Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Let The Schmidt Hit The Fan - Rd 1 (LEIN)

Time to introduce our next provincial blogger who will select their best Irish team throughout the season…this week, Leinster!

Click here for more on the feature, but basically the idea is to select an Ireland matchday 23 for a test to be played the following Saturday.

If you missed last week's opening selection from Connacht, click here.

LTSHTF avatar

Pick an Ireland team in August? Madness. But hey as girls in Eddie Rockets say to international duos “I will give it a go, what’s the worst that could happen?”

If you look back on last season, I wouldn’t recommend it so I will do it for you, it is clear that change is needed. Is getting rid of Declan “Van Wilder” Kidney enough? Some say yes. I say no.

Last season was a catastrophe. Worst season we have seen since the Celtic Tiger made us good at the rugger but it is unfair to blame it all on Kidney. The vast majority of it was his doing or a knock on effect of years of mismanagement but some blame still has to fall at the feet of the players.

If we were a bigger nation I would gleefully have 14 or 15 brand new names below, primed and ready to start handing out whoopins in the 6 Nations. But we aren’t. So I don’t. Fact remains that ever since we drifted away from the supercontinent Pangea we were doomed for the life of a minnow, who can’t afford to make massive, sweeping wholesale changes. Either way I have wielded the axe slightly. A light pruning if you will.
  1. Cian Healy – No-brainer (the choice not the player). Our only stand out player last season in the 6 Nations, could have been the Lion of the tour if injury hadn’t gotten in the way. Always gives 100% although the red mist does descend the odd time. Deserving of the shirt.
  2. Sean Cronin – The worst thing that happened to Rory Best last season was Dylan Hartley getting sent off for being quite rude. If he hadn’t gone on the Lions tour he could have taken the trip to the Americas as time to regain form away from the spotlight, instead he had some royal cock ups stage centre. It pains me to say it as he has been a titan for Ireland and off the field he seems like one of the nicest men you will ever come across but I think his international career could be done/should be done. Some blame it on temporary form but last season had been coming for a while.
    Cronin deserves his run. Although not nailing down the Leinster spot full time I think that is in the post and I think he is our long term hooker. I don’t think Strauss is a healthy option long run so would keep him out of the starting team to let others develop.
    Before the Munster people start Mike Sherry can be there too. Filling water bottles or whatever.
  3. Mike Ross - The biggest tragedy in modern rugby is that Mike Ross didn’t get a Lions call and Tom Court did. I know his was opportunistic and what not, but a tragedy none the less. Enough to bring a tear to a glass eye. We all know Ross is the only real choice and we all know that means we are in trouble in a few seasons when he retires. As for prop subs, both sides, I still don’t understand what is going on with Michael Bent (is he a player or part of the Gathering?). Hagen looks like he is coming along nicely as does Kilcoyne. I would give them halves this season. Court as back up to the backups backup.
  4. Paul O’Connell – Can you drop him? No. At this stage I think it is fair that Paulie goes when Paulie wants. No more of that kicking people in the head mind you.
  5. Donnacha Ryan – He is a workhorse and every team needs one. With the way modern scrums have gone, more crouch, cuddle, lean that crouch touch engage, we could be better off with top quality line out workers or a more mobile pack but for now Ryan has been solid.
    As for subs in the 2nd row, I think the revelation of the summer tour was big Devin Toner. He was immense at set piece and somehow didn’t seem as awkward as usual. Would like to see him used more and tested in the 6 Nations later this year. Mike McCarthy is an ever present “stable replacement”, aka not really going to set the world on fire but can cover two spots, and Dan Tuohy can do some damage too.
  6. Sean O’Brien – This could be the season when he goes from good to god. Could be. Tommy O’Donnell is doing well and deserves a bench place behind him but I don’t see him putting pressure on for his spot.
  7. Peter O’Mahony – The gritty end of the team (aka can throw a sly dig). Is always competent and has the most worried game face of any Irish international. Can get in and do the angry stuff but falls short of being a great as I don’t think he will ever be known for his pace or hands. Everybody needs some angry though. If Fez ever gets fit, and I have spent many a night praying he does, than he is right back in there. I won’t hold my breath on that though so I would have Chris Henry as a deserved back up.
  8. Jamie Heaslip – I have first-hand knowledge of Heaslip, he once ran over me in a Junior Plate final. Since then he has developed into one of the best 8s out there and I have developed a love for cheesecake. On a serious note, a lot of people argue over his position in the squad, visible or invisible work and all that, but he is by far the best 8 in the land and I would keep him on as captain. Had a good tour with the Lions but was visibly tired by the end of it. Was good to see O’Mahony get a couple of games at 8 in the States as a just in case.
  9. Conor Murray – Murray is our number one number 9. Just. I think he had a solid Lions tour, nothing more. I am well aware I am probably the only man in the room to think this but I just feel he was the least bad of the Lions scrummys. He has matured vastly over the past few years but I still think he decision making takes about as long as the Countdown Conundrum. If he improves that, he nails down a spot. If he doesn’t, Paul Marshall come on down. The Ulsterman is young, quick, exciting and has vast potential. Will he fulfil it? Probably not but how about we dream a little? Would like to see him getting more game time as he offers a different style to Murray.
    As for the Leinster duo? Boss and Reddan are now at 33 each, practically, and I think it is time we moved on. Great to have for a crisis but no real longevity.
  10. Jonny Sexton – There is a reason Racing pay him the GDP of a small African nation. At Leinster Madigan could really take off this year and if he does could press Jonny all the way. Paddy Jackson was kind of the Patsy for last year’s mess so I would like to see him get a run to show what he is about.
  11. Simon Zebo – If Tommy Bowe was fit he would be dropping to the bench with Gilroy moving to the left. Needs to pull up his socks. Literally. It’s not the Nemo Rangers junior B’s he is playing for. Good all round and worth a shot but I still think there are hungrier lads around him pushing for his jumper. Would like to see perma crocks Luke and Felix Jones get back to fitness and challenge. As for Trimble I think he needs to prove form in the Rabo but could feature at some point.
  12. Luke Marshall – Again didn’t get a fair crack last year when he stepped into a crumbling system but in my opinion is well worth a crack. Showed he can play ball on the big stage but could probably do with investing in some head gear. Fergus McFadden is always an option and has the benefit of being a relief kicker if one is needed. As for the Darce? The day has come to go out to stud I think. Again, could be good if there is an injury crisis but previous experience would suggest that he will probably be injured at the time.
  13. Brian O’Driscoll – This is the one more year. For the good of the team next year, he really needs to only play halves to blood someone else. Darren Cave being that someone. Playing 13 when God hangs up his boots is going to be a tougher job than sorting out the whole middle east thing so let’s at least get the lad a couple of caps before throwing him to the lions. Could also see McFadden move out to 13 but think Cave may be a more exciting prospect to have in a bit more space.
  14. Craig Gilroy – A winger who likes a thump, just ask Leigh Halfpenny. I get the feeling that we have yet to see the best from him but I also think that for the way he plays injuries may become a problem. Hope I am wrong. I explained my subs at 11.
  15. Rob Kearney – After his summer trip to Australia he is nothing if not rested. Good news for him as I think a lot of Lions are going to look pretty tired in a few months. The bad news is while he was watching Halfpenny put on a master class, Robbie Henshaw was in good form in America. At Connaught he has managed to look good in a backline run by Dan Parks which is an achievement in itself. He can’t claim a ball as well as Kearney but in time who knows, worth a bench spot.
So to summarize, here is Iain’s matchday 23 :
  1. Cian Healy
  2. Sean Cronin
  3. Mike Ross
  4. Paul O’Connell
  5. Donnacha Ryan
  6. Sean O’Brien
  7. Peter O’Mahony
  8. Jamie Heaslip
  9. Conor Murray
  10. Jonny Sexton
  11. Simon Zebo
  12. Luke Marshall
  13. Brian O’Driscoll
  14. Craig Gilroy
  15. Rob Kearney
  16. Dave Kilcoyne
  17. Richardt Strauss
  18. Jamie Hagan
  19. Devin Toner
  20. Chris Henry
  21. Ian Maddigan
  22. Fergus McFadden
  23. Robbie Henshaw
Iain O’Connor (@iain_not_ian) is a Leinster fan who should have retired from playing bad standard rugby years ago. Part time stand up comedian and full time radio person he is the presenter and creator of Heave, a schools rugby show on Dublin South FM. He also likes rugby league and names Alisona Taumalolo as his hero.

Tune in next week when we'll meet our blogger from Munster.
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