Donal Lenihan was one of a few commentators who said in the aftermath of the RWC11 squad selection that Tomás O’Leary would have been better crying off sick from the warm-up game against France in Dublin. That would most likely have seen him selected ahead of either Isaac Boss or Conor Murray – it was clear that head coach Declan Kidney wanted him in New Zealand.
Instead, O’Leary performed like a bag of shite and essentially played himself all the way out of the squad and off the plane, despite Kidney holding a very obvious torch for him. Jonny Sexton wasn’t that bad when he came on against the Russians, but his attempted conversion of Tony Buckley’s try will have him wishing he’d done a Demented Mole special and pretended to get a kick in the stones: nobody wants to check if you’re faking, and you’ll be able to take as long a breather as you want!
This little beaut of a stratagem is best reserved for trial matches at the beginning of the season when you’re short of fitness … but if you’re missing the side of the barn with your sharp-shooting, you should always have it in reserve. It’s like having a Derringer in your boot: “Agh! Me stones!” Cue Paddy Wallace taking the kick and hiding your secret shame for the guts of another week, Jonny-boy!
It’s not as though that miss was a one-off. Sexton’s goal-kicking has been very, very poor this tournament [2 from 6 vs USA, 2 from 5 vs Australia, 1 from 2 vs Russia], and Gamblor’s has been first-rate. Simply put, you can’t afford to leave all those points on the pitch … you’ve got to put them up on the scoreboard.
Sexton could still find himself in the first XV against Italy, but if he does so it’ll be in the unfamiliar No12 jersey. Who knows how fit Gordon D’Arcy is? The poor chap has been building up injury upon injury upon injury over the last couple of years, and has been doing a lot of heavy lifting in a position that demands a huge tackle count and the hardest of yards. While Sexton doesn’t rival D’Arcy in defensive capabilities, he’d give us a different shape in attack, and we do have talented outside backs in Bowe, O’Driscoll, Earls and Kearney … a second distributor could open up some chances wide out.
We’re not a team that scores a lot of tries – against teams in the Top 10, we averaged two tries per game in the 2010/11 season. We need to get our kicks [haha!] to win games.