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What the papers say on Ireland 6 Nations

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    After hammering on door, Trimble is desperate to shine
    By David Kelly

    Friday February 03 2012

    If anyone could claim to be distressed by the foibles of national team selection in recent times, then Andrew Trimble is that man.

    Not since Jack Nicholson was marauding through a snowbound hotel in 'The Shining' has someone hammered on doors so relentlessly. "Just banging on the door to get starts," the Coleraine man confirms.

    This is probably a rare week when his name was unanimously proffered to start what will be the 31st of his 42 Tests; life after BOD has provided some certainty after all.

    Not that Trimble was presumptuous. Nevertheless, his reaction to the team meeting on Tuesday evening, when his name was called out, was distinctly cool and calculated.

    "I went to celebrate by having a golf lesson," he smiles. Now, he is desperate to become a regular starter.

    "I know I want that time to come," he stresses. "More and more in the last couple of years I've been cautiously confident. I'm looking forward to selection but with fingers crossed.

    "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."

    His recent form, particularly in Ulster's second successive march to the business end of the Heineken Cup, would seem to indicate that he is capable of backing up words with deeds.

    Except, the bar is always rising.

    "I'm certainly very pleased with how I'm playing at the minute but I definitely want to kick on with better performances," he said.

    "I don't want to look back and say I was playing better a few years ago, but I think I did produce big performances in the past. It's just because I've produced a couple in a row now. I'm certainly pleased with how I'm performing."

    He hasn't always been suffused with faith in his own ability, which is perhaps why international coaches haven't always trusted him to deliver. Slowly, that mindset has been transformed.

    "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.

    "That comes with experience. Sometimes it's quite difficult and with the new set-up I want to make sure I can transfer that involvement with Ulster onto the pitch with Ireland as well.

    "I've got confidence from Ulster which is huge. For me, it's important to get to the point sometimes, even if you're not playing well, that you still convince yourself to be confident.

    "You have to play those mind games with yourself in a positive way.

    "Just tell yourself you're great. I know that's the way Leinster boys do it."

    - David Kelly

    Irish Independent
    Excellence is hard to keep quite - Sherrie Coale


      Remember how this felt

      Friday February 03 2012

      "HALLO, what are you boyos still doing here? Thought you would have gone home by now."

      It was the day after the end of Ireland's World Cup dream and a group of Irish journalists were back in Wellington's 'Cake Tin' to take in the quarter-final clash between Australia and South Africa.

      When one of their Welsh colleagues, still buzzing from the previous day's (and night's) events greeted them with that lilting, sing-song accent, so perfectly suited to gentle mockery, it brought the reality of the situation crashing home.

      Wales had another two weeks of World Cup involvement to go with a young, confident, expressive team who had a genuine shot at making it to their first final. Ireland? Slan abhaile.

      It was not supposed to be like this. Dan Lydiate? Luke Charteris? Toby Faletau? These were Dragons for God's sake, players regularly at the end of whippings from the provinces in club competition, while Scarlets out-half Rhys Priestland, mesmeric the previous afternoon, had hardly rocked Thomond, the RDS or Ravenhill to its foundations over the previous few years.

      And yet, this experimental side, drawn from Welsh clubs who had never provided a Heineken Cup winner had comprehensively outplayed a team packed with European champions.


      For all the promise of the pool stages, Ireland's World Cup curse had struck again leaving them as the only member of the big eight, plus Argentina, never to have made it to the last four on rugby's biggest stage.

      Wales saw us coming. They had slipped into the last eight largely under the radar and though Warren Gatland was credited with putting together a credible campaign, they were widely expected to put in a brave performance and depart with heads held high.

      If they had managed to beat South Africa rather than lose narrowly in their pool game, there would have been greater hype, but all the focus was on an Irish side who had turned the tournament upside down with that win over the Tri Nations champions -- New Zealand's greatest threat.

      The week before the quarter-final, in these pages under the headline 'Wales will be waiting in the long grass,' reasons for fearing the Welsh were outlined but the doom-mongering was based on a hunch rather than logic and for the match preview, it was impossible to look beyond the Irish.

      Looking back, you search for differences in the build-up to the Australia, Italy and Wales games and they come screaming back at you.

      Ireland were based in Auckland before facing the Wallabies and were stationed in a lakeside hotel on the industrial outskirts of New Zealand's biggest city.

      While this had worked against them in Bordeaux in 2007, the difference this time around was that they were there for days rather than weeks and being cut-off worked in the squad's favour as they steeled themselves for a defining challenge.

      Ireland's form in the warm-up matches and opening pool encounter against the USA had been largely wretched, while further motivation undoubtedly stemmed from palpable Wallaby arrogance, whose players struggled to name any of their opponents beyond Brian O'Driscoll.

      It was the perfect psychological preparation, expertly tapped by Declan Kidney, and the stand-out moments from that wonderful night in Auckland -- Sean O'Brien's tears for the anthems, Stephen Ferris' shopping bag manoeuvre on Will Genia, Cian Healy's monstrous tackling -- told as much.

      Then, before the Italy game, Nick Mallett made the fatal error of calling out the Irish front-row which gave Ireland an extra layer of determination to put the Azzurri back in their box on a night when they were superior in every department.

      For the quarter-finals, Ireland had become the story. New Zealand were never going to lose to a gutsy but outmatched Argentina, England and France were playing dour muck and South Africa-Australia contests were two-a-penny through the Tri Nations.

      Ireland were fresh, vibrant and seen as the greatest threat to southern hemisphere supremacy.

      The squad was billeted in the heart of Wellington, readily accessible to the thousands of extra supporters who descended to witness the historical achievement of a first semi-final.

      It meant the dynamic had changed completely from the pool stages. As well as the swelling support-base, hordes of extra media joined the expedition and what had once been three or four travelling hacks and a couple of bored local journos in Queenstown, became a battery of cameras and dictaphones to the point where the hotel room assigned for press conferences could barely accommodate them.

      The players were engaging and entertaining, becoming the darlings of the nightly TV bulletins as they joked good-humouredly with reporters and happily posed with the many fans hovering around the hotel lobby.

      Ever frank and to the point, Ronan O'Gara has since expressed his belief that the squad "fell in love with ourselves a little bit" and, while that would never have been the intention, it is easy to see how all this fawning attention could have had that subliminal effect.

      Hindsight decrees that isolation would have been preferable, but, as Kidney explained this week, there was not much he could do about the situation.

      "You get very little say with hotels as you go on in the tournament, there are logistical issues that come into play. You don't just replicate it and say let's go out of town," said Kidney.


      "I wouldn't have any doubts about the preparation, but I think it's good that players have given their individual views on how they felt coming into it. It is something that you can't quantify."

      The upshot was that when the game kicked off, Wales, with a team that the Irish players beat for kicks on a regular basis at club level, had the mental advantage. They played above themselves, their best performance of the tournament, while Ireland could not hit earlier heights.

      Even when the Irish brought the score back to 10-10 just after half-time, there was never any sure sense that they would kick on and their insecurities manifested themselves in uncharacteristically poor defending for the Mike Phillips and Jon Davies tries. Four months on, the pain of that experience, a massive opportunity squandered, has not diminished.

      One nagging question that will not go away, and one that was painted as a likely scenario in pre-tournament predictions, is whether Ireland would have been better served by losing to Australia and going into a quarter-final against the Springboks as complete underdogs -- the ideal scenario for Kidney to work his magic.

      We will never know and that Wellington disappointment can't be completely erased until that elusive first semi-final is achieved.

      Beating Wales on Sunday would help to chip away at it, but the lessons must be learned and, if Ireland's Wellington Waterloo has taught us one thing, it is that the battle starts in the mind.


      Irish Independent
      Excellence is hard to keep quite - Sherrie Coale


        The Irish Times - Friday, February 3, 2012
        Earls needs to dominate his channel

        The inclusion of Keith Earls ahead of Fergus McFadden is telling – and riskier, writes LIAM TOLAND

        THE 2009 US PGA money list was topped by Tiger Woods having earned $10,508,163 (€8 million). That year, way out in 100th place was Ted Purdy. When you delve deeper, as coaches do, certain facts pop out. Purdy played 30 tournaments to Woods’ 17 where the average earned spanned from Purdy’s $27,957 (€21,100) to Woods’ $618,127 (€469,000) per tournament. The gap between number one and 100th was $9,669,456 (€7.4 million).

        However, the process or performance that would concern the coaches, video nerds and the man himself, was 2.67 per cent difference or 1.84 shots per round; that’s all.

        Ireland played Wales twice last year. Most recently they were beaten by 22-10 and last March in Cardiff they fell 19-13. By understanding those loses we may understand how to win on Sunday and we may discover the gap is not that large. Our cause is aided by the Gatling gun of injuries for the Welsh which affords us a real opportunity.

        Last week I looked at some of the provincial Key Performance Indicators (KPI). I left you with the question; will the individuals revert to their provincial type and therefore affect the performance of the hybrid? It’s easy to conclude that only time will tell.

        Time was against us in Cardiff (and that try) last March but there was a simple two-versus-one opportunity with one minute left that converted would have won Ireland the match. Keith Earls was on the wing and primed but the opportunity was lost inside him.

        Woods would, Purdy wouldn’t.

        It is all very fine to take KPI number one – never give up – where winning the mental battle puts you in pole position but then the skills and tactics must win the match and by extension individuals in their combinations.

        Team selection is an early indicator of tactics and game-plan concepts. Although Donnacha Ryan should be starting I can understand the logic of Donncha O’Callaghan’s inclusion. Last time out against Northampton Saints O’Callaghan had his finest “O’Callaghan” performance in years. Not since the exposed red underpants at the lineout days has he wreaked such havoc in the maul and breakdown, single-handedly turning dead ball into Munster ball. But the Saints are not Wales and with France around the corner will Ryan remain on the bench until Italy and how will O’Callaghan’s inclusion guide tactics?

        To fully understand the team selection one has to delve into the game plan that Ireland propose to play and allow past games to inform this adjustment as the limited time available affords an opportunity for gradual change.

        Whatever about O’Callaghan the inclusion of Keith Earls ahead of Fergus McFadden is telling – and riskier. Over the past seasons, and in particular at the World Cup, Ireland were not the first-phase attacking team of yore where our most potent source of five-pointers (or subsequent three-pointers) were from lineouts and scrums (Brian O’Driscoll under the posts in Croke Park against Australia for the draw directly off a scrum in November 2009).

        Due to Leinster’s comfort in multi-phase around the park aligned with Munster’s much narrower multi-phase approach, the Irish team has become more accustomed to scoring/pressurising from multi-phase based on a violent clear-out at the breakdown (hence O’Callaghan). In the absence of O’Driscoll, McFadden appears more effective in this environment than Earls.

        Statistically, monitoring effectiveness of a player is based on obvious measurables such as tackles made/missed, yards carried, etc. On Sunday I’ll be looking at the opportunities created beyond the aforementioned.

        Clearly Earls is an extremely talented international and if he can add value to the ball, especially in traffic where McFadden has the edge, he will have achieved enormously in replacing O’Driscoll. The question is can Earls dominate his channel when Ireland are in multi-phase possession, allowing a very exciting back three to prosper? To answer this, watch what happens to the ball after it has come through Earls’ hands.

        Although Mike Ross, Rory Best, O’Callaghan and Paul O’Connell will carry the ball, clearly Cian Healy and the Irish backrow will do the damage. I really hope Ross, having vastly improved on his running lines and confidence around the ball, is very, very selective with his time on it such as when Jonathan Sexton is down a blind alley or there is no other receiver available. At Six Nations level he takes too long to cross the line and get his body into an offloading or rucking position. He should understand there are times he simply should not get in the way of the ball.

        Scrumhalf Conor Murray has been a revelation over the past months. He has a style of play that will influence his team’s performance. A real challenge for him is finding the balance between controlling, passing and being sucked into the dog fight. It appears he loves all three but at times in Munster’s campaign he has enjoyed leading the fight at the coalface even more. He happens to be great at this but Ireland may require more control of himself and his natural instincts to unearth the talent out wide. Earls needs space to flourish, McFadden less so. Variety is the spice of life and in Healy and the backrow he has buckets of carriers and also a second line of carriers.

        Simon Zebo’s cracking try from Denis Hurley’s deft hands had its origins in how O’Connell varied his ball-carrying very similarly to Jamie Heaslip’s cracker in Croke Park against France in 2009. O’Connell created Zebo’s space by being a decoy receiver, fixing buckets of defenders in midfield. Heaslip’s space arrived as O’Connell swivel passed on receipt of the ball, sucking in French defenders more accustomed to him carrying into traffic. Stephen Ferris has developed a great offloading game allied to his rampaging that will create more space for those outside him.

        When I watched Peter O’Mahony as Munster faced London Irish in last August’s friendly at Thomond Park I could see outstanding technique around the ball whether Munster were in possession or not. In many ways he appeared like those young Australia backrows, full of athleticism but based on technique. I wondered then what his best position would be as he played number eight that day.

        At times I felt his work rate ebbed and his talents weren’t at the coalface often enough. His work rate has vastly improved to the extent international openside wing forward could be his happy home for many years to come.

        Although I expect minimum changes to our style of rugby on Sunday it is in the margins of errors/tactics from last year’s encounters that will turn us from Purdy towards Woods. Murray and Sexton have the key to maximising our backrow initially and then our outside backs. They have the ingredients to tackle a brilliant Welsh outfit.

        I really hope Rob Kearney can continue to enjoy his rugby, Leinster style, influencing all around him driving us towards Tiger Woods.

        As for players who can influence the tactics of a game; welcome back to Munster, James Downey!
        Excellence is hard to keep quite - Sherrie Coale


          Someone should probably tell Hugh that Argentina made the semi-final in France in 2007.
          Tis but a scratch.


            Originally posted by mr chips View Post
            Someone should probably tell Hugh that Argentina made the semi-final in France in 2007.
            Think you just did;)
            Excellence is hard to keep quite - Sherrie Coale


              Think this belongs here: 'What the Papers / radio, media in general says'

              Listening to a preview of the 6n's on French radio in the car yesterday. Favourites according to journalists: Wales, France & England in that order. Even had an interview with Warburton looking forward to the 'championship & possible GS decider in Cardiff in their last game versus France'. I felt sudden elation at this (the idea of Wales overconfident is very very reassuring). Overall France & Wales being the best performing teams (both incidently losing 3 games) in the RWC, I guess this is understandable.

              England despite being in dissarray being considered a contendor is a harder one to fathom but needs to be understood in terms of France's inability to beat England at crucial juctures in the past.

              At the very end, Ireland were mentioned after Scotland as being fragile and unlikely to do much during this championship (seems 3 HEC qtrs + 2 top seeds hasn't left an impression). So we are considered in the ranks of outsiders with Scotland for this championship. I could imagine Kidney smilling broadly if he had been listening in (alas I'm sure he wasn't).

              Knowing how these clowns often get it worng, I was thinking that both ourselves and Scotland may actually have very good championships. We could even win it although our inability to perform adequately against France likely to be stumbling block against championship or GS. Scotland have a poor England side at Murrayfield (I think they can win at least 3 games which for them would be massive) while we have a potentially 'overconfident' Welsh side up first. I agree with one cliché often put about for the 6n's, momentum is everything. Start well and you can have a real go. Start badly and you rarely recover.
              Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again (like picking Gordon D'Arcy) and expecting different results.
              Albert Einstein