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 Connachtman to look ahead for the Six Nations champions, while comparing his current choices to the ones he made back at the start of the season.
Click this link for his last selection and these for the latest from Leinster, Ulster & Munster.
Seeing as how this is my last round of selection it seems a fine time to expose the fickle nature of online punditry and expose me for the charlatan that I am by doing a quick compare and contrast post with my original selection, all those many months ago. Here goes, let the slagging commence!
Original Selection: Cian Healy
Current Selection: Cian Healy, aka DJ CHURCH
What I got right: Ok so at the start of the season I took the really bold option of picking Healy to start and the only thing that has really changed is that now I'm backing him as a chooser of choons too. Sorted.
So wrong: On the bench I selected Dave Kilcoyne, who had a difficult second season, and failed to foretell the emergence of Jack McGrath as a serious contender on the international stage. Callum Black has been good too...
Original Selection: Rory Best
Current Selection: Rory Best
What I got right: There were a few doubts concerning his form coming into this season and he proved once again that he has the nerve to operate manfully on the biggest stage. Got through some amount of work in the six nations!
What I got wrong: Poor Mike Sherry has been injured all season but may have missed out to an in form Sean Cronin in any case. Also, didn't consider Rob Herring as a viable candidate.
Original: Mike Ross
Current: Mike Ross
What I got right: OK so the front row wasn't a hard call but I have consistently stuck by this guy from the start and I think he had his best ever season! Last year he looked flogged and this year he was getting around and tackling like a world class player.
What I got so very, very wrong: Jamie Hagan. Give me a break! It didn't seem like there was a single truly viable option at the start of the season, and now we have Marty Moore pushing hard. Unfortunately Declan Fitzpatrick looks like he could have a serious injury, but fair play to Rodney 'Dave' Ah You for having a great season out west and getting to train with the big boys in January!
Original: Donnacha Ryan & Paul O'Connell
Current: Devin Toner & Paul O'Connell
What I got right: Paul O'Connell. Obvz.
What I got wrong: Devin Toner? I thought he'd give it a go but I don't think anyone predicted just how good a season he would have! Credit to Dan Tuohy too for a good showing. Obviously Ryan was unlucky with injury, but Mike McCarthy didn't really show up this year.
Original: Peter O'Mahony, Sean O'Brien & Jamie Heaslip
Current: Sean O'Brien, Chris Henry & Jamie Heaslip
Right: Pretty much got this one bang on actually! It must be noted that O'Mahony is left out of the current one because he's injured and that my first post mentioned all four of these players as my back row options for the season. I even mentioned that I thought Henderson would see some game time at 6.
Passing mention was given to Tommy O'Donnell and Jordi Murphy too.
Wrong: Enough gloating, could not have predicted just how well O'Mahony would get on this season!
Original: Conor Murray
Current: Conor Murray
Right: Wasn't a hard one to call really, and I'd still stick with Reddan on the bench because he's playing great rugby. I suggested Marmion would push one of Reddan or Boss out of the top three based on age profile and I'm sticking with that call as Boss hasn't had the greatest season.
Also, thinking that Paul Marshall could miss his chance to make a mark, he probably has.
Wrong: Thinking Cathal Sheridan would displace Duncan Williams at Munster. It turns out Duncan Williams can really play and I would like to retract everything bad I ever said about the guy. There, I said it, I feel better...
Original: Jonny Sexton
Current: Jonny Sexton
Wrong: Ian Madigan did not kick on as expected and claim the reserve spot. As far as I'm concerned, Paddy Jackson is firmly in place as the number two, even if Madigan is more versatile off the bench.
Original: Stuart Olding & Brian O'Driscoll
Current: Gordon D'Arcy & Brian O'Driscoll
Wrong: I was so terribly wrong about Darce being past it! I should have known, he's been proving people wrong for so many years now. As far as Olding goes, he was my wildcard selection thrown in for interests sake and I like to think he would have been in contention if it weren't for a season-ending injury.
Original: Simon Zebo, Craig Gilroy & Rob Kearney
Current: Dave Kearney, Andrew Trimble & Rob Kearney
Right: Rob Kearney. Although, I did say I thought he was in only on reputation and that his form wasn't really up to scratch, but he's had a great season.
Also, I said that McFadden would make the bench a lot because of his work ethic and that Henshaw would get a look-in somewhere.
Wrong: Pretty much everything else! I originally went for the glamour pairing on the wings and I didn't even give a mention to the two solid lads who were outstanding in the Six Nations! I don't think anyone could have predicted just how well Trimble would perform, or that he would keep a fit Tommy Bowe out of the team. Magical selection calls really, and ones that really do prove you have to be inside a training camp to really see who merits selection.
And on that rather sombre note I will sign off, here's to a Grand Slam in a World Cup Year and all our dreams for 2015 coming true!
1: Cian Healy
2: Rory Best
3: Mike Ross
4: Donnacha Ryan
5: Paul O’Connell
6: Peter O’Mahony
7: Sean O’Brien
8: Jamie Heaslip
9: Conor Murray
10: Jonny Sexton
11: Simon Zebo
12: Stuart Olding
13: Brian O’Driscoll
14: Craig Gilroy
15: Rob Kearney
16: Mike Sherry
17: Dave Kilcoyne
18: Jamie Hagan
19: Ian Henderson
20: Chris Henry
21: Eoin Reddan
22: Ian Madigan
23: Fergus McFadden
Connachtman [@connachtman87] - sometime blogger, long time reader, avid supporter of Connacht rugby against all odds and in any weather.
Many thanks to Connachtman for his contributions throughout the season…next week on Let The Schmidt Hit The Fan we hear from our Leinster blogger Iain O’Connor.