Faces That Fit(z)

It’s funny really – history will note that we lost our final home warm-up 16-10 to Cuddly Nemesis Wazza and his Welsh minions (giant minions), but the conversation, from the second Paul O’Connell expectedly eschewed the opportunity to take credit, moved on to the RWC15 squad announcement. Were Earls and Fitzgerald badly injured, or would they make the squad? Did Dave Kearney cement his place? Is Jordi Murphy a better option in the backline than Isaac Boss? How can we parlay some #OUTRAGE into the conversation?

One other thing that we left thinking was this: will, as looks inevitable, Iain Henderson force his way into the XV? And, is Sexton priming himself for a classic Irish outhalf World Cup meltdown? (joke) (sort of)

But anyway, the squad – for some reason we can’t understand, Ireland chose to submit the squad to World Rugby on the 31st, pre-deadline, then schedule a press conference to talk about it on the 1st. Inevitably, it leaked – so we’ve had a bit of time to digest it. There are three big calls – Andrew Trimble missing out, Tadgh Furlong being selected, and Darren Cave making it (indirectly) at the expense of Boss.

Most headlines were about Trimble, who was Irish rugby’s POTY exactly one year ago. And yet – it’s the least surprising. Schmidt himself talked about it before the Wales game – Trimble has played 34 minutes in eight months. And 80 minutes for Ulster on Friday wasn’t enough to convince the brains trust to include him. It might be dividing opinion, but it’s at least understandable. Trimble’s injury woes were compounded by some excellent showings by Dishy Dave and Earls in the warmups – Kearney Jr seems to be a lightning rod for criticism (“Daverage”) but he’s Ireland form wing right now, and we’d probably have him in the Test team. And while it’s easy to fulminate about Trimble’s exclusion – it’s tougher to argue against the inclusion of the guys who have made it – we have depth at wing. Brian Carney won’t be going to this World Cup.

All that said, given the injury histories of the wings that we have brought, and the attrition rate in modern rugby, at this point we still suspect Trimble will ultimately go to his third World Cup.

One person who will likely not go to a third World Cup whatever the circumstances is Isaac Boss – he played himself off the team against Scotland and now Ian Madigan will be the break-glass-in-case-of-emergency scrummie. True, it leaves us exposed should one of our scrum halves take a short-term knock. But a squad of just 31 means coaches have to take risks somewhere.  Look at Australia and Wales, and England; each have at least one position where they don’t have as much cover as they woudl like.  It’s a tight squeeze and every coach has to choose where to double down and where to hope for a bit of good fortune.

The man who will be going in Boss’ stead is, incredibly, Face Doesn’t Fit. Darren Cave came closest to the Ireland team in the lead up to the 2012 Six Nations when his BODness went down and he was in the form of his career. Then he got knacked, and Keith Earls got the gig and went well. That’s right – Keith Earls is an international standard outside centre. Since then, Cave hasn’t troubled the scorer in green – and after a disappointing tour to Argentina last summer his international career looked as good as over. However, with Dorce and Boss falling off a cliff, he’s suddenly back in favour as specialist centre backup – and in the first Welsh buildup game he played as well as he has ever done for Ireland. We called this one as a possibilty last week; Cave can cover both centre positions, and without him in the squad, midfield back-up was worryingly threadbare, especially at 12.  Madigan has enough to work on at out-half where he is a very real possibility for the matchday bench.  Still, one has to wonder about no less than four other Ulstermen who may be in the conversation in other circumstances – Bamm-Bamm and Olding if they had stayed fit, Stuart McCloskey if he happened to be a year older, and of course, nearly three years after his tragic passing, Nevin Spence. But Cave deserves his selection.  He was an unsung herop for Ulster last year and has consistently played to a good level, even if that level appears to fall just short of top class.

At first glance, the call to bring Tadgh Furlong as fifth prop seems needlessly risky and indeed, rather barmy. When we cranked back into gear after a lazy summer, our first post was about the front row. We thought we would be bringing six specialists – three for each side. Since Schmidt made it clear he was going for a 17-14 split, that has not looked like happening.  We thought that spelled good news for Michael Bent, given his ability to cover both sides of the scrum to moderate effect, but that hasn’t happened either.  The picture has been complicated by Cian Healy’s race to prove himself fit.  And a further development is that Marty Moore has also been injured.

But while, on the face of it, the Healy situation appears to require extra cover at loosehead, in fact it’s quite the opposite.  Management are obviously confident Healy will be fit – they’ve been monitoring him on an hourly basis, so let’s assume they’re well positioned to make the call. And if he’s fit the only thing he’s missing is match-time, which means he’ll need to get as much of it as possible in the first two quasi-warm-up games against Canada and Romania.  It means there’s no substantial part for a third loosehead.  On the tighthead side, Schmidt can comfortably rotate his three men over the first two games; on the loosehead side, he needs to get his main man up to speed.

We can bet Schmidt will want to get all 31 of his men on the pitch at some point, in order to keep up morale and unity.  If David Kilcoyne, say, was picked instead of Furlong, he’d simply be hanging around the hotel room.

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69 Comments

  1. Xyz

     /  September 1, 2015

    That is a very good analysis of the loose head situation – makes a lot of sense.

    • curates_egg

       /  September 1, 2015

      I disagree. I think it’s a dice-roll. Healy hasn’t played any rugby in months and now essentially has to play in every game starting this weekend. If he (or Jack) goes down in a warm-up, we are in a very sticky spot. It would mean Furlong will be playing international rugby as a loosehead for at least one game.
      Much as I believe Kilcoyne is majorly problematic, due to his consistently illegal scrummaging, I would have picked him. If you are really concerned about tighthead cover, I would have picked Bent…but Furlong I just can’t fathom.

      • Losing Marty Moore is the problem. It previously looked like they needed a loose head who could cover tight head-bent. With Moore being out they probably are now more in need of a tight head who can cover loose head-apparently that’s furlong, though I’ve never seen him play there.

        Like many I’ve been a long time fan of furlong and I’m delighted really. He’s there to provide cover for both sides, but he will also challenge for a matchday squad place. Hopefully if there are injuries Marty Moore will have proven his fitness and bent or kilcoyne would come in for the other side.

        • curates_egg

           /  September 1, 2015

          It’s great for Furlong (less so for Leinster) but, as you say, Furlong has no experience at loosehead (to both of our best knowledge, and certainly not at any reasonable level), but he could easily be required to play against a top international scrum at loosehead…that is definitely risky, no matter what way you spin it.

          • He’ll be required probably in the first two games. If Healy isn’t fit by Italy, they will have to call it and bring in (probably) kilcoyne. They are giving Healy every chance and the feedback is good on him, so they are making a decision on the best info available to them. Don’t get me wrong curates, I know it is far from ideal, but furlong will push (at least) white all the way on the tight head side. I have admittedly never seen him on the loose head side, but presumably Schmidt has (god, please tell me he has!) and my own gut feeling is that he would make a formidable loose head scrummager, not unlike McGrath. On the balance of probabilities…I’m happy with the call.

  2. Topsy

     /  September 1, 2015

    The loosehead picks completely baffled me, more-so than any other decisions. I couldn’t make any sense of it but that makes a lot of sense now. Thanks

    • Mary Hinge

       /  September 1, 2015

      Ditto WOC. It did seem illogical. It doesn’t now.

  3. ORiordan

     /  September 1, 2015

    Just to comment that in the 2007 RWC, EOS preferred Brian Carney to Tommy Bowe, who was probably still in EOS’s “scapegoat” box following the loss to France the year before.

    Not that EOS would have actually played Bowe in any of the 2007 RWC games anyway as neither him or Carney were in the untouchable XV.

  4. It could be that Furlong has looked really good in training and is ready to” pop” in this World Cup like Conor Murray did in the last one. He has the ability, and while there’s an argument that tighthead is the hardest position for a young lad it’s much the same argument that Gerry put forward about outhalves then debunked in the baffling article that followed. Dan Cole was the same age as Furlong when starting in the 2010 Six Nations (he’s still 28!) and Owen Franks was a year younger starting against the Boks away in Durban in 2009.

  5. D6W

     /  September 1, 2015

    That looks like a great analysis of the prop situation. Risky, but if you are going to bring 5 props, then better to have 3 tighties and 2 loosies, rather than 2 of each and a jack of all trades who is barely international class on either side.

    Assume Cave is a late addition or he would have got a run against Wales. But why does everybody say McCloskey is too young? To use soccer parlance, if you’re good enough, you’re old enough. And he is a year older than Henshaw.

    • ORiordan

       /  September 1, 2015

      I’m not sure it is a late addition. It could be that Cave passed with flying colours in the first game against Wales while D’Arcy and Boss badly flunked their exam against Scotland so no need to ask Cave to do a resit.

      I’m a fan of McCloskey as he has the potential to be an Irish Jamie Roberts (without the medical degree) but he only had 9 starts for Ulster last year so I assume Schmidt thinks he is still a bit raw and there was no point bringing him into the Irish set-up while D’Arcy was still seen as an option.

      • Who says he couln’t get a medical degree??!!

        It’s not so much that he’s too young, but he’s really another season away from being an international rugby player. He’s still played relatively little rugby at senior level. He has the goods. He’ll be a weapon in time.

    • Totally agree, that’s just about the only thing I have any issue with-mccloskey didn’t even get the chance to bolt. I know he played with emerging Ireland-I watched them and he made a few mistakes, but it was a scratch team and I still think he offers something we could use.

  6. curates_egg

     /  September 1, 2015

    Here is a scenario for you lads: Ireland-Romania (the Romanian scrum that destroyed Argentina two months ago); Healy selected to start (having gotten match fit) with McGrath expected to come on at 55 minutes; one of the two lads (god forbid/touch wood) rolls their ankle in the captains run…we are then faced with Furlong playing 20 minutes at loosehead against one of the stronger scrums in the tournament…having never? actually played at loosehead at a remotely high level.

    You can of course find an explanation for the decision to only bring 2 looseheads, as you have admirably done, but I would still argue that the gut reaction is equally as valid. We don’t need 3 tightheads if both Ross and White are fit. White starts vs Canada, Ross vs Romania. We definitely need cover for a loosehead who has not yet even had a chance to prove any kind of fitness…or form (remember when he came back from his last injury in February?). So, while I admire your attempt to explain it, it is still a very risky decision.

    • D6W

       /  September 1, 2015

      But what if Ross was to turn his ankle on captains run? You would have Bent facing the last 20 minutes against that Romanian scrum. Or if you take six props, then you may be covered in scrum, but could have Earls facing Basteraud in backs if Payne rolls his ankle in captains run before French game.

      • curates_egg

         /  September 1, 2015

        Sure but Ross and White are both fit…so (without tempting fate) there is logically a much greater chance of Healy going down. Therefore, it follows, that it is more risky to travel with no loosehead cover.
        On balance, in this scenaro, it might have been best to go with 6 props but, if 5, it would seem to be less of a risk to make the fifth a loosehead.

        You are presenting your Payne scenario to the wrong person. For me, we do not have a good option developed at 13, so if Payne goes down, you just replace him with another of the options that is not ideal (Earls, Fitz or Cave). It is quite a different scenario to us having no alternative loosehead if our injured loosehead gets reinjured.

        • jacothelad

           /  September 1, 2015

          The best 13 on the island is Cave.

          • SportingBench

             /  September 3, 2015

            You know, you might be right. cave is one of those players who seems to get the job done somehow. He doesn’t look classically pretty doing it but just seems to end up in the right place, at the right time and gets the right outcome. cave just doesn’t looks pretty doing it. Contrast that to say Fitz who looks elegant while not achieving a lot. Sporting history is full of the awkward, unorthodox players who stun much bettered fancied face-fitters (okay, I’m am making words up now). Mention Don Bradman to any Australian and watch the reaction. In rugby, I lost count of the number of great players written off because they aren’t the classic ideal of a number 7 or 12 etc. Outcome matters and while the orthodox is generally the way to do it, sometimes there really are many ways to skin the proverbial cat and I think that’s what Cave does so would have no fears if he has to play in the big games

      • Or (God forbid), Kilcoyne (our third choice LH) having to cover TH for twenty minutes. I’m told it’s easier for a TH to cover LH than the other way round so while I’d personally prefer three of each I can understand the logic here.

    • Kevin

       /  September 1, 2015

      If we’re not home and hosed after 60 minutes vs Romania then our problems lie far deeper than the depth of our front row!! (No I don’t need to be reminded of a certain match vs Georgia!)

      • curates_egg

         /  September 1, 2015

        That is true…but I don’t need to be reminded of Georgia either, having been there. Romania seemed to beat Argentina with their scrum alone, so I would not take them totally lightly anyway. They seem to have had good preparation and will definitely be looking to ruffle feathers.

        • If you’re going with five props – and incidentally, everybody is that I’ve seen so far, then you have to accept that the ‘turned ankle during the captain’s run’ scenario is live on one side of your scrum, unless you have a prop who can adequately cover both sides, but such commodities are rare these days for obvious reasons.

          Curates, in that scenario, the obvious outcome is that the uninjured loosehead, whichever that might be, simply plays out the 80 minutes. It’s Romania for goodness sake, both Healy and McGrath would easily be capable of lasting 80 minutes against them. Remind me which Giants of the Game they’d be up against? A couple of lads from ProD2 or Bucaresti Oaks?

          • Meow! Put the claws away WOF. For my tuppence, Healy wouldn’t have been picked if they didn’t think he’d last 80 against either Canada or Romania if all came to all, interesting to see how many mins (if any) he gets through against England. Would be nice if it could put all our minds to rest on this one, but in Joe we trust.
            Also, neck surgery doesn’t make you more likely to roll an ankle on a captains run, I’m no medical expert but I’d imagine its one that’ll send him home if he can’t recover after a match, rather than take him out in warm-up/during a game (in which case he goes and you call-up)

          • curates_egg

             /  September 1, 2015

            Ok, forget about the ankle scenario; we are still going with one fit loosehead and three fit tight-heads. It doesn’t add up

          • toro toro

             /  September 1, 2015

            The other thing that has to be borne in mind is that while the scrum goes forward and back as one, LH is primarily an attacking position, and TH primarily a defensive one.

            If your Loosie isn’t quite up to it, you won’t put the opposition scrum under much pressure, but you’re still unlikely to be marched backwards and milked for penalties. If the Tightie is outclassed, the rest are going to spend the day retreating.

            So if you’re choosing an ambi-prop, one who is a specialist TH in his day job is a much lower risk.

  7. D6W re Cave not being in line up against Wales, he was at his Brothers wedding last Saturday, I assuming with Joe’s blessing.

    • D6W

       /  September 1, 2015

      Ahh, that would explain it.

    • Stephen

       /  September 1, 2015

      Was Joe officiating? Jeez, the man can do everything!

    • Hairy Naomh Mhuire

       /  September 1, 2015

      No doubt Joe gave DC his blessing. Cave must also be delighted that Joe’s faith in his ability to play at RWC exceeds that of the brother who scheduled has wedding for a few weeks before the tournament kicks off!!

      • ORiordan

         /  September 1, 2015

        As if men have any say in when weddings are scheduled…

  8. Keith

     /  September 1, 2015

    Perhaps they are not sure about Healy. If so you include him in the 31 and give him a run against England this weekend. If he’s not up to it or has a very slow recovery, you can replace him at any time up to the tournament start date without any 48 hour limit. If you don’t pick him, you can’t subsequently drop him in. Much better to have him in with the possibility of dropping out than visa versa

    • curates_egg

       /  September 1, 2015

      This is a better explanation for me…with no offence to WOC. It is also more depressing as it would mean there is a big ? over Healy.

  9. Billy

     /  September 1, 2015

    Surprised the LH situation has caused so much controversy. As well as needing game time, Healy’s neck is either up to it or not. They’ll know after one game. If it’s not then parachute in Kilcoyne, who has already amassed minutes in the warm-up games. In case of emergency, use Furlong. It is much, much, much easier for a TH to slot in on the LH than vice-versa and I’d imagine they will be suitably prepped for that possibility.

  10. Sunshine

     /  September 1, 2015

    Great analysis of the front row situation – I’ve been intrigued by the statement Les Kiss made about monitoring hourly, I like the thought that Joe is ringing Church at 330am asking how’s the neck lad?

    I’ve seen and heard people say they can’t understand the Trimble decision but it seems pretty straightforward if it isn’t necessarily one I agree with, but then we are all on the outside looking in and don’t have the same information the Ireland management team have top make these decisions.

  11. Monkey

     /  September 1, 2015

    As an aside, I just wondered what your thoughts are about the effectiveness of the maul on the weekend? To my very much untrained eye, I think that forming and push has been laboured under Easterby as opposed to when Plumtree was forwards coach. Given the emphasis the SH teams have placed on it this year in SR and THEE RC.

    Also when Tupric ripped the ball out of SO’B hands and took it over the welsh line why did joubert give a knock on, what should he have awarded?

    • ORiordan

       /  September 1, 2015

      I thought it should have been scrum 5 to Ireland for carrying the ball back over the line rather than scrum 5 to Wales for the knock-on.

    • I thought he was in the process of going off his feet, so penalty Ireland for me was the correct call and it’s entering yellow card territory, but the TMO failed to see it. If it is your view that it was a legit steal, then 5m scrum to Ireland. To be fair to tupuric, he was that invisibility cloaked that you had trouble seeing him in slow motion-where the hell did that ball go? Might feel differently in an important game, but it was hard not to respect him getting away with it!

  12. Schmidt has all but confirmed your theory in the presser just now, lads; he said Healy has been passed fit to play, but the question is whether he’s ready to fit in with the rest of the team. This would add some weight to your suggestion that he’ll be looking to ease Healy back into the squad with the first couple of games. He also said Furlong played loosehead when he was younger and would be covering the position.

    Apparently he has also been plotting the Madigan at 9 idea for some time, and said he approached Madigan about it last year.

    • Xyz

       /  September 1, 2015

      Surprised that Madigan to 9 thing has been that long in the planning and yet we’ve seen no time there from him.* I recall him finishing an Ireland game there at least once during Deccie’s reign and it wasn’t great. Really hope that we don’t see him there during the WC.

      *I think – maybe he covered there for Leinster at the end of a game that I missed.

      • It has been something talked about on internet fora a lot, but rarely seen. I know he put in one decent cameo there when the Leinster scrum half went to the sin bin and he filled in really well. For 10 minutes! That’s about the extent of it. He just passed nicely and was pretty quick to the ruck. Nice, unfussy stuff. I cannot remember who the match was against, or even which season it was. Perhaps someone can help out?

        • Xyz

           /  September 1, 2015

          Yeah, the Mole kind of called this one two and a half years ago. Here is a re-up of the article since he has been too retiring to point it out himself:

          http://dementedmole.com/2012/03/26/irelands-giteau/

        • Xyz

           /  September 1, 2015

          Actually from that same article, “As an outhalf, much is made of Madigan’s alleged inability to kick goals, as he’s no better than Leinster’s fourth-choice place-kicker.” Wow, remember those days?

          • col

             /  September 1, 2015

            Dear God. I forgot about that. Last year he “kicked Leinster to a SF” according to the same faceless voices.

  13. John

     /  September 1, 2015

    You can come up with all sorts of ‘Named player goes down in the warm – ups’ scenarios that will leave us in trouble. The fact is that without a back up for the back up in every position there are going to be eventualities that will be hard to handle. It’s a 31 man squad, not a 45 man squad. We should not be game planning for how we handle Canada and Romania. It’s all about France (and Italy to a lesser degree).

    • D6W

       /  September 1, 2015

      Very true. My impression of this squad is that Joe has decided if current form does not warrent a player being a possible starter, then you are not in the squad, regardless of the need to cover certain positions in triplicate. Not taking Boss or Bent being an example.

    • Great comment John, that’s it in a nutshell. Joe said himself that there will be some positions we’ll be well covered and others where we’re a little shallow. In a 31 man squad that’s how it has to be. Look at Australia, Wales, England etc. They’re all in the same boat.

  14. zdm

     /  September 1, 2015

    I’d imagine that the argument for picking players or not goes along these lines:

    1) Is there a world-class player who is not injured (POC, Sexton, Murray)
    2) Is there a test-class player who is key to Ireland’s game plan (Best, Ross, Devin Toner, SOB, Heaslip,)
    2) Is there a world-class player who is likely to be fit by the Italy game (Healey)
    3) Is the incumbent player in the match-day squad clearly better (or in better form) than his nearest rival (Henshaw, Payne, Henderson, Reddan)
    4) Is there an experienced international at least on a par with his less experienced rivals in terms of form who is fit (Bowe, Big-Kearney, POM, Henry, )
    5) Is there a less-experienced player who is fit and at least on a par in terms of recent form with an unfit but more experienced rival (Zebo, Little-Kearney)

    If a player doesn’t fit the above criteria then it seems reasonable to choose a like-for-like replacement for a key player (Jackson, Cave, Ryan, White).

    After that, you are quite far down the depth chart and into the territory of players who are likely to be more peripheral members of the squad so it seems reasonable to take a younger player who will make the next world-cup cycle, perhaps as a key player (Earls, Furlong, Fitzgerald, Madigan, Murphy) over a player who is not likely to make the next world-cup (Trimble, Boss, D’Arcy)

    Annoying but when broken down like that, it’s hard to see who you would leave out to accommodate the likes of Trimble.

    • ORiordan

       /  September 1, 2015

      I don’t think it is that hard to see who would have been left out for Trimble. Fitzgerald.

      By the time of the 2019 RWC, Fitzgerald will be over a year older than Trimble is at the moment so Fitzgerald doesn’t really meet the “next world cup criteria” either.

      • jacothelad

         /  September 1, 2015

        It’s actually hard to justify Fitzgerald’s inclusion. He’s the perfect example of the Emperor’s New Clothes adjusted for rugby. Any criticism of him is drowned in a cacophony of derision and hate instead of analysis. When he was first on the scene in ’08/’09 he looked as if he might become a really top player. He really sort of looks the part until he has to actually do something. He just doesn’t make the grade when in green. Get ball, shimmy feet, fall over. Get ball, shimmy feet, don’t pass to man in the clear. Get ball, shimmy, fall over, get penalised. Attempt to catch pass but hooves don’t make it easy. Get in front of man with ball. Get a paper cut and need replaced. Rinse and repeat. 14 tries in almost 6 years mostly against Zebre, as a wing for the best team in Europe says it all. I would say it’s not that he can’t do it, it’s just that he doesn’t do it. Let’s be honest here, if Tommy Bowe or Simon Zebo had only scored 14 tries in 6 seasons, would you select either for Ireland? I suppose if ZeBowe played for Leinster it would be a daft question. As for Fitz. being a 13….he isn’t. Again, he is sort of o.k. Can tackle etc but doesn’t know what he’s doing there. It’s o.k. against Zebre but not against real opposition.

        • col

           /  September 1, 2015

          He is an incredible defender. Wing or centre. His decision making especially is first class.

  15. Billy

     /  September 1, 2015

    While people are keen to talk about our wonderful depth, I’m slightly concerned that Jordi Murphy, our 5th back row, is our 3rd best 7 (behind SOB, Henry), our 3rd best 8 (behind Heaslip and SOB) and our 4th best 6 (behind POM, Henderson and SOB). I think he’s becoming our John O’Shea – his main attribute being his ability to play multiple positions at an adequate level. I hope post-WC he can focus on one position (probably 7) and try to master it. Right now he looks like a mediocre 7, a light 8 and an uncomfortable 6.

    • toro toro

       /  September 1, 2015

      This “light 8″ thing again.

      Murphy is 6’2″ and 106kg.

      Heaslip is 6’4″ and 110kg, so actually slighter for his height.

      O’Brien is 6’2″ and 108kg

      O’Mahony is 6’3” and either 105kg or 107kg depending who you ask.

      The differences are marginal at best. It’s a non-issue.

      • Billy

         /  September 2, 2015

        You don’t actually believe the stats you plucked from your sticker album? Cute. Even the stats that appear on websites are typically plucked from thin air.

        So in 8 terms, you don’t think Murphy is light compared to Vunipola, Morgan, Picamoles, Read, Palu, Faletau, Denton, Parisse, Read..?

        Taking pure mass out of the equation (he’s still the lightest of your subset), Murphy is significantly lacking in power to any global peers, such as a Hooper, Pocock, Cane, Armitage, Coetzee, SOB. He routinely loses collisions – I can still see Mike Brown walking over him back in December.

        • toro toro

           /  September 2, 2015

          “Sticker album”? Twat.

          It takes some lack of self-awareness to talk about “plucking stats from thin air” when you’ve … pulled them out of your arse. All you have is that you *think* he’s lighter and/or less powerful than various players. On the basis that, well, you think so. And you laugh at anyone who disagrees.

          Hopeless stuff altogether.

          But you’re right; Read and Picamoles are definitely relevant comparisons, since I’d love if they were available to be our fifth-choice back-row instead of Jordi.

  16. rachel685

     /  September 1, 2015

    I know it’s tempting to focus on key areas where we’re weak or there are high-profile omissions, but if you take a step back the squad looks remarkably well-rounded, especially across the backline. The flexibility of so many of the backs doesn’t just offer cover – it also allows for a lot of different potential playing styles and gameplans. Schmidt could plump for reckless attack with Cave, Zebo, Earls and Fitz (and Cronin!); or he could go for a cagey, kick-chase sort of side like we saw in the 6N with Henshaw, Payne, Bowe and the Kearneys. He could chop, change and combine in a horses-for-courses sort of way, just like he used to do at Leinster. Ireland could play very differently against Italy than against France. In addition to the obvious benefits of such an approach, it also would deprive the French video analysts of useful material. If he can pull that off – which admittedly is a huge “if” – it could be the key to finally getting past the quarter-finals.

  17. Kelly

     /  September 1, 2015

    Surprised that no one has mention Felix Jones yet. While I totally understand his exclusion given his inability to cover multiple positions and the face Kearney is the nailed on starter at fullback, he must be gutted. He’s far and away the second best fullback in Ireland (those selected at 13 aside), has always performed admirably for Ireland when called up and has clearly become a leader in both Munster and Ireland. Throw in the fact he was on the brink of the 2011 WC squad when injury hit, has come back from multiple serious injuries including a career threatening neck injury and how at 28 this was probably his last shot at playing in a WC. No doubt he’ll bounce back as he’s always done but he must be hurting today.

  18. I’m pleased with the final 31. There are a lot of close calls and I would assume the people “in the environment” made the right ones. Whatever about the front row and the back five combinations, I’d very much like to see Donncha Ryan start against England. In the “enforcer stakes” I’d rate him higher than Dev Toner and think therefore he could replace him alongside Paulie in our first 15.

    • We’ve an abundance of riches at lock. Ryan is a smashing player. Toner has been one of our most consistent performers over two Six Nations, and seems to remain underrated in spite of it. And then I hear we’ve a young up-and-comer who’s reasonably decent too…

    • D6W

       /  September 1, 2015

      I would rate anybody higher than Toner as an “enforcer”. He is very effective for Ireland of late, but he simply does not project the raw physical menace of a real “enforcer” like Jamie Cudmore or Martin Johnson, to give 2 such examples. It is something which Ireland lacks, and have done for years.

      • Thanks, D6W, that was my point. I think Big Dev has being great and really upped his game the last two years in blue and green. That said, he doesn’t put the fear of god into anybody, and if a team wants to win the RWC I think they need one or more second rows that can do that.

        • ‘Enforcer’ that is just perception, not sure what enforcer mean in real rugby terms, seems to me it just mean he looks like one.

          • D6W

             /  September 2, 2015

            It is like porn, hard to define, but you know it when you see it.

  19. andrew097

     /  September 1, 2015

    Surprised Fitz and Earls are both in considering their injury profile and some patchy showings. Both have pace and there is no substitution for that I suppose it’s less nervous using them and getting injured then using them as a replacement and getting injured
    . Jones must be disappointed because Zebo is obviously the FB cover and maybe more as he is good in the air, kicks well and tackles better then K Sr. He also has that ability to be in the right place at the right time and FB might be a better place to do that from. Anyway K Sr having meaningful competition will only improve things.
    Can’t have too many gripes about the squad because it’s our best thirty players and there is no shockers I don’t believe it ! Leave outs.

    • laraxwell

       /  September 1, 2015

      No real complaints here.
      Agree with above with the 31 predicated on the big game squads. Coaches have placed the risk at least vulnerable point.
      SCW brought 40+ players to NZ but not sure if bigger numbers help with team ethos/ spirit.
      One other point -Jordi Murphy is fortunate TO’D isn’t fit. Also hate to see young players give media something to jump on. His comments re legality of Welsh backrow made headlines on Wales online. What backrow forward ain’t gonna cheat if the ref just ain’t bothered?

  20. Leinsterlion

     /  September 1, 2015

    Surely Gilroy is Irelands form wing right now….:’

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