Wrestling Romania

The game against Canada went as well as anyone could have hoped and the Mole has to go back to 1991 for as satisfactory an opening Irish fixture in a World Cup.

It is a more recent RWC that influences the Irish psyche at this tournament and avoiding anything at all to do with 2007 is high on everybody’s priority list. We lost a few warm-up matches and missed a few tackles – man the lifeboats! The ghost of 2007 haunts lots of conversations and no doubt parallels will be drawn between Romania and Georgia over the next week. Truth be told, the fixture list has been kind to Ireland on top of a favourable draw and Romania’s short turnaround after their France fixture will be to our benefit.

One of the lessons taken from 2007 was how peripheral half the squad felt because the same Untouchables were picked for all the games as Fast Eddie baulked and decided more match time was the cure after a listless performance against Namibia. The same story can be taken from Lions tours in 2001 and 2005 when Henry and Woodward seemed to have their first Test team picked in London prior to departure and the dirt-trackers were there to run opposition moves in training. The more players who play and get a chance, the better for a squad on tour and in this light I’d pick the following team for Romania:

Healy-Strauss-Ross; Toner-O’Connell; Henderson-Henry-Murphy; Murray-Jackson; Zebo-Henshaw-Cave-Bowe; Payne.

Healy needs game time so I’d keep him on as long as possible as recommended by the medical staff and the GPS monitor. Ross benefits from games and if Romania will be strong anywhere it’ll be in the scrum. O’Connell starts because he’s captain and will ensure everyone is on the right pitch before and Toner is owed a shot at a starting slot. Henderson has earned his start so it’s only a matter of where and I’d like to see how he does with more freedom to roam. Chris Henry is a nuisance to play against and could put pressure on the back row incumbents if Henderson is chosen in second row. Jordi Murphy is versatile but is a squad player for this tournament as is Darren Cave.

Conor Murray should start in order to provide seniority beside Jackson and as Eoin Reddan will only ever come off the bench in a big game in this tournament. I think there’s a space on the wing up for grabs as Keith Earls doesn’t look to have the physicality so either Zebo or Bowe could leapfrog him here although Luke Fitzgerald went well against Canada and is in the shake-up here. I’ve chosen Payne at fullback based on the Luke Fitz experiment for two reasons. One is that if Rob Kearney is injured then Payne is the next best full back in the squad and the second is that in instance Luke Fitz could do a job at first centre with Henshaw moving out a spot. I’d like to find out what we’d do without Kearney voluntarily rather have it imposed on us and I don’t think Zebo is the answer in a big game.

I’d take off O’Connell, Henderson and Murray at half time and replace them with Donnacha Ryan, Heaslip and Reddan with Heaslip going as captain. I’d also go with Rory Best on the bench for another leadership option in the second half. I’d like to see Tadgh Furlong get a run at tight head with Madigan coming on as the game breaks up and Fitzgerald covering everything else.

Ireland looked cohesive against Canada and the Japanese result puts the display in a favourable light given how each team performed at the recent Pacific Nations Cup. Getting as many players onto the park and rewarding form is an important part of a successful tour and this match offers a good opportunity.

19 thoughts on “Wrestling Romania

  1. “Earls doesn’t look to have the physicality” ?? Did you see him bump Hassler on his hole and his clear out on one ruck, as highlighted by Murray Kinsella, was first class. Most physically improved player after Kearney Junior in my opinion.

    • Yeah, that sort of comment seems to strike a nerve. I’m a fan of Earls and there’s no doubting his power but he’s light and gets held up easily which results in a maul turnover. I think that if bigger wingers like Bowe and Zebo play well they’ll put real pressure on him because they also bring more of an aerial threat which Schmidt likes. Having said that, if everyone is fit I think he’ll pick Luke Fitz and both Kearneys as his back three.

  2. I think it would be madness to play Payne at fullback- with question marks over the fitness of our first choice 12, playing our first choice 13 out of position would be risky at best. It’s clear that Schmidt has allocated roles and it looks to me like we’ll see Zebo at fullback- I reckon we might have Fitz on one wing (Joe is giving him plenty of chances to prove himself worthy of a start) and Bowe on the other. Reddan to start alongside Wee Paddy with your centre combo.

    I think Ross will start as he does seem to need a run of games but I would not want Henderson and POC both playing as they’ll be needed all guns blazing against France. Ryan and Toner in the row and a backrow of Murphy, Henry and Heaslip for me. Heaslip is such a durable freak that I think he’s the most likely in the squad to be able to play 6 or 7 games of high intensity in a row without breaking. I don’t think that Henderson is in this class of durability and we need his power and impact later in the tournament.

  3. Too late to try Payne at 15 now in my opinion. That horse has bolted…unfortunately. Also, Kearney needs 50 minutes.

    If Cave doesn’t start in this match, I hope they have invented an injury, so we can send him home and get Trimble out in his stead.

    I would definitely start Ryan: both he and Henderson seem to be on form and it would be worth thinking about having them both on the pitch for our first XV. As a result, you would probably need to start Heaslip and that would mean no place for Henderson…even though I see where you are going with it.

    It is hard to see Jackson not starting but he would want to seriously pull up his socks from the warm-ups. It’s a pity his form from the Pro12 last season did not translate into international form.

      • Groin strain I think. Maybe not too bad, but didn’t play against scarlets. Has played so little and is now probably pushing like mad in case he got the call. Suggests Schmidt made the correct, if difficult, decision – played 2 games in near a year. One of which he only got 30 mins in, although my TV is still shaking from his hit on walker.

  4. I thought Payne was really good at the weekend (as was Fitzgerald). He was given (and looked comfortable with) more responsibility. Kearney played no warm up games so chances are he will double up. I get what you’re saying about a viable alternative at 15, but I think that’s why jones was given so much time with the squad previously. If Kearney is hurt he might come straight in. Yes it’s a problem (like the scrum half thing) if someone gets a minor knock for a week or two, but I don’t think we should be selecting on what could happen at this stage. Zebo is the current chosen one for that scenario, but there are options if Schmidt has changed his mind after the England game. In any event, so far Ireland have been excellent at adapting to late injuries (Henry, o’brien and now henshaw). You have to think they are working on contingencies in training.

    I agree there’s a good chance we will see Henderson at 6 and toner in the row. He is spreading selection and doing so in a way that suits the opposition. Canada: weak scrum and lineout – smaller, lighter, mobile Irish pack. Romania: better scrum and presumably lineout too – heavier, set piece orientated Irish pack. That way you are rotating without falling into the trap of saying this is the first 15 and this is the second 15 and also potentially taking the opposition lightly. Feek has already said that the supposed 2nd choice pack are now at the level of the supposed 1st choice anyway.

    To totally contradict myself though, I personally don’t want to see mike Ross anywhere near this game. Maybe that’s me taking Romania a bit for granted, but this is a game where we can expose the other 2 tightheads and even if they struggle (which hopefully they won’t) Ireland should be able to manage to win in other ways. There haven’t been that many chances if any to do that in Schmidt/Feek’s tenure.

    Would like to see Bowe given a chance to redeem himself too. Other than that the personnel doesn’t overly concern me-just the ensuing performance.

    • Payne continues to divide opinion. He was again outstanding in defence (our best). He is also the only outside back distributor we have in the squad (and he showed vs England how good he is at it). I thought some of his decision-making on Saturday was poor though and renewed my concern that he still doesn’t quite fit in at 13. Beyond a couple of dodgy kicks, the ball also died with him or because of him a couple of times as he took the wrong decision. That moment when Sexton kicked to him on the wing was just bizarre. He looked like he hadn’t a clue what to do, took an age to do anything and then made a hames of it…when it could and should have been a major territory gain for Ireland. He also looked like he was totally knackered, even though it was mid-way through the first half.

      I don’t see him being displaced but I hope he settles down in the role a little. He definitely has the potential to be great.

      • The general vibe I got from him was that he looked much more involved and also determined to influence the game. The old saying is that good players always look like they’ve got time, I feel that about Payne. Up to now I think he and henshaw have been a bit protected by Schmidt and also I think mentally it’s been particularly hard and a bit daunting for Payne. He is replacing o’driscoll, he is also kind of nurturing henshaw, he has to fight his corner (unfairly into opinion) a little bit more as an Irish-qualified player, playing in a position he hasn’t played for ulster so much, with o’driscoll himself saying he thinks he is more of a 15 (to be fair does payne’s own twitter thingy say 15 on it too?). I think he has been a little bit hesitant attack-wise and lacked a bit of confidence, but Saturday was a step forward for me (albeit against weak opposition and no line speed). I would discount the kick mistake-the game was long over, but I take your point about unstructured play-the kick from sexton being your example. But he isn’t on his own there. The players all looked very comfortable running schmidt’s pre-ordained moves, but in unstructured play (including the warm ups) we’ve been average and missed decent opportunities. I’m hoping the confidence and feel-good gained from last week will raise all boats in this area though.

  5. Well, well, well Mr Mole. The team’s out and I make it different from yours above by six in terms of personnel and ten positional. I bow down totally to your analytical skills and would really a love a few words from you about the difference in the two teams.

    • So Joe Schmidt has chosen not to start Mike Ross in a test match he was available for. Wonders will never cease!
      My rationale for picking Ross was that Romania’s scrum would be strong and I wanted to give Furlong a run but with a bit of breathing room after a lead had been built up. That’s a mental scar from sitting in the stand in Bordeaux in 2007 which I don’t think will ever leave me even if the Emerging team beat the same opposition in the Tblisi Cup.
      I had O’Connell starting for leadership, to be replaced by Ryan at HT with Heaslip coming on as captain alongside Best. O’Connell is on the bench instead, alongside O’Brien who has also captained the team. I think Schmidt’s selection is fairer than mine as both Ryan and Toner deserve as much time as possible to compete for a starting spot. I still think Murphy is there as a versatile squad player but that Henry has an outside chance of earning a starting slot.
      I’ll be interested to see if Reddan plays the whole game tomorrow and how the pace changes when Murray comes on. I can’t remember when or if that’s happened before, maybe in Argentina last year?
      Jackson’s squad selection looks like a dud if he’s going to bench once in the tournament which seems to be the case if he’s behind Madigan in the ranking.
      The (non-)selection I’m concerned about is that of Henshaw. As a consequence of tracking him for the 4 Up I know that he’s hardly injured so the fact that he’s missed two matches is incongruous. Hopefully the fears are misplaced and he’s not being risked in a match they don’t need him for.
      If there was a loser in Paddy Jackson’s selection it was, in my view, Felix Jones. Simon Zebo isn’t a serious full back, I have him starting four league matches in the last two seasons there, two of which Munster lost. He’s not getting a chance to push for a place on the wing so it doesn’t look like much of a World Cup for him. In light of Luke Fitz playing at first centre, Jones would have been a better bet than Jackson.

  6. Well done once again Mole and welcome back to the public stage.

    The main Irish task for the game against Romania is not to get into the arm wrestle that the Top 14 hardened Romanian team want. Our opponents this time round have physical strength and fitness everywhere. Ireland must use guile and tempo to unlock this Romanian team and I am very confident that JS will have given this game as much consideration as any other.

    Is Nathan White a good enough THP to keep our scrum as solid as over the past 7 weeks. He and Dev Toner are two of the three heaviest in the Squad (Ross completes the trio). Strauss, Healy and White have played together – for Leinster, and all are now stronger than when they did so.

    Henry and Murphy represent 1.5 open-side flankers who should provide the support to enable continuity and tempo. Madigan will be under instructions to use the play-book, so that his teammates know what’s going to happen next. Cave and Payne will follow his lead and the back three should finish the task.

    Five more points please.

  7. Pingback: Ireland RWC2015 Report Cards – Pt.3 The Backrow | Digging Like a Demented Mole

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