Our Leinster blogger Iain O’Connor has the unenviable task of picking an Ireland team to face the All Blacks…
Click here for his last selection and these links for the most recent ones from Connacht, Ulster & Munster.
So here we are. Our test series thus far is 50/50 and I have the honour/nightmare of coming up with a team to face the All Blacks. So strap in.
A couple of things on the Aussie game before we get into it, It was disappointing. No more no less. Although we played poorly in almost every part of the pitch I think the most worrying thing is the lack of a try or anything that looked like it may turn into a try (Sean Cronin aside). For me the younger elements of the team were the ones that stood up and put in something closer to a proper shift than the older lads. If Paul Kimmage turns out to be right about Paul O’Connell’s comments then I think we have a worry but for now I think we can just call it a misunderstanding tell Paul to go back to harassing cyclists, although O’Connell may need to look in the mirror before giving out about accuracy.
With it transpiring that the Aussies were mostly boozed up for the game last Saturday I am wondering if we should put a 4 drink minimum on players before they are allowed take the field this week in order to vastly improve performance. I am doubting Schmidt has the same forward thinking as I do so I have enlisted the help of the Monkstown J5s to help me. I will pass on the results.
So, to the team to face the All Blacks. How better to get over a loss to a poor Aussie (drinking) team than to play against New Zealand? It’s not as if they have been number 1 in the world for the past 4 years or anything. Oh, wait, that is exactly what we are up against. It is like we couldn’t finish a bowl of soup and suddenly have decided to have a go at a 12 pound steak instead.
A small part of me wants to put back out the same 15 to see if it was a blip or not but I don’t see that happening really. Please note that all players who played last week and who are selected come with a “Must improve from last week”. I don’t want to have to keep putting it in so just imagine it is there.
1. Cian Healy – Jack McGrath made a bloody good shout for selection against the Aussies. Would we have won if he was playing? God no, don’t be stupid. He still isn’t near Healy’s standard but he is gaining fast.
2. Sean Cronin – I don’t see what Best offers anymore that Cronin doesn’t. Unlucky to have missed out on a try due to a knock on at the base but on the upside he can now tell his grandkids that it was 90 yards out and he rounded 4 players. Good to see Strauss back to training.
3. Mike Ross – Couple of times against Oz I think he got pinged unfairly at scrum time. I would like to see him used more from the base of the ruck or short off 9 as he has a bit of power in the legs.
4. Paul O’Connell – I will sum up his last outing. Fumbled in a maul following a penalty to the corner and a pass you would sub an under 13 prop for throwing. Joe has made him captain so I don’t see him not playing but if it was going on form he would be on the bench or worse if Iain Henderson had a toe to stand on. Also I don’t think I could put up with the fallout.
5. Devin Toner – It is a straight up or down for me. Toner for lineouts beats McCarthy for scrums. That is pretty much it. I think we will get more fruit from the lineout. If I had more balls it would be both.
6. Peter O’Mahony – If Chris Henry was fit he would be in ahead of Peter with SOB moving to 6 and Henry at 7. I like O’Mahony but I would like O’Brien at 6 more. Got dumped on his head, I still reckon it was only a yellow but seem to be alone in that, and he got up to have a go. This Ireland team is devoid of that at the moment. We need a bit more edge and he supplies that the on occasion.
7. Sean O’Brien – Is getting the ball still and deep too much. Should be used more off 9 or hitting the line flat off ten. Still an excellent operator but signs of a fizzle are appearing.
8. Jamie Heaslip – Name me another number 8 who can come close? Works well and deserves his spot but we need to develop a reserve who isn’t a 6 or 7 moving in.
9. Conor Murray – I can see the logic behind Redden starting against the Aussies but it didn’t work. I don’t think it will work any better with Murray at 9 against New Zealand but he is the best of what is left in the squad. Would love to be proved wrong on this one but I think 9 is our weak spot at the moment.
10. Paddy Jackson – I am working under the assumption that miracles don’t happen and Jonny won’t be fit. Jackson edges it, just. Would like to see the second half going to Madigan as he can work some magic when a defence is tired, the jury is still out on whether or not the Blacks get tired but we may as well plan like they are human. When Jackson steps up and plays out of the pocket nearer the line he is a different player to the one who sits like a poor man’s David Humphries and misses touch from deep. He needs to do that this Sunday to unlock the boys outside him
11. Fergus McFadden – If he can somehow find some space against this opposition he can make ground. Did some notable things against Australia, couple of good carries, tackles etc. Wasn’t the worst by a long shot. His defence will really be tested.
12. Luke Marshall – Needs to not lead with his bloody head. Was one of the few men to make an impression against Australia. As against Samoa I think Schmidt will start the fastest beard in the East outside Jackson but I would like to see Marshall keep his spot regardless. I would like at some point to see Madigan run out at 12 and a switch to a “two 5 8th’s” style game, not the match to do it in but one to keep in the back of the mind. I say Marshall, Schmidt will go for Darcy.
13. Brian O’Driscoll – It could be his last chance to beat them shouldn’t be a factor, but for some reason it is. He is still the form 13 which makes it easier. Henshaw in reserve.
14. Tommy Bowe – Shouldn’t be too tired having done nothing last week. Really needs to step up and I think he can pop up with a performance to restore faith. Dave Kearney will probably feel hard done by following his debut brace and subsequent dropping and is deserving of a spot on the bench.
15. Rob Kearney/Ian Madigan – If Kearney turns out to be injured, which is likely then I go with Madgian at fullback purely due to him having a few more seconds of international experience than Robbie Henshaw or Dave Kearney.
1. Cian Healy
2. Sean Cronin
3. Mike Ross
4. Paul O’Connell
5. Devin Toner
6. Peter O’Mahony
7. Sean O’Brien
8. Jamie Heaslip
9. Conor Murray
10. Paddy Jackson
11. Fergus McFadden
12. Luke Marshall
13. Brian O’Driscoll
14. Tommy Bowe
15. Rob Kearney/Ian Madigan
16. Mike Sherry
17. Stephen Archer
18. Jack McGrath
19. Mike McCarthy
20. Kevin McLaughlin
21. Eoin Redden
22. Dave Kearney/Ian Madigan
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.