Conor Murray: It seemed that Murray made the plane only because Tomas O’Leary had one howler too many against France and three scrum halves were needed in the party. Once selected, he continued his meteoric rise and became first choice scrum half before the end of the tour. At times against the Welsh, he seemed a bit off the pace, no doubt a consequence of exposure to a higher pace of game than he was used to. Murray offered a physical presence with a well rounded skill set and was a definite plus from the tournament.
Must Do Better: Murray was under the radar for most of the season. While he has dealt well with every challenge posed to him so far, next year coaches and video analysts will know far more about his game. Comparisons have been made to Mike Phillips, and while Murray is a useful runner, he is unlikely to offer the same threat as the Welshman. A better comparison to aspire to is Nick Farr-Jones, also a big man for a half back but one who varied his options superbly.
Eoin Reddan: He started the Australian game but lost out to Murray for the rest of the tournament, despite not playing badly. His introduction against Wales caused them some problems and he brought his back row into play well. He put in two tackles against the Italians during his short time on the park, showing a defensive solidity that surprised the Mole.
Must Do Better: Reddan seems to thrive on competition. At various stages of his international career he has shared the role with Stringer, O’Leary and Murray without ever nailing the starting slot for a consistent run. Isaac Boss and ‘whochatalkinabout’ Willis will keep Reddan on his toes at Leinster. Nine is a position of strength.
Isaac Boss: Got a run in New Zealand, scored a try, played in a World Cup. It must have been frustrating to be a number three but there’s harder stations.
Must Do Better: Ireland aren’t looking at Boss to solve a positional problem. He plays an unconventional style and provides an alternative sort of scrum half. Not quick enough at the base to consistently start, his physicality and football are ideal, at times, when a game needs closing.
Ronan O’Gara: Where do you start? The comeback kid. Gamblor. Mentally strong. I, me, mine. There’s no half measures with this lad. Great interviews, great line kicking, top quality goal kicking, mediocre running threat, crab sideways passing style, terrible tackling technique, outrageous self confidence. O’Gara looked good as he guided the ship home against the Wobs. He dissected Russia and a lacklustre Italy. He launched a one man PR campaign and placekicked himself onto the team then ran through the full gamut of his limitations against Wales. He’ll be back.
Must Do Better: Come off the bench, close out games. Keep giving interviews. Don’t think you’re kidding anyone at this stage of the game.
Jonny Sexton: He’d start for France or New Zealand were he available for the final but Declan couldn’t leave aul ROG out and Sexton sat on the bench too long against Wales. His place kicking was miserable then seemed to get better, just when it was too late. This was an opportunity missed for Sexton who will really come into his own during the next four years.
Must Do Better: Sexton used run across the pitch but he’s stopped doing that and the improvement has been noticeable. The next step, and it is difficult, is to come onto the ball in attack close to the gain line and do different things when he gets it. If he can start doing that, Ireland’s hopes will rest on his shoulders in four years’ time. It will be very interesting to see how his combination with Murray develops.