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What the papers say on Ireland 6 Nations

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  • Mcork
    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.

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  • McCloud
    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;)

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  • mr chips
    Someone should probably tell Hugh that Argentina made the semi-final in France in 2007.

    Leave a comment:

  • McCloud
    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!

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  • McCloud
    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

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  • McCloud
    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

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  • McCloud
    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."

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  • McCloud
    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."

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  • scotscor
    doc is a better scrummager than dryan???????

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  • McCloud
    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

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  • McCloud
    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.

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

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  • i_like_cake
    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...

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

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  • McCloud
    '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

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