Scrums on the rugby field are an iconic image of the game and the work of The Front Row Club was the theme of my coaching column in RugbyMag Continue reading
The 2011/12 Heineken Cup is up and running. The main surprises to date have been Northampton’s disappointing form in the competition as well as Ronan O’Gara’s incredible match winning drop goals!
Due to the layout of the competition, teams will play against each other twice over the next two weeks. This always promises to be a season defining period for many of the competing teams.
Lineout Coach picks from Round 2
Castres Olympique 24 27 Munster
Unbelievably, Munster’s fly half, Ronan O’Gara scored another last minute drop goal to win the game for his side. Munster are looking dangerous and with O’Gara’s current form, I expect them to beat the Scarlets. Unfortunate news about the injury to Munster winger, Doug Howlett broke this week. Howlett will miss the rest of the season, but this gives the exciting Simon Zebo a chance to shine.
Gloucester 9 – 28 Harlequins
‘Quins are on fire this season. I have huge respect for Harlequins after the club endured a tough few years. Connor O’Shea deserves a lot of credit for the turnaround in Harlequins’ fortunes but so too do the players. The ‘Quins squad are a tight bunch of guys and the news of winger Ugo Moyne signing a new contract this week, will have given the whole club a boost. Harlequins sit top of the Aviva Premiership with 10 wins out of 10. Huge challenge awaits them over the next 2 weeks as theyface the mighty Toulouse.
Heineken Cup Results – Round 2
|Pool 1 Castres Olympique 24 – 27 Munster
Northampton Saints 23 – 28 Scarlets
Cardiff Blues 24 – 18 London Irish
Edinburgh 48 – 47 Racing Métro 92
Leinster 38 – 13 Glasgow Warriors
Bath 16 – 13 Montpellier
|Pool 4 ASM Clermont Auvergne 54 – 3 Aironi
Leicester Tigers 20 – 9 Ulster
Benetton Treviso 26 – 26 Ospreys
Biarritz 15 – 10 Saracens
Gloucester Rugby 9 – 28 Harlequins
Connacht 10 – 36 Toulouse
Still time to enter the LineoutCoach Heineken Cup Competition – get Tweeting!
Heineken Cup Fixtures
Friday, 9 December 2011
Cardiff Blues v Edinburgh, Pool 2, 20:00
Harlequins v Toulouse, Pool 6, 20:00
Ulster v Aironi, Pool 4, 19:30
Saturday, 10 December 2011
Castres v Northampton, Pool 1, 13:30
Connacht v Gloucester, Pool 6, 13:30
Racing Metro 92 v London Irish, Pool 2, 15:40
Saracens v Ospreys, Pool 5, 18:00
Scarlets v Munster, Pool 1, 15:40
Treviso v Biarritz, Pool 5, 13:30
Sunday, 11 December 2011
Bath v Leinster, Pool 3, 12:45
Clermont Auvergne v Leicester, Pool 4, 15:00
Glasgow v Montpellier, Pool 3, 12:45
Friday, 16 December 2011
Biarritz v Treviso, Pool 5, 20:00
Edinburgh v Cardiff Blues, Pool 2, 20:00
Ospreys v Saracens, Pool 5, 20:00
Saturday, 17 December 2011
Aironi v Ulster, Pool 4, 13:30
Gloucester v Connacht, Pool 6, 15:40
Leicester v Clermont Auvergne, Pool 4, 13:30
Leinster v Bath, Pool 3, 18:00
London Irish v Racing Metro 92, Pool 2, 15:00
Montpellier v Glasgow, Pool 3, 15:40
Sunday, 18 December 2011
Munster v Scarlets, Pool 1, 12:45
Northampton v Castres, Pool 1, 15:00
Toulouse v Harlequins, Pool 6, 15:00
Saturday, 14 January 2012
Aironi v Clermont Auvergne, Pool 4
Glasgow v Leinster, Pool 3
Harlequins v Gloucester, Pool 6
London Irish v Cardiff Blues, Pool 2
Montpellier v Bath, Pool 3
Munster v Castres, Pool 1
Ospreys v Treviso, Pool 5
Racing Metro 92 v Edinburgh, Pool 2
Saracens v Biarritz, Pool 5
Scarlets v Northampton, Pool 1
Toulouse v Connacht, Pool 6
Ulster v Leicester, Pool 4
Saturday, 21 January 2012
Bath v Glasgow, Pool 3
Biarritz v Ospreys, Pool 5
Cardiff Blues v Racing Metro 92, Pool 2
Castres v Scarlets, Pool 1
Clermont Auvergne v Ulster, Pool 4
Connacht v Harlequins, Pool 6
Edinburgh v London Irish, Pool 2
Gloucester v Toulouse, Pool 6
Leicester v Aironi, Pool 4
Leinster v Montpellier, Pool 3
Northampton v Munster, Pool 1
Treviso v Saracens, Pool 5
Gavin Hickie, The LineoutCoach, is a former Ireland, Leinster and Leciester rugby player now based in California and taking rugby to the USA. He writes for RugbyMag.com and other publications when not coaching for Belmont Shore and blogging on lineoutcoach.com
Here is my review of the first round and predictions for the key matches this weekend.
This week I take a look at three Irish fly halves who put in huge performances for their respective teams.
Munster 23-21 Northampton
Ronan O’Gara’s game winning drop goal, deep into injury time and after 40 phases of Munster attack, will long be remembered as one of the Heineken Cup‘s greatest moments. As will Michael Corcoran’s commentary! Follow Michael on Twitter – @MichaelC_RTE
Montpellier 16-16 Leinster
Johnny Sexton cooly slotted a last gasp penalty for the Champions away to Montpellier. A sign of true Champions is having the ability to get a result without firing on all cylinders. Leinster are making no secret about their intentions to defend and keep their Heineken Cup. This draw against the French side may prove vital in the final analysis. Montpellier is a very tough place to get a result.
Ulster 16-11 Clermont Auvergne
Ulster’s Ian Humphreys scored all of his side’s points against French side, Clermont Auvergne in Ravenhill. Surely Humphreys’ performance did not go unnoticed by Ireland Coach, Declan Kidney. Ireland are blessed to have Sexton and O’Gara battle it out for the starting No. 10 jersey, but three is better than two and Humphreys must enter the equation.
LOOKING FORWARD TO:
Leicester V Ulster – Promises to be a great battle in Welford Road on Saturday. Ulster fly half, Ian Humphreys will is undoubtedly looking forward to revisiting his old club, Tigers back row will look to unsettle Humphreys from early on.
Biarritz V Saracens – French side Biarritz need a victory on home soil following their defeat to the Ospreys last week. The return leg of this game was due to be played in Cape Town, South Africa but was switched back to London during the week.
Connacht V Toulouse – I am delighted to see Irish provincial side, Connacht compete in the Heineken Cup for the first time. Coached by former Irish fly half, Eric Elwood, the team from Galway have made huge strides over the past number of seasons. Connacht welcome the mighty Toulouse to the Sportsground on Saturday. The game is Connacht’s 100th European game and a huge ocassion for the Irish side. The day would be capped off nicely by claiming the scalp of the most successful team in Heineken Cup history.
Don’t forget to Pick your Pool winners and see if you can do better than me!
Heineken Cup Week 1
Pool 1 – Castres Olympique, Munster Rugby, Northampton Saints, Scarlets
Munster 23-21 Northampton
Scarlets 31-23 Castres
Friday, 18 November – Northampton v Scarlets 20:00
Saturday, 19 November – Castres v Munster 15:40
Pool 2 – Cardiff Blues, Edinburgh Rugby, London Irish, Racing Metro 92
Racing Metro 92 20-26 Cardiff Blues
London Irish 19-20 Edinburgh
Friday, 18 November – Cardiff Blues v London Irish 20:00, Edinburgh v Racing Metro 92 20:00
Pool 3 – Bath Rugby, Glasgow Warriors, Leinster Rugby, Montpellier
Montpellier 16-16 Leinster
Glasgow 26-21 Bath
Sunday, 20 November – Leinster v Glasgow 12:45, Bath v Montpellier 15:00
Pool 4 – Aironi Rugby, ASM Clermont Auvergne, Leicester Tigers, Ulster Rugby
Aironi 12-28 Leicester
Ulster 16-11 Clermont Auvergne
Saturday, 19 November – Leicester v Ulster 18:00, Clermont Auvergne v Aironi 20:00
Pool 5 – Benetton Treviso, Biarritz Olympique Pays Basque, Ospreys, Saracens
Ospreys 28-21 Biarritz
Saracens 42-17 Treviso
Saturday, 19 November – Biarritz v Saracens 13:30, Treviso v Ospreys 13:30
Pool 6 – Connacht Rugby, Gloucester Rugby, Harlequins, Toulouse
Harlequins 25-17 Connacht
Toulouse 21-17 Gloucester
Saturday, 19 November – Gloucester v Harlequins 15:40, Connacht v Toulouse 18:00
Gavin Hickie, The LineoutCoach, is a former Ireland, Leinster and Leciester rugby player now based in California and taking rugby to the USA. He writes for RugbyMag.com and other publications when not coaching for Belmont Shore and blogging on lineoutcoach.com
Rugby World Cup is it a level playing field?
This is a segment of an article I wrote for JL Pagano’s Sunday Rant about the Rugby World Cup on Facebook. Well worth a read….
Once every four years the global rugby community is treated to a fantastic sporting occasion. We get to see the world’s greatest rugby teams battle it out for the Webb-Ellis Trophy.
I believe it is safe to say that since the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987, the tournament has improved considerably as has the standard of rugby played. The main reason for this must be put down to the professionalism of the sport. During the Rugby World Cup, we get to enjoy all the established professional rugby teams go from strength to strength. Every rugby fan gets a thrill from watching New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and the home nations, Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, France and Italy. According to the I.R.B. Rankings, these teams, along with Argentina make up the top 10 rugby nations in the world. These countries with the possible exception of Argentina are all professional rugby teams. This is my rugby world cup rant….
Rugby World Cup goes truly global
Rugby is becoming more of a global sport. For the first time ever, Russia is competing at this year’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. The Russian Rugby Union have invested heavily in their domestic rugby infrastructure. Georgia too is a country taking massive strides in establishing itself as serious rugby nation. Another milestone is that this is the first Rugby World Cup to be broadcast on free to air television in the United States. This marks a significant turning point for the sport in this country. Without a doubt, the so-called “developing nations” are making conscious efforts to grow the game within their respective countries. These countries need as much help and assistance as possible from the I.R.B.
Rugby World Cup is it a level playing field?
The rugby world cup fixture list is testament to my rant. In each of the quadrennial tournaments, the fixture list consistently appears to favour the top rugby nations. Teams such as New Zealand, England and Australia have plenty of rugby resources at their disposal. They have considerable sized player pools to choose from and the national sides are professional outfits. The top ten rugby nations in the world are expected to get through the pool stages. This means that these teams are expected to play more games than the “minnows” during the course of the tournament. So, perhaps the reasoning behind the inconsistent world cup fixtures is that the top rugby nations are expected to go further in the competition than the less developed nations so their squads deserve more rest between games? This is a shallow argument.
Rest between games plays a vital role in any team’s success during competitions. There is a reason why club rugby sides usually only play once a week. Countless studies into player fatigue have been conducted. I took part in a major study into player welfare while I was playing in the Aviva Premiership in England. The results indicated that injuries are more commonplace in squads with the least amount of rest between games. Rugby is a very physical sport and the body needs to be allowed to recover between matches. The Rugby World Cup fixture list has provided little rest period for some of the nations that need it the most.
Rugby World Cup Twitter Revolution
Samoa’s Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu brought a lot of attention to the imbalanced fixture list on Twitter. The Samoan centre got carried away by making comparisons to the holocaust, but the point he was trying to make was that his team’s condensed fixtures were unjust and impeded the progression of Manu Samoa. He had a point. Samoa played against Wales just four days after playing Namibia. That meant that the Samoan squad had only three full days between games. Cleary that is unjust compared to Wales’ rest period of six full days between rugby world cup games. Make no mistake about how important this rest period is. Wales beat Samoa 17-10 and this sparked Sapolu’s outcry. The I.R.B. threatened to suspend the outspoken player but wisely chose not to. Sapolu dared the I.R.B. to carry out their threat, stating it was another unjust act by rugby’s governing body.
Samoa ‘s Rugby World Cup campaign is over. Always an exciting team to watch, one wonders how those narrow defeats to Wales and South Africa could have been different with more rest between games.
Namibia are another nation who can feel aggrieved with the fixture list. With very limited resources and player pool, Namibia were always going to struggle. Their cause was not helped by the fact that they only had three full recovery days on two separate occasions. The African side were in the Rugby World Cup Pool D, along with Samoa, South Africa, Wales and Fiji. Namibia played against Samoa four days after their opening game against Fiji. Namibia did have a full week’s rest before facing South Africa but were again in action against Wales four days later. Considered a tier three team by the I.R.B., Namibia reached the Rugby World Cup finals on each occasion since their debut in 1999. They are now ranked 19th in the I.R.B. rankings.
Rugby World Cup & USA Rugby
The Rugby World Cup fixture list has been equally cruel on the United States. The Eagles also only three full rest days between games on two separate occasions. Rugby here in the U.S. has huge potential. The national team’s compact Rugby World Cup fixtures hinder that potential. U.S.A. played against Russia, four days after their defeat to Ireland. They also played against Italy four days after losing heavily to Australia. The fixture list makes no sense and is extremely unfair on teams with limited resources. With more rest between games, I believe the U.S. Eagles could have pulled off a major upset.
Success breeds success and successful teams by their very nature generate support. With more victories comes more publicity. This plays a crucial role in the awareness of the sport in the developing rugby nations. It is very difficult for these teams to string consecutive victories together with such concentrated match schedules. This in turn, hinders the awareness of the sport in the psyche of the general public of these nations.
Rugby World Cup Investing for the Future
We have reached the Quarter Finals stage of the Rugby World Cup. The supposed rugby “minnows” have performed valiantly. The rugby public has witnessed this during the competition. There is so much potential in the second and third tier teams. The I.R.B. need to recognize this and invest appropriately in these regions. I do not envy the task of the I.R.B. who have worked very hard already to expand the development of the game globally, but more needs to be done. Rugby here in the U.S. has seen participation numbers grow by 51% over the past 18 months. It is the fastest growing team sport in this country. There is massive potential in North America.
Tonga’s surprise win over France means that unless Canada beat the All Blacks, Tonga finish Rugby World Cup Pool A in third place. This means Canada will not qualify automatically for the Rugby World Cup in 2015. Regardless of this, investment is warranted for both U.S.A. and Canada rugby.
The logistics of organizing the fixture list of a Rugby World Cup is undoubtedly a tough task. However, the fixtures need to be fair on all teams. Let’s hope that we see this in 2015…
Rugby World Cup article featured on Harpin on Rugby’s Sunday Sidebar on Facebook
More Rugby World Cup on LineoutCoach.com
Gavin Hickie, USA Rugby U20s Forwards Coach, is a former Ireland, Leinster and Leicester rugby player now based in California and taking rugby to the USA. He writes for RugbyMag.com and other publications when not coaching for Belmont Shore and blogging on lineoutcoach.com about the Rugby World Cup #busy
Rugby World Cup – Set piece analysis
Ireland are through to the Quarter Finals of the Rugby World Cup 2011. Huge credit must go to Irish coach, Declan Kidney and every member of his squad. Ireland went into the tournament with four straight loses. Now, the Irish team have recorded four convincing wins and have qualified top of Pool C. Credit must also be given to the outstanding support the Irish team are receiving in New Zealand. Every Irish player has spoken of the incredible support for the team. Don’t underestimate the influence the crowd can have on a result. They lift the player’s spirits and inspire confidence within the squad. To all in New Zealand, keep up the great work!
The set piece always plays a vital role in any game of rugby. This game was always going to be won or lost up front in the set piece and that is how it turned out. Both sides were evenly balanced at half time. The loss of Italian tight head prop, Martin Castrogiovanni early in the second half swung the game in Ireland’s favour. Castro’s injury saw him replaced by Lo Cicero, who cannot play at tight head. This meant that loose head prop Perugini was forced to play at tight head. This was a monumental disaster for the Italians as their scrums simply fell apart. No rugby team in the world can hope to win a game without functioning scrums and lineouts. It is certainly not possible at this level.
Lineouts offer the most effective form of attack for a rugby side. Ireland utilized their lineout plays extremely well in the second half and the results were apparent. The Irish team scored two tries from exactly the same lineout move, from exactly the same place on the pitch. This was a rehearsed move that the Irish squad must have worked on throughout the week leading up to this game.
Rugby World Cup Analysis: Here is the breakdown of Ireland’s set piece:
Rugby World Cup: Ireland had four lineouts in the first half
- On halfway. Full man lineout. Outcome = Kick
- On Italian 22m line. 6 man. Outcome = Earls almost in at corner. Lineout to Italy
- On Italian 10m line. Full man lineout. Outcome = Lineout to Italy
- On Italian 10m line. 5 man lineout. Outcome = Penalty to Italy (Penalty reversed
Rugby World Cup: Ireland had six lineouts in the second half
- On Italian 10m line. Full man lineout. Outcome = Missed drop goal
- On Italian 10m line. Full man. Thrown to front. Outcome = TRY (BO’D)
- On Italian 10m line. Full man. Thrown to front. Outcome = TRY (Earls)
- On Italian 22m line. Full man. Outcome = Scrum (Kearney Held Up)
- On Ireland 10m line. Full man lineout. Outcome = Penalty to Ireland
- On Ireland 22m line. Full man. Thrown to front. Outcome = Kick
Rugby World Cup: Lineout analysis
The loss of tight head prop Martin Castrogiovanni saw Italy fall to pieces in their scrums and lineouts. As a prop, Castro obviously had a massive role to play in the scrums but any change of personnel in the lineouts can and did cause major disruption for the Italians.
Rugby World Cup: Ireland had three scrums in the first half
- On Italian 10m line. Outcome = Kick
- On halfway line. Multiple phases. Outcome = Kick
- On Italian 22m line. Outcome = Scrum to Italy
Rugby World Cup: Ireland had four scrums in the second half
- On Ireland 10m line. Outcome = Penalty to Ireland
- On Italian 5m line. Outcome = Turnover to Italy/Against the head
- On Ireland 22m line. Outcome = Free kick to Ireland
- On Ireland 5m line. Outcome = Penalty to Ireland
Rugby World Cup: Scrum analysis
Ireland are four wins from four and are oozing confidence. The team have generated tournament momentum by winning. Winning is a habit and Ireland are in the habit of winning at the moment. However, so are Ireland’s next opponents, Wales. These two sides are the in-form European rugby teams and another massive clash is in store next week.
Rugby World Cup on LineoutCoach
Rugby World Cup: Ireland V U.S.A. Review – Set Piece Analysis
Excerpt from www.thescore.ie
…..There were an average of 31 lineouts per game in the Rugby World Cup 2007. This game, played in a wet New Plymouth, produced 32 lineouts.
As expected, Ireland dominated the US Eagles in the set piece plays. However, the outcomes or the resulting plays from the Irish scrums and lineouts were not up to the standard required to make a real impact at the Rugby World Cup and there is plenty of work to do within the Irish camp…..
Read the full report of Rugby World Cup Ireland v USA HERE
Gavin Hickie, USA Rugby U20s Forwards Coach, is a former Ireland, Leinster and Leciester rugby player now based in California and taking rugby to the USA. He writes for Rugby Mag and other publications when not coaching for Belmont Shore and blogging onlineoutcoach.com
“Hickie making mark in growing U.S. club scene”
England are celebrating the discovery of a new centre partnership, a first win on Irish soil in 8 years and a big boost in confidence. In stark contrast, Ireland, will be without David Wallace for the world cup, have lost all 4 warm up games and, most worryingly, are not currently playing to their potential. The Irish players and management argue that the world cup has not started yet and that the recent results are somewhat irrelevant. As true as that is, momentum is vital. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately so is losing. England will start the world cup looking to build on their 2 game winning streak. Ireland will be desperate to get back to winning when they kick off their campaign against the United States Eagles on September 11th.
England boast a formidable world cup track record. Out of the six world cup tournaments ever held, the all whites have featured in three finals including 2003 which saw them win the famous Webb Ellis trophy. In Pool B, along with Georgia, Argentina, Scotland and Romania, England are favorites to top their pool and advance to the quarter finals. Yesterday’s performance against Ireland has given the former world champions a number of reasons to feel optimistic as they board the plane to New Zealand.
It is a little early to over hype the centre partnership of Tindall and Tuilagi. Both men played well yesterday and looked like they could potentially form a dangerous partnership, but it was their first game together. On one of Jonny Wilkinson’s quieter days, Tindall became the maestro of the England backline. He pulled Irish defenders this way and that, created space for his teammates, provided a deft chip kick for Armitage’s try and defended gallantly throughout. This will be Mike Tindall’s last world cup. As one of the elder statesmen in the English squad and with plenty of international test experience, Tindall will play a huge role in England’s fortunes at the tournament. He may yet prove to be a perfect mentor for his young centre partner, and that could have devastating effects.
Most of the talk has been about the rising star, Manu Tuilagi. Manu is one of six Tuilagi brothers all to have represented Leicester Tigers but the first to represent England. While at Leicester Tigers I played alongside Henry and Alex Tuilagi. These men are forces of nature. They boast incredible physical attributes including strength, power and speed. So much so that Henry would have to take it “easy” on his teammates at training for fear of causing serious injury. That was three years ago but I remember the word around Leicester’s training ground at Oadby was, “wait until you see their younger brother”. Manu Tuilagi has arrived and will make a big impact at the world cup. Like his brothers, Manu is the real deal.
Somewhat overlooked is the fact that England beat Ireland on Irish soil for the first time in 8 years. This gives the whole English squad a massive psychological boost. The players will take a lot of confidence from the victory and Martin Johnson could not ask for better timing. Last year England looked set for a Grand Slam 6 Nations only to be thwarted by an impressive Irish display. The defeat left them crushed and soul searching. Mike Tindall, in his post match comments made reference to the “hurt” of last year’s defeat against Ireland but also to their collective willingness to put that right. England were a lot more hungry for a victory than Ireland yesterday and that was down to the team’s desire to work very hard for each other. This bodes well for their campaign. England kick off their world cup tournament against Argentina.
In the month of August, Ireland have slipped from fourth to eight place (a record low) in the I.R.B. rankings. In the same month Ireland have suffered four straight defeats. Included is the fact that Ireland have surrendered a proud a home record against the English. These are not good world cup preparations and Ireland’s fortunes need to drastically change soon.
Ireland coach, Declan Kidney will draw on whatever positives he can from the yesterday’s defeat. The Irish set pieces performed well for the most part. Flannery’s lineout throwing was accurate and repeatedly reached his target. The Irish scrum help up for the most part too. These are very important facets to get right as scrums and lineouts provide the backs with the ball. On top of this, there were a couple of notable Irish performances. Geordan Murphy stood out in both attack and defence. The Leicester Tigers man showed tremendous composure as he went it to tackle Tigers teammate, Manu Tuilagi and stop a certain try. Murphy has surely been in the exact same situation on numerous instances at training for his club. He waited until Tuilagi extended his powerful hand off, Murphy then pushed Tuilagi’s arm out of the way, allowing him to make a clean tackle. This action was done in a split second but saved a try. Moments later, Geordan Murphy won Ireland a penalty and subsequent 3 points when he got shoulder charged by England’s Courtney Lawes.
Paul O’Connell also had a very big game. This does not tell us much going into a world cup though. The rugby community knows what a phenomenal rugby player O’Connell is. He is the heartbeat of the Irish team and has been for many years. He leads the Irish pack and calls the lineouts. His presence on the team instill confidence in his teammates. O’Connell’s toughest challenge is to ensure his teammates live up to his high standards.
On the negative side, Ireland may be very fortunate that they face the United States in their opening game of the world cup. No disrespect intended whatsoever as the United States, coached by former Irish coach, Eddie O’Sullivan, will take great heart in the recent Irish performances. However, Ireland will still be expected to beat the Eagles, who are themselves on a losing streak of two losses to Canada. If the first game for Ireland was against Australia or even Italy, there may be more room for concern. Teams should get better by each game and momentum matters in the world cup. Having said that, Ireland face newly crowned Tri Nations Champions, Australia in their second game.
Against England, Ireland were physically dominated at the rucks and breakdowns. The ball was slow to come out and facing England’s rushing defence yesterday, Ireland seemed bereft of ideas in attack and only once in the whole game did the Irish manage to pass the ball along their entire backline. Like the previous week, the backs’ passing was too lateral and nothing came of the attempted attack.
The biggest negative for Ireland yesterday was the loss of flanker David Wallace. Wallace has played a key role in Ireland’s and Munster’s successes over the years. He is a complete No.7 who offers just as much in attack as he does in defence. Wallace has suffered countless injuries and setbacks but somehow always managed to come back from injury a better player. This would have been the 35 year old’s last world cup and he was destined to make a big impact. Very sadly it is not to be. Wallace is not a man for histrionics and looked in considerable pain when his studs got caught in the grass and his knee gave way. He is a huge loss for Ireland and I wish him well for a very speedy recovery. Injuries are without doubt the worst enemy of any sports person.
Every single sports person in the world needs luck. Wallace’s heartbreaking injury provides another player not included in Kidney’s original plans to get into the Irish squad. One assumes that selection has to be Shane Jennings. Ireland need a proper openside flanker on the team. Wallace was the only out and out 7 in the squad. It would be too risky to have Sean O’Brien at openside. O’Brien needs to be in the team but his bullocking runs are nullified when he plays at 7 as he has to work a lot harder in defence then he would do at blindside flanker. Openside flankers have a lot of work to do in defence. From lineouts they must stay on the inside of the outhalf and stop any attacks down that channel. From scrums, they should be the first man making the tackle or competing for the ball at the ensuing ruck. Shane Jennings fits this role to a tee. He can be seen constantly conferring with outhalf, Sexton on attack and defence for Leinster and Ireland. He communicates well and rarely does he miss a tackle. His introduction at half time in the Heineken Cup saw Leinster overturn a 16 point deficit and become eventual winners. Jennings is a very intelligent rugby player and along with Leo Cullen has strengthened the mettle of Leinster rugby since their arrival home from Leicester Tigers.
Ireland depart for New Zealand on Tuesday.
Cian Healy – One of Ireland’s most dynamic and strongest props. Expect a big world cup from Healy.
Mike Ross – Enjoyed a meteoric rise to the top. Very dependable and solid last year. Made the tight head position his own. Big challenge but undoubtedly up to it.
Tom Court – Big opportunity for the prop as he will get game time in New Zealand. Relatively untested but that will change soon.
Tony Buckley – The former Newbridge second row will be looking to have a big impact at the world cup. Only 4 props travelling means they will all get plenty of opportunities.
Jerry Flannery – Just back from injury but will probably be Ireland’s first choice hooker. Flannery’s last world cup, expect it to be his best if he can stay clear of injury.
Rory Best – Will be pushing Flannery for starting hooker. An impressive throwing display against France last week will have his confidence high. A leader within the team.
Sean Cronin – Would Kidney have picked 3 hookers if Flannery had not been injured for so long? Cronin deserves his place but may have limited game time.
Paul O’Connell – The leader of the forwards. O’Connell is one of the world’s best second rows and the heartbeat of the Irish pack. Plagued with injury over the past couple of seasons, this will surely be O’Connell’s last world cup. He will give it everything.
Donncha O’Callaghan – Has been very dependable for years and has formed a great partnership with O’Connell for Munster, Ireland and the Lions.
Leo Cullen – The Leinster captain will be hoping he can break up the partnership of O’Connell and O’Callaghan by forcing his way into the Irish second row. Had a fantastic season which saw his Leinster team crowned Heineken Cup Champions.
David Wallace – Needs to prove that his hamstring injury is not severe this Saturday against England. Playing in his final world cup, Wallace has been an incredible servant to Irish rugby. The only out-and-out No. 7 in the Irish squad will have a huge role in New Zealand.
Sean O’Brien – An aggressive, abrasive and dynamic loose forward. This is O’Brien’s first world cup and barring injury will not be his last. Could be a very big star after the world cup!
Donnacha Ryan – The Shannon man’s ability to play second row and offer himself as a lineout target may have proved instrumental in his selection. Will get his chance.
Stephen Ferris – The Ulster man is just back from a lengthy injury but is included in the squad. One of the stars of the 2009 Lions tour, Ferris’ inclusion comes as no surprise. Forms part of an exciting and potentially devastating Irish backrow.
Jamie Heaslip – One of Leinster and Ireland’s consistent performers. Heaslip has been outstanding for the past number of seasons and will be instrumental for Ireland at the world cup.
Denis Leamy – Injuries have plagued the Tipperary man but he will be delighted to get the nod. Ireland’s backrow is ultra competitive but Leamy’s ability to cover more than one position could prove important.
Eoin Reddan – Reddan enjoyed a very successful season at Leinster and looks to be Ireland’s first choice scrum half for the world cup. Forms a very good partnership with provincial teammate Johnny Sexton.
Isaac Boss – Still has a lot to offer and playing in his native New Zealand will stoke the fire all the more for Boss.
Conor Murray – One of the surprises of the squad. The scrum half has enjoyed a fantastic year. Making his debut for Munster only a few months ago, Murray’s inclusion meant Tomas O’Leary was omitted. A very exciting prospect.
Johnny Sexton – The key for Ireland’s world cup hopes. Sexton will be massively influential in any game he plays in. Undoubtedly now Ireland’s first choice outhalf, expect him to come back as a global rugby star.
Ronan O’Gara – Ireland’s two outhalves compliment each other very well and can be used very effectively by the Irish management. Expect Sexton to start games and O’Gara to close them out. A legend of Irish rugby. This will be ROG’s last world cup.
Brian O’Driscoll (Captain) – All good things must come to an end. This will be the captain’s last world cup. A mercurial talent who leads by example every time he plays. Will go down as one of the world’s greatest centres of all time. A privilege to have played on the same team as this rugby legend.
Gordon D’Arcy – Will be hoping to have a big world cup. D’arcy and O’Driscoll have been the spine of the Irish rugby team for close to a decade. His explosive runs as well his ability to stay on his feet should set Ireland on the front foot.
Fergus McFadden – A surprise inclusion? An exciting prospect who can also cover the wing position. McFadden gets the nod ahead of fellow Leinster teammate, Luke Fitzgerald.
Paddy Wallace – Can cover a number of positions and is a goal kicker. Wallace’s inclusion should not come a s a surprise. Will be used as a utility back.
Tommy Bowe – Since his omission from the world cup of 2007, Bowe has been in incredible form for the Ospreys and Ireland. The Monaghan man will be one of the first names on the team sheet.
Andrew Trimble – Has been one of the few notable performers during Ireland’s warm up games. The Ulster man has earned his place in the squad and will battle it out with Earls for one of the wing positions. May see him at centre also.
Keith Earls – Will be looking for a big world cup. His explosive runs will hopefully be his trade mark in New Zealand. Will probably be first choice winger along with Bowe.
Rob Kearney – Following his lengthly lay off through injury, the Leinster man has regained form just in time for the world cup. Kearney reminded everyone of his ability during Ireland’s warm up games and will probably be first choice full back.
Geordan Murphy – Finally Geordy is picked! The Leicester Tigers legend has been cruelly struck down with injury on numerous occasions so he knows how Felix Jones feels right now. Murphy had been told he was not included in the squad until Felix Jones’ injury against France. Without doubt Murphy thoroughly deserves his chance.
The 30 players listed above will represent Ireland in the highly anticipated Rugby World Cup taking place in New Zealand in just over two weeks. Choosing only 30 players from a much larger pool of top quality players is an unenviable task for any coach. It is often referred to as a “good problem”. It is a problem that all coaches want as opposed to only having a very limited number of players to chose from. All the members of the Irish squad deserve their place on merit, that is without question but what about the players not included in the final Irish rugby squad?
Luke Fitzgerald – The cousin of the Irish captain can feel very disappointed not to be included in Kidney’s plans for the world cup. Fitzgerald has struggled with injury and form since his British & Irish Lions selection 2 years ago ,but has shown signs of coming back to his best. His impressive performance last week against France was unfortunately too little too late for Kidney and the Irish management. Ireland’s loss is Leinster’s gain.
Tomas O’Leary – Along with Fitzgerald, O’Leary’s omission came as the biggest surprise. O’Leary was selected for the 2009 British & Irish Lions but suffered a broken ankle and never made the tour. Ireland coach, Declan Kidney has appeared to favor O’Leary at scrum half over the past few seasons so it makes his exclusion all the more surprising. Although O’Leary’s performance against France may not have done him any favors, it seems as though he already knew that he was not going to the world cup. The players were allegedly informed of their omission by the irish management last Thursday. Was this on O’Leary’s mind during the game against France?
Shane Jennings – Another player who suffered injury at the wrong time. Jennings broke his arm in the Magner’s League Grand Final against Munster last season. He was in a race against time to play a game before the world cup squad was announced. The flanker started against France last Saturday in place of the injured David Wallace but was unable to force his way into the final Irish squad. There seems to be a global shift away from the “fetching” flanker (No. 7 who competes for the ball at rucks). Competing at the break down is Jennings’ forte but Ireland and England have only included one of these “fetchers” in their squads, in Wallace and Moody respectively. Teams are committing less players to the rucks these days and relying on their defence. Thanks to the skill and incredible ability of New Zealand No. 7, Richie McCaw, referees will be looking to penalize players deemed to be slowing the ball at ruck time during the World Cup. The decision to only bring one recognized No. 7 means that Jennings loses out. Very disappointing for the man who’s introduction at half time of the Heineken Cup final saw a massive shift in Leinster’s fortunes.
John Hayes – It is hard not to feel for Ireland’s most capped prop. He has been a stalwart of Munster and Irish rugby for over a decade. I feel that Hayes still had a role to play in the World Cup but the Irish management obviously felt otherwise. It is vital that Ireland have a solid scrum and without doubt Hayes can provide that. Sadly this is a world cup too far for the veteran prop and it remains to be seen if Hayes has played his last game of rugby. An Irish legend.
Peter Stringer – Along with John Hayes, Stringer has been a mainstay in the Irish team for close on a decade. Although never really in contention for this world cup’s selection, the veteran scrum half deserves a special mention for his outstanding contribution to Irish rugby. Stringer and Hayes (along with many others) dragged Irish rugby, kicking and screaming, up to the high standard we now associate with the national team. They have been a credit to Irish rugby and it has been a joy to watch them.
The players who did not make the final squad will feel devastated. It is desperately unlucky to miss out when you have come so close. These players will have to put their disappointment behind them and focus on their provincial teams. It is tough, but that is the cut throat nature of professional sport.
The Irish team have played three warm up games and lost three warm up games. Kidney and O’Driscoll were quick to point out that the results were “not important and that the world cup has not kicked off yet”. This is true but Ireland need to get back to winning ways before the competition commences.
The Irish squad has been selected so it is time to get behind the team. Ireland have one more warm up game on Saturday. The opposition: England. This may be just the game Ireland need to get their world cup campaign up and running…