Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Is There A Credible Threat To Ireland's 6 Nations Crown?

Although for some of the 6 Nations teams, there is still another game to go in the Autumn Internationals, let’s have a rapid look at what’s happened so far and see if there is a credible threat perceived or real to “Saint Joe” and the boys retaining our crown in the 6 Nations following our (overall) fantastic 3 match series success.

Firstly though, a huge well done to Joe and all the Irish Squad, backroom staff and fans for their unswerving support and continued growth in Irish rugby. I know Joe sees it as a “distraction” and part of that is the type of man he is, not comfortable I’ve always felt with being lauded and praised when he has success, which says so much about him as a coach and a person, however on his (and our) behalf, I’ll say it…………..WE ARE NUMBER THREE IN THE BLOODY WORLD. WELL DONE JOE AND THE BOYS!!!!!!!!!!!!! Also, huge best wishes  go out to Joe and hope all gets better soon. Wish everyone could deal with things as strongly as Joe did over his appendix. #MANUPLIKEJOE

Soooooooooo, the threats;


Overall: The Azzurri continue to improve at national level but it’s not enough. They play with heart, passion and spirit (as Leinster found out against Treviso last weekend!) but it’s not enough (Yep I know I’ve said it twice). They have a strong scrum with Martin CASTROGIOVANNI propping, get into positions for kickable penalties but never REALLY look like scoring a successive number of tries.  
Donkeys: No-one stands out. The points I covered about sums the entire team up…….It’s not enough!
Game Changers: Again none that REALLY stand out. New Zealand born Fly Half Kelly HAIMONA puts points over given the opportunities. Ghiraldini the hooker tackles hard, carries and throws some excellent darts. Here is a hooker who understands the requirements of a hooker to hook! (Stop me if I get too technical!!) oh and Sergio PARISSE is still a world class player and leader
Threat Level: 1 out of 5 (It’s not enough)


Overall: For me the Welsh problem will continue. They are a poor side to watch currently. Poor passing, hard running at opposition which failed miserably against Southern Hemisphere sides and no Plan B. With circa 20K empty seats for the game against Australia, that tells me there’s still a huge issue with Welsh rugby.
Donkeys: Warren GATLAND! Ruining every Welsh persons day by still being coach and I genuinely believe that’s having an effect on players.
Game Changers: George NORTH – Strong, Fast, Vison, intimate knowledge and understanding of every position on the park. Can read a game so well. Danger Danger Danger!
Threat Level: 1 out of 5


Overall: Scotland are slowly improving. New coach Vern COTTER has them playing with belief, openness and an attacking mindset. In the game against Tonga, LAIDLAW kicked for touch entirely in the first half instead of the usual mundane posts. That and aggressive lineouts/mauls signals a major change in the way Scotland are beginning to play.
Donkeys: None really. Prop CROSS has been told by COTTER to up his game and claim a starting spot outright as I think MURRAY and DICKONSONs days may be numbered in the front row but there’s none who really stand out as being game losers.
Game Changers: Vern COTTER – Yes I’m naming a coach as a game
changer! He is already showing the signs of a great 3coach by the way Scotland are adapting within the game. Scotland have a plethora of good talent, Tim VISSER, Alex DUNBAR, new flanker Blair COWEN and under the leadership of skipper LAIDLAW amongst seasoned talent but one does stand out. 20 year old Jonny GRAY brother of another Scottish lock, Ritchie GRAY. This guy is a true rising star. 9 tackles, 9 carries, some offloads and with his brother Ritchie, upset the All Blacks lineout in this series game.
Threat Level: 2.5 out of 5  


Overall: Flashes of individual and team excellence but not an overall 80 minute full display. Again you just never know which French team will turn up however Coach Philippe SAINT-ANDRES has given a host of new French (Well 4 French, 2 South Africans and a New Zealand born/ Samoa U20s back). The old conservative approach of France appears to be changing. There is a plethora of new coaching and back room staff and perhaps at last SAINT-ANDRES has realised time is running out for France. 
Donkeys: None really. Purely depends what mind-set for each player on the day will depend on how they get on as either an individual or as a team?
Game Changers:   Teddy THOMAS – A 21 year old tall strong winger with
electrifying pace. Scored 3 tries recently on his debut     against Fiji and followed that up in spectacular style with another against Australia. Leave even a slight overlap and he’ll be in!
Camille LOPEZ – Fly Half LOPEZ  has at last emerged in the French team but it’s taken France a couple of years to recognise this. A cool headed player with developing playmaking abilities. When it gels….it gels!!
Scott SPEDDING – 28 year old South African made 2 of the 3 tries for THOMAS against Fiji. Has a real impact at Full Back.
Threat Level: 3 out of 5 (Only cos of the THOMAS factor!)


Overall: All I have heard from England and coach LANCASTER is they are getting there, they need a little longer. I haven’t been impressed with them against serious opposition. Some strong individuals but poor overall game management and situational awareness. They have a lot to prove against Australia this weekend.
Donkeys: Owen FARRELL – Poor vision, lacks inventiveness, gets involved far too much in the ruck and above all pouts like a scolded schoolchild when it doesn’t go right always looking for something or someone else to blame. Hope they play him though!! 
Game Changers: George FORD – Inventive in attack and resolute in defence, he is strong in the tackle and creates both line breaks and opportunities.
Danny CARE – Now here is a No 9. Reminds me a little of Peter STRINGER. Small, has excellent all round vision and loves attacking the line. Quick tap n go a speciality. To be watched!
Anthony WATSON
Courtney LAWES – A strong powerful addition to any side. Great at the lineout, strong in the scrum and breakdown and can also carry. 
Chris ROBSHAW – Has gone up in my estimation. Great leadership, strong flanker and powerful metre carrying runner
Mike BROWN – A great rugby player. Fast, strong, running and inventive with plenty of vision. You can see he frustration from him at the lack of cohesiveness by the team.
Threat Level: 3 out of 5


??? Hey Big Fella……… How are the Irish possibly a threat to ourselves? Well we’re not really. We’ve just got to keep our feet on the ground, remember it’s still developing and there are 5 more games before the RWC 15. We have seen some players who let’s be honest if it wasn’t for the plethora of injuries, simply wouldn’t get a shot. Some have taken their opportunities and some haven’t. What does stand out is that once again Joe Schmidt has taken a group of mixed players, some seasoned and some new bloods and managed in a short space of time to develop an effective Irish Rugby Squad that is despite not always playing at their best (in some supporters eyes), still won a 3 – 0 autumn series win, turned over 2 out of 3 of the Southern Hemispheres finest and produced some exciting, tear making, red wine and Guinness drinking, chocolate eating, heart pounding, “badge on yer Irish jersey grabbing” moments we have seen for a long time (But then perhaps that’s just me!!)  
Threat Level: 4.5 out of 5

@bigjoeshep is the Owner and Head of Information & Knowledge Management atDigital Knowledge Zone.   An avid Leinster & Ireland Rugby fan, he came to rugby at the late age of 24, was a tight head prop, had at least 2 good runs in every game and retired at only 36 after 3 operations on his legs and now forms the 4th "virtual" person in a front row each time his beloved teams are playing (much to the annoyance of his suffering girlfriend who has to put up with being "embraced" by the Big Fella at each scrum!!!)


Taken by JLP from RDS press box on Nov 16, 2019