Make No Mistake About It

Make no mistake about it

Tony Ward is the latest to run the “Brian O’Driscoll To 12” flag up to see if anybody salutes.

He writes that “it would make for a different playmaking role, but one to which he would be ideally suited at this stage of his career.”

Now, in the words of Kanye West, “Yo Tony, I’m really happy for you, and I’ma let you finish …” Actually, I’m not. Brian O’Driscoll has about the dodgiest shoulder in international rugby. Anybody who watched Ireland’s World Cup will have seen him protecting it throughout the tournament, with the exception of the game against Wales where he let absolutely everything hang out. That’s no criticism of Drico, he knows his body better than anybody and knows how to manage it to get the most out of himself in big games.

The idea that he move into the No12 jersey – with monsters like Jamie Roberts, Superstar Sunny-Bull Wull’yums, Ma’a Nonu, Mathieu Bastareaud, Frans Steyn, Yannick Jauzion et al running down his channel all day – is one of the least considered rugby notions I’ve read in the last while. Inside centre is probably the position with not just the most potential for head-on tackles, but the most in practice: huge, fast men running from depth at full-tilt and looking for contact. International rugby at inside centre is black-belt level bish bash bosh.

Grey Man Pat McCabe dislocated his shoulder twice in the World Cup making tackles at No12, for example, and he’s actually a little bigger than Drico – and younger, and less injury prone. Jamie Roberts made hay through Gordon D’Arcy in the quarter-final, and D’Arcy doesn’t have significant nerve damage or get a stinger every single time he takes the pitch.

Go to ESPN Scrum.com and look at the tackle count for inside centres in the stat-line. They’re almost invariably the highest in the backline. In Ireland’s 2011 Six Nations matches, D’Arcy was into double figures with his tackle-count in three games of five.

The idea that you move Drico in from the position he has played for the vast majority of his pro career to a position where you highlight his specific vulnerability and increase his chances of injury doesn’t stand up to even the briefest scrutiny, in the Mole’s opinion. It’s not as though there are a whole branch of Irish No13s beating down the door for selection in the provinces either: if anything, it’s No12 where the competition is fiercer.

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3 thoughts on “Make No Mistake About It

  1. Moreover, 13 is where the playmakers like to earn their crust.

    Regardless of whether or not you subscribe to the whole “Drico’s crocked and has lost yards of pace” point of view (and you won’t find Wipers singing that song) (at least, not very often) (and never loudly), there’s no doubting that he has the skills and nous to make the most of the available space and to put people away. Sticking him at 12 would completely neutralise him.

    (Speaking of which, why don’t we see more of him with ball-in-hand when playing for Ireland? Does Monsignor Kidney doubt his ability as a playmaker?)

  2. I agree with you mole. It would be a stretch even without the shoulder issues. We expect so much of bod and the Irish backline is light without asking for more superhuman efforts every time they go out. It’s lighter than leinster’s for example and although you don’t want to be just bish bash bosh, at least one player who fixes defences in that way would add variety to the Irish attack (which as we know currently tends to be a bit lateral and predictable). I see Schmidt quoted about possible surgery for drico and whether or not they do go for it, I like how Schmidt approaches it and how he is clearly seeing the bigger picture. He is a very impressive and likeable fella.

    McFadden has looked big time powerful so far and is going to at least give healthy competition to darcy if all are available. There has to be a place for him you’d think for either province or country soon. After watching leamy run past 3 other players to assist mafi with that try saving tackle on Ross at the weekend I am also gonna run my leamy to 12 flag again! Would anything be lost in tackling, yards after the tackle, passing, speed, kicking? I know its out there, but as Batman said to robin- its so crazy it just might work! He has been labelled as a smallish, skillful, mobile back rower instead of seeing him as a bigger more bludgeoning 12, who can also play a bit.

    Maybe not, but anyway regarding drico, keep him at 13, give him more help, manage his schedule well and develop alternatives for the position during his rest games. We might end up being surprised at just how much is left in him.

  3. Just read that captain my captain has opted for surgery and will miss the entire season. Forget about talk of a switch to 12 is this the beginning of the end of drico being at the forefront of both the ireland and Leinster setup? Can’t see him walking onto the team next year!

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