Ireland outmuscled by experience
Punches, headlocks and even a possible attempted head butt blithely carried on under the noses of the officials, and in the first-half the Springboks were in a particularly ill-disciplined and spiteful mood. Yet when James Heaslip validly highlighted Willem Alberts dropping his knee into a prostrate Jonny Sexton after the whistle Barnes informed the Irish captain that the persistence of his complaints “lacked credibility”.
That Scotland were buried under the latest mix of All Blacks’ brilliance by 51-22 yesterday means that Ireland’s top eight ranking and with it a second tier seeding for the World Cup draw is not under immediate threat.
That said, Argentina’s excellent 26-12 win away to a woeful Wales means the rendezvous with them in a fortnight’s time looms large, as it did in the November window prior to the World Cup draw four years ago.
Depending on how the Pumas go against France in Lille next Saturday, and Scotland at home to the Springboks, the possibility remains that Ireland and Argentina might yet merely be scrapping over seventh and eighth seedings; a relative minor detail in the greater scheme of things. Either way though, this team needs a win to come away from their latest month together with a feel good factor.
With those dastardly Pumas in mind, Declan Kidney might be in even more inclined to rest up some of his front-liners for next Saturday’s non-Test meeting with Fiji in Thomond Park, and he admitted he would have to weigh up the workload of players such as Cian Healy and Mike McCarthy, as well as the desire to invest in players such as Luke Marshall.
“I have that plan in my mind but Luke has come in and there’s an onus on us to plan for the future as well but you have to get a few wins under your belt right now then too leading into the Six Nations.
“So it would be handy to get two wins now to give us a bit of momentum into the Six Nations. But Luke has trained with us for the last fortnight and he’ll definitely be one of the fellas in the mix as will the whole squad that we brought in.They’ve gone about their business well.”
While it might be an opportunity to give Jamie Heaslip another run as captain the expectation must be then that as well as Luke Marshall, players such as Seán Cronin, Michael Bent, Dan Tuohy, Paul Marshall, Paddy Jackson and Darren Cave will be given a run, with a strong bench comprised mostly of players who started last Saturday.
But there will be no return for any of the absent front-liners, with Kidney confirming that Paul O’Connell will not be involved against Argentina.