Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Let The Schmidt Hit The Fan - Rd 7 (CON)

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This week’s Ireland selection is courtesy of Connachtman

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

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I'm not sure if it's a blessing or a curse to have to pick the team after a performance such as the lads put in on Saturday, but needless to say I won't be making any changes!

With this win we have seen the Joe Schmidt tactical genius come to the fore for Ireland, and you'd have to say it was a performance reminiscent of the '09 team. I'm not jumping to conclusions, I'm just saying that the kind of rugby we played on Saturday was the Championship winning kind of vintage, that's all! It's still incredibly hard to see how we can win in both Twickenham and Paris but the point I'm making is that we should be heartened by the style of the performance.

The Irish pack were on top all afternoon, the half-backs kicked with precision and at the right times, the back-three were outstanding in the air and the centres were defensively sound. Everything about this Irish team now screams experience, tactical nous and solidity. My, oh my how far we've come!

My team to play at the weekend [read: my team to play England]

Loosehead Prop: Cian Healy

He's experienced, he can scrummage and he carries ball like a bull, I think he's in the team...

Jack McGrath once again looked really comfortable off the bench.

Hooker: Rory Best

Best was exceptional once again as part of a dominant pack and a wickedly effective defensive system. Joe is utilising the experience of the Ulster players in the team and getting more out of them than his predecessor.

Cronin again backs him up from the bench.

Tighthead Prop: Mike Ross

Rossy has had his finest season to date and deserves his place. His experience at scrum time and his increased work ethic around the park make him crucial to this team's success. He seems to have found a rhythm in the loose and looks to be comfortable as part of the unit. Good on him!

Marty Moore continues his internship.

Second Row: Devin Toner & Paul O'Connell

Big Dev is a Leinster lock who drinks Gin and Tonics and handles superbly. He's a Joe Schmidt man through and through and he's improving all the time. Schmidty trusts him and he's rewarding that trust with gusto.

Paulie was exceptional once again and is so crucial to our success in this tournament. It is a pity Tuohy is out because it was great to see him trusted to come on so early in the second half.

With Tuohy out, Henderson comes back onto the bench and provides a great impact. Joe may look to include Mike McCarthy or maybe even Donnacha Ryan later in the tournament though. Their experience could be needed.

Back Row: Peter O'Mahony, Chris Henry & Jamie Heaslip

The back row were exceptional and worked incredibly well as a unit on Saturday. O'Mahony put in a beast of a performance and he's another player who seems to be benefiting from the micro-coaching of Joe Schmidt. Henry was employed as a defensive bludgeon and O'Mahony was able to turn over ball with sheer passion! Once again Jamie ties the whole pack together by never missing a step.

Tommy O'Donnell did not look out of place when he came on and he will surely benefit from being part of such an experienced bunch of winners in his first international season.

Scrum Half: Conor Murray

The distance Murray got on some of his box kicks was so impressive but so was the accuracy. He looked classy out there and always comfortable.

Isaac Boss will continue to deputise. His experience will be valuable as this tournament goes on, but Eoin Reddan may yet come into contention for the France game.

Fly Half: Johnny Sexton

Sexton was superb as part of a half back combination who kicked sublimely from hand and did his part defensively as well. His ability to build on his packs dominance and execute the gameplan is important.

Paddy Jackson will get some more game time and he deserves it. Another guy who will benefit from this environment.

Centres: Gordon D'Arcy & Brian O'Driscoll

Part of the gameplan on Saturday was surely protecting the centre from the big Welsh backs and these guys didn't have a problem doing their bit. The rest of the team were wise to the threat too, but what these guys give you is a security in decision making which buys everybody else time to respond to the threat. Luke Marshall may have to wait until the Italy game to get another chance, and that's fair.

Back Three: Dave Kearney, Andrew Trimble and Rob Kearney

This back three may be boring [see a certain twitter account] but it's bloody solid under the high ball! Schmidt's decision to include Trimble over Zebo, Gilroy and McFadden now seems inspired! This writer isn't sure if it should stay like this for the whole tournament but sometimes boring is what you need!

Fergus McFadden should remain the outside back option from the bench because he'll always give everything he's got when brought on and I don't think you really need to worry about his form and lack of gametime in that regard.

Whether or not this Ireland team reminds you of the Grand Slam winning side of '09 or the All Blacks team that won the last World Cup, let's just get behind Joe Schmidt and Peter O'Mahony and the lads and try and enjoy it, it's been a long time since we've had a good tournament. In fact, the last time, if I remember correctly, it was about five years ago, and, well....

Ireland Team to win the Grand Slam 2014

1: Cian Healy

2: Rory Best

3: Mike Ross

4: Devin Toner

5: Paul O'Connell

6: Peter O'Mahony

7: Chris Henry

8: Jamie Heaslip

9: Conor Murray

10: Johnny Sexton

11: Dave Kearney

12: Gordon D'Arcy

13: Brian O'Driscoll

14: Andrew Trimble

15: Rob Kearney

Replacements

16: Sean Cronin

17: Jack McGrath

18: Marty Moore

19: Iain Henderson

20: Tommy O'Donnell

21: Isaac Boss

22: Paddy Jackson

23: Fergus McFadden

Connachtman [@connachtman87] - sometime blogger, long time reader, avid supporter of Connacht rugby against all odds and in any weather.

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