Leaders, and Being in the Lead

On Monday, we worried about what Ireland would lose in the knockouts when they were without O’Connell, O’Mahony, Sexton and O’Brien. Sexton is now back in the mix, but we talked about 252 caps managing the endgame. As the dust has settled though, one thing we are a bit more sanguine about is the leadership within the Ireland group.

A friend once told us that he met some person or other who had worked in the backroom staff of the New Zealand rugby team.  ‘What’s it like to be in the New Zealand dressing room before a match?’ he dutifully asked. Said the Kiwi: ‘It’s actually pretty quiet.  They don’t shout at each other.  They don’t need to.’

No surprise there.  If Sir Ruchie wanted to get his point across, we can’t picture him shouting and roaring.  If he had a message to get across to someone, we can picture him doing it in his polite, charming, Gatsby-esque way; the same way as he talks to referees that has kept him from getting yellow carded in spite of umpteen cynical ball-killing exploits at the breakdown.  No doubt a quiet, authoritative word from Sir Ruchie goes a long way with other players in the squad.

So it was with interest that we read Jamie Heaslip’s comments about the team’s half-time discussions during the Ireland v France game.  Plenty might have clicked on the link expecting to hear about the latest speech channelling the spirit of the Somme, a tear-stained battle-cry of ‘Let’s do it for Paulie’ – but no.  ‘We just problem-solved’, said Jamie.  ‘We worked out what gaps had to be filled and how we would fill them’.

Superb leadership.  In the absence of Sexton and O’Connell, we didn’t know for sure what the leadership group would have been, only that Heaslip was now captain. He was one of five players who played in Kidney’s first competitive match – also a victory over France – who also played on Sunday, the others being Besty, Bowe, Bob and Luke Fitzgerald. Leaving aside Fitzgerald, who essentially had a four year international hiatus, and you have the elder statesmen of the Irish team. Throw in Conor Murray (43 Tests over 4 years including 2 for the Lions, and also one of Munster’s key men), Devin Toner (30 extraordinarily consistent caps over 5 years), the once-in-a-lifetime talent of Iain Henderson and the pleasant surprise of how prominent Robbie Henshaw was, and the generations that are passing the torch are clearer. (and in a neat kind of #hashtag, one from each province there).

It’s especially encouraging because Ireland always appeared to be a team that is emotionally driven.  Better when we’re bitter, happy to be written off, uncomfortable with the favourites tag, all of that ultimately defeatist nonsense.   It’s not a winning mentality; it’s the sort of attitude that will yield one off performances but will capture little in the way of silver.  Kidney’s Ireland epitomised it.  One imagines such concepts are anathema to Kiwis, and Joe Schmidt in particular.  The Kiwis have the favourites tag every time they step on to a rugby pitch and have to learn to deal with it.  It’s a measure of how far this team have come in the last two years that they have become so clear-minded, narrowly-focussed and are developing a winning mentality.

It all augurs very well for the weekend. Even with our injury losses, which would have been crippling in the past, the strength of the systems that Joe Schmidt’s Ireland are based on meant that the performance against France stayed at high levels even as players got carried off. The major difference is that, instead of bringing players like Henderson and Henry off the bench – Cheika calls them “finishers”, which we like – our finishers will be Jordi Murphy and Rhys Ruddock. Good players indeed, our standouts in victories against England and South Africa respectively last season, but not quite in the same class.

A month ago to the day, we said this about a prospective quarter final against Argentina:

At this juncture, this looks to us like a 50-50 match – both teams are in the bunch behind NZ, SA and Oz and around the standard of England and Wales. Still, this is what our tournament will come down to to cross the success/failure line – a one-off match with Argentina. Based on how Schmidt has prepared his teams to date, we’re backing him to pull this one off. We’re far out and injuries etc will surely have an impact, but from here, we reckon we can do it.

The only thing we would change there is that SA are a level below NZ and Australia. Clearly our injury situation is severe and the Pumas were mighty impressive in their performance against BNZ. Some are pointing to relative sloppiness against Tonga and Namibia, but we aren’t buying it – this is a top class team that will take some beating. The scratchy BNZ displays in later pool games have devalued the Argentinian performance to a degree, but they still have one of the best scrums around, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, Tomas Cubelli and the magnificent Nico Sanchez, who can’t help but put us in mind of Den Caddah in his prime. But, that said, we certainly have the game, and the coach, to win.

But what we do think is that given our injury situation, given that our finishers aren’t of the quality they were against France, we need to be in front at half time, and particularly on the hour mark. Schmidt’s teams have made a habit of being in front at the break – in 26 games, Ireland have only behind only 6 times at half time, and they lost 4 of those games. In the ones they won from behind, they were only a point behind (France and second Argentina Test in 2014). We are good pace-setters who like to play the game on our own terms – in our Six Nations defeats in this period, we struggled to adapt when we needed to chase the scoreboard. Its a must that we don’t let Argentina dictate the game, and stay in front through the third quarter.

One other thing to consider is that we don’t know yet in this tournament is the relative strength of the best Northern Hemisphere teams (Wales, Ireland) and the second tier Southern Hemisphere teams (Argentina, South Africa). Luckily, we have a pointer for us on Saturday – Wales vs South Africa. We fancy Wales in this one, but we’ll be feeling a lot less sanguine about Ireland if the Springboks shake off Gatty’s men and end up winning by 10 points or so. If the Welsh make a game of it, or win, we’re more confident in our prediction that Ireland can finally break the quarter final glass ceiling.



  1. If Sexton is 90% fit does Joe go with Madigan to start with Sexton to come on or does he risk it and throw Sexton straight on do you reckon?

    • Good question. Who is your finisher there? If Sexton has been training all week he probably starts, but on pure form, its actually a pretty close call

      • I wonder if every team who is going to play Ireland has studied videos of Sexton to death and maybe playing Madigan might actually catch them a little off gaurd? Madigan did sow chaos when he came on against them from the bench last year though so maybe you would have to go Sexton to start.

      • Stephen

         /  October 15, 2015

        If Sexton is fit-to-play-but-could-be-fitter, he starts. Sexton is not, in this version of the Ireland team, a eureka match-winner; he’s the man who strangles for 60 minutes via goal-kicking, garryowens, and execution of 2/3 strike moves (don’t you f**king drop the ball this time, Keith).

        Then if needs be, wee Mads for the last 10/15, for Sexton-preservation.

        • Sexton is a big problem. I just can’t see him playing based on the info I’ve seen and read so far. Groin injuries are notoriously irritable and even if you’re straight line running (he managed 3k yesterday), it’s the twisting and kicking that will annoy you. The timescale means he can’t push it for fear of aggravating it, but he can’t prove he is fit without pushing it. Madigan is well able and ready to step up, the last game felt similar to when sexton came in to play for Leinster when contepomi got injured – his moment. Unless sexton is 100% I’d like to see madigan go again.

          On the lineout-how liftable is Ryan? Although not wearing 6, could he replace o’mahony as the springy front jumper on defensive lineouts? That’s a big loss to the gameplan and don’t think Henderson or toner are light enough to provide that. I think we will be on top at scrum time, but Argentina will throw up smokescreens and I hope garces is wise to it. Also hope he is in fairly pedantic mood in general play-they will play much closer to the edge of penalties than Ireland I would imagine.

          I think we will win, but the emotional side of things with o’connell and the other injuries is tough – I hope they try to play for those men rather than trying to win it for them and can stay process focused. I am also worried that some of argentina’s young pack are ready to announce themselves a bit like some of the welsh outstanding youngsters did 4 years ago. We are very familiar with a closed milennium stadium at this stage and the massive Irish support is a help. You have to think Ireland will win, but this Argentina squad are ready to make their bones as a world force and that’s if you don’t consider beating South Africa away as already announcing yourself on the world stage.

          • I’m kind of worried about this whole “win it for O’Connell” thing that I see going around. Whenever that happens I remember Brazil with their “win it for Neymar” shouting before getting thrashed by Germany.

          • Brazil were appalling for years before Neymar got injured. Not the same thing at all. And Heaslip’s “problem-solving” quote suggests the team won’t be buying into that nonsense too.

          • I think that’s a good point. The defensive lineout (i.e. O’Mahony) won us the game against Italy. Ryan is listed as 6kg heavier than O’Mahony but 10cm taller – some compensation in terms of getting him up. I think he’s not quite as easy to spring up, but still pretty good at it. Note Henderson is listed as 12kg heavier than POM, he’s probably too heavy for the task

          • Yep David that’s what I’m getting at. I’ve seen that floating about and it’s not a helpful way to think in my opinion. I always liked Padraig harrington’s line when he was on the back 9 for one of his major victories about trying to not think about the consequences of winning. Now you may argue that here was a man with too much of ‘le mental’ but he seems to have done alright for himself in a mentally tough game and it was an interesting insight into what Schmidt calls ‘process focused.’ The other issue I have is that I’ve seen teams try to win things for people and they then go about behaving in a way in which the person they claim to be doing it for would never have supported. That’s why I say play for them in how you carry yourself and the thought and effort you put into each play rather than think about winning for them, which is merely the end point and dependant upon getting the process right. It’s maybe a lot of jargon in there l, but I do think there is a bit more substance to that way of thinking. As an aside I saw Aaron smith cajoling his pack in one of the games and he said ‘come on brothers.’ It had the hallmark of team bonding gimmick and seemed a little contrived to me, although judging by papé’s evidence they shouldn’t have too much bother seeing off France.

          • If the Irish players are currently pining for O’Connell to be there (which I doubt), we are in trouble. Have to move focus on, and I doubt “do it for Paulie” will be on any of the players agenda. Are the Springboks “doing it for Jean”? Unlikely

  2. SportingBench

     /  October 15, 2015

    I reckon Sexton is fit enough to start or else he is not in the match day squad. Both for fitness reasons but also how disruptive would it be for Madigan to know that he’ll be hooked at the first sign of trouble. Joe has faith in players and makes them believe in themselves and is a firm believer in binary fitness (you can play or you can’t) so Sexton on the bench is an unlikely fudge

  3. I can’t see Wales beating the Boks. I reckon they peaked in their magnificent victory against England. Against Cheika’s Oz they looked very one-dimensional. On top of which I imagine their loss to Australia and their failure to score a try versus 13 men will have robbed them of the necessary psychological momentum to beat SA. In contrast the Boks got their lowest point in the tournament behind them with the loss to Japan and are on a completely different, i.e. upward, trajectory. I’d love Warren Gatland to prove me wrong, but I can’t see it. With a bit of luck – and the necessary Schmidt gameplan – we should make it into the last four.

    • That match was basically like watching any Ireland Wales match we desperatly needed to win for the last 5 years. Just constant hammering at the line with no return. Wonder if the losses in personal in the backs have forced Gatland to refocus and try and have a more reductive forward orientated gameplan in order to compensate.

      • D6W

         /  October 15, 2015

        Can Warrenball become any more reductive???

      • Absolutely. Watching Stephen Moore and Co heroically repulsing Wales again and again on the try line was remarkably reminiscent of how the Taffs destroyed our Grand Slam dreams in Cardiff a few months back.

    • Leinsterlion

       /  October 15, 2015

      Agree, the Boks have all their injured players back and played into form, have stumbled upon the best lock/center partnership and are really only a top quality ten away from being a world class team. The only area Wales wont fear being mangled in is the scrum imo. they are overmatched everywhere else.

      • Really their scrum? Had a look at the stats they concede like 2.5 penalties per match from the scrum. Since Australia have (cant believe im saying this) probably the best scrum so far in the competition I’m inclined to give them a pass on that match but England’s scrum is only so-an-so these days.

        • Leinsterlion

           /  October 15, 2015

          The Boks front row is not a top class unit, the DuPlessis bros are creaking, “the Beast” hasnt been beastly for a while, Nyakane is fat and second choice at every level. Wales wont be mangled by their opposite numbers as has happened in every other match, it’ll be a fairly messy/even contest imo

          • I totally get your point about the Boks but we’re talking Gethin Jenkins and Scott Baldwin here. I just can’t see how SA can scrum worse then them.

          • Yeah Jannie du p looks a long way from his best to me, but the scrum is still the one area wales will have to try all sorts of trickery to escape from in my view. That aside, I give them a good chance here.

  4. Shelflife

     /  October 15, 2015

    Interesting comments on the half time chats. As a ref you get to hear a lot of the halftime chats, well the overall sense of whats going on rather than specifics.
    The best one was at a junior schools semi final. One team got the usual man up, knock them down dont take a backward step rant.
    The other was a calm chat about a weakness that they had spotted in the opposition lineout defense.
    What was even better was they used that advise to good effect and scored what proved to be a match winning try off it.

    Some of the stuff you hear doing on in the dressing rooms before a match are nothing short of embarrassing.

  5. Thomas Donohoe

     /  October 15, 2015

    Mr Cordite – why do you discard Wales making a game of it against Australia ? Keep up the great posts by the way, I usually can’t find fault with any of your analysis.

    • Do we? We have been pretty hot on Wales this RWC – picked them to beat England when majority went other way, and fancy them this weekend. Gatland is a fantastic coach

      • Thomas Donohoe

         /  October 15, 2015

        I could have been more accurate in my question there. “If the Welsh make a game of it, or win, we’re more confident in our prediction that Ireland can finally break the quarter final glass ceiling” – given Wales have already shown that they are near the level of Australia last weekend (all the more impressive allowing for their injuries) surely this as a sufficient line of form to judge the level of the relative strength against the SH?

        For what its worth, Australia have a perfect run-in… won’t take much to beat a poor Scottish side, then facing a likely decimated Ireland (cannot discount the probability of more injuries this Sunday if we scrape through) . This scenario leaves them to play a potentially softened and nervy All Blacks who will be facing a Springbok team in the semis whose game-plan that has gone back to all-out bashing basics after Brighton.

        • Hairy Naomh Mhuire

           /  October 15, 2015

          How exactly is: “We fancy Wales in this one” discarding Wales?

          • Thomas Donohoe

             /  October 15, 2015

            Guys it is stated like you’re waiting on viewing Wales’ performance against South Africa before judging whether that is a good enough standard for Ireland to defeat Argentina. My point is that we already know the relative standard as that form was shown last weekend. Have you ever backed a horse ?

          • Australia are better than South Africa (4 points) and Wales (9 points). By that South Africa are 5 points better than Wales – or maybe they aren’t and that’s too small a sample size. By Saturday night, we’ll have a larger sample size.

            If Wales play well, and lose by 20 points, I’m not as up on our chances. Wales are as good as we are imo.

      • scrumdog

         /  October 15, 2015

        When was the last time Wales beat a team from the SH…besides Fiji? I’d expect South Africa to win.

  6. An analysis of what Garces wants at the scrum and breakdown will also be crucial so we don’t make the same mistakes we did v Italy. Ireland would have more experinece with Garces so that might also be to our advantage

  7. Keith

     /  October 15, 2015

    I am not sure that I buy the line that last Sunday wasn’t a one off emotional driven result. Ireland were so far ahead in intensity and pashun than anything we have seen in recent games. Rucking was much more agressive and the defensive line pushed up a lot quicker than the previous week. I am hope I am wrong, but it looked very like one of the Kidney era superb one off performances.

    • Here’s hoping it was our “ugly” win v Italy, that was the one-off – pardon the pun – performance!!

      • They won’t play like that again Riocard….errrrr…..hopefully anyway. With the amount of enforced changes I would expect to see a similar gameplan to the wales/Scotland/Italy performances of schmidt’s first year. In those games they used kicks in the first half to check the opposition line speed and to pin them back a little bit. It might help take the edge off what will be a pressurising Argentina blitz-type defence. Cross kicks, grubbers and kicks sliding down the touch line by Bowe or Kearney were features of that. Then in the second half go up-tempo and try to exploit the space which hopefully the kicks may have helped create. They did it arse about face against Italy, trying to run the ball early without huge success and then kicking it (aimlesslyish) for the last 20 mins. Italy were able to stop them with garces ignoring offside in that game, no way will they let that happen again with a similar defence and the same referee.

    • jacothelad

       /  October 15, 2015

      Yes but Schmidt isn’t bringing back a super-annuated fly half whose superlative years are gone and who is no longer up to the job. Nor is he starting a tyro 9 who isn’t up to the job to fetter any attack. Kidney didn’t make those calls on any plan that improved Ireland but simply bringing in his pals from Munster. Had Kidney not selected a sadly woeful ROG and a beginner and at the time, treacle slow Murray v. Wales I suspect that the game might have been different. O’Gara and Murray caused Ireland to slow everything they did down to a crawl and ROG by his lack of bulk was effectively missed in defence allowing Wales to have an extra man in attack. Sexton and Reddan created fast ball from which Ireland had good and sustained possession. Madigan won’t be a revolving door when / if he plays and Murray is now a pretty good 9 most of the time.

      • seiko

         /  October 15, 2015

        Sexton was the preferred out half with Reddan for the last world cup. His kicking was 44% so he had to be dropped. Murray was needed for his physical attributes up against Mike Phillips.

        The lack of policing of the offside rule was the problem. Sexton & Reddan came on at about 50 minutes and nothing improved.

        For the record, O’Gara made all his tackles v. Wales. In fact, Ireland had most the possession – the Welsh defence was epic.

    • At the very least, I think we’ll struggle to bring the same emotion. Certainly can’t depend on it – but then I don’t think we need to depend on it. Nor did we against France to be fair – we would have won anyway imo

      • Just wait till the Green Army gets the place rockin’!!!!!

      • Source of Emotive charge will come from departed players this time. Argentina traditionally have no problems tapping into their heart either. We followed SA in the Autumn with a win over Australia. Under Kidney we followed Australia win in 2011 with a thoroughly professional outing v Italy. You gotta hope the one off matches are done with now.
        Despite our injuries, I think our sequential build up through warm ups and the pool prepares us better for this match. The Pumas played NZ a month ago. Impressive match to finish 10 pts behind but how good were NZ? Also Schmidt will have his prep done on them from the 2014 tour. I’ve no doubt they’ve improved, but it is hard to read form lines through their win in South Africa in this year’s Rugby championship. South Africa used the Championship as RWC warm ups (if SA bloggers are to be believed). Australia pumped Argentina 9-34 in Argentina before that game.
        Donncha Ryan’s weight and height stats have been a source of great amusement to me -a Munster supporter. Listed at 2.01/ 6ft 7 and 18 stones (varies depending on source). Older programmes show him an inch or 2 lower in his mid 20 playing days. Ryan and POM have the same demented game face and we know he’ll bring the same dog if asked to do so.
        Just don’t ask me to lift him.

    • D6W

       /  October 15, 2015

      I have no doubt Schmidt will have the team in the right mental state going out on to the pitch, he always has done. We rely much less on emotion, more on practiced execution now .What happened 4 years ago is irrelevant, different coach, different team.

    • Have to say I thought the Olympic Stadium contributed to the limpness of that match. Its just not a stadium for rugby and the supporters with there distance from the pitch were effectively a non-entity

  8. Can see Jordi Murphy starting to fill POM’s role in defensive lineouts. Similar enough build on them. If ruddock was in from the start I would go for him but a week probably isn’t enough time to get up to speed

  9. curates_egg

     /  October 15, 2015

    Argentina are scoring at will but have a leaky defence. We are kind of the opposite, although last weekend was encouraging from an offence perspective. You would have to imagine they have a couple of tries in them but if we can keep our discipline they will give us penalties and have gaps to exploit.

    What we can’t do is kick loosely, as they will lap that up. So, if Sexton is not fit, are we certain Madigan will start? Jackson has not looked confident in his 3 performances in a green shirt in this cycle but even die-hard Madigan fans (like me) would have to admit he is not the most reliable from hand. If Madigan starts, I would expect Murray to do a lot of the kicking and he will need to improve a bit on this aspect of his game from the past couple of weeks.

    Cardiff was like a home game last weekend. I am heading over this weekend and wonder if it will be the same? Am not sure there will be as many Irish fans and would imagine the neutral will more likely be for Argentina, both as the underdog and because they play flashy rugby. Also given Welsh fans’ animosity towards Ireland, any locals will probably not be cheering us on. Irish fans will just have to sing louder…I only wish the Galway song had not become the de facto chant-anthem: I know I am not the only one who feels alienated by it.

    • Lop12

       /  October 15, 2015

      Im not a fan of FOA either. But I think I could park my alienation for a WC QF!

      • I would have thought Ireland fans singing The Fields isn’t as annoying (and just plain incongruous) as Munster fans singing it. For myself, when I attended Ireland football matches 10/20 years ago “Olé, Olé” was far more grating, so I’m not delighted to hear it during Ireland’s RWC games.

        • curates_egg

           /  October 15, 2015

          When I started going to Irish rugby games, Molly Malone was the ditty that rose loudest from the terraces. Why we had to replace one incongruous alienating tragic Irish song with another, I don’t know though.

          • david_puddy

             /  October 15, 2015

            Remember Molly Malone also and always wonder why it’s not sung anymore? Too Dublin-centric and thus, related to the Ladyboys?
            Not as much a dirge as FoA which I’ve been hearing too much at any ex-pat events I’ve attended in recent years, it’s one of those songs that people shush you in the boozer for when some X-Factor wannabe starts yodelling it for no apparent reason… Anyway, I digress…

          • curates_egg

             /  October 15, 2015

            It’s not even sung much at Leinster games…but then again, why would it be? Possibly makes more sense than a song about a petty thief from Galway who was deported being sung in Limerick in support of Munster rugby, although that makes more sense than the same song being sung to support professional soccer teams in Glasgow and Liverpool…

      • curates_egg

         /  October 15, 2015

        I wish I could but I don’t see it happening. Maybe I will be swept up in the moment though

  10. “Come the day and come the hour…”

  11. Topsy

     /  October 15, 2015

    And if France bulldoze a nervous New Zealand where does that leave the pecking order? ….no seriously, stop laughing. It could happen.

    • Spikes

       /  October 15, 2015

      How great would that be? Throws the tournament wide open. And then if Wales sneak past the Boks… and to round it off, Scotland…(ducks under flying pig)…

  12. Andrew097

     /  October 15, 2015

    A fifty fifty game the othe 1/4 finals might cause one upset but who knows. Nice to hear Ireland going through the performance process rather then emotional give it a lash sh&t . It’s always been our rugbys greatest weakness. Focus and concentration will win cups, up and at em is just a distraction.

  13. shaw knee oh bee

     /  October 15, 2015

    If Murphy is not playing, as would appear likely, would Heaslip be the man for the front of defensive lineouts? It’s going to the wire and is so so hard to call. I don’t believe Sexton will play, trying to protect a groin strain and fully committing to kicking a penalty from 40 yards are mutually exclusive objectives. It is a whole new challenge for Madigan to start a game and having to deal with pre-match jitters etc. We have the players in the backs to cut them open for a handful of tries, and we have good solid risk averse outside backs who are not going to get themselves isolated and leave us open to a counter attack (save a wayward Madigan pass). SOB and POM can actually be liabilities with regards giving away kickable penalties, I don’t think you will see that with Henry and Henderson (though perhaps all of that playing on the line of legality in order to find it is often what is required). I am worried about what Imhoff could do to Bowe in a bit of space, but I think Henshaw has El Mago’s number. Lavanini and Henderson to take lumps out of each other. Creevy’s dynamism and Best’s intelligence. Ayerza & Ross. It is extraordinarily level. I think that Joe will have the boys in the right frame of mind. Our Jekyll & Hyde (or Hyde & Jekyll last weekend) combo at loose head need to step it up a little to give us a little more bite in the pack. Henry to ground a mauled try (our relatively underused weapon) at some point in the first half.

  14. shaw knee oh bee

     /  October 15, 2015

    Reasons for French optimism…
    -The scrum
    -The maul
    -NZ not playing Naholo at 14 against Brice Dulin (surely would have been conceding 20kg and a few km/hr)
    -Morgan-bloody-Parra (why is the French team not built around that man!?)
    -LeRoux on for Chouly
    -it’s NZ away from home in a World Cup

    Reasons for NZ optimism…
    -Dane-bloody-Coles taking a lovely line around Scott Spedding
    -Kieran Read out wide against Nakaitaci
    -Aaron Smith’s speed of thought around the sluggish French pack
    -Ma’a Nonu breaking Dumoulin’s face open with a fend and running in under the posts
    -The fastest outhalf (thought and feet) in the world and the most skillful centre in the world to come on with 20 minutes to go
    -nearly 1,000 caps of experience
    -they’re a better team

  15. scrumdog

     /  October 16, 2015

    Paddy Power has Ireland at 9/1 and Argentina at 25/1

  16. Daire

     /  October 19, 2015

    Hi, Been reading the site for a while, haven’t really commented before. Just a few initial thoughts on yesterday, the tournament and ‘mindset’. Would be interested to know people’s views obviously.

    Joe Schmid, great coach as he undoubtedly is, got the yips at the important moment. In selection and substitutions. Matt Williams was proved correct – our gameplan and tactics were found wanting at the top level – I would say our mindset. Good point on TV3 also about Ireland having designated ball carriers, whereas every Argentine carried and passed. While on the subject, can we please stop the ‘offloading’ debate? Offloading is just passing in the tackle – that should be basic skill, especially at international level.

    Conservative selection: Dave Kearney, Strauss on the bench
    Substitutes: Made a bit late (except Best which was made too soon – he was probably exhausted as seemed to be tasked with defending wide which is incredible for a front row); Ruddock on late; Ryan on even later – and for Henderson! Really!? Toner was dead on his feet which could be seen in an Argentina try late on. More to the point, 10 points behind I know which guy I want on the pitch!
    Another thing, why the hell is Murray hoofing the ball off at HT when we are 10 points behind! The chasing team needs to take every opportunity, but psychologically that seems to say ‘we don’t want to concede any more this half’ rather than ‘we’re going to come at you’ to the opposition – again ‘mindset’.

    Madigan, who was excellent against France, once again went missing too much. Tackled well, but rarely got the backline moving and sat too deep – fell into the infuriating tendency he has of trying to do it all himself (and what on Earth was that backwards crossfield kick in the first half). Would like to have seen PJ come on as he normally plays on the gainline – shuffle Madigan, Henshaw and Earls out a position each (Average Dave is the one to go obviously).
    Can we please acknowledge that Dave Kearney is not an international quality winger? If he was at Ulster I would have him as 4th choice, never mind for Ireland. Average Dave shouldn’t be in the squad never mind starting; Fitzgerald was phenomenal when he came on – I personally would have had Zebo there with Fitz on the bench, and Trimble in the squad.
    Henshaw was good, although butchered a big overlap – the cut-out pass was the wrong option anyway, and then he compounded that with poor execution. However, apart from that good, and we won’t dwell on that one incident (however, if Earls had done that he would be lambasted).
    Heaslip carried manfully, but was one of the few. With either O’Brien or O’Mahoney we would have been much improved. Jordi Murphy was invisible save his try and one great turnover – still he’s a great prospect for the future and should be at this prime at next WC.
    All in all, I don’t think any players had a complete ‘mare (no, not even Average Dave) – they were just well-beaten by a better team, and one with a more complete gameplan.

    In general, and sticking to the backs, I thought Earls went well at centre, but he was flying at wing. Cave, good as he is at Ulster, is a cut below international class – no shame in that. Fitzgerald has always had talent and showed it. With Payne out Schmid could have taken a risk, brought in a McCloskey or someone like that. NZ showed that youth can be good – they have two wingers who as far as I know only really broke through this year in Super Rugby – yet they are given a chance. They also select the most talented players, not willing plodders. Yet our X-factor wings (Earls, Zebo, Gilroy) are at centre, in the stands and at home respectively.

    • This is fascinating stuff – and definitely raises some questions. If a Milner-Skudder broke into the Ulster team that had an ok Pro12 and a disastrous ERC, would he have been invited to camp? McCloskey wasn’t. Its 20-20 hindsight, but doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ask the question – BNZ are willing to take decisions that are perceived as selection gambles .. but pay off

      • scrumdog

         /  October 22, 2015

        BNZ continually introduce new players who we might see for a few minutes in a few test matches only to reappear in season or two with honed skills and as starters. The June tours (Nov. matches equiv.) to NZ is when many players get their first caps and on tours….they are constantly giving a run to new players. Look at Fekitoa..still not a starter but he will be when Smith and Nonu are gone. Savea was first capped against Ireland in Hamilton and then you have Sam Cane who has been developing in the shadow of McCaw and will be ready to replace him when the time comes. Anyone remember Ryan Crotty? Could be a Crotty -Fekitoa midfield with Barrett? The list goes on. They’ve been doing the same throughout the squad since the last RWC and before. Ireland need to give youth a chance!

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