The Other Guy Must Have Died Or Something

Twickenham is no place to throw in a young lad. Or maybe it is – Joe Schmidt has picked two debutants in the XV to face England on the Cabbage Patch on Saturday. Choo Choo Stu McCloskey has been met with benign eyelid flutters as the entire country says “I told you so”, while Josh van der Flier has been met with #OUTRAGE by around a quarter of the country for taking the shirt rightfully belonging to Tommy O’Donnell. And Ultan Dillane will join the fray with 25 minutes to go, giving us three debutants against a serious rugby country. Conservatism eh?

While McCloskey is clearly the form inside centre in Ireland (if not Europe), it has taken the injury to Jared Payne for him to get into the team, and Dillane is of course simply the next best fit second row; but van der Flier has leapfrogged both the TOD and Rhys Ruddock to wear the 7 shirt – and that’s certainly the biggest surprise of the selection. Gerry dropped a hint last week that VDF had jumped above the TOD, but we thought the be-leathered one had one too many tequilas the night before.  O’Donnell can count himself unlucky – 20 tackles against France shouldn’t be overlooked – but it’s hard not to be excited about van der Flier’s potential.

The best thing about the picks are that it gives some sense of Ireland trying something to actually win the game. Groundhog VDF will be in direct opposition to the chiselled cheekbones, perfect teeth and rippling muscles of Tim Nice-but-Dim, and students of rugby will recall how Pocock, Hooper and Warbs utterly destroyed England at the breakdown in the RWC. Now VDF is nowhere near the league of those gents at this point, but it’s a selection to target a weakness. Equally picking McCloskey at 12 offers a way to put Owen Farrell, England’s second five-eighth and playmaker, on the back foot and rattled, preventing him focusing on his real job – getting Anthony Watson and Jonathan Joseph into space.

At the very least it’s a selection that will give England new problems to think about, and some that perhaps they weren’t expecting.  And commentators such as Quinlan and Horgan are never done reminding us that the arrival of a couple of young upstarts in the starting team can create a buzz about the place.  It also should help to debunk a couple of myths about Joe Schmidt.  Derided in some quarters as an overly conservative strategist and selector, it’s something that doesn’t necessarily chime with a broader view of his career.  The Clermont team he coached and particularly the Leinster side he led to consecutive Heineken Cups were frequently thrilling to watch.  In Schmidt’s second season, his Leinster side also eschewed the much fabled offload, but such was the accuracy of their gainline-passing game they didn’t need to do it.  The current Irish game-plan, long on kick-chase was largely forged in the successful November series in 2014, when Ireland were shorn of ball-carriers through injury and as a result their best means of gaining metres was through reclaiming kicks.  It worked superbly, and its success was carried into the last Six Nations, but has perhaps grown stale in the last couple of series, and the time is nigh for some evolution.

We’re ravaged by injuries, and the English bench looks tough, but Healy and Ruddock are no slouches. We’re getting a bit optimistic. We should know better really.

Ireland team: Bob; Trimble, Henshaw, McCloskey, Earls; Sexton, Murray; McGrath, Besty, Ross; Ryan, Toner; Passion, van der Flier, Heaslip.

Replacements: Strauss, DJ Church, White, Dillane, Ruddock, Reddan, Madigan, Zeebs




  1. ORiordan

     /  February 25, 2016

    While I applaud the selection of the young guns, naturally the continued selection of Madigan on the bench is an #OUTRAGE!

    You wonder though if the selection policy is a result of Ireland being out of the running for the championship and if Ireland had squeaked home 8-9 instead of losing 10-9 against France, things may have been different.

  2. Stephen

     /  February 25, 2016

    What does Jackson need to do, though. Really.

    • He needs to kick points when they are on offer. Bigger question is now that Gilroy has added an out of hand kicking game why is he not on the bench?

      • jacothelad

         /  February 25, 2016

        Jackson’s kicking success rate this season is 89%.

        • The six points he left out on the pitch was the difference between winning and losing. That is coincidentally how small the margins are in international rugby.

          • Stephen

             /  February 26, 2016

            So Jackson is not being picked for the 23 on the basis of 2 bad decisions, in his first game as captain, in a team shorn of most of the first-choice backline and half/three-quarters of a starting pack?*

            If that’s the case, and his non-selection is based upon his most recent performance, why has he not been picked for any squad so far this season despite (a) having more game-time and (b) performing infinitely better, including “pressure kicks” (Oyonnax away, Dragons home, Toulouse away), than Madigan across the season to date?

            *(I’d be shocked if Jackson made those decisions entirely under his own steam. Jonny Davis, the Ulster S&C guy, relays messages from the coaches throughout.)

            Sexton will be a Test-class fly-half for 2 more years, at most. When he’s gone, does anyone really think Madigan is a better starting 10 than Jackson?

          • PJ should have started against the Six Nations with Sexton on the bench and Gilroy should also have been on the bench. That however is just my opinion. Given the selection depths to which Joe will go, McFadden in the last game and PJ sitting on the bench for the RWC without game time why is Joe’s choices such a surprise? He is after all unquestionable.

          • *should have started in the opening game of the Six Nations.

    • labrecha1

       /  February 26, 2016

      Cover more positions.

  3. SportingBench

     /  February 25, 2016

    Evolution but still playing to win. I LOVE it

  4. Good Piece lads.

    Maybe I’ve missed something about VDF, but in my mind he’s less of a Warburton style groundhog, and more a linking 7 in the Jennings/Tipuric mold, no? Either is of course a better option than a Haskell/Robshaw 6.5-athon. Will be watching him with interest – the way he’s taken to European rugby this year suggests to me that this guy has a high ceiling.

    • Billy

       /  February 25, 2016

      I would have lumped him in as a TOD style, extremely hard working athlete style 7 – I agree that he’s not a groundhog from what I’ve seen and after the schooling Leinster got at ruck time against Toulon I hope he’s not. I think TOD is hard done by here but he has always struck me as a bit of dope despite being a great athlete and hard worker so he always had a ceiling. Also, not having a go at you in particular here but if Warburton is a “groundhog”, he’s the worst groundhog in the world. He simply does not turn over enough ball.

  5. I think the most important thing about all this is that The42 have acknowledged Choo Choo as as valid a nickname for Stu as Banger Bulldozer 🙂

  6. curates_egg

     /  February 25, 2016

    Van der Flier has been a total revelation and perhaps the outstanding performer for Leinster this season. Selfishly, I wish he hadn’t been called into the national set up. You would just worry that with the physical step up of the international game (and having to tackle bruisers like Vunipola) it might take a lot out of him. Do Ireland really need to be giving him his first cap in Twickers in a nothing game for us but a big game for them (first home game/still on for slam)? With my Leinster hat on, I would say definitely not. He hopefully has a long career ahead of him for Leinster and Ireland anyway.

    I’m amazed Jackson is still not getting the nod. The versatility argument about Madigan is poppycock: we all know Jonny is not going to finish the game, so we should have the second best outhalf in the country on the bench. Despite me obviously being a huge Madigan fan, for various reasons, it is impossible to argue that he is the number two outhalf in Ireland this season.

    It’s certainly a selection that gives added interest to the season-defining England game. It would be great if both new caps can make the step-up seamlessly but I would be worried about our midfield defence and the added pressure that Sexton will have to shoulder in Payne’s absence.

    • RE: Jackson, I just thought about this on my way in to work this morning when I was remembering that we have an away date with the Blues on Sunday. From an Ulster POV, Jackson not getting on the bench for Ireland has been largely Ulster’s gain. He’s saved our hides against the Dragons and Glasgae, and while we lost against the Scarlets, could you imagine what that would have been like if iHumph or Windsor had been on the pitch?

      I’m not saying I agree wholeheartedly with it (for one, I think Sexton should be given a break, head knock/concussion/whiplash or not, dude needs a rest) but I can see it being a point of Ireland making the most of their resources for both the national team and the provinces.

      • curates_egg

         /  February 26, 2016

        If I were an Ulster fan I’d be happy about it. I never fully understand the moaning when a province’s players aren’t picked. If you are as blinkered a fan as me, you’re happy to keep your best players 😉

  7. connachtexile

     /  February 25, 2016

    I’m sure Schmidt has being drilling the guys for the last 2 weeks in defence and knowing there roles. It will be interesting to see who takes over from Payne as the defensive coordinator maybe Kearney? Looking forward to seeing how the new guys go in this game.

  8. ruckinhell

     /  February 25, 2016

    Happy to see Joe give VdF a run-out although you’d have to wonder at how much the TOD will be miffed as to what he needs to do to retain his place in the team. 20 tackles is the kind of workrate that you’d love to see from a backrower, especially in only 60 minutes.

    The ongoing faith in Madigan is bizarre, not least given that he’s heading off to France next season and hasn’t exactly been setting the world on fire. The optics of it are not great. Jackson is in very good form for Ulster, is now their first choice goal kicker and has a very high kicking % this season. If he’s not selectable now I can’t really see what more he can do other than to wear a moustache, change his name to Jaddy Packson and start borrowing Leinster kit to wear around the Ireland camp.

  9. ruckinhell

     /  February 25, 2016

    “It also should help to debunk a couple of myths about Joe Schmidt. Derided in some quarters as an overly conservative strategist and selector, it’s something that doesn’t necessarily chime with a broader view of his career.”

    One match does not debunk a “myth” and I think that Joe is benefitting a lot from the “if you have a reputation as an early riser you can always sleep in” phenomena. The Pro 12 and HEC competitions are not equivalent to international rugby and while his achievements in both were exemplary at what point do they stop becoming relevant reference points to what his team is actually doing now? We’re two and a half years into his tenure and yet anytime someone is critical of the predictable rugby we play the response is often: “Joe can do it-Leinster once scored a try against Cardiff in the Heineken Cup from a set piece where nobody touched a Leinster attacker. So there.”

    Joe is a great coach and the best option for Ireland at the moment. That being said, there are very valid questions that should be raised about his current game plan and his selection criteria of players. McCloskey is a step in the right direction. A clearly in-form player, selected in his proper position. Let’s see a few more calls like this before we begin to make pronouncements on Joe’s rugby evolution.

    • Hmmmm. Reading this post you would almost think Schmidt had done nothing of note in the international arena. Two consecutive Six Nations titles would suggest otherwise.

      The point we’re making is that Schmidt is not an inherent conservative. He’s a pragmatist. He admits to having no overbearing ‘rugby philosophy’ and that he concentrates on maximising his resources. For Leinster that mean thoning their passing game on the training paddock until it was pinpoin-accurate – hence those tries against Cardiff and Bath that looked so magnificent – and for Ireland it has meanr rucking and kick-chase. He has been successful with both.

      • SportingBench

         /  February 25, 2016

        You just beat me to it on his record with Ireland!

      • ORiordan

         /  February 25, 2016

        I think the most constructive criticism of Schmidt has questioned if Ireland can *continue* to be successful using the same tactics as 13/14 and 14/15. Hopefully Schmidt’s pragmatism means he can recognise when something is no longer working and change it.

      • Ruckinhell is spot on. While 2 six Nations might be a big deal in Leinstercentric circles the unfortunate truth was badly exposed at the RWC. It can be no coincidence that injuries and a game plan which has led to a draw and a loss has been the motivating factors of this pragmatism. Let’s hope this pragmatism now extends to the new trends rugby on show at the World Club series, work off the ball in attack to isolate defenders and variation of kicking strategy, drop goals, grubbers, chips etc.

        • Hairy Naomh Mhuire

           /  February 25, 2016

          WTF!!! “Leinstercentric Circles”??? Jaaaaaysus.

        • Huh? 2 Six Nations title’s in a row is a big deal in most parts of Ireland I would presume?

        • SportingBench

           /  February 25, 2016

          Like all but 2 of the teams every time

        • Roundy

           /  February 26, 2016

          I wish all this talk of World Cup would stop. We aint playin in the world Cup this weekend, we are playing a Six Nations game. As current champions (for the past two seasons) we have not got the best of starts but that could all change with a decent outing tomorrow. I couldnt give a toss if Ireland kick the leather off the ball and stuff it up their jerseys the rest of the time once we get the win. A dull boring 0-3 scoreline would do just nicely thanks very much! We can play all the fancy crap you want against the Scots and Italians.

      • ruckinhell

         /  February 25, 2016

        You raised the “myth” of conservative selection and gameplan and I attempted to address it. Nothing that we have seen from Ireland so far under Joe has suggested that an expansive gameplan is part of the grand strategy and yet you’re suggesting this team selection is going some way to “debunk the myth”. The main thrust of my post was to suggest that we wait for a bit more evidence than the selection of the form 12 in Ireland and a very promising 7 before we pronounce the dawn of a new evolution in Irish rugby.

        We have won two Championships in a row playing rugby which worked in the last two 6 Nations but which failed to help us progress to the final four of the RWC against the weakest of the four semifinalists so I would say that his pragmatic approach has been successful only up to a point. And the issue with an “every ugly win is better than any beautiful loss” mentality is that the public has little time for a coach whose ugly wins become ugly draws and ugly losses. This is especially so given that our pragmatic approach goes against the grain of the attractive (and successful) rugby played by the All Blacks, Australia and Argentina. Argentina lost 3 games in the RWC, beating only 1 team that can be considered top tier (Ireland). Ireland lost 1 game in the RWC, beating 1 team that can be considered top tier yet we left the tournament in a bit of a funk (again) about the future of Irish rugby and they were delighted and enthused with their trajectory. At the end of the day winning trumps all but how you play the game is also a factor to consider.

        You dismissed my post with a response of “Joe’s pragmatism has won two Championships” which is just as laughable as the rallying calls of “Declan won us a Grand Slam” against anyone who was critical of the top man during the second half of the disjointed Kidney reign. Joe is so far ahead of Kidney as a coach that it’s not even funny but we are currently playing rugby that makes us hard to beat but which is not getting us over the line against decent teams who have us well and truly sussed. If Joe is a pragmatist rather than a conservative than our game plan will change accordingly. I’m firmly of the opinion that Schmidt is our best option and has a huge amount to offer Irish rugby but am also going to wait to see our actual play evolving before I comment on the King’s new wardrobe.

    • SportingBench

       /  February 25, 2016

      No problem with questions being raised on Joe’s approach and selections etc but let’s remember that regardless of what he did at Leinster or the disappointment of the RWC, he has won two 6 nations titles in his 2 1/2 years which given our not exactly bursting trophy collection should buy him some serious amount of trust. To me Joe’s reputation is as someone who wins games and if we continue the progress of the last 2.5 years in terms of actually winning games I’ll be happy. Remember we were only disappointed at the RWC because he has got the team competitive to a level beyond where most of us have dwelt before

  10. Hairy Naomh Mhuire

     /  February 25, 2016

    Big fan of van der Flier but honestly – all these foreigners in the back row…..

  11. andrew097

     /  February 25, 2016

    Nice to see two players in form get a chance and hopefully it will go well for them as they do offer something different. It’s a team game and it will come down to the scrum lose there and we lose. Any sign of the back rows heads coming up looking for the next play will kill our tight five. I hope they scrum as eight if they don’t it will be Easterbys fault and a huge error.
    I,m a big Madigan fan but the kick out on the full deserves a return to tackle bag duty and no trip to London.
    Any out half needs to play at out half to get really good I hope his new contract has Number 10 firmly underlined.

  12. Stephen

     /  February 26, 2016

    An interesting piece of trivia someone else posted on Planet Rugby. To be very clear and pre-empt any bollocks (not that I would expect any from either WoC or the regular commenters), this is not a good thing, or a bad thing – simply a curious fact.

    7 of our starting 15 on Saturday will be Protestant. (Only 3 of whom are from God-fearing Ulster!)

    • toro toro

       /  February 26, 2016

      Huh. Stander, presumably. Van der Flier… stumped. You’d guess White and Ruddock, but they’re not in the 15.

    • D6W

       /  February 26, 2016

      It is heartening to see how far this island has come that this really is only a curious piece of trivia!

      • SportingBench

         /  February 26, 2016

        Yep. It is progress that this is trivia rather than a selection issue.
        Also, it’s great trivia 🙂

    • Roundy

       /  February 26, 2016

      who gives a shit!

  13. Mary Hinge

     /  February 26, 2016

    Ross, Stander, van der Flier, and Henshaw I would say?

    • toro toro

       /  February 26, 2016

      Judging by the schools, I doubt it. Rosser was at Colman’s in Fermoy, Henshaw at Marist.

      Not that it’s definitive, of course. If we’re guessing and ignoring the schools, though, I’d have gone with Toner before either of them…

  14. shaw knee oh bee

     /  February 26, 2016

    Things we need to go right to win that have not been happening…
    -Scrum holds up for the whole match.
    -Sexton stays on for the full 80 (injuries in general)
    -Kick chase, on balance over the course of the game, is won.
    -We commit appropriate numbers to the ruck, particularly in offence.
    -Start the second half well.
    -Get in a position to maul off line outs with regularity.
    -The tempo and quality is not diminished by introduction of subs.
    -Find and exploit the space in attack.

    Of the issues that make me fearful, most of them are problems that were previously strengths (scrum, lineout, kick chase, sub impact, starting both halves well). Over the last two years the team has been a machine, driven by incredibly astute technical knowledge and work ethic. So basically Paulie. We miss you.

    Exciting prospects that give rise to optimism…
    -2 weeks training under Schmidt as a group; the cohesiveness missing in the France game will hopefully not be such an issue.
    -Ross is back! I would have feared a serious drubbing had White started. Could still be the case.
    -Dat centre partnership doe.
    -Earls in for Dave.
    -At least one England player being sent off.
    -We’ve nothing to lose. The last time we had nothing to lose, we nearly beat the ABs.
    -We still have a cohort of great players who have been around the block for quite some time who are probably stinging from the constant doubting of them.

    I’m not hugely optimistic to be honest. It doesn’t matter that we have a smarter and stronger backline if we don’t get clean ball out to them. And that is what we can rightly be very concerned about. Our line out needs to be impeccable, we have to find some way of gaining parity in the scrum which I am very worried about with the power coming through from their second row, our kicking out of hand needs to be spot on, both to touch and in the kick chase, we need a bit of luck, and we need all of our bench to make positive impacts. If their line out falters, they’re on the back foot, but they can defend against most of our attacks comfortably. If their scrum doesn’t hold up against us, I’d be amazed (though our props do have their number). If they are given any space at all, their pace could destroy us out wide. Their bench is so strong, their kicker is brilliant (and unbearable), they’re at home, on a decent run of form, and have all the momentum in recent club matches, which counts for something I think.

  15. shaw knee oh bee

     /  February 26, 2016

    Also…I really do think that we have all subscribed to the narrative of inferiority in the NH far too easily. In our two most recent matches with Australia and South Africa we won the shaggin games! Nearly beat ABs and, against the Argies (who we had also beaten twice away from home 18 months previously), we were missing our captain, our backline manager, our two best players in the previous game, and our defensive organiser. For Jaysis sake. England were psychologically undone before the tournament, Wales had an even worse time than us with the injuries, and France were and still are an organisational mess. The gap is not what it appears to be and we are not a bad team. There are the All Blacks, and then everyone else, as it has always been since the professional era began.

  16. In 6 nations rugby, at this time, especially against France and England, we’re just not big enough or strong enough physically to play the Bish Bash style of European rugby that has become the norm. We tried to yesterday but we were worn down eventually by the lad from the Pacific Islands ably assisted by the other weight lifters.
    We’re stuck in that rotten rugby style and we can’t get out of it.

    • It is hard to know if it is system fails or the system itself. Getting drawn into a Bash rugby game was only playing into the English game plan. Not enough work off the ball out wide and no variation in kicking style in wider channels. While Gatland is looking to add an extra play maker at FB in Ainscombe. Bob is running straight into contact in the hope that they can eek out 20 phases. Ireland have very quickly become a limited attacking team with a disorganised pack with a game plan that even when it works looks out of date. Easterby has 2 more games to put the forwards right otherwise Joe should be looking at a change.

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