Since the start of the season four bloggers, one representing each province, have taken turns selecting their ideal Irish matchday 23 for a test match to take place the following weekend (so current injury status must be taken into account).
This week it’s the turn of Leinster fan Iain O’Connor to look ahead for the Six Nations champions.
Click this link for his last selection and these for the latest from Munster, Connacht & Ulster.
So April is upon us. Spring has sprung and the 6 Nations celebration hangovers have gone. It is all about the H Cup and Rabo and the Irish sides are on the whole underperforming, with the exception of Ulster. Leinster are stuttering, Munster are looking thoroughly inconsistent and Conn are back to being kind of just Conn.
So here is my team. Half an eye on development, the other half on winning. A couple of my selections are injured now I know, but I know HarpinOnRugby won’t mind ;-)
1. Cian Healy – More often than not he is Leinster and Irelands best performer. Jack McGrath is a worthy replacement and great to have in reserve. I am still not a fan of changing front rows mid way through the second half for the sake of it but Joe knows best.
2. Rory Best/Sean Cronin – With the same breath as what I have said above I am giving hookers a half each. Best has been picking up a few knocks over the past few years and I think Cronin is the only likely replacement long term, Strauss is pushing on in terms of age and I don’t rate Varley.
3. Mike Ross – The change of scrum laws have not been kind to Mike. Still our best option but was initially brought in due to his Rainman like attention to detail in the scrum, which is now like being an expert in non-lifting lineouts. Martin Moore looks good to replace him eventually and I would like to see him getting a full half. Ross needs to offer more in play to make up for the scrimmaging.
4. Dan Tuohy – Yes this is where Paul O’Connell usually is. But what will we learn from that and what effect will that have on Paul? I want to hold him off for the big games and get Tuohy more game time. I am keeping POC on the bench in order not to be lynched but normally I would have McCarthy or Henderson
5. Devin Toner – A lot has been talked about him this year. I won’t get into it as I would just be repeating others. Still ahead of McCarthy, Henderson or Ryan for me.
6. Peter O’Mahony/Stephen Ferris – A half each. To be honest if Fez keeps fit, we may see less and less of the best anthem singer in the West. This is not a slight on O’Mahony, he has been doing well, it is more a comment on how good (a fit) Ferris can be.
7. Chris Henry – Quickly becoming a favourite of mine. Awesome performances whenever he hits the paddock. Will Sean O’Brien be able to claim his shirt back when fit? Well, yes but he is a more than capable replacement.
8. Jamie Heaslip – My only worry is that if he gets hurt we still have no real replacement. O’Mahony at a stretch but we could really do with a youngster stepping up.
9. Kieran Marmion – I don’t know why but I think this lad has something. I have never been impressed with Murrays delivery speed or the amount he kicks, be it tactics or not, but more importantly we know Murrays game now. Giving Marmion a few games will hurt no one and could be revolutionary. It’s about time we rolled the dice.
10. Ian Madigan – As with Murray, we know what Jonny can do. We know he is the starter so why not see what happens? I have Madigan over Jackson purely because he kicks less. Ball possession is king in my book so keep the thing in hand at all costs.
11. Andrew Trimble – Man of the 6 Nations for me. In great form. The shirt is his as long as he keeps putting in a good shift.
12. Luke Marshall – He will be grand so long as he stops running at people with his head. A serious injury worry so I would have McFadden warmed up at all times.
13. Luke Fitzgerald – Not a natural 13 but can do a job and can certainly use the ball in hand. I eventually see Henshaw there but for now he will have to come on and slot in until he gets used to international standard.
14. Tommy Bowe – Dave Kearney loses out for no real reason other than it’s Tommy Bowe.
15. Rob Kearney – Would like to see him subbed a bit to make sure we have a replacement but still our starter and one of the star players.
1. Cian Healy
2. Rory Best
3. Mike Ross
4. Dan Tuohy
5. Devin Toner
6. Stephen Ferris
7. Chris Henry
8. Jamie Heaslip
9. Kieran Marmion
10. Ian Madigan
11. Andrew Trimble
12. Luke Marshall
24. Luke Fitzgerald
14. Tommy Bowe
15. Rob Kearney
16. Jack McGrath
17. Sean Cronin
18. Martin Moore
19. Paul O’Connell/Iain Henderson
21. Conor Murray
22. Paddy Jackson
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.
NEXT WEEK ON LET THE SCHMIDT HIT THE FAN - Our Munster blogger Kate McEvoy shares with us her latest Irish matchday 23