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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: August 2, 2011 @ 1:06 pm

    A few tears as Kidney seeks to peel the onion

    John O'Sullivan

    Ireland coach Declan Kidney has a good idea of the likely composition of the 30-man squad he will take to the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand next month. The public will be afforded a better insight over the next month as he selects teams for four tests and a game against Connacht in Donnybrook.

    It’s tempting to compare the process to peeling the layers of an onion until the core is revealed ahead of Ireland’s final pre-tournament outing against England at the Aviva stadium. Injuries notwithstanding, there are probably only a handful of places on the plane up for grabs: dictated too by a 17/13 (probable) or 16/14 forwards and backs split.

    The sequence of matches presents an opportunity for players to offer a persuasive argument through performance in forcing a reshuffle of a pecking order: management may then have to decide about whether form or class/reputation carries the greater import.

    Ireland are very well endowed in quality terms in many positions but there are one or two areas where an injury to a front-line player would be debilitating to their overall tournament prospects.

    The Scotland match on Saturday will allow Kidney to consider the current physical well being of a number of long term injury victims. Rob Kearney, Jerry Flannery and Geordan Murphy need game time to remove the rust of competitive inactivity. Training is important in terms of gauging the rehabilitation process but matches provide the polygraph of well being.

    Kidney has stated that all players are being considered and to this end it will be interesting to note whether young Munster scrumhalf Conor Murray and his provincial colleague Felix Jones are given an opportunity against the Scots.
    The match represents the ideal proving ground when considered against the fixture schedule in its entirety.

    Allocating cameos from the bench is a less scientifically revealing litmus test. There is huge competition at scrumhalf and in the three quarter line and fullback categories but it would be nice to consider the selection process a true run race.

    Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll will want to play but may not, Gordon D’Arcy can’t so Kidney has the option to look at a combination like Fergus McFadden and Luke Fitzgerald, McFadden and Gavin Duffy or McFadden and Keith Earls. Saturday may reveal whether players like Mike McCarthy, Brett Wilkinson and Damien Varley are more than just names on a list.

    The upcoming games must illuminate to a far greater extent than simply the results.

    Time to start peeling the onion.

    • Patrick Keating says:

      I note that Fergus McFadden is definitely playing inside centre. If D’Arcy is banjaxed, surely Kidney should have called up a replacement 12, like Downey. With Horgan and Spence in convalescence, an injury to McFadden and we’re without a recognised inside centre. Luke Fitz used to play there, but would anyone like to see him play there now, with his confidence half-shot?

    • part time punk says:

      I thought most people were thinking it would be a 16/14 split? Consensus seems to that a 17/13 split means a fifth prop, not one of our areas of greatest strength. If anything happens to Mike Ross we are up the creek anyway. The third choice scrumhalf and hooker positions are probably still not certainly known but are probably unlikely to feature much. Think it’s a bit late for any bolters but Murray might sneak in and could play/bench against Russia. But you’re absolutely right that the games need to be about more than the results.

    • Cranleigh says:

      Our centre partnership needs more mass. BOD and Darce have managed to get by without it but a less talented pair of similar size may have a torrid time down under. Downey might provide some of the ballast required.

    • Paul says:

      Downey is not international quality guys, but i see your points about the 12 spot being a problem. Maybe we might finally see a BOD and Earls or BOD and Bowe combo>

    • Mucky Tackies says:

      Will probably be shot down for suggesting it but BOD should have been moved to 12 by now. Though still peerless there, he hasnt the gas to burn as he once had. However he lacks nothing in the tackling capacity and his ability to put smeone through the gap is also brilliant. Meanwhile D’Arcy can consider himself blessed to have been born into a position inside such a great player; without him he’d not have amassed half the caps. Would have loved to have seen a BOD 12, Bowe 13 combination but will never eventuate now. Instead we now have no ready-made alternatives other than McFadden, untried at this level and Paddy “short odds on blowing it” Wallace.

    • Paul says:

      There’s been a problem brewing at 12-13 for the last few years. Eddie had no idea how to replace the Darce-BOD partnership. Here we are 4 years later and Kidney has no idea either. They’re good. And pressure from HQ to win every match means there is little room to test others in those positions.
      Here we are on the eve of another RWC with no plan B due to poor long term planning. We’re short on looseheads and likely to bring a 37 year old who has seen his best days. At second row we have a double HEC captain who is treated to 90 seconds every now and then. 12-13 is the sorest point because that’s where we have real talent.
      Poor planning will be the excuse this year with the coach putting blame on the Board for needing results.

    • donal says:

      lets face it lads…..Sexton is now the chief playmaker and BOD mainly a stopper.Bowe has to be left on the wing where he truly shines. hope Kidney has a surgical removal of wallace from his plans and shows off our great young players to the world.Donal

    • Kev Blue says:

      Fine and Dandy saying 12-13 is a problem that Kidney hasn’t sorted out long term but he hasn’t had to. BOD and Darce pick themselves if they’re fit and have been for and since the Slam. Dismissal of Paddy Wallace I can’t understand. Foolish, nearly devastating penalty aside (we all know which one) he was superb in the Slam and has been unlucky with injury since. His distribution alone is an asset at 12 and thats not even counting an excellant defensive gave. We have the flair to go far is this thing but the key thing is having to players to stop the opposing scoreboard ticking. If we can do that (and Ireland as a squad are very capable of it) then a lot of people are going to be looking very hard at how to stop us.

      As a side note. World cup Back Row. 6-Ferris 8-Heaslip 7-O’Brien(and yes he does have a best position……..All of them)

    • Cranleigh says:

      Many of our top choices for centre and wing lack pace. Ashton and Foden demonstrated that in the few chances they got during the HC final. I would like to see Horgan (if fit) at 14, Bowe at 13 and BOD at 12.

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