Ireland, Organised Chaos?

29 08 2011
Pic: Ken Sutton -

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 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.


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.

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

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