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!

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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.








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