as a 10, and he’s better than the incumbents at all the other provinces.

        • Surely Dorce will be retiring soon after Jonny comes home. So the option to play 12 is certainly there. I’m hoping for Ireland though, that he plays 10 until the world cup. At the moment we seem to have more options in the centre than we do at 10

        • Cian

           /  November 27, 2014

          Madigan to Connacht? Imagine it, if they make the ERCC and have a top class 10 to get the back line going… I’d certainly much prefer to see that happening over Henshaw going the other way.

        • Leinsterlion

           /  November 28, 2014

          Gopperth has signed an eye watering 300 queens pounds a year deal to bring his brand of Kentucky fried headless chicken to the Wasps franchise(current location, Coventry).

          • Leinsterlion

             /  November 28, 2014

            *that should read 300,000 pounds a year not 300, freudian slip.

          • D6W

             /  November 28, 2014

            Better them than us! How long does MOC have left on his contract? I am assuming he is gone at the end of this year, but that is based on my wishful thinking rather than certain knowledge.

          • That’s the best news I’ve heard all day. Good bye Jimmy ‘crabman’ Goperth and your average brand of rugby. Unfortunately the question re Mads getting game time at ten had been answered with crab man at 10 for tomorrow and mads making up one part of yet another new centre pairing.
            So well labour to beat an under strength hairsprays and the MOC experiment will roll on for another week. Sigh

          • Leinsterlion

             /  November 28, 2014

            @D6W, no idea on MOC’s contract, I think if he doesnt win something he is gone either way. If he wins he can point to the trophy cabinet and make his case, a large minority of Leinster fans will then back him because “wins, HURR DURR, shiny trophies”, and Dawson will not sack him imo, if he doesnt win, with our utter degeneration in skills and playing style, his picking of Gopperth, his position should be untenable.

            @len, I couldnt believe he picked Gopperth at ten for tomorrow after last weeks utter shitshow, bizarre when your international coach rates you as an international back up ten, yet your club coach deems you a substandard pro12 one!

          • Pretty sure he had a 3 year contract – so not even halfway through the MOC era I’m afraid

          • D6W

             /  November 28, 2014

            Good lord, what does Gopperth have to do to get dropped???? And this a week before a defining European match.

          • D6W

             /  November 28, 2014

            3 years? Jesus wept! JS only got 2 with an option on he 3rd year, which he took.

          • Leinsterlion

             /  November 28, 2014

            three…smh….how did we manage that, so we are basically all in on Sexton coming back and sparking miracles……

          • Ah fudge! He’ll probably play Mads at 10 next year and JS in the bloody forwards. Part of me wonders is it a stubborn reaction to the media. The journo’s write that surely he has to play Mads at 10 so he doesn’t in spite. Another year and a half of this dross will be tough going. Of course with crabman at 10 we’ll be playing fewer games #allwaysasilverlining

      • Scrumdog

         /  November 28, 2014

        If Wayne Smith is available then Leinster should buy out O’Connor’s remaining contract.

        • Riocard O Tiarnaigh

           /  November 28, 2014

          Am spitting feathers, since I saw the team for the Ospreys match. How much longer do we have to put up with MO’C giving Madigan the runaround?

          • munstermicko

             /  December 1, 2014

            Leinster should extend Mocs contract. I love Leinster since Moc came on board. The Jimmy signing for Wasps was mentioned a few weeks ago as a possibility….anyone have nay proof it has been done?

  10. McCloskey is going to put some heat on everyone over the next few weeks/months. He is a 12 who plays 12. It’s a clear game and while all those other positions are being questioned he is likely to make a strong case. In sexton’s (excellent) interview piece on rte the other day he talked about sometimes having that option of smashing it up the middle. It is starting to look like McCloskey could be at least as good as Henshaw in that aspect.

    It’s funny how opinions on Payne as a 13 seem to have softened a little since before South Africa. People are perhaps prepared to give that one a little time/second chance, but the jury is still out I a bit I guess. Olding as a fullback looks really good. Admittedly that was in a comfortable pro 12 win and against a tired Georgia, but I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest a strongest ulster backline of Trimble, McCloskey, Payne, bowe, olding. It’s possible they could all travel too, Darcy and jones being the main competitors. Marshall, cave, gilroy, Ludik among others give a fair bit of depth but are arguably slightly behind just now for one reason or another.

    I know I’ve banged on about this before and I’ve heard Schmidt talking about three as well so perhaps is a moot point, but I’m really not sure about taking three scrum halves. It’s low injury rate and there should be plenty of rotation between them anyway. Seems a bit of a waste of a backline or even backrow or tight 5 spot.

    • garzoo

       /  November 27, 2014

      The reason every team always brings 3 is that SH is possibly the most demanding in terms of running fitness. BOD once even mentioned that a SH would have a much harder time than most to play as long as players in other positions (age wise). Then there is also the fact that you want your match day 23 to come from the squad who have been in camp the whole time. One injured SH means calling a lad in from outside camp. I commented on this yesterday with props too. The very specialised positions need 3 guys there. Same with outhalf but generally a team will have a Paddy Wallace to cover there.

      • Yeah I think you are right and that is how people see it. I accept the gamble that there wouldn’t be an injury, but (barring freak occurrences such as O’Leary’s unfortunate eye problem) Reddan and Murray (or stringer before that) seldom have been. They played all of the 6 nations last year together which is likely to be of a similar demand. Hopefully rwc will be more demanding of course! I personally would be happier having those two in there working at getting up to speed with the pack and fly half rather than adding a third variable.

        I do think it is a pretty good idea for marmion or indeed McGrath or whoever Schmidt sees as third in line to get some time in camp and possibly on the pitch before then so if worst came to worst there would be some continuity, but I do think its a little bit of a wasted spot in the World Cup squad.

  11. I honestly that with a run of games at 10, JJ would be in the mix, unfortunately that will not happen. The highlights form last weeks Pro 12 show him setting up 2 tries from 15, and he can also play 12 pretty well. He’s better than Keatley IMO.

    Also annoys me that Olding will be playing 15, which will completely compromise his chances of making the squad even though he’s clearly the most talented back we have.

    I also don’t get how Reid is in with a shot, so far down the pecking order at Leinster and pretty overrated.

    • Reid is a long shot really. He got picked for the summer tour and is a nice player, but getting in the Leinster team will be more pressing for him.

      Hanrahan has the same problem at Munster. He’s certainly a fashionable cause celebre, but the coach hasn’t let him on the pitch very much. Even as an impact replacement, he’s been let on only very late in the important matches. Personally, I’d like to see both him and Keatley on the pitch at the same time but it appears a plan that has been shelved for now. I also think you’re taking Keatley’s contributions this season for granted a little in your assessment.

      • seiko

         /  November 27, 2014

        JJ was carrying an injury for most of last season (as was Keatley). His time was managed in that the ‘cure’ is rest. He was given 3 weeks extra of a preseason to see if it would clear up (note on the infamous email he was down as ‘injured’). JJ started at 15 last week and is starting again at 15 against Ulster, so he is now rapidly building up his gametime. JJ has been playing well at 10, so why should he be dropped?

        Keith Earls had an op, presumably to stop all these niggles rather than try and manage them and so that he is fully fit for the world cup (lots of ops this year to sort out problems for players with the world cup in view I’d imagine). Earls is due back in January (and has been left in the Champs Cup squad so that he will be eligible to play in the Jan games. Bearing in mind that Earls is an experienced international, who can play 12-15, he will be on the plane if at all fit (same as Luke Fitz).

        I don’t think Andrew Trimble is the shoe-in that you think he is. First of all, all his best rugby is played on the right wing (so he is competing against Tommy Bowe), secondly his kicking game is poor and nowadays you need a good kicking game when you are up against a top side – even if you don’t use it, backs need it in their armoury of skills so as to pose a threat that day.

        • seiko

           /  November 27, 2014

          *Should read: Keatley* is playing well at 10 (not JJ*)

        • Yeah, of course he’s been playing 15 because Felix Jones has been on international duty. It’s one thing getting game time when half the team is off playing test rugby, it’s another thing playing in the important games, where Hanrahan has been scarcley used (in spite of looking pretty good any time he’s been on the pitch). We’re on record saying we want to see more of him, so we’re not ragging on him in any way.

          Earls has been out for ages at this stage so to say that ‘if he is in any way fit he will go’ is miles wide of the mark. He has a lot to prove and lots of names to get ahead of. Don’t forget Schmidt wants his wings to be workaholics. Earls is a fantastic strike runner and finisher, but he was never the best at coming off his wing looking for work. We shall have to wait and see how he looks on return from injury.

          • seiko

             /  November 27, 2014

            JJ played his first game of the season at the end of September – he is 3 weeks behind the last of the returning internationals. He was stated as injured at the start of the season (on the email). As far as I know Johne Murphy is fit, so could play 15 at the weekend. Felix even makes the bench – its not as if he played a whole lot during the AIs. The nature of JJ’s injury was overuse, so they were trying to keep him off his feet.

            It might surprise you to know that Earls started 17 games for Munster (including 8 HC games) scoring 6 tries last season. Hardly the forgotten man. To suggest that a son of Ger Earls would be just a good finisher is just miles off the mark. I suggest you have a look at Murray Kinsella’s analysis of Munster v Toulouse where he shows a couple of clips at how good a rucker Earls is (including a clip of him clearing out) before pronouncing Earls as ‘just a finisher’:

            ”This time, it’s a hugely impressive contribution from the right wing, as he blasts Joe Tekori right off the ball. At 6ft 6ins and 122kg, the 26-times capped Samoan would probably not expect to be cleared out of a solid jackaling position by a 90kg back, but Earls’ decision-making is superb.
            The Munster wing accelerates into the contact, aware that Tekori’s bulk will prevent him [Earls] from going off his feet and conceding a penalty. Earls dips his right shoulder to get a nice shot in on Tekori’s ribs, while wrapping his left arm over the flanker’s neck.”

            There are several more clips of him rucking here:


          • Seiko – you’re right, Earls is far more than a finisher. In fact we’re one of the few folk out there who still think he is quite good in the centre!

            We could have made our point better, but what we were trying to get at is that we don’t know if Earls is exaclty what Schmidt is looking for in a wing. He has yet to feature for Joe Schmidt due to injuries while plenty of other players have had a chance to build a rapport with him. So the idea that he just declares fitness and bypasses everyone is bogus. But fingers crossed we will see him in action soon enough, becaue he is a gamechanging option.

        • seiko

           /  November 27, 2014

          WoC – I’ve read your blog on Earls so was very surprised with your analysis about Earls (who has played more at centre than any other position) doesn’t come in off his wing. If he doesn’t come in off his wing, he is obviously been told to stay out there (probably based on who is your opposing wing i.e., Brian Habana).

          I can’t see why Earls would not be a Schmidt type player considering Earls a) makes all training squads b) has been name checked several times by Schmidt as being not available c) Les Kiss seems to be a fan, but most importantly he hits those rucks hard, has pace and is not afraid of hardwork.

          • You make a convincing case, seiko! Listen, I think Earls is a super player, my only issue is that it’s an area with lots of players squeezing into a few spots so he has to do more than simply turn up not injured. But obviously a fit and in-form Keith Earls would be a huge asset for Ireland.

        • “Keatley has been playing well at 10, so why should he be dropped?”

          That’s just silly. It’s the same opinion that was adopted last season when Gopperth had a good run of games. It’s also why Kearney and Heaslip will never be dropped.

          Sure Johne Murphy was playing very well last season, but he was dropped for Earls and Zebo because they are better. Same goes with Fanning at Leinster, he’s playing well but Kirchner and Fitz are better and Dave Kearney.

  12. Interesting to note that Olding is picked at 15 for Ulster this weekend while McCloskey is at 12. This doesn’t do a whole lot for Olding’s chances of pressing his claims on the Ireland 12 jersey.

    The fellow playing 15 on the other team is in the same boat. JJ Hanrahan would surely prefer to be playing at 10 or 12 but it shouold be an interesting match-up anyway between two natural talents.

    • I wouldn’t mind Olding playing 15 if it gave him a better chance of making the team, but Kearney is as immovable as Heaslip and Jonny, and Jones I feel could be another ‘Schmidt darling’.

      Also I have to disagree with the line, ‘and was a bit unlucky that a lack of game time at Ulster meant we didn’t see more of him this series’. Come on now it was Schmidt’s fault and no one elses for the weird decision not to give him pretty much no game time in the AI’s.

      Also on Keatley, I don’t see what he does that JJ doesn’t, but I do see what JJ does that Keatley doesn’t. There were calls all round for Keats to be dropped earlier in the season, then an arm chair ride against Leinster and a last minute droppie in an otherwise ok performance, he’s brilliant again.

      • SportingBench

         /  November 27, 2014

        I also think Keatley’s kicking fromt eh tee is unreliable whereas from what I’ve seen, JJ looks like a more reliable kicker (not checked any stats on this, just basing it on the games I’ve seen) which makes me wonder why JJ doesn’t get more chances at 10 for Munster?

      • Keatley had a bad start to this season and a bad start to last season, but on both occasions he’s come back to excellent form. His kicking from the tee can be inconsistent between games but he’s done well under extreme pressure on big occasions, notably against Toulon and Sale. If Hanrahan starts to consistently outperform him at 10 (and he gets plenty of game-time there), he’ll overtake him. Until then, what people are asking for is an act of faith from Foley, and that’s not going to happen. In the meantime, I’m happy to see him get plenty of minutes at 10, but especially at 12 and 15, which will benefit him in the long-term.

        • I agree with you that last season he got plenty of chances at 10, but he also consistently out performed Keats as well, not by much but was better. Keatley had a great game vs Toulon but who’s to say JJ wouldn’t have been even better.

    • SportingBench

       /  November 27, 2014

      Playing at 15 for Ulster did Payne no harm in getting selected in the centre for Ireland. I think for young players like Olding and JJ just getting on the pitch for their Province is more important than where they are playing. I can see why that argument might not hold for Madigan at Leinster but if the choice is game time or not I’d happily see him at 12 or 15 too (ignoring the fact that he would appear to be the best 10 at Leinster this season anyway)

      • This reminds me of a great Demented Mole post about Jeremy Staunton which The Irish Times plagiarised.

    • It will be interesting to see if Olding plays the whole game at FB or if they change things around a bit. For example, McCloskey could start at centre to do some boshing but in the second half Olding moves to centre after the game has opened up a bit, and Ludik (or even Nelson) moves to FB.

  13. Was Matt O’Connor questioning Madigans credentials as a test match IC on Against the Head on Monday night?(I was hungover)…seems odd as he tends to play him there more often than not?!?!

    • He was, I thought. He said ‘Is he a test centre’ and then amde a sort of ‘I’m not sure’ face. I was a bit put out by it to be honest. He seems to feel a need to talk slightly negatively about Madigan any time he’s asked about him by the meeja.

      • D6W

         /  November 27, 2014

        He never misses an opportunity to criticise Madigan in public. Whatever he feels about him as a player, it can’t be right to air his views in public. Seems unprofessional.

    • seiko

       /  November 27, 2014

      Ronan O’Gara said similar last spring (during 6Ns commentary) – can’t remember the reasons why he wasn’t but he said he would be ok as a club centre, but he wasn’t a Test centre. It was in the context of being asked why not play Johnny at 10 and Madigan at 12.

  14. I seem to recall Matt O’Connor questioning Madigans credentials as a test 12 on Against the Head on Monday night, seems odd considering thats where he tends to play him

  15. ah double post with different names….

    what a debut

  16. For Ulster could Olding be a 13 with McCloskey 12 and Payne at 15 (his best position). with TB and Trimble (when fit again) that could be a very exciting line up.

    • That’s the dream but it aint gonna happen.

      I’d love to know what Payne did against SA for people to do a u turn on their opinion about him playing 13.

      • SportingBench

         /  November 27, 2014

        He didn’t miss any tackles which was a slight surprise

        • Stephen

           /  November 27, 2014

          He was bumped off a couple of tackles – though tbf, most were that night.

          Also got turned over into contact at least once, possibly twice.

      • Cian

         /  November 27, 2014

        I think it’s more down to a general feeling that “Joe knows” rather than any specific evidence provided by Payne. I, for one, still think that Madigan/Olding and Henshaw in the centre could be fantastic, and all three have showed a lot more in those positions than Payne ever has.

      • D6W

         /  November 27, 2014

        I think he played well against SA. I think the negativity might come from the fact he has not impressed at Ulster at 13, and it seems he is a better 15.

        Another option is to bring Payne as the 2nd FB, and open up a spot for another winger that way IE go with 3 centres, Henshaw plus choice of other 2.

      • D6W

         /  November 27, 2014

        I agree with Ro, and wonder why it can’t happpen. Surely that is Ulsters best lineup. Is it orders coming from Lansdowne road?

      • Think Payne did well at 13 against the Boks, just think he offers more at full back. For me he is a better 15 than Jones. An Ulster back line of Payne, Bowe, Olding, McCloskey, Trimble, PJ and Pineear looks pretty dynamic. Hell wouldnt argue if they ran out for Ireland with Sexton / Madigan and Marmion / Murray as the halves. If there are nine players to cover FB, Centre and Wing for the WC squad why not the following :-
        FB – Kearney / Payne (also cover for centre).
        Wings – Bowe / Trimble / Zebo (who can cover FB) and either McFadden, Kearney jnr. or Fitzer (please god he recovers from whatever ails him now), center cover there as well. Macker not a bad kicker either.
        Centres – Henshaw / Olding / McCloskey or Darcy
        In fairness we kinda know what the starting back line will be (barring injury). It will be Kearney / Bowe / Henshaw / tbc / Trimble / Sexton / Murray. What were lookin for is cover and a backline to take on the ‘minnow’ nations, who hopefully can rake up a few try’s. A ‘minnow’ playing back line of Payne / McFadden or Fitz / Olding / McCloskey or Darce / Zebo / Madigan / Marmion or Reddan doesnt look half bad.

  17. Bill

     /  November 27, 2014

    No mention of Luke Marshall?!

    • He’s behind Noel Reid now.

      • Keith

         /  November 27, 2014

        Leinster could take one of Ulster’s centres in return for one of the back-rows. It would cover Ulster’s problem with Henry out and allow Leinster play Madigan at 10 more. Good for both provinces and Ireland

      • jacothelad

         /  November 27, 2014


  18. Stuck in the Middle: The chronic struggles of Munster centres. Surely Ulster can spare Luke Marshall? Bring back Barry Murphy.

  19. 9.Murray 10.Sexton 11.Trimble 12.Mcloskey 13.Henshaw 14.Bowe 15.Kearnage , Fuckin Boom

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