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What the papers say on Ireland 6 Nations

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    Originally posted by bazzyg View Post
    Not everything has to be read between the lines, thanks for the lesson all the same.
    That's true of course. But when there are no facts reported in a piece you have to ask why it was written at all?

    And everyone in power keeps pet journalists at the newspapers and broadcast media. Many journos trade this off in return for scoops.
    Munster – Champions of Europe 2006, 2008, 2021.


      Gatland goes fishing but Kidney doesn’t bite

      By Simon Lewis, London
      Thursday, January 26, 2012
      Wales coach Warren Gatland has warned his players to expect a Six Nations backlash from Ireland when the Celtic nations renew rivalries following their World Cup quarter-final clash.
      Declan Kidney’s side host the Welsh in their RBS 6 Nations opener at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday, February 5, their first meeting since Gatland’s team beat the Irish in Wellington last October to reach the World Cup semi-finals.

      Yet despite distancing himself from his previous penchant for hurling verbal grenades in the direction of opposition teams and coaches ahead of big games, former Ireland coach Gatland suggested Wales had not got the credit their performance deserved in defeating the Irish 22-10. "I think they probably weren’t allowed to play that day," Gatland said at the RBS 6 Nations launch in London yesterday.

      "I think the way we prepared in that quarter-final, tactically, we did our homework. We tried to stop the Irish kicking game and our loose forwards were absolutely outstanding.

      "We knew how key [Sean] O’Brien was to the Irish team — he made 23 carries for 24 metres, while normally that would be worth 200m. We knew the key Irish players we needed to stop and we just got everything right on the day and we were incredibly motivated. Having said that, Ireland could have scored a couple of other tries while we too our chances and started well and it was an outstanding performance from Wales on the day."

      Gatland continued to rub in the quarter-final defeat when asked what he was expecting in Dublin on Sunday week.

      "I’m expecting a backlash from Ireland because when they lose, it’s almost backs to the wall, like a payback-revenge situation with Irish teams. So I’m expecting that from them on the back of the three provinces doing extremely well.

      "It’s important you don’t give them any additional motivation to go and perform and there’s no bigger indication of that than when England went last year to win the Grand Slam and got completely outplayed by them in a fantastic Irish performance on the day.

      "So we don’t want to give them too much motivation. They will be disappointed and thinking back to the World Cup and wanting to rectify that result and the criticism that not just the players but the coaches received after that."

      Attending the same event, current Ireland head coach downplayed Gatland’s talk of a backlash and dismissed his analysis of Sean O’Brien’s ball-carrying.

      "We’re very aware of what happened," Kidney said of the World Cup defeat. "All these statistical nuances can be thrown out if you want. "I’m sure they’ll look to do that. We’ll just prepare in our own way.

      "I wouldn’t comment on any other coach’s comments. I’m sure we’d have a bit of craic ourselves but I’m not sure what Warren means by that."

      As for an Irish backlash, Kidney added: "We’ll just try and play as well as we can. I am sure we will be expecting a more emphatic performance from Wales.

      "I wouldn’t be going tit for tat or anything like that. It’s the start of a new competition. You have to hold your hands up. They played better than we did, you’ve just got to move on to the next one.

      "It’s just like championship hurling or football back home. You just move on to next year’s championship."

      Read more:
      Excellence is hard to keep quite - Sherrie Coale


        Continuity pleases O’Connell

        By Simon Lewis
        Thursday, January 26, 2012
        Ireland’s Six Nations captain Paul O’Connell has endorsed coach Declan Kidney’s policy of selection continuity ahead of the 2012 championship.
        Kidney’s selection of a senior training squad, all of whom featured in last autumn’s run to the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals, received criticism in many quarters last week for being overly conservative.

        Yet with three of the six teams going into the RBS 6 Nations with new head coaches and the attendant turnover of playing personnel, O’Connell said he believed continuity would hold Ireland in good stead.

        "It is important," O’Connell said at yesterday’s RBS 6 Nations launch in London. "When new staff come in it gives a team a lift and obviously we won the Grand Slam in Declan and the lads’ first year.

        "It’s hard to say but for us we’re certainly in a good position; we’ve a few injuries but by and large a lot of the guys that have been playing well for the provinces are available and are going to be playing in the next few weeks.

        "We know each other very well. We know the staff. We know what they want from us as well: a few little changes as you always have to do. You always have to evolve and make a few tweaks. There is no doubt that kind of settled atmosphere we have will be good for us, and I think the way the provinces have been going and the hunger guys are showing when they play is a good thing as well and should be brought into the Six Nations."

        Ireland kick off their campaign by hosting their World Cup quarter-final conquerors Wales at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday, February 5, and O’Connell highlighted the importance of gaining early momentum to making the championship a successful one.

        "Well it’s great to be starting at home and momentum does play a massive part in the competition," he said. "If you get a big result early on it does put you in a great position. So if we can get a good result against Wales in that first game, it would put us in a great position.

        "It then gets tough again, we go away to France and the games certainly don’t get any easier. So it would be great to get off to a winning start against Wales, that would really give us a massive lift."

        Ireland finished last year’s championship with the outstanding performance of the competition when they derailed England’s hopes of a Grand Slam in Dublin but a nervy win in Italy started a campaign riddled with inconsistency and the Munster second row said putting that right is a top priority.

        "Certainly that’s the goal. Last year we played in fits and starts. I think we played some great rugby at times in the games before that England game. The England game was probably the only game we really put it together for 80 minutes.

        "And that’s the challenge. I think we have great players, there is no doubt we are going to play great rugby but we have to do it consistently and we’ve got to do it for 80 minutes. That’s the challenge for us. That’s the big thing for us, to play at the level we can play at, to play at our potential throughout the tournament."

        O’Connell assumes the Irish captaincy from the injured Brian O’Driscoll and he acknowledged the outside centre would be a significant loss to his side.

        "It’s a big gap. He’s been captain for the last nine years and it will be strange not having him on the pitch or around the dressing room or the team environment.

        "It’s going to be a big change for a lot of us that have really probably been used to piggy-backing on so much of his good work.

        "I do think experience-wise we are in a good position to cope with it. The success of the provinces in recent years with Munster and Leinster, the success of the provinces this year and the success of Ireland in the past [means] there is a lot more experience there than there used to be.

        "There is a lot of leadership in the side. The way Brian used to do things, there was always five or six guys always being consulted and helping out with running the team. That will continue and I just think there is a lot of experience to cope with it. Not many teams can cope with losing someone of his experience and his ability as a player but I think we’re not in too bad a position to deal with it."

        Read more:
        Excellence is hard to keep quite - Sherrie Coale


          Trimble keeps the faith in delivering for Ireland
          By David Kelly

          Thursday January 26 2012

          It took him a few minutes to realise it but after Andrew Trimble woke up last Sunday, winced at the latest collection of bruises assembled from foreign fields and downloaded his schedule, there it was.


          "Damn," muttered Trimble quietly to himself. If he was feeling paranoid, like many of his provincial colleagues, he'd think that this was the latest attempt to cold-shoulder Ulster.

          "I hadn't thought about that!" he laughs.

          But then he thinks of the silver cloud. Tom Court would be doing the driving.

          "It's more of a trek than it usually is," says Trimble. "It's not ideal. There seem to be a lot more camps in Limerick than in Belfast. We're not surprised at this stage, but I don't think we'll read that much into it!"

          The Coleraine boy doesn't mind. A scorching presence in Ulster's second successive qualification for the Heineken Cup quarter-finals filled the car with enough renewed verve to banish the relative disappointment of defeat in Clermont Auvergne.

          As he met up with his Irish colleagues on Monday night in Castletroy, he did so as an equal once more. All three leading Irish provinces are in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals.

          Where once he used to sit outside the conversations of his Leinster and Munster colleagues who would chatter away feverishly about their respective triumphs, now he can stick his chest out and immerse himself in the talk.

          "Usually we're focusing on beating Connacht to qualify for the thing," he reflects ruefully.

          In some quarters, there remains a school of thought that Ulster's presence on the international team is tokenistic, almost as if positive discrimination pertained.

          The southern media's relative dismissal of them effectively enfranchises the mindset.

          "That attitude is in the past," he says hopefully. "The sooner we get away from that the better. But we recognise that Leinster and Munster are rated one and two and we're third. That perception is difficult to change and it takes us going to Limerick in a quarter-final and getting a win to change that attitude."

          A decade of Ulster failure in Europe hardly helped their cause, though.

          Last weekend, before Connacht's surprise win confirmed Ulster's passage to the last eight before a ball was kicked in the Stade Michelin, Trimble bumped into an old pal of his whose face bore the relief that Ulster might get a favour from elsewhere.

          The encouragement was well-meaning, but privately it offended Trimble.

          "We're fed up of scraping through, just hanging in there, being the third province. As much as we want to get through, we wanted to win in France and get a home quarter-final.

          "We're very ambitious. I don't think our mindset had been changed by already qualifying. We want to turn heads, like we did against Leicester. We want to be a team that produces big performances like Munster and Leinster.

          "There's a massive change in mindset in the last 12 months. Last year, we had already accomplished goals and it was like we were happy to be there. That was a shame because we could have won that. But we're massively motivated this time around. We want to win the Heineken Cup and winning in Thomond Park is part of that."

          That burning desire will switch to Ireland this week. Unfairly, and a bit like Ulster, it has rarely seemed like Trimble fully belonged.

          All this despite making his Ireland debut against Australia a mere eight games into his senior career; despite his 41 caps and his 27 years; despite tries in France, New Zealand and against South Africa and despite a role in the centre.

          When Ireland's established fliers have been fit, from Horgan and Hickie through to Earls and Fitzgerald, Trimble has remained in the wings, not on them.

          He has made a World Cup when Tommy Bowe didn't, deputised for Gordon D'Arcy and Brian O'Driscoll several times when others couldn't.

          But when Ireland's Grand Slam moment arrived, Trimble watched frustratedly from the sidelines.

          Once more, it seems, he will start for Ireland, against Wales in the Six Nations opener, but only because of another's absence, as O'Driscoll's injury forces one of the back three (presumably Earls) inside.

          "I want to start, that will never change," he says. "I'm aware of how competitive it is. I can't control how other guys are playing or how the team is selected.

          "All I can do is play well. It's a fairly simple approach for me.

          "I'm confident in how I'm playing, I'm really pleased, but I don't want to second-guess anyone and get my hopes up."

          The World Cup rematch with Wales is on a Sunday. Unlike Scotland's Euan Murray, who caused quite a flutter with his decision not to play for his country on the Sabbath, Trimble opts not to express his committed Christianity in that way.

          Although he devoutly believes that his faith is vastly more important to his rugby career -- he often recites Psalm 84 to himself to re-assert his devotion to his God -- the two never meet.

          When he struggled to deal with his rehabilitation from the serious leg injury last year, Trimble's self-confidence plummeted to desperate levels. An ignorant outsider might question whether or not he might have plundered some spiritual resources from the well of his faith? But religion does not work like an ATM.

          "I see them as two separate things," he stresses. "It was tempting for me to think after a couple of bad performances, 'are you really a good player?' It's mind games and you ask yourself stupid questions.

          "But I don't know if it's anything to do with faith. If you've a strong faith in God, it has no bearing on whether you're a good rugby player or not.

          "I don't see how you could use it. Like it sounds strange to even say that -- use your faith? They're two separate things. I could be a crap rugby player! There are no parallels there at all, no overlap. Maybe for some people, but not for me."

          The Irish team are respectful of his beliefs, but he is not immune to the exigencies of group slagging. His conflicting view to Murray has led Donncha O'Callaghan to question whether his is a yellow-pack religion.

          Yet he has never forced his views down people's throats. Although not an NFL fan, Paddy Wallace sent him the YouTube video of Tim Tebow when his helmet was mic'd-up.

          "It's funny. He's saying we're definitely going to win. It sounds like a faith-influenced thing. I don't really see how that is the case, but then I suppose everybody's faith is unique to them.

          "I don't see just because you're a Christian and you believe in God that you're going to win the game. I don't understand that because logically it makes no sense. I mean, surely there's a guy on the losing team who could be thinking the same thing?

          "That certainly wouldn't be the way I'd think. I didn't think we had any right to win the game at the weekend just because God told me it was going to be that way."

          Just like when we wanted Tom Watson to beat another devout Christian, Stewart Cink, at Turnberry, it wasn't to spite God. We just wanted the underdog to win.

          The implication of moral conceit when winners claim the support of God doesn't annoy Trimble too much, rather it amuses him.

          "You see people being interviewed after winning the Super Bowl or a major golf championship and they say they want to thank God first of all.

          "I don't know if there's anything in that. But I suppose the idea of winning becomes synonymous with God -- and that's not right either."

          Trimble's faith in his own ability has nothing to do with religion. Instead, he would prefer to concentrate on more earthly matters for now, with that Welsh grudge match edging ever closer and the opportunity to cast aside a World Cup disappointment.

          "Because of the Heineken Cup, everyone has their chests out and we're looking forward to the Six Nations. Hopefully, it can be a memorable championship for us."

          And Trimble is intent on becoming an integral part of that challenge.

          - David Kelly

          Irish Independent
          Excellence is hard to keep quite - Sherrie Coale


            Jeez, how at odds is Kelly's copy with Trimble's quotes in that article? What an odious piece of journalism.


              Originally posted by thoughtless View Post
              Jeez, how at odds is Kelly's copy with Trimble's quotes in that article? What an odious piece of journalism.
              It's yet another reason to ditch the Indo and move to the coverage on the Irish times.
              "If we hit that bullseye, the rest of the dominoes will fall like a house of cards - checkmate!" Zapp Brannigan


                'If we try and do the same thing again we're only asking for trouble'
                Tuesday January 31 2012

                THE Carton House waiter delivers the pot of tea to the table. "Thank you, could I charge that to my room, please?"

                "Certainly, sir, what name shall I put down?"


                Two Heineken Cups, a Grand Slam and a seminal World Cup victory over Australia... it is fair to say Declan Kidney still enjoys a degree of anonymity far beneath his level of achievement. Just the way the he likes it.

                Coaching has never been a vanity exercise for Kidney. The motivation has always been the challenge of getting the best out of his players.

                Days away from his fourth Six Nations campaign, Kidney is back in camp and plotting the downfall of Wales -- a fixture which carries extra motivation after the World Cup quarter-final defeat in Wellington (not to mention last season's larceny in Cardiff). And, as he discusses the various issues that have arisen in the four months since Ireland's New Zealand exit, it is clear he is buzzing again.

                A couple of weeks ago, Kidney was lambasted for a "conservative" Six Nations selection, with 24 names drawn exclusively from the World Cup party and no room for in-form players such as Peter O'Mahony, Dan Tuohy and Chris Henry, while the absence of Luke Fitzgerald, before the extent of his injury problems were made public, was the biggest stick aimed in his direction.

                O'Mahony, Tuohy and Henry were all included in yesterday's 32-man Six Nations group and Kidney is keen to explain his selection thought-process.

                "I could have showboated at the start -- the easier thing for me to do would have been to name the squad I named today two weeks ago. That would have been looking after myself, but I wanted to look after the Wolfhounds," he said.

                "We lost an 'A' game to Scotland a few years ago just before the Six Nations by 50-odd points -- that doesn't do anyone any good. I was making damn sure that didn't happen again. We needed to be competitive the other night against England and, though we lost the game, we were competitive.

                "We didn't call a press conference -- people were in provincial mode, it was a big Heineken Cup week -- but this was always the plan. I picked the fellas who were fit from the World Cup in the senior squad, our next best team was picked to play for the 'A' side against England, and the other six guys were brought in to gain experience.

                "And now we have the 30 for the Six Nations and there were a few tight calls. You have to manage it very carefully, letting guys out of camp to go and play with their provinces in the Rabo because seven weeks is a long time and you might need them in week six or seven -- so we might do a bit of rotation that way."

                "I took a hit by not naming him in the original squad but there is a right way to do it and there was always a good chance of Luke not playing in rounds five and six of the Heineken Cup. He was always going to need a game and I was in touch with him. Naming him in the senior squad would have been looking after myself. Unfortunately, Luke is not fit to train with us this week either."

                "Other than young (David) McSharry in Connacht, the two Irish guys playing 12 were Gordon (D'Arcy) and Paddy. Paddy merited his place, I don't think anyone would complain about the way he played for Ulster against Leicester."

                "Yeah, but what do you do? The three scrum-halves (Conor Murray, Eoin Reddan and Isaac Boss) have been going well and you don't throw Tomas away -- he played his best 30 minutes for quite some months for the Wolfhounds. It was hard on Paul but you never rule out any player in the system. If you're playing provincially, you're in the mix, you have to be."

                "We got a day wrong at the World Cup and we put our hands up, you get days wrong sometimes and you just have to get on with it. In sport, it is about moving on to the next championship.

                "We had a bad day but I have enough of those types of days under my belt, between two Heineken Cup final defeats with Munster, losing to Scotland a couple of years ago when it cost us a Triple Crown, so there is no point sitting around feeling sorry for yourself."

                The need to keep up in the rankings ahead of the World Cup seedings later this year has led to several predictions of a win-at-all-costs approach but Kidney is adamant that Ireland will be looking to expand their game from the World Cup.

                "There were very good elements to the World Cup but if you try and do the same thing again you are only asking for trouble.

                "As a coaching team, we have always tried to move things on, you need to keep evolving all the time. We have been working to bring in nuances, giving ourselves different options.

                "Brian (O'Driscoll) isn't there which is change straight away and, whereas at the World Cup there were certain selection criteria such as three scrum-halves, three hookers and so on, a Six Nations squad is different personnel-wise and that brings its own dynamic."

                "There are not many fellas who would have put themselves through what Brian did at the World Cup. It is strange to be going into a Six Nations without him but he wouldn't want me approaching this worrying about what are we going to do without him. We are all here for a short while."

                "They are going to turn up very powerfully. They were together for two more matches at the World Cup and they would have had two weeks together as well between Heineken Cup rounds two and three because they had another Test against Australia.

                "They are the facts, four more weeks together than we have had. Two weeks of that is our own fault, two weeks is down to how Wales run their rugby against how we run our rugby.

                "We had to take a look at what happened against them at the World Cup. It was not through lack of effort -- they took the chances that came their way better than we did. They play a tough game. If we both play the same way again, they will win on Sunday."

                Lose to Wales on Sunday, with France up six days later in Paris, and this tournament could slip away from Kidney and Ireland very quickly. On the back of the World Cup disappointment, there is the potential for the most pressure he has experienced since taking over nearly four years ago.

                However, for Kidney, the greatest pressure comes from within.

                "There is pressure on you every day in this job, you just want to give it the best you can. I would never be flippant about it. We are disappointed with the World Cup defeat as much as everyone else, so we want to get it right as much as everyone else does.

                "So, what is the meaning of extra pressure? You can't be under more pressure when you are already under so much pressure to win.

                "I was honoured to be asked to do this. I have been asked to stay on and, some day, I will be asked to leave but ... I love it."

                "Next weekend ... that is all there is."

                Irish Independent
                Excellence is hard to keep quite - Sherrie Coale


                  Is BOD around the squad in any capacity does anyone know (Benji normally has the best track) or is he completely out of it?


                    Originally posted by McCloud View Post
                    The Irish Times - Wednesday, January 25, 2012

                    Kidney has one foot in Lions den
                    GERRY THORNLEY, Rugby Correspondent, in Limerick

                    This will be the first campaign without Brian O’Driscoll since the old Five Nations in 1999, and Kidney conceded: “You don’t lose one of the best players in the world and it not have an effect on and off pitch.”

                    But while they would be remaining in contact, there were no plans for him to have a direct role.

                    “He’s given everything to the team – and in future he’ll do so again. He knows someone has to come in and fill that 13 shirt, (and) sometimes by having him around that would make it harder.”
                    there you go PP...
                    He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck either, but a real duck that was actually lame. Maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.


                      Originally posted by i_like_cake View Post
                      there you go PP...
                      Thank you! Sorry,silly fecker not to read that.


                        Ireland look for O'Driscoll replacement

                        Wednesday, February 01, 2012 - 07:06 AM

                        All eyes will be on Brian O’Driscoll’s replacement at outside centre when Ireland name their team for the RBS 6 Nations clash with Wales at lunchtime today.

                        O’Driscoll has been ruled out of the entire championship after undergoing shoulder surgery, leaving a void in the position he has filled with such distinction since 2009.

                        Coach Declan Kidney last week stated his replacement would be one of Keith Earls, Fergus McFadden, Tommy Bowe or Andrew Trimble.

                        Mark Tainton, Ireland’s kicking coach who alongside Les Kiss has taken on greater responsibility for the backs, insists the chosen player should not be over-awed by the jersey.

                        “We’ve been looking at combinations and have a pretty good idea of who’ll be starting at 13,” Tainton said.

                        “Whoever is named at 13 for Sunday will obviously be playing on merit. He just needs that total belief in his ability to fill that role.

                        “Whoever it may be will have been playing in that position for his province or club this season and shouldn’t do anything different to what he’s been doing. He doesn’t need to try and be something he isn’t.”

                        Jonathan Sexton and Ronan O’Gara are competing for the fly-half duties after impressing for their provinces in this season’s Heineken Cup.

                        It is Sexton, however, who appears to have crept ahead with his greater versatility and youth nudging out the player who started last autumn’s World Cup quarter-final defeat by Wales.

                        “Jonathan and Ronan are playing very well for their provinces and we’re in the lucky position of having two 10s who are operating at the top of their games,” Tainton said.

                        “Whoever gets the 10 jersey, I’m sure they’ll do well.”

                        There could also be a change in the second row where Donnacha Ryan may replace Donncha O’Callaghan.

                        Luke Fitzgerald has an outside chance of being available for the second match of the campaign against France.

                        Fitzgerald was omitted from the 32-man squad named ahead of Sunday’s opener against Wales in Dublin as he continues his rehabilitation from a neck injury.

                        But 24-year-old Leinster winger is expected to be available for selection within one to two weeks.

                        Read more:
                        Excellence is hard to keep quite - Sherrie Coale


                          Kidney looking to spark an evolution
                          By Hugh Farrelly

                          Wednesday February 01 2012

                          IT was encouraging to hear Ireland coach Declan Kidney speak so earnestly this week about the need to evolve post-World Cup.

                          Ireland's scintillating progress through the pool stages, headlined by the win over Australia, ensured there would be no 2007-style evisceration of players or coaches in the aftermath. However, the nature of the quarter-final defeat in Wellington, when Kidney's men were blown away by the vibrancy and fluency of the Welsh, stressed the overwhelming need to kick on.

                          Backs coach Alan Gaffney has departed and Les Kiss is charged with bringing his innovation to bear on attack as well as defence. This double-jobbing brief is not unique in Kidney coaching units, and Tony McGahan's dual assistant role on Munster's surge to the Heineken Cup title in 2008 provides positive precedent.

                          With this backdrop, while there were many things to take satisfaction from at the World Cup, Kidney was definite about the need for improvement in this Six Nations, dismissing the notion that it would simply be a case of trying to replicate what worked against Australia and Italy.

                          "We knew from the Wales match that there are some areas of defence that we have to tighten up, that was most unlike us, but we have also been looking to broaden the attacking options," said Kidney.

                          "You can't pre-determine plays based on where you are, decisions have to be made on the pitch. When you are a ball carrier, you should have at least two if not three options for leaving the ball off. We have worked on that and on our awareness of that."

                          Good to hear, but that is not to say we should anticipate a gung-ho approach when Ireland run out for their Welsh rematch on Sunday, far from it. The World Cup rankings prerogative is one immediate reason why not but what we should expect is a more nuanced attacking strategy than what was achieved under Gaffney.

                          It is here that evolution will occur. It was never going to happen with an England-style selection overhaul and, when it came to selecting the side for Sunday, three areas stood out from the rest -- midfield, second-row and out-half.

                          In each case, the candidates' selection depended on the degree to which this attacking departure will be pursued -- a choice between the more pragmatic and the less predictable.


                          The Ronan O'Gara/Jonathan Sexton saga may now be dog-eared but that does not render it any less compelling. Sexton's talent is irresistible but O'Gara's refusal to go quietly after the Leinster man's breakthrough in 2009 is a remarkable example of dedication, skill and determination.

                          He is in his mid-30s now, but O'Gara won the battle hands down at the World Cup and his form for Munster on his return has been extremely persuasive. Sexton's has been none too shabby either and, while the Leinster man continues to bring the superior running threat and greater physicality in defence, the issue is whether he can do what O'Gara does best -- control territory and make the most of point-scoring chances.

                          Sexton has generally been more comfortable in blue than in green, certainly off the place-kicking tee, and it has been regularly suggested that he needs O'Gara to retire before he can truly flourish for Ireland. However, it is not O'Gara's problem if his presence inhibits his rival's mental surety and it is up to Sexton to get his head around this issue if he is to nail down the No 10 jersey for good.


                          Donnacha Ryan has had a productive few months. After impressing as back-up at the World Cup, the Nenagh man forced his way into the Munster second-row next to Paul O'Connell ahead of Donncha O'Callaghan and justified his inclusion. Rugged enough to do the coalface duties and decent in the line-out, Ryan's greatest quality is his mobility in the loose, honed in the back-row, where he has recently been displaying some subtle ball skills.

                          However, O'Callaghan is still a major presence and has been playing well, albeit predominantly off the bench. He is a defensive favourite of Kiss, secure in the line-out and reckoned to be the better scrummager.


                          The centre selection was always going to have major implications for the wing berths. Keith Earls showed lethal finishing skills on the left wing at the World Cup and that is where he looks best suited. Andrew Trimble has been on fire out wide for Ulster, although on the right touchline, while Earls has been playing at 13 for Munster, mixing the excellent with the mediocre.

                          Fergus McFadden is the best defensive midfielder, which is invaluable against the hard-running Welsh midfield, and has the pace and evasion to do damage in attack.

                          And a curve ball . . .

                          Tommy Bowe would bring a spark to midfield but the really radical selection would be to use Sexton there. The St Mary's man is perfectly suited to the centre -- a secondary kicking option, superb tackler, powerful runner and excellent distributor.

                          The Six Nations is a slog, an arduous campaign where coaches need to maximise the talent at their disposal and, with O'Gara performing arguably as well as he has ever done through a storied career, getting both playmakers on the park is a tantalising prospect.

                          Brian O'Driscoll's absence has placed an emphasis on adjustment and we will see how Kidney approaches the peculiar challenges. But after the disappointment of last year's might-have-been experience in New Zealand, it is heartening to know evolution is on the table.

                          - Hugh Farrelly

                          Irish Independent
                          Excellence is hard to keep quite - Sherrie Coale


                            doc is a better scrummager than dryan???????
                            Seven social sins: politics without principles, wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, and worship without sacrifice


                              Wicked whisper spurs on Trimble

                              By Brendan O’Brien
                              Friday, February 03, 2012
                              Andrew Trimble knew when Declan Kidney hadn’t pulled him aside for a quiet word on Tuesday he stood a better-than-evens chance of being named on the wing to face Wales.
                              A whisper in the ear at the start of match week has invariably meant disappointment for Kidney’s players and the Ulster back has been afforded far too many private sessions for his liking.

                              With Brian O’Driscoll absent until the summer and Keith Earls being seconded from out wide to fill the considerable gap, it was all but inevitable that the 27-year-old’s considerable candidacy would be impossible to ignore.

                              So it proved.

                              "The last six months I’ve felt like I’ve been playing quite well," he said. "I’ve been enjoying my rugby, I’ve felt confident. I’ve just been banging the door trying to get starts. If you look back and you haven’t been given an opportunity you can complain and moan that it’s not your fault.

                              "But if you get an opportunity and you don’t take it you’ve got nobody else to blame but yourself and that’s why this weekend I just want to get out there and perform well. I just want to perform as well as I’ve been playing in a white shirt and hopefully I’ll take that opportunity."

                              Anything approaching his form for Ulster and Ireland are in business.

                              Five tries in his last five games are testament to the threat he poses along the province’s right wing, with the second of his two in the game against Leicester — when he danced a merry jig around Alesana Tuilagi — the pick of the bunch.

                              That touchdown was achieved in traditional style for a winger by engineering the score in the bare minimum of space along the whitewash, but his horizons have expanded and he now sees the whole sward and not just its periphery as his playground.

                              "If you stay out there and wait for it, it generally doesn’t come. For me playing with Ulster, we’re trying to play an expansive game, put teams under pressure. Our phase play has come on in leaps and bounds in the last sort of three months.

                              "We’re really pleased with where we’re going and that sort of game plan, that sort of structure and that pattern suits me quite well. As far as I’m concerned, I just want to get into the game and get my hands on the ball and just run hard at people, look to find holes and that’s worked quite well for me so far."

                              He switches over to the opposite tramline for the weekend’s date on Lansdowne Road and, though he states a preference for the other side, he has few qualms about being asked to wear the 11 shirt rather than the 14.

                              It was on the left that he featured for 80 minutes last March when Ireland gave their most complete performance of the 2011 Six Nations in the rout of England and it was there again that he was handed his only start of the World Cup against Russia.

                              Earls, as he will in two days’ time, featured at 13 that latter day in Rotorua but it seems considerably longer than the seven years it has actually been since Trimble made his debut at outside-centre for the visit of Australia to Dublin.

                              It is an international career that has blown hot then cold and now hot again and he will break into double figures for appearances in green in a single season when he takes to the turf this weekend with seven more games to come.

                              Trimble has never known what it is to approach a selection meeting confident in the knowledge that he would start. For him it has always been a case of keeping his fingers crossed but that can change if he avails of the opportunity his patience has earned for him now.

                              "The only way I can make that time come where I’m massively confident going into a selection meeting of being picked is to produce a big performance on Sunday, get picked and produce another big performance and have a massive Six Nations campaign.

                              "For me the first step of that is having a big one on Sunday."

                              Read more:
                              Excellence is hard to keep quite - Sherrie Coale


                                Growin’ up throwin’

                                By Brendan O’Brien
                                Friday, February 03, 2012
                                In an alternate universe somewhere, Cian Healy is preparing for the London Olympics right now and not the Six Nations.
                                Back in his Belvedere days, Healy could be found hanging out at Raheny Shamrocks Athletics Club when he wasn’t appearing as a prop or hooker for the school Junior or Senior Cup teams. But javelin, shot and discuss. And he was damn good too.

                                A handful of All-Ireland titles had already been squirreled away by the time he decided to give his all to rugby but the years spent honing his throwing techniques under the legendary Phil Conway paid off.

                                "All that training through athletics kind of relayed into what I was doing in rugby," Healy said this week. "So it kind of helped me have a slight edge, whether it be speed or strength in my training. That kind of helped me.

                                "It’s all based on explosive power, how quick you can get from A to B in a small space. So training now is kind of the same. If you consider a scrum, you’re only going to need it for that kind of fast shock, that metre stronger you have to be when you’re doing it."

                                Healy jacked it in when he was 19 but he isn’t the only Irish rugby player to have dabbled in both codes. Victor Costello represented Ireland in the shot at the 1992 Olympic Games and Tom Court was Australian University champion three years in-a-row.

                                To the present tense and Sunday’s clash with the side that ended their World Cup ambitions last October. Revenge on the mind then? "It’s a different year and a different competition and we’re going out with a different look on it and playing our own game and doing our own job," said Healy. "I don’t see much need for revenge because that is back in the past and we’re looking forward.

                                "It was a very physical game and they got the advantage. We broke their line a lot of times and didn’t finish on them and when they broke our line they did. That’s not being screwed on that extra little bit but that’s in the past."

                                Read more:
                                Excellence is hard to keep quite - Sherrie Coale