The Michael Bent Effect

It’s all about Michael Bent. Everyone’s favourite hurl-carrying ambi-prop is going to be the pivotal character in how the World Cup squad is made up.

When the world switched to eight-man benches it appeared that the day of the ambi-prop was finished. JB Poux was carted off to retirement, Tom Court was ditched and their like would never be seen again. But with space at a premium in world cup squads, the man who can prop on both sides still has a value, albeit diminished.

So get comfortable folks, because Michael Bent is going to the World Cup, probably at the expense of David Kilcoyne and Pure Wexford Beef. If you were picking a team from just those three, chances are you would pick Kilcoyne and Furlong ahead of Bent, but the fact that Bent can cover both sides with a reasonable-ish level of competence makes him more valuable as a squad man. He passed his first test this weekend, when he continued Ireland’s scrum dominance when introduced for Mike Ross against Wales. He also got around the pitch to make seven tackles. As of now, Bent is in, we reckon. Better to make peace with it than begin weeping uncontrollably – we’ve already put our objections in ink (what’s the blog equivalent – underpants? – must ask Cummiskey some day) so our embarrassment will be complete when he shunts the Beast all around Twickers in the final.

Bringing Bent has the knock on effect of ensuring a 17-14 forwards-backs split, meaning four second rows and five backrow men, with sufficient room left to bring Ian Madigan appropriate cover in the back division, where there is a minimum requirement of six players to cover the half-backs, which leaves eight places to cover the centres and back three. It’s a tight squeeze, even with Bent in.

All of which means the make-up of the lock and backrow positions in the squad relatively straightforward after Tommy O’Donnell’s incredibly bad luck, with a couple of straight-up head to heads for the starting XV, both of which involve The New Willie John.

In the second row, Paul O’Connell and Devin Toner are going as incumbents. Iain Henderson we will stick in the second row camp for now, but more on him later. The final place is a straight-up shootout between Dan Tuohy (injury prone, good passer, eye for a gap) and Donncha Ryan (injury prone, destructive, force of nature). Not an easy one to call. Ryan was excellent on Saturday, but Tuohy came off the bench to good effect too. Ryan has a bit more test experience and might be ahead on points, but then Tuohy is well aware he face has not always fitted in the national team and has the according chips on both shoulders to call on. It’s a high calibre of player to be bringing along as the fourth lock, given Wales will need to make the (Hobson’s) choice between Dom Day and Jake Ball.

With five places in the backrow, we can be certain that the Six Nations first choices Jamie Heaslip, Peter O’Mahony and Sean O’Brien are inked in – incredible that Heaslip, who is now Ireland’s most-capped back row of all time, is still not rated by some – thankfully Schmidt isn’t one of them. Chris Henry was injured for that tournament, but started all games in the previous Six Nations, when O’Brien was injured, and it seems highly unlikely Schmidt wouldn’t bring him. Schmidt has rated Henry highly since his days at Leinster, which included game-planning for him in the 2012 HEC final, and he brings a complimentary skill on the flank to the others.

With Rhys Ruddock injured, the last spot seemed to be a tussle between Tommy O’Donnell and Jordi Murphy until O’Donnell got carted off after an impressive game against the Welsh waxworks. A pity, he played really well, but then again Murphy’s ability to cover No.8 – lacking elsewhere in the squad, unless you figure Peter O’Mahony could perform the role, but it’s been a long time since he has – might just have swung it in his favour anyway.

The main issue is who to pick in the first team once Ireland get there. Iain Henderson wasn’t quite at his swashbuckling best against Wales, but he did give one superb offload near the try-line. There is an argument that Henderson as it his best is almost impossible to leave out, but it’s not quite that simple. Schmidt as we know, selects players to perform the particulars of his role in the team to an exceptional standard. Toner and O’Mahony have accomplished this without question and are currently fixtures in the XV.

Henderson, for all his explosive talent, still has a rawness about him. A couple of barnstorming ‘Big Runs’ isn’t going to sway Schmidt either way. The key to whether Hendy gets selected or not probably depends on how much rope Schmidt gives his men to pass out of the tackle. So far he has been reticent to give them any at all, but if he does open up this approach to attack, there is nobody better in the Ireland squad at doing it. For now, though, chances are we will see Toner, O’Connell, O’Mahony, O’Brien and Heaslip as starters with the Ulstermen Henderson and Henry in reserve and Ryan and Murphy on pad-holding duty.

Still, with Henderson as talented and influential as he has become at just 23 (!), one can’t help but feel all it will take is one subdued performance by Toner or O’Mahony and the clamour to unleassh the llama will begin. Who would Kaino, Hooper or Burger rather face – O’Mahony or Henderson? And who would Retallick, Etzebeth or Skelton – Toner or Henderson? We don’t quite know, but Hendy does offer a tantalising glimpse of something world class. Willie John himself said that when he first got picked for Ireland it was because “the previous guy died or something” – the possibilities offered by Henderson’s rare talent are huge, and we sometimes wonder are we missing a trick leaving him on the bench?  Nice problem for Schmidt to have though.

Advertisements

78 Comments

  1. Tommy Kennedy

     /  August 11, 2015

    Interesting enough i’d have thought TOD was fighting it out with Henry and not Murphy. I think Murphy is nailed on to be on the bench for the world cup. He cover all 3 back row positions and is a Schidmt favorite. I don’t see Henderson starting in the back row – I don’t think he has played a single minute there under Schdimt.

    Great news re Heally.

    Is James Cronin being switched to tight head?

    • ruckinhell

       /  August 11, 2015

      I hear that Cronin to TH is ongoing in Munster but still very much a work in progress. From a Munster perspective it would be fantastic to develop a homegrown alternative to Archer (who has improved but is still hugely erratic) and Botha (who is getting on seriously and is becoming hugely erratic) and to have the ball carrying of both Kilcoyne and Cronin on pitch at the same time. John Ryan’s emergence as a credible back up LH makes it all the more logical.

  2. ruckinhell

     /  August 11, 2015

    I like Dan Tuohy and he would have walked into previous World Cup squads but Ryan put in the kind of performance on Saturday that will have Joe purring- massive workload and our top tackler, very accurate play and minimal mistakes. He even popped up at scrum half at one stage and threw a 20 yard pass to instigate an outside break off quick turnover ball- the kind of heads-up rugby that Joe loves. He also is a lineout leader and can work as an emergency 6 in a pinch, all further additions to the mix.

    I have previously been critical of Jordi Murphy (the Munster-Leinster game in the Palindrome last year in particular stood out) but I think on Saturday he put in a very very impressive performance, he was all kinds of awkward on the Welsh ball and a very good weapon in the lineout. I think, paucity of the opposition in this particular game notwithstanding, he has been building up a very good case over the last 6 months for a place on the big game bench given his versatility and consistency.

    • Yep, Ryan certainly advanced his case on saturday. Smashing performance. 17 tackles, and much else. Schmidt referenced his work on the training paddock after the 2014 Six Nations (I think it was the 2014 one anyway) and talked about what a bloody great bloke he was, so he’s in a good position. Will be interesting to see if he gives Tuohy a start next week.

    • Paddy

       /  August 11, 2015

      FYI Murphy didn’t play in the pallindrome. He was much in Thomond though. Would agree with everything else.

      • ruckinhell

         /  August 11, 2015

        Right you are- there was a bigger game that he had featured in where I can recall being disappointed in him around the October- November time where he was very poor(maybe the Quins home and away fixtures). Regardless, he’s been very good in the last 6 or so months.

        • Paddy

           /  August 11, 2015

          Yeah, he came back from injury at the start of the season and then was missing for a few more weeks. Hence Dom Ryan getting the cap against Georgia. I didn’t see anything from him in the first half of last season to suggest he’d make the 6n squad much less the RWC. And tbh some of his performances for Leinster in the pro12 were just about par. IMO he got “lucky” with the injuries to Henry and Ruddock.

    • Stephen

       /  August 11, 2015

      That pass of Ryan’s was phenomenal.

  3. Anyone reading much in to the game on Saturday is indulging in a bit of self delusion. That Welsh side would have had a hard time against Zebre. It’s easy to look good when playing against a disorganised rabble of low quality players. Even so, rewatching the game some of our guys were actually good at times and then othwrs were pretty mince. Missed tackles and horrible positioning. Also at least two tries butchered by awful play. Wales didn’t have a scrum or lineout worthy of the name. Scotland will at least provide some opposition there. The worrying side was the ease with which Wales scored 3 tries. Horribly naive defence for two of them and some individual blundering.

    • I disagree that you can’t read much from the game. Obviously it was a a throwaway match, but if you look at how many players in the Welsh squad played themselves off the plane (Phillips and Hook in particular look in real danger now) and take into account it was the players first live rugby game in just over 2 months there were bound to be errors. Arguably it wasn’t as useful an exercise for us given that more players weren’t pushed that hard, but I feel that giving new combinations like the halfbacks and midfield and second row some time to gel, even in a Pro12 level Irish/Welsh match, makes it worth it.

      I do agree with you on the shoddy defence though, I can’t imagine Kiss would have been happy with any of those tries. When Tipuric was anywhere near the ball in attack Wales looked dangerous (and when Gats has played Warburic in the back row it’s been as effective as Pooper has been for the Aussies, watch this space for Pool A!). However, again that’s something that’ll come through due to the new combinations, and I don’t think anyone had any blindingly awful mistakes.

      • OMG though, where did it all go wrong for Hook? He used to be fantastic, played so flat, cracking passer, eye for a gap. Now he looks harrowed, slow and telegraphed. Such a shame

        • I’d say a big part of it was him being shuffled around between 10, 12 and 15 and never really settling for a position until he was so “utility” that he could barely make the bench for Wales. Even when he was in Perpignan Tommy Allan kept him out of the 10 jersey for the best part of his last season there.

          Madigan would do well to heed Hook’s decline, you’d think.

          • SportingBench

             /  August 11, 2015

            I think Hook is interesting. He has always looked good but his decision making was missing and never developed. Would it have developed if he had played a single position? I think the mental side is harder to learn than the physical one…

          • That what everyone says about him – he’s simply too nice a guy to be a top class outhalf

          • I’d reckon he probably would have developed the mental edge needed if he had managed to stick to 10, but it wouldn’t have been without hiccups. Look at PJ: Had an absolute Howler at Twickenham three years ago and got dropped into the Ireland team at the expense of ROG, but is now a decent shout to make the plane and make a solid contribution.

    • Billy

       /  August 11, 2015

      Don’t know if you can really say “You can’t read too much into the game as the first game of the season against an undercooked Wales but the defence was awful” – I do see what you mean though. The hype machine is in danger of going into overdrive.

  4. After last Saturday’s impressive display I reckon Donncha Ryan has his seat on the plane booked. Having him in the squad means we don’t have just one “enforcer” – i.e. Paulie – but two. Travelling with just one probably wouldn’t be enough to make any kind of impression at the RWC. I reckon Jordi Murphy did his hopes a humongous favour when he stood in at 8 for an injured Captain Headphones in aghaidh na Sasanaigh in the 6 Nations and played his best ever match in green.

    • seiko

       /  August 11, 2015

      Brian O’Driscoll tweeted last week after the team announcement that some lads needed to put in a good performance with the exception of Ryan & Earlsy who just needed ‘solid performances’. I think they both ticked that box.

      If Bent is up to covering both sides of the scrum it would be madness not to include him as third choice prop, particularly if it meant not seeing Mads playing either inside centre or fullback against the likes of France or New Zealand.

      I also think Henderson is misnamed – he is nothing like Willie John McBride who was renowned more for his leadership and being a crafty old warrior than his actual playing ability or atleticism which is what Henderson has in abundance.

  5. the only cloud over ryan is injuries, he has been excellent and before the huge layoff was really standing up as one of our best forwards.

    plus he has that deep south serial killer stare to draw on when the chips are down.

  6. Heaslip’s form is looking good though isn’t it? For this early in preseason to put in a shift where he was miles better than the entire welsh pack is good to see.

    Henderson will come off the bench for all of RWC barring an injury. Toner off the bench gives no explosiveness or hard carring in the last 30 which is when Henderson looks like a human wrecking ball. Him coming on with Reddan actually changes the way Ireland play in a more fundamental way than other players.

  7. Mary Hinge

     /  August 11, 2015

    Very worried we’re contemplating taking Bent to a World Cup. He is not an option to start or bench against any of Italy, France, Argentina or NZ in the q/final or a s/final if we get any further. So essentially he is being picked to bench against Canada and Romania and come on for the last 20mins of both games – ludicrous!

    • Nor are Kilcoyne or Furlong. The idea of bringing Bent is that it reduces the sheer number of front rows you have to bring by one, which makes room for an extra back. Bent’s strange background means he doesn’t get the same sort of positive press as David Kilcoyne, but the gulf between them isn’t as wide as you might think.

  8. Matt

     /  August 11, 2015

    Surely there is an argument that both D Ryan and D Touhy are better than J Murphy. With Henderson’s ability to cover back row and sob and pom can cover 8 why take Murphy and why chose between two excellent locks.

    • curates_egg

       /  August 11, 2015

      Is there? Even if there were (and you won’t find me making that argument), you would then be taking 4 players who only play 2nd row and a fifth who has played only there at international level. It would also leave you with only O’Mahony as cover at 8…and that would start a whole string of other arguments.

    • Donal

       /  August 11, 2015

      So bring 5 second rows on the idea that you could lump Ryan in the back row? I think that is off the wall really. Murphy is a great defender, has a real ability to run at space, and for me was a always going to travel post the 6 nations barring injury. Maybe if Joe felt he couldn’t be without a fit Henry and TOD had continued his upward trajectory it might have become a question of shoot out between them, but 5 back rows is like bringing 4 6’s, and who would do that? 🙂

  9. curates_egg

     /  August 11, 2015

    This was the easy one to write lads. The more difficult blog will be the one about those 8 outside back places. There will much gnashing and opprobrium regardless of which of Trimble/Zedbo/McFadden/Kearney/Jones/Fitzgerald/Earls is left out.

    The (largely second string) pack was very good, regardless of the opposition. Any one of Strauss or the backrow could and should have gotten man of the match. Maybe Schmidt could borrow Deccie’s playbook for the tournament?

    Seriously, it is also about time you guys wrote something about Bent that is not a snide insult, dressed up as not being so. Nobody (beyond him) really knows what went on in that first season, after he fell from the very high peak of his cameo against South Africa. However, since then, he appears to have been a model professional, who worked hard at his game and always delivered honest performances. He had a great season for Leinster and was a far greater asset for us than Healy, who was pretty poor by his own standards when he was fit. Are the players you assume will miss out to him better than him? I really don’t think you can categorically say so. So, if Bent makes the squad, hopefully you will have the good grace to say: “fair balls to you Michael: it’s just reward for the hard work you have put in over the past two seasons”.

    • seiko

       /  August 11, 2015

      Egg – there will be a lot more gnashing and opprobrium that what you project when Dave Kearney (really going well in training) is preferred to Tommy Bowe (who is reported to be struggling)!

      I agree with you about Michael Bent. If he makes it, he deserves respect for doing so. Why does he get so much ridicule? How different is he to Mike Ross who got a couple of caps in 2008 and then spent a couple of years in Leinster before he got up to international standard.

      • curates_egg

         /  August 11, 2015

        If we are honest, Bowe has kind of been struggling for a few years now. He pulled it together for the Lions tour but has rarely been more than solid outside that. Same or worse goes for Rob Kearney. They seem to be unquestioned in their positions though.

        • That’s a nagging feeling we have too. This RWC cycle is possibly (probably?) the last full one for both

          • curates_egg

             /  August 11, 2015

            You could argue (and I would argue) that we have players in both positions who are more deserving of the places right now. This was a justifiable stick used to beat Schmidt’s two predecessors with, so we should be consistent.

          • I think that’s fair. I often idly wonder if Bowe, Gilroy and Trimble were ever fit together for any decent period of time, who would end out on top …

          • There are really only 2 Irish players that could realistically challenge Rob Kearney for fullback – and they’re both going to be playing centre. With Henshaw, Payne, and probably Madigan in the squad, the really annoying call in the backs will be if Zebo or Earls is left behind and Jones travels.

          • curates_egg

             /  August 11, 2015

            I know Salmson. I’d start Payne at 15 for Ireland because he is the best 15 in Ireland right now…but it’s never going to happen. Instead, he will continue to be shoehorned into the centre.
            Kearney is definitely in a different class to Jones but if we are really honest Jones offers no less when returning the ball these days. Hopefully, a few months with Joe can bring back the old Kearney.

          • SportingBench

             /  August 11, 2015

            I don’t think Big Bob has offered much as an attacking threat for a while and has a terrible habit of running away from support and then conceding a penalty fro holding on so I think there is an argument that Jones offers more with the ball.
            Bob does remain pretty good under the high ball though. I’d be seriously disappointed if Joe isn’t at least contemplating other options than Kearney for starting full back even if only to spur a reaction. Agree with the sentiments above though, that Payne is the best 15 in Ireland and if he was an option there instead of 13 then the debate would be over.

          • SportingBench

             /  August 11, 2015

            I think Gilroy is interesting as he is a back who offers something different to the others – a bit of show them the leg and make them miss, create your own space type.
            It isn’t really Joe’s approach often but there is an argument that Gilroy should go because he offers a different appraoch to the others.

        • scrumdog

           /  August 11, 2015

          Dan Tuohy is a fine player with ball in hand and would be very useful against Argentina or New Zealand, I think Trimble is streets ahead of Bowe for the right wing. Bowe’s defense has not been great in recent test matches.Rob Kearney’s tackling is woeful as the last defender and when he counters it’s the same old story running into contact every time and not linking…same goes for Zebo….can we not pass the ball before contact? I’d agree with Payne at Fullback and Fitzgerald/Earls at 13.

    • Donal

       /  August 11, 2015

      Agree re: Bent, I was one of those slating him after his overhyped arrival but he has improved. I wouldn’t be overly worried starting him against good opposition at LH. TH I would still have doubts.

      The thing about Trimble/Zebo/McFadden/Kearney/Jones/Fitzgerald/Earls is its which 4 do you leave out. Bowe is a given leaving room for 3 more. For me that’s Luke, Trimble and Earls. Funnily I would say, barring injury, Trimble is the most secure. It would be tough on Zebo not to travel but Earls versatility has him nip it. If Luke isn’t 100% it might shake things up, but he was excellent in his last Irish performance.

      • Assuming you have 8 outside backs and Henshaw, Payne, Bowe and Kearney Sr will be in the squad that leaves 4 from Earls, Fitzgerald, Trimble, Zebo, McFadden, Kearney Jr, Gilroy, Jones and Cave. I would be confident that Earls, Fitz and Trimble will all be in which leaves you one spot from the remaining 6. My money would be on Jones, purely because he’s a Schmidt favourite.

        • Donal

           /  August 11, 2015

          Yep I would say that’s probably it alright. Jones is a sure thing. He’s actually been playing really well so I am less frustrated by it than I used to be.

    • Bent’s efforts need to be seen through the Schmidt lens – we are thinking of bringing a guy who is Leinster’s 4th choice tighthead to the World Cup to cover tighthead. That’s not good when stated like that. When you bring into the equation that its Schmidt, the Ur-coach who appears to get all his selection dilemmas correct, it seems slightly less mad. When you add in his cameo against Rob Evans, it looks only very slightly less mad.

      But the idea of pitching him in at tighthead against Vincent Debaty for 30 minutes is at best highly questionable and at worst dangerous, and it would be totally unfair to him, no matter how much he has improved – at loosehead – in the last few years.

      Like we said, we’d bring six props, and Bent wouldn’t be one of them.

      • Donal

         /  August 11, 2015

        If you bring 6 props are you going for a 18-13 split or dropping a backrow?

      • curates_egg

         /  August 11, 2015

        You guys really believe Kilcoyne is categorically better than Bent then? I simply don’t. I have only ever seen Kilcoyne do “well” in scrums when he is being allowed to bore (i,e. scrummage illegally). Sure he is a more dynamic carrier…but that is not what I would be looking for from my 3rd choice prop in the RWC squad.

        As for Furlong, he has a lot of promise, but would you really be much more comfortable with him playing against France? I can’t categorically say I would.

        So, based on that, bringing 5 props, with Bent as the utility prop, makes lots of sense. If one of the 4 frontline props gets injured, you can always just have a replacement in London within a few hours…and they could be kept in the squad until September anyway.

        Whatever way you turn it, Bent deserves a lot more respect and credit than he gets online. As one of the many who criticised his first season, I am very happy to say I was wrong (and have been saying it for quite a while).

        • We always thought this would be his ceiling – occasional international backup and provincial workhorse, so I guess we should dial it in a bit. Still, bringing him to the World Cup to play tighthead does not sit well.

          • curates_egg

             /  August 11, 2015

            Your honour, I refer you to exhibit (a):

            Seriously though, I would be worried about either Furlong or Bent playing tighthead at the business end of the world cup. In terms of the actual scrum, which is really the most important job, I would have more confidence in Bent than Kilcoyne though.

        • Billy

           /  August 11, 2015

          Very good points on Bent. I’d go as far as to extend that to McGrath – shockingly average in every aspect except scrummaging where he is decent. He is the perfect example (as with Toner and Henry) of an average player but a solid cog in Joe’s machine. No idea where you pulled that bizarre bit of analysis on Kilcoyne – needless to say there is no truth in it.

          • curates_egg

             /  August 11, 2015

            McGrath is shockingly average at everything apart from scrummaging? Right you are Billy. That’s your ‘analysis’ or opinion or what have you I guess and you are more than entitled to it. Others might direct you to his breakdown work and argue it is slightly less than shockingly average, defensively and offensively. We’re entitled to our opinions though, bizarre or otherwise.

          • Billy

             /  August 12, 2015

            McGrath is an honest toiler and a solid pro but lacks the dynamism of a Healy, Kilcoyne or Buckley. He regularly loses out in contact situations but he does work his socks off for the team. In terms of breakdown work he puts himself about but he is certainly no Buckley who is excellent over the ball. I can see why Joe likes him (solid set piece and work rate) but I find him utterly unexceptional.

            The Munster scrum was a weapon last year and Kilcoyne was part of this. The boring in comment is utter nonsense. Boring in is at best an opening gambit or survival tactic. It is certainly not a tactic a successful scrum is built upon. Not sure where all the ill will towards Kilcoyne comes from but it is bizarre. A more rational criticism of Kilcoyne next time please.

          • McGrath “shockingly average”? I honestly don’t know whether you are being serious or just trying to provoke a reaction. McGrath is leagues ahead of Kilcoyne right now.

          • osheaf01

             /  August 12, 2015

            Amusing Munster/Leinster shitfight…and no sign of LL? I’m Munster…but I certainly don’t see much between either player. Munster won both interpors fairly handily and with solid scrums, so this idea that Leinster frontrows are “leagues” ahead doesn’t wash, sorry. Both are solid, but no Beasts.

          • curates_egg

             /  August 12, 2015

            In any game of his I have watched, he regularly scrummages sideways. The most recent example being last Saturday. Some refs let it go and, if they do, it can give an advantage.

            Others will penalise it.

            The inconsistent reffing of the scrum means it’s the luck of the draw. Personally, I prefer not to rely on luck.
            I’d be concerned about any of the props behind Healy-McGrath and Ross-Moore having to be relied on at the business end of the world cup but I haven’t watched all that much of Buckley.

            Honest question for you Munster fans though: do you really rate Kilcoyne above Cronin?

          • curates_egg

             /  August 12, 2015

            Sorry didn’t mean to post 2 videos of the penalty he conceded for boring because we won the previous scrum to that when he was also scrummaging sideways:

          • Billy

             /  August 12, 2015

            The funny thing is I’m not actually a Munster supporter. I don’t really have a preference but at a push I’m a Leinster supporter. I just find the general attitude to Kilcoyne bizarre. If it’s based on media coverage then that’s just petty. He’s far from peak-Healy but I would put very little between him and McGrath. I’m less comfortable talking about Cronin but he seems the better defender, the more powerful man (Kilcoyne more dynamic) but not necessarily the better scrummager or player. I’d say they started the season level and as the season progressed Kilcoyne moved ahead; mainly because Cronin was injured most of the season.

            If you think I’m harsh on McGrath, don’t get me started on Moore! Haha!

    • Spikes

       /  August 11, 2015

      Agree strongly on Bent. It bothers me when guys who knuckle down, work hard and really turn things around are damned with faint praise. That kind of attitude and professionalism should be encouraged. As Seiko points out, that’s why we have Mike Ross. I think Dave Kilcoyne is another example. They may not be athletic specimens, but they doing a vital job well, and setting an example of dedication that should be fostered.

      • Lop12

         /  August 11, 2015

        Kilcoyne is a very good player who gets plenty credit for his performances. Just not here.

        • curates_egg

           /  August 11, 2015

          He gets a lot of credit everywhere I read despite seeming to be a technically poor scrummager, who often scrummages illegally. He’s a pretty good carrier and seems to get through decent work in the loose but that is not really what our 3rd squad loosehead needs to bring to the table in this world cup.

          We are facing a number of strong scrummaging sides (Romania – check out their match vs Argentina, Italy, France…then maybe Argentina) and that has to be borne in mind in any squad selection. The Leinster scrum was about the only positive aspect of our game this season and Bent played an important role in that (started 4 Heineken Cup games too).

          I am a fan of Cronin’s and do not understand why he is being switched to tighthead, when he is a very good loosehead with a lot of potential. Hopefully, he is an equally good tighthead.

          • Seiko

             /  August 12, 2015

            Cronin is being switched to TH because Munster need another TH as Botha will be gone at the end of this year.

          • curates_egg

             /  August 12, 2015

            I get that but, if Cronin is your best loosehead, why deprive yourself of your best loosehead because you need a tighthead? Why not recruit a tighthead…or convert someone else?

  10. Lop12

     /  August 11, 2015

    Who would Kaino, Hooper or Burger rather face – O’Mahony or Henderson?

    Il take this one. Henderson, all day, every day. POM has a multiple of IH experience. Has been a key member of successive six nation winning sides, an automatic pick by Joe Schmidt when available. IH is all potential, rotated between two positions for club, and has only ever been used as an impact sub in serious international games. Absolutely no comparison between the two at the moment in my view.

    Henderson no doubt has the athleticism and the scope to be one of the best Irish players of his generation. But its grounded in potential, and excellent club form and some decent cameos at international level currently. No more than that.

    • Lop12

       /  August 11, 2015

      Forgot to add. POM is also brilliant at the breakdown, Im sure Hooper and Burger in particular would prefer to face a much taller man who is not a backrow, breakdown specialist.

      • SportingBench

         /  August 11, 2015

        Regarding who the opposition would like to face I am reminded of that Mike Tyson quote, that everyone has a plan until I hit themin the face. What ever the theorictical advantages of Hooper et al playing against a taller non-specialist I doubt there is any scenario where any player would fancy facing the flailing arms and legs and utter chaos of the hairy Llama. That’s what Henderson brings, he can be that good and that’s why is doesn’t matter which position he plays. Now, there is a strong argument to be made, as others have, that his brand of chaos might be most effective from the bench but basically Henderson is the best option in every position in the Ireland team bar number 10 if we are trying to psych out the opposite number (ok slight exaggeration for dramatic effect).

  11. Leinsterlion

     /  August 11, 2015

    Tough on Jordi, but I’d leave him out for Hendo, with the intention of bringing him exclusively as a 6. Ryan and Tuhoy both to travel.

    • You’re happy for POM to cover 8 then? 😉

      • Seiko

         /  August 11, 2015

        Heaslip needs to be dropped. He made 3 tackles against Wales. Earls missed more tackles than Heaslip attempted.

        POM needs to be rewarded for upping his tackling stats, not dropped for Henderson .:)

    • Oddly enough, I’d leave out Tuohy based on the fact he only covers one position, and bring Jordi and Ryan. Not sure Tuohy has showed enough so far. I reckon he’ll get a start alongside Paulie this weekend but, if not, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was in the same boat as Herring and Reid today and gets sent back to Ulster on the back of Ryan’s performance last weekend.

  12. Paddy

     /  August 11, 2015

    I think Henderson will get the nod over Tuohy because he covers the 6 as well. And before anyone says so can Donnacha Ryan, go and watch the Pro12 final. If a back row gets injured than Tuohy will be called up as replacement.

    • I don’t really see the logic in calling up Tuohy to replace someone in the back row, especially when Conan is still in the training squad.

      • Paddy

         /  August 11, 2015

        Henderson becomes back row cover and Tuohy is 2nd row cover. If there is another injury before the RWC I’d expect this to happen. Conan is still with the squad because TOD got injured and Ruddock is also injured. I don’t think he’ll be getting called up to the RWC squad unless there’s 2 injuries in the backrow.

    • Stephen

       /  August 11, 2015

      Tuohy can cover 6 as well as Ryan can; which is to say, not at all well, just about well enough to play Canada or Romania.

  13. Re Henderson: It’s a very salient point about roles under Schmidt. Henderson was storming barns like nobody’s business at the end of last season but often his most eye-catching interventions came a bit wider out – between or beyond the centres. That’s not where Joe sets out his flankers, playing closer to the ruck.

    That’s not to say Henderson can’t fulfil the Schmidt remit for a blindside but even if he were to start for Ireland, he’d be less likely to get the same opportunities to run riot like he does for Ulster.

  14. Its massively unfair on Bent to continually slam him as ‘fourth choice’ th when everyone knows he’s been performing the utility prop role at Leinster the last season, and filling in on LH more and more to cover for injuries. In any case as I said before the difference between 3rd and 4th choice is pretty miniscule.

    Its also unfair to ignore that the first and second choice th props at leinster are international incumbents who could walk into most international teams. Bent isn’t the second coming that some press outlets initially thought he would be but he could very likely be first or second choice th for any other province in Ireland and a good many pro12 and premiership teams. The James Cronin to TH rumours further emphasize this for me.

    Finally, is there really a nation at the world cup that would be happy to see their third choice th starting against France? Some might cope better than others but no one would be happy about it.

  15. I suppose for the pack those are the only few questions that remain. Is bent going to play himself into the squad, Ryan or tuhoy and what to do with Henderson. If Joe could make those decisions I’d be near enough happy to cancel the rest of these warm ups and fast forward to the tournament.

    Saturday was not exactly the most useful exercise, but Strauss was a big positive as were Ryan and Murphy. I think Ryan could get a little lower on his rucking technique, somewhere around 25 minutes he smashed a clear out, but thought it wasn’t as effective as it should’ve been if he’d won the shoulder battle (as Ruchie calls it) and got under the jackal. Other little negative was madigan looked like he made another biting in defensive move which paved the way for tipuric’s try. I’ve only seen it the once but it looked similar to the NZ one where o’brien (sorry to bring that game up) gave him a bit of a dressing down.

    It’s hard to nit pick much more than that, maybe another try should’ve been scored in the right corner with better hands and composure, but for first game out its hard to imagine Schmidt finding a whole lot to grill anyone on. Still, it was hard to know if wales looked more vulnerable when Ireland had the ball or when they had it themselves – not ideal.

  16. Re the Tipuric try: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0-L0biEF4g. Wales had a massive overlap. PJ and Madigan are trying to cover three guys. It looks to me, that Madigan is sticking with Moriarty at 6, but Walker’s pass skips him and goes instead further out to Tipuric. The initial overlap was the cause of the problem. Wales flawless execution made the try practically impossible to prevent. Or so it seems to me. If anyone has a different take, I’d be glad to hear it.

    • If you pause it when the camera pans back (first pass left from the ruck) it’s 8 on 5, and Wales sling if wide so fast it becomes 6 on 3 before the first tackle goes in. So I’d agree if we’re looking for someone to blame it’s guys on the other side of the ruck who counted wrong and didn’t fold over.

      • Thanks for putting that up riocard. I definitely take the points – it’s a numbers down situation in the defensive line, but I dunno lads, I still think it’s a mistake and a similar one to that which we’ve seen before. I’m not trying to criticise, but for me it’s an i he needs to dot and a t he needs to cross as I would be hoping he is in the matchday squad (as an aside it was interesting to see giteau move to scrum half for the duration of a yellow card in the aus/NZ game at the weekend – they went well in that period).

        My reading of the situation was that walker has done a decent job of killing the overlap. He has taken moriarty’s line rather than try to fix Jackson. If madigan abandons (the now redundant) moriarty and drifts to tupuric, I’m not sure there’ll be much of a line break at all. Chances are they will run out of road, or they will be delayed enough to allow the cover defence (which I actually thought did a decent job of trying to remedy the error and of which madigan was a part) to snuff out this phase. As it turned out I think madigan has erred in allowing himself to be fixed by walker and I think Jackson had walker covered. To be fair – I do think it’s one of those quick ball, high intensity numbers down situations, where a split second decision is required – not easy. But I definitely do think its one of the few bits in the review where it’ll be uncomfortable watching. It’s well known they looked at the end of that game which I don’t want to bloody bring up in great detail and to have to re-visit it….a coach never likes to go over ground that should be already covered. That’d be my reading of it and I’m reluctant to say it to be honest – I think the lad has been unfairly maligned a few times and as I say I’d like to see him in the match squads. His crime for me is perhaps only being too keen to make a tackle, but I do think he has gotta sort that out as the intensity is only going to go up and the decision making will need to be better. I don’t want to present my opinion as fact in all of that there – if I’m wrong in that analysis I’d be very comfortable being so!

  17. It’s a tough one, alright, paddyo. To be sure Madigan has a partial responsibility for what ensues from that Welsh attack. On the other hand, one can’t fault him for not being a tryer. He endeavours to put the thing out till the very last and even gets his arms around Tipuric just as he’s touching down. According to the Spindo he’s getting a start between Boss and Darce on Saturday. Hopefully it’ll go well for all three of them.

%d bloggers like this: