Tommy Bowe: Could have put a nail in Australia’s coffin with a flourish if he hadn’t missed the summer through injury as he looked to tie up in the last few yards. Or he could have put in a cross kick. Bowe caused the Welsh a bit of trouble and was denied two tries against the Italians by dodgy refereeing decisions.
Must Do Better: Stay fit and get the ball as often as possible. Bowe is trouble for the opposition and a fine footballer. Stay hungry, stay foolish.
Keith Earls: Wanna be a superstar, dreaming of a final. Earls’ confidence careens around the place. By the end of the tournament he looked super sharp and finished really well against Wales. Earls has a nose for the try line and looks best suited to left wing. Probably should have done better to stop JJV Davies against Wales.
Must Do Better: If Earls is going to make a go of it on the wing, he needs to come off it more. That seems contradictory but Ireland need their fast men to be able to step into traffic, evade and distribute if the Sean O’Brien plan A route of attack is foiled.
Andrew Trimble: The unluckiest player to make the trip. Trimble looked good in each warm up game he played and offers Ireland a robust physicality. His pass for Earls’ last try against Italy was timed perfectly. Should have been used against Wales once Earls had his clocked cleaned when crashing into Jamie Roberts.
Must Do Better: Trimble has never seemed a central part of Kidney’s plans. It’s possible that a new backs coach will get the best from him. Seems mentally strong and very competitive, a few more deft touches would complement his physicality very well.
Rob Kearney: Came back to form as he got more game time. Fielded well and looked fit. Like many of Ireland’s backs, there’s not much to report. Ireland struggled without a first choice full back in the Six Nations so it was great to see Kearney back.
Must Do Better: Pass. Pass more, but just pass. Isa Nacewa established himself as Leinster’s full back in Kearney’s absence and has a more rounded game.
Geordan Murphy: Wasn’t involved all that much. Ireland suffered in the Six Nations with Fitzgerald at full back. There’s a question that Kidney was fighting his last battles rather than his next ones by bringing two specialist full backs without much game time but the uncertainty over Kearney and Felix Jones’ unfortunate injury probably necessitated it. Unfortunately, once the selection was made, it never looked like Ireland would try and use Murphy’s wide range of skills in innovative ways.
Must Do Better: Halfway to his 34th birthday, it’s very unlikely that Murphy will be involved in any more Irish squads.