Thursday, 14 February 2013

Team for Scotland

Front Row:

I'll start with the tighthead side, as I think my loosehead pick will be easier to explain given the rest of the front row.

Mike Ross has played a lot of rugby, and seems to get a number of knocks in every game. Declan Fitzpatrick is drastically short of match time. Logic dictates that Fitzpatrick should play. It'll give him match fitness and experience that could be vital, and help everyone be less worried about Mike Ross's backup, which will take pressure off Ross.

Rory Best is in great form, I would keep him in the team and allow him to continue, but with the intention to bring on Cronin early than Kidney has been doing.

Given that Healy could and should be cited, this makes things a little easier actually. I always wanted both Kilcoyne and Court to feature in this 6 Nations, and this could be the game where that happens. There isn't much between them, and with there being an Ulster hooker and tighthead, and with "doubts" about Fitzpatricks scrummaging ability, Court would slot in seamlessly, and provide a better scrummaging capability with Kilcoyne to come on at 50 or 60 minutes for a bit more impact in the loose.

Second Row

With McCarthy being ruled out, O'Callaghan will be brought into the XV with either Tuohy or Henderson on the bench. I'd almost consider bringing Tuohy in to the XV given that he's youngish and needs experience. He will be a future regular and has always impressed. Dropping O'Callaghan is harsh, especially as he has been good this season for Munster.

Back Row:

I would rest either Heaslip or O'Brien, and probably O'Brien, Heaslip needs as much exposure as captain to learn the job. Although is form on Sunday was shocking and could do with a week off. Henry to come in for O'Brien as a straight swap. Although I would like Tommy O'Donnell to be involved, but that is far too left field for Kidney.

Henry wouldn't bring as much ball carrying abilities as O'Brien, which means Heaslip needs to step up, and O'Brien to provide a big impact off the bench.

Scrumhalf:

No change. Murray was one of the few to slightly impress at the weekend and seems to be returning to something approaching acceptable form. He needs a chance to continue this. That and the fact that Reddan hasn't been good this season. Left field suggestion would be for Marmion to appear off the bench, but lets keep it (relatively) realistic.

Outhalf:

ROG will start. No question. One of my biggest preferences is for the bench player to offer something different than the player in the team that he is covering. Much like Boss/Reddan or Cronin and Strauss at Leinster. In that regard, I think that Jackson is too similar to O'Gara to be his cover. He most likely will be, but in my mind Jackson is a younger, less experienced and therefore less practised version of ROG. My preference would be for either Madigan who could be a gamechanger, although Keatley had a man of the match performance on Saturday.

One alternate option is, now that Luke Marshall is back to fitness, to have him cover both 10 and 12 on the bench. His injury was ill timed, and he should be involved at some stage in the championship. I also love the idea of having a bench player covering both 10 and 12 proficiently.

Inside Centre:

Having said all that about Marshall, I would still keep D'Arcy at 12. PROVIDED his is 100% fit. Otherwise I'd put McFadden straight into 12. D'Arcy is in great form, but there is no need to risk him after what appeared to be a few niggles against Scotland, and he will be needed elsewhere.

Outside Centre:

I really don't know what to say here. BOD will be having some fortnight. It's really up to the man himself whether he can play. A rest might benefit him, but Ireland still need his spark.

Wingers:

With Zebo out, and Gilroy not getting involved enough for my liking, albeit in unfavourable conditions. Both wings could be up for grabs.
Earls did enough on Sunday for Kidney to put him straight in, and it's unlikely Gilroy will lose his place. I would like to see Fitzgerald involved, and it's between McFadden and himself for a bench position.

Fullback

Rob Kearney needs a run of games to get his confidence up, and get match fit. He is on the road to best form, but is nearly there.

My 23:
1. Court, 2. Best, 3. Fitzpatrick, 4. Tuohy, 5. Ryan, 6. O'Mahony, 7. Henry, 8. Heaslip (C). 9. Murray, 10. O'Gara, 11. Earls, 12. D'Arcy, 13. O'Driscoll, 14. Gilroy, 15. Kearney.
16. Cronin, 17. Kilcoyne, 18. Ross, 19. Henderson, 20. O'Brien, 21. Marmion, 22. Marshall, 23. Fitzgerald