Kidney considering whether to wing it for the next day out
A long standing conundrum for Ireland has been whether to only pick individuals in their best positions or shoehorn them into the team to ensure the best 15 rugby players take the field.
The latter option tends to prevail. It is why specialist openside flankers tend to suffer in a straight fight against a more powerful backrower and wingers with natural pace tend to be overlooked for a Fergus McFadden or Andrew Trimble type player. Even Shane Horgan was a converted centre. It is the needs must argument that will always arise in a small playing pool. Such conundrums have become more complex for Declan Kidney after Saturday’s impressive gutting of the hapless, under-prepared Fijians. The two outstanding performers on the night were young Ulster pair Luke Marshall and Craig Gilroy. A natural born inside centre and winger respectively.
Two players who reflect the transitional period of Ireland rugby as they are unable to nail down Heineken Cup berths. On the evidence of the pairs controlled showing at Thomond Park, and despite the poor opposition, that could be about to change.
The question is whether Kidney is willing to speed up what looks an inevitable journey into the Test arena. “It’s a new time for Irish rugby, there is a whole new squad coming through,” Kidney said. “Some fellas got their chances and showed they want more of it.”
The issue of being unable to nail down a provincial jersey hindering Ireland selection, even for next week, doesn’t seen to relevant. The live debate now is whether Gilroy’s hat-trick and all round performance is enough to leap over Trimble and McFadden in the left wing pecking order.
“Craig is fighting for a place in Ulster, behind Andrew and Tommy [Bowe], but he is a really positive young man,” Kidney continued. “Himself and Luke – Luke probably hasn’t played a match in six weeks – so to come in and be as strong as that for 80 minutes, to create space, he is just a really positive young man.”
Gilroy has always possessed sprinter’s pace. His switch to left wing in the second half can be interpreted as a chance to check if can he operate there, should Kidney seek to select two natural born wingers. The coach will reveal the answers to that conundrum on Thursday.
“Let them fight it out. We’ve tried Fergus right and left and Craig has shown on the left but has also gone well for us on the right. Simon [Zebo] has been predominantly left wing and we talk about loosehead and tighthead, which is definitely a big topic of conversation, but there is a huge difference between left and right wing. It isn’t the same that you’re able to rock up, Tommy will tell you, he’ll hang onto 14 a lot easier than move out to 11 – that one has a lot of defensive nuances that 14 doesn’t have.” With man of the match Gilroy not made available for print interview, McFadden was asked about his mid-game swap from left to right wing.
“He just said at half-time he wanted both of us to have a run on the opposite wing just to have a look,” said McFadden. “You can only take that as a positive. Obviously he wants to give lads as much an opportunity in different positions to weigh up things ahead of next week and what’s the best combination he can go with.”