I suppose when a coach brings a squad of 31 to a major tournament, he wants to make sure they all get at least one game...and that's not just so that their mammies don’t hound him either. You never know when one may be called upon to perform due to injury, so they need to be match ready.
So while this matchday starting XV has the look of a “midweek Lions side” about it, we can be absolutely sure each and every one will be out there keen to show what they can do on a world stage, whatever the opposition.
At the team announcement Joe was asked if he thought the Romanian’s four-day turnaround constituted an “unfair advantage”...if anything was unfair I think it’s asking that question of the Ireland coach...why the hell should he care?
Now of course it is unfair on the Romanians not only to have two games in five days but to have them against the two best teams in their pool. Especially when you compare it to our own schedule, which let’s be honest looks as though it was forged in Carton House itself. A minimum 7-day turnaround for each match?
Well for one thing I don’t know why we’re even discussing this because I have already solved the turnaround problem as you can see here.
But we mustn’t forget that this “advantage” comes with its own pressures. There’s never much room for error in a Joe Schmidt playbook as it is, but should anything go wrong we certainly can’t have any qualms about how the competition has been put together from our point of view.
Clearly despite all the lineup changes the expectations we should be in for another big scoreline by the Irish in this match. As usually is the case, merely securing the five match points won’t be near enough for some, but they will be more than enough for me once we can afford to pay mind to player management.
Let’s not forget...if this pool goes to “form”, then when our final match against France kicks off, the other 18 teams at the tournament will know their fate making it a “Match of Death”, if you will. Nobody is saying Argentina will be easy in the quarters by a long stretch but compared to the All Blacks, well, you can answer that yourself.
Anywho...back to Sunday...one person I’m expecting a big outing from is Darren Cave. Having made the squad he would have naturally been disappointed not to be involved last weekend but now he gets his chance alongside his provincial team-mate Jared Payne. I expect the two to work well together, more on the defensive side of things of course, it IS a Schmidt team after all, but something tells me Cave could find himself dotting down at least once if not more.
If I’m to have any worries it will be over our back three. It hasn’t been a combination that has worked well together for us at all since the start of August and this trio in particular will know they will need to impress not only individually, but also in their roles as part of a unit. Provided of course nobody is injured, I’m wondering if we can read anything into the player Joe sends on Rob Kearney for - it could be a pointer as to who is being earmarked for the bigger contests to come.
And speaking of competition for places, how about the second row? Iain Henderson has certainly played his way into serious reckoning and there is much debate over whether he should start to replace Devin Toner or Peter O’Mahony. But I’m wondering if all this talk is fair on big Donnacha Ryan. This is an awesome opportunity for him to put himself back up near the top where he was before his long-term injury.
It’s one of those situations you often get in tour matches where two players are vying for similar spots in the main team yet for this contest must work together. Of course both are professionals so I’m not suggesting they will deliberately hamper each other...though if there ever happens to be a race between the two for a ball I’d say everyone else would need to get out of the way!!!
Then we have Cian Healy back in the number one jersey which, all due respect to the others who have played there, he will feel is his. I’ll be much more concerned for his fitness than his performance and I can see him being replaced around the 50m mark at the latest.
On our gameplan...if the Romanian pack is as good as everyone says it is (and to be fair we did see flashes of it against France) then it’s our job to both negate that threat and impose our own.
I can see Ian Madigan being given license to move the ball around taking opportunities where he sees them...he certainly seems to have come into this tournament in a good vein of form and after all the talk of whether he’ll also be covering 12, 15 or even 9, we can’t rule out the possibility that he could go through the tournament only ever playing out-half.
The bookies are less confident about our chances this week compared to last. Against Canada they had us winning by 41 points. This time, it’s “only” by 40. I’m still going to be conservative with my prediction but not by as much as last week, I’ll say a 32-point margin. But like I say, 5 points and no injuries would be mission accomplished for me.
Whether you’re at Wembley yourself, watching down your local rugby club, at home with your family, whatever...enjoy the match and let the boys know you’re behind them in every way you can. JLP
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ROMANIA : 15. Catalin Fercu 14. Adrian Apostol 13. Paula Kinikinilau 12. Csaba Gal 11. Ionut Botezatu 10. Michael Wiringi 9. Valentin Calafetean
1. Andrei Ursache, 2. Andrei Radoi, 3. Paulica Ion, 4. Valentin Poparlan , 5. Ovidiu Tonita, 6. Valentin Ursache, 7. Mihai Macovei (cpt) 8. Daniel Carpo
BENCH: 16. Mihaiță Lazăr, 17. Otar Turashvili, 18. Alexandru Tarus, 19. Johannes Van Heerden , 20. Stelian Burcea, 21. Florin Surugiu, 22. Florin Ionita, 23. Florin Vlaicu
Referee: Craig Joubert
Assistant Referees: Romain Poite, Leighton Hodges
Television Match Official: Shaun Veldsman
Rugby World Cup 2015 - Pool D
Sunday 27th September 2015, KO 16:45
Wembley Stadium, London
Live on TV3