RWC2011: Ireland Team preview

1 09 2011

Stephen Ferris gets to grips with England's Courtney Lawes. Pic: Ken Sutton

 

Rugby World Cup Pedigree:
Ireland have been off form for the most part of this year. The only game where they showed what they can really do was the 24-8 defeat of England in the final game of the Six Nations to deny England a Grand Slam. Since then they have lost all four of their warm-up games to Scotland, France (home and away) and England. While there has been much improvements in the forward play, the back line seems to be bereft of ideas and any penetration.

Track Record:
Ireland don’t have much of a track record in the World Cup, they have reached the quarter finals but never progressed beyond that stage four times. The only significant record they hold is the top points scorer of the tournament for Ralph Keyes the Irish fly-half. After a dismal 2007 World Cup in France, Ireland will be looking to make amends.

Best Rugby World Cup moment:
The most iconic moment for the Irish team in previous World Cups came in the ’91 quarter final against Australia, Gordon Hamilton scored a try to put Ireland ahead by 3 points with 5 minutes on the clock. Ireland did not seal the win as a quick tap penalty from Michael Lynagh led to him to score the winning try in the dying seconds leaving 40,000 heartbroken Irish fans wondering what happened!

Biggest Rugby World Cup win: 64-7 (v Namibia 2003)
Biggest Rugby World Cup defeat: 19-43 (v New Zealand 1995)

Key Player:
The Irish captain Brian O’Driscoll is heading into his fourth and final World Cup. O’Driscoll remains one of the greatest centres in world rugby to this day. He made his 100th appearance for Ireland against Wales in the 2010 RBS 6 Nations, has led Ireland to four Triple Crowns (in 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2009) as well as a Championship and Grand Slam.

One to Watch:
The ‘Tullow Tank’, Sean O’Brien has been in devastating for over the last two seasons. He picked up the ERC player of the Year 2011 after a barnstorming Heineken Cup run with Leinster. He is the complete back rower, combining awesome strength with speed and agility. The Carlow man started all nine of Leinster’s Heineken Cup matches, picking up three man-of-the-match awards, and was also first choice for Ireland for all their games in the Six Nations, being named man-of-the-match against Italy.

Rugby World Cup Fixtures:
11/09 – 07:00 BST v USA, New Plymouth
17/09 – 09:30 BST v Australia, Auckland
25/09 – 07:00 BST v Russia, Rotorua
02/10 – 09:30 BST v Italy, Dunedin

Key Clash:
As mentioned in our Australia preview a few days back, the key clash in Pool C is Ireland v The Wallabies. The winner of this game will surely top the pool and likely to face Fiji/Tonga/Wales in a quarter final. Ireland will have to contain the mercurial Australian back line of Genia, Cooper, O’Connor and Beale.

Odds: 40/1 to win the World Cup outright and 3/1 to win their pool.

Ireland coach Declan Kidney says:
Kidney is adamant that losing four warm-up games should not create a sense of negativity around Ireland’s preparations:
“If you don’t win it you are disappointed. But at times you have to see a bigger picture, see where you’re going. While we’re disappointed with our losses against England and France, I’d like to feel that if we had to play them again in five or six weeks’ time we’ll have learned from this experience and we’ll be the better for it.”

Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll says:
“This is my last one, I’m not going to look back in five or 10 years and wish that I’d been into it a bit more. I will enjoy the next six, hopefully, seven weeks and, hopefully, create some new memories along the way”
O’Driscoll is keen to point out the World Cup has not started yet: “We weren’t playing in the World Cup. The World Cup is our next game, We’ve a big two weeks ahead of us.”

Prediction:
It all boils down to the crucial game against Australia. A win means an easier path to the semi’s. So far we have not seen anything to expect Ireland to win that game, so, I predict a quarter final exit.

Position: Quarter final exit.

Original article written for therugbyblog.co.uk





RWC2011 – Ireland’s host towns and training bases

30 08 2011

Ireland depart for New Zealand today for the Rugby World Cup. If you are traveling to watch them, you might be interested in the below schedule of their host cities and training facilities they will be using.

Ireland hold an open training session in Queenstown Events Centre Sept 4th from 1:30pm, keep an eye on this page in the next week or two for details of more..

Ireland’s Host Town and Training Centres




#RWC2011 Warm-up, Ireland v England player ratings

29 08 2011

Jonny Wilkinson tackled by Ronan O'Gara and Keith Earls. Pic: Ken Sutton

15 Geordan Murphy – 7
Great return to the international fold for the Tigers captain, showed he still has juice in the tank matching Manu Tuilagi for pace in a one on one situation. Assured under the high ball, Rob Kearney will have to watch his back!

14 Tommy Bowe – 6
First game of the warm-ups, took a long time to get into the game, This was not aided by Ireland’s repeated habit of drifting wide with no penetration in the center. Needs more game time.

13 Keith Earls – 5
Earls was at fault for Tuilagi’s almost unchallenged try early in the game but he was probably the only back that could break the line in attack. Multiple times he skipped passed tackles, but as he looked up he had no support to offload to.

12 Gordon D’Arcy – 3
Another anonymous game for D’Arcy, has not shown any improvement in the last 2 matches he has played. Made Mike Tindall look dynamic.

11 Andrew Trimble – 6
Another decent performance from Trimble, similar to Bowe hampered by the lateral play of the Irish backline. When he drifts infield he looks dangerous.

10 Ronan O’Gara – 6
Opting to kick for touch instead of taking easy points on offer was a big mistake in yesterdays must-win game. Other than this, he surprised everyone by opting to run with the ball on a couple of occasions and making some decent ground.

9  Eoin Reddan – 5
Did decently, was under quite a bit of pressure at the rucks as England were quite aggressive in this area and weren’t shy of letting their presence felt.

 

1  Cian Healy – 7
Industrious, took some real punishment from the English pack, seemed to be getting singled out for it quite often.  Unfortunate to sustain some damage to his eye socket which will mean he will miss Ireland’s first game against the USA in 2 weeks.

2  Jerry Flannery – 6
Looked comfortable, provide plenty of quality lineout ball for O’Connell and O’Callaghan to hoover up.

3  Mike Ross – 6
Scrums were on the whole, quite positive, winning one against the head in the first half should have been a big inspiration to the rest of the team but the scrum conceded a penalty 30 seconds later.

4  Donncha O’Callaghan – 6
Always looks a better player playing alongside Paul O’Connell, did well at the lineout and put in a good defensive performance.

5  Paul O’Connell (c) – 7
Extremely busy and committed, was Ireland’s best player on the day. Questionable decisions along with ROG on kicking for touch when points were on offer.

6 Stephen Ferris – 6
Ended up playing a full 80 minutes, was great to see him back with ball in hand, will need more game time to get up to match speed but looked in peak physical condition.

7  David Wallace – 6
Heartbreak for Wally, a seemingly innocuous tackle on the touchline for Tuilagi resulting in a serious knee injury has put an end to what was to be his 3rd World Cup.

8  Jamie Heaslip – 6
Only managed 34 minutes before being subbed off with a head injury. Unfortunate for Ireland as his ball-carrying abilities were missed.

 

Replacements

16 Rory Best – 5
First action was a lineout throw which was crooked but made up for it with an audacious steal minutes later.

17 Tom Court – 6
Held his own against a strong English pack, needs more game time which he will probably get against USA.

18 Donnacha Ryan – 6
Early introduction due to Heaslip’s injury, decent shift but didn’t offer the same carries that Heaslip can.

19 Denis Leamy – 6
Introduced after Wallace’s injury, the Irish backrow was completely unbalanced after the two forced substitutions and this really affected the whole team. Leamy was busy in defense and managed a couple of carries.

20 Conor Murray – 7
Another good performance from Murray, introduced some pace into the attack when he came on.

21 Jonathan Sexton – 6
Kicked the ball more that ROG had done in the preceding 60 minutes, doesn’t seem to have the ability to change the game in the same vein that ROG can off the bench.

22 Fergus McFadden – 6
Came on for Trimble with 10 minutes to go, didn’t get too many opportunities to show what he can do.

Original article written for therugbyblog.co.uk





Ireland, Organised Chaos?

29 08 2011
Pic: Ken Sutton - http://pa.sepaphoto.org/

Andrew Trimble gets smashed by Manu Tuilagi and Mike Tindall. Pic: Ken Sutton

This article has been floating around in my head over the last week and may be wishful thinking on my part, I’m still not convinced if it is true, but I’m going to put it out there and see if it gets some discussion going…

Ireland have lost all four of the World Cup warm-up games where they were expected to win three from four, at a minimum. They have dropped from 4th in the IRB rankings to 8th in one month, this is their lowest position since the rankings were introduced in October 2003. While there have been marked improvements in the set-piece, their once best-of-breed backline has now turned into the teams major weakness. It has looked sterile and bereft of ideas in the last few games, offering little or no penetration and seemingly no game plan. This beggars belief when you look on paper and see the caliber of players that have made the team sheets in the last 4 games: O’Driscoll, Earls, Fitzgerald, D’Arcy, Bowe, Trimble, Kearney, Murphy are all players that any team in the world would be envious of, but yet when combined in the current system they look one-dimensional. Does this strike anyone as strange?

What if…
Ireland purposely have been selecting strange combinations in the backline, They have played a total of 6 players in the centers over the last 4 games, even out half Jonathan Sexton got a run out against France in the 12 jersey. What if the backs have been told to tone it down, nothing fancy, just ship it wide as part of Declan Kidney’s masterplan. These are players that have won the Heineken Cup and Magners League last season and it’s a backline that failed to unlock the Scottish defense even once. Could it be plausible that Kidney has kept all his cards close to his chest on purpose. Is this the big plan to catch Australia unawares?

Besides the opening 20 minutes against France in Dublin, Ireland have hardly produced one decent backline move. They have scored 3 tries in 4 games, two of those coming when the French had all but given up. Jonny Sexton is the only Irish back to get a try in four games. As far as I can see there can only be 2 explanations for this, either Alan Gaffney (backs coach) actually does not have any kind of game-plan, or, the players have been deliberately told not to give anything away.

We are all fully aware what Genia, Cooper, Ioane, Beale and O’Connor can do after their Tri-Nations series victory, But what do Australia know about us if they review our last four games? They have no idea what the starting half-backs will  be, they won’t be sure of which centers will start against them. They will surely be expecting an easy ride.

Leinster were second highest try scorers in the Magners League last season with Munster and Ulster at joint fifth. You don’t forget how to score try’s in the space of a few weeks. Of our best centers, O’Driscoll has been wrapped in cotton wool and D’Arcy (top performer in the last Six Nations) is playing so quietly he looks as if he has been sedated before games. Could Gaffney and Kidney have planned this?

Ireland are going into this World Cup as write-off’s, completely under the radar. They will field a second string team against USA and should beat them, but is it possible that they could come out all guns blazing against the Aussies a week later and perhaps create a huge upset? Of course I’d love if this were true, guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Am I delirious/dreaming? Leave a comment!





RWC2011 Warm-up, Ireland v England Preview

26 08 2011

Date: 27th August 2011
Time: 14:30 GMT
Venue: Lansdowne Road, Dublin
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)

To say that this was an important game for both sides, would be a massive understatement. It’s the last game either team play before they head to New Zealand next week for the World Cup.  Ireland are probably under more pressure than England going into this game they have lost all three of the warm-up games. England have beaten, and been beaten, by Wales in their two warm-up games.

England:

Martin Johnson has made 6 changes to the side that lost to Wales a fortnight ago. The new centre partnership of Tindall and Tuilagi has no doubt given Declan Kidney nightmares this week. Jonny Wilkinson claims the out-half jersey from Toby Flood and is joined in the half backs by Saracen’s Richard Wigglesworth. London Irish scrumhalf Joe Simpson makes the bench in what is set to be his international debut.

Ireland:
The precautionary absence of Brian O’Driscoll following a minor shoulder injury in the France game, means that the captaincy will be in the safe hands of Paul O’Connell. More worrying for Kidney is the news that Sean O’Brien is set to be out of action for a fortnight after picking up a knee injury. Stephen Ferris starts his first warm-up game as does Munster’s Jerry Flannery and David Wallace. Veteran fullback Geordan Murphy also starts and travels to New Zealand following the ankle injury to Felix Jones.

What to expect:
England will be keen to get some decent attacking backline moves, we all know what their pack can do and going into the World Cup they could do with an extra string to their bow. Tommy Bowe is making his first appearance in a green jersey since the 6-Nations and will be keen to make his mark. The Irish pack did well in the scrums last week against France and they will be keen to keep parity against a much bigger pack this weekend.

All eyes on:
England’s physical dominance over the Irish is most evident in the mis-match of the center pairings, Mike Tindall and Manu Tuilagi will face Gordon D’Arcy and Keith Earls. I would also expect England to target the Irish 10-12 channel as this is where they are weakest. Jonny Wilkinson will no doubt provide plenty of opportunities to test Irish lineout, which has shown a great improvement in the last two matches.

Last fixture:
March 19, 2011, Ireland 24-8 England, Dublin.

Weather: Chance of showers.

Prediction:
Ireland will be keen to get a win under their belt and always up their game when England come to town, so on that basis, I’m going for an Ireland win by 6 points.





RWC2011 Warmup, Ireland v France – Ireland player ratings

22 08 2011

 

 

 

 


15  Felix Jones – 6

Had a cracking first half, but showed some nerves early in the second half, slicing a ball into touch on the full. Extremely unlucky to fall awkwardly on his ankle while contesting for a high ball, unfortunately his World Cup is over before it began.

14 Andrew Trimble – 6

For the third game running, Trimble has looked in good form, always looking for work and using his physicality to break the line.

13 Brian O’Driscoll – 6

Seemed to take a little too much on himself rather than distribute the ball a bit earlier. Utterly committed at the breakdown put his body on the line, to the gasps of the Irish supporters.

12 Gordon D’Arcy – 5

In his first game back since the Heineken Cup final, D’Arcy was off the pace and didn’t manage any line breaks. Rougerie and Heyman sliced D’Arcy and O’Driscoll open for their well taken try.

11 Keith Earls – 5

While providing a real attacking threat early on, when things started to go down-hill, panic set in. In his defence, the centers were drifting too far wide and not offloading earlier giving the wingers almost no room to operate in.

10 Jonathan Sexton – 6

Had a decent game, showed some great defensive play, was moved into center when ROG replaced D’Arcy. Acquitted himself well, was rewarded for his hard work with a try in the second half.

9 Tomas O’Leary – 2

Started brightly, great speed on the pass, nice distribution. Fell apart after the first 20 minutes, one brainfart after the next. One could be forgiven for thinking he doesn’t like New Zealand!?

1 Cian Healy – 7

Good performance from Healy, always looked lively in the loose and performed well in the scrum. Gave Kidney heart failure as he limped off the field with what turns out to be a bruised foot!

2 Rory Best – 6

Set-pieces were much improved this week for Ireland and the hooker is integral to that, seemed much more at ease and confident this week and it showed in his throwing.

3 Mike Ross – 6

Ross’ main job is the scrummage well, and that he did, His fist XV spot is nailed on and he knows it!

4 Donncha O’Callaghan – 5

Quiet day for O’Callaghan, claimed a couple of lineout balls and setup a nice rolling maul. Not sure if he has done enough to warrant a first XV spot?

5 Paul O’Connell – 7

Best 80 minutes Paul O’Connell has put in since returning from his long injury lay-off, Seemed willing to carry the ball more and was the decoy in the lineout all day. Needed to settle the team on the half-hour mark, instead they collectively lost the run of themselves.

6 Sean O’Brien – 7

The Tullow-Tank rolls on, great performance. Made more runs and tackles than anyone else on the team and was rewarded with a late try.

7 Shane Jennings – 3

Metres run with ball: 1, Tackles made: 1, 60minutes of ball-watching. Looked out of his depth.

8 Jamie Heaslip – 5

Went missing in the second half for long periods of time, Was partially to blame for O’Leary’s gift of a try to Trinh-Duc. Worked well in the lineout claiming two throws.

Replacements

16 Jerry Flannery – 6

Keeps the tempo of the game up, his throw-ins are quick and accurate. Needs to get a hearing aid to avoid being penalised for not using the ball.

17 Tom Court – 5

Pretty anonymous around the park but held the scrum together well.

18 Mike McCarthy  – Not on long enough for rating

19 Stephen Ferris – 6

Delighted to see Ferris come through his 20 minutes, some nice carries and huge collisions, his trademark.

20 Eoin Reddan – 5

While O’Leary was diabolical, Reddan didn’t offer much more in attack, but managed not to make the same amount of mistakes as his counterpart!

21 Ronan O’Gara – 6

Actually combined quite well with Sexton in the center, A combination that I doubt will be repeated any time soon however!

22 Luke Fitzgerald – 6

Much improved performance from Fitzgerald, made beautiful runs from deep to setup both Sexton and O’Brien’s try’s.





RWC2011 Warmup Ireland v France Preview

19 08 2011

Date: 20th August 2011
Time: 17:00 GMT
Venue: Lansdowne Road, Dublin
Referee: Craig Joubert (S.A)

Last Saturday saw a game of two halves, France dominated early on, Ireland showed much promise in the second 40 minutes in Bordeaux. However, Ireland need to lay down a marker this weekend and get over the tryline. Declan Kidney has named the strongest XV available to him for Saturdays game including Steven Ferris on the bench in his first appearance since last January.

France:
French coach Marc Lievremont makes a total of 13 changes to the team that beat Ireland last weekend, The only survivors are wing Alexis Palisson and hooker Dimitri Szarzewski. Palisson is joined in the backline by fullback Cedric Heymans, winger Maxime Medard and a return for Aurelien Rougerie to partner Fabrice Estebanez in the center. The other notable change in the French team is the considerably weaker backrow named for this week (Quegraogo, Bonnaire and Picamolesthan) in comparison to last weeks backrow of Dusautoir, Harinordoquy and Lakafia, this may be the chink in their armor.

Ireland:
Kidney’s preferred center partnership of O’Driscoll and D’Arcy is the big change for Ireland, Hopefully they can bring some much needed creativity into midfiled that has been lacking in the previous two games. This is the first choice Ireland pack that has been selected, Paul O’Connell starts alongside fellow Munster lock Donnacha O’Callaghan. Irelands backrow of O’Brien, Wallace and Heaslip is where I see Ireland getting the upper-hand in this game. All three are expert ball-carriers and should be able to put the French backline under some considerable pressure.

What to expect:
Ireland need to start producing results in the next two games. The 22 players named on this matchday squad are almost guaranteed a spot on the plane to New Zealand. Kidney names his 30-man squad on Sunday so all will be keen to leave a positive impression on him.

All eyes on:
Felix Jones makes his first international start for Ireland, he will be keen to make a good impression in Rob Kearney’s absence. Geordan Murphy’s rather cryptic tweet the other night “The obese lady has opened her vocal chords!!” does this indicate that Jones has cemented his place on the plane to NZ as backup to Kearney? Alos the return of O’Driscoll and D’Arcy is sure to get much attention in what will be a tough physical game for both facing Rougerie and Estebanez

Last fixture: 13th August France 19-12 Ireland, Bordeaux, France

Weather: Mild, Dry.

Prediction:
Ireland gave a glimpse of their potential in the second half last week, I think they will tun the French over here, I’m predicting and Irish win by 8+.

Original article written for therugbyblog.co.uk








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