#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.



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


6N:2011 Post-mortem – Italy v Ireland player ratings

7 02 2011

Italian backrow Sergio Parisse

Luke Fitzgerald – 7
After a shaky start where he seemed to be trying ‘too-hard’, Fitzgerald improved greatly as the game went on. Made a superb break after 19mins which almost put Sexton through for a try. Starting to look more comfortable in the 15 jersey.

Fergus McFadden – 6
Looked solid and assured in hist first game for the senior squad. Very unlucky not to get a hold of the stray pass from O’Driscoll which would have resulted in a try. Made a couple of nice offloads to keep the ball alive.

Brian O’Driscoll – 6
Had a bit of a slow start, butchered an try-scoring opportunity early on by throwing a very loose pass outside him. Took his try clinically in the second half, spotting the mismatch of Castrogiovanni and darted in for the score.

Gordon D’Arcy – 4
Ireland could have certainly left “Dorce-outside” for this game, he had a shocker! Almost every time he got the ball he managed to bungle it and knock-on. Surprised he managed to stay on the field for 76 minutes, speaks volumes for the Irish management.

Keith Earls – 7
Looks much more comfortable playing on the wing it has to be said, made some lovely breaks. Always looked hungry for work making himself available for every attack.

Jonathan Sexton – 6
Definitely offers more in attack that O’Gara, his physicality was on show when he dumped Italian second row Quintin Geldenhuys on his posterior at the end of the first half.

Tomás O’Leary – 3
Hasn’t shown anything like his pre-injury form since coming back, Very slow on the ball, taking extra steps, seemed off the pace. This combined with the Italian defense rushing, gave our backline no time whatsoever to create anything. Reddan didn’t offer anything different when he came on, Peter Stringer needs to be included in the match 22.

Cian Healy – 4
Healy struggled in the scrum, got pinged multiple times for not binding correctly and knees hitting the deck early. Seemed to be the weak-link in the Irish scrum.

Rory Best – 5
Lineouts were not perfect by any means but the stats show that we only lost 1 from 8 on our own throw. Didn’t carry as much as he normally would, showed a fearsome defensive display to keep the Italians out.

Mike Ross – 5
Probably one of the toughest international games that Ross has played in, The Italian pack was impressive, but Ross gave a good account of himself. Got penalised early on  by Poite, for reasons known only to himself. Made two turnovers and carried the ball

Donncha O’Callaghan – 7
Aggressive, industrious and mischievous! Highest tackle count of the Irish players, always a nuisance in the lineout. Gave away one silly penalty but that was the only blot on his copybook for the day, My man of the match.

Paul O’Connell – 6
Made a couple of handling errors early on, but is improving with every game. Faded slightly toward to the end of the game and was replaced. Will improve as the competition rolls on.

Denis Leamy – 5
Did carry the ball alot but offered little penetration, didn’t seem t get involved as much as the game wore on. His yellow card was harsh, seemed to take the rap for the infringements that went before him.

David Wallace – 6
Wallace looked good early on and faded in the second half. Again, lots of carry’s but few line breaks. Parisse demonstrated how it should be done.

Seán O’Brien – 6
Had a very quiet first 40 minutes, Had one superb break only to get caught in two-minds and fumble the ball. Turned over the ball on a couple of occasions and also kept himself busy in defence.


Eoin Reddan – 5
Solid enough, good in defence combining with Earls to bring Parisse down towards the end of the game. Doesn’t bring the snappy pass that Stringer would have brought to the game.

Ronan O’Gara – 6
Being hailed as the hero and man who saved Ireland, truth be told, Sexton would have nailed the drop-goal. (Not to detract from ROG’s cool-head).

Leo Cullen, Seán Cronin, Tom Court and Paddy Wallace (all 76 mins) Rating: Not on long enough to be rated

Original article written for TheRugbyBlog.co.uk

6N:2011 – Italy v Ireland match preview

3 02 2011

Italy v Ireland, Rome, Feb 5th 14:30GMT

Italy: Sergio Parisse returns to 6-Nations action leading his side out in the Stadio Flaminio this Saturday. Italy have shown a marked improvement since they joined the 5-Nations 12 years ago. I believe that the next 2 season will see the greatest leap in performance, Italian teams are competing week-in, week-out, in the Magners League and Heineken Cup. Already this season Aironi beat last season’s Heineken Cup finalists Biarritz. The confidence the players will gain from such performances will start to show at club and national level.

Ireland:The return of inspirational captain Paul O’Connell will give the Irish a huge boost coming into this game. The Irish team have been decimated with injuries, but this may well turn out to be a blessing in disguise giving players like Fergus McFadden, Sean O’Brien and Mike Ross an opportunity to squeeze their way into the first team. With so many forced changes in the side Declan Kidney has not experimented too much in other positions and reverts to the experienced pairings of O’Connell and O’Callaghan in the 2nd row and Wallace and Leamy to partner O’Brien in the backrow.

What to expect: Both Ireland and Italy are notorious slow-starters, so don’t expect the first 20 minutes to be fast and furious! Expect the scrums and inevitable resets to play a big part in this game, Ireland will need to have patience and keep their discipline. If Nick Mallet has been watching any rugby this season he will know that Ireland’s fullback Luke Fitzgerlad has not been on-form since returning from injury and he could be in for a torrent of high balls raining down on him this Saturday. The atmosphere in Rome is always electric, the weather will be sunny and 15C so that will suit Ireland style in getting the ball wide fast.

All eyes on:

Making only his 3rd senior cap, Mike Ross, the 31-year-old Corkman lines out against Italy this Saturday in what will be the biggest test of his scrummaging ability of his career. Ireland have suffered massively in the scrum of late and there have been some pretty strong calls for Ross’ inclusion in the senior setup. Ross has been in excellent form playing for Leinster this season

Italian outhalf Kristopher Burton will come under close scrutiny in this game, the young Aussie will earn his 5th cap on Saturday after putting some impressive performances in this season at club level with Treviso. Italy have lost their first-choice out-half Craig Gower to a knee injury and Burton will be keen to make his mark on the Azzuri squad to asure himself of a place in the Italian World cup side. Edoardo Gori will partner Burton at half-back and this inexperienced pairiing will surely be a target for the very experienced Irish backrow.

Head to head: Sergio Parisse v Sean O’Brien
The battle of the number 8’s sees 2008 World Player of the year nominee, Parisse, face off against Leinster dynamo Sean O’Brien. Parisse is returning to 6-Nations action after missing last years tournament with a knee injury, but will be keen to put his stamp on the game. Parisse dislocated a finger during Stade Francais’ defeat to Castres last week, but has been confirmed to start on Saturday. O’Brien has been in scintillating form for Leinster this season, always popping up in the right place at the right time. O’Briens performances for Leinster in the Heineken Cup have seen the Carlow man pick up 2 Man of the Match awards already this season.

Last year’s result: Ireland won 29-11, Dublin

Prediction: Italy will try to kill the fast ball that Ireland will want to generate, pressure on the scrum will be immense. Ireland’s forced changes will all be trying to stake a claim for 1st team places and this should inject a sense of urgency to the game, could turn out to be an interesting game. With the weather being dry and clear Ireland will have the advantage, In the end they will have too much for Italy and should emerge winners. Ireland by 18.

Article originally written for theRugbyBlog.co.uk

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