Monday, January 13, 2014

The Wolfhounds 2014

We’re delighted to award a first HoR2 cap to new contributor Kevin O’Brien, who offers his Wolfhounds selection…

Rugby Opinion

It’s that time of year we are all attempting to offer up our Six Nations squad & starting fifteen just in case Joe needs an outside opinion.

Given what has happened in the November tests, which I won’t go over again, and a coach who is new to the championship there is some excitement around selection.

There is a hope for fresh ideas new faces and new desire. However in this post I am taking a step back from the senior team to have a look at some of the players knocking on the door, namely the Wolfhounds Squad who have a very difficult game against the English Saxons before the Six Nations kicks off.

One of Joe Schmidt’s stated goals upon appointment was to increase the number of players capable of playing test rugby. With this in mind I am picking my squad for the game which will be played in Kingsholm on Jan 14th.

I am using this goal of growing the squad as the main selection criteria and want to try to avoid the “pick a guy who deserves a game for being a good servant” syndrome. With this in mind I now give to you my selection:

  1. Dave Kilcoyne

Killer really burst onto the scene last year with some robust displays for Munster. He was back up to Cian Healy for the Six Nations campaign and looked to be developing into a top loose head. His performances especially in the early part of the season were below the standards he set himself last year and though he has improved steadily he has been passed out by Jack McGrath who has been having an exceptional season at Leinster. Kilcoyne should benefit greatly from a game against what is sure to be a tough Saxons side.

  1. Rob Herring

South African born and Irish qualified Herring performed admirably in Rory Bests absence. It proves there is nothing like game time. His line throwing has been good and he has not been found wanting at scrimmage time . His contribution around the park has been decent too. A bit hard on Varley, who continues to perform with aggression for Munster. But I feel Herring is a better long term bet.

  1. Martin Moore

A breakout season for Moore who is already an integral part of the Leinster squad. A strong scrummager and good on the loose. Personally I would have him starting ahead of Ross but it seems he will have to bide his time. Judging from the November games Irish management seem to prefer Ross & Fitzpatrick at the moment. A decent performance against the Saxons could go along way to pushing him into the senior squad.

  1. Iain Henderson

Could be in contention for the senior squad. Not yet a regular starter for Ulster no doubt hurt by his versatility. I see his long term position in the second row. He needs a steady run of games at lock in my opinion. Again a run against the Saxons will be beneficial. A class act, which will grace the International scene though, may have to be patient in the short term.

  1. Dan Tuohy

Another who has been performing well this season. He has been a very strong presence for Ulster. He has been knocking on the door a while now & hasn’t quiet made the breakthrough. There is probably a few ahead of him in the queue and a decent performance could keep him firmly in the managements thinking.

  1. Rhys Ruddock (Captain)

A player Schmidt knows well. Finally living up to his vast potential following an injury free run. Consistent performances for Leinster have put him on the radar for the senior squad. Strong competition in the backrow positions sees him having to make up some ground but he is well capable. His leadership skills are well documented. Team captain.

  1. Tommy O‘Donnell

Has a good chance of senior involvement especially with Sean O’Briens injury, if he stays fit himself. Has missed a lot of games this season so a run at 7 against the Saxons can only be beneficial in terms of 6 nations preparations.

  1. Robin Copeland

Has come to prominence this season following a number of dominant & dynamic displays for Cardiff. Maybe a bit too soon for the senior squad, where competition for backrow positions is fierce. Hate to use the phrase but he deserves a call up to the Wolfhounds. Great signing for Munster.

  1. Kieran Marmion

Part of recent training squad over Xmas period & not before time. In my mind he deserves to be in the senior squad however it’s hard to look past Murray & Reddan. Would have him ahead of Boss at this stage. A run with the Wolfhounds is a good way of further introducing him to what is expected at international level & to what it is to be around the squad.

  1. Ian Madigan

Would be in the senior squad on last seasons form. However he has slipped back in the pecking order this season due to inconsistent displays and also the excellent form of Paddy Jackson. No doubting his quality he just needs to find last years consistency and better game management.

  1. Craig Gilroy

Assuming Earls, Bowe, Fitzgerald & Zebo are fit I would expect them to be ahead of Gilroy. Certainly has the ability to force his way in to the senior squad. An injury free run with Ulster would certainly help.

  1. Fergus McFadden

As is often said he suffers from his versatility. In my mind 12 is my fellow Curragh man’s best position. But as of yet not been able to shift Darcy from that position for Leinster or Ireland. He needs a consistent run at 12 to force his way into the senior team in this position. And when all wingers are fit he probably won’t get in there.

  1. Robbie Henshaw

“Massively talented player” is an understatement. Getting plenty of game time with Connaught at 13 and has great chance of succeeding the “Great One” in the long run. Has a bit to go though before he is running the defence ala BOD. Run out against the Saxons will further help his international education. Having said that he will probably be heavily involved with the senior squad.

  1. Andrew Trimble

Has slipped down the pecking order through the excellent form of others. He continues to perform strongly for Ulster. Would be a good experienced head in the back three and is always a threat.

  1. Felix Jones

Another who is showing great form after long battles with injury. Strong runner and good defender. Saxons game would a good re-introduction to international rugby.

Replacements

James Croinin, Stephen Archer, Damien Varley, Mick Kearney, Cathal Sheridan, JJ Hanrahan, Kevin McLaughlin

As mentioned I have based this selection on Schmidt’s stated desire to grow the squad. At that some experience is needed hence the selections of the likes of Tuohy & Trimble. However these players too offer good options for Schmidt and are worth looking at closely. Others like Henshaw, Henderson & Marmion will be in and around the senior squad however I feel a run for the Wolfhounds against what is bound to be a strong Saxons team will further help their development.

I see the Wolfhounds as a key part of developing players for test rugby. I feel there aren’t enough such games throughout the season due primarily to finance I assume. Still further matches for the Wolfhounds should be considered by the IRFU and senior management.

Kevin O’Brien (@marywards) : Rugby mad Leinster man exiled in Connaught. Father of 3 with wife who hates sport but tolerates rugby.

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