High Risk

By now we’ve all seen the squad, read the analysis and recoiled in horror at Hugh Farrelly’s devastating, chilling ‘six-step nightmare scenario’ that leads inevitably to Ian Madigan playing scrum half for the majority of the crucial pool match against France.  Yes, it’s all become very clear: Joe Schmidt has taken some serious risks with his 31 man squad selection.  So we’re here to run over each unit, and ask: what should Joe have done.  Y’know, to reduce the risks of something awful happening as a result of injury to one of our best players in the captain’s run.  Anyone who knows anything about the game knows that lads are forever getting injured in the captain’s run.

Front Row

Very risky stuff here.  Only two looseheads selected, one of whom isn’t even fit yet.  This is a high risk situation.  This would have been entirely alleviated had Schmidt drafted in David Kilcoyne.  Further risk reduction could have been achieved by also including Michael Bent in the panel.

Second Row

At first glance, Ireland look well stocked at second row with no less than four first-rate players to choose from.  But have you considered this scenario: O’Connell, Toner, Ryan and Henderson are all struck down with a mystery virus that hits only competent locks and makes them shrink to 1.5m tall overnight! With Rory Best’s arse identified as the source, Schmidt has no choice but to call up Paul Marshall and Strings to cover Chris Henry, our new tighthead lock. Hardly an ideal situation I’m sure you’ll agree.  Schmidt could have avoided this needless risk by selecting three additional locks: step forward Mike McCarthy, Dan Tuohy and Donncha O’Callaghan.

Back Row

Looks ok, doesn’t it?  But remember that Henry is covering the second row (see above) and things don’t look so pretty.  Schmidt should have given consideration to Clive Ross as additional cover.

Scrum Half

The big one.  The mega-risk.  Just two recognised scrum halves.  And Ian Madigan!  Schmidt was keen to tell us that Madser has been practicing scrum half in his mum’s garden all summer, but who is he kidding?  Not us!  And not Hugh Farrelly!  Hugh has already carefully outlined the unthinkable scenario, where Murray and Reddan get injured, leaving Madigan to throw passes from the base of the ruck for 70 minutes against France.  Now let’s dream of the alternative.  The third scrum half that isn’t: instead of Madigan we get Isaac Boss.  For 70 minutes against France.  Oooooohhh, that’s some soothing balm right there.  Feels better, doesn’t it?

Fly Half

We’ve heard it all so often: Ireland’s world cup is goosed if Jonny gets injured.  So why take the risk?  Why be so dependant on one player?  Schmidt should have just left Jonny at home and saved us all the worry about his occasionally jumpy hamstrings.  With little to choose between Madigan, Jackson and Keatley it wouldn’t matter a damn if one of them got injured.

Outside Backs

The only position where Ireland are well covered, thank goodness.  Even if all the wings get injured in the captain’s run, as appears likely, we can at least be assured that Jordi Murphy has experience there.  And, while few will recall such a little discussed fact, it should also be noted that Peter O’Mahony did once play on the wing in an AIL final.

We sign off with a simple plea to Paul O’Connell: just for goodness sake go easy on the lads in the captain’s run!

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  1. Yossarian

     /  September 2, 2015

    I do have a looming fear that we could lose to france.(not due to madigan finding himself at 9!)The way the welsh power game disrupted us was quite worrying. i know we can up our game but the french pack looks in good knick. Picamoles, their scrum and a moment of magic from one of fofanna/basteraud/huget could be enough to beat us even with a flaky Freddy at 10.
    We then go to play NZ and go closer than anyone else manages in an old. school heroic defeat.
    a more realistic nightmare scenario than the improbable captain run injury situation.

    • Stephen

       /  September 2, 2015

      A large part of why Wales were able to do that on Saturday past, is down to 3 reasons:

      1. Sympathetic refereeing of attacking rucks. (In from the side, much?)

      2. The complete lack of an open-side. Jordi Murphy is not a 7. Joe was 99.9% sure of this before the match, but what with him being Deep Blue and all (anyone else surprised to see him say he was emotional ringing players up? I thought he was a cyborg), he wanted to make sure. Now we’re 100% sure. With one of SOB and Henry on the pitch, aided by Best/Heaslip/POM, we can slow the breakdown enough to organise our defence, and effectively counter the power game.

      3. Wales – because they needed to be – being more up for it. They need to be at high intensity very quickly with England and Aussies coming, whereas our schedule is literally in ascending order of intensity.

      • Another factor is that we’ve seen three different back row combos and three different ruck tactics. What the thinking behind this beyond experimentation I have no idea but it does mean that we can’t take that much from these warm ups as practice runs for France.

  2. Grumpy

     /  September 2, 2015

    I think you’ll find that Joe already has a plan – the captains run will now be held four days before the game, to allow time to bring in necessary replacements. The man thinks of everything!

  3. Captain’s run sounds altogether too risky really. Captain’s jog instead? Captain’s walk? Captain’s tai chi?

  4. Sure we may as well just bring BOD out of retirement to cover 13 and 7!

  5. connachtexile

     /  September 2, 2015

    You can laugh at someone getting injured in the Captain’s run but I remember Shane Horgan a few season ago managing to crock himself pretty good when he banged his knee off another player and didn’t SOB pull up at a Captain’s run only this season past? If anyone wants me I’ll be on my knees saying a rosary.

    • SOB just tweaked his hammy during the pre-game warm-up. Totally different thing, much less serious!

    • This is exactly the situation Schmidt needs to legislate for. Maybe double rounds of knee tape for the lads in all captain’s runs?

      • ArtVandelay

         /  September 2, 2015

        Sumo suits for all participants of the captain’s run. You heard it here first.

      • Kevin

         /  September 2, 2015

        Memos currently being sent out to ensure the daily handshakes are performed with 60% less intensity than usual

        • And POM’s been told to go easy on Ireland’s call in case he puts a disk out. These low risk tactics would also explain why the squad’s been looking so stubbly.

    • curates_egg

       /  September 2, 2015

      The list is longer than that…but let’s not let that get in the way of a bit of smugness.

      • What about New Zealand and the norivirus! I know shut happens but has this really been considered in the selections?* Captain’s runs indeed.

        *Actually I’m just being faecacious, I read recently that eanna falvey had done some preparatory work regarding ‘good bacteria’ drinks and wot not. So as far as is reasonably practicable, we’re on top of that one.

        I take your points curates and misfortune may befall Ireland or any of the other teams who have gone 2scrum halves, but the ‘nightmare scenario’ stuff is a little over cooked/hysterical. Prepare as best as possible and if you hit misfortune, roll with the punches as best as is possible. The soundbites coming from the squad suggest they’ve given a great deal of thought and planning to the selections.

        • curates_egg

           /  September 2, 2015

          My point is only that it is a bit stupid to pretend there is not risk involved. Of course we have a good squad and we were always going to be left tight somewhere. Why not just admit it, as Joe at least has done, than pretending it’s not an issue?

    • zdm

       /  September 2, 2015

      We had a prop (read: winger who got old and fat) for our local team who had a hypoglycaemic attack during warm up for a match on a hot day so a captains run is fraught with danger!

      • Ah I’ve seen them all zdm. Some highlights: a veteran who had been given some kind of exotic chilli/deep heat/tiger balm rub-he used it, forgot to wash his hands, then went to the bathroom, with predictable results. I’ve seen a fella one minute into the game signal to the bench for some tape for his wrist and they thought he was making the universal ‘sub me’ signal for a pre-existing dodgy hammy-subbed in first minute. I’ve seen a goalkeeper run to take a quick kickout, but manage to get his sock and boot stuck in the wire behind the goals. He needed a physio to come over and cut his sock. A friend injured himself quite badly when he got too psyched up and his studs slipped on the floor in a team talk which included the bizarre belter ‘when your f***ed, just imagine someone has pointed a gun at you. You’d run then.’ Panic attacks….team mates fighting….

        You’d be a long time trying to legislate for all that stuff. Bottom line, if a scrum half gets hurt the other one plays the full 80 or close to it, which has been the tendency anyway. If you get 2 scrum half injuries in quick succession, then yes you may have a problem, but it’s one that at least some steps have been taken to legislate for in advance. If there is a bad injury a replacement comes in. The only situation which is tricky is in the case of a minor knock early in the tournament. That’d be an admittedly tricky decision, but on the balance of probabilities, taking the extra specialist centre, over the extra specialist scrum half seems a sensible move to me. I wouldn’t agree with copying chieka’s move on the hookers mind you, that’s a much more attritional position and it’s a position where we are exceptionally well served and had 4 very good operators in camp, but for scrum half it makes sense.

  6. curates_egg

     /  September 2, 2015

    Hopefully, the smugness is justified.

    The front row is a risk – no two ways about it. Sure one of you even posted as much on your twitter account at the beginning of the week: you can follow the volte-face on your timeline. What makes you so sure in yourselves/f now?

    The point that we don’t have a 3rd back-up scrum half of the required quality is totally relevant, and makes the 9 decision far more comprehensible. Also, we frequently seem to leave our 9s on for almost the whole match.

    My main problem with Madigan also backing up the 9s is that he would now clearly seem to be our back-up 10, based on the past few weeks. Jackson looked really poor on Saturday, following an unconvincing show in the previous Wales game. He was definitely number 2 based on form at the end of the season but I am not sure that is the case any longer. So, what would the bench look like if one of the 9s got injured within 48 hours of an important game?

    • Roundy

       /  September 2, 2015

      So is Madigan now our most important play as he is backup ten, cover for 9,12 and possibly even 15! Jeez, hope he is wrapped in cotton wool till the kick off.

    • @CompleteBore

       /  September 2, 2015

      So, what would you have done differently? Its only 31 players, some area is going to be left a little bare, which section of the team would you have taken the risk on and why is that area more able to withstand the risks? (Apologies if you’ve answered previously).

      • curates_egg

         /  September 3, 2015

        I’ve answered previously but it’s no problem. Instead of taking 1 fit loosehead and 3 fit tightheads, I would have taken 2 fit looseheads and 2 fit tightheads. Why? Because at least we have 2 fit players in each position.

        If Healy is deemed important enough (and I would deem him so), he travels. You then have a choice of whether you bring another tighthead (by cutting an outside back, a hooker, a 2nd row or a back row) or not. Given how many minutes Ross seems to play for us, and how that seems to be factored into the planning, I think an argument could be made for no 3rd tighthead…but that again is a risk in one of the most specialist positions. Maybe, if you wanted to avoid that risk, you could have cut one of the two outside backs carrying knocks.

        All the keyboard jockeys are reassuring everyone that it’s grand and there’s no risk because it’s easier for a tighthead to switch to loosehead. While that is true, what is also true is that Furlong (who is definitely massively talented) has zip diddly experience there at any worthwhile level. Would you really want him playing his second international match out of position against a powerful scrum (of which, ignoring France, there are two in our group)?

        Clearly Joe has made the call to take the risks at 1 and 9, and he is undoubtedly correct in his call…but we shouldn’t pretend that, just because He has made the call, there is no risk.

        The way I see it, they are either 100% confident on Healy or it is totally touch-and-go. In the latter scenario, he has the England game to prove himself and, if he fails, Kilcoyne is simply called up.

        • Xyz

           /  September 3, 2015

          “The way I see it, they are either 100% confident on Healy or it is totally touch-and-go. In the latter scenario, he has the England game to prove himself and, if he fails, Kilcoyne is simply called up.”

          This is exactly right. Doesn’t this materially mitigate the risk you see at LH?

          • curates_egg

             /  September 3, 2015

            The second scenario does. The first not so much: you can’t be certain about recovery from an injury unless it’s actually been tested. How many players come back from an injury and get another straight away?

          • That’s the whole point our post was getting at curates. There’s risk in EVERYTHING. You can’t eliminate all risks. All the coaching teams have had to select squads that leave them a little more exposed in one area than another area. The numbers dictate that there is no other way around it.

    • The maths is sinmple: there are five ‘specialist’ positions where you would like to have a depth chart down to three players: all the front row, 9 and 10. The trouble is you just can’t, because you can only pick 31 players. Something has to give. We initially thought we’d be bringing six props, but clearly almost all the coaches have arrived at the line of thoughty that that is simply too many places allocated to the front row. Which is fair enough.

      • curates_egg

         /  September 3, 2015

        Of course, it’s a 31 man squad, so you have to gamble somewhere. All I am saying is that there is no point in pretending it is not a gamble: it is. There is risk involved. There are a couple of scenarios in which we will really have to sweat. Joe acknowledged it, so we may as well acknowledge it too and not just pretend it ain’t the case.

      • curates_egg

         /  September 3, 2015

        On the front row maths: Wales and Australia have decided to bring 2 hookers. While our 3 hookers are excellent, you could make the case in our scenarios that a split of 3 fully fit tighties, 2 fully fit loosies, 1 unfit but world class loosie, and 2 hookers might be a viable formula. Or you might have taken an extra forward at the expense of one of our outside backs. But it is irrelevant. We are where we are. The main risk is at loosehead. It’s hopefully not a big one, but it is a risk.

        • Yossarian

           /  September 3, 2015

          i think the aussies have a prop who can fill in at hooker.

  7. laraxwell

     /  September 2, 2015

    “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

    Theodore Roosevelt, Strenuous Life

    someone please forward to H Farrelly

  8. Hoo hoo! England are gonna BATTER you this weekend!

  9. eatmypoint

     /  September 2, 2015

    “Madser has been practicing scrum half in his mum’s garden all summer” made me lol out loud at work

  10. Tommy Kennedy

     /  September 2, 2015

    This is all rubbish. Ireland have little or no cover.

    People have completely overestimated how good some of these squad players are. If any of Rob Kearney, Henshaw, Sexton, Murray, Heaslip, O Brien, O Connell and Healy are miles better than their back ups.

    Luke Fitz wasn’t a guaranteed starter for club last year, Ulster think Payne is a better 15 than 13, Madigan is a fly half who couldn’t break in ahead of Jimmy Gopperth who is what Nzs 79th choice out half? Darren Cave you could argue was the 3rd,4th,5th choice centre in a bad ulster team last year. Add in healy has barely played any minutes and sextons concussion history.

    If Ireland want to win this world cup we will need incredible luck and need our best team to play near on 70 minutes in all the big games.

    • Stephen

       /  September 2, 2015

      Darren Cave was the first choice centre at Ulster through all of last year, to the extent he was captain for a few games of it. Our centres last season were Payne, Cave, Olding, McCloskey, Marshall and . . . any others? And bar several occasions when we played Olding and Payne (f**king stupid, orders from head camp) Cave was, as he should have been, the first name on the sheet.

  11. Tommy Kennedy

     /  September 2, 2015

    It is all irrelevant if Murray or sexton gets injured we might as well have 15 clowns playing for us.

  12. McShane

     /  September 2, 2015

    The thought of leaving Sexton at home is an intriguing one. Joe would effectively out-Saint-Andre Saint-Andre. The French would never know what hit ’em!

  13. andrew097

     /  September 2, 2015

    You would think Murray was Gareth Edwards the way the Munster Media mafia are going on , he is a useful scrum half who is number one at the moment. He does some things well and is a bit ponderous in releasing the ball to the backs. One could argue it might be better to start Redden as the outside backs have a bit of gas and could do with quicker ball. If he gets injured he is injured but thinking our whole World Cup revolves about having him on the pitch is way off kilter. I would be more worried about established players not playing well and keep selecting them hoping for a return to form.
    Somebody is always going to lose out in a squad and Trimble has had a long injury spell which has not helped his cause. Bascally our best 30 are there and nobody is left out that would give you a Zig n Zag ” I dont believe it” moment.

    • Xyz

       /  September 2, 2015

      Murray’s ability to box kick accurately (and the step down to Reddan in this regard) makes him even more valuable than Sexton in my view. This is the way the Ireland team has been set up to play over the past two seasons. This isn’t a munster mafia thing, this is based on how we play.

    • Cian

       /  September 2, 2015

      One could argue it might be better to start Reddan, but that argument would be ridiculous. Reddan is a good scrum half that does some things very well, but he really is prone to serious errors when he starts big matches for Ireland. Remember when Joe had him down to start v Aus and the commentariat started asking “well, is Murray actually the clear number 1?”. Then it immediately turned out that yes, yes he is. His tackling, kicking and decision making are considerably better, and the price he pays for actually making decisions (rather than immediately passing or darting) is that the ball is slightly slower. When he’s on form, there’s actually hardly even a difference in ball speed: he actually moves a bit deceptively quickly.

      The only case I can think of for starting Reddan in big games is if Murray and Sexton completely fail to gel, and Joe decides to go with a “ship it to 10 and let him decide” play calling style.

  14. conatyeoghan

     /  September 2, 2015

    Look I love the blog but I feel you are being way to negative. I would love to see certain people included in the squad and certain people excluded. But the reality is we don’t have that decision to make. The man who is making that decision is the man who lets not forget won back to back Six Nations and also brought us to number 2 in the WORLD!!!!! I think this post is negative because you are saying stuff like these could get injured and those could get injured. When has a whole world cup squad ever got injured because that’s what you seem to be saying in this post. Why cant we think positive and say everyone is going to be ok now lets go win a world cup. CMON IRELAND!!!!.

    • Post of the day. Or the year possibly. Check those irony detectors dude!

      • This World Cup is brilliant already.

      • Hairy Naomh Mhuire

         /  September 2, 2015

        This is intriguing – have you been outflanked, an Ironic Double Bluff!!

        • Hmmm, Conatyeoghan if you meant that I very possibly could love you. If you didn’t mean it, hell, I love you anyway.

    • conatyeoghan

       /  September 2, 2015

      Bud there is no irony in your piece or else you don’t know what irony is

      • You may actually have a point there.

        It’s probably only ironic if madigan had to play against France and he missed a late drop goal to win it, because he has been practising his passing all summer in his mam’s back garden and he neglected his drop goal practice, which he normally would do in his mam’s back garden in the summer. Then on the same weekend Isaac boss kicks a drop goal for Leinster and Marmiom kicks one for Connacht. I still haven’t figured out if you’re a comedy genius or you just made a mis-read, which anyone could do by the way and we all have.

      • labrecha1

         /  September 3, 2015

        Pedantic, sarcasm then? Either way, it’s a joke.

        • I think the lads are generally satirical, which (like joe schmidt’s squad) covers all. And I really enjoy them – they give me a good laugh anyway, thanks whiff.

    • osheaf01

       /  September 3, 2015

      Reminds me of the way people used to idolise Saint Jack Charlton…

  15. For the sake of comparison, personally I reckon Michael Cheika’s taking a bigger risk bringing Kane Douglas in place of James Horwill, than “our Joe” (ref. Cilla Black R.I.P) is in putting his faith in Tadgh Furlong rather than Michael Bent. Well done to George Hook for trying to lower the expectations in today’s Spindo. I wouldn’t necessarily agree, that we have no chance of winning the tournament, but certainly our RWC history does not give ground for optimism. To expect the Milky Bar Kid to wave a magic wand and everything will work out is lala-land, IMO. It’s doable; but we would need to be consistently very good and get a bit of luck along the way also. Be interesting to see how we go in Twickers. Were I coach, I’d put out my best team out and try to beat England over there. They’re gonna be under massive pressure. As opponents they will be at least as difficult to beat as Wales last weekend, if not more so.

  16. scrumdog

     /  September 2, 2015

    No worries at all! Look for Schmidt’s superb back line attack of his Leinster years to re-emerge after a couple of years of sequestration. You saw it here first….

    15. Payne
    14. Bowe
    13. Robbie Henshaw
    12. Cave
    11. Kearney (D)
    10. Sexton
    9. Murray

    • Cian

       /  September 2, 2015

      I would quite like to see this lineup in one of the first two games. Maybe even more so with Earls replacing one of the wings (Bowe on form but Kearney on class) and Madigan in for Cave after 40.

    • curates_egg

       /  September 3, 2015

      Yeah. Ditch Bowe and I like it.

  17. Yossarian

     /  September 6, 2015

    Ehhhh,with all the satire we missed this scenario- Murray concussion protocol keeps him out for three weeks now we only have reddan for the opening few games.

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