Kidney should note how Lancaster uses his bench for maximum impact
Given time and opportunity to build on the exciting new talent and integration work conducted thus far there is a bounce in this Ireland team. Just look at the reaction of the players: they expect more of themselves. Who is the best placed to unearth the bounce?
Add in Brian O’Driscoll: aside from his outstanding support lines on Sunday, his selfless clearing of rucks was immense – I lost count of the amount of times he powered his body at grass height to secure ball; the hunger burns deep, why go?
Last year I asked a very different question: who selects the best coach? To it I wonder what would keep O’Driscoll playing?
Either way, I’m not overly interested as “carpet bombing” is my current fascination. Carpet bombing is an extensive, systematic aerial bombing designed to devastate a large target so as to inflict damage to all and sundry.
When French outhalf Frederic Michalak stepped across the line on 52 minutes at Twickenham all I could think of was damage. He may provide a moment of brilliance in unlocking the English but will surely destroy everything French in his path. What, then, is his or any other “bench” player’s role?
The very last stroke of an oarsman is to get the boat across the line. The rugby bench, in rowing parlance, is designed to get the team roaring across the 80-minute line on maximum stroke. There are times a team wins and deserves criticism and there are times it loses and deserves praise, but last Sunday was different.
Stuart Lancaster has conditioned 23 players to keep pushing the boundaries right to the 80th minute. In fairness to Scotland, they finished much stronger than Ireland, who, under Kidney, have struggled to maximise the full time available for all three matches thus far. Why?
Of the eight subs available, six were used but just one was an impact one, and only one change (Dave Kilcoyne) was made to the physically toughest row on the pitch.
The Ireland bench, as represented by Seán Cronin’s role, is a flawed element of our process.
Ditto for Mike Ross.
Cronin is a class player and an amazing asset but his accuracy out of touch masks his general rugby.
With an underperforming lineout there are options; 1, shorten the numbers; 2, speed up the entry; 3, vary the movement/targets; 4, change the lineout manager; 5, ignore the best tactical location and simply get the ball without being concerned with future plays.
Finally, change the personnel therein.
No faith in his darts
In not bringing on Cronin, Kidney publicly admitted he had no faith in his darts because his fresh legs, ball-carrying and scrum would have certainly impacted. Why then have him on the bench? An injured Richardt Strauss has been an obvious answer but that, of course, misses the point.