1. Healy, Kilcoyne,
2. Best, Cronin,
3. Fitzpatrick, Ross,
4. O'Callaghan, Ryan,
5. McCarthy, Toner, Tuohy,
6. Henderson, O'Mahony,
7. O'Brien, O'Donnell
8. Heaslip, Diack
9. Murray, Reddan
10. Jackson, Madigan, Sexton,
11. Earls, Fitzgerald,
12. Marshall, McFadden,
13. O'Driscoll, O'Malley,
14. Gilroy, Trimble,
15. Kearney, Kearney
Right, because it's the main issue and twitter has exploded, but the eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that a certain Ronan O'Gara is missing from this squad and an Ian Madigan has replaced him. Despite what Monday's paper might lead you to believe, this is a good thing. O'Gara had been off form lately and there are alternative options that are playing better. Madigan should be in there and should have been in there for a while now. So it's a positive. Has Kidney handled it badly? Probably, but the people that are saying this are the people that didn't want him in the Welsh squad in the first place. It is sad when a great player's career might be at an end against his wishes, but he will be remembered for the fantastic moments in his career, like the drop goal in '09 or the drop goal after 42 phases in the Heineken Cup last season to name just two.
Madigan and Jackson provide two clear different options in the 23, and both deserve their chances. Jackson showed enough against Scotland in open play to keep his place, and his kicking against Treviso was hugely improved. Even still, someone like McFadden to come in and take that pressure off him would allow him to flourish. Madigan provides a better Plan B than O'Gara ever would, as O'Gara is more suited to seeing out an advantage than chasing a game which screams out for someone as unpredictable as Madigan.
Part of me thinks that this isn't the last we've seen of ROG in an Irish shirt, but Kidney's history would suggest against it. He has had a wonderful career, and will be remembered as a legend. He might have left with more dignity, but no one will remember that in a few years. Sexton might be ruled out in between now and the team announcement, which might lead Kidney to call O'Gara up to have some experience in the 23. Watch this space.
Now, surprisingly there are a number of other talking points from this squad. Tom Court who parachuted over Dave Kilcoyne for the Scottish match is deemed surplus to requirements and Kidney seems to have made his mind up about the two of them. This is a tough call, just as it was to pick Court over Kilcoyne last week. Kilcoyne seemed to struggle as much if not more than Court in the scrum when he came on. It's as if Kidney wants Kilcoyne to be next in line, but doesn't trust him enough.
Speaking of trust, the treatment of Cronin in the last few games screams of a lack of trust. It's a toss up between him and Sherry for me, but in reality it won't matter because neither will get on the field, no matter how bad Best's throwing will be. On Best's throwing, it was bad in the first half against Scotland, but we didn't lose any in the second half, and one bad half does not mean he is having a bad tournament. I think he's been our best player.
O'Donnell and Henderson have cemented themselves in the squad are great seasons, with Henry injured. The big call in the back-row is the inclusion of South African Robbie Diack. Diack is a versatile player that has been used across the back row and the second row this season for Ulster. He is good enough, and could be a useful player for Ireland. He won't get in the 23 this match, but it's the second project player to be included and paves the way for others like Nathan White, Jared Payne, Quinn Roux and CJ Stander to be included. A lot will be made of this, but I'm supportive of it. These are what the rules state, let's make the most of it and get on with things. Strauss showed how to do it, and do it properly, hopefully the rest will follow. Skip to 2:30 below
It's fantastic to see Eoin O'Malley in there. He's a great talent if he would get a run without injuries. And Andrew Trimble is back. With Gilroy struggling he is a live contender for the 23.
1. Healy, 2. Best, 3. Ross, 4. Ryan / O'Callaghan, 5. McCarthy / Tuohy, 6. O'Mahony, 7. O'Brien, 8. Heaslip, 9. Murray, 10. Sexton / Jackson, 11. Earls, 12. Marshall, 13. O'Driscoll, 14. Gilroy / McFadden / Fitzgerald, 15. Kearney.
16. Cronin, 17. Kilcoyne, 18. Fitzpatrick, 19. Toner, 20. Henderson, 21. Reddan, 22. Jackson/Madigan, 23. Fitzgerald/McFadden/Trimble
All the /s are injury permitting, with the inclusion of McFadden to take the kicks off Jackson should Sexton not make it. This is Kidney's probable 23, not the 23 that I would choose.
Overall, I am very happy with this squad. It's incredibly hard to find fault with it. It shows to me that Kidney is trying to earn another contract by showing the IRFU that he is looking to the future with bringing the youngsters in, and how the project players are now being included. It's Kidney's last roll of the dice, will it work?
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