Kasparov, Deep Blue, 1996

Two Six Nations ago, in their second Six Nations under Jacques Brunel, Italy beat Ireland and France, admittedly both at home. The draw for RWC15 had already been made, and these three, with all due respect to Canada Eh and Romania, would be in a round-robin playoff for qualification. If results were repeated, Italy would have topped the pool, and Ireland would have been one bonus point behind France in the scrap for second. Brunel had worked on expanding Italy’s game after succeeding <insert name of Southern Hemisphere rent-a-coach here>, and it was paying dividends – Italy looked like they might be a genuine threat for the rest of the cycle.

Wind the clock forward two years, and Brunel’s experiment has ended – in November, Italy responded to a terrible run of results by picking a Kiwi journeyman at outhalf and sticking it up the jumper. This was never a gameplan that was likely to unstick Ireland under Joe ‘Deep Blue’ Schmidt – and so it proved. Ireland dusted down the well-worn script for beating the Italians when they were under <Southern Hemisphere rent-a-coach> – disrupt the lineout, slowly overpower them up front, and make hay when they began to tire in the last quarter. The Italians even threw in the traditional yellow card. Eddie and Deccie negotiated such obstacles with ease, and so did Joe Schmidt’s Ireland.

The game was a snoozefest, and Ireland’s seemingly fervent desire not to show any of their hand led to the likes of Jared Payne and Henshaw being used to bosh it up the middle. Like the November formula, keeping it narrow was the watchword. O’Connell admitted Ireland allowed themselves to ease into the game slowly.  One would expect we will need to show a bit more against France, who will lap that kind of stuff up. In the pack, Jamie Heaslip is virtually certain to return, we will need to await a prognosis on the unfortunate Sean O’Brien, and DJ Church is less likely to make it. O’Brien’s injury puts the selectors in a bit of a pickle, because the game being against Italy was the perfect opportunity to give him a bit of a hit out before the France match.  But without that hit-out, do they now throw him in from the start against the French?  Or will he even be avilable?  If O’Brien doesn’t make it, its a choice between Tommy O’Donnell, who did very well deputising at the last moment, Jordi Murphy, first reserve 12 months ago, or something creative (and unlikely) like shoe-horning Iain Henderson into blindside while moving Peter O’Mahony across. Henderson’s ballast and skill off the bench gave Ireland real momentum in Rome, and one wonders if it’s merely a matter of time before he makes the starting team.

Right now, though, O’Donnell looks the natural choice.  Full credit to him, but the ease with which Ireland can replace a player of the calibre of Sean O’Brien without batting an eyelid shows (again) how systems and processes drive modern rugby, and in particular this Ireland set-up. It’s tough to imagine, say, Deccie’s Grand Slam Ireland being able to seemlessly replace, say, Wally and Fez with Shane Jennings and Denis Leamy without a noticable decline in production.  They were almost the opposite; dependant on signature players for big plays at key times in the heat of battle.

In the absence of Jonny Sexton, Conor Murray controlled the game nicely – what a player he is – but Keatley had a bit of a curate’s egg on his Six Nations debut. He took his goals well, and kicked better as time went on, but there were a couple of ugly errors in the first half, and Sexton’s general-ship was missed. We’ll need the cranky one back to be at our best. Ian Madigan came off the bench for a tasty cameo against tiring legs, and is probably inked into the number 22 shirt for the tournament – Keatley did fine, and he’ll start if Sexton goes down again, but Madigan’s unstructured threat is better off the bench.

To continue the RWC15 theme, the Italians look so far off being a threat to Ireland that it isn’t funny. The French, of course, are another kettle of fish. Right now, all the elements seem to be there, but it just doesn’t seem to be coming together for them – they didn’t show much against Scotland that would have us tossing and turning .. or maybe Scotland are better under Vern Cotter than they have been. Like Ireland, presumably PSA doesn’t want to show his full hand, given the team is, y’know (with some exceptions), Gallic and, y’know, mercurial and, y’know, French, the whole Scotland episode probably gives few pointers as to how next week will go.

The tournament has started with wins which would have been fully expected, without learning much, but the real direction of the tournament for Ireland and France will be decided on Saturday.

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52 Comments

  1. If Toner hadn’t become the IRISH RETALLICK (© S.Barnes) this season I’d have said we should start Henderson alongside POC against France. He put in another decent shift in against. Seeing Henderson come on for POM was a bit of a surprise as well, given that POC looked to be tiring a little towards the end. Anyway, I’d largely stick with the same team (bringing in Sexton and Heaslip obviously), and give Henshaw a brief of “in defense, smash Bastareau”. If SOB were to be fully fit, I’d put him on the bench or have him start for Leinster on Sunday if he still needed a hit out.

    While the game was a snoozefest, I thought it was a pretty solid result. Italy are never exactly pushovers in their first game, and while they conspired to make things easy for us, their defense in the first half was, as it usually is, impressive. Imagine if they had come at us like they did against Wales last year, we’d have struggled. Thanks for adding a Gallic Shrug to the Italian psyche, Jaques!

    Elsewhere, the Spai-er, France/Scotland game probably turned out similarly enough to ours, with the exception that they leaked a try and got out of jail by the Scots missing kicks. Ireland aren’t the only ones who have to raise their game next week in Dublin.

    England are the team to beat at the minute really, once they figured out what to do they were scarily effective at it (Haskell running into the post like he was Wile E Coyote notwithstanding). Wales are set for more disappointment since Warrenball still seems to be in full effect, and enough teams are showing that they can counter it.

  2. Ollie

     /  February 9, 2015

    “It’s tough to imagine, say, Deccie’s Grand Slam Ireland being able to seemlessly replace, say, Wally and Fez with Shane Jennings and Denis Leamy without a noticable decline in production”

    Appreciate the general point your making but it should be noted that in the Welsh game in 09 Leamy came on for an injured Ferris early in the game and was arguably our Motm.

    Of course he also started against Scotland instead of Heaslip and was sh*te.

  3. ruckinhell

     /  February 9, 2015

    Hard to read too much into that victory, the Italians were brave but limited and we jabbed our way to victory without ever needing a proper knockout blow. Set piece, defence, breakdown accuracy and kick chase were all at usually high levels but we never had a fluency in attack to excite the punters. Part of this is that the TOD and Murphy aren’t really physically suited for the one out bosh them down gameplan so we were relying on the likes of POM to get us over the gainline on hard yards, not really his forte. On the other hand, throw three of SOB, Henderson, S. Cronin and Heaslip into that pack with the possibility of Healy off the bench and we have a hell of a lot more forward penetration against France.

    Job done, a points take well over the spread and bar a freakish injury to SOB in warmup and a couple of (seemingly) minor knocks on Payne and Best we got out of Rome with no more major injury concerns. I’ll accept that anyday.

  4. Xyz

     /  February 9, 2015

    This was something of a typical away performance from a Joe Schmidt side – keep it tight and grind out the win. You got the impression that a score in multiples of three would have been acceptable though obviously the yellow card was taken advantage of. I’m thinking of the away win to Bath by Leinster in the 11/12 season. (Not that i’m expecting a repeat of the return leg of that fixture when France come to Dublin next week).

    Two players that really stood out for me were Toner and Zebo – the former actually carried effectively (once!) which is not what he is on the pitch to do, and Zebo popped up everywhere and was doing some nice distributing on occasion (was he moving into the centre for some plays?). Speaking of swaps into the centre, should we read anything of Bowe finishing the game there?

    • our take was that that was a function of not picking a multi-functional player (Earls or Fitz) on the bench – Jones coming on required a re-shuffle

      • L.P.O.

         /  February 9, 2015

        ha! @ multifunctional re: Earls.

        • Peter Daly

           /  February 9, 2015

          To be fair to Earls he has significantly more experience at 13 and 15 than Fitz (who when fit is a much better player). I’d like to see Fitz get a run of games at 13 before we star counting our chickens.

  5. They_are_laws_not_rules

     /  February 9, 2015

    One of the worst games I have seen in a while but it was a box ticking exercise. Get the Win: Tick, Blood Keatley: Tick, Get Payne and Henshaw back together: tick, Show none of our advanced game plan: tick.

    I thought O’Donnell played himself into the starting team next week, he is a confidence player and is back to his best. However if Seanie is back then Jordi’s ability to cover the entire backrow would see him get the spot.

    I would like to see Zebo replaced by Earls ( with fingers crossed Tremenjus is back soon). While Zebo’s defence has improved over the last year, he is currently killing our back line moves dead. With the exception of one decent pass to Payne his l MO seems to be: get the ball, crab around for 5-8 meters, get tackled, kill the momentum and or get turned over. I’m tired of hearing the “we must include him for his X factor” camp, no we don’t, its killing our continuity and his refusal to pass is now known by defences The only decent games Zeebs played this year( IMO) were against the 2 Italian teams ( possibly why he was picked at the weekend ) and Sale A.

    Also has anyone else noticed that POC, with ball in hand, is now falling before he is even at the contact zone? He is not an effective carrier so why do we use him. I know it’s only a small thing, but it makes no sense to me, anyone care to explain? Don’t get me wrong around the park, tackles, lineouts and leadership he is your man, but carrying has zero effect.

    • I think you’re being overly harsh on Zebo here – I thought he had one of his best games under Schmidt. He made some key defensive plays and gave one Madigan-esque bullet pass out to Payne (I think) that resulted in a line bust. I don’t think he’ll ever be Schmidt’s archetype winger but it’s evident, in his defensive workrate, that he’s listened and put in the effort to improve where Schmidt has asked him to.

      • The Zebo bashing reminds me of the criticism Heaslip used to get a few years ago. Seems completely disconnected from his performances/qualities and entirely prejudicial.

    • curates_egg

       /  February 9, 2015

      Also find your assessment of Zebo way off. He was the only one of our backs who actually offered any creativity and made some cracking tackles.
      He strayed out of position a few times in the first half, which was concerning but one would imagine he will have a different remit if picked to start again.

    • Stevo

       /  February 11, 2015

      There were two only two real occasions we looked dangerous in attack before TOD’s try, and both of which were occasions where Zebo took it upon himself to move into second receiver and then created some space outside, the first time by taking the ball to the line before passing, the second with an excellent skip pass to Payne. Neither kind of play are something Earls would be known for. His other main contribution was a great defensive read to break out of the line and shut down an Italian overlap.

  6. Leinsterlion

     /  February 9, 2015

    Shockingly poor weekend of rugby, hopefully it stays dry for the rest for the tournament, I would hate to see what type of trench warfare would result. If the standards of the weekend are anything to go by Somme, 1916, could represent a tactical enlightenment in comparison.
    As for the weekends result. we motored over a shit Italy playing dire stuff, a pointless exercise, the quicker its airbrushed from memory, the better.

  7. I find it really amusing that Zebo is being used as a scapegoat despite looking really sharp and showing great distribution skills when he came infield. I would have gone with Earls as first choice but now I’m leaning towards Zeebs out of spite.

    Joe needs to make a call on his second choice number 7 as, whoever it’s going to be, they need to get as much game time as possible before RWC if we’re looking at O’Brien turning into another Leamy/Ferris injuryofeen. O’Donnell looks like the best candidate and the younger backrows have a few years to catch him up after the world cup. What’s Jordi now, 23? Plenty of time for him, Ryan, Conan, Ruddock to develop in the next four year cycle.

    • I think if Ruddock were fit, he would have started ahead of TOD. His performances in the AI’s merit him being second choice 7 (and probably second choice 6) for RWC.

      Assuming he returns from injury and shows the same level of performance obviously.

    • Paddy

       /  February 9, 2015

      He’s behind SOB and Henry for the 7 shirt. Then Ruddock is the preffered candidate after them. Unless there is a massive injury crisis in the backrow as there is now neither TOD or Murphy will feature in a big way in the 6N or the world cup.

  8. If Schmidt’s ethos is to start slowly, then by gum, they started at glacial pace. It was a pretty dire, ultra conservative gameplan in the first half.

    The only real positive (bar the result) out of the game was the massive impact our bench had – between NWJMB and Madigan, they completely altered the pace and momentum of the game. That’s great to see and bodes well for the rest of the 6 nations in terms of genuine impact and game changing ability on the bench.

    Other than that, nothing to see here, move along.

  9. I don’t buy the whole, ‘not showing our real game plan’. Our lack of penetration against Italy was shocking especially as they gave us so much territory and possession. We didn’t have to show our best moves and tactics, just something other than giving it to the nearest forward.

    I’m also surprised how so many are praising Keatley. Madigan’s cameo showed that he is a class above in terms of play making. A lot of the praise been given to Keatley is pointless as it is revolving around his goal kicking, an area which Mads is superior.

    Our lack of ball carriers was exposed for the umpteenth time and if SOB is back I’d play him. Hendo also showed his class although with most people there seems to be an air of ‘if Toner is playing well then he can’t be replaced regardless of how good Hendo clearly is’. Having said that I’d consider replacing POM with Hendo rather than Dev. The jury is also still out on Payne.

    Next week I’d have a pack of: McGrath,Best,Moore,POC,Hendo,POM,SOB,Jamie.

    With those boys plus Sexton back I’m fully confident we’ll beat France.

    • Donal

       /  February 9, 2015

      Toner was yet again one of if not our best players. If you were gonna drop a second row for Henderson based on form is would have to be POC. Truth be told you’d be mad to drop either.

      • Yeah, I agree. POC and Toner will start. The lineout unit will be kept and used effectively. Henderson will remain on the bench as will Cronin and Madigan for the impact they provide. For that reason I would be surprised to see Felix on the bench against France as you’d get more impact out of Earls or Fitz.

      • Completely proving my point that poeple think if Toner plays well, regardless of how good Hendo is, he shouldn’t be dropped.

        • Donal

           /  February 9, 2015

          Em I think the point is lets not drop Toner when Henderson can play in other positions.

    • Yossarian

       /  February 9, 2015

      No chance Toner will be dropped. did everything asked of him. Had an effective game.

  10. Donal

     /  February 9, 2015

    I don’t think TOD had the cracking game that is being bandied about. He took his try well and tackled fairly effectively but he carried poorly. He is too direct for a guy of his size. He was hammered backwards in contact by the Italian pack more often than not. He also gave away two soft penalties. This might not seem like a lot for a back row but the Italians had so little of the ball that against a better team this number could seriously rise.

    Don’t get me wrong he did ok for especially given the circumstance but for me it’s Henderson all the way. POM (who turned bad ball into good ball with some meaty carries, who knew he could do this?) is a clever player and can move to 7 no problem. I imagine the back row for next week with me POM, Murphy, Heaslip or Hendo, POM, Heaslip given SOB is out.

    • curates_egg

       /  February 9, 2015

      Also thought Murphy was far more effective. It will be an interesting call.

      • Donal

         /  February 9, 2015

        The Irish media and many a fan have a pretty narrow view of performance. An eye catching try even if it involved some horrendous tackling will get you a few articles in the Times about your Epic Answer to Irelands Call. Murphy was neat in everything he did and impressed me. I’d be pretty surprised to see any change of the pecking order with Murphy > TOD. SOB is training tomorrow apparently so they could be vying for a spot on the bench only.
        Still think Hendo is too good to be on the bench for long, something will have to give.

  11. Yossarian

     /  February 9, 2015

    I felt Ireland gave Italy too much respect. we expected more first game out at home etc. They turned out to be rubbish! Madigan would have been fine from the start as Keatley kicking game wasn’t required to the extent we expected.
    I’m disappointed we have seen no evolution of our style in the November internationals or here. We have pretty much stated we do not off load and that has become predictable-Italy just double teamed in the tackle and succeeded in slowing down our ball(Wales and others will have noticed this)
    The tight calls were debatable:
    Keatley worked ok, don’t think Madigan in would have cost us much and possibly have been better with our 60+% possession and territory.

    Payne over Luke was grand. Hard to know but Payne was pretty faultless if not exactly a tearing it up in attack.

    Ross was a passenger, did nothing outside the scrum. waddled around the pitch leaning into the occasional ruck. Looked fairly past it. Moore had a decent impact and no loss at scrum time. Probably should have been the younger mans chance to start.

    As for Boss on the bench!!!that went exactly as everyone expected. Knocked on twice,kicked a ball that very nearly didn’t go 10 and catch us all offside, turnover ball hummed and hawed over it for an eternity. Laughably bad. We should have added 7-14 points in the final 10 minutes instead left fighting a rear guard action,

    • curates_egg

       /  February 9, 2015

      Thought Payne showed he is a class player that is being shoe-horned into 13. Would be interesting what he could do at fullback for the last 25 minutes of a game…but his top attribute seems somewhat nullified at 13.

      • Yossarian

         /  February 9, 2015

        agree completely. Actually thought Rob countered reasonably well but it is Payne joining the line which i like watching. Can understand Ulster frustration- a shoe horned 13 when he is a quality 15. still baffled by Luke being left out.

  12. The only Irish players who came out of this match with their reputations substantially enhanced were Hendo, TO’D, Jordi and IK, IMO. Similar to the A match against the Saxons our back line displayed a frightening lack of incision. In both matches I was reminded of Pennyball with the ball going back and forth horizontally and very little to show for it. The French didn’t compare greatly against Alba. PSA seems to have them playing a Gallic version of Warrenball with Basteraud as the lump hammer. On the last two weekends Stuart Lancaster has put out back lines, which not just seriously looked like they wanted to score tries, but were capable of doing so as well. The praise directed at na Sasanaigh by Joe Schmidt was more than justified. Like the rest of us it seems he realises that our back play will have to substantially improve, if we’re to beat England in Lansdowne Road. Hopefully the match against France will provide us with the opportunity to achieve that improvement. In that regard I kind of think we might be better off with Luke Fitz in the centre instead of Jared Payne. Maybe JS will start him on the bench.

  13. curates_egg

     /  February 9, 2015

    It will be interesting to see what squad is picked next week.

    I actually thought Murphy was more effective than O’Donnell and, given he is also primarily a 7 at the moment, think there is certainly a shout to let him start. In the end though, he offers far more versatility off the bench, so that could swing it towards O’Donnell.

    From what I have heard, I wouldn’t bet the house on Sexton starting.
    If he does, then there is no way Boss should make the bench.
    I thought that if Keatley did well, he would have to be picked at 22 – as he covers all the positions Madigan does, and it would send a bad message to then just drop him. However, I don’t think his overall performance was good enough. It was adequate but, given our forward dominance and possession, he really did not impose himself on the game (although he kicked very well from dead ball situations and had a couple of doozies in play too).

    Also question marks over Payne for me. He is a class rugby player but he is just not that convincing at 13. Would like to see Luke Fitz and Henshaw together and think Payne would be a perfect player to have as 23. Failing that, Fitz or Earls surely have to be the 23 this time round.

    Ross was solid in the scrum but the English tight five (or tight 5 plus 6) looked very, very good and it is hard to see Ross being the best choice by that game.

    • Donal

       /  February 9, 2015

      Ross was solid in scrum but he literally wandered around for most of the rest of the game. Made three tackles, half heartedly carried for 0 metres (by ESPN stats) and inspected many a ruck. Once upon a time (6 months ago) this was sufficient but we have genuine options now.
      Cronin was shunted around in the scrum when he replaced McGrath. Healy is in full training tomorrow and if player welfare is not an issue I would have him on the bench. You could not bring Cronin on without a grimace against that monstrous French pack.

      • Have to agree on Ross. Apart from holding up the tight-end in both the Saxons and the Italy match he didn’t seem to do much else. Marty Moore put on a far more dynamic performance, when he came on in Rome. He would be my starting three against France. Does Ross shift then to the bench or be superseded there by White? I’ll leave that one up to the coach.

        • curates_egg

           /  February 9, 2015

          No point having Ross on the bench. That’s probably part of the problem. White (and even Furlong) looks good but totally untested. Starting Ross means you don’t have to take a risk with the bench. Will be interesting to see what Schmidt decides.

  14. L.P.O.

     /  February 9, 2015

    Hey, what happened to the second half of your Wolfhounds review?… you know, the bit dealing with the backs, and the massively successful ploy of selecting Keith Earls at centre (copyright: you lads)? That trademark pass into row 7 of his is certainly something we can use tactically… no doubt Joe Schmidt has seen this and selected him at 13 for the France match so he can whack PSA in the mug with a ball and distract him with a bloodied nose while we reap the benefits.

    You know, I’d love to believe we were holding back, keeping powder dry, all that jazz… but I don’t buy it. I think both us and the French were rusty enough rather than deliberately innocuous, and Keatley was trying to show he can do lots of stuff as well as his rivals, which was asking a bit much of himself. A 23+ point difference against the Italians, barring some unlikely results, means we’ll now need to win a Slam to win the tournament. Joe is a man for detail… the chances of him not having realised that before the match and asking the players to keep everything under wraps are pretty slim.

    I fear for the Italians next week. The English, like the French and the Southern 3, when on form and sensing blood, are ruthless. That’s not something Irish teams have ever done well. If we get an advantage, we tend to ease up… ‘ah sure, they’re nice lads, and the match is won… let them have a try and we’ll go for a pint and a sing song together’… net result being championships won on points are rarely our friend… last year was the exception, and I was hoping JS would have changed that for good. In fairness, we had injury issues, like last season… but I think the rain arrived more or less just at the moment the Italians had given up the ghost. Mad Dog coming on with a dry ball and running at the Azzurri with an astronomical tackle count would surely have reaped reward. The positive is we didn’t concede the consolation try this time either… but we could have done with scoring a couple more at least ourselves, especially with the man advantage.

    Italy were appalling. I say that as a long-time supporter of theirs. They rarely run England close, but when they play them in this kind of form, you’re looking at cricket scores… We’ll need 5/5, or we’ll certainly end up behind the sasanaigh.

    • munstermicko

       /  February 9, 2015

      Mixed emotions watching the game. I thought Tommy did great after he he came on for Shuana O Brien at short notice when he broke his nail.

      Janet Murphy was also great for a ladyboy, lots of good runs and no doubting his inclusion in the 23. Nearly every player who has had to step in at short notice on joe’s watch has always delivered.

      Still think Henderson should be on the bench given how light lock cover is but he will be pushing for a starting jersey long before we go to England later this year.

      Looking forward to a trip up to Dubland for the game Been reading up on this foodie blog on where to get feed and it keeps telling me to go to one of Burgerboys establishments. Do they do a mean hag sandwich in Bear?

    • We got boshed into touch by the influenza virus – it was basically like Hibbard on North, except we acknowledged that we were seriously injured and required a substitute

  15. Recalling how Ireland used to struggle against poor sides, I’m still pretty relieved to see a team that’s capable of winning these sorts of slug-fests by a healthy margin, despite being some way short of their best, with a last-minute (literally) patched-together backrow, an outhalf who wouldn’t even be in the squad if Paddy Jackson was fit, and a centre combination on its second ever outing. This is a fixture we lost two years ago, and needed a Rog Special(TM) to win two years before that. Other teams are likely to put more points on Italy, but unfortunately that’s the way the cookie crumbles with the fixture list as it is. Sure, Italy were poorer than expected – which meant the gameplan was probably more conservative than it needed to be – but they were dogged in defence. Selecting a team and gameplan designed to fling the ball around in the first game of the 6N, in Rome, in bad weather, would have been stupid. Guys like Keatley, TOD and Murphy got game time and generally went fine (very well in the latter two cases), which is crucial as at least 35 players will be needed to get to the business end of a world cup. Reports of Ross’ demise have probably been over-stated. The French video analysts have nothing useful. No one got badly injured during the game. It was professional and generally competent, job done, wash our hands of it, bring on Bastareaud.

    The main lingering concern I suppose is the Sexton-shaped hole in our attacking play. Keatley was fine after a dire first few minutes, but he didn’t come anywhere close to justifying the notion that his game management is any better than Madigan’s, and I thought he was poor at bringing the backline into the action. Like WoC I would be surprised to see him make the bench if Sexton is fit, because his impact wouldn’t be as pronounced as Madigan’s. The idea of a Henshaw-Fitz/Earls centre combo makes me salivate like any red-blooded bulldog, but Schmidt clearly sees something in Payne and I think he’s earned a bit of trust so long as he keeps getting results. Unlike poor Wales fans facing more of the the Gatland way (to paraphrase the Simpsons: it’s the same as the wrong way, but FASTER), I’m fairly confident that Ireland will make some tactical changes and improve overall as the tournament continues.

  16. L.P.O.

     /  February 9, 2015

    Oh… I forgot to mock the Welshies. They’ve played a blinder with that, what, 6-year extension for a one-dimensional coach who has been so clearly found out. That’s them done and dusted for this 6N (Italy to get their s*** together and mug them in Rome on the last day), the RWC (with a group exit assured), AND THEN the next 4 6Ns, AND THEN the NEXT RWC… they’ll be weeping into their boiled leeks until circa 2020, or paying the premenstrual warthog off with a huge golden handshake. Both are hilarious. Well done, taffies!

    And why does he attempt those pathetic ‘mind games’? He’s done that before just about every big match, and it always blows up in his stupid antipodean misery’s face. Classic stuff. Thanks for the laughs, folks!

  17. Is this the most downbeat BTL ever after a victory? An away opener comfortably dispatched after an un-troubling 80mins. And 3/4 of our best players back in the mix for next weekend.

    CHEER THE FUCK UP

    • curates_egg

       /  February 9, 2015

      Tell that to O’Brien

      • Show him into my office.

        It was a disappointment at the time but the team coped with minimum fuss as it has done for nearly 18months. A big positive.

        And it sounds like its a delay rather than a setback. Better he’s looked after for a twinge in a warmup than he does serious damage at full tilt during a game.

      • Jesus, the face on him in the stands in the first half was heartbeaking.

    • rachel685

       /  February 9, 2015

      We’re like the opposite of the English media. England put together 40 good minutes, and they’re presumptive champions. Ireland do a competent if imperfect job dispatching a (potential) banana skin we’ll meet next in the world cup pool stage, never forced to get out of first gear, and people are clamouring for wholesale change.

      It wasn’t so long ago that Ireland made a habit of producing spectacular victories against good teams, only to follow up by losing (or barely scraping wins) against mediocre and poor opposition. When Schmidt took over, everyone was obsessed with the idea that what Ireland needed most of all was consistency. Now that Ireland are delivering – and winning – consistently, it’s not good enough. I’m as stereotypical a Leinster fan as it’s possible to imagine, yet even I know you can’t have champagne with every meal. Sometimes a cheap prosecco is all you need to get the job done.

      Poor SOB’s facial expression as he sat on the bench was pretty brutal, though.

  18. kevin

     /  February 9, 2015

    Very dissapointing performance. Any team we put out would have cruised past that rabble. I was very worried before the match but never expected the Italians to be so useless..As it stands we’ve squandered the chance to blood Marmion and Nathan White, not given Madigan a chance to see if he’s up to it in green against decent opposition, and ruled ourselves out of a championship if it comes down to points difference. Even given less than ideal circumstances this was very dissapointing

  19. kevin

     /  February 9, 2015

    Their outhalf missing 20 penaltys and still scoring 76 points, impressive enough

  20. andrew097

     /  February 10, 2015

    One of the most useless things about Irish rugby is the amount of folks who think the difference between a 7 and a 6 is pulling on a jersey. Yet we fawn over the likes of McCraw yet think any half decent back row player can play 7. They are special and their heads are wired differently.

  21. Gameweek 1:
    Phillips indicision cost wales,
    England are building nicely,
    France/Scotland are they both good or both bad?
    Ireland have a massive RWC problem

    ok so England were worth their win, but if you are losing why would you just walk from ruck to ruck and stand their shouting at the ref for a penalty, those days are gone, get stuck in and get the ball out, it was frustrating to watch, and showed his lack of recent game time, if they had left Webb on the could have had a chance,
    with the players they have available if the had schmidt the would def win a RWC.

    England are a different kettle of fish and seem to have timed this team perfectly for the world cup, Haskell had the best game ive seen him play, was the stand out back row, (even if he did run into the post)
    Ford proved that they dont have the same issue as us at 10, and Burrell and Joseph look like they could be a partnership to last, and if not there is a conveyor belt of wrecking balls in 36 and Tuilagi,
    Home advantage will count and it think the media coverage will be insufferable during the competition,
    with the players they have available if the had schmidt the would def win a RWC. 🙂

    The Irish game was boring but effective, I remember thinking the same thing last year for all 5 6N games, the fact is that schmidt wins games, its a winning system but its not the best to watch, (excitement makes it better watching against the bigger teams)

    Italy were a different team when Allen came on, TBH i think he should have started, he did well to get the back line+Parisse moving,
    I do just love watching Parisse playing strolling around the centre of the park as a hybrid forward-back, he always seems to be calling all the set-plays,

    Ahead to france, Ireland will play the system, and defend well, and the result depends more on what France do. their back line bar Bastareau look dangerous, New boys Kockott, Lopez, Thomas and Spedding look like they will get better with every game,
    And with Sexton having not played a competitive game in 3 months, I am a little worried that he can hit the ground running against a french team that will no doubt target him early on.

    If Sexton can get going, I think we will win, and that my ass will not have left the edge of my seat for 80 mins,

    but this leads me onto my main concern;

    Irelands World Cup Dilemma: Johnny Sexton

    This is a massive problem, There is a massive gap between the first and second choice,
    I know most people are on either the Keatley or Madigan side of the fence, the fact is that neither of them are good enough for international level,
    Obviosly when fit Jackson comes into the mix, and he would be my second choice,
    but he proved to be ineffective again this season when Pienaar was injured,
    Madigan’s “flair” consists of a dummy and step back inside, its predictable at this level, and he doesnt have a controlled kicking game,
    Keatley has a better than average kicking game, but cannot get the back line moving,
    Our whole RWC hope are hinged on one person remaining fit,

    While Murray, Healy, O’Brien, Heaslip and Kearney are vital cogs, i think they all can be replaced effectively, but If Sexton gets injured we are goosed, its as simple as that,

    I’m all for jumping on the Schmidt bandwagon but even he cant bring out something that isnt there in these players.

    With the schmidt we have available we need a plan B to win a RWC.

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