We’d like to thank the boys at “The Red Scare” blog for taking up the Munster banner on Let The Schmidt Hit The Fan, here’s their first offering…
I know this is meant to picked on form, but I've had to make some exceptions to that rule when picking a full back. Rob Kearney gets the nod here because (a) he's currently fit, and (b) Jared Payne isn't yet eligible. Bob Kearney has been average for a few seasons now but as long as he doesn't have to tackle anyone front on, we should be OK.
The other backs pick themselves really. Earls impressed against the Drags at 13 last week, but I'd go with him at wing with a switch to the midfield in the second half. BOD gets the NOD at 13 after a good performance against Cardiff and I'd go with Luke Marshall inside him and Tommy Bowe on the other wing. Zebo covers both sides and fullback.
Madigan and Murray are my halfbacks. Murray's an easy one. He's, by some distance, the best scrum half in the country. Reddan will back him up from the bench.
Madigan gets the nod ahead of John Sexton because, to put it plainly, he's playing better right now. Plus, I'm of the mind that if Sexton wants to weep into his pillow abroad, he'll have to play twice as well as his direct competition at home to start ahead of him, and right now, he isn't. Madigan has everything Sexton does with the ball, and a better pass, in my opinion. If he can add Test level game management to his repertoire, he might be the main man for Ireland as a Test flyhalf and actually achieve something in a green shirt - something Sexton has yet to do. Sexton would be cover for 12 on our bench, primarily.
The props are "as you were" with Healy and Ross retaining their putative first choice status from last season. We have the McGrath as loosehead cover (Kilcoyne has been very flat this season so far) and the constantly improving Stephen Archer as the back up tight head.
Sherry gets the nod over Best and Cronin because, unlike those two, he can throw accurately under pressure. His scrummaging has been good this season and, while not as good around the field as Best & Cronin, he's not so far back from them in that facet that it counts against his lazer like throwing.
Ryan and POC with Henderson as 55 minute replacement as the second row specialists is a no-brainer. They're the only second rows with international quality operating in Ireland right now.
O'Mahony, O'Brien and Heaslip make up the back row with The Spoiler, Chris Henry being deployed in the second half.
IRELAND TEST XXIII
15. Rob Kearney
14. Keith Earls
13. Brian O'Driscoll
12. Luke Marshall
11. Tommy Bowe
10. Ian Madigan
9. Conor Murray
1. Cian Healy
2. Mike Sherry
3. Mike Ross
4. Donnacha Ryan
5. Paul O'Connell
6. Peter O'Mahony
7. Sean O'Brien
8. Jamie Heaslip
17. Rory Best
16. Jack McGrath
18. Stephen Archer
19. Iain Henderson
20. Chris Henry
21. Eoin Reddan
22. Johnny Sexton
23. Simon Zebo
The Red Scare is a rugby blog written by 3 Munster fans, one’s from Cork, one’s from Limerick and the other’s from… uh… New York but they’re all Munster.
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Next Tuesday we’ll hear the latest from our Ulster blogger.