Ireland RWC 2015 Report Card: Part 8, Irish Rugby

Eddie is Establishment now but the Randwick man got his big break coaching the upstart Brumbies. The great Rod MacQueen had laid the foundations for a team originally composed of discards from Queensland and NSW. Innovation comes from the margins.

Eddie is Establishment now but the Randwick man got his big break coaching the upstart Brumbies. The great Rod MacQueen had laid the foundations for a team originally composed of discards from Queensland and NSW. Innovation comes from the margins.

The RWC being hosted so close to home meant that I was bound to travel, particularly with the previous edition being in NZ and the next in Japan. I decided that Cardiff would be the most likely destination for Ireland to see some decisive action and booked the necessary for the France game and both quarters. Continue reading

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Ireland RWC 2015 Report Card: Part 7, Brains Trust

Kinda looks like 1/4. And keeps up our teapot theme for this review.

Kinda looks like 1/4. And keeps up our teapot theme for this review.

This was the Joe Schmidt show and because of that a lot of people hoped for the best. The Kiwi seems an intense, genuine man who cares about what he does and who has a lot of integrity. Riding shotgun with him were Les Kiss, the affable Aussie headed to Ulster and Simon Easterby, the Yorkshireman with sixty five caps for Ireland. Continue reading

Ireland RWC 2015 Report Card: Part 4, Half Backs

Ireland brought only two scrum halves to this tournament and a third choice outhalf who played very little even in the event of the incumbent getting injured. The national inability to produce international quality scrum halves with any sort of consistency is a mystery to me. Of the twenty scrum halves selected for the last seven Lions tours, only two were Irish and Tomas O’Leary got injured before he could travel.

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Ireland RWC 2015 Report Card: Part 5, Centres

Henshaw’s performances in the 2015 Six Nations were extremely impressive for a young player making his first appearance in the tournamenthave made him a shoo-in Making breaks and beating defenders is tough in the No12 jersey – there's no room. In those regards, Henshaw had a cracking Six Nations, easily outperforming any of his northern hemisphere contemporaries. Over the course of the 5 games in the Six Nations, Henshaw was credited by ESPN with 4 clean breaks [2 vs Scotland, 1 vs England, 1 vs Italy] and 16 defenders beaten [2 vs Scotland, 3 vs Wales, 6 vs England, 2 vs France and 3 vs Italy]. That gives an average of 0.8 CB/game and 3.2 DB/game. Jamie Roberts started all five games for Wales and is credited with 1 clean break and 6 defenders beaten [average: 0.2CB/game and 1.2DB/game]; Luther Burrell started all five for England and is credited with 2 clean breaks and 3 defenders beaten [0.4 CB/game and 0.6 DB/game -and those figures point towards why he didn't make the English RWC squad]. No other No12 started more than three matches in the championship. Masi [Italy] played in three games and is credited with 2 clean breaks and 4 defenders beaten [0.7 CB/game and 1.3 DB/game]; Fofana [France] played in three and is credited with 2 clean breaks and 6 defenders beaten [0.7 CB/game and 2 DB/game]; and Dunbar [Scotland] started 3 and is credited with 2 clean breaks and 2 defenders beaten [0.7 CB/game and 0.7 DB/game]. Given that he massively outperformed both in totals and averages all his contemporaries in those key attacking categories, that he was first rate defensively and that we won the Six Nations, I thought he was an unqualified success. By some distance the best No12 in the tournament.

Henshaw’s performances in the 2015 Six Nations were extremely impressive for a young player making his first appearance in the tournament.
Making breaks and beating defenders is tough in the No12 jersey – there’s no room. In those regards, Henshaw had a cracking Six Nations, easily outperforming any of his northern hemisphere contemporaries.
Over the course of the 5 games in the Six Nations, Henshaw was credited by ESPN with 4 clean breaks [2 vs Scotland, 1 vs England, 1 vs Italy] and 16 defenders beaten [2 vs Scotland, 3 vs Wales, 6 vs England, 2 vs France and 3 vs Italy]. That gives an average of 0.8 CB/game and 3.2 DB/game.
Jamie Roberts started all five games for Wales and is credited with 1 clean break and 6 defenders beaten [average: 0.2CB/game and 1.2DB/game]; Luther Burrell started all five for England and is credited with 2 clean breaks and 3 defenders beaten [0.4 CB/game and 0.6 DB/game -and those figures point towards why he didn’t make the English RWC squad]. No other No12 started more than three matches in the championship.
Masi [Italy] played in three games and is credited with 2 clean breaks and 4 defenders beaten [0.7 CB/game and 1.3 DB/game]; Fofana [France] played in three and is credited with 2 clean breaks and 6 defenders beaten [0.7 CB/game and 2 DB/game]; and Dunbar [Scotland] started 3 and is credited with 2 clean breaks and 2 defenders beaten [0.7 CB/game and 0.7 DB/game].
He massively outperformed both in totals and averages all his contemporaries in those key attacking categories, and was first rate defensively in a successful Six Nations defence. He was an unqualified success with an extremely strong claim to have been the best No12 in the tournament.

Robbie Henshaw: The Mole’s Irish player of the tournament and a serious international at this stage of his career. Henshaw rarely looks flustered and relishes physicality. For years, Connacht had no representation on the Irish team but investment in the traditional Cinderella province of Irish rugby has always made sense as it provides another opportunity for professional players to compete. Continue reading

Irelands RWC15 Report Card: Part Six – The Back Three

Tommy Bowe: Probably one of, if not the most, popular players on the team, and one of the most accomplished. Beside being the second highest test try-scorer in the history of Irish rugby – behind only Brian O’Driscoll – Bowe is also a five test Lion, a double IRUPA Player of the Year [2008 and 2010] and a former Six Nations Player of the tournament [2010].

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Ireland RWC2015 Report Cards – Pt.3 The Backrow

A comment I saw recently that I really liked was “We still obsess about ‘ball carriers’ instead of ‘ball players'”. This back row selection paled by comparison with the original 2011 selection of O’Brien, Heaslip, Ferris, Leamy and David Wallace (who of course missed out through injury). They didn’t lack for effort but couldn’t bring the same impact as that quintet in their pomp. Continue reading

Ireland’s RWC 2015 Report Card Pt.2 – The Second Row

Paul O'Connell: hugely missed by the team against Argentina, the captain will be hugely missed by every Irish rugby fan when the Six Nations rolls around. It's not that I'm predicting we'll go to pot without him there, it'll just be really odd to go to Lansdowne Road with the knowledge that he won't ever be back on the pitch in green.

Paul O’Connell: hugely missed by the team against Argentina, the captain will be hugely missed by every Irish rugby fan when the Six Nations rolls around. It’s not that I’m predicting we’ll go to pot without him there, it’ll just be really odd to go to Lansdowne Road with the knowledge that he won’t ever be back on the pitch in green.

The row was a young man’s game in this tournament; the oldest of the starting locks at the semi-final stage was the 27 year old Whitelock, a player for whom The Mole has had a special regard ever since he was the only All Black not voted into the New Zealand Herald’s RWC11 ‘Team of the Tournament’ by the paper’s readership. The 38 year old Victor “Matlock” Matfield sought to scourge the young ‘uns from the bench as Ireland bid au revoir to one of its favourite sons. Continue reading