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Ireland - Pre WC Review



Well were just a few weeks away from the WC and after a series of mickey mouse matches EO'S has picked his squad and judging by the team picked for Bayonne, we will be looking at the usual suspects come our opening game.

As for our chances? I reckon if we peak at the right time we are capable of topping the group. Playing two group games before the French match should help, but as has been pointed out a few times, we haven't beaten France in about 6 years. History is definitely against us and to be honest I haven't seen anything that would make me blindly optimistic of us peaking or getting a result. I think were buggered here.

That leaves us with the crunch match against the Argies. How this one is going to go I haven't a clue. Form points to Argentina but to be honest, at that stage of the competition the pressure is so immense, that most of it will come down to how the team handles the pressure. Both teams will have to win it and its usually a mistake, a decision by an official, or a player that could turn the result. Argentina have some fantastic talent, a big powerful pack and a useful backline. I'd question their strength in depth and their ability to win the really really tight games. I think that's where Ireland would have the upper hand. Who wins though? Haven't the foggiest.

Expected First Choice Pack:

1. Hayes. People say he's weak in the scrum and he's ineffective in the loose. The scrummaging may have been an issue years ago, but he's propped against some of the worlds best and while he doesn't dominate, he holds his own. Adding to this he's hugely powerful at mall time, a one man lifting machine in the lineout, and a monster in the pillar position. One of the first names down on the team sheet.
2. Best. Impressive season last year should put him in the first team. Not as mobile as flannery but a stronger scrummager. Simple as that really, more powerful but not as dynamic. His lineout throw is as steady as you would want.
3. Horan. An extra loose forward in open play, but schneaky enough to hold his own in the tight.
4. O'Connell. A monster of Irish Rugby. On his day he is simply untouchable and is more then capable (with assistance from Hayes) of destroying the oppositions lineout. The key thing being on his day. While on an average day he's as good as the rest, lately we've been hoping to see him hit top form but were still waiting.
5. O'Callaghan. More mobile then O'Connell but hasn't the physical presence. O'Kelly, on his day is a stronger player (in my opinion), but he's too inconsistent.
6. Easterby. Good lineout option. Not quite a ground hog in the traditional sense but somehow (and I haven't a clue how) he slows down possession. His position has been the one to come under threat most frequently but on last years performances, that talk has stopped.
7. Wallace. Not a true open side, but the best ball carrying forward in the team. Extremely quick and difficult to put down. Can comfortably play at 6.
8. Leamy. Physical, abrasive and comfortable with ball in hand. Powerful enough to break the gain line and give the rest of the pack go forward ball.

The Munster Factor. Its worth noting, that 6 of these players are from the Munster team. These guys have lived in each others pockets for the last 6+ years, and gone to war with each other, season after season against the big European packs. No other team in the world can put this kind of continuity together on the pitch. A lot of you may look at the pack individually and think its weak, but you need to consider the provincial side of it. They are used to traveling around Europe together and winning. All in all, this pack is far greater then the sum of its parts.

Neil Best. Barely controlled manic aggression. Has been fairly quiet in his past three outings though. A real impact substitute, I'm always happy to see him come off the bench.
Stephen Ferris. A year or two too early in my opinion. Extremely physical but not a proven international player at any position. I'd be surprised to see him get much game time, but
Jerry Flannery. An extra loose forward around the park. Great ball carrier and solid lineout. Not as strong a scrummager but only out of the side due to Best's consistent form. Another excellent impact player.
Malcolm O'Kelly. Irelands most capped player. Hugely talented, excellent in the lineout and a powerful player in the tight. A little too inconsistent of late but on his day, he can match most opposition. I actually expect him to push for a starting slot and he may just get it.
Alan Quinlan. Utility Lock / Blind side flanker. He's a favourite of EO'S and another of the Munster contingent. A popular player in the squad, experienced and a good big game player. Was delighted to see him get the nod ahead of M O'Driscoll. Would be happy to see him come off the bench in a tight game.
Frankie Sheahan. Wont get much game time. Clear number three behind Flannery and Best. Experienced but a little flaky at lineout time.
Bryan Young / Simon Best. I haven't a clue to be honest. Haven't seen enough of them in tough competitive circumstances due to the dominance of Hayes and Horan. Not renowned for their play in the loose, or the tight. Anyone want to add something in here?

Backs (14):
Expected First Choice Backline:
Peter Stringer.
Physically small, no ability to break, accurate and quick distribution. Stringers entire game is about no-nonsense distribution. He simply gets to the base and fires a bullet straight to O'Gara. No steps (Boss), and no waiting around to marshal the pack (Reddan). The extra time this pass gives the Irish backline is why he is consistently in the side. Love him or loath him, he does the basics well.
Ronan O'Gara. Best kicking game (out of hand) in rugby and his distribution out of either hand is excellent. Limited running ability and suspect defensively. RO'G simply doesn't have many off days. He's solid, dependable, and always does the basics right.
Gordon D'Arcy. Sorry Aussies but this guy is the best 12 in the world. While he has no kicking game his ability to break the gain line time and time again against pretty much anyone is pure gold. A solid defense, and with such a low centre of gravity, he's an extra loose forward in the middle of the park. Over the past two years he has, in the eyes of most Irish fans, overshadowed O'Driscoll as Irelands most valuable player.
Brian O'Driscoll. Even on a bad day I still think he's the best centre in the world. Excellent kicking game, quick, elusive, but powerful in defense, and always worth a turn-over or two in a game.
Denis Hickie. Irelands record try-scorer. Due to retire at the end of the WC (way to early if you ask me). He's an odd one in my mind. You ask most non-Irish fans and they probably don't rate him too highly yet he knows how to score tries. Great left boot, and defensively sound. Lost his place after a bad injury a year or so again, but came back with some barn storming games and is a shoe in for the wing.
Shane Horgan. A centre come Wing. 6ft 4, quick enough and defensively strong. Not the best winger in the world but good hands, an eye for the try line. The GAA background makes him a big weapon under a cross field kick.
Girvan Dempsey. I'm putting Dempsey in mainly because I think EO'S will go for him at the start. Where Geordan Murphy offers the flair, Dempsey is Mr Reliable. Excellent under a high ball, good kicking out of hand, and a good tackler. Used to the Leinster combinations in the backs so finishes off his fair share of tries.

Isaac Boss.
Drives me nuts. More powerful then Stringer, and offers a break option, but his distribution is just too slow. I'm more then happy to have the Scrum Half get it to the backs then try and snipe every now and then.
Brian Carney. Still not sure about Carney as he's so new to the game. Its obvious he enjoys the physicality of the game, but there are still question marks around his ability to retain possession in the tackle, his basic defense and his ability under a high ball. Not that he has made any mistakes but he hasn't been put under much pressure.
Gavin Duffy. No idea where this guy came from. Well I kmnow where he came from, but an international? After a year on the bench with Harlequins? Played 15 and 12 in the Argentinean tour and came out of the experience with a lot of good reviews. Will be sitting at the back of the queue for game time, but a good utility player to have in the squad.
Geordan Murphy. Oozes class but can be a liability in defense. Falls off too many tackles. That is Murphy's problem, and the reason he is not holding the 15 shirt. Does all the basics very very well but simply makes too many mistakes when under pressure. Personally I'd like to see him start for his offensive capabilities alone, but I don't think EO'S will take the chance.
Eoin Reddan. Hasn't been given a chance really. Seems stuck behind Boss and Stringer though he is the form scrum half from the GP. So many people seem to think he is the best all round 9 of the lot of em. EO'S doesn't seem to agree. Only chance he has had was behind a pack playing a dominant Argentinean pack, and providing ball at a snails pace.
Andrew Trimble. Runs strong and straight. Pace enough to find himself on the end of some nice moves. A good option for the wing, or centre. Should get plenty of game time, either as a starter in place of Horgan or an impact sub. Great possibility for the future.
Paddy Wallace. Spent the past 4 years or so playing inside centre for Ulster and it shows. Good footballer, has all the skills you would ask for, but not enough game time at 10. Huge questions to be asked and while I'm not saying he wont deliver, I'd prefer O'Gara to stay fit so we don't have to find out.

Good post. I think the one thing that comes across is the sturdiness in the team. They shouldn't be afraid to fall back into basic play. They have enough line-breakers in the pack that should be able to grind a game home. Unfortunately when EOS tells them to do that they seem to take it as an instruction to go to sleep. It needs Paul O'Connell in this situation to grab the pack and pull them into up the jumper mode where they'll hold the ball till armageddon and infuriate teams. Combine this with O'Gara's kicking and you have a base play that should take them home with Argentina. The problem comes when they have to chase games. O'Gara won't offer the backline viable options.

I think you've under-estimated two players. Hayes is a fairly consistent tackler when in position. Add to that the way that he'll break through in tight forward play and he's a strong option when it comes to playing against the best packs in the world.

Donnacha O'Callaghan is also a great player. Ever since he's got control of his temper he's gotten better and better. As Paul O'Connell's wingman he's fantastic. And POC will also support him all the way. He's had some great play running at tens, power to go through and always brings the ball back onside, again with POC. However I don't think O'Gara has the tactical ability to use this to the backline's advantage.

Geordan Murphy played excellently against Scotland. Kicks always making touch and didn't miss any tackles. Hopefully he'll have a second half against Bayonne where he'll show solidity again and he'll be given the same options against the lower pool teams. But like you say I don't think EOS has the balls to play him. Nor does he have the balls to bring Dempsey on if Murphy's playing a stinker after twenty minutes.

Yeah, Logo, you hardly put a word wrong.

Hayes is so important, but I can't help with views on the replacement props. Didn't see the Argentina games, and watched the Scotland scrum in a state of shock.

I'm not so happy about MOK, but very enthusiastic about Carney. The Horgan injury at 14 could force an interesting new lineup, with Carney set for the wing and Trimble covering for BOD instead - although I'd prefer to have Shaggy fit and fighting, with Carney coming on for impact.

And for me Dempsey is more than Mr Reliable - he's scored some of Ireland's best tries over the past few years, and specialises in sticking it to England. He knows the lines to take with our attacking midfield - tatooed to his eyelids.

Great balance of praise and criticism.
Would definitely agree on all fronts.
Carney still makes me sit forward on the seat when he gets the ball - i would love fo him to have a bit of open space to see what he can really do. Was impressed with his tackle and rip in the scottish game - presentation was good too. Hopefully he won't have another defensive 'mare like in the Argie game though..

In the Murphy/Dempsey battle, i'm still edging for Dempsey - unbelievably solid under the high ball, probably wouldn't have turnstiled like murphy for the ibanez try, and, even though he's called 'the swerve' as more of a pisstake, he's become a very powerful runner under knox and cheika - not nearly as many 'kick and hopes' from deep.
Murphy is definitely the more creative and has ridiculous talent, but as was said previously, there's a question mark over his defence.
Carney is a monster. He is tough and dangerous (especially with ball in hand), I very much want to see more of this guy for Ireland.
With Murphy he wasn't so defensinvely suspect untill this season, but fell off a few tackles for both Ireland and Leicester. Added to this his overall form wasn't so hot. The thing is that he now doesn't have the chances to prove his defence isn't so poor. although as a Tigers fan i'd love to see Murphy start, i'd go for Dempsey. Dempsey is still good in attack, and a much safer option. The key thing may be creativity though. With the best centre combination in world rugby having a creative fullback isn't as important, a stronger more dependable fullback may give the side a better balance. Murphy may be more valuble if either BOD or Darcy aren't playing for any reason.
Murphy may be more valuble if either BOD or Darcy aren't playing for any reason.[/b]


Ok. So that's a real bad situation, but i remember how heavily Tigers have relied on Murphy when other creative players in the side were out.
i recon ireland isn't ready for the world cup. the match again italia isn't good and more difficults appear when o'driscoll is missed are
just like frances home advantage the fact that 6 of irelands forwards are from the same team is overated. don't get me wrong irelands fowards are good i just think the munster thing is irrelevant. i think the abs, sa and france have better forward units.
well ive decided to add a little article to this post after the warm up games and whatnot

Feicarsinn's guide to irleands rwc 07' (all rights reserve, article read at readers own risk etc..)

okay so we all know the story ireland go into this world cup in the most difficuly pool playing the hosts and the strongest ever argentinian team. horgan is doubtful, o'driscoll has a knock and the form in recent games has been poor. but it really isnt that bad after all.


Front row
Likely format: hayes, best, horan
irelands worst area will not have gained any confidence after the extremely poor performance against italy. destroyed in the scrum and poor in the loose, marcus horan has come out and said that it was due to unfamiliarity with nigel owens' timing on the pause call- a pretty poor excuse. this area MUST improve and quick however they should be able to hold their own if they get act together soon

Second Row
Likely Format: Paul O'Connell, Donnacha O'Callaghan
Provides a formidable lineout challange for any team. Paul O'Connell is a hero however has gone missing in the past. O'Callaghan brings plenty of heart and enthusiasm but doesnt offer much in the loose. Ireland should beat the argies here and match the french

Likely Format: Easterby, Wallace, Leamy
Its been proven that david wallace is invaluable to ireland. fortunatly he has begun full training. While steady eddie's selection has been called into doubt once again we will be able to match our counterparts in the group when opperating at full capactiy( a must in modern rugby)

Scrum Half:
Peter Stinger
has come in for alot of critisism over the last few years for a one dimensional game however what he brings is invaluble and is only noticed when hes not there. great distribution provides experiance and has a good relationship with o'gara. a vital ingrediant to irish sucess.

Fly Half:
Ronan O'Gara
One of the top 3 fly halfs in the world. excellent tactical kicker, good goal kicker invaluable due to the lack of a reliable replacement. weak in defence but d'arcy can make up for this. hes really grown up in the last few years and can potentially swing a game

D'arcy, O'Driscoll
Irelands strongest area by a long way. two world class players with a great relationship. excellent in broken play and get through huge amounts of work on the ground. d'arcy seems to always get over the gain line while BOD brings great creativity and leadership. There probably isnt a pair to match them in the world

Likely Lineup:Horgan,hickie
if both fit these two will be a handfull for any. both play for leinster as do the centres so no lack of understanding there. can run a team ragged and are both solid defencivly. with horgans fitness in doubt trimble and murphy can come in and do a very good job

Girvan Dempsey
Excellent in defence, solid, also at leinster, a good player who adds greatly to irelands defensive ability. also can score tries

So to sum up we are still in a very strong way after all as long as we get some kind of form together we should get out of this group

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