Irish Wolfhounds v England Saxons

Ireland have named their Wolfhounds team to play England Saxons this weekend.  As usual, this means two things: there’s a game of quasi-international rugby on, and we can maybe, possibly try to infer some things about what Schmidt’s thinking and who is likely to make the test team the following week.

All in all, it’s a decent looking team and most of those selected are starters with their province, or in the case of Robin Copeland, Welsh region.  Rhys Ruddock looks a sensible choice as captain as he has experience in the role for Leinster.  There aren’t too many of the experienced older hands in the side – the likes of James Coughlan or Gavin Duffy – though Isaac Boss could fit into that category.  It does seem a shame that Kieran Marmion wasn’t given the start at scrum-half. Most of the team are players on the rise who will see this as a stepping stone.

For the players themselves, no doubt some of them are trying to work out in their heads whether it’s good or bad news to be playing.  Is it a chance to put your hand up for selection against Scotland or proof that you’re still a little bit down the pecking order?  For Tommy O’Donnell it’s probably an indication that Chris Henry is going to start, as has always looked the likely outcome.  But then O’Donnell is still a little short of match-time and is in good enough form to get noticed.

Most selections can be taken at face value.  In the front row David Kilcoyne looks one rung off the test 23, behind Jack McGrath and the indomitable Cian Healy.  Rob Herring will be pleased to get the chance to impress at this level.   The all-Ulster second row will be out for blood.  Toner, O’Connell and McCarthy look like the test picks, but imagine the impact of springing NWJMB with 20 minuts to go?

Those who’ll be seeing the call up as good news will be Ian Madigan and Fergus McFadden.  For McFadden it’s likely that Schmidt is giving him match-time because he needs him for the test squd.  The Kildare Lewis Moody may be unfashionable, but his numbers in the green shirt are hard to knock.  And Ian Madigan has fallen behind Paddy Jackson in the race to back up Sexton and will be glad of a chance to remind us of his ability.  Can Schmidt coax the form he showed last season out of him? The news that Johnny Sex-bomb will be milked by Racing Metro on Saturday makes this a little more pertinent – if Sexton is to be rested for one game in the tournament by Schmidt (say, Italy), then there is a shirt up for grabs, for a game anyway.

Darren Cave will assuredly be even angrier after seeing a “12” next to his name – Jamie Heaslip will need to be mindful he doesn’t get blindsided by a tackle bag in training.  He’s now seemingly behind Robbie Henshaw, who is extremely raw at this level. No doubt Cave will feel that years of consistent form are going unrecognised, and he isn’t being given the chance to show what he can do. But with no centre on the bench, expect Cave to get some time at 13 in the second half after Keatley comes in and Madigan gets shifted out.

Possibly the most interesting performance to watch will be that of Marty Moore.  He came through his test against Ospreys impressively, and there is an increasing feeling that he will be capped – who knows, perhaps even starting – against Scotland.  Is this another screen test to see if he’s ready?  There’s still no sign of Declan Fitzpatrick so the matchday 23 is firmly within his grasp now.  He just has to bind on to it and wrestle it into the dirt, which he seems to be awfully good at.