Competition for Places

Without being especially impressive, competition for places has begun to heat up at Leinster.  Whatever their issues, they are unique among the provinces in their strength in depth.  Where Ulster and Munster’s team selections for the big games are relatively clear-cut (and not in an especially good way either, unless you’re a really big fan of the Ross ‘brothers’ Clive and Bronson), Leinster find themselves with some hard decisions to make ahead of the last two rounds of pool matches in Europe.

The team has yet to click into gear, though they do appear to have improved a little in the last couple of weeks, with a more structured attack and less willingness to resort to a lowest-common-denominator game of kicky-chase.  Their main problem against Cardiff was the number of times they dropped the ball in good positions.  Another issue was the breakdown, where the likes of Josh Navidi and Gethin Jenkins were able to dominate and slow ball down, or worse yet, win turnover penalties.  It’s been an issue all season, where Leinster have been working off slow ball far too often.

Castres are coming to town in Europe next weekend, and Matt O’Connor should have tries on his mind.  Win the game whatever, don’t disrespect the whatsitsface, physical team who will present a something: expect to hear it all this week in the meeja interviews, but pay no mind. This Castres team will have their minds on the post-match dinner from the moment they leave the dressing room.  Leinster must win with a try bonus point, and should be looking to cut loose.  Wasps had the 5th point wrapped up after little over half an hour and put seven tries on the scoreboard by the finish.  Leinster should be aiming to do likewise.

Jerseys up for grabs start in the front row, which has been largely mediocre in the tight all season.  Encouragingly though, against Cardiff the front row unit of Michael Bent, Richardt Strauss and Marty Moore put in the best scrummaging performance from a Leinster team this season.  With Mike Ross running out of steam, Moore’s return to fitness couldn’t be more timely.  We’d pick him from the start to stabilise the scrum, which was destroyed by Harlequins.  At hooker Strauss vs. Cronin has always been competitive, and it might just be worth retaining Strauss for his superior scrummaging and throwing.  Cronin to cut loose in the final half hour?

Second row is more like an anti-competition for places, as Mike McCarthy and Kane Douglas strive to underachieve one another.  Douglas appears to be going around the pitch looking to make eye-catching hits, but makes no impact for vast swathes of the game.  McCarthy had one of his better games against Cardiff and was fairly prominent.  We’d give him the start, alongside The Northern Hemisphere Brodie Retallick – thanks Barnesy.

The backrow has become a source of apparent riches at Leinster, even without Sean O’Brien.  But for all that they can’t win a breakdown.  Odd.  Jordi Murphy is back and more up to speed than he was against Harlequins, and the emergence of Jack Conan presents a serious ball-carrying option.  Shane Jennings is fit again and Rhys Ruddock is presumably in the mix for selection, as is Dom Ryan who is having a fine season.  The only man certain to play is Jamie Heaslip who is expected to return from injury.  That’s right, Jamie Heaslip picked ujp an injury.  But only for one game, obviously.  Which cards to play from the deck of five?  Here’s a strange thought: given the breakdown issues, why not relinquish Healsip from carrying duties and ask him for a shift in the trenches, a role he has performed to great effect with Ireland.  Draft in Conan to the blindside to make up the carrying deficit, and put Rhys Ruddock at openside, where he was superb for Ireland in November.  Could it work?

Eoin Reddan should start at 9.  Luke McGrath has a vocal fanclub, and he had a good game against Cardiff.  He’s explosive and exciting but his basics aren’t at the required standard yet, and Reddan continues to be one of the most underrated players on the island.  Don’t forget he was last seen saving the day against Harlequins.  McGrath to bench perhaps?  Isaac Boss’ days are surely numbered.

Fly-half.  That old chestnut.  Gopperth or Madigan?  Gopps’ place-kicking was awry against Cardiff but there was much to commend elsewhere in his game.  I expect we’ll see Gopperth picked with Madigan at 12.  Does that spell the beginning of the end for Gordon D’arcy?  It just might, especially with Noel Reid, Ben Te’o and Luke Fitzgerald also in the mix for centre jerseys.  Te’o showed he has the footwork to go with the crashing and – whisper it – looks like he might bring something to the backline.  Fitgerald is a must at 13 where he has been excellent on his return.  Again, what about this for a slightly wild-card, but potentially devastating midfield: Madigan-Te’o-Fitzgerald?  Ay karamba, what a lick-smackingly exciting prospect!  Just do it aready, Matty!

On the wings, Dave Kearney and Fergus McFadden are back and starting to look match-fit.  We’d pick both of them.  Kearney can beat defenders, and the Kildare Lewis Moody can win yards in contact.  It’s harsh on Darragh Fanning, but Kearney and McFadden are just a notch better in terms of class.  Zane Kirchner may miss the 23 altogether.  He has been a curious signing: a 30-cap Springbok with great pedigree but not really what was needed for the team.  He is most effective at full-back where Leinster already have Rob Kearney, and as a wing he is somewhat pedestrian.  He looks like an expensive luxury at this point.

Probable Selection: Bent, Strauss, Ross, Douglas, Toner, Ruddock, Murphy, Heaslip, Reddan, Gopperth, Kearney, Madigan, Fitzgerald, McFadden, Kearney

Our selection: Bent, Strauss, Moore, McCarthy, Toner, Conan, Ruddock, Heaslip, Reddan, Madigan, Kearney, Te’o, Fitzgerald, McFadden, Kearney

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58 Comments

  1. Donal

     /  January 12, 2015

    I don’t believe Ruddock will be available for selection. Conan will probably start. Otherwise I imagine you have it pretty much right, the bench will be interesting, will they go with 3 tight heads again!

  2. “unique among the provinces in their strength in depth”. Is this because of the bigger population in Leinster or is it because of what Ferris describes it as ” success breeds success” ? After watching the Dave Gallaher documentary it occurs to ask the question. When did Ulster last field a Donegal man or if it is a population issue, a Derry man ? Clive Ross recently did an interview, where he talked about the players who came through Lansdowne and have gone on to provincial rugby, Marty Moore and Craig Ronaldson among them and a quick look at the Ulster AIL clubs form reveals one club in the highest division. If Ulster rugby is in black why are they not investing in Youth rugby, in order to raise the standards of the AIL clubs?

    • I think it’s a result of Leinster being the first to get organised with their academy and links to the schools game. The playing population obviously helps.

    • Bueller

       /  January 12, 2015

      It’s an interesting comparison when you break-down the senior squads of each (of the 3 more established*) province in that the ratio of ‘indigenous’ to ‘non-indigenous’ (ie: foreign players or those who came through other provincial systems) is pretty identical.
      Leinster = 30:14
      Ulster = 29:14
      Munster = 28:13
      *Connacht – Apologies my knowledge of the background of players in the Connacht squad is pretty limited.

      • The Connacht breakdown is (approx.) 16 homegrown:25 non-indigenous. Of the 16 to come through our system 2 are Exiles and 1 is from Leinster. The non-indigenous 25 includes Sean Henry, who’s a Sligoman but came through the Munster academy. 4 academy players have also played for first XV this year, 2 from Connacht, 2 from further afield.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  January 12, 2015

        @Bueller, considering the talent gap(this season) has shown the provinces to be a lot closer on the pitch(coaching plays a role obv) then their off the field resources would indicate. Does your figure indicate that Leinster are actually doing the least with the most?

        • Bueller

           /  January 12, 2015

          To a certain extent. It depends on what you mean by ‘the most’?
          There is much spoken about the Leinster academy and it certainly does seem to be the most successful of all the provinces at underage level etc. but it doesn’t seem to have taken effect on the senior team if you ask me. Of the provinces Leinster have by far the most ‘foreign’ players on their books (11) along with 3 previously Munster players. Yet Munster have 6 previously Leinster players on their books who were pretty much ‘cut loose’ from their structure at various points – there are a good few Leinster lads in the other provinces also.
          I don’t really know what the above stats say but the ‘probable selection’ above includes 7 ‘non-indigenous’ players (depending on how you view Ruddock) in the starting XV, and there would probably be a similar breakdown in all provs starting XVs. It just doesn’t seem representative of their underage dominance and to me would suggest this underage success is more indicative of the ‘population advantage’ more than the quality of the structures in place/players coming through.
          I personally have serious questions about the ‘academy system’ the IRFU are so keen on in all provinces and it seems to only ever produce the same number of players for the senior squads no matter how successful a ‘structure’ it is. I don’t have any solutions TBH but there certainly needs to be more focus on including these players in the AIL, etc. whenever possible IMO.

          @Salmsonconnacht. Thanks – that was a pretty comprehensive breakdown!

          • The academy structure completely misses your later developers like James Coughlan and Darragh Fanning, which makes the AIL vital in making sure those guys don’t get missed. Connacht’s experience in taking backs from the AIL who have been discarded by Leinster – Carr, Keatley, Ronaldson, McSharry, Adeolokun – suggests that the gap from the top of the AIL to professional player is about 12 weeks of pre-season (for backs anyway).

          • AtItAillDay

             /  January 12, 2015

            @salmsonconnacht. The likes of Carr, Keatley didnt really join Connacht after being taken from AIL after being discarded by Leinster. Adeolokun was never discarded by Leinster. Never in their system. To say the gap is that small is far from the truth

    • @Salmsonconnacht Adeolokun was never discarded by Leinster. Never involved with their pro team
      Ulster are working hard in areas like Donegal but there was never really much rugby played in lots of Ulster and its taking time to get any bit of a hold on youngsters. Leinster and Connacht are doing best by a good margin in getting the best out of their resources.

      • “unwanted” might have been better. I don’t think many of the others were in the Leinster academy either.

        • Checked: Ronaldson and Carr weren’t Leinster academy (though Carr played once for Leinster before joining Connacht), Keatley was but didn’t progress, McShaz left the Leinster academy to come west.

      • WatchingCartoons

         /  January 12, 2015

        There have been a few training days in Donegal with Ulster players going up, but a big part of the problem is that too many clubs would prefer to forfeit a game rather than make the journey to such far flung places.
        Thankfully, my own club was one of the ones that made a point of making the trip. It was only once or twice a season, whereas they’d be doing it for every away match. It’s can be a long trip, but I always found it utterly disrespectful for a team to just not bother.
        How can an underage team develop if none of the opposition teams bother showing up?

  3. Conbsensus among Leiunster support seems to be that Ruddock won’t be in line for selection, in which case I think we can amend both the probable and preferred backrows to: Conan, Murphy, Heaslip.

  4. Love your selection and would agree but for Ruddock. As he’s been injured and played no rugby in the past few weeks I’d leave him out of the starting line up. As he’s probably not available I’d probably start Jennings with Murphy on the bench. Jennings brings a degree of aggression which has been sorely missing from the Leinster pack this season. I also think Kerschner is probably worth a bench spot. He offers a little more in attack than Bob who had a tendency to run into contact and end up isolated a bit too much.

  5. ORiordan

     /  January 12, 2015

    There are participation numbers in the IRFU reports. Adding together schools and age grade club numbers, Leinster have about 15k, Ulster 13k and Munster 11k. Ulster actually have more schools players than Leinster, but a lot less playing age grade for clubs.

    For schools development programs (which includes things like primary schools, so is much longer term), Leinster have 2-3 times the numbers of Ulster and Munster.

    I can’t comment on the quality of the programs to identify talent and bring it through to academies and beyond, but Leinster’s pipeline is definitely much bigger in terms of numbers.

    • From what you’ve said re numbers and from what I’ve heard before it seems to be the retention of schools players into club level rugby that’s the big difference. What ever Leinster are doing differently they seem to be able to convert more schools players into club players. There’s been some talk of this being down to too much focus on winning at early levels and not enough on developing the players but I don’t know enough about that to be able to comment. Does anyone know what the focus at under age and schools levels is like in Ulster?

      • Unfortunately my experience of the underage system in Ulster is one that puts all the emphasis on the Schools system, and none on the club sides. The Schools Cup is the big kahuna and most of the boys who enter the Ulster Academy are still from the traditional Methody/Inst/Campbell/Ballymena etc schools and not as many from the Club sides out around the province.

        Having known one or two boys who got places with the Academy from clubs sides, the emphasis was completely different than they were used to and they couldn’t keep up with the schools boys.

        The problem in my experience is that the Schools players are not allowed to play for the clubs at underage, so the links are never built up from an early age and so they don’t bring the links to the clubs at this level and so club player find it harder to break the monopoly.

        My former club was one of the few in the area who actively recruited from the catholic grammar and they had GAA boys turning out regularly for them, a few of who could have been very good rugby players but they never had the chance to show their skills on the big stage as the underage club comp was not as important as Schools Cup

        • There is a major emphasis on the schools system and a lot of clubs players move to the big schools at 16/17. Schools generally have the numbers so can produce more academy standard players etc. Schools have at least 2 sides at every age group – 14/15/16/senior while most clubs don’t so schools have more competition for places so better players
          Its up to the branch development officers and staff, and club PROs, branch committees to help publicise youths competitions to help publicise youths competitions to help attract players. The schools cups get tv coverage, acres of newspaper coverage and all the glamour but small amount of work can get youths game on a better standing(will never be equal)

        • Could it be that because the schools players train full time that the gap is smaller to transition to the academy ?

      • ORiordan

         /  January 12, 2015

        Purely based on the number of club players as a percentage of schools and club age grade players, Leinster actually has a lower figure than Ulster and Munster.

        As Leinster has more schools and club age grade players than the other provinces by a distance, they don’t need to be the best at retaining them to still have more club players than the others.

        Of course this is just looking at raw numbers, not the quality or level of the retained players.

        Based upon the numbers, my perception is that Ulster is till highly dependent on the traditional rugby schools and is well behind the other provinces when it comes to age grade club rugby. Schools development numbers have increased a lot in Ulster but it will be 10 years before this will have any impact.

      • I’d imagine that a few reasons Leinster have a better ratio of retaining club players would be -a large proportion going onto 3rd level within easy commuting distance of their club, which might even have a feeder school they attended,
        -3rd level institutions with decent teams

        I’d also wonder if school-aged players elsewhere become club level players in Leinster should they move to Dublin, Maynooth etc for college or work. There’s a ridiculous number of clubs to chose from should you be too far away to train consistently with your local club. Bective certainly used to be “a country club in the city”, I don’t know if that’s still the case. I assume the club numbers are based on what club you play for rather than where you’re from but possibly not.

        • bective still are kind of seen as a country club in the city but the better players don’t go to bective as they’ll go to 1st or 2nd division clubs not a 3rd division club like bective. the intro of AIL and clubs like Navan, Boyne etc going senior has impacted some clubs recruitment as more players likely to stay with a home club. this is the same in Limerick as before the best players from Bruff, Nenagh, Cashel etc would be playing in Limerick if they wanted to play senior rugby but they don’t any more

          • Oh definitely but my point was more if you come up from outside Leinster for college, you’re not a top tier AIL player but you want to keep playing without going home to train every week so you join a club like Bective or similar. Are you then counted as a Leinster club rugby player?

  6. ruckinhell

     /  January 12, 2015

    I’ve watched the last number of Leinster games and the Leinster backrow have some serious deficiencies and put in some very anaemic performances . Dominic Ryan is basically an Irish Joe Worsley, a great tackler but offers very little else for an internationally capped player. At least he can do that well; Jordi Murphy on the other hand has been one of the least effective tacklers I’ve seen of late, against Munster he was steamrolled around the fringes and on the one out passes (Tommy O’Donnell burst him three times on one out carries- TOD is a competent ball carrier but he’s not exactly David Wallace in the power stakes). Against Cardiff he made a massively undersized and recently converted 8 man (Navidi-all 95 kgs of him) look like Duane Vermeulen at times, just storming over the gainline time and again.

    Leinster, for all of their “strength in depth” have yet to field a backrow that has properly dominated their opposition like they did consistently in the later Cheika and Schmidt era. While he’s an oldie and hasn’t much left in the tank they badly need the nous of Jennings. Conan has put in some eye catching carries but Heaslip is head and shoulders above him at present in terms of overall impact on the game. If Ruddock is out a backrow of Conan, Jennings and Heaslip seems to offer a balance of nous, workrate and ball carrying heft.

    • Donal

       /  January 12, 2015

      To be fair Murphy was only back from injury for the Munster game and his recent performances have been better but due to his size I always fear for him against big packs. He has been manhandled against big French packs once or twice.

      Jennings has been hit and miss, he was at fault by his own admission for 2 of the tries versus Munster. I would still start him though for the reasons you outline above.

      Dom Ryan looks to be an OK player who hit a bit of form (thankfully when it was required) earlier this season. For me he looked a little lost at times the last few games. He is well down the pecking order for me, even more so when all are back fit.
      (Heaslip>SOB>Ruddock>Conan>Jennings>Murphy>McLaughlin>Ryan>Flyer>Leavy).

      Some of these guys are going to have to move on as there has to be some wiggle room to give senior academy players first team experience.

    • Interesting post, ruckinhell, and you didn’t even delve into the concerns at the breakdown which have been numerous. I think you’re maybe a little harsh on Murphy and Ryan. Ryan carried hugely effectively against Harlequins and is a little bit mor rounded than Joe Worsley. I’m not saying he’s better than Worsley, or that there’s anytrhing wrong with being the new Joe Worsley (ask Dan Lydiate!) just that he’s not quite in the same mould. Murphy was pretty much appalling in his first couple of games back but they were his first games after a long time out, so some allowances have to be made, and in the last two weeks has looked closer to last-season vintage Murphy, when he got picked for the Six Nations 23.

      But, yes, for all the depth and options they have yet to shore up a number of problems.

      • ruckinhell

         /  January 12, 2015

        I thought Murphy was very poor against a mediocre enough Cardiff team and I wouldn’t have him near the Irish Wolfhounds at the moment let alone the Senior XV. I hope he gets his mojo back as he has fine potential but he’s really not fit for purpose at the moment.

        I didn’t really touch on the breakdown as it’d take a long Demented Mole style article rather than a comment post to outline where all the issues lie regarding this Leinster side at the moment. I’d also note that I think this is an issue for the Leinster team as a whole, not just the backrow. The body angles, commitment and presentation in attack and ruck selection in defence have really been shambolic of late, from 1 to 15. Given that ball retention is sacrosanct in the Church of Joe this is very worrying indeed coming into the 6 N.

        I think Ryan is a solid pro but I struggle to see what he offers Ireland apart from excellent tackling. I don’t think his carrying, breakdown skills, lineout work or link play is really of a high enough standard to justify selection on a consistent basis. I like his attitude and you won’t go through him but you need a bit more for international rugby unless you are Warren Gatland who has always had a very fixed view of how a backrow should operate: 6 tackles, 7 fetches in defence and links in attack and 8 carries. Secondary deficiencies are usually overlooked once they do the primary job to the requisite (and admittedly high) standard. NB- LL should be along shortly to say that this is proper order!

        Joe Worsley and Dan Lydiate fit into those categories and are archetypical Gatland 6s but I think that this entrenched approach to how to deploy your backrow (which very much feeds into Gatlandball) can be picked apart by a clever coach (which we thankfully have!).

        • Leinsterlion

           /  January 12, 2015

          Best teams have balanced backrows, dont know why this is an argument at this point, afaik no one has reinvented the game of rugby, yet. Look how much better Leinster are with a semi fit, slow and aging Jenno at seven than with anyone else. Leinster had the luxury of playing(wasting?) a superhuman BOD as an auxiliary 7, in effect playing with a seven and a half every game, its no suprise our breakdown/fetching game has suffered with a shot Jenno performing the role by himself or not at all(when not selected(injury or what have you)).
          Obviously if you have superhuman players like a Ferris at 6, who can do everything you can mix up your players slightly, but for the vast majority of teams, balanced backrow works. Look at Sale with an old, broken down, one legged Dan Braid vs without him, totally different team.

          • ruckinhell

             /  January 12, 2015

            I agree that a backrow needs balance, but disagree that the number on the jersey dictates what the player has to provide to get that balance right. I don’t care who is doing the job once it’s getting done.

            If the superhuman BOD is a reference to SOB than I think at this stage he can do everything that a seven is required to do, and then some (apart from not getting injured). He has a freakishly high workrate and I think his breakdown work went from “ok” to “very good” in the 2013 season.

          • No, ruckinhell, he’s talking about the one and only Brian. Who spent as much time with his head under a pile of bodies as he did gliding past defenders which made up for SOB being and out and out number 8 with a 7 on his back. Heaslip has also spent a huge amount of time performing fetching-type duties.

          • Leinsterlion

             /  January 13, 2015

            @ehhweasel, spot on. Obviously what BOD brought to the table(for Leinster and Ireland) in terms of openside play has been quickly forgotten if people think its SOB’s ground game that we are missing….its not, its the lad who used to wear thirteen on his back.

  7. I too lean more towards the WoC than the probable selection. I would definitely go with that backline, but who do we put on the bench – Reid or D’Arcy? The tighthead situation is similar. If one starts with Moore, who’s back-up – Ross or Turlong? On the basis of most recent performances I would choose the latter. Ditto scrumhalf. Ooh Ah Luke McGrath or Boss? I reckon the kid has done enough. That escape under pressure from two Cardiff would-be tacklers and then break up the center of the pitch, which led eventually to his own try, was absolutey sublime. LMcG was also the one who forced the turnover after the Navidi break out and passed to Jimmy G, which led to the Reid try. It’s kinda tough on Rossy, Darce and Boss, but on form I think the new kids on the block deserve selection. On the hooker front it’s a no-brainer IMO that Strauss should start ahead of Cronin for reasons that need no elaboration. I would also like to see Jenno in the first 15 as “enforcer”.

    • labrecha1

       /  January 12, 2015

      McGrath missed a lot of tackles around the fringes against Cardiff which along with getting completely outplayed at the breakdown gave Cardiff no end of momentum at crucial periods when we were playing against 14/13 men and should really have been putting them to the sword. I know he is only a little fella but his tackle technique was very poor(Reddan is a wee lad also but tackles above his weight). He made up for it somewhat with one great break but I would bench him for Castres and stick to Reddan and Boss benching for Wasps and there big pack.

  8. curates_egg

     /  January 12, 2015

    Clean your underpants lads: I am not sure one game from Te’o is enough to make a call on him yet. Looked good though.

    There is a host of reasons why I hope and think Madigan can and should start at 10 this weekend, given the context of the game and the way we will need to play, the implications of his selection for Leinster and for the national side. In fact, it is really hard to make the case against him starting. You can have a debate for the Wasps game (there I would edge towards starting Gopperth, with Madigan at 12) but has to be Madigan this weekend for me.

    • curates_egg

       /  January 12, 2015

      Just rewatched some of the game and Te’o dropped a few passes and didn’t seem involved in the defense. He is not ready for a European squad yet.

  9. curates_egg

     /  January 12, 2015

    On the front row, Michael Bent has been excellent for Leinster for quite some time now and it is high time some of us online (including yourselves) swallowed humble pie and gave credit where it’s due.
    He may not be as dynamic around the pitch as McGrath (or Healy) but our scrum has only looked solid when he was on (granted McGrath seems to be carrying an injury), and he regularly gets into double-figures tackling.

    On the hookers, it depends what we want. Cronin will have to get at least 30 minutes this weekend though, given what we need to achieve and our lack of carriers.

    • Spikes

       /  January 12, 2015

      Fair comment on Bent. For a guy who’s taken a lot of stick, he’s been very valuable this season.

      • Fair play to him for getting the head down both literally & figuratively. It can’t have been easy being the centre of the shitstorm of coverage the followed him & being a piñata for anyone looking to have a go at the granny rule

    • Donal

       /  January 12, 2015

      Agree he’s come on a lot, but he’s still had his share of scrum woes and his hands are terrible. There might be an argument to start him ahead of McGrath versus Wasps if his ban is reduced, but the last few weeks has just highlighted by what a length Healy is Leinster’s and Ireland’s best prop.

      • toro toro

         /  January 12, 2015

        Bent’s always been more solid playing at LH, though. He can do a job at TH, like Court could, but can get minced quite badly. Playing regularly in a position where he looks just fine, he looks just fine.

  10. Isn’t the whole dropping the ball in the opposition’s 22 a rather worrying trait for all the provinces this year? I really struggle when watching the Irish teams play to see where we can break the lines when ball handling skills of some of our players look fairly weak. At international level as well my biggest worry is that barring our kick chase game we don’t ever really look like making a line break against a top class defense (even a decent defense like Georgia didnt break until they were absolutely knackered).

    With backs like Murray, Sexton, Fitzgerald, Bowe, Henshaw, Zebo, Olding and Kearney the international team should be putting together some seriously intricate moves but with BOD gone our whole offloading game seems to have gone with him.

  11. Leinsterlion

     /  January 12, 2015

    I’m inclined to give Jordi a pass, as it usually take players a season after the season they did there knee to return to any sort of form or effectiveness. That being said, he should be nowhere near the first team based on his performances, slow, underpowered and ineffectual, surely Van der Flier is worth persevering with?
    Cant see Ruddock at seven, that would be a disaster. Jenno has to return.
    Conan is the form backrow, no arguments on where he slots in, FEED HIM THE BALL.
    Ryan is playing well, but still more of a POM fill in the numbers type of player, not bad, but not especially good at anything.
    Locks are a disappointment, just not very good at being locks, mixing the good with the bad.
    Cronin cant throw or hook, he will always be the best back up hooker in the country/world, like Mealamu has been the majority of his NZ career and Bismark was under John Smit.
    9 has to be McGrath, Redden is not the player he was and Boss is a joke at this stage.
    Mads at ten, no contest.
    Te’o at 12, again, no contest.
    Fitz at 13, again, no contest.
    Wings are all much of a muchness. shite. pick anyone outside of Fanning and you will get more or less the same performance. Kearney jnr, McFadden, Kirchner all offer the same variety of POMishness, not bad, but not very good either, not liable to grab a game by the scruff of the neck. Participating passengers.
    FB. Kearnage snr, peerless at his best, he isnt at his best though.
    Our backline and back ups reflects MOCs shit record in bringing through all the young talented backs we supposedly have. A lot of workmanlike plodders. Madigan, Te’o and Fitz, aside, there is no one I would bank on blowing open a game, and the only one I would put money on to do it is Madigan.

    • Consistency, thy name is Leinsterlion (or should that be the other way around?). Madigan is a deffo for the first 15 because of his place kicking. That being said, IMO he should start at outhalf, if we’re to get the maximise our potential at 10,12 & 13 i.e. I’d sooner leave Gopperth on the bench than Luke Fitz, Darce or Te’o.

    • Donal

       /  January 12, 2015

      Te’o at 12 no contest based on one or two reasonable breaks and injuring Sam Warburton? If an academy centre had put in Te’o’s performance I don’t think we’d be calling for his inclusion just yet.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  January 12, 2015

        @Donal, who else would you put at twelve? Te’o has pedigree, look at his league career, who else is there? Darce is shot, forget about him at this point. Coughlan has been(bizarrely) moved back to backrow and has disappeared never to be seen again. Reid doesnt have the physicality or defensive nous to play at a higher level then Pro 12, McFaddens ship has sailed long ago, same with Fitz(doesnt have the body to stand up to it imo). Madigan is wasted at 12 and has no long term future there, we will just be creating another *insert any of(Shane Gegerty, Barkley, McAllister, Staunton etc etc)* player whose career was wasted vacillating between ten and twelve.

        @Riocard Ó Tiarnaigh (@riocard911) If Mads is not selected at ten, what is the point in Nucifora? If your coach would rather entrust a journeyman who has done nothing in two years over a player who has won innumerable games big games, there is something seriously wrong in the backroom. Mads is the sane choice at ten, Gops is finito, his career never took off, too big a stage for him imo.

        • We’re in total agreement on the Leinster outhalf question and have been since September 2013; the consistency jest was a compliment, not a dig. As I’ve said on previous occasions Ireland needs Madigan getting as much game-time at ten as possible and sensible, so that Ireland’s RWC 2015 hopes are not solely riding on J10 not having an injury.

        • Donal

           /  January 12, 2015

          Agreed on Darcy.
          I would go with Reid. He’s a bit light but he has good hands and runs nice lines. That or go Jimmy at 10 or Mads at 12.
          T’eo has played zero rugby at 12 and SFA Union at all. He could be at sea in terms of defensive reads. If he was to be in for selection for H-Cup he needed more game time up until now. I don’t doubt his athleticism so put him on the bench.

    • curates_egg

       /  January 12, 2015

      You, sir, are the king troll 😉

      Ignoring the rest of your bait, I will take this one – “Te’o at 12, again, no contest”.
      It is amazing that he has no contest given he has played less than 20 minutes rugby union at 12. He does look like an exiting prospect but as he has only played 100 minutes of rugby union, split between 2 different positions, and not had a serious challenge yet (Cardiff’s midfield is weak). Call me conservative but I would like to see him defensively tested at least once before throwing him into a must-win European game.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  January 12, 2015

        See above on Te’o^. Darce cant threaten the gainline, Gops is non runner at ten, just not at the races. who else is there? Feed him the ball, Fitz and Madigan are good enough defenders either side to shepard him in D. If Mads was a crap defender I would agree, but he isnt. We are losing too much in attack(that we badly need) by not playing him imo, that outweighs the “what if?” fear of an O’Gara defensive performance, our need to score tries is greater then our need to be 100% watertight in D.

        • labrecha1

           /  January 12, 2015

          In fairness and I’m not his biggest fan, ‘Gops a non-runner’, ‘Not a t the races’? He was good against Cardiff and thats without doubt, line breaks, brilliant restarts (ok his kicking from tee wasn’t great and ok it’s Cardiff (who we took ages to kill off by the way), but credit where it is due please.

          • Leinsterlion

             /  January 13, 2015

            How much good rugby has Gops played this(last) year? A good 40 mins against Quins in the stoop, and an ok match against 14 Cardiff players in the pro 12….
            I agree he has a good break, but when have we exploited it? Or when has he exploited it, he gets through a gap and gets us field position, but it dies from there. How many times has he broken to nothing? Just because he has had a bit of a purple patch does not mean I’m going to change my opinion on him, it has to be for a sustained period of games, the dross outweighs the good as far as I’m concerned.

        • D6W

           /  January 13, 2015

          While I wholeheartedly agree with your consistant stance on Madigan vs Gopperth, in the interests of fairness it has to be said Gopperth played well against Cardiff. All be it against 14 men.

  12. John storey

     /  January 12, 2015

    Is Kane Douglas the worst signing ever,certainly vying to be the laziest.

  13. hulkinator

     /  January 12, 2015

    From an Ireland point of view, the performance of Marty Moore was great to see. The commentators mentioned how Gatland must have been pleased to see the performance of Jenkins but Gatland was also looking at Moore and Furlong – 2 young Irish props – get the better of him in the scrums. With Mike Ross running out of steam, the timing of Moore’s comeback is very good news for Ireland. Furlong is also very near Ross now as well in terms of scrummaging and better in the loose.

    Good to see Jack Conan play so well also. He is a much better ball carrier than Heaslip and could put Heaslip under pressure next season.

  14. Madigan must start for Ireland’s sake. Sexton will be out for at least a game and he is most likely the man to slot in. Reid has been pretty good, he recently got a MOM and as curates_egg has said, Te’o hasn’t played enough games yet to make any judgments. So I’d have Madigan-Reid-Fitzgerald as the midfield.

    On the wing I’m still not sure why people like Kearney Jr, but JS is one of the people who likes him so I must be the wrong one. If someone could explain it I would be very appreciative.

    In regards to people saying Murphy gets pushed around because he’s small: he’s 106kg and made around 20 tackles against Cardiff. He is a similar size to Heaslip TOD POM and Henry. Maybe he was poor when he first came back, but he was good this weekend.

    • curates_egg

       /  January 12, 2015

      I might have Kirchner over Kearney Jr but Kearney Jr is pretty reliable for the Schmidt kick-chase gameplan. The MOC kick-no chase game plan relies on defenders defending en masse and not missing tackles. Kearney seems fine for that too.

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