A Look Ahead- An Alternative XV For the 2020 Six Nations

As the dust begins to settle on another World Cup Quarter Final exit for Ireland, people will now be looking at the new regime under new head coach Andy Farrell who will be assisted by Mike Catt, Simon Easterby and Richie Murphy.

Many Irish players who didn’t get a look in under Joe Schmidt will feel that the slate is wiped clean under new coach Andy Farrell. People may also think that the regime might not change too much under Farrell who has been Ireland’s forwards coach since 2016.

But if things are to change within Irish rugby it is important that all available players are looked at over the next few months to try and rebuild the shattered confidence after the heavy loss to New Zealand.

It will take all 31 players time to get over the manner of the defeat but for some of the 31 while this weekend in Round 4 of the Pro 14 will be too soon you can be sure that the interprovincial derbies in Round 6 will see all 31 back in action with some guys returning in round 5 depending on how many minutes were played by each individual in Japan.

Munster will benefit straight away as will Connacht with men like Chris Farrell, John Ryan and Jack Carty all sure to be back in contention ahead of Round 5.

As I mentioned it will take time for all the players to recover from this loss both mentally and physically but with the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup on the horizon they won’t have much time to dwell on what might have been…..

Looking to the 2020 Six Nations in February 2020, Ireland are certain to have fresh blood in the first 23 to play Scotland , I look at the possible 23 that Andy Farrell may look to include…

15 Andrew Conway – Munster

14 Jacob Stockdale – Ulster

13 Gary Ringrose – Leinster

12 Chris Farrell – Munster

11 Matt Healy – Connacht

10 Joey Carbery – Munster

9  Conor Murray – Munster

8 Max Deegan – Leinster

7 Josh Van Der Flier – Leinster

6 Tadgh Beirne – Munster

5 James Ryan – Leinster, Captain

4 Iain Henderson – Ulster

3 Tadgh Furlong – Leinster

2 Niall Scannell – Munster

1 Eric O Sullivan – Ulster

 

16  Ronan Kelliher – Leinster

17 Dave Kilcoyne – Munster

18 Andrew Porter – Leinster

19  Ultan Dillane – Connacht

20 CJ Stander – Munster

21 Luke Mc Grath – Leinster

22 Ross Byrne – Leinster

23 Jordan Larmour – Leinster

Here is one selection I would go by, I know I have left out certain players but there would be room for those players in the wider squad. Just trying to show an alternative XV to what played last Saturday.

 

 

 

World Cup Quarter Final 2019

Ireland will play New Zealand in the 2nd World Cup quarter final this Saturday at 11.15am. Ireland have faced New Zealand 4 times under Joe Schmidt and three times since the 2015 World Cup, winning twice in 2016 and 2018.

The questions of the Irish campaign have started up again after mixed performances against the 3 opposing teams in Pool A. The manner of the display against both Samoa and Scotland gave rise to some real positivity but the loss to Japan quelled some of that good mood.

New Zealand will be well warned of what to expect when facing Ireland and after being beaten by Ireland in November 2018 New Zealand will be going full throttle to make sure Ireland don’t register a 3rd win over New Zealand under Joe Schmidt. It could be Joe Schmidt’s final game at Ireland head coach if the result does not work out so you can be certain he will have 1 or 2 tricks up his sleeve that supporters will not have seen before.

Steve Hansen has indicated he make try and “trick” Schmidt with some moves we haven’t seen before. For an Irish rugby player the sight of an England shirt usually does enough to get people up for the challenge and you can put that famous shirt with the silver fern on that list.

It is another chance for Ireland to make a World Cup Semi Final where they are pencilled into face either England or Australia… Here is the XV I would select to play New Zealand to play in the Quarter Final….

15 Andrew Conway

14 Keith Earls

13 Gary Ringrose

12 Robbie Henshaw

11 Jacob Stockdale

10 Jonathan Sexton

9 Conor Murray

8 CJ Stander

7 Josh Van Der Flier

6 Tadgh Beirne

5 James Ryan

4 Iain Henderson

3 Tadgh Furlong

2 Niall Scannell

1 Cian Healy

16 Sean Cronin

17 Dave Kilcoyne

18 Andrew Porter

19 Rhys Ruddock

20 Peter O Mahony

21 Luke Mc Grath

22 Joey Carbery

23 Chris Farrell

World Cup 2019- Quarter Final Time

The World Cup Quarter Final line up is complete, England will play Australia at 8.15am next Saturday and then in the second quarter final Ireland take on New Zealand at 11.15am. Sunday will see Wales vs France at 8.15am and hosts Japan play South Africa at 11.15am.

Ireland had hoped if they had qualified to be playing next Sunday against either South Africa or New Zealand and after the 19-12 loss to Japan it was felt that the most likely opponent was going to be 3 times winners New Zealand. Since the crushing loss to Argentina in Cardiff 4 years ago, the hope was that Joe Schmidt would firstly sign up to lead the Ireland charge and then after he did so it was hoped he could make Ireland hard to beat and finally be in a position to challenge for at the very least a Semi Final spot in Japan.

He has achieved that goal and has also hit some big markers in the 4 years since that big quarter final loss, winning in South Africa in 2016, beating New Zealand twice in late 2016 and again in 2018. He has also masterminded a Grand Slam win in 2018.

These are the markers with which the 2019 World Cup campaign was going to be judged and after a poor 2019 it looked as if the whole positivity surrounding the Ireland camp from 2018 was going to count for very little but Ireland managed to make a 7th quarter final and the hope of making a first semi final will be severely tested by the triple winners New Zealand who were winners in 1987,2011 and 2015.

So far in this campaign, the Irish performances have not been what is required to show they are true contenders but now that they are in another quarter final, all the talk can stop and they can fully focus on a shot at the world champions who they have faced 4 times since the 2015 World Cup winning twice.

With the involvement of Bundee Aki to be decided tomorrow the other 30 players can fully focus on the task at hand with the likes of Chris Farrell on standby to step in should Bundee Aki miss out through suspension.

New Zealand will be well rested having had there last pool game called off due to the typhoon that struck in Japan this weekend.

They will also know that they haven’t had it all their own way in recent times against Ireland and with the possibility of this game being Joe Schmidt’s final game in charge of Ireland after 6 years at the helm that will spur Ireland on to hopefully do what they have so far failed to do in the other 7 World Cup’s since 1987 and that is make a first Semi Final and then who knows what may happen but for now, it’s all eyes on the Quarter Final next Saturday at 11.15am Irish time.

Ireland vs Japan 2019 WC

Ireland had it all after winning against Scotland last weekend but the 19-12 loss to hosts Japan has put the cat among the pigeons for the rest of the Pool with Ireland facing two games against Russia next Thursday and then Samoa the following Saturday to see can they qualify for the quarter finals of Japan 2019.

They will need at least the full 10 points from the two games to get to 16 points and then they will have to wait and see where that will leave them as Japan will now fancy their chances of winning this Pool after their composed 19-12 win.

Japan played this game at 100 miles an hour but they always play that way so the game plan would not have been a shock to Joe Schmidt and his squad. This result was not expected but let’s be honest it just shows what will happen if you don’t perform to the required levels each time you go onto the field. The result shows the romance that is sadly lacking in modern sport is still there how even if it only happens once in a blue moon.

Ireland  played the game on their terms after the opening 25 minutes and then Ireland failed to score in the final 60 minutes and no matter the opposition you will not win most games by failing to score in 60 minutes of play.

Ireland will need two absolutely massive victories over Russia and Samoa to make certain they will not be coming home early from Japan. It is up to this squad to prove the doubters wrong and show us they can perform consistently for the final two Pool games. This result is not the end of the road but one more slip means it curtains for this World Cup.

The lack of a Plan B was again a glaring issue in this game. When Ireland needed to come up with a match saving move late on they failed to convert pressure into points.

People again pointed to a lack of leadership in the crucial final 20 minutes when Japan lead by 7.

Over the last 6 years under Joe Schmidt when the game plan has gone wrong his teams have struggled to come up with a Plan B in pressure situations and throughout 2019 Ireland have been physically matched by England, Wales and in some respects by Scotland but in only one of those games against Scotland did Ireland manage to wrestle back control. Ireland beat Scotland back in March 2019, 22-10 and last week in match one of the World Cup 27-3.

Unfortunately for Ireland it still seems that when teams match Ireland physically no matter the team they will beat Ireland as Ireland struggle to change tact and play what’s in front of them. After the disappointment of 2015, we were told that injuries would not impact on the Ireland squad again and that may turn out to be the case but the unnerving thing is that this campaign may go the same way as the previous World Cups if they don’t put in two clinical performances against both Russia and Samoa. The time for action is now and no amount of excuses will cut it this time.

This squad has had its set back and now it is time to react to the defeat because all the other sides in the Pool will feel they can capitalise on Ireland’s loss yesterday. It’s Russia next up at 11.15am on Thursday morning.

Here is the XV I would select for the Russia game :

15 Andrew Conway

14 Keith Earls

13 Gary Ringrose

12 Bundee Aki

11 Jordan Larmour

10 Jonathan Sexton

9 Luke Mc Grath

8 Jordi Murphy

7 Rhys Ruddock

6 Tadgh Beirne

5 Jean Kleyn

4 Iain Henderson

3 John Ryan

2 Niall Scannell

1 Dave Kilcoyne

16 Sean Cronin

17 Cian Healy

18 Andrew Porter

19 CJ Stander

20 Josh Van Der Flier

21 Joey Carbery

22 Jack Carty

23 Rob Kearney

 

Ireland Vs Scotland WC 2019

Ireland today started there 2019 World Cup campaign with a comprehensive 27-3 win over a Scotland side that will truly wonder did they even get off the bus before the game. Ireland went into this game after winning three of four warm up games only coming a cropper against England losing heavily 57-15. England today started their campaign with a comfortable 35-3 win over Tonga.

Back to the International Stadium in Yokohama where Ireland faced the supposed stiffest test of the group against a Scotland side looking to make it to a 2nd Semi Final after 1991. Ireland started both Andrew Conway and Jordan Larmour in the back three alongside Jacob Stockdale.

Both men started off being very shaky with Larmour off loading a ball in a tackle early on that was turned over by John Barclay and then Conway knocked on a catch but as the game wore on these two grew into the task at hand. Men like Conor Murray and his sparring partner at half back Jonathan Sexton did very well early on bringing the centre combination of Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose into play in attack and both of these men were strong in defence.

Ireland came into to today’s game with a few questions over the set piece and the non selection of Devin Toner but as has so often been the case under Joe Schmidt, Ireland had some cleaver moves lined up that saw Peter O Mahony go up for the first few line outs and then Iain Henderson took a few but they were shrewd that James Ryan only was called upon a few times as it looked likely that Scotland were set to target James Ryan as they may have felt he was the main target at line out time.

This failed to happen on so many occasions over the 80 minutes. That show’s that Ireland are being very cleaver in the video analysis room and making small tweaks to their game plans throughout the week. The performance this morning is far removed from the England game back in early August.

Some will say, it was cleaver thinking and planning in the team room and training pitch. All 23 played very well with Chris Farrell and Jack Conan being drafted in early on to replace Peter O Mahony and Bundee Aki who both failed Head Injury Assessments and will be touch and go whether they will be involved in match 2 against Japan next Saturday at 8.15am Irish time.

The Irish team will see a number of changes just to freshen things up and reintroduce a few men like Keith Earls, Rob Kearney and Robbie Henshaw if they are deemed fit to join in over the next few days. The show moves onto to face hosts Japan. The World Cup has started in strong winning fashion and they will hope to continue that winning form next week against Japan.

Here is the XV I would select to face Japan next week….

15 Andrew Conway

14 Keith Earls

13 Garry Ringrose

12 Chris Farrell

11 Jacob Stockdale

10 Jonathan Sexton

9 Conor Murray

8 Jack Conan

7 Josh Van Der Flier

6 CJ Stander

5 James Ryan

4 Iain Henderson

3 Tadgh Furlong

2 Rory Best

1 Cian Healy

16 Sean Cronin

17 Dave Kilcoyne

18 Andrew Porter

19 Tadgh Beirne

20 Rhys Ruddock

21 Luke Mc Grath

22 Jack Carty

23 Robbie Henshaw

Ireland Vs England Warm Up Match 2

Ireland were dismantled by England in the 2nd World Cup warm up fixture for Joe Schmidt’s men after a 29-10 win over Italy in Dublin 2 weeks ago. This was meant to be the game where Ireland stepped up preparations after the tough weeks of pre season in Carton House and at the National Sport Campus in Abbotstown.

They certainly didn’t seem to get the memo as they were ruthlessly beaten by an England side that seems hell bent on winning the big prize in Japan in early November. Yes Ireland may be slightly behind England in match terms but they have done similar amounts of training over the past few months.

Being beaten yesterday was one thing but to be dismantled and not really come up with any real answers even when the game was lost will be the most alarming problem for the playing squad and the coaches as they return to base to review and try and pick up the pieces after such an abject showing.

From an England perspective I go back almost 4 years to when Eddie Jones took on the England job and his stated aim was to win the World Cup in Japan he also said he would use the first 2 years to work on forward play and getting his forwards comfortable on the ball that stated aim has been achieved along with his hope to do similar with the backs over the final 2 years of his 4 year deal. This whole approach was scoffed at in some quarters but does now seem to be coming to fruition just as the World Cup comes into sharp focus.

Jones has Manu Tuilagi playing well after so many periods on the sidelines his decision not to put him on the scrap heap is reaping the reward of patience. With other men like Henry Slade and Jonathan Joseph also in good form at the minute in time things do seem to be rosy in the garden for all in the England camp. He got his wish of having Sam Underhill and Tom Curry on the field of play and this combination worked a treat and nullified the trio of O Mahony, Van Der Flier and Stander.

Only 4 members of the Ireland extended squad has yet to see game time and will see game time in two games vs Wales in Cardiff and Dublin. After the defeat yesterday this squad will be shaken and will be looking for reasons for the manner of the defeat, it wasn’t just a defeat it was like a lamb being led to slaughter and can’t be good for confidence or put down as “one of those things”.

We are less than a month out from the opening World Cup game vs Scotland and time is running out for this squad to build up the confidence that is surely waning. The positive attitude that Joe Schmidt usually can muster after a loss was missing in the aftermath yesterday and he will know it is down to his players and coaches to make sure his final few weeks as Ireland head coach don’t end in a whimper.

As I have said several times when writing about this squad time again to circle the wagons and go again but I will honestly say the manner of the loss yesterday has me worried for the first time in Joe Schmidt’s 6 year tenure. I hope I am proven wrong but the signs really don’t look good 4 weeks out.

I will select the side I feel will try and restore lost confidence

15 Andrew Conway

14 Keith Earls

13 Gary Ringrose

12 Chris Farrell

11 Will Addison

10 Ross Byrne

9 Conor Murray

8 Jack Conan

7 Josh Van Der Flier

6 Peter O Mahony

5 James Ryan

4 Tadgh Beirne

3 John Ryan

2 Niall Scannell

1 Dave Kilcoyne

16 Sean Cronin

17 Jack Mc Grath

18 Tadgh Furlong

19 Devin Toner

20 Rhys Ruddock

21 Kieran Marmion

22 Jonathan Sexton

23 Robbie Henshaw

Ireland World Cup Prep Match 1 vs Italy

Earlier today Ireland kicked off there playing preparations after 6 weeks of pre season training that took in numerous venues like Galway, Limerick and also the new training facility in Abbotstown where the IRFU, FAI and GAA have dedicated training facilities. Looking at those weeks Ireland have put in some hard graft in preparation for the upcoming World Cup.

Italy came to town with a much changed side from last season’s 6 Nations where Conor O Shea wanted a performance and for some of his charges to step up to the mark and put a hand up for team selection heading into the 2019 campaign.

For Joe Schmidt it was a opportunity to test out some new players like Jean Kleyn, Mike Haley and give guys like Dave Kearney a chance to stake a claim for selection for Japan 2019.  The game itself was scrappy from the 1st minute to 80 minutes and will more than likely be just remembered for the injury to Joey Carbery that saw him leave the field after 49 minutes to be replaced by Jack Carty. Here’s hoping the news of Carbery’s injury will be positive when Ireland gather again in the middle of next week.

Although the performance won’t have any sides quaking it still threw up a number of decent performances from Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell and Joey Carbery before injury forced him to depart to let Jack Carty take his chance for the final 30 minutes. Carty for his part played well in the final 30 minutes even if the game dropped in intensity in that final quarter, he still found touch with two wonderful kicks to push Ireland up field.

Other stand out performers were Tadgh Beirne, Kieran Marmion and Devin Toner who rolled his ankle but should be in contention to face England in two weeks time. The work will need to be put in to see can the level of performance improve before they face England in match two of four.

Ireland will know the performance levels will need to get much better and the supposed heavy hitters will need to hit the ground running when they get back in harness whether that is against England or the two fixtures against Wales home and away. It’s two weeks until England in Twickenham and let’s hope the news on Joey Carbery will be positive later in the week.

Here is the side I would select to face England :

15 Will Addison

14 Keith Earls

13 Chris Farrell

12 Robbie Henshaw

11 Andrew Conway

10 Ross Byrne

9 John Cooney

8 Jack Conan

7 Peter O Mahony

6 CJ Stander

5 Iain Henderson

4 Tadgh Beirne

3 John Ryan

2 Sean Cronin

1 Dave Kilcoyne

16 Niall Scannell

17 Jack Mc Grath

18 Andrew Porter

19 Devin Toner

20 Jordi Murphy

21 Kieran Marmion

22 Jonathan Sexton

23 Jacob Stockdale

World Cup Warm Up Vs Italy 2019

15 Andrew Conway

14 Jordan Larmour

13 Chris Farrell

12 Robbie Henshaw

11 Will Addison

10 Joey Carbery

9 John Cooney

8 Jack Conan

7 Tommy O Donnell

6 Tadgh Beirne

5 Iain Henderson

4 Jean Kleyn

3 John Ryan

2 Rob Herring

1 Dave Kilcoyne

16 Sean Cronin

17 Cian Healy

18 Finlay Bealham

19 Devin Toner

20 CJ Stander

21 Luke Mc Grath

22 Ross Byrne

23 Mike Haley

Here is the team I would select to take Italy on Saturday at 2pm in the opening game of the World Cup warm up fixtures….. Ireland will then face England home and away while taking on Wales in Dublin on September 7th.

World Cup 2021 Qualifier Route

The IRFU have today given a much needed boost to the women’s game after they revealed a plan to try and help Ireland gain qualification for the 2021 World Cup. They will have two Internationals in November 2019. They will have a National camp in August. This will hopefully set them up for the games that will come in November and the 6 Nations of 2020.

It is good to see the IRFU put this together and Adam Griggs and his coaching staff can now put a plan together as they will have much needed time together in August and again in November. This plan is 2 years in the making after a poor showing at a home World Cup alongside some poor displays in the last two 6 Nations under Adam Griggs.

Yes there has been a large turn over in players in the past few seasons with some really experienced players making way for less experienced players but you still have a core group of leaders like Claire Molloy, Lindsey Peat and Ciara Griffin. These are the players that will hopefully lead Ireland to the 2021 World Cup.

The games are against Italy and Scotland and an as yet unnamed opponent. Ireland will know that the performances of the past few months just won’t cut it at the very top level. They will have 9 training camps before the serious stuff of qualifying will kick off.

The hope with this plan is that it won’t just be a flash in the pan situation where these games have only been put into the schedule for this season. There has to be room for this set up to continue beyond the qualifying campaign of late 2020. The IRFU have committed to this plan and the appetite is there from the players to try and get to the 2021 World Cup.

With the positive impact that we have seen from the recent Women’s World Cup in France, let’s hope that the appetite for women’s sport will continue into the future. I am not trying to compare like for like because rugby still has some distance to go to gain the same recognition as Football.

The coverage of women’s sport is beginning to gain real momentum and will only get stronger as the years roll on. I have been a strong supporter of the Irish women’s rugby side since 2013 and I can now count a number of that grand slam winning side as friends. Let’s hope that this 13 month plan for World Cup qualification is a permanent fixture. Roll on the camp in August and the pair of games set for November….

World Cup 2019 Preparations

As the 2019 World Cup roars into view for all 20 competing nations who are beginning to sharpen up their preparations with Fiji beating the Maori All Blacks in Suva last night other sides like the Rugby Championship sides will commence a shortened version of the annual championship with all teams playing only 3 rounds before the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

Ireland for their part are in camp in Limerick from Monday based in Munster’s high performance centre in UL. They will hold an open training session in Thomond Park next Friday. They have just spent the last few days in Galway while also holding two earlier camps in Carton House. They will face Italy, England and Wales in World Cup warm up games before departing for Japan to begin against Scotland on September 22nd.

Jonathan Sexton sustained a thumb last week injury that will see him on reduced training for between 4 and 6 weeks. This will give men like Joey Carbery, Jack Carty and Ross Byrne the chance to shine to push their selection prospects. It will be very interesting to see what way Schmidt will break his 45 man squad down to 31 where he will cut 14 names in the coming weeks but many will get the chance to shine against Italy on August 10th in Dublin.

This for most will be there one real shot unless Schmidt decides to delay naming his 31 man squad until closer to departure time. The addition of Will Addison after only a few weeks of pre season with Ulster says that Addison is in a strong position to travel like Conor Murray in 2011 and Tadgh Furlong in 2015.

The breakdown of the squad may only see two out halves named with three scrum halves or flip that on its head where Joey Carbery could easily cover the 9 shirt if Schmidt and his coaches went slightly differently in terms of selection. The time is now for all 45 players because all 45 will feel they can break into the final 31.

Next week in another chance for the whole squad to show what they can do in the surroundings of UL and Thomond Park. It will be an interesting few days in Limerick. They is only 69 days between now and the kick off of the World Cup for Ireland in Japan and we can finally see can Ireland break the quarter final hoodoo… 69 days and counting…..