Rugby’s Great Institution

Between now and the World Cup, Ireland have .. let me count .. one, two, three, four, five games to go. Four of which are in the weeks before the squad needs to be named, with the other one being tonights knockaround against Rugby’s Great Institution in the library.

This time last year (roughly), Team Ireland were jetting off to Argentina for a few weeks of steak, malbec, Quilmes and some soft power photo ops at the Hurlingham Club and Newman College, with perhaps a few easy rugby games thrown in. But enough about Gerry – the squad weren’t expecting to be worked too hard either, and were taken aback at the intensity of Schmidt’s expectations when they got there. The main lesson learned is that Joe Schmidt will absolutely take every opportunity to run the arse off his players.

Which means you would be right to expect Ireland to approach this game as if they were playing BNZ in Dunedin – good performances will gain real credit with Schmidt and bad ones for fringe players might knock them out of RWC contention. The Munster players are unavailable and Connacht players have been rested – which isn’t really helpful to the likes of Matt Healy or Denis Buckley as they try to make an impression on the last few spaces in the RWC15 squad – so it’s an all Ulster/Leinster selection:

15. Rob Kearney
14. Dave Kearney
13. Colm O’Shea
12. Luke Marshall
11. Craig Gilroy
10. Ian Madigan
9. Eoin Reddan

1. Jack McGrath
2. Richardt Strauss
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Devin Toner
5. Dan Tuohy
6. Robbie Diack
7. Chris Henry
8. Jamie Heaslip (captain)

Replacements:

16. Rob Herring
17. Michael Bent
18. Mike Ross
19. Ben Marshall
20. Jordi Murphy
21. Luke McGrath
22. Paddy Jackson
23. Cian Kelleher

Here’s our thoughts, with a working assumption of a 31 man squad breakdown of 6 props, 3 hookers, 4 second rows, 5 backrows, 3 scrummies, 2 outhalves, 3/4 centres, 4/5 back three:

  • Outhalf: Madigan gets the start ahead of Jacko, which is fully unwarranted on any measure of recent form. Under Matt O’Connor, Mads had a miserable time (maybe he didn’t understand the structures of Leinster rugby?) and has stalled in his development; whereas Jackson has been the form ten in Ireland since the Six Nations finished. The selection of Madigan here suggests the backup outhalf slot is still his to lose for the RWC
  • Centre: while it’s nice to see Collie O’Shea get a start, the really interesting pick is Bamm-Bamm. With Robbie Henshaw now ensconced at inside centre, it would be sensible to identify a like-for-like replacement in the case of injury – Schmidt being a systems man and all. One might have thought Stuart McCloskey was the likelier contender here, but he’s off to Georgia and Schmidt goes back to Marshall, who started in Schmidt’s first game against Southern Hemisphere opposition (the Wobs). Schmidt will bring 3 or 4 centres, and Marshall could be in the mix, which would be extraordinary, but with Olding injured and Madigan-to-12 looking half-baked at best, there are not many inside centres on the scene.
  • Wing: Craig Gilroy gets a well-deserved recall to green following an electric period of form for Ulster, joining a queue that includes Tommy Bowe, Zeebs, Luke Roysh, Keith Earls and his teammate Little Bob (it’s probably too late for Trimby) – and Felix Jones as a Schmidt favourite. A good display here, particularly if he outshines Dave, will probably cement a place in the wider RWC training squad, and then he has a good a chance as anyone
  • Tighthead Prop: MIKE ROSS IN NOT STARTING FOR IRELAND SHOCK! Which is a first since June 2012 (even if this is a non-capped game). If we bring three tightheads, Furlong is essentially duking it out with Nathan White, Stephen Archer (stop laughing at the back) and Rodney Ah Here for the final place.  Even if the RWC comes too soon for Furlong, this is money in the bank for further down the line
  • Loosehead Prop: similarly, the final loosehead prop will likely be one of James Cronin, Dave Kilcoyne (stop laughing at the back) and Michael Bent (we said stop!). Bent is on the bench here, and a decent cameo might force Schmidt to not completely eliminate him from contention
  • Second Row: Yer Man From Limerick, Big Dev and NWJMB are nailed on, leaving one slot for a Celebrity Deathmatch between Mike McCarthy, Dan Tuohy and Donnacha Ryan. Tuohy gets a start here, and this is a really good opportunity to make a statement and pencil himself into Schmidt’s plans. Tuohy and Ryan are a cut above McCarthy in terms of quality, and while both have been beset by injuries, if one or other can force their way into the panel it is good news.
  • Backrow: this is the most competitive line. We have NWJMB in the second row as Schmidt had him there during the Six Nations. Jamie Heaslip, Sean O’Brien and Peter O’Mahony are nailed on to be picked, leaving two seats between Chris Henry, Jordi Murphy, Tommy O’Donnell, Robbie Diack and Rhys Ruddock. Henry has long been a Schmidt favourite, and given he has proved his fitness, he would appear to be in the box seat for squad selection. Diack starts ahead of Murphy, with Ruddock missing out altogether – although he’ll play in Georgia. Which is .. um, not a good sign we suppose.

Maybe we are over-analysing, but, with Schmidt, that seems unlikely. Everything is now directed towards RWC15 – and this game will be worth watching.

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42 Comments

  1. ORiordan

     /  May 28, 2015

    The selection of Madigan could also be interpreted that Schmidt has pencilled in Jackson as the backup out half but Madigan has been given another chance to recover his confidence, form and show he can actually start a game at that position.

    You referenced Ireland’s summer tour last year, but don’t forget that Jackson was originally selected for the Argentina tour while Madigan was heading for Tblisi and only got to Argentina because of injury to Jackson.

    • Granted – but then Jackson didn’t make the squad for November …

      • Rava

         /  May 28, 2015

        And that was clearly as a result of said injury.

    • The positives do seem to outweigh the negatives in starting Madigan at 10 – he’s had a week extra of rest, and he’s in need of both game time in the position and confidence. (Neither of which applies to Jackson.) The negative is Jackson not getting time in an Ireland shirt at 10, assuming they don’t switch at half time as seems likely, but there are plenty of games in which that can happen before the World Cup. I’d imagine that Jackson will start at least one of those.

    • Joe seems to be keen to give Madigan as many opportunities as is necessary to justify his selection this season. He’s started pretty much every Ireland match where Sexton wasn’t needed/available and the game was one for (excuse the lack of a better term) the dirt trackers where there wasn’t really anything on the line.

      The question is how many more chances can Joe afford to give him at the expense of bedding in whoever he ends up plumping for at the WC.

      It definitely seems at this point that Madigan is the Irish James Hook though, albeit with a lot more faith from his national coach.

    • SportingBench

       /  May 28, 2015

      I wonder if that’s exactly how Schmidt sees it. Madigan is more in need of the game and a good performance at 10 than. I suspect Jackson if fit, is on the plane and wonder if the question being asked is more whether Madigan still counts as genuine cover for an international 10 so he can go in the squad as a utility back.
      Contrary to most, I think with a full hand available to Schmidt, Madigan is edging closer to missing the squad, which might not be the worst thing for his career given he’ll get game time at Leinster then.

      • I read Madigan’s selection as another Wolfhounds scenario. He has been the back-up for quite a while fully involved in systems & the rest of it without actually playing much rugby for Ireland and even less at 10.

        In other words, this is his chance to show he’s not just a kicker but a composed game manager. Either that or Jackson is the N° 2 outhalf in Ireland. No pressure.

      • D6W

         /  May 28, 2015

        I would say that while clearly Jackson is the best no. 10 in Ireland at the moment, I don’t agree with WoC assumption that there will only be 2 out-halves in WC squad.How many did NZ use in last WC? I would guess that Madigan with get in for his versatility and goal kicking, and that Jackson will also be there. Obviously Keatley did not help his case at the weekend, so I would say that he is most at risk of missing out. Also Felix Jones may also be at risk.

        • They picked 2 actually – Carter and Slade. As injuries can be replaced, they called up Cruden and Beaver during the tournoi.

  2. Rava

     /  May 28, 2015

    As reported yesterday in The42 –

    “Schmidt says that he’s been impressed with Jackson’s return to form in the latter half of the season, and says were it not for such a physically demanding run of games, the 23-year-old could have been in his starting side.”

    “I just think that Paddy’s been playing a lot recently and he’s had a six-day turnaround, so there’s not too many of the Ulster lads that are starting. The ones that are starting are guys that haven’t accumulated, I guess, a whole lot of minutes in the last month or so. There are some that are starting, the likes of Chris Henry and Robbie Diack. Chris is only really back and getting into flow and Robbie’s mainly been coming off the bench for Ulster, so it gives him a chance to get a little more game time.”

  3. Curates_egg

     /  May 28, 2015

    Would’ve thought Ruddock would have to be in the plans if he is fit. He was flying and is a class player. Surely ahead of Diack? Personally I rate him ahead of even one player who regularly starts (don’t mention the war). Wouldn’t rule him out of the squad yet anyway.

    • Leinsterlion

       /  May 28, 2015

      WC is too short a turnaround to pick an injured player imo, unless they are undroppable, which Ruddock isnt

    • Cian

       /  May 28, 2015

      Ruddock is very good, could be excellent in time, but so are a lot of our back rows. Don’t rate Diack much myself either but all of SOB, POM, Heaslip, Henry, TOD, and Murphy are at the least on a par with Ruddock, many of them ahead. And possibly even Diack has something I’ve not seen.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  May 28, 2015

        Tbh I dont even think it’ll come to that, we have perfectly adequate back up in POM and Murphy at 6, and below that all the usual suspects, and I dont think Hendo will get injured, Joe will have him wrapped in cotton wool, himself Heaslip and SOB and our Halfbacks are key for the WC, genuinely a match for anything else in the world, if not better than, if they all fire at the same time and the supporting cast perform adequately(not great, just competency is all we need) we can win the WC imo.

        • Cian

           /  May 28, 2015

          It’s not often I agree with you LL but I think you’re not far wrong there. Still not entirely convinced Joe will drop Hendo straight in, possibly depends on warm up performances, he does tend to leak penalties at times and that is not an option on any Schmidt team. But I do agree that we need the backrow and halfbacks (I’d add POC also) to excel and everyone else to do their jobs.

          • SportingBench

             /  May 28, 2015

            Heard a suggestion that the reason Hendo hasn’t played so much up to now is that Schmidt is keeping him as secret as possible for the World Cup.

  4. connachtexile

     /  May 28, 2015

    Really happy to see O’Shea and Kelleher in the 23. Both will be a boon to Ireland and Leinster in the following seasons. Says a lot about MOC that he wouldn’t trust either of them in a game for the whole year but Schmidt trusts them against the Baabaa’s in a senior (uncapped) international.

  5. Backup scrumhalf situation is rather worrying. Reddan has lost form recently and with Marmion injured we’re really short on options.

    • Rava

       /  May 28, 2015

      Massive opportunity for Luke McGrath to show what he can do. And he can do it. Another who has been given limited opportunity in the last two years at Leinster.

      • his pass can be rather wayward ….

      • Curates_egg

         /  May 28, 2015

        He has his following in Leinster but he has had more chances than most under MOC and been a real curate’s egg. There are plenty who regret the loss of Cooney and would seem him on a par. McGrath now has a chance to show if he can deliver on his early promise anyway but, as a Leinster fan, I really hope he is not also cannibalised from our already massively depleted squad during RWC.

    • osheaf01

       /  May 28, 2015

      Hello Duncan Williams!

    • curates_egg

       /  May 29, 2015

      Reddan really has dropped off a cliff based on last night’s performance. Now we are goosed if Murray is injured.

  6. ORiordan

     /  May 28, 2015

    I don’t know if I have misinterpreted the opening paragraph, but I think the RWC squads need to be named by end of 31 August, so Ireland actually have the BaaBaas game and 3 warm-up games in August before finalising the squad.

    The warm-up game against England is on 5 September so after the squads have been named.

    • That’s the kind of detail we need more often! Thank you my friend

      • Rava

         /  May 28, 2015

        I’ve said it before. You need Green Thumbs added 🙂

    • osheaf01

       /  May 28, 2015

      What happens if a “David Wallace” injury happens in the 5 September game? Can Ireland name a replacement?

      • I think injuries can be replaced right up to the final – wasn’t Beaver called up that way last time around?

  7. Cian

     /  May 28, 2015

    Lads, it has literally been years since Stephen Archer was a poor scrummager (although he has had unfortunately-timed injuries), and Dave Kilcoyne was a strong MotM candidate in the Pro12 semi-final. Similarly I hear Michael Bent has been really solid for Leinster for the entire season. We are a million miles away from any of our prop possibilities for the RWC being a laughing stock. Especially when compared to Ireland’s strength in depth at prop a few years ago.

    • Billy

       /  May 28, 2015

      Agreed. Archer and Kilcoyne were both excellent last weekend. Not quite sure when Kilcoyne became a laughing stock among the WoC community..? Fairly baseless regardless. Also think Bent has shown a lot of character in reinventing himself as a solid loosehead from a wobbly tighthead.

      • We were saying about Bent that the best we could hope for when he came over was as a Tom Court type – provincial regular and a handful of caps. The parachuting in to the Test team was bizarre.

        We just think Killer is a bit over-rated and that James Cronin is a much better player – Kilcoyne has his positives, he rarely gets totally ploughed and he scores a few tries for a prop, but he’s a bit meh. Kilcoyne got a few soft caps under Deccie, but we don’t think he’s going to be a regular international.

        Archer has improved, no doubt – we kind of wrote him off after he got shunted all around Musgrave by the Scarlets a few years back, but he has definitely taken a step up. Still, Botha was getting the nod for the ERC games – would like to see Archer be the #1 for Munster next year before I’m going to get excited about him in an Ireland context.

        • Cian

           /  May 28, 2015

          Fair enough on the opinions. I think they’re all just a bit out of date, or missing some relevant evidence. Archer has a very good chance of being a HEC starter next year, and has played a big role this year as one of a two-person tight head team. You know, like those two lads who play for Leinster. Only one of them can start every game, and yet they’re our two first choice internationals. I’m not arguing that Archer is as good as Ross or Moore, just that your criterion for rating him is flawed and you’d be far better watching him actually play in a Munster scrum that is now usually a weapon.

          I also think your judgement of Kilcoyne got set a while back and hasn’t shifted. A barnstorming, hard-scrummaging display against a team with the Pro12 pedigree of the ‘Spreys is a significant bit of evidence towards being a serious player. Certainly not a laughing stock.

          • Neither are laughing stocks, they’re both decent provincial players, Kilcoyne especially. But let’s face it, you would be watching from between your fingers if Archer had to play a significant role in a test rugby match.

          • Cian

             /  May 28, 2015

            I honestly wouldn’t even be close to that. And I’m far from the most one-eyed of Munster fans. If Isaac Boss or Mick McCarthy ends up heavily involved in a RWC match I’d be worried. If Ireland somehow ended up with Denis Hurley on the pitch I would be terrified. If Madigan or Keatley, on current form, had to start a match I would need a defibrillator on hand. Archer, though, I honestly think could do a solid job. He has a unique but very consistent and effective scrummaging technique now: engage with bent back so his legs are under him, then straighten out. When he straightens he is almost immovable from any angle.

            I’d rate Archer behind Ross and Moore, about level with Furlong and White, maybe ahead of Ah You (also a decent player).

        • Spikes

           /  May 28, 2015

          I think that having a certain agent/commentator festooning Killer with a few premature MotM awards a couple of years back when he first broke through rubbed a few people the wrong way, but that’s hardly his fault. To me he looks like a decent prop, a great team player, and a guy getting the absolute most out of his talent.

          • Seiko

             /  May 29, 2015

            In fairness, it was Gert Small who loved ‘Killer’. As for Archer – he has been recovering from a serious neck injury and that is why Botha has got so much game time in the last 12 months.

          • Mary Hinge

             /  May 29, 2015

            Connacht’s Denis Buckley could yet be a bolter for the final squad. He is one of the few going to Tbilisi with a chance of that

  8. Good call on the 17/14 Forwards/ Backs split. Most people pencil four wingers but it’s a low attrition position. Is it even possible that Splinters Jones acts as 2nd Full back and fourth winger, behind Bowe, Zebo & Fitzgerald ? Boring Kearney’s play every game reliability could in effect keep his little bro out of the squad.

  9. Riocard Ó Tiarnaigh

     /  May 29, 2015

    Was at the match. None of the BIG (as in Come On You…) covered themselves in glory. Rob Kearney’s kicking was disastrous. If his form doesn’t pick up quick, we’ve got a problem. Jacko looked sharper at ten than Madigan when he came on. Ditto Luke McGrath in comparison to Reddan. The only ones, IMO, who improved their chances of making the cut – I’m assuming PJ travels – were Chris Henry and Craig Gilroy.

    • Leinsterlion

       /  May 29, 2015

      Payne to 15, Henshaw to 13, Fitz to twelve

      • Riocard Ó Tiarnaigh

         /  May 30, 2015

        Fan go bhfeicfimid….

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