A few tears as Kidney seeks to peel the onion
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.