Now while “every fit Irish player” may be a bit of a hyperbole, there certainly were a lot involved but, disappointingly, when it comes to the the match day 22’s there are very few surprises.
In fact the limited selection policy is beginning to get a bit worrying given what has gone before with Eddie O’Sullivan.
Ireland Squad: (1-8) Healy, Flannery, Hayes, O’Callaghan, O’Connell, Ferris, D Wallace, Heaslip. (15-9) Kearney, Bowe, O’Driscoll, P Wallace, Fitzgerald, O’Gara, O’Leary. (16-22) Cronin, Court, Cullen, Leamy, Reddan , Sexton, Earls.
The Autumn Internationals are fairly meaningless encounters, nothing much more than a money making exercise for the Unions involved, and judging by the number of tickets I’ve been offered for this game (more than 20) it is an exercise that is beginning to loose it’s sparkle with the paying public.
I fail to see what we are going to learn about Flannery, Hayes, O’Callaghan, O’Connell, Wallace, and O’Gara from this game and the fact that Flannery and Hayes are selected when not match fit sends out a rather damming message to youngsters trying to make their way in Irish Rugby.
I would have preferred to see Cronin and Court starting in the front row (Court’s wrong side I know, but as he appears to being groomed for either side it’s better to test him now rather than in the quarter finals of the World Cup) Leamy in the back row with Ferris and Heaslip is also worth a look (maybe unbalanced but very powerful) and of course Sexton at out half should have been the form call. In fact if it was up to me I would have had Cave in the centre with Paddy and O’Donoghue partnering O’Connell.
Ok maybe a few too many changes on my part but I’m sure there is a happy medium between my wish list and the current reality of only one forced change.
If we look at Ireland A as a mix between a couple of experienced heads on their way down and a lot of young guns on their way up then on the face of it the following selection looks reasonable.
Ireland A. (1-8) Wilkinson, J Fogarty, Ross, Ryan, Toner, Best, O’Brien, Henry. (15-9) Duffy, Horgan, Cave, McFadden, Trimble, Humphreys, Stringer. (16-22) D Fogarty, Young, Tuohy, McLaughlin, Boss, Keatley, Murphy.
Ok, maybe Duffy’s time has come and gone and I also struggle to see both the Fogartys ahead of Ulster’s pair and of course I would have had O’Donoghue in there but at least it’s looking at options. To that end Stringer instead of Boss makes sense as we’ll learn more about Humphreys alongside Stringer than with his usual partner.
Unfortunately, looking at the selection for the senior side, most of these players are playing for a bench spot against Fiji and, barring a spate of injuries, will have no further chance of a senior run out until this time next year.