Of all the weeks for one of our provincial bloggers to be away and unable to watch the Heineken Cup action, it had to be Connachtman and it had to be this week!!!!
I will post his team on this page once he can get it to me, but he has given me permission to name a special Irish Test matchday 23 in his stead, and for the week that’s in it, I doubt anyone will have any objections…
Click this link for his last selection and these for the latest from Ulster, Munster & Leinster.
UPDATE DEC 12, 3013 : As promised, Connachtman has provided his selection below!
Better late than never! Unfortunately life got in the way of rugby this week, and I know this is no excuse... But please feel sorry for me, I mean, not only did I miss a clean sweep and bags of tries but I missed the most incredible result in my dear Province's history!
First off, let me just say thanks to JLP for filling in for me, and what a great job he did of putting a lot of thought and deliberation into filling each position and coming up with all of the right answers at the end of it! Some job! Seriously though, it was a great team performance from the lads and that was the main thing, as was true of all four provinces. Leinster in particular impressed as they seemed to morph back into the irresistible machine of old with a pretty complete performance. I told JLP I could have selected a Leinster XXIII and just sent that in. Anyways, let's put some real selection work in and divvy up our beloved provinces before meshing them back together to form some kind of greater whole! Or something...
Here is my side to play a Pacific Island Select XV at the weekend, let's hope they don't ship any major knocks before their respective Heineken cup matches!
Loosehead: Jack McGrath
With Healy out for the weekend it falls to McGrath to take on those South Sea behemoths. He carries and scrummages and wins some turnovers, all while remaining rock solid in defense. Sound lad.
Dave Kilcoyne wins the battle for the bench, coming back into some form. He's got all the raw ability and just needs to get the consistency right. Once unleashed off the bench he proceeds to smash every opposition player consecutively.
Beats able benchers from the weekend such as Callum Black, James Cronin and Roscommon dynamo Denis Buckley. Behave Denis!
Hooker: Sean Cronin
We're running out of hookers and we can't import them fast enough to fill the vacancies. But all this is good news for budding Centre Sean Cronin who finally gets his shot at the big time. Wreaks havoc in an open style game against those crazy islanders!
With Best, Strauss and Sherry all out of action, I'm handing the 16 jersey to Rob Herring who had a great game at the weekend, albeit against soft opposition. Fair play to him.
Tighthead: Mike Ross
Because of the need to take this Pacific Island team seriously at the set-piece, we have to go with Rossy here. Wait, what?! Seriously though, wasn't he great against BNZ! What a hero.
On the bench we've got steady man Declan Fitzpatrick who is holding off hot young thing Marty Moore, although we will need to cap him soon as once he moves to France and becomes naturalised that's the end of that story...
Second Row: Dan Tuohy and Paul O'Connell
Trying a new partnership and rewarding Tuohy for some good showings, let's see if we can figure out what our options are for the Six Nations. Tuohy has a great time running amuck with the ball tucked under one arm, closely followed by an angry ginger giant who blasts any would-be poachers out of the way. It's gonna be great.
On the bench I'm going for big Dev as this is a match which will suit his rangy style. We've sent Mike McCarthy to the gym to lose some weight and he'll be ready to take on Romania next week when we'll need a bit of grunt. Saying that, he did have his best game of the season so far on Saturday...
Backrow: Rhys Ruddock, Sean O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip
A rock solid unit which will dominate the opposition, Ruddock finally comes good on his promise and offers a lot more hard graft and power on the blind flank, allowing Seanie to reap the rewards further out, while Jamie will run around and pretty much do everything perfectly while simultaneously listening to Kanye West on his headphones unless he's speaking to the ref in a really relaxed and all too laid back manner.
On the bench is Peter O'Mahony, who has been informed by Joe Schmidt that if he doesn't make tackles like Rhys Ruddock does then he won't get in the team. This inspires an unbelievable showing from Peter off the bench, guaranteeing that he does indeed start next week or there will be a rebellion in Munster. This National Coach gig is tough isn't it Joe?!
Missing out we have the return of the army of blindsides as BNZ hero Kevin McLaughlin and Toulouse here John Muldoon can't be considered. Meanwhile we have a No.8 in Cardiff who seems to be inspiring his team to greater things and will be inspiring Munster next season. Let's not forget miniature openside Sean Dougall who is a warrior and a half and who will pretty much continue to harass every team he plays against at provincial level for the next decade at least. Good on him.
Scrum Half: Kieran Marmion
A home town decision here as I reward Marmion for some exceptional displays of poise, leadership and no little skill. Joe Schmidt finally heeds my advice and caps the young man from Wales, as he provides structure and a breaking threat to the game before making way for the continuity machine that is Eoin Reddan, having taken a knock pulling down Nico Matawalu as he was haring off down the pitch seemingly getting in for a certain score in the first half. Hero.
With Redser on in the second half, the tempo of the game increases and Ireland cruise to victory.
Fly Half: Ian Madigan
Jonny Sexton hasn't been released by his club so he can't be selected. But Joe wouldn't have selected him anyways as he knows how tired he is on account of their nightly phone calls. Poor Jonny...
Having rewarded his new provincial coach with a truly outstanding performance last weekend, Madigan's season really takes off as he carries, runs and passes everything, forming an exciting partnership with Marmion and just frustrating the Islanders as they try to defend the midfield. Every time Ireland fumble or overplay their hand, MadDog appears and jinks and puts the head down as he carries bravely into contact, earning the respect of the bigger men up front.
Paddy Jackson runs on in the second half and together with Reddan they set about dismantling what's left of the South Sea defence with clever angles and razor sharp passing. It's a playbook clinic based on quick ball and the identification of space.
Centres: Luke Marshall & Brian O'Driscoll
Marshall beats old man D'Arcy to the jersey this week and impresses his hero O'Driscoll outside him with an all-round skill set that beggars belief as Marshall kicks well tactically, uses his footwork to capitalise on midfield dog-legs and passes the ball to Brian when he should, and in the best possible way that he could. All this allows Brian to be Brian and he has a great time showing off his range of passes to others, and even to himself sometimes. It's a performance for the ages.
Robbie Henshaw is sprung from the bench and makes a couple of decent breaks, after which we are provided with a cheap reaction shot of O'Driscoll looking modestly impressed, though he seems more eager to find his wife and child in the crowd.
Wings: Luke Fitzgerald & Craig Gilroy
Luke is back! And he's just like we remember! It's so great to see him score two tries and display a well rounded skill set of kicking, catching and tackling that George Hook is actually lost for words. Meanwhile, on the other wing, young Craig Gilroy arcs infield and picks up a pass from Luke Marshall to scythe through the defence and jink and spin to his heart's content, it's great to see him back really.
Fullback: Rob Kearney
Rob Kearney is angry. He's angry and he wants you to be angry too. Running back kicks like a Tailback he puts away a couple of chances after creating breaks and then has to get coaxed into the dressing room at half time as he appears to be trying to stare down everybody in the ground. He starts the second half with a 60 metre drop goal which stretches the Irish lead after they weather a Polynesian purple patch, subsequently deflating the opposition and basically winning the game. In the post-match press conference he is the picture of tranquillity and finds time to acknowledge his less handsome brother who was unlucky to miss out on selection.
That's all folks, as you can see, it's gonna be a great game! ;)
Ireland team to take on Pacific Island Select XV at Ravenhill
1: Jack McGrath
2: Sean Cronin
3: Mike Ross
4: Dan Tuohy
5: Paul O'Connell
6: Rhys Ruddock
7: Sean O'Brien
8: Jamie Heaslip
9: Kieran Marmion
10: Ian Madigan
11: Luke Fitzgerald
12: Luke Marshall
13: Brian O'Driscoll
14: Craig Gilroy
15: Rob Kearney
16: Rob Herring
17: Dave Kilcoyne
18: Declan Fitzpatrick
19: Devin Toner
20: Peter O'Mahony
21: Eoin Reddan
22: Paddy Jackson
23: Robbie Henshaw
Connachtman [@connachtman87] - sometime blogger, long time reader, avid supporter of Connacht rugby against all odds and in any weather.
Cheers Connachtman! Below the line you can see my own contribution from Tuesday…we’ll be back next Tuesday with the latest from our Leinster blogger. JLP
My perfect Irish matchday 23 if there was test coming next weekend:
- Brett Wilkinson
- Sean Henry
- Nathan White
- Michael Kearney
- Craig Clarke
- John Muldoon
- Jake Heenan
- George Naoupu
- Kieran Marmion
- Dan Parks
- Matt Healy
- David McSharry
- Eoin Griffin
- Fionn Carr
- Robbie Henshaw
- Jason Harris-Wright
- Dennis Buckley
- Rodney Ah You
- Michael Swift
- Eoin McKeon
- Frank Murphy
- Craig Ronaldson
- Gavin Duffy
Yes, that is the Connacht matchday 23 from their historic win over Toulouse. And yes, I am well aware that not all of them are Irish qualified.
But surely what with President Michael D hailing from Galway and all, a few strings can be pulled for a special occasion!
What a result. And what a weekend for the four proud provinces.
And don’t get me wrong…there’s plenty in that Connacht squad who should definitely feature in the national set-up…Henshaw and McSharry have already done so and should again, plus there’s Marmion and Matt Healy showing they are more than ready to step up from Under 20 level.
I will allow Connachtman to elaborate when he is ready, stay tuned to HarpinOnRugby on social media and we will post when he has added his thoughts. JLP