Two games in two weeks and what have we learned?   Leave a comment

Following up on his previous article on the composition of the Irish Rugby World Cup Squad, John takes a look at how the games against Wales and Scotland may have changed things, or not.

Luke Fitzgerald scores for Ireland against Scotland

Players who enhanced their reputations

Well Jamie Heaslip and Paul O’Connell, but they are guaranteed big game starters obviously. Reddan, Madigan, Earls, Zebo, Ryan, Kilcoyne, Bent, Cave and on a very short cameo Dave Kearney

What remains unchanged?

In the Second row its still Paulie & Dev with Hendo on the bench and Ryan as 4th lock. Tuohy is the special extra.

In the Back Row it still looks like O’Mahony, O’Brien Heaslip with Jordi Murphy and Chris Henry. Tommy O’Donnell staked a serious claim to replace Murphy or Henry until he was struck down by the 75th minute serious hip injury. Which makes Jack Conan (The destroyer) the next up.

Nothing really changed at Hooker either with Best, Cronin & Strauss up front with Herring as the next cab off the rank.

At Centre, the starting centres seem to be still nailed on from the 6 nations. Henshaw and Payne. More of the backups later.

What has changed?

Prop is interesting. With all fit it would have to be the 6 nations combos of Ross/Moore and Healy/McGrath with Bent covering both sides. (i.e no change). Moore seems to have foot issues though and Healy….. well he is touch and go to make the opening game v Canada. So Kilcoyne and White seem to be the next up with the further options of Tadhg Furlong (who could have been ahead of White if he did not have his own niggles) and Denis Buckley.

As for Out half, obviously the best OH in the NH and most expensive Ireland player…. JS. Behind him the perceived wisdom has been that Paddy Jackson would start games if JS was injured, but Madigan would get the 22 jersey if JS was fit due to versatility and his golden boot, leaving Keately and perhaps JJ Hanrahan as injury cover.

After Madigan’s very good showing v Scotland (baring a horrendous restart and a few missed tackles) and PJ’s faulty kicking v Wales, it would seem that Mads may have slipped ahead. Making him second or third choice in up to 4 positions.

Which leads us neatly on to scrum half. Here is where the interesting rumours start. Giuseppe Ferrari (That’s Josef Schmidt to you lads) is reputed to be considering emulating his Leinster predecessor Cheika in taking only 2 scrum halves. Murray and Reddan (who had a super game v Wales) to allow more centre and back three cover. Obviously if he does Boss and Marmion will be on a hair trigger to step in if needed.

So, to the REALLY interesting bits.

Rob Kearney seems to be the only back 3 player to be nailed on. Bringing us to a total of 26. The last 5 have to supply 2 wingers and cover for centre, back 3 and maybe scrum half. If rumours are true and Boss & Marmion will be cooling their heels then 5 of these guys are up.

Andrew Trimble
Keith Earls
Tommy Bowe
Luke Fitzgerald
Simon Zebo
Dave Kearney
Gordon D’Arcy
Darren Cave
Felix Jones
Fergus McFadden
Craig Gilroy.

Some serious names in that 11 and AT LEAST 6 will have to lose out. The 3 who are the most versatile, and also possess serious x factor, are Earls, Fitzgerald and Zebo (after his cameo at full back). That cameo could have sunk the ship of perennial Schmidt favourite Felix Jones.

Gilroy has not had a look in yet and maybe he won’t with all the players that need a run in the back 3. Fergus McFadden was solid but unspectacular in a game v weak opposition. That could leave those 3 players in the injury cover spots.

D’arcy and Cave will not both go. In fact possibly neither will. Trimble looked great v Wales but will he stay fit with a foot injury?

Tommy Bowe may not be sown into the 14 jersey like he has been but it is hard to see him left at home either. Very tough decisions but the only change I would make from my previous selection is Keith Earls ahead of Gordon D’Arcy with a choice between Dave Kearney, Darce and Cave to come in if Trimble does not regain fitness OR if Joe decides to go with just 2 scrum halves. Will Joe risk 2 Scrum halves (Madigan as emergency 9) to bring Darce on his final fling?

More headaches if anything rather than less.

What has emerged is a new class of player. The player who is good enough but just doesn’t make the plane. We have never had too many of them. Tommy Bowe and Jamie Heaslip in 07. Luke Fitz in 11. Certainly there are a few more. But nothing like the list we have now.

If you consider the 8 players who would not make the starting 23 v France but will travel (numbers 24 to 31). Just trying to pick another 8 behind them (i.e. numbers 32 to 39) is tricky in some positions.

You need

  • A 4th hooker – Herring
  • A 5th second row – Tuohy
  • A 6th and perhaps 7th prop – Kilcoyne, White,
  • A 6th Back row – Conan
  • A 3rd (or 4th) scrum half – Boss, Marmion
  • A 4th outhalf – Keatley
  • A 4th centre – Cave
  • A 6th (or 7th) back 3 player – Dave Kearney

Players like Fergus McFadden and Craig Gilroy can’t even break the top 40. Or if they do equally good players will miss out. Did I mention McCloskey, Olding, Reid, Mike McCarthy, Furlong, Buckley, Luke Marshall . We could get to 50. Fairly unheard of in these parts.

Posted August 22, 2015 by johnnyg321 in Ireland

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