Sure We Know What He Can Do

Ireland today announced their team to play Six Nations powerhouse Italy, and it’s a pretty deflating selection in the backline for those of us who thought we might see some fresh faces during this campaign. For the Italy match is “must-win”, as it should be – Ireland should always beat Italy, to be frank. But with that line of thinking, so is the Scotland game, for it will be necessary to win to avoid finishing fifth – and that’s no time to be changing faces.

One can be certain that we will defend well, and that we will not lose – and one can only hope that the accuracy and delivery that the players feel is within grasp can be delivered and we win handsomely as opposed to falling over the line. Something like England’s performance vs Italy, and not the French one.

While Henshaw-Payne has been our first choice centre partnership, and is the defensive bedrock of the team, the enforced absence of Rob Kearney seemed like an opportunity to leave the centres as they were against England and select Payne at 15, the position in which he has performed best at Ulster. Stuart McCloskey had a promising debut with ball in hand, and one would have hoped the Italians would be easier meat than England – whatever about George Ford being roadkill, imagine a panting Kelly Haimona (sorry) when he runs out of gas after 10 minutes. Still, Henshaw-Payne is at least defensible.

On the other hand, Simon Zebo at full-back and McFadden on the bench are respectively confusing and mystifying. Zebo has clearly established himself as Schmidt’s second choice in the position at this point, but he has yet to show much aptitude for the position and has barely played there for Munster. He is a player that we should have on the team, but probably for a misfiring and slowing Andrew Trimble, not (effectively) for McCloskey. And Ferg has simply offered nothing this season, either for Leinster or in his extended cameo against France, to suggest he can contribute.

With Ian Madigan again selected on the bench, Paddy Jackson is unlikely to get a look-in this tournament, despite being virtually certain to be second-choice when Mad-dog decamps to Bordeaux this summer. Although at least we’ll get to see what Kieran Marmion can do.

To turn the oft-repeated mantra about the energy new kids bring on its head, we can only hope the return of familiar faces doesn’t portend a return to the tired and supine performance we saw in Paris. But thankfully this is Italy, and we will win – but it feels like an opportunity missed.

Ireland: Zeebs; Trimble, Payne, Henshaw, Earls; Sexton, Murray; McGrath, Besty, Ross; Ryan, Toner; Stander, van der Flier, Heaslip. Subs: Strauss, Healy, White, Dillane, Ruddock, Marmion, Madigan, McFadden

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52 Comments

  1. curates_egg

     /  March 10, 2016

    Is Canna not back fit and starting? If so, Haimona will be on the bench.

    • McShane

       /  March 10, 2016

      Nope, Padovani is starting with Haimona on the bench. Thank God we have Payne back!. McCloskey would not have been able to cope defensively!

    • toro toro

       /  March 10, 2016

      The most dangerous runner in the 6N this year is lining up at 13 for Italy. As it happens, the regular position – in this team – of this team’s key defender is directly opposite.

      Thinking it makes plenty of sense defensively is no reflection at all on the guy who would otherwise be playing at 12.

  2. Agreed. Not much to add really. Tremendously prosaic and dispiriting

  3. robith

     /  March 10, 2016

    Agreed. Not much else to say really. Tremendously prosaic and dispiriting

  4. connachtexile

     /  March 10, 2016

    Fergus McFadden who has received 2 yellow cards in the last three games he’s played is on the bench as a safe pair of hands? Hahahahahaha

    • Jimbob

       /  March 10, 2016

      Not going to defend McFaddens selection based on form but the second of those yellows was a ridiculous call from the ref for a completely fair tackle – did you see it? Aside from that he has a decent disciplinary record.

      • connachtexile

         /  March 10, 2016

        I did see it and I thought it was dumb of him to put himself in that situation. It looked like he was leading with his head and while he didn’t catch the guy. Even seeing it in slow-motion it looked incredibly clumsy. While I will admit it was a 50/50 call I’d have no problem with him being shown a yellow for it.

        I also agree that he has a good record and even the first yellow was more mistiming than any maliciousness but his form this season has being from terrible rising to average. And players out of form are more likely to do silly things or end up in those type of situations. That’s why I wouldn’t have him in the team. I’d drop Cian Healy and Andrew Trimble also on form.

        • Jimbob

           /  March 10, 2016

          He was covering back and there was a change of direction. Tackle was fair and he actually did quite well considering. Nothing clumsy about it.
          The fact that BBC wales commentary even defended him says it all!

          • connachtexile

             /  March 11, 2016

            We’ll have to agree to disagree. Regardless of the yellow cards I still wouldn’t have him in my 30 man squad based on current form let alone in the 23.

  5. Hairy Naomh Mhuire

     /  March 10, 2016

    How to turn a ‘can’t lose’ game into a ‘can’t win’ game. A little depressing frankly. So much for an optimistic, new era vibe end to the campaign. I know Joe & the lads are in the famous ‘bubble’ but surely they must have some sense of the mood of the rugby public (which to my mind has – until now – remained fairly upbeat). Anybody for some ‘Change We Can Believe In’!!

  6. Andrew097

     /  March 10, 2016

    You wonder what it’s building towards with three tests against SA and two later in the year against NZ with OZ there as well. Must admit I,m puzzled because Ireland as a team does not look like its progressing or rewarding form/ not in form players.

    • Mark D

       /  March 10, 2016

      Yep, as much as it is frustrating for the fan, imagine being a player like Stuart McCloskey or Paddy Jackson. They are both playing extremely well but have to smile and get back to work when they are overlooked for inferior players (Ferg, Mads). The selection seems to be purely based on the mantra ‘ah sure you did grand a while back there, lets see how you do this time out’

    • connachtexile

       /  March 10, 2016

      Agreed

  7. ruckinhell

     /  March 10, 2016

    With the slow, inevitable but strangely compelling momentum of Boris Johnson smashing into a Japanese kid, the Joe Show is beginning to feel a bit like the declining year of both Steady Eddie and Deccie. Odd selection criteria, uninspiring tactics and THAT sinking feeling every time the team take to the pitch. I really really hope this is just a blip but I’m starting to think that there’s a haunted monkey paw in IRFU headquarters that dooms all Irish coaches after their first couple of seasons…..

    • leinsterlion

       /  March 10, 2016

      It feels like a very long blip if it is….

  8. Given the choice of watching this exciting inovative Irish selection building for the future or going to watch my local club who are in tight top of the league fight having already put over 500 points scoreboard this season I am afraid it is a no brainier.
    Failing to utilise Payne talent at Full back,and discarding McCloskey after one game, reintroducing Mc Fadden, and playing Zebo in a position where he has failed to inspire any faith in his previous outings is all very depressing.
    The thought of Ulster playing Payne in the Centre rather than Fullback as a consequence of this selection to keep Ireland happy is even more depressing.
    What sort of message does this send to the likes of Healey, Marshall, Olding, McCloskey and Jackson.
    Ringrose will be safe as he is playing for theChosen Ones. No wonder Scholes has opted to go to Edinburgh.

  9. Billy

     /  March 10, 2016

    It’s funny how these things work – the Payne to FB idea started as a whisper among fans and now seems to be deafening. And just because lots of fans say it doesn’t mean it’s right. In reality, Payne’s probably played FB 3-5 times in the last two years and hardly set the world alight when he has played there going further back. In addition, I reckon the McCloskey-Henshaw partnership is paying, in part at least, for us having absolutely no line speed whatsoever against England, which is totally fair. A bit unfair on McCloskey as the onus should fall on Henshaw here more but so be it. In any case I still think McCloskey looks a bit raw for international level rugby – he was awful in the first half last week.

    • curates_egg

       /  March 10, 2016

      Actually, if I put my righteous indignation aside, your comment makes sense. I still think McCloskey is unlucky though. Our linespeed and defence against England was very similar to Argentina. I remember thinking that about 20 minutes in. England just weren’t good enough to capitalise. The common denominator in midfield for both games is Henshaw: why doesn’t he get given a “rest” if that’s what this is about?

    • Stephen

       /  March 11, 2016

      Ulster fans have been calling Payne a fullback from the moment he arrived, and the moment he became eligible for Ireland. He is infinitely superior to RK in any attacking regard, and doesn’t lose much in defence, either.

      By putting Payne at 13 you get a defensive organiser and soak tackler – nothing more. McCloskey-Henshaw offers linebreaking, combined with Henshaw’s undoubted and growing footballing mind, and Payne reading the game from deep and joining the line well.

      All of which exceeds hoof, chase, reset, hoof.

      • Billy

         /  March 11, 2016

        Well, with all due respect, “everyone” saying it doesn’t mean it’s true. The majority of fans simply don’t have a clue and this sort of groupthink dominates. I personally think Henshaw and McCloskey are too similar – two very direct power runners with mediocre distribution.

        The “infinitely superior” comment is just nonsense – we’re not talking about Folau here. So you’re saying Payne at FB is an attacking maestro but at 13 he’s just a defensive organiser and soak tackler?

        • Paul

           /  March 11, 2016

          Billy 13 and 15 are totally different positions to attack from. What makes Payne such a great organiser and tackler at 13 are traits that make his a great attacker from 15. He reads the field exceptionally well and hence spots gaps where others might not and his timing, just as in defence, is great and he hits the line at speed in space. Attacking from 13 is a totally different ball game.

        • Stephen

           /  March 11, 2016

          Yes.

  10. Jimbob

     /  March 10, 2016

    Can’t get behind this selection at all. The pack is fine – arguments to be made for a couple positions but it’s all pretty close. McCloskey has massive potential and he could be needed in South Africa – if anything it’s worthwhile giving him game time. Church, Zebo, Madigan, Ferg are all lucky to be there in my opinion. Form simply isn’t there for any of them. Trimble too, if we were up against a decent 10 this weekend they’d kick behind him all day and expose his comedic lack of pace – he’s become the Chabal of the wing.. one big tackle a game and little else.

  11. I think the people rolling their eyes and moaning and groaning have a very superficial view of things. IMO, whether it’s McFadden on the bench or McCloskey being left out of the match day squad is, such selections have nothing to do with the overarching issue, which is the loss of leadership since the departure of BO’D 2014 and PO’C in the course the French match in the RWC. We got wiped out by the Argies and bullied off the park by England and the Frogs. We have get back to winning – nasty if needs be i.e.BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY!!!!! Only when confidence is restored and new leaders prove their mettle is champagne rugby a possibility. As BO’D himself always said, you have to earn the right to go wide. We’re not there yet. To put it simplistically: sort out the pack and the backs will look after themselves. That’s why for me the whole back line discussion is superfluous. The major question for me is who we play at second row – Toner or Dillane – and why…..

    • Cian

       /  March 10, 2016

      I do enjoy your positivity usually, Riocard, but I don’t know where you’re coming from here. 6 Nations matches are often decided by tight margins, and we appear to be making strange selectorial and tactical decisions while being on the wrong side of those margins. It’s also blatantly not true that outside backs don’t matter at international level; they may be less important than the forwards, but it would have taken just one big play from an exciting player to win us the Wales and France games.
      Problems of leadership may also exist, and are pack is manifestly not the quality of a few years ago, but what in the world is the point of ignoring issues elsewhere while addressing it?

      • Thanks, Cian, for the compliment. I never actually said outside backs don’t matter. What is however of secondary importance in the greater is the composition of our back line for this Italy match. We have many back line players. The possible variations are immense – and that’s even without Stuart Olding, whose return in green I await with baited breath. Everybody has their ideas. Joe has his and I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. The composition of the backline is irrelevant so long as our pack are unable to impose their will on the opposition forwards. Had we not mucked up those line-outs in Twickenham, we would be not having this discussion. The sky hasn’t fallen because Schmidt has decided to stick with Payne and Henshaw in the centre. Has everyone forgotten the elucidations of Darce on this very matter in the Irish Times last year? Conservative selection I hear everyone complaining. I don’t hear any complaints over in Blighty. The Charioteers are well on their way to a Slam – presuming there’s no glitch against the Welsh – and practically the only thing Eddie Jones has done differently to Stuart Lancaster selection-wise was to make Hartley captain. We know why he did that – and guess what? It worked. England have bottle again, which in the end of the day is what rugby boils down to. If your team doesn’t have bottle, it has nothing. NOTHING. I pray on my knees for the day, that Ireland are no longer regarded as a “soft touch” and “mentally weak”. And if it’s conservative selection that gets us there, I, for one, am all for it. ÉIRE ABÚ!!!!!!!!!!!!

        • … greater scheme of things…(gabh mo leithscéal)

        • Cian

           /  March 11, 2016

          We’ll have to agree to disagree there. Maybe nobody’s complaining in England because they’re winning everything so far! And EJ might not have changed too much in terms of selection, but maybe there wasn’t a whole lot wrong with Lancaster’s selections in the first place. And as well as an impressively arseholey approach, he’s also livened things up tactically for the men in white.

          Mostly I just don’t see how the two things (conservative selection and bottle/nastiness/hardiness) are related! Joe can try and bring the latter back into the Irish environment without going to extremes on the former. You can make just as good an argument that giving the lads leeway to play, rewarding form, and bringing in fresh faces will lead to the development of a hard edge.

          Personally I’m worried for Ireland tactically. I remember Joe’s first 6N in charge, he seemed to have a plan for all opposition. I sat in a bar on the extreme west coast of Wales and watch his team completely outfox Gatland’s. But since (and including) the RWC, I don’t get the feeling at all anymore that Ireland have any tricks up their sleeve, or a masterplan to take advantage of our strengths and the oppo’s weaknesses.

          Now, other factors probably had a bigger role in both our successes and our failures than I’m allowing, and I do still think on balance that Joe is a great coach and will turn things around. But I am starting to get worried that he won’t and, with the increasing number of defeats, I don’t think that’s an unreasonable position to take.

          But anyway, here’s hoping we show up big time and McFadden comes on for a second half hattrick!

  12. As Cummiskey in the Times says ‘Basically, Schmidt doesn’t want a backline player on his bench – in the Sonny Bill Williams mould for New Zealand – that can impact in just one position.’ This is the crux of the situation, and it does have logic. So i’m not sure where all the head scratching from people comes from, that said I’m still disappointed a chance hasn’t been taken on Mcloskey again.

    • Cian

       /  March 10, 2016

      I wouldn’t for a moment think or suggest that Joe’s decisions have no logic to them. Versatility is valuable, as is experience. What I think most people are scratching their heads about is why versatility and experience are apparently at such a premium for Joe that they completely and utterly trump form, talent, and ability in a specific position. I mean really, Fergus McFadden over Stuart McCloskey? Or, if you want a bit more flexibility, McFadden over Luke Marshall? Or Craig Gilroy? And considering Johnny usually doesn’t finish games these days, and often doesn’t come close to finishing them, why do we not have the best back up player for one of the most important positions in the team?

      It’s a total straw man to say “look, there is a rationale behind the selection”. Of course there is. It just doesn’t appear to stack up for most fans.

      • Well I think there a lot of fans from what i’ve read in comment sections ( not here) that think there is no rationality to Joe’s selections. Anyway as I said earlier, I do agree regarding McCloskey over McFadden.

    • Better to have a bench player who can make an impact in just one position than a bench player who can make no impact at all in many positions.

  13. leinsterlion

     /  March 10, 2016

    I’ll be the first to say it, Schmidt out, ok, Im being slightly hyperbolic, but Im sick of Schmitball, as performed by his cosy inner circle of players. Two extremely poor six nations won playing kick ball( where really only Wales presented a credible threat) culminating in a disaster of a World cup, followed by an equally disastrous six nations with largely the same group of players, playing the same poisonous style of rugby, combine that with the media sycophancy, Horgans talk of “systems” etc, its utter bullshit.

    We have regressed every single year under Schmidt, scoring less tries, playing more conservatively, less selectoral changes(unless forced by injury), and this Six nations is the culmination of that regression. the wheels on the Schmidt train had fallen off by the WC, the game had moved on, opponents had figured out our limited style. Schmidt had a free throw of the dice in a 6 nations no one expected us to win to try something, to bed in an adventurous playing style, built around power, pace and YOUTH, with a four year lead to the next World Cup.
    That he has neglected to do so, instead falling back on players “who know the system(eg are old, slow and dont/cant take risks)” in an effort to win/keep it tight is a sad indictment of where he regime is at right now, and the IRFU’s lazy contentment at being “competitive” in the six nations as the height of planning and ambition for our international rugby team

    I’ll watch England and Wales play bumper cars, not a chance in hell I’ll watch that Schmidt team produce the same crap they have served up for the majority of his reign. Sad to see one of the best coaches ever on this Island fall victim to the blazer plague.

    • Wow. Every Ireland coaching regime has ended in these types of selections. Its enough to drive interest to Rugby League.

  14. Think Joe has missed a chance to ignite the crowd in advance of kick off with a similar selection to last time out. Instead we’re all a bit nonplussed by what looks like a step back. And I guess though I may not agree with some of his choices (Madigan not Jackson/Zebo not Payne) he knows more than me and I can see the logic. But someone please explain Fergus McFadden to me. I can see us wearing down the Italians and, like England did, capitalize with impact subs in final 15. So I ask again, someone explain Fergus McFadden

  15. Mike

     /  March 10, 2016

    Lads,

    I don’t get this at all. For starters, Joe is hands down, by some distance the best coach we have ever seen in Ireland. If he decides to play Shane MacGowan at 10, i’m still prepared to say he knows best until he’s definitively proved wrong. Given the current injury ravaged team is the 1st not to win something under his leadership, that’s a long way off for me. But that’s just me. Questioning and debate is fine, but we are now getting hysterical about some very marginal calls.

    Firstly, for all the chat of Payne at 15, has anyone seen him do anything attacking from there recently? Ever? Defence is the best part of his game, but he hasn’t got the gas to do that effectively from 15 anymore. I think he is much more suited to 13.

    Which leads into McCloskey. Granted he’s playing well for Ulster, but trucking it up the middle at Ravenhill on a Friday night against the Dragons is a world away from the 6 nations. Has he got a step? An outside break? Can he pass? Kick? Anyone seen any guile or creativity from him at all? I’m not saying he’s a bad player or anything, and he will deserve a chance sooner rather than later but it sounds like he’s Sonny Bill 2.0.

    Joe did throw in both Stander and Van Der Flier, not to mention uncovering Dilane (admit it, you’d never heard of him either 6 months ago). Zebo for Bob is a positive attacking move and he must surely be a step up from anything attacking Payne can do from 15.

    • Stephen

       /  March 11, 2016

      Re your tripe on Payne and McCloskey: ah FFS man, watch some of the matches before you spout this bollocks.

      Prior to becoming eligible for Ireland, Payne was almost exclusively a fullback. He was an absolute Cadillac of a fullback, and used the space afforded to him on kickreturn or joining the line to exhibit that fantastic Kiwi ability to look up, make a decision and execute it well. I say this without fear of rational contradiction – he is a better attacking than Rob Kearney ever was or will be.

      Secondly, you do McCloskey a serious disservice by grading him as a Pro12 basher. (We have plenty of those guys, I know ’em when I see ’em – he ain’t one.) He’s been almost ever-present in the Ulster 15 throughout the season, and has comfortably been our standout player – I’d encourage you to watch our games against Toulouse for evidence of this. FO an archetypal “big 12”, his kicking game is progressing – he’s been willing to use the threat of a carry to disguise well-executed grubbers – and will continue to.

      Basically, watch the rugby you’re talking about. Payne and McCloskey are proven at 15 and 12 at the highest level that they have thus far been afforded the opportunity. They both almost certainly represent a step up, both now and in the future, from Ireland’s current choices there.

      • Mike

         /  March 13, 2016

        Hi Stephen,
        I’ve seen lots of Payne, right back to his Super Rugby days (when he played a lot at 13) and I’ve seen almost all McCloskey’s professional games. I even managed to catch a game at junior level when he was playing 10 (in a decent backline that included Nevin Spence), so have a fair idea of what I’m talking about. In fact, as sad as it is to say, there’s a good chance McCloskey would have fallen off the radar if Spence was still around, but lets not dwell on such a sad incident.

        Anyway the number of times I’ve seen them isn’t really here nor there. I was only really making the point that;
        a) Joe has seen them a lot more than either of us ever will and I still have full faith in him and
        b) The calls between Payne/Zebo/Kearney and McCloskey/Payne/Henshaw are so marginal nobody can really hand on heart say they are definitely either correct or otherwise. There’s certainly not enough to get all bent out of shape over.

        For the record, I do think that McCloskey has decent potential. He did look pretty skilful when he played @ 10. Handling was decent and he could also kick the ball, but there is no concrete proof that he is ready for international rugby… yet..

        Finally in regards to Joe, I think there is more to the negative rugby than meets the eye. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn there is quite a lot of ‘must win at any cost’ being applied to him from above. The prize money in the 6 nations is such that the difference even between 3rd and 4th is pretty significant. Id have to check but it could be as much as a million. I think he’s being forced to go down this route..

    • Joe maybe the best coach Ireland has ever seen but let’s not pretend that he is not fallible and he is competing against comparable coaches . He is no Wayne Bennett. Two former Full Backs turned centres. It is a particularly weak excuse that Payne has not trained at 15 but the bench has been chosen for versatility.

  16. Para 1…..agree
    Para 2…..mmmmmm, ok I’ll give it to you, reluctantly
    Para 3…..McCloskey. You need to watch some Ulster games. I’m a Leinster man living in Ulster, so this is not Nordie frustration, McCloskey is raw, yes, but far, far more than a bosher in midfield. I think he was the player with the most offloads in the Euro Cup group stages. He has an outside break, a step, a rugby brain…don’t know about a kick.
    Para 4…probably right

    Which brings me to my question above

    McFadden? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

    • Mike

       /  March 11, 2016

      I don’t think anyone can answer that with confidence.

      I think we would be short if McCloskey was on the bench and a winger went down. It would mean Robbie to 13, Payne to 15 and Zebo to the wing – that’s a fair old reshuffle.

      Putting Bob on the bench would keep all positions covered – Zebo covers the wings and Earls outside center. but he probably wants to give Bob a proper kick up the arse by dropping him altogether.

      McFadden can just slot into most positions, but in all honesty I’m struggling. I suppose if Luke Fitz / Bowe were about he wouldn’t see the light of day, but yea its a tough one.

      • seiko

         /  March 11, 2016

        It could be Henshaw to 15 and McCloskey to 12. Henshaw has been capped internationally at 15.

        Schmidt seems very determined to have Payne remain at 13. He could have started McCloskey at 12 and Payne at 13 with Robbie on the bench.

        I think McCloskey is going to have a limited international career as Henshaw now owns the 12 jersey and with his move to Leinster, he won’t be getting much gametime at 13.

  17. Paul

     /  March 11, 2016

    I’ve got nothing but respect for Joe Schmidt and it’s hard to question a man with such a formidable CV but the sheen is really beginning to come off. I really think we’re going to look back on this 6 Nations as a chance blown. With back-to-back Championships, a host of missing front line players and the start of a new WC “cycle” it was the perfect opportunity to take a few risks and try a few new combinations and he’s done the bare minimum.

    What really bugs me though is the waffle he’s spewing to defend selecting Madigan. I’m a huge Madigan fan but his form has paled in comparison to Jackson. He says it’s because of goal kicking and versatility. Well Jackson has a superior kicking ratio to Madigan this season and the two times Madigan could’ve played 12 Schmidt left an injured Payne on the field and then replaced McCloskey with Zebo and moving 2 players in a position, coincidentally the exact thing he referenced pocking Madigan to avoid. As for McFadden there’s just no defence and it must be seriously disheartening to guys tearing up trees for their clubs. He’s a great pro and seems to be a real character in camp but his form has been awful and he offers nothing off the bench.

    Which leads my to my last point. Schmidts use of the bench has been awful. Most teams use the bench these days to offer impact or a change of pace. Our bench seems to used only in case of emergancy. Guys are picked for their ability to cover multiple positions and are restricted to 5 minute cameo’s unless someone goes off injured. It’s telling to me that in the last two Six Nations we’ve been outscored 13-41 in the last 30 minutes of games against France, Wales and England. That’s a shocking statistic. And our only try in those 6 games was a penalty try.

  18. It all feels very familiar. It is once again harder to get off that team than to get on it. Stander, Van der Flier, Dillane and McCloskey would likely still be uncapped if the fella ahead was fit.

    This really is the ideal scenario for experimentation, Italy and Scotland at home with nothing to play for!

  19. Thanks for the comments everyone. Seems like a lot of frustration out there, with McCloskey on the verge of becoming a cause celebre.

    Agree with the general sentiment that Schmidt seems determined to have Payne at 13, probably largely for his defensive qualities, which at this stage have to be hugely respected. But picking centres on the basis of defence against Italy seems a bit… negative. It’s a bit of a Kidney selection, and maybe speaks to a lack of confidence in the camp.

    I remember Thornley trying to defend Kidney’s inexplicable decision to pick O’Leary against Italy when O’Leary was having a wretched period of form. It was all about stopping their big carriers coming over the gainline. But Emmet Byrne just ridiculed the notion, and said it was a poor selection and that if you play a tempo game you will smoke Italy. The same still applies.

    • labrecha1

       /  March 11, 2016

      I reckon the ticket have seen that Italy can play running Rugby a bit this year ( Campagnaro as mentioned above) and have picked the standard centre partnership to counteract this. Emmet is still correct though.

  20. Roundy

     /  March 11, 2016

    Its only Italy! The same Italy we struggled to beat in the WC (16-9). Yes I expect to win but it is a Six Nations game and I expect Italy to show up. As for selection. Yeah I would liked to see Payne at 15, McCloskey on the sheet along with PJ (Mads away in France next year etc.) But results are everything, especially in a year when World Cup seedings are to be decided. We have two games against New Zealand, one against Australia and three against South Africa. Bloody tough games by any standards. How many do you realistically see us winning? Its imperative we finish up in the top eight for the WC seedings. Therefore a win against Italy and Scotland is a must, not for mid table six nations but for world cup seeding points. In that sense I want Joe to play whoever the hell he likes once he gets us the required results. Hope we dont do a Wales on it!!

  21. Col

     /  March 11, 2016

    Have to say blind faith in Joe just gets eroded a little bit when he says things like Payne has never trained for us at 15. WHY!?
    Personally would have liked to see dillane start but ok, McFadden is just unforgivable though. Fair enough against a team like France you value his experience but the guys form actually like like a liability at this point and against Italy we should have picked ANYONE else. Gilroy, Healy, even cian kellleher ffs

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