Ireland will need all 23 to take down France's mobile monsters
Blindside Yannick Nyanga complements Maestri and will provide nightmares in the air for Ireland’s hookers.
Ross’s performance benchmarked to England’s Dan Cole will bring the Lions starting shirt into focus. Thomas Domingo murdered Cole at times, and often with only seven scrummaging.
Eight-man scrums from Ireland, especially early on, will be essential, with no swan-necking from the Irish wing forwards. They must scrum like never before and for McCarthy, expect nothing but scrum support for Ross. If he manages this and the very odd carry he’ll be doing extremely well.
Communication is a key element to any battle on the park, where the subtleties of influencing are honed over years. Typically, the leader chips away at the referee to gain those 50-50 calls. Most captains arrive into this position after years of captaining at various levels.
I was fascinated to read Jamie Heaslip this week – “When you come off the field as a player you analyse your own game, but as a captain you feel more responsible for the team” – as most natural leaders, captain or not, will be consumed by the team performance.
Learning his trade
Heaslip is learning this trade, which will take time. Tomorrow, however, major communication contributions must come from Ross and Conor Murray.
How Heaslip manages Australian Steve Walsh will be most interesting but better yet will the interaction between Walsh, Ross and Murray. Murray, in particular, must fully understand his role in protecting Ross. For this he requires knowledge on all aspects of Ross’s intentions to constantly feed and influence Walsh’s decisions. I will be amazed if Ross plays over 70 minutes as it is not possible to be effective and to survive.
What’s different between Mathieu Bastareaud, Florian Fritz and Wesley Fofana, as all three will see play in midfield? I would not like to tackle them but for different reasons. Bastareaud, off the bench, is not the best distributer and struggles in contact to manage possession but what a battering ram to have when all you have is four seconds!
Finally, best wishes to Fiona Coghlan and her team against the French in Ashbourne RFC tonight, a cracking lady deserving of a Grand Slam.
PS. Regarding Declan Kidney’s big decisions these past few weeks I trust that when his time comes the IRFU afford him more dignity in his exit than he displayed on Brian O’Driscoll’s captaincy and Ronan O’Gara’s career. The point isn’t “what’s best for the team” but how the decision is handled. O’Driscoll and O’Gara, no more than Kidney, deserve the utmost respect, which was not how it appeared. Pre the New Zealand tour was a prime time to plan both decisions and how best to choreograph the outcome. Instead both looked rushed and it was distasteful.