Tuesday, September 10, 2013

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

Time to meet our 4th and final blogger who will select their ideal Irish team throughout the season; this week, Ulster…

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.

Click these links for the latest selections from our other bloggers : Connacht Leinster Munster.  

LTSHTF avatar

Task: - Pick an Ireland Team before the season has even kicked off … OK mission accepted. (I am writing this before the Rabo season has started as I am on holiday)

We have seen a little bit of rugby over the last few weeks, although this has been in preseason friendlies and in the case of the Irish provinces didn’t involve many of the senior players (including our roaring Lions) but hey I’ll give it a go.

I am going to tackle this as a clean slate i.e. forget about the performances of the players in the 6 Nations 2012 (some weren’t great) and focus on how they played in the weeks after ,including the Rabo , Heineken cup, Summer tour and Lions.

We have seen the end of an Ireland era which had some highs (Grand slam, beating Australia in RWC) but quite a few frustrating lows. I hope that the Autumn internationals will see some young guys getting more experience in the green jersey in the hope of building towards RWC 2015.

  1. Cian Healy – This one isn’t a hard choice to make, some say he may have started all three Lions tests had he not been injured, some disagree, but in my opinion he would have claimed the number 1 shirt.

The number 17 shirt would be between Dave Kilcoyne and Tom Court, both are very capable of making an impact off the bench.

I picked Tom Court

  1. Rory Best - To me as a diehard Ulster fan this wasn’t a hard choice to make … ok he had a bit of a wobbly 6 Nations and Lions tour (even though he had an 80% success rate along with Tom Youngs). I think he showed in the Quarter Final of the Heineken Cup and the last few Rabo games including the Semi-final and Final of the Rabo why he is the best hooker in Ireland (some may disagree), in the open and in the scrum. I don’t know if the problems he encountered in the 6N was his bad throwing , ill-timed jumpers or a bit of both but I think ,if he gets a bit more confidence over the next while playing for Ulster he’ll be back to his old self and the new scrummaging and hooking rules may aid this.

The number 16 shirt for me is Sean Cronin, He is a good pacey hooker and throws good arrows, and hopefully he can nail down the Leinster no 2 shirt this year

  1. Mike Ross – Again this choice is a no-brainer, Ireland’s saviour at tight head prop. Without him where would we? The No 3 shirt has been his since John ‘The Bull’ Hayes retired. He was unlucky not to get a Lions call up, not sure if he would have started a test because Adam Jones seemed to have had the Number 3 shirt firmly in his hands. Mike maybe could have snuck onto the bench and definitely would have got a run out in the games against the Super 15 sides.

The number 18 shirt for me is between Stephen Archer, Jamie Hagan and Declan Fitzpatrick if he can stay fit. Both Hagan and Fitzpatrick need to get a few games in the no 3 shirt for their provinces which is tricky when you have Mike Ross and John Afoa ahead of you.

I picked Stephen Archer as I think he will be Munster’s first choice tight head this year due to injury to BJ Botha and his improvement over the last few years.

  1. Paul O’Connell- The number 4 shirt can only be given to one person when he is fit, Paul O’Connell. It was a big blow for the Lions to lose him to a broken arm. You could see the difference he made for Munster in their Heineken Cup Quarter Final against Harlequins and even the difference in the Lions when they lost him, although they managed well without him. His leader qualities were shown when he stayed around the Munster camp all last year during injury and that he didn’t come home after breaking his arm against the Wallabies. He was there for both teams as a leader even though he wasn’t playing.

His absence in the 6 Nations was part of the reason I think our lineouts were a disaster at times.

  1. Donnacha Ryan – I picked Donnacha as O’Connell’s second row partner as he gives his all both in a red shirt but also in a green shirt. I also feel him and POC work well together in both the scrum, lineout.

The number 19 shirt for me is Iain Henderson, because of his versatility and ability to play both second row and back row.

I think many would say that the first choice backrow for Ireland when all are fit would be Ferris, O’Brien and Heaslip (some may disagree). But unfortunately Ferris hasn’t had the best of luck with injury over the last few seasons, which leaves the Number 6 jersey up for grabs. There are quite a few talented home grown back rowers in Ireland which makes the backrow selection one of the trickiest in the whole Ireland 23.

  1. Sean O’Brien – I picked Sean at number 6 because of his versatility. He can play in all three back row positions and has played in the number 6 shirt a number of times for Leinster. I also don’t think anyone could stop the ‘Tullow Tank’ when he goes on one of his runs.

  1. Chris Henry – I picked Chris at number 7 because he has been one of the best 7’s if not the best 7 and I personally don’t know what Ulster would have done without him over the last few years. Like O’Brien he is a versatile player and has played 6 and 8 for Ulster when needed.

  1. Jamie Heaslip - No one has been able to take the number 8 shirt off Jamie in recent years and ok he didn’t really have the best time as Ireland captain but he impressed me in the business end of the season and on the Lions tour.

The number 20 shirt for me is Peter O’Mahony, although I would like to see Kevin McLaughlin get more of a chance of playing in the green jersey.

  1. Connor Murray - If I am honest Murray was beginning to get on my nerves during the 6 Nations with his slow ball but during the Lions tour he really impressed me and even went up in my ratings.

The number 21 shirt for me is Paul Marshall. I feel he hasn’t really been given a chance in green and maybe this is because he isn’t Ulster’s first choice no 9 but he is the type of player who can come off the bench for Ireland and change the pace of the game, he has done it many times for Ulster.

  1. Jonny Sexton - If he is released by Racing Metro to play internationally and we all hope he is, I don’t see anyone else getting the no 10 shirt ahead of him. He really made the no 10 shirt his own during the Lions tour.

The number 22 shirt and replacement fly half for me is Ian Madigan, as much as I love Paddy Jackson ,I think Madigan has a little bit more experience and with Pienaar being away with South Africa , Jackson will hopefully gain more kicking experience and regain his confidence in the first part of the season. Madigan and Jackson will definitely be fighting it out for the No 10 shirt in the near future.

  1. Simon Zebo - Who can argue with the speed machine that is Simon Zebo. He is full of confidence and it shows in this playing style. He really impressed me on his Lions appearances and I was a little bit gutted he didn’t get a test match.

  1. Luke Marshall - Luke really grabbed his opportunity last year at Ulster with two hands when Paddy Wallace was ruled out for the rest of the season and he impressed every time he played. He really relished the opportunity to play alongside his hero in the 6 Nations. Unfortunately a series of concussions ended his season early but I feel the no 12 shirt is his if he keeps up his form. Stuart Olding is a star for the future. The battle for the Ulster no 12 shirt this year will be interesting to say the least.

  1. Brian O’Driscoll – His selection is a no brainer, you don’t leave a world class centre and possible the greatest centre of all time out of your team. He has signed for one more year and we are all very grateful, what would we do without BOD? Although I do feel Joe needs to be using this season to find a replacement for BOD, so that when he retires we are not left worrying who will fill his no 13 shirt.

  1. Craig Gilroy – If he is fit Tommy Bowe will definitely be on the wing (we all dream of a team of Tommy Bowes), hopefully he will be back to full fitness ASAP.

  1. Rob Kearney - Like a few of the other players the no 15 shirt is his whenever he is fit. He didn’t feature much on the Lions tour unfortunately, but what can you do when you have Leigh Halfpenny at fullback. Because of this Rob is well rested and hopefully over that hamstring injury.

The number 23 shirt is a tricky one. Either of Fergus McFadden or Robbie Henshaw could claim it. I’m going to go with McFadden as he has more experience but Robbie is a star for the future.

Summary of match day 23

  1. Cian Healy

  2. Rory Best

  3. Mike Ross

  4. Paul O’Connell

  5. Donnacha Ryan

  6. Sean O’Brien

  7. Chris Henry

  8. Jamie Heaslip

  9. Connor Murray

  10. Jonny Sexton

  11. Simon Zebo

  12. Luke Marshall

  13. Brian O’Driscoll

  14. Craig Gilroy

  15. Rob Kearney

  16. Sean Cronin

  17. Tom Court

  18. Stephen Archer

  19. Iain Henderson

  20. Peter O’Mahony

  21. Paul Marshall

  22. Ian Madigan

  23. Fergus McFadden

@LauraJ2803 die hard Ulster fan ... Been an Ulster season ticket holder for 7 years ... Been there through the highs and the lows

Next week we go back to our Connacht blogger and see if the first two weeks of the season have affected his selection.

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