Hayes not the right option for Kidney
As always with Declan Kidney’s squad selections, there was a certain amount of head-scratching around these parts when the panel for the Six Nations was announced this afternoon. The headline news was the jettisoning of Munster’s Tomás O’Leary and Tony Buckley. O’Leary has every right feel slightly hard done by, Buckley less so.
There is a school of thought that O’Leary hasn’t actually done all that much wrong and could play his way back into the reckoning with a couple of eye-catching performances for the Wolfhounds. Kidney has never been Eoin Reddan’s number one fan and while Peter Stringer is enjoying an Indian summer in his career, an in-form O’Leary brings something different to the party.
Buckley, on the other hand, has seen his stock plummet dramatically over the last two months and will struggle to revive a flagging international career. Hailed as the future as recently as the autumn internationals, the prop has been pilloried as the Munster scrum crumbled.
So much so, that Munster were forced to turn to John Hayes in a vain effort to shore up their set-piece last weekend. That Hayes struggled every bit as much as Buckley appears to have been lost on Kidney and makes the veteran’s inclusion in this squad all the more baffling.
While Mike Ross is likely to get his chance, once again Hayes will be asked to go to the well but to what end? Without wishing to be unkind to one of Irish rugby’s greatest servants, Hayes turned 37 last November and, for all his merits, was never anything more than an average scrummager. Surely the time has come to put the Bull out to pasture and bring in the likes of Jamie Hagan into the camp.
The inclusion of Rhys Ruddock is another curiosity. Yes, Ruddock is one for the future, but is Dominic Ryan – favoured, and with some justification, by Joe Schmidt at Leinster – not more worthy of a place in the senior squad? And with six backrow forwards ahead of them in the pecking order, neither Ruddock or new boy Mike McCarthy are likely to see any meaningful action this spring.
Finally, Dan Tuohy’s omission is likely to rankle among Ravenhill’s proud Ulstermen and with good cause. Having said that, Paddy Wallace can count himself fortunate to keep Fergus McFadden in the Wolfhounds.