Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Let The Schmidt Hit The Fan - Rd 5 (MUN)

Last for 2013, but certainly not least, the latest selection in our Irish team project from our Munster contributor Kate McEvoy…

Click this link for her last selection and these for the latest from Ulster, Leinster & Connacht.

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL HARPINONRUGBY READERS!

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The last time I had to do this was in the aftermath of the “Fixture That Will Not Be Named”. Even though it was still some time away I decided to pick the starting team for our opening 6 Nations fixture against the Scots. I'm sticking with that plan, leaving out players that are currently injured. I'm not going to hypothetically assume an injured player will be recovered, fit enough and in form to warrant selection. You know what they say about assuming. Plus it feels oddly like tempting fate.

However, I'm confident the Young Turks will be impressive in the next two rounds of the Heineken Cup and force some revisions on both my and Joe Schmidt's part come the time for the squad announcement.

  1. Jack McGrath – Over the Christmas break I watched the Lions Raw documentary on this summer's antipodean adventures. On the whole I found it largely disappointing as, although well shot with great game footage, it was largely shorn of personality and intimate moments that make something a documentary rather than a highlight real. One of the few exceptions to this was Cian Healy's soliloquy into the camera as he lay injured on his hotel bed, waiting to fly home. As someone who could have been a star of the tour it was both heart-breaking and heartening to see his chin up attitude and desire for his teammates to triumph in his absence. With O'Brien now ruled out for 6 to 8 weeks, it's a race against time to have Ireland's other key ball carrier return from ankle surgery carried out earlier in December. HOWEVER (as you'll see I wrote that in big letters), not willing to break my injury criteria at the first hurdle, I'm going to go for Leinster's bright young thing to start, pending on Proper Church's recovery. Either way, McGrath is more than capable as his provincial performances and blooding at international level this autumn show. With McGrath to start in this scenario, I've gone for Fitzpatrick ahead of young James Cronin on the bench, who has impressively pulled ahead of Kilcoyne at Munster this season.
  2. Sean Cronin – Although heartening to see he's committed to Ulster until 2016, Rory Best is another who's in a race against the clock to be available for selection in February. Even fully fit he'd have a serious fight on his hands to wrench the green jersey back from Leinster's dynamo. Although we're a bit thin on the ground with Richardt Strauss and Mike Sherry on the long term injured list, Cronin's performances in 2013 have been a serious bright spot. However, he can fall down on his darts and the ever-increasingly important striking against the head so the perhaps more traditional aspects of his game do need work to complement his industry around the park and great lines he runs.

  3. Mike Ross – Marty Moore has arguably out performed Ross this season but the big man seems to have turned a corner form wise and offers a wealth of experience to balance to still green McGrath. There's still plenty of time in January for Moore to further stake his claim to start but the baby calf could have one hell of an impact off the bench.

  4. Paul O'Connell – Would like to see Henderson in the mix here and certainly in the training squad but not at O'Connell's expense. And now to explain why O'Connell should be start... actually no. You know this already. Moving on

  5. Dan Tuohy– As is so frequently the case, it's harsh on Toner after a great season so far and also on the Ulsterman himself who's left out in the cold so much he must come to Ireland squad sessions with Arctic training gear. The reason for this is although I've left him in at 5, it's only due to recently emerged concerns about Donnacha Ryan's swollen knee. Currently unavailable for Ulster and possibly not fit for the trip to Gloucester, this is a real blow for Ryan's recovery. However, I'm a big fan of the Nenagh man's work rate and attitude and of course, his angry face, which is without peer. So Tuohy for now but Ryan moving fast/limping slowly up the inside.

  6. Peter O'Mahony – Jamie Heaslip has heroically taken up the mantle as the Irish back row everyone has an opinion on this week but fear not O'Mahony will no doubt start so we can all fall out over whether he is actually any good and whether he should be going around smashing people over the head with a crowbar or whatever it is a “real” hardman is supposed to do. Meanwhile POM will go about his business and use his athleticism and great footballing brain to full effect. He may not deserve every man on the match he gets from Frankie but that doesn't mean he hasn't fully earned his spot.

  7. Sean Dougall – The undoubted low-light in a pretty grotty Leinster/Ulster encounter at the RDS was Sean O'Brien dislocating his shoulder. As the main source of go-forward ball with his province and country this is a huge blow. I have to stop talking about it now because I'm too upset. I've gone for Munster's MVP of the season so far (yes, including JJ) but with Chris Henry due to return for Ulster to challenge the men in red this week, as well as last season's favourite Tommy O'Donnell returning from concussion,and Rhys Ruddock performing solidly at Leinster to earn a spot on the bench, this is currently a hot potato position. O'Brien as an individual is irreplaceable. That's not to say there aren't other options with their own qualities to bring to the openside slot.

  8. Jamie Heaslip – Courtesy of Heaslip, I have now engaged in one of these illustrious “Twitter spats” (TM Daily Mail) with George Hook. It's a proud moment for my parents I assure you. As I've previously stated to my increasing bafflement, Heaslip for all his achievements is largely underrated and much maligned. It also seems to have escaped notice that he is largely indestructible, like Bruce Willis in Unbreakable. Whether he stays or goes, which is the subject for a different article, he's still my starting number 8. And, sorry Darren Cave, but he's better than Roger Wilson. He just is. Praise where it's due, his young provincial understudy Jordi Murphy is well on his way to big things

  9. Kieran Marmion – With Conor Murray, still the best scrum half in Ireland by some distance, definitely ruled out for this week's provincial derby and in doubt for the next Heineken Cup clash, it's time to cap Connacht's impressive half-Welsh wizard, with the increasingly high-profile James Hart at Grenoble not far behind. However I would opt for experience on the bench with Eoin Reddan ahead of Paul Marshall. Should Murray be proven fit he starts with Marmion on the bench

  10. Jonny Sexton Although still in it's first act, the Johnny Sexton to Racing Metro could certainly not yet be considered a roaring success. In fact it's being somewhat prematurely heralded as a cautionary tale as Heaslip et al consider a move abroad. The complete capitulation to Harlequins in the Heineken Cup was symptomatic of an attitude problem that seems to exist within the squad. The same could not be said of Sexton himself but his kicking game has come under scrutiny in the French press. However, with all the eager young kickers nipping at his heels, Sexton is still the best outhalf we have and his selection should reflect that. Once he doesn't collapse from overwork of course. The bench spot is hotly contested but for me, Jackson's consistency this season shades it over his provincial rivals

  11. Keith Earls – Wings remain a tough call. With Simon Zebo due back shortly and McFadden hopefully recovered from his hand injury, as well as Gilroy, Trimble, Luke Fitzgerald and Bowe all in the mix, there's a lot to chose from. As it stands I've gone for the pace and finishing of Earls with the on-form Dave Kearney at 14. This was a tricky one and I'm sure there are people who will be surprised I didn't chose Bowe to start but I honestly feel that he's become somewhat of an automatic selection despite the fact he has not been playing to the best of his not-inconsiderable talents for quite some time. More on Luke Fitzgerald in our centre category.

  12. Gordon Darcy – This is a tough call for me as I would plump for Ulster's Luke Marshall ahead of the sometimes startling but often inconsistent D'arcy but Marshall was once again helped from the pitch with a concussion in Ulster's clash with Leinster. As per reports today, he's due to be eligible for selection for Ulster's next game with Munster but this is in many ways has been the rugby story of 2013. How seriously do we take concussion? The answer still seems to be not serious enough. Ideally I want to see Luke Marshall start in this Six Nations but not at the expense of his long term health

  13. Brian O'Driscoll – Another man to have taken more blows to the head (and everywhere else) than is healthy. This is to be BOD's final 6 Nations and there's no one who has given more. In terms of the always vexing question of succession to the king, Fitzgerald has edged ahead of Henshaw and onto the bench for me. He could of course also start at wing but his ability to cover multiple positions has him as our backline cover in my selection. It's great to see his return to form and long may he stay injury free. Payne will also be in the mix both here and at full back when he's Irish qualified later this year

  14. Dave Kearney

  15. Rob Kearney – Here's hoping his renaissance season in green will continue. His leadership is increasingly impressive and in keeping with his fine form, he's the main man at fullback. Henshaw and Payne are the closest challengers.

 

  1. Jack McGrath

  2. Sean Cronin

  3. Mike Ross

  4. Paul O'Connell

  5. Dan Tuohy

  6. Peter O'Mahony

  7. Sean Dougall

  8. Jamie Heaslip

  9. Kieran Marmion

  10. Johnny Sexton

  11. Keith Earls

  12. Gordon Darcy

  13. Brian O'Driscoll

  14. Dave Kearney

  15. Rob Kearney


  16. Damien Varley

  17. Martin Moore

  18. Declan Fitzpatrick

  19. Devin Toner

  20. Rhys Ruddock

  21. Eoin Reddan

  22. Paddy Jackson

  23. Luke Fitzgerald

Kate McEvoy : Munster fan in a sea of Leinster blue. Raised on a strict diet of Bective Rangers. Earliest childhood memory is stud marks in the muck. Former hooker for a father & a mother with an eye for a forward pass bordering on freakish . Best rugby memory, Toulouse main square, May 24th2008. Epitaph will read “Knew a lot about rugby for a girl.” Can be found tweeting optimistically at @ImKateMc

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