The latest of our provincial bloggers to name their best current Ireland team is our Leinster representative Iain O’Connor.
When we started the project back at the beginning of the season, the idea was to select a team available to play next weekend, but now we’re in round 5 it’s only fair to give the selectors a bit more leeway so from here on in we will leave it to them to decide.
Click this link for his last selection and these for the latest from Ulster, Munster & Connacht.
So this Christmas, and what have you done?
Well if you are reading this as a member of the Irish rugby team the answer to that is quite a lot. In the last year Irish rugby has gone through some (almost) dizzying highs and some subterranean lows. The loss to the All Blacks, although it is still a loss, is the best I think I have ever seen an Ireland team play. If you put this alongside Ireland V Italy from the 6 Nations it is like watching the New Park under 13 D’s in comparison to a well drilled, although not perfect, International side.
Right, I contemplated doing a kind of team of the year but there will be plenty of that around in the next few weeks so instead I give you my team for a game to be played on Christmas Day. Think 1914 Football in the trenches with less war and more importantly less soccer.
With a good showing against Toulouse I am ashamed to not get more Con players in but they are pushing hard for more representation if they keep pulling out results and performances.
1. Jack McGrath – Has come on in leaps and bounds and with Cian Healy being sidelined he is the number 1 number 1.
2. Sean Cronin – Last time out I dropped Rory Best and took a fair bit of flack. He subsequently scored a try and broke his arm. I am still unchanged in my thinking that Cronin is the future and I think that with a lot of game time he will only get better. I do wish Rory a speedy recovery and hopefully he can take the backup number 2 shirt soon.
3. Mike Ross – For me hasn’t really impressed but gets in due to lack of other options. Martin Moore in reserve with the youngster looking good for a prop of his age.
4. Paul O’Connell – After the disaster against Australia he plucked himself up and had a good game against New Zealand. Would like to see him used more sparingly but when he needs to he can still hit the heights he used to.
5. Devin Toner – My player of the year. Great tour performance in the USA, cemented his place in the Leinster set up and getting good game time for Ireland. Anyone who refers to him as awkward and a liability clearly hasn’t watched him in a while.
6. Peter O’Mahony/Rhys Ruddock – Peter O’Mahony gets the first half with Ruddock coming on at half time. The 2 games against Northampton have finally announced Ruddocks arrival in the big time with 2 great performances (second game less so but he looked good in a bad bunch)
7. Sean O’Brien – Is he injured? Is he in France? Is he under the stairs? If he is fit he plays if not it is Shane Jennings.
8. Jamie Heaslip – For me he is quickly becoming the complete number 8. Clever, strong and a leader on the park. I am still taken aback by how divisive his selection can be but as far as I am concerned he is top dog at 8.
9. Conor Murray – Signed a new 2 year deal, I could have sworn he only used to work in threes, and gets the nod ahead of Redden, just. I will never understand why he kicks so much ball away and he owes me a new tv remote after I threw mine across the room when he kicked away in the closing stages of the New Zealand match. Still has a lot of flaws but the best we have for now.
10. Ian Madigan – In ahead of Jackson this time round but I will probably change my mind again in a few weeks. Showed a new maturity against Northampton first time round. J10 is back in when he is good and ready.
11. Luke Fitzgerald – He’s back baby! Well hopefully. Finally Luke is looking like Luke of old. If the rugby gods have any decency he will get an injury free period to really flourish.
12. Luke Marshall – It is a toss up between him and a rejuvenated Darcy. Maybe a half each but would like to see Marshall get more game time, hopefully concussion free.
13. Brian O’Driscoll – I am beginning to wonder if playing him is in his own benefit health wise, but if he is fit he can play. On a side note, very nice to see him agree with the doc’s decision to not let him play the last few mins against the Kiwis.
14. Fergus McFadden – Coming to the top in a position where we are overloaded with suitable players. Between him, Bowe, Trimble, Zebo, Gilroy, Carr, Henshaw, Dave Kearney etc. we have injury dependant options.
15. Rob Kearney – Used to be known for his high ball. Now known for not even wanting to take half time off.
1. Jack McGrath
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. Ian Madigan
11. Luke Fitzgerald
12. Luke Marshall
13. Brian O’Driscoll
14. Fergus Mc Fadden
15. Rob Kearney
16. Martin Moore
17. Damian Varley
18. James Cronin
19. Mike McCarthy
20. Rhys Ruddock
21. Eoin Redden
22. Dave Kearney
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.