Playing Them Into Form

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhh! *stretches arms* well, that was a fun summer vacation wasn’t it? The World Cup is very nearly upon us, and we’re beginning to get pretty excited about it all. There are only four warm-up games to go before it all starts, and what could possibly go wrong in those, eh? Eh, Geordie? Wally?? Whatever about the wisdom of playing three tough warm-ups and Scotland, surely surely they can’t go as badly as in years past? We have to negotiate:

  • Wales (away)
  • Scotland (home)
  • Wales (home), followed by squad selection announcement
  • England (away)

and two of those fixtures are the ones Joe Schmidt has lost in the Six Nations. While we look a cut below the Southern Hemisphere giants, we’ve been lucky enough to land in a Northern Hemisphere-heavy half of the draw – if we beat France, it’s Argentina (no gimme, but surely beatable) and then potentially England or Wales to get to a final. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves.

Ireland have a pretty settled squad and the vast chunk of the Test 23 are assured of their places. There will be some jockeying over tackle bag-holding slots (with one major positional exception – see below) but we are finding it tough to drum up OUTRAGE over the identity of the 31st guy to go. We’re going to think about how Ireland will get on in terms of a series of questions around the first choice 23 and preview accordingly:

  • Front Row: in the first RWC of the eight-man bench era, an extra slot has been added. We’ll look at this one first
  • New Willie John: Iain Henderson was the outstanding Irish player in the Pro12 post-last years 6N and his cameos in that tournament were of a high quality. We think it’s getting to the point where you simply have to pick him. Where though? Big Dev has quietly been one of Ireland’s most consistent players of the Schmidt era, and POM has been a critical component of the backrow. We’ll think about how we might use Henderson best
  • Backrow: four years ago, we had to pick three from Wally, Fez, SOB and Heaslip .. until Wally crocked himself in the warm-ups. Now we have to pick three from O’Mahony, Henry, O’Brien and Heaslip, all of whom have been selected when fit by Schmidt. Oh yeah, and there is Henderson as well.
  • Sexton and ….?: Jonny Sexton is far and away the best outhalf in Ireland, but the identity of his backup is still murky. Unlike in 2007, when Paddy Wallace and Geordan Murphy (!) would be assured of zero minutes when it mattered, Sexton’s increasing injury-proneness and Schmidt’s pro-active use of the bench means Wee Jacko, Mad-dog or even Ian Keatley might have a key role to play in this tournament
  • Wing competition: for the likes of Luke Roysh, Andy Trimble, Zeebs, Little Bob and Craig Gilroy, the possibilities for the tournament range from left at home kicking heels to Test starter. This position is where Schmidt has the most options, and it would seem only Tommy Bowe is guaranteed squad selection. Who should go?

We’ll be back tomorrow to talk about the props – feel welcome to give us your thoughts below, and preview the best OUTRAGE moment from the Indo’s Twitter.

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19 Comments

  1. ORiordan

     /  August 4, 2015

    No mention of Keet for the Wing competition? Outrage! (or is Keet covered by “the likes of…”) 😉

    • We’ve gone out to bat many times for Keet! But he would be “the likes of” .. plus we’d like to see him considered as a centre

  2. Interesting that you don’t mention the 12-13 axis. In the wake of the Six Nations, has this question been settled then? Makes for a contrast with the state of affairs prior to that competition. Still, it looks like we have at least healthy competition across the squad – not everyone is in the best of form, but there aren’t many places where we don’t have strong contenders. Going into a World Cup, that’s not a bad position to be in. (Of course, everything will be different after the warm-up games, given the injuries, bolters and poor performances that are inevitably waiting in the wings…)

    • ORiordan

       /  August 4, 2015

      IIRC Schmidt selected Henshaw and Payne against the Boks and all of the 6N games so the starting centres look as settled as these things can be. I think Payne was injured for the Wobblies game when D’Arcy started.

      • seiko

         /  August 4, 2015

        Not only were Payne and Henshaw green as internationals, both were playing out of position to their normal club position, so they needed a couple of games to settle. To put their experience in context, I think Keith Earls has more caps as a centre than Payne & Henshaw’s international caps totalled.

  3. ruckinhell

     /  August 4, 2015

    I think there will be Twitter OUTRAGE over the backup fullback slot- many people will probably argue that Gilroy/Earls/Zebo/Fitz/Dave Kearney (insert your favourite winger from the province you support who didn’t make the 31 man cut but who you think can play backup based on a Pro 12 or B&I Cup game) should be selected as backup over Felix Jones.

    The starting centre combo is locked down but I can see a lot of anguish over who will be backup 12 and 13, there are some serious OUTRAGE figures who will be in the mix as backup- D’Arcy and Madigan spring to mind!

  4. Meedja Outrage will include (and not be limited to):
    – D’Arcy not making the plane
    – Cave making a Twitter post about being disappointed to not make the plane
    – Cave being flown in for the final
    – Ireland’s gameplan being too pragmatic
    – Ireland’s gameplan being too expansive
    – France having an awful start to the tournament
    – Incredulity at France making it to the final

    • Don’t forget the ultimate OUTRAGE: only 4 Munster players (Ryan, POM, Murray, Jones) making the final squad.

      • Because Paulie is technically with Toulon now or because he’s going to get injured and not make the plane?

        • Ah Killer should make it (unless they go with 5 props – more of which tomorrow).

          Ryan and Tuohy in a fight to the death at this stage. And Zeebs? *tosses coin*

        • On Paulie/OUTRAGE – Oh God the former. Don’t tempt fate!

          On the props, the Indo had 5 going (including Michael Bentlase!!! as an ambi-prop). Of course they had Uncle Joe staying in charge til his 70th birthday…

    • Stephen

       /  August 5, 2015

      Surely no-one is going to criticise Ireland for being too pragmatic. It’s a World Cup for Christ’s sake – clench your arsecheeks, and get through it!

  5. Billy

     /  August 4, 2015

    Having watched him through end of the season I can’t help but see Henderson as a bit of an armchair fan’s player so I can see why people like him – he can be spectacular and will always have a great highlight reel but he has his flaws. He still gives away stupid penalties and drifts in and out of games. Most notably the 2nd half of the Glasgow game where his only contribution was a terrible penalty which gave Glasgow field position for their try. The sending off against Munster was harsh (in my opinion) but ultimately totally stupid to put himself in that position in the first place when his team were chasing the game. He’s very close to being the real deal but there are still a few kinks to iron out.

  6. If Ireland are to be successful in the 2015 World Cup, Mike Ross will need to be managed carefully. Tight head prop is one position where an injury cannot be afforded. I would expect Joe Schmidt to keep the O’Connell/Toner combination at lock. I also expect O’Mahony and O’Brien to be the first choice flankers, because of their ability “over the ball” at ruck time. Once World Cup 2015 is over I would expect Joe Schmidt to start overhauling the Ireland squad to build towards World Cup 2019. Ian Henderson will be a crucial player then. I agree with the comment by Billy above that Henderson has potential but he needs to improve his on-field discipline.

    • Stephen

       /  August 5, 2015

      ” I also expect O’Mahony and O’Brien to be the first choice flankers, because of their ability “over the ball” at ruck time. ”

      I take your point, but Chris Henry is no slouch over the ball either. In fact, it’s his primary strength.

  7. Tommy Kennedy

     /  August 5, 2015

    Has Henderson played any minutes at all for Schidmt in the back row?

  8. Stephen

     /  August 5, 2015

    Fly-half feels settled, in a complicated and convoluted way:
    Starter is Sexton. If Sexton cannot start, Jackson starts. If Sexton can start, Madigan benches. So I would *hope* to see Jackson start at least one of the tough 3 warm-ups, and play at least 1 of the Canada/Romania matches.

    I imagine we’ll see Henderson at blind-side and lock – starting – over the warm-ups, and in Canada/Romania. Ditto with Henry at openside; Schmidt’s first-choice backrow is likely still POM-SOB-Heaslip, but Henry will be going.

    As for wings, I think Bowe and Trimble are in (presuming Trimble gets match-fit, if not Zebo), and for the 3rd I think it’s between McFadden and Fitzgerald (leaning toward McFadden).

    The below has us well covered across the park (- except for 13?):

    Healy, McGrath, Kilcoyne
    Best, Cronin, Strauss/Herring
    Ross, Moore, Furlong

    O’Connell, Toner, Henderson, Ryan

    O’Mahony, O’Brien, Heaslip, Henry, Murphy

    Murray, Reddan, Boss

    Sexton, Jackson, Madigan

    Henshaw, Payne

    Bowe, Trimble, McFadden, R Kearney, Jones

    • osheaf01

       /  August 5, 2015

      Trimble can’t be fit at this stage. Zebo or Earls. In fact I’d take both, ahead of McFadden.

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