Ireland Second Rows in 2016 – The Post-Paul O’Connell Era

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Donnacha Ryan and Devin Toner celebrate Ireland’s victory over the All Blacks in Chicago. They’re neither the most complementary second row partnership that Ireland have fielded in the professional era, nor the most individually talented locks, but they’ve succeeded where more illustrious pairings have failed.

Given the number of headlines sent to print and the variety of plaudits doled out for Ireland’s performances in November, it has been telling that very few of those made a hero of Devin Toner, one of only two Irish players to have gone the full 80 minutes in the three games against Southern Hemisphere opposition.  Continue reading

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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

Match Preview: New Zealand vs Ireland, First Test

Ireland are facing into a tough test match a long way from home on Saturday. They should park it at that and forget about everything else surrounding the game. It doesn’t really matter that the Kiwis are world champions: they always turn out top quality teams … and besides, they’re missing a significant number of the team that won the trophy. Continue reading

Soft Middle

Dan Tuohy (26) takes on Simon Zebo (21) in an emblematic image that shows the differing age profile between the two teams.

The Mole has written before about how the failings of the Munster Academy in the second Declan Kidney era are now affecting the fortunes of the province. While Kidney handed over a hard-nosed championship team to Tony McGahan in June 2008, things weren’t quite so rosy under the surface. Continue reading

Revenge Of The Alistairs?

Scotland are on the up, powered by youngsters like Gray, Denton and Hogg and steeled by a couple of captains in Ford and Barclay.

The attacking threat posed by the Scots on Saturday is sharper than it has been for a number of years; no Irish fan should underestimate the task in hand. Even before Ireland suffered the loss of O’Connell, Murray and O’Brien, their opponents had shown with their last display that they would be a handful. Continue reading

Ow! Captain, my Captain?

Paul O’Connell’s injury deprives Ireland of their captain at the same time that Brian O’Driscoll is missing. Under Eddie O’Sullivan, this was an absolute disaster – the team relied hugely on its two main men. While the injuries almost certainly make Mike Ross the most important man on the Irish team, they also provide others with a chance to stake a claim. Continue reading

O’Connell Out, Irish Lineout Holed Beneath The Waterline

O’Connell had another great game against France, and it turns out that he played half of the second half on one leg. He has been one of the three best players on the pitch for Ireland in every game thus far, and while some have raised a few questions over his decision-making as captain, his on-pitch performances have been of the highest calibre. He has been the standout second row in the tournament and has cemented his place as one of the best in the world – in The Mole’s list, there’s James Horwill of the Reds and Australia, Pato Albacete of Toulouse and Argentina and O’Connell of Munster and Ireland.  Continue reading