Running a rugby website as I do, you can probably tell that I’m a bit of a fan. So it’d be safe enough to say I could stand by the statement “I can’t get enough rugby”, especially when it comes to Leinster & Ireland.
Still though...these weekends when both are playing can be a bit of a stretch on the aul’ schedule! Don’t worry...I’m not going to start harping on the rugby calendar again...I do that in a dedicated post but once per year, I’m just saying that particularly on a weekend when the round ball folks demonstrate they can separate the club and country versions it makes you wonder can we do the same.
Anywho...to the match at hand. And when we just look at this single 80-minutes of rugby on it’s own, it’s hard to deny that it’s a contest of WAYYYY more importance to England than it is to Ireland. This is their World Cup, on their soil, plus let us not forget it was originally their sport. And things are not rosy in their garden at all.
Even though the press across the water has been pretty much united behind the Stuart Lancaster tenure since he took over from Martin Johnson, the realities on the pitch cannot have filled fans, and more importantly the wider viewing public across the country, with a whole lot of confidence.
But a rake of newspaper headlines proclaiming victory over a heavily-fancied Ireland squad would most definitely ease the pressure on the squad’s preparations ahead of their tournament opener against the Fijians.
So not only have they selected a near-full-strength squad, I reckon that even with the risk of injury they really need to go for it on Saturday afternoon.
On our side of the equation, we need to be taking a much broader view. A second defeat in as many weeks would certainly not be ideal, and of course we probably dislike losing to this particular opposition more than we do last week’s (though the gap is narrowing! lol)
I didn’t offer a whole lot of opinion at the time of the squad selection - for one thing it was leaked like crazy the night before and for another, I feel I must stick to my overall theme of #TrustJoe.
But I will have a go at briefly exploring the decisions that probably attracted the most attention…
TRIMBLE’S EXCLUSION - He is of course extremely unlucky not to be in the squad. Had he stayed fit after the 2014 campaign there would be no need for a debate. But the fact remains, he didn’t and the timetable for his recovery just did not suit a coach who badly needs his players to be available for his training camp. The selection of Earls and Fitzgerald to start at 13 in the warmups provides the explanation for me why both were chosen ahead of AT - not that the Ulsterman can;t play there himself and I know he can, but rather they were able to do so when the time came. But be sure...if one winger gets so much as a sniffle and can’t play, AT will play a part at RWC2015
FURLONG - If nothing else he gives us the chance to use the word “bolter”!!! Big surprise and very tough on Michael Bent given the way the chatter has been going throughout the preseason but we can’t fault the youngster and best of luck to him. Clearly the coaches like what they see and he’ll get the opportunity to play loose head to show his ability to be a “prop-pelganger” (™) at a venue where we have been hurt before at the scrum.
MADS COVERING 9 - Personally I think wayyyy too much has been made of this by the mainstream meeja. Of course it’s a risk but we could only pick 31 names and every squad has to give and take for some positions. And it’s not as though we can’t call up Marmion or Boss if one from Murray and Reddan picks up a serious injury. But just last weekend we had Jordi playing centre, and we all remember when Peter O’Mahony got stuck out on the wing. It can happen, and there’s no harm being ready for it, and while it would hardly be ideal I reckon Madigan can do a decent job there if required.
So there we have it...the names have been chosen and all that remains for us to do is get fully behind the boys in green. I will be much more concerned with how the various combinations are working around the pitch tomorrow...we can probably expect Messrs Murray and Sexton to keep the play options simple but there will surely at least be the odd wraparound to bring 11 through 15 into the play and properly test the English D.
And as I said in my writeup of last Saturday’s match, I believe Devin Toner needs a really good outing this weekend. It’s not often someone who stands 6 foot 11 has someone “breathing down his neck” but Iain Henderson most certainly is, and while the lineout calls are of course important I wonder if the Ulsterman’s form is bringing him close to “must start” status.
Much like last week I reckon the score will be relatively low...the bookies have England by 6 but I think it could be tighter, I’m still plumping for a home win but only by 3, maybe 4.
Let me put it to you this way...I’d gladly take defeat on Saturday if I knew for sure this wouldn’t be Paulie’s last appearance in green at Twickenham. But here’s to an entertaining contest nonetheless. JLP
#ShoulderToShoulder #TrustJoe #4ProudProvinces